Lemon Lavender No-Bake Cheesecake

Maybe it was winter, but my cooking/recipe slump feels like it is finally ending and I’m feeling the inspiration! Maybe the summer like weather here the past week has helped? 90 degrees in the first part of May. What!?

While re-testing a recipe for an upcoming event for work (I’m making my Lemon Lavender Energy Bites), I brought in the samples to co-workers and they correctly noted that the energy bite dough would make an awesome crust for cheesecake. I made a mental note of this and then went forward to try and determine if a baked or no-bake cheesecake would be best for this. No-bake was the obvious answer since the crust is also meant to be mainly raw. The filling is slightly tangier than a normal cheesecake, so you could just call it a tart, but I’m going to stick to my guns on this and say cheesecake. 🙂

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The base of the crust is ground, roasted pistachios and almond butter (in addition to the flavors of lemon and lavender) but a small difference from the regular energy bites is that I incorporated some coconut oil and less almond butter. I think the coconut oil hardens up a bit better and allows the crust to keep more of its shape when cooled. (Ignore the crumbs below – I was a bit over zealous in diving in for a bite.)

A bit about the food grade lavender. I get mine from a local farm, Los Poblanos, but the great thing now is that they ship nation-wide and have a whole bunch of other boutique body products. And another side note – their restaurants is super super delicious – I’ve been for breakfast, brunch, and dinner and always want to go back. They built a new restaurant onsite and just re-opened in the new place within the last year. If you have a chance to visit  Albuquerque, NM, I totally recommend visiting their Farm Shop for the lavender and restaurant, Campo, just to eat… and I suppose stay overnight in their inn too if you can.

But back to the food.

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Lemon Lavender No-Bake Cheesecake

Makes 2-3 mini cheesecakes or one larger pie

Ingredients

Lemon Lavender Crust

  • 1/2 c raw, unsalted, pistachios (meats, shelled)
  • 1 tsp grated lemon
  • 1/2 cup almond or coconut flour
  • 1 T turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T creamy almond butter (do not use peanut butter – it will overpower the other flavors)
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 tsp whole culinary lavender (add an additional 1/2 tsp based on strength of lavender flavor)
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Cheesecake

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 c powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c plain Greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 -3/4 tsp whole culinary lavender, crushed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Favorite lemon curd for topping

Directions

Crust

  1. Place nuts and flour in the food processor first. I used a 2 cup food processor or small option if using a larger processor. Pulse until nuts resemble a course meal.
  2. Add in sugar, salt, lavender, and extracts. Process for another 3-5 second or until well combined.
  3. Lastly, blend in almond butter, coconut oil, and honey. Pulse until well combined and the mixture holds its shape when pressed together. Add additional honey 1 T at a time until mixture holds a shape without crumbling.
  4. Divide the crust mixture between your three mini spring form pans or press into the bottom of a glass pie plate for a larger dessert.
  5. Place in refrigerator to cool while making the filling.

Filling

  1. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Beat in sugar, lavender, lemon zest, and salt until evenly incorporated.
  2. Add in the Greek yogurt and beat until evenly incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture with a spatula.
  4. Add your filling to the mini spring form pans or pie plate, evenly spreading the mixture over the top.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Served chilled, topped with lemon curd and sprinkles of lavender and additional lemon zest if desired.

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Lavender and lemon just scream spring and summer to me, but when I went to the store looking for some lemon curd (and you can totally make your own BTW), I was told it was seasonal – Thanksgiving. Hmmm. For me lemon can be used all year round, but is particularly bright like summer. I guess you learn something new everyday. 🙂

Enjoy and I’m glad to be back in the realm of creating recipes again!

 


Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

A few weeks back, we were discussing different recipes for chia seed pudding. I had tried to make it in the past with almond milk, but the seeds always seemed to sink and clump up on the bottom. A co-worker suggested trying coconut milk if I wasn’t able to drink regular cow’s milk, so I did and now I’m hooked on the stuff! My favorite is plain with lemon curd (maybe I’ll share that in the future as well).

For today, I branched out a bit from the 3 Pleasures Dessert theme (dark chocolate, nuts, and fruit) to drop the nuts and do seeds instead – chia seeds! Chia seeds have fiber, protein, and most importantly healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The cocoa provides a rich/somewhat bitter chocolate taste that can satisfy just about any craving.

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If you’re looking for a more mousse like consistency and to have it ready in less time than overnight, you can put it into a blender. 🙂

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Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 2 when sharing

Ingredients

  • 1 c plain coconut milk, room temp or warm works best
  • 1/4 c chia seeds
  • 1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1 T granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla, optional
  • Favorite fruit to serve – I recommend raspberries or strawberries

Directions

  1. Measure all ingredients, except fruit, into a mason jar.
  2. Shake well for about a minute. It will be easier to mix in the cocoa powder without clumping if the coconut milk is warm or room temperature.
  3. Let sit a few minutes and shake a second time if seeds seem to settle to the bottom too quickly.
  4. Place in refrigerator overnight to allow seeds to “gel” and create a pudding like texture.
  5. Serve with fresh berries.

*The texture will still have the seeds since they don’t dissolve, but if a creamy texture is paramount in your pudding, I suggest the blender method – blend all ingredients instead of shaking and let sit a few hours in the refrigerator or until mixture is desired thickness.

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Have you tried chia seed pudding or using chia seeds in smoothies or over oats?


Sophisticated Your Chocolate – Sweet and Savory Chocolates

Have you heard about the Three Pleasures – a dessert challenge that circled in 2016 challenging chefs to create healthier dessert options using the Three Pleasures – dark chocolate, fruit, and nuts? For a cooking demo I’m working on we’re using these three ingredients as a healthier dessert option for diabetics – and if you just want to be healthier in general while satisfying your sweet tooth. While thinking of dried fruit and nut options for a chocolate bark I decided to get a little crazy and thought – what if I add herbs?!

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In my humble opinion, the herbs were a genius way to go. Although I do always enjoy the peanut butter chocolate combo and find it hard to resist chocolate and caramel, the herbs have me thinking in a whole new way.

Since I only made 4 of each flavor (I can’t be tied down with only one flavor and 24 chocolates – I need variety!), they aren’t exact recipes, but I can tell you what you’ll need for each along with the base of: a dark chocolate of at least 60% cocoa, bitter sweet will also work; mini muffin tins; mini muffin papers; and non-stick spray.

I chopped and melted ~12oz of chocolate over a make-shift double boiler – glass bowl set over boiling/simmering water. Melt until just melted – don’t sit there and stir the chocolate for too long or it will eventually start to separate out and become hard because there isn’t enough fat to prevent over working. I then mixed about 2oz of chocolate with each of the described combinations. Spray your muffin paper with the non-stick spray before putting in the chocolate – it just makes them easier to remove. Let it set and then enjoy.

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Walnut and goji berry – no additional spices, just toasted walnuts and gofi berries. I started you off with and easy one.

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Lavender Blueberry – crush 1/2 tsp of edible lavender and mix in with chocolate – sprinkle top with additional lavender and top with dried blueberries. Crushing brings out more of the oils from the lavender along with the flavor (better than finely mincing).

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Chili Cherry Pecan – mix chili powder in with chocolate, about 1/4 tsp (or as spicy as you like), top with dried cherries, pecans, and dusting of additional chili powder.

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Lavender Thyme Pistachio – crush about 1/4 tsp edible/culinary grade lavender, finely mince 1/4 tsp fresh thyme, and mix with chocolate. Top with toasted pistachios and sprinkle with additional lavender. I’m also lucky that the Los Poblanos lavender farm is only a few miles away so I can get some culinary grade lavender at their store too. 🙂

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Rosemary Sea Salt – mince ~1/4-1/2 tsp of fresh rosemary and mix in with chocolate. Sprinkle with sea salt and place a sprig of rosemary for decoration – it’s a little too strong to eat with it, but looks pretty.

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Last but definitely not least – I tried my hand with some edible flower over a cluster of dried cherries, blueberries, and pecans. The flower helps to hide the lumpy shape of the cluster.

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Each chocolate is perfectly portioned for a great after dinner treat and the jazzed up flavors do make me feel more sophisticated. Each chocolate is about 1/2 oz of chocolate. Aren’t they gorgeous looking! Although I think they’re all delicious, I think my favorite at this time might be the lavender and blueberry. It just makes me think of the coming spring and makes me happy.

What are some of your favorite more “exotic” chocolate flavors? Have you ever tried to mix your own flavors at home?


Roasted Poblano and Cauliflower “Cream” Soup

It’s January and it’s cold. Of course being winter, that’s not really surprising, but I’m always unpleasantly surprised whenever the temp drops below freezing. And with all of the chill, it has me thinking about soup – and why not a hot soup that is spicy as well. 🙂 Win, win?

When looking for more flavors of New Mexico to incorporate into cooking classes at work, I had an inspiration for a healthier poblano cream soup. When looking for an option for a cream base alternative, cauliflower immediately popped into my head. Maybe cauliflower is still a hit vegetable in 2017? It’s so versatile – everything from pizza crust to “rice” to cream soups. And you definitely won’t miss the full fat – the cauliflower puree is so creamy it still feels just as decadent with less than 200 calories for 2 cups – or about 1/8 of the recipe.

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They say you love things more if you’d put a lot of work into it or paid a high price. I went into a battle for this soup – while chopping the poblano peppers, some capsaicin sprayed into my eye and boy did it BURN. I flushed my eye out for a good 20 minutes until it felt even remotely back to normal. Blood, sweat, and so many tears.

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Roasted Poblano and Cauliflower “Cream” Soup

Makes about 8 – 2cup servings

Ingredients

  • 3-4 poblano chiles, roasted (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 large head of cauliflower (~8 cups), cut up
  • 4 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 c additional water as needed
  • 1/2 c cream or half & half (optional)
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 4 c corn, I used frozen, but fresh is also great!
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions

  1. If roasting your own poblanos, there are a couple of options – you can grill them on an outdoor grill, under your oven broiler, or over the flame of a gas stove top. If using your gas range, the large burner works best – place 2 poblanos at a time over the flames, rotating when one side gets sightly charred with tongs. Set chiles aside to cool until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot with a bit of oil on the bottom, sauté the onions until translucent and soft.
  3. Add in the garlic and wine. Cook to reduce the wine until almost all has evaporated.
  4. Add in the cauliflower and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft.
  5. While your cauliflower is cooking, in a separate pan, cook the celery until soft.
  6. While the celery cooks, remove the seeds from the chiles (use gloves and eye protection if you have it) and chop into whatever size pieces you like best. Set aside momentarily.
  7. To the celery pan, add the corn and dried spices. Cook until corn is soft, then add in the chopped/diced poblanos. Cook until warm or “cream” soup is done.
  8. Moving back to your large pot, once the cauliflower is soft it’s time to puree.
  9. In three batches, blend all of the large pot contents – adding additional water to make it the consistency you want. Depending on the power of your blender, you may need to add even more additional water or other liquid in order to puree.
  10. Once the contents is all pureed, dump everything back into the large pot and add you cream or half & half.
  11. Add the corn and poblano mixture to the cauliflower cream base, stir to combine and bring the temperature back up to almost boiling.
  12. Garnish with green onion, parsley, or any other large pieces of the roasted poblano.

Nutrition Based on 1/8 of recipe with Half & Half (~2 cup serving)
Calories 174, Total Fat 3g, Sodium 233mg, Cholesterol 6mg, Carbs 32g, Fiber 6g, Protein 7g

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I also love, love, love this new patterned tray I found at World Market – not sure why I hadn’t been there in so long, but it took all my restraint not to walk out with an entire cart of items. But I did practice restraint and managed to make it out with just this tray and the ottoman it’s sitting on.

Stay warm out there!


Fall Kale Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with a Cider Viniagrette 

We’re now past Halloween but I’m still in the pumpkin mood. I loved this display at the Sprouts a couple weeks back. I even pick up a few for the front door – obviously they were the edible kind. And because Halloween is past I’m thinking of baking up a few of my pumpkins  – hopefully I’ll get a couple new recipes.

I dreamt of this salad when I was trying to figure out something else to do with a kale salad that wasn’t savory. Then it hit me – squash doesn’t need to be savory (although sage and squash is pretty tasty). And wanting another more tender alternative to apple, I turned to the pear. If you’re looking for a fresh bite of fall, this definitely hits the spot and you can do it warm too.

Notable Nutrition – Kale/dark green and squash. Both have fantastic vitamin A. So this salad is a treasure trove of that all too important for hair, skin, and nail nutrient.

Kale, Butternut Squash and Pear Salad

Serves 4 large salads

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of curly kale, chopped fine
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 Bartlett pears, diced
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1/3 c chopped, toasted walnuts

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 c olive oil

Directions

  1. Peel, de-seed, and cube butternut squash (dice size). Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and roast squash at 375F for 30 minutes or until soft and can be pierced with a fork.
  2. In a mason jar, mix the vinaigrette ingredients and shake to combine.
  3. In a large bowl toss together the finely chopped kale, pears, squash, and cranberries.
  4. Plate the salad, sprinkle with walnuts (divided between plates), and drizzle with vinaigrette.

In other news, at the beginning of November C and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary. It’s been a good few years – lots of travel and adventure (one of the things we both like best to do with each other), growth as people (me, I’ve definitely grown to accept that someone else can help take care of me sometimes), learning each others quirks, and finding how to best compliment each other. I don’t think complete would be the right word because we were both very whole people when we met (and wouldn’t have worked if we weren’t) – very individualistic. And one of the things I still really value is our ability to remain individuals and know that we don’t need to have the same hobbies and activities.

Although I will always contest that we make our own decisions and that you can rebel against fate, I do have to believe some people were meant to come into your life for some purpose or period of time. Throughout my life I’ve met some people that upon a closer look have nearly met at different times (usually at opposite sides of the country). C happens to be one of those people where the 4th time was the charm. In chronological order – both had plans/dreams of doing undergrad at Johns Hopkins 04/05(we both made other decisions), we both almost moved to Boston in 08/09 (again life took us other places), while life took me to UIUC – it also took one of C’s good friends there for grad school where C happened visit and be at an event I distinctly remember running past one Saturday (but I didn’t stop that day), and finally life took us both to Albuquerque. I think life is funny sometimes.

Have you ever had any weird “should have met” coincidences?

One of our next adventures will be to Portland. Any advice on places to eat?


Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

It is finally pumpkin spice season, although if you ask me that is any time of year. I do pumpkin all year long, it’s so great for vitamin A. But since the rest of the country/northern hemisphere does pumpkin in fall – September/October is the acceptable time to roll out the pumpkin spice. 

I’ve been looking for a festive option for my energy bites and after a few trials – I really find most of the date versions of energy bites too sweet (and maybe I’d dated out), I arrived at these. I also added a chocolate drizzle. You can have them with chocolate or without – but if you haven’t tried pumpkin and chocolate together I’d recommend trying it at least once. 

I also caved and paid for pumpkins – I’ve grown up with pumpkins for free because my parents raise and sell them but since I now live thousands of miles away, I can’t get a shipment for free. 😦

Pumpkin Pie Energy Bites

Makes 20… I just make them about quarter diameter?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c pecans
  • 1 T flax seed
  • 3-4 T maple syrup
  • 1-2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 c + 1 T almond butter
  • 3 T pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanila

Drizzle (optional)

  • 1/3 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1 T coconut oil

Directions

  1. Put oats, flax seed, and pecans in a food processor and pulse until ground into a fine crumb. Add vanilla and pie spice and pulse to combine. (Can add flax in the second addition with with spice and vanilla if a more whole form is desired). 
  2. Add in pumpkin and  almond butter. Pulse to combine – pushing down when necessary. 
  3. Lastly gradually add maple syrup to make cohesive “dough”.
  4. Roll dough into small bite size balls and slide into fridge to store or hold shape. 
  5. If using the chocolate drizzle, heat chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, stir to combine and repeat heating and stirring until fully melted together and smooth. 
  6. Drizzle chocolate over balls or dip bites directly into chocolate – return to fridge to harden. 

Eat and enjoy! They are such a great option for handling those holiday flavor cravings. 

While testing this recipe I tried a version for a work client without the pecans, and I definitely like it better with pecans since pecans and pumpkin just go so well together.  I also prefer the almond butter to peanut butter since peanut butter has such an powerful flavor in my opinion – delicious, but not sure I’m ready to mix my peanut butter and pumpkin just yet. 

What are some of your favorite fall flavors? Pumpkin reminds me of home. Do you find yourself craving more comfort foods and the weather cools? 


Roasted Peach and Blackberry Salad

Is anyone else sad that summer is almost over? I know, technically not until later September, but Labor Day really signifies the end for many of us. While I absolutely love cool evenings and signs that fall is coming, I still miss the carefree feeling of summer. Sweaters are my favorite type of clothing, but I would wear shorts year round if I could (with a sweater though – shorts and sweaters are fine together right?). Oh, and I can’t forget about boots either! Maybe I am ready for fall?

 

But before we jump too quickly into fall, lets talk about the fresh produce – the end of summer usually means stone fruits and I am beyond excited that peaches are finally ripe on the tree. We trimmed back our peach tree a lot this year and only got four extra large peaches but if you can find some at a farmer’s market they typically taste just as good.

I was dreaming of this salad after seeing it on a menu a couple weeks ago – roasted peaches, blackberries, and a local feta. Since I didn’t order it that evening I wanted to see what I could come up with myself.

I would say that it turned out pretty good! I added some pomegranate seeds for an extra pop of color and crunch in addition to the pumpkin seeds. And naturally arugula because I just love spicy greens or at least those with more flavor!

Roasted Peach and Blackberry Salad

Serves 4 large or 6 medium salads (and is easily scaled!)

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-to-large peaches
  • 2-3 cups of blackberries
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded or ~1 cup of seeds
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 8 oz feta cheese
  • 8 cups arugula or other spring mix
  • Your favorite vinegar for dressing

Directions

  1. Prepare two large sheet pans with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425F (option to use broiler at 500F too – but watch carefully).
  2. Wash and dry all produce. Cut peaches into slices and arrange on one baking sheet. Evenly distribute blackberries on the other.
  3. Roast peaches and blackberries in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 425F or until tender and slightly “toasted”. If you choose to broil, this will be closer to 5-7 minutes. (Roasting on the grill is also a great summer option!).
  4. While fruit is roasting, arrange greens on plates or in a large bowl.
  5. Remove fruit from oven and let cool slightly.
  6. To arrange the salad, layer peaches first, then blackberries, feta, pomegranate seeds, and pepitas.
  7. Drizzle with your favorite vinegar or dressing. I personally love just a 18 year thick aged balsamic.

Time to eat!

This is a great salad served with salmon or other heartier fish. Since I’m a bread-aholic, I would also accompany this with a biscuit, light scone, or toast. You could take this for lunch by mixing the toppings together in one container and then topping the greens once your ready to eat. If you mix the arugula with everything and have it sit too long, the arugula will not be the freshest.

What are your favorite end of summer fruits and vegetables? Are you looking forward to fall or mourning summer? 


Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Dips

Most dietitians love grocery shopping and I am definitely in that majority. While I do write a list and stick to it the best I can, so of my favorite food shopping experiences are when I don’t really have an agenda or major meal plans and I get to find inspiration. I was at Sprouts a few weeks back and Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter was on sale. And while I’m usually a plain old all natural peanut butter sort of gal, it was an impulse buy I couldn’t refuse. And I’m glad I didn’t!

While the chocolate and hazelnut spreads are good, maybe I had just a bit too much traveling around Greece (because we couldn’t buy PB) and perhaps a few of those pounds were from all of the delicious Nutella. If it was just a few weeks vacation it may have been no big deal, but alas it was a full semester. Now, I typically like to “make” something with my chocolate and hazelnut spread. I’ve also found Justin’s to be slightly less sweet.

If you’re looking for a chocolate vegan cream pie, chances are you’ll stumble on a tofu pie. And while I love pie, I like the freedom to dunk and dip whatever I’d like into that delicious, fluffy, goodness. (Oh, BTW, my dad made me this awesome board – it’s made of cherry and black walnut. He made me another too with oak and black walnut. From trees taken off my grandparents’ properties. Aren’t they beautiful! I wanted a large serving board and he sure delivered.)

It’s pretty much that simple, just tofu and your favorite nut butter.

And since it’s tofu, it’s packed with even more protein… although I wouldn’t call it low fat, it definitely satisfies hunger.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Hazelnut Dips

Makes about 4 cups all total

Ingredients

  • 16oz firm to medium firm tofu (I think the firm has a richer texture but you can change to your preference)
  • 2/3 c all natural peanut butter
  • 2/3 c Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
  • 2 T soy milk (or other milk alternative)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 T sugar (if needed)
  • Your favorite fruits for dipping

Directions

  1. Drain tofu and divide into two 8oz blocks.
  2. Cut first block into smaller chunks and put in food processor.
  3. Add the peanut butter and half of the soy milk, sugar, and vanilla. Puree until very smooth. Depending on consistency, you may need to add a touch more soy milk.
  4. Scrape peanut butter dip into a bowl or storage container.
  5. Moving on to the chocolate – cut the second 8oz tofu chunk into smaller chunks and put in food processor.
  6. Add the chocolate hazelnut spread and second half of remaining sugar, soy milk, and vanilla. Puree until smooth and scrape into second bowl.
  7. Serve with fruit and/or graham crackers.

It’s the richness of a tofu pie in a smaller portion! I love my peanut butter with bananas, apples, and grahams.

The chocolate hazelnut goes great with strawberries. Holy yum.

It didn’t add too much sugar because I already really like tofu and tend to prefer my nut butters on the saltier side. I also can’t taste certain bitter compounds (weird FYI about myself) – so if you do find it somewhat bitter, feel free to add a touch more sweetener.

Is that not the best snack spread or what?!  After school or after work snack, whatever floats your boat. Does anyone else treat work and school nights the same?

What are some of your favorite snacks? Do you ever find yourself wishes that your favorite deserts could be made in mini/portion controlled forms?