Creamy Roasted Hazelnut Butter

About five or six years back, I was in a Middle East specialty grocery store and found a jar of hazelnut butter.  Not just the normal Nutella themed chocolate and hazelnut, but straight up hazelnut butter and it was delicious! Since that time I have yet to locate it in another grocery store and I’m too lazy and/or cheap to buy it online when it’s so easy to make!

Basically, so stupidly easy I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner, but to be fair, I was on a regular old peanut butter kick and then cashew butter – both also delicious.

Creamy Hazelnut Butter

Makes about 2 cups


  • 1 pound raw hazelnuts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 T sugar, honey, or agave
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


  1. Preheat over to 350F.
  2. Arrange hazelnuts on a foil lined baking tray and roast in the over for 7-10 minutes or until a light golden brown.
  3. Let cool just slightly and transfer to a clean towel. To remove the skins of the hazelnuts (they’re kind of bitter), scoop the hot hazelnuts into a pile in the center of the towel (take care due to the high heat of the nuts). Bring the four corners of the tea towel together and gather it up in one hand, so that all of your hazelnuts are scooped up in the bottom of the tea towel. Using your other hand, squish the bottom and the sides of the tea towel so that all the hazelnuts are rubbing up against each other. Do this for a couple minutes until most of the skins are removed.
  4. Separate out the skins from the nuts. I use a slotted serving spoon – it’s big enough to get more than a few nuts at a time and the holes are small enough that the nuts won’t fall through but the skins will.
  5. Place warm nuts* in a food processor and grind until smooth. Add in vanilla, salt, and sweetener (if desired) and continue to blend until a smooth butter is formed – yes, it should be kind of runny. If it hasn’t yet reached that consistency, just be patient, it will get there.

*Warm nuts tend to work a little better and faster by making the oil more available during the processing.

You can keep it stored in an air tight container. I like mason jars because you can easily see through them and they store about 2 cups perfectly.

My hazelnut butter is a little on the darker side because I toasted the nuts just a bit extra. If you like you’re lighter, just watch very closely and removed when they’ve gathered just a hint of golden. You can also make the butter raw, but won’t be able to remove the skins. Just a bit of trade offs. I also added a touch of sweetness to mine because I was trying to get as close as possible to the flavor I found in that Middle East grocery (which was akin to the chocolate hazelnut without the chocolate, but still some sweetness).

Stick around for a to-die-for dessert coming to the blog in the next couple of weeks that features this fantastic spread – hazelnutty goodness.

What are your favorite nuts butters? Do you stick with the classic peanut butter or almond or branch out into walnut, pecan, cashew, and hazelnut?

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.


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. 🙂


Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 2 when sharing


  • 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


  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.


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

Miso Sauced Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu

This week’s meals have had a distinct East Asia theme – Monday night I was at work so long that I said screw it and picked up some dinner from Thai Spice rather than cook. My go to is the Pad Woon Sen with chicken or tofu – I prefer the cellophane noodles to thick pad thai noodles. C really likes the Tom Kha with tofu – and that’s a development after four years, C will eat tofu as the protein of the meal… Umm, yeah blew my mind too.

Then on Wednesday I was able to finally test out this vision I had for a recipe I’m doing for a cooking class – and obviously I’m going to share it on the blog too. 🙂


The idea started when C and I made the Spicy Ramen recipe from Pinch of Yum. While the ramen was good, I couldn’t help but just stand by the counter dunking my tofu into the miso sauce – without putting it in the broth. When looking to create my own version, I decided to go away fro the traditional ramen noodles because they can be really high in sodium and some fat. Since the miso is salty enough, I decided to go for a soba noodle. It was definitely the right choice.


If you’re not sure if you’re a tofu fan, it’s probably because you’ve never had it prepared correctly – lots of places just deep fry the heck out of it and it’s like biting in to a sponge. Umm, no, just no. That texture is for dips, mousses, and sauces, not the “meaty” portion of the meal. The key is to press the tofu to get rid of excess liquid and prevent that spongy texture. I also prefer the baked or grilled tofu to the pan fried – for some reason I have better luck with the first two methods.


Miso Sauced Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu

Serves 2 very large or 4 normal portions


  • 16 oz firm or extra firm tofu
  • Vegetables of choice – I used a convenient mixed stir-fry blend with broccoli, sliced carrots, pea pods, and kale
  • 2 large shiitake mushrooms, cut thinly length wise (optional)
  • Green onion for final taste and garnish

Spicy Miso Sauce

  • 1/2 small or 1/4 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c red miso paste
  • 1/4 c yellow miso broth concentrate (can use this for both misos if can’t find the red)
  • 2 T sambel oelek – chili paste – if using a garlic chili paste, omit garlic cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T mirin – like rice wine for cooking
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1T (scant) toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp red curry paste (optional but encouraged)


  1. Begin by draining and cutting your tofu into eight slices (dividing the width of the tofu block). To compress tofu if you don’t have a fancy contraption, lay tofu slices on a level surface on top of some towels and paper towels, then place an addition layer of towels and paper towels on top of that. Place a large board – I use my cutting board over the top – then weigh down with heavy books. Cook books work great! Wait at least 30 minutes.
  2. While you’re pressing the excess liquid out of the tofu, you can get started on the miso sauce and preheat the oven to 400F.
  3. In a food processor, puree all of the spicy miso sauce ingredients. It will be a thick sauce. Scrap out into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Once the tofu is sufficiently pressed, you can arrange to slices on a non-stick baking sheet or one covered in foil and lightly oiled. Brush tofu lightly with olive or vegetable oil, then brush on a layer of the miso sauce. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until they’ve reached your desired level of crispiness.
  5. While the tofu bakes, start a large pot of water boiling for the noodles.
  6. In a large pan, sauté the vegetables and mushrooms until cooked but vegetables are still slightly crisp. You can also cook the mushrooms separately first and then add back in at the end of the vegetable cooking. Add a tablespoon of the miso sauce to the vegetable pan and stir. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.
  7. Once water has reached a boiling point in the large pot, add in soba noodles and cook as directed – cooked through, but not mushy, about 6-8 minutes. Drain noodles and place in very large bowl.
  8. In the very large bowl, toss together the noodles and vegetables with 1/3 c miso sauce to start. Add additional sauce until noodles have reached the desired level of flavor, some additional splashes of water may be needed to ensure even sauce coverage. You will have left over sauce – don’t worry that’s a good thing to save for later. 🙂
  9. Plate noodles and serve with crispy tofu – brush tofu with additional miso sauce layer once out of oven.


Seriously in love with this sauce. Beware it is really salty, because well, miso is salty and full of umami goodness.  The miso paste will have a more concentrated flavor as will the red miso, so if you want to just do the yellow or the broth concentrate, that works too! And miso is a really good health food – it’s fermented which means it has some of those good bacteria, it also is packed with nutrients including iron, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins. Maybe I should start switching all of my regular broth recipes to miso?

I’d also recommend making an extra 16 oz of crispy tofu to dunk later in the left over miso sauce – as Martha would say, it’s definitely a good thing.

Do you ever get on a theme week with food? With leftover miso paste, what are some of your favorite dishes that require miso?

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


  • 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


  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?


  • 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


  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? 

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


  • 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


  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?

Black Bean Hummus for the Ultimate Veggie Snacker

Black beans two weeks in a row? … at least one is sweet and the other savory? Oh well, I’m over that embarrassment, because this is another tasty healthy recipe.

I adore hummus as a healthy snack option. And find it really difficult to get bored of something you can customize so easily when you make it yourself. Traditional hummus is made from garbanzo beans, but whenever I make the original version in my little 2 cup food processor, it never gets quite as smooth. So I typically opt for a softer bean and my first favorite type of bean – the black bean.

This spread/dip is thick enough to be used on sandwiches, but my favorite is just for packing a flavor punch with veggies. 🙂 For some extra color try different color carrots, home grown or pickling cucumbers, and heirloom baby tomatoes. Oh and for a little extra crunch I’ve thrown in some Nut-Thins – seriously so good especially with the hint of salt in the sea salt variety.

Black Bean Hummus

Makes 6 to 8, 1/4 cup servings


  • 1 can black beans (~2 cups), rinsed and drained
  • 2 T tahini
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 c chopped green onion
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (your favorite kind), adjust for spiciness
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Additional water to improve consistency if needed.


  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor (I used a 2 cup version) but you can also use the smaller bowl option on your large processor.
  2. Pulse and blend until smooth.

Yep, two steps – super simple.

Now you can pick your favorite veggies to accompany.

Happy snacking!

My other favorite hummus is the edamame hummus from Trader Joes.

What’s your favorite brand or type of hummus? What are your favorite snacking veggies?


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Black Bean Mocha Brownies

Achilles heel? Kryptonite? Whatever way you like to phrase your weakness, brownies are mine. I can turn away from cake; I can turn away from cookies; I can even turn away from ice cream, but put a brownie in front of me and I crumble… especially the fudgy brownies. And if they’re the crunchy top brownies, I’m finished, vanquished. With that being the case, I’m alway on the look out for a healthier brownie version; and while I’ve found some great options with almond flour gluten free brownies, pumpkin, and a few others, black bean will always be my favorite. Beans in brownies? Yes it may seem crazy, but is so so good. I stumbled upon this recipe probably 6 years ago or so – which means I honestly can’t pinpoint where the original recipe came from.

While there are a lot of black bean brownie recipes out there, this is by far my favorite and the easiest in my opinion. And because we’re replacing the oil and eggs with the beans, depending on what brownie mix you pick, they’re definitely vegetarian but can also easily be vegan as well.

Over the years I’ve ramped up the coffee in the recipe to really make them more of a mocha. 🙂 I also started experimenting with cold brew coffee, but you can use just strong black coffee or even espresso instead.

Black Bean Mocha Brownies

Serves 16-20


  • 1 box chocolate brownie mix with chocolate chips (the chips in there make a real difference, I use Ghiraradelli), or another rich mix
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 c cold brew coffee or other strong coffee
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 c additional water or coffee


  1. To puree the black beans, process in a food processor with 1/4 cup of cold brew coffee until very smooth and you don’t see large pieces of bean skin (hull?).
  2. Then mix with the rest of ingredients, remaining coffee, and last additional 1/4 cup water or coffee (depending on how much mocha flavor you want) until batter is your desired consistency. Adding a little less water will help with the texture, but the full 1/4 cup are guaranteed to make the brownies extra fudgy.
  3. Follow the directions on the brownie box, baking at about 325 for 35-40 minutes; you want to undercook them a little bit so they’re not dry.
  4. Bake in an 8×8 pan, and they’re still pretty thick. I typically use a 9×9 pan because my brain works on size of the top of the brownie and doesn’t always register how thick it is when it comes to portion sizes.

Holy yum! And I don’t feel as guilty eating one of these a day (until the pan is finished)… or maybe two? But in order to avoid the dreadful task of having to eat theses all by yourself because your partner in life, food, and fun can’t reconcile that these delicious treats are made with beans – I suggest you share with another group of fine people.