Oh for the love of balls

Not those balls. Different balls.

I’m talking chocolate, coconut, nutty, fat balls. Paleo and Vegan balls. Balls you will love. Balls for days. Balls you can whip up really fast.

Some days I am focussed in the kitchen and other days I bounce off the walls and cabinets like Ricochet Rabbit. Remember him? Bing bing bing Ricochet Rabbit. There’s an age drop. I may have really only watched it a couple of times. I can’t recall the specifics of any episodes like I can with Bugs Bunny, other than him literally bouncing off everything in the room. Upon reflection, maybe he was a character with either a sugar addiction, food sensitivities/allergies or possibly ADHD. Maybe too much caffeine? Who knows.

Today was one of those excited electron days. Inside I was buzzing with the energy to “DO STUFF” but I also wanted something treat-like without the associated guilt of inhaling half a bag of chocolate chips (I may have done that once or twice before). I have an upcoming trip to San Diego and I wanted something I can take on the flight that won’t get confiscated as contraband goods. So these easy balls were born.

(Yikes! It looks like I could do with a manicure and some cuticle work.)

I chucked some stuff into the food processor and crossed my fingers. This turned out way better than I could have ever hoped. I’m glad I was paying attention to what and how much went in. Sometimes the creative process really is a blur.

Really.

I may need to make more as I don’t think the inaugural batch will last until I fly. That’s ok because that means they were that good. I eat all the stuff I make, even if it isn’t stupendous because I hate wasting food. When the people I love and live with enjoy my creations, I do the Snoopy happy dance inside.

I give you: ccnf (chocolate coconut nutty fat) balls:

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 10 Medjool dates cut into quarters
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Pinch of sea salt

Pulse the nuts for a few seconds in the bowl of the food processor using the S-blade. Add the quartered dates and coconut shreds and pulse until the mix almost holds together when you squeeze a small amount in your fingers. Obviously don’t put your fingers in the processor while it is running. They aren’t kidding when they say that blade is sharp.

Add the coconut butter, coconut oil, salt and cocoa powder and process until everything is well mixed.

Pack the firmly mix into a small cookie scoop. smallcookiescoopMy favourite one is a 1 tablespoon measure scoop. Pop them into the fridge to set. Makes about 15-18 small balls (depending on how much you “quality check” the mixture as you roll your balls).

Don’t have a small scoop? Don’t fret marmoset. Just get your hands dirty and roll your balls the old-fashioned way.

Winner winner chicken dinner 

Don’t you just love a big fancy dinner?

Picture the room. Tasteful decor, perhaps candles and ambient music in the background. There doesn’t appear to be any other patrons in the restaurant. No menus.  The server begins your meal. A salad and maybe a soup course or some other appetizer with an aperitif. Fish, then game followed by beef all with perfect wine pairings. Oooh, dessert and perhaps a cheese plate with a glass of port. Coffee and cognac anyone?

Wait a second. What’s that noise? It isn’t stopping. It’s getting louder and louder. Oh right. You’re sleeping. Or you were sleeping. Your brain alerts you to the sound of your alarm going off and you haul your carcass from under the covers. Feet hit the cold floor and reality lands on your shoulders with a thud. It was just a dream.

You get through your work day relatively unscathed. All day in the back of your mind, however, lurks the age old question of what to make for dinner. When you get home, you open the fridge hoping for inspiration. Meh. The pantry holds no magic either.

You know you don’t want to cave in and order pizza or some other takeaway food that will leave your wallet empty and your gut and heart full of pain and regret. You remember the portioned flattened chicken thighs in the freezer.  Into the sink with water they go. They will thaw out fairly quickly because you froze them flat. (Aren’t you glad you did that?)

While the chicken is thawing, you get busy hauling the veg from the crisper. This becomes a total Hail Mary play. Carrots, parsnips, brussel spouts and maybe the last of the broccoli. Oh hey, grab the half onion too while you’re in the fridge.

You grab a shallow roasting pan and place it on the counter beside the cutting board. Turn the oven on to get it to temperature while you prep everything. Carrots peeled and chopped into chunks. Parsnips get the same treatment. Brussel sprouts get halved (keep the outer leaves to make chips or sauté them for breakfast tomorrow) and the broccoli is split into small florets. Quarter the onion and dump all the veg into a big bowl. Meanwhile you have melted some ghee in the microwave and have added a shake or two of your favourite spice blend. You pour the seasoned ghee all over the veg.

You check the thawing chicken and see it’s almost ready. You put more ghee in the microwave to melt. Grab the kitchen shears and cut the bones from the thighs. Trim the excess skin while you are at it. You put the bones aside to make stock later. You’re so smart it makes you smile. Your grandma would be proud.

You dump all the coated veg into the roasting pan. You stir a healthy splash of bourbon hot sauce (oh yeah, this is the stuff dreams are made of) into the ghee and slather the chicken all over with this deliciousness and plop it on top of the vegetables.

By this point, the oven is ready and in goes dinner. A quick clean up of a cutting board, a knife, one bowl and a glass measuring cup and you can sit down until food is ready. Or shower or feed the cats (or dogs), open mail or any other home type tasks.

In about 40 minutes, you are tucking into a super all in one meal. Plus, lookit all the veg you are stuffing into yourself and your people. You should be proud of yourself. Dinner crisis averted.

Winning weeknight chicken dinner:

  • 8 skin-on, boneless (or debone them yourself and make some stock) chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup melted ghee, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon Virginia Gentleman’s Bourbon Chipotle Hot Sauce (this stuff is golden! but by all means use another favourite brand)
  • veg of choice to fill your roasting pan  NOTE: I used 3 large carrots, 2 medium parsnips several handfuls of brussel sprouts, half a medium onion and about 2 cups broccoli florets, but use what you have handy
  • 2 teaspoons of your favourite spice blend
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set oven to 375.

Scrub, peel and chop your veg so they are all around the same size. Things will cook at the same time. Mix the spice blend with 1/4 cup of the meted ghee and toss the chopped veg to coat. Put the veggies in the bottom of your roasting pan, spreading everything out evenly.

Mix the hot sauce with the other 1/4 cup of meted ghee and coat the chicken thighs, placing them right on top of the veggies, skin side up.

Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes or until internal temperature of the chicken reads 165.

Like a Scout, it’s good to be prepared

Every good heist has to be carefully planned. Nothing is ever left to chance. If you want to get away with things and be on Easy Street, you need to plan and prepare for any possible outcome.

Food really isn’t any different. You need to plan and prepare. When you don’t have a well-thought out plan, that’s when things start sliding sideways and you find yourself calling for take-out, ordering pizza or whipping through the closest drive-thru. This is then followed by a lot of regret and self-flagellation. These feelings are neither productive nor conducive to getting back on track. Time to get over yourself and get back to the business of feeding yourself good food.

Flip though your stack of recipe books and jot down meal ideas for the upcoming week. Think of all those food videos you share and like on Facebook and Pinterest. (They all have thousands of shares and views but I wonder how many folks have ever made any of them.) Dinner doesn’t have to be a rut. If a recipe calls for bison and well, you are not willing to shell out the dollars for this particular protein, you have permission to use a different red meat. The flavours may not be 100% as the recipe creator intended, but you have a new dish in your repertoire. Same goes for fish. Use cod instead of halibut. Trout for salmon. Just buy the best you can afford. Wild canned salmon on sale? Load up. You can add that to your salads, mix it with some mayo, make salmon cakes and so on.

Like most folks, you probably shop once a week for groceries. If you hit places like Costco, you might wind up with large packs of meats that look a little intimidating. The solution to the party-pak of protein is portioning (ooh, how I love me some alliteration).

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The five pound pack of ground beef has been weighed into half-pound measures and patted flat. By patting it flat like this, it freezes faster, is easier to store in the freezer and best of all, it thaws faster.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are often cheaper than their boneless, skinless counterpart. Be sure to flatten the chicken when you portion it to freeze. Like the ground meat, it will thaw much faster. When dinner decisions are pressing, you want to know things will thaw quickly. If you are paying premium dollar for pastured chicken, you want all the parts. You can debone the thighs yourself as long as you have a good pair of kitchen shears. It really is easy to do. Plus, now you have some bones for stock. Your grandma would be proud. Win-win.

Speaking of stock, or bone broth as it’s called in the trendy circles, portion and freeze that too for quick and easy use down the road.

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I have silicone muffin pans that make baking stupidly easy. They never need greasing. Everything just pops right out as slick as can be. I make my stock and ladle it into my muffin pan in 1/4 cup measures and freeze those bad boys. When a recipe calls for a small amount of stock in a recipe, I pull out as many pucks as I need and melt them in the microwave if I’m short on time.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. Spend the time in the kitchen portioning and freezing. This meal prep step will save you from feelings of self-loathing as you hide the pizza box in the bottom of the compost collection bucket.

Having a variety of proteins frozen into meal sized amounts will provide you with a good rotation during the week. You won’t be condemned to a week of chicken thighs because you bought the warehouse pack and they need to be eaten – stat!