Sweet sweet October [Chocolate Almond Caramel Bars]

Monday fans: raise your hand. Nobody? Hm … Maybe I can convince you by saying that this post is not just going to be marvelous but mmmm[hhh]arvelous? Happy Monday!

MiMM_new

Do anybody else’s  cravings for anything sweet become even more intense as soon as it gets colder outside? I’m longing chocolate no matter of the season but it’s definitely exponentially increasing with the decreasing temperatures.

But I digress. Sweet is the name of the game because is there any better way to start into the week? [This is a rhethorical question, by the way ;).] In my post on Wednesday I asked for your favourite chocolatey snacks – for a reason. Let’s say my consumption of the ‘real’ deal has gone up noticably in the past weeks. While I’m never going to give up on it [ha, not even considering it] I figured queasing my sweet chocolate tooth with a slightly healthier or actually just a homemade alternative. Michelle’s recipe for vegan Twix hugely inspired these.

Bar I

Not only was I missing key ingredients [read: almond flour] called for in the recipe but reading it I just couldn’t help coming up with my own spin on it in my head already. What sounds good in theory, though, doesn’t always turn out once put to practice. I’m happy to say it did for these little bars of deliciousness, though. For those of you concered with this: my changes also add a protein boost – treats with a nutritional bonus? Why not.

Caramel bars

You’ll notice I once more put an emphasis on using white almond butter in the caramel. While I’ve just recently discovered the amazingness of roasted almond butter it doesn’t lend the sweet and creamy flavour the unroasted one does in this recipe. I dare you to manage not eating the whole batch of sticky caramel all at once … I somehow did but I can’t tell you how. Next time I may or may not need to prepare a litte more …

Date caramel (2)

But trust me: self-control is rewarded. Rich dark chocolate that crisps upon first bite. Creamy sweet caramel. Slight salty peanutty base. Good thing I don’t have to share …

Treat

Chocolate-covered Almond Caramel Bars [makes five to six bars]

For the base:

  • 25 g pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup (40 g) peanut flour
  • a pinch of salt

For the caramel:

  • 45 g of dates
  • 1 1/2 tbsps of white (!) almond butter
  • 1 tbsp of water (you might need to add more later)
  • pinch of real vanilla [optional]

For the chocolate coating:

  • 1.5 – 2 oz chocolate (I used 85 % dark chocolate)

Blend the dates in a food processor [or the ice crush attachment of your handheld blender] until a paste forms.

Add the date paste to the peanut flour and salt and knead to get a thick doughy texture. You might need to mix in water little by little depending on how sticky your dates are.

Shape into bars and place into the fridge for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the caramel by combining the dates, almond butter and water in the food processor. Blend to reach a smooth but not drippy consistency.

Once the bars have chiled for the time required to firm the up spread a thick layer of caramel onto each of them. Place them in the freezer [not fridge this time] until the caramel has hardened a bit.

Melt the chocolate. Cover the top of each bar with chocolate. The coating should harden right away. If not return to the fridge until set.

in hand

In case you’re wondering: yes, this post’s title was inspired by the movie Sweet November. So romantic, so sad. Perfect for the season. If you haven’t watched it yet: do it! Maybe with a Chocolate [Caramel] Bar to sweeten things up?!

Happiness inducing today: Lots. For one a nice long telephone chat with one of my cousins, Exciting blog news [more to come]. Oh, and Chocolate Caramel Bars – sorry ;).

Have you ever made your own candy bars or found any great recipes online? Please share the links! Amanda had an awesome collection in her Sunday link love post already.

What are your favourite romantic movies? It’s the season so I’m looking for recommendations. Preferably ones that have been released a few months or better yet years back so chances are my library will have them.

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Good good links #9

Sunday. A day for traditions. A day dedicated to spending time with the family or simply yourself, resting and recharging for the busy week ahead. A day you should spend in just the way that makes you feel good at this very point. For me, that is a nice long walk most day. At best with family members or friends but when I’m alone one of my favourites is taking my camera along with me. Following up with my goal of the Photo-a-day challenge I’ll show you some of the pictures I’ve taken so far.

Photo a day[from left on top in clockwise direction: In motion (falling leaves) – What you saw todayLeaves Still]

Continuing with a still rather new tradition of mine: Sharing some of my posts from the week with a little bit of everything from deeper posts to delicious food.

Happy Sunday!

Good good [food for thought]

Nutrition Compromises via Kath Eats Real Food

Great view on which nutrition tips to follow or skip [though obviously a personal choice, too] if you want to be healthy yet still not take all the fun out of life.

Walking is Underrated via Perfection isn’t happy

Because exercising doesn’t mean wearing out your body to the point of achiness. Walking is an awesome and social way of working out casually, getting a fresh breath and lots of benefits.

Masking Issues with Macros via Healthy Helper

A must-read if you’ve been annoyed by and wondering about the whole macro-counting trend. It’s nothing but the sequel to calorie-counting. Yes to changing from #iifmm [if it fits my macros] to #iifma [if it fits my appetite].

Eating unhealthily to prove you’re healthy via The Big Man’s World

Feeling the pressure to ignore your true cravings just to show how ‘normal’ and recovered you are – and by that actually not behaving normal at all. A tricky issue.

Good good [advice]

How to Deal When it’s Just Not Your Day via The Daily Muse

Not just for office workers but really anybody because who doesn’t have a bad day once in a while?

10 Truths You Will Learn Before You Find Happiness via Marc and Angel Hack Life

Beautiful reminder of some life lessons all of us learn at some point. “We are beautifully imperfect beings, operating in a very imperfect world, and that is just the way it is meant to be. “

Better Broccoli by Octoblog! via Kiss my Broccoli

Lots of awesome advice on how to spruce up your blog.

11 Secrets to Taking Better Instagram Pictures via The Daily Muse

Great tips for the day I decide on setting up an IG account.

How To Fix Every Nail Problem In The Book via Beauty High

Let’s face it: polishing nails can get quite frustrating at times. Great tips to avoid some of the most common troubles.

Good good [reasons to laugh]

Are Your Pumpkin Treats Tricking You? via Huffington Post

Here’s to another reason why we’re better off preparing our own pumpkin treats with actual pumpkin content.

20 Things To Do While Waiting For Someone Before We Had Smartphones via Huffington Post

Compulsive watch-checking is one I still do … woops.

36 Things You Never Reaized Everybody Else Does, Too via Buzzfeed

Feels good to know I’m not alone.

Bookshelfies

Simple selfies are so yesterday ;). A whole blog dedicated to the latest trend. Am I the only one wondering if these people actually read all of the books?

 

Good good [food]

Vegan Friendly Twix Bars via Peachy Palate

With healthy date caramel and dark chocolate coating these look simply amazing.

Stuffed Pepper Soup via Skinny Taste

The taste of stuffed peppers without the extra work? I’m in [minus the ground beef and chicken broth, that is – but that’s what subbing was invented for]!

53 Ways To Sneak Pumpkin Into Every Meal via Greatist

Will I ever give up on the desire to add pumpkin to everything?! More great ideas to help my addiction.

Pumpkin-Pistachio Kale Fried Rice Bowl with Maple Tofu Cubes via Healthy.Happy.Life

Another pumpkin dish that involves lots of great fall flavours.

Meat Beany Chili & Corn Muffins via The PPK blog

Hearty vegan chili with lots of beans – just the way I like it.

Happiness inducing today: Chatting with my cousin who recenty moved to another country. Oh the blessings of Facebook and Skype.

What were some of your favourite posts from the week [or ones that are older but you happened upon just now]?

Do you have any Sunday traditions or did you family have any when you grew up?

Beware of the hangry blogger

Once upon a time .. okay, a while ago – before I had even thought of starting a blog myself – I noticed several bloggers [but cannot remember which – was it you, too?] not only posting their meals for WIAW but showing the aftermath [empty plates and muffin liners], too. I’m all up for variations on What I ate Wednesday so I just had to pick up this fun [to me at least] idea that I saw at another blog quite some time ago. Not only will you see the meal as I start it but also the remainders as in: the aftermath of a hangry blogger. Let’s get from start to finish [of my meals] at this week’s party. Thanks for being a wonderful hostess once more, Jenn!

WIAW_halloween button

If you read my last WIAW you’ll know I talked about some progress I made but also noted I was still not there. One of the main struggles I have in terms of meals is breakfast. Yes, everybody’s favourite meal. Just not mine. When I wake up there have been only a few options I’ll decide between for months. Safe options that – while delicious – for the most part need to fit the criteria of holding me over for a while. Let’s just say that breakfast hasn’t been the time for changes and experimentation. Until Monday …

Breakfast October 004

Pancakes? Me? Nah, they won’t saturate or satisfy me at all ony leading to constant snacking right after breakfast: my exact thoughts before. But waking up yesterday I didn’t feel much of an appetite at all. Former [read: a year or so ago] me would have taken this as an invitation of skipping the first meal of the day altogether. Now, though, with a healthier attitude I finally decided enough was enough and to not just have breakfast like usually but try something new. Maybe it was daringness or I just couldn’t resist anymore after Heather posted another awesome looking pancake recipe. But after some veganizing and ingredient subbing action [get on board with the canned pumpkin already, Germany!] I’m glad I did. Not only did I conquer another fear meal [breakfast] and food [pancakes] but it showed me once more that many fears are needless. No, I did not suddenly turn into a fluffy pancake nor was I hungry immediately afterwards. Sorry, though, to all pancake fiends out there [as in: basically the whole blog world]: I’m still not a convert. These were nice for a change but I’ll continue my search for the perfect all-year/non-kabocha breakfast.

PancakesIn previous days such  breakfast changes [note: there were twice as many pancakes and almond butter joined the party after the camera had left the site of crime ;)] would have required cutting back at other meals and in no way trying something new for lunch, too. Sticking with this old habit, however, would have made my breakfast challenge seem incomplete. Also, I had a few cravings that I wanted to turn into a recipe. Enter twice-baked spaghetti squash with [vegan] Pepperjack cheese.

Twice-baked

Believe me I’m just doing you a favour in not showing the aftermath of lunch. The delicate squash shell was victim to some not so pretty cracking apart. Another blogger-inspired meal, by the way. Thanks to Amy for inspring me to give spaghetti squash another try. In between last week’s spaghetti squash casserole and this dish I’ve discovered a new-found appreciation of this pasta-like member of the pumpkin family.

Nothing could stop me from snacking, either. While I’ve been feeling the need for a change sometime soon, truffles have still made an appearance. Along with numerous other random nibbles, bites and – obviously – dinner. Somehow, though, I always end up losing the motivation to take pictures of every single morsel that ends up in my mouth throughout the day. Maybe sometime in the future …

Truffles

Maybe some of you feel like joining the ’empty plate’ edition next week? And does anybody happen to know who started the trend?

Questions upon questions but for now:

Happy Wednesday!

Happiness inducing today: Once more the wonderfully sunny autumn weather.

*One more note: Sorry for not keeping up with replying to your comments on my last posts. I’m currently not at my place and promise I’ll get back to them once I’m back!

Inspire me: what are your favourite chocolatey snacks? I’m not a fan of dried fruit/nut balls but any ideas aside from those would be awesome.

What is your favourite meal of the day and the best dish you had for that meal recently?

And the random question of the day [because Sunday clearly wasn’t the right time to ask]: Do you make your own nut butters? Which food processor do you use? I’ve been pondering the purchase of a Vitamix for ages and feel like it’s time for a decision.

Don’t be lonely.

Hi!

Mondays are getting a bad reputation with many people dreading the start of a new week of work, college or school foreboding stressful and busy days. If I was honest, though, I’d have to admit Mondays are some of my favourites. At least right now that I’m still funemployed [thanks, Davida!] and the weekends aren’t a time needed to rejuvenate. In fact, they can feel quite lonely unless I’m spending them at my parents or my friends are in the city. Just this past weekend was an example of such a weekend I would normally try to mask by finding the itty bits of brightness in it not admitting to being all alone.

Although I’m not a native speaker I feel there’s a difference betwee being alone and lonely. Alone is the physical state of being on our own. But lonely is the feeling we experience when we let being alone influence our happiness. It was only this past weekend that I felt okay about being alone for the first time in a long while. After the weekends at my parents’ place I let loneliness into my mind. Most of my friends from university have moved either back home for the moment [if they don’t have a job yet] or to different cities for work. So yes, it can get way too easy for me to let myself wallow in lonely thoughts.

Even when we are physically alone loneliness and the unpleasant feelings coming with it aren’t happening unless we let them.  I’m not pretending I was immune to this feeling.  There are still days when I’m grieving, feeling uncomfortable with myself and letting solitude weigh heavily on my mind. But the past weekend was a great example of actively working against the sulkiness of solitude seeping in. At first I wasn’t even trying. Instead, my brain apparently had found its own way of making things happen.

Sunday walk_October

Not getting into all the details but Saturday started with me deciding to just quickly drop off some books at the library and returning home again. Yet after I’d done it my feet just kept going, leading me into the city for some errands and some more walking around – and before I knew it three hours had passed. Three hours in which I hadn’t once pitied myself. Once home I prepared a nice lunch, ate and then spend a good time reading in bed. All rounded out by a nice run and watching part of [yes, I know … my attention span …] a movie. Sunday was spent in an even more productive fashion and a lot of outdoor activity enjoying a cold but gorgeous fall day. What I learned from this weekend were some key point for enjoying me time instead of letting it become unpleasant loneliness.

Reading

1. Be prepared: If you know you’ll be encountering a day or weekend of being alone prepare yourself. Mentally in terms of telling yourself that it’s not forever but also physically by having a good book or movie at hand. Seeking out activities you know you’ll enjoy on your own, too. Maybe there’a a fitness/creativity/cooking/… class you could attend? A movie you’ve been meaing to watch in cinema that none of your friends wanted to come along to see?

2. Pamper yourself: Even if it’s ‘just’ at home treat yourself to a manicure, take a long bath, sleep in – do anything that makes you feel good about yourself. Light a candle, put on your favourite scent and declare it a mental health and self-care day.

Candle

3. Run away from loneliness: Metaphorically speaking loneliness is like a nasty beast trying to catch you off guard [why, yes, my brain works in a figurative way at times] and make you feel down. While you don’t need to do any strenous workouts or run miles upon miles a long walk can be quite calming. Anything that gets you out of your apartment and away from the feeling of isolation. Just being around others – even if you don’t know or talk to them – can be a nice change. Or plug in your iPod, listen to some good tunes and walk out those worries and sadness. It’s amazing what a bit of fresh air and a change of scenery can do.

4. Write it down: Whether you use a diary, turn your feelings into a blog post or – a recent favourite of mine – write a letter: be creative and make good use of the time you have on hand. The letters I’ve written this weekend didn’t even revolve around my loneliness but I just used them as a way of letting my thoughts divert away from those negative feelings. Busying my mind with happy thoughts didn’t leave much [or any] space for negativity.

5. Decide to see the benefits: While I’d still prefer most of my weekends to be busy and filled with activites it’s simply not always happening. And if you know how to make the best of this me time it can be quite beneficial. Being alone allows you to reflect. See and hear things you might blind out when with others. The opportunity to be selfish without hurting anybody’s feelings. No need to hurry when you’d like to spend some more time in bed or trying on clothes at the mall without anybody getting annoyed and dragging you to go.

 

Once more it is really about the attitude we have towards a certain situation. When we are alone for too long it definitely gets hard to bear. But if it’s a day or two we can still have a pretty marvelous time without feeling lonely.

Happy Monday!

MiMM_new

Happiness inducing today: Spending the largest part of the day outside soaking up the October sun.

 

How do you deal with weekends spent on your own?

What are your favourite “me time” activities?

And some random curiosity:

1) current book?

2) favourite scented candle [mine are the Vanilla ice cream (!!!) scented ones from IKEA]

 

 

 

 

Good good links #8

Hi and happy Sunday! Did your weekends go well so far? For me there was lots of cozy candlelight and reading action to combat the dreary weather. But now isn’t the time and place to rant about rain – and really, how awful is rain when it’s the perfect excuse for an afternoon spent with a good book? And speaking of good reads here are some of my favourites from the week.

Flowers

Good good [food for thought]

Skewed Perceptions via Better with Sprinkles

Great post on how media influences the way we define fitness and see ourselves. Living up to our own words can be hard.

Five lies about nutrition via the Real Life RD

Low carb? No eating after 7 PM? Ridiculous diet myths debunked.

The Social Media Fast: Why I’m Going 30 Days Without Checking In via Greatist

Could you go a month without social media? I’m curious to see how it goes for her.

Good good [advice]

5 ways to deal with fat days via Running with Spoons

Great tips for those days when all you want to do is hide from the world – don’t!

It’s Simple, Easy And Free – And It Will Improve Your Health – via Huffington Post

Lace up the shoes and walk out your problems.

7 Ways to Stop Fearing What Everyone Thinks About You via Marc and Angel Hack Life

Don’t miss out on the beauty of simply being yourself trying to please others.

5 Questions That Will Help You Find Your True Self via Mind Body Green

Creating your roadmap to personal happiness.

The Ultimate Guide to Unplugging via Greatist

Going right along with the social media fast. Still need to work on this one.

Good good [laughter]

Alternatives to dieting via Snack Therapy

Best way: just jump to #8 right away.

14 Profound Quotes From The Harry Potter Books via Buzzfeed

Didn’t we always know there was so much more [wisdom] to these books?!

Can Twerking Help You Loose Weight? via Women’s Health Mag

A “killer cardio”? Maybe I should jump on the twerking train 😀 … Arman?

Unbelievably Creative Furniture via Likes

Bread fiends: here’s your dream [baguette] table.

33 Untold Truths That Writers Know Too Well via Buzzfeed

Sorry, yes, definitely guilty of #12. And #16? Bane of my existence sleep.

Good good [food]

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cashew Butter via Healthy Food For Living

This looks too good for words. Time to finally buy a Vitamix, I guess.

11 Delicious Apple Treats via Women’s Health Mag

More fuel to my constant apple addiction and the best for the season.

25 Creative Homemade Popcorn Recipes via Babble

Right in time to celebrate National Popcorn Month. Samoa or Cinnamon Chili Popcorn, anybody?

Savoury Chickpea Pancakes with smoky roasted carrots via The Year In Food

A fancy mini version of socca – looks so good!

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup via Healthful Pursuit

A hearty warming bowl of deliciousness for these colder days.

Enjoy your day!

Happiness inducing today: Cozy hours in bed reading a good book.

 

What were some of your favourite posts from the week?

If you’ve ever made your own nut butter: which food processor do you use? I’m seriously considering the purchase of a Vitamix and need some advice.

Living up to my origins [Savoury Sauerkraut Bread Pudding]

Will you believe that sauerkraut has not been part of my diet for ages already? Yes, I’m German and here I am confessing that what you’d believe to basically be a staple food for me is not. Maybe my parents didn’t like it themselves or my mum simply didn’t serve it up because she knew me and my siblings wouldn’t eat it. Either way it never made an appearance on our table. Granted, my family is far from typically German – in the way we eat at least. Unless we’re talking winter and specifially Christmas, that is. When my grandma’s Rotkohl [spiced red cabbage] is a must – or somebody is going to throw a fit -, Grünkohl [kale prepared in a special way and stewed with smoked pork chops and a certain type of sausages] and other traditional dishes make an appearance.

Why, yes, I'm totally throwing in a picture of Christmas candles here.

Why, yes, I’m totally throwing in a picture of Christmas candles here.

But I digress. Sauerkraut. With me going vegetarian years ago a plethora of meat-less cookbooks have been finding their way into my parents’ house. One of these had a recipe for an oriental spin on the German classic Semmelknödel served with a side of sauerkraut. It’s one of these dishes that I’ve been preparing numerous times for me and my parents after veganizing it and I can’t get enough.

Semmelknödel

Unfortunately, though, Semmelknödel are a bit too involved to make just a single serving. Yet I’ve found myself longing for this comfort food during the recent colder days. Then I saw Amanda’s post for bread pudding and my mind got spinning … Vegan bread pudding – not that hard to do. Actually, I came up with a sweet recipe for it, too, which I’ll share soon. Back to the savoury, though.

Savoury bread puddingWhen I spotted fresh sauerkraut on a recent trip to the health food supermarket I couldn’t help but buy a bucket on a whim. Thinking about how to use it I remembered above-mentioned Semmelknödel and knew I had to satisfy my craving. Obviously that meant getting some bread – or in my case: a whole grain roll – which was a random way of overcoming a fear food. Feel free to laugh but yes: bread, rolls and the likes are still scary to me. The exact ingredients or nutritional stats? Not shown. And it’s still ingrained somewhere in my mind that they won’t fill me up. Well, I’m digressing again. All I can say is that this did most likely not just fill me up but satisfied my cravings for perfect comfort food. Bonus points for eating it with a side of candlelight. Who says it takes two for a candlelight dinner?

Savoury

Yes, this was taken at another day than the first picture.

Savoury vegan Sauerkraut Bread Pudding

  • 150 g fresh sauerkraut
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • olive or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup passata/tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp smoked red paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 4-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 whole wheat roll [several days old/stale and preferably with lots of seeds], cubed*
  • 100 g/3.5 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 tbsp cashew butter or white (!) almond butter [roasted might work but won’t add the same mild and creamy taste]
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • 75 g chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1. Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent.

2. Add sauerkraut, passata, 1/4 cup of water and spices. Let simmer at medium heat for about 15-20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile blend the silken tofu, cashew butter, nutritional yeast and 1 tbsp of water. Set aside.

4. When the sauerkraut is almost done cooking, add the mushrooms and let cook for another few minutes.

5. Add the chickpeas.

6. Transfer the sauerkraut to a baking dish, top with the breadcubes. Mix them in just slightly. You still want most of them on top so they’ll stay crisp.

7. Pour the silken tofu mixture on top spreading it over the whole dish.

8. Bake in the preheated oven [175 °C/350 °F] for 20 minutes.

* if you don’t have day-old bread sitting around you can imitate the needed crispyness by microwaving the cubed roll for about a minute

If you want to feel virtuous while eating this you could do so while reading up about the health benefits of sauerkraut ;). Comfort food and good for you? It doesn’t get any better in my opinion. [And no, I didn’t lecture myself on all its benefits and it still was amazing.]

I’m linking up with both Kierston’s Recipe Friday and – because I know some might think of this dish as strange but [more than just] good – Laura’s celebration of all things unsual, too.

 

Happiness inducing today: A chat with a sweet old lady at the Farmers’ Market. She was 80 years old, not at best health anymore but had a great attitude. A happiness inspiration.

Enjoy your weekend!

 

Are there any traditional foods or recipes from your country you didn’t eat as a child but grew to like when you got older?

Do you like sauerkraut? Any favourite recipes?