magnesium-rich cocoa peanut granola

I have been making a concerted effort lately of packing magnesium-rich foods into my daily eating habits. Halibut and cooked spinach makes a tasty meal, but I cannot eat that every day. Also, munching on a variety of seeds can get boring pretty quickly. Then I realized, it doesn’t have to be that way: cocoa beans are a natural source of magnesium too!

Inspired by the Domestic Goddess herself, I modified this tasty crunchy snack. Goal: make in-taking more magnesium most enjoyable. Like Nigella says, the most difficult part of making granola is actually assembling the pantry ingredients (her granola recipes also appear in one of my favorite cookbooks, Feast). Almost every ingredient in my modified recipe is high in magnesium, and bonus points when added to yogurt, whole or soy milk. P.S. Also easily Vegan-friendly

1/4 cup natural cocoa
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1/3 cup clover honey
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses*
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups cocktail peanuts (nut allergies – replace with more seeds)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 300-degrees.

Mix everything together very well in a large mixing bowl (sometimes clean hands are the best and easiest tools for thorough mixing here). Half the mixture and spread in two baking tins (I had cookie sheets and lined them with parchment) and bake for 40 minutes, turning over half-way through baking. Allow to cool, break apart, and store in an airtight container.

*if you care for less of a molasses tang, use light molasses or substitute brown rice syrup/rice malt syrup like Nigella uses. I used blackstrap due to magnesium content and also because I happen to enjoy the molasses tang.

golden oreo sunshine cupcakes

My sister helped out with the sweet treats for a friend’s “sunshine and giggles” 1st birthday party. When she was telling me about all of their fun ideas, I said, what about using golden Oreos in the cupcakes (like the ones you made last summer)? She did just that, using a french vanilla cake mix and the marshmallow fluff frosting recipe. So sunny and bright, just like this little girl’s smile: Happy Birthday, Lily!

cloudy with a chance of pepperoni

I love storm clouds, especially when they are topped with salty and sweet things and shared with my favorite people. Are you surprised to know that Barrett’s tale of the town of Chewandswallow was one of my favorite books (I am afraid to watch the movie – should I?), and perhaps one of the purchasing influences behind one of my favorite cookie cutters? I get a lot of use out of my Herriott Grace cloud cookie cutter for cookies (once I took pictures of the applesauce donut clouds I made with it), but this time I used it for snack pizzas! Pizzaclouds are a bit tedious but fun to individualize. During this round I made three varieties: chèvre/sweet onions (caramelized in olive oil, cinnamon & sugar)/sundried tomato-stuffed green olives, fresh mozzarella/basil pesto/tomato, smoked provolone/marinara/pepperoni. Wishing your stormy Spring days to be sweet and savory.

macarons in the midwest

They do exist! Mind you, I have never been to Paris, but the macarons at Madeleines Bakehouse are worth my (and your) while. I have mainly had their fruit macaron selections (Apricot, Raspberry, Key Lime, Blackberry) up until this weekend. My mom and I stopped in the bakehouse for some French Pressed Coffee yesterday and took a few macarons to go. She chose Coconut, and said that “it is five times better than a Snoball!” I chose Crème Brûlée and Pumpkin. Pumpkin was yummy, with a fresh pumpkin butter center, but Crème Brûlée is my new favorite. The “trinity cream” dessert is in a sparkly, bite-sized sandwich poof of light, sweet indulgence. Airy flavor vibrance, AHOY.

grapehead popcorn ball vs. lemonhead popcorn ball

While my sister and her family were in town this weekend, we held a Grapehead Popcorn Ball vs. Lemonhead Popcorn Ball contest. Even though one lost, they were both sour. Lemon won by a slightly sweet head, though my sister maintains that grape is her favorite.

Make the sweet and tart popcorn balls yourself: Over medium heat, melt together 3 T butter, 1 C mini marshmallows, one small box lemonheads (be patient, the lemonheads will dissolve). Mix in 4 C popped corn until well coated. With oiled or buttery hands, form into balls. Makes six small orbs.

My niece held up her lemonhead popcorn ball in the air, took a bite, and said, “look, I am eating the moon!”

fluffy nests for my peeps

Awww, two sparkly bird bellies nuzzled atop a buttery mallow nest; Easter candy is the cutest.

I opted out of the traditional coconut nests this year and modified the form of my simple popcorn ball recipe to make fluffier nests for my Peeps.  Shredded wheat and coconut cannot be easy on those soft chickymallow bums.  For the caramel-colored ones, I used the same recipe, except I scorched the butter till golden before melting in the mini-mallows: especially tasty with Whoppers and roasted peanuts.  The decorated nests slide easily into cellophane bags filled with edible Easter grass and make for bright and sugary Spring-colored favors or small gifts for giving.

Assembly can also be an easy interactive treat-craft activity for all ages.  Prepare the popcorn nests in advance and store them in an airtight container (or simply mold them into muffin tins and cover).  When it’s time for the fun, set out supply bowls of jelly beans, nuts, sprinkles, chocolates, Peeps, or whatever works with your company’s aesthetic and dietary needs/desires.  Each person begins with an empty nest and fills it up with whatever it takes to make a sweet, treat-filled home.  It turns out that I like sour jellybeans in my popcorn nest!