Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bars

I spent last weekend with DrLindsey, my primary care physician / best friend / paleo-supportive-all-around-amazing-woman-to-know. We staged a mini-college reunion with another one of our good friends from back in the day. We drank a flood of cosmos (that's proof these are friends from waaaaayyy back), got all dolled up, ate amazing food, and laughed like lunatics.

Thankfully DrLindsey's husband was available to chaperone and shepherd our drunk-asses around town. We re-payed him by pretending he wasn't there during college-level girl-talk (good thing he knows us well, or he might still be in shock...).

It had been maybe 10 months since I last visited this crew. But we didn't skip a beat. Even though my new life is 180 degrees out of phase with DrLindsey's beautiful little family, I still mesh into their world as perfectly as ever. It's gratifying to know that our deep admiration for each other isn't situationally dependent. We've known each other since before we became the people we are today. We've loved each other like sisters through all the growing up that life requires. And we're still supporting each other 100% even though we're walking different paths.

DrLindsey and her husband have my back as I try to figure out my new single-girl life. They check on me often and squash any insecurities before they have a chance to bubble all the way up to the surface. For my part, I'm sharing every ounce of the health and fitness information I've pulled together during these two-and-a-half wildly successful years. That's friendship!

After the cosmo-fueled night (that still ended early because we're old. #32!), we did a little shopping, got our eyebrows threaded (just what I needed: a new beauty obsession to add on to shellac), and had a delicious family dinner with DrLindsey's parents, aunt, uncle, and sister. Lindsey's mom, ever the impeccable hostess, went easy on the grains in support of my lifestyle and served fillet with squash and pear soup. 

That evening, we watched a little Dora, put the baby to bed, and started playing in the kitchen. DrLindsey was on the hunt for easy paleo snacks to pack for her long days at the office, so she asked if I'd work some of my SillyLittle magic in her kitchen. I love to play with recipes, so I was excited to see what I could do with the paleo-friendly ingredients she had on hand.

We created this Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bar recipe on the fly. It's basically a two-step version of my Pecan Bacon Maple Bars with a little less fuss (because DrLindsey didn't have a food processor). I think I shocked my sous chefs by how spontaneous my process is in the kitchen. Don't have a food processor? Let's use the hazelnut meal! Ran out of baking powder? Baking soda will be fine! What's the worst that can happen? It's still delicious paleo food. Just eat it and try something different next time!

Luckily these bars turned out tasty. But they still were slightly-less-than-perfect. The bar wasn't quite sweet enough to stand up to the bitterness of the chocolate. So for this post I've doubled the honey and reduced the amount of chocolate. If you're a super-duper-chocolate-lover, by all means double it back up. It's your kitchen! 

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Bars

That cell phone sure takes a pretty picture!


1 egg, beaten
1 cup hazelnut meal (we used Bob's Red Mill)
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
Coconut oil spray

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (we used Enjoy Life)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1/4 cup coconut oil and honey together. In a medium bowl, mix together hazelnut meal, almond meal, baking soda, and salt. Add coconut oil-honey mixture, vanilla, and egg. Mix thoroughly to combine. Spray a loaf pan with coconut oil spray. Pour mixture into loaf pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake at 375 degrees until it passes the toothpick test. About 20 minutes. 

While the bars are baking, combine chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons coconut oil, vanilla, and pinch of salt in a small sauce pan. Place over low-to-medium heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the bars are baked, remove them from the oven and let cool for a few minutes so that the heat from the loaf pan doesn't burn your chocolate. Then spread the chocolate onto the bars in an even layer. Let cool to room temperature (so the chocolate firms up a bit). Cut into bars and enjoy. Makes 8 servings. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Beet Soup

This Winter sure is trying to go out with a bang! Holy snowstorms!

We only have 4 weeks left according to our buddy Phil. And while I'm ready to give my Winter coat a break, I'm still enjoying all of the warm beverages, soups, and stews that taste so great in colder weather. I've been using my snowy days at home as the perfect excuse to let a pot of chili simmer all afternoon, and I've been collecting soup recipes from friends and family (that I will then repost here as if they were my own... Love you guys!).

The last week-or-so, I've also been on a beet kick.

It all started when I baked beet-based cupcakes for my 32nd birthday party (#32!). Then I used the leftover beet purée as the sauce for a spinach and goat cheese gluten free pizza.

Yes, that is bacon. No, goat cheese is not paleo.
Neither is GF pizza crust. Live your life!

Shortly thereafter my Ukrainian heritage kicked in and I started toying with the idea of a beet soup. I was sure I could make a creamy puréed soup, like my ever-popular Roasted Broccoli version. And I knew the beets would cook up well with typical soup-starters like onion and garlic. But I wanted to be sure it was slightly tangy to mimic the flavor profile of my pizza, without the added goat cheese. After a quick scan through what-passes-for-my-pantry I decided a splash of vinegar would do the trick (and beet salad is delicious, right? so it couldn't totally ruin the soup).

This recipe came together nicely and tasted even better than expected (which is really saying something. I have very high expectations for myself). It definitely tastes like beets, though. So if you're a beet-hater like my father, please skip along to the next post (sorry Dad!). If you're a beet-lover like me, then I definitely recommend it! How often do you get to eat pink food?! 

 Beet Soup

Pink Soup!


3 medium beets, peeled and diced*
1 large sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups beef stock
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper


Pour olive oil into a large pot and place over medium heat. Add diced onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook onion until it starts to brown. Add garlic and continue cooking until onions begin to caramelize (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add cauliflower florets and diced beets and toss together until the cauliflower turns pink. 

Add beef stock and bay leaf. Season with a pinch of salt and a few shakes of pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and continue simmering until beets are tender. About 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly so that you don't scald yourself on the next step.

Use your immersion blender to purée the soup until creamy (if you don't have an immersion blender, carefully pour the soup into your standard blender and purée until smooth). Return the soup to medium heat. Add balsamic vinegar and re-season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir continuously until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat. Makes 6 servings.

*Pro Tip: Peel and dice your beets in the sink. Literally. I cleaned the sink and then put the cutting board in it to work. Otherwise, your kitchen will look like you massacred a herd of My Little Ponies.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Baked Corned Beef Hash

It's been a while since I last explana-bragged about the sweat gear in my Silly Little Kitchen. So I figured it's about that time... This post is also quite timely because last weekend was huge for my Ninja Mega Kitchen System.

Yes there is a cult-of-the-Ninja. And you can hate if you want to. But I totally get it. My new Ninja was delivered only a few hours before CaveBoy moved out, so it (literally) sat on the shelf for a few months before I was motivated to get back in the kitchen and fully test its oft-praised features. Now I only regret waiting so long!

I had been coveting the Ninja for months because (spoiler alert) advertising works on me. And I wake up early on the weekends. And there is almost nothing to watch on TV but infomercials. And the end.

So after the third or fourth running, I finally decided I really did need a Ninja Mega Kitchen System. Not for me. But for all of you! Think of how many new and wonderful recipes I could create with such a tool at my disposal. So really this is all your fault!

I went online to place my order.

But wait! I "called" within the next 10 minutes, and the wonderful people at Ninja threw in a Ninja Mega Professional Prep System at no additional charge! And on top of that (for being so cute, I assume) they also gave me a Frozen Treat Accessory Kit. ChaChing!

Sweet deal, right?
So. Fast forward to last weekend.

A dozen of my favorite girls came over to celebrate my 32 years on Earth. The group was an amazing mash-up of my awesome worlds. The Fierce Ladies from the office came out in force, along with the CrossFit Beauties, and one of my #1 Loves from grad school. 

We drank (quite a few) margaritas and a few bottles of wine. I force-fed everyone shots of Fireball Whisky (whatever. it tastes like Valentine's Day). And then we went out and danced like crazy at the local 22-year-old-meat-market-that-passes-for-a-Club (they have a video DJ!).

But before that, we had cupcakes. Paleo Naturally Red Velvet Cupcakes made almost entirely out of roasted beets (like I said, these are good friends, people). And I used my Ninja food processor to puree the beets, mix the wet ingredients, pulse in the combo-flour, and otherwise rock the recipe in no time flat. And they tasted pretty good, too!

And then. The next day. After I had semi-partially recovered from my hangover (I'm getting too old to have any more birthdays), I got to work on Ninja experiment number two: Baked Corned Beef Hash. 

I'm a hash fan. I often keep freezer-bagged portions of sweet potato hash on hand to easily turn Saturday morning breakfast into something special. It's particularly great with the yolks of a couple "dippy" eggs oozing through the shredded veggies (my mouth is watering). And with Saint Patrick's Day coming, Whole Foods has corned beef back in stock. 

With my Professional Prep System (and it's shredder attachment), I was able to pull this recipe together with minimal effort and get back to convalescing on the couch. The flavor was amazing and exactly what I needed to make a full recovery! Enjoy.

Baked Corned Beef Hash



1.5 lbs corned beef
2 pink lady apples, shredded
1 large sweet potato, shredded (seriously, get the biggest sweet potato you've ever seen, or two medium)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper


Cook the corned beef according to the package instructions (I put mine in the Crock-Pot because I didn't feel up to babysitting a simmering stock pot). Then set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine shredded/diced veggies and olive oil in a baking dish. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place baking dish in oven. Cook until sweet potato shreds are softened, but not mushy. About 1 hr 20 minutes. Be careful not to let the bottom burn! I pulled mine out every 20 minutes to stir. 

Shred corned beef* and combine with cooked sweet potato mixture. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste.** Makes 5 servings.

*Note: CB recommends that you cube the corned beef into chunks instead of shredding it, so that it isn't all the same texture. I think she's probably on to something...

**Note: Yes. That's it. I told you it was hangover-proof.