Halloween approaches, and Portland is fully in the swing. On my evening runs I pass everything from broom-riding witches smashed against telephone poles to skeletal hands reaching up out of lawns to towering neon blow-up ghosts. I was scared out of my wits the other night by a dark hooded figure hunched under a bush that I thought was real. Wait … was it?? I started sprinting so fast, I’m actually not sure now.
If Halloween is here, then Thanksgiving is not far behind … and then all the rest of the holidays, each with its own sugarplum temptations if you’re a recovering sweets addict like moi. I LOVE the holiday season with all its wonderful traditions and opportunities for gathering together and sharing, but I also approach it with a bit of apprehension because I know there will be overeating/binging triggers all over the place. If you feel like this too, you are definitely not alone! I start having conversations with my patients now about strategies for preventing holiday weight gain and also the mood swings that too much sugar, combined with seasonal stress can produce. Yuck. Who needs it??
I find that I do best during the holiday sugar mine-field if I make something sweet with ingredients that I actually want to be consuming. I enjoy some every day and share with friends and colleagues, who are always delighted because most of us are in the same boat with this struggle. It’s fun to see people take their first bites of a sweet treat that’s also grounding and contains actual nutrients, and realize there is another way to do this that doesn’t equal feeling deprived OR starting another year with a depressing January guilt narrative. I also make extra-sure to eat regular, sustaining meals so I’m not caught famished by the tray of fluorescent grocery store cupcakes that show up at work, etc. That never fails to end badly. Know what I mean?
VANQUISH-THE-DEMON NUT BUTTER CUPS: (You can also make these with sunflower butter, and a combination of sunflower, sesame, hemp and flax seeds for the nut-averse … or just because sunflower butter is also really tasty!)
- 3 cups nuts of your choice
- 16 oz. nut butter (Make sure it’s not sweetened and is not super oily or the filling will not set.)
- 20 oz. chocolate (I use a combination of half extra-dark 72% cacao content and half unsweetened baker’s chocolate. This gives the finished product very little sugar content.)
- 1 cup stevia-sweetened vanilla protein powder — pick your protein … I use either Terra’s Whey Grass-fed or Garden of Life Raw Organic.
- 1 teaspoon salt — or more to taste if your nuts are unsalted — these taste good with lots of salt!
- 1 cup coconut oil (filtered, if you can find for less coconut taste)
- 1/2 cup date sugar (or 1/4 cup Swerve confectioner’s style)
(Date sugar is simply ground-up dates. I love it!!! Dates taste very sweet but are low-glycemic, and contain magnesium, iron and calcium. You can find date sugar in most health food stores. Swerve is one of the newer non-glycemic — ie — does not raise your blood sugar — sweeteners made from erythritol, a wood alcohol. I most definitely do not recommend erythritol for daily use, but use this very occasionally for baking if I really want to keep glycemic impact low. I order Swerve online.)
Break up the chocolate and melt in a double-boiler. Line a 15×9 inch sheet pan with foil or wax paper, and grease with coconut oil. Or use one of those disposable aluminum pans, and grease it. This will make it much easier to get the finished squares out of the pan. If you make directly in a regular baking pan, getting these out intact will make you EXTREMELY GRUMPY. I was pressed for time and cut corners this weekend, and regretted it mightily. Fortunately, a pile of crumbles and shards still tastes good!
Spread half the melted chocolate in the pan. Put the pan in the fridge to set the chocolate, and leave remainder of chocolate in the double boiler over the water (turn off heat). Melt coconut oil. Grind nuts in food processor. Add protein powder, sweetener, salt, and pulse to mix. Add coconut oil and nut butter, and process until smooth. Spread the filling over the chocolate and return to fridge to chill.
Once firm, pour the rest of melted chocolate over top and chill until set. Cut into squares, and laugh at the sugar demon! The best way to cut these is to turn out the whole pan onto a cutting board and use a large chef’s knife to cut. *Note: If you are feeling ambitious and want these to look like the “real thing,” you could also make these in tiny fluted paper candy cups; you can find them online or at any large craft store — or make a larger version using cupcake papers. It takes a bit longer, but not much, and you don’t have to deal with the cutting, which is, honestly, kind of a pain. Another option is to let the filling set a bit until it’s firm enough to roll into small, walnut-size balls. Then chill those and using toothpicks, dip the balls in chocolate, which you are keeping warm in the double boiler, and place on wax paper in the fridge to set. These bonbons will keep for weeks in a container in the fridge. This is a really fun holiday project with children of all ages or friends 🙂