Seriously chunky, fudgy, fluffy, dark chocolate Paleo brownies

7.28.2015

Aaaah, brownies... is there a more perfect easy dessert for a crowd??

We went up to my husband's grandparents' place last weekend for relaxing time with family, which we do a few times a year--and I've become known for making rich, grain-free treats for everyone once a trip. My mother-in-law requested something chocolatey, since her mom likes it a lot. I didn't want to yet again make the amazing flourless chocolate cake I've made 3 times now, and I haven't made brownies in literally years, so I thought they would be a great chocolate-ey treat!

I don't know about you, but when I think brownies, I think chunky. A brownie without chunks is basically chocolate cake, right? And chocolate cake on its own is not that exciting. Brownies need to be slightly chewy, definitely dark chocolate-ey, fudgy, and chunky.

Since I didn't have a go-to grain-free brownie recipe, I dug around and found this recipe, which was almost perfect, except that the only chunky element was the melted chocolate chunks on top--not chunky enough for me! So I looked in my cupboard and fridge and found a few other ingredients to bring for the weekend and try out added to the recipe.

Well, they turned out great! This recipe is a keeper, I'll definitely make these again!

Chunky, Fudgy, Dark Chocolate Paleo Brownies

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. coconut oil or unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 tbsp almond butter or nut butter of choice (such as my homemade cashew/sunflower butter!)
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 5 dried apricots, chopped up very small
  • 1/4 c. walnuts or hazelnuts
  • About 1-1.5 oz (1/3 bar) high quality dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

    Instructions:


    1. Plan ahead and get the eggs and coconut oil out of the fridge several hours before making this recipe. If it's cold in your house, you may need to heat the coconut oil and then let it cool a little before using. If it's too cold, it won't blend with everything else.
    2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8"x8" or 9"x5" pan with coconut oil.
    3. In the bowl of an electric mixer or in a mixing bowl with hand mixer, combine coconut oil, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and almond butter; mix on medium speed until well combined.
    4. Add cocoa powder and coconut flour; blend on low.
    5. Add apricots and walnuts and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.
    6. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with chocolate chunks. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until firm. Cool; cut into 8 pieces.

    Optional, but makes them extra special--serve with ice cream! This is storebought coconut milk ice cream.


    So decadent! Make these for your family when you want to be super nice! ;)

    Back to summer camp!! Company picnic and a great reason to screen print!

    7.23.2015

    Last weekend featured the most wonderful hot Saturday afternoon in my recent memory.

    I love summer camp. I went to a great one in the San Juan Islands for 5 summers as a kid, and I have great memories and friends from there and will always appreciate those happy, fun, carefree times. I'm so grateful for the experience.

    So, I have some nostalgia about summer camp (increased by movies like The Parent Trap, Wet Hot American Summer, and Moonrise Kingdom, and hipster culture!), and this year I suggested a summer camp theme for our company picnic.

    The summer picnic committee was totally on board and all the team and subcommittees jumped on ideas for bringing the best of summer camp to our fellow employees and their families for an afternoon. We had wood cookie name tag decorating, a tie dye station, camp counselor names, the Announcement Song, a water balloon melee, and more and more and more. Everyone got so into it!

    Another idea I had was for a name for this pretend "camp" and a logo to go with--our company is called Mackenzie, so the name was Camp Mackenzie and I found the perfect reason to use my screen printing kit again! We did a logo on the front and "STAFF" on the back for the committee members ("camp counselors"), on vintage-ey ringer tees. (Seriously, if you haven't seen Wet Hot American Summer, you must. Pretty sure Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper would have worn shirts just like these.)

    The inspiration (Wet Hot American Summer):

    The tug-of-war matches were particularly epic. Husband's team was undefeated.

    A few of the committee got together and built a stick sign for the camp--it says CAMP backwards and MACKENZIE with a flag in front!

    The inspiration (Moonrise Kingdom):

    Of course we had whistles and wood cookie nametags we decorated, and our "camp director" (committee chair) had a megaphone. Oh, and the wood cookies--three of us collected our Christmas trees last year and one very helpful committee member cut them into disks and drilled holes for everyone--for our more than 220 attendees!

    We had so much fun acting like kids and getting the whole company into the spirit!

    Oh, I should say on the shirts--the emulsion I got more than 2 years ago in my screen printing kit was old, so instead of the standard emulsion method for getting the design, we used contact paper and cut with an exacto knife, then stuck the contact paper to the screens. It actually worked out great! We made 16 shirts, so it would have been rough to do iron-on letters or stenciling individually. We did the fronts one day after work, and the backs another!

    It was so great being back at camp for a day--and being a counselor and in charge! ;)

    Beginning gardening, plus tech! The Edyn garden sensor

    7.21.2015

    I'm an aspiring gardener. Not a very experienced one, nor one with a lot of resources (like a yard of any kind)... but, I do what I can!

    This summer our little porch garden contains 6 tomato plants, several varieties of herbs, and a ton of onions. We've done peppers, lettuce, and even cucumbers in the past, but this year we stuck to a smaller selection and just got more of them.

    So when I got a chance to try out an Edyn Garden Sensor, I thought we could really learn something from watching data about our plants' health!

    The Edyn Garden Sensor was born of a Kickstarter campaign in summer 2014. It's a solar-powered sensor that gathers and analyzes data about light, humidity, temperature, soil nutrition, and moisture around it and wirelessly connects to the Edyn cloud; checks the data with plant, soil science, and weather databases; and feeds the info to your iPhone. Fancy stuff!!

    It's available on the Edyn website and at HomeDepot.com and select Home Depot stores.

    The data from the sensor tells us the current environmental conditions of the plant in question (this one is Tomato) which is probably the most helpful part for us.

    It also provides historical data about the plant's health over time. You also can track multiple sensors at once, so you can watch the health of a variety of plants in the same conditions. And the app has options for tons of different plants so you can learn about their growth stages, tailored to-do's, and how well they fit with your garden. (In future phases of the app, there will be a garden timeline with suggestions for when to harvest, plus ideas for plant groupings that go well together.)

    We have definitely under- and over-watered plants before... as beginning gardeners it's sometimes hard to get into the routine of caring for our plants, especially when that routine changes a lot with the weather from April to October in Oregon. Sometimes the rain waters the plants for us; others we have to water twice a day!

    Husband has enjoyed the tech + hands-on elements of the sensor and the garden is more his creation than mine. He has more gardening experience than I do and is more diligent about watering than I am!

    So here's his review about the sensor!
    • It's sturdy. The specs state how it's built for the elements, but it really does feel like it'll last through many seasons of use.
    • It's easy to use. It was super fun and easy to set up and connect to a smart phone.
    • It's not buggy. It consistently has worked and been accurate.
    • It covers a lot. One sensor covers 250' of soil! We're using small containers, which is potentially not as useful since it can only cover one plant, but it's still helpful for the size and type of plant it's in. The downside is, if you have plants in differently sized pots or of different varieties, it's less helpful. The tool would be best used for a garden box or in-ground garden so it could cover a wider area. However, the plant with the sensor in it is by far doing the best of all our plants! (It's in the largest pot, in the sunniest spot, but the sensor has been helping us keep it healthy.)

    I'm really excited to have this tool to help us track our garden's health, as we learn gardening skills and slowly add to our plant repertoire!

    Follow along as Edyn grows (pun not intended) and #gardensmart!

    Twitter: @EdynGarden
    Instagram: @edyn_garden
    Purchase on the Edyn website and at HomeDepot.com and select Home Depot stores.

    Thanks to Edyn for sending me the sensor and sponsoring this post!

    Dark denim versatile romper

    7.16.2015



    The romper cannot be avoided these days.

    I made this romper last summer, and shared this roundup of romper patterns earlier this summer. Around that time, reading one of my magazines, I came across this page and was inspired by these chic, fitted, interesting denim rompers. (I love denim in many forms!)

    I also love the Anthropologie McGuire Sailor Romper in dark denim.

    So, I found some nice lightweight dark denim and made my own!

    I combined the simple tank dress top of McCall's M6744 (except I gave it an open button placket at the back so I could step into it) and the romper shorts of Simplicity 1355, a versatile dress/jumpsuit/romper pattern I've used several times even just this year (see all my uses of Simplicity 1355 here).

    It's so fun to wear out on a hot day!

    I had fun doing the top stitching and shapes of the pockets, a lot like the Anthropologie one.
    Necklace: Jules Smith, c/o Favery. Purse: Old Navy (similar/similar/similar). Sandals: Old Navy (similar/similar). 

    I highly encourage making yourself a romper this summer!

    Beautiful grain-free baking - and a giveaway! My Paleo Patisserie

    7.13.2015

    I've had phases with baking. My mom wasn't much of a baker, so when I got into it in high school it was new and exciting. After grad school when I switched to a very restrictive diet, I still made treats but didn't do detailed, careful-measuring "baking" and didn't use common ingredients or chemistry. Now that we eat our own personalized versions of the Paleo Diet, I avoid super sweet things most of the time (and grains always) but I do occasionally bake for a special event! Like the birthdays that have happened this month!

    So when I saw Jenni Hulet's inspiringly beautiful new book, My Paleo Patisserie: An Artisan Approach to Grain-Free Baking, I was excited to try some of the recipes when I had a reason to make a real treat! Husband was amazed by the 300+ pages of grain-free baking wisdom and unlimited combinations and varieties of desserts. His birthday was earlier this month, so he picked out a dessert for us to make. We both got super into it, flipping through the pages and learning the grain-free baking tricks and techniques Jenni has perfected!

    I got a copy of My Paleo Patisserie to try out AND a copy to give away to one of you!!

    The cake we made husband was most similar to the Neapolitan Cake, though we used all vanilla cake and jam for the filling. So beautiful.

    For my birthday, I might choose the Maple Carrot Cake with coconut. (Or the No-Crust Black-Bottomed Banana Pies... or the Tiramisu... or the... well, it's hard to decide.)

    Considering how fancy some of the recipes look, the detailed step-by-step photos of some of the specialized skills seem SO helpful! For example, making marshmallows someday is a goal of mine, so I know I'll want to refer to these photos when I try it!

    Husband picked out a mix-and-match combination of vanilla cake, raspberry jam (we made it from berries we picked at a farm), and Swiss meringue buttercream icing. It was delicious!

    Then for my mom's annual July backyard party, we made the berry tart, in one 9" pan, with coconut cream filling, nut-free crust this time, and more berries we picked at the farm. 

    It was a huge hit!

    Enter to win a copy of My Paleo Patisserie here!


    Oregon raspberry and Marionberry salad

    7.07.2015

    Summer is my favorite! In part because of berry-picking, and the bounty of local veggies and fruits around us. I go berry-picking every summer, and nowadays those berries are some of the only fruits I eat all year. Which makes them even more special!

    I'm so grateful to live in a place like Oregon, with so many foods that grow here and all the people that appreciate fresh, local, quality food. I recently got an email from the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission, an official organization representing the farmers and growers of Oregon’s bounty of berries. They're working with bloggers to inspire new recipes for these delicious summer crops! (See some great recipes from local bloggers here.)

    So after we went berry-picking the other weekend, I came up with this tasty, real food, local food-based salad using raspberries and Marionberries! Salads are great in the summer if you can find or grow fresh lettuce in the heat, and aside from the homemade dressing, all of the ingredients for this salad can be found at your farmers' market, CSA box, nearby farm, or store selling local products!

    Marionberries are a variety of blackberry created at Oregon State University in the 1940's. Most people from out of state haven't heard of them. They taste a little sweeter and less tangy than blackberries, but you could easily substitute blackberries in this recipe if you can't find them! 

    I don't usually eat dairy, but goat cheese is easier for me to handle and the flavors are SO good with the sweetness of the berries, tartness of the dressing, and crunch of the nuts. Leave it out for a dairy-free, pure Paleo salad, or add it in for a primal/personalized Paleo dish.

    Oregon raspberry and Marionberry salad

    Ingredients:


    Dressing:
    • 2 oz. olive oil
    • 1 oz. red wine vinegar
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • sprinkle pepper

    Salad:
    • 1 small head lettuce (or mixed greens, whichever you prefer)
    • 1 c. Marionberries (or blackberries if you don't have Marion)
    • 3/4 c. raspberries
    • 1/3 c. crushed hazelnuts
    • 1/3 c. goat cheese, crumbled (optional)

      Instructions:


      1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and blend with an emulsion blender or whisk.
      2. Wash and spin lettuce.
      3. In a large bowl, add dressing to lettuce and toss.
      4. Add berries, crushed hazelnuts, and goat cheese in the large serving bowl or on individual plates.

      Serve immediately! Serves 4-6.

      Thanks to the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission for sponsoring this post by providing me a gift card for berry-shopping!

      DIY Lilly Pulitzer-ey bright shift dress

      7.02.2015

      I've had a thing for Lilly Pulitzer for a long time now. I haven't owned many pieces, just a few vintage things I found at thrift stores way back, and I don't wear the bright, retro, Palm Springs-ey style much, but I really like it! So when Target came out for their Lilly Pulitzer for Target line this spring (view the official lookbook here and collection here), I was totally into the dresses!

      The bold stripe of lace down the front is cute and unique. Chunky lace that wide is not easy to find, either--I went to 4 stores when looking for the trim for this project. (I made a shift dress with a wide lace band down the center front back in 2009, a few months before starting this blog (see it here), and I had a hard time finding wide enough lace then, too!)

      I had this very cool bright green and white print vintage fabric that a friend found at a thrift store and bought for me, thinking I might be able to use it for some really fun, bold upholstery. I still have several yards left, so maybe I will someday! But in the meantime, it really reminded me of the fun florals and colors of Lilly Pulizter fabrics.

      The simple summer sheath dress is a classic 60's shape, and I used Simplicity 2584 with some modifications yet again (see all my versions here). I cut facings for the neck and armholes, since the fabric is heavy enough to be unlined.

      Since I couldn't find wide white lace or trim, the lace look down the front is three strips of pleated lace trim.

      I also had a vintage skirt zipper that I used at the neckline!

      So fun to wear such brights when it's in the 90's even in the evenings!!
      Purse: Target (similar/similar/similar). Shoes: Target (similar). Dress: DIY!

      This is the time of year for BRIGHT summer dresses!!

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