Showing posts with label bars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bars. Show all posts

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Miracle Max's Wonder Pills: Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Energy Bites for Food 'n Flix May: The Princess Bride

It's Food 'n Flix time again and I had the pleasure of hosting this month's film, one of my all-time favorite movies, The Princess Bride. You can see my announcement post here--it has a brief summary of the movie in case for some reason you have never seen it. Although admittedly not the foodiest of films, there is plenty of inspiration to be found in this fun, classic film that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. (Doesn't that make you feel old!?!) My Food 'n Flix fellow participants have been sending in their delicious dishes and as usual, I am impressed with their creativity and can't wait to post the roundup next week. 

For me, the film inspired some simple, healthy and miraculous Miracle Max's Wonder Pills: Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Energy Bites.

I adore and have seen The Princess Bride about a bazillion times, but this time I got to watch it with my foodie hat on and here is what I saw: Cheetos behind the bed of the grandson and his lunch of a sandwich and juice, bread and tomatoes on the table in Buttercup's house, "anybody want a peanut?"--Fezzik, eels in the waters, a picnic of cheese, apples, bread, and wine set up for the battle of wits between Vizzini and the man in black (not Johnny Cash!), mention of Vizzini's Sicilian heritage, wine and what looked like some kind of sandwich or bread in The Pit of Despair, the stew Fezzik feeds Inigo, that nice MLT (mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich) "where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomatoes are ripe... They're so perky, I love that," and the tables of food for the wedding feast.

If I ate meat I might have attempted a mutton sandwich especially after seeing canned mutton on the shelves of my Indian grocery store. (OK, not really! Eww!

I actually had my dish in my head from the beginning, mainly due to my love for Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) and his wife Valerie (Carol Kane) {I'm not a witch. I'm your wife!"} and from a pamphlet in my Buttercup Edition of the DVD entitled "Fezzik's Guide to Florin." There was an ad for Miracle Max's 'Wonder Pill' that proclaims "Death is no excuse!" I knew I wanted to make an energy ball with healthy ingredients and coated in dark chocolate because, "the chocolate coating makes it go down easier."

The ad says, "Those who are mostly dead for more than a few hours should consult a physician before using and you should not swim until an hour after taking. You should not take Miracle Max's Wonder Pill if you are pregnant, nursing, or totally dead. If you have recently lost a bet , were bluffing, or are not immune to iocaine powder, you may or may not want to take the pill. Side effects include itchy or dry eyes, paranoia, finger twitches, head jiggles, and cough. Effect similar to sugar pill. Not a low calorie food due to chocolate coating."

Since Miracle Max's pill was made to bring Westley back to life, energy balls or bites seemed like a great representation. At any given time you can find some sort of healthy energy bite or bar in my fridge, ready for a quick snack. I love making them at home as you can easily control your ingredients to make them just how you like. I have a stock of seeds, dried fruit, nut butters, and other 'goodies' to add, so it was just a point of mixing them together to create my own wonder pill.

In honor of Fezzik and his peanut rhyme, I used natural peanut butter for my base, along with dates for quick energy and sweetness, and a bevy of seeds high in Omega 3s and protein (chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp hearts, and black sesame seeds), plus a dash of cinnamon, salt and cacao nibs. I added puffed millet for a crispy bite and of course I had to coat them in dark chocolate--although I think they go down just fine and are more portable without the chocolate. I sprinkled the tops of some of them with a little flaky sea salt because I like a good sweet and salty combination.   

Miracle Max's Wonder Pills: Dark Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter Energy Bites
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes About 28-30 Small Energy Bites)

8 medjool dates (or other dates-if very dry, soak in warm water for 15 min & drain well), pitted and chopped
about 1/2 cup natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice
1 Tbsp each: chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, sesame seeds 
1/2 Tbsp cacao nibs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch sea salt
1/3 cup puffed millet or brown rice cereal or other crispy cereal
honey or maple syrup, optional if you want it sweeter
about 4 oz dark chocolate chopped or 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 Tbsp coconut oil 
flaky sea salt to garnish, optional

In a food processor, pulse the dates and peanut butter together until they combined and start to form a ball. Add the chia seeds, hemp hearts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, cacao nibs, cinnamon and sea salt and pulse a few more times to combine.

Remove mixture from food processor and place in mixing bowl. Add puffed millet and mix together well. (Hands work best!) Evaluate your taste and texture. For texture, mixture should be 'moldable' into small balls without crumbling and things like the texture/moistness of your nut butter and dates will effect this. If mixture is crumbly, you can stir in more nut butter or add some honey or maple syrup. You can also add honey or maple syrup if you want a sweeter mixture. I think the dates (and that chocolate coating!) make it sweet enough but you can adjust the mixture to your own tastes. 

When your mixture is the way you want it, carefully roll it into small balls. I do about a 1 1/2-inch size. You can slightly dampen your hands for easier rolling. The mixture should yield about 28 to 30 small balls. Place balls on a parchment-lined pan or tray and place in the fridge to chill for 15-20 minutes.

When ready to dip, melt your dark chocolate together with the coconut oil in the microwave or in a double-boiler on the stove, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Using a spoon, dip each ball into the chocolate--rolling it around to cover evenly. Use a fork to pull each ball out of the chocolate, allowing the excess chocolate to drip off and placing each ball back on the parchment lined pan. Once energy bites are coated, place the pan back into the fridge and allow to set for at least 15 minutes, or until the chocolate has set. 

Once chocolate has set. transfer energy bites to an airtight container. You can store them in the fridge for a week or so, if they last that long. ;-)

Notes/Results: I really loved these little energy bites--they are not too sweet and have a fun texture with the smooth peanut butter contrasting with the crackle of the seeds, puffed millet and chocolate shell. You can of course adjust them to your favorite ingredients or what you have on hand. Dried fruit would be nice, you could use oats in place of the puffed cereal, add espresso powder for caffeine, etc. Since I was coating them in the dark chocolate, I deliberately kept them less sweet so I might add a touch of honey or the dried fruit if I wasn't coating them. A couple of these are a great little snack and are sure to bring you back to life. I would happily make them again.

If you love The Princess Bride movie, I can highly recommend both the book it came from by William Golden (who wrote the screenplay from his book) and Cary Elwes's (Westley) wonderful memoir As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride (I have both the book and the audio book) which is loads of fun and includes the memories (and voices on the audio book) of the other actors and people involved in the filming of this special movie.

If you want to join in the Food 'n Flix fun, there are still a few days left. Deadline for submission is Tuesday, May 30th (by the end of the day wherever you are.) Or if you missed this month but want to join in the food and film fun, join us for June when Evelyne of CulturEatz is hosting the Spanish film, Volver.

Happy watching and cooking and have fun storming the castle!  

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Deliver Her" by Patricia Perry Donovan, Served with a Recipe for (Homemade) Chocolate-Cherry Energy Bars

Happy Aloha Friday! What a crazy week and a long day. The weekend needs a good book and a snack to go with it. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am reviewing the contemporary family drama, Deliver Her by Patricia Perry Donovan and pairing my review with some homemade Chocolate-Cherry Energy Bars, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb: 

On the night of Alex Carmody’s sixteenth birthday, she and her best friend, Cass, are victims of a terrible car accident. Alex survives; Cass doesn’t. Consumed by grief, Alex starts cutting school and partying, growing increasingly detached. The future she’d planned with her friend is now meaningless to her.

Meg Carmody is heartbroken for her daughter, even as she’s desperate to get Alex’s life back on track. The Birches, a boarding school in New Hampshire, promises to do just that, yet Alex refuses to go. But when Meg finds a bag of pills hidden in the house, she makes a fateful call to a transporter whose company specializes in shuttling troubled teens to places like The Birches, under strict supervision. Meg knows Alex will feel betrayed—as will her estranged husband, who knows nothing of Meg’s plans for their daughter.

When the transport goes wrong—and Alex goes missing—Meg must face the consequences of her decision and her deception. But the hunt for Alex reveals that Meg is not the only one keeping secrets.

Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1, 2016)

My Review:

When I signed up for the tour for Deliver Her, I had it in my head for some reason that it was a mystery/thriller and it definitely is not. It's more of a family drama, the tension comes from the relationships and the secrets the characters are hiding from each other. At first I was disappointed (I do love my mystery/thrillers), but I found myself absorbed by the story and the characters and that made the book's 340-ish pages fly by quickly.  

I am not a parent, but I have friends and family that have struggled trying to get through to a child, trying to protect them and sometimes making decisions for how they choose to deal with a situation--decisions that they later regret. Meg Carmody is a caring person and mother, but definitely burning out with her job as a cancer nurse, an inability to escape her failed marriage as her husband is living in the basement, and especially in knowing what to do for and about her daughter Alex, who has been spiraling out of control after her best friend's death on the night of Alex's sixteenth birthday. Meg finally gets pushed over the edge by Alex's actions when she finds a bag of pills after Alex has a party and trashed the house, and she makes the fateful decision to send Alex to a boarding school for troubled teens she has been researching. She hides the decision from her husband--who refused to discuss it and arranges for Begin Again, a transport service, to take Alex there. It is a decision she quickly comes to regret when there is an accident and Alex goes missing. 

The story is told in past and present by Meg, Alex, and Carl Alden, the owner of Begin Again--each sharing their perspectives, observations and the bits and pieces that led up to where they are now. Although none of these characters are perfect, they are relatable and I found myself drawn to each of them in a different way. For me the characters were the strongest part of the book as I found that the secrets promised were pretty easy to figure out and I didn't find any big surprises in the twists. If you don't set your heart on a mystery and understand that Deliver Her is a book about family and domestic relationships and the choices we make, it is a solid and enjoyable read

Author Notes: Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband.

You can connect with Patricia Perry Donovan on her website, Facebook and Twitter


Food Inspiration: Although not full of food mentions, there were some to be found in Deliver Her such as clam chowder and a burger at a diner, hotdogs and fries at a bowling alley, a cup of hot chocolate, chocolate fountain with berries and cookies at Alex's sweet sixteen party, a workplace chicken salad, a bagel from the travel center kiosk, and a container of chili thawing on the counter.

For my book-inspired dish, I decided to go with a homemade version of a chocolate-cherry energy bar--supposedly Alex's favorite--and part of a basket of snacks that Meg prepared for her transport trip to The Birches.

I do buy energy bars for convenience, trying to get the simplest ingredients without a lot of preservatives or added sugars, but I prefer to make them when I can. It allows me to make them to my taste, control what goes into them, and they just taste fresher and better than most store-bought versions. I switch up the ingredients, depending on my mood or what I have on hand but I usually always include nut butter, nuts and seeds, and dried fruit. Often I add a few mini dark chocolate chips for a little fun and since the energy bars in the book were described as chocolate-cherry, I upped the chocolate presence with dark cocoa powder and some vegan chocolate protein powder. 

Chocolate-Cherry Energy Bars
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12-16 Bars--depending on how you cut them)

1 1/4 cups quick cooking oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 Tbsp wheat germ
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped nuts of choice
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup nut butter of choice (I used crunchy natural peanut butter) + more if needed
1/3  cup honey or maple syrup or combination + more if needed
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp protein powder of choice (I used chocolate), optional
1/4 cup good dark cocoa powder

pinch of sea salt

Lightly grease a square (8"x8") or small rectangular (9"x7") baking pan and line with parchment paper, making sure the edges hang over the sides of the pan.

In a large bowl, add oats, flax seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, sliced almonds, dried cherries and mini chips and stir to mix well. 

In a microwave safe bowl, add nut butter, honey or maple syrup. Place in the microwave and heat about 30 seconds, or until nut butter is softened but not hot. Add vanilla, protein powder, cocoa powder and sea salt and stir until combined and smooth. 

Pour the nut butter mixture into the oat mixture and stir, gently but thoroughly, until well-combined. Add additional honey, maple syrup or nut butter if need if the mixture is too dry. (You want it crumbly but moist enough to stick together.)

Slightly moisten hands and dump mixture into the prepared pan. Press the mixture with your hands, firmly and evenly into the pan. Cover the pan and place in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight until completely firm.

Once firm, carefully lift the block out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into bars. (I used a rectangular pan and cut mine into 12 pieces.) If desired, wrap bars individually in waxed paper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Note: Bars will not melt, but they will soften at room temp and they remain more firm and solid if stored in the fridge.

Notes/Results: I like the way these bars turned out, soft and chewy with a bit of crunchy texture from the seeds and sliced almonds and with good chocolate flavor. They are sweet, but not too sweet and the chunks of cherry go well with the chocolate and peanut butter. You can switch up the seeds, dried fruit and nuts that you use, based on your preferences and what you have on hand. Because the chocolate comes from cocoa powder and mini chips, they are not as melty as chocolate-topped bars (like these I made last month), and can spend a few hours or so, (wrapped and treated somewhat gently!) in a purse, backpack, or lunchbox with no issues or mess--but remember that a trade off for no preservatives, is a bit more fragility--so for longer term and optimum firmness, it's best to store them in the refrigerator.  

I'm linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Deliver Her" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats (With Dark Chocolate Drizzle & Sea Salt)

Our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Any Way You Slice It--Ellie Krieger recipes that can be sliced. I went back to an Ellie recipe I have made and posted before (in 2008 no less), her Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats. I have been craving some peanut butter goodness and I also had a box of brown rice cereal that needed to be used up, along with all the other ingredients stocked in my pantry.

Ellie's recipe has dried cherries which I kept in but I also thought it would be nice to have a little bit of chocolate. Rather than stir in the chocolate chips, I thought it would add more visual appeal to drizzle melted chocolate on top and, since the peanut butter I am using is just ground up roasted peanuts with no salt, I thought a sprinkle of sea salt on top would be a nice touch. My changes are in red below.  

Ellie says, "Sticky sweet squares of crispy rice make you feel like a kid again--when you are making them and when you are eating them. Here the family favorite is updated, with whole grain cereal and peanut butter and honey instead of marshmallow. I added chewy, tangy dried cherries to the mix here, but it works well with any dried fruit--or even chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Crispy Rice Treats 
Adapted Slightly from So Easy by Ellie Krieger
(Makes 12-15 Bars--depending on how you cut them) ;-)
3/4 cup chunky, natural-style peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
6 cups crispy brown rice cereal
2/3 cup chopped dried cherries
cooking spray
(I added 1/3 cup vegan dark chocolate chips, melted)
(I added a  sprinkle of flaky sea salt)

Combine peanut butter and honey in a large pot; cook over medium-low heat until peanut butter and honey are melted (about 2-3 minutes). Add crispy brown rice cereal and chopped dried cherries to the mixture; stir until sticky. 

Press into a 9- x 13-inch pan coated with cooking spray. (I drizzled the top of my crispy rice mixture with the melted dark chocolate and sprinkled lightly with flaky sea salt.)

Chill in refrigerator 40 minutes. Cut into 15 (2 1/2 - x 3-inch) squares; serve.

Notes/Results: These are yummy little treats--light and crispy-crunchy with good peanut flavor that contrasts well with the tart dried cherries. I find the dark chocolate and sea salt to be a great addition as it gives just enough chocolaty goodness without making them too sweet and nothing beats a little sweet & salty combo. I wasn't paying attention to Ellie's cutting directions and used a slightly smaller pan and cut them into twelve squares. These are very flexible--use almond butter or sunflower butter if there are allergy issues, use any kind of dried fruit you like--it's all good. Fast, easy, healthy for a sweet treat, and really good--I am sure I will be making them again.

You can see what slice-able dishes everyone at IHCC made by checking out the picture links on the post


Monday, April 13, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of 'Ivory Ghosts' by Caitlin O'Connell, Served with a Recipe for Chewy No-Bake Peanut Butter Muesli Bars (+ eBook/Giftcard Giveaway)

I am unlikely ever to go on safari in Africa--too many shots needed, too many mosquitoes ready to suck all my blood, too much money to do it in a comfortable way (roughing it is not my style), but I have had a long fascination of animal life there--particularly the majestic elephants. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I got to head to Africa without leaving the comforts of home via Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohan Elephant Mystery by Caitlin O'Connell, an intense thriller full of poaching, murder and mayhem. My review is accompanied by a recipe inspired by the book, Chewy Peanut No-Bake Butter Muesli Bars--perfect for munching on safari or while curled up with a big cup of rooibos tea and a great book. You'll also find a giveaway at the bottom of the post, where you have a chance to win an eBook copy of Ivory Ghosts, plus an e-Giftcard for the eBook retailer of your choice. Happy Monday! ;-)

Publisher's Blurb:

In a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.

Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she’ll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers.

But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby—with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as “the witchdoctor,” a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars.

Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate—both human and animal—skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she’s flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.

On Sale: April 07, 2015
eBook: Pages: 240
Published by : Alibi

Ivory Ghosts is an intense page turner with a strong message--a great balance of mystery/thriller and an in-depth look at elephants, poaching, and the illegal ivory trade. I love it when a book not only sweeps me up in a fascinating story but teaches me something along the way. Author Caitlin O'Connell's background and knowledge of elephants and life in Africa make her words ring true and she writes in a way that is very accessible and engaging--nothing is too technical or detailed for non-scientific types or non-world politics experts to understand. Her vivid descriptions pulled me immediately into the book and made me feel like I was flying over Namibia counting elephants along with the lead character. Catherine Sohon is a great heroine--she is strong, independent, and brave enough to fight for the elephants and the people of Africa, but she is not perfect and she's normal enough to find being in the middle of a hyena hunt is terrifying along with being thrilling. (OK, maybe 'normal' would be to find it way more terrifying than thrilling!) ;-) The story had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing about who the 'bad guys' were. I changed my mind several times, which I liked as I enjoy being at least a bit surprised at the end of a mystery. Although there is some romance thrown in, the mystery is the heart of the story and it is a compelling one--your heart can't help but break for the elephants when reading about their senseless slaughter. Ivory Ghosts will appeal to mystery fans, animal lovers, those who like books with strong female leads, and anyone who enjoys a fast paced and well-written thriller. I am looking forward to more Catherine Sohon adventures.   

Author Notes: A world-renowned expert on elephants, Caitlin O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ecology and is a faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as director of life sciences for HNU Photonics. She is the author five nonfiction books about elephants, including the internationally acclaimed The Elephant’s Secret Sense, An Elephant’s Life, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, and Elephant Don, and co-author of the award-winning The Elephant Scientist. She is the co-founder and CEO of Utopia Scientific, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and science education, and the co-founder of Triple Helix Productions, a global media forum with a mandate to develop more accurate and entertaining science content for the media. When not in the field with elephants, O’Connell divides her time between San Diego, California, and Maui, Hawaii, with her husband, Tim Rodwell, and their dog, Frodo.

Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of food in the book. Catherine relies a lot on crackers with peanut butter and honey and muesli "rusks" (a kind of double-bake biscuit or cookie--much like a biscotti for dipping into tea or coffee). She brings along a tin full of tea in her gear (honey rooibos; from 'redbush'--a South African-grown herbal tea is a favorite), eats canned vegetable curry, and carries canned sardines or pilchards with her. Local fair includes koeksusters (a sticky deep-fried pastry), greasy fried chicken and Portuguese sausage rolls, mieliepap (porridge/polenta) and roasted mealie (corn on the cob). The local game lodge has "a nice lady's rump" on their lunch special (apparently a lady's rump is 8oz of meat instead of 12oz). Jon Baggs, Conservation Ministry Head and potential romantic lead, wants to quit and open a restaurant someday called The Sated Rabbit--the specialty being rabbit stuffed with quail. He cooks lamb rib with lemon rosemary and and leg of lamb rubbed with garlic, and brings a traumatized Catherine mushroom stroganoff and rice. I thought about making Rock Shandies--ginger ale or soda with lemon and bitters on top, but ultimately for my book-inspired recipe, I went back to the rusks that everyone kept grabbing for breakfast or snacks with their rooibos.

These bars are a very loose interpretation of a muesli rusks. Muesli being a mix of raw rolled oats and other ingredients like fresh or dried fruits, seeds and nuts that is usually mixed with milk and eaten for breakfast. I say very loose because rusks are hard, double-bakes and personally I am not a big fan of double-bakes, biscotti or their other forms. Given a choice between soft-chewy and hard-crunchy, I will take soft-chewy every time. Now rusks have a very practical use when you need to preserve bread and are traveling across the deserts sands or in the African bush doing an elephant census but, since I am safely at home, I decided to capture some of the flavors of a muesli rusk in a chewy granola bar form. I partnered the bars with one of my favorite rooibos teas; Trader Joe's Ruby Red Chai.  

Chewy No-Bake Peanut Butter Muesli Bars
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 bars)

1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup honey or sweetener of choice
pinch of sea salt

1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup mixed seeds (I used sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp seeds)

2 Tbsp cacao nibs (optional)
2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup chopped dried fruit (I used sulfite-free wild blueberries, papaya, mango, banana)

Line a small baking pan with parchment or waxed paper, leaving the sides long enough to cover the top of the pan. Set aside. 

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt peanut butter, coconut oil, honey, salt, cinnamon and cardamom until smooth and bubbles start to form along the edges. Reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a large pan (I used my wok), toast oats over low heat until lightly browned. Stir in the seeds, cacao nibs, coconut and dried fruit. Pour the liquid mixture into the oat mixture and stir to combine well. Cook mixture for 2-3 minutes over low heat to soften the ingredients, enabling them to stick together better.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing firmly with the back of a wooden spoon to ensure it is evenly spread.

Fold the parchment/wax paper over the granola so the top is covered. Press the granola very firmly, packing it as tightly as you can. Use your hands, a cup, or a can from the pantry to pack it in tightly and evenly.

Place in refrigerator and allow to cool completely for a few hours or overnight. 

Remove granola block from pan and cut into bars. Wrap individually in waxed paper and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes/Results: Chewy, moist and good flavor, these are tasty little bars. They are nicely sweet from the dried fruit and honey and a little salty too. The flavor of the peanut butter is there, as well as hints of the cinnamon and cardamom so they paired really well with the Ruby Red Chai Tea. You could of course substitute another nut butter, or even sunflower seed butter if you want a nut free bar. If you want them stickier and less soft, you can omit the nut butter and add another 1/4 cup of honey instead. You can also change up the fruit and seeds to your liking or what you have on hand. Satisfying for a snack or breakfast and easy to make, I would make them again.

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of Ivory Ghosts. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 
Note: A review copy of "Ivory Ghosts" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "Under a Silent Moon" by Elizabeth Haynes with Dark Mocha-Coconut No-Bake Bars

Newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith gets assigned her first murder investigation and it quickly turns into two cases when another body turns up. Two deaths on the same night--could it be a coincidence? One is the clear murder of a 29-year-old local woman, the other is reported as the suicide of another local woman but, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a connection between the two incidents and that the second death may not have been a suicide. In Under a Silent Moon, author Elizabeth Haynes weaves a complex and intriguing mystery that gives an inside look to British police procedures and introduces a smart new female lead.

Publisher's Blurb:

Devour the Book
Connect the Clues
Discover a Killer

 P. D. James meets E. L. James in Under a Silent Moon, this first novel in an exciting British crime series—a blend of literary suspense and page-turning thriller that introduces formidable Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith—from suspense talent Elizabeth Haynes, author of the bestselling Into the Darkest Corner.

Two women share one fate.
A suspected murder at an English Farm.
A reported suicide at a local quarry. 

Can DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather the evidence and discover a link between them, a link which sealed their fate one cold night, Under a Silent Moon?
A tense, compelling and unsettling novel brimming with source material and evidence set over just six days, Under a Silent Moon will keep you gripped until the very last page and asks:
Can you connect the clues to discover the Killer?
Solve the crime alongside DCI Louisa Smith and her team.

Hardcover: 368 pages 
Publisher: Harper (April 15, 2014)

I have become a big fan of author Elizabeth Hayes, devouring her other three novels, two (Into the Darkest Corner and Human Remains) for TLC Book Tours. I love the realistic detail she puts into her novels--legal transcripts, police reports, witness statements--as it takes the reader deep inside the drama. In Under a Silent Moon, there are a lot of characters to keep track of and a lot of British police jargon thrown in but Haynes makes it work, keeping the pace going and not letting the story get bogged down. Even if the precise definitions of the acronyms used aren't familiar, it is easy enough to know what is going on. The story is told from the point of view of the different characters--Lou and her team as well as some the key suspects and persons of interest in the story, as well as through the police documents and evidence. There are not huge surprises because the clues are there--but there were enough twists and turns that kept me guessing. I thought I had it figured out a few times but changed my mind as more evidence came in. At the end, I had part of it solved but wasn't quite correct in all of the details or the motivations of the suspects involved. I liked these little plot twists--they kept me turning pages, waiting for more info to come in. 

Although not as creepy-crawly as her Human Remains, Under a Silent Moon still builds the drama and suspense. As in her other books, Haynes' glimpses into the neighborhoods she writes about will make you take a second look at your own neighbors and wonder how well you really know them and what they do in private. ;-)  I liked Louisa--a strong lead, but not without doubts and faults, and I look forward to delving more into her character and getting to know her team in future books. Mystery/thriller lovers, fans of police procedurals, female sleuths, well-written detective series, and British-set suspense novels will gobble this one up.

Author Notes: Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. Dark Tide is her second novel; rights to her first, Into the Darkest Corner, have been sold in twenty-five territories. Haynes lives in England in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son.

Following the intense investigation of two murders over six days, most of the food in the book is grabbed on the run. Sandwiches, English breakfast plates, curry takeout, kabobs... DCI Lou seems to mostly exist on double espressos, cups of coffee and Kit Kat bars (she says 'the orange ones' count as her "five a day"), which doesn't seem like good crime-solving brain food--although it did make me crave candy bars. Looking for something chocolaty, that would works as a grab-and-go, but with more nutrients than a candy bar, I decided to make no-bake cookie bars. I looked up healthier versions on line and used several recipes as a starting point--finding that most of the natural ingredient versions used a combination of oats, coconut, dark chocolate, peanut butter, honey or agave, and coconut oil as a base with different nut and fruit combinations added in. I chose almond butter--less overpowering than peanut butter in flavor, and added sliced almonds, dried cherries and chia and hemp seeds for extra texture and nutrients. Due to all the coffee consumed by Lou and her team, I decided to throw some of that life-blood caffeine into the mix and added coffee to make these mocha bars--perfect to partner with a cup of coffee for an extra energy boost.  

Dark Mocha-Coconut No-Bake Bars
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12-16 Bars--depending on size you cut)

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/3 cup honey or agave
1 cup almond butter (or any nut butter of choice)
1 single serve Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Italian Roast (or 2 tsp espresso powder)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 small pinch sea salt
2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup shredded (unsweetened) coconut (+ extra to top)
1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup dried cherries
2 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)
2 Tbsp hemp seeds (optional)
1 heaping cup of dark chocolate chips

Prepare a 8 x 8" pan by spraying with no-stick cooking spray and lining with parchment. 

In a medium-large sauce pan, add the coconut oil, honey and nut butter over medium-low heat, stirring until melted and blended together. Stir in coffee powder, vanilla extract and sea salt until blended. 

In a medium bowl, stir together oats, coconut, sliced almonds, dried cherries, chia and hemp seed if using, and dark chocolate chips. Remove nut butter mixture from heat and stir in oat mixture. Mix together gently until blended and dark chocolate has melted completely.

Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle top with the extra shredded coconut (or nuts, or chocolate chips) if desired. Cool in the fridge until mixture is hardened (2-3 hours or overnight if you can wait.) Cut into small bars and enjoy. Store cut bars covered in the refrigerator or freezer so they remain firm. 

Notes/Results: Rich and decadent enough to soothe any chocolate craving. These bars are chewy and satisfying. Although not necessarily health food or low in calories, they are full of healthy fats and nutrients and certainly better for you than a candy bar or cookie from the vending machine. The coffee taste is subtle and hits at the end, it also adds a certain depth to the dark chocolate. There is a hint of coconut flavor, along with the fruity bites of tangy dried cherries and a little crunch from the sliced almonds and seeds. You could of course use whatever dried fruits, nut butter, nuts and seeds that you like. I like this combination--nothing overpowers anything else and it all works together well. They do get a little soft and melty if they sit out for too long in a warm environment, so they are best stored in the fridge or a cool place until you are ready to serve them. Quick and easy, made from natural ingredients and killer with a cup of dark roast coffee--I would happily make them again.  

Note: A review copy of "Under a Silent Moon" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other readers thought about the book here.