Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews

Is it wrong to make chocolate treats for dinner instead of...actual dinner? I should think not. My biggest issue with this is not that I eat my weight in chocolate (surprisingly) or deprive myself of nutrients not found in chocolate alone. No, it's that I won't have a lunch for work the following day. For example, today's lunch is corn tortillas and a can of black beans...and I didn't even bring a can opener. Who does that?! Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews It's all in the name of chocolate. And speaking of chocolate...Valentine's Day might be my favorite holiday. You thought I forgot, huh? Alas, I'm not even remotely romantic. I grew up with two brothers, the vast majority of my friends are of the male variety, and I'm more tomboy than prettygirl. But if there's two things I love, it's flowers and unexpectedly receiving chocolate goodies. Arguably the things to recieve on this blessed, blessed holiday. 

I don't care if it's over-commercialized. Seriously, what isn't? No really, I really want to know. A day of celebrating love (let's not forget flowers and chocolate) is a pretty radical day in my book. I'm down for that. Plus, my favorite color might be pink. It's a win, win, win, win!

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews This recipe is a win, too. These little guys are absolutely delectable. I got the idea from a friend who told me her husband buys her a huge bin of those salted chocolate cashew clusters from Costco on Valentine's Day. That's pretty awesome. I decided to add a little date of nature's chewy caramel to them because, let's be real, caramel deserves to include itself in anything and everything. Also, nothing is as good as it could be if it's not salted. It's a fact. Seriously

These are scrumptious little cashews, wrapped in chewy caramel dates and dipped in smooth chocolate, all finished with a sprinkle of flake salt. 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews 

Makes about 50 balls (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. non-dairy creamer or milk (I used hazelnut Silk creamer)
  • 8 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw whole cashews (about 50 nuts)
  • flake salt for topping

In a small pot, bring about 1 inch of water to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low and place a small, heat-safe bowl over the pot of water. Add the chocolate and the creamer to the bowl to melt. Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate then remove from heat but keep the bowl over the pot. 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Meanwhile, pit the dates. Cut in half and then cut each half into thirds. There should be six pieces to each date. 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Take one cashew and wrap one piece of the date around it, like they're hugging, to make a ball. Continue with the remaining date pieces. 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Dip the cashew/date ball in the chocolate to coat and place on the parchment paper. 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Sprinkle the top with salt and continue with remaining balls. 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Freeze for 15 minutes to harden. Store in airtight container in freezer. 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews As I was cleaning, I moved the curtain and to my squealing delight I found this guy hiding! I felt so bad because I didn't know he was growing back there and he was so thirsty! Poor little fella. It's a Valentine's Day miracle! 

Produce On Parade - Salted Caramel Chocolate Cashews Can you see me?

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[yumprint-recipe id='77']

Bananas Foster Oatmeal With A Caramel Date Sauce

We're going to get to this delectableness below in a minute, but first... fosterafter

Guess what I woke up to on Saturday, May 4th? Snow! That's right folks, snow, in May. As in May...June...Omg, snow! I was surprised, but above all, excessively excited. It's a spring miracle! I love snow. Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie.

Produce on Parade: Bananas Foster Oatmeal with Caramel Date Sauce

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Can you spot the Bob?

First, some background into this amazingly awesome oatmeal dish. Being a newly-minted vegan, I had a minor vegan panic attack last Friday. Yes, apparently this is a real thing. I was invited to a brunch on Saturday and I had no idea what to bring. I don't do breakfast food typically (odd I know), it's just really not my thing. I was slightly terrified. Here's why...the last vegan food item I brought to a party (my own damn birthday party I might add), everyone hated. For the record, and just so you know, it was delicious. It was a raw chocolate "cheesecake", made primarily from cashews. It happened to be this exact one. The non-vegans thought it tasted like bread. I know this because they had no issue telling me... repeatedly and without mercy. I, however, thought it was super great. And so it was there, sad and frustrated at my own birthday party, that I realized I had made a mistake.

It seems vegans are always trying to replicate some sort of non-vegan food item. Take for example cheesecake, mac and cheese, sloppy joes, etc. These "mock" vegan recipes can be great, and they can certainly help someone whose transitioning into veganism. Hell, the best mac and cheese I've ever had was vegan! Unfortunately, when these mock recipes are introduced to non-vegans, "Hey, try this vegan mac and cheese, it's great!" they'll taste it and disagree. Now that vegan sloppy joe recipe probably really is great, but not when the taste buds are expecting a traditional sloppy joe...you know...made with ground beef and not lentils. Yet, I saw a silver lining in my somber experience, and I decided then and there that I would never bring a "mock vegan version" of anything to gathering again. So with Saturday looming, I conjured this oatmeal.

I had never made it before and I'll admit I was kind of scared it would be spat upon by all the everybody but you know what happened? Everyone freakin' loved it. There was no dreaded, "Hey, this doesn't taste like regular oatmeal!"

To conclude, I will impart upon you this bit of sage newbie veganist advice. If attending a party be sure bring something that is pretty much, in every aspect, almost inherently vegan. Don't bring something like a cheesecake that (surprise) showcases cheese then be all heartbroken when non-vegans rip your baby apart (seriously, I toiled over that cheesecake). Don't make my mistake. Make this oatmeal. It was a total hit, people seriously raved. I wouldn't lie to you dear reader, I just wouldn't. So, another vegan lesson learned. Thank you for letting me serve you.

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Bananas Foster Oatmeal With A Caramel Date Sauce  

Inspired by Oh She Glows and Keepin' It Kind

Serves 8

  • - For the oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (ground oats)
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 6 small ripe bananas, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (or honey, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup Hazelnut Kahlua (or other liqueur)
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. butter extract
  • 1 small ripe banana, sliced
  • sprinkling of cinnamon
  • sprinkling of brown sugar
  • - For the sauce (optional)
  • 8 dates, pitted and soaked for 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 1/4 cup water (from soaking dates)
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. Hazelnut Kahlua (or other liqueur or additional maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum (optional)

First things first, pit the dates and soak them in just enough lukewarm water to keep them covered. Let them bathe for at least one hour at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the dry ingredients for the oatmeal in a large bowl. Chop up the six bananas. I have an easy way to make quick work of it: Peel down lengthwise only half of the banana peel. Now cut the banana in half, hot dog style and then simply cut slices throughout the banana and you'll have perfect half moon slices! Repeat with the remaining five bananas.

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Once all the bananas are chopped, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, liqueur and extracts to a large frying pan. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins bubbling, then add the six chopped bananas and continue to stir until those yummy bananas have softened. Remove from heat and add dry oatmeal mixture to the banana mixture. Stir to combine.

Grease a large casserole dish (think lasagna pan) and add oatmeal/banana mixture. Slice up one banana and place on top of oatmeal. I choose to be snotty hip and make a fun design, but you can do whatever you want. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon over the entire dish, followed by a generous amount of brown sugar. It will caramelize in the oven on top of the bananas. Scrumptious! Cook in oven for 50-60 minutes.

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fosterbefore

No rest for the wicked. While the oatmeal is baking, it's time to make the sauce. The sauce isn't mandatory. The oatmeal would be great on it's own, but I think the caramel sauce really makes it super special and it's so easy to make...there's really no excuse not to.

If the dates haven't been soaking for at least one hour, continue to let them soak. Once they're ready, drain them while reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking water. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until silky smooth. The sauce might seem a bit runny, but as it sits it becomes thicker. Pour into a cute little pitcher, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Before serving, feel free to warm the sauce up in the microwave, or just let it sit out for a few minutes.

When the oatmeal is finished baking, ideally, it would rest for about half an hour to firm up but it's not mandate. This isn't a dictatorship so do what you want to. The longer it sits, however, the more "sliceable" it will be. I cut mine into eight squares and served it submerged drizzled with the caramel date sauce. Delectable and wholesome. Really a great start to the weekend.

The next gathering you're attending before noon (or evening...present it as a dessert), give vegans and non-vegans alike what they want, and what they want is this Bananas Foster Oatmeal With A Caramel Date Sauce. Be prepared. Have copies of the recipe handy, seriously. It's that good.