cranberry and cadbury mini egg energy bites

If you’re like me, you still have some Easter candy floating around aimlessly in your kitchen, your living room, maybe also in your pockets and in your car. This Easter candy is begging to be finished, but there is just so much of it that it is difficult to finish. Especially when there are other delicious things like Gushers getting in the way during afternoon snack time.

So last weekend, on a whim when prepping foodstuffs for an epic end-of-winter hike, I decided to turn some already delicious raw energy balls into not-raw, much deliciouser energy balls, or bites, as I’ll classily refer to them here. I make many versions of these, often with cocoa powder, often with various dried fruits, and always with a base of dates and nuts.

cranberry and cadbury mini egg energy bites

The addition of Cadbury Mini Eggs is a genius move, because it gives the energy bites a crunchy crackly texture that is terribly fun to eat – I imagine that to be the energy flowing straight into me, and down towards my legs to give them strength for the last few miles of the day.  What’s more, Cadbury recently unveiled ‘Royal Dark’ Mini Eggs, which are leaps and bounds more delicious than the original milk chocolate variety. That is what I used here, and I highly recommend it.

If you happen to have various other Easter candies looking for a home, I think many things would work well in these. Jordan almonds would work. Malted milk balls would work. Fun-sized Easter candy bars would work. Perhaps even jelly beans would work! …although that’s a bit too wacky for me.

gulf hagas

I referred to our hike as epic. It was only 9.7 miles, but the going was rrrrrrrough. First off, let me say that I don’t yet own waterproof boots. As a forester, that is probably something that I shouldn’t admit – ask me next week, and I’ll probably be able to saw “Pshaw I have waterproof boots!” and then I’ll quietly mumble something about “purchasingthemlastweekend.”

Luckily, someone had been on a good portion of the trail at some point over the winter, so the snow that is often still above-my-knees deep was reduced to the perfect depth for trodding upon. The trail we hiked was at Gulf Hagas, known as the Grand Canyon of Maine. Take that as you will – – it was definitely no Grand canyon, but it was a Lovely canyon and a Stunning canyon nonetheless. Given the canyon nature of the hike, there was a quite a bit of micro-rocky terrain, which turned out to be covered in sheer ice during our visit. It’s safe to say I did my share of slipping and sliding.

The loop hike that we did took us on a section of the Appalachian Trail as well, which we realized we hadn’t set foot on since 2011, at Grayson Highlands in Virginia. The AT hadn’t seen any footprints all winter other than moose and deer, so while being just a short section, it was sort of tiring. Remember that part about the not-waterproof boots? Remember that other part about the snow above-my-knees deep? Connect those two dots right thurr.

But jeebus, what a beautiful hike. I can’t wait for the snow to fully recede, and for weekend after weekend of glorious hiking adventures this summer. Bring it on, I say (nay, I plead)!

KI roadgulf hagasgulf hagascar camping

Perfect for bringing along on hikes, this recipe will give you a boost with healthy walnuts, hazelnuts, and dates, as well as a peppy sugar rush from the chocolate. Use up that Easter candy!

Cranberry and Cadbury Mini Egg Energy Bites

{recipe by myself – very approximate, but very adaptable}

Makes 12-15

++Ingredients:++

3 handfuls walnuts (or your nut of choice)
1 handful hazelnuts
2 handfuls dates
pinch of salt
1 handful dried cranberries
2 handfuls Cadbury Royal Dark Mini Eggs
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp maple syrup

++Directions:++

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients, and pulse until mixed. If the mixture is overly wet, add another handful of nuts. If the mixture is dry, add some more maple syrup, or a teaspoon of water. Shape mixture into balls, and place on a tray. Freeze for at least an hour. Enjoy chilled if possible.

cranberry and cadbury mini egg energy bites

love at fourth sight: rogue chocolatier’s rio caribe

I was recently surprised with the most wonderful, charming and beautiful craft that’s ever been given to me. Yes, it was for a craft exchange, and no, I have not yet made my half of the bargain. There are good reasons why I haven’t come through on my part, but they are unimportant, considering the beautiful new artwork adorning one of my large living room windows. Just take a look as this lovely thang:

I feel honored and grateful to have made such a wonderful friend. I’ll miss you when you move away, Martha. Who will motivate me to run long distances? Who will encourage me to embrace my love of The Bachelorette? Who will share in my love of fatteningly enjoyable cream sauces? Who will, when excited, respond to my Midwestern accent with one of equal caliber? I’m not sure, because you can’t be replaced. You represent everything that I have enjoyed about my time in Maine. Thank you.

But wait a minute, what’s that sneaky chocolate bar doing up there amidst the arty glass? Ah, I’ve got you hooked on sentimentality. This is actually a chocolate review in not much disguise!

Since I became cognizant of the at-times confusing world of craft chocolate cheer, I have done my part to observe, explore, and taste. In the case of Rogue Chocolatier, cheer is in fact a fitting choice, as I have applauded Rogue more, perhaps, than any other chocolate maker. For Rogue is more than a chocolatier. Founder and chocolate maker Colin Gasko sources the beans that he then works his magic on – roasting, winnowing, grinding, refining, conching, tempering, molding and packaging the chocolate himself.

Why do I love Rogue chocolate so much? On the surface, I am pleased that he pioneered craft chocolate for the Midwest, doncha know. And gosh, have I mentioned he was*** based out of Minneapolis?

Now you too can see how my Midwestern accent gets stronger as I get excited – – except I as a rule try to never say “doncha know” in serious (or lighthearted) conversation.

Back on task, I also love Rogue for, no surprise, the excellent quality of chocolate that Gasko purveys.

The 70% Rio Caribe bar comes to us from Venezuela’s eastern Paria Peninsula, off of a single estate’s Trinitario cacao. It contains only cocoa beans and cane sugar, a move from previous incarnations of the bar that contained cocoa butter and Tahitian vanilla as well. Gasko told me that he removed these additional ingredients to refine the presentation of the chocolate flavor, which I heartily respect. Eliminating the vanilla and cocoa butter allows Gasko to create a more interesting and challenging natural balance with the Trinitario beans, which he ironically suggests “has hints of vanilla notes to it depending on the batch.”

As he suggested, removing cocoa butter from the chocolate bar equation results in processing challenges (to put it lightly), but also in a more flavorful end product. I found this to be exactly the case – – this chocolate was worth the effort. How much effort, you may ask? I’m no chocolate maker (although I’d like to be), but Gasko told me that the Rio Caribe is the most challenging cacao that Rogue Chocolatier works with.

On to the chocolate itself. Upon opening the packaging’s hooked closure, and simple plastic wrapping, I was greeted by a cocoa aroma that deepened into a nutty earthiness. Breaking off a piece of the unscored rectangle, I was reminded of another Rogue characteristic that I respect: thin bars with crispy snaps.

You may interpret that sentence to refer to chocolate, or to once-underdog rappers such as Eminem. Either way, you’re right, I think.

I found the initial chocolate taste surprisingly reminiscent of the chocolate in the countless Keebler E.L. Fudge cookies I enjoyed as a rowdy youth. That fudgy taste slowly developed a bitterness that reminded me of roasted nuts. It was so smooth on the palate, and even seemed to possess a fudgy, or chewy, texture. Pretty good for no added cocoa butter.

The packaging steers tasters towards notes of coffee, blood orange, and nuts. I didn’t taste much citrus in this particular bar. Behind the mask of truly deep cocoa taste, I tried to discern any viable note of vanilla. The soft undertones accentuating the roasted darkness of this bar related much more to vanilla than they did to citrus, or even coffee. However, I’m not much of a coffee drinker, so my coffee-tasting palate is rather limited.

Batches come and go. For a three-day turnaround on chocolate bars, Gasko is doing his part to ensure Rogue’s success, and I see it working. I’ve seen quite a bit of Rogue Chocolatier-positive press in the past year, and I look forward to more. All of this means that there will (hopefully) be plenty more incarnations of Rio Caribe for me to try in the future. And sure enough, cacao beans recently made the trek to Massachusetts*** from Venezuela, meaning a 2011 batch of Rio Caribe bars is in the works.

While Rogue’s Piura bar remains my favorite of the quartet (or is it Sambirano? or Hispaniola? I can’t decide), this bar is more than worth it for those who enjoy bitter, deep, complex flavors. If you have access to Rogue products at a chocolate shop near you – I bought this bar when down in Asheville at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge – what are you waiting for?

Rogue Chocolatier

***Sadly, no longer based out of Minneapolis. What the Midwest once had…. the Midwest has lost. Gasko is now back home in Massachusetts: Maine’s natural-born enemy. Wah wah.

Follow Gasko’s ofttimes-fiery Twitter feed, if you feel up to it. I’m not a Tweedle-deedle-Twitter-der, but I find his witticisms top notch.

Rogue: now located in Three Rivers, MA. Read the following and weep, doncha know.

b.t. mcelrath’s oldies but goodies

I have previously shown great love for B.T. McElrath Chocolatier, my hometown heroic purveyor of chocolatey goodness. Did you know their factory is located mere blocks from where I used to live? It’s fate, I have decided. Fate that I am destined to enjoy these amazing B.T. creations for years to come. I have no problem accepting this responsibility.

And while I’ve enjoyed the B.T. bars that I’ve mowed down on, I haven’t been privileged enough to sample from their truffle selection (until now). Having given my mom some tasty-looking B.T. truffles for Mother’s Day, I was very happy to present her with them…. but embarrassingly jealous that I didn’t get to try any. Is it okay to be jealous of a gift given selflessly to your mom? My moral compass says no.

Still, ever the wonderful woman that she is, took upon herself the great burden of visiting B.T. McElrath’s factory in Minneapolis for their 7th Annual Chocolate Sale, held near the end of May. I figured that someone should enjoy the seasonal close-outs, overruns, and items created especially for the sale, even if that someone wasn’t me. But wait!! It was.

For I recently received a package containing a somewhat strangely-colored Passion Fruit & Tangerine Bar, as well as two lovely boxes of truffles.

The first box, which had sadly bloomed and made for less-than-stellar photos, contained five stellar Caramelized Coconut Pavé. Each pavé contained creamy coconutty goodness, with a smattering of caramel, all enclosed in a lovely shell of 70% dark chocolate. A dash of coconut across the top of each truffle sets the tone for what is to be enjoyed once bitten into. The outer chocolate shell is rather thick, but the coconut filling shines through – and as the chocolate melts on the palate, I am left to admire the filling’s coconut texture.

I am by no means a truffle connoisseur (although perhaps I am now motivated to become one), but I found this to be delightful. I enjoyed it even more when it had been refrigerated for some time, as the thick chocolate shell became snappingly good, giving way to the still creamy interior.

The second, and woefully beautiful truffle [it has been known to cause ennui when no truffles remain], known as the B.T. Berry Poinsettia, did not come in its own box, leaving me with few clues to decipher its mélange of delightful layers. Phew, this paragraph is getting a bit heavy on the French words. C’est lourd, ce paragraphe.

Searching the interwebs, I was lucky enough to find what these cute gems are made of. From The Nibble, you and I now know that the inside features red raspberry and black current purées combined with white chocolate ganache, while the outer layers feature both white and dark chocolate. Newsflash: I just learned that the word is poinsettia, not pointsettia. I almost had to turn in my third-grade spelling champion mentality, there.

And wow, these truffles deliver. I wouldn’t have known what they were made of if I hadn’t looked them up, but they are so smooth and buttery, and full of flavor. Perhaps if I drank more Kir Royales (back to the French theme, eh?) I would better recognize the cassis-flavored ganache.

The dark chocolate layer on the bottom of the truffle persists a wee bit longer than the other components, but I would expect that, due to the higher proportion of cocoa butter in the white chocolate shell and ganache. Know what else I learned from The Nibble? White chocolate is normally “deodorized” t0 remove its undesirable, strong taste. Eew. No wonder white chocolate normally creeps me out.

I will admit that B.T. McElrath does a great job, in all of their products, of incorporating white and dark chocolate in tandem, and making the end products taste great.

While these oldies are probably not around for purchase any longer, B.T. McElrath is currently stocking some wonderful seasonal truffles (or so says my lovely mum). We’re talking Peanut Butter Pavé, Chai-Spiced Honey Truffles, Blood Orange Blossoms, and Strawberry Balsamic Caramels. They sound good, don’t they?

B.T. McElrath Chocolatier

2010 E. Hennepin Ave., #78
Minneapolis, MN 55413

I found a great taste tester in my boyfriend, who sampled two of the ten total truffles when we opened the boxes up last weekend. Unfortunately, the eight of the other ten truffles have now vanished mysteriously into my stomach. Sorry dear!