No-Bake Energy Balls

I'm sick of buying granola bars and random snacks from the store. They're expensive and loaded with unpronounceable elements that have been manufactured in some lab somewhere and deemed fit for human consumption.

So I've been on the hunt for healthier, homemade, but still portable snack ideas. Because you know I need snacks—often. My friends didn't give me the name Snickety Snack for nothing.

First on the list to try: No-Bake Energy Balls. I spotted them on Pinterest.

(Pinterest, by the way, is the best and worst creation ever—the best because I always get great food, decor, fashion, parenting, cleaning, you-name-it ideas; the worst because it is so horribly addictive. Case in point: I had a student in a web publishing class last semester tell me she spent 8 hours one day on Pinterest. Eight hours! I spend 5 minutes here and there on it. But 8 hours? Wowza. Pinterest may be the downfall of our society.)

So about these energy balls. I snagged the recipe from Gimme Some Oven. It's pretty much just like she recommends making them, although I did dial back the coconut a bit from what the recipe calls for. Just personal preference.

Here are the details ...

What You Need 

1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes (I only used about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed, wheat germ, or a combo (I used wheat germ this time)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, but recommended)
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

What You Do

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week (if they last that long—doubtful).

Reasons to love these: They take minutes to make. They require no cooking or baking of any sort. And they include some of my most favorite ingredients ever: peanut butter, chocolate, honey, oats. Yum.

Although you don't have to refrigerate these babies, I'd recommend it. They stay nice and firm when they're in the fridge.

I imagine this first batch won't last long ... considering Conservative Hubby went to bed last night smelling of peanut butter, and I was in them myself this morning before the coffee even finished brewing.


Fudgy Chocolate Malt-Peppermint Pie

I know you're probably all anti-decadence right now because it's January and that's what people are supposed to do in January: deny deny deny their sweet tooth. Eat healthy. Work out more. You know the drill.

And yet I'm going to go ahead and post this anyway, even though it might make you groan. And even though most people would argue that peppermint ice cream is only a holiday treat.

I don't know why. I think it's a holiday conspiracy, actually. Peppermint ice cream is so refreshing, wouldn't it actually make a great summer treat? Or a January treat, if you're into that kind of thing ... which obviously I am or I wouldn't be posting this now.

So. Back at the ranch.

For one of our many Christmas feasts this year, I was assigned the very important task of making dessert. Something with chocolate.

I developed a big, long list of chocolate-y desserts one day. Then I crossed them all out the next day because I did some searching for chocolate holiday desserts online and found a slew of recipes that seriously made me swoon. Some of the recipes were a bit over the top, though, so I finally decided on one that looked festive, delicious, and relatively easy.

This is it. It's a fudgy chocolate malt-peppermint pie from Southern Living. The cool thing I didn't realize until I started baking is that it's not your traditional chocolate crust. It's more of a chocolate brownie that you press down a bit to make room for the ice cream.

The peppermint ice cream keeps this dessert from being over-the-top rich, but don't let that refreshing flavor fool you. Even a small piece is plenty.

One warning, though: We discovered the pie is pretty much impossible to cut if you follow the instructions and freeze the whole darn thing for 8 hours. Conservative Dad almost broke numerous knives trying to get a few pieces out of the pie pan.

So next time (yes, there will be a next time), I think we'll just leave the brownie crust out until it's time to serve, then will scoop in the ice cream and throw on the homemade whipped cream topping at the last minute. That should save a lot of trouble.

(Oh, and should you get the urge to break all your January healthy eating vows and make this pie only discover there isn't any peppermint ice cream in the store because of that darn holiday conspiracy, you could always make your own. Been there. Done that. Have the link to prove it.)


Homemade Hot Chocolate

I love a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day. But I decided the usual packet-o-Swiss Miss wasn't really cutting it anymore. So I trolled the 'net for a homemade hot chocolate recipe or two and came across a few winners.

Martha's looked super easy to make, although ultimately I ended up deciding on the homemade hot coca mix from Brown Eyed Baker. There was something about the combo of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and white chocolate chips that sounded too decadent not to try.

So I whipped up a big batch of the mix. Although I kept a jar of it for myself, I gave most of it away for a little gift to accompany a few cookie plates I doled out over the holidays.

Do you have a homemade hot chocolate recipe that would put the one I made to shame? Let me know. There's still plenty of winter left for trying more!



I live by my to-do lists. I always have at least one—sometimes many more—going on a given day. And I'm a goal-maker. I always have something new I'm setting my sights on, that I'm trying to do or accomplish.

So it should come as no surprise that I've also always been the sort to make new year's resolutions.

In the back of my mind, I know full well that before January even ends most resolutions are abandoned, forgotten, left to gather dust on a note pad shoved in the back of a drawer. And yet each year, dutifully, I make my list. I've done it since I was in high school.

Those lists from my later teen years are buried in my old journals which, in turn, are currently buried in tubs in our laundry room closet. If I were to dig them out right now, they would likely sound awfully similar to the resolutions I've made every year for more than 10 years now.

There's always something jotted down about health and wellness, about working out more and eating less junk. There's always something about improving relationships. Often I have some variation on "read more" or "write more" or "worry less."

Each year around this time I read the many magazine articles about how to make this year's resolutions stick. I know all the things you need to do to succeed: Be specific about what you want to accomplish, rather than writing in general terms. Limit yourself to three or five or however many single-digit resolutions you can realistically accomplish. Put your list in a visible place so you are reminded often of what your goals are. Ya da ya da ya da.

I resolutely follow the advice each year. I write down everything I want to do. I usually have some semblance of success at first. But ask me on Feb. 1 what this year's resolutions were and odds are I'll only be able to recite a vague approximation of what I put down.

Yesterday, on Jan. 1, as all good resolution-makers do, I started thinking about what I wanted to resolve to do better, to do differently, or just to do in 2013.

I want to work out more consistently, something I need to do for my body and my sanity and my overall health but that often falls to the wayside recently. I might want to try the run 365 miles in a year goal. I want to get back to doing yoga at least (at the very least) once a week.

I want to get organized—really organized. I want to declutter the house. Seriously declutter. Like, donate or recycle half of the items in our house. I want to remodel our kitchen, sand the front window Butter has destroyed, repaint a few places, replace the dreadful front door, tear out the bushes ... I better stop that list now, because it could go on forever.

I want to devote more time to my family, to keeping in touch with my dear friends, to actually responding to the emails I read.

I want to step outside my comfort zone and try something new. I want to meet some new people, to be more social.

Sometimes the things I want to do seem to stand in direct opposition to other things on my list.

I want to eat healthier—more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, less junk. But I also want to bake more. I want to stop multitasking and learn to focus on one thing at a time. Yet I also want to ramp up my freelance career; get a steady teaching job; blog more; stay on top of all the cooking and cleaning and household to-dos; read more good books; write more for myself; take up knitting or crocheting (I think I say that every year and never do it); on and on and on. And there isn't enough time to do all those things!

I want to be fully present in every moment. I want to stop making so many damn to-do lists. I want to realize it's OK to play with Little Man for an hour and not try to sneak in dusting the living room or scrubbing the toilet in the middle of play time. I want to appreciate quiet moments sitting and drinking tea and staring out the window, rather than spending every waking moment thinking, "OK, what do I need to do next?"

I could go on, but I think you're getting the gist of it.

So how do I take this big, long, rambling list of wants and wishes and make it nice and compact and manageable and specific and attainable?

I've decided I don't.

I've decided making new year's resolutions in the traditional form is a waste of my time and my energy and in the end probably just stresses me out more, because then I spend time trying to figure out how to add those resolutions to my already too-long to-do list.

Besides, I don't need a list of resolutions because, I realized yesterday, everything I want to accomplish in the coming year boils down to one simple statement:

I want to do what makes me happy.

Cliche, I know. But it encompasses everything I try to do with my resolutions each year.

Some days, decluttering the whole house will make me incredibly happy (at least when it's accomplished). Cutting all junk out of my diet for a while will likely make me happy (and will make me feel better). But if whipping up a batch of scones or chocolate chip cookies will make me happy, I'll do that instead (and maybe eat just one a day instead of three). If relaxing on the couch with the boys will make me happier than crossing six things off my Sunday to-do list, I should do that. In this scenario, anything that makes me happy is a big, important accomplishment.

Will this new, single, non-resolution resolution work? Will I remember it and still be trying to accomplish it on Feb. 1? Who knows. But it's worth trying.


Happy New Year (with Bacon)

Happy New Year!

I hope you ushered out 2012 with a big, festive party and are welcoming 2013 refreshed and ready to tackle a new year.

In case you're hankering for something bacon-infused to battle your post-New Year's Eve brain fuzz, might I suggest the Maple-Bacon Biscuits from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook?

I made them last week while My Parents were in town for the holidays, and they were as delicious as they look. What's not to like about copious amounts of butter, bacon grease, and a bit of maple syrup on a holiday morning?

I will be making them again. Probably often. Probably today, actually, because I took the author's advice and made a double batch to freeze (pre-baking).

So we'll be enjoying some fresh-from-the-oven maple-bacon biscuits ourselves this morning for Conservative Hubby's big 3-0. (Yes, that's right, it's not only the first day of a new year. It's also Conservative Hubby's birthday.)

In case you want to try them yourself, you can snag the recipe from Confections of a Foodie Bride. (Or go buy the cookbook–I highly recommend it!)