Halloween Buckeye Mutation

They started out so sweet and innocent. Simple homemade peanut butter chocolate candies.  The original recipe (Smitten Kitchen) makes them look so elegant.  image-5But for Halloween 2012, in my hands they developed adorable eyes.   Which was what my original buckeye recipe post showed.  The mutating started very slowly, at first with just a couple developing a simple slit for a mouth. By 2014 they had taken on whole new characters.

2015 was the first sighting of blood and knives. Things escalated quickly from there.image-4

2016 and 2017 became a happy horror show.


Who knows what we’ll have in store for 2018.

What I do know is you should invite these little characters to your Halloween.

Here is my updated recipe in orange (which this year I’ll make a 1.5 batch, because, well.. they’re out of control).

What you need:
2oz Cream cheese, at room temp.
1.5c Smooth peanut butter
1c Graham cracker crumbs (about 14 squares)
1/2t Salt
2c powdered sugar
1c light brown sugar
1.25 sticks of Butter, melted and cooled
1t Vanilla extract
12oz (or more) Dark chocolate. I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking chips.
Salt (kosher or large flake style, not table salt)
Toffee crumbles (I use Heath english toffee bits found in the baking aisle)

The knives and axes are a sugar candy made by Wilton.  They are rock hard and not tasty, but are edible.  They eyes are a variety of sugar candies and are more edible.  The gel decorating icing seems to work best for me.  The green hands are just plastic (reusable!) but people apparently kept biting into them and didn’t like them. 

Make the filling, a day or two before assembly.  
With an electric mixer (I used a hand held one) in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and peanut butter until well combined.
Add graham crumbs, beat briefly.
Add salt, both sugars, butter, and vanilla and mix on the lowest speed until the powdered sugar stops floating off everywhere, then increase the speed until everything is well combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
The mixture should be stiff and a little dry, which is good for shaping.
Line a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper. Scoop out about roughly a tablespoon of filling (I like a slightly smaller ball) and use your hands to form a ball. Place them close, but not touching on the paper. Refrigerate or freeze (I find this easer for coating them in chocolate later).
Put filling covered in the fridge. 

Make the chocolate coating.
There are all sorts of methods for tempering chocolate so you get that glossy crisp chocolate coating that doesn’t melt all over your fingers. I am lazy and have no problem with a matt finish and chocolate fingers.  In a broad shallow bowl, I microwave the chocolate for 30 seconds, and then for 10 second increments, stirring in between until it’s fully melted. I let it cool for a bit so I get a thicker coating.

Assemble the treats.
Do this with one or two friends.  You need reinforcements 😉 
This is the part that takes forever. Don’t try to do this in a hurry or you’ll just get frustrated. Heck you’ll probably get frustrated anyway. I fumble them like crazy and they often turn out all funny shaped. This is why they work great as Halloween treats, I could never pull them off for something fancy.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (wax paper would do, you’re not going to bake them.)
Generously sprinkle salt and toffee crumbles on the paper.
Take your formed peanut butter balls out of the fridge.
Take your refrigerated filling and scoop anywhere between 1t and 1T and roll into a ball (or whatever your little buckeye’s want to be).
I use chopsticks and a spoon, but you might use a skewer and fork or find your own method. Like pancakes, the first couple will probably not be your best. Dip them in one at a time, roll around until most of the ball is covered lift out and place on salt and toffee covered paper. Don’t stress about “ugly” ones, they’ll look even better for Halloween. If it takes a while to get your dipping method down you might have to reheat the chocolate in the microwave again.
Gently press on your candy eyes, or other decoration on them.
Let them evolve 😉 
Chill until chocolate is set, at least 30min.
I make them the day before my Halloween party.  I just leave them on trays on my three season porch.  

Any extras keep just fine in tupperware in the fridge.

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Berry Red Cabbage

It’s good warm or cold.  It’s both summery and wintery at the same time.  Fruity and earthy. Enough for a crowd or leftovers for the week.  I have a yellowed recipe clipping from the Star Tribune.  I’m guessing from around 2007 when I had my own studio apartment and I felt very grown-up having my own newspaper delivered.  I’ve modified it only a little over the years and realized that it is easy to modify and hard to screw up.


I start by toasting 1T whole black peppercorns in a dry pan and then roughly crushing them in my mortar and pestle.   This is a key step.  The black pepper really comes through even days later and it makes a difference.

~1-2T vegetable oil & 1 diced yellow onion in a deep skillet on medium heat until the onions are just soft.
Add the crushed peppercorns.
Add diced/squared red cabbage (I just use a whole head cut like I do an onion only bigger, the recipe says 3 cups of 1 inch squares).  Stir thoroughly.  I like to sprinkle in some salt here.

Add about 3-5T of vinegars.  The recipe is 2T of balsamic and 2T of red wine vinegar.  I’ve done some apple cider vinegar.  I may have used brown rice vinegar in the past.  Balsamic is a good choice though.  Let it all fry away until the cabbage is starting to wilt.

Add blueberries and dried cranberries.  The blueberries can be fresh or frozen.  Try to add more blueberries than cranberries.  A total of 2-3 cups of berries.  Stir.

Cook until the cabbage is tender.  Probably 10-20 more minutes. If it’s on the dryer side, cover it.  If it’s very wet let it simmer uncovered to let the juices thicken.  If it’s dry enough to start sticking or frying, add some liquid either as vinegar or water.  Taste and adjust salt, vinegar, or possibly add sugar if your berries weren’t very sweet.  I love the deeply purple berry vinegar syrup that clings to the cabbage at the end.

It goes well with plenty of meals.  It would make a great dish to share at a picnic or pot-luck or thanksgiving table.  It’s good warm or cold and just as good the next day as it is fresh.  Most recently we had it with slow-cooker BBQ country ribs (falling off the bone and shredded) and some fried garlic red potatoes.


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Mango Chicken Curry

This meal that has taken almost ten years of fussing and simplifying to become a regular in my kitchen. It all started January 14th 2008, and I know because the printer put a time stamp on it.

This was during my year of Monday Night Dinners. Every Monday morning I’d call a list of friends and announce “It’s Monday! Are you coming to dinner?”

Then I’d search the internet for cooking inspiration. That Monday at 10:25am I printed a Bon Appetit recipe on Epicurious for Chicken Curry with Dried Apricots. It called for a jar of mango chutney. But I was ambitious so I also printed a recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network for mango chutney.

In the intervening years I’d occasionally make it with purchased mango chutney. I even blogged about it once before. It was ok, but too simple and not nearly as good as the original. But making chutney separately was too much of an extra step. Now I use fresh mangos in a hodgepodge of a one-pot recipe. It’s way tastier than the purchased version and super flexible with ingredients. I love it.img_0570

Continue reading

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Rituals of Preparation

Being primarily self employed is both delightful and maddeningly frustrating.

The delightful part is being able to do work at breweries, or outdoors, or having sweet and fuzzy work partners.


But it is also maddeningly frustrating when I want to be productive, and I set out to be successful and then just keep getting in my own way, and there is no one to blame but myself. Continue reading

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5 Handstand Lessons

Three years can seem like a long time to be on this weird Alice in Wonderland journey into the world of handstands.  But really my acrobatic training age is barely out of it’s infancy.  It stands in contrast to my triathlon training age.  I just did my 21st consecutive year of the Heart Of the Lakes Triathlon (HOLT).  While I love finding new ways to make mistakes (like the other week when I kept trying to put on my goggles for the run) I’ve racked up more lessons than I can count.  In handstands, I can finally count the five most critical things I’ve learned.

1) Fucking log it. Continue reading

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Garlic Scape Salad

They’re here!  After weeks and weeks of anticipation and asking the produce people at my co-op, they are finally in stock.

Garlic scapes are one of my favorite very seasonal items.  If you love garlic you need to get some now!  Their season is short so don’t delay.  You can eat them raw or cooked.  Just do some googling and you’ll find a recipe or idea that suits you.

This is my go-to garlic scape salad.
img_0196I’ve had all the ingredients in the pantry just waiting for the garlic scapes to arrive. Continue reading

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Type 1 Fun in the BWCA

It was so easy, and so much fun there is no story, but there is video!
(It’s best with the sound on.)

Last October, 2017 we had our traditional BWCA paddling vacation.  It was our five year honeymoon anniversary and everything went strangely smoothly.

Five years ago we paddled and portaged 245 miles of the Canadian border in 19 days and most of it was not fun.  It was fantastically type 2 fun; filled with being dirty or tired or cold or hungry.  So while 2017 didn’t give us any paddling stories, I still love our epic adventure stories from 2012.

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