Snackalicious and the Ketchup Conundrum

Howdy friends!

I hope this finds you coming down from a wonderful weekend. Mine was relaxing and fulfilling – and as always, just a little too short. It was also a study in contrasts: yesterday, BF and I did nothing but laze about all day, and today, we had Sunday School, blood drives, lunch out, grocery shopping, and oodles of chores.

Pretty much the only productive thing I did yesterday was create this absolutely delicious snack. It’s snackalicious! (Now that part of the title makes sense, eh?)

Peanut Butter Cocoa Dip

Ingredients

  • ~2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients into a small bowl, adjusting to your taste. If it seems too dry, add more honey or peanut butter as preferred.

So simple, yet yummy and completely addictive. I ate mine with apples, but you could use whatever dipper you like: pretzels, sweet crackers, nilla wafers, bananas, etc.

So now you know what the “snackalicious” part of the post is, what about the ketchup conundrum?

My friends, I present my ketchup:

I was so happy when I found this – no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is under scrutiny for some possible health concerns. You can read a well-balanced overview of the HFCS debate from the Mayo Clinic. While I completely understand that there are no concrete conclusions on the sugary substance, I also believe that there’s no need for me to ingest this in everything, and where I can avoid it at a reasonable cost, I’m all for it.

BF and I are usually devoted Heinz followers for many reasons: it’s good, it’s kosher certified, and it’s something we’ve both had in our homes since childhood. Really, for a lot of people, Heinz IS ketchup. But Heinz does contain HFCS. So when I saw the alternative, I figured, why not? It’s a minor change, sure, but one that I feel good about.

Here’s my conundrum: along with being made by ConAgra foods, which has a dubious track record and will most certainly not be winning “most ethical food company of the year” awards, our new ketchup is not kosher certified. It’s interesting for me to care, as I am fully aware of all the issues and controversies surrounding kosher certifications and labeling and how kosher by no means always signifies ethical. I’ve never been one to rely on a certification solely to prove to me the food is acceptable for my consumption, as deemed by G-d ,a nutritionist, or whomever. Sometimes they do help inform (like USDA Organic), but ultimately, there are so many variables at play, you really need to research, think, and use a little common sense to see through all the smoke and mirrors.

While we will be finishing the bottle (I can’t stomach wasting food), I’m putting in some significant thought as far as what to purchase once this one’s run out. I know, I know – it’s just ketchup! But it goes into my body, my body which will one day, G-d willing, make another body, so I care. I actually think it’s sillier that I have to weigh all of these issues than the fact I’m thinking about it as much as I am.

Your turn: Any thoughts? Are there any foods that you obsess think about as far as ingredients, additives, or certifications? I know my Mom is always really big about buying organic meat – she says it always tastes better, doesn’t dry out, and makes a better cooking experience overall.

Crazy Thankful

The past 48 hours have been crazy, crazy, crazy. And I’ve been thankful for that.

I thought catching up on work was the craziest part. Then I thought attempting to brave the store the day before Thanksgiving was the craziest part. And then I thought the craziest part was when my aunt called me, saying “Oh no, we already have pumpkin pie, can you just pick up bottled water?”

Crazy.

So I moped a little bit yesterday, thinking of all the pumpkin pie ingredients that would go unused. I gazed longingly at my can of Libby’s and dreamed of perfecting the flaky, doughy crust. But then my mom called, and like all good moms, gave me some great advice: “Honey, if you want to bring something, just bring something. If you want to and don’t, well, that’s just crazy.”

Indeed, Mom. Indeed.

Crazy Cocoa Cake

Public enemy #1. Accused of making insanely delicious treats.

Makes up to a 9″ x 13″ cake

I used a pie pan because...well, I like it. And you know you wanted another picture of my stove.

Ingredients

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. sugar, optional*
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. soy milk (or another kind of non-dairy milk, if you want to keep it vegan/parve)
  • 3/8 c. applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. hot water

*I’ve seen some recipes for this type of cake that call for sugar in the “dough” that makes up the cake. I left it out because 1) I like to avoid excess sugar, and 2) I forgot it the very first time I made this cake and didn’t even notice. It was still delicious, but had a bit more of a dark chocolate taste to it. Use your preferences as a guide – just know it can be made with only the 1 cup of sugar!

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Lightly grease the pan of your choice (I used a 10″ pie pan to be festive, but this recipe can make cake up to a 9″ x 13″ pan size)
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, 1/4 c. of the cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and sugar (if using the extra one cup). Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, applesauce, and vanilla. Once combined, pour the wet mix into the dry, and mix until a thick dough forms.

    Please ignore the dirty dishes in the sink. It might convince you that I'm actually human.

  4. Spread the dough into your pan of choice. The dough may need some convincing to spread, as it will be thick, but give it time and it’ll be just fine.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, hot water, and remaining 1/2 c. cocoa powder. Pour over the dough mixture in your pan, making sure to saturate the dough as best as possible.

    Chocolatey. Times a million.

  6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for at least an hour – the dough will absorb some of the additional cocoa/water/sugar liquid and get extra moist during this time.

I covered mine with caramel and chocolate chips to make it a bit more dressy and, heck, do you always need a reason to add caramel and chocolate chips? I didn’t think so!

So. Good.

It’s such a delicious, rich cake, and one of the best parts is that it’s a relatively healthy dessert, considering there aren’t eggs/dairy milk/butter in it. My family loved it. One of my cousins took a huge bite, looked at me and said “I don’t know whether I should hate you or love you for this, so I’m going to just keep eating it.” You’re welcome, dear cousin. You’re welcome.

It was a wonderful cake, a wonderful day, and no better way to celebrate how much I have to be thankful for. And I am – I’m thankful for life, for love, for family and friends, and for you, dear readers.

Crazy thankful.