Tahini-date salted caramels

 

tahini-date salted caramels

tahini-date salted caramels

When you’re hankering for something sweet without added dairy, gluten or refined sugars I suggest you make these yummy caramels. But don’t try them for those reasons alone. They’re also great if you’re the type who likes to flirt with ingredients you might not otherwise combine: dates, tahini and cardamom. They’re also just plain great.

Easy to make, too, and only require a few ingredients.

These caramels are complex in flavour and very satisfying. The complexity comes from the tahini and cardamom combination.

tahini-date salted caramelsAbove: I used medjool dates, which are nice and soft. If you use the typical dates from the grocery store try soaking them in some warm water first to soften. This is especially important if you don’t have a powerful processor or blender.

tahini date salted caramels with cardamom

tahini date salted caramels with cardamomAbove: If you choose to add the ground cardamom buy cardamom pods instead of ground cardamom if possible. The whole spice stays potent for a year (or longer) and the seeds nestled inside the pods can be ground quickly with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Ground cardamom, by contrast, loses its flavor rapidly.

tahini date salted caramelsAbove: The original recipe called for two tablespoons of coconut oil but I found this too much as it would liquefy during the blending process and pool here and there after I spread it in the pan. The caramels still tasted delicious but optically I didn’t like it so reduced the amount.

tahini date salted caramels

Above: If you’re not familiar with tahini, it’s a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is one of the ingredients found in the ever popular hummus. It’s been nice to discover, over the years, how to use it in other ways, too. We like it spread on toast with a little honey on top. I also like to add it to dressings for drizzling on top of salads or roasted vegetables.

And now I can enjoy it in a caramel, and you can too.

xo

Tahini-date salted caramels with cardamom (inspired by this recipe)

1/2 cup tahini

1 cup pitted dates

1 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

Finishing salt and/or sesame seeds for sprinkling

Add tahini, coconut oil and ground cardamom to your blender or food processor and blend. Add pitted dates (I add them one at a time through the small opening) and blend until you have a creamy and smooth paste. You may have to scrape down the sides and continue blending.

Spread the mixture in a loaf pan lined with parchment paper (with enough overhang for lifting out of the pan later) and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle with rock salt and/or sesame seeds and pop in the freezer for an hour or more or until set. Lift out of the loaf pan, cut into squares and serve immediately.

These get soft quickly so enjoy straight from the freezer and store any leftovers in a lidded container.

tahini-date salted caramels

tahini-date salted caramels

The most compelling reason to keep your clutter to a minimum

keeping clutter to a minimum, downsizing for a parent

I’m the kind of person who likes to shed stuff regularly. I’ve never been a collector. I see value and magic in having less stuff and I feel best living amongst meaningful and useful things. I’m clutter averse and I try to encourage my family to be the same way.

I’m also part of a large and ever-growing group of people who has had to downsize for a parent who, over the years, didn’t pare down or separate the meaningful and useful things from the clutter.

Almost a year ago, my sisters and I processed and cleared everything from my Dad’s home (my mom died several years earlier). I wrote a bit about it here.

If you’ve ever gone through this experience you become acutely aware of what’s in store for your children in the future, and you feel a strong resolve to not heap upon them the same burden.

The time and energy spent sorting through a parent’s lifetime worth of stuff, coupled with the responsibility to honor the past, is exhausting and overwhelming. It takes a toll emotionally, physically and financially. It can require long plane flights, taking time off work without pay, and leaving family behind to cope in your absence. And if you and your siblings are not on the same page, it can cause tension and arguments.

I’ve read about cases where people pull up a dumpster and get rid of stuff that way. But that approach wasn’t for us. We worked hard to deal with Dad’s belongings thoughtfully and respectfully. We separated the meaningful stuff from the clutter. We doled out heirlooms diplomatically and found good homes for treasured items. We advertised and held a moving sale. What didn’t sell we donated to worthy causes. What was left went in the garbage. It took 5 weeks in total, working day and night. We did it gracefully without tension or arguments, which I’ve also read is rare.

So don’t wait. Clear your clutter and lighten your load now. If we spend the first 40 years of our lives accumulating and collecting, it seems to me we should spend the next 40 years letting go.

It’s nothing short of a gift of love.

downsizing for a parentAbove: My Mom’s beautiful collection of tea cups found a good home. They went to Beaverbrook House, an historic home in Miramichi that holds tea services open to the public.

downsizing for a parentAbove: Crystal for sale.

downsizing for a parent, decluttering, space clearingAbove: We sorted through all of Mom’s artwork and sketches.

downsizing for a parent, decluttering, space clearing

Above: What we didn’t keep for ourselves, my sister framed with old frames found around the house and we added them to the items for sale. It feels right knowing Mom’s art will be hanging in so many homes.

downsizing for a parent, decluttering, space clearingAbove: We polished up the furniture and staged the house to get ready for the big sale, which took place over two days.

downsizing for a parent, decluttering, space clearingAbove: My sister was full of clever ideas. One of them was to bundle the towels and facecloths rather than sell them individually. They were snatched up quickly.

downsizing for a parent

 

downsizing for a parent

How I cut up a pineapple

 

how i cut a pineapple

My last post was all about embracing wintry items like fresh greenery and pinecones. This post is about pineapple, which is tropical and has little connection to winter except it resembles a pine cone. In fact, that’s how the pineapple got its name.

pineapple resembles a pine cone

History says Columbus discovered this exotic fruit on his second trip to the New World, in Guadeloupe. The natives called it anana but Columbus and his crew renamed it pineapple because it resembled a pine cone and – to them – tasted like an apple.

how i cut a pineapple

What an interesting and weird looking fruit a pineapple is; all prickly on the outside, and yellow, sweet and fleshy on the inside. The first human to cut into one must have been so surprised!

How do you chop a pinapple? Most of you will be most familiar with this method.

 

how i cut a pineapple

 

Without the benefit of a teacher or an instructional video I operated solely on instinct the first time I bought a whole pineapple and chopped it up. As it turns out, my method is a little outside the box. I don’t tend to cut it up all at once unless I need to. I slice off the bottom, cut off what I need, and then sit the pineapple on a plate, cut side down. I store it in the fridge if it’s a warm kitchen but usually I leave it out on the counter to be used again the next day.

 

how i cut a pineapple
Above: I remove the peel and core, and chop into chunks.
how i cut a pineapple
how i cut a pineapple
Above: The next time I need a little fresh pineapple I repeat the process until I reach the end.
how i cut a pineapple
I really don’t know if there are any benefits to my cut-only-as-much-as-you-need method, but it works for me and I think I’ll stick with it. Although, after watching this bad-ass technique I might reconsider.
xo
P.S. Some happy pineapple memories below.
how to chop a pineapple
Above: We spied this red pineapple growing in the jungle while hiking in Bali. It takes almost three years for a pineapple to reach maturation.
Buying fresh pineapple juice on the beach in cubaFresh pineapple juice on the beach in CubaFresh pineapple juice on the beach in Cuba
Above: What a treat! Buying fresh pineapple juice on the beach in Cuba. Raw pineapple is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C.

Fresh greenery in the home during winter

bringing fresh greenery inside during the winter months

Bringing fresh greenery inside to adorn our homes is a winter tradition since ancient times.

Our ancestors believed bringing boughs indoors gives the ability to sustain winter’s darkest days; if evergreens can endure and thrive during the long winter so we can.

Fragrant, texturally appealing and visually delighting, fresh greenery is a gift for all the senses. It looks beautiful, freshens, humidifies and scents indoor air, which is essential during winter months when inside air is dry. And if kept moist and cool greenery can last a long time without wilting.

While we wait for springs return, be inspired to fill your home with the beauty and scent of fresh greenery all season.

bringing fresh greenery inside during the winter months, boxwood and cedar
Above: Cedar and boxwood from our yard. Urban dwellers, without ready access to fields and meadows to forage, rely on local florists for a fresh and more varied supply of greenery.
DSC_6365
+–AKA-Above: My neighbourhood florist shop, Bloomfields Flowers, is full of aromatic greenery, festive flowers and wintry decor that can remain in your home long after the holidays are over and decorations are stored away. Bloomfields staff create all kinds of custom arrangements using winter’s greenery all season long.
paperwhites, flowers, Bloomfields Flowers
Above: Bloomfields’ shop is filled with birch, boxwood, cedar, fir, magnolia and pine, seasonal flowers such as paperwhites and amaryllis, and other wintry items.
fresh greenery from Bloomfields Flowers
Above: The decor spills from the shop to the walkway outdoors. Boughs for sale! Boughs for sale!
pinecones, birch, cedar, Bloomfields flowers
fresh wreaths, Bloomfields Flowers
Above: Magnolia leaves make stunning wreaths like this one designed by Bloomfields staff. I love the large glossy dark green leaves with their velvety, brown undersides. The leaves hold up very well even without water, too.
DSC_6317
Above: Boughs and wreaths need moisture in order to exhale humidity and that deliciously wintry scent. If you bring greenery indoors treat it as you would cut flowers; the cooler and more humid it is, the longer it will last. Leave a mister bottle near the arrangement you have indoors and give the needles a healthy spritz now and again.