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Tag Archive: figs

Fig Newtons (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan)

May 8, 2014 1 Comment Print this page

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Fig Newtons: the lunchtime favorite that is supposedly “healthy” because it has fruit in it, making it an acceptable choice for moms and dads across the country who want to pack their kids a little something sweet.

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Just look at them. They’re so cute and innocent that no one could possibly think they’re junk food…

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Wrong. That’s why my parents used to give me the “healthy” version of the “healthy” cookie, Fig Newmans, which were at least made with organic flour and fewer unpronounceable ingredients.

Even though they were “healthy,” I loved Fig Newmans/Newtons. There was something about that soft, buttery cookie and the way it paired with the chewy, sticky figs in the center. Then again, figs are one of my all-time favorite foods, so perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the cookie so much.

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Today, I’m going to show you how to make a truly healthy Fig Newton, one made with almond flour, delicious raw honey (or maple syrup, if you prefer), and sweet, flavorful Mission figs. Everyone who sampled one of these babies said they were better than the original, and my friend from China (who has never had a Fig Newton before) said they were super yummy.

They’re actually pretty simple to make; the only tricky part is preventing the almond flour dough from sticking to your countertop, which is an incredible pain in the butt. But you’ll make it through for these tasty cookies, won’t you?

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Please, just make these. I’m begging you. They are incredible. And I’ll show you how, too!

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together 1/4 cup of non-hydrogenated organic palm shortening (or butter, if you prefer) with 3 tablespoons of unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar/maple crystals) on medium speed for about a minute or so. Once light and well-incorporated, scoop in 1/3 cup of raw honey and beat on medium until creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

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A word about honey: I know honey isn’t technically “vegan,” but it’s the only “animal” product I used in this recipe. Because raw, unheated honey tends to be thick and almost pasty, it really helps bind the cookies together and gives it almost a light, buttery taste. If you prefer, you can use maple syrup or coconut nectar, but unless you’re a serious vegan (or have an allergy to bees), I’d say go for the honey: it’s delicious and has a lot of good nutrients, too.

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Now, pour in 2 teaspoons of vanilla and mix on low just to incorporate, only about 1 minute.

To the wet ingredients, add 2 1/3 cups of blanched almond flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cinnamon. Mix on low until all of the ingredients are combined and a solid-but-still-damp dough forms, about 2 minutes.

Scoop out all of the dough onto a big sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a ball (or heart…). Put in the fridge for 2-4 hours to firm up.

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Meanwhile, make the fig filling: combine 10 ounces of Mission figs with 2 tablespoons of your preferred liquid sweetener (I used maple syrup), 1 small, ripe banana, 1 tablespoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth and sticky, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the fig mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a large, wide tip or a plastic storage bag with the corner snipped off. Set aside while you roll out the cookie dough.

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After the waiting time has elapsed, preheat the oven to 350, line two baking sheet with parchment paper, and take out the dough and place it on a well-floured, clean work surface. (I always use arrowroot powder to prevent stuff from sticking.) Roll it out into an approximately 9 x 12 inch rectangle using your hands or a VERY well-floured rolling pin.

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Cut the dough vertically (down the longer side) into 4 sections. Start with one and place the other three in the fridge for the meantime.

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Using the pastry bag or plastic bag filled with the fig filling, pipe a long, fat line down the center of the dough quarter, making sure it stretches all the way to the end.

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Using a small knife or an inverted spatula, lift either ends of the cookie dough up and over the filling. Applying gentle pressure, secure the seam between the two sides and either cut off or pinch up the ends.

With a sharp knife or dough cutter, break the log into 2-inch long cookies. Once you cut each one, work it a little in your hands and/or on the counter to make the seam a little more subtle.

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Repeat the same steps with the remaining three pieces of dough and the fig filling.

Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes, then transfer to the top rack for another 2 minutes if they aren’t already golden-brown. (You only want to be seeing a little color around the edges: too much means they’re over-baked!)

Let cool to room temperature before inhaling.

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Betcha can’t eat just one.

What is your favorite snack cookie? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Fig Newtons

May 7, 2014 Print this page

Even though they were “healthy,” I loved Fig Newmans/Newtons. There was something about that soft, buttery cookie and the way it paired with the chewy, sticky figs in the center. Then again, figs are one of my all-time favorite foods, so perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the cookie so much.

Ingredients

Prep Time 2 hr 15 min
Cooking Time 12 min
Total Time 2 hr 30 min
Yield Lots and lots of Fig Newtons

FOR THE COOKIE:

1/4 cup of non-hydrogenated organic palm shortening (or butter, if you prefer)

3 tablespoons of unrefined cane sugar (or coconut sugar/maple crystals)

1/3 cup of raw honey (or other liquid sweetener, but not recommended)

2 teaspoons of vanilla

2 1/3 cups of blanched almond flour

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

A pinch of salt

A pinch of cinnamon

FOR THE FILLING:

10 ounces of Mission figs

2 tablespoons of your preferred liquid sweetener (I used maple syrup)

1 small, ripe banana

1 tablespoon of vanilla

A pinch of salt

A pinch of cinnamon

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the palm shortening  with the sugar on medium speed for about a minute or so. Once light and well-incorporated, scoop in the raw honey and beat on medium until creamy and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Now, pour in the vanilla and mix on low just to incorporate, only about 1 minute.

To the wet ingredients, add the blanched almond flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix on low until all of the ingredients are combined and a solid-but-still-damp dough forms, about 2 minutes.

Scoop out all of the dough onto a big sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a ball (or heart…). Put in the fridge for 2-4 hours to firm up.

Meanwhile, make the fig filling: combine the figs with your preferred liquid sweetener, banana, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth and sticky, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the fig mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a large, wide tip or a plastic storage bag with the corner snipped off. Set aside while you roll out the cookie dough.

After the waiting time has elapsed, preheat the oven to 350, line two baking sheet with parchment paper, and take out the dough and place it on a well-floured, clean work surface. (I always use arrowroot powder to prevent stuff from sticking.) Roll it out into an approximately 9 x 12 inch rectangle using your hands or a VERY well-floured rolling pin.

Cut the dough vertically (down the longer side) into 4 sections. Start with one and place the other three in the fridge for the meantime.

Using the pastry bag or plastic bag filled with the fig filling, pipe a long, fat line down the center of the dough quarter, making sure it stretches all the way to the end.

Using a small knife or an inverted spatula, lift either ends of the cookie dough up and over the filling. Applying gentle pressure, secure the seam between the two sides and either cut off or pinch up the ends.

With a sharp knife or dough cutter, break the log into 2-inch long cookies. Once you cut each one, work it a little in your hands and/or on the counter to make the seam a little more subtle.

Repeat the same steps with the remaining three pieces of dough and the fig filling.

Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes, then transfer to the top rack for another 2 minutes if they aren’t already golden-brown. (You only want to be seeing a little color around the edges: too much means they’re over-baked!)

Let cool to room temperature before inhaling.


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Dark Chocolate Fig Brownies

January 22, 2014 Print this page

These brownies are incredibly decadent. You will fall in love with them–no, actually. Both chocolate and figs are considered aphrodisiacs, or foods that stimulate romantic desire. I’m not saying that if you give one to an attractive person, he/she will fall madly in love with you, but it could definitely help, I guess!

Ingredients

Prep Time 15 min
Cooking Time 25 min
Total Time 40 min
Yield 16 small or 12 large bites of heaven

2 cups of dried, chopped, de-stemmed Turkish figs (the ones with the tan-ish skins)

1/3 cup of palm shortening OR coconut oil, melted

2 eggs, whisked

6 ounces of dark chocolate

2/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

1/3 cup of coconut flour

1/3 cup of cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/4 cup of chopped almonds (optional)

1/4 cup of raisins (optional)

3 tablespoons of raw coconut nectar, honey, or maple syrup (optional but recommended(

Directions

First things first: preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8 x 8 baking dish with a square of parchment paper. Grease HEAVILY with some coconut oil.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the Turkish figs until sticky and no clumps remain, about two minutes. Scrape down the bowl once, and add a tablespoon of water if your figs are getting stuck.

Once well processed, add the palm shortening OR coconut oil and the eggs. Blend those guys with the figs until homogeneous, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, melt the chocolate on 30 second intervals in the microwave until smooth, about 2 minutes. (You can also do this in a small saucepan over  low heat.) Stir between every interval to ensure that the chocolate won’t burn. Once melted, scrape the chocolate into the bowl of a food processor with the full-fat coconut milk and vanilla extract. Blend for another minute or two longer.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the coconut flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda into the bowl of the food processor. Process for another two minutes until all of the ingredients are completely combined. If you like, you can also include in the almonds and raisins to add some texture!

Now, it’s time to taste the batter. I know it has raw egg, but a little bit WON’T kill you. If it doesn’t taste chocolaty enough, add in the raw coconut nectar, honey, or maple syrup. To bring out the chocolate flavor, you NEED sweetness, and there’s no way to get around that. While the figs are plenty sweet on their own, some added sweetener–even just a little bit–will do wonders for your dessert. It’s your call: leave it out to be “healthy,” or add it in to have a delicious final product.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, spread out, and bake until firm on top and a knife comes out with a little residue in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Please, take these out before you think they’re done–overcooked brownies are far less appealing and happen ever-to-often. You will thank yourself later for your riskiness.

Let the brownies cool in the pan for AT LEAST half an hour before slicing and serving. Be prepared to die and go to brownie heaven.


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Dark Chocolate Fig Brownies (gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, paleo)

January 22, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Oh yes, it’s that time of year again. That time of year when heart sweaters and red shoes suddenly appear in stores, when sales in sugary milk chocolates exponentially increase. Those little boxes of paper Disney valentines show up on supermarket shelves and ads for chick-flick movies pop up in your browser. You know what it means. You may hide under your throw blanket or throw your shoes across the room, but there’s nowhere to hide.

Valentine’s Day is approaching.

When I was much younger (think kindergarten), Valentine’s Day meant sweets in class. Moms would bring in cupcakes and candy, and valentines would have little bags of Sweethearts or a bright red lollipop attached. That was until I got to about third grade, when school policy changed. Out went the goodies, in came the platters of cheese cubes and cut-up fruit, with an arts and craft activity to compensate. Nothing says “fun” like cheap string cheese and foam paper, don’t you think? While I now approve of these healthier changes, as an eight year-old with a massive sweet tooth, I cared to disagree with these new measures.

Now that I’m in high school–and regulations are much more relaxed–there are ample opportunities for indulgent sugar-highs. But I don’t want to wait until February 14th for Hershey’s kisses and Swedish fish (neither of which I’m interested in): I want an indulgent, chocolaty dessert, and I want it now.

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These brownies are incredibly decadent. You will fall in love with them–no, actually. Both chocolate and figs are considered aphrodisiacs, or foods that stimulate romantic desire. I’m not saying that if you give one to an attractive person, he/she will fall madly in love with you, but it could definitely help, I guess! As I’ve said many, many times before, to me, food is love, and making something delicious from scratch is one of the best ways to show someone that you care. And, oh boy, these brownies are insane–and meant to be shared. (Otherwise, I promise, you will eat the entire pan all by yourself.)

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On a non-Valentine’s-Day-related note, I have found “healthy” brownies extremely difficult to master. A looooooong time ago, I tried making banana brownies, and honestly, they were just OK. They had a nice cakey texture, but taste-wise, they were far from their rich, chocolaty cousins. A few months later, I tried making a version of the brownies in a paleo cookbook (which shall remain anonymous), and they really didn’t turn out well, both in flavor AND in texture. While I managed to master gluten-free, dairy-free blondies, that brownie attempt alone discouraged me from trying again for the past seven months.

But lately, I’ve had a serious craving for dark chocolate and figs. Maybe it’s my midterms, maybe it’s the fact I’m a hopeless romantic, but whatever it is, I haven’t been able to shake it. What better way to combine the two than an unbelievable brownie?

These are the best brownies I have ever made (in my opinion), regardless of “healthiness.” They’re gooey, dense, and filled with an intense chocolate flavor. They rose beautifully in the oven and came easily out of the pan. They were a breeze to put together, too. By the way, while these are made with coconut flour, allergy-friendly chocolate chips, and non-hydrogenated palm shortening, they are not healthy. There is no way something this decadent can be healthy, sorry. But they are worth the once-in-a-while indulgence, I swear.

Are you ready to experience the awesome? I hope so, because I am, and your loved ones probably are, too.

First things first: preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8 x 8 baking dish with a square of parchment paper. Grease HEAVILY with some coconut oil. I literally took a chunk out of my coconut oil jar and used the entire thing to prevent the brownies from sticking. Even though our pans are supposedly non-stick, we’ve had some serious issues with stuck brownies in the past.

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In the bowl of a food processor, pulse 2 cups of dried, chopped, de-stemmed Turkish figs (the ones with the tan-ish skins) until sticky and no clumps remain, about two minutes. Scrape down the bowl once, and add a tablespoon of water if your figs are getting stuck.

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Once well processed, add in 1/3 cup of palm shortening OR coconut oil, melted and 2 eggs, whisked. Blend those guys with the figs until homogeneous, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, melt 6 ounces of dark chocolate on 30 second intervals in the microwave until smooth, about 2 minutes. (You can also do this in a small saucepan over  low heat.) Stir between every interval to ensure that the chocolate won’t burn. Once melted, scrape the chocolate into the bowl of a food processor with 2/3 cup of full-fat coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Blend for another minute or two longer.

Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift 1/3 cup of coconut flour, 1/3 cup of cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda into the bowl of the food processor. Process for another two minutes until all of the ingredients are completely combined. If you like, you can also include in 1/4 cup of chopped almonds and 1/4 cup of raisins to add some texture!

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Now, it’s time to taste the batter. I know it has raw egg, but a little bit WON’T kill you. If it doesn’t taste chocolaty enough, add in 3 tablespoons cup of raw coconut nectar, honey, or maple syrup. Yes, I am telling you to add more sweetener. Call the health food police, feed me to the sharks, I don’t care. To bring out the chocolate flavor, you NEED sweetness, and there’s no way to get around that. While the figs are plenty sweet on their own, some added sweetener–even just a little bit–will do wonders for your dessert. Considering I cut my brownies into 16 squares, this will only add a little less than a teaspoon of sweetener per brownie. It’s your call: leave it out to be “healthy,” or add it in to have a delicious final product.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, spread out, and bake until firm on top and a knife comes out with a little residue in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Please, take these out before you think they’re done–overcooked brownies are far less appealing and happen ever-to-often. You will thank yourself later for your riskiness.

Let the brownies cool in the pan for AT LEAST half an hour before slicing and serving. Be prepared to die and go to brownie heaven.

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Er mah gurd. That roughly translates from the language of “THIS IS SO GOOD” into, “Oh my God.” You and your loved ones will be saying it as soon as you take a bite.

What’s your opinion about Valentine’s Day? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Black Cat Cake Pops

October 28, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Happy Halloween, everyone…or shall I say, happy MEOWoween.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t experienced a true Halloween in years. In 2011, a massive snowstorm (which my friend dubbed “Snowpocalypse”) hit my town and shut off power for a week, thus cancelling school and rescheduling Halloween, too. I went trick-or-treating with my friends in town and on the first Saturday in November, but it still wasn’t the real thing. Last year, we got hit by Hurricane Sandy, once again leaving us powerless and without school for Halloween. I think I spent the night of October 31st huddled up with five jackets and a blanket in my bed, most likely reading book.

This year, it looks like Halloween might actually happen. Hooray, right? Eh, not really.

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. Back when I was a real-food rebel, I saw Halloween as the perfect way to get away from my parents’ portion controlling and healthy meals and gorge myself on a boatload of, well, crap. My friends and I would hide up in my room and stuff our faces, eating as much as we could before our parents could get to us. It was satisfying and fun…until an hour later, after the wrappers were squirreled away in an empty box and the stomach ache set in. While all of that sugary chocolate was delicious as I was rapidly chowing down on it, I felt so sick afterwards simply from the amount I consumed. Now that I am more sensible about what I eat,  the fun from Halloween is gone for me. Sure, I could dress up, but I would rather spend costume money on cookbooks or stuffed animals.

So now, I am being the Grinch of Halloween, because really, we’re just fueling America’s rising obesity rates and big corporations who don’t need the extra money. Granted, I’m a fifteen year-old: for kids (and normal teenagers, I suppose), Halloween is awesome and magical. That’s great, but I don’t agree with it. Why can’t we celebrate National Produce Day, where children dress up as farmers, fruits, or vegetables and go from house-to-house to get apples and butternut squashes to take home?

Common, it’s a good idea, right? Am I the only one? Well, National Produce Day will be a thing. ONE DAY. You know, when I take over the world.

Now, this weekend, I was planning on making you guys a cranberry crepe cake or gingerbread; that may happen in the future, but Saturday morning, my plans were interrupted by Giada de Laurentiis, my favorite Food Network chef. She was having a Halloween-themed party…and was making Black Cat Pops, which she immediately announced were “gluten-free.” My ears perked up: I’m always curious when a celebrity chef makes something gluten-free. Usually, it’s just making pancakes or bread or whatever with a store-bought mix, but Giada’s recipe was anything but: there was REAL food! Dried figs, almond butter, coconut oil…it was right up my alley. I immediately turned to my dad and said, “I have to make that.”

This thus began my little weekend project. I went back to the supermarket to get more figs and to Michael’s to get lollipop sticks, then dug through my pantry to find the perfect decorating ingredients. They wound up just as I envisioned: adorable and super tasty! These kitties are great for kids, especially those with allergies: they’re gluten-free, vegan, and can be made nut-free with a few decoration swaps. There’s no added sugar, either: your little one will be eating fruit instead of the refined sugar usually found in candy. What’s not to love? It’s a win-win for both the parents and the children: sweet treats, but in a much healthier way!

Did I mention they’re no-bake, too? SCORE!

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You’re first going to need figs: Turkish ones, to be exact, and 16 ounces of them! (For me, that was 22 figs.) Using a sharp knife, take off the stems (they’re tough and not pleasant to eat) and cube the fruit up into small but not micro pieces. Place them in the food processor and pulse until a ball starts to form, about 30 1-second pulses.

To the figs, add 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed butter (or creamy almond or cashew butter), 3 tablespoons of apple cider (or water), 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder, and a generous pinch of salt. Process until no big pieces of fig remain and the added ingredients have been full incorporated, about 3 minutes.

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Line a large baking sheet (rimmed or not, it doesn’t matter) with parchment paper. Dip an ice cream scoop or large spoon in cold water, then scoop out a little more than a tablespoon of fig mixture. Drop it into your hands, roll it into a ball, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until you run out of figs: I made 14 decent-sized balls.

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Stab a lollipop stick deep into the center of every ball. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes just to firm up a bit.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler or a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt 8 ounces of dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Stir frequently with a spatula and remove from the heat as soon as it’s melted.

Take the fig pops out of the fridge. Dunk each one gently in chocolate and use a fork to cover every nook and cranny. Let the excess chocolate drip off over the bowl, then place the fig pop back on the parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining pops, then return to the fridge for 15 minutes so the chocolate will solidify but not completely harden.

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Meanwhile, prepare your decorations: use almond flakes (or pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or large coconut flakes) for the ears and blanched almond slivers cut in half (or sesame seeds, raisins, or mini chocolate chips) for the eyes. For the whiskers, use a pair of scissors to cut some dried guava (you could also use mango) into thin strips, then cut each strip into 4 segments. Make the noses by cutting two or three of the strips into little triangles or squares. You should have 2 ears, 2 eyes, 1 nose, and 4 whiskers for each cat.

To assemble your kitties, stick an almond flake on either side of the lollipop stick…

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…then use a little chocolate to paste on the eyes, whiskers, and nose.

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You could leave it like that, but I thought my cats looked kinda creepy, so I used some more chocolate to paint on pupils and color in some of the ear.

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My black cat, Felix, was very curious about what I was making–so curious, in fact, that he resorted to near cannibalism.

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Repeat with the remaining pops, keeping them as cool as possible so the chocolate won’t melt. I highly recommend keeping the pops you’ve finished or aren’t working on in the fridge or outside, if it’s cold out.

Let harden at a cold temperature for at least an hour before serving. Keep these guys in an airtight container in the fridge: DO NOT keep them at room temperature, especially if you have the heat on! I got intense about preserving my kitties at school: I invaded the world language workroom’s fridge so my cat pops wouldn’t melt before I gave them to my teachers. Bref, the German teacher wasn’t happy.

I think it was worth it, though, don’t you think?

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What is your favorite Halloween treat? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Thanks so much to Giada de Laurentiis for the inspiration. <3


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