Trail Truffles When It’s Too Damn Hot

There are some days when I absolutely refuse to turn the oven on. No matter how bad my cookie craving gets, that oven is staying off. The windows are staying shut. My sweet tooth must be satiated another way.

These little, inconspicuous oat, seed, honey and dried fruit balls may look like something you’d find on the trail in a pile, but I guarantee they’re far more tasty than their look-alike. The crunchy, chewy chocolate balanced by the right amount of salt does it for me no matter how hot it gets outside.

Thanks to global climate chaos fueled by our love of fossil fuels, you may have noticed a significantly less pleasant, more frequent heat wave in your neighborhood. In ours, here in Cascadia, it’s much warmer and more humid than it usually is. While my plants are loving it, the forests are being challenged by higher melting rates of our glaciers. The salmon struggle home in the too warm waters. The seasonal creeks dry up faster and faster. The forest fires rage more and more frequently. Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams appear more exposed with each passing year – their bare stone chests no longer covered in white glacial robes. And I contemplate all these things as I sit on my front porch eating trail truffles made with cacao from a continent away, thanks to fossil fuels.

So quick and easy to make as long as you have a food processor, you’ll turn to these every time you find yourself saying “It’s TOO DAMN HOT to be turning the oven on!”

I’m going to give you my base recipe so that you can turn whatever ingredients you have on hand into your unique variety of trail truffles. The recipe is in parts, so figure out how many you want. 1/4 Cup per part works out to about 25 truffles). I work in parts so that the recipe is flexible for big or small groups. If you need a refresher on conversions, here’s this handy dandy conversion chart.

10 parts rolled grain (quick or regular oats are my go-to but rolled barley, rye, etc are all useable in this recipe. For a paleo version, consider going out and collecting plantain seeds, dock seeds in the hull, or cattail fluff)
6 parts seeds and or nuts (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, pine nuts, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc..sunflower seeds are my go-to but that’s because I’m a BOB, baller on a budget)
2 parts dried fruit (cherries, plums, apricots, apple, peaches, nectarines, grapes, currants, etc. Grapes are the BOB option, unless you’re drying fruit at home)
2 parts nut butter (peanut, almond, or the almond coconut stuff I find on sale at Grocery Outlet for all you BOBs out there)
2 parts honey (don’t get stingy with the honey quality, not all honeys are made out of 100% honey so support your local beekeeper and buy your honey locally)
1 part molasses (other options include agave syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc…)
1 part cacao (also don’t skimp on quality, fair trade cacao. no cacao is worth the price of child labor and slavery)
salt to taste, for balancing the sweetness

For an iron rich version, go with cacao, molasses, sunflower seed and cherry. For a digestive mover, go with plum and pumpkin seed. The variations are endless.

Add all of these ingredients in the food processor, with the sticky stuff being added last. Process thoroughly and adjust the honey so that the mixture sticks together once pressed. The mixture won’t necessarily come together in the food processer but stop and check for texture, sweet & salt balance, and stickiness.

Once the dough is coming together without totally crumbling under a litle pressure, you’re good to roll. If the dough is too sticky, add more rolled grain or wild seeds (see paleo modification) and keep grinding.

Shoot for a ball size somewhere between a marble and a chocolate truffle. Store in a closed container in the fridge for a cool summertime snack that both invigorates with its boost of nutrients and satiates that sweet tooth in a pretty darn healthy way. They can be stored on the counter, too, or taken on hikes, potlucks and picnics with ease.

If you try this recipe, please let me know if the ratios worked for you and whether the instructions made sense.

On the First Night of Hanukkah… or Fat – Part 1

Today marks the first day of Hanukkah. It’s also Christmas Eve, but as I don’t come from Christian traditions, I’ll leave the waxing poetic on that history to someone else. For the eight days of the festival of lights, or the celebration of the blessed oil that lasted eight days, we’ll be exploring the importance of FAT!

In conversation today, a wise friend pointed out that the Universe, as we know it, is not made mostly of things, but of space between the things. So often we focus on things that we neglect the spaces between. I believe that this is where magic lives – in relationships. I commit myself to tending these relationships in their ever evolving forms. Relationships of all sorts, friendships, loverships, kinships, partnerships sprout, grow and die in their own time and place. All I can do is be present with what is and honor everyone’s path, including my own.

Relationships also exist through the cloth of time. My ancestors called themselves Yehudim, or Jewish, people. Before that, they were assorted clans. The pre-Jewish traditions that shaped themselves into rituals and ceremonies, stories and songs of modern Jewish culture are what resonate most deeply with me. The honoring of the light and the belief in miracles, I’m finding in this year in particular, to be essential to my mental health.

In lighting the Hanukkah candles for the first time this evening, I asked my companions what fuels the light within them. I ask you,

What fuels the light within you?

And as the brilliant Shayne Case noted in a workshop titled “Hearts on Fire” at the Portland Plant Medicine Gathering,

How do we live in a place of nourishing light rather than a constant fire?

I lit the candles and sang the Hanukkah blessing. Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, malech haolam, asher kid ‘shanu b’mitzvotov v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah. 

My answer, for myself, is co-creating a world of abundance and shining a light on the dark, oft neglected spaces in between.  Fat’s role in cooking is to be of the in-between spaces.

I can’t think of anyone who makes fat the center of the dish except Russians who salt pork fat (sala), slice it on bread and call it a sandwich. Fat is most often the mediator, a heat mover between the pan and the food you’re frying, allowing foods to cook way beyond the boiling point of the water they contain*. It’s the tenderizer, working its way in between the dry and tough areas of pie crusts and steaks. It’s the lubricant, causing food to not dry when exposed to heat but to experience crispness, the Maillard effect, or GBD (golden brown and delicious). It’s the butter in the oatmeal, helping you get down all those so-called healthy foods. It’s a force of synergy, enhancing all the flavors in the food that you’re tasting by coating the tongue in a slow symphony of smells and tastes that would otherwise whizz through your mouth. On this day and the following seven, the Jewish people of Earth celebrate FAT!

Fats fuel the light within me. Nourishing, delicious foods full of fats that…. well, I’ll save that for tomorrow’s lighting of the second candle.

*For this reason I strongly advocate against owning a microwave for cooking purposes.