So many of the foods we love are connected to memories. Favorite meals and desserts we had as children, foods we shared with friends, dishes during the holidays, and more.
While I’ve talked about some of the junky foods I ate as a child, I have many memories of home-cooked meals and treats. I remember my mom putting a lot of love and time into making stews, casseroles, and more. She is famous for her mac ‘n cheese, cod au gratin, and rhubarb jam. She had six girls, so I cannot even fathom how much food she had to buy and prepare to feed us all. She also had a husband who loved good food. I remember many family dinners, and how much my father would appreciate those meals. Even if he didn’t get seconds because of six growing girls.
My father passed five days after my 11th birthday. It’s now 35 years since that day. I haven’t written much about my family history and childhood. My dad was a recreational pilot, and died in a helicopter accident (my three cousins were also with him).
It was a single, tragic, inexplicable event that changed our lives forever. There were other things going on that hurt our family life and relationships – some related to our dad’s tragedy, some not. But, they all took a very heavy toll on our family, and our hearts and souls.
I find it hard to believe it’s been 35 years. Moments can trigger a memory that brings me to tears in seconds, and yet most of my days I’m carrying on with my life as an adult (as we do). I mentioned in my last post that it was my birthday this week. For years and years I didn’t enjoy my birthday because it felt so close to my dad’s death. There were other deaths in October for our extended family when I was young. So, October has always felt very dark and emotional for me.
Last year I realized how much I was connecting the two, and this year I made a conscious effort to separate them. I’ve been joking with friends that I’m making it my “birthweek” or “birthmonth” rather than birthday. I figure if my actual birthday isn’t great, or the few days before or after, I can certainly celebrate the person I am on other days. We should all be doing this, don’t you think? It doesn’t have to be extravagant or costly efforts. Just finding ways to appreciate and love ourselves. This year I did enjoy my birthday. I still think of my dad, and my mom, and my sisters at this time. How could I not? But, I’m feeling differently this year, and maybe that’s why I am choosing to write about it today.
I mentioned my dad loved hearty home-cooked meals – and he also loved his treats! My mom made the best jams, date squares, and pies. And, I remember my dad having a good stash of chocolate bars in the house. Dad was also a huge prankster. He would have loved how Halloween has become this big event of spooking out your house! He’d be part of it, in full character. He’d also be scoring his favorite treats from the stash.
I created these vegan peanut butter cups as a healthier (but still delicious) alternative to Reese’s for Halloween. I think my dad would have loved them. I think you will too.
Dreena's Vegan Peanut Butter Cups
These little cups are much like an open-faced Reese’s cup - made much healthier!
- 1/2 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
- 2 1/2 tbsp coconut butter
Peanut Butter Topping:
- 2 tbsp coconut butter
- 1/3 cup natural unsalted peanut butter see note for substitution
- 3 1/2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1/4 tsp rounded sea salt
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract or 1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder
Line a mini-muffin pan with 15–18 small muffin liners. To make the chocolate base: Set a heat-proof bowl over a small pot or double boiler with a few inches of water in it. Turn heat to medium. Add chocolate chips and coconut butter to the bowl. Stir through until well combined and melted. Remove from heat, and
spoon roughly one tablespoon of chocolate mixture into each liner. Once finished, transfer the pan to the fridge to cool completely. Reserve saucepan with hot water or double boiler (still with just a small amount of water in it). To make the peanut butter topping: Add the coconut butter to another small bowl, place over the saucepan/double boiler, and allow it to melt. If needed, turn on low heat to help melt. Meanwhile, prepare the peanut butter mixture. In a mini food processor, puree the peanut butter, coconut sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the melted coconut butter to the peanut butter mixture and puree until fully incorporated.
To assemble: Once chocolate cups are chilled and firm, spoon about 11/2 tbsp peanut butter mixture on top of each of the chocolate cups. I use a small cookie scoop, and then gently smooth out the peanut mixture to cover the chocolate. Place the cups in the fridge until completely chilled, about an hour.
Peanut Butter Note: You bet you can substitute a nut butter - try almond or cashew! If your peanut butter/ nut butter does contain salt, reduce the salt measure to just under 1/8 tsp.
Food photos credit: Nicole Axworthy