I have always tried to be very sensitive to the food allergies and special diets of my friends and family. I am happy to experiment with new foods and I enjoy making food that everyone can enjoy. I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t enjoy every part of a meal at my house, so I’m happy to tailor my menu accordingly.
However, until I cut out all of the dairy in my diet while nursing my daughter, I really had no idea what it was like to live with a food allergy or sensitivity on a day-to-day basis. Let me just tell you… I have a whole new respect for anyone who has to eat a specialized diet. Cooking at home with a lot of whole foods (which is what I try to do as much as possible) certainly helps, but it is still a challenge. Want to buy a bag of dark chocolate chips for cookies? Well, they contain butter fat. Or, they were processed in a facility that also processes milk. It seems everything is cross-contaminated these days.
I stopped eating dairy because I thought maybe the dairy in my diet was affecting Madison. I had read a lot about babies who are sensitive to the proteins in dairy. The symptoms of the milk protein insensitivity are pretty generic… So, the crazy first time mother in me was convinced that she had them all. And, she wasn’t sleeping well at night, an issue I attributed to pain with an upset tummy.
One day, my mom was here visiting and Maddie started showing all of her “symptoms” of severe tummy pain (or so I thought)… I pointed it out and she just kind of laughed. Turns out that babies have been known to throw a tantrum when they just want to be held… Or when they get in the habit of nursing at all hours of the night. The kid had me all figured out. All she had to do was throw a little tantrum and I would assume she was in great pain and pick her up and snuggle her, feeling horrible that she was allergic to milk. Well played, Miss Maddie.
So, I started eating dairy again. It was fine.
One of the things I missed most during my dairy-free stretch was chocolate. To be more specific, I wanted peanut butter cups. Easter was about one week after I cut dairy out of my diet, and watching my hubby devour all of the chocolate peanut butter treats in the house was more than I could handle. So, I found some dairy-free chocolate at the store and set out to make my own.
Fortunately for me, the peanut butter cups turned out really well… In fact, I think they were even better than the packaged ones I had been craving. My secret was to start with a jar of peanuts instead of using peanut butter. And, I didn’t add too much sugar. The resulting filling was smooth, but not too smooth… Sweet, but not too sweet. If you love chocolate and peanut butter, you have to give these a try. Whether or not you choose to use dairy-free chocolate, I think you’ll be pleased with the results.
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (Dairy-Free)
Makes about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen, depending on size
- 16 ounce jar unsalted roasted peanuts
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 – 10 ounce packages dark chocolate (optionally dairy-free)
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
Line a mini muffin pan with candy cups/mini muffin papers and set aside.
Combine the peanuts, powdered sugar, sea salt, and vanilla extract in your food processor or blender. (I used my Vitamix, which worked well.) Pulse to gradually chop the peanuts and mix all of the ingredients. Then, blend until mostly smooth. The filling should be sort of like the consistency of play dough.
Combine the chocolate and coconut oil in a large microwave-safe bowl. Gradually melt the chocolate, stirring every 15 – 30 seconds, until the chocolate is smooth.
Pour a small amount of chocolate in the bottom of each of the muffin cups. Transfer the pan to the fridge to let the chocolate sit. Meanwhile, roll the peanut butter filling into balls using approximately 1 tablespoon for each.
Once the chocolate is set, place one ball of filling in each muffin cup. Then, add enough melted chocolate to cover the peanut butter filling. Let the chocolate cool and set completely before taking the peanut butter cups out of the pan.