Mountain of Chocolate

November 15, 2009

Top of the mountain


Can you spot the Queen City Skyline in the distance?

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After lunch we met our friends to drive down to Crowder’s Mountain. Matt and I hiked there twice before – once by ourselves – two years ago!! – and once with my parents. [My how the blog times have changed!!]

Today was just as fun and just as hard!

We started out swiftly

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Happy little leaves

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Matt found a VINE and TOUCHED IT! Thankfully it was a Tarzan vine and not a hairy one

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The first 2.8 miles looked like this:

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And then we began our ascent

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It was straight up for a good 10 minutes to the top

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We were quite sweaty when we arrived because it was quite hot out today as well!

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Diana made these amazing Ina Garten granola bars for the summit. Packed in a tea box!

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I was starving and devoured mine. It was THE BEST homemade granola bar ever!! Tasted like a vanilla buttery cookie. Diana says she made a few healthy swaps (chia seeds anyone!?) and HERE is the RECIPE!

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On our decent, the terrain got rocky!

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We went up to go down

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And finally we were back. About 6 miles later!

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My legs are VERY tired and I couldn’t wait to fill them up with chili!

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While we were gone, we cooked a bag of dried kidney beans in the crock pot. We had soaked them overnight and then set them on low around noon today to soften. When we got home, I had a message from Angela L. reminding me that kidney beans can’t be cooked from dry in a slow cooker because they have a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin that becomes even more toxic at 175*. You must BOIL kidney beans (don’t worry, canned are safe). SO, our slow-cooked beans got dumped into a dutch oven and boiled for 10 minutes. I worried they would overcook and be ruined, but this soup turned out amazingly delicious!!!

We didn’t know what to make and I suggested Eat, Drink & Be Vegan’s Cocoa Coconut Chili, which I made last year and LOVED. Turns out we had most of the ingredients on hand! [I highly recommend this cookbook as one of very few that I actually consult for recipes]

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It was JUST as good this year!! I still proclaim it the best chili ever!! SOOO CHOCOLATY!! Yet still savory. This year I used the Scharffen Berger cocoa powder I got at BlogHer Food. Amazing. I have been nothing but totally impressed by everything chocolatey this company makes.

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More ingredients

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Plus lots of spices and frozen corn. And Food Should Taste Good Lime chips! I think we almost ate the whole bag…

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Somehow the rest of this giant beer made it onto my placemat!!! I probably had 4 oz or so. It was good!

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So it wasn’t a crock pot meal, but the dinner still turned out awesome. If anyone has any amazing top 10 crock pot recipes, please share them below! Must be a top 10 favorite though!

I’m going to veg out because starting tomorrow I’m working hard all week to try to write my due research papers. If I can finish them both by Friday, I’ll be home free until finals :)


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{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Food Makes Fun Fuel November 15, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Your dinner sounds AMAZING. And that view is incredible. Hiking with friends is a perfect afternoon, but homemade granola bars just put that over the top


2 Lauren @ eater not a runner November 15, 2009 at 8:13 pm

That chili looks out of this world! i never would have thought of Chocolate and Chili…..

Jealous of the hike (and the hot weather!) 😉


3 Katherine November 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

My husband and I made chili tonight with chocolate, cinnamon and coconut milk – delicious!! Sadly, ours was not vegan (it called for 2 lbs of ground turkey) but it was still tasty and made enough for oodles of leftovers.

Glad you had a wonderful hike – the photos are gorgeous!


4 Erin November 15, 2009 at 8:18 pm

That chili sounds amazing — strange combination but if you say it tastes good, I’ll take your word for it. 😉

Gorgeous photos, as usual.


5 Allie (Live Laugh Eat) November 15, 2009 at 8:20 pm

What a beautiful hike on a beautiful day!!! Can you believe it’s November!? Almost Thanksgiving and in the 70s. Hooray for NC!


6 haya November 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm

thanks for the heads up on the beans! though i rarely every buy dried beans anyway. so glad you got the call before you had supper. yikes. who knew!


7 Joelle (The Pancake Girl) November 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Looks like an amazing hike!!


8 Danielle November 15, 2009 at 8:27 pm

What a wonderful adventure! Beautiful pictures, too!

My mouth is seriously watering after hearing about your dinner, especially since ours wasn’t very good. I’ve heard really good things about that cookbook and think I may need to add it to my Christmas list.

I’m loving all of your super delish dishes. They are totally inspiring me – thank you!


9 Jenna November 15, 2009 at 8:28 pm

glad you had a great trip up the mountain with friends! those bars look absolutely amazing, i can’t believe she made them! your dinner looks great too!


10 christie @ honoring health November 15, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Wow, that dinner turned out awesome!


11 MelissaNibbles November 15, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Beautiful day for a hike!


12 Jessica @ JJsVinBlanc November 15, 2009 at 8:40 pm

I love the crockpot and THIS recipe is a total winner (you got to love sauerkraut though)

Also, we recently tried this soup and loved it:

And one more classic for good measure:


13 Julie November 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Pretty pictures!! I can’t believe you were wearing shorts and sweating in November. I’m so jealous. Stupid New Englad weather!!


14 Erin November 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm

It’s so crazy to see people in shorts! I ditto Julie (above)’s comment about New England being non short weather! Your legs might have been tired, but they look great in those pictures! (Said in a totally non creepy way, of course) 😉


15 Madeline @ Greens and Jeans November 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm

That chili looks amazing! Don’t you love how chocolate goes with everything?


16 ashleigh November 15, 2009 at 8:44 pm

what a fun fall day!


17 Kelly from Bridges and Bites November 15, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Oh your hike looks like it was fabulous! Yay for the outdoors. And I’m so glad you didn’t eat the toxic beans! That would have been tragic!!!!!


18 Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope November 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Wow, those views are breathtaking Kath! What a perfect way to spend the beautiful Sunday. I just love workouts that don’t seem like work at all. 😉

That chili looks delicious! Definitely a great protein dish after your exercise-filled day.


19 lynn (The Actors Diet) November 15, 2009 at 9:00 pm

that chili sounds amazing. here is a crockpot meal i recently made and adored:

lima bean cassoulet – it is a veganized version.


20 candice November 15, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Cocoa… coconut… chili?! OMG, I think I’m going to get that cookbook just for that recipe!!

Your hike looks fun! Love the beautiful mountain views. 😀


21 Jessie November 15, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I was definitely a great day for a hike. Looks like it was so much fun.


22 Shannon (The Daily Balance) November 15, 2009 at 9:09 pm

what a beautiful hike! One of my favorite ways to get in a workout 😉


23 Cynthia (It All Changes) November 15, 2009 at 9:09 pm

I don’t have links for mine. But I could email them to you.

1. Quick drop chili
2. Southwestern Sweet Potato Soup
3. Lamb and Bean Stew
4. Canadian Bacon and Potato Chowder
5. Steel Cut oats
6. Chicken Paella
7. Crockpot Lasagna
8. Buffalo Chicken Dip (great for parties and on tortillas)
9. Crockpot Pineapple Chicken
10. Hearty Black Bean Soup


24 Maria November 15, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Love love love my Sharffen Berger cocoa – above Green & Blacks, Ghirardelli and Valrhona (heh, just realized it says something about being a cocoa nut with four cocoas in my pantry) – it’s got such a lovely intensity to it.


25 Hallie November 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Hmm. I made chili in the crock pot last week and used dried kidney beans. I soaked them overnight and then cooked them all day on low. We lived to tell the tale….maybe our crock pot was over 175? Now I’m nervous but like I said….I’m still here! I haven’t checked out that link though so I’ll have to do that. Interesting…


26 Elise November 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I adapted the spicy vegetarian chili recipe from Simply Recipes ( for the slow cooker last year. Wonderful! The red wine really makes the chili.


27 Elise November 15, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Hmm–although I just looked back over the chili, and there’s no red wine listed there. Perhaps I was inspired to add it from another recipe. So there–add red wine, and you won’t be disappointed!


28 Adi ( November 15, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I make a basic stew in my crockpot from Kraft Canada’s website – super simple but more tasty then I would expect! That chilli sounds awesome – what a great flavour combo.


29 Lizzy November 15, 2009 at 9:35 pm

chili in the crock pot has got to be the best idea yet! looks wonderful!


30 Katerina November 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Pulled Pork is my favorite crockpot recipe, and it lasts on sandwiches and salads for days. Yum!

Here is the recipe I use, I adapted it from a cookbook:


31 Lola November 15, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Pot Roast with Tomato Gravy

1 TB veg. oil
1 3-4# pot roast (round, eye, or other cut)
2 onions thinly sliced
3 carrots sliced about ¼-1/2″ thick
3 stalks of celery thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. dry thyme (or I use ½ tsp Italian herbs I use for pizza…did this when you had Karen)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 TB flour
1/2 c beef broth
1 can tomato soup undiluted
1 TB Worcestershire
2 TB packed brown sugar, dark (or light in a
2 TB balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet (heated to med-high) put veg. oil and pat roast dry with a paper towel and brown on all sides. Put roast in crockpot.

Lower skillet to medium and add carrots, onion, and celery, stirring until softened. Add salt, pepper, dry mustard, thyme (or Italian), and garlic and stir one minute. Sprinkle mixture with flour, and stir. Add beef broth, tomato soup and cook until thickened. Stir in Worcestershire.

Pour mixture over roast in crock-pot and cook on low 10-12 hours. I often put this on before bed. Unplug in morning and finish when I get home. You can cook on high 5-6 hours…judge how you crockpot works. Remove roast and add brown sugar and balsamic (believe me this adds a lot to this recipe). This is where you also may need to shake up a couple tablespoons of flour with a tiny bit of water if sauce is thin…depends on juices from the meat. Cut meat and return and heat until warm. It will be so tender, fork tender and a wonderful taste.

Make 8-10 serving but for us about 6!

This is great with mashed potatoes that I cook ahead, put in a casserole with some sour cream (1/4 c) and some bacon, or add a little cream cheese with mixing the potatoes. These can be baked in oven too when you are ready for dinner. Doesn’t take long (about 1/2 hr) to heat through. I often make these the day before.



32 Jessica @ How Sweet It Is November 15, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Beautiful scenery!


33 November 15, 2009 at 9:54 pm

What a perfect way to spend the day! If I want to get outside here I need my snow shoes. I’m jealous of your warm, sunny weather!


34 Runeatrepeat November 15, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I love steel cut oats in the crock pot. It’s so nice to wake up to oats :)

Also, I believe Ben loves me more for the crockpot pot roast I make him. It is the easiest thing ever just put a pot roast, potatoes, carrots and broth half way up to the level of the roast. Set it and forget it. I don’t like actually cooking meat and this takes all the effort out of it – plus he has meals for days with the leftovers!


35 Deva (Voracious Vorilee) November 15, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I love hikes on warm days, especially with friends. It’s so much fun to explore, climb, and trek through the woods. Having such yummy chili to come home to sounds like a great post-hike meal, as well.


36 Marissa November 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm

That looks so good! I currently have that book on my Amazon Wish list :)


37 Jamie November 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I love love love hiking and am so jealous of what looks to have been a beautiful hike! Ahhh it is so great to get out and enjoy the mountains like that and it is such an amazing workout..


38 Serena November 15, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Last year I made homemade cranberry sauce in my baby crockpot. It was amazing. I put it on everything-salads, yogurt- you name it. Yum!!
I also made pumpkin spice lattes in my crockpot. FAB!


39 Amanda November 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm

This ab-fab blogger is having a crock-pot festival on Tuesday. I bet you get some good recipes there!


40 Tara November 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm

This is by far the best recipe EVER:

although we never get to the french dip part, we just eat the beef. SOOOO good!


41 Diana November 15, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Fabulous recap! Glad you guys liked the bars. Best homemade ever?! I’m honored…yippee!

My fave crock pot meal is pot roast: – esp with grass fed beef! :)


42 Annalisa November 15, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Hi Kath! My top 3 crock pot recipes are (all onions can safely be eliminated)…

1) Beef stew:

** I use 1/2 the beef (100% grass fed), better than bouillion for my beef base, and I buy little wine bottles to cook so I end up using one of those. This is AWESOME the next day.

2) Taco Soup:

** I half this recipe, either go veg using extra beans or I’ll sub in turkey. I add in extra chili powder and reduce some broth to make it thicker. Definitely needs fresh cilantro!

3) Pulled pork — I splice 2 recipes together:

All of these freeze so well which helps for heat and eat later on!


43 Annalisa November 15, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Oh, I also cook all of my dried beans in the crockpot and freeze them for later. I buy organic dried beans for $1 and get 3 cans worth. Basically, soak the beans in the pot overnight. Dump water, fill (season if desired), cook on low or high for 4-6 hrs. until soft. Let cool, freeze in 15 oz. portions. Kidney beans release a toxin (supposedly) so I don’t cook those.


44 Elina November 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I’ve heard so many great things about that book. I need to make sure it’s on my gift “wishlist”… it may already be there. The chili sounds fantastic!
So jealous of your hike!! What a great way to sneak it exercise :)


45 BroccoliHut November 16, 2009 at 12:01 am

ED&BV is easily my favorite cookbook (I highly recommend the Cashew Ginger Tofu). I’ve made that chili once before, and I really loved it–thanks for the reminder!


46 Janna (Just Flourishing) November 16, 2009 at 12:15 am

Wow that blog times have TOTALLY changed. I looked back at your old posts. Crazy!

That chili looks divine, I really much get my hands on a copy of that book – everyone who cooks from it, raves about it!

Lime is definitely my favorite of the FSTG chips! I love those but I seriously eat the entire bag the day I buy them haha.


47 Mary November 16, 2009 at 12:23 am

The hike looks like so much fun! What a nice day for it, too. Lucky you with awesome friends who make homemade granola bars! They look incredible!


48 Ingunn November 16, 2009 at 1:10 am

Oh, it’s so nice to see hikers wearing shorts and t-shirts! Here we’re breaking out the skis and snowshoes already.


49 Chelsea November 16, 2009 at 1:30 am

Unfortunately SB Chocolate was bought by Hershey a few years ago and they just shut down the original plant (here in SF) it’s now being made in Mexico and isn’t as good as it once was :(


50 Ellen November 16, 2009 at 3:33 am

you can make yogurt in a crock pot! it’s really simple and much cheaper to make than buy. this site tells you how:


51 Mari Ann "Fat Stomach" November 16, 2009 at 5:01 am

Wow! Very nice experience… I used to do this before and I really missed it! So much FUN!


52 Susan November 16, 2009 at 6:19 am

Cocoa in chili? That sounds awesome! I love chocolate/spicey combos. I’ll have to check out that cookbook. I just read about that crazy poison bean thing too. So strange!


53 Lauren November 16, 2009 at 6:53 am

Looks like a wonderful hike… one of my favorite activities!

I need to try that chili recipe. ED&BV hasn’t let me down yet!


54 Stacey November 16, 2009 at 7:16 am

Ugh. You just reminded me of a research paper that I have due! Haha. Jas and I LOVE hiking Crowders Mtn. We’ve been meaning to get up there for a few weekends now! I laughed out loud when I saw the pics of Matt hanging from the trees because I have a couple of pics of Jason doing that (it must be a guy thing). Glad you had a good hike with good friends 😀 The weather was certainly perfect for it!


55 Paige(Running Around Normal) November 16, 2009 at 7:58 am

NICE job on the hike! That sounds like so much fun! Fun pictures, too. I was thinking about making that cocoa coco chili this week, too :) I saw it in the book last week, and it definitely sounded intriguing! haha


56 Stephanie @ foodie McFood November 16, 2009 at 8:02 am

That chili sounds super good! I think i am going to have to buy that book, as I see it popping up on the blog world all the time.


57 Light Delight with Tou Tou November 16, 2009 at 8:11 am

haha, if I find a vine, I would do the same thing! that’s just so much fun!!!


58 WendyF November 16, 2009 at 8:27 am

Oh that made me so ready to fly back home tonight. I have a really good Belgian Beef recipe for the crockpot, I can send it tomorrow when I am back home.


59 S November 16, 2009 at 8:36 am

Hi Kath,

I read the two older posts describing your previous hikes. It’s not just that your blog has gotten more stylish/streamlined/professional. You have changed a lot too. There’s lots of talk in those older posts about how “bad” you were about eating, how you feel guilty, how you felt that you overate mindlessly. We all do this stuff, of course, but I’ve definitely noticed that this type of language really doesn’t pop up on your blog anymore. Sure, we all feel like we’ve been “bad” about eating, but I really love how it seems that now you just enjoy such splurges without the guilt/blame you used to describe. Your blog now feels a lot less rigid and technical and a lot more fun. Congrats ;).


60 rhodeygirl November 16, 2009 at 8:46 am

Homemade granola bars = very yummy!


61 rhodeygirl November 16, 2009 at 8:47 am

= worth the hike haha


62 skinnyrunner November 16, 2009 at 8:57 am

your hiking pictures are amazing! gorgeous, what a great workout!


63 Kath November 16, 2009 at 9:43 am

Thanks for all of the recipes!!!

I bet yours got hot enough :)

Yeah, that’s what I mean by ‘times have changed’ :)



64 Amanda @ Cakes and Ale November 16, 2009 at 10:24 am

I could have used that chili recipe for our annual chili cookoff this year! It would have been a nice change up from the standard beef options! I love a little sweetness in chili (have you ever tried Cincinnati 5-way style chili, with the cinnamon?)


65 Whit November 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

The hike looks like a blast! Yesterday was so PERFECT for such things. I could hardly make myself go in to go to bed. Alas, I did and now look. It’s Monday. 😛


66 Heather November 17, 2009 at 12:30 am

Absolute best (and easiest) crock pot chicken… place your chicken breasts in the bottom of the crock pot and cover with your favorite salsa. Set on medium and allow to cook (it’s usually all day for me – so 6-8 hours). You can either put rice in the pot with a little extra water or I just cook brown rice on the side and serve the salsa chicken on top.

I’ve made this with both hot and sweet salsas, and they’re all wonderful!


67 bridget November 17, 2009 at 7:49 am

i definitely cook kidney beans all the time from dried in a crockpot (soaked over night, then put on high). I grew up eating them this way and I’m 26 and still going strong!!


68 Sarah November 17, 2009 at 8:45 am

The chili sounds amazing! Great hike too, that’s something I don’t do nearly enough of 😉


69 Jenny November 17, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Ok, Kath. So I read your blog ALL the time but have never commented:) Here are my two favorite Crock Pot Recipes:

Vegetable Kale Soup
2 Tbl EVOO
1 yellow onion (chopped)
2 Tbl chopped garlic
1 bunch of kale (roughly chopped)
8 c water
6 cubes chicken bouillon (vegetable if you’re wanting vegetarian)
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes & chiles
6 white potatoes (cubed)
2 15 oz cans of white beans (drained & rinsed)
1 tbl italian seasoning
2 tbl dried parsley
salt & pepper (to taste)

*Just throw it all in the crock pot on low for 6 +/- hours, and it’ll be good to go by dinner time! Major yummage!!!

The next one was from Rachael Ray but I converted into a crock pot dish that my hubby and I devour in the winter months.

Chicken & Leek Stoup (not a typo – it’s thicker than a soup but not quite a stew)
2 Tbl EVOO
2 medium leeks (washed and cut in crescent moons)
Handful of parsley (fresh or dried)
1-2 bay leaves
3 carrots (sliced or 1 c. shredded)
3 Tbl fresh thyme (or 3 tsp dried)
6 cups chicken stock or broth (whatever’s on hand)
Salt & Pepper
1.5 cups instant rice

*Just put everything in the crock pot except the rice. Leave it on low for the day and by the evening, your kitchen will smell heavenly! (Mine does right this moment :)) For the last 30 minutes or so, add the rice – it should cook up pretty quickly. We usually go with brown rice around here but this is one that we sometimes allow for white rice because the starch makes the soup a little thicker. Either way, though, it’s AMAZING and what we’re eating tonight!!

Thanks for all the great work on this blog! I love hearing about new ideas for recipes and just how you and your hubs continue to live such active, healthy lives!!



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