Clean-out-the-pantry chocolate clusters


I have started to recycle – really recycle, not just when people are looking. I have started to collect soiled napkins and used coffee filters for the compost collection. I have started to rifle through my fridge to use up any vegetables near their expiry date and, for the first time ever, I’ve started to improvise while baking. It’s taken me a long time to get this point.

I’d like to say this is because of a renewed sense of oneness with the environment. But really, it was borne of frugality and mainly, necessity. Time is my most valuable commodity these days.

Sometimes when I am getting through a recipe and I come across an ingredient I missed, I improvise because I can’t bear the thought of strapping my little one into his car seat, enduring his crying all the way to the grocery store, just to buy one thing.

A few short months ago, I would have dropped everything to go to the grocery store to buy a pack of pecans. And then once I was done with that pack of pecans, if there were a few left in there, I would have thrown them out. But I just can’t bear to do that anymore. Sometimes my lunch consists of whatever is left over in the fridge or pantry (like Kraft singles, handful of almonds, etc.)

So when I was making mini chocolate-dipped bananas and I had a bowl that was about a quarter-full of melted chocolate and another bowl with leftover pecans, but no more bananas, I couldn’t bear to see them go to waste. So I mixed them, and figured I would let them set and eat them later.

I’m not the first one to come up with this idea, obviously, but these chocolate clusters turned out so well, I set out to make them again a week later.

This time I used dark chocolate and toasted pecan bits, and added a couple of drops of orange oil. It would have been nice to add some orange zest on top, but I was in a rush.
I also melted some milk chocolate and mixed it up with flaked toasted almonds and garnished the clusters with some toasted coconut.

Lately more and more of my family and friends are following a gluten-free diet, and chocolate-and-nut clusters can be an ideal treat to serve when you are at a loss.

So what’s the recipe? There is no recipe and that’s the beauty of it.
Look in your fridge, or your pantry, and find the half-full bags of nuts that you are loathe to throw out, find a half-eaten chocolate bar, or even some of your Baker’s chocolate squares, melt them (carefully) in the microwave in 30-second increments (mix the chocolate between microwave zaps), or over a double boiler. Throw in some nuts, or even chopped dried fruits, or some orange oil or almond extract or shredded coconut.

Take a teaspoon and drop clusters of the chocolate mix on parchment paper placed on top of a cookie sheet, and then let it set in the fridge.