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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Peanut Butter Truffle Cookie Balls


This recipe is everywhere on the internet. Some folks sweeten the peanut butter with honey, some use molasses, and a several recipes differ in the amount of powdered sugar they use, calling for as many as four cups! I made one of those recipes to start, weeks ago and it was so sickeningly sweet that I had to double the rest of the ingredients to make them edible; it took an entire afternoon to roll all that modified mixture and coat them in chocolate, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing. Of course the kids devoured them, but I wasn't much of a fan, still too sweet. 
If I was to put these on a Christmas platter, I might add a halved salted peanut, or a sprinkling of crushed peanuts to indicate the flavor inside and alert those with allergies to stay clear.

Next I tried a Rice Krispie version, which the kids also loved, but they all felt the graham cracker one was better. So I worked out a recipe I liked and repeat it to be sure I had written it down correctly (I do that with all my recipes here on PiX FiZ.) Texture is important, none of these truffle cookies I make can be too soft or overly hard and crumbly, and I prefer just sweet enough over too sweet every time. I hit it just right on the third try, cutting the powdered sugar to only 1/2 cup, aiming for a more Recess peanut butter quality. Adding an additional tablespoon of coconut oil to the chocolate also makes for a thinner coating, making them less sweet and slightly easier to coat. I made them two more times, the only variation between experiments was using crunchy versus creamy peanut butter. The kids were divided on which they liked best, but they consumed them at the same accelerated rate and there were no complaints from anyone.

Peanut Butter Truffle Cookie Balls

18 graham crackers (2 packages)
15 ounce peanut butter, chunky or creamy
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional - tastes more like Recess if added)

12 ounces chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  1. Break up the graham crackers by hand and place them in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to achieve large evenly sized crumbs. 
  2. Melt the margarine and peanut butter together in a microwave safe bowl approximately 45 seconds, stirring to blend them together. 
  3. Combine the peanut butter mixture, powdered sugar and salt and pulse just until combined and uniform. 
  4. Roll into balls using a small 1/3 ounce ice cream scoop as a measure. 
  5. In a double boiler (or a metal bowl that fits snug inside a pot with water, but does not touch the water) melt the chocolate chips with the coconut oil. 
  6. Using two spoons to roll and coat the balls in the chocolate as shown in the below video (I find this works better than the skewer technique other recipes recommend.) 
  7. Set them on wax paper and place in refrigerator to set up once all are dipped into chocolate. Truffle Cookie Balls also freeze well.
video

Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Coconut Truffle Cookie Balls

The kids favorite of these Truffle Cookie Balls were the Brownie Bites but mine were a toss up between these delectable coconut ones or the soon to be published Pumpkin Praline balls. Both were a bit more sophisticated in flavor than the chocolate and both hit the mark perfectly capturing that sought after texture just between a cookie and a candy. The best part about all these recipes is that they depend on coconut oil for the binder so you can have less guilt about eating them since coconut oil has so many health benefits.

The cookie balls depend on finding a vegan version of a Nilla wafer. It make take searching out several generic brands, but the search is worth it. Our local grocery store carries a vegan version. Since generic sized wafers vary in size, the amount of required coconut cream may also vary slightly. Of course, if you don't care about them being vegan, simply use the name brand wafers, and if you prefer, use heavy cream instead of coconut cream.

The difference in the two photos here is that the one above was tossed with the powdered sugar while the coconut was still warm, so the toasted color showed through more than in the bottom photo. Toasting coconut is a finicky thing, one minute it is too light, and in a blink too dark. A darker color is nuttier in flavor but you don't have to toast it at all, which would eliminate the only baking this recipe requires.

Coconut Truffle Cookie Balls

1/2 cup flake coconut (not unsweetened)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

60 vanilla flavored wafers
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (organic is best)
2 cups flake coconut (not unsweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons coconut cream

In a pie tin, toast the coconut in a 350-degree oven for 6-8 minutes, stir once while it bakes. Watch it closely as the color changes very quickly once it starts to turn golden. Remove from the oven and place it in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until very fine. Add the powdered sugar and pulse just to coat. Return the coconut to the cooled pie tin to use as coating for truffle balls.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the vanilla wafers into large crumbs. Add the 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, and all the remaining ingredients. Pulse until evenly combined and uniform, chunks of coconut should still be visible. Test for appropriate wetness by using a 1/3 ounce ice cream scoop for measure and squeezing the mixture into a ball. The warmth of your hands will help the ball take shape, but it does require some pressure to get them to stick. Too much liquid makes the balls a less desired texture, but if they won't hold together, add a bit more cream to make them take form.

Form all the balls in the same way and roll each immediately in the toasted coconut flakes. Allow the balls to firm up in the refrigerator and then place them in air tight containers. Truffle Cookie Balls freeze well and are best enjoyed at room temperature, but are almost as good straight out of the fridge.

Makes 40 1-inch balls

Enjoy!

Brownie Bites Truffle Cookie Balls

I've gone a little crazy over these Truffle Cookie Ball things. Not a true truffle, but not really a cookie either, I'm naming them truffle cookie balls, like cake balls, but half truffle, half cookie; and totally delicious no matter what they are called. Did I mention they are no-bake?

There are a number of vegan recipes out there for candy-cookie ball sweet treats, but so many of them have to be eaten straight from the refrigerator because they are too gooey left at room temperature. My goal was to be able to make these little candy bites so they could be served off a platter at any gathering, which means they had to not taste 'vegan' and the texture had to be solid, and not too crumbly at around 70-degrees.

This particular batch was such a huge favorite with the kids that I had to hide them in several different places because they kept finding and devouring them. In the end I had only 1/3 of the batch to pack into boxes to send to relatives with all the others.

Aside from being the absolute perfect two-bite size, these little balls are not overly sweet, have terrific texture, and are some of the easiest to roll. The first timer will be alarmed by the amount of coconut oil that coats your hands in the process. Don't be worried, they are not the least bit greasy tasting once the oil solidifies, and the oily exterior means they can be coated easily with just about everything from powdered sugar, to toasted coconut, cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or colorful sprinkles. I am not normally a sprinkles fan, but these little nonpareils added a lovely crunch to the 'Brownie Bites'; a name my oldest daughter gave them after stealing about a dozen over the course of the day.


Brownie Bite with Coconut
Brownie Bite with Cocoa
Brownie Bite Truffle Cookie Balls

1/2 cup coconut oil (organic is best)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
18 (2 packages) chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup coconut cream (heavy cream could be substituted for a non-vegan version)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon dark rum, or other favorite liquor (optional, and more can be added to taste)
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup coating of choice: cocoa powder (add 2 T powdered sugar so it is not too bitter), coconut, sprinkles, etc.


  1. Melt the chocolate chips and the coconut together, either on the stove or in the microwave (25-30 seconds on high.) 
  2. In the bowl of the food processor, break up the graham crackers and blend them into large crumbs. 
  3. Add the coconut cream, melted chocolate chip mixture, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture is uniform and combined.  
  4. Test the consistency by using a 1/3 ounce ice cream scoop as measure and press the chocolate mixture into a ball. It takes a bit of squeezing to make the ball stick, but it should form a cohesive ball with the addition of the heat from your hands. If it does not stick, add a bit more cream. Put the test ball back into the processor bowl to blend it all together.
  5. Add the semi-sweet chocolate chips and pulse only until evenly distributed, being careful not to chop them up.
  6. Form all the balls as described above and immediately roll them in the coating of your choice.
  7. Refrigerate on a cookie sheet to harden and then store in an air tight container, either at room temp or in the fridge. The truffle cookie balls also freeze well. 
Makes 40 1-inch balls

Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Vegan Praline Pecans


It seems that a praline can be any number of candied pecan recipes. Some are encased in chewy caramel but the ones I really love have a lighter sugar coating rich with buttery flavor, a hint of cinnamon, and are simply irresistible when done right. How hard could it be to copy a candied nut? Funny it took me this long to try.

This was one of those happy accidents. I had an idea for a pumpkin truffle cookie ball with a praline coating. So I threw together a few ingredients, baked the mix in the oven and dusted them with powdered sugar. Luckily I made well over double what I needed to chop up for the cookie balls because the family absolutely devoured them!

Non-vegan recipes call for an egg white wash, so they are able to get a thicker more even coating.  I found that tossing the nuts as they cool allows the caramelized sugar to thicken up and stick to the pecan so they get areas of goopy sugar lumps in places, which is just perfect. A dusting of powdered sugar seals it all together and is the perfect finishing touch, just like the high end pralines. Yum!

Vegan Praline Pecans
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large microwave safe bowl, (or in a large sauce pan over medium heat) combine all the ingredients except the pecans and the powered sugar, and microwave on high 2 minutes. Stir the mixture and return to the microwave for another 1-2 minutes until it is bubbling and the sugar dissolves when stirred.

Add the pecans and toss to coat. Turn the mixture out into a parchment lined cookie sheet (not necessary, just easier for clean up), scraping all the contents onto the pan and bake at 350-degrees for a total of 12 minutes, stirring and turning over the nuts at the 6-minute mark.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 1-2 minutes. Carefully scoop all the nuts back into the large glass bowl and stir until the caramelized sugars begin to stick to the nuts, 2-3 minutes. When there is no longer a pool of sugar sauce on the bottom of the bowl, indicating it is stuck to the pecans, sprinkle with the 1/4 cup powdered sugar and toss to coat.

Turn the nuts out onto wax paper to cool. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

For those of you who like pictures:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large microwave safe bowl, (or in a large sauce pan over medium heat) combine all the ingredients except the pecans and the powered sugar, and microwave on high 2 minutes. Stir the mixture and return to the microwave for another 1-2 minutes until it is bubbling and the sugar dissolves when stirred. 
Add the pecans and toss to coat.

 Turn the mixture out into a parchment lined cookie sheet (not necessary, just easier for clean up), scraping all the contents onto the pan and bake at 350-degrees for a total of 12 minutes, stirring and turning over the nuts at the 6-minute mark. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 1-2 minutes. Carefully scoop all the nuts back into the large glass bowl and stir until the caramelized sugars begin to stick to the nuts, 2-3 minutes. 
When there is no longer a pool of sugar sauce on the bottom of the bowl, indicating it is stuck to the pecans, sprinkle with the 1/4 cup powdered sugar and toss to coat. Cool on wax paper.

Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Baked Cod with Tomato and Preserved Lemon


The first time I served this dish was at a 5-course meal to a group of at least 20 distinguished guests at a very formal, fine-china, best-linens kind of event. I was young and had never served a group that size before but thankfully the food was a great success. My friend helped me plate and serve each dish, and it all went off without a hitch except when the sauce from the extra plate of scallops (one guest was allergic to fish) poured off the little platter I was holding right into the lap of the guest of honor. I was mortified, but he was most gracious about it, and made a special point to say how much he enjoyed the scallops, sauteed in this same sauce. I may need to revisit that scallop version again soon. 

Baked fish for a group is challenging. I use this recipe to serve as many as 30 on a regular basis and have always had it turn out delicious with many rave reviews. The cod releases a lot of water as it bakes, so to maintain appreciable flavor as much water as possible must be reduced from the tomato mixture before applying it to the fish. The sauce can be made the night before, or even days before, but don't top the fish until just before cooking; fish proteins are delicate and the tomato acids could potentially cause them to breakdown and get mushy if left to marinate too long. 
Fish prior to cooking, note the red sauce is very thick.
My husband got the idea to make preserved lemon over a year ago. He read Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and cut up some lemons, shoved them into salt and put them on top of my refrigerator. A few months later I found them and when confronted about what this gross pot of yellow yuck was, he said just to throw them out, that he wasn't sure what to do next (and honestly they looked kind of gross.) So I dug the book out and looked up some recipes and decided I would give it try and I'm sure glad I did!  I add them to almost everything that calls for lemon (like the spanikopita shown above.) If you want to learn more, Ruhlman has a blog post on preserved lemon confit, but feel free to substitute 1-2 tsp of finely grated lemon peel and finish the sauce with a bit more fresh squeezed, if preserved lemon is not a kitchen staple at your house. 

I have always served this with yellow rice, seasoned with whatever I have on hand (like saffron when I have it), but this batch was particularly tasty with preserved lemon, turmeric, smoked paprika, and a bit of bullion in the water.  I keep it subtle, no reason to overpower the flavors of the fish, only compliment. Spanikopita is almost always an accompaniment too, I can never get enough spinach. 

Baked Cod with Tomato and Preserved Lemon
2 14 oz cans petite diced tomato
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
2 large shallots or 1 small red onion, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base (or bouillon of your choice)
8 oz clam juice
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon preserved lemon, mashed (or 1 teaspoon lemon rind, grated)
3 lbs cod fillets, thawed but kept very cold

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use Just Mayo)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup dry white wine
juice of one lemon, to taste
salt and pepper

Drain and reserve the liquid from the tomatoes. Saute the garlic and shallot in the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the wine, bouillon, reserved tomato liquid, and clam juice and bring to a simmer to reduce and concentrate all the flavors until the sauce is thick enough that a spoon leaves a path when drawn across the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and add oregano, white pepper, and lemon. Taste for salt, the mixture should be very salty. Toss with the drained tomatoes.

Heat oven to 350-degrees. Oil a 9x13 baking dish and arrange the cod so that the fillets are touching. Layer the thin ends if they are varied thicknesses. Spread the tomato mixture evenly across the top of the fish and bake for approximately 20 minutes. The fish is done when it is flaky. Turn off the oven.

Prepare the fish 'gravy' ingredients while the fish is cooking by mixing the mayo, cornstarch and wine together in a small bowl. Juice the lemon.

Carefully remove the fish to a serving try, keeping the tomato topping intact. Place the fish back in the warm oven. Drain the remaining liquid into the nonstick skillet and bring to a boil. This mixture should be reduced further if the recipe is doubled, but a minute or so on the boil is enough reduction for a single recipe; reduce heat to medium. Wisk in the mayo mixture and allow the sauce to thicken. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.

Just prior to serving, add any remaining juice from the serving tray to the sauce and whisk to combine. Pour over the fish and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped parsley.
This dish is very forgiving. If cooking for a very large group, I simply tip the cooking juices out of the pan and reduce to make the gravy and pour back over the top of the fish in the original baking dish. 
Enjoy!

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