Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dairy-Free Chocolate Holiday Truffles

Luscious ganache enrobed with a shell of dark chocolate garnished with a sprinkle of crushed hazelnut.  Or perhaps the garnish is coconut.  Or maybe a chocolate covered coffee bean??  

Whichever your favorite garnish, a basic ganache recipe brings a blank slate just waiting to be enhanced.

However, when our family moved dairy-free years ago I thought chocolate truffles were a thing of the past.  But oh, how wrong I was.

A simple swap of heated coconut milk in place of heavy cream provides the perfect combination, and an added benefit of less fat allowing my serving sizet to increase without guilt.

Add-ins can run the gamut from nuts to more coconut to crushed chocolate covered espresso beans (my personal favorite) and on to whatever you can come up with.

Silky smooth and lusciously creamy, you won't be able to stop at just one.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Truffles
Lusciously creamy, the chocolate ganache is a blank slate to whatever garnish your heart desires!
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1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
7-8 Tbs coconut milk (I use So Delicious Culinary brand - either light or full fat)
pinch fine salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Chocolate Coating
1 cup Dark Chocolate, good quality, chopped
1 tsp coconut oil

Garnish ideas
chopped toasted hazelnuts
shredded coconut
chocolate covered espresso beans
cocoa nibs

In a small pot over medium heat, heat the coconut milk to a simmer, stirring often.  Remove the pot from the heat, and add the 1 cup of chopped chocolate and pinch of salt.   Allow to sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth.  If chocolate does not melt completely, return to the burner over very low heat for a minute or so continuing to stir until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

Place cooled ganache into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

After ganache is fully chilled, remove from fridge and shape approximately 1 Tbs sized amounts into balls (may be larger or smaller as desired).  Place on a parchment paper lined plate or cutting board.  Once all balls are formed, place the board or plate into the fridge to chill.  Note... hands will get really messy!

While the balls are chilling, melt 1 cup of good quality chocolate along with 1 tsp coconut oil over very low heat on the stove, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

Remove balls from fridge, and one at a time, drop a ball into the melted chocolate.  Using a spoon, cover the entire ball with melted chocolate then carefully return the dipped ganache to the parchment paper.  Immediately top with garnish of your choice.  Continue until all of the balls are chocolate covered and garnished.

Return the truffles to the refrigerator to set (they set faster this way as I'm totally impatient!).  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Perfect Peppermint Chocolate Holiday Biscotti

Perfect Peppermint Holiday Chocolate Biscotti

Who doesn't love crunchy biscotti alongside a cup of afternoon coffee?  Drizzle that biscotti with dark chocolate and it becomes irresistible.  But for the holidays?  Dip that chocolate drizzle into crushed candy cane and we have pure peppermint perfection.

Inspired by Liv's girlfriend, Piper, who made the peppermint suggestion last year, I'm only sorry I waited an entire year to make these beauties.

But not before finishing our holiday season with these chocolate dipped biscotti sprinkled with festive crushed candy cane.  Twice baked for a perfect bite, biscotti works as an lovely afternoon treat and just as well as in the morning alongside a cup of steaming hot cocoa.  And... I'm thinking I know a certain world traveler who would love a few of these cookies on a plate by the fireplace as a midnight snack. :)

Friday, December 18, 2015

20 Blogger Reviewed Cookbooks for Last Minute Gifts

Shopping at the local Barnes and Noble, you'll find me in the cookbook section.  Do I need another cookbook to add to my already overstuffed shelves??  Absolutely not.  Do I want one (or two or three)?  Absolutely.

Preferably with glossy pages and lots of pictures, I can lose myself in a good cookbook for hours.  Friday night in the bath with a new cookbook?  Sounds fabulous to me.

Like everyone though, I've picked out a few cookbooks that I've never really used.  Books that held so much promise, but just didn't work for me.

So today I have cookbooks reviewed by many of my blogger peers, and a few that I haven't reviewed but own and simply love.  Any of these would make the foodie on your holiday list smile with delight, and if your lucky you'll reap the benefits at you next meal.

If your panicking at the fact of 7 days left before Christmas, you still have time to head over to Amazon and using your Prime Membership send a last minute gift anywhere in the country.  Or... perhaps something catches your eye?  Santa says you deserve a little something for yourself too.  :)

Happy Holidays my friends!  Enjoy!

The Sprouted Kitchen, Sara Forte

Secrets of Healthy Cooking ~ Barbara Seelig-Brown

Decadent Gluten Free Vegan Baking ~ Cara Reed

Our Best Bites - Sara Wells and Kate Jones

Eat, the Little Book of Fast Foods ~ Nigel Slater

Teatime in Paris - Jill Colona

Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook ~ Kathy Strahs
Reviewed by The Culinary Life
Melt - The Art of Macaroni and Cheese ~ Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord
Reviewed by Farm Fresh Feasts 

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World ~ Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
Reviewed by Liv Life
Beach House Baking ~ Lei Shishak
Reviewed by Liv Life  

Steeped - Recipes Infused with Tea ~ Annelies Zijderveld
Reviewed by An Edible Mosaic

Maple; 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup ~ Katie Webster
Reviewed by An Edible Mosaic
It's All Greek to Me ~ Debbie Matenopoulos
Reviewed by Aggie's Kitchen

Sandwiched ~ Tanya Schroeder
Reviewed by Lemon Tree Dwelling

The Great Pepper Cookbook ~ Melissa's Produce
Reviewed by Liv Life 

365 Vegan Smoothies ~ Kathy Patalsky
Reviewed by Liv Life

Cooking Techniques with Olive Oil ~ Mary Platis and Laura Bashar
Not Reviewed... another of my favorites!

The 8x8 Cookbook ~ Kathy Strahs
Haven't seen this one yet, but I've heard wonderful things about it!

Plant Powered for Life ~ Sharon Palmer
Reviewed by E.A. Stewart

Cocktails for Cougars and Cowgirls ~ Jordan Catapano
Reviewed by Simple Swaps

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Triple Orange Holiday Biscotti

Our lights are up and twinkling, the tree is decorated, shopping mostly done and presents wrapped.  But somehow this year I feel like I'm simply going through the motions.  My heart just isn't into the season, and while I have girlfriends pledging to induce holiday spirit, so far I'm not feeling it.

Hence, the appropriate action seems to bake.  Somehow mixing together flour and sugar always puts me into a better frame of mind, but add a little Grand Marnier and we have something special, don't we?

Crunchy yet not crisp, these Triple Orange Biscotti have been a tradition on my holiday platters since the recipe release in 2003.  Featured in Fine Cooking, Susan Betz's recipe has been made close to 30 times in my kitchen with yearly requests from neighbors and friends.

A lovely hostess gift or entry into a cookie exchange, the biscotti also works wonders alongside an afternoon cup of coffee.

Adaptable and forgiving, I've "healthified" the cookies on occasion by reducing the oil and adding whole wheat or spelt flours, but for the holidays I usually stick to the original recipe and these bright biscotti induce smiles with every bite.

The recipe comments the dough will be sticky... and be aware they really mean it.  Sticky... very, very sticky - the dough almost seems slack, as if it will puddle off of the cookie sheet.  But no worries, it won't.

Attitude adjustment?  I think we have success.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

It may have been 30 years ago, but I remember the day like yesterday.  Swishing down the slopes at Heavenly Ski Resort in Tahoe we had only one more run.  The sun was sinking low on the horizon and my energy quickly falling with it.  

Thinking "One more run, how hard can it be?" the answer was obvious when my fellow skiiers pointed to the black diamond sign instead of the pretty blue square.

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
With legs like rubber and a full day of snow already under my belt my heart simply sank (power skiier I am not...).  Heading up the lift I pulled out the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups I'd been saving all day and polished them off before hitting the top.

Regrouping I sighed and made for the slope.  And that's when the chocolate peanut butter goodness carried me to the bottom of the mountain with perfect form and energy to spare.  One of the best runs I've had even to this day, I can still almost feel the wind on my face as I flew down the run.

Peanut Butter Cups remain a forever favorite, but as I've matured (grown old??) the ingredients in the Reese's version have lost their appeal.  With milk, soy lecithin, and things called "PGPR" and "TBHQ" on the list I've turned to making my own.

So easy and with just a few ingredients, once you try these super peanut buttery treats the ones in the package simply won't do.

Good quality chocolate here is a must, as is a good quality peanut butter.  I've actually taken to making my own nut butters, and when I find organic peanuts they somehow find their way into the chocolate and onto my plate.

Perhaps one of my favorite treats ever... enjoy the chocolate peanut love!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Homemade Onion Rosemary Bread

Homemade Onion Rosemary Bread

Oh how I love the smell of freshly baked bread!  But what about freshly baked bread with a hint of onion and rosemary??  Catch me I'm swooning...

And I have the sweet Debra of Eliot's Eats to thank for this new family favorite.  Since joining the monthly Blogger C.L.U.E group nearly a year ago, Debra has been one of the bloggers I've been waiting to be assigned.  For years we've grown to know each other through blog posts and comments (she's far more diligent at commenting than I...), and she's someone I would love to sit down with for coffee and and an hours long chat.

Homemade Onion Rosemary Bread
This month our Blogger C.L.U.E prompt is "Celebration", and I'd first thought of using one of the Eliot's Eats cocktail offerings... Chocolate Bourbon Kahlua anyone?? (swooning again!) 

However a stomach bug earlier this week has had me sipping nothing but Ginger Tea for days, so today I'm celebrating the return of my appetite with this fabulous bread.

Perfect in texture, this bread makes a wonderful soft sandwich.  But toasted with just a little butter made my breakfast perfection this morning.  Both Liv and my husband gave two thumbs up, and I have a request for a third loaf asap.

So Debra, today I celebrate you.  I'm so thankful blogging has crossed your path with mine.  Here's wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year filled with treats and travels!

Now come celebrate the rest of our wonderful group with me as we travel the world for Blogger C.L.U.E.!

  • Black Forest Trifle by Rebekah from Making Miracles
  • Blueberry Lemon Bars by Anna from annaDishes
  • Party Meatballs by Azmina from Lawyer Loves Lunch
  • Tartiflette by Kate from Kate's Kitchen
  • The Randy Reindeer by Kathy from A Spoonful of Thyme

  • Homemade Onion Rosemary Bread

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    Easiest Black Bean Soup

    Warm and earthy, perhaps a little salty... Black Bean Soup warms the soul.  Healthy as well as belly filling, a slice of crusty bread makes a meal.  Or if you are my daughter, Liv, a side of tortilla chips makes the dish a tasty dip.  Or, if you are my son, a tortilla wrap makes it a very messy burrito.

    However you serve it, the beauty of this recipe is the ease of preparation.  Minimal ingredients find their way into a pot for maximum flavor.  After a 20 minutes simmer a quick spin with an immersion blender lets you decide silky or chunky.

    And do I have an immersion blender for you!  Add this powerful beauty to any foodie gift giving list and you'll have a best friend for life.  May I introduce the OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender?

    With an easy to use dial allowing adjustments through a range of speeds the choice of delicate blending or powerful pureeing is up to you.  Note powerful as a keyword here... using the blender for the first time in our Coconut Sweet Potato Soup, the ingredients transformed from chunky to silky in mere seconds.  Smooth like I've never seen before... pure puréed perfection.

    Illuminating, you may ask?  Yes, illuminating, literally.  With a decently bright headlamp just at the top of the stick, the immersion blender brings better light into your pot on our dark winter nights (and poorly lit kitchens like mine).  A feature Liv though was so cool she took to blending water in the dark just to try it out.  If only I had taken video...

    The nylon head covering the powerful blade makes the blender safe for even your most delicate pans, but it's the ease of cleanup that made me smile.  The stick easily pops off after use, and while it's not meant for the dishwasher a quick rinse directly after use makes clean up a breeze with no worry of damaging the electric parts or keeping the plug out of the water.

    But one of my favorite reasons to use an immersion blender is the ability to see and control how smooth you want your final product.  For soups such as this Black Bean version, I like a chunkier texture that on past occasions became over processed when using a counter blender.  And besides, how many times have you poured hot soup into a blender only to have the steam splatter your face after lifting the lid?

    Have I sold you on the OXO On yet?  Good.  Now let me sell you on this soup.

    Aromatic onions and garlic sautee with oregano and cumin before adding canned beans.  Simmering in broth and water until soft, all that's remaining are seasonings and my favorite part - the garnish.

    Ripe avocado, chopped cilantro and a drizzle of sublime Coconut Lime Cashew Crema bring irresistible flavors, textures and colors to the bowl.  Be it soup, dip or burrito filling, your family will be returning for seconds and once again you're a superhero.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015

    Coconut Sweet Potato Soup plus Abound Sweet Potato Treats for your Pup!

    Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with a touch of Lime

    Chock-full of disease-fighting, cancer-preventing and immune-boosting properties, one may understand that sweet potatoes are healthy, perhaps even super healthy, but most may not think of them as life saving.  With massive amounts of beta carotene and twice the fiber of regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins C and E, contain iron and magnesium, and rate low on the glycemic scale providing a slower sugar release with less effect on blood glucose levels.

    But it's the ease of digestibility that helped save my dog's life.  Many of you will remember our two Maltese pups, Kona and Tavo.  It's been a tough year for these little guys (Our sweet Tavo passed away in early October from a genetic issue), and a bout with canine pancreatitis almost did Kona in.

    Lethargic and sicker than I've seen any dog, the vet provided IV fluids and strict instructions to use a low-fat prescription dog food diet after a 24 hours fast.  We got him through the first 24 hours and he woke feeling much better.  We started the prescription food and within an hour he was sick again.  This happened twice more over the next week with multiple rushed visits to the vet for more fluids.  Taking to the internet to research foods and pancreatitis I found sources recommending rice and sweet potato time and again.

    Discarding the vet food, I began making my own beginning with the highly digestible rice and sweet potato combo for 48 hours.  Slowly we began adding more and more foods, but the sweet potato remained constant, and the dog once again began to thrive.

    With 6 small meals a day (including one in the middle of the night...), making dog food in addition to feeding my family got old fairly quickly.  We've since found a very low fat canned food with the special ingredients his finicky stomach can tolerate supplemented with homemade ingredients (and reduced feedings to 3 times a day... none at night!), but had not found a suitable treat until an offer from Abound Natural Pet Food arrived by email.

    Offering to send us a few sample bags of their grain-free superfood treats, the words "sweet potato" as a main ingredient brought my answer to definite "yes, please!".  Receiving a box with treats and a few toys, Abound also suggested a challenge should we be pleased with the products.  Since our pup would be enjoying the super food ingredients, would we create a human dish with one of the ingredients as well?

    Well... you know me and a food challenge!  But, would Kona take to the treats?  He's possibly the finickiest dog in existence, and I'll admit I had worry he would turn up his nose.  Trying the Sweet Potato Sticks with Blueberries (Ingredients:  Sweet Potato, Citrus Fiber and Blueberries - Crude Fat .5%) first I got a little lick, then a no go.  Ok, a new food, I get it.  But let's try the Free Fish Sweet Potato Sticks (Ingredients:  Sweet Potato, Salmon, Whitefish, Citrus Fiber and Cranberry - Crude Fat: 12.2%).  Again a little lick and a turn of the head...  But then just as quickly a turn of the head right back and he took the treat out of my hand!  For him, unprecedented as new foods almost always take 10-15 tries to get past.

    Abound Free Fish and Sweet Potato Sticks with Maltese Dog

    Since our first try the Fish Sweet Potato version is still a favorite, but now he never turns down a Sweet Potato Blueberry stick either.  We've been putting them into his chew toys where he has to work to get to the treat and he works tirelessly to get those little treats out.  I think he loves the crunch of these sticks as many other treats are soft and not as appealing to my picky little guy.

    And I love the ingredients - actually real food.  I love that they are grain-free, low in fat, free of fillers and do not contain soy, animal by-product meal or anything artificialAnd I love that I don't have to cook them myself.  Abound... yes, he loves the treats, and I'm up for the challenge!

    Human food with sweet potato?  Not a problem!  How about a little Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut and a squeeze of lime?

    Silky in texture, this plant-based soup fills your bowl with all sorts of healthy ingredients and like the treats, no artificial fillers.  Sweet potatoes we already know enter the superfood category, and turmeric and ginger only serve increase the soup's healthy ingredient potentialOnions, garlic, coconut and lime?  Well they all bring their own health benefits, but they also lend a touch of the tropics to our cooling temperatures - don't laugh... our high yesterday was only 65º.  Positively freezing for us here in San Diego and yes Kona is sitting in his heated bed.

    So whether you are looking for a healthy dish in the midst of your holiday festivities or a meal to warm you to your toes on these chilly days, this soup's for you.  Just don't forget to pass an Abound Superfood Treat to your little buddy while you're eating.

    Coconut Sweet Potato Soup with a touch of Lime