Sunday, October 31, 2004

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Yummy chocolate truffles rolled in peanuts. Very easy and tasty recipe. Messy one though. Even with frequent refrigeration, the chocolate melts in your hands rather quickly. Rubbing a little butter or a dab of olive oil might help. The bittersweet chocolate is more healthy than milk or semisweet (or so I've read) and this particular recipe is meant to be a somewhat healthier version of the usual truffle recipe.

Depending on your tastes, you can use your favorite chocolate. Make a couple batches with different chocolate for variety, and alternate peanuts with any other kind of nut (finely chopped), cocoa, and/or powdered sugar. I like truffle recipes because they (well, some of them) are easy, they look great on cookie trays, and they're always a hit with the chocoholics like me.

You will need:

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, ground

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 min. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the cream over it. Let sit for 30 seconds, then stir (or whisk) until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter.

The next step can be done two different ways:

Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-in pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least one hour to overnight. (this way is more difficult to roll for me)

(my alternate method)

Drop by teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. Refrigerate an hour or 2 (until hard), or overnight. They might turn into little flat blobs, that's all right. They're easier to roll when they're already smaller when hardened. Using a mini muffin cup pan or clean ice trays would work too. (lined with wax paper if you're patient enough for that)

Just before you're ready to roll, place ground peanuts on a plate or in a pie dish. Line two baking sheets (or your clean table or counter) with wax paper.

If you poured the chocolate into a pan to harden: Using a measuring spoon or melon baller, scoop out 30 heaping spoonfuls of the truffle mixture. Place them in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. When all the scoops have been made, lightly roll them between the palms of your hands to give them a nice round shape.

If you refrigerated them using the alternate method, roll each chocolate piece into a ball, and refrigerate again until semi-hard, about a half hour.

If at any point the chocolate gets too warm (either method), making the truffles too difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 min or until it firms up.

Roll the truffles a few at a time, in the ground peanuts. You may need to gently press the peanuts into the truffles to get them to stick. Place a single layer on the 2nd baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Before serving, let the truffles sit at room temperature to soften them slightly. (30 min)

Another goodie that looks great in those little paper baking cups (and given as gifts along with other tasty treats). Easy, and fun, like when you're a kid and were allowed to play with your food. Well, sort of.

For variety, use different kind of chocolate (if you make more than one batch), and alternate peanuts with any other kind of nut (finely chopped), cocoa, and/or powdered sugar.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Chicken-bean-orzo thing

chicken bean orzo thingSometimes I have ideas for meals. They come together nicely in my mind but they rarely look or end up the way I envisioned. Still, sometimes, it works out. I wanted to try orzo (rice sized pasta) and this seemed like a good way to do it. This is a winging-it kinda meal. The black beans were an afterthought. Everything is diced so it cooks quickly.

This is what I used:

4 cloves garlic, some diced, some sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded, diced
1 chicken breast, diced and sprinkled with black pepper
1 cup diced carrots (I used fresh baby carrots and some frozen)
1 cup frozen peas (or a can would work, added at the end)
3/4 cup orzo
chicken bouillon cube
1 can black beans, drained (and rinsed)
oil for stir fry

Cook the orzo in water with the bullion cube for 7-9 minutes (or per package instructions) and when "al dente," take off the heat and drain. In the colander, add half of the diced tomatoes and toss a bit. Add some of the black beans and toss a bit more.

Heat up a wok or large frying pan, and when hot, add a little oil and the onions. Saute for two minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes. I used fresh carrots as well as frozen so I added the fresh carrots and the garlic at this point. Add the garlic and the rest of the tomatoes, mix well, and cook until the carrots are soft. Add the frozen peas and carrots. Cook for about 10 more minutes stirring occasionally. Add the black beans. Mix well.

That's it.

I resisted the urge to add the orzo and have everything together, but that probably would've worked out well too. All in all, this was pretty tasty (and made enough for 2, plus leftovers). There's another picture here.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Mini Cheesecake

I have a ragged, barely readable page torn from a magazine with this recipe, years old. It's a favorite. Very simple. Individual mini cheesecakes that you can decorate with fruit, jam, shaved chocolate pieces, powdered sugar, whipped cream, or just leave them plain. Great for a little single serving indulgence. Nice surprise for someone (who loves cheesecake) who thinks this might be a muffin.

You will need:

paper or foil muffin cup liners
12 vanilla wafers
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Line your muffin pan with foil muffin cup liners, or two paper cup liners. Place a wafer in each one.

Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla, with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs and mix well. Pour (or spoon) the mixture over each wafer, filling cups 3/4 full.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes.

Let them cool in the pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Garnish (or leave as is) just before serving. Mmmmmm!

This is first cheesecake recipe I ever dared to try. I've alternated the wafer with crushed graham crackers or crushed cookie crumbs. Using a wafer is the easiest, but some variety is good. These days you can buy these items ready for use. Less work, same convenience. Great little treat!