The Five Days of Truffling: Day 5

I did it! OK- I didn’t make it to my original goal of 600 truffles (somewhere around 450) but that’s plenty plenty, and more than I’ve ever made before (I think).

Here’s my label I made for the boxes- though not all the boxes had all the kinds of truffles in them- actually only a few did because there were only about 20 cherry bourbon truffles.

TruffleCard_2014Why do I do it? Looking back over the last four days it’s definitely a lot of work. Yes, this might be the most ambitious I’ve been but other years have had a similar amount of work involved. This year was about 450 truffles, 67 boxes, each weighing about 0.3 lbs – so I made approximately 25 lbs of truffles (I had a bunch that didn’t go in to boxes) and I very roughly estimate that it took about 24+ hours of work on my part (though a lot of that is kind of ‘waiting’ work).

I do it because I enjoy it. I enjoy the creation and the experimentation. I enjoy the craftsmanship in making something that comes out looking and tasting really nice. I enjoy the giving too – it’s fun to be able to give people something that they really can’t get anywhere else. And I do it because of the tradition- my grandmother made candies (cream candy amongst others- a topic for another series) and I’ve now made truffles for well over 20 years. I also get a good deal of satisfaction out of actually creating a product that is “finished”. So much of my work in research involves work that stretches out in a never-ending arc. So it’s nice to be able to have something that I can work on, box it up, put a bow on it and be done, literally. Finally, there’s pride. I enjoy being able to make something that people are surprised that I made and wonder if I’m a professional (sometimes anyway).

I may post a day 6 here and try to capture some of my other recipes that I made this year- it’d be good to do that before time has passed and I forget what I did. Otherwise, until next time, thanks for following along and don’t hesitate to pester me with questions if you want to do it yourself sometime!

Pondering flavors for next year's efforts.

Pondering flavors for next year’s efforts.

 

The Five Days of Truffling: Day 4

Today I finished up the dipping- the last-minute real caramel batch for my kids (other people will benefit) and the black truffle truffles I made as an experiment (very limited batch). I then also packaged up a bunch of boxes and made labels. So not a lot to report.

However, I’ve received some requests for actual recipes so thought I’d share here along with a few notes about each one.

I’ll start with the classics, mocha and mint. These recipes have evolved over the years and these are their current versions. But they are delicious and importantly, reliable.

Mint truffle ganache

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half (optional- I think it adds a nice mellow note to the flavor, but it’s probably not necessary for the mint)
  • dash of salt
  • 8 sprigs of fresh mint, loosely chopped
  • Peppermint oil (not extract, though that might work- the oil is highly concentrated)
  • 2 T dark rum
  • 3 T gin
  • 1 T anisette (I’ve used absinthe and pastis in the past- I like the flavor it adds to the mint)
  • About 1 lb of semi-sweet chocolate (I sometimes use left over pure chocolate but have many times used semi-sweet chocolate chips for this)
  • 2 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
Making the mint ganache

Making the mint ganache

In a heavy saucepan bring the cream, vanilla bean, mint leaves, and salt slowly to a gentle boil. Adjust the hear so that it’s just boiling for about 2-3 minutes then turn off heat and let cool until it’s very warm but not hot. It will form a ‘skin’ on the top as it cools. While the cream is boiling melt the chocolate either in a double-boiler or in the microwave. It’s important that the chocolate be melted all the way through but not overheated because it will cause it to lose emulsion and do weird things.

Straining the cream after it's cooled

Straining the cream after it’s cooled

Strain the cream through a fine metal strainer into a mixing bowl and add melted chocolate. With a whisk slowly mix the two together. At first they won’t mix, then they’ll look like cream with a bunch of chocolate flecks in them, then finally it’ll turn into ganache. The amount of chocolate to add may vary a bit depending on the kind you have. However, the ganache should end up the consistency of a runny pudding. When you drop a spoonful back on the surface you should be able to see the glob on the surface afterward- it’s hard to explain and I can’t really provide a photo of it. If it’s runny like chocolate mill at this point (even thick chocolate milk) you’ll end up with very soft centers and won’t be able to dip them. And if there’s too much chocolate the centers will end up too hard to scoop.

Pour in the melted chocolate

Pour in the melted chocolate

Add the peppermint oil to taste. I like to add a few drops, mix, then taste and add more if needed. The peppermint oil will give the fresh minty flavor that will complement the fresh mint flavor. Finally, add the alcohol and slowly mix in. It will take a minute for it to mix but it should be completely smooth. Cover tightly with saran wrap or put into a covered container and freeze overnight.

Whisk together

Whisk together

After a night in the freezer the ganache should be firm but slightly resilient to the touch. It should not be sticky at all when you push your finger on the top

with some force, but it shouldn’t feel like a rock either. If it’s too hard you can move it to a warmer freezer (if you have one) or leave it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and see if that helps. If it’s too soft there may be no helping it- it makes a delicious ice cream topping, coffee flavoring, or pancake syrup when remelted, but you won’t be able to thaw it, add chocolate, and refreeze it. That doesn’t work when I’ve tried it.

Tempering chocolate and dipping

To dip the truffles you have to have a bunch of tempered chocolate, My method is to chop up dark chocolate (about 3-4 lbs), put it in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on low power (2 out of 10) for about 8 minutes. Stir if you can then microwave on 3 for 4 minutes. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes until all the chocolate pieces are soft then another 3 minutes on low power. At this point you need a chocolate thermometer. Microwave in short bursts DSC_714630-45 seconds, at low power, then stir and read the temperature. For dark chocolate the temperature should reach 115° F but NOT go above 120° F or it’ll cook and won’t be good anymore. Once that temperature has been reached I drop in a fair-sized chunk of unmelted chocolate (just one chunk- don’t chop it up) and stir with a rubber spatula occasionally until the temperature drops to 88° F. This will take about an hour.

An important point to remember here is that water and chocolate D

The melted chocolate before it's been tempered.

The melted chocolate before it’s been tempered.

ON’T mix. Getting more than a drop or two of water in your chocolate can ruin it so be careful around sinks, etc.

Tempered chocolate is thick, but will still not cling to a fork if you tap it a few times.

Tempered chocolate is thick, but will still not cling to a fork if you tap it a few times.

At this point the chocolate should be tempered and ready to be used to dip. Line a flat baking sheet with wax paper and take your ganache out of the freezer. Using a tiny ice cream scoop or melon baller make a small ball of ganache and drop it in the chocolate. Using a ford with wide tines quickly lift the ball out, scrape excess chocolate on the side of the bowl, and carefully drop on to the cookie sheet. I use a swirl motion when taking the fork away to try to make sure that the truffle is well covered. When the chocolate cools it will become a bit sludgy and make it very hard to dip. Put it back in the microwave for about 10 seconds at a time on low power and monitor the temperature. If the temperature of the chocolate gets above about 91° F things will get a lot easier for you, but the chocolate will have lost temper and you’ll need to start all over again. Don’t do it!

First truffles of 2014!

First truffles of 2014!

The truffles should be ready in about 15 minutes, and can last for a week or longer at room temperature (or slightly below- but don’t put them in the fridge since it’ll ruin the chocolate).

 Mocha ganache

  • 2 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half (optional- I think it adds a nice mellow note to the flavor, but it’s probably not necessary for the mint)
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cup fresh ground dark coffee- medium grind
  • 4 T dark rum
  • 4 T Kahlua or other coffee liquor
  • About 1 lb of semi-sweet chocolate (I sometimes use left over pure chocolate but have many times used semi-sweet chocolate chips for this)

Follow the general procedure for the mint truffles above but with the following modifications:

Bring the cream, vanilla bean, salt, and ground coffee to a gentle boil. Watch this carefully because it will boil over easily. Boil for 2-3 minutes then remove from heat and let cool 15-20 minutes. Strain through a metal strainer- but the coffee grounds will make this

Mocha ganache

Mocha ganache

somewhat difficult. I use a large metal strainer and spend some time letting the cream drain into the bowl. You can use a spoon to mix up the sludge in the strainer and help things along too.

Mix with the chocolate and alcohol as described above.

 

 

And voila! It's JUST THAT EASY!

And voila! It’s JUST THAT EASY!

The Five Days of Truffling: Day 3

My plan was to dip another three batches of truffles last night (day 3), and it worked- kinda. I ran in to problems because the three white chocolate ganaches I made were way too soft. That makes them very difficult to dip because they don’t hold their shape, are gooey and sticky, and melt in the chocolate creating problems like leaky truffles. So I did a couple of things. First I picked up a block of dry ice and used that to try to super cool the problematic ganaches. That worked but I didn’t have enough time to let it work fully and the places where it worked it turned them into a solid and unworkable layer. The second was that I double-dipped. The white chocolate couverture that I was using melts easily and is very liquid- I don’t use ‘pure’ white chocolate (not that there’s anything like that- white chocolate is just a candy made out of sugar and milk really- not chocolate at all). So for one set of truffles- the blue cheese and pear- I dipped once in white chocolate, let them set, and then dipped again. This makes a thicker truffle, but one that has a nice shape and doesn’t leak. The other set of truffles- orange cream- I dipped first in white chocolate then in dark chocolate. They should be interesting. I started dipping one other batch- a cherry bourbon- but that one was too soft too. Sigh. Some days just don’t work out so well.

Anyway- here’s a photo of the blue cheese and pear truffles that I topped with a candied pecan. They really are delicious.

DSC_7168The other wrench is that the kids didn’t like the caramel scotch truffles I made- they really are pretty scotch-y (and yummy). So this morning I made another batch of ganache that is straight-up caramel and I’ll dip those tonight.

The other thing I did last night was to take all the truffles off of their original trays and trim off the excess chocolate (if necessary). The step after this is to put them in paper candy cups (like little cupcake wrappers) and box them up! As of this morning the truffle count is right around 400, with five different kinds (six if you count the cherry bourbon, but there’s only about 20 of those).

For tomorrow’s post I’ll actually write down some of the recipes I’ve made so you could try it yourselves- if you were so brave.

Previous posts in this series are here and here.

 

The Five Days of Truffling: Day 2

Yesterday I made the truffle ganaches – the blend of cream and chocolate that go in the center of the truffles. Two of the ganaches I made don’t look like they’re going to work out- both are white chocolate centers. I remember from previous versions that using white chocolate (which isn’t really chocolate anyway) does weird things with the cream and seems to take a lot more chocolate to make solid centers. Anyway- I’ll have to remake these and use even more white chocolate to get solid centers. An alternative I’m toying with is to buy some dry ice and freeze them down good- then see if I can get them to the right temperature/consistency for dipping. This is necessary so that I can make small scoops of ganache that I can actually dip in chocolate successfully.

So- no secret, this stage is really my least favorite. Tempering chocolate is a royal pain in the butt. Tempering is the process of heating, cooling, then heating again chocolate (first to a higher temperature, second to a lower temperature) to make it suitable for dipping. Tempered chocolate is liquid enough that you can (fairly) easily dip things in it and it will harden into a smooth and unblemished chocolate surface that looks nice and has a nice ‘snap’ when bitten. Poorly tempered chocolate will look OK when you first dip things in it, but will slowly or quickly develop a grayish look and will be crumbly when you bite it- not very tasty or appealing. You can take shortcuts by adding things to the chocolate (like clarified butter) or using commercially available ‘dipping’ chocolate that has additives, but these won’t last as long as pure tempered chocolate and won’t look or taste as nice.

So the deal with tempering is that you melt the chocolate to a temperature around 115° F (but don’t go too far over or you’ll scorch your chocolate and make it pretty much useless)- then cooling down to below about 84° F, at this point it’ll be pretty thick so you need to raise the temperature CAREFULLY back to around 88° F. If it goes above ~91° F the chocolate will fall out of temper and you’ll have to start all over again. It requires a sensitive thermometer (I have one that’s for tempering), patience, and time since large-ish amounts of chocolate (3-4 lbs) doesn’t change temperature very quickly. Chocolate is also very complicated chemically and goes through some phase transitions, which means that the temperature can remain relatively stable while you’re heating then all the sudden shoot up quite quickly. It’s happened to me a whole bunch of times. I lose my temper.

A fairly simple method for tempering is here, but they neglect to mention a few key things like that the chunk of chocolate that you put in to cool things down to 90° F has to be in temper itself or it won’t work, and that you CAN’T reheat the chocolate to above 91° F or you’ll break temper and have to start all over again. And that, speaking from multiple experiences, is a time-wasting pain.

Here’s the first step- chopping up the chocolate so that it melts evenly.

DSC_7146Next I melt the chocolate. I’m doing this in the microwave this time, though I’ve done it in a double-boiler as well- microwave is much faster and more even though it’s tricky not to overshoot the temperature. I do it in short low-temp rounds of microwaving (the first couple of rounds are longer to start melting) – low-temp being 30% power. As the temperature gets closer I do shorter times and stir and monitor after each round. The temperature will not rise quickly until it reaches the very end, around 108 or so, and then it can shoot up quickly- so CAUTION.

My protege making his own creations- and innovating with it too!

My protege making his own creations- and innovating with it too!

The melted chocolate before it's been tempered.

The melted chocolate before it’s been tempered.

Tempered chocolate is thick, but will still not cling to a fork if you tap it a few times.

Tempered chocolate is thick, but will still not cling to a fork if you tap it a few times.

Smear to test the temper of the chocolate.

Smear to test the temper of the chocolate.

First truffles of 2014!

First truffles of 2014!

Here are a few more.

Here are a few more.

So I’ve completed two batches so far- mocha and mint, about 200 truffles total. This took about 5 lbs of tempered chocolate. I still have one more batch to go. However, I’ve figured out a way to do some rolling tempering of the chocolate in batches, which seems to work pretty well. Essentially I use the cool tempered chocolate left over from the last batch to lower the temperature of the next tempering batch.

So my job for the rest of tonight (after I finish dipping these batches) is to make at least two more batches of ganache for dipping tomorrow night- and checking to see if I’ve got enough chocolate for tomorrow. Then tomorrow I’ll dip the remainder of the truffles- probably another 300. Whew. See you then.

 

 

The Five Days of Truffling: Day 1

Every Christmas for the last 25 years or so (with a couple of exceptions) I’ve made chocolates for my friends and family. These started out as molded chocolates (filled chocolates using molds to shape them) then I graduated to truffles. I’ve been meaning to post about it for the last few years but somehow never get around to it after I’m done. So this year I’m going to blog the five days of truffling!

I’m guessing it’ll take about five days to complete since I have to be done by that day (which coincidentally is my birthday). This year I’ve estimated that I need to make over 600 truffles to fill demand between family, friends, work, schools, and some others. Here’s (some) of my starting materials- including about 15 lbs of chocolate- most of that will be used for tempering and dipping.

DSCN3126

 

The Ganache

The first step is to make the ganache, the mixture of chocolate, cream, and flavorings that will be the creamy center of the truffle after it’s dipped. This is the kinda fun part which can involve thinking up new flavors and new ways to add flavor and it’s really not that fussy- except that you really need to get the balance of cream and chocolate right otherwise the centers will end up too solid to make into balls or too soft to hold their shape. I’m starting with mint and coffee ganaches since these are the standards that I always make every year and I’m pretty confident about making them.

Making the mint ganache

Making the mint ganache

Mocha ganache

Mocha ganache

Adding melted chocolate to the cream (which has boiled and cooled and been strained) is the next step.

DSC_7135

 

 

Next we add the chocolate to the strained cream and whisk together (carefully at first).

Straining the cream after it's cooled

Straining the cream after it’s cooled

Pour in the melted chocolate

Pour in the melted chocolate

Whisk together

Whisk together

 

Now the fun part!

"Flavorings". Yum!

“Flavorings”. Yum!

A little for the ganache- a little for me.

And finally I put it in a container and freeze it at least overnight. Tomorrow it’ll be ready to be scooped out and dipped in tempered chocolate. All told tonight I made 5 batches of ganache and I’m hoping that each batch yields about 100 centers- but it’ll probably be a bit less than that. The other flavors are orange cream (white chocolate), caramel scotch, and an experimental one, pear and blue cheese (white chocolate). I’ll probably add one more tomorrow night too.

Ready for the freezer.

Ready for the freezer.

To be continued…

 

Syrah Ice Cream

This is the Syrah I used- but not this vintage.

This is the Syrah I used- but not this vintage.

Given that I had some extra red wine (I know that seems like an oxymoron) that needed to be used and I was making ice cream (fresh picked strawberry- delicious) I thought, “what about making red wine ice cream?” Given the age of Google I knew I could search and find where other people had attempted it – and probably find recipes, but I actually thought it would be more fun just to go forward by myself. But I did solicit input on Twitter. I got a few great suggestions- first was using a wine reduction and second was a wine sorbet.

Since I was already geared up for ice cream I figured I’d save the sorbet attempt for next time. I first did a red wine reduction, using about ½ bottle of Syrah from Horse Heaven Hills in Washington and about ½ cup sugar. I just put it on the stove and simmered for about an hour. When it was finished I had about ¾ cup of a nice sweet syrup. Tasting this I realized that it was sweet, and rich, but did not have a strong wine flavor, which I was going for in the eventual product. I therefore decided to add more ‘fresh’ wine, but not too much since the alcohol will prevent the mix from freezing. I also decided to add a little vodka to give a bit of a punch. The resulting mixture has a nice purple color. Putting it in the ice cream maker (we have a Hamilton counter-top model where you freeze the container in advance) and having the direct comparison with the previous strawberry ice cream I could see that the red wine mixture was slower to freeze. I just let it mix longer, but it never got as solid as the regular ice cream. However, the result (after about 40 minutes of mixing) was about the

Syrah ice cream in mid-mix

Syrah ice cream in mid-mix

consistency of yogurt. I put it in the freezer overnight but it never really solidified. The ice cream turned out like soft-serve, holds its structure in the bowl, but very soft. This is certainly due to the alcohol content and I guess you could cut down on the amount of red wine or eliminate the vodka to make it stiffer. Tasting the ice cream right when it was finished wasn’t very conclusive because by that time I had already supported my creativity with several glasses of wine. The wine flavor, therefore, didn’t come through at the time. Tasting the next morning I was pleasantly surprised. As mentioned on Twitter, cream can mute flavors, and there certainly isn’t a huge up front red wine flavor.

But the ice cream is sweet, flavorful, and then has some lingering complexity reminiscent of the ‘parental’ Syrah. It would be fun to try out some different varietals (maybe a Cab for a darker flavor or a Pinot Noir for a lighter flavor? For real wine reviews please see Great Northwest Wine– who also had a direct hand in prompting this exercise). The alcohol kick comes through a bit as well- but is not overwhelming. Although I was going for more of an overt red wine flavor, I think this came out pretty darn good- and would make a very nice complement to, say a dark chocolate torte for a dessert.

Syrah Ice Cream

  • ½ recipe Ben and Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base #1
  •             1 egg
  •             3/8 c sugar
  •             1 c cream
  •             ½ c milk

Whisk egg until frothy (about 2 minutes)- then add sugar in several bits. Mix well for about 2 minutes. Whisk in cream and milk.

  • ¼ cup red wine reduction
  •             ½ bottle red wine (can be any kind but I used one with stronger flavor- as opposed to a Pinor Noir, e.g.)
  •             ½ cup sugar
  •             simmer until reduced 1/3 (about an hour)
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 T vodka

Mix these ingredients together then stir into cream base. Mix in ice cream maker until creamed. Transfer into container and freeze.

 

 

Super-tasty Romesco Sauce

I don’t remember how I came across the idea of romesco. It certainly could have been when I was in Spain. But in any case I decided that I wanted to make some. This recipe is one that I’ve been working on for a number of years. I’ve made many variations of it and DSC_6932you can too. Try including different kinds of peppers, different spices, maybe different sources of oil (I tried bacon grease once instead of olive oil- YUM!). As with any sauce like this there are endless varieties and there is no one true recipe since even the most authentic recipe from Tarragona, I’m sure, is challenged by neighboring areas as being ‘not the true way’ of making it.

It goes great with chips, crackers, sliced baguette, or as a topping or accompaniment to an entree. It is hearty and flavorful and can be as spicy as you’d like to make it.

Romesco Sauce 

  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
  • 1 head (10-15 cloves) garlic, sliced
  • 2 t fennel seeds *
  • 1.5 t ground cumin
  • 2 t chili powder
  • 1.5 t salt
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups toasted whole almonds
  • zest of 1/2 lemon

Heat oven to 400° F. Place bell peppers on a baking sheet in the oven. Allow to roast for 20-25 minutes until black spots form on the skin. Remove from oven. I put them in a glass container with a sealable top covering and let them cool for 15 minutes. You can then remove the stem and seeds easily. The skin can also be removed but I haven’t found it necessary.

Spread almonds on a baking sheet and place in oven for 10-15 minutes. Toward the end check to make sure they’re not burning. Remove from oven as soon as they start to brown (which is a little hard to see on almonds- just don’t let them burn). Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in medium sized pan over medium heat. Add all but 2-5 cloves of the garlic (the more you keep untoasted, the spicier the resulting sauce will be), fennel, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Slowly toast the garlic until just browned then remove the pan from heat and let cool for 10 minutes or so.

Combine all ingredients (adding sun-dried tomatoes and lemon zest) in a food processor DSC_6931with a blade**. Process until it forms a slightly chunky paste. Adjust consistency with more olive oil or water to thin, or bread crumbs to thicken. Adjust salt to taste.

* fennel seeds are my own addition and probably not traditional. However, they lend a wonderful licorice flavor that I really enjoy. If you omit them I would simply add a bit more cumin and chili powder.

** I find a food processor works best here. However, you can use a stick blender- that just requires a bit more work. A standard upright blender doesn’t seem to work well since the mixture is too paste-like to mix down to the blades.

Green marinated chicken

So I won’t pretend to be a whiz at grilling meat. Not even close. But I have had some successes- including this recipe I concocted a few weeks ago then just repeated again tonight for memorial day. It was really putting things together from our garden, but I imagine there could be a lot of variation here. Oh, and it’s easy and absolutely delicious.

Green marinated chicken

  • 2 small sized new onions including greens, peeled*
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped chivesDSC_6904
  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint (about 10-15 leaves)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 2.5 T agave nectar

* you could substitute 1/2 of a regular onion and a bunch of green onions here too.

Put these all in a blender and blend until smooth. Score the tops of about 2 lb skinless-boneless chicken thighs (we got them frozen from Costco) with a sharp knife- 3-4 cuts per thigh and marinate in a zip top bag for 4-8 hours (no reason it couldn’t go longer). Heat grill for 15 minutes with lid closed. Lift the thighs out of the marinade, shake gently leaving a lot of green stuff still on, and grill with lid closed on high for 6-10 minutes on each side. Turn carefully when the underside has started to brown all over, but some regions will stay green too. DSC_6905

I also used the leftover marinade. The first time I used it to marinate slices of butternut squash that I then I then grilled- which was pretty good except that the marinade didn’t really stick that well. Tonight I used some pizza dough we had in the fridge, made small rounds and brushed the tops with the marinade. I put these on the grill – marinade-side down, with lid closed for about 5 minutes, brushed the other side, then grilled for another 5 minutes. These were pretty delicious.

DSC_6908

Start of grilling

DSC_6911

About midway through grilling. The marinade caramelizes really nicely.

DSC_6912

Grilling complete!

DSC_6913

Here are the BBQ rolls I made tonight.

DSC_6880

Here the plating from the first night I made this.

Maple-bacon-kale-white bean pasta

Oh, also sun-dried tomatoes. This is a recipe I just made up tonight wanting to pair the smoky yumminess of bacon with maple syrup sweetness, and the chewy wholesomeness of kale with the warm comfort of white beans. Oh and sun-dried tomatoes to round out the flavor and provide a splash of color. And it turned out dee-lish-us. So here it is, kitchen to plate to blog to you.

  • What's left in the pan

    What’s left in the pan

  • Fettuccini or linguine cooked al dente
  • 4-5 pieces of bacon cut into small 1/3” pieces
  • 1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 3-4 T chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ c butternut squash soup (substitute)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 5-6 sprigs kale chopped
  • salt
  • Pepper
  • Grated/shredded parmesan

Fry bacon in large skillet until crispy. Remove and drain bits, but leave the grease in the pan. With the pan still hot add white beans and cook for a minute. Add maple syrup, squash soup, tomatoes, and water and bring to a boil. Add kale and cover. Cook for about 4 minutes covered until the kale is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta topped with bacon bits and cheese.

The only odd ingredient here is the butternut squash soup that we just happened to have in our refrigerator. It worked great, but you could easily make a substitution to something that would provide some body to the recipe. Pureed cooked butternut squash, sweet potato or even white beans, with the addition of some liquid, would serve just fine.

Finished product with green beans and pineapple.

Finished product with green beans and pineapple.

 

Maybe Mild Buffalo Chicken Bites

I had a problem- I had a craving for buffalo chicken (wings or pieces or something, but you know- with the sauce!) but I have kids who have varying levels of tolerance to heat, from 0 to just a little bit is OK. So I did what I love to do sometimes when I’m cooking and looked at about 4 different recipes then combined them to make what I wanted. Most recipes for buffalo chicken have a sauce that is based on Frank’s Red Hot hot sauce- pretty much a non-starter for me. So what I did was to get a lot of the same flavor without using the hot sauce, partly based on some other recipes, partly based on what I thought should work. I’ve now tested this recipe once after writing it down and it seemed to work just fine. An added bonus is that you can separate the sauce prior to serving and mix in as much hot sauce as you’d like for the heat lovers in your family!

Maybe Mild Buffalo Chicken Bites

Sauce

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup tomato sauce (I used tomato soup, which worked great- very smooth)
  • 3 T red wine vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 t onion powderDSC_6480
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t mustard powder
  • 1.5 T smoked paprika
  • 1 T yellow mustard
  • 1.5 T maple syrup
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When butter starts to bubble add onion and garlic powder, mustard powder, and paprika. Cook for another minute or two but do not overcook. Add remainder of the ingredients, whisk and cook for another 5-7 minutes.

Chicken

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breast cut into small-ish pieces
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • ½ t coriander powder
  • ½ c flour

Toss chicken pieces with paprika, salt, garlic powder, and coriander. Add flour and toss coating evenly. Place in a single separated layer on a well-oiled pan. Place in 450° F oven for 10 minutes. Flip each piece over and cook for 4 more minutes.

Remove from oven and put in bowl. Toss with about 2/3 of the sauce and serve. Mix in extra/any hot sauce to part of the sauce here to adjust heat if you’d like.

Chopped the chicken in fairly small sized bites.

Chopped the chicken in fairly small sized bites.

Coated chicken ready to go in the oven

Coated chicken ready to go in the oven

Cooked chicken bites should be browned on both sides.

Cooked chicken bites should be browned on both sides.

The finished product served with celery stalks, ranch dressing (should be blue cheese, I know), and pan fried potato chips. YUM!

The finished product served with celery stalks, ranch dressing (should be blue cheese, I know), and pan fried potato chips. YUM!