What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Insanely Delish Chocolate PB Truffles! Now here is a dessert that will bring raves from friends and family. Some swear these truffles are filled with crunchy toffee. Others insist it contains chunks of Butterfingers. This is when you just smile demurely and ask, “Do you like it?”. (Don’t worry, you can tell by the way they lick their fingers.) This is one time I wish I could magically snap my fingers and send each one of my readers an insanely delicious sample!
INSANELY DELISH CHOCOLATE PB TRUFFLES
2 cups natural peanut butter, crunchy
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 gluten-free pretzels, crushed with broken bits
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 12-ounce bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Crushed pretzels for garnish
Combine peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract in a food processor. Pulse until mixed and creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar until well combined. Transfer dough to a large bowl. Fold in crushed pretzel bits and mini morsels of chocolate to make a cookie dough consistency. Chill 10 minutes. Using a melon ball scoop, take dough and form into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat until all dough is used. Caution: Do not taste the dough. You may find yourself nibbling on it too often. lol. Refrigerate dough balls for 30 minutes. As they are being chilled, combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High one minute. Stir and repeat until microwaved chocolate is smooth. Do not overcook in microwave. Using a spoon, dip one ball at a time in the melted chocolate. Coat entirely. Place the truffle back on the baking sheet. Repeat. Dust with crushed pretzels. Refrigerate the truffles for 30 minutes, or until chocolate is firm. Share and Enjoy!
Experience the Holidays: Peanut Butter Fudge! Once a year, my mother would send me a batch of her homemade peanut butter fudge. And, truthfully, I seldom shared it. Not because I was selfish, because it was THAT good! Now that she is no longer able to give me that glorious care package, I have assumed her role for others. The baton has been passed so the family tradition continues. Every peanut butter-lover should try some for yourself. One bite of this melt-in-your-mouth creamy fudge may lead you start a tradition to “Pay it Forward”.
PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy
1 teaspoon vanilla
7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
Combine butter, sugar, and milk in a 2-quart pan. Bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling over medium heat for four minutes. Stir constantly to prevent scorching. Be sure to scrape sides as well. Remove from heat. Work quickly stirring in peanut butter until completely melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into greased 9″x13″ pan. Cool at room temperature; cut into squares.
Experience the Holidays: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.
OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS
1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*
12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles
5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar
14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes
Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.
Experience the Holidays: Bourbon Balls! Remember the scene from “The Grinch Stole Christmas” where the adults in Whoville are throwing a key party? Well, I’m convinced they may have been nibbling on holiday Bourbon Balls based on the way they were flirting and having a crazy-fun time. Be forewarned. This recipe does contain chocolate and alcohol. You may want to mention it.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor to make crumbs. Set aside. Over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate morsels; remove from heat. Blend in corn syrup and bourbon. In a large bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Add chocolate mixture. Blend well. Chill 30 minutes. Using a melon ball utensil, scoop dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container for several days to season flavor.
Experience the Holidays: Unicorn Holiday Bark! Everyone remembers a childhood of mythical creatures, especially the unicorn which resembled a horse with a pointed horn spiraling out of its forehead. Some believed it had magical powers in addition to being a symbol of purity and grace. Only a virgin had the power to tame the unicorn, according to art from the Middle Ages now hanging on museum walls. Today the thought of unicorns make us happy. Perhaps they represent childhood dreams, or wishes, filled with hope for a future. It should be no surprise that pink swirls of white chocolate and candy glitter in sparkly hues appear in food to further those good feelings. Think of Unicorn Holiday Bark for your next festive occasion. Kid-friendly, husband-approved.
UNICORN HOLIDAY BARK
2 pounds white chocolate chips
Food coloring of choice
1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles
1 tablespoon glitter sprinkles
1 tablespoon candy pearls
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Depending on how many colors you choose (I used 3), place 1/3 cup white chocolate chips per color in separate microwave-safe bowls. Warm on Low setting for 15 second intervals in microwave, stirring often. Continue until chips are melted. Add food coloring to desired tint. Hint: One drop of red will produce a pastel pink. Prepare tinted chocolate first before finishing with the remaining plain white chocolate. Once the white chocolate is melted, spread it onto the baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer, approximately 1/4” thick. Working quickly, dot tinted colors over the white chocolate in a random pattern. Take a wooden skewer, or toothpick, and drag it through the colors creating swirls. Next, scatter the rainbow sprinkles, glitter sprinkles, and candy pearls on top. Refrigerate baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until firm. Once set, break the bark into pieces, reserving a curved edge for the unicorn’s horn. Let the magic begin!
Experience the Holidays: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.
TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles! Here’s a festive treat that satisfies the desire for something sweet enough without the overkill. This time white chocolate becomes the confectionery of choice. Instead of nuts, candied ginger and lime zest become key ingredients to complement the tropical tones of coconut. One might suggest these truffles resemble tiny snowballs, if not for the lime zest. To serve, simply place each truffle in a fluted foil or paper candy cup and arrange on a decorative platter. It promises to bring “Oohs” and “Ahhs” as a crowd-pleaser.
NO-BAKE LIME COCONUT TRUFFLES
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups sweetened coconut, shredded
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
Lime zest, for garnish
Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until completely smooth. Mix in sweetened shredded coconut. Fold in crystallized ginger and lime zest. Add lime juice to the mixture. Form into 16 small mounds. Garnish with more lime zest. Chill until set.
Dining Outside the Home: Goo Goo Shop in Nashville, Tennessee! Wander into the SoBro area just off Broadway’s bar scene to tickle your tastebuds with clusters of buttery caramel, creamy marshmallow, roasted peanuts, and decadent chocolate. But don’t stop there. This is home of the famous candy nougat for over a hundred years. Start with the classic then mix it up with southern pecans or gooey peanut butter. The dessert bar offers thick milkshakes, retro candies, moist cakes, chocolatey sundaes, and much more. Nibble away. True love never tasted so good.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Outrageous Oatmeal Fudgies! Who doesn’t love No-Bake cookies? Forget about spending hours in the kitchen. This kid-friendly favorite can be ready in a flash. The toughest part is deciding if you want to top them off with a piece of candy corn, a walnut half, a maraschino cherry, or leave them plain. Either way, they won’t hang around long because…..(repeat after me)…Everyone loves peanut butter and chocolate!
OUTRAGEOUS OATMEAL FUDGIES
1/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Dash sea salt
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy
2 cups whole grain oats
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine butter, sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and dash of salt in a 4-quart pan. Bring to boil over medium-high temperature. Stirring occasionally, boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Quickly add crunchy peanut butter, whole grain oats, and vanilla. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Top with one piece of candy corn. Let stand until cool. Store in a covered container.