Adzuki Bean Truffles – Something to Celebrate

Happy New Year! Happy Birthday! Happy Whatever! Creamy sweet chocolate adzuki bean truffles invite celebration any day.

Ever since my first bite of sweet adzuki bean paste, I was hooked. After tossing away the store-bought can and creating my own homemade paste, I knew this love had turned into a lifelong relationship. Adzuki beans have brought me endless fascination and innumerable streams of culinary consciousness. If you search “adzuki beans” on Cutterlight, you will see there is quite a history. The red bean paste is smooth, sweet, and delicious. It is unusual enough to be interesting and easily fits into so many recipes. Forget about the healthful aspects of adding beans to your diet. I mean it. Forget it. The sweet paste texture reminds me of nut pastes – like marzipan or chestnut paste. This texture and flavor inspired me to create Twisted Adzuki bean rolls, Matcha Adzuki Bean glazed rolls, and Adzuki Maple bars with Matcha Frosting to name a few. If you want to tiptoe into this world, try a good quality canned product to experiment with. If you want to go all in, I have directions on how to make your own paste here.

Years ago, a nutritionist visited my classroom to present ways my 6th graders could “sneak” healthy ingredients into their diets. They were very impressed with the smoothies created from only frozen fruit. They were blown away with the deep chocolate cakey brownies that were made with fiber-rich black beans instead of bleached white flour. With a surfeit of dried black beans left in our pantry and a desire to make our sweets more healthful, I began my own experiments with this ingredient. Of course, I was able to create delicious and nutritious treats that fueled our active lifestyle.

But black beans can have an ever-so-slight mealy texture. So what about adzuki beans? When they are cooked down into a paste, they definitely have a more pleasant texture. Armed with free time over my winter break and a few pounds of dried adzuki beans, I got to work in the kitchen with the excitement of a mad scientist ready to solve an insolvable, albeit with my hair tied back into a neat bun. The first success was a lovely little bite-sized confection that I called a truffle. The beans are slightly sweetened with maple syrup. The cooled bean balls are dipped in chocolate. Then, let your imagination go. They can be rolled in sprinkles, coffee powder, candied fruit pieces, toffee bits, nuts, cocoa powder, or whatever you desire.

I could imagine adding additional flavors to the beans, such as a bit of Grand Marnier or bourbon for a boozy twist. Or maybe almond extract or orange extract for a non-boozy twist. The possibilities seem endless.

Adzuki Bean Truffles

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked adzuki beans
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 5 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • your choice of topping

Directions

  1. With a stick blender or in a food processor, combine the black beans, maple syrup, and cocoa powder. Pulse and process for a couple minutes, until the mixture is well combined and doughy. I used a potato masher to manually process the beans. If the dough seems too dry, add a bit more maple syrup until you are happy with the texture. The dough should not be sticky, just gooey and fudgy.
  2. Roll the dough into 24 balls (approximately 1 tablespoon each) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place baking sheet in refrigerator while you prepare the topping.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  4. Drop a ball into melted chocolate. Roll it around with a fork. Use a second fork to pick up the coated balls like a claw machine. Place the coated ball back on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
  5. Sprinkle truffle ball with your toppings.
  6. Repeat with remaining balls.
  7. Place back in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to keep fresh.

Better Than Butterfingers Bark

Crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery and topped with chocolate. No hydrogenated this or that. No artificial flavors or colors. What’s not to love? 

Recently, Jack and I have cut way back on the sugary treats. But we’re not crazy, we haven’t cut them completely out. We’ve been trying out a new eating style which is working really well. It’s not a fad diet. It’s simply mindful eating. Everyone knows it is healthy to eat a diet with lots of veggies, legumes and whole grains. We’ve been employing a strategy to eat a great variety of food at every meal with an emphasis on those healthy food groups. Jack’s goal has been to serve meals with at least seven different foods as the ingredients. It’s been a delicious experiment that has us feeling fueled up and satisfied.

Do sweets still fit in to this mindful eating plan? Absolutely! I have always enjoyed having something sweet at the end of dinner. I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of natural sweeteners as well as different portion sizes. Rocky Road fudge and Monster Cookie Freezer fudge were a couple of the first hits in the lineup. Aside from natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and dates, I still used a tried and true pantry item – granulated sugar. As long as the portions are kept small, sweets will always be part of my repertoire.

One of our favorite candy bars has always been Butterfingers. We both love the flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter and especially love the crispy crunch that only Butterfingers have. In my quest to use up all the items in our pantry, I came across a recipe for homemade Butterfinger bars. What?!? How is possible to make that crispy crunch at home? I always thought that magic could only be created in a cauldron, or maybe a factory. 😉 Turns out, the recipe is quite simple. Katie over at Chocolate Covered Katie figured out the basics. I’ve adapted her recipe to be even simpler. No shaping bars or dipping technique needed. It’s a few minutes of stirring, some time chilling, a little bit of melting, and a moment of spreading melted chocolate and Voila! – best tasting Butterfinger bark you’ve ever made – guaranteed!

Better Than Butterfingers Bark

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups flake cereal (I used whole grain frosted flakes)
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.
  2. Combine honey and sugar in a small saucepan.
  3. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Boil for a minute while stirring continuously.
  5. Remove pan from heat and stir in peanut butter. It will look like a paste when it’s done.
  6. Fold in flake cereal. Stir well to coat.
  7. Turn mixture out onto the foil-lined baking sheet.
  8. Press mixture until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
  9. Place bark in freezer for 30 minutes.
  10. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.
  11. Spread melted chocolate mixture over bark.
  12. Place bark back in freezer to set.
  13. Cut bark to portion as you like.

Recipe adapted from chocolatecoveredkatie.com

Powering Up With Freezer Fudge: Rocky Road and Monster Cookie Recipes

I suppose you should wait a few minutes for these bites to thaw a bit before diving in…but who are we kidding? They are satisfying straight out of the freezer!

I was late to the banana ice cream party. It was only a few summers ago that I discovered that blending frozen bananas has the taste and texture of delicious creamy banana ice cream. I added all sorts of flavors to this fantastic base to help us keep cool during warm air conditioner-less summers in Mongolia. As a newcomer to this confection, and back on a serious workout regimen, it only just occurred to me to take this dessert and transform it to a pre or post workout snack. The new base has a combination of frozen bananas, peanut butter and maple syrup. After that, add what you like. The idea is to keep it simple, flavorful, and leaning toward healthy choices. Ahem, a few itty-bitty mini marshmallows or M&Ms won’t kill you!

I used my silicone mini muffin pan to initially freeze the treats. The cookies pop out easily and you’re ready for another batch. Simply store your freezer fudge in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper, and your workout snacks will be ready when you are.

Rocky Road Freezer Fudge

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Dutch Processed cocoa powder
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Use a stick blender or a food processor to combine and smooth all ingredients.
  2. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions and place in a silicone ice tray or mini muffin pan.
  3. Place tray or pan in freezer until confections are solid.
  4. Pop out the confections and place them in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper.
  5. Power up with a couple of these before a workout, or reward yourself after for a job well-done!

We are huge fans of monster cookies, especially monster-sized monster cookies. This freezer fudge flavor is a nod to those not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-good treats. The peanut butter base is perfect with a stir-in of the same candies that give monster cookies their famous flavor and look.

Freezer Fudge a la Monster Cookie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp M&Ms candies
  • 2 tbsp white chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • pinch salt

Directions

  1. Use a stick blender or a food processor the combine and smooth peanut butter, banana and maple syrup.
  2. Fold in M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  3. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions and place in a silicone ice tray or mini muffin pan.
  4. Place tray or pan in freezer until confections are solid.
  5. Pop out confections and place them in a freezer-safe container lined with parchment paper.
  6. Power up with a couple of these before a workout, or reward yourself after for a job well-done!

The Joy of Almonds and Coconut

Coconut almond chocolate bar n

No oven needed to make these tasty treats. We made them in the freezer… and ate them frosty cold!

I’ve been experimenting with coconut oil and came across a recipe at detoxinista.com for a “candy bar” using coconut oil and some other favorite ingredients I had on hand. If you are looking for a gluten free, vegan sweet, this is a terrific recipe. For a second version, I chopped up some maraschino cherries I had on hand and added another layer atop the coconut for added flavor and visual pizzaz. This is an easy and versatile recipe.

No Bake Almond Coconut Sweet Bars

Ingredients

Bottom layer:

  • 1 cup pulverized raw almonds (I used the nut chopper attachment for my stick blender)
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • pinch salt

Middle layer:

  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp water

Top layer:

  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Directions

  1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix bottom layer ingredients together until well incorporated.
  3. Spread bottom layer mixture evenly on base of loaf pan.
  4. Mix middle layer ingredients together until well incorporated.
  5. Spread middle layer mixture evenly atop bottom layer.
  6. Mix top layer ingredients together until well incorporated.
  7. Pour top layer mixture over middle layer and spread to evenly cover.
  8. Place in freezer to set, about an hour.
  9. When set, pull bars out with parchment paper and place on cutting board. Cut into pieces.
  10. Serve immediately.
  11. Store in air tight container in freezer.

Fresh Roasted Sweet Pecans

Roasted Sweet Pecans_n

Lightly candied and oven roasted, these pecans are perfect for snacking, as a dessert topping, or savored on a fresh garden salad.

Our kitchen is always well stocked with pecans and almonds. They’re great plain, but sometimes it’s fun to gussy ’em up a bit. This easy recipe results in snack that goes as well on morning oatmeal as it does as the finishing touch on a fresh salad.

Sweet Roasted Pecans

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2  1/2 cups pecans
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1  1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Combine egg whites, water and vanilla in bowl of a stand mixer. Attach wire whip attachment.
  3. Whip egg mixture until really fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  4. Fold pecans into egg mixture.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix sugars and cinnamon.
  6. Fold in sugar mixture to pecan-egg mixture.
  7. Spread nuts evenly on parchment paper.
  8. Sprinkle sea salt over nuts.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 60 – 75 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes. Nuts should be toasted and fragrant.
  10. Cool in pan. Stored cooled nuts in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com.

Winter Sunshine – Honey Almond Cherry Nougat

Honey Almond Cherry Nougat_n

Chewy honey-flavored candy flecked with bits of cherries and almonds provides for fun in the kitchen and tasty results.

Locked in the heart of winter, it’s dark most of the day north of the Arctic Circle. Cold, too. And if the dark and cold don’t make you want to stay inside with a good book or movie, the infamous Point Hope wind will. (It’s 9° F and blowing 40 miles an hour for a windchill of about -20° F as I write this – and that’s not particularly cold for this time of year.) Some people suffer from the lack of sunshine up here. Our kitchen is our winter sunshine. It fills our home with warmth, good smells, and lots of entertainment. Today’s entertainment – honey almond cherry nougat.

Honey Almond Cherry Nougat pre-cut_n

Ready to be cut and wrapped into bite-size candies.

These reminded us of the Bit O Honey candies that we both loved as kids – although they were agreeably softer and more complex in flavor.

Honey Almond Cherry Nougat

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1  1/2 cups honey
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup chopped dried cherries

Directions

  1. Combine sugar, honey, salt and water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Continue cooking without stirring until sugar reaches hard ball stage (250 degrees F).
  4. Place egg whites in a stand mixer bowl. Fit mixer with whisk attachment. Whip egg whites until they are stiff.
  5. While mixer is running, very slowly pour 1/4 of hot sugar mixture into whipped egg whites. Continue mixing until egg whites hold their shape.
  6. Return saucepan to stovetop with the remaining hot sugar mixture and continue cooking until mixture reaches hard crack stage (300 degrees F).
  7. Turn stand mixer on again. Pour remaining sugar mixture into egg mixture in a slow stream. Continue mixing until egg white mixture holds it shape.
  8. Add butter, one tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing. Mixture should look thick and satiny.
  9. Turn off mixer and fold in almonds and cherries.
  10. Pour mixture onto a buttered baking sheet. Let stand until totally cooled.
  11. Turn out cooled mixture onto cutting board. I coated mine with rice flour.
  12. Cut into 1 x 1.5 inch pieces and wrap in waxed paper.

Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com.

Light, Crunchy Pecan Pralines

Pecan Pralines_n

A yummy homemade gift or a favorite snack – either way, these pralines are easy to make and great to have around.

There is something particularly satisfying about making candy. Put the right ingredients together, add the right amount of heat, and suddenly chemistry takes over and a pot of nondescript stuff is transformed into an irresistible confection. It is magical. The process is especially satisfying when the creation results in “wow” or “amazing” accompanied by smiles from those who get to taste the samples. These Pecan Pralines will do just that. The following recipe, which uses sour cream, results in pralines that are especially light and crunchy.

Pecan Pralines

Ingredients

  • 1  1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1  1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Pan toast pecans by continuously stirring nuts over medium heat for 3 minutes. They should start to emit a toasted scent and be barely browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.
  4. Stir in sugars, salt, and sour cream.
  5. Increase heat to medium-low. Whisk ingredients until sugars have melted.
  6. Increase to medium high. Stir frequently until mixture reaches 240 degrees F.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  8. Let mixture cool for 2 minutes, then stir in pecans until they are fully coated.
  9. Drop spoonfuls onto baking sheet.
  10. Let stand until set, about 30 minutes.

Adapted from Southern Sour-Cream Pralines.