Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

As I have admitted here before, I am not big into sweets. Sure, I enjoy a freshly baked cookie (or 5), or a big slice of key lime pie – but most of my dessert preferences trend toward things that are tart, or set off with a touch of salt. If I am going strictly sweet, I’m usually content to keep it to a smaller portion (the key word there being “usually”… I will not pretend I’ve never made quick work of a pan of brownies). It can be hard to come up with a dessert that doesn’t lend itself to huge portions, isn’t terrifyingly rich, or doesn’t require 3,000 steps. That’s where truffles come in.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

They’re simple to make, they require few ingredients, and they’re customizable in any way you wish. Now, be forewarned, making truffles can get a little messy… but as long as you’re not afraid of getting a little chocolate on your hands, you’ll be just fine.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles
makes about 24 truffles
modified from here

1 scant cup granulated sugar
1 T light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1.25 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips*
1 tablespoon salted butter
assorted toppings: cocoa powder, toasted coconut, toasted and chopped nuts, sprinkles, etc

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

*Use higher quality chocolate chips, if at all possible. The cheaper ones tend to have more junk on them, to keep them from sticking together, and they won’t melt as smoothly. I like the ghirardelli chips, myself!

BEFORE you start: please remember that molten sugar will burn the daylights out of your skin. Be very cautious not to splatter yourself, and resist the urge to grab those caramel-y drips with your fingertip. You will regret it.

1.) In a small saucepan, heat your heavy cream over low heat. Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl, and set them aside.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

2.) In a medium saucepan, combine your sugar, corn syrup, and water. Gently stir everything together, and then set the pan over medium heat. Heat the sugar mixture without stirring (feel free to gently swirl the pan occasionally), until it’s a medium gold/amber in color.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

3.) Carefully pour the warm cream into the sugar and water mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula as you do. Be very careful, as the mixture will bubble up pretty aggressively.

4.) When the cream and sugar mixture are totally combined, pour it over the chocolate chips. Let it sit for a minute or two, then gently whisk the caramel and chocolate together, until it is smooth and uniform in consistency. Add the butter to the chocolate mixture, and whisk that in.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

5.) Pour the chocolate mixture into a shallow dish, and set it in the fridge for a couple hours to firm up. Once the mixture is firm to the touch, use a small metal scoop (or spoon) to scoop out small portions of chocolate (about the size of a large marble). Use your hands to roll each portion into a ball, and set aside (on a plate, or parchment-lined baking sheet).

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

6.) Place your toppings in small bowls, and toll the truffles in them to coat. Set the finished truffles on a plate or in a dish, and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them! (You’ll likely want to cover the plate or dish with plastic wrap, so the truffles don’t pick up any strong smells in your fridge!)

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

My preferred coatings are unsweetened cocoa (for those that want a super-rich chocolate taste), toasted coconut (because coconut is sent straight from heaven), and toasted, chopped hazelnuts (because it tastes like a gourmet ball of nutella, clearly). There are TONS of options, though – powdered sugar, colored sprinkles, chopped pecans… the world is your oyster, my friend.

Dark Chocolate and Caramel Truffles

I find these truffles to be preferable to just straight chocolate truffles. The caramel adds an extra bit of sweetness to cut through the dark, rich chocolate – but without being cloyingly sweet, or overtly caramel tasting. These little guys are the perfect sweet treat to end dinner with, whether you enjoy one, or a dozen!

It’s amazing how many truffles you can down as you just sneak ONE MORE out of the fridge, over and over and over again,
Tina

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Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

So, have you hopped on the kale bandwagon yet? If not, I have another delicious kale recipe to tempt you with… and this one has the added appeal of CARBS! If adding a bunch of bread to your vegetables doesn’t make them more appealing to you, then I have to assume you are broken, and I feel very sorry for you. (Kidding! I mean, I guess you don’t HAVE to love bread… but you probably should, I think.)

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

ANYWAYS. The first incarnation of this recipe occurred a few weeks back. I was making some delicious grilled artichoke subs for dinner (recipe forthcoming!), and I ended up pulling the insides of my baguettes out, to make room for more artichokes. I could not, in good conscience, throw out perfectly good bread, so I was going to freeze it to make breadcrumbs with at a later date… but then it occurred to me that I could toast it up, and use it to make a panzanella salad! As luck would have it, I had a fresh bunch of kale in the fridge (it’s a staple – I ALWAYS have kale in the fridge), so I decided to make a kale panzanella. After a bit of tweaking, I’m finally ready to share the recipe with you!

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
serves 2

one bunch lactinato kale*
3-4oz good bread, cut or torn into bite-size pieces**
half a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh parmesan (not grated!)
3 T olive oil, divided
juice of half a lemon
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T whole grain mustard
1 T honey
kosher salt
pepper

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

*I find that lactinato kale is the most palatable (texture-wise), especially if you’re trying it out for the first time. Lactinato kale (also called dinosaur or tuscan kale) has flat, broad, dark green leaves that are kind of pebbled in texture… most other varieties are lighter green, and curly around the edges. They all taste pretty much the same, in my opinion!

**You want to use a good, hearty bread for this salad; now is not the time for regular sliced bread. I prefer not to use the crispy crust of the bread (I would use a soft baguette, or a loaf of ciabatta or other good Italian bread), but you certainly can if you’d like to!

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. Line a small baking sheet with foil, and spread your bread pieces out on it. Toss the bread with about a tablespoon of olive oil (I used my olive oil mister, and it worked nicely), and toast it in the oven until it’s golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes. Allow the bread to cool slightly.

2.) While the bread toasts, prep your kale. Remove the leaves from the tough stems, and discard the stems. Stack all the kale leaves together, and use a sharp knife to cut the leaves cross-wise into 1/2″ strips. Wash and dry the kale as necessary (a salad spinner is optimal, here).

3.) Add the kale to a large bowl, and add one tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon juice, and a pinch of kosher salt. Use your hands to work the oil and lemon juice into the leaves, until they’re all thoroughly coated and beginning to soften, about a minute or two.

4.) For the vinaigrette, add one tablespoon each of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, whole grain mustard, and honey to a small bowl. Add a pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper, and whisk to combine.

5.) Pour the dressing over the massaged kale, and toss it with tongs to evenly distribute the dressing. Add the cooled bread, and toss it with the kale. Divide the kale and bread mixture in to two bowls, and then top with the cherry tomatoes and fresh shavings of parmesan.

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

I have tried several different dressings with this particular salad, and this one was definitely the winner. It’s got a bit of sweetness, a little bite – and some texture from the whole grain mustard. I also really, really love the pairing of the hearty kale with the crispy bread… it just works! Of course, you could switch up the toppings of this salad however you like (olive, artichoke hearts, cucumber, bell peppers), but I love the sweet tomatoes and salty parmesan together. I promise this salad will make a kale lover out of the most ardent kale hater!

Kale Panzanella Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

And then you get to feel smug and virtuous all day, because YOU ATE KALE,
Tina

How To Seed a Pomegranate

This time of year, you see LOTS of recipes that involve pomegranate seeds – in fact, there’s a good handful right here on this blog (and in our Holiday Recipe Round-up!). Pomegranate seeds are beautiful, delicious, nutritious, and FESTIVE! They’re great to have around to add to all kinds of dishes and drinks.

How To Seed a Pomegranate

However… pomegranates are also pretty weird. They have a thick, tough skin that you have to get through to get to the seeds; and attempting to seed a pomegranate can quickly make your kitchen look like a crime scene, if you’re not careful! Those little seeds pop pretty easily, and their juice splatters and stains like nothing you’ve ever seen.

It’s pretty simple to quickly and easily seed a pomegranate, if you know how. I keep a couple in my fridge throughout the holiday season, and I throw the seeds onto anything – salads, desserts, and even cocktails (I love to drop a handful of seeds into a glass of champagne). So, let’s go through the process!

How To Seed a Pomegranate

1.) Start by cutting your pomegranate into quarters, using a sharp chef’s knife. Once you’ve done that, move the quarters to a plate, and rinse your cutting board and knife (if you let the juice sit on your cutting board for more than a minute or two, it WILL stain; it won’t harm the board at all, it’ll just be pink for a while).

How To Seed a Pomegranate

2.) Fill a large bowl about 2/3 of the way with cool water. Working with one quarter at a time, submerge the pomegranate into the water, and break the segment apart with your hands; it should break up fairly easily. (Please note that your hands and the fruit should be IN the water, not OUT of the water, as depicted below. It was hard to take photos of my own hands during the process.)

How To Seed a Pomegranate

3.) Keeping the pomegranate submerged, use your fingers to gently pop the seeds away from the pith. As you work, you’ll notice more and more pockets of seeds, buried within the pith – keep going until all the seeds have been removed. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the pith will float to the top.

How To Seed a Pomegranate

4.) Continue until all the segments have been seeded. You’ll notice little clouds of red juice in the water as you go – just think, those seeds could have been splattering dark red juice all over your face and clothes and walls! This is why working under water makes a lot of sense.

5.) Pour the water (and with it, the pith) off the seeds. Drain them well, and store in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready for them!

Congratulations, you’ve successfully seeded your first pomegranate – and your kitchen doesn’t look like anything met its untimely death! Good work.

Go forth, and enjoy the most festive fruit in all the land,
Tina

Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

I really, really love wings. As a general rule, I love any food that is a vehicle for a variety of sauces (for instance, french fries), and wings are a great blank canvas! Even if the honey sriracha sauce doesn’t sound like it would be up your alley (in which case, you might be crazy), this cooking method produces a delicious, crispy wing, no matter what kind of sauce you choose to toss it in!

Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings

Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings
makes about 3-4 dozen wings

4 pounds chicken wings
canola oil
kosher salt
garlic powder
4 T salted butter
1/2 cup sriracha sauce
1/2 cup honey
juice of half a large lime
3 T soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

1.) Preheat your oven to 400°. Start by removing the tips from your chicken wings with a sharp knife, and then cutting the drumsticks and the flat parts of each wing apart. Be sure your knife is VERY sharp, and aim to place the knife right into the middle of each joint, as it’ll make it much easier to cut through. Discard the tips.

Breaking down chicken wings

2.) When all your wings are prepped, throw them into a large mixing bowl. Pour a couple tablespoons of canola oil over the wings, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder over them. Use your hands to mix the wings and seasonings thoroughly, making sure all the wings are evenly coated.

3.) Line two baking sheets with heavy duty foil, and put a baking rack in each one. Lay your wings out in an even layer on each rack, skin side down, making sure to give them all a little space.

After the wings have been brushed with the sauce, but before they've been put under the broiler.

After the wings have been brushed with the sauce, but before they’ve been put under the broiler.

4.) Bake the wings for 40 minutes, rotating the pans (and flipping the wings) halfway through. While the wings cook, make your sauce. Add the butter, sriracha, honey, lime juice, soy sauce, and crushed garlic to a small sauce pan. Heat over medium-low heat until the butter melts; allow the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, so the garlic flavor infuses into the sauce.

5.) When the wings have cooked for 40 minutes, remove them from the oven and turn on the broiler. Brush the sriracha honey sauce onto the wings, and then put them under the broiler for a few minutes – until the sauce thickens a bit and the wings are nice and golden brown.

Nice and golden brown, after the broiler.

Nice and golden brown, after the broiler.

6.) Put all the cooked wings into a large mixing bowl, pour the sauce over them, and toss the wings until they’re well-coated. Serve immediately.

This is an awesome method for cooking wings. The skin gets nice and crispy, the chicken stays perfectly moist, and your house doesn’t smell like frying oil for a week and a half! As an added bonus, they require very little active cooking time – they mostly just hang out in the oven, cooking away on their own.

The honey sriracha sauce is a PERFECT mix of sweet and spicy. I enjoy spicy food, and found these to be mild to medium, on the spice scale. Of course, you could alter the ratio of honey to sriracha to make it spicier, or more tame, to your preference. They’re great for a party, or as a weeknight dinner with a side of oven fries (I may or may not have eaten them both ways in the last 72 hours, I’ll never tell).

Now you’ll never need to go all the way to the bar to get wings again,
Tina