Apple Pie Truffles

How has it been since August that this blog has featured a dessert recipe? I’ll be honest, the gap in blogging about desserts is certainly not for lack of eating them! Halloween and our Stranger Things Party made sure of that. But now that Thanksgiving is upon us, leading (obviously) straight into the Christmas season, I say we can interrupt our regularly scheduled mostly healthy programming to bring you these Apple Pie Truffles.

Why Apple Pie Truffles? Doesn’t regular pie stand on its own as the top choice of discriminating holiday dessert eaters everywhere? Why would you mess with greatness? Well, pie and truffles are like religion and science: they don’t have to be in opposition! There’s room at the table–literally–for both.

These decadent truffles are like individual apple pies in poppable bite form–oh, and did I mention they’re covered in white chocolate? Apple pie + white chocolate is the flavor combination you didn’t know was missing from your life. The use of shortbread cookies to achieve the buttery texture of crust adds to the sensory experience…and of course the taste.

I’m thinking these need to make an appearance at our annual Christmas party…and maybe at a cookie exchange…and heck, let’s throw in Thanksgiving dinner, too. I don’t think anyone will mind.


Print Recipe
Apple Pie Truffles
These decadent truffles are like apple pie in poppable bite form!
Course Dessert
Servings
truffles
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Servings
truffles
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Peel apple and dice fine into ~ 1/4 square cubes. Place in a small saucepan with 1-2 Tbsp. of water, cover, and heat over medium heat about 5 minutes or until apple has just softened. Remove from heat, drain if any water remains, and set aside to cool.
  2. Crush shortbread cookies into crumbs. In a large mixing bowl, combine cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, cream cheese, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and melted white chocolate. Form into a ball as best you can, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Line a flat platter or baking sheet with wax paper. Remove truffle mixture from fridge and form into 12-14 balls, about 1 inch in diameter, placing them on wax paper. Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes to 1 hour of chilling.
  4. In a small bowl, melt white chocolate in the microwave (30 second intervals tends to work well). Carefully dip each ball in the melted chocolate, rolling to cover the exterior and allowing excess chocolate to drip off. Place balls on wax paper. Sprinkle with cinnamon to finish.
  5. Return to the refrigerator for storing.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Kitchen Sanctuary.

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Cajun Chickpea Cakes

For someone raised in the desert Southwest, I have an inexplicably great affinity for Cajun cuisine. Though I’ve never been to Louisiana (or anywhere in the South except Jacksonville, Florida and a brief weekend in Oxford, Mississippi) I harbor rich fantasies about eating crispy beignets in the shade of a cypress tree while jazz music floats through the air. Admittedly, most of this probably stems from visits to New Orleans Square in Disneyland…so my dreams of Cajun culture may not be the most authentic.

Still, I know there’s authenticity to my love of Cajun food. Case in point: recently, a new seafood restaurant opened in our neighborhood. I had no particular interest in trying it, but kept hearing rave reviews. Once my husband and I finally visited, I discovered it was a Cajun seafood restaurant, with some of the best Cajun catfish I’ve ever had. Now it’s our favorite spot for a lunch date. There’s something about the mix of spices with flaky breading and hot fish that is piquant perfection, if you ask me.

Though Cajun food often centers around fish or meat fried in oil, it can also easily be made vegetarian, and it doesn’t have to be a grease-fest. Take these Cajun Chickpea Cakes. They pack the sublime flavor for which Cajun food is famous in a fiber-rich, lower-fat package. After tinkering with this recipe for years, I think it’s finally ready for prime time. Served with dirty rice, these cakes are a unique, flavorful vegetarian meal!

Not only are these Chickpea Cakes quite healthy as is, full of veggies and beans, they’re easily modified for dietary restrictions. Need a gluten-free meal? Sub cornstarch for the flour. Going vegan? Replace the egg with 1 Tablespoon flax seeds + 3 Tablespoons water. You can also feel free to experiment with the spices to achieve whatever level suits your taste.

P.S. Fun trivia: did you know the word “Cajun” is a shortening of the term “Acadian”? Acadians were French immigrants who initially settled in Canada and the Northeastern U.S. (which is why Acadia National Park is in Maine) but eventually migrated south to Louisiana.

Nice of them to bless American culture with their delicious food traditions!


Print Recipe
Cajun Chickpea Cakes
A unique vegetarian main dish with all the flavor you expect from Cajun cuisine!
Cuisine cajun
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Cuisine cajun
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add diced celery, onion, and green pepper and saute about 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and reserve skillet.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash drained chickpeas until only some chunks remain (you don't want them super mushy). Add sautéed vegetables and all remaining ingredients. Mix until the mixture begin to hold together. Add more flour if necessary.
  3. Form mixture into 1/2 thick patties (should make about 8).
  4. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium/medium-high in the same nonstick skillet you used for the veggies. Add patties and cook about 3 minutes per side or until browned and crispy. Serve immediately (especially good with dirty rice)!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Miratel Solutions.

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Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips

I realize Halloween is over, but can you handle one more pumpkin recipe? I know I can, but then again, I could eat pumpkin pie every day whole year round. For others less out of their gourd for gourds, now that it’s November, pumpkin fatigue may have set in. Understandable. But I hope you’ll make an exception for this Pumpkin Hummus recipe, because not only is it easy, unique, and tasty, it’s also super fun to make with DIY fall-shard tortilla chips.

Aren’t they cute?

When it comes to making hummus, the main thing that usually stands in my way is that I suffer from what I think of as Tahini Block. As in, I really, really don’t want to spend eleven bucks on a jar of ground sesame seeds  when all I’ll use is a couple of tablespoons at the most. Therefore, I generally refrain from homemade hummus unless I can use a tahini-free recipe. This one fits that description! Though tahini adds a signature flavor, as a general rule hummus is extremely adaptable. As long as it starts with beans and ends up with a nice consistency, I say you’re safe to call it authentic even if no tahini is involved.

Now let’s talk tortilla. DIY fall shaped tortilla chips, to be exact. Of course you could buy tortilla chips at the store–I mean, who really needs to make their own chips?–but once you’ve cut your own shapes with delightful fall-themed cookie cutters, there’s no going back. Pumpkin and leaf-shaped dippers add a whole extra layer of seasonal character alongside this pumpkin hummus.

So for your next play date, Thanksgiving potluck, or Tahini Avoiders Anonymous meeting, give this fun combination a try!


Print Recipe
Pumpkin Hummus + Fall Tortilla Chips
A savory, tahini-free pumpkin hummus paired with fun DIY tortilla chips!
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
Instructions
To make the hummus:
  1. Place garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor and run on low briefly to mince. Add all remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Serve garnished with pepitas, if desired.
To make the chips:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Using fall-themed cookie cutters, cut shapes out of tortillas. (You can either discard the remaining tortilla scraps or include them for other, funky-shaped chips.) Spray both sides of cutouts lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then sprinkle to taste with herbs and spices. (Or for sweet chips, try sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar.)
  3. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake 7 minutes, then flip chips and bake another 7 minutes. Serve with pumpkin hummus.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe

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Stranger Things Party

If you haven’t heard of the instant cult classic Netflix series Stranger Things, you just might have been living under a rock for most of 2017. The series about a group of middle school boys trying to unravel the truth behind mysterious events in their small Indiana town is a runaway hit. The highly anticipated second season was (finally) released October 27th–2 days ago–and people are lining up in droves to purchase Stranger Things-themed Halloween costumes, and, like us, host Stranger Things Halloween parties! My husband and I aren’t even super into the show (though we definitely enjoy it) but figured with all the hype, it would make a great theme to a little gathering at our house Halloween weekend. Last night we had a handful of people over to watch the newly released episodes.

Here are some of the themed foods, drinks, decorations, and activities from the party! I hope these ideas provide some inspiration if you plan to host a Stranger Things Party even after Halloween passes. It would still be fun to round up some friends to get communally creeped out (if you can find anyone who hasn’t watched it all by next week)!

THE FOOD:

You can’t have a campy TV-show-themed event without some cheesy foods to match! Stranger Things fans know that the one food associated with the show is Eggo waffles, since Eleven (one of the main characters) eats them with obsessive exclusivity. Therefore, something with Eggos is a must for any Stranger Things party menu.

 

 

To make these Eggo Whoopie Pies, first whip up some cinnamon frosting. Mix a half cup of softened butter with 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, then add 2-3 Tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Toast your way through a box of mini Eggo waffles and fill with frosting.

Voila!

And just because I can’t resist (and because they were so tasty), one more picture…

The great thing about themed foods is that you can always just make something up. For these brownies, we’re gonna go ahead and claim they’re Barb’s secret recipe and call it a day.

Add some store-bought (aka leftover from my kids’ classroom Halloween parties) sugar cookies,

 

Some appropriate-for-the-occasion plates,

and some popcorn for episode watching, and the spread is complete!

DRINKS:

Even though it’s primarily about middle schoolers, Stranger Things is a grown-ups’ show. So for a Stranger Things party, grown-up drinks will be involved, like…

The Maple Bourbon Smash. I decided that this cocktail, inspired by this Williams Sonoma recipe, would be better to let guests mix themselves, so I set up this mini cocktail station with bourbon, maple syrup, lemon juice, and mini Eggos for garnish. Why maple bourbon? Because it goes with Eggos, of course!

Grossed out yet? Eleven’s trademark nosebleed is such a major part of the show, it seemed like it needed to be incorporated into the party somehow. This “nosebleed punch” is one part cherry juice to one part ginger ale.

THE DECOR:

Ah, Internet. How obliging you are with your free printables. I found these “missing” posters for both Will Byers and Barb and taped them up liberally around my house for that genuine Hawkins, Indiana feel.

Found here.

Found here.

 

Since Eggo waffles featured prominently on the party menu, I wasn’t about to throw out their boxes! These served as a nice touch surrounding my dining room centerpiece.


And last, the piece de resistance of the whole evening, this DIY Joyce Beyers communication-with-her-undead-son alphabet/Christmas lights board.

Using some leftover tagboard from another party, I painted the alphabet just like Joyce (yes, that is my actual terrible handwriting) and strung some colored lights around it. Easy peasy!

ACTIVITIES:


Guests were encouraged to dress the part for the night, and we had a couple of takers! Here’s our friend Clint–er, Dusty–getting into the spirit. I totally forgot to give him his prize for best costume at the end of the night! Clint, I owe you.

And finally, the real reason everyone came over: the show! We set up a screen and projector borrowed from my husband’s work for a theater-style experience in our living room.

So…how many episodes have you watched so far? We stayed up late and got through five! Binge watching at its finest–just what shows like this were meant for. Well, that and goofy themed parties.

10 Things to Give Out at Halloween That Aren’t Candy (and Aren’t Lame)

Recently on my personal Facebook page, I asked what adults would want to be given if we still went trick or treating. My friends responded with some creative ideas, like good chapstick and mini Brie cheese, and (not surprisingly) lots and lots of requests for “fun-size” alcohol bottles. I can see the pillow cases filling with scotch now.

The reason I asked, though, is I’ve been thinking about Halloween and the treats we give out to kids. As someone with a sweet tooth, I actually love candy and do indulge in it from time to time, but as a nutritionist, it’s tough for me to feel good about handing it out to kids who probably aren’t eating that nutritiously in the first place. At the American Heart Association’s children’s museum where I work, we educate kids who don’t even know what a vegetable is. The only kind of corn they’re eating is the candy kind. (They also eat more Red Vines than anything that actually grew on a vine. And they know the Jolly Rancher, but have never met a real farmer… Okay, enough bad food jokes? I’ll stop now.) Kinda feels like I should put my money–and my Halloween treats–where my mouth is by giving kiddos who stop at my house something even just a little better for them than the average neighbor would.

Plus, around our house, we’re still recovering from EASTER candy, not to mention all the birthday parties and school events that pass out candy like it’s going out of style. Do we really need to add MORE?

On the other hand, when I think about Halloween, I also don’t love the idea of giving out made-in-China plastic junk simply for the sake of giving something out that’s not candy. If you’re a parent like me, you see that stuff and wonder, How long until I can throw that out? It’s not great for teaching out kids’ about conspicuous consumption, and it’s really not great for the environment.

So what does that leave us with? A bunch of lame options like seed packets or cough drops or the universally despised….TOOTH BRUSHES??

It doesn’t have to come to that! Here are 10 ideas for fun treats that aren’t candy or junk, but won’t mark you as the house to t. p. My daughter, without knowing what this list was, looked at it and said, “Oooh, I want that!” to almost every picture. The jury is still out on which one we’ll go with this year–how about you?

10 Things to Give Out on Halloween That Aren’t Candy (and Aren’t Lame):

1. Cracker snack packs (like Annie’s)

From what I’ve seen, little candies give kids (and adults) the sense of “you can eat LOTS of these before it’s considered a serving.” Larger snack packages, on the other hand, send us more of a one-and-done message. That’s one reason why treats like these Annie’s cracker packages may be a better choice for doing less damage in a single sitting. The other reason, of course, is that Annie’s crackers are relatively low in sugar and saturated fat!

2. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa packets, Dark Chocolate

We discovered these 5-ingredient hot chocolate packets on a recent trip to the mountains, where you can actually drink hot chocolate in October. I was quite impressed with the minimal ingredient list. Here it is:

Yes, there’s sugar, but in addition to its real-food ingredients, this cocoa mix requires mixing with real milk.

3. Pretzel snack bags

These Snyder’s pretzel snack packs come in at only $3.99 for 10–probably about what you’d pay per child with brand-name candy. Easy peasy for packed lunches, too!

4. Raisin boxesThese unassuming little snacks are great for on the go. They might not get kids as excited as something covered in chocolate or sugar dust, but once they’re in the pantry, they always get eaten.

5. Granola bars

This one isn’t for every budget, but if you’re in one of those neighborhoods that pass out entire full-sized candy bars, take on the competition with protein-packed, lower sugar Kind bars. Several varieties have only 5 grams of sugar.

6. Fruit leather

These gummy snacks often start off with apple or other fruit puree as a base (check ingredient lists), so even though they’re quite sweet, they provide some fiber and nutrients. Target’s Simply Balanced fruit leather comes with 25 strips for $5.99.

7. Whole grain Goldfish crackers

If you can find the whole grain variety of Goldfish in snack pack form, they’re really not bad, nutrition-wise!

8. Almond snack packs

Lest anyone get up in arms about kids and food allergies, I would suggest that handing out straight-up nuts is a lot clearer and easier for kids and parents deciphering which treats contain nuts and which don’t. Almonds pretty definitely contain almonds, amirite?

9. Gum

And I’m not talking about ye olde crappy Double Bubble, the pink menace of Halloween treat bags everywhere. I mean halfway decent gum you’d actually chew. For my kids, any kind of gum is a special occasion.

10. Mints

Similarly, my kids think mints are candy. Let’s keep it that way!

Wishing you a happy, healthy Halloween!