A healthy candy? Hmmm…. maybe a healthi-ER candy. And what’s the connection between this girl from the Bronx transplanted to Los Angeles and Columbus? Sit back, and I’ll tell you.
Buckeyes are the proud team of Ohio State University where my beloved niece and her hubby completed their residencies. Beloved Niece has been a bit occupied these days. She’s a pediatrician and is Mama to two dear boys, the Elder- who is 2+ years-old, and the Younger who is 2+ months old. Her Hubby just completed his residency and was offered a fellowship in California. It’s in the middle of the state, but, Hurray, they’re heading back this way!!
Novio and I went to Columbus several weeks ago to visit the family. The children are beautiful, delightful and delicious. While we were there, it was the peak of spring. Flowers blooming, the trees vibrant and plush with leaves, people walking everywhere with their babies and dogs. Okay, the pollen was wafting by in the breeze, big as dandelion clusters. But, I was sitting outside with Beloved Niece and 3 guys, where most of us were eating Pancake Balls (addictive) and several other items, and I began to feel nostalgic.
Ohio has been good to Beloved Niece. She became a pediatrician there. The family lived in a sweet house in a sweet neighborhood there. And she brought 2 beautiful little boys into this world there. Not to mention the best ice cream ever was a mile away (Go Graeter’s!).
So, to honor Ohio and to offer my thanks, I present to you a natural version of Buckeye Candies. The candy is made to resemble the nut from a buckeye tree. It’s brown on the bottom and sandy-colored on top. To achieve that, we basically do a version of a peanut butter cup. What can be bad? And it’s very simple and fun to do. I’m giving you a recipe for about 30 pieces that can easily be doubled or quadrupled.
I start by using 100% natural freshly-made peanut butter from Whole Foods. It’s got great flavor and consistency and, unlike most natural peanut butters, the oil doesn’t separate. Most of the recipes out there use processed peanut butter (smooth). We also use sweet unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and good quality chocolate. I used semi-sweet, but you can also try it with bittersweet chocolate.The recipes I looked at all used more butter and a LOT more powdered sugar. The goal is to add just enough powdered sugar to take the mixture from crumbly to a cohesive mass. Some of the recipes I saw used up to 6 cups of sugar for 1 cup of peanut butter! Ouch! Just not worth it to make very firm little balls. A softer product works really well. And I like them cold anyway. I’ve eaten a few frozen and melt them in my mouth, which is great fun too.
Pull off small amounts and form into little balls, about an inch in diameter. Stick a little toothpick into each one. Place in freezer for about half hour to an hour to set (nothing will happen if you forget for a while)
Now it’s time to melt the chocolate, either using a double boiler or 1/2 a minute at a time for about 1-1 1/2 minutes at medium power in the microwave. Use a shallow bowl to make the dipping process easy and stir well to be sure chocolate is thoroughly melted.
Leave a bit of the peanut butter showing for the buckeye effect!
Dippity-doo- dah Dippity Day!
6 oz. natural peanut butter (use a type where oil doesn’t separate, if available)
3 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 t. vanilla
pinch of sea salt
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar (or just enough for it to come together as a firm ball)
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (bittersweet chocolate also works)
Place waxed paper or parchment paper on baking sheet.
Beat peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt with a wooden spoon (you can also use a mixer, especially if you’re making a larger amount).
Add the confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. The mixture will go from crumbly to coming together into a ball.With a tablespoon or your fingers, pull off a small amount and roll into balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Gently place a toothpick into the top center of each ball. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Break the chocolate or chop into small pieces. Place in a shallow microwave-safe bowl (glass works well). Microwave in 1/2 minute increments, at medium power. Stir in between until chocolate is completely melted, about 1 1/2 minutes.
Remove peanut butter balls from freezer. Dip each ball into the melted chocolate, leaving some peanut butter visible on top. Let excess chocolate drip off and return candy to baking sheet.
Chill buckeye candies in the refrigerator until firm, about 1/2 hour. Remove toothpicks (if you like, smooth out the hole with a small offset spatula, or with your finger).
Makes about 30 candies. Store in container or Ziploc bag. Will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for a month.
bb note: Do a variation on these candies and make Peanut Butter Balls. Simply dip chilled peanut butter balls completely in chocolate and chill. Leave as is or roll balls in chopped nuts or finely shredded coconut.
Beloved Niece and Hubby are now packing up the house. Thank goodness both Grandmas have signed up for active duty!
Meanwhile, the Younger smiles…
while the Elder takes inventory.
Eat in Joy!
What? More Passover recipes? The Seders are done, you say? But wait! There are several days to go. And for that, I offer you Passover Granola. Delicious for breakfast with yogurt and fresh fruit. Or with milk, as a healthy alternative to the processed icky stuff. (Check out my Breakfast Quinoa here for another amazing breakfast idea during Passover or any time of year.)
Eat this granola as a wonderful snack any time. I’m eating some right now.
This recipe comes to us via Judy Zeidler, a very popular cookbook author/restaurant owner in kosher Los Angeles. I attended a Passover cooking class with her in the basement of the Skirball Museum years ago. The pages of recipes I brought home with me then are now filled with food stains. Always a good sign. I haven’t come across this particular recipe in any of her books and was thrilled to learn of it in her class. She uses whole raw almonds, cut in half around the middle. That’s a great way to go, but this granola recipe is delicious with a mix of nuts as well.
She also uses more honey than I do. I find 1/4 cup is plenty. And I increase the amount of nuts and farfel. Adding a bit of cinnamon and sea salt is terrific.
Begin by toasting some matzah farfel.
Cut up some almonds while that’s happening. Or get out nuts that are already chopped.
Mix the nuts with oil, honey and cinnamon and salt. Unsweetened coconut is a big plus.
Place on a greased, foil-lined baking pan.
While granola bakes, dice up a few apricots and grab a handful of golden raisins.
So nice and toasty.
Throw the dried fruit on top of the warm granola.
SO so good with yogurt and fruit…
thank you, Judy Zeidler
2 1/2 c. matzah farfel
1/2 c. whole raw almonds, cut in half (or slivered almonds)
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. honey
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
1/2 c. dried apricots, diced
1/2 c. golden raisins
Preheat oven to 350°.
Toast matzah farfel on unlined baking sheet for 7 minutes.
Place farfel in large bowl with nuts and coconut and toss. Add oil, honey, cinnamon and salt. Mix well.
Spread mixture on foil-lined, slightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from oven when golden brown and fragrant. Add dried fruit and toss well. When cool, place in glass jars, plastic containers or Ziploc bags.
Makes about 5 cups. Start your snacking engines!
PS Don’t tell the niece, but a gift of granola is on its way to her. She just ushered in a second little guy into the world. Just in time for Passover.
How is this vegetable soup different from all other vegetable soups? (’tis the season; I’ve got questions on my mind – so if you will be celebrating the story of Passover, please sing this question to the tune of Mah Nishtanah)
It’s Tuscan! That means inspired by the fertile Tuscany Valley. Countless combinations with a few basics. Fresh vegetables in vibrant contrasting colors. green things like spinach or chard or kale. Orange like butternut squash. Olive oil for richness. Tomato for depth of flavor. Beans, for thickness and more flavor like cannellini, Northern beans, red beans or garbanzos. And fresh herbs or dried, like oregano, thyme and/or parsley.
If you can believe this, Novio was not a soup person in his single days. He didn’t get it. Liquid food? He wanted the solid stuff. Something he could sink his teeth into. All that changed when he came down with a nasty cold one year. My Novio, thank goodness, is a sturdy guy. This was not a usual event, Grudgingly, he made his way to a favorite restaurant and ordered himself a piping hot bowl of the daily special. He thinks it might have been mushroom barley, but he’s not sure. Doesn’t matter. He’s now a true believer in soup. Of any denomination.
Good. Because I love soup. And I don’t think I’ve ever made a soup the same way twice. I even tinker with the most traditional one of all… chicken soup.
So I began this Tuscan veggie soup in a very traditional way – by sauteing chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. I also chopped up some carrots and celery. And threw in a parsnip too.
The liquid for the soup is a combination of vegetable broth, chopped tomatoes in their own juice and water.
Butternut squash, rinsed canned beans and spinach are going in later.
And here come the other ingredients…
TUSCAN VEGETABLE SOUP WITH SPINACH & BUTTERNUT SQUASH
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced (use the leaves too)
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 small butternut squash (or half a medium), diced
1 t. dried oregano
4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (or regular)
1 14-oz. can fresh diced tomatoes in their juice
2 c. water
1 14-oz. can Great Northern beans (or another white bean or garbanzos), drained and rinsed
2 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed pot. A Dutch oven or your favorite soup pot are excellent choices. Add chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, celery, carrot, squash and dried herbs and cook for 5 more minutes.
Add the liquids: broth, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes with lid askew (like a jaunty beret). And beans and cook for 30 more minutes. I like everything soft.
Add spinach and cook until just wilted.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped parsley to finish.
Makes 6-8 servings. Like all soup, this one gets better the more you re-heat it.
bb serving ideas: Top off each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. If going dairy, sprinkle a little grated parmesan on top of each bowl.
Watch the satisfied faces of your favorite soup-eaters… here’s a personal favorite…
Novio has a friend who’s a drummer and they get together as often as they can with other musician buddies to play their favorite tunes (Classic Rock, British Invasion, you Boomers know what I’m talking about). Mike’s a Jewish guy who was raised in the American South. And his mom cooked in the good ol’ Southern tradition.
When Mike’s mom passed away, she had left for him the small tin filled with her cherished recipes, handwritten on index cards. Every New Year’s Day, he honors his mom by cooking for hours and preparing a big ol’ Southern dinner. And he invites all his friends over to partake of this terrific meal.
So every New Year’s Day, his lucky friends are treated to fried chicken, greens, black-eyed peas, and either mac & cheese or cheesy grits, depending on his mood. Of course, there’s also plenty of cornbread to go around.
And Mike has his friends bring their favorite beverages or desserts.
This year, I thought I’d stay with the theme and look for a southern dessert to bring along. I found it in Mississippi Mud Bars. I did some research and ended up using the recipe on the inside of the wrapper of the Ghirardelli White Chocolate baking bar (it’s on the inside of their Semi-Sweet bar too). I left the recipe as is. But I did lower the sugar from 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar to a 1/2 cup of loosely packed brown sugar. You know me.
Ingredients are simple simple simple.
I love buying big one-pound hunks of Belgian chocolate. BUT, when time is of the essence and I can’t get to the specialty shop in Culver City that sells it, I head for the market and get a great quality chocolate in a 4-ounce bar. Also, because it’s thin, it’s MUCH easier to chop.
MISSISSIPPI MUD BARS
Thank you, Ghirardelli
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 t. pure vanilla
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped and divided
4 oz. white chocolate, chopped and divided
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, divided
Remove from oven. Sprinkle remaining chopped semisweet and white chocolate over top. Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes until chocolate melts. Swirl chocolate over the top with small knife. Sprinkle on remaining nuts.
Cool in pan on wire rack until chocolate is set. Cut into 16-20 bars. If you want to do mini-bars, do a 5×5 grid and you’ll have 25 little bars to distribute to those you love.
PS My Novio is a man of many talents. He’s a great singer and keyboard player, so I get to be his groupie a lot. And his buddies reap the benefits of bb’s kitchen activities when they’re around.
Good, now that I’ve got your attention… I have been making variations of these bars ever since I spotted the recipe in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies , the amazing cookbook by Alice Medrich. Thank you for turning me onto this, my good friend and Israeli blogger, Hanni (Check out Spots on Pots here).
I was first acquainted with a derivative of one of the main ingredients of this bar several decades ago when rushing into the girls’ bathroom at Bronx Science, my alma mater. A thick cloud greeted me. “What is that SMELL?!?” I shrieked. The cool girls congregating therein looked down their noses at me, as CHIEF COOL GIRL held a hand-rolled cigarette between her thumb and forefinger.
Oh, it’s the 21st century and the canabis seed is so popular now that it’s been identified as being chock-full of Omega-3 fatty acids. Those are a type of fatty acid that the body must ingest for good health because said body does not synthesize it. Did I mention the hemp plant has been used for all manner of things for more than 12,000 years? Yes, it’s true. Check it out here. People have been doing very creative things with natural resources for a ridiculously long period of time. Now if we can only learn how to behave so we don’t use up all those resources, we’ll be in good shape.
Anyway, I’ve been trying dufferent takes on these bars, using chia seeds, quinoa, raw millet, more pumpkin seeds, keeping with the overall amount of dry ingredients called for.
When it came to the honey, I automatically reduced the amount of honey called for. Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that not sticking to the amount of sticky substance called for meant that the little bars didn’t stick together that well.
This was not a big deal for me or for Novio because we enjoy the little bars and I keep whatever falls off in little clumps/crumbs as an absolute delicious topping for plain yogurt. A little sweet. A little crunchy. Fantastic!
Maybe swapping brown rice syrup for part of the honey is one solution. I would have tried that for you, dear readers, but I didn’t have any brown rice syrup in the house and it is against bb’s policy or mine to go out to buy just one item. So, I decided to do something really unusual for me and follow the recipe as is. And guess what? I was able to cut it into squares without a third of it staying behind for yogurt!
HONEY HEMP BARS
from Alice Medrich’s Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies
1 2/3 c. puffed rice or millet cereal (I used Barbra’s Brown Rice Crisps)
1/2 c. hemp seeds
1/2 c. pecan or walnut halves, chopped (either is great)
2 T. white (or black) sesame seeds
1/3 c. raw pumpkin seeds
2 t. flax seed meal
2 T. dried currants
scant 1/2 c. honey
1 T. date paste or mashed dates
1/8 t. salt
1 t. pure vanilla extract ( I upped this from 1/2 T.- I love vanilla)
Line an 8″ metal baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Preheat oven to 300° F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
In a large bowl, toss the cereal, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seed meal, and currants.
Heat the honey, date paste and salt in a one-cup glass measuring cup for 30 seconds in the microwave (or in a small saucepan on the stove). Stir and mix well until date paste is dissolved. Add vanilla. Pour honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are moistened and sticky.
Scrape mixture into the lined pan and spread evenly with a fork. Using the back of the fork or your fingers, press mixture very firmly and evenly all over pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is barely golden. Cool in pan on a rack.
Lift the ends of the parchment to remove bars from the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut bars or squares. May be kept in an airtight container for two weeks.
Makes 16-25 bars
As you can see, these little bars made their way to the January meeting of Food Bloggers Los Angeles. I sent Novio along with these bars. He was kind enough to be my emissary as I seem to be over-scheduling myself lately and I don’t do cloning. He had a wonderful time. He likes to shmooze with people who cook well, like to photograph food, discuss food and eat.
By the way, that’s Dorothy Reinhold, of Shockingly Delicious, in the center photo, discussing her updated chocolate pudding. Novio tells me it was delicious (in fact, shockingly delicious) Check out Dorothy’s blog by clicking here.
I promised you a Kabocha Squash recipe a while back. Actually, quite a while back. I decided to keep it out of my outrageous Autumn Stew (click here to view that post). No reason, totally on a whim – it would work there too. Since then, I’ve been busy with a bit of traveling and a whole lot of baking. And we’ve been eating lots of simple and healthy meals to offset all the holiday sampling/enjoying/losing all sense of moderation. You know what I mean. Don’t need to say any more. Enough said.
Simple, healthy, full of flavor dishes are terrific. And I’ve been trying all kinds of variations of this dish. This time of year, the markets are filled with so many types of squash. You can prepare Acorn Squash the same way. They’re usually a bit smaller and may be ready in a bit less time.
The farmers’ market guy gave me a good tip, which I duly pass along to you, my readers.
He advised that I cut the squash in half around the equator, not the long way. He thinks it’s easier to cut that way. I’m not completely sure, what do you think?
The squash is ready when it’s fork-tender. The texture is meaty and the flavor is wonderful, slightly sweet and nutty. And the peel is tender and perfectly edible.
Do you have cooked quinoa in the house? Yes? Excellent! No? Make some or sub couscous, brown rice, farro, to name a few choices.. or simply serve with goat cheese.
In a pinch, use a pinch… or several… of favorite dried herbs.
I add green onions to most things. No exception here.
Uh uh and that’s the way uh huh uh uh I like it uh huh uh huh…
Thank you, KC & The Sunshine Band
There is Meaning, Joy and that Sense of Wonder
that makes life so precious in the year ahead…
And just in case, Let’s Make It So!
BAKED KABOCHA SQUASH WITH QUINOA & HERBED GOAT CHEESE
1 medium/small Kabocha squash
2 T. water
1/4 c. cooked quinoa
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 T. fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 T. fresh dill, chopped (optional)
2 T. goat cheese, crumbled
2 t. olive oil
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 375°.
Cut squash along its equator. Scoop out seeds.
Line a medium-sized roasting pan with foil. Place squash in it cut-side down. Add water to pan.
Bake 30 minutes or until fork easily pierces the flesh.
Meanwhile, slice green onion and chop herbs. Mix with goat cheese. Or simply pile herbs on top of cheese when assembling.
Place squash halves, cut side up, on 2 medium plates. Divide quinoa between the two cavities. Add herbed goat cheese. Drizzle each half with a teaspoon of olive oil. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Delicious as a hearty side or as a light meal with a salad.
Happy 2016, My Dear Readers!
I love sharing with you and am grateful for your support these past four years!!!!
Eat in Joy!
Novio likes to tell people that the first time he went to a Trader Joe’s for a few things (this is long before he knew me or my ways, mind you), he didn’t recognize anything in the store. He felt like he was in some alternate-universe market. “Oh come on,” I’ll chide him, “there must have been something there you recognized… milk? eggs? bananas?!?”
“No, really!” he exclaims, “All that strange stuff just dazed me and so I probably couldn’t even see the regular stuff.” Ahh, easily dazed, that Novio of mine.
Last week I stood with him in front of the wondrous bounty of autumn squash at the Farmer’s Market. We engaged in an impromptu game of “What Am I”
Acorn Squash? No.
Spaghetti Squash? These days? Yes! (But BJ? Before Judy, that is… you would have gotten that same dazed look when asking him to positively ID the squash in question)
Kabocha Squash? Ka-who? Whoops – there’s that familiar look again. We’ll table our friend the Kabocha for another post.
Butternut Squash? Yes? Yes! Turns out he’s known of this one even Before Judy! Did he know what to do with a beautiful butternut in the BJ era? Let’s not push it.
So, let’s put together a healthy and delicious autumn stew featuring one of our favorites, the very lovely butternut.
I had a talk with the Kabocha, who originally elbowed his way into this shot. We came to a mutual agreement that his wonderful assets are best featured through roasting. So we’ll be seeing him again very soon. We promise.
Butternut squash is highly versatile (Shhh… don’t tell the Kabocha you heard me say that). I roast butternut squash often, click here for more ideas, and using it as a side or with quinoa or in salads. Butternut squash makes a wonderful soup, especially when paired with an apple. Click here to view that post. And this post will use the butternut combined with other fall veggies to create a stew.
Yams or sweet potatoes will round out this dish well. Add some aromatics and we’re on our way!
“Do we hear our names being called? Present!”
Something fresh and snappy is just the thing to finish it off
But if you don’t sing in the key of C, then throw in some chopped parsley or green onion before serving.
Begin by slicing up an onion and throwing in a pan with hot olive oil along with some chopped ginger. Add your seasonings and allow to cook with the onion for maximum flavor. Cumin goes beautifully with these veggies. So do coriander, powdered ginger (especially if you don’t have fresh on hand), turmeric, and for a little kick, cayenne.
The vegetables cook together with some liquid under a cover. Think of this as a braising- steaming method. Not all the the veggies are submerged at the same time – there’s not that much room in there.
I like to use a combination of wine and broth for braising. But broth alone will do the job just fine. Add the liquid at a higher heat to reduce it by about a third for fuller flavor. Then send in the cut-up veggies. Let the liquid return to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover with lid askew and cook until tender.
Turn this dish into a main meal by adding a 15 -ounce can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans in the last five minutes of cooking. Then serve over quinoa, millet, couscous. Okay, okay, rice or pasta works too.
Autumn Veggie Stew
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise, sliced thinly
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. turmeric
dash of cayenne (more, if you like the heat, skip if you don’t)
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 c. white wine (if not using wine, use another 1/2 c. broth)
1 c. vegetable broth (chicken broth can also be used)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
3 small/medium yams, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (use garnet yams or white-flesh yams or a mix)
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans (optional, great if using dish as a main meal, not necessary as a side)
2 T. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
bb NOTE: You can swap out cilantro for an equal amount freshly chopped parsley or sliced green onion.
Heat a deep, heavy skillet or a Dutch oven. Add oil and heat. Add sliced onion and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes until soft. As soon as onion begins to get limp, add all ground seasonings (cumin and others) and salt and pepper. Add ginger, stir and cook together until onion is soft. Add garlic and cook for about another minute more.
Turn heat up and add wine and broth. Cook on medium-high until liquid reduces by about a third.
Add butternut squash, carrots and yams. When liquid returns to bubbling, lower heat to medium-low, keeping it at a very gentle simmer. Cover with lid slightly askew and cook for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
If using this dish as a main, add garbanzo beans and stir through. Adjust salt and pepper.
Top with fresh cilantro.
Serves about 6 as a main dish – serve over quinoa, millet, couscous, rice or short pasta.
Serves about 8 as a side dish.
Happy Day of Giving Thanks!
Make it a daily thing! (Not All that eating part…)