Culinary Quest #19 – OREO Truffles, non-refrigerated

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There are a million OREO truffle recipes online. The maddening thing is, they are all the same! That recipe calls for mixing OREO cookies with cream cheese.

The problem is, because the truffles aren’t baked they need to be refrigerated due to the cream cheese.

Our family coordinates a huge bake sale every Christmas. I’ve always wanted to add OREO truffles to the truffle selection we already offer, but I can’t in good conscious offer an item to the general public that needs refrigeration. We don’t want anyone getting sick on our watch. Yikes!

So this year, I tackled making up my own OREO truffle recipe that needs no refrigeration. This is so good (and easy) I wish I had tried it years ago.

I’m posting this recipe for everyone who has also been looking for OREO truffle that doesn’t need refrigeration. I’ve read so many comments and threads stressing concern over the cream cheese, I hope this will be helpful.

I included a photo, but will preface it by saying I literally whipped these together simply as a test recipe. It’s not my best-looking performance, but wow do they taste heavenly!

OREO Truffles, non-refrigerated

Ingredients:

1 – 14oz pkg OREO original cookies (I don’t recommend generic brands as they are softer than the OREO brand)

1 can vanilla or cream cheese frosting (Cream cheese-flavored frosting does not actually contain cream cheese so these truffles do not need to be refrigerated.)

1t vanilla

2 pkgs marshmallow Candy Melts (If marshmallow melts aren’t available, use “white” melts which are vanilla flavored or almond bark.)

Directions:

  1. Crush OREO cookies till pulverized (I use a food processor). Save back about 1/4c.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine crushed OREO cookies, frosting and vanilla. Mix until blended (I use my hands).
  3. Shape into balls and place on parchment paper. (No chilling for firmness required!)
  4. Melt Candy Melts according to directions on the bag, one bag at a time.
  5. Dip the OREO balls into the melted marshmallow melts.
  6. Extract them from the melted melts by using a small spoon. The filling gets soft with the hot melts so it slides through a fork.
  7. Immediately sprinkle a little of the reserved crushed OREO cookies on top of each one as you go before the coating hardens OR using melted chocolate, drizzle on top.

Culinary Quest #18 – BLT Salad

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Who doesn’t LOVE a BLT sandwich (or anything with bacon, frankly)? It’s one my all-time favorites. But, I’m trying to watch my bread intake so I can’t remember the last time I got to sink my teeth into one of these little beauties. 😦

Standing in the produce aisle the other day, I tried to think of a salad to go with the soup I was making for dinner. One of my family’s favorite salads is a Caesar salad, but that also means we have it fairly often. Spring-boarding from the Caesar, I took its elements and swapped them out for new ingredients and voila! The idea of a BLT in salad form was created right there between the bananas and broccoli.

It tastes exactly like a BLT sandwich! Seriously! Without the bread. 😉 It’s light and refreshing, and the sweet tomatoes compliment the salty bacon. The ranch dressing substitutes for the mayo perfectly. Just in time for spring and summer, this salad is a new favorite.

One of my teenagers said to me today that he literally dreamed about this salad after having it last night and that it was on his mind all day today at school. Who knew? Score!!!

It’s so easy it’s almost embarrassing. Here we go…

Ingredients:

* 1 bag of Romaine lettuce (I mixed it with a bag of spring mix lettuce for a variety of color and texture)

* 1 pkg thick cut bacon

* 1 pint grape (or cherry) tomatoes; halved

* 1 bunch green onions; chopped

* 1 cucumber; diced

* 6oz of ranch salad dressing (we use Marzetti’s simply dressed ranch)

* croutons (optional)

Directions:

Cook bacon in oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. Flip it over and cook another 10 or 15 depending on desired crispiness.

While bacon is cooking, toss remaining ingredients together in a large bowl (EXCEPT DRESSING!).

Once bacon is drained and cooled, chop it and add to bowl.

Right before serving, toss salad with dressing. Serve immediately.

Yields 4-6 servings.

Enjoy!

Culinary Quest #17 – Bacon & tomato pasta salad

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Recently I visited Fresh Market, a high-end grocery store. They are known for their fresh products, including a delicious deli.

I purchased a small cup of their bacon & tomato pasta salad and liked it. However, I found it needed a few tweaks, so below is my version of their pasta salad.

The tweaks: Store-bought salads are mostly pasta (because it’s cheaper and goes farther). I prefer to increase the other ingredients to reduce bad carbs, increase good cards and increase protein. I also added a couple of ingredients that bring natural sweetness (peas) and a warm, nutty flavor (pine nuts) to this light dish. I also substituted white wine vinegar for balsamic vinegar because it gives just an extra spark of fruity bite that regular wine vinegar doesn’t offer.

We rarely use mayonnaise in our home and most times the jar expires before we can finish it. But, inching closer to summer, sometimes mayo adds a creamy texture to pasta salads that oils simply can’t do.

This dish is served up just in time for Easter brunch, a lazy Saturday (as in our family’s case today :)), lunchboxes for work or school, parties, or a savory snack. Enjoy!

Bacon & Tomato Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1# boxed pasta; cooked al dente, drained (any kind will work, we had rigatoni on hand)

2 pkgs thick-cut bacon; cooked & chopped

2c green onions; chopped (1 bunch)

1 1/2c celery (approx 4 stalks); chopped

2 pints grape tomatoes; cut in halves

1c pine nuts

2c frozen peas (use them straight out of the freezer)

1t salt

1/2t pepper

1T + 1t white balsamic vinegar

3/4c – 1c mayo (for this recipe I used Duke’s regular mayo); measure to preference

Directions:

Bake bacon in oven at 375 for about 30-45 minutes until done.

While bacon is baking, boil pasta (add salt to pot) for 12-14 minutes.

While both of those are rockin’ & rollin’ prepare remaining ingredients and put them in a large bowl.

Add cooked bacon.

While pasta is still slightly warm, mix into bowl.

Store in fridge. That’s it! 🙂

 

Culinary Quest #16 – Tuscan White Bean Dip

In a season when my heart is hungry for meaningful memories and moments in our crazy life, I can’t forget there are five hungry stomachs in our home, too! On the cusp of Fall, I think of soups and breads and hot crisps, slumps, dumps, grunts and cobblers.

I also think about dear friends who often gather to enjoy cold nights and warm conversation by the fire. The noise, laughter and mayhem in our home is always welcomed. To kick things off, a good dinner party needs a great starter.

Today, I’m offering up my own version of Dean & Deluca’s white bean dip. Wait! Before you think of creamy garbonzo bean dips (a.k.a. hummus) – this is not that dip at all. It’s a whole bean dip cradled on a baguette.

White beans (navy beans) are high in protein and fiber and are an extremely healthy food. This recipe has no added salt and uses “good fat.” Gone are parties riddled with appetizer guilt before the dinner bell even rings. Then again, we love this dish in lieu of popcorn for family movie night. (I also sneak leftovers for lunch, shh.) Yum!

A huge difference between D&D’s recipe and mine is that I add white balsamic vinegar. Makes all the difference in the world!

If you’re looking for a sophisticated, super savory, healthy appetizer that goes far beyond cheese and crackers (or a fatty, heavy apps smothered with mayo or sour cream) this it is. Bonus time saver – make this a day ahead. Done!

Inexpensive, healthy, quick and bursting with flavor – sounds like a great time to me!

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Tuscan White Bean Dip

(makes about 4 1/2 cups)

32 oz white (navy) beans, canned – drained & rinsed

4T red onion, finely diced

4T fresh tomatoes, finely chopped (use jarred sun-dried tomatoes for an even more savory taste)

4T fresh basil, finely chopped

2t dried oregano

2 cloves minced garlic

4T extra virgin olive oil

4T white balsamic vinegar

1/4t black pepper (optional)

Directions:

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate overnight or at least several hours to marinate. Salute!

 

A little Christmas humor for the day

I have been baking up a storm this week for teachers and neighbors.  Today, while making pumpkin bread, I thought I’d jazz it up a little.  I used some Christmasy baking tins in evergreen and gingerbread shapes.  Then, I added fresh cranberries for a festive splash.

When I pulled them out of the oven and dumped them upside down on the baking rack, I was speechless!

It looks as though I not only caught the Gingerbread Man, but killed him, too!!!

Can I actually give these away?

Another one of your great ideas, Kristi, she says, laughing at herself.

Poor gingerbread men.  I’m going to rethink my creative plan for the rest of the batch…
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Culinary Quest #15 – Savory Pasta Meat Sauce

I typically post recipes on Saturday’s, but there’s not much typical about life right now in our house.  Ha!  So here ya go on a Monday…

With temperatures cooling down, we’re heating things up in the kitchen!  There is little food I enjoy more than a simple dinner of pasta and sauce.  It’s like the ultimate comfort food.  We tackled marinara sauce in Culinary Quest #6 Pasta Marinara with Parmesan Panko Chicken, but sometimes a hearty, meaty sauce is just the thing for a cool evening’s dinner.

My entire life I only knew hamburger meat, or perhaps a mixture of hamburger and sausage, for a meat sauce.  However, hamburger (in my opinion) is bland and spongy and just blah.  This time, I broke out of my box and used mild Italian sausage – taking the risk that only using sausage may prove too dominant against the backdrop of the other flavors.

The risk was totally worth it!  Goodbye hamburger – hello sausage!  It has the perfect amount of fennel and other spices to make this sauce nicely robust.  But, there is a trick.  I ground the sausage so finely, it is perfectly blended in the sauce.  Rather than this being a pasta sauce with sausage chunks, the sauce is a smooth blend that can be used over noodles and in any recipe calling for sauce (lasagna, manicotti, stuffed shells, ravioli, etc.).

This is hands-down our family’s new favorite!  Bonus…when making this from scratch, you get to pick exactly which meat goes in your sauce – unlike jarred meat sauce.  I like knowing exactly what is in my food. 🙂  And, the whole house smells so good while simmering that everyone is chomping at the bit by dinnertime.  Double bonus!

I would have included a picture, but we ate it all! :O  The next time I make it, I will come back and post a photo.  Whoops!

Buona appetito!

Savory Pasta Meat Sauce (yields a full-sized slow cooker)

2 pounds mild Italian sausage

1c diced, fresh basil (measured after dicing) – Fresh is important!  I do not recommend dried basil for this sauce.

1/3c olive oil

2 tablespoons dried oregano

3/4c pureed onion (I use sweet onions)

28oz  crushed tomatoes

28oz tomato puree

28oz tomato sauce

2 cans tomato paste

14.5oz diced tomatoes; drained

6 cloves garlic

* Using a large skillet on the stove top, thoroughly cook the Italian sausage.  Remove from heat and let cool.

* Once cooled, place sausage in a food processor and blend until uniform.

* Puree onions in food processor until almost liquid – keeping a little texture to them.

* Add all remaining ingredients, plus sausage and onions, in a slow cooker and cook on low for 9 hours or high for 6 hours – stirring occasionally.

***TIP*** To make things easier when putting this together in the morning for dinner, cook the sausage and process it and the onions the night before.  Store them in a container in the fridge and in the morning just add all ingredients in the slow cooker and you’re done!

Culinary Quest #14 – Company’s Coming! Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is as flexible as whatever we have in the kitchen at the moment.  However, sometimes we want to kick it up a notch – especially if entertaining.  I needed a recipe that didn’t include average ingredients, so off to the store I went with an open mind!  The ingredients below are simple to make, but together they offer a sophisticated flare that makes this dish not only savory, but it tastes like it was more work than it was by far.

By adding a couple of less typical veggies like heart of palm and roasted red peppers, this pasta salad does not taste like the kitchen sink salads I usually make.  They are good, but this one is one fit for company.  It’s quick and easy and with the main players being jarred, it can be easily made year-round.  The vinaigrette is really simple because the flavors in this dish stand on their own.  Enjoy!

Serves about 8

16oz                       Farfalle (bow tie) pasta

1 pint                     cherry tomatoes; halved

1/2c                       onion; chopped (white, red, or sweet onions or scallions)

9 stalks                  heart of palm (jarred); sliced

2 ½ c                      artichoke hearts; quartered (preferably jarred in marinated oil)

1c                            roasted red peppers; chopped

1 bunch                  fresh basil; chopped

¼ c                          Kalamata or black olives; sliced (optional)

Balsamic Vinaigrette – see below

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Balsamic Vinaigrette:

4T                           canola or olive oil

4T                           white balsamic vinegar

1/8t                        black pepper

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Directions:

Boil pasta in salted water al dente (approx. 10 minutes). Drain.

While pasta is boiling, prepare vinaigrette.

Toss warm, drained pasta in a large bowl with vinaigrette.

Once pasta has cooled to room temperature, add remaining ingredients as prepared above.

Chill for several hours.  Toss before serving.