Handling Holidays: Truffles and Fudge

website fudge

“You’re a chink!”

I was sitting by myself at recess on my first day at a school in the United States when a older middle school, Caucasian boy welcomed me with those words. It was the aftermath of the the Vietnam War, and though the gene pool had actually given me more of my father’s Caucasian features than my mother’s Asian ones, folks back then were more cognizant of facial differences than today. (Today, no one believes me when I say I’m Korean. I have to show them pictures of my mom. So, times do change!)

Unfortunately for that gentleman, though I was  younger than he, I wasn’t so easily intimidated, and he didn’t expect my response. “Shows how much you know,” I said. “Chink is a derogatory term for Chinese people, not Korean. I believe you meant to call me a ‘Gook’, but instead you’ve only revealed just how ignorant you are. So, please just go away and leave me alone.” To his credit, he walked away as the crowd around him snickered.

My victory didn’t make me feel any better, though, about such a “welcome” to my “home” country and new school, and at the end of recess my new teacher, Mrs. Petruska found me sitting in the corner of the yard, crying. She didn’t ask me what was wrong, so I presumed she must have heard from one of the other students. Instead, she handed me a small piece of chocolate (this was long before the day of food allergy awareness), patted my back, and said,”Take your time eating this, and when you’re done, I’ll see you back at class.”

Now, some may wonder what sort of teacher would handle such a situation by giving a child a piece of chocolate, but whether you agree or disagree with her actions, I have to say that I learned that day that if savoring a piece of chocolate can make you feel better, than life is not going to end from whatever situation you feel devastated by.

And strangely enough, as I’ve grown into adulthood, the only time I even eat a piece of chocolate (allergen free variety, of course!) is when I need a reminder that I will survive whatever “mess” I’m currently dealing with in life, and the only time I make chocolate truffles and fudge is for the holidays – and it’s always for giving away.

Chocolate, though, is one of those ingredients that can be deadly if you’re severely allergic to dairy or nuts. Fortunately for me, however, Enjoy Life makes wonderful chips, chunks, and bars which are everything free, so I can continue to make, give away and enjoy chocolate truffles and fudge when I want – and so can you.

Chocolate Truffles

Ingredients:
1 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips
2 tbsp Polaner’s all fruit of choice*
Cocoa powder/coconut flakes/chopped nuts/crushed candies/dried chopped fruit

Cooking Instructions:

1.  Melt the chocolate with the all-fruit over a double boiler, stirring constantly. (I put a small pan filled with water halfway on the burner and then stack a larger pan on top.)

2.  Pour the melted mixture into a shallow pan and cool in the fridge until the chocolate is solid enough to shape. (It needs to be a rollable, fudgy consistency, not hard.)

3.  Use a teaspoon sized amount of chocolate and roll into a ball. Roll the chocolate ball in cocoa or flaked coconut or chopped nuts (if you’re not allergic) or crushed candies or dried fruit and stored in a covered container in fridge.

4.  Serve at room temperature.

*Note: You can omit the all-fruit flavoring and just make the chocolate plain. You can also substitute flavoring like mint extract (use a small amount like 1/8 tsp first and taste; add in increments to the strength of flavor you want).

Chocolate Marshmallow Fudge

Ingredients:

3 cups Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

Equivalent to 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk*

1/8 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups mini marshmallows

2 tbsp melted vegan “butter”

Cooking Instructions:

1. Line a pan with aluminium foil or parchment paper or wax paper, leaving flaps overhanging on all four sides so you can pull out the fudge.

2.  Mix the chocolate chips with the sweetened condensed milk and the salt. Melt slowly over low heat, stirring constantly, until all the chips are melted.

3.  Stir in the melted “butter” and one cup of the marshmallows.  Stir until those have melted into the chocolate.

4.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and the remaining two cups of marshmallows.  Stir just until the marshmallows are incorporated but still firm.

5.  Scrape the fudge into the prepared pan with a rubber scraper and smooth the top of the fudge flat.

6.  Cool in the fridge for several hours until hardened.

7.  Use the flaps to remove the fudge from the pan, turn it over onto a cutting board, and peel away the foil or parchment paper or wax paper.

8. Cut the fudge into size and shape wanted and store in a container or individually wrapped in the fridge.

*If you don’t have milk allergies, use the canned sweetened condensed milk, but if you do:  You can also try making homemade sweetened condensed milk by mixing about 2 1/2 cups of your type of “milk” (rice, nut, coconut, soy) with 8 tbsp sugar or agave.  Stir well and simmer over low heat until the “milk” has reduced and thickened.  This will take a couple of hours.  Keep the heat low and stir frequently.  When it’s thickened, you can add 1/8 tsp of salt and/or 1/2 tsp vanilla, if you’d like. Put a clear plastic wrap up against the mixture before cooling in the fridge to prevent a “skin” from forming. When you need it, use the sweetened condensed milk to substitute for a 14 oz can.

To Grease or Not to Grease: Thinking about the Question

website grease

The forest floor was a mess!

Broken branches littered the ground.  Sapling undergrowth surrounded mossy stumps.  Trees leaned against one another, their branches fighting for the sun’s rays.  Vines encircled tree trunks and ran away onto the ground below.  Tiny wildflowers grew in, under, and around whatever it could, and years of layered dead leaves blanketed everything.

Being a city gal, when my husband told me were going to visit the family forest, I pictured straight trees standing tall in neat rows with large spaces of manicured grass in between.  Imagine my surprise to discover, instead, nature’s version of an unkempt house.

Current Thinking about Trees

Few folks these days think much about forestry.  If we think about trees, we think about wasting trees by using too much paper.  Air dryers in the bathrooms proclaim that we’re protecting trees if we use them.  Schools and businesses send everything electronically so we can save trees.  Children are taught to recycle paper to prevent the killing of trees.

Misperceptions about Using Trees

Protecting trees is a good thing.  Misunderstanding what actually helps trees, though, can pose a problem.  There’s an island in the middle of a lake in a state where the trees are “protected” by a law stating no trees can ever be cut.  As such, it’s so overgrown that all the animals for whom that island used to be a natural habitat have left because there is no longer room for them to live.  In what way does this make sense?  Nature itself knows the dangers of overcrowding.   Natural fires are forests way of clearing themselves of standing dead trees.

In similar thinking, we’re told that using paper products when we cook and bake is bad because it hurts the environment, but we freely and willing use propellant sprays which contain nitrous oxide, an ozone depleting gas, and whose containers add substantially to the problems we have with overflowing landfills.  Again, where is the sense in that?

Advantages of If You Care Products

Personally, I’ve chosen to use many of the If You Care products for my cooking and baking.  I like that the company is committed to creating environmentally friendly products and to using trees, which are both sustainable and renewable, as opposed to fossil fuels which currently are not sustainable and are definitely not quickly renewable.

As well, if you have food allergies as I do, using products like parchment paper and baking cups helps prevent contamination when you are using a cookie pan or muffin tin, because your food doesn’t touch the baking implement.  Additionally, if you are trying to eat healthier and don’t want to grease with butter or oil, parchment paper provides a fat-free alternative which isn’t Pam spray.

Disclaimer

Now, about this point, some folks are wondering what sort of kick-back I’m getting, whether it’s from the forestry industry or the If You Care company.  I can tell you that small family-owned forestry companies rarely make a profit.  The owners are foresters usually because they love trees, and they care about the land.  As for the If You Care company, they have no idea that I use their products or that I recommend their products, but if anyone happens to knows the owners and want to let them know that I’m a big advocate, I’d be quite happy to entertain any thoughts of a kick-back!  (We have 12 straight years of college tuition stretching before us!  We can use all the monetary help we can get!)

Upside Down Pumpkin Pear Cake

Ingredients:

2 tbsp vegan butter, melted (or whatever type you prefer)

1 tbsp Agave

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Two 15 oz cans of pears, drained (best to get the ones in 100% juice, not syrup)*

2 1/2 cups 100% whole wheat flour or 2 cups Authentic Foods Multi-Blend Gluten free flour

2 tsp gluten free baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

2 cups cooked pureed pumpkin (can use one 15/16 oz can)

1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or another type you prefer)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (you can use another 1/2 cup of oil if you prefer)

1 cup Agave

1 cup liquid egg whites or 4 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 12 tbsp water (can use 4 whole eggs if you want)

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9 x 13 pan.  (I would use “If You Care” parchment paper, but you can use Pam spray or oil or butter.)

2.  Mix the melted butter with the Agave and cinnamon and spread over the bottom of the cake pan.

3.  Cut the pears into fans and arrange over the bottom of the cake pan.  (To make fans, simply put three to four cuts into the pear which only go about 2/3 down the pear.  Hold the uncut portion and “fan” the cut pieces away from one another.)

4.  Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.  Set aside.

5.  Blend the pumpkin, oil, Agave, and eggs.

6.  Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Spread the batter carefully over the pears.

7.  Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire cooling rack.  Carefully flip the cake over onto a platter and remove the parchment paper.  (You can also simply serve the cake from the pan and invert the slices onto a plate with your spatula.)

*  If you do not want to use canned pears, you can use two ripe fresh pears.  Wash and slice the pears into eight long slices.  Coat a pan with 2 tsp grapeseed (or another type) oil.  Mix 1 tbsp water with 1 tsp Agave or Truvia.  Saute the pears in the Agave mixture until they’re softened.   Arrange the pears on the bottom of the cake pan and proceed as instructed.