Stollen Pull-Apart Ring

For me, stollen is  one of those nostalgic foods that brings back lots of great memories. It all started when my mother’s ‘pen pal’ (of 20 years), would send our family a loaf of her homemade stollen bread through the mail at Christmas. She lived in different province of Canada than we did and it seemed so amazing to receive this perishable item through the postal service. Nevertheless, it left a lasting imprint on me to become one of those precious ‘taste of a memory’ foods.

Over time, I have made this traditional German Christmas specialty in various ways. This year my choice is to make it as a pull-apart bread. This term refers to a bread formed from pieces of dough, placed next to and on top of each other in a pan and baked. This bread required no knives to serve.

An interesting concept that has been called many names such as bubble bread or loaf, jumble bread, monkey bread etc. Initially it was formed pieces of yeast dough dipped in butter and baked in a loaf to be served with jam or preserves. In 1942, General Mills (Betty Crocker) promoted ‘Hungarian Coffee Cake’, which consisted of balls of yeast dough dipped in melted butter, then in sugar frequently mixed with cinnamon and/or chopped nuts. It was baked in a ring pan because the central tube helped prevent the center from being under baked and sinking due to all the butter. ‘Betty Crocker’ had a real way for turning unknown recipes into mainstream ideas.

By the 1990’s, General Mills promotions began entitling this sugar coated treat as ‘Monkey Bread’. However, it may have been silent-screen movie star, ‘Zasu Pitts’, who provided this whimsical name. The term and recipe initially appeared in the Thursday, February 8th, 1945 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) in the column ‘Culinary Clinic’. Zasu was most often remembered for her extraordinary name, huge eyes and fluttering fingers. Besides acting, she had a passion for cooking and published a 93 page cookbook in 1963.

Most of the early recipes called for rolling out the dough and cutting it into diamond shapes instead of forming balls. The widespread popularization of money bread corresponded to the advent of the commercial refrigerated biscuit dough in the 1950’s. One of the later innovations is to insert a little cinnamon-sugar coated cube of cream cheese in the center of each dough ball or drizzle with a cream cheese glaze.

For my pull-apart stollen, I’m using a yeast-free recipe. It’s an interesting version that mimics the traditional flavor well. To serve, you can pull-apart the bread rolls or slice it  — your choice!

Stollen Pull-Apart Ring
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Servings
14-16
Servings
14-16
Stollen Pull-Apart Ring
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Servings
14-16
Servings
14-16
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Grease a tube pan & set aside. In a bowl, combine candied peel, water & extracts; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, almonds, baking powder, salt, & spices. Cut in butter until it resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. To candied peel mixture, add cottage cheese, eggs, lemon zest & raisins. Combine well with flour mixture. Arrange scoops of stollen batter into tube pan. Bake about 40-45 minutes or until test done. Cool on wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar.
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Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa

Taking vegetables and turning them into ‘fries’ isn’t a new concept. Through the years we have definitely  become more knowledgeable about nutrition and healthier eating. It seems we are always looking for a way to have that deep fried flavor without consuming so much of the grease.

Trends come and go, but you have to admit, avocados are still high on most of our priority lists. There seems to be endless ways beyond guacamole to unleash their true potential. Baked avocado fries are amazing. Crisp and crunchy on the outside while being smooth and creamy on the inside.

Nothing says ‘summer’ like strawberries and rhubarb. Usually the combo appears in pies, crumbles and the like. But, I think the avocado fries are beckoning me to make a savory salsa out of them. This salsa is a great balance of sweet, tart and spicy — summer eating at its best!

Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Instructions
Salsa
  1. In a small saucepan with boiling water, cook sliced rhubarb for about 1 minute or until tender crisp but not mushy. Drain. In a bowl, combine rhubarb, onion & strawberries. In a blender, pulse oil, apple cider vinegar & honey; combine dressing with chopped cilantro & rhubarb mixture. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
Avocado Fries
  1. Prepare avocado slices. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & place a wire rack on the sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a small dish, measure seasoning & combine. In 3 separate dishes place beaten eggs, flour & panko crumbs. Divide seasoning between them. Coat each avocado slice in the flour, then the eggs & finally the panko. Place on the wire rack & spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until panko is lightly browned Cool about 10 minutes & serve with strawberry-rhubarb salsa.
Recipe Notes
  • Salsa also tastes great on a fresh summer salad or fish tacos.
  • Avocado fries can be served in warm tortillas topped with strawberry-rhubarb salsa or just as is with your favorite dip or sprinkled with Parmesan.
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Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives

Ricing vegetables has been around for as long as I remember. Maybe not to the degree that is happening today. I recall a utensil my mother had that resembled a large garlic press. It was called a potato ricer and to my knowledge was only used for potatoes to change the texture.

As time has passed, this idea has evolved into so much more. Cauliflower ‘rice’ came on the scene as a popular grain-free alternative to rice. As with many food trends, the ‘riced’ craze has continued using other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, onions and peas.

The grocery stores have jumped on the bandwagon with fresh and frozen products and in a variety of plain and flavored versions.

Making your own riced vegetables is even easier than in days gone by. Just trim, chop and pulse your veggies in a food processor. Cook with a quick steam or saute and flavor with some fresh herbs and spices. Of course, you can always change it up with other chopped veggies, nuts or a sprinkle of cheese.

Riced cauliflower can be used on its own, fried, in baked casseroles or as I’m using it today, in a pizza crust. A different texture than traditional pizza crust but loaded with flavor. Its sort of firm, chewy and soft all at the same time. I wasn’t sure how well we would like this pizza but it tasted just great with the addition of some homemade bread sticks.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives
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Servings
8-12 slices
Servings
8-12 slices
Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Ground Beef & Olives
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Servings
8-12 slices
Servings
8-12 slices
Instructions
Cauliflower Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a 14-inch pizza with parchment paper. Process cauliflower. In a bowl, combine all crust ingredients. Pat mixture onto pizza pan & press to form pizza crust. Bake 15-20 minutes; remove from oven.
Pizza Toppings
  1. In a skillet, crumble fry beef & mushrooms with spices until cooked. Drain & cool slightly. Carefully 'spread' cauliflower crust with tomato sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese, meat mixture, red peppers & sliced olives. Sprinkle with grated parmigano-reggiano & bake an additional 7-10 minutes, until cheese melted. Remove from oven & allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
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Seafood Avocado Omelette

I had no idea when I completed my studies in the commercial food industry that there would be some food items I would make so many times. One such item was an omelette. 

In the early years of my career, my first position was a short order chef. It all sounded pretty easy until it came to the weekends. On Sunday morning alone, you could use anywhere from 90-120 DOZEN eggs. A large percentage of them were made into omelettes with various fillings. All this would be made and served in the course of 4-5 hours as individual breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That job definitely taught you the perseverance you would need to survive in the industry. 

Omelettes have a long history dating back to 16th century France. Most are made with just simple egg and dairy ingredients. The fluffiest omelettes use whole eggs or all egg whites, which are beaten with a small measure of cream, milk or water. I even recall adding just a tiny bit of pancake batter to give them more body.

Legend has it that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they spent one night near Bessieres. Napoleon ate an omelette prepared by a local cook and enjoyed it so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and prepare a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.  Since 1973, every year on the Monday following Easter, people in Bessieres, France make a giant omelette, using 15,000 fresh eggs.

I have added some pictures of this huge omelette as well as one of a cook dumping egg shells in a pile.

The recipe I am including is an adaptation of an omelette I enjoyed at a restaurant called Mariah’s sometime in the eighties. At the time it was located in the seaside town of Carlsbad, California, USA.

Seafood Avocado Omelette
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Seafood Avocado Omelette
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a small dish, combine all guacamole ingredients; set aside.
Omelettes
  1. Preheat an electric flat griddle to 325 F. Saute mushrooms, green onions & shrimp in margarine keeping each separate from each other. Remove from griddle. Carefully pour beaten eggs onto griddle forming two large circles. Divide guacamole, mushrooms, cheese, crab meat & shrimp between the two omelettes.
  2. Cover with a large sheet pan for a few minutes until all is cooked, being careful not to over or under cook. Fold each omelette over & place on serving plates. Top with sauteed green onions. Add some fruit for a garnish if you prefer.
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Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote

HAPPY EASTER!

Easter is synonymous with spring which speaks of new life and fresh hope. After the cold winter there is nothing we look forward to more than having a sunny day and seeing the flowers peeking up through the ground. Buds on the trees open up after having slept all winter. Leaves burst out of the buds in fresh green color when the sun gets brighter and warmer.  The season of spring really is a time of renewal.

Whether or not your religious, Easter has some pretty magical facets to it. I remember as a kid the ‘secret bunny’ leaving colorful eggs and little baskets filled with a few goodies. My sisters and I always got a new Easter dress and ‘straw bonnet’ to wear to the church service. Then of course, the wonderful Easter meal itself.

After having good luck with my Easter bread, we are having some for Easter brunch.                                                                                                                     ORANGE ANISE FRENCH TOAST w/ STRAWBERRIES & GREEK YOGURT — perfect!

Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Strawberry Compote
French Toast
Servings:
Instructions
Strawberry Compote
  1. Rinse, hull & slice strawberries. Zest & juice lemon. In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon zest & juice, sugar, water & cornstarch. Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly.
French Toast
  1. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs; whisk in milk, salt & cinnamon. Soak the slices of Easter bread in egg/milk mixture for 30 seconds on each side. Cook on hot griddle until golden brown on both sides & cooked through.
  2. Serve strawberry compote over french toast & Greek french vanilla yogurt.
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Oatmeal Pie / Tarts

As basic as it seems, oatmeal is like an artist’s canvas with unlimited ways to prepare, cook and bake it. During the economic depression of the 1930’s, everything  was in short supply. Sometimes oatmeal was substituted for expensive pecans, resulting in a delicious oatmeal pie that tasted similar to a pecan pie. It also became known as ‘mock pecan pie’ or ‘poor man’s pecan pie’. 

There are a great many recipes for oatmeal pie on the internet. Some use molasses, some brown sugar and others, a combination of the two. I’ve also seen the pie having coconut in it. For me, I’m not big on molasses or coconut so I decided to just go with the brown and white sugar version. For the pastry, it is one of my favorite single crust shells using a cornmeal/flour mix. Instead of making a single pie, I opted for tarts and served them with a bit of whip cream. Brion and I could really understand how this ‘mock’ oatmeal pie made a good substitute for a pecan pie.

Oatmeal Pie / Tarts
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Oatmeal Pie / Tarts
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Servings
6-8
Servings
6-8
Ingredients
Filling
Servings:
Instructions
Pie Crust
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a food processor, pulse cornmeal for a few seconds. Add flour, & salt; pulse just to combine. Empty mixture into a medium bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. Add sour cream/ water mixture, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute & forms a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate until filling is ready.
Filling
  1. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oatmeal, sugar & salt. Add milk, eggs, butter & vanilla; stir until fully combined.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place pie dough between two sheets of plastic wrap; roll it fit a 9-inch pie pan. Pour filling into pie shell & place in oven. Bake 45-50 minutes or until tests done. Centers will rise slightly when baked & become flat when cooled. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Recipe Notes
  • If you can, allow the pastry to cool for a longer period of time.
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Apple-Anise Bread Pudding

Bread pudding always gives me reason to remember good things. Why is it so beloved, aside from the extreme comfort food factor? It’s not that the dish was invented here — that honor likely goes to clever medieval or even ancient cooks in Europe and the Middle East who had a surplus of stale bread on their hands. The perfect embodiment of the virtues of frugality and indulgence: day old bread, too precious to waste, is bathed in a mixture of milk and eggs and made into either a sweet or savory bread pudding (with a few other additions) and baked into something sublime.

In 2015, ‘The Taste of a Memory’, a memorabilia/cookbook I wrote as a tribute to my wonderful parents, was published. It contained a compilation of stories, articles, recipes and reflections that evoke an intimate memory, special time period and fond emotion brought about by the aroma and taste of food. Writing them down not only puts them in print but allowed me to take a mental journey back to a gentler time. Hopefully this book will be enjoyed by future generations or just anyone choosing to read it. As with my other book endeavors, Brion’s strong support and technical savvy were invaluable.

For today’s blog, I chose a recipe from the book called  APPLE-ANISE BREAD PUDDING. The licorice flavor of anise is one we both enjoy.

Anise seed is native to the Mediterranean basin and has been used throughout history in both sweet and savory applications. Anise seeds are not botanically related to star anise, but have nearly identical flavors and in ground form can be substituted for each other. For most part, Europeans use anise in cakes, cookies and sweet breads where as the Middle East uses it in soups and stews.

I don’t particularly recall my mother using anise in her cooking or baking but for my sister Loretta and I, it’s definitely one of our favorite flavors.  I hope you enjoy this bread pudding recipe.

Apple-Anise Bread Pudding
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Apple-Anise Bread Pudding
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Pulse bread CRUSTS ONLY in a food processor to make bread crumbs. Reserve 1 cup for the topping. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish & coat with 1-2 Tbsp of the remaining bread crumbs.
  2. With a mixer, beat eggs & then add the sugar. Mix in anise seeds, cinnamon, vanilla & milk until combined. Pour into a large bowl & add bread bread cubes. Fold together gently with a spatula then pour into prepared baking dish. Top with diced apples & chopped walnuts.
  3. In a small dish, combine reserved 1 cup bread crumbs with 2 Tbs melted butter & 1 Tbsp sugar. Sprinkle topping evenly over pudding.
  4. Prepare a 'hot water bath'. For this you will need another pan that's larger than & at least as deep as the bread pudding pan itself. When you set the bread pudding pan in it and add water it should go about halfway up the sides. This will ensure even, slow baking for a smooth velvety result.
  5. Bake about an hour or until it tests done. Pudding should be puffy & golden. Serve as is or with whipped cream, your choice!
Recipe Notes
  • ANISE SUGAR -    for tea, on top of cookies or over fruit.
  • In a blender, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 T. anise seed
  • Blend on high speed until mixture is thoroughly combined
  • Store in a moisture proof jar

 

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Harvest Pie / Tarts

The name of this pie definitely conjures up a cornucopia  of fall flavors. The idea of combining fruit and vegetables has forever appealed to me.

I have always had a love for zucchini as far back as I can remember. Even though it is served as a vegetable, its technically a fruit because it comes from a flower. It has a golden blossom that grows under the leaves.

A member of the gourd family, zucchini is an easy to grow, summer squash, native to Central America and Mexico. Zucchini became quite popular after the 1940’s with the interest in Italian cookery.

In 1992, I came across a recipe in a little ‘Pillsbury Classic Cookbook’ for HARVEST PIE.  It had a great combination of apples, zucchini, carrots and spices. If you like these ingredients, this ‘classic’ will become a favorite fall ‘go to’ dessert recipe for you.

Harvest Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Harvest Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a 9-inch DEEP pie with pastry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine apples, zucchini, carrots, nuts & flour; toss to coat.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar & margarine until well blended. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, vanilla, orange zest & 2 eggs; blend well. Add to apple mixture; mix well.
  4. Spoon filling into pie crust-lined pan. Top with second crust & flute; slit crust in several places. In a small bowl, blend egg & water; brush over top crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cover pie loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning.
  5. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
Recipe Notes
  • Oven temperatures often vary, so if you prefer, bake pie at a bit lower temperature.
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Bacon-Wrapped Burgers

HAPPY CANADA DAY !

We are celebrating our country’s 150th ‘birthday’ this year. July 1st marks the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867. This important holiday celebrates the birth of Canada as an independent nation.

Our July 1st holiday is comparable to the July 4th, ‘Independence Day’ holiday celebrated by the United States. Along with numerous parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals and firework displays, Parks Canada entrance fees are being waived in 2017 to mark this occasion.

Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day.

For ‘our’ barbecue, I am going with some BACON-WRAPPED BURGERS, POTATO SALAD  with BLUEBERRY-LEMON CHEESECAKE CUPS. Yum!

Bacon Wrapped Burgers/ Potato Salad/ Blueberry Cheesecake Cups
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Bacon Wrapped Burgers/ Potato Salad/ Blueberry Cheesecake Cups
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Bacon Wrapped Burgers
Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake Cups
Servings:
Instructions
Bacon-Wrapped Burgers
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients & 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce. Crumble beef over mixture & mix well. Form into 12 thick patties. Wrap a bacon slice around the sides of each patty & secure with a toothpick.
  2. Barbecue at 350 F. until meat is no longer pink. Baste frequently with remaining barbecue sauce during latter part of cooking.
Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake Cups
  1. Add boiling water to jelly powder; stir 2 minutes until dissolved. Refrigerate 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Mix graham crumbs & butter; press about 3 Tbsp onto bottom of each of 8 -125 ml, pyrex custard cups. Place on rimmed baking sheet; bake 6 minutes. Cool.
  3. Beat cream cheese & sugar with mixer until blended. Gradually beat in half & half; Stir in jell-o. Spoon into cups; top with fresh blueberries.
Recipe Notes
  • You can find the potato salad recipe in the June 2016 blogs.
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Sweet Delights

Christmas without making a few candy treats just wouldn’t seem right. Even if its not at the top of your baking list, they are just so handy to have on hand to add to those holiday gift trays. 

There was only one very special candy  treat my mother made at Christmas that I remember. A small group of ‘neighbor’ ladies in our farming community had formed the ‘Willonor Club’. It wasn’t just to gather for coffee and chit chat. They were all very hands on women that enjoyed ‘networking’ about a variety of subjects. Each meeting would be hosted by one the members in her home. They would always have a specific focus to learn or do something new. One of the ladies had learned how to make dipped chocolates with her church group. She, in turn taught the Willonor Club members. Now these were not just your average chocolates. They looked every bit as professional as the ‘Pot of Gold’  brand but tasted so much better. None of this sugary sweetness — just a creamy, not overly sweet center, covered in a milk chocolate. Yum!! I came across the recipe in her little file box, written in her lovely handwriting and there I was, reliving the ‘taste of a memory’ by just reading it.

I decided to limit this candy blog to three, tried and true favorites. They are  KAHLUA BALLS * PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE TRUFFLES * APRICOT DATE BALLS.  Easy to make, taste great and freeze well — perfect!

Sweet Delights
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Servings
30
Servings
30
Sweet Delights
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Servings
30
Servings
30
Instructions
Kahlua Balls
  1. In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, walnuts & powdered sugar. Add Kahlua & corn syrup; mix well. Shape into 48 balls & roll in desired toppings such as cocoa powder, fine colored sugar, sprinkles, finely crushed walnuts or oreo crumbs. Chill overnight then either freeze or store in refrigerator in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles
  1. In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the 55 grams of white chocolate. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients & beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover & chill until solid enough to roll into balls. Once mixture can be formed, roll into 16 balls.
  2. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Chop almonds in almond bark then carefully melt in double boiler. Transfer to a small, deep bowl. Drop a few balls at a time into melted chocolate. Working quickly, spoon chocolate over truffle to coat. Using a small spoon or fork, lift truffle out of chocolate & shake off excess, transfer to prepared sheet. Chill truffles until chocolate is completely set. Place in an airtight container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
Apricot - Date Balls
  1. In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, apricots, dates & eggs. Cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes or until mixture pulls away from the sides of saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in walnuts & vanilla. Allow to cool until mixture can be handled. Line an airtight container with wax paper. Shape apricot/date mixture into 30 balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place in container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
Recipe Notes
  • If preferred, use all gingersnap crumbs instead of graham crumbs in the original recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles.
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