Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Valentine’s Day is almost here. It’s the holiday of love when couples across the country celebrate with chocolate hearts, cute stuffed animals, dozens of roses, and candlelit dinners. I don’t know about you, but I’m not the biggest fan of this overly commercialized holiday.

For single people, Valentine’s Day is a reminder that they don’t have that “special someone” in their life. Not fun at all—trust me, I’ve been there. Perhaps though, the holiday is even worse for people in a relationship. Single people can ignore Valentine’s Day. The last thing you want to do in a relationship is completely ignore the day. Trust me—I’ve been there too.

Matthew and I never do anything overly extravagant for the day. This year we’re going to grab lunch together on Sunday and then see a movie together afterwards. That is exactly the type of low-key celebration of love that I can appreciate. But regardless of your feelings about the holiday, Valentine’s Day is always a good reason to have some fun in the kitchen.

Candy melts are a product that I like to use for easy candy making or a pop of color when decorating baked goods. They come in several different colors and have a flavor similar to white chocolate. An important thing to note is that candy melts are NOT actually chocolate. They are made with sugar and vegetable fats—not cocoa butter. I love candy melts because they are so easy to use. Since they aren’t chocolate, they don’t need to be tempered.

Valentine’s Day Chocolates Recipe
Makes approximately 10 dozen candies

Ingredients
4 packages Wilton candy melts, assorted colors
1 heart shaped silicone mold pan

Instructions
Heat candy melts in the microwave using instructions on the package. Place melted candy in your mold using a spoon, melting bottle or disposable decorating bag. When mold is filled, lightly tap it several times on a counter to eliminate air bubbles in the candy.

Place the filled mold in the refrigerator or freezer until candy has set. When the underside of the candy mold appears to be frosted, you’re ready to unmold the candy. If there are any dark areas on the underside of the mold, it means some of the coating is still soft. In this case, chill the mold for a few more minutes, until the entire mold has a frosted appearance.

Turn over the mold about an inch above a flat surface covered with parchment or waxed paper. Gently flex or tap the mold and out come the candies!

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Make sure your silicone mold are completely dry before adding your candy and chocolate. Any moisture will complicate the process of making your candies.

Advertisements

Miniature Caramel Apples

We’re headed into that time of year when it feels as though there is some deliciously appetizing (albeit unhealthy) treat lurking around every corner. I always breathe a sigh of relief after making it through November and the irresistible pumpkin desserts that are everywhere I turn. My relief is short lived because December brings scrumptious holiday cookies and candies. It’s no wonder the average American gains 4 pounds over the holiday season! This year my solution is to try making my favorite desserts in miniature sizes. I will report back in January on the relative success of this experiment.

Caramel apples are hands down, one of my fall favorites. The only problem is that sometimes an entire apple seems like too much. My simple answer to that problem? Caramel apples… done miniature style! My mom and dad were in town this past weekend and I thought this would be a fun baking project for us all to do together. Both my parents were excellent helpers and we all had a lot of fun!

These caramel apples really are  simple and would be a perfect baking project to do with children. Getting the caramel on is the most difficult part, and is best reserved as an adult job. Once that is done, you can decorate the apples however you would like. We used toffee candy chips, pecans, and sprinkles!

Miniature Caramel Apple Recipe
Makes approximately 18 miniature caramel apples 

Ingredients
3 large Granny Smith apples
18 popsicle sticks
1 1/2 cups caramel baking bits
1 tablespoon heavy cream
crushed nuts or sprinkles for topping

Directions
Peel apples. Using a melon baller, scoop out apple balls. Insert the sucker stick into the apple. Be careful not to puncture the stick through the other end. In a small pot add caramel baking bits and heavy cream. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted. Fill a small bowl with icy water. Set aside.

Thoroughly dry the apple with a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the surface. Dip the apple into the mixture, swirling to coat and being sure to get the caramel on the stick a little. This will help keep out the water on the next step. Immediately dip the caramel apple into the icy water for a few second to quick set the caramel. Dry the caramel off gently with a paper towel. Press the top of the caramel apple into desired topping if using. Place caramel apple into the fridge or freezer to finish setting.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
It is best to work in batches of 3-4 when you are making these mini caramel apples. Also, be sure not to add more than a tablespoon of heavy cream to the caramel otherwise it will be too runny any won’t set. I found this video to be helpful explaining the entire process.


 

 

Rainbow Fruit Kebabs

FullSizeRender

This past weekend was jam packed with activities and flew by way to quickly. On Saturday morning I participated in a 5k Color Run which was an absolute blast. In the afternoon our race team had a celebratory BBQ. I was torn on what we should bring with us to the BBQ. It was a pretty healthy group of individuals and I wasn’t going to be the person that brought 400 calorie cupcakes. No thank you. So I raided Pinterest boards on Friday for some healthy ideas. Sometime around 45 minutes later—after ogling pictures of adorable bulldog puppies and discovering exercises “guaranteed” to shrink my belly in 10 days—inspiration hit. I was going to make fruit kebabs. I mean who can argue with anything that Martha Stewart posts on her Pinterest board?

Since the BBQ was after the Color Run I decided to go with the rainbow theme and make rainbow fruit kebabs. These are hands down one of the easiest side dishes you can imagine. All you need to do is dice up some fruit, arrange the pieces on a skewer, and VOILA! You can get creative with the types of fruit you chose depending on what is in season.

Aside from making these spectacular kebabs, we had a few other fun activities over the weekend. On Saturday evening Matt and I saw D’Angelo in concert. I’ll admit, prior to the concert, the only D’Angelo song I remember was this one from high school. Wait until about minute 1:00 AND… drool. Then on Sunday we went to a lovely outdoor wedding for our apartment building neighbors.

IMG_9625

Rainbow Fruit Kebabs Recipe
Makes approcimately 20 fruit kebabs

Ingredients
10 large strawberries, halved
1 pound apricots, halved
1 pineapple, cut into chunks
5 kiwi, sliced
1 pint blueberries
1 cup grapes, seedless
20 skewers

Directions
Thread the strawberries, apricots, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, and grapes alternately onto skewers, placing one to two pieces of fruit on each skewer. Arrange the fruit skewers decoratively on a serving platter.

Heather’s Helpful Hints 
Don’t feel that you have to stick to the fruit in the recipe. Feel free to get creative and swap out anything that you prefer. Maybe peaches instead of apricots or watermelon instead of strawberries. Have fun with whatever fruits are in season!

FullSizeRender_1

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffles


Dinner parties are fun, wouldn’t you agree?

Last weekend Matt and I had dinner with our downstairs neighbors in our apartment. They cooked dinner and we offered to bring dessert. No big surprises there. I was tasked with coming up with a dessert that was dairy, gluten, and egg free. It’s the first time I’ve been faced with such requirements as a baker and I was up to the challenge. I spent Friday looking at gluten free and vegan baking blogs trying to find some inspiration.

Deciding to bake a vegan dessert can seem like a daunting commitment. No milk? No eggs? Wait…no BUTTER?! But, thankfully, just because we’ve grown up thinking that we needed eggs to make our cakes rise and butter to make them rich, doesn’t make it true. And vegan desserts prove that. While they aren’t quite like traditional desserts, they’re just as good. Sometimes even better.

These peanut butter chocolate truffles fall into the ‘sometimes even better’ category. Aside from being truly decadent, these truffles will leave you intensely satisfied. One of the things I really like about this recipe is that it only requires five ingredients. No special gluten-free flour or almond paste. There’s a good chance that you already have these ingredients in your pantry.


Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffles

Servings: 20 • Size: 1 truffle • Calories: 156.0 • Fat: 6.1 g • Carbs: 25.0 g • Fiber: 2.9 g • Protein: 2.1 g • Sugar: 20.5 g • Sodium: 98 mg

Ingredients
16 ounces Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup natural salted creamy peanut butter
1 heaping cup dairy-free bittersweet or dark chocolate
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

Instructions
Blend/pulse your dates until they completely mixed and form a ball in your food processor. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and mix once more to incorporate. Using a small melon baller, scoop out small balls and roll/form them into balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 20-30 minutes to set.

In the meantime, drizzle on peanut butter until the top is coated. If your peanut butter is super firm and not spreadable (meaning it’s either dry or not the natural variety), add it to a small mixing bowl with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and microwave to melt. Stir to combine, then proceed as instructed. Freeze again for another 15-20 minutes, or until the peanut butter has formed a semi-firm “shell.”

Warm the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments with 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Remove truffles from freezer and, using a fork, scoop truffles up and quickly immerse in chocolate, using a small spoon to drizzle chocolate evenly on top. Then gently shake off excess chocolate and place back on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Top truffles with a small sprinkle of sea salt (optional), and repeat until all truffles are coated. Place back in freezer or fridge to set – about 30 minutes. Set out from the freezer or fridge to serve. For softer truffles, let come to room temperature.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
If your dates are not quite combining, drizzle in a tiny bit of warm water (1 teaspoon at a time) scraping down sides as needed, and mix until a rough paste or ball forms. If you add too much water it will be difficult to handle them later as they won’t freeze up well.

Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

IMG_9398

Things have been a little quiet in the Sweet Precision kitchen lately. Don’t worry, I haven’t disappeared. And I actually HAVE been baking things. I’ve just been a little remiss when it comes to snapping some pictures and coming up with inspiration for a post. So instead of coming up with something witty to write about, I thought I’d just tell you how we’ve all been doing over the past month!

Life has been unexpectedly relaxing in Ann Arbor as we’ve headed into summer. Matt finished up his third year of school and is now beginning to study for his preliminary exam which he will take in August. One look at the list of books he is required to read has me thankful that my summer reading list only includes this and this. I had a quick trip to Minnesota to see a friend graduate as a Physician Assistant and to celebrate Mother’s Day. We then got to entertain when my college roomie visited Ann Arbor for a long weekend. Maya has been taking obedience classes (with limited success) and much amusement on our part. And now that it’s June, we Matt can plant the seedlings in our his garden. So that’s a run-down of what we’ve been up to over the past month!

Now onto the baking side of things…

Today, I wanted to share a no-bake recipe with you because as summer heats up, I find myself wanting to use my oven less and less. These granola bites are incredibly versatile and you can tailor them to include whatever strikes your fancy. I think they’re a great snack to keep in the refrigerator for those moments when you need a little treat. They’re like a homemade granola bar, but have the bonus of coming in a portion-controlled, bite size piece.

IMG_9394

Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

Servings: 24 • Size: 1 inch balls • Calories: 106.0 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carbs: 19.0 g • Fiber: 1.0 g • Protein: 1.0 g • Sugar: 15.0 g • Sodium: 1.0 mg

Ingredients
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups dry old-fashioned oats
4 ounces unsalted cashews (chopped)
4 ounces mini dark chocolate chips

Directions
On a cutting board, roughly chop the cashews and set aside. Combine the dates and honey in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the oats, cashews, and dark chocolate chips until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon or cookie scoop to shape it into your desired size of energy balls. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Dates are a great alternative for sugar in certain recipes. With a subtle sweetness, they can be perfect for brownie batter or the base of homemade granola bars. Substitute two-thirds cup for one cup of regular sugar.

IMG_9408