Chocolate Ganache Truffles

Chocolate Ganache Truffels‘Tis The Season For Treats
I love this time of the holiday season. This is treat season. This is the time when I start planning what treats I am going to make to hand out to the people who mean a lot to me to thank them for services rendered or to thank them for just being a positive part of daily life.

So far my daughter and I have made our traditional Ginger Cookies.  (That first batch is always a sacred ceremony for everyone in my family.) Last weekend we made a batch of addictive and decadent caramels, a King Arthur Flour recipe, to hand out to a teacher who refers to them as holiday gold. We plan to continue the treat making this weekend with some more cookies. Shortbread? Check. Sugar cookies? Check? Gingerbread? Check. But I want to do something else a little special this year.

About 16 years ago I took a chocolate class to learn how to make truffles because I wanted to recreate the gorgeous treats that Joseph Schmidt was producing at that time. I quickly learned that tempering chocolate is no joke. It takes patience, and time, and passion for the art. While I had the passion, I was lacking in the other attributes. But, one of the recipes we made in that class is easy enough for anyone to do. I haven’t made many truffles since then. And, this year I wanted to make those basic ganache truffles. The biggest challenge was finding the recipe.

I have this drawer in my kitchen that holds all of my loose recipes that I have either printed off the internet or were part of a recipe packet from a class. I can’t tell you how many pages are in that drawer—but I can tell you that it is probably time to cull the heard. I can also tell you that the chocolate packet wasn’t in there and I sort of panicked because, after that many years, it’s not like I can call the place and get another one.

The elves took pity on me…I found it! My office is a revolving door of cookbooks and recipes. And, I happened across the chocolate packet while looking through a dessert binder I made after yet another cooking class. Yee Haw!

These truffles are so easy to make and you can choose to flavor them or not. (Adding a little espresso or Chambord liqueur can be a tasty thing)

Chocolate Ganache Truffles
Yields about 25 truffles Read more…

Plenty to Be Thankful For

Plenty to Be Thankful ForIt’s been a rough few weeks here in California. And, Thanksgiving looks a little different this year for a lot of people. We’ve experienced some pretty dry times in years past and it seems we’re always hoping for drought relief. But, I have never seen so much excitement for rain on Thanksgiving Day as I have this past week…though, it does present its own set of problems.

I knew before the Camp Fire started that, due to unexpected circumstances, I would be hosting Thanksgiving this year. It is out of the norm of what we usually do. But, based on what was going on, it just made sense for me to host everyone at my place.

My husband’s family has lived in Chico since he was in high school, so for the past 18 years, we have gone over the river and through the woods to spend some time at Grandma’s there. I always love the drive up. We like to take the back roads through the valley of almond orchards and rice fields, to look at the leaves changing color on the trees and the occasional persimmon tree loaded down with brightly colored fruit. It always feels a little bit like traveling back to a simpler way of life and time. And, I am always thankful for the opportunity to slow things down for a bit.

If we are lucky during our stay in Chico, and schedules permit, our good friend will drive down from Paradise to meet us at the local diner for breakfast, or sometimes just a cup of coffee. It is an opportunity to catch up on a year’s worth of news and to rehash old memories—a meeting we look forward to every Thanksgiving. Sadly, we will not be able to get together this year. The Camp Fire took his house and everything in it. But, we are incredibly thankful that both he and his dogs are okay. Sadly, his is not the only story of complete loss. We have other friends who experienced the same loss of home. But, again, I am thankful for the community that has rallied around them and given them a place to land while they figure out the way forward.

I am fairly tired of the smoke and walking around in a mask and I know I am not alone. But, I am very aware that my discomfort is insignificant compared to others. I am beyond thankful for the blessings in my life. My family is safe. We have a roof over our heads. We have food to eat. We have clothes to wear. Everyone is healthy, or at least on the mend, and we will be able to gather together to enjoy a tasty meal and raise a glass in thanks that, at the very least, we have each other. And, that is more than enough.

From all of us at Piedmont Grocery, we would like to extend our thanks and to wish you and yours a safe and very Happy Thanksgiving!

If you would like to help those affected by the fires, please consider donating to any of the following:  Read more…

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata It’s Not Easy Being Green
Whenever you hear people raving about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, usually it is the stuffing. or the sweet potatoes, or even the homemade cranberry sauce. Rarely is it about the vegetables that are served as sides—or at least that has been my experience. Not going to lie, if there are some greens on my plate at Thanksgiving they are there solely out of guilt for the obscene amount of carbs and gravy that I have piled up on my grandmother’s Wedgewood plates.

Since I am hosting the big event this year I have been compelled to come up with a vegetable side. And, I am finding it challenging to locate a recipe that I am willing to make and would work well with the rest of the meal. True, I could do my favorite Spinach Gratin. But, I am concerned that the cream and cheese would be too rich with all of the other caloric goodness on the table.

Yes, I could do some Brussels sprouts but the truth is, I hate them. I have tried so hard to like them and occasionally will order them if offered when I am out enjoying a nice dinner just to see if a different recipe will do the trick but, alas, they are still gross. Even with bacon.

A kale salad is a possibility. But it seems too trendy and obvious in this time of kale obsession, though it looks like the obsession might be waning. Plus, in my family, salads hardly ever get eaten. Case in point, the salad my grandmother used to make every Thanksgiving (that no one ate, but had to be made because it was tradition). This Endive & Fuyu Persimmon Salad with Pecans is a good substitute and might actually be eaten…

So, I think I will end up going with tried and true green beans as a vegetable side this year. Most people like them and they are fairly easy to prepare in large quantities. I could steam and toss the beans in a little garlic butter. But, I may lose my mind and go a tiny bit fancier and make something like these Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata. When in doubt, I always reference Ina..

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata
Yields 8 servings  Read more…

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Mom's Pumpkin Chiffon PieLife of Pie
It’s crazy to think that Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. And, while today is a day to stop and give thanks that the political ads are done, it is also a day to start making plans.

For me, Thanksgiving is going to be different this year if for no other reason that I will be hosting it for the first time. It should be an adventure given that we will be a party of 16. Granted, I annually host Christmas Eve for 14 so two more people shouldn’t be that big of a deal and it’s not. The difference is what I will need to cook and if it will all fit in my oven. I expect I will be much like a game of Tetris. As of right now, I have ordered two 18 pound organic turkeys which should be plenty—we’re big on leftovers. However, if there is one area of concern from those who will be seated around the table, it is whether there will be enough pie.

Turkey is generally the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal and it is for us as well but the true star of Thanksgiving in our family is the pie and everyone has their favorite. This year, because we are blending three families for dinner, there is concern that there will not be enough pie and, of course, everyone is worried that their favorite will run out quickly which is why I will probably end up making 4 pies.

My Dad’s favorite is mince pie. This is the pie most likely to have leftovers because he is the only one who eats it but it’s tradition so we gotta have it. In my family of five, it’s all about the pecan pie. If there is no pecan pie there will be rioting in the streets. I’m thinking I will also do an apple pie because, why not? Last but not least, you can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. We do pumpkin pie a little differently though.

Growing up my mother always made the pumpkin pie. But, it wasn’t your usual pumpkin pie. Mom made Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. If you have never heard of it, and most people haven’t, pumpkin chiffon is basically a lighter fluffier version. And, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without it. Since this is the first Thanksgiving without my Mom, there is no question that her pie will be there….

Mom always made this pie using a traditional pie crust but feel free to use a graham cracker crust if you prefer.

Mom’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie  Read more…

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

For The Times, They Are A-Changin’
Halloween was different this year. There were no parades. No morning rush to get the costume make-up done. No concerns about wearing a costume all day. In fact, the excitement about Halloween has been replaced, for some in my family, by high school soccer try-outs.

Sigh. Yep. We have reached the stage where the kids were handing out candy to trick-or-treaters instead of filling their own pillowcases.

We have one holdout, though. My twelve-year-old did go out trick or treating with her friends. She was dressed as a wedge of cheese that she constructed and painted all by herself complete with cheezy duct tape. This kid beats to her own—and I love it. I have no doubt that next year she will come up with an equally random costume idea and hit the streets to collect her chocolate.

This change means that dinner plans are different too. In fact, I actually put a little more work into it and made this recipe for Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter. It’s a great representation of the flavors of the season. And, the pumpkin is an obvious nod to Halloween. If you do not have a pasta machine it is just as easy to roll it out with a rolling pin.

To those of you who still headed out with your little ones, I hope you had fun and enjoyed these nights roaming the streets of your neighborhood with your kids. Because it’s true what they say…it all goes by so quickly!

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter
Yields 6 servings Read more…