Candy Cane Joe-Joe No-Bake Truffles

If you do not live near a Trader Joe’s, my heart goes out to you.

Each year around Christmas, Trader Joes’ everywhere get the most amazingly delicious cookies you will ever taste. It’s a holiday twist on their regular joe-joe cookies (which are basically like oreos), except there are crushed candy cane pieces in the cream filling. Stop reading, get to your local Trader Joe’s, and buy these. Right now. You will not regret it.

Hopefully they are not sold out yet. Let me tell you something — people go crazy over these cookies. Ric works at TJ’s and he tells me stories of people coming in and buying boxes and boxes and boxes. They hoard them. And then, after the Christmas season is over — get this — they sell them on Ebay. I kid you not.

All of this to say, these cookies are so incredibly delicious. I. love. them.

Last year I had the genius idea of making these babies into truffles. I got the easiest no-bake truffle recipe from a friend awhile ago. That recipe called for regular oreos, and I thought ‘Hmm… this would be 100 times better with candy cane joe-joes and crushed candy cane pieces sprinkled on top.’ And I was right.

If you are in need of a ridiculously easy christmas dessert that people will go crazy over, this is it.

Candy Cane Joe-Joe Truffles (Makes 35-40 truffles)
1 box candy cane joe-joes (or use oreos and add some crushed up candy cane and a bit of peppermint extract to the mix)
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat)
1 bag of white or dark chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli, but whatever works)
Crushed candy canes for topping (or Williams Sonoma makes pre-crushed candy cane sprinkles)
A toothpick

Add half the box of cookies to a food processor and pulse until completely crushed. Repeat with the rest of the cookies. (If you don’t have a food processor, you could probably crush the cookies using a plastic bag and a hammer/meat tenderizer/anything heavy, but I’ve never tried. You really do want a consistent, well-crushed mix, so a food processor is probably best.)

In the past I’ve just added the cream cheese into the food processor to mix, but I’m pretty sure I broke my food processor doing this last time. (I’m too scared to test it and find out) The mix is so thick and heavy that the motor gets bogged down, and you don’t want that. (*Update: My food processor isn’t broken! Hurrah! But save yourself the heart attack, and just mix by hand)

This time I poured the crushed cookies into a bowl and mixed it up by hand. It worked just fine. I would highly suggest doing this so you don’t break your beloved food processor. 😦

Use your hands to combine until it is all the same consistency. It will be very sticky and a bit greasy.

Once it is thoroughly mixed together, take a bit of the mix and roll it together between your palms to make a little ball. You can make them as big or as small as you want… I make them so that they can be eaten in one or two bites. Put them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper or wax paper.

When you’re all done, pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes or so, before taking them out to coat in chocolate.

Now for melting your chocolate. This part can be a bit tricky if you’ve never done it before. Chocolate can be difficult because it burns very easily, so be careful.

To prevent it from burning, I do not put the pan with chocolate directly over the heat. You can use a double boiler and add a couple of inches of water into the bottom pot.

I do not have a double boiler. If you’re in the same boat, get a skillet or a pyrex bowl that can rest on top of/in the pot. Your chocolate will go in there. Bring the water to a light boil and then turn heat down to low.

Set your skillet or bowl on top of the pot with the water. (It should not be touching the water. The steam from the hot water is what will melt the chocolate). Add about half the bag of chocolate to the skillet/bowl. If it’s not enough for all the truffles, you can add more later. I also add a tiny bit of canola oil to thin it out a little bit — maybe 1 tsp.

Stir the chocolate constantly until melted. Keep an eye on it and make sure it’s not bubbling. If it starts to bubble, hold away from the heat for a minute, and turn your heat down.

Keep stirring your chocolate and set the pan of truffles nearby. For the next step, it’s best to have someone to help you.

Add in a couple of truffles at a time and coat with chocolate. Have your helper stick a toothpick in each truffle to get them out, and place them back on the parchment/wax paper. Sprinkle the crushed candy cane on top to hide the hole that the toothpick made.

Repeat with all the truffles and then put them back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, so the chocolate can harden.

Polenta, Beans & Bok Choy

Since my last post was very non-vegan, I decided to go the vegan route this time around. Something a bit healthier for us as we prepare for another holiday where we (OK, I ) will inevitably stuff our faces with entirely too many desserts, etc. I usually try to plan out at least one meal per week. I’m not the type who can plan the entire week’s meals (planning ahead is not my strong suit). As I was thinking about a healthy meal I could make this week, I remembered this delicious and easy recipe I discovered last year. You can find the original on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

This recipe is super flavorful, super good for you, and of course 100% vegan.

The original recipe calls for making your own polenta with a pressure cooker, which of course you are free to do. But if you want to be lazy, like me, just buy it pre-made at the store. If you’ve never tried polenta before, it looks something like this (at Trader Joe’s anyway). You’ll need two of these little guys for the recipe.

I’ve also modified the original recipe because I did not have fresh herbs on hand, and I’m not a huge fan of peppers, so I left those out.

Herbed Polenta with Beans and Bok Choy
1 recipe herbed polenta, below

3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. baby or regular portabello mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup veggie broth
6 oz. baby bok choy, sliced
1 14 oz. can kidney beans or cannelloni beans, drained
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar (If you don’t have any, don’t worry about it. I forgot to add mine in, and the recipe still tasted great!)

Herbed Polenta 
2 polenta logs (18 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried basil OR 3 Tbsp. fresh
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley OR 2 Tbsp. fresh
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary

*I did not have parsley or rosemary. Instead, I used 2 tsp. basil, 2 tsp. oregano, and 2 tsp. herbes de provence

Cut the polenta into 1 inch pieces. Mix with herbs and sauté in a large pan with olive oil until golden brown on each side. Stir frequently.

Keep warm until ready to serve.

In a separate large skillet, sauté the onions with a bit of olive oil for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms, cooking over medium-high heat, stirring until mushrooms soften.

Add the broth, bok choy, beans, and basil, and stir well.

Cover for 5 minutes or so until the bok choy is wilted, but still bright green. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in vinegar. Serve over polenta.

The Ultimate Comfort Food

This past week wasn’t the greatest, so, naturally I found myself craving comfort food. Comfort food could mean a lot of different things to different people, but to me it usually involves cheese. Sorry, vegans. Like the title of the blog implies, I am not quite vegan. And that, my friends, is because of cheese. It’s just so good! Anyway, I came across this recipe on Pinterest a couple of weeks ago and I knew I had to try it. (Side note: I now have a fancy new Pinterest button on the sidebar if you would like to follow me!) As this week came to an end, I found myself thinking about this recipe. A lot. I just had to make it.

So what is the recipe? Prepare yourself…

Gnocchi Mac ‘n Cheese.

OK, so I guess it’s not mac n’ cheese if it’s not made with macaroni. So maybe this should be called gnocc n’ cheese. Hmm… doesn’t quite have that same ring to it. I’m actually not a huge fan of regular macaroni and cheese, so the idea of gnocchi and cheese sounded so delicious — little bit of a heartier meal. Gnocchi, if you’ve never tried it before, are little dumplings, usually made out of potato flour. You can find it in the pasta section, but it’s not sold everywhere, so you might have to hunt around. If  you’re wondering how to pronounce gnocchi, it’s like nyokey. I consider myself a gnocchi-pronouncing expert because I used to work for a guy from Italy, and that is how he said it.

Anyway, the recipe can be found on The Cutting Edge of Ordinary. You can also check out her beautiful/drool-worthy pictures, because I of course had horrible lighting and my pictures did not turn out so wonderfully.

It looks so good, right? Mmm… and it was.

She used basil in hers, but I did not have any so I chopped up some fresh rosemary to add to my cheese sauce. But they’re both optional.

Speaking of the cheese sauce, if you’ve never used gruyere or fontina, fear not — they are DELICIOUS. Or at least I thought so. It was my first time trying them, and I was a little nervous I wouldn’t like them, but I. loved. them. I have leftovers in my fridge and I will relish every last bite.

Gnocc’ & Cheese
1 lb. gnocchi
2 Tbsp. butter
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. dijon mustard (I used spicy brown)
1/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese (except fontina is a little too soft to shred, so i chopped mine into small pieces)
Salt & white pepper to taste (regular pepper would be fine, too)
1/3 cup shredded parmigiano-reggiano (or regular parm would be fine, too)
Rosemary or basil for garnish (chopped and added to cheese sauce)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. If you’ve never used gnocchi before, they cook super fast — they only need to boil for 2-3 minutes before they are done. You will know they’re done when they all rise to the top of the water, like this:

Drain your gnocchi in a colander, and add to a greased 1 1/2 qt. baking dish.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add your garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds — until your kitchen smells wonderful (if you like the smell of garlic, that is… but who doesn’t?) Whisk in flour until it gets a bit thick and bubbly, then add your milk and mustard. Whisk away. Keep on whiskin’ til’ it gets slightly thick, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine your gruyere and fontina, and add into your saucepan one handful at a time. Whisk cheese in until it melts before adding the next handful. Once it is all cheesey, gooey, melty, and delicious, season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over your gnocchi, and sprinkle parm cheese over the top. Bake until golden and a little bit crispy — about 30 minutes. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Ohmygoshyes.

I am so sad I don’t have leftovers in my fridge right now. This baby only serves about three. Enjoy it while it lasts.