Friday, March 24, 2017

Vegan 'Tabbouleh' Tofu Salad

Over the course of the last few years, our family has been cutting carbohydrates from our diet. Some of the effort has been due to health concerns like diabetes, while others are reducing carbs with weight loss in mind.  I find that I feel better consuming fewer carbs, especially reducing 'white' carbs like bread, pasta, and the majority of baked goods, so even though I don't have the same health issues as others in the family, I have made an effort to create and eat more dishes that are low-carb. Many of the new recipes I have been dragging my feet to blog will reflect this new diet effort.

My mother-in-law introduced the family to this recipe, which she got from a great tofu cookbook called Tofu Quick and Easy by Louise Hagler. Louise calls this 'Lebanese Salad for Pita Pockets' but if you look closely at the ingredients, you'll find this is just a tabbouleh dressing where tofu replaces the traditional cracked wheat. By substituting the tofu, this salad becomes protein packed and perfect for low-carb eaters (but I'm sure it is great in a pita, if you are so inclined.)

My preferred brand of tofu, Tofu House, comes in 19 oz packages so this recipe is written for that unusual size. Depending upon the size of tomatoes and cucumber, and how much of each you prefer, extra dressing for the salad won't really be an issue if you use a slightly smaller package. I eat this salad as is, but if I am lucky enough to have watercress, I will put a big scoop on top and devour it with great joy.

Vegan 'Tabbouleh' Tofu Salad

19 oz Extra Firm Tofu, drained and cubed
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon mint, minced
1/3 cup vegetable/olive oil
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1-2 tomatoes seeded and cubed
1 large cucumber, cubed
1 bunch parsley chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil, optional

In a large bowl, combine the tofu, lemon juice, salt, garlic, mint, and oil. Let this marinate while you clean and cut the remaining ingredients and add them all to the salad. Toss and serve with a dash of olive oil.

Refrigerate leftover salad, it keeps well for days if covered in an air-tight container.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Peanut Butter Truffle Cookie Balls


This recipe is everywhere on the internet. Some folks sweeten the peanut butter with honey, some use molasses, and a several recipes differ in the amount of powdered sugar they use, calling for as many as four cups! I made one of those recipes to start, weeks ago and it was so sickeningly sweet that I had to double the rest of the ingredients to make them edible; it took an entire afternoon to roll all that modified mixture and coat them in chocolate, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing. Of course the kids devoured them, but I wasn't much of a fan, still too sweet. 
If I was to put these on a Christmas platter, I might add a halved salted peanut, or a sprinkling of crushed peanuts to indicate the flavor inside and alert those with allergies to stay clear.

Next I tried a Rice Krispie version, which the kids also loved, but they all felt the graham cracker one was better. So I worked out a recipe I liked and repeat it to be sure I had written it down correctly (I do that with all my recipes here on PiX FiZ.) Texture is important, none of these truffle cookies I make can be too soft or overly hard and crumbly, and I prefer just sweet enough over too sweet every time. I hit it just right on the third try, cutting the powdered sugar to only 1/2 cup, aiming for a more Recess peanut butter quality. Adding an additional tablespoon of coconut oil to the chocolate also makes for a thinner coating, making them less sweet and slightly easier to coat. I made them two more times, the only variation between experiments was using crunchy versus creamy peanut butter. The kids were divided on which they liked best, but they consumed them at the same accelerated rate and there were no complaints from anyone.

Peanut Butter Truffle Cookie Balls

18 graham crackers (2 packages)
15 ounce peanut butter, chunky or creamy
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional - tastes more like Recess if added)

12 ounces chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
  1. Break up the graham crackers by hand and place them in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse to achieve large evenly sized crumbs. 
  2. Melt the margarine and peanut butter together in a microwave safe bowl approximately 45 seconds, stirring to blend them together. 
  3. Combine the peanut butter mixture, powdered sugar and salt and pulse just until combined and uniform. 
  4. Roll into balls using a small 1/3 ounce ice cream scoop as a measure. 
  5. In a double boiler (or a metal bowl that fits snug inside a pot with water, but does not touch the water) melt the chocolate chips with the coconut oil. 
  6. Using two spoons to roll and coat the balls in the chocolate as shown in the below video (I find this works better than the skewer technique other recipes recommend.) 
  7. Set them on wax paper and place in refrigerator to set up once all are dipped into chocolate. Truffle Cookie Balls also freeze well.
video

Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Coconut Truffle Cookie Balls

The kids favorite of these Truffle Cookie Balls were the Brownie Bites but mine were a toss up between these delectable coconut ones or the soon to be published Pumpkin Praline balls. Both were a bit more sophisticated in flavor than the chocolate and both hit the mark perfectly capturing that sought after texture just between a cookie and a candy. The best part about all these recipes is that they depend on coconut oil for the binder so you can have less guilt about eating them since coconut oil has so many health benefits.

The cookie balls depend on finding a vegan version of a Nilla wafer. It make take searching out several generic brands, but the search is worth it. Our local grocery store carries a vegan version. Since generic sized wafers vary in size, the amount of required coconut cream may also vary slightly. Of course, if you don't care about them being vegan, simply use the name brand wafers, and if you prefer, use heavy cream instead of coconut cream.

The difference in the two photos here is that the one above was tossed with the powdered sugar while the coconut was still warm, so the toasted color showed through more than in the bottom photo. Toasting coconut is a finicky thing, one minute it is too light, and in a blink too dark. A darker color is nuttier in flavor but you don't have to toast it at all, which would eliminate the only baking this recipe requires.

Coconut Truffle Cookie Balls

1/2 cup flake coconut (not unsweetened)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

60 vanilla flavored wafers
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (organic is best)
2 cups flake coconut (not unsweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons coconut cream

In a pie tin, toast the coconut in a 350-degree oven for 6-8 minutes, stir once while it bakes. Watch it closely as the color changes very quickly once it starts to turn golden. Remove from the oven and place it in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until very fine. Add the powdered sugar and pulse just to coat. Return the coconut to the cooled pie tin to use as coating for truffle balls.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the vanilla wafers into large crumbs. Add the 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, and all the remaining ingredients. Pulse until evenly combined and uniform, chunks of coconut should still be visible. Test for appropriate wetness by using a 1/3 ounce ice cream scoop for measure and squeezing the mixture into a ball. The warmth of your hands will help the ball take shape, but it does require some pressure to get them to stick. Too much liquid makes the balls a less desired texture, but if they won't hold together, add a bit more cream to make them take form.

Form all the balls in the same way and roll each immediately in the toasted coconut flakes. Allow the balls to firm up in the refrigerator and then place them in air tight containers. Truffle Cookie Balls freeze well and are best enjoyed at room temperature, but are almost as good straight out of the fridge.

Makes 40 1-inch balls

Enjoy!

Brownie Bites Truffle Cookie Balls

I've gone a little crazy over these Truffle Cookie Ball things. Not a true truffle, but not really a cookie either, I'm naming them truffle cookie balls, like cake balls, but half truffle, half cookie; and totally delicious no matter what they are called. Did I mention they are no-bake?

There are a number of vegan recipes out there for candy-cookie ball sweet treats, but so many of them have to be eaten straight from the refrigerator because they are too gooey left at room temperature. My goal was to be able to make these little candy bites so they could be served off a platter at any gathering, which means they had to not taste 'vegan' and the texture had to be solid, and not too crumbly at around 70-degrees.

This particular batch was such a huge favorite with the kids that I had to hide them in several different places because they kept finding and devouring them. In the end I had only 1/3 of the batch to pack into boxes to send to relatives with all the others.

Aside from being the absolute perfect two-bite size, these little balls are not overly sweet, have terrific texture, and are some of the easiest to roll. The first timer will be alarmed by the amount of coconut oil that coats your hands in the process. Don't be worried, they are not the least bit greasy tasting once the oil solidifies, and the oily exterior means they can be coated easily with just about everything from powdered sugar, to toasted coconut, cocoa powder, chopped nuts, or colorful sprinkles. I am not normally a sprinkles fan, but these little nonpareils added a lovely crunch to the 'Brownie Bites'; a name my oldest daughter gave them after stealing about a dozen over the course of the day.


Brownie Bite with Coconut
Brownie Bite with Cocoa
Brownie Bite Truffle Cookie Balls

1/2 cup coconut oil (organic is best)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
18 (2 packages) chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup coconut cream (heavy cream could be substituted for a non-vegan version)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon dark rum, or other favorite liquor (optional, and more can be added to taste)
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup coating of choice: cocoa powder (add 2 T powdered sugar so it is not too bitter), coconut, sprinkles, etc.


  1. Melt the chocolate chips and the coconut together, either on the stove or in the microwave (25-30 seconds on high.) 
  2. In the bowl of the food processor, break up the graham crackers and blend them into large crumbs. 
  3. Add the coconut cream, melted chocolate chip mixture, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture is uniform and combined.  
  4. Test the consistency by using a 1/3 ounce ice cream scoop as measure and press the chocolate mixture into a ball. It takes a bit of squeezing to make the ball stick, but it should form a cohesive ball with the addition of the heat from your hands. If it does not stick, add a bit more cream. Put the test ball back into the processor bowl to blend it all together.
  5. Add the semi-sweet chocolate chips and pulse only until evenly distributed, being careful not to chop them up.
  6. Form all the balls as described above and immediately roll them in the coating of your choice.
  7. Refrigerate on a cookie sheet to harden and then store in an air tight container, either at room temp or in the fridge. The truffle cookie balls also freeze well. 
Makes 40 1-inch balls

Enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Vegan Praline Pecans


It seems that a praline can be any number of candied pecan recipes. Some are encased in chewy caramel but the ones I really love have a lighter sugar coating rich with buttery flavor, a hint of cinnamon, and are simply irresistible when done right. How hard could it be to copy a candied nut? Funny it took me this long to try.

This was one of those happy accidents. I had an idea for a pumpkin truffle cookie ball with a praline coating. So I threw together a few ingredients, baked the mix in the oven and dusted them with powdered sugar. Luckily I made well over double what I needed to chop up for the cookie balls because the family absolutely devoured them!

Non-vegan recipes call for an egg white wash, so they are able to get a thicker more even coating.  I found that tossing the nuts as they cool allows the caramelized sugar to thicken up and stick to the pecan so they get areas of goopy sugar lumps in places, which is just perfect. A dusting of powdered sugar seals it all together and is the perfect finishing touch, just like the high end pralines. Yum!

Vegan Praline Pecans
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large microwave safe bowl, (or in a large sauce pan over medium heat) combine all the ingredients except the pecans and the powered sugar, and microwave on high 2 minutes. Stir the mixture and return to the microwave for another 1-2 minutes until it is bubbling and the sugar dissolves when stirred.

Add the pecans and toss to coat. Turn the mixture out into a parchment lined cookie sheet (not necessary, just easier for clean up), scraping all the contents onto the pan and bake at 350-degrees for a total of 12 minutes, stirring and turning over the nuts at the 6-minute mark.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 1-2 minutes. Carefully scoop all the nuts back into the large glass bowl and stir until the caramelized sugars begin to stick to the nuts, 2-3 minutes. When there is no longer a pool of sugar sauce on the bottom of the bowl, indicating it is stuck to the pecans, sprinkle with the 1/4 cup powdered sugar and toss to coat.

Turn the nuts out onto wax paper to cool. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

For those of you who like pictures:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In a large microwave safe bowl, (or in a large sauce pan over medium heat) combine all the ingredients except the pecans and the powered sugar, and microwave on high 2 minutes. Stir the mixture and return to the microwave for another 1-2 minutes until it is bubbling and the sugar dissolves when stirred. 
Add the pecans and toss to coat.

 Turn the mixture out into a parchment lined cookie sheet (not necessary, just easier for clean up), scraping all the contents onto the pan and bake at 350-degrees for a total of 12 minutes, stirring and turning over the nuts at the 6-minute mark. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 1-2 minutes. Carefully scoop all the nuts back into the large glass bowl and stir until the caramelized sugars begin to stick to the nuts, 2-3 minutes. 
When there is no longer a pool of sugar sauce on the bottom of the bowl, indicating it is stuck to the pecans, sprinkle with the 1/4 cup powdered sugar and toss to coat. Cool on wax paper.

Enjoy! 

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