Homemade Peppermint Patties

Keeping with my annual tradition of finding a fun and easy recipe for Valentine’s Day, this week I decided to make one of my husband’s favorite treats – peppermint patties.  I must say, they were a BIG hit when customers sampled them yesterday and I gave out a record number of recipes! 

I found a great recipe on Taste of Home that only used five ingredients – sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, peppermint flavor, chocolate chips, and some shortening (all of which you can buy organic and trans-fat free at the Co-op).  This recipe is fun because you can shape the peppermint dough however you like, something I realized after I had made all my patties for my recipe demo – I’ll pat the dough flat and use a small cookie cutter to shape them as little hearts for the holiday!  It also comes together relatively quickly – it took me about 20 minutes to make the dough and shape the patties, plus chill time, and then it took me about 10-15 minutes to coat them with chocolate, plus chill time.

© Sassy Sampler 2013

© Sassy Sampler 2013

One thing I learned from this recipe is that I will always put a little oil in my chocolate from now on if I am using it to cover candies – I’ve always had difficulty with getting a nice even coating of chocolate when I make things like this, and the shortening added to the chocolate in this recipe really makes a difference.  If you are averse to vegetable shortening (we carry an organic 100% palm oil version), or just don’t have any on hand, I think that coconut oil would be an acceptable substitute.

If you are vegan and are craving some of these homemade candies, I suggest making this coconut version of sweetened condensed milk created by Sunny B on her gluten/dairy-free recipe blog – I think it would work great in this recipe.

…I’ll also mention that our Bakery has developed a vegan peppermint patty that will be available soon – I got to sample one and they are yummy!

Mmmmm...organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Mmmmm…organic peppermint patties! © Sassy Sampler 2013

Homemade Peppermint Patties

adapted from Taste of Home

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 c organic sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 t organic peppermint flavor (use less if you use real extract)
  • 3—4 c organic powdered sugar (up to 1#)
  • 3 c (18 oz) organic fair-trade dark chocolate chips
  • 2 t organic vegetable shortening (or organic coconut oil)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a bowl, combine milk and peppermint flavor.
  2. Stir in 3 c powdered sugar, to form a stiff dough. Once you have initially incorporated the sugar into the milk mixture, it is easiest to finish mixing with your hands.
  3. Knead enough remaining sugar to form a dough that is very stiff and no longer sticky.
  4. Working quickly, shape into 1” balls (really compact the dough) and place on a waxed paper or parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Flatten balls into 1 1/2” disks.Place cookie sheet in the freezer for half an hour, flipping them after 15 minutes (don’t freeze them for longer than that).
  6. Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over about 1” of boiling water, stirring frequently. The chocolate is easiest to work with when it remains hot, so once the water is boiling and the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat but keep the bowl on the pot to keep the chocolate warm.
  7. Place a fork under a patty and dip in the chocolate mixture; tap fork against the side of the bowl gently and scrape excess chocolate off the bottom of the patty using the side of the bowl.
  8. Place patty on waxed or parchment paper to harden—you can either do that at room temperature or in the fridge.

These have a great shelf life—keep them in an airtight container (separate layers with parchment paper) in the fridge for up to a month.

Chocolate Peppermint PattiesPDF

Plum Crisp

September is here…already!  More delicious local produce has arrived, and this time of year there is so much that can be had from backyard gardens and local farms.  September also marks the launch of Sustainable Connections new Eat Local First campaign – a year-round way to connect local farmers with local market support, and in turn raise awareness to consumers.  The Co-op has supported local products and farmers for over 40 years, and we were excited to partner with Sustainable Connections and become a sponsor of the campaign.

After talking this week with Wynne, the Produce Manager at Cordata, I decided that a recipe with plums as the focus was in order.  Not only does the Okanogan Farmer’s Co-op grow delicious peaches, but we also get all kinds of plums from them.  This week we have some beautiful and tasty Santa Rosa plums and a variety of pluots (a cross between a plum and apricot) that were also grown in Washington.  Fruit crisp is simple and delicious, and since I had never had any made with plums I thought it would be fun to try.

I used 8 Santa Rosa plums and 8 yellow pluots, and also decided that the locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Holmquist Orchards in Lynden would be a great substitution for the walnuts called for in the original recipe.  Because I wanted to be able to eat some myself, I also used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats and our own Co-op Bakery gluten-free flour (made using Bob’s certified gluten-free flours) because it would be an unnoticeable substitution for wheat flour.  If you can tolerate wheat, then by all means use the locally milled Fairhaven Flour Mill flour.  We also have locally made butter from Breckenridge Farm in Everson at the Co-op.  The crisp came together quickly (the longest part was cutting 16 plums into small slices!) and smelled divine – it was a delicious mix of tart and sweet that customers really loved, across the board!

If you are looking for resources on eating locally grown and produced food, a good place to start  for Whatcom County residents (besides the Co-op!) is at www.eatlocalfirst.org – you will find links to the Whatcom Food and Farm Finder (also available at both co-op locations), a link to the Whatcom Locavore blog (which features recipes utilizing as many local ingredients as possible), and a list of local restaurants that are participating in the Eat Local First campaign.  If you live outside Whatcom County (and in the US), you can check out www.localharvest.org to find food that is locally grown in your community.

Plum Crisp

Adapted from www.food.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 3# plums (about 16), pitted and cut into 1/4” slices
  • 1/4—1/2 c sugar (depending on how sweet you would like it to be)
  • 1 1/2 T flour (GF or wheat)
  • 3/4 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t cinnamon

Crumb Topping Ingredients

  • 1 c oats (GF or regular)
  • 2/3 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c flour (GF or wheat)
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 7 T unsalted butter (or margarine)
  • 1 c roasted hazelnuts, chopped coarsely

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Prepare a 9×13 casserole dish by spraying it with cooking oil or butter.
  3. Combine the sliced plums, sugar, 1 1/2 T flour, vanilla and 1/4 t cinnamon in a large bowl.  Stir to combine.
  4. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the plums are sitting, prepare your topping.  Combine the oats, brown sugar, 1/2 c flour, 1/2 t cinnamon and the sea salt in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  6. Add butter/margarine by the tablespoon through the feeder tube and pulse to combine after each addition.  The mixture should be crumbly and resemble coarse meal when you are done.
  7. Add hazelnuts to the crumb topping and pulse until combined.
  8. Spoon the plum mixture into your baking dish.  Sprinkle the crumb topping by the handful until the plums are completely covered with an even layer.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Serve with locally made vanilla ice cream from Lopez Island Creamery or from Whidbey Island Ice Cream Co. – available at the Co-op.

Plum Crisp PDF

Two kinds of Pesto – tastes like summer!

The sun is finally showing its face around these parts, and that means our first delivery of organic basil from the Growing Garden in Bellingham has come in.  We also currently have local lettuce (including butter/bibb lettuce – my favorite), arugula, mustard greens, salad mix, baby spinach, shiitake, shallots, chives and Italian parsley from a variety of farms in Whatcom County.  It was the basil that caught my eye though, and I knew pesto was just a few steps away.

I wanted to make a traditional pesto, but because we have so many other local greens right now, I thought I would also look for a pesto recipe that didn’t use basil.  I ran across a spinach pesto on Yummly (a great recipe site if you haven’t checked it out, especially if you have food allergies/sensitivities) and felt I had found a winner.

For the traditional pesto, I used the local basil (2 bunches), Nova Oliva Premium extra virgin olive oil (it’s on sale right now and is one of my favorite olive oils), Earth House Foods Organic pine nuts, organic white garlic, and a blend of Italian cow and sheep Parmesan and Romano cheese.  European pine nuts are a little hard to find right now for a couple reported reasons (the strength of the Euro makes them super expensive and blight/deforestation of wild pines has decreased the yield), and the ones we have at the Co-op are from China (read here for an idea of the issue with Asian pine nuts).  I decided to risk it, since the pine nuts we carry at the Co-op are certified organic by WA state and I really wanted to make a pine nut pesto!   It turned out delicious and my taste buds rejoiced.

For the spinach pesto, I used local baby spinach, local chives, and roasted local hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards in Lynden.  A little of the Nova Oliva olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and garlic rounded out the recipe.  The recipe calls for Parmesan cheese, but I wanted to make this a vegan pesto, so I omitted it and I have to say that nobody missed it from the recipe – it still turned out creamy, thanks to the olive oil and hazelnuts.  People really liked the spinach pesto – I would definitely give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It is a little unexpected, but the flavors really work well together.

I chose to sample the pestos with some delicious crackers – Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition whole food artisan crackers made in Blaine, WA, which is located in northern Whatcom County right by the Canadian border.  They are made out of vegetables, seeds, herbs and spices and they are naturally gluten, corn, soy, dairy, egg and nut free, so just about anyone can enjoy them.  They are not available nationally, but they are a relatively young company and I’m sure that won’t be the case for long!  These are pretty amazing crackers from a pretty amazing company who we always love to work with at the Co-op (and customers love them too!).

Pesto Photo © Sassy Sampler 2011 Served with Jóvan’s Pure Nutrition Crackers – Spicy El Paso, Garden Pesto, and Zesty Tomato

Traditional Basil Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups blanched basil (packed)
  • 1/2 c toasted pine nuts*
  • 1 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4—1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Blanch basil and toast pine nuts.
  2. Put basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic in a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Slowly add oil through the feed tube until your paste reaches desired consistency.

Blanching your basil first (dunking the leaves in boiling water for about 20 seconds and then plunging them in icy water) keeps your pesto from turning brown as the basil oxidizes.  It does not affect the flavor of the basil.

Spinach-Chive Pesto

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

  • 2 c baby spinach
  • 1/2 c toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 t fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 oz fresh chives (chopped, about 1 1/2 c)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Process until finely chopped, scraping sides as necessary.

For a vegan version of either recipe, just omit the Parmesan cheese.

Parmigiano Reggiano (from Italy) is highly recommended for either of these recipes.  You can find this imported cheese in our specialty cheese section at the Co-op.  The rinds can be kept in the freezer and added to soups for extra richness.

*You can substitute almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts for the pine nuts.

Basil Pesto and Spinach-Chive Pesto PDF

Apple Crisp (with gluten-free and vegan options)

Today has been a beautiful day in Bellingham – it has been a couple of months since we’ve had a “mostly sunny” day, and people around here are ready for blue skies, myself included.  Most of us are used to rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon in the Spring, but we have had a serious lack of that this year (especially the sun part).  It is so nice to see all the signs of Spring – cherry trees are flowering, daffodils, crocus and tulips are blooming, and you can almost watch the grass grow when the sun does come out.

The view from the Cordata Co-op Local Roots Room. Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful place to cook at the Cordata Co-op – the kitchen is really nice, and there is a fantastic view of Mt Baker and the foothills when the majestic Koma Kulshan shows its face.  Whenever the sun comes out around here, everyone remembers why they love living here, and people come out of the woodwork to go hiking, window shopping Downtown, or head up to the mountain for a little late season skiing or snowboarding (I hear they got over three feet of snow in the last week!).

With yesterday afternoon’s sunshine and the beautiful morning I woke up to today, I started craving a little taste of summer. We currently have Washington grown Pink Lady apples on special (98¢/lb for members of our co-op), I decided a little apple crisp was in order!

I love cooking with Pink Lady apples – they are tart while still being sweet, and are crisp without being mealy so late in the season.  They are my apple of choice if Honeycrisps from Bellewood Acres aren’t in season because they work well in every recipe I have tried with them.  I inherited my grandma’s apple parer/corer/slicer, so prepping a mound of apples is a piece of cake!  If you don’t have one and are an apple lover, I highly recommend going out and getting one – either at a yard sale/second-hand store or at the Co-op (we carry them seasonally).

Goldilocks’ apples – not too soft, but not too hard – just right! Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

After your apples are prepped, you want to start the cooking process.  This recipe doesn’t have a very long cooking time in the oven, so it is important to cook your apples down enough so they will be able to finish in the oven without cooking them down so much that they disintegrate when you bake them.  It’s not as hard as it sounds – and the best part is that the most reliable way to make sure they are oven-ready is to taste them!  Once they are soft enough to cut with a spoon but still hold their shape, they are good to go.

“baked” streusel topping Photo © 2011 Sassy Sampler

I used a technique from Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for Quick Dutch Apple Crisp (the recipe is available to subscribers of their website) – they recommend baking your streusel for a few minutes first and using melted butter rather than cutting cold butter into your flour/oat/sugar mixture, and I thought I’d give that a try.

Once it was all prepped, it went in the oven for about 12 minutes, and presto – delicious apple crisp in April!  I served it room temperature with some slightly sweetened “cream on the top” whipped cream from our local Twin Brooks Creamery (the one in the glass bottles).  I thought that since I had a 9×13 baking dish full that the sampling might last for a couple of hours, but boy, was I wrong!  64 samples and 55 minutes later, my dish was empty but I was full with the knowledge that I had a hit on my hands!

Melissa’s Apple Crisp

INGREDIENTS

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 c all-purpose or GF flour blend
  • 1 c GF or regular rolled oats
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 c packed brown sugar
  • 8 T salted butter, melted and slightly cooled (use margarine for vegan option)

Apple Filling:

  • 5 # peeled, cored, and sliced apples (1/4” thick)
  • 1 T butter (or use margarine for vegan option)
  • 1 T honey or agave syrup (use for vegan option)
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • Large pinch ground nutmeg
  • Whipping cream or ice cream for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  2. Apple Filling: Heat butter over high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan large enough to hold all the apples (and still have room to stir them) until foaming subsides; Add the apples, honey/agave, vanilla, and spices, and stir to coat.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook covered,  stirring periodically, until apples become tender and the spices have bloomed, about 10 minutes.  Taste the apples mid-way through to make sure that they are sweetened and spiced enough for your tastes.
  4. Pour (mostly) cooked apples into a 9×13 baking dish and distribute evenly.
  5. Streusel Topping: In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  6. Slowly pour the melted butter over the flour/oats mixture and toss with a fork until evenly moistened and it has formed pea-sized chunks throughout the mixture.
  7. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and pour streusel evenly over it.  Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  8. Cool baking sheet on wire rack until the streusel is cool enough to handle.
  9. Cover apple mixture with streusel mixture.
  10. Bake for 10-15  minutes, until apples are all the way tender and they are bubbling, and the top is golden brown and crisp.
  11. Serve warm in a bowl with ice cream, or cold on a plate with some whipped cream.

Apples:  Ideally you want a mix of sweet and tart apples.  Sometimes one apple will give that to you (like Pink Lady) and sometimes you may want to use a mix of apples (like Macintosh and Granny Smith).

* This can easily be made vegan if you substitute margarine for the butter and use agave syrup instead of honey.

Apple Crisp PDF

No Bake Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

For yesterday’s Cordata recipe demo, I wanted something tasty and sweet.  Our annual staff party was Friday night (a Co-op Prom!), and I knew that I would want to have something easy to prepare because I would be doing my own preparations at home that evening.  I came across a post from Amy Green’s blog Simply Sugar and Gluten Free – No Bake Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, and I knew I had found a winner.

Amy uses only unrefined sugars in her recipes, and I have kept my eye out for something that used coconut palm sugar.  We started carrying it at the Co-op a little while ago, but I hadn’t used it in a recipe yet.  Coconut sugar is derived from the sap of the coconut palm, and is a low-glycemic sugar (it has a glycemic index of 35, which is equal to figs, quinoa and wild rice).  It is gaining popularity as an alternative to agave syrup (although this recipe calls for both).

I of course made a few artistic changes to the recipe to suit what I had in my pantry.  I used Republica Del Cacao‘s organic 75% cacao chocolate chips (in bulk!) in place of the carob chips in the original recipe (you know I’m a sucker for dark chocolate).  We do carry unsweetened carob chips in bulk, so if you are looking for the lowest sugar level possible, give those a try (we also have grain sweetened carob chips).  I also used my favorite Santa Cruz dark roasted crunchy peanut butter in place of the smooth peanut butter in the original recipe – just make sure the peanut butter you use has no sugar, as it is commonly added to most conventional brands of peanut butter.  Nature’s Path GF Corn Flakes and Puffed Rice worked really well in this recipe as well.  They are headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, a short 25 mile jaunt across the border, and are produced locally in Blaine (just down the road from my dad’s house!) as well as in Delta, BC (which is also in the lower BC mainland).

The bars were very easy to make, and turned out great.  The NP corn flakes gave them a satisfying crunch, and they were very popular with customers.  I love recipes that you can adapt to what you already have in your cupboard, and this is another gem!  They remind me of my granola bar recipe ingredient wise, but end up tasting very different.  Enjoy!

photo chocolate peanut butter bars

No Bake Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars © 2010 Sassy Sampler

No Bake Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

INGREDIENTS

For the chocolate filling:

  • 2 T organic unsalted butter (or organic shortening)
  • 7 oz unsweetened carob or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ t vanilla extract (use high quality vanilla if using carob)

For the crunchy bit:

  • 2 ½ c GF corn flakes, lightly crushed
  • 1 ½ c GF puffed rice cereal
  • ¾ c peanut butter (unsweetened)
  • ¼ c agave nectar
  • ¼ c coconut palm sugar
  • 1 ½ T organic unsalted butter (or margarine)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper (let the edges hang over the side).  Lightly mist with cooking spray.
  2. Put 2 T butter (or shortening) in the bottom of a glass or stainless steel bowl (that will fit snugly on top of a saucepan) or in the top of a double boiler.  Top with carob/chocolate chips, chopped baking chocolate, and vanilla.  Bring an inch of water to a boil and place the bowl on top of the pot.  Turn off burner.  Let sit until the mixture melts, stirring occasionally.
  3. Put the corn flakes and rice cereals in a large bowl.
  4. Put the peanut butter, agave, palm sugar, and butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil for one minute, stirring.  Pour hot peanut butter mixture over cereals and stir until coated.
  5. Press half of the cereal mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan.  Spread with the melted chocolate mixture.  Top with the remaining cereal mixture, pressing them into the chocolate mixture.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until set, about one hour.  Cut into desired size with a sharp chef’s knife.
  7. Enjoy!

No Bake Crunchy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars PDF

“Buckeyes” (Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls)

For this week’s demo, I wanted to make something sweet. If you notice the ratio of desserts to entrees that I tend to sample, you’ll see that I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, although I try to keep a balance of recipes. I haven’t demoed a sweet treat since late August, so I felt it was time!

Buckeye tree nut

Buckeye tree nut

I trolled the web and found numerous recipes for Buckeyes that sounded promising – who doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate? Well, actually one mother daughter duo professed to me yesterday that they didn’t, but everyone else I talked to sure did! If you are not familiar with Buckeye trees (as probably many in WA state are not), here are a few facts: Buckeyes are nuts from trees of the same name, which are very closely related to Horse Chestnuts. They grow all over the world but in North America, they grow mostly in the southern half of the continent (you’ll find them in CA, TX and of course in OH, which is called the Buckeye state). Buckeyes and Horse Chestnuts were historically used to aid circulation in both humans and horses (hence the name).

Homemade buckeye treats are very easy to make, and taste like a really, really good peanut butter cup. I used Santa Cruz organic dark roasted peanut butter in my batch, as well as organic dark chocolate chips for the coating. Some organic powdered sugar, butter and vanilla rounded out the ingredients. This is a recipe that does not shy away from sugar, and believe it or not, I used less sugar than the original recipe called for (by about 2 cups!).

A customer and I chatted about substitutions for the recipe, and you can of course use margarine in place of the butter if you want a vegan version, but she was going to try using coconut oil instead and I thought that might work out pretty well. She was also going to replace the powdered sugar with Rapadura sugar (both powdered and the crystals) but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you know what Rapadura tastes like – it does have a stronger flavor than regular white sugars, but I think in this recipe it could work.

This is a great recipe to make with kids, as there is no oven involved – as long as there is supervision melting the chocolate (although that can be done in the microwave in a pinch, but I think it tastes better done on the stove). You can also easily halve this recipe and still have a decent amount of treats. Enjoy!

photo of buckeye peanut butter balls

Buckeyes © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Buckeyes

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 oz jar of peanut butter
  • 1 c butter or margarine, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1# powdered sugar
  • 4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, mix together peanut butter, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar.
  2. Roll into 1” balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  3. Press a toothpick into the top of each ball (to be used later as the handle for dipping them).  Chill in freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. Melt chocolate chips in double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir frequently until smooth.
  5. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate holding onto the toothpick.  Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top to make them look like Buckeye nuts.
  6. Place Buckeyes back on the cookie sheet and refrigerate until served.  Remove toothpicks before serving.
  7. Buckeyes (Peanut Butter Balls) PDF

    adapted from www.allrecipes.com