Holiday

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’m going to have a hard time writing about these Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls because every time I think about them my mind goes blank except for thoughts of wanting to eat them. By the time I’m done writing this post I’ll probably find myself in the kitchen making a batch of these because I made and photographed them so long ago – like last September long ago! Which means I don’t have any right now while I’m writing about them and editing the photos, which is probably the most torturous writing endeavor ever.

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls  |  Lemon & Mocha

Typically, cake balls consist of cake and buttercream mushed together and then dipped in chocolate. Instead of the traditional buttercream, these cake balls are made with my Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe and my Chocolate Ganache. Chocolate ganache is silky, decadent and a pure chocolate-lover’s dream. Alternatively, if you wanted to speed the recipe up you could use a store-bought chocolate cake mix instead.

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls  |  Lemon & Mocha

Just the cake and the ganache together is enough to make me swoon, but I’ve rolled the cake balls in powdered freeze-dried strawberries to add some tartness and fruitiness. What are powdered freeze-dried strawberries? Just store-bought freeze-dried strawberries that you can get at Trader Joe’s and or Target that I’ve crushed up in my mini food processor to make a powder. I got this idea from one of my favorite candy retailers – Chukar Cherries out of Seattle, Washington. Matt and I first tried Chukar Cherries products during our Seattle vacation in 2013 and we’ve been hooked ever since. They have these raspberry truffles that are dried cranberries covered in white chocolate and then rolled in raspberry powder. They are sweet, tangy and crazy addictive.

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’ve even seen raspberry powder and strawberry powder in a local spice shop here, but it would definitely be less expensive to buy the pack of freeze-dried strawberries and crush them yourself. After rolling the cake balls in the powdered freeze-dried strawberries they are dipped in melted semisweet chocolate to form a rich chocolate shell on the outside.

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls  |  Lemon & Mocha

I initially made these cake balls because I had all these leftover ingredients, but they are worth a special trip to the kitchen just to make these Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls. Obviously they are a perfect treat for Valentine’s Day, but seeing as how I first made them during a warm day in September they really are the perfect chocolate dessert any day of the year!

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls  |  Lemon & Mocha

Strawberry Chocolate Ganache Cake Balls
 
Yield: about 4 dozen
Ingredients
for the cake
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk, see note
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee, see note
for the chocolate ganache
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 12-ounce bag of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (see note)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
for the cake balls
  • 1 bag freeze-dried strawberries, about 1 ounce
  • About 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (see note) or chocolate coating wafers
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or coconut oil
Directions
for the cake
  1. If you want to use a box mix, bake it according to the box directions in a 9x13 pan then skip ahead to the last step in this section.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together until smooth.
  5. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and stir until combined. The batter will be extremely liquidy. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back mostly clean.
  6. Let cool in the pan for a couple minutes then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before making the cake balls.
for the chocolate ganache
  1. Heat the cream over medium heat until steaming, stirring constantly.
  2. Once steaming, remove the cream from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir then let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the butter to the chocolate mixture then stir until smooth. You may need to return to low heat to stir and melt all the final bits of chocolate and butter. Let cool.
for the cake balls
  1. Line 2 baking sheet that fit in your fridge or freezer with wax paper. Set aside. Turn the freeze-dried strawberries into a powder using a food processor or by carefully crushing into a powder in the bag with a rolling pin. Place in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, completely crumble the cake then combine with 1½ cups of the cooled chocolate ganache. Stir together until the chocolate ganache is completely incorporated and the cake balls are roll-able, but not too wet, adding more chocolate ganache as needed. Roll the mixture into balls, then roll each ball in the powdered freeze-dried strawberries. Place on the prepared baking sheets then either freeze for a little bit or refrigerate for a few hours. You want them to be cold and solid, but not frozen.
  3. When you’re almost ready to take the cake balls out of the fridge or freezer, melt the chocolate chips and vegetable oil or the chocolate coating wafers. I melted mine in two batches instead of melting it all at once. Microwave in a tall deep bowl (like a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup) for 30 seconds, stir, then continue in 15 second intervals until the chocolate is completely melted. Make sure not too over heat it or the chocolate will seize up. Alternatively, you could melt the chocolate using a double boiler. Use a spoon or fork to dip each chilled cake ball into the chocolate, letting the excess drip off before placing back on the wax paper lined baking sheet. Top each cake ball with a sprinkling of the powdered freeze-dried strawberries and some Valentine’s Day sprinkles before the chocolate hardens. Store in the fridge - if you don’t eat them all right away!
Notes
To make your own buttermilk: pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk, any fat percentage, into the measuring cup until you have 1 cup. Let sit for 5 minutes before using.
If you don’t want to use coffee you can use hot water, but the flavor of the chocolate won’t be as pronounced. You can use decaffeinated coffee if you prefer.
For the chocolate ganache (and if using chocolate chips instead of chocolate coating wafers for the outer layer), I recommend using Ghiradelli, Guittard or Scharffen Berger.
Any leftover ganache will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

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Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Are you guys peanut butter fanatics like I am? Most days I just look around the kitchen to see what would be a good vessel for my peanut butter snack. Pretzels? Check. Carrot sticks? Yup. Pancakes? Yes, please. Spoon? Sure, why not?

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Sometimes when I’m coming up with recipes I think the same way. I quickly discovered that roasted acorn squash makes an excellent peanut butter vessel. Especially when the peanut butter is combined with coconut milk, lime juice, coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and maple syrup to make a rich, tangy, salty and slightly sweet sauce. Add some chopped crunchy peanuts and savory scallions and you have absolute veggie perfection.

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Have you ever used coconut aminos? I bought a bottle at Trader Joe’s and this was my first time using it. Many people use it as a substitute for soy sauce since it tastes similar, although slightly sweeter. Coconut aminos is lower in sodium and contains no soy. If you would rather use low sodium soy sauce because that’s what you already have in your fridge you might need to adjust the sauce to taste a little since it’s not a direct substitution.

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

I love pretty much all roasted vegetables and acorn squash is no exception. The slices get tender, a little crispy and caramelized. Plus, how fancy do they look all laid out on the platter? You definitely need a very sharp knife to cut through the squash. If you’re finding the squash too difficult to cut through, cut a few slits in the skin of the squash then microwave for three minutes to help soften the skin.

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Looking for more peanut vessel inspiration? Check out my Thai Peanut Chicken Tacos, Sesame Peanut Noodles with Chicken or Apple Nachos. Or if you want something a little sweeter, the Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Crunch Chocolate Brownies and the Peanut Butter Apple Bars are both loaded with peanut butter. Yum!

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce  |  Lemon & Mocha

Roasted Acorn Squash with a Thai Peanut Sauce
 
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 acorn squash
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jif)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cut the acorn squashes into ½-inch slices. Use a small round biscuit cutter or a knife to remove the center of each slice to leave you with acorn squash rings. Lay the squash slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Spray with nonstick cooking spray then season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. While the squash is roasting, make the peanut sauce. Whisk the peanut butter, coconut aminos, light coconut milk, maple syrup, lime juice, ground ginger and red pepper flakes in a small mixing bowl until well combined.
  4. When the squash is done, layer on a serving dish. Drizzle the peanut sauce over top then top with the chopped peanuts and scallions. Serve warm.
Notes
Substitutions: If you can’t use coconut aminos, you can try swapping in low sodium soy sauce. You might need to increase the amount of maple syrup. If you can’t use light coconut milk, substitute water.
Leave the acorn squash unpeeled. When you cut the slices you want the squash positioned so the stem end is facing your left hand and the bottom end of the squash is facing your right hand (if you are going to be cutting with your right hand).

 

Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Hello, everyone! I hope you are all having a fun-filled weekend so far! I wanted to pop in this Sunday with a quick recipe before all my family Christmas festivities got started. I saved this recipe for the last minute because it’s so easy, but I wanted to make sure I shared it because these Candied Pecans are seriously addictive.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

If they look familiar it’s because I first made them to go on top of my Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream Pie I shared before Thanksgiving. When I made them for the ice cream pie I was so excited by how tasty they were that I decided the pecans deserved their own post here on Lemon and Mocha.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Most recipes I’ve seen online for candied pecans use butter, but this recipe actually uses a single egg white instead. The egg white and vanilla extract are beaten until frothy before tossing with the pecans, which then get coated with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and ground cloves. The pecans get the best crispy and sugary spiced coating on the outside without any greasiness of butter. If you’re like me and have been baking like crazy all holiday season then you probably have all these ingredients in your pantry right now to whip up a batch.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

I just made a batch for putting on top of my browned butter pecan cheesecake for Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house and I may have sneaked one or two (or ten) for myself. They are perfect for sprinkling on cakes, cheesecakes, trifles or ice cream, but they also taste crazy delicious just by themselves. Especially warm out of the oven – drooling over here! Simply put them in a bowl for snacking alongside dessert or use as part of a sweet and salty cheese and snack board.

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with your family and friends and I’ll be back here with a fun post on Wednesday!

Candied Pecans  |  Lemon & Mocha

Candied Pecans
 
Yield: A little more than 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces pecan halves
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg white and vanilla until frothy. Add the pecan halves then toss to completely coat. Spoon the coated pecans into the bowl with the sugars, trying to leave any excess egg white behind. Place on the prepared baking sheet and spread out the pecans. Bake for 1 hour, tossing the pecans on the pan every 15 minutes. I use a spatula to separate the pecans from the parchment paper then spread them back out in an even layer before putting back in the oven.

 

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

Does anyone else think this year flew by? Here we are, already looking at the December muffins! As I mentioned in my October Apple Pumpkin Muffins post I decided not to make the Food Network Magazine’s December muffins, which were candied cherry muffins. I might try those muffins at some point in the future because they sound good, but with all the cookies and fudge I was making this holiday season I wanted something a little lighter on the sugar. Instead, I decided to bake these Healthy Gingerbread Muffins from Ambitious Kitchen.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

They are free of refined sugar and instead use maple syrup and molasses as the sweeteners. There’s a few other healthy swaps in this recipe, such as using whole wheat flour, nonfat plain Greek yogurt and olive oil instead of butter. These are a great breakfast muffin, especially since they’re studded with tasty chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. Matt and I enjoyed these muffins, but they are definitely “healthier” muffins.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

Without the refined sugar they are noticeably less sweet than muffins I’ve posted already this year and they have a less moist texture that you get from using whole wheat flour and minimal fat when baking. The best way I can describe them is that if you already don’t eat a lot of sugar or full fat foods then their “healthiness” won’t be that noticeable to you, but if you are in full Christmas cookie mood you could whip them up in January to jump-start your sugar detox. Like most of the muffins I posted this year, they freeze well, so for now ours are in the freezer to pop out whenever we need a quick and healthy breakfast.

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

It definitely is interesting how your body adjusts to the sugars you are eating. Over the summer I was eating very little processed sugar. I made some “healthy” chocolate brownies and thought they tasted amazing. I froze a bunch of them and recently tried one, mid-holiday cookies-for-every-meal mode, and thought they tasted horrible! Do any of you have a refined sugar free lifestyle or have you ever “quit” sugar before?

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins  |  Lemon & Mocha

Healthy Gingerbread Muffins
 
Yield: 12 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour, see note
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup milk (any fat percentage or almond milk)
  • ⅓ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup blackstrap molasses
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup chocolate chips, optional
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • Coarse sugar, optional for sprinkling on top
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners and spray the inside of the liners with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Add the milk, yogurt, maple syrup, molasses, olive oil, vanilla and beaten egg. Stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts, if using.
  3. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared paper liners. The batter should fill each liner ½ way up. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with coarse sugar. Bake the muffins for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a couple crumbs. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, them remove to a wire cooling rack to completely cool.
Notes
If you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour, take 1½ cups whole wheat flour then remove 1½ tablespoons of it. Add in 1½ tablespoons of cornstarch and sift together.

Recipe slightly adapted from Ambitious Kitchen.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I know I say this all the time, but you need to try these Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites! This perfect party appetizer has all your favorite flavors of antipasto packed into one creamy bite. I love making appetizers with store-bought puff pastry because they look so fancy, but are actually incredibly easy. The puff pastry does all the work resulting in a buttery and flaky vessel for all the antipasto fixings.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

I’m not sure if you can tell from the photos, but these bites are made in a mini muffin pan so they’re really small, like a one bite deal. Since we are working with limited space inside these little flaky cups I decided to incorporate the artichokes and roasted red peppers by turning them into a simple artichoke dip. The artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers are chopped up then mixed with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and a secret ingredient to make the easiest and creamiest artichoke and red pepper dip ever.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Then on top we have some salami and a mini mozzarella ball to round out our antipasto flavors. You can add in some olives if you like, but Matt and I aren’t olive fans so I left those out. Top with some fresh basil or Italian parsley and you’ve made a delicious twist on a classic antipasto!

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Make sure you read the instructions through and do not put the mozzarella on until they are out of the oven. Mozzarella melts really easily so if you put it in the oven each bite will just be covered in a pool of melted mozzarella. Since we’re using fresh mozzarella balls you really want to be able to taste them so we’re adding them after the bites are all baked.

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

My Crab Dip Puffs recipe is working overtime around here because that, along with my love for antipasto platters, inspired this recipe, too! I hope you all enjoy this one!

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites  |  Lemon & Mocha

Antipasto Puff Pastry Bites
 
Yield: 24
Ingredients
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted, but still cold
  • 3 artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • ⅓ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • ⅓ cup Hellman’s real mayonnaise
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 ounces hard salami
  • 6 ciliegine size mini fresh mozzarella balls
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for serving, optional
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface unfold the puff pastry sheet. Roll into a rectangle about 10” by 15”. Cut the rectangle of puff pastry into 24 squares. Press each square into a cup of the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
  3. While the puffy pastry bites are in the oven, mix together the chopped artichokes, chopped roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, Parmesan and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the salami into 6 thick rounds then cut each round into quarters.
  4. When the puff pastry comes out of the oven, gently press a spoon into the middle of each bite to lightly deflate the middle and make room for the artichoke dip. Spoon the artichoke dip into the puff pastry bites, about a teaspoon per bite. Keep dividing the dip among the bites until all the dip has been used up. Add a piece of salami to the top of each bite, but off to the side to leave room for the mozzarella. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  5. While the bites are in the oven, cut each mozzarella ball into quarters. When the bites come out of the oven let them cool slightly then use a spoon to help you remove them from the pan and place on a platter. Top each bite with a quartered mozzarella ball and the fresh basil or parsley, if using. Serve hot.
Notes
If you want to roast your own red peppers, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a pan or line with nonstick aluminum foil and roast a whole red bell pepper for 20 minutes. Flip the pepper then roast for another 20 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard along with the stem and seeds.