secret ingredient chocolate truffles


I love avocados but it is difficult to assess their ripeness. I’ve slit into an avocado only to discover it was either under-ripe or over-ripe. I have discovered that the under-ripe ones hold up well in stews and ratatouilles. The over-ripe ones I usually make into an avocado spread or guacamole. But this came as a revelation to me: to use an avocado to make chocolate truffles (recipe adapted from Christine@Apple of My Eye). The delicate flavor of avocado is overpowered by the chocolate, so its only purpose is to add moisture to the truffle balls. I call the recipe the

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Truffles
Makes 18-20 one-inch diameter truffles

1 over ripe avocado (save the best ones for salads and sandwiches!)
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, recommended (I used semi-sweet baking chocolate and chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided.

In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate over boiling water. Alternatively, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-40 second increments, stirring after each increment. Cool slightly.

Process the avocado until it’s a smooth paste in a food processor. Scrape the avocado paste into the melted chocolate along with the sugar, salt, vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder. Refrigerate or freeze the chocolate mixture until it is firm–about 1-2 hours.

Remove from the fridge or freezer. Using 2 teaspoons, shape the chocolate mixture into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll each chocolate ball in the remaining tablespoon of chocolate powder. Freeze or refrigerate until firm.

Baker’s Note: Though this simple recipe requires no baking, it does need to be thoroughly chilled before rolling in the cocoa powder. And when it is warm, as it is here in Bangkok, the truffle returns to room temperature rather quickly, and the cocoa powder will be absorbed. My sister-in-law who is an expert in all things chocolate, recommends freezing the truffles before rolling them in the cocoa powder. It worked beautifully. Thanks, Mimi!

banana chiffon cake with cream cheese frosting


I love chiffon cakes. They are so light and airy! I also love banana bread. They are dense and sweet, perfect for a light breakfast or a snack. When I saw Chew Out Loud’s recipe for banana chiffon cake, I thought it would a a wonderful combination of the two. Now, in Thailand, there are quite a variety of bananas, but not all of them are good for baking. The one most familiar to Americans, the Thai call kluay hom. The kluay hom is actually the best for baking. It has enough moisture that the pulp of the fruit gets distributed in baking. The smaller varieties such as kluay numwa look like fat stubby fingers, and are best eaten out of hand or dried and candied. My problem is, I have a freezer bag full of these little bananas because they got too ripe and I didn’t want to throw them away. I will have to think about what to do with them.

Banana Chiffon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp table salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup cold water
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup very ripe mashed banana (approx. 2 bananas)
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325F, with rack on lower middle position.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 4 min. Be sure it’s at stiff peaks, not soft peaks.

Cake Baker’s Note: I don’t have a whisk attachment for my handheld mixer, so I decided to whip the egg whites first the make the batter.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined. Make a well in the center. Add oil, unbeaten yolks, water, vanilla, and mashed bananas. Beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold together the banana mixture into the egg white mixture. Carefully fold repeatedly until batter is incorporated, until tiny white streaks remain.

Pour batter unto an ungreased tube pan with removable center/bottom. Bake 60 minutes or just until toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean (a few small tender crumbs attached is perfect.)

Invert the pan over a plate; keep pan inverted until cake is completely cool. Once cooled, use a very thin knife blade and run it carefully around all edges of the cake to loosen cake. Turn upside down onto a plate, and carefully remove the bottom/center of pan from the cake.

Unfortunately, the top of the cake was moist and a bit of the top stuck to the plate when I was removing the center tube. My solution was to fix it with some leftover cream cheese frosting that I had saved in the freezer.

grape salad with candied almonds


This is a light and refreshing salad. Surprisingly, it’s not sweet at all but tart, with crunchy lightly sweet candied nuts on top.

Grape Salad with Candied Almonds (adapted from Eating Well)

Candied Nuts
1/2 cup chopped nuts (e.g. almonds, macadamias, pecans, or walnuts)
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Pinch of salt

Grape Salad
1/2 cup Greek Style yogurt (I used yogurt instead of sour cream)
4 ounces (115g) cream cheese, at room temperature (original recipe: Neufchatel cheese)
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups seedless grapes, preferably red and green (about 2 pounds), washed and patted dry with paper towels

To prepare nuts:

1. Line a small baking pan with parchment paper or foil; coat with cooking spray. Preheat
oven to 400°F.
2. Toss nuts in a bowl with water. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt; toss to coat well. Transfer to the
prepared pan. Bake until the sugar is melted and the nuts are barely starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Cool in the pan until the sugar hardens, about 6 minutes.

To prepare salad:

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cream cheese, honey and vanilla in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Transfer sauce to a large bowl. If the sauce is runny,  thicken it by putting the bowl in the fridge for about 1/2 hour. Add dry grapes and gently stir to coat the grapes in the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish. Crumble the candied nuts on top just before serving.