Mar
04
2009
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Chocolate Fruit Balls

Sweet Tooth's Healthy Delight

Sweet Tooth

Kids in Sweden love them. Adults in Sweden buy them at the shops without telling their kids. They are an energy bomb and are the sweet tooth’s delight. What are they? Chokladbollar or chocolate balls! How can I possibly think of including this in a health food blog, you may well wonder. Well, let’s see.

I’ve been working on ways to create this Swedish sweet-tooth’s dream with means other than the usual bomb of butter and sugar. I’ve worked out a version with oats and honey in the past, but that still includes butter. Chocolate balls do have the virtues that you can make them bite-size and they don’t include white flour. However, I’ve got to do better than that.

So here comes my solution: chocolate balls made with dried fruit. Some of us (including me) are sensitive to dry fruit and, in general, medical science is beginning to realize that different bodies have different tolerances for high quantities of fiber. So, choose a dried fruit that agrees with you. I love dried apricots, but my stomach growls when I eat more than just a touch of them, so I combine a bit of dried apricot with dried figs, dried apples and sometimes dried cranberries. The great thing about using dried fruit to make these delicious little sweet quenchers is that the moisture and sugar in the fruit allows you to skip the sugar and butter. A little added honey and you are away. Also, if you are lactose, gluten, milk or egg intolerant, this recipe meets your needs! Here is my suggestion which can be made in many variations.

Chocolate Fruit Balls (makes about 20-25)

2 cups or 5 dl nuts of your choice (a mixture of almonds, walnuts and cashew works well)
1 cup or 2 1/2 dl dried fruits of your choice
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsps honey
either 2 tbsps grated apple or grated rind of one orange plus juice of half an orange

1/4 cup or 1 dl dessicated coconut or unsweetened cocoa powder for dipping the balls in

Grind nuts and dried fruit in a food processor until they form moist clumps. Add remaining ingredients and blend until a smooth paste. Pour the dessicated coconut or cocoa powder into a bowl. Take a tablespoon of the paste and roll into a ball, dip in the coconut/cocoa and place on a serving plate. Keep refrigerated.

Chocolate fruit balls are not just a child’s delight. They are also an elegant finish to a nice meal, particularly if everyone is too full for a major dessert. Just serve them up with coffee or tea after the meal. Very elegant indeed served on a platter and surrounded with a bit of fresh fruit.

Dec
09
2008
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Little Cookies

The Famous Small Cookie Tin

The Famous Small Cookie Tin

On several occasions I have written about the virtues of one little old Swedish ladies’ traditions: småkakor or little cookies. In our bigger is better world, these are that marvelous exception. Small is beautiful, particularly when it comes to cookies. If I am drinking a cup of coffee or tea I usually want something sweet with it – I want a småkaka or a little cookie that no one in Wayne’s Coffee or Starbucks is prepared to give me.

For years I read stories to children between the ages of 3 and 10 at a nearby school. I always brought with me a tin of home-made småkakor as I knew that mid-afternoon most kids’ blood sugar sinks to levels that make concentrating seem like climbing Mount Everest. My småkakor were of course a great hit, but to console myself that the kids did not just come for the cookies I told myself that they would not have come had I offered cookies but no story.

Now, I’m not trying to suggest that processed flour, sugar and big lumps of butter are healthy ingredients. All of those should be minimized in our diets and that is just what little cookies do, particularly during the holiday season when everyone wants to feel, well, just a little richer.

I noticed in Johanna’s marvelous thrift blog that she is running her usual new perspective across metal tins. Here is the childrens’ favorite recipe for småkakor which combined with Johanna’s packaging ideas could make a unique and thoughtful Christmas gift.

Chocolate Slices
(makes ca 40 thin biscuits)

100g or 3.5 oz. butter, softened at room temperature
1 dl or 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup or light cooking syrup
2 dl or 3/4 cup white flour
2.5 dl or 1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 C or 350 F. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Cream sugar and butter. Add syrup. Blend dry in ingredients in a separate bowl and mix into the creamed mixture gradually. Scatter a little extra flour across a clean surface. Split the dough into two and form two long rolls about as long as a baking sheet. Place them on the baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly (but not completely) and then cut into flat, thin strips about 2 cm or 0.8 cm in width. Allow to cool completely prior to storing.

Oct
01
2008
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Apples, apples and more apples

Divine Aromatic Apples

Divine Aromatic Apples

If there isn’t something sweet available in the kitchen as the day wears on, I begin to hear a certain scrounging going on in the kitchen. Empty chocolate wrappers get frustratedly thrown into the garbage and family members begin to look around in the various little dried fruit jars and other “sweet” storage containers I have around the house. My family is rampant with sweet tooths!

Any doctor will tell you to cut out the sweets. Your body doesn’t need anything sweeter than fruit. Still, there is that longing for a little extra beyond the wholesome apple – so why not make something good with it that isn’t hard to prepare (with a little practice) rather than having everyone scrounging for those wrappers?

17th century map of the first Swedish Apple Orchards

17th century map of the first Swedish apple orchards

If there is something that is easy to come by in the autumn where I live, it is an aromatic apple. In a local newspaper article, I just noticed a very interesting historical fact discovered about apple growing in my vicinity: a newly-discovered map drawn sometime during 1630-1640 shows that Sweden’s oldest apple orchards were located near here in a place called Färingsö on Lake Mälaren. In the international apple world, Sweden has a reputation for most flavorsome and greatest variety. It’s got to do with our blissfully long summer days in which there is an intensive build-up of sugars, fruit acid and aromatic substances and our short nights in which those processes take a short break.

Steeped in history, I set about making something sweet for the family using the overflow of apples I have in my kitchen at this time of year. The result was pleasing – 4 out of 5 stars from the family. I used a bit of the leftover apple sauce I had prepared for visiting one-year-old twins this past weekend underneath the fresh cut apples on top of the pie with a tangy and lagom (a very useful word in the Swedish language unavailable in English meaning just right) moist result without loosing the crunchiness. Pie takes a little effort in the beginning but once you perfect the crust, it really isn’t a big deal. Remember – efficiency and convenience is often also about skill honed by practice! You can also go for the ready-made pie crust but it’s not as good and you don’t have control over ingredients which is an important feature of a healthy kitchen.

Lagom (Just Right) Apple Pie

For the crust:
2 dl or 3/4 cup wholemeal flour (grahamsmjöl)
1 dl or  1/2 cup white flour
1 dl or 1/2 cup wheat germ
100 g butter in cubes
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 392 F. Grease a 22-23 cm or 9-inch pie dish. Mix all crust ingredients together in a food processor until they wrap into a ball of dough. If the dough is too loose, add a tablespoon of flour. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface. Alternatively use my little trick of rolling it out in between two sheets of floured baking paper, making it easier to lift into the pie dish. Line the pie dish with the dough. Cut away remaining dough (don’t waste it! line a mini-pie dish if you have one with what is left). Bake 7 mins. Remove from the oven and add filling.

For the filling:
4 dl or 1.5 cups apple sauce (preferably made at home with honey – see recipe)
4 medium-sized tart apples washed and cored (if you like a crunchier recipe, keep the peel on)
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsps brown sugar
1 dl or 1/2 cup chopped almonds
A few small cubes of butter for the topping

Prepare the apples and slice into a bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice, cinnamon and brown sugar, and toss.  Spread the apple sauce evenly over the pie crust. Place apples in a round arrangement sprinkle over the almonds. Place a few butter cubes on top of the pie (be sparing!). Bake 25-30 minutes, making sure that the nuts do not burn.

Honey Apple Sauce

4 medium-sized tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks
Finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
2 dl or 3/4 cup honey
2 tbsps corn starch or other sauce thickener
a little cold water for mixing the corn starch into

Place all ingredients except for the corn starch and water in a cooking pan over low heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon as the honey begins to melt. Allow to cook but not boil until the apples are soft. Test consistency. If thick enough, leave corn starch aside. If too watery, mix corn starch with cold water in a separate bowl and add gradually to the cooking pot until the sauce has reached the desired consistency. Purée if desired. Enjoy just as it is or in my lagom apple pie!

If I’ve just awoken your curiosity about apples (I sure hope so!), check out the archived articles Wisdom Tree and An Apple A Day and the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for more superb savory and sweet apple recipes.

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