Outdoor dining, truffles and Chico's Zenergy

Let’s discuss outdoor dining, truffles and Chico’s Zenergy!

Happy Sunday, everyone.  I realize right now we may have few sunny days, but when you have one, consider outdoor dining.

One of the silver linings of the past year has been going outdoors to eat more often…whether at an eatery or in my backyard. 

OUTDOOR DINING

Outdoor dining, truffles and Chico's Zenergy

When I was working in the professional office life, I was too busy to think “Picnic!”  

But, all of that has changed and now I love the thought of wine, cheese and truffles for a romantic outdoor picnic.

Or replace the wine with sparkling water and it works for the grandchildren too!

CHICO’S ZENERGY IS PERFECT FOR OUTDOOR DINING

Chico's Zenergy is perfect

Lately, when I stop by Chico’s, I head off to the Zenergy collection first.  It is perfect for my current “more casual” lifestyle and keeps me looking fresh and fun.

The Zenergy collection comes with great style, wears and washes well, and keeps me feeling confident no matter where I go. 

Today, I am wearing the pieces in this slideshow below…I want to call attention to the pockets on the jacket…the design is so slimming.  Remember, wearing joggers doesn’t mean that you can’t add accessories!

I also threw in this little slideshow the Zenergy Neema Top in Imperial Blue.  I have showed this top to you before, and I love it!  I am wearing it so much these days.

Takes the look up a level…I like this with my black leather sneakers…..

 

 ADD HOMEMADE TRUFFLES TO OUTDOOR DINING

Outdoor dining, truffles and Chico's Zenergy

Next Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and if your weather allows, consider outdoor dining!

I am even going to use my friend, Iris’s, recipe for homemade truffles…they are so good.

Truffles for outdoor dining

I showed you these dusted in cocoa powder first, because I just found out that cocoa powder is a great source for zinc.

Zinc is something we all need right now to build our immune systems.  I have a long list of the foods that provide zinc in my kitchen.

Chocolate truffles of outdoor dining.

I have said before that Iris is a master chef and these truffles are a great example of that and perfect for the week ahead.  Why not make our own?

I always pay attention to Iris’s tips…I know she has learned from experience!

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (you can use chocolate chips, see tips)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • OPTIONAL: 1/8 cup brandy OR fruit jam OR finely chopped nuts for flavor
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder OR finely chopped nuts, OR powdered sugar and cinnamon OR only powdered sugar. You can try toasted coconut or flavored sugars for coating truffles, too.

Directions

  1. Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, repeating this process if needed one more time. Cover with a plate and set aside.
  2. Heat the heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (or microwave carefully) until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy.
  4. If using alcohol to flavor, gently stir in the brandy. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  5. Using a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  6. For coating the truffles, have cocoa powder, nuts, powdered sugar and/or toasted coconut each in its own small bowl and set aside.
  7. Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.
  8. Roll the truffle into the small bowl with the cocoa powder, sugar, nuts, or coconut. Move the truffle around in the bowl to coat (why you use a small bowl and refill as needed). Leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing.
  9. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (chocolate is notorious for picking up off-flavors).

Tips

  • Ghirardelli chocolate chips are a great for truffle making—it’s decent quality chocolate, and it’s already in chips, so no need to chop up a block of chocolate.
  • Flavor your chocolate ganache (melted chocolate with cream/butter) with any number of ingredients like brandy, coffee, espresso, fortified red wine (!), fruit jelly, or a flavor extract. Rule of thumb: Add one teaspoon at a time until you like the flavor. DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH! The ganache will not set. If this happens, melt more chocolate and add to your mixture until it does set after cooling in the fridge for an hour.
  • Do not flavor ganache with powdered spices (like cinnamon), because you’ll have a gritty mouth feel. Use small amounts of liquid or jelly like a fruit jelly.
  • The magic ratio for making truffles: Two parts chocolate: One-part cream/butter. If the recipe above is too much, here’s a scaled down version:
    • ¼ cup cream + 4 ounces chocolate + 2 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon brandy/cognac/other flavoring
  • If using the microwave to melt into ganache for first time, microwave in 15-20 second bursts, check, then repeat. You can always melt it more…but once it’s scorched, there is no rescue.
  • If your chocolate seizes (looks grainy or separates), add a pat of butter. Your chocolate got too hot and started to seize up. You can rescue it with a little more warm cream, a little corn syrup, or a pat of butter to coax the chocolate fat molecules to smooth out into luscious creaminess.

I hope you will plan some outdoor dining in the future, check out Chico’s Zenergy line and try your hand at making trufffles.  Add a little fun to your week and by all means…..

KEEP SMILING!!

By Pamela Lutrell

Disclaimer:  I was provided clothing for this post, and the words are my own.

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