Roasted Fennel, Red Pepper, and Tomato Soup

Roasted Fennel, Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Before I get into my post tonight, I wanted to remind everyone to vote for your favorite Girl Scout Cookie Recipe!!  There are only two days left (the voting cuts off at 10:00pm PST on Friday night), and my girls are really hoping to watch me on TV – or maybe even get on TV themselves.  So, if you haven’t already voted, and you would be so kind, just remember – Samoas Ice-Cream Pie!!

There is nothing more satisfying to me than making something new out of leftovers – or what I call, making something out of nothing.  I hate wasting food, and I love the problem solving (or as some might call creativity) that it takes, and that wonderful feeling when it actually works.

As I have mentioned many times, I am obsessed with Fennel – I love it in just about everything – even cocktails.  Lately I have been slicing up fennel with some red pepper strips and tomatoes, then putting some chicken thighs on top and roasting the big pan in the oven until the fennel is soft, and the chicken is crispy on the outside, but moist on the inside.  It is delicious – a one dish meal complete with a flavorful pan sauce.  It is a weeknight dinner to be proud of.  Well, last weekend I had a bunch of fennel leftover, and some chicken stock and rice in the refrigerator that I had to use up – and it hit me.  I got out my favorite kitchen appliance as of late (I swear that Ninja Blender is amazing), and in a matter of minutes, I had a perfect lunch.  My husband even tried it, and loved it.

So here you go, whether you expand the recipe and start off with some roasted chicken first, or you just go for the soup, I know this will make you a healthy and satisfying meal to be proud of.  Now go vote!!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 14.5 ounce jar petit diced tomatoes with roasted garlic
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cups pre-cooked rice

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the thinly sliced fennel and red bell pepper into a 9×13 glass baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray.  Slightly drain the jar of tomatoes, and scatter around the fennel and bell pepper.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 45-60 minutes, or until the fennel is really soft.

Place the vegetables with the chicken broth in a blender – you may have to do this in two batches (use half the chicken stock and half the vegetables) and puree until smooth.  Add the cooked rice, and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:   Roasted Fennel, Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Nan’s Apple Cobbler

Nan's Apple Cobbler

Before I get into this week’s post…I want to bring you back to the Samoas Ice Cream Pie – remember that one?  As luck would have it, I managed to make it as a finalist in the Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest!!  HORAAY!!!  That means I NEED YOUR HELP.  The winner with the most votes wins the contest – you can help me out here.  You only have until February 27th at 10pm to vote.  One vote per person, so tell your friends!  Now if I win, I am going to donate the money to charity.  Which charity?  Well, that’s where you come in!  Please leave a comment with your favorite charity, and if I win, I will randomly select one. Oh, and one more thing – cookies go on sale Monday, February 27th and last until March 15th.  So you have a few weeks to stock up on those cookies – particularly the Samoas, so you can make that Ice Cream Pie!  Remember, it is Samoas 40th Birthday!!

I know what you are thinking…what are those pumpkins doing in this post?  Well, I am behind…more than just a little.  I still haven’t even made the neighbors their special holiday treats…hopefully I will catch up soon.  I am just dealing with a lot these days.  So what does this amazing looking Apple Cobbler have to do with the Samoas Ice Cream Pie?  The crust!!  In the Samoas Ice Cream Pie, the ice cream was something else – but it was nothing compared to that crust.  Well, here we go again, except that this time the ratio of crust to filling is about 1:1.  You don’t get that very often.  But this cobbler is all about the crust – my grandmother definitely knew what she was doing here – but then again, when did she not when it came to desserts?  Remember, I used her fudge recipe for the pie as well.

So, even though the fall is long gone, it is always apple season here in the pacific northwest – and this cobbler is calling your name.  That is after you pick up some Girl Scout Cookies and make that Samoas Ice Cream Pie…

Ingredients

Topping

  • 2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 rounded teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (or vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • turnbinado sugar

Filling

  • 3 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preparation

Make the topping – combine the flour, baking powder and sugar.  Add the butter in 1 tablespoon chunks, and mix with your fingers until it looks like course meal.  Add the vanilla, bourbon and vinegar and gather up into a ball using plastic wrap – then throw against the counter until it is all combined well.  Chill for about 2 hours. Mix the apples with the rest of the ingredients.  Grease an 7X11 glass baking dish.  Add apple mixture.  Remove topping from the refrigerator, and break into small chunks all over the apple filling.  Brush with the milk, then sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and cook until bubble and the topping is golden, about 20-30 minutes more.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Nan’s Apple Cobbler

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Feta

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

I have a lot going on right now – not just my normal “lot” – but there are some big events coming up in the next few months that I am spending time on, which is taking time away from the kitchen.  I will get back there eventually, but for now I need to make sure all my ducks are in a row.  They are getting there, but it is taking a lot of my time.  What little time I have left when I am not working – which is not a lot these days – work is 200% consuming, and then I have to think about those ducks. Those ducks don’t always want to stay in their rows.

So right now I am focused on cooking healthy foods that are easy to make.  Ok – I know, last week’s post was certainly the opposite of that, but I made an exception.  We have been in a rut recently – a rice rut.  As a family, we probably consume rice 5 out of 7 nights a week.  Fortunately we switched to brown rice a while ago – but still.  It is shocking to me that the kids haven’t protested yet.  I decided that it just couldn’t go on anymore, and that I needed to shake things up a bit – and that’s when I thought about quinoa.

Quinoa is completely underrated – rice gets all the glory – but quinoa is awesome, versatile, and also so easy to make!  It just so happened that I had some fresh feta in the refrigerator that I had to use up – so I went with a Mediterranean theme for this side dish.  It was almost like spring came to dinner.  It was fresh, flavorful and delicious.  And only one duck fell down in the process…

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup oil and vinegar salad dressing

Preparation

Mix all the ingredients together – and serve chilled.  Yes, it is that easy!

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Feta

Samoas Ice Cream Pie

Somoas Ice-Cream Pie

Yes, it is that time again – not just Super Bowl time, but GIRL SCOUT COOKIE TIME!!!  How can you resist those beautiful colored boxes filled with deliciousness, and sold by girls who are learning to be leaders. Last year I decided to skip the Girl Scout Cookie Recipe Contest, I was just too busy, and I couldn’t fit it in.  This year I am even busier, but when I saw the email that they were going to be celebrating the 40th Birthday of the Samoas Cookie, I just had to make time.  That combination of chocolate, caramel, coconut and shortbread is a winner…and just happens to be my favorite cookie.

The Girl Scouts are an amazing organization.  Their mission is building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place, by helping them discover their inner strength, passions, and talents. Working at a company that is predominantly male has really taught me how important it is for women to be heard – and without that confidence and courage, it can be difficult.  Fortunately this organization is teaching girls at a young age how important it is, so when they grow up and are in the workplace, they won’t even have to think about it.  They will hold their head high, proud of what they are able to accomplish.

As in the past, if I win the grand prize, I would like to donate the money to a charity – and I am going to ask you – my readers – to choose the charity.  That’s right – so stayed tuned for more on that – no sense in giving more details if I am not a finalist.  This competition is stiff – I know from experience – so let’s hope that I can at least make it as a finalist this year.

So why did I choose this pie?  Well, I had a lot of different ideas, but ice-cream just kept coming back to me.  I think it’s because I have secretly always wanted to make Samoas ice-cream.  And oh boy is it amazing.  Although the crust on this pie really was the kicker – once I took those cookies and put them into the food processor – I knew they would make an unbelievable crust – and I was right.  So not only do you have a cookie bottom, you have cookies in the ice-cream as well, and then with some of my grandmother’s chocolate sauce, and a caramel sauce that was easy as pie to make – you have an ice-cream pie that is absolutely over the top.  If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, you can definitely just buy some vanilla ice-cream, and fold in the coarsely chopped cookies, before adding it to the pie.  Darigold was nice enough to put in some coupons with the cookies, so I decided to go home-made.  YUM.

If after reading this post, you are ready to go get yourself some cookies – don’t fret – you can find the cookies here!  Unfortunately you will have to wait a little bit, as the cookie sales happen from February 27 – March 15 – but it will be here before you know it.  Happy Birthday Samoas!!

Ingredients

crust

  • 1 1/2 boxes Samoas Cookies
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

ice-cream

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 box Samoas Cookies, coarsely chopped

fudge sauce

  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

caramel sauce

  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 stick Butter (4 Tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup Half-and-half Or Cream (cream Will Make It Thicker)
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
  • Pinch Of Salt

Preparation

Make the crust.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the Samoas into the food processor and pulse until the cookies are finely ground.  Add to a bowl.  Melt the butter and pour over the cookie crumbs.  Mix well, so that the butter is evenly distributed.  Press the cookie mixture into a 9″ pie pan, and press up the sides of the pan evenly.  Bake for 8 minutes, and then cool completely.

Make the ice-cream.  Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream, milk, and vanilla and whisk to blend.  Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.  When the ice-cream is done, add the coarsely chopped Samoas and fold into the ice-cream.  Put into the freezer for at least 1 hour.

Make the fudge sauce.  Melt butter over medium heat.  Add unsweetened chocolate & melt, stirring. Add cocoa, sugar, and milk and stir well to combine. Boil a few minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat then add vanilla and salt. Stir to combine.  Heat GENTLY in microwave to soften & serve.

Make the caramel sauce. Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker. Turn off heat. If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes.

Put the pie together.  Add the ice-cream to the pie pan with the cooled crust – spreading evenly on top.  Soften the fudge sauce and caramel in the microwave, and drizzle on top of the pie.  Put back in the freezer until you are ready to serve.  Let the pie sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before serving so it is easier to cut.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Samoas Ice-Cream Pie

Samoas Ice-Cream Pie

Macklesmores

Maclasmores

Macklemore is now a household name in most families with teenagers.  That’s what happens when you have a hit song.  He is even more of a hit in his hometown of Seattle.  People here love him, and he was a product of Seattle Public Schools – even better. My daughter may just end up at the high school he attended – which is now probably famous because of him.

Not far from where he went to high school is a cookie shop named Hello Robin – they sell delectable homemade cookies (that you can watch come out of the oven), along with Molly Moon’s Ice Cream (another Seattle icon).  We started going there last summer, and that’s where I saw the Macklesmores.  I was instantly obsessed – without even trying one.  It took me a few visits, but I finally broke down and bought one.  Oh my gosh – this was quite a cookie.  It was almost the best cookie I have ever had.  I had to make them for myself.

So one night when we were there, they were actually taking them out of the oven – so I asked the woman if I could get the recipe.  No can do – she said she really didn’t mix them up anyway, but she was pretty sure they used Honey Maid Grahams.  That’s all I got.  So – I was on my own to try and figure it out.  The first batch I made I decided to go with these cookies.  I thought they looked similar to the cookies in the store.  Unfortunately it was a bust – the cookies just almost melted over the grahams, and the marshmallows just melted into the cookies – they tasted great, but they were just sad looking.

That’s when I turned to my mother.  I needed a rustic cookie recipe that would be perfect for these grahams, and she had just the solution.  Her go-to cookie recipe.  Now, when she determines that something meets that type of standard, she has done her due diligence.  She doesn’t mess around when it comes to perfecting the best recipe.  Even though I knew this, as I was mixing them up, I was still worried – I made her call me from Paris just to make sure I was doing it right – and I was.  I followed the directions though completely – the most important of the steps is refrigerating the batter.  You MUST do that for these cookies to work, and for the marshmallows to stay intact.  These were outstanding…they looked exactly like the real thing.  Even if Hello Robin is frustrated right now…at hopefully Macklemore would approve.  After all, how many other Seattle legends have a cookie named after them?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound sweet butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • Honey Maid Graham Crackers
  • Dark Chocolate cut into squares

Preparation

Melt the butter. Whisk in both sugars and cool to room temperature. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and beat well. Stir in dry ingredients then chips, then wrap and chill 60 minutes.

Break the graham crackers in half, and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment.  Using a small ice cream scoop (a generous tablespoon), place a scoop on each of the graham crackers.  Bake 325 degrees convection until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Turn pan in oven when there’s 3 minutes left on the timer refrigerator between batches.

Makes about 40 cookies.

When cookies come out of the oven, place a square of chocolate in the middle of each chocolate, and lightly press.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Macklesmores

Celery Tonic

Celery Tonic 2

As I am writing this today, I am listening to my family agonize about what is going on with the Seahawks.  I am not much of a football fan, but I am a big Seattle fan, and anything that will make the city happy, I am in favor of.  My older daughter, who does happen to love the game is upstairs doing homework (she is a little superstitious), while my younger daughter has been lured downstairs to watch the game with her father.  They are going nuts right about now…

New Year’s is always a great time to try out new drinks, and I am finally getting around the post the fan favorite.  I remember seeing this cocktail in Bon Appetit and thinking that it looked very interesting – but I didn’t like that it was not green.  I knew if I was going to make this, I needed a really good muddler – to really extract out all of that delicious celery juice.  Fortunately for me the folks at Artic Chill had sent me a muddler to review months ago – and I was really hoping it would come through for me.

This muddler made it so easy to make this drink – and so easy to ensure that there was plenty of green celery juice for this drink.  This will now be my muddler of choice – it sure beats the end of the wooden spoon that I used to use. Ok, excuse me while I go downstairs to see how this ends…hopefully I will be making another round of these tonight to celebrate.

Ingredients

  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ounces gin (substitute for tonic water if non-alcoholic)
  • Lemon twist (for serving)

Preparation

Muddle celery with sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker, 1 minute. Add gin, fill shaker with ice, and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

Servings: Makes 1

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Celery Tonic

Jammin’ Oat Muffins

Music is almost as magical as food is.  It has those same powers that can get you to remember something – you can be going about your business and a song comes on, and it takes you to a different place.  Just like food can.  I used to be completely obsessed with music when I was growing up – and someone that has been replaced with food.  I still love music, but it is not what gets me up in the morning.

In college at parties, there was a lot of Bob Marley being played – especially when the weather was nice, and everyone was outside.  For some reason, whenever I get out my jam supplies I start singing Bob Marley’s “Jammin'” song:

Ooh, yeah! All right!
We’re jammin':
I wanna jam it wid you.
We’re jammin’, jammin’,
And I hope you like jammin’, too.

Ain’t no rules, ain’t no vow, we can do it anyhow:
I’n’I will see you through,
‘Cos everyday we pay the price with a little sacrifice,
Jammin’ till the jam is through.

We’re jammin’ -
To think that jammin’ was a thing of the past;
We’re jammin’,
And I hope this jam is gonna last.

Yep – and even though he was not talking about making jam, the words seem to work perfectly for my hobby.  But seriously, it brings me back to those college days – did I ever think that someday this song would have a different meaning to me?  That must be it, this song was all about making jam – but no one knew it.

So needless to say, when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, of course I went right back to that song.  And I sang it the entire time I was baking these as well. Of course I used my homemade raspberry jam for these, and they were fantastic.  They added the perfect amount of sweetness to these lovely muffins. Exactly what I need to get me out of bed in the morning…

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup raspberry preserves or jam

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Crack egg into a medium bowl, and beat lightly with a fork. Add milk, oil, and maple syrup; mix well.

Pour egg mixture into flour mixture, and stir until combined (mixture should still be lumpy and very wet). Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup. Spoon 1 teaspoon preserves or jam into center of each cup of batter. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in centers. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Place muffins on a wire rack. Cool 15 minutes before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Jammin’ Oat Muffins

Nan’s Fudge Sauce

Ice Cream Pie with Chocolate Sauce

Nothing says Happy New Year quite like a good cocktail, or a nice piece of ice cream cake.  At least that’s what we decided this year.  After a week off from work, and we still had New Year’s to look forward to, things were looking good.  We had ample time to really think hard about the dessert we would prepare.  Normally I put that kind of thought into the cocktails that I make, but this year things were a little different.  I really put together the cocktail list in a matter of minutes, but we spent hours going back and forth on the dessert.

The dessert was really created around a centerpiece, and that was my grandmother’s chocolate sauce.  My mother had made some when she was visiting, and we still had a lot left over.  This is not your ordinary chocolate sauce either – I seriously could eat it with a spoon, it is so perfectly balanced.  So, it was not crazy at all that we had to create a dessert in order to incorporate her sauce.  Ice cream was of course the first thing we thought of – but it was New Year’s Eve – a special celebration – it had to be outrageous.  I am not sure whose idea it was to create a brownie bottom, but we debated the brownie bottom vs. the chocolate chip cookie bottom for quite some time – at one point we even had both in the dessert – but we ended up settling for the brownie.  Then it was time to choose the ice cream.  Mint chocolate chip was the clear winner for a while, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that some people don’t like mint.  Also – I thought that the richness of the brownie needed some type of vanilla in the ice cream.

It wasn’t until we were at the store – after spending 15 minutes with multiple selections in our cart, that we ended up with chocolate chip cookie dough.  We added a little whipped cream on top, and then poured the chocolate sauce all over.  Wow. That is just about all I can say.  Here’s to a New Year filled with health, happiness, delicious food and creative cocktails.  What more could you want?

Ingredients

Brownie

  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks, divided
  • 1/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Chocolate Sauce

  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

  • half-gallon chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
  • whipped cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate and milk in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and eggs. Add milk mixture and 1/2 cup chocolate; stir to combine.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan with a piece of parchment paper that over hangs on two of the sides – then butter the parchment. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a rack.

When brownies are completely cool, let the ice cream sit on the counter until it is slightly softened (so it is spreadable).  Spread the ice cream on top of the brownie in the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap, and put back in the freezer until frozen solid.

To make the fudge sauce, melt butter over medium heat.  Add unsweetened chocolate & melt, stirring. Add cocoa, sugar, and milk and stir well to combine. Boil a few minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat then add vanilla and salt. Stir to combine.  Keeps in refrigerator for a few weeks. Heat GENTLY in microwave to soften & serve.

When you are ready to serve, you can lift on the parchment paper and place the entire cake on a cutting board and cut into 16 squares.  Put some whipped cream on each piece, and top with warm chocolate sauce.  Enjoy!

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Nan’s Fudge Sauce

Maple Caramel Corn

Maple Caramel Corn

It is hard to believe there are just a few more days until the holidays, I feel like the lights and festivities have just begun!   I hope everyone is completely prepared, with all your shopping done – and you are just relaxing this weekend…right.  I know how it goes, it is never that easy.  All I have to say is I am so glad I started making jam last spring, it really made my gift giving a lot easier this year.  Of course I didn’t make nearly as much as I usually do – but I still made enough to make it through.

If you are trying to decide what to make for your friends, family and neighbors, I am here to help.  I decided to post just a few of

my favorites for you – and all of these are easy enough to bang out in a day – and you still have 5 days until Christmas!

Here are a few of my favorites:

1)  Pear Vanilla Jam

2)  Chocolate Almond Toffee

3)  Salted Pistachio Brittle

4)  Vanilla Bean Caramels with Fleur de Sel

5)  Rocky Rods

And now for a new one to add to the list – this Maple Caramel Corn that we made at The Pantry Holiday Gift Making class – with kids.  We couldn’t stop snacking on this, it is quite addicting.  Boy would I be happy with this as a gift.

I wish all of you a very happy holiday – I hope you spend it with the people you love, and with food that you have been craving.  And most of all, I hope you can relax just a little…that would be the best gift of all.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons high-heat oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • flaky sea salt for finishing

Preparation

Preheat the over to 250 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium-high heat.  Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.  When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/4 cup of kernels in an even layer.  Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds.  Note:  this method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

Return the pan to the heat.  The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once.  Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner.  Keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release; this makes the popcorn slightly drier and crisper.  Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat.  Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and transfer the popcorn from the pan to the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, spices and water.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Continue to summer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 3-4 minutes.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whish in the baking soda and vanilla.

Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn.  Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt.  Place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.  Gently break up the popcorn and serve.

Keeps in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Maple Caramel Corn

 

Eggnog Pancakes

Eggnog Pancakes

Well, the holidays are in full swing – I wish I could say I was ready for them.  Every year I am behind, but this year things are a little out of control.  They are so forgone, that this weekend I completely forgot about the Rocky Rods, that my friends and neighbors look forward to each year.  Needless to say, I am going to have to make it up to them in other ways.  Maybe some Valentine’s Day treats instead?  I just couldn’t fit it all in, and in order to avoid a complete nervous breakdown, I had to prioritize, and unfortunately they didn’t fall to the top.

Something else that completely slipped my mind – my annual holiday post highlighting my favorite gifts for the season.  So here I am, with my list.  Every year it is so easy, and this year was no exception.  I created this list in about 5 minutes – and if it helps just one of you with holiday shopping this year, it was completely worth it.

  1. The Nutra Ninja Blender Duo - wow, this blender blew me away…I was not really a blender person before I used this – I love the smoothie cups it comes with, not only do the smoothies blend perfectly, clean up is a cinch.  I cannot recommend this one enough…
  2. Artic Chill Cocktail Muddler – this is a must if you are a cocktail maker – particularly if you like making drinks with fresh herbs like mint – I have also used this with peaches and cherries, and it does wonders.  Before I had one I used the back of a wooden spoon – I had no idea was I was missing.  It is the grooved nylon tip that does all the magic…
  3. Lori’s Salt Caramel Syrup – I am not much of a syrup person, that was until I tried this stuff.  I seriously could drink this in a glass, it is that good.  Oh, and put on top of these eggnog pancakes?  Just stop.  We were all licking our plates in delight.
  4. Lemon and Lime Juicer – I didn’t realize how easy it could be to use fresh lemon or lime juice before I got this contraption.  There is no reason to ever buy bottled lemon or lime juice again – this makes it so quick and easy, and seriously your food will taste better using fresh juice.
  5. Large Cookie Spatula – this has been on my favorite holiday gifts list ever since I started this.  I use this for just about everything – cakes, roasts, anything that has to be moved, and requires a large surface area to do so. I have even got my husband to start using it…

You can thank my mother for the recipe – when I was in Madrid a couple of weeks ago, she woke up at 6am, just to make these for my girls before they went to school.  They loved them so much, I had to give them a try.  They are a perfect holiday treat – particularly if you have some eggnog that you are looking to use up.  Fortunately school break is coming up, and you won’t need to get up before sunrise to make them…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (fresh) or cinnamon
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 2 cups eggnog (can be low fat)
  • 1/4 cup oil

Preparation

Combine dry ingredients and whisk to combine.  In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.  With a wooden spoon, mix wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until combined.  Do not overwork, the batter may be lumpy.

Heat a small amount of butter or oil and cook pancakes on medium (or if using a non-stick pan, you might be able to skip the butter/oil).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:   Eggnog Pancakes