30 November 2012

Apple Brown Sugar Cookies

So, I'm going to keep this really short and sweet.  My typing ability is greatly impaired right now due to the splint that is currently on the middle finger of my left hand.  I managed to cut myself with a really large chef's knife yesterday evening while breaking down a head of cabbage.  I spent last night in the emergency room waiting to be seen.  Now I have this brace over the cut to keep it from opening up again.  My husband recommended that I go back and re-read the book on knife skills he got me for Christmas a few years ago....

when i say roughly chopped, i mean it.

So, I did manage to make some cookies in my slightly handicapped state.  They're chock full of brown sugar, apple pie spice, and real apples.  I used dried apples, then did a really rough chop on them.  The brown sugar crust also makes a really pretty and tasty crunchy topping.  It pushes these cookies over the top.  Some super fall deliciousness is happening around here.  Hope you have some super fall deliciousness happening at your place, too.

28 November 2012

Eggnog Popcorn

Eggnog was always our big Christmas indulgence when I was a kid.  My mom bought one quart every year.  We drank our cup on Christmas morning while we opened our presents.  Now that I'm a grown up and everything I do the same thing.  We get one quart per year.  Since it's too early to by my carton this year, I decided to think outside the box to get my eggnog fix.

I'm usually a major grinch this time of year thanks to my years of working retail during the holidays.  I don't know what it is this year, maybe it's the spirit of blog-writing, but I am totally full of the Christmas spirit this year.  This snack is my way of getting into the sprint a little early.

The eggnog gelatin I use in this recipe might be a little difficult to find if you aren't in a major city.  Sorry about that.  I got mine at my favorite Hispanic grocery store, La Regional, but from what I understand this brand is pretty easily found at Hispanic markets all over the place.  If you haven't visited your local Hispanic market, than consider this treat your chance to go out and have a new experience.

26 November 2012

Best. Cake. Ever.

Seriously.  Best.  Cake.  Ever.  That's the only way I can describe this.  I was already a big fan of Tres Leches Cake, which I pick up fairly regularly at the local Hispanic Bakery.  If you aren't familiar, Tres Leches Cake, or Three Milks Cake, is a really popular cake in parts of Latin America.  It is a very dense sponge cake, which is baked, then soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and regular white milk.  I had the idea that the regular milk needed to be replaced with coconut milk.  I love coconut milk, so I figured I couldn't go wrong.  It's like Tres Leches Cake and Coconut Cream Pie had a love child.  A love child that is so much better as a sum of those two parts than each one on their own.  I think I'm in love.

You also have to cover the cake with some sort of topping to cover up all the holes you poke in it for the milks to soak in.  I used whipped topping, which you know I love if you read regularly, but feel free to cover it with real whipped cream.  Also, don't let the density of the cake scare you, it's gotta be dense to stand up to all that liquid being poured over it.

23 November 2012

Mock Pumpkin Custard

I have said it before and I will say it again -- I am getting so tired of all things pumpkin.  They're everywhere.  If you looked at Pinterest, you would think that half of the American diet consists of pumpkin-based foods.  It is really out of hand.  I read somewhere last week that someone (The New York Times, maybe?) declared that pumpkin is the next Nutella.  Don't get me wrong -- I really like pumpkin, but I like the spices usually combined with pumpkin as much as the gourd itself.

This is a dessert I have wanted to try out for a while.  It's one of those ideas that I love, since it makes something truly delightful out of nearly nothing.  I expected it to be full of those Fall flavors like ginger and cinnamon, but I didn't expect it to taste just like a pumpkin pie without the crust.  It looks eerily like pumpkin pie, too.  I had to put some whipped topping on it just as I do with pumpkin pie.  It's what I had for my Thanksgiving dessert.  None of the dreaded pumpkin was anywhere near my plate.  I'll bet you could even fool your friends.

This is actually a traditional Southern recipe called Indian Pudding or, sometimes, Ozark Pudding.  I had to change the name, though, since I feel a little duped after all these years.  So, if you make it you know what to expect.  You will be amazed by this simple, but so deceptive dessert.  I promise.

21 November 2012

Keepin It Classy for Thanksgiving

Some of the desserts you find at holiday tables are not what you would call classy.  I think this may be one of those, so the title of this post is a little tongue in cheek.  Any recipe that has word "stuff" in the name, and "stuff" is used as a noun, rather than a verb, you might be in trouble.  This "stuff", however, is one of my guilty pleasures at the holiday buffet.  Don't tell anyone, but I have been known to go back for seconds.  I won't hang my head in shame, though, because this is really tasty.  I did sprinkle some pistachios on top to fancy it up a little.  Plus, they look pretty against the pink color.

Magical things happen when you combine sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping.  Together they set up into a light, fluffy, and mousse-like cloud.  The two combined act like they have had gelatin added, though, and they will hold their shape a little.  It doesn't really make since that adding a liquid to whipped topping makes a semi-solid, but it does.  In my post on on kitchen tips, I threw in a recipe for Kool Aid pie.  The combination of sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping is the basis for that pie.

The food-snob in me says that I should be looking to replace the whipped topping with actual whipped cream.  Deep down I know that it's the right thing to do.  If doing it is wrong, though, I don't wanna be right.  Maybe it's my country roots, but I love the stuff and I will keep using it.  So, embrace the whipped topping and join me on the dark side.

19 November 2012

No Bake Gingerbread Balls

The Christmas season is almost upon us.  It has really crept up on me this year.  I am usually all prepared for my Thanksgiving desserts weeks before it gets here.  This year I have no idea what I am going to make.  I guess I'm going to have to figure it out pretty soon.

These no bake, easy desserts are really starting to get out of hand.  I was going to move on today and start making some more complex desserts, like cakes and pies, for holiday gatherings, but I came across a vague idea for these cookies and I just had to make them.  These are still a cookie, I guess, since they are flour-based, but they are sort of a cookie crossed with a truffle.  Like my last few posts, these also are super-duper simple to whip up.  They do require the use of the stove, but no candy thermometer.  They are require digging in and getting your hands dirty -- literally.

These combine all the holiday flavors in a simple little ball even though, unlike many holiday recipes the list of ingredients is remarkably short.  These use their ingredients to maximum efficiency, creating much more complexity and depth without having to haul out the entire pantry.  That fact alone might make these my new favorite.  At the very least, I'm adding them to my yearly gifting repertoire.  Maybe you'll add them to yours, too.
yummy honey
the secret complex ingredient -- unsulphured molasses

16 November 2012

Sweets That Must Not Be Named

My inner geek ended up coming out in the naming of this post (I heart Harry Potter).  I have had this recipe for years, but could never bring myself to make it for a couple of reasons.  First reason is that it's just weird.  Second reason is the original name.  I unearthed this in my grandmother's recipes about ten years ago and have always remembered it by name.  I can't remember the name of someone I had a conversation with this afternoon, but I can remember the name of this recipe.  It's that ridiculous.

Is that enough suspense?  This recipe, which dates from somewhere in the depths of the sixties, is Fritos Fruckies.  Really.  I promise.  My husband and I sat and laughed about it for about an hour last night once I announced that I was finally going to make them.  I told him about the recipe ages ago.  It has lived in infamy for years.

Back to reason number one for not having made this recipe before today -- the weirdness.  This can't really decide if it's a cookie or a candy.  It's spread out in a baking dish like a bar cookie, but it yearns to be mixed together and dropped in mounds like a no-bake cookie instead.  If I ever make them again, I think I'll try it that way instead.

I might just make these again, too.  They're pretty gosh darn tasty.  They're essentially peanut butter fudge poured over Fritos and covered with chocolate.  The Fritos turn sort of rice cereal-ish once it's all melded together.  My husband has issues with the Fritos, but it's just because they're Fritos, not because they don't taste good.

I guess these just boil down to whether you're brave enough to try it out.....

14 November 2012

Cinnamon Toast Cobbler

We had a really good blast of wintry air on Sunday night, so I really needed some good cold weather comfort food.  I think it's in my DNA, since my mom does the same thing.  As soon as it turns cold she makes chili, chicken and dumplings, or cobbler.  I found a version of this recipe on a scrap of paper in one of my grandmother's cookbooks.  It's in her handwriting, but I don't know if it was her recipe or someone else's that she jotted down.  If she liked it enough to write it down, though, I knew it had to be good.

hubby dipping and arranging the bread slices
This cobbler requires getting a couple of extra dishes dirty, but it really is terrifically simple and I bet you have just about everything to make it already in your pantry.  I had to go out and buy some canned peaches, but I already had everything else.  I wish I had found this recipe earlier.  I was missing outr.  My grandmother never made this for me, either.  I think it was so good she just kept it all to herself.

My hubby helped out with the cooking this time, too.  Usually my 5 year old is the kitchen helper, but today my husband came in and helped out.  The words Cinnamon Toast Cobbler were enough to keep him close to the action.  Or maybe he just wanted to make sure the kids didn't eat his share.  You could substitute other fruits if you can find them canned in syrup, but I really do think peaches work the best.  Be sure the get them in heavy syrup.  You need that syrup to make the sauce.

12 November 2012

Double Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles

Christmas is a holiday filled with lots of mixed emotions for me.  One one hand, I am a total grinch.  I've worked retail for nearly 20 years, so hearing Christmas songs on a loop 50 hours a week, 6 weeks in a row tends to suck out the holiday spirit.  On the other hand, I love everything else about Christmas.  I love the food, the smells, the tree, spending time with the family, the presents, etc, etc, etc....

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I make big boxes of goodies for all my loved ones at Christmas.  These cookies are definitely gonna get added to the boxes this year.  I saw these Christmas M&Ms at Target a few days ago and knew I had to do something with them.  They're filled with peppermint flavored white chocolate instead of the usual milk chocolate.  Can you say yum?  The main problem I have with white chocolate is that it's not actually chocolate.  So I figured I could take care of that problem by mixing the M&Ms into a chocolate cookies.  I get the best of all worlds with a yummy chocolate cookie chock full of white chocolate, peppermint candy.  They made me pretty darn happy.  Hopefully they will make you happy, too.

09 November 2012

Crack Snack Mix

The name doesn't do this stuff justice.  I have made two batches in the last two days.  There is about one bite left.  A generous hunk of it was eaten by your truly.  These quick and easy snacks could be the death of me.  Or at least the death of pants that will still button....If you don't believe me about how addictive this stuff is, just check out this picture.  I think the only reason there's any left is because no one wanted to be the one to take the last of it from the container.  I took care of that about 30 seconds after this picture was taken.

I went back and forth about what to call this concoction.  I was tempted to call it redneck snack mix, since it is a combination of some good ol' southern snackin' food -- Bugles and dry roasted peanuts.  Every decent Southerner has made a snack of one or both of these items at some point.  At least every one I know has.  I figured I could take these two delicious snack foods, cover them with caramel and end up with something delicious.  I was right, since it is truly quite delicious, but is also so addictive it's pretty unbelievable.  You might have to hide it from yourself.  

I'm also back on the microwave kick with this recipe.  The caramel for this is made in the microwave and takes no time at all.  It's a good thing this stuff is easy, since you might have to make it pretty often when the cravings kick in.  I'm currently resisting the urge to make another batch right now.  I only wish I were kidding about that.  I am going to have to force myself to kick the caramel habit for at least a few more hours.  I did make two batches of this stuff and I made one change between the two batches -- one batch had some ground chipotle chile pepper in it and the other did not.  There was some debate as to which is the better of the two.  The vote was pretty much split down the middle, so you can decide for yourself whether to add it or you can make two batches and conduct your own survey.  

07 November 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Snack Mix

I'm gonna keep this one pretty short and sweet, much like this recipe.  This does involve the oven, rather than the microwave, but requires so little hands-on time that it's even easier than my last few posts.  I do say this hesitantly, because I do love the Sucre a la Creme dearly, but this one may also be my favorite.  Just stir it, bake it, and eat it up.  How much easier could it be?  I have to keep this short, though, because I really wanna make some more, but I've already eaten enough for about ten people in the last couple of days.  I must move on.....

Holiday Snack Mix

Print me, Please!!!

5 cups salted pretzels (any shape)
1 1/2 to 2 cups mixed nuts with dried cranberries (I got mine at Target.  It was a blend of almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 300°.  Pour the pretzels nuts, and cranberries in a big bowl.  Pour the remaining ingredients over the top.  Stir until well coated and combined.  Put the snack mix in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring just a little every ten minutes or so to make sure that everything is evenly toasted and coated.  Remove from oven.  Let cool.  Store in an airtight container.

05 November 2012

Almond Sucre a la Creme

Warning!  This recipe is most decidedly not Southern!  This my spin on the traditional fudge of Quebec.  It's so good, I had to share it, though.  And it fits in with my super quick goody series.  I have some super-duper love in my heart for Quebec.  I used to travel there with work, so I got to spend a little time there.  I also have some friends up there from my days of booking bands.  You gotta love a place that embraces anything resembling this fudge.

I must admit that is fudge is pretty darn ugly.  It's not smooth and creamy, which is typically the goal in fudge texture.  It's crumbly with well-defined sugar crystals.  It also breaks apart into chunks rather than slicing into neat little squares.  Don't let the appearance fool you, though, because it's crazy-delicious.  It's a mix of those luscious, deep brown sugar flavors crossed with a wallop of almond.   I have made two batches in the last couple of weeks.  Every last crumb of it is gone and all of us at work have been running on an incredible sugar high.

02 November 2012

Easy Salted Dulce de Leche

I am breaking my streak here, since this Dulce de Leche does take more than 10 minutes, but considering all the "easy" variations that are floating around out there, this one is really darn quick and terrifically easy.  Most of the homemade versions you find around take anywhere from 90 minutes to 8 hours, depending on the cooking method.  This one takes 30 minutes.

I haven't made any Dulce de Leche before because I am all for instant gratification.  I also don't like to make anything that requires my oven to be on for hours on end.  I'm not the "greenest" person around, but I think it's just wasteful.  I have made homemade caramel plenty of times on my stovetop and it takes about the same amount of time as this one, but it is definitely more hands on.  It also breaks one of my holiday treats rules -- you have to use a candy thermometer.  For this caramel you need a can opener (unless your can has a tab top), a bowl, a spoon, and a microwave.

Since salted caramel is all the rage, and just because I like it, I added salt to mine.  The addition definitely elevates this to another level from the stuff you buy in a can at the grocery store.  You gotta love that depth of flavor and the salty/sweet combination.  It's what my dreams are made of.

Use this in any recipe calling for Dulce de Leche.  You can also sandwich it between cookies, heat it up and pour it over ice cream, or just eat it.


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