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Entries in Holidays (5)

Friday
Dec212012

Top 12 Must-Bake Holiday Treats for 2012 

Friday
Dec232011

Chocolate Truffles

I had never made truffles prior to today. They always seemed too complicated to even try. Feeling adventurous, I decided what the heck. How wrong can you really go with butter, cream, and chocolate? They didn't have to be pretty to be tasty. Plus, if they didn't turn out well, I just wouldn't give any away. Turns out, they are delicious. Not the prettiest, but definitely delicious. They are easy to make but messy. Let me emphasize that one more time - really really messy. As in, your hands feel like they are taking a nice dip in a chocolate pool or maybe a chocolate spa package. Again, there are worse things in life. I missed the step in the directions I was following which said, "don latex gloves prior to forming the truffles." Whoops -- may have made a bit of a difference had I actually followed instructions. Cest la vie. And in case you were wondering, my hands are definitely not worse for the wear.

 

Chocolate Truffles

Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

Servings: approximately 16

  • 8oz 60% cacao chocolate (I used 2-4oz bars of Ghiardelli)
  • 1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate (either chips or bars)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • Coatings of your choice - I used 2 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tbsp sprinkles, 3 tbsp coconut flakes

 

  1. Place the chocoate and butterin a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Repeat the process 1-2 more times (until chocolate is melted).
  2. Heat the whipping cream and corn syrup in a small pan over medium heat until simmering.
  3. Pour cream and corn syrup mixture over the melted chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes without mixing it together.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently. Alton Brown recommends you start in the middle and stir outwords until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy. I followed his instructions and have zero idea what would happen if you started out and worked in or if you didn't use a rubber spatula. Might as well go with what Alton says. He is the man afterall.
  5. Pour the mixture into an 8x8 glass baking dish and refrigerate for an hour.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Using a scoop (I used an ice cream scoop), scoop chocolate onto the lined pan. I just scooped out about 3-4 ice cream scoops worth of chocolate and plopped them on the baking sheet. 
  8. Return the chocolate to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
  9. Put your coatings into separate bowls and set aside.
  10. Remove the chocolate from the refrigerator. 
  11. This would be the moment to don latex gloves unless you want a chocolate hand spa treatment.
  12. Shape chocolate into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. I made mine a bit larger than a large grape but definitely smaller than a golf ball. 
  13. Roll truffles in whatever coating you wish. Place back on the parchment paper or in mini-cupcake liners.
  14. Refrigerate until you are ready to eat them.

 

Tuesday
Dec202011

Brown Sugar Glazed Turkey (or Ham)

Looking for the perfect way to cook your Christmas turkey? This recipe is just the solution to your dinner woes. I tend to be a butter and herbs kind of gal when I roast a chicken or a turkey. This Thanksgiving I decided to try something a little different and the result was nothing short of spectacular. The skin becomes sweet and crunchy, while the meat stays juicy and rich. You'll end up with a beautiful golden brown turkey that will be sure to wow your Christmas guests. And for those of you who are ham eaters, the recipe should go perfectly with ham as well. Happy holiday eating!

Brown Sugar Glazed Turkey (or Ham)

Cook times will vary depending on the size of the turkey

  • 1 whole turkey (sauce for 10-16lb turkey)
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1-2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp no-pulp orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Defrost turkey fully, in accordance with instructions on the packaging. Check this USDA fact sheet for more information.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Place carrots, celery, onion, along with the neck and giblets (from inside the turkey) in a metal roasting pan.
  4. Set the roasting rack over vegetables and spray with cooking spray.
  5. Place the turkey with wing tips underneath the body of the turkey.
  6. Rub turkey all over with butter, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Place turkey on the bottom rack of the oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Reduce heat of the oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Add 2 cups of water to the pan and roast until a thermometer reads 125 degrees F (approximately 1 hour).
  10. In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, brown sugar and orange juice to a boil. Stir occassionally.
  11. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened.
  12. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tbsp of butter and orange zest.
  13. When the turkey reads 125 degrees F, brush with glaze. Brush turkey with the glaze every 15 minutes until the thermostat reads 165 degrees F (approximately 30 minutes).
  14. Transfer turkey to a platter and let rest 40 minutes before carving.
Sunday
Dec182011

Baby All I Want for Christmas is You...

With Christmas around the corner, I thought I'd give you a snap shot into the world of kitchen "wants" Now don't get me wrong, I am grateful for all I have, but a girl can dream...can't she? Here is my top-12 on this year's kitchen wish list.

 

  1. Kitchen Aid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer  This mixer is a diamond in the rough. It would make my baking and cooking dreams come true. It has the power and capability to mix enough dough for 8 loaves of bread - yes you read that right, eight whole loaves. Plus the beauty of kitchen aid is the countless attachments you can get. Pretty pretty please Santa?
  2. Vitamix 1710 Professional Series, Brushed Stainless Finish  My mom introduced me to this handy tool and I gasped at the price. Worth every penny? I think so! Want tomato sauce? Drop a whole tomato, stalks of celery entire carrots and push the button. Finished in seconds. A smoothie? No need to chop or dice anything. Just drop it in and wabaam. Instantaneous. Soup? No need to heat it over the stove, just make it in your vitamix with the hot soup feature. This is a blender on steroids and it definitely makes my 2011 Christmas wish list.
  3. Shun Classic 4-Inch Paring KnifeI love my Shun Classic 8-Inch Knife and would love nothing more than to have its smaller twin, the 4-inch paring knife. I took a cutting class in Chicago and had the opportunity to use a variety of knives, including Wusthof's, Global's and Shun's. If you don't feel comfortable holding a knife, chopping and dicing, I would highly recommend taking such a class. It was a great experience and I learned a ton. My father always used Shun's and swore by them, but until taking the class, I knew little of the knife world. I quickly realized that a good really sharp knife is the key to success. The Shun's fit perfectly into the palm of your hand with a ledge for your thumb and forefinger. They are light enough to move rapidly but are weighted in just the right spots. You can't go wrong with any of their products.
  4. Imperia SP150 Pasta MachineWe don't eat pasta frequently in our house but for the rare times that we do, I would kill to have a pasta machine. The Imperia is well ranked and reviewed on most sites. It has 10 thickness settings and 2 attachments so you can make pasta of different widths. For something simple and relatively inexpensive, I think this is the exact machine I would want.
  5. EatSmart Digital Nutrition Scale I registered for a kitchen scale when we got married and never received it, so I have been itching for one of these for awhile. EatSmart makes high quality products. This scale not only weighs food, but also analyzes the nutritional content of food by portion size. Yes, you read that right. It calculates calories, carbs, fiber, sodium, fats, vitamin K and other nutrients. This will be perfect for more accurate calculations on the nutrition value in the food I am cooking and eating.
  6. Curisinart CSB-76BC Smart Stick 200-Watt Immersion Hand BlenderWhy a hand blender when you can have a Vitamix? Well a few reasons. First, this Cuisinart Immersion Blender (with 900+ 4.5 star reviews on Amazon) is only $23.99. A whopping $400 savings on the Vitamix. Don't get me wrong, they do two separate things but if push comes to shove, I'll get away with swiping the card for $23.99 before I find a way to slip $400 onto the credit card without the husband knowing. Second, there are definitely times when soup in a pot is a necessity. The immersion blender allows you to puree right out of the pot. No messy transfers to the blender or the food processor. Instead, just place the immersion blender right into the pot and press the button. It can also be used to blend soups, batters, and more.
  7. Le Creuset Classic Enameled Cast Iron 6-Piece Cookware SetA must have, use-every-day item in my kitchen is my dutch oven. I use it religiously because it is just that good. Food cooks evenly, things don't burn, it is like magic in a pot. Seriously. So what more could a gal want than a 6-piece cookware set. It includes a 2 1/4 quart sauce pan, a 5 1/2 quart French oven, a 10-inch square skillet grill and an 8x10 inch roaster. If you aren't familiar with Le Creuset, they produce pots and pans that are made of enameled cast iron, which allows for even heating. They are also oven safe (up to 350 degrees F) and dishwasher safe. One more perk? They have a lifetime warranty.
  8. Cuisinart TEA-100 PerfecTemp Programmable Tea Steeper & Kettle I am a huge tea drinker. In fact, that is my go-to source of caffeine and morning pick-me-up. This tea kettle and seeper allows you to program the tempeartures based on the type of tea: delicate, green, white, oolong, herbal and black. You can also remove the infuser and turn it into a kettle, heating up to a liter of water. Finally, it has a count-down steeping timer, a 30-minute keep warm option (perfect for me since I drink mine slowly over the course of a few hours) and a 2-minute lift-off memory feature. Coffee drinkers get their own endless number of contraptions to help them out in the morning. Thanks to Cuisinart I can now have one too.
  9. Silpat Non-Stick Silicone Baking LinerThese baking mats are inexpensive and easy to work with. They turn any pan into a nonstick surface so no more PAM necessary. Throw them onto your cookie sheet and bake your cookies hassle-free. They are great for preparing, cooking and heating food. Wipe them clean and roll them up to store. It is perfect for kneading bread dough, rolling out cookies and pie crusts, cooking pizzas and so much more.
  10. Taylor Digital Instant-Read Pocket ThermometerI went to make fudge the other day and realized that I did not have a candy thermometer. In years past, it hasn't even phased me. This year, it caused me to furrow my brows and stop for a moment. Yes, I decided, a digital instant read thermometer is exactlyw hat I need. With this one, there is no need to lose a hand to the monotonous task of holding the thermometer steady while getting food to the exact right temperature or for scalding fingers from the steam. Quick, easy and inexpensive. The perfect stocking stuffer for this year's holiday season.
  11. Progressive International Set of 5 Stainless-Steel Magnetic Measuring SpoonsMeasuring spoons in my house are kind of like socks in the dryer. They just disappear. To where? Who knows. This set is magnetized to allow them to nest while stored. It couldn't possibly get any better than that. Oh but it can. These measuring spoons also have two sides: one end is narrow to fit into most spice jars while the other end is round for liquids. Simple, easy and affordable, these measuring spoons would have a quick home in my kitchen's drawers.
  12. DII Snaprdragon Yellow and Black Daisy Print Full Apron Rounding out the list this holiday season is a new apron. Silly? Yes, probably. Necessary? Absolutely. I have been itching for a new apron for as long as I can remember and have not found one that floats my boat. This yellow and black daisy print apron is exactly the one I need. Don't forget about the aprons folks - most ladies n the kitchen would squeal with delight over a cute new apron to parade around the kitchen in.
Sunday
Apr102011

T's Cookies - A Tribute to Aunt T

Sorry I have been MIA this past weekend. I spent the weekend in Alabama celebrating my Aunt's life. This post is really in her honor and I've included one of her fabulous cookie recipes below - shorthand just as she wrote it. Aunt T was fabulous cook, chef, baker, canner of goods, easy bake oven extraordinaire, frosting maker, gingerbread house builder and so much more. I remember these magnificent gingerbread houses as a child - ones the size of doll houses. Covered in gum drops and frosting and snowcaps and more candy than any 5 year old could ever need, though this 5 year old certainly wanted it. Every holiday season we were guaranteed one of these and it sat in the corner of my grandparents dining room for all admiring eyes and overreaching hands. I also remember the canned goods. There were pickled onions and jams and fruit galore. Actually, there was a basement full of mason jars brimming with goodness (or at least that's how I remember it). There were cookies and brownies and pies and tarts - all made out of Aunt Ts kitchen with a whole heck of a lot of love. She eventually opened her own bakery and I can remember the first time I saw it, or more importantly saw her in it and she was so happy. She had the equipment she had probably always dreamed of owning and a walk in fridge. There were doughs and frostings and more dough and more frosting and my cousins and I, much older than 5 at that point, ate and sampled and ate some more. When I graduated from college, her one request was that she make food for my party. And she did - she made food and drove it down to North Carolina, all the way from Illinois, with her. Now we never ate that food (she left it at the hotel) but you get the point. In the last year of her life, Aunt T wanted to make goats cheese. You see, food was always a part of her. Whether it was the gingerbread houses 20 years ago or the desire to buy a goat and make goats cheese just last year, food was at Aunt Ts center - at her core. We celebrated this weekend with  family and sunshine and a whole heck of a lot of food. So here's to you Aunt T. Thank you for being such a wonderful human being, for inspiring us all a bit more, and for keeping us fat and happy for the last 24 years of my life.

Aunt T's Cookies

Servings: 2-3 dozen

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup walnut chopped, if desired
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, vanilla and honey together.
  3. Add flour and salt. Mix together with your hands.
  4. Form 1 inch balls.
  5. Place on greased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Place remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar in small bowl.
  8. Roll balls in powdered sugar while they are still warm.
  9. Let cool on baking rack.
  10. When cool, roll again.