Thursday, December 24, 2009

Toffee and being a big fat candy baby

I have always been too frightened to make candy. The thermometer, the boiling hot, the splashing of the boiling hot, etc etc. A big fat scared candy baby! But I come from a long line of pioneer women, really I do. My grandmother on my father's side migrated to California in the back of a covered wagon in about 1907. My grandmother on my mother's side, was born at home by a visiting midwife, in a kitchen warmed by a wood stove, that was used for cooking. A bit different from midwife assisted births of today.

In looking back there was not much these women were too frightened to do, including making candy. Which during the war, one of them did. It was how they survived financially. The sugar ration was turned into candy for profit, profit that put other food on the table.

But me, no way. I bought my candy, thank you very much. Until today. I found this post, and thought, what a perfect starting place. Lets make Toffee, shall we.

adapted from which name?

1/2 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1 c large broken walnuts (between 1/4 - 1/2 inch in size)
1/2 c chocolate chips

Butter (or spray with Pam) the bottom and sides of a 8" pan, scatter walnuts over the bottom. Melt butter in large pan over medium heat, add brown sugar. Over medium heat continue to stir while mixture boils for 6-7 minutes.

I found with my stove I had to turn down the setting slightly as the mixture cooked, so it would not get too hot and burn. This is hot, be careful for the spurting, that is why I chose a large flat bottomed pan.

Pour cooked toffee evenly over the walnuts, rotate pan gently for candy to go to the corners. Sprinkle with the chips, let sit one minute, spread chocolate to cover entire surface.

I think the hardest part of this recipe is waiting for it to cool! When cool, break into pieces.

For this recipe I wanted to make this for a gift, I used a spring form pan for easy removal. A quick wrap in plastic wrap and a bow, and I will be done.

As the hours count down, I hope all is happy and good for you and your loved ones! 

As always, thanks for taking a minute to stop and say hello. We appreciate your time and your wonderful comments!

Recipe rating:  Oh yes! Will make again.

This post is being shared with:
Recipe Swap Thursday @ Prairie Story

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spanish rice

I have been wanting to play with the vinegars that I put together earlier this year. The onion and pepper vinegar is bookmarked for some heavy use. We had this Spanish Rice for dinner, it is very good. Vinegar, it is such a flavor enhancer. Yes it can be sour, but if used correctly is is delicious!

Spanish Rice
adapted from: Gourmet Vinegars, How to make and cook with them.

It is not real pretty, but it is soooo tasty!

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion
1 green pepper roasted, seeded and diced
1 red pepper roasted, seeded and diced 
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2  tsp garlic salt
3 T Peppers and Onion Vinegar OR red wine vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c rice
1 c water

Brown the beef and onion in a dutch oven, drain excess fat. Stir in all remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Serves 4 - 6


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Preserved Lemons

This evening I used some of the lemons to make Preserved Lemons. 
This was a bit more cumbersome than I thought it would be. The lemons I had purchased were very large, so they were difficult to work with. My jars are not full, but my goal will be to repackage a couple of the lemons when they go into the refrigerator for a gift. When I repackage, there should be more juice and the fruit itself will have softened a bit and will be more pliable.  

Preserved Lemons
adapted from the Oregonian

5 - 7 lemons
plus additional lemons for juice to cover
1/2 c kosher salt
bay leaves
cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves

Scrub the lemons. If they are not organic, boil for 1 minute to remove any wax coating and/or spray residues. Drain and cool in an ice water bath.

Cut lemons in quarters - not quite to the end - .

Place 1 Tablespoon salt in the bottom of the first jar. Place the cut lemon into the jar and open the cuts to make a "flower" like display. Sprinkle the cut edges with an additional 1 Tablespoon of salt. Add lemons and salt to the top of the jar, drop cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and 3 cloves into each jar. Add additional lemon juice to cover. Cap and let sit on the counter for 1 week, inverting the jars to distribute the salt and juice. Refrigerate for 2 weeks for skins to soften.

To use: Rinse the lemon, scrape away the pulp and dice the rind to use. If white crystals appear, the lemons may still be used. Just rinse them first.

This recipe was to make 2 pint jars, I think I will have 2 pint jars when the week is up. Currently I have 1 1/2 quarts, with a lot of open space. These were stubborn lemons!

Now the fun part, searching for recipes that will call for this ingredient.

As always, thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello. I appreciate your visit.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Real Fruit Cake

I love fruit cake, all kinds. It is dense, richly flavored and always a treat. I have wanted to bake an old fashioned fruit cake; with dried fruits, rather than the artificially colored "fruit cake mix" found in the produce section this time of year. I took a quick search on Google and I found this recipe by Alton Brown. Now I don't watch the food network, but the lovely Jess does. I took a moment to read the reviews for this cake, and that was all it took. He calls it Free Range Fruitcake, and invites the cook to have a good time, so that is what I did. This looks like a lot of work, but it is easy to break down if time is short. It goes together very quickly.

The fruit got to hang out with the rum all night.This smelled so good, every time I stirred it!

Free Range Fruitcake
adapted from Alton Brown

1 c diced apricots
1 c diced dates
1 c currents
1 c dried cranberries
1/4 c chopped candied ginger
1 c golden rum

Stir together and let rest overnight covered or heat on stove top or microwave to hydrate. Set aside to cool if using the heat method.

The next day or when cool, combine in a large non reactive pan:
the fruit and rum combination
1 T lemon juice
zest of 2 oranges
1 c coffee
1 c sugar
1 1/4 sticks of butter
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp gr allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp gr nutmeg

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 - 10 minutes. Most of the liquid will be evaporated. Set aside to cool. You may stop and place in the refrigerator if desired, simply bring to room temperature to proceed. To make the batter:

1 3/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well to mix together. 

2 eggs

1 c pecan halves, that have been toasted and broken into pieces

additional rum or brandy for spritzing

Add the flour mixture to the fruits and spices in the pan, stir quickly to incorporate flour mixture into the fruit. Make a well in the mixture, add the eggs. Beat with a wooden spoon to mix well. There should be no streaks of egg or dry flour.  Stir in the broken pecans.

Scrape batter into prepared bundt pan, bake 325 degrees for 50 minutes. If not completely cooked when tested, return to the oven and bake additional 10 minutes. Let cool, 20 minutes then carefully turn cake out. Let cool, spritz with rum and/or brandy. Check cake every 3 days, if dry, spritz with more brandy. Cake should "rest" 2 weeks before serving.

Recipe rating:  Oh Yes! (will make again)

This smells so good, I think it is going to be a long 2 weeks! Even Honey just came to tell me how good the kitchen smells with this in the oven. I love the holidays.....

As always, thanks for taking a moment to stop and say hello! I would love for you to leave a comment, it just makes the visit more fun.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Roasted Pretzels, A little something to serve family and guests

Pretzels, I love them. They are cheap, versatile and always in season. They seem to be somewhat ignored, but this recipe will change that. Crunchy, sweet, savory, spicy and a touch of salt. I don't know about you, but surely covers all the flavor personalities that I want in my snack. Upon making these more than once, I have learned a trick or two about the cooling process.


Roasted Pretzels
adapted from Everybody loves sandwiches
300 degree oven

4 c pretzels
2 T butter
3 T real maple syrup
5 T brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground Chipotle (this amount offers a pleasant warm after taste)
1/2 tsp garlic salt

In a small saucepan melt butter and maple syrup together, stir in brown sugar bring to a boil. Stir in cinnamon, ground chipotle and garlic salt. Pour over pretzels, stir to coat evenly. Spread out onto a shallow pan. Bake 10 minutes, stir to bring coating syrup back onto the pretzels. Continue to bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan about 3 minutes, stir to separate. Repeat this step in about 5 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking pan. This will help keep the pretzels separate and easy to serve.  Store in an air tight container, or just start eating!

 update:  If you are taking these to work to share, grab a stack of coffee filters and a set of serving tongs. Everyone can serve themselves into the little filter cups and enjoy them at their desk.

As always thanks for taking the time to stop and say hello.

This post is shared with:

 fresh clean and pure @ la bella vita

tip day Thursday carnival @ Around my family table

Simple Lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS

Foodie Friday @ Designs by Gollum