Archive for December, 2010

I’d been eyeing recipes for these cute little candies for months, especially now that it’s citrus season.  My husband’s aunt Bridget, who is an amazing cook, had these candied goodies at Christmas Eve dinner.  I improvised a bit with what I had on hand in the house.  Below are the two recipes I used for the cranberries, lemon, clementine, blood orange and grapefruit peels.  They look so pretty, and taste delicious too!

Candied Orange Peels, adapted from the Food Network website

Yields about 2 cups


  • 6 thick-skinned Valencia or navel oranges (or any type of citrus peel)
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 1/2 cups water


Cut tops and bottoms off of the fruites and score them into quarters, cutting down only into the peel and not into the fruit. Peel the skin and pith of the fruit in large pieces, use the inside of the fruit for another recipe. Cut the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide. Put the orange peel in a large saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat. Then pour off the water. Repeat 1 or 2 more times depending up how assertive you want the peels to be. (Test kitchen liked the texture of a 3 time blanch best, it also mellowed the bitterness. But it is a matter of preference.) *Note:  I blanched the grapefruit peels 6 times because they were more bitter than the oranges and lemons.  Remove the peels from the pan.

Whisk the sugar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 9 minutes (If you took the sugar’s temperature with a candy thermometer it would be at the soft thread stage, 230 to 234 degrees F.) Add the peels and simmer gently, reducing heat to retain a simmer. Cook until the peels get translucent, about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to stir the peels or you may introduce sugar crystals into the syrup. If necessary, swirl the pan to move the peels around. Drain the peels, (save the syrup for ice tea.) Roll the peels in sugar and dry on a rack, for 4 to 5 hours. Return to the sugar to store.

Sugared Cranberries, yields 9 1/3 cups servings


  • 2  cups  granulated sugar
  • 2  cups  water
  • 2  cups  fresh cranberries
  • 3/4  cup  superfine sugar


Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.


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Trader Joe’s has some great frozen seafood items, and at reasonable prices too.  One such item is their Seafood Blend, which contains shrimp, scallops and calamari rings.  Below is a recipe for seafood chowder that I created around this product.  It turned out a little thinner than your traditional chowders, but the flavor was still good.  You could substitute any mixture of seafood and/or vegetables you might have on hand.  This is a nice, hearty recipe for a winter meal.

Seafood Chowder, serves 6

1 package Trader Joe’s Seafood Blend (or 1 lb assorted seafood, i.e. shrimp, scallops, clams, whitefish)

1 yellow onion, finely diced

1/3 cup diced carrots

1/3 cup frozen corn kernels

1/3 cup diced celery

4 sliced bacon

2 cups peeled and diced potatoes

4 cups water

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp curry powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. In a large stock pot, saute the bacon until crisp.  Drain, let cool.  Then crumble into pieces.

2.  Using bacon fat, cook onion, celery and carrots until onion is translucent.  Add frozen corn, water and potatoes.  Cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are slightly tender.

3.  Add bag of seafood blend, cook for another 8 minutes or until fish is opaque.

4.  Add salt, pepper and curry powder, cream and milk.  Stir until heated through.

5.  Garnish with parsley and bacon.

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Last week my husband and I took a Anniversary/Christmas trip to Jackson Hole, WY for three days of skiing.  Each day we tried somewhere different for our apres ski drinks and snacks…but one theme remained consistent at each location – Buffalo nachos.  Buffalo nachos were on every Apres menu we saw, and I am pretty sure that they were on every restaurant’s menu we dined at as well.  So here is my take on what I think was in these nachos.  We enjoyed them – as you will see!

Buffalo (or any type of meat) Nachos

1 lb chopped buffalo meat, ground beef, diced or shredded chicken

1 bag tortilla chips (I prefer El Milagro for nachos)

2 cups shredded cheese, like a Mexican style mix or cheddar-jack mix

1 medium tomato, diced

1/4 cup sliced black olives

1/4 cup sliced jalapeno peppers

1 cup chili, heated

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup guacamole

1/4 cup salsa or pico de gallo

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, brown your choice of meat with salt & pepper.  Break the meat into small pieces while cooking.  Drain off the grease, and set aside. 

Place the chili in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until heated through.

Layer tortilla chips and cheese on a large oven safe platter.   Arrange the meat on top, and cover with more cheese.  Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, until all the cheese has melted.  Then top with remaining ingredients and enjoy!

These nachos were devoured at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village.  I can’t believe we left one stinking chip on the plate after all that….  These are great for Apres Ski, as an appetizer or even a late night snack!  I really want some nachos now after writing this blog post.  REALLY want some nachos.  Seriously.

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It’s not too late for holiday candy making. If you’re like me, holiday plans and get-together seem to run well into January these days.  Truffles would be the perfect thing to make for a New Year’s Eve party to share, or as a hostess gift!  Below are two recipes I concocted for friends and family gifts this year.  Chocolate Peppermint (which tasted like Frango Mints) and a Toasted Coconut Rum.  You can be as creative as you’d like with truffles though by adding different extracts and coatings.  Anything goes really! 

Basic Truffle Recipe

11 ounces good quality chocolate (I used Ghiradelli’s 60%cocoa chocolate chips, this is just under two cups)

2/3 cup heavy cream (make sure you don’t use light cream or their won’t be enough fat content for the ganache to thicken properly)

various coatings (i.e. cocoa powder, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, colored sugar, crushed peppermint candies, candied ginger, etc.)

optional – 1 tsp  flavored extract

Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan.  Pour the cream over the chocolate, then stir with a whisk (don’t beat or you’ll incorporate air), until the ganache is smooth.  If this doesn’t quite melt the chocolate, you can put the bowl of chocolate and cream in the microwave and heat in 15 second intervals, stirring in between.  This would be the time to add a flavored extract or alcohol if you desire.

Chill the ganache in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or until it holds it’s shape.  When ready to form the truffles, I prefer using a small scoop or teaspoon.  Roll the pieces of chocolate into a ball between your hands.  If you plan on coating the truffles with cocoa powder or dipping them in chocolate, it’s a good idea to chill them again for a few minutes so they don’t lose their shape. 

Toss the truffles in the coating of your choice.  I use a fork to do this, again so you keep their in tact.  If you want to coat your truffles in chocolate, you’ll need to temper the coating chocolate so that it hardens.  You can find a good how-to on tempering here.  If you are lazy, or over-commit yourself like I do and want a quick coating, just melt some of the Wilton chocolate melts to dip your truffles in!

Store in refrigerator.

Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

11 ounces good quality chocolate

2/3 cup heavy cream

1 tsp  peppermint extract

1 bag Wilton chocolate melts, dark chocolate variety

Follow instructions in Basic Truffle recipe, but chill formed truffles for about 20 minutes longer before dipping in chocolate melts.  Melt or temper chocolate, and use a fork to roll the formed truffle around before setting on a parchment lined baking sheet to cool.  Store in refrigerator. 

Toasted Coconut Rum Truffles

11 ounces good quality chocolate

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup shredded sweetened or unsweetened coconut, toasted

1 tsp  coconut extract

1 tsp Malibu coconut rum (optional)

Follow instructions in Basic Truffle recipe, but roll in toasted coconut after truffles are formed.  Store in refrigerator.

I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post, but my hands were full of chocolate during this WHOLE process and my husband wasn’t at home to be on camera duty!  I will have to make again and post pictures later. 🙂

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I have a natural tendancy to over-extend myself.  This includes everything from over-booking my weekends to taking on too many projects.  I thought the caramels might be in that category since my experience with candy making in the past hasn’t been all that successful.  However, I’ve discovered while making these – that you can fix a sugar concoction that was screwed up on the first go!  Food & Wine had an article on homemade gifts in their Holiday Guide section and these chocolate-dipped vanilla caramels looked so pretty I had to try them!  Make sure you use a good quality butter because that is where a lot of your flavor will come from.  I didn’t cook the caramel long enough the first time, and it did not harden enough.  The next day I scraped it all out of the pan, put it back on the stove and reheated it to 255 degrees.  It turned out much better the second time around!

Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels

  • ACTIVE: 30 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN Plus cooling
  • SERVINGS: Makes about 7 dozen caramels
  • Ingredients

    1. 2 sticks unsalted butter
    2. 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    3. 1 cup light corn syrup
    4. 1 cup heavy cream
    5. 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped – I used vanilla bean paste
    6. Coarse sea salt, crumbled
    7. 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted (optional) – I used the Wilton dark cocoa Chocolate Melts


    1. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with foil; spray it with vegetable oil. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, corn syrup and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the vanilla seeds. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245° on a candy thermometer, 1 hour. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan. Let cool and set completely overnight.
    2. Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper and line 2 baking sheets with wax paper. Invert the caramel onto the parchment and peel off the foil. Using a sharp knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch-wide strips and then into 1-inch squares. Dip the squares into the chocolate, tap off the excess and transfer to the wax paper on the baking sheets. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Alternatively, wrap the plain caramel squares in wax paper and tie with thread.

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    Since I’m not planning a wedding this holiday season, I’ve actually had time to get some cookies baked and experiment with different recipes.  This year I wanted to do something a little different for holiday gifts, so I thought that these recipes would make a nice addition.  I have always wanted to make home-made marshmallows, so why not go one step further and make your own hot chocolate?  I decided on a vanilla flavored marshmallow as well as a vanilla flavored hot chocolate since I had some vanilla beans on hand.  These marshmallows are delicious, and I am already planning to make another couple of batches experimenting with different flavors!  The husband has been sneaking them every time he walks by the kitchen so my supply has already been severely depleted… 🙂

    Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix – adapted from the recipe on epicurious.com.

    • 4 cups granulated sugar
    • 1 vanilla bean, split crosswise (see tips, below)
    • 1 1/2 pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (see tips, below)

    Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

    In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. (Process in two batches if necessary.)

    Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.

    Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.

    To serve:
    For each serving, heat 8 ounces milk in small saucepan over medium heat until scalded (or microwave 2 1/2 minutes at full power). Whisk in 1/4 to 1/3 cup mix. Serve with homemade marshmallows!

    Vanilla Marshmallows – adapted from the smitten kitchen

    Makes about 96 1-inch cubed marshmallows

    About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
    1 cup cold water, divided
    2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
    1/2 cup light corn syrup
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
    1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting) – I used 1 tablespoon of Nielsen Massey’s vanilla bean paste

    Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

    In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

    In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

    With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)

    In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

    Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

    Do ahead: Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.

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    This year I have gotten my holiday baking off to an early start.  I baked a couple of batches over the weekend, and then smartly (if I do say so myself) have been making subsequent batches of dough each night this week.  The first two holiday cookies are Sugar-topped Molasses Spice Cookies, a holiday staple in my kitchen, and a new addition: Polka Dot cookies.  Now, due to my husband erasing most of my how-to photos while playing with the new camera, I only have the finished product for the Polka Dot cookies.  I happen to make a second batch of the molasses cookies though because said husband ate half of those before I put them away, so the pictures were replaced!  The Polka Dot cookies are off the back of a bag of Guittard Green Mint Chips, and the Molasses cookies are from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours.

    I found these mint chips at Cost Plus World Market, impulse buy, but the cookies turned out good!  Below is the recipe I used from the package.

    Polka Dot Cookies – Yields 4-5 dozen 2-inch cookies

    2 cups (12oz) semisweet chocolate chips

    ½ cup butter

    1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

    ½ tsp baking soda

    1/8 tsp salt

    3 large eggs

    ½ cup sugar

    2 teaspoons vanilla

    2 cups (12oz) Guittard Green Mint Chips

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Melt semisweet chips and butter, stirring constantly until smooth.  Set aside to cool.  In small bowl combine flour baking soda and salt; set aside.  I used the microwave to melt the chocolate and butter instead of a double boiler.  If you choose to melt the chocolate this way, make sure you only heat it little by little so it doesn’t burn.

    In large bowl beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until light.  Blend in melted chocolate then dry ingredients.  Stir in green mint chips and chill for 10-15 minutes or until stiff.  Drop by well rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes; cookies will be soft in centers but will harden as they cool.

    Make sure you have a glass of milk on hand when these come out of the oven!

    Sugar-topped Molasses Spice Cookies – Yields 24 large cookies

    2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

    2 tsps baking soda

    ½ tsp salt

    2 tsp ground ginger

    ½ tsp ground cinnamon

    ¼ tsp ground allspice

    Pinch of cracked or coarsely ground black pepper

    1 ½ sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature

    1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

    ½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)

    1 large egg

    About  ½ cup sugar, for rolling

    Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and pepper.

    Working with a stand mixer, preferable fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes or so to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg and beat for 1 minute more.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear.  If some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl, to avoid overbeating the dough, mix in the last of the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula.  You’ll have a smooth, very soft dough.

    Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  The dough can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

    Put the sugar in a small bowl.  Working with one packet of dough at a time, take about a teaspoon of dough and roll each piece into a smooth ball between your palms.  One by one, roll the balls around in the bowl of sugar, then place them on one of the baking sheets.  Dip the bottom of a glass into the sugar and use ti to press down on the cookies until they are between ¼ and ½ inch thick.

    Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the tops feel set to the touch.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, if the cookies have spread and are touching, use the edge of a metal spatula to separate them while they are still hot.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature.  Repeat with the second batch of dough.

    These cookies freeze very well, so they’re a good variety to bake early on in the season.  Just make sure you wrap them very tight.

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