Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brown Sugar Shortbread

Have you ever made Scottish Shortbread? It is basically the easiest thing in the whole world. You need 3 ingredients and you mix it all together and bake it. No decorating or icing or anything. And its soooo good. Probably because 1 batch has a whole pound of butter. yum.

This Christmas, my G-ma told me she did not want anything for christmas except Scottish Shortbread because her and G-pa love it. Seeming how I asked her for butter, I was sure I could whip her up a batch or two. So I did. And it was great! I put all shortbread in a basket and wrapped it all up nice. G-ma says she isn't going to share. haha :)

I had never actually made " Scottish" shortbread before and now I don't think I would ever go back. Its so rich, and smooth and easy! Try it!

On a side note, I have made a small promise to make only healthy recipes for the month of January. Expect things like granola bars, whole grain pancakes, carrot muffins, oatmeal cookies, rhubarb pie, raspberry scones. You know healthy fruit stuff. THEN when February hits...well I can't predict the future but a month of healthy recipes will leave me crying for chocolate. Hmm maybe February will be ALL chocolate. Hmmm....

Anyways, Brown Sugar Scottish Shortbread - ( G-mas recipe)

2 cups Butter - Softened
1 cup Brown Sugar ( packed)
4 cups Flour

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
2. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
3. Add 3 cups of flour and mix well, add 3/4 cup flour and mix again
4. Sprinkle counter with remaining 1/4 cup and dump dough out onto it.
5. Knead dough to make a soft dough.
6. Roll to about 1/2inch thick rectangle and cut into strips then rectangles about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide
OR divide dough into quarters and flatten into disks and slice into 8 triangles.
7. Place on ungreased, unlined cookie sheets and prick with a fork.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly firm and barely brown.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Andes Mint Brownies

Inspiration and basic recipe from Sugar Plum Blog!

Today is Christmas at my Grandmas and Grandpas. We spread out our Christmas over many days which is actually reallllyyy nice. Currently I am at my grandparents with my cousins planning our traditional Christmas skit.  You see, at my Grandparents, every Christmas we are expected to perform some sort of skit/song/play. My two sisters and two closets cousins and I ALWAY do a skit/song combo. We have done the 12 Days of Christmas ( in versions ranging from New Zealand Christmas's, Canadian Christmas,  Christmas at Grandmas, Christmas at Grandmas Rap...and who knows what else). Basically 90% of the time our plays are extremely lame, or we are laughing so hard that our poor family members can not understand a word we are saying.

This year we are doing our own rendition of the Potter Puppet Pals...but not Harry Potter and Christmassy.

As you can imagine...this is going to be quite a challenge.
Dinner is in 1.5 hours. We started planning about 30 minutes ago 

On other topics, I made Mint Brownies today.
They are so yummy. I used a recipe I found on a blog called Sugar Plum which is super cute and really good! 
She made hers into yummy little brownie balls dipped in white chocolate. YUM! I just made mine into brownies with a little chocolate drizzle. 

Here is the recipe: 

1/3 cup Oil
3/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup Milk 
1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Flour
1/3 cup Ades Mint Pieces ( I had to buy these in the US...not in my canada grocery stores) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Coat a 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

1. Mix oil, sugar, vanilla, milk, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl of a mixer. Or you could totally do it by hand I think. Mix together until well combined.

2. Add flour slowely and mix until just combined. 
3. Scrape into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the mint pieces. 

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes ( mine took exactly 20) or until its set and not jiggly. 
5. I melted more mint pieces with some butter and drizzled them over the cooled brownies. 

To make the pretty brownie balls that Sugar Plum made, check out her blog for the instructions. Sugar Plum.

Finished product! Yum Yum Yum!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lemon Curd

This is lemon curd...some people call it lemon...oh darn, I can't remember. My mom was calling it something else the other day, but I now have completely forgotten. 
Anyways, it's very tasty and very versatile. I like it on toast or pancakes or scones ( I <3 scones) or just plain bread, in tart shells, mixed with icing and spread as a cake filling, piped into the center of cupcakes or my personal fav, by itself straight from the jar on a spoon ( similar fashion to eating peanut butter and Nutella only this is sooo much healthier cause it's fruit!) 

I made a batch of this the other day and packaged it into some of the baskets I made. Oh still sitting mostly on my kitchen table getting ready to be packages for tomorrows Christmas celebrations! ( we are all about spreading Christmas out in my family) Shhhh... the recipients don't know yet. Well they probably do now. But thats ok :) 

I was whipping up a quick batch this afternoon because I really wanted to show the step by step process of making the Lemon Curd. Well that was a bit of a problem. I was getting all set up to start cooking when my husband walks through the door with a fellow hay broker. They were going to sit and have coffee etc etc. Ok, well thats all well and good, but I felt veerryyy funny having this stranger sitting at my kitchen table while I was trying to take pictures of myself zesting lemons... I don't think that he knew quite what to think. Needless to say, I didn't just snap away like I normally do. After I crossed that bridge, it was just about time to add the eggs, so I swung open the fridge door...and there was only 5 eggs. This recipe needs 8. NEEDS 8. There is no getting away with 7 or 5 or 6. I tried thinking "maybe 5 will do the trick" . It didn't. So as a result. I have a few lovely pictures of the finished product from batch number 1. And no step by step pictures. I like step by step pictures. 

I also grated my thumb while I was zesting the lemons. I had to pick my skin out of the grater. Don't worry, I will strain it before I can it so there wont be any thumb skin in your curd! 

Is that gross? It kinda is...

But its cooked. 

You know whats worse? One time, I was grating cheese and that happened on the big holes in the cheese grater...I hope I got it all out. Because that was not cooked. Yum skin taco cheese. 

Ok enough of the grossness and on to the lemony goodness

I found this recipe...well I found many different recipes and compiled and changed things around to make a lemon curd that I love ( and isn't that the point?). 

So, you need

2 Large or 3 smallish lemons
1 1/2 cups Lemon Juice ( you can squeeze the lemons or just use the bought stuff. Thats what I do, because I am lazy Because I grated my thumb and lemon juice in cuts stings like crazzzyyy) 
1/8-1/4 tsp Lemon Extract (totally not needed but adds a nice zing) 
2 1/2 cups of Sugar
2 cups of butter or marg  ( 4 blocks of sticks) 
a touch of Yellow food coloring gel
8 Eggs

You will also need, about 7 1/2 pint jars, jar rings and seals, a canner
* You can make this without canning the curd too! Instead of canning you would put the lemon curd into freezer containers and freeze. 

So, we start by zesting our lemons. I use the small holes on my cheese grater 
( I actually did juice 2 of the lemons this time) 

Throw the lemon zest from the 3 lemons, 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice and 2 1/2 cups of sugar to a medium pot. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar it melted. ( by the way, 3 lemons will not give you 1 1/2 cups of juice, you will always have to add more regular juice) 

(sorrryyy its blurry :( ) 

Cut the butter up into chunks and add to the melted lemony mixture. Stir until the butter is also melted. Add the yellow food coloring and optional lemon extract.

This is where the pictures end and I realize I only have 5 eggs. 
But what you are supposed to do now is, 

Pour the mixture into a bowl, then strain out the lemon zest and pour it back into the pot. This is a totally unnecessary step, but I do it because I do not like lemon zesty chunkies.

Crack eggs into a bowl and beat up. 
Hold a fine mesh strainer over the pot (perhaps the same one you used to take out the lemon zest)
and pour the beat up eggs into the strainer. While they run into the pot in thin streams, stir the lemony mixture quickly. This will help reduce the chance of having cooked egg pieces in your lemon curd. If you do get egg chunkies you will have to strain it again.
Well you don't have to do anything, but I would strongly recommend it. 
Cook this for about 10-15 minutes until it is quite thick and coats the back of a spoon nicely. 

While the curd is cooking, heat clean jars in a oven on low heat and heat the jar rings in almost boiling water. 

The other day I heated my jars waayyyy to hot and then poured in some pear butter I was making. My jar shattered in my hand. Don't do that. It was the cutest jar ever too. 

When the lemon curd is thickened, remove from heat. 
Fill jars to about 1/4 inch from the top and place seal and ring on the jar. 
Once all the jars are filled, place in a canner and pour in boiling water till jars are covered in about 1 inch of water. Boil for 10 minutes and remove from canner. Let sit for 12 hours without moving. 
This should last for about a year in the pantry although there is some information that I have read says it should be used within a couple of months. 


Friday, December 24, 2010

Kitchen Confessions at Christmastime

Talk about consonance... thats a lota "k" sounds!

On the eve of Jesus birth, I feel compelled to share a few food related confessions.
Not that it really has much to do with Jesus, but more to do with the fact that I think these things all the time and want to share them but can never think of a good enough excuse.

1. So number 1, I judge people based on what they bring to potluck dinners. Oh dear. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry! I just do! Its so bad! I want to be able to just say "wow look at all that yummy food" and dive in. But I cant! Instead I am looking and calculating effort, time, serving size etc. Like its my job to ensure everyone is pulling their weight at the potluck.
(Now if your reading this and have recently attended a potluck with me... I have thoroughly enjoyed and approved of everyones level of contribution and item choices lately. You all may attend my next potluck.  :) )

2. I really really really really really dislike Real Vanilla flavoring. blahh. I do not like how it turns regular chocolate chip cookies into vanilla scented cookies with chocolate. I like butter and sugar flavors to take over my cookie, not vanilla. I poured my last expensive bottle down the drain not too long ago because it went bad sitting in the cupboard so long. I am sure that I am committing a cardinal sin in many bakers books, but I will take the cheap artificial flavoring every time thankyou very much.

3. Sometimes when a recipe says to use butter, I use margaine because its cheaper. I like to spend money on clothes rather then butter.  I am frugal ok.

4. I love my kitchen floor because it can be sooooo dirty and you cant even tell. (unless you have wear socks if your coming over)

5. Speaking of the kitchen floor.... I have washed it once in 2 years. Gary lived here for two years before we got married. I washed it once in that time because I was a good girlfriend. It is in dire need of washing.

6. My christmas tree is in the kitchen because I wanted to be able to see it all the time

7. There is rat poison in my utensils-that-aren't-cutlery drawer

8. I have a fish on my kitchen counter. His name is Samualson. I used to keep him by the stove but he kept getting oil slicks on the surface of his water when ever I fried bacon. I was afraid it would kill him like oil kills fish in the ocean. He is still alive and well though. I feed him way to much.

9. My kitchen overflows with baking supplies. I could pretty much make almost anything at this current moment.

10. well I was going to do ten, but inspiration has subsided. So 9 it is! I could put pictures in of all the fascinating confessions, but my card reader is down for the count. :)

Merry Christmas!

Honey Bun Cake

I love cake that is acceptable to eat for breakfast.

I found this delicious recipe on Tasty Kitchen, which is a food community kinda like AllRecipes but hosted by Pioneer Woman. The recipes are usually original and creative. Almost everything is very very yummy!

Last night I made this cake. Honey Bun Cake. Its so yummy. Its a lot like a coffee cake but so much easier and fast and still just as tasty. I forgot to pour the icing on right when it came out of the oven, but it was so sweet already it didn't really need it.

The lady who posted this recipe on tasty kitchen also has a blog. So for the recipe please visit her blog  called Serve at Once. This is super yummy. Make it for breakfast tomorrow. Yum. Christmas morning cake.

Ok So I also know it has been 100 years since I last posted :( . I am sorry! How do I ever expect to get any sort of blog following with that major lack of commitment!
But you see I have been making so many tasty things...I havent had time to share them!

I have been making things like this:

and this: 

and these: 

yummy candy like this: 

and tasty tarts like this: 

and then packaging them allll up in baskets like these

Everything is super tasty and turned out great. I have lots of picture to share coming really soon. Perhaps sporadically around Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finally a Savory Recipe.............not

I have a serious problem.

Its a sugar problem.

Every single thing I make...has sugar in it. OR if it doesn't, I must add it. And if I feel like there isn't enough...I will just double the sugar...shoot.

Anyways. This problem has worked its way into my cornbread. Well I guess I shouldn't say "my cornbread". I didn't actually have a recipe until yesterday, and then I really just used it as a guide line to recreate my own yummier version. So now...I have a recipe that will make...My Cornbread.

The result was definitely corn bread. It looked like corn bread, smelled like corn bread...but tasted like sweet scones. So I guess my statement about it being definitely corn bread could be debatable. But I love scones. Love Love Love scones. Especially made with white flour, white sugar and butter. yum yum yum. I do not like most scone recipes because they only have like...1/4 cup of sugar or something silly like that. My recipe has a whole 1/2 cup (well in my case...1/2 heaping cup) PLUS a very generous sprinkle over the top before it goes in the oven to add a tasty crunch.
We made these scones on my wedding day for breakfast and then we dipped them in chocolate toblerone fondue, but thats a different story entirely.  I was stressed and needed chocolate and carbs. It was a great combo but did not necessarily calm my nerves.

So I made cornbread and basically its a scone with cooked polenta and a bit of cornmeal instead of the flour and then a generous sprinkle of sugar over the top just to remind you that savory is for people who don't appreciate nice white, refined sugar added to everything they eat.

Oh and the whole point of me making this corn bread was to use up all the extra polenta I cooked the other night. I had no idea 1 cup of cornmeal could make such a huge pot of polenta! So this recipe does use cooked polenta. All I have to say is be careful when you cook polenta. You think your cooking 1 or 2 cups and whamo you have a whole huge pot full!

Anyways, here is the recipe!

Marie's Polenta Corn Bread

Dry Ingredients: 
1/2 cups Flour
1/2 heaping cup Sugar ( plus more for sprinkling before baking)
1 tablespoon Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Cornmeal

Wet ingredients:
2 Eggs
3/4 cup cooked  Polenta  (Cornmeal) 
1 cup of Milk 
5 tablespoons melted Margarine ( or Butter)

1. Grease a 9x9 baking pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. 
3. Combine all wet ingredients except melted margarine in a separate bowl and stir really well. Make sure that all of the polenta is broken up. To make sure there are no polenta lumps, I used my immersion blender and it worked like a charm.
4. Fold wet ingredients into dry stirring only till just combined. Add melted margarine and combine. 
5. Pour into the 9x9 pan and spread out evenly. 
6. Sprinkle top liberally with sugar ( I am sure you could skip this step...but do you really want to miss out on a crunchy sugar top? I don't) 
7. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until top is just getting golden and a tooth pick stuck in the center comes out clean. 
8. Cool in the pan for a few minutes then cool completely on a wire rack

 I eat mine right hot outta the oven though with lotsa butter and honey yum yum yum. 
Dont put in a bag or wrap in plastic until completely cool or else you will get a gummy sugar top which is no fun when you specifically put sugar on the top to have a crunchy sugar top. 

I promise

I promise! New post coming later today!
It has been a busy last few days! Ill tell you alll about it later!

- Marie

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake and My Favourite Spatula

Do you have a favorite spatula?
You know, the one that cleans the inside of your mixing bowl like a dream and folds egg whites like no tomorrow and fills a muffin tin without spilling batter all over the place?
Well, I have one. Its perfect. I love it. I don't know where to find another one...but I need a new one...because mine broke...
right in half.

I still use it though...its almost more maneuverable without the handle. 
Actually I was at my grandmas the other day...and she has the same spatula in her drawer...and hers it taped together with duct tape...haha so obviously this was a bit of a design flaw...

I really like is use "..." as my only form of punctuation. I create my own grammar rules. Don't tell my momma 

Texas Chocolate Sheet cake is sooooo yummy....

I eat it right out of the pan with a spoon. 
Have you ever had sheet cake? Basically it is a cakey brownieish thing baked in a large, rimmed cookie sheet and then covered with a really really really thick layer of chocolate icing as soon as you take it out of the oven. This results in a layer of gooey sweetness between the actual icing and the cake. Yum yum yum. 
Nuts in the icing are definitely optional, but something I like to leave out. 

Apparently it is soooo good that this is also the only picture I have of it. So here is the recipe. Adapted slightly from Pioneer Woman :) 

2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
4 heaping tablespoons Cocoa
1 cup of Butter 
1 cup Boiling Water
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 beaten Eggs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla

1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Set aside. 
2. Melt butter in a pot on the stove, and add cocoa. Stir.
3. Add boiling water and allow mixture to boil for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and pour over flour mixture. 
4. In a measuring cup, pour buttermilk, eggs, baking soda and vanilla and stir well. Add to chocolate mixture. 
5. Pour into sheet cake pan, jelly roll pan, or any medium large cookie sheet with edges. The recipe says not to grease your pan, which does work just fine, but I like to line all my pans with parchment paper. It just makes clean up 100 times easier and then if I need to use that pan before the cake is gone, I can just slip it right out. 
6. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 20 minutes or until the cake springs back lightly. It does not take too long because the cake is not very think!
7.  While the cake is baking, make the icing

1/2 cup finely chopped Pecans
3/4 cup Butter
4 heaping tablespoons Cocoa
6 tablespoons Milk 
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 1/2 cups icing sugar ( 1 lb bag, minus 1/2 cup) 

a) Melt butter in a medium pot ( you can totally use the same one as before)
b) Stir in cocoa and turn off heat
c) Add milk, vanilla and icing sugar
d) Add pecans and stir until smooth
e) As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour the entire pot of icing over the cake and spread with a spatula. 

Eat is hot, eat it cold, eat it with ice cream or whipped cream or out of the pan with a spoon. Yum. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chocolate Mint Snow Top Cookies

So today, early early this morning, ( ok not that early...7am)
Gary and I packed a bag and headed off to Oregon. Since Gary buys and sells hay, sometimes he has to go actually looking for hay. He has gone sooo many times before when we were dating and now that we are married I get to come! yay :)
All day I was thinking about posting and wishing I could post and that I had internet in the car so I could post this recipe...but of course we don't and didn't have annnyyyy time to stop at a Starbucks so I could type this thing up. But now its 7:18pm and we are in....Sweet Home Oregon which is a very small town and has only two restaurants (that apparently they have the same food, but one is fancier and has table clothes...we didnt go to the fancy one) .
We were not going to stay in Sweet Home and instead continue driving to Madras Oregon which is about one or two hours away from here. It is also over a big mountain pass that is verrryy verrry snowy. So we decided not to drive through there tonight.

Anyways... here is the yummy recipe!
Ohh and I took alll these pictures at night forgive the badness of them...

Chocolate Mint Snow Top Cookies.

This is what you need:
1 1/2 cups Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 cups Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (I like to use 1/2 dark chocolate chips and 1/2 semi sweet)
6 tablespoons Butter or Margarine softened
1 cup Sugar
2 large Eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Flavoring
1/4 teaspoon Mint Flavoring (or if you like minty cookies add more till you are happy)
1/4-1/2 cup Icing Sugar

1. Combine flour, baking powder and 1/4tsp salt in a bowl. Set aside.

2. In a saucepan, melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat once melted. Set aside

3. Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds (or a wooden spoon and get a great arm workout)
4. Beat in sugar until combined. Add in melted chocolate and mix together thoroughly.

5. Add Vanilla, Mint and eggs and stir until well combined.

** So when I made these...I doubled the recipe. Everything was going just great. Until this point. I accidentally added 3 teaspoons of mint flavoring....instead of 1/2 of a teaspoon of mint flavoring. Lucky for me I have the oldest bottle of mint flavoring you have ever seen. Not even was covered in dust, and sticky and had a Liquidation World sticker on it. So I figure, my cookies are probably a touch more minty then they were designed to be...but just the perfect amount of minty if you like a nice mint chocolate combo. The last batch I made before this, I put in the right amount of mint...and they were good...but not nearly minty enough for me!**

6. Slowly add flour mixture and remaining chocolate chips and stir until it is all mixed in

And at this point... I stopped taking pictures. I always forget! It is not something I am used to...taking pictures while cooking is a tricky thing!

7. If you mixture is thick enough, you can dump it out onto wax paper, wrap and chill for 3 hours or until firm enough to shape. Mine is usually too sloppy so I just cover the bowl and throw it in the fridge. Both work equally fine.

This is my looks yellowy...but it was nice and brown and smelled minty 

8. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
9. Shape dough into 1inch balls and then roll in icing sugar. Place balls on parchment paper lined or greased cookie sheets and press down slightly ( I use my 1/4 cup measuring cup)

10. Bake until tops are crackled and almost set. About 10-12 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 42 cookies... I ALWAYS double this recipe :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

High Valley

Oh have you ever heard of High Valley?
Besides being good looking farm boys....they are Canadian Mennonite boys who play Christian country music.
I am loving their CD these days.
Check them out!

Beef Brisket and Creamy Mashed Potatoes

So a couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me to help her make a nice dinner for her husbands business Christmas party. Since then my mind has been over flowing with ideas! It will be a small crowd of 6-8 people so the options are pretty much endless! 
Today we decided on the basics for the menu! 
Pioneer Woman's Beef Brisket 

Pioneer Womans yummy yummy mashed potatoes 
There is a insane amount of butter and cream cheese and cream in this recipe but they are oh so delicious! ( AND make-ahead-able :) )

and homemade buns (obviously)
and broccoli salad 
and another hot veggie side...hmm any suggestions? 
and dessert... Trifle? Cake? Cheese Cake? Pie? 
ohhh maybe individual trifles in pretty glasses? or individual pies in mini mason jars? hmmm

Anyways, I will document this event and feature all the recipes I decide to make once this fun event takes place :) 

PS. I used the toaster oven this morning and everything went perfectly fine! 
PSS. The Mixer is getting more and more it wouldn't even stir 7 cups of flour into my gingerbread recipe without a fight. I think it may be on its last legs...sign Hamilton Beach...keep it together for Christmas please.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nanaimo Bars Are Not A Food Group...

Nanaimo Bars are not a food group. Not that you could tell by their huge presence in my life. If like Nanaimo Bars, you need to make these. If you don't like Nanaimo bars, you should still make these.
 Apparently these are a Canadian treat and are mostly just common in BC. Weird!

AND if you think that store bought nanaimo bars are good enough...I don't even know what to say. They are not. Make homemade ones and then cry because you will never want to eat anything else.

Earlier in November, I found the most amazing recipe for Nanaimo Bars I could imagine. There is a lot of butter, and coconut and chocolate and custard powder. YUM YUM YUM

Shoot.. I did take picture of the whole process...but my kitchen has bad light, and it was dark outside so the pictures are extra yellow and bad no pictures yet...Next time I make these I will update the pictures! :)

Here is the recipe.
(oh! I usually double this and make it in a 9x13, but this recipe is for a 9x9)

Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cup graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup of fine, unsweetened coconut

1) Melt butter in a medium pot on the stove, stir in sugar, and cocoa
2) Beat egg in a small bowl and add a tablespoon of chocolate/butter mixture to the egg and stir quickly. This will warm the egg up a bit and help keep it from cooking when you add it to the pot.
3) Remove chocolate mixture from heat and pour egg into the pot and stir quickly to combine and prevent egg cooking.
4) Continue to stir as the mixture thickens up quite a bit.
5) Add nuts and coconut and stir to combine. Lastly, add graham crumbs 1/4 cup at a time. Sometime you will need less then 1 1/4 cup. You do not want your mixture to be too dry.
6) Press base into the bottom of a tin foil lined 9x9 pan.
7) Chill for 1 hour minimum.

Middle layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Birds Eye Custard Powder
3 Tablespoons of heavy cream ( whipping cream)
2 cups of icing sugar

1) Cream butter together with the custard powder.
2) Add icing sugar and stir to combine.
3) Add the cream a little at a time until you have a smooth, spreadable mixture.
4) Spread over chilled base, and chill for at least another hour.

5 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 1/2 tablespoons of butter

1) Melt butter and chocolate together in a small pot over low heat stirring frequently.
2) Pour and spread over chilled custard layer
3) Let bars sit in a cool place until chocolate is firm but not hard.

While cutting these bars, you have to be very careful the the chocolate is does not crack. It is helpful to cut the entire bar at the same time when the chocolate is not too hard.
Use a very sharp and large knife and cut into small squares.
These freeze very well in airtight containers with wax paper between each layer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Toaster Oven and Yummy Caramel Popcorn

What on earth does the toaster oven have to do with a post about Caramel Popcorn? You are probably asking yourself that exact question right now. Well Ill tell you...

This is my toaster oven. It looks a bit warn out but relatively harmless.
Only minutes before this picture was taken, this toaster oven was fully of flames.
You see, I wanted to take a picture of all the things needed to make this recipe, but I wanted to hide my toaster oven from view. The answer to this problem was not to take the picture somewhere else, but to cover the toaster oven with a pretty tea towel. I didn't even get one picture taken to show you.

So what happened was, I put a tea towel over the toaster oven and I was getting together my brown sugar, and butter and peanuts etc. and then I began arranging them in front of the tea towel. Soon I began to notice smoke in the air and I had no idea where it was coming from. Then I saw a slight flicker of something behind my tea towel. "Oh shoot! I thought, something is burning". Burning was definitely an understatement. The entire inside of the toaster oven was full of flames. For about 10 seconds I stood there wondering what to do. I knew either salt of baking soda would put it out...but which one? I decided I had to try one or the other really quick or my kitchen would be on fire. I already had the baking soda out because you need it for this recipe, and I threw a couple of spoonfuls on and poof, out went the fire! Then I called my husband and left him a happy voicemail telling him that I almost burnt down our house and I went back to making my caramel popcorn.
Lesson learned : do not cover the toaster oven with a tea towel.

The End.

So to actually make the popcorn without burning your house down:

Pop about 3/4 cup popcorn kernels. You need 12-15 heaping cups of popped popcorn.

Put 1/2 cup of butter chopped into pieces (I didn't chop it because my butter was soft so it melted easy enough), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 1/4 cup corn syrup in a microwave safe bowl. ( Word from the experienced...a two cup glass measuring cup is not big enough)

Microwave for 30 seconds and then stir to combine and then Microwave for 2 minutes.

Then it should almost look like this. Give it a good stir and microwave for 2 more minutes.

When it comes out of the microwave, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and if you are feeling adventurous 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir it all together and it should get foamy. I forgot to take a picture.

Pour your popcorn into a biigg bowl. You want to have lots of room to stir. I used my 32 cup Tupperware bowl. Also pour in 1cup of peanuts and toss lightly with your popcorn. ( Sometimes I don't use peanuts)

Pour the caramely mixture over the popcorn and peanuts and stir until well coated.

Spread onto a parchment of greased foil lined baking sheet (with sides) and bake in a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes or so. You can adjust the baking time according to how you like your caramel corn. If you like it chewy and sticky you do not have to bake it at all. But if you are like me and prefer it to not pull out your teeth, 20 minutes is adequate.

It should look like this, slightly less grey and a little more brown.

Here is the recipe in a normal and more easily readable way:

12-15 heaping cups of popcorn ( about 3/4 cup)
1 cup peanuts (if you like)
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (if you like)

1) Mix popped popcorn and peanuts in a big bowl (its good to do it first even though I didn't show it that way)
2) Measure corn syrup, butter and brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Stir
3) Microwave again for 2 minutes then stir and repeat once more.
4) Remove from microwave and add, vanilla, baking soda, salt and possibly cinnamon and stir well.
5) Pour over popcorn and stir well to combine ( I recommend a wooden spoon)
6) Dump popcorn out onto a large rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or greased tin foil.
7) Bake at 250 degrees F for about 20 minutes stirring ever 5 minutes or so. Baking time can be adjusted according to your liking. The corn will harden as it cools.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My First Post Ever! and The Best Date Bars Ever

Welcome to My Culinary Calling!
I am (very) recently married and my husband says I need to do something a bit more productive with my baking. So this is where the blog comes in! I also hope to soon be able to sell my baking on a small scale from my home. This is an adventure I am excited to begin! If you have any helpful advice, or suggestions please let me know!

MMMMMM date bars...some people call them matrimonial square. I always forget this. Before this recipe, I would be searching the internet for "date bars" or "date squares" or "date bar squares" and I could never find a good recipe that tasted like my mommas. So then I called my momma and she gave me her recipe and I realized I could have saved a couple of hours of my valuable time by just calling her in the first place.

So this recipe...I dont know what exactly it is that I love about it, or that makes it taste so much more yummy then the rest. But it really just does! My whole life growing up, my mom always baked with hard margarine. It is much cheaper and comes in perfect 1/2 cup blocks. And until I moved out and began buying my own ingredients for baking, I always did the same. Now I buy butter...Ohhh do I buy butter and the difference it makes can be so subtle but so yummy.

SO the whole point of that paragraph was to tell you to please please please try making these with butter. ALL butter. You wont regret it. At least your taste buds wont. Your wallet and hips might, but your husband wont notice because he will be chowing down on soft, slightly salty and sweet date bars.

Here is the recipe. And next time I will take pictures of the whole process because that looks like a fun thing to do.


Crumb Layer:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine (I have always used margarine until this time..any let me tell you, butter really did make them that much more delish)

1/2 pound dates chopped up(If you buy them in a square block, those are usually 1/2 a pound)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup water (or a little more to make it the right consistency)

Crumb layer:
1)Measure flour, oats, baking soda, salt and butter in a large bowl.
2)Cut butter in with a pastry blender or your hands until butter is the size of small peas. 3)Press about 2/3rds of the mixture into the bottom of a parchment or tin foil lined 9x9inch pan.Set aside

Filling: (maybe start this before you do the crumb, then they will be done at about the same time!)
1) Combine dates, sugar and water in a saucepan.
2) Bring to a boil and allow to simmer till mushy. If mixture becomes too dry, add a bit more water. If it is too wet, allow to simmer until excess has boiled away. You want the mixture to be easy to spread and relatively soft.
3) Spread over crumb layer as evenly as possible.
4) Sprinkle remaining 1/3 of crumbs over the top and press down lightly.
5) Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.