Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Recipes’

Chili Peanuts

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

bonne-anneweb

Happy New Year!

The Twelve Days of Christmas haven’t yet expired, and Kwanzaa is still with us. So here’s a savory edible gift to bring to friends during this festive season. These peanuts are just a little spicy and quite addictive.

I made them recently on Mass Appeal along with my beloved chocolate bark. Both food offerings were popular with Seth Stutman, Lauren Zenzie, and the gang at the studio.

And of course I gave them to my brother for Hanukkah—or maybe Christmas. (We celebrate both, and the presents are flexible.) They went well with the cocktail ingredients that were his primary present.

I wish you all a joyful and productive 2017….

The Peanuts

Ingredients:

a splash of canola or peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (go to 1-1/2 or 2 if you like spice)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder or Creole seasoning, plus more if needed at the end
1 teaspoon salt (less if using the Creole seasoning as it includes salt)
1 pound shelled unsalted peanuts (about 3 cups)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a large (preferably cast-iron) ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Pour the oil on top, and let it heat for a minute or two. Add the garlic, spices, and salt, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in the peanuts and remove the pan from the heat. Transfer it to the oven and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Remove the peanuts from the oven and spread them to cool on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Taste one. They won’t be crunchy yet; that will happen as they cool. If they need more salt or seasoning, sprinkle it on top of them so they will absorb it as they cool.

When the peanuts are cool, transfer them to an airtight container. Makes about 3 cups.

And now the video! I was away from home when this segment ran so I didn’t have the video to upload and embed. But it can be viewed on the Mass Appeal website. If you stick around after the peanuts, you’ll see us making the bark.

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Barking Epiphany

Monday, January 5th, 2015

new year

Happy New Year! I hope you’re all sharing the optimism I have about 2015. It’s odd that just turning a page on the calendar should make one feel hopeful. Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling that this New Year will bring wonderful things.

Even before Epiphany I had an epiphany about my work. I am shifting gears bookwise. I spent a lot of time last year testing recipes for my book of funeral foods. Nevertheless, I haven’t established the right tone in my writing for the narrative. So that book is being postponed until after I finish another project that is percolating in my brain and laptop. Stay tuned for developments!

Meanwhile, as Epiphany strikes I want to share one last Christmas recipe. As many of you may know, for the last couple of years I have done holiday sales at a local branch of Williams-Sonoma in order to make extra money for year-end giving. My knees aren’t always thrilled with the job, but the people I work with are great.

Moreover, I have always strongly believed that everyone needs to spend some time doing retail work. This experience helps us remember to be extra nice to the people behind the counter when we shop.

Williams-Sonoma’s signature Christmas product is its peppermint bark. We have been handing out samples of this confection for a month and a half now, and it has ALMOST disappeared from the shelves.

Our store’s resident chef mentioned recently that one of the other stores had held a contest asking customers what they would make using the bark. This of course got me wondering what I would make myself—and it didn’t take me long to come up with something! I decided on a peppermint icebox cake.

The end product, as you can see below, looked appropriate for the season—rather like a log in snow. Another time I might crumble the peppermint bark a bit more; as you can see, its bits resembled dirty rocks in the snow. Or I might just use crushed candy canes. The flavor was pretty darn terrific, however. And I can’t really think of anything simpler to make.

I wish you all a wonderful new year full of good work, good health, and good food.

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Barking Icebox Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 package (9 ounces) Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (these flat, round chocolate cookies are difficult but not impossible to find; just ask around at area grocery stores)
1/2 cup crumbled peppermint bark or peppermint candy

Instructions:

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the vanilla and extract.

Spread about 1-1/2 tablespoons of the cream mixture onto a wafer. Top it with another wafer. Stack the creamed wafers standing up until you have 9 or 10 wafers; then gently lay the stack on its side on a serving plate. Repeat, adding to the horizontal stack, until you have used up the remaining wafers.

Cover the log of stacks with the remaining whipped cream.

Refrigerate, gently covered, for at least 4 hours.

Remove from the fridge just before serving and garnish the cake with the crumbled candy. Slice diagonally so that black-and-white bars appear.

Serves 8 to 10.

pepp bark

A Holiday Gift

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Chef Deborah Snow, who created this brittle, loves her restaurant home, the warm and colorful Blue Heron.

Chef Deborah Snow, who created this brittle, loves her restaurant home, the warm and colorful Blue Heron.

My sister-in-law Leigh and I are busy making confections for holiday gifts. We were looking for something slightly different from our usual penuche and decided on this recipe, which comes from Deborah Snow, the chef at the Blue Heron in Sunderland, Massachusetts.

I hadn’t made brittle in a couple of decades so it was lots of fun to make—and of course we HAD to taste a little before packaging the rest to give away.

Deborah makes her brittle look extremely elegant (see photo below). Ours was a little less gorgeous; we slightly overcooked the brittle so it didn’t spread very well. But it was utterly delicious.

Another time I think I would probably make the brittle with peanuts (less expensive than the nuts used here) or cashews (since they come already skinned!). The hazelnut-almond combination does work wonderfully for those unconcerned about budgets and schedules, however. The hazelnuts in particular pop beautifully.

For other gift-able confections (including fudge, chocolate-covered strawberries, and chocolate bark), try my blog’s “candy and fudge” category.

Happy/merry to you and yours…..

brittle for gifting web

 

Blue Heron Brittle

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (for notes on toasting see this helpful page!)
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds (I used blanched slivered almonds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions:

Line a heavy large baking sheet with a silicone baking sheet.

Stir the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, and boil without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 260 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Mix in the nuts, butter, and salt (the mixture will be thick and nutty), and cook until the thermometer registers 295 degrees, stirring constantly, about 15 minutes.

Quickly stir in the baking soda. (This makes the brittle easier to chew.)

Immediately pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it as thinly as possible. Let it stand until hard; then break the brittle into pieces.

Makes at least 7 to 8 cups of brittle.

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas to all!

Cranberry Heaven

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

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My family and I celebrated Thanksgiving this year at my mother’s home in New Jersey. We hosted a small party on Friday that concentrated on appetizers and desserts.
 
We served a very small main course (stuffed shells and salad), surrounded by delectable non-“serious” foods. We began the evening with shrimp, bruschetta, lots and lots of cheeses, hummus, my chipotle cranberry sauce, and nibbly nutty snacks.
 
Later I unveiled my favorite new creation: tiny cranberry cream puffs.
 
I was inspired to make them by reading about the annual Cranberry Festival in Warrens, Wisconsin.
 
Warrens doesn’t havea large population. About as many people live there, in fact, as in my tiny hometown of Hawley, Massachusetts (just under 400).
 
Each September, however, more than 100,000 people visit Warrens for a weekend-long tribute to the town’s signature crop, cranberries.
 
The festival features marsh tours, sales, a parade, a variety of contests, and of course lots and lots of foods made with cranberries.
 
Festival manager Kim Billiard sent me The Best of Cranfest. This cookbook offers recipes for cakes, salads, sauces, muffins, and meat dishes (to name a few) using fresh or processed cranberries. I plan to make and post one of these in the near future.
 
Kim admitted, however, that she didn’t have the recipe for the special cranberry confection I had read about online—the cranberry cream puffs sold each year by the local Sweet Adelines. She put me in touch with Mary Castner of the Sweet Adelines. I asked Mary how she made these treats.
 
“There really isn’t a recipe,” Mary told me. “All we do is we whip a quart of cream. And after it’s whipped we take jellied cranberries, and we mush them up. And we just swirl about a half a cup of them into the cream.”
 
She added that the group adds sugar and vanilla to the cream as well and explained that the Adelines put the filling into commercial frozen puffs to ensure uniformity.
 
“We sell a lot of them,” she asserted.
 
I decided to make my own cream puffs instead of buying frozen ones (I scoff at uniformity!) and found a simple recipe at the King Arthur Flour web site.
 
My nine-year-old nephew Michael helped me put them together. He worried a little about his ability to shape the puffs. “I’m not good with spoons,” he declared.
 
Michael really loved the idea of eating cranberry cream puffs, however, so he conquered his spoon phobia.
Michael stirs the puffs.

Michael stirs the puffs.

 
I was pretty sure I wanted a higher cranberry/cream ratio than 1/2 cup to 1 quart. So I upped the cranberry ante in our cream puffs.
 
The resulting puffs were, in Michael’s words, “just about perfect.”
 
The filling isn’t super stable so guests were encouraged to assemble their own puffs. Some chose a classic cream puff and hid a small amount of filling inside their puffs. Some slathered on the filling so you could see it a mile away.
 
My friend Wendy told me they were the highlight of her Thanksgiving weekend.
 
I urge you all to try them this holiday season. They’re easy. They’re festive (SO PINK!). And they’re sheer heaven to eat.

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I also urge you to vote for them  in the Bon Appétit Holiday Dessert Bake-Off. Bon Appétit magazine is collecting holiday recipes from bloggers all over the United States and asking readers to vote for them.
 
I know my chances of winning are slight; the contest began on November 1, and I’ve only just discovered it. It never hurts to try, however!
 
Here’s the link for voting (you have to register in order to vote, but you DO NOT have to subscribe to the magazine). I’m listed in the final category, “miscellaneous desserts.”
 
Voting ends December 13.
 
Thank you! Now, here’s the recipe, It looks long, but it’s really a cinch……..
 
Cranberry Cream Puffs
 
Ingredients:
 
for the jellied cranberries:
 
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
12 ounces cranberries
 
for the cream puffs:
 
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature (place them in warm water for a few minutes to achieve the right temperature)
 
for the filling:
 
2 cups heavy cream
confectioner’s sugar and vanilla to taste (we used about 1/4 cup sugar—maybe a little more–and 2 teaspoons vanilla)
1 recipe jellied cranberries
 
for assembly:
 
a small amount of confectioner’s sugar (optional)
 
Instructions:
 
for the jellied cranberries:
 
Make the jellied cranberries early—ideally the day before—so they will have plenty of time to cool and jell.
 
Yes, of course, you MAY use canned jellied cranberry sauce. It won’t taste as good as the fresh version, however; the canning process and the high-fructose corn syrup in most cans diminish the flavor. Making the stuff is pretty darned easy so I would keep the can opener in a drawer while preparing this recipe.
 
In a medium saucepan combine the water and sugar and bring them to a boil. Add the cranberries, and return the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and boil the sauce for 10 more minutes. (If it gets too fuzzy, add a tiny bit of butter.)
 
Remove the sauce from the heat, and push it through a stainless-steel strainer. You’ll end up with about 1-1/2 cups of sauce and a small amount of solid matter; you may discard the latter.
 
Cool the sauce, covered, at room temperature; then refrigerate it until you are ready to assemble your cream puffs.
 
for the puffs:
 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease two cookie sheets or line them with silicone. (King Arthur Flour suggests using parchment sheets, but mine singed a bit in the hot oven.)
 
In a medium saucepan bring the water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil. Throw in the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon stir it in quickly until it becomes smooth and follows the spoon around the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.
 
Let it rest until it is cool enough so that you can stick your finger in and hold it there for a few seconds (this takes about 5 minutes).
 
Place the dough in a mixer bowl, and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously after each egg. Make sure you continue beating for 1 minute after the last egg goes in. The dough will be stiff.
 
Drop teaspoonsful of dough onto the cookie sheets, leaving enough space between them so the puffs can expand to golf-ball size in the oven.
 
Bake the puffs until they puff and begin to turn a light golden brown. (King Arthur Flour estimated this at 20 minutes; my oven is a little hot so it took only 15 for me.)
 
Remove them from the oven and quickly use a sharp knife to cut a small slit in the side of each puff. (This keeps the puffs from getting soggy.) Return them to the oven for 5 more minutes.
 
Remove the puffs from the oven and cool them on wire racks. If your oven is hot like mine and you have burned the bottoms slightly, use a sharp knife to remove the blackened portions.
 
 
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for the filling:
 
Just before you are ready to assemble your puffs, whip the cream until it is thick and forms nice peaks, adding the sugar and vanilla toward the end of this process.
 
Use a mixer or whisk to break up the jellied cranberry sauce into a thick liquid (instead of a solid). Gently fold it into the whipped cream.
 
for assembly:
 
Carefully cut open each puff in the middle; you will find that the puffs have what King Arthur Flour calls a “natural fault line.”
 
Decorate the bottom of each puff with the cranberry-cream mixture and replace the top. Sprinkle a little confectioner’s sugar on top if desired.
 
Makes about 40 cream puffs.
 
Mother Jan was queen of the cream-puff party.

Mother Jan was queen of the cream-puff party.

 

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Cream Puffs on Foodista