Friday, December 30, 2011

It's Citrus Season

It's citrus season here in California, and we have lemons, oranges, and mandarins coming out of our ears. So what do you do with 10lbs of lemons, I guess we will see in the next few days....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hawaiian Popcorn Balls

Mele Kalikimaka!

Food Network Magazine's Christmas issue had two pages of popcorn balls, and one really stood out to me...Coconut-Almond. Being a coconut freak I knew I had to try these, but I wanted to give them a little more tropical feel, so I used macadamia nuts. They turned out so delicious, not very Christmasy really, but they're definitely DELICIOUS.

Hawaiian Popcorn Balls 
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

2 Tbs butter
1 cup mini marshmallows
12 cups popcorn
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbs water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
2 cups toasted coconut

In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil the corn syrup, butter, sugar, marshmallows, and water. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Add the popcorn, 1 cup shredded coconut, and macadamia nuts, stir until coated. Shape into balls with hands and roll in toasted coconut. 

Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

After seeing the cover of Taste of Home Cooking School, I have been thinking about making a candy covered cheesecake every night while I should be sleeping. I used the original Junior's Cheesecake recipe, execpt with a chocolate spongecake and then I mixed bits of candycane, white chocolate chips, dark chocolate chunks, peppermint chips, and peppermint bark.
Next time I will make the cheesecake a white chocolate cheesecake, make the chocolate sponge cake a little more chocolatey, and I will add much more bits of candy and chocolates. It was a good first attempt though.

Adapted from

Chocolate Sponge Cake
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
3 large eggs separated
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz melted bittersweet chocolate
3 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Cream Cheese Filling
4 (8oz) packages cream cheese
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tbs vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 oz Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark, broken into pieces (Double it next time?)
2 oz white chocolate chips (Skip this and make cheesecake white chocolate instead)
2 oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces (Double it next time?)
1 oz candy canes crushed (Double it next time?)

Oreo Crumbs
8 Oreo cookies, crushed
2 Tbs butter, melted

Sponge Cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter a 9in spring form pan.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl with and electric mixer on high for 3 minutes. With the mixer still running, gradually add the 1/3 cup of sugar and continue beating until thick light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Sift the mixture over the batter and stir it in by hand until no more white flecks appear. Blend in the butter.
In a clean bowl, using clean dry beater, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/3 cup of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining egg white. (don't worry if a few white specks remain.)
Spoon the batter into the spring form pan.
Bake the cake just until the center springs back when lightly touched, only about 10 minutes.
Let cool in the pan on a wire rack while you continue making the cheesecake filling. DO NOT REMOVE FROM THE PAN.

Cream Cheese Filling:
Place one 8oz package of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl.
Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese. Increase the mixer speed to high and add the remaining 1 1/3 cups of sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Blend in heavy cream. Mix the filling only until blended. Be careful not to over mix. Add the candy pieces and just swirl into the batter.

Wrap the outside of the spring form pan with two layers of tin foil.(This is to protect it from the water bath, while it's cooking.)

Spoon the filling on top of the baked sponge cake.
Place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large shallow pan (disposable roasting pan). Place the spring form pan in the towel lined pan. Pour water into the large baking pan about 1 inch up the side of the spring form pan.
Bake the cheesecake until the center barely jiggles when you shake the pan, about 1 hour.
Turn oven off and open the oven door for 1 minute. Close the door and let set inside oven 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove from oven and place in refrigerator at least 6 hours.

Run a knife around the side of the spring form pan and remove the cheesecake.

Oreo Crumbs:
In a small bowl mix Oreo crumbs, and melted butter. Pour into a cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.
Pat the sides of the cheesecake with the Oreo crumbs, and serve.

Monday, December 12, 2011

French Toast Bread Pudding

I love French toast, but bread pudding??? I have always stayed away from bread pudding just because it sounds really disgusting, that is until a few months ago when I went to breakfast with a friend and decided to try a bread pudding French toast (A slice of bread pudding battered and fried like French toast). Yep, I was right, bread pudding was disgusting. Months went by and as I was watching a bread pudding episode of Sugar High on Food Network,  I began to rethink my hatred of it. I hesitantly went to the kitchen and made a chocolate bread pudding that turned out surprisingly good, which got me thinking...French Toast Bread Pudding.


At least once a month I stand in front of the stove for an hour, slaving away over french toast, finally sitting down to eat after everyone has had their 2nds or 3rds. By making french toast into a bread pudding maybe I could finally eat with my family.
Using my favorite French toast recipe, Norma's Crunchy French Toast, as a guide, I was still having doubts as I was putting the bread pudding into the oven. To my delight the French Toast Bread Pudding turned out wonderful. It was slightly crusty on the top and around the edges, more firm than goopy in the middle, and the French toast flavor...was to die for. I am soo going to make this Christmas morning.

Krispie Caramel French Toast Bread Pudding
Adapted from Norma's Crunchy French Toast

*Warning - I tried making this with Texas Toast and it was way to dry, stick with Brioche.

Rice Krispie Topping
1 cup Rice Krispies
Dash of nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cocoa powder
3 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt

French Toast
1 loaf stale bread (I used 1/2 Pullman and 1/2 Brioche)
3 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 tbs Grand Marnier
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs cinnamon
pinch of salt

The night before:
Prepare the topping - In a small bowl stir together Rice Krispies, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes and fill a 9x13 baking dish with the cubes. Cover with plastic wrap.
Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, heavy cream and Grand Marnier. Whisk until incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until morning.

The morning of:
Remove all of the plastic wrap (:
Pour cream mixture over the bread cubes, pressing down on the cubes to thoroughly soak bread.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle Rice Krispie Topping and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
Serve with caramel sauce.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies

Let me start by saying I am not a fan of thumbprint cookies, I find them too dry. These chocolate thumbprint cookies were alright, (It's hard to go wrong with Hershey's Mint Kisses.) but just not my favorite. If for some reason you want to give them a try...

Chocolate Mint Thumbprint Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs butter, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg white

In a large bowl beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and mix until combined. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls into egg white, then chocolate sprinkles. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Using your thumb, make indention in each ball.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before filling thumbprint with Hershey's Kisses. Move to wire rack and let cool completely.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Peppermint Patties

For some reason during the other 11 months in the year I forget how much I love peppermint, then December comes around I am am transformed into a peppermint junkie. Dreyer's Peppermint Ice Cream, Andes Mint Baking Chips, Hershey's Mint Kisses, and the mother of all peppermint the Ghirardelli Peppermint Sundae. (I have been known to hoarded a few of these things in the freezer for later in the year, which I then don't ever eat.)

Months ago a friend told me about making homemade peppermint patties, and now that December is finally here I decided it was time to make them. These were like large gourmet Junior Mints, rich Valrhona Chocolate covering a smooth gooey mint filling. They may be a little time consuming, but they taste absolutely wonderful. Now, if I only had better chocolate dipping skills (:

Peppermint Patties
Adapted from Food Network Magazine

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbs light corn syrup
1 1/2 tbs softened butter
2 tsp milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate coating:
8 oz chocolate
2 tsp shortening

Beat powdered sugar, corn syrup, butter, milk, peppermint and vanilla extract until smooth.
Chill in freezer for 30 minutes.
Dust generously with powered sugar and roll out 1/4 inch thick.
Chill again for 15 minutes.
Cut into stars and freeze until hard.
Melt chocolate with 2 tsp of shortening in the microwave.
Let cool to room temperature.
Take out 1/2 of the stars from the freezer, dip them into the chocolate and sprinkle with nonpareils.
Repeat with the second half of the stars.
Chill until set.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Is Coming

Every year while on Thanksgiving vacation, I load up on magazines and get inspired for Christmas.
My magazine reading is actually quite a process. It begins with flipping though each magazine, making mental notes of what looks good. Then I go back through and folding the corners of the things I like. After that I actually read the recipes. Finally, when we get home, I rip out all the pages I had folded and put them in a binder. (A tip I learned from my friend and her mother.) Just when you thought I couldn't be more compulsive, I then make a list of everything I want to make in December and map it out on my calendar. (I know what your thinking, "Psycho".)

One of the things that caught my eye in the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine wasn't even a recipe, it was the gift packaging. It is such a simple idea, that's not only great for Christmas, but would make a cute goodie bag for birthdays as well.

To make the bags you need festive scrapbook paper, glue, scissors, and cellophane bags (found at your local craft store or even Walmart). Cut scrapbook paper to fit folded over bag, fill the bag with goodies, fold top of bag down, cover with scrapbook paper, and staple on each side of the scrapbook paper. Voila! Cute food gift for Christmas.

You might be wondering what is in this bag, it's Oreo Coal. I saw a photo of No-Bake Cookies and Cream Bars on the Picky-Palate blog, and instantly thought of coal. They turned out perfect for the naughty people on my Christmas list. (They look even better in real life.)

Oreo Coal
From Picky-Palate

1 bag of Oreos (15oz)
1 bag large marshmallows (10oz)
4 Tbs butter 

Put Oreos in a food processor and process until crumbs.
Grease a 9x9 baking dish. (I use a silicone pan so I skip this part.)
In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add Marshmallows and stir until completely melted.
Remove from heat and stir in Oreo crumbs, until well coated.
Pour into baking dish and press to spread.
Using the thin side of a rubber spatula hit the top of the Oreo mixture to make a few indention's for a coal like appearance.
When cool, cut into uneven shapes.

These are really chewy and dense, and taste just like Oreos and marshmallows. I think they look better than they taste, but the people at work seemed to really like them (:


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