Monday, December 27, 2010

Skillet Toffee

Both of my husband's sisters received a box full of goodies this holiday season. The toffee here was one of those that I included. I found this recipe on thekitchn.com.

This recipe is pretty easy. And, it yields a lot (about 2 lbs). But, there are some things I learned after the fact that I wish I knew before I began the recipe. When I made this, I was also prepping caramel corn, peppermint patties, and snickerdoodles. So, my attention to frequent stirring at a constant speed and constant temperature was a bit lacking. And, this lack of attention resulted in a puddle of butter on top of the toffee when I poured it onto a pan to cool. So, next time I'll be heating the pot patiently on medium heat, and constantly stirring. That should help maintain the incorporation of the butter with the sugar.

The only modification I made to this is to swap the nuts for heath toffee bits, since I'm not a huge nut fan with my chocolate and toffee. I've seen M&Ms added, candy canes, and coconut added to the top of these too!

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (roughly) Heath Toffee Chips

Directions:
  1. Line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch x 15-inch baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silpat
  2. In a large cast iron skillet or nonstick pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. As the butter melts, stir in the sugar and salt. Continue stirring constantly and rapidly with a wooden spoon, keeping the sides of pan clean by brushing occasionally with a wet pastry brush. The mixture should bubble as you stir. Cook until the mixture turns a deep golden brown, taking care not to burn it. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Pour the mixture into the lined baking sheet. Allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then sprinkle the mixture with the chocolate. When the chocolate looks glossy, spread it with an offset cake spatula or a wooden spatula, and sprinkle with the Heath crunch. Gently press the Heath into the chocolate with the palms of your hands.
  4. Cool completely (at least 6 hours) then break the toffee into chunks.
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Beef Empanadas from Leftover Pot Roast


I like making pot roast because I use the slow cooker, I can throw everything in, set it and forget it. But, Chris and I don't usually eat the entire pot roast in one night. The left overs will last us a couple of days. But, eating pot roast leftovers for more than a day is not usually something we end up doing...so, I decided to do something a bit different this last time, turning them into my version of beef empanadas.

The results were good! I served with salsa and spanish rice on the side. If I make them again, I will use a bit more taco seasoning to make them spicier. You can change up the spice level, moisture levels, cheese, and size easily. The ingriedients below yielded about 6 empanadas with leftover spicy beef mix.
These will freeze up wonderfully. Just prep them all the way to step 3 and freeze on a cookie sheet before moving to a ziploc bag.

Ingredients for roughly 6 empanadas:
  • 1 cup left over beef pot roast
  • 1 Tbs taco seasoning
  • 2 Tbs water (adjust based on how moist/dry the pot roast was)
  • 1/4 cup monterey jack cheese
  • 1 pre-made refrigerated pie crust cut into 5-inch rounds

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 375. Add pot roast to a skillet and heat to medium high heat. When thoroughly heated add taco seasoning and water, adding a little more water & seasoning to compensate for pot roast that seems a bit more dried out. Stir until taco seasoning is incorporated.
  2. Roll out the pie crust and cut into 5-inch rounds. Fill the center of each round with 1-2 tablespoons of beef and 1 tablespoon of cheese.
  3. Fold dough over and use a fork to crimp the edges. Poke each empanada two times with a fork to create steam vents.
  4. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes
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Chicken Shawarma


Chris and I have been frequenting a restaurant in Madison called the Shish Cafe for their delicious tabbouleh, hummus, baba ganouj, and shawarma. One night, when a craving hit but the place was closed I pulled together a quick shawarma based on this Cooking Light recipe for Chicken Shawarma. The only change I made was keeping the chicken breast whole vs. prepping into strips then threading onto a skewer. I used a grill pan to cook the chicken and when finished grilling, let it rest, and thinly slice.

The recipe was pretty easy, and tasted great, but I have to say the Shish Cafe still wins...But, this is another tasty chicken recipe to add to my arsenal.

Ingredients from Cooking Light:
Chicken:
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 16 (3-inch) strips
Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  2. To prepare chicken, combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
  3. To prepare sauce, combine yogurt and next 4 ingredients (through 1 garlic clove), stirring with a whisk.
  4. Thread 2 chicken strips onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes on each side or until done.
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Caramel Corn

Alongside the granola and cookies I made last Christmas to send to family, I made homemade caramel corn for the first time. The recipe came from Annies-Eats.com, yet another trusted recipe source. I didn't change a thing!

I haven't made it again because honestly, I'd end up eating it all myself. But, some tips if I do make it again...1) work quickly, 2) make sure your tossing bowls are big enough, 3) double the caramel recipe if you like lotsa caramel (I like mine extra caramel-y). Other than that, this recipe is great!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup popcorn kernels, unpopped
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:
  1. Pop popcorn using your preferred method. I used a very large stock pot with a little oil in the bottom, lid on the top slightly ajar, gently shaking the pot back and forth to prevent scorching. Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl (or two large bowls). Make sure there is enough room in your bowls for tossing the popcorn.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250° F. Meanwhile, to make the caramel, melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, mix in the corn syrup, brown sugar and salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Once the mixture reaches a boil, let the mixture continue to boil for 5 more minutes without stirring. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract. The mixture will bubble up and become frothy. Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn in the bowl(s) and toss to coat thoroughly. I like silicon spatulas for this.
  4. Spread the popcorn evenly onto two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. (It is okay if there are some clumps of caramel throughout. It will melt and become better spread out while baking.) Bake for 40-50 minutes, removing from the oven to toss/stir every 10 minutes. After 40 minutes, test a cooled piece of popcorn. If it is not completely crispy (i.e. still slightly mushy when you bite it), bake for 10 minutes more.
  5. Remove the baking sheets to a wire rack and allow popcorn to cool completely before breaking apart for serving or packaging.
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Fruit & Nut Granola


Last Christmas, I packaged up some cookies, caramel corn, and homemade fruit and nut granola to send to family. I loved how easy it was to pull together this delicious granola. I've made it several times since then, and always tweak the add-ins. The original recipe came from Allrecipes.com: Megan's Granola
While the recipe on allrecipes.com contained slightly different add-ins, I used the same general base of and only omitted the sunflower seeds and maple syrup.
The granola in the picture above contained dried cherries & cranberries, pecans and almonds. A more recent batch had cornflakes added to it! The great thing about granola is you can change it up however you want. The key is to go low and slow in the oven when toasting! And, it'll clump as it cools. So don't worry if it's not clumping while it's in the oven.

Here's my recipe, adapted from Megan's Granola
Ingredients:
  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups dried cherries and sweetened dried cranberries

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
  2. Combine the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, almonds, pecans in a large bowl. Stir together the salt, brown sugar, honey, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until crispy and toasted, about 20-30 minutes. Stir once halfway through. Cool, then stir in the raisins or cranberries before storing in an airtight container.
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