Thursday, December 22, 2011

Easy and Delicious Fudge

I've been experimenting with fudge and caramels. The fudge wins out. Caramel is so finicky. If I figure it out, you'll be the first to know (well maybe the second after my husband).

Today I'm busy getting ready to head to Oregon for the holidays but thought this recipe would be a good one to share with you just in case you need to make something for the holidays. This fudge is easy, foolproof and really good. And I'm not even a big fudge loving person. But this one's rich, creamy, chocolatey and not too sweet. A little square of this is just right. 

You can add any kind of nut you like or leave them out. You could even add marshmallows to make a rocky road fudge. I'm sure someone you know would love to get this treat as a gift. 

Happy Holidays to you and your family!

Easy and Delicious Fudge

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condenses milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup bittersweet (60%) chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup or 8 oz. walnuts, chopped coarse
Course sea salt

Line the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish with foil or parchment paper. Leave two inches overhanging on opposite sides so that you can remove the fudge from the pan.

Add the condensed milk and chocolate chips to a saucepan. Stir well. Add a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat until all the chocolate is melted and glossy. 

Add the vanilla and walnuts, and stir well to incorporate. 

Pour the fudge into the lined baking dish. Smooth it out. sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Let fudge come to room temperature and then put it in the fridge to firm up. Remove from pan and slice into small squares. 

Fudge can be frozen in an airtight container.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Eggnog Bread Pudding

This is definitely not diet food but it's a great dish for a Sunday morning or even Christmas morning. I've wanted to make something like this for the last couple of years but haven't gotten around to it. Last Sunday I got out the eggnog and first made my husband and I an eggnog latte and then started on this eggnog bread pudding. I love eggnog and when I saw a few different recipes for eggnog bread pudding that sounded good, I played around with the ingredients and came up with this one. We both liked the result...the hard part was waiting for it to bake! 

Feel free to add raisins or dried cranberries to yours. You can also sprinkle it with powdered sugar before serving. This is really good with a side of bacon, ham or sausage.

Eggnog Bread Pudding

1 16oz loaf Challah Bread, cut in 1 inch cubes
4 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups eggnog (purchased)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large buttered baking dish (I used a 2 1/2 quart oval baking dish), add your cubed bread. In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs, milk, eggnog, maple syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, butter and brandy. Pour over the bread. Take a spatula and press it down a bit so it is all covered by the liquid. I let mine sit for 20 minutes before I put it in the oven. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for another 15-45 minutes. It will depend on how deep your baking dish is. Mine was deep so it took the full 90 minutes. You want a knife inserted in the center to come out clean. If the top of the bread pudding starts getting to brown, cover it again with the foil. When done, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Serve with maple syrup. Serves 6-8.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Last month I signed up to do "The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap" with more than 200 other blogs. It was organized by Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. I had to make three dozen cookies, send a dozen to three randomly selected food blogs and three randomly selected blogs sent me each three different types of cookies. Fun, huh! About two weeks ago I started getting my cookies in the mail and all of them are really delicious. Here are a few pictures and links to their blogs.

Caramel Apple Cookies from Bananas and Beer
Mint Chocolate Whoopie Pies from Aris Menu
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Fluffer Nutter Cookies from (TBD)

For my cookie swap recipe I decided to make Christmas cookies which are a nut and fruit cookie. The recipe comes from my grandmother. She made them a long time ago for us and I had never forgotten how good they were. Don't shy away from making these because of the ingredients. They are a simple butter cookies, not to sweet but a very tasty treat especially with coffee or tea. The fruit gives them a mild sweetness but you can't really tell what it is. And they're so pretty! Keep in mind you can leave out the nuts, change them up (same with the fruit - use what you like) and even better, you can keep these in a roll in your freezer and just slice and bake when you need them.

I shipped my cookies off on December 5th to these fellow bloggers.

On Thursday, December 15th you'll be to see a list of all the cookie recipes in the swap on Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.

Christmas Cookies

1 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup candied cherries, finely chopped
1 cup candied pineapple, finely chopped
1 cup dates, finely chopped
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup Turbinado Raw Sugar

In a large mixing bowl, using a stand mixer or beaters, combine the butter, sugars, vanilla, salt and eggs. Add the fruit and nuts and mix well. Combine flour with baking soda and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture to wet ingredients. Using plastic wrap, shape into 2-3 inch wide rolls. Place in refrigerator and chill for at least an hour. When chilled, remove plastic wrap and slice in 1/2 inch cookies. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Heat oven to 350 degree and bake for 10-12 minutes. They'll be nice and soft if you remove them before they get brown. Can be frozen and will keep for months. Makes 10 dozen.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wow your guests (& friends)

I know everyone is crazy busy right now. I was in a store yesterday returning a few things and I piled my stuff on the counter and handed the lady my credit card. It was so busy we didn't even look at each other. Suddenly she says, "Oh hi. How are you?" I laughed and said hi back. We joked about how everyone is so busy moving a hundred miles an hour that we don't even take a moment to say hi or smile. It just reminded me to slow down, to be courteous and be aware. Otherwise what is Christmas all about. So if you can, hit pause, take a breather, refocus so that you can enjoy some of the holiday season too. And if not, just smile and fake it. :-)

This recipe brings back fond memories from my childhood as my mom made these Olive and Cheese Crostini's from time to time. With my dad being in the military, my mom swapped a lot of recipes with fellow military wives. Many recipes come from cherished squadron cookbooks that contain favorite recipes from everyone in the squadron. These cookbooks are like gold as they contain some of the best recipes. This is one of them. 

I'm really serious when I say this recipe will impress your guests. Just one bite and they'll be hooked. But don't wait for a special occasion to make them. They are great as a snack or for lunch. They might not look that good or sound that delicious but trust me, they are one of my favorites. It makes for a "you can't eat just one" perfect holiday recipe. Not to mention, they're easy to make.

Olive and Cheese Crostini  

1 small can chopped black olives
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 stalk green onion, chopped fine
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 loaf french bread or Filone bread (this is what I used), slice 1/2 inch thick

Preheat your broiler to low. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Spread about a tablespoon on each slice of bread. Place on a cookie sheet. Place under broiler and watch really closely so they don't burn. Once they are bubbly and slightly browned, take out the oven and let cool. Really good warm but tasty anyway you want to eat them. If you want them to look really pretty, sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top before serving. 

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