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alpenhaus

I’m republishing this because the Super Bowl is just around the corner, it’s winter, fondue is available and we seem to be going through a 70’s resurgence.  I have even seen fondue pots in Walmart.  Go to Pinterest and type in “fondue”, recipes abound.

 

I know very few people who own a fondue pot, and those that do have never put it to proper use,  Oh, they’ve used it once or twice to keep cocktail weenies warm at a church buffet, or maybe meatballs in grape jelly on a buffet, but never to sit around with friends, dipping crusty bread into gooey, slightly winey, luscious, warm, melted cheese.

I have four electric fondue pots.  I thoroughly recommend an electric fondue pot over the candle or sterno variety. They provide much better temperature control and can expand the fondue experience to vegetables and meats and of course dessert. Although homemade is almost always better, at this time of the year, packaged cheese fondues are available in the specialty cheese sections of most supermarkets. They are actually very good.  The packages store easily and many brands don’t require refrigeration.   Alpenhaus and Swiss Knight are two of my favorites.

Fondue does not need to be reserved for parties. Fonduing (sic) is a great way to engage your family and friends.  It requires little more than active participation and a loaf of crusty bread, though I do like to turn my crusty bread into toasty garlic bread cubes and toss a fresh green salad to complete the meal. My kids grew up with fondue (children of the 70’s) and a childhood friend of my now 40+ yr old daughter recently spoke to me of her fond memory of her first ever fondue at my home. Fondue can be the basis of a very romantic dinner for two also. Remember, it’s said if you lose a cube of bread in the cheese, you must kiss the person sitting next to you;)

And of course, there is homemade. Even better. A very good one from Emeril

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It’s been a while since my last post, which if I remember correctly was written during a down moment, just prior to the tailgaiting, partying, playful Super Bowl came to pass. And if I remember correctly I was feeling down, But not today! Nope, not today.

20130209-220430.jpgIt’s funny how doing things for others, creating love, can bring you up and into the clouds. That’s just where I’ve been, floating into the clouds. If you follow my post at all you may remember my marshmallow dream post. I’m back at it, creating super sweet, fluffy little clouds of sugar for valentine’s day.

I have so much fun making these simple, inexpensive, delicious and abundant treats. I have enough to send away to my two young grand-girls in New Hampshire and still have plenty for my favorite teenage granddaughter here in SC. Then I’ll pass out to some of the neighborhood children. I made a two batches, one of fresh strawberry and a another of coconut.

I even cut doilies out of parchment papers to line my boxes.  I fondly remembered the hours I spent as a little girl making these pretty little  pieces of paper.IMG_0134

Nope, no tears today.  Just lots of little puffs of of luv.

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Last minute gift cooking Christmas Eve afternoon.  Wow, it got me through the evening for sure.  A terrific recipe for the candy dish or to use as filler as I did, for a gift card.  I bought an inexpensive Christmas coffee mug.  Then I filled a treat bag with candy and placed it in the mug.  Add a pretty ribbon and tie on a gift card.
from Family Living Classics – Favorite Holiday Candies

Crunchy Caffeine (Coffee Bean Toffee)

1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans

1/2 cup coffee beans (coarsely chopped in food processor or spice mill)

1 Tbl instant espresso granules (regular instant coffee can be substituted but will yield a milder flavor)

1/3 cup hot water

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 Tbl light corn syrup

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1 teas vanilla

1 teas cinnamon

pinch of salt

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray lightly with pam. Dissolve espresso/coffee in hot water, set aside.
In a heavy bottomed large saucepan, melt butter. Place candy thermometer on pan, into mixture but not touching bottom. Add sugar, corn syrup and dissolved coffee. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Wash down sides of pan with hot water and a pastry brush. Do not stir again. Cook until thermometer registers hard crack stage. Remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon, vanilla, coffee beans and nuts. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate over top. Once chocolate melts, spread over surface of toffee. Allow to cool completely, refrigerate to speed up process. Break into pieces.

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alpenhaus

I’m republishing this because the Super Bowl is just around the corner, it’s winter, fondue is available and we seem to be going through a 70’s resurgence.  I have even seen fondue pots in Walmart.  Go to Pinterest and type in “fondue”, recipes abound.

 

I know very few people who own a fondue pot, and those that do have never put it to proper use,  Oh, they’ve used it once or twice to keep cocktail weenies warm at a church buffet, or maybe meatballs in grape jelly on a buffet, but never to sit around with friends, dipping crusty bread into gooey, slightly winey, luscious, warm, melted cheese.

I have four electric fondue pots.  I thoroughly recommend an electric fondue pot over the candle or sterno variety. They provide much better temperature control and can expand the fondue experience to vegetables and meats and of course dessert. Although homemade is almost always better, at this time of the year, packaged cheese fondues are available in the specialty cheese sections of most supermarkets. They are actually very good.  The packages store easily and many brands don’t require refrigeration.   Alpenhaus and Swiss Knight are two of my favorites.

Fondue does not need to be reserved for parties. Fonduing (sic) is a great way to engage your family and friends.  It requires little more than active participation and a loaf of crusty bread, though I do like to turn my crusty bread into toasty garlic bread cubes and toss a fresh green salad to complete the meal. My kids grew up with fondue (children of the 70’s) and a childhood friend of my now 40+ yr old daughter recently spoke to me of her fond memory of her first ever fondue at my home. Fondue can be the basis of a very romantic dinner for two also. Remember, it’s said if you lose a cube of bread in the cheese, you must kiss the person sitting next to you;)

And of course, there is homemade. Even better. A very good one from Emeril

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I swear, I can’t seem to do anything in moderation! What started out to be a gifty (is that a word?) thought for my Gluten-free granddaughters, has grown into marshmallow dreams. I had planned on getting my home ready for Christmas decorating this weekend with festive greenery and glitter and colored lights. Marshmallows, a snow-scene complete with drifts was not quite what I had in mind. But everyone, this is so much fun. It reminds me of playing in the snow as a little girl ohhhh so many years ago. My kitchen is white from one end to the other with powdered sugar and cornstarch. With trepidation I approached my first batch. Dealing with candy thermometers and blistering hot sugar was daunting. It was not nearly as difficult as it seemed and such fun watching that hot sugar syrup being beaten in billowing drifts. The visions of sugar plums set my head jitterbugging. Can I make a life out of this, I’m asking myself. I mean, I love marshmallows but there are just so many cups of cocoa to garnish. Just so many s-mores and sweet-potato casseroles, what will I do with these hundreds of gooey, ethereal, lighter-than-air puffs?
shall I become a puffy, fluffy grandma or..Gifts of course, gift baskets of this summer’s jelly, biscotti and homemade marshmallows.
005
My first batch was peppermint, I snitched the recipe out of Southern Living magazine. They are wonderful One warning though, if they will not be served within a day or two, fore-go the crushed candy cane and maybe just swirl some red paste food coloring through the mix in the pan with a toothpick. The candy softened quite a bit after storing, but still givable and delicious.

Batch two was chocolate, nice heavy dark chocolate flavor. No complaints. Perfect for a cup of hot chocolate.020

Now batch three was interesting. I decided to make Dulce de Leche marshmallows, following my basic recipe from Southern Living and working in some Dulce de Leche I made (used loosely) by simmering a can of condensed milk for several hours.
Directions coming. I let it cool while I prepared my simple vanilla marshmallows. When the marshmallows had fluffed up their stuff, I whipped 5 egg whites to soft peaks and folded in half the can of cooled Dulce de Leche.026
I swirled the remainder into my marshmallow mixture. That step was NOT a good idea. The caramel cream sank to the bottom of my pan. 025All was not lost, when I cut the marshmallows, I trimmed the bottom gooey caramel off and put it in a bowl for dessert. Yummy! 030037That left the marshmallows intact. These were luscious flavored but they stay very moist and weepy. Best to serve immediately or the whole doggone pan make for a terrific, rich dessert.

Basic Marshmallows

Spray shortening
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 envelopes plain gelatin
1 cup water, divided
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
flavoring (1 tsp vanilla, or peppermint, or lemon, etc)
1 egg white beaten until stiff peaks form
pinch salt

Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with Pam, line with parchment and spray again. Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. Sift half of the cornstarch/sugar mixture into prepared dish, coating well. In mixer bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup sugar. In a deep flat-bottomed pan, stir together granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water. Turn heat up to medium-high and insert candy thermometer. Cook without stirring until temperature is 240 degrees. Remove from heat. Beat gelatin mixture briefly, add salt. Slowly pour hot sugar mixture into mixing bowl, drizzling down the side of the bowl (I don’t know why, but the recipe said to do this way). Beat at high-speed about 10-12 minutes or until mixture is tripled in volume and is fluffy and white. Mix in flavoring. Fold egg white into beaten sugar mixture. Turn mixture into prepared pan, sift remaining cornstarch/sugar over top. Set in a cool place uncovered for 4 hours or more. To cut, turn onto board that has been sprinkled with more cornstarch and or powdered sugar. I cut mine with a long serrated bread knife, pressing down in a straight cut rather than sawing at it and had no problems with sticking. Some recipes say to coat the knife with Pam or cornstarch or even hot water, but I didn’t need to. Toss cubes in a bit more powdered sugar to coat all sides.

Dulce de Leche

1 can condensed milk (not evaporated)

Place UNOPENED can in pan, cover with water. Bring water to a boil, turn down heat and simmer can for at least 2 hours. Allow can to cool before trying to open, as it can explode when very hot. This makes a terrific sauce poured over ice cream.

Chocolate Variation
When mixing powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture, add 2 Tbl unsweetened cocoa. This will coat your chocolate marshmallows with brown instead of white.
Mix 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa with water until it forms a thick paste. When sugar has been beaten until almost tripled, drop cocoa mixture into sugar by the teaspoon, beating well after each addition.

Other variations are endless. Coming up at my house will be cinnamon, hazelnut, cherry, and lavender. If there is an extract for it, I’ll try it. I wonder how Bailey’s would work, huh? Maybe I can make a life out of this.

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Second annual biscotti blitz has just been completed (unless I give in to my desire for two more flavors).
Last year, all my family far away received my not quite perfect biscotti for Christmas. This year, I’ve been practicing and I’m thrilled to say I have the METHOD down pat. I love cooking this way, instead of relying on a specific recipe. I’m so pleased, I can finally trust myself. So, how many biscotti did I make, you ask? Six batches of at least 24 each.

Day one, I made Anise Biscotti with Anise Glaze, Almond Biscotti with Chocolate/Almond Dip, GingerBread Biscotti with Molasses, gingerbread drizzle.
Today I got real gutsy and tried some off the wall things using my foolproof biscotti METHOD.
So, I have Green Chai Tea with Pine Nuts and Chai drizzle, Mexican Chocolate Chip with Cinnamon and Chocolate Drizzle, and finally Espresso Mocha Biscotti with Dark Chocolate Drizzle. Yummy.

I love Biscotti because it’s easy to make, makes a great snack all day long, and goes with hot tea and coffee ohhhh so well. It’s also low in sugar, no added fat (except what is in chocolate) and so versatile. In my house biscotti baking has become the new food trend, replacing cupcakes (almost)

BISCOTTI BASIC METHOD

1 3/4 Cups flour
1/2 Teas Salt
1 Teas Baking Powder
4 Eggs
3/4 Cup Sugar (when adding Cocoa, add an extra 1/4 Cup Sugar)

Assorted Flavorings/Nuts/Dried Fruit (See Notes)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a larger mixing bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and any dry flavorings (ie. Cocoa, Cinnamon, Anise Seed, or other dry spices. See Notes). Add 1/2 cup nuts and/or fruits. Try whole toasted almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans. Fruits might include chopped apricots, dried cranberries, lemon or orange zest, raisins, dried cherries, the list is endless)

In another bowl placed over hot (not boiling) water, whisk eggs and sugar until light and lemony looking.
Add any liquid flavorings (ie. Extracts, Molasses). Whisk a moment more. A spoonful of mixture poured from a spoon will ribbon. With mixer running on low speed, slowly add egg mixture to flour mixture. Don’t over mix, just mix until it all comes together.

With wet hands, turn dough onto baking pan and form into a log about 12 inches long and 3/4 inch thick.

Bake 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean and dry. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees. Allow loaf to cool about 15 minutes. Slice at an angle 3/4 inch thick. Place slices on baking sheet. I like to stand these up for the drying period so I won’t have to turn them over, but sometimes the little suckers just won’t stand up. Place baking sheet in oven and bake about 10 more minutes or until slices feel dry. If necessary, turn over and bake 10 minutes longer.

Decorate or glaze as desired, using powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla or melted chocolate, etc.

Notes: I used 1/4 Cup Cocoa and 1 tbl espresso powder in the Mocha biscotti. For the mexican chocolate, I added a teas vanilla, 1/2 teas cinnamon and 1/2 cup cocoa. For the Gingerbread I used 1 Tbl cinnamon, 1/2 teas cardamon, 1/2 teas ginger, 1/4 teas cloves, 1/4 teas nutmeg, 1/4 teas allspice, 1/2 teas chinese five-spice. I also added 1/4 cup molasses to the egg mixture. Extracts like anise extract and almond extract are usually added by the teaspoon.

I’d be glad to share these recipes should anyone need an absolute/no guessing recipe.

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Ok, maybe it’s not the day before, but if you are cooking Thanksgiving dinner there will be a day after and hopefully a whole weekend free. Leftover turkey in my house goes into the best turkey pies ever! I even plan for my turkey pies by buying the biggest, fattest turkey I can find just for pies.

Equipment: Aluminum pie tins. Pick a size convenient for your family, and your freezer space. I usually buy some of the small round deep dish pie size, and a couple of larger for two casserole tins.

Once that turkey is roasted and carved and all the family feasts, it gets whisked away to a cool, quiet place to await its real purpose. On that quiet Friday after all the hullabaloo and a few slices of white meat are tucked in the fridge for sandwiches, the remaining meat is carefully plucked from the bones and separated into white and dark and set aside. Out comes that big soup pot. The lovely bones are placed in the pot where they will simmer along with any of the leavings not quite up to sandwich status, don’t forget that leftover skin!

Now, this big pot of bones and water is where you get to ditch the veggie leftovers that are wrapped in plastic in the fridge, one on top of the other, you know, the peas and onions and turnip and Brussels sprouts! Be Not Afraid, in this pot, magic will happen. No veggie leftovers, do not dismay. Add some carrots, celery and onions. Don’t bother chopping or peeling. Just wash thoroughly and dump in the pot.
Oh, I see a casserole of leftover stuffing, here you must make a choice. You can slice it up to put in your pie, or dump it in the pot to meld with the rest of Thanksgiving dinner. Reserve any leftover mashed potatoes for the next step. By the way, add water or chicken stock or even a bit of white wine (no more than half cup) if the water level gets too low.

Now that it is Friday night or Saturday morning (better still) and this pot has been simmering away forever, strain the pot mess into a clean pan and toss all the leavings. This is the point you want to add any leftover mashed potatoes and gravy to the wonderful broth you’ve created. Don’t have any, that’s fine, we will be thickening the broth soon.

Set the pan of broth in a cold place. Once it has solidified and the fat has risen to the top, place several good size spoons of the fat in a skillet. Warm up the rest of the broth. Let the fat in the skillet melt then add an equal amount of flour. Whisk to keep smooth. Slowly pour in a couple of cups of broth, then stir this all back into broth. Let gravy/broth cool.

Now, I buy packaged pie crust for this, they are easy to work with and I can cut them easily into my pan shapes. Make your own favorite crust recipe if you desire.

Now, load each pie tin with chunks of meat. I like to make a few pies all white meat, and some a mix of white and dark. Sprinkle on some frozen peas and carrots, optional for sure. I like all meat pies and any the last few I will add vegetable to. Top each with crust. Cut a slit in each pie top. Pop into ziplock bags and freeze.

These pies will be wonderful on a snowy February night! Pop into a 350 degree oven and bake until nicely golden and bubbly.

This sounds like a lot of work, but honestly, most of the working time is spent waiting.

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