Monthly Archives: December 2012

Southern Pralines

My grandmother always made these buttermilk pralines, especially at Christmas.  I continue to make them every year because it wouldn’t feel like the holidays without Mamaw’s Candy.

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Southern Pralines

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pecans
1 1/2 tablespoon butter

First, set up a long sheet of parchment or wax paper on a counter or table to place the candies on to cool and harden. You may also want to put a potholder down to set the hot pot on, if you do not want to place it directly on your counter top. The pralines come together quickly at the end and you will need to work fast so I find setting up your station first is crucial.

Select a large saucepan, these candies boil up significantly!

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Combine the sugar, buttermilk, baking soda and corn syrup in the pot. Stir and place over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to soft ball stage or about 240° on a candy thermometer stirring constantly. The mixture will brown and bubble.
Once if reaches soft ball stage add the pecans, vanilla, and butter.

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Remove from heat and stir vigorously until glossy and it starts to become thick. Quickly spoon onto wax or parchment paper. Let harden completely before removing from paper.

Note: if it hardens before you can spoon it out return it to heat for a few minutes until spoon-able.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!! and happy candy making!

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Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

Holiday baking is definitely in full swing at my house and it is starting to feel a lot like Christmas!

One of the important lessons I have learned in holiday baking is when you are using peppermint extract use the good stuff. The “pure” rather than imitation mint makes a big difference in the flavor.

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I got the recipe for these cookies out of the December 2012 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.  The link will take you to the recipe on their website. These cookies are a little but time consuming but turn out adorable and are worth the time if you like mint!  One piece of advice is the thickness of the cookie will effect the baking time so I would keep an eye on it starting at about 9 minutes.

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I dipped one edge of mine into the chocolate glaze and then dipped the edge immediately into crushed peppermints or sprinkles!  If you would prefer a less chocolate-y cookie you can leave the sandwiches as is.  Really the possibilities are endless!

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Almond Roca

My favorite part of the holidays is definitely baking and candy making! Maybe that is why I always gain 1o pounds…

This almond roca is delicious and if you are new to making candy, this is a good place to start.

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Almond Roca

1 lb butter (4sticks)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips (11 1/2oz.)

Sprinkle half of your almonds onto a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.

Over Medium heat, melt butter in a large pot.

Add corn syrup, water and sugar to pot and cook until temp reaches 290 degrees OR until the mixture becomes the color of a brown paper bag. This takes about 15-20 minutes. stirring constantly with a wooden spoon the mixture with bubble and rise and towards the end will come together a bit

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Remove from heat and Stir in 1/2 of the Almonds.

Turn mixture onto a greased cookie sheet. Make sure the sheet has edges to contain the toffee.

Immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips over the butter. As the melt spread the chocolate to cover the toffee.
If you want particular shapes you can score the toffee, otherwise you can just break it apart once it is cool.

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Once it had hardened enough to handle I refrigerated mine for a couple of hours to help it cool completely. This isn’t necessary but if you do this just remove it a few hours before serving. Enjoy!

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Potato Latkes

If you haven’t had your latkes yet heat up some oil and get grating!!!

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Latkes are so simple to make and a Hanukkah staple.  Serve them with sour cream and apple sauce.  I used this recipe from Epicurious and added 1 Tbsp. of matzo meal.

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Potato Latkes

makes 10-12 latkes

1 pound potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. matzo meal

serve with sour cream and applesauce

Preheat oven to 250°F.

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.

Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed.

Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

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Matzo Ball Soup

Yes, I am aware that this is Hanukkah not Passover, but it is finally cold and this soup is sooooo good I cannot have it just once a year.

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If you don’t want to do matzo balls you can just as easily add noodles or rice, but my preference is definitely the matzo.

Matzo Ball Soup

serves 4-6 as a main

1 4lb chicken
1 1/2 onions
7 carrots
6 celery ribs
1 bunch parsley
8 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1 Tbsp. or package of chicken base, I used Knorr’s condensed chicken stock
salt and fresh ground black pepper

For Matzo balls:
Manischewitz matzo ball mix, 1 packet
2 eggs
1/3 c. finely chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Remove innards and clean out the inside of your chicken. place in a stock pot and add enough water to fully cover the chicken. Place over medium high heat. Now you are going to add your vegetables, keep in mind you are going to strain this all out so the carrots and celery can be very roughly chopped and the herbs can be left whole. To the stock pot add 1 onion, halved then quartered. 4 peeled and chopped carrots, 4 celery stalks, chopped, 8 Parsley sprigs, 8 thyme sprigs, the celery seeds and the bay leaf. Season very generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Simmer the chicken 1 1/2 or until done. At this point take the chicken out to cool and add the chicken base. Continue to simmer your stock another 30 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle remove from the bone.

While stock is simmering prepare your matzo balls. I used the Manischewitz mix and added the 2 eggs and oil as well as 1/3 c. finely chopped parsley. Cover with saran wrap and chill 15-20 minutes. From our experience we find over chilling may contribute to heavy matzo balls so I would try to watch the time on this.

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Get out the pot you want to cook your soup in, be sure it has a lid to properly cook the matzo balls. Strain your stock into the pot keeping the liquid and discarding the solids. To your broth add the 1/2 onion diced, remaining celery and carrot diced, and a few sprigs of parsley fine chopped. Add the shredded chicken. Place over medium high heat. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

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Once boiling drop the matzo balls into the soup. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 20 minutes to cook through. Once cooked you can leave the soup over low heat until ready to serve. The matzo balls will continue to soak up liquid but that is okay. Give each person 1-2 matzo balls. Enjoy!

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Happy Hanukkah Everyone!!!

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Butternut Mac n’ Cheese

I LOVE macaroni and cheese! I mean super LOVE it!! I also love butternut squash and brussel sprouts so i knew this meal would be a hit, and it was!

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I was a teeny bit nervous about the brussel sprouts in this, but in the end I think they really made it 10x better.  I used 1 c. of white cheddar and 1/2 c. of gruyere for my grated cheese, but any of your favorites would go well.  This would be a great make ahead meatless meal for a busy weeknight.  Just serve it with a simple salad and you’re done!

Butternut Mac n’ Cheese

serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

2 c. peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 lb. brussel sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/2 small-medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
about 8 oz. short pasta (I used brown rice pasta, penne style)
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk (I used 1%)
1 1/2 c. grated cheese
1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Place your cubed squash on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 minutes, until just tender.  Start water for your pasta and boil according to package directions.  Drain and reserve.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet and medium heat and add oil.  When hot add the onion and brussel sprouts.  Saute until just beginning to brown, then add garlic.  season with salt and pepper. After another couple of minutes remove from heat.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Place your cubed squash on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15 minutes, until just tender.  Start water for your pasta and boil according to package directions.  Drain and reserve.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet and medium heat and add oil.  When hot add the onion and brussel sprouts.  Saute until just beginning to brown, then add garlic.  season with salt and pepper. After another couple of minutes remove from heat.

Make your cheese sauce by adding your butter to a small saucepan over low heat.  When it is melted add your flour and whisk to combine and form a roux.  gradually add your milk, whisking to thicken.  I added mine in 3 additions.  Last gradually add your cheese.  I seasoned mine with salt and a significant amount of ground black pepper.  Depending on the cheese you use you may need to season it differently so be sure to taste it.

Combine your vegetables, pasta and cheese sauce in a baking dish so that everything is well coated.  Sprinkle with Panko breadcrumbs and then Parmesan. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes until bubbling and brown on top. Enjoy!

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Shrimp Rellenos

Remember when I said I have poblanos for days…. these shrimp rellenos were a perfect way to use them. They are not as difficult as you would expect and really tasty!

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I do have a few tips before you begin.  My poblanos were quite spicy and you do a lot of work with your hands so a basic pair of latex gloves will keep your hands from absorbing the oil.  First round I did not do this and when I washed my face that night the oil spread and it was not very fun.

Second if you prefer to cut the tops completely off your peppers that is fine I just like the stem for presentation purposes.

Last but not least my poblanos were fairly hot.  If yours happen to be more on the mild side feel free to add some jalapenos or hotter peppers into the filling.

Shrimp Rellenos

serves 4

8 medium sized poblano peppers
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 1bs. shrimp, peeled and deveined (chopped if larger shrimp)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
2 handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 c. chopped mushrooms
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 c. grated Monterrey jack cheese **I didn’t have quite enough cheese so i added some sliced to the top, but all grated would of been better)

1 can green enchilada sauce **you can make your own, this was just a time saver for me
1/2 c. additional cheese (feta or queso freco best)

now get ready for the magic….

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Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Place the peppers whole on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, DO NOT turn off your oven!

While your peppers are roasting chop your vegetables.  With the exception of the garlic, you want to keep them all the same size for even cooking.  Also, if you have large shrimp, chop them about the same size as the veggies but keep them separate. Transfer shrimp to a large bowl and season with a little salt.

Add your oil to a large skillet over medium heat and when hot add your onions, cook 2-3 minutes then add the garlic.  When fragrant add the tomatoes and mushrooms.  After about 5 minutes toss in your spinach and cilantro and season everything with salt and pepper.  Saute the greens until wilted.  You don’t want to cook your veggies quite as long as normal because you are going to roast them inside of the peppers.  Remove pan from heat and cool.

When the vegetables have cooled a little add them to the bowl with the shrimp.  Stir in the jack cheese.

Now to de-seed your peppers.  I transferred them to a cutting board and cut a slit horizontally across the top just below the stem and a second slit lengthwise down the pepper.  Open it up and remove the seeds and stem.  This is easiest to do with your hands, just remember GLOVES! Once all your peppers are done fill each one with your shrimp mixture.  How much filling depends on the size of the pepper so just eye ball it.  Place filled peppers back onto lined baking sheet.  Using 1/2 your sauce spoon some onto each pepper.  Return to oven for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes pull peppers out of oven.  Take a peek at the shrimp in the middle of one of your larger peppers to determine how much longer they are going to need to cook. You want the to be just barely pink at the end of the cooking time.  Spoon remaining sauce over peppers and top with your additional cheese, I used feta.  Return to the oven.  I  cooked mine an additional 8 minutes.  Small shrimp may not need as long larger pieces may need longer.

Remove from oven.  Place two peppers on each plate.  I served mine on a bed of baby spinach with black beans! Enjoy!

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