Archive for October, 2013

Easy Homemade Almond Joy Bars

Homemade Almond Joys picWarning: Almond Joy Bars are surprisingly easy to make. And they only have four ingredients. I know, you’ve already started singing the Almond Joy jingle in anticipation of making a batch at home.

Here’s what you need:

• Shredded coconut (sweetened, unsweetened, your choice)Homemade Almond Joy ingredients pic

• Sweetened, condensed milk

• Chocolate bark (I mix in half chocolate bark half dark chocolate chips)

• Almonds (or if you don’t feel like a nut, go sans almonds)

 

Directions:

  1. Get your hands dirty by mixing together 4 cups shredded coconut with about 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk. You want a consistency so that it’s easy to form the batter into a ball. Add more coconut or milk to get your consistency just right.
  2. Working with about 1 tablespoon of batter at a time form balls into Almond Joy bar shapes and place them on waxed paper fitted in a cookie sheet. With 4 cups I was able to make about 20-24 bars (my kids kept “testing” the coconut mixture to make sure it was right so I suspect we could have made a few more bars).
  3. Place the bar molds into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate in a microwave-safe dish on half power for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the chocolate!
  5. One at a time roll the coconut bars into the melted chocolate then place back on the waxed paper. Top each bar with an almond. Note: I found that topping the dipped chocolate bar with an almond was a lot easier than putting it onto the coconut, then dipping (the coconut would crack or the almond would fall off into the chocolate–or both). If you want your Almond Joy bars to look more like the real thing then dip the bars into chocolate a second time.

Homemade Almond Joy with a bite pic

 

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5 Ways to Use Halloween Cookie Cutters

Halloween cookie cutters picForget the cookies. You can use Halloween cookie cutters for so much more. They’re an easy way to turn a ho-hum PB&J into a fun lunch surprise. (Well, we make PB&A sandwiches around our house–my youngest prefers agave over jam.)

 

Other ways to use cookie cutters:

•Make Halloween tortilla chips–baked or fried
Pack day-old rice into the cookie cutter and then serve it on each person’s plate
•Place one on each person’s dessert plate and then sprinkle with cocoa powder to leave an outline of the Halloween shape
•Press into hot-off-the pan grilled cheese sandwich
•Cook pancakes then press in the Halloween shape

 

Halloween Cookie Cutter Cat pic

 

 

 

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Halloween Rodent Ragu

Going for a gross-out dinner this Halloween! Break out the meatball mix, then.

Rat meatballs on plate

This recipe didn’t start out as a Halloween meal. See, I had this great idea a few years ago that we’d study a different animal for two weeks at a time. To finish off our studies we’d have a meal where we focused on whatever animal the kids chose and we’d talk about what we learned. Well, the first animal my kids chose was a snake. I can’t remember what the kids learned about snakes–nope, what I remember is that my husband had this great idea to fashion meatball mix into rodents for our big meal. Now, we make these meatball rats to top spaghetti for Halloween each year.

 

You can too.

rat meatball on spaghetti

Here’s how it works:

  1. Use your favorite meatball recipe (I like The Pioneer Woman‘s)
  2. Shape the meatball mix into rodent shapes–rounded back side and a more pointed front
  3. BAKE the meatballs with pieces of olives for eyes and pieces of ham as the tails
  4. Serve the rodents over spaghetti topped with pasta sauce

Single rat meatball

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Fancify Friday: Fork Brownies

I only wish I’d thought of this one first!

Chocolate Vanilla Mousse cake

When I was served this impressive dark chocolate and vanilla mousse cake at a recent reception at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, my thought was simply, “Oh yeah, I can do this at home!” (The design, that is.)

Fork browniesHere’s how you can too:

  1. Plain plate–the bigger the better!
  2. Place a fork and/or spoon in the middle of the plate.
  3. Find a sieve with the finest mesh possible.
  4. Add powdered cocoa to the middle of the sieve. Gently tap the side of the sieve to create a pattern on the plate.
  5. Take off the fork and/or spoon.
  6. Place your brownie on the plate.

This is a perfect kid assignment–prepping the plates for the brownies.

 

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What makes for Kansas City barbecue?

BBQ signTomato based, stirred with sugar, and finished off with a generous dose of paprika, Kansas City barbecue sauce stands apart from its Texas and North Carolina cousins.

LC's barbecue pit

Smokin’ ribs at LC’s Bar-B-Q

A few weeks ago I had a chance to sample some of Kansas City’s most legendary barbecue hotspots, Gates Bar B.Q. and Arthur Bryant’s BBQ along with a couple off-the-beaten gems LC’s Bar-B-Q and Woodyard BBQ.

 

But what sets Kansas City barbecue apart?

Pit Smoke

First, it’s gotta be pit smoked. The smoke tends to be mild woods like hickory and pecan instead of the bolder mesquite. The gently smoked meats stay moist in the pit and are basted with sauce.

Arthur Bryant barbecue sauce

Arthur Bryant is a love it or hate it kind of sauce

Sweet Sauce

Every barbecue establishment in Kansas City has their own special sauce. When I asked around at Arthur Bryant about offering a few hints on the spices the answer I got–”Even the cooks don’t know what’s in the sauce.” The spices are mixed offsite and unmarked to keep the mixture of decidedly strong paprika and pepper a secret. Yeah, they’re top secret. But what’s similar in all Kansas City sauces is that they’re sweet without even a hint of spice.

Kansas City ribs and beans

Meat

Kansas City makes dang good brisket and pulled pork but their sweet spot is the ribs and burnt ends. (Burnt ends is a conversation for another post.)

Eating a Kansas City rib

Time to eat some ribs

Love

There’s also the undefinable something in Kansas City barbecue. I suspect it’s from a long, strong tradition of making amazing smoked meats. I found that the folks making the barbecue–the so-called “pit masters”–weren’t big talkers. They were all business when it came to barbecue.

 

 

 

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Ohio Ice Cream Wars: Jeni’s vs. Mitchell’s

 

Ohio inspires ice cream makers. The proof? Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams started serving scoops in 2002 in Columbus and blossomed into an ice cream dynasty. Jeni Britton Bauer’s book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home has become New York Times Best-Selling cookbook teaching regular cooks to craft Jeni’s signature flavors like Brambleberry Crisp, Salty Caramel, and Wildberry Lavender (a personal fav). You can find 11 scoop shops here in Ohio along with several in Tennesse–plus a new local just opened in Chicago. Jeni’s ice creams have garnered national acclaim and awards (James Beard, check).

Close up of Jeni's Ice Cream

But Jeni’s isn’t the only ice cream shop in town. Mitchell’s started in 1999 when brothers Pete and Mike decided to shelve their degrees in psychology (that’d be Pete) and philosophy (Mike’s also the ice cream chef) for a pursuit of sweets. They have either stores dotting Ohio, with another coming soon in the burgeoning Ohio City area.

Mitchell's Ice Cream

Here’s what both shops are known for:

  • Taste all you want. Seriously. You can ask for little taster spoons of all the flavors available.
  • Locally sourced ingredients. Fresh-picked berries. Local ales. Mitchell’s even marks ice creams with a 100, meaning the ingredients came mostly from within 100 miles of where the ice cream is made.
  • Lines. Well, when you can get taster spoons of just about everything and the ice cream is fabulous, are you surprised?
  • Awesome customer service–shiny happy people all around

 

 

Mitchell's chocolate on the left, Jeni's on the right

Mitchell’s chocolate on the left, Jeni’s on the right

Now the differences:

Jeni’s

In Mr. Squid’s words, “Jeni’s is more of an experience than an ice cream.” Where else can you get Goat Cheese and Red Cherry Ice Cream or Bangkok Peanut (sadly this ice cream that heats up in your mouth hasn’t been available lately)?

  • Artisan spins on familiar flavors–Ndali estate vanilla bean not “Vanilla”
  • Hipster zibe abounds at the shop
  • $9.99 a pint

 

Mitchell’s

This is the place the team goes to after basketball tournaments, the place where you see you neighbors and people linger while savoring sweets. That’s not to say their ice creams are lacking in creativity–or quality–the newly introduced vegan line (I had salted caramel pecan last week) entices visitors to try something new.

  • Familiar favorites made better–hello, super-sized Belgian chocolate chunks in the Rocky Road and organic mint in the Chocolate Mint ice cream
  • Laid back feel and coloring paper for the kids
  • $5.99 a pint

 

The verdict around our house–when you want something a little different head to Jeni’s. But for the creamiest, richest dark chocolate Mitchell’s is our regular spot.

 

Your turn: Have you tried Jeni’s and Mitchell’s ice creams? Which one was your favorite?

 

 

 

 

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