German chocolate fudge

German chocolate fudge with a bite picThank you Kris Bordessa at Attainable Sustainable for introducing me to this fabulous fudge recipe. I put my own spin on it this Christmas season by infusing it with some of my favorite ingredients–coconut and walnuts.

 

Recipe

Servings: 1 9×13″ pan — plenty of thick pieces

 

IngredientsGerman Chocolate Fudge Piece pic

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butter

4 1/2 cups sugar

7-oz. jar marshmallow creme

12-oz. can evaporated milk

2 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut (divided–if you have time, toast it!)

1 tsp. Espresso powder or black onyx powder

1 tsp. coconut extract (opt.)

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (opt. Ghirardelli are my fav)

 

Directions

  1. Place the chocolate chips, butter, and marshmallow creme in a large bowl.
  2. In a large cooking pot, heat together the evaporated milk and the sugar. Bring the mixture to a slow boil then keep it simmering at medium-high heat. Stir the mixture for 8 minutes. (Watch it! It can boil over.)
  3. Pour the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the chocolate chips.
  4. Beat the mixture using an electric mixer until it starts to thicken.
  5. Stir in vanilla, coconut extract, 1 cup coconut, walnuts, and mini chocolate chips.
  6. Prepare a 9 x 13″ pan by lining it with parchment paper, coat lightly with cooking spray.
  7. Spread the fudge mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Gently press the coconut into the fudge.
  8. Place the fudge into the refrigerator until the fudge becomes hardened.
  9. Cut into smaller 1″ pieces using a sharp knife.

Tip: I like to place the pieces into mini paper muffins wrappers. The perfect bite-sized pieces ready for eating!

 German Chocolate fudge pieces pic

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Hearty Apple Cider Waffles

Hearty Apple Cider Waffles pic

I’m happily drowning in apples around my house–we’re snapping up every last Honey Crisp apple until the season is over. But all those extra apples need a place to go (when we’re not munching on them). My idea? Waffles. To up the apple-y flavor I thinned the batter with apple cider and a touch of maple flavoring.

 

But I wanted these apple waffles to be filling enough to serve for dinner. So I used plain Greek yogurt for a dose of protein in the mix and added in some whole-wheat flour. Walnuts round out the nutrient boost to make these waffles worthy of dinner.

 

Recipe

Servings: 5 waffles

Prep time: 10 minutes + baking

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1 cup all-purpose, 1/2 cup whole-wheat)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tbsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1 egg

4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled

1/3 cup apples, diced small

1/4 cup milk

1/3 cup apple cider

1/4 cup  walnuts, chopped small

1/2 tsp. maple flavoring

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat your waffle iron.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Whisk together yogurt, butter, milk, maple flavoring, and the egg.
  4. Stir in walnuts and apple dices; thin the batter with apple cider.
  5. Add batter to the waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook through.
  6. The waffle will be soft when you remove it from the iron and will then firm up as it cools.
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Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Flourless chocolate cookie with bite pic

Holiday cookie time. Who’s ready to start baking? I wanted to make the richest, darkest cookies I could find. I aimed for a recipe like flourless cake that left all the flavor to the chocolate. This IS it. WARNING: These are dangerously chocolatey. You can roll the dough balls in powdered sugar for a hint of sweetness. For more of a truffle taste, roll the cookie balls in unsweetened cocoa–the darker, the better.

 

Recipe

Servings: 18 cookies

 

Ingredients:Stack of flourless chocolate cookies pic

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips + 1/2 cup

3 egg whites, room temperature

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. espresso or black onyx powder (optional, but soooo good)

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat baking pans with cooking spray.
  2. Melt 1 cup of the semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth; allow to cool. Stir in vanilla extract.
  3. Beat egg whites in a large bowl until they start to form soft peaks. Add in 1/2 cup powdered sugar and beat until it becomes thick and creamy.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, black onyx powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients into the egg white cream at low speed until combined. Stir the melted chocolate into the egg-white mixture.
  6. Stir in 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. Batter will be stiff and thick.
  7. Roll batter into balls. Next, roll balls in either powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
  8. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until cool.

Tweaked from a recipe from Culinary Couture.

 

Powdered sugar fudge cookie pic

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Scottish Fruit & Nut Bread

Happy St. Andrew’s Day! November 30th is a national holiday in Scotland, St. Andrew’s Day. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle haggis so we went for a traditional Fruit and Nut Bread instead.

Fruit and nut bread pic

 

 

Recipe

Servings: 2 mini loaves or 1 regular loaf

 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup oil

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped (like apricots or apples)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil two 5.5″ x 3″ mini-bread loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add in pecans, raisins, dried fruit, and chocolate chips.
  3. In another bowl whisk together egg, oil, and buttermilk.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
  5. Pour batter into bread pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.

*Tweaked from a recipe for Fruit & Nut Bread from Seamus McInnes

Slice of fruit and nut bread pic

 

 

 

 

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Caribbean Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving buffet pic

Maybe it’s the dip in temperatures but this year we decided on a Caribbean theme for Thanksgiving. Each year we try a new spin on Thanksgiving, last year it was all Mexican fare but today it was plantain time!

Kids in the snow

Snow outside…Caribbean food inside

Here’s what we had on the menu…

Grilled turkey breast marinated with jerk seasoning.

Jerk turkey pic

Ropa vieja, a Cuban style shredded beef dish

Ropa vieja pic

Mofongo, a traditional Caribbean dish made with fried plantains, bacon, and heaps of garlic

Mofongo pic

Jerk-spiked rice with anise, cinnamon, cumin, and red beans

Jerk rice pic

Dinner rolls with pineapple juice in the mix

Hawaiian rolls pic

Dessert….coconut pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan coconut tart with orange essence, and flourless chocolate cookies

Thanksgiving desserts pic

And yes, I’m headed to the gym tomorrow.

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Edible dirt salad

Edible dirt salad on plate pic

Yeah, it’s time to talk dirt. I know what you’re thinking–why would I want to eat dirt? It’s not just regular dirt–or the dirt you make with ground up OREO cookie crumbs. This dirt adds undertones of umami to the freshest of salads.

 

On a recent trip to Kansas City I had dinner with friends at Affare, a Modern German restaurant that offers amazing seasonal salads as part of the menu. Here are a couple descriptions to give you an idea of what they serve:

Red beet salad and buttermilk two ways, artisan leaves, flower petals, goat cheese, spiced pecan nuts

Lamb’s Lettuce, truffled potato confit, smoked elk-brat on cranberry-mustard aioli, crispy sauerkraut

Edible dirt at Affare pic

Creative, cool. Of course I had to try some of Affare’s ideas at home. So the night I was there a salad with edible dirt was on the list. I grilled the server on how to prepare the dirt–yeah, she probably doesn’t get that question very often, “So what’s in the dirt?” While I wouldn’t put edible dirt on the salad plate every day it was a fun, easy addition on a night where we wanted to make things a little fancy.

 

Making edible dirt is easy (surprised? I mean, it’s dirt)

Here’s what to do:

In a food processor pulse together:

1/4 cup dried mushrooms (any variety, I used porcini)

2-3 oz. dark chocolate (baking chocolate you don’t want it sweet)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. paprika (smoked preferred)

Process until the mixture resembles dirt–this will be loud! Adjust the seasoning–the flavor should have an earthy zing. Tip: If you want the dirt darker add a bit of dark cocoa (I used black onyx powder).

Edible dirt salad pic

Putting the salad together:

  1. Place a row of artisan lettuce in the middle of the plate
  2. Top with grated carrots or radish (I used watermelon radish)
  3. Sprinkle with a strong cheese like feta, bleu, or gorgonzola
  4. Squeeze fresh lemon over the salad, drizzle with olive oil
  5. Add a teaspoon or two of edible dirt on the edges of the plate

Edible dirt pic

 

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Pumpkin hummus

Pumpkin hummus closeup picPumpkin loves garbanzo beans–the proof is in the hummus. Add pureed pumpkin into your hummus for a subtle, earthy underlying flavor.

 

The basic recipe is fast and easy to put together:

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans

4 tbsp. tahini

4 tbsp. pureed pumpkin

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. sea salt

 

Directions:

  1. Drain beans (reserving liquid) and place them into a food processor along with the pumpkin.
  2. With the blade running add in the olive oil and half of the reserved bean liquid.
  3. Remove the top of the food processor, scrap down the sides and add salt and tahini.
  4. Adjust the texture and flavor of the hummus using seasoning and more pumpkin, bean liquid, and/or spices.

 

For pumpkin pie hummus:

Add 1/2-1 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves) and more pureed pumpkin

 

For Lebanese pumpkin hummus:

Add 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika, and the juice from one lemon

Pumpkin hummus pic

 

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Best cooking substitutions for wine

Alcohol substitutes pic

I used to skip recipes that included alcohol. See Mr. Squid and I are non-drinkers. But I’ve learned that ingredients I have on hand are often good substitutions (as far as this teetotaler is concerned). Now, I’m not planning on trying to substitute the booze in vodka sauce–but recipes that include 1 cup of white wine or a smattering of red can easily have stand-ins.

 

As a base I use either chicken, vegetable, or beef broth. At my local grocers you can find Minor’s bases in the refrigerated section. They’re a little on the pricey side but one tub lasts forever. You can also use chicken broth from a carton. I tweak the flavor of the broth depending on what kind of wine the recipe calls for.

 

Here are a few substitutes I use:

White wine = Chicken broth + a little white grape juice + a splash of white balsamic vinegar

Red wine = Chicken or beef broth + a little red grape juice + a splash of regular balsamic vinegar

Fruit wines = Chicken or vegetable broth + apple or orange juice (maybe a bit of both) + white grape juice + fruit vinegars like raspberry

 

Your turn: Do you have any clever substitutions when recipes call for wine and you either don’t want to use it or don’t have it on hand?

 

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Finding your perfect apple

Apple stands pic

Empire. McIntosh. Ginger Gold. Honey Crisp. There are literally thousands of different kinds of apples to try. Around 7,500.

 

When I was a kid I thought apples came in just two varieties–cardboard-like Red Delicious and too-tart Granny Smith. Today I look forward to trying a new-to-me apple variety each year (or more!). Last year my kids and I discovered Pink Lady apples. And this year my oldest is a fan of Jonagold apples (not to be confused with Jonamac) while my youngest can’t get enough of Honey Crisps.

 

Looking to spark an interest in trying new things in a stubborn picky eater? Grab an apple. Grab several. Let him know that you want to figure out what kind of apple is his favorite. Let him go crazy–make up a chart on paper to record his reactions to each new variety he samples. At our local grocery store, Miles Farmers Market, you can mix and match different apples all in one bag. I let my kids choose a few to compare at home.

 

Head to the orchard. We found at our local orchard–Patterson Fruit Farm–that they had samples available of at least a dozen different apples. They had signs, too, that described the characteristics for each. The woman working at Patterson’s asked each of my kids what she liked in an apple. Did she like it crisp or soft? Sweet or tart? Or does she prefer a mixture of all four characteristics? The woman encouraged my daughters to take samples of each type of apple available until she found her perfect apple.

 

Your turn–what’s your favorite apple?

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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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