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Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Family's Recipes - Grammy's Peanut Butter Cornflake Candy

One of my dad's presents, Grammy's Candy.

I can remember, as a girl, this candy was always set out at my Grammy and Pappy's house for Christmas. My grandparents lived across the street from each other, so Christmas Eve included a meal and presents at Grandma Betty and Little Pappy's house, then dessert and presents at Grammy and Big Pappy's house. (I don't know how the Pappies felt about their honorifics. Big Pappy happened to be well over 6 feet tall. I know that occasionally I have been Big Susan. I wasn't so crazy about it. The other Susan happened to be right around 5 feet tall.) One year, Big Pappy told me, "I could keep eating this until I'm just about sick!"

We haven't had this candy since Pappy passed away. I was cruising the Internet for recipes (as I often do) and saw one that I knew must be a match. I want to give credit where credit is due - Aunt Altha's Candy - is a tradition from another family. She says that her recipe was given to her mom from her new husband's family after their marriage over 50 years ago. This one has been around for a while. I'm so glad we can all share and recapture the things our families may have lost along the way. The older I get, the more I appreciate the little things that make me think of those I loved.

By the way, this is rediculously easy and delicious.

Grammy's Peanut Butter and Cornflake Candy
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 box of cornflakes (The small one)

Place the sugar, corn syrup and salt in a heavy sauce pan. Heat over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter until well blended. Place the corn flakes into a large mixing bowl and pour the peanut butter mixture over the top. Stir until all the cereal is coated. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment or wax paper. Spread the candy into the lined pan with buttered hands and flatten out slightly. Let cool. Remove from the pan and cut into squares.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Jammin' Sweet Potatoes

 I like to imagine I have followers. The official count is up to 12. If anyone has peeked in here, even semi-regularly, they will have noticed that I love all things sweet potato and butternut squash. Savory or sweet, main dish or dessert, you just can't go wrong with these affordable, nutritional power houses! Of course, we home cooks do like to gild the lily. But, please, in a NON-marshallowy way!
We had a big holiday luncheon at my office yesterday. We have one cranky old stove to accommodate cooking for about 180 people. Whenever we have a luncheon, hot dishes are really better kept in a crock pot. I made these sweets the night before and plugged them in to reheat in the morning. They were nicely heated and delicious after about 3 1/2 hours.

I love sweet and savory together. Not all people do. This is lightly sweet and gets richness from plenty of butter. Of the three sweet potato dishes offered, this one came in a strong second. The dish that went first was a sweet and topped with a crunchy nut topping. The dish covered with marshmallows came in dead last and most of it went home with its provider. If you love pineapple, you will love this dish. If you don't wish to make your own plum and pineapple jam, use straight pineapple or apricot/pineapple from the store.

Jammin' Sweet Potatoes
7 lbs sweet  potatoes
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plum and pineapple jam

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Steam until tender. Remove to a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash to desired consistency. You can serve immediately or reheat in a crock pot later.

Serves very many people!

Monday, December 12, 2011

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Almond Bars

So, white chocolate doesn't drizzle. Clumps of white chocolate taste good too.

As I'm preparing for the holidays, I'm reaching another jam crisis in my refrigerator. I'm really working on using all the bits and pieces and unsealed jars from the summer and fall. I really like these Orange Marmalade Bars, and thought it would be easy to rearrange the flavors to accommodate any jam. The version I made this week includes an almond flavored cookie base and red raspberry jam. Unfortunately, I learned that white chocolate can be tricky and doesn't drizzle the way dark melted chocolate will. I just can't make another pan of these right now! I took them to work and still ate too many! I considered naming these OMG Cookie Bars based on Mr. Dwayne's initial reaction, but decided on a descriptive title instead. 

So, here's my plan for the white chocolate next time: Sprinkle the white chocolate on the cookie dough right out of the oven and spread it around a bit while warm. The toasted almonds will have to be the decoration for the top. 

Naturally, cookies like these will only taste as good as the jam you use. I will vouch for the dough base. It is from McCall's Cookie Collection (1965). It can be flavored any number of ways. It can be used as a bar base, a tart shell or as a sliced refrigerator cookie. 

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Almond Bars
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup good raspberry jam
2/3 cup toasted sliced almonds (I use Trader Joe's)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whip the butter until fluffy. Gradually add in sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the almond extract and egg. Beat until well incorporated.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together onto wax paper or parchment. Gradually beat into the cookie dough. When fully mixed, pour the dough into a greased 9 X 13 inch baking pan. Spread the dough into the pan. (I lined the pan with parchment for easy removal.) Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Remove the dough from the oven and either sprinkle with white chocolate chips and allow them to melt. Spread them a bit after they've melted. Alternatively, if you are brave, you can add the melted white chocolate later. Allow to cool completely. Once cool, spread with the raspberry jam. If you waited to add the white chocolate, do your best to pour or spread it on the jam now. Good Luck! Sprinkle with the almonds. They will slice more easily if allowed to set overnight.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Pesto Potato Puffs

 Another magic ingredient - PUFF PASTRY.

Being a home baker, I thought that I should one day try to make puff pastry or croissants myself, but it just seemed like such an undertaking. All that rolling and butter, rolling and butter. I never got around to trying it. 

Then came Food Network and Cooking Channel, and I noticed something important - even fancy, well-trained chefs use frozen puff pastry! Who knew! 

 I had a dish something like this at an Italian restaurant on the boardwalk in Ocean City MD. It was an unexpectedly delicious side dish to some fairly mediocre crab cakes. Really, this potato dish was the best thing I ate that night. When I saw frozen puff pastry at Trader Joe's, I decided to try to create my own version of their dish. Rather than seeking and chopping fresh herbs, I simply broke a hunk of pesto off one of my frozen slabs and used that for a lovely, garlicky flavor. I used Yukon Gold potatoes from the farmer's market. They were lovely and creamy. I boiled them in their jackets and halved them and pressed them through a ricer, cut side first. There was no need to peel them. When my potatoes were in a nice fluffy mound, I stirred in some butter, the pesto, some Parmesan cheese and half and half.
I used an ice cream scoop to load my pastry squares and baked them for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. I also brushed everything with melted butter and sprinkled a little extra Parm. Yum!

I've pretty much given you the instructions, but here are the proportions I used:

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
6 potatoes
2 tbsp. pesto
2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper
butter for brushing
a little extra Parm for sprinkling

This makes 8 squares. You can save half the potatoes and one puff pastry sheet for another meal, but they are very good reheated in the toaster oven.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quince and Pomegranate Jelly

 Quince are like magic. They are one of Nature's great pectin suppliers. Pomegranates and quinces both make their brief appearance at the farmers' market around the same time of year. I love the bright, jewel-toned color and tangy flavor of pomegranates. I wanted to make a pomegranate jelly without commercial pectin, so blending the juice with quince juice seemed like the perfect solution.
 One of my friends told me that farm families used to always have at least one quince tree to provide for their preserving needs. I was unable to get good photos of my quince, as I processed them the night before I made this jelly. They are a fuzzy, bumpy apple relative. Besides their gelling properties, their outstanding feature is their floral fragrance. Additionally, they turn a vibrant pink color when cooked. To cook them and extract their juice, scrub off their fuzzy coating and cut out the blossom end. Chop roughly, retaining the skin, core and seeds. Boil them in a large pot, covered with water, until they are very broken down and soft.
 I purchased 10 quinces and 10 pomegranates. I simmered the quinces for a couple of hours in 12 cups of water and strained the juice through cheese cloth and then a jelly bag. The result was 7 cups of juice, which I refrigerated until I was ready to get going. I cut the pomegranates into eighths and squeezed the heck out of them with my citrus juicer. This resulted in 3 cups of strained juice. Combined, I had 10 cups of juice, which was enough to make two batches of the following recipe. Generally, for a good jelly set, it is recommended to use 3/4 cup sugar per cup of juice. This is pretty darn sweet, but it is a true old-timey jelly. If you want a brighter flavor, use a recipe with more pomegranate juice and use a commercial pectin. This will give you a stronger pomegranate flavor and will shorten the cooking time significantly.

Quince and Pomegranate Jelly
5 cups combined quince and pomegranate juice
3 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Prepare jars, lids and the boiling water bath. Place some spoons and saucers in the freezer.

Place all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil until it reaches the gel stage, about 220 degrees. My thermometer is currently broken, so I tested the jelly by looking for the foam to subside, watched for the jelly to sheet off a spoon, and then tested on a frozen saucer. When a teaspoon of cool jelly wrinkles when pushed, it is done!

Remove from the heat and skim any remaining foam. Carefully ladle into prepared jars and top with lids. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars to a towel lined tray and allow to cool overnight. Wipe away any moisture and label in the morning.

Makes 5 half pint jars.
I think folks will like getting this for Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Marmalade and Nutella Sandwich Cookies

 Orange and chocolate are so good! 

I've been wanting to make some cookies with orange marmalade in the dough for some time. I love, love, LOVE my very own fussy-style orange marmalade, but you could use any marmalade that contains a goodly amount of peel. One of the great things about this type of refrigerator cookie is that you can wrap the dough and keep it for a couple of weeks. Just slice and bake when your holiday company drops by. Mr. Dwayne prefers these without Nutella. (He suffers from some sort of weird mutation that causes him to dislike chocolate. Imagine!) While they are good without Nutella, with it, they are SPLENDID.

Marmalade and Nutella Sandwich Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
6 tbsp. marmalade
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe's)
About 1/2 cup Nutella

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the egg. Add the marmalade and vanilla and beat until well combined.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and almond meal. Stir to combine. Add to the butter mixture and mix until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and roll into a log that is about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Unwrap the dough and slice the cookies into 1/4 inch slices and place on the parchment, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. When they are done, remove to a rack and allow to cool. When cool, spread one cookie with about 1 teaspoon of Nutella and sandwich with another cookie. Store in an air tight container.

Makes 48 single cookies and 24 sandwich cookies.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pineapple and Pineapple Guava Jam

 Last weekend, my neighbor, Joanna, asked me if I wanted some guavas. Even though we've been living here for almost 29 years, I never knew there was a pineapple guava tree in her side yard. I've usually been pretty good at spotting fruit trees. I found a whole parking lot full of oranges last week! But, I never noticed these little green fruits hanging in that tree. It may be because the fruits of this tree are almost the exact same size and shape as the leaves. I had never eaten them before and had no idea how they would taste.
 Joanna said that she had been snacking on them and had also added them to a fruit salad for Thanksgiving. To eat them, you cut them in half and scoop them out, as shown above. They have a unique tropical flavor and scent. Apparently, the larger ones can become quite soft and transparent when ripe. These little guys taste a little bit like pears, but again, there is something truly unique that is unlike any other flavor.
Surprisingly, many of the recipes for guava jam that I found online had spices added to them. I like warm and spicy things for winter, but I thought that would just cover up the uniquely fresh taste of these tropical fruits. Instead, I decided to round out the flavor with pineapple. (You know me, I'm liable to throw pineapple into just about anything.) Per my research, guavas are high in pectin, so I did not use commercial pectin. The jam came out a little saucy, but delicious. I think I pulled it off the heat a little soon for fear it would scorch. The texture I got is similar to pineapple ice cream topping. There's nothing wrong with that!

Pineapple and Pineapple Guava Jam
4 cups pineapple guava pulp
2 cups pineapple (I used canned crushed pineapple in juice)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar

Prepare 5 half pint jars and lids and the boiling water bath. Place some spoons and saucers in the freezer.

Place all the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, until thick. The pineapple guava may float. To prevent this, mash them with a potato masher while cooking. Test on a frozen spoon or saucer. Once the jam cools, if it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it is done - about 220 degrees. Remove from heat and skim any foam. Stir for one minute to distribute the fruit. Carefully ladle into hot jars, wipe the rims and close the lids. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove to a towel lined tray and allow to cool overnight. Label in the morning.

Makes 5 half pints.