Sunday, July 31, 2011

BLOG HOP: Hawaiian Luau

Imagine having our Luau here...lots of nice trees for shade and so close to the beach.

Once on the beach, we can ride the waves, snorkel and swim with friends and family.

This is a cove that is wonderful for swimming with little kids.

For the more adventurous, you can hike down to this amazing swimming spot and watch the blow holes. 

I love this picture of Isabella running into the ocean...I love the water in Hawaii too.


Please participate with me in a friendly Hawaiian Luau.  My family and I have had many memorable trips to the islands and enjoy the people and traditions that they work so hard to preserve.  We have tried lots of fun foods and celebrated with fire dancers, tree climbers and amazing dancers.  The islands always bring a smile to my face.  Having been born on Midway Island and living in the Philippines as a child, I love how a luau can bring friends together for a fun event.  ENJOY!



Saturday, July 30, 2011

43. Bacon Gravy, Biscuits and Eggs

I don't make our gravy super thick, although, you certainly can if that is how you like it.  We also like to eat eggs with our Biscuits and Gravy.  ENJOY!
Every now and then I MUST have biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  It seems lately a lot of blogs that I follow are also sharing their recipes.  If my tummy is going to be tempted, then I must answer it with a scrumptious biscuit and yummilicious bacon gravy.  I like that word, my computer does not know what to do with it...LOL  It's a good word...YUM-MI-LIC-IOUS.  Just sounds good!

Oh, yeah...the gravy.  I like sausage gravy but I love a good bacon gravy.  It's not as bold as sausage so the gravy, really shines.  I don't know when I first started making this for my family, other than I know it's been too long to remember.  It's a family favorite and the more bacon I use the more hugs I get.  LOL


I will encourage you to buy great bacon.  Don't go for the thin stuff...thick is what you will need.  I usually buy my bacon from the deli and spend extra $ for this recipe.  Today I used Boars Head.  Their stuff is all gluten free. You can use pepper, maple or smoked...it might change the overall flavor a bit, but if your family likes pepper...then buy pepper!  Let's make the family happy.

I will share with you two recipes for biscuits.  One that I LOVE, but cannot eat anymore (wheat).  This is the recipe I used to make.  I will also share a GF biscuit recipe.   I try really hard to always provide something for everyone in my recipes and something that is GF.  I have so many friends that are being diagnosed with Celiac or have a sensitivity to wheat.  I am sure that you do to.  Let me tell you, that if my friends made something special for me and my diet needs, it almost brings a tear to my eye.  It says LOVE when someone WANTS to cook for me, with ME in mind.  That is why I share GF recipes and regular recipes.  It means a lot to those of us who are on a restricted diet.

Recipe:  Bacon Gravy and Biscuits

1/2 pound of Bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped (small pieces)
1/2 tsp salt.  You will need more, but this is a personal choice and you will need to taste and salt as you go.
1/2-1 tsp pepper.  We like a lot of pepper.  But start small and work up to more.
4 cups of milk
2 T. flour (I use corn starch for the GF version)


Fry cut bacon in a heavy duty skillet until crisp.  I cook my bacon on med to med high heat.  I don't like it to burn, so I would rather take it slow and not rush it.  When bacon is almost to where you think it is done for your family, add the onion and celery.  This combination only needs to cook for about 3-5 minutes.  Enough time for them to not be crunchy.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon/celery/onion mixture to a paper towel.

Discard all of the remaining grease except 1 T. bacon grease.  If using flour, add flour to grease and cook on med heat for 3 minutes.  If using corn starch, add the corn starch to a little bit of the 4 cups of milk and whisk together.

Add the milk or starch/milk mixture to the skillet.  Using a whisk and watching the heat, stir until bubbly and thick.  Add the bacon mixture and turn off the heat.  If the gravy is not as thick as you like it add more flour or starch.   NOTE:  Always add your starch to cold milk or water first, then add to the item you are cooking.  I would do the same with flour.  It prevents lumps.

I like to let the gravy sit for a few minutes so that everything has a chance to meld.  The flavors of the bacon, onion and celery need time to adjust to the flour and milk gravy.  This is why I make the gravy first and then make the biscuits.  It seems to work out perfectly.

Recipe: Biscuits

2 cups of flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup of cream
1/2 cup of chicken broth
OPTIONAL: 1 cup of cheddar cheese...the men love the cheese with the bacon gravy!

Combine dry ingredients.  Make a well in flour bowl and add milk and broth.  Do not over stir.  Add cheese and drop dough onto a baking stone or greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes.  The should just start to be turning brown.  Every stove is different, so watch them.

Recipe: GF Biscuits (These will taste like a wheat biscuit)

1 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup of millet
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup of tapioca starch
1 tsp. xantham gum
2 T. baking powder ( this adds a lot of flavor to the biscuit)
1 tsp. salt

6 T. solid vegetable shortening
4 T. butter, soft
1 cup milk
Optional: 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pizza stone in oven to preheat. You can use a cookie sheet too.

In a large bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. Using a whisk, blend dry ingredients well.

Add the shortening and butter. Using a pastry cutter, cut into flour until the flour looks like small pebbles.

Gently add milk and form dough. Try not to over mix.

Using rice flour, sprinkle on to the counter and tip dough out of bowl. I used my fingers to press dough to the thickness I needed my biscuits to be....about 1/2 inch. I used a small circle cutter. Remove stone from oven and place biscuits on stone, return to oven. Bake for 12 minutes. If the biscuits are larger, then you may need to bake them for a little bit longer. I was able to get 40 small biscuits  or 16-18 normal size biscuits.

These biscuits are flaky, soft in the center...perfect for using with soups. I did not add any sugar to this recipe because I like it that way. I can use it with savory meals or with sweet treats. If serving with whip cream, the sweetness will come from this and the fruit. Feel free to add sugar if you want it a bit sweeter. If you choose to add this, start with 1T. of sugar. ENJOY

Friday, July 29, 2011

42. Pumpkin Scone, Friends and Alice's Tea Cup

This is one from the first batch...it taste great but I felt it was too thin.  

I never forget my trips to New York City.  They are always packed with memories, fun and food.  I just spent the day visiting friends and walked away with another fun day emblazoned in my heart and mind.

When you are only in NYC for one day, what do you do?  We shop....and shop and did I mention..SHOP!  Yes, we are women with a mission and we must help the economy some how.  We all work so hard to save and arrange our schedules for this trip to the city.  We leave hubbies, children, work and homes so that we can create the bonds of friendship that can never be broken.  Friends are those that will lift you up when no one else can or will, even family at times.  They love you for being YOU and want to be with YOU and we laugh...OH do we laugh!  Girls just wanna have fun and SHOP and EAT.

This is the scone shape that I went with.  I used the "drop" method and it worked great.

Whenever I visit some place new or even if I have been there before, I enjoy eating at different places each time.  Yesterday I was able to eat at two different restaurants and had a sample of a scone from one cute tea house.  I only risked one bite because it was a scone made with wheat.  I can tell you it took just one bite and I was hooked on making something that I could have more than just one bite of.  I think after today, I should have stuck with one bite....LOLOLOL

Alice's Tea House is very cute.  They host little girl parties, sell cookbooks and have lots of different flavors of loose tea. The tea menu was huge.  They serve it hot and cold.  You can also have lunch with cute tea cakes that arrive to your table on a pretty plate stand.  The walls are painted and written with Alice in Wonderland quotes.  They sell a lot of Alice in Wonderland tea sets.  It's all so magical and the best part is they have more than one store front in NYC..they have three!   NICE.

I know that there is sauce on top of the scone, but you will WANT or NEED extra sauce to eat your scone with.

I am going to share with you where you can find the original Alice's Tea Cup Pumpkin Spice Scone.  It is here.  This batter is very wet and sticky.  I have read through the reviews and most people find that they cannot roll out the batter because it is too sticky.  If you choose to go with the recipe, I would add a little bit more flour (they may weigh their flour instead of using a cup and this is two different amounts) OR generously flour your surface, rolling pin and the top of the mix.  Another suggestion is to use a spoon and  "drop" the batter on to your cookie sheet.  A scone has many looks...cut or dropped.  You choose.

The recipe posted below is for a gluten and dairy free scone.  I was inspired by the scone I ate in NYC, but having only had a small bite I cannot say that it would replace Alice's Tea Cup.  It is delicious on it's own and the caramel sauce will blow you away.  I had the ladies and teachers at Isabella's school (they love being my guinea pigs) test it this morning for me.  They could not tell that it was gluten free.  They loved it too.


Invite your friends over, select your tea, wear your hats and eat PUMPKIN scones!  You don't have to go to New York City to bond with your friends, have tea or eat scones...it just makes it a bigger story. LOL

NOTE:   A scone is not very sweet, that is the job of the caramel sauce.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Scones with Caramel Sauce

2 cup of Almond Meal.  I buy mine at Whole Foods.
1/3 cup of White Rice Flour
1/2  cup of Potato Starch
1 tsp. Xantham Gum
1/2 cup of sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of ground ginger
1 stick of cold butter, cut into slices
1/4 cup of milk
1 egg
1 cup of pumpkin puree.  Do not use the pie filling.
2 T. vanilla extract

Caramel Glaze:

1 stick of unsalted butter ( I only had salted today and it tasted great.)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup of whipping cream

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine in a large bowl: almond meal, white rice flour, potato flour, xantham gum, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  Use a whisk to blend the dry ingredients together.

I used cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Add this to the dry mix and using a pastry cutter, cut the butter in.  The dry mix with the butter should look like breadcrumbs.

In the middle of the dry/butter ingredients, create a well. Add the pumpkin, egg, almond milk and vanilla.


Using a spoon, gently combine the wet and dry.  Do not over blend or beat.  Let rest 15 minutes.


I used a baking stone with Parchment paper to bake the scones on.  The dough is thick and can be spooned right onto the cookie sheet or stone.  I used a spoon and "dropped" the batter.  The thinner you smooth the "drop" the thinner your scone will be.  They don't spread much.

Bake the scones for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the scones to a wire rack to cool.  They should cool for 20-30 minutes before adding the caramel sauce to the top.

Prepare the sauce while the scones are baking and cooling.


In a small sauce pan, add the butter, brown sugar and salt. Your stove top heat should be set to medium.  As soon as you see your first bubble, do not boil, remove from heat and add cream.  Return to heat and stir for 2-3 minutes until thickened.

Sauce will become thick as it cools, but this makes the scone easier to dip into the sauce.  OH YES, you will want more of the sauce than what the cookie will have on top...LOL

When the scones are cool, use a spoon and drizzle the sauce over each scone.  The sauce does run over at first, but does set and then they can be removed to a pretty plate.  Do not stack glazed cookies..that could be tricky and a huge mess.


Oh they were good and so messy.  Sometimes we just need to get messy…ENJOY!

I remade this recipe in August of 2012 and fine tuned the recipe a bit.  This is a new picture.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

41. Mushroom, Burgers and CHEESE

We like to add different flavor cheeses to our burgers.  Here we have Pepper Jack an Swiss.


It's summer time and for most people that means they BBQ a lot. My neighbors BBQ every night. EVERY NIGHT they eat hotdogs. I am amazed that they don't turn into a hotdog..LOL They say it's easy and that is what they love...then, by all means, GO FOR IT!

Unlike my neighbor, we rarely eat anything twice. I think that hamburgers would be one of the yummy foods that we eat several times through out the summer. BUT, I can tell you they probably don't ever taste quite the same. WHY? Several reasons....the toppings, the burger mix and the buns. We like to shake it up and try new things all the time.

For me, hamburger meat is like the canvas to the artist. It's wide open for all types of hues, textures and creative juices.....get it? Juices..hamburgers and creative minds...LOL

SO, what makes an awesome hamburger? So MANY things. I like to add BBQ sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Sriracha sauce, hot sauce, buffalo wing sauce, cheese, all types of spices....and this is just the meat, but not all at the same time! Get creative and yet stay simple. Don't over mix your flavors. Think about what the theme of the burger will be. Lots of friends I know love Teriyaki burgers...this might include in the meat: diced onion, garlic salt, crushed pineapple, and a sweet, soy based sauce. JUST AN IDEA...


This is my hamburger with mushrooms.  I am using the GF flat bread for my bun.  Recipe can be found below.

The toppings are even more fun! We all love the standards: lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle with mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup. RIGHT? Why not try olives, grilled onions, bacon, mushrooms, guacamole, cole slaw, onion rings, fresh herbs, sauteed zucchini, jalapenos, pineapple....the list is as long as your imagination. Let the good times roll and have fun!





I like to add a few things to my hamburgers that hold them together. I always add at least one egg to every pound of hamburger meat. I have also added: smashed up crackers, bread crumbs, oatmeal, or cubed pieces of bread. WHY? This will help the meat stay together and it also stretches your meat for a crowd. Have you ever had an unexpected guess for dinner or maybe a whole house full of kids? Instead of running to the store, add the items mentioned above and see if you can get two or three more burgers out of your one pound. Just some ideas to think about!

Another thing that I have done in the past is to mix my meat. You can add ground pork, ground turkey or sausage to the burgers. This adds a lot of flavor. When I make my burgers, I don't select the meat with the lowest amount of fat. Burgers need fat to taste awesome! Keep this in mind when selecting your meat. I also try to go with the organic meat selection. It cost more, but again..taste! It does make a difference.


Recipe: Hamburger Patties

1 pound of hamburger or meat of your choice

1 egg

1/4 cup of onion, diced

1 tsp garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 pepper...we like a lot of pepper, use less if this sounds or looks too much for your family


This is my basic recipe for hamburger patties. After mixing all of the above ingredients together, I would add any "special" sauce or ingredient that I wanted to make the burger unique. Keep in mind that too much sauce can make your patty fall apart. IF this happens, add some bread crumbs or cubed bread. It will absorb the liquid and hold your meat together. I would just add things sparingly. You can always add more, but it's hard to take it out.

I don't like to rush my burgers with HIGH heat. Especially if they are thick. Then the outside will taste burned. Don't over flip your burgers too. Let them cook on each side and try to flip them only once on each side. Use a meat thermometer if you want your meat cooked a specific way: rare, medium rare, medium , medium well or well. If you have a crowd, I always ask my guest how they like their burgers cooked. It makes them feel important and that they have a choice.

While the burgers are cooking outside on medium heat or on the stove top in a frying pan on medium heat, you can work on your toppings. like to involve my family in this next step. Most kids can help wash the veggies and the older kids can slice tomatoes or pickles.

Choose your cheese. Slice it and right before the burgers leave the grill or pan, top each one. We love cheese, I know, that's not a secret...LOL We like to try all types of cheese in our burgers and on top. This time we tried a Pepper Jack, this added a bit of a kick and we loved it.

Prepare your BUNS. I turn the broiler on, butter my buns and let them cook. It does not take long. Watch your buns...that right there, made me laugh...LOL

 


Burgers can be served with anything.  These are a few of my suggestions from other recipes that I have on my blog.  I also make my Gluten Free Flat Bread and use this as a bun for myself and my GF friends.  They really appreciate having "bread" to eat their hamburgers with.  Lettuce leaves can also be used.

Green Pea Salad
Jalapeno Bacon Potato Salad
Orange Delight Jello Salad

GF Bread


I hope that the next time you make hamburgers for your family, that you will think outside the box and get creative!  ENJOY

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

40. Chicken Satay+Friends=Full Tummies!




When we have a BBQ or a crowd at our home, I am always looking for something that I can prepare in the morning and just POP on the grill.  I like this recipe for Chicken Satay for this very reason...it's easy and I can make it in the morning. It leaves me with plenty of time before our friends arrive to set the table, work on minor side dishes and get ready! Sometimes I spend the day cooking and forget that I need to look good too. LOL


Marinading the chicken for the day makes the chicken so tender .  It really just melts in your mouth.  I also make the peanut sauce in the morning.  I think the flavors have a chance to blend when given the opportunity to sit.

Brown rice and veggies are what we serve.  I love my rice cooker.  Again, it's something that I can add the ingredients and walk away.  It does it's own thing with out me having to keep track of it.  I love that!

Skewers always add so much to any meal. They look great on the table and the kids love eating their food right off of a stick.  Who does not love food on a stick?



Recipe: Chicken Satay and Peanut Sauce

Marinade:


1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp curry powder
2 T crunchy or smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
crushed dried chile peppers, to taste


Peanut Sauce:


3/4 cup crunchy or smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 cup coconut milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. soy sauce (I used Tamarin, it's gf)
2 T. molasses
1 tsp. fresh ginger root, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
cayenne pepper
grated lime zest
fresh cilantro


6 chicken breast halves, boned, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips


To make the marinade, combine the first 7 ingredients in a large ziplock bag.

Add your chicken.  Let marinade in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours.

One hour before grilling, soak your bamboo skewer in water.  I used a foil pan (the same one that I used to put the skewered chicken in).

Thread the chicken strips onto a bamboo skewer in a serpentine fashion. 


I make sure to spray the grill with Pam (or oil) and add skewers.  They do not take long to cook.  Watch them closely.

Cook the skewered chicken, turning several times and basting with the marinade, until crispy on the outside but still moist on the inside, about 8 minutes.


Make the peanut sauce by combining the next 7 ingredients (peanut butter through garlic) in a saucepan.

Season to taste with cayenne pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is as thick as heavy cream (about 15 minutes).

Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée briefly. Add chicken broth and cream and blend until smooth.

This mixture can be made several hours ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Prepare moderate-hot BBQ grill or broiler.

Sprinkle grilled chicken with lime zest and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.





39. Ratatouille and the JOY of COOKING


I will admit that one of my all time favorite movies is Ratatouille. I don't know if it's the cooking or the mouse, the goofy dish washer boy or the love story. I just like the whole thing. I never knew what ratatouille was until I saw this movie. I am a huge fan of eggplant. I have always loved it, even as a kid. So it was no surprise that when I found out that this was in the recipe, I was thrilled.




So, why did it take me so long to make it? Several things come to mind. One is the fact that living in Utah, at the time, we did not have an abundant supply of FRESH eggplant. It was not something that I heard my neighbors talk about growing and the stores never had many on the shelves. Out of sight, out of mind. The other reason may have been that I thought it was MUCH more complicated to make than it actually was...after all, Ratatouille is a pretty intense word...LOL OH, but I do love to say it--RAT-A-TOO-eee!



When I announced to my family that we were eating Ratatouille, my 4YO , thought we were having "mouse" for dinner.  Oh MY!  She was relieved when I showed her a plate of veggies...LOL  

When I was first learning to cook, I bought a book.  My favorite cooking book.  It's title is Joy of Cooking.  Two of my favorite things in one title..JOY and COOKING!  Now we are talking.  I have read this book, yes, every single page, at least 3 times.  WHY?  I find it so helpful with all things cooking.  It is the only cookbook that I own that does not have pictures in it.  Every recipe I have ever tried , has worked , taste good and brings me JOY!  

The Ratatouille is from this book and this dish has brought my whole family JOY!  We absolutely loved it!  My husband told me he could eat this dish every day.  Eggplant grows in abundance in Maryland.  They must love the sandy soil.  I have two sitting on my counter and my neighbors plants are loaded with them.  I am thinking he is going to get his wish of eating it most days...LOL

I will say, that this recipe is wonderful hot or cold.  Fresh or as a leftover.  It's just plain amazing!  I would recommend that you use the BEST extra virgin olive oil that you can.  It adds so much to the flavor of the veggies.   ENJOY!

Fresh from my neighbors garden..Thank you!


Recipe: Ratatouille from Joy of Cooking


Ingredients

 1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes ( 1 lb)

1 lb zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups onions, sliced

2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares

3 garlic cloves, chopped

salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped seeded peeled

2 -3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaves

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped


    Directions

    1. Saute in a large skillet or Dutch oven over high heat until the vegetables are golden and just tender, 10 to 12 minutes: 1/4 C olive oil, eggplant and zucchini.



    2. Remove the vegetables and reduce the heat to medium-high. In the same pan, cook until the onions are slightly softened: 2 T of olive oil and onions.
    3. Add and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender but not browned, 8 to 12 minutes: red pepper and garlic.
    4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


    5. Add: tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf.
    6. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 5 minutes.
    7. Add the eggplant and zucchini and cook until everything is tender, about 20 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in: basil.


      I served this as a side dish with Chicken Satay.  The Ratatouille can also be a main dish and hold it's own.

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    38. Green Pea Salad


    I have been craving this salad for two weeks.  I kept forgetting to buy the frozen peas until Saturday.  I sent the hubster to the store and he came home with the PEAS!  Yeah!


    I have several family members that have to go back for seconds on this salad, I have to admit, I am one of those family members.

    I use Boars Head Jack cheese and Velvetta.  I like the the two cheese's in the recipe because one adds a sharp taste and the other is smooth and soft on your tongue.  I use Lawry's season salt that has no MSG.  I am very sensitive to this flavoring and they do make it now with no MSG.

    This is a favorite at BBQ's or Sunday dinner.  I like to make it in the morning to give the seasoning and flavors a chance to BLOOM. It can be made right before too.  ENJOY



    Recipe:  Green Pea Salad  


    1 bag of frozen Peas,  3-4 cups of peas

    ½ cup of diced Celery
    ½ cup of diced Onion
    ½ cup Jack or Cheddar Cheese, cubed
    ½ cup velvetta cheese, cubed
    2 Hard boiled eggs, diced
    Lawrys salt to taste
    ½ cup Mayo


    Mix and refrigerate for an hour. Serve.  I like to add extra celery and onion. You can adjust the ingredients to what your family likes.  Add more or less to make it your own.












    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    37. English Toffee Candy



    I am sharing a recipe that we usually make at Christmas time.  We make it for neighbors, friends and family.   Once they try it, they really REALLY want to remain our friends and stay close to us...LOL

    I know it's not Christmas, but it is July and I have heard a thing or two about Christmas in July.

    Making candy can be tricky and so it does take patience and time.  You cannot speed up the stages and expect to have a quality product. I cannot express enough that GOOD candy comes from the BEST products.



     If you are unfamiliar with the stages of making candy, I have found a site that can tell you and show you this process  here.  Understanding the difference between soft boil and soft crack are what you will need to know for this recipe.

    You also must have several kitchen tools on hand.  A candy thermometer is a must.  The pan you use is also something to consider.  I use a small, heavy sauce pan.  It has a copper lining  between two sheets of steel.  This allows the heat to cook more evenly.  I have made this before in a cheap pan and it does not turn out as well.


    Use exact measurements.   Cooking is a science that does offer a lot of room for adaptations to our own style and taste buds. Candy making is more sensitive to alterations and should not be modified the first time you make a recipe.

    I have made this recipe at high altitudes, sea level, in dry conditions and in very humid air.  The humid air will make it sticky if not left in an air tight container.  This is my only recommendation when making this toffee, keep it in a cool place. I keep mine in the freezer and it stays dry and crunchy.  I know some have had problems with it getting sticky, I have never had this problem in 24 years of making this.

    Recipe:  English Toffee

    2/3 cup butter, soft
    1/2 cup of sugar
    1/2 cup of water
    1/2 tsp salt
    2/3 cups blanched almonds
    1/4 tsp baking soda
    1 cup of chocolate chips
    1/2 -1 cup of pecans, chopped.

    Cook over medium heat the first 4 ingredients in a sauce pan, stirring constantly until it boils (5-7 minutes).


    Once it starts to boil,  stop stirring and add a candy thermometer and let it cook until it reaches 236 degrees (soft ball stage).

    Add the 2/3 cup blanched almonds, continue cooking until the temperature reaches 275 degrees (soft crack stage).  You must stir constantly at this stage to prevent over cooking.

    Remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp. baking soda.

    I used a cookie sheet that I greased with butter first.  Immediately spread the toffee to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Immediately add chocolate chips and let set for 1 minute.  The chips will melt and you can use the back of a spoon and spread the chocolate over the toffee.  Add the nuts and gently push the nuts into the chocolate with your hands.


    Put your cookie sheet into the freezer for 15 minutes or until hard.  Remove and break into bite size portions.  Store in an air tight container in a cool place.

    I hope that you enjoy this little bit of Christmas sweetness in July!

    Saturday, July 23, 2011

    36. Chocolate Almond Cupcakes








    Chocolate!  It makes the day go much better.  I woke up yesterday NEEDING something with chocolate in it.  I am more of a chip kind of gal than sweets, but every once in a while my body craves something that is soft and chocolaty.

    I thought about making a cake but I find that cakes in my house don't get eaten as well as a cupcake.  I think the cupcake is the perfect treat to grab on-the-go and is a great portion.  Not too much nor too little.

    In fact, I used my last cupcake liners..better add them to my list!

    The day before, I was eating my favorite coleslaw and I quickly realized I forgot to add the most important ingredient: Cinnamon Sugar Toasted Almonds!  These little  darlings are delicious for salads, snacks AND cupcakes!

    I like my food crunchy, this includes cupcakes, cakes, muffins, salads, breads and cookies.   I add nuts to a lot of things.  Thank goodness I am not allergic to many nuts, mostly just walnuts.  I think everyone already knows my love for Peanut Butter...now I am getting hungry!  LOL



    Yesterday I found 3 options in my house: chocolate cake mix, yellow cake mix or a brownie mix.  My eye caught the almond jar and the chocolate cake became my next project.  Chocolate Almond anything ..IS AMAZING in my world.

    I used the almonds to create a "crust" on the bottom of my cupcake and it turned out dang yummy!  The nuts added texture but kept the middle of the cake soft and fluffy.  I hope you enjoy my chocolaty treat!

    Recipe: Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

    1 chocolate cake mix ( I used a GF mix)

    2 cups of blanched almonds
    1 T. sugar and cinnamon mix
    1 T. butter, melted

    Frosting:
    2 cups of powdered sugar
    1 1/2 sticks of butter, soft not melted
    1 tsp almond extract
    1 T. milk

    Preheat the oven to 350.  Line the cupcake pans with your favorite cupcake shells.  If making a cake, prepare pans according to the instructions on the box.


    To toast the almonds:  I used a cookie tray.  Mixed my cinnamon/sugar mix with the butter and almonds.  Spread the almonds on the tray.  The bake time is 10-15 minutes.  Some ovens cook hotter so watch them after 10 minutes.  I don't like it when they get too dark.

    Let the almonds cool for a few minutes.  They will get crunchy.


    Make cake mix according to package.  I used a GF mix that required milk.  I substituted almond milk in place of regular milk. I also used 1/2 almond extract and 1/2 vanilla for the vanilla measurement.  This is not necessary, I was just trying to enhance the flavor of almond within my cupcake.

    Add the almonds to the bottom of each cupcake.  I made sure the bottom was covered.  Fill your cupcake with batter.  Bake according to directions.  Usually cupcakes cook for 20-24 minutes.

    Remove cupcakes from tin and let cool on wire rack.


    Make butter cream frosting by combining butter, extract and milk.  With a hand held mixer blend together until smooth.  Carefully mix in powdered sugar with a spoon.  Continue mixing with hand mixer on high for 2 minutes.  If your frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar.  If it is too thick add more milk.



    Frost the cupcakes when they are cool enough to not melt the frosting.  Top each cupcake with a few toasted almonds.  ENJOY!
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