Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nutella fudge

Where did the time go? It feels like just yesterday that I was making turkey place settings and cooking Thanksgiving dinner and all of a sudden, Christmas is already over with. Since I obviously lost track of time during the holiday season this year, I wasn't able to fit much baking into my schedule. I was, however, able to whip up a couple of new recipes that took practically no time at all.

For holiday gifts for coworkers, this year I made a candied pecan that was as simple as tossing the nuts in two different gallon-sized bags, once with an egg mixture and the other with a cinnamon and sugar concoction then baking for a an hour at a low heat. To accompany these small packages, I made cinnamon ornaments. The recipe suggested baking the ornaments, which I did, but I also let a handful air dry. If you have the time available to air dry, I thought they turned out much nicer. These simple ornaments made my apartment smell absolutely divine!

The pièce de résistance, though, was a salted, Nutella fudge. I made three batches of this simple-to-make candy and people loved it. I put some on trays throughout my office and packaged some up for small gifts (and maybe a few managed to make it into my belly before I could even get them out of the door). On the third batch I made, I was very tempted to warm about a 1/3 cup of peanut butter and swirl it into the fudge, but at the last second decided not to mess with what was already established as being delicious.

The recipe I found on Pinterest and it came from the Tasty Kitchen blog. Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Nutella & Sea Salt Fudge

Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 8 Minutes
Servings: Depending on how large you cut the pieces, 30-42
Difficulty: Easy

  • 1 Tablespoon Butter, For Greasing Pan
  • 1 can (14 Oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 8 ounces, weight High-quality Bittersweet (60%) Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut Spread), Room Temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature, Cut Into 1/2-inch Pieces
  • ½ teaspoons (approximately) Sea Salt
Preparation Instructions

Grease the bottom and sides of an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overlap on the sides.

In a medium glass or stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate chips, Nutella, and butter.

Form a double-boiler by setting the bowl over a medium pot of gently simmering water. The water level should be low enough that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan, spread the top smooth with a spatula, and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours.

Once the fudge is chilled, run a knife under hot water, dry it off, and run it around the edges of the pan to loosen the fudge. Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the fudge out. Peel off the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into 3/4-inch squares. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey gobble day

It is a rare occasion that I even get to have Thanksgiving off from work and even more rare to be able to take a week of vacation surrounding the holiday. I made it my goal during my vacation to spend some time cooking and crafting while relaxing.

As part of the relaxing phase of my vacation I was watching the Today show the other morning with my mom with Giada de Laurentiis had a segment about Thanksgiving cooking. While the lemon and thyme didn't appeal to me, the adorable Oreo turkeys she had caught my eye. And appropriate to my vacation goal it was both a food and craft project.

What you need to make six candy turkeys:
12 Oreos (I found that the Double Stuffed version worked the best)
     Note: Six of the Oreos will need to have one side of the cookie removed
36 Candy corns
     Note: The white tip will need to be taken off from 6 of the candy corns to be used as a beak
6 Malt balls
6 Reeses miniatures
3/4 Cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2-3 Tablespoons of red frosting

Carefully insert five candy corns, white tip down, around the top of each of the Oreos. It's best to hold steady the Oreo near the top while pressing the candy corns into the creme filling as to not separate the cookie.

Place the chocolate chips into a glass or stainless steel bowl. Place over a pot with a small amount of simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. Dip the large end of the peanut butter cup (I actually used Christmas chocolate bells) into the melted chocolate and place that end against the bottom of the cookie opposite of the candy corns. The chocolate will act as a glue.

Once the peanut butter cups are in place, repeat with the malt balls and place them between the cups and the candy corn making the head of the turkey.

Finally, dip the white portions of the candy corns that were broken off into the chocolate and place it onto the malt ball as the beak of the turkey. Once you have assembled all of the turkeys, place in the refrigerator to set for about 10 minutes.

While the chocolate is setting, take time to color your frosting with food coloring. In the case of my turkeys I used Betty Crocker's Cake Icing which came with piping tips rather than having to put frosting into a plastic bag to pipe on to the malt ball as the turkey's beard.

Once this is finished, place the Oreo's with the attached candy onto the frosting up cookie to use as a base that will allow the turkey to stand up right.

Note; These are not the most sturdy of decorations, so try not to move them around too much after they are finished. To reinforce the base a little more, you could always try using a little of the extra chocolate on the base and refrigerating them again for a few minutes. These made lovely name cards by attaching a piece of paper with someone's name to a little toothpick and placing that into the creme of the base cookie.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Del Mar Gourmet Food Truck Festival

The crowds start to gather outside the food trucks at the Del Mar Races.

It's no secret that I enjoy a good meal from a gourmet food truck. I follow several on Twitter and Facebook and love trying new ones when I get the chance. So when I found out that there would be about 50 food trucks gathered at the Del Mar races this weekend, I obviously jumped at the opportunity.

Upon arrival at the festival, we were given a map of where each food truck was located, but that was pretty useless, since nothing was where the map said it was. Our plan of attack was to walk around and look at each of the menus then go back to the ones we thought looked good. After looking through the first 10-15 trucks we couldn't resist trying something.

First stop: The Green Truck and its Smoked Gouda grilled cheese with apple slices and prosciutto on a honey, fig bread.

Bryan showing off his Loco Moco dog.
First stop: The Green Truck, a San Diego truck (which also has trucks in L.A. and NYC) that serves local and organic food and also operates from a green truck. Order: Grilled Cheese with smoked gouda, apple slices and prosciutto on a honey, fig bread. This was a simple grilled cheese that packed a lot of flavor. The use of the smoked gouda was nice, but it was shredded and not sliced and not fully melted so it got a little messy to eat. Overall: I'd order it again, maybe with a side of their sweet potato fries or one of their salads. Other things ordered by friends in my group included a Loco Moco dog from Dogzilla, an Orange County truck specializing in not-so-ordinary hot dogs. The Loco Moco was an all beef frank topped with grilled onions, grilled spam, beef gravy and a fried egg. WOW! Another friend got a grilled cheese sandwich from a different truck, but it wasn't very good, so no need to mention more.

Second stop: Lime Truck. Adobo taco on the bottom, Ultimate Taco on the top.

Second stop: The Lime Truck, an Irvine truck that won a season of "The Great Food Truck Race" on the Food Network. The truck serves California cuisine with local, organic and sustainable food. Just as we were about to reach the window, a woman walked up to the truck with a certificate in hand announcing that the Lime Truck had been voted best fresh food truck at the festival. Looks like we picked a good one. Order: Ultimate Taco, Sweet and Spicy Taco, Adobo Taco and Roasted Corn (don't worry, it wasn't all for me). Clear winner to me was the Adobo Taco filled with pork belly, tomatillo pico de gallo, cilantro and sriracha. I probably could have eaten two or three more of these tacos, but the line was way too long to get back into.

After stuffing our bellys with food truck food we decided to head into the arena for some horse racing. Food must have been on my mind because it carried into my horse betting. Apparently putting my money on horses like Sweet Treat and Kettlecorn wasn't the best idea because I didn't win one race. I like hedging my bets with Food Trucks more than horses.

Workers inside the Waffles de Leige bake up tasty waffles.
The piece de resistance: dessert. Yum!

To finish off the day we went back to the festival area for some dessert. Two of my friends got make-your-own ice cream sandwiches from the Sweet Treats truck. They were super yummy, but didn't compare to the awesome waffle I got at the Waffles de Leige truck, an Orange County/LA County truck that serves, well, waffles. I got a fresh Leige waffle with a nutella spread and a scoop of toffee ice cream. HEAVEN! It's a good thing this truck isn't in San Diego because I would be there all the time.

To top the night off I went to see "Moonrise Kingdom," the newest film from Wes Anderson. It was an all-star cast and an endearing story marked with Anderson's quirky touches. The actor and actress that played the main characters were both newbies to the big screen, but did an excellent job. I haven't seen a lot of Anderson's movies, but am glad to have seen this one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summertime Jello shots

My love for Pinterest continues when I found a pin for a new way to present Jello shots. If you ever went to a party in college, chances are you've had a Jello shot before. They're usually served in the bottom of a small dixie cup where you have to use your finger to pry it out, usually resulting in a colored finger and a mangled chunk of Jello.

Some wonderful mind out there came up with the idea to use hollowed out lemons and limes to hold the Jello instead. The presentation is not only way more beautiful, but it is so much easier to actually eat the Jello shot. Instead of downing a mangled chunk of Jello, where, let's face it, most of it ends up staying stuck to the cup, it's as simple as eating a fruit slice akin to the days of getting orange slices after a hard-played tee ball game as a child.

Simple ingredient list:
10-12 medium size lemons or limes (will result in 40-48 "shots")
1 small box of flavored Jello
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold vodka

Slice each lemon (or lime) in half. To aid with the removal of the flesh, score around the outside of the fruit careful not to cut the skin. Using a spoon (I used a sugar spoon with more square edges, which was helpful) dig out the flesh of the fruit, again being careful not to tear a hole in the skin. Set aside the flesh that you accumulated to use in other cooking ventures (I love to use lemon in simple, summery pastas with just olive oil, lemon juice, a little garlic powder and some fresh vegis).

After all of the lemons/limes are hollowed, line them up in a large Tupperware container or baking sheet that will fit into the refrigerator. Now it's time to make the Jello. Simply boil a cup of water, then pour it over the packet of gelatin powder (I did this in a medium sized glass measuring cup with a spout to help with ease of pouring). Once the powder is dissolved, add a cup of cold vodka. Stir together then pour into fruit halves, careful not to tip them over. Place in the refrigerator for at least four hours or overnight.

Once the Jello is set, using a sharp knife (it's helpful to spray with a little non-stick cooking spray) cut the fruit halves in half once more so they are bite-sized wedges.

The result: Hand-held, easy to eat slices of Jello shots perfect for any summer (or any season for that matter) party or picnic.

Notes: If you take these to an outdoor party or picnic, make sure to keep them cold in a cooler. Also, depending on what flavor Jello you make, think about getting a flavored vodka to accommodate (I used strawberry lemonade Jello and used citrus vodka). Enjoy, but remember, these tasty treats have a way of sneaking up on you, so have fun and be safe!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pinterest love

I have a new lover in my life. We spend long hours together alone from sunset until late into the night. We wake up together early in the morning and sometimes sneak a quicky in during work hours. I haven't told my parents yet, but I think it's almost time to introduce them to the one who I'm spending all my time with: Pinterest. That's right folks, I'm in love with Pinterest. When we were first introduced, I actually ignored Pinterest. I cast it aside like yesterday's garbage, but one day a reminder e-mail piqued my interest and we've been inseparable ever since.

If you haven't hear about Pinterest (it is a fairly new addition to the worldwide web) it is a Web site where people can post (or pin) pictures that connect to Web sites from blogs, to clothing sites, to home furnishings and DIY projects. You then follow friends, companies or even perfect strangers' pins and add them to your own categorized boards. I've pinned recipes, furniture, shoes, jewelery, DIY projects and even entered a contest where I pinned items for a dream bedroom. You can follow my pins at Pinterest.com/LeslieAllyse

And thanks to my love of Pinterest, I was introduced to a fabulous recipe for a Nutella Swirl Coffee Cake from the Sugar Crafter blog. I woke up early this morning and set out to make a freshly baked breakfast and boy, oh boy was that a great decision.

Here's the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 12 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. This took about 8 minutes to do after slicing in the cold butter. Add in the vanilla and eggs, beating for about two minutes.

 In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the yogurt until well-blended. Layer 1/2 of the batter in the pan, and then drizzle 1/2 of the nutella on top. (Put Nutella in the microwave for about 20 seconds to make pouring easier) Swirl with a knife. Repeat until both are gone.

Bake 45 minutes to an hour or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool before removing from the pan. Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in aluminum foil.

The coffee cake is great for breakfast, but is just as good served as dessert. This morning I chose to have my slice with a cup of tea and some naval orange from Farmer's Market. Yum!

Now that my Cooking board on Pinterest is loaded with all sorts of new recipes, hopefully I will be back to blogging more often. Fingers crossed.