Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mulled Cranberry Sauce

Ah, cranberry sauce.  Folks usually fall into either the jellied or whole berry lines of thinking.  Me, I'm a jellied fan though I haven't been willing to buy cranberry sauce for years because of the nasty high fructose corn syrup found in most of them.  I have seen nice organic sauces at "Whole Paycheck" but never tried them because cranberry sauce is pretty simple to make.  A few years back (about the time we discovered the corn allergy), I volunteered to make the sauce and have been doing it ever since.  Funny thing was, the host forgot I was bringing sauce and opened up four cans of the main brand stuff.  They were still sitting in their dishes, practically untouched when the feast was over.  Mine were demolished.  ☺  I got a kick out of it and decided my recipe was a winner.  Give it a try, tailor the spices to your liking and leave as much whole berries in as you please.  But do try making your own one year.  I doubt you'll ever go back to canned.

Mulled Cranberry Sauce
makes about 2 pints

22 oz cranberries (approx. 4½-5 cups) fresh or frozen is fine
1 cup water
¾ cup Ruby Port
¼ cup orange juice
2 tbsp candied ginger chips (or chopped chunks)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1¾ cups sugar
½ tsp almond extract

Wash the cranberries and drain.  Pick them over for any duds.  Combine berries, ginger, water, port and juice in a large sauce pot.  Place the cinnamon stick and cloves in a spice bag or a piece of cheesecloth doubled and tied.  Add that to the pot and boil until the cranberry skins burst.  Remove spice bag.  Purée cranberry mixture using a food mill or food processor.  (I use the medium disc of my food mill.)  Return mixture to pot and add sugar.  Boil mixture almost to gelling point.*  (Sauce will start to thicken and drop in partial sheets from a spoon.)  Cranberries have plenty of pectin so go slow or it might end up a really stiff sauce.  I like to put a small plate or custard cup in the freezer and do periodic checks with a dollop of sauce to see the cooled consistency.  ☺  Mix in the almond extract when the sauce is to your liking.  You can process the sauce in canning jars - 15 minutes in a boiling water canner if you like.  We don't do that anymore because it never lasts long enough to need canning.

This jellied sauce will be firm enough to hold its shape in a pretty mold if you wish.  Otherwise, a straight sided jar or container makes removal easier when serving.

* If you prefer a whole berry sauce, you don't need to do the additional cooking, just make sure all the sugar is dissolved and cook for about 5 minutes.  The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Monday, November 21, 2011

For the sweet tooth - Orange scented white chocolate toffee with almonds

People have been posting toffee recipes.  I love toffee.  So I can only make toffee when there is a holiday so I can get it out of the house.  Well, there's a holiday coming up and I made some toffee that I've been looking at for months.  Toffee, or buttercrunch, is pretty darn simple.  (Dave Lebovitz' chocolate almond buttercrunch is out of this world.)  You don't even need a thermometer, as one fabulous blogger recently pointed out.  Just get a brown paper bag and boil the mixture until the color matches.  I love dark chocolate on my toffee, but hubby is a white chocolate fiend.  I find the fact amusing since he is otherwise not big on super sweet stuff.  But yes, he did indeed approve this tasty confection.  ☺

Update:  I thought when I made this the first time that the orange scent was a bit too subtle.  So the next time I added only two drops of orange oil.  What I learned?  Subtle is better.  Stick to the extract.

Orange scented White Chocolate Toffee with Almonds

1 cup butter (if using unsalted, add a generous pinch of salt)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp Lyle's golden syrup (optional)
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup crispy or dry roasted almonds, chopped, divided
2 tsp orange extract
1 cup white chocolate pieces

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment.  In a medium heavy bottomed pot, combine the butter, sugar, water and golden syrup.  Cook over medium heat until butter is melted.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches about 295-300ºF and a nice golden amber (brown paper bag) color.  Quickly add in the extract and 1½ tbsp of the almonds.  Boil for a few more seconds until mixture is smooth again.

Pour out onto the parchment lined pan and sprinkle chocolate pieces evenly over.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Then gently spread the melted pieces over the toffee with an offset spatula.  Sprinkle the remaining almonds evenly over the top.  Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or until hard set.  Then crack into chunks.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for longer keeping.  Bring to room temperature when serving.  (I actually like it cold though.)  Lasts, (technically speaking), a few weeks.  ;)

Adapted from lipstick blogger

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lotions out of the kitchen

I've been dabbling in homemade lip balms and body care type stuff for a little while.  Had pretty good success with the balms, some a bit firm but they last really nicely on the lips.  The last super moisturizing brown sugar Shea butter scrub I made sure was super moisturizing, but also way too greasy to use except in tiny amounts.  The fragrances or something in retail lotions tends to give me hives, eek!  :(  So even though I may love that hazelnut vanilla cream lotion from Bath and Bodyworks, I can't use it for more than one day.  Sunscreens do that to me too.  Maybe it's the SLS.  The nice thing about that shea moisturizing scrub though, was that it was completely edible ingredients.  All of it.  I will never have to worry about a reaction to the homemade stuff.

So my latest kitchen body creation was to attempt a non greasy hand and body lotion.  I am very pleased at how it turned out.  I may cut back on the Shea butter just a wee bit next time or go halfsies with cocoa butter.  (Yummy smell!)  You can choose whatever fragrance or essential oil you like to scent the lotion.  I'm sticking with the oils.  Fragrance and I are not friends.  So if you are feeling adventurous, here is how to make a thick, luxuriant body lotion.  A little goes a long way, think pea size for hands and carrot coin for legs.  I love to use it after doing the dishes or washing my hands.  They just drink it up, no greasy feel at all.  If they are just dry, it takes just a minute to soak in.  (I got all my specialty ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs.)

Update: you can also add 10 drops of Grapeseed extract (GSE) as a preservative.  (I put this in the leftover tub since I just scoop from it directly with fingers.)  If you choose not to add the vitamin E or GSE, I would suggest storing the unused portion in the fridge for longer keeping. Especially if you are not using a pump and may have contamination from dirty fingers in an open container.

Creamy Aloe and Shea Body Lotion
makes about 4 cups

8 tbsp Shea butter
4 tbsp almond oil
4 tbsp olive oil
3 rounded tbsp emulsifying wax
3 tbsp liquid vegetable glycerin
3 cups aloe vera gel
10-30 drops essential oil or 1 tsp fragrance
10 drops vitamin E oil (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat Shea butter slowly to 200ºF.  Turn off heat, add wax and leave to sit for 15 minutes.  Then add in the almond and olive oil.  In another pot, combine the aloe and glycerin and heat to 120ºF.  Remove from heat and slowly pour into the oil mixture, whipping with a stick blender.  Cool the mixture for 30 minutes and whip with the blender every 5-10 minutes.  After 30 minutes, add desired essential oil and Vitamin E oil, if using, and blend again.  Pour into four 8oz pump bottles.  (It may look a little runny right now, but it will thicken considerably when completely cooled so get it bottled while it's still easy to pour.)

Take a look at the ingredient list on your favorite commercial lotion.  Then enjoy your very own skin safe lotion that is practically edible.

Adapted from Glorious Lotion

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cookie stuffed cookies...

Yep, I caved.  I've seen a number of renditions of these over-the-top cookies making the rounds over the past few months.  And I had some sandwich cookies going stale, so what better way to use them up?  I did use 100% light spelt flour at least and cut back on the sugar a bit.  I must say these were delicious though, especially slightly warm.  A wonderful marriage of chocolate cookie and drop cookie.  I'd make just the plain chocolate chip cookies with whatever add ins I feel like at the time too.  It's a great ooey gooey chewy type cookie.  The way I like my cookies.  You can never have too many cookie recipes.  (I used Back to Nature chocolate creme filled sandwich cookies because they are the only brand with ingredients that are okay for R.  I am in general, highly impressed with their product offerings, quality and ingredients.)  I did make only half a batch to limit the damages...  ☺

Cookie Stuffed Cookies
makes 2 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup light brown muscovado sugar
½ cup evaporated cane sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3½ cups flour (light spelt or white whole wheat works great here)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1½ cups mini chocolate chips
24 creme filled chocolate sandwich cookies

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture lightens in color.  (A couple minutes.)  In another bowl, mix together flour, salt and soda.  Combine in three additions to the egg mixture.  If using spelt, stop as soon as the flour is just incorporated.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Chill dough for at least a few hours.  Overnight would be great but not essential.  

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Using a teaspoon or cookie scoop, form a ball of dough and squish onto one side of a sandwich cookie.  Add another ball to the other side and seal the edges together with your fingers.  Place cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to rack to finish cooling.

Remember these are actually two cookies per "cookie", so don't go hog wild and eat a bunch at once.  They sure are great with a glass of milk though!

I saw these most recently, of the many I have seen, on Very Culinary.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Frosted Caramel Squares - In Memory of Papa Don

This was one of my absolute favorite treats growing up.  The recipe came from my Grandma and we had them all too infrequently because they were so rich.  Today I am making them in memory of a beloved surrogate Grandpa that passed yesterday.  I don't know what his favorite treat was, but he was "rich" and sweet just like these are, so I think they are perfect for remembrance.  I encourage you to try these delicious and decadent bars and enjoy some wonderful memories of the special people in your life.  ♥  

These treats have a rich, cakey blondie base, a gooey, nutty transition layer and a crisp and richly sweet meringue topping.  This is the first time I've made them for my girls and they echoed my raptures on how good the bars taste.  ☺  Recipe may be halved.

Frosted Caramel Squares
makes a 9x13" pan

1 cup butter, room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs, + 2 yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1½ cups finely chopped nuts (I used crispy walnuts this time)

2 egg whites
1½ cups brown sugar, loosely packed (I used light brown muscovado)
1 tsp vanilla

Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.  Preheat oven to 300ºF.  Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.  In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Add in flour mixture and beat just until fully incorporated.  Spread this mixture into the prepared pan and flatten it out evenly with wet or greased hands.  Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the batter and lightly press down.  In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until foamy.  Gradually beat in the brown sugar to make a stiff meringue, then beat in the vanilla.   Pour the meringue mixture as evenly over the nuts as possible, then gently spread out with the back of a spoon or a rubber scraper.  Use a light touch or the meringue will try to pick up the nuts.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Cut into squares with a serrated knife or the meringue will crack all over.  (It tends to anyway, but is still delicious.)  Cool on a rack.

We used to double the meringue recipe to make it easier to spread, but if you can do it as written, it is the perfect sweet, gooey and crunchy offset for the rich base and nuts.  The picture is as written.  (Recipe may be halved.)