Roasted Apples with Homemade Butterscotch Sauce

A happy new year to all of my Reckless Readers! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and you are ready for a dessert that is so delicious it will knock your socks off! Seriously, this one is absolutely amazing and I’m going to eat all of it. Send help.

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It all started when I was going through one of my favorite cookbooks (What’s a Cook to Do? by James Peterson) and brainstorming on what I wanted to blog about this month. I saw a recipe in there for homemade butterscotch sauce. I know how amazing homemade caramel sauce tastes since I used to make it when I was working at Dixie, I could only imagine how amazing homemade butterscotch sauce tasted.

After I decided to definitely write about this recipe for the mere fact that I would then have an entire jar of butterscotch sauce in my house, I saw a note at the end of the recipe suggesting to pair this sauce with roasted fruit. Roasted fruit! What an excellent idea, James Peterson! (Seriously guys, this is my favorite cookbook)

I love roasted fruit, because the roasting process amplifies the flavor of the fruit and makes for a seemingly fancy (but super easy to make) dessert.

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I could barely wait to get started, and I’m pleased to report that the result was addictingly good. As I sit and type this now I am eating the leftovers and all I can say is, I’m thankful that no one is here to watch me lick my plate clean.

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SO, without further ado, here is the recipe;

Roasted Apples

Slightly adapted from What’s a Cook to Do? by James Peterson

Ingredients;

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut in half*
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

*A Note on ingredients; use a harder apple that is good for baking (Braeburn, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Empire, Jonagold, McIntosh). I used Honeycrisp apples.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut up the butter into small pieces. Scatter half of the butter on the bottom of a heavy bottomed, oven proof pan and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the butter and bottom of the pan.

Place apples on top of the butter and sugar. Arrange the rest of the pieces of butter on top of the apples, and sprinkle the entire pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

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Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the apples are easily pierced with a fork and the butter on the bottom of the pan has browned slightly.

Heavenly Butterscotch Sauce*

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Recipe from What’s A Cook to Do? by James Peterson

Ingredients:

  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract

*This recipe makes 1 1/2 c of butterscotch sauce, store at room temperature. And by the way, I think this sauce would make and excellent gift if you happen to be looking for a diy gift for any occasion.

Directions:

Pour sugar into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat (if using a gas stove top use medium-low heat). It is helpful if the bottom of the pan is shiny, rather than dark on the bottom so you will be able to see the changes in color.

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Allow the sugar to melt, stirring frequently.

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The sugar has caramelized when it is a dark reddish brown and has completely melted with no lumps.

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Add the water to the mixture and boil until the mixture is evenly combined. Next, add the butter and boil until the syrup is frothy, changes to a deep brown color and has a nutty smell to it (5 minutes or so).

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Carefully, add the heavy cream, stir to combine, and allow to boil for a few seconds.

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The mixture should be a smooth sauce, remove from heat and allow to cool.

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Dessert Assembly:

Remove the roasted fruit from the pan and place individual servings on plates (or bowls).

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Drizzle with the butterscotch sauce.

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Add a healthy dollop of whipped cream on top.

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Serve while the fruit is still warm.

Enjoy!

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Roasted Apples

Slightly adapted from What’s a Cook to Do? by James Peterson

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut in half*
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

*A Note on ingredients; use a harder apple that is good for baking (Braeburn, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Empire, Jonagold, McIntosh).

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut up the butter into small pieces. Scatter half of the butter on the bottom of a heavy bottomed, oven proof pan and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the butter and bottom of the pan.

Place apples on top of the butter and sugar. Arrange the rest of the pieces of butter on top of the apples, and sprinkle the entire pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the apples are easily pierced with a fork and the butter on the bottom of the pan has browned slightly.

 

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Butterscotch Sauce*

Recipe from What’s A Cook to Do? by James Peterson

Ingredients:

  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract

*This recipe makes 1 1/2 c of butterscotch sauce, store at room temperature.

Directions:

Pour sugar into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat (if using a gas stove top use medium-low heat). It is helpful if the bottom of the pan is shiny, rather than dark on the bottom so you will be able to see the changes in color.

Allow the sugar to melt, stirring frequently. The sugar has caramelized when it is a dark, reddish brown and has completely melted with no lumps.

Add the water to the mixture and boil until the mixture is evenly combined. Next, add the butter and boil until the syrup is frothy, changes to a deep brown color and has a nutty smell to it (5 minutes or so).

Carefully, add the heavy cream, stir to combine, and allow to boil for a few seconds. The mixture should be a smooth sauce, remove from heat and allow to cool.

 

Chocolate Bark

I love working with chocolate. The possibilities are endless, and let’s admit it, a chocolate drizzle makes everything better. Because I just love playing with chocolate so very much, I have 2 chocolate bark variations in this post. They are easy and fun to make, and if you need a last-minute “cookie” for a cookie swap or holiday party, these are always a big hit. Also, as far as DIY gifts go, these are pretty awesome. So make one, make them all, and for the love of my girlish figure, someone please come over and eat all of these!

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Before I get started on these beauties, let’s have a quick chat about melting chocolate. For these recipes and for melting chocolate in general, I recommend using baker’s chocolate or melting chips, rather than say a solid chocolate bar, or white chocolate chips. The reason for this is that I’ve been burned before, or more accurately I’ve burned chocolate before. A lot actually. It’s so easy to do. Especially white chocolate, so that’s why I recommend using a chocolate that is intended to be melted. Also, white chocolate can totally be a pain in the butt, and some white chocolates actually need some oil added to them, so really save your sanity and buy melting chips or baking chocolate, it melts nicely and nothing needs to be added to it.

Also, I do not like melting chocolate in the microwave. If this is your preferred method, you have my blessing, but if you, like myself, belive your microwave is an inconsistent appliance out to get you, set up a double boiler.  You don’t need any special equipment for this; all you need is a pot with about and inch or two of water in the bottom and a heat proof bowl that can put on top of the pot so that it receives the heat from the steam but is not directly in the pot.

Put the pot on your stove top and put on medium heat. Break up the chocolate you are melting into medium-small pieces. Set aside 1/4 of the amount and save for later. Put 3/4 of the chocolate in to the bowl resting on top of your pot.

Depending on the amount of chocolate you are melting and how large the pieces are, this could happen pretty quickly so keep a close eye on your chocolate. Stir the chocolate gently as it begins to melt. Once it is about 75% melted remove the bowl from the heat. Add the reserved un-melted chocolate and stir to combine for 30-60 seconds.

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Put the bowl back over the pot, and let the mixture continue to melt. Once the mixture is almost melted, but still has some small lumps, remove from the heat. Stir the chocolate until smooth.

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Melt your chocolate like that and you will not burn it, and it will be just lovely to work with.

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Christmas Bark with Cranberries and Pistachios

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz chocolate (any kind you like, white, milk, dark, etc)
  • 1/4 c pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries, roughly chopped*

*Don’t like cranberries? Try dried cherries, or freeze-dried strawberries

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Directions:

Melt the chocolate per the instructions above. Pour the melted chocolate onto a flat pan lined with parchment paper.

Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness.

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Or using a large spoon dollop chocolate onto the parchment paper to form bite-size circles.

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While the chocolate is still warm top with the nuts and dried fruit.

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Allow the bark to cool and harden at room temperature.

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This will take some time, but if you put it in the fridge the chocolate will most likely bloom (bloom= unsightly white circles and dots will form on your chocolate). Once the chocolate has cooled completely cut up into smaller pieces (if desired).

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Aren’t these just lovely? So festive, I love it!

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Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz white chocolate
  • 8 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

Directions:

First, melt the white chocolate and pour on to a flat pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness. Allow the white chocolate to cool and harden. Once the white chocolate is mostly dried, melt the dark chocolate, and pour on top of the white chocolate. While the dark chocolate is still warm sprinkle the candy canes on top.

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Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely before cutting.


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Christmas Bark with Cranberries and Pistachios

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz chocolate (any kind you like, white, milk, dark, etc)
  • 1/4 c pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries, roughly chopped*

*Don’t like cranberries? Try dried cherries, or freeze-dried strawberries

Directions:

Melt the chocolate per the instructions above. Pour the melted chocolate onto a flat pan lined with parchment paper.

Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness, or using a large spoon dollop chocolate onto the parchment paper to form bite-size circles.

While the chocolate is still warm top with the nuts and dried fruit. Allow the bark to cool and harden at room temperature. This will take some time, but if you put it in the fridge the chocolate will most likely bloom (bloom= unsightly white circles and dots will form on your chocolate). Once the chocolate has cooled completely cut up into smaller pieces (if desired).

 

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Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz white chocolate
  • 8 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

Directions:

First, melt the white chocolate and pour on to a flat pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the melted chocolate out to the desired thickness. Allow the white chocolate to cool and harden.

Once the white chocolate is mostly dried, melt the dark chocolate, and pour on top of the white chocolate. While the dark chocolate is still warm sprinkle the candy canes on top.

Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely before cutting.

The Tuna Salad Alternative

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Howdy! Today I have a quick and delicious recipe that makes a great make-ahead lunch or just an all-around yummy snack; the Tuna Salad Alternative.

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I personally am not a fan of tuna salad or chicken salad. For one, I don’t care for too much mayonnaise in general, but also canned tuna grosses me out a bit.  I stumbled across this recipe not too long ago and had to try it out right away. What really caught my attention was the use of chickpeas in place of tuna or chicken. I made a few alterations to the recipe and I was so pleased with the final results that I had to share it with you.

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I hope you enjoy this and I promise holiday baking posts will be coming soon.

The Tuna Salad Alternative

slightly adapted from LaurenConrad.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas (15 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 1/2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Optional Additions:

  • Handful of nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
  • Handful of raisins or dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP pickles, roughly chopped

The Tuna Salad Alternative Ingredients

Directions:

Roughly chop the chickpeas, celery, and optional additions.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.

Serve on toasted bread, your favorite crackers, or on top of a salad and enjoy!

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It’s certainly not the most complicated recipe in the world, but it is yummy! What are your favorite additions to a tuna or chicken salad? I’m partial to dill pickles, or a crunchy nut such as pistachios.

If you’re enjoying these posts and don’t want to miss any new ones be sure to join my other Reckless Readers and subscribe to receive new posts via email.

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The Tuna Salad Alternative

slightly adapted from LaurenConrad.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas (15 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 1/2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Optional Additions:

  • Handful of nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
  • Handful of raisins or dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 2 TBSP pickles, roughly chopped

Directions:

Roughly chop the chickpeas, celery, and optional additions. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together.Serve on toasted bread, your favorite crackers, or on top of a salad.

Green Monster Smoothies

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A few years ago a good friend of mine introduced me to these green vegetable-fruit smoothies. At first, I admit I was more than skeptical. They were green and weird. Drinking spinach? As a self-proclaimed veggie hater, this was pure crazy talk, I proclaimed! But the funny thing is, I found them delicious. I couldn’t get enough of them to be more accurate, and they have been a staple ever since. Let me tell you why I love these gross-looking drinks;

  • Firstly, and foremost they don’t taste like they look! When made correctly, these smoothies don’t taste like salad, but delicious fruit. This is good because I have a tendency to eat like a little kid and avoid veggies like the plague. And hey, that’s not so great. Everyone needs some veg in their life. This smoothie is a great way to “sneak” those veggies in.
  • These smoothies make me feel very energized and they can be a great caffeine-free pick me up.
  • Green Monsters are great for a meal or snack on the go.
  • I also love the choices. I have a green monster smoothie several times a week, but they vary in flavor depending on how I’m feeling that day.

So be brave. Step outside your comfort zone and give it a try. With the holidays approaching and all the rich food associated with this time of year, you’ll be glad you did.

So here are the basics to making your own Green Monster. The ingredients are guidelines and the measurements approximate.

There are 4 components to a Green Monster;

(1.) The Greens

To make a green monster smoothie you need some greens! I typically go for spinach, but kale or arugula are also good choices. I promise you won’t be able to taste them so use whatever you like.

(2.) The Liquid

This is extremely flexible; milk of any kind (almond, soy, coconut), milk with a splash of juice, cold green tea, or even water. I usually use skim milk or almond milk. To make this smoothie a meal replacement I recommend adding some protein powder to really make it filling.

(3.) The Masking Agent

This ingredient is going to cover up the flavor of the greens. In my opinion, the best choices are banana, pineapple, or ginger. They have really bold flavors that easily cover up any green flavor and have a lot of pairing options for additional fruit flavors.

(4.) Additional Fruit Flavor

This ingredient acts as another flavor component that don’t cover up the greens on its own, but complements the Masking Agent. Go for what you like and get creative! Examples: blueberries, strawberries, cherries, apples, oranges, mango

My Favorite Smoothie Flavors:

  • Spinach-Skim Milk-Banana-Blueberry
  • Spinach-Skim Milk-Banana-Strawberry
  • Arugula-Water-Ginger-Mango-Crushed Ice

The Method:

First, combine some of the liquid and the greens. You want a generous portion of greens here, about 1 1/2 cups-2 cups, and a splash of liquid (1/4 c). More will be added later, but for now the goal is to get a smooth texture, and break down the greens. Using a blender mix the liquid and greens until you have a smooth green liquid with no large bits of green in it.

Next, add your Masking Agent and any additional fruit. I find that not much fruit is needed for big flavor. For a 2 1/2 cup-3 cup smoothie I only need half of a banana or handful of pineapple slices to cover up any and all green flavor. For additional fruit I try not to add more than a 1/2 cup. Blend together until smooth.

Finally, add some more liquid as desired. Some folks, like a nice thick fruit smoothie, while others like it a bit thinner. If it’s a hot day (and depending on your equipment) you might want to add some crushed ice to your smoothie. I typically add about 1/4 cup more milk, as I don’t like my smoothies too thick. Also, give it a taste to see if more Masking Agent needs to be added. Blend any additional liquid and/or ice being added until smooth.

And presto, Green Monster Smoothie success!

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A Few Green Monster Tips:

Storing fruit in the long-term:

  • I buy a bunch of bananas at a time and let them get very ripe and full of brown spots and then cut them up into 1/2 in slices. I lay them out flat (and not touching) on a tray that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and freeze. Once they are frozen solid I put them in a bag for easy storage.
  • I recommend the same treatment for any fresh fruit you would like to use; break it down into small pieces, freeze, and then store in bags for easy access.
  • I typically do not put any ice in my smoothies because my Masking Agent and Additional Fruit is frozen.

Storing greens in the fridge:

  • I keep my greens stored in a mason jar (or any glass jar with a top that screws on/off), and I find this prolongs the shelf life of my greens.

What other veggie-fruit smoothies have you tried? I would love to hear new flavor combinations!


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Green Monster Smoothies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ -2 c baby spinach
  • ½ c liquid (milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut water, etc.)
  • ½ c frozen blueberries (or fruit of your choice)
  • ½ frozen banana (see tips below)

Directions:

First, combine half of the liquid and the spinach in a blender. Blend until you have a smooth green liquid with no large bits of green in it.

Next add frozen blueberries, banana and remaining liquid. Blend until smooth. Add more liquid if needed or if a thinner texture is desired.

A Few Green Monster Tips:

Storing fruit in the long-term:

  • I buy a bunch of bananas at a time and let them get very ripe and full of brown spots (so they taste sweeter) and then cut them up into 1/2 in slices. I lay them out flat (and not touching) on a tray that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and freeze. Once they are frozen solid I put them in a bag for easy storage.
  • I recommend the same treatment for any fresh fruit you would like to use; break it down into small pieces, freeze, and then store in bags for easy access. Freezing the fruit in a tray first makes it easy to grab small portions from the freezer.

Storing greens in the fridge:

  • I keep my greens stored in a mason jar (or any glass jar with a top that screws on/off), and I find this prolongs the shelf life of my greens.

 

 

Roasted Mushrooms and Buttermilk Biscuits

Alright people, Thanksgiving is less than a week away and it is time to get your game faces on!

We all know the main players at the Thanksgiving table; a big ol’ roasted turkey, mouth-watering mashed potatoes, and stuffing, stuffing stuffing. This year, for the very first time, I am hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner! I am so excited and I am looking for ways to make our table really special with some non-conventional side dishes.

Here are two potential side dishes that I’ve tried out already that get my seal of approval.

Side Dish # 1: Roasted Mushrooms

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These make the cut because I absolutely love the earthiness that roasted mushrooms bring to the table and they complement turkey and gravy oh, so well. These are easy to make and will certainly impress your guests (or your hosts if you have offered to bring a dish).

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cooled bacon fat (Optional, but this really takes these mushrooms to the next level)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425. Lightly coat at 9×9 pan or small roasting pan with cooking spray or butter. Next, clean the mushrooms with a damp, clean towel. Toss the cleaned mushrooms with the olive oil, bacon fat, salt, and pepper and place in prepared pan. Roast for 25 minutes , stirring the mushrooms gently after 12 minutes.

Allow the mushrooms to cool slightly after roasting and top with fresh parsley before serving.

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Pretty easy, right? Don’t let that fool you, this side dish tastes amazing and can easily become a favorite, and definitely has a place at my Thanksgiving table this year.

Side Dish #2: Cheddar-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

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Growing up, I was more likely to see hearty Italian rolls or a slew of mini muffins to accompany my Thanksgiving meal. Over the years, however, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the buttermilk biscuit and I thought it might make a nice and unique (in my experience) addition to the Thanksgiving table.  This recipe is also very simple. (Noticing a theme? Roasting a turkey can be tricky enough, the rest of the dishes should be easy to make!)

Cheddar-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart (click to view the original recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes, plus 1/2 tbsp melted
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 c cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions or a handful of chives, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Rearrange oven placing  the racks towards the bottom of the stove, then preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Using a pastry cutter or fork (or your hands), cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is well combined and has a coarse texture.

Next, add the buttermilk, cheese, and chives and mix until combined, and a unified dough is formed (I like to use my hands to mix together but a spoon works just fine).

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Place the dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter or the top of a water glass.

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Cut the biscuits close together. Gather up the scraps and re-roll the dough out to 1 inch to cut the remainder of the biscuits. Arrange the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing the biscuits 1 inch apart. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

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These can be made in advance and stored in air-tight containers. This recipe makes just shy of 2 dozen biscuits.

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If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned; I’ve got one more post coming up to help you get in the mood for Thanksgiving. I’ll be posting it Monday morning and it will include one more side dish suggestion along with a round up of some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes from around the web. If you don’t want to miss this and other upcoming posts join my other reckless readers and subscribe to receive new posts by email.

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Roasted Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb baby portobello mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cooled bacon fat (Optional, but this really takes these mushrooms to the next level)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 425. Lightly coat at 9×9 pan or small roasting pan with cooking spray or butter. Next, clean the mushrooms with a damp, clean towel.

Toss the cleaned mushrooms with the olive oil, bacon fat, salt, and pepper and place in prepared pan. Roast for 25 minutes , stirring the mushrooms gently after 12 minutes.

Allow the mushrooms to cool slightly after roasting and top with fresh parsley before serving.

 

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Cheddar-Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart (click to view the original recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes, plus 1/2 tbsp melted
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 c cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 green onions or a handful of chives, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Rearrange oven placing  the racks towards the bottom of the stove, then preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pepper. Using a pastry cutter or fork (or your hands), cut the cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is well combined and has a coarse texture.

Next, add the buttermilk, cheese, and chives and mix until combined, and a unified dough is formed (I like to use my hands to mix together but a spoon works just fine). Do not over mix (over mixing = tough biscuits).

Place the dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2 inch biscuit cutter or the top of a water glass.

Cut the biscuits close together. Gather up the scraps and re-roll the dough out to 1 inch to cut the remainder of the biscuits. Arrange the biscuits on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, placing the biscuits 1 inch apart. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.

These can be made in advance and stored in air-tight containers. This recipe makes just shy of 2 dozen biscuits.

 

Homemade Hummus & Crostini

My favorite holiday is almost here! Guys, I love, love, love Thanksgiving. It is by far the best holiday, and in preparation for this glorious holiday I have been whipping up some delicious posts for you this week!

This post is all about homemade hummus and crostini. This is an easy snack that can served before the big meal, so if you need to put something out for your guests to munch on, or if someone asks you to bring something to share, this my easy, make-ahead suggestion to you.

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This is the recipe my Mom uses. She makes hummus for almost all holidays and big family parties. I remember making it with her back when we thought it was better to skin the chickpeas first (trust me, it does not make a noticeable difference), and I always associate hummus with holiday times and special occasions (even though I eat it all year round!). So, let’s get this hummus started already!

Hummus

adapted from:

The Complete Middle East Cookbook
by: Tess Mallos

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2/3 cup tahini (available in some supermarkets and in most deli’s)*
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 can water (use the chickpea can)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt to taste

*A note on this ingredient, if you cannot find tahini, sesame oil will do, just add to taste, 1 tsp at a time.

Are you ready for these super hard instructions?

Directions:

Place all ingredients (except salt) in a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add salt to taste.

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So here’s the thing about hummus, yes you can absolutely buy it at the store, and it tastes great, but homemade hummus tastes even better to me and I also like to make a chunkier hummus than you generally see in stores. So give it a try, and let me know how you think it compares. Additions such as roasted garlic, toasted pine nuts, or roasted red peppers are welcome!

Next, let’s make some crunchy homemade crostini to go with our hummus!

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Crostini

Ingredients:

  • 1 baquette, cut into slices
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, dried oragano

*A note on this ingredient; These can be seasoned many different ways and still come out delicious! The flavor combinations are endless and can be tailored to match whatever is intended to top the crostini.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the baquette slices on a cookie sheet. They can be very close together. Brush the slices of bread with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with spices.

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Bake for 30-40 minutes until level of desired toasted perfection is achieved. I like mine to be fairly dark and golden brown, but they are also good when only slightly toasted, so feel free to play with the bake time on this recipe.

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I love these because they are so easy to make and great make ahead snacks for any dinner party. They can be topped with hummus, or meat and cheese or pretty much any topping making them a very versatile snack, and a nice homemade touch to any party.

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Coming up later this week: Non-traditional Thanksgiving sides to accompany your turkey!


 

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Hummus

adapted from The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2/3 cup tahini (available in some supermarkets and in most deli’s)*
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 can water (use the chickpea can)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt to taste

*A note on this ingredient, if you cannot find tahini, sesame oil will do, just add to taste, 1 tsp at a time.

Directions:

Place all ingredients (except salt) in a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste. Add salt to taste.

 

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Crostini

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette, cut into slices
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices on a cookie sheet. They can be very close together. Brush the slices of bread with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with spices.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until level of desired toasted perfection is achieved. I like mine to be fairly dark and golden brown, but they are also good when only slightly toasted, so feel free to play with the bake time on this recipe.

 

Braised Short Ribs; A Guest Post

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For the first time ever, I have a guest post for you! Check out the article below as my husband Joe writes about making Braised Short Ribs that will knock your socks off!

Don’t forget to subscribe Recklessly to receive emails every time an article is posted, so you never miss a recipe!

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So, let’s just admit that we’re all human. Seriously, take a moment or two and think about it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Got it? Good. One of the dirty little secrets about being human is that we desire recognition for the things we do well. Don’t even bother trying to argue against it, you do. We all do. It’s just part of the deal. We get to have thumbs, too, so its a fair trade in my book. We’ve all had those grand dreams of impressing our friends and loved ones beyond belief over something we’ve done. Maybe you save a bus full of school children from falling off a cliff. Maybe you cure cancer while setting the world record for spinning a basketball on your fingertip. Or maybe you run a marathon… while carrying a live brown bear. As impressive as these feats are, they seem really hard. This is a much easier way to impress those friends and loved ones, and with a far smaller chance of getting mauled. By a BEAR. This is really just an ever so slight adaptation Anne Burrell’s recipe that was posted to Food Network’s website, but it is really, really good.

Here’s what you’ll need (serves 8):
About 5 hours of time (hands on: 90 minutes)
About 5-6 pounds boneless Short Ribs
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 cups tomato paste
2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
2 cups water
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
2 bay leaves

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In this post, I have halved the recipe since Clara and I don’t have any kids. Or friends. It easily reduces down to serve 4. Here is the halved version, for those who aren’t too good much fractions:

About 2.5-3 pounds boneless Short Ribs
Kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 rib celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, smashed
3/4 cups tomato paste
1.5 cups hearty red wine
1 cups water
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
1 bay leaf

One last note about this slight adaptation: we used boneless short ribs because they are cheaper for some reason on base than their bone-in brethren. If you use the bone-in variety, which are probably less expensive under most circumstances, nothing really changes. Just be sure to adjust for the weight of the bone when planning your serving sizes. And you don’t need to brown the bone. Just saying.

The Process
-Season each short rib generously with salt. Like, for serious. This salt layer will help create a crust on the outer layer of the ribs, which is critical to lock in the flavor of this whole process. This recipe is not for the faint of heart, or the health conscious. This is a treat meal. It is not healthy by almost any standard, but trust me, it is delicious. And I guess it has a lot of protein. So there’s that!

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-Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. For the full version, a large soup pot will do just fine. Extra space isn’t a problem, but not having enough space certainly is. For the halved version, we are using a very large cast iron pan with a cover. You NEED a cover, so make sure you have one that fits the pot/pan you choose.

-Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary. This is a marathon, not a sprint. They have to go in the oven for like 3 hours anyway. Taking an extra 10 minutes to do this right isn’t a big deal. Each side should look very, very brown, but NOT black or burned.

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-Preheat the oven to 375F. This can be done first thing, if you so choose, but it will be awhile before you need it. Just trying to save a few cents on that electric/gas bill.

-While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in a food processor until it forms a coarse paste. This will form a large part of the flavor base for the braising liquid. While the short ribs will be the star of the show, the veggie base will be the, uh, well trained stage crew that does all the little things behind the scenes to let that star shine so bright. Hooray for long analogies!

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-When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. DO NOT wash out that pan if you can avoid it. Drain the fat, and leave whatever else you can; those browned bits will add some serious flavor later on.

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-Season the vegetables with salt and brown them until they are a nice light brown and a slight crud layer has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking: crud is actually an acronym that stands for “Chalk River Unidentified Deposit”, relating to the strange, radioactive particulates found downstream of the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratory near Ottowa in the 1950’s. Please let that slide for just a moment. When the semi-colorful paste starts turning brown, good things are happening.

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– Scrape the crud and let it reform (Brown food is good food!). Scrape the crud one more time and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. I use the term “brown” pretty liberally here. If it goes full on brown, that’s fine. If it just turns a deeper red, that is also fine. Just let it cook for those 4-5 minutes to let all those flavors blend together. (The original recipe calls for the more full on brown. Feel free to cook the tomato paste longer to achieve that color. I’m paranoid about burning things.)

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-Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan once again. Lower the heat if things are starting to burn, as we are in the home stretch now. Brown is good, black is bad! Continue cooking and reduce the mixture by about half. Remember, lowering the heat at this point is OK! If you have seen a few black bits in your crud layers, lowering the heat is recommended. At this point, we are just waiting for the alcohol to cook off. As long as you see some steam coming off the mixture, all is well. It might just take a little bit longer.

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-Return the short ribs to the pan and add water until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours.

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-Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Again, we want the ribs not quite covered, but you also don’t want the liquid level to get too low. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. I have never had this problem, at least until the halfway mark. If you have cookware you can trust, just set it and forget it for the full 90 minutes until the halfway point and re-evaluate the water level while you are flipping the ribs.

-Remove the lid during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce down a bit. When done the meat should be very tender but not completely falling apart. Stick a fork in it and pull it back out. It should just slide right back out without taking the short ribs with it. Serve with the braising liquid, and a side of your choice.

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A nice creamy side works well to enhance the texture of this dish. Pair this with your favorite mashed potato, and everybody will be pretty darn happy. Unless your favorite mashed potato sucks. We’ve also tried this with polenta, which was even better, in my opinion.

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Braised Short Ribs

Slightly Adapted from FoodNetwork.com

Ingredients:

  • About 5-6 pounds boneless Short Ribs
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
  • 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
  • 2 bay leaves

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a large oven-safe pot (that has an oven safe cover) with olive oil and bring to a high heat.

Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary. Each side should look very, very brown, but NOT black or burned.

While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in a food processor until it forms a coarse paste. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. DO NOT wash out the pot.

Season the vegetables with salt and brown them until they are a nice light brown and a slight crud layer has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 8 minutes.

Scrape the crud and let it reform (Brown food is good food!). Scrape the crud one more time and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan once again. Lower the heat if things are starting to burn, continue cooking and reduce the mixture by about half.

Return the short ribs to the pan and add water until the water has just about covered the meat. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours.

Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. You want the ribs almost but not completely covered in liquid. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time.

Remove the lid during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking to let the sauce reduce down a bit. When done the meat should be very tender but not completely falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid, and a side of mashed potatoes or polenta.

 

Cranberry Curd: a delicious take on fruit curd

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What is cranberry curd you say??? As our good friend Wikipedia explains;

“Fruit curd is a dessert spread and topping usually made with lemonlime,[1] orange or raspberry.[2] Specific types of fruit curd are named after the central curd in them – for example, that made with lemons is known as “lemon curd”. The basic ingredients are beaten egg yolkssugar, fruit juice and zest which are gently cooked together until thick and then allowed to cool, forming a soft, smooth, intensely-flavored spread.”

Lemon curd is one of my favorites. Delicious as a filling in cakes, cupcakes, or tarts, it is also delicious on toast or shortbread cookies. I had never actually realized it could be done with cranberries until reading about it in November’s issue of Cooking Light Magazine.

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So I thought I’d give it a whirl and let y’all know how it came out; YUMMY! It removes the tartness of the cranberries while still retaining a nice flavor that is not too sweet.

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Cranberry Curd (recipe from Cooking Light Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec for my batch)

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Start by placing the water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium-sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.

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Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the cranberries are poppin’ and lockin’.

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Carefully pour the cooked cranberries into a food processor or blender.

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Now whip it. Whip it real good. aka until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour into a fine-meshed sieve so that the seeds are not in the final product.

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Next, combine the sugars and butter using a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time and mix well. Then, add the strained cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt and mix to combine.

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Using a double boiler cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring frequently. This will take about 10 minutes, or if using a thermometer the mixture should reach 160 degrees.

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Last step; remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before adding the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec).

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Give it a good stir.

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Spoon directly into my face. I mean, a jar.

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It will keep in refrigerator for a week.

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A special thanks to my sister who helped me with this post!

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Cranberry Curd

recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Triple Sec for my batch)

Directions:

Start by placing the water, lemon juice, and cranberries in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until the cranberries pop.

Carefully pour the cooked cranberries into a food processor or blender and blend until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a fine-meshed sieve so that the seeds are not in the final product.

Next, combine the sugars and butter using a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg yolks to the mixture one at a time and mix well. Then, add the strained cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt and mix to combine.

Using a double boiler cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring frequently. This will take about 10 minutes, or if using a thermometer the mixture should reach 160 degrees. Finally, remove the cranberry mixture from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes before adding the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec). Stir to combine. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

DIY Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part II

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Welcome to Part II of my DIY Christmas gift series. This is where I test out DIY Christmas gift ideas I would like to give this year and decide if the results are worthy of becoming Christmas presents.

In part I of this series I wrote about these simple and delicious cheddar cheese crackers. Check out the recipe here.

This week I’m going to test out a recipe I saw in the December issue of Cooking Light. I’m usually a big fan of this cooking magazine and I have to say this month’s issue is full of really great recipes. The recipe I’m going to show you is Intense Fruit Gelees (pronounced jellies). They are easy, delicious, and so very pretty!

Before I jump into this, a huge thanks to my mom and my sister, who not only helped me with making the gelees, but also agreed to be hand models for the post. Who knew, it was easier to take action shots when the one taking the pictures isn’t doing the action?

Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine (click here to view the original recipe)

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Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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*A note on the fruit concentrate; Cooking Light suggested flavors such as tangerine, lemon, and pomegranate. They also recommended ordering some the puree or concentrate from www.perfectpuree.com. I used  grape juice concentrate and I think they turned out fabulous, and very rich in flavor. I am looking forward to experimenting with more flavors.

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After the ingredients have been gathered and the flavor of the gelee has been selected it’s time to prep the pan. Grab a loaf pan and line it with plastic wrap. Spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

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Next combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, applesauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

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Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

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After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice.

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Give it a stir.

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Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

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Tertius wants to know what’s going on up there and if he can have some.

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Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight in room temperature. In the morning you have a delicious, gelatinous, fruity treat. Does that sound unappetizing? I promise these taste amazing, or as my sister put it; “It’s like a mini grape pie in my mouth.”

Now that the mixture is solidified, let’s cut them up!

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First, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee.

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Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee. My sister recommends starting in the middle, then cutting in the middle of that half, followed by cutting down the middle of the two sections and so forth. Can ya’ dig it?

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They look pretty already!

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Next put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and slice the columns of gelees into cubes and toss into the sugar to evenly coat them. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

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The verdict: these rock! They are absolutely scrumptious and I will definitely be giving out little boxes of these as gifts this year.

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Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and spray with cooking spray. Next, combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, apple sauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Give it a stir. Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To de-mold and cut up; first, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee. Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee into cubes. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

Toss the gelee cubes into the sugar to evenly coat them.

 

Homemade Caramel Corn

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Oh, caramel corn! Cue dramatic sigh. I love caramel corn! This is a childhood favorite of mine. My Nana used to make huge batches of this during the fall/winter and it brings back memories of watching football games at my Nana and Papa’s house where my Dad and Papa are yelling at the Buffalo Bills.

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My Nana was a huge influence on me growing up. Like myself, she loved cooking and baking. She especially loved candy making, and I remember the homemade peanut butter cups and turtles she used to make at Easter time. But that’s another story. My Nana had a huge collection of recipes, and over the next few months I hope to share a few more of my favorites from her collection. Here is her recipe for caramel corn.

Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1 1/3 c unpopped corn kernels
  • 2 c nuts (optional)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*I used a combination of peanuts and walnuts but you can use any nuts you would like (or none at all).

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Directions:

First let’s get this popcorn popped. I find it’s easier to do this in two batches. Start with a large-sized pot and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Heat until the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan. When I say medium-low heat I mean somewhere between a 3-4 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) Every stove is different, but I can tell you that if you have the temperature too high the kernels will pop very quickly and it will burn easily; if you have the temperature too low you will be waiting for the kernels to pop for a while. You know your stove top best, so adjust as needed.

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Add 2/3 c of corn kernels to the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon so that the kernels are evenly coated and spread out over the base of the pot. Cover and let the kernels pop (aprox 10-12 minutes).

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Stay close to the pot, if you don’t hear any popping within a 4-5 second interval it’s time to take the pot off the heat. Once the kernels are all popped remove from heat. VERY CAREFULLY, using hot-pot-holders, firmly hold the lid down on the pot while you flip it over 2-3 times. This releases the steam from the popcorn. Next pour the popcorn into a large bowl.

Pick out any burned kernels and throw away.

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This will make 3 quarts of popped corn, so if you’re going for the whole 6 quarts repeat this process, if you are looking to only make a half batch stop here. If you make a half batch be sure to cut the measurements in half for the caramel sauce. I note this because, this is my Nana’s recipe. And it makes a lot. A whole lotta caramel corn.

Before we get the caramel sauce started, preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and spray 2 shallow pans with cooking spray. If you do not have large shallow pans I recommend foil roasting pans. Also, before starting the caramel sauce measure out the baking soda, set aside, and add the nuts to the bowl of popped corn.

Next, in a saucepan (large enough to hold 2 quarts), combine the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and salt.

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Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Tip: if your hand gets too hot while stirring put a pot holder over your hand for while you stir.

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After boiling for 5 minutes the caramel should look something like this:

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Now comes the fun part! After the caramel sauce has boiled for 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble slightly, lighten in color, and the texture will become slightly fluffy. Pour the sauce over the popped corn. Working quickly using a slotted spoon, mix the caramel sauce over the kernels, it will start to cool and harden quickly.  Warning: this caramel sauce is hot, and it will make the bowl hot, so watch those fingers! Also note it’s helpful to have a lovely assistant present to hold the pan while you scrape the caramel sauce over the kernels. Distribute the sauce as evenly as possible over the popped corn and nuts. Then pour the mixture into the prepared shallow pans.

Bake for 25 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the caramel corn. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes.

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After baking allow the caramel corn to cool slightly and then break into small pieces.

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Store in zip lock bags. Or large Fall-themed mugs.

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Don’t fret over the caramel sauce pot; some hot soapy water will dissolve the caramel in a jiff.

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Homemade Caramel Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1 1/3 c unpopped corn kernels
  • 2 c nuts (optional)*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c brown sugar
  • 1 c butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 c light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt

*I used a combination of peanuts and walnuts but you can use any nuts you would like (or none at all).

Directions:

To pop the popcorn; I find it’s easier to do this in two batches. Start with a large-sized pot and heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Heat until the oil is shiny and easily coats the bottom of the pan. Add 2/3 c of corn kernels to the warm oil and stir with a wooden spoon so that the kernels are evenly coated and spread out over the base of the pot. Cover and let the kernels pop (aprox 10-12 minutes).

Stay close to the pot, if you don’t hear any popping within a 4-5 second interval it’s time to take the pot off the heat. Once the kernels are all popped remove from heat. VERY CAREFULLY, using hot-pot-holders, firmly hold the lid down on the pot while you flip it over 2-3 times. This releases the steam from the popcorn. Next pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Pick out any burned kernels and throw away.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and spray 2 shallow pans with cooking spray. If you do not have large shallow pans I recommend foil roasting pans. Also, before starting the caramel sauce measure out the baking soda, set aside, and add the nuts to the bowl of popped corn.

Next, in a saucepan (large enough to hold 2 quarts), combine the brown sugar, butter, light corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly.

After the caramel sauce has boiled for 5 minutes remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble slightly, lighten in color, and the texture will become slightly fluffy. Pour the sauce over the popped corn.

Working quickly, using a slotted spoon, mix the caramel sauce over the kernels, it will start to cool and harden quickly. Distribute the sauce as evenly as possible over the popped corn and nuts. Then pour the mixture into the prepared shallow pans. Bake for 25 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and stir the caramel corn. Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. After baking allow the caramel corn to cool slightly and then break into small pieces. Store in airtight containers or plastic bags.