Monday, December 29, 2014

Perfect Easy-To-Peel Hard Boiled Eggs & Deviled Eggs Recipe (with some help from my Pressure Cooker)

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday, as we did. I think I've burned myself out with my all the sugar and carbs that crossed my lips. I'm ready to get back to healthier dinner fare with a lot more vegetables and fruits, that's for sure!  That plan might have to wait until after New Year's Eve, however. The last day of 2014 will be our last chance to party a bit more, and enjoy appetizers and champagne. So here's an appetizer that is sure to please your guests, and I've got some great tips to share.

Every Christmas Eve, my mother always made a tray of deviled eggs.  They always looked perfect.  I never quite got the knack of making them the way that she did.  I tried the ice bath trick, but most of my egg shells would stick, and my eggs looked like a cat's claws peeled them. They weren't a pretty sight.

Last Easter,  I discovered a really cool way to cook eggs in my pressure cooker on Frieda's blog "Frieda Loves Bread". (Incidentally, if you don't own a pressure cooker, America's Test Kitchen has a stovetop technique that works great, and I'll provide those directions as well.)

Since using her technique, this the only way that I cook hard boiled eggs.  It's fool-proof, as I've done this more than once.  I like that I don't have to babysit the pot, on the stove.  Frieda's suggestion that I use the cardboard egg carton to prevent any of the eggs from breaking is absolutely brilliant!  So far, not one egg has broken.

In my pressure cooker, I place a trivet and then add one cup of water.  I cut the cardboard egg carton to fit inside my pressure cooker (mine is an 8-quart oval shape, so I can hold up to 15 eggs).  NOTE: Sadly this particular model of pressure cooker is no longer made and I dread the day it might actually break. (I perish the thought.)

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Creamy Dark Chocolate Caramels or Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels-- Two recipes to pick from (or make both!)

I am really excited to share two recipe variations from the "Black Licorice Caramels" that I posted a few days ago. I'm excited for several reasons. The biggest reason is that these are delicious, and exceeded my wildest expectations. Seriously!

If you were to ask me if I prefer Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate, I would give an enthusiastic nod to Milk.  Hands down.  These dark chocolate caramels have converted me.  I adapted the recipe for "Black Licorice Caramels" by omitting the Anise extract.

Instead, I used Trader Joe's Brand of excellent Dark Chocolate $4.99 a pound), that cooked along with water, sugar, butter and sweetened condensed milk.  The aroma of chocolate filled every nook and cranny of our kitchen/dining room area, in a very good way.
NOTE: You might be wondering if you can use chocolate chips. My answer is "I'm not sure".  I recommend using bar chocolates, and the best quality you can afford.  It will be worth it.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Peppermint Cream Pie

Well, my wonderful regular readers and friends--savory recipes might be on hold for just a while longer. It's Christmas time, and that means that I'm baking treats and candies as gifts, and planning our family Christmas dinner.  On Christmas Eve, I always have to make a dessert that looks pretty, and tastes good, too (like this red velvet cake with white chocolate frosting)!

For last year's Christmas Eve family gathering, I opted to make Prime Rib instead of our traditional German Menu. The prime rib was a total success, along with all the side dishes. So, it was a good thing that I opted to make this Peppermint Cream Pie, for dessert.   I thought the pie looked pretty, and it was light and refreshing.  So did my family and dinner guests.

Peppermint and chocolate is one of my favorite dessert combinations.  This pie starts with a very simple chocolate crust, and is filled with real whipped cream that has been flavored with melted peppermints, and a dab of peppermint extract.  Unflavored gelatin binds the light filling together.

The most work involved, really, was unwrapping all of the peppermint candy canes.  I like to use my food processor to crush them, but you can take out your aggressions by putting the candies in a zip-loc bag, and smashing the candies with a rolling pin.

For the crust, I used Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers, combined with some sugar and crushed to a fine crumb.  Of course, you need to add melted butter-- and press it all into a prepared pie pan.  Bake the crust for 7-8 minutes and allow to cool.

In the meantime, I "bloomed" some unflavored gelatin...

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Black Licorice Caramels

It is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I adore caramel. Years ago, I discovered an English brand of licorice caramels that converted me from a non-loving black licorice eater to one who loved licorice caramels. One day, I discovered they were no longer on the shelves of the store where I found them. Over the years, I've searched in vain for them. Nothin'.  They were nowhere to be found.

Once day I discovered, via Pinterest, that there were several bloggers who had posted a recipe for Black Licorice Caramels.  I settled on "Mel's Kitchen Cafe", because I feel connected to her recipe collection. They all look so good!  Oh, this was a year ago, by the way.  To make these caramels, I had to order, on Amazon, the recommended Star Kay White brand of Anise extract.   It was sold out, so I had to wait--and so the ghost of Christmas past prevented me from making these, last year.

But this year, I was ready!  I even ordered the Americolor Super Black #101 Gel paste.  What? Black? Well, yes... that is, if you want black colored caramels!  Why not? I'll be adding Anise extract, so I decided to go all out.

Making caramels isn't super difficult, if you've never done it before. There are just some common sense things that will help make this a fun project, with great results.  For one, a clip-on candy thermometer is something I can't be without. 

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread

I originally published this recipe in 2008, when I first started this food blog. The photos were awful, which explains why I had only one comment (and that only my friends and family were reading my blog, at that time) I make these Christmas cookies every year, so it was time for new photos!

I love shortbread, anything that has almond flavor and maraschino cherries. So, when I found this recipe I knew I had to try it. I know... I've heard the Red Dye scare about maraschino cherries, but I don't care! I doubt I eat these often enough to risk the "danger"! These bright red cherries bring back childhood memories of Shirley Temples when my mother would take me out to dinner. My son loves them, too. So, when I tasted the dough to this recipe, I knew I had a winner. I saw this recipe in Fine Cooking, on several food blogs and Better Homes and Garden Magazine-- so I decided to make them.

I ended up making the dough, rolling it into a log and then slicing them 2 days later-- now that I am on vacation. They are really good and I think that they would be fun to make for Valentine's Day. My son keeps trying to swipe them, so I need to hurry up and wrap them as party favors for our Christmas Eve Dinner guests.

This weekend, I hope to make cookie dough for some Christmas baking. I hope your holiday plans are going great!

Here's the recipe:

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Orange Sweet Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Wow! Thanksgiving whizzed right by me, like a speed train. I saw it coming, and then, it was gone! Christmas is barreling down the tracks, full speed ahead. I need to get serious about making cookie dough, and planning our Christmas Eve dinner. In the meantime, I've been obsessing about making these Orange Sweet Rolls, ever since I spotted them on "Mel's Kitchen Cafe".

During the holidays, I enjoy baking Cinnamon Rolls or Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls on a chilly wintery day.   The idea of making sweet rolls with a buttery orange filling was too much for me to resist.  I made the dough, per Mel's recipe, using my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

I added one of my favorite ingredients to the dough recipe-- King Arthur Flour's Buttery Sweet Dough Emulsion (that I buy online).  This ingredient adds that buttery, citrusy, vanilla bakery flavor that never fails me. This dough uses buttermilk, melted butter, sugar and eggs.  I used SAF Instant Yeast, which is mixed in with the dry ingredients. I only use King Arthur Unbleached Flour, and for this recipe I used their unbleached bread flour. The dough mixed easily, and I let the stand mixer knead it for ten minutes. Placing the dough into a greased bucket, I closed the lid and then placed it into my oven.  I find that turning my oven to WARM for two minutes, then shutting it off (while the dough is kneading), makes a warm and cozy place that speeds up the process of proofing the dough-- like in half the time!

In the meantime, I softened butter and whisked in sugar, orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice. I wanted to increase the orange flavor, so I added this Pure Orange Oil (which tastes much better than orange extract).

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