Friday, December 18, 2009

Homemade ketchup, salty chocolate bark and baby pies!

The holidays are definitely upon us and I'm still loving all of the baking and crafting I'm getting to do in order to get all of the Christmas gifts ready. This week was a bit of a whirlwind as I am preparing to head out of town for almost three weeks on a camper van odyssey up the California-Oregon-Washington border to spend some well deserved time with my family.

 However, I did manage to squeeze in making a few sweet treats to give away...including individual apple pies and the easiest salty pecan chocolate bark you ever did see. I also made some homemade ketchup to go on some tourtiere (Quebecer-speak for meat pie) that I had made and that turned out quite well, though I wouldn't call it a holiday gift as someone might look at you sideways if you handed them a jar of ketchup and said "Merry Christmas!"

Nothing like homemade ketchup to say Happy Holidays!

The ketchup was quite easy though, if you have a food processor or solid blender that is. All I did was roast the ingredients together (unpeeled), peel them when they were done, through them in the food processor with some vinegar and sugar and voila! See the complete recipe below.

The chocolate bark was completely inspired by my friend Jessica's cooking adventures and she made these for holiday treats. She got such great reviews on it that I decided to make some this year. This recipe is quite possibly the easiest recipe this side of making toast. Plus, the results are absolutely gorgeous! It is even easier if you buy the pecans already roasted and salted, because you take that step out of the process.

Salty Pecan Chocolate Bark - no easier gift this year...

Lastly, no, I am not obsessed with apples. I happen to have tons of them from my CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture) and since I'm going away for almost three weeks, I wanted to use a bunch of them up. I figured I'd make mini apple pies and give them to friends for a nice holiday surprise. Using a very simple crust recipe and the french style crust (place your filling in the middle and fold up the sides to provide structure, these treats were whipped up in a snap (literally between coming home from work and going out to dinner). Wrap them in a rustic cloth and tie it with a ribbon and you've got a lovely favor.

These pies made tasty and attractive gifts.

Though this may be it for holiday gift ideas (I'm not sure yet...) stay tuned for some eating, drinking and cooking adventures up north in jolly (and tasty) Seattle!


5 minute (plus chilling) Chocolate Bark
makes 1 large cookie sheet

12oz bittersweet chocolate, either chips or baking bars cut into 8 pieces
12oz white chocolate, either chips or baking bars cut into 8 pieces
3/4 - 1 cup pecans - if you get them pre-roasted, you won't have to do that step yourself.
1 tsp sea salt

*if you don't have roasted pecans, roast them on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, stirring at least once. Keep an eye on these as burnt pecan don't taste good!

- preheat oven to 175 degrees
- distribute the chocolates alternatively on a parchment-lined cookie sheet so that there are pockets of brown and pockets of white (if using chips, make these pockets up with small handfulls of them).
- bake chocolate for 5-10 minutes (take it out as soon as the chips have melted)
- using a fork, swirl the chocolates together
- sprinkle pecans on top (pressing down slightly on them if you like)
- sprinkle sea salt over the entire bark
- chill in the fridge until hard (at least 4 hours)
- remove from fridge and break into pieces

Mini Apple Pies
makes 6

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 stick (16 tbsp) butter, cubed and chilled
8-10 Tbsp ice water

6-8 apples
6 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp brown sugar

- Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor.
- Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the butter is about the size of peas.
- Add 8 Tbsp of ice water and pulse until the dough comes together (you may need to add more water) into a ball.
- divide the dough into 6 pieces and flatten into disks and chill at least one hour, but over night is good too.

- peel and slice the apples.
- in a heavy skillet, melt the butter and add the apples, sugar and cinnamon - saute until golden.

- on a floured surface, roll out the dough disks until about 1/4 inch.
-place about a cup of apple slices in the middle of each crust and fold the edges up to keep the pie contained.

- Bake the pies for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
- Cool for at least 60 minutes before wrapping.

Homemade Ketchup
makes 1 pint

10 large tomatoes
2 onions
4 gloves garlic
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp salt (depends on taste)

(you can add oregano, basic, allspice and cayenne if you like)

Ketchup ingredients, fresh out of the oven    

- place the tomatoes, onions and garlic on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes (remove the garlic after 15 minutes) - until the tomatoes split.
- Remove from the oven and let cool until you can handle them without burning yourself.
- peel the tomatoes, onions and garlic and process them in the food processor until saucy.
- put the sauce into a heavy medium saucepan, add sugar, salt, vinegar and desired spices.
- cook down over medium heat for about 15 minutes (this will bubble and splatter so make sure you have something to cover your pot with).
- once you have your desired consistency, you can keep the ketchup for three weeks in an airtight container or can it for later use.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Butter and Bacon Make Everything Better

As promised, I have been diligently working on my homemade holiday gifts this weekend and I wanted to share a few of them. My friend Athena came up for a little R&R and went to work making homemade marshmallows, bacon ice cream and bath scrub (I know, not edible, but I thought I'd share anyway).

I dipped these marshmallows in melted chocolate, topped them with a
salted pecan and sprinkled sea salt over them - to die for.

The marshmallows were so easy that I'm pretty sure I'll never buy the store-bought kind again. They were also way tastier and you can do all sorts of fun things with them (including adding liquor - you won't find those at your typical grocery store...). The only thing with them was that they needed two ingredients that I don't normally stock - gelatin and corn syrup (I really try and stay away from the stuff!) so that did require a special trip to the store. However, with a stand mixer, they take no time at all, albeit are a bit messy.

Whipping the mallow... and the finished much better than store-bought

Now the bacon ice cream was pretty much amazing, though very subtle in the bacon department. It could definitely have handled a bit more bacon. The base flavor is brown sugar and you mix in caramalized pieces of bacon. Yum! I think that if you made little ice cream balls with this, poked a popsicle stick in them and dipped them in chocolate and refroze you would have yourself a real dinner party winner.

Bacon caramelizing...                          The finished (awesome) product!

Lastly, the bath scrub - SO EASY and this stuff costs so dang much when you buy it! All it is is a mix of sugar, sea salt, epsom salt, a little essential oil and some carrier oil - olive, sunflower, almond and walnut all work well. you mix it together and plop it in some glass jars and you have yourself a beautiful holiday gift.

 Rose and ylang ylang body scrub - 
I'm never buying this in a store again, too easy to make!

Next week I'm hoping to have time to make some chocolate bark and some other goodies - until then - happy eating!


Homemade Marshmallows

nonstick cooking spray

1 cup cold water divided in two halves
3 x 1/4oz packets of gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
optional: substitute 3-5 Tbsp kahlua, almond, lemon or other flavoring for some of the water*
Athena with mallow hands...scary   

-Line a 13x9x2 in pan with wax paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray
- pour 1/2 cup of water into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the gelatin and let sit for 15 minutes (until all of the gelatin is           
absorbed). (*this is where you would substitute your flavoring) 
-Combine 2 cups of sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/2 cup of water into a heavy saucepan. Stir at med-low heat until the sugar is dissolved brushing the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water.
- Bring to a boil without stirring for 8 minutes.
- With the mixer running at low speed, pour in the hot sugar mix into the gelatine, in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed and whip at high for 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to incorporate (30 sec.)
- Scrape mix into the prepared pan, making sure the wet your spatula (and hands!) with cold water to keep it from sticking and know that you wont get everything out of the bowl because a layer will stick there.
- leave out, uncovered for at least 4 hours (it's ok to leave it out over night).
- Cover your work surface with powdered sugar and turn the marshmallow out onto it. Remove the waxed paper and sift more powdered sugar onto that side. Cover a knife with cooking spray and cut mallow into 1 inch x 1 inch squares (or any shape you desire). Toss in powdered sugar to coat and shake off excess.
- They will keep in an air tight container separated by parchment paper for up to two weeks.

*** a great party trick to do with these is dip them in melted chocolate and roll them in graham cracker crumbs with a toothpick for a stem. You've got a little bite of s'more right there.

Brown Sugar Bacon Ice Cream

7 Strips of good quality bacon (think cut = yum)
3 Tbsp brown sugar

For custard:

5 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp salted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 cups half and half, divided
2 tsp whiskey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

The ice cream maker - making magic        
- Set oven to 400 degrees
- place the bacon on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the two tbsp of brown sugar between the 7 pieces.
- place them in the oven for 12-15 minutes,   
flipping the bacon mid way through. They should be a deep brown when they're ready.
- transfer to a cooling rack until crispy and candied. Cut into small strips or pieces.

for the custard:
- melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the brown sugar and half of the half and half. Once fully dissolved take off the heat and let cool slightly.
- Pour the remaining half and half into a bowl sitting in an ice bath.
- In another bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Add a small amount of the warm brown sugar mix to it and stir well. Add a little bit more and then add all of the brown sugar mix - you do this so as not to cook the egg yolk.
- Pour it all back into the sauce pan. Stir over moderate heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Then, using a fine-mesh strainer, pour into the chilled half and half. Add liquor and vanilla and stir until cool.
- place the mixture in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.
- Pour into your ice cream maker and follow manufacterer's directions, add the bacon bits five minutes before chilling cycle is finished. Place in freezer until firm.
- Serve by itself or with a warm chocolate sauce!!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turkey time and coming soon...Holiday goodies!

Well, it's four days after Turkey day and I'm still obscenely full! It was awesome, an entire, uninterrupted day of cooking followed by a lovely evening (and following day) of eating, drinking and good folks. I tried a new turkey recipe this year and I've gotta say it was my favorite turkey (recipe below) I've ever made and it was SO easy, no basting, no burning, no nothing. It was one of those things where you did a minimal amount of prep work and shoved it in the oven and then just forgot about it.

The skin on this bird tasted heavenly! I guess that's what covering it in butter will do!

This year I definitely overcompensated for the lack of leftovers last year and bought a bird that was so big, each person had THREE pounds allotted to them!!! Yep, I said three. Needless to say, there were lots of leftovers, which I've been savoring in a number of tasty ways. One of my favorites has been the turkey quesadilla - as simple as spreading some grated cheese on a corn (or flour) tortilla, placing a few pieces of turkey on top, sprinkling that with a little dried oregano and a little more cheese, another tortilla and then a quick shot in the pan on both sides. So yummy, especially with a little salsa and sour cream.

This is only a third of our turkey - no joke! So moist!

Another good (and healthy) way to use up some of those leftovers is in a nice salad. A few mixed greens, some choice pieces of turkey, a bit of goat cheese and some almonds and dried cranberries keep the dream that is Thanksgiving alive (all week long since it's what I've been having for lunch).

One of the best thing about Thanksgiving is the leftovers! This salad is so good...

Alright, stay tuned throughout December for a month full of homemade gifts that you can use to stuff stockings or your family's mouths. This year I'm going to be making homemade granola, lemon curd, and many other fun things...


Perfect Roast Turkey

1 Whole Turkey (any weight works with this recipe really)
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 Tbsp rosemary, finely minced
2 lemons, cut in half
4 rosemary sprigs
3 tablespoons salt (preferably kosher) plus more for seasoning
pepper to taste

- Move the oven rack to the lowest level and set the oven to 325 degrees
- Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey, rinse it off and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Melt the stick of butter and the minced rosemary together.
- Using your hands, gently separate the skin of the turkey from the meat. Using your fingers, spread 2/3 of the rosemary butter under the skin of the bird.
- salt and pepper the cavity of the bird and place the lemon halves and rosemary sprigs inside.
- Place the bird in a roasting pan and brush the skin with the remaining 1/3 of the herb butter.

- rain the bird with salt (roughly three tablespoons) and tent with tinfoil
- Cook a 10-12 lb bird for about 2 hours at 325 degrees and add 15 minutes per lb for a larger bird (i.e. 4 hours for a 20 lb bird)
- At this point, crank the oven heat up to 425 degrees remove the foil and cook for another hour.
- The bird is ready when the juices run clear and the thickest part of the breast reads at 180 degrees.
- Let sit for at least 15 minutes before carving.