Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Lessons in Chocolate

Happy New Year, anyone who might potentially still be around to read this! I hope everyone had a safe and eventful (or uneventful, if you prefer) holidays. I know mine certainly were, and mostly, it was my own fault.

A few days before Christmas, I took a look at the board I have on Pinterest specifically for candies. Truffles, barks, caramels, fudges, chocolates, gummies, anything that's small in size and large in batch, it's on there. Last year, I made three 3-ingredient candies for the family and neighbors: oreo truffles (oreos, cream cheese, chocolate), peppermint bark (white chocolate, regular chocolate, peppermints), and these things I don't have a name for, but it's a melted hershey kiss on top of a pretzel with an M&M squished on top and it's delicious. This year, I got a brilliant idea.

"I'm gonna make FIVE things for Christmas!"

What the HECK is wrong with me?

This year's menu included oreo truffles and peppermint bark. I've made the peppermint bark for the last...four, five years? The oreo truffles have been made annuaully for at least two years. The other three were all brand new and from Pinterest.

Andes Mint Fudge by Sally's Baking Addiction (pin)

Peanut Butter Buckeye Pretzel Bites by Sweet Pea's Kitchen (pin)

And, for the puppies in my family:

Peanut Butter Bacon Dog Treats by The Comfort of Cooking (pin)

So, anyone wanna take a guess which one I messed up?

If you guessed the peppermint bark I've been making for the last half a decade, you'd be right! I wish I had taken pictures.

So here's what happened. The dog treats got slightly burnt in the first batch, and I had to roll out dough and use cookie cutters for the first time, but the dogs did not complain. After the dog treats, I mixed up the fudge in a double boiler. First layer went fine, although a little thick. The white chocolate layer didn't melt down quite as well, but after a few seconds in the microwave, it was fine. Chocolate layer was no problem. Into the fridge it went. The buckeyes and oreo truffles got made at the same time so I could use the same chocolate for dipping. When all was said and done, I was left with the perfect amount of white and milk chocolate chips for the peppermint bark. Melted the milk chocolate in the microwave (because it's just melt and pour, doesn't need to stay melted, so why use a double boiler?), poured it out, popped it in the fridge to set and got started on the white chocolate.

Let me tell you something about white chocolate. I usually use Hersheys white chocolate chips melted down, but when Hubby went to the grocery store, they were all sold out. He came home with Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. Awesome, it's good quality stuff, this is gonna be great! Into the bowl, into the microwave, and go. The chips start to melt. Take out, stir, 15 seconds, just like I've always done. Rinse, repeat until smooth. But this stuff, it never got smooth. How odd, there was still some in the center that was not melting. Okay, let's just nuke this mother. 30 seconds. And sti-

No stir. The white chocolate was nuclear and looked like butter. Or maybe ice cream. Whatever it was, it was NOT stirring, and it was not, to my knowledge, salvagable. What I thought was the stuff not melting was actually it getting thicker the hotter it got. The HECK did I do? Apparently, and I did not know this, but white chocolate has different melting directions depending on manufacturer. Hersheys melts great at 15 second intervals anywhere between 70% heat and full. Ghirardelli, according to the directions on the bag that I did not know were ever there, melts at 50% heat with time in between for the bowl to cool down. So I was left with a bowl of white chocolate that was firm enough to use as playdoh if it had been touchable. I think it was still molten after an hour, the kind of hot that you touch and it feels cold for a millisecond before your brain can realize "oh wait, that's not right". Luckily, I have an awesome hubby who made a "8PM on Dec 23rd" grocery store run for more white chocolate, and in the end, I had my usual awesome peppermint bark... and two bags worth of a lesson learned. Whoops. Merry Christmas.

For the record, aside from the fudge absolutely refusing to come out of its dish (and yes, I used PAM on it. The stuff was so thick it formed to the baking dish! It came out after having some time to warm up.), everything turned out amazing.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


This last weekend, I had plans to go with a good friend to see the Hunger Games. We were super excited for it, and we had an idea that we shouldn't go to the Hunger Games, well, hungry. Soooo we were bad. She had plans to make puppy chow, but they fell through (completely within reason). I was going to make my usual oreo truffles, but a little voice in my head said "HOLD IT! ...What about those Buckeye things you've seen on Pinterest?"

What ABOUT those Buckeye things? I had all the ingredients already. Why not slap some together? How bad can it be?

Luckily, aside from a mess with some powdered sugar (me + powdered food = sugary mushroom cloud), the answer is Not Bad At All. Well, more like "oh my god I have discovered the secret to Reeses." Because Oh. My god. I have discovered the secret to Reeses, and the secret is in buckeye candy. I cut the recipe I used in half, because it said it would make 72 candies, and the LAST thing I needed was 72 chocolate covered peanut butter balls!! But the half recipe only made 20, so maybe I didn't need to worry so much...

Recipe modified from

1 cup creamy peanut butter
~2 cups powdered sugar (the original recipe called for 3 3/4 cup, so half of that is 1 and 7/8 cup)
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Using a mixer, beat the peanut butter and butter together until smooth and combined.
2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, mix until completely combined. The mix may be crumbly.
3. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. It may need some kneading to form into a solid ball, but a little work will make it come together. Place the ball on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
4. Freeze for one hour.
5. In a microwave safe bowl, melt down the chocolate chips. Heat them 30 seconds at a time until the start to get melty, then every 10 seconds once they begin to melt, stirring after each time.
6. Once melted, take the frozen peanut butter balls and, using a toothpick or fork, dip them in the chocolate, leaving the top uncoated. Replace on the parchment once dipped.
7. Pop them in the fridge to firm up, and try your best not to dive headfirst into the baking sheet.
8. Try not to eat them all at once! But now is the time to enjoy!

We snuck our treats into the completely full theater, and after being in a ziplock baggie in my purse for an hour or so, they were a bit, um, not quite round. A few of them had molded into one giant buckeye. But they were still delicious, if a little messy. The random people sitting next to us I offered to share with agreed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

HOW many years worth of recipes?!

If you read any of my other blogs or know me in real life or from the various forums I live on, I've admitted frequently to being addicted to Pinterest. Especially for food. Emphasis on "especially". I have over 2500 pins now, and, at last count, over 1000 of those were recipes, and the way I have them organized doesn't let me get away with pinning duplicates easily, so it's over 1000 unique recipes. That's enough for one recipe a day for nearly three years. At the rate I go trawling for new recipes, it won't be long before I DO have enough for three years worth of recipes. But at the very least, I want to start trying new ones and cutting down this list. What do you think, one meal a week made from Pinterest recipes, including dessert? Would you all care to follow me down this likely path of destruction?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Smoked Mozzarella Risotto

Risotto. Riz owe toe. Scary word. At least, in the kitchen. If you know what risotto is (and I've had people who said they didn't when I told them about this), it seems like a high-class restaurant dish, a side for only the experienced. Guess again. Yeah, apparently, you can make this stuff at home, and it's actually not hard!

A few months ago, I found this on Pinterest

Tasty-looking, yes? It's from the amazingly delicious blog Homemade by Holman (and the picture is 100% courtesy of them until I find the one I took). I had to make it. No matter how intimidating it looked, and she swore it wasn't hard, even for cooking newbies. She wasn't lying.

Smoked Mozzarella Risotto

1 tbsp butter
1/2 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup arborio rice (apparently this is the rice to use for all risottos)
1/4 cup dry white wine (Again with the wine, I just used more chicken stock since I'm not a wine fan)
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 oz smoked mozzarella cheese ,chopped into small pieces
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

In a large enough pot, heat the 3 cups of stock over medium heat.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. When completely melted, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the rice and stir it up to make sure the onion and garlic are distributed. Toast the rice, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Add the wine (or if you're like me, 1/4th cup of stock) and cook until almost all the liquid is gone.

Start adding the warmed broth 1 ladle at a time, being sure to stir often. Add another ladle of broth when the first ladle is almost all gone, just like before. Keep this up until you've added all but the last of the broth. The rice should be creamy and a bit runny, but still have a little bite to it. Add the sun-dried tomatoes with the last bit of broth and again cook until the rice has absorbed most of the broth.

Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella and the spices (except the salt. Only add the salt if you think it needs it)

And that's it! You've made risotto! Now, mine had a few hiccups. I think I mixed up the amounts of the thyme and the basil, so it was VERY thyme-y. Also, the cheese absolutely refused to melt. Wouldn't do it. I think next time I'll try adding the cheese a bit before taking it off the heat to try and melt it down more. Despite the hiccups, this was delicious, definitely a new dish to add to our regular sides. I'm keeping an eye out for other risotto dishes, too. It's really not as intimidating as it sounds!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tis the Season for Sweets!

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's a cozy 65 degrees in NC today, not exactly feeling a lot like Christmas based on the temperature. Based on the pile of sweet things accumulating on my desk and in my house, though, it definitely feels like the Sugar Holiday. Cookies, fudge, breads, I feel like I'm gaining weight just LOOKING at this stuff! And I'm not helping myself, either. This year, I made my two usual Christmas confections and added a new one to my collection. They're all recipes so simple, even I can't mess them up. All three only use three ingredients, and they end up completely delicious!

Peppermint Bark
This was the first Christmas candy I ever made. Very simple holiday treat.

2 bags prefered brown chocolate chips - dark, milk, semi-sweet
2 bags white chocolate chips
peppermint candies

1. Lay out wax paper over a standard cookie sheet.
2. Unwrap the peppermint candies (I use 10 to 15 round mints, although candy canes should work too) and pulverize them. I like to put them in several ziplock bags and smash them with a hammer, although I imagine a blender or food processor could do the job just as well.
3. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the brown chocolate, heating it 30 seconds at a time for the first minutes and 15 seconds after the first minute, stirring after every heating interval. Once the chocolate is all melted and smooth, pour it onto the wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle this layer with peppermint dust, no large chunks. Put into the fridge to set.
4. Once the first layer is solid enough, repeat the melting process in step 3 with the white chocolate. Pour over the brown chocolate layer. Evently sprinkle the remaining peppermint dust and bits over the chocolate. Put into the fridge to solidify.
5. Once the entire tray of chocolate is cool and solid, break the chocolate into chunks. This is easier to do if you've let the chocolate come to room temperature, otherwise it'll shatter. You can use your hands to break it or cut it with a knife. After several years of hand-breaking it, I found this year that deeply scoring it with a knife lets you break it easier and into nice straight lines.
6. Enjoy!

Last year, I began making Oreo Truffles along with the peppermint bark, and they were a huge hit!

Oreo Truffles
(makes 30)

1 bag of regular oreos
8oz cream cheese
1 bag chocolate chips, whichever kind of chocolate you prefer

1. Open the oreos and set aside four to six. Finely crush the rest (food processor or blender will do this fine. If you don't have one of these, you can fill a few ziplock bags with oreos and use a rolling pin to crush them. The first time I made these, I didn't have ANY of those. Not even a rolling pin. I ended up using a bottle of rum like a rolling worked!)
2. In a large bowl, mix together the crushed oreos and cream cheese thoroughly. Roll the resulting mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and place them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Pop them into the fridge to solidify.
3. Using a double-boiler (or following step 3's melting method for the peppermint bark), melt the chocolate. Dip the chilled oreo balls into the chocolate, coating them entirely. Use a fork to scoop the chocolate-covered truffle out of the chocolate and sift off any extra chocolate. Return to the cookie sheet and make sure there's no holes in the chocolate. Use a little extra to cover any up.
4. Once all the truffles are covered in chocolate, crush the remaining oreos you set aside earlier and sprinkle them on top of the truffles. Let the truffles chill in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened.
5. Enjoy, and prepare to have the recipe ready for everyone who will undoubtedly ask for it!

This year, wanting to add a new recipe to my repertoir, I scanned my Pinterest "Edible Gifts" page and settled on these. I got these for Christmas at a secret santa exchange last year and LOVED them. When I stopped by a store, most of the ingredients were on sale, so it made the choice even easier. I did change the recipe up a bit by using peanut butter M&Ms instead of regulars and Window Pretzels (I don't know what the preper term for these are, they're the square ones that look like 9-pane windows), and I definitely like the change! You can make as many or as few as you want, but I've shared the sizes per bag that I found while making these, so buy as many bags of each ingredient as you need to make as many as you want. Warning: these are so poppable and delicious, you will be tempted eat them all instead of giving them to anyone.

Pretzel Kisses
Recipe inspired by Megster Meter.

Hershey Kisses (~50 per bag)
Peanut Butter M&Ms (~100 per bag)
Window Pretzels (A LOT PER BAG!!)

1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.
2. Lay out a bunch of pretzels on a baking sheet. Unwrap the Kisses and place each one on a pretzel. Put them in the oven for three minutes.
3. Push a single M&M down on the top of each Kiss. Let cool and enjoy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cheesy Chicken Pillows

I am not an improviser. Actually, I suck at "spur of the moment" anything. Which doesn't work well when trying to cook and finding out I don't have the exact ingredients called for in the recipe. But I ended up doing it last night, and for once, it WASN'T a disaster!

The recipe I was attempting to make were these Chicken Roll Ups. I thought I had all the ingredients. Aaannd I was wrong. See, the recipe calls for one package of 6 crescent rolls. I have NO idea where you get ones that are that big, but I had two packages of 8. Whoops. Okay, time to start (gulp) improvising.

I cooked the two chicken breasts with some spices in a pan until done, then dropped them into my Kitchenaid mixer's bowl. Did you know you can shred cooked chicken in your Kitchenaid mixer? I learned it from Pinterest, and it works like a dream! No forks, no hand-shredding, just drop it in with the paddle attachment, set the speed to 4 or 6 and let it go to town! Perfect shredded chicken. When the chicken was done, I mixed an 8oz package of cream cheese with a random amount of Mexican 4-cheese mix. The original recipe called for 2.5 cups of various cheeses, and we only had the one package already opened, so in it all went. For spices, I sprinkled some garlic powder, cayenne, and oregano into the mix. I went to town on the cheeses mixing by hand with a pair of forks, then dumped the chicken in. After about a minute of struggling with that, I stopped and asked myself "What am I doing?" and put the whole thing back into the Kitchenaid mixer. Oh Kitchenaid, you make things so much easier.

The guts completed, it came down to what to do with the crescent rolls. I unrolled both tubes, separated the dough into rectangles (2 precut rolls together, 4 rectangles per tube) and gently pinched the perforations together on each. About an ice-cream scoop size of the chicken and cheese mix went in the middle of the dough. I then folded the dough over it, pinching closed the edges so the mix was sealed in. All done, they got popped in a 375 degree oven for about 14 to 15 minutes until golden brown. They came out beautiful and smelling great. And miraculously, they tasted good too! They were like homemade, actually tasty hot pockets. The nice thing about the chicken pillows as I'm calling them is that they're something adaptable. Different cheeses, add some veggies, use different spices, you can mix it up. I will warn you though that we had a lot of leftover chicken and cheese mix. You could probably use 3 tubes of crescent rolls safely on this recipe to use everything up. Luckily, I think the remainder will be good on sandwiches. Will have to try it.

Cheesy Chicken Pillows
Adapted from Jenna's Journey Blog

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
Mediterranian Sea Salt
3 pkg Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (8ct)
1 pkg cream cheese (8oz)
2 to 2.5 cups of Mexican 4 cheese
Dashes of garlic powder, oregano, and cayenne to taste

1. Bake or fry the chicken until cooked through with the Mediterranian sea salt to flavor. Shred when cooked.
2. Preheat the oven to 375.
3. Mix cream cheese, cheese and spices. Add in the shredded chicken and mix until fully combined.
4. Separate crescent rolls into rectangles. Pinch together the perforations. Drop an icecream scoop-sized serving of the chicken and cheese mixture in the center. Fold one long side over the mixture, then the other to seal it. Pinch together the sides and fold up.
5. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back Soon

Sorry for the radio silence, everyone. Hubby and I moved into our first house recently and it's been a mess, literally and figuratively. We're finally able to go grocery shopping tonight, so we'll return to your regularly scheduled disasters shortly.