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!