Holiday Bites: Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

One of my favorite things about the December holiday season is the permission we all seem to give ourselves to indulge in every hearty, rich, gooey, decadent dish and treat we can before the calendar changes over welcoming a new year. Calories, fat, and carbs don’t count in December, right? ūüėāūüėā

Some treats I make year after year, but I’m always looking for new ways to indulge my love for all things food. This year I tripped across a 2016 recipe from Bon App√©tit that has two of my favorite holiday ingredients: chocolate and peppermint. It’s one that’s joining the annual must haves list for sure! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2¬ľ cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint flavoring or extract or ¬ľ teaspoon peppermint oil
  • 2 ounces soft peppermint puff candies, finely crushed

Line an 8×8″ baking dish with foil, pressing into edges. Lightly coat with nonstick spray. Heat sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt, and 2 Tbsp. water in a medium saucepan over medium, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Add chocolate and stir until melted and mixture is smooth, then bring to a boil. Fit saucepan with candy thermometer and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, brushing down sides of saucepan with a wet pastry brush as needed to dissolve sugar crystals, until thermometer registers 238¬į.

Immediately pour mixture into a large bowl (do not scrape bottom or sides of pot). Dot top of mixture with butter; do not stir. Rinse thermometer, removing any sugar crystals, pat dry, and fit on bowl. Let mixture sit until thermometer registers 110¬į, 30‚Äď45 minutes.

Remove thermometer. Add vanilla extract and peppermint flavoring to mixture and beat with a hand mixer on high speed until mixture is light and thick like frosting and has lost its high gloss (will still have a slight sheen), about 4 minutes.

Scrape into prepared pan; smooth surface, then top with peppermint candies, pressing gently into surface. Cover with plastic and let fudge sit at room temperature until set, at least 4 hours.

Using foil, remove fudge from pan, peel away foil, and cut fudge into a 6×6 grid to make 36 squares.

  • Do Ahead:¬†Fudge can be made 3 days ahead. Keep stored at room temperature.

  • Tips: 1) Crush the candies in a zip bag using a rubber mallet or rolling pin, and 2) A hand mixer is better than a stand mixer for this recipe.

Brown Butter & Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

BBToffe ChocChipCookies

I was cleaning out the drawers in my kitchen today, a task I hate and do only when I notice crumbs in the silverware divider (HOW IN THE WORLD DO CRUMBS GET INTO THE SILVERWARE DIVIDER WHEN THE SILVERWARE IS CLEAN?), and found a recipe I’d printed out last year but never made.¬† Truth be told, there were dozens of recipe print-outs, torn out magazine pages, a few cooking magazines, some torn off box tops with recipes and a few odd labels with the same.

After washing out the divider and putting everything, except all of the recipes, back into the drawers I was drawn back to this recipe and put it squarely on top of the pile to be made next.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

There are a lot of things to like about these cookies, but one or two that could be cons for some:

  • They don’t pretend to skimp on calories or fat
  • They aren’t your run-of-the-mill chocolate chip cookies
  • They have buttery toffee in them
  • They call for chocolate discs instead of normal chips
  • Salt is a featured flavor
  • Con 1: They require extra time to prepare
  • Con 2: The ingredients cost more than everyday chocolate chip cookies
  • Con 3: The recipe makes fewer than 2 dozen cookies – cost per cookie is definitely special occasion or want to impress someone level

It’s really important you know how to make brown butter, so I went to America’s Test Kitchen to get a video to help us all out:

Brown Butter & Toffee Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¬ĺ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • ‚Öď cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 chocolate toffee bars (Heath or Skor), chopped into ¬ľ-inch pieces
  • 1¬Ĺ cups chocolate wafers (disks, pistoles, f√®ves; preferably 72% cacao)
  • Flaky sea salt
    Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until it foams, then browns, 5‚Äď8 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and let cool slightly.

    Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda, and kosher salt in a medium bowl.

    Add brown sugar and granulated sugar to browned butter. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixture lightens and begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Reduce mixer speed to low; add dry ingredients and beat just to combine. Mix in toffee pieces and chocolate wafers with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Let dough sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes to allow the flour to hydrate. Dough will look very loose at first, but will thicken as it sits.

    Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375¬į. Using a 1¬Ĺ-oz. ice cream scoop, portion out 10 balls of dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 3″ apart (you can also form dough into ping pong‚Äďsized balls with your hands). Do not flatten; cookies will spread as they bake. Sprinkle with sea salt.

    Bake cookies until edges are golden brown and firm but centers are still soft, 9‚Äď11 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough and a fresh parchment-lined baking sheet to make 10 more cookies.

    Do Ahead: Cookie dough can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Let dough come to room temperature before baking.

Frozen Margarita Pie

This dreamy pie comes from the magicians at Bon App√©tit.¬† It’s easy and boozy!¬† My favorite dessert combination. ūüėȬ† It’s not a pie you can make at the last minute though.¬† You need to allow for at least 8 hours freezing time so the consistency is right, so plan ahead if you’re making this.

The Tequila you use matters – don’t just pour any old tequila in or you could ruin this pie.¬† Food & Wine Magazine recently published a list of 10 Top Blanco Tequilas and any of these would be great in this pie:

  • Espolon Blanco $26¬†¬†100% agave tequilas, with a silky texture and a spicy kick
  • Tapatio Blanco $36¬†¬†Smoky & complex, w/anise and classic herbaceous agave notes
  • Astral $39¬† Potent, floral tequila, agave juice ferments w/the pulp‚ÄĒa long-abandoned traditional approach
  • Casa Noble Crystal $40C¬† Certified Organic;¬†Vegetal and funky (in a good way)
  • Siempra Valles Blanco $40¬† Earthy Agave from the Jalisco lowlands
  • Pasote Blanco $45¬†¬†This subtle tequila from master distiller Felipe Camarena heads toward the lighter, greener side of agave, with grass and mint
  • Fortaleza Blanco $50¬†¬†Guillermo Sauza started Fortaleza almost 30 years after his family sold its namesake brand. All of his tequilas‚ÄĒincluding this minty, unaged version‚ÄĒare superb
  • Expresiones del Coraz√≥ne Artisianal Edition Blanco $60¬†¬†Agave at two different sugar levels is distilled and blended for this flavorful blanco‚ÄĒthink eucalyptus, black pepper and plantain
  • Roca Patr√≥n Silver $69¬†¬†Emphatically agave-scented, this is made with the traditional¬†tahona¬†method, using a two-ton volcanic rock to crush the roasted¬†pi√Īas
  • Casa Dragones Blanco $75¬†¬†This one is smooth w/lime peel and pine needle notes

 

frozen-margarita-pie-2

Frozen Margarita Pie

  • 6 TBSP Unsalted Butter
  • 10 graham crackers
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¬Ĺ tsp. kosher salt. divided
  • ¬ĺ cup chilled heavy cream
  • 5 limes, divided
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp. tequila blanco

Melt 6 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let cool slightly.

Crumble¬†10 graham crackers¬†into the bowl of a food processor. Add¬†3 Tbsp. sugar,¬†¬ľ tsp. salt, and¬†melted butter¬†to bowl and process until mixture resembles wet sand.

Transfer graham cracker mixture to a shallow 9″ pie pan. Using a measuring cup, press firmly into bottom and up sides of dish. Freeze 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk¬†¬ĺ cup heavy cream¬†in a medium bowl until cream begins to thicken to the point you see ripples and stiff peaks begin to form, 3‚Äď5 minutes.

Cut¬†4 limes¬†in half and juice into a fine-mesh sieve set over a glass measuring cup (you should have about ¬Ĺ cup juice). Pour lime juice into another medium bowl and whisk in¬†14 oz. condensed milk,¬†3 Tbsp. tequila, and remaining¬†¬ľ tsp. salt¬†until smooth.

Fold half of whipped cream into lime juice mixture, carefully folding under and over while turning the bowl. Add remaining whipped cream and continue to fold until no streaks remain.

Remove pie pan from freezer and pour in filling. Using the back of a spoon, gently spread filling to edge of crust.

Using a microplane, zest half of the remaining lime over pie.

Freeze pie at least 8 hours, or preferably overnight.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Chocolate Stout Layer Cake

There is just something amazing about chocolate cake that’s made with beer!

This recipe from the archives of Bon Appétit (October 2009) looks like something I can throw together for a day of Super Bowl munching without investing too much time hunting down out of the ordinary ingredients.


Bon Appétit says, instead of cold milk, to serve this cake with glasses of the same beer you used in the cake batter. They even suggest making the stout into a float by dropping a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream to the beer for a grown-up float.  Yum!

Unless we just want to skip the cake and drink stout floats, we’d probably better get to work making the cake. ūüėČ

Chocolate Stout Layer Cake:

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup chocolate stout, regular stout, or porter
  • 2/3 cup freshly brewed strong coffee

Bittersweet – Espresso Chocolate Frosting:

  • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (54% to 60% cacao), chopped
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Preparation

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350¬įF. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper round; butter and flour parchment. Place chopped chocolate in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water and set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 11/4 cups sugar in large bowl until fluffy and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in lukewarm melted chocolate, then stout and coffee. Beat flour mixture into chocolate mixture in 2 additions just until incorporated.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in another medium bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into cake batter to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites in 2 additions. Divide batter between prepared cake pans (about 3 cups for each); smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks and cool in pans 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks; remove parchment paper and cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.

For frosting:

Place chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Combine whipping cream and espresso powder in medium saucepan. Bring cream mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Pour cream mixture over chopped chocolate; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Chill chocolate frosting until slightly thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours (or for quick chilling, place frosting in freezer until thickened and spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes).

Using a serrated knife, trim rounded tops from both cake layers so that tops are flat. Place 1 cake layer, trimmed side up, on 9-inch-diameter tart pan bottom or cardboard round, then place on rack set over baking sheet. Drop 1 1/4 cups frosting by large spoonfuls over top of cake layer; spread frosting evenly to edges with offset spatula or butter knife. Top with second cake layer, trimmed side down. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.

DO AHEAD: Can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let cake stand at room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours before serving.

Ingredient tip:

If you can find it (try Total Wine they have a great selection), use a chocolate stout (Brooklyn Brewery and Oregon’s Rogue Brewery for example) in the cake batter. The chocolaty flavors in the beer come from dark-roasting the malts. Some brewers even add a little chocolate to the beer as well. If you can’¬ít find chocolate stout, use another stout, such as Guinness. Sierra Nevada Porter and Samuel Adams Honey Porter would also work well in this recipe.

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Darkest Chocolate Cake With Red Wine Glaze

chocolate-red-wine-cake-101916

I keep old copies of Bon App√©tit, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Food and Wine, and other cooking magazines for when I want to break out of a recipe rut. ¬†Lately I have been experimenting with wine more in my cooking and baking, but wasn’t happy with the texture of the last couple of cakes I’d made, so I thumbed through in search of professional guidance so I’d be able to share something decadent at an upcoming dinner party.

I found exactly what I was after in the February 2014 edition of Bon Appétit.  

**Tip:  I always read the reviews of those who have made the recipes, paying particular attention to those who have made them more than once.  Those changes have been included in the recipe below.

Darkest Chocolate Cake With Red Wine Glaze

  1. Cake:
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
    • 8 ounces unsweetened cocoa¬†or 100% cacoa baking chocolate chopped
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 6 large eggs
    • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  2. Glaze and assembly:
    • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup red wine (such as Pinot Noir)
    • Blackberries, Raspberries and/or Strawberries (1-2 baskets total) washed, stemmed (if necessary) and laid on paper towels to dry
    • Special equipment: A 9″ Springform pan
  1. For cake:
    1. Preheat oven to 325¬įF. Lightly butter and (powdered) sugar the pan.
    2. Melt the chocolate and the butter.
    3. Separate the 6 eggs.
    4. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the eggs are thick and pale in appearance.
    5. Pour a little of the chocolate mixture into eggs to temper it and then add the egg mixture to the chocolate and mix well.
    6. Add the flour and the salt and mix til combined.
    7. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
    8. Add a bit to the batter and gently mix in.
    9. Add the rest of the egg whites to the batter and gently fold until completely incorporated into the batter.
    10. Pour batter into pan, it should go almost all the way to the top.
    11. Bake for 43-45 minutes, check with toothpick for doneness, if it comes out clean–it’s done.
    12. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool completely in pan before turning out.
    13. Cool completely before releasing pan.
    14. Glaze as directed and pair with some of the berries to balance out the chocolate.
  2. For glaze and assembly:
    1. Heat chocolate, butter, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (bowl should not touch water), stirring, until chocolate and butter are melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk in powdered sugar.
    2. Meanwhile, bring wine just to a boil in a small saucepan.
    3. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and whisk in wine; let cool until slightly thickened and a rubber spatula leaves a trail in mixture when stirring, 8‚Äď10 minutes.
    4. Set cake on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour glaze over cake and spread it across the top and over the edges with an offset spatula. Let cake stand at room temperature until glaze is set, 2‚Äď3 hours.
    5. DO AHEAD: Cake can be made and glazed 2 days ahead. Chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Alternative Preparation:  You an substitute an equal amount of Chambord Liqueur for the wine and you will get a sweeter dark raspberry taste to the chocolate glaze.

The cake is very rich.  Slice into very narrow pieces Рyou can easily serve 12-16 with this decadent cake!

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Cold Outside? Warm Up Your Insides!

its-freezing-pnts-brrr-9666002I’ll be honest, cold is relative to where you are in the world. ¬†Today I’m thankful to not be in Central or Eastern Europe, which is seeing temperatures as low as -30¬įC (-22¬įF). ¬†Brrr

Here, in Irvine, CA today it is 62¬įF and raining which means I am under a warm blanket with my two Labrador Retrievers snuggled up beside me and the fireplace on as I sip on some coffee laced liberally with some Bailey’s Irish Cream. ¬†I use the words, “I’m freezing” in nearly every conversation I have today, but I am loving this weather. ¬†At this time last year, we were heading into what was billed as the hottest February on record with day after day of temperatures in the upper 90’s that led to 2016 being called one of the hottest, if not THE hottest year on record, so excuse my exaggeration with the term “freezing” as, in order to be cold last year, I had to have my air conditioner running.

Today I saw a picture at one of my favorite websites, www.bonappetit.com, for Chili Colorado, that made my mouth water.

colorado-chili-1-of-1

I hadn’t yet decided what to make for dinner, but, after seeing this picture, no further searching was needed. ¬†This will definitely be dinner, and a couple of workday lunches as well! ¬†I am not a big pork fan, so I’ll be making the beef option.

***Note I always trim all of the visible fat away so that the meat is as lean as possible.

Rick Martinez’s Mom’s Chili Colorado

  • 5 Dried Ancho Chilis
  • 2 Dried Pasilla Chilis
  • 2 Dried Guajillo Chilis
  • 8 Cups Chicken Stock (3 Cups + 5 Cups Separated)
  • 2-3 Pounds Boneless Pork Shoulder (or 2-3 Pounds Boneless Beef Shoulder)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oilve Oil (My substitution for Vegetable Oil)
  • 6 Cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 TBLS Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Chopped Fresh Sage
  • 2 tsp Chopped Fresh Oregano

Now Let’s Cook!

  1. Remove the stems and seeds from all of your chilis.  Make sure you have chosen soft and pliable chilis.  If they are dry and brittle they are too old.  They will be tasteless and ruin your dish.
  2. Cover chiles with 3 cups of your chicken stock (it should already be boiling) and let them steam, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes until they are plump and tender. Put the chilis and all of the soaking liquid into a blender and purée until very smooth.
  3. Cut¬†2 to 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or boneless beef shoulder) into ¬Ĺ‚ÄĚ pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brown the meat in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat with a couple of TBLS of olive oil so meat doesn’t stick.¬†
  5. Chop your 6 cloves of garlic and throw it in the pot along with 2 bay leaves, 1 TBLS ground cumin, 2 tsp each of chopped fresh sage and chopped fresh oregano.  Stir that around for about a minute, or until very fragrant.
  6. Add in your remaining 5 cups of chicken stock and simmer uncovered for about an hour.
  7. Stir in the chile purée and simmer for another 45 minutes until the meat is very tender and the sauce is a thick, mahogany-red color.
  8. Season with additional salt and pepper.
  9. Serve with flour tortillas – you can serve rice and beans for a full, authentic Mexican meal, if you desire, as well.

Just imagine the love and attention you’ll get from your family when they come into the house and are surrounded by the smell of chili Colorado simmering on the stove ūüėČ !

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Baked Cheese Puff Appetizer

My grandma called these cheese puffs, but if you prefer the French name, Bon Appétit calls them Gougères.

These delicate cheese puffs always impress. The dough takes a couple of times to get “just right,” but this is now one of my favorites to make for a crowd.

  • 6 tablespoons (¬ĺ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¬ĺ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1¬ľ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 ounces (1¬Ĺ cups) grated Comt√© cheese or Gruy√®re
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400¬į. Bring butter, salt, nutmeg, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add flour, and stir to combine.

Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring vigorously, until a dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan and dough is no longer sticky, about 2 minutes longer. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Mix in whole eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions. Mix in cheese and pepper.

Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a ¬Ĺ‚ÄĚ round tip (alternatively, use a plastic bag with a ¬Ĺ‚ÄĚ opening cut diagonally from 1 corner). Pipe 1‚ÄĚ rounds about 2‚ÄĚ apart onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp. water in a small bowl; brush rounds with egg wash.

Bake goug√®res until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20‚Äď25 minutes.

Tip** These go FAST!  I’d advise you make a double batch.  

Dough can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.  Goug√®res can be baked 2 hours ahead; reheat before serving.

If you’re on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: my favorite recipes, drinks, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Very Early Holiday Gift Thoughts

christmas-too-early-310x192Retailers believe it’s never too early to get the holiday decorations out, with some even starting as early as August to start vomiting Christmas all over their stores!¬† I strongly disagree with the practice.¬† Each season and¬†each holiday¬† celebration deserves its own time.¬† Please, please, please let me enjoy Halloween¬†before I have to start thinking about office parties, family Christmas, Chanukah and other end of the year celebrations.

In 2012, I was ready to seek out and high five Chris Matyszczyk of C|Net when he shared that stores decorating for holiday sales and playing holiday music earlier and earlier, was sending people like me online to shop in droves!  He even quoted a SOASTA poll with numbers showing how many other people feel just like I do:

  • 75% dislike¬†that stores put up¬†Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving
  • 78% hate holiday music played in stores
  • 75% believe the focus should be on Cyber Monday and not Black Friday

The only way I will even think about the holidays more than a month before they are upon me, is if I am planning to do any homemade gifts.  Anything that may require time to prepare containers, labels, and to sit for flavors to blend and deepen, like Lemoncello or other infused alcohol, flavored oils or vinegars, and especialy if I am going to be shipping those gifts, I want to have plenty of time to complete.

hot-honey-940x560I hadn’t settled on anything of that nature for this year, but did come across an interesting idea, courtesy of an article from the August 2015 edition of Bon App√©tit Magazine: Hot Honey.¬† What a great idea for all of my friends who love to entertain, love anything with some kick and would appreciate the personal touch!

Hot Honey

  • 2 -4 Chili Peppers (Any variety, as hot or mild as you’d like)
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 8 oz Canning Jar
Bring 2 chiles and honey to a bare simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Reduce heat to low and let cook 1 hour to infuse. Taste honey and adjust heat with another chile or 2, remove from stove, and let sit 30 minutes. Transfer to a small jar, straining if desired. Cover and chill.
  • Do Ahead: Hot honey can be made 3 months ahead. Keep chilled

Bon App√©tit readers shared¬†some tips in case you’re using raw honey and¬†don’t want to risk boiling out the health benefits:¬†

  1. If you mix the honey and chiles together and let them infuse at room temperature for a longer period of time before using you won’t have to boil the honey;
  2. Set the steeping container in the sun (like you would sun tea);
  3. Heat but keep temperature below 104¬į

Suggested Uses:

  • Add a kick to a cup of hot tea
  • Sweeten and spice up a spot of whiskey
  • Brushed on BBQ’d ribs or chicken
  • Added to sauce for stir fry
  • Brush on grilled shrimp
  • Baked apple or pear desserts
  • Pour over ricotta, goat, or cream cheese and serve with apple slices, vegetables or crackers
  • Glaze for baked ham or pork chops
  • Mix into butter for a spicy honey butter (for corn-on-the-cob, cornbread or biscuits)
  • Add to vinagrette for a spicy-sweet salad dressing

Here’s a bonus recipe that I can’t wait to make myself:

Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy

  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 1¬†TBLS Hot Honey
  • 3 TBLS Bourbon (I prefer Maker’s 46 or Marker’s Mark)
  • 1 – 3 1/2″ Strip of Lemon or Orange Peel (I like Orange)
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick

honey-bourbon-toddy-940x560Stir honey and water in a 1-cup measuring cup until honey dissolves. Add bourbon. Pour into clear Toddy glass or coffee cup.  Twist a strip of lemon or orange peel over the drink, then add to glass. Stir with a cinnamon stick and serve.

Now I just need the nights to cool down enough (or I need to lower the air conditioner) so I can justify the warm evening drink ūüėČ

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Decadent Sunday Dinner

FullSizeRenderEvery once in a while I get a craving I just can’t shake for a thick, juicy steak and a moist, tender lobster.¬† Thankfully we are in an area where there are Asian markets with whole live Maine lobster in a tank, ready to be steamed for me on the spot, that are surprisingly affordable ($9.99/lb!).

Yesterday I got the craving while shopping in Costco (On a Sunday! What was I thinking?) and I just couldn’t face the weekend crowd we were sure to encounter if we trekked to the Ranch 99 Market.¬† I knew I had a pair of thick filet mignon steaks in the freezer and Costco had previously frozen Canadian lobster tails that looked meaty enough to satisfy my craving, so I decided to give them a try.

Knowing timing would be my biggest hurdle to making sure everything would be ready and warm at the same time, I set my cooking schedule for a true 30 minute meal:

FullSizeRender_35:30 – Get the steaks started.¬†¬†I turned the burner to medium-high and pre-heated¬†my favorite pan in my kitchen arsenal, my cherry Le Cruset Square grill pan,¬†then added a spray of olive oil spray, seasoned the steaks with Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning, then put them on the sizzling pan to cook.¬† Assuming your filet mignon steaks are at least 1 inch thick, turn steaks over after 8 minutes (for medium rare), 10 minutes (for medium/medium well), or 12-13 minutes (for well done).¬† When you have turned cook the steaks for the same amount of time for your desired degree of wellness and, when there is about 2 minutes left in your cooking time, put a pat of cold butter on top of the steak.

In a pan with a lid, put in 1 inch of water and a steamer insert then bring to a boil.  When water reaches a boil, place the lobster tails inside the steamer insert, cover, reduce heat to low-medium and steam for 8 minutes.  While the lobster tails are steaming, in a small pan (or a ramekin in the microwave) melt a half cube of butter to dip the lobster in.

Open a bag of frozen C&W (A.K.A. Birdseye) whole petite green beans, pour into a covered 2 quart dish and set the microwave for 6-7 minutes on high power.

FullSizeRender_2This timing will have all of your parts done at the same time so that you can quickly plate and serve your dinner at 6:00.¬† I opened a bottle of ¬†Eberle Rare & Reserve 2012 The Ravelin red wine blend to serve alongside.¬† The wine was a perfect complement to the boldly spiced steak.¬† Bon Appetit’.

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