Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Capers!

I love Christmas! I can't help it, once thanksgiving is done with I'm pretty sure I turn into a five year old! I love Christmas music, lights, decorations, tv specials, of course all the parties and gatherings with family and friends, AND Christmas food. Really what other time of the year produces such delightful scents from the kitchen? I decided this year for all our friends in the area I would make some little goodie boxes full of Christmas cheer (a.k.a candy!). Steve and I then went on a Christmas Caper across town delivering our boxes :), so I hope everyone enjoyed their treats.

I had four candies I included in the boxes:

Unfortunately I'm only going to be able to share the peanut butter cups and toffee. My phone broke, which had my pictures for the other two candies on it :(. If i somehow ever manage to retrieve these pictures I'll let you know. However, I've linked the candies to the blogs I got the recipes from so check them out!

Chocolate Covered Coffee Toffee


  • 2 sticks butter (a very heart healthy recipe)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 3tsp instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1lb chocolate of your choice ( I used half bittersweet and half semisweet, and I used chips as opposed to blocks of chocolate)

This stuff is actually really easy to make. Before you start it's best to prep your baking sheet with some wax or parchment paper.

In a large pot with your candy thermometer attached, add all the ingredients except the chocolate and bring to a boil over medium low heat. Stir fairly regularly until it reaches a temperature of 275. At this point you need to stir constantly until the temp reaches 315 degrees.

When it hits 315, remove the pan from the heat and stir a couple times so it's nice and smooth. Now you have to work quickly. Pour the toffee onto your baking sheet and spread out with a spatula to an even thickness.

While it's still warm you also want to score it so it will break off into nice pieces for you. I used a knife, the original recipe said a pizza cutter would work well too. Let your toffee sit until completely cooled at room temperature.

Once your toffee is cooled break it into pieces.

In a double boiler (or your little 2 pot contraption such as the one I use) melt your chocolate.

Once your chocolate is melted remove from heat and dip your toffee in to coat completely.

If your chocolate starts to harden just reheat it for a minute or two. ( You may have to because it takes quite a while to dip a billion little pieces of toffee). Once they are coated stick them in the fridge to harden. Once hardened you can either go ahead and eat them, or you can drizzle some pretty designs on top.


Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups


  • 12oz bittersweet chocolate (again I used chips)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup graham crackers
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

There's actually not a lot to these guys. On top of the ingredients you're also going to need those little paper candy cups that are meant for truffles and such.

On a tray distribute your paper candy cups. It helps to have a couple together to make them thicker and stronger.

In a bowl mix your sugar, peanut butter, and graham crackers. I wish I had put the graham crackers through the food processor to get a nicer, more fine grind. Instead I just crushed them up with a pastry cutter, which actually proved to be a very effective way to mix these three ingredients together. Set this bowl aside, we'll need it in a few minutes.

In your makeshift double boiler, melt your chocolate (I spent a lot of my holiday baking time, melting chocolate).

With a pastry brush, your just going to paint the insides of those cups with chocolate. You want a pretty thick coat in there because this creates your outer shell.

Once they're all painted, smoosh about a teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture into each cup.

Pour chocolate over top to cover it up. After every couple cups you top off, tap your baking sheet a few times on the counter to get a nice level top instead of a bumpy little mess.

I put these in the freezer to harden/store, but I would definitely recommend taking them out and letting them come to room temperature before eating. They taste much better that way!

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!!!!


Empanaditas and Spanish Rice

Many moons ago, Steve won a Chili cook off and as a reward he got a new Mexican cookbook, Chef LaLa Presents Best Loved Mexican Cooking by Laura Diaz-Brown.

Mexican is something that we almost never eat, whether it be going out or making it ourselves. Not because we don't enjoy it, just for some reason it never comes up. Well, we decided to change our dinners up a bit and try something different. We choose to make Empanaditas and Spanish Rice. I have to admit, I was a little wary of following a recipe from someone named Chef LaLa, but I was actually very impressed with the recipe and thought it came out great overall. The only thing I would do different next time is just make regular sized Empanadas instead of mini Empanaditas.
Empanaditas Ingredients for Dough:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup masa harinia (we found something in the Mexican section at Wegmans that seemed to be this, but Steve thinks maybe it wasn't exactly the right thing. Who knows.)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 3tbsp butter
  • Wax or Parchment paper cut into 4x4 squares (12 squares)
  • Flour for dusting
In your food processor, combine flour, masa harinia, and salt. While pulsing add the water. Cut your butter into little pieces and then add to the mixture. Continue to pulse til a dough is formed.

Remove dough from processor and knead once or twice. Then on a floured surface, seperate the dough into 12 equal sections and roll out into a 3 inch circle. Place a piece of waxed paper between each one to prevent sticking. Place them in the fridge for an hour and start preparing your filling.

Ingredients for Filling:
  • 1/2 cup zucchini (we did not use because it's out of season and we couldn't find)
  • 1 pasilla chili (we used a jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded (I was boring and just boiled it, I probably should have baked it or grilled it to give it a better flavor)
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled ( this is basically just a very soft farm cheese, or you could use a mild feta)
  • 1tbsp green onion (we used regular onion)
  • salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp water

As you can see we changed a lot of the ingredients, you really can stuff these with whatever you want. Basically chop up all your veggies and combine all the ingredients in a bowl. We also used red pepper and celery just because we had some on hand.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While that's heating up, assemble your empanaditas. In the center of each dough circle put about 1 tsp of filling.

Wisk together your egg yolks and water and brush that along the edge. Fold the dough and half and seal by pressing a fork down along the edge. Then brush the top with the egg wash ( I accidentally skipped this step, which is why mine don't look as brown as they should).

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, while you are doing all this, set Steve to the task of making some Mexican Rice.

Mexican Rice Ingredients:
  • 8oz canned tomato sauce (Steve actually made the tomato sauce for this)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2tbsp canola oil
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots (we just used peas cause we happened to already have some)
Steve makes the tomato sauce by squishin up a can of tomatoes and cooking it with some garlic for a while.

In your food processor, combine the tomato sauce, onion, garlic, and 1/4 cup chicken broth and processes til smooth. Don't use your dough blade on accident like I did and then wonder why it's still chunky at the end.

In your skillet heat up your oil over medium heat. Add the rice, then stir occasionally until golden brown. Add the tomato mixture that you blended earlier and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add the peas, then cover, lower the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender.



Nutrition for 1 Serving of Rice (makes 6 servings): Calories: 141 Fat: 4.7g Protein: 1g Carbs: 24g

Nutrition for 1 Empanadita: Calories: 105 Fat: 4.1g Protein: 4.2g Carbs: 13.1g