Thursday, December 11, 2014


Well this was an adventure that lasted three days and in the end we had Peppermint Patties but not without trial and error and finally a new recipe.  Awhile back two of us took a candy making class at Rachael Dunn Chocolates in Concord, CA.  It was a fun class but it was really an experience, that let us dip different candies and then take home a goodie plate.  We really didn't learn how to make chocolates.  Our centers were already made, our chocolate already melted and all we did was dip.  Not to knock it, we had fun and got the recipes so I would recommend it.
So today we decided to give the Vintage Peppermint Creams a try, then we tried again and finally the next day my friend tried it yet one more time.  And well, none of them worked.  It was a total bust, sticky mess that didn't give us the results we expected.  Unfortunately we couldn't determine what went wrong, was our thermometer working, did it heat up enough or too much, did we let it rest long enough, did we not kneed it correctly, what was our problem.  Some of it was so sticky you couldn't kneed it.  By the third day it was hard as a rock and on the yellow side but after sitting out for a few hours it began to soften and we though maybe it was OK but as it rested it started to loose its shape and some of it was so stuck to the plastic wrap it had to be tossed.  Fortunately on day two I tried a new recipe, the one listed below.  It was quick, no cooking and oh so easy.  The only thing I would do next time is add a few more drops of peppermint to equal a possible teaspoon.  The first batch I used 12 drops, and the second I used 15 but it still could have used a tad more I think.  The recipe I used suggested 2 t. but since I used oil there is no way this is correct.

2 ¼ C. powdered sugar
2 T. unsalted butter, softened
2 T. heavy cream
¼ t. peppermint oil (not extract)
lb. Belgium bittersweet chocolate (64%)

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, at medium speed (4 or so) beat all ingredients till they come together and form a ball, or you are able to push it together like play dough.  At first it will be dry and crumbly but don't worry, it will come together.  Scrape up any powered sugar that is stuck to the bowl and mix it in.  Once together remove from bowl and place on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it into a 1" log or the size you want your mints to be.  Wrap in plastic wrap, twisting ends and place in a paper towel tube to maintain round shape and wrap that in more plastic wrap.  Place in refrigerator overnight.  When ready, unwrap mint and slice into ¼" coins and lay on a piece of parchment paper.  In a large pot that you can place a glass bowl on top, add about an inch of water, heat to a simmer.  Water should not touch the bottom of the bowl and water should not boil.  Place glass bowl on top of pan.  Place ¾ pound of chocolate into glass bowl and let simmer.  When you start to see it melting, stir.  When all is melted remove from heat and add remaining ¼ lb. of chocolate and stir till melted.

Dipping:  Remove bowl from pan and place on a hot pad and begin dipping.  Drop your mint coin into the chocolate, flip it over, then scoop it out.  I use a candy fork, which has only two tines and they are longer but you can use a candy loop or even a regular fork if you don't have one of these.  What I found is that less tines touching the candy makes for a smoother finish.  Let excess chocolate drip off over the bowl, even tapping the fork on the bowl to help it drip off.  Move over to the parchment paper, place end of fork onto paper and wiggle off the candy.  Do  not flip it over because the bottom won't be as smooth.

Decorate:  If you like before the chocolate dries sprinkle mints with candy sprinkles or crushed candy canes.  Shown here with white non perils or colored sprinkles.

Notes:  Peppermint oil is different than what you will find in the grocery store called peppermint extract.  Peppermint oil is much stronger so less is needed.  I found mine at Rachel Dunn Chocolates, a candy store in Concord or you can find it online at your local craft or candy store.  Chocolate chips don't melt as well, we tried that doo, too thick.  If you can't find good chocolate use the candy coating chocolate that you use for bark.  You can find this at Walmart or craft stores.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Last nights Walnut Maple Pie was a winner.  It is very similar to pecan pie but it uses maple syrup instead of corn syrup and this recipe had less egg, butter, sugar and nuts but more vanilla and flour than the pecan pie I made last year.  I felt better about using pure maple syrup instead of corn syrup but it does bump up the cost quite a bit.  It said you could use maple flavored syrup, although I wouldn't recommend it. I gave that up years ago when I started trying to eat less processed foods and although maple syrup is more expensive you don't eat it often and once you get use to the real stuff there is no turning back.  Since this pie had quite a bit less nuts it wasn't as thick which wasn't bad but next time I make it I'll make it more similar to my pecan pie by adding more nuts 2-2 1/2 cups, an 1/8 t. Kosher salt and 1 t. vanilla.  Original recipe came from Reader's Digest "Like Grandma Used to Make".

3 eggs (but use only 2 egg whites and 1 whole egg)
1 C. real maple syrup
1 T. butter, melted
2 T. flour
½ C. firmly packed brown sugar
1 ½ t. vanilla
½ C. walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place crust in pan, line with foil, shinny side down, add beans or pie beads. Bake 15 minutes, remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes.  Lower oven to 350°F.  Mix filling ingredients and pour into pie shell.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Note:  After 45 minutes the crust was browned, the knife came out clean but it looked like something was alive in the pie.  The center was jiggly and it moved/bubbled.  You didn't see the bubbles but it was moving.  I let is sit and it did gel so don't worry.  If I would have put it in the oven longer I the crust would have been too dark even if I covered it with foil.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stuffing Bread

With only two weeks till Thanksgiving I'm testing out some new recipes to see what new things I can add to my list of favorites.  Yesterday I tried "Stuffing Bread".  It had the flavors and smell of homemade stuffing within the bread, which may have disappointed my husband a bit when he walked in the door and I told him it was bread.  The bread was a winner, easy and quick and the only thing I may do differently is to try a loaf pan to see if it will rise more and also try what they suggested, rapid rise yeast vs active dry yeast.  Oops!  I found this in the coupon section of the newspaper.

2 C. flour, divided
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 envelope (2 ¼ t.) rapid rise yeast
1 T. sugar
2 T. minced dried onion
1 T. dried parsley
1 ½ t. poultry seasoning
1 t. salt
1 ¼ C. water
1 T. butter
1 egg, beaten
1 t. minced dried onion
½ t. celery seed

In a large bowl mix 1 C. flour (reserve other cup), whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, 2 T. onion, parsley, poultry seasoning and salt.  Heat water and butter in microwave (1-2 minutes) until very warm (120-130°F).  Add to flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour, making a stiff batter.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.  Turn batter into a greased 1 ½ q.t casserole.  Smooth top of dough with floured hands and cover.  Let rise again in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350°F if glass dish or 375°F if metal. Brush bread with beaten egg.  Sprinkle  with 1 t. minced onion and celery seed.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until done.  Remove from casserole; cool on wire rack.

Asian meatballs with angel hair pasta and broth

I made this last night for dinner.  The meatballs were excellent, definite Asian flavors but the pasta wasn't exciting.  What gave it flavor was the Sriracha, that was a spicy taste but not a ton of flavor. Unfortunately I forgot the lime which would have gave it a bit more.  Next time I’ll add more Asian flavors (soy and peanut oil which I've listed below) to the pasta, saute the veggies a bit vs boiling them and use pre shredded carrots as suggested.  Shredding them myself made them too small so they disappeared.  I also tripled the cabbage and it could have handled more and more carrots.  Original recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens, Jan 2014, pg 69.  I will definitely try this again and will also make the meatballs as an appetizer with maybe a peanutty sauce.

1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T. amino acids or soy sauce
1 T. (6-7 sprigs) cilantro, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. grated fresh ginger
1 t. toasted sesame oil
1 lb. ground chicken
¾ C. panko bread crumbs
8 oz. dried angel hair pasta (half of a 1 lb. box)
1 can chicken broth
1 t. sesame oil or peanut oil
1 T. amino acids and soy
1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into bites
½-1 C. purchased shredded carrots
3-4 C. (½ head) Napa cabbage, thinly shredded
2 green onions, diced
¼ C. cashews
1 lime, cut in wedges

Put a medium pot of water on to boil for pasta.  In a large bowl combine everything but chicken and bread crumbs, mix.  Add chicken and bread crumbs, stir to combine.  Shape into 1” balls.  In a large 2” deep skillet, fry meatballs in a drizzle of oil for 10-12 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from skillet and add to a pie plate and place in a 200°F oven, covered with foil until dish is completed.
When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package directions, 3-4 minutes.
Cut red bell pepper into bite size strips, shred cabbage, and slice green onion.
To the meatball pan, add peanut oil and bell peppers, saute 2-3 minutes.  Add the cabbage saute another 1 minute.  Add chicken broth and soy, scrape up brown bits if any and bring to a simmer, cover and cook 3 minutes.  Stir in pasta and meatballs, tossing gently.  Serve topped with green onions, cashews, cilantro, Sriracha and a squeeze of lime juice.  Makes 3-4 servings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Braised Short Ribs a Fall Favorite

I was surprised to find that I hadn't yet posted my short rib recipe.  I love boneless short ribs during the fall.  They are the perfect comfort meal served with mashed potatoes and gravy and better yet the leftovers make a good pasta sauce, served over pasta or spaghetti squash. 

The first time I made this in 2010 I used shallots and fresh thyme, second time I added the tomato paste, bay leaf, celery and used dried thyme. Finally I have this recipe. For Valentines day 2012 I added the bell pepper and parsnip to the pot which is also great. I first tried short ribs at Aurora Bistro in Pleasanton and they were an immediate favorite. They are tiny tender flaky roasts.


Prep: 1 hour, Cook 3 hours, Rest: 20 minutes

6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
4 boneless beef short ribs, dredged in 2 T. flour
Kosher salt & Coarse Black Pepper to taste
1 onion, diced
1 C. (20-30) baby carrots, cut in thirds
2 stalks celery, diced
8 oz. (12) baby bella mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. tomato paste
1 ½ C. good red wine
32 oz. beef stock, or as much as needed
¼ t. dried thyme
½ t. course black pepper
1 t. Kosher salt
3" sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 350°F. Take ribs out of fridge to come to room temperature. Fry bacon in a large cast iron stock pot or braiser. Remove bacon and drain on paper towel. Drain some of the bacon grease leaving about 1 tablespoon. Dredge ribs in flour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add ribs and brown on all sides, remove. Add onions, celery and carrots. Saute for 4 minutes or until onions begin to get translucent. Add mushrooms, saute another 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute another minute. Add tomato paste and saute another minute. Add wine and scrape bottom of pan to release any bits. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Add thyme, salt, pepper, rosemary sprigs and bay leaf, stir one minute. Add back ribs and enough broth to almost cover ribs (2 C. or depending on pot size), leaving about ¼-½" showing. Add bacon. Put on the lid and place in oven. Cook for 2 hours, reduce heat to 325°F add more broth if dry, stir and cook another hour. Remove pan from oven and let ribs sit for 20 minutes with lid on. If necessary skim off any fat. Remove the bay leaf and rosemary sprig stem.

Note: Ribs can be done after the two hours but sometimes they will not be as tender because of the size and because the connective tissue/fat isn’t fully melted so don’t cut the time unless when you check they are flaky. You can add more ribs if your pot is large enough you will just add more of the broth. Leave at least a half inch from top of pan so it doesn’t overflow.

Serving Suggestion: Serve rib sauce over ribs with cauliflower mashed or regular mashed potatoes, gravy and roasted asparagus. Gravy: While ribs are resting, start a roux with 2 T. butter or use the bacon fat and 2 T. flour, cooking off flour. Remove 1 ½ C. broth from short ribs or use the leftover beef stock. Mix into roux and cook till thickened. Serve over potatoes.

  • Use two large portabella mushrooms or 8 ox. of button mushrooms if you can’t find baby bellas.
  • Add 1 seeded, diced red bell pepper to the saute and 1-3 pealed diced parsnips and remaining carrots when you add ribs.
Leftovers: Puree the juice or leave it whole. Shred the ribs, add to sauce and bring to a simmer. Boil some pasta (egg noodles or fusilli spirals) or roast a spaghetti squash for an hour and shred with a fork. Mix cooked pasta or spaghetti squash with sauce.