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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oh snap...Turtles!

In honor of this oh-so-fabulous holiday, we want to share with you one of our FAVORITE chocolate treat recipes.  Now be may take seconds to master the art of preparing these, but the few minutes you spend will bring you a lifetime of praise, we promise. :)

Snap Turtles

Rolos (1 bag)
Waffle pretzels
Pecan halves

Parchment or wax paper
Large cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The longest part of this process will be unwrapping the 56 (sometimes 57) Rolos.  Yes, there are 56 (sometimes 57) Rolos in a bag.  When you've made them as often as we have you will have this number memorized too.

On a cookie sheet covered with parchment or wax paper, layout 56 (sometimes 57) waffle pretzels and set one Rolo on each.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 2-3 minutes until the Rolos are softened.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and gently mash a pecan half onto each one.

We usually do a test press with one of the pecan halves to see how easily it smooshes the Rolo before removing the entire sheet from the oven. You want the Rolos to still be holding their shape when you take the sheet out, but soft enough to squoosh down easily when you mash the pecan half into it.

Once they have all been done, put the cookie sheet in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes so that the chocolate seizes up.

Then let the gobbling begin.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bonus Recipe #2: The Return of Candy Corn

So last week we kicked it up a notch on the candy corn meter and were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, until our friend Jenn said, "oh yeah, I'll see your kick and raise you a wha-bam!"  It was pretty impressive, and since she offered to share her recipe and how-tos, we'd thought we'd give her some feature time on the blog.  So may we present...

Candy Corn Bark

16 Golden Oreos, chopped
1-1/2 cups broken small pretzels
1/3 cup peanuts
1-1/2 pounds white chocolate, broken into squares
2 cups candy corn
Halloween sprinkles (or chocolate jimmies)

Lightly grease a small baking sheet and evenly spread out the cookies, pretzels and peanuts.

Put the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and, stirring frequently, melt until smooth.

You can also melt the chocolate in a thick bottom saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. If you nuke it, remove from the heat while there are still a few chunks and then stir until smooth. Watch very carefully because white chocolate burns more easily than milk or dark chocolate.

Once melted, drizzle the chocolate with a spoon over the crunchies on the baking sheet.

this is Beau, Beauregard Crumpler, who generously offered to "taste test" the product before it was ready, that Beau, he is quite the giver

Spread it out until the top is flat and everything is evenly coated.

Cover with candy corn and sprinkles.

Let it cool until it firms up and then break into pieces and store in an airtight container...or shove it into your face until the sugar coma hits, then store it in an airtight container.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cooper's Super Soup

Bringing you something special today – a guest recipe post! We definitely recognize excellent food when we taste it and when our friend Cooper said he would share his recipe with us, we’re certainly weren’t going to pass up the chance. If you love creamy, tasty, bit of comfort for your tummy soup, then you need to whip this up right away!  And now we present...

Cooper’s Creamy Potato Soup

6-10 servings
prep time: 30-45m
cook time: 30-45m (can be done in < 20m though)


4-6 slices bacon
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 large (or 8-10 small) potatoes, chopped into bite-sized cubes (1/2-1 inch cubes)
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion (or shallot), diced
1 small celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups half and half, heated
Spinach (optional)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Cook bacon to desired crispiness (I don't like it too crispy for the soup). Make sure to save the bacon grease! You're going to use it!

While cooking bacon, bring chicken stock to a boil in a 2 qt saucepan.

Add potatoes to the stock, and cook until slightly less than desired softness (they are going to continue to cook later, so I shoot for about potato salad doneness).

About halfway through boiling the potatoes combine the bacon grease and butter in a large stockpot. I don't use the whole stick of butter, just enough to have about 1/2 cup total grease/butter mixture. Toss in the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots and cook until slightly softened (2-5 min). Add the flour to the mixture to make a roux, make sure to stir constantly to avoid clumps or burning. Once the roux is a nice golden-brown color, slowly add the potato/stock mixture, briskly whisking to avoid clumping.

For those unfamiliar with the term, roux is a mixture containing equal parts of flour and fat used to thicken liquids; it's cooked to varying degrees (white, pale/blond, or brown) depending on how it's being used.

Now, add the warmed (preferably near boiling) half and half to the mixture, stirring all the while. Break up the cooked bacon and toss it in. Thoroughly wash spinach and tear (or cut) into small pieces, and toss into the soup. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

At this point, you *can* serve the soup, but I like to leave it on low heat for 30m or so, stirring every few minutes, to let the flavors blend a bit better and let the spinach cook. A few minutes before serving, add cheese to the soup, and stir in until melted.

When serving, top with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, some crumpled bacon, chives, sour cream, butter, or anything else your heart desires!

Cooper’s Note: Timing is EVERYTHING when starting the soup! You don't want overcook the potatoes, nor do you want to burn the roux. So, if you're unsure on the timing (or would like a less starchy soup), boil potatoes in lightly salted water until cooked to desired softness, strain, and set aside until after the chicken stock has been added.

k2’s Note: Cooper, k2 and k2’s friend Linda started a Soup Exchange at work. Each week one of the three makes a big pot of something soupy at home and then brings in a pint size container of it for each of the others. It’s a fun way to try out new soups and nice not to have to cook at least once a week. Now, if we can only convince Cooper that he’s never made this before when his turn comes up again, we’ll be in business.

A special shout-out to Soup Boy for sharing his culinary talents and letting us pass them along in his words to our followers!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bonus Recipe! Getting Ready for that sugar high known as Halloween

What’s the best thing about Halloween? Well okay, there are actually too many things to name, but near the top of the list is the fact that gorging yourself on those delicious little marvels of sugary goodness known as Candy Corn is not only permitted, it’s practically required!

And while there is nothing better than enjoying them straight from the bag, we thought we’d experiment a bit and see if there was something we could do to kick it up a notch…and boy, did we kick.

Candy Corn Clusters

1 package of vanilla flavored Candy Quik (or any white melting chocolate)
2 cups of candy corns
2 cups of tiny pretzel sticks, broken in half
1 cup white chocolate chips

Melt Candy Quik in a large sauce pan over low heat (around 3 on three on the dial), stirring regularly.

Each Candy Quik package is made up of eight sections
(four shown above), so if you want to cut down on the recipe,
it's easily divisible by four.

Once the chocolate is smooth, turn off the heat and gently mix in the candy corns and pretzels.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the white chocolate chips (they may get a little melty).

Drop mixture by spoon into clusters and a wax-paper covered cookie sheet.

Put sheet in the refrigerator or freezer for 5-10 minutes to allow chocolate to seize.

Once hardened, remove clusters from the wax paper and package to share or enjoy.  Makes between 2 1/2-3 dozen.

WARNING: Be careful eating more than one at a sitting, unless you have padded walls to bounce off of.

Variation – you could use the “Indian Corn” (brown, orange, yellow) instead of traditional Candy Corn with milk chocolate melting bark and dark chocolate chips.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Parmesan Zucchini Bread

Now many of you may think, zucchini bread, that’s a sweet one, right? Not so much, we’ve decided to try out a savory recipe. Preparing this bread falls somewhere between a quick bread and a yeast bread – it requires some kneading to pull it together, but doesn’t need time to rise before baking.

Parmesan Zucchini Bread

2 cups self-rising wheat flour (or 2 cups all purpose wheat flour + 2 ½ tsp of baking powder)
2 cups self-rising white flour
1 1/2 tsp mustard powder (dried mustard)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 tbsp cold butter, diced
1 2/3 cups parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated
1 tsp dried thyme
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 - 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine flours, mustard powder, salt and pepper in a large (or deep) bowl.

Lightly rub butter into mixture until mixture starts to resemble breadcrumbs (same sort of process you use when making pastry dough).

Stir in the parmesan, zucchini, and thyme. Mix until zucchini is well coated.

Add in the eggs and enough milk to form a dough (we suggest you start by stirring then use your hands to bring it to a dough consistency. It’s a good idea to add in the milk in increments until the dough comes together.

Due to sticky dough-covered hands, we don't have any mid-process photos to share, but you get the idea from the next image.
Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough smooths out and becomes quite malleable.

Shape the dough into one big loaf, or you can do two smaller loaves like we did, and put it on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut three long deep slashes in the top of the unbaked loaf then bake for 40-50 minutes until it’s risen and had a nice golden brown color.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Couple of Notes

The type of parmesan you use can affect the flavor of the bread. We used a pecorino romano parmesan which tends to be pretty pungent, but still a great combo with the zucchini. If you want a milder flavor, we suggest using a milder type of parmesan.

As mentioned, the bread is somewhere between a quick bread and a yeast bread not only in preparation, but in texture as well. It’s not a light bread, but has a nice dense quality to it. The parmesan gives it a grainy texture but the zucchini keeps it moist.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Myth Busting, Culinary Style

Okay, we can't stay silent anymore, we have to blow the lid open on the myth of...bread storage!

Now we know many of you may think that storing bread in the fridge helps it keep longer, but in fact, you're just short-changing your loaf and denying it a longer shelf life by doing so.

Going to go a bit scientific on you but its only because we care enough to want our readers to be in the loop when it comes to the bread skinny.

Staling happens because of two things -- (1) a loss of moisture or drying that starts happening as soon as bread comes out of the oven, and (2) because of a chemical change in the structure of the starch known as starch retrogradation which occurs even when little or no moisture is lost (which is why even well-wrapped bread will eventually go stale).

Chemical staling happens rapidly at refrigerator temperature while, on the other hand, freezing will nearly stop it altogether.  Because of this, the worse thing you can do is pop bread in the fridge because it speeds up the staling process.  The only exception to this is when you have a bread product that has a cream or soft cheese filling which can go bad unless refrigerated.

For short-term storage, you should keep bread at room temperature (this is why bread boxes -- which are smaller than an elephant -- were invented).  Hard crusted breads should be not be wrapped in plastic because the crust will become soft and leathery.  To keep it crusty, it should be kept in a paper bag.  For long-term storage, keep it in the freezer and reheat as needed.

If the staling process isn't too far along, reheating a bread product will refresh it though you don't want to do it more than once since any heat exposure leads to loss of more moisture which leads to staling.

We hope this information will be useful and help you in preventing any future early bread demise.

Long Live The Loaf.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

Since last week we brought you a savory pumpkin dish this week we thought we'd do something sweet for you -- cookies!  If you love soft-baked treats, you'll love these cakey cookies. For those who like a little crunch, the pecans add a nice bit of texture to every bite.

Pumpkin Pecan Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
brown sugar to sprinkle
powder sugar to dust

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars together.  Add in molasses and egg, blend until smooth.

Stir in pumpkin.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and spices.

Alternately add flour mix and milk to the dough/batter, mix until smooth.  The mixture will be somewhere between a batter and a dough, very light and fluffy.

Gently fold the pecans into the mixture and spoon dough/batter onto a greased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with a smidge of brown sugar.

Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes until firm to the touch.  Remove cookies from oven and place on a rack to cool.

Once the cookies are cool, roll them in powder sugar and start chomping!  So tasty and good.  Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Incredible Edible...Pumpkin!

Pumpkin pie? Just the tip of the iceberg, my friend. People love pumpkin because you can use it in so many tasty ways, but did you know that it’s good for you too?

Pumpkins are part of the yellow/orange color food group (yes, color food group) that includes fruits and vegetables chocked full of beta-carotene which your body convents into vitamin A. Vitamin A helps maintain the linings of your organs while beta-carotene has been linked to lowering the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

So really, if you think about it (in a totally roundabout non-medically proven sort of way), helping yourself to a second piece of pumpkin pie is actually good for your health!

And here are some other did-ya-knows about pumpkins:

* Early settlers filled hollowed out pumpkins with milk, honey and spices then baked them up for a treat – precursor to our favorite Thanksgiving pie.

* Pumpkins are part of the species that includes squash, watermelon, and cucumbers.

* Jack B. Little, Jack B. Quick, Spooktacular, and Cinderella are all names of pumpkin varieties (isn’t that charming?).

* Pumpkin flowers are edible and in “olden days”, pumpkin leaves were used in salad.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pork & Pumpkin Soup -- Take Two!

Oops! Fingers slipped the keyboard and published before the post was done, so please excuse the repetition. Let's try this again, shall we?

October brings cooler temps, shorter days, and yummy fall foods. For the next two months, TCC will be bringing you an assortment of seasonal comfort foods. Lots of squash and pumpkin and spices and chocolate (yes, chocolate is a fall food too).

To start off the season right, we've got a nice hearty fall soup for you. It's a long-cooking soup, so best to start early. But as always, we promise it will be worth it.

Pork & Pumpkin Soup

1-1/2 lbs boneless pork, cut into 1" chunks
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
2 tbsp red apple balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
4 lg tomatoes, hand-squished (or a 16 oz can of stewed tomatoes)
2 cups water
1 lb potatoes, chopped
3 cups fresh cut pumpkin (about 1/3 small pumpkin)
1 lg carrot, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp garlic salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1/3-2/3 cups fresh pumpkin puree

After you cut the pork into bite-sized pieces, brown them in a large skillet with some oil. Reduce the heat and add in the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then add in the vinegar and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.

Put the cooked pork and onions in a large soup pot over low heat (or a crock pot on low). Add in the tomatoes.

For those not familiar with the hand-squished method, you take some very very ripe tomatoes and cut them into large pieces, put them in a deep bowl and squish them with your hands. If the tomatoes are ripe enough they will pull apart quite easily.

Add in the water, potatoes, pumpkin, carrot and spices. Let sit over low heat, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust the flavor.

we cut the pumpkin into big chunks and
then cut out the middles and cut into pieces
we used an assortment of red and white fingerling potatoes

While the soup is cooking, cut the rest of the pumpkin into large pieces. Make sure to pull out of the seeds and scrape off the inner goop. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. When done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Once cooled, cut rind off, cut into chunks and puree. Mix as much of the puree into the soup as you would like. Depends on how pumpkiny you want your soup to be.

Serve up with some rich hearty grain bread and enjoy!