Monday, December 23, 2013

Divinity


Divinity is something I never had before until my husband convinced me to make it last year as part of our Christmas candies. It was something his mother always made when he was a child and he longed to have it again.
We got the recipe from his mom and made several batches to eat and give out. Mostly eat. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s soft, airy and sweet combined with the crunch of pecans. It’s simple but very delicious.

It’s not difficult to make, just more molten sugar and corn syrup boiling. And you have to work quick because it starts getting stiff as soon as it’s all combined. Of course, I found out this year, some people serve it cut into squares, like fudge. But my husband, wonderful and stubborn, wants it like his childhood. The first drops look soft and beautiful like my photos, but as you hit the bottom of the bowl, they begin to get funky looking. Save the funky looking ones for yourself, of course.
P.S. You need a candy thermometer for this one too.
I mentioned I got this from my Mother-in-Law, which means I can’t share her recipe. I won’t share what isn’t mine to share.
But I located one that is very similar and comes with variations to boot: Divinity on The Baking Pan
Another close second, just like the soft mints.

Soft Mints


Soft mints or buttermints, were a first for me this year. I had them before, but never made them. So my loving husband called his mom for her recipe and that was that, I was making them.
I was happy to find out they are almost like making BUTTER CREAM FROSTING. Confectioners sugar and butter? Let’s just bake a cake! Actually, I already did that a day before for my son’s birthday, so let’s just make mints.
My husband insisted these be made into roses via a silicone mold because that’s how his mother used to make them. But you can just roll them out and cut them into little bites, which would save you a ton of time. But I’m so loyal I spent an hour pressing the dough into molds while I watching Wolverine. 

Soft mints recipe? Ha… I can’t give you that! I don’t give away the recipes my Mother-in-Law shares with me. Maybe they came out of a cookbook, maybe they’re passed down. I don’t really know and I won’t share something that isn’t mine to share.
BUT this recipe here it a close second: Serious Eats Buttermints Candy Recipe
I mean, that recipe it sooo close, you could almost call it the same. Almost.

Cinnamon Hard Candies


One of my most favorite candies! I didn’t grow up on these but I started receiving them when we moved back to Oklahoma. My great Uncle made them and I looked forward to receiving that bag each year. We don’t receive them anymore, but that doesn’t stop me from making my own.
My first hard candy experience last year, was not the best. I was too cheap to buy the candy thermometer [because I thought it was expensive, it was $4!!] and a couple of batches just did not turn out well at all. Hitting hard crack temperature takes time and the sugar is very sensitive to being over or under. Chewy candy made me angry many times last year.
I don’t suggest letting your littles participate in this one since it involves molten hot sugar. I kept my little guy out of the kitchen until I was into the “let it stand” point of the process.
I like to cut mine so that it forms squares, it just makes them look super pretty! But you may be more familiar with the “glass candy” form. It looks like this:

I have a little bit of both forms as I am still practicing those pretty squares.
Cinnamon Hard Candies
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon Oil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Food Coloring
  • Powdered Sugar
1. In a large pan, combine Sugar, Water and Corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
2. When it begins to boil, cover for 3 minutes.
3. Uncover and boil without stirring until candy thermometer reads 350 degrees fahrenheit [or go by what your thermometer says for hard crack candy, it may vary.]
4. Remove from heat. Stir in oil and food coloring, I don’t suggest inhaling, the cinnamon is strong.
5. Quickly pour into a greased pan, about 13 in. x 9 in.
6. Let stand for 5 minutes. 
7. If you desire square cut candy, after 5 minutes, begin to score the candy into 1 in. squares, repeating as many times as necessary, using a sharp knife [use a pan that can be cut, this will ruin a non-stick baking pan]. Once squares hold shape, leave candy to sit until dry, about 1 hour.
8. If you desire glass candy, don’t cut it, just let it dry for 1 hour.
9. Once candy is dry, flip pan over a clean surface. The candy should fall out on it’s own, if not, tap pan until it begins to fall out. It’s okay if the candy breaks apart, that’s what you want. Break squares apart or break candy into various pieces for glass candy.
10. Put candy into a ziploc bag and add powdered sugar, shake and store.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Buckeyes


Buckeyes were a treat I looked forward to every year as a child. No one in my family was a candy maker, but we had a super sweet woman at our church that brought a plate of Christmas treats every year. These and the cherry cordials were the first things to go, we normally devoured them because if you didn’t eat it, someone else would. Wouldn’t want that, would we? It was Christmas after all. 
When I decided to start making candies last year, this was the first on my list and I was shocked that my husband, the lover of anything peanut butter and chocolate, had never had them. 
I think I made four batches of these last year, only two this year. They’re so easy, even my four year old son could help me mix and roll the balls. And then he got fired for sneaking too many bites. I run a tough kitchen.

Buckeyes
  • 1 1/2 Cups Creamy Peanut butter
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, Softened
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 4 Cups Confectioners Sugar
  • 6 Ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips [Or Dark Chocolate Chips]
  • 2 Tablespoons Shortening
  • Toothpicks
1. In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners sugar. Begin by stirring with a spoon or silicone spatula until it as well combined as you can manage. Roll up your sleeves and use your hands to mix until you have stiff dough.
2. Roll dough into about 1 inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for at least one hour. 
3. Put chocolate and shortening into a heat proof bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Allow chocolate and shortening to melt together, stir occasionally until smooth and remove from heat.
4. Remove the balls from the refrigerator. Use a toothpick to hold each ball, dip it 3/4 of the way and return it to the wax paper.
5. Continue until all balls are dipped and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set. 
Tips: I normally do mine in the evening and let them set over night on the pan before transferring to storage.
Can you use almond bark instead of chocolate? I wouldn’t suggest it, the almost bark may chip, crack and fall off if the buckeyes were to sweat all. Like, in your car, on the way to delivery.  

I’d like to speak up for my not very photogenic Buckeyes in this post. They were the left overs, bottom of the box and beaten up. This did not keep them from being delicious. Please don’t judge them.

Merry Christmas with Christmas Candies


Why, hello there! I ended up taking a much longer holiday hiatus than I intended, but sometimes you just need to step away. Now I have survived Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, my son’s 4th Birthday and we are just two days away from enjoying Christmas. I’m a bit like “Elf”, I completely love Christmas and giving. Even with a small budget, I try to give a gift to the people I care about every year. I love to celebrate and attend parties dressed in sparkles or seasonal colors. I just like to be happy during this time of year and smile, smiling is my favorite. It’s hard always figuring out what to give people, so I make candies! 
Last year was my first year making candies, we handed them out to friends, family and even mailed a few boxes off to family in Oregon and Idaho. Last year I made cherry cordials, buckeyes, cinnamon hard candy, fudge and divinity. And let me correct myself on that, MY HUSBAND and I made candy. He’s like my overgrown, handsome, muscular, bearded…. elf. Sorry, I got distracted. 
This year we didn’t make as much, I only had a dozen boxes leftover from last year and we decided to fill those and give them out, like a special limited edition candy box. I’m not dead serious about that, but we did only make twelve boxes. I’m a little sad that we didn’t have the door step drop offs that we had last year. But then again, the 60 degree week would’ve made for some melted candies on my friend’s porches. 
Instead we took the boxes up to our favorite little coffee shop and passed them out to the friends we saw. It’s just that little bit of cheer I get to give out every year and will continue to. Maybe next year I’ll get to go bigger instead of smaller!
This year’s candies were Buckeyes, Cinnamon Candies, Divinity and the addition of Soft Mints by my husbands request.
I’m going to write up separate posts for each candy so you can save the ones you want instead of smashing them all into one big post. So, I’ll just tell you about my candy boxes for this one.
I got them from Michael’s last year, they are made by Martha Stewart. I think they ran about $8 per set, but I bought them either on sale or used a coupon. The set includes the boxes, trays, tissue paper, ribbon and stickers to make your gift completely put together. I did not buy a new set this year, so I don’t know if they had them again OR if you could get any two days before Christmas. I will probably stop by a few days after Christmas to see if I can score any for next year, on clearance. I love these because really make my gift feel put together. I have a present buried out of sight under my tree because I ran out of coordinating paper and cannot stand something be less than presentable [If can I help it]. So having boxes put beautifully together means a lot to me.
It’s all in the smiles people give when they get that pretty box and open it to find it just as well put together on the inside. It says a little extra, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wonderful White Gravy with Sausage


Making good gravy takes a lot of practice and failures. I use to make gravy I thought was excellent but I struggled to keep it clump free and it normally got nasty thick as it cooled. But I thought it was great!
Then one night I had my cousin over for dinner, search squirrel on here and you will find that dinner. My cousin is a culinary grad and spent two years in Italy with her husband’s family where she cooked with skilled housewives. I took that opportunity to pick her brain about gravy and it changed my gravy for good. 
I learned about making a “roux.”
Now I get it, you can’t make good gravy without first making your roux. I prefer to use grease from my sausage if I’m making sausage gravy. Or butter will get you started if you’re meat free. You mix that with a little flour until you have a slightly thick mixture, but not too dry. 
Have your whisk and a strong arm ready, it’s time to whisk like crazy. Begin adding milk, about 1/4 a cup at a time, and whisk like there is no tomorrow. You don’t want clumps to form, so you must keep whisking and adding the milk slowly keeps from shocking it. It’s ideal to warm your milk ahead of time… but I’m a bit lazy sometimes so it goes in cold. So I must whisk like my life depends on it and pray my arm does not fall off.
Everyone’s idea of how gravy should be will vary, I like mine to be slightly thick and creamy like. If you want it to be runnier, that is completely up to you. 
I also put a little flavor into mine, salt and pepper plus a little bit of garlic and onion granules, literally just a dash or two of each. They’ll overpower the mixture fast. I once put a little paprika and turmeric in my gravy, that was amazing as well. Those don’t quite fit my idea for biscuits and gravy, but they rocked the gravy along side some fried chicken.
Once the gravy is the consistency you want it, add the meat and mix, mix, mix it up! Taste it to see if it has the flavor you want and check the consistency again. And that is it! 
I threw this on top of my biscuits I showed you yesterday and it certainly hit the spot. I really should not eat like this prior to Thanksgiving but… I can’t help it when I’m cold. You could also serve this on toast for that S.O.S feel, like the literal “It’s on a shingle because I’m so broke” feeling. 
I may not be back around until after Thanksgiving, if that is the case: “Happy Thanksgiving!”


Sausage Gravy
1/2 Pound of Sausage, Cooked.
Drippings from Sausage or 3 Tablespoons Butter
Flour
Milk
Salt
Pepper
Onion Granules
Garlic Granules 
  1. Start by creating a roux, slowly adding flour into sausage drippings or melted butter in a large pan.
  2. Whisk roux until it has a paste like thickness, but not too dry.
  3. Slowly add milk, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly to prevent clumps. Add milk until you reach your desired consistency. 
  4. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion to flavor, be sparing with the onions and garlic.
  5. Add in sausage and stir until combined. Check flavor and season if necessary.
  6. Serve on biscuits!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hello Biscuits!


Sunday night was cold as we survived the passing snowpocalypse, which was mostly just an ice storm with a few flurries in my part of the state. But that didn’t stop people from clearing grocery store shelves like the world was ending. That’s winter in Oklahoma for you. Speaking of, I’m starting to suffer with winter, by time I am done cooking it’s already dark or it’s getting there and it kills my natural light. I had to pull my flash out to survive! I just adore natural light photos of food more than those taken with flash. Let’s continue onto the biscuits now!
My husband had been out hunting all day and I wanted to make something warm, filling and easy for dinner. Man food? Carbs, meat and gravy? That is man food, correct? I’m going with it. So I settled on biscuits and gravy for dinner or as my dad calls it, S.O.S. [You can google that if you don’t get it]. I promise mine is above being called S.O.S.
I was lucky enough to have some blue and gold sausage in the freezer, so mine was made with sausage. If I was feeling extra lazy, I would have used canned biscuits, use them, I’ll be the last person to judge you for shortcuts. But I didn’t have any canned biscuits [or bisquick for that matter] so I had to make mine from scratch. Of course, making them from scratch is super easy but it does take more effort than popping a can open. The upside is no scary biscuit can suspense.
"Will it pop? When will it pop? Maybe it won’t this time… <POP>… DANG IT!"
Gosh, I hate opening biscuit cans.
I looked around at a few different recipes and settled on a couple of similar ones that consisted of very few ingredients and plenty of fluff! And that didn’t require buttermilk, I didn’t have any of that either and I wasn’t making it.
These biscuits were so easy, my 3 year old son helped me make them. He cut the butter into the flour for me and mixed in the milk. I took care of kneading the dough, rolling it out and cutting it just once. After that, he insisted on rolling it and cutting it.
These guys bake for a quick 10 minutes and then you have fluffy biscuits, perfect for topping with gravy. This is the kind of meal I need when the weather reminds me about the percent of fat my body no longer carries. Sometimes being thin doesn’t pay, it makes you cold.

Easy Biscuits
2 1/4 Cups Flour
4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Sugar
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Stick Butter, very cold and sliced
1 Cup Cold Milk
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
  2. Add butter and one cup of flour together in a bowl. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the flour.
  3. Add baking powder, sugar, salt and remaining flour. Continue cutting the butter in until the mixture becomes crumb like, about the size of peas. 
  4. Add in milk and gently toss the mixture together with a spoon until it is slightly combined.
  5. When the dough begins to hold together turn it out onto a floured surface [I like to use a baking mat].
  6. Knead the dough until it can be formed into a ball.
  7. Roll it out into a rectangle about a 1/2 inch thick and cut into 2 inch circles. Don’t have a circle cookie cutter? Use a cup or coffee mug!
  8. Spray a cookie sheet with pam and place biscuits an inch apart.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
I served mine up as biscuits and gravy, but I am sure they would be amazing just buttered and on the side of dinner.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about my gravy if you want this for dinner [Or breakfast, I suppose]: