Peppermint Bark

So here’s another holiday post from last year, an easy treat to whip up for all those teachers, co-workers, neighbors, friends and family in your life.  It’s super simple and super yummy.  I apologize for the icky photos though.  :P

I used to get really excited about baking for the holidays. I would try and make 3-4 different kinds of cookies and bring them to work and give them away as gifts. But since time is scarce these days, I’ve let go of my ambitious baking goals and I just made one treat.  While this recipe is pretty simple, I should add that the total time it takes to make is quite long, but only because of the chill time required for each layer.  I like it because I can work on other projects (or cleaning the mess) while the chocolate is chilling.

Anyways, here’s what you’ll need to make some delicious peppermint bark:

White chocolate (2 bags), dark chocolate (1 bag), candy canes, heavy cream, peppermint extract.

1. Break candy canes into small pieces (I used the bottom of a glass bottle).

2. Line a baking sheet or glass dish with foil or parchment paper (I used a 9×13 dish, but I wish I had used something larger so the layers were thinner).

3. Melt one bag of white chocolate chips using the double boiler technique.

4. Spread half of the white chocolate onto the lined pan and sprinkle with some of the candy cane pieces. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

5. Melt dark chocolate in a pot with 6 tablespoons of heavy cream and a teaspoon of peppermint extract.

6. Spread all of the dark chocolate over the first layer and sprinkle with some candy cane pieces. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (this layer took awhile to harden).

7. Melt the second bag of white chocolate chips and spread over the last layer. Sprinkle more candy cane pieces on top and refrigerate again for 30-45 minutes.

8. Make sure the bark is thoroughly chilled and hardened before cutting. The first time I tried to cut mine, the dark chocolate layer was still a little soft, so the bark started coming apart in pieces. I threw it back in the refrigerator for awhile and the second time it cut much better. Remove bark from pan and foil and cut into small pieces.

9. Enjoy!! These taste best when they are fresh, so give them away/devour them immediately (don’t worry, it won’t be difficult).

As if the bark wasn’t enough of a treat, I made myself a little peppermint hot cocoa with leftover stuff to reward myself for all my hard work.

After cutting apart all that bark, I was left with lots of chocolate and peppermint shavings and pieces on my cutting board. I also didn’t use all the candy cane that I had crushed, so I had a stroke of genius!

I swear, this hot cocoa was so rich and creamy, it was like something from Starbucks, but even better!

I just threw some of the bark shavings into the bottom of the cup with the hot cocoa powder and added hot water. Make sure to stir it well so the chocolate and candy pieces melt. I rolled a marshmallow in the candy cane pieces and threw it on top! If I hadn’t been so tired, I could have whipped up some of that leftover whipping cream too, but that would have been tooooo indulgent ;)

I know that making hot cocoa mixes is a popular gift idea around the winter time and if you pretty this up a little, it could be a great variation!

Any holiday baking for you?

Here’s to a delicious holiday season!!

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Golden Recipe: Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats

photo from smitten kitchen

If you’ve been on Pinterest for awhile, you’ve probably seen this recipe from Smitten Kitchen floating around.  It was one of the first things I ever pinned.  I mean, just reading the name?  It says YUM.

But for some reason, I didn’t try it out right away and over time it had slowly sunk into the depths of my mind only to resurface after I saw that Gail had made some.  Yes, what a perfect treat to make for myself for Mother’s Day!  Ha!

So I did.  And they were amazing.  And I can say that because they were not amazing due to any talent of mine, but simply because it is a fantastic recipe.  It’d be pretty hard to screw these up (though I nearly did, but we don’t have to talk about that).  The only adjustment I made was increasing the salt amount (per Gail’s suggestion).  It calls for a heaping 1/4 teaspoon and I think I added about a 1/2 teaspoon.  Just depends on how subtle or strong you want that salty kick to be.

photo from smitten kitchen

These are regular rice crispy treats that have been smothered with the flavor of warm browned butter and have a kick of salt.  Salty-sweet is my favorite combo.  This recipe takes the classic kids treat and adds just the right amount of sophistication that makes it totally appropriate for an adult only affair, but still kid-friendly enough for the little ones.

So I am deeming this a Golden Recipe – a term I made up just now – but it basically refers to a recipe that is perfect in every way.  Here is what I mean by every way:

1. Simple ingredients: This recipe requires 4 ingredients, 2 of which you probably already have at home (coarse salt and butter) and the other two are inexpensive and readily accessible (marshmallows and crispy rice cereal).

2. Easy: Melt.  Mix.  Spread in pan.  It really can’t get easier than that.

3. Fast: These can be made in less than 30 minutes.

4. Delicious:  They got thumbs up from everyone who tried them and we ended up making 3 batches over 3 days (for family, friends and co-workers) and all have been devoured.

5. Travel well:  I’ve had a hard time transporting cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, etc. – always worried about frosting smudging or pies tilting or trying to find the perfect box or container to carry it in.  But not these babies!  Just throw them on a plate with plastic wrap over it or in a plastic container and they will not lose their shape or smudge or look any less perfect than they did at home.  THIS IS SO IMPORTANT TO ME.

The ONLY thing that would make this recipe any better is if it was healthy.  Which it is not.  But you can’t win ‘em all, can you?

So if my friends and family are reading this, I hereby claim this recipe to be MINE for all future potlucks and parties from now until eternity.  Thank you.

So, you hungry yet?? ;)

I’d love to come back and share “Golden Recipes” with you every once in awhile, but quite frankly, I’m not sure if there will be any to compete with this one.  Do you have any go-to recipes?  Please share!

St. Patty’s Day Breakfast

This random St. Patty’s Day breakfast idea occurred to me and I thought it’d be fun to try.  One of the cool things about four leaf clovers is that they can be made from hearts.  Heart shaped things are so abundant before and after Valentine’s Day and all you have to do is switch the color from red to green and you’re in business!  So why not make your little ones a fun GREEN pancake breakfast this weekend?

I made this card with some students last week (sans jewel).  And I just found this while searching, but she used heart stamps to make shamrocks on “gold” coins!

Anyways, if you have a heart cookie cutter and some pancake mix or ingredients and green food coloring, you can make this super easy and fun treat for St. Patty’s Day this weekend!

Just mix up your batter as you normally would and throw in some green food coloring.

I had to add quite a bit!  It was probably 20 drops of green and a few of yellow and maybe one or two blue too :)  Just keep going until it’s the right shade.  You want it to be pretty vibrant because the pancake is going to brown a bit when you cook it.

Cook it up as you normally would, just make sure it’s bigger than the cookie cutter.

After it’s cooked, throw it on a cutting board and use your cookie cutter to cut your pancake into a heart!  It’s best to cut it when it’s fresh off the pan.  If it’s a bit tough to get a clean cut, it helps to run a knife around the outside of the cookie cutter.

Repeat with 3 more pancakes.  Then just cut a little stem from one of the scraps and put it all together on a plate!

I didn’t have much time to do anything fancy with the presentation, but the clover turned out just the way I wanted it to!   It would be fun to decorate with fruit or whipped cream or chocolate syrup!

I served mine with a bowl of gold (scrambled eggs)!

She was intrigued.

Yum!

Of course, my plate looked like this . . .

Still yum and even less cutting for me!  ;)

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

And the winner is . . .

Did you watch the Oscars last night?  We went to our friends’ party and it was so fun!  I enjoyed seeing the winners announced, but my favorite part was the food as I mentioned in the last post.  So here are our 2 dishes revealed!

Please tell me that someone out there has seen “The Help.”  No one at the party had seen it!  So the joke fell a little flat.  Don’t worry, I left out the special ingredient.

I used this recipe which I think is the one they used to make the actual pies in the movie!  It came out pretty good, I think, though I’m not sure what it was supposed to taste like.  It looked like a big fudgy brownie in a pie crust, but it was actually quite soft (not dense, like a brownie).  I’m not a huge chocolate pie fan, so I probably won’t make this again, but if you’re into chocolate pie, I’d recommend it!  It’s not the prettiest looking thing, but I do think it looks like the one they had in the movie, so points for authenticity! :)

This one was Hideko’s idea.  We haven’t even seen The Artist, but we couldn’t resist making The tArtist.  I considered doing a black and white chocolate tart (since the movie is in black and white), but a fruit tart seemed so much yummier.  Plus I was already making the chocolate pie.  I used this recipe from Paula Deen.  It was easy to make, SUPER yummy and the presentation is pretty impressive, if I don’t say so myself!  I’m definitely going to make this again!

We didn’t win for best dish, but we certainly had a delicious meal last night and tried two new great recipes.  Next year I’ll try to start my planning earlier and might even ask for your help for ideas.

The other contest for the night was to predict the winners for all the categories.  I didn’t realize The Artist was a favorite for so many of the major awards!  I’m tempted to see it just because it won so much, but I’m really not so sure I’d like it.  I’m into some artsy stuff, but silent?  I dunno bout that . . .

We don’t get out to see movies in the theater very often, but in a last ditch effort to see as many Best Picture nominated movies we watched 4 movies in the last week or so!  In total we watched 5 of the nine nominated!  We saw The Decendants, Hugo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, and Moneyball.  Not bad!

Did you watch the Academy Awards?  Any surprise wins for you?  What were your favorite movies of last year?

Oscar Party 2012

Tonight is Oscar Night!

Every year, friends of ours throw an Oscar Party.  Before the show we fill out ballots to predict who will win each category and as the night progresses, the hosts keep track of how many correct answers each guest has.  At the end of the night the person with the most correct predictions wins a prize.  I take it pretty seriously and try to get as many right as possible by 1) watching as many movies as I can and then 2) doing research on the rest, especially the categories I have no clue about (like short film animated and short film live or sound mixing and sound editing).

But the other really fun challenge is that everyone has to bring a dish to the party that is inspired by a movie, actor, director, etc. that is up for an Oscar.  It could be a play off a name, or something from the story line, anything really, as long as it’s related to a nominee.  At the end of the night, all of the guests vote on their favorite dish and there is a winner/prize for that too!  I’m proud to say that we’ve won twice!

I love thinking up all the ways we can turn movie titles or actors’ names into yummy dishes.  I love trying to think of the best way to present it and I also take the time to make little name cards using movie poster fonts and/or graphics to make the connection really clear.  I love it.  I’m such a nerd.

We’ve attended the party the last 3 years and here are our past food entries.  I regret not taking pictures of our dishes each year.  I had to ask my friend to send these to me.  I’m so glad she had them!

2009

H and I were a little obsessed with Wall-E that year.  We loved the movie.  We also love deviled eggs and meatballs, so this was perfect for us.  I tried to make the meatballs in the shape of cubes and they were supposed to resemble the cubes of trash that Wall-E was building towers of at the beginning of the movie.  Unfortunately, they barely look like cubes but this dish won the food contest!!  The D’EVEled Egg dish was Hideko’s idea.  She even made 3 little Eves out of eggs!!  The middle one looks evil cuz it’s deviled!!

2010

Did I mention we like meatballs?  At one point, we thought we might bring meatballs every year and just try to find a way to make it fit. :)

2011

We just bought the calamari at a restaurant instead of making it ourselves.  It was pretty good!  This picture is of a half eaten plate :)  The Black Flan (which came with a bottle of Natalie Port-wine) was just a regular flan recipe with black food coloring.  It tasted good, but I’m sure it was hard for some people to get past the color.  But this dish won!

If you’re curious about the nominees for this year, you can find them here.  Usually we think about our dishes in the weeks leading up to the party but this year we didn’t get to see many movies and we didn’t have time to even think about our dishes till yesterday.   We’ve decided what we’re going to make and bought all of the ingredients, but I’m not going to reveal the dishes until after the party.  Don’t want anyone stealing our idea! :)  I’m totally kidding.  I like the dishes we’re going to make but I can’t say they’re totally creative.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else showed up with one or both of the same dishes.  We’ll have to wait and see!  I’ll be sure to take pictures too.

So what do you think we’re going to make?  Anyone else going to an Oscar viewing party?  What/who do you think is going to win??

Peppermint Bark & Peppermint Hot Cocoa

I used to get really excited about baking for the holidays.  I would try and make 3-4 different kinds of cookies and bring them to work and give them away as gifts.  But since time is scarce these days, I’ve let go of my ambitious baking goals and this year I just made one treat.  I stumbled across a recipe for peppermint bark somewhere that looked fantastic and decided to give it a shot.

I can’t find the exact recipe that I used, but if I do, I’ll update this.  Here’s the general idea directions that you can experiment with if you’d like.

What you’ll need:

White chocolate (2 bags), dark chocolate (1 bag), candy canes, heavy cream, peppermint extract.

1. Break candy canes into small pieces (I used the bottom of a glass bottle).
2. Line a baking sheet or glass dish with foil or parchment paper (I used a 9×13 dish, but I wish I had used something larger so the layers were thinner).
3.. Melt white chocolate.
4. Spread half of the white chocolate onto the lined pan and sprinkle with some of the candy cane pieces.  Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
5. Melt dark chocolate in a pot with 6 tablespoons of heavy cream and a teaspoon of peppermint extract.
6. Spread all of the dark chocolate over the first layer and sprinkle with some candy cane pieces.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes (this layer took awhile to harden).
7. Remelt the remaining white chocolate and spread over the last layer.  Sprinkle more candy cane pieces on top and refrigerate again for 30-45 minutes.
8. Make sure the bark is thoroughly chilled and hardened before cutting.  The first time I tried to cut mine, the dark chocolate layer was still a little soft, so the bark started coming apart in pieces.  I threw it back in the refrigerator for awhile and the second time it cut much better.  Remove bark from pan and foil and cut into small pieces.
9. Enjoy!!  These taste best when they are fresh, so give them away/devour them immediately (don’t worry, it won’t be difficult).

I wrapped mine up in plastic bags and put them in tins with some cookies that Hideko made and gave them to my staff.  But I still had plenty left to enjoy myself :)

As if the bark wasn’t enough of a treat, I made myself a little peppermint hot cocoa with leftover stuff to reward myself for all my hard work.

After cutting apart all that bark, I was left with lots of chocolate and peppermint shavings and pieces on my cutting board.  I also didn’t use all the candy cane that I had crushed, so I had a stroke of genius!

I swear, this hot cocoa was so rich and creamy, it was like something from Starbucks, but even better!

I just threw some of the bark shavings into the bottom of the cup with the hot cocoa powder and added hot water.  Make sure to stir it well so the chocolate and candy pieces melt.  I rolled a marshmallow in the candy cane pieces and threw it on top!   If I hadn’t been so tired, I could have whipped up some of that leftover whipping cream too, but that would have been tooooo indulgent ;)

I know that making hot cocoa mixes is a popular gift idea around the winter time and if you pretty this up a little, it could be a great variation!

It felt good to finally do something for the holidays since I was so behind in my prep.  Since then I’ve done a few other holiday projects that I’ll try and share soon!

Any holiday baking for you?  Here’s to a delicious holiday season!!