Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Candy

Better late than never, but here are the recipes from our Christmas candy this year. I just love homemade candy. My mom is much better. She makes all kinds of chocolates- homemade peanut butter, caramel, or truffle fillings hand-dipped in yummy milk and dark chocolate. Not to mention all the peanut and almond clusters!
I made my two favorites for our close friends- toffee and caramels. The toffee is a BHG recipe that I love because it's easy and never fails. I leave out the nuts, but it is wonderful with the almonds on top!
Next up is my absolute FAVORITE caramel recipe. I know this is so old school, but who out there likes See's Candy? My parents are old school, so I blame them. Actually, it dates back to my grandma, who was a huge See's fan. Anyway, they have the best caramels- soft, light, buttery and sweet. This Martha Stewart recipe is the closest I've had to See's. Yes, it does take a lot of corn syrup. And yes, it does take an hour of standing at the stove stirring. And yes, it does make 150 pieces that take 2 hours to cut and individually wrap. But it's SO worth it!
Golden Caramels


Makes about 150.

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sweetened condensed milk (note: that is one CUP, NOT can)
  • 4 cups light corn syrup
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  1. Spray an 11 3/4-by-16 1/2-inch baking pan (this is a half-sheet pan) with vegetable-oil spray. Set aside in a spot where it will not be moved. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine cream and sweetened condensed milk; set aside.
  2. In a heavy 6- to 8-quart saucepan, combine corn syrup, 1 cup water, sugar, and salt. Clip on candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon, 8 to 12 minutes. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.
  3. Stop stirring, reduce heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250 degrees (hard-ball stage), 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, cook cream mixture over low heat until it is just warm. Do not boil. When sugar reaches 250 degrees. slowly stir in butter and warmed cream mixture, keeping mixture boiling at all times. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage), 55 to 75 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Immediately pour into prepared pan without scraping pot. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.
  4. To cut, spray a large cutting board generously with vegetable-oil spray. Unmold caramel from pan onto sprayed surface. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces, or other shapes. Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper.
Toffee Butter Crunch


  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light-colored corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans, toasted


Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts in pan. Set pan aside.

Butter sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In saucepan melt butter. Add sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, till thermometer registers 290 degree F, soft-crack stage (about 15 minutes). Watch care-fully after 280 degree F to prevent scorching. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer. Pour candy into the prepared pan.

Let candy stand about 5 minutes or till firm; sprinkle with chocolate. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes. When chocolate has softened, spread over candy. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts. Chill until firm. When candy is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan; break into pieces. Store tightly covered. Makes about 1-1/2 pounds (48 servings).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Beansy's Birthday

It was Beansy's 4th birthday this past week. She got princess cupcakes for her friend birthday party. I piped pink tiaras with dragees (I don't claim to be an expert piper, but Beansy looked at them and said, "Those are BEAUTIFUL!") on chocolate cupcakes:
I was hoping she would let me make the white chocolate cake so I could combine her birthday cake with the Cake Slice Bakers December cake, but no such luck, so I'll have to do that next week. She wanted Princess Jasmine with a Christmas tree for her cake. Since we were out of town and I forgot all my tools, this is the best I could do. Always the sweetheart, she said, "I love my cake mommy! Jasmine looks so pretty." Sniff.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chili and Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits

I know all of you who don't live in warm climates will not think this is winter, but it's been raining and in the 50's and 60's where we live- it feels like winter! :)
Soups and chili are my favorite thing to have when it gets (relatively) cold so I made our first chili of the winter season. This is my go-to chili recipe. It's easy and fast and my family loves it. I'll warn you that it's not gourmet by any means, which is why it's so wonderful! Paired with these cheddar cheese biscuits, it's a great meal to warm you up! (sorry there are no pics of the chili; I thought I had already posted the recipe!)

Favorite Chili

serves 4-6
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, undrained
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg chili seasoning
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil
for serving:
sour cream
shredded cheese

Brown ground beef in a medium pot. Drain fat and add onions and garlic. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, seasoning and dried herbs. Bring to a boil and simmer on med-low for 10-15 minutes. Top with sour cream and cheese.

Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cream of tartar
3 T butter
1 c milk
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk all at once. Using a fork, stir just until moistened. Stir in cheese.

2. Using a large spoon, drop dough into 12 mounds onto a greased baking sheet.

3. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from baking sheet and serve warm.

TWD- Chocolate-Cinnamon Sables

Hmm. Shortbread. Not my favorite. I'm always reminded of sawdusty, not very sweet,just kinda greasy cookies.
No thanks.
I almost skipped this week, but then I remembered I'm hardly ever disappointed by Dorie's recipes, so I made half of the recipe, added some cocoa (everything's better with chocolate, right?) and cinnamon and baked them up. Rolled in green and red sugar, these little cookies were sure yummy! My 4 year old ate three and called them "scrumdelicious!"
Check out Barbara's blog for the recipe!