I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Oh Fudge.

You know how most people have one or two things that they look forward to having at Christmas time?  Pumpkin spice latte...roasted turkey...chicken and dumplings...whatever it is, it's what makes the Christmas season the Christmas season.  For me, it's this peanut butter chocolate fudge.  I have no idea where this recipe came from or even when we started making it, but it's hard for me to remember a Christmas when this wasn't a part of our family's dessert table.  I love it.

Plus, it's so simple, you can let your kids make it!

What you'll need:
1 package of cream drops candies (these are in the seasonal candy aisle)
1 cup of creamy peanut butter

Yep.  That equals awesome fudge.

Pour both ingredients into an 8x8 glass dish.  Don't mix them together just yet.

Microwave for two minutes and IMMEDIATELY stir until it's all completely combined.

Let it cool some so it sets up a bit.  Cut it into pieces and watch it disappear like it's Christmas magic.

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Beginning To Smell A Lot Like Christmas- Pumpkin Bread

Do you feel that?  There's a nip in the air.  Our house is decorated with lights and trees and glitter.  Rudolph and Frosty and Charlie Brown are all over the television, and warnings of shooting our eyes out can be heard over and over.  At this time of year, nothing seems to fill my Christmas food cravings better than a yummy, warm, spiced bread, and pumpkin bread will forever top my list of "things I'm willing to go up a size for."  Recently, I introduced this beloved recipe to my two oldest kids, and much to my dismay, they loved it...no more full loaves just for Mommy.  Bummer.  If you're in the mood for your house to smell like what Christmas should always always smell like (plus you get a yummy treat to go with that great smelling home) make this bread.  If you don't like it, bring it to me and I'll hide it from my kids and eat it alone in my closet while I let out my pants.

This recipe makes 3 loaves of bread or 3 dozen muffins.  I like to split the difference and make 2 loaves and a dozen muffins for the kids.

What you'll need:
3 cups of sugar
2/3 cup of Crisco
4 eggs
2/3 cup of water
1 can of pumpkin
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp of baking powder
2 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of cloves
1 tsp of nutmeg
1 cup of chopped nuts (I use pecans)

Now, before I get started on the actual recipe itself, I want to mention two things about the ingredients. First, you'll notice there is cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Yes.  All three all necessary.   They each add something important to the recipe, so you don't want to skip any of these.

Second, you may notice in my ingredient picture, I don't have a carton of eggs.  That's because in my breads and cakes, I prefer to use powdered eggs.  I wouldn't recommend them for an omelet, but for baking, powdered eggs tend to make the end product much more moist and delicious.  Of course, you can always use eggs you crack, too. 

Now on to the actual recipe...

Start by creaming your Crisco and sugar in a mixer until it's fluffy.

Add eggs and pumpkin and mix it really well.

In a separate bowl, combine all your dry ingredients.  This is important.  Without this step, the dry ingredients won't properly incorporate into your wet ones, and it could be really bad.

Before you add the dry to the wet, chop your nuts up to have them ready to fold in.

Now, a spoonful at a time, add the dry to the wet and mix it up until it's just incorporated.  This is technically bread, but I love the cakey texture it has when the gluten isn't well developed.

My kids aren't fans of the pecans, so I made a dozen muffins that were nut free.

Fold in the pecans (or walnuts...I bet that would be awesome) and split the batter into loaf pans. 

Bake the muffins for about 25 minutes at 350, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Bake the loaves for about an hour.
Here's hoping you have some sweet little beauties that will enjoy these with you this holiday season, too!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Slam, Bam, Simple Flan! (or Flahhhhn...but the real pronunciation didn't rhyme)

I have been married for six and a half years now to a very patient man.  My husband grew up in a very different culture than I did, and one of the things he had that I really didn't was amazingly delicious Mexican food.  I don't mean Tex-Mex.  I mean honest to goodness authentic and amazing Mexican food, and six and a half years ago, I had no idea what that meant.  I'm only starting to learn that what I grew up knowing Mexican food to be was a bit (how can I say this..?) less than authentic.  When my sister and I were in high school, we took a Spanish class, and at the end of that course, our... eccentric...teacher, had a "congratulations!  You passed!" party.  One of the things she served was flan...from pudding cups that you can buy at the grocery store. (For those of your who are like me and have no idea what flan is, imagine a caramel cheesecake.  That's what my recipe is like.)  I had no idea until Bird brought a real one home one day that a friend's Mexican wife had made that what we had tasted in our Spanish class was no where near genuine flan.  He (and my sister) just kept a fork on the plate the flan was on in the fridge, pulled it out every so often, and went to town.  That thing was gone in two days.  So, being the good little wife I am, I learned to make the real deal...and it only took me six and a half years.

I want to add that this picture is not mine.  This IS, however, what my flan looks like.  I just wasn't able to snap a shot of mine flipped out yet!

What you'll need:
1 cup of sugar
1 8 oz package of cream cheese at room temp
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 can of evaporated milk
1 tsp of vanilla
5 eggs

You also need 1/2 cup of water, but I forgot about that before I snapped this picture...

Preheat your oven to 350.

The hardest part of this recipe is making the caramel sauce, and it's so not hard.  You just have to pay attention to it.  Stir together your cup of sugar and your half cup of water in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Now put your spoon down and don't even think about picking it up to stir your sugar water mixture again.  Every few minutes, you're going to swirl the sugar so it doesn't burn, but if you stir it, your sugar will crystallize and you're going to have a big mess.

Let this boil until your sugar turns to an amber color.  This should take between 10 and 15 minutes.  Just be careful.  It can turn from amber to burned in a matter of 15 to 20 seconds.

Once your sugar turns to a caramel, quickly pour it into your dish and move your dish around to coat the bottom.  (I use a 2.5 quart round souffle dish, but you can use a 9x9 square dish, too.)  Be VERY careful.  This sugar is HOT.

Set this aside and let it cool and harden.

While you're waiting for your sugar to harden, put everything else into the blender.  No, seriously.  Throw it all in.  Turn it on.  Blend it until it's smooth, and pour it on top of the hardened caramel.

You're going to cook this in a water bath, so grab a 9x13 baking dish, and throw in about 4 to 6 cups of water as hot as your tap can get it.  Add in your flan dish, and put the whole thing into the over.  Cook at 350 for an hour and twenty to an hour and thirty minutes or until a knife comes out clean.  Be aware: this is absolutely going to jiggle, but it sets up completely as it cools.

Let it cool to room temperature then refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours, but it's best over night.

To remove it from the dish, run a knife around the edge and hold the very bottom of the dish in a sink of very hot water for a few seconds just to loosen the caramel sauce.  Put a plate on top of the flan dish and very quickly flip it.  The caramel sauce will ooze all down the sides, and you can cut into it like a delicious caramel cheesecake!