Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

We have a quasi tradition of having a really nice dinner with the family on New Year's eve. It is a good way to keep everyone indoors and away from potential danger out and about late in the evening. So we would get a rib roast, and all the trimmings and have a fun time celebrating the arrival of a new year.

This year, the kids are all away. So will we still have a huge celebration? Nah. We'll still have some good food and a few treats, but it will be just the both of us this year. I know the middle daughter is having a few friends over, as is the youngest one, I'm sure. What will they serve? What else but their favorite: Fondue!

Yes, they love fondue! All kinds, cheese, hot oil for meats and tempura, and then a delicious chocolate dessert fondue. I think the love of fondue was set in stone with each of them when they were in elementary school. I volunteered to help with holiday classroom parties and the easiest treat on the planet is a chocolate fondue! How so? Simple.

You begin with a crockpot. On Low. Add 2 packages of Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge frosting and warm. TaDa! It's that simple. Yes, I know Duncan Hines. Ugh. But if you want a no fuss quick dessert, there isn't anything better. Add some sliced bananas, some cherries, a few marshmallows and some chopped walnuts, pineapple chunks and almost anything else you can think of to dip into chocolate. People will be entertained for hours. Yes.

I cannot hit publish unless I add a real recipe for chocolate fondue either so here you go. The reason I hesitate to share is that is is complicated and can easily burn if you're not careful.

1 cups premium cocoa powder, sifted (I like Penzey's Natural Cocoa Powder)
1 1/4 cups spring water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons heavy cream
5 ounces 62% Scharffen Berger or any premium semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

Sift the cocoa into mixing bowl and set aside. Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup into a pot and bring to boil. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes until sugar solution has reduced by about 30%. Pour the cocoa powder into the solution and blend with a whisk until smooth. Return the chocolate mixture to the stove and continue cooking over medium heat. Add heavy cream, bring to boil and allow to simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in chopped chocolate. Pour into fondue pot and keep warm.

Oh my all this talk is making me hungry! I think we might have to break out the fondue pot tonight!

Happy New Year Everyone!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays Everyone

Whether it's a tinsel tree, a gigantic Spruce, or a meal with friends...

I wish you a Merry Christmas! And if Christmas isn't your holiday, I wish you a happy holiday too! However you celebrate it is being with family and friends that make it all worth it.

Thank you all for the wonderful comments, friendship and readership over the years. You keep this little blog going along!

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Peanut Brittle

I did make the peanut brittle posted about earlier in the month. It was a quick and easy recipe to make. When they say use a casserole dish with handles, they say that for a reason! The bowl I used got so hot, I almost could not handle it at all.I also used salted spanish peanuts in mine, as that is what the husband requested. I alos added twice the butte the recipe called for. It is delicious!


Ready to go

First you mix together the sugar, corn syrup, salt and peanuts ( ileft out the salt because I used salted peanuts). Microwave on high for four minutes; remove and stir well.

Cover and another four minutes in the microwave. Take out and stir again. Add in your vanilla and butter; mix well and cover and microwave another 2 minutes.

Remove cover and stir in soda. Mix well; it will get really foamy.

Mixing in the soda

Now pour onto greased pan;

After the soda it added

spread it out thin; cool completely;

Spreading hot lava

Spread out thin

break into pieces.

Breaking it apart

Eat! Or store in an airtight container like a ziplock bag.

Microwave Peanut Brittle

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Gift!

Christmas Gift!, originally uploaded by foodchronicles.

Every year about this time I get a special package in the mail. I have come to look forward to it, as it reminds me of good times in the past. Today, I was thinking maybe it wouldn't come this year. i was sitting, finishing up my Christmas cards and I saw the UPS man. I wondered who had ordered something I didn't know about. Hmmmm.

Then I went to the door and suddenly knew! It was my Christmas gift from Hadleys. Hadley's is the largest date grower in America. They have a ranch out in the Coachella Valley that produces dates sold all over America. If you've bought a date, packaged under the Sunsweet name or Hadley branded, it's a Hadley date. Don't confuse them with the little fruit stand in Cabazon, CA. It isn't the same Hadley's. Yes, they do sell dates to them, but they don't own the store.

Hadley's is a family run business. It's been in the family for 3 generations and now moving into its fourth. They are a great bunch and really understand the meaning of family. They work hard together and play hard together.

Dates are a favorite of mine. I can't get the kids to eat them. The sons-in0law will try them and probably admit to enjoying them, but the girls just run the other direction. That's where the trail mix is a plus. I don't know anyone that doesn't enjoy trail mix. Problem is there isn't a lot of it, so I'm not sharing!
Date pack

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

3 simple ingredients

3 simple ingredients, originally uploaded by foodchronicles.

More candy! When I was a little girl, my grandmother would make this treat for us on holidays. Only on holidays. Chocolate was too expensive for her and so she made this treat for those she loved. She was good with treats!

Three simple ingredients go into this recipe. Nuts - hers were always almonds - but you can substitute any nut you like; marshmallows and good chocolate. For her the only available chocolate back then was a thick slab of Hershey's. Melt the chocolate, keeping it in temper, in a glass bowl.
tempered chocolate

Add your nuts, roasted or not. I don't use dry roasted nuts as they are just too dry. I chose to roast my almonds in the oven at 475 for about 10 minutes. It brings out the flavor and add body to the candy.
Almonds, mallows, chocolate

Add the nuts and marshmallows and stir. That's it. Make sure everything has a good coat of chocolate then put it in a pan that has been lined with waxed paper.
Pan lined with waxed paper

Mixed up and ready to cool
Allow to set up. As you can see mine has that nice shine to the exterior that tempered chocolate has.
Ah, perfectly tempered!


I let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes and it had set up and was ready to cut into squares. It did sit for about three hours before I cut it up and wrapped it for the neighbors.

Ready for the nieghbors

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

English Toffee

Ann Rogers Recipe, originally uploaded by foodchronicles.

Years and years ago I went to Relief Society and tasted English Toffee made by one of the older women in our area. It was wonderful! Everyone raved about how good it was and she consented to give each of us the recipe. This is my copy.

This year I am trying to make candy or cookies as gifts. I also have a goal of not using recipes that call for corn syrup. I am not a fan of it and know I could find a few good candy recipes that do not use it. Well, Ann's recipe is one of those.

You begin by chopping up some raw almonds and milk chocolate. Butter a cookie sheet with butter also, be liberal with your butter.

Chopped Milk chocolate and almonds

Then measure out two cups of sugar, a pound of butter, and a cup of water. Make sure you use good butter! It is the base of flavor for your toffee and you don't want a butter that has been in a warehouse picking up icky flavors. Put your ingredients in a heavy bottom pan, with a lid. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil. It will be light yellow in color.

beginning to cook

Once it begins to boil, add your almonds to the mix and begin stirring. You will stir constantly until it is ready to pour into the baking sheet. It says on the recipe you stir until it cooks down, changes color a bit and begins to smoke. Oh. My. What does that mean? After the mixture boiled for about 10 minutes it looked like this:

really boiling

I didn't think it had turned color enough and decided to get out my candy thermometer just to make sure. I know that English Toffee is a soft crunch type of candy so I chose to make sure it was at that level before pouring it out and making a huge mess. It was at 220 degrees. It needed to be 270+ before it would reach the proper stage and so I continued stirring for another 15 minutes. Toffee is not for the faint hearted!

Check again. It's almost there!

At temp

Finally it had turned color enough to make a difference. I checked the temp and it was ready. I still did not get the mixture to "smoke". Still I poured it out onto the pan and smoothed it out.


Next, when the toffee has cooled a bit sprinkle the surface with your chopped chocolate. Then with an offset spatula spread the chocolate around making sure you coat the entire surface about 1/4 of an inch.

Chocolate coating

Quickly sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the chocolate. Now put it in the refrigerator to get the chocolate to set up. The toffee will still be warm so it will take about thirty minutes.


Once it has set up, turn it out onto a waxed paper covered surface and add chocolate to the other side, repeating with walnuts again also. You'll have to melt your chocolate this time as the toffee is cooled and will not melt the chocolate for you!

Voila! You have made English Toffee. Give it a try. This was my first time making this recipe and wow did it turn out good! Or maybe I should say it was awful and I decided I better keep it all to myself. ;-)

Ready to eat

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Fresh and Bumpy?

That's the headline of an article talking about the branding effort by Fresh and Easy. Interesting that the observations are not a lot different than mine. Fresh and Easy is not having an easy time of it with the launch of the stores. I've been back to the one closest to me on several occasions and I find that I have the run of the place. Fewer and fewer shoppers each time I've gone. The shelves are stocked, I think this time because of low sales, not high demand.

To be fair the article talks about the "look" of the stores. I don't agree with them on that. The concrete floors do not represent shoddy or low budget. The concrete floors tell me that they are paying attention to higher end stores like Bristol Farms and Central Market. The authors would do well to drive down to a Bristol Farms in their area and take a look around. It's not the floor I'm worried about. I do agree the packaging is a bit utilitarian. I can live with that, if the muddy brown and lime green is how they want to be remembered so be it. It's different for certain. Not so bad.

What keyed me in that they are in the same place as me is the comment on meats and produce. Packaging everything is a mistake. I recently bought 6 tomatoes 2 of which rotted within a day of purchase. Not something I enjoy seeing happen, those tomatoes would not have been purchased by me, if they had been loose in a bin. It seems F&E has figured out how to control shrink, they pass it on to me! The steaks I purchased were flavorless. If they want to charge $8 a pound for a steak, it better have some flavor. I won't be purchasing any more beef from them.

It would be nice to know if F&E is paying attention to all the feedback. However, one will never know as their iron curtain of a website does not provide a response to emails ever. Their blog is quite the same. Comments get left, asking questions that range from store locations to available jobs or products and the author does not respond there either. The article uses the word arrogance to describe their attitude. Me - I'd call it foolish. Foolish enough to believe they have nothing to learn.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007


For two years, we have not had measurable rainfall. I finally get done with "have" to do things and thought I would have some time to do some candy making. Had I known I could make it rain by simply deciding to make candy, I probably would have decided a year ago.

Yes, on the agenda are meringue mushrooms, peanut brittle, marshmallows and rocky road. I will have to satisfy myself with the rocky road for now. Why? Because for the second weekend in a row in Southern California it is raining! Who knew?

Stay tuned for pictures and descriptions!

I'll leave you with this recipe. It's from my oldest's grandpa in law:

If you have a microwave and you'd like to whip up some peanut brittle in a hurry, this recipe will let you do it in a little less than 10 minutes (plus cooling time, of course). Times are based on a 700W microwave oven so please adjust your cooking time to suit your equipment!


* 1.5 cups of raw, shelled Virginia peanuts (leave the skins on)
* 1 cup of granulated sugar
* 1/2 cup light corn syrup
* 1 teaspoon of butter
* 1 teaspoon of vanilla
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/8 teaspoon salt


* Mix the peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt together in a microwave-safe casserole dish until well mixed
* Cook in a microwave on high for 4 minutes; open and stir the mix well; then cook on high for another 4 minutes
* Open, stir in the butter and vanilla, then microwave on high for a further 2 minutes
* Finally, remove from the microwave, open the dish, add the baking soda and stir quickly until the mix is light and foamy
* Immediately pour the mixture onto a lightly-greased baking sheet, spreading it out thinly.
* Allow the mix to cool - then break it into small pieces and store in an airtight container.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Wiki says "A mendiant is a traditional French confection composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four mendicant or monastic orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites. Each of the nuts and dried fruits used refer to the color of monastic robes with tradition dicating raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustins, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelite. Usually found during Christmas, recipes for this confection have veered away from the traditional combination of nuts and fruits to other combinations incorporating seeds, fruit peels and other items."


To me the mendiants is simple, easy and delicious. For a quick confection nothing beats the Mendiant. You can choose to go with the traditional, or simply use what you have on hand. My choice today was to use what I had on hand. I simply used some salted nuts.

You begin with as good a quality of chocolate as possible. Chop it into small pieces, leave a few out to use after the bulk of it is heated. In a bowl, microwave it for 30 seconds, stir, and then again for 30 seconds. Your chocolate should be viscous, with a few lumps. If needed heat again for 15 seconds. You are trying to maintain the temper of the chocolate by heating it in this manner. Now your chocolate should be workable with a few small lumps, keep stirring it until it is smooth. If the chocolate has been heated to very warm, add a few of the still unmelted pieces of chocolate and stir them in until melted(it should be about the same temperature as you, just slightly warmer). This will allow the chocolate to return to temper and you'll be able to work with it without having the chocolate "bloom". Bloom is when the chocolate has that "white" powdery look to it. It was not in temper when you began, or got heated to melting later. Read more about tempering chocolate here.

chopped chocolate

Now you want to take tablespoons full of chocolate and make a round on a sheet of waxed paper. As you make the round, sprinkle a few nuts and dried fruits on the surface. Tada! Your Mendiant is done. Store layered between waxed paper in a closed container until your ready to serve them or give as gifts.


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Monday, December 03, 2007

Meet and Mingle with Meeta

Meeta of What's for lunch honey? is hosting her Monthly Mingle again this month and I've decided to join in the fun. Monthly Mingle began in 2006 and Meeta invites everyone over for a Monthly Mingle with a theme. This month's theme is Traditional Feasts. Meeta would like to mingle with us and get to know us better by sharing our family holiday favorites!

I have chosen to re-post a favorite of ours for the mingle. Every mingle has starters and our treat is the perfect starter. Not to sweet, a little salty and such a nice holiday compliment to all the other snacks and treats! So without further talking I'm bringing the Chinese Fried Walnuts! This is a repeat of a post I did back in 2005, so yes you are reading something you've read before!

Out of the hot oil
Originally uploaded by foodchronicles.
These are a holiday favorite. Very easy to make and simply one of the best salty/sweet snacks around!

I got the recipe from a Good Housekeeping magazine back in the late 70s. It takes a bit of time, but it is well worth the effort.

Start with 6 cups of water. 4 cups of California walnuts (any states walnuts will do, but I am true to my homeland!)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar, your favorite oil (not olive oil - too much flavor) and a bit of salt.

You'll also want a sieve, like in the picture, ora draining/cooling rack. Also a colander on hand.

Place the sugar in a bowl; set side.

Bring the water to a boil. Add the walnuts and bring to a boil. Then let them cook for one minute (or so).

After the minute of cooking pour the walnuts into the colander and rinse well with hot water to remove all residue for about 30 seconds.

Once rinsed, drain well and then add to sugar that you earlier set aside. Roll the warm walnuts in the sugar until glazed. While you're waiting for the sugar to melt heat your oil.

In a pot, add about an in to two inches of oil and heat to 350 degrees. When sugar is melted add half of the walnuts to the oil and cook to a golden brown, about five minutes. Remove from oil, and let cool. Bring oil up in temperature and add remaining walnuts. Repeat.Frying

One important note! Do not cool on paper! The sugar will stick and you'll have a mess to throw away - believe me!

Once the walnuts have cooled, salt to taste. Store in a tightly covered container. Share with friends.
Ready for a little sea salt

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

NaBloPoMo is Done! I did it!

Now on to other food stuff!

I am part of a religion that abstains from addictive substances. All of them except candy that is. So in celebration of all that is good and sticky, I will be posting a few of my favorite candy recipes in the next few days. Watch for them tomorrow!

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