Posts Tagged 'Family Friendly Recipes'

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Today was a cold one here in Denver (it’s 17°F now), and I’ve been under the weather lately with a scratchy throat.  Feeling chilly and a little bit sorry for myself, I decided I deserved a treat: Nutella Hot Chocolate, or the most delicious, bare-minimum effort dessert ever.  I first had it at my friend Christopher’s (on the recommendation of his cousin, Nicole), but we thought it could have been more chocolatey.  I’ve played with the proportions, and I think I have it just right.

Nutella Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%; use whole for a richer drink)
3 tablespoons Nutella

Method:
Place milk in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat.  Whisk in Nutella until completely incorporated.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

That’s it!  It’s so easy, but so delicious.  With these proportions, you get a perfect amount of chocolately, nutty Nutella flavor.  This would be an ideal dessert for Valentine’s Day if you’re looking for something warm and comforting but super easy (especially served with heart marshmallows, which I cut from large store-bought marshmallows using a mini heart cookie cutter).

TIPS:  The first time I made this at home, I used Nutella that had been in the pantry for a while.  Fresh Nutella dissolves much better than Nutella that’s past its prime.

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Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

I’m a big dessert person, but I don’t always want to make a big effort in order to have it.  When my friend Christopher came over for dinner recently, I was looking for something that would be fun, delicious, and easy.  The answer?  Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food.  I love Rice Krispies treats – they so remind me of my childhood – and the chocolate element of this recipe elevates the flavor to something adults can really appreciate. Plus, the treats came together in 10 minutes flat.  Perfection!

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats
Makes 16

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini marshmallows
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Method:
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both sides.  Butter paper; set pan aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, marshmallows, and cocoa.  Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until melted, about 6 minutes; stir in rice cereal.  Press rice mixture into prepared pan; drizzle with melted chocolate.  Let cool to room temperature; cut into 16 bars.  (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, October 2008

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

These are so good!  I’ve never really been a chocolate Rice Krispies treat kind of girl (I love the original recipe), but I’ll totally make these again.  The texture is perfect, with just the right amount of butter and marshmallow, and I love, love, love the rich flavor of the chocolate drizzle on top.  This would be such a fun dessert for a dressed-up comfort food dinner party.

TIPS:  I was always under the impression that Rice Krispies treats got pretty stale if you didn’t eat them the day they were made, but these keep beautifully.

Recipe link: Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels

I made candied orange peel for the first time last year and loved it.  This year, I decided to make a double batch and use it for Christmas stollen, today’s recipe (Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels), and general nibbling.

Today’s recipe has its own instructions for making candied orange peel, but I just went with the tried-and-true process from last year.  If you already have candied orange peel (homemade or store-bought, really), this recipe is a fast way to turn out a really elegant, edible holiday gift.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels
Adapted from FoodandWine.com

Ingredients:
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bars)
3/4 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup shelled, salted pistachios

Method:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a double boiler set over a pot of simmering water, heat the bittersweet chocolate until two-thirds melted.  Remove from the heat.  Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is completely melted and registers about 90°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Spread the warm chocolate on the parchment paper to a rough 9-x-13-inch rectangle.  Working quickly, so the chocolate doesn’t set, scatter the orange peels and pistachios evenly over the melted chocolate.  Gently tap the cookie sheet on the work surface to flatten the chocolate and allow the toppings to sink in slightly. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, just until firm.  Cut or break the bark into 2-inch pieces and serve.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels

Heavenly!  This bark is a chocolate-y, salty, and sweet treat.  The original recipe calls for unsalted pistachios, but the salt adds so much to the flavor profile.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Plus, the bark is just gorgeous for gift giving.  I didn’t think it would break very evenly since the orange peel is chewy, so I cut mine with a santoku knife.  I really like the look of the hard edges.  I’m making this one again!

TIPS:  I was worried that my chocolate wouldn’t melt completely (we’ve all been there, right?), so I think I let it melt a bit too long in the double boiler.  This didn’t hurt the chocolate, but it did get pretty warm (about 120°F) and took some time to come down in temperature.  After extended stirring and letting it fall in ribbons to cool it down, my patience ended when the chocolate hit 97°F.  I was afraid that it might be a bit too loose and spread too far, but everything turned out just fine.

Also, if you don’t know what a double boiler is or want to rig up your own at home, check out this post.

Recipe links: Candied Orange Peel and Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peel (the original)

Update: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Maybe I should search for recipes on my blog before I write them up…  I was convinced that I’d never posted this recipe (one of my all-time favorites), but I did (in August of 2008).  However, since it’s so good and since I have a much-improved photo, I think it’s worthy of a repeat.  I made it recently for Dr. O and my friend Christopher; subsequently, Christopher has been signing me up for meatball throwdowns with friends’ Italian mothers, convinced I’ll win.  It’s a pretty amazing recipe.

In Dallas, I would routinely make this dish, along with Penne with Vodka Sauce, when we’d have dinner guests.  I always appreciated that I could make the meatballs ahead and have them waiting in the refrigerator; sautéing them and making the sauce was easy enough, even in the presence of company.  If you’re like my family (not a drop of Italian blood in us, yet we have Italian food for Christmas dinner), this could be a great option for a holiday meal.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 4 – 6
Prep time: 20 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 large egg
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground dark-meat turkey
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
3/4 pound spaghetti

Method:
In a large bowl, whisk together egg, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Stir in half the onion and half the garlic.  Add breadcrumbs, cheese, pork, turkey, and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning.  Mix gently.  Form into 16 balls.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half the meatballs; brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes.  Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Cook remaining meatballs in remaining tablespoon oil; remove meatballs.

Add remaining onion; cook over medium-low until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining garlic and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning; cook 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in tomatoes and 3/4 cup water.  Return meatballs; cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Remove meatballs.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti according to package directions until al dente.  Drain, return to pot.  Toss with sauce; serve meatballs on top, sprinkled with more cheese.

Note:  If you have time, chill the meatballs for about 30 minutes before cooking them; this will help them keep their shape and make them easier to handle.

Source: Everyday Food, April 2004

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Oh, these meatballs are soooo good.  They’re super flavorful (thank the seasoning and the beautiful browning!), and Christopher characterized them as “fluffy,” as opposed to the super-dense meatballs you get with some recipes.  The sauce is garlicky deliciousness; just make sure you taste and season it to your liking before serving the dish.

TIPS:  This is a repeat from the original post, but at most grocery stores, ground pork and turkey come in 16-ounce packages, not 8-ounce packages.  In the interest of efficiency, I always double the meatball part of the recipe (making 32 meatballs) and freeze half of them.  When I’m ready to cook them, I just thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and start with the second step of the recipe.

Recipe link: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Living in a house in the ‘burbs has its pros and cons, but a weeknight Halloween is definitely one of the pros.  After years in apartments with nary a trick-or-treater, I have to admit that I just love seeing all the kids’ costumes when Dr. O and I hand out candy.  And since it’s a Monday (and we enjoyed an adult party on Saturday night), it’s a perfect night to kick back with a nice meal and a bottle of wine, popping up whenever the doorbell rings.

I wanted to make a special dessert for tonight that fit with the holiday, but I was short on time and didn’t feel like running to the store.  Thankfully, I had all the ingredients on hand to make something wonderful: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce.  As I’ve mentioned before, bread pudding is one of my very favorite desserts when it’s done right; this one, while different from most others I’ve made or tasted, certainly is.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
Officially makes 6 servings, but I’d say it’s more like 8 or 10

Bread pudding ingredients:
2 cups half-and-half
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1 1/2-inch cubes egg bread (I used leftover kaiser rolls)
1/2 cup golden raisins (I used dried cranberries since that’s what I had in the pantry)

Caramel sauce ingredients:
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (I cut it into small pieces for easier melting)
1/2 cup whipping cream

Powdered sugar

For bread pudding:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Whisk half-and-half, pumpkin, dark brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in large bowl to blend.  Fold in bread cubes.  Stir in golden raisins.  Transfer mixture to 11-x-7 glass baking dish. (I used a 1.5-quart oval dish, and I buttered it.)  Let stand 15 minutes.  Bake pumpkin bread pudding until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  (I needed 50 minutes, but that might have something to do with high altitude.)

Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce:
Whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts.  Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over bread pudding.  Serve warm with caramel sauce.

Source: Bon Appetit, November 2000

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Oh, deliciousness!  The bread pudding itself came out very moist – almost creamy – with mild flavors of pumpkin and spice.  The cranberries added the occasional sweet-tart bite, which I really enjoyed.  With over a cup of brown sugar, you’d expect the bread pudding to be sweet, but it really isn’t.  This is a good thing, because the caramel sauce is.  When the sauce and the bread pudding are separate, each is good; together, though, they’re pretty fantastic.

I appreciate that this was incredibly easy to throw together and the caramel sauce seems practically impossible to screw up.  (It might become my new go-to easy dessert sauce, actually; the consistency is really silky and it has a perfect viscosity once it’s cooled for 20 minutes or so.)  This one isn’t amazing enough to knock my very favorite bread pudding recipe off the top spot, but it will be a wonderful seasonal dessert for tonight.

Recipe link: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Caramel Corn

And I’m back!  Sorry for the extended absence.  Between helping to plan a major fundraiser for the organization for which I volunteer (Resource Area for Teaching Colorado – check it out!) and preparing for our trip to Tokyo for Dr. O’s brother’s wedding (food post coming soon!), September was almost more than I could handle. We had some amazing experiences, but it’s good to be settling back into our usual routine.

I originally made today’s recipe – Caramel Corn – for a baseball-themed gourmet club meeting this summer, but with Halloween fast approaching, this treat would be so cute in clear bags with ribbons.  What you don’t want to do (unless you’re really hungry or have an amazing metabolism) is make this all by yourself with no plans to share.  It’s so ridiculously good that you will eat the whole batch.

Cracker Jack Caramel Corn Recipe

Ingredients:
2 bags natural microwave popcorn (to yield 16 cups of popcorn)
12 ounces Spanish peanuts
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method:
Preheat oven to 300°F.  Meanwhile, pop popcorn in microwave according to package directions and grease two large rimmed baking sheets.

Dump the popcorn and Spanish peanuts in a clean tall paper grocery bag.  In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt over medium heat and allow to gently boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.  Carefully and immediately pour caramel sauce into the paper grocery bag and stir the sauce, popcorn, and nuts with a wooden spoon until the sauce is evenly distributed.

Divide the popcorn mixture evenly between the two greased baking sheets.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.  Cool completely and break up the pieces (if desired).  Popcorn can be stored for at least a week (if it lasts that long!) in zip-top bags or airtight containers.

Note: The original recipe calls for air-popped popcorn and 1 tsp. salt.  Using microwave popcorn was just easier for me.

Caramel Corn

Holy cow, was this ever fantastic.  I think it borders on kettle corn, but any sweet-and-salty snack lovers will go crazy for it.  With this sauce-to-popcorn ratio, the popcorn was lightly coated and stayed crisp.  (I’ve had gooey, chewy caramel corn before and I like this much better.)  It’s a perfect make-ahead snack or dessert as well; it tasted just as good on day five as it did on day one.

TIPS: I made a batch of this caramel corn for my parents, but I used cashews instead of peanuts.  The result?  Things worked much better with the peanuts.  Maybe whole cashews would be okay, but cashew pieces almost burned.

Recipe link: Caramel Corn

S’More Squares

What the heck happened to summer?  I realize that by the calendar, we still have almost seven weeks (and I will continue to blog as such!), but I can feel it fading.  The neighborhood kids are going back to school tomorrow, and I was mildly freaked out to see racks and racks of fall clothes at the mall yesterday.  (At least that means football is coming, right?)

In my mind, this means we’d better enjoy as much summer fare as we can before it’s back to roasted squash and simmering stews.  And what’s the quintessential summer dessert?  S’mores, of course!  Today’s recipe is a dressed-up version you can use as a fun ending to the most adult dinner party, but kids love it as well (and I have the evidence!).

S’More Squares
Makes 9

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 packages unflavored gelatin (or 3 tablespoons)
3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 6 tablespoons room temperature, plus more for pan
14 graham crackers, crushed to yield 1 1/2 cups crumbs
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Method:
Brush a 9-x-13-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil.  Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper large enough to cover the bottom of the dish and to overhang the longer sides.  Place the parchment in the dish, brush with oil, and set dish aside.

Pour 3/4 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer, and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Place 3 cups granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.  Set saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil.  Insert a candy thermometer, and cook until mixture reaches soft-ball stage (238 degrees, about 9 minutes).

Using the whisk attachment, beat hot syrup into gelatin on low speed.  Gradually increasing speed to high, beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.  Set dish aside, uncovered, until marshmallow becomes firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Place 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a fine strainer, and sift onto a clean work surface. Invert large marshmallow onto the sugar-coated surface, and peel off the parchment paper.  Lightly brush a sharp knife with vegetable oil, and cut marshmallow into 2-inch squares.  Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, and roll marshmallows in sugar to coat.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with melted butter.  In a large bowl, combine graham-cracker crumbs, 7 tablespoons melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Using your hands, press mixture firmly into prepared pan.  Transfer pan to oven, and bake until the crust has set, 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove pan from oven, and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer.  In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine chocolate with remaining 6 tablespoons butter.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, and stir until chocolate and butter have melted.  Pour chocolate mixture over cooled graham-cracker crust.  Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate mixture into an even layer.  Transfer to refrigerator, and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Cut chocolate crust into nine 3-inch squares.  Top each square with a marshmallow, and place assembled s’mores under the broiler just until marshmallows turn golden brown, about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 1998

Time for S'Mores!Time for S'Mores!

Time for S'Mores!

S'Mores Square

Talk about a decadent dessert.  WOW.  The end result was really delicious but super rich; my group of tasters concluded that the chocolate was the culprit.  I used Baker’s semisweet for this batch, but I’m going to use Hershey’s milk chocolate (the classic!) next time around.  I might also play with the amount of chocolate in my next batch, though I’m not sure that half would be quite enough.  Additionally, I’ll probably cut the graham cracker base into a dozen squares instead of nine to make it easier to finish one off (though the size does make this a visually impressive dessert!).

This marshmallow recipe is pure perfection, everybody.  These were the most gorgeous, fluffy marshmallows I’ve ever made (and I’ve made lots), AND they taste exactly like Jet-Puffed marshmallows (a plus in my book).  Whenever I have a recipe that calls for marshmallow from here on out, I’m going to use these.  Also, this recipe makes more than double the amount of marshmallow you’ll actually need for the s’mores, so you’ll have plenty around for snacks.

So what else do I love about this recipe?  The same thing I love about so many things I post on this blog, which is “make-ahead-ability.”  The marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks, and the chocolate-covered graham cracker squares can be kept in the refrigerator for at least two or three days.  If you have the components made, all you have to do is preheat the broiler, put the squares on a baking sheet, put marshmallows on the squares, and put the treats under the broiler for 20 seconds.  That’s about as easy as it gets.

A note about browning the marshmallows: I thought it might be OK to use a kitchen torch instead of the broiler, but that quite literally just browns the marshmallows. You totally miss out on the ooey-gooeyness that the oven time creates.  Also, if you make too many s’mores, I discovered that they’re quite good reheated the next day. Just let them cool completely, put them in an airtight container, and then pop them in the microwave for 15 – 20 seconds when you’re ready to enjoy.

TIP:  Since I live at 5900 feet, I had to adjust the temperature of my sugar and corn syrup mixture to make the marshmallow.  Water boils at 202°F at my house (instead of 212°F at sea level), so I took the mixture off of the stove at 228°F instead of 238°F.  Also, I had an incredible amount of powdered sugar waste after I cut and rolled my marshmallows; I think you could get away with sifting only 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar onto the work surface, rather than a full cup.

Update 4/23/12: I made these last night for friends with two modifications.  First, I used 9 ounces of Hershey’s milk chocolate instead of 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate.  I liked the flavor of the Hershey’s better, and the chocolate layer was a perfect thickness.  Also, one of my dinner guests from last night can’t have gluten, so I made the crust with Kinnikinnick S’moreables (and made sure to get 1.55-ounce Hershey bars, which apparently is the only size Hershey guarantees as gluten free).  Using the alternative graham cracker changed the texture of the crust a bit, but the dessert was still delicious.

Recipe link: S’More Squares




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