Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Goodies (Some of My favorite Recipes)

It's the most delicious time... of the year!!!

Every year, I make a bunch of goodies and send them to loved ones around Christmas! These are definitely among my favorite recipes, you should feel very lucky to be getting them!!

This year, I made marshmallows, Ritz minty chocolates, saltine toffee, pretzels with candy coating and gingersnaps.  I was in too much of a rush to take step by step pictures (this was my first year to do this with a little helper elf), but if you have any questions, feel free to email me.  

Ritz Minty Chocolates (Thin Mint Clones)


  • 2 packages chocolate almond bark
  • 80 buttery round crackers
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

  1. Microwave almond bark in a bowl, I usually melt it for a minute and then stir.  Make sure you do not overcook your chocolate.  You can also use a double broiler and melt the chocolate over hot tap water for 15 - 20 minutes. Stir. Do not cook or get water into the chocolate. For a thinner chocolate coating, you can add a few spoonfuls of crisco to your candy coating or almond bark, let it melt and stir it up.  
  2. After it is all melted, stir in a couple drops of peppermint flavoring to the chocolate.
  3. Dip crackers into the melted chocolate and then place onto parchment paper to let cool. You can add sprinkles if you would like to make them festive.
  4. The cookies are best kept at room temperature or a cool dry place away from any odors.

I was looking for a toffee recipe (because who doesn't like toffee) and I found this on  It was a highly rated recipe, so I thought I would give it a try. Besides, I was very intrigued by the use of saltines in the recipe.  

Saltine Toffee

  • 4 ounces saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

Line 9x13 pan or cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer.

In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and let boil for 3 minutes. 

Immediately pour over saltines and spread it cover crackers completely.

Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.

Cool completely (a couple of hours) and break into pieces.

I was very surprised by this recipe.  It was super easy and delicious... not to mention fat free ;)


I always forget how much I like gingersnaps, until I make them during the holiday season.  I can not remember where I got this recipe, it is one my mother and I have been making for years.  It's the best gingersnap recipe I have found, they stay chewy for at least a week (if you do not over cook them) and it is the perfect balance between sweet and salty.  

Make sure you read all the way through the directions before you start to make these.  

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 cup sugar (for rolling dough in)

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together shortening, brown sugar, molasses and egg.  

In a SEPARATE medium-sized bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, blending after each addition until the dough is evenly mixed.  

Put the 1/2 cup sugar into a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop (or roll a ball with floured hands) roll the dough balls in the bowl of sugar until coated.  

Place them on parchment paper (or a lightly greased cookie sheet) leaving a couple of inches between each one.  I use the same parchment paper for each batch, I don't get a new sheet every time I put the pan in the oven.  

Bake for 8-9 minutes.  They will look raw when you take them out.  Leave them on the cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack.  

1 recipe makes about 2 dozen.  Keep them in an airtight container, they also ship well.  

If you do not have a cookie scoop, you should ask for one for Christmas, it makes baking cookies (and cake balls) so much easier!! 

Candy coated Pretzels


Candy coating or almond bark


Long Pretzel Sticks

Directions:Microwave almond bark/candy coating in a bowl, I usually melt it for a minute and then stir.  Make sure you do not overcook your chocolate.  You can also use a double broiler, melt the chocolate over hot tap water for 15 - 20 minutes. Stir . Do not cook or get water into the chocolate.

Line cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper.  Dip rods into melted candy coating, I had to use a spatula to evenly coat them.  

Set on wax paper and drizzle with sprinkles.  

Obviously there are many variations to this recipe, but it is very simple and takes maybe 15 minutes.  


Every year, I have multiple requests for these marshmallows (mostly by family, so I am not really sure if that counts) and I must say, they are simply delicious! They are somewhat time consuming, but worth every second!

I blogged about these in February, marshmallows (click on the link to the left).  

I will be making more of these before Christmas, if you are interested in a tutorial, let me know! 

One of these days I am thinking I will set up shop somewhere and sell Holiday candy and baked goods.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tacky Peppermint Ice Cream

This year was the third year the Holly Jolly Gooches have had a tacky party.  This was definitely the best year yet!
1st year

This was the second year. Yes, my belly is painted.  Kent actually wears these clothes during the holiday season, just not quite together. 

This year I was the lamp from The Christmas Story.  
This year there were awards for the most tacky as well as the best holiday dish.  There were various Christmas themed door prizes which were mostly food related, of course.  I made a few different things for the party, one of which was Peppermint chocolate chip ice cream, inspired with our latest obsession, the peppermint chocolate chip milkshake from Chick-fil-a.  I wanted an easy recipe, so I immediately thought of Eagle Brand.  I have used a few eagle brand ice cream recipes before and you can't go wrong!

Here is what you will need:

1 1/4 cups water
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups  cream
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped chocolate chips

Combine ingredients into ice cream freezer container. Turn ice cream maker on until frozen or until desired consistency. 

I had not made ice cream in a while in my maker, i put all the ingredients in, then the attachment and it was already too frozen to turn the mixture.  So I poured the liquid into a large container and put it in the freezer overnight.  When I got up, the mixture was not quite frozen all the way so I stirred it up.  Surprisingly, it still turned out great. 

Here are some more festive pictures from the night!

Jeremy, Amanda and Boo
Rowyn, Talan and Cruz

Stapleton and his grandma Peggy

Bear Gooch in his penguin sweater
Charlie, Nichole, Stapleton , Tara and Ryan
Jeff and Amy (Jeff was the tacky winner, his tie was something!) 

Travis and Linsey

Adam and Meagan
Stapleton and his grandpa

Ismael and Gennifer

Lindy and Ann (Ann was the food winner, her chocolate chips cookies vanished in seconds!!)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brussels Sprouts

When I was little, I was not allowed to leave the table until I had eaten all of the vegetables on my plate.  Sometimes, it was not so bad with the candied carrots, corn, or green beans. However, on other dreadful nights, my mother made brussels sprouts.  I was not a fan of brussels sprouts, it was a hold-your-nose and chew as fast as you can, and then swallow situation.  My mother would steam and season them... 25 years later and my opinion has completely changed of brussels sprouts (No offense Mom).

In an earlier post, I mentioned I ate at Juniper and had brussels sprouts.  The next time I was shopping at Reasor's in the produce area, I spotted the brussels sprouts and thought I would give it a try.  

You will need:
Brussels Sprouts, about 10-15 
Some type of oil, I used Grape Seed, Olive oil also works great
Bacon, cooked and chopped (Optional)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  First you will want to wash the brussels sprouts and cut the end off.  

Cut them in half.  Some of the leaves might come off, it's okay. 

Put in a medium sized bowl; drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper.  Do not put the bacon in just yet.  I did in the picture, but my bacon burned.  

Put brussels sprouts on a sheet pan. 

Like I stated above, wait until you have cooked your brussels sprouts for about 15 minutes then add your bacon and cooked until finished, about 25-35 minutes or when brussels sprouts are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  I usually shake the pan a couple times while they are cooking so they brown evenly. 

I took these to Thanksgiving and they were delicious (no one held their nose while eating). 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I can not believe Thanksgiving is this week, this year has gone by so fast.  I am looking forward to spending time with friends and family and lots of eating.  My favorite food at Thanksgiving is not the turkey, it is my grandmother's dressing and Giblet gravy.  She has spoiled me, I always have my own pan of stuffing that is very dry, and crunchy!! I also love all the pumpkin and fall desserts, but I'm sure you gathered that from my "pumpkin" post earlier.

This will be Stapleton's first Thanksgiving, Since I am staying home, I have been crafty... he will be a turkey for thanksgiving! I have been copycatting ETSY...

I usually make pumpkin pancakes sometime this year.  However, I have a recipe from the Tupelo Honey cookbook, I have been wanting to make.  When we go to North Carolina, our favorite restaurant is Tupelo Honey, It's amazing!! If you are ever in Asheville, you MUST go!  My absolute favorite thing to get is the Sweet Potato Pancake, it is literally the size of your plate.  They serve it topped with peach butter and spiced pecans (I did not serve with with mine). Im' not going to lie, this recipe is a little time consuming.  I prepared most of it the night before.

Here is what you will need:

Not pictured: Sweet potato and Vinegar*

cups all-purpose flour
1teaspoon salt
tablespoons sugar
½tablespoon baking soda
1tablespoon baking powder
3cups buttermilk* (I did not have buttermilk so I added 3 Tablespoons of white vinegar to 3 cups of milk, 1 Tablespoon per cup)
3large eggs
2tablespoons butter, melted
1large sweet potato, roasted and cooled
2tablespoons honey
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
½teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix well. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and melted butter, and then add this to the dry mixture.

Peel and mash the sweet potato, place it in a bowl, and then add the honey, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix it well.
I roasted the sweet potato in the oven for about an hour at 350 degrees 

Add this mixture into the pancake batter. Let the batter stand for 1 hour (or you can make it a day ahead of time, like I did).

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add batter by the ladleful and cook the pancakes, in batches, until golden brown on each side.

This recipe makes about 20- 4 inch pancakes.  I will definitely divide the recipe next time.  They also reheat wonderfully.  The second time, I put cream cheese and land-o-lakes new cinnamon sugar butter on them, with a little maple syrup... heavenly (and healthy)!!

Here is a link to the recipe on the Food Network, including the spiced pecans and the peach butter. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Boston and Bacon

Kent and I recently went to Boston to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary and we had a delicious time.  I say delicious because we pretty much ate amazing food the entire time.

If you know me, you know I can NOT keep a surprise, the suspense kills me! Amazingly, I was able to actually keep a secret and surprise Kent... after much research, I made reservations at a french restaurant, L'Espalier, in the Back Bay of Boston.  While researching, I came upon reviews for sitting at the chef's table.  I figured it wouldn't be possible because it is usually booked months in advanced.  So, I called the restaurant to make reservations and they actually had the night of our anniversary available due to a cancellation (so remember it never hurts to ask).

Most Chefs' Tables are the table closest to the kitchen, but this table was actually in the kitchen. We are foodies, so for us it was like a dinner theatre,  we had so much fun.
This was the view of the kitchen, from our table.

The food was amazing, we both agreed, it was probably the best meal we have ever had.  All together, I think it was 15 courses (they were all a couple of bites each, but we were definitely full) and we did the wine pairings with each course.  Here are some of the pictures... I forgot to get a few of the pictures. 

Different Breads, the pretzel roll was AMAZING!!!
Creme Puffs with blue cheese filling and chicken mousse on a cracker.  
Halibut mousse with a seaweed salad on the left of the plate.  
This was an oyster, Kent loved it! The presentation was pretty cool, dry ice below and shells and seaweed around it. 

This was foie gras, with a caramel sauce and grape puree, it was incredible!! 
Filet with mashed potatoes and a bone marrow egg roll. 
Lobster with vanilla-apple butternut squash puree.
Egg mousse with cavier, the mousse tasted like creamy butter, very good!

Cheese Plate, yum!
Carrot cake with pumpkin mousse, black currant mascarpone, and ricotta ice cream
Caramelized white chocolate-Manjari chocolate cremeux with black sesame custard, wild rice puff, dulce de leche ice cream
Green apple soft mousse sphere with saffron coconut, coconut cake, calvados caviar, and tarragon ice cream
Compressed Asian pear with white chocolate, tonka bean meringue, bergamot custard, and Earl Grey ice cream
We also had Cod, Scallops, Squab, and Sweetbreads (I was in food heaven and forgot to take pictures).  

Now, I am a picky eater, but I got over it and tried a lot of new things.  I am glad I did.  However, I still do not like Oysters, I managed to choke it down, but definitely not one of my favorites.  We will definitely be looking for other restaurants that have Chefs' Tables in the kitchen!!

We also ate in Boston's North End, their Little Italy. I read reviews on Yelp and Giacamo's was the highest rated Italian restaurant in Boston.  So we had a late breakfast and decided to have an early dinner... it opened at 4:00, we got there at 3:30 and were 20 people back in line already.  It was well worth the wait!!  Giacamo's was AMAZING!!! Hands down, best Italian food I have ever had.  It was a Perfect meal.  

After leaving Giacamo's stuffed to the brim with homemade pasta and a bottle of wine, we went by a Bakery called Modern Pastry. We learned about it after seeing it on the Food Network. We got some sweets and definitely satisfied our sweet tooth, for the month... they were all incredible!

red velvet cupcake, eclair, woopie pie, butter cookies, strawberry shortcake, sfogliatella,  and a lobster tail.

We did not eat all of this, just delicious and delectable little bites of them.

When we got back from Boston, we were invited to a pumpkin carving party and were asked to bring a dessert or an appetizer.  So what do you get when you cross a dessert with and appetizer?  Candied Bacon, it's sweet and savory. The first time I had this was at a rehearsal dinner, as an appetizer, UNFORGETTABLE!

This was super easy and incredibly addictive.  Here is what you will need:

Brown Sugar (1/2 Cup)
Maple Syrup (a couple to Tablespoons)
I also ended up adding some black pepper.  

Preheat oven to 425.
Cut your bacon in half, it will be easier to eat and cook.  
Put bacon in a large ziplock baggie.   Pour in maple syrup and toss bag to coat all bacon.  Pour in brown sugar and toss to coat again.  

Put in cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes. Take out and drain cookie sheet of bacon grease.  Put back in oven until desired crunchiness. :)

Let cool and enjoy!