Chocolate Toffee Bark

So, I’m flipping through the newest Costco magazine when I came across this little ditty.  They had me at toffee.  There are siren songs that lure each of us.  G’s is meat in almost any form; mine is caramel.  I can’t even imagine a candy starting out with saltines as a base.  Someone has a better imagination than I do.

Who on Earth thought of this and may I worship at their feet?  This recipe was in the February 2020 Costco Connection.  I always scope them out for good recipes and I’ve gotten quite a few.  They work really hard at showcasing their products.  We both found this candy to be delightful.   Will you know there’s a saltine base?  I certainly can’t tell.  It’s the fun of telling people later that makes it so enjoyable.  Give it a try; I think you’ll get a kick out of them.

 

48 Saltine crackers

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup mixed nuts

3/4 cup dried cherries, cranberries or other dried fruit

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

red food color (optional)

Line a jelly roll pan (10 x 15 inches) with parchment paper.  Spray with nonstick spray and lay crackers on the paper in a single layer.  They will be 6 by 8.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. stirring occasionally, until butter is melted, then bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Carefully pour the mixture over the saltines, covering them.  Using an offset spatula, spread the mixture out evenly.

Put the chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl that hold at least 4 cups.  Microwave the chocolate on 50 power for 1 minute, then stir.  Continue heating in 30 second intervals on the same power, stirring in between until melted.  Evenly spread  over the crackers.  Quickly sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit on top, gently pushing them into the chocolate.

If you want the white chocolate chips, melt them as above.  I do mix in the oil.  I use a fork to drizzle the white chocolate over all.

Refrigerate the bark for at least an hour.

*  From the Recipe Box:

If you want multi colors, use half the white chocolate chips and mix red food coloring into the other half.

and remember:  People say love is the best feeling, but I think finding a toilet when you have diarrhea is better.  Big kiss, Lynn

Giada De Laurentiis’s Hazelnut Cookies

I’m still trolling sites for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe for G.  What makes it a little harder for me is my lack of appreciation for a chocolate chip cookie.  This one is a crispy cookie.  It has a really distinct snap.  And, of course, I love Hazelnuts and not just because my grandma was named Hazel.

Full disclosure, G did not enjoy these as well as the original Toll House recipe.  I don’t think anything will ever replace those in his heart of hearts.  I, on the other hand, found these quite enjoyable.  I liked the taste of the hazelnuts and the candy.  I would have left out the chocolate chips.  I know, there is something wrong with me.

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 ounces English toffee candy (recommended: Heath or Skor bar), finely chopped

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, and chopped

1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper. Finely chop the oats in a food processor. Transfer the oats to a medium bowl. Mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the toffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips.
  4. For each cookie, drop 1 rounded tablespoonful of dough onto sheet, spacing 1-inch apart (do not flatten dough). Bake until the cookies are golden (cookies will flatten slightly), about 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. (The cookies can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

*  From the Recipe Box:

I didn’t like how slowly they were cooking, so I bumped the temperature up to 350 degrees.  I’m not sure how much of a difference it made, but the second tray was crispier.

Chilling the dough made a huge difference in baking quality.

and remember:  We all have 2 important fates.  One is the result of whatever mess we were born into, and one is the result of deciding that is not fucking good enough.  Big kiss, Lynn

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Back in the old days when I worked for a living, I organized a lot of meals for meetings and classes and such.  I used several different catering companies, but I had a soft spot for one in particular.  I don’t even know if they are still in business.

So, why were they my go to?  The cookies.  They made these giant chocolate chip cookies that were to die for.  I’ve been trying to perfect them since I quit working.  I used to beg for the recipe, but sharing was not an option for them.

Each cookie came individually wrapped.  Yes, I would order some for myself.  G was totally hooked on them.  They were soft and chewy in the center and crisp around the edges.  The perfect cookie.  Each one was approximately 3 to 4 inches in diameter and an inch deep.  I’m not making them quite that big, but G would be happy if we did.  This is G’s favorite cookie, raw or cooked, and we’ve worked on perfecting it together.

  • 1 cup butter 
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4  cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup craisins

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set rack in middle of oven.
  2. Cream butter.  Add the sugars and beat with the butter until smooth on medium speed. We totally beat it until it is incredibly creamy
  3. Add the eggs and beat on medium just until incorporated with butter and sugars, about 30 seconds.
  4. Turn the mixer off. Add the dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients on low until the wet and dry ingredients are mixed together.
  5. Hand mix the nuts, chips and craisins.
  6. Place large tablespoons on parchment on cookie sheets.
  7. Bake approximately 13 to 15 minutes.
  8. The cookies are done when the top is a bit golden and the bottom is also golden.
  9. Do not over bake. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.  End of joke, laugh here!

*  From the Recipe Box:

We also like them with butterscotch chips, oatmeal, almost anything.  The more filler, the better.

I usually take a tablespoon of flour from the dry ingredients and mix it with the nuts, chocolate chips and craisins.  This keeps them suspended in the dough.

I prefer a 50/50 mixture of butter and Crisco, but this is the way G likes it and it is his favorite.

Cookie cooling racks are unnecessary.  I spread out newspaper or dish towels and put parchment over it.  Viola.

and remember:  If you don’t know what your passion is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it.  Big kiss, Lynn

Date Bars

Grandma Olson used to make these a hundred years or so ago.  I loved them as a little girl.  I didn’t know that dates were an acquired taste.  I just thought if Grandma made them, they must be good.  And I was right.  Well, a caveat.  That didn’t hold true for lutefisk however.  Some things just never improve no matter who made them.

These are a very soft bar cookie.  The filling is cooked before baking, but remains tender.  I don’t find them very sweet, but I wouldn’t add any extra sugar or sweetener of any kind.  Dates are amazingly sweet if you allow them to filter through your taste buds.  I usually add a bit more salt than called for, which adds to the illusion of sweetness.  I like these a lot and hope you will enjoy them as well.

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Mix together thoroughly:

3/4 cup soft shortening (part butter)

1 cup brown sugar

Sift together and stir in:

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

Stir in:  1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Mix thoroughly. Place one-half of this crumb mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.  Press and flatten with hands to cover bottom of pan. Spread with cooled filling (see below).  Cover with remaining crumb mixture, patting lightly.  Bake until lightly browned, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.  While warm, cut into bars and remove from pan.

Filling:

Mix together in saucepan:

3 cups cut-up dates

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 10 minutes).  Cool.

and remember this conversation between Mrs. Darling and Michael, in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: 

There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before ones self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.”

Where did he put them?”

“He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”

I was 11 when I first read this book up at Aunty Kay’s cabin at Warm Beach.  It had an amazing impact on me then and I treasure the memories to this day.  I don’t know if I still feel the same way about everything.  Time to read it again.  Big kiss, Lynn

Nigella’s Forgotten Cookies

G and I were watching Nigella’s Christmas cooking show when this vision of deliciousness came on.  We are huge meringue fans.  They are so light, yet satisfying.  The pistachios added a really nice touch.  We didn’t have time to make them before Christmas, but it’s never too late in my opinion.

I’ve not made many of Nigella’s recipes.  Her explanations seem very clear and concise, so feel free to give her a shot and let me know.  She’s a bit theatrical, but seems to know her stuff.  I also have to admit I love the twinkle lights she has all over her kitchen.  I may have stolen her decorating idea and they are currently hanging on my deck and dining room.  Like I told you before, you take good ideas whenever you see them.

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • pinch fine salt
  • 1/2 cup caster or superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup pistachios finely chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking tray with parchment paper.  Whisk together the egg whites and salt in a grease-free bowl, until you have soft peaks. Whisk in the sugar a little at a time until thick and gleaming.
  2. By hand, fold in the cornstarch, vinegar and cardamom, then add the chocolate chips and most of the pistachios and very gently fold these in too.
  3. With a spoon, drop mounded blobs of the mixture, 2 inches in diameter, onto the prepared tray. Sprinkle with the remaining pistachios.
  4. Put the cookies into the oven, shut the door and turn off the oven immediately.  Let the cookies sit in the turned-off oven overnight.

*  From the Recipe Box:

This makes about a dozen.

We both thought these were too soft.  Next time I’ll leave the oven on for 10 or 15 minutes before turning it off and leaving the meringues overnight.

and remember:  As a woman, I feel too deeply and care too much.  That’s what makes my love so strong.  That’s also what makes me a real bitch if you fuck with me.  Big kiss, Lynn

Stuffed Dates

I know what you’re thinking, ‘I needed this recipe before the holidays, not after’.  You’re wrong.  It’s never too early or too late for a good nibble.  We love this recipe.  I have to give G credit for the goat cheese.  He’s a big fan and it was his idea to start using it instead of cream cheese.  This is the complete combination of sweet and savory.

We usually approach this as a team effort.  It doesn’t take forever, it only seems that way if you’re doing it by yourself.  We are lucky enough to have a large bulk food department at our local grocery store here on the Island.  If you can get pitted date, by all means do so.  It’s hard enough making the slice for filling without going all the way through the date.  This is a sticky operation.  Also, if you’re a good Norwegian like me, the minute you start smelling dates, you want a date bar.  I’ll make some soon and share Grandma Olson’s recipe with you.

This much bacon will make about 24 stuffed dates.  G and I usually double this depending on how many people we plan on serving.

12 ounce package bacon (you don’t want the thick cut style)

1 pound of pitted dates

7 ounces goat cheese

Cut the bacon in half.  This will yield approximately 24 slices.  Slice the dates to give yourself cheese access.  Fill each date with about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese.  Wrap each one with a slice of bacon.  Skewer with a toothpick.  This will hold everything in place and give you a handle for when it’s time to eat them.  Place on a cookie sheet topped with parchment or a silpat.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, turning them about half way through.

*  From the Recipe Box:

With a 7 ounce package you will have plenty of cheese to make a couple of batches.

We like to serve them warm or room temperature.

and remember:  You are the result of 4 billion years of evolution; act like it!  Big kiss, Lynn

Chocolate Mousse

I have a brother who lives and breathes chocolate.  I think I told you about his annual nut-less fudge.  If we go out to eat, he always has chocolate mousse for dessert.  I remembered mom used to make it for him, so I went searching for her recipe.  I’ve included a picture of one of her 3-ring binders.  She was constantly exploring new recipes and ideas.  This recipe is from this binder.

I know what you’re thinking, no way it can be this easy.  Well, you would be wrong.  There are so many recipes we assume to be difficult that are really easy-peasy.  Today seemed like a good day for mousse since it’s the hunka-hunka’s birthday week.  (When you’re birthday is this close to Christmas, you get a whole week.)

Now I’m sure you can find a more difficult recipe, a recipe with more steps, something that will make you so cranky you won’t want to eat it when you’re done, but why?  Three ingredients seems like a good plan to me.  I don’t know where the recipe came from.  I added the 70% cacao classification.  I doubt if mom was aware of these labels.  We knew bitter, semi and milk chocolate back then.

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or higher), chopped, plus chocolate shavings

30 regular-size marshmallows

2 c. heavy cream

  1. In large bowl, combine chocolate, marshmallows and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Microwave on High 2 minutes; stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth (if not melted after 2 minutes, microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring in between). Needless to say, mom did this in a double boiler.  Let cool to room temp, about 45 minutes.
  2. Once mixture is cool, whip remaining cream in bowl until soft peaks form; transfer 1/2 cup to small bowl for topping. Refrigerate.
  3. Stir half of remaining whipped cream into cooled chocolate mixture until fully incorporated, then gently fold in the rest. Spoon into eight 4-ounce ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  4. To serve, top with reserved whipped cream and sprinkle with shaved chocolate, if desired.

*  From the Recipe Box:

This tastes dark and rich and no one will believe there are only 3 ingredients, so don’t tell.  It’s very thick and fudge-like.  Increase the whipped cream if you want a creamier consistency.  I usually mix 2 cups whip cream and a jigger of liquor for each serving.  G likes it a little creamier.

I’ve been known to pour a jigger of Bailey’s or something along those lines on top.

and remember:  Just a friendly reminder that you are talented, beautiful, brilliant and worthy of good love and respect.  Honor this by surrounding yourself with people who deserve your magic.  Big kiss, Lynn