Homemade Nutella: Foodie Gift #11

Okay...I love hazelnuts, I love chocolate, sugar ain't so bad, I'm okay with vanilla as well.  Soooooo....I'm loving this recipe for homemade Nutella-like butter which is amazingly close to the original product in texture and in taste. I could not believe it when I found it--Nutella has been a favorite treat for many members of our family for many years, and to be able to make it so easily is going to allow me to make a lot of people very happy this Christmas!   I found the original recipe on site hosted by a woman named Jessica Su, who provided a post with two variations on the her basic recipe for this chocolate hazelnut spread. On her blog,  SuGoodSweets, she gives some nice background and info on Nutella, as well as providing excellent instructions on how to make these. The first is very simple, and I think it tastes much more like Nutella than the other. The only tweaking I did was to cut way back on the oil. By the time everything was mixed up in the food processor, I only needed to add a teaspoon or two of oil to have it at the right consistency. The second recipe requires making caramel and then pulverizing it after it hardens--this is the sweetener for this variation. This second batch had a nice dark chocolate taste to it, but the texture was a bit grainy because of not being able to completely break down the caramel. It's a good and interesting option, but if you are looking for something close to the original Nutella, recipe 1 would be the way to … {Read on...}

Deep, Dark Chocolate Truffle Brownie Bites: Foodie Gift #10


It is only fair to warn you that if you give these as gifts or take these to cookie exchanges that you will most likely be expected to repeat the performance every year thereafter.  I've been making these for a couple years now.  I have a friend, who shall remain unnamed, who hosted a cookie swap last year.  While dividing all the goodies up among plates for the friends and neighbors in attendance she slipped a few from other people's plates onto her own accidentally-on-purpose.  She suggested that I tempted her into the behavior by bringing these.  Hmm.  Maybe you shouldn't make these for people.  It turns them into animals.   If you do decide to take your friends morality and trustworthiness into your own hands, you'll please all your serious chocolate lovers with the Deep, Dark Chocolate Truffle Brownie Bites.  You can make the truffle filling as decadent as you wish.  For the batch in these photos, I used 60% Cacao dark chocolate.  If your tastes range more toward the semi-sweet variety, feel free to use that!  Since we all know that one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations is orange and chocolate, I garnished my little beauties with fresh orange zest.  Of course, the possibilities for garnish are nearly endless; fresh raspberries, maraschino cherries, a whole toasted hazelnut, slivered almonds, etc...  Go wild.  Go crazy.  Have fun.  And when you've locked yourself in the bathroom to sneak-eat the last one without the kids noticing I promise I won't … {Read on...}

Gingerbread Biscotti With White Chocolate and Nuts or Crystallized Ginger: Foodie Gift #9


  The boys and I spent yesterday afternoon at the home of our friends, the Cooke family.  Dave Cooke is our local United Methodist pastor.  He lives nearby with wife, Heather (the hostess with the mostest), and son, Ben (who says some of the funniest things I've ever heard.)      Heather bravely invited my entire crew and two other families with young kids to make, ice and decorate gingerbread cookies.  To help you understand why I say 'bravely' I will make the situation a little clearer.  Myself and my five sons, ages 11, 8, 6, 5, and 3 along with two other mothers and their children, ages 6, 2 and less than one year old as well as Heather and Ben (also 3 years old) were all flinging cookie dough, royal icing, jimmies, dragees, cinnamon candies, chocolate chips and M&Ms all over her kitchen.  She deserves a Medal of Honor.    A few hours later, we toddled home with three plates full of extremely generously iced gingerbread cookies. (Giving a pastry bag full of royal icing to a three year old is not entirely well thought out as far as ideas go...)  We also went home with Dave's grandmother's gingerbread recipe.  Dave's grandmother had 8 kids and compiled a collection of recipes that were not only delicious but were also family friendly.  According to her instructions, this particular gingerbread dough was exceptionally good for kids to work with because it was moldable and was not terribly sticky.  I'll second that!  The kids treated it like playdough.  … {Read on...}

Fiesta Foodie T.V. Hash: Foodie Christmas Gift #8


  T.V. Hash, Chex Mix, Party Mix, Snack Mix, Nuts and Bolts:  Whatever you call it, it is a holiday classic.  As long as I can remember -starting in childhood and on into my own household- limitless quantities of t.v. hash have been available from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.  We eat so much of it that we don't want to see another little rice, corn or wheat square for another 10 months.  Then the cold wind blows and the holidays begin and a primal urge for salty, crunchy and buttery takes hold.    Our favorite version makes a huge amount.  It'll feed a crowd at a party or provide snacks for a large family (read: my size family or five hollow-legged boys) for a few days.  Fiesta Foodie T.V. Hash combines taco and Ranch flavors.  In our house that's always a winning combination.   Time Required For Project:   The prep time for making Fiesta Foodie T.V. Hash is about 5 minutes, give or take a bathroom break.  The baking time is about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  It can be served warm out of the oven or cooled completely and packed into decorative bags or jars for gift giving.   The Cost Breakdown:   I'm warning you now.  My recipe is not for those with the appetites of birds.  This makes a roaster pan full -and I do mean full- of t.v. hash.  Plenty to eat and give!  We usually fill a couple sandwich bags and put those in a decorated paper bag tied with a ribbon.  The kids decorate the bags with crayons and markers.  But if you … {Read on...}

Golden Crunchy Pickled Onions: Foodie Christmas Gift #7


These golden rings of crunchy, flavorful pickled onions are just about the perfect thing for topping salads or roast meat sandwiches,  adding a unique touch and pop of color to buffet spreads and antipasto trays, and accompanying cold meat loaf.  Plus, when you've fished the very last onion ring out of the jar, the leftover oniony, pickly syrup makes the base of the world's best corned beef glaze.  A jar of this, suitably decorated, makes a beautiful, unique (the good kind of unique- not the "That's unique" kind of euphemism my Mom uses when she doesn't want to hurt someone's feelings), and memorable holiday gift.  This is the kind of pickle you can create year-round, but this is an especially good time for the project.  Grab a bulk bag of onions and these end up being an incredibly budget friendly pantry and gift item.  As I have never seen a comparable product on store shelves, I don't have a 'homemade vs. purchased' price breakdown.  I can still give you an idea of what the project will cost.   Cost Breakdown: $7.99    A dozen pint canning jars with two piece lids $6.00   Six pounds small to medium mild onions in bulk bag $3.50   Cloves, peppercorns, turmeric, ground cinnamon, mustard seed and celery seed purchased in bulk $3.50  One gallon cider vinegar $1.50  Four cups sugar from a five pound bag $0.30  Salt Grand Total:  $22.79 for a dozen finished jars ($1.90 per jar)   Golden Crunchy Pickled Onions:  Foodie Christmas Gift … {Read on...}