Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Gifts, Salty-Sweet Edition

Caramel Corn 12-17-11

I love popcorn. So much so, I actually have an electric stirring popcorn popper. It must be a family thing, because my brother, Paul, has all the ingredients to make movie popcorn – and he did serious research on how to get that flavor. I’m good with butter and salt, myself. But my true weakness is caramel corn, so one year when I was trying to think of something fun to give for those neighbor Christmas treat boxes, I decided to try my hand at caramel corn.

And to take it up a notch I decided to make Bacon Caramel Corn. The featured recipe tonight.

But let’s begin with some other salty-sweet ideas for the holiday gift box.

Tex-Mex Popcorn Mix, recipe here.

White Cheddar Popcorn and Chili-Cheese Popcorn, recipes here.

And if popcorn is not your thing, how about some Cajun Spiced Nuts or Indian Spiced Nuts, recipes here.

Finally, the dinner menu this week is all about improving Oven Fried Chicken and amazing Baked Garlic Potatoes, complete menu, recipes, shopping list are here.

What favorite recipes are in your gift box this year? If you give food gifts for the holidays, do you include copies of the recipes? I’m always torn. Either way, go ahead and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments. Next week we’ll tackle sweet treats for gift giving.

Tonight’s featured recipe actually came about because I read this comment at Balloon-Juice, I was intrigued enough to search out a recipe. If bacon isn’t your thing, just omit it from the recipe below to make regular caramel corn, or caramel corn with nuts.

Cashew Bacon Caramel Corn

  • 8 oz maple smoked bacon, cut into eight pieces per strip
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped corn
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups salted cashews (or peanuts, or peanut/cashew mix)
Skillet, saucepan, baking sheets*

In skillet, cook bacon until mostly crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Reduce to 200 degrees after 15 minutes of baking.

Place popcorn onto a well-greased baking sheets.

In saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and baking soda (yes, it will foam up so be prepared). Gently stir nuts and bacon into sugar mixture and pour over popcorn, toss, coating popcorn evenly. Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is a deep golden brown, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours  – mine was done at the 1 hour mark. Cool and break apart.

*most recipes call for a roasting pan, I had better luck on my second batch using baking sheets – the popcorn cooked more evenly and was very crisp.

That’s if for this week. Bixby is 6 months old today which doesn’t seem possible and I may have an update on him later, depending on how work goes today  – TaMara

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Holiday Gift Ideas: Spicy Nuts

This week I’m focusing on recipes you can give as gifts (and you thought I was just going to annoy you with Christmas Carols). This week is about sweet and salty.  A change from the traditional sweet treats. Here are two spicy nut recipes that are sure to be welcome gifts:

Cajun Spiced Nuts

  • 1 tsp teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tsp teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups unsalted deluxe mixed nuts
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt

Mix spices together and set aside.  Heat the nuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Add the butter, stirring, until the nuts begin to darken, about 1 minute. Add the spices, the sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and the salt, stirring until the sauce thickens and the nuts are glazed, about 5 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure they are all separated. Let the nuts stand until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container. Makes 6 cups

Indian Spiced Nuts

  • 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts (or cashews)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons shredded coconut (either fresh or unsweetened)
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the nuts coconut, butter, sugar, coriander cumin, garam masala and salt together and pour onto the baking sheet. Toast for 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through for even baking. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups

Now once you have these recipes completed, how about some creative ways to wrap them?  Colored plastic wrap and ribbons, holiday Chinese take out containers are always fun, glass canning cars with fabric inserts between the rim and the seal, or even more fun, wrap the nuts in decorative paper cones, tied with ribbon.  These are all creative ways to present your gifts and you make personalized labels to enhance the presentation.

From MakeandTakes.com click on the picture for instructions.

 

 

 

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Originally Posted December 2011

Friday Recipe Exchange: Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

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I’m neck deep in painting a porch glider before the weekend rains come, so this will be quick tonight. When JeffreyW posted the photo above, I knew I wanted to try the recipe, so it became the featured recipe tonight.

He also posted this delicious recipe this week: Moroccan Spicy Lamb Soup, pictures and recipe here.

And earlier this week, I made one of my favorite pasta dishes, Pasticcio, full dinner menu, recipes and shopping list here.

It’s meager offerings, so spice things up and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments. You know what I’m doing this weekend, what’s on your to-do list? And if I missed a recipe step in my haste, let me know in the comments and I’ll fix it.

For tonight’s featured recipe:

From JeffreyW:

I’m on a chicken recipe spree!  At least until I run out of chicken breasts, anyway.  This recipe from Emeril Lagasse looked pretty good, with the added bonus of  the side dish calling for the truffle oil that rounded out a recent online order I placed a while back and was looking for a place to use.

I didn’t have the proper arborio rice so I used the  jasmine variety that I do keep on hand and has worked for me before.  Instead of Parmesan I used fresh grated pecorino.  The mushrooms were the usual supermarket white buttons, nothing fancy.  I think I can take or leave the truffle oil, it not adding any particular enjoyment for me but I’ll wait a while and try it elsewhere before I make up my mind.

The goat cheese filling worked very well, every time I made a cut a little more oozed out and was quickly mopped up.  I used a lot more garlic than the recipe wanted.

Adapted from Emeril:

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

  • 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon minced parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon  cajun spice mix or Emeril’s Essence
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/4 cup clarified butter or vegetable oil
  • Mushroom Risotto, recipe follows, if desired
  • Julienned carrots, accompaniment, recipe follows
  • Chopped fresh parsley, garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

With a chicken breast flat on a cutting board, using a sharp knife, about 1/3 of the way down the thick side, cut a deep pocket horizontally into the center of the meat about 3/4 of the way down, being careful not to cut through to the other side. (The pocket will be about 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep.) Repeat with the remaining breasts. Wash hands well.

In a small bowl, mash together the goat cheese, butter, chives, parsley, thyme, lemon juice and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide into 4 equal pieces and form plugs to fit inside the chicken breasts. Insert 1 into each breast and press the edges of chicken meat to seal. Lightly season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a large shallow bowl, combine the flour and the Essence. In another bowl, beat the egg with the water.

One at a time, lightly dust the chicken on both sides with the flour, then dip in the egg, shaking to remove any excess. Place again in the flour and turn to completely coat, shaking to remove any excess. Set aside.

In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Arrange the risotto in the center of 4 plates and place the chicken to the side. Arrange the carrots along the bottom of the plates, and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Mushroom Risotto

  • 5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 12 ounces assorted mushrooms washed, thinly sliced,
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fresh grated pecorino.
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons truffle oil, optional
  • 4 ounces prosciutto or Serrano ham, thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to very low to keep hot.

In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until wilted and their liquid is evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are opaque, about 1 minute. Stir in the thyme. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until nearly all evaporated. Add 3/4 cup of the stock, the salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is nearly all evaporated. Continue adding more stock 1/2 cup at a time as the previous addition is nearly absorbed, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir in cream, 1/2 cup of the cheese, and the parsley and mix well.

Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste. If desired, stir in truffle oil to taste.

Serve immediately, topping each portion with a sprinkling of the remaining cheese and ham.

Thursday Friday Recipe Exchange: Chili Party

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So I hear there is some kind of football game happening during a Beyoncé concert on Sunday. Last year we tackled a bunch of Super Bowl foods that started with nachos and ended at pizza (you can find them here).

I didn’t see how we could top that, so I was at loss this year what to post pre-game. I finally settled on chili. I figured we could find plenty to argue with there, since I think just about everyone has a favorite chili recipe and will throw down to defend it. So have at it. What’s your favorite chili recipe? What are you noshing on at the big game?

Personally, I’ll be having tea and crumpets with the Dowager Countess. “Scones anyone?” (said with a very prim British accent).

Here are some of the chili recipes that we’ve tackled over the years:

First, from the oldest of my brothers: Quick and Easy Chili (recipe here)

JeffreyW’s Chorizo Chili (recipe here)

And tonight’s featured recipe from JeffreyW:

Beer Chili

I’ve used beer in recipes before but I don’t remember using any in chili before today.  A quick search turned up plenty of evidence of prior art so there won’t be any recipe patents applied for today, alas.  Aside from the bottle of stout in it there isn’t much to say about this recipe:  1 lb of ground beef, 1/2 lb of my homemade chorizo, 1 can of tomato bits with green chilies, 1 can of chili beans, a diced onion, 5 minced cloves of garlic, a fair amount of chili powder, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and the bottle of beer.

Cook the onion in a bit of oil, add the garlic and the meat and brown everything well.  Remove the fat and then add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour.  Serve with your favorite garnishes.

Mrs J and I agree on the cheddar cheese, she takes a pass on the peppers and prefers the nacho chips crumbled and stirred in.  I like to scoop the chili with the chips like it is a big bowl of dip.  This batch of nacho chips are just a bit too thin for that, they break too easily.  Nice flavor, though.  I just wish I hadn’t purchased the jumbo case lot of them.  LOL

One last note from TaMara: For the foreseeable future, recipe exchange will be on Fridays. See you next week.

Tes’ Strawberry Chicken with Black Pepper Sauce

A crazy schedule is going to keep me from blogging too much the rest of the month. Actually what it is really going to do is leave me little time for cooking.  No cooking, not much to blog about.  But I won’t leave you hanging.  I think to start things off I’m going to post of few links to some great recipes from other blogs I hang out at.

To start things off,  let’s go with Tes’ AWARD WINNING Strawberry Chicken recipe.  And if you aren’t reading Tes’ blog, you’re missing out.  She’s always got something interesting cooking and the trips she and her family frequently take and she documents will take you on an exotic adventure.

Here’s Tes:

It’s the first time I cooked savory strawberry sauce, it was challenging and exciting. The sauce turned out to be so amazing. It was flavorful and fresh. The sauce reduced to a thick and creamy liquid perfectly coated our simple pan grilled chicken.

Chicken with Strawberry and Black Pepper sauce

Ingredients: (2 servings)

For chicken:

  1. 2 chicken fillets
  2. 1 tbsp oil
  3. A pinch of salt and pepper

For sauce:

  • 2 cup fresh strawberry
  • 3 cloves garlic- finely minced
  • 2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Chopped parsley for garnishing

Method:  (for complete recipe, head on over to her recipe page)

I’ll post a few more of Tes’ recipes over the month.  Until then, check her out.

Mmm…Spicy Shrimp

Had these late last night, Mrs J had made a meal of some meatloaf but I passed on that and satisfied my craving for spicy ramen and shrimp.  She is not a fan of spicy food, and I am.  I seized this opportunity to do it my way.  Contains ground szechuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and a generous scoop or two of chili/garlic paste.  Not to mention the hot chili oil I cooked everything in.

The packets of ramen that claim to be spicy usually include a small foil packet of seasoning powder, I made sure to add that to the mix.  Also in the dish were chopped ribs of bok choi and some julienned carrots, a few onions rounded it out.  I tossed in a few packets of the dried soup seasonings while I had some out, there were a few discs of dried carrot and some dried greens of some sort.  Can’t hurt to toss that stuff in.

Enjoy!

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Cold Soup? Make Mine Spicy Hot, Please

Yup, it’s plenty hot outside, reached 100 yesterday, humidities off the charts.  Today promises much the same despite a series of thunderstorms that moved through last night.  Jack woke  me when he jumped into bed looking for some comfort.  His shivers finally eased and we got some sleep.

We are going to spend the day making more fruit preserves, Mrs J has gone to town after some more apples.  We want to make more apple butter since the last batch was so good.  And Amazon delivered the Oxo cherry pitting tool we ordered after the last cherry go around so she will keep her eyes peeled for more cherries.

Bought some Korean ramen noodles at Amazon while I was there shopping for the cherry pitter, and they came yesterday.  Decided to give them a try.

The ramen package came with a packet of dried veggies but they seemed rather a puny addition.  I decided to try some of my pickled veggies with the noodles.  These came about as a direct result of the carrot/daikon pickle I did a while back.  It was such an easy recipe that I soon extended the pickling to some garden produce, along with more carrots and onions and other stuff I am forgetting.

I set the water to boiling and added in the noodles and the seasoning packets.  The “hot” seasonings  weren’t all that hot for me but I betcha Mrs J would think they were.  At the last minute I tossed in some frozen shrimp.  I put the pickled veggies in after I poured the soup out into the bowl.  All they needed was a warm up.  They did add an interesting flavor accent to the soup, spicy with just a tang of sour from the vinegar in the pickles, offset a bit by the sugar in the pickle recipe.  Well, a couple billion folks can’t be wrong-noodles make an awesome soup.