Monday, November 28, 2011

German Chocolate Cracker Candy


Each year since 2007 I receive a holiday treat in my mailbox sometime in July. It is well packaged in a brown box and I get so excited to open it up. It makes me wish that it was the holiday season, yet I know I need to wait for several months. You are probably wondering what this item is – well the wait is over – it is my yearly Christmas book from Southern Living.


It is filled with savory and sweet delights along with decorating ideas and handmade gift ideas. These folks must work year round to create a fresh book every year filled with wonderful ideas, classic and modern recipes for all holiday season festivities. If you are not a subscriber, I highly encourage you to check it out. There are countless ideas to inspire and add a new twist each year to your holiday traditions.


I was especially drawn to the handcrafted confection section. The German Chocolate Cracker Candy drew my eyes right to that page. Typically I make the Saltine Toffee Candy and it is a complete hit where ever I take it. Not too mention, quite addictive.


This candy is made with graham crackers, almonds and toasted coconut – a confection that is perfection. I brought it to work today, where several folks resisted since they knew they could not stop at one and others enjoyed it throughout the day. I have found that it is best served chilled, since it keeps the pieces crisp and tasty.



German Chocolate Cracker Candy

10 Graham crackers
1 C. Dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ C. Butter
1 ½ C. Milk chocolate chips
2/3 C. coarsely chopped whole almonds with skins
½ C. Shredded coconut, lightly toasted

Preheat the oven to 350.

Arrange the graham crackers tightly on a cookie sheet with sides. Use parchment paper unless the sheet is non-stick.

Heat the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth, and slightly bubbling, about 5 minutes. Pour over the graham crackers and spread with a knife to cover all crackers.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly. Remove from oven and using a knife push any excess butter and sugar mixture onto the crackers. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and let melt for about 10 minutes and then spread with a knife. Sprinkle the almonds and toasted coconut. Press gently to adhere to chocolate. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes. Remove and break apart gently. Store in an airtight container and best kept chilled in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

* Recipe altered from the 2011 Christmas Southern Living Book (page 165)
 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

{ Brandied Yams with Pecan Crumble Topping }


Thanksgiving – it comes but once a year. We reflect on what we are thankful for along with what the meaning of thanksgiving is. Remember the pilgrims? It is a time to spend with family and friends, eat tasty comfort food and appreciate all the wonderful gifts you have.



We are off to spend the day with my parents, sister, her hubby and my two nephews along with my brother, his wife and my other two nephews. Traditional food will abound, which includes of course the turkey, mashed potatoes that my dad does the old fashioned way so they are extra special along with the hand made gravy that is made with love.


With my mom’s mid west roots, she creates a simple corn casserole made of frozen corn, crushed saltine crackers, milk, butter and salt and pepper – then it is baked until golden brown on the top. It is such a simple dish but a complete favorite that will always be synonymous with my Mom.


With our family that has grown in size, my sister and I help my parents by bringing side dishes and appetizers. This year I am bringing my Brandied Yams with Pecan Crumble Topping, White Cheddar Mac & Cheese and Cranberry, Orange & Ginger Chutney Brie Cups. Looking forward to celebrating the Thanksgiving Day Holiday with everyone and I am thankful for my hubby, family, friends and good health.


I wish each and everyone a VERY happy Thanksgiving Day Holiday!!!


Brandied Yams with Pecan Crumble Topping

Yams:

8 Medium yams (about 6 cups after cooked)
4 T. Melted butter
1/3 C. Maple syrup
4 T. Brandy
½ t. Cinnamon
¼ t. Salt
1 t. Dried orange peel

Pecan Topping:

1 C. Chopped pecans – dry roasted or toasted
8 T. Butter
1 C. Dark brown sugar
½ C. Flour
¼ C. Oats
1 t. Salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Cut each yam in half lengthwise and lay cut side down flat on the foil Poke three times with a fork, each Yam to prevent them exploding. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until tender. Let cool for 5 minutes. Flip so the cooked side is face up to let cool even more. Once cool enough use a large spoon and scoop each one into a kitchen aid mixer bowl.

Add melted butter, maple syrup, brandy, dried orange peel, cinnamon and salt. Using the flat blade, whip the yams together until fluffy. About 3 to 4 minutes.

Place into a shallow baking dish and spread evenly.



Topping:

In a medium bowl, add the pecans, brown sugar, flour, oats and salt. Mix together. Cut the butter into small cubes. Add to the pecan mixture. Using your hands, work the butter into the mixture until it is combined and crumbly.

Spread the topping over the yam mixture. Cook at 350 for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the topping is slightly browned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

{ Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Bacon, Dates and Pecans | Secret Recipe Club }


I belong to this cool online cooking club called The Secret Recipe Club. The premise behind the club is to be paired up with another food blogger, who by the way doesn’t know that you are – hence the “secret” part of the club. You get to browse their site for wonderful recipes and then make it by following 100% or putting your own personal spin on the recipe. Once a month there is the secret reveal, where you see who received your blog and what they selected to post. If you are interested in joining in the fun, simply click onto their site and read all about it.



This month I was assigned to Deli-cute-essen and Devon is the self proclaimed “Foodie and Maker of Cute Things”. You can sense her style right away by the background of her blog. Her recipes are primarily vegan in nature and they all are mouthwatering. Not being a vegan myself, I thought that I would prepare my selected recipe with my own spin. I completely respect both vegans and vegetarians and believe that everyone is entitled to choosing how they prefer to eat. Actually, over the years, I have significantly reduced my intake of red meat and prefer simply vegetables, fish or chicken. I must admit I eat bacon, but in limited quantities.


After reviewing the majority of Devon’s recipe, one kept sticking out as the one I would choose. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought the Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Soup would be just perfect. I did find the corn and nut garnish quite appealing, but thought I would kick it up with bacon, Madjool dates and pecans.


If you have not checked out Devon’s site, take a few minutes to drool over her recipes. I hope that each of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day Holiday with your family and friends. I am certainly thankful for my hubby, family, friends, health and each day I have on this earth! All the best to each of you during this holiday season!


Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Bacon, Dates and Pecans

Serves 4

Pumpkin Soup

3 T. Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, small dice
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 t. Fresh ginger
1 t. Cumin
½ t. Ground red pepper
3 C. Chicken stock
½ t. Salt
1 (15 oz) Can Pumpkin puree
2 T. Maple syrup
1 T. Lemon juice
1 C. Milk

In a large pot over medium heat add the olive oil and diced onions. Cooked for about 10 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ginger, cumin, salt and ground red pepper and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and pumpkin puree and stir until combined. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes over medium to low heat. Add the maple syrup, milk and lemon juice. Use an emulsion blender to puree the soup.

Bacon, Date and Pecan Garnish

6 Applewood smoked bacon, cook until crispy
½ C. Madjool dates, small dice
½ C. Pecans, toasted and chopped

Mix all of the above ingredients together and top each bowl. Serve and eat.






Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cranberry, Orange and Ginger Chutney Brie Cups | My Guest Post on Kitchen Confidante


About a month ago Liren asked me if I wanted to contribute a guest post and be part of her “Friends-giving” series. I was completely honored and immediately responded with a resounding yes. Now the only question lurking was what to make?

Last holiday season, I had a dinner party with Liren and Jean (Lemon and Anchovies) and gave each of them my Cranberry, Orange & Ginger Chutney. It was a perfect little gift for the holiday season. A few months later, Liren surprised me by highlighting the chutney in her Gorgonzola Tart with Cranberry Orange Ginger Chutney & Candied Pecans. I actually never posted the recipe for this chutney, until now. I thought this was perfect timing to highlight this tasty recipe.


Please click the link for Cranberry, Orange and Ginger Brie Cups and enjoy my guest post on Kitchen Confidante.  It is a simple holiday inspired appetizer that you will make over and over again.  Thank you Liren for inviting me to do a guest post on your lovely blog!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Spicy Chili Jam



I have had an idea in my head for quite a while. Over the weekend, finally the inspiration unfolded for the idea and brought it full circle. I am excited to share with all of you, a new feature for Authentic Suburban Gourmet titled – “Simply Divine”. Each week I will share and highlight food and recipes that are both uncomplicated and tasty.



For those of you that know me, you will often hear me exclaim if something is tasty, fabulous or just plain great - that it is “Divine”. The word divine will often be followed by a twist of my wrist with the index finger pointing to the sky while expressing my delight. If something is “really” divine, then it gets a “double divine” while both wrists are twisting.


Do you ever eat something that has just a few simple ingredients but the combinations of flavors are simply amazing? It could be as simple as Nutella spread over a piece of toast with thin slices of banana garnishing the top or a bowl of al dente pasta with melted butter and freshly grated parmesan cheese. I bet you are picking up what I am putting down. Quite frequently, the simple things in life are often the best things in life. Simply Divine subscribes to that philosophy.

{ Photo from Inna Jam Website }

A classic grilled cheese sandwich is one of life’s simple pleasures. With its warm gooey cheese to the buttery crunch of the grilled bread, it just puts a smile on your face when you take your first bite and each one after. Hubby and I ventured to Costco on Friday night to pick up our household essentials plus more. One of the “plus more” items was right out of the oven, Roasted Garlic Ciabatta Bread. With two loaves, I had to be creative with utilizing. One of our favorite snacks is a grilled cheese sandwich and it was time to bring it up a few levels.

I sliced the roasted garlic ciabatta about half inch thick and spread butter on each side and let melt on the griddle pan. Next I layered with a deli slice of jarlsburg cheese and spread my newest find – Inna Jam – Spicy Fresno Chile flavor. The next step was to put the two slices together and grilled until both sides were golden brown and the cheese is completely melted. If you have not had Inna’s jam yet, I highly encourage you to purchase. The flavors are amazing, creative and delish.


I look forward to sharing more “Simply Divine” posts with all of you!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Zucchini, Arugula, Tomatoes and Mint Vinaigrette


Quinoa which is pronounced – “Qin-wah” is a brilliant grain that is native to the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru prior to the domestication over 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. I guess we can agree that this grain has history and sustaining power.



One of my favorite dining destinations in Oakland is Bocanova and I often bring my clients there for lunch. A few weeks ago, I took a client there for lunch and I always look forward to seeing what the chef has prepared for the quinoa salad. Particular items on the menu change with the seasons and locally produced fruits and vegetables. This time zucchini was highlighted for the quinoa salad. It was raw and cut into thin julienne slices – just that perfect amount of light crunch.


For my visit, watercress adorned the salad with sprinkles of garden fresh baby tomatoes and dressed with mint vinaigrette. It was so refreshing, satisfying and tasty. I noted this as something to recreate and put my own spin to the recipe.


Last week, it was chilly and rainy – certainly a good reason to stay inside. Hubby and I did just that. With the fire on and the television queued up, we enjoyed this healthy and completely gratifying salad. I believe this would be a perfect salad for picnic or potluck. Enjoy!



Quinoa Salad with Zucchini, Arugula, Tomatoes and Mint Vinaigrette

Salad

1 C. Quinoa
2 C. Chicken Stock
½ t. Salt
2 Medium Zucchini, one inch julienne slices
2 C. Tomatoes, small orange or cherry, halved
2 C. Arugula
½ C. Pine nuts, dry roasted or toasted
¼ C. Cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, add the quinoa and chicken stock plus ½ t. of salt. Quickly stir and bring the mixture to a boil. After it boils, reduce the heat to simmer and cover with a lid for about 10 minutes. Check and stir the quinoa. If liquid remains, check every 2 to 3 minutes until liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

Once the quinoa is cooled, add to a large bowl to assemble the salad. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, pine nuts and cilantro. Toss gently and add the vinaigrette and toss again to combine. Right before serving, toss in the Arugula. Taste and then season with additional salt and pepper as desired.

Mint Vinaigrette

1 C. Fresh mint leaves, lightly packed
3 T. Red wine vinegar
2 t. Dijon mustard
2 Garlic cloves, minced
½ t. Sugar
½ t. Salt
8 Grinds pepper
½ C. Olive Oil

Add all of the above ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your desired taste level. Set aside to strengthen the flavors for about one hour.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fig, Prosciutto and Stilton Pizza


Simplicity. It is something that we all want to have at one time or another, but can’t always get it with our “go, go, go” lifestyles. My hubby and I cherish the days that we have where we don’t do a heck of lot, except watch our favorite television shows and eat delicious food. Saturday was such a day for us. We call them – “Veg days”.




Saturday was a cold and rainy day in the Bay Area, which meant it was a perfect day for “vegetation”. We simply turned on our gas fireplace, brought out all the fluffy blankets, sifted through our recorded shows and began the TV marathon. After a long week, it was a terrific way to wind down and not have to make too many decisions, except for what was the next show to watch.



My newest addition is “Pam Am”. I love the setting of the 60’s, the fashion and jumping back into era where things were so different. It is great to see women finding their “voice” and moving up in the world. We indulged in the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills; let’s just say that we had about four episodes to catch up on. In fact for Halloween, one of my offices had a “Real Housewives” themed day. For all of you who love this show, I was Dana from Beverly Hills and created my own $25,000 sunglasses. All in all, a really fun team activity and many laughs were shared by everyone.

{Our office Halloween Party - Real Housewives Theme}
.
For our day of relaxation, I made a simple pizza for hubby and me. I bought the ready made pizza dough from Trader Joe’s to make life simple. I added my homemade fig jam, a bit of Prosciutto, stilton and fresh figs to create a sweet, savory, salty and overall divine pizza. The flavor combinations are endless. What are your favorite pizza toppings?



Fig, Prosciutto and Stilton Pizza

Homemade or Store Bought Pizza Dough
Fig Jam
Fresh Figs
Prosciutto
Stilton Cheese

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone on the lowest rack of the oven. Let heat for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take about a ½ cup of pizza dough and work it to form a circle that is about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Simply stretch the dough and form into circle. Use a bit of semolina to prevent the dough from sticking to a pizza paddle. This will make it easy to slice onto the pizza stone and to remove when finish cooking.

Spread a light layer of fig jam onto the pizza dough and spread to the edge of the dough. Layer with 1 to 2 slices of Prosciutto torn into pieces. Next crumble about 1 to 2 tablespoons of stilton cheese over the pizza, spreading evenly. Top with 6 to 8 quarters of fresh fig.

Slide onto the pizza stone with the paddle and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until the pizza is golden brown. Remove and cut into four pieces and enjoy.


Friday, November 4, 2011

{ Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Gruyere Cheese }



Last week while strolling through my local farmer’s market, I came across purple cauliflower. It instantly caught my eye and into my reusable bag it went. Purple cauliflower's color is caused by the presence of the antioxidant group anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. This brilliant colored vegetable is displaying vibrant violet hues, purple cauliflower which may be different in color than its white counterpart, however, on the outside, that is the only difference.



It was the color that drew me in. I wondered if roasting it – would the color change? The answer if no – it remained vibrant. I did a simple preparation for a dinner last week. I simply broke off the florets and placed into a baking dish. I mixed the traditional white cauliflower with the purple. Added a bit of chicken stock, perhaps a quarter cup to a third poured over the florets. Then I drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I grated about a half of a cup of gruyere cheese on top and baked at 350 for about 35 to 45 minutes until the cauliflower was tender.


It was such a simple dish to prepare and the flavors were amazing. I served with roasted chicken. We are trying to eat low carb and this did the trick! Hope that you are able to locate purple cauliflower where you live. Enjoy your weekend!


 
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