October 26, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Spice Caramel Corn

My addiction to homemade caramel corn is well documented through the years on my blog, so it wasn't surprising to me that I bookmarked this recipe from Cookies and Cups. I made it, consumed it in place of a few meals and then took it to a Halloween party. (I'm smart enough to know by now that caramel corn is much like an open bottle of alcohol ... it should only be transported stowed securely in the trunk. Otherwise it disappears on the drive. The caramel corn, I mean, not the alcohol.)

Like most caramel corns I've made, this is so easy to make. It's a nice twist for fall, especially for those of us who can't stand coffee, regardless of how much you spice it with pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Caramel Corn
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
16 cups popped corn

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, and set this aside.

In a small saucepan, melt butter, brown sugar, corn syrup salt together over medium heat. Bring to boil. Boil for 4 minutes without stirring.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Place popcorn in a giant bowl, and pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn, stirring to coat evenly.

Spread popcorn onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow the popcorn to cool completely. Makes about 16 cups.

Bourbon Salted Caramels

I've made caramels only once before, these Apple Cider Caramels, which I remember being so delicious that I wanted to make them again this fall. But when I saw these caramels with bourbon from Spicy Perspective, I knew I had to make them for my friend's birthday because she's a bourbon girl.

They are good, although it's a bit tedious to wrap an entire batch of caramels by yourself. (Thankfully my husband helped cut more wrappers as I wrapped, which helped.) It's still worth the effort, considering I filled an entire quart jar for my friend, took a bunch into work, kept a few at home and took a bunch to my brother when I visited him in Iowa.

I still think I need to pull out a jug of apple cider to thaw for the other caramels. 
Bourbon Salted Caramels
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup salted butter
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
1 Tbsp. vanilla 
Course or flake sea salt
Place the sugars, heavy cream, butter, corn syrup and bourbon in a large (and I mean large) sauce pot. (My pot was on the verge of boiling over, so I had to switch pots mid-process.) Attach a candy thermometer to the edge of the pot with the tip touching the ingredients, and then place over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the mixture to simmer until it reaches 245-250°F and is the desired color you like for caramel. If the temperature starts rising faster than the caramel is browning, lower the heat even more to give it time to caramelize.
Meanwhile, line a 9 X 13 baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray. (The original recipe calls for testing the caramel and you can find instructions how in the original link, but I did it by temperature when it was about 248°F.) Once it's ready, remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.
Carefully pour the caramel into the prepared dish, and allow it to cool completely. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the dish in the refrigerator. Once cooled, sprinkle generously with sea salt. Lift the parchment paper out of the dish by the edges, and cut caramels into 1-inch squares. Wrap each candy in small pieces of wax paper. Makes approximately 80 caramels.

October 19, 2015

Whole-Grain Apple Cake

This is another Cooking Light recipe as I'm trying to make recipes rather than stashing them forever. This isn't our favorite apple coffee cake or apple recipe, but it's a nice pleasant cake. It's not overly sweet, and it's much healthier than our favorites (that involve Snickers for coffee cakes: http://nonesuchexists.blogspot.com/2012/08/snickers-coffee-cake-with-salted.html).

When I repeat this recipe, I'd increase the spices for more flavor and warmth.

Whole-Grain Apple Cake
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup non-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
7.5 oz. whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ginger
2 cups shredded apple
3 Tbsp. quick oats
2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. frozen butter, grated

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat on medium speed 30 seconds or until well combined. Add all the dry ingredients after pre-mixing them together, and beat on low until combined. Stir in the apple. Spread batter into 9-inch spring-form pan coated with cooking spray.

Combine all the streusel ingredients, and sprinkle evenly over the cake. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, remove sides of pan and serve. Serves 10.

October 13, 2015

Broccoli Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese

This Cooking Light recipe is worth repeating at least once in my family, if for no reason other than to get my kiddos to eat more vegetables. I found it to be a healthier version of comfort food, one that I enjoyed eating the leftovers. My kiddos required a bit of convincing, but I think that was more of the toddler aspect of "I want pancakes for every meal."

My version modified the process slightly but not the ingredients.

Broccoli Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese
2 slices bacon, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 cup low-fat milk
10 oz. frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
10 oz. elbow macaroni
3 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
5 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy. Add garlic, and saute 30 seconds. Add stock, milk and squash, and bring to a boil while stirring occasionally. Add pasta and broccoli, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta and broccoli are done and sauce is thickened. (I actually added water to ensure enough liquid as it cooked.)

Stir in salt, pepper and cheese. Serves 6.

October 1, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream

I love planning my kiddos' birthday parties, not because I'm the over-the-top Pinterest mom who feels everything needs to be absolutely perfect. I love it because baking and playing around with desserts is so much fun for me, so I use it as an opportunity to pull out all the dessert stops (as in homemade cookies, cake and ice cream!).

I found this recipe from How Sweet It Is while on vacation, and my husband picked this from a handful of flavors I proposed. You could eat this as a spoon without churning it into ice cream, and it would be a delicious pudding.

My only complaint is I used the exact pretzels listed in the original recipe. I love that they won't get soggy, but I am disappointed at the price I paid only to discover they are malted milk chocolate coating. Despite my love of chocolate and nearly all things sweet, malted milk chocolate is on my short list of things that include chocolate and the word disgusting in the same sentence.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Ice Cream
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup heavy cream
10 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
2 tsp. vanilla (whoops, I missed this in my version)
1 cup creamy peanut butter, slightly melted
1 bag of Lindt HELLO pretzel bites

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, and add 2 1/2 cups of milk. Whisk in the sugar, salt and cocoa powder until dissolved and combined. Keep it over low heat, stirring often for a minute or two.

In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk it into the warmed milk mixture, and increase the heat to medium. Whisking the entire time (especially the bottom), bring the mixture to a boil. Cook it for 2 to 3 minutes until it has slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat.

Heat the heavy cream just until bubbles appear around the edges. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl, and pour the cream over top. Let it sit for 1 minute. Stir until a thick and smooth ganache forms and all the chocolate has melted. Stir the ganache into the milk mixture. Transfer the entire thing to a bowl, and let it chill in the fridge until completely cold, a few hours.

Once cold, pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the directions. Right before it's done churning, drizzle in 1/2 cup of the peanut butter. Finish churning, and remove the bowl. Stir in the remaining peanut butter and the HELLO pretzel bites. Place in a freezer safe dish or container. Freeze for 4 to 6 hours before serving. Makes about 1 quart.