Other Sweet Treats


Something about marshmallow treats brings me directly back to being a kid–piano recitals, playing hide ‘n seek and marshmallow treats. Low energy days call for an update to classic comfort. Brown butter, more marshmallows, and a combination of Rice Krispies and crushed Golden Grahams make these treats extra special EXCELLENT. Not only do they come together quickly, but they just might make you want to break into a happy dance, like our old friend Snoopy.

BROWN BUTTER MARSHMALLOW TREATS WITH GOLDEN GRAHAMS

4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Golden Grahams cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick salted butter, browned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz. bag mini marshmallows
2 cups (additional) mini marshmallows–keep these separate

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Gently crush (in a Ziploc bag, roll with a rolling pin or bottle) the Golden Grahams cereal so it becomes roughly the same size as the Rice Krispies. Combine with Rice Krispies and salt. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, stir and watch carefully to be sure it gets just a bit brown and nutty–like so.

Stir in the 10-oz. bag of mini-marshmallows and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla till it’s nice and melted. Now, remove from the burner and stir in the cereal. Once the cereal is combined and evenly coated, add the final 2 cups of mini marshmallows (these won’t melt all the way–that’s our goal) and press into the buttered baking dish.

Cool, cut, happy dance! It’s that easy!

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They call ’em cowboy candy and they’re loaded with sweet heat and a bit of crunch–along with that element of surprise: how hot will this one be? Seems the heat level can vary even within different bites of the same pepper. I ate a particularly spicy ring last summer, experienced an all-over “I’m melting” sensation, then fainted and literally hit the wall. For a while, I was afraid to eat more of them, but I soon got over it and ate the rest because a) they’re damn tasty and b) Yankee thrift prevents me from throwing away perfectly great food. 🙂

What to do with them? Whether you eat ’em like candy, perch them atop a spicy margarita or add them as a garnish for tacos, they’re a welcome guest at a variety of sweet or savory parties. And, as a bonus, the by-product is a fiery syrup you can use to make kicked-up margaritas. I even made my own spicy sugar for dipping the glasses–there goes that Yankee thrift action again. Let’s heat things up, amici!

CANDIED JALAPEÑO RINGS: COWBOY CANDY
And a spicy syrup by-product to boot!

6 jalapeños, cut into thick rings
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground chile (I used 1/4 tsp. chipotle and 1/4 tsp. ancho)
additional 1/2 cup sugar for dipping
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Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Dissolve water, spices and half cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium high heat till it boils. Add jalapeños and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Using a toothpick, dip each jalapeno ring into granulated sugar. Coat the rings generously. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet.
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Bake sugared rings at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool and air-dry for several hours. You can even leave them uncovered for a day or two.

But wait! Save that syrup and stick it in the fridge–it contributes to a mean margarita.

You’ll see you have a bit of leftover sugar from dipping the rings–to that, add 1/4 teaspoon of the syrup. To make it pretty, add about 7 drops of food coloring. Stir thoroughly to combine. Now you can dip each margarita glass (dip first in a shallow dish of tequila or run a wedge of lime around the top) in the spicy sugar to make a colorful presentation.

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Be sure to have some tortillas or bread or crackers on hand just in case you need to rescue yourself from the ring of fire. 🙂 Cheers!
spicy-margaritas

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They say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So, after a failed attempt at making salted caramel pudding a few weeks ago–and after eating all the not-quite-thickened portions myself, MOO–I gave it another go this afternoon. These little babies are heading over the river in their own little individual containers for a cookout with my family, so I’m not going to trick them out even further with caramel sauce and whipped cream as directed in the original recipe, but you sure can!

Let’s do this in steps to keep everything straight. I find it easier to follow this way.

BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL BUDINO
inspired by Marcie Turney’s recipe from Barbuzzo (Philadelphia, PA) via Bon Appetit

8 Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers, crush and set in jars (2 per serving)

1. In a small bowl, whisk and set aside:
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch

2. In another small bowl, whisk and set aside:
3 egg yolks

3. In a small saucepan, combine and heat just to a simmer; then set aside:
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped

4. Get ready to add at the end:
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark

5. In a separate saucepan, stir to combine over medium heat till sugar dissolves:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Increase heat; cook without stirring for approximately four minutes, then remove from heat. Now, here’s where we start moving quickly and combining the previous steps.

Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into eggs.
Whisk milk/eggs into milk/cornstarch.
Slowly whisk all the above into saucepan with caramel in it and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 3 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark.
Pour through a fine-mesh sieve.
Pour 1/2 cup of budino over each chocolate-cookie lined jar.

Chill. When the east is in the house, ohmygod! Danger! Enjoy! Happy Labor Day, amici!

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Let’s go back to the 70s and 80s with a light and fruity summer treat–perfect to eat when you wanna beat the heat. Too many of us forgot about this delightful fruit mousse-like thinG, so let’s revive it right now. It’s so easy to make and reminds me of times when life was more carefree.

Keep it sweet and simple with just yogurt and Cool Whip, or add fresh fruit. And, if you do add berries, save some for the top to give your pie a grin, because who can resist a smiling dessert? 🙂

The most challenging part of this pie is finding French or custard-style yogurt–not fruit on the bottom, not Greek. Stonyfield’s Smooth & Creamy Organic is an excellent choice. Here in central Connecticut, I was thrilled to find it at West Side Marketplace in Rocky Hill. Stonyfield Organic makes all great things dairy, including my favorite milk and cream. If you can’t find Stonyfield, Yoplait Thick & Creamy is another good option.

COOL ‘N CREAMY SUMMER SMILIN’ BERRY PIE

1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip, thawed
2 6-oz. containers French or custard-style yogurt (try Stonyfield Smooth & Creamy or Yoplait Thick & Creamy): how about strawberry or strawberry banana?
6 oz. fresh raspberries (optional)
1 graham cracker crust (I like Honey Maid)

If you’re using them, set aside the most perfect berries for your smile–or whatever design you’d like to make.

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Fold yogurt into thawed Cool Whip till combined. Now, if you’ll excuse my technical term, smoosh the remaining raspberries into the side of your bowl with a spoon and stir them in, too.

Smooth evenly into graham cracker crust. Decorate top of pie as you like.

Put the pie in the freezer for about two hours so it sets and holds its shape when you slice it. Store remaining pie in the fridge.

slice of pie

Sending you a cool Strawberry Letter of summer enjoyment straight from my childhood. ♫ Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue, playgrounds will laugh if you try to ask: Is it cool? Is it cool? ♫ Oh, yes, it is!

peanut butter pie

Two great tastes that taste great together–chocolate and peanut butter– come together beautifully and easily. Start with a store-bought Oreo shell, then whip up (literally) a quick ‘n tasty filling.

PEANUT BUTTER PIE

1 Oreo pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter (Skippy is my fave)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon Maker’s Mark
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream till stiff peaks form. Move to a small, separate bowl in the fridge till it’s time to add to the pie.

Again, using a stand mixer, cream together the peanut butter and Neufchatel cheese till smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk, bourbon, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat till smooth, scrape down sides to be sure everything is incorporated. Next, fold in about 1/3 of the whipped cream you set aside. Then fold in the rest.

Pour into the Oreo shell and smooth the top of the surface. I saved one dollop of whipped cream for the center, just to be fancy. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving. Delicious!

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As a nut for all things almond-y, I wondered where I might find the very best almond syrup. It’s comforting to know the answer is right in your very own kitchen! All you need is sugar, water and almond extract or bitter almond oil.

I’m sure you’re already familiar with almond extract. LorAnn bitter almond oil is its bolder, much more concentrated cousin! Bitter almond oil is truly almond flavor to the extreme and must be used sparingly. Abandon all thoughts of “heaping” measurements here and keep in mind a little goes a long, long way. Take it from someone who ruined a whole pan of bread pudding learning that lesson the hard way.

ALMOND SYRUP

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon bitter almond oil or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Combine sugars and water in a small saucepan. Stir as you bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add almond flavoring (oil or extract). Let syrup cool, then store in the fridge.

Now, what delicious things shall we almond up? I love an almond latte, but I also have an orange marzipan tea that the syrup complements purr-fectly. You can add it to seltzer to make an almond soda. In fact, I mixed it with Polar coconut cream seltzer–talk about almond joy!

I leave you now to get cookin’ and get nutty on your own. You’ll be so glad you did! Because homemade almond syrup is…the kat’s ass! 😉

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I woke up on Black Friday and decided to make cranberry sauce with vanilla. This is what happens when you’re supposed to be “as non-weight bearing as possible” and you go out for Thanksgiving dinner. You wake up the next day and realize there’s not enough cranberry sauce leftover. That’s gonna be a problem.

But I do have cranberries that I had bought to make muffins. And cranberry sauce is very easy to throw together. Sugar, some freshly squeezed orange juice or just plain water, vanilla. Wait. Bourbon has vanilla notes. Who needs just plain water? I have some lovely candied ginger in the house from Sundial Gardens, too. Problem solved.

CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH MAKER’S MARK AND VANILLA

½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar in the raw
¼ cup Maker’s Mark
12 oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries
2 coins of crystallized (candied) ginger, minced fine
zest of one orange
¾ cup liquid (I squeezed 1/3 cup of juice from an orange, added enough water to make ¾ cup of liquid)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla (stir in at end)

The basic recipe is a cup of sugar, cup of water, a bag of cranberries. Where that road diverges in the wood and the path you take from there is completely up to you. 🙂

Combine the sugars and bourbon. Add all the remaining ingredients except the vanilla. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugars.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes. The cranberries will burst and the sauce will begin to thicken. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

Your house will smell ah-MAYZ-ing! I love the smell of bourbon bubbling with brown sugar (and cranberries) in the morning!

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And so will you. No more turkey at your house? Same here. Thankfully (HA, get it?) this tastes oh so good on its own, or might be nice spooned over a nice slice of pound cake, stirred into yogurt, baked with brie and puff pastry or crescent dough. So many possibilities–let me know what you decide.

Hope you’re having a warm and happy holiday weekend, amici!

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