Friday, November 18, 2011

Coffee Toffee

I'm not much of a candy fan, but I do love English toffee.  Started making it when Justin and I first lived together, but that was about 6 years ago and I haven't made much since.  Until yesterday.  We had picked up some coffee toffee made locally and it was black, which was awesome!  Tasted great too, but it was expensive!  Like $2.50 for three tiny little pieces.  Knowing I could make toffee, I decided to try my hand at my own coffee toffee.  It came out great (though not black).  I'm still going to experiment; I don't know why I need it to be black, but I so want it to be black!  This recipe only has ground beans in it, which like I said, is delicious... but I'm thinking if I put a tablespoon or two of espresso in it when cooking... it might come out black.

This song is a little throw back and I had to be cheesy and use it.  More new wave than punk, I suppose.  They used to play the video on MTV all the time in the early/mid 80s, and I was like six or seven years old when I decided I wanted Annabella Lwin's shaved hair style!  Actually, I think I have had that hair style, only with dreads!  Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy".  -jen

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5-7 minutes
Level: Super easy!
Special Tools:  Candy/Oil thermometer
Note:  Be very careful making this.  The melted butter/sugar can burn you badly and it sticks like a mofo!
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter + some for pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (though I've made it without this too)
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground coffee beans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  (If you don't have parchment paper, you can just generously butter the baking sheet.  The bottom of your toffee will be a little buttery but it'll still be tasty!)

In a large 2-quart saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt and ground coffee beans.  Using a wooden spoon, stir over medium-high heat, bringing candy temperature to 300 degrees F (hard crack stage).  Immediately remove pan from heat, quickly stir in vanilla, and spread onto parchment paper lined pan.  Sprinkle pecans over the top quickly while toffee is still hot and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.  Flex the pan a little and candy should release. 

If you're not a fan of coffee, you can leave it out and just make plain English toffee!  Sometimes I sprinkle a little course salt over the top of the toffee for that "salted caramel" flavour.  Another option is chocolate.  Instead of sprinkling pecans on it immediately after pouring it out, you could sprinkle chocolate chips or shaved chocolate across the top.  The residual heat will melt it after a few minutes and you can spread it smooth across the top.

Made this one with pecans, salt and milk chocolate drizzle.  Left the coffee beans out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Gratin

If you don't think you like brussels sprouts... you should try these.  You might change your mind.  These sprouts are so creamy and cheesy and delicious!  Loved 'em!  Even half-way through the cooking process, before the cream and cheese were even added, they tasted awesome!  I might have just stopped there, except I had the gratin game plan.

I was on a little psychobilly kick while cooking these... it somehow seemed appropriate, since I think of brussels sprouts as throwbacks to the 50's.  But these definitely aren't your mom or grandma's sprouts!  I kept coming back to the Horrorpops, so here's their "Miss Take". -jen

  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1" pieces
  • 3 tablespoons butter (divided)
  • 2 medium shallots, sliced
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, cut off brown ends
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth, seasoned*
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1/4-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
* I seasoned the chicken broth with about a teaspoon of the KFC Copycat seasoning.  If you don't have that, you could use seasoning salt or just salt and pepper.  The seasoning is really up to you.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large skillet (that has a fitted lid, which you'll need later) over medium-high heat, cook bacon until browned and crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some paper towels.  Set aside.

In the same skillet, keep about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, discarding the remainder.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter.  Melt over medium-high heat and add shallots.  Cook for several minutes until tender.  If your brussels sprouts are large, cut them in half.  If they're small, you can leave them whole.  Add brussels sprouts and just toss them around for 2-3 minutes to get a little browned.  Add the chicken broth to deglaze the pan (scrape up the crusty bits) and the red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to simmer for about 7 minutes or until brussels sprouts are slightly tender when pierced with a fork.

Note:  At this point, you could just stop and eat the sprouts like this because they're delicious and it would be a lower-fat, lower-carb dish.  Or you can continue into the awesome, evil world of cream and cheese and bread crumbs!

If your skillet is oven safe, you can leave everything in it.  If not, transfer sprouts and shallots into a buttered 2-quart baking dish.  Add cream, shredded cheese, and crisped bacon.  Toss.  Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and toss with panko.  Sprinkle buttered panko over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until browned on top.

Shown here with some homemade chicken strips.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Copycat KFC Chicken with Waffles

    Chicken and waffles have always had a magical place in my heart and stomach.  Jen had seen some show not too long ago where the guy, Todd Wilbur, tried to discern the secret blend of herbs and spices in the KFC Original Recipe chicken by deconstructing the finished product.  He apparently got incredibly close so we decided to give it a go, as I could think of no better tasting chicken to go with waffles and maple syrup (my favorite topping for the dish)!  We didn't have everything his blend called for in terms of the tellicherry and the savory so we made a few substitutions but the finished product was juicy and tasted amazing.  The waffles were Jen's creation and were golden and crispy with a little cornmeal crunch that was perfect.

    Note: This is not health food.  No one should in any way mistake this for a low fat, low carb, low sugar, light meal.  This seasoning blend contains MSG, commonly known as Accent, and though it's a small amount some folks are particular about not consuming MSG.  Also, this is fried chicken.  You'll need a deep fryer or a large dutch oven and some frying oil.

    Was in an old school punk mood so I went with some Circle Jerks "Wonderful" as that is exactly how I felt about this dish.  Wonderful! - justin

    Prep Time: 2 hrs
    Cook Time: 40 minutes
    Serves:  4
    Level: Easy


    The recipe called for a brine which I will include here but I didn't use it.  I had a quart of my own brine left over from a previous recipe and it worked out just fine!
    • 8 cups water
    • 1/3 cup salt
    • 1 tbsp Accent (MSG)
    Dissolve the salt and Accent in the water and add chicken for at least 2 hours.  Chicken can be left to brine for as long as 24 hours in the fridge.  Remove from brine, rinse, and pat dry.

    • 9 oz all purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tbsp Accent (MSG)
    • 2 tsp granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp ground tarragon
    • 1/2 tsp ground sage
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground marjoram
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder
    • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
    Combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake thoroughly to mix.

    Jen's Note: After the chicken was so awesome due to the seasoning, I made a double batch (minus the flour) just to keep on the counter as an awesome seasoning salt! 

    • 4 eggs
    • 2 cups milk
    Beat eggs in a large bowl and stir in the milk.

    Heat oil or deep fryer to 300 degrees.  When oil is hot, dredge each piece of chicken in the egg mix and cover with breading.  Make sure it is well coated and set aside for 5 minutes.  Shake off any excess breading and fry 2-4 pieces at a time or whatever your fryer may allow.  Don't crowd the chicken though.  Fry for 18-20 minutes or until the chicken becomes golden brown.  Drain on a rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Chicken can be kept in a 200 degree oven to maintain temp until served.

    • 1-1/2 cups all purpose four
    • 1/4 cup cornmeal
    • 1 tbsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1-3/4 cups milk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl and lightly whisk the eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients, whisking until just mixed together.  Let sit for 10 minutes before cooking as per your waffle maker's instructions (ours cooked about 7 minutes).

    Serve chicken with waffles and cover with a generous splash of real maple syrup and you have achieved comfort food!

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Caramelized Onion Jam Pork Roast

    So, I'd had a desire to make some onion jam recently and finally found a recipe I liked as well as the motivation to actually attempt it.  It came out delicious!  With roasted garlic and some apple cider how can you go wrong?  Once it was done, however, I needed to use it on something.  So we got a nice, big pork tenderloin roast and carved it out into a flat sheet, brined it overnight, smothered it with the jam, cranberries, raisins, pecans, and rolled it back up and baked it.  Awesome is the best way to describe it. The brine is good for both pork and chicken and the jam works well on bagels with cream cheese, most meats, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are next on my list to try.

    To back it up musically, I've got some Cock Sparrer with one of my favorites from them "Take 'Em All".  Nothing like some gutter punks to compliment a nice fall meal! - justin


    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Makes: Approx 2 quarts
    Level: Easy
    • 5 cups water
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup kosher salt
    • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
    • 1 tsp cumin seed
    • 1 tsp brown mustard seed
    • 1 tsp whole allspice berries
    • 1 tsp whole corriander seed
    • 4 whole bay leaves
    • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
    • 1 whole cinnamon stick
    Add all ingredients to a 3 qt saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.  This can be frozen for later use if desired.

    Caramelized Onion & Roasted Garlic Jam

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 60 minutes
    Makes: Slightly less than 2 quarts
    Level: Easy
    • 4 heads of garlic
    • 4 cups onion, chopped
    • 1 cup raisins
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tsp ground mustard
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp ground white pepper
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    • 5 cups sugar
    • 2 oz dried pectin
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Remove the papery outer skin from the garlic heads but do not peel or separate cloves.  Cut off the top inch of the garlic bulbs and brush with olive oil.   Wrap each bulb in heavy duty foil and bake for 35-40 minutes or until soft.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.

    In a dutch oven, saute onions in butter for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Squeeze softened garlic into pan. Stir in the cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, white pepper, ginger, cloves, and smoked paprika. Bring to a rolling boil. Gradually add sugar, stirring constantly. Return to a boil for 3 minutes. 

    Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and allow the liquid to cool for 5 minutes, scraping any foam off the top afterward.  Pour mixture into sterile quart canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  Adjust the caps and process in boiling water for 10 minutes if long term storage is desired.  Otherwise the jam can be stored in the fridge for immediate use.

    Onion Jam Pork Roast

    Prep Time:12 hours
    Cook Time: 2 to 2.5 hrs
    Serves: 8 people
    Level: Medium
    • 5 lb pork tenderloin roast
    • 1 qt pork or chicken brine
    • 1 cup Caramelized Onion Jam
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup pecans
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
    Fillet the pork roast out into a flat sheet, like a flank steak.  Take a large knife and cut an inch thick piece along the length so the as you roll the roast away from the knife you create a sheet of meat.  Place in a gallon ziplock bag and all enough brine to cover the top of the meet.  Place in a spill proof container overnight.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the pork from the brine and rinse with cold water to remove the brine.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  Lay the pork out flat, over three pieces of butchers twine (cotton string) cut to 1 ft in length, and cover evenly with the jam, raisins, pecans, and cranberries.  It should look like this when you are done:

    Roll the roast back up and tie off at even intervals with the butchers twine.  Place in a roasting pan, sprinkle the top with the salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes a lb, or until the center of the roast reaches an internal temp of 150 degrees.  Remove from heat and allow the roast to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

    Serve with the jam as a condiment or topping and enjoy!

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Apple-Pecan Bread Pudding

    A few days ago, we helped at a spaghetti dinner cancer benefit and at the end of the night, they sent us home with three giant loaves of french bread that were left over.  We used one loaf just for bruschetta, but by the second day, we were sitting on two loaves of stale bread.  It was bread pudding or stuffing... and since I actually had all the other ingredients at home (from the previously posted baked pumpkin recipe), I decided to go with bread pudding.  I really had wanted to use whiskey in it, but hadn't realized that Justin had finished the Jameson, so I used what we had - rum.  And it was great!

    We're also trying to remember to give you guys some additional information such as cook time, prep time, serving size, and difficulty level.  Thought it might help.

    Samiam is just who was playing while I was baking.  "Full On".  -jen


    Prep Time:  20-30 minutes
    Cooktime: 50-60 minutes
    Serves: about 10
    Level:  Easy
    • 3/4 French bread loaf, day old (about 9oz), cubed
    • 2 tart apples, chopped
    • 3/4 cup raisins
    • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
    • 3 cups milk
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4 tablespoons rum
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously coat 2-qt baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

    Combine cubed bread, apples, raisins, and pecans and place into baking dish (may come up over the edges a little, but that's okay.)

    In a large saucepan, combine milk, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Over a medium-high heat, bring just to a simmer, then turn off heat.  Temper eggs by ladling about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, beating constantly so they don't turn into scrambled eggs.  Then pour egg mixture into milk mixture and whisk.  Take wet ingredients and carefully pour over the bread mix in the baking dish.  Using a spatula, gently press the bread down into the liquid so it's all saturated.  Let sit for 10-20 minutes to absorb the liquid.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Apple and Oats Stuffed Pumpkin

    Right before Halloween, Justin and I headed to the pumpkin patch to get our carving pumpkins... it's something I have to do every year.  While we were there, we grabbed some acorn squash, butternut squash, carnival squash, and a few sugar pie pumpkins.  We had ideas for them... until the lady who was running the show told us how good they were stuffed with apples and raisins.  Well, we did a little research, and then like usual, we winged it.  It came out so awesome!  I felt like it was a dessert, though it wasn't overly sweet (which is how we like our desserts).  My sister in law topped it off with whipped cream to add a little kick to it.  Justin thought it was a perfectly good meal and had no need to be labeled "dessert".  Next one I make, I think I'm going to add some oats to it to give the stuffing even more body.  Either way you eat it... it's going to be awesome!

    Here were this year's pumpkins - mine is evil, Justin's is the cyclops.

    And so, even though it's past Halloween, we're going to lay down some Misfits' "Halloween".  -jen

    • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (2-3 pounds)
    • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped
    • 1 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 2 teaspoons amaretto liqueur (or whiskey, or brandy, or rum - it's all good)
    • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed small
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Cut the top off of your pumpkin.  Scoop out the seeds and string insides, discarding.  Mix all of the remaining ingredients except the butter.  Pack firmly into the pumpkin until about half way.  Sprinkle with half of the cubed butter.  Pack the remaining filling into the pumpkin and top with the remaining butter.

    Place the lid back on top of the pumpkin.  Place on a baking sheet or in a pie pan and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours, until pumpkin insides are tender.

    Slice the pumpkin into quarters and serve topped with the stuffing.  Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may have leftover filling that wouldn't fit inside.  I suggest saving it and mixing it in with some oatmeal for breakfast the next morning!