Saltines get a bad wrap – they’re square with little holes in them, hard to swallow if you eat too many at once, kind of an ugly color, and for some reason I always associate them with having a stomach ache (that and flat ginger ale). For a while I thought all you could do to spice them up was slap peanut butter on them – until one fateful December when I discovered that they are the base for one of the easiest and most delicious sweet treats I’ve ever had in my life.
It was Sophomore year of college, right before Christmas break when Ash’s mom invited us gals out to the ‘burbs’ from Providence to have dinner with her family – a delicious pork dish with all the fixings was on the menu, a welcome change to the slop du jor we were used to at school. And then after dinner she put dessert on the table – I saw chocolate – YES. But then what in the…saltines? Are those saltine crackers under that chocolate? I was skeptical, but went in head first thinking “How bad can they be?”.
Since then, this ‘brittle’ as Ash’s mom called it has been a staple for every occasion imaginable – at bachelorette parties, we hover over the ziplock bag of it after a night out thinking “who needs pizza when you have brittle!” During the holidays, it’s perfect for wrapping up on a plate with pretty cellophane and ribbon and giving to co-workers, family members, or neighbors. And the best part is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make – 5 basic ingredients – you can top it with pretty much anything imaginable, or just leave it plain and simple.
Saltine Toffee Brittle
(about 2 sleeves)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet (or milk) chocolate chips
*chopped pecans, M&M’s, holiday sprinkles, etc. etc. for topping are optional
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet (preferably with sides) with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and line the tray with the saltine crackers.
3) In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together. Let them come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.
4) Pour butter/sugar/vanilla mixture over the saltine crackers and place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until the sugar/butter mixture starts to bubble.
5) Pour the chocolate chips over the saltines. Throw back in the oven for another minute, just to melt the chocolate chips a little more so they become more spreadable. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate to cover the saltines entirely.
6) Place in the fridge to let cool and then break into pieces once completely cooled.
When I say this stuff is addicting, that is a total understatement. I couldn’t even wait for the stuff to cool last night and boom, 1 row of brittle, in my belly.
It can be served at room temperature, but it tastes really good cold/frozen as well. It freezes fantastically too, so break it up, toss it in the freezer, have a piece (or 2 or 3) every night for dessert, or you can save it for that holiday party you’re hosting. While no ones looking, take it out of the freezer, arrange it on a pretty Christmas plate, and say “Ohhh I just whipped this up! Enjoy!”.
Even puppies want in on it 🙂
Back to the office this morning, sporting my stretchiest and most forgiving pants with the taste of turkey still on the brain – I hope everyone had a great, great, great Thanksgiving weekend 🙂
The last four days were full of:
Some kitchen mishaps…
And now Christmas is in full effect at the Schoon house!
But still, I was itching to make good use of our leftovers, especially the stuffing. I don’t know about all of you, but for me Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey or the pies – it’s about the stuffing. I.love.stuffing. I could eat it for days (and did). And I feel as though it never tastes as good at any other time of year than it does on Thanksgiving. This year, I made the standard and also a Cornbread Bacon stuffing from Martha Stewart that was so delicious! We had so much of it leftover, I did all kinds of googling to see what I could do with it. But I wasn’t finding anything that I thought sounded good. Then for some reason, meatballs popped into my head, not really sure why. But I thought “Why not take the stuffing as the ‘meat’ you’d use in a meatball, and prepare a ‘stuffing’ ball in a similar fashion?”. So I pulled up the recipe for Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs, made a few adjustments, gave it a shot, and most times when I go at things in this fashion, there’s always something that goes awry, but not this time!
Leftover Stuffing Bites
*yields 10 larger size balls or 20 smaller ‘bite size’ ones
1.5-2 cups leftover stuffing
(If you don’t already have stuffing, Pepperidge Farm has a really nice stuffing mix that is super fast and easy to make that would work well with these too!)
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
FOR DIPPING SAUCE
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. honey mustard
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Combine egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and garlic powder in a small mixing bowl to form a paste.
3) Add the leftover stuffing to the paste, mixing with a spatula (or just your hands) until it becomes a dough like consistency.
4) Take 2 tbsp of the stuffing dough (for larger sized balls – 1 tbsp. for bite sized) and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball. Place stuffing balls on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray.
5) Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes – flip over and then cooking for another 10 minutes on the other side (20 minutes total).
6) Mix honey mustard and mayo together in a small mixing bowl and serve with stuffing balls as a dipping sauce.
I asked Dave to try one, and he said “It tastes like stuffing” (deep thoughts). Which it did – but it has a nice moist texture, similar to that of a meatball, with the same great flavor that everyone loves about stuffing. It’s a great way to re-purpose your leftovers, or if you don’t have the stuffing leftover, you could whip up a quick Pepperidge Farm batch and serve these as an appetizer at your holiday parties. And people will say “Hey, these taste like stuffing! YUM!” – GENIUS! Feel free to adjust the spices/seasoning if you wish – I wanted to go light on that aspect of it, only because the stuffing itself already has so much flavor that you don’t need to add a whole lot to it.
Well folks, that’s my last T-day recipe for ya – next will be ALL Christmas – ALL the time – get excited – I know I am!
*Many apologies for the less than appetizing picture – I was preoccupied with skipping through the house putting up Christmas Decorations when I realized I needed to snap a pic of these yummies before it got dark at 4pm – damn you natural light! They taste MUCH better than they look in the pic, swear!
I’m sure you’re thinking “Carrot Souffle? What in the world?”
I know – I know – but bear with me here…
A few years back, Dave and I attended a holiday dinner party at his former bosses house, and his wife did a bang up job with dinner! I remember sitting down to the table with bug eyes at how amazingly delicious everything looked – except for this one orangey looking thing, covered with nuts. I started to sweat, because it’s really in poor taste to not try everything at a dinner party, so I scooped a little teeny smidgen of it, and went at it with my fork in one hand and my glass of wine in the other, just in case I needed an emergency wash down.
I took my first teeny little bite, small enough that I could taste what I was eating but not so much so that if I was about to gag it would be totally obvious – and thought “oooh, mmmm….this is pretty good actually.” My next bite was bigger, and after only a couple bites my small little scoop was gone – but I wanted more! So I took seconds….thought about thirds but didn’t want to embarrass Dave in front of his co-workers by stuffing my face. I knew I had to have the recipe and finally, she emailed the recipe to Dave and he forwarded it to me, and since then, it’s become a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas, like the mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. It’s a light and fluffy combination of pureed carrots and lots of other ingredients that are better not to know – but luckily for you, I’m gonna share them, right now!
*Dave’s former bosses fabulous cook of a wife! (guess I should have gotten her name, eh?)
*yields enough for a 9×13″ baking pan for a larger crowd – halving it would be just enough for an 8×8″ dish
4 lbs carrot, cooked and pureed
(I know – seems like a lot!)
1 & 1/3 cups sugar
8 tbsp flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 tsp vanilla
few dashes of cinnamon & nutmeg
For the topping
1 cup cornflake crumbs
4 tbsp. brown sugar
2 & 1/2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your baking dish by greasing the bottom and sides with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
2) Cook the carrots in boiling water until fully cooked through. Puree them with an electric mixer or food processor and allow to cool completely. In the mean time while they’re cooling, you can prepare the topping by pulsing the corn flakes in a food processor (or just crushing with your hands in a ziplock), then adding them to the brown sugar, melted butter and pecans.
3) Once the carrots are completely cooled off (the eggs will cook when you add them to the carrots if they haven’t cooled enough), add all of the other ingredients and blend with a mixer until fully combined.
4) Pour carrot mixture into the dish and then top with cornflake/pecan topping. Feel free to make more of the topping if you’d like – it is quite delicious!
5) Bake souffle in preheated oven for 1 hour.
This Carrot Souffle is a sweet treat for your tastebuds to take bites of in between the turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and….
Is it Thursday yet?
Mondays are bad enough, but when you have a food hangover, they’re even worse. But, the food hangover was well worth it! Thanksgiving dinner, part I went off without a hitch, and we now have enough left overs to feed an army – serioulsy. So many leftovers. OMG.
But I’m anxious to share some recipes with you that I really think will add some zing to your t-day dinner!
In the last few years, I’ve come to realize that cocktails are equally as important as Turkey & Stuffing on T-day, so I tried to think of a festive signature bevvie to serve alongside the usual beer & wine. And let me tell you, this Cranberry Pomegranate Sangria was a HIT! I will say that it sat for over 24 hours, which I believe it what made it as tasty as it was. Sangria really is it’s best when it has time to chill and let all the flavors meld together.
So THAT means that you still have time to:
1) go get your ingredients
2) find a big old pitcher to put it in
3) give it at least 24 hours to chill to perfection
2 bottles of red wine of your choice
(I used Shiraz)
2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1/2 cup simple syrup
1 cup OJ
1 bottle of sparkling pomegranate juice
(Trader Joe’s has a really nice one or you could use pomegranate flavored seltzer water or even just sprite if you can’t find either of those!)
1 bag of cranberries
3-4 oranges, sliced
1) Combine all ingredients except the sparkling juice in a large container. Let chill in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours, but as I said, overnight is best.
2) Just before ready to serve, add the sparkling juice to the container (or you can pour a little bit in each glass and then fill the rest of the glass with sangria)
*please note that I actually doubled the recipe for the large container pictured above
Such a fun and festive beverage, not just for Thanksgiving but Christmas too! Trust me, if there was any leftover, I’d totally be pouring myself a tall glass when I got home 🙂
One week from tomorrow, we’ll be hours away from the biggest eating holiday of the year: THANKSGIVING! And this weekend, Dave and I will be hosting Dave’s High School clan for a ‘practice’ T-day dinner – because let’s be honest, this is the only month where that extra 5-10 lbs can be solely blamed on the fact that there is one day in the month where your caloric intake for the day might be what your monthly caloric intake should be. But hey – that’s what sweatpants are for! So LET’S EAT!
Besides the turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the squash, cornbread, green bean casserole, apple, pumpkin and pecan pie (tissue – wipe drool – continue typing) the next most important thing is the table you serve it on. Have some fun with it – it only comes once a year afterall!
Your perfect Thanksgiving Table doesn’t have to be expensive to set and it allows you to really let your creative side shine through! Here’s some ideas (although, the options really are endless – thank-you Pinterest!) But, here’s my attempt to invite you to our house for dinner 🙂
Start with your base – decide on either a table cloth or runner to lay on your table. I chose a solid white runner vs. one with a pattern, only so that the items on the table wouldn’t clash but there are a lot of really fun cloths and runners out there, with patterns and solid as well! Or hit up a fabric store and get a piece of cloth or burlap and make it a DIY base for your table.
Placesettings – whether it’s a small dinner for 2, or if you’re like my family, a cluster bomb of a dinner for 25, you can really get creative with your place settings. Try layering, with a few different placemats that are different shapes and colors. As you can see below, I used 2 different round placemats, one orange, one green, but varying in size just enough so that they would create a layered look. Topped with a gold charger and beige salad plate (all super cheap!).You can then choose a fun topper for the plate, whether it’s a cute little pumpkin, a cloth napkin with a creative napkin ring around it, or those fun paper poppers with prizes inside! I found them at the Christmas Tree Shop for $3.99 for 6, and they provide hours of endless entertainment (especially after a couple cocktails!). Another option is a personalized place card for each person, if you do assigned seating.
Your Table ‘Flair’ –
‘Flair’ – noun \ˈfler\ -: a uniquely attractive quality
This is your chance to show your style – with your table ‘flair’. Honestly, there are soooo many fantastic ideas out there, it’s almost overwhelming. But the best part of fitting your table with it’s flair is that you can keep it simple, or get a little cray cray – anything goes. And, you don’t have to spend a lot of money doing it! I think a main focal point to have in the center of your table is key, and that can include a wide range of things, whether it’s a special Thanksgiving flower arrangement you got from distant relatives, or a Turkey that your kids made in Art class with construction paper. It’s the first thing people will look at when they see your table, so get creative and enjoy the ‘oooh & ahhhh’ factor!
Myself, I am OBSESSED with those big candy jars that are popping up everywhere. The main place I’ve been seeing them lately is on the Food Network, and they’re usually filled with delicious candies or fruits. I found this one at Home Goods, on clearance marked down to $8 from $40, but you can find these essentially anywhere (Target, Marshalls, any place that has a home goods department will surely have these!) And I decided to fill the bottom with some faux grass I got at the dollar store (for, you guessed it, $1) and then a variety of gords and pumpkins to add some color poppage that would compliment the colors of the place settings.
And I’m sure when everyone arrives on Saturday and is ready to hunker down for Thanksgiving dinner…..
The men will sit in the living room at the coffee table and the women at the kitchen counter 🙂
Ah well, in theory, a beautiful Thanksgiving table setting is a great idea!
I’m not afraid to admit when perfectly laid out recipes go astray.
Last Thanksgiving, we had some friends over for a makeshift ‘Thanksgiving Dinner” and our friend Alissa brought this pumpkin dip with various treats to dip in it, and OMG – it was beyond good. And the best part was that it was served in a hollowed out pumpkin! Major points for presentation!
So this past Sunday, Dave, Hairy and I had plans to meet up with my cousin Catherine and Buddy and my Aunt Jane at Buddy’s fab apt. in the north end (recess lighting and all). Pizza from the ORIGINAL Pizzeria Regina, which is right around the corner from his apartment (I swear I’d be well over 300 lbs if I lived there) was on the menu, so I decided I was going to make this pumpkin dip as a nice ‘lighter’ option for dessert.
I literally stood over the bowl with the electric mixer for a good 10 minutes, just waiting for all these little lumps of cream cheese to disintegrate. But it didn’t happen. And while it tasted pretty good, I am a firm believer that you taste with your eyes just as much as your mouth, and the sight of this mess of a dip even made me, someone who never passes on dessert, want to say “Ahhh ya know what? I am just SO full I think I’ll pass on dessert!” I was so ashamed of it, I frustratedly tossed it in the dumpster outside of Buddy’s apartment as we were walking to our car – $1 leaf bowl from Target and all.
But I was determined to make this better somehow. So I tried it again last night, using essentially the same recipe, but using a different process to combine them together, and BINGO!!!! We have a winner!
Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip
*Adapted from Allrecipes & Very Best Baking
*makes about 1.5 cups – perfect amount for a small pumpkin!
1 – 8oz block of cream cheese, softened (room temp is ideal)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1) In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer on low until both are fully combined and smooth.
2) Gradually add the powdered sugar to the pumpkin/cream cheese mixture (I did about 1/3 at a time) mixing well in between.
3) Add the pumpkin pie spice and mix well until all ingredients are combined and smooth.
4) Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (up to overnight). Serve with whatever you see fit to dip! Personally I think that chocolate goes really nice with this, so I used chocolate animal crackers, graham crackers and bite sized oreos, but the options are endless!
So what was the difference between the two?
In version 1, the directions said to mix the softened cream cheese and the powdered sugar together until smooth – without sifting the sugar first, causing big sugary lumps of cream cheese to form before the pumpkin even went into the mixture. After that, there was no going back, no matter how much you mixed.
The second version though, I mixed the pumpkin and cream cheese together first, until smooth, and then gradually add the sifted confectioners sugar, which honestly makes perfect sense now that I look back, but at the time I just followed the instructions without giving it any thought.
Finally, after 2 tries, it was what I had always envisioned it being – a deliciously smooth combination of pumpkin and cream cheese that’s fun to eat and ridiculously easy to make. Feel free to tweak the measurements of pumpkin too, adding more or less depending on your pumpkin tastes. And, putting it in a cute hollowed out little pumpkin = genius. Perfect for a pre-dinner dessert for people to graze on, or a nice, lighter alternative for people after the big meal is over, as you can dip as much or as little as you like – it’s commitment free!
So go now and dip it. Dip it good 🙂
Happy Friday everyone! Man, these 5-day weeks are BRUTAL!
To say that the weather around here has been crazy lately would be a complete understatement. Within about a week and a half, we had a Hurrricane AND a Nor’ Easter that brought the first snow of the season to Boston – and now it’s all melted and it’s supposed to be 70 degrees on Monday. Wuddup mother nature? I only have so much room in my closet to be prepared for all these weather scenarios!
Anyway, Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching in just two weeks! And this recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie is a special one as it’s a Schoon Family ‘Dessert Heirloom’ of sorts. Dave’s Mom and Grandmother make it every Thanksgiving and it’s really a nice change to your run-of-the-mill Apple and Pecan pie. After hours of grazing and face stuffing on Thanksgiving Day, when you think you can’t fit another morsel of food in your already overstretched stomach, out comes the Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie. And suddenly, ah ha! Whaddaya know, I found room for a sliver!
Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie
*A Schoon Family Specialty
*Yields 1 – 9″ pie – however, there is probably enough ice cream to make 2 pies, so if you double the graham cracker crust, butter and sugar measurements, you’d have enough crust for 2 pies.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 – teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon orange juice
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2) To prepare crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a mixing bowl. Coat 9″ pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and then press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the the plate.
2) Bake crust in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. You’ll notice that the crust will puff up a little bit while baking – simply take your hands or a rubber spatula to push it back down into the pie plate. Cool on rack before filling.
3) To prepare the pumpkin filling, combine ice cream, pumpkin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and orange juice.
4) After the crust has cooled, pour the pumpkin ice cream filling into the pie plate. As mentioned above, there will be quite a bit of ice-cream filling left over, so feel free to save it or prepare another pie with it.
5) Freeze until ready to serve. Feel free to top with cool whip, or as you can see, I ‘bedazzled’ mine with some fun harvest colored sugar crystals for some texture.
Be sure to spray your pie plate – I actually did NOT do this, and the crust was kind of sticking to the plate, so I think the cooking spray would help that (or you could totally cheat and buy one of those pre-made Graham Cracker crusts! But the homemade one just tastes that much better :))
I would also recommend letting your pie sit for 5 minutes or so before trying to cut a slice – it just makes it a little easier to take it out of the plate.
Happy Friday everyone – happy weekend to all!
I’m stuffed – wanna know why?
I was stressed last night – what a nail biter the election was! And I don’t know about you guys, but I am a stress eater. Instead of knitting, chewing gum or taking a brisk walk when I’m feeling anxious about something, I stuff my face with whatever is in arm’s length of me and not nailed to the table.
So, all in all, not the best night to make these Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecake bites – we’ll leave it at that.
Lucky enough for you, I spared some to actually take pictures of so you could see:
1) how cute they are
2) how delicious they are
3) how ridiculously easy they are to make
A similar flavor to those Pumpkin Oreo Truffles from a couple months ago, but much more rich and dessert-like. And the best part is there’s no fork needed – you can pick them up with your hands and in 2 (maybe 3 for most normal humans) bites, down the hatch they go!
Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecake Bites
*Adapted from Inside Bru Crew Life (clearly I tried to make them ‘healthier’ to justify eating a dozen of them)
*yields 24 cheesecakes
2-8 oz pkgs. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
48 Reduced-Fat Oreos
light whipped cream
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Spray a 12-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray and line the bottoms with 1 Oreo cookie per slot.
3) Beat the cream cheese until creamy. Add the sugar and cream again. Add the eggs one at a time beating after each one. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat again.
4) Fill each muffin tin 3/4 full with the cheesecake batter (on top of the oreo at the bottom), then push another whole Oreo into the top of the batter.
5) Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool in pan for 15-20 minutes and then take a knife around the edge of each cheesecake to loosen them from the pan. At this point, they should pop out easily. You can then place them on a wire rack to finish cooling.
6) Keep refrigerated. Top with whipped cream and crushed oreos before serving.
These would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving dessert table! Easy to make and to eat 🙂
In the mean time, I’ll be doing 2 hours of cardio tonight to work off last night’s (and um, this mornings?) Pumpkin Oreo binge – in the middle of the nor’ easter we’re getting – DOH.
It’s a big day in the U S of A today – Election Day.
Go vote, will ya?
In the mean time, drool over these patriotic dishes that are totally stolen from some of my favorite Food Bloggers 🙂
The Classic “American Flag Cake”, made every 4th of July by my very own cousin, KB Murphy – the recipe is really intricate – see below:
Krissy: its just a reg cake and strawberries and blueberries in a flag or funfetti
I love a chef that shares their secrets 🙂
This Cute as can be AND healthy Patriotic Fruit Trifle from the lovely Kelly at Eat Yourself Skinny
Easy, fun and frozen on a stick – Red White and Blue Ice pops from My Recipes – meant for kids, but could be made for adults by adding some booze!
And the best for last, naturally…
A slew of Red, White and Blue cocktails from Real Simple – because by the end of this day, we’ll surely need a cocktail 🙂
Cheers everyone 🙂