Thursday, December 24, 2009

Six Month Fudge?

What treat should we leave for Santa? Sure, he's kind of overweight and should probably share a carrot with Rudolph. But, it's Christmas, right? We also want Santa to forget all about those times we made the naughty list and leave us a nice stash of presents under the tree, so we've got to leave out a plate of the good stuff.

How about fudge?  Mmmm. I think so!

This recipe is called Six Month Fudge?. Notice the period after the question mark. The question mark is part of the name. Why? Well, this recipe comes from my grandmother who called it six month fudge because it can last up to that long. However, growing up this fudge was always gobbled up so quickly, it never even  made it to six days. Sometimes it even vanished in under six hours. Therefore, I had to add the question mark.

Tonight, I'm passing on the recipe to the fourth generation. Liam, my little sous chef, is helping me make the fudge. My mother told me that the amounts of the various ingredients are according to the package sizes during my grandmother's day, and the recipe is very forgiving. So, if your package size is a couple ounces off from what the recipe calls for, don't stress.

I'm sure Santa will love this. Tonight, he can eat all the treats he wants; he'll be working hard for it. Then, his New Year's resolution can be to give up sweets and hit the treadmill.

Fourth generation, Liam, stirring the fudge.

Liam and Tomas with Santa's bribe. 

Hey, Santa! Doesn't this look good?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Argentine Alfajores

So, I took care of the Christmas gifts for my office coworkers. Now, what to do for the neighbors?

Since the coworkers got salsa, Katie and I thought we'd stick with the Latin theme. Why not Alfajores?

Alfajores are a popular cookie in several South American countries, and the recipe we have comes to us by way of Katie's parents who got it from a woman in Argentina. Katie's dad served an LDS mission to Argentina, and Katie's parents also served a mission together in the same area.

Alfajores are filled with dulce de leche, a caramel spread made from sweetened condensed milk. Doesn't sweetened condensed milk make everything better? You can find dulce de leche in the grocery store, but we prefer to make our own.

We had over fifty deliveries to make. Since each alfajor is made up of two cookies, Katie figures she made sixty dozen cookies. Holy Cow! Good thing baking is like therapy for us. But, the cookies really are easy to make, so it goes fast.

And, the cookies are best eaten after a day or two. The dulce de leche softens up the cookies. Yum to the max!

To make things even more festive, we used
food coloring to color the dough red and green.
I'm not a huge coconut fan, so we left it off.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pennington’s Chunky Salsa

Around the office, my coworkers exchange little gifts at Christmastime. I like to give homemade gifts from the kitchen. With over 20 somethings to create, it can get a little expensive and time consuming. Since this year we are still trying to pay off our family's little Austrian summer jaunt and the fact that this semester was one of the busiest I've ever experienced, cheap and easy was the way to go.

I searched through recipes and brainstormed with Katie. And finally, it came to me. Salsa! It was different from anything I'd handed out in the past, and I knew just the recipe.

Over 30 years ago, my mother received this recipe from her friend, Mrs. Pennington. We loved Mrs. Pennington, and we loved her salsa! Katie and I have continued to make it with our family. It is so incredibly simple to make, and it easily beats out any store bought stuff.

In no time at all, I had the jars of salsa ready and was spreading Christmas cheer around the office.

Hand out gifts to coworkers? Check. Now, I wish everything else on my holiday to do list were that easy!

Feliz Navidad! Salsa with red and green tortilla chips.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

When Katie and I were first married, we went to a party and were asked to bring a dessert. Back in those days, our kitchen skills were minimal, but I wanted to try something adventurous. I thought a cheesecake might wow the crowd, and I was up for the challenge.

The recipe must have come from Betty Crocker because I think that was the only cookbook we owned at the time. I probably also had to go out and purchase a springform pan. I don't recall much about the whole experience but I do remember the cheesecake was a hit. I was even asked to make the cheesecake for a get together with friends the following week.

It just sort of snowballed from there. And I might add, it turned into a big snowball. I was testing out all kinds of different cheesecake recipes, studying techniques for achieving the perfect cheesecake, and building my collection of cheesecake recipe books. At one point in time, we were having cheesecake a couple times a week. This was also back in the day when I could eat whatever and whenever I wanted and not gain weight.

We had another birthday at the office, so I decided to pull out this old favorite, which always received rave reviews. Everything about this cheesecake is yummy from the oatmeal pecan crust to the creamy caramel filling. And chocolate makes everything better.

If you have a special occasion coming up, give this a try. And don't worry, it's not really that hard. One thing I have learned, though, is that it gets better with age. So, you can make it a few days in advance and relax the day your guests come over. Your friends and family will be amazed at our skills.

Ooooh! It looks like the birthday 
girl, Nicki, is impressed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chocolate Bread Pudding with White Chocolate Sauce

This past summer in Vienna, I was introduced to the dessert, Mohr im Hemd, which translates as "A Moor in his Nightshirt." It's a chocolate steamed pudding served with whipped cream. It's one of those amazing desserts that you try your hardest to eat slowly to make the supreme yumminess last longer but end up devouring in seconds because you can't help yourself and lose control.

Just as Katie went on a quest to find the perfect Sachertorte recipe, Mary Ann has sought to master the art of creating a Mohr im Hemd worthy of the finest Viennese café. And luckily, we have been most fortunate to have been invited over now twice to sample her work. All I can say is that Mary Ann's Mohr im Hemd deserves a place of honor in the dessert case at my favorite Viennese café, Café Central. Yes, it's that good. And luckily for all of us, she has shared her recipe here.

This chocolate bread pudding recipe reminds me a little of Mohr im Hemd, sort of an American version.  I love all kinds of bread pudding, but making it chocolate does take it to a higher level. And, the white chocolate sauce is a classy final touch. Best of all, this recipe is so incredibly easy to make.

So, if you're not heading to Vienna anytime soon and you don't quite have enough time to whip up a Mohr im Hemd, try this out. There will be ooohs and aaaahs a plenty!

I borrowed a camera. It's amazing what a nice camera can do.
You can tell that each bread cube is packed with chocolate.

I'm salivating just looking at this picture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Peanut Butter and Bacon Cookies

One of the simple pleasures in life for me is peanut butter. I, personally, am a Jif guy, but if I'm trying to be healthy, I'll choose Adam's. And, I usually go with crunchy. I practically grew up on peanut butter sandwiches. A good peanut butter sandwich was the one and only thing about the States I missed during our month in Vienna this past summer. Here's my list, and in no particular order, of favorite peanut butter sandwiches.

  • Peanut butter with spun honey (Spun is better.)
  • Peanut butter with red or purple jelly (Grape is first, and raspberry is a close second.)
  • Peanut butter with dill pickle (I read about it in a book as a kid, tried it, and loved it.)
  • Peanut butter with marshmallow cream (I've heard that back east it's called a fluffernutter.)
  • Peanut butter with chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark, white chocolate, whatever)
  • Peanut butter with potato chips (salty and crunchy)
  • Peanut butter with banana (Elvis knew what he was doing.)
I think peanut butter just makes everything better. What's one of my favorite ingredients on pizza? Yep, you guessed it. And I'm not talking about peanut butter on one of those dessert pizza things. This is real pizza. All you do is spread a thin layer of peanut butter on your crust, add the sauce, sprinkle on cheese, put on toppings of your choice, and bake. Now, wipe that disgusted look off your face and go try it. It really is good!

Why am I writing about peanut butter? Well, recently I heard about someone making peanut butter and bacon cookies. Really? Peanut butter and bacon together? Two flavors that I love? In my opinion, pure genius! I had to give it a try. I took my favorite and extremely easy peanut butter cookie recipe and added diced cooked bacon. And, it worked! First, you taste the peanut butter. Then, you hit a chewy little piece of bacon. As you chew the bacon, both flavors combine into absolute yumminess.

Seriously, give this recipe a try. If you still can't get past the idea of meat in cookies, just leave the bacon out. This is still a great peanut butter cookie!

*Sidenote* I'm sure that some of you who know me are thinking, "Isn't Curtis a flexitarian and doesn't he avoid sugar?" Well yes, that's true. Sugar is only for special occasions, and I try to eat meat only sparingly. But once in a while, you come across a recipe like this, and you've got to give it a try.

The ones with chocolate–no bacon.
The ones without chocolate–with bacon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Chocolate Truffle Torte

And once again, it's birthday time at the office. I wanted to make something that would wow the crowd. Katie's Sachertorte would have done the trick, but late on a Sunday night, I didn't have the energy. I then remembered this recipe , a guaranteed surefire showstopper. And the bonus is that it's incredibly easy to make with very little clean up afterward. In no time at all, I had a thick fudgy cake with a beautiful glossy chocolate glaze ready to take to work.

As it turned out, however, most of the students, including the birthday girl, had other commitments on Monday. Hmmm... A dilemma. What should I do with this cake. I brought the cake home, and we contemplated for a split second giving the cake away. But then, we quickly remembered it was Family Home Evening night, and we didn't have a treat. There. Problem solved. And oooh, it was yummy!

With a cake this simple to make, I had no problem whipping up another to bring to the office on Wednesday when all the students would be there. And the cake did not disappoint.

Here is my recommendation. If you want to impress and have the time, make the Sachertorte. If you need something faster, go for this Chocolate Truffle Torte.

Heather with her birthday torte. I can't figure out how to put it into words how much I love this cake. But then, I remembered a cartoon from my youth, Quick Draw McGraw. Do you remember how Quick Draw's dog, Snuffles, reacted to dog biscuits? Well, I'm pretty much the same with each bite of this torte. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, click here

Monday, November 9, 2009

Katie's Sachertorte

This past summer, we had the incredibly amazing opportunity to spend a month in Vienna with the family . The kids and I tagged along as Katie taught in the BYU Study Abroad program. While there, we got to experience Viennese café culture. If you're interested in learning more, I blogged about it here and  here. So many wonderful cafés but simply not enough time and money. We did make it to the most famous cafés, especially the granddaddy of them all, the Hotel Sacher Café. This is where the world reknowned Sachertorte comes from. Since I was spending my 44th birthday in Austria, I knew what my birthday cake HAD to be. And let me tell you, nothing could have been finer! Not only was the Café Sacher beautiful and full of character, the cake lived up to the hype in every way. I really hope our Austria trip wasn't just a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that we get to go back some day.

(Click to enlarge) At the Sacher Hotel for my 44th 
birthday. That cheesy grin is my "I'm in Viennese
Confectionery Heaven!" look.

Since our return, Katie has been on a quest to find a Sachtertorte recipe that rivals the original. (Just so you know, the original recipe is a highly guarded secret.) After trying several recipes and doing some modyfing and changing, Katie's done it. When I take a bite of her cake, my mouth is full of joy, and I'm transported back to Philharmonikerstraße 4.

On Saturday, there was a Study Abroad reunion party, and we knew what we had to bring. Katie let me be her sous chef. (This was a shocker. We have quite different cooking styles, and I usually end up annoying her.) This is a recipe that takes some effort, but it's so worth it. If you can't make it over to Vienna to experience it firsthand, try this recipe, this recipe is a darn good second. Take it slow and carefully, and I promise you will win friends and influence people!

Katie's version. Notice the same
cheesy grin? Yep, this cake is good.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

It's birthday time at the office again, and you know what that means. Cake!

I thought I'd make another favorite recipe from the old bed and breakfast days. It's incredibly easy to make and really good. I especially love it with a glass of very cold milk or a cup of hot cocoa.

And while I'm thinking of the innkeeping days, here are a couple of pictures. The B&B was in a building that looked like a castle. Unfortunately, we don't really have any good pictures of the building because the life of an innkeeper is incredibly nonstop busy, and we seriously had a spare moment. Also, this was in the days before digital photography, so we didn't take many photos anyways. Chloe was three when we lived there and was definitely THE princess of the castle. Her bedroom was even in a turret.

Of course, Chloe had to be a princess for Halloween that
year. And here she is gazing down over her kingdom
from her tower.

Autumn, the birthday girl, with  her cake. 
And yes, THE princess of the office. 

Moist cinnamony, chocolately goodness!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Millennium Toffee Bars

This is another Ivy Café favorite. We tried these amazing toffee bars and "My! Oh! My!" We knew we couldn't live without them in Utah, and this is why our Ivy Café cookbook is one of our prized possessions.

I've made these for birthdays at the office, Katie's made them for her students as they were about to take a final exam, and we've made them for neighborhood Christmas gifts. For a while, we were really out of control making them at least twice a week. We were inventing all kinds of reasons to make them–it's a full moon, it's the dog's birthday, it's Thursday! I finally had a toffee bar overdose. I'm now better (thank you very much). But now, I recommend cutting them into small bite size pieces. Eat one or two and then give them all away IMMEDIATELY. If you don't, I promise you won't be able to stop eating them. But, if you get addicted, maybe we can start a support group.

PS I have no idea why they are called Millennium Toffee Bars. I like Katie's theory. If the end of the world is  is upon us. This is the last thing you want to eat before you die.

Remember, small bite size pieces. 
Slow and steady wins the race.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cream Waffles with Cinnamon Cream Syrup

Not only is today Saturday, but it's also Halloween. And the really amazing thing is that no one had anything going on or anywhere they needed to be.  This put me in the mood to celebrate, and I jumped at the chance. I decided to make breakfast for the family. I decked the table with our black tablecloth with spiderweb pattern and went to work making these yummy waffles. This recipe has been a family favorite for many years and was a favorite of our guests at the bed-and-breakfast. These waffles are fantastic, but it's the syrup that adds the WOW factor.

Wow your family and friends and make up a batch. Great for breakfast, dinner, or a waffle party!

The waffles freeze well, so I made lots of extras. 
The kids can now enjoy them throughout the 
week for a quick meal or snack. They just pop
them in the toaster. Much better than an Eggo.

I forgot to take a picture of the waffles with syrup
until we were halfway through the meal and the table was
a mess. This is probably the best shot I could get.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of baking in the next little while.

First of all, the holidays are coming–gifts to bake, potluck parties, treats for the office, and that sort of thing. I'm in the mood to bring back a bunch of recipes I haven't made in a long time.

Secondly, I've promised the students I work with that I would make something special for each of their birthdays. After I committed myself, I found out a good chunk of them have birthdays within the next thirty days beginning today.

So Steven, this is for you. Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum! I think it's the perfect cake for a brisk fall day, and this is one of the best carrot cake recipes I know. And it's amazingly healthy, too, with three whole cups of carrots. Well, maybe not so much. But it's gotta help, right?

Give this recipe a try, and enjoy!

The finished cake. I know I'm not a food photographer, but you get the idea.

The birthday boy, Steven, with his cake. And 
the reviews are in: everyone agrees this is an
incredible carrot cake. It disappeared in no
time flat.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ultimate Rice Krispies Treats

During the summer of 2006, we took a vacation to Nauvoo, IL. We drove out there and met up with my parents and a good family friend who traveled there by train. We stayed in our friend's Victorian mansion across the river in Keokuk, IA and  had a fabulous two weeks exploring everything the area has to offer.

Before we left Utah, a coworker told me we had to try out a café in Fort Madison, a town just north of Nauvoo. It's called the Ivy Bake Shoppe and Café, and as the story goes, President Hinckley ate there and loved it. Now, it might be complete rumor, but I don't mind spreading this little bit of possible urban legend because I think it can only help the café. And, I wish the Ivy Café much continued success because we fell in love the place.

I purchased one of their cookbooks as a souvenir, and it we have put it to good use. I've made several of the desserts from the cookbook to bring into work for birthdays and such. This Rice Krispies treat recipe is always a hit. The Ivy Café calls them Caramel Rice Krispies Bars. Uh...kind of boring, don't you think. And, the name just doesn't do them justice. These are not your everyday-run-of-the-mill Rice Krispies treats. They have caramel and sweetened condensed milk!  So, you can see I've renamed them because really, they are the ultimate.

Nauvoo Trip memories--The bottom middle picture is, unfortunately, 
the only picturewe got of the Ivy Café. It's a horrible shot of me, 
but you can see from the wall in the back of the room, 
that the Ivy has character.

I just made a batch to take around to some of our terrific neighbors. I'm sure you know someone who could use a thank you or some cheering up. They're so easy to make, and I guarantee they'll be a hit.

 If this picture looks better, it's because I borrowed a nice camera. 
But if I ever do get a fancy camera, I think I'll need to take a class 
on how to use it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cranberry and White Chocolate English Scones

About twelve years ago, Katie and I ran a bed-and-breakfast inn. A friend of ours shared this recipe, and it was an instant hit with our guests. We served these scones at least twice a week. It got so that I could whip up enough to feed 20 guests in no time at all with my eyes shut. And I literally mean with my eyes shut. Things got going pretty early in the morning at the B and B.

We called them English scones because the bed-and-breakfast was in a castle (or at least a building built to resemble a Scottish castle). All the rooms were castle-themed. I have no idea if these scones are anything like what you get in Great Britain, but they are good. Maybe some day Katie and I can make it across the pond to find out how they compare.

By the way, if anyone reading this is thinking how fun it must have been to run a B and B. Well, here are three pieces of advice:
  1. Have more money than you know what to do with.
  2. Hire someone else to live on site.
  3. Serve these scones.

My camera's batteries are dead, so this was 
taken with the cell phone. Not bad for a cell phone, 
but I think I need to start the New Camera for Curtis Fund.
Donations gladly taken. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sour Cream Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting

It took me a while, but I finally did it. I decided which recipe to publish first. And I can't believe it doesn't have any chocolate in it. What's up with that? Well, these cookies totally deserve the honor of being my first recipe blog post.

Katie got this recipe from her mother, and it comes from an early 1900's dairy farmer's cookbook. It just may be my favorite cookie of all time. I love the soft, almost spongy cookie. And the browned butter gives the frosting an amazing flavor.

I did make one tiny alteration to the recipe. The recipe as we received it calls for shortening. I have serious doubts whether a dairy farmer's wife would have used shortening in the early 1900's, so I changed it to butter. I don't notice a difference.

I find it extremely difficult to control myself and not snarf down a whole dozen of these tasty cookies in one sitting. I say, try these out and see if you can resist. 

After trying to take a nice shot of the cookies with my old 
Canon Power Shot, I have now added a new camera to my 
Christmas wish list. So until that wish comes true, I apologize .

Update (6-22-10): Since I finally have a decent camera, I decided tp add a new photo the next time we made these cookies. Much improved, don't you think?