Monday, December 26, 2011

Toffee Squares... and home for the holidays!

Hi everyone!  It's Tall One here.  Small One and I are both FINALLY home for the holidays!  Small One is actually visiting family in rural West Virginia with shotty internet service and absolutely no cell phone reception, so I'll be taking the reins for a couple of days.  Thanks to crazy scheduling conflicts, I have not been able to make it home since the 4th of July so it has been better than ever to be back in my hometown for Christmas this year.  After a great couple of days celebrating with family, it was time to get down to business in the kitchen.  In honor of being home, I could think of nothing better to whip up than these simple Toffee Squares that I've been eating at Christmastime for years.

-40 saltine crackers
-1 cup (2 sticks) butter
-1 cup brown sugar
-2 cups chocolate chips of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 10x15 inch pan and cover with saltine crackers by laying them side by side over the entire surface.  You may need to overlap a few of the crackers, but that isn't a problem.  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Once melted, add the brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil.  Boil for about five minutes or until a nice think consistency forms.  Pour hot toffee over crackers and spread evenly to cover the entire pan.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Allow toffee to cool for about 15 minutes.  Once again, melt chocolate chips (I usually use milk chocolate, but this time I used semi-sweet... both have great results and I think that dark chocolate would be great as well) over low heat, stirring constantly.  If you are worried about burning the chocolate, use a double boiler.  Once chocolate is melted, pour over toffee and spread evenly over entire surface.  Allow to cool completely in the refrigerator.  Once toffee is cooled, it is easy to pop out of the pan, thanks to all that butter!  Squares can be cut using a sharp knife or or pizza cutter, but I prefer to just break them into different size pieces with my hands.

The ingredients my not be the most figure friendly, but it's the holidays so live a little!!

Tall and Small

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint Cookie Sandwiches

Every aspiring baker, chef, blogger, or food gawker knows and loves "Smitten Kitchen."  The Spatularettes are no exception!  We took this classic homemade oreo recipe and HOLIDAY-IFIED it.  We think Buddy the Elf would approve!

For the cookie:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 stick softened, unsalted butter 
1 large egg
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

For the filling:
1/2 stick softened, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2-3 Tbs crushed candy canes
Red food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.  On a low speed, add the very soft butter and mix until your cookie dough becomes one big mass of chocolatey yumminess.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a small spoon or your hands, make small balls and place on cookie sheet, about an inch and half apart.  We like to make smaller cookies because, well... the more the merrier!  Bake for 8 minutes, rotating the sheets half way through.

For the filling, cream together the butter and shortening, slowly adding the sugar and extract.  Crank your mixer up to a higher speed to make your filling light and fluffy!  Add the food coloring a drop at a time until you get your desired color.  Bring the mixer back to a slower speed to fold in the candy cane pieces.

Once your cookies have cooled, make cookie pairs - most of our cookies are not the same size.  (Become a cookie Chris Harrison, if you will...).  Use a spoon or pastry bag to fill your cookies with pepperminty cream filling!

From our kitchen to yours, Happy Holidays!

Tall and Small

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Seasoned Oyster Crackers

The season of celebration has been flying by, but with less than a week to go until Christmas, things aren't ready to slow down yet.  Work parties, church parties, friends' parties, family gatherings, Christmas Eve celebrations, and we can't forget about New Years! It seems that as soon as we clean up the kitchen from one holiday mess, its time to prepare a dish for the next event on the calendar.  Quite frankly, we are getting tired and we're sure you are too!  So if you are looking for a holiday munchy for your next get-together and don't have the time, energy, or motivation to lug out your Kitchen Aid mixer or reload your dishwasher again, The Spatularettes have the recipe for you!  These seasoned oyster crackers are simple, delicious, and addictive.  They store well in a sealed container for days, so make them ahead of time, pack them up, and grab them as you run out the door to your next holiday party!

-2 9 oz packages of oyster crackers
-1 cup oil (we used canola)
-1 tsp dill week
-1 tsp garlic salt
-1 tsp black pepper
-1 package of Hidden Valley ranch mix

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Combine all ingredients except for oyster crackers in a large bowl and mix until well combine.  Add oyster crackers and toss gently until coated.  Transfer seasoned crackers into a 9x13 baking dish.  Bake for 1 hour, stirring crackers every 15 minutes.  See what we mean?  Easy and mess free!

Tip from The Spatularettes: After snacking on these, you might want to pop a breath mint before chatting with your favorite Spatular ;)

Tall and Small

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

Keeping with our theme this month, The Spatulartettes have another family recipe to share.  This one comes from Tall One's grandma, Mimi, and has been served at family Christmases for as long as she can remember.  When Tall One moved away from home, Mimi sent her oldest granddaughter off with a few boxes of her used kitchen accessories, including a large stack of mini muffin tins, a lazy susan, and a fondue pot circa 1975.  More importantly, though she sent hand written recipe cards for some of Tall One's favorite treats.  These Candy Cane Cookies were in the stack of cards.  They are a fun twist (literally and figuratively) on a basic sugar cookie and are perfect for holiday parties.  The twisting technique can be a little bit tricky at first, but is worth it for the adorable result.  So from Mimi's kitchen, to our kitchens, to your kitchen we bring you Christmas cheer and Candy Cane Cookies.

-1/2 c shortening
-1/2 c butter
-1 c confectioner's sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 tsp almond extract**
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-2 1/2 c flour
-1 tsp salt.
-1/2 tsp red food coloring

**Feel free to play around with the extracts you use.  This is Mimi's recipe, but when we made these this year, we actually used 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract instead of the almond.

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer, cream shortening, butter, and sugar.  When mixture is light and fluffy, add egg and extracts and mix until combined.  Blend in flour and salt until dough forms.

Divide dough in half.  Add 1/2 tsp red food coloring to one half.  Chill dough until very cold.  It is extremely important to chill the dough well or it will be difficult to create the twists.
Once dough is chilled, roll about a 1/4 c of each dough into a long snake.  Twist the red and white dough together and gently roll to form a single snake.  Cut snake into approximately two inch segments and bend each segment into the shape of a candy cane.  Repeat with the remainder of the dough.  We suggest putting the unused dough back into the refrigerator to keep it cold until  you are ready to work with it.
Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until white part just beings to turn golden brown.
Be nice and make your friends cookies!  Or Santa will bring you COAL!

Tall and Small

Friday, December 9, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

As we mentioned before, The Spatularettes won't be able to spend as much time back home as we would like this holiday season.  Therefore we are bringing the the flavors of home to our kitchens here in Philadelphia.  When we think about recipes, few things are as mom-inspired as a bowl of homemade soup.  So in honor of family, food, and keeping things seasonal this month, we want to bring you a recipe for a delicious hearty soup.  The winter winds may be heading our way, but you will have no problem staying warm with this roasted acorn squash soup on the table. 

3 acorn squash, cut in half
1/2 tbs olive oil
2 carrots, cut in 1 in pieces
1 white onion
2 cups frozen corn
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
Cut squash in half and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and lay squash, cut side up, on foil.  Roast for 30 minutes or until flesh is fork tender.  Scoop out the meat of the squash with a spoon and set aside.
While squash is roasting, heat olive oil in a medium pot.  Saute carrots, onions, and corn until tender.  Combine squash with other vegetables in pot and add vegetable broth.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Using a blender or food processor, blend contents of pot in batches until smooth.  Return soup to pot and season with cayenne, salt, and garlic powder.  Adjust seasoning to taste depending on how much spice you can handle.
To turn this simple soup into something special we suggest topping with homemade whipped cream.  In a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, beat cream until soft peaks form.  Fold in a pinch of cayenne, sea salt, and garlic powder.  Dollop cream on top of individual soup bowls and allow to melt into soup as you eat.
Warm, savory, and satisfying.  The perfect combination for a winter night.

Tall and Small

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hot Berry Cider

The Spatularettes are firm believers in celebrating one holiday at a time.  We are not fans of walking into the mall and seeing the Christmas decorations intermingled with Halloween.  The most wonderful time of the year and the scariest time of the year DO NOT MIX.  But now that Thanksgiving has passed and December has begun, we couldn't be more ready for the Christmas season!  Because of our busy work and school schedules, The Spatularettes will not be heading "home for the holidays" until Christmas is literally upon us.  Therefore, we are dedicating this month to bringing some of the comforts of our childhood Christmases to our new homes in the city.  We'll share some of our favorite family recipes and traditions as well as some new treats that we'll be serving up at holiday parties this season.  We could think of no better way to kick off a month of celebration than with Tall One's mom's (Tall Mom?) recipe for Hot Berry Cider!  Whip up a batch and let it simmer in the crock pot all day.  Your kitchen will smell like Christmas and ...... 

-1 gallon apple cider
-4 cups of berries (fresh or frozen)
-8 sticks cinnamon
-4 tsp whole cloves

In a large pot on the stove top, mix all ingredients together and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes.  Use whatever berries you can find easily and cheaply since December isn't exactly berry season.  Tall One's mom usually uses 4 cups of strawberries that she picked and froze the previous summer.  The Spatularettes used 2 cups of fresh strawberries, 1 cup of fresh raspberries, and 1 cup of fresh blueberries.  It is delicious any way.  Once the berries have started to cook down, run the cider through a sieve in order to strain out the seeds and spices.  Keep warm in crock pot or on the stove top. 

Looking for a little kick?  Add 1 cup apple brandy after straining the cider.

Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple slice when serving to guests.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and thanks to this recipe it's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas too!

Tall and Small