Friday, December 21, 2012

English Toffee

When I was a kid, my mom's favorite candy was Almond Rocha. The distinctive pink round tin, the little gems of butter, almonds, chocolate and sugar wrapped in gold foil. They were so fancy to this suburban kid. Any it was expensive, or so my mom said. So every once in a while, she'd splurge and buy some, and stash it somewhere to be enjoyed solo. A private moment of indulgence, just for her. And then. . . one day. . . I found her stash. And as much as I'd like to say "I didn't", I did; I pilfered one and scarfed it up. Then expertly disposed of the damning gold foil evidence. So tender, so buttery, so forbidden. I was hooked. I was instantly an "English Toffee Junkie". But to feed my new desire, I would have to be careful. If I pinched it all, I'd be caught. So I waited, and waited before pilfering another piece. Never letting on that I'd found the stash. Oh the cleverness of me. Eventually I quit lifting from mom's stash. A little maturity and a lot of guilt bettering my addiction. I wonder if my Mom every knew. She may have and never let on. We'll never know. Mom was like that. I miss her!

Imagine my delight when my friend Amy shared her grandma's family recipe for English Toffee. I could now make this once forbidden treat for myself. What I love about this recipe is it's simplicity. Just a few ingredients and some patients and you'll have English Toffee for yourself. It's getting close to Christmas but it's not too late to whip up one last batch of treats. . .

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking up a bunch of treats for family, friends and neighbors. Each year I include our traditional favorites and try to throw in a few new recipes. But, this year, I've been set back a bit. The break in was upsetting to say the least and it took me a good week to settle back in and get on the holiday organizing, gift lists and treat making. So much for that "extra" week after Thanksgiving. I finally feel like I'm back "on track" and ready for some Holiday Cheer.

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted to give it a try. I loved that it had cranberries and pistachios, red and green, and it just screamed "Christmas" to me. A "Slice and Bake" refrigerator cookie is so up my alley this season. I love the idea that you can make up batches of dough, weeks in advance, and then slice and bake as needed for all the various holiday parties and get togethers. I new immediately when I saw it that I'd like this recipe. What I didn't know is that I would LOVE it. Aside from the fact that it is very easy to make, I love love love the taste. The cookie itself is a tender shortbread that's not overly sweet. It has the perfect amount of cinnamon to spice it up without being a "cinnamon cookie." The pistachios and cranberries compliment each other well and then the orange zest just takes all the other flavors to the next level. Don't skip putting the crystal sugar on the outside before baking. It adds just enough sweetness and crunch. I dare say this cookie may make it onto our "traditional favorites" list. Give it a try and see if you don't agree. . .

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

My apologies for my absence from the blog-o-sphere this last week. I had all these photos uploaded and was ready to blog away. I just had to run a few errands on my day off before I blogged. While I was out, our house was broken into and we were robbed. Right in broad daylight in the middle of an upper middle class neighborhood. If you're saying WOW, or OMG, you are right. To say it set my agenda back for the week would be putting it mildly. It's one of those things you think is never going to happen to you, but it does. It happens all the time, in the nicest of neighborhoods, in the nicest of cities. I Googled "Residential Burglaries" and discovered some shocking statistics. Please educate yourself and rethink your home security. I know we are. Lastly good luck out there and I hope this doesn't happen to any of you!

Now on to cooking. Nothing bad happens in the kitchen! I'm starting the holidays off with a time saving way to make everyone's holiday favorite, Mashed Potatoes. Since I started making mashed potatoes this way, a day or two ahead, it has saved me time and dishes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, as an added bonus, they taste out of this world. Super smooth and creamy and rich. Yummy, yum, yum! Aside from tasting awesome, by making them ahead, you can get all the dishes cleaned and put away days ahead and only have to deal with the one baking dish after your holiday meal. This is also a great way to take mashed potatoes to a holiday pot luck. Give 'em a try...