Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vanilla Cordial

This sweet after-dinner liqueur, fragrant with the exotic scent of vanilla, is the perfect way to end a meal.

Prep 10 minutes plus 1 week to steep. Cook about 5 minutes. Makes about 7 cups or 36 servings.
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 bottle (750 milliliters) 100-proof vodka (3 1/4 cups)
How to make:
  1. With knife, cut vanilla bean crosswise in half, then split each half lengthwise in half to expose seeds. Scrape out seeds with knife, reserve pod and seeds.
  2. In 2 -quart saucepan, mix sugar, vanilla-bean pod, seeds, and 3 cups water; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring. Boil 2 minites, cool.
  3. In medium bowl, stir cooled syrup and vodka. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 week to blend flavors.
  4. After 1 week, pour cordial into small decorative bottles with tight-fitting stoppers or lids. (You can leave the pieces of vanilla bean pod in the cordial if you like, or remove and discard them. Or, rinse and dry the pod pieces and use them to flavor a canister of sugar). Store in refrigerator or freezer up to 3 months. Serve cordial very cold.
Note: Each serving: About 95 calories, 0 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 0 g total fat, 0 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium.

Amaretto Truffles

This recipes is so easy to prepare, you'll be able to make many batches to give to all your friends and family for the holiday. Place each truffle in a fluted foil or paper cup.
Prep 25 minutes plus chilling. Makes 64 truffles.
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut up (no substitutions)
  • 1/4 cup almond-flavor liqueur
  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
How to make:
  1. In food processor, with knife blade attached, blend both kinds of chocolate until very finely ground.
  2. In 1 -quart saucepan, heat cream to boiling over medium-high heat. With food processor running, add hot cream, butter, and liqueur to chocolate, and blend until smooth.
  3. Grease 8" by 8" metal baking pan; line with plastic wrap. Pour chocolate mixture into pan; spread evenly. Refrigerate chocolate mixture until cool and firm enough to handle, at least 3 hours, or freeze 1 hour.
  4. Place chopped almonds in small bowl; Invert chocolate block onto cutting board; discard plastic wrap. Cut chocolate block into 8 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 8 squares. (To cut chocolate block neatly and easily, occasionally dip knife in hot water and wipe dry).
  5. One at a time, roll half the squares in chopped almonds to coat; roll remaining squares in cocoa. Store in refrigerator in tightly covered container, with waxed paper between layers, up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 2 months.
Note: Each truffle: About 55 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 4 g total fat (2 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 6 mg cholesterol, 1 mg sodium.

Chocolate-Dipped Dried Fruit

This recipes can be easily doubled and made for a crowd. We found the most efficient way of coating was to dip larger pieces of fruit into chocolate before smaller ones.

Prep 10 minutes plus cooling. Cook 5 minutes. Makes about 1 1/4 pounds or 33 pieces dipped fruit.
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound dried fruit, such as apricots, apples, pears, and pineapple. (In picture: 4 pineapple rings, 5 pear halves, 7 apple slices, 8 appricot halves, and 9 large slices of crystallized ginger.
  • 3 ounces crystallized ginger (optional)
How to make:
  1. Place sheet of waxed paper under large wire rack. In top of double boiler or in small stainless-steel bowl set over 2 quart saucepan, over 1 inch simmering water (double-boiler top or bowl should be 2 inches above water), heat chocolate and shortening until melted, stirring.
  2. With fingers, dip 1 piece of fruit at a time. Shake off excess chocolate or gently scrape fruit across rim of double boiler, being careful not to remove too much chocolate. Place dipped fruit on wire rack until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour.
  3. When set, store dipped fruit at room temperature in tightly covered container, with paper between layers, up to 1 week.
Note: Each piece: About 55 calories, 1 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g total fat (1 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 mg sodium.

Nutty Caramel Popcorn

A better-than-store-bought snack to nibble on. We added roasted peanuts and toasted coconut for extra crunch.

Prep 15 minutes plus cooling. Cook about 15 minutes. Makes about 20 cups.
  • 16 cups popped corn or two 3 1/2-ounce bags natural-flavor microwave popcorn, popped
  • 1 jar (8 ounces) salted dry-roasted peanuts (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to make:
  1. Grease two 15 1/2 by 10 1/2 jelly-roll pans (or 1 jelly-roll pan and 1 large roasting pan) and 2 large heat-safe rubber spatulas; set aside. Place popped corn in very large bowl; top with peanuts and coconut (do not stir).
  2. In heavy 2-quart saucepan, heat sugar, corn syrup, and margarine to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium; set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking, without stirring, until temperature reaches 290 degree F., or soft-crack stage (when small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into threads that are hard but not brittle), about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Working quickly, pour half of hot mixture over popcorn mixture; with spatulas, stir to mix, making sure to incorporate peanuts and coconuts. Pour remaining hot mixture over popcorn mixture; stir until evenly coated.
  4. Divided caramel corn between prepared pans. Sprinkle any peanuts and coconut remaining in bottom of bowl over caramel corn; with spatula, press onto caramel corn. Cool in pans on wire racks. When cool, break into small clusters. Store at room temperature in tightly covered container up to 1 month.
Note: Each cup: About 130 calories, 2 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 6 g total fat (2 g saturated), 2 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 100 mg sodium.

Festive Fondant Mints

Old fashion creamy mints in easy-to-cut-out shapes-great for all ages.
Prep 30 minutes plus drying and makes about 12 dozen mints.
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons natural mint extract, about 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar plus additional for dusting and cutting green, red, and yellow food coloring.
    How to make:
    1. Line two 15 and 1/2 by 10 and 1/2 jelly-roll pans with waxed paper.
    2. In large bowl, with spoon, mix milk and mint extract. Stir in 4 cups sugar. Sprinkle work surface with some sugar; place mixture on surface and gradually knead in enough of remaining sugar to form a smooth ball that doesn't stick to hands or surface.
    3. Divided fondant mixture into quarters. Tint 3 of the quarters with food coloring as desired. Individually wrap each of the tinted quarters with plastic wrap, and set aside.
    4. With rolling pin, roll untinted fondant to 1/4-inch thickness. With 1 1/2-inch assorted Christmas cookie cutters dipped in confectioners' sugar, cut out as many mints as possible; reserve trimmings. Transfer mints to prepared pans. Reroll trimmings and cut out more mints. Repeat with remaining fondant.
    5. Let mint dry at least 2 hours. Store at room temperature in tightly covered container, with waxed paper between layers, up to 1 month.
    Note: Each mint: About 25 calories, 0 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g total fat, 0 g fiber, 1 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium.

    Hot Diggity Dog

    What you need:
    • Knife or clean scissors.
    • 4 hot dogs (or polish sausages or brats)
    • Hoagie bun
    • 2 donut holes
    • Sliced cheese
    • Carrot
    • Onion
    • Olives
    • Strawberry licorice lace
    • Maraschino cherry
    • Red fruit-flavored gumdrop circle
    1. For the paws, make two cuts--1/2 inch long--into one end of each hot dog. Cook hot dogs.
    2. Assemble the dog, using the bun for the body, hot dogs for the legs, a carrot stick for the tail, sliced cheese for the ears, and two donut holes for the muzzle.
    3. Add onion pieces and olive halves for eyes, attaching them to the bun with thin carrot sticks or toothpicks.
    4. Push pieces of strawberry licorice lace into muzzle for whiskers. Top the muzzle with a cherry nose. 
    5. Cut the gumdrop circle in a teardrop shape for the tongue. 

    One Sweet Pup

    Your kids will howl with delight when you serve this fiber-filled fruit snack.

    How to make: On a plate, place 2 canned-pear halves, cut side down, with the wider ends touching. Halve 2 end grapes. Place one grape half in front of the short end of one pear for a nose. Arrange 2 other halves in the back to make legs. Cut a long strip off dried apricot, and attach it between the dog's legs to create a tail. Halve another apricot, and use the halves for ears. Place 2 raisins on the face for eyes.

    Carrot Fries

    Does your kid love french fries?
    Try to made the fries from carrots, bursting with healthy beta-carotene and vitamin A, and they're oven baked, not fried, so there's less fat.

    To make your own: Cut 4 peeled medium carrots into 3"-long sticks. Toss them with 2 teaspoon vegetable oil and a pinch of salt. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined baking pan, and roast in a 400 degrees F oven for 20 minutes. Makes two servings.