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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is making offerings from kitchen and heart for friends and family.  A consistent favorite among recipients not just for gifts but also gatherings is my cashew bark, a confection of chocolate, salty nuts, butter, and sugar.  Heat transforms the butter and sugar into a crisp toffee.  The chocolate and nuts encapsulate everything.  The combination is genuinely addictive.  Thank goodness the recipe is simple!

Before you get started, make sure that you have a heavy-bottomed pot (stainless steel is good), a candy thermometer, and a jelly roll pan.  You can do without the latter, but the first two are absolute necessities.

Ingredients

I was able to get every ingredient listed in organic form.

  • 3 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks (dark chocolate or semi-sweet; milk chocolate is too sweet for me for this recipe)
  • 3 cups roasted, salted cashews (option:  try other nuts, like almonds, for a toffee more like those candy bars that shall not be named)
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) real butter (no, you may not use margarine; it will not work)
  • 2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chop chocolate chips or chunks in a food processor, pulsing on and off to avoid the chocolate melting, until they are just bits of chocolate.  (You may, of course, do this step by hand.)  Transfer the chocolate bits into a big bowl and then chop the cashews roughly, pulsing again.  They should retain some characteristics of cashews, not be pulverized into nut butter.  Mix the chopped cashews with the chocolate bits and set aside.

Now put the butter and brown sugar in a heavy-bottomed, high-sided pot. (Electric burner users:  you may want to use a wire diffuser to avoid burning.) Let the butter and sugar melt together at first over medium heat, stirring to combine.  As the mixture combines, hook the candy thermometer over the side of the pot, making sure to keep the tip submerged but well away from the bottom of the pot.  Make sure that all of the sugar crystals are melting, and then increase the heat a bit, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, grease the jelly roll pan (about 17×11 inches) and use half of the cashew-chocolate mixture to coat the bottom lightly but evenly.  Just gently sprinkle it on. Now go back and stir the butter and sugar, which should be starting to resemble rising, molten lava.  Add the vanilla.  Be very careful, as the mixture will feel like molten lava if it gets on your hand!

Keep stirring while you watch the thermometer edge toward 300 degrees F, also known in candy making as the hard-crack stage.   Increase the heat if you must, but watch that temperature!  As soon as it hits 300 degrees, pick up the pot and quickly drizzle the butter-sugar lava over your cashew-chocolate mixture, leaving gaps that the lava will mostly fill in for you.  If any sections are left uncovered, smooth out the lava with the back of a metal serving spoon.  You need to move fast, as the mixture will start to harden almost immediately.  (No, sadly I do not have pictures, as I never have time for photographing  at this stage.)  Now quickly sprinkle on the rest of the cashew-chocolate mixture, making sure to get to the edges.  Press the cashew-chocolate mixture into the pan with the back of the same metal serving spoon you used above.  The chocolate will start to melt and hold everything together.  

Let the pan sit for a couple of minutes and then put it in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how much time you have.  Be sure that it is relatively flat or the cashew bark will be thicker on one side than the other.

After a couple of hours in the freezer or a few more in the refrigerator, the cashew bark should be thoroughly chilled and ready to break into pieces.  Lift one edge and start breaking!

Ultimately, you want pieces that one could eat in one to three bites, since the toffee is incredibly rich.  Any smaller bits will make a wonderful topping for ice cream!

Store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or the freezer for a bit longer.  You can package the cashew bark for gift-giving too, as you long as you forewarn the recipient to keep it cold, or simply set it out as your offering for the next potluck or party.  Just be sure to save some for home, or you’ll find your family protesting!

This cashew bark has become a holiday favorite among my friends, family, and co-workers since I started making it almost two decades ago.  Do you have a favorite sweet treat you share for the holidays?  What’s the dish or treat you look forward to at holiday gatherings and in gift baskets?

You may also be interested in last year’s chocolate gift recipe, chocolate chip gingerbread.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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First, let me give big thanks to everyone who contributed memories and traditions to my 2010 hearth broom holiday giveaway entry.  I never expected to get such long, moving stories!  I order to select the winner, I printed off every contributor’s name, cut apart the names, folded them into identical pieces, and let Mr. Homesteader pull out a name from this vintage Santa mug.

Who is it?  Who is it?

Eleanor of Nourishing Words has won the hearth broom from the Ozark Folk Center. Eleanor, please email me at Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo D O T com or, if you’d prefer, the email address that I use to log in to your wonderful blog.  Send me your address, and I can ship your broom on Wednesday.

As for giving away anything that can be associated with household cleaning, here’s my advice to fellow bloggers:  folks aren’t nearly as interested in brooms as cast iron Dutch ovens!   Many, many people read about the broom giveaway, but few entered.  Yes, I’m smiling, but it’s a sad smile.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I love cranberries, so I stock up when they appear in markets in autumn. (I’m ordering some plants for the homestead, so by next Thanksgiving I may have my own!) I, of course, like making cranberry sauce, but this year I’m not home, so I decided to use my first bag of cranberries for cranberry-gingerbread pancakes.  You may enjoy their spicy, tart taste with warm maple syrup for breakfast this weekend.

This recipe makes 6 medium-sized fluffy pancakes.  To make the pancakes a bit thinner, use a tablespoon additional buttermilk, or just use all milk instead of buttermilk, with the original measurement.

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, macerated for a few hours or overnight with 1 tablespoon brown sugar  OR 1/2 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • OPTIONAL:  chopped pecans or black walnuts
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon buttermilk or milk (milk will make pancakes less fluffy)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1-2 tablespoons molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR part whole oat flour (Oat flour will make a softer pancake with no crisp on the crust.)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of allspice
  • tiny pinch of cloves

Mix together the egg, buttermilk, butter, and molasses.  In another small measuring cup, mix the flour and other dry ingredients. (You can do these steps the night before, if you want to make breakfast really easy.) Heat a large fry pan or griddle over medium heat until  drop of water dances on the surface.  Grease with oil or a butter and oil mixture.  Mix together the wet and dry pancake ingredients and stir in the cranberries and optional nuts.  Drop pancake batter on greased griddle and immediately spread mix slightly with back of spoon. (You won’t need to spread if you used the thinner batter recipe.) Cook on one side until little bubbles start to form.  Depending on your heat source, you may need to slip your spatula under the pancakes and rotate them before you flip, if it looks like they are cooking more quickly on one side than the other.  Flip when the bubbles are even dispersed across the top and the edges start to look cooked.  Cook the other side.  You can keep cakes warm in the oven while you cook the rest.  Serve with maple syrup or a dollop of cranberry jelly.

Ingredients for a dozen medium-sized pancakes, for bigger families or bigger appetites!

  • 1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, macerated for a few hours or overnight with 2 tablespoons brown sugar  OR 1 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • OPTIONAL:  chopped pecans or black walnuts
  • 2 medium eggs or 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk or milk (milk will make pancakes less fluffy)
  • 3 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour OR part whole oat flour (Oat flour will make a softer pancake with no crisp on the crust.)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of allspice
  • pinch of cloves

Do you have a favorite holiday breakfast?  Do tell!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner.  Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots.  I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving.  The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father.  He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing.  It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing.  Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting.  (Sorry, Dad!)  That dressing is part of family legend.  So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.

As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question.  If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe.  For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs.  The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly.  We could cut it into neat slices.  (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.)    Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs.  Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent.  Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.

I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes.  I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations.  Will you help me to start that catalog?  You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways.  For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions.  You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings.  (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.)  You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post.  Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!

1.  What’s the recipe?  This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).

2.  What consistency does the product have?  Can you slice it?  Do you spoon it?  Is it fluffy?  Can you see discrete pieces of bread?

3.  What do you call it?

4.  What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?

5.  What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking?  For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.

6.  Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region?  If so, from where are they?

7.  How long have you used this recipe?

I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do!  Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here.  Remember to include your food origins location!

Update, November 23, 2011:  Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving.  We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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When I started this blog, I knew I was going to have to share family secrets to keep it worthwhile for you, my wonderful readers.  Tonight I’m going to share my “recipe” for the quickest but still marvelously creamy and delicious chocolate sauce, perfect for Valentine’s Day.  This chocolate sauce is a ganache you can make without heavy cream and without chopped chocolate. It’s fast enough and inexpensive enough that it could be a regular treat (if there is such a thing!).  It’s kind of Ozark ganache:  simpler, more down to earth than French granache.

Begin with a glass (Pyrex-type) measuring cup.  Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips (preferably organic) in the bottom.  Pour in milk to cover 2/3 of the chips.  In other words, if you poured in 1/2 cup of chips, pour in the milk to the 1/3 cup line.  Note:  this is not 1/3 cup milk, since the milk is being displaced by the chocolate chips.  It’s more like 1/4 cup. Microwave the chip-milk mixture for 45 seconds to 1 minute, depending on how much milk and chips you used.  Let the measuring cup rest briefly (perhaps while you’re getting out ice cream!), and then stir the mixture until it becomes creamy and all of the chocolate chips are melted.  Too thick for you?  You can add a splash more of milk and then stir again.  Pour over delicious ice cream, brownies, or cake.  Eat.  Savor.  Moan in ecstasy.  Eat some more.

Variations:

Do you want a creamy, thick dipping sauce–fondue–for strawberries and other fruit?  Don’t add the extra splash of milk.

All adult gathering?  Substitute butterscotch schnapps for 1/2 (or more) of the milk.

Want an extra rich flavor?  Pour in a splash of good vanilla extract on top of the milk before you microwave.

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Happy 2010 to all who stop by our little blog homestead!  In 2010 expect to find more gardening, more recipes, and more simple living.  In the meantime, let me know if you have questions you’d like answered or topics you’d like covered.  Tonight we’ll be celebrating the new year with traditional Southern food:  hog jowl and black-eyed peas.  We’ll be having our greens as a salad, and we’ll revisit Christmas (and Thanksgiving) leftovers by adding in the last of the turkey breast from our beautiful locally, sustainable grown turkey.  I hope you start 2010 with lucky traditions too.  And happy new year to you and yours!

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I first had breakfast casserole in 1980, when my great-grandmother died.  It’s hard to believe that it was three decades ago.  I’d love to know more about the bigger history of this dish, but for now I’m content with the family history.  Dear family friends brought the casserole to the house, and it became an instant classic.  Two things–okay, maybe three–make it good.  First, you can make it ahead and save only the baking for when you serve it.  Second, it has all of your country breakfast basics–bread, eggs, and meat–with nothing processed, like I see in some other breakfast casserole recipes.  Third, it holds well for seconds and thirds.  It’s even pretty darn good on day two, if there’s any left after the initial breakfast.

Here’s my basic recipe, designed for a large casserole dish, up to 9×13 (smaller dishes okay if they are deeper):

serves 6-10, depending on how hungry they are!

  • 6 slices of whole-grain bread, torn into bits
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • 1 pound turkey sausage (yes, you  can use pork sausage)
  • optional:  2 teaspoons each rubbed sage and crushed red pepper (this will include bits of the red flesh part and the seed, but the name will vary)
  • 1-2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Begin by browning the sausage, breaking it up as you go.  If it’s standard commercial sausage, you may want to add about 2 teaspoons rubbed sage and 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (0r more!).  If it is pork sausage, be sure to drain it well. Now grease your casserole dish.  Put the torn bread in the bottom of the pan, spreading it out evenly.  Next evenly sprinkle on your well-seasoned sausage.  Then spread evenly the grated cheddar cheese.  Finally, beat the eggs and milk together, and pour the mixture over the rest of the casserole.  That’s it.  You can now refrigerate the dish.  In the morning, put the casserole dish in the oven first and then set the oven to 375 degrees F.  (By adding the casserole to the cold oven, you’ll reduce the chances of breaking your casserole dish, which could happen if you put a cold dish in a hot oven.)  Bake the dish for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the shape of your dish.  The breakfast casserole should be set thoroughly, and the top should be nicely browned.  To serve, you can either cut the casserole into slices, or just let your guests scoop it out themselves.

You can also pre-bake and freeze the casserole, but it’s not quite as good as baking it the morning you eat it.

By the way, I’ve also made *three* breakfast casseroles in large outdoor Dutch ovens to feed a crowd on a camp out.  This recipe is that versatile!  I just pre-browned the meat and pre-grated the cheese and froze both.  Two kids who were early risers broke and “beat” the eggs in large zippered bags while I tore the bread.  Follow the directions as above, add coals, and in a little less than an hour you’ll have breakfast for two dozen people!

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