Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fudgy Fudge with Stella

Last Christmas is a bit of a blur to me. I was so focused on my daughter (who was one-year old at the time) and I wanted to avoid my extended family because I didn't want to explain to them why my husband wasn't with us again for Christmas (he was not with us the previous year either when Stella was only 3 months old) and, truthfully, I just wanted to hang out with my daughter and avoid the world and not have to explain anything to anybody about my failed marriage. Yadda yadda know the rest.

This Christmas has been quite wonderful, to tell you the truth. Stella is two-years old now and I can now see the world through her eyes...and it's a wonderful world filled with great people and beautiful places. I gasp when she gasps. If she sees a Christmas tree or an inflatable Santa Claus atop someones house her excitment becomes infectious. I love that she understand the concept of Christmas and she knows that it's "Baby Jesus's" birthday. And I love, love the fact that she LOVES to help me in the kitchen. She's a really good beater of anything: eggs, pancake batter, soup, but her forte is in helping me wash the dishes! So she inspired me to make this fudge with her. We made it on Christmas Eve to bring to my sister-in law's house today, Christmas Day. It's a packaged "Fudge Making Kit" from the makers of Carnation evaporated milk that I bought because, as most of you know, I suck at baking or at anything having to do with desserts. It's really a simple kit and it's good to have your toddler help you in smoothing out the fudge (the entire recipe take place on the stove top, so probably not a good place for a toddler to be!).

The recipe below is just in case you want to make the frudge from scratch and not from the kit, like I did. This recipe comes straight from the Carnation Evaporated Milk website, so I'm sure it's going to be delish!

Carnation Famous Fudge

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

LINE 8-inch-square baking pan with foil.

COMBINE sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

STIR in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sweet, Tart and Spicy Tomato Jam

Someone once told me that divorce is like a death in the family and that you need to go through the five stages of loss in order to get over it. Stages such as denial,  anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. I think I was over my divorce and "accepted" it a long, long time ago, but I was stuck in a funk with cooking. I didn't divorce cooking, but somehow I felt like I did. And as much as I love cooking I just couldn't (or wouldn't) go to the kitchen and cook something out the blue, or even follow a recipe. I needed a foodie therapist.

This year, during Thanksgiving week, my daughter was in Minnesota for a couple of weeks so I took advantage and took a mini vacation to San Francisco. There I met up with two of my favorite friends from Boston, Gracie and Kerry, who are also major foodies like me. Perhaps it was their company, perhaps it was the crisp San Francisco air, or perhaps it was all that wine we drank, but I began to realize that I needed to start cooking again, not because it was the only way to get my "mojo" back, sort of speak, but because I truly, truly love being in the kitchen and cooking, experimenting, tasting...oh, the tasting!

This little gem of a recipe is from the blog, injennieskitchen, and I stumbled upon it via my friend, Gracie, who made the tomato jam for us to enjoy for Thanksgiving. Once I tasted the jam I knew I had to make it. I took it upon myself to triple the recipe (bad idea) and instead of the 3 hour cooking time, it was actually more like 4 1/2  hours. So take it from me, don't double or triple, just follow the recipe below and it will come out great. I did add a little cayenne pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon) when I made mine, and it gives it just a slight spicy edge. Also, try to use a variety of tomatoes like Roma, Heirloom, yellow and grape tomatoes and don't forget the tart apple. You really need it in order to create a bit of pectin for your jam. Lastly, I did cut down on the sugar by about 1/2 cup for my tripled batch and it still came out sweet and tangy.

The way I love to use this jam is by smearing a little goat cheese on crostini and top with the tomato jam. Also, other ways to use it is as a relish on a burger or just place a dollop of the stuff on top of some cottage cheese. Happy cooking, my friends!

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 1/2 to 2 pints)

  • 3 1/2 lbs tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup finely diced tart green apple

Put all ingredients in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until thickened and jam-like consistency, about 3 hours. Transfer to sterilized glass jars and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks, or use a hot-water canning bath for 15 minutes for long-term storage.