Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Fruit, etc.

Chocolate Coated Pretzel and Dried Apricot

Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Fruit, etc.
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Candy, Gift
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Yield: Varies by size and type of dippers
 
During the holiday season, a favorite gift is chocolate coated pretzels, dried fruit, maraschino cherries or fresh fruit such as strawberries. The trick to making chocolate covered anything is to temper the chocolate. Once you have tempered the chocolate, you can dip whatever tasty treats you care to dip and place them on trays to cool completely and solidify. Properly tempered chocolate sets up easily into a glossy coating for your treats. While the process seemed scary to me for many years, it is a simple matter of controlling the temperature of the chocolate and mixing in unmelted chocolate to provide the seeds of the crystalline structure required for the glossy coat and snap of tempered chocolate.
Ingredients
  • Approximately 1 pound block or bar of good quality eating chocolate (Do not use chips as they don’t seem to temper the same way.)
  • Goodies to dip
Instructions
  1. To temper the chocolate use a serrated knife to make cuts that shave thin slices off the corners of the bar or block. Turn the block to get fairly small surfaces to cut and continue until the entire bar is cut up into small pieces.
  2. Put half the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a double boiler. If you are using a double boiler, do not allow boiling water to touch the bottom of the upper pot or get into the chocolate, which will make the chocolate seize up into a hard mass that cannot be tempered and will have to be used in a recipe that calls for a lot of liquid. If you are using the microwave oven, cook on high power for 30-60 seconds and stir to equalize the temperature throughout the chocolate. Cook for another 30-60 seconds and stir again until all of the chocolate is melted and the temperature reaches 105-115 degrees F. If you need to, cook again in 10 second increments, stirring after each increment until you get a uniform temperature and all the chocolate is melted. If you are using a double boiler, stir over hot water just until the chocolate is all melted and reaches temperature. Remove from the heat. If you overshoot on the temperature, stir and let the chocolate cool at room temperature until it reaches 115 degrees F or less.
  3. Add the remaining half of the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is uniformly melted and the temperature reaches 88 degrees F. At this point the chocolate is tempered and can be used for dipping.
  4. When I dip pretzels, I use the hook end of a large unbent paper clip to hold the pretzel. I dip it into the chocolate and drag it on a non-stick silicone sheet lined pan to remove excess chocolate and then place it on a clean non-stick silicone sheet or parchment paper to set. At this point you can garnish with sprinkles, colored or plain sugar crystals, or other decorations. You need to garnish before the chocolate sets, so work quickly. Fresh fruit such as strawberries can be held by their hulls and things like dried apricots can be held with tongs or fingers and dipped only half-way. When you dip things like fresh fruit or maraschino cherries, make sure that you have dried the surface before attempting to dip so that the chocolate will adhere.
  5. Leftover tempered chocolate and the drips you have on your “excess” pan can be gently reheated to 88 degrees if they get too solid to work with.

Tetrazzini

Tetrazzini with Chicken and Whole Wheat Pasta

Tetrazzini
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree, Main
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Yield: 6-8 servings
 
I love pasta, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese, individually and all together. I especially love these things when mixed in a creamy sauce with leftover turkey, chicken, ham or even canned tuna fish. It isn't the most beautiful dish you will cook, but I believe it is one of the tastiest and most satisfying you will eat. This casserole can be put together and baked for a quick dinner or prepared just up to the point of baking and refrigerated until half an hour before serving when you pop in into a 375 degree F. oven to heat through to bubbling. I got this particular recipe from an old friend many years ago and I just rescued it from the well-worn, folded paper covered with spots of butter and burns on the edges from sitting too close to the burner as I cooked it time and again. While Parmigiano-Reggiano is more expensive per pound than other forms of Parmesan cheese, the flavor is more intense, so a little goes a long way. To get the best results, you should grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese just before you use it. A microplane makes easy work of that and the fine shreds it produces melt effortlessly into the sauce. If you want to make this a one dish meal, you can add cooked broccoli florets to the mixture before the final heating.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces of spaghetti or spaghettini.
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry or vermouth
  • 1 cup (~ a 4 ounce chunk) shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 pound sliced button mushrooms
  • 3 cups diced chicken, turkey or ham or 2 7-ounce cans of tuna, drained
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toasted sliced almonds or parsley leaves for garnish (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is tender, but not mushy (al dente). Drain, saving 1/2 cup of the cooking water in case the final mixture seems dry.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the mushrooms stop releasing liquid, push them to one side of the pan, melt the rest of the butter in the empty side, add the flour to the melted butter and cook while stirring the flour and butter together for a couple of minutes, coating all of the flour with butter. This will stop the flour from having a raw, pasty taste in the final dish. Gradually stir the milk and wine into the butter-flour mixture and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until it is melted into the sauce. Stir in the protein you have chosen (chicken, turkey, ham, tuna, etc.) and the cooked pasta. If the mixture seems dry, use the reserved cooking water to make it moister as needed.
  3. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart shallow casserole dish and bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbling. If you have prepared the casserole ahead of time and refrigerated it, bake for 25-30 minutes.
  4. When you serve this, you can garnish the top with toasted sliced almonds, parsley leaves, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Chicken or Turkey Chilaquiles


Chicken or Turkey Chilaquiles
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree, Main
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Yield: 8
 
I love Mexican-inspired dishes and this one is easy to make. When I bring it to potlucks, I am always asked for the recipe. It is also good for a home cooked meal, and can be mild or spicy to your taste depending on the canned sauce you purchase. All of the quantities are approximate as exact measurements are not critical. You can make this tasty dish out of roasted chicken or turkey leftovers (or planned-overs at our house) or a deli rotisserie chicken makes fast work of it too. I like to dice up the meat from a rotisserie chicken from Costco and that makes the dish especially easy because those chickens are well-seasoned. Since all of the ingredients have already been salted, you should not have to add any salt to the mixture. I haven’t tried it with canned chicken, but I don’t see a reason that wouldn’t work also. You can use shredded Cheddar cheese, a mixture of Cheddar and Jack cheeses or the packaged Mexican blend cheese available in supermarkets and Costco, which is what I used. I like Las Palmas Green Chile Enchilada Sauce, but other brands should work too. Recently, I discovered that this sauce is available in 28 ounce cans in mild, medium, and picante (or hot) levels of spiciness. My preference is the picante one, but I also recommend the medium one. We found the mild one to make a casserole that was a little bland. Instead of preparing the dish from fresh tortillas and having to fry them, I use packaged tortilla chips or strips to save time and effort and it makes a dish with good texture.
Ingredients
  • 5 cups of cooked, diced or shredded chicken or turkey (One rotisserie chicken from Costco gives you about 5 cups of meat.)
  • 2 cups Cheddar, Cheddar and Jack cheeses, or Mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 4 cups coarsely crushed tortilla chips or strips (measure after crushing)
  • 1 28 ounce can of Green Chile Enchilada Sauce (Las Palmas picante or medium sauce is good.)
  • Salsa, sour cream, guacamole and sprigs of cilantro for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a 9x13 inch baking dish (Pyrex works well.) spread the diced meat. Cover evenly with 2 cups of the cheese. Cover with the 4 cups of coarsely crushed tortilla chips or strips. Stir the ingredients together carefully to make an even mix. Pour the can of enchilada sauce over and stir again to moisten all of the ingredients. Press lightly into an even layer in the pan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the dish is heated through. You can sprinkle another 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on the top and melt it under the broiler if you like that look. Let cool for about 5 minutes and serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cilantro if you like.

Magic Chocolate Cake (vegan)


Magic Chocolate Cake (vegan)
Author: 
Recipe type: Cake, Bakery, Snack, Dessert
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Yield: 9
 
This vegan cake is made without milk or eggs and is moist, dark and delicious. It is a simple snack cake that can be put together in minutes without any special tools or ingredients provided you have unsweetened cocoa on hand. It is easy to make at the last minute for unexpected guests. Cakes like this one were developed during the depression era when butter and eggs were expensive or unavailable. For the holidays, I like to use mint flavored chocolate candies to make a light topping for the cake. All it really needs is a dusting of powdered sugar, but you can make that even more attractive by placing a pretty doily over the cake and sprinkling the sugar on top of that. Carefully remove the doily, leaving the pretty design in place.
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Icing, mint chocolate candies, or powdered sugar as desired for the top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together. Sift into an 8x8 inch ungreased cake pan. Make three depressions. Pour oil into one, vinegar into the second, and vanilla into the third well. Pour the water over all, and stir with a fork until the batter looks even in color and well blended.
  3. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or the top springs back when pressed lightly. Top with Andes Mints or chopped Frango Mints while the cake is hot and spread them over the surface after they have had a couple of minutes to melt, frost with your favorite icing when the cake is cool or dust with powdered sugar.

German Chocolate Cake Cookies


German Chocolate Cake Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Cookies, Bakery, Dessert, Snack, Gift
Prep time: 
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Yield: 24-32 bars
 
The original recipe for these cookies came to me from a summer intern when I was managing a software team. I changed the filling so that it would be more like a real German Chocolate Cake and changed the technique a little. These rich cookies now have a chocolate chip, pecan, coconut caramel filling. Heaven for German Chocolate Cake fans.
Ingredients
Caramel layer
  • 44 caramels ( 1 bag of Brach Milk Maid caramels usually works )
  • 1/3 cup evaporated Milk
Cake
  • 1 German Chocolate Cake packaged cake mix
  • 1/3 cup butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
Filling
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup broken pecan pieces
  • 1 cup toasted shredded or flaked coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Caramel layer
  1. Heat the caramels and evaporated milk together over low heat, stirring occasionally. Keep the mixture warm so that this is ready to pour over the base later.
Filling
  1. While the caramel is melting, mix the chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut in a bowl.
Cake
  1. Mix the cake mix and butter until no lumps are visible. A pastry blender works well for this. Stir in the milk to make a soft dough. Reserve 1/3 of the dough in the refrigerator. Press 2/3 of the dough in the bottom of a non-stick 13 x 9 baking pan, making a small rim around the edge. Bake for 6 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the partially baked dough. Pour the caramel mixture over the top of the filling. Pat the rest of the dough into small flat pieces with your finger tips and distribute on top of the caramel mixture to cover as much of the filling as you can, patching the pieces together if necessary.
  3. Bake again for 18-22 minutes.
  4. When the cookies have cooled a bit and the caramel is set, cut into 24 or 32 pieces. Cutting this into small pieces works because the cookies are very rich. Do not try to cut this before the caramel has set or it will ooze out and stick the cookies back together.

Talley’s Trail Mix


Talley's Trail Mix
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Gift
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Yield: 5 cups
 
Besides being delicious as a snack and providing energy for athletic endeavors with a healthful amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fiber, this trail mix makes a nice gift when packaged in a pretty airtight can, jar, or gift bag. The flavors can be adjusted to your tastes by changing the ingredients or the amounts of specific ingredients. This version was always a big hit at fund raisers, sold in holiday gift bags tied with colorful yarn or raffia. Thanks go to Talley for sharing her recipe. I use the Pumpkin Pie Spice to make the preparation easier instead of the list of spices she recommended.
Ingredients
  • All quantities are approximate.)
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup walnut pieces or halves (or pecans or combination)
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, roasted
  • 1/3 cup tamari pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup golden raisins (or whatever you have)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon plus 1/8 – 1/4 tsp of each of the following: nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger (go easier on the stronger flavors) OR 1 1/2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice*
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tsp. water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. In a large bowl or gallon zip-top plastic bag, mix all the ingredients together except for the egg white, salt and water.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg white and water with an electric mixer until frothy.
  3. Fold the frothy egg white into the nut-fruit mixture gently to avoid breaking up the nut pieces.
  4. Line a 9”x13” baking pan with parchment paper, aluminum foil or a silicone liner, such as Silpat. (The mixture will be very sticky as it bakes.) Spread the fruit and nut mixture into the pan in an even layer, avoiding the pan sides unless you are using a non-stick pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in the pan on a rack. When cooled, break the trail mix apart into pieces. Store the trail mix in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Notes
*You can use the individual spices or save some time (and possibly some money) by replacing the spices with ~1 1/2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.