This weekend Jimmy and I hopped in the car and headed north. We passed red brush and scrub pine, sweeping bays and frozen lakes, and we arrived in Whistler just as the snow began to fall. It was a dreamy holiday weekend filled with snowy nights, fast hills, and lots of wine.
We didn’t have much time for holiday cooking but I did manage to sneak in these easy treats for the road. They are a perfect combination of salty and sweet and can be thrown together at the very last minute.
I would also like to note that they make a perfect travelling companion as they can be easily shoved in your mouth when you feel any sort of urge to make a comment regarding how fast your husband is driving on what is apparently a very icy road. Not that I did that or anything…
Pretzel Turtle Candies
Growing up I used to eat Turtle candies by the handful and these are a stunning approximation given how easy they are to throw together. I got the idea from a co-worker, but a quick google search produced heaps of recipes. In truth there isn’t much of a recipe to follow so I left the amounts blank. Just make sure you have an equal number of each.
chocolate covered caramel candies
Preheat the oven to 300 F and line a baking sheet with foil. Place desired number of mini pretzels on prepared baking sheet and top each with a piece of chocolate covered caramel candy. Warm in oven until chocolate just begins to look shiny, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and press pecans into the top of each piece of chocolate. You’ll want to press it enough so that the chocolate flattens into the pretzels. Cool on baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then transfer baking sheet into the fridge for another 20 minutes, or until the chocolate sets. Store candies in an airtight container.
I hope that wherever you are this holiday season that your days are both merry and bright and filled with all kinds of coziness. I hope there are bubbly drinks, friends and family, and lots of laughter.
No matter how you celebrate- with twinkling lights or flickering candles, piles of snow or long stretches of sand, ice-covered lakes or warm ocean breezes, pretty slices of cake or chinese food and a movie- I hope you get your version of a perfect holiday.
We had unseasonably good weather this past Saturday.
By afternoon, the whole city was washed in a pretty gold light, making everything look like a vintage photograph. We sat by the water, loosened our scarfs, and soaked up the sun. It was h e a v e n.
This followed by a grey Sunday which seemed to have a mind of its own. I tried to get a few things accomplished but eventually I gave in, or gave up, or maybe I just let it go. We went for a walk and to the movies instead. I finished my book, ate too much peppermint bark, and made my favorite winter salad.
Not a perfect weekend, but if all of them went like this one did, I wouldn’t complain for a second.
Rocket Winter Salad with Apples, Pomegranates, and Prosciutto
I typically pair this salad with a simple lemon and apple cider vinaigrette. As usual, feel free to play with the ratios and ingredients. Tonight I added blue cheese and pretty much inhaled the plate in 3 minutes flat. This recipe will serve about two big bowls of salad.
2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 large handfuls rocket (arugula)
½ cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 small pomegranate)
1 apple, cored and sliced thin
4 thin slices of prosciutto, sliced or torn into bite sized pieces
Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar until well combined. Season with salt/pepper to taste. In a large bowl, toss dressing with rocket until leaves are lightly coated. Divide between two bowls and garnish evenly with remaining ingredients.
I love this time of year. I love the chill in the air, how our breath lingers a little longer than it did the month before. I love the parties and the desserts and the pretty lights. And most of all, I love how the holidays make us all feel a little more generous- with ourselves, with others, and with our measuring cups.
This year, I’ve decided to give handmade gifts for the holidays. This is in part because it makes me feel good, but also because it keeps me out of the mall, which I can assure you, after last year’s incident (Jimmy stop laughing), is good for everyone.
Now, I can’t promise that all of these gifts will be made by my hands (thank you etsy) but one thing that I can promise is that there will be toffee- and lots of it.
I love toffee- the intrinsic balance of sweet buttery caramel, roasted almonds, and bittersweet chocolate- for me, it is the ultimate holiday candy. There are tons of recipes out there, but I like this one, mostly for it’s simplicity. The hardest part, I find, is making the caramel. To me, caramel is sort of the extreme sport of cooking- balancing on a fine line between danger and a delicious lot of fate. Don’t let that deter you though- with the help of a sturdy mitten, these tips from David Lebovitz, and a good candy thermometer, you’ll ease right through it.
1 cup whole raw almonds
3 1/3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups unsalted butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
12 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on a baking sheet and roast in oven, shaking pan occasionally, until golden beneath skins (about 10 minutes). When cool enough to handle, chop finely.
Add sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt, and ¾ cup water to a large, heavy bottomed pot ( I use a dutch oven). Stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown and registers 300°F on a candy thermometer. This should take between 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla and half of the almonds. Be sure to wear an oven mit, and stand back a little as mixture might bubble up. Immediately pour into a 10 by 15 inch baking pan with at least 1 inch tall sides. Let caramel cool at room temperature until set, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in bottom of a pot that the bowl can nest in. Remove pan from heat, place bowl with chocolate over the water, and let stand, stirring occasionally, until smooth and fully melted.
Pour chocolate over cooled toffee. Using a knife, or icing spatula, spread level. Sprinkle remaining almonds evenly over chocolate and let cool at room temperature until chocolate is set, at least an hour (or chill for about 30 minutes).
Gently twist pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days, or chill airtight for up to 1 month.
Jimmy and I went skiing on Saturday. It was my first time back out since my knee surgery over a year ago.
It was a little scary, seeing as the knee surgery was necessitated by skiing, but mostly it was really fun. It was really pretty too- in a chilly, misty sort of way.
Given my bravery, ahem, I thought I deserved a treat.
I think you deserve a treat too. How do you feel about peppermint bark?
Dark chocolate, laced with peppermint and studded with carefully smashed pieces of candy cane, sandwiched between two layers of white chocolate and topped with a second layer of candy cane.
I think we can all feel good about that.
candy cane topped peppermint bark
20 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped (make sure the ingredients include cocoa butter)
40 mini candy canes, coarsely crushed (or 30 red and white peppermint candies)
7 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Turn a large baking sheet upside down and cover it with foil. Measure and mark a 9 by 12 inch rectangle on the foil.
Put the white chocolate in a metal or other heatproof bowl and set it aside. Bring a saucepan of water (filled about 2-3 inches) to a boil then remove from heat. Place the metal bowl containing the white chocolate over the saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stirring occasionally, let the white chocolate melt until smooth. It should read about 110 on a candy thermometer. (If you are having trouble getting the chocolate to melt, place saucepan back over burner on low heat.) Pour 2/3 cup of the white chocolate onto the previously marked rectangle. Use an icing spatula to spread the chocolate so that it fills the rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the crushed candy canes. Chill in the refrigerator until set, about 15 minutes.
While the white chocolate is chilling, combine the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract in a heavy medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is just melted and smooth. Cool to lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Remove baking sheet from fridge and pour the bittersweet chocolate mixture over the white chocolate rectangle. Using a clean icing spatula. spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Chill until very firm and cold, about 30 minutes.
Bring another saucepan of water (about 2-3 inches full) to a boil and then remove from heat. Re-warm the remaining white chocolate by setting the bowl over the saucepan of barely simmering water. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the bittersweet layer. Use a clean icing spatula to spread it evenly. Sprinkle with remaining pieces of candy cane.
Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.
Carefully lift the foil from the baking sheet and transfer to a large cutting board. Trim away ragged edges and shove into your mouth in big, greedy bites set aside for snacking. Cut the bark into two inch strips. Using a metal spatula, slip the bark off the foil and onto the baking sheet. Cut remaining bark as desired.
Pack into an air tight container with sheets of wax paper separating the layers of bark. Store in the refrigerator and and serve cold or let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes before serving.
Adapted slightly from Bon Appetit, December 1998 via Orangette
I never thought it would come to this, but if I see another pie, cookie, or slice of chocolate cake, I just might do something totally crazy, like walk out of the room… or look the other way.
Last week at work I even turned down a donut. Sometimes I don’t think I know myself at all.
In all honesty, I find that every year after Thanksgiving I need a brief break from the caloric indecency that tends to hit during the holidays.
For me, the week after Thanksgiving screams for salad, and so, I answer with fennel.
I think it pretty much goes without saying that fennel is never an easy sell. It's pretty hard to bring up without at least one person saying "blech". So if you’ve already clicked away, well, I’ll be back with dessert very soon…
For those of you sticking around- this salad is an undeniable hit. Fresh, simple, healthy, unboring, and perfect for the first of many candy filled days between now and the new year.
fennel, lemon, and parmesan salad
These are the ratios I tend to like but feel free to play around with the amounts of lemon and olive oil to fit your tastes.
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced thinly
freshly shaved parmesan
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Toss fennel with olive oil and lemon dressing and top with parmesan and sea salt to taste.