Saturday, December 28, 2013

Turning off the Stove for Awhile

          I love cooking and tinkering with recipes. And I've loved sharing some of the recipes I've created, which have won cooking contests. But I'm also a writer, and I have several plays, books, and musicals tugging at my sleeve.  So I’ve had to make a hard choice.  I’m taking a break from the "Cooking with Joni" and the "Writing Class with Joni" portions of this blog.
          The humorous essays I post twice a week will continue on Joniopolis, and previous posts about writing and cooking will still be here for you, available anytime. This will—I hope—leave me more time to work on the new projects.
          You’ll still find me on my YouTube Channel, where I’m the YouTube Mom.  New videos are posted here daily.  Many are about cooking, clever household tips, relationships, and life skills. You can even leave a request in the comment box, and I might make a video just for you.  These same videos are also on Pinterest and elsewhere.
          And links to my books are all listed on the home page here, as well as at Amazon and  Createspace.  Get the whole collection!  I hope to add more to that list, now.  I hope you’ll continue to join me on my humor blog—see you there.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Easy Chocolate Coconut Truffles

Check it out:
These scrumptious truffles are so easy to make it's ridiculous.  And they can have a zillion variations.  Here's what you need:
Very little patience (perfect, right?)
1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk
3 Cups (18 oz.) chocolate chips  (here's a variation already-- I used dark but you can you milk chocolate or white)
1 teaspoon extract (I used coconut.  Imagine if you used raspberry, peppermint, lemon, vanilla, etc.)
1 Cup of something to roll them in (Again, I used toasted organic coconut.  But you can use cocoa, powdered sugar, crushed nuts, sprinkles, etc.)

You don't even need a double boiler!  Just stir the condensed milk with the chocolate in a sauce pan over medium heat until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in extract.  Cool.  Now chill until firm.  Overnight is fine.  Here's a picture of an ice cream scoop, which I had to use, since mine were a little too cold and firm.  If this happens to you, just let the mixture sit out at room temperature until it's easier to scoop. 

Now, with clean hands, roll it into one-inch balls, then into your coating.  As Your YouTube Mom, I made a video about how to toast coconut, here.  It's the same procedure for toasting nuts.  You want to toast coconut until it's just golden, not dark brown.  Mine looked like this:

Toasting coconut or nuts brings out the flavor.  But you could even skip the toasting if you want.  And you can also sprinkle them with sea salt, but I wouldn't coat them all over with it-- just a pinch is plenty. Now package them up to give as gifts, or store them in a covered container at room temperature, and let the family fight over them.  Because it will happen.  Oh, it will happen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Almond Brittle with a Twist

I hate candy thermometers.  There.  I've said it.  I like candy I can make without trying to clamp a thermometer onto the side of the pot, at which point it either falls in, touches the bottom and gives me a false reading, or ends up stickier than all get-out and nearly impossible to clean (usually all three).
So you can imagine my glee when I discover a candy I can make just by EYEBALLING it!  That's my kind of cooking, Honey.
I also like to give recipes a twist.  In this case, there are actually THREE twists.  The first is that it's so easy my mentally challenged chihuahua could make it (no thermometer!).  The second is that I've added a spicy kick (optional), and the third is that I've drizzled it with chocolate, something that should be a law, don't you think?

And this time I've added 7 photos, something I have never done!  Granted, they will not be appearing soon in National Geographic, but pretend I took them with my cell phone.  Okay, you don't have to pretend; I did take them with my cell phone.
This candy makes a wonderful Christmas gift, too (as do my 22 books-- you can see them here).  Cut the recipe in half, if you want a smaller amount.
So here we go:
2 sticks butter
2 Tbsp. white corn syrup
2 Cups slivered almonds
1 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 Cup dark chocolate pieces (use the best quality you can)

Place several strips of foil on a work surface.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, stir butter, syrup, almonds, sugar, and pepper.

It will melt into a mixture that looks like this.

Stir it until it turns the color of caramel.  If you like a harder, less sweet toffee, cook it until it browns a bit more.

Pour the mixture onto the foil, spreading it as thinly as you can.  Cool.

Warm chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl just until it begins to melt.  Stir the pieces and the heat from them will melt each other.  Once melted, dip a fork into the chocolate, then fling it back and forth over the brittle, to create streaks of chocolate.  Don't go crazy with the flinging; your fridge does not need a chocolate coating.

  Let harden, then break into chunks. Wrap in a tin, a box, or a cellophane bag.  Tie with a fluffy bow and you have a great gift to give.

This one is for Janet Barton, whose darling daughter, Tiffany, married my son, Cassidy, last year.  Janet is an amazing food blogger who just happens to make the most PERFECT candy truffles in the universe and I am not kidding, so it's intimidating to give her anything from the kitchen.  However, she loves nuts, spicy foods, and dark chocolate, so I'm hoping she will enjoy these treats as she concocts her next fantastic dish.  Did I mention she's also a marathon runner, younger and thinner than me, and, and, and???  Sigh.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Easy Mini Pizza Melts

This is one of my most-requested recipes and you will love it!  It's both easy and delicious.  It's great for appetizers, snacks, brunches, dinners, just about any occasion.  Get ready for the stampede.

Here's all you need:

1 pkg. of 6 English Muffins, split
4 Cups shredded Cheddar or Colby-Jack cheese (or any cheese you like)
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped olives
mayonnaise to moisten (about a cup, but use more or less as you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Split the muffins and place the 12 muffin halves on a baking sheet.  In a large bowl, stir cheese, onions, olives, and mayonnaise.  Spread over muffins and bake 12 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  That's it!
Now... for those of you who want to make life more complicated, you can also add chopped artichoke hearts, shrimp, crumbled bacon, or whatever else you like. 
And, if you have some left over, use it in an omelette, or as a sandwich spread.  Deee-Lish!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The holidays are upon us.  And, while most people enjoy pumpkin and a few other favorite pies at Thanksgiving, you can never go wrong with a decadent, chocolate confection, thrown into the mix for a little variety.  It's especially fun to bring one if you're the guest.  And, with today's rising gluten-intolerant crowd, you will be doubly loved for bringing this marvelous, flourless cake that I adapted from a Bon Apetit recipe.  Dense and moist, it's always a hit.  And when Christmas comes, you can sprinkle it with some finely crushed peppermints.  Here's one I just made.  Notice the glaze dripping down onto the platter.  I am cool with this.

12 oz. semisweet chocolate (bars or chips)
3/4 Cup butter
6 eggs, separated
6 oz. sugar, divided (12 Tbsp.)
2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1/2 Cup corn syrup
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream
9 oz. semisweet chocolate
Optional garnishes: Berries, chocolate shavings, chocolate leaves, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray.  Line the bottom with a circle of parchment and then spray that as well.  Wrap the outside of the pan with foil. In a small sauce pan over low heat, melt chocolate and butter until smooth.  Let cool to lukewarm.
2. In a large bowl, beat yolks with HALF the sugar (3 oz.), until they're pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes.  Fold in chocolate mixture and extract.
3. In a separate bowl (use clean, dry beaters), beat egg whites until frothy.  Keep beating as you slowly add the other 3 oz. of sugar.  Beat until peaks form.  Fold a little at a time into chocolate mixture.  Pour into prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out with a bit of baked batter on it.  Place cake, still in pan, on a cooling rack until cool.  The top will be cracked; don't worry, as this will be the bottom of the cake.  Press down on the cracked parts to make a level surface.
4. Use a knife to loosen pan edges, then invert cake onto a serving platter.  Remove parchment.  In a medium sauce pan, simmer cream and corn syrup.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth.  Pour a small amount over top of cake, smoothing it onto the sides.  Freeze 5 minutes.  Pour remaining glaze onto cake (I leave most on top, as you can see), then chill until firm, about an hour.  Now you can store it at room temperature, and garnish it before serving (serves 10 or more).  Or, it's possible people will not be able to wait for the garnish, and may slice it up and start eating, as you can see below!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sausage and Sweet Potato Dutch Baby

What's better than a showy but totally scrumptious breakfast dish?  A Dutch Baby is an oven-baked pancake that puffs up and BEGS to be devoured!  And when you fill it with sausage and sweet potatoes, the sweet-and-spicy mixture is truly divine.  Perfect for autumn, too (and for all those Thanksgiving house guests!)  And since it's in a contest, you know it's super easy to make.
This creation of mine needs your votes.  Please go to this link and vote for my Dutch Baby, then click on the recipe for complete instructions.  You can even pin it if you like.  Definitely one to keep on file.  Here you go:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pumpkin Wonton Appetizers

I made this one up after having squash ravioli at a restaurant, and you will love it!  It won a Taste of Home contest and works as a snack or dessert, too.  It's the perfect thing to enjoy this time of year, when we can't seem to get enough pumpkin yummies.

This makes 40 appetizers, and 1 & 1/2 Cups of dip, so cut it in half for a smaller crowd.

1 ( 15 oz.) can solid pack pumpkin
1 Cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 
1 tsp. salt
40 wonton wrappers
oil for frying

1 Cup powdered sugasr
1/2 Cup sour cream
1/2 Cup apricot jam or preserves
1 tsp. cinnamon

1.  In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, cheese, spice and salt.  Place 1 tablespoonful in the center of each wonton wrapper.  (Keep remaining wrappers covered with a damp paper towel until ready to use.) Moisten edges with water; bring corners to center over filling and press edges together to seal.  Repeat.
2. In an electric skillet or deep fat fryer, heat oil to 375 degrees.  Fry wontons in batches for 30 to 40 seconds on each side or until golden brown.  Remove with slotted spoon or tongs, and drain on paper towels.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine dip ingredients.  Serve with wontons.