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!