Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Candy: Westover Style

Every year we make Christmas candy to give to friends, neighbors and family. Over the years we've tried lots of recipes, but there are a few that we do every year. Here is our 2017 Christmas lineup. The "new" one this year are the Oreo truffles (super easy!), everything else we've made pretty much every year since 2009...seriously, that's the year on the bottom of some of my printed recipes.

snickers fudge • caramels • english toffee • peppermint bark • oreo truffles • chocolate covered pretzels
 

Snickers Fudge

For the first layer

1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup peanut butter

For the second layer

4 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped salted peanuts

For the third layer

14 ounce package caramel cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the fourth layer

1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

To prepare the first layer

In a small saucepan over low heat, add milk chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter. Stir often until completely melted and smooth. Pour mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13" baking pan lightly coated with nonstick spray. Using an off-set spatula, spread the mixture to an even layer and place in the refrigerator until set.

To prepare the second layer

In a medium heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Mix in sugar and evaporated milk. Once it comes to a boil, let cook 5 minutes while stirring. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in marshmallow creme, peanut butter and vanilla. Stir in peanuts. Pour over the set chocolate layer and use an off-set spatula to gently spread mixture in an even layer. Place in the refrigerator until set.

To prepare the third layer

Place the unwrapped caramel cubes and heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until the mixture has completely melted and is smooth. Pour in the pan and quickly spread to an even layer with an off-set spatula. Place in the refrigerator until set.

To prepare the fourth layer

In a small saucepan over low heat, add milk chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter. Stir often until completely melted and smooth. Pour over the third layer and use an off-set spatula to spread to an even layer. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before cutting into squares.


Homemade Caramels
Ingredients: 
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
4 cups sugar
2 cups Karo syrup
2 cans evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla

Generously butter a jelly roll pan (or a 9x13'' pan if you prefer thicker caramels).
Add 2 sticks butter, sugar, and Karo syrup to a large heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat.
Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, about 5-10 minutes.
Gradually add the evaporated milk, pouring it in slowly so that the mixture maintains a constant boil.
Stir the mixture regularly, scraping the sides until it reaches a firm ball stage - 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer(This doesn’t seem to be enough for me, I cook it til it reaches 250 degrees). This part takes patience-it could take about an hour to get to the
firm ball stage--but it's sooo worth it!
Once you reach 240 degrees F remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Pour caramels into a buttered pan. Refrigerate until ready cooled and hardened.


Peppermint Bark
Ingredients
·         6 oz dark chocolate
·         12 oz white chocolate
·         3 tsp vegetable oil
·         10 to 12 crushed candy canes
Instructions
1.       Line the bottom and sides of an 9" x 9" square baking pan with non-stick aluminum foil.
2.       Stir half white chocolate and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a double boiler.
3.       If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make your own by placing a metal bowl into a pot of boiling water.
4.       Stir the chocolate as it melts with a heat-proof spatula.
5.       Remove from over water. Stir in 1/3 crushed candy cane pieces.
6.       Spread melted chocolate out on the parchment paper.
7.       Place baking pan in the freezer for 20 minutes.
8.       Melt the dark chocolate and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a metal bowl placed into a pot of boiling water.
9.       Stir the chocolate as it melts with a heat-proof spatula.
10.   Pour dark chocolate mixture in long lines over white chocolate layer.
11.   Using icing spatula, spread dark chocolate in even layer.
12.   Place baking pan in the freezer for 20 minutes.
13.   Repeat with another layer of white chocolate with the remaining chocolate and tilt the pan for an even layer.
14.   Immediately sprinkle the remaining crushed candy canes evenly over the white chocolate layer while it’s still warm and soft.
15.   Gently press down on them to help them stick into the layer.
16.   Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
17.   Remove the Peppermint Bark from the pan by lifting the edges of the aluminum foil.
18.   Break into suitable pieces, keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
19.   Peppermint bark is traditionally broken into chunks but if you want to cut into squares, dip your knife or cookie cutter in hot water.


Oreo Truffles

1 package of regular oreos (not double stuffed)
1 8 oz brick cream cheese, softened
1 pound white chocolate almond bark

In a food processor crush oreos, once they are all broken down add the softened cream cheese so it forms a dough. Chill at least one hour, roll into 1” balls, chill again. Once firm dip in melted almond bark, let cool.
*optional, drizzle food colored almond bark on top after they’re set, or festive sprinkles before they set.


English Toffee

1 LB margarine (or butter, this gives it a different flavor. Also delish)
1 C water
2 ½ C sugar
4 T corn syrup
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate won’t set up!)

Add all ingredients, except chocolate chips, to a large pot. Stir constantly as it thickens, and boil until it starts to smoke (weird, but it actually does stop steaming and will smoke!) also known as hard crack stage.
Remove from heat, pour into a jelly roll pan (ungreased) and spread to the edges by tipping the pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, wait until they melt then gently spread across the entire pan of toffee.
Let set until cooled, use a bread knife to break it apart into small chunks.


And last, but not least - chocolate covered pretzels. SO easy, just dip them in melted almond bark and sprinkle toppings on them before they set. They're super good plain, but we like crushed candy canes, and this year we did sweetened coconut - SO good. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

White Chicken Chili

We have been making this White Chicken Chili recipe for years, Andy and I love it. Our kids are picky so they don't eat it, but that just means more leftovers for us! 

I wanted to try it out in my Instant Pot, so I'll include the regular stove top recipe as well as pressure cooker directions. 
 
(This pic shows it a little more soupy than chili-like...I added an extra cup of water in the IP, don't! After I boiled it down a little it was the perfect chunky/creamy consistency. So just follow the original recipe amounts for stove top or pressure cooker!)

White Chicken Chili

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes1 medium onion, chopped (or 1/4 cup dehydrated)
    1 taspoon minced garlic
    2 cans (15-1/2 ounces each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
    2 cups chicken broth
    1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
Directions:

In a large saucepan, saute the chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add the beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream.
If desired, top with tortilla chips, cheese and jalapenos or serve with corn bread which is our preferred side.


Pressure cooker version:

Place full (frozen) chicken breast and all ingredients except sour cream in the pot. Cook for 13 minutes on manual setting, I did a quick release of pressure. 
Remove the chicken and shred or rough chop then return to pot, stir in sour cream. 

Enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Mini Pepper Nachos!

Last night I decided to create a menu for the rest of January.
I like the idea of menus but creating one proved to be harder than I thought. Especially once I decided to start asking everyone what their favorite meals were!

I finally decided to split the month up between Chicken, Beef, Vegetarian and Other.

Our first meal from this menu was the following scrumptious hit!😋


Mini sweet peppers cut in half and the seeds taken out. Lay them out in your pan. I put foil on one pan before spreading the peppers on it to keep everything from sticking. The stoneware pan did great without anything underneath.


The toppings I used were taco seasoned beef (not shown), Olives, Corn, Green onions, cheese and lime juice. Sprinkle the meat on every pepper. Spread a thin layer of cheese over the meat and then add the other ingredients. Squeeze the fresh lime juice over the top. I used half a lime for each pan. I will use more next time. Put more cheese on again! I love cheese!💗


Put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes. Make sure the cheese is melted.


We all enjoyed this meal very much! I put fresh tomatoes and Avacado on mine with Sour cream. This is a great alternative to chips. We will definitely be making this again.

Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Mac and Cheese - Kid approved!

So I got an Instant Pot for Christmas (just one brand of many pressure cookers out there), and have been loving it!


Last night for dinner I made Mac and Cheese in it, and including the time it took to pressurize to having the food on the table was about 15 minutes total. For made from scratch Mac & Cheese. Amazing!

Here's the "recipe" I combined from others and used.

Mac & Cheese (Pressure Cooker)

Ingredients:

4 cups elbow macaroni noodles
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

4 cups shredded cheese
      I used 1 cup Pepper Jack
                1 cup Cheddar
                2 cups Mozzarella

Directions:

Mix all but cheese in your pressure cooker, cook for 8 minutes on manual then do a quick release to release the pressure. (If there is excess liquid you may want to drain a little of it, otherwise it adds to the creamy-ness of the mac and cheese.)

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

The only thing that I noticed, and this was probably because of the cheese combo I used (fridge special :) ) is that my batch was really stringy, that didn't stop us from enjoying - and devouring - this though. Def making again!

Nutrition Facts: 390 cal per serving, makes 8 servings


Creamy Tomato Soup

This is my all time fave tomato soup recipe. So good. So creamy.
I've heard that not all care for the texture, but we LOVE it!

Creamy Tomato Soup (Crockpot, 6 hours)

Ingredients:

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with the juice
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions (I use dehydrated onions, I find them less repulsive)
1 cup finely diced celery (I also skip this, because I don't usually have celery on hand)
2 T tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried oregano
1 T dry basil
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups half and half (I've also just used milk)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Directions:

Add diced tomatoes, carrots, onion, celery, tomato paste, chicken broth, oregano, and basil to your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours until flavors blend and vegetables are soft.

About 30 minutes before the serving, prepare a roux.
In a skillet melt the butter over med-low heat and add the flour. Whisk together constantly for about 10 minutes or until the roux is a nice golden brown color.
Slowly add 1 cup of the soup from the crock pot  to the roux, it will make a thick paste, slowly add 3 more cups of warm soup to the mix and stir until smooth.
Add the roux mixture to the crock pot.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese, half and half and salt and pepper. Stir well, let cook on low for another 30 minutes.
Pour soup into a blender (do this in batches), puree until smooth.

Serve with artisan bread, or fresh rolls. So yum!

Baked Chicken Toquitos

This is a favorite at our house! Everyone will eat them, they freeze and reheat well, and anything with cream cheese has to be good, right?!


Baked Chicken Taquitos

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
5 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T lime juice
1/2 cup green salsa (or red, really whatever you have on hand)
1/4 tsp minced onion
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (I usually use dried cilantro and that works well)
2 T green onions, chopped (again, dried works just as well)
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (I've used Pepper Jack and Mozzarella)
20 corn tortillas

Direction:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl mix the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, chili and garlic powder and cumin.
Add the cilantro, green onion, and cheese. Add the shredded chicken last, mix well.

Heat the corn tortillas in the microwave between damp paper towels for 30 second at a time so they're easy to roll and won't crack (as much).

Spread about 2-3 TBS of the mixture in each tortilla, roll it up and place it seam side down on the greased foil.

Make sure the tortillas aren't touching or they will stick together while baking.
After they are all rolled and placed on the pan spray them with cooking spray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown, some tortillas may crack during baking time and that's okay - they will still be delish! Serve with salsa, sour cream, rice, beans, etc.

Nutrition Facts: 100 cal per serving, 20 servings per recipe.


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