Chocolate Popcorn

Sunday is game day and I needed something salty, crunch and chocolatey. What hits the trifecta better than chocolate coated popcorn?

My friends, Charlotte and Thomas, gave me a Swedish popcorn maker from Lekue. It makes perfect popcorn every time, with very little oil and only few unpopped kernels per batch. It is one of my favorite gadgets for the kitchen and I use it all the time.

Chocolate Popcorn

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup semi-sweet morsels
1 tablespoon butter

Make popcorn. Pick out any unpopped kernels (trust me, don’t skip this step). Salt generously. Melt chocolate with the butter. Stir in a large bowl until well coated. Gobble up a few handfuls while the oven heats to 260 degrees F. Place popcorn on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to recrisp the popcorn.

Serve in bowls with plenty of napkins.

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Cheese Nibbles

It seems that every southerner I know has a cheese straw, cheese nibble, or cheese wafer recipe. In fact here are links to just a few (here, here, here) plus I’m including a picture of my family’s recipe from my maternal great-grandmother.

I’ve been lucky that Michelle has been working on perfecting her recipe. In the below picture, she added a little more flour to the puffy yellow ones (and a little red food coloring to the others to tell the difference). There wasn’t enough crunch, so she extended the cooking time and the result were very tasty!

Cheese Nibbles

10 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated cold and left to come to room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and at room temperature
1 cup sifted flour
2/3 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
pinch cayenne

I recommend tripling the recipe but, as most mixers can’t handle such a heavy batter, do each batch separately.

Put the softened cheese and butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer. Using the heaviest mixer paddle attachment, beat until the mixture has the consistency of whipped cream, 15 to 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift the flour with the spices. Gradually add the seasoned flour to the cheese mixture by large spoonfuls, beating well after each addition.

Roll batter into nickle sized balls and press down on baking sheets with your thumb. Bake for about 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven until bottoms are slightly browned.

Alternatively, you could place a portion of the dough into a cookie press fitted with the star tube and press the dough onto a cookie sheet in three inch strips. Repeat until the pan is full. Bake until straws are golden brown and crisp.

Cool on pan 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container. For longer storage, place the airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

To recrisp cheese nibbles that have been stored, bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F.

White Christmas Party Mix

The New Orleans Saints are playing the Dirty Birds (aka Atlanta Falcons) on Christmas Eve, so I decided to take my usual party mix (Circles and Squares) and give it some holiday flair. If I had some red and green m&ms, I would have added them after the powdered sugar coating step.

Dirty White Christmas Party Mix

1-12 oz box of Crispex cereal
1-8.9 oz box of Cheerios cereal
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1-12 oz package of semi sweet morsels
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar, divided

Stir the cereals together in a large pan. I use a disposable turkey roasting pan. In a small saucepan, melt together the butter, Worchestershire sauce and salt. Pour over the cereal and, gently but thoroughly, stir to coat. Bake in a 250 degree F oven for an hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

When there are about 20 minutes left on the baking cereal, put the semi-sweet morsels and peanut butter together in a double boiler and melt, stirring occasionally.

Remove the cereal from the oven. Pour the melted chocolate and peanut butter over the cereal and stir. Keep stirring until all the cereal is coated in chocolate. In a large, clean paper bag, sprinkle a half cup of powdered sugar. Pour in the cereal and then sprinkle on the other half cup of powdered sugar. Close and roll down the top of the bag and shake to coat all the cereal in sugar.

Cool completely on baking sheets – this takes about an hour. Store in an airtight container until time to gobble it up!

Who Dat!

Sweet and Nutty Turkish Cigars

Along with the savory recipes (see previous post), I also made some sweet versions. In some Middle Eastern cultures, these are known as Bride’s Fingers instead of Turkish Cigars. Not a fan of the name but definitely a fan of the finished product. Unlike baclava, which is a mess to make and eat, these are easier all the way around.

By the way, eating syrup and honey is believed to make life sweeter. Not sure what adding the chocolate means, other than chocolate makes everything better.

As mentioned before, cutting the filo sheets in half to form a square and then diagonally to form a triangle is the best way to prep. Use three layers of filo triangles per cigar, and a small amount of filling per cigar yields the best results. The cigars stay intact and the filling doesn’t burst through the center. By not going to the edge with the filling and folding in the edges there meant they looked like cigars without compromising filling integrity. I also found that buttering each filo layer individually was unnecessary. Brushing interior layer near the filling and the top of the cigar after rolling is sufficient.

Sweetly Nutty Cigars

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (pistachios, pecans, walnuts, almonds or a mix)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb filo dough, thawed

In a medium saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil. Stir well and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Bring the temperature up to 220 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in the honey and orange blossom water. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine nuts, cinnamon and the orange honey syrup in a large bowl.

On a clean work surface roll out the thawed sheets of filo dough. My sheets measured 9×13, so I cut the sheets in half to form squares and then cut each half on the diagonal to form triangles. Start by taking out three pieces of the filo dough. Cover the rest of the dough with a damp kitchen towel (otherwise they will dry out and be impossible to work with).

Place three sheets of filo triangles on a flat work surface. Brush with melted butter. Place about 1 tablespoon of the nut mixture on the fat end of the triangle. Tuck in the edge and roll up like a cigar. Place the rolled pastry seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush the top with melted butter.

Transfer to oven, and bake until crust and nuts are evenly golden, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool

Chocolate Cigars

1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 cup chocolate (I used Andes creme de mint baking chips but any kind of chocolate such as white or dark or milk chocolate can be used)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Filo Pastry Sheets, thawed

Coarsely grind pistachios, sugar and chocolate in either a food processor or blender. Set aside.

Thaw the filo sheets as per the package instructions. Place three filo sheet on a clean working surface. Brush with melted butter. (Note: As you are working with one filo sheet at a time, cover the remaining sheets with kitchen towel to prevent drying.)

Cut the sheets in half to form a square and then each half along the diagonal to form triangles. You will have four sets. Place 1 tablespoon of chocolate-nut powder on the fat end of one set. Tuck in the edge and carefully roll the sheet towards the narrow edge. Place on greased baking sheet. Continue until all sets are used and then repeat with another three sheets.

Brush the cigars with melted butter. Bake at 350 degree F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the filo turns golden brown.

Savory Meat and Cheese Filled Turkish Cigars

I made two kinds of savory appetizers from the Middle East as part of Victoria Avilan‘s cookbook project (see my next post for the sweet versions). In Turkey, they are called sigara bourek. I made two savory (one of meat and one of cheese) versions and both were a hit with my tasters.

I did several tests with this recipe and found that a 350°F oven, three layers of cut filo per cigar, and a small amount of filling per cigar yields the best results. The cigars stay intact and the filling doesn’t burst through the center. By not going to the edge with the filling and folding in the edges there meant they looked like cigars without compromising filling integrity. I also found that buttering each filo layer individually was unnecessary. Brushing interior layer near the filling and the top of the cigar after rolling is sufficient.

Meat filled

Sigara Bourek

1 onion, diced
2 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon tumeric
juice of one lemon
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb box filo dough, thawed
Preheat the oven to 350°F

Sauté the onion with the ground beef in olive oil. Add garlic and spices and cook until browned—about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the moisture has completely evaporate. Let it cool down to room temperature. Stir lemon juice into meat mixture.

On a clean work surface roll out the thawed sheets of filo. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo in half to form a square and then diagonally to form triangles, leaving you with four equal-sized triangle shaped sets of dough. Take three triangles and cover the remaining filo with a damp towel. Lay out the triangles on your work surface and brush the top layer with melted butter.

Place one spoonful of the ground beef at the wide base of the dough and, tucking the edges in, roll into cigars. Brush the top of the cigars with melted butter. Continue to fill and roll until filling is used up.
Bake in a greased pan at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve warm or room temperature.

Cheese filled

Turkish Feta Cheese and Olive Rolls

4 ounce feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
2 tablespoon pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 stick butter, melted
1 lb filo dough
Pulse together in a food processor the cheeses, egg, onion and olives. Stir in thyme and pepper. Place mixture in the refrigerator until ready to use as it will be easier to form when chilled.

Using three pieces of cut filo dough, place a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the fat end of the triangle. Fold in both sides of the filo, enclosing the filling and brush with butter. Starting at the filled end, roll up pastry to resemble a cigar. Transfer, seam side down, to a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Make more rolls, leaving 1/2-inch of space between cigars on baking sheet. Brush the top with melted butter. Bake in 350 degree F oven until filo is golden, about 30 minutes.

*Note – I find feta to be a bit strong, so I cut it with whipped cream cheese. If you’re a fan of it straight up, increase feta to 8 ounces and drop the cream cheese.

 

 

Bacon Cheddar Dip

We were looking for quick, no cook dip to serve before dinner and someone mentioned the Neiman Marcus dip. That recipe made a good stepping off point but we decided it needed a little mixing up for our tastes. I’m not a fan of almonds, especially when there are pecans available and see no reason why actual bacon couldn’t be used in place of bacon bits. Finally, we felt that the taste of Sriracha would be an awesome addition.

Bacon Cheddar Dip

5 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into  1/2 inch pieces
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
2 teaspoons Sriracha

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips or Ritz crackers.

Gebrannte Pecannuss in the Slow Cooker

I’m an army brat and have very fond memories of the getting the still warm paper cones of Gebrannte Mandeln or Erdnuss while walking around the open air markets, like the Christkindlesmarkt  in Nuremberg, Germany. The almonds or peanuts cooked in sugar and cinnamon were a special treat and so very addictive.

I found a number of recipes to replicate them and was most pleased to even find some that could be done without chaining myself to the stove. Slow cooker to the rescue! Further, being a southerner through and through, I can attest pecans make the best gebrannte nuss.

pecans

Gebrannte Pecannuss in the Slow Cooker

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups pecans
1/4 cup water

In large bowl, stir together sugars, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In small bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla until a little frothy.

Coat the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray. Add nuts to slow cooker. Pour egg white mixture over nuts, and stir until nuts are evenly coated. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over nuts, and stir until nuts are all coated well. Cover; cook on low heat setting 3.5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.

For the final 20 minutes, pour 1/4 cup water into slow cooker and stir. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pecans onto the sheet to cool. The pecans should be pretty sticky so be sure to separate them the best that you can and let them cool.

For an added kick – add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the cinnamon sugar.