I won’t lie – one of my favorite parts of the holiday season is the endless supply of treats. Whether it is the homemade cookies from friends or the addicting caramel corn from my aunt, I can rest easy knowing something will be always be around to satisfy my sweet tooth. However, with family in town our sugar supply at home can run dangerously low. My solution? Large batches of peppermint bark! It is easy to make, super tasty and is about as festive as you can get. Enjoy!
Almost-Famous Peppermint Bark
Yield: about 2 lbs.
Prep time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
12 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 pound good-quality white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 candy canes or 12 round hard peppermint candies, crushed
Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with aluminum foil, shiny-side up; smooth out any wrinkles. Heat 1 inch of water in a saucepan over low heat until steaming. Put all but 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until about 1/3 of the chocolate is melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan; keep the steaming water over low heat. Gradually stir the reserved 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate into the bowl, a few pieces at a time, until all of the chocolate is melted. Return the bowl to the saucepan, for 5 to 10 seconds at a time, to help melt the chocolate, if needed. Do not rush this step: It may take up to 10 minutes to melt the chocolate.
Wipe off any moisture from the bottom of the bowl. Stir 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract into the chocolate, then quickly pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Firmly tap the dish against the counter to remove any air bubbles. Set aside at room temperature until almost set, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put all but 1 cup of the white chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and repeat the melting process over the steaming water; dry off the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract; pour over the semisweet chocolate and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle immediately with the crushed candy canes, gently pressing them into the white chocolate. Set aside at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour. Lift the bark out of the pan using the foil and break it into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Note: If the melting process sounds like a bit much, (as it did for me), feel free to melt your chocolate in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute at a time until melted enough to stir to a smooth consistency.
Recipe courtesy of Food Network
Since Christmas is this week, I’m sure you’ve gotten all your holiday shopping done (unless you are a major procrastinator like me). But, have you remembered everyone on your list? I’m betting there might be one (or a few) that you’ve forgotten… that’s right, your dogs!
This year, make sure your four-legged friends feel special and loved on Christmas morning by making them their very own homemade dog treats. I found this recipe via the Damn Delicious blog, and it couldn’t be easier. I was recently able to whip up a batch of these in a matter of minutes (all with ingredients I had on hand) and my dogs couldn’t wait until they came out of the oven to sample their goodies. And of course, once they got their paws on one, they couldn’t control themselves (think repeated sitting, rolling over and speaking until they got another one).
Depending on the size of the cookie cutter you use, you can get dozens and dozens of treats out of one batch, perfect for making plenty for your pooches and gifts for all their friends.
This year, be sure Santa comes to your canine companions by making them some homemade dog treats!
Homemade Peanut Butter Dog Treats
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
2 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour, or more, as needed
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat pumpkin puree, peanut butter and eggs on medium-high until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
Gradually add 2 1/2 cups flour at low speed, beating just until incorporated. Add an additional 1/4 cup flour at a time just until the dough is no longer sticky.
Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3-4 times until it comes together.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
Using cookie cutters in the shape of your choice, cut out shapes and place onto the prepared baking sheet.
Place into oven and bake until the edges are golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.
Note: Baking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of the treats.
‘Tis the season for flipping through catalogs and dreaming of some new kitchen gadgets. No one asked for my wish list this year (hint: someone forward this to my husband!) but these are a few things I wouldn’t mind under the tree come Christmas morning.
- Vinturi Champagne Opener. Take the work and fear out of opening a champagne bottle? Yes please! Love this new gadget available at Williams-Sonoma for $34.95.
- Spiralizer. I give in. This has got to be THE gadget of the year and I must.have.one. I’ve heard you don’t have to buy the most expensive one to get good results but curious if anyone has any recommendations? If you’ve got Amazon Prime (if you don’t you should be asking for that for Christmas) this looks like a good option for $18.99.
- Inspiralized Cookbook. If I’m going to get a Spiralizer then I’m going to need inspiration for using it! Just add it to the Amazon basket for $11.99.
- Chef’s Planet Clip & Drain. Why didn’t I think of this? Visit Sur La Table to snatch this perfect stocking stuffer for $13.
- Immersion Blender. I’ve wrote about my love for my favorite kitchen gadget of all time on SacFoodies before and mine is broken. So, please Santa, can you replace it?? Creamy soups without all the mess are missing in my life this season. I’ll make it easy: pick this one up at Target for $59.99.
- Illustrated 2016 Calendar. I’m obsessed with this cute calendar from Food52 for just $24. That’s right, that’s just $2 a month for some fantastic food art.
- Pizza Platter and Plates. One of my favorite all-time gifts I received was a set of pizza plates. We use them ALL THE TIME. Someone on my list this year is getting the cute platter ($24.95) and matching plates ($7.95 each) from Crate & Barrel.
- Poco Dolce Tiles. You guys, these are seriously the best chocolates ever. We received them once as a gift in the office and I about died. My favorite is the Burnt Caramel Toffee but this trio for $60 lets you try more than one flavor. Bucket list: must visit shop in SF soon.
- FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealing System. I made two quiche a couple weeks ago and one went completely to waste. If only I had a FoodSaver®! Plus, the cinnamon red version is just too cute to pass up and on sale now for $149.99.
Growing up, Christmas was the most anticipated holiday of the year. Much of this was due to my Mom, who really went all out on Christmas, from decorations to baking – always with celebrating the true meaning of the season in mind. She was an original DIY-er before it was cool to be one! We’d bake everything under the sun, make homemade ornaments from dough and glitter, nativity scenes from cardboard and paint, and we’d stage Christmas plays.
So, when I had my own children, there were so many traditions that I wanted to pass on to them. But the season is a busy one, and there are only so many things you can fit in, right? As a result, our family has lots of traditions but we don’t incorporate all of them every year. I realized I didn’t really know what food traditions were the most important to my kids, so I decided to ask them.
Me: I’m writing a post about favorite holiday foods that we make every year. What’s yours?
My daughter: Hot chocolate.
Me: Hot chocolate?
My daughter: Yeah, cause I want to make homemade peppermint marshmallows this year to go with the hot chocolate. And, Christmas cookies, of course.
Me: Oh, marshmallows would be fun to make. By Christmas cookies, do you mean sugar cookies?
My daughter: Yeah, sugar cookies. I LOVE decorating them with all the sparkles and those little balls that look like jewels.
I’m not sure why I didn’t ask her what her favorite holiday foods were before this post. I could have saved myself a lot of time by reducing my baking list to just two items. But, to be fair, I needed to ask my son the same question.
Me: So, what’s your favorite holiday food that we make each year?
My son: Cinnamon rolls.
Me: The ones we have on Christmas morning?
My son: Yeah.
Me: Any others?
My son: As long as we have those, I’m good.
And, because he was studying for finals, that was pretty much the extent of our conversation! Yes, I definitely should have written this post a long time ago. I can now cross off fudge, ginger cookies, cashew caramel bars, toffee, date bars and snowballs. But, I can add a new food to add to our traditional lineup. Here’s the recipe for homemade peppermint marshmallows that we’ll be enjoying.
What’s your favorite holiday food and why?
By: Samantha Fugate It’s the Holiday season, and we have been busy with everything from our Holiday Party and buying gifts for all our foodie friends to photographing all our holiday favorites for clients, such as the Pistachio Health Institute. Check out these delicious, in-shell pistachios smiling big for their holiday close up!
Here in the SacFoodies kitchen, we partake in a wide variety of food-related events. On any given day, one of our designers may be photographing some wine or food for one of our clients’ Facebook pages. Other days, we may be testing a new client recipe such as Mirassou Red Wine Hot Cocoa from The Taylor House.
As 2016 approaches, we are looking forward to more photo shoots, tastings and whatever may come our way to share with you.
Happy Holidays from SacFoodies!
By: Sara Ortega and Brittany Gillmor
‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings, and as you would imagine, the annual SacFoodies holiday celebration isn’t just your average potluck. We like to spice things up a notch (often literally), and this year was no different. Last week, the SacFoodies crew paraded down K Street with our Local Roots Food Tours guide, in search of all the best bites and sips we could find. If you haven’t experienced a Local Roots Food tour, we highly recommend it! It’s a great way to get a quality sampling of the hottest spots in Sacramento. Check out their different offerings here.
Here’s the low down on our tour of K Street:
Stop #1: Mayahuel
Known for its impressive selection of over 180 tequilas, Mayahuel’s food also speaks for itself. We sampled their signature soup—Crema de Chile Poblano—and let’s just say if you can’t handle the heat, maybe this isn’t the choice for you. For all of you spice-lovers out there, however—your taste buds will be in heaven! To wash it down, we sipped their refreshing Así sabe México, with fresh watermelon, cucumber, lime, chile and tequila. Delicioso!
Stop #2: Andy’s Candy Apothecary
Filled to the brim with a wide and ever-changing array of fine candy, Andy’s Candy Apothecary is a treat for both the eyes and palate. We had a chance to chat with Andy and taste some locally made caramels, chocolates and more—and boy, were the SacFoodies on a sugar high! Not only does Andy’s have some of the best treats in town, but they also have adorable gifts—Andy credits this aspect of the store to his lovely wife.
Stop #3: Empress Tavern
Only having opened a few months ago, Empress Tavern is still the new kid on the block. We were lucky enough to get a quick surprise walk-through, thanks to the awesome Local Roots Food Tours crew. The underground carvery is located in the basement of the historic Crest Theatre. The arching brick ceilings and soft, feminine accents create a dazzling ambiance. While we didn’t get a chance to sample the menu, we’ll definitely be returning to get a taste of Empress’ selection of rotisserie meats, cocktails and beers.
Stop #4: Mother
Mother has quickly made a name for itself with its vegetarian offerings that are in no way in lack of flavor. We sampled their Chicken Fried Mushrooms and Garlic Potatoes with Paprika Garbanzos. Trust us, meat lovers, you won’t be disappointed! Just thinking about the mushrooms makes us swoon. If you love calamari you’re likely going to love the Chicken Fried Mushrooms. Can’t wait to go back and have another bowl—one for each of us.
Stop #5: Cornflower Creamery
Located across from the State Capitol, Cornflower Creamery produces hand-crafted artisan ice cream using fresh, locally sourced, all-natural ingredients. This, as they call it, is the ‘Farm-to-Scoop’ experience. Some of our favorite flavors were Mayan Chocolate (with chile powder and cinnamon), Mocha Almond Fudge Swirl (with Temple espresso) and Panetone (with Marsala wine and candied fruits). We also got the behind-the-scenes scoop from Cynthia Broughton on how she chooses new flavor combinations—so inspiring!
Stop #6: Hock Farm Craft & Provisions
A celebration of the Sacramento region’s rich history and bountiful terrain, the restaurant is named after John Sutter’s Hock Farm. The menu constantly changes with the season and availability of local produce, paying homage to the region’s rich history of agriculture. We noshed on the Roasted Beet Salad (with baby & Tuscan kale, endive, pistachio, pear, Shaft’s bleu cheese vinaigrette), Pizza Margherita and Fanta Pork Sliders (orange soda-braised Beeler Farms pork, apple-cabbage slaw). As if our experience couldn’t get any better, we topped it off with Hock Farm’s “Daily Smash” cocktail and Heretic Chocolate Hazelnut Porter Beer.
I was feeling a little festive last week, finally getting into the swing of the season, and decided to tackle an eggnog recipe in advance of the SacFoodies holiday party. I stumbled upon Nana’s Eggnog recipe, courtesy of Nugget Markets, which seemed fabulously festive and easy on the prep and cook time.
First things first, I needed to stock the bar with some serious alcohol to brew up this homemade nog – rum, whiskey and brandy – go, Nana, go! I also purchased two glass bottles (33.75 oz each) with an easy-to-latch swing top – each simple enough to fill and dress up for a hostess gift or to add to any holiday bar.
Yield 1.5 gallons
Prep Time 20-25 minutes
Cook Time 8-10 minutes
1 dozen eggs
I cup sugar
5 cups whole milk
12 ounces (1 can) evaporated milk
1 fifth of whiskey (3.2 cups)
1 cup rum (dark)
1 cup brandy
Sprinkle and mix in Nutmeg before chilling
Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer at high speed about 4-6 minutes, until thickened, light and frothy. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat whole milk and evaporated milk to 200°F (use a candy thermometer). Put mixer on low speed and slowly add hot milk. Transfer mixture to a double boiler and heat, whisking slowly, to 165°F or until thick. Remove from heat. Finish by adding whiskey, rum and brandy slowly, one at a time. Chill and then transfer to glass bottles.
A few notes: I made a last-minute decision to cut back on the whiskey only adding 1 cup versus more than 3 cups, because (wow) it was getting very strong. While the flavor was more pleasing to my palate, it changed the consistency after cooling, making it a bit thicker than one would want their eggnog to be … but mixed with a little milk once chilled, it was back on track. Lastly, the directions seemed easy at the onset, but I wish I would have made sure I had all the items I needed on hand before starting the process: a candy/oil thermometer, double boiler and several mixing bowls. With simultaneous mixing and heating to the perfect temperatures, it would have been helpful to have everything out on the countertop in advance. Don’t be afraid. Try it!
When I was in high school, as the Christmas break was winding down and just before we had to get back to our normal schedules, the last act of the season was the removal of the Christmas tree. This always involved my friend Mike coming over to help me take it out. Mom would give him a big bowl of her Steak Soup, left over from our Christmas Eve tree-trimming party. Then Mike and I would go to a movie. I miss the days when you could bribe a friend with soup.
Mom got the recipe from a restaurant in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, called 100 West, which was in KC’s famous shopping district, The Plaza. Mom was accompanied by three girlfriends. The soup was accompanied by slaw, sourdough rolls and cold beer. (Mom keeps meticulous notes on such things.)
Steak Soup became a family favorite, in part because it keeps so well and the leftovers taste even better than the fresh servings. It’s quick and easy and tastes fantastic. The recipe is vintage 70s, including the reference to “oleo.” Does anyone call margarine that anymore? I say go ahead, use butter anyway …
Millie Armato’s Christmas Eve-and-After Steak Soup
1 stick oleo
1 cup flour
2 quarts hot water
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup cubed celery
1 cup cubed carrots
1 package (10 ounce to 2 cups) frozen mixed vegetables
1 can tomatoes, squished (yeah, mom’s recipe says “squished”)
2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
2 tablespoons beef flavor base
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cook oleo and flour in large soup pot on a slow fire until the paste becomes almost a liquid. Add hot water, slowly stirring with a wire whisk to make a smooth gravy. Add onion, celery, carrots, mixed frozen veggies, tomatoes, ground beef, beef flavor base, and black pepper. Cook slowly until vegetables are tender. (If you use liquid flavor base you may need more; adjust to taste.)
Now, go see if you can bribe a friend with this.
By: Tricia Juanitas
Some people look forward to donning their wackiest outfits on Halloween.
For me, it’s Christmas.