Monday, December 21, 2009

Cooking for the Holidays

I had so much fun this weekend.  I spent the whole weekend cooking - and I love to cook!  My grandchildren like homemade goodies; well, so does my husband, so I decided to contribute to their sweet tooths and make some holiday goodies.  I got onto the Chex website and made regular Chex Party Mix (without Worchestershire sauce, which we're not too fond of), added other things to it (M&Ms, cho chips, mixed nuts, and semi-sweet Puppy Chow) to make it a sweet & savory snack. 

That meant I also made Puppy Chow - they call it something else on the Chex site (Chex Muddie Buddies) but it's essentially the same recipe.  I made 2 batches, one that  used semi-sweet cho chips and one that used milk cho chips.  In the above mix, I used the semi-sweet Puppy Chow.  I packaged the milk chocolate Puppy Chow in individual snack sized packages.  We like that Puppy Chow the best.

I also made the Cheesy Ranch Mix.  I have to take it easy on sugar so this mix is one I really enjoy - I'm saving a lot of it for myself to snack on.  I'm having some for a snack while I type this - got to keep my strength up, ya know.

I also used some Chex cereal and some Crispix to make a Caramel Christmas Mix.  This is absolutely delicious.  A friend shared where to find the recipe on-line.  To find it go to Google Books and type in:  Patrick Lose Christmas Mix.  The first item will be an icon for one of his books.  Click on it and it will open right to the recipe.

I only made half the recipe which still made a huge amount. The whole recipe called for 3 boxes of cereal. Yikes! We loved the taste of this recipe but I'll do a few things differently when I make it again.  Namely, the Crispix broke apart badly, the Chex held up well, so I think I'll only use the Chex next time.  The recipe called for cooking the sugar/butter mixture for 5 minutes.  I think that was too long because it got too thick.   I wish the recipe would have had a temperature listed for my candy thermometer and I would have stopped cooking it when it got to that temperature. Next time I think I'll cook it somewhere between 230-250F so it will pour easier instead of setting up so fast.  I also think I'll put the nuts in a separate container and pour the cooked sugar mixture over them separately before mixing them into the other ingredients.  They didn't seem to get coated at all well doing it the way the recipe suggested.  The final result looked broken up and kind of messy but it sure was gooooooooooood. 

I also made Graham Cracker Toffee and Microwave Peanut Brittle.  They're both soooo good and favorites of both my husband and son.

Both Recipes are easy to make.  Here they are if you want to try them.

Graham Cracker Toffee
1 1/2 pkg graham crackers
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans
Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with Pam or similar baking spray.  Line with graham crackers.  Heat butter & sugar on low to melt together, stirring to combine.  Raise heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes.  Add nuts and bring to a boil again.  Pour mixture over crackers in the prepared pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes on a high rack in the oven.  Cool and break into pieces.

Microwave Peanut Brittle
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanuts
1 tsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
To prepare the pan - line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with Pam or similar cooking spray (also spray your bowl and spoon).  Mix sugars in a 1 to 1 1/2 quart glass container (preferable Pyrex or Corning with some kind of handles).  Cook in microwave for 4 minutes on high.  Add the peanuts, don't stir.  Cook on high for 4 more minutes.  Stir in butter and vanilla.  Add baking soda and stir quickly before it sets up.  Pour out onto your prepared pan and spread out a little bit.  To get off the candy that has hardened onto your bowl and spoon, soak in hot water.

The final thing I made this weekend was Fantasy Fudge.  It's the recipe from the side of the Marshmallow Cream jar.  It's my son's absolute favorite.  Every Christmas for as long as I can remember, I make some for him without nuts, and some for the rest of his family with nuts.  It's kind of a family tradition around here.

I've started some big bags for my son and his family and for my granddaughter, who doesn't live at home, and her friends.  I'm also making some for some of the neighbors and sending some to work with my husband, for he and his co-workers to snack on. 

The big bags are filled with individual snack sized bags, like the picture above with the Puppy Chow.  The big bags are starting to fill up nicely.  This afternoon I hope to make 2 kinds of cookies to help round them out.  Sometime this week my granddaughter is coming over.  She said she wants to cook with me - fun!  I think we'll make some of the traditional Christmas cookies that use cookie cutters and get decorated with sprinkles.   *:-)

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