Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Homemade Werther's Caramels

I am usually up for the challenge of making something new, so when my big brother requested that I make homemade Werther's, I decided to give it a shot. 

I've had other homemade caramels before--the soft, chewy kind. I honestly wasn't fond of the flavor of those, so I was a little nervous about making some myself. Then I found a recipe that said they tasted like the hard Werther's candies, so I was off to the store to get some cream! (The only thing it required that I don't usually have in my cupboards.)

These things were definitely a hit! They are very hard--at first, then they soften in your mouth. The taste is perfect. They taste just like Werther's. (And now, typing about them, I'm going to have to go get one; please excuse me....) 

I knew I wasn't going to see my big brother for awhile, so I had originally planned on just making another batch closer to when I was going to see him.... but then I decided to surprise him and mail out a care package! He was pretty happy too; but I'm not sure if he was more excited about the caramels or the picture his nephew colored for him!

My only complaint is how hard they are to cut. I let them cool too long, not realizing they would get as hard as they did, and couldn't cut them easily. (It turned into a long, painful process.) When making these, I would recommend scoring them early on in the hardening process, or cutting early. (Similar to what many people do with hard candy.) 

Aside from that, I won't change anything for next time. I think I will try one of the soft caramel chew recipes in the future, but these are most definitely on my make-again list!

Remember, comments are love!


  • 3 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a 3 quart (or larger) pan, (Note: I used a 3 quart saucepan, and was afraid it was going to boil over. It never did, but it had me nervous the whole time) melt butter over low heat. 
  2. Once melted, add sugar, corn syrup, cream, and salt. Insert candy thermometer (making sure not to touch the bottom of the pan), and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. 
  3. (While boiling, grease a medium cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil.)
  4. Once it comes to a full boil, swirl the pot slightly but do not stir. Boil to hard ball stage, 250° - 266°. Remove from heat, then add in vanilla.
  5. Pour immediately into greased cookie sheet. Allow to cool slightly, then score with oiled knife or pizza cutter. Wrap in wax paper (if desired), store at room temperature.
1 hour

Source (for original): Instructables

Friday, November 22, 2013

Peppermint Bark: Trying to beat Russell Stover's at their own game....

The hard thing about working in retail is that there is always soooo much candy to tempt me. Personally, Russell Stover's caramels are usually my downfall--the ones that are available seasonally. Caramel Hearts, Caramel Pumpkins, Caramel Santas, Caramel Eggs.... really, Russell Stover's makes the best caramel. (The really unfortunate thing is that my boss is aware of this, and I swear he buys extra for every holiday because he knows I'll eat it.) 

However, one of my coworkers is basically addicted to their Peppermint Bark Snowmen. When I've wanted something sweet at work lately, I've got either that or the Peppermint Bark Candy bars. 

Really, don't they look yummy? I know those are poor quality pictures (just what I found online), but trust me--they are amazing. Fairly addicting too, and I think those might be my new favorite. (I had a caramel pumpkin that got  too close to my stove this fall, and the chocolate tasted funny, so now I'm off caramel for awhile.) The only problem was that I was convinced that I could make that at home, even if not quite to that caliber.

So, I got some candy coating, peppermint extract, candy canes, and went to work.

First experiment was a flop, in my opinion. I discovered that I really don't care for peppermint extract. The other people that I shared it with (coworkers, family, etc) thought it was great, but I couldn't get past the flavor of the extract. It wasn't close enough to the Russell Stover's candy, and there's just something about the taste that bothered me.

Second experiment was much better, but I made the mistake of buying Log House candy coating vs the Meijer brand that I had bought before. The texture was... funny. I don't really know how to describe it, it was just off. (And no, in case you were wondering--I am not the only one who thought so.) I would recommend against buying that brand, unless it's the only one available. 

For the second experiment, I tried using about 1/4 dram of Lorann Peppermint Oil. (The kind you use for making hard candy.) That, combined with the candy canes, gave it a wonderful peppermint flavor. Next time I might try toning it down a little, but we'll see.

We all agreed that the second try was much, much better. However, this is like the Candy Bark I made around Halloween.... you can't really go wrong! Play with it, see what you like! Try adding different types of candy canes (have you seen the flavors of candy canes they have??? I had to search to find normal ones at Meijer!), different oil flavors (obviously making sure it's the edible kind; Lorann makes a ton), etc. Have fun with it! 

Let me know what you do! I love to get different ideas. :)

Remember, comments are love!


Peppermint Candy Bark

  • 8 ounces chocolate candy coating
  • 10 ounces vanilla candy coating
  • 1/4 dram peppermint oil
  • 3-4 candy canes, broken into small chunks

  1. Melt chocolate candy coating in a double-boiler.
  2. Meanwhile, place aluminum foil in a 8”x8” baking pan, going at least 1” up all sides. Ounce chocolate is melted, pour into pan. Refrigerate while melting vanilla.
  3. Melt vanilla candy coating in a double-boiler; add peppermint oil once melted. Remove from heat, stir in candy canes.
  4. Remove pan from fridge; carefully pour vanilla over chocolate, small sections at a time. (Chocolate will not be completely hard.)
  5. Let harden, then break into small (or large!) pieces. Enjoy!

30 minutes

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Egg Nog Cookies: The Taste of Christmas

So, a week or so ago, I volunteered to make cookies for Nate's coworker's going away party. By volunteered, of course, I mean that Nate volunteered me.

I couldn't decide what to make, then I forgot what day it was going to be, so Nate almost had to just take some of the caramels I made last night. (Recipe to follow in a day or so, so stay tuned!)

Then, when Gabriel & I had to make a grocery store run this morning, I splurged & got some egg nog.... which gave me the idea of egg nog cookies! One Pinterest search & a couple hours later, these are packed & ready to go to work with Nate! (Well, some of them. We may have eaten a couple a lot.) 

If you like egg nog, you should definitely try these!!! Nate has decided these are my new Christmas cookies. (He's not a huge fan of my sugar cookies, which I'll never understand. I eat myself to the point of nausea on them every year.) Gabriel ate his so fast that I thought he dropped it: I gave him one, turned as I took a bite of mine, then when I looked to see what he thought, I couldn't see any cookie. I asked "Gabriel, did you drop your cookie?" and he opened his hand to show me the 1/2 bite he had left. I would say they are a hit. ;)

Between the egg nog & the nutmeg, these just taste like Christmas. And at 111 calories each (for a batch of 40).... you can't go wrong!

I'm going to tell myself that as I eat the remaining half dozen I left out for our family....  

Remember, comments are love! 

Egg Nog Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour    
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon    
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice     
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco     
  • 1/2 cup + 3 - 5 tablespoons eggnog, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla     
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg in a bowl; set aside.
  3. Cream Crisco and sugar in an electric mixer. Add ½ cup eggnog, vanilla, and egg yolks. Mix on medium until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients, mix until smooth.
  4. Place by rounded teaspoonful onto parchment covered or lightly greased baking sheet. (Alternatively, flour hands lightly and form into small balls.)
  5. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. 
  6. IF DESIRED: Meanwhile, in small mixer bowl, beat powdered sugar and butter together until well blended; add 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Gradually beat in 3 to 5 tablespoons egg nog until icing is desired consistency. (I added the minimum amount, iced half the cookies, then added a little more to ice the rest. My preference, if icing them at all, is the minimum amount of egg nog.) However, these cookies don't even really need the icing. Next time, I'm leaving a lot more without it.
Approximately 3 ½ dozen
1 ½ hours

Nutrition Facts
111 calories (per 40 cookies)

Source (for original): The Girl Who Ate Everything

Monday, November 18, 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

I've talked before about how much I love fall, and in Michigan we are still having some very fall-like days. In between the days where mother nature doesn't know what season it is, of course. Even though all the hunters were complaining, I was enjoying the warm rain we got on Sunday. (Well, until the wind got scary and people started posting about tornadoes on facebook. Then, not so much.) It was a perfect fall baking day.....

And since it was a fall baking day, that meant pumpkin! Well, I was debating between pumpkin bread and Nutella banana bread, but the pumpkin won out. I have a pumpkin bread recipe that I love (as well as a pumpkin streusel muffin recipe), but I wanted to make some changes to make it a little healthier. 

(And who said healthier is a bad thing? Look at how tasty that looks!)  

I was debating on the changes to make, and decided on this: sub part of the butter for Greek yogurt, cut down on the sugar, and sub half the flour for wheat flour. I was debating on also switching the sugar to brown sugar, but decided against it. (Didn't really make it any healthier, would add some calories, and since there was already molasses in this, I was afraid of adding brown sugar.)

Since I was making so many changes at once, I cut the recipe in half so I would only make one loaf. (That way, if it failed, I only had to pitch one!) 

Overall, we are definitely pleased by the changes! Cutting down on the sugar makes a significant difference in taste; it tastes less like a sweet bread now. We all still loved it, but if you prefer a sweeter quick bread, I would add the full amount of sugar. It would be easy to vary the sugar content (from ¾ to 1 cup per loaf) depending on how sweet you would like it

One thing that I would suggest, that I didn't think of beforehand, was increasing the spices if you are cutting down on the sugar. The pumpkin is more noticeable, but the cinnamon & cloves aren't very dominant. I honestly can't say if that's because of the sugar decrease, or if I just didn't notice it before. Either way, I would suggest increasing the spices.

To make things easier for people who don't want to have the healthier version or who want to compare, I'm posting both. Check them out, & let me know if you make one or both!

First, the version I made today: (this makes one loaf, just double if you would like to make 2)

Spiced Pumpkin Bread

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened    
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Greek yogurt 
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs    
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • cup orange juice    
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract    
  • ¾ cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (to double, use 1 ½ cup + cup)
  • ¾ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder    
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt    
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a bowl, cream butter, yogurt, and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the pumpkin, orange juice, molasses and vanilla. 
  3. Combine dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture and mix until blended. Pour into a greased and floured 9”x5” loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. 
  5. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from the pan to wire rack. 

16 Servings
Prep: 15 min. Bake: 65 min. + cooling

120 calories per slice

Now, the original (this makes 2 loaves, cut in half if you would like to make 1):
(Oh, and please note: if you make it without the whole wheat flour, it's NOT going to look like my picture. I don't have any pictures of the original recipe, but there is a significant color difference when you switch out some all-purpose flour for whole wheat.)

 Spiced Pumpkin Bread

  • ¾ cup butter, softened    
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs    
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin
  • ⅔ cup orange juice    
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract    
  • 3 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder    
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt    
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ to 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the pumpkin, orange juice, molasses and vanilla. 
  3. Combine dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture and mix until blended. Pour into two greased and floured 9”x5” loaf pans.
  4. Bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. 
  5. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from the pans to wire racks.

32 Servings
Prep: 15 min. Bake: 65 min. + cooling

Nutrition Facts
145 calories per slice

Source (for original): Taste of Home (Note: The original original also called for pecans & raisins, to be added after the dry ingredients. I don't like pecans or raisins, so I never made it that way.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

It's almost unheard of these days, but Nate & I don't have TV. We have a TV that's hooked up to his PS3, but we don't get any shows on it. No cable, satellite, or even local channels. The few shows that we like, we can watch on Hulu after they air. 

The downside to this is that we tend to watch the same commercials over & over.... and those Marie Callender commercials were starting to kill me. Have you seen them? It goes on about how no one has time to make fresh, from scratch chicken pot pies, but Marie Callender does! (Or something like that.) And then they try to sell you frozen chicken pot pies. 

I'm sorry, but there is no way those things, from the freezer and full of sodium, taste as good as homemade. Sure, I don't always have time to roll out a pastry shell and bake a chicken pot pie from scratch.... but after seeing that commercial a few too many times, I made the time.

So, I grabbed my pastry shell recipe, and threw together a chicken pot pie for dinner on Sunday! 

Aside from the pastry shell, I don't usually measure much when I am making chicken pot pie. (And now I've said chicken pot pie so many times it's lost it's meaning....) The only thing I ever really measure is the gravy, and that's only to make sure there isn't too little or too much. The rest of the measurements are an educated guess. You want the pie to be full-to-rounded, without having it stacked too high. I am usually careful to not make it too full; I want a good pastry shell-to-filling ratio. (Wow, that makes it sound like it's a science....)

You can see in that picture that it's full, but not mounded. It's all personal preference, really.... (Oh, and ignore the atrocious crimping job there. I was trying to make the edges look wavy, then crimp with a fork..... hahahaha. Oh well, it tasted great.)

Oh, and if you aren't sure what to do with that extra pastry shell dough? I have a really good idea for you.....

Remember, comments are love! And so is food, so go share your pie!

Chicken Pot Pie

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour    
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup butter flavored shortening    
  • ¼ - 1 cup cold water
  • ½ pound chicken, cooked    
  • 1-2 cups frozen vegetables, diced if necessary
  • 1-2 potatoes, peeled & diced    
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups chicken gravy (homemade, canned, or from the packets; whatever you want!)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a medium bowl stir together flour and ¾ teaspoon salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea size. Sprinkle small amounts of the water over part of the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using small amounts of the water at a time, until all the flour mixture is moistened. Form pastry into 2 balls.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, slightly flatten each pastry. Roll from center to edges into a circle about 12” in diameter. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin. Unroll into a 9” pie plate, without stretching it. Trim pastry to ½” beyond edge of pie plate.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine chicken, vegetables, potatoes, onion, salt, and pepper. Spread into prepared crust, cover with gravy.
  5. Cut slits in remaining pastry shell and cover pie; crimp as desired.
  6. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until pastry shell is browned and filling is steaming. (If edges appear to be getting too browned, cover edges in foil part way through baking.)
8 servings
1 ½ hours

 Source (for original): Pastry shell is from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook