Chocolate Saltine Double Toffee

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

My Aunt Darlene used to make a version of this midwestern holiday treat when I was a kid. She called it her “Special Toffee”. It wasn’t until last year that I knew there was a cracker inside. Some call them cookies. I prefer to think of this as Aunt Darlene’s Special Toffee 2.0. I’ve taken her recipe and raised it a toffee. 

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Chocolate Saltine Double Toffee
makes one quarter baking tray/24 crackers

What you need:
1 cup butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
24 salted saltine crackers (or you can make these using  a 1/2 sheet tray and use a full sleeve of saltines. The rest of the recipe will work with either amount)
3/4 cup Chocolate Heath Toffee Bits
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a 1/4 baking sheet tray with foil and spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Get a timer ready!!
2. Arrange Crackers: Line the baking tray with the crackers in a single layer.
3. Start Toffee: In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat add the butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Once the mixture has started to boil DO NOT STIR. Allow to boil for 3 minutes only. Pour the hot mixture over the tray of crackers and spread to cover crackers if you need to (I never need to). Bake for 5 minutes.
4. Add Second Toffee: Remove tray from oven and spread toffee bits over the bubbling mixture. Return to the oven for 2 minutes.
5. Add Chocolate: Remove tray from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes until the chocolate chips are almost completely melted. Be patient! Once melted, use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top.
6. Rest and Cool: Let the tray sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (this will help the crackers soak up all the goodness) then refrigerate until hard.

To Serve: Remove from foil and cut into uniform pieces or break apart into irregular pieces (I prefer to break apart). Package in a cute vintage tin for a lovely gift from the kitchen.

Check out these other Easy Candy Making Recipes! 
Chocolate Nut Clusters: Recipe or VIDEO
Homemade Tootsie Rolls: Recipe or VIDEO
•Beautiful Bark: Recipe and Video 

 

Chocolate Nut Clusters

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

If you interested in giving candy making a try, I’d like to introduce you to this Chocolate Nut Cluster recipe. It’s a very forgiving recipe that is as delicious as it is beautiful. Bonus, it’s my father’s favorite holiday candy! The recipe makes two dozen and let me tell you 6 of these make a perfect gift, so give away 3 gifts and keep one for yourself! Happy candy making! 

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Chocolate Nut Clusters
(makes 24)

What you need: 
1 pound white candy coating, chopped
6 ounces milk chocolate chips (can sub bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (can sub bittersweet chocolate)
2 1/2 cups dry roasted and salted nuts (I used 1 1/2 cups cashews and 1/2 cup peanuts)
Maldon Salt (optional)
Chipotle chili powder (optional)
Sprinkles (optional)

What to do:
1. Prepare Trays: Line four 1/4 baking sheet trays or two 1/2 baking sheet trays (whatever will fit into your refrigerator) with waxed paper and set aside. *note: if you don’t have enough baking sheet trays, use any flat surface that you have that will fit into your refrigerator. Plates, platters or whatever.
2. Melt Coating and Chocolate: In a pyrex bowl set over a sauce pan of simmering water (a double boiler), add the candy coating and chocolate. Heat until melted and smooth.
3. Cool Chocolate Mixture: Remove the bowl from the double boiler and allow the chocolate to cool for 5-10 minutes. This step can not be skipped. Allowing the chocolate cool for a few minutes help keep your clusters together when you scoop them out.
4. Add Nuts: Stir nuts into the slightly cooled chocolate. 5. Scoop and Set: Using a small portion scoop (about a heaping 1 tablespoon size), scoop the chocolate nut mixture onto the prepared baking sheet trays. Sprinkle the tops of each cluster with a wee bit of salt, chipotle chili powder or sprinkles if you like. Refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Try out these other Easy Candy and Sweet Snack Recipes!
They make great gifts from the kitchen! 

Homemade Tootsie Rolls
Beautiful Bark
Homemade Caramel Corn

Homemade Gifts from the Kitchen

By Libbie Summers for Better Homes and Gardens
Photography by Andy Lyons

With the holiday season approaching, here are some homemade gift ideas to create from your kitchen quarantine. 

In a large mixing bowl combine both flours, salt, and baking powder. Stir in seed mixture. Add oil and stir until combined. Add water and stir until a loose dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 5 times until smooth. Divide into 8 portions; cover with a towel and let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll dough into a very thin rectangle, about 11×5-inches. Transfer to a prepared baking sheet. Bake each for 4 minutes; turn. Bake for 4 minutes more or until browned and crisp. Cool completely. Break into irregular shapes. Store an airtight container up to 5 days.

 

Herbed Nuts and Honey
Inspired by a Middle Eastern sweet snack, this jarred recipe makes for a fantastic party appetizer or holiday gift!
Spoon some over your favorite soft cheese. 


What you need:
1 cup salted mixed nuts (cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, and/or walnuts)
4 sprigs fresh marjoram
1 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper

What to do:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread nuts on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Transfer warm nuts to a clean kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins from hazelnuts. Cool.

Rinse marjoram sprigs well. Pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a small saucepan combine the honey, marjoram, and black pepper. Heat over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Divide nuts between four clean 4-ounce jars. Pour the honey mixture evenly between the jars atop the nuts. Gently tap jars to remove air bubbles. Seal jars. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Candied Ginger
Homemade ginger candy is the perfect hostess gift or cocktail addition. With just 4 ingredients, this Candied Ginger recipe is as easy to make as it is to enjoy.

What you need:
2 cups water
2½ cups sugar
pinch of salt
1 large ginger root (8 ounces), peeled and very thinly sliced

What to do:
In a large saucepan stir together the water, 2 cups of the sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat until just boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Add ginger to sugar mixture. Boil gently, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until syrupy.

Strain, reserving syrup (place in clean bottles for gift-giving*). Arrange ginger slices on a wire rack set over a shallow baking pan. Allow to dry overnight (ginger will still be sticky).

Place remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Add ginger and toss to coat. Divide into four 4-oz. jars. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Spiced Bourbon Cherries
Spiced Bourbon Cherries are one of the best ways to add boozy fruit to your favorite cocktail. (Hint: They taste especially amazing in whiskey drinks!) Sweeten up your next cocktail hour with a batch of bourbon-soaked cherries. Not a drinker? Spoon some over a scoop of vanilla ice cream and thank me later. 

What you need:
1¼ cups water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1¼ cups bourbon
1 pound fresh or frozen pitted dark sweet cherries

What to do:
In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, vanilla bean paste, cayenne, and cinnamon. Bring just to boiling over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Cool slightly. Add cherries and let stand 30 minutes. Divide into four 8-oz. jars. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Toasted Seasoning Salts
Whip up a big batch of these savory seasoning blends and give them to the meat-lovers in your life to season their steaks. Vegetarians can toss this no-cook food gift with popcorn, nuts, or roasted chickpeas.

What you need: 
Regular:
1/2 cup flaked sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup garlic powder
Smoky Hot: 
1/2 cup flaked sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground chipotle powder

What to do:
In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients…yep. That’s it.
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Use to season meats before grilling or roasting or combine with flour to coat chicken before frying.

More Gifts From the Kitchen Ideas:
Candied Ginger Syrup
Sweet Maple Mustard
Spiced Ketchup
Everything Bagel Topping Mix

 

Homemade French Onion Dip

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey
On Libbie: Cuisine Apron Dress in White Linen from Yum Yum Smile Shop
Gingham Napkin: Yachtie Linen Napkin Set from Yum Yum Smile Shop

I had a nostalgic craving…for French Onion Dip. So, I made some and then I made it again and again! The BIG flavor tip is patience. Be patient while caramelizing your onions -don’t rush them.

Slow and steady wins this flavor race. 

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Homemade French Onion Dip
makes 2 cups

What you need:
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups diced yellow onions (about 1 1/2 medium onions)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
4 shakes hot sauce
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
Ridged sturdy potato chips for dipping (I used Ruffles®)

What to do:
1. Caramelize Onions: In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add butter, onions, pepper, salt, onion powder and hot sauce. Cook, stirring about every 5 minutes, until rich and brown in color (about 25-30 minutes). Allow to cool.
2. Finish Dip: In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream until combined. Don’t worry about a few lumps! Fold in cooled onions.

To Serve: Serve room temperature alongside sturdy potato chips!
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Ginger Scallion Meatballs

By Libbie Summers (recipe inspired by Epicurious)

This ain’t your Italian meatball! Minimal ingredients, full of delicious flavor, overly moist, gluten free and on the table in under 20 minutes. Use them as a main dish or appetizer with a simple sweet and sour sauce.
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Ginger Scallion Meatballs
makes 16

What you need:
1 pound ground fresh pork
1 egg
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely minced pickled ginger (sushi ginger), can substitute 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
2. In a large wooden bowl, stir together the fresh pork, egg, scallion, pickled ginger, ONLY 1 tablespoon oil and salt. 3. Stir mixture together pretty vigorously until it has lightened in color and shaggy (about 3 minutes).
3. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over a baking sheet. Working one at a time, use a small portion scoop or heaping tablespoon to scoop out portions and roll into balls; arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
4. Bake meatballs until cooked through and browned on top, 8–10 minutes. 5. Serve warm as an appetizer with a simple Sweet and Sour Sauce or as a main course over jasmine rice with a Spinach Curry Sauce (recipe below).
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Spinach Curry Sauce

What you need: 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup store-bought or homemade Thai green curry paste
1 (5.4-oz.) can coconut cream
1 (5 oz.) container baby spinach
Juice from one lime

What to do: 
1. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add oil, onions and salt. Cook, stirring until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). 2. Stir in curry paste and cook for 1 minute.
3. Stir in coconut cream and bring to a low boil.
4. Stir in spinach and cook, stirring until spinach is wilted.
5. Transfer mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.
6. Add in lime juice and pulse until combined.

 

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