World’s Easiest Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Ok, I haven’t tried all the peppermint bark recipes in the world, but I can’t imagine one being easier than this. I have been asked for the recipe so many times and every time I respond with, “well, it’s not even really a recipe.” We have a tradition of making sweet treats for my in-laws every year for Christmas. This tradition started years ago before they were my in-laws and long before I knew how to cook or bake anything. So, the treats all relied on melting chocolate and dipping things in it or making things out of it. This peppermint bark is a great crowd pleaser if you need stocking stuffers, gifts for neighbors, or you’re throwing or going to a holiday party this year.

You’ll Need:

1 package of peppermint candy canes

24 ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips

24 ounce bag of white chocolate chips

No really, that’s it

How To:

First, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Then, put 5 candy canes into a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin until broken into small pieces. This is a great way to work out some of the tension that always pops up during the holidays.

Then, melt the semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler being very careful not to get any water into the chocolate. You can make your own double boiler by boiling about an inch of water in a sauce pan and placing a glass or metal boil over it so the steam from the water heats the bowl. Low heat tends to be best and it’s important not to walk away for too long since chocolate can burn quickly. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted. Once melted, just pour the chocolate into the cookie sheet and smooth it out. Let that sit until mostly hardened (about 45 minutes but this can be sped up by popping it in the fridge). Then, just repeat the melting process with white chocolate and stir in about ¼ cup of your peppermint once melted. Pour that over the semisweet chocolate and gently smooth and swirl it on top. Lastly, just top with the rest of your peppermint and let harden completely. Once hardened, break up your peppermint bark into any size pieces you like and enjoy!

Optional:

This is another easy recipe to dress up or down depending on how difficult or fancy you want to make it. It’s fairly simple to pour the layers of chocolate into candy molds or cookie cutters if you want to make some impressive shapes. You can also throw additional toppings on with the peppermint. We like using crystal sugar sprinkles to make it a little sparkly and little snow flake sprinkles are always a fun touch for holiday treats!

topped

Advertisements

21 Ways to Mix Up Your Mashed Potatoes

Image

One of the things I’ve noticed since we’ve become foodies is that we just can’t leave well enough alone. When we visit my family in Ohio, it drives them crazy to see us spending the whole time eating a meal we’ve cooked discussing how to tweak it the next time. Whereas some see a holiday classic when looking at a big fluffy pile of mashed potatoes, I see a blank slate with endless possibilities. So, here’s a simple recipe for basic mashed potatoes and a list of ideas for combinations of “mix-ins.” When it comes to mashed potatoes, as in life, cheese is your friend.

You’ll Need:

3 pounds of potatoes of your choice (Yukon gold, russet, and reds are favorites)

½ stick unsalted butter

2 cups heavy cream

Salt

Pepper (white pepper can be substituted if you like purely white mashed potatoes)

How To:

It’s up to you whether you want to peel your potatoes, but keep in mind waxy-skinned potatoes are better if you are leaving the skin on. Chop into even cubes and place into a large pot. Cover with cold water, salt the water, and boil until tender. Drain the water and add the half stick of butter and warmed heavy cream as well as salt and pepper to taste. Mash the potatoes using a hand or stand mixer, but be careful not to overwork them as they can become gummy if the starches are broken down too much.

One you have your base ready, have fun adding as much or little of these mix-ins as you like!

  1. Mascarpone cheese and chives
  2. Sauteed or roasted garlic and parmesan
  3. Fontina and scallions
  4. Cream cheese, parsley, and chives
  5. Gorgonzola and crumbled bacon (we use turkey bacon)
  6. Rosemary (chopped finely! we skipped chopping once and it was like potatoes full of little sticks) and sage
  7. Cream cheese, roasted garlic, and red pepper flakes
  8. Sautéed leeks and garlic
  9. Smoked gouda, fontina, and scallions
  10. Caramelized onion and roasted red pepper
  11. Goat cheese and sautéed shallots
  12. Chipotle pepper and cream cheese
  13. Sour cream and dijon
  14. Cheddar cheese (use white cheddar if you want to keep them looking like classic mashed potatoes), chives, and thyme
  15. Mozzarella stirred in and topped with parmesan and breadcrumbs and briefly broiled for a crispy top
  16. Pesto and parmesan
  17. Blue cheese and a dash of cayenne
  18. Alfredo sauce and parmesan
  19. Sour cream and sautéed leeks
  20. White cheddar, sautéed shallots, and chives
  21. Cream cheese, garlic sautéed in butter, and scallions

Festive Wine Cocktails

spiced red wine

I think serving a signature cocktail is such an easy way to add a festive touch to any holiday gathering. When serving a crowd, wine-based cocktails can bring such a warm touch while keeping beverage expenses lower than providing a full bar. As an added bonus, they are harder to over-indulge in than traditional cocktails so they keep the holiday spirit up without knocking you down!

These are three of my favorites, which I like to serve in glasses that fit the theme of the beverage and the occasion. All of these recipes can be made in big batches so you don’t spend the whole evening tending to drinks.

Spiced Red Wine:

In the days of the crockpot craze, this is a great one to leave warming in a crockpot and let guests help themselves. Just add a full-bodied red wine (shiraz and chianti are good options for this) to the crockpot with a small splash of orange juice, sliced oranges, and either store-bought mulling spices or a mix of cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Allow to heat through before serving and garnish with orange slices, cranberries, or cinnamon sticks. This one has the added plus of filling your home with a wonderful holiday scent!

IMG_1038 IMG_1130

Champagne Cider:

This one is light and refreshing but still works well with the season. Chop a mix of apples and pears into squares or slices, whatever your preference. Add one part apple cider to three parts champagne and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Garnish with the apples, pears, and a cinnamon stick. We love this one in mason jars!

Champagne Cider

Cranberry Pomegranate Mimosas:

We love to sip these and get into the holiday spirit while we start cooking our Thanksgiving dinner. It’s such a festive way to kick off the day! Simply fill a flute or wine glass halfway with champagne and add a dash of cranberry juice and a dash of pomegranate juice. A couple of cranberries or a spoonful of pomegranate arils look beautiful floating around on the bubbles.

Thanksgiving mimosa

Cheers!

Caramel Brie En Croûte

IMG_2405

We serve this with crackers, pieces of baguette, sliced fruit, really whatever else is around. Honestly, you could put it on a shoe and your guests would still love it.

IMG_1120

You’ll Need:

¼ cup brown sugar

¾ pecans

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 roll out pie crust

1 16 ounce wheel of brie

1 egg

1 cup sugar

½ cup water

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup heavy whipping cream

How To:

For the Brie:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the maple syrup, brown sugar, and ¼ cup of the pecans. Roll the pie crust out on a cutting board or other flat surface and pour the pecan mix onto the crust in a circle about the size of your brie. Place the brie on top and wrap the whole thing in the crust, smoothing out the edges and making sure the crust meets all the way around. Flip the brie pretty-side-up, brush with an egg wash made of egg white and a splash of water, and bake for approximately 25 minutes until golden brown. You’ve just made brie on croûte and could stop there but, oh, please don’t.

For the Sauce:

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk or stir until the mixture begins to boil, then stop stirring immediately. Once the sugar turns a light amber color (just a few minutes), add the butter. This may foam up briefly. When the butter is melted, take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream until smooth. Add the remaining pecans and pour on, over, under, or around, the brie.

Optional:

I love making food beautiful, so I can’t help but decorate this brie with the leftover pie crust. If you’d like to add a little flourish like I do, you can use cookie or pie cutters to cut out shapes or, my favorite, cut out a little leaf with a butter knife and add a little stem made from a piece of the crust rolled in your hand. Just stick them to the top before popping the brie in the oven. This step just adds a couple of minutes but makes this dish feel even more special for the holidays.

IMG_1119

Shout out: This is a variation on a recipe my mom gave me. Great find!

Maple Cranberry Apple Pie

Image

I can’t imagine a better time to start writing about food than the week leading up to Thanksgiving! This is my favorite day of the year. It’s like the foodie Superbowl.

I keep running into tips and tricks online and in magazines on how to get around spending the whole day cooking, but in my household a whole day cooking is our idea of an awesome time. Now if only we could find some people to feed. It looks like it’s just going to be the two of us this year but that won’t stop us from making a turkey and all the sides while sipping cranberry mimosas and mulled wine all day (those recipes to come). We start planning our Thanksgiving recipe for the year some time around 8:00 the Thanksgiving before and never quite finish getting excited about what to make or how to switch things up. The one thing we can’t seem to avoid making is our Maple Cranberry Apple Pie. This recipe was a happy accident that happened when we decided to Vermontify a traditional apple pie recipe with some maple syrup while also realizing we didn’t have some of the traditional ingredients for apple pie and subbed in pumpkin pie spice. There, I said it, the secret ingredient to our apple pie is pumpkin pie spice!

Image

Recipe: Maple Cranberry Apple Pie

You’ll Need:

1 package of roll out pie crust – you can get fancy and do it yourself, but we cheat

8 sliced apples – a blend of baking apples and a couple of granny smiths works nicely

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ flour

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon cinnamon – more to taste if you love cinnamon

A pinch of salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons of butter

How To:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice apples to a thickness you like, keeping in mind that thicker slices will likely to be firmer when the pie is cooked. We prefer to end up with soft apples so we do a fairly small slice. Mix together the apples, dried cranberries, sugar, maple syrup, flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

To prepare the crust, roll it out and put one sheet into the pie pan. Dump the apple mix into the first pie crust and top with the other. This part can be as easy or as complicated as you like. You can simply put the other crust on top and cut slits to let out steam or go fancier and make a nice lattice or use cookie or pie crust cutters to cut out designs to throw on top. Once your top crust is in place, make an egg wash with one egg white and a splash of water and brush the crust to make it shiny. Dot the top of the pie with the butter. Pop the pie in the oven for around 40 minutes, checking on it periodically. It’s ready to take out once the filling begins to bubble up and the crust is golden brown. Enjoy!

Image