Easy and Delicious Pretzel Bark!

If you love chocolate covered pretzels… then you’ll LOVE this!

6-8 oz of pretzels
1 cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
16 oz of chocolate chips

Super simple steps:

1. Melt the butter and brown sugar together. The butter with be separated from the sugar for the first few minutes, but then you will see that they will totally combine. That’s when it’s ready.

2. While you wait for that to happen, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil. Line the pretzels up in rows. I used the skinny, long pretzels, but if you only have regular pretzels in your house, you can use those. Just crush them a little so there aren’t big holes in the pretzels!

3. Pour the sugar and butter mixture over the pretzels, slowly, so that you make sure you get it everywhere! Place in a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes.

4. Take out and sprinkle the chocolate chips. Put back in the oven for one minute to soften them. Take out and spread the chocolate! Topping ideas could be crushed candy canes, walnuts, pecans, sprinkles, sea salt, etc. Have fun!

Let me know if you make them! Yummmmm!

Stephanie

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Classic Peanut Brittle (No thermometer needed!)

Peanut brittle is such a classic holiday gift. Don’t buy an expensive package of it this year! Buy a few half sized mason jars, make your own brittle and wrap with pretty bows! Brittle usually gets a bad rap, but it’s really not difficult. The only complication you would have is if you walk away from it, it will burn. If you don’t, then you’ll be golden! Having patience, young padawan, is the KEY to making beautiful brittle!

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp water

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbl butter

1 cup peanuts (unroasted for that classic peanut brittle taste)

In a saucepan, add the water, sugar and corn syrup. Stir and cook over a medium flame until a candy thermometer reaches 240º F.

If you do NOT have a thermometer, here’s what you do. Take a very small cup of cold water and drop a bit of the mixture in. If it dissolves into the water, it’s not ready. Mine took 18 minutes to reach the correct temperature, so around 15 minutes start trying the water test. When it turns into a hard goo in the water upon being dropped in, then it’s ready! (Watch the video to see what it should look like!)

Mix the baking soda, water and vanilla together. Set aside so it’s ready to grab later.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you are doubling the recipe, line 2 baking sheets so you are prepared!

When your mixture is at the right temperature, add the butter and peanuts. Stir and now you are waiting for it to heat up to 300º. Here is where there is potential to make a boo boo. Don’t walk away! Stay by it and stir frequently. If you want to be safe, I’d say stir once every minute. The peanuts can burn at the bottom of the pot if they are sitting there not moving. And if they do, the pot starts smoking and the smell will be unbearable! Check out what mine looked like after my first attempt… 🙂

burned brittle

Some people LOVE stuff burned. Me, not so much. My Poppou was thrilled when I brought him this completely burned batch! He didn’t have to know that I sacrificed my contacts from all of the smoke that was a result of the burning 😉

Should take about 10 minutes to get up to 300º. Drop some of the peanuts into the cold water again. If they come out hard and look like brittle, then it’s ready!

Immediately take off the heat and stir in the baking soda mixture we made earlier. Then pour all over the parchment. It will harden quickly so pour quickly and then spread out quickly or it will be VERY thick. Buttering a spatula will make it easier to spread. But if you do that, make sure it’s pre buttered, or else while you are buttering it, it will harden and be too late!

In about 30 minutes, it will harden, then you can break into pieces and pop one in your mouth! Mmm. The buttery, peanut, sugar flavor is just divine.

Enjoy! And send me a picture if you make it!!!

Stephanie

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Pumpkin White Chocolate Muffins!

I just can’t get enough pumpkin this fall!! Pumpkin and white chocolate complement each other so nicely. I almost made it a bread, but obviously ended up choosing the muffin route. Then again, I guess you could just bake in a loaf pan if you wanted to! If you’re allergic, simply not a fan of walnuts, or, don’t want to spend the money on them, feel free to leave them out!! There is actually a lot more pumpkin flavor without the walnuts. But with the nuts, it balances the flavor and makes them a bit less sweet. Your choice!

4 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups pumpkin puree

3/4 cup water

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp all spice

3 cups flour

1-2 cups white chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts

1. In a large mixing bowl, blend together the eggs, brown sugar, white sugar and vegetable oil.

2. Mix in the pumpkin and water.

3. Now add the dry ingredients and blend. Baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and all spice.

4. Blend in 1 cup of flour at a time.

5. Fold in your white chocolate. Feel free to add more than 1 cup if you love white chocolate! Then fold in the nuts, if you choose to use them.

6. Grease a muffin pan, mini muffin pan or loaf pan. Add the mixture. Sprinkle the tops of each with a few more crushed walnuts and some brown sugar. I know. Genius. 😉

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7. Bake at 375º for 20 minutes for big muffins, 10 minutes for mini muffins. (Didn’t try this, but probably 35 minutes in a loaf pan. But check after 30 minutes with a toothpick!) Place on a cooling rack. Voila!!

So simple and so delicious. As I sit here typing this, my tummy is actually not happy with me because I had a few too many for breakfast… Eeek! They’re just so good!

Have a great weekend!
Stephanie

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Peppermint Bark is DELICIOUS!

I have no idea if one would call this “bark” or “toffee”.  It’s almost a mix of both!

My grandma told me about some recipe she had from our cousins in Florida.  She was explaining it to me and I was so uninterested. I furrowed my eyebrows as she’s telling me about matzah and butter with sugar and chocolate. I was, foolishly, completely “eh” about it.

The next day, I went to work to find my boss telling me about this great recipe she makes every Christmas and that I have to go try it, “it’s in the fridge”!  Lo and behold, there’s the exact thing my grandma was just trying to explain to me, except it’s not matzah, it’s saltine crackers! (Give her a break, she’s 82! It’s basically the same thing…)

One small bite and I thought I was in heaven.  I couldn’t believe how simple it was and yet, it tasted so exquisite.  Delicate, yet distinct flavors.  I called grandma, and she relished the opportunity to repeatedly say, “I told you so!”  She’s still such a kid. And what a brat she was about it! (said lovingly, of course. We are very close.)

So we attempted to make it at her house, following the recipe from our cousins in Florida.  (You know Italians, we just have cousins everywhere)  We were able to make it very quickly and it came out not only delicious, but addicting.  Ya gotta try it!

Here’s what you need:

40 saltine crackers

1 cup of butter

1 cup of brown sugar

12 oz of chocolate or white (or both!) chips (You really don’t have to measure out the chocolate, I’ll explain why later)

For a topping, you can choose candy canes to make it nice and peppermintylicious, or you can use walnuts which is just as awesome and easier to find when it is not the holiday season.

Put your oven on 400°.

Step 1: Line your baking sheet with tin foil. Fold the edges up on the sides. Line the sheet with your crackers.  Since I’m already doing it, sometimes I’ll make 2 batches at the same time, one white chocolate and one milk.

Step 2:  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together.  Cook until boiling.  It should turn into a smooth paste.  This is the part that tastes like toffee.  It’s magical.

Step 3:  Pour all over the crackers. Spread around. Place in oven for 6 minutes.

Step 4: Crush the candy canes or chop the nuts.

Step 5: Take tray out of your oven and throw the chocolate chips on top. Cover. This is why you don’t really need to measure them out, just put them on top and make sure everywhere is mostly covered with chips.  After letting them sit for a minute or two, the chips will soften from the heat enough for you to spread them around!

Step 6: Sprinkle the candy canes or the nuts all over the top.  Place in freezer.  Let it get hard, about 30-60 minutes, or a day or two… then peel off the tin foil and break apart!

It’s THAT simple! The entire preparation and cooking process will take you ten minutes.  No joke.  And they will be flying off the plate!  Maybe that’s why my cousins call it “magical toffee”…

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Anyway, to conclude the Grama part of the story… after I released the video, I find out my great aunt is not pleased with me because I did not mention her name.  I was so confused.  I asked grama and she said, well, it’s from the cousins, but I got it from Aunt Mimi… Oops!!  So… thanks Aunt Mimi for sharing the awesome recipe with Grama from our cousins!

AND!  I have some awesome news!  I will be on my first TV segment on “Better Connecticut” on the local WSFW channel 3!  I’ll be making a chicken dish, but the bark will be on the table for the interviewers to try!  I will definitely post the video when it’s available online so all can see from out of state 🙂

Thanks for your continuous support always,

Chef Stef

 

 

 

Snowballs!!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not only because of the joyous holiday season, but ALSO because of all the delicious food you’ll be eating!! Here’s my first holiday video…

In college, my roommate would make these cookies and they were just to die for.  I got the recipe from her years ago and started making them for Christmas parties! They’re so quick, simple and delicious that I had to share with all of you!

So you’ll need:

2 cups of flour (the recipe calls for cake flour, but I can never find that in my grocery, so I use regular flour…but by all means, if you find it, go for it!)

1 cup of chocolate chips

1/3 cup of sugar (plus extra for coating afterwards)

1 cup of walnuts or pecans… or both!

3/4 cup of butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon water

Set your oven to 300°.

Chop up your nuts with a food chopper.  If you don’t have one, you can buy them already chopped up!  But, if you do have one, it’ll take you 2 minutes to chop them up yourself and … you’ll save money.  Don’t be lazy, just do it!

In a large mixing bowl, add your water, sugar, vanilla and butter.  Make sure the butter is softened!  It’ll make your life easier. Cream the ingredients together.  Mix in the flour, one cup at a time.

The mixture will be crumbly, and you’re probably thinking, “Great now what do I do with this?!”  Surprisingly enough, if you clump some together in your hands, it sticks and will form a ball.  Make them nice and round.  You may have to maneuver it for a minute to figure out the best way to do it.  Next, gently press the chopped nuts into the cookie.  (Do you have any idea how difficult it was for me to think of other words besides “balls” and “nuts”?  I was trying to avoid any nasty comments from the crazies that like to leave rude comments on youtube videos!!)

Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Put the tray in the oven and cook for a half hour.

Take out, roll in sugar and place on a serving tray!  Voila!

Personally, I think they taste better cold.. or even the next day!  Roll them in different sugars to make your balls festive (see what I mean?!) or roll in plain white sugar to look like snowballs!

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With the size I made them, I got 24 cookies. You can easily double the recipe if you need more!!

I hope you try the recipe… you’ll LOVE them!  It’s hard not to keep popping them in your mouth…

Have a FABULOUS week!

Keep it classy,

Chef Stef

Pop’s Cornbread (secret family recipe…)

Watch my grandfather teach you how to make his family famous cornbread!

As I have said before, I am very family oriented and am very grateful to have all of my grandparents healthy and happy in their early to mid 80s.  I want to make videos with them to share family recipes not only for the purposes of Chef Stef, but for posterity. I know that one day in the future I will be so happy I made these.  You should do the same!  If you don’t have a video camera, use your phone!  Or, you can buy a little flip video camera on ebay for $30. (They discontinued, but only because phones have good quality videos now so they lost popularity.  But flip videos are actually great cameras. I use a flip for all of my videos!  They are extremely user friendly, point and shoot cameras and it probably weighs half a pound.  You should get one now while they’re so cheap before they’re gone!)

The next issue was, which of the 4 grandparents is going to do it first?  Since it was my birthday on the 18th, I convinced my grandparents who live in Long Island to come the night before.  I kept telling Pop that I wanted him to make me cornbread for my birthday. I subtly mentioned to him that we may make a video. It’s the idea of doing it that stresses him out.  He is 86, afterall. I knew if I had everything set up and pressed record, he would do it.  And he did. He ate that camera up. Some of that he did all on his own.  I started to put his girly apron on to match me and he didn’t object in the least. He’s the original ham.  I got some of my spunk from him. And as you can see by the outtakes, we had a blast doing it.  We laughed the entire morning!  My grandma was there too, in the peanut gallery, cracking up behind the camera. Mom was filming.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to work the camera like I usually do and concentrate on Pop! And she did a great job. (Thanks, mom!)

It really is a very simple recipe.  If you like spicy, my grandfather sometimes dices up a few jalepenos and throws them in the batter!

Here’s your grocery list:

2 cups of flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal (I didn’t mention this in the video because Pop didn’t realize until after, that he usually mixes half cup of course cornmeal and half cup of regular.  It gives it a bit more texture.  But course cornmeal is sometimes difficult to find, so regular works just as well.)

3/4 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of butter (1 for the recipe, 1 to coat the pan so it doesn’t stick!)

2 eggs

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups of milk

Directions:

Set your oven to 425°

In one bowl, beat the 2 eggs and add the sugar. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients. Sift the flour, add the cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Now mix in your milk and melted 1 tablespoon of butter. It’s going to be a bit dry, so don’t worry, that’s correct.

Now, add the egg and sugar mixture. You can see what the consistency should look like of all the ingredients mixed together at 2:32.

At 2:37, we have no idea what Pop was singing…and neither does he! He started singing this random Italian song that we’ve never heard him sing before. We asked what it was and he said he had no idea.  It’s amazing that he sometimes seems like he’s losing his memory, and yet, he will pull a song out of nowhere that he probably hasn’t heard since the 1940s. Crazy.

Take your loaf pan and put the other tablespoon of butter in it.  You can put the pan in the oven to melt the butter, or just melt it the usual way you melt butter.  The goal is to coat the loaf pan so it doesn’t stick!  Taking any cake out of any pan is always scary because if it cracks in half because it’s stuck… well, it’ll taste good but it won’t look very fancy! So always over butter.  A little extra butter in this one instance won’t kill you!

Put your batter in the pan and place in the oven for about 30-40 minutes.  Turn the pan around 20 minutes in.  It may look burned on top, but it’s really okay.  Everyone’s ovens are different.  Ours came out a little darker on the top than it does when it bakes in Pop’s oven.  It didn’t taste any different though.  It was the thinnest layer at the top that was very brown. Around 30 minutes, take it out and stick a toothpick in.  In Pop’s oven it takes 30 minutes, in my oven it took 42 minutes until the toothpick came out clean.  Keep an eye on it!  Be sure to stick the toothpick in the middle, the thickest part, not the ends.

Pop wanted to share with you all where he got the recipe at 3:19.  I didn’t tell him to do that! He said, “Can I tell them where I got it?” The Durgin Park restaurant he’s talking about still exists in a very famous, touristy part of downtown Boston called Faneuil Hall.  I think it’s been around since the 1800s.  Isn’t it funny that back in the day, in the 1940s, my grandfather said, “Your cornbread is great, can I have the recipe?” and they handed it over? I triple dog dare you to ask any restaurant for a recipe now without getting laughed at! Every restaurant is super secretive now. I have one good guess as to why that is.  Because most restaurants no longer use all the real ingredients because it’s expensive. They look for cheaper shortcuts, for fillers. For example, when someone in my family told a waitress that she couldn’t have the bun on her burger for gluten reasons, the waitress proceeded to tell us, “well there is oatmeal IN our burgers…”  AKA, they use oats as a filler because meat is expensive. And wait… oats in a burger??  1. Who would have thought and 2. Ew?

Start cooking more and eating out less!  At least if you make your own food… you’ll know what’s in it…

Once your cornbread is done, it can be eaten warm or cold, with or without butter. If there is any leftover, store it in tin foil in a drawer or fridge if you plan on keeping it for a few days.

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This picture below was taken of Pop and my dad on my birthday in 2011.  Everyone bought me aprons because I was getting serious about starting Chef Stef!  Then life happened, and it took another 2 years to finally get it going.

IMG_0937 Real men wear aprons.

And that’s it! The outtakes are all entertaining, so watch the video til the end if you need a laugh!

Stay tuned for more episodes with my other 3 grandparents! It’s going to take a bit more convincing for them.  But, I’m so sneaky, my plan worked!  I knew if I got just one of them to do it, the rest would get jealous.  They did.  So now they’re all talking about what they’re going to make on my show.  Teeheeheeeee!

Have a FABULOUS, beautiful Fall weekend!

Chef Stef