candied citrus peels

A recent bout of juicing has left me with a riduculous wonderful amount of residual citrus fruits. Because we sadly don’t compost, and because I couldn’t bring myself to throw so much deliciousness out, I knew that there had to be another solution. A few Google searches later, and I knew I had come up with the perfect answer…

…candied peels!

This is something I had yet to try, in all my time spent in the kitchen. To be quite honest, the thought of preparing and making candy anything always felt slightly out of reach; something I longed to try, but just couldn’t bring myself to do. I blamed it on my lack of resources {not having a candy thermometer}, not trusting the cheap stovetop in my kitchen {the worst for uneven heating and cooking!}, and really, I was just a little scared. So I though this would be the perfect trial run – I mean, how hard could it be to work with what’s little more than simple syrup? My cutting skills are up to par, and my knives are good. I was set, and ready to start this adventure.

I’ll be honest in saying this is, easily, one of the quickest and tastiest treats I’ve whipped up in quite some time. The bitterness of the pith is removed prior to cooking, so all you’re left with is a sweet burst of citrus flavor, highlighted and rounded out with the simple syrup in the second part of the cooking process. The final sprinkling of sugar at the end takes it over the edge, making it seem more indulgent than it really is. A few adaptations I found along the way:

-if you like less sweet treats, scale back on the sugar during the second cooking {I reduced mine to 3/4 cup, and it was perfect for my palette}

-a squeeze of fresh lemon juice in the second cooking helps to enhance the flavor

-mix in a little bit of fine sea salt with the sugar {for tossing at the end} to get more of that “salty sweet” combination so many of us love

The hubs has plans to integrate these little jewels into summer cocktails, both as garnishes and flavor enhances. Myself? I can see a second batch happening soon, with one end dipped in chocolate and maybe a few sprinkles of fun, flavorful toppings. Happy candy-making, y’all!

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Candied Citrus Peels {adapted from Martha Stewart}

Ingredients:

2 grapefruits

3 oranges

1-1/2 cups sugar

 

To Prepare:

With a sharp paring knife, slice off ends of all fruits. Following curve of fruit, cut away the outermost peel, leaving most of the white pith on fruit. Slice peel lengthwise int to 1/4″ wide strips.

In a medium pot of boiling water, cook peel until tender, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer peel to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread in a single layer to dry slightly, about 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peel and boil until it turns translucent and syrup thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer peel to wire rack, separating the pieces as needed.

Let peel dry for 1 hour. Toss with 1/2 cup sugar to coat.

Candied Citrus Peel

 

 

irish car bomb cupcakes

I couldn’t resist. One more St. Patrick’s Day post. I mean…the title is intriguing, no?

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Whether or not you participate in the traditional antics of good ol’ St. Patty’s Day (green beer, anyone? goofy “kiss me, I’m Irish!” t-shirts), please do me a favor and make these cupcakes. Whoever invented the controversial “car bomb” drink…a pint of Guiness with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson floating atop it, probably didn’t know what they were doing, but I for one sure am glad they did. And yes, I have been known to enjoy this unusual flavor combination more than once in my college days; maybe I still do?…

Want to know something funny? The first time I made this recipe wasn’t for St. Patty’s Day; heck, it wasn’t even for an Irish celebration! The hubs had requested something “different” for his birthday dinner…so upon copious digging through my recipe files, I stumbled upon this gem. I don’t think I had even finished reading him the title when he began eagerly nodding is head up and down. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he would have started shouting; as you all know, by now, we have a thing for anything “liquid libation”. After our first bite of these treats, we were sold. They’ve become a St. Patty’s day staple in our household ever since then.

But before I get too far off topic, let’s talk flavors, shall we?

A basic chocolate cake and buttercream frosting recipe has been elevated with the add-ins of this drink. Traditional chocolate has its flavor embellished with the addition of Guiness beer. I mean what I say, and this malty addition truly takes the cake to an entirely different level. It results in a rich, velvety crumb texture, with a chocolate taste unlike anything I’ve yet to match. A smooth, dreamy chocolate ganache is intensified with a healthy dose of Jameson’s Irish Whisky. Luscious buttercream becomes heavenly with Irish Cream liquor. I don’t know about y’all, but this has sent me into a foodie spiral. These cupcakes are, without a doubt, unlike anything other.

I urge…no, implore…you to make these cupcakes. Whether or not you make them to celebrate the “luck of the Irish”, I promise you that you’ll feel lucky to be indulging in something so delicious. Because no matter the time of year, everyone deserves a treat.

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Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes {adapted minimally from Smitten Kitchen}

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream (I prefer to use Daisy Light sour cream)

Ganache Filling
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional…omit if you are planning on sharing with non-drinkers)

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

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Make the filling: Fill a large pot with water and set it atop your burner, around medium heat. You want the water to be simmering, but not boil. Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl, and place atop the pot on the stove (we’re essentially creating a double boiler here). Pour the cream over the chocolate, stirring constantly until the chocolate and cream have created a smooth, luxurious sauce.Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

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Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Using a small paring knife (or a small apple corer), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. *Save these little gems – we’ll talk about them them shortly* Fill the centers of each cupcake with the ganache.

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Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

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Frost the cupcakes, then store in an airtight container. After a day, be sure to refrigerate them, otherwise they will start to go stale. And be sure to share. Because I guarantee you, if these sit around your house, you will eat them all. I speak from experience.

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*because these cupcakes centers are so delicious, I decided to fold them into vanilla ice cream I made with the leftover heavy cream. The recipe I used can be found here. After preparing the ice cream according to your manufacturer’s directions, gently fold in the cupcake centers. Freeze in an airtight quart container. 

strawberry frozen yogurt with dark chocolate chunks

Raise your hand if you like dessert. that’s what I thought.

Now, raise your hand if you like healthy dessert. (hopefully it’s not just me sticking my hand up in the air!)

I adore frozen treats in all ways, shapes and forms. I also have a sweet tooth the size of China, which is a blessing and a curse. Very rarely do I meet a dessert that I don’t like, which is why I decided that, after a year(!) of sitting idle in my pantry, I had to bring out the ice cream make that the hubs and I got for a wedding gift.

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Now, we all know that winter is the season of comfort food. For me, ice cream is comfort food. I can’t help it, I’ve always enjoyed digging into a bowl of delicious, indulgent ice cream. It could be 100 degrees or 0 degrees, it ain’t no thang to me. And the more chocolate involved in there, the better! But with the holiday season finally coming to an end, I figured that I had to “jazz up” or so to speak, my dessert. I had to do it in such a way to balance out all the richness from Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s, and their corresponding celebrations.

Enter the trendy, hip and super cool ingredient of Greek yogurt. I know, I know…everyone cooks with this, sings its praises, and yes – I am one of “those people”. But I just can’t help myself, I love it. Chock full of protein, and low in sugar, it makes the perfect base for a delicious, frozen treat. And yes, I like just plain ol’ Greek yogurt. Sure, I’ll eat a flavored one if you put it in front of me (there really isn’t anything I would eat, except lima beans, but that’s another story for another time), but I like it plain, drizzled with a little bit of local honey. Perfection.

So! Let’s talk fro yo, shall we?! The reason that I am such a huge fan of this machine (I’ve used it twice already this week!), is because you can crank out a scrumptious, homemade, and healthy treat in just a matter of minutes. I kid you not, this dessert comes together in just a matter of minutes before placing it in the ice cream maker. Dump all the ingredients into a food processor, whirl away until combined, then pour into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Boom! You’re done. And well on your way to enjoying a cold dish of healthy frozen yogurt. *If you don’t have an ice cream maker (or even if you do, but want to try something different!), give this a try in popsicle molds! I promise you, it will not disappoint. 

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt with Dark Chocolate Chunks

{recipe adapted slightly from Two Peas and Their Pod}

The manufacturer suggests placing the mixing bowl of the machine into the freezer before using. This aids in the process of making the final product – if you don’t have overnight, any time will do!

32 ounces of Greek yogurt (I used Chobani 0%)

1/2 – 1 C sugar (feel free to adjust according to your taste; I went big and went for the full cup – though I think next time I will go closer to the side of the 3/4 amount)

1 tsp. good vanilla extract

1 bag of frozen strawberries, thawed

pinch salt

1/2 C (heaping is fine!) of good dark chocolate chunks, shaved thin

In your food processor, combine all ingredients except for the dark chocolate chunks. Process until very smooth.

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Turn into the bowl of your ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Mine goes for about 25 minutes. Once completed, turn out into your storage container and fold in the chocolate chunks. Serve immediately, or freeze for later.

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*be warned – while this comes out of the machine with a soft-serve like consistency, it will harden once it sits in the freezer for some time. I like to set it out an hour, at least, before serving, checking occasionally for softness. That is, if you can wait that long!