Friday, December 24, 2010

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

If you know me, you know I love to make homemade Holiday candies!  Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they make great Holiday gifts in some cute boxes and tissue paper.  Everyone we've given them to has loved them.  In this recipe, I made one of my favorites, dark chocolate peanut butter cups.  Of course, you can always substitute milk chocolate for the dark chocolate if you prefer.

You'll also need to stop by a cake/candy/baking store to pick up a candy mold and the chocolate pieces.  You can also find dry fondant there.  I went to Cakes Plus in Laurel, Maryland, but any cake/candy/baking store will do.

If you like this recipe and want to try out more homemade candies, try my: Cream-Filled Chocolate Truffles and my Chocolate Caramels.

Dark Chocolate Pieces
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Cup Crunchy Peanut Butter (I love Crazy Richard's)
1/2 Cup Dry Fondant (or Powdered Sugar)

1.  Fill a medium skillet 1/3 full with hot water and simmer on stove top.  Fill a coffee cup with dark chocolate pieces and stir occasionally until they are melted (in the photo I also have white chocolate and milk chocolate in cups, as I was making multiple types of candy at once).
2.  While chocolate is melting, prepare filling.  Melt butter in a bowl.  Stir in peanut butter and dry fondant until well-combined.
3.  Spoon a small amount of chocolate into a candy mold and be sure to cover the sides, so no part of the mold is without chocolate (I just use the spoon for this and it works fine, but you can also use candy brushes if you so choose).  This may take some practice, to be sure you use as little chocolate as possible, while still covering all of the candy mold.  If you use too much chocolate, your candy will be hard to bite in to and you won't have adequate room for the filling.
4.  Place the candy mold flat in your refrigerator for 3-5 minutes, or until set.
5.  Take a bit of the peanut butter filling (roughly form into a ball) and place into each individual candy mold.  Top with more dark chocolate to completely cover and fill the filling.  Lightly tap the entire candy mold on the counter when done, to remove any air bubbles.
6.  Place the candy mold back in the refrigerator for 5-7 minutes, or until completely set.  Remove from refrigerator, flip candy mold upside down on counter top and tap out each pieces. Remove any excess chocolate from the pieces.

Wa-La!  You have delicious peanut butter cups!  Enjoy!

Heart-Healthy Lasagna

Mmm, lasagna.  My recipe doesn't alter the classic recipe too much, but adds the healthy kick by subbing turkey in ground beef, using whole-wheat pasta, and low/no-fat cheeses.  It's also better to make your own pasta sauce than to buy storemade (less sodium and other preservatives).  

This is a great meal to make on a Sunday night (ahem, that's what I did) and store for weekly lunches!

1 lb Ground Turkey Breast
1/4 Cup Minced Onion
2 Cloves Garlic, Crushed (or use 2 tsp. Minced)
1 Can (14 oz) Diced Tomatoes
1 Can (6 oz) Tomato Paste
1 Can (14 oz) Tomato Sauce
2 tsp. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
4 tsp. Dried Parsley
12 oz Whole-Wheat Lasagna Noodles
15 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 Egg
2 Cups Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In large skillet, brown turkey meat and minced onion over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low, stir in garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce.  Add all of basil, oregano, sea salt, and black pepper and 2 tsp. of dried parsley.  Stir to combine and let flavors cook on low, stirring occasionally.
3.  In large stockpot, bring water to boil and cook lasagna noodles to package directions.
4.  Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, and remaining 2 tsp. parsley.
5.  In 9x13 glass baking dish (spray with cooking  spray), first spread 1/3 of the meat mixture on the bottom.  Lay noodles over the top of the meat mixture, overlapping slightly (about 1/3 of the noodles).  Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.  Next, again spread 1/3 of the meat mixture over the cheese layer.  Sprinkle with half (1/4 cup) of the Parmesan cheese.  Repeat layers, next come the noodles, second half of the ricotta, mozzarella, meat and Parmesan.  Then, a final layer of noodles and top with the remaining 1 cup Mozzarella cheese.
6.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes,


For freezing:  You can freeze this meal easily also.  One way (how I did it, to save space) s to cool the lasagna in the glass dish, then cut in half.  Put each half into plastic wrap, wrapping tightly.  Then wrap in aluminum foil.  Be sure to date and label it.  You can freeze this for up to 3 months.  To reheat, defrost in refrigerator during the day.  Then, put half the dish into a baking dish and bake at 325 F for about 30 minutes, or until hot.
The second way to freeze the meal is to bake it in a disposable aluminum pan and freeze it directly in that dish (after it has cooked, cooled, and you've wrapped it).  Defrost and reheat the same way as the first method.

Breakfast Casserole

Breakfast casserole is one of my favorite Holiday dishes.  I'll be making it tomorrow morning after Christmas Mass for a filling brunch while we open gifts.  You can try it with a number of variations: using multiple veggies; trying different cheeses; adding herbs/spices; using sausage, bacon, or both; or spicing it up with banana peppers, jalapeƱos, and serving with a side of salsa or sour cream.

12 Eggs (or egg substitute)
1 1/2 Cups Skim Milk
2 Cups Grated Monterrey-Jack Cheese
2 tsp. Dried Mustard
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
10 pieces Whole Wheat Bread, torn into pieces
4-6 oz. Turkey Sausage, Browned
4-6 oz. Turkey Bacon, Browned
6-8 oz Chopped Spinach (fresh or frozen, thawed)
4 oz. Mushrooms (I used a small can)

1.  In a mixing bowl beat together the eggs, milk, cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper.
2.  Spray a glass baking dish (9x13) with cooking spray.  Spread bread pieces evenly.  Tear the browned sausage and bacon into pieces and spread evenly into dish.  Evenly add the spinach and mushrooms..  Finally, pour egg mixture over the top.  Cover with foil and let sit overnight.
3.  In the morning, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the eggs are set.