Chinese Boiled Peanuts- The Gateway to Becoming a True Southener

I was born just outside of Philadelphia, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I spent a wonderful 12 years playing in the creek in the backyard, going to the pool every summer day and growing into a young girl fond of the King of Prussia Mall before moving south to Virginia Beach. More fun filled years followed in the southern beach town thru high school before I moved and got swept away and truly “southernized” by the charm of Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the South, the tradition and grace, from the willowing giant oaks filled with Spanish moss to the hospitality of strangers on the uneven cobblestone streets. There were only a few southern ways that I could not adapt- one being those giant mushy goober peas, a southern delicacy – Boiled Peanuts.

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I just could not get passed the soft, gross texture, or that a perfectly good peanut was wasted- how can you possibly beat the innate peanut flavor? However, my husband, who came from even deeper south, Fairhope, Alabama, loves the little boogers and convinced me to make some. I bought a one pound bag and made two different flavors- Cajun and Chinese. The raw green peanuts are harvested late summer but you can still get raw dried peanuts thru the year in most groceries. I immediately had a change of heart when I tasted one of the Chinese boiled boogers.

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Ingredients
1/2 pound raw unshelled peanuts
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon, about 3 inches in length
1 star anise
1 clove
1 dried chili, optional

Directions
Place the peanuts into a large pot and fill with water, stirring to remove the excess dirt. Drain into a colander, rinse and repeat 3 times. In a heavy bottom pot add the peanuts and pour just enough water to cover. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and dried chili.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and then lower temperature to a slow moving boil. Cook for 4-5 hours, checking occasionally that liquid is still covering the peanuts. Add water as needed and cook until desired tenderness. Another method is to use a slow cooker on low for 12 hours.

Serve the peanuts warm; reserving the liquid to store the peanuts in, if you have any leftover. Reheat on a stove with the braising liquid to serve later.

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Like any good southerner, I can accept fault with grace- I was wrong about the celebrated boiled peanut. I fell in love with these suckers. The Chinese flavor profile enhanced the traditional peanut flavor that I could not part with, absolutely addictive.

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With a pile in front of us, Sir Wes and I did not stop eating them until they were gone; barely even a face wipe or a sip of beer. I knew at this point of indulgence that although I have a birth certificate from Pennsylvania, I was truly a Southern girl.

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Broadway Brownie Bars AKA Praline Cream Brownies

Broadways Bars- the star of every dessert buffet; that’s what one baker called them, but after baking them I would rename them as Praline Cream Brownies. The frosting you pour over top of the baked layer brownies is reminiscent of the drippings I used to peel off the parchment paper when I scooped pralines at the Charleston Popcorn Shop.

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These are extra sweet- cut them in one inch squares so you don’t overdo it. Taste of Home supplied the recipe.

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Ingredients
FILLING:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

BROWNIE:
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts

TOPPING:
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows

FROSTING:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
2 ounces cream cheese
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
In small bowl, combine the first six ingredients until smooth; set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate. Remove from the heat and cool. Stir in the eggs, and vanilla. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and nuts, stirring until blended.

Spread batter in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread filling over batter. For topping, in small bowl, combine chocolate chips and nuts; sprinkle over filling. Bake at 350° for 28 minutes or until almost set. Sprinkle with marshmallows; bake for 2 minutes longer.

For frosting, in a large saucepan, heat butter, milk, cream cheese and chocolate until melted; stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Immediately drizzle over marshmallows. Chill well; cut into 1 inch bars.

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Happy Baking!!!

Beer and Pretzel Caramels- Stuff his stocking!

It was impossible to pass over this recipe when I saw it, baking with beer and pretzels was right up my alley . I haven’t had a lot of luck with caramels, but wanted to take a chance on these “Mans Man” caramels. Salty, Sweet and Beer- put them on the coffee table for all the bowl games coming up!

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These unique treats came from Taste of Home– It might seem like a lot of beer to let go, but the outcome is so worth it!

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Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature pretzels
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

CARAMELS:
4 cups dark beer
1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter, divided
3 cups sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon kosher salt

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Directions

In a small bowl, combine sugar and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the pretzels, oil and vanilla. Add sugar mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. foil-lined baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Coarsely chop pretzels; set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring beer to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, line a 9-in. square pan with foil; grease the foil with 1 teaspoon butter and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, combine the sugar, corn syrup, 2/3 cup cream, water, salt and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 238°, about 20 minutes. In a small bowl, combine reduced beer and remaining cream; slowly stir into sugar mixture.

Using a pastry brush dipped in cold water, wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate sugar crystals. Cook, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer reads 245° (firm-ball stage), about 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Pour into prepared pan (do not scrape saucepan); sprinkle with candied pretzels and kosher salt. Let stand until firm, about 5 hours or overnight. Using foil, lift candy out of pan. Discard foil; cut candy into 1-in. squares using a buttered knife. Wrap individually in waxed paper; twist ends.

Yield: about 3 pounds/81 Servings

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The guys will love these artisanal treats for sure!!

Marscapone Filled Brownie Sandwiches

I wanted to tag everyone in this post, to get your attention and suggest you stop what you’re doing today and make these instead. By far these are absolutely my favorite cookie made to date. Rich, creamy, and decadent, the kind you would travel across town for. This is the cookie in which one is enough, at least for one seating.

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If you have to share with more than 5 friends I highly suggest doubling the recipe as it doesn’t make too many. Or hide the last one, not that I did that!

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From Better Homes and Garden Holidays– They got this one right on the money!

Ingredients
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup miniature semisweet chocolate pieces
1 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a small heavy saucepan heat and stir chopped semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and butter over low heat until melted and smooth; set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl beat eggs, granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed for 4 minutes or until thick and light yellow in color. Fold in melted chocolate mixture. Fold in flour mixture until combined. Fold in semisweet chocolate pieces. Let batter stand for 10 minutes (batter will thicken as it stands).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop batter by slightly rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 8 minutes or until set and tops are crackled. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

For filling, in a small bowl stir together the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, whipping cream, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Spread about 1 tablespoon filling each on the flat sides (bottoms) of half of the cookies. Press the flat sides of the remaining cookies against the filling.

From the Test Kitchen
To Store:  Layer filled cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store the cookies in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

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Enjoy the first day of Winter- 85 and sunny here in Florida! Looking forward to waking up in the 40s on Christmas morning!!

No Bake Lemon Drop Cookies

The kiddos are about done with school before the holiday and will soon be looking for something to do!  Put them to work with these fun candy cookies- no ovens required and plenty of hands on time!  Hard to beat the classic flavor of a lemon drop candy!!

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These kid friendly treats came from Better Homes and Gardens.  They offer a ray of sunlight on a cold winter day (unless you are in Florida with me where we pray for temperatures under 65).

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Ingredients

2 cups finely crushed shortbread cookies
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup almonds, toasted and finely chopped
½ cup finely crushed lemon drop candies
2 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon finely crushed lemon drop candies

Directions
In a large bowl, stir together the crushed cookies, the 1 cup powdered sugar, the almonds, and the 1/2 cup crushed candies. In a small bowl, stir together corn syrup, milk, and melted butter. Stir the corn syrup mixture into the cookie mixture until well combined.

Shape cookie mixture into 1-inch balls. In a small bowl, combine the 1/3 cup powdered sugar and the 1 tablespoon crushed candies. Roll balls in powdered sugar mixture. Place on a large baking sheet or tray.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Roll balls again in powdered sugar mixture just before serving.

Makes about 36 cookies.

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And of course the best part is…your little helpers are the ones able to make them!!

Wild Flower Honey- Hazelnut Lace Cookies

Lace cookies should be a part of every cookie buffet, they add the perfect option for the “I’ll have a small one” line of thinking.  These are crisp, rich and light all at the same time, the perfect answer to that sweet tooth.

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These scrumptious cookies came from Southern Living.  Truly cannot go wrong!

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Ingredients

¾ cup powdered sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon wild flower honey
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

Parchment paper

Direction

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer 4 to 5 minutes or until creamy. Add hazelnuts and next 2 ingredients; beat just until blended. Drop by level teaspoonfuls 3 inches apart onto 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

2. Bake at 325° for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes; transfer to wire racks, and cool.

Makes about 2 dozen.

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These are a perfect hostess gift, and last up to a week.  Unless the elves in the house get to them first!!

 

Triple Chocolate Mint Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate and Mint- what more do you need in a holiday cookie?  Sir Wes believes all items with ingredients of mint and chocolate reign supreme, I have to agree with him mostly!  This combination certainly needs to grace every holiday cookie list.

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When I saw these bad boys in Better Homes and Gardens 100 Best Cookie Issue I knew they were daring me to put them on the must make list.  They were just about perfect, I just added a touch extra mint.

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Ingrediants

½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon mint flavoring
½ teaspoon butter flavoring
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup powdered sugar
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 -2 tablespoons water
1 ounce white baking chocolate, melted (optional)
Very small fresh mint leaves (optional)

Directions
In a medium bowl combine the granulated sugar, the oil, the 2 ounces melted white chocolate, the egg whites, mint flavoring, and butter flavoring, stirring until well mixed. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg white mixture; stir just until combined. Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours or until firm enough to roll into balls.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls (1 teaspoon dough each). Place cocoa powder in a small bowl. Roll balls in cocoa powder to coat. Place balls 1-1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls with the bottom of a glass to about 1-1/4-inch-diameter circles.

Bake for 6 to 7 minutes or just until edges are firm. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

For chocolate filling, in a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, the melted bittersweet chocolate, and enough of the 1 to 2 tablespoons water to make a smooth spreadable filling. (If mixture seems too thin, allow it to stand a few minutes before using.)

Spread the bottoms of half of the cookies with the chocolate filling, using about 1 teaspoon filling on each. Top with the remaining cookies, bottom sides down, to make sandwich cookies.
If desired, place the 1 ounce melted white chocolate in a small resealable plastic bag. Seal bag. Using scissors, snip off a very small corner from bag. Drizzle white chocolate over tops of cookies; place mint leaves on top.

Makes about 16 sandwiches.

Storage
Layer undrizzled sandwich cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw cookies if frozen. If desired, drizzle with white chocolate as directed in Step 6.

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These will be a crowd favorite- consider making a double batch!