Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut butter! What’s not to like? Take that peanut butter and make it into fudge and that’s indulgence on a plate! My best friend Darlene has made Peanut Butter Fudge for years and last year at the beach she brought along a batch to share. It is to die for!! When Jamison requested that I make some Peanut Butter Fudge for him to take to work to share, I knew there was no other place to go than to Darlene! She kindly shared the recipe with me and you by default!

This fudge is creamy, yummy and oh so peanut buttery! It would make the perfect Christmas gift if you’re looking for something home made to share. Try it and see!

What You’ll Need:
3 cups sugar
1-1/2 sticks of butter
2/3 cups of evaporated milk
3/4ths of an 18 ounce jar of peanut butter (Note: I used roughly 1 & 3/4 cups.)
1 – 7 ounce jar of marshmallow cream (Note: I couldn’t find a 7 ounce jar so I used a 7 1/2 ounce jar instead.)
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Butter a 13 X 9 inch dish and set aside.

Measure out peanut butter and have it ready to go. Open marshmallow cream jar and have it ready to go too. Have the vanilla handy as well. You’ll want to move fast once you remove the sugar mixture from the heat.

Peanut Butter Fudge Cooking

Place sugar, butter and evaporated milk in large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for roughly 4 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 235°F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter and marshmallow cream until completely smooth. Add vanilla and stir to mix.

Pour melted mixture into the prepared dish and spread to form even layer in pan. Let stand at room temperature 4 hours or until completely cooled.

Cut fudge into squares and store in tightly covered container at room temperature.

Notes: I think it would be interesting to stir in some chunks of chocolate to the mix right before adding it to the dish to cool, but not to the point where the chunks melted. When we were at the beach we also talked about dunking it in chocolate for a chocolate covered peanut butter fudge, because after all chocolate and peanut butter…I’m just saying! 😉

Chocolate Pie

Jamison's Chocolate Pie

In Jamison’s family each holiday each person gets their own favorite pie. We’ve carried that tradition over and Jamison’s pie of choice is your basic chocolate pie. I came up with this version and few years ago. It is rich, creamy and oh so delicious. If it weren’t for the Pumpkin Cheesecake I might just have to make two! 😉

What You’ll Need:
1-9-inch pie shell, pre-baked
1/2 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 cups of evaporated milk
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoon of butter

Pre-bake a pie shell and set aside. You can use either a store bought crust or make your own. It’s completely up to you. I used a store bought version today.

Sift or whisk together flour through salt into a large sauce pan. Slowly add milk and eggs yolks and whisk until smooth. Turn stove one and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture is thick.

Remove thickened chocolate mixture from heat and stir vanilla and butter until butter melts and mixture looks glossy. Pour chocolate mixture into your prepared pie shell. Refrigerate for 4 hours to overnight. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings to serve.

Notes: There are no notes for this one, but you knew that already! ;o)

Brining A Turkey

Brining a Turkey 101

Years ago I discovered the process of brining a turkey and I was immediately hooked! A brined turkey makes a luscious, juicy bird when cooked and once you go down that path you just don’t want to go back! Strangely I’ve never tried this with a chicken, though it’s supposed to work just as well.

Anyway, up until this year I’ve always used a big bucket. The only problem with this method is that you’re basically taking up half your fridge with a big bucket for 12 to 24 hours and that can be a long time to tie up the fridge when you’re trying to prepare for Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago I came across the notion of a brining bag from the Pioneer Woman Cooks and decided to try that method instead.

I thought briefly for a moment today I might have to go back to the bucket method. I ordered brining bags from Williams Sonoma several weeks ago, but they were back ordered. I received an email earlier this week saying they had shipped and would be here in time for Thanksgiving, BUT the UPS man came and went this morning with no bags and it turns out though WS claims they were shipped via 2-day shipping to arrive in time, UPS claims that they haven’t received them yet! So what’s a girl to do?

I finally found some very large sealable bags at the store and I am using one of them instead. So whether you use a bucket or a bag, I highly recommend brining a turkey! You can’t go wrong with this method, and you’ll have a delicious turkey that you’ll love!

What You’ll Need:
1 bucket or very large brining bag
1 turkey (Our turkey this year is 22 pounds)
2 cups of sea salt
Bay leaves
Black peppercorns
Citrus (Note: Lemons, limes, oranges and/or grapefruit, etc. all work fine.)

In the bucket or large brining bag dissolve 2 cups of salt in some water. Add turkey. Add fresh herbs, citrus of your choice and peppercorns.

If you are using a bucket cover the turkey with water. If you’re using a bag, cover fill the bag to where the turkey is half covered. In a bucket the turkey is submerged, so you don’t have to do anything. In the bag, you’ll need to flip your turkey ever 2-3 hours.

Place in the fridge. Let brine 12-24 hours. Remove from brining solution and discard. Cook turkey as you normally would.

Brining a Turkey 101

Cook turkey as you normally would.

Notes: My version of brining involves cold brining in that I never heat the brining solution. I’ve seen it done both ways, but I prefer cold brining. Any herb or seasoning you want to toss into the mix will work. Sea salt works better for this solution over table salt. If you’re using table salt cut back to 1/2-3/4 a cup as it’s a different consistency than sea salt.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Within my circle of friends and family I’m somewhat known for my cheesecakes. I’ve got a ton of different scrumptious variations and people ask for them often! Key Lime, Chocolate, Peppermint, Caramel Irish Cream, Turtle, Peanut Butter, Regular, among many others and one of my favorites is my Pumpkin Cheesecake! Most every Thanksgiving I whip one of these gems up and I look forward to it all year! It’s a different twist on the standard pumpkin pie, but it will draw raves! Try is and see.

What You’ll Need for the Crust:
2 1/2 cups of gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup of sugar 1 stick of butter, melted

Add ginger snap cookies and process them in the food processor until smooth. (Note: If you don’t have a food processor then place them in a plastic bag and have fun smashing them! ;o)

Process in sugar and melted butter until a crumbly mixture forms.

Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch spring form pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to the very edges of the pan, without covering the opening. Set aside.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Gingersnap Crust

What You’ll Need for the Filling:
3 – 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1 – 15 ounce can of mashed pumpkin
1 cup of ricotta cheese (Note: You can use the whole milk, part skim or fat free version.)
1 cup of natural brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 F. (Note: This is very important when baking a cheesecake! The oven must be preheated! Do NOT skip this step!!)

Put a pot or kettle on to boil with enough water to cover 1/2-3/4 of the cheesecake pan with water.

Cream together cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, ricotta and eggs until well blended.

Mix in pumpkin pie spice and flour until just blended.

Pour into prepared crust.

Pumpkin Cheesecake "Help"

Place cheesecake pan into a baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish or pan being careful not to get any water on or in the cake itself. The water depth should be at least 1/2 the way up the side of the spring form pan, but no more than 3/4ths of the way up the side.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ready to Bake

Bake for 1 hour.

Turn oven off and open oven door to the broil position and let the cake sit unmoved for 1 more hour.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Resting

After the cheesecake sits for 1 hour carefully remove from the oven and take out of its water bath. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Notes: The water bath helps the cheesecake top to not split as much. If you’re making this on a cold day (like today for example), you might have trouble getting the cream cheese to cream completely smooth. Don’t worry about this as it will not affect the taste of the cheesecake. You can also use graham cracker crumbs instead of gingersnaps, though I think the gingersnaps give it that extra omph. If you want you can decorate the top of the cheesecake with seasonal shaped cookies (such as leaves, acorns, pumpkins, etc.) and I recommend serving it with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

OK, I’ll be completely honest here and tell you I detest cranberries. I don’t like them dried, I don’t like the fresh, I don’t like them frozen, I don’t like them baked into things, I just plain out do not like them, though I’ve tried them many ways! My sister however adores them and since I in turn adore her, I tolerate them on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce because my inner chef can’t stand the thought of the glop out of the can! 😉

Originally I saw something similar to this a few years ago on FoodTV, but I don’t recall which of their chefs was making it, though I do remember their variation had tarragon in it and I remember thinking “Tarragon and cranberries? Seriously?!!?!” So I took their basic idea and very soon I had deviated from it rather quickly. Surprisingly this isn’t half bad and even I, Ms. Cranberries Suck Monumentally, will even eat a bite or two, though it is by no means my favorite Thanksgiving treat and I’ll go for sweet potatoes or something pumpkin related over this 9.9 times out of 10, but if I have to eat a cranberry this is how I’d eat one!

My sister says it’s even good frozen right out of the freezer, but I, and you in turn, will have to take her word for that, though she’s an honest girl so I’m sure she knows exactly of which she speaks! 😉

Anyway now that I’m through picking on my sister…so all you cranberry lovers out there this one is for you. Cranberry Sauce is one of those quintessential dishes that automatically makes you think of Thanksgiving! This version is quick, easy and delicious…If you like cranberries that is, which I mentioned I don’t! 😉

What You’ll Need:
3 pints (or roughly 6 cups) of fresh cranberries
The zest of two oranges
The juice of two oranges (Note: This is normally roughly 3/4 to 1 cup of orange juice. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The recipe is very versatile.)
1 cup of organic cane sugar

Cranberry Sauce Cooking

Dump ingredients into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until cranberries pop (and yes sometimes you can even hear them do just that!) and begin to break down. The mixture will also turn very jelly like.

Chill and serve OR you can freeze the mixture for up to 6 weeks. Take from the freezer and thaw before serving OR if you’re like my sister you can just eat it frozen! (She knows that by the way, because I send the leftovers home with her and she freezes them! 😉 )

Notes: If you end up with oranges that don’t have much juice in them, just make up for it by using any orange juice out of the fridge. Any type of orange will work. Just get whatever is convenient for you.

Batter Muffins

Batter Muffins

I’ve been experimenting lately with breads that don’t require yeast. Sometimes it’s just nice to whip up a batch of something without having to wait for proofing and rising and such. These “muffins” are quick, easy and delicious. They are just perfect as a complement to a quick week night meal!

What You’ll Need:
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 tablespoon of organic cane sugar
2 eggs
1-1 1/2 cups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar with a spoon until incorporated. Add eggs and enough milk to make a thick batter. (Note: Due to humidity you may need more or less milk. Eyeball it. You want the batter to be much thicker than pancake batter, but not quite dough like.)

Spoon batter into a muffin pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray filling each cup 3/4ths of the way full. Bake for 10-12 minutes until “muffins” are golden brown.

Notes: You could add in 1/3 cup of chives and 1 cup of cheddar for Cheddar Chive “Muffins”. You could even add 1 teaspoon of garlic powder or salt as well, but if you choose garlic salt, omit the sea salt from the recipe above.

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

Once in a blue moon, and I do mean blue moon, I get the taste for a Pimento Cheese sandwich. When I was a child my Mom would make it occasionally and the kind you make is oh so much more satisfying than the type you buy in your local deli. It’s not something I eat often, but every other year or so I’ll whip up a batch. It’s one of those comfort foods at their finest and it’s simple to make to boot. Easy comfort…What’s not to like?

What You’ll Need:
1 – 8 ounce bar of cheddar or Colby cheese, shredded
2 – 4 ounce jars of pimentos, drained
2-3 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt (Note: Optional. I only add salt depending on the cheese I’m using. Most of the organic varieties are a bit less salty, so taste the mixture and if it needs salt then add it accordingly.)

In a large bowl mix cheese through pepper until incorporated. Taste. If needed add salt. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Pimento Cheese

Notes: This works well on bread as a sandwich topping or you can use celery sticks and scoop up the mixture. You can easily half this recipe as well.

Cooked Apples

Cooked Apples

It’s not too late in the season to find amazing apples! Cooked apples is another way of having apple sauce, while still letting them retain some of their shape. You can also use these to make Apple Walnuts muffins, which I’m sure you’ll see here on Dianne’s Dishes another time. What’s better than a dish you can use to make two different things?

What You’ll Need:
4-6 apples, cored and chopped (Note: If you want, you can peel them too, but I usually don’t.)
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon

In a large pot cook apples with maple syrup and cinnamon until tender and the mixture is thick. This usually takes 1-2 hours depending on how big the apples are. Serve warm or cool.

Cooked Apples Notes: This is good alone, but it also great mixed into oatmeal with a few raisins and/or nuts. You can use natural brown sugar and/or honey instead of maple syrup. You could even use molasses, but to be perfectly honest I’m not a big fan and prefer other natural sweeteners over molasses any day. The only place I really utilize molasses in my kitchen is in gingerbread cookies and now I’m off on a tangent best discussed closer to Christmas! ;o)