Crab Dip Puffs

It seems as though New Year’s Eve menus are just classier versions of Christmas meals. Since it’s only a few days later all the same winter and holiday flavors are still relevant. But you want to look festive ringing in the new year so you bust out the champagne flutes, 2014 flashing glasses and the kazoos. See? Classy. I’m here to help you take your regular tasty traditions to the next level. Introducing flaky and creamy crab dip puffs.

The original cheesy and addictive crab dip has been elevated to proper New Year’s Eve fanciness. Serve these for any party or gathering and your guests will be both impressed and satisfied. The best part is that they don’t have to know how simple it all was. Squares of pre-made puff pastry are pressed into a muffin tin before being topped with a quick one-bowl dip.

The little squares of puff pastry serve as a vessels for the dip and provide a perfect flaky and buttery complement. Topped with chopped scallions for some nice color, crunch and enhanced flavor, everyone will be going back for thirds and fourths. The crab dip puffs can also be made ahead, frozen and reheated in the oven giving you less to do and more time to hang with your guests. So at your next gathering get fancy with these simple delicious crab dip puffs and remember, pinkies up!

Crab Dip Puffs
 
Yield: 48 puffs
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 8 ounces lump crab
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 green onion, chopped
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, sour cream, crab, mayonnaise and seasonings. Set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface unfold the first puff pastry sheet. Roll into a rectangle about 10" by 15".
  4. Cut the rectangle of puff pastry into 24 squares. Press each square into a cup of the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven.
  5. Spoon a small tablespoon of the prepared crab dip into each puff pastry cup then top with half of the reserved cheddar cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet, crab dip and cheddar cheese.
  7. Remove from the pan and top with the chopped green onions. Serve hot.
Notes
To reheat frozen crab dip puffs place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes or until hot.

Recipe adapted from Pepperidge Farms.

Egg Nog Ice Cream

There are some flavors we really only see around the holiday season like gingerbread and pumpkin. Another one of those flavors is egg nog. Now I think I could really enjoy a moist spiced gingerbread loaf or some smooth pumpkin hummus anytime during the cooler months, but it takes a special time of the year to be in the mood for egg nog.

The first time I had egg nog was in the form of a dining hall carton that we spiked with Captain Morgan’s in a college dorm room. I have definitely come a long way since then. This egg nog ice cream is spiced and sophisticated. But one thing hasn’t changed- this ice cream is boozy. An adult-table-only-make-you-go-woah kind of treat. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Especially on days when your whole family is together from sun-up to sun-down and you’re starting to find yourself going a little kooky. One bite of this ice cream will slap your tastebuds back to reality. Best served to adults alongside a warm slice of gingerbread cake or a pumpkin bread pudding to add a little liquored up sophistication to your holiday desserts.

Egg Nog Ice Cream
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and place a mesh strainer on top.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat warm the milk, sugar and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the egg yolks. Whisking constantly carefully pour the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks then pour the mixture with the egg yolks back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir constantly over medium heat, making sure to scrap the bottom, until the mixture is thick enough that it coats the spatula.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for a couple minutes. Then pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the bowl with the heavy cream. Stir to combine then add the nutmeg, brandy, rum and vanilla.
  6. Stir until cool over an ice bath then chill the mixture completely in the refrigerator. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Recipe from The Perfect Scoop.

Nutella Stuffed French Toast with Vanilla Pecan Butter

I have a confession to make. I have never made french toast. Well, before today’s post of course. It had been sitting on my kitchen bucket list of fifty things I want to conquer in the kitchen for quite some time now so when Matt suggested making it I decided to rise to the challenge. Except it wasn’t a challenge at all! French toast is so simple that I cannot believe I put it off for so long.

Today’s creation is Nutella stuffed french toast with vanilla pecan butter. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in. I had a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread sitting in the cabinet after making some other sweet treat I will be sharing with you in a few weeks. I was wondering how we should use it up so I wouldn’t succumb to eating the whole jar with a spoon and asked Matt what he thought we should do with it. Without hesitation he suggested making Nutella french toast and using up the leftover vanilla pecan butter from the pomegranate brussels sprouts. Genius! See why I love this guy? Well also for other reasons besides his knack for all things delicious and resourcefulness in the kitchen, but that’s not important right now.

What is important is that you grab some Nutella, crack a couple eggs and start making this french toast right now. Unless of course you’re at work or it’s the middle of the night and you are fresh out of chocolate hazelnut spread. Otherwise you have no excuse! At a friend’s house? They won’t mind if you borrow their kitchen for this dish. Dinnertime? Hello, ever heard of breakfast for dinner? In a canoe in the middle of a lake? Well what the heck are you doing reading my blog right now?

I used challah for my french toast, but you can really use any type of bread as long as it doesn’t have a lot of holes. Brioche is a popular choice because it has a high butter and egg content so it adds a nice richness to the dish. The thick slices of french toast slathered with creamy chocolate hazelnut spread and then griddled until crispy on the outside while still soft on the inside was enough to make me swoon. But then I added the butter speckled with real vanilla bean seeds and crunchy toasted pecans and I was in heaven. Complete breakfast or snack-time-dinner-time-just-not-canoe-time heaven. Enjoy!

Nutella Stuffed French Toast with Vanilla Pecan Butter
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
for the french toast
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided
  • Cooking spray or 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 slices thick cut bread, challah or brioche suggested
  • 6 tablespoons nutella, divided
for the vanilla pecan butter
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
Directions
for the french toast
  1. In a shallow bowl large enough to fit the slices of bread beat the eggs with a fork or whisk. An 8” x 8” Pryex pan works well.
  2. Add the milk, vanilla, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg then mix or whisk to combine.
  3. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray or the tablespoon of butter.
  4. Make a sandwich with 2 slices of the bread and 3 tablespoons of the nutella. Lay the sandwich flat in the prepared egg mixture and let sit for 1 minute. Flip the sandwich and let sit for another minute. Pick up the sandwich and let all the excess egg mixture drip off. If there is a lot of excess egg mixture that won’t drip off push off with the fork or whisk.
  5. Place on the heated griddle or skillet. Let cook for 4 minutes, or until brown, then flip. Cook the other side for 4 minutes, or until brown. Remove from the heat and top with the vanilla pecan butter.
  6. Repeat for the remaining serving.
for the vanilla pecan butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Evenly spread the pecans on a baking sheet and place in the oven until toasted, about 5 minutes. Once toasted, remove from the oven then chop once cool.
  3. In a small bowl combine the butter and vanilla bean seeds then add the pecans. Stir until combined.
Notes
This makes a lot of extra vanilla pecan butter. Use it for more servings of french toast, to top pumpkin pancakes or to make the pomegranate molasses brussels sprouts posted a couple weeks ago.

French toast slightly adapted from Half Hour Meals.
Butter from Bobby Flay.

S’mores Fudge

Gooey charred marshmallows sandwiched between subtly spiced crunchy graham crackers with rich milk chocolate oozing out of the middle. The crackling fire is warm on your back as you pierce another marshmallow and lick sticky remnants from your lips. It’s s’mores time folks.

Except it’s December and the fire is in your living room fireplace. The delightful sandwich held between your fingers is not a sandwich at all, but a piece of rich creamy s’mores fudge. With a base layer of buttery spiced graham crackers, a smooth and gooey center of chocolate and fluff topped with extra miniature marshmallows you will be transported to a mid-July nighttime fire pit s’mores session. And just like a traditional s’more you will be wanting more of this addictive fudge.

It may look complex, but just like the original recipe it is certainly not time consuming. Also when there are chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker supplies laying around the fudge is almost as delicious to make as it is to eat. Enjoy!

S'mores Fudge
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs, about 15 squares
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ounce Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • One 14 ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup marshmallow fluff
  • ½ cup miniature marshmallows
Directions
  1. Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar and salt until well mixed then press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Melt butter and the baking chocolate square in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  4. Pour in half the bag of chocolate chips and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula to help melt. Once partially melted add the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and stir until fully melted.
  5. Carefully stir in the condensed milk to combine and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and marshmallow fluff.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Top with the miniature marshmallows and lightly press into the fudge.
  7. Refrigerate until the fudge is set. To toast the marshmallows place under a broiler or heat with a kitchen torch for a couple minutes.
Notes
There is ½ a teaspoon of salt in the graham cracker crust because I enjoy the sweet-salty combination. Feel free to reduce the salt to ¼ of a teaspoon.

 

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

It is time for the big reveal. Ever since I mentioned fudge variations you have been waiting patiently for the chocolate decadence to continue. I’ve been holding you in suspense trying to distract you with crab dip and brussels sprouts. I should have known vegetables would only stall you for so long before the chocolate craving from within you started to take over. Just in time for this chocolate peppermint fudge.

People tend to be either mint lovers or haters. Until a year ago I used to fall into the later category. Lauren used to not like something? Huge shocker, I know you’re all gasping in disbelief. While I can’t say I’ll be whipping up mint chip ice cream anytime soon, the chocolate-mint flavor pairing has won my heart, granted that the chocolate to mint ratio is at least 3:1.

Adding mint to chocolate provides a fresh finish and refreshing break from the richness of the cocoa. This fudge has all the creamy and decadent qualities of the original recipe with a cool aftertaste and added crushed peppermint for texture. Plus how gorgeous does it look?

Perfect for gifting this holiday season.

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • One 14 ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1-2 candy canes, crushed
Directions
  1. Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and the baking chocolate square in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in half the bag of chocolate chips and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula to help melt. Once partially melted add the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and stir until fully melted.
  4. Carefully stir in the condensed milk to combine and remove from the heat. Stir in the peppermint extract.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Sprinkle the crushed candy cane pieces over the top of the fudge and lightly press on the pieces so they set into the fudge.
  6. Refrigerate until the fudge is set then cut into bite size pieces.
Notes
Although I usually promote eating fudge straight from the fridge the candy cane pieces seem to not like it in there. I had this in the fridge for a couple days and the candy cane pieces got melty and lost their crunch so I would advise you to store this unrefrigerated.