Sunday, December 21, 2014

Puffy Peppermint Brownies

Aloha Friends!

It's almost Christmas, are you ready?   Since I had to ship all my presents, they all went out last weekend, so there was nothing to do this weekend other than embrace sheer laziness.   A Christmas party, some wine and holiday movies rounded it out.    I'm officially *done* with my baking in as much that I've taken and given cookies everywhere they are supposed to go.    

But I still have baking supplies.   Including peppermint  mini marshmallows.    So, did I stop?  No.  I baked again.   

A friend was asking me for fitness motivation last week...and I struggled.  I've been putting eggnog in my coffee and eating cookies for breakfast.  Except for today, when I had pie instead.     The gym is still a thing, but more like 1-2 days a week instead of 4.   Maybe I can get motivated to sign up for the New Year's Eve run here in Ka'anapali.  It's the last run in the US for 2014 and the 1st run for 2015 (it starts at 11:50pm - very sneaky).     But in the meantime?   It's time for brownies.    

What You Need

1 box brownie mix of your choice, along with the ingredients to make them (Trader Joe's truffle brownie baking mix all the way!)
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 cups of peppermint mini marshmallows

What You Do

Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan with foil coated with cooking spray.   Preheat the oven per your brownie mix instructions.     

Prepare the brownies according to package directions and including the peppermint extract.    Bake following package instructions, but remove them from the oven 5 minutes earlier.

Sprinkle the top of the brownies with peppermint baking chips, then the marshmallows and top with the chocolate chips.    Bake for an additional 5 minutes so that the marshmallows get all puffy.

Remove from oven.    If you want them hot and gooey, allow 5-10 minutes to cool and then cut and serve.   To serve as regular brownies, allow to cool, then pull from pan with foil and cut into squares.

If you want to return them to their hot and gooey status later on, just pop them into the microwave for 15-20 seconds before you eat.

Meanwhile In Maui

Santa arrived on Friday via canoe!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peppermint Pretzel Sticks

Aloha Friends!

We are racing towards Christmas and the inevitable flip of the calendar from 2014 to 2015.   It also means you'll be dating things 2014 for at least a month or two of the new year.     Winter in Hawaii looks a little different than in much of the rest of the country.   It's definitely cooler and people are grabbing their hoodies and sweaters for those crisp, cool nights where it gets down to 65 degrees.

I know, right?

Mom and I went to Oahu for a couple days earlier this month to visit the big city and check out the Christmas decorations.    Waikiki was really in the spirit - there are gorgeous trees in all the hotels and shops.  

All the trees!

When we came back, I jumped into my holiday treat-making with enthusiasm, making some old favorites and trying some new recipes.      If you ever need to make something that looks fun and festive while investing less than 20 minutes, pretzel sticks are the way to go.    Get yourself some pretzels and Wilton candy melts or chocolate/white candy bark from the store and you're in business. Use the appropriate colors or sprinkles for the holiday, sports team etc.   

No oven or stove needed.   Just a microwave safe bowl and some wax paper.

This year I found Candy Cane Wilton candy melts for the first time.    They are bright and minty.   I think dipping Oreos might be a solid plan.    

What You Need

Pretzel Rods (or any other pretzel of your choosing)
Candy Melts

What You Do

Melt the candy melts per the package directions.    It's key that you use low power on your microwave.   When the candy is mostly melted, stir it to melt the rest rather than putting it back in the microwave.      You can dip the pretzels into the candy, or use a large spoon to scoop the melted candy and then roll the pretzels on the spoon (that's what I did).  Put the pretzels on waxed paper to set.  

In a climate with no humidity, candy melts dry super quick.   If it's warm and/or humid where you live, put them in the fridge and they'll be set in no time.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014: Hint of Hawaii Toffee Bars


Everywhere you look this time of year, you find cookies.   What better way to celebrate the holidays than to give, receive, bake, bring or buy cookies?    Have you ever brought cookies to an event and had people say "Ugh cookies?"   Not going to happen.

This is my second year participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.    Sharing cookies with someone you've never met and sharing the blog love as well.     Everyone who participates is assigned three people.    You bake your cookies and ship them off.    In return, cookies come your way.  Just like magic.    Not to mention you get introduced to other food bloggers and enjoy treats that you didn't bake.   It's wonderful!

To Give

I sent aloha by mail to Emily @ Life on Food,  Danae @  Recipe Runner and Sarah @ Curious Cuisinere.    If you're looking for some inspiration, hit up their blogs or get to instagrammin'.     You'll also see what cookies they made for their lucky recipients.  

To Receive

I love peppermint everything, so I was excited to get these treats delivered to my doorstep.

Then from Home Cooking Memories I enjoyed a different holiday flavor:  ginger

The Recipe

Now to share the recipe that I made:  Hint of Hawaii Toffee Bars.    Toffee and toffee bars have been a part of Christmas in our family forever.    Now that I'm in Maui, it was logical to add some coconut and macadamia brittle to to the mix.

What You Need

3/4 cup butter/margarine
3/4  cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup toasted coconut

1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, dark, or a mixture)
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup chopped macadamia brittle (I used Ed & Don's...and sent my cookie swap people a can of the macadamia brittle so they could try it out. You  could also use more pecans, more coconut, toffee bits, etc)

What You Do

1.  Line a 9x13 pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.   Preheat oven to 350.
2.  In a large bowl mix butter and brown sugar.   Ad din egg yolk.   Slowly add in flour.   Add in toasted coconut.
3.  Using floured hands (dough is sticky), press the crust into your pan.
4.  Bake for 20 minutes, until crust is light brown.
5.  In a medium sauce pan combine butter and sweetened condensed milk.   Stir constantly over medium heat until bubbly and then cook and stir for 5 minutes.   Remove from heat.   Stir in vanilla.  
6.  Pour over baked crust.   Spread it so that it covers the whole crust.   Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.  
7.  Remove bars from oven.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.   Bake 1-2 minutes until chocolate is shiny and melted.   Use a spatula to smooth chocolate over the bars.   
8.  Sprinkle with your toppings of choice.   Allow to cool on the counter, then completely cool in the refrigerator.   Use foil to remove bars from pan and slice in rectangles or triangles.   


To see the roundup of recipes of everyone who participated, click here (part 1) and here (part 2).

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cranberry Macadamia Bars

Aloha Friends!

Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we're rolling full steam ahead towards Christmas and (gasp!) 2015.   I've had family visiting over the past two and a half weeks - great fun where we ate, drank and saw all the things.  My Maui  Eats List has gotten longer and longer.

I went back to work on Friday as a feeble attempt to get back in post-vacation frame of mind.   Fortunately I have this weekend to recover from that one day.   After walking to brunch and then going out for gelato, I took mom to the airport yesterday so she could start her journey back to winter (in the form of Western Illinois).    

I made these cranberry bars on Black Friday.    Black Friday is not as big of a thing since we're on a small island, but all the shops and big box stores were open and ready  to take your money.   It was raining and so we put up my Christmas tree and had some mai tais.    Mom was committed to perfecting the mai tai while on vacation and my sister and I were her willing mai tai sippers.  

So if it's winter where you are, and you need to feel a little aloha....make these bars while sipping a mai tai.   You'll be in a Hawaii frame of mind in no time.

What You Need

Base Layer
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (I used Mauna Loa dry roasted macadamia baking pieces)

Cranberry Layer
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
zest of one orange (I hate measuring zest, so I just go by the fruit)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup whole cranberries (you can chop them if you want, I opted to keep them whole)
1/2 cup coconut flakes

What You Do

Preheat the oven to 350.   Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil and coat with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl stir the flour and sugar together.   With a two knives (or a pastry blender if you have one handy), cut in the butter until crumbly.   Stir in the 1/2 cup macadamia nuts.     Press this mixture into the bottom of the pan.    Bake for 10-15 minutes until light brown around the edges.  

In another bowl combine the 1 1/4 cup sugar,  eggs, milk, orange zest, and vanilla.  Beat until combined.   Pour over the hot crust.    Sprinkle with the macadamia nuts,  cranberries and coconut.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.   If you want to cut in while warm, go ahead.  Otherwise, wait until the bars cool, pull them out with the foil and cut them into bars.   

Meanwhile in Maui...

We totally made the cinnamon roll turkeys that were all over Facebook and Pinterest for our Thanksgiving breakfast

And we went on an early season whale watch and saw the whales!

Don't let the busy-ness of the season keep you from enjoying activities and fellowship with your friends, family and church.     The anticipation of Christmas is always my favorite part.  

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