12/25/14

Candy Cane Marshmallow Cocoa Dunkers

Merry Christmas! No doubt you’ve been baking and cooking all day.  Now is the time to kick back, put your feet up and give yourself the gift of a few hours of well-earned relaxation.

These candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers are a great to make your holiday ‘me’ time feel special with remarkably little effort. Especially since you don’t have to add anything extra to your grocery list for them.

Chances are that you are going to have some odds and ends left over from your holiday baking. I’m talking about that odd half cup of chocolate chips and those couple of lonely candy canes. Rather than dooming them to months of hanging out in the back of your cupboard, put them to use in these tasty candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers. All you need is a few big marshmallows (the kind you would toast over a campfire), some chocolate chips and a few candy canes.

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Start by breaking the last two inches off of each candy cane. Put the broken ends into a food processor or coffee grinder and blitz for a couple seconds until turned into fairly fine bits. I like to keep a few chunkier bits in the mix for texture and presentation. Empty the candy cane dust into a shallow bowl.

At this stage, use the remaining portion of the candy canes to create handles for the marshmallow cocoa dunkers. Simply push the broken end of the candy cane about halfway into the top of one of the marshmallows. That should be enough for to keep things in place.

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Melting the chocolate is the next step. You could do this over the stove but the quickest way is to do it in the microwave. Put the chips into a microwaveable dish and zap for 15 seconds at a time until melted. Make sure to stop and stir the chocolate between those 15 second intervals because chocolate can go from not done to overdone really quickly. Sometimes all it needs to be ready is the extra heat from a good stir through.

What chocolate you use is up to you and you can certainly mix it up or even try blends based on what you have to hand. I had dark chocolate chip so that is what I used for these candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers but milk chocolate or even white chocolate would work just fine.

Once the chocolate is melted, dip the ends of the marshmallow into the bowls and carefully move them around until they are coated. It may be helpful to use a small spoon to smooth out the chocolate coating. After that, liberally sprinkle the candy cane dust over the chocolate.

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That’s all it takes to make the candy cane marshmallow cocoa dunkers. You could chow down at this stage and enjoy them just fine as a chocolatey peppermint treat. That would be fine but it wouldn’t be going the full path to holiday treat relaxation. Nope, these babies should be dunked in a nice cup of rich hot chocolate.

Last night, I made myself a cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate, using unsweetened vanilla almond milk and hooked one of the candy canes over the edge of the mug so that it and the attached marshmallow were adding all that extra pepperminty and marshmallowy goodness to the hot chocolate.

I loved that when I got to the bottom of the mug, there was just this one little bit of candy cane left that was waiting for permission to melt in my mouth. MMM.

Now go treat yourself!

02/28/14

3 Gen X snack foods that should make a comeback

Social media was buzzing a couple weeks ago with rumors that Crystal Pepsi was making a comeback. Sadly for those looking  forward to a moment of junk food nostalgia, it appears that the rumors were falsely started on a satirical news site.

Though, if anybody at Pepsi has any sense, they should be taking advantage of the buzz and bring Crystal Pepsi back for real.

Crystal Pepsi

The product may have be considered a flop but whoever created the Crystal Pepsi commercials knew what they were doing. They were so epic that, even 20 years later, most folks of a certain age can’t help but hear  Sammy Hagar in their heads at the mere mention of Crystal Pepsi.

Crystal Pepsi might not becoming back anytime soon but it did get me thinking about other lost Generation X food products that I would like to see return.

First choice has to go to Apple Slice soda. Also from Pepsi Co, Apple Slice was part of a range of fruit flavored Slice branded sodas that were out in the mid 1980s.

Grape, pineapple, peach, strawberry and, the fairly progressive for the time, passion fruit were just some of the other varieties of slice soda. I can’t say that I remember the taste of any of them other than Apple Slice soda.

My mother was pretty into it at the time, especially the Diet Apple Slice. I can’t blame her because it was a flavor unlike any other soda of the time. Tart and crisp a bit like a sharp cider taste.

The nearest I have gotten to it since was in the UK with Apple Tango soda but it wasn’t as full bodied as I remember Apple Slice tasting.

Around about the same time period as Slice, there was a potato chip offering from Keebler called Tato Skins. There was a bunch of Tato Skins flavors such as cheddar and bacon, sour cream and onion, and steak and potato but my favorite was the basic baked potato flavor.

I’ve heard from several people that T.G.I. Friday’s Potato Skins is the same product as Keebler’s Tato Skins just under a different name.  Has anybody that remembers Tato Skins tried them? What is the verdict?

Why did Jello-O Pudding Pops get taken off the market in the first place?  Perhaps my home wasn’t representative of the nation at large (in OH so many ways) but we almost always had them in the freezer.

Jell-O put out both gelatine and pudding pops. I would eat the gelatine ones if they were around but they have a slightly odd texture. The pudding pops, on the other hand, were great. Especially the chocolate and vanilla swirl pudding pop variety.

I was the fat kid that was always on one diet or another. In addition to the the taste, the pops were on the lower end of the calorie spectrum from most of the snacks I enjoyed. The Jell-O Gelatine pops were a mere 35 calories each and the Jell-O Pudding Pops came in at 90 calories each.

Plus, Bill ‘The Cos’ Cosby was on TV every day pushing them too us. Any friend of Mortimer Ichabod Marker had to be taken seriously.

P.S.  Was there a butterscotch flavor of Jell-O Pudding Pops or am I just dreaming it into existence?

02/12/14

Crazy easy sun-dried tomato and olive dip

February should be named national detox month. Scrolling through my Facebook feed sees that friend after friend muttering about their juicing routine, weigh ins and new gym memberships.

I’m just as guilty as anybody else. I’ve been promising myself for weeks that I would get back on the diet wagon.  Several years ago, I lost nearly 100lbs and I’ve stayed within 10 pounds of that loss ever since. However, there is a massive difference in how I feel between those ten pounds.  I also think those ten pounds are where I start to look better but even with that in mind, for some reason, I am having trouble focusing.

All the more frustrating because I know exactly what works for me. I need to count calories so that I stay under 1500 for the day and exercise four days a week. The road map to feeling better is right there and I’m not using it.

So, here I go again. Just like so many of you.

My goal for the next week or so is to re-introduce higher levels of fruit and vegetables back into my diet and to get my ample bottom onto my treadmill after work.

The trickiest part of the day for me is lunch. It has to be both easy to make and to take to work. It also has to be filling enough that I don’t find myself snacking in the later part of the afternoon.

I’m bringing a crazy easy sun-dried tomato and olive dip recipe out of retirement for this initial healthy eating push.

It is as simple as putting all the ingredients into a mini chopper or food processor for a few seconds. Which means it easily fits into my morning routine. I scoop it into a container, load another one up with raw dipping vegetables and take them both to work.

Any taste buds that aren’t awake after the first few bites are probably dead because the flavors of this sun-dried tomato and olive dip are pretty intense. If raw vegetables aren’t on your list of favorite foods, you’ll take less notice of the raw taste when you dredge them through the dip before eating.

Usually, I use reduced-fat cream cheese for this but you could use full fat just fine if the calories aren’t a concern. This time around, I tried a Greek yogurt cream cheese that my local Ralph’s supermarket is selling. I’m lactose intolerant and for some reason, Greek yogurt products don’t cause a reaction. I was curious to see if it would work.  The cheese has a bit more of a tang to it than normal cream cheese but with everything else going on in this dip recipe, it worked just fine.

The recipe makes enough that I can take it to the office for several days worth of lunches.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Dip

sundried tomato dip

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup green olives, pitted
1/3 cup sun-dried tomato packed in oil, drained but with some oil still clinging
1 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 lemon, zest of
Directions:
Put all ingredients into a mini chopper or food processor.
Combine on the pulse setting for about 30 seconds until everything is well combined but there is still a chunky texture to the tomatoes.That’s it, it is all done.