Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

What a treat! Everyone knows it’s a celebration when you are served strawberries dipped in chocolate! Learning how to make them isn’t difficult but may take a bit of practice figuring out how to dip and not drop the strawberries in the melted chocolate!

Buy medium size berries – two bites is the prefect size. As beautiful as those giant ones are, they are too hard to eat!

Gently rinse the berries in cool water…

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…and then spread them out on a clean dish towel to dry.

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Let them dry completely before you start dipping. Not a drop of water should be left on the berries.

In addition to dipping the strawberries in chocolate, you can also dip the edges in coconut, chopped nuts, sprinkles or nonpareils. (Those are those colored candy dots in the photo above.)

Eight ounces of chocolate will cover about 12-14 medium-large strawberries. You can use any type of chocolate you prefer – dark, milk, semi-sweet or white chocolate.

(Note: A block of white chocolate is a lot tastier than “white chocolate chips, which are only “chocolate flavored” and not the real thing!)

If you are using a chocolate bar or a block of chocolate, chop it into small pieces…

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…and then put the chocolate in a small microwave safe dish. Melt it, in the microwave, for about 1 minute and 30 seconds on medium. (Don’t cover the dish!)

When melting chocolate chips, they will not really change shape that much until you give it a stir.

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The goal is to slowly melt the chocolate, not bring it to a boil. If it still isn’t melted, continue melting in 15 second increments in the microwave. Stir the chocolate. It should be smooth and have no lumps.

 

Once the chocolate is melted, start dipping.

Try to cover about 2/3 of the strawberry with chocolate. It looks prettier than covering the entire strawberry.

Then gently dip the strawberry into one of your additional toppings.

When you do the dipping, be sure to hold back the green top so that it does not get covered in chocolate.

If you are having difficulty holding the strawberry, skewer it, just under the green bit, with a toothpick.

You are less likely to drop the strawberry if you hold it with a toothpick. (There are all sorts of chocolate dipping tools for sale as well.)

Put the dipped berries on some wax paper to set. They should be stored in the refrigerator, and eaten at room temperature, within 24 hours.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Fudge

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, so it’s time to start thinking about chocolate! (Actually, I don’t need a holiday to think about chocolate!)

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This blogpost is all about learning how to make fudge. Chocolate lovers may also want to check out my post on Chocolate Fondue and…

How to Make Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate.

For the fudge you will need:

    • 1 pound of fine-quality milk chocolate
    • ½ stick of unsalted butter (OR 1/4 cup or 2 oz. or 56 g)
    • One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
    • ¼ teaspoon of salt
    • ½ teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

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You may have noticed something weird in that list, and be thinking, why do you use unsalted butter and then add salt to the recipe? The answer is that lots of recipes are written that way, because you have more control over the amount of salt in the recipe with that approach. If you want (or if you have to) you can substitute salted for unsalted butter in this recipe, but your fudge may end up with a noticeably saltier flavor.

There is a HUGE difference between sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. This recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk.

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Evaporated Milk and Sweetened Condensed Milk

Evaporated milk has no added sugar and is slightly thicker and richer than regular milk. Sweetened condensed milk is very thick and very sweet. They are not interchangeable ingredients.

Let’s startcooking!

Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or wax paper. (The original recipe I saw said to line only the bottom of the pan. However, if you cut off a slightly larger sheet of parchment paper and do at least two of the sides as well, it will make it much easier to get the fudge out of the pan after it has hardened.)

You can buy parchment paper right next to the tin foil and the plastic wrap at the grocery store. It’s specially made to be used for cooking.

For the next step, I’ll first give you a quick overview and then provide more detail.

The quick overview is that we’re going to place a metal bowl on top of a pan of barely simmering water, and gently heat all the ingredients, stirring occasionally, until smooth.

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Now for just a bit more detail about this step!

You can buy pans that are designed to fit into one another, leaving space at the bottom for water. They are called “double-boilers” and can get pretty expensive. Fortunately, you don’t really need one for this recipe. A regular bowl over a normal pan works just fine. However, you have to make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. The whole point of a *double boiler* is to melt/cook things very gently by having the steam from the water (not the water itself) heat the upper bowl!

Put a couple of inches of water in a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer. (No rapid bubbles, just gentle little bubbles!)

While the water is heating, break up the chocolate into small bits. You could cut it with a knife.

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Or (and this is the fun version) just slam the wrapped chocolate bar against the counter. When you unwrap it, it should be broken up into bits.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Add the butter, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and the salt to the bowl.

Set the bowl over the simmering water. Give the chocolate mixture an occasional stir. When everything is smooth, blended, and all melted, pour it into the prepared pan (the one with the parchment paper.)

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Put it in the refrigerator. DO NOT COVER THE FUDGE! (If you cover it, too much condensation will form and ruin your beautiful fudge!) Let it chill for about 4 hours or until it is totally firm and then cover it with plastic wrap.

To cut the fudge, run a butter knife around edges of pan and invert the fudge onto a cutting board.

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I do hope you put the parchment up at least two sides of the pan! Otherwise, right about now you are saying: “She’s crazy, I’m never going to get this out of the pan”! If you can get your knife to the edge of the parchment paper, that should be enough to loosen it. If that doesn’t work, after you have run your knife around the edge of the pan, cut out a small corner. Taste it. (Yes, it’s delicious, and no, you can’t just eat it from the pan!) Now slip your knife under the parchment paper and the fudge should come out of the pan. (This is the hardest step of this entire recipe!)

Remove the parchment paper.

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With a ruler, score the fudge with lines about one inch apart. This way you will get nice even pieces.

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You can slice your fudge ahead of the time you plan to serve it, but store it in the refrigerator!

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Storing and Serving Fudge:

My kitchen tends to get very warm so I always store fudge in the refrigerator. Store fudge in an airtight tin, with a piece of wax paper between each layer. It should keep on the counter (out of the sun) about 2 weeks, in the refrigerator about 2-3 weeks, and in the freezer about 2-3 months. To keep it really moist, you can store the entire “block” of fudge and only cut it when you are ready to serve it. It’s best eaten at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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32 Simple Snacks for Football Fans

posted in Appetizers and Snacks by startcooking team

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Jalapenos Stuffed with Sausage and Cheese

So what’s on your party menu for watching the big game? We’ve put together the following items, which go beyond bowls of corn chips, pretzels and cheeses. We make no specific claims about their healthiness, so pace yourself!  Your final menu choices will depend on how much prep work you feel like doing for your party.

The Easy & Traditional Snacks

These are the snacks that are easy to put together, and mostly require minimal effort.

  1. Kielbasa wedges . What meat lover doesn’t like kielbasa? Cut up some thick slices and serve with crackers and/or cheese.  A dab of spicy mustard works well with kielbasa.  (By the way, turkey kielbasa is delicious!)
  2. Garlic bread or Pull Apart Cheesy Garlic Bread is great fun for a party and will disappear fast.
  3. Meatballs. Little Sweet and Sour Meatballs served with toothpicks or Sausage Balls(shown below) are always a crowd pleaser.http://startcooking.com/public/IMG_1572k.jpg
  4. Mushroom caps. For a change of pace, try these bacon Stuffed Mushroom Caps(video).
  5. Chicken wings. Make chicken wings in the oven for an easy-to-prepare football snack that everyone will appreciate. Serve with the traditional sides — thick blue cheese dressing, celery and carrot sticks, hot sauces, and a fistful of napkins.
  6. Grilled sausages. If the weather’s still good (or you’ll grill in the snow), fire up the backyard grill and throw on some nice Italian or Polish sausages.
  7. Nachos and cheese dip. “Guilty pleasure food” at its best with this 2 ingredient nacho cheese dip.
  8. Potatoes. Potato wedges a really inexpensive snack are great with ketchup or sour cream.http://startcooking.com/public/images/imgp2610_305.jpg
  9. Stuffed potato skins. Or if it’s not wedges, it’s potato skins, which can be assembled ahead of time for baking. Make sure to set out extras, like sour cream, chopped chives, crumbled bacon, and grated cheese.
  10. Classic cheese ball.  Need I say more?  Serve cheese balls with a variety of crackers or thinly sliced pumpernickel bread.
  11. Chex mix. There are an endless number of combinations to the snack most of us know as chex party mix. Customize the recipe to your liking, but keep an eye on the oven, as the onion powder tends to burn easily.

Lighter & Healthier Snacks

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Make Ahead Layered Salad

If you’re feeling slightly peckish instead of all-out hungry, here are a few suggestions. Most are pretty traditional, like the items above – just lower in calories.

  1. Crudites and dip. Cut up some celery, carrots, cucumbers, and red peppers into bite-size pieces and serve with a nice dip.
  2. Cold cuts. We feel that some of the best cold cuts and sliced meats come from Italian markets. Just roll each slice up into a tube, or fold into a wedge, and arrange on a platter.
  3. Olive selection. Even simpler than cold cuts or crudites. While you’re at that Italian or Mediterranean market, pick up a nice array of olives – from savory to spicy, with different stuffings, from pimento to cream cheese to even almonds.
  4. Cheese bites and (wheat) crackers. Cheese platters do not have to be boring. There are so many cheeses to choose from – go for different textures and flavors – and then add some grapes and nuts to the platter as well.
  5. A crazy big salad. A big salad is the perfect complement to most game day foods – and relieves the guilt of eating all the other (heavier) snacks. Chop items small and throw it all in — vegetables, fruits, olives, boiled eggs, cheese, etc. — depending on your tastes. Top with balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lime.
  6. Savroy Pies. Quiche can be served hot or at room temperature. Baked spinach pie, reminds me of spanakopita, only easier to make! A store bought pie crust makes these recipes easy as…

Sandwiches and Burgers

http://startcooking.com/public/images/IMG_1987.jpgWhat’s a game party without some sort of sandwiches. Here are a few variations, some possibly unique to this article.

  1. Hot sandwiches. Serve spicy Italian sausage with plenty of peppers and onions, on crusty rolls.
  2. “Grilled cheese” burgers. You read that right. Make your burgers in one pan and keep it warm. Then, on order, make a grilledcheesesandwich (shown above) in another pan, using regular bread slices. Split it open (careful, it’s hot) and place tomato slices, pickles (optional), and a cooked burger patty. Have hot sauce or ketchup on the side.
  3. Tex-Mex Cheese Burgers. Need I say more! Check out the video.
  4. Pocket subs. Whether you call them hoagies, rockets, subs or something else, these are always a hit, especially with kids. Make sure you have lots of small Italian buns or sub buns, a variety of cold cuts, pickles, toppings and spreads.

Something Extra and Hearty

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Quesadillas!

These are for those colder football days, when you feel like something heartier.

  1. Perogies. Potato, onion and/or cheese perogies are so readily available in most supermarkets freezer section that you don’t need to make them from scratch. Serve with sour cream, salsa, dips, hot sauce.
  2. Pigs in a blanket. Don’t forget the kids in the snack list. We don’t know what it is about pigs in a blanket, but kids (and adults!) love them.
  3. BBQ ribs. You don’t need massive brontosaurus ribs like Fred Flintstone. Some regular sized, finger-licking, melt in your mouth  slow cooked barbecued ribs will do just fine.
  4. Burritos. Beef and bean burritos are easy to put together beforehand or assemble on the spot and who knows better how to make them then The Pioneer Woman!
  5. Chili. A great, hassle-free, “simmer in the pot until you are ready for it” game food like chili (video) is hard to beat. Chili is also an excellent make-ahead dish, freeing you up to enjoy the game while it simmers.
  6. Meatloaf. Meatloaf isn’t particularly original, but if you like to get creative, you could shape it into a football.
  7. Calzones. While traditional calzones are delicious, this spinach and ricotta stuffed variation, flavored with a touch of nutmeg, is simply delectable. Buy prepared pizza dough to make it really easy.
  8. Pizza Loaf. This fast and simple-to-prepare pepperoni and cheese stuffed snack is sure to be a hit served with a bit of tomato sauce on the side for dipping. It’s a fair bit like calzones, but probably less work over all.
  9. Sweet potato fries. Be sure to pre-heat your oven for about 20 minutes to make sure that these baked fries come out crispy.
  10. Chicken kabobs. Kabobs are eaten in a number of countries across Northern Africa, Europe and South Asia. So you have many flavor choices for chicken kabobs. Or just buy some from the deli counter and throw them on the grill or bake in the oven.
  11. Samosas. These East Indian potato-filled pastries are said to taste great with beer – an alcoholic beverage of choice for football viewing. Making these from scratch is time-consuming. So just pick some up fresh from an Indian or Pakistani grocery store, or in frozen form from most large supermarkets.

Now if none of these look tempting, check out Cooking Light’s list of Football Party Recipes!

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