Eating My Way Through the Holidays: Sweet Celebrations! Good times naturally accompany good food. Every family has its favorites. Some indulge in time-worn traditions while others enjoy modern classics. As you embrace the holidays with companionship, nostalgia, fusion food, or festivities, celebrate the spirit of the season. In the next few weeks, join me as I share sweet dishes as well as inspiring ideas. Bring it home for the holidays with Sweet Celebrations from Gail’s Kitchen!
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What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.
TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Traditional Four-Bean Combo! This is an amazing side dish you can slow cook in the crockpot and forget about it. The end result is a sweet and savory baked bean assortment that will explode with flavor and compliment anything you plan to pair with it, especially grilled meats. The presentation is a color wheel of enticing hues giving it center-stage on the dinner plate. Leftovers only taste better and better as the flavors get swallowed up in each other. The next time you crave something different and nutritious, give this recipe a whirl.
TRADITIONAL FOUR-BEAN COMBO
1/2 pound bacon, sautéd and diced
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
15 ounces kidney beans, drained
15 1/2 ounces yellow waxed beans, drained
42 ounces pork and beans, with sauce
3 cups garden green beans, cooked al dente
Combine bacon, onion, mustard, vinegar, and brown sugar. Mix well. Add the beans and stir together to blend the colors and flavors. Transfer to a crock pot. Cook on HIGH until beans are bubbly. Turn to LOW setting and simmer for 5-7 hours. Unplug crock pot. Let stand 15-20 minutes before serving.