10 October


Homemade Chocolate Candy Bars

chocolatecandybars

October 28: National Chocolate Day

Giving out free candy on Halloween isn’t exactly cheap. So it is quite understandable that some people opt to buy the generic brands or bulk variety packages of assorted candies to distribute to trick-or-treaters on Fright Night. Yet somehow the neighborhood children still seem to know which homes hand out their favorite candies! We were thought to be the one of the houses that gives out the good stuff! But there is an ulterior motive—if we still have candies left over, we eat them ourselves! So we buy what we like and they are usually the miniature chocolate candy bars (Hershey’s Special Dark, Mr. Goodbar and Krackel*).

With special candy molds, chocolate bars can be made at home very easily. Just melt the chocolate in a bowl, stir in rice cereal or nuts, place in the molds and let set. We replicated the recipes for Nestle Crunch and Hershey’s Mr. Goodbar for a homemade treat that is terrific on National Chocolate Day, on Halloween and whenever one wants to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Recipe

For the Crunch chocolate bar

  • Chocolate chips or wafers (we used Ghirardelli dark chocolate melting wafers)
  • Rice cereal

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a bowl (in a microwave or over a double boiler), according to the directions on the package. Stir in the rice cereal and coat with chocolate.

crunchbarstep1

Spoon the mixture into the wells of a chocolate bar mold. Tap the mold on the counter to even out the surface. Place in the refrigerator until firm. Unmold onto a paper towel. Serve the rice cereal chocolate bar at a cool temperature.

crunchbarsteps2

For the Mr. Goodbar chocolate candy

  • Chocolate chips or wafers (we used Nestle Toll House milk chocolate chip morsels)
  • Roasted peanuts, chopped

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a bowl (in a microwave or over a double boiler), according to the directions on the package. Stir in the chopped peanuts and coat with chocolate.

mrgoodbarsteps1

Spoon the mixture into the wells of a chocolate bar mold. Tap the mold on the counter to even out the surface. Place in the refrigerator until firm. Unmold onto a paper towel. Serve the peanut-covered chocolate bar at a cool temperature.

mrgoodbarsteps2

Notes

  • The equivalent of Hershey’s Krackel is Nestle’s Crunch chocolate bar.
  • We also like M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, KitKat bars and other candies that do not stick to our teeth (sorry, caramel, gummies and chewy nougat).
  • We make homemade chocolate candy bars for ourselves and do not give open/unwrapped candies out on Halloween to trick-or-treaters for safety and sanitary reasons.
  • Purchase candy bar molds from a local hobby and craft shop or cake decorating supply store.
  • Substitute real chocolate for chocolate-flavored confectioner’s wafers, like Wilton’s Candy Melts.
  • There are several “chocolate holidays” throughout the year. Search our blog for other chocolate recipes.

 

Brisket Soft Tacos

October 3: National Soft Taco Day

Just one day before National Taco Day, National SOFT Taco Day is observed as a food holiday. Highlander prefers the latter but Islander likes her tacos crispy. Tacos are a versatile dish. The filling could be beef, pork, chicken or seafood and the shells could be soft (flour or corn tortilla) or crispy. Toppings could include cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, avocados, jalapenos, sour cream and salsa.

For this particular post, we used soft low-carb flour tortilla shells in which to wrap the meat filling and toppings. We used leftover shredded beef brisket made from our slow cooker (it yielded a lot of meat for just the two of us). And we filled it with toppings as colorful as the Mexican blanket in the final food photo above.

Switch up the tortillas for tacos today and go specifically for the soft shells on National Soft Taco Day.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • SOFT tortillas (flour, corn or a combination of both)
  • Shredded beef brisket (or other meat or seafood of your choice)
  • Shredded cheese (we used a Mexican blend of cheeses)
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped cilantro leaves
  • Salsa or taco sauce
  • Lime wedges or slices (optional)

Directions

Warm the soft tortillas in a skillet or microwave according to the package directions to make them warm and more pliable. Lay a soft tortilla on a plate. Place hot shredded beef brisket on top. Layer with cheese on the hot brisket (it will melt slightly to bind the meat together).

Sprinkle with shredded lettuce. Top with tomatoes, onions, cilantro leaves and salsa or taco sauce. Roll and secure with toothpicks. Serve with lime wedges or slice to squeeze the juice to flavor the filling in the soft tacos (optional).

Notes

  • National Soft Taco Day on October 2 falls near the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month.  This month is a great opportunity to try some of the Latin American recipes posted under the Theme Menus on our blog.
  • Cook crispy tacos tomorrow for National Taco Day on October 3.

 

Sinigang na Baboy

(Filipino Tamarind Pork Ribs Soup)

October 2: World Farm Animals Day

Islander’s grandma had a farm. E I E I O! And on that farm, she had some poultry and pigs. E I E I O!

When Islander’s family visited the Philippines occasionally during her youth, her late maternal grandmother lived on a farm (now inhabited by her relatives). When her parents went to market, to market (not to buy a fat big or hog, because there were at least two already on grandma’s farm), Islander and her brother would help her with the chores. City slickers/suburbanites that they are, feeding the chickens and pigs did not seem to be such an unpleasant task. They once ventured beyond the boundaries of the farm and into the rice paddy and were frightened by a huge carabao (water buffalo)—and the “chicken” siblings quickly ran back to the chickens!

Islander’s late paternal apong (grandmother) also lived on a property with chickens and goats. Islander was always annoyed when the rooster crowed at the crack of dawn, interrupting her beauty sleep—definitely not a morning person!

Both grandmas would serve us chicken and pork dishes with the staple rice and we often wondered if one of their farm animals sacrificed their lives so that the family could be fed. We only knew of the chicken’s fate from its crazy-then-silent clucks. Chop, chop! But pork pieces were purchased by the parents when they went to market, to market after all!

In observation of World Farm Animals Day, we made a classic Filipino tamarind soup with pork ribs. Sinigang na Baboy is one of the many dishes that reminds us of our time spent in the Philippines with our beloved grandmothers.

Recipe

(Adapted from Filipino Village)

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1 ½ pound pork ribs, individually sliced
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 packet sinigang mix
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 tomatoes, diced
  • bunch of spinach leaves, baby bok choy or other green vegetables

Directions

In a large pot, boil the ribs in water then simmer for about 1-2 hours to tenderize the meat. Skim off the scum. Mix in the sinigang packet. Chop the onion and dice the tomatoes.

Stir in the onions and tomatoes and cook for 15 more minutes. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the green vegetables. Serve hot with rice.

Notes

  • We usually add only half the packet of the sinigang mix as tamarind tastes too sour for us.
  • Search our blog for other Filipino food recipes.

 

Kālua Pua’a

(Hawaiian Pulled Pork)

October: National Pork Month

Let’s luau, everyone! Whenever we have get-togethers with ‘ohana (family) and friends and need to feed the crowd, we make kālua pua’a (Hawaiian-style pulled pork). Pigs represent a “bounty of blessings” at a buffet because the animal is big and can feed plenty of people, so they are served at many huge celebrations around the world.

In Hawaii, traditionally (and touristically), kālua pig is prepared in an imu, a type of underground oven. A pit is dug in the earth and heated with rocks from fire using sandalwood/mesquite. Meat simply seasoned with sea salt is wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed in the pit. Then it is buried in a layer of sand or soil and left to cook-steam for several hours until the meat is tender, smoky and juicy. Mmmmm…’ono!

Obviously, it is impractical for us to build an imu without ample space, fire-safe facilities and permission from the strict homeowners’ association to do it in our backyard. A crockpot has become a handy and convenient substitute to cook kālua pig at home for a smaller group. We take a piece of pork shoulder/butt, rub Hawaiian sea salt all over it, place it in a crockpot with liquid smoke flavoring and leave it to cook slowly for several hours. It is so easy to “fix it and forget it”—and the result is tender, smoky pulled pork that tastes almost like the ones served at luaus.

Cook kālua pua’a in a crockpot for a little luau and celebrate National Pork Month. Aloha!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5-7 lbs. pork butt or shoulder (boneless)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (or coarse salt)
  • 2-4 tablespoons liquid smoke (depending on taste)

Directions

Line crockpot with slow cooker bags for easy cleanup (see Notes). Rinse the pork in water and pat dry. Cut slits in the pork (or pierce with the tines of a fork) then rub the sea salt and liquid smoke all over.

Place in a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender all the way to the center. Shred with fork. Drain off some of the fat and liquid and serve over rice or between slices of Hawaiian bread.

Notes

  • Lining the bottom of the crockpot with clean banana leaves will impart a nice tropical flavor, too.
  • Adding more liquid smoke to the recipe depends on one’s preference for a smokier flavor.
  • Instead of kālua pig at parties, we sometimes serve a whole roast pig.
  • Our Texas friends like to add barbecue sauce on our Hawaiian pulled pork for a Southern-style sandwich (served on Hawaiian sweet bread/buns).
  • Saute some sliced onions and chopped cabbage with leftover kālua pig and serve with steamed white rice for a filling meal.
  • Search our Theme Menus for more Hawaiian and local recipes.

 

Frankenpops

Frankenpops

October 31: Halloween

Channel Dr. Frankenstein in his lab and create some not-so-creepy Frankenpops in your kitchen. These green-hued, rice cereal marshmallow monster treats are a festive food for Fright Night. So make some Frankenpops and have a Happy Halloween!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 package (10 ounces) or 5 cups regular marshmallows (or 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • 6 cups rice cereal
  • green food coloring
  • dark chocolate or black candy melts
  • small pretzel sticks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • white tube frosting/icing
  • candy eye balls
  • red candy melts

Directions

In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Tint with green food coloring. Mix in the cereal until combined well.

Frankenpops

Spread the mixture into a greased 13×9-inch pan. Press down evenly using parchment or waxed paper. Allow to cool for easier handling, then cut into 12 rectangles. Push lollipop sticks or straws into one end of the rectangle treats.

Frankenpops

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Dip the other end of the treats in melted dark chocolate/black candy melts. Set on the waxed paper to cool. Insert pretzel pieces into the bottom sides of the treats.

Frankenpops

Use the white frosting/icing from the tube and squeeze out two dots to secure the candy eye balls in place. Melt some red candy melts and put in a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe the stitches on the “forehead” of the Frankenpops. Put some melted dark chocolate/black candy melts in a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe zigzags for the mouth. Let all the candy melts set.

Frankenpops

Notes

  • See our theme menu list for more Halloween food ideas.

Amarula Cake

Amarula Cake

October 16: National Liqueur Day

In one of the many bridal magazines that Islander reads, she once saw an ad for Amarula, a cream liqueur made from the marula fruit. It was touting Amarula as a unique alternative to champagne at wedding receptions.

Marula comes from a special, sacred tree grown in southern Africa and Madagascar, which is also referred to as the “marriage tree”. The tree is dioecious (meaning that there are both a male and female marula tree). When in season, the fruit grows abundantly from the female tree, symbolizing fertility in a marriage. Some use the fruit as part of a cleansing ritual before the wedding. And a few tribes (and tourists) exchange their marriage vows beneath the shade of the trees.

Having worked in a bridal shop, and currently serving as a marriage sponsor at church, Islander was sold on the Amarula ad in the wedding magazine. She immediately bought a bottle and we thought it would taste like Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur. The caramel color is similar but Amarula is stronger/boozier! And the marula fruit notes are definitely different.

We actually used the marula fruit cream liqueur in our anniversary cake this past summer. It seemed appropriate to follow the “marriage tree” theme when celebrating our marriage milestone. Now we can bake an Amarula cake for our engaged couples when we host them in our home during marriage preparation sessions. Amarula cake is also perfect for preparing on National Liqueur Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from SA Promo Magazine)

For the Amarula cake

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup Amarula
  • ¼ cup milk

Directions

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the eggs. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.

Amarula Cake

Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the Amarula and milk, until the batter is smooth. Divide evenly in two, greased round 6-inch baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees F in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool completely before stacking and frosting them.

Amarula Cake

For the Amarula buttercream frosting

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup Amarula 
  • 2+ tablespoons heavy whipping cream (or milk)

Directions

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar. After two cups of sugar, pour in the Amarula. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix well. Thin to a frosting consistency with cream or milk. Smear a little frosting on a cake pedestal or board to act as an adhesive to the bottom layer of the cake.

Amarula Cake

Place one of the cakes on the bottom. Spread a generous amount of frosting on top. Stack the other cake on top of the frosting. Spread more frosting on the top and sides of the cake until completely covered. Chill in the refrigerator to let the frosting set. Let the cake come back to room temperature before slicing and serving.

Amarula Cake

Notes

  • This recipe is originally for a dozen cupcakes. We made this into a double layer 6-inch round cake.
  • This is a denser and drier instead of fluffier and moist cake. The caramel-colored frosting reinforces the fruity flavor of the marula with a sophisticated and sweet “spirit”. This Amarula cake recipe is suitable for those who prefer a pound cake.
  • Learn more about the legends of marula from Marula.org

Sautéed Kale

Sauteed Kale

October 3: National Kale Day

We usually put spinach in our smoothies but have gradually added or substituted kale for the leafy green ingredient. Both are considered super foods but kale is considered the winner with more vitamins (A, C and K) , minerals (calcium) and protein than spinach. Kale tastes somewhat bitter, though, and its leaves may be harder to chew and digest. Fortunately, we have found a kale salad recipe that is cooked with garlic and red wine vinegar to mask its strong flavor. The steamed leaves are wilted so they are easier to chew. If we do not drink our kale smoothie for the day, we would eat sautéed kale as a side salad for dinner. This healthy recipe is perfect for observing National Kale Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from New York Times Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 bunch of kale leaves (stemmed and chopped)
  • 1/3 – ½ cup vegetable stock or water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • cooked bacon bits (optional)

Directions

In a large skillet or pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic pieces until soft. Add the kale leaves.

sauteedkalesteps1

Pour in the vegetable stock or water. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the kale is soft and wilted. Stir occasionally until the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the red wine vinegar. Dish out and sprinkle cooked bacon bits on top (optional).

sauteedkalesteps2

Notes

  • Thanks to Highlander’s co-worker, Luchie A., for the fresh, organic kale from her garden.
  • Learn more about National Kale Day at http://nationalkaleday.org.

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