Monday, December 24, 2012

Easy Hazelnut Fudge

I  love giving homemade food gifts during the holiday season. Last week, I made a few different kinds of treats- some old favorites, some new finds- and filled up more than a dozen holiday themed take-out boxes and festive bags, and gave them away as gifts. An assortment of goodies- chocolate truffles, bark, fudge, cookies and peppermint bark brownies- went into each bag.

Gift bag2

This hazelnut fudge was one of the things that went into my gift bags. The fudge is rich, creamy, and smooth and melts in your mouth.

Hazelnut fudge1


(makes 64 small pieces/squares)
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used Baker's baking squares)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp coffee powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Nutella
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ - ¾   cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (reserve a handful to sprinkle over the fudge before it sets)
  • A pinch of salt


Grease the bottom and sides of an 8x8- inch baking dish and line with parchment paper.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate and butter. Add the condensed milk, vanilla extract, coffee powder, Nutella and salt. Microwave in 45-second increments for 3-5 minutes  and mix well in between. Stir in the toasted and chopped hazelnuts.  Mix well until the mixture is smooth and everything comes together.

Pour the thick mixture into the prepared baking dish, smooth the top and sprinkle the reserved hazelnuts all over the surface.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (I let it sit overnight in the refrigerator). Once the fudge has set, take it out of the dish and cut into bite-sized pieces using a sharp knife.

Hazelnut fudge2

Here are some of the other treats I made-
* Pistachio and Peppermint White Chocolate Bark
choc-peppermint-pista bark1

Line a baking sheet with foil. Melt 8 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Pour the melted chocolate over the lined baking sheet and spread it with a spatula to get a layer that is about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle the top evenly with crushed candy canes and chopped pistachios. Refrigerate until firm. Cut/break into pieces and serve.

* Orange-flavored truffles
Although truffles are simple enough to make any time of the year, I usually get down to making them only during the holidays.  I use this recipe as the base and make different kinds of truffles by changing the flavors (vanilla, orange, peppermint, balsamic vinegar) and toppings (toasted and chopped nuts, cocoa powder, sweetened coconut flakes, crushed candy canes, toffee bits).
This time I made orange flavored truffles and used toffee bits, cocoa powder and toasted and chopped hazelnuts as my toppings.

* World Peace Cookies
WP Cookies1

I consider myself to be a fairly decent baker, but for some reason, I’ve had no luck with cookies despite numerous attempts. This very popular recipe for world peace cookies (I found it here) is the only cookie recipe that has actually worked well for me.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole

This casserole is healthy and filling without being heavy. It can be assembled ahead of time, refrigerated, and baked just before you're ready to eat. This breakfast/brunch dish is very versatile and works well with a variety of vegetables. I usually use a combination of spinach and mushrooms but bell peppers, broccoli and asparagus would all be great additions.

Spinach, mushroom & egg casserole2

Here's what needs to be done-


For cooking in a skillet:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 small box mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 5 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the custard:
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼  - ½  cup milk (I use 2%)
  • ¼  cup low-fat mozarella cheese
  • ½  cup 1% cottage cheese
  • Salt and Pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking dish with some oil.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add the garlic and green chillies followed by the sliced mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until all the liquid released evaporates. Next, add spinach and cook, stirring, just until it wilts. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mozzarella, cottage cheese, salt and pepper until smooth. Spread the vegetable mixture in an even layer in the baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetable mixture.

Bake at 375 F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the eggs set and the top of the casserole starts to brown.

Spinach, mushroom & egg