Striped Jell-O

This is a fun dessert made with three layers of Jell-O, one of them creamy, and you can change the colors and flavors any way you like. I found this on a subreddit for old recipes, where the user said an Italian grandma gave him the recipe with the colors of the Italian flag. That’s how I made it the first time. You’ll see I’ve used different colors this time — grape and cherry — as picked by my children!

Because you have to wait several hours between layers to allow them to set, you shouldn’t plan to serve this the same day you make it. Cut through it gently with a sharp knife and lift out the pieces with a sharp spatula — otherwise you’ll lose part of the bottom layer.

Makes 16 pieces.

2 large (6-oz.) boxes of Jell-O, any flavor
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 envelopes gelatin dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

Dissolve the first box of Jell-O in 2 cups boiling water. Pour into a 13×9-inch pan and let set in refrigerator for several hours.

Boil heavy cream, sour cream, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla. Allow to cool and pour over first layer. Let set in refrigerator for several hours.

Dissolve the second box of Jell-O in 2 cups boiling water. Let cool and pour over the second layer. Let set in refrigerator, then cut and enjoy.

Lemon Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Sandwiches

These are very easy to make and even easier to devour. Just stir everything in a small bowl and freeze overnight, then cut into bars, sandwiched between graham crackers. With the fat-free yogurt and large dose of fruit, these could be a healthy snack, a healthy dessert, or even a treat at breakfast. You can skip the graham crackers and eat the bars on their own, too — though your fingers will get cold and you won’t get the fun crunch of the crackers.

I adapted the recipe from this one at WW. I used a larger pan, because it made for thinner pieces that were easier to bite into. I added the graham crackers on a whim.

Makes 6 sandwiches

1 lemon
1 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt (I have used both Greek yogurt and a mixture of Greek with regular yogurt)
1 Tbsp. agave syrup
1 cup fresh blueberries
13-14 graham cracker rectangles

Line an 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper that hangs off the sides, so you can easily lift the yogurt out later.

Zest and juice the lemon. You need 1/2 tsp. of zest and 1/2 tsp. of juice. Mix the zest and juice into the yogurt with the agave syrup and blueberries.

Crush 1-2 graham cracker rectangles (amount depends on your preference). Spread half the crumbs onto the parchment, then spread the yogurt mixture evenly on top. Scatter the rest of the crumbs over the yogurt, pressing down gently, if possible, to make sure it all adheres.

Freeze overnight. When ready, lift it out of the pan and cut into six bars. Sandwich each bar between two graham cracker rectangles. Enjoy.

Peanut Brittle

This recipe comes from a community cookbook published in Atlanta in 1985. It’s the kind of cookbook bound with plastic rings and with the names of the people who submitted the recipes below each one. I love these kinds of cookbooks — they give a peek into people’s kitchens and the recipes they love to make. This particular cookbook is where I got my candied pecan recipe, which I make during the holidays, and it’s also the source for this peanut brittle.

You do need a candy thermometer. I tried making it without one, but it was a failure — it took too long and I got impatient, and the result was bendy and stick-to-your-teeth chewy. With a candy thermometer, the process is easy.

The key to brittle is baking soda: It forms bubbles that make the brittle light enough to break apart and eat. The baking soda reacts with the melted sugar and foams up, in the same way it reacts with acids like buttermilk, vinegar, or lemon juice to make baked recipes light. Here’s a great article about brittle, if you want to learn more.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 bottle (8 oz.) light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. water
2 cups unsalted peanuts
2 tsp. baking soda

Butter a 9×13-inch baking sheet.

In a very large pot, mix sugar, syrup, water, and peanuts. Have the baking soda measured and ready in a small dish next to the stove.

Cook at moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the candy thermometer reads hard crack (just above 300F, or exactly 150C degrees). Remove from heat and immediately stir in baking soda. Pour out quickly onto baking sheet and let cool. Then break into pieces and serve.

Notes:
— Use a large pot because the mixture will foam up more than you may think. I used a 4-quart pot.
— Do not try to flatten the mixture after you pour it on the baking sheet, or you’ll break up some of the bubbles that are key to making it brittle.

Recipe originally from Melba Lehman.

Chocolate Croissant Bites

This is a quick little dessert that reminds me of chocolate-filled croissants from a nice pastry shop somewhere — the kind of place with small tables and a big window to the street, that smells more of sugar than coffee and has a display case full of desserts almost too beautiful to eat. (I really do miss visiting places like that.)

Gourmet thoughts aside, this is actually a simple back-of-the-box recipe I’ve had in my cookbook for ages. It was called Fudgy Brownie Cups, but to me that doesn’t describe it well enough. There is no rising agent in the chocolate mixture, and that’s what makes them fudgy, but they just don’t seem like brownies when they’re wrapped in the flaky layers of puff pastry.

All you need is a saucepan, a rolling pin and a couple of muffin pans and it’s ready in less than 20 minutes.

Makes 20

8 oz. (227g) sheet of puff pastry (half of a standard U.S. box), thawed
4 oz. (113g) dark chocolate (I used Lindt‘s 70% cocoa chocolate bar)
4 oz. (113g) unsalted butter (half a stick)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. all-purpose (plain) flour, plus extra for dusting countertop
Confectioner’s (icing) sugar (optional)

Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees.

In a pot over medium-low heat, melt chocolate and butter. Turn off heat and mix in sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, then mix in flour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12×15-inch rectangle. Cut into 3×3-inch squares and press each one into an ungreased muffin cup. Fill with 1 tablespoon of chocolate mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden (you want to err on the longer side to make sure the puff pastry comes out crispy on the bottom, not chewy).

Immediately remove to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Creamy Orange Popsicles

Even having made these gourmet-tasting popsicles, it can be hard to believe they’re made with just two wholesome ingredients: freshly squeezed orange juice and vanilla yogurt. My children and I giggled to think these could actually qualify as breakfast food.

You can use popsicle molds or paper cups with popsicle sticks. One trick to keep the sticks upright as they freeze is to cover the top of the cups with foil and make a slit for each stick. Once frozen, you can peel off the paper cups.

Credit for this recipe goes to my friend Laura Rodriguez, who put a lot of work into a great series of recipe videos for children this summer. This one was our favorite.

1 cup juice from fresh oranges (we used about 3)
1 cup vanilla yogurt

Whisk the ingredients together, then pour into popsicle molds or paper cups. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours.

If you’re using popsicle molds, you’ll have to run the plastic part under lukewarm water for a few minutes to loosen the popsicles before removing.

Saltine Toffee

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Chocolate, butter, and brown sugar is an irresistible dessert combination, and here’s a way to enjoy it with a crispy layer underneath and a touch of salt. Just like it does when paired with caramel, the salt brings out the sweetness and makes each bite finish with a “wow!”

This was printed a few days ago in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution list of the best recipes of 2018. I was almost turned off by the idea of using saltine crackers. It seemed too easy, too much of a shortcut, and I didn’t think it would look as elegant as the picture made it out to be. But it was being recommended by Wendell Brock, who writes about food for the AJC and whose recipes and articles I really enjoy. So I gave it a shot and was so glad I did.

Brock called the combination of flavors and textures “heaven,” and I’d agree. 100% delicious.

Oh, and it was a fun recipe to make with my children. They laid out the crackers, sprinkled the chocolate morsels, and sprinkled the nuts and watched me do the pouring and spreading.

48 saltine crackers
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks, 225g) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. (340g) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Flaky or big-granule salt, such as sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a 12-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the crackers out in one layer, as close together as possible, filling the sheet.

Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the butter has melted, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Keep it at a boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 3 minutes, add the vanilla, give it a good stir, and pour evenly over the crackers. Spread the mixture around with a spatula if needed. Don’t worry if the surface isn’t completely covered. You just don’t want it pooling in one place.

Bake the crackers for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate morsels over evenly over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Sprinkle pecans and salt over the top. Leave to cool, then place in refrigerator about an hour to set the chocolate.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container for up to five days.

Printed in the AJC and adapted from “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food With a Twist” by Perre Coleman Magness.

Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallows

Here’s a little treat that doesn’t take long to make. You can adapt it to any holiday with sprinkles, keep it plain, or try drizzling with icing or white chocolate. It’s a fun snack that would be great to set out at parties or nice to box up and give as a gift.

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All you need are large marshmallows and chocolate morsels — I used peppermint chocolate morsels — then sprinkles, icing, or white chocolate morsels.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (the baking sheet must be rimmed so sprinkles don’t roll away and make a mess when you decorate).

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In a bowl, melt a large handful of chocolate morsels in the microwave. Do it in 20- or 30-second intervals, stirring in between, to make sure all the chocolate is melted and none of it burns.

When chocolate is completely melted, you must work quickly. Take a large marshmallow and dip it into the chocolate, then set it on the parchment paper with the chocolate side up. Sprinkle it right away, then do the next one. Refrigerate once they’re all decorated so the chocolate hardens, then serve.

If drizzling with icing or white chocolate, let the first layer harden in the fridge before decorating. Melt the white chocolate as above.

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Peach Cobbler

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The best way to enjoy peach cobbler is scooped in a bowl and topped with some vanilla ice cream. It ought to be golden brown on top, liberal with the fruit, and just mushy enough on the bottom to remind you this is comfort food best eaten with a spoon.

This recipe started with a version found on many websites that all credit The Salt Lick barbecue restaurant near Austin, Texas. I tried to do my own searching and couldn’t find the original, so I asked the restaurant — and it seems it’s not theirs, after all.

Now I don’t feel so bad about the tweaks I made. I slightly reduced the amount of butter and got specific about the peaches. The recipe calls for canned, but if you have a bounty of fresh peaches, by all means, use them instead.

One last thing — this is one baked dessert that doesn’t have to cool off before you serve it. Although you can make it ahead of time, this dish, even in the heat of summer, is best served warm.

FILLING
28 oz. peeled, sliced peaches (if using canned, weigh the peaches after draining — three 15-oz. cans should give the right amount)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

BATTER
6 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup room-temperature milk
1 room-temperature egg

Heat oven to 350F degrees. Meanwhile, prepare the peaches. Cut slices into halves or thirds, depending on size. In a bowl, combine peaches with sugar and spices.

Once oven is hot, put butter in a 9×13-inch pan and melt in the oven. Remove once melted.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and egg. Pour evenly over melted butter.

Spread peach mixture, including any liquid, evenly over batter. Do not stir.

Bake 35-45 minutes until batter is golden brown.

Note: I have updated this post to include the restaurant’s reply to my question about the recipe’s origin.

Candied Pecan Popcorn

20170128_162714This is a recipe that could earn you a lot of friends. I brought a container of this to work, and it was soon gobbled up by colleagues who asked me not to bring it in again because they didn’t need the temptation.

The original recipe came from the Food Network magazine, which always seems to have recipes that just simply work. It was the creation of Marcela Valladolid, who called for the addition of chipotle seasoning, but I leave that out in my version. Here is the recipe, with a few more changes from the original.

11 cups popped plain popcorn (very important: inspect carefully and remove all unpopped kernels)
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Heat oven to 250F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and butter the foil.

When oven is hot, put popcorn on the pan and scatter the pecans on top. Place in the oven while you do the next step.

Place the sugar, butter, and honey in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally. When the sugar and butter have melted, increase the heat and boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly stir in salt and baking soda.

Remove popcorn from oven and pour the syrup on top, then mix gently with a rubber spatula to coat as much of the popcorn as possible. Bake for 1 hour, stirring with the spatula halfway through to coat more popcorn.

Remove from oven, stir once more, and let cool. To remove cooled popcorn from foil, lift it up at each end, gently moving the foil around to ease the popcorn off.

Malted Pretzel Brittle

It’s the salty-sweet combination that is the best part of this quick-to-make dessert snack: crisp, sugary pieces loaded with salty pretzel bits. The malted milk powder adds a touch of creamy sweetness. (And the kitchen smelled like Whoppers malt balls as this baked in the oven.)20160816_003115

As for ease — it’s made in one bowl, baked on parchment (for easy pan clean-up), and it takes less than an hour to make, start to finish. You have to let it cool after baking, of course, but I dare you to wait very long before you start ripping off pieces and gobbling them down.

14 Tbsp. (about 200g) unsalted butter
8 oz. (about 230g) salted mini pretzels, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. malted milk powder
2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder

Preheat oven to 300F/150C degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Place the pretzels in a large bowl and crush (as a rough guide, most of my pieces were between 1/2 and 1 inch). Add both sugars and milk powders and toss to combine. Stir melted butter into mixture until blended.

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Spread mixture in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake 15-18 minutes or until browned. Let stand 10 minutes to cool before breaking brittle apart.

Store between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container.

— This recipe comes from my friend Mel at our local Publix, where we always find her at the demonstration table with great food ideas!