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Dorista Holiday Recipe Exchange {ffwd}

Karen's Cracker Candy

Happy Holidays!!!! As part of this year’s holiday card exchange for French Fridays with Dorie, participants optionally included a recipe for a favorite holiday cookie, cocktail or other confection. In addition to the lovely exchange with our faraway friends, this week’s challenge is to try out any of the recipes that arrived in the mail.

There were so many delicious choices, but I decide to try the Cracker Candy from Karen of Our Crazy Blessed Life and the Apple Cider Sidecar from Guyla of Clementines and Cocktails.

Karen’s Cracker Candy is a treat is a chocolate coated toffee confection. Her mother gave her the recipe 17 years ago, but it originally came from her grandmother. I’ve enjoyed this many times before when other people have made it, but I’ve never made it myself. I’m not sure why because it is so simple. Butter and brown sugar are boiled together to make the toffee, which gets spread over the surprising base of saltine crackers and popped in the oven to make sure it saturates the crackers. Then, a bag of chocolate chips is scattered over top where the residual heat melts it. You spread the chocolate to cover the toffee. Karen’s recipe invites some tinkering on top of the chocolate, so I sprinkled a cup of finely chopped almonds on top. Once everything cools and hardens, you have an irresistible (at least to me) nibble.

Melting Chocolate

Karen’s Cracker Candy

40 saltines
1½ cups butter
1½ cups brown sugar
1 12 oz package chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place saltines side by side on a foil-covered cookie sheet.

Bring the brown sugar and butter to a boil. Very important: boil for 3 minutes. Spread the mixture over crackers. Bake for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the baked crackers. Let stand 5 minutes. Spread chocolate evenly.

At this point, you can have some fun and sprinkle a topping like crushed peppermint, toffee bits, or sprinkles.

Refrigerate until solid. Remove foil and crack into pieces. Keep refrigerated.

I also couldn’t resist Guyla’s festive cocktail, the Apple Cider Sidecar. It was a breeze to mix together. The fresh lemon juice and the Cointreau infused the drink with citrus flavors, tasting like a cold cup of spiked mulled cider. Cheers, Guyla!

Apple Cider Sidecars

Apple Cider Sidecar
Makes 4 cocktails

10 oz best quality apple cider
4 oz brandy
5 oz Harlequin or Cointreau
2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Stir together all ingredients and shake over ice. Pour into cocktail glasses that have been rimmed with raw sugar.

As my final French Fridays post of the year, I wanted to share a remembrance of all the meetups I had with my Dorista friends in 2014. Though unphotographed, I also saw Dorie Greenspan at her book signing at the Harvard Book Store in November.


Clockwise starting from left corner: I shared dinner with Mardi of eat. live. travel. write. when she visited Boston in March, Thanksgiving weekend, I spent the afternoon with Adriana of Great Food 360. I met Susan of Create Amazing Meals and Christy of Confessions of a Culinary Diva for lunch during my Southern California vacation with Howard in June, In July, I spent the weekend in New York City with Kathy of Bakeaway with Me, Diane of Simple Living and Eating, and Cher of The not so exciting adventures of a dabbler.

I am so happy about these friendships that started over food shared over the internet and have forged over meals shared in person.

To see other Dorista creations for this week, check other links here.


Cool as a Cucumber


For the past few weeks, we’ve been getting 10 cucumbers each week as part of our CSA share. Sliced cucumbers sprinkled with spiced salt are a favorite, or of course, adding cucumbers to a salad, but I was looking for something new to do with cucumbers.

For the past year, I’ve been doing some experimenting with cocktails. Usually, I just drink wine or beer. My repertoire of cocktails was mostly limited to frozen margaritas and daiquiris, both based on limeade concentrate. Now that cocktails are trendy, it felt like time to branch out. It all started last summer when we discovered Vena’s Fizz House in Portland which sells different mixers, like the base for the Small Batch Gin & Tonics we like. I also get inspiration from my favorite on-line mixologist and blogging friend, Christy Majors.

When we were out in San Diego in June, we had a few cucumber cocktails. I didn’t pay close attention to what was in them, but, as we sat at the bar sipping our drinks, we did discuss how well they hit the spot on a hot afternoon. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the previously mentioned plethora of cucumbers reminded me to try this at home.

Cucumber juice turns out to be very easy to make — no juicer required. Wash one or two cucumbers, preferably organically grown. Chop them coarsely. Don’t bother to peel or seed them. The skin gives the juice a wonderful chartreuse color. I quartered the cucumber lengthwise, then sliced it into half-inch slices. Throw the cucumber pieces into the blender with a handful of ice cubes for each cucumber. Turn the blender onto a high speed, and puree until smooth. Now strain the puree through a fine sieve. Press on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. You should get about 1 cup of juice for each cucumber.

I’ve been playing around with the combination of cucumber juice, simple syrup, lime juice, and liquor. I’ve had success with both cucumber mojitos (rum) and cucumber gimlets (gin). The margaritas didn’t come out as well.

Mojitos start by muddling sprigs of mint in a tall glass before adding the other ingredients. For the gimlets, simply pour the ingredients over ice. Both are cool, refreshing, and delicious options for relaxing on a hot summer evening.

cucumber mojito

Cucumber Mojito
Makes one drink

6 sprigs of fresh mint
3 oz cucumber juice (made as described above)
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup (made from equal amounts sugar and water)
2 oz rum, preferably Bacardi Limon
Slice of cucumber and sprig of mint to garnish

In a tall glass, muddle the mint until it's very fragrant. Leave the mint in the glass, and fill it with ice. In a separate container, combine the cucumber juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and rum. Pour over the ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice and mint sprig.

Cucumber Gimlet
Makes one drink

1 oz cucumber juice (made as described above)
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup (made from equal amounts sugar and water)
1 oz gin, preferably Hendricks
Slice of cucumber to garnish

Fill a short (old-fashioned) glass with ice. In a separate container, combine the cucumber juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and gin. Pour over the ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice. You can also double it and serve in a tall glass (as pictured!)