February 14, 2013

Chocolate for Valentine's Day

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Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

Valentine's Day is synonymous with chocolate, but that doesn't have to mean candy.  As Forrest Gump eloquently said in the movie, "Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're gonna get."  Unlike a box of candy, there won't be any unwanted pieces when it comes to chocolate pie, especially one with a delectable chocolate filling on top of a chocolate crumb crust.  If you think you don't have the skills to make a pie, think again!  Chocolate Dream Pie doesn't require any cooking, only uses four ingredients and half of them are chocolate!

The pie starts by combining Dream Whip and milk.  Dream Whip, a powdered whipped topping mix, is a tastier alternative to Cool Whip and much faster to prepare than whipped cream.  In several recipes I've posted, I suggested, for better results, not using low-fat or nonfat ingredients.  When using Dream Whip, it's actually better to use the lower fat alternatives.  I found this out the hard way.

The first time I ever made this pie, I assumed it would be firmer if I used whole milk.  While I was mixing the ingredients, I glanced at the Dream Whip box and read the following sentence:  "For best results, use 2% reduced fat milk, 1% low-fat or fat-free milk."  This works out good since we drink 1% milk.

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

Combine the Dream Whip and milk with an electric mixer on low speed just until blended.  Increase the speed to high and beat four minutes until the mixture thickens and forms peaks on the beaters.

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

Add some more milk and a box of instant chocolate pudding and pie filling. Be sure to use regular chocolate pudding and not sugar-free.  Sugar-free pudding doesn't have the same consistency and won't set up like regular pudding.  You have two choices when it comes to beating the pudding into the Dream Whip mixture.

The original recipe called for beating the pudding two minutes.  This makes a pie that's light and fluffy, but not as aesthetically pleasing as one that's beaten until the pudding is smooth, about seven minutes.  The pies are delicious either way so the decision comes down to personal preference.

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie
The pie on the left was mixed for seven minutes.
The one on the right, two minutes.

Spread the filling in a chocolate crumb crust and refrigerate at least four hours.

I like the pie plain, but my husband likes it garnished with whipped cream. If you want to garnish the garnish, sprinkle mini chocolate chips, chocolate curls or cocoa powder over the whipped cream.

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

If you want to add a pop of color, add a maraschino cherry with a stem on top.

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

A festive touch for Valentine's Day is to garnish the whipped cream with some candy conversation hearts 

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

or other Valentine candy.

Margaret's Morsels | Chocolate Dream Pie

I'm late posting this recipe so you might not have time to make the pie today.  Next year, think outside the heart shaped box and surprise your Valentine with a Chocolate Dream Pie instead.  It won't get thrown away like some pieces of candy!  


Chocolate Dream Pie
6 to 8 Servings

1 envelope Dream Whip whipped topping mix
1 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 (4 serving size) pkg. chocolate instant pudding and pie filling (not sugar-free)
1 (6 oz.) chocolate pie crust

Mix Dream Whip and 1 cup milk in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed until blended.  Beat on high speed 4 minutes until topping thickens and forms peaks.  Add remaining milk and pudding mix; blend. Beat at high speed 2 minutes for a light and fluffy filling or 7 minutes for a smooth filling.  Spoon into pie crust.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

© Margaret's Morsels



February 8, 2013

Fabulous Fudge

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Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

Valentine's Day is less than a week away.  If you want to do something different this year, leave the box of chocolates at the store and make your Valentine some homemade candy instead.  Making candy doesn't have to be hard.  It doesn't have to be chocolate either!

My mother made the best peanut butter fudge.  Her recipe called for cooking part of the ingredients until they reached the soft-ball stage.  The remaining ingredients were stirred in and the mixture was spread in a square 9-inch pan.  The result was perfect fudge every time.  She made it look so easy!  I've never had success with her recipe, even though I've used a candy thermometer and a digital thermometer to know when the mixture was at the soft-ball stage.  Fortunately, I found a recipe that rivals my mother's fudge, but is much easier to make.

Before you begin, measure all the ingredients and line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil.  A quick and easy way to line the pan is to turn it upside down and shape the foil around the pan.

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

Remove the foil, turn the pan right side up and put the foil in the pan.

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

The fudge gets its smooth texture from cream cheese.  My family is used to eating Neufchatel 1/3 less fat cream cheese so that's what I use.  The fudge will be firmer, though, if you use regular cream cheese.  You can use whichever one you prefer, but don't use fat-free cream cheese.  The fat in the cream cheese helps make the fudge firm.

Put cream cheese, peanut butter and peanut butter chips in a microwave-safe bowl. 

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

Microwave on High 45 seconds.  Remove from the microwave and stir. Continue to microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring each time, until the ingredients are melted.

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

The original recipe didn't call for any flavoring, but I think the fudge tastes better with the addition of pure vanilla extract.  Pure vanilla extract is expensive, but it's so much better than imitation vanilla.  Imitation vanilla is made from artificial flavorings and leaves a bitter aftertaste.  If you don't have the real thing, leave the vanilla out; the fudge will still be good.

Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, using your hands to knead it into the peanut butter mixture.  Once all the powdered sugar has been incorporated, press the mixture evenly into the foil-lined pan.

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

You may think the pan is too big, but it's not.  The fudge is rich so you want the pieces to be thin rather than thick.  Let set at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.  Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, use the foil to lift the fudge out of the pan.

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

Peel the foil off and put the fudge on a cutting board.  To make the pieces look nicer, I trim the edges off before cutting the fudge into 1 1/4-inch pieces.

Margaret's Morsels | Peanut Butter Fudge

If it's just not Valentine's Day without chocolate, check back next week for the chocolate dessert I'm making for my family.


Peanut Butter Fudge
70 (1 1/4-inch) Pieces

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (regular or Neufchatel)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 Tbsp. vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil so that foil extends over the sides of the pan.  Put the cream cheese, peanut butter and peanut butter chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on High for 45 seconds.  Remove from the microwave and stir.  Microwave in 15 second intervals, stirring each time, until the mixture is melted.  Stir in the vanilla; blend well.  Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, using your hands to knead it into the peanut butter mixture.  After the powdered sugar has been incorporated, press the mixture evenly into the foil-lined pan.  Let stand at room temperature until set, about 2 hours.  Cover the pan with foil and refrigerate.  The next day, use the foil to lift the fudge out of the pan. Remove the foil, place the fudge on a cutting board and cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

© Margaret's Morsels




February 1, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese with a Twist

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Margaret's Morsels | Queso Macaroni

Last year, on a trip out of town, my husband, son and I stopped to eat dinner at a family owned restaurant.  Being a creature of habit, I ordered a vegetable plate.  I don't remember what two of the vegetables were, but I vividly remember the third one:  macaroni and cheese.  It definitely had a twist to it and it wasn't the pasta!  Two differences were clearly visible. One, the sauce was made with white -- not yellow -- cheese.  Two, the ingredients weren't baked in the oven.

My son also had macaroni and cheese and agreed it was delicious.  We started talking about how to duplicate the dish at home when Bill, the cook and owner of the restaurant, came to our table to see if we needed anything.  When I complimented him on the macaroni and cheese, he confirmed that my two observations about the dish were correct. 

He used queso blanco -- a creamy, soft, unaged white cheese -- instead of Cheddar.  Rather than baking the ingredients, he stirred the cheese sauce into the cooked macaroni.  He proceeded to give me the recipe which made an enormous amount of macaroni and cheese.  It took some experimenting, but I was able to reduce the ingredients and make the dish using an eight ounce package of macaroni.

The sauce starts with a roux -- a mixture of equal parts fat and flour -- that is cooked until the mixture makes a smooth paste.

Margaret's Morsels | Queso Macaroni

Milk is gradually added to the roux.  Through trial and error, I discovered that 1 1/4 cups milk makes a sauce that's the perfect consistency, not only when it's served, but when leftovers are reheated in the microwave.  The mixture is cooked until it's thickened, but not too thick.  The cheese will also act as a thickener.

Margaret's Morsels | Queso Macaroni
Before the cheese is added

The pan is removed from the heat and the queso blanco is stirred into the mixture.

Margaret's Morsels | Queso Macaroni
 After the cheese is added

The sauce is poured over the macaroni and then stirred.

Margaret's Morsels | Queso Macaroni

Queso macaroni is a nice alternative to baked macaroni and cheese. The cheese may be different, but the finished product goes well with any entree that you'd normally serve with macaroni and cheese.  My son thinks it's especially good with corn dog casserole.  As far as he's concerned, those two foods are a match made in culinary heaven.

Margaret's Morsels | Queso Macaroni


Queso Macaroni
8 Servings

1 (8 oz.) pkg. elbow macaroni
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
2 cups shredded queso blanco cheese

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside.  In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add flour, salt and pepper, stirring to make a smooth paste.  Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until heated and thickened.  Remove pan from heat; stir in the cheese until smooth.  Pour sauce over macaroni; stir to combine.

© Margaret's Morsels