Sunday, March 6, 2011

Homemade Almond Joys and Carmamel Corn!

I've been wanting to make almond joys for the longest time because I absolutely love them but not their ingredient list! (Corn Syrup, Milk Chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milk, lactose, milkfat, nonfat milk, and soy lecithin and PGPR, emulsifiers), coconut, sugar, almonds; contains 2% or less of: partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (cottonseed and soybean oil), whey (milk), cocoa, salt, natural and artificial flavor, chocolate, hydrolyzed milk protein, soy lecithin, carmel color, sodium metabisulfite, and sulfur dioxide.)
I also wanted to be able to customize them to my liking by making the filling less sweet and, of course, using dark chocolate!
Unfortunately, I only had sweetened coconut laying around, so it was harder to make the filling less sweet without compromising on the texture a little bit. I didn't really follow a recipe but had the basics down in my head.
This is what I used this time, but will probably make changes for next time I make it.
- 14 ounces sweetened coconut (next time will use unsweetened)
-1 teaspoon vanilla (next time I will use 1 1/2 teaspoons)
-1/2 cup homemade sweetened condensed milk (next time will use light coconut milk)
-1 cup powdered sugar (next time I will use 2 cups)
-1/3 to 1/2 cup toasted almonds
-2 cups dark chocolate chips
-4 teaspoons coconut oil

I made the sweetened condensed milk by combining 2/3 cup non fat milk powder with 1/4 cup sugar (usually 6 tablespoons) 1/4 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (blended until smooth). This way, I could make the condensed milk less sweet than usual and I didn't have to open up a can when I only needed 1/2 cup. This tasted really good and so simple! (Makes about 2/3 cup)

The reason why I wanted to make changes for next time is because the recipes I saw called for two cups of powdered sugar and the filling was already sweet enough with the sweetened coconut and the sweetened milk so I only added one. This resulted in a filling that wasn't as "gooey" and didn't stick together as well. Next time I'll use unsweetened coconut and add more vanilla and a dash of salt to make up for the flavor. I think coconut milk will be a great substitute for condensed milk because it's less sweet, the same relative thickness, and imparts more coconut flavor. Using these less sweet ingredients, I can then increase the powdered sugar to 2 cups and get the correct texture and hold.

The directions to making almond joys are pretty simple. Just combine the wet ingredients with the powdered sugar so that all the sugar dissolves and then add the coconut. Press the coconut mixture into a greased (8x8) pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. I pressed my almonds into the coconut mixture before chilling in order for them to stick. Chill the pan for 30 minutes or until it's kind of firm. I ended up freezing mine for an hour in order for it to get really firm so I could make nice clean cuts.
I did some "mounds" (no almonds), some with one almond,
And some with two almonds! (For the almond lovers, i.e me)
I got 36 bars out of this that are about the size of a fun-sized Almond Joy bar.
Next comes the dipping part! I tried many dipping methods but I finally found the best method that gave me the best results.
First melt 1 cup dark chocolate chips with 2 teaspoons coconut oil in the microwave in a small bowl (or with a double boiler).
Using a spatula, "paint" a fork's head with melted chocolate. Place a coconut square onto the fork. Using a spoon or the spatula, scoop and pour melted chocolate over the coconut square so that it is completely covered and then some. Tap the fork against the side and gently shake the fork side to side so that excess chocolate falls back into the bowl. Scrape the bottom of the fork on the lip of the bowl so that there's no extra dripping chocolate on the bottom. Transfer almond joy to a silicone mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and use a butter knife to push the almond joy off the fork and onto the mat. Once most of the chocolate is used up, melt an additional cup of chocolate chips and add 2 more teaspoons of coconut oil and repeat until each coconut square is covered.
This method worked perfectly because if I tried to simply dip the coconut square into the chocolate, coconut pieces started falling into the chocolate and it would start falling apart! Not pretty.
Though time consuming, it was TOTALLY worth it...
The inside-
After dipping them all, I could barely tell which ones contained almonds or not, and I ended up eating three out of four that didn't contain almonds! Such a bummer...
These guys are so so good but I can't wait to try making them with my modifications. The filling did seem just a tad dry.
I better freeze some of these before they all disappear! I made these last night and there's only 1/3 of the batch left.
Oh and next time..almonds in each and every one of them! They're just such a good addition.
I love caramel corn and this recipe from All Recipes caught my eye.  Many reviewers said the popcorn tasted just as good with half the amount of butter so you can bet that's what I did! I also cut the recipe in half because 5 quarts of popcorn seemed like a lot of popcorn.
You need:
2 ounces butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 cups plain popcorn
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Place popcorn in a very large bowl.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.
Place in one large shallow baking dish and bake in preheated oven, stirring every 15 minutes, for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces.

 And since I thought that chocolate makes a great addition to ANY dessert, I threw in a handful of M&M's we had laying around.
To make the plain popcorn, I popped a heaping 1/3 cup corn kernels with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and it ended up being exactly 10 cups. I love it when things work out perfectly :D
This is THE best caramel corn I have ever tasted. Taking the time to cook it low and slow in the oven creates popcorn that is absolutely to die for. I could not stop popping pieces into my mouth!!
I tried it with some dark chocolate chips, too, and it tasted even better with those than with the M&M's. What can I say, I love my dark chocolate :)
We receive a huge tub of caramel corn each year at Christmas and that caramel corn doesn't even come close to the delicious that is this caramel corn.
Another great idea would be to lay all the caramel corn out once its cooled and drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Let the chocolate cool and then break up the popcorn into smaller pieces. This way, there's chocolate in ever bite and they don't all end up sinking to the bottom of the bowl (which is what happened with the M&M's).
Unrelated, I've made some really delicious sandwiches lately. 
We had a couple asparagus spears leftover that I grilled on the George Foreman until they were tender. Then, I placed them on top of a slice of rye bread with about 1.5 ounces of jalapeno jack cheese. I sprinkled the asparagus with lemon pepper seasoning and spread the other slice of rye bread with grainy mustard. 
Grilled up and toasty!
Holy YUM! 
This was like a grilled cheese from heaven. Oh so flavorful! I love this rye bread, too. Its called German Dark Wheat bread from Pepperidge Farm and is made out of whole wheat flour and rye flour and is SO filling! This sandwich held me over till dinner time.
Another killer sandwich I made was the classic California club. I used my homemade bread, too!
This one was light on the meat and heavy on the vegetables. Just the way I like it (:
It had sprouts, cucumber slices, tomato slices, avocado, mustard, one slice of turkey and one piece of center cut bacon.
I just wish my bread was bigger because this sandwich was small but so darn good!
So fresh, so delicious..
And guess what new items I found at Target the other day! 
For those of you who are Puffins fanatics (I currently have 3 boxes in the pantry and I don't even eat cereal that often!) you'll be happy to know that they have a new flavor, peanut butter and chocolate! I love the original flavor the most because it's so versatile and not super sweet (5 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup) but this one is still mighty delicious. It tastes just like (a healthier) Reese's Puffs cereal!  
Another great find? Almond, Peanut, and Cashew Butter! This is Archer Farms brand (Target's brand) and I have never seen or heard of a nut butter with this particular blend. It's only ingredients are roasted almonds, roasted peanuts, roasted cashews, and sea salt. This nut butter is super runny, so I think it will be perfect for baking. It has 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 16 grams of fat, and 1 gram of sugar. I love it!
And lastly, Strawberry Shortcake coffee from Dunkin Donuts! I've seen this pop up on a couple blogs and had to see what all the rage was about. Upon opening the bag I could immediately smell an amazing aroma of strawberries and coffee. The coffee itself tastes super delicious, but not much like strawberry shortcake. It's definitely got flavor and a lovely smell but not worth over $8 for just 11 ounces! I'm used to Costco's ridiculously amazing prices where you can get coffee for like $4 a pound.

Have anyone else tried these amazing finds?!

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