Salted chocolate peanut toffee

Years and years ago I decided I would make something tasty as holiday gifts for the teachers I worked with. I knew everyone loved chocolate and wanted to experiment with something different. When I came across a recipe for chocolate peanut toffee in Gourmet, I was smitten. The combination of salty nuts, crunchy toffee, and melted chocolate sounded divine. And the recipe boasted making a big batch, meaning I’d have enough for treating my fellow teachers and still have some leftover to send with the husband for holiday giving at his work.

And the ingredients needed for making this delicious toffee cost around $5 — especially if you hit up the dollar store.

Over time I’ve adjusted the recipe and found the perfect combination that makes one of the best crunchy chocolaty and nutty toffee around. I look forward to making it every year (and know people look forward to receiving it too). This is a recipe that will make your friends and family thankful for this toffee treat. I definitely splurge for organic ingredients, which does add a few dollars to the final deliciousness, but it’s totally worth it.

(Adapted from Gourmet)


3 cups butter (salted or not – but I actually like using salted for this yummy treat)

2 cups sugar

4 cups low salt (or no salt) peanuts plus 1 cup chopped

¼ teaspoon vanilla

Dash cinnamon

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Sea salt


Place the butter and sugar in a large stockpot over medium heat and wait for the butter to melt.  You want the butter and sugar to turn a rich honey brown and register around 300 ˚F on the candy thermometer (which you need!) before the next step, which can take around 15 minutes of babysitting. Candy making takes patience — and just the right temperature. Even though I’ve been busting this toffee out for the last five years, last year I attempted one batch without a thermometer, and it was a sad disaster.

While you’re waiting for the butter and sugar to boil, line a 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. Once it starts simmering, whisk the mixture to incorporate the butter and sugar.

Chop one cup of nuts for topping your toffee and measure the chocolate chips so everything is ready when the toffee is. I’ve found using a low-salt peanut creates a seriously sweet and savory toffee, instead of one that’s bombarded with over-salted nuts. I pick mine up at Trader Joe’s.

Once your toffee hits 300 F, turn off the heat, remove the candy thermometer and add the three cups of nuts. Give the mixture a stir and then add the vanilla and dash of cinnamon.

Spread the peanut toffee in the parchment covered sheet pan creating a nice and even layer of goodness. Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for a few minutes until the chocolate melts.

Use a knife to spread the chocolate over the toffee and then sprinkle with the chopped nuts and a light dusting of sea salt.

Pop in the fridge for an hour and then use a large serrated knife to cut the brick of toffee into pieces. Place in decorative bags and you’re ready for holiday gift giving.


Happy holidays!

Sexy food: Breakfast pizza

breakfast pizza

Valentine’s Day is this week and there’s no denying that along with the giving and receiving of hundreds of cheesy and impersonal cards, lots of lovebirds are heading out for special dinners, giving small blingy tokens of appreciation, and trying to figure out last minute ways to show some love. What I find absolutely and  wonderfully sexy is a great homemade breakfast that you can eat in the comfort of your own home (especially now that I’ve got a small thing running amok in the house as early as 6 am). The idea of eating a velvety, luxurious breakfast on a special morning (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Birthday, Christmas, Child’s Birthday, Saturday…) is the perfect way of showing true adoration.

My husband is known to toss together amazing slow-cooked scrambled eggs that melt in your mouth.


And, thus, why he is my husband.

But this Valentine’s Day, I had plans for making a special breakfast that would  fill my sweetheart’s tummy with savory goodness. And the Shine Supper Club’s challenge this month is all about sharing sexy dishes, making this breakfast recipe wonderfully fitting.

Breakfast pizza.

Crisp crust topped with thinly sliced prosciutto, slivers of fresh Parmesan, and topped with soft eggs that spill and run all over the whole shebang. How perfect is that? And you can use store purchased pizza dough, which makes this recipe wonderfully easy for any home chef.


Pizza dough (homemade or store bought)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese

1/8 pound thinly sliced prosciutto

Fresh spinach leaves

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

4 eggs

Fresh cracked pepper


Preheat your oven to 425F so it’s really hot when you’re ready. Having your oven temperature just right ensures those eggs will set properly on the breakfast pizza.

Lightly grease your pizza pan and then press out the dough to create a nice even thickness. Top with the olive oil, Italian seasoning, and the spinach leaves.

breakfast pizza 1

Now layer on the prosciutto and sprinkle half of the shredded cheeses over the pizza. Carefully crack and add the eggs to the pizza and then toss the rest of the cheese over the eggs.

breakfast pizza 2

Carefully place in the hot oven for 10 to 13-minutes, or until the eggs are just set.

Give the finished pizza a light covering of fresh cracked pepper, slice, and serve alongside fresh strawberries, hot coffee, a big kiss, and you’ve got the perfect sexy breakfast. And the longer you let the pizza sit before cutting, the eggs will set to your liking.

breakfast pizza 3

*Just so you know, this recipe is also wonderfully delicious as a late-night snack…



The week in review…

I haven’t posted anything in a week and it’s kind of nice. I love sharing recipes, projects, and musings, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break. Between having a toddler, the holidays, and my parents visiting for the week, there’s been a lot of awesome stuff going on. So instead of telling you all about it, here’s a collection of pictures sharing all our fun….










Happy holidays!

Kid-friendly holiday cookies: Red velvet sprinkles

My tot is in love with the color red. She had to have red shoes, only uses red paint when getting creative, and wants us to paint freshly painted white walls of her room red. So I wasn’t at all surprised when she decided we just HAD to make RED cookies to share with all her friends for Christermax. Sure, I could’ve added red food coloring to basic sugar cookie dough, but wanted to make something not-so sweet that also had a nice holiday flavor. We mixed together a lovely red velvet base, added sparkling red sprinkles, and created a delectably crisp and balanced holiday cookie that’s perfect for making with your little ones. And these cookies aren’t too sweet, or filled with too much butter, making them a healthier option than that cookie dough you can pick up the in refrigerator section.


1/2 cup room temperature butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)

1 tablespoon (plus) red food coloring

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups flour


Preheat your oven to 375F and gather the ingredients for making the cookies. Red velvet cake is a seriously yummy combination of vanilla, chocolate, a bit of tang, and a whole lot of red. I absolutely love red velvet cake, and with it’s vibrant red color, figured this cookie rendition would be perfect for celebrating the season.

Invite your child to help measure and add the butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Use a hand blender to mix everything together until it’s nice and smooth. I even let my tot use the blender for a brief moment (while holding with one hand AND attempting to take a picture) but quickly realized that toddlers and hand blenders might not be such a good idea. We’ll try again when she’s a bit older…

Now add the egg, milk, and the vanilla, giving things another mix. Hold off on adding the vinegar, because if you add it at this point, the milk will separate and things will look really gross (your cookies will still taste good – don’t worry).

Sift (or mix) together the flour, baking soda, baking  powder, and cocoa and then add about one-fourth of the dry ingredients to the batter. Give things a stir until incorporated and then add the vinegar and a good amount of red food coloring. If you want the cookies on the darker side, add another few drops of the food coloring.

Continue adding the dry ingredients until all incorporated. As you can see, my daughter really took stirring seriously.

Cover a sheet tray with parchment and invite your tot to drop spoonfuls of batter on the pan, allowing an inch or two between cookies. Now your child can douse the cookies with the red sprinkles.

Offer your child a clean glass to gently press on the cookies creating sprinkled rounds of dough. Yeah, they aren’t going to be perfect, but that’s how it goes when you’re cooking with little ones. It’s about the experience, not the super pretty outcome — but it’s sure a plus when things taste good!

Pop the cookies in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are cracked. If you prefer a chewy-er cookie, leave in for 9 minutes or so. But these are really good nice and crisp with a tender center, which is what we discovered after about 12 minutes of baking. Remove from the oven and top with more sprinkles or even a dusting of powdered sugar before serving.


Crafting with Kiwi Crate

This is a busy time of year, but it’s also so much fun. It always seems like the span from Thanksgiving to Christmas goes by in a snap, making it tough to fit everything in. We also dabble a bit in Hanukkah, so I’m always happy with anything that makes my holiday-season life easier. When I received an email from Kiwi Crate asking if I’d be interested in checking out one of their new holiday crafts, I responded with a really loud, “YES!”

In only a few days the compact package arrived in the mail, containing everything I needed to create an adorable, and child-friendly, holiday wreath with my tot.

I gathered the tot and she went to work, seriously. I didn’t even have a moment to discuss with her the steps for creating the adorable mini-holiday wreath. Included in the kit is a simple instruction card that even a toddler can figure out. I helped by cutting the squares of green tissue paper while she dabbed bits of glue and then scrunched and positioned.

Once the ring was filled my tot selected only the red glittering puff balls to decorate her finished wreath (her favorite color is red…) and then we gave it a few minutes dry.

That simple.

AND there were tons of materials left over for making more wreaths. You could repurpose an old cardboard box into the base for another wreath or even cut out the inside of a paper plate for more wreath fun….

I helped by tying a section of the included red ribbon for a festive wreath that we hung on our front door. My daughter gets so excited every time she sees it — and so do I.

Along with cute holiday wreaths, Kiwi Crate is offering several other seriously cute and interactive holiday crafts, including ones perfect for Hanukkah. And, just so you know, I wasn’t compensated in any way for writing this post, only sent the craft to experience with my tot. If you’re looking for something fun and festive to create with your child, but don’t have the time to hit the craft store for supplies, Kiwi Crate has everything you need packaged together — and it won’t bust your budget.

Kehoe Beach (on Thanksgiving)

I’d normally be sharing pictures and recipes from my Thanksgiving feast right about now, but this year we are postponing our turkey making until the weekend. Instead we acted like today was just like any other day, which didn’t stop us from being seriously thankful. It turned out to be a glorious day, making a trip to the beach the perfect way to spend the day together as a family. Kehoe Beach is tucked away in West Marin past Olema and through some of the most glorious cow fields I’ve ever seen — and I’m from Wisconsin.

After walking a short trail, flanked by some of those seriously happy cows, you come over a ridge to spectacular stretch of beach that seems endless, and it is also dog friendly. This was the first time we’d taken the tot on a “hike” and she loved every minute of it. We checked out worms on the trail, barnacles on the beach rocks, inspected the various footprints in the sand, and determined the water was way too cold for any swimming…

Happy Thanksgiving — I hope you all had a wonderful day!

(Get ready for turkey pictures on Sunday…)

*And thanks to the husband for the awesome pictures.

Homemade mocha café au lait

This time of year I’m always reminded of the scents of the season. From sharp peppermint to soothing cinnamon, I get so caught up in baking and cooking and creating heavenly smelling goodies. And nothing goes better with all those holiday treats than a big cup of coffee. So I figured combining the two would be heavenly.

When a big batch of Dunkin’ Donuts® coffee arrived on my doorstep, I knew I had to combine that coffee with some delicious scents of the season and concoct a hot and steamy holiday drink. Nothing evokes the joy of the holidays like sharing memories with family and close friends over a cup of delicious coffee.

And some of my first memories of the holidays involve the scent of coffee. For some reason the smell of that coffee brewing in the morning takes me back to my little self and the anticipation of what may come. From opening exciting gifts to spending time with loved ones, that sharp dark scent always reminds me of the holiday season even to this day. My husband often brews an individual cup of coffee for himself early in the morning, so the smell doesn’t linger — it’s usually gone by the time the tot and I make our way upstairs.

Such a shame.

The other morning I indulged and made a whole pot of some Dunkin’ Donuts® gingerbread flavored coffee and mixed it together with a few ingredients to create a sweet smelling and eye-opening morning brew. There are so many flavors to choose from: Original Blend, Dunkin’ Decaf® and special seasonal varieties including Mocha Mint, Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread Cookie. But act fast as these seasonal varieties are only available for a limited time at your local grocery store.

-keep reading for the homemade mocha café au lait recipe!

Toilet paper tube fall garland

With Thanksgiving just days away, I figured it was time to do a bit of holiday decorating. We always have a bountiful collection of toilet paper tubes hanging around just begging to be reused for some sort of crafty activity and came up with the idea to use them for a rustic fall garland. And this project is so easy, making it a perfect craft to do with toddlers — or kids of all ages.

It’s as easy as cutting the tubes into 1-inch sections and glueing on various fall goodies. The tot and I used real leaves and pinecones from the yard along with silk leaves I had hiding in the back of the craft drawer.

After letting the glued items dry over night, I popped holes in either side of the cut tube and then we strung with an orange ribbon. It looks just lovely over the fireplace and has us all in the mood for Thanksgiving.

And we discovered that the decorated cut toilet paper tubes also make adorable napkin holders.

Happy Thanksgiving!

String wrapped stars

String wrapped star

Memorial Day is right around the corner, which means taking a moment to appreciate those that have served for our country, people who are currently doing what they do best for our country, and ones we lost while in service. My tot is a bit young for understanding, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great opportunity to do something crafty that might offer up the chance to chat about respect and love. Stars and strips are popping up all over the place, so I figured we could create something festive for decorating our home.

This is a simple project that can go in lots of different directions. Older kids can be in charge of bending and twisting the wire into star shapes while younger kids can focus on wrapping pre-made stars with string and then sprinkling with glitter – or painting. And, this is a great project for any time of year -Fourth of July, Memorial Day, or even the Holiday Season!

string wrapped stars

Start a length of 12-guage craft wire about 1 to 2-feet in length. To keep things nice and safe, wrap the ends of the cut wire with masking tape. Now your child can bend and form the wire into a star shape. Offer adult assistance as needed to twist and secure the star shape when finished. Working with wire is a great way to encourage hand-eye coordination and build fine-motor skills.

metal stars

We experimented with all kinds of string, from white sewing thread to thick hemp string, and using plain white craft string worked the best. Tie an end to the wire star form and invite your child to twist and wrap that string all over the place. You’ll need about a 6-foot length of string (or more) for each small star.

string star

Secure the end of the string with a nice knot. Now your child can brush the string with glue and then sprinkle with glitter or paint with watercolor paints. Once dry, the stars can be hung individually or tied together to create a special star mobile, perfect for any window. We enjoyed painting one of our stars with red and blue watercolor paint and sprinkling the other with silver glitter.



Roasted sweet potato and apple kugel for Easover


Over at our house we are prepping for Easover. That’s right. I just made up a word – and a holiday. I mashed together Easter and Passover into one wonderfully fantastic holiday focused on celebration, food, more food, and gathering friends and family to share in the food and celebration. Easover is all about the fun side of Easter, full of dyed eggs, chocolate bunnies, and maybe an egg hunt or two. It’s also about learning more about Jewish tradition and gathering together for the epic Passover meal.

You see, I was raised Lutheran, (which didn’t really go well), and my husband is part Jewish. He grew up in an East Coast Jewish family but didn’t quite make it to being bar mitzvah-ed. So, together, we are a somewhat non-religeious-but-full-of-traditions family. Basically, we’re making it up.

Hence, Easover.

While living over on the East Coast, we had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate Passover with his family and experience a traditional Seder dinner, which was really special. But, with a tot, and no family in the area here in California, we’re winging it. My mom sent a fantastic box full of Easter goodies, and the tot and I will be naturally dying eggs later today, but we wanted to include some our favorite Passover eats with our Sunday celebration.


If you haven’t had it, kugel is a sweet or savory dish made from egg noodles, eggs, creamy stuff, more eggs, and something sweet or savory. I decided to add my own spin on things – because it’s my own made up holiday, right? – and make a sweet, savory kugel with roasted sweet potatoes and apples. And this is so good, and really simple to toss together, perfect for whatever you’re celebrating!


1 lb chopped sweet potato (I used a really big one)

1 onion chopped

1 apple peeled and chopped

1 t vegetable oil

1 12-ounce bag broad egg noodles

4 eggs

1 c sour cream

1 c whole milk

Dash thyme and pepper

1/4 t salt

2 tablespoons butter

Additional sugar and salt for sprinkling the top of the kugel

How to make it

Pre heat your oven to 425 F and start chopping your sweet potato, apple, and onion. You want everything to be about a 1-inch dice, so take your time. Once things are chopped nice, toss on a sheet pan and drizzle with the vegetable oil. Pop things in your hot oven and let roast for about 15-minutes. Give things a toss and let roast for an additional 15 minutes – or until the edges start browning. After taking them out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 F.


While things are cranking in the oven, fill a bit stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Simmer the egg noodles for about 8-10 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Give them a drain and let them hang out while  the sweet potatoes, apples, and onions are roasting.

Now crack those eggs into a medium mixing bowl, add the sour cream and milk, and give a whisk. Sprinkle in the thyme, pepper and salt and set to the side.

Get out a 9×13 inch casserole and lightly grease with vegetable oil. To create the kugel make a layer of egg noodles in the casserole and then top with a sprinkling of the sweet potato mixture, then layer with noodles, a sprinkling of potatoes, noodles, potatoes….


Once you’re out of noodles and sweet potatoes, evenly pour the egg mixture over the whole shebang. Use a big spoon to gently press the noodles into the milk mixture, and then sprinkle with additional salt and sugar. Dot the top with butter.


Pop your kugel into the hot oven for 45-60 minutes, or until the top starts browning. Let sit for 20-minutes before serving, or let chill in the fridge over night and enjoy at room temperature the next day – kugel is tasty hot or cold.

Happy Easover!