Sunday, December 17, 2006

Holiday Flavor Trend?

Has anyone else noticed the proliferation of products with a caramel flavor dominating store shelves these days? Mind you, I'm the last one to complain considering that, after chocolate, caramel has to be my favorite candy flavor!

Folger's Gourmet Selections Coffees introduced a new flavor this autumn called Caramel Drizzle. It has a heady aroma which makes it the primary candidate for my experiment in making coffee concentrate.

Another BIG favorite, is Betty Crocker's Warm Delights Molten Caramel Cake. Given the cooking limitations I'm dealing with in the kitchen, imagine my delight in discovering the commercial for this playing one evening on TV. Although some have compared the simplicity of preparing this little cake to childhood cooking experiences using an Easy-Bake Oven, I can only say I'll take your word for that. The wizards who created this hot from the microwave treat made it as simple as "1-2-3" to prepare. By just mixing in a tablespoon of water to the packet of cake mix in its little microwave-safe bowl, then drizzling the caramel topping over the top of the cake batter, and nuking it for a minute or so, you have a tasty chocolate caramel cake for one. Using willpower to the Nth degree, I can ration these out to one every 3 or so weeks--but not for lack of desire!

One thing that's been around (at least in the Midwest) for the past several years is Marzetti's Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Dip. A modern update of the old caramel-apple on a stick, this rich, but satisfying dip, provides just the tasty memory I want once fall and its crops of apples roll around again. And, of course, the apple part makes it entirely nutritious! ;-)

Twice (Microwave) Baked Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes or yams
6 T caramel dip
2 T butter
1/8 t ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 t toasted chopped pecans (optional)

Wash potatoes, pierce each potato several times with a large fork to allow steam to escape. Place potatoes in microwave on High for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes and rearrange after 3 minutes. When done, wrap in foil. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut top off hot baked potatoes. Scoop out hot potato with a spoon, be careful to keep shells intact. Set shells aside. In a mixing bowl, combine hot potato, 1/4 cup caramel dip, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat with electric mixer on High speed until fluffy. Spoon mixture into potato shells. Place on a serving plate. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on High 3 to 4 minutes or until heated through. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons topping. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, optional. Makes 2 servings.


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