Wednesday, December 31, 2008
With all that said and out of the way I wanted to take a moment to wish YOU the Happiest of New Years and may 2009 be filled with good health, yummy food, prosperity, and ease of mind! I know it's been a rough year for many.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
This award means: "This blog invests and believes the PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."
I received this award almost two weeks ago and I apologize that it's taken me so long to thank The Blonde Duck from the blog A Duck in Her Pond and to pass it along to ALL of you! I know it says chose 8 bloggers but it talks about propagating friendships and how better to do that than by passing it along to all of YOU!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Greenies are a play on Brownies and Blondies. They are made using pistachios that you've pulverized in the food processor and the batter has a few drops green food coloring added to enhance its slightly green color. I originally saw this recipe months ago on The Crepes of Wrath. Sydney actually called them White Chocolate Marshmallow Pistachio Brownies. Is there anything in that name that wouldn't propel you to give them a try ASAP? I don't know what took me so long but I'm happy Jalen and I took the time to make them. Besides saying they were moist and tender, it's hard to describe their taste and texture properly, so, I won't. Hopefully, my photos will encourage you to give them a try! I didn't add the green food coloring so they aren't very green.
In an earlier post this week I mentioned making this cake along with homemade marshmallows. I didn't want it to get passed up in case you guys missed my updates to that previous post so I'm giving it its own! Here's the recipe and photos which I first drooled over on The Recipe Girl.
Did I mention this cake was perfectly moist and dense? Both the drizzle and the topping were amazing! The nog drizzle would be a tasty addition to any eggnog treat or just by the spoonfuls!
Please check out the updates and additional photos I added to my two previous posts! Thanks and THANK YOU for all the lovely and encouraging comments. You guys really do ROCK!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I hate melting white chocolate, white candy melts, and almond bark! Basically anything white that needs to be melted! Tonight I made white chocolate "snowflakes" that I sprinkled with blue sanding sugar. In theory it was easy. In practice it was (feel free to insert a curse word here) not easy. I don't curse but if I did let's just say that I would have used every one I knew! It took me three hours to only make about 30 of them. It wasn't so much the melting of the chocolate that was making me crazy but the keeping it melted. That and the consistency. It was either too running (over did the paramount crystals) or it was firming up too quickly (not enough) in the squeeze bottle.
I made 29 "snowflakes" and a "letter" for two of her teachers. I only needed 20 of the "snowflakes" but made 28 for just in case. I've already had four casualties so I'm thankful I didn't stop when I hit 21! I am planning on baking a batch of cupcakes and placing a lovely "snowflake" on each one. Babygirl will take them to school for Friday's Christmas party. She's supposed to be bringing apples slice and will but I think these will be more fun! If you've been wondering what's up with the quotes around the word snowflakes it because those have to be the lamest snowflakes I have ever seen! Some look like crosses, there are a few that look like blue bugs, I had two that looked like anchors and three of the four casualties were ones that I gave to the kids to eat. NO amount of sprinkles were saving those!
*Update: On Thursday night besides making the cupcakes and dipping my homemade marshmallows, I also made truffles. OH>MY>GOODNESS! These are (for me) THE BEST I've eaten. They were sooooo good. I don't know how many I ate but I would have eaten more had I not sent most of them to babygirl's class party. I've mentioned before but I don't like milk chocolate. I'll eat a dark chocolate truffle if offered one but I'll pass on candy bars, chocolate ice cream, or cake. Once in awhile I'll make brownies but when I do I'll usually add something like cream cheese, peanut butter, Oreos, or maybe mint to the batter. The recipe for the truffles that I used was from Elle's blog, Elle's New England Kitchen. I'll be making these truffles again very soon. Really they deserve their very own post. They are much to good to be a side note.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I did it! I made homemade marshmallows . Some of you may be scratching your head thinking, okay? So, what's the big deal? Well, the big deal is this....before I started reading and blogging I was a "scaredy cat" baker afraid of trying anything new other than a doctored up cake or cookie mix. Now there isn't anything wrong with that! There are some darn good, terrific even, desserts that start off with a mix. (no one ever said, "Hey, you used a mix!" The person I know with the most discerning palate is one of my 12 yr old twins!) The thing was I wouldn't make anything from scratch and all my cakes were basically sheet cakes. I played it safe. While, I am not yet in the same realm as a Daring Baker, I am getting out of my comfort zone. Here are several first for me. DUH, homemade marshmallows ( if it didn't work out it's homemade fluff!)! For the first time I (successfully?) used gelatin sheets. I also boiled sugar to a "soft ball" state and knew it was there because I dusted off my candy thermometer and used it for the first time! Yay, me!
My marshmallows are setting in the pan right now. The recipe I used calls for them to sit uncovered for 10 to 12 hours, over night in my case. I'm assuming so it builds a "skin". In the morning I'll take some photos of the pan filled with all that gooey wonderfulness! I hope to have time to cut them up and take more photos before I have to take the Twins to baseball practice (7-9). Unfortunately, I'm not a "drop and go" mom so, I'm there with them until practice is over. And then it's cook , clean the mess up, bath times ( have I told you guys Devon broke his hand? He did! So bathing for him is a chore which involves lots of shouting to me for help.)study some, and than prodding them along to bed. Ok, now that I've typed that out I know I'm not updating this until Wednesday at the earliest but do check back to see my photos. I'm going to dip half of my batch in white and dark chocolate. Eyebrows just went up, right, when you read white chocolate. LOL! Yes, I've learned a thing or two, several, and bought real white chocolate. I'm not scared! No, sirree!
Ok, ok, last thing, I also made tonight, The Recipe Girl's Overnight Eggnog Coffee Cake with Nog Drizzle. (now that's a mouth!) The recipe calls for the batter to be made the night before and baked in the morning. FYI, the batter was bowl lickin' good! So, I have that to finish up as well! Gotta run it's 12:15 am and I have to be up in a little more than 6 hours! YIKES!
*UPDATE: I updated the links. The marshmallow recipe I used was from the blog Brownie Points. I found the recipe by googling the words "marshmallow recipe". I read quite a few before settling on that one.
I was surprised to learn how many of you haven't tried to make your own marshmallows. If I can YOU can. I've posted a picture so that you know I'm not pulling your leg. You ain't getting those at no grocery store! :-) I didn't dip them in chocolate yet because I was busy tonight working on something for Babygirl's class which is why there aren't more photos. More on that later. It hasn't helped that the past two mornings it has been foggy and tomorrow's not supposed to be any better. Figures! I will try to get everything done tomorrow but who knows. I have cupcakes to bake for Babygirl's class AND she's sick, oh, and my father's coming in from NYC for the weekend! I'm going to be the walking dead for the next several days.
Wait 'til you hear this......no one in my house really liked the marshmallows! Yes, you read that correctly. The sitter was the only one who said they were good. Before you start the "well at least she liked them" I should tell you she's very polite, she could have been lying. I'm hoping once I dip them in the chocolate the kids will like them better. I'm going to package most of them up as treats for the neighbors and the teachers. From what the kids mentioned they thought they tasted plain.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
But who has the time? Earlier this year I took Wilton's Cake Decorating Courses I. & II. at a Michael's close to where I work. I was super excited and bought more stuff than I really needed for the class. I had a special bag that I prepared and used only for my class. The first evening I showed up a good ten minutes before class was to start, I took my seat and with paper and pencil in hand I was ready. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that there was only one other person taking the class with me!! I was thrilled, thinking of all the one on one time I was going to get! Things didn't go as I expected and certainly not as I had hoped. First, my instructor was late. Not only was she late she came with children in tow and because of electrical issues at home was not prepared for our class. The first class was supposed to be a demonstration of all that we were to learn in the next three classes. By the end of her demonstration she should have had a beautifully decorated cake. Not happening. After bemoaning the fact that she was having a difficult day, she also proceeded to tell us that she did not have our instruction manuals and that she would need to leave to make copies of hers for us at the local office supply store. Can you believe? It didn't get any better as the classes progressed. The following week, still no instruction manuals and her baby granddaughter was added to her entourage. I have to admit though she brought her twin daughters (9 yrs old) with her they were actually very helpful and supportive, cheering on Wendy and myself. It soon became apparent that our instructor was not as proficient at cake decorating as I had hoped. There were instances when I had read the lesson only to have the instructor give conflicting information. After four weeks Wendy and I agreed that we barely knew the basics and that we were uncertain about continuing on to the next course with her as our instructor. During the four weeks we developed a relationship with her. She was a personable lady and outside of being a poor instructor she was someone we generally liked. Having a misplaced sense of loyalty, Wendy and I decided to give her another try and signed on for Course II. Bad move. Course II. showed us she clearly did not know enough to act as instructor. She verbally admitted to not knowing how to do certain flowers and to a lack of proficiency at others. Her roses were beautiful and she could whip them out in seconds but that was all. Quite a few times my flowers surpassed hers and mine were not that good! Another four weeks and I wasn't much further along in skill and was disheartened. My enthusiasm for learning to decorate cakes was depleted. It wasn't until last week and my purchase of set of Ateco's tips that I finally picked up a pastry bag.
The cake recipe I used was one I saw on the Taste of Home website. I receive newsletters from them and followed a link over to the recipe. It was actually one for cupcakes. Instead I made two 8 inch layers. My mail box is FULL and can't find the email right now. When I do I will update with a link but it is just a doctored up cake mix. It called for buttermilk but I used sour cream as I didn't have any. I also added a generous splash of almond extract. The cake was surprisingly good and obviously easy. I split each layer into two and filled two of them with seedless raspberry jam. The "middle" layer I filled with buttercream. For the frosting I just "winged" it. I made a double batch using two sticks of butter and 1 stick of shortening. ( I know some of you are cringing right now but I wanted to use my new tips and needed a frosting that would hold up to piping) I also used a combination of almond and vanilla extracts. I'd like to try and make Swiss meringue in the future but didn't feel now was the time. The components individually weren't anything to write home about but all together it was quite good and there were no (valid) complaints.
*The two links that are attached show my "graduation". cakes.
**I added the link to the recipe I used. (12/17)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
On Sunday I decided to try my hand at some recipes that I thought were easy and tasty. These were made to put on some pretty Christmas trays I purchased earlier in the week for my neighbors. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the trays put together. By the time it was all said and done I just wanted to get them delivered to our neighbors and out of my kitchen. I blame the Peppermint Bark! More on that in a few.
This first recipe I made was Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge that I saw on the blog For the Love of Cooking. This recipe was sooo easy and good. I didn't think I even liked fudge. I do! Don't mind that piece on the far left it was a corner piece. My square pans don't have sharp right corners. They're rounded.
I also made Oreo Cookie Bark. If you like white chocolate and oreos than this is a must try for you! It is very good but quite sweet so consume with caution. Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of it and I don't have a specific recipe to pass along. Here's what I did....I cut up a bunch of Oreos and set them a side. After melting white candy coating following the package instructions I folded the oreo pieces into it. After it was all incorporated I poured it into a wax paper lined pan. I determine how big or small a pan I need based on the amount of white chocolate and Oreos I use. You can also vary the thickness of the bark with the size of the pan as well. You could get crazy and kick it some up by drizzling the finished bark with some dark chocolate or you could swirl dark chocolate and white chocolate in the pan then sprinkle it with your Oreo pieces. This is a very forgiving "recipe". There really isn't a wrong way. The most difficult part (for me) is melting the white chocolate which is why I've gotten into using the white candy melts or almond bark candy coating. It's much easier but probably not as tasty if I was to use true white chocolate. More on my white chocolate dilemma to come.
From the blog the Pioneer Woman I made Candy Cookies. I know you're tired of hearing this but this recipe is darn easy, not as easy as the Oreo Cookie Bark but almost. The hardest part was unwrapping all the candy to push down into the center of the cookies after they came out of the oven. The Pioneer Woman has a lot of different combinations but the combos I used were Pillsbury refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough with Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Kisses. These were pretty good warm from the oven but I didn't care for them after they were at room temperature. The cookie part just wasn't that good. The kids and Joe liked them well enough but I won't be making them again. The other and winning combo was Pillsbury's refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough and Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups. These were wonderful warm out of the oven and were still very good later on at room temperature.
The last recipe I made was the Peppermint Bark found on The Hungry Housewife. I'll be honest everything was going along smoothly until I had to melt the white chocolate then all you know what broke loose. Really just the white chocolate but it felt like the other. The first bag lumped together. I washed out the double boiler, reread the directions thinking I might have missed something (I didn't) and started again. Because I had already messed up one bag of white chocolate chips I wasn't going down without a fight! I tried everything I could remember reading about melting the chips. added shortening, I tried a splash of heavy cream, letting it harden and then trying to melt it in the microwave, nothing worked which in hindsight was probably a good thing as I messed with it so much I'm sure it was pretty yucky. If I was a cursing woman I would have made a sailor blush! On my third try and final bag I was able to get the chips to melt somewhat so that I was finally able to smear it onto my peppermint flavored chocolate. Unfortunately because the white chocolate never reached a pourable consistency I needed to melt a little more white chocolate to cover the bottom chocolate layer. My other though smaller problem with the white chocolate was, it harden so fast most of my candy cane pieces wouldn't stick! I had to "glue" on the bigger pieces. Finally done, right?! Yes! Noooo, I lift the bark out and try to cut and break off pieces to place on my trays but it just wasn't happening for me. The wretched layers were separating!!!! This should have been an a no brainer recipe for me. What happened? Needless to say this didn't make it onto my trays. I put it back into the pan and then into the refrigerator to messed with later. Here's what I found out in my quest to master Peppermint Bark. Before placing the white chocolate layer on top of the peppermint chocolate one I need to make certain there is no moisture on it. (Thanks, Leslie!) Cutting the bark works better than breaking it apart. When melting white chocolate make certain it's white chocolate. The first two bags I used were by Nestle and they were white chips not chocolate. Make certain the heat is LOW! I will be giving this another go but first I'm gonna give it a few days! Oh, yes, and despite the fact that I had issues it didn't effect the taste. It was GOOD! I've never had William Sonoma's so as far as I'm concerned mine was just as good even if it wasn't quite as pretty!
*Don't ask about the first Peppermint Bark photo. I was trying to be creative using Picasa and that's what I got (not sure what I did). Somehow I also managed to erase the original!
Here's what she's giving away:
An 8×4x2″ Himalayan Pink Salt Block from The Meadow
A New West Knifeworks Super Bread Knife
A box of 4 Kobe Beef Burgers from Palm Beach Prime (U.S. winner only)
A bottle of Mission Extra Virgin Olive Oil + Mango Champagne Vinegar from Global Gardens
A single photo canvas from Canvas R Us
She also mentions the strong possibility of adding more prizes! The random drawing will be done sometime Christmas day.
Good luck! :-)
Sunday, December 7, 2008
They decorated our house. Babygirl is a serious Daddy's girl and she helped him on Friday put up all the lights and decorate the tree inside. The above photo is from Saturday night and the one underneath here is from tonight after we added some more white lights. Babygirl thinks we need more but I say it's just right. I prefer all one color but Joe decided to surprise me with some color and added the green and red candy canes. What do you think?
Here they are cooking it up in the kitchen as well. Who do you think is helping who?
They made the gooey butter coffee cake found here. Joe heard about a gooey butter cake from St. Louis on the radio and came home talking about it. He actually searched online for a recipe and also read the history of the cake. I think it was the gooey butter part that got his attention. The cake was VERY sweet and might have been a tad over cooked but was still pretty gooey. If you decide to give the recipe a try I would suggest cutting back on the powdered sugar by at least 1 cup.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Okay, here goes nothing. I'm going to try and get everything posted.
First up is Joy the Baker's Candy Bar Blondies. This was a no brainer! If you've read my blog just a few times you know how I feel about Blondies! I followed her recipe and added Milk Duds, Twix, and Heath Bars as my 2 cups of candy.
I don't have a recipe for you for the cake. No worries, you're not missing anything there as it is just a combination of a Jiffy cake mix (I know you're cringing) that I found in the pantry, about a half a can of leftover pumpkin and some pumpkin pie spice. With regards to the spice, I kept adding until the batter was tasty, it took quite a bit. The cake actually turned out pretty good and was very moist but it was the Orange Double Cream Frosting I found on the blog, Hey, That Tastes Good that was outstanding! I loved the orange flavor of the frosting, it wasn't over powering and it tasted wonderful with the pumpkin. Check out the gorgeous specks of orange zest, YUM! Question for ya while I have ya here, what's up with the big holes? I didn't drop my pans on the counter should I have? Clue me in! THX!
Peanut Butter Buckeye Bars from Cooking by the Seat of My Pants was another keeper recipe that I made recently. Easy and good, I made these for Devon's end of the season football party. I cut them up pretty small and got about 32 out of the pan. Most of them were eaten except for a few and that was mostly because I made Simple S' mores Bars and everyone went for those first!
Out of all the desserts that I've made for the kids over the past month this one was hands down the kids' favorite. The funny thing is I've seen this recipe around the web a lot but it was the picture at Kat's Kitchen of the Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffin that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I've come to realize that for my three cinnamon is the key ingredient. If it has a cinnamony (Grace is that correct spelling?) taste then they love it. I did make one slight change in the recipe which was to use demerara sugar for the cinnamon sugar topping on half of the muffins. I loved the added crunch.
This next recipe comes from Rice and Beans and Other Fine Things. Like a dummy I only made half the recipe for Tortilla Toffee thinking that would be enough for my three and my nephew. I figured Joe and I would pass on it. Duh, that toffee was so addictive! I think Joe and I might have eaten more than our fair share. Joe added his stolen pieces to a bowl of Blue Bell's Homemade Vanilla ice cream. Can you say genius?
Besides halving the recipe I added some of pecans I received from Oh,Nuts instead of peanuts. I know that I mentioned in another post about the free nuts I received but if you didn't read it, here's a quick summary.....save your money and order your nuts from them. They are much better than anything you'll find at the grocery store.
I found the following recipe, Pumpkin Coffee Cake on the blog Life Lightly Salted. While it came out very good, pumpkin pie mixed with tender moist cake and capped with yummy crumb topping I did not like the vagueness of the directions. Here's an example.......The second to the last of the instructions was "pour the remaining cake layer mixture over the pumpkin layer." Well, when I did that it just blobbed to the bottom as the cake layer mixture was more dense than the pumpkin layer. I swirled it in as best as I could and added the crumb topping during the last 15 minutes of baking since it too was a bit more dense that the pumpkin filling and I didn't want it to end up at the bottom. Because I didn't have enough walnuts I threw in some of Oh,Nuts' pecans to make my one cup. While it may not sound like it I would make this again.
The following three recipes I didn't get photos of as they were made the night before Thanksgiving and eaten the day of, with all of the hecticness I neglected to take any photos. Guess what? I talked to Santa and he said I was indeed very good and can expect to find a special light that will allow me to take decent photos at night! What I wonder will be my excuse for crappy photos after I start using it?
Baked French Toast from the blog Mommy? I'm Hungry! Joe actually made this and used a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon so the filling was not as sweet as it should have been. I also thought the "sandwiches" needed to be flipped midway as the bottoms were still soggy after their 40 minute bake but the recipe didn't mention it. I'd like to give this one more try on the kids. While they are pancake lovers I think this would be a nice change for them once I get it right. I especially love that it is put together the night before!
Up next another pumpkin recipe (it is the season), this one, Pumpkin Bundt Cake comes from Dinner with Kirsten. I followed the directions for the cake but used Grace's (A Southern Grace) recipe for the frosting. It comes from the Sweet Spud Cake with Pray-leeen Pa-cahns recipe. The pumpkin cake was so moist and because I poured the praline pecan frosting still warm over the cake it made it even more so. The cake would have been terrific on it's own but the frosting made it so rich and decadent, just right for Thanksgiving!
Last and certainly not least was a mistake that I salvaged. I intended to make the Chewy Butterscotch Brownies that Bakerella featured with her recipe for Butterscotch Ganache but instead of baking them in a regular pan I decided to use my mini muffin pan. Here's where I hit a snag, though I sprayed the pan well, it was not well enough as the brownies wouldn't come out of the pan. After getting Babygirl to scoop them out with a spoon and into a Tupperware I went ahead with the ganache and made a trifle out of all the broken bits. Except for two tablespoons I layered the broken butterscotch brownies on the bottom of my bowl, poured 2/3 of the vanilla pudding that I made out of a box on top of that, mixed the last third of the pudding mixture with coolwhip, threw it in as my top layer, sprinkled the last bit of butterscotch brownie crumbs on top, and drizzled some of the butterscotch ganache over it all. This was good the first day, no complaints but was even better the next after the butterscotch brownies which by the way are really blondies soaked up all the yumminess of the other layers! I'm really impressed with myself that I didn't just pitch the brownies when I thought they didn't turn out!
I know that I've been longwinded and probably should have broken this up into a bunch of individual posts but I just knew it wouldn't happen if I didn't sit down and do it all NOW. Even if you don't try the recipes that I've mentioned please visit all the various blogs. Besides the recipes I've linked here they have many others featured that are equally if not more delicious!