Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

They spent the old year's last hour quietly around the fire. A few minutes before twelve Captain Jim rose and opened the door.

"We must let the New Year in," he said.

Outside was a fine blue night. A sparking ribbon of moonlight garlanded the gulf. The clock on the little shelf above the fireplace struck twelve.

"Welcome, New Year," said Captain Jim, bowing low as the last stroke died away. "I wish you all the best year of your lives, mates. I reckon that whatever the New Year brings us will be the best the Great Captain has for us - and somehow or other we'll all make port in a good harbour." [Anne's House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery]

[photograph by Sarah Krumm, Etsy shop: a road to find out]

 
Welcome 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

20. Try sushi

I did it! I tried sushi!

And I didn't even mean to!

Well, let me rephrase that. I didn't accidentally eat sushi. I don't think that's probably possible. But on Christmas day, we were at my in-law's home working on a Christmas puzzle and my mother-in-law went in the kitchen to get some appetizers. Well, I'm used to appetizers like little smokies and hot bean dip, so imagine my suprise when she brings out a plate of sushi!

And also let me clarify that I haven't been scared of sushi, or even avoiding it, really. It's just that I grew up rural Iowa and sushi is... well... scarce around there. At least compared to how common it seems to be in big cities. So I've just never been in the right place at the right time. But on Sunday the sushi gods were shining on down on me.

I tried sushi!

It was ok.

I wouldn't mind having it again, but I'm certainly not going to be craving it either. I don't know, maybe it's one of those acquired tastes. I think the part that turned me off a bit was the fact that it is cold. I don't know... I rather like my food to be hot or at least warm in most cases (case in point: little smokies would never be served cold!).

That's about all I have to say about it. Certainly not as life-changing as I had hoped. But I did knock off one more of my goals.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One last Christmas idea...

Christmas blog fail.

Yes, I've neglected my blog and all my readers since December 17. That's ten full days. Plus, I had a ton of fun Christmas-y ideas to write about... most of which will just have to wait until next year.

So did you all have a good Christmas? I did. It's been great to have some time off work, spend time with my husband's family and get stuff done around the house. Christmas isn't quite as nice as it was when I was a little girl, but I'm still trying to find the place where holiday enjoyment/excitement/wonder and adult responsibilities cross paths.

Anyway.

I did have one teensy little project that I really want to share. You can file it away and use it next Christmas. You're welcome, and thank you for obliging my lateness. :)

My husband and I both wanted to give out small gifts to our co-workers, but didn't want to spend a lot of money. I had pinned an idea on Pinterest many months ago and I remembered it as I was trying to think of something to make... fudge in Christmas cookie cutters! These would also be a perfect gift for friends, neighbors, mail carriers, teachers... anybody!



This was so easy. The hardest part was finding pretty metal cookie cutters that weren't too expensive. I ended up buying a 25-pack of Wilton cookie cutters on sale that ended up being only about 50 cents each. This would be a good time to watch for them on clearance!

fudge cookie cutter co-worker or neighbor gift

I set the cookie cutters on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Then I mixed up a batch of Christmas fudge and carefully poured it into each shape. If you spill a little over the edged you can tidy it up a bit after it cools, but try to keep it as neat as possible.

This step was a little bit stressful because the fudge hardens so quickly. I was able to get about 7 or so cookie cutters filled before it would get too thick and stop pouring. If you have a fudge recipe that takes longer to harden, that might work better. I did scoop out the remaining fudge and press it into the cutters with a spoon, but those didn't look quite as nice as the ones that were poured. I was able to fill 10 medium-sized cookie cutters with each batch of fudge.

Then, while the fudge is still soft, decorate it by pressing in mini m&ms or sprinkles. This is what really makes them cute!

fudge cookie cutter co-worker or neighbor gift

I printed little tags for each one and then put them in a mylar goodie bag tied with ribbon. I thought they were adorable (and super yummy!) and I sure hope our co-workers thought so too!
fudge cookie cutter co-worker or neighbor gift

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Caramel Brickle Thumbprints

If you can handle one more recipe (it's baked this time!), I'm sharing my recipe for Caramel Brickle Thumbrints over at the blog Newfoundlander at Heart today.

Go check it out, you'll be glad you did... these cookies are delicious! Plus, check out Margot's Christmas Cookie Countdown for more cookie ideas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 7 - Salted Nut Rolls

Welcome to Day 7 of "A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats"! Thank to you everyone who has visited each day to check out the treats. Today we have one of my favorites, but something that I haven't made since I was a little girl... salted nut rolls!

salted nut rolls Christmas holiday no-bake treats

These are so yummy... the sweet and salty combination is amazing and so addicting. Nothing about the process of making them is neat and tidy, but the end result is well worth getting the kitchen a little messy for.


You will need:
1 large (11 oz.) jar marshmallow creme (I couldn't find a large jar, so I ended up using 1 1/2 small (7 oz.) jars)
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

30 caramels
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup margarine

dry roasted peanuts

Start by mixing the marshmallow creme, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. This will be your nougat center. You'll need to get in there and mix it by hand, kneading it until it is the consistency of playdough. You may or may not need to add a bit more powdered sugar to get it to this point. When it's done, it shouldn't be very sticky (it will be a little bit sticky, but much, much less than in the beginning).


Roll the dough into logs about 1 or 1.5 inches thick. Place on wax paper and then put them into the freezer to harden.


When your nougat logs are sufficiently hardened (an hour or two should be fine), melt the caramels, sweetened condensed milk, and margarine (either over stove or in microwave) together until combined. Take off heat. Dip your nougat logs into the caramel mixture (let it cool for a minute or two first so you don't burn yourself!) and then immediately dip it into a bowl of dry roasted salted peanuts.



Place the log on a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it tightly to press the peanuts into the caramel. Put the finished nut rolls into the fridge (or freezer) to harden and cut into pieces to serve. Enjoy!



Salted Nut Roll

Ingredients:
1 large (11 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

30 caramels
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup margarine

dry roasted peanuts

Knead first three ingredients with hands until like playdough (may need to add more powdered sugar). Roll into logs of desired size, then place on waxed paper. Put into sealed containers and freeze. Dip frozen logs into caramel mixture of 30 melted caramels, 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, and 1/2 cup margarine. ( May melt in microwave). Immediately dip into bowl of dry roasted salted peanuts, use saran wrap to help press peanuts into caramel, then use saran wrap to cover. Keep in fridge, cut into slices as desired.

Hope you enjoyed my week of no-bake treats and that I've inspired you to make some goodies in the kitchen this holiday season!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 6 - Cathedral Windows

Hi everyone! Welcome back to "A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats! Today is Day 6 and I have a special treat for you. My sister Sarah is sharing a recipe called Cathedral Windows. Isn't that a great name for Christmas treats? Doesn't it just evoke some beautiful imagery?!

Sarah is artsy and she has an etsy shop called a road to find out. You should definitely take a peek... she does some amazing photography! I've featured her work on my blog here and here.

Take it away Sarah!

cathedral windows church christmas treats no bake

Greetings everyone! I am Mandy's sister Sarah from Iowa! I am a graphic designer and photographer, but I love to bake and cook in my spare time. I found this recipe for a cookie called Cathedral Windows. Our mom made them when she was a little girl, and she was extremely excited to hear I was making them now! They are called Cathedral Windows because the slices of colored marshmallows create a "stained glass" look in a chocolate window surrounded by coconut. My husband Alex and I decided to try them out the other evening. We found that they look like really simple cookies with simple ingredients, but they end up being quite delicious. They look amazingly beautiful for the Christmas season!

We made only half a batch, and it made two logs of the cookies.



First you combine the chocolate chips and butter on the stovetop on low. A double boiler would work really well, we just ended up melting it all in a pan and it worked if you keep stirring!




Mix the marshmallows and the walnuts together in a bowl, then pour the melted chocolate mixture on top of them and stir the sticky mixture together.






Cover the wax paper with coconut. The coconut will end up coating the chocolate marshmallow log. (You'll use a lot more coconut that you'll think!)


Pour the chocolatey mixture onto the coconut covered wax paper.
Roll the chocolatey mixture into a log shape with the wax paper, making sure it is coated with coconut. Keep it tightly closed in the wax paper.




Place in the fridge overnight or until firm. (Alex and I couldn't wait to eat them, so we put it in the freezer for a little over an hour!)

Take out of the fridge/freezer when finished, cut into slices, and devour! They are wonderful with a cold glass of milk or a steaming cup of coffee!


Cathedral Windows

Makes about 60

1/4 pound butter or magarine
1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (12-ounce) package colored mini marshmallows (about 9 cups)
7 ounces sweetened grated coconut (about 2 cups)

Heat butter and chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Toss marshmallows and nuts in a large bowl; stir in chocolate. Tear five 9-inch sheets of waxed paper and sprinkle each generously with coconut. Divide dough into fifths and place each fifth on a sheet of waxed paper. Roll tightly into 2-inch diameter logs and refrigerate overnight or until firm. Before serving, unwrap from waxed paper and cut into 1/2" slices.

I found this particular recipe on http://www.christmas-cookies.com/ and am not disappointed at all!

Make sure to check out my online photography shop for nature, travel, and food photography (www.etsy.com/shop/ski22).

Hope you all have a beautiful holiday season! And thank you, Mandy, for allowing me to be one of the honored bakers on your blog :)
 
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Thanks Sarah... And thanks Alex for being such a great hand model! I'm sure it won't be the last crazy thing you get roped into doing... not in this family!

Be sure to stop back tomorrow for the last day of no-bake treats!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 5 - Speedy Turtles

Welcome to Day 5 of "A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats"! I hope you are getting lots of good ideas for the holiday season. But we're not done yet... today I am going to show you an easy-peasy recipe for turtle candies with caramel, pecans and chocolate!

Speedy Turtles

speedy turtles recipe candy christmas treats

This recipe is super quick to make but tastes amazing - perfect for holiday get-togethers. Really, who wouldn't reach for turtles on a plate full of holiday treats?!


You will need:
30 caramel squares
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
5 Hershey bars (or about 8 oz. of any chocolate - chocolate chips would work fine)
2 cups chopped pecans


First melt the caramels and evaporated milk over the stove - either do this in a double boiler or keep heat low and stir frequently to prevent scorching.


Add the pecans and stir.


Drop the pecan and caramel mixture by spoonfuls onto parchment paper or a silicone mat. Don't use wax paper (like me) because the caramel will stick and tear the paper when you try to remove the candies. However, I learned how to get them off here... and amazingly, it worked. Seriously though, skip the wax paper - you'll thank me.

Also, be aware the this step is kind of a gooey, sticky mess. But if you perservere, I promise it will be worth it. Plus, even though they look funny now, one you add chocolate, all turtles look perfect... promise.


Ok, now melt your chocolate. The recipe calls for Hershey bars, so that's what I used, but next time I would probaby use chocolate chips or fancy chocolate squares. These were made with milk chocolate, but I think they would be delicious with semi-sweet or dark chocolate... yum!

Also, I didn't even think about melting in the microwave, but you could certainly do that. Just remember not to overheat your chocolate or let moisture in while you're melting it because it will get chunky. (Mine did because I was in a hurry and it got too hot.) Just add some shortening and stir. It sounds goofy but I promise it works. If it's not working add a little more. Again, you'll thank me some day.

Anyway, once your chocolate is melted, just spoon some chocolate over the top of each turtle and you're done! Yummy! I popped mine in the fridge so they would harden a little faster.


Speedy Turtles

Ingredients:
30 caramels
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
5 Hershey bars (or about 8 oz. chocolate of any type)
2 cups chopped pecans.

Melt caramels and milk in a double boiler. Add pecans. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper. Melt the bars. Spoon chocolate over each piece.

See, that was easy!

Hope you stop by tomorrow for more treats! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 4 - Chocolate Mice

Hi everyone! Welcome to Day 4 of "A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats"! Today I'll be sharing a treat that I think is very cute... Chocolate Mice!


This is the first time I have made this recipe, but I found it a year or so ago on Allrecipes.com and have wanted to try it ever since. I have a thing about food made to look like animals or other cute things... too fun! I know mice aren't necessarily Christmas-y, but it's all in how you look at it, and I think they work just fine. This would be especially fun to make with or for kids, but the dough is a little bit sticky so they will definitely need some supervision and help.

Hope you like these little mice!


You will need:
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/3 cup chocolate cookie crumbs, divided (I couldn't find chocolate wafer cookies, so I used chocolate graham crackers and they worked fine.)

  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • sliced almonds
  • licorice ropes
  • silver dragees or other candies/sprinkles for eyes and nose



First crush your cookies into small crumbs. I put the cookies in a plastic bag and crushed them with a rolling pin, but you could also throw them in a food processor.


Mix 1 cup of cookie crumbs with the melted chocolate and sour cream. After this is completely combined, refrigerate until firm. (I just refrigerated it for about half an hour.)


Roll the dough into little balls with points for noses and then roll into excess cookie crumbs. Or, roll in powdered sugar to make white mice. (Full disclosure: My white mice didn't turn out very nice. I didn't even include photos of them... the powdered sugar soaked into the dough and made them very soggy looking. I wouldn't recommend white mice with this method. Perhaps you would have more luck starting with a vanilla cookie.)

Then add almond ears, licorice rope tails and dragees or sprinkles for eyes and nose.


They're multiplying!

The recipe only made 16 mice, so you may want to make a double batch. I would refrigerate these since they contain sour cream.

Enjoy!


Chocolate Mice (from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/3 cup chocolate cookie crumbs, divided (I couldn't find chocolate wafer cookies, so I used chocolate graham crackers and they worked fine)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • sliced almonds
  • licorice ropes
  • silver dragees or other candies/sprinkles for eyes and nose
1. Melt the chocolate, and combine with sour cream. Stir in 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
2. Roll into balls. Mold to a slight point at one end (the nose).
3. Roll dough in powdered sugar (for white mice), and in chocolate cookie crumbs (for dark mice). On each mouse, place dragees in appropriate spot for eyes, almond slices for ears, and a licorice string for the tail.
4. Refrigerate for at least two hours, until firm

Be sure to check back tomorrow for more no-bake Christmas treats!

Monday, December 12, 2011

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 3 - Chocolate Toffee

Welcome to Day 3 of "A week of no-bake Christmas party treats"! Our post today comes from Margot of the blog Newfoundlander at Heart. Be sure to check it out because she is doing a Christmas cookie countdown over there too... with new treats every day until Christmas! You should also take a peek at her beautiful Etsy shop... gorgeous photography and some wonderful handmade items. I especially love the hand hooked coasters and trivets.

Anyway, Margot is going to show us how to make chocolate toffee, and it looks so good that I'm going to be quiet now and let her get on with it!

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Hi there everyone! I’m Margot from Newfoundlander at Heart and I am excited to be here today to share one of my no-bake treats. This is a great one to whip up right before a potluck or as a last minute cookie exchange item. And everyone always loves it!


1 cup   chopped walnuts 
            (I find it easiest to use walnut pieces and a rolling pin, rather than chopping - see photo below)
½ cup  butter
¾ cup  brown sugar, packed
½ cup  semi-sweet chocolate chips


Grease a 9”x9” baking pan (the recipe called for 8”x8”, but I found it really thick), and spread walnuts on the bottom.


In a saucepan, heat butter and sugar; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until mixture darkens, about 7 minutes, and then pour immediately pour over walnuts.


Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top; cover with a baking sheet to hold in heat until the chocolate begins to melt. Spread chocolate over top. Refrigerate; break into pieces when cool. Makes about 1 pound, freezes well if you want to make ahead!


I found this recipe in the Goosberry Patch Christmas 2009 Magazine, p. 37 submitted by Wendy Lee Paffenroth; and it has been good to me ever since!

There is a Christmas Cookie Countdown going on at my blog right now, with 25 days of cookie recipes I’m sure you could find something you like, feel free to hop over and check it out! And thanks so much Amanda for letting me take over your blog for a day :)

xox
Margot
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Thanks Margot! That looks amazing. Definitely something I need to try... and soon!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for more no-bake treat ideas! :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats - Day 2 - Peanut Butter Crispy Balls

Welcome to day 2 of "A week of {no bake} Christmas party treats"! Today Kristen is visiting and she is going to share her recipe for Peanut Butter Crispy Balls. Mmmm! Sounds great!

Kristen has a lovely blog called life by the book and an Etsy shop by the book paper. Be sure to check them out... you won't be disappointed! (I absolutely LOVE the heart garlands in her shop!)

Let's hear it for Kristen!

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Hi everyone!  I'm Kristen, wife and mother of two aged two and under, blogger over at life by the book, and owner of the Etsy shop by the book paper.  By that list alone, it's a miracle I was able to complete this post for you today.  But it's such a great idea, and I'm so happy to be able to share this recipe with you!

I love to cook and bake and I do it often, but I know that not everyone does, so I was so excited when I looked through my Christmas cookie list (yes, there is a list) and saw these awesome no-bake peanut butter balls on there because I knew they would be perfect to share with you.  They are super easy for bakers and non-bakers alike, and I promise I'll make it as painless as possible.  Plus, just think of them as crunchy round peanut butter cups and that will probably keep you going.

This recipe came to me through my oldest and dearest friend when we were hosting a cookie exchange one year.  If you've never done one, you make one dozen cookies for each person invited (for them to take home) and one extra dozen for taste-testing during the party.  That way everyone ends up with several dozen types of cookies but you only have to make one.  Anyhoo....she made these crispy peanut butter balls and they were a hit.  While I was teaching, I made them for my students one year (before peanut butter was banned shortly thereafter) and they ate them all.  Quickly.

Ok, here we go:


Gather up the ingredients:



1 15-ounce jar of smooth peanut butter
2 cups of Rice Krispies
1 1/2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
1 teaspoon shortening (or butter, margarine, vegetable oil)


In a double boiler, over low heat, melt the chocolate and shortening (in my case- Smart Balance).  If you've never used a double boiler, and you're thinking, "What is she talking about?", it's just a pot of boiling water with an empty pot or metal mixing bowl on top of it.  The steam from the boiling water gently heats the pot or bowl and melts the ingredients without cooking them.  See?:






A word to the wise: I would double the amount of chocolate you melt.  There never seems to be enough to cover the dough balls, and it's a pain to have to melt more once you've gotten going.


Then in a medium mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.  Clean hands work best at mixing this together because you can knead in the Rice Krispies and the sugar.  A spoon or spatula doesn't quite cut it.






Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes to make it a more workable consistency.  Once firm, roll into 1-inch balls.  Dip the balls into the chocolate using a fork to allow the excess chocolate to run off.  Place the coated balls on a wax paper or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to harden and then place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.






As you can see, I ran out of chocolate halfway through (didn't take my own advice) and also didn't have anymore semi-sweet chips, so I decided to do white chocolate.  Well, the white chips didn't melt as smoothly as the semi-sweet (as in, not at all), and I ended up sort of packing it around the peanut butter dough and pressing it in place.  Still tasty, but not exactly pretty.



While they aren't exactly pretty, they taste amazing, and once people start to eat them, they really won't care what they look like.

I hope that you decide to give these a try and that they become one of your standard Christmas treats. 

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Thanks so much, Kristen! So glad you could share this yummy-looking treat. Peanut butter and chocolate is a delicious combination in any form and this looks absolutely delicious!

Be sure to check back each day this week for more no-bake treat ideas!