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Marshmallow Heaven

February 23, 2014

 marshmallows

This past Christmas, I wanted to try I new treat. I do this every year, adding a new cookie to the growing list. This year I did something slightly different. I made peppermint marshmallows. I’ve always wanted to try making homemade marshmallows and thought Christmas was the perfect excuse to do so. I made peppermint marshmallows and put them on sticks, put them little bags and decorated them with a ribbon. Putting them on sticks made them easier to add to hot chocolate.

Since then, I’ve made them again for our girl scout fondue night. This time I used a different recipe which has become my go to one. Once you make marshmallows, the options are endless. There is a peanut butter and jelly marshmallow that I really want to try.

Oh, and if you are like me, not much of a marshmallow fan, then you truly must try these.  There is nothing like freshly made marshmallow.  The flavor and texture are out of this world.

You really need you need to have to make these is a standing mixer.  That’s key.  The mixing of the gelatin with the syrup takes time and a very high-speed.

I line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper for easy removal from the pan and cut it with a bread knife.

vanilla marshmallowVanilla Marshmallows

  • 4 1/2 t Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1/2 C Cold Water
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Light Corn Syrup, divided
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 1/8 t Salt
  • 2 t Vanilla

Prepare a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together gelatin and cold water and set aside.

Stir together the sugar, 1/4 C corn syrup, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240F.  Meanwhile pour the remaining 1/4 C corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Once the syrup gets close to the 240F temperature (about 230F), microwave the gelatin on high until melted, about 30 seconds.  Pour the melted gelatin mixture into the mixing bowl.  Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.  Once the syrup reaches 240F, remove from heat and slowly pour into the running mixing bowl.

Once the syrup is incorporated with the gelatin, increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.  Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes.  Beat on the highest speed for an additional 1 to 4 minutes.  How do you know how long?   The bowl will be cool to the touch.  Also the marshmallow will hold a soft shape for several seconds before going back into itself when you pull up the whisk attachment. In other words, not stringy and sticky, the batter flows.  The marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy and tripled in volume.  Beat in the vanilla.

Pour into prepared pan, use an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners.  Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

Flip marshmallow onto a cutting board.  Cut into 1/2 inch squares and roll in a mixture of equal parts corn starch and powdered sugar.

peppermint marshmallowPeppermint Marshmallows

  • 4 1/2 t Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1/2 C Cold Water
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Light Corn Syrup, divided
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 1/8 t Salt
  • 3/4 t Peppermint Extract
  • 3-4 Drops of Red Food Coloring

Prepare a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together gelatin and cold water and set aside.

Stir together the sugar, 1/4 C corn syrup, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240F.  Meanwhile pour the remaining 1/4 C corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Once the syrup gets close to the 240F temperature (about 230F), microwave the gelatin on high until melted, about 30 seconds.  Pour the melted gelatin mixture into the mixing bowl.  Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.  Once the syrup reaches 240F, remove from heat and slowly pour into the running mixing bowl.

Once the syrup is incorporated with the gelatin, increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.  Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes.  Beat on the highest speed for an additional 1 to 4 minutes.  How do you know how long?   The bowl will be cool to the touch.  Also the marshmallow will hold a soft shape for several seconds before going back into itself when you pull up the whisk attachment. In other words, not stringy and sticky, the batter flows.  The marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy and tripled in volume.  Beat in the peppermint and food coloring.

Pour into prepared pan, use an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners.  Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

Flip marshmallow onto a cutting board.  Cut into 1/2 inch squares and roll in a mixture of equal parts corn starch and powdered sugar.

chocolate marshmallow iiChocolate Marshmallows

  • 2 T Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1/3 C Cold Water
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Light Corn Syrup, divided
  • 1/4 C Water
  • 1/8 t Salt
  • 1/4 C Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 C Malted Milk Powder
  • 6 T Boiling Water
  • 1 t Vanilla

Prepare a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together gelatin and cold water and set aside.

Stir together the sugar, 1/4 C corn syrup, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240F.  Meanwhile pour the remaining 1/4 C corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Once the syrup gets close to the 240F temperature (about 230F), microwave the gelatin on high until melted, about 30 seconds.  Pour the melted gelatin mixture into the mixing bowl.  Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.  Once the syrup reaches 240F, remove from heat and slowly pour into the running mixing bowl.

Whisk the cocoa, malted milk and boiling water in a small bowl until smooth.  When the syrup reaches 240F, whisk the cocoa mixture into it, followed by the vanilla.  Turn the mixer up to medium speed and slowly pour the sugar syrup into the gelatin mixture.

Once the syrup is incorporated with the gelatin, increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 10 minutes.  Beat on the highest speed for an additional 1 to 4 minutes.  How do you know how long?   The bowl will be cool to the touch.  Also the marshmallow will hold a soft shape for several seconds before going back into itself when you pull up the whisk attachment. In other words, not stringy and sticky, the batter flows.  The marshmallow will be fluffy and color of chocolate malt and tripled in volume.

Pour into prepared pan, use an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners.  Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.

Flip marshmallow onto a cutting board.  Cut into 1/2 inch squares and roll in a mixture of equal parts powdered sugar and cocoa.

All can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, or can be frozen for longer.

Here is the marshmallow expert.

 

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Winter Doldrums

February 5, 2014

 caramel iii

Winter is really getting me down this year.  I’m not one to complain about the weather.  I mean what’s the point?  I can’t control it, so I usually roll with it.  But not this year.  This year the snow, and boy have we had it in spades, and the cold have gotten to me.  I know this isn’t my favorite season, but still, I’m so over the polar vortex and all it entails.

To help me with deal with winter, I bought a cookbook.  I don’t usually buy cookbooks, I find that there is only one or two recipes I use out each one.  Then they just take up space in my cupboard.  That’s not to say that I don’t have any cookbooks, just that I’ve scaled back quite a bit on them.  But, I bought The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen.  She’s awesome.  There are quite a few gems in this book and I hope to work my way through a few during these cold months.

I made her caramel recipe, which is very similar to a recipe that I’ve made for years.  I think the only difference is my original recipe had a time measurement for cooking the candy, which got me in trouble the first time I made it.  I didn’t have a candy thermometer, so I made a lot of caramel sauce.  Her recipe also helped me figure out how to cut the candy.  I stopped making caramel for that reason alone.

So, obviously, you’ll need a candy thermometer to make these awesome treats.  And you can add nuts.  I sprinkled some crushed cashews to the top half of my last batch.  I also added an additional sprinkle of salt to the top before it set.  Yum!

 

caramel iiCaramel

  • 2 C Heavy Cream
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 C Butter
  • 2 C Light Corn Syrup
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 2 t Vanilla

Line a quarter sheet baking pan with parchment paper.

In a heavy wide-bottomed stock pot combine 1 C cream, sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt.  Bring to a simmer, then a boil.  Once the mixture has boiled for a few minutes, add the remaining cream.  Cook steadily over medium heat, to a steady low boil, stirring intermittently with a wooden spoon.  Cook the caramel until 238 degrees , soft candy stage.  You will know you are close when the mixture thickens and turns an amber color .  Once it is 238 degrees, add the vanilla, stirring to combine and pour in prepared pan.  Let the caramel cool at room temperature overnight.

Cut a large stack of waxed paper into 2 or 3 inch squares, and set aside.

When ready to slice, remove from pan and place face down on a cutting board to remove the paper.  Use a serrated knife and cut the caramel into 1/2 or 1 inch pieces, place on the waxed paper pieces, roll and twist the ends.

These can last for months at room temperature.

Makes 100-150 pieces of candy.

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The Wonder of Waffles

September 3, 2012

I discovered something about my husband this summer that I never knew.  Or maybe, to be fair, I always knew it, but could never persuade him to change his mind.  You see, although my husband loves breakfast food, I’ve never gotten him to enjoy a waffle.  The closest he’s come to one during all the years we’ve been together is the kind that comes out of a box in the freezer section of the grocery store.

And believe me, I’ve tried to persuade him.  I’ve got tons of great recipes, but he’s always just shrugged and said they were okay.  Anyone that spends any time in the kitchen knows that telling the cook it’s okay is worse than saying please don’t make this again.  Nothing is more frustrating than spending time making a meal for someone and encountering indifference.

Oh, but our wonderful trip to Texas changed that.  First, Meeshie had a waffle for breakfast almost everyday.  And, even though she and I share most of our meals, I couldn’t eat the same thing as often.  Not when one of the best things about vacation is trying the local cuisine.  Therefore, my husband finished quite a few of her meals.  It’s that Catholic guilt which can get really tricky when you can’t bring home your leftovers.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve made waffles more times than I had since I’ve been married.  Let’s just say, it’s been a lot.  I don’t mind.  I love waffles.

This recipe is simple but does require some planning.  You make most of the batter the night before to allow the yeast to work its magic.  This allows for a super light and airy waffle.  Crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside just as it should be.  I serve them with an easy apple pear compote.  The compote can be made a day or two ahead and reheats easily.

Waffles

  • 1/2 C Warm Water
  • 1 T Sugar
  • 2 1/4 t Active Dry Yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 C Milk, warmed
  • 1/2 C Butter
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 C Flour
  • 2 Eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 2 t Vanilla
  • 1/4 t Baking Soda
  • 1/2 t Cinnamon
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg

Combine the warm water (110 degrees), sugar and yeast.  Let stand for at least ten minutes.  While yeast is foaming, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the milk until it reaches 110 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Slowly add the milk mixture and the yeast mixture.  Combine until the batter is smooth.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight (or for at least eight hours) in a room temperature area such as the counter.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Add the eggs, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter.  Mix thoroughly and let stand for five minutes.  Preheat the waffle iron.  Pour batter into waffle grids.  Close cover and bake until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.  Remove waffle from iron and place on a cookie sheet.  Place cookie sheet in a low oven, about 200 degrees to keep warm until ready to serve.

Makes 6-8 waffles.

Apple Pear Compote:

  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 Bosc Pears, peeled, cored and diced
  • 2/3 C Sugar
  • 1/4 t Cinnamon
  • 1/4 t Ginger
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/4 C Butter
  • 1/4 C Flour
  • 1 t Vanilla

Zest the lemon and set aside. Place the apples and pears in a medium mixing bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit, then toss fruit with the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until brown. Add the fruit and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves and juices simmer, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until the fruit softens and the juices evaporate some, about 10 minutes. Evenly mix the flour into the fruit; then cook about a minute more to thicken the juices slightly. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest; and remove from the heat.

Serve over the waffles.  You can also serve the compote with your favorite pancakes or oatmeal.

 

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Wide Open Spaces

July 29, 2012

Once, I lived in New Mexico, right outside of El Paso for a year.  It is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.  I think I’ve been trying to get back to the southwest ever since.  I may come from the city of big shoulders, but Texas has a big heart and large beautiful sky.  We were fortunate to be able to visit down there last week.  I had forgotten how easy everything seems there.  The pace is slower, and although it’s hot, the weather is much better than in Chicago.  It’s not as humid there.

We weren’t able to make it to El Paso, we drove, but we did see San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

San Antonio is a great city.  The Riverwalk is so unique, a water taxis can take you wherever you want along the river, or you can hop on a trolley.

The Alamo is in the middle of town, surrounded by kitschy gift shops and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.  We even spent one day in Sea World.  It was actually Meeshie’s birthday!

I thought we would like Austin better, but I’ll be honest we didn’t.  I’m not sure if it was because we couldn’t enjoy so much of the city with Meeshie with us.  It’s not exactly a family town.  The food trucks were great, the bats were a dud, and everyone seemed to try to be hip.  I kept calling them possers, which made my husband laugh.  The places we visited reminded my of Wicker Park, which for a while there was too hip for life.  We did visit the University of Texas, right in the middle of Austin,  and we loved the campus.

Dallas was interesting.  We spent one day near the mall and the other downtown.  Although, downtown Dallas is not what I would consider tourist friendly.  There isn’t much to do within walking distance of the hotels.  Taxis were hard to find and we were always in the wrong area.  I’m used to staying in a city and walking around to see the sights.  Dallas doesn’t have too many sites to see.  Which I thought was strange, the city has such a great and varied history.  We walked to the JFK memorial, and the book depository.  I was expecting something more.  All my life I heard the story from my parents about the assassination of one of our country’s beloved presidents.  My parents were married on November 23, 1963, the day after Kennedy was shot, so I’ve always been fascinated by this tragedy.

I can say that without a doubt, we had some of the greatest food on this trip.  Texas barbecue, Tex-Mex, Shiner Bock beer,  and gourmet food from a food truck are something that everyone should enjoy.  I only wish that we had been able to stay there longer.  Oh well, maybe next time.

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Happy Easter

April 7, 2012

For the first time ever, I had trouble with my lamb cake mold.  I actually made the cake twice yesterday.  I had planned to give one away for after mass today and one for us tomorrow.  After the first try, the cake was raw in the middle.  I have issues with my oven in the kitchen.  I spent a pretty penny for that oven and it runs cold.  Usually I’m on top of it, but yesterday I was involved with too many things.  After the second attempt, the cake would not come out of the pan.  That’s never happened before.

So, this is what I did instead. I cut up the parts of the pound cake I could and made mini lambs.  I frosted them, made the head with Milano cookies and added marshmallows.  The mini lambs are so cute, but I’m still going to use the lamb mold next year.  It’s something that my mother used when I was a girl, and when I moved into my current home, she passed it on to me.  Meeshie loves helping me decorate the lamb (she puts jelly beans all over the body), along with making the coconut grass.

You can tell that the dark cookie head was done first, the eyes are crazy because of their size.  The light cookie head has jelly beans cut in half for the eyes.  Each lamb has cocoa puffs for ears and a tail.

Happy Easter!

 

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My Cookie Exchange

December 20, 2011

I participated in a cookie exchange at work this week.  I love cookie exchanges.  It’s a great way to share a favorite recipe and get a few new ones in return.  One of the recipes I got in the exchange was melomakarona.  They are by far my favorite Greek cookie.  The spice of the cookie, along with the honey is so heavenly.  I’ve never made them, but that is going to change very soon.

I wanted to post at least one new cookie recipe this week.  First, I finished my baking on Sunday.  Second, I’m sharing my baking this week with co-workers, teachers, family and friends.   Because I’m running out of time, I’m also posting a picture of these melomakaronas that isn’t mine.  I hope that’s okay.  When I do make them, I’ll re-post with my own pictures.

Melomakarona

  • 1/2 C Sugar
  • 2 C Vegetable Oil
  • 2 t Cinnamon
  • 1/4 t Nutmeg
  • 1/2 C Orange Juice
  • Zest from one Orange
  • 7 C Flour
  • 2 C Pecans, finely chopped
  • 2 C Honey
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 1 C Water
  • 1-2 inch Orange rind (optional)
  • Cinnamon for garnish

Mix the sugar, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange juice together.  Add the flour and knead, you may need to add additional flour to make the dough workable.  Mix in the pecans, reserving 1/2 C to sprinkle after dipping in honey.  Take a pinch of the dough, roll into a ball and then make them into long ovals.

On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes.

While the cookies are baking, mix the honey, water, orange rind and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon and orang rind. Remove the cookies from the oven, let them cool and dip them in the honey mixture for about a minute.  Use a fork and remove them from the honey mixture, and place them on a cooling rack lined with wax paper.  Sprinkle with the reserved nuts and cinnamon.

Makes 4 dozen.

Warning these are very messy, but very worth it.

Other cookies I made this season:

I made a few more that I won’t have time to share with you until after Christmas.

For Meeshie’s teachers I made mini Blueberry Zucchini Bread and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread.

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Pefect Finger Food or Main Event

December 8, 2011

I have a recipe for an appetizer that I’ve been making forever.  So long in fact that I don’t remember where I got it, much less what to call it.  It’s also a perfect entrée.  Do you have a recipe like that?  One that you can easily transition from side dish to main dish?

I think the reason that it’s so popular is because it’s a perfect finger food.  I mean that it’s a perfect finger food to serve a room full of hungry men.  Don’t get me wrong, ladies love it too.  And did I mention that it transitions into a great entrée?

This recipe uses Pillsbury crescent rolls and I make one tube of rolls per meat choice when I’m serving it to a crowd as an appetizer.  I’ve scaled it back so you can use it as a meal instead.  When I was first given this recipe, I was putting the sauce inside the crescent roll.  I stopped doing that because the process can become very messy and it’s hard to seal the rolls.  I like serving the sauce on the side much better.

I love that the combination for this is as endless as your imagination or what you have in your fridge.  You can make ham and swiss; chicken and cheddar, roast beef and mozzarella.  I’ve even made this with a combination of cheeses and left out the meat.  Don’t be afraid to try your favorite lunch meat with your favorite cheese.

When I make it for an entrée, I serve it with soup or chili.  Then I’ll give the leftover to Meeshie to enjoy in her lunch.  And that’s another thing I love about these.  They are a hot dish, but the still taste good if they been out of the oven for a while, perfect for a large get together.  Let’s face it, this time of year we are always looking for a dish like that.

Mini Sammies

  • 1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 1/2 C of your favorite lunch meat: turkey, ham or roast beef
  • 1/2 C of shredded cheese to accompany the lunch meat: cheddar, swiss, mozzarella
  • 1/4 C Green Onion, diced
  • 1 T Butter, melted
  • Sesame Seed, for garnish
  • Barbecue Sauce, for dipping
  • Mustard, for dipping
  • Ketchup, for dipping

Take the crescent rolls out of the tube, separate them and flatten the triangles on your work surface.  I find that if you flatten the crescents, it will give you a larger area of dough thereby making it easier to stuff.  Place a small amount (about 2 T) of meat, a small amount (1/2 T) of green onion, and a small amount (about 1 T) of cheese in the widest part of the crescent.  (You want enough filling in each to enjoy the sandwich, but not so much that you can’t get the sides together to seal.)  Take the sides and close the crescent, making sure to seal completely.   Place the sandwich on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush the sandwiches with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 375 degrees oven.

Serve with barbecue sauce, mustard and ketchup.  Makes 8 mini sandwiches per roll.

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