Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Goodies

Every year I love baking Christmas goodies. I think about it weeks ahead of time. Buy lots of magazines, and browse a lot of websites looking for the best. There are also a lot that are passed down from generation to generation that it just wouldn't be Christmas without them.

Here is what I have made this year:

Homemade Coconut Marshmallows (this is a link)
**In the picture on the left**
I started making these a few years ago in a Cooking Light Magazine. Everybody loved them and I ended up making 3 or 4 batches within a few days span. James loves them dipped in chocolate. This is definitely going to be one I do every year.

Cooking spray
2 cups flaked sweetened coconut, toasted
2 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (2 tablespoons plus 1 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with heavy-duty plastic wrap, allowing plastic wrap to extend 1 inch over sides of pan. Lightly coat the plastic wrap with cooking spray. Spread coconut in an even layer in bottom of pan; set aside.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl; set aside.
Combine remaining 1/4 cup of water, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Cook, without stirring, over medium-high heat until a candy thermometer registers 260° (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat; gradually stir in softened gelatin (mixture will appear foamy).

While sugar mixture cooks, beat the vanilla, salt, and egg whites at high speed in a heavy-duty stand mixer with whisk attachment until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour in gelatin mixture, beating until very thick (about 5 minutes). Gently spread marshmallow mixture over coconut in prepared pan. Coat 1 side of another sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray. Place plastic wrap, coated side down, over marshmallow mixture. Chill 8 hours or until firm. ** actually only took a few hours**

Sprinkle powdered sugar and cornstarch over a cutting board. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap. Invert marshmallow mixture over powdered sugar mixture. Using a dough scraper, cut mixture into about 1-inch squares. Store between sheets of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container.

Truffles (this is a link)
**In the picture on the bottom**
I found this one this year, It is from Alton Brown's website on Food Network. I really wanted a great truffle recipe, and this is the one for me. Pretty easy, but it is pretty messy. Make sure you plan ahead and have everything ready or you will be in a pickle.

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup brandy **I used a teaspoon of almond extract**
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Place the 10 ounces of chocolate and butter in a medium size glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, and repeat this process 1 more time. Set aside.
Heat the heavy cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture over the melted chocolate mixture; let stand for 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir gently, starting in the middle of bowl and working in concentric circles until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Gently stir in the brandy. Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Using a melon baller, scoop chocolate onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the cocoa powder, nuts, and/or toasted coconut each in its own pie pan and set aside.
In the meantime, place the 8 ounces of chocolate into a medium mixing bowl which is sitting on top of a heating pad lined bowl, with the heating pad set to medium. Depending on the heating pad, you may need to adjust the heat up or down. Stirring the chocolate occasionally, test the temperature of the chocolate and continue heating until it reaches 90 to 92 degrees F; do not allow the chocolate to go above 94 degrees F. If you do, the coating will not have a nice snap to it when you bite into the chocolate. Once you have reached the optimal temperature, adjust the heat to maintain it.
Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape into balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. Use powder-free vinyl or latex gloves, if desired.

Dip an ice cream scoop into the chocolate and turn upside down to remove excess chocolate. Place truffles 1 at time into the scoop and roll around until coated. Then place the truffle into the dish with either the cocoa powder, nuts or coconut. Move the truffle around to coat; leave truffle in the coating for 10 to 15 seconds before removing. In the meantime, continue placing the chocolate-coated truffles in the cocoa or other secondary coating. After 10 to 15 seconds, remove the truffle to a parchment lined sheet pan. Repeat until all truffles are coated. Allow to set in a cool dry place for at least 1 hour; or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Truffles are best when served at room temperature.

Gingerbread men
**In the picture on the right**
I found this one on Allrecipes.com last year, but this is the first year I have made this particular ginger bread man recipe. They turned out exactly the way you want a gingerbread man to come out. The right amount of spice, perfect crispness.

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until smooth. Stir in molasses and egg yolk. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg; blend into the molasses mixture until smooth. Cover, and chill for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Frost or decorate when cool.

Almond Snickerdoodles
**In the picture on the top, they look like sugar cookies**
This recipe has been passed down from my Grandma Skipton, she got it from a friend a long long time ago. This is the recipe that if I didn't make them, it just wouldn't be Christmas!! I have such great memories baking with my mom in the kitchen, decorating and cutting out cookies.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c flour
2 t cream of tarter
1 t soda
1/2 t salt
1 t almond extract (I usually add an extra 1/2 t)

Mix first 3 till light yellow and smooth. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt. Mix in with wet ingredients. Add almond extract and mix. Put in fridge for a few hours.
Using cookie cutters, roll out and cut in desired shapes. Bake 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. **Mine usually take exactly 7 minutes**

And here are a few others I am either in the process of making, or have already made, but they are all gone and so I don't have a picture for them :)
**These are links**
Nainamo Bars
Lemon Coolers
Chocolate Chowmein Clusters

Christmas cards

I am late......this year I am running late. On pretty much everything. But that is okay, because I am enjoying every part of running late. Baking with Gabe, decorating for the ward Christmas party, Birthdays, snow storms, laundry, trips, yada yada yada.
Because of this, Christmas cards are going out a bit late. I know I could just skip the chaos of picking pictures, writing something fun but probably not too witty, stuffing envelopes, and addressing them.....BUT, I actually love doing it and would feel sad after Christmas if I didn't.

So here are the pictures we picked for our cards. Our friend Hailey took our pictures behind their house in the snow. They turned out great....a lot better than our stint at Sears a few years back (brings back nightmares!!!!!)

We hope you all have wonderful Christmases and enjoy your time with family and loved ones and remember the true meaning of the holiday season.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Holidays

I am back from my trip.
I came to a conclusion....
Red eye trips+me= an over emotional sleep deprived wreck

I had it all planned out.....before I would board the plane at 8:30pm, I would take 2 Tylenol simply sleeps to make sure I could fall asleep. I would read for only one hour....enough time to get drowsy and let the first run of the beverage cart to go through. All was going smooth until I realized the lady sitting next to me was a "Chatty Kathy" She took 2 muscle relaxers and then decided to inform me..."I don't know why I take these, they usually wire me AND THEN I am so tired the next day! I got this mud bath, I am from Seattle, I am a teacher, what are you doing for Christmas? Do you like my mesh tank top pullover? **yes, she really had one, it was NOT too cute** it actually keeps me warm, yada yada yada......."
Then when I thought it was okay to fall asleep, the crazy lady kept trying to TUCK ME IN! Seriously!! lol, I was using my sweater to cover me like a blanket and RIGHT when I was starting to drift to dreamland she would start tucking my sweater behind me and under my chin! She would just smile and motion that she didn't mean to startle me!
Then there was really really bad turbulence....enough to make me pray harder than I have in a long time. And then the lady next to the CRAZY lady was snoring SO LOUD.

Awful trip home. **sigh**

BUT.....enough complaining....I really don't have anything to complain about....I had a great trip, got to see my wonderful sister who I feel I got to become closer to since we are 12 years apart... we never grew up together. It truly was a blessing. Her baby is the sweetest, sleeping at night and awake during the day....could it get any better? And her husband is such a huge help, and such a great husband to her, he treats her like a queen.

I was so happy to be home. The boys missed me, but I don't think it compares to how much I missed James Gabe and Nolan. It actually hurt to think about it while in Hawaii, I love them so much that it actually made me nauseous. As soon as I got home, everything was back to normal....boys going to timeout, trying to keep up with their whirlwind messes, and tons of smooches and them telling me that they loved me.
This week is very busy as I am sure it is for almost everyone! The boys are both sick with whatever this cold thing is that is going around, which adds another element to things. It snowed which adds another element to the errands I have to run. I have to finish Christmas shopping, bake bake bake, and I am in charge with the fantastic help from Kristen, Amy, and Camie to do the decorations for the ward Christmas party on Friday. I also get to find time to love on my boys and give my husband lots of hugs and kisses.

I will be posting some of my favorite Christmas recipes soon within the next week or so. As soon as I find a spare moment!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

See ya in a while!

I am off.
Actually tomorrow. But I don't have time to post tomorrow. For I am getting on a plane tomorrow morning by myself to head to Hawaii..................................Don't get any ideas. I don't think I am even bringing a swim suit :)

What is the reason for my trip?
This sweet baby
**The paper on her forehead is a piece of newspaper that down in Peru believe when put on the forehead, it takes away hiccups....I guess it works!! :) **

My sister Shannon just had her first baby with her husband Mario. Her name is Martalica (Mario is from Peru) And I am so lucky to be able to go and help for a week. I am going to try to do as much as I can to make it easier on them.

As much as I am excited to go, I am also sad I will be leaving my boys and James and miss a whole week in their very exciting lives...seriously, I leave for a few hours and Nolan and Gabe have already learned something new!!

Also while I am there, I am going to go here:

The Kona Hawaii Temple. I can't wait!! Ill be back next week! Mahalo!!

**Also, I finally made it to 100 posts! woohoo!**

you either love it or hate it

You either love eggnog, or you hate it. I absolutely love it and wait very patiently for its arrival every year in the grocery stores. I sometimes forget that not everyone loves it (as in the boys and James) So I end up wasting a lot of it because I cannot drink it all before it goes bad. I would drink it all.....but have you seen that calorie intake on that thing?!? I only allow my self so much.
So My carton was starting to get near its "due date", so I decided to make something with it.

That something? Chocolate Chip Eggnog Bread/Muffins. The muffins I think turned out better :)
Chocolate Chip Eggnog Bread/Muffins

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 Tbs oil
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 package vanilla instant pudding (not prepared, just add powder)
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup eggnog
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chocolate chips or to your taste. **next time I am going to do mini chocolate chips**

In a large mixing bowl cream together butter oil and sugar till smooth. Add extracts and pudding powder. Mix. Add eggs and eggnog, mix once more.
In a small bowl, Add dry ingredients and whisk till combined. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix till no longer dry, don't mix too long. Stir in Chocolate chips.
In Oven preheated to 350 degrees, Bake either one 9x5 greased loaf pan or Cupcake lined muffins. The bread will take 50 minutes, but check it at 40 minutes. The muffins will take 20 minutes.

Like I said, the Bread was great, but I loved the muffins! I will be making this over and over.