Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bûche de Noël - 2009

Here's what my Bûche de Noël would've looked like without the kids' decorating help, but Madeline pointed out that it needed more, so off we went with me teaching them how to make mushrooms out of mini marshmallows (there's a "Martha" Mama moment for ya!).

Anyway, last year and this year I used this recipe and it's excellent. I had chocolate peppermint candy canes this year (which Erik smashed in a Ziploc with a hammer) and I didn't have powdered sugar, so I used Baker's sugar (superfine) and it worked like a dream. Also used Scharffen Berger cocoa in the "frosting" this year (that Joel gave me for Christmas) which may account for the lighter color of this log.

The second Bûche de Noël is from last year (my first ever). And, the collage shows what the Yule Log looked like when the kids were done having decorating fun with it. Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let Them Eat... Snow!!

Hey, if life dumps 10-inches of snow in your yard, make snow cream!

The kids kept wanting to eat the light, fluffy snow today, and who could blame them? I promised them real snow cones tonight, so we did these beauties when we were done with all our snow adventures today!

I know many folks make this with cream (but I didn't have any) and most only use vanilla (but when I think of snow, I think peppermint). These turned out great — like the lightest, creamy vanilla ice cream ever with a kiss of cool peppermint. Heavenly.

Peppermint Vanilla Snow Cream

  1. Scoop up a big bowl of clean snow from your backyard, and bring it inside.
  2. Take the last cup of whole milk left in the container (or half-and-half or cream if you have it) and add a couple Tbs. of sugar, 1 tsp (or so) of real vanilla and 1/2 tsp of real peppermint extract. Put the lid on the half-gallon and shake it up!
  3. Scoop snow into dessert bowls and pour "cream" on top!
  4. Enjoy!! Delish! (Can also top with whipped cream and sprinkles or crushed candy canes for an over-the-top snow cream sundae!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gramma Sartor Santas

Last year at Christmas, our friend Linda gave us a plate of these adorable Santa cookies. The kids (well, really all of us) loved them. So this morning, I got everything ready to make some. To do the Santa faces, frost the entire cookie with white frosting, then cover the bottom half of the cookie with flaked coconut. Sprinkle a crescent of red sugar on the top of the cookie for his hat, with a mini marshmallow for the ball at the tip of the hat. We used red M&M's cut in half for the noses (red hots are the "traditional" nose though, but M&M's was what I had), and chocolate chips for eyes. I think Madeline's turned out pretty cute too (with "rosy chocolate cheeks", and "little red feets" at the bottom of his beard.) Erik, and our friend Ben, did the boy-thing of pouring as many topping on their cookies as possible, and sampling the rest.
For the sugar cookie, I decided to use my Great Gramma Sartor's Sour Cream Sugar Cookie recipe. It's wonderful and pretty easy (and a slice and bake recipe, giving us good rounds for the faces).
I'm not even typing the recipe in — just click on it to make it bigger! I love to see her hand writing, and it's even in red... how fun for the holidays.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lil' Monkeys in the Kitchen

Madeline and Gavino helped me make the pineapple cake for Erik's birthday cake today, and later in the afternoon, E was happy to help sample the chocolate buttercream frosting and the pineapple custard cream filling!
I think Mr. Monkey looks pretty good, and that he's got more personality than Martha's cake because of his imperfections... it looks more like he has fur, and he looks happier too (I didn't use her recipe, just the great idea for the cake shape). And, thanks to Rochelle for making sure the cake didn't burn while I ran to the store this afternoon! Happy 2nd birthday to our very own naughty little monkey!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Sweets Lineup...

We've baked up a plethora of tasty Christmas cookies, and cooked up some yummy candy too! The kids have even been in the mix on some of the rolling, cutting and decorating... They especially loved helping with the Finnish Gingerbread Snowflakes.

Grandma's Best Ginger Cookies (adapted from Entertaining The Finnish Way)
Makes about 10 dozen

1 1/4 c. butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. dark syrup (I used about 1/2 c. molasses and 1/2 c. dark Karo corn syrup - they don't have molasses in Finland)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbs. grated orange rind (I didn't have, so used 1/8 tsp. of Chinese Five Spice)
about 7 c. of flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 all-purpose unbleached)
3 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F, bake cookies for about 10 minutes per batch. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and beat until fluffy. Mix spices into syrup in a glass Pyrex measuring cup and heat in microwave for 1 minute. Stir and pour into butter/egg mixture. Beat to combine. Slowly add the flour (and all the baking soda) about 1/2 at a time.

The original recipe says to cover the dough in plastic and leave overnight in a cool place before rolling, cutting and baking. I made mine early in the day, put it in a gallon Ziploc, and left it in a cool place until the evening when I rolled cut out and baked about 1/2 the batch. Then I stored the remaining dough in the fridge for 2 days until I did the additional 5-dozen snowflakes.

**Icing for Christmas Cut-outs**
2 Tbs. soft butter
2 tsp. extract (vanilla, lemon, almond, rum... whatever you prefer)
4 c. powdered sugar
enough milk to achieve the consistency that you want (for piping or spreading)
a couple drops of food coloring as desired
Pate de Fruit (you can change the flavor of this candy by using whatever fruit you prefer)
recipe adapted from SELF Magazine, December 2008 issue

Parchment paper
2 c. defrosted frozen strawberries (we used mango and papaya)
1 3/4 Tbs. apple pectin powder (found at health food stores) mixed into 3 Tbs. sugar
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 1/2 Tbs. light corn syrup (or Agave Syrup is even better!)
2 tsp. lemon juice (we used lime juice with our fruit choice)

Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Blend defrosted fruit in blender until smooth. Pour into saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle apple pectin powder/sugar mixture together over the fruit in pan and continue to cook over medium heat (reduced from medium-high) for about 2 mins. Add the additional 1 3/4 c. sugar in three batches, stirring after each and waiting about 15 seconds before adding each consecutive batch. Then add agave (or corn) syrup and cook until mixture thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in citrus juice, then pour mixture into prepared pan and spread out in an even layer. Let set for at least 2 hours, then cut into desire shapes and toss in additional sugar to coat.
Coconut Snowball Crisps
(adapted from Everyday With Rachael Ray December 2008)

3 large egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 c. powdered sugar
2 c. sweetened shredded coconut
2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
1/4 c. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 200-degrees F (they bake for one hour). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. Beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed of mixer with whisk attachment until thick and foamy, then add sugar and once incorporated, beat on high for about 5 minutes (until firm and glossy).

In another bowl, toss together the additional three dry ingredients, then fold the coconut mixture into the egg whites when ready. Scoop with small cookie scoop into parchment-lined sheets. They can be fairly close together since these cookies do not spread at all, and are basically drying out in the 200-degree oven for 1 hour (until firm and dry to touch). A good cookie to do at the end of a baking day.


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