Sunday, December 27, 2009

Nutcracker Sweet

Every year since Madeline was two, we've gone to the Nutcracker in Seattle with Jamie, her sisters and nieces. It's amazing. Maurice Sendak sets, stellar music, magical dancing, beautiful costumes. The best. This year will be Mads' third time, and she's really excited. And, about a month ago I saw a great idea for "Nutcracker Sweets" in Parents Magazine. My favorite of the sweets was a Mouse King Cookie Pop (they put them on sticks, and being who I am, I actually have cookie sticks in my house). So... tonight, the kids enthusiastically dove in to helping with construction of these cookies. We made some regular cookies and some as "pops," and three with brown little mouse noses too.
We'll be sharing these with our buddies tomorrow! I used 1/2 the recipe for the play dough sugar cookie dough for these, and as the Parents Magazine did, we baked the crowns separately (tinted the dough for the crowns yellow), sprinkled them with yellow sugar, and attached them when decorating. You form the crowns freehand by cutting a 1x2-inch rectangle and then shaping a zigzag top with a paring knife—voila! A crown! Jelly Belly jellybeans are the noses, and melted chocolate candy melts acted as our "glue" and drawing medium! You can find cookie/candy sticks at most craft stores, or anywhere Wilton decorating supplies are sold.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Green Stuff

This is one of E's favorite green foods, and it's delish! I served it at his birthday, and have had a lot of requests for the recipe, so here it is!

Erik's Fave Spinach Souffle
(although this recipe came from Martha's Everyday Food magazine, I've changed it enough that I consider it Erik's recipe)
Cooking spray or butter (to grease casserole) and
About 1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
1.5 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 egg yolks
1 pkg frozen, chopped spinach (defrosted and drained - squeezed, really)
1 c. Parmesan cheese
4 egg whites
Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Melt butter in saucepan and add flour. Stir and cook about 3 minutes, then slowly add the milk, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth and add egg yolks (temper first by adding several tablespoons of hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, then add the warmed yolks to the pan). Cook about 3 more minutes, or until Bechemel (white) sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in drained spinach and Parmesan. NOTE: to make this recipe more kid-friendly, I chop the chopped spinach very fine in my food processor for more incorporated "green" bits , and use the Paremesan in the green can (milder flavor), but I didn't do either of these things for Christmas dinner at my in-laws house, and it is fabulous without these steps, using fresh, grated Parmesan as well.

Whip the four egg whites with a pinch of Cream of Tartar in your Kitchenaid with whisk attachment until soft peaks form. While it's whipping, grease a 2-quart casserole and coat with bread crumbs. When whites are ready, stir 1/3 of them into the spinach mixture in the pan, then when incorporated, fold the spinach mixture into the rest of the whites.

Pour into the prepared pan, reduce the oven temp from 400 - to 350-degrees F, and pop into the oven immediately, to cook for about 30 minutes (until "set" and golden-brown on top).

Serve warm, cold or reheated! Even if this baby falls, it's still delish.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Using It All...

This is the "greenest" recipe ever. Seriously. Candied orange peels. You candy the peel, you eat the orange, and you make orange syrup out of the sugar and water you use to candy the peel in! Beautiful. This is going to be a keeper for Christmas treats.
Candied Orange Peel Slices
5-6 large navel oranges
3 cups sugar

Cuts ends off and score the oranges lengthwise, then peel. Slice lengthwise in 1/4-inch slices. Put in pot and cover with water. Boil and drain water three times. Then, add the sugar, and cover peels with water again (just cover, don't fill the pot up). Boil for 35-45 minutes, until the peels are transparent. Drain (save the liquid to boil down for syrup too!) and dump onto a wire rack to cool and dry a bit.

To finish, dredge in sugar, or dip in white or dark chocolate. They are AMAZING!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eat The Play Dough...

Once it's cooked, that is...

Awhile ago I saw a post by a friend of Jen's about Play Dough Sugar Cookies. Easy to shape, kids can play with it, then you bake it and eat it! And, best of all... they are tasty. So, for Erik's party, I made a batch, tinted it all the colors of the rainbow, and they created. It was a huge hit, didn't get to warm and mushy when worked with, and all the guests had a blast (even some grown-up kids got in on the fun!) I just wish I had a photo of John's "cheeseburger" creation, but he wisely ate it up before any littles could get it. This photo is of cookies made with only about 1/3 of the dough.
Here's the recipe, originally from The Cookie Shop blog:

Play Dough Cookies
(this recipe is a double batch)
1 .5 c. butter, softened

6 oz. cream cheese
2 c. sugar

2 egg
2 tsp vanilla

5.5 c. flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

assorted colors of paste food coloring

In an electric mixer, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until smooth.
Then add flour, baking powder and salt to bowl and mix until a soft dough forms.

Divide dough into as many separate colors as you want to make. Squirt color into the center of each ball of dough and work the tint in with your hands. Wrap each color in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 8 minutes (for relatively flat creations), 3-D cookies will need more baking time. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

Monday, December 14, 2009

3, 2, 1... Blast Off!!!

Erik wants "... a rocket, an astronaut and Pluto," for his birthday, so here it is (delicious vanilla pound cake filled with vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and seedless Marionberry jam, frosted with vanilla lemon buttercream):

And... some mini cupcakes to represent the dwarf planet... Pluto!
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mini Gingerbread Houses? Check.

Good decorating with royal icing, candy melts, frosted mini wheats, sunflower seed drops, dried blueberries and cranberries, Reese's Pieces, almonds, Red Vines, coconut, and snowflake "sprinkles."

My favorite thing... my new decorating bottles by Kuhn Rikon that the kids can easily use (Sur La Table, Jen, in a big basket near the front door... in case you need some too). Merry Little Christmas to me!
Gingerbread House Glue (AKA Royal Icing/Frosting)

5 Tbs. Meringue powder
1/2 c. warm water

Whip until stiff peaks form, then slowly beat in...

almost 1 lb. of powdered sugar;

until a thick icing frosting forms. Load into bags, frosting bottles or just spread.


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