Thursday, December 23, 2010

Candied Pecans

I made these yummy crunchy pecans to include in a few Christmas care packages that we sent to friends and family.  They are good on their own or you can throw them on some ice cream or a nice salad.  Best part is, they were soooo easy!

1 egg white
1 or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (to taste)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 pound pecan halves

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly butter or spray with a non-stick spray
In a bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Mix in cinnamon, sugars, salt, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Stir in pecan halves, stirring until well coated. Spread on baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

To make a pretty gift out of the pecans, fill up any size mason jar, top with a circle of fabric and screw the lid on.  Add a bow to finish it off!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Round Here

Our house is modestly decorated for Christmas this year because we are moving to Wisconsin NEXT MONTH!  This is our first Christmas together as a married couple, but we didn't go all out and get a big tree just for the fact that we will have to come back from Christmas vacation to tear it all down AND pack the whole place up to move.  Packing is bad enough, and we didn't want to be vacuuming up pine needles on top of that.  So we just went with my trusty old 3 foot tree that I've had since college.  I threw some garland up and carefully placed lots of pretty shiny things to make it feel like Christmas.  Here's what we ended up with...

Remember my autumn candle arrangement?  I switched it up by adding all things red, silver, and glittery to make it all Christmas-like.
Then I added my most favorite red and silver mercury glass trees to my wine bar area.  Up on the top shelf is a simple candle nativity - the reason for the season!
Here's our tiny little tree next to our TV high tech fireplace.  Oh, apartment living!
Some garland on the bar - nothin' too fancy.
And finally some new additions to the ornament collection this year.
1.  The most perfect ornament ever made - a blown glass mixer  :)
2.  A cute polar bear from World Market
3.  Sledding snowman
4.  Our first Married Christmas wedding cake ornament :)

So that's Christmas in our Florida apartment.  Who knows, next Christmas I may be posting about Christmas in our new house!  :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Just made these today...

These guys were actually cut with a flower cookie cutter, then I piped the icing on in a snowflake pattern.  Throw in a few silver dragees and you've got a sparkly snowflake cookie!  The icing is a vanilla glace.  It dries shiny and stays fairly soft (unlike royal icing), but it still able to be stacked without the cookies sticking to each other.  Here is the recipe for the glace icing:

1lb powdered sugar (4 C)
6T whole milk
6T light Corn Syrup
1 t extract (I use vanilla)

With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth. Then stir in corn syrup and extract and desired food coloring.

You can play around with the consistency by adding more milk or powdered sugar.  Adding more powdered sugar will give you a consistency that is better for piping.  Place your icing in an icing squeeze bottle like this.  Outline the shape of the cookie by squeeing a line of icing out of the squeeze bottle around the outside border of your cookie..  Then, fill in the rest of the cookie with more icing and spread out easily to cover the whole cookie.  You can spread the icing with a knife, offset spatula, or the back of a spoon. 

These were fun to make and some friends that we had over tonight didn't want to eat them because they said they looked too good.  I'll count that as success!  :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Peanut Butter Buckeyes

I first had these little gems a few years ago at a a friend's house.  This friend was from Ohio where this dessert is all the rage.  After all, Ohio is the buckeye state and home of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  You'd think being a Florida Gator I would have nothing to do with anything buckeye related, but these treats are just too hard to pass up!  They are pretty simple to make and the only cooking involved is some button pushing on a microwave.  Here is the recipe!

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar with hands to form a smooth stiff dough. Shape into balls using 2 teaspoons of dough for each ball. Place on prepared pan, and refrigerate.
Melt shortening and chocolate together in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat.
Remove balls from refrigerator. Insert a wooden toothpick into a ball, and dip into melted chocolate. Return to wax paper, chocolate side down, and remove toothpick. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Photoshop Fun

I recently put this profile pic up on facebook...

Not bad.  It was actually taken from our video camera.  The camera has a cool feature that recognizes smiles in the midst of a video and saves a snapshot of your pearly whites.  On this day I was strolling through Central Park on our honeymoon in NYC.   Now you know why I'm so happy!  I liked the pic except for the guy in the background walking his dog, so I decided to photoshop him out!  After much lassoing, cloning, and blending this is what I got.  Bye-bye skinny guy!

Then I spruced the pic up a bit to give it a more ethereal look and here's my finished product...

Me likey!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Christmas cookie season is in full swing!  This week I made three different cookies, all of which I will share on this here blog.  First up, some jam thumbprint cookies that I found on the Food Network's website.  They are basically a sugar cookie with any flavor of jam in the middle.  I used strawberry this first go-round, and in the future I think I might try raspberry, apricot, or even lemon. I think I will be adding these to my yearly cookie making list because they are great!  The sugar coating on the outside and jam in the middle makes them mighty sweet, so have a big ol' glass of milk handy!   Here we go....

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod, or 1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup raspberry, cherry or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.

In another bowl, whip the butter and the sugar with a hand-held mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop and roll in sugar. Place about 2-inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about 1/2-inch deep. Fill each indentation with about 3/4 teaspoon jam.

Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. (For even color, rotate the pans from top to bottom about halfway through baking.) Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Serve.
Store cookies in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Cookie Tool Roundup

It's about time to get started on some Christmas cookies!  Before I get to baking, I thought I'd share some of my favorite cookie-making tools.  Sure you could make cookies without them, but after using them you'll never want to go back!

Let's start with the first step, mixing, and my first favorite tool - the mixer!
If you don't have a mixer, get one!  I don't care if it's a hand held mixer, you won't regret it.  I started out with a handheld mixer, and was SOOO glad when I got it.  Before that, I did everything by hand, including whipped cream and whipped chocolate ganache icing.  Um yeah, ganache takes FOREVER to whip!  Sure, there's some satisfaction and bragging rights with saying "Look at me! I hand whipped this chocolate for hours!", but you will be so tired that you won't even have the energy to lift your yummy creation to your mouth to eat it.  Your arm will be jello for days afterward! So get a mixer, dad-gummit!
I am now the lucky owner of a KitchenAid mixer thanks to my wedding registry.  :)  They are expensive (around $300 buckaroos), but they should last a lifetime.   They were first introduced in 1919, that's almost 100 years of a proven track record.  I love their retro appearance too.  Here's my little baby.  I've had her for almost a year and she's gotten a TON of use already...including cookies.

My next cookie tool is a cookie scoop
This is basically a miniaturized ice cream scoop with a mechanical "cookie dough-getter-offer" feature.  No more using a spoon and trying to get the dough off with your sticky, doughy fingers.  Plus, this helps you to make round, equally sized cookies every time.  So purdy!

Moving on, we have the thin spatula
These guys glide under your finished cookies with ease, and with minimal damage.  If you use a spatula that is too thick, your cookie shape will be distorted as you are trying to lift it off of the pan.  Go with one of these thin spatulas to ensure that your cookies stay looking pretty as a picture.

Take it from someone who has a small apartment kitchen - these things are awesome!  The racks stack on top of each other and take up minimal counter space. In addition any crumbs that fall from the cookies will fall onto a smaller area instead of all over your entire counter space. I use these for cooling and storing un-iced cakes too.  Love Love Love!!!

Now that I've got all of my supplies, I'm ready to get to baking.  First Christmas cookie will be some Jam Thumbprints for our Bible study group this Friday.  I'll share the recipe soon!