Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~Christmas Decorations

I'm flashing back to last Christmas to show how beautifully my sweet hubby decorated our little home. He always goes above and beyond that call of duty to make it look like a little gingerbread house.

Well this year he went a step to far!! Off the roof that is. The innocent looking Christmas lights got the best of him and he broke his ankle..just a short jump from one roof line to the other, but enough for him to land wrong. He's going to have a rough few weeks ahead of him, but he's hanging tough.

I will give things my best try this year, but I know it won't hold a candle to how he would do it. On this day after Thanksgiving I am very thankful he's only got a broken ankle!!!!

I'm also flashing back to these Marshmallows! A group of us gave it a try last year and I had a blast making them. Wayyyy better than store bought too!

I used Dorie Greenspan's recipe - always reliable in my experience. Don't be afraid of the long recipe. She gives very detailed instructions.

(Source: Dorie Greenspan “Baking: From My Home to Yours” pages 404-405)

Makes about 1 pound marshmallows

About 1 cup potato starch or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet — choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high — with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup — without stirring — until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)

Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy — don’t overbeat them and have them go dull.

As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won’t fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).

Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They’ll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.

Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife. Whatever you use, you’ll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you’d like — into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they’re cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl. When you’ve got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.

SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table — it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.

STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don’t cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week — they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they’ll still be very good.

If you have a Flashback of any kind please join me by linking below!

I am participating in Foodie Friday this week as well. Check out all of the other links at Designs by Gollum.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Carol's Cookbook Challenge

My friend Carol has put up a Cookbook Challenge that I'm taking! Go check out her blog, There's Always Time to Cook and read about it HERE. It's her way of motivating herself to go through her stacks of cookbooks. I'm sure many of you can relate! I know I can. I've got a passion for cookbooks, especially those about baking. I read them like novels..cover to cover, coming back later to reread favorite passages, savoring each tasty morsel (pun intended!).

Well, I have discovered a cookbook, Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters, that is a true page turner in my opinion. It was actually Carol that turned me on to it, since she already owns it and spoke highly of it. There are so many recipes I want to try from this book. I have already picked three and couldn't be more satisfied with how they came out! Here is the cover of the book, which can be bought HERE. Aren't the Brass sisters cute? :-)

What I really love about this book are the vignettes and stories about where the recipes came from....many were collected at estate sales. So although the Brass sisters didn't know many of the ladies who had clipped or written down these recipes, they give you glimpses into their lives. Bridge parties, church socials, radio programs.....all sources of great baked goods! It makes me happy that these recipes live again through this book instead of being tossed out at the end of a garage sale.

So, first up were the Buttermilk Biscuits on page 90 . I have a thing for trying biscuit recipes. I know..what can be so exciting about a biscuit? But it always amazes me that the same basic ingredients can turn out so differently with just a small recipe tweak. I think this recipe is a real winner and have added it to my "will do again and again" list.

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut in small pieces
1/4 cup buttermilk ( I used buttermilk powder & milk)

Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat oven to 450°. Prepare a baking sheet by greasing it or using a silicone liner. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Work in butter with your fingers until butter pieces are the size of small peas. Add buttermilk and work in gently. Knead twice in bowl. Place dough on a floured surface. Knead gently two times. Sprinkle lightly with flour and pat into a circle 1/2 inch thick. Cut out 2 1/2 inch biscuits using a cutter dipped in flour. Press cutter straight down and lift up, don't twist or they won't rise. Transfer to baking sheet using a floured spatula. Gather up scraps, reshape dough and cut out more biscuits. Bake 12-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Tip: Don't handle dough too much or biscuits will be tough.

I was in the fall spirit when I made these so cut them with a new maple leaf cookie cutter I got recently. These were light and fluffy inside but sturdy enough to hold their shape, even the little stem.

Next up were these awesome cookies, The Radio Lady's Pecan Wafers, found in a section of the book called A Southern Lady Pours Tea (page 86), that somehow achieved being crisp and chewy at the same time. I was drawn to them because the list of ingredients is very similar to a family favorite, Hot Ziggerty Nut Bars that I will blog about soon (I thought I already had, but can't for the life of me find where!).

These really can be thrown together very quickly and as the description in the book says, they are "almost instant gratification". As promised, this cookie would be great with tea or coffee..or maybe a midnight snack, not that I would know from experience....or that my Dad would know either.....

The Radio Lady's Pecan Wafers

1 cup dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped pecans

Set the oven in the middle position. Preheat to 350°. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone liner. Combine brown sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add eggs and mix well. Fold in pecans. Drop dough by teaspoons 2 inches apart (these spread). Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Place baking sheet on a rack and let cool 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. Cookies will crisp as they cool.

Could it get any simpler than that???

And finally, a delicious take on classic Banana Bread (page 199). Carol had tried this recipe and really like it, and I couldn't agree more. I love my Mom's banana bread and this is very similar, but with two different ingredients, butter instead of shortening and the addition of nutmeg, which comes across very subtly. I can't wait for the next over ripe bananas, because I am definitely making this one again. I did substitute pecans because...I like them better!

Here's a little peek at the inside.

I give this book two thumbs up! Go get you one or put it on your Christmas wish list :-) And how about taking up the Cookbook Challenge yourself? Link back to Carols blog if you do!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~Goodie List

If you are like me you're already thinking about what you're going to bake for the holidays! So, I'm flashing back to a new favorite..from last Christmas that you might want to add to your list of goodies. These pretty cinnamony swirly cookies are yummy and cute!

Cinnamon Swirl Refrigerator Cookies


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon


In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar; cream together until mixture appears light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until thoroughly mixed. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; stir until mixed. Cover dough and refrigerate at least 2 hours. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangular shape and a ¼ inch thickness. Sprinkle brown sugar cinnamon filling mixture evenly over dough and press lightly into the dough with your fingers. Roll-up dough jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. Brush off any excess flour from the dough. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 large baking sheets; line with parchment paper or lightly grease with shortening.

Slice dough into ¼ inch slices and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Return remaining dough to refrigerator until ready to use. Bake 9 minutes or until cookies are set and the edges are just barely browned. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet one minute. Remove cookies from baking sheets and finish cooling on wire racks.

Please join me with your flashback if you have one to share!

I'm also joining in on Foodie Friday this week over at Designs by Gollum. Go check out all of the other great posts, HERE.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flashback and Foodie Friday ~Spring Forward

As fall seems to be quickly moving into winter here..maybe it's time to flash forward to Spring! I might have shown the Skagit Valley tulip fields before, but they are worth revisiting over and over again!

The day I was there in Spring of 2008 it was a gray day

But the fields of color

Were sunshine enough for me!

With a mountain backdrop

I walked past row and row

Of the little soldiers standing up to rain and the chill

Regal and elegant

As far as the eye could see

It was certainly

An awe inspiring sight!



And more tulips!

I hope this dose of spring will get you through a few chilly days this fall and winter :-) Feel free to bookmark and come tiptoeing through the tulips with me when the snow is blowing outside.

So coming back to reality...anybody need a big bowl of chili?

My Chili

1 lb of ground meat
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 tsp or to taste Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
2 cans kidney beans or black beans
1/4 cup chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
A few dashes of hot sauce - I like the Chipotle Tabasco
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chiles
1 small can tomato sauce
1 sm can green chiles
2 small cans sliced mushrooms or fresh if you have them
2 cups water - you may need to add more depending on how thick or thin you like it

Brown ground meat with onions, peppers and garlic. I like to throw a little Tony's seasoning on the meat while it cooks and then add more to the chili later if needed. Drain ground meat, then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for at least 30 minutes, but longer if you have the time. Adjust seasoning to taste.

If you have a flashback you'd like to share please post your link below.

I'm participating in Foodie Friday this week. Go check out all of the other great posts at Designs by Gollum

Don't forget about the great chocolate dipping event my friend Marsha is having in December..check out my sidebar for details!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

~Fall Garden Tour and Fall Party Finger Food~

So yesterday I flashed back to what was blooming in my yard last year. How about a tour today? The front is still looking presentable with small spots of color here and there. I love that the grass stays green in the winter here.

This wall flower is having a revival.

This little 'Orkney Cherry' hardy geranium has been a work horse this year. I don't think its skipped a beat for months.

'Josephine' is giving me one final bloom. I believe all of the clematis have had a modest reblooming this year.

The hollyhocks are hanging on

Cheery little feverfew is still putting on new flowers

'Magic Carousel' is magically still blooming!

And hardy salvia 'Hot Lips' is having a nice mid fall showing. We went down to about 12°F and it came back this past spring like it didn't really mind at all.

No flowers....but the purple smoke tree has got some pretty jewel tones going on.

My little red & white mini is looking cute

I wish this abutilon would start blooming for me a little sooner than November! But I'll enjoy it while I can.

Gazania is still giving me some spectacular sunburst flowers

And the giant begonias are loving this cool damp weather we've been getting.

All in all..not too bad for November! We've had a couple of very light frosts, so these blooms that remain are the survivors of the pack. Looking back through these pics I notice that out of whats blooming most are red, white or pink. I'm using this post as my contribution to Mosaic Monday. Go HERE to check out all of the cool mosaics listed at Little Red House

So what's been going on in my kitchen? Well we had the pleasure of attending a fall themed party at the home of our friends Jim and Alice, so I used that as an opportunity to whip up some goodies. Like this snack mix of caramel popcorn, caramel flavored candy corn and salted peanuts.

And these Savory Rye Snacks waiting for the oven. This is a yummy recipe I got years ago from Taste of Home. It's great as a a dip with fritos too! And your eyes do not deceive you..that is pumpernickel, not Rye. I picked up the wrong package! They were still good.

Savory Rye Snacks
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 can (4 ounces) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped ripe olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 1 loaf (1 pound) snack rye bread
In a bowl, combine the onions, cheeses, mayonnaise, mushrooms and olives. Spread on bread slices and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until bubbly. Yield: 4 dozen.

I made a couple of mini tart pans full of Sweet Dough Sweet Potato Pies. You can get the recipe HERE on my brother's website, Cajun Cousins...he's got lots of our family recipes there. Sweet Dough pies are a cajun tradition. The dough is like a sugar cookies.

And finally my most selfish contribution to the party...this delicious Amaretto Peach Pecan Sauce served over cream cheese. Selfish because I love it so much that I made it so I could have some! The recipe was shared by my friend Belinda one of the best cooks I know! She is also very generous with her recipes and I love that about her.

Amaretto Peach Pecan Sauce over Cream Cheese

1 16 oz jar of peach preserves
3 Tablespoons of Amaretto (I think I used a little more than this....)
1 cup of toasted pecans
1 block of cream cheese

Mix the first 3 ingredients. Serve over softened cream cheese. Wheat Thins are great with this.

Note: Belinda sent a tip for the toasted pecans. 2 minutes in the microwave works well too! Make sure to not burn them.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin