Friday, December 30, 2011

Cake Pops!

The last time I made cake pops, I thought it was somewhat of a disaster. The typical way of crumbling the cake and forming the ball and freezing them was too much work for me and a little too sweet. Plus, my cake balls were anything, but perfectly they are here (some what).

I found this cake pop (donut hole) machine and I'm in love.

I, first made a batch of their sour donuts and vanilla glaze and it was a hit! Next, I decided to reattempt my cake pop experience. Looky here, only 4 minutes later and perfectly round cake extra crumbling or frosting needed.

Cooling on the rack that was provided.

When I ran out of room, I just used an egg carton.

After a dip into some melted chocolate and some candy melts, followed by a colorful sprinkling, I've made my cake pops for R.'s birthday!

I simply love how they turned out and it couldn't have been any easier.

I will definitely make these again, as well as the donut holes!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cashew Coconut Brittle

Back in college, my friend took me to lunch at Cracker Barrel for the first time. There in their country shop was Cashew Coconut Brittle. I absolutely loved it. Each time I go, I would have to pick up some. It's been years since I've had anything but peanut brittle. Last year, I stopped by the country shop/restaurant for some of my favorite brittle and they no longer make any. I was so disappointed.

I normally do not have any cashews in the house because E. is allergic. My mom and I love cashews so each year, I buy her a huge jar. This year, I decided to sneak some of the nuts and make my own version of cashew coconut. Surprisingly, it turned out fabulous.

Cashew Coconut Brittle
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup light corn syrup
3 tbsp butter
3 cups cashews
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Coat parchment paper with cooking spray.

Mix baking soda, 1 tsp water and vanilla and set aside. Mix sugar, 1 cup water, and the corn syrup in 3 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, to 240 degrees on candy thermometer.

Stir in butter and cashews. Then stir in the coconut. Cook, about 15 minutes, stirring constantly, to 300 degrees. Watch carefully so mixture does not burn. Immediately remove from heat. Quickly stir in baking soda mixture until light and foamy.

Pour half of the candy mixture onto each cookie sheet and quickly spread about 1/4 inch thick with buttered spatula. Cool completely, at least 1 hour. Break into pieces. Store in air tight container.

This is so good. I just wish E. could taste it. He's my biggest supporter when it comes to tasting new recipes. What's your favorite thing to eat that you had to try making?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peppermint Marshmallows

Who makes marshmallows from scratch? I never thought I would, until now. I love this recipe. The added tiny hint of peppermint flavor to the simplest marshmallow makes a huge difference.

Peppermint Marshmallow

vegetable-oil cooking spray
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
4 pkg (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 large egg whites
2 tsp red food coloring


Coat a 10x10 inch pan with cooking spray line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. This makes 25 2-inch marshmallows. Use a 9x13 inch pan for smaller marshmallows. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, heat 3/4 cup water (put in pyrex cup and heat about 2 minutes in the microwave). Dissolve gelatin in hot water. Stir in extract and set aside.

Beat egg whites on high in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.

Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture. With mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbleized effect.

Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares. Dip edges into powdered sugar to remove stickiness.

Package marshmallows and deliver.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pokemon Birthday Party

R. turned 6 this year. His only request was that it be a bowling birthday party with a pokemon theme so that is what we had. Fortunately for me, I didn't have to think about pokemon type games since bowling and arcade games would occupy all the kids time. I did come up with this pokemon invitation, inspired by an electric type pokemon card.

As far as treats, I made some cake pops that were R.'s favorite color.

Just simple cupcakes.

A pokemon cake just for R.

I used marshmallow fondant with a layer of royal icing underneath.

Pikachu was made from fondant.

I made each child their very own pokemon card with their picture on it.

Pokemon party done. R. had a blast with his friends bowling. Many of his friends didn't want to leave. I guess there could have been worse things. Happy Birthday R. I can't believe that you are already 6!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Good bye Christmas

Christmas is now over. We must say goodbye to Jack, our elf.

He had many adventures in our home which consisted of fishing for goldfish, riding in J.'s remote control car, taking a cotton ball bath, stealing all our candy canes, and many others.

Our advent calendar filled with treats is now empty.

One of my favorite parts about Christmas are the cards from family and friends.

Christmas morning, we had reindeer pancakes.

We made a gingerbread house which is an explosion of candy.

E. was the first to wake on Christmas.

Soon to follow were his siblings.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pictures with Santa

It's a time honored tradition for many families to take pictures with Santa.

This is E. during his first Christmas. My how time has just flown by.

A couple of years later and we have a less than happy E.

There were no more Santa pictures after that because the kids became shy, would run the other way, and or scream their heads off, making for a really horrible experience. I stopped taking them, UNTIL....


R. asked me specifically if I would take him this year so that he could talk to Santa and "make" sure that he knew exactly what he wanted. That's R. for you. He tends to cover all his basis.

Of course, A. decided he had to tag along too because the bribery of a fun sized kit kat was just too good of a deal to pass up.

As far as E., who think Christmas is all about giving (so he refuses to ask for anything - yeah, he's the saint in our family), he joined the picture only after much begging from Mom.

So we headed out early, on a weekday in hopes of seeing Santa before noon. I thought, perhaps, the wait would be only a couple of hours (that's arriving 2 hours early). After 7.2 hours of waiting (that is NOT an exaggeration) with much reconsideration, my kids got to see and talk to Santa. It was worth the wait. If you are thinking whether or not we actually stood in line for 7.2 hours, we didn't. We got there a couple of hours early, to get a ticket. We shopped, had lunch, went home, and then drove back that evening. Is it worth it?

Look at the picture...that would be a definite yes.

I was able to snag a ton of pictures.

cost to see santa - 7.2 hours of waiting
cost for pictures - $0
cost for experience - priceless

I'm hoping they will do this again for me next year.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sugar Cookies with the Kids

I love baking with the boys. It's something we do all the time. This week has been all about sugary treats at home so why not decorate some sugar cookies.

I'll have to admit that I wanted to skip the cooling stage of the cookie dough so I went and bought me a box mix for the sugar cookies. I decided to ice the cookies with a layer of frosting ahead of time so that it could dry and be ready for decorating the next day.

I used the royal icing recipe here. She gives a great tutorial on decorating cookies.

Royal Icing
1 cup water
6 Tbsp. meringue powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear vanilla if you want white icing)
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
2 lb. bag of powdered sugar

I had trouble finding the meringue powder (which is at Michael's - be sure to use your coupon!). The recipe was delicious, BUT it was way too much for what I needed. Next time, I will half the recipe or make only a fourth.

Mix the meringue powder and water until incorporated. Then add the vanilla and lemon extract. Add the powdered sugar and mix on high for about 10 minutes. It will be stiff. I used that consistency to outline the cookies. I divided the icing to color it. At that time, I would add tablespoons of water to the icing to thin it out (to fill the cookie with a smooth layer).

After icing ALL the cookies, I still had enough royal icing to fill 5 bottles (and then some).

We took out the candy, sprinkles, and whatever was edible to decorate.

The kids had so much fun.

Surprisingly, we decorated for quite some time and through out the day.

"Look at my cookie," A. says.

R. and Auntie made a couple.

Do you like it Mommy?

Some snowman creations.

"I wanted to decorate using patterns," E. tells me. For a boy who doesn't like sweets (yes, it is a strange concept for a kid), he didn't have trouble finishing this cookie (that was truly the first). Cookies are decorated, now we are onto our Gingerbread house.
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