Friday, December 28, 2012

Starry Surprise Cookies {12 Days of Christmas Treats}

Christmas Treats Title

I think I've saved the bast for last.  Or at least the cutest.  Not sure which!  Anyways, I was inspired by the pinata cookies that have been seen around pinterest lately.  You know, the cookies with the mini m&ms inside?

Starry Surprise Cookies

I love star shaped anything so my cookies had to be Christmas stars.  I was very tempted to draw black eyes a la Super Mario on these though.  Don't they look like the  invincibility stars from the game? or maybe the warp stars in Kirby?

Starry Surprise Cookies

They'd definitely be cute at a video game themed party.  All they need are the eyes drawn on with a black icing pen!

Starry Surprise Cookies

This filled cookie technique can be applied to practically any shape.  Maybe a Christmas stocking or a square present shape?  Or how about 'confetti' filled cookies for a New Year's Eve  party?  Use sprinkles for confetti et Voila!  Instant party!

Starry Surprise Cookies

I added a lot of yellow gel food coloring to my dough but it still came out very pale so I ended up using a fondant type flow icing after they were assembled.  I liked the flavor and think it kept the cookies soft.

Starry Surprise Cookies

I rolled my dough out on the thick side.  I didn't want a fragile cookie and it needed some depth to hold the M&Ms.

Starry Surprise Cookies

Assembling the cookies is easy, but only if you made sure that your sugar cookie recipe isn't one that spread much!  I suggest this one by Sweet Sugarbelle.  It always turns out for me and is a sturdy base for any decorated cookie.  It's yummy too!  If you've never checked out her blog before, be warned, it's addictive!  Her cookies are so pretty!  I also used her royal icing recipe to glue my layers together.  You don't need a lot!  So maybe halve the recipe?  I was assembling a Gingerbread Home at the time so I made a big batch and saved a little for these cookies.

Starry Surprise Cookies

A totally optional step:  make Quick Pour Fondant to add additional color and flavor to your cookies.  Bonus:  it seals in moisture!  It is a bit of a pain to use but only because it takes some time to set up and dry.  I loved the flavor of this icing though and plan on using it in the future.

Starry Surprise Cookies

I can't believe I made so many sweet treats this holiday season!  I wish Christmas would last a little bit longer.  My neighbors have already begun to dismantle their light displays and trees.  Mine will be up until the weekend after New Years I think.  I want to look at my ornament laden tree a little longer and burn my balsam scented candle until I just can't take it any more.  What was your favorite thing about Christmas this year?  The lights, the smells?  Being with family?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Minty Chocolate Bark {12 Days of Christmas Treats}

Christmas Treats Title

This is the easiest candy to make, I promise!  All you need is some chocolate candy melts and crushed candy or flavored chocolate chips.

Minty Chocolate Bark

I get more requests for this treat than any other I make all year.  Which is funny because all it requires is a microwave!  This year I made peppermint bark and Andes mint bark.  I love minty chocolate.  York peppermint patties and Junior mints are some of my favorite candies.  It's also the only way I'll eat dark chocolate.

Minty Chocolate Bark

The Andes mint bark can be made by buying a box of the after dinner mints and unwrapping each individual chocolate and crushing it or you can save yourself a lot of time and just go to the baking aisle to see if your store carries Andes baking chips.  They also make Andes peppermint crunch chips but I couldn't find them this year.  Bummer.  They're yummy too!

Minty Chocolate Bark

I like to layer two different colored candy melts when I make my bark.  It looks prettier.  To layer the chocolate just pour your first layer and let that harden up either on the counter or put it in the fridge to hasten the process. 

Minty Chocolate Bark

Then melt your second chocolate and pour over the 1st layer. Have whatever flavored topping you want to use ready to place on top of your last layer.  If it hardens up too much your toppings won't stick!

Minty Chocolate Bark

After everything has hardened up, remove your chocolate from the pan and use a sharp knife to  chop up the bark in pieces.

Minty Chocolate Bark

To make peppermint bark all you need is some leftover candy cane for your chocolate topping.  Crushing the candy canes can be a fun task for little hands.  If you live in apartment, wait until everyone is awake before attacking the candy with a rolling pin.  Unless you like grumpy roommates and neighbors.

Chocolate Candy Bark

Peppermint Bark:
1 12 oz bag of white chocolate candy melts
1 12 oz bag of dark chocolate candy melts
2/3 cup crushed peppermint candy cane
2 tbs vegetable shortening

Chocolate Mint Bark:
1 12 oz bag of green candy melts
1 12 oz bag of dark chocolate mint candy melts
2/3 cup crushed Andes mint candies or Andes mint baking chips
2 TBS vegetable shortening

Melt candy melts in microwave safe bowl or measuring cup in microwave set to 50% power 1-2 minutes.  Stir every 30 seconds.  Do not overcook!  

Pour melted candy melts into a parchment lined 9x13 cake pan.  Let each layer harden before pouring next layer on top.

Top final layer with desired candy topping.  Let candy harden.  Break into pieces.  Enjoy!

Helpful tips:

Line your pan with some parhment paper leaving overhanging edges to make it easy to remove the choclate from the pan.  

If it's hard to remove from the pan, put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.  The chocolate will shrink from the pan edges making it easier to remove.

I find that adding a tablespoon of shortening to per a bag of chocolate candy melts (I use Wilton) makes it easier to pour it in an even layer

Thump the pan on the counter to even out chocolate if it's all lumpy bumpy

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Gingerbread House 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!  I really hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas holiday full of good food and good times.  My Christmas is a bit lame because all my family lives up north and I'm stuck down south.  I try to keep myself very occupied every Christmas season so I don't dwell on that too much.

Gingerbread House 2012

I try to make a gingerbread house every year.  Last year I couldn't because I was in the middle of a move.  I am so happy not to be in the same place I was last year.  Moving sucks!  We may be moving again but that isn't set in stone yet so we'll see.

This year's gingerbread house is a bit of a cheater house.  I used the gingerbread from a Halloween gingerbread haunted house kit I bought when all the Halloween stuff was red tagged.  I got this super cheap!  I just bought some Christmas themed candy and made my own royal icing.  I really love the pink and brown.  

My husband keeps asking when we get to destroy the house.  Our tradition is to blow up our gingerbread houses at the end of the holiday season.  Mostly because it's so easy to buy fireworks this time of year to celebrate the New Year and what's the point of keeping a house made of cookie and candies?  Sounds like an ant/bug attractor to me! I'm not a pyro so I let Peter handle the detonation.

Is this a weird tradition? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Grandma's Sugar Cookies {12 Days of Christmas Treats}

Christmas Treats Title

This post would be easier to write if I'd turn off the TV but that would mean not getting to sing along to The Sound of Music.  I've never considered it a Christmas Movie but it's always on this time of year.  One of the best things about Christmas is all the music.  The Christmas carols start playing 24/7 on some radio stations as early as Thanksgiving! 

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I have so many favorite Christmas carols. I can't sing to save my life but that doesn't stop me from singing at the top my lungs.  I also love hearing my Grandma play carols on the piano at church.  I can't play any instruments so I'm always envious of those who can, like my husband and my Grandma.  

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

My current favorite Christmas song is "Do You Hear What I Hear".  The one I am tired of hearing is Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas is You".  I can't believe how much they play that song when there are so many others!  I mean I haven't even heard my childhood favorite, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas".

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Well instead of getting annoyed with the radio and their choice of carols, I'll eat some cookies.  After I bake some more.  My roommate devoured these.  Apparently sugar cookies are his favorite.  

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

These cookies get their lovely design via a drinking glass.  My Grandma taught me this trick.  Of course all her glasses have lovely designs on their bottoms.  I had to search high and low for this glass!

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

The trick is to dip the glass bottom into a little bit of water and then onto the sugar crystals.  Then press your sugar dipped glass on to the cookie dough ball.  My Grandma would dye sugar with a few drops of food dye to make her sprinkles.  I opted to use store bought sugar sprinkles in red and green.  Grandma's were always red and green for Christmas!

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

These cookies taste so good and bring back so many wonderful memories of Christmas spent with my Grandparents.  I loved how she would serve these with home canned peaches or apricots (when her tree was still alive).  There's nothing fancy about these cookies but that doesn't mean they're boring.  They're just right!

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies

Ole' Fashioned Sugar Cookies
from my Grandma Mary's recipe box

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cup flour
1 tsp. cream of tarter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp lemon zest

Cream butter, oil, and sugar.  Add vanilla and eggs.  Sift together dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients.  Roll a teaspoon of dough into a ball, roll in sugar and press down with a drinking glass on parchment covered cookie sheet.  Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 10-12 minutes.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Coconut Macaroons {12 Days of Christmas Treats}

Christmas Treats Title

I have never in my life made a coconut macaroon.  I had no idea how simple they were to make!    A bit messy, but simple.  

Cocont Macaroons

These cookies are so sweet that they're best scooped out into small portions then baked.  If baked up bigger they are a bit mushier and lack all that crunchiness of well baked coconut.

Cocont Macaroons

Crispy coconut is so delicious.  These cookies are already decadent but they can certainly use some gussying up.

Cocont Macaroons

They sure are plain looking even if they are very flavorful.

Cocont Macaroons

If your crazy like me, you hit up the after Christmas clearance and stock up on Terry's chocolate oranges.  I buy a ton of them and store them in the freezer to eat all year.  This one is the last one from my freezer.  Time to stock up again!

Cocont Macaroons

I figured a little chocolate orange would taste yummy drizzled on these macaroons.

Cocont Macaroons

What a mess of chocolate!  So worth it though.  Just be sure to store in an airtight container.  They can get sticky if left in the humidity.

Cocont Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 large egg white
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 bag shredded sweetened coconut (14 oz)
For chocolate drizzle:
4 slices Terry's Chocolate Ornage finely chopped
3-4 discs Wilton milk chocolate  Candy Melts
1 tsp butter flavored Crisco

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla and salt until combined. Stir in the coconut with rubber spatula until well blended.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto the cookie sheets. Form the cookies into loose haystacks with your fingertips, moistening your hands with water as necessary to prevent sticking.  

Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Let sit for about 2 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Once the cookies are cooled to room temperature (about 30 minutes), place cookies on some parchment paper. 

Melt the chocolates and Crisco in heatproof bowl in microwave set to 50% power for 1 minute, stirring every 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the chocolate!

Using a fork, drizzle the melted chocolate on your macaroons. Let chocolate set before storing in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Molasses Crinkles {12 Days of Christmas Treats}

Christmas Treats Title

I really hate the smell of molasses.  It's just gross.  But it taste so wonderful in these cookies and in gingerbread.  Peter's Mom makes these for Christmas every year and they are very addictive.

Molasses Crinkles

So here are some more of my Christmas memories.  I'm sure your soooo excited!  It's a little like looking at someone's vacation slideshow I suppose.  I think it's important to remember and write down any memory.  I love to scrapbook and look genealogy.  Our family has so many stories, some funny, some not, but I'd be sad if they all disappeared.

family photos 008

This is the Christmas after the very spectacular Christmas from last blog post.  You know, the one with the play kitchen?  It may have snowed too.  Which is weird because we lived in New Mexico and it's desert like but we lived below some mountains so I suppose that helped drop some really wet snow.  Just enough to make a snowman that Dad covered in food coloring to make a punk snowman.

family photos 007

Speaking of punks...I think a was a little one because I cried and complained about not getting as much as the last year.  What a spoiled brat!

family photos 002

One Christmas was spent living with my Grandma and Grandpa in Texas.  It snowed quite a bit too!  We also got to be in the Christmas program at church and I got to wear a very beautiful and poofy red polk a dot dress.  I loved that dress!  I remember we sang Joy to the World at the top of our lungs.

family photos 009

This is the last photo of child hood Christmases that I own.  I don't recall this Christmas at all.  I believe this was taken at my Grandma and Grandpa's in Illinois. I think we have a few from when I was older, like middle school aged, but it just seems like we always forgot to take pictures.  Some Christmases made it on video when my parents got a camcorder.  I much prefer photos!  All of that video is on VHS.  I don't even own a VHS player anymore.  Wonder who'll get the privilege of transferring that over?

Okay.  That's it.  I promise not to share anymore family photos...for now.  *evil laughter*

Let's make some cookies instead!

Molasses Crinkles

This dough does require some chill time  It's ready to use after hanging out in the fridge for about an hour.  The colder dough makes it easier to scoop out perfect portions and to roll in sugar.

Molasses Crinkles

These cookies get their crinkly appearance after rolling them in some sugar and baking them up.  Don't bake them for too long unless you want gingersnaps instead!

Molasses Crinkles

Under baked is your goal.  They'll finish baking on the baking sheet.

Molasses Crinkles

These taste so good dipped in some cold milk.  They're a very sturdy cookie too so if your wanting to ship these out to friends and family.

Molasses Crinkles
from recipe given to me by Peter's Mom

3/4 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
sugar for rolling cookie dough in

Cream together the shortening, sugar and molasses.  Add egg.  Stir in remaining ingredients except the sugar for rolling dough in.  Chill dough for one hour in the refridgerator.

Pre heat oven to 375F.  Prepare cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop dough out by tablespoon-full and roll into  round ball.  Dip dough ball into sugar to coat.  Place dough onto baking sheets 3 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes till set but not hard.

Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mock Toffee {12 Days of Christmas Treats}

Christmas Treats Title

My favorite part of Christmas is getting to hang out with family and look at old family photos.  It's amazing to see a picture and have no memory what so ever of that event but to know it had to have happened because this picture exists.

family photos 005

This is a Christmas I don't remember.  My Mom and Dad look so young!  I do know it was taken in Germany.  My family was stationed at an airbase called Bittberg for 3 years and it is where my little brother was born.  I don't have very many memories of Germany but I'll occasionally I'll get a whiff of new car smell and recall the new VW Bus I got to ride in.  It had a sink!

family photos 006

I really don't remember sitting on Santa's lap.  Ever.  I do know that Mom probably had me sleep on those pink hair roller things to get that much curl in my hair because my hair was super straight until about middle school when I decided to perm it.

family photos 003

Best Christmas ever!  I even remember the smell of the paints and my Dad just threw away one of the Little Tykes chairs to my play table while cleaning out the basement.  I was sad to see it go.  This is also the year I stopped believing in Santa Claus.  I followed my Dad out to the car and I saw that kitchen play set when he opened the trunk.  He didn't know I was there or that the toy was in the trunk still!  Oops!  My next door neighbor friend got the same kitchen set.  We loved playing house.

Mock Toffee (24)

I'll share some more Christmas memories in my next post but before you move on I want to share this mock toffee recipe.  It has no special memories attached to it but it is yummy!

Mock Toffee (3)

This is a lot easier to make than traditional toffee because you don't need a candy thermometer.  I keep meaning to buy one but I really don't have the desire to make candies often.  Unless it's fudge.  I love me some fudge!

Mock Toffee (8)

This can be made with saltine crackers but I just use graham crackers.  I'm betting the saltine crackers would lend a salted caramel taste though!

Mock Toffee (9)

The butter and sugar get boiled up good in a little pot.  I just make sure that all the sugar is dissolved.  DO NOT OVERCOOK!  Burned caramel is yucky.

Mock Toffee (11)

Pour the sugar and butter mixture over your crackers of choice. It really looks unappetizing.

Mock Toffee (12)

Then stick it in the oven for a little bit.  It will still looks unappetizing.  I promise, it gets better!

Mock Toffee (13)

As soon as it gets out of the oven sprinkle on some chocolate chips.  The heat of the candy will melt the chips allowing you to spread it out evenly over the crackers.

Mock Toffee (15)

If you want, sprinkle on some toasted nuts.  I used almonds.

Mock Toffee (17)

After everything hardens up, store in an airtight container.  It will last a pretty long time but I'm not sure how long because it disappears pretty quickly around here.

Mock Toffee (20)

Mock Toffee
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

10 Graham Cracker Squares
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Line a cookie sheet with foil, spray with Pam or coat with butter

Place crackers side by side to cover cookie sheet

Combine butter and sugar in a small heavy bottomed pot.  Cook over medium heat until bubbly about 3-4 minutes.

Pour over crackers; bake 7 minutes at 375 F.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Allow chips to melt and then spread chocolate over crackers with a spatula.  Sprinkle with nuts usuing spatula to press them in.

When cool, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.