Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all have a safe, wonderful evening with lots of great food and fun. See you next year! (I love saying that)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from our house to yours!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cinnamon Palmiers

My feet are killing me! I've been baking up a storm the last three days and I'm quickly running out of room to store my cookies. But of all the cookies I made in the last three days, I think Cinnamon Palmiers are the easiest and the most impressive. I love how they turned out, so pretty and elegant. I made the first batch to give to my daughter for her French class party at school and the second batch is for us. They taste light and sweet. Besides Christmas, I imagine these cookies would be great for company, a party or just a special snack with tea. Palmiers is French for palm leaves, just in case you love French like I do!

Cinnamon Palmiers

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 tsps. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

Roll out one pastry sheet on a floured surface, until roughly 12 by 16 inches in size. Spread half the sugar mixture over the surface, covering as much as possible. Fold the pastry's two long sides so they go halfway to the middle. Fold the sides again, so they meet exactly in the middle, then fold again, as if you are closing a book. Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper and place the pastry on top. Then cover the pastry itself with wax paper and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Repeat steps with second pastry.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a serrated knife, cut pastry rolls into 1/4 inch thick slices and lay each slice, cut side down and 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes. Turn cookies over and let bake another 5 minutes (I skipped this step and mine turned out fine). Let cool.

"Bouillabaisse is only good because cooked by the French, who, if they cared to try, could produce an excellent and nutritious substitute out of cigar stumps and empty matchboxes.
-Norman Douglas, British novelist (1868-1952)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Easy Chocolate Truffles

I find it kind of funny that though I've made very fancy truffles with rich cream, special dark chocolate and expensive coatings, these truffles, with cream cheese and regular chocolate, are some of my family's favorites. I love making them because not only are they so good, they are so easy. So much so that I keep wondering how I'm getting away with this!

Easy Chocolate Truffles

1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
3 cups of powdered sugar
12 ounces of semi sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tsps. of vanilla
Ground walnuts, unsweetened cocoa, and flaked coconut

Beat cream cheese until smooth then gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla and mix well. Refrigerate about 1 hour. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll into walnuts, cocoa or coconut. Store in refrigerator.
Adapted from Baker's Holiday Desserts

"Whosoever says truffle, utters a grand word, which awakens erotic and gastronomic ideas...."
-Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)
preface to The Physiology of Taste (1825)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Muddled Brain

I usually do a Thursday Thirteen today, but I haven't had any time to even think of an idea, let alone write it out. With Christmas coming, I'm trying to bake everyday, just a little, to get ahead. We are also considering a move to another community because of problems with our kids' schools (that is a story for a future post!) and problems with our adoption agency (also a story for another post).

So needless to say, I'm very glad I got to my list of cookies and treats for last TT because I couldn't have done it this week. I hope I will have more recipes to post before the holidays when things settle down a bit in the next few days. Goodness knows, I am baking enough to at least have some to share!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hot Chocolate Mix

Ok, that is a bad picture! But it's not mine, so I'm making do. I wanted everyone to get the idea of what I was talking about when I post this recipe for hot chocolate mix. I made these gifts over the weekend for my kid's teachers and bus drivers. I can't afford the gift cards most people buy, so I usually make something. Last year it was cookies, this year hot chocolate mix. I'll include a small bag of marshmallows and a candy cane. Tie with a pretty Christmas ribbon and put into Christmas paper bags and all are done and ready to give away!

Hot Chocolate Mix

2 (9.6 ounce) boxes of instant nonfat dry milk powder
1 (16 ounce) container of Nesquik powder
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup powdered non dairy coffee creamer
2 tsps. instant coffee granules
Mini marshmallows

In a large bowl, combine dry milk powder, Nesquik powder, confectioners' sugar, nondairy creamer, and coffee granules. Spoon 1 cup of mix into each of 11 (1 pint) clear plastic bags. Top with marshmallows or include separately in a small baggie. Add a candy cane and ribbon.

To serve, spoon 1/4 cup mix into 1 cup hot milk or water and stir well.

Adapted from Cooking with Paula Deen

"And above all... Think Chocolate!"
-Betty Crocker

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Thirteen- Happy 13th Birthday To My Baby Girl!

Being that it is Thursday Thirteen and my oldest daughter's birthday, I thought I'd combine the two and come up with thirteen things my daughter is going to do to celebrate:

1. Called off school- Yep, I let her miss school. She is only 13 once, plus she can't celebrate tonight because my middle daughter has her first band concert and we can't miss that.

2. Let her sleep late- while I was at the gym today, she slept as long as she liked. It's funny because as a baby, she did not sleep through the night for a year and a half. Now I can't get her out of bed!

3. We went shopping!- She wanted to go out and have fun looking around. That usually means hitting Mom up for some special items (Oh, Mom, please??!!) but that is ok. We went to Target, Joann's, Bed Bath & Beyond, and a few other places.

4. Bought her gifts- When there is a secret code to buying a teenager a gift, it's better left to them picking it themselves! If I don't want to get a gift certificate, that is the best bet. I bought her an Avitar shirt, some personal items, and a Soda Pop Science kit.

5. Went out to lunch- She wanted to go to Cracker Barrel, which works for me since it's one of my favorite restaurants! Her favorite meal is the Chicken and Dumplins with three sides. Her eyes were bigger than her tummy though and we took home a doggie bag.

6. Bought a cake- She couldn't decide between a cheesecake or a regular cake. Since she wasn't sure she likes cheesecake and it costs $18, we went with the regular cake. We bought it at Sam's Club where everything is supersized, including the cakes! Chocolate Fudge, yum!

7. Make a special dinner- Since we are going out tomorrow night, I asked her what she wanted me to make tonight at home. She chose steak, mashed potatoes and green beans. The girl sounds just like her dad!

8. Going out to eat, again- Tomorrow night, my husband and I are treating her to a special night out at the Hyeholde. If you remember me talking about this restaurant before, it's very upscale and expensive, like the food is so fancy you don't feel right eating it. It's her chance to be introduced to something grown up.

9. Letting her dress up in Mom's clothes- My daughter, believe it or not, is almost my height and weight. Very scary. Since I have a few dresses I keep for my Hyeholde visits each year, she begged me to let her wear one. So we'll get her all dolled up like a grown up.

10. Having a party on Saturday- Along with today's celebration and tomorrow's dinner, the girl is getting a party on Saturday. She is having a few friends and we are all going ice skating.

11. More cake- I bought cupcakes for Saturday. I realize I should make them, especially since I love to bake, but I'm too darn tired!

12. Pizza and ice cream- Saturday's menu!

13. Recovery- This may not be a planned part of her birthday, but I'm determined to fit in some time to chill!

So Happy Birthday to the sweetest, smartest and most beautiful 13 year old in the world. May all your dreams come true except one, so you always have something to strive for. I love you, baby girl.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

Although I'm not a fan of Martha Stewart (everything she does looks so darn complicated!), I needed a quick recipe for some pumpkin I had to use up and she had a scrumpious sounding one. Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake sounded so good to me and perfect for the holidays. I ended up being able to make a regular bundt sized cake out of this, for my hubby to share at work, and I had enough batter left over to make a small cake for us. It was absolutely delicious!

Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I used a cup of milk, minus 2 tblsp, then added 2 tblsp of vinegar. Let sit a few minutes until thickened)
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 14-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray. Dust with flour, and tap out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer, on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat until just combined. Add pumpkin puree, and beat until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully turn cake onto rack too cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar.

From The Martha Stewart Show, November 2007
"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists"
-Joan Gussow

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday Thirteen- What I'd Like To Make For Chirstmas

Some of the sweets on my list for Christmas this year:

1. Peppermint Meltaways- this is a new recipe I found and I've been waiting for Christmas to try them out. If they turn out, I'll post the recipe.

2. Candy Cane Swirl Cheesecake- Also new, it looks too good to not try! But I have to find Hershey's Kisses Candy Cane Mint candies, so this may not be a go. Hopefully, Walmart has them :)

3. Chocolate Peppermints- I made these last year, and they were very popular. So easy to make, it's a good thing to add to my cookie trays for gifts cause they taste like peppermint patties and almost everyone loves those.

4. Easter Eggs or Buckeyes- this is a classic recipe that I make every year. But it looks so good on a tray and my eldest daughter loves them.

5. M&M Shortbread Cookies- I tried this for the first time last year, and my goodness they went quick! I think it was the shortbread that did it. Plus they are just so darn colorful they stand out.

6. Kueffels- I have no idea how to spell this because everyone has a different spelling for them. They are one of the few filled, rolled cookies I make but for all the trouble they are, they taste wonderful!

7. Snickerdoodles- These cookies taste like eggnog to me and I can't stop eating them!

8. Rum Truffles- for the fancy pants part of me! Gotta have something chocolate, creamy and delectable.

9. Gingerbread Cookies- After years of looking, I finally found a good recipe for these cookies. My kids love decorating (and eating!) them every year. It's their contribution to all the crazy baking that goes on in this house for Christmas.

10. Chocolate Bark- Because it's so addicting I usually make it then quickly give it away as gifts before I eat it all!

11. Magic Meltaways- The peanut butter in the middle really makes this cookie irresistable.

12. Heath Bars- Saltine crackers, toffee, and chocoalte. What's not to like?

13. Secret Kiss Cookies- my one recipe that will remain a family secret. There are probably dozens of recipes for them, but this one was from Virginia and I'll make it every year till I can't no more!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Show Yourself Already!

Not the greatest of pictures, but it's the only recent one I could find!

I've always felt bad about not sharing more about me on my blog. I've wanted to, but I felt to scared to do it because I have had a stalker for over 20 years. My husband's ex-girlfriend. Without getting into all the juvenille carrying on that went on back then till now, I'll just say that she latched on to me after the breakup and never let go. It got weird, scary and quite unnerving at times. I felt the need to cover up my tracks and remain as anonymous as possible on the internet so I kept my personal information and photo off any sites, including my blog.

Because I've kept a low profile and hid as much as possible, I find myself stalker free for the past few months (at least to my knowledge!). It has made me re-think things and feel a bit more safer. And since I know quite a bit more about all my blog friends than you all know about me, it's only fair that I share a bit more. Though I'm not comfortable enough yet to give details, I will say my first name is Mary Ann. At least you all won't have to address me as "Sweet" all the time, though I do like that a lot!

So, I hope this helps you all get a better picture of who you are talking to when you stop by to say hello!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adios Cancer!

Well, my basal cell skin cancer surgery is over. Finally. I went this afternoon and got it done. The doc cauterized and scraped out the cancer. I thought she would have cut it out and stitched it, but I guess that is not how they do this kind of surgery. The doc says it will heal up to a pink scar then eventually turn white. Good riddance!
I want to thank everybody for their prayers. It meant the world to me that everyone cared, prayed and thought of me. I found out that skin cancer of this type is not that big of a deal, but the fact that people were willing to get behind me and support me anyway was a terrific feeling!
Now I hope to get back to some baking!