Saturday, November 21, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant and . . . . a Pirate Birthday Cake!

My cute little nephew Brecken had a pirate birthday party and asked me to make his cake. So of course I was more than happy to and I was pretty delighted with how it turned out. I made the pirates out of fondant and brownies. You can buy the brownie pop pans . . . but I just used an ice cream scoop to form the pirate brownie bodies and then covered them in fondant. They were quite a bit of work . . . but turned out SO cute, each with its' own look and personality!!! All of the kids wanted to eat the pirates! I made pound cake since I knew that the boat needed to support the weight of my brownie pirates and filled the cake with a peanut butter filling and a chocolate fudge filling. I made the fillings pretty thick as well so that they would not settle and bulge out the sides. Heads up kids . . . working with fondant can be quite a work out!!! I am super sore today from rolling out the chocolate fondant!!! It was like rolling out a giant tootsie roll! I make marshmallow fondant and no matter how accurate I measure the ingredients it always seems to turn out either too soft or FIRM! But it worked . . . and turned out great in the end! The birthday boy liked the cake so I was a pretty happy aunt! Happy Birthday Brecky! I Love you buddy!Marshmallow Fondant
16 oz Mini Marshmallows
2 lbs Powder Sugar, sifted
4 Tbsp Water
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Grease a large microwaveable bowl very well with shortening. Pour in the mini marshmallows and water. Microwave the marshmallows for 1-2 minutes, just until the top marshmallows are shiny and begin to puff. Remove from microwave and stir with a greased rubber scraper, add vanilla and stir again to combine.

2. Mix with a mixer: Grease a mixing bowl with shortening and pour melted marshmallows in. Add half the powder sugar to the melted marshmallows and mix using a greased dough hook. Add the rest of the powder sugar and continue mixing until the fondant is smooth. It may begin to stick to the bowl and dough hook a bit . . . just scrape fondant onto a greased piece of plastic wrap, and form into a disc. Wrap air tight and allow the fondant to rest at room temperature for at least an hour before using.

2. Mix by hand: Grease counter top with shortening. Pour powder sugar into melted marshmallows and stir with greased rubber scraper until it is too stiff to continue stirring. Pour marshmallow mixture onto greased surface and knead the fondant with greased hands until all of the powder sugar is mixed in and the fondant is smooth. Shape fondant into a thick disc and store fondant in greased plastic wrap allowing the fondant to rest at room temperature for at least an hour before using.

3. Grease a flat surface with shortening and or sprinkle a large flat surface with powder sugar to roll out fondant. Be sure to move fondant around on surface to prevent sticking and to keep surface sprinkled with powder sugar or lightly greased.

Heads up: cover your mixing bowl with plastic wrap or a towel to keep your kitchen from becoming blanketed with powder sugar!!! This is the reason that if I am at home I knead the fondant by hand and if I am at my mom's I use her Bosch (it's lidded . . . equaling little powder sugar mess). I do have a great Kitchen Aid that I love . . . and mixes fondant but tends to still make a bit of a mess.

Chocolate Marshmallow Fondant: substitute 1/3 cup cocoa powder for 1/3 cup powder sugar for a lighter color and lighter chocolate taste. Substitute 1/2 cocoa powder in place of 1/2 cup of powder sugar for a "tootsie roll" taste and darker chocolate color. Also add 2 teaspoons more of water to fondant.

Tips for working with Marshmallow Fondant:
- Make sure that everything is well greased to that the fondant does not stick to your hands, bowls, spoons, surfaces, etc.
-Keep fondant stored airtight to prevent it from drying out.
- If after resting for at least an hour fondant is too soft, add a little more powder sugar to make it more stable.
- Microwave fondant for 10-15 seconds to make it a little more pliable if needed, but remember that microwaveing it can dry it out too.
-Knead the fondant to make it more elastic, but don't over do it or you will have a melted sticky mess.

Also: Thank you Whitney for keeping me company and for helping out!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Balsamic Herb Chicken

This is my take on Coq au Vin . . . without the wine (Yes I know Coq au Vin means chicken cooked in wine . . . but I don't cook with alcohol . . . so a little adjusting had to be made) Anywho this turned out better than I could have imagined and is definitely one to serve when company comes!!! The hubby loved it for sure and next time I am going to do boneless thighs rather than contend with the bones I think (although chicken cooked on the bone is more flavorful . . . ) The herb sauce was out of this world kids!
Balsamic Herb Chicken
Recipe by: Emily

3 pounds Chicken pieces, skinned (Drumsticks, thighs, dark meats preferably)
2 Tbsp Cooking Oil
3/4 cup Pearl Onions, peeled
2 cups Chicken stock (you can also use roasted garlic chicken broth and leave the 2 garlics cloves out if you like)
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 cup Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp fresh Parsley
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried Marjoram
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
1 Bay leaf
1 1/2 Tbsp Flour
2 Tbsp Butter
4 Bacon slices, crisp-cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
Wide Egg Noodles

1. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the chicken pieces, takes about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and then add onions, chicken stock, carrots, marjoram, thyme, parsley, garlic, balsamic vinegar and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for about 35 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
2. Once chicken is cooked through remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and keep warm. Mix the butter and flour together in a bowl to form a paste and then add to the pan juices. Wisk together until sauce begins to thicken. If the sauce is too thick add more chicken stock or balsamic vinegar. Check taste and add more vinegar or salt and pepper if needed. Serve chicken and vegetables over hot cooked egg noodles and then spoon sauce over the chicken and noodles. Garnish with the crumbled bacon and parsley if desired. Enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nutella Snowflakes

These cookies seem very fitting for today . . . since the world outside my window consists of a sea of snowflakes. I made these for a few reasons . . . school stress, my mom worries when she doesn't see a new recipe up from me each day (yeah she worries a lot then . . .) and my hubby is coming home and he is a shortbread cookie fanatic!!! These cookies have a GREAT texture and taste! It is a combo of two delicious worlds . . . an amazing shortbread cookie AND nutella! I need to make more for when I go visiting teaching! I think these are on my Christmas cookie list. They store well and are just plain good! We'll see how much baking I do in the kitchen this year for Christmas. . . I do LOVE the Chocolate Chip Cookie Biscotti that I made last year . . . but these little jems = big smiles and happy tummy's!

Nutella Snowflakes
3/4 cup Butter, Softened
1/2 cup Powder Sugar
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
2 large Egg yolks
1 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 cup Flour

In a medium bowl beat the butter for l minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the powder sugar and brown sugar and beat until smooth. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the flour and mix until combined. Form dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut cookies into 2 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet. Spoon 1 teaspoon of nutella into the center of each cookie. Lightly wet the cookies edges with water to help seal the cookie. Top nutella topped cookies off with another dough round and seal by crimping around the edges gently with a fork.
Bake in a 325 degree preheated oven for 14-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Transfer cookies to a FLAT surface to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and then enjoy! Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

You can also use preserves or peanut butter mixed with powdered sugar as a filling instead.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Popcorn

You don't want to know what time of night this delightful creation came about . . . I practically had to tape my eyes open to make it . . . but I am glad that I did because I never would have been able to hit the hay until it was out of my mind! This popcorn is delish to say the least . . . it is a step up from white chocolate popcorn and you can fiddle with the spices to your liking. I am a major cinnamon and nutmeg fan . . . so I leaned more toward those flavors but you could simply use pumpkin pie spice and tink with it until it tastes to your liking. This would be great to give out as a treat at Christmas time or to munch on while baking pies for Thanksgiving. (Which is when I will probably make it again.) Also if you are an eggnog fan you can tink with the spices until you have eggnog flavored popcorn.
I have to add a HUGE congrats to our good friends up in Alaska who are expecting baby #2! Congrats Lowry's! We are so excited for you!!! Pumpkin Pie Popcorn
Recipe by: Emily

1 cup White Chocolate chips
1 tsp Canola or Vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp Nutmeg
Ground Ginger, a light sprinkle
Ground Cloves, a very light sprinkle
1 Bag Popcorn, whatever you have on hand, I used lightly buttered.

Pop a bag of popcorn, remove unpopped kernels and set aside in a large bowl. Combine the white chocolate chips and teaspoon of oil together and microwave for 30 seconds stirring after every 10 seconds until chocolate is melted. (BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN IT!!!) Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, light sprinkling of ginger, and very light sprinkle of cloves to the melted chocolate, stir and then drizzle over the popped popcorn. Use two butter knives to "fluff" the chocolate mixture all over the popcorn. Garnish with a light sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg of desired. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Enjoy!
You can also add a drop or two of orange food coloring to the chocolate to be more festive!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Crispy Bacon and Butternut Squash Soup

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween! We did in our possy! I had the pleasure of playing crosswalk guard/monkey carrier . . . meaning that I helped herd, guide, and carry nieces and nephews from house to house while trick or treating. To prep for our candy gathering we filled up with Navajo tacos, decorated sugar cookies and munched on all sorts of other goodies!
A seemingly never ending day of snow last week guided me into the kitchen to make this inviting soup. Butternut squash is so versatile to utilize in making soup . . . I LOVED the addition of bacon in it! The crispy bacon added a great smoky, salty flavor and crispy nummy-ness. It is amazing and a day with a crispy loaf of baked potato bread (recipe yet to come . . . ).
Crispy Bacon and Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe by: Emily

1 Butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
3 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Milk or Cream
3 Tbsp leeks, chopped*
2 Garlic cloves, minced (I used 3 cloves of caramelized garlic*)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
6 Strips of Bacon

1. Coat the butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until the squash is tender.
2. Cook the bacon strips in a frying pan over medium low heat until crisp. (If you start the bacon in a cold pan and cook at a low temperature it renders the fat down and creates crispy bacon with less mess and stress!!!). Once the bacon is cooked place strips on a paper towel to drain excess grease off.
3. Saute the leaks over medium heat in a medium pot in one tablespoon of the bacon fat until soft, add the Garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
4. Once the squash is done remove the chicken stock pot from the stove, add the roasted squash and puree with a hand blender or blend in 2 batches in a blender. (Be careful if you are using a blender, hold a dish towel over the top instead of the blender lid so that it does not explode the hot liquid all over!!!). Add 1/2 cup milk or cream to the soup and season to taste. Serve warm with one strip of bacon crumbled over each serving. You can also garnish with Parmesan cheese or croutons. (I like to add a little drzzle of pumpkin seed oil.) Enjoy!

Caramelized Garlic: amazing in anything! Caramelized garlic is easy to make, wrap a head of garlic (I make a couple at a time) in aluminum foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes until the cloves are soft. I let the garlic heads cool to room temperature and then peel the cloves and freeze them in a bag in the freezer, ready to to be used in any recipe! Roasting the garlic creates an almost sweet flavor that is not as overwhelming as raw garlic. It is also so good to mix butter and herbs with and use as a french bread spread!

Leek Cubes: chopping and cleaning leeks can be a bit of a pain sometimes, especially if you want to get dinner done quickly. Whenever I buy leeks I get a bunch to chop up and clean and then fill an ice cube tray with the cleaned, chopped leeks and then fill the cubes with chicken stock and freeze. After frozen I pop them out bag them and then back into the freezer they go where they are ready to use in soups, sauces etc.