Monday, December 19, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows, the perfect gift!

Yes, I know the holiday gift giving season is pretty much what!  This is a great gift or just something nice to keep in your cabinet. 

A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to make everyone marshmallows and hot chocolate, I remember getting a lot of good reviews so I decided that I was going to do it again this year.  It is just something different then cookies and breads, and you can put it away for a later date if you want (well at least the hot chocolate.)

This year instead of just plain ol' hot chocolate mix, I made Mexican Hot Chocolate.  The difference is that it has cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  Now, I made the first batch and it was really good but I wasn't really able to taste the cayenne pepper. SO...when I made the second batch, being the super smart person I am, I decided to add just a bit more of the pepper.  Not something I recommend.  I didn't add much, but man!  I ended up having to split the second batch into two and mellow them down a bit to tame the heat.  The second (and third) batch were/are still spicier then the first but were much more tolerable.  I even got a "tell your wife shes the bomb" response from one of my husbands friends, I must admit the compliment felt good. 

Mexican Hot Chocolate

3 cups non-fat dry milk
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 brown sugar (I used dark)
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 cups dark cocoa powder (such as Hersey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients into a food processor, pulse until well mixed and most of the chocolate chips are broken down. (This may need to be made in batches depending on the size of your processor.)

Combine about 1/3 of the mix with hot water or milk, mix well and top with a homemade marshmallow.

Now. Marshmallows.  If you like marshmallows and have never made your own, I highly recommend it!  They are so much better, fresher, softer, did I say better, then store bought and really easy to make.  The other thing with making your own marshmallows you can flavor them anyway you want by just adding extracts, or cocoa.  For this recipe I just did plain since the hot chocolate had extra flavors.


Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract (or what ever flavor you would like)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, for dusting

Brush a 9 x 13 pan with oil, I like to also line the pan with foil (which will also be oiled) that hangs at least two inches over the sides for easy removal, dust the pan with some of the powdered sugar. *You can not over oil the pan!

Bring the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 3/4 cups of water to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
In a standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, add 3/4 cups cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let soften for at least 5 minutes.
On low speed, whisk the sugar mixture in to the gelatin.  Switch to high speed, add vanilla and beat until stiff and looks like marshmallow fluff.  About 12-15 minutes.
Pour into the prepared pan, smooth and set aside, uncovered until firm. About 3 hours. Cut in to 1" squares or what ever shape your heart desires. 

Christmas Crafts with a Star Theme

Star Christmas Cards
I am always looking for some type of craft to do with my son, and this month I decided to try to get into the spirit a little more with star themed Christmas crafts. 

My son loves to paint, and I love that he loves it!  I covered our kitchen table with paper, gave him red, green, and white paint and let him go at it!  I also bought crayola glitter glue and gave him all but the turquoise. Using his artwork, we then cut the paper in to star shapes (that eventually became our Christmas cards), and into strips to make a garland. 

When we were finished with the table, I gave him cardboard stars.  This was an upcycle project if you will.  We have cardboard boxes at work that have dividers in them to hold rolled plans, and the person who worked in our print room cut the dividers into a bunch of smaller pieces that were about 5" x 5" when pushed flat, but have seams to fold into a cube. 

Cardboard Stars

Well I took the pieces (I was told I could) and cut them into star shapes.  My son and I, painted about a dozen.  They are now standing around our living room on shelves, and we even put a couple in our tree.  They probably won't last til next year so I may keep one, but the rest will probably just end up in the recycling bin. 

Star Garland (in front of door for clarity)

We also, used the cardboard stars to make a garland. Well this was more my project, I added some colored paper circles between the stars and threaded them all together. It actually hangs in the window next to our front door.

I don't have good picture but we also painted salt dough ornaments, my son did most of the painting, I just went back with the glitter glue and added a little.  The original plan is for the ornaments to be
decoration on the grand- parents gifts, and they still may.  I had a couple extra stars that I put on two of the gifts, so the third may have an ornament.  Because I was a little impatient, I dried the dough in the oven on a low temperature.  Well they bubbled up a bit so they didn't turn out quite how I wanted.  But everything was a lot of fun to make.

I am all about being creative through a mess, and kids should get messy.  It all washes off and out.  Life is too short to worry about spilled paint. 

Cookie Season: Classic Spritz Cookie

Spritz cookies. I remember them being a special treat during the Holiday, my mom rarely made them but I loved them. My mom used my grandmothers recipe, but my father said they were never the same. I don’t think anything ever ends up being better then what you remember as a kid.

A few months ago, we took a trip to visit my father-in-law and we never leave visits with my husbands family empty handed. Well this time, mixed amongst the ice cream maker, chairs, beanie baby animals, quesadilla maker, etc. there was a cookie press, and not just any press a battery operated one! Well I decided right then that I was going to make my grandmothers Spritz Cookies this year. So I asked my mom if she could send me the recipe. Well…she couldn’t find it. Disappointing! She said it was probably tucked in the cookie press box, but she no longer has the press. Well who ever has ended up with it, now has a good grandma recipe. Well then my search was on to find a spritz recipe that made me relive my childhood.

Well I think I found that recipe, it was very simple. One thing that I didn’t do before hand was test my cookie press. I loaded the batteries, made my cookie dough, filled the press, squeezed and…nothing. My heart actually sank a little. All I thought was “this has to work! I am not going to stuff a pastry bag!” After a little cursing, I figured it out! There was a small gear that is on the “press” part and that was supposed to stay, via pressure in the top of the press. Well it wasn’t and come to find out I need to actually have it threaded for it to work. (Sorry if that makes no sense, I am sure it doesn’t.) So now that I had the press working, I just needed to work on getting the correct amount of dough on the cookie sheet. After a couple of tries, it became so easy! I remember using my mom’s press and having to actually press and twist to get the dough out, no wonder she didn’t make them much. It was like exercise. I am loving the battery operated one; I will probably use it more often.

Well on to the recipe…the recipe said it was from the side of the Wilton cookie press box, but I don’t have a Wilton so I am not 100% sure it really is or not.

Classic Spritz Cookies

3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups of butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
Red and green sugar sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder, set a side. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture, beat until combined. Do Not Chill. Fill cookie press with the dough, press onto ungreased cookie sheets, and if desired sprinkle with the colored sugar.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are just starting to get LIGHTLY golden brown. Cool.

Makes 7-8 dozen small cookies.


Broccoli Bacon Salad

For the past couple years our company has held a holiday pot-luck; this year while I was looking over the carb loaded, cheese smothered sign-up sheet, I decided that I would do a vegetable. My first thought was a corn dish (probably one of the least nutritious vegetables). I was looking to see what I could do different with corn, last year I made a Corn Pudding and I wanted something different. The recipe that I found was a Corn Gratin, with lots of cheese, cream, bacon and to top it off fried onions; it sounded wonderful! Talk about making a veggie unhealthy. (Side note: I will make this at some point.) As I thought about it, I decided I would go green. The only other item on the sheet that was green was a spinach salad, and I am a stickler about my plate not being all one monochromatic mess.

I was first looking for an Asian Broccoli Slaw that I could tweak a bit, but instead I came across this Broccoli Salad. And guess what? It is only about 89 calories a serving, which is about a cup. (I couldn’t eat a full cup if I tried; this is full delicious roughage here.)

Broccoli Bacon Salad

1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups finely chopped broccoli crowns
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
Freshly ground pepper , to taste

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Chill overnight or at least 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Simple and Delicious!