Thursday, December 31, 2009

not resolutions, just goals

My husband and I went to the park today to have a picnic and write down what we wanted to accomplish this coming year. The both of us get super excited about our life goals and we decided it'd be fun to write down some big ones we could accomplish in a year. Most of which are for us individually, but some as a couple. We even have a timeline of which ones "should" be done by a certain time. I am super-freak-organization type person that has a million lists going on at once so these kind of things get me excited excited excited!

Here are a few small ones I wanted to share:
1. run a half marathon - i've been running since I was in junior high so its about time I get my butt in gear and actually do something big. I wanted to aim for a full marathon but I'm shooting low and if I run the half marathon no problem, I'll go for the full one and get to mark 2 things off the list.

2. design and sew a dress without a pattern, tutorial, ect.

3. learn to play the piano

4. finish 10 paintings (big or small) - i took drawing/painting for many many years and have been completely uninspired to use what I learned until recently. so 10!

then there's a few maybe unrealistic ones..

meet taylor swift


move back to washington

Hope you all have a safe and happy new year.

chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies have always been a favorite of mine. In high school my friends and I would stay up late making chewy molasses rich cookies, baking about half the dough and eating the rest straight out of the bowl while watching movies. Just thinking back on it I can almost feel the inevitable stomach ache we'd always get.

Part nostalgia, part needing a holiday treat for a party, I decided to make some gingerbread cookies. I came across these in Martha Stewart Cookies. I figured everything's better with chocolate right? Nod yes, please. Because the combination is magical.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
makes 2 dozen

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablspoon cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water
7 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, cut into chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper

2. In a bowl, sift together first six ingredients. In a different bowl, beat butter and fresh ginger until lightened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar, beat until combined. Add molasses, beat until combined.

3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda mixture, then remaining half flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn onto plastic wrap. Pat out to a 1-inch thickness; seal wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 325. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Chill 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until surfaces just begin to crack, 10 -12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

We just finished assembling the monkey bread. Wrapped the last of the presents. Finished up on the DIY gifts we made for each other (in separate rooms of course). He's insisting on an early wake-up call so we're heading to bed soon. We'll be spending tomorrow at his parents, and i'll definitely be missing my family across the entire country in Washington. It's hard to live away from everyone all year round but its extra hard around the holidays. It's the little things that will happen tomorrow that I will miss so much. Hopefully they can all gather around so we can skype for a bit and it'll make up for the long distance. Either way, it's a magical day and I'm looking forward to spend it with my husband, our kitty, and his family.
Hope your day is magical and filled with traditions, family and fun.

Merry Christmas.

"I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fleur de sel (or not) caramels

When I set out to make a load of homemade treats I hadn't planned on making anything too time consuming since there would be quite a bit to make. But I kept stumbling across homemade caramel recipes, EVERYWHERE. I figured it's something I have yet to make (we wont count the "help" I gave mom every now and again as a child) and they look cute wrapped up so why not.

And boy, am I glad I did. I am not a connoisseur of caramels, and usually I pass on the chance to eat them but I could NOT stop "testing" them. It seems like I was wrapping one, then eating one. Wrapping one.. eating one and so on. Which is why I sent 99% of them off to family and friends, and so far I have heard amazing things from every single person. Less talk, more caramels.. please!

I didn't put the salt on every caramel, in fact I think it was only about 20. There isn't a drastic difference, so if you don't have fleur de sel (or sea salt) or don't like your sweets a bit salty, don't worry, they are still amazing. A big plus: They hold their shape (which is perfect for gift giving) but melt in your mouth. I may never use another caramels recipe again.

Fleur de sel Caramels (adapted by notsohumblepie)
Makes 60-70 large caramels
This recipe does take time, expect about an hour in front of the stove.

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fleur de sel, I used unrefined sea salt (omit for plain caramels)

Line a 9 x 9 cake pan with lightly buttered parchment and set aside.

In a heavy sauce pan over medium heat combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and one cup of the heavy cream. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. This will take some time. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat, this recipe requires patience.

Once the mixture boils add the remaining cup of cream in a slow trickle so that you do not cool your caramel mixture and it continues to boil uninterrupted.

Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to boil for 5-6 minutes without stirring.

Add butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each melts. Clip on your candy thermometer and allow to boil over medium-low heat until the mixture just hits 250°F (Firm Ball stage) stirring occasionally. This should take about 30-40 minutes, if your temperature is climbing too quickly you might need to reduce heat all the way to low. By the same token, if you're not hitting 250°F by 40 minutes you might want to increase the heat a bit.

Once you've hit the right temperature, quickly remove from heat. Stir in the teaspoon of vanilla and pour into your prepared pan. To prevent any crystallization, don't scrape the pan as you pour, just allow what clings to the pan to remain in it. Set your dish of molten caramel carefully on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Using the parchment, remove the cool caramel sheet from the pan and cut into pieces using a sharp buttered knife. Lightly press each piece onto a plate sprinkled with fleur de sel and wrap in cellophane or waxed paper.

These should keep for roughly a week or two, if wrapped and in an air tight container.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Christmas is only five little days away. How did that happen??

Well, the day before Josh got home from Germany, I got sick. Like high fever, bad cough, worst sore throat ever sick. Which really put a kink in my christmas preparations. I had a million knitting, crocheting and sewing projects I needed to finish to send to family for christmas, not to mention all the christmas baking I had planned. Instead I ate soup and got caught up on tv shows (dexter finale.. whooooa)

So finally on thursday I mustered up the strength to bake the entire day so I could send something homemade with the gifts to friends and family.

Marshmallows have been on my to-do list for a long time, mostly because they look so cute and fluffy.

I am not a huge fan of marshmallows in general. But I do like them in smores and on top of my hot cocoa.. And these were AMAZING in hot cocoa. And hopefully my recipients enjoy them as well.

The instructions for these look a tad intimidating, but don't be fooled, they are extremely easy. A candy thermometer is key.

(reminder: click on pictures to enlarge)

Another last minute christmas gift recipe coming tomorrow!

Marshmallows (recipe by Smittenkitchen)

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups granulated sugar (cane sugar worked just fine)
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla (alternately: 1/2 of a scraped vanilla bean, 2 teaspoons almond or mint extract or maybe even some food coloring for tinting)

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch rectangular metal baking pan and dust bottom and sides with some confectioners’ sugar.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold cold water, and let stand to soften.

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan cook granulated sugar, corn syrup, second 1/2 cup of cold water, and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F, about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about six minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. (Some reviewers felt this took even longer with a hand mixer, but still eventually whipped up nicely.)

In separate medium bowl with cleaned beaters beat egg whites (or reconstituted powdered whites) until they just hold stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla (or your choice of flavoring) into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and don’t fret if you don’t get it all out (learning from my mess of a first round). Sift 1/4 cup confectioners sugar evenly over top. Chill marshmallow, uncovered, until firm, at least three hours, and up to one day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up one corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and ease onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into roughly one-inch cubes. (An oiled pizza cutter works well here too.) Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar back into your now-empty baking pan, and roll the marshmallows through it, on all six sides, before shaking off the excess and packing them away.

Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cranberry sauce muffins (with cranberry sauce recipe)

I volunteered to bring the cranberry sauce to thanksgiving this year. I had actually never had cranberry sauce before and my only memories of it is the gelatinous red stuff on a plate that has indentations from the can still on it.. and it grossed me the heck out. It always sounded pretty good so I looked up a few homemade recipes and gave it a go. It was delicious with my tofu and mashed potatoes and I got many compliments. Tangy, and sweet with a good hint of orange.

Cranberry sauce
12 ounces cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the orange juice. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

But like most people I had an enormous amount left over. I stuck it in the freezer to bake it up in something for another day. So last week while my husband was in Germany, I was looking for a comfort breakfast food that wouldn't leave me sluggish for the rest of the day. I pulled the cranberry sauce out of the freezer and made some muffins. And they were SO. GOOD! Healthy enough as a breakfast food, but sweet enough for dessert too. I would make cranberry sauce any time of year to eat these.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar (or 1/2 c white, 1/2 c brown)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups of leftover cranberry sauce
1/2 cup skim milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

Heat oven to 400°F. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups.
In a large bowl, combine flours, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; mix well. In medium bowl, combine milk, oil, cranberry sauce and egg; blend well. Fold into dry ingredients all at once; stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups about three-quarters full.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sweet and Sour Tofu with asparagus

It seems people are SO intimidated by tofu, cooking it as well as eating it. Especially if its mushy the first time you try it . Luckily the first time i had tofu, it was most delicious. First impressions make a huge difference! So if you have yet to try it, or if you can't convince your husband to, (like mine!!) this would be the perfect first impression. The tofu is slightly crunchy on the outside, perfectly done inside. No mush here.

However, if you're not ready to take a stab at the tofu fear, my husband tells me this was exceptionally delicious on chicken as well.

Sweet and sour tofu (recipe by veganyumyum)

1 Tub Extra Firm Tofu, pressed
2 tsp Ener-g Egg Replacer + 4 tsp water, mixed (or 1 egg)
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
Enough oil to lightly fry
1 lb asparagus

3 1/2 Tbs Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water
2 Tbs + 2 tsp Sugar
1 Tbs Soy sauce
1 Tbs Ketchup
1 tsp Molasses
1/4 tsp Ginger Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tbs Cornstarch + 2 Tbs water

Slice the tofu into triangles or small cubes. Smaller = better for this recipe, since smaller pieces won’t have a tendency to break when you toss them, and they have a bigger surface area to volume ratio (read: they’ll be crispier).

Toss tofu with the egg replacer mixture/egg until coated. Then toss in cornstarch until each piece is coated and dry, adding more cornstarch if needed.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok.

While oil is heating, mix sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch/water into a small sauce pan and whisk over medium heat until sugar and salt is dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture and whisk until the sauce thickens. If you leave the sauce unattended it will thicken and burn, so keep an eye on it. When thick, turn off heat and set aside.

Place tofu in the hot oil, being careful not to burn yourself. You don’t want the tofu to be crowded or the pieces will stick to each other, so fry it in batches if needed. Fry for 3-5 minutes until golden on the bottom, then gently turn and brown the other side. Blanch asparagus (or pop it in the microwave in a shallow bowl, with a few tablespoons of water, until slightly tender)

Drain tofu from oil (in the sink like you’d drain pasta, being very careful), and place tofu and asparagus in a large bowl. Pour sauce on top and gently toss to completely coat. Sauce should be thick and sticky – it shouldn’t pool at the bottom of the bowl.

Serve with rice.

Friday, December 4, 2009

5 pretty things

josh is away for ten days, playing a couple shows in germany and the uk. i've been trying to keep busy so it goes by fast fast fast.

1. pretty colored ice cream

2. blue eyes

3.martha stewart cookie cutters!

4. pretty tattoos

5. christmas (!!!!)

hopefully i'll be motivated enough to post a recipe tomorrow.