Home For The Holidays

I was given this year’s nutcracker last night! Hubby had started giving them to me early so I could enjoy them the whole season. Some years I get them earlier than others because he cannot stand to hang on to it after he gets it. This showed up on the porch yesterday afternoon and it was sitting in my spot at the table for dinner last night. I loved what he picked for the theme this year.

So much is going to be different this holiday season, but I’m good with that.

I won’t be doing bake sale baking this year because there won’t be a bake sale. The organizers are still taking donations to be able to support the families they provide for through the holidays, but no one is in the office right now, so a bake sale isn’t feasible. Instead, we are going to donate what they normally make off my baked goodies to help make up the difference of what they’d get from the sale.

We are also holing up and not leaving again after this week. I have one more errand I have to take care of, then I’m going to do my best to not leave the house again until after the first of the year. Hubby will still take care of our essential shopping, but I won’t be leaving. I’m not taking any chances with a lowered or suppressed immune system.

We got all the pieces I need for my craft room project yesterday to paint the walls and install the floor. I figure that after the contractors are done, that is about all I’d be able to get done until after the first of the year and will keep me from needing to leave to get any supplies.

I have my fingers crossed that our local government actually implements the health department recommendations of no gatherings larger than 10 as that will mean I don’t have to make the decision to keep BG from participating in her Christmas dance performances. The studio has put us in another awkward position as parents because they said they were going to make masks optional for the performances. They are live streaming them instead of having families come to the studio, but I think making it mask optional is recklessly stupid and I’m leaning towards keeping BG out because of that (and many other factors as well).

The last piece that is up in the air on our total stay at home for the holidays plan is what MC’s school is going to do. We know that they are not required to come back to campus after the Thanksgiving break, but they still have not answered questions about his requirements to live on campus next semester, so I have no clue if we are moving him out of the dorms in the next couple of weeks or not.

Staying home also means no big meal with Hubby’s dad and sister. For either Thanksgiving or Christmas. We haven’t seen either one of them since February other than Hubby taking care of a few critical appointments with my FIL, but we are all in agreement that we need to do this.

I am planning on fixing a full Thanksgiving dinner to take out and drop off with them the day before. The whole family will go, but we will only stay outside and just long enough to drop it off and leave. I will probably also do something similar for Christmas. At least he will get a nice, home cooked meal that way even if we can’t spend any time together. That is the best we can do right now. It helps to make sure that EVERYONE is still around for next holiday season.

And just to give you a visual reminder….

Intubation Graphic
Intubation Graphic

 

Going Nuts

I’m feeling a bit run ragged (kinda like this poor, frazzled looking nutcracker) at the moment. Trying to get all my baking done in between a week of appointments, unexpected errands, runs to dance and the normal activity of trying to feed my family has left me almost no time to be calm for more than maybe 5 seconds at a time.

Today is my last really crazy day for a while (fingers and toes crossed), so hopefully that means I won’t feel quite so rushed after today. I had fully intended on getting a few more things made today, but I have to work on homemade pizza for dinner and one of my FIL gifts, so I’m giving myself a baking break today. I have at least one more recipe I plan to post as it is a new one for me, but I think that is the last of them. I’m really not sure.

If someone finds my brain lying around somewhere, would you mind returning it? I might need it again.

Snickerdoodles

I’m going to fess up, I completely spaced taking pictures along the way. I very nearly forgot to get the ingredients photographed. Basically, I am being a bit of a goof the last couple of days (my other cookie didn’t even get those). That said, the main point is the recipe and that, I DO have!

Snickerdoodles - Ingredients
Snickerdoodles – Ingredients

This is actually one of my favorite cookies, but everyone always wants the standard peanut butter or chocolate chip when I ask what they want me to make. Because I don’t want 50 different kinds of cookies hanging out and tempting me to eat them all, I just opt to not make this one. Not this year!

Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

1/2 C.  Real Butter – Softened (115g)
1/2 C. Vegetable Shortening (98g)
2 Eggs
2 3/4 C.  Flour (372g)
2 tsp.  Cream of Tartar (12g)
1 tsp.  Baking Soda (10g)
1/4 tsp.  Salt (just shy of 1g)

2 T.  Sugar (14g)
2 tsp.  Cinnamon (8g)

Heat oven to 400°F. Mix together butter, shortening the 1 1/2 cup of sugar and eggs. Mix together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, then combine with the butter mix. In a small bowl (big enough to hold a couple of cups), mix together remaining sugar and cinnamon. Form dough into balls (about 3/4 of an inch) and roll in sugar mix to coat. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and chill in fridge for about 10 minutes (you want the dough to firm up before baking). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove to cooling rack after a minute or two (or eat right away!)

One of the things I love about this recipe is that these have a slightly crispy edge and a soft, chewy center when it first comes out of the oven. It is probably one of the best straight out of the oven cookies. Putting these in the fridge to firm up before baking helps to keep the cookies from getting too crispy and helps that center stay on the fluffier side. They do tend to be on the crispy side if you over bake (even if they don’t look quite done), so try to bake to the low end of the time.

Snickerdoodles - Dough
Snickerdoodles – Dough

The cinnamon and sugar ratio that you roll these in can be adjusted if you like a lighter or heavier cinnamon flavor. This recipe tends to lean on the slightly heavy side. Just enough to add a lingering tingle after you’ve eaten one.

Snickerdoodles
Snickerdoodles

*Please note that all weight measurements are based on my measuring cups and spoons and may not match universal conversions exactly. I will be doing my best to add these types of measurements to all of my recipes so that my non-US readers can play as well. I’m working on developing a conversion chart and will add that to my recipe section when I have a bulk of them finished.

Nougat Candy

I had absolutely forgotten about this candy until I saw the recipe shared online. It wasn’t until I dug a little deeper that I figured out exactly where I remembered it from. Brach’s candy makes these and I remember my great grandmother having them in a candy bowl with other old fashioned hard candies when we were over for the holidays. I remember loving these, but that memory is pushing 40 years old at this point, so I don’t really remember exactly what they tasted like. I’m pretty sure these come close, but I don’t think they are exact. I don’t think those candies were quite as chewy as these, but these are amazing.

Nougat Candy - Ingredients
Nougat Candy – Ingredients

This recipe was… interesting. I love the end results and this has become a hit with everyone in my family. I just didn’t expect it to behave the way it did. That and the issue I ran into with not being able to find basic fruit flavored gumdrops made this a fun learning experience.

Nougat Candy Recip

1 T.  Butter
250g  Mini Marshmallows (a little less than a 10 ounce bag)
235g  White Chocolate Chips (a little less than an 11 ounce bag)
1 C.  Gumdrops (aprox. 231g)
Butter for spoon and hands

Prepare pan by lining with parchment paper. Best size is a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Prep gumdrops if necessary.

Coat a wooden spoon with butter and use this to stir. Melt together butter, marshmallows and chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Stir in gumdrops. The mix will be very stiff and sticky, you will need to work quickly as this sets up fast. Put into prepared pan. Will most likely need to press into place to fill the pan. Coat fingers lightly in butter to prevent sticking. Mixture may be hot, so use caution. Allow to cool in refrigerator for about 4 hours or overnight for best results. Cut into bite sized pieces after set.

Because I didn’t find traditional gumdrops, I used red and green bells (cherry and lime flavor) and cut them into quarters, making them the perfect size for this. Since gumdrops are naturally sticky, they are lightly coated in sugar. When you cut them, you expose some of that sticky, so I rolled my cut pieces in sugar so I could work with them.

Nougat Candy - Prepping
Nougat Candy – Prepping

The original recipe I found, tells you to microwave this to melt. There weren’t instructions on how long or when to stir or anything. My first batch still turned out, but I don’t think I really got the marshmallows and white chocolate fully mixed so certain sections of that batch felt chewier than others (almost like a soft taffy). This sets up so quickly once everything is melted, it makes it difficult to keep stirring and you still have to mix in those gumdrops.

Nougat Candy - Stovetop Melting
Nougat Candy – Stovetop Melting

I did a second batch on the stove, mixing up the marshmallows and the chocolate before it even started to melt to make sure everything was more evenly distributed. I’d also learned to coat my spoon in butter before stirring. It doesn’t completely prevent sticking, but it does help. Also, use a VERY sturdy spoon. I tried to use a rubber spatula with my first batch and this was just too thick for that to work.

Nougat Candy - Ready to Refrigerate
Nougat Candy – Ready to Refrigerate

The original recipe was really easy to halve so I could do the two test batches, but it called for using a 9 x 13 pan for a full batch, so I opted for a smaller square. It didn’t even come close to filling the pan. This is also where I learned to put a little butter on my fingers so I could press this mostly flat in the space without having half the batch stick to my hands. This really does have a similar consistency to taffy. Having your pan ready before you even start to melt everything is essential because you will NOT have time afterwards.

Nougat Candy - Ready to Refrigerate
Nougat Candy – Ready to Refrigerate

For the second batch, I actually goofed a little when adding the white chocolate and used the weight I’d figured for my gumdrops. It really is only a small change, but between doing the second batch on the stove and the slightly higher amount of chocolate, the second batch came out better than the first batch (though they both taste amazing). The recipe I’m posting is for what I did on the second batch.

Not only is this really yummy, it is so pretty! When I was looking around after doing the first batch to see if their were other recipes for this that did things a little differently (trying to see if I’d done something wrong), I noticed that there are a lot of different versions that use things like dried fruits and nuts instead of the gumdrops, so this seems to be pretty versatile as well.

Nougat Candy
Nougat Candy

This does make a smallish batch, but that makes it perfect for holiday baking when you are making lots of other things. That and this is really pretty sweet, so a little goes a long way. It is also pretty simple to double if you want a bigger batch. I’m not sure I would personally because the small amount here is hard enough to stir and blend in those gumdrops, a bigger batch would present and even bigger challenge. If you’ve got the arms and the ambition, then I say go for it!

Sugar Cookies

My baking for this year finished up on a batch of Sugar Cookies, which I rarely ever attempt because I have just never gotten them right. Either the cookie is wrong because I’ve rolled them too thin or over baked them, or the icing turns out like crap. This year, I wanted to play and decided to try again. I think I did them right this time.

Continue reading “Sugar Cookies”