I’m so far behind on getting any holiday baking done this year. I had originally planned on just making stuff in chunks so I didn’t end up with a massive pile of goodies all at once. Yeah, that didn’t work. I made one batch of nougat after the kids harassed me until I got it done. Next thing I know, I’ve got only a few days before Christmas and nothing else is made.
I spent yesterday in the kitchen trying to get at least part of my baking done. So far, I’ve made a batch of sugar cookie dough, but not the cookies. I got a batch of peanut butter cookies made and I was able to get my annual batch of pot pies made up and in the freezer ready to go to my FIL as part of his gift. There aren’t nearly as many as I usually make, but at least I got them done.
I still have something like 5 other goodies, some homemade pizzas, and baking and decorating the sugar cookies left to get done. So, if it feels like I’ve gone quiet, it’s because I’m chained to the kitchen until all of that is finished.
This is just a little of what I spent my day doing yesterday. Let me tell you, it was a hell of a struggle to get it all done when I had zero energy. Again.
In all, I made 4 batches of pie crust, a huge batch of my dumpling style egg noodles, a batch of rolls, and 3 mini pumpkin pies.
It has been interesting to try and figure out how to split all of this up to make two full Thanksgiving meals in a way that was easy to transfer since one of those is going to my FIL. The pies were a big one as it isn’t exactly easy to just cut an entire pie in half and transport it. Some are easier than others, but I also want everything to still look appetizing when it gets there.
I found some 6 inch pie pans that I thought would work to split my recipe into two (since it normally calls for a 9 inch) or something close. I’d planned on doing only 2 small pumpkin pies and using the 3rd for the chocolate, but when I went to pour the filling, I had more than enough to do all 3 shells. They worked wonderfully, though.
The other biggie was doing the turkey. I’d hoped to find 2 small ones so I could just send off the whole thing, but that SO didn’t happen. I’m now cooking a huge bird today so I can include it with everything else, but that means we get it as leftovers tomorrow. I wanted to limit what I had to do that with, so most everything else I’m doing in two separate batches.
Today I’m working on cooking that turkey and then doing a full on meal prep of one batch of everything else and we will be taking it and dropping it all off this afternoon.
So far, I feel better today than I have the last couple of days, so hopefully I won’t be wiped out tonight when I finally get to sit down again.
The fun part? I get to do it ALL again tomorrow except the turkey.
Since everything is so far from normal right now, my usual plan for Easter for my kids isn’t happening. For one, it really snuck up on me and I didn’t have time to get some of our traditional things. When Hubby did go for our grocery run, the candy section was absolutely wiped out. He managed to get a single bag of basic jelly beans because it is the one thing BG asked for (though we all much prefer the Starburst jelly beans, we aren’t complaining).
Not that the candy even matters to the kids. MC has even said over and over this last year that he just really doesn’t want any (for any event). It is more about having or doing something for them. They opted to still do their traditional scavenger hunt, which doesn’t require anything but time, so we will do that as it has always been their absolute favorite thing about the day.
When we talked about alternative options, I was trying to brainstorm something for them that they would enjoy. Dying eggs crossed my mind, but my kids have never been that into doing that and I didn’t want to use a bunch of eggs. Then I mentioned sugar cookies. They both jumped on the idea of doing egg shaped sugar cookies that they could decorate. Perfect!
Except… I didn’t have a cookie cutter. I tried to find something that I could still use and make it work, but didn’t have anything. I considered doing a card stock template and just cutting around it. I’d done it before and it worked, but it was a little bit of a pain. Then I remembered I had a bunch of copper plate in my stash of jewelry making supplies. I’ll make my own cookie cutter!!
Yeaaahhhh… easier said than done.
I don’t know why I was absolutely convinced that I’d used copper in a solder project in the past, but apparently I remembered incorrectly because my solder does NOT work with copper.
What should have been a relatively quick project took me forever to figure out that I couldn’t solder this before then needing to spend some time trying to figure out an alternative. I finally figured it out and it works, but because I attempted to fire and solder this, there is some fire scale that I didn’t want to spend any more time than I did buffing and polishing out.
So, it isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but I now have an egg shaped cookie cutter and I’ll be working with the kids on making sugar cookies later today.
It was a fun learning experience, though. I might try to make some other simple shapes in the future because it really wasn’t all that hard once I figured it out.
Seriously glad it is done, though. It was a blast and, for the most part, it came out really well. I was hoping to add more color, but with that base teal, it didn’t work out. I had several of the issues I kind of expected to have with some color bleeding and in not being able to use the pink or purple because it changed the color too drastically when I attempted to paint it on the base (looked more muddy than pretty).
I started by painting the whole thing a lighter version of the sky color I was going for. I realized really quickly that this ended up working in a similar way to my favorite drawing method, the eraser technique, where you put a base color down and either add more to go darker or remove color to go lighter (you can see a tiny bit of that on the left edge of the above photo).
I don’t love the tree silhouettes, but they aren’t total garbage. One of the issues I ran into is that my base fondant started to bubble on the bottom tier making my cake look like it isn’t level or that I jacked up the alignment on the top tier. It really isn’t. I didn’t notice until I was taking pictures, so it wasn’t something I could go back and fix.
Northern Lights Cake
Northern Lights Cake
Mostly, I’m thrilled with how this turned out. Even more so after BG finally got a look at it and saw what it was. She is kind of crazy over the northern lights like some teenage girls are over the latest boy band so when she saw this she went nuts. As far as she is concerned, I knocked this one out of the park.
Here is a tiny peek at what I’m working on. It will be finished later today. So far, it is turning out really well. The next step is the part where it could all go wrong which is making me a nervous wreck. If I don’t screw it up, this may just be one of the cooler cakes I’ve ever made. If I do? It could be the ugliest. No pressure.
I’m in full on cake mode, working on BG’s birthday cake. She still has no clue what I’m doing yet. This is going to be so fun if I can manage to pull it off.
The cake got baked yesterday along with getting the icing mixed up. I have to make my fondant and start putting it all together today. I am limited to working on this while BG is at school so she won’t see it until it is completely done. That means I have to get off my butt and get busy!
Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me that this doesn’t turn out to be one of those projects where my creative ambition outstrips my actual ability. Pictures of the finished cake will be posted tomorrow after BG gets home to see it for the first time.
Reposting this as I made a batch of this yesterday. I’ve updated some of the measurements to include weights on the dry ingredients based on my measuring cups and spoons. Still working on trying to get something for the liquid measurements (though there are a few places online that can convert those).
This fudge recipe is super easy. I always make up 2 different kinds, peanut butter and chocolate espresso. It used to be full batches, but it makes so much, I finally figured out how to do a half batch.
Unless you can get a jar of marshmallow fluff/creme in just the right size, halving this recipe really does require that you have a scale. I’ve discovered in all my years of baking that there are just some things that really should be weighed rather than use any kind of measuring cups and this is one of them. You also should really use a candy thermometer. My original recipe uses time rather than temperature, but if you go too long or not long enough, this just doesn’t come out quite right.
Easy Fudge, Full Recipe – Peanut Butter & Chocolate Espresso
3 Cups Granulated Sugar (600g)
3/4 Cup Butter – cut into chunks (172.5g)
2/3 Cup Evaporated Milk (1 -5oz can)
12oz Chips (Chocolate or Peanut Butter)
7oz Marshmallow Creme
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 Cup Chopped Nuts (Optional)
2 tsp. Instant Espresso Granules (For Chocolate Espresso) (5g)
Mix sugar, butter and evaporated milk in sauce pan (add espresso if making the chocolate). Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a metal or wooden spoon until comes to a full, rolling boil. Continue stirring and cooking for 5 minutes (candy thermometer should read 238°). Remove from heat. Stir in chips and marshmallow creme until mixture is smooth, scraping the side of the pan. Stir in vanilla and nuts. Spread into lightly greased pan (size will determine thickness, 13 x9 will give a thinner fudge, if you want a thicker, taller fudge, use 9×9). Cool and cut into squares.
Makes about 3 pounds total.
You need to use a pan that doesn’t have a non-stick coating. No matter how good those pans are, with the amount of stirring that gets done with this, you will have flecks of that coating end up in your fudge and you will be wondering when you added pepper.
This really isn’t a fussy recipe and is actually kind of hard to mess up. I’ve played with a few different flavors, using things like Khalua instead of the vanilla. You may end up with a slightly softer fudge (my chocolate always ends up softer than my peanut butter), but it will still set up.
While this doesn’t take all that long to make, you do have to stir it the whole time. Making two batches, your arm may be a bit tired by the time you are done.
I always coat my pan in butter to grease it that way it doesn’t add any other flavor to the fudge by accident.
Once it is completely cooled, it is ready to cut. Fair warning, this is stupidly addictive. I barely had any of this cut before both the kids and Hubby were hanging around, snatching pieces.
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!
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 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.
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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I’m starting my annual marathon of holiday baking today. I have a massive list this year, though I doubt I’ll actually make everything on that list. I have a few items that have been prioritized and will be made first because I plan on including those in a gift. The others will get made if I still have the motivation and we aren’t all sick to death of sweets by the time I get to them.
The first on my list is a new one for me. I tripped across it when a friend shared it on FB. I had completely forgotten about it as I hadn’t had it since I was a kid. I didn’t even know it had a name, just that “white candy with bright colored dots”. FYI, the recipe I found named it “Nougat Candy” and those spots are supposed to be gum drops (which are apparently impossible to find around here. Really?!)
Because I couldn’t find the actual gum drops, I’ve improvised. I haven’t a clue if I’m even going to like it, but I really wanted to try as I remember liking it when I was a kid. Anyway, that is my project for today. Fingers and toes crossed I don’t botch it.
My pies are done! And… They look like they turned out really well. I’m kind of shocked.
BG insisted we do an open lattice apple pie, though I’m pretty much the only one besides BG that actually likes apple and I’ve never done a covered pie before, but… sure! No problem. Let’s do something new because we don’t already have enough to do today!
My pumpkin also turned out really nice. I think this is only the second time I’ve ever made one, so… go me! I need to dig into a couple of different recipes for crust baking references for this, because it is a little darker than I’d prefer.
Pecan has always kind of been my pain. I love pecan, but I always manage to do something that keeps it from looking great. It usually still always tastes really good, but it doesn’t always look really good. This is better than most, but my recipe really should be for an 8 inch pan, not a 9, so it doesn’t come up as high as it should, leaving too much crust showing around the edge. I’ve made a note and will be modifying my grandmother’s recipe (the only one I’m willing to use) to make it work for my pan. Otherwise, I managed to bake it and keep both the crust and the top from getting too dark for once. Still not the prettiest pie ever made, but I’m taking this one as big win.
I couldn’t have gotten it all done without some major help from BG. I’m so incredibly grateful that my girl not only wants to do these things with me, but that she has as much fun with it as I do. We spent most of our time laughing our butts off. I love that almost more than the holiday itself.
I was forced to take a tiny break in the middle of all the baking to take some impromptu senior photos of MC. He picked up the suit he needed for for his scholarship interview and did a little sneak preview for us after he got home. My hoodie and jeans lovin’ boy looks frickin’ amazing in a suit. I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to grab a few (50 or so) shots while he had it on. I’ve never been so tempted to break my “no kid pics” rule than I am right now because he is so worth showing off. Sadly, I’m not allowed to show his handsome face. Just picture a super cute nerd in a slim fitting dark charcoal suit (stylin’ pocket square and all) and you might get close.
I’ll be busy with family tomorrow so I’ll wish you all a happy Thanksgiving now for those of you in the US. Or “Happy Eat Until You Cry” day!
I’ve been in the kitchen working for hours now and have managed to knock out most of my to do list for the day. I have my noodles made (yes, we do noodles… those of you that don’t are weird and totally missing out), a double batch of rolls made up and baked, bread drying for stuffing and 4 batches of my pie crust ready to roll out. I still have to make the actual pies, but that is the last of what I’m getting done today. Thankfully I have BG as my sous chef, which has cut that work down tremendously. Hopefully I will have some pretty pie pictures to share later, though pies have always been one of those things I just don’t do well, so we will see.
This is probably one of my family’s favorite recipes. When I make it, it never lasts long and I can never seem to make enough to satisfy everyone.
It is also a recipe that is kind of all me. It is extremely versatile and can be modified for all kinds of other things and came into being in part because of how crazy picky I am when it comes to food. I have used a version of this that added some bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in my stuffed mushrooms. I’ve used a similar version in a stuffed chicken breast. One version used just the addition of Parmesan as a filling for omelets. The base of this is also the base for my tuna salad (replacing the crab with tuna and adding a couple of other things).
Up until today, I didn’t actually have a recipe for this. I’ve always just done what I often do and thrown it together based on how it looked and tasted. For the most part, this is really hard to mess up, unless you add too much of the garlic or the lemon juice. Even then, if you have more cream cheese, you can just add more of that and it fixes things.
8 oz. Cream Cheese – Softened
1 T Lemon Juice
2 T Water
1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. Garlic Salt
6 to 8 oz. Crab Meat (imitation is perfectly fine)
*Green Onion – Optional (I do not use)
Mix together cream cheese, lemon juice, water and garlic salt until well combined (I use a fork, but be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate all the cream cheese). Cut crab into smaller pieces and then blend together with fork. If mix is still too thick for your preferences, add a little more water. Flavors get stronger as they set and is better after sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
I have always made this based on taste as I go. The numbers above are pretty spot on, but feel free to adjust to your preference. If you don’t want the added salt, use a granulated garlic instead. The recipe I modified to get this calls for green onions as well, but picky me can’t stand them and never use them. This is a pretty thick dip, but you can make this thinner if you prefer. Just add a little more water or even milk until you get the consistency you want.
I have tried a couple of different types of crab and prefer either real crab or the flake style imitation crab. Most other types tend to do something weird to the texture of this and it just isn’t as good. Using a fork to mix it in to the cream cheese also helps to break the crab down into smaller pieces yet keeps them big enough that you know you are getting crab when you get a bite.
When making just the dip, I almost always serve and eat it with Wheat Thins. I’ve tried several other kinds of crackers and they work, but again, they just aren’t the same. The Wheat Thins seem to be a perfect pair to this.
Anymore when making this, I’ll make sort of a modified triple batch using 3 blocks of cream cheese and two 8 ounce packages of the crab. It makes the ratio a little less crab to the cream cheese, but it also goes farther. I do it this way to ensure I get at least enough to have some left over because the kids go nuts over this and snack on it for a couple of days. I also really LOVE getting to have an omelet with some of what they leave me.
I have done so many things with this recipe and it always goes over exceptionally well.
*This was so fun to type up. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go back and fix the word “crab”. I don’t think anyone wants crap dip.
It is that time of year. The bake sale at Hubby’s work is next week and I’ve committed to participating again. They have informed Hubby they are making sure to bring in extra tables this year so they have room for everything. They also said some crazy nice things about the cupcakes in the email announcement for the sale. No pressure.
I really wanted to do something different this year, but I have my standards that are expected, so those HAVE to be made. The chocolate cream cheese cupcakes and the pumpkin cupcakes are a must. I’ll also be doing my candied pecans and peanut butter cookies. I’d love to do an additional cupcake, but I just don’t know what to do that is different enough from the other two and still fit the season. I have decided to attempt some sugar cookies since those came out so well around the holidays last year. If they don’t turn out as pretty as I hope, oh well! I guess we will just have to eat them.
Bake sale time also means not a whole lot of time for other stuff. I’m going to try and keep up with things here on the blog, but I might go quiet for a couple of days. I will be posting some photos of the mess along the way. The recipes for my standards are already on the blog, but I’ll link to those as I get them done.
My family actually left me some bananas to work with again. I am stunned. And obviously in the mood to bake. I decided to do the mini-muffin version just for something different. The recipe is still the same, I just changed the cooking time to about 20 minutes. They do lean towards the lighter color side than the bread because of that shorter time, but they are still just as tasty. Needless to say, these are already getting gobbled up.
*My base recipe for bread makes about 3 1/2 dozen mini-muffins.
I had to double check and was floored that I hadn’t already posted this recipe. BG has been on a banana kick lately and the topic of banana bread came up and the fact that I’m never allowed to make it because no one ever leaves me any bananas to ripen. They always get eaten. In an effort to prevent this from happening, I had to buy 3 large bunches last week. Even then, I only had enough because I had a lonely, solitary banana hanging out in my freezer for just this purpose.
There are reasons I do not do cakes for a living. One is that, even though I can make a cake that looks really cool, they aren’t always very clean or truly professional quality polished. I seriously love this cake. It is so pretty, but it is a tad sloppy in places. That and, no matter what I do, I cannot get the images to do justice to how amazing this actually looks IRL. All in all, I’m really pleased with how this turned out.
This is far from perfect. The layers looked amazing until I stacked them and then realized that because of the way I made the bottom layer, I had a significant gap that needed to be covered. I ended up filling it with a piece of “trim” that isn’t actually on the costume. The other big issue I ran into was several of my fondant detail pieces I made ahead of time cracked when I put them on the cake. That and the tiara piece (done in royal icing and a first attempt at ever using this method) also broke when I tried to take it off my template. I was able to fix some of these so they don’t show much, but still… all the reasons why I only do this for fun.
I know that I’m hard on myself, so I’m still taking this project as a pretty big win since I made a cake that looks incredible and matches closely to the actual costume, which was my goal. That and BG is going to be over the moon when she finally gets to see it.
Fondant is something I have a love hate relationship with. Basic, store bought fondant, while technically edible, tastes nasty. For me, if I’m going to go to the effort of making a cake, I want it to taste good. Every part of it. After my first couple of times using the store bought garbage, I started to do some research and found a recipe I really like. It is still crazy sweet, but it actually tastes good. My kids love it. MC often eats that and the icing and leaves the cake.
I knew I wasn’t going to have time before my birthday to do the big cool ballet cake I want to do so I just didn’t think about doing anything this year. I kind of decided last minute that I wanted something and dug around in my cabinets to see what I could come up with, which wasn’t much as I really needed to get to the store. I saw my box of orange Jello and decided that was perfect, but I didn’t have a cake mix. I had pretty much everything else, but not that. The recipe I was modifying used a box mix and I wasn’t sure what would happen if I tried to do the whole thing from scratch, so I begged Hubby to make a quick run to get my mix.