Homemade Marshmallows

December 25, 2007 at 2:21 am | Posted in Dessert | 4 Comments
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My friend Mary introduced me to these fun and foolproof Homemade Marshmallows. I made two batches the other day. The first batch I kept plain and the other I dipped in dark chocolate and then sprinkled with pistachios.

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The recipe is from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (regular is fine too)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer*. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

With a sieve, generously dust an 8×12” nonmetal baking dish** with confectioners’ sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.

Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them into squares. Dust the sides with more confectioners’ sugar***. Store in an airtight container on the counter.

* I couldn’t find my candy thermometer, so Mary suggested I get the sugar mixture to boiling and then boil for an additional 5 minutes. Both batches were great.

**I only had one glass pan available, so I took an aluminum pan, lined it with waxed paper, and then generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. It worked terrific.

***After the marshmallows were dusted with powdered sugar on all sides, I melted some dark chocolate in a glass bowl over simmering water (my version of a double boiler). Then I dipped half the marshmallow in the melted chocolate and then sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Lay on waxed paper to cool and dry.

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A Kath Kind of Morning

December 23, 2007 at 2:04 am | Posted in Diet and Exercise | 2 Comments
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You inspire me to do better, eat better, and exercise better…thanks Kath!

So this morning I hopped on the treadmill.  I’ve been toying with a 10 minute mile pace for a week, but haven’t yet run a 10 minute mile…this morning I did.  After alternating between running and walking for the first 20 minutes, I got serious.  I put the treadmill on 6.0 and started in.  I found my pace and breath.  And I did one mile in ten minutes.  I ended up completing almost 3 miles in 35 minutes.  This is why I love the treadmill.  Because the success is measurable.

Then, after my great run, I made Kath’s Oatmeal Pancake Recipe.  Fabulous!  I found a bag of frozen unsweetened whole blueberries in my freezer, zapped 1/2 a cup in the microwave, added one package of splenda, zapped again, then topped my pancake with the blueberry mixture.  Yum!  I will definitely do this again.

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I’m a Daring Baker Yule Log Maker

December 22, 2007 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Daring Bakers, Dessert | 20 Comments
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When I first saw the challenge to make a Yule Log, I thought, “Yeah! A Yule Log! A Buche de Noel! I’ve always wanted to make one. What a great first challenge for me, a virgin Daring Baker!” Then as the realization set in that I would be making a Yule Log, a labor intensive Yule Log, a multi-step multi-part Yule Log, uggg. And now that my Yule Log is finished and looking so pretty with it’s mushrooms, well, I’m hooked.

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I started with the Plain Genoise (the cake). It was easy enough, I was just a little surprised to whisk the eggs over simmering water. The batter poured easily into my pan and I popped it in the over.

The Coffee Buttercream was a bit of a challenge. Again, whisking the eggs and sugar over simmering water was okay, but I think I was a bit hasty and didn’t allow it to cool enough before adding the butter. I wouldn’t say it curdled, but it wasn’t as smooth as it should have been.

The moment of truth came when I spread the coffee buttercream over the genoise and then had to roll the cake up. “Please Don’t Crack” Please Don’t Crack” Please Don’t Crack” I chanted. I was sure the cake would crack and break. But the dough was flexible enough…and…it…rolled!

I decorated with the Meringue Mushrooms and dusted with cocoa powder. All in all, I am pleased with my Yule Log. I will definitely try this method again. There’s lots more Yule Logs to see on the Daring Baker’s Blogroll, check it out!

My many thanks to Ivonne and Lis, Daring Bakers founders and this month’s hosts! I’m so glad you picked something I’ve always wanted to try, but never had a reason to, until now.

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Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12
Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour – spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Filling and frosting the log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.



Christmas Dipped Pretzels

December 22, 2007 at 6:53 am | Posted in Dessert | 2 Comments

This is so easy, fun and bangs out of a bunch of pretzels for a price that is easy on the budget. Here’s what you need:

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I’ve made these lots of times over the years and this is my family’s favorite combination, Winton Candy Melts and Big Pretzel Twists. Sweet, Salty, not too much pretzel, not too much candy. Embellish with what you’ve got on hand. Simple enough for my kids to do!

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We used different combinations of Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips, broken m&m’s, and holiday sprinkles.

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Turkey Meat Loaf (with Spinach)

December 21, 2007 at 2:11 am | Posted in Family Meals, spinach puree | 1 Comment

I have found spinach puree to be an easy addition to our family meals. It’s so easy. Just take a bag of clean baby spinach, drop by the handful into a food processor and puree. That’s right, no cooking needed. About half a bag of baby spinach leaves will make 1/2 cup of spinach puree, that’s a lot of spinach! For this recipe, I’ve added it to…

Turkey Meat Loaf

  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t dried oregano
  • 1/2 t dried basil
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup spinach puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the tomato paste, beef broth, garlic, basil, oregano, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low. Set aside.

Combine the ground turkey, oatmeal, egg whites, spinach and 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce mixture in a large bowl. Shape into a loaf and bake for 30-35 minutes. I check to see if it’s cooked through at this point. Then pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Now, I’m no fool. My kids would likely balk if they saw this:

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Instead they saw just a slice.

My I-only-eat-white-food son’s reaction: mmmmm….

Mom Tip #1: When trying something new for dinner, I put it with things that my kids have seen lots of times…mixed veggies, mashed potatoes, sliced fruit.

Mom Tip #2: Spray your baking sheet with non-stick spray, line with foil then spray again.

Excuse me…

December 20, 2007 at 8:26 pm | Posted in essay, Extras | Leave a comment

So I’m at the gym sweating, running, hair falling out of clip, red cheeks, when suddenly-

Pretty Girl: “Excuse me, but is your name Karen?”

Me (thinking): oh shoot, someone from high-school

Me: “Yes”

Pretty Girl: “I’m Reagan, I went to high-school with you.”

Me (thinking): holy crap, she looks great

Me: “I remember you, you had the black convertible BMW”

This is the perfect example of why I need to do better, because I live in the town I grew up in and I never know who I may run into. And it’s never when I’m shopping, lunching, coffee-ing. No, it’s moments like these, when I’m on the treadmill at the gym.

And not only is my hair not done, but the grays are all sticking out. And I need to go in for my threading. And I haven’t had a manicure since summer. And I’m wearing gym clothes. And I’m sweating, a lot.

…at least she recognized me, high-school was 17 years ago.

Christmas Candy Trains

December 18, 2007 at 12:08 am | Posted in Dessert, essay | 2 Comments

My mom and I were talking about how many long we’ve been making candy trains…27 years. I made my first train when I was 8 years old. And it has been so exciting being able to pass this tradition on to my own kids and their friends.

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Today after school we invited a couple of friends over for lunch and to make Candy Trains. Lunch was fun and simple. I made two kinds of sandwiches, peanut butter with marshmallow spread and jelly with cream cheese…dipped in sprinkles of course! A bowl full of cherries and another with green apples.

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After lunch it was candy train making time. I armed the moms with pastry bags full of frosting while the kids unwrapped candy, laid tracks and let their candy imagination run wild. And just as I did as a child, my kids will give their trains to their teachers (with a Starbucks gift certificate) wishing them a very Merry Christmas.

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solutions week 6

December 17, 2007 at 5:37 am | Posted in Diet and Exercise, solutions | 4 Comments

Week 6~ So, my diet and exercise goals for last week were met. I got to the gym four times. Some nights I walked after dinner. I didn’t eat after 7pm (Except for Saturday night. My friends threw a super fun Christmas Cocktail Party. It didn’t start until 7pm. Yes, I ate ate ate. And had fun fun fun)

This week, I am going to keep to my goals:

  • Gym days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
  • No eating after 7pm
  • Walk after dinner
  • Drink water

I’m not expecting to see a change in my waist size. But I figure if I can make it through the holidays with out gaining, well, then that will be good. And better than last year.

I’ve been trying to take the Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen approach to my eating. They say that by just cutting 100 calories a day you can loose a pound a month. I would love to be 12 pounds lighter this time next year, and I know my eating cut-off time is helping with that.

Monday– Gym Day! I got in 35 minutes on the elliptical and then did sets of abs, arms and shoulders. Dinner was finished at 6pm and then I went on a 30 minute walk.

Tuesday– Gym Day. I started with 5 minutes on the StepMill, then jumped on the treadmill. My plan was to do 8 minutes running/2 minutes walking. Well, after 16 minutes the net-shirt-wearing-major-stinky-man got on the treadmill next to me, Couldn’t Take The Stink! Almost gagging, I quickly moved away and went back to the StepMill for another 5 minutes. After my “I tried” cardio set, I headed to the weight room for arms, back, abs and lunges.

Thursday– Gym day! I did 39 minutes on the treadmill, walking and running. Then abs and planks. Dinner was finished at 5:45pm. Just got in from a 20 minute walk.

Friday– Gym Day!  Goal met for the week, I went four times.  Today Crystal and I powerwalked for 30 minutes.  Then we hit the weight room for some triceps, incline push-ups and abs!

Kath has already planned her workouts with travel and Christmas coming.  Good thinking!  So here’s what I’m thinking…

  • Monday (Christmas Eve)-I’ll be at the gym.  Fortunately they are offering child care in the morning.
  • Tuesday (Christmas Day)-I would love to go for a run, but just have to be home when my kids get up on Christmas morning.  Our friends, The Taylors, do an annual family bike ride. Perhaps we could get in a family walk/ride.
  • Wednesday-I love love love shopping the day after Christmas.  Dh is working that day.  Hummm, may be hard to get to the gym during child care hours, but would hate to miss two days in a row.
  • Thursday– Gym Day
  • Friday-Gym Day

All in all, three times at the gym is good for Christmas week, better than last year!

Cornbread

December 11, 2007 at 1:01 am | Posted in Family Meals, flaxseed meal | 4 Comments
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Need Butternut Squash puree! Want Butternut Squash puree! But no Butternut Squash Puree…

So, I tried beans. Canned white kidney beans to be exact. I took the beans, rinsed them, dropped them in my food processor, added a little water, and got three 1/2 cup bags of bean mush, oh, I mean puree.

With my Trader Joe’s Cornbread mix (come on, make life easy with me, use a box) I was ready to try to make Cornbread (with bean puree).
1 box Cornbread mix
1/2 cup white kidney bean puree
2 T flaxseed meal
3 T olive oil
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Stir puree, flaxseed meal, olive oil, egg and milk in large bowl. Mix in Cornbread mix until combined. Bake in an 8×8 baking pan, sprayed with non-stick spray, at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.And the verdict…looks and tastes like cornbread! My kids both asked for second pieces. Now, for some stats: The original recipe prepared had 290 calories per serving.

For my cornbread, I’ll add up the calories:
1530-mix
120-kidney bean puree
60-flaxseed meal
70-non-fat milk
360-olive oil
74-egg
= 2217 total calories divided by 9 servings is 246 calories per serving. (Kath, my calorie guru, thanks for your help!) So, I saved about 44 calories per serving…I can do better than that!

solutions week 5

December 10, 2007 at 5:58 am | Posted in Diet and Exercise, solutions | Leave a comment

I must admit that I only made it to the gym 4 days this past week. By Friday I was just done.

My solution to stop eating by 7pm has really been good. The one day I know this rule really helped was Saturday. We went to Bethlehem and had a very early dinner. And not being planned so well, I had a late lunch so was not even hungry for dinner. (I listened to my body and didn’t force myself to eat). Then when we got home at 8pm, I was hungry…but not starving. So I had a glass of water, watched a little tv with dh, and then went to bed. Yes, I could have eaten, but I would have had too much, it would have just sat in me, and then I wouldn’t have been hungry for breakfast. So, this was a very good day.

I figure if I can just stick to these simple solutions during the holiday season, I will be doing well. So, for this week, I will continue to:

  • go to the gym 4 days
  • stop eating by 7pm
  • walk after dinner
  • not eat while reading the newspaper

Oh, and the good news, I measured my waist again…31 1/2 inches, down a half an inch.

Monday– Gym Day #1. Thank goodness Crystal was there, it’s so nice to have a friend! Did 10 minutes on the stairmill and then 35 minutes on the treadmill. Then we worked our backs in the weight room. I read the newspaper while eating lunch, but then put it away. Had an apple with the kids for a snack as we walked around our street.

We finished dinner at 6:15pm and then I went on a 20 minute walk. Every now and then I feel guilty for taking this time for myself. But I have to remind myself that I’m not being selfish for taking this time, but I’m working on being a better me, so that I can be a better wife and mom.

Tuesday– Gym Day #2. I started with 20 minutes on the elliptical, then 12 minutes on the stepmill, then 5 on the bike. After lunch I went outside and raked the leaves for an hour.

Wednesday– Gym Day #3. I did 35 minutes on the treadmill alternating between running for 8 minutes and walking for 2 minutes. After that I did abs on the ball, squats with the ball then abs on the bench.

Dinner was finished by 6:15pm, and then my dd and I shared one slice of the eggnog bread. After the dishes were clean I went on a 28 minutes walk.

Thursday– Gym Day #4. 35 minutes on the elliptical. I would have stayed longer, but my son really didn’t want to be in the childcare today. Dinner was finished at 5:45pm and then we went on a family walk looking at all the Christmas lights in our neighborhood.

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