Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chai Meringue Christmas Trees

YUMMY! I love meringues! Fast, delicious, and... dare I say it... it isn't awful if you break down and eat 5 or 10 at onceWhen you nee to make a whole lot of cookies for Christmas or gifts, even better!

Chai is one of the new "it" flavors, so me and all my friends being teenagers are in on the craze. I took my go to meringue recipe and made it CHAILICIOUS.

Then in honor of Christmas, I had to follow a pintrest idea and pipe them into Chrismas trees!

I will definately do a complete fail-proof meringue post in the future with an plain recipe to play with, but I'll try to outline key points here too in italics.

Here is what I came up with:


(I doubled the batch, but one batch makes about 60 small meringues)

Recipe:
-2 egg whites
-1/8 tsp vinegar
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 chai tea bag
-sprinkles (opt)

see how glossy and big
it is getting :)
Instructions:
- take eggs out of the fridge and let come to room temp (can speed up by placing in bowl of warm water for 5 min)
Its impt. to get them to room temp because they whip bigger

-Preheat oven to 225

-Separate eggs and place in clean oil free metal bowl with vinegar and salt

-Begin whipping at med-slow speed, moving to med and beat until soft peaks formThis will take 5+ minutes
*it is crucial that you resist the temptation to beat at high speed, if you go too fast you will get crumbly whites and it won't get voluminous. 

-When soft peaks form, increase speed to med-high and begin to slowly add sugar (sprinkle in gradually) and beat until glossy with stiff peaks (pic)
Stiff peak
(another 5 min or so)

-Add vanilla extract toward end

-Mix in chai by hand by folding with a spatula so not to deflate your meringue

-Place into a piping bag or a large ziplock with the corner snipped and a piping tip placed on (if not making trees or shapes, no need for a tip)


-Pipe in small spirals on sheet lines with parchment paper with 1 in spacing

-decorate with sprinkles :)

-Bake until dry for ~90 min

-Remove from oven. I lift the parchment paper up off hot sheet so they cool faster (working against humidity) and remove/peel the cookies off when bottoms cool

-Cool and package in air-tight tupperware or freezer-ziplock (if you live in Hawaii or somewhere humid: as soon as they are no longer warm... package)
























Anyone can make meringues :) I wish you luck :)

Ribbon Candy Adventure (Homemade Ribbon Candy)

Have you ever tried pulling sugar? I don't mean taffy, but real hard sugar candy. I did over the holidays and it was quite the experience. 
My Grandfather loves ribbon candy. It is a Christmas tradition he grew up with, and today that tradition seems to be disapearing and the candy is becoming harder to come by. This year I decided that I would make some for him as a Christmas gift (he is quite hard to find gifts for). I followed the instructions from this site: http://candy.about.com/od/hardcandyrecipes/r/ribbon_candy.htm and went to work.
(If your going to try this, definitely look at the site, they have step by step sugar pulling instructions with pictures.) 

I practiced in the days prior with itty bitty batches (1tbs in place of 1 cup proportions unflavored) I would recommend trying this with maybe a bit more (2 tbs/cup or something) because it is quite helpful to practice the twist and pull, but my itty batch made a tad to little and the candy would cool and behave naughty. It is good to know that more is easier to work with, so don't be discouraged.

I ended up making 3 different colored solid ribbon candies instead of a striped one after I realized I was still in the learning phase and wanted to make pretty candy. For a first try you may want to do the same. The advantage is when you mess up/have too little to make another ribbon you can add it to a clump of the same color and put it to warm in the oven. Redos! :)



You need:
-3 cup sugar
-1 cup corn syrup
-1/4 cup water
-1/2 or 1 tsp peppermint extract (depend on taste)
-food coloring red and green
-PLASTIC GLOVES (impt!)
-a loving friend to help shape

Preheat oven to 200. Lightly grease 3 (4 ideal, but who has 4?) cookie sheets.

Mix all ingredients except coloring in 2qt pot and stir until steady boil over med heat. Stick in thermometer and don't stir. Let boil and heat until reach soft-crack at 285.

Pour 1/3 mix on a cookie sheet and stick in oven

Pour next 1/3 on another sheet, add sprinkle few drops green       food coloring on top, and stick in oven

Pour final 1/3 on granite slab if have (or cookie sheet) and let sit momentarily till form very thin skin (happens fast). Use bench scraper or a butter knife to "work" and cool sugar (see website for instructions)

Once cool enough to handle (still hot) use gloves lightly greased with cooking spray to pull and twist candy (PLEASE SEE WEBSITE, PICTURES SUUUUPER HELPFUL!)

How start pull
Pull into 2 inch wide log and stick in oven

Here is where I stray from instructions a bit:
Once repeat with all colors, you will have 3 big logs and some will probably be all melty and you may need to re-work them. Since I did single colors, here's how it went:
-take greased cooking scissors and cut of chunk (2-3 in long) and begin to press/pull out flatter into ribbon, be consistent with pressure and slip to end when pulling. Hold with one hand, pull with other (Like 1st picture)

*remember that as the ribbon gets longer it will thin in width. If you don't monitor it, you will get 1/2 in wide ribbons ans need to redo by reheating.*

Continue pulling out over "working tray" until long, THIN, and ribbon-like. Your loving friend (thank you Mom) will snip a length (~10-12 inches is good) and shape it. Here is a good video with a slow how-to shape toward the end (don't worry you have more than the quoted 8 sec to shape xD )

Good mid-pull shot (sorry it's blurry)
Once the candy is set enough, move to a drying rack. When totally dry, put in covered container (if you live in Hawaii like me and it is always kind of humid, so this during the process every so often so your sugar babies don't become sticky)


Work through all your candy. You will get better and the last ones will be BEAUTIFUL!












Some tips:

-When you have a baby chunk in hand from pulling, you can reheat it with another clump and pull later (don't stress over pulling itty clumps)

-As you get better try pulling with more candy. It moves faster but is overwhelming at first

-Be sure you work/pull/twist well in the beginning. In my green batch I had a much easier time because it was worked the best. It pulls easier and moves easier.

-If you have ever pulled a ceramic handle, this is exactly the same except keep your fingers pressed so it stays flat
(you could probably learn pulling from ceramic videos if you get stuck now that I think of it, there will be more out there)



Good luck to you all!
Homemade ribbon candy IS possible for even beginners despite what some sites claim (if a 17 year-old did it, can't you?)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home Made Heath Bars

Yes, I know this is not the healthiest recipe or dessert, and it doesn't really fit my healthy dessert category, but Heath-bars are my brothers top favorite candy so I made these as a gift. They are good for your soul. And I did have to get rid of the small tidbits that fell off and were un-gift-able. Oh My Goodness. Heavenly. And everything is ok in moderation.

So in other words for a very special treat, try these.

Thank you BHG.com for your reliable and easy recipe. No fail for those who have never made candy :)

I split it into lots of baby steps, but really it takes like 30-40 minutes in total and is a breeze. I just don't like to search in my recipes.

Recipe:

Makes 1-1/2 lbs (48 servings according to BHG, I didn't count)

  • 1
    cup chopped toasted almonds (or other nut) divided* see note if need toasting instruc.
  • 1
    cup butter (yes, use it all)
  • 1
    cup sugar
  • 3
    tablespoons water
  • 1
    tablespoon light-colored corn syrup
  • 3/4
    cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Instructions:

1.         Line rimmed cookie sheet with foil, folding edges over sides.

2.         Sprinkle 1/2 cup nuts on pan

3.         Butter sides of heavy 2-quart saucepan using one of your sticks of butter. Add butter to pan and      
            melt. Add sugar, water, and corn-syrup and bring to boil over med-high heat. STIRRING     \
            CONSTANTLY

4.         Reduce heat to medium, keeping steady boil, and insert candy thermometer (still STIRRING)
            until you reach 290 degrees (watch carefully at 280 to keep from burning) ~about 15 minutes

5.         Candy should be golden brown. Remove from heat, take out thermometer, and pour over pan as
            evenly as possible, spreading to fill holes if needed with knife or metal spoon.

6.         Let stand for a minute (until top is firm) then sprinkle chocolate chips over warm candy. Let sit
            for 5 minutes, then spread melted chips over top (have faith, it will cover it all and will melt)
         


7.        Sprinkle with last 1/2 cup nuts and pop in fridge to harden.
8.        When hard, remove from fridge, lift/peel from foil, and break into pieces (if some are too small,
            not a bad time for samples ;)  Place pieces in tightly covered airtight container (layering
            parchment paper between layers is not a bad idea).

Storage: I store mine in the freezer b/c one, its humid here and candy loves to get sticky, but also frozen candy tastes better and always has a crunch. (fridge works too) BHG.com just says store tightly covered, so i guess you can store countertop, but I can't vouch.




       

*If you need to toast your nuts, chop and measure, then toast in oven at 350 until golden brown. Watch them! They go fast (2-4 min) and will burn!

Lacey Cookies

These are crisp, toffee-like, moldable, and FAST. Most of all, my family is obsessed with the ones at Whole Foods (filled with chocolate like a sandwich) so I thought I'd better learn how to make them and hopefully find the healthiest recipe possible.

Well, here's what I found. See original recipe here. I tweaked it a little by adjusting the honey.

4 ingredients. 5 minutes. Bake. Mold. Done.

Super fast and easy. Besides leaving them out too long in humid weather (which you don't do with any cookie) and letting them get sticky and un-crisp, these are fool proof. It makes the process much faster if you pick up the parchment paper off the hot cookie sheet when getting them to firm up and set. (also frees up the tray for another batch, why only make one?) These spread 2.5 inches across and look super impressive (no one needs to know how easy it was)

Total time ~15 min when you get the flow.

Makes ~12 cookies

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. Butter
2 Tbs. Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Tbp Honey
2 Tbs Whole Wheat Flour (or fresh ground oat flour or almond flour is supposed to work for gf cookie.
                                            let me know)

Directions:




Directions:


-preheat oven to 375


-mix butter, sugar, and honey in a small saucepan and melt and mix -->


-remove from heat and whisk in flour of choice

-drop teaspoons of batter onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet 3 inches apart


-bake for ~6 min (or until bubbly, spread out, and golden brown in color)
  *they need to hit a certain temp to crisp up, so you want to see lots of bubbles and deep carmel color.
   when they dry they should be slightly holey, not a solid puddle*

-when set enough to pick up, mold into shape wanted and let set some, then place on drying rack or place directly on rack for flat cookies
           Shape ideas:
           - tubes like I did around a wooden spoon handle -->
           - mini cone shapes (top with ball cookies, meringues, or other filling for mock ice-cream cone)
           - bowls (for desserts), mold over bottom of cupcake pan or other bowl shape
           - tacos
           - wafer (flat, can fill with chocolate or other fun things or top with fruit and whipped cream)

-let set and dry, then place into airtight container

-if filling with chocolate see below update


*(don't let sit out in super humid weather for too long, will get sticky and un-crisp)





************************************UPDATE*************************************

So I made these again. 

This time I used 1 1/5 Tbs of agave (in place of the honey) because I realized that last time I couldn't read the recipe and used tsp vs. Tbs.  The result...... I think using tsp makes a crisper cookie. HOORAY FOR MISTAKES! 

I also made a chocolate filling. (My bro is obsessed with chocolate)

Here is the ratio (it will make too much, so you may want to scale it down unless you have some fruit or other dipping goodies on hand) 

-3/4 cup chocolate chips
-1 Tbs vegetable shortening

Place in microwave safe bowl and microwave for ~1 min
Stir and go again for 30 sec, Stir
Continue with 10 sec intervals until 3/4 of the chips are melted
Stir until all chips are melted
Spread/drizzle onto cookies and place into the fridge to firm up. 

*use this ratio for any dipping chocolate :)


Sandwiches and tacos
(tacos are easier, fill and fold)
                              



 ~>
  Chocolate
<3


Friday, December 14, 2012

Healthy Coffee Cake for One

Yes you heard right. Healthy. Coffee. Cake.
Wanna hear something even better? You can make it in 5 minutes and its all for YOU!!!!!
I recently have begun following Chocolate Covered Katie's Blog of healthy desert recipes and you need to check it out. It is completely dedicated to making desert an everyday affair with flair no matter who you are. She has a slew of "for one" recipes, and I do love coffee cake, so I went for it. The only thing I will do better next time... put some streusel in the middle too like the instructions suggest. Though if your lazy, just putting it on top works great. 

Check out the original post with nutrition facts: here.

I don't have her permission to post the recipe yet (I'm asking) so I will leave you with a link, a picture, and what I chose to do.


The best part of this recipe? Besides the fact it is guilt free and DELICIOUS (I don't joke about coffee cake).... I cooks in 1 minute in the microwave. Thats right!


*I used all whole-wheat flour as the flour, real sugar, and applesauce throughout.* 

MICROWAVE HEALTHY COFFEE CAKE:

Roasted Butternut Squash, Mushroom, Chickpea Salad

Oh. My. Goodness.
I just made this up for dinner and it was delicious! A few days ago we got diced fresh butternut squash from Costco (Ready to go! How great is that?) and I have been waiting for a good time to roast it up. Tonight was the night. I just got some mushroom kits from Fungi Perfecti (fungi.com) and started up my Pearl Oyster kit about 4 days ago. They grow FAST and are BEAUTIFUL!

I am so exstatic to be able to have fresh gormet organic mushrooms, and tonight was my first harvest. So... looking up the butternut squash salad recipe I just pinned on pintrest, I grabbed some guidelines and went to town. (see inspiration recipe here)
In here we have the yummy title ingredients, but also quick pickle beets for crunch and sweetness, and a scant few Plumamazins. If you have never had a Plumamazin (click link for info), they are delicious diced dried plums for salads, cereals, etc. They are higher in fiber and lower in calories and sugar than raisins, and they taste yummy in salad as a nice sweet bite.


Recipe: 
Serves 3-4 (at least it does for my family)

Roasted Portion:
2 cups cubed Butternut Squash (~.5 to 1in cubes)
1 15oz can Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
1 Bunch of Pearl Oyster Mushrooms (see photo for ~amt.)
Curry Powder
1 tbs. Olive Oil

Quick Pickle Beets:
1 beet thinly sliced
Lemon Juice
Vinegar

The Rest:
4 cups Salad Greens (I used beet greens, swiss chard, kale, and lettuce from my garden)
A few tbs. Plumasins or other dried fruit (a small sprinkling)

And anything else that you want to add :) 

Instructions:
-Preheat oven to 400 

-Put Squash, Chickpeas, Mushrooms in lightly sprayed lipped roasting pan. Sprinkle desired amt. curry powder over and toss with the Olive oil.

-Roast for about 30-40 min. Or until Squash caramelized slightly and chickpeas browned.
Before....
...After




















Marinating Quick Pickle Beets



-In shallow bowl place sliced beets and cover with ~1/2 1/2 vinegar and lemon juice. Toss and let sit

-When Roasted Portion done, remove from oven, combine with greens, Plumasins, and drained pickled beets.

-Toss and enjoy with favorite salad dressing (I went with Amy's ginger vinaigrette, but any lighter tasting dressing would be great)

ENJOY!



Saturday, February 18, 2012

Refrigerator Pickles

Mmmmmm..... Cucumbers. One of my favorite fruits (yes they are fruit). Right now my garden is bursting with them. Especially Pickling Cucumbers! (If you haven't tried growing them, they are a snap here in Hawaii, just be sure to keep them watered!)

At the start of my harvest I only had 4 to use, not enough to make a huge water-processed batch. So I looked up how to make refrigerator pickles! This was my first pickling endeavor, and it couldn't have been easier or turned out better!
For all of my preserving needs, I turn to Foodinajar. A blog dedicated entirely to preserving and jar-foods! Take a peek!

I used her method for Refrigerator Dill Pickles with a few spice and ingredient adjustments. You don't need to worry about changing up the ingredients, because they don't need to be shelf safe, they life in the fridge!

My Pickles are longer than 4 inches, so I doubled the recipe and put them in 2 Quart jars. I used cucumbers of course, but also added some fresh picked hericot-vert (great for cooking with to add a tangy crunch like in one variation of my Zucchini-Noodle Pasta), and Baby Zucchini. I'm going to tell you a secret, you wouldn't be mistaken to make an entire batch of only zucchini pickles. They are the best pickles I have ever eaten. My family agrees. Don't get me wrong, the cukes are spectacular, but the zucchini are to die for! Also, the don't forget to enjoy the pickled garlic, its great in cooking, to eat, or sliced thin in salad!

This recipe can be halved, it can also be packed in pint sized jars

Ingredients:




  • about 2 quarts of veggies   I measured using a 2 quart sauce pan, just pile in the uncut veggies and eyeball it  
    • I used 4 5-in pickling cucumbers, 2 small baby yellow zucchini, and a handful of hericot-vert)
  • 10 cloves garlic peeled (~5 per jar)
  • 2 tsp dill seed per jar
  • 1/2 tsp each Yellow Mustard Seed, Crushed Red pepper per jar
  • 3 green onions (whites) chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tsp sea salt salt


Method:
  
Clean Mason jars with soap and hot water

Slice ends off veggies and cut into spears (be sure to take off blossom end of cukes, they make mushy pickles!)

Add cloves of garlic, green onions, and spices to each jar.

Bring water, salt, and vinegar to boil

Pack veggies into jars as tightly as you can without crushing them.

Pour brine into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head-space, and put on the lids

Let cool on counter until room about room temp (6+ hours or overnight)

Store in the Fridge and let set at least 2 days before enjoying!

Keep in fridge up to a month

ENJOY!!!!!