Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Kitchen Gagets

I absolutely love Christmas morning. This year was especially fun because I got to share my Christmas traditions with my husband. He came home with me for the holidays and participated in our Christmas morning present opening marathon. With ten adults and three children all opening presents, in order, from oldest to youngest, the opening went on for quite a while. We don't usually get too early of a start, but with my brother-in-laws kids with us this year, we managed to get going around 9:30 am.

As I began to open my presents, one on each turn, I was very excited to see that my love for all things kitchen related had spilled over into my wish list this year. And many of those things were wrapped up beautifully for me under the tree. Below are some pictures and links to the new additions to my kitchen that I received from my loving family this Christmas.

William Somoma All-Clad Stainless Steel tool set
I received a few of these pieces from Brian. They are fantastic, they feel good, nice and heavy, and on the serving spoons and ladles are marked with ounces.

Cuisinart Food Processor
I received this from my mom. She was so excited to give this to me, and I was thrilled to get it! I feel like I'm getting closer to having all the major appliances. And although you can buy these a lot of places, I'll give the credit to Macy's. Me and my mom shop their sales like crazy. And in true Macy's sale fashion, my mom held out until their last One Day Sale before Christmas as managed to get this for $99! Talk about a deal. Thanks mom!

Crate and Barrel Laurie Plate, Footed Bowl and Cake Stand

Funny story about this gift. Apparently Brittany ordered this cake plate up for me online last Christmas, two day shipping to my parents house, and it never came. Then apparently it did come some time after Christmas and my mom misplaced it for about the next 10 months. I had wanted it last year, and was so excited to see it come back this year. Mom found the cake plate, and wrapped it up for me this year. Brittany got me six of those adorable dessert cups, so cute, thanks Britt! The day after Christmas I got online to order up six of the plates, but they were sold out online. So I called the Beverly Hills store and spoke with the most helpful, friendly sales associate, Jennie. The day after Christams I'm sure the store was super busy, but she checked the stock, shipping costs, and the balance of two gift cards for me. I got my order placed and they're on they're way to my house as we speak. Now I just need to whip up some amazing dessert worthy to serve up on theses dishes.

I also got some small stocking suffers like a new bread knife, a paring knife, a mini whisk that will be great for making gravy, a 2 cup measuring cup that will definitely make for fast measuring, and a OXO cookie scoop, I've been wanting one of those! Needless to say I had a wonderful Christmas and am so grateful for my family and my wonderful gifts. Now lets get back to the kitchen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Packaging Goodies

You would think with two weeks off for Christmas vacation I would have a lot of time to write some good blogs. But that hasn't exactly been the case. Busy, busy holiday season. But I have been baking while being home with my mom, and all the recipes and pictures will be posted shortly. But I do have a few pictures of the home made goodies I gave away to the teachers I work with. Super easy, found the boxes, used red tissue paper to separate the cookies, and finished it off with cute labels. I put the chocolate dipped coconut and orange cookies in the boxes and mini loaves of bread (harvest loaf and banana bread) in red cellophane with green ribbon and star gift tags. Simple, easy and looks oh so cute!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Trader Joe's: Joe- Joe's

Based on the content of my blog, I’m sure you’ve all figured out that I love home baked goodies. I’m not much of a candy person, store bought cookie or salty chip kind of girl. But boy oh boy am I sucker for all homemade treats. There is one exception. I am on box number two of Trader Joe’s peppermint Joe Joes. Have you had those? Oh my goodness! They are similar in concept to a mint Oreo, but those don’t even compare. These have the best frosting inside with bits of candy cane. I’ve eaten almost two boxes all by myself. My husband keeps making fun of me. But they’re only sold this time of year, so I have to get them in while I can. Do yourself a favor and go out a buy a box!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cinnamon Roll Packaging

It's the Christmas season, which is so perfect for baking! I can give away all my goodies and not eat them all myself. My husband went to the gym tonight, but I passed. Probably shouldn't have, but I'd rather bake and package up my goodies in cute, festive wrappings. I came up with this packaging to individually wrap my cinnamon rolls because I already had 200 of these boxes lying around. Last June when I was doing my wedding favors I accidentally ordered up the wrong size box for my favors. I didn't want to pay a restocking fee to return them, so I just keep them thinking I'd find something to do with them. I dare say they're coming in handy now! I'm so excited to give these away to neighbors and friends.

Pecan Pumpkin Crunch: Pie Alternative

I started off my blog talking about how pumpkin obsessed we were, and then barely posted any pumpkin recipes. We were cooking, I just wasn’t posting. In our quest to find more pumpkin recipes I came across this recipe before Thanksgiving, tried it out, and made it twice in one week. It was on an episode of Ask Aida and she was using it as an alternative to pumpkin pie. I loved it for that very reason, you don’t have to mess with the crust and the pecan topping still gives it some texture. It’s creamy, and had all the flavors a good pumpkin pie should have. Husbands, boyfriends, sisters and friends all liked this one. The first one went so fast that I had to make a second one to make sure everyone got the seconds they wanted. I’d definitely try it out. I know Thanksgiving is more of the pumpkin pie holiday, but I’d say it’s still in season! Pecan Pumpkin Crunch Recipe

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Ham

I decided today I was going to make a big Christmas dinner. Brittany and Paul came over and Brian's friend Peter. I'm not going to be making the real Christmas dinner and I've been promising Brian I'm make him a Christmas ham. He is in love with his Aunt Darrelyn's Ham glaze, so I decided to give it a try. It was super easy to do, and I got some rave reviews. Darrelyn uses a canned ham, but I'm sure you could use any kind of ham and just glaze it following these instructions:

1/3 Cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Teaspoon dry mustard
whole clove

If using a canned ham, put ham, juice and all in a pan. Score the top of the ham and put dry mixture or brown sugar, flour and dry mustard on top of it. Insert whole cloves on top also. (Just space them out) Pour gingerale slowly over ham so that the mixture stays on top of the ham. gingerale should be an inch deep i pan. Baste ham as it cooks. Cook at 325 for about an hour and a half.

Like I said, super delish, and super easy.

Cinnamon Rolls

A long time staple in our home has always been homemade rolls and cinnamon rolls. It started with my Grandma Payne, and then my mom took over. They were always asked to bake their rolls for special occasions and family get togethers. Walking into the house when the rolls were baking is definitely my ultimate comfort food smell. I decided that I should probably learn how to make them so that I can keep the tradition alive!

This summer I tried my very first batch of cinnamon rolls, and they turned out so, so good! And then Friday night Brian and I made two batches for him to take to his Saturday morning class. They were a big hit, and felt so proud.

My mom was telling me that anyone can follow the recipe, but unless you know what the dough should feel like, they wouldn’t turn out as good as they could. It’s an art form, bread making, and it just takes practice, trial and error. The two batches I made on Friday, and one more today, gave me the opportunity to try a few different tweaks and figure out what works a little better.

When you’re done mixing the dough, my mom says that it should be sticky, but not a wet sticky. It shouldn’t look like wallpaper paste, but should stick to your hands when you touch it. After it rises it won’t be as sticky. Remember that you can always add more flour, but too much will make your dough tough. A stand mixer works best for this, as the dough gets hard to mix with a hand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use your hand mixer until it starts to get hard to mix, and then finish mixing with your hands. (My mom, and I have both blown up our hand mixers mixing the dough!)

This is such a good recipe and I have yet to find a soul who could say no to one of these cinnamon rolls.

Grandma Payne’s Roll Recipe:
Sprinkle 2 Tbs of yeast into 1/2 C. warm water (Test water on wrist and don’t set bowl directly on counter, put on a towel underneath it.)

Heat in microwave for 3 minutes (stir half way in between):
1 cube of butter
2 Cups of Milk
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 tsp Salt

Pour the warm mixture into mixing bowl, add 3 Cups of flour and mix until pasty.
Add 2 eggs, mix again
Add yeast, mix again
Slowly add 3 1/3 cups of sifted flour (you may need a little more or less)

Cover and let rise for 1 and 1/2 hours. When dough has risen to double it’s original size, punch down with fist and then you have two options:

1) Make into delicious dinner rolls: make dough balls, place on greased cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart, let rise again for another 45 minutes or so, or until dough is touching on sheet.

2) Make into cinnamon rolls: Roll out dough on floured counter until it makes a nice, big, even rectangle. Spread a cube of room temperature butter on the dough. Cover with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Cover again with a second layer of brown sugar. Adding raising, nuts and anything else you’d like will taste amazing too! Roll up the dough and cut into one and a half inch slices. Place 1/2 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Let rise again until touching. These will also rise more in the over.

Cooke either of these for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees. (We’ve been known to do half and half with a batch. One batch will make about 20 or so cinnamon rolls) One thing my mom and I have noticed is that the tops usually get done before the bottom of the rolls. I have found that non-stick pans help the bottoms to cook better.

Edit: I had a request for the icing. Here is the one I've been using lately, but any icing will work. And we love a cream cheese icing on these too! So good!

1 pound box of powdered sugar
6 TBS of butter (room temperature)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (or any type of milk)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
Mix together-add more milk or powdered sugar to thin or thicken

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Cookie Exchange

For the first time ever I participated in a cookie exchange. I made eight dozen cookies and went to exchange them with eight other girls who did the same thing. A little shout out to Jennifer for hosting a lovely evening with the ladies. At the end of the night I came home with eight dozen different cookies that I could package up and give to friends to spread a little Christmas cheer.

When deciding which cookies to bake I took into consideration the fact that I had to make eight dozen. I had made a recipe from Food Networks “Ask Aida” for Orange Coconut cookies about a month before and remembered that they made a lot of cookies! I only had to double the recipe to get my eight dozen. And you have to put them in the refrigerator before you cook them, so it’s a great make ahead cookie. Besides tasting amazing, these cookies are very impressive to look at. I dipped half of them in chocolate, like the recipe says, and they just look so festive! I still have a hard time using chocolate chips to dip things with. It never works right, so this time, because I needed it to work, I bought Wilton chocolate baking chips from Michael’s. It worked like a champ! Perfect on every cookie, dried hard and smooth.

A few tips on the cookies, if you like a crisper cookies, just cut them thinner, which makes sense. But I like them a bit softer so I cut the cookies a little on the thicker side. Also, I toasted my coconut by putting it in the oven on a cookie sheet and watching it until it was barely brown. But like I said, this is a great make ahead recipe or one to use when you need a lot of cookies. Happy Baking!
Toasted Coconut and Orange Cookies Recipe
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