Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and
peace there will be no end.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Merry Christmas!  May your Christmas be full of love, joy, peace and tasty treats!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Decorated Sugar Cookies

It's almost midnight.  I'm laying on a futon mattress on top of an air mattress (my genius idea to make an air mattress more comfortable) in the attic room of my in-laws house, watching tv and typing this post.  Why are we staying on an air mattress at the in-laws?  Well, more on that in the next blog post. 

Since we have been busy packing and moving, I've hardly baked.  So the second day here in Kingsport, I got out my KitchenAid and made sugar cookies.  I had hoped to decorate the sugar cookies with royal icing and try some new icing techniques, but my icing didn't turn out very well so I scrapped that and went back to the icing recipe I normally use, which is just a basic buttercream.  In the end, it was much more fun for me to have my husband and his siblings help decorate the cookies that it would have been to decorate them all on my own. 

Sugar Cookies
Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook
Recipe: Here

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract, and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening or spray with cooking spray.
Divide dough in half.  Roll each half 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured surface.  Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.
Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Source: Betty Crocker

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk

Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with spoon or electric mixer on low speed.  Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk.
Gradually beat in just enough milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable.  If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time.  If frosting becomes too thin, beat in small amount of powdered sugar.

Amy's Notes:
I love these sugar cookies.  Because sugar cookies are so much work, I really only make them about once a year, but I always use this recipe.  I find that in order for them to be nice and soft you have to bake them for a little shorter time than the recipe calls for--I believe I baked most of mine between 6 1/2-7 minutes.  This particular time, I made two batches: one regular batch and one with a little cinnamon and nutmeg added.  Both were good.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Chronicle of Moving Meals

Boy have I gotten behind on blogging.  I guess that's what happens when you move though.  As you might know, I had a personal challenge to use up as much as I could from my fridge and freezer before we moved.  It's pretty hard actually, so I focused on using up anything with meat in it, veggies and any cupboard item that was going to expire in the next couple of months (or anything I could find to make that I didn't need to buy anything else to make a meal).  Here's what I came up with:

BBQ chicken, corn and a pasta dish from a box! 

Berry Cobbler, except I used up all the blackberries for some of them and then used blueberries in the rest. 
Both were delicious. Recipe: Here

Blueberry Cobbler Minis

Blackberry Cobbler Minis

Chicken Nuggets and Waffle Fries: We bought these about 10 days before we moved which fed us for 2 meals.  I ended up throwing a few of the chicken nuggets we didn't use away.

Sloppy Joes!  Some people are against them, I happen to like them, mostly because of the pickles and cheese!

We used up the last pound of ground beef, and the rest of the pickles and cheese for this meal,
although we did have to buy the buns.

BBQ Chicken again (it's a staple in our family) used up the rest of the chicken on hand, cheesy veggies, and a southwestern corn/rice freezer dish.

Cinnamon blueberry pancakes, used most of the blueberries, most of the pancake mix, and most of the syrup.  The rest went in the garbage.

I'm not usually a big pancake fan, but these were very good.

Chicken Nuggets, waffle fries, and macaroni and cheese

The state of our kitchen as I was making the above dinner.

Yep, packing is not fun at all.

Baked potatoes used up 2 or the 4 potatoes we had, cheese, sour cream and the last package of cheesy veggies.
Also in this time, we bought Papa Murphey's pizza one night and Subway sandwiches the last night before we moved.  Most of what I ended up throwing away were odd and ends of things, like the leftover butter or half a package of frozen spinach, plus all the condiments.  As for all the non-perishable items, I ended up buing a couple of smaller storage bins to keep them in for the move.  I would say it was a successful food-use-up.  Though I still did feel bad about throwing away what was left!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

It's Christmastime, and to me, that means it's time for fudge!  I wanted to try something new and saw this recipe for peanut butter fudge.  Then, I found the same peanut butter fudge recipe on another blog, but this recipe has a layer of chocolate on top of the peanut butter.  I figured it was a nice combo of the chocolate fudge that I am used to and the new peanut butter addition. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge
Printable Recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Line the bottom and two sides of an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the sides. Butter the pan and parchment paper well.
In a large bowl, sift the powdered sugar. Set aside.
In a medium microwave safe bowl, melt the butter and peanut butter. About 60 seconds on high and then stir together until all the chunks are gone (microwave more if necessary). Add the vanilla to the butter mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the butter mixture into the powdered sugar and mix together until well incorporated and the powdered sugar cannot be seen. This can be done by hand or in a stand mixer, I wouldn’t recommend using an electric hand mixer because the fudge gets very thick at this point.
Pour the fudge into the prepared pan and smooth out the top. Cover the fudge and place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, or until firm and then coat with chocolate topping.

Chocolate Topping
1 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (1 bag)
3 tablespoons peanut butter

Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter until smooth. Allow to cool for a couple minutes so it won’t melt the fudge. Pour over fudge and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, sea salt, or leave it plain. Place in the freezer for about 15 minutes to let the chocolate firm up (you could also do this in the fridge but it would take longer) and then place back in fridge or countertop until it is soft enough to be sliced.
Store in airtight containers for up to a week.

Amy's Notes:
I made the mistake of not using parchment paper when making this recipe.  Once I cut the fudge, it was very difficult to scoop it out without the peanut butter portion crumbling all over the place.  I should have gone to buy parchment paper (I'm not sure how I've gotten this far into all my baking without ever using parchment paper!) but I was too lazy to go to the store.  I used milk chocolate chips because it was what I had on hand and I wanted to use them up, but I would use semi-sweet chocolate chips if I were to do it again.  Besides the few crumbly, slightly disformed pieces, this fudge was good.  But I would still choose my mom's fudge over any other fudge!

Peanut butter fudge pressed into the pan

Freshly poured chocolate ready to be cooled


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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taco Soup

I'm trying to use up all the random things in my cupboard and fridge/freezer before we move.  It's actually really hard for me to come up with meals that I don't have to buy anything for.  So hard that I've yet to do it.  I planned to make taco soup to use up things I had on hand, and ended up having to buy another can of tomatoes and a can of beans, but I had everything else.  I didn't have a recipe, but the following is what I ended up doing.

Taco Soup
Printable Recipe

1 pound ground beef
1 package taco seasoning (1/4 cup seasoning and 3/4 cup water)
2 cans diced tomatoes (1 can petite diced and 1 can Mexican Rotel)
1 onion, diced
1 can black beans
1 can corn
2 cans water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream
Tortilla chips

Brown ground beef in large pot.  Once browned and drained, add taco seasoning and water.  Let simmer about 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, onion, black beans, corn, water, salt and pepper.  Let simmer about 30 minutes or until the flavors have mingled together.  Add shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, some crushed tortilla chips, or whatever else you would like!

Amy's Notes:
I had originally planned to also add rice in this soup, but once I got making it decided not to.  Overall, I thought the soup turned out well.  My husband thought it had too much meat in it though.  So next time, I might either half the meat or add another can of beans and corn.  For me, it was a success and I will make it again!

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Tree Cake Pops

It's Christmas time!  I love Christmas.  Like I said before, we are moving in the next few weeks.  Moving means we don't have any Christmas decorations up except our icicle lights on our apartment balcony that I made my husband put up almost a month ago because I knew it would be the only Christmas decorations we would put up this year.  With my lack of Christmas decorations, I'm surprised I haven't overcompensated with a load of Christmas baking.  Then again, Christmas is still weeks away. 

The first Christmas treat were these Christmas tree cake pops:

In this case, melting the chocolate and dipping the pops were the easy part. 

I made two different shapes: one with a cookie cutter and one that I hand formed into a tree shape.

The hard part was decorating them so they looked like a tree but didn't look like a child had decorated them.  Unfortunately, the first ones looked a child decorated them.  I even used the exact decorations that Bakerella used for her, except mine looked like crap. 

So I tried this:
And they still looked like crap. 

I didn't like the bare trees and thought they needed some sort of decoration so I spent a few minutes digging through all my baking supplies and realized I had some red candy melts.  I melted the candy melts, poured them into a plastic bag, cut a tiny hole in one corner, and drizzled it over the trees.  It was better but I cut the hole much too big and it was more of a gloop than a drizzle. 

So, I turned the bag over to the other side, cut a smaller tiny hole in the corner, and drizzled again.  So much better!

I also had been wanting to try packaging the cake pops.  I got little treat sacks and tied them with a little curling ribbon and the result was pretty cute!   

Overall, I am pleased.  Next up on my list of Christmas treats is peanut butter fudge topped with chocolate!

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