Sunday, December 12, 2010


Every year at this time I begin a candy making marathon. It’s tradition and I love it! Without a doubt the best thing I make is homemade caramels! I have to make two batches around here one for us, and one for everyone else---seriously this stuff is incredible!!



4 c. sugar
1 c. whipping cream
1 1/2 c. milk (I used 2%)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free, not that these are healthy or anything!)
2 c. corn syrup
1 c. butter
2 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, cream, milk, condensed milk, corn syrup and butter in a 6 quart or larger pan. Stir over medium heat until mixture reaches a boil.

From here you really need to stir constantly to prevent burning. When the mixture turns light brown, clip a candy thermometer on the side of your pan and continue stirring until candy reaches 240 degrees, or soft ball. (make sure to adjust temperature if you are above sea level: –2 degrees for every 1,000 feet above)

I have to be honest with you, this takes a LONG time. I think I stood there stirring for well over an hour, but it’s worth it!!

Once you have reached soft ball, remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla.  Then pour into a buttered 9x13 pan. Let the caramel sit for 24 hours (it really only lasts overnight around here) and the cut into pieces.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I tried this sugar cookie recipe last week and the cookies turned out so good!  I tweaked the recipe from My Kitchen Cafe a bit.

My Favorite Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened to cool room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix. Add two cups flour, baking powder and salt. Mix. Add remaining flour and mix just until flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and soft.
The dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or it can be rolled out right away. Dust a counter with powdered sugar or flour and roll the dough to desired thickness. Cut the dough into shapes. Place the cookies on a lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes. The cookies won’t appear browned on top (or on bottom) when they are done baking so don’t let them overbake!  I like them super soft with not even a hint of browned edges or bottom.

I frosted them with Buttercream frosting, not the cream cheese frosting she recommends (my kids wouldn't go for that). Besides I like my cookies sprinkled with crushed up candy cane and I don't know how the peppermint would go with cream cheese.  The soft cookies with this frosting and candy canes were SO good.  I want to make them again (actually I don't I just want to eat them again!)
Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter.  Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.  Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes with Apple Compote

I found the pancake recipe from the Closet Cooking Blog and the compote recipe from the Tasty Kitchen Blog  My whole family enjoyed these healthy and delicious pancakes.  I doubled the pancake recipe and halfed the compote recipe.  Next time will make a full batch of the compote.  My kids even loved the compote.  It wasn't overly sweet so they did add a little bit of maple of syrup. 

Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes by Closet Cooking
(makes 2 servings, 4-6 pancakes)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (ground in food processor)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup milk (or buttermilk) (I used kefir and a little bit of almond milk to make batter a little bit thinner.)
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
2 tablespoons apple sauce
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 apple (peeled, cored and chopped)

1. Mix the flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Mix the maple syrup, milk, egg, butter and apple sauce in another bowl.
3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients.
4. Mix in the rolled oats and apple.
5. Heat a pan and melt a touch of butter in it.
6. Pour 1/4 cup of the mixture into the pan and cook until the surface starts to bubble and the bottom is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
7. Flip the pancake and cook the other side until the bottom is golden brown, about 1-2 minutes

Apple Compote
(Servings 4)

4 Apples, Peeled And Quartered
Half A Lemon, Squeezed
½ cups Orange Juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla
To make the compote:
Peel and quarter apples and place in saucepan. Squeeze half a lemon over the apples. Pour in the orange juice. Add the vanilla. Let simmer over medium-low heat, covered, until the apples get somewhat soft, stirring as needed. (You can use almost any fruit / combination of fruits– pears, peaches, berries)
Once the apples are somewhat soft, take the cover off the pot and allow the apples to continue simmering until most of the excess liquid is gone. Then mash up (not too much, or you will end up with apple sauce), leaving some chunks. Discard excess liquid if there is any left. Voila, set aside, the compote is done.
(I added a 1/2 to 1 tsp of cinnamon and it was delicious!)


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Puffed French Toast

I made this about a month ago and we all thought it was pretty good. I found the recipe on Our Best Bites. Try it!

2 eggs
2 ½ Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. milk
1 c. flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
12 slices of toast, cut in half diagonally

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat about 1/4" of vegetable oil over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, milk, flour, and baking powder. Once oil is ready quickly take each 1/2 slice of bread and soak it both sides in the mixture. Gently shake to remove excess batter and place in hot oil. Cook until puffed, golden brown, and a nice, crispy crust has formed on each side (probably 3-5 minutes per side) and then remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. While cooking remaining French toast, keep cooked pieces warm in an oven set to the lowest temperature it will go. When ready to serve roll in cinnamon sugar.