Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Top Secret Family Fudge

Family Secret Fudge



Whenever I set out to do a food post, I do 3 things :
* Get out the recipe/instructions
* Gather my ingredients & supplies
* Grab my camera

When I do a post, I take pictures as I make it. I don't make a special 'pretty' version just for pictures, or make 18 batches of something, to get enough perfect pictures. What you see is what we eat.
Making fudge today was no different, except my husband was home, and he knows the 'family secret' to our fudge. Yup. So he asks me:
' Are you really going to take pictures of you making fudge with the recipe off the container? '
Umm... yes.
That's my family secret. We can read.
No ... (Story time...)

Growing up, my Nini always made fudge for the holidays. No one else could make fudge, it was Nini's territory. Once she was too old to be making fudge, one of my aunts took over the fudge making, and the 'family secret'. Nobody else dared to make fudge, and if they did try, it never turned out like Nini's fudge.
So, we all assumed it was some top secret fudge recipe, only to be really known by a select few.
Until a few years ago, when Nini passed away, and I got tired of waiting around for fudge, so I said Screw it, I'll try to make some myself, and, if it's not like Nini's, oh well, I'll keep trying. And so I set out on the great fudge adventure. Luckily I got it on the first try. 
(And, I've tried other fudge versions, meh, I still like this one the best. It's like Nini's.)
As I made my first batch several years ago, my dad started telling stories of making fudge with Nini when he was little and the different jobs he had helping her.
So now, every year at the holidays, I make fudge, because it's yummy, and to remember Nini.

And, yes, I took pictures of me making family secret follow the jar fudge.






Just follow the directions on the jar (I get the "big" container - it makes more fudge).
Also, I use 12oz of milk, not 10.
And I only use 4c of sugar.
And I like to make flavors other than just chocolate.
Use silicone utensils when making fudge, they are easier to clean in the end,
and don't melt into your hot fudgey mix (don't ask how I know this).
And, use metal pans. Coat in butter and put in the fridge or freezer until you're ready for them.
(A tip my dad told me about, that he used to do. He was the butter-the-pans-boy.)



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shortbread Sugar Cookies



I follow this recipe, just, half as much. Since I'm not baking for an army.  I also use cookie cutters, instead of a cookie press.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/shortbread-cookies-ii/detail.aspx




Ingredients

  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour



Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in vanilla; add flour and mix well.
  3. Put through cookie press and form cookies onto baking sheets. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.


If you're using a cookie press, after you make the dough, you can fill your press and go.
If you're using cookie cutters, form dough into a ball, wrap in clear-wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 mins. {I also place the cookie cutters I'll be using, and my silicone mats in the fridge to cool}
After 30 minutes, roll out and cut your cookies. (I also keep a dish of oil nearby, to dip my cookie cutters into, so they don't stick)  Bake, cool and decorate.

I used wheat flour this time, and added more vanilla extract (and some almond). You can actually use any extract you want, add food color, even add cinnamon, nuts or chocolate chips if you want.
{And, since there is no raw egg in this, its safe to eat as you go}


Cinnamon Ornaments


I like Martha Stewart's 'recipe' for cinnamon dough the best.


http://www.marthastewart.com/how-to/cinnamon-bird-ornaments#

I didn't have enough cinnamon, or any apple sauce - so I made my own version. Follow Martha's directions for the dough. They are much better than what I ended up with (mine have almost no cinnamon smell).

Mix together 1 cup cinnamon, 1/4 cup apple sauce, and 1/2 cup craft glue. Roll into a ball and let set about an hour. {Or, roll into ball, wrap in clear-wrap, and pop in the fridge for 15 mins. or so} Roll out dough and cut out shapes. Use a straw or skewer to place a hole in each ornament (so you can hang it up). You can let dry out over night, or place into the oven on 200 for about 2 hours (flip over at 1 hr).  Let cool, place ribbons through, and decorate.


Cake Mix Cookies

Probably some of the easiest cookies you can possibly make - Cake Mix Cookies.
(I found this recipe on the internet years ago, I'm not sure what site it was from, but there are probably tons of versions if you search google)





1 box cake mix (apx. 18 oz)
1 egg
½ cup butter (1 stick) softened
2tbs water (if using chocolate mix)
frosting & decorations




Preheat oven to 350 degrees, combine all ingredients, drop on cookie sheet and bake 9-12 minutes.
Let cool and decorate.







Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's begining to look like ...

... A warm, rainy Christmas.

Seriously, it's about 60 degrees here, and pouring down rain. No cold, no snow, just yuck. It doesn't even seem like the holidays. I've had no motivation to really do anything seasonal, just because it doesn't seem like winter. It's like Christmas in Florida or something. But I've sucked it up and have been decorating and wrapping gifts. Last week I put up lights outside, and today I did some inside decorating and wrapping. It's all a lot harder to do when you're 8 months pregnant. 1 trip downstairs is now about 5 trips. 

The lights outside

Front door wreath


Our Winter Evergreen Bush

Our Evergreen Bush isn't a christmas tree. It's not. It's a tree to hang the ornaments I've been given over the years on and put our gifts around.
{ I have my views on what Christmas is, which I''m not going to go into here, but there is a Hanukkah bag under there too}

And, every year I look forward to putting out my cinnamon ornaments. I made them when I was working at a private school, and they smelled so good, year after year. And the smell of cinnamon just puts you in a holiday mood.  Umm, except this year ...


Here is what I found when I opened the box.
Granted, this is probably my fault, usually I put them in a baggie, then into the box. But that's not the point.
The mice that keep getting in our basement decided to eat cinnamon us. Yup. They took off John's head and arm, and both of my arms. And snacked on the candy cane and present too. A serious bummer. I had made cinnamon us the christmas before we got married, and now we're mangled. But, I will make more. And when I do I will post the directions.
I'm also hoping to do a post on Fudge soon. :)


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oreo Cream Pie



I'm not a fan of pie usually.  I actually only like the cream pies (like the frozen turtle pie). Yum Yum! I don't eat fruit pies, nut pies, pumpkin pies, or chicken pot-pies. I also don't like cheese cake (which, is like a pie anyway).  I'm more of an ice cream gal.

So, this year for Turkey Day I decided to make an Oreo Cream Pie.
It's a pretty idiot proof pie to make, and if you remember my apple pie,
you will see it's very similar to make.
PS - the filling itself is so good you could probably just skip the
'make into a pie' step, and just grab a spoon.


I made mine using pre-made deep dish pie crusts that just needed to be baked/cooled. You could do any type of crust you want here.
(I also baked both crusts, since I was doing 2 pies; the filling recipe is for 1 pie)

When I was looking at the pudding box, I noticed they have a recipe for a similar pie.
But, I don't like it. It's too pudding/custardy tasting. If I want pudding, I'll just make pudding.


You Need:




Pie Crust (Regular or Graham Cracker)
16oz Heavy Whipping Cream
Pudding Mix
Cookies
2 tbs Confectioners’ Sugar
 (powdered sugar)
Chocolate Syrup

Hand or Stand Mixer w/ whisk attachment
( Oven & Refrigerator )


Directions :
1 – Prepare crust.
If using a preformed graham cracker crust, skip to step 2.
If using a ready-made crust, bake and cool according to package directions.
If making crust from scratch, bake and cool according to your recipe.
~ While your crust is baking/cooling, smash some cookies to use in filling ~


2 -  Make Pie Filling (Oreo Cream)
~ If you didn’t bake a crust, smash some cookies to use in your filling now ~
In large bowl combine 16oz heavy whipping cream with 2 tbs. confectioners’ sugar.
Whisk together until a thick, frothy cream is formed, just starting to form peaks
(whisking on a med-low speed works best) .
Now slowly whisk in your pudding mix, then lightly stir in your add-ins (cookies, chocolate chips, etc.). You may need to use a spoon, or your beater attachment.


3 – Fill Pie Crust
Gently scoop your filling into pie crust, lightly smooth out the top, then top your pie with additional cookies, chocolate, etc …
Refrigerate 30min – 1hour+ before serving. 



The fun thing about this pie, is that there are so many possibilities for it.
Basically any type of pie crust, any type of pudding, any type of add-ins.
You can also use food color/gel to dye the filling, and concentrated candy flavors to vanilla pudding for any flavor you want.  

Vanilla peach. Chocolate cherry. Mocha mint. Peanut Butter. mmmm....


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How do I transport my pies?


Yeah, ghetto. But it works. 2 glass pie pans and some tape.
I do set it in a basket to keep it from sliding around the car too much. 


Where do I find such weird brands I cook/bake with? 

Aldi.
The pie crusts were a 2 pack for $1.89, and the cream 16oz for $1.89.
Both are "seasonal items" but are much cheaper than other stores. And usually in stock now.
(Walmart is almost always out of their brand whipping cream)




Monday, November 7, 2011

Baby Shower

Sorry I have been MIA.
I've been super busy getting things done around the house, this weekend was my baby shower, and I wanted everything to be clean and tidy. And, it was. I even hung up the handrail for the stairs, and the quilt rack in the baby's room. I'm quite the handy wife.

But, my baby shower was a lot of fun. Just a small group of family and friends, which was nice.
We ate, played the typical baby games, and I opened a ton of gifts for this spoiled little guy.
(Seriously, between Me & my husband (mainly me) going overboard,
and everyone else's nice gifts, this kid is pretty much set)
Then we had cake too. And I got to visit with people I don't get to see that often anymore.
We also got a living room full of balloons that are really annoying my husband.


Baby's Cake

Playing Games

Opening Gifts

Gift Mountain & A Chair Full of Diapers









Thursday, October 20, 2011

Even more Vera Bargains !

I love a good bargain. And luckily I have been finding a lot of them lately.
Yesterday I bought the dresser for baby's room : $40.
I got some batteries from Staples that will be free, after my rewards back.
A pair of Old Navy maternity jeans : $6

But the best deal :
2 retired Vera Bradley Bags $7.35 (total, for both, after tax!)
Awesomesauce!!!



Now I'm of to get some lunch, and get some stuff done around our messy house.




Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whipped Apple Pie

Whipped Apple Pie


An easy, no bake pie solution. 
You need :
Deep pie pan
Food Processor
Electric Mixer
2-3 Lg. Apples (your choice, I used Stayman)
1 stick butter (softened)
1 pack graham crackers (or ginger snaps)
1 carton (16 oz) heavy whipping cream
Vanilla extract
Cinnamon Sugar
Caramel
Butterscotch Chips (optional)


There are several steps, which are going to seem like a lot, but, once you know what you're doing, you'll find you can do them all at once. 

First you're going to make the pie crust.
Crush the graham crackers or ginger snaps into small pieces using the food processor.
Combine in a bowl with butter, then put in pie pan and form crust. Place pan in the fridge.



Next you're going to prepare your apples. 
Wash, core, and peel if you'd like, then slice into small chunks.
Place chunks into a bowl, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, butterscotch chips, caramel, and any other
"pie fillings" you'd like. Set aside.

Now you're going to make the whipped cream.
Pour your heavy whipping cream into the bowl of your mixer, add some vanilla (or, any other flavor you'd like) and whisk. If your mixer doesn't have a whisk attachment, use the beaters.
I start out blending on low, and work up to a medium speed. Only whip until it's thick, but light and fluffy. 


Now you're going to fold your apples into the whipped cream. Slowly! Break your apple mix into 3 or 4 parts when mixing it in. You want to mix in the apples and coat them with whipped cream, but not over beat the mixture and ruin the whipped cream (It's really not as hard as it sounds). Then place the whipped cream apple mixture in your pie crust, top with caramel and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Yum!



I also like to make a variation of this using pudding mix near the holidays. You may want to watch for it around Thanksgiving or Christmas.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Apples apples everywhere.



We are up to our eyes in apples over here. That might be a slight (just tiny) exaggeration, but we have a ton of apples. And I need to do something with all these apples. I can only take so many apple slices with peanut butter.

Last week I bought 2 3lb bags of apples from the market, then Monday we ended up going to the orchard while hubs and dad-in-law were off work, so we got another 8lbs of apples. (We got the smallest bag of our group ... believe me) And the orchard was packed. I say packed because I'm used to small groups of kids, not crazy college students and Asian tourists and people with dogs.
 
 
I really wanted some Fuji apples. I'm not sure if you're supposed to do this though. But my husband loves me, and who's going to question a man in a tree with an obviously pregnant woman asking for FUJI apples. Besides, his dad was spotting him, sorta. 

They wanted Granny Smith and Stayman apples.
(I'll stick with my Fuji's and Gala's ... I like sweet apples)

But now I have a thousand pounds of apples on my counter to do something with. And yes, I know you're 'supposed' to keep apples in the fridge; there's not enough room in my fridge.

Oh Emu, why not make some apple sauce? I probably will, but I'm the only one who eats it, it reminds Jedi-John of baby food.
Well, why not make some apple pie? Yeah, I could. But, that would be silly, since we don't really like apple pie, and when I think of apple pie, I think of the traditional pie.
(Don't worry - I thought of a new way to make apple pie. I'll share it once I have the motivation to make it. )
So, I did a little looking around, and found a few ideas.  Interestingly 2 of the ideas are apple cider, and not apples. Go figure. 

Then there was this guy. Two Ingredient Ice Cream. It can't get any easier, really. Make some apple ice cream. Maybe some caramel apple ice cream. Or apple pie ice cream. Or any other form of ice cream involving apples.

Does anyone have any other suggestions of things I could make? 

Baked apples, apple brown betty, ooohhh - apple latkes, apple smoothies anyone?
For more about Virginia's apples : Visit The Virginia Apple Growers Association.
We visited Carter Mountain Orchard, in Charlottesville.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Glittered Pumpkins

Being preggers kinda wipes you out sometimes. I have zero motivation to craft right now, even thought I really, really need to (I have a stack of material waiting to be made into blankets, and my sewing machine is sitting on the floor in my dining room). So I am keeping my decorating very simple. Also, we don't really celebrate Halloween, so that makes it even easier.


Last year I made these pumpkins & gourds to decorate with. They're really easy to do.
First - you need to visit LittlePinkMonster, and read her tutorial for the Glittered Eggs. It's pretty much what you'll be doing, but with mini-gourds instead. Or you could do larger gourds and pumpkins.




I found the pumpkins and gourds at the Dollar Store last year, so they may have them again this year, but I'm sure the craft stores have them as well (here are some similar pumpkins from Joanns) .
Pop a toothpick in the bottom of them, cover in mod-podge, then sprinkle with glitter and let dry.
I used white glitter, to give them a frosted look, but you can do pretty much any color you want. You could do Orange, or Black to make them more halloween-ish.


Place in a cute basket, or jar - and you've got a super simple, cute decoration.