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Game Changing Homemade Marshmallow Recipe

Posted on Feb 25, 2014

Three toasted homemade marshmallows

 

Homemade marshmallows beat store bought marshmallows hands down.  Every time!  Softer, waaay more flavorful, and easier to get that caramelized toasty-ness, homemade marshmallows are pure yum yum yum! And I have a delicious marshmallow recipe you’ll want to give a try.

 

marshmallow cube

 

With the cold this winter what better way to warm up than a roasty-toasty super delicious home made marshmallow over a cup of steaming hot cocoa or coffee? Or maybe you like them in a s’more sandwiched between graham crackers and covered in melty chocolate.  Yep, homemade marshmallows take that classic dessert up a notch! Or maybe you like your marshmallows simple and pure, just as they are. You haven’t had a toasted marshmallow until you’ve tried one that’s homemade.  The one’s you buy in the bag…forget it.  Homemade marshmallows are orders of magnitude better!

When I set out to try making my own I had no idea how on earth to get started, particularly because I had no idea what the ingredients are or how they are made.  Yeah, I don’t have many of the ingredients listed on the marshmallow bag.  I can’t  even pronounce many of them. Hello, Google! I found a recipe from Martha Stewart that, although thin on details, with a bit of trial and error, worked great. And -oh my gosh- the taste! They’re fantastic plain, but when you toast them, Hallelujah! With the powdered sugar coating, this marshmallow recipe makes the outside get caramelized and crispy like the top of creme brulee and the inside gets soft and warm much faster that the bagged kind.  Yep, squishy, crispy, sweet and leagues better than anything you can buy in a bag.  With this marshmallow recipe, it’s like a completely different, better-than-you-could-have-imagined animal.  So much so, you won’t want to go back to bagged marshmallows ever again!

 

snowflake marshmallow cut outs

 

I’ve made the marshmallow recipe two ways.  The first time I made it I use a 9 x 12 glass pan and got thick, fluffy square marshmallows perfect for all the traditional ways marshmallows are used.  Then I made the recipe again and used a larger glass dish so the marshmallows would be thinner so I could cut them with a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter to make large ( but thin) marshmallows perfect for floating on top of hot cocoa or coffee:0)

 

snowflake marshmallow with sugar

 

My favorite way to toast the marshmallows is to use a small blow torch.  Yep, right from the garage. ( I learned that from a local restaurant that serves a homemade marshmallow all toasty with a cafe mocha.  The waitress will even come back and re-toast it after you’ve eaten off the first layer!) The high heat caramelizes the powdered sugar coating to perfection! I can put a couple of marshmallows on a skewer and toast them just exactly how I like them in about 7 seconds.   Then I eat that crispy layer right off, savoring every sweet, sticky bite and re-toast the remaining marshmallow for another crunchy layer… decadent and YUM! Hey, there’s no extra calories for extra toasting! I suppose if I had a kitchen torch it would work just as well, but the one from my husband’s tool box works great.

 

Marshmallow recipe

 

Think about how you like your marshmallows…toasted, plain, in hot cocoa.  Them imagine your marshmallows so much better than anything you’ve had.  That’s what this recipe will give you.  Plus, it might just make that millionth cold day a little more tolerable:0)

 

snowflake marshmallow in coffee

Homemade Marshmallow Recipe and Tips

This is the recipe I used from Martha Stewart.    Here are a few tips that will help you be more successful:

  • Conveniently, the gelatin comes in a box of four pouches.  Just watch the size of the pouches you purchase because they are different.
  • Get a good candy thermometer.  You need to get the temperature right to get the right consistency for your marshmallows.
  • Use a stand mixer because the “batter” needs to mix for all of those 12 minutes!
  • Grease under the parchment and on top of the parchment.  Marshmallow mixture is sticky!
  • Use more cooking oil or powdered sugar on your knife when you cut the marshmallows and quickly pull them apart.  Once they ‘re rolled in the powdered sugar they won’t be as sticky.
  • Be generous with the powdered sugar coating.  That’s what makes them caramelize so well!

 

 

 

 

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Easy Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Posted on Feb 17, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Happy Valentine’s cinnamon roll waffles to me!

Recently The Mister and I have been watching “Diners Drive-ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri on The Food Network.  It’s something we both enjoy and the variety of places he visits keeps it interesting.  On the episode we saw recently, a chef made a waffle from stuffing, topped with a turkey dinner.  It looked a little weird at first, but then when we saw how he used the raw stuffing and cooked it up nice and crisp, we saw a whole world of waffle opportunities open up!  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant where he was (there were a lot of waffle items on the menu), but we were so inspired by it that The Mister went out and got me a waffle iron for Valentine’s Day.  I was not the least but offended (as a modern day woman might be) as I knew he would be the one to use it the most. Plus, I was secretly hoping to try cinnamon roll waffles.  Yum!!

Yep, crispy, crunchy sweet waffles laced with cinnamon and sugar swirled to the very edges topped with drizzled icing and real maple syrup sounded like the best waffle I could imagine.

 

Cinnamon Roll Waffle with syrup

 

Ever. In the history of the world.

I had seen the pictures on Pinterest of canned cinnamon rolls as waffles and was pretty sure whoever thought of that was a genius.  Ruby’s, a local eatery here in Southern California serves some pretty over-the-top cinnamon roll french toast, but the waffle version had never occurred to me. In fact I thought about it all day on Valentine’s which swerved into obsession by Valentine’s night (I’m not proud of that).   I just kept imagining the crispiness of the waffle and the icing melting into it with smatters of caramelized cinnamon goodness in each bite…I even considered having cinnamon roll waffles topped with ice cream for Valentine’s dessert, but decided to hold off until breakfast. Hey, it could still happen…

 

Canned Cinnamon rolls on waffle iron

 

I was so happy when I woke up this morning and it was time to try them.  I used the Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls since they’re larger than the regular ones and neither The Mister nor I were disappointed.  I’m not saying canned cinnamon rolls as waffles would beat homemade cinnamon rolls turned into waffles, but as far as ease and quickness goes, the canned version wins.

There are a few tricks to using a dough in a waffle maker vs. batter, so with some trial and error, here’s what I learned worked best.

 

raw Cinnamon roll on waffle iron

 

1. Heat up your waffle iron as you normally would.  Place one roll in the center of the iron.  There’s no need to smash it down.  Close the lid and turn as usual.

2. Listen to the sizzling sound (much like you listen for popcorn in the microwave).  Once the sizzling dies down or stops, turn the waffle back up and it’s done.  This is roughly half the normal amount of time needed for a waffle made with batter.  Don’t wait for the ready light as your waffle will be over cooked.  The cinnamon will look dark which is because it’s caramelized.

3.  Meanwhile, heat up the icing (minus the metal lid) in the microwave (as specified on the package) and use a spoon to drizzle the icing over your waffle.  Top with maple syrup or whatever you think would be great on your waffle!

It’s that easy! Be sure and clean out any residual cinnamon chunks before making more cinnamon roll waffles as the sugar will cause it to burn on your next waffle.  I just used a dry paper towel to wipe any out.

 

cinnamon roll waffle cooked

 

If you love packaged cinnamon rolls you will love this! The waffle is firm and crisp.  you an taste the cinnamon in just about every bite.  The icing gives it it’s signature sweetness and the maple syrup seals that deal that it’s a waffle. Yum!  It may not be four star restaurant fare, but it sure is easy, quick, affordable and yummy.  That begs the question… what else can I put in my waffle maker?  Maybe I’ll try cookie dough next!

What have you made in your waffle iron?  I’d love to hear your creative ideas. Drop me a message!

 

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Pillsbury or any waffle iron companies.  Bummer.

 

 

 

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Top Secret for Perfect Cake!

Posted on Feb 10, 2014

The Cake Mix Doctor coconut cake

 

Let’s face it, making a cake from scratch is chemistry at it’s finickiest. If you’re not precise and careful about mixing and baking you’re likely to end up with a dense brick or a floppy mess.  I’ll never forget putting in a whole day to make an elaborate coconut cake from scratch to end up with something that can only be called thousand-pound cake.  {Waa waa.} What’s a cake lover to do?  I found the most delicious, easiest, quickest, most reliable cake recipe book ever.  The variety of options goes far beyond the usual fare (175 recipies!). How about the one’s I’ve tried like Tiramisu Cake,  Lemon Lover’s Cake and Toasted Coconut Cake, so delicious people you don’t even know will invite you to their parties just because they want you to bring your cake?! That may sound a bit extreme, but every one was delicious, came out perfectly, and was easy to make.  Not exotic enough? How about Snicker Doodle Cake, Peaches and Cream Cake, or Tomato Soup Spice Cake.  And not just layer cakes, but bundt cakes, cupcakes, bars, cookies and all kinds of fast, fool-proof, delicious desserts  The secret to moist, delicious, easy homemade cakes and desserts….drumroll… The Cake Mix Doctor, by Anne Byrn.

About a year ago I took a cake decorating class and found I could not get a from-scratch recipe to come out right.  The “mix” cakes were too chemical-ly  tasting and in frustration I asked my instructor how she made such delicious cakes.  Her secret?  The Cake Mix Doctor.  She makes loads of cakes for classes every week and doesn’t have the time to make them all from scratch, she explained.  ‘Nuf said!  I was sold and ordered it that night.

How can I call boxed cake mix recipes homemade you ask?  These cake recipes from The Cake Mix Doctor start with cake mix for their reliability, but are then “doctored” making them unrecognizable as “mix” cakes.  The best part is Anne and her team have done all the trials and errors for you in her test kitchens so you get to skip all the testing and do what works right off the bat. For better flavor she adds ingredients like lemon zest, nuts, coffee, seeds, fresh fruit, cocoa powder, and liqueurs.  To make the cakes moister and richer she adds buttermilk, whipping cream, sour cream, eggs, yogurt, butter and peach puree.  With ingredients like these (to name a few) it’s easy to see how a boxed cake mix could be the beginning of a beautiful dessert!

 The Cake Mix Doctor

The Cake Mix Doctor

 

I love that if you want, you can just follow a recipe and know it’s going to turn out well and be delicious.  I also like that Anne has a section called “Cake Mix 101: How to Use This Book” for anyone who wants to know a bit more about how and why she recommends the ingredients she does so that you can experiment more for your own taste preferences. For example, Byrn explains which of the three major cake mix brands include the ingredients for pudding in the mix and why you would, or would not want to add more when “doctoring.”  Included is a great list of key ingredients (doctoring staples) to keep on hand so you’re always prepared for that unexpected, last minute dessert.  There are a ton more tips and tid-bits of information, all easy to read and easy to understand to help you become and expert cake mix doctorer.

What about the frosting, you ask?  here’s the bad news: there’s no good reason to buy pre-made canned frosting.  It will always taste like chemicals and is simply not salvageable.  Fortunately Anne has quick and easy recipes for frostings, fillings, and glazes, too!

 

The Cake Mix Doctor slice of coconut cake

 

By the way, I wasn’t exaggerating.  I took my Coconut Cake (see how it’s become my own) , a conglomeration of two different coconut cake recipes in The Cake Mix Doctor, to a Fourth of July party last summer.  One couple whom I’d never met before loved it so much, they invited me to their next party-if I would bring my cake.  They were even a bit pushy about it. That’s commitment! My brother had the same cake and asks for it every time I’m in charge of dessert.  He gets this wistful look in his eye, like he’s remembering “back in the day” when he talks about it.  I guess that’s a good example of a warning I almost forgot.  People will not believe your cake started in a box and  will ask beg nag harrang you to make it every chance they get.

I got my copy of The Cake Mix Doctor on line at Amazon.  You can also visit the website at www.thecakemixdoctor.com. You won’t be sorry when you are the bake sale hero and didn’t even break a sweat.  Just remember, I warned you.  Happy baking!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with The Cake Mix Doctor, the author, or anyone associated with it.  But, I think working in their test kitchen might be my dream job!

 

 

 

 

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Savory Spice Shop: Spices, Seasonings, and More

Posted on Jan 9, 2014

Savory spice shops window

 

Savory Spice Shop  is one of my favorite finds over the holidays.  Well, I didn’t “find” it, my daughter told me about it and we headed to the store in Corona Del Mar, CA.  She wanted to go shopping for Christmas gifts for “The-Most-Difficult-Person-To-Shop-For-In-The-World,” her dad-  and she did not leave empty handed.  Neither of us did!

What do I like about Savory Spice Shop?  Hmmm…

How about the fact that they have loads and loads of spices from all over the world? Yep!

 

Savory spice shops wall

 

How about the unique balsamics?  Yep!

 

Savory spice shops mango balsamic

 

How about the books, and other accessories?  Yep!

 

Savory spice shops books

 

How about the fact that they have tasters for every spice in the store? Oh, yeah!

 

Savory spice shops tasters

 

That’s right, you can taste any spice in the store (they have water and cups) and whatever you have left on your hand you can just drop on the floor!  My daughter and I had so much fun to trying and comparing notes on the savory and sweet spices while tossing the remainders on the ground.  And the flavors, wow! Not only is there a huge variety of spices, there are multiple options within a type of spice.

 

Savory spice shops cinnamon

 

Since I like baking more than cooking I spent most of my time in front of the cinnamons.  (Yes, plural!)  Savory Spice Shop carries at least 6 different types of cinnamon from around the world.  My favorite is the Chinese Cassia ground cinnamon.  It’s flavor is deep and satisfying, significantly more flavorful and aromatic than typical grocery store cinnamon.  I wanted it just because it tasted and smelled so good, but when I made my first batch of cookies with it, WOW!  The cinnamon was so much more complex and interesting without overwhelming the cookies and made them taste incredibly delicious.  I had never tried a really good cinnamon before and had no idea what a difference good, fresh spices make! Not only did that Chinese Cassia cinnamon go in my cookies, I used it in my Swedish meatballs, apple pie, and even sprinkled some on my coffee.  Yum, yum, yum! 

Pricey, you’re thinking.  Nope.  My bottle of fresh cinnamon was the same price I’d pay for regular cinnamon in the grocery store. When I bought my cinnamon, the cashier put the purchase date on the bottle so I could keep track of its freshness.  When I run out (which will be well before it can go bad!) I can take the bottle back to Savory Sweet Shop for a refill and get $1 off my next refill. So I get great cinnamon for even less than the grocery store price.  Um, yes, please! Oh, they have cinnamon sticks too.

 

Savory spice shops cinnamon sticks

 

I was also swayed by the flavored sugars.  Vanilla bean sugar?  Like the seagulls in Finding Nemo- Mine! Mine! Mine!  Yeah, that one went in my coffee, too:0)

 

Savory spice shops sugar

 

The BBQ section was where my daughter headed while I assessed the cinnamon.  There are several rubs, marinades and seasonings for all kids of beef, poultry and fish.  She leaned toward the tropical flavored ones for her dad. Since we eat chicken regularly, she wanted to get him a poultry seasoning.  The Gold Coast Tropical poultry seasoning was a huge hit. With orange peel, black pepper, coriander, ginger, annatto, and allspice, how could we go wrong? Nom nom!

 

Savory spice shops BBQ rubs

 

She also found this gem, a Himalayan Salt Brick, for cooking.  My friend Mary has been talking about these for months, but I didn’t get the appeal.  When my daughter saw it, she knew immediately that she wanted to get it for her dad, rattling off all kinds of ways he could use it. “Salmon would be great cooked on this. Oh! And chicken!  Especially Daddy’s Old Bay chicken!…”  And it went on.  It’s nice when a father and daughter have things in common (especially if I get to enjoy the fruits of their labors…)

 

Savory spice shops salt brick

 

They also offer different pastas as well as many other delicious things.

 

Savory spice shops pasta

 

Did I mention Savory Spicy Shops carries a lot of delicious things?!  Butterscotch sauce?  Oh, my! Needless to say, my daughter found great gifts for her dad and I found great gifts for me ( What? I share…)

They have locations in 12 states, but don’t worry if you don’t live near a Savory Spice Shop: they ship.  You’re welcome :0)

For more on Savory Spice Shop check out their web site at http://www.savoryspiceshop.com.  Warning, with the ideas and recipes they offer on line, be prepared to drool…

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with Savory Spice Shops.  If I did I would sleep on a bed of Chinese Cassia cinnamon!

 

 

 

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The Best Apple Pie Recipe!

Posted on Dec 16, 2013

Apple pie with crumb topping recipe

 

Apple pie should always be homemade and have a crumb topping.  That’s how I have felt ever since I tried this apple pie recipe.  It’s came from a very old Betty Crocker cookbook published decades ago.  You know the kind of recipe, with browned, tattered edges, spills and water marks all over the page.  That’s when you know it’s a good one! Continue Reading

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The Best Pie Crust Recipe

Posted on Dec 12, 2013

Best Pie Crust Recipe

A great pie crust depends on texture and taste. The key to great texture, a flaky, light crust, is using shortening.  The key to great, rich taste is butter.  Most folks use one or the other.   Continue Reading

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Super Easy Sweet Potato Casserole With Pecan Brulee Topping

Posted on Dec 4, 2013

cooked sweet potato casserole

 

I love sweet potatoes- well, more accurately yams *.  Love. Love Love.  So when I had this sweet potato casserole at a fancy-shmancy restaurant in Las Vegas I took notes.  It was the most incredible sweet potato dish I’d ever eaten, miles better than traditional candied yams. Reluctantly, I shared my new found Food Network Recipe worthy nom nom with The Mister and we agreed we had to- HAD TO   Continue Reading

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Top Trick To Make Chocolate Store Caramel Apples

Posted on Dec 2, 2013

all apples ps

 

If you’ve ever been to a chocolate store that sells caramel apples covered in chocolate and toppings, you’ve seen how expensive they can be.  If you’ve ever tried one, you know how delicious they are! They make a wonderful treat Continue Reading

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Yummy Butternut Squash Soup

Posted on Nov 20, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

 

As the days get shorter and cooler do you find yourself thinking about soup? It’s got that warm, cozy appeal that makes us feel satisfied and cuddled.  I love to wrap my cold hands around the warm bowl on a chilly day and smell all the aromas, the steam warming my face.  My favorite is butternut squash soup. Continue Reading

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Growing Useful (and Holiday) Herbs

Posted on Nov 14, 2013

Pots of Herbs

 

In pots, as part of the vegetable garden, or the landscape, growing your own herbs is a great way to add fresh full flavor to your holiday meals (and any meals) and save money doing it.  The trick is to choose which herbs that you will actually use.  An acre of borage (which it seemed like we had at our new fixer-upper) won’t do you much good.  However, if you know what they’re good for, growing the right herbs can bring delicious fresh flavor to your home cooked meals. Continue Reading

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