pinch of this and a dash of…


These hot summer days are starting to get to me.  It might have something to do with the fact that I’m now 4 days overdue to have a baby.  Baby pending or no, it seems that we can all use something refreshing to drink these days.  In the name of good hydration, this tea is caffeine free, crisp, and has wonderful flavor and is perfect for a night sitting out on the porch.

4 Chamomile tea bags
2 Cinnamon sticks
4 Whole star anise
2 Tablespoons honey
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lemon
5 Sprigs fresh mint

Bring 4 cups of cold water to a boil and pour into a 32 oz heatproof container.  Add the tea bags, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and honey.  Let the ingredients steep for 3 minutes.  Add the orange and lemon juices and stir to blend.  The tea can be served immediately or chilled.

(recipe from Isabel’s Cantina)

Now granted, I haven’t had my baby yet and all my dreams of making my own baby food may quickly get flushed down the drain, but don’t burst my bubble just yet.  In hopes being able to do things a little cheaper and a little healthier, I registered for this book for my baby shower.  After flipping through it, I’m already loving the organization, simple recipes, and little tips.  Each recipe is sectioned out by age group and then has a key in the upper right corner to let you know if it’s freezable, how long it takes to make, and how much it yields.  As the child gets older and their little pallet opens up, the recipes begin to include dishes that I wouldn’t mind making for the whole family.   I’ll keep you updated with how this little experiment goes.

Here we go again.  It’s birthday number 2 for my niece and I’ve been commissioned to make the cake again.  The only problem is that I always want to take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with new things when the pressure for results is on.  Last year it was fondant, and this year it’s melting chocolate and molds.  Since her birthday is Tinkerbell themed, I wanted to do something visually appealing, but fun for the kids too.  So, the two things I needed to make with the melting chocolate were candy letters (for spelling “Rachael-bell”) and fairy wings.  Although letter candy molds are easy enough to find, there really aren’t any fairy wing molds out there for common use.  So here’s what I did:

  1. I drew out a few variations of fairy wing outlines on paper that were the size I was looking for.
  2. I placed a sheet of wax paper over the top of the wing outlines, allowing me to work on a removable surface while still being able to see through to the original outlines.
  3. Melted the chocolate per the instructions on the back of the package (mine were Wilton brand).
  4. Placed the melted chocolate in a disposable pastry bag.
  5. Traced the outline in blue, and then came back and filled in the bulk with white.
  6. Allowed the wings to cool completely, then placed them for about 10 min in the fridge.
  7. I then pulled them off of the wax paper, carefully, and placed them on a cookie sheet to keep them steady and hopefully in-tact.

I have to say that although they aren’t 100% perfect, that melting candy/chocolate is much easier to work with than fondant.  As far as how it holds up, I’ll have to let you know.  Posts of the cupcakes to come soon.

So this year I didn’t make enough Jam to give hordes away like I did last year.  However, I did can a few things that would make great gifts:

Didn’t can anything this year?  That’s OK–let someone else do it.  Run down to the store, pick out a jar of jam that has a pretty container (Trader Joe’s has a few), and bake up a loaf of bread, or some biscuits (pictured above), or some scones and you’re set!  Now you get to keep those cookies for yourself, gain 5 pounds, and feel like the holidays are just what they should be.  Did the sudden talk of Christmas cookies make you salivate?  Stay tuned for posts from this year’s Christmas Cookie Day.

Grab your favorite Ball jar, velum bag, or cute mug, because this gift is sure to warm everyone up.  Make a large batch of my Hot Coco Mix with Martha Stewart’s Peppermint Marshmallows and you have a wonderful seasonal gift to bring to your Christmas party host or that neighbor that always picks up your mail when you’re out of town.  Don’t let the Martha-name-drop scare you either.  These fluffy treats are really pretty easy.

Nonstick cooking spray
3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Confectioners’ sugar, sifted, for coating

  1. Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on high, slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture. Add salt and continue mixing for 12 minutes.
  3. Add peppermint extract and mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula or your hands with cooking spray. Spread gelatin mixture evenly into pan using prepared spatula or your hands. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, on top of marshmallows. Let stand for 2 hours.
  4. Carefully remove marshmallows from pan. Remove all plastic wrap and discard. Cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares using a sprayed a sharp knife. Place confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container up to 3 days.

We’re pregnant!  Which hopefully also explains why the posts are down a bit lately.  Between the “morning” sickness and being exceptionally tired, I haven’t felt up to doing a lot of cooking these days.  Thankfully the energy levels are going back up and I’ve started to figure out some sickness triggers, so I hope to have more posts up soon.  I’m all the more thankful this is the case since this coming weekend is Cookie Day!  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out last year’s post(s) of my family and I going temporarily insane.  [Sigh] I love Cookie Day.  I love this time of year!

triscuits

So look, not all of us have time to make EVERYTHING from scratch.  Still, I want to be able to snack on foods that are wholesome and contain good amounts of the nutrients my body needs.  What’s a girl to do?  Well, I really like Triscuits with a Laughing Cow Cheese (light) smeared on top.  I’m not usually into product placement, but I can get behind something that, for about 150 calories, allows me a satisfying snack that includes (and only includes) the following ingredients:

whole wheat
soybean oil
salt
cheese

I get:
Fiber
Calcium
Protein
Full (yeah!)

I know this is a cooking blog, but sometimes assembling IS cooking.  If you don’t like Triscuits and do like nuts, my other favorite little snack is a trail mix from Trader Joes that’s individually packaged.  It includeds almonds, cashews, and dried cranberries—yum!  I usually carry around one in my purse.  No one wants to be without a good snack (or at least I don’t).  Happy Friday and Happy Snacking.

 

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