Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Countdown to Valentine's Day

Can you believe that Valentine's Day is coming up?  I feel like we've only just finished Christmas--in fact, my boxes of Christmas decorations are still in boxes in the hallway because we haven't had a chance to put them away in the loft (attic) yet.  Valentine's Day is just around the corner though, so it's a good time to start booking babysitters, making reservations, making cheesy cards, etc.

To begin the Valentine's season, here are some pictures of some cupcakes we recently made.  We actually made the cupcakes for a bake sale at my daughter's school, and the girls helped to decorate.  Well, Miriam helped to decorate and Anya ate lots of frosting and sprinkles.  They did a few different styles, but here are the heart cupcakes that they were the most excited about.

We just made plain vanilla cupcakes, but added chopped up caramel and chocolate.  (Good in theory, but I wouldn't recommend adding the caramels.  When it melted as it baked, it left holes in the cakes rather than being gooey liked I hoped for.)  The frosting is a mix of about half a pot of Elmlea (low-fat cream) whipped together with about a tablespoon of butter, about half a tablespoon of vanilla extract, about two tablespoons of cocoa powder, and enough powdered sugar to reach the right consistency (probably about a cup).  The girls added heart sprinkles because if you're baking with kids (or my sister), you can never go wrong with sprinkles.  We also sprinkled on edible glitter just because I love the stuff.

So happy early Valentine's Day everybody.  No matter what your plans are, I hope you have a fantastic day.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Baking Biscotti

I have good memories with biscotti.  It's not something that I eat very often, but just tasting a crumb of biscotti is enough to bring back memories of rainy days in cafes or snugly winter days at home with hot chocolate.  When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I was would often go to a cafe after work and have a hot drink and biscotti.

This Christmas we made two types of biscotti: double chocolate almond biscotti and dried cranberry & white chocolate biscotti.  Although both were delicious, I think I actually preferred the cranberry biscotti.  I snacked on way too much of it over the holidays!  Although it does take awhile to make biscotti (you have to double bake it, for one thing), it's actually not hard to get the knack of it. 

Click here for my tips for making perfect biscotti.

If you put the biscotti in an air-tight container, it will keep for a couple of weeks without any problem.  For a simple and stylish Christmas gift, we put biscotti in jars and gave them away.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Mistletoe Wreaths

I love Christmas time and Christmas decorations of all varieties.  Tacky tinsel to tasteful crystal and silver: I love it all.  I also really like bringing greenery indoors at Christmas time with garland, wreaths, etc.

Every year we hang mistletoe for Christmas.  This year instead of just hanging bunches of mistletoe, I made mistletoe wreaths.  They only took a few minutes to make, but I really loved the results.

If you want to make your own mistletoe wreath for Christmas, click here for instructions how.

Snowman...without snow.

Whether or not you have snow, you can enjoy edible snowmen.  That's right: we made snowmen out of rice crispy treats.  It was such a genius but simple idea that I can't believe we'd never thought of it before.  We actually used a kit from Sainsbury's, which was nice because everything was included.  You could just make rice crispy treats and shape them into snowmen and decorate them.  My girls LOVED making, decorating, and eating them.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Making Marshmallows

There are some foods that we normally just assume need to be store bought.  It had never occurred to me, for example, to make marshmallows.  When we were making Christmas goodies, though, my husband had the inspired idea that we should try making them.  You can see the results.

We used a recipe we found online (click here for the recipe--we omitted the raspberries & white chocolate and added a little vanilla extract instead).  It took awhile to make them...for one thing, expect to have to beat them for an eternity.  Other than being a bit time consuming they weren't actually that difficult to make.

The results were perfect.  They looked like marshmallows.  We ended up with big, fluffy, perfectly textured, pure white marshmallows.  They were a big hit and our four-year-old absolutely devoured them.  It was also cold and snowy outside, and the marshmallows went perfectly in a cup of hot chocolate.

We gave away a lot of the home-made marshmallows along with jars of hot chocolate mix for Christmas.