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Archive for Christmas

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Marshmallow Designs

Valentine Marshmallows

Marshmallow Snowflakes

Heart Cookie Cutter

Blackberry Marshmallows

[1] Cut heart shapes for Valentine’s Day (photo courtesy Kavemania | Facebook). [2] Use cookie cutters to create special designs (photo courtesy Martha Stewart and [3] SXC). [4] These artisan marshmallows are delicious, but too tall and pillowy to cut into shapes (photo The Nibble).

 

If you have an eye out for delicious confections, you may see all flavors of artisan marshmallows—usually super-sized. If you want to cut them into more manageable pieces, don’t use a knife: It sticks.

HOW TO CUT MARSHMALLOWS

Instead, use sharp kitchen scissors. Dip them in warm water, or use a paper towel to apply a very thin coat of neutral cooking oil, like canola or grapes.

You can try both methods to see which you prefer.

Then, snip away and use the smaller pieces.

Slices can be placed into petal designs. If your palate and doesn’t like supermarket marshmallows (or prefer vegan marshmallows, sugar-free marshmallows, etc.), this is also the way to get mini marshmallows.
 
WAYS TO USE MARSHMALLOWS

Beyond garnishing hot chocolate, you can:

  • Add to pancake batter (how about Rocky Road pancakes?).
  • Add to peanut butter or PB-and-banana sandwiches.
  • Add to whole grain cereals for a better version of Lucky Charms.
  • Create a pie topper: Bake the pie at 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the marshmallows are toasted.
  • Dip in chocolate fondue.
  • Garnish ice cream.
  • Garnish sweet cocktails.
  • Garnish sweet potatoes.
  • Make ambrosia salad.
  • Make fruit and marshmallow skewers or marshmallows-on-a-stick.
  • Make rocky road brownies or cookies.
  • Make S’mores.
  • Toss coffee-flavored marshmallows into hot coffee.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN MARSHMALLOW DESIGNS

    It’s easy to make flatter marshmallows in the shapes you like, as special garnishes. Use the marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

    We adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart. The process is the same if you want regular size marshmallows. Just use fill a baking pan to the height you want, and cut the marshmallows into the size and shape you like.

    Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 envelopes (each 1 scant tablespoon) unflavored gelatin
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional: food color
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray
  •  
    Plus

  • 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Offset spatula
  • Snowflake cookie cutter (or shape of choice)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SPRAY the baking sheet with cooking spray; line with parchment paper and spray the parchment. Set aside.

    2. ADD the water to the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle with gelatin and let the mixture soften (about 5 minutes).

    3. PLACE the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and the second 1/3 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove lid; then cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the syrup reaches 238°F (soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.

     
    4. TURN the mixer to low speed, whisk the gelatin mixture and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl (this avoids splattering). Gradually raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick, white, and has almost tripled in volume (about 12 minutes). Add the vanilla, and beat 30 seconds more to combine. If you want to color your marshmallows, add a drop or two of food color at this time.

    5. POUR the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth with an offset spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

    6. CUT: Coat a 1- or 2-inch snowflake-shaped cookie cutter with cooking spray to prevent it from sticking. Cut out individual marshmallows as possible, re-spraying the cookie cutter as needed. Use the marshmallows immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week. If they become hard, pop them in the microwave for 2-3 seconds (not longer or they’ll begin to melt).
     
    USING MARSHMALLOWS FOR KITCHEN TASKS

    A marshmallow can stop ice cream cones from dripping, soften brown sugar, steady tapers in candle holders, and more.

    Plus, tips to keep them soft, unstick th em and freeze them, and Check ‘em out.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MARSHMALLOWS

    The ancient Egyptians were the first to use sap from the root of the marsh mallow, a swamp plant, to make candy. (It was also used medicinally.)

    Here’s the history of marshmallows.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Champagne Gelatin (Not Jell-O) Shots

    Champagne Jell-O Shots

    Champagne Jell-O Shots Recipe

    Champagne Gelatin Shots

    [1] Erica’s Sweet Tooth found fancy picks to decorate her champagne gelatin shots. We could only find these at Ali Express, but we did find others with jewel-like accents and these with faux pearls. Plus, instructions to make your own. [2] Coucou Jolie used a star-shape ice cube mold to make stars. You can stir edible gold glitter stars into the mix before setting, or put them in the mold first, so they’ll create a garnish on top. [3] Got Pop Rocks? They do at Shimmy Shimmy Cake, a custom cakery in Austin, Texas.

     

    For conventional champagne to celebrate a special occasion, check out our recommendations.

    For less expensive but perfectly lovely non-champagne sparkling wines, we like these alternatives—great values, starting at just $10!

    But for a side of champagne gelatin shots, check out the recipes below.

    Point of accuracy: When a recipe is made with unflavored gelatin, not flavored Jell-O, it’s a gelatin shot. Jell-O is a brand that makes only flavored gelatin.

    You can make a red version of the gelatin shots with Lambrusco or other red sparkling wine, and present a platter of both red and white options.

    And you cab make a mocktail version by substituting sparkling cider.
     
    RECIPE #1: CHAMPAGNE JELL-O SHOTS

    Erica of EricasSweetTooth.com adapted the first recipe from Bakers Royale.

    Also check out her Funfetti Cheesecake Ball: It was designed to resemble the Times Square Ball.

    Ingredients For 15 Shots

  • 10 ounces plus 5 ounces Champagne (or better yet, Cava, Prosecco or other reasonably-priced sparkling white wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 envelopes Knox plain gelatin
  • Optional garnish: white or other color sparkling sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the sugar and 10 ounces of the champagne in a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let it soften for 2 minutes.

    2. PLACE the saucepan over low heat and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining 5 ounces of champagne, stirring to combine.

    3. POUR the mixture into a brownie pan or other square/rectangular container and chill for at least an hour.

    4. CUT: First dip the pan into warm water and use a knife along the sides to gently release the Jell-O. Use a sharp knife to cut squares. Before serving, dip the tops in the sparkling sugar and serve with a festive toothpick.
     
    RECIPE #2: CHAMPAGNE GELATIN SHOTS WITH POP ROCKS

    Shimmy Shimmy Cake offers this variation, topped with Pop Rocks for some holiday “fireworks.”

    Regarding the Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, she says: “This is the absolute best vodka to use when making Jello Shots—just trust me on this one!”

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creme soda
  • 1/2 cup sparkling wine
  • 2 envelops of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup Pinnacle Whipped Vodka
  • Preparation

    1. COMBINE the soda and sparkling wine in a small sauce pan and stir. Sprinkle the gelatin over the mixture and let it sit for 1 minute.

    2. COOK the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin disolves (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir inthe vodka.

    3. POUR into a square baking dish (a cake pan is fine). Refrigerate until firmly set set (you can speed up the process by putting the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes). When ready to serve…

    4. CUT and plate, then top with Pop Rocks. Do not plate until ready to because as the Pop Rocks start to melt the gelatin. Also do not refreeze after plating; they will stick to the plate.

     
      

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    HAPPY CHANUKAH ~ MERRY CHRISTMAS

    Bagel Tree Ornament

       
     
     
     
    Only 4 times in the last 100 years
    has Chanukah fallen on Christmas Eve.

    Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
    Now, Prancer and Vixen!
    On, Comet! On, Cupid!
    On, Donner and Blitzen!

    Say hello to Chanukah Harry!

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Types Of Christmas Muffins

    We first read Little Women in our tween years. Far into adulthood, we re-read it every few years and watch the showing on TV:

  • The 1933 original with Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas, Jean Parker, Frances Dee et al.
  • The 1994 remake with Winona Ryder, Kristen Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, Trini Alvarado, Claire Danes, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz, Susan Sarandon et al.
  •  
    The biographical novel takes place during the Civil War—although far away from it, in Concord, Massachusetts. As the novel opens, four teenage sisters, their mother and the family retainer are living in reduced circumstances, while the father is away ministering to the troops.

    The family is struggling to make ends meet, and the sisters are about to sit down to a special Christmas breakfast, when their mother asks if they will give up their meal to a suffering immigrant family whose father [presumably] has passed away. They are living in a shack with no food or firewood, and a broken window to boot.

    In the true spirit of Christmas charity, the girls pack up their breakfast and carry it to the desperate family.

    The passage reminds us that, no matter how poor the Marches may seem, true poverty and suffering is vastly different.
     
    OUR CHRISMAS MUFFIN INSPIRATION

    We were inspired by the Christmas story and began to donate a week’s allowance to the Salvation Army. We also induced our mom to create the March Christmas breakfast for us.

    The novel is scant on details, but mentions cream, muffins, buckwheat [probably porridge] and bread.* Mom made buckwheat blini with sour cream and salmon caviar, omelets and muffins with raisins and pecans. We had cream instead of the usual milk in our tea. It became an annual event until we grew up and moved away.

    Fortunately, NIBBLE readers can afford a fine Christmas breakfast. If you’re not a big breakfast eater, you can still enjoy fresh-baked muffins, and cream in your tea or coffee.

    Here are 12 recipes to consider—one for each of the 12 days of Christmas—beginning with gingerbread muffins from I Heart Eating.

     
    RECIPE #1: GINGERBREAD MUFFINS

    Ingredients For 12 Muffins

  • 2½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk low-fat ok
  • 1/3 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Optional garnish: 2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
  • Optional: fresh sweet butter† for serving
  •  
    ________________
    *A Victorian breakfast would have included eggs baked in cream, sausages, potatoes, biscuits, fruit and a Christmas pudding.

    †For special occasions, we spring for Kerrygold, Plugrá or our favorite European-style cultured butter from Vermont Creamery.

     

    Cranberry Muffins

    Gingerbread Muffins

    Ginger Fig Muffins

    Strawberry Marzipan Muffins

    [1] Cranberry streusel muffins from Eats Well With Others. [2] Gingerbread muffins from I Heart Eating. [3] Ginger-fig muffins made with fig jam, from Dave Bakes. [4] Strawberry marzipan muffins from Sandra Lee.

     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or grease with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl, combine. Set aside.

    3. WHISK together the coconut oil and brown sugar in a separate large bowl. Whisk in the molasses, then whisk in the egg. Add the milk and yogurt and whisk until well-combined. Finally, add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

    3. SCOOP the batter into muffin cups (the cups will be full). Sprinkle the tops with sparkling sugar (a.k.a. decorating sugar, coarse sugar). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
     
    11 MORE CHRISTMAS MUFFIN IDEAS

  • RECIPE #1: Apple Cider Muffins With Cinnamon Chips
  • RECIPE #2: Apple-Pecan Streusel Muffins
  • RECIPE #3: Cranberry Bliss Muffins With Cream Cheese Frosting
  • RECIPE #4: Cranberry Eggnog Muffins
  • RECIPE #5: Fruitcake Muffins (add an optional tablespoon of orange liqueur)
  • RECIPE #6: Ginger Fig Muffins
  • RECIPE #7: Meyer Lemon, Cranberry & Poppyseed Muffins
  • RECIPE #8: Nigella Lawson’s Christmas Morning Muffins
  • RECIPE #9: Cinnamon Streusel Muffins
  • RECIPE #10: Orange-Cranberry-Marzipan Muffins
  • RECIPE #11: Strawberry Marzipan Muffins
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Quick Chocolate Dipping Sauce With Biscotti Or Ladyfingers

    If friends and neighbors are dropping by for some holiday cheer, here’s a very quick recipe for a delicious snack. It works well as a quick dessert, too.

    Keep biscotti around—they have a long shelf life—or ladyfingers, which freeze well and can be revived in a minute in the microwave. Then, in less than five minutes, make this chocolate dipping sauce.

    The combination goes with brandy, coffee, cola, fruity red wine, liqueurs, tea, and of course, a glass of milk.

    Cubed pound cake, amaretto cookies and/or sliced fruit are also delicious with the chocolate sauce. Chocoholics may prefer brownie cubes or fingers.

    The recipe makes enough for eight two-cookie servings. We turned to one of our favorite holiday snacks, Nonni’s Biscotti.

    As a bonus, Nonni’s isn’t rock-hard like conventional biscotti made for dipping in coffee or a dessert wine like vin santo. You don’t have to dip it…although don’t hesitate to follow the tradition.

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE FOR

    This festive but easy recipe, which we adapted from Nescafé, is presented as individual servings.

    But if you have a fondue pot, chafing dish, brazier, or other way to keep the chocolate sauce warm, you can set it on a table with a platter of biscotti, ladyfingers and other cookies.

    Apple wedges and orange segments also works.

    Ingredients

  • 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coffee or orange liqueur (e.g. Kahlúa, Grand Marnier
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 16 to 24 biscotti or ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Optional: cayenne for a bit of heat
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT. Place chocolate and cream in a medium, microwave-safe dish. Microwave on HIGH (100%) power for 60 seconds. Stir with whisk until smooth.

    2. COMBINE. Whisk in liqueur and coffee granules until coffee is dissolved.

    3. ASSEMBLE. Divide the chocolate sauce among 8 small dessert dishes or whatever you have: brandy snifters, ramekins, rocks glasses, small wine glasses, tea cups, etc). Place 2 to 3 ladyfingers to each glass. Serve immediately.

    Alternative: Use a plate under the dish and put the biscotti on the plate.

    Tip: Serve with espresso spoons so everyone can scoop up the remaining chocolate sauce.
     
    Find more of our favorite desserts.
     
    ABOUT NONNI’S BISCOTTI

    Nonni’s Biscotti is the number one-selling biscotti brand in the U.S.

    Whether for a coffee break, snack or part of dessert, we’ve been enjoying Nonni’s since they came onto the market in 2012. There are flavors for everyone, plus special holiday editions.

     

    Dipping Biscotti

    Nonnis Biscotti

    Hot Chocolate With Biscotti

    [1] Warm chocolate dipping sauce with biscotti or ladyfingers: a quick and easy snack or dessert. Photo and recipe courtesy Nescafé. [2] Dip from a tea cup or whatever you have (photo courtesy Feast And Fable Blog. [3] Instead of gingerbread men, serve hot chocolate with Nonni’s holiday biscotti. Don’t want hot chocolate? The biscotti are great with coffee, brandy and liqueurs (photo courtesy Nonni’s). [4] Pick up a few boxes and treat family and friends (photo | THE NIBBLE).

     
    Nonni means “grandmother” in certain Italian dialects (nonna is mainstream Italian). As you might guess, the founder’s nonni came from Italy (almost a century ago), bringing the family recipe with her.

    Nonni never envisioned or Salted Caramel (our personal favorite) or Turtle Pecan biscotti; but thankfully, her grandson did. There are eight flavors, plus seasonal specialties like Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice.

    There are also five flavors (including cranberry) of Nonni’s ThinAddictives, a lower-calorie option.
     

    CHECK OUT THE HISTORY OF BISCOTTI.

      

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