Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wish You Were Here?

Blessings and Benedictions

Due to the fact that I live in one time zone and work in another, and live 45 minutes from work, I get to spend a lot of time on the road. When my kids were younger I convinced myself that this wasn't a bad thing, as it provided me with some treasured alone time. Back in the day I didn't even have cell service for 30 of those minutes.

Now, all these years later I am still commuting to work, but I have more alone time than I need. I have had to look for another silver lining to those early mornings driving into the sunrise and late afternoons driving off into the sunset. I thought I would share with you some of the scenes God provides me with. I have a front row seat for the show. When those first rays of sun hit the windshield in the morning I can't help but feel God is sending a gift to compensate for the odd hours I keep... 

may the Lord bless you and keep you;

may He make His face to shine unto you and be gracious unto you;

may He make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you;

may He lift His countenance on you and give you peace..  Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

See the things you might miss....... Beauty and blessings are everywhere, you just need to remember to look.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Filling

This is a recipe from Martha Stewart

Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Filling

To create the meringues, use a new small paintbrush to brush two or three evenly spaced stripes of gel-paste food coloring onto the length of the inside of a pastry bag fitted with an open-star tip. Fill the bag with meringue, and pipe star shapes onto your parchment-lined baking sheet. Each time you refill the bag with meringue, paint new stripes inside.


Makes about 5 dozen

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Red gel paste food coloring
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; secure corners with a dab of meringue underneath. Fit pastry bag with a small open-star tip. Set aside. 

2. Make meringues; Put egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir gently until the sugar has disolved and mixture is warm to the touch, 2-3 minutes.

3. Transfer bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Mix in peppermint extract. (Don't forget this ingredient, ask me how I know.)

4. Using a new small paintbrush, paint 2 or 3 stripes of red food coloring inside the pastry bag. Fill bag with 1-2 cups of meringue. Pipe small (3/4 inch high) star shapes onto prepared baking sheets. Refill bag as necessary, adding food coloring each time (not as easy as they make it sound.)

5. Bake cookies until crisp, but not brown, about 1 hour 40 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks. (Try not to eat them all.)

6. Meanwhile, make ganache: Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just simmering. Pour over chocolate in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Let ganache cool at room temperature, stirring every 5-10 minutes until thick enough to hold it's shape, about 45 minutes. (If ganache sets before using, reheat in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; repeat cooling process.) (My ganache never did thicken at room temperature, I had to stick it in the fridge for several hours.)

7. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip with ganache. Pipe a small amount onto the bottom of 1 meringue. Sandwich with another. Repeat with remaining ganache and meringues. transfer to wire racks; let set 30 minutes. Cookies can be stored in air-tight containers at room temperature for up to 2 days. 

One more thing, when I went to pipe the ganache onto the meringue, it was still fairly thin and the cookies slid around a bit, make sure you dry them upside down on your wire rack so they balance as they set. I was pleasantly surprised that the ganache solidified quite nicely. Oh, yeah, and just one more thing.... I wound up making a triple batch of these for my cookie exchange and tripled the ganache as well...... I have waaaaaay too much ganache now. One batch of ganache would probably have been enough. Anyone have any suggestions what to do with all this leftover chocolate????

Cookie Exchange

I thought it might be fun this year to have a cookie exchange at work. Several of the girls I work with bring Christmas goodies to share every year anyway, and I thought an official event might get the rest of us slackers in gear. Besides, several of us had been trying to get a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, so this would provide the perfect excuse for some sugar excess....

The first cookie exchange I ever took part in 16 years ago consisted of about 7 ladies. Now for any of you who aren't familiar with how a cookie exchange works, the idea is that you bring a dozen of one type of cookie for each participant, as well as a dozen to eat there. This meant I needed to bring 8 dozen cookies. Now, I used to love to bake sugar cookies, (please note the use of past tense.) I have an impressive collection of cookie cutters, and one of the best sugar cookie recipes around, plus 3 kids old enough to help decorate, but also a baby, which was a point in the "this is crazy" column.

Now I have always felt that part of the key to a yummy sugar cookie, is not rolling your dough too thin, therefore preventing that over-cooked, hard as a rock, this is only a vehicle for frosting, kind of sugar cookie. So I dutifully started making dough. Did I mention my cookie cutters are also those cute chubby, 3-4 inch variety? Can you see where this is leading? One batch of dough, rolled not-to-thick, and cut with those ever so cute chubby cookie cutters, wasn't even making a dozen cookies. Of course my happy little "helpers" promptly lost interest after the first batch of dough. Baby Bear was starting to get fussy, he has always loved his Mommy best and didn't want to play with the Big Kids. By the second batch of dough I am balancing this 35 lb 1 year old on one hip. Thus continued one of the longest cookie baking fiascoes ever. Finally the dozens of cookies were baked, finally the Baby Bear went to sleep, but then I was faced with the monumental task of decorating all those cookies. Eventually I did, I have to say, in the end, I didn't really feel like all that trouble was worth it.

Which brings us back to 16 years later and I am instigating a cookie exchange again. The first one I have participated in since the last all-nighter. This time I am older and wiser though. I am going to be smart enough not to pick such a labor intensive cookie...... Hmmmmm, let me just say that it is a good thing that we didn't have to work today due to icy roads, or I might be up all night again. Stay tuned, pictures and recipes of this years fiasco to follow. I'll give you a hint, the first part of the recipe has three ingredients and on the first batch I forgot one of three ingredients....... now where did I leave that Gingko Biloba?