Champagne Gummy Hearts

I have fallen in love with a great candy store named Sugarfina.  I visited one of their boutiques when visiting Chicago recently, and love the branding of this upscale candy. They offer a variety of lovely gummy bears in their stores.

So for my own wedding anniversary,  I decided to try my hand at making champagne gummy hearts, roses and leaves.  They were relatively easy to make.  And, I was quickly able to find a great recipe online. In fact, there are many websites and blogs with recipes out there for various type of champagne or other flavored gummy bears.

Here is how I made my selection of champagne gummy hearts.  First of all, I used my chocolate candy molds and purchased unflavored gelatin.  The other ingredients I happened to have in my pantry.  Many other types of molds are available, but I happened to have hearts, leaves and roses which seemed very appropriate for our anniversary.

Here is what you need:  1 cup champagne, 5 packets of unflavored gelatin which equal about 5 tablespoons, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon strawberry extract, a dot of Wilton pink food coloring, and the candy molds.

In a saucepan, add the champagne and mix in the gelatin.  Allow it to firm up, which will take only a few minutes.  Once the gelatin has set, place on the stove top and gently stir until heated, but not boiling.  Do not cook off the alcohol content by allowing this mixture to boil.

Whisk the contents and then add the sugar and continue to heat on medium-low until all of the sugar is dissolved into the gelatin mixture.  This will take a few minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add in the strawberry extract and the food coloring.

Use your favorite small cup or a food syringe and fill the candy molds.  Place on trays in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to one hour until set.  Remove the hearts from the molds onto waxed paper, and then store in a sealed container until ready to use.

The champagne taste is very evident, and these candies are so festive for an anniversary party.  The candy treats are also fun for holidays, birthdays, afternoon tea or even for a small sweet dessert.  Serve a couple of them in a champagne glass to your adult guests. They will be surprised that you made them for a fraction of the cost of those in the boutiques.

Cheese Board

For a busy holiday party, I find it easier to serve an appetizer or cheese board while everyone is waiting for the dinner hour.  When guests arrive, it is very easy to have many types of cheese, nuts, dried fruit, condiments, crusty and multi-seeded bread ready to go. Guests can serve themselves while they enjoy conversation with others and the family.

I usually set up the table earlier in the day or the day before, depending on the guests’ arrival time.  I have the serving dishes ready to go and mark them with post-it notes so it is an easy task to assemble at the last-minute.

This technique has worked for me over the years and keeps me from not having to hunt for a certain platter or dish just as the party is starting.

This past Easter I served a cheese board with four cheeses, complimented with many choices for both sweet and savory snacking.

Here are some photos which included the following choices:

white cheddar cheese with blue seedless grapes, fig jam, and hard salami

mini mozzarella balls with grape tomatoes and fresh basil

black and green olives with small dill pickles

aged cheddar with blueberry honey and candied tangerine slices

Bremner wafers with candied ginger nuts

Gouda cheese with natural almonds and dried cherries

Dill Havarti cheese with crusty bread and multi-grain seeded bread

Carr’s crackers, raspberries and bar cheddar cheese

Chocolate eggs and jelly belly beans

Baked pears

Throughout the winter months, I enjoy baked fruit.  First of all, I really enjoy a nice breakfast during the coldest of winter weather.  Also, I think warmed fruit is a nice option and great alternative to a cold fruit platter.  I like to serve cold fruit during the warmer months instead.

So, here is another basic recipe for baked fruit. This year, I made this recipe for baked pears on Christmas day for a breakfast side dish.  It was very tasty. The recipe can be increased based on the number of guests expected at your meal.

Gather these ingredients:  2-4 pears-peeled and cored, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 tablespoons margarine, and 1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray.  Place the pear halves and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a small bowl, mix the margarine and brown sugar together.Spread the mixture over the pears.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Just before serving, add blackberries if desired.  Serve warm.

 

 

Mocha Chip Meringues

One of my favorite cookies happens to be a meringue.  We loved the taste of these cookies over the Christmas holiday this year.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe and as every one of her recipes, it worked perfectly. These cookies were crispy, but soft inside the center of the cookie.  The chocolate taste was just perfect and not overpowering.  I opted to use mini chocolate chips in the recipe, instead of the full size chips.  I found the substitute to be perfect and a nice improvement to her recommendations.

How to make the mocha chip meringues–gather these ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3 egg whites at room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with two racks divided within the oven.  Add parchment paper or silpat mats to the cookie sheets.  In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until frothy on medium speed.  Then add sugar mixture slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat about 6-8 minutes until very stiff. I used my stand mixer with the whipping whisk.  Add espresso powder and cocoa next.  Fold in chocolate chips at the end with a spatula.

Drop onto cookie sheets, one tablespoon at a time.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before removing from cookies sheets.  Great recipe and these cookies are light and delicious.

Cherry Pistachio Shortbread cookies

Every Christmas I like to try at least one new cookie recipe, and this year I found a recipe in Yankee Magazine which was especially delicious.  My cookie tray looked quite festive with the red and green colors that this cookie contains. I did chill the dough overnight and baked them the next day.

Here are the ingredients to make the cookies:  2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 egg, separated, 2 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts, chopped red candied cherries, 1/3 cup white sanding sugar.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt.  Beat in the egg yolk and mix.  Add flour and pistachios. Blend until combined. Remove dough from the mixer, and hand mix in the cherries.  Divide the dough into 2 1/2 logs about 12 inches long.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight on a sheet pan.

  

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using parchment paper or silpat mats, cover the baking sheets.  Brush the egg white over the logs after unwrapping and place on waxed paper.  Sprinkle the coarse sugar over the logs and slice the cookies. Place on the baking sheets and bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Cool and serve.  These cookies can be frozen and kept to serve at a later time.

Bagel breakfast casserole

Cold weather is a great time to serve a hot breakfast to family and friends. Everyone just wants to gather around and drink a hot beverage while taking their time on a weekend morning.  Here is a great recipe that is a twist on the standard breakfast egg casserole.  I tried it with plain bagels, but sesame or other flavored bagels would also be worth a try. This dish will easily serve 6-8 people, especially if served with fruit or muffins.

Gather these ingredients:  4 toasted and chopped plain bagels, 6 eggs (I used 3 eggs and 3/4 cup Egg Beaters), 2 cups half-half or milk, 4 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese, 4 slices bacon chopped, and 4 green onions.

Place the bagels in a large 2 1/2 quart baking dish. In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, cheese, bacon, green onion, salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the bagels pressing down to cover all the surfaces.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

    

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover the dish and bake for 50 minutes or until puffed, browned and set.  Allow to cool a bit before serving.  Garnish with parsley flakes or chopped green onion.

 

Snowman dessert

Living in Michigan during the winter months encourages a love for all things cold and snowy.  We enjoyed these cute snowman desserts over the holiday, but they could be enjoyed all winter long.  Children would love these cute little snowman and they are super easy to construct.

The only ingredients are: vanilla ice cream, whipped cream in a can, mini chocolate chips, red Twizzlers, slivered almonds, butterscotch chips, large marshmallows, maraschino cherries with stems, and red decors.

I made the marshmallow heads in advance and kept them in the refrigerator.  I used the mini chocolate chips for the eyes, the slivered almond for the nose, the red decors for the mouth–using a bit of white icing to attach.  I cut the Twizzlers in advance and blotted the cherries to make certain they did not have any extra cherry juice for the finished product.

The butterscotch chips are used for the buttons and the whipped cream is used at the base of the snowman to resemble snow and finish the look on the plate.  Quite simple and cute for the winter months.

Other ideas for the body parts could include: candy canes for the arms, dried cranberries for the eyes, other small candies for buttons.