Saturday, December 12, 2009

Visions of Sugar Plums!

Ahhh, the visions of sugar plums danced through their heads. I totally get this. I sometimes find myself daydreaming about that very thing. During the holidays, I feel so justified when I bump up my baking a degree or two to a psychotic frenzy! Maybe it's because it's the one time of year when people allow themselves to indulge. Or maybe it's the thought of giving all those gifts of "food". Whatever the reason, I find myself entranced in the "spirit" of all things sweet and delicious. I have some stand-bys that are my "expected traditions" - baklava, truffles, salted caramels, and candied citrus peel. This year, I will have another one to add to that list.

Last year, I played around with making marshmallows. Before you get that wrinkled furrow on your forehead and that feeling of "Martha failure", just hear me out. This really is easy if you have two things. You need to have a good candy thermometer - without it, candy making is totally hit or miss. You will also need patience, this being of the utmost importance. If you're covered in these two areas then you're ready to begin. I cannot stress enough that when it comes to candy making, you need to read over the recipe several times before you start. Sometimes, it's not the ingredient that you discover you don't have on hand, but rather the utensil for the job.

I got this recipe from and I plan on making several different flavors of these marshmallows this year for gift giving. Some of the flavors are Meyer Lemon (I have a tree in my backyard), Vanilla (the traditional flavor) and of course, these lovely peppermint swirls shown in the link. Give a bag of these with some homemade cocoa mix and I swear, you will be the hostess with the mostess! And when your recipients are sipping a steaming cup of cocoa with those marshmallows slowly melting and frothing up, I bet they, too, will be having visions of sugar plums! I'm jus' sayin'...

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Makes sixteen 2-inch squares

* Vegetable-oil cooking spray
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
* 4 packages (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
* 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
* 2 large egg whites
* 2 teaspoons red food coloring


1. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

2. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.

3. Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

4. Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbled effect. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight. Cut into squares.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bacon Hangover!

Lately, every time I turn around, I find bacon being used in all sorts of ways other than being served up crispy with eggs. I've also found a new cult-like following for this love of pork fat. With this in mind, I wanted to try my hand at some new bacon recipes so I searched several food blogs and found a few recipes that I feel will pay homage to this sweet, yet savory, salty strip of delicious heaven. This also gave me an excuse to go on a local field trip with my family in tow.

First off, from, I have bacon caramels. My husband was a bit skeptical of this at first because, though his love for both is strong and true, he didn't think this combination would hold it's own. I quickly reminded him of how much he loves it when I make sticky brown sugar bacon and he paused... then with a smile said "Your right. That could be good!" However, once I started the adventure, it quickly came to a halt when my thermometer proved to be less then accurate. I should have gone with my gut and my candy making experience and done the old fashioned drop in ice water test. Instead, I decided to risk the accuracy and go with what it said. I can now say that one should always go with their gut feelings. I ended up with bacon caramel sauce, which luckily can be salvaged as a topping on an ice cream sundae. Rest assured, before I make another batch, I will be purchasing a new candy thermometer. Sometimes these things happen and you just have to roll with the punches. Still, please go to the above site to see how they are supposed to turn out.

Next on my list was Bacon Jam from The picture looked to die for and all kinds of thoughts ran through my head of how I would use this lovely condiment. I took the two-plus hours to make this and yes, my friends, this was tasty! It has a nice "German" feel to it. I served it on crackers with cram cheese as a light appetizer, but I think having it on toast with a poached egg would be divine. I will be sending some of this to a mutual bacon-loving friend and awaiting to hear his opinions.

Lastly, a trip to Frank's, a local eatery that serves bacon in a large portion of it's menu, proved that the traditional Bloody Mary can be a top shelf cocktail when made with bacon infused vodka and a strip of peppered bacon as the condiment. Though it was a bit spicy for my taste buds (I was hoping for more smokey bacon flavor), it certainly is a beauty to admire. After finishing my lunch of a Chicago Dog and waffle-cut fries with bleu-cheese buffalo dipping sauce, I finished with a bacon chocolate chip cookie to end the meal. Again, great cookie, but no true bacon flavor shining through.

At this point, you are probably wondering if my husband is skilled in CPR - no worries! I didn't eat enough to render a pork-induced heart-attack, however, the bacon-infused hangover will stay with me a few days. Even with that, I'm still forever on that quest to find real bacon flavor, especially when incorporated into dishes unexpectedly. So whether you prefer sweet or savory, the fact of the matter is that bacon is more than a crispy side to eggs. Google "bacon" and you might just find that it gives you a whole new meaning to "the other white meat". Now to go find a remedy for my hangover - maybe some "Hair of the Dog", or more appropriately, some "Hair of the Pork"! I'm jus' sayin'!