Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

I've been craving birthday cake; I always do. My new years resolution is: Eat More Cake!

Last year, you may remember, Gabriel made me a two tiered vanilla and chocolate cake for my birthday accompanied with a pledge that every year he would make a bigger and better cake than the previous year.

This year, Gabriel worked 22 hours straight the night before my birthday, and arrived home at 6:30a waking me up with a piece of bakery red velvet cake topped with shining lit birthday candles. After serenading me with a classic version of the Happy Birthday Song,

Gabriel said,
"I wanted to be the first to wish you a Happy Birthday."

It was bigger and better; it was perfectly sweet!

Gabriel works extremely hard for our family, to say the least. Even after an insanely long day and night and morning, and heading back to work for another few hours on the morning of the 23rd, he took me out for the evening: PF Changs, Dessert, a New Bosch Bowl, and Movie. Our final celebratory destination was slated to be Wingers for a piece of Asphalt Pie... but they were closed!!! On my birthday?

I aggressively hinted the next day that I still wanted a piece, so when he went out to pick up our traditional Christmas Eve Chinese take-out... they were closed again! Seriously?!
Asphalt Zebra Cake

Though I'm still craving a piece of Asphalt Pie, finally, I just had to make my own solution. I easily could have recreated the original Asphalt Pie, but after catching up and reading through all the Christmas blogs and seeing all the amazing cookie platters and dinner spreads, I felt an insatiable longing to get my hands dirty - especially after not having been able to for what seems like the entire Christmas season!

Six layers of cake: two dense mint, four moist dark chocolate; plus six layers of frosting: four fluffy mint, two creamy chocolate; then coated with a thick chocolate buttercream and topped with a gorgeous mint buttercream, and finally slathered with double stuffed Oreo cookie crumbs.

Chocolate Cake:
1 cup butter
½ cup canola oil
2 cups sugar
Cream together

1 tablespoon mexican vanilla
4 egg yolks
1 cup evaporated milk
Mix until fluffy

1 ½ cups water
4 oz. unsweetened
4 oz. dark baking chocolate
Pour and mix into batter

Stir in
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Whip 4 egg whites and fold into batter

Pour into 2 prepared pans
Bake at F350°, 25-35 minutes until cake springs back to the touch
Invert, cool on wire rack

Mint Yellow Cake:
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
Cream together

1 teaspoon mexican vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 cup evaporated milk
4 teaspoons mint extract
Mix until fluffy

Stir in
1 - 1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Pour into prepared pan
Bake at F350°, 25-35 minutes until cake springs back to the touch
Invert, cool on wire rack

Buttercream Frosting
2 cups butter
2 pounds powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup milk
2 egg whites
Beat together with mixer until smooth, creamy and spreadable
Add water until desired consistency is reached

Divide batter in half
Mix ½ cup cocoa powder and 2-3 tablepoons milk into one half
Mix 2 teaspoons mint extract and one drop of mint gel food coloring into second half

Slice each cake round in half
Spread mint frosting between chocolate layers
Spread chocolate frosting between yellow cake layers
Assemble two chocolate cake rounds and top with mint frosting
Top with two yellow cake rounds and frost with mint
Complete with final two chocolate cake rounds
Frost top of cake with mint frosting
Frost outer rim of cake with chocolate buttercream
Press 1 package of Oreo Cookies, crushed, onto sides and top of cake

Happy Birthday to Me!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Home For the Holidays

William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost
"And I had but one penny in the world.
Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread."

Today is the big reveal of the Daring Bakers Challenge for December...

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

...It also just so happens to be
my birthday!

I've always admired gingerbread houses, and though every year I make gingerbread cookies, this was the first year I tackled the architecture of making my own gingerbread home.

Being that this was my first gingerbread adventure, I didn't stray too far from the traditional path of gumdrop city,.. however I am very eager to start a new December tradition and in doing so explore the outer regions of edible countryside.

I have to admit - I cheated; I used my own gingerbread recipe, but it is the best. It doesn't shrink or swell, and hardens perfectly if overcooked just slightly.
Nails and Plaster: Royal Icing
Roof and Shingles: Striped Shortbread Cookies
Gutters: Mini Gummy Bears
Down Spout: Lemonheads
Front Door: Granola Bar
Door Knob: Mini Gummy Bear
Path to Backyard: Hershey's Chocolate Pieces
Window Awnings: White Chocolate Chips
Bushes and Trees: Green Gumdrops
Interior Lights shining through the windows - Pixie Stix
Outdoor Paint: Sprinkles
Outdoor Lights: Sour Fruit Stripes
Ice: Corn Syrup
Snow: Sugar and Coconut

My birthday wish would be to live in this adorable edible house; if only...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Playing House

'Tis the season for company... late breakfast, brunch, and oranges; all great reasons to make these delicious Orange Blueberry Breakfast Muffins.

I'm not the first to say it, but muffins are just cupcakes without frosting - this is why they always have a welcome home on my blog.

When I have company, I tend to have a penchant for playing house. I may, or may not go totally overboard when it comes to extravagant meals, including and especially desserts (yes plural), driving all over town playing concierge and chauffer, and laughing hysterically at every single joke or gesture so that my guests feel utterly and completely invited and at home.

Speaking of... it's time we had some guests - anyone?

Unfortunately however, December isn't always the season for an abundance of extra time which, of course, makes impressing those welcome house guests slightly more difficult. When you feel overwhelmed, but you still want to make a grand showing - forget the Warm Buns, and whip up a batch of hot and fluffy, fresh from the oven, buttery:

Orange Blueberry Muffins

Everyone says,
"I would come visit you
if you made these!"

Yields 12, better make a double batch!
This recipe is adapted from "Southern Living Annual Recipes from 1983", March p 54.
1 egg
½ cup half and half
Zest from one orange
Juice from half of one orange
¼ cup vegetable oil
Whisk together

¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Stir just until dry ingredients are absorbed
Stir in 1 cup blueberries

Spoon into muffin tins, greased or lined with cups, ¾ full
Bake at 400°F, 15-20 minutes

Now, make your way over to Pammy's blog immediately! Today is the last day to enter the Holly Jolly Sisters Christmas Giveaway - you could win 3 great prizes from Malinda's Designs, Unfortunate Alice and Tom Designs!

One year ago: Guiding Light, Lime Tart

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shouting With Glee

You know Santa's Reindeers:

Dasher and Dancer
Prancer and Vixen

Coment and Cupid
Donner and Blizten

And when they all get together,
it's time for Santa to board his sleigh
and allow
Rudolph to guide him across the world!

The last 10 days before Christmas are always the most highly anticipated! As traffic slows and more cars and people are out and about, when lines get longer to see Santa at the mall, and the weather cools... it is easy to see visible signs that a Merry Christmas is fast approaching.

Besides, it's so much easier to count down in single digits than in double digits!

Gingerbread Reindeer Countdown to Christmas

You'll find yourself singing this favorite classic all the way to Christmas morning, checking off each Reindeer as you fastly approach the big day! When only Ruldoph is left, Santa is on his way! (...and when Blizten is getting his reins and saddle affixed - it's my Birthday!)
Gingerbread Dough
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 sticks of butter
2 eggs
Mix together until smooth

4 teaspoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
6 cups flour
Stir until dough is tacky

Refrigerate for 1 hour
Roll out to ½ inch, use Ann Clark Ltd. Reindeer (Moose) Cookie Cutters to cut out shapes
Transfer to baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes (5-7 minutes if enjoying as a treat!)
Allow to cool

I was invited to review Ann Clark Ltd. cookie cutters for the holiday season, and I just adore them! They have definitive and fun designs - Butterflies to Reindeer, with multiple styles and types to choose from - copper to traditional.
Use the tip of a small knife to cut eyelets between antlers
Rotate with gentle pressure until hole is completely through the cookie
This dough will make enough ornaments for Reindeer and Friends, plus plenty more to enjoy... or keep that dough in the fridge and stay tuned for another fun gingerbread activity!

Powdered sugar and water
Mix sugar with enough water until sugar reluctantly falls off spoon; decorate
Reserve a little frosting to dye red; pipe names on Reindeer
Allow frosting to set 1 - 2 hours
Hang as ornaments on tree, or string ribbon through eyelets to hang as a garland

When my cookie cutters arrived they were packaged each with a festive twine ribbon attached to a name card and a recipe (they even have a delectable, social networking cookie blog!) They were not only professional, but so alluring that I couldn't wait to flour up my countertops and get to baking. I've enjoyed these kitchen utensils on more than one occasion since their arrival, and I already have plans to use them on many more occasions.

Ann, of Ann Clark Ltd., began making gifts out of her home in 1989 with a zealous passion but a humble allotment, and yet through hard work Ann Clark Ltd. has become the largest cookie cutter company in the industry. They hand sculpt each cookie cutter in Vermont and offer a wide array of cutters in an affordable price range.

I recommend these cookie cutters to anyone with a kitchen! Right now, recieve 10% off your order through December 2009 - just mention Fahrenheit 350° at check out!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Trimming the Tree

Holly Jolly Sisters brings you, Trimming the Tree!

Is it any surprise that Gabriel and I have a Christmas Tradition that consists of decorating our tree with seasonal fruits and candy? Over the years we have used rice kripsy treats decorated as presents with colored frosting, traditional gingerbread cookies often representing our favorite people, sugar cookie Santas, stockings, and stars, but without fail, the main ornaments always consist of sliced sugared fruits - grapefruit, limes, oranges, and lemons. The aromatic smell of fruit and pine are a delightful combination!

Decorating the tree is a little elves favorite thing to do in December!!

This year we elected to stick to the color theme of orange, red and green by using clementines, lemons, and strung cranberries! The effect is stunning. Decorating our tree in this manner reminds us of the blessings we have of living on this green Earth and utilizing the resources Heavenly Father has given us.

Cranberry Garland
Darning needle

Green thread, twine or yarn

Thread your string, twine or yarn through your darning needle, double the string if thin
Tie a knot at the end of the string
String cranberries until thread is full
Tie a knot at the opposite end
Drape over tree liberally
This garland is so appealing with its multiple shades of red! Utilize it on your tree, banister, wreath, or outside shrubbery!

It is fitting that while we were stringing cranberries, we were simultaneously watching Food Network Extreme Challenge - "Decorating the Christmas Tree"! We got so many ideas - like - dousing your tree in corn syrup and then covering it in coconut! Stay tuned next year!

For more ideas on decorating your tree, scoot over to French Knots and see what Pammy has up her elfish costume sleeve!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Begging For More

Do you know animals can sense events before they happen? Throughout history, animals have been documented as behaving erratically prior to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions leading to a theory that animals can detect major events hours, days and even weeks in advance.

Certainly, Christmas is no exception. Your loyal friend can smell this day coming all year long, and he doesn't want to be left out! He deserves new toys, lavish affection, and extra treats on this special day! The very first name you should cross off your Christmas list is Fido. 

Like Danger, your doggie too won't be able to resist snatching this treat from your generous hands!

Today Holly Jolly Sisters is bringing you Holiday Gift Ideas for those you can't forget!

Fill your doggies stocking to the brim with these gourmet treats and leave them salivating, begging and wishing everyday was Christmas.
Star Biscuits

This recipe was adapted from Doggy Desserts by Cheryl Gianfrancesco (highly recommended!).
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups unbleached wheat flour
½ cup chopped almonds
1 cup of oats
2 teaspoons Aloutte Flavored Spreadable Cheese
1 egg
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup vegetable oil
Mix all ingredients together until incorporated

Drop 1.5 oz. of batter onto cookie sheet
Flatten and shape as desired
Bake at 300°, 50 minutes
Leave to harden in oven for 1 to 2 hours

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. Aloutte Flavored Spreadable Cheese
Mix together with handheld mixer and spread or pipe onto tops of biscuits  
This recipe will make enough treats not only for your companions to enjoy, plus plenty more to drop off for Daisy next door, and to send to Frodo in Maryland and Molly in Alabama; approx 24, 1.5 oz cookies.

For ideas on the other names you don't want to forget, skate over to Pammy's blog to get a few great ideas for all those neighbors you just can't leave out!

Who do you make sure to never forget each year?

One year ago: Compulsory Addictions, Pumpkin Cupcakes

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who is That Birdie in the Window?

Traditionally birds have always been a part of winter and Christmas festivities. From french hens to turtle doves, no one can deny the sweet charm of a tiny bird and its melodic songs chirping outside your window.

Despite the chilly frost covering my window this morning, my eye caught this lovely little birdie enjoying the morning! Elves and birds have long been wonderful friends; don't we look cute together?! Do you think he is admiring my pointy ears?! I called Pammy over immediately to see him, and she suggested we make him a lovely treat - be sure to flitter over to French Knots to see what we made... an excellent treat to give to your feathery flying fowls!

Holly Jolly Sisters are featuring Winter Birds today; and all the things we can enjoy right along with them. While the birdies are feasting on peanut butter and bird seed from a giant pinecone platter, we can enjoy a peanut butter, pine nut granola concoction of our own! It's the perfect treat to accompany a day of bird watching - indoors or outdoors!
Sweet Peanut Pine

5 oz. pine nuts
½ peanut butter
½ white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons chocolate sauce
2 tablespoons butter

Melt together over medium heat until smooth
Stir constantly

Add 1 ½ cups oats
Stir until coated
Pour onto wax paper and let cool to room temp

What do you love about your feathery winter friends?

One year ago: Happy Birthday Mom, German Chocolate Cake

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Say Cheese

You won't hear me complaining about the snow! Growing up in Oregon all I ever saw was a whole lot of 45° weather; year round. And I'm sure it snowed the winters I lived here in Utah while I was going to school, but I have only one very specific memory of the snow involving me sliding off the side of the road into a ditch as I was driving, and being too stubborn (and/or embarrassed) to call my new boyfriend Gabriel for help. Eventually, some nice boys stopped to push me back onto the road.

Nowadays Gabriel generally takes the wheel, but when I have to drive, this is what I've learned:

  • 1. Drive slow and... 
  • 2. If you lose control do not turn against the direction you are sliding

Being a little elf this year living in Utah I have found myself enveloped in mountains of white! They are gorgeous! Do you know all the things you can do with snow? You can make fresh tracks and look back and see how big your feet are!, and what the bottoms of your shoes look like! You can make beautiful snow angels! You can skate and slide around wherever you want to go! If you dare risk catching pneumonia, you can go running in the snow and burn extra calories just by having to trek through all the extra powder!

And! of course! you can build a snowman!

Today Holly Jolly Sisters is bringing you snowmen!

With all the visiting and events this season, this indoor snowman will be the perfect centerpiece, hostess gift, or contribution to bring to a dinner invite (expect a lot of ooh's and aah's!), but be sure and don't give away how easy this little man was to create.
Cheesey Snowman

Aloutte Cheese
graciously invited me to review their new Sweet and Spicy Pepper Medley Spreadable Cheese. The spreadable cheese is smooth like cream cheese, but lighter with a excellent silky composition. The pepper medley is made with real Peppadew and roasted red peppers and fresh herbs from South Africa, and comes in a beautiful salmon hue. It pairs well with crackers, brioche, on quesidillas, or with bread as an upgrade to the traditional cucumber sandwich.

This cheese also looks, and tastes, great as snowman. Aloutte has 10 different varieties of Spreadable Cheese, but I opted to pair my Pepper Medley with the Light Cucumber Dill, and the Spinich and Artichoke cheese.
Cheese Balls:
Base: 6.5 ounces of cheese (Pepper Medley)
Middle: 4 ounces of cheese (Spinich and Artichoke)
Head: 2.5 ounces of cheese (Light Cucumber Dill)

Measure out cheese on wax paper
Form into a ball
*For added crunch, knead in sliced almonds
Coat with finely shredded white cheese (Sharp Italian)
Chill in fridge
Repeat for each snowball round

While cheese is chilling: 
Cut a baby carrot for nose
Trim off ends of olives for buttons, and eyes
Shape a wedge of cheese for top hat (Colby Jack)
Two pretzel sticks for arms

Assemble cheese balls atop one another
Affix the hat, eyes, nose, buttons, and arms
Enjoy with your favorite crackers!
I was also able to sample some of the other excellent crumbly cheese Aloutte produces: Blue Cheese, Goat Cheese, Gorgonzola and Feta. They are an excellent accompaniment to homemade pizza, fresh green salad, or breakfast crepes lending an immediate fresh taste to any spread.

Now sled your way over to Pammy's Blog to check out her crafty snowmen made from POM Juice bottles!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Santa's Secret

I have it on good authority that Santa is getting a little tired of cookies and milk! After a few millennia of the same treat, wouldn't you? 

Mrs. Claus confided in me while I was visiting her during my break from the toy shoppe, that Santa is so desperate for a different treat, he has been trying for some time now to devise a way to deliver his secret wish to all the little munchkins of the world!

He's tried inserting it into conversation during picture time at all the mall, but the kids were so eager to spout off their wishlist, he found it impossible! Two years ago, he spelled out H.E.L.P. with candy canes as he laid out the presents in every single house, but no one noticed. He even went so far as to disguise himself in early December, and patronize nearly one million grocery stores in major metropolitan cities across the globe in an attempt to buy up all the chocolate chips!

He even considered, only for a split second, putting all the children who gave him cookies.... on the bad list!!! Gasp! I know! 

I have a solution!

Peppermint Candy Bars

Stay on Santa's good list this year by whipping up this refreshing treat, brought to you by Holly Jolly Sisters!

½ package of crushed Nilla Wafers
3 tablespoons melted butter
Mix together until mixture will keep its shape when pressed together
Press onto bottom of 8" square pan
Chill in freezer

Chocolate Layer:
3 egg yolks
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup butter
Mix together until light and fluffy

1-2 oz. favorite chocolate, melted
½ cup walnuts (or your favorite)
Stir chocolate and nuts into sugar mixture

3 egg whites
Beat whites until firm, fold into mixture until thick and shiny
Spread over crust until even and smooth
Chill in freezer

Peppermint Layer:
1 cup heavy cream + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup mini marshmallows  
1 cup crushed peppermint
Whip cream until soft and fluffy, and stir in peppermint
*Reserve a few teaspoons of peppermint
Heat marshmallows just until they begin to expand, stir into cream
Spread over chocolate layer until even and smooth
Sprinkle remaining peppermint over top
Chill until ready to serve
This recipe yields just enough for Santa and his 9 reindeer. Leave him a note to check for his treat in the freezer: He'll be so delighted, you will be sure to get an extra present or two under the tree!

The Candy Cane is one of the most prominent symbols of the Holiday Season. It not only symbolizes the birth of Our Savior Jesus Christ, His purity and His sacrifice, but reminds us that He watches over us as our Elder Brother.

Head over to Pammy's blog to see her great tutorial for keeping the reminder of Christ, through the symbolic candy cane as an attractive ornament, all season long!

One year ago: My First, Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

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