Archive | December, 2011

Swapping Sweets

20 Dec

I love this guest posting I’ve been doing this week with Erin from BigFatBaker. It’s a great way to share recipes that others have investigated and perfect for the holiday season. You can never get too many delicious ideas in December!

Today my post is up at Erin’s blog – enjoy reading about the fun I had with my roomies the day we had a full on Christmas Sunday. Big brunch, holiday movies and red and green Rice Krispie Treats, one of the best Sundays I’ve had in a while.

Keep on baking, I can’t wait to share my recent find with you, on to #11!

Buckeyes from BigFatBaker

19 Dec

Hello to all you Sweet Talk fans out there! My name is Erin and you can usually find me over at BigFatBaker or chatting away on Twitter @bigfatbaker.

I am so happy to be guest posting on Sweet Talk during the holidays. I love spreading holiday cheer!

And what better way to spread some cheer than with candy? So today I thought I’d share one of my favorite homemade candy recipes, buckeyes.

Buckeyes are a midwestern candy (originating in Ohio) and are named after the nuts off a buckeye tree. The buckeye tree also happens to be the Ohio state tree!

Although the candy is made to look like the nuts, don’t eat the real nuts! They are a bit toxic.

I made the buckeyes with peanut butter, but if you have specific nut allergies I think this recipe could be adapted to any nut butter! You may need to slightly adjust the nut butter to powdered sugar ratio to get a smooth mixture.

You could also change it up but using dark chocolate or white chocolate chips!

Thank you Michelle for letting me guest post & happy holidays everyone!

Buckeyes

(recipe from allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups smooth peanut butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp shortening
  • toothpicks

To Make the Buckeyes:

  1. In the bowl of your mixer (or using your hand mixer & a large bowl) combine the butter, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  2. Mix in the powdered sugar – but be careful and do it slowly! You don’t want a kitchen covered in powdered sugar. The dough may look a bit dry, as long as you can roll it into balls it is fine. (If not, try adding 1 tbsp of peanut butter at a time until it sticks together)
  3. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Roll the peanut butter mixture into 1 inch sized balls and place on the cookie sheet. Stick a toothpick into the top of each peanut butter ball. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator or freezer.
  5. After about 30 minutes melt the chocolate and shortening in a bowl over a pot of simmering water and stir together until melted. You can also place the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Continue until the chocolate is completely smooth.
  6. Remove the peanut butter balls from the refrigerator and 1 by 1 dip into the chocolate, leaving a small spot of the peanut butter mixture showing. (You may need to occasionally remelt the chocolate)
  7. Place back on to the cookie sheet and leave in the refrigerator until the chocolate coating has hardened. Once the buckeyes are done, cover and store until gone 🙂 Enjoy!

The recipe should yield anywhere from 30-40 buckeyes, depending on how big you make the peanut butter balls.

Seasonal Sharing

18 Dec

Guess what? It’s the holidays and that means sharing with friends – especially desserts! So tomorrow I will have a guest post-er! Erin, from BigFatBaker@bigfatbaker will be sharing her favorite holiday dessert with all my Sweet Talk fans!

On the flip side, I’ll be guesting for her this week too – Tuesday the 20th check me out on her blog!

As for today, I’ll be planning and taking inventory of my baking cabinets at my mom’s house, which are filled with all the different kinds of chocolate chips she’s been stocking for me. And check out the cute dessert tree she set up in my bedroom.

Love it – thanks mom! Merry almost Christmas!

New Year’s Cheers

16 Dec

I know you’re thinking, New Year’s already Michelle, really? Well, kinda.

You see, there is plenty of Christmas posting coming up this week, no worries, but this is time-sensitive material, I need some guests for my party!

I was chosen as one of 24 members of the FoodBuzz community to participate in the December 24×24 program – woo hoo! This program occurs every month and surrounds itself around the idea that there will be 24 meals taking place around the country in 24 hours. I think that is a pretty clever thought and am really pumped to be a part of it this month. Especially since it’s my first time applying and I will be at home in Schaumburg for the event, which ensures me a larger pool of guests to choose from!

Well pretty much anyone is invited, if you read this and I haven’t reached out to you, let me know. There’s always room to celebrate. Now here is where the fun part comes in. My idea is that we celebrate our New Year’s resolution with a really fun brunch. This way, children can participate, and friends and family that have other plans at night are still able to join the festivities. The requirement is that you bring a dish representing your New Year’s resolution. Whether that means you’re planning to get healthier, yearning to learn to make muffins, desire travel the world, or hope to get a new job, whatever your hopes for 2012 entail, the dish will represent it. I’m pretty excited to see what you all bring!

Every one will share their story on my webcam so that I can turn it into a video that we can save for the next year to see if the resolutions came true. This is a positive experience, no negativity allowed. The location will be my parents house in Schaumburg at noon and we will decorate with sparkly decos and other happy exciting elements.

Of course there will be champagne, it’s part of my resolution to find plenty of things to celebrate in the new year and also, of course, my other dish will be dessert. I haven’t decided on the resolution or the dessert yet but I’m ready to get creative and hope my attendees will do the same.

I have decided that each person can bring a guest, meaning if your guest doesn’t want to participate that’s fine but only two people max per dish, so any more than that must participate in the program.

Cheers! 

How fast can you bake 4 batches of cookies?

9 Dec

I can do it in 2.5 hours. Well, with a little help from my roommates.

Yesterday was a full on cookie baking impromptu extravaganza, and we’ve already decided it’ll become a holiday tradition. In the future, however, we will send out our invites more than 5 hours in advance. Yes, our attendee turnout wasn’t what we were hoping for, but the process, the treats and the cheerful idea were perfect. I started making a Sweet Talk video, but then the speed baking and giant mess making sidetracked me. Don’t worry though, there’s still a whole two weeks left before Christmas!

See, for the past three years I have been entering the Hershey and Betty Crocker cookie exchange program. Each year, the companies get together and graciously send out 1,000 cookie exchange kits. This year they finally picked me to be part of the program – I was pretty pumped, but due to my recent and upcoming travels to and from LAX & ORD (that was for you, dad), I wasn’t sure when the box would arrive or when I would have time to have the party, hence the impromptu Thursday night fest last night.

I woke up yesterday with what I thought was a great idea. Instead of the traditional cookie exchange, where all of the attendees bring their own batches to the event, we could do something a little different. We asked our guests to bring canned goods to the party instead of baked goods and in return, they would take our baked goods home with them. So the swap wasn’t cookie for cookie, but instead cookie for charity. I love this idea for many reasons. I, obviously, love cookie baking and would always be up for bringing desserts with me to a party but everyone doesn’t feel the same. Some people are time-crunched, others are baked good burners, and some just don’t enjoy the process. But, everyone loves eating cookies, so this way anyone who wouldn’t normally attend the swap might grab a jar of jam or a can of soup and stop over.

The flaw we obviously had was timing, but four roommates with various and varying schedules makes things like this a bit hard to pre-plan, but the event was still successful.

With my helpful elves (Cynthia & Alex), we managed to make all four of the Hershey’s and Betty Crocker recipes in less than 2.5 hours, have a set of cans for donations and had a fun night with cookies and holiday fun.

The recipe cards included in the kit are so adorable, and I was excited that we were able to make all four of them for the party.

First up – Chocolate Snowballs. These were super simple. I didn’t have any chopped almonds or almond extract on hand so I substituted vanilla, but I was pretty pleased with the results. For some reason I thought I wouldn’t like these little powdered sugars mounds, but I ended up loving them!

Next up – a classic, Peanut Butter Blossoms. Linda & Cynthia were pretty excited these were on the list, and I think Alex enjoyed shaping them. Thanks to my helpers, I didn’t have to deal with the dough either, since I have a thing about touching peanut butter. These are very easy and a really good baking project for kids, also with the different kiss flavors out there, there are plenty of different combos to try.

I don’t think a Christmas party should ever go on without the next cookie – Holiday Cutout Cookies. These are your traditional sugar cookie cut-outs, topped with frosting or glazes and holiday sprinkles, they are always a crowd pleaser.

And last, but not least, a twist on a favorite – Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. We were running low on most of these ingredients, which resulted in having to use some sugar substitute and Imperial spread instead of butter, so I’m pretty sure that’s why I got chocolate puffies instead of the expected crunchy version, but let’s be honest, a chocolate cookie filled with chips and kisses is still something you wish you were eating right now.

 

We are already planning on doing this again next year, because cookies and charity are a pretty good combo – I can’t imagine any one would argue with that. Thanks Hershey’s & Betty!

Technique Upgrade

3 Dec

Dipping stuff in chocolate is two things.

#1 The perfect combination of chocolate and your favorite dipper. Whether that’s fruit, pretzels, Oreos, even bacon, yes bacon, everyone loves SOMETHING covered in chocolate.

#2 It’s a pretty basic, familiar thing to do. Most people who have ever dabbled in desserts have dipped their fair share of things in the sweet stuff.

Because of this, I was very pleased and excited with my recent chocolate dipping venture. You see, I too have been covering things in chocolate for years. I’m a sucker for salty sweet pretzels encased in milk and dark chocolate. They remind me of craft fairs as a kid. I think maybe my mom would buy them for me while she walked around looking at quilt-y stuff, she must’ve known my love for modern decor at an early age, but also knew that chocolate would keep me happy while she picked out antique Santa’s for our family room.

The Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, my family got together for pizza, salad and of course, dessert for my mom’s 5 year cancer survivor anniversary and I figured chocolate covered pretzels and strawberries would be the perfect complement. First of all, after a gluttonous week of turkey, trifles and tryptophan-filled wine, a snack-ier dessert was probably more appropriate than a cake and also it gave me a chance to experiment with dying white chocolate for decorating, purple for my mom. And second of all, my sister-in-law is gluten-free and my nephews are gluten-sometimes, so the strawberries were there for them. Ok, and me, cuz I love strawberries.

Oo, also because I just received a GIANT package of Pretzel Crisps sent to me because my snack budget is low. It’s amazing what Twitter can do. So I planted myself in the kitchen with pretzel rods, pretzel crisps, strawberries, milk, dark and white chocolates and purple food-coloring. Here are the results. Yum. Can we rewind to last week please?

Prep & Planning

2 Dec

Christmas baking season is so close! I’m so excited my fingers are dancing on my keyboard. Or that’s just a side effect from the caffeine I just chugged. Either way I’m pumped. Sometimes I think being away from home makes the holidays even more exciting. It definitely added an element to Thanksgiving.

This year I’ll be facing a few challenges, time and equipment. Usually I have over a week to bake and the heavy-duty ingredients get thrown in my KitchenAid mixer. My mom made me bring that to LA with me, which makes sense for all times except the week before Christmas. So I will either be experimenting with the food processor I left behind, using a hand-held, or venturing to my friends and family member’s houses around Schaumburg that are KitchenAid equip. 🙂

I’m ready to start planning though, so I hope anyone who expects a box or plate of cookies is reading! Roughly two weeks until I get home and baking so suggestions are welcome…… now.

Of course, the holidays wouldn’t be complete with some standbys, cut-out sugar cookies are our Christmas go-to and this year Madeline will be helping my mom and I bust out those. And my favorite, fudge is on the list too, but I’d love to add your faves. So let me know!

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