Friday, February 22, 2013

Snow Day Adventures: Maple Syrup Snow Candy

I've wanted to make snow candy ever since reading Little House on the Prairie as a tiny person. Mom and I never managed to make this on our snow days when I was a kid, I guess we stuck to mac'n'cheese and making snowflakes and fleece hats. Thanks, Martha!

Our sweet neighbor's rotund squirrel friend

Finally, I did! This is so much fun and perfect way to play in the 14.5" of snow in our back yard. We've had a huge pile of snow in the last 48 hours here in the Kansas and I'm sure there are lots of parents wondering just what to do on their second snow day in a row.

Wait, what? Snow days? What are those? We've barely had any moisture here, let alone feet of snow. Kansas is really making up for lost time.

Stake out some fresh snow and get bundled up before you start in the kitchen and you'll have snow candy before you know it. You can always pile up some fresh snow in a bowl or on a large plate, just be sure to leave it outside to stay cold. Grab those kids, your neighbors, or grandma and go play!

Maple Syrup Snow Candy:
2/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons salted butter

In a small sauce pan, bring syrup and butter to a boil. Continue boiling until the mixture reaches 236 degrees F. Allow the boiling to subside before heading outside with a plate.

Slowly drizzle the maple mixture onto the snow, making any design you want. Allow the candy to cool and set up in the snow. Make a few snowballs while you wait.

Pull the candy out of the snow and set on the plate. Launch those snowballs you made.

Bring the candy inside and set out on wax paper. Go back outside and throw some more snowballs. Come back inside and peel off a piece for yourself. At first it will seem sticky, but will quickly melt in your mouth. Eat it up quickly before it begins to settle and soften. There's no shame in scraping it up with a spoon.

If you're feeling extra adventurous, drizzle this over homemade snow ice cream. Real maple syrup a little rough on your budget? Check out this post on how to make your own!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Marshmallow Filling for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day isn't usually a big deal in our house, but that doesn't mean we don't want a special treat to share.
This is an easy treat to make, with chocolatey goodness that isn't too sweet. These cookies are tender and soft, almost fudgey, with a pillowy soft marshmallow center.
I've still been making at least one batch of marshmallows a week, so chocolate marshmallow filling was an easy choice. Valentine's Day is about chocolate, right?

Be more generous with the filling than I was, there is plenty to go around.
This recipe makes six large (approx. 4 inches across) sandwich cookies, just enough to share with your Valentine. Get into the kitchen with your Valentine and share this chocolate treat together!

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Marshmallow Filling:
Makes six four-inch sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/4 plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold water, divided
1 package gelatin
1/3 cup quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Scoop dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1-2 hours until firm, but not hard. When the dough has chilled, allow to rest at room temp for 5-10 minutes before rolling out. Roll dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/8th inch think. Cut out an even number of cookies.

Bake cookies for 7 minutes on parchment paper. Allow cookies to cool on sheet for 3-4 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely. If necessary, roll the dough out just once more and repeat with remaining cookies. When the cookies are completely cool, begin the marshmallow filling.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of the water to bloom. Combine the remaining water and sugar in a sauce pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Heat water and sugar over medium-high heat to 240 degrees (firm ball). Remove from heat and allow boiling to subside.

With the whisk attachment and mixer running on low, slowly pour sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Slowly increase the speed of the mixer to high. Whip marshmallow until it begins to double in size, but the bowl is still slightly warm. Add chocolate to bowl, the residual heat of the marshmallow will melt the tiny bits of chocolate. Continue whipping until the marshmallow is thick.

Working quickly to prevent the marshmallow from setting, transfer filling to a piping bag with a large tip and pipe filling into half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies.

Grab your Valentine and enjoy!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Classic Slow-Cooker Chili

Here's an uber-classic for your Super Bowl Sunday.

Super easy so you don't have to spend too much time in preparation, something you can walk away from and not worry about. 

Super tasty.
Super customizable. Make it as spicy as you want!

Set up a toppings bar with shredded cheddar, chopped green onions, light sour cream or Greek yogurt, and avocado slices. A little something for everyone!

Whatever you do, don't forget the Fritos scoops. 

Classic Slow-Cooker Chili:
1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dried black beans, sorted and rinsed
3/4 cup dried red kidney beans, sorted and rinsed
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2-3 cups beef stock or broth
1-2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1-2 teaspoons ground red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Layer all ingredients in a large slow-cooker, adding just enough beef broth to make the beans float. I prefer a thick chili and tend to add just about 2 cups of stock. Stir all ingredients to combine and cover. 

Cook on low for 8 hours or on low for 6 hours. After about 4 hours, check the consistency and beans for doneness, adding more stock if necessary.

Grab a bowl and a seat for the game!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

I'm in total denial that about winter.

Even though I've been happily knitting up a storm for my sweet cousins, friends, strangers on the street. Is Katie cute or what?

Winter is my arch-nemesis and it certainly shouldn't be this cold without snow. Without snow! Seriously, Kansas, give us something prettier to look at than our dry, brown front yards. We need one serious whiteout with snowmen that don't melt for weeks before spring comes. When our snow finally comes, you'll find me under a blanket fort huddling with the cats. And a bowl of this chili.

This is one of my favorite ways to warm up from the inside out. Ok, so its my second favorite. My obsession with marshmallows has not subsided.

Even though I much prefer to spend my time in the hot box of a Kansas summer, this chili is a close substitute in these chilly months. Crank up the jalapenos and you'll have your own personal summer. Go ahead, sweat it out at the dinner table.

Chili when you're chilly, its meant to be. Grab a bag of Fritos scoops while you're at it, just think about the spoons you won't have to wash.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili:
Makes about 8 servings

1 1/2 - 2 pounds bone-in chicken leg quarters, or whatever chicken you have on hand
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 - 1 1/2 cups dry white beans
6 cups water
1-2 Parmesan rinds, optional
salt and pepper to taste
shredded Pepper Jack or Mozzarella cheese to garnish

Layer ingredients in slow cooker in order. If the chicken quarters have the skin on, you can remove the skin before or after the chicken is cooked. Leave the skin on for flavor and skim the fat before serving. 

Cook on high for 6-8 hours, on low for 4-6 hours. 30 minutes before serving, remove the chicken and set aside to cool a bit before boning, leaving the lid off the slow cooker. The bones should slide right out of the meat. Using tongs or your hands, remove any extra fat and shred the meat. 

By this time, a lot of the fat should have risen to the top of the pot, skim the fat with a shallow spoon and discard. If you want to thicken the soup, whisk a 1/4 cup flour or cornstarch into 1 cup of hot broth until smooth and then stir into the soup. Add chicken and serve with a sprinkle of cheese.