Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gift Idea: Homemade Marshmallows & Cocoa Mix

My love affair with homemade marshmallows began years ago, when my husband was in grad school, we were living in Oregon and I made a ridiculous purchase of marshmallows at Williams-Sonoma.  I still, to this day cannot believe I paid so much for those marshmallows, but they were good and I figured I would give it the o' college try (errr, grad school wife try, rather) and see about making them myself.  I did, with great success (cutting them into shapes that first year.  Trees for Christmas, hearts for Valentine's Day), and have never looked back (well, I do still look at the back of the box, when I pop into Williams-Sonoma, to see the price climb each holiday season).  Here are two recipes that will make you feel like a gift giving champ!

Find my recipe, for fluffy marshmallow perfection in a blog post 
from several years ago.  Marshmallow link.

See all those delicious flecks of vanilla bean?  Be still, my heart.

You'll see the full step by step on the old marshmallow post, but 
I cannot get over how much I love cutting huge, square marshmallows!

I bought cute little paper 'fruit' crates at the craft store (they were
labeled as food safe, FYI) and then popped the filled crate
into a clear cello bag and tied with hemp rope.  I decided I needed
to send hot chocolate with the homemade marshmallows, so I filled 
large Ball jars (they were narrow, yet rather tall...a style I had never
seen before, but am now obsessed).  To create this hot chocolate
concoction of love I put the grater attachment in my food processer
 and shaved big bars of dark chocolate (I bought the large bars
from Trader Joe's).  The shavings yielded quite a bit, but I decided
I wanted to gift more hot chocolate so I did equal parts dark chocolate
shavings, unsweetened cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar and a
pinch of sea salt. 

On the back of the little label I attached to the 
hot chocolate mix, I placed the directions of
1/3 cup mix to 1 cup hot milk.

I think this is a gift that should extend well into the New Year!
Who wouldn't love to receive this from their Valentine?


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Maple & Bacon Spiced Almonds


I always make spicy candied almonds (or pecans) for salads,
but the addition of bacon...oh my!!!  I just know you will 
love this one!

What you need:
2 1/2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
5 strips of  center cut bacon, chopped up
Generous cracks of sea salt
Use kitchen shears to rough cut 5 strips of bacon and place in
a pan over medium/high heat.  

Separately:  preheat oven to 325

 Brown the bacon bits thoroughly, then remove the bacon 
from the pan. Center cut bacon does not render much fat
so there will be about a tablspoon of bacon fat in the pan. 
Leave it in the pan.  


Add the raw almonds and maple syrup to the bacon fat, in the
pan over medium/high heat.

Stir and coat.  Allow the maple syrup to bubble and reduce, 
while stirring constantly for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, all of the almonds should be coated in thick
maple syrup reduction. 

Turn off heat and return the bacon bits to the pan, along with
cayenne pepper (if you want a bigger kick, add more), and
a very generous dusting of sea salt. Stir to incorporate.

Pour the mixture onto a parchment paper lined sheet tray and
spread the almonds and bacon out into a single layer
Place the sheet tray in the preheated oven and cook for 7-9 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven and allow the coated almonds 15-20 
minutes to cool.  Then, try not eating them all.
Allow to cool completely, at least 1 hour before packaging up.

I am packaging up the almonds to give as gifts.  
This time of year you can find adorable containers in every store, 
otherwise, store the almonds in a sealed container or bag at room temperature.