The blogging world is a funny place. You start writing and then you begin to discover other people’s blogs. You start to follow those blogs and slowly you develop relationships with those bloggers. And through those friendships, you discover new bloggers, and start to follow their blogs and so on and so forth.
I first stumbled upon Shanna’s blog because of my fellow blogger, Liz of deLizious. Liz had mentioned one of Shanna’s posts on her Facebook page and so I wandered over to have a look. The post itself was rather sad but I’m still happy Shanna wrote it because that was the first glimpse I had into the world of Curls & Carrots.
If you read C&C you’ll know it’s chock full of great recipes, for everything from vanilla & cardamom challah to udon salad, and pictures of Shanna’s adorable kids. And each post often contains multiple recipes so it’s like hitting a culinary jackpot.
Not too long ago she posted a recipe for double chocolate brownie cookies and I knew I had to make them. I also knew who I had to make them for — my mother, an admitted and dedicated chocoholic.
I finally got the perfect opportunity this weekend, when it was time for our annual family reunion. Having just returned from vacation, and freshly recovered from a post-vacation cold, I was fairly exhausted and unmotivated. I couldn’t think of what to bring for my contribution but then it hit me — who doesn’t love a cookie?
I have always been a waffle lover. I remember my mom making them for my friends the morning after slumber parties and as an adult, they remain a favorite of mine.
While nothing beats the beautiful simplicity of a buttermilk waffle with melted butter and real maple syrup, I have branched out quite a bit in the waffle department: gingerbread waffles, corn waffles with pork belly, waffles with berries soaked in vanilla rum. Heck, I even threw a Waffle Party once, a slightly crazy soiree filled with fruit curds, compound butters, whipped cream and lots of sparkling wine.
But, sadly, I didn’t discover the reigning ruler of waffles until a few years ago — the liege waffle, made with Belgian pearl sugar. The specialized pearl sugar is added to the unsweetened batter before cooking and melts in the waffle iron, creating crispy crunchy pockets throughout the waffle.
Belgian Pearl Sugar
The sugar also caramelizes the entire outside of the waffle, making it sweet enough to eat on its own. In fact, these are a popular street food in Belgium where people often buy a waffle to snack on while they walk. The sweetness of the waffle negates the need to dress it up with messy toppings (though that’s part of the fun!) making it a great thing to eat on the go.
Last year I saw some really, really cute cookies on Pinterest. They were little thumbprint cookies, topped with chocolate and decorated with tiny chocolate eggs. I had every hope of actually making them. But then life happened and my motivation for fiddling around with tiny cookies flew right out the window.
Luckily this year was less chaotic and I actually managed a few sweet spring-time experiments like homemade Peeps and — finally — these little sugar cookie nests. And I have to say they were adorable enough (and tasty enough!) to be worth the wait.
While there are TONS of cookie nest recipes around, I really liked the simplicity of this one — no mini muffin pan necessary, just a basic sugar cookie recipe and some imagination. I contemplated using coconut flakes as the grass, but in the end I went with melted dark chocolate, green jimmies and mini chocolate eggs.
When I was younger, I always wanted to like Peeps — they were so cute and colorful and looked so festive it was hard not to want to bite their little heads off. But even as a kid, I’d get halfway through the pack and lose interest. They just weren’t as delicious as their bright candy colors made them seem. (They were still better than Cadbury Eggs, with their creamy yolks that still give me the creeps, but a far cry from my favorite Easter candy, mini-Whopper Robin Eggs.)
And yet, this year I became obsessed with making my own. After all — homemade marshmallows are infinitely better than store-bought ones, so it would seem that homemade Peeps would follow the same logic.
I did some recipe and technique research before I began, which led me to trying out Alton Brown’s recipe for marshmallows. Normally I am a big proponent of Martha Stewart’s recipe, but it seemed like as good a time as any to try something new. (Personally I still find Martha’s recipe to be fluffier and sweeter, but feel free to use whatever recipe you like best.)
If you are a newbie at marshmallow making, make sure you have a candy thermometer that is calibrated and that actually works (mine broke and I ended up having to test for the soft ball stage using a cup of water. Effective but not very fun). Also prepare yourself for the mess, especially if you try to color part of your mixture like I did. Imagine yourself in a stringy web of sugar — it gets everywhere!
And in hindsight, dying the marshmallows was pretty silly. The sugar covers them anyways, I was just experimenting.
Pink and White Marshmallows. They look unassuming but managed to put up quite a fight.
Sweet & Salty Popcorn with Coconut, Honey and Lime
Salty and sweet is not a new combination in the snack world. There’s a reason things like chocolate covered pretzels and salted caramels are so popular and I know I’m not the only one dipping french fries in my milkshakes. Salt with sugar is an amazing, glorious thing and people are constantly finding new ways to mix the two together.
Personally, over the last few years I have forgone the old-school butter-and-salt popcorn as a snack in favor of a more delicious treat — sea salt & honey butter popcorn, which I discovered a few years ago on The Faux Martha blog. The recipe is easy — equal parts melted honey and butter tossed with popcorn and salt.
Once I started making popcorn this way, I couldn’t stop. I also could not stop eating it. It is addictive in a way I had not anticipated. The honey butter makes the salt cling to the popcorn, so every bite is pure salty, sweet bliss. (You can also cut back on the butter ratio if you prefer — I tend to use less butter than honey and I still think it’s pretty awesome.)
A few weeks ago, while I was preparing a batch for a late-night treat, I grabbed the jar of honey and noticed it was sitting next to my jar of coconut oil. On a whim, I swapped coconut oil for the butter, heating it gently in the microwave with the honey.
This is the third and final post in my “How to throw an epic beer-themed birthday” series. Having covered the basics, and how to make awesome candied beer nuts, this post will show you the second party favor I handed out — salted caramels made with beer.
After a lot of online digging, I finally settled on this recipe from the Food Network. It had some good reviews and seemed simple enough to fit into my timeline. If I make these again I might do something more adventurous like these, but this time around I went for a straightforward recipe.
It called for only a few ingredients: a bit of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream and, of course, beer. I chose another Oregon brew for this project: Gilgamesh’s Vadar, a black IPA aged with coffee beans. I wasn’t sure of the coffee flavor would come through (it didn’t), but it still sounded like a great beer to use in a dessert.