Homemade Marshmallows & the Making of a Mug Topper

Mega MarshmallowI love marshmallows. Not so much on their own but I grew up eating a lot of s’mores and drinking a ton of hot cocoa, so every winter I start to crave their sticky, sugary sweetness. As an adult, I really appreciate a toasty mug of hot chocolate, spiked generously with Rumple Minze, topped with melty marshmallows. Last year, when this blog was just a baby, I decided to try making my own marshmallows with (shockingly) great success.

I was so impressed with myself that this year I thought I’d take it one step further.

Inspiration hit when I discovered these giant two-pound marshmallows online. (As an aside: I love Plush Puffs, their flavors are fun and — big bonus! — they actually taste good too. Not at all rubbery, just soft squishy marshmallow goodness.) Then, on the same site, I saw another item the company offers — mug toppers. They are slices of marshmallow that perfectly fit a cup of cocoa. Seriously brilliant!

I became a bit obsessed…

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Triple Threat Ginger Cookies

Ginger three ways: freshly minced, crystallized and ground.

I love ginger in all forms but it seems to really taste best when mixed with butter and sugar. Well, to be fair, most things seem to taste best that way.

These ginger cookies were made because it was a Saturday and I had just bought some crystallized ginger. Yes, it really was that simple. I had been craving ginger and spice since I read this delicious blog post by Dinners for Winners and finally I had all the ingredients needed to make some yummy ginger treats of my own.

Or at least I thought I had all the ingredients. *Sigh*

It always seems to happen that I’m missing something. In this case it was a few things — though nothing important enough to prevent me from baking. I settled on a basic recipe, one I’ve used before and enjoyed, these Triple Ginger Cookies from Bon Appetite. They are from the Dec. 2009 issue, which by the way, had a pretty incredible pictorial spread of holiday cookies. There were cardamom crescent cookies and peppermint bark squares all very whimsically placed in a winter wonderland. I kept that issue around for much longer than necessary. It was just so fun.

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Sparkles and Shines…

I really meant to take down all of my holiday decorations last weekend. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do after the first of January? You take down all the sparkling lights and stockings and stash them away again until next December. I know that’s the way it works — I do it faithfully every year. But this January I’m having trouble. I look at the strings of lights glimmering, the lit-up stars twinkling lazily below them, and  just can’t bear to do it.

I don’t know what’s making it so much harder this year. Maybe it’s because last summer came and went too quickly, and with this gray and dismal weather, it’s nice to have some cheerfulness around. The lights brighten up the house and make the long dark nights a little cozier.

Maybe I can compromise…I’ll pack away the wreaths and my little wooden Santas, and even all of my cinnamon-scented pine cones, but I’m keeping the lights up. They will be my winter night lights — helping me believe that even though I’ve got months to go until summer, I’m pretty sure I can make it.

My kingdom for a coffee…

This mug contains everything that is good in the world!

I like coffee a lot. Which is slightly ironic because when I was younger, I hated it with a passion. I did eventually discover the allure of espresso while in Italy but I didn’t get the obsession with sweeter coffee drinks. This was about the time that Starbucks was becoming hugely popular and restaurants were almost required to buy espresso machines because everyone wanted a mocha or latte at lunch. Suddenly coffee shops were opening everywhere, even in teeny tiny Kodiak, Alaska, and people were drinking fancy flavored coffee constantly it seemed. Except for me.

There wasn’t much to do in our town, so nearly every day my best friend Nikki Sea and I would walk downtown just to meander about. Usually we would end up at the same little coffee stand, next to a record store. I would religiously order an Italian cream soda and Nik would always order a “black and white” (which after an embarrassingly long time I finally discovered was simply a vanilla mocha). Every time we would swap drinks so the other could taste a sip, and every time the drink was passed back to its owner while we mirrored looks of exaggerated disgust.

Slowly I grew more interested in her drinks and less enthralled with my still delicious, yet slightly unsatisfying Italian sodas. Finally came the day where I ordered (a la When Harry Met Sally) “one of what she’s having.” And from there, it was all downhill.

coffee goodness

Amazing Peels

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This gallery contains 8 photos.

So a few years back my friend DB brought me a bag of delicious homemade candied orange peels as a birthday present. They were the perfect gift — sweet yet tart, chewy but still tender and dipped in chocolate because, … Continue reading

Melting Snowmen Sugar Cookies

I’m melting…..!

So I have a huge board on Pinterest of things that I have been wanting to make for the holidays. Well, to be truthful, I have many boards of many things that I have been wanting to make and the issue is actually focusing long enough to get anything done. But I have been trying really hard to stay motivated (no thanks to you, hard apple cider!) and I can proudly say I have accomplished quite a bit these past few weeks.

One of the things that I have been wanting to make are these adorable cookies. (Now, I guess they were originally done by a gal who used fondant to make the snowman heads, but I liked the idea of marshmallows better.) Since I have been wanting to make some sugar cookies too, it was really a two birds/one stone type of situation — which certainly helped encourage me to get busy baking.

The first step was to make the cookie dough. Every year I try a different recipe for sugar cookies, on a constant quest to find the perfect one. So far I’ve found many I like but none that captivated me enough to use regularly. This year I decided to try this one from my huge binder of recipes and it worked out splendidly. In fact, I will definitely make this one again sometime — I loved the candied ginger in it and the dough was easy to work with.

I started by baking some cookies in an imperfect circle and, once they were cool, topped them with some royal icing. I had my decorations all ready to go: red hots, licorice pastels and  a marshmallow decorated with an AmeriColor writer. The marshmallow slid around a little on the cookie but once the icing set, they were pretty secure. Some of the “noses” came loose, but I actually think it helped add to the realistic melting scene. Or at least that’s what I told people…

At any rate, check out this awesome snowman graveyard!

Adorably tortured snowmen — Calvin would be proud!

I also did some regular cut-out cookies with the dough and topped them with minced bits of candied orange peel. They were fantastic! There’s a little orange zest in the dough so it was really a perfect pairing.

Candied Orange and Ginger Stars

I loved the way everything came out, but I am (sadly) more excited that I can move two “pins” from my “need to make” board to my “missions accomplished” board. Oh Pinterest. You are a cruel mistress.