she's not martha

the not-so-perfect adventures of a wife, twin mommy (times 2), and general spaz in the kitchen and craft room

Marshmallows, gingerbread cake, candy plate, last-minute gifts, and Merry Christmas!

on December 22, 2012

Just three days to go! Is the child-like excitement about to burst at your house, too?

Here are a few more recipes to add to your collection. All of these are simple and would be welcome additions to any gathering. Enjoy!

Homemade Marshmallows

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What?! You can make your own marshmallows? Yep! And they’re fabulous! Giant, puffy, sweet pillows of goodness. Enjoy them by themselves, dressed up in a coating of chocolate with sprinkles, or melting away in a mug of hot cocoa. Give ‘em a try. They’re worth it! This recipe is adapted from Alton Brown’s marshmallow recipe.

Ingredients

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup ice cold water, divided

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beans from one vanilla bean pod)

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

Nonstick spray (I use Pam)

Directions

Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by. As it “blooms” it looks like this:

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In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

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Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, carefully and slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.

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Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

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Add the vanilla* during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray an 8-inch square metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.

When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover.

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Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Peppermint Marshmallows

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*For a twist on an already outstanding marshmallow…in place of the vanilla bean paste, add a few drops of peppermint oil or peppermint extract. Pour into the prepared pan as directed. Place a few drops of red food coloring on the top of the marshmallow mixture. Use a bamboo skewer (or a toothpick) to make swirls on the top layer of the marshmallows.

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Follow directions as above. These are an especially tasty addition to a mug of hot chocolate!

We indulged in another marshmallow activity – S’mores!

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We had a mild evening earlier this week which provided the perfect opportunity to enjoy toasted marshmallows in our own backyard. We gathered the firewood, S’mores supplies, and each other. My husband built the fire and we went to town. There aren’t too many things better than a warm, gooey, toasted marshmallow. Seriously. It’s like a hug for the tummy from the inside. S’mores are one of those treats that are as fun to make as they are to eat!

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Gingerbread Cake

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This is one of my tried and true recipes that is made over and over and over again this time of year. It’s a very moist and flavorful cake. Simple to make and doesn’t need a fussy frosting or glaze (though you could certainly add one if you’d like). Just dust with powdered sugar and you’re ready to enjoy! I adapted this recipe from one in an old Martha Stewart cookbook I have – it’s one of those that the spine is split and the page in the book automatically opens to! You have several options of cake pans with this cake also…the recipe calls for a 9 x 13-inch cake pan, which works just fine. It also looks beautiful in a shaped Bundt pan, like the Christmas tree pan.

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I found this years ago at Williams-Sonoma. It’s a Nordic Ware 10-cup Bundt pan. Any shape will work. If it’s an ornate pattern, just spray your little heart out with Pam. When it comes out of the oven give it a couple of gentle shakes to loosen it. Let it sit on a wire rack for 5 minutes, shake a couple more times and plop it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

Ingredients

8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/2 cups, flour

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 Tablespoon ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 cup unsulfured molasses

2 eggs, room temperature

Nonstick spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine the boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In another bowl, sift together flour, spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium until light. Beat in brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low, beat in molasses, baking soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Spray your baking pan with nonstick spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-40 minutes for a 9 x13-inch pan, 40-45 minutes for a (shaped) Bundt pan.

Cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Shake pan gently to loosen. Release cake onto wire rack and allow to cool completely. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar. This cake will keep at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for several days.

Peppermint Candy Plate

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Here’s a fun little treat that is super simple and a functional gift to take to any holiday gathering. You can leave the plate and not have to worry about getting it later. Best of all, it’s pretty and you can break it into pieces later and eat it! I saw this on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a go…you can find the original source for the Pin here. I read the comments before I tried it. I didn’t experience any of the problems some were having. I followed the recipe just as written and it came out fine. Keep an eye on it as the baking time comes to an end. Adjustments may have to be made for the humidity in your kitchen and/or your particular oven.

Materials

2 bags of “Starlight” peppermint/spearmint candies

Baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove candies from wrappers and place in desired design on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake for 8 minutes. (I checked each time after 5 minutes and there wasn’t much going on. 3 more minutes seemed to be the magic number with my particular oven. I let one go a few minutes more to see if it would spread out even more. It didn’t. What I discovered is the longer it bakes, the more it just melts and you get more bubbles – especially around the edges.) Remove from oven and allow to cool at room temperature. If you place it in the freezer or outside to cool faster the “plate” may crack. For the swirled effect, when the “plate” comes out of the oven, immediately swirl a design in it with a toothpick. Also, if you have any bubbles, pop them gently with a toothpick and the candy will fill-in the spot as it cools.

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Now that all of your baking is done, you can work on those last minute gifts, right? Here are a couple of suggestions…

Recycled Garment/Fabric Knitted Scarf

I saw this project highlighted on an episode of Knitting Daily some time ago. The author of this pattern had an old silk shirt that had significant sentimental value and she couldn’t bear to part with it even though she didn’t wear it anymore. Much like her, I had an old dress that I cherished. It was a beautiful dusty blue, pure silk dress I bought at Laura Ashley back in the 90s.

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I wore it to weddings, baptisms, and other special occasions. I loved this dress. As trends change and styles fall out of fashion, we purge things from our closets. I just couldn’t let go of this one dress. It had so many memories. But I knew I’d likely never wear it again. What’s a girl to do? Repurpose it! I used the pattern which the author generously shares here.

The first step was to remove the zipper and prepare the dress to be cut into strips.

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I cut the dress into 1/2-inch strips. (I’ll admit that first cut was really hard!) Then tied the strips together and wound them into a ball.

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I followed the pattern, which easily adapts to your taste. I used size 17 needles so the fabric would be loose and you could still enjoy the texture.

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Voila! A quick and easy knit that keeps that special dress close to my heart as it did all those times I wore it.

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Pocket Handwarmers – the girls gave these as gifts to their friends in their dance class, along with a mitten cookie and a bag of magic reindeer food (see below).

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These little cuties are a fabulous gift for kids. They warm up in seconds, stay warm for about a half-hour, and nestle snugly in pockets keeping little paws warm and toasty.

Materials

Fleece or felt

Thread

Rice

Essential oils (optional)

Directions

Cut out 2 desired shapes from fleece. Sew two pieces together, leaving about a 1-inch gap. Fill pocket with rice – I made a funnel with paper to fill them. For scented rice, add essential oils. I scented the rice for these hand warmers with peppermint and vanilla, resembling a candy cane. I used 5 drops of “warm vanilla sugar” and 2-3 drops of peppermint oil per 3 cups of rice. The “vanilla” oil I ordered from brambleberry.com and the peppermint oil I used is the one I use in the kitchen – I bought it at a cake supply store.

Sew up the hand warmer after filling with rice.

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Heat in microwave for 20 seconds. Place in pockets of your little ones’ coats and keep their hands toasty warm!

Magic Reindeer Food

I’ve done this as gifts for kids (long before my own came along) for-what seem like-ever, and it works every time. Rudolph and his team always find our house.

Mix oats, glitter and sequins together. Place in individual baggies and add a tag (here’s what I put on ours:

“On Christmas Eve, sprinkle this magic reindeer food on your lawn. The sparkle of the glitter and the sweet smell of oats will guide Rudolph right to your house!”

There are lots of clever packaging ideas out there. I wrapped each gift for one of our family gift exchanges in a different way. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of them all. Some I showed you in my previous post. A few extras included gluing pom poms to the kraft paper with my beloved glue gun (Christmas trees, snowflakes, etc.), sewing strips of Christmas-y fabric together, wrapping it around the packages as you would ribbon and tying it in a bow, and using the red/white butcher’s twine, I threaded it onto a needle and attached large pom poms to the ends so they were the focal point, much like a traditional bow would be.

I never did get all of the felt ornaments made and put on the tree. I also had a few other felt projects that kept getting moved down on the priority list. Oh so NOT Martha, I am. But, I’m happy with what I was able to accomplish this season and am looking ahead to more fun things to share with you in the new year.

If you have a minute, drop me a note and let me know if you tried any of our recipes or little projects with your family. I so appreciate the sweet comments, encouragement, and messages you send me. I hope you enjoy the time you have – to take it all in, take mental snapshots here and there, and truly enjoy the wonder, beauty, and joy that is Christmas with your family. From ours to yours, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases, and Happiest of New Years.

Tara, and mob :)


One response to “Marshmallows, gingerbread cake, candy plate, last-minute gifts, and Merry Christmas!

  1. Monica says:

    Thank you for all the great treats and fun goodies! You’re so talented!

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