Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Present for a Super Foodie

Well hello, gorgeous.

That's right, meet the newest member of my kitchen family!

My absolutely wonderful husband found this beauty for a steal - over $200 off! I've been wanting a Le Creuset for years but never could justify the expense, even for a present. But the stars aligned, he found it at a price we couldn't turn down, and I am now the proud owner of my very own Le Creuset!

Now what to make with it first??

Also, there's another member of our family who is also thrilled with the purchase, because that means he got a new box.

Simon Le Creuset

What are you wishing for this holiday season?

Monday, December 19, 2011

One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese

I was on Twitter for the first time in weeks the other day, and my good friend tweeted that she was about to make some groundbreaking mac and cheese that she had discovered on Pinterest. She said the outcome was pretty tasty, so I had to give it a try myself!

One-Pot Macaroni and Cheese
discovered on Pinterest, originally posted by White on Rice Couple

2 cups large elbow Macaroni, uncooked (about 1/2 lb)
2 cups low fat Milk (about 16 oz)
if needed, additional 1/4 cup milk or water for final cooking
1 tablespoon Butter, for flavor ( I tried this recipe once without the butter and I didn’t notice any difference with the recipe. More heart healthy!)
1/2 teaspoon Mustard powder
1 teaspoon Salt, plus additional for final season later
1 cup Grated Cheese, any one or combination of ( jack, cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, gouda, parmesan*, asiago*, pecorino*) *Hard cheeses are best combined with a secondary, softer, better melting cheese.
black pepper to taste (optional)

Place raw elbow macaroni in colander and quickly rinse under water. Let drain.

In medium sauce pan (about 3.5 qt), add milk, raw elbow macaroni, salt, butter, mustard powder and nutmeg.

On medium heat, slowly bring milk/macaroni mixture to a simmer, stirring the macaroni frequently as it comes up to a simmer. This will separate macaroni and keep them from sticking together. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE! The milk mixture will come to a boil very quickly and leaving it unattended will leave a big mess on your stove top.

Mac and cheese 1

Once mixture comes to a simmer, immediately turn down heat to LOW. Macaroni will slowly cook in the milk. Having your heat too high will evaporate the milk too quickly! Cover and continue to stir the mixture every couple minutes so that macaroni will cook evenly and absorb milk evenly.

Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until milk has been fully absorbed. If macaroni is not cooked fully, add a little more milk or water to mixture (in small amounts) until macaroni is fully cooked. This will take about another 5 minutes.

When milk has evaporated, stir in grated cheese of your choice. I decided to use mozzarella and a medium-hard sheeps milk cheese for no other reason that that's what I had on hand at the time.

Stir the cheese evenly into the macaroni. Turn off heat and place lid on top of the pot and cover for about 5 minutes. This rest period will allow macaroni to plump up and absorb any excess milk.

Take a final taste and add additional salt to taste. Before serving, stir one final time to mix everything together.

Mac and cheese 2

My verdict? It's not the best mac and cheese I've ever had, but it's near the top of the list of mac and cheeses that I've made myself. And given how simple it was with just one pot, I definitely will be making it again, and will try some new cheese combinations!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows

Back in May, I finally shared with you all my life-changing homemade marshmallows. The marshmallows that blow you away with one squishy, sugary bite. The marshmallows that I make twice a year.

And guess what? Time for some more marshmallows!

There's a reason though why I always make them in December.

Three words.


There's really nothing more festive or delicious for the Christmas season! And the best part is that they're exactly the same as the basic vanilla marshmallow recipe, just with some peppermint extract added and a little food coloring fun.

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows
adapted from source

4 gelatin envelopes
3/4 cup water
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1.5 tsp peppermint extract

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/4 cup corn syrup (Karo)
1/2 tsp salt

Red food coloring

Coat a 9x13 and 8x8 pan with vegetable oil or non-stick spray.

Fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. In the mixer bowl combine the 3/4 cup of water with vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Sprinkle the gelatin over the liquid to bloom (soften).

Add the sugar, salt, corn syrup, and remaining 3/4 cup water to a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil with the lid on and without stirring. When this mixture is at a boil, remove the lid and continue to cook without stirring until it reaches the soft-ball stage (234-240 F).

With the mixer at medium speed, pour all of the hot syrup slowly down the side of the bowl into the awaiting gelatin mixture. If you have a splatter shield for your mixer, I highly suggest you use it. This is going to whip for a long time and it will definitely splatter, and molten sugar is very hard to clean off counters and cabinets!

When all of the syrup is added, bring the mixer up to full speed. Whip until the mixture is very fluffy and stiff, about 8-10 minutes. Yes, you read that right!

Pour the marshmallow fluff into the oiled pans and pat the bottom to get all bubbles to surface. Drop a few drops of red food coloring on various areas of the surface (3-5 drops will do) and swirl around with a toothpick or chopstick. Then let sit to cool for at least 8 hours.

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows 1

Sift confectioners sugar generously over the rested marshmallow slab. Turn the slab out onto a cutting board dusted with more confectioners sugar. Slice with a pizza cutter into desired shapes. If you're feeling creative, you can try a greased cookie cutter to cut the marshmallows into holiday shapes! Dip all cut edges in confectioner's sugar and shake off excess.

You can eat these plain, or dip them in chocolate and cool for a fun holiday treat! And of course, very best of all, you can plop a few into a nice steaming cup of hot cocoa and enjoy a peppermint hot chocolate!

Peppermint Swirl Marshmallows 2