We are now less than a week away from Thanksgiving, are you ready? I’m sadly not cooking a feast this year so I don’t have a menu to share but that doesn’t mean that I can’t experiment a little to find tasty dishes for future Thanksgivings and/or holidays. So, I have been cooking and coming up with a few new (to my family) dishes that would be great on Thanksgiving or anytime you are wanting something a little extra special.
We eat a lot of sweet potatoes in our house, they are a staple. My top ways of making them are baking and roasting and typically on holidays I make my sweet potato casserole. It is awesome, it’s even award winning,lol, but i’m keeping that recipe to myself for a bit longer. What i’m going to share with you is,Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Browned Butter and Toasted Marshmallow. It is simply awesome.
When looking at this recipe you may be thinking cream cheese and sweet potatoes, say what? I know, I thought the same thing. I never thought to mash sweet potatoes with cream cheese but guess what? It works and it makes them awesome. To make them even better just add browned butter and finish by giving them a spicy bite cayenne pepper. Oh and of course top with some toasty marshmallows. It is a flavor explosion in your mouth!
Outside of how great these taste the only thing better about this recipe is how easy these are to make while looking like you spent hours on them. While they do take a while to make that is because you roast the sweet potatoes and that takes time the rest is pretty easy. While your potatoes are cooling enough to handle you brown your butter. Once that is done set aside while you carefully split and scoop out you sweet potatoes. While you can use a hand masher I use a hand mixer to mash my sweet potatoes to help get some of the stringy fibers that can sometimes be found in sweet potatoes. Then all is left is refilling the sweet potato skins and to do this I use a piping bag to get it done quick and easy. Top with mini marshmallows and bake until toasty. Then there you have it, a side dish that will make your guest go wow that looks amazing that will be soon be followed by it taste amazing too.
So how are you making your sweet potatoes this year? Try Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Browned Butter and Toasted Marshmallow and you and your family and friends won’t be disappointed!
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Browned Butter and Toasted Marshmallow
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Rub olive oil onto the outside of each sweet potato and sprinkle sea salt over each. Arrange sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until a sharp knife easily pierces the potato, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool sweet potatoes until easily handled, 10 to 15 minutes.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until solids begin to brown and smell nutty, 5 to 8 minutes.
Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop insides into a large bowl. Add browned butter, cream cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper and mash using a potato masher until smooth. Spoon mixture back into the sweet potato skins and top each with ¼ cup marshmallows. Place sweet potatoes back onto the baking sheet.
Bake in the oven until warmed through and marshmallows are toasted, about 10 minutes.
We are coming to the tail end of my 12 days of Homemade Christmas and I have a simple 5 ingredient treat. They are considered a cookie, not candy and are completely gluten free. My day 11 pic for my Homemade Christmas is Peppermint Meringues. These are sweet bites of airy and light with a bit of crispness, deliciousness! I seriously could eat them all. It is a good thing that they are only 13 calories!
Don’t let the meringue part scare you, making meringue is easy. All you really need is a good mixer as mixing by hand will not get you the same results. Here are a few of my best tips:
Pick a dry day to make your meringues. They will turn out better on a dry day compared to a rainy or extra humid day. The moisture will prevent the stiff peaks from properly forming.
Remember to use room temperature egg whites.
Be sure not to get any yolk mixed in with your egg whites. Your egg whites will not properly stiffen.
Do not beat your egg whites until they are just white, beat for an extra couple minutes. You are wanting stiff peaks.
Add your sugar and other add in’s (crushed candy canes, chocolate chips, etc.) slowly, don’t plop it in! You will lose air and your peaks can deflate.
You can dollop with a spoon but if you want to get fancy a freezer ziplock bag makes an excellent piping bag! Just cut the corner off for the tip.
Use parchment instead of foil or a silpat when baking.
Use an oven thermometer! Check your oven temperature to make sure it isn’t too hot before baking.
To help avoid cracks, do not take out of the oven until completely cool. My family is impatient so mine almost always have cracks. They are still pretty tasty with cracks.
Baking low and slow also help prevent cracks.I hope you and your family and friends like these Peppermint Meringues as much as mine does!
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until whites form stiff peaks. If desired carefully fold in mini chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the cookies.
Bake for 1½ hours in preheated oven. Meringues should be completely dry on the inside. Do not allow them to brown. Turn off oven. Keep oven door ajar, and let meringues sit in the oven until completely cool. Loosen from foil with metal spatula. Store loosely covered in cool dry place for up to 2 months.
It wouldn’t be the holiday’s without homemade candy so I have one last candy to share with you for my 12 days of Homemade Christmas, Caramels. Yes, Homemade caramels! These gems take a bit more patience to make but are well worth the time and effort. Do you still need some last minute gifts? These caramels are a perfect gift! Your family and friends will fall in love with the smooth caramel.
In a medium-size pot, combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, and butter. Monitor the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer while stirring. When the thermometer reaches 250 degrees F (120 degrees C) remove the pot from the heat.
Stir in vanilla. Transfer mixture to the lined pan and let the mixture cool completely. When cooled cut the Carmel into small squares and wrap them in wax paper for storage.
All of the recipes I have in my 12 days of Homemade Christmas all have some sort of special memory behind them. Day 9 is no different but it is also something I haven’t made since the summer of 2013. My day 9 of my 12 days of Homemade Christmas is Peppermint Bark. Why was I making this classic treat in the summer? For my grandma. Christmas time 2012 she found she had cancer and during her treatment I would send her care packages and she really like the chocolate and mint combo. Unfortunately she passed away in June of 2013. My grandma was an awesome person and is dearly missed. I am also sure she wouldn’t want me to stop making this delicious treat so it is back in my regular Christmas candy list right next to Buckeyes and Cocoa Can Fudge.
Peppermint bark is among some of the simplest Christmas candies to make. You crush peppermint candies or candy canes, either in the food processor or using a ziploc bag and your favorite crushing tool (mine is a frying pan) and smashing the candy into bits. You then set your crushed candy canes aside and melt your chocolate. You can use the microwave or a double boiler. Just note during this part when you add peppermint oil to not add water-based or alcohol-based flavorings to the melted chocolate. If you do this your chocolate could seize up and become clumpy and hard. After melting your chocolate you pour into a lined baking pan, layering your chocolates and then top with the crushed peppermint and let it cool. After it is cool you break it up and the best part, eat or give away as gifts.
1½ pounds milk or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ pounds white chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon oil-based peppermint flavoring, or to taste
*chocolate chips can be used*
*candy canes can be used*
Line 9x13-inch baking pan with wax paper.
Melt the milk chocolate in the top of a double boiler over just-barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching, just until melted. Pour the melted chocolate over peppermint candy in the prepared pan. Sprinkle another ⅓ of the candy on top of the milk chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes.
Melt the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler over just-barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching. Stir in the oil-based peppermint flavoring. Pour the white chocolate over the milk chocolate, then spread the peppermint candy on top.
Refrigerate until the white chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes. Cut or break into pieces to serve.
On my 8th day of my Homemade Christmas I am bringing you something extra special, Gluten Free Gingerbread Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream. I love pretty much all of the flavors of the Christmas season but there is one that I reserve only for Christmas, gingerbread. Gingerbread is that one smell that says Christmas to me and every year I can’t wait for gingerbread smelling and tasting things. It is part of what I need to get me in the Christmas mood. We love making gingerbread houses and decorating gingerbread cookies. Especially the gingerbread men or ninja’s. Gingerbread is a huge part of my families Christmas tradition.
I have said in the past that going gluten free I knew baking would be a challenge. Baking is science, plain and simple. With gluten free baking you are removing the vital gluten that forms to help give baked goods their structure. It also acts as a binder, it helps with elasticity and helps with moisture retention. I learned quickly I had to figure out something to use to replace it. My weapon of choice is xanthan gum. The xanthan gum behaves the most like gluten. Then with this you have to find the right flour blend. If you make your own this can be tricky and that is a world I have yet to dive into. I choose gluten free flour blends that are becoming more readily available. Just note that not all flour blends are the same and some do have xanthan gum or guar guar. Once you have your key components you are ready to bake and I am learning that gluten free baking is not scary. These gingerbread cupcakes really gave me the confidence I needed in my gluten free baking. I was once the cupcake lady and I can proudly say I am back and better than before because I am gluten free and you would never know it unless I told you.
Try these cupcakes for yourself and see for yourself. Make them for others and see if they can tell the difference. Gluten free baking isn’t hard.The outcomes are delicious!
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (more if needed)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Prepare cupcake pan with liners (18).
In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg, and mix in the molasses.
Mix in gluten free flour, xantham gum baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger,nutmeg and cloves. Stir in the hot water. Pour batter into the lined, cupcake pan, filling them about ⅔ full.
Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approximately 20 minutes.
Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting or serving.
Beat confectioners' sugar, butter, and syrup together in a bowl using an electric mixer until smooth. Add cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, to sugar mixture and beat until frosting is thickened and desired consistency. This is a SWEET frosting, a little goes a long way!
Today for my 12 days of Homemade Christmas I want to talk about a classic cookie, the chocolate chip cookie. We love chocolate chip cookies in our house they are something I knew I needed to figure out how to make once I became gluten free. They are comfort food for my family.
I have been making chocolate chip cookies since I was a little girl. I remember making them in Home Ec for our group project and fighting with my partner about how to make them. Those were probably the worst cookies I ever made. Chocolate chip cookies were the first cookie I taught Shortie to make. Chocolate chip cookies and I go way back!
I was the girl that would bring chocolate chip cookies into work that my coworkers would gobble up in minutes. My cookies became must haves for deployment care packages. A world without chocolate chip cookies was not a world I wanted to be in. I had my work cut out for myself. I knew if anyone could do it, I could. I have had random people come up to me at the commissary and ask me for cookie baking tips. Oh and yes, it was random and odd but hey if I can help someone else perfect a chewy cookie, i’ll help. I was ready for my gluten free chocolate chip cookie challenge.
It took a little time but I soon figured out how to make an awesome gluten free chocolate chip cookie. Some gluten free all purpose flour blend, xanthan gum and tweaking my recipe I soon had the perfect cookie. The tips I have included in my recipe came long before Pinterest. They are tried and taste tested by many over 15 years.
Check out my recipe and make them for your family and you will fall in love with them too!
School is almost out for the year here, just a few more days left. This also means it is Christmas teacher gift time. Yes, I procrastinate on this one. I don’t get all crazy with teacher gifts. I keep it simple and try to make it cost effective. My son with Autism at one point had 8 or 9 teachers and aides. So we have almost always always done homemade gifts. Even now my younger 2 in elementary school do not stick with one teacher all day. Mr Awesome has 5 teachers for 5th grade and Lil Miss has 2 in 2nd grade. As for middle and high school teachers, we do not do gifts for them unless they have left their mark and are truly awesome. That is just us though. If we gave gifts to all 4 of my kid’s teachers and assistants it would be about 22 gifts. Christmas isn’t about going broke or who can spend the most on a gift. Well, that is what we think. So on the 6th day of my Homemade Christmas I made Melt in your Mouth Toffee for teachers in our life.
Truth is, I don’t know when it happened but I have fallen in love with toffee. I think everyone should love it. What is there not to love. Toffee is simple. The recipe I use has 5 ingredients, Butter, Sugar, Brown Sugar, Chocolate and Almonds. Yes, you need a candy thermometer but just because you have to use one doesn’t mean the recipe is hard. You bring your butter and sugar to a certain temperature and the pour into a pan, add chocolate, then the almonds and let it cool and you are done. It is easy! I invite you to try it and let me know what you think!
In a heavy saucepan, combine butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Boil to brittle stage, 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) without stirring. Remove from heat.
Pour hot mixture into a 9x13 dish that has been lined with foil or parchment paper. Sprinkle chocolate chips and allow to sit for a minute or two to melt. Then spread evenly with spatula into a thin layer. Sprinkle with almonds.
Let the mixture cool (can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer) and break it into pieces before serving. Store in an air tight container.
Thanks to a friend on Facebook I learned that today is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. So many things are made even better by simply covering them with chocolate. There is chocolate covered peanut butter things like Buckeyes, classic chocolate covered cherries, chocolate covered pretzels to even chocolate covered bacon and potato chips. Chocolate covered things are generally good and something I like to make and my family enjoys eating. During Christmas I like to dip all the things in chocolate including my favorite spritz cookie, Snow Flakes.
About 8 years ago I discovered the recipe for Snow Flakes Spritz and they became an instant Christmas cookie must have for my family. Spritz cookies are delicate little buttery shortbread cookies that are Swedish. They are pretty simple to make but you do need a cookie press or as my kids call it a cookie gun to make them. There are all different types of cookie presses out there but I will tell you I use a basic manual cookie press with a trigger handle (hence why my kids call it a cookie gun) although I do own a vintage Mirro dial a cookie press that was my husband’s grandmother’s. I just need to learn how to use that vintage press. With the cookie press it allows you to press a large amount of cookies in a short time in a variety of shapes. Then the cookies can be decorated either before or after baking. Therefore making it look like you spent hours making fancy cookies.
Snow Flakes Spritz are a bit more special than your typical spritz cookie in my opinion. They are more than just a simple butter cookie. The dough is peppered with orange peel and cinnamon has been sprinkled in as well. Add chocolate into the mix and you have one mighty tiny yet tasty explosion of flavor going on. I know I have a hard time eating just one and that is why I had to add them to my 12 days of Homemade Christmas. Something this good deserves to be shared! Oh and did I mention they are gluten free also! Add them to your must bake Christmas cookie list and amaze your friends with how delicious they are.
Carefully melt chocolate and shortening together in either microwave or using a double boiler.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter, cream cheese,sugar and fresh orange zest. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in flour, salt,xanthan gum and cinnamon.
Optional- if desired dough can be dyed different colors with food coloring.
Fill the cookie press, and form cookies on ungreased cookie sheet.
Optional- If desired sprinkle with colored sugar, nonpareils or other sprinkles.
Bake in preheated oven for approximately 12 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet, and cool on wire racks.
Optional- If desired dip or drizzle cookies in melted chocolate. Sprinkle with nonpareils or other sprinkles.
Since yesterday I wrote about a southern favorite with a twist, bacon pralines, so I figured I would continue with another southern favorite with a twist for my fourth day of my Homemade Christmas. Today I have taken the traditional red velvet cake and turned it into a cookie! No mixes here, I have created a gluten free red velvet chip cookie made from scratch! Honestly, I was hesitant at first red velvet is something that I do not make much of because of the red dye but if I do say so myself I make a kick butt red velvet cake and special occasions call for special cookies. These cookies are definitely special cookies. They have just a touch of cocoa powder and soured milk that helps give them the flavor of a traditional red velvet. I then used white chocolate chips in the place of frosting. After all there is no need to debate which frosting is the proper frosting for red velvet. Life is short so have a cookie instead!
Many years ago when I was my kid’s age I lived in the coastal area of North Carolina and not that far away from our house lived my great grandparents. We would go to visit my great grandparent every so often. I remember their trailer nested between huge homes, The chain link fence and the towering pecan trees in the front yard. When we would visit we would sometimes walk down the boardwalk with my great grandpa or even go to the North Carolina Maritime Museum. There is one thing though that stick out with me more than anything about those visits, the pecans. My great grandma Freda corrected and taught us the proper way to say pecan. It was pronounced like puh-cahn not pee-can because a pee-can was something you kept next to your bed to pee in. There was something that stuck with me more than that gem, picking up pecans. Whenever we would go visit my great grandparents it was my sister, brother and my job to pick up all the pecans that we could. I have no clue how many buckets would end up other than it was a lot. We would always be sent home with pecans too. I remember a pecan pie a time or two also. The thing about pecans though is as a kid I absolutely hated them. I didn’t like pecan pie or cookies with pecans in them… if it had pecans it was not for me.
I don’t know what happened when I grew up but now I love pecans now. Pumpkin pecan ice cream, yes please! Pecans mixed in with the crumb of my sweet potato casserole,yum. Then there are pralines. Oh, sweet pralines! I have always wanted to make my own pralines but they were always a candy I was nervous about trying to make. One day though, I would and I did. They were absolutely perfect and like the pralines I had bought at the store all so many times in the past. I then got this crazy idea. Pralines and bacon, bacon and pralines. After all bacon makes everything better. There is candied bacon and bacon cupcakes and even bacon sundaes. So I made them and they were wonderful, glorious things. My oldest son immediately decided they were a new favorite and my husband wanted more. Needless to say Bacon Pralines have been added to my holiday candy list and I happily share them you for my 3rd day of Homemade Christmas.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, white sugar, sea salt and heavy cream. Bring to a boil. Stir in butter, pecans, bacon and vanilla. Heat, without stirring, to 240 degrees F or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water and placed on a flat surface. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.
Beat until thickened (careful not to over stir), then pour immediately onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cool.