March – Easter Treats

Image

The thawing of winter and blooming of spring is a time that always goes by so fast. Yesterday it was Christmas and winter.  Tomorrow it’s Easter (depending on the year it’s here before you blink), and spring! The ground thaws and creatures come out of hibernation…

In the bakery, chocolates, bunnies and marzipan chicks are hatching up everywhere!

Easter is one of my most favorite seasons — and I love to make it special.

Here are some thoughts for you:

Dress your table up for the occasion! Get inspiration from the outdoors; cut some fresh flowers and leaves, strewing them along the center of the table. Remember to keep in mind that you want eye-height field of vision clear, so that conversation is not stunted by people not seeing you through tall and bulky table settings. You can add, just remember to have it spaced. Also, the narrower the better -you need for plates! 🙂

Want to show off some of your easter eggs? Nestle them in the greenery, or onto candle sticks (in place of the candle). Inexpensive Easter garlands can be found at any craft store and many grocery stores; if you take them apart you can use them as napkin ties or around chairs. For a more sophisticated look or to keep it from feeling too busy, try to stick with one base color (maybe two if it’s white and green, for example), and have 3 or 4 accent colors that just give the punctation to the decor. It’s the hint of color and whimsy that just make it fun!

My fun and relatively painless Easter dessert is decorated Sugar cookies! They are always a hit, and are fabulous to bake and/or decorate with kids (big and small). Just get out the cookie cutters, sprinkles, and icing! These can also be set out on the table top and become a conversation starter for groups who don’t know each other well. Display them on a “silver tray” until time for dessert!

My personal favorite Easter decorating activity is dying the Easter eggs. This could possibly be because it means there will be an Easter Egg Hunt, which is so much fun to watch with little ones!

We used to make our own dye – I found it much easier to maintain, cost effective, and my girls enjoyed the challenge with the colors.

To make the dye:

1 tsp food coloring, (the McCormicks in the little squeeze bottle from your grocer’s shelf)

1 tablespoon white vinegar,

½ cup hot water. (This is the amount you need per color for the dye).

Tips for boiling your eggs:

Start with cold eggs sitting in a pot of cold water. Bring to slow boil then broil for 5 minutes.

Let cool down in the water and then dry.

Now your ready to dip and decorate to your hearts desire!

Happy Easter!

January – Juicing Blog

January seems to be that time of year when many of us decide to “get healthy” and among things purchased in that pursuit are juicers; so I thought some insight might be helpful. As a juicer my entire adulthood, I have learned that juicers are not all one in the same, some are better for certain fruits/vegetables than others, and there is a difference between juicing and blending.

The first juicer I ever purchased (20+ years ago), was at the low end of the market. The juicer died within 6 months and preparing and cleaning took longer than juicing and drinking! After purchasing a second mid-priced juicer, which died within a year and again required much preparation, I decided to truly commit. Plunging into my bank account I purchased a Champion Juicer, the leading maker at the time (it is still available today). It required little prep, was easy to clean, and a had a strong fast motor; in truth the motors will out live us all- making the whole experience of juicing pleasurable. It served me faithfully until five years ago, when I chose to give it away, not because of it’s death, but rather the items that I was juicing changed. Instead of denser fruits and vegetables, like pears, apples, carrots, etc I began juicing many leafy greens. The result was that I needed a juicer with a much more efficient and fine strainer, with variable speeds.

So like all good Americans I saw an infomercial for a juicer created by a health guru and endorsed by a long line of the famous and not. The verdict: it worked but not without a lot of prep-time and definitely not on leafy greens. So the search continued, ending in the purchase of a Breville Ikon Juice Fountain …worth every penny! It required no real prep, has easy clean up and it loves leafy greens. (You can compost the discarded pulp mixture). *Note here: I first purchased the Juice Fountain Elite which is a little less clean up friendly over time and I have seen no real difference in the additional 100 watt motor strength).

So, do I want a blender or a juicer? The blender at high speed grinds items into a homogenous consistency with the help of liquid that you add to it. It does not separate anything that is fed into it such as peels or seeds. This could be a good thing if you like texture and want extra fiber. That said, it can also be a bad thing as some fruits and vegetables have toxic seeds/peels if chopped/ground up and consumed. Ex: apple seeds contain arsenic. So do your homework before going this route.

The juicer, on the other hand separates the skin, pit, and seeds, resulting in pure nutrient juice without pulp or fibers. Note: the texture is very thick, nothing like store-bought. No added liquid is needed in this juice. The fundamental job of the juicer is to separate the unwanted parts from the nutrient juice, by collecting the skin, pulp and fibers in one part of the machine so pure juice flows out of the spout into a container at the end of the juicer. Another note: other than the champion, fruit like bananas and avocados will be juiced into a puree if you’re lucky, but usually you just get a mess! *Frozen bananas juice brilliantly through the Champion, for a tasty healthy alternative to ice cream; kids love it!

Happy juicing and a healthy 2013!

We appreciate our Veterans!

Last week was elections, and today is our day to honor all of those who are serving and have served. Both days are highly patriotic and are a fabulous time to reflect as a nation, on who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

In the bakery, we love to know the origins of our recipes, and knowing our nations history is part of that. Our fore-fathers, whether civilians or soldiers, all fought for our to vote, and for our voices to be heard. Whenever we vote we are honoring their fight!

For those who continue to serve and have served in the military, to show our appreciation we offer a selection of cookies and pound-cakes at a reduced price, and a 10% discount on our occasion and wedding cakes. We appreciate yours and your families service and sacrifice.

Our way of celebrating these two occasions was with our Red, White, and Blue Cupcakes, and the Democrat and Republican Mascot  Cookies.

An easy tip for making patriotic cookies – take your cookie dough and split into thirds. One third take and roll it into a log,  the diameter being the size of the cookie you would want. I would say, anywhere from 2 inches – 4 inches. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. One third add some red food coloring to – paste food coloring works best- the deeper the color the more you’ll need. Then, knead the dough, spreading the color throughout. Once the color is evenly mixed, roll into a log and wrap, I suggest the same size as the first, but it’s up to you. Set it aside in the fridge. To the last third, add  blue paste food coloring. Knead and again, roll out into a log, wrap it in plastic wrap and into the fridge it goes! Let them set up for at least 30 minutes before working with them again.

Take your chilled cookie dough out of the fridge and just slice to about ½ inch in thickness and bake. A fun detail to add is a new, unused stamp to give it a little personality or theme. Now you have red, white and blue cookies!

[slideshow]

Labor Day Weekend Sweet Snack

Labor Day is right around the corner, and for many the last days of summer before school starts back. When my kids were in school, I always tried to have a treat for them on the last ‘weekend of summer’.  In that spirit, I am posting one of  my family’s ‘updated’ summer sweet treats. Ice cream sandwiches, you can make these at home, as much from scratch as you choose! I recently made these at my home and photographed my progress.

Now, I would say I only did about three- quarters of this from scratch, choosing to let the store help me with the ice- cream, and preparing the cookies in house. Now, if my youngest had been making this, the ice cream definitely would have been being churned in our kitchen, and it would be a toss up if she would have made the cookies from scratch, purchased pre-made dough, or just flat bought the cookies…. I think it would have depended on her day. 🙂 For me, the home made cookies and really good quality ice cream is the way to go – always.

First step : choose your flavor combination. Which cookie and ice cream pairing suits your fancy today? You are only limited to what is available in your pantry / store. For today, I’m taking chocolate chip cookies, as it’s a classic, with a new classic, (Im sure), banana peanut butter ice cream. Want something not chocolate? Try sugar cookies with strawberry ice cream. Or snicker doodles with classic vanilla ice cream. For a spin on death by chocolate, use your richest chocolate cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream. ….Yum!  Again, the options are only limited to your imagination, what’s in your pantry or at the grocery store !

Once you’ve made your selection, then you need to decide how you are making the cookies and ice cream. And when I say that, I mean if you are working from scratch, semi-scratch or purchased all the way.  It’s important to decide to plan your timing. The cookies have to be baked and fully cooled before being made into sandwiches if from scratch or semi scratch. The ice cream needs to be made and allowed to set for a few hours before being scooped. (Tip: remember basic, good quality vanilla ice cream, allowed to soften slightly can be easily modified by simply mixing in your favorite flavor, cookie crumbles or candy).

"The cookie dough that wasn't eaten from the bowl"

Cookie Dough Ready for Oven

A key with the cookies (if you are baking them) is to use a round ice cream scoop or similar utensil to get the batter onto the baking tray – as they all need to be about the same size and shape. Just remember to drag your utensil against the side of the bowl to make it level. Once the cookies are cool, look at them and then choose which are most similar to be pairs.

Cookies Still on the Cookie Sheet

The poor singles just waiting to be paired 😉

The consistency of the ice cream is part of the ‘trick’ to the assembly process. You want it barely softened; not runny, not firm. You don’t want the ice cream to “run out” when squished, and if it is still hard the cookies will break when being squished into a sandwich. So, if the ice cream’s too firm leave it on the counter for a few minutes (checking it frequently), and if it’s too soft back into the freezer it goes for a brief time! The worst part about this is  the almost certain cookie casualty you’ll have to eat, or the too soft ice cream which has run away on to your  hands and you must lick it off! 🙂

Once you have something resembling a sandwich, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and put it back in the freezer for about 15 min – 1 hour. As magic is occurring, as the cookie and ice cream mold themselves into a fabulous sandwich! Then- Voila!(Tip: Don’t miss this last step of letting the cookie and ice cream become one!). You have a cold delicious updated childhood treat! Enjoy!

Delicious!!

Happy 4th of July!

This day of remembrance, celebration, with friends and family is a special holiday to us at Sweet Memories; we so appreciate all the men and women who have served and are currently serving us. It’s a day of tradition and appreciation, a day which is often spent much the same year after year, yet always updating, changing with the passing of time.

For my family, it’s spent out doors, with family and friends, good food, kids and lots of laughter. When I was a child, I was part of the gang of kids. As I grew up, I was the one roasting marshmallows for others who simply want the pleasure of eating them. When my children were young, I was the background coordinator, helping prepare all the food and activities, making sure everyone was happy. Now, I enjoy the fellowship of others, and simply enjoy the day as it comes, not stressing over it.

And so I come to my current favorite no stress, summer sweet treat. Store bought angel food cake, (I know , I really should make it myself or buy it from us, but it is my day off, and therefore planning ahead is not part of it!), with fresh berries and a quick lemon icing! Delicious! And very color corrodinated for the day if you use blue berries and strawberries.

Simply slice the angel food cake in half – hollow out a little trough all the way around the center “hole”. Mix the berries together with a little heavy cream, and a touch of sugar if they are a little tart. Spoon the mixture into the trough as evenly  around as you can. Put the top of the cake on and spread or drizzle heavily with lemon icing!

Enjoy and God Bless America!

Holiday Hosting Go To Recipe

We’re in the single digits now in the countdown to Christmas, and the holiday parties are in full swing. Visiting family is about, if they have not already descended your home!

One of my go-to holiday hosting recipes is eggnog. Yes, women can worry about going against their diets, but it is the holidays after all, and it is quite delicious. How much harm can one glass do? Even people who don’t tend to like eggnog enjoy this! Freshly made eggnog is not comparable to store bought.

Have no fear in making it – it’s easy! And my hope is that you can enjoy it with dear and loved ones, remembering in the chaos and commitments what this season is all about!

Eggnog Recipe :
Makes about 1 ½ – 2 litters or ½ gallon, a nice punch bowl full
*Note: It doubles perfectly

Ingredients:
6 fresh eggs (separated)
1 cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp of Rum, optional
1 ½ Tbsp vanilla extract
½ liter (1 pint) heavy cream
½ liter (1 pint) fresh milk

Directions:
Beat the 6 eggs yolks. in another, larger, bowl beat the egg whites adding the sugar while beating. Next add well-beaten yolks to the egg white mixture. Beat again, thoroughly. Mix in rum, then cream and milk. Mix well. Sprinkle top with greeted nutmeg and serve. (Note: let this chill and get very cold).
For the family friendly version leave out the rum.

It’s Time to Start Baking!

Happy December 1st! And as a dear friend of mine says, “the race is on”. For most of us it is now countdown and a race against the clock to get everything done in a jammed schedule of Christmas parties, cookie swaps, kids needing gifts for friends, teachers, etc.

The only solution I know is to have a strategy and start early. Baked cookies are wonderful, economic gifts that show your appreciation and care for those who provide services for you throughout the year and loved ones alike – and they are always appreciated! And they can be easy to fit into your busy schedule. Here are a few tips:

1) Most cookie recipes can be made ahead of time and sit happy, wrapped and stored in an airtight container or sealable bag in your refrigerator for anywhere from 12  to 48 hrs.

2) Most cookies freeze beautifully – it just captures their flavor and taste – especially if you wrap and package them in sealable bags as soon as they have cooled from coming out of the oven. Note: if the cookie has a drizzle or glaze, to not put it on until you’re ready to give it.

3) The clean up really isn’t that bad – one bowl, a few measuring spoons, and take the time to put parchment paper on your baking sheets – and your good to go! *Note not wax paper and not freezer paper; they look similar but do not react to heat to the same way 🙂 !

Buy a beautiful box – or decorate a bag yourself – and add some tissue paper and your good to go!

Happy Baking!

[slideshow]