Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Candy Conversation Hearts!

Everyone seems to have a "Love 'em or Hate 'em" attitude when it comes to the traditional candy conversation hearts. I know I do. I love them because they are a tradition. They have been a part of every Valentine's Day I can remember, but I am not crazy for the chalky taste or the fact that they are hard on my teeth. I found this recipe in last years February issue of Food Network Magazine, and I was intrigued.
What I discovered after making this recipe, is that these are so much better than the original they were trying to copy. These taste fresh and they are easy to eat. I think you will like these!
Candy Conversation Hearts!
1/4 ounce packet Unflavored Gelatin Powder
1 tablespoon Light Corn Syrup
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Boiling Water
2 pounds Confectioner's Sugar
Extra Confectioner's Sugar for kneading
Your choice of food color 
Your choice of extract
Cooking Spray
Food Decorating Pens
Whisk the gelatin, corn syrup, vanilla, salt, and 
boiling water in a stand mixer until the gelatin dissolves.
Beat in the confectioners' sugar, on medium, one cup at a time
until you have a stiff, sticky dough.
Move the dough to a clean work surface and knead.
You will have to add a little more confectioners' sugar
to make it workable. Add just a little at a time.
You shouldn't add more than a cup.
The dough should become soft and pliable, but still a little sticky.
Divide your dough into 4 pieces. Wrap the other pieces
so they don't become dry. On the piece you are working on
put some of the color you want this piece to be. I chose pink for this one.
 Also, drop a few drops of your extract. I used Almond.
I put 3 drops of pink color and 3 drops of almond. I used an 
eyedropper to add the extract. I added the color first, 
and then so the extract wouldn't go all over, I pulled the
 dough into a cup  form and added the extract.
 Knead the dough until the color is evenly distributed
through out.  As you can see, I also made green. :)
Take a large piece of parchment paper and spray it with
pan spray. Roll out your dough between 1/8" and 1/4".
I used 1/8" on the pink hearts and 1/4" on the others. The
1/8" was a little thin, but that is just my preference.
Start cutting out the hearts using a 1" cookie cutter.
As you peel away the dough,.....
you will have all these scraps left. Just reroll until you
have none left.
Transfer your cut hearts to parchment paper for drying.
Now do the steps again for each of the three left
over balls of dough. You can choose a different color for
each one. I used pink, green, yellow, and blue. I used almond for each
color, but you could certainly switch them up. Let the hearts sit out, uncovered
for 24 hours, but flip them over at 12 hours.
Once the hearts are dry, you can write on them with a food writer pen.
Here are a few that I wrote on. I wasn't happy with
my penmanship, so I haven't written on most of them, but I did
write a few updated ones like these and these...
just for kicks!
This recipe was time consuming, so after I made the dough,
I wrapped it tightly in plastic and did the rest the next day.
When they were done drying, I placed them in a plastic
container to keep them fresh.

So, that's it. A copycat version  of Conversation Hearts,
that I know you will love! Have fun, and thanks
for joining The Freshman Cook today!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Cranberry Orange Cookies

While I was cleaning and organizing my pantry the other day, I came across a can of sweetened condensed milk that was due to expire at the end of February. I set in on the counter, thinking I would figure out what to do with it, because I would be reminded of it each time I passed by, throughout the day. Well, that really didn't work out that great, but as I was inspecting the can, (looking for inspiration, I'm sure :)) I saw this recipe for Cranberry Orange cookies on the back of the can. It just so happened that I had everything I needed in the pantry, and so here they are. I made these in the evening, and they need to sit overnight after baking. That allows time for the flavors to meld together, and they are definitely worth the wait!
Cranberry Orange Cookies
(essentialeveryday.com)
2 cups Quick Oats
1 cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 cup Flour
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1-14 ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup White Chocolate Chips
1 tablespoon Orange Zest
1 tablespoon Orange Juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
There is no need for an electric mixer when you
 make these cookies. It's so easy to mix by hand, and
you won't break up your ingredients. Add the oats, cranberries, flour, 
cinnamon and salt to a bowl.
Mix everything really well. so all your ingredients 
are well distibuted.
Add your sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips,
orange zest, and orange juice. Mix well.
Use a cookie scoop to place the cookies on a greased
or parchment cover cookie sheet. Once your cookies
are on the sheet, go through and flatten them just a little.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
 Mine took 11 minutes every time.
Let cookies sit on the baking sheet for a minute,
 then place on a cooling rack to cool.
After they are cooled, cover to keep fresh, but try to 
wait a few hours or overnight to eat them.
Enjoy!

Thanks for joining The Freshman Cook today!

If you like these cookies, you might also enjoy these:
Oatmeal Caramel Cookies
Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

We are sharing at these parties:
Mouthwatering Mondays
Made By You Monday 
                   

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Touchdown Shooters


I know there are a gazillion different types of sandwiches, dips, desserts, and treats for the Super Bowl~and I love all of them! But, I was looking to make something a little different, a "guy treat" if there is such a thing. So, I created these Touchdown Shooters, and I tested them on the 2 guys I live with, my son and my husband.  And they liked them a lot. These shooters are full of peanut butter, chocolate, and salty pretzels! That's guy food, right? Let me know what you think!

Touchdown Shooters
2 cups Creamy Jif Peanut Butter
2 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup Confectioners Sugar
1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 cup Milk Chocolate Chips
3-4 tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream
Snyders Old Fashioned Dipping Sticks
Whipped Cream
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Confectioners Sugar
Mix your peanut butter, butter, and vanilla together.
Add Your confectioners sugar, and mix well.

The mix may be a bit stiff at this point, so add a little
bit of the heavy whipping cream at a time until it
has a smooth consistency. You need it smooth, but not runny.
Start melting your chocolate chips in a double boiler.
When your chips are almost melted, turn the heat off
of your chocolate. Take your 4 tablespoons of cream and
heat them up. The microwave is perfect for this.
You don't want it hot, just lukewarm. If you add the
cream when it is cold the chocolate may seize up,
or become very thick. Add your warmed heavy whipping
cream to your chocolate, a tablespoon at a time.
You want it to look smooth and.......
drizzle off of a spoon.
Put a handful of pretzel sticks in a plastic bag,
and roll over them with a rolling pin to crush them.
Take your crushed pretzels and place some in each
 of your shooter glasses. Use just enough to cover the bottom
of the glass. Take a couple tablespoons and set them aside.
You will use them to top the whipped cream.
Take the rest of your crushed pretzels, and mix them
into the peanut butter mixture. I found the best
way to really mix it together is with your hands.
Take a small scoop, or use a spoon, and form the
peanut butter mix into a ball. Place it in the bottom of
the shooter glass. Drizzle the chocolate over the
peanut butter to cover.
Do it again with another ball of peanut butter and....

top with chocolate again.
Place your whipping cream in the mixer.
Whip about 3-4 minutes, then add the sugar,
and whip on high until the cream becomes whipped cream.
Pipe the whipped cream onto the top of the chocolate.
I used a Wilton M1 tip.
Sprinkle a few pieces of pretzels pieces on the top
of the whipped cream.
Add your dipping stick pretzel to
 the side of the whipped cream.

Enjoy!
The dipping stick does work to eat the shooters.
Of course, so does a spoon!
I tried several ways of refrigerating these, and I found
that it is best not to. You can, but then you have to wait
until they softened to enjoy them. Make sure to add the whipped
cream right before serving, and have fun with these
Touchdown Shooters!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Super Bowl Linky Party!

The stage has been set! It's the Seahawks and the Broncos for Super Bowl XLVII on February 2!! I think that Super Bowl Sunday can be considered one of the bigger party days of the year, so let's get ready!! Here at The Freshman Cook, we are having an Eats and Treats Linky Party so we can see what everyone is making, baking, decorating, and munching down on! I know I always love to see how everyone else parties!! So get your party hats on, because we are having a party to celebrate the big party!!

Every entry will be pinned, tweeted, and posted on google+!! 
Everyone should see your Super Bowl Eats and Treats!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bites

It is reveal day for the Improv Cooking Challenge! This month the ingredients are crackers and cheese so I made these Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bites! This is not my "go to" cheesecake recipe that I usually bake, although I still adore it. I wanted to get outside my comfort zone and try a totally new cheesecake recipe, and I am so glad I did. It has a deep vanilla bean flavor that I know you are going to love.
Vanilla Bean Cheesecake Bites
(adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Ingredients
Crust
8-10 Chocolate Graham Crackers 
5 tablespoons Butter
4 tablespoons Confectioners Sugar
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
5 tablespoons Butter

Batter
2-8 ounce packs Cream Cheese (at room temperature)
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
3 large Eggs
3 teaspoons Vanilla Bean Extract

Topping
1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tablespoon Confectioners Sugar
1 cup Milk Chocolate Morsels
2 tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Take your Chocolate Graham Crackers and put them 
in the food processor and pulse until crumbly.
 You can crush your crackers by placing them in a 
plastic bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin.
Both methods work great!
Melt your butter in the microwave.
Add the sugar, salt,and cinnamon to the food processor
and pulse until well combined. If you are not using this method,
 you can combine the ingredients with a fork or spoon.
Place the crust into an 8X8 pan. 
Come up the sides approx. 1/2". 
Flatten on the bottom.
Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool.
Lower oven temp to 325 degrees.
Mix the cream cheese and the sugar together until smooth.
Add the cream, eggs, and vanilla.
Spoon the batter into the crust.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.
The batter should be set on the edges, but the center
can be a little soft.
Take the cheesecake out of the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes.
While the cheesecake is cooling, make your ganache.
Place your chocolate morsels in a double boiler on 
low heat. Melt chocolate, stirring every couple minutes.
When chocolate is completely melted, add your
whipping cream and stir thoroughly to combine.
Let it sit on very low heat while we make the whipping cream.
Place your heavy whipping cream in the mixer.
Let cream whip until peaks begin to form.
Add confectioners sugar and allow stiff peaks to form.
Remove whipped cream from bowl and place in
a pastry bag with a star tip of your choice.
Remove your cheesecake from the pan and cut into 
bite sized pieces. Ok, these are LARGE bites! ha!
Drizzle your ganache all over the bites.
Top your bites with whipped cream dollops.

Enjoy!
Thanks for joining me today, and when you make these
cheesecake bites, you might want to make two batches.
They practically flew out of the kitchen!!

There is a lot more where this came from!
See what everyone else made with cheese and crackers: