Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gifts for co-workers part III

I mixed up some hot chocolate mix, based on this recipe. I added a little cinnamon, and I think a pinch of chili powder would be nice too (I didn't have any on hand).

From top to bottom: the toffee, the hot chocolate, and the marshmallows. I love those gift tags, they're from elfrida and this crap photo does not do them justice.

And the final product.

Next year I want to try gingerbread in a jar! Originally spotted at Angry Chicken.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gifts for co-workers part II

I cheated a little on the "homemade" part of homemade marshmallows by using this kit from the Barefoot Contessa. Everything was already measured out and the directions seemed fairly simple. In retrospect I should have done a little homework - next time I will oil the baking dish before coating with confectioner's sugar, so that I won't have to pry the marshmallows out of the pan. Annoyingly, the kit didn't mention how to store the marshmallows and how long they last. After some digging online, I wrapped them in parchment paper and stored them in ziploc bags; I'm assuming these go stale rather quickly but I'll have to get back to you on the specifics.

Dissolve gelatin in cold H20:

Combine sugar and corn syrup mixture with water and bring to a boil:

Wait until the mixture reaches 240 deg F ("soft ball" stage):

Add sugar syrup to the gelatin, and beat until it's thick (and sticky beyond belief):

At this point you're supposed to pour the (did I mention extremely sticky) mixture into a glass baking dish covered in powdered sugar. Here's where an oiled pan would have helped, so that the powdered sugar coated not only the bottom of the pan but the sides as well.
The marshmallows sat overnight, and then I cut into squares using kitchen scissors:

I wrapped them in parchment paper and tied with string:
Some of them look a little gimpy but I worked late today and I'm tired!
Next up: Mexican hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gifts for co-workers part I

I usually make something sweet+homemade for my friends at school; it's easier than trying to buy gifts for everyone (there are seven of us in the lab, including my boss). Plus I get depressed about the commercialism that seems to come along with Xmas. In my dreams I make all of my presents, and ask for only handmade gifts in return. But that's a whole other post, isn't it?

Anyway. First up was salty peanut toffee. I like this one because you end up making quite a bit, and it keeps at RT for two weeks.

It was easy enough to make, and having a candy thermometer really helped - I think without it my inclination would be to pull the caramel off the stove before it's done (300 F).

First I melted an appalling amount of butter with sugar and a bit of salt:

As it starts to bubble, the color deepens and the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pot:

I mixed in 2C of salted peanuts (the recipe calls for 4) and poured everything into a buttered pan:

The finished product:

If I make this again I think I'll try it with cashews and a little salt on top.
Next up: homemade marshmallows.
p.s. went to see Atonement last night. I think it might be the best adaptation of a novel that I've ever seen - they got the tone of the opening chapters exactly right, the casting was perfect and the cinematography was beautiful. I was even able to ignore Keira Knightly's skeletal frame for the most part. A must see if you haven't already! Wish I could say the same for The Golden Compass...


CSA I miss you.

I've been floundering a bit since the CSA ended in early November. I'm pretty sure we'll sign up again next year, I really had fun with it and the weekly commitment wasn't a big deal at all. Next season we'll need to figure out whether to split a share again with my brother and SIL, and I'm also going to look into Red Earth Farm which delivers directly to our neighborhood but does not offer the great meat/cheese etc. selection that Greensgrow does. Signups will start in March 2008.
To fill the gap over the winter I've finally joined our local co-op. Weaver's Way is within walking distance from our apartment, and my SIL joined also. In addition to a $30/year investment, there is also a work requirement: 6 hours/year/adult.
I'm going to try and sign up for work later in this week, and I'll try to keep a log of how it goes from there. I'm already excited about this.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

In the works

Lately I've been admiring

these porcelain pinecones
these organic shapes
this pendant

and thinking that I could probably create something on my own, starting with basic modelling clay

pine needles

I think these would make nice ornaments, or gift tags.


bobby pins


Seriously, think of the possibilities!