Sunday, December 26, 2010

Kiddy Snack of the Week: Candy Christmas Trees

I forgot to post a snack last Friday. In the spirit of Christmas, this wasn't really a snack, but it was a food that was created at school... and eaten at home.

Candy Christmas Trees

These were my co-teacher's idea. Each child got a plate with their name on it, and an ice cream cone turned upside down and stuck into place with some "snow" (vanilla frosting). I got a big bowl and mixed some green food coloring in with some separate vanilla frosting, and gave each child some green frosting to spread on their tree. Then they had little candies and sprinkles to choose from to decorate it. We put the different candies on separate plates and I scooped up whichever kinds they wanted with a spoon and put it in a corner of their own plate so they could put them on with their fingers. Good practice in fine motor coordination :).

This all occurred while we were watching Polar Express; we'd just have 3 children come to the table at a time to do their tree, then they could sit back down to watch the movie. It was lots of fun, I even decorated my own tree while finishing up with the last couple girls. The trees were so pretty sitting on the table like a little forest, waiting to be taken home at the end of the day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Fun

So, here's a look at my most recent holiday fun...

Last night was my winter solstice celebration. I had a couple friends over for goodies and wassail, a warm spiced wine drink from England. We lit candles, sat in my sunroom and listened to the rain, and watched fun youtube videos of these British guys who are funny and have a band.

From left to right: chocolate peanut + peanut butter crunch bark, amaretto cookies, my mom's fudge she makes every year, more cookies, and amaretto cake in the middle.

Today, I baked some brown sugar & spice cookies. I got the recipe from Lovin' From the Oven, one of the several blogs I frequent. I made the animal shapes with the adorable cookie cutters my internship boss mailed me. He got them from Ikea, along with some other lovely baking things on my wish list... a flour sifter, a frosting piping set, a quiche pan, a little juicer, and more cookie/cake cutters. I'll definitely be mailing him at least a couple batches of cookies in gratitude :)

All this fun and it's not even Christmas yet... but I guess Christmas lasts the whole month :)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Baking: Day 1

It's 5 days before Christmas, and my family and I have started our holiday baking. The first thing I baked was a recipe from my grandma called Absolutely Heavenly Amaretto Cake. She liked it so much that she hand-wrote the whole thing from its original source-- maybe a cookbook of hers, maybe a magazine-- and my mom saved it so that we could make it in her memory.

Absolutely Heavenly Amaretto Cake
Serves 10-12

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ozs sour cream
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup amaretto

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons apricot preserves
3/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup amaretto

Cake Instructions: 
1. Beat butter at medium speed in an electric mixer about 2 minutes or until soft and creamy.
2. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed 5-7 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.
4. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, making sure you begin and end with flour mixture. Mix at low speed just until blended after each addition.
5. Stir in extracts and 1/2 cup amaretto with a spatula.
6. Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 for 1 hour 15 minutes, at which time a toothpick inserted should come out clean.
7. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes. 
8. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Glaze Instructions: 
1. Combine apricot preserves, orange marmalade and 1/4 cup amaretto in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until melted, stirring frequently.
2. Drizzle over cooled cake.

What a lovely cake: the tang of the orange and apricot complements the light, sweet amaretto taste perfectly. A delightful treat for dessert or even breakfast.

Stay tuned for amaretto cookies :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

For Hanukkah: Latkes

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah, so it's not too late for me to post at least one Hanukkah recipe: latkes, or potato pancakes. This is based off my family's recipe we've been using every year, and it's the kind I made two batches of last night for the preschoolers and kindergarteners at the school where I work. They are traditionally served with apple sauce or sour cream. Fun to make, and fun to eat :).

Apple Latkes

Makes at least 3 dozen small latkes.

6 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup matzo meal
1-2 apples
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 eggs
Olive oil or corn oil for frying

1. Peel potatoes and cut into fourths, setting pieces in a medium bowl of water as you go.
2. Grate potatoes or shred them through a food processor.
3. Peel and chop apples into small pieces, and put them in a small bowl.
4. In another bowl, combine matzo meal, salt, pepper, and eggs. 
5. Add shredded potatoes and diced apple into the bowl with the other ingredients and mix all together until thoroughly combined.
6. Preheat some oil in a frying pan over the stove.
7. Fry ice cream scoop size amounts of latke batter in the pan, flattening out a bit with a spoon.
8. Let the latke fry on one side for at least 2-3 minutes, then flip it over for the same amount of time.
9. As each latke is finished frying, place it in a pan lined with paper towels for each layer to soak up the oil. You can fit at least 6 latkes in one layer.

The story behind latkes is that they were a quick meal for the Maccabees (Jewish soldiers) to fry up and take with them before they went out to battle Antiochus's army, their cruel ruler who would not let them practice their religion. The oil is significant in that the miracle of Hanukkah was a limited amount of oil lasting for eight whole days, enough time for the Jewish people to rebuild their temple destroyed in wartime.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Persimmon Cookies: A New Tradition

 My dad is really into persimmons right now. For him, they symbolize the bounty of the harvest. He has this friend who has a persimmon tree and lets him take all the persimmons he wants, so we have a whole bunch of persimmons at our house... some ripe, some still ripening. From off the tree, it takes a persimmon about 4-5 days to completely ripen. I'm still getting used to it.

One way we've been using them is to make persimmon cookies. I would liken them to ginger cookies, with a nice bit of spice to them and a soft yet not overly doughy texture. We've already made two batches, and tonight is the third batch. :)

Persimmon Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

2 ripe persimmons
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cut and peel 2 persimmons, enough to produce a cup pureed.
2. Puree in blender until smooth.
3. Microwave butter about 15-20 seconds, until it is very soft and melting a bit.
4. Beat persimmon puree, baking soda, sugar and butter until combined and smooth.
5. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and spices.
6. Crack egg and drop into liquid mixture.
7. Mix powdered ingredients into liquid mixture little by little on low setting.
8. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes.