Peppermint Meringue Kisses

Looking for a holiday cookie you wont feel terrible eating 10 of? Here it is. Not that it’s healthy, it’s just not full of fudge and butter and flour…

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Ever since half of my baking became dairy free (because of my kosher job) I’ve become fascinated by merigues. They can be absolutely beautiful, and they taste like a perfectly crispy marshmallow… But they’re so sturdy, holding their shape through 2 and a half hours of heat… Eggs are amazing.

This recipe was inspired by my mom’s baked alaska – an annual treat in our home. As a kid (and presently) I was amazed when my mom took ice cream out of the oven and it wasn’t a puddle of cream. Instead of icecream in these meringues, I used hershey’s chocolate kisses that completely maintain their shape throughout baking.

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I learned recently why meringue is such an amazing insulator – it is made of thousands and thousands of tiny bubbles. Every air bubble (full of still air) slows down the transfer of heat to whatever is inside the meringue. Maybe this summer I’ll try covering some fudgesicles with meringue… Why dont people do this kind of thing more on Chopped and Iron Chef and Sweet Genius?!

Peppermint Meringue Kisses
About 40 hershey’s kisses (use any kind you like!)
3 eggs whites
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
Red food coloring

Unfortunately I didn’t take progress photos for you all this week… Shame on me. But this recipe is very straight forward and fun! If you haven’t had a lot of experience with a piping bag this is a great time to practice your swirls.

1. Unwrap all your hershey’s kisses and place them an inch and a half away from eachother on a lined baking sheet. Keep extras on hand, depending on the size of your eggs you might have more meringue.

2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and start beating the egg whites on medium high until they just start to get foamy, then add the cream of tartar.

3. Slowly start adding in the sugar and beat until almost stiff peaks.

4. Add the extract and beat until stiff peaks form.

5. Prepare your piping bag with a big star tip. Now for the swirls of color… Stop the mixer and just dot the food coloring on top of the meringue, do not stir! Transfer the meringue to the piping bag, as you pipe the food coloring will swirl into the meringue, so easy!

6. Pipe a swirl around each hershey kiss, make sure you can’t see any chocolate – remember we are insulating these little guys!

7. Pop them in the oven for 2.5 hours, then turn off the oven but leave them inside to dry out further. Take them out within 2 hours… But no rush.

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These are wondful light cookies to have with coffee, hot cocoa or tea… But keep them away from your furry friends!

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Cheese, Dill and Beer Bread

I did not think this bread would turn out to be blog-worthy, it was kind of just a curiosity. But when Pete said, “It gets better each time I eat it” (it is now a three day old loaf) I knew I had to post it. Any bread that tastes just as good, if not better, after three days is good in my book. Plus this bread is so gosh darn easy – it is a quick bread.

To me, it tastes like beer cheese soup in baked form, which is awesome. In the future I may call it the Mountain Man Loaf, it’s quite rustic looking, has beer, and cheese and it is very filling. Like a real mountain man would do, I used one of Pete’s home brewed beers to make this loaf. I suppose the kind of beer you use would change the flavor pretty dramatically… Unfortunately you wont be able to make my exact bread, unless you want to buy some of Pete’s homebrew, but you can talk to him about that. I’d advise using a darker beer, maybe something not out of a can? Maybe not miller light? Just a suggestion.

Cheese, Dill and Beer Bread
3 cups AP flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp dried dill
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup shreded cheese
12 oz. beer
3 Tbsp melted butter or margarine

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and combine all your dry ingredients.

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Pour in the beer.

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Add the cheese.

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Stir it all up to form a thick batter and pour it into a loaf pan (these might make good muffins too!). Now take your melted butter or margarine and pour it over the top of the loaf.

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Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Slice and eat all week long…

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Leroy is hiding his face because he’s accused of underage beer bread eating…

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Pumpkin Brown Sugar Granola

This week has been a complete whirlwind (which is why I haven’t posted a recipe in a while!). I taught hooping workshops to freshmen at the U of Michigan, taught a seminar on hooping at a conference for public school PE teachers and catered three separate events on top of my normal job! I am pooped. I don’t remember being this stressed out even during finals in college…

Here is part of the 500 mini treat order for a local business’ 50 year anniversary:

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Red velvet cheesecake swirl brownies, pumpkin streusel muffins, coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate, classic snickerdoodles and triple ginger double chocolate cookies – 100 of each!

It felt really great to be so busy, I’m hoping to keep the ball rolling with some fun Valentine’s Day specials… I’ll keep you posted.

Last night, when I had finally finished everything for the week and it was time to relax… I couldn’t. I made guacamole for dinner, caramel corn for dessert and granola for the week to come. I had just spent all week baking things for other people, I needed to make some things for myself!

The recipe I’m going to go through today is my go-to granola recipe, so of course I got it from Oprah. Yes, Oprah! She’s no Martha Stewart but I guess she knows her granola. Oprah also taught me that granola was invented in the 1860’s but never grew in popularity. Then in the 1960’s production of granola boomed due to a health movement closely related to the “hippie” lifestyle. Granola bars didn’t make an entrance until the mid 1970’s.

Although granola was tied to a health movement in the 60’s, it’s really important to not equate granola with healthy. Companies will put anything in granola to make it taste delicious, so if you’re buying granola at the store make sure to check out the ingredients list.

In my opinion, buying granola is a waste of money. I did some math for all of you (that is rare, so be thankful) and figured out that the granola from today’s post cost about $8.65 for 9.5 cups of granola – that’s about 45 cents for every half cup serving. For most granolas you buy in stores (like BearNaked for example) a half cup serving costs about 83 cents.

On top of financial benefits, when you make your own granola at home you get to know exactly what goes in it. You can change ingredients to fit with what you like, avoid any food allergy problems and keep the sugar content as high or low and you like. Plus, granola is so simple, I promise you. You stir everything up in a bowl and bake it for a long while on a low temp to dry it all out. So lets do it.

Pumpkin Brown Sugar Granola
1 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
1 cup brown sugar (feel free to use other sweeteners here then add a couple tablespoons of molasses to create the brown sugar taste)
4 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp vanilla
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (a combo of all spice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
2 tsp caradamom
2 tsp salt
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups nuts (I used almonds and pecans)
2 cups dried fruit (I used cranberries and currants)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Throw everything except the dried fruit in into a large bowl and mix until everything is coated.

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Spread this mixture out evenly on two sheet pans lined with parchment or baking mats.

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You are going to bake the granola for about an hour – the hour is split into thirds. Every 20 minutes take out the granola and mix it around a bit, make sure to rotate oats in from the edges, they tend to get crispy pretty quickly out there.

When you take out the sheets before the final 20 minutes, sprinkle in the dried fruit.

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Finish the last 20 minutes, if the oats are nice and crunchy, you’re done! If not, they just need a little more time to dry out. Turn off your oven but leave the granola inside, you can leave in in there for up to two hours to get it as crunchy as you like.

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Yummm… I like mine with some Wallaby vanilla bean yogurt and grannysmith apple chunks…

These little guys like it best when it falls on the floor.

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