Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bûche de Noël (Yuletide log) with Meringue Mushrooms

Happy New Years!  
I sat down this morning - ready to get working in the kitchen on my annual Yuletide Log, and almost felt betrayed that I've never posted this recipe.  It just doesn't seem possible since this is such a tradition for our family and friends on New Year's Eve. .
I found this many years ago in a Betty Crocker's Best of Baking cookbook someone gave us for our wedding.  We call it the log because it looks just like a tree stump, complete with little meringue mushrooms.  Keep in mind that it takes some time to put together.  
Bûche de Noël

The Log
3 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 c. heavy cream
2 T. sugar
1.5 t. cocoa powder
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting (below)
Meringue Mushrooms (below)

Heat oven to 375*.  Line jelly roll pan (15.5 x 10.5 x 1) with foil or waxed paper; grease.  Beat eggs in small bowl on high speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored.
Pour eggs into large bowl; gradually beat in 1 c. sugar.
Beat in water and vanilla on low speed.  Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until batter is smooth.
Pour into pan, spreading batter to corners.

Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Carefully remove foil/waxed paper.
Trim off stiff edges of cake if necessary.
While hot, carefully roll cake and towel from narrow end.
Cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes.

Beat whipping cream, 2 T. sugar and cocoa powder in chilled medium bowl until stiff.
Unroll cake; remove towel.  Spread whipped cream mixture over cake.
Roll up cake.
For tree stump, cut off a 2-inch diagonal slice from one end.  Attach stump to one long side using 1 T. frosting.  Frost with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.  Make strokes in frosting to resemble tree bark, using tines of fork.
Garnish with Meringue Mushrooms.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/3 c. cocoa
1/3 c. margarine or butter, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
1.5 t. vanilla
1-2 T. hot water

Thoroughly mix cocoa and butter in medium bowl.
Beat in powdered sugar on low speed.
Stir in vanilla and hot water.
Beat until smooth and of spreading consistency.

Meringue Mushrooms
2 egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/2 c. sugar
Chocolate Decorator's Frosting (below)

Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or heavy brown paper.
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in small bowl on medium speed until foamy.
Beat in sugar on high speed, 1 T. at a time; continue beating about 5 minutes or until stiff and glossy.  Do not underbeat.
Heat oven to 200*.  Place meringue in decorating bag with plain tip with 1/4 inch opening (#10 or #11).  Or place meringue in strong plastic bag, cut off a tiny tip from one corner of bag.
Peipe meringue in about 55 mushroom-cap shapes, each 1-1.25 inches in diameter, onto 1 cookie sheet.
Sift cocoa over mushroom caps.
Pipe about 55 3/4 inch upright cone shapes onto second cookie sheet for mushroom stems.
Bake both pans for 45-50 minutes or until firm.
Immediately turn mushroom caps upside down and make an indentation in bottom of each caps.  Brush off excess cocoa with soft bristled brush.
Prepare Chocolate Decorator's Frosting.
To assemble mushrooms, spread small amount of frosting in indentation of each mushroom cap; insert peak end of stem into frosting.  Place upside down to dry.
Store uncovered at room temperature.

Chocolate Decorator's Frosting
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 t. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
1 T. hot water
Heat chocolate and butter until melted; remove from heat.  Beat in powdered sugar and hot water until smooth and of spreading consistency.  If necessary, stir in additional hot water, 1 t. at a time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Left over Holiday Turkey - Hawaiian Haystacks

What do rice, chicken/turkey, celery, raisins and Chinese noodles have in common?
I know - they seriously don't sound like they go together, but my family LOVES Hawaiian Haystacks.

I see it as an economical (and family friendly) way to yet again use some of those holiday left overs.  My kids see it as one of their favorite dinners.  Winner winner, chicken dinner.  (Sorry I couldn't resist there!)

1-2 c. chopped or shredded (bite size) cooked turkey or chicken
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. butter
2-3 c. milk
1-2 chicken bouillon cubes (for taste if desired)
2 c. rice (or 4 c. cooked rice)

In medium sized pan, heat 1 quart (4 cups) of water to boiling.  Add 1 t. salt, and 2 t. butter.  Bring to a boil.
Add 2 c. rice and again bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for 1 minute, then cover with a lid, and reduce the heat to low, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes without disturbing.

In the meantime, heat 1/4 c. butter in medium sauce pan, and once melted, mix in flour to form a roux.  Allow to cook for a minute, then slowly add milk, mixing quickly to prevent the flour from clumping.  With milk, thin to a gravy like consistency.  Dissolve salt and bullion into this mixture to taste.

Add cooked chicken or turkey (leftovers) and heat thoroughly.

Serve chicken/turkey gravy over cooked rice and top with the following as desired:
Chopped celery, raisins, chopped almonds, pineapple, dried coconut, peas, finely chopped green onions, Chinese Chow Mein noodles, peanuts, mandarin oranges, pomegranate seeds, tomatoes - pretty much anything you'd like.  Great for picky kids, because they get to choose their toppings!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Leftover Holiday Ham, Rice & Beans

Wondering what to do with that left over holiday ham?
I recently served a spiral ham, and after a few meals, my family was wanting some variety.  I put the ham into the into a pot and cooked the bones until I had a nice broth and the meat was falling off of the bones.
Then I added beans, and once cooked through, served this over rice.  My favorite part of this recipe is that I can take a couple of days - and put it in the fridge for a few days and not worry about it if I get busy with something else, and then come back to it for a quick meal on another day that is simple and light.  (It can be made and served in a day, or spread out into a couple of days depending on when you are ready to get around to it)

I borrowed the rice/bean combination that so many latin countries use, and found that my family (even the kids) found this meal tasty & comforting - especially after all of the rich heavy holiday foods.

The ham bone can be prepared, and frozen with it's broth, or served immediately.

1 ham bone with as much (or little) meat left on it as you'd like
1 lb. dried beans (I used navy this time, but have used black, white, pinto or whatever I've had on hand)

Ham Bone:
Place ham bone and any remaining meat in a stock pot or crock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until all of the remaining meat falls off of the bone.  Approx. 3-4 hours on the stove, and 6-8 in the crock pot.

Meanwhile, prepare beans
Rinse and sort beans (I always find small dirt clods in beans so washing is imperative).
Place in medium pan, and cover with water.
Bring water to boiling.
Cover with lid, remove from heat and set aside to soak for an hour.

Rinse beans and discard water.
Place beans in ham broth and cook with ham bone (1-3 hours) until beans tender.

For best results, refrigerate overnight (or place in freezer to make it speedy) so that grease/fat rises to top.  Scrape grease/fat with a spoon and discard.

Using your hands, remove all bones and fat or gristle, and break up any remaining large chunks of ham.  Reheat, and ladle into bowls on top of rice.  

2 c. white rice
4 c. water
1 t. butter
1/2 t. salt

Bring water butter and salt to a boil.
Add rice, and bring to boil again.
Allow to boil for one minute, then turn heat to low, and cover with a lid.
Allow to cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.

To serve:
Place rice in bottom of bowl.
Spoon or ladle rice/ham mixture and broth over top.  More broth makes it more of a soup, less, makes it more rice and beans with a ham gravy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Microwave Peanut Brittle

I made this several years ago, and then had to go in search of this recipe as I'm putting together treats for our neighbors.
Photos to follow

1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 c. salted spanish peanuts
1 t. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking soda

Butter a cookie sheet (or line pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray)
Combine sugar and corn syrup in a 2 quart glass bowl and microwave on high for 3.5 minutes.
Stir in peanuts and microwave for 3 minutes.
Stir in butter and vanilla, and microwave for 1.5 minutes.

Stir in baking soda, and pour onto cookie sheet, and spread thin.
Cool completely, then break into pieces and serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quick Christmas Treats

We headed to a cookie exchange last week, and my daughter and I came up with these cute babies.
They were so fun to make with kids, and honestly these were so quick. Talk about instant gratification - the majority of our time was spent unwrapping the candies!
We initially saw a similar idea on pinterest with rolos, but decided to take them a different direction.

Small pretzels. (Traditional pretzel shape, or square mesh shape)
Hershey's kisses
Candy canes - crushed

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
Heat oven to 350*
Lay out pretzels on baking sheet, and place 1 unwrapped caramel on top of each pretzel.
Bake for 3-5 minutes (until caramel begins to melt but isn't 100% melted)
Remove from oven.
Place 1 unwrapped Hershey's kiss on top of each caramel.
Press kiss into caramel to spread the melted caramel around.
Place in oven for 1-2 minutes, until chocolate has melted.
Top with starlight mint OR, using small spoon, flatten kiss, sprinkle with crushed candy canes or sprinkles.

Allow to cool.

Note: After using starlight mints, we realized that the mints are a little 'large' and difficult to consume.  Crushed candy canes add the taste and color of Christmas without overpowering the chocolatey, caramel & crunchy/salty combination.
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