Monday, December 17, 2007

Chocolate, Dried Cherries, and Pecan Bark

I saw this fabulous bark creation on Emeril Live last week, but could not for the life of me find the recipe when I searched by episodes that aired last week, so I decided to create my own. Know that Emeril served as my inspiration, although I ad-libed in terms of how I concocted this delicious treat! But, bark itself is such a simple concept, you could really whip it up on a whim any time!

I started with caramelizing some pecans. I chopped pecans and added them to a mixture of melted butter and brown sugar. I used about 3 cups of pecans, half a stick of butter, and about 3/4 cups of brown sugar. I let the pecans coat thoroughly in the saute pan, and then transferred them to a parchment lined baking sheet where I baked at 350 for about 10-12 minutes. I let them cool for a few hours, sprinkled some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves over them, and then crumbled/separated the pieces a little bit.

Once the pecans were cool, I used a double boil to melt white chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate (in 2 separate bowls of course). I used chips, for convenience, but of course you could also use chopped bars/squares. Once melted, I added a dab of butter to the mixtures for sheen (I remember Emeril doing that). I then poured the chocolates onto the parchment paper, and marbled them together. On top, I added the pecans and then chopped dried cherries. I worked the pecans/cherries into the chocolate mixture a little, but wanted them to stay mostly on the top. I then set the baking sheet in the fridge to cool. The next day I slammed the creation on the counter to break up, placed on decorative plates, covered in cellophane, and set them aside as gifts for my para-professionals at work.

I actually made 2 batches, one which I put together exactly as described above, and the other where I scattered the nuts and cherries on the bottom and poured, and then marbled, the chocolate on top...resulting in a more even distribution of the goodies. Both came out great and equally tasty!

(Here is a picture of the underside of the bark):

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sugar Cookies

I made sugar cookies tonight for one of my classes. I teach 7th grade English and have 5 classes of about 22 students each. We are currently reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and among other things, studying figurative language. Each class collaborated to create an image of the Ghost of Christmas Past according to the detailed description in the novel. I took pictures of each creation, had my team of teachers vote, and decided to reward the winning class with cookies! I decided to shape the cookies into a C because that is the class that won (our classes are labeled A, B, C, D, E). I told the kids they could look at the plate of treats to determine if they were the winners. The students didn't understand how they would be able to tell until they say that the cookies were shaped as the letter C. They went nuts. They also enjoyed the taste of the cookies, I think, although I found them a little dry.

I used this recipe from the Food Network, but added a few dashes of cinnamon to the batter. Like I said, it was a bit dry, but perhaps that was because I rolled them a little thinner than perhaps I should have. I decorated with some with an assortment of Christmas sprinkles, some with cinnamon and sugar, and some with rainbow sprinkles.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Anniversary Cake!!!!

Matt and I had the most delicious wedding cake EVER! Really. We did. Gretchen Ellison from Enchanted Wedding Cakes created our wedding cake, seen below. We loved the look and taste of it. It was phenomenal!

Instead of freezing the top layer, Gretchen gave us the option of a fresh mini-cake for our anniversary...we went the fresh route as we wanted to ensure deliciousness on our anniversary! She did not disappoint. Although there was only one layer of filling instead of a triple layer, it was still fabulous. We had alternate flavors on different tiers of our original cake, raspberry lemon torte and strawberry Grand Marnier. For our anniversary cake, we received the raspberry lemon flavor. It was SO GOOD!

Anniversary Breakfast!

Today was our 1st wedding anniversary! Yay us! We had a lovely dinner out on Saturday night, and actually had a gourmet dinner service come in and cook for us on Sunday, our actual anniversary. Sunday morning, though, we made breakfast together and enjoyed cinnamon french toast and mimosas. I used the unity candles from our wedding ceremony as a centerpiece for breakfast, as well as a "LOVE" sign that was on the guestbook table at the reception. I also used the toasting flutes from our wedding for the mimosas. Yes, I am the epitome of a sentimental SAP!

I don't have an exact recipe for the french toast, but here is the basic idea...

We sliced some amazing cinnamon swirl bread nice and thick. The secret to a good batch of french toast, I believe, is the thickness of the bread, which is why I like to use a loaf I can slice myself. This loaf was purchased at a hole in the wall country store in Waterville, NH while we were enjoying a fall weekend away. It had been sitting in the freezer waiting for the right morning to make an appearance. We beat 2 or 3 eggs with a little skim milk and a pinch of nutmeg and a little cinnamon together, dipped the bread in the egg mixture, let it saturate, and placed on the griddle. Once done, I served with powdered sugar and cinnamon sticks for garnish, and pure maple syrup for pure taste!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree!

I was lucky enough to have my first snow day of the year on Monday (yes, teachers get JUST as excited about the first snow!), so it seemed like a perfect day to decorate our Christmas tree; the one we had searched for and cut down on the coldest day of the year thus far! We went to a local tree farm on Saturday, and aside from the cold, aside from my nephew hysterically crying, and aside from the fact that their tree selection was pretty poor, we had a great time! The cold certainly didn't chill our spirits!

In order to get into the festive mood, I played some holiday music and made these delicious egg nog cocktails. No exact recipe here, but here is what I did. I put some ice in a shaker. I then combined rum (or you could use whiskey, or perhaps even kaluha?) with a good amount of egg nog (I used the light version, didn't want to feel too guilty about it) and a little cinnamon. Shake the heck out of it, and pour over crushed ice in a martini glass. My favorite part was the cinnamon sugar rim I added before placing the ice and then drink in the glass. I finished off the cocktail with a sprinkling of nutmeg. Cheers!