Thursday, December 15, 2011


Growing up in southern, rural Minnesota, I was surrounded by Scandinavian traditions. One of my favorites was fresh rosettes throughout the Christmas season. These were always a special treat at home, as they were one of the goodies that my family didn't make. (We had the tools to make them in our Christmas baking box, but for some reason, we never made any).

One day I was shopping at GoodWill, looking for unique dishes, and I ran across an old Nordicware Rosette tool kit, unused, in its original box. It wasn't priced, and the sales lady offered it at fifty cents - I couldn't pass it up!

In the years that I've been baking and cooking, I've never deep fried anything. (To be honest, the hot oil scares me!) I decided to give them a try. My husband has never had them, but he loves funnel cakes from the state fair, so I knew he would like these to.

Aside from overcoming the fear of frying, they really aren't difficult to make. While they may not make it on my annual baking list, I definitely plan on keeping the iron & recipe.

ROSETTES (From AllRecipes)
Makes approximately 4 doz rosettes

2 eggs
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine eggs, sugar and salt; beat well. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

Heat a rosette iron in deep, hot oil (375 degrees) for 2 minutes. Drain excess oil from iron. Dip in batter to 1/4 inch from the top of the iron, then dip iron immediately into hot oil (375 degrees).

Fry rosette until golden, about 30 seconds. Lift out; tip upside down to drain. With fork, push rosette off iron onto a rack placed over paper towels.

Reheat iron 1 minute; make next rosette. Sprinkle rosettes with confectioners' sugar prior to serving.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Popcorn Balls

Every Christmas, I look forward to holiday baking. There were certain treats we were allowed to help make when we were young, and others where we were encouraged to stay out of the kitchen. This was one of the latter - with the hot caramel sauce, and the rapid pace you must work, my parents preferred we watch from afar. When I got to my teen years, I finally worked up the courage to help my mom (I was worried about burning my hands!)

These are the best popcorn balls! (Although, I may be biased, but many people have converted to this recipe after trying them). Because of the caramel coloring, they cannot be dyed different colors (which is the appeal of marshmallow based recipes). As my husband says, you can make these as "healthy" or "unhealthy" as you want based on the proportion of popcorn to caramel. I prefer the "unhealthy" ones with lots of caramel goo!


1 cup whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup

Cook ingredients to soft ball stage. Pour over popcorn. Mix into popcorn, using wooden spoon or firm silicone spatula.

Wet hands & form balls. Cool popcorn balls on cookie sheets.

Store either in tins (the big tins that popcorn comes in during the holidays) or put a trash bag (with a drawstring) over the cookie sheet the popcorn balls are on. (Of course, you could individually package them in bags if giving as gifts)

***How much popcorn to use?***

I don't have an exact measurement. We double the above recipe, and fill a large turkey roaster (base & the lid) heaped with popcorn. We've found that a 4 pound bag of popcorn makes about 3 double batches, so each batch (as listed above), is about about 2/3 of a pound of unpopped popcorn.

(And yes, we know that a 4 pound bag makes 3 double batches because that is often how much we'd make!)


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

One of my many favorite things about fall are Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I rarely visit Starbucks (aside from the occasional treat after a bad call, or going into a long shift), but in the fall, I have a hard time staying out. And of course, the Pumpkin Spice Latte is even more expensive than their regular flavored lattes - I think I spent almost $5 on a medium when it was released earlier this fall - OUCH!

I've tried various DIY versions over the past few years, and I've always been disappointed. They've always been gritty from the spices, or the pureed pumpkin, added directly to the latte, adds a funky taste or texture. This year, I found the recipe for a pumpkin spice syrup on Tastespotting, and I knew it would make the difference!

I had some difficulty finding pureed pumpkin - I ended up getting the last can of organic pumpkin at a local coop. Even though it was about twice the price of a can of Libby's, all of the ingredients for a batch of this syrup still cost less than the price of one latte. (And, I have enough pumpkin for a few more batches.)

I'm not going to give the directions on making a latte - everyone has different machines & preferences for espresso to milk ratio. I will be giving the recipe for the syrup - use as you would use any other flavor syrup.

PUMPKIN SPICE SYRUP (Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)
Makes approx 2 cups of syrup

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

Cook sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat until the mixture is completely clear.

Whisk in the remaining ingredients and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not allow mixture to come to a boil.

Allow mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes. Strain syrup through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer into a large jar or bottle of your choice. (Straining will be slow due to the pumpkin)

Keep syrup in the fridge.

Use 1-2 tablespoons in your favorite latte recipe.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Caramel Apple Crisp

I LOVE the fall in New England (even though it's sadly over now that I'm finally posting this). Apple orchards, and all of the tastiness that goes with them, are plentiful and only a short drive from the city. Last year, we decided to try a different orchard so that we could bring our pup with us - he LOVES to get outdoors & run! It was great to have him along, and while it was a more "grown up" orchard with an associated vineyard & wine tasting, it just wasn't the same.

This year we decided to go back to the orchard we had went to the 2 prior years. First of all, it's an absolutely beautiful drive up the north shore. As soon as you arrive, you smell the aroma of apple cider donuts drifting through the air. We can't even make it out to the orchard without first stopping by the barn to pick up not 2, not 4, but 6 fresh donuts for the two of us!! (Hey, it's a one-time-a-year treat...I just keep telling myself that!)

To make us feel better about the donuts this year, we decided to walk out to the orchard instead of taking the hayride. It was a beautiful walk, with the crisp smell of fresh apples surrounding you. We always buy a peck of apples (plus eat a few along the way), and it always seems like so many apples, until we get home & dig into them. In fact, I had to go buy additional apples to make this!

I love caramel apples, so I thought I'd try something different this year. I'm posting the original caramel sauce, which I used in my dish. However, I felt like it tasted like a sugary sauce, and wasn't a very true caramel flavor. Maybe I've been spoiled by years of homemade caramels growing up, or maybe I messed up and didn't let it darken enough. Personally, when I make this again, I'd either buy a jar of caramel ice cream topping, or find a different caramel sauce recipe.

CARAMEL APPLE CRISP (Adapted from Show & Tell)

5 large apples of your choice - peeled, cored & thinly sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl & allow to marinate while preparing the following parts.

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into pats
1 cup whipping cream

Over medium high heat...put sugar in heavy bottom saucepan. As it begins to melt whisk in butter. As the mixture caramelizes, remove from heat & SLOWLY add in whipping cream. Continue to whisk til smooth. Set aside & allow to thicken.

1 small box of instant vanilla pudding mix (I used the remainder from the filling)
1/2 cup flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup quick cook/instant oats
1 cup of butter softened and cut up into pats

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter - it will be fairly dry.

ASSEMBLE in baking dish:
1) Marinated apple filling
2) Pour approximately 1/2 of the caramel sauce over the apples
3) Crumble the topping over the caramel & apples

Bake at 350F for approximately 45 minutes. Allow to cool some prior to serving.