Friday, December 24, 2010


Every year around Christmas I make large batches of a variety of candies to give as gifts to friends.  Usually I make toffee, peanut butter bonbons (which are kind of like buckeyes with rice krispies and butterscotch), and peppermint bark.  This year, I decided to add marshmallows.  I was inspired both by Smitten Kitchen's recipe, which I stumbled on a while ago, and by the gourmet taco trucks at Off The Grid at Fort Mason in San Francisco, which we discovered accidentally when we had a performance in the same area at the same time.

The marshmallows from Smitten Kitchen looked delicious, but I felt a little weetchy about making something with eggs that would be barely cooked. I ended up comparing with the Martha Stewart recipe and eventually used something more along those lines.  I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the marshmallows were to make, and now I have many more plans to make them (Valentine's Day!  Easter!  Recital receptions!) with suitable variations.  Seriously.  Easy.  Easier than caramel, easier than meringues.  There is absolutely no reason for you not to go make some marshmallows right now. 

Pepperminty Marshmallows
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 3 envelopes (3 Tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • few drops peppermint extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • oil, for the pan
  • red food coloring, for swirling.


Oil a 9x13 inch baking pan and dust the inside evenly with powdered sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, put 1/2 cup cold water and sprinkle the gelatin over it.  Set it aside to soften while you prepare the sugar mixture.

In a medium saucepan, combine the other 1/2 cup water, the corn syrup, and the sugar.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the sugar is dissolved.  Increase heat to medium and boil, without stirring, until the mixture registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Immediately pour the hot sugar mixture over the gelatin.  Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.  Add peppermint extract.

With a hand mixer (or stand mixer, if you have one... I think it goes a little faster with one.) beat the mixture on high until thick, white, tripled in volume, and glossy, about 10 minutes.  With a greased spatula (trust me, this stuff is sticky), encourage the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  If you want red swirls, drop a few small drops of food coloring on the surface.  Using a toothpick, swirl by making zig-zag patterns at right angles to each other on the surface of the marshmallow mixture.  Dust the entire sheet with more powdered sugar, and leave to set for about 3 hours.

When the marshmallows have set, turn them out on a powdered sugared cutting board and sift some more sugar into a bowl.  Cut the marshmallows however you like, using a knife dipped in hot water or a greased cookie cutter. Once the marshmallows are cut, toss them in powdered sugar to coat all the sticky sides.
Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dinner Tonight, or Lunch Yesterday: Mushroomy

After a weekend of travel and holiday concerts, the kitchen was looking suspiciously clean and unused.  To celebrate the end of the school year and have a yummy lunch before driving back to our respective parents' homes for the holidays, Doug and I made this tasty lunch.

We made....

  • Smitten Kitchen's garlic butter roasted mushrooms, half a batch.  Perfect with one container of mushrooms and two diners.
  • Chicken, cooked in a big pan with garlic powder, oregano, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Trader Joe's Garlic Basil linguini
  • with slices of Trader Joe's multigrain bread to sop up the sauces.
I'll be back tomorrow with a real post, once I have cleaned all the marshmallowy bits out of my dishes.  The preliminary results look good though.
Go cook some mushrooms for lunch, I promise you won't regret it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate, peppermint, and other tasty things

First, a victory dance (SUCCESS!) since I have figured out how to have the contributors to the blog contribute under their own accounts. The next step will be tracking down said contributors and getting them to blog about the delicious things they cook and bake.

On to the yummy things! I baked some cupcakes this weekend as a thank-you gift for the director of our Baroque ensemble, which I was fortunate enough to get to perform with. I went with my go-to chocolate cake, Smitten Kitchen's Double Chocolate Layer Cake. It's delicious and beautiful and easy and also makes way, way, way too much cake for most occasions. The recipe claims that it makes 2 10-inch layers, but I find that it pretty reliably makes 3 9-inch layers or 36 cupcakes, which is usually Too Much Cake. Fortunately, this recipe can be two-thirdsed relatively easily, making a much more managable two dozen cupcakes.
I topped these pretties with a pepperminty buttercream piped on with a star tip. Unfortunately, my impromptu ziploc piping bag gave out on cupcake 13... not that I let that stop me. The first dozen went in the big pink box, and the rest... well, they didn't go to waste!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes
(Adapted and downsized from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 3 ounces good quality dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Chocolate Chips)
  • 1 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, or 1/2 C milk and 1/2 C yogurt, mixed together.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put cupcake papers in 2 muffin pans (24 total).

Combine the chocolate chips and hot coffee, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Let stand.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. In a larger bowl (everything will be eventually going into this one) beat the two eggs until thickened and lemon colored, about 5 minutes with a hand mixer. Add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and chocolate mixture, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients, beating until combined.

Divide batter between the cupcake cups and bake for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.

Remove to racks to cool.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dinner Tonight: "I hab a code" edition

Over here at the Messy kitchen we're suffering from a bout of winter colds in the middle of the Christmas performance season. Lovely.
In an attempt to seem like I really have things together (It's a lie, I don't), I'm launching a new series of "Dinner Tonight" posts. I'll be linking to simple recipes and posting a few tips and tricks of my own to show what we eat on a regular basis when we're not dolling the food up all pretty for a blog post.
So, without further ado... what we had for dinner!

The soup is Tortellini in Brodo from the Tasty Kitchen archives... a yummy, quick, and filling alternative to a from-scratch chicken-noodle soup. For veggies, we had a simple cabbage salad, as we were out of lettuce.

Approximate Coleslaw

  • 1/4 head of cabbage
  • 1 carrot
  • 1-2 stalks celery
  • 1/4 medium onion
  • few sprigs fresh parsley, minced
  • small clove garlic, minced
  • drizzle olive oil
  • splash red wine vinegar
  • large-ish spoonful mayonnaise
  • black pepper, oregano, and other spices to taste

Thinly slice the cabbage, celery, and onion. Grate the carrot with the large side of a cheese grater. In a medium bowl, combine the cabbage, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and toss to coat. Add a spoonful of mayonnaise and stir until everything is evenly coated. Season with spices as desired.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Well, not really. According to, nogging is "masonry, as bricks, used to fill the spaces between studs or other framing members."
...So not anything like nogging at all. A bit like egg nog though... without the eggs. In my book, that just makes it nog. The dictionary, of course, disagrees with me, and says that nog either contains eggs or is beer. This drink fits neither of those descriptions, but I assure you that it's mighty tasty anyway.

Eggless Nog with White Chocolate

(Printable here)

  • 1 Tablespoon Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
  • ¼ cups High-quality White Chocolate Chips
  • 1 dash Nutmeg
  • 1-½ cup Milk

In a large mug, combine cream, maple syrup, and cornstarch, stirring to combine. When the mixture is smooth, add the white chocolate chips. Microwave on high for 15 second increments (stirring between each increment) until the white chocolate chips have softened. Stir until smooth. Add the nutmeg and then stir in milk, a bit at a time, until the mug is as full as you like – mine holds about a cup and a half.

Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until it’s heated to your liking. Garnish with whipped cream and more nutmeg, if desired. Consume immediately!

NOTES: Ingredients are given for one large mug. If you’re just making this for yourself or for you and a friend, the microwave is the way to go. If you’re making a larger batch, you will probably want to do this on the stove. The basic instructions are the same, just combine the ingredients in an appropriately-sized pot instead of the individual mugs and be sure to whisk constantly.