Homemade Marshmallows: Foodie Christmas Gift #4

Last year I made homemade marshmallows for the first time. For years I felt too intimidated to make the attempt, not sure why, but I'm so glad I finally gave it a whirl. These need to be started at least a day before you need to serve them or package them for gifts, so be sure to give yourself some leeway. The only change I made to the recipe I found was to use confectioners sugar alone for the coating, rather than mixing with cornstarch. I don't like the feel of the cornstarch, and with corn allergies being an issue for some, I felt it was better without.   This recipe is for your basic vanilla flavored marshmallows, but I had success with flavoring in other ways--raspberry flavoring with a touch of red food color, mint flavoring with green, orange flavoring with a touch of yellow and red color together.  I also made a spiced marshmallow, adding some ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg to the marshmallow, and also mixing some of the same spice into the confectioners sugar coating. All turned out wonderfully well.  Hope you enjoy these as much as we have!   Homemade Marshmallows Scroll to the bottom for an easy-print version of this recipe! .75-oz unflavored gelatin (3 envelopes of Knox gelatin) 1/2 cup cold water 2 cups granulated sugar 2/3 cups light corn syrup 1/4 cup water 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon vanilla extract Confectioners sugar, Cornstarch (optional) Line 9 x 9-inch pan with plastic wrap and lightly oil it. Set aside. In the bowl of an … {Read on...}

Simple (and Frugal!) Homemade Hot Chocolate: Foodie Christmas Gift #3

Years ago, when I first was looking seriously into making homemade gifts for sharing at Christmas, I stumbled across a newsletter that had recently begun publication--a housewife in Maine had started sharing ideas on frugality (a.k.a. "tightwaddery") and I was hooked on some of those ideas from the very beginning. Amy Dacyczyn and all of the issues AND books connected with the Tightwad Gazette became a permanent part of my life!   One of the simple gift ideas that I've used repeatedly over the years is a recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix. I enjoy both the simplicity and the versatility of this mix--you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spices (must put in a good word for my garam masala here) to suit the taste of whomever you are gifting with this, and some instant coffee added to the mix will make the mocha-lovers in your family smile. (Yes, Christina, I'm thinking of you!) I've not tried this yet, but with some adventurous chocolatiers out there putting curry powder, chili powder, cardamom, lavender and other unusual herbs and spices in their chocolates, it might be fun to play around with some of these and see if you can come up with something new that you might really love.    The mix can be put in a jar or plastic bag for gift-giving, suitably decorated, of course!  Last year I made homemade marshmallows for the first time, and they were a welcome additional gift, perfect for floating and melting into a cup of steaming hot cocoa. (I'll be sharing the … {Read on...}

Grandma’s English Toffee: Foodie Christmas Gift #2.


Foodie With Family Gift #2:  Grandma's English Toffee   English Toffee.  In it's simplest and most refined form it is the perfect marriage of butter, sugar and chocolate.  And my Grandma's toffee is toffee at it's best.  I'm not bragging.  I'm stating a fact.  The toffee itself has only two ingredients: butter and sugar.  She tops it with a layer of good chocolate and occasionally showers the top with a coat of finely chopped, toasted nuts.  It is sublime.   I know from personal experience that when you give a batch of this toffee as a gift you've just started your own fan club.  Many years ago my husband began working at his office just before Christmas.  As an icebreaker, he took up a plate filled with Christmas cookies and this toffee to share with his new co-workers. He brought home an empty plate and I forgot all about it.   Six months later, the kids and I dropped by his office in the middle of the work day.  As the Evil Genius introduced me for the first time, at least five people said some variation of, "You're the one with the toffee!  Can I have that recipe?"  And now, I know the holiday season has begun when my husband passes along requests for 'some more of that amazing toffee' from office mates.    I can't guarantee this toffee will bring peace on earth, but it'll at least buy you goodwill among men!     Time Required For Project:   The toffee takes about 30 minutes of cooking time and then requires a couple hours of … {Read on...}

Dark Chocolate Ganache


Christmas time is my favorite part of the year.  It's full of seasonal beauty, generosity, kindness, and family.  If you're like me you have an arm-length list of people to whom you want to give gifts: the kids, parents, friends, extended family, mail carrier, neighbors, U.P.S. guy, pastor, and so on down the line. Are you wondering whether you can afford it this year?   How about gifting Foodie With Family style?  For the next 23 days Val and I will be posting directions for creating foodie gifts that can be made with readily available ingredients.  And when we finally reach December 23rd, we'll post instructions for a couple gifts that can be made with ingredients you're likely to be able to find even at your local convenience store.  (Don't worry.  Twinkie Wiener Sandwiches will not make an appearance!)    I know there are some of you out there who equate homemade gifts with popsicle stick ashtrays and macaroni necklaces.  Those little gems of art are for Moms only.  Foodie With Family homemade gifts are good enough to -to quote my Dad-  " make your tongue slap your brain silly."    Where possible, we'll give an approximation of time to prepare the item, costs and what you might pay for an equivalent product off the shelves.      Without further adieu I give you:   Foodie With Family Christmas Gift #1   Did you know a jar of ganache makes a fantastic gift?  You can wrap a spoon to the side of the jar with raffia or ribbon, … {Read on...}

Mind-blowing, good, clean fun.

We are having a wonderously wintery weather day.  The snow is blowing and it's *brrrrrr* cold out there.  It's enough to make you pull on the wool socks, a super thick sweat shirt, brew a cup of tea (or coffee or cocoa), and curl up with a good book.  Trouble is, there's only so much 'curling up with a good book' that five boys are willing to do- blustery winds or not.  The little guys lose interest after an hour or so and the big guys get exasperated that the little guys keep bouncing hot wheels off the spines of their books.    Animusic to the rescue.  We were introduced to the original Animusic DVD by a friend of ours from our old church.  From the first time we heard the music and saw the animation the kids (and the adults) were transfixed.  There's something incredibly mesmerizing about fantastical instruments playing themselves.  And no matter how many times we've all seen them they don't lose the ability to keep us all entertained.  Every time we see them we catch something we haven't seen before.      Another aspect of these that never ceases to amaze is the accuracy of movement in these musical instruments.  They have proper fret placement.  Scales and timing are perfect.  AND THEY'RE ANIMATED.  Take THAT guitar hero.  Check them out and see whether you agree...   This one is my favorite.  The kids and the Evil Genius have their own preferences, but this one makes me feel very mellow and very relaxed.  That's priceless around … {Read on...}