Sugar Swings! Serve Some: November 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cranberry and Pumpkin Mini Reindeer Cheesecake Cups

Since it is officially the holiday season, I sometimes feel compelled to make stuff with cranberries or pumpkin.  I mean it's everywhere! So these are an attempt at something a little different for me - cheesecake. And using real cranberries but canned pumpkin, well because I'm not that into pumpkin to go from scratch!  

Start with the cranberries to make a super yummy cranberry sauce.  I had this on toast on it's own, so even if you don't like cheesecake, make the cranberry sauce!


Cranberry Sauce (adapted from Design Love Fest)
6 ounces of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 and 1/2 Tbl vanilla
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Heat all in a sauce pan until cranberries pop and sauce thickens.  Let cool.

But if you do make the cheesecakes, make them with a gingersnap crust. It's super easy, crunch up about 3/4 bag of gingersnaps and add 1 stick of melted butter to the gingersnap crumbs.  Spoon about 1 tablespoonful into cupcake liners, and press it down well.   Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.

Recipes can be found here for the cranberry cheesecake here for the pumpkin cheesecakes.  

Once they are cooled, peel the liners off them if you want to show off the look of the cheesecakes.  (which kinda remind me of Reeses peanut butter cups).  You can also chill them in the fridge.

I mixed some of them up too, and did 1/2 cranberry and 1/2 pumpkin.

I like seeing layers in foods, especially different colors (I know weird right?) so wanted to see what this would look/taste like.  Actually very tasty!  Neither the cranberry nor pumpkin are overwhelming so it went well together, especially with the gingersnap crust.

And of course I couldn't just leave them plain so I dressed them up a little for the holidays.  I've seen these simple reindeer cookies from Meet the Dubiens and thought I could use that idea to cute'n these up.

Hope everyone had an awesome turkey day! AND if you have any leftover cranberry sauce or canned pumpkin maybe make some of these little reindeer cups.

Tidy Mom's I'm Loving It

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanksgiving Cupcakes with Pilgrim, American Indian, and Turkey Candy Toppers

So if you read the blog, then you probably know I have a thing for making little people out of candy for the holidays.  WitchesUncle SamSantaLeprechaunsthe Harry Potter GangGnomesAmerican Presidents, and Disney Princesses.

That's A LOT of little people - I may have a slight problem!  But since I had yet to do them for turkey day, I figured this was the year to try.

Overall, they are all made in the same way as the little Uncle Sams.  You need chocolate Hershey's Chocolate Bells (or you can use Hershey's Kisses too), vanilla Tootsie Rolls, candy melts in various colors (I use Wilton Candy Melts), mini marshmallows, candy coated sunflowers seeds, sprinkles, and edible food writers.

To dip the bodies more easily, I always twist a toothpick into the bottom of the chocolate, then dip it into a shallow dish of the melted candy melt.  Add a tiny bit of vegetable shortening to make the candy more smooth.  Works like a charm every time.

All the rest of the detail is just done by hand and one little person at a time.  The American Indians are one of my fav.  To get the skin color a little darker than the vanilla tootsie roll, I colored the round tootsie roll ball with a brown edible food writer, then just rolled it a bit in my hand so the color was more uniform.  The feathers are candy coated sunflower seeds.  The eyes are made with black food writer and the rest of the detail is all candy melts.

For the pilgrim hat pipe a small disc of candy melt, while still wet, attach a mini marshmallow.  Once dried, dip the marshmallow in black candy melt.  Once candy is set, add detail with more candy melt or use a large yellow sprinkle.

The turkeys are made with a chocolate tootsie roll as the body and 1/2 of a vanilla tootsie roll as the head.  I only melt the tootsie roll candy in the microwave for about 8 seconds, then roll into a ball.  Feathers and beak are candy coated sunflower seeds attached with candy melt.  Eyes are added with a black food writer.  I probably could have added a red sprinkle as the turkey gobble thingee, but I forgot!  The pumpkins are just store bought that I scored for cheap after Halloween.

Then just top them on some super yum cupcakes.  These are made from a Betty Crocker Spice flavored mix and topped with some homemade cream cheese frosting.  They kinda scream Thanksgiving and they are super tasty!

Thanks for indulging yet ANOTHER little people post.  Say in a couple months I start going into withdrawals and NEEDED to make more little people.  Who would you suggest??! 

How's this, if I make your suggestion, I will send them to you!  Leave a comment below and tell me who you would love to see in candy form and make sure you leave a way for me to contact you (because if I do make them I will most definitely send you some!).  Seriously, I will.

Thanks for swinging by, and have a totally awesome week!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Painted Flower Cookies

So if you're a big Hunger Games fan, these cookies are for you.  They are for the release of the 2nd book Catching Fire, in movie form, which will be out in theaters on November 22nd!

I finally read the books last year AFTER the 1st movie came out and I kept seeing all the "Team Peeta" and "Team Gale" memes.  I had to see what all the hullabaloo was about.  Well the books are great and a super fast read so you can even catch up by the time the 2nd movie is released of you're motivated.

One of the themes in the books are flowers.  I mean people are named after flowers in the books and flowers keep showing up here and there in meaningful ways.   And one of the main characters is Peeta Mellark.  He's baker and his super power is being an expert froster - as in cakes and cookies (for reals a frosting expert, read the book!).  So you might be able to guess which team I'd be on!

These cookies were inspired by one of the chapters in Catching Fire, where President Snow and Katniss sit down for a heart to heart and are served some of Peeta's frosted cookies.  So I thought what better way to celebrate the new movie then with some iced cookies with painted/decorated flowers from the book?!

As a disclaimer, I'm in no way, shape, or form an expert cookie decorator.  There are super cookie makers and decorators out there that do an enormously better job like Haniela's, ArtyMcgoo, Baked at 350, The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle, Sweetopia, The Decorated Cookie, just to name a few.  But I attempted some painting on cookies for the first time.  These are cut out gingerbread cookies from a mix then iced with royal icing.  One iced let them sit out overnite to make sure royal icing is totally dried.

Painting was done with food coloring gels mixed with a couple of drops of lemon extract and paint brushed on.  I think you could use any extract or some use vodka, which evaporates after you paint it on.  I painted the flowers free hand from looking at pictures on google.  Since the painted flowers didn't look just right to me, I also added some detail with candy melt in various colors.  It also gave the flowers some depth and dimension, since I couldn't do that with just the painting.

All the flowers are from The Hunger Games books (I hope these are not spoilers but if you haven't read the books and plan to, maybe skip this section!):

Top Row:
Buttercup - the name of the Everdeen's family cat
Nightlock - the berries Katniss and Peeta almost ate to end the first Hunger Games
Dandelion - the flowers that inspired Katniss to hunt and gather to feed her family

Middle Row:
Tiger Lilly - the frosted cookie served to President Snow when he came to visit Katniss at home
Primrose - Katniss's sister and who she volunteered for as tribute
White Rose - the flower President Snow wears and smells of all the time

Bottom Row:
Wildflowers - the flowers Katniss layed on Rue during the first Hunger Games
Katniss - the main character named for a tuber plant found in water with an edible root
Rue - the tribute from District 7 that reminds Katniss of her sister Prim

The books say President Snow smells of roses and blood.  He always wears a white rose, but why the blood smell?? You'll have to read the books!

And if you are not really into The Hunger Games book series, I hope you at least like the flower cookies!  Just don't look too closely at the detail since it's not really even close to how flowers really grow.  But they will do, and of course frosted gingerbread cookies are always tasty and are helping me to ease into the holiday season.

Are you going to go see Catching Fire?? I hope it's as good as the book!

Have an awesome week and may the odds ever be in your favor!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Homemade Fruit Snacks

Do your kids love fruit snacks as much as mine do? For some reason mine are always begging for those store bought character fruit snacks with all those bad ingredients like corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, food colorings, various waxes and gums.  But they love them, so as an alternative I tried some homemade ones made from this stuff:

CasCal is a natural fermented soda that made from all natural ingredients. I've had it for awhile so not even sure it's still available.  It came in neat flavors like cherry rose and chocolate, mango jasmine and kaffir lime, lemongrass tangerine and pineapple, pear apricot and magnolia, and black current tangerine and lemon so I thought it would be great to use to make some of the homemade fruit snacks.

For these you need some gelatin, the soda base and some sugar, as well as some candy molds.  I found this recipe on Mommy Savers and just used the natural fruit soda for the flavoring.

Add 1/3 cup of the soda (or whatever drink/juice you'd like to make these from) to a sauce pan and sprinkle 2 envelopes of gelatin over.  Let sit a couple minutes.  I also added about 1 tablespoonful of sugar and heated everything over medium until all dissolved.  Put the mix into something you can pour from, and pour into molds.  

Let sit until firm or put in the refrigerator to speed this up.  This worked great and it was easier to pop the snacks out of the mold when they were cold.

I have all kinds of ice cube trays and molds I've collected over the years so it was great to use these for the fruit snacks too. Almost as cute as those store bought fruit snacks.  OK no Monsters U or Star Wars characters but still cute.

And the kid's reaction? At first good and they ate them up, but when I asked them about what they liked better, these homemade ones or the store bought.  They picked the store bought {insert sad face with sad trombone sound}.  The homemade definitely had a good flavor but the texture is not the same as those others, it must be the wax or guar gum ingredients that give them more of a candy chewy texture, and these are more of a delicate flavor with a harder gelatin texture.  Maybe I just need to experiment with the recipe a bit more.  If anyone has any better experience with homemade fruit snacks, please share!

Thanks for stopping by and hello to November.  Beautiful weather here in the northeast AND today is my 18 year anniversary (I know 18 years, how the heck did that happen?!).  The time flies by when you are married to your best friend, happy anniversary hon!!!