Saturday, December 29, 2012

Glimpses Week 52 | Christmas Reflections




It was a Christmas of change.  For the first time ever, the girls didn't wouldn't wear matching outfits and even though I should have seen the writing on the wall when my eldest daughter turned twelve, I felt disappointed by the fact that I could (or should) no longer completely control them. It's the beginning of the letting go which is perhaps an even greater parenting challenge than the reigning in.  Choose your battles my mother always said. She is a wise woman. My freshman son, however, wore a sports coat and tie without me even asking.  He's smart enough to know when to play the favorite child card.

It was also our first Christmas ever to wake up Christmas morning in our own house. To see the stockings stuffed and the presents wrapped under our own tree felt right and magical all at once. Our new house now feels like home.

To all the readers of Simple Girl, thanks for journeying with me this year.  I'm looking forward to new adventures, recipes and beautifully simple things in the coming year!

xo
Rachel


Monday, December 24, 2012

Simmering Potpourri Bags


Even at this late hour you still have time to make these:  Simmering Potpourri Bags.  
Aren't they cute?  


And I'd also like to introduce you to my new best friend:  Avery Round Kraft Labels. Just go to Avery.com and enjoy their free software which lets you look like a pro.  I love the Kraft Brown round labels with this gift because they look so Eco-Chic.  I love that word.


Contents of the Bag:  1 cup cranberries, 1 orange, 2-3 cinnamon sticks (I found mine in bulk at Costco) and 1 tablespoon cloves.  The green ribbon is the perfect Holiday touch.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quick & Easy White Chocolate Oreo Treats


Last week my kids went to a piano recital and brought cookies.  From Target.  Are you feeling better about yourself yet?  It just seems to be that kind of year.  Every project is taking longer than expected putting me just a little further and further behind.


For our extended family Christmas get together today, I volunteered to bring goody bags for the 18 kids that would be attending.  At first I was thinking of some really cute large Gingerbread Cookies in cellophane bags.  Then time ticked on and I was going to scale it back to large rice krispie treats drizzled with red and green candy melts.  Then more time ticked on and I came up with this:  White Chocolate Oreos with a dark chocolate drizzle. Perfect.  The great thing about this project is that most of the work is done for you!


 It took me less than 30 minutes to drizzle ten dozen cookies!
I love these chocolate piping bags I found at Michael's.  
They bring piping chocolate to new levels of perfection!


Who wouldn't want to receive such deliciousness?


We attached a Caribou Coffee Gift Card so that the moms kids could enjoy a cup of hot chocolate with their semi-homemade treats.


'Tis the season!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice Haiku (December 21, 2012)


Today is the winter solstice which means that up north, we're down to about 8 hours of daylight. Give or take. The way I see it, that's just more viewing time for Christmas lights.  Each day after this is going to get a little bit longer. Since this particular winter solstice also marks the end of a long cycle on the ancient Mayan calendar, I thought I would take time the time to express my thoughts in poem. Enjoy!


Winter Solstice Haiku

On this darkest night
Snow reflects glimmers of hope
Dawn will break again.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pistachio Cupcakes with Eggnog Glaze


Pistachios make me think of Christmas. I'm not sure why. I don't remember ever having pistachios growing up. Except for Jell-O pistachio pudding. But there is really nothing very pistachio-y about that.  My next pistachio memory is seeing those bright red pistachios in the bins at the grocery store. It was years before I realized that pistachio shells do not naturally have a cherry red exterior. But that must be where the Christmas memory started. Bright red shells on the outside, a lovely shade of, well, pistachio on the inside.


This recipe packed in the pistachios.  A full 3 1/4 cups! This is what I feel a cupcake should be:  small in size, big on flavor.  Pistachios went into the batter both chopped and ground to a paste.  I bought a big bag of pistachios at Costco.  It only came in roasted and salted so that's what I used.  I also used salted butter and just eliminated all extra salt from the recipe.  It seemed to balance out.


The result was a dense, moist cupcake ready for dipping.



The eggnog glaze gave a festive taste to the cupcakes.


As did the pistachios arranged in the shape of a star.

These cupcakes were The December baking assignment for The Martha Stewart Cupcake Club.
Next time, Join us!


Pistachio Cupcakes
Inspired by Martha Stewart's Cupcakes!
Makes 34

1 cup salted shelled pistachios
1 1/4 cups salted butter, melted
6 ounces cream cheese
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour (or white, whole wheat flour)
3/4 cups coarsely chopped salted pistachios
1 12 cups salted pistachios whole or slivered for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a blender, combine 1 cup shelled pistachios with melted butter.  Blend on smoothie setting until liquified.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar.  Add pistachio butter.  Gradually add one egg at a time until well mixed.  Beat in vanilla.  Add flour, beating until just combined.  Fold in chopped pistachios by hand.
  4. Divide batter evenly among muffin tins and bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  5. Finish cooling on a wire rack.
  6. Dip cupcakes in Eggnog Icing and garnish with pistachios.


Eggnog Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a fork until smooth.





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache


It snowed four days ago, and the view out my window still looks like THIS!


Aaaahhhh....... snow is so beautiful when viewed from a warm, cozy room.  And this beautiful view was all the inspiration I needed to catch up on some blogging. (Notice I didn't say cleaning the basement, paying bills or getting those Christmas cards out!)

I baked these Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache for The Martha Stewart Cupcake Club in October but am just getting them out to you now! I'm going to blame it on the move. Or maybe the last few nice days of fall. Or maybe I'll blame it on the days I spent cleaning out the garage so that we could get two cars in it before the view out my window looked like this! I'm sure it's not my fault.

And while I'm at it, I'm going to post my end of the world poem.  You know, the end of the Mayan Calendar which is just 9 days away?  I'm going to post it on auto schedule so that in case I'm not here, you'll still be able to read it.  Oh, wait.  You won't be here either!  Never mind....



Think of these divine cupcakes like a Mounds Bar in cake form.
Each cupcake is packed with coconut three ways:  
Coconut Milk, Coconut Flakes and Coconut Extract.  Yum!


They bake up soft and moist.


A dip in a simple dark chocolate ganache provides a perfect bittersweet complement to the sweetness of the cake.


Sprinkle the top with coconut (toasted or not) and you have a delightful, elegant dessert!


Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes 36 cupcakes

1 cup firmly packed sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cups canola oil
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon coconut extract
1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups coconut flakes (or shreds) toasted (or not)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  
  2. Mix flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream butter, oil, sugar.
  4. Add extract and then eggs, one at a time.  Add coconut milk.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture.
  6. Divide batter among lined cups.
  7. Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  Cupcakes will not be domed.
  8. To finish, dip tops of cupcakes in chocolate ganache glaze, then turn over quickly and garnish with coconut.





Monday, December 10, 2012

Melted Snowman Cookies


My neighbor, Sandy, was baking Christmas cookies with her granddaughter yesterday, and she brought over these incredibly cute melted snowman cookies.  How did I get such a nice neighbor?  The hard part was convincing the kids that they could not eat them until they had been properly photographed.  Aaahh..... the life of a blogger's family.


Sugar cookies for the base.  Royal Icing creates the body (but I think melted white chocolate would be great, too!)  Marshmallow head, sprinkle carrot nose, gel arms and face and piped buttons and scarf.

The key to the melted head is to melt the marshmallows slightly in the oven before attaching them.


The perfect treat for a snowy Sunday!  (or Monday!)







Snowy Morning


It snowed 17 inches yesterday.  Today the kids went to school.  On time.
The difference between north and south.

Happy Monday!

xo
Rachel

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Glimpses Week 48 | Candy Cane Cast


Despite having four kids 15 years and younger I had, until this point, avoided the emergency orthopedic clinic.  Only the second day into the ice skating unit in PE, however, I got the call.  This is one of the disadvantages of having raised our kids in The South.  They don't know how to skate.  Sure there were the occasional birthday parties at the only ice rink in town where they spent an hour in rented skates holding on to the sideboards, but there were no frozen ponds, no frozen lakes and no frozen ice rinks in the neighborhood parks.  Samuel was the only one of the four to receive skating lessons.  This occurred after he suffered from heat stroke at a summer camp and I decided to look for something colder!  The good news, Anna?  More winters ahead!





Love the laughter!