Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Last year I decided to make and keep some New Year's Resolutions.  I'm proud to say that I did!

I wanted to reflect on what I have accomplished in the last year.  Sometimes it feels as if the time goes by so fast, we hardly remember what we did.
1. Learned beekeeping
2. Learned to bellydance
3. Learned to milk a goat
4. Made goat milk cheese
5. Made goat milk soap
6. butchered our own meat (both beef and chicken)
7. learned to can pickles
8. learned to can tomatoes (in all different variations!)
9. stepped out of my comfort zone and volunteered for Ron Paul's political campaign as a county coordinator, which includes (gulp) public speaking and recruiting volunteers
10. taught my older kids how to play piano
11. Started writing this blog
12. Lost weight and reached my goal
13. took a picture every day for my 365project:
14. adopted a steer to raise for beef
15. raised our own produce
16. homeschooled the kids

Now to decide how to better myself in 2012!
Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


I started making toffee last year.  I was never a fan of it until I made my own....and now it's a favorite.  I like that I can make all different flavors very easily by varying the type of chocolate and nuts.  I even experimented with crushed candy-canes!  The recipe is really easy,  I got it from King Arthur Flour.

I've tried putting the toffee down first, then topping it with the chocolate and nuts, but prefer to put the nuts down first, then the chocolate, then pouring the hot toffee over it.

1 cup (2 sticks, 1/2 pound) butter*
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 cups (8 ounces) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (chocolate chips are an easy solution here; you’ll need about 2 2/3 cups)

*If you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
In a large, deep saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, water and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently, over medium heat, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming th change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it’s ready. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you’ll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn. And what a waste of good butter and sugar that would be!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

Years ago as a new mom unable to get more than a couple of hours of sleep, I was glued to the Food Network and one of my favorite shows was Good Eats with Alton Brown.  One of his shows was dedicated to truffles.  I had enjoyed them once at a craft fair, but they charged $2 a piece, and while they were good, I couldn't bring myself to buy a whole box.  Needless to say, Alton's show piqued my interest and I tried his recipe with great success.  I decided to send some to my family and now every year my gift list gets longer.  I make about 8 different varieties using different liquors.  My favorites are cointreau (orange) and peach schnapps.  Needless to say, these treats aren't for children!
For the ganache, I use Ghirardelli's 60% cacao chips and unsalted butter.  I cut the butter into pieces and add it to the chocolate.  
 Heat it in the microwave in 1 minute intervals, stirring in between until mostly melted.  
 Meanwhile, in a saucepan add heavy whipping cream and light corn syrup.  Stir and heat until hot but not boiling.  Add to the chocolate mixture, letting it set for 2 minutes before stirring in fully.  

Add the liquor of choice, stirring it in completely.  
 Refrigerate for a few hours.  
 I use a cookie dough scoop for uniformity and scoop out the balls of ganache onto wax paper lined baking sheets.  Refrigerate again for a few hours.  

I use gloves at this point, roll the balls between your hands to firm them up.  
 Put them back in the fridge while getting the semi-sweet chocolate ready.  

Heat about 2/3 of your semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler, stirring until melted, then add the remaining 1/3 chips (this is my step to avoid tempering the chocolate).  Stir until melted.  

Using a chopstick, spear one of the ganache balls, dip it into the chocolate and twirl the ball while using your gloved finger of your opposite hand to smooth the chocolate over the ball.  
 Sorry I couldn't get a pic of myself doing this (oh, for that 3rd hand!!)  

Put the truffle onto the wax paper, push it off the stick with your 'twirl' finger and use the chopstick to push a little excess chocolate over the hole the stick left behind.  You should have a nicely covered chocolate truffle!  
To differentiate the different flavors, I decorate with different pretty toppings.  I use ground cocoa, powdered sugar, nonpareils, chocolate jimmies, chopped nuts, etc.  You need to decorate them almost immediately after placing them on the tray, as the chocolate coating will harden pretty quickly.  Obviously, the cocoa and powdered sugar won't, but the sprinkles and nuts will just fall off.  (You don't have to top them after every one, I decorate 3 truffles at a time).  After you're done with a tray, place in the refrigerator overnight to firm them up completely.  I love this time of year, it's cold outside and I put the truffles in containers and place them in a cooler on the deck.  This serves 2 purposes, it keeps the fridge clear and most importantly, reduces the temptation to snack!

A box full of the different truffles is truly a wonderful sight!


  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup brandy or other liquer
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts, and/or toasted coconut, for coating truffles
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine