Baking Bliss and Scale Sorrow

December 5, 2011

 

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Reminder: Today is the LAST DAY to enter my NuNaturals Stevia giveaway!

Saturday started off on a rather sad note: the scale told me that I gained 2.4 pounds…LAME! Is it the re-introduction of wheat and dairy? I don’t know. And at this point, I’m honestly tired of guessing. As per my post Friday, I’ve got better things to worry about.

Like cookies. Lots of cookies. And truffles. And sugar plums. And cake balls. And gooey butter cakes. Made with a dear friend (check out her picture yesterday if you missed it). Warning: the bulk of this food is NOT healthy. It is of the “80/20” variety – meaning that if you’re eating stuff that’s good for you 80 % of the time, 20% of the time, you can indulge in such delights as I’m about to show you. Smile

After I went to my military tone class at the gym (to at least in some small part off-set all of the tasting and dough-eating I’d be doing. ‘Cause, let’s be honest, moderation, Hilary and cookie dough do NOT go together), my friend Heather came over with her share of the groceries. We turned on the Christmas music and got to work.IMG_3906

First up: Gooey Butter Cakes with candy canes on top. This was my own little twist on Paula Deen’s gooey butter cakes (just make it as per directions but use a chocolate cake mix, add a touch of peppermint extract to the filling, then sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top). This is one of those – “it may look sort of like a disaster but I promise it tastes AMAZING” type of recipes. Seriously. These things are GOOD. Make them now (or maybe do yourself a favour and don’t make them if you’re smart). I confessed to Heather that one of the reasons I like making gooey butter cakes (besides their utter deliciousness) is that they’re always a mess to cut, and the knife gets really messy, so you pretty much have to clean it off after each cut (and by clean, I mean, use your fingers to wipe it off then eat up all that deliciousness Winking smile), plus there are all those edges that just don’t look good enough to serve that you have get rid of somehow. Winking smile

We had somewhat of a Paula Deen theme, as Heather had a P.D. Holiday special magazine, so our next two recipes also come from the grande dame of Southern cuisine. To your right, you see red velvet cake IMG_3898IMG_3892(which Heather so kindly pre-baked for us) getting crumbled up and mixed with our delectable cream cheese icing, then rolled into balls. Those balls chilled out in the freezer for several hours….

And while those balls were chilling, we made some more balls – these ones were destined to become, brace yourself – peanut butter cookie truffles! Oh yes – so wrong, but oh so right. The recipe called for peanut butter cookie sandwiches (AKA Nutter Butters), which we do not have in Canada. But Heather found these delightful (trust us, we each tried one to be sure) chocolate and nut-covered peanut butter caramel cookie things that worked just fine. After getting crushed up and mixed with delightful stuff like peanut butter, icing sugar and cream cheese, they also got rolled into balls and chilled in the freezer.IMG_3893IMG_3905

Next up? Look at these nifty Andes Crème de Menthe morsels I found at Target last weekend! Why oh why can’t we have them in Canada (ok, I guess I could just chop up some Andes now couldn’t I)? After purchasing these, I was thumbing through a Christmas cookie magazine I had from last year and found a recipe for Chocolate Mint Crackle Cookies that called for a bag of exactly these morsels – we decided that meant we HAD to make them. Now, I haven’t actually gotten to eating a cookie yet, but I can tell you that the dough is TO DIE FOR!

IMG_3894At this point, we decided we needed to eat something other than cookie dough and chocolate, so we broke for a quick lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches (Weight Watchers spicy pepper jack cheese on light oatmeal bread, both bought in the US), with a quick salad of spinach, pear, red onion and jicama in a balsamic vinaigrette (made with walnut oil). This was Heather’s first time having jicama – she was a fan!

Then it was back to work on our token “healthy” recipe (for the HHH readers, Heather decided) – sugar plums from the December issue of Weight Watchers Magazine. I tried making sugar plums with my sister several years back and they didn’t stick together very well, so we were a little nervous about these ones. I am happy to report that they turned out beautifully, and held together perfectly. Our only complaint? We doubled the recipe, so we were supposed to come out with 36 sugarplums with 1 point plus each. We only got 24 (and I don’t think they were all that big). I’m going to post the recipe below, as it’s pretty easy, and totally gluten and dairy-free, and just has that nice fruit/nut/spice taste of the holidays.IMG_3895

I told Heather I’d give her full credit for being my hand model in sugarplum-rolling. Isn’tIMG_3896 she doing a beautiful job?

 

 

Now look at this picture of the plums. I know it’s not exactly actual size, but I don’t think they look overly large, do you?

 

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Now it was time to coat the cake balls. Paula called for them to be on sticks, cake pop style (Bakerella, watch your back), coated in white chocolate and rolled in pecans. We didn’t have enough sticks or white chocolate, and Heather said that pecans weren’t her favourite. So we did some on sticks and with white chocolate, and added Christmas sprinkles for a festive touch. For the rest, we covered them with some green chocolate that I had, then added a drizzle of red chocolate. Those ones make me laugh – I dubbed them a “festive explosion.” Heather’s red drizzling turned out better on some than on others. On the less perfect ones, she claims she was trying to make it look like a bow. Smile with tongue outIMG_3902IMG_3903

When we were coating the pb cookie truffles, Heather told me about this genius idea that her Aunt taught her last week when making peanut butter balls – using a fondue fork to dip them (that’s the picture you see at the top). It sounded brilliant enough. But for some reason, we decided that it didn’t translate so well to pb cookie truffles. At first, we thought the chocolate was too thick, so we added some paraffin. Still didn’t really work. It was hard to get the forks out fast enough, and because the balls were frozen, the chocolate was setting too quickly, and creating weird imperfections on the top. Good thing we were still drizzling with melted peanut butter morsels. Heather wanted me to make sure I took a picture of the drizzled one that I messed up on so you know that I mess up too! Smile with tongue out

All in all, it was a great day. We shared a lot of laughs, ate more than our fair share of cookie dough and chocolate Embarrassed smile, made some memories, and, hopefully, enough cookies to last us through the holiday season (although I’m sure I’ll be in the kitchen more soon). Throughout the day, Heather was taking mental notes on everything that I was doing wrong/things she thought HHH readers would be surprised to know. She promised to “expose” me in the comments section – so if you want a laugh/to know the truth, you might want to come back and check that out. Although we were teasing each other all day, we kid because we love – so thanks for a great Saturday Heather (and after all that baking, we still weren’t sick of each other, so Heather invited me over after supper and we hung out and watched Boy Meets World together).

Have you done any holiday baking yet? If so, what? Old favourites, all new stuff (that’s what we did) or some of both?

Sugarplums from Weight Watchers Magazine, December 2011

Makes 36 (supposedly, but we got 24) – if you make 36, they each have one point plus

Prep: 20 minutes, Cook: None (but you do need to chill them for at least an hour)

  • 6 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
  • 3/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 6 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Place sugar in a small bowl.

Pulse remaining ingredients in food processor until nuts are the size of peppercorns and mixture begins to hold together.

Form into 36 (3/4 inch) balls. Roll each ball in sugar; place on baking sheet.

Chill until firm, one hour. Place sugarplums in airtight container, with waxed paper between each layer. Cover and store at room temperature up to 3 days.

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