Friday, November 30, 2012

Reindeer Cupcakes and Mastrad Inc. Product Review

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All right, I will be the first to admit these cupcake reindeers look a little disturbed, and lack a huge amount of artistic talent, but hey, I had fun, and they at least give a good laugh, right?  Maybe these are reindeer after they got in to a bunch of Santa's eggnog.

Mastrad, Inc., a French company specializing in culinary accessories, was kind enough to send me a pack of  six silicon heart shaped baking cups for me to try out and review.  At first, I was a bit perplexed as to what I could do with them, since it wasn't Valentine's Day, but then I started thinking, and thought that maybe, just maybe, I could make some reindeer cupcakes out of them.  If you squint your eyes a little, you can see how one could get a face in the center of the heart, and then the rounded parts kind of the antler section.  I have used silicon bakeware before, and sadly was not very impressed, so I was a little skeptical of how silicon baking cups would work, but I was still very excited, and within a few hours of receiving them, I was ready to put them to the test!

Here is what they look like when they arrive.  A cute little box of pretty red cups, about the size of the palm of my hand.  They are made of thin, silicon material, and the sides can be folded down in half to make a tart sized cup (which I will be giving a try next with something chocolate related).  The line to fold them also marks where to fill them too as well.

I put them on a baking sheet, and filled them to the line marked on the cups, no guess work here!   I filled them with an eggnog cake batter (which will be my next post).  They didn't bend or spill, or anything.  I also did not spray the cups with any non stick spray.

I baked them along side a traditional cupcake pan to compare baking times (I am a chemist, so I have to take a scientific approach to this).  They baked at 350 degrees F.  (they are oven safe up to 480 degrees F.)  Below is what they looked like when they came out of the oven.  They rose perfect, did not over flow, but were plenty big.  they cooked in the same amount of time as the traditional pan as well.

When I took them out of the cups, all I had to do was peel the sides away, turn it over, and tap it a few times on the bottom and it came right out.  Not a single one stuck to the cup, and they came out beautifully. 

Here is how I decorated them.  I colored a bit of the buttercream frosting with some black food coloring to outline the face, and put pretzel pieces for the antlers, mini marshmallows for the eyes, and a chocolate chip nose.  All in all, I thought they were a great use of the heart shaped cups.  The best part is, they fit perfectly in a regular cupcake liner after you take them out, so you can just pop them in the paper liners and store them that way. 

Overall I was very impressed with these, despite being skeptical at first.  I will be using these again for sure.  The only drawback to them is that there are only 6 in a package, so it will take several batches of baking to get through one batch of batter.  Otherwise, they performed as described.

If you want to check out their products, you can find them at Mastrad, Inc., on Facebook at Mastrad US, and on twitter at Mastrad.  If you would like to check this product out, it can be found here.

Disclosure:  This product was furnished by the manufacturer to review.  All comments and opinions of the product are my own.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Garlic Cheese Twists and Easy Puff Pastry Dough

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I haven't made many appetizer kind of items, and I don't usually make decadent savory items, because we try to be on a calorie conscious diet here, but sometimes, we just want something rich, cheesy, and sinful. I thought I would surprise my husband with these garlic cheese twists since her loves Italian bread sticks, and cheese straws.  I am not ambitious enough, nor do I have the time to try and do puff pastry the traditional way, so I thought I would give King Arthur Flour's Fast and Easy Puff Pastry Dough a try.  It did not disappoint. It was fast, and easy, and baked up flaky, butter and tender.  Definitely worked great, and I can't wait to make something sweet like apple turnovers with the dough next.  I made a double batch of pastry dough, and now I have one batch in the freezer just waiting to be used.  What could be easier??

Enjoy these lovely Garlic Cheese Twists for a nice party appetizer at a holiday party, or just to snack on at home.  Can't go wrong!

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Flaky Cheese Twists)

Makes about 34 cheese straws

  • 1 recipe Easy Puff Pastry, see below (or about a 16-18 ounces of puff pastry dough)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or pecorino romano
  • Garlic Salt  
  • paprika
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water 
    1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Ready a baking sheet by lining with parchment, if you have it; otherwise, just get out a baking sheet, no need to grease it
    2. Place the pastry on a well-floured work surface, and roll it into a 12" x 24" rectangle, about 1/8" thick.
    3. Brush some of the beaten egg/water over the dough, saving the remainder for later. 
    4. Sprinkle cheese over half of the dough, and then sprinkle the garlic salt over the same half, to taste (I like a hint of garlic, so I go light, but go heavier if you like it more).
    5. Fold the dough half without filling on top of the piece with filling, making a 12" square.
    6. Gently roll till the two halves stick together; you'll now have a rectangle about 12" x 13".
    7. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise to make two rectangles, each 6" x 13". 
    8. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 3/4"-wide strips; you'll cut about 17 strips from each piece of dough, about 34 strips total. 
    9. Pick up a dough strip and twist each end in opposite directions until the dough is a spiraled cylinder. Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough strips, leaving about 3/4" between them.  
    10. Brush with remaining egg wash.  Sprinkle with more garlic salt and then add a light dusting of paprika if desired, for color.
    11. Bake the twists for 12 to 15 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool slightly on a rack before serving. 
Rolled out puff pastry dough
Dough after it has been brushed with egg mixture, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and sprinkled with garlic salt.
Dough after folding over, rolling, and cutting into strips.
Twisted, brushed with more egg wash, sprinkled with garlic salt and paprika.
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Fast and Easy Puff Pastry)

  •  2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter,* cut in pats 
  • 1/2 cup fat free Greek Yogurt  
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk (if the dough just won't come together enough)
*If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt to 1/4 teaspoon

  1. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
  2. Add the butter, working it in to make a coarse/crumbly mixture. Leave most of the butter in large, pea-sized pieces.
  3. Stir in the yogurt; the dough won't be cohesive. Turn it out onto a floured work surface, and bring it together with a few quick kneads (if it still doesn't come together, add a little bit of milk).
  4. Pat the dough into a rough log, and roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle.  
  5. Dust both sides of the dough with flour, and starting with a shorter end, fold it in three like a business letter.
  6. Flip the dough over, give it a 90° turn on your work surface, and roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Fold it in three again.
  7. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before using. To make pastry, roll into desired size. 
  8. Freeze dough for prolonged storage, up to 2 months. To use, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

35 Christmas Party Appetizers and Drinks

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Picture credits: Kitchen Meets Girl, Mommy's Sweet Confessions, My Baking Addiction, The Slow Roasted Italian, Citronlimette

          I had so much fun doing my 25 Christmas Cookie Collection, that I decided I would do another one featuring those wonderful savory dishes of the season.  I polled all my Facebook friends, and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of a collection of holiday party appetizers.  Well, I listened, and here are 25 appetizers and 10 holiday drinks, from many of you!  So many wonderful recipes again it was so hard to choose.  I hope these will help give you some ideas for your holiday parties and that you enjoy!  Make sure to share this with your friends, pin it, and check out these awesome recipes.



Spinach and Artichoke Dip 




Artichoke & Roasted Garlic Dip -

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus - Vegan + Gluten-Free

Post image for Potato Bites 

Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip




Pesto Crescent Swirls 


Christmas Meatballs Recipe











Friday, November 23, 2012

25 Christmas Cookies and Bars

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 There are probably 20 different things I could have done a Christmas recipe collection on: drinks, brownies, pies, sides, main dishes, the list goes on and on.  Thanks to input I received, it seemed like cookies were the winner by quite a bit for a collection you all were interested in seeing.  So I set out to find not necessarily traditional Christmas cookies, but ones that would be a wonderful addition to holiday celebrations.  Some are from my blog, some are unique, some are classic, and some are just downright fun!  I found so many cookies I would have liked to include in this collection, I may have to do a part II someday.  Thank you for all the bloggers whose recipes were selected, your recipes are wonderful, and I am thrilled you have shared them on your blog for the world to enjoy!!

Make sure to pin this post so lots of people can enjoy, and share it with all your friends. 








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