Thursday, December 27, 2012

Party Palate Planning

Merry 2 Days After Christmas!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day and that the holidays are treating you well. We pulled up in our driveway at 3:30 this morning from a wonderful Christmas with Cameron's parents (with a detour on the way home to the only movie theater within 200 miles that was showing Les Miserables, and 3 stops at three different stores looking for a queen size electric blanket). So now today I get to clean up our car vomit (you know...everything you crammed in your car during vacation that just gets tossed 2 feet from the door when you're unloading in the dead of night) so that we can decorate our Christmas tree tonight. We're bound and determined that we're going to do this...even if it takes us until the 4th of July. Christmas in July? I'm thinking we'll get some of the 50% off metallic wrapping paper from wally world and make a bunch of shiny tree ornaments and have a New Years Tree. That's the plan right now anyway. 

Speaking of New Years...y'all ready? Got your menu planned? The Mistletoe hung strategically so you can get your midnight kiss? Have pots and pans and spoons prepped and ready to grab and clang while running around the neighborhood (best New Years Eve tradition ever...seriously, it's so much fun, you should try it. It makes you feel like a kid and you can't help but smile)? If you're still trying to figure out what to bring to the New Years party, we thought we'd help you out by giving you some tips and tricks on some common holiday treats. 

The Original Pin
Pinned Image
Adena submitted this food project and gave us this story: "I've had pinwheels on several occasions but never made my own. I made these for a Christmas party last weekend. I am horrible at rolling wraps and burritos, so that part was challenging enough. Also, the spinach tortillas kept peeling (which explains the hanging pieces on the finished product. I used a combination of pinwheel recipes and picked the easiest one I could find: cream cheese with Ranch seasoning packets, shredded sharp Cheddar,and deli ham and turkey."

"After I rolled the tortillas, I refrigerated them for a while so they'd be easier to cut. I cut them too fat (and my tortillas were also too fat). My sister and cousin helped build the tree. My cousin had the idea to top the tree with a clementine. The bell pepper strips were garland. They tasted fine, but the tree looked sad. :)"

The Pinstrosity

Pinwheels can be tougher than you'd think they would be. But Adena's look delicious still. I love pinwheels. One thing that helps to hold these little guys together is to make sure and spread your filling (thinly) over the entire surface of one side of the tortilla, and then roll it tight. If there is filling over the entire surface, the pinwheel holds together a little better. And then, I know others have had more success with this than I have, but I find I have to make these as close to the serving time as I can or the tortillas (especially the spinach or tomato tortillas) end up a little soggy and they fall apart more. One third tip, these often hold up better and keep their shape better if they are small, so don't fill them so much and roll them tight (after all, they aren't usually the main dish, so they don't have to be incredibly filling and big). 

The Original Pin
Cinnamon Toasted Almonds

Katherine told this story about her nut fiasco. "We had decided to make these cinnamon toasted almonds for neighbor Christmas gifts. A chef i am not, so the label of EASY in bold type was especially enticing. As we gathered the ingredients my husband joked, you should submit a pinstrosity if they don't turn out. I scoffed. I dutifully mixed ingredients per the recipe, coated the almonds and popped those suckers into the oven. I even had all 4 cups of almonds on one baking sheet at one point, re-read the instructions and reluctantly decided to split the batch onto two sheets as the recipe suggested. 5 minutes in, almonds smell great baking in the oven. 8 minutes in, the sweet aroma turns slightly sour, and 10 minutes into baking the almonds are burnt and smoke is coming out through the stove burners. The almonds looked horrible with a mix of crusty black burntness and bubbly brown foam covering them. Sure these weren't presentable for neighbors but we might be able to snack on the lesser burnt pieces. My husband took a bite, and nothing! Those stupid almonds tasted like almonds! I'm calling this a level 4 fail based on how quickly they burned, how after 3 minutes out of the oven the almonds had GLUED to the pan, and how after all our hard work they just tasted like plain ol' almonds... oh. And the fact that my husband called it!" 
The Pinstrosity
Ah nuts, they didn't turn out. ;) 
For this recipe (and any that include coating an object in sugar and then baking it) I strongly suggest parchment paper. Oddly enough, I'm just discovering parchment paper and I don't know why it's taken me so long. That stuff is the best. Seriously, try it. This recipe gives you sugar coated almonds, but also a sugar coated pan. The sugar will melt and stick to the almonds some, but it's also going to melt off and stick to the pan and burn. Parchment paper will make cleanup way easier. If you notice, the original site doesn't show a picture of her pan and almonds immediately out of the oven...I imagine it's not so pretty either. 
Getting the yummy coating to stick to the nuts though...that's the real problem here. Why go to all that work to get almonds that just taste normal? I'm not a bit almond fan but I LOVE pecans (and luckily I have family members with pecan trees who love to have us come pick bags and bags). Instead of coating the nuts and then baking them here's what I do (and this could be done with any kind of nuts):

They are sweet, but not overpoweringly sweet like most candy. They are super simple to make too. Don't be scared by the fact that these need to be cooked to the soft ball stage. That scared me at first but it was really easy. I promise. All I did was I went to the wonderful world of Walmart, bought a $4.50 candy thermometer and then just cooked the glaze until the little temperature line hit the soft ball stage line. That easy. Nothing to it. You can do it. Don't be afraid. You'll be so proud of yourself afterward too. I was. And then you won't be able to quit eating these...but they're it's healthy. :)

1 c. white sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 c. water
2 c. pecan halves (or pieces)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

  1. Before you do anything else, prepare a flat surface to pour the nuts onto. For one batch I put wax paper on a cookie sheet, and another batch I just put the wax paper on the counter. Both worked fine.
  2. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, cream of tartar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Cook until it reaches the soft ball stage, stirring to keep from scorching.
  4. Quickly pour in the vanilla and then the pecans. Stir quickly to coat the nuts.
  5. Spread the nuts onto a hard surface (as prepared in step #1) and quickly separate with a fork before they harden (and stick together).
  6. Let cool and then enjoy!

The Original Pin
Meghan sent us in her Pinstrosity involving these scrumptious morsels:  "Over the weekend I had a cookie exchange party to go to.  I was super excited when I saw this Pin and knew I HAD to try it out!!  I needed an easy to make recipe as I had a million things to do an my 21 month old daughter was having 2 friends over for a sleepover... CHAOS!!!!  This was bound to be a pinstrosity from the beginning for the following reasons:
#1- WHERE DO YOU BUY ROLL OUT PIE CRUST DOUGH?????  Seriously can anyone tell me this?? I went to 5 different stores and everyone had pie crusts in the pie tin... not roll out.  I was tempted to buy it but it would have been such a waste since I needed to make 40 plus of these mini pies.
#2 - Apparently since its December NO ONE sells Hershey Kisses... in ANY flavour! I went to another 4 stores looking for these."

"So after wasting a weeks worth of lunches I ran on on my lunch Friday and grabbed puff pastry dough and a tonne of Rolos!  I figured meh can't go wrong... can I??  Then just to make sure I wasn't heading for a huge failure I scoured Pinterest for something similar with puff pastry. And found this

Pinned Image
and felt much better!!  So while my husband ran around with 3 girls under the age for 5 on Friday night I excited cut out my puff pastry, put a Rolo in the middle, pinched and twisted the top and sides and brushed them with egg... just like BOTH recipes told me!  I threw them in the oven and walked away.... Well when my timer went off I got so excited and this is what I found..."

The Pinstrosity

"The first thing that came to mind was the movie Aliens... you know how when a baby alien is hatching from the egg pods the pod pops open ... that was my it!! When I pulled them out of the oven I swear they were breathing and I actually expected little aliens to run out of my oven!  Seeing as I needed 40 plus of these alien pods I did some research (aka calling my mom) before setting out on the task of making another batch.  The next batch I made I used the egg to wet the sides of the dough before pinching them together.  I don't have a picture of the second batch but it was a little bit better than the first... as in 4 of the 16 stayed closed... So back I went to more research... (aka posting a pic on facebook and finding out what I did wrong!!).  SO for the third batch I did the same as the second batch BUT this time I poked a tiny hole in the top with a toothpick so the pastry wouldn't heat up and explode... the hot air could vent out.  This definitely was the best batch... but I still had 3 of the 16 explode like aliens.  On the upside they all tasted AMAZING!!!!" answer Meghan's questions:
1. "WHERE DO YOU BUY ROLL OUT PIE CRUST DOUGH?????" I actually haven't ever seen just a glob of pie crust dough being sold in the stores, but I have seen the uncooked pie crusts in the frozen foods section, and I think that is what the original recipe is calling for. During the year they are often by the whipped cream, but at Christmas our grocery store has them out in the center aisle freezer chest thingys. But, if you can't find those (and even if you can), I've got something even better for you. Make your own pie crust. Stick with me. I know, it's one of those things that seems too time consuming and hard, but if you're spending all the time going to a bunch of stores looking for a frozen, uncooked crust, you've got time to make pie crust. Need a good and simple recipe? Here's mine/my mom's recipe and it's yummy!

Pie crust will stick to itself much better than puff pastry, so there shouldn't be as big of a problem of them bursting open during the baking. 

2. The lack of Hershey Kisses. Now that's bizarre that you couldn't find any, because being that it is December, our store has an over abundance of them. Cordial cherry kisses, caramel filled kisses, regular kisses, etc. Walmart had them in the candy aisle, the Christmas aisle, the baking aisle, and the little center "holiday baking" stand. I'm not sure what was up in your town, that's just weird. 

The Original Pin

And then here's one of my own. Not a fail, but I do have some tips...
The Pinstrosity

My sister held a cookie exchange and I decided to try out the hot cocoa cookies I had eagerly pinned on Pinterest. The first batch seemed a little over done when I cooked them according to the recipe's directions, so I lowered the baking time by 2-3 minutes and they came out much better. These cookies were so perfectly chocolatey (which is saying something for me who is not a huge chocolate fan) and soft and gooey when they came out of the oven. I put them in a container and Em and I drove the 2 hours to my sisters house for her party, so of course the cookies cooled down during the drive. They were still good once they had cooled, but they just weren't as good or impressive. They ended up a little more crunch and the chunk of chocolate in the center had hardened back to just a chunk of chocolate and not melted awesomeness. So if you make these to take to a party, take them hot. Their not bad cool, but they just aren't anything to scream about either.

So I hope this gives you some ideas and help! All it did for me was to make me hungry...good thing I've got left over posole from Christmas (New Mexico Chrstimas food is the best!).


  1. Roll out pie crust dough is in with the cookie dough and the crescent rolls, usually on the bottom. It comes in a long rectangular box (red for the Pillsbury brand) and is already rolled out flat then literally rolled up and packaged two to a box! You just roll it out into a pie tin. Much better than the frozen stuff.

  2. for the Kiss Pies if you don't have a Trader Joes, the alternative would be It is in a tube in the refrigerated section in a tube by the cookies/bisquits/ect

  3. Just wanted to chip in that my grocery stores are like Amanda said up above - took me hunting several stores before I figured it out but the roll-out pie crusts are refrigerated, not in the frozen section.

  4. Like the others here, I came to chime in about the refrigerated pie crusts. You can usually find both Pillsbury and the store brand. Also, the grocery stores usually have tons of Hershey Kisses in all kinds of flavors in the seasonal aisle this time of year.

  5. For the hot chocolate cookies, you can always microwave them individually on High for about 10-15 seconds :) I do that with my normal cookies, and these kind too. Melts the centers.

  6. I found roll out pie crust dough at SuperTarget and Kroger and Publix...actually pretty common. Not sure where you're shopping!

  7. I find when you make pinwheels that if you heat the tortilla up just a little (10 seconds in the microwave or something) before you spread the stuff on it, they roll much easier and won't tear like Adena's did.

  8. I also endeavored to make the simple little Kiss Pies. Looks so simple and delicious! I had no trouble finding the ingredients, BUT they were terrible! When I got them to stick together and bake, they were so dry. No one's mouth has enough saliva to choke one down! I tried to roll my piecrusts thinner, no difference. There's not enough chocolate to match the 2 - 3 in. disk of dough. made me feel better to see it on here! :)

  9. There is roll out dough at my supermarkets in a long box like you would find foil in. Refrigerator section. I make my own crust but I would use the pre-made in a pinch for sure.

  10. I have always found pie crusts near the canned biscuits (crescent rolls, grands biscuits, cinnamon rolls, etc). Which is also near the butter/dairy type stuff. Also never had an issue finding them in any grocery store I've ever been in. Although, if all you found was pre-made crusts in the aluminum trays - you never got near the refrigerated sections to check! :) I always had a box of Publix brand pie crusts in my freezer back home (I am not in the states right now).

  11. Yeah! Pillsbury Pie Crusts are cheap and dirt-easy :D Sold refrigerated at Wally-world, too ;D


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