December 30, 2013

Happy New Year

That moment when your New Year's Eve plans fall through and you're not at all upset about it - yeah that's me.  It's not that I wanted our plans to fall through, but once they had I started thinking about how great a night at home, on the couch in my pj's, snuggled up with the hubby sounded.  Truth be told, I've never been very big on going out on New Year's Eve, I've just always thought "that's what you're supposed to do." Some of my best New Year's Eve memories are from when I was a child, my mom would order pizza and my parents, sister, two brothers and I would watch movies.  When the movie was over we'd turn on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve and watch the ball drop. It might sound lame but it was pretty special, that was one of the few times a year we got to order pizza, so it was a big deal.

Brad and I went to a couple New Year's Eve parties when we were dating but for our first New Year's Eve as a married couple, we left a party early so we could ring in the New Year at home.  We celebrated our first New Year snuggled up on the couch watching The Hangover. Yeah, I'm kind of a sucker for my low-key New Year's Eves even if everyone else thinks I'm lame.


For those of you that are planning to host a party, I'd like to share a decorating tip:

We've all seen it on Pinterest, fill a wine glass with (in this case) ornaments, flip it upside down on a table and put a candle on top. It makes a beautiful and cheap display.  I did this with red and green ornaments to use as a centerpiece for our Christmas party this year, and if I'm not mistaken I made this exact same mistake at last year's Christmas party also! It definitely looks nice, doesn't it?


What Pinterest does NOT show you is this:

The candle wax melts off the side off the glass and onto the table!  I cannot believe I made this mistake two years in a row.  I had completely forgotten about cleaning melted wax from the glasses and table until it was too late.  I cleaned the wax off the best I could, but I think there will always be wax in the little crevices of our dining room table.  Next year, hopefully I'll remember to use tea-lights instead.

Lastly, I'd like to share a dessert recipe with you.  If you are going to a party and need a dessert, this is the one to take.  It's so tasty it's sinful.  I found the recipe on Pinterest over a year ago and I make it for parties whenever I can. It's incredibly easy and feeds a lot (of adults).

Kahlua Cake Truffle

Ingredients:
  • 1 Chocolate Cake Mix, prepared
  • 1/3 Cup Kahlua (more or less to taste)
  • Chocolate Mousse, prepared 
  • Cool Whip
  • Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits
Directions:
  • Bake your chocolate cake and let it cool COMPLETELY.  Then using a fork poke holes all over the top of your cake.  Pour the Kahlua over your cake and let soak for at least 1 hour.
  • Cut the cake into 1-inch squares
  • Prepare chocolate mousse.
  • Layer cake cubes, mousse and cool whip. Sprinkle candy pieces on top.
  • Repeat layers until bowl is filled
NOTE: When deciding how much Kahlua to use keep in mind that you don't want to drown the cake and make if soggy.  I used approximately 1/3 of a bottle for my cake.  The amount of other ingredients will vary depending on how big your bowl is and how much dessert you plan to make.  For the truffle shown I used 2 boxes of chocolate mousse and a large container of Cool Whip.  You may use full Heath Bars and smash them up yourself in lieu of the Toffee Bits, but I find the toffee bits are much less work.


For those of you going out on New Year's Eve, please be careful. Don't drink and drive!  Many AAA locations around the country offer a free towing service to everyone (not just AAA members) on New Year's Eve  Check with a AAA location near you.

2014 Resolutions? Live life to the fullest and say yes more than no.


December 17, 2013

Vogelbacher 2nd Annual Christmas Party

The thing about throwing a Christmas party is, this time of year Mother Nature can be very unpredictable.   I put in weeks of work planning our Christmas party this year, which is partially why I’ve had no time to blog.   All that preparation, only to have a snow storm keep half the guests at home. 

Stupid snow. 

Still, I wasn’t sure how bad the roads were or how many people were planning to brave the weather, so I spent the day cleaning and baking.  I also had to make time for shoveling the driveway and walkway (we definitely need to get a snow blower!)  Maggie was of course ecstatic to play in the snow while I shoveled.  The first thing she did was eat a mouthful of snow, it also happened to be the second and third thing she did.  I was afraid she was going to give herself brain freeze! Seeing Maggie play in the snow is the only thing that keeps me from completely detesting the stuff.  As I shoveled, I found myself wishing “Summer Wheeze,” the snow spray from the cartoon ‘Frosty Returns,’ was a real thing.  After I was about three-quarters done (and ready to throw in the towel) the most amazing girl came strolling down the street with her snow-blower.  She cleaned the sidewalk down half of the block and as she passed she offered to help me finish off the driveway!  I’d bake her some cookies or something but I’ve never seen her before and have no idea which house she came from.  I am so grateful though, she saved me about 30 minutes of work.  Unfortunately, because it was snowing so much Brad had to shovel again when he got home from work.




As the start time of the party got nearer, I became more anxious about whether people would make it or not. I had made a ton of food, put together party favors, bought white elephant gifts for the gift exchange; I’d even crafted a trophy for the person voted ugliest Christmas sweater.  As much as I wanted people to show up, I questioned whether or not Brad and I would go out in the storm, I still can’t say.  I sent out a message letting everyone know that I understood if they couldn’t make it but that our party would go on as planned.  I was excited to find out a few people were still planning to attend!


Considering the snow storm, I’d say we had a pretty good turnout for this year’s Christmas party.  We had a lot of fun too!  There were a couple of hilarious white elephant gifts like the blue testicle plush that Natalia ended up with or the 4 boxes of Grape Nuts that Nick got.  The gift everyone wanted was the Spiderman Spud and a bottle of wine.  I had it in my possession for a minute but it was obviously stolen.  Nick can’t complain too much about opening Grape Nuts because he convinced his wife to steal Spidey for him, however I’m not sure what she got out of the deal (4 boxes of Grape Nuts I guess!) 

There were a lot of GREAT ugly sweaters, even Maggie got in on the fun!  Brad won the vote by the smallest of margins. I think it had something to do with the “R Kelly Snowman” that was “peeing” out snowflakes.  No one noticed the snowman (including Brad and I) until about halfway through the party.  Once it was noticed however, we couldn’t stop laughing at it.  Honestly, I was pretty happy he won because once I’d finished making the trophy I kind of wanted to keep it!  As it turns out, maybe I am kind of crafty. (I found an abominable snowman figurine and sewed him an "ugly sweater" that I made out of an old shirt and stickers.  Then I glued him to a wooden pedestal which I had painted gold.)  Along with the trophy, Brad won 4 Walleye tickets (Toledo’s minor league hockey team) which we gave away as we get tickets all the time (we really just wanted to win the trophy!)



 



Clearly I’m biased, but the food was great. I made veggie chili, buffalo chicken dip, peppermint roll, cake batter cookies, toffee scones and a veggie wreath.  I actually LOVE baking, although I haven’t always.  My mother scarred me one Christmas when she asked me to make cut-out cookies.  She thought she’d doubled the recipe when in actuality she had quadrupled the recipe.  I was making the same cookie for an entire day.  I’ve tried suppressing the memory but I’m quite sure I cried.  I don’t think I baked again until after I was married, and still it was sparsely until more recently.  I think I’m getting pretty good at it too, but I NEVER double any recipe, EVER.  

Hershey's Chocolate Peppermint Roll
Scroll to the bottom for the recipe
The peppermint roll was the item I was most uneasy about making.  Rolling up a cake with a creamy filling looked more difficult than I could handle but I was up for a challenge.  After I baked the cake and rolled it up with a towel to cool I had to make the cream filling.  I was especially anxious about this because it involved using whipping cream. When Brad and I first married I tried my hand at whipping cream; it was absolute failure.  It never thickened no matter how fast I stirred it just continued to be thin and liquidy.  “Tricks” I learned about whipping cream: 1) it has be cold to work, 2) you can’t stir fast enough so get your mixer out, 3) it takes time so don’t get discouraged.  The whipping cream whipped up nicely, so I unrolled the cake and covered it with the peppermint filling. I apprehensively began rolling the cake back up and to my surprise it rolled together quite effortlessly! I covered it with the chocolate glaze I’d made and was rather pleased with the end result, even if it didn’t look as smooth and photo-shopped as the picture.  It tasted good too, although I’d probably use a bit more peppermint next time.

Along with the desserts, we had eggnog and brandy.  I was honestly surprised at how many people said they had NEVER had eggnog.  I though eggnog was a Christmas staple but apparently that’s only at my house.  My friend Natalia tried it and called it “festive,” I guess it’s not for everyone.  Once you pour in the brandy, you can barely even taste the eggnog though.  Okay, maybe that’s just me, and actually my over-pour of brandy was an accident.  I would consider brandy “festive” as long as that’s the word we are using to describe things that we deem gross.

Despite the snow, I’d say the party was a success.  I won’t say any names but one of us had so much fun at the party that she slept the entire next day!


Happy Holidays Friends!  


Party Gifts: Cigars & Toffee Scone Mix

Brad and I - I sewed the garland to edge of the peplum for a more festive look.




Hershey's Chocolate Peppermint Roll
*Taken from a HERSHEY cookbook

CHOCOLATE SPONGE ROLL
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa (I used Special Dark)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water

PEPPERMINT FILLING
1 cup whipping cream, cold
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup finely crushed hard peppermint candy (I used crushed up candy cane) you could also use 1/2       
      teaspoon of mint extract
Optional:  a few drops of red food coloring

CHOCOLATE GLAZE
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Hershey's Cocoa
2 tablespoons water
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:
  1. For CHOCOLATE SPONGE ROLL: heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 x 1 inch jelly-roll pan with foil; generously grease foil.
  2. Beat egg whites on high speed of mixer in a large bowl until soft peaks form; gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
  3. Beat egg yolks and vanilla on medium speed of mixer in a medium bowl for 3 minutes.  Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar; continue beating for 2 minutes.  In a separate bowl stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to egg yolk mixture alternately with water, beating just until batter is smooth.  Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture until well blended.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
  4. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto clean towel sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Carefully peel off foil.  Immediately roll cake in towel, starting from narrow end; place on wire rack to cool completely.
  5. For PEPPERMINT FILLING:  beat whipping cream on medium speed of mixer in medium bowl until slightly thickened.  Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and peppermint candy (or extract) and food coloring. Beat cream until stiff peaks form.
  6. For CHOCOLATE GLAZE: melt butter in small saucepan over very low heat; add cocoa and water, stirring until smooth.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  (Cool completely for thicker frosting.)  Gradually beat in 1 cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
  7. FINISHING THE ROLL: Carefully unroll cake and remove towel.  Spread cake with Peppermint Filling and re-roll cake.  Glaze with Chocolate Glaze.  Refrigerate until just before serving. Cover; refrigerate leftover dessert.