24 May 2013

Homemade Summer: Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

A few weeks ago in a post I mentioned that I wanted to do something I dubbed "homemade summer", where every week or two I would make, photograph, and write about something that is typically bought pre-made but is possible to make in a home kitchen. In our world of prepackaged and processed foods, many people don't even realize it's possible- let alone fairly easy- to make things like marshmallows, condiments, yogurt, etc at home. But it is possible, and the results are often so, sooo much better than what you would get at the store.

I thought marshmallows would be a fun way to kick off this project since they are pretty simple, delicious, and arguably the most important part of the quintessential summer treat- the s'more. I made a pretty big batch and gave some to my dad for his birthday. This recipe is really easy (I whipped it together in about an hour before I went to work on my birthday) and uses ingredients you likely already have on hand. The result is a soft, spongy, marshmallow that acts just the way a marshmallow should: it roasts over a fire, melts in hot cocoa, and squishes nicely between a couple graham crackers. It also tastes just like a store bought marshmallow, only better! The vanilla flavor is more present and it tastes sugary and fresh instead of processed. If you're so inclined, I'd definitely recommend whipping up a bag of these to take on your next camping trip instead of opting for the store-bought stuff!

I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for marshmallows, only I decreased the gelatin slightly as I only had 3 envelopes on hand.

Confectioners sugar for dusting/tossing marshmallows
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided
2 cups cane sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1 scraped vanilla bean (I also added about 1/4 tsp vanilla to up the vanilla flavor, as my vanilla bean was a bit old and dried out)

Oil the sides and bottom of a 9 by 13 square baking dish. I own only one ceramic rectangular casserole dish which I have used for just about every recipe that requires a casserole dish on this website... so I made do with that. Something with sharp edges, like a sheet cake pan, would be much better though.

Dust the dish with powdered sugar

Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they just form stiff peaks. Reserve in a separate bowl for later.
 Place the gelatin in the (cleaned) bowl of the mixer. Pour half a cup of the cold water over the gelatin to allow it to set.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and the remaining 1/2 cup water over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. When the mixture has become clear, raise the temperature to medium and allow the mixture to boil without stirring until it has reached a temperature of 240 degrees F. I do not own a candy thermometer, but Deb says this will take about 12 minutes so I set my timer to that and it seemed to be the right amount of time :)

Remove pan from heat and pour directly over gelatin in the mixer bowl, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. With the whisk attachment, beat the gelatin/sugar mixture until it is thick, white, and tripled in volume (about 6-10 mins). It will look a lot like marshmallow fluff, and it's just as gooey and delicious!

 Add the whipped egg whites back into the mixer bowl along with the vanilla bean scrapings and/or any other flavorings you'd like to use.
Whip until combined, and then dump the whole mixture into the oiled, dusted baking dish. Don't worry too much about getting every last bit in there, as this stuff is really sticky and gooey and hard to work with without making a mess! Dust the top with a generous amount of powdered sugar.

Let the marshmallows set, uncovered in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Once the marsh have set, run a thin knife along the edges of the dish and then use your fingers to slowly pry the giant marshmallow from the dish. Working on a counter dusted with plenty of powdered sugar, cut the marshmallow mat into strips and then 1 inch squares

Toss the marshmallows with even more powdered sugar to keep the sticky cut sides from holding them together. And that's all there is to it! Fresh, homemade marshmallows perfect for your next camping trip or hot cocoa mug (or even a cup of coffee in the morning!)

<3 Em

23 May 2013

I'm Feelin' Twenty-Two

As much as I find myself wanting to resist liking Taylor Swift or any of her impossibly catchy songs, I can't help but secretly sing along to every one that comes on the radio while I'm alone in my car. Girl just tells it like it is, you know? Anyways they've been playing '22' on the station I listen to non-stop these days, and it's been constantly stuck in my head. This is partially due to the fact that I myself have just turned 22, and I get a small amount of glee every time I can accurately shout, "I don't know about you, but I'm feelin' twenty-two!" at the chorus. It's the little things.

My birthday was just two days after the last day of my spring semester, so everything happened in a blur of activity and excitement. I had to work on my actual birthday, but the next day Colton and I left for Prescott to spend time with my parents for my dad's birthday and Mother's day. After that, we took off on a week long trip to California which was awesome! We went to Disneyland/California Adventure and then spent several days in San Diego hanging out on the beach and eating lots and lots of food. The trip was part of Colton's birthday gift to me as well as my own gift to myself and the chance to take a week off work, spend a day at the Disney parks, and just relax and do whatever was sooooo nice.

Hopefully now that we are back I can get back into the swing of blogging fairly regularly. I am enrolled in a couple online summer classes this semester which have already proven themselves to be very intense! Last night I stayed up till 4 am working on my midterm and was able to turn it in with less than a minute (of the three hour time limit) to spare. It's a lot of work! But it will be worth it to have an easier course load this fall. That will be taking up some of my time though, and on top of that I am once again cooking for the Mendocino Sufi Youth Retreat in July. That means another week of meals to design and test followed by a lot of grocery shopping and finally 5 days of intense work from pretty much 6am to midnight. It's takes a LOT of planning and work but I really enjoy doing it :)

Other than that, I'm hoping to spend this summer continuing my regimen of healthy eating and fitness (I am 5 weeks into the couch to 5k plan right now. Have you heard of it? I think I'll do another post on just that later!) while also squeezing in time for the activities I really enjoy, like cooking and crafting. It would be ideal if I had enough extra time to really invest in my Etsy shop this summer and get it off the ground, but with so much else on my plate that might have to take the back burner. We'll see! Regardless, it's looking to be a fun and exciting last summer in college!

SO, that's what's been going on in my world the past few weeks and what's on the horizon. Before I go, here are a few pics from my birthday/vacation:

 Colton made breakfast for us both in the morning, which we ate outside in our little yard next to the cactus garden. Delicious blueberries and strawberries wrapped in crepes and topped with whipped cream with a side of center cut bacon- which is only 25 calories a slice! My kind of bacon.

I took my birthday as an opportunity to update my measurements since I hadn't done so since the 20 lb loss mark. I posted this picture on instagram with the caption that (as of my bday) I had lost 35.6 pounds and a total of 36.5 inches, which is the length I'm showing with the tape measure. I'm so proud of what I've accomplished by returning to a healthy lifestyle this year! I am now at about about a 38 lb overall loss and looking forward to hitting the 40 lb mark!

Colton had me pick out a necklace that I wanted on Etsy for my birthday and this is the one I chose- it is a Doctor Who reference which appeals to my nerdy side and love for that show, but it's also really beautiful and pairs well with my style.

Though it's probably not very safe, when Clementine rides in the car she doesn't want to sit anywhere but on my lap. She prefers to put her head right in the crook of my elbow while I drive as well, even if that means she has to sit up to do so. She's a super weirdo. Luckily she's small and light enough that it barely makes a difference while I drive. Colton took this picture on our way from Tucson to Prescott the day after my birthday and Clem just looks so very pleased with the world. She should have her own talk show with that smile.
Walking from our hotel to the parks on the morning of our Disney day!

Nearing the castle! Gosh, is there anything more fun than disneyland? We had the best time. It was hot (over 100), but the lines weren't too long anywhere and we zipped back and forth between the two parks half a dozen times, experiencing everything. We rode space mountain 3 times (it was the first and last ride we did as well) and California Screamin' twice, and those were definitely our favorites. Through some miracle neither of us got too cranky, hungry, hot, or tired and we just had a blast from open to close!
Indiana Jones line selfie...
Instead of spending lots of money on food inside the parks, we brought our lunch in and stored it in the lockers inside Disneyland. Bagel sandwiches, sliced veggies, trail mix, and chips... without waiting in long lines or forking over tons of cash. Definitely recommended! Although, we did split a sundae from the ice cream parlor later that afternoon :)

I wish I had taken more pictures but as usual I got caught up in actually having the experiences and didn't stop to photograph them! Colton has more pictures on his phone of our ride pictures, san diego, etc which I will put in a later post. Hope your week is coming to a nice close!

<3 Em