26 December 2011

Holiday Re-Cap (...so far)

First off, a little humor to get things rolling this morning.  This comic strip was in the paper the other day and for whatever reason I could not stop laughing.  I love Rhymes with Orange.

It was so nice to have the entire week off of work to spend a little time getting ready for the holidays.  I was able to clean out a few drawers, cabinets and just try to get the house ready for Little C's arrival, in addition to making numerous trips to HEB and spending a lot of time in the kitchen tackling new projects.

On one of my trips to HEB last week I heard a familiar voice as I was double-checking my list to see that I had gotten everything.  When I looked up, much to my surprise, I saw Scott McClelland standing right in front of me! 

I think Little C was excited also!

In case you don't know who he is, here is an excerpt from his bio on Forbes.com:
"Mr. McClelland is President of H.E. Butt (H-E-B) Grocery Company's Houston and Central Market Division. H-E-B is the 13th largest grocery chain in the United States with over 55,000 employees and 300 stores in Texas and Northern Mexico."
He stars in all of the HEB commercials they run on TV here in the area and since I love me some HEB (and spend way too much time and money there) he is a celebrity of sorts!  Turns out he is one of the nicest people.  When I shyly asked if I could have my picture taken with him he immediately stopped what he was doing, wrapped his arm tightly around me and gave a genuine smile.  After posting the photo on Facebook I was amazed at the comments people made about how involved he and his wife are in their church and other charitable organizations.  He's the real deal. 

I also tackled 2 items from my Baby Bucket List: Salted Caramel Sauce and Caramel Frappacino Cupcakes.  I slightly overcooked the first batch of caramel sauce (however, I loved the deep color and slightly burned/rich taste, so I kept it for myself), but was able to get the second batch just right.  It is delicious!  In fact, I was so pleased with the result and how easy it was to make that I ended up cooking another double batch.  Yum.

This was my breakfast on Christmas Eve

I used some of the Salted Caramel Sauce in the Caramel Frappacino Cupcakes.  Overall, I would give these little guys a 6 out of 10.  However, I think they can be a 10 out of 10 with just a few tweaks, so I will be trying them again sometime soon.  If you choose to make them here are a few tips:
  1. The cupcakes cook quickly.  The recipe says 20 minutes.  I took them out at 16 minutes and they were still slightly overcooked and a little dry.  Next time I'm yanking them at 13 minutes.
  2. My mousse never set up as well as it should have.  Maybe I didn't beat my whipping cream long enough before I folded it in to the egg and sugar mixture or maybe the ratio is just a little off.  Just know that it's not a thick mousse.
  3. Although they need to be stored in the fridge, let them completely come to room temp before serving them (30 minutes out on the counter should do it).  If you don't, the Swiss Meringue Buttercream will remain too firm and the flavors of all of the components won't fully develop. 
I also found time to bake up a batch of super-simple Almond Biscotti and some Blood Orange & Clementine Marmalade.  Sadly, I didn't take pictures of either of these before giving them all away, but both were beautiful and incredibly tasty. 

The various Santas in my life gifted me with some amazingly fabulous items over the past few days that will only enhance my cooking and blogging experiences.  They are so 'me' and I can't wait to share them with you.  I hope your holiday has been full of love, laughter and close friends and family thus far and that those things continue into the new year.