Chocolate Covered Peep Lollipops

We sent Andrew in with all the little Valentine’s for his class today. He was so sweet addressing them last night, diligently writing his name on all of them – it just melted my heart. I can’t believe how big my little boy has gotten so quickly!

We also made these to share with his class too. Evidently, Peeps makes marshmallow confections for things other than Easter now – who knew? Not only that, but they come in delicious flavors like vanilla and strawberry cream. These simple marshmallow hearts, when dipped in chocolate and stuck on a lollipop stick make for a super cute little treat to share with friends.

We also had a lot of fun dipping them, and then decorating them with some festive Valentine sprinkles. In about half an hour, we’d made about 30 of them. More than enough for him to take in to share with his class – plus a few extra for our Valentines around here…*ahem* a certain little brother.

A found some lollipop treat bags to seal them up in, and tied closed with a piece of baker’s twine. When put together, I thought they were just adorable. And after sampling one, I have to admit they’re pretty darn delicious too! A nice, lighter change from all the chocolate we’re bombarded with this time of year. And, I mean, how cute and fun? I’m sure this is one we’ll be looking forward to making every year!

Source: adapted from Peeps Marshmallows

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

We have about five inches of snow on the ground this morning here in our little corner of the Eastern Shore. That may not seem like much to many of you, but to us  it might as well be 2 feet! It’s days like this where I’m so thankful I’ve gone down the path of DIY more and more often. To be able to make a kitchen staple from the comfort of your own kitchen, without having to venture out to the store, is really a blessing.

Take ricotta cheese for instance. All it takes is some milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and a few minutes of your time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make, and how delicious it turned out. Creamy and flavorful, unlike that rubbery gunk that comes out of the container in one chunk that you buy from the supermarket. Now that I’ve made this at home, I don’t think that I’ll be able to go back to purchasing it.

I used it in a lasagna, but it really is delicious on it’s own – smeared on a piece of crusty bread. The recipe calls for whole milk, but I’m interested to try it with 2% to see if it turns out just as well –  as that’s usually what I have on hand. Will probably add a bit of heavy cream to up the creaminess factor, which I’ve noticed that other tutorials mentioned to do as well.

If you’re snowed in like I am, and stocked up on milk – make yourself feel productive and give this a try. You’ll be patting yourself on the back for days afterwards, I promise!

Creamy Feta Vinaigrette

How was everyone’s New Years? Ours was wonderful. We had a delicious prime rib dinner at home, let the boys stay up until midnight with us, and celebrated the ball dropping in Times Square with “party makers” as Andrew calls them. No wild parties and Jell-O shooters anymore, but that’s just not the folks that we are these days!

One of my resolutions is continue to make things from scratch, and to do-it-myself as much as possible. I’ve long been making my salad dressings at home, but one I hadn’t mastered yet was a creamy Greek-style dressing. I always served my Greek salads with a balsamic vinaigrette, but since becoming mildly addicted to Panera’s turkey sandwich and Greek salad this pregnancy – I knew I had to come up with a recipe for that style of dressing on my own.

I played around with it a bit, and this variation is what I settled on. It couldn’t be easier – a base of buttermilk, feta, and Greek yogurt. Threw in some red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice for a little acidity, some fresh garlic and dried herbs to punch up the flavor, then added some olive oil and a bit of water to thin it out a bit and round out the flavors. It turned out wonderful, right on the money as to what I was aiming for.

I make a batch up, stick it in the fridge, and use it for our salads all week long. With a little additional olive oil, I think it would also make a wonderful marinade for chicken as well, to top the salad with if you wanted a more substantial meal. This one is definitely a keeper, and one that I’ll be making over and over again. Definitely a great recipe to start off the new year on the right foot!

Sourdough Bread

A few weeks ago I ordered a sourdough starter online. It was from a seller in San Francisco, who claims that it comes from a famous bakery in the city that is now closed. I received the powdered starter in the mail, and got to work re-hydrating it. A week later I had more starter than I knew what to do with, so I’ve been keeping some in the fridge – and some on the counter for baking on a whim. You can certainly make your own starter too! Here’s a great tutorial on how to do so. I’m looking forward to making my own “Chincoteague – aka Tump Strain” this summer with locally cultivated yeasts from the island.

I had my first taste of good sourdough bread when we visited my mother-in-law in the beautiful sunny city of Ventura, California. After that, I was hooked. Sadly, here in my rural area – I have a hard time finding a sourdough loaf that lives up to what it’s supposed to be. So, I did what any self-respecting girl who loves to bake would do…and made my own.

The first recipe I tried didn’t require a 2-day process, and was good…but, it wasn’t that dense, chewy , and flavorful loaf that I’d been hoping for. Then I remembered this recipe that Annie had posted last year, and knew that it had to be a winner. Sure, it’s a little time-consuming…but most of it is “hands off” – just waiting for the yeast and bacteria to do it’s thing. And I promise you, the results are well worth the wait! A bonus is that it makes 2 loaves – one for munching on fresh, and one for slicing and putting in the freezer to take out slices as you need it. Toasted, with an egg over easy, and a spot of bacon jam…holy moly, Heaven on a plate.