Sledding and Homemade Marshmallows

Good friends, good food, crock pot hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows – what a great way to ring in the new year! I also made a (gasp) chicken in the crock pot using the winter BBQ recipe from my new Southern Cooking recipe book, another Christmas gift I love (my kids think it’s weird that I sit in the living room and read a cookbook). For me, butchering a whole chicken is like Riley’s theory of tomatoes and ketchup – it’s like revenge on chickens. It was a local farm-raised bird, and I will admit it wasn’t bad slathered in spices and sauce. Unlike good beef, which of course has an excellent flavor all on its own.

The highlight of the day were the homemade marshmallows, a recipe I finally got brave enough to try this year. It is actually quite simple and is one I will definitely make again.  I used the one from Taste of Home (big fan).  It did not take me 15 minutes for them to whip up; it took about 7-8 with the KitchenAid mixer.  This is a lot like making White Mountain frosting; you’r just using gelatin instead of egg whites.  Like the meat thermometer for a good prime rib, the candy thermometer is not optional unless you enjoy throwing away large batches of ingredients.  These were so much fun to decorate – there is really no limit to the many coatings and toppings you can use.  I just filled several small dishes with sprinkles, colored sugars, cocoa, and crushed candies and let the kids decorate to their heart’s content.  The ones covered in crushed candy cane were a big hit.  I also had some blue tinted white chocolate candy coating left over from a cake pops project that we drizzled on a few and then topped with sprinkles.

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These were very tasty floating in a hot cup of crock pot hot cocoa – pour a can of sweetened condensed milk (heaven in a can) into a 3 quart slow cooker, add 7 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup of dry baking cocoa, and 1 1/2 tsps good vanilla, stir, and set on low for 4 hours or until a bunch of short people covered in snow rush your front door. For the big people, a nice snort of peppermint schnapps is the perfect finishing touch.

Wishing you lots of hot cocoa and gooey marshmallows in 2013!

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Corned Beef Brisket

We recently began having our butcher (shout out to Golva Custom Meats in Golva, ND) save us the whole brisket.  My Grandma Brown used to make corned beef and cabbage every year for Christmas Eve dinner, and now that we have sort of taken over that meal I wanted to continue the tradition.  Alton Brown’s corned beef recipe on Food Network, and the fact that it is a crap shoot as to whether you can get a ready-made corned beef at grocery stores out here in the middle of nowhere, inspired me to try to make my own.  The results were YUMMY.

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I skipped the cabbage mostly because I hadn’t been to the grocery store to get any.  BTW, I am LOVING my new 6-Quart Lodge Dutch Oven, which was an early Christmas present to myself this year.  This was SO easy – just trim a bit of the fat from the outside of the thawed brisket, brine for 10 days in the fridge and boil with veggies following the Food Network recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/corned-beef-recipe/index.html.  I guess I do follow recipes sometimes!

The best part?  The left over corned  beef.  We had two more fabulous meals from this one great cut of beef:  Reuben sandwiches yesterday and corned beef hash topped with poached eggs this morning for breakfast.  Ok, it’s Saturday, so it was more like brunch.  For the sandwiches, I simply bought a loaf of marble rye (yes, you can get that in Montana), sliced the corned beef very thin (using my new awesome Wusthof knives from my wonderful husband), slapped butter on one side and Thousand Island dressing on the flip side of each slice of bread, placed a slice of swiss cheese on the dressing side of each slice of bread, and piled the corned beef in between each yummy bread/cheese slice.  Then I just toasted on my two-burner griddle until browned and melty and ooey-gooey.  I left off the sauerkraut for my husband’s benefit, but these are great with or without.

Meal #3 was just a simple – cubed three medium sized spuds (potatoes, for those of you not from this area) fairly small, drizzled a little EEVO (from my new RR green EEVO bottle – thanks Mom!) on the same griddle, cooked the spuds with a little red onion, then added the diced remaining corned beef and diced roasted red peppers.  At the same time I poached some eggs – so easy and so yummy, and actually the healthiest way to cook an egg.  I topped the finished hash with a little swiss cheese and some bacon bits (so much for healthy), and then topped each plate of hash with an egg and served with Wheat Montana Ancient Grains toast.  LOVE Wheat Montana – if you haven’t tried it yet, do it.  Now.  (www.wheatmontana.com).  Make sure not to cook the eggs too long, so the yolk stays runny – when you break into the egg, the runny yolk mixing into the hash makes everything creamy, moist and SO GOOD.  See?

Corned Beef Hash

Corned Beef Hash

I am looking forward to all the other new things I can do with this great cut of meat, the Brisket, which is also a pretty affordable cut of beef if you live where you have to buy it retail.  If you can, buy your beef by the quarter or half from a local rancher instead.  You will save money over buying individual cuts retail, and you will get a far superior and fresher product.  More later on that important topic!  Happy New Year everyone!

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