Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas...and stuff

I can't believe it's almost Christmas. This entire year seemed to fly by. Generally at the end of the year I look back and, we had a lot going on! But this year I seem to be stuck in 2009. I keep thinking, "Omg, this happened, and this and..."..then I realize all those things happened LAST year and we haven't really done shit this year.

Ok, we did do some shit - like try to move to Northern Cali, and move into a new, bigger house, and..stuff. But, well, it wasn't cool stuff. Or exciting stuff. Wait, it was cool and exciting then. But now? Not so much.

The point being, where the eff did the year go? How is it already almost 2011? And can I please have another week or two before Christmas so I can get my house clean, my shopping done and my baking out of the way? Please and thanks.

I'm hosting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day again this year. I tried to get out of doing it. Last year I got totally burned out on all the holidays. I hosted Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. While I love my family, and MM's, I was pretty fed up with the lot of them last year and decided I was going to put my foot down about hosting them this year. We went ahead and did our annual Halloween party, because hello, it's Halloween. But I flat out refused to do the Big Three.

In Sept MM and I had lunch with his grandparents. During the course of conversation I mentioned that I wouldn't be hosting the holidays this year. Grandma was disappointed but said she understood. Grandpa didn't really have an opinion - he rarely does - and MM stayed quiet about it.

Once we were in the car I told MM, "I'm so glad we aren't hosting the holidays this year! What a relief." This whole time, MM and I had been on the same page about it. We were both ready for a break. So the next thing he said surprised me. He replied, "Actually, I'd really like to do Christmas at our house. I think we need at least one holiday when we're all together."


Naturally I was unhappy to hear this. I'd already been making plans to go skiing for Christmas, or maybe hangign out at the beach. And here was MM, throwing a wrench in my plans. But..he wanted our family to be together. How could I say no to that. Oh right, like this.


But then he totally threw the "you know Grandma and Grandpa aren't getting any younger" guilt trip on me and I caved like a house of cards. Bastard knows how to hit every time.

So here we are, with family coming in two days. Since we're doing it, we're going all out. MM's family and mine will be here for chili and soup on Christmas Eve, and a full spread on Christmas Day. I think we're looking at about 20 people.

Since the kids are gone to their dad's for the next two weeks I'm not feeling very festive, but I'm going to put on a happy face anyway. I am excited to spend time with our family and just between us I'm glad I won't be alone - it's always so much more depressing without the kids when no one else is around to distract me.

But let's not tell MM that, m'kay?

What are your plans for the holiday?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cake Balls

Image credit
I first learned about Cake Balls from Bakerella via Twitter. When I saw the finished product I knew I had to try them. I made some last year and they were amazing. MM and the kids just gobbled them up. They ate so many, I didn't have any left to send out as gifts (which was my intention when I made them).

I promised C2 and Limecello (of TGTBTU and Twitter fame) that I would make them some. But I never did. I just got too busy and didn't end up making any after that first time. I did promise I'd make them some this year, however.

I decided to make carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, dipped in vanilla. But then C2 complained that she doesn't like cream cheese, so I revised it to buttercream. Or something (I haven't decided yet).

Anyway, as promised, here's the recipe for those of you who want to try it. I'm making my carrot cake from scratch, using a Cooking Light recipe, but you can save yourself some time and aggravation by using a mix. Likewise with the frosting.

Carrot Cake

Cooking spray
9 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 cups finely shredded carrot

I don't like nuts in my carrot cake, but you can add some chopped walnuts or pecans if you'd like.

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; line bottom of pan with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; set aside.

Place 9 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until pale and fluffy. Beat in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in carrot. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sharply tap pan once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Carefully peel off wax paper; cool completely on wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tablespoon orange sugar sprinkles

To prepare frosting, place the cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating at low speed until smooth (do not overbeat). Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Cover and chill 30 minutes. Spread frosting over top of cake. Garnish with sprinkles. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Buttercream Frosting

4 cups sifted confectioners' (powdered) sugar (about 1 pound)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy or whipping cream

Sift the confectioners' sugar and salt together in a large bowl. In another large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer on high until light yellow and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. With the mixer still running, beat the corn syrup and vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and beat in the sugar in two additions, beating well after each. Blend in 1/4 cup of the cream all at once until the frosting is spreading consistency, adding a little more cream if needed. Return the mixer speed to high and whip until light and creamy, about 2 minutes more.

Cake Balls (modified from Bakerella site)

1 box cake mix or homemade cake (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can frosting (16 oz.)
1 package Candy Coating - CandiQuick is the generic brand I use from Stater Bros - I'm using vanilla for the recipe, but you can use regular, white or dark chocolate
wax paper

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can (16oz) frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.) - I freeze mine for a minimum of 1 hour. Trust me, the colder these are, the easier they are to dip.
5. Melt candy coating in microwave per directions on package, or on the stove using a double boiler
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.) - I pop them back in the freezer for a half hour or so

These are seriously amazing.  I've tried several different variations and haven't been disappointed yet.

You can also try Cake Pops. I haven't yet, though I may at some point in the future. Aren't they cute?

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