June 22, 2013

Homemade Sweet Tarts Candy

Sweet and sour all wrapped up in one tiny magnificent bite!

That would be my definition of homemade sweet tarts and making them was so much easier than I ever imagined. They don't have that semi-shiny coating on the outside (because I didn't want to put food in a rock tumbler!!!) but the flavor and texture are the same!!

homemade sweet tarts candy

Homemade Sweet Tarts
1/4 c. clear soda (Blue Sky, Cream Soda, Sierra Mist, 7-UP)
3/4 t. gelatin
3-4 c. powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
2 t. citric acid
Flavored extracts
Food coloring
1/2 t. each of lemon and orange zest - optional

In a small non-reactive bowl combine gelatin and soda. After about 5 minutes, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water to dissolve the gelatin completely - until you can't see any granules. Remove from heat.

Using a hand or stand mixer - mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar and the citric acid into the gelatin mixture. Keep adding the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you have stiff fondant-like dough. It will be somewhat sticky. Turn dough out onto a work surface covered with powdered sugar. Knead until dough is less sticky and can be easily rolled with a rolling pin. In this particular recipe more powdered sugar is better than less so you don't end up with a chewy sweet tart, unless you like them chewy!

This is the basic recipe. Now you can add what ever flavorings and colors you wish.

Once the basic dough recipe is finished divide dough into as many equal pieces as flavorings you have to use. I divided mine into four equal pieces so I chose four extracts (and matching food colorings) - Lemon, Orange, Strawberry and Blueberry.

Starting with one piece of dough make a well in the middle and add:
1/4 t. of flavoring/extract
food coloring - to desired color
1/2 t. zest - optional - I used this only in the orange and lemon varieties.

Knead until cohesive. Set aside while you mix the other colors and flavors.

Starting with one color/flavor of dough roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. I used 1/4 inch square dowels as guides. It makes the drying more consistent this way.

Using a small round cookie cutter (about 1/2 inch in diameter), cut out as many circles as you can and transfer cut-outs to a baking sheet to dry. Collect scraps and re-roll and cut continuing until dough is gone.

Drying may take a few days so be patient. If you have a food dehydrator you can speed the drying process significantly! Don't try to put them in the oven, however, even on warm. They will not dry smooth and will have bumps and indents. Trust me I tried it once!!!

Roll sweet tarts in candy wrappers if desired or store in an airtight container for up to three months. Don't worry they will be gone before that! They also make great party snacks or a good addition to a goodie bag. They are mess free!

June 20, 2013

Pepperoni Pizza Twists

For those of us who are pizza-dough-tossing challenged this is a fun and easy way to dress up pizza and make it taste as great as the real thing without getting covered in flour and ending up with pizza dough in our hair!!! How do they make it look so easy?!

The bottom is crispy and charred from the melted cheese and the top is nice and crunchy while the middle is still hot and chewy. The perfect combination for great pizza!

Pizza Dough
1 - 1/4-ounce envelope dry active yeast
1 c. water
2 1/2-3 c. flour, plus more for dusting
1 t. salt
Olive oil, for bowl

Dissolve yeast in warm water (105-115 degrees F) in a glass measuring cup and let stand for 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with hook attachment add yeast mixture and stir in 1 1/2 cups flour and the salt, mixing until smooth. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough comes away from bowl but is still sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and continue kneading until dough is no longer sticky and is smooth.

Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles or place in a proofer and let rise 30-45 minutes.

Preheat a pizza stone in a 500 degree F. oven for one hour.

Divide dough into six equal pieces. Shred desired cheese and cut desired toppings into small pieces. This will make it easier once it's time to slice the dough. I just used pepperoni and cheeses for mine. Classic and easy!

On a lightly floured work surface stretch dough into a 10-12 inch long oval or rectangle (about 3-4 inches wide). You can use a rolling pin but I found it easy to just stretch the dough with my hands. If you get a hole just pinch in closed.

Spread pizza sauce on the dough and sprinkle with cheese and toppings.

Using a table knife make diagonal slices in the dough. Diagonal is very important. If you make them straight the toppings will fall out when you roll up the dough.

Starting at one end of the dough start rolling it up until you have a long thin roll.
It's okay if pizza toppings are falling out.

Now, starting at one end of the roll start twisting it up like a snail mounding it as you roll. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. Transfer all to pizza stone.

Reduce heat to 400 degrees F and bake 10-15 minutes or until top is golden brown and you can hear the cheese sizzling. Serve piping hot!

June 13, 2013

Chewy Granola Bars

I have always loved chewy granola bars and have made them at home for several years now. I have attempted many different versions and have finally perfected (for me) a chewy granola bar without using refined sugar. That's my favorite part!

Dried fruits are extremely sweet and require very little added sweetness. You can omit it entirely if desired but I find that by adding some maple syrup I get the chewy consistency that I have been searching for. It also acts as a great binder to keep the bars soft, chewy and delicious!

chewy granola bars

Organic Chewy Granola Bars
1/3 c. raisins
1/3 c. prunes
4 large pitted dates
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 T. molasses
2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. rolled oats, divided
1/2 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x9 inch square baking dish with parchment paper leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side. Lightly butter the parchment paper.

In a large food processor fitted with a steel blade add raisins, prunes, dates, syrup, molasses and vanilla. Process until mixture resembles a thick paste scraping down sides as necessary.

Add 1/2 cup of oats and process until oats are finely chopped.

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and add remaining oats, almonds, walnuts and cranberries. Stir until well combined.

Press mixture evenly into prepared pan using damp or lightly buttered hands to prevent sticking.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let pan cool on a wire rack.

Gently lift parchment out of pan (with granola bars) and transfer to a cutting board. Cut to desired size. I usually like to cut into 12 equal bars and wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Alternatively you can store bars in an airtight container layered with parchment so bars don't stick together.

Save the Bees!

I think most of us have been aware that bees are dying at alarming rates and as researchers have found much of it has to do with toxic chemicals or pesticides being heavily sprayed on crops all over the Unites States.


My husband and I like to keep our children informed of environmental issues when appropriate. The boys are 4 and 6 but still care about the world, especially plants and animals AND bugs of any sort!

After I told my oldest son that the bees are dying in part because of pesticides he asked, "Why don't farmers stop spraying pesticides so the bees can stay alive?" I had to explain that not everyone thinks the same way we do. You can read this article, and many others, regarding the problems/pesticides at PAN (Pesticide Action Network).

This bee conversation happened to be right around his 6th birthday and he wanted to take fun snacks to school for a special treat and decided he wanted bees and responsibly told his classmates why he wanted bee themed snacks and told them why the bees are dying off!!

These very simple bees are made from yellow paper glued on clothespins. I drew stripes on the paper with a sharpie marker before I cut out the strips so I didn't have to do it 25 times! Then I glued on googly eyes and bent a black pipe cleaner for the antennae.

Then using resealable snack sized bags fill each side (twisted in the center) with snacks and secure with a bee! The kids in my son's class were thrilled about the bees flying them all over the room! It was adorable!


Save the bees!

June 9, 2013

Marvel Superheroes Cake

I can't believe how fast my boys are growing up. My youngest just turned FOUR years old and wanted a Marvel superheroes cake for his birthday. I was up for the challenge and making Marvel characters out of fondant turned out to be so much fun. He requested four Marvel superheroes since he was turning four years old - Spiderman, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man!

I always make cakes at night when my kids have gone to sleep so they have a huge surprise in the morning when they wake up. I love to see their expressions when they see their cake for the first time.

Marvel Superheroes Cake

Each Marvel superhero was created completely out of fondant. I like working with fondant to sculpt characters. It is forgiving (if I screw up!) and will last a long time if you let it dry out completely. However, I never cover my cakes in fondant just because I don't like how it tastes - and yes I have made my very own marshmallow fondant before and think it tastes bad too. Buttercream is the way to go in my house!

Marvel Superheroes Cake

Marvel Superheroes CakeMarvel Superheroes Cake 

Marvel Superheroes CakeMarvel Superheroes Cake

Spiderman was my favorite to make. I rolled out very thin snakes of black fondant to make all of the webbing on his suit and created a small black spider for the center. I based these Marvel superheroes from toys that I saw online. I searched Google images for 'Marvel plush toys' and it worked out great!

Marvel Superheroes Cake
Happy Birthday Liam!