in-laws, outlaw marshmallows, plus a pan of bars

The blogosphere has been abuzz with end-of-year posts and kicking-off-the-new-year posts and year-end reports. And while I’d like to consider myself capable of looking within and learning from the past 365 days in hopes of improving my next round, I find that mostly I just move forward. I go and I do.

Balancing professional and personal ambitions with mommyhood leaves precious little time to just Be. And while that’s a bit disturbing, it’s where I–along with a lot of other mommies–am right now. Forward march with the task-driven mentality. (Though should you need a good look inward, I’ll send you over to meet Kaela. She’s fun!)

So to kick off 2014, food for fun offers you its most recent Adventures in Marshmallows. (If you were reading food for fun last winter, you know that I went through a bit of ‘mallow madness back then as well.)

Another blogging friend and I have been trading cocktail recipes and found we share a love for bourbon. Her use of cherry-flavored bourbon piqued my interest and I did a bit of “research” when visiting my in-laws over the holidays. Their small town boasts one liquor store and it’s little more than ten or so shelves on one wall, plus a few bottles behind the counter. I figured my chances of finding cherry bourbon were small, and it was indeed a wash.

Yet I knew from reading Drink More Whiskey (best. birthday. gift. ever. Thanks, dear husband!) that on some level whiskey is whiskey–whether bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, etc–and a bottle of black cherry Canadian had to share some common ground with cherry-flavored bourbon. I bought said bottle and returned to my in-law’s.

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

But I didn’t plan to drink it. Instead, I was subbing it in for bourbon in a cheeky recipe I’d found at The Tart Tart. The resulting marshmallows were amazing and lovely–the cherry sweetness came through as the spirited booze flavors flew just below the radar.

whitedogmallows

I bet Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law helped me lick the beaters (and spatula and bowl) clean upon project completion. It was then that s-i-l made a game-changing comment:

“I need rice krispies with this. And butter.”

My universe shifted a bit at her words. Boozy rice krispy bars. Sheer brilliance! A few rice krispies were stirred into the fluff left in the bowl and we enjoyed  a taste.

Fast forward a few days and I was back in my own kitchen using TTT’s recipe again, this time replacing the bourbon with rum.

there's rum in these 'mallows

there’s rum in these ‘mallows

After the marshmallows had cooled and been cut, I measured up 10 ounces and made a batch of Hot Buttered Rum Rice Krispy Bars. Oh divine.

hot. buttered. rum.

hot. buttered. rum.

The possibilities seem endless–adult rk treats in flavors of margarita, mudslide, etc. I sense that 2014 has taken on a new purpose for me. My resolution seems clear: Make More Marshmallows. (Which oddly enough is not too far off from my 11-year-old’s “eat more gummy bears” resolve.)

So please stick around (marshmallow pun–get it? 😉 ) and help me meet my ‘mallow-y goal. A fellow blogger (you’ve met amb here before) and I have joked about Marshmallow Mondays and while I’m not sure yet exactly how this will play out, I see it as a good start for a new year of sweet and fluffy fun.

Introspection will always be welcome here and maybe even occasionally offered outright. But it’s mostly about the food and the fun that accompanies. Marshmallows, then, seem a good way to kick off the new year. Wishing you all a mountain of marshmallows in 2014!

partying like ponies and an awesome birthday cake

Loving any excuse to maffick (follow the link as this is a word you will want to know and use), I take great joy in throwing parties. Two young daughters give me a twice-yearly excuse to invite friends and family over for birthday celebrations. A fair amount of planning goes into the food for these parties.

Knowing my youngest’s seventh birthday approached and her family party was on the calendar, I laid awake one night wondering what to do for the cake. (My husband notes that many folks buy birthday cakes at bakeries–Costco cakes are indeed divine–or whip them up with cake mixes, but for many reasons, that folk is not me.) While I very much enjoy making from-scratch cakes for family birthday parties, I am not known for my cake decorating skills. Exhibit A: These cat cupcakes taste good, yes, but they also look a wee bit scary.

birthday treats--yes, they're supposed t

birthday treats–yes, they’re supposed to be kitty cats

While effort has gone into improving my cake decorating skills, I’m still better with ideas than implementation. As I lay there contemplating cakes that night, keeping in mind my daughter’s request for a pink and purple Little Pony cake, I envisioned baking the batter up in 13×9-inch, 11×8-inch, and 8-inch square pans. If the cakes were stacked bottom-up from largest to smallest, then filled and frosted, could we call it a hillside on which to place a few of her precious Little Ponies?

three cake layers ready for baking

three cake layers ready for baking

When I posted the above photo and idea on deLizious facebook and got an enthusiastic response, I knew I was on to something. A friend who commented offered the services of her daughter, who has taken multiple cake decorating classes and is also a friend of my eldest. Knowing I had help, I fully committed to my hillside pony cake. The day before the party, I made a crazy-good batch of French buttercream (from Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s Cake Bible) and gave the birthday girl free rein with the icing colors. I was wowed by her sense of color.

vibrant hues

vibrant hues

Lexi came over the morning of the party, pulling her extremely large decorating kit behind her, and along with my older daughter, filled, frosted, and ponied up one of the most amazingly fun homemade birthday cakes I’ve ever seen. (Crack-me-up comments like “I trust no ponies were harmed in the making of this cake” and “I think there’s room for one more pony” greeted its fb debut.)

could there be any more ponies?

could there be any more ponies?

This cake made my seven-year-old happy. It made the decorators happy. It made party guests happy. It made me happy. And this, in the proverbial nutshell, is why I love parties and celebrating: They make folks happy. There’s so much sadness and tragedy and even just general annoyances in life that I choose to live by words I remember my mom saying more than once: “You have to celebrate the good stuff.” (This was an order from my mom, mind you–she used the words “have to.”)

Because the party was all about ponies, I served up a spread of grazing foods–popcorn, cheese, crackers, fruits, carrots, hummus. (My oldest pointed out that horses don’t actually eat most of these foods, but as hay wasn’t an option I stuck with my original plan.) So in addition to the cake making folks smile, there was plenty of finger food to munch on as well. (And we musn’t forget the fruit-infused water: I subbed in a sliced apple and handful of blackberries for the more-often used lemon or cucumber slices.) It gave me great joy to see friends and family visiting and laughing and eating the foods I’d had so much fun putting together (with help from others, yes).

party spread for grazers

party spread for grazers

apple-blackberry water

apple-blackberry water

This led to a bit of pondering and the realization that foodforfun, while always about cooking and baking and food and drink, is at its core really about wanting to share happiness. (same goes for deLizious facebook) We all have our vehicle–some love movies, some music, some gardening, some sports. But in the end, we’re all sharing happiness. I like that thought a lot and put it out there even in the wake of what seems like so many recent tragedies. I’m going to remember and honor the sad things, yes, but will focus on celebrating the good (thanks, mom) and I raise a glass of fruit-infused water and invite you to join me.

Victory Part 2-1

Why is Ryan Gosling here? This is why.