Monday, December 15, 2014

Star Marshmallows, Cocoa, & Gumdrop Garland from Disney's A Merry Christmas Cookbook

          After returning from my very first Disneyland trip back in September, I found this fun, hardcover cookbook at the book fair at Smalls' preschool. Released Sept. 16, 2014 (just a few days after we got home!) Disney's A Merry Christmas Cookbook is filled with delicious and easy-to-make recipes inspired by a slew of Disney and Disney/Pixar animated films, "Frozen" being the most recent film featured (aww, no "Big Hero 6").
          The book is geared towards ages 6-8, plus parents, and, aside from the recipes, contains large, professional photographs by Teri Lyn Fisher and illustrations of the Disney characters with their respective foods by the Disney Storybook Artists (as seen on the cover to the left).
          In total, there are twenty six recipes, all by Cristina Garces, separated into five sections: breakfast, lunch, dinner, sides & drinks, and desserts. There is a "Before You Begin" introduction explaining the jar tags (more about those in a minute), the five-gingerbread-man scale that denotes whether a recipe is easy or hard, and "a few things to remember" while in the kitchen.


          After the introduction there is a table of contents, but it only lists the sections, not the recipes, and there is no index in the back of the book to tell you which page a particular recipe is on. Each recipe gives serving sizes and a sentence or two of introduction to connect it to the movie that inspired it. Some of the recipes are based on specific characters, like Olaf-shaped pizzas, but many are inspired by motifs, like space for Buzz Lightyear giving us spaceship shaped meatloaf and snow for Elsa inspiring creamy white macaroni and cheese. There are a couple of recipes based on actual foods from the films such as Rapunzel's pumpkin and hazelnut soup (the hazelnut part at least) and Simba's muddy buddies with gummy worms. A few of the recipes are also taken from color schemes such as Tiana's green bean casserole. The films featured in the cookbook are "Snow White", "Peter Pan", "Pinocchio", "Robin Hood", "101 Dalmatians", "Lady and the Tramp", "Winnie the Pooh", "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "The Lion King", "Lilo and Stitch", "Toy Story", "Monsters Inc.", "Cars", "The Princess and the Frog", "Tangled", "Brave", "Wreck-it Ralph", and "Frozen". Quite a selection!
           At the end of the book there are four, large, recipe gift tags with perforated edges in thin cardboard. The tags have a recipe name and serving size on one side and ingredients and directions on the other. Each corresponding recipe in the book explains how to construct the gift jar and has a small photo of a completed jar for reference.


          The style and design of this cookbook is very pleasing to the eye and lends itself to confidence in trying the recipes (meaning the way it looks makes the recipes seem easy and tasty). The only inconvenience is the lack of an index but that would be a bigger deal if it was a larger cookbook. At this point I've only tried two recipes but there are several that I'm interested in (Stitch's Hawaiian Eggnog!). I definitely recommend this for any Disney fan, young or old, and also to anyone who like creative cooking or is looking for recipes to do as a family.


Note: The star marshmallows call for silver decorating sugar, which I did use, but if I make them again I'm going to try edible silver spray instead (found at Michael's) because the sugar can get messy, fallin' off all over the place–especially if you're stringing the marshmallows, and a crunch with the softness of the marshmallows takes some getting used to (though Smalls loved it).
          Also to note, as with all of my cookbook reviews, the recipes below are in my own words so as to include my experiences and input.


Never Land Star Marshmallows & Hot Cocoa
(From Disney's A Merry Christmas Cookbook)

Ingredients:
Marshmallows
1 Cup Cold Water
2 Tbsp. (2 packets) Unflavored Gelatin
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp. Silver Decorative Sugar Sprinkles (pretty sure I ended up using more.)
3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar (I ended up not using an exact measurement. Just used what I needed)
Cocoa
1 Quart (4 cups) Milk
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Crushed Peppermint Sticks
Pinch of Salt

Important Item:
Small Star Cookie Cutter
Plastic Wrap

Directions:
1. Marshmallows: Pour 1/2 cup cold water & gelatin into a small bowl & then set it aside for 10 minutes to dissolve & solidify. Generously sprinkle a 9"x13" tray with powdered sugar & then lay a large piece of plastic wrap on top. Spray the plastic with non-stick spray & set aside.
2. In a medium pot on medium heat, stir the granulated sugar with 1/2 cup cold water & heat until dissolved. Add the solidified gelatin  & bring the mixture to a boil until the gelatin dissolves (be careful! This will heat up fast & bubble up!). Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl & let cool for a few minutes.
3. Add the salt & vanilla to the mixture & beat until it doubles in size & is soft & creamy, about 10-15 minutes. Pour the mixture onto the tray with the plastic wrap & smooth it out evenly with a non-stick-sprayed spatula. Leave the tray on the counter for about 3 hours so the marshmallow mixture can firm up.
4. Lifting the edges of the plastic wrap, lift the marshmallow mixture up & quickly flip it over onto the powdered sugar. Peel off the plastic wrap & spray your little cookie cutter with non-stick spray. Scoop some powdered sugar onto one plate & dump some sprinkles onto another plate. Cut out as many stars as you can from the marshmallow & then place the stars, powdered bottom down onto the powder plate. Use your fingers to press powder around the sides of the stars & then place them, sticky top down, onto the plate of sprinkles & press. Your stars should come away with nicely sugar-silvered tops. Place the stars in an airtight container. (Remember, you can alternately use edible silver spray instead of silver sugar.)
5. Cocoa: In a large pot over medium-low heat, bring the milk to a simmer (don't let it boil). Add the rest of the cocoa ingredients & whisk until combined & dissolved. Makes enough for 4 regular-sized mugs. Top with star marshmallows!


Sugar Rush Popcorn Gumdrop Garland
(From Disney's A Merry Christmas Cookbook)

Ingredients:
1 Package of Plain Popcorn, popped & cooled (day-old works great)
2 16-oz. Bags of Gum Drops (I used red & green as shown in the cookbook, but you can do more colors!)
Neverland Star Marshmallows (they are easier to string if they've sat out a little while & dried)

Important Items:
Large Sewing Needle
Thread, Fishing Line, Unflavored Dental Floss, or Red & White Striped Baker's String (Found at Michael's, Target, and more places, I'm sure)

Directions:
1. Thread the needle, leaving the tail end attached to the spool. Choose a pattern to repeat & begin pushing the needle through the center of the ingredients & pushing them down the string. Once it has reached a goodly length, cut the end from the spool & tie knots at both ends of the string. Hang on your tree (make several garlands for this) or around a wreath or window or door frame (I wouldn't recommend putting it outside because the birds might eat it).

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