Thursday, December 23, 2010

An unexpected find

Wasn't expecting to find the perfect truck when I was out with a friend today.  We quickly popped into a consignment store to find her grandmother a Christmas gift when I spotted this trunk.  I have been looking at old trunks for awhile.  We had been using a white wicker chest as our coffee table, but it was not the look I was going for.  It was my husbands and it served its purpose until I found what I wanted.  We keep board games and throw blankets in the chest.  The others I had looked at were great, just too pricey.  This one came at a steal and in great condition.

Chocolate Covered Goodies

Chocolate covered Ritz crackers and graham crackers are super easy and fun to eat.  A good gift too!

You will need Almond Bark chocolate, which I have only found at Walmart.  You will need two packs of chocolate for one box of Ritz crackers.  The left over chocolate will make one and half individually wrapped packages of graham crackers.

Spread smooth peanut butter in between two Ritz crackers to make a sandwich:

Chunk the chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl:
(this is one Almond Bark chocolate bar)

Heat for 90 seconds in the microwave and stir. Heat for fifteen minute intervals until smooth when stirred.

Use tongs or fingers to dip into chocolate.  Place on wax paper until chocolate is hard.

With the left over chocolate I made chocolate covered graham crackers.  I used the honey flavor and broke them in half.  Cover both sides with chocolate and place on wax paper.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sweet and Salty

These are easy to do around a holiday in addition to cookies/cakes or as a small gift.  The saltiness of the pretzel mixed with the sweet chocolate is perfect.

Heat oven to 225 degrees.  You want to use the pinwheel pretzels or the mini pretzels, plain Hershey Kisses and plain M&M's.  Put wax paper on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Spread out the pretzels. Unwrap the kisses and place one on top of each pretzel.  Place in the oven for about 6-8 minutes until the kisses are soft and easily smushed.  Remove from oven and quickly place one M&M on top. You want to use the M&M to press the kiss down onto the pretzel so it adheres. Let harden.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cookie Exchange

My friend wanted to have a cookie exchange but felt her house was not big enough so we had it at mine.  A lot of people cancelled last minute, but we still had fun.  We baked 3 dozen cookies each to share with the group.  A lot of cookie exchanges have many rules such as no bars, fudge, no bake cookies or chocolate chip cookies.  All the cookies must be homemade.  I agree with the homemade part, but not the rest. If people want to make fudge then by all means please do. Now, we do not want doubles so as long as only one person brings no bake then I am okay with that. Bring as many copies of the recipe as there are people.

H'ordeuvres were served along with sparkling cider.

Next year we will invite more people to account for cancellations and possibly have the exchange in the beginning of the month.

By the way, it would be my dream party if everyone brought chocolate chip cookies.  :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vegetable Dip

I cannot have straight dairy. I have a problem with lactose. Sometimes it is hard to avoid and if it isn't in a high quantity then I can have a little bit. In my cooking I avoid it if possible.

Since I can't buy a vegetable dip I make this one:

8 oz sour cream (I use dairy free Better Than Sour Cream Brand)
8 oz mayonnaise
1 tbsp parley
1 tbsp Lawry's Seasoning Salt
1 tbsp minced onion
1 tsp dill weed
1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix together and then let chill for a few hours so the spices can meld together.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some of my favorite things

-Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm: I always have this with me.  Soothes and cools.

-Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer in Peony: Subtle color for day or night.

-Aveda's Rosemary Mint Hand and Body Wash: So fresh and awakens the senses.

-Aveda's Be Curly Cream: The best product to tame these curls.

-Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Dish Soap and Liquid Hand Soap in Lavender: Environmentally friendly yet gets everything squeaky clean.

-Avalon Organics Vitamin C Refreshing Cleansing Gel: A lovely orange smell.  A nice wake up in the morning while removing impurities.

-Plum Tea from Rostov's in Richmond: Doesn't have an overbearing plum taste.

-Honeybush Tea: Naturally sweet with a lot of healthy benefits, but I mainly drink it for the taste.

I will keep adding to the list...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pam's Peanut Butter Christmas Cupcakes

These taste so amazing.  If eating more than one you will need a glass of milk. My friend, Pam, wanted cupcakes for her Christmas gift. She only said peanut butter so I went to town. We exchanged gifts at Ellwood Thompson Cafe. She got me a lovely owl necklace and flamingo paraphernalia.

The cupcake:
-1 box of yellow cake mix
-1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
-1 1/3 cup water
-1/3 cup vegetable oil
-3 large eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-cupcake liners
-24 to 30 milk chocolate Hershey Kisses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pan with cupcake liners.  In a bowl combine the cake mix, peanut butter, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat on low until blended.  You may need to scape the sides of the bowl down with a spatula and then continue mixing.  Using a 1/4 measuring cup scoop batter into cupcake liners which will fill them about two thirds full.  Unwrap the kisses and gently place one on top of each cupcake. Do not press them into the middle of the batter. As it bakes the kisses will sink into the center of the cupcake.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until gold brown on top. If you press the cupcake lightly with your finger, it should spring back.  Let cupcakes cool before adding frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
-8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick), softened
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-3 cups confectioner's sugar, preferably sifted
-3 to 5 tablespoons milk
-1 tsp vanilla extract

Add butter and cocoa powder to a bowl and beat on low until butter is broken up.  Add confectioner's sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, and vanilla and beat again on low.  If frosting is too stiff then add the last 2 tablespoons of milk and blend.  If you do not sift the confectioner's sugar the frosting may be lumpy.  I have done it without sifting and I just beat the frosting longer to get it smooth.

This frosting will generously frost 24 cupcakes.  The batter made more than 24 cupcakes though.

Peanut Butter Topping:
- 8 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, frozen

Place in the freezer when you start the frosting.  They are easier to chop if hard.  Store in a bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. Sprinkle on top of the frosting.

If you have left over frosting you can freeze it for up to one month in a plastic container.  Cream cheese frosting freezes well too.

Noel Ornament Swap

A lot of really awesome ornaments!  This is a really cute idea.  You make 10-15 ornaments depending on how many people come. You pass your ornaments around and each person takes one. You leave with 10-15 new ornaments. 10 people were present and I made 15 so I kept two of my own. Yummy sweet and savory goodies along with tea and coffee. A nice quiet get together with good conversation while admiring each others creations. Hopefully this will be a tradition!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snowmen Ornaments

I used old Christmas light bulbs that were broken.  I made these for an ornament swap party I was attending. You will need:

-Light bulbs
-Unused egg crate for drying
-White, black, and orange paint
-Snow accent paint
-1 wide tipped paint brush and 1 fine tipped paint brush
-Black, red, and green felt
-Craft glue or hot glue
-Hemp string

Flip the egg crate over and poke a hole where the eggs would be. Paint the light bulbs white.  I used white bulbs so I only did one coat. If colored then may need more than one coat. Let it dry and then paint the snow accent on top. Let dry in the egg crate.  Paint black dots for eyes, nose, and buttons. Paint an orange carrot nose. Let dry. Cut thin strips of green and red felt.  You want to measure the strip of felt by wrapping it around the light bulb to make a scarf. Cut the excess off. Apply glue to felt and then attach to the light bulb. Let dry before making the hat. Cut a small black square. I did not measure. I eyeballed a good size for the brim of the hat and then made them all that size. Fold the square in half and cut a small slit. Fold the square the other way and cut another small slit. It will create an 'x'. Fit this over the top of the light bulb. Cut the square into a circle for the brim of the hat. Cut a small strip of black felt that will cover the rest of the bulb. Wrap around the bulb to make sure it fits. Apply glue and attach. Cut a long piece of hemp string and tie around top of hat. Create a knot in the back of the hat with the string. Tie ends to make loop.

Have fun!