Brunch… a fun time to be a little “Extra”

Ever go to brunch with friends a feel like your cheating a little and feel good about it. Like maybe you slept in when you would have gotten up early all the other days of the week. Or maybe skipped breakfast so you could endulge in food that your wouldn’t normally eat but it taste simply delicious. I’ve always thought that having brunch is a chance for me to be a bit “extra” and feel great with friends or family. Take a little extra time for my meal, order a little something different and either entertain or be entertained with food, decor, and overall atmosphere.

I wanted to take a moment and share some easy and fun recipes and ideas that you can do at home if felt like hosting a brunch yourself. Fall is upon us, the weather is changing and this is a great opportunity to set up your sun room or open the windows and turn on those fans to let the air flow nicely through your home. Invite some guests over in the late morning. Set a little light jazz or easy listening in the background. Be sure to either light a fresh scented candle or diffuse some essential oils throughout to have a pleasing aroma in your home as well.

Now for the recipe ideas… I love appetizer size portions personally. You can make plenty and it offers a variety to meet the taste preferences of all your guests. My easy suggestions are as follows:

  1. Individual sized fruit and yogurt parfait – These can be super fun to do. Pop by any party store and get small (dessert serving sized) clear dishes. A layer of vanilla yogurt, a layer of strawberries (sliced and fresh), some granola and repeat. drizzle with a bit of honey if you prefer. You can make several flavors by changing the fruit and/or yogurt flavors. This allows for several options. (Peach, Blueberry, Pineapples, etc.)
  1. Muffin Tin Omelettes – These are a cinch to make and again, can have a variety of flavors. Spray your muffin tin with cooking spray, preheat your oven, and get busy with your creations. Ham, cheese, peppers the sky is the limit. One egg per muffin cup. Scramble the egg prior to pouring into the cup and mixture. I highly suggest avoiding adding onions to your omelettes when inviting guests to your social gathering. Onions often times upset sensitive stomachs and can cause people to be concerned about poor breath following a meal.
  1. Biscuits and Jelly – This is a staple! you can serve croissants or muffins or even cornbread, but some type of bread is a must. If you have the time and want to make several bread options that is always fun as well. I like to have various types of jelly available along with butter of course.
  1. Drinks! What brunch is complete without a good beverage. Mimosas are always the go-to for brunches. Depending on what time of year you are hosting your brunch, try to make your drink of choice seasonal. Of course, Coffee, Tea (Both hot and cold for brunch is desirable) and water should be made available.

These are all fun ideas and suggestions. There are so many more out there. Do a little research and plan according to the size of your guest list. The point is, have a veggie (the parfait), have a bread item (it’s breakfast after all), and have a protein (the omelette). Make sure there is variety. Remember to incorporate appropriate serving dishes, place settings and centerpieces that will help facilitate the theme and feel of your brunch. The best ones I have been to use all of the senses to make the guests have the best experience. Sight (presentation), Sound (Music), Smell (essential oils or scented candles), Taste (well prepared food), and Touch (comfortable seating and well maintained temperature). Keep it light, fun and casual. The point of hosting this brunch in your home is so that you and your friends don’t have to “dress” for the occasion. In-home brunches with friends can be Sunday casual. No T-shirts and flip-flops are probably not ideal, but you can set the tone with your invite either verbal or written. The sky is the limit with your planning and preparations.

I hope you plan an amazing event. As the host of your event (vs attending) the satisfaction comes when you sit back once the event is in full swing and you see the smiles on your friends faces, hear the chatter of small talk, and hear the clanking of glasses and your friends toast to each other.

As always my friends, have a happy day (And enjoy your brunch and each other)

What to do with all the Easter candy?

What do you with all the left over Easter candy? Make fun treats of course! Make them and share them! Ask the kids or family and friends to join in! Then send the treats to school, to work, put them out when your kids friends come over on the weekend.

Have left over Halloween candy, incorporate that into your fun treats too! Here are a few examples of fun summer treats you can easily do and share for the next few weeks. Have fun and get creative!

Peep race cars!
Ingredients: Peeps, Twinkies, Chocolate covered pretzels (don’t forget, you can melt down some left over chocolates) and mini oreos.

Cut about a 1/4 inch out of the top back half of the twinkie. enough to rest a bunny peep sitting up into the twinkie as if to drive a car. Once you have created your chocolate cover pretzel, insert it upside down in front of the bunny as of to be a steering wheel. Separate your oreos and press to the side of the twinkie to create wheels. You may need to add a little water to help make the wheels stick. You a tad to create some moisture in the area. Please the twinkie on parchment paper or a well grease pan or tray for transporting or display.


Peeps in a nest!
Ingredients: Peeps, Rice Krispie Cereal, 48 Marshmallows (large), 4 TSP Butter, small Jelly Beans, Food Coloring, Shredded Coconut, Muffin Pan, Cooking spray.

Melt butter for 45 seconds in large microwave safe bowl. Add marshmallows. Coat all with the melted butter. Melt for 45 seconds in microwave. Stir, melt for 45 seconds. Ad food coloring to the Marshmallow mixture. (I preferred Green, but any color is fun to do.) Add 6 cups of Rice Krispies. Stir. Spray the muffin pan with cooking grease. Press each pan with rice Krispies and chill. These will create your nests. After 30 mins, remove the nests from the pan. On a plate, cover with parchment paper (or tin foil or a few paper towels) spread out your shredded coconut and cover with green food coloring and mix. This will be the grass for your nest. how much food coloring will determine how dark your grass will be so start slow, you can always add more. Add the grass to each nest, then press jelly beans to each nest. I used 4-5 beans for each nest to create the eggs for the nest. Add the bird peeps to the top and display on a greased plate, try or pan. As you can see I chose a pan for ease of transportation.


CandyBar Carmel Apple Dip!
Ingredients: 12 “Fun” Size Candy Bars. (Milky Way is preferred, but twix works well too as long as caramel is involved). Use 10 for chopping and using for the dip and 2 for freezing and cutting up for the garnish, 1/2 cup of butter, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of light corn syrup, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and apples.

Melt the butting in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt, Cook over medium heart stirring occasionally. When the mixture comes to a full boil (10-12 mins). Cut up the apples into slices while this is happening. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and the cut of candy bars. Continue stirring until candy is dissolved and the mixture is a thick consistency. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and transfer to serving bowl. Cut up the 2 previously frozen candy bars and use for garnish, sprinkle on top of the dip. Serve with the sliced apples.

Christmas is for the birds…

Christmas is for the birds…. too!  LOL!  It’s cold outside and the birds and animals could use a holiday treat as much as the rest of us.  Here is a great DIY project you can do as a family and enjoy the birds as they come to eat.  

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 2.5 cups Birdseed 
  • 2 Packages Unflavoured Gelatin (2 Tablespoons total)
  • 2 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Water
  • Cookie Cutters (about 12 small ones are perfect.  Using larger ones will cause the ornament to break from the weight)
  • Drinking Straws, cut into 2″ long pieces (Enough to have one in each ornament)
  • Twine

INSTRUCTIONS: 

  1. First, follow the instructions on the packet of Gelatin. If you are going to use two packets of gelatin, add 1/2 cup of cold water into a bowl, then pour the two packets of gelatin on top of the water.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of boiling water to the mixture and stirred it until it was dissolved. (Making sure the gelatin is completely dissolved is important.  Use the microwave if needed.
  3. Once the gelatin is dissolved, add the corn syrup and stirred until it is dissolved as well.  
  4. Finally, add the birdseed to the gelatin mixture.
  5. It will be a little watery at first.  Place place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so, or until it firms up enough that the liquid won’t seep out from under the cookie cutters.
  6. Set your cookie cutters out onto a wax paper or parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Spoon the mixture into each of the cookie cutters, and press it down firmly so that the cookie cutter is completely filled.  Fill the cookie cutters to the very top and press into the shape to ensure a complete fill with no gaps. 
  8. Next, cut your drinking straws into 2″ long pieces. Press a straw into the birdseed (before it’s set) so that you have a nice neat hole for the twine to go through afterwards.  Be sure to place the straw a good distance from the edge to make sure the twine doesn’t break thru from the weight of the ornament.  
  9. Once you’ve added the straws, place the ornaments in the refrigerator overnight to solidify. The next day, gently pull the edges of the cookie cutter away from the shape to help separate things, then gently push out the shape.
  10. Remove the straws, thread some twine through the holes and tie a knot.

When your ornament is complete, hang them in your trees outside and watch the birds gather.  Be sure to hang your ornaments close to other branches so the birds can perch while eating.  

You can refrigerate them or freeze them if not using right away. They last up to 1 years in freezer.  You can also do this fun DIY project at other times of the year.  Instead of Christmas cookie cutter ornaments, use a shamrock for St. Patrick’s day, egg shaped for Easter, Hearts for valentine’s day.  The possibilities are endless! 

A few notes about this a project so you are not disappointed in the outcome:

  1. let the mold dry for at least a day before attempting to hang on the twine.
  2. Be sure to hang these in cooler weather, as the Florida heat will cause the gelatin to melt and your ornament to fall.
  3. If you are doing this project throughout the year, try substituting or adding peanut butter to your recipe.  
  4. Be sure to place the hole for the twine far enough away from the edge so it better disperses the weight and doesn’t break through the edge of the ornament.  

Try a mocktail…

So many times at holiday parties there is a lot of alcohol served, but where does that leave those of us who don’t drink or even the littler ones that are attending and can’t partake of alcoholic beverages?  Mocktails are a fun way to ensure everyone is included in the festivities.  Here are a few quick recipes to ensure that all of your guests have a great time.  

Cranberry Fizz:

Ingredients:

3 ounces of ginger ale, 3 ounces of cranapple juice, splash of lime juice, 3 tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon completely blended, fresh lime

Instructions:

Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a shallow bowl and mix together well.  Rub a lemon or lime around the rim of your glass and then dip into the sugar/cinnamon mix.  Fill the glass with ice.  Add then cranapple.  Add a splash of fresh juice of lemon or lime. Top off with sparkling cider or ginger ale.  Garnish with a twist of lime. 

No-jito (A mock mojito):

Ingredients:

1 tbsp of sugar, small bunch of mint, 3 limes juiced, soda water

Instructions:

Muddle the sugar with the mint leaves (this can be done in a small bowl using the end of a rolling pin if you do not have pestle and mortar)

Split the mint mix between two tall glasses.  Ad a handful of crushed ice to each glass.  Split the juice of three limes between the two glasses.  Top the drink off with soda water, add a straw and serve with a sprig of mint on the top for garnish.

NOTE: For fun you can add a few blueberries or raspberries to each glass.  This adds some fun color and a little extra flavor to your drink. 

Fun holiday recipes – Caprese sticks

It is fun to create colorful holiday snacks for a party.  Here is a great recipe that can be served as a snack, an appetizer or even as a side dish if you choose.  It incorporates the red and green colors of Christmas and is super easy to make.  This recipe was found on https://www.delish.com/

Ingredients:

8 oz. mozzarella balls 2 tbsp., extra-virgin olive oil 1 tsp., Italian seasoning 1/4 tsp., crushed red pepper flakes, salt, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves 1 c., balsamic vinegar

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together mozzarella, olive oil, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and season with salt. Set aside. (NOTE: if you or your guests are sensitive to spices, the crushed red pepper flakes can be left out of this recipe)
  2. Assemble skewers: Layer a cherry tomato, basil leaf, marinated mozzarella ball, and another cherry tomato. Place on your serving platter. (NOTE:  It is always fun to use herbs from your garden, here is a great opportunity to use that basil you have been growing all year.  If not, this can be purchased at your local grocer)
  3. Make balsamic glaze: In a small saucepan or skillet, bring balsamic vinegar to a low simmer. Let thicken until syrupy, 15 minutes. Set aside to cool and thicken. (NOTE: double or triple your recipe to keep some aside for later use.  This is a great glaze and always good to top a salad.  It’s great to have these things available for quick use)
  4. Drizzle skewers with balsamic glaze and serve. (NOTE: you can make these caprese sticks as large or as small as you want depending on the size skewer (or toothpick) you select) 

 

Fun holiday recipes – Bacon Cheese Ball Bites

This time of year there are so many holiday parties and we run out of ideas of fun things to bring or what to make for the parties we are hosting.  Here are a few fun ideas to change up your holiday party planning.  

Easy grab cheese ball bites:

Ingredients:

8 slices bacon (1 1/2 oz.), (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened, shredded cheddar cheese (You can also use a mixture of cheeses for a different flavor), garlic powder 1 tsp., paprika, Salt, Freshly ground black pepper, freshly chopped chives 1/3 c., finely chopped pecans 1/2 c, pretzels sticks

Instructions:

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon until crispy, 8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, then finely chop. Set aside. (NOTE: If you make extra, you can always freeze the cooked bacon and pop it in the microwave later.  It’s usually easy to just make the whole bacon package.)
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic powder, and paprika and season with salt and pepper. Use a scoop (some sort of small spoon works) to form mixture into 18 small balls and transfer to a parchment–lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  3. In a shallow bowl, stir together bacon, chives, and pecans.
  4. Roll balls in bacon-chive-pecan mixture, insert a pretzel stick into each, and let come to room temperature 15 minutes before serving. (If not serving right away, loosely cover with plastic wrap and return to fridge.)  (NOTE: So many times you can exchange a toothpick for a pretzel stick for a fun and yummy way to serve your appetizers or treats.)

……. This recipe was found on Delish.com  

Homemade Apple Cider, great for fall

Nothing says fall like homemade Apple Cider. It is fun to make your own, tastes great and makes your home smell amazing.  Here is a great recipe to try and share.  Alter it to make it your own.  This is a great beverage to have on hand for cool fall and winter evenings, family gatherings, and of course holiday dinners!

Ingredients:

10 Gala Apples – Quartered

3/4 Cup White Sugar

1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon Ground all spice

Note: you can float a few whole cinnamon sticks on top for extra flavor or add them at the end for garnish,  also adding extra spices like cloves or the zest of a lemon will spice up your cider depending on your preference.

Instructions:

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

Strain apple mixture though a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again though a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold.

Note: I prefer to serve my cider warm.  If you prefer the same you can always make this in advance and set it on warm in a crock pot.  Add some cinnamon sticks or Star of Anise to the once in the crock pot as a great garnish.

 

Garlic Green Beans – Recipe

This is a great side dish or even a main dish if you are looking for a yummy vegetable dish to fill your plate. It is super easy to make with very little prep.  It doesn’t qualify as vegetarian unless you substitute the butter with Avocado oil (in which case, I would add additional spices to the saute portion of the recipe for flavor to suite your taste).

Ingredients:

1 Pound Fresh Green Beans

2 Cups Water

3 Cloves Garlic, Minced

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Snap ends of beans off (this is a preference thing, I don’t like the ends of the beans).  Bring the beans and water to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Drain and set beans aside.  In a large skillet, saute garlic in butter until light golden brown.  Add beans, salt and pepper.  Heat through and mix well.  Remove from heat and serve.  If you are adding additional spices, Do so when adding the beans to the butter mixture.  If you are using butter and are sensitive to salt, try using unsalted butter.

This is a great recipe than can be adjusted many different ways.  Another fun tip is to add Parmesan cheese just prior to serving.  Enjoy and let me know if you have any other fun variations to this recipe.

Snacks for the beach (or a hot day in the sun)

It’s summer time, that means road trips, days in the summer sun and fun!.  It can be expensive to get snacks while you are out and about so here are some easy and fun ideas for treats as you play.  We all work up an appetite and the summer sun can drain us.  Take advantage of a little pre-planning to pack your snacks and enjoy your day without breaking the bank.

Ranch-Seasoned Spice Crackers

INGREDIENTS:

1 ounce dry ranch seasoning mix

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

5 cups oyster crackers ( 9 oz bag)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat the oven to 250F.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, ranch seasoning mix, garlic powder and onion powder. Whisk everything together and add in the oyster crackers. Toss everything together until the crackers are coated.  Spread the crackers out onto a baking sheet.  Pop the baking sheet of crackers in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10-minute mark. Remove from the oven and let cool.  Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Chex-Mix

INGREDIENTS:

3-1/2 cups Rice Chex

3-1/2 cups Corn Chex

2 cups Wheat Chex

1 cup peanuts (you can also use 1 cup of mixed nuts)

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 cup bite-sized pretzels (I like the pretzel sticks broken in half)

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine ingredients for Homemade Seasoned Salt in small dish then set aside.  In a very large bowl combine Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, and nuts. In a small bowl stir together butter, Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons seasoned salt garlic powder, and onion powder. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture then stir with a spatula to coat. Pour into a 11×17″ or larger baking dish then bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Stir in pretzels when Chex Mix is cool, then serve! Keep in an airtight container or separate into snack size baggies for an on-the-go treat.

Salt and Pepper Oven-baked Zucchini Chips

INGREDIENTS

1 large zucchini, sliced into rounds about 1/8″ to 1/16″ thick

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt (recommended: kosher salt or coarsely ground sea salt)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

RECIPE PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Use convection bake setting if your oven allows.  Place sliced zucchini on paper towels and let sit for 10 minutes. Blot the tops of the zucchini with another paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place the zucchini on the pans in a single layer, making sure not to overlap.  Pour olive oil into a small bowl and lightly brush onto the zucchini.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Place in oven and bake for about 2 hours, flipping zucchini after about an hour, until zucchini is crispy and starting to brown. Start checking them at about 1-1/2 hours in as ovens can vary. Any pieces that are crispy and starting to brown should be removed.  Serve immediately!

 

 

 

What to do with cook-out leftovers?

Did you have a recent cookout or party at your house? Is your fridge filled with leftover meat, veggies, and other yummy goodness? From chicken tacos to pan-fried sausage, here’s how to use up all the leftovers from your cookout and make sure they don’t go to waste.

Grilled Chicken Tacos:

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion,

cut into wedges,

keeping root intact 2 garlic cloves,

finely chopped 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, coarsely crushed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 corn tortillas, warmed (for serving)

Charred Tomatillo Salsa Verde (click for recipe; for serving) Cilantro sprigs, sliced radishes, and lime wedges (for serving)

RECIPE PREPARATION Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toss onion, garlic, chicken, cumin, oil, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Grill onion and chicken until cooked through and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with tortillas, Charred Tomatillo Salsa Verde, cilantro, radishes, and/or lime wedges.

Grilled Sausage and left over grilled veggies = Fritatta You can chop up leftover sausage and add it to an egg scramble, omelet, or frittata.

INGREDIENTS

6 large eggs

6 ounces leftover roasted vegetables, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)

½ cup leftover cooked grains or crumbled leftover sausage

1 ounce coarsely grated or crumbled cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped tender herbs, such as thyme, basil, and/or chives Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

RECIPE PREPARATION

1. Vigorously whisk 6 eggs in a medium bowl until streak-free.

2. Add 5 oz. vegetables, ½ cup grains (you can use left over sausage too), 1 oz. grated cheese, and 1 Tbsp. herbs; season with salt and pepper. Mix with a rubber spatula to combine.

3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium; swirl skillet to coat with oil.

4. Add egg mixture and cook until edges are set, about 30 seconds.

5. Using spatula, agitate eggs by scraping bottom of skillet in a small circular motion and bringing edges toward center of pan to form large curds, then let mixture sit undisturbed until edges are set again, about 1 minute.

6. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tilting skillet and lifting edges up with spatula to allow uncooked egg to flow underneath and around sides, until surface is wet but center is mostly set when you shake the pan, about 5 minutes.

7. Shake skillet to loosen frittata. Place a large plate over skillet and invert frittata onto plate.

8. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in skillet over medium, swirling to coat. Slide frittata back into skillet; reduce heat to low. Cook until set all the way through, about 3 minutes.

9. Let frittata cool in skillet 5 minutes, then invert onto a cutting board.

10. Season frittata with salt and pepper. Cut into wedges to serve.

SIDE NOTE: This Fritatta can be prepared in advance covered and chilled. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Great to have on hand for the morning after and any visitors that may have stayed the night.

Other left over ideas can be the following:

1. Hot Dogs can be turned into beans and franks

2. Grilled steak can be converted to street tacos (use caution when re-heating so you don’t dry out your meat or over cook it.

3. Left over condiments like olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc can be made into a fun pasta salad (use rotini and an italian dressing seasoning packet for great flavor)

3 ways to cook corn on the cob for your next get together.

Corn on the cob is a great staple for cookout! Here are three easy ways to cook the perfect corn on the cob for your next cookout. #Cornonthecob #cookout #cookingisfun

1. Boil it up: Boiling is the classic way to prepare sweet corn. You can either use a wide, flat pan and lay the corn on its side, or use a taller stockpot to boil a big batch at once. Either way, fill the pan with enough water to cover the corn and bring it to a boil. Shuck off the outer husk and silk from the corn. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt in the water and add the corn. If your corn is very fresh, cook it for three to five minutes. For corn that’s a few days old, go for six to eight minutes once.

2. Microwave it: In our house, we use this method a lot when having corn as a side dish for dinner. Shuck the corn and wrap it in damp/moist paper towels. Cook on high for three minutes. Carefully remove from the microwave (it will be hot), coat with butter and seasoning and wrap it in aluminum foil. It will continue to steam in the aluminum foil and absorb the butter and seasoning as it cooks.

3. On the grill: Roasting on the grill gives the corn a smoky flavor that is absolutely delicious. Peel back the husks, but leave them attached at the stem. Remove all the silk and then brush the corn with olive oil (butter can sometimes burn). Add salt and peper to your preference. Cover the corn back up with the husks and secure them closed with a piece of string or aluminum foil. Roast the ears of corn over a medium-hot grill, turning occasionally, until the outer husks are charred and toasted. This usually takes about 15 minutes. Let the corn cool enough to handle, then strip off the husks and eat.

DIY – Valentine’s edition

February is a fun month!  Love is in the air.  Winter is just peaking and starting to pass.  Tulips are popping up through the snow.  It’s time to have some DIY Fun with Valentine’s Day ideas!  Here a few suggestions to get an un-expecting, friend, child, loved one, or even co-worker giggling and into the spirit. 

1.       Love potion labels – Get your kids in the Valentine’s Day spirit by removing existing water bottle labels and replacing them with these free “love potion” printables. Crack these water bottles open and love just might fill the cafeteria. Is it magic or just a mother’s love? (suggestion from good housekeeping.com)

2.       Heart Crayons – This is fun to do as a surprise for the little ones in your life or as a project with them so they can spread their own love with friends.  (NOTE: this project can be rough on your metal pans, try using a silicone heart mold.  This can be purchased on line or found in your local craft store).  Separate your crayons by color groups: reds/pinks, purples, blues, greens, oranges/yellows. To get the paper off easily, cut a slit down the length of the crayon with a knife. Break them into ~1/3″ – 1/2″ pieces and place like colors into pans. You get a better result if you mix lighter shades of a certain group with darker shades. The color contrast is pretty fun and makes for unique hearts. Bake between 225F and 250F for about 10 minutes. Take a look at them after 10 and if they are completely melted, gently take them out, and let them cool for at least 10 minutes. If there are still some chunks after 10 minutes, let them go for another minute or two. Keep an eye on them! (Recipe from goodknits.com)

3.       Heart Shaped Hand warmers (Or any shape and color to use for all cool seasons) – You will need, felt, Embroidery Floss and a needle, Un-cooked rice, dried lavender or an essential oil that you find soothing.  Cut the felt into the shape you prefer (hearts are great this time of year).  You will need a total of four identical pieces (two for each warmer).  Knot the embroidery floss and thread your needle.  Sew your two shapes together until you are about ¾ complete.  Be sure to sew you loops close together as not to allow the rice to escape through large gaps.  Add the rice and lavender / oils to the pouch you have created.  Be sure not to pack it tight as you need a little wiggle room to sew it shut and also keep them flexible.  Finish sewing the open gap closed and secure the thread.  To use these awesome warmers, microwave the, for about 30 seconds and tuck them into coat pockets.  Your hands will stay warm and toasty.  Re-heat as needed to re-use, but be sure not to heat for too long. 

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking creatively.  Ignite the passion and creativity inside your heart and share it with others.  As always, have a happy day!

A Tidy home – a little cheat sheet of suggestions to save time and money

Keeping your home clean can seem like a constant battle, especially for a large family or people with little one’s in their home.  (This is also the case after guests come to visit).  House-keeping is a constant and never-ending chore.  Here are some great tips (life hacks) for keeping up with your home and making the tasks easier or more efficient.

First, you need a few regular items on hand.  I try to get as much as I can from the dollar store and rags can come from the thrift store or even recycled clothes or possibly that one sock the dryer forgot to eat.

1.       Fresh lemons.  They last a while and are a great additive for a cleaning agent. 

2.       Kosher Salt (or table salt of some kind)

3.       Vinegar (White)

4.       Baking Soda

5.       Old socks

6.       Hair Dryer

7.       Olive Oil

8.       Cream of tartar

9.       Dryer sheets

10.   Chalk

11.   Plastic Bags

12.   Lint Rollers (Dollar Store Purchase)

13.   There are countless other items that are handy so feel free to add to this list and personalize it.

Here are some house-keeping life hacks to give a try and see what fits nicely into your schedule allowing for more time and some cost savings:

1.       Vinegar and baking soda = clean oven

2.       Vinegar and water (50/50 mix) and an old sock = clean blinds

3.       Lemons = clean facets and sink handles

4.       Lemons and salt = clean cutting board and clean coffee pot

5.       Cream of Tartar = clean stainless steel appliances

6.       Dryer Sheets – adds a fresh smell to your freezer or refrigerator (change monthly)

7.       Dryer Sheets – clean and protected baseboards

8.       Plastic bag filled with vinegar wrapped around shower heads = clean shower heads

9.       Toothpaste = clean jewelry and clean sneakers

10.   Lint Rollers = clean lamp shades

11.   Hair Dryer and Olive Oil = clean drink rings on a wooden table

12.   Baking Soda = removes oil stains from carpet

I hope this either makes things a bit easier, solves some mystery for you, or just changes up your routing at home to get your house neat and clean.  As always, have a happy day!

 

Apple Pie Stacks – A Recipe Promised

I made these cookies for the first time this year and they were amazing!  Personally, I think they would be great any time of the year.  They were a huge hit with my family and adorable to boot!  I will admit, they were a bit messy to set-up, but fun and very worth it.  My husband requested I make these over a year ago and I finally did!  I highly suggest you give this recipe a shot if you are up for a cookie challenge.  (And I know you love a challenge if you are any friend of mine).

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

4 apples, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoons cornstarch

4 sheets pie crust pastries (I used frozen pie crusts)

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Icing: (Optional)

¾ Cup Confectioners’ Sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons milk

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples; toss until coated with butter. Stir in brown sugar, white sugar, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves; cook and stir until apples have softened and sugars have melted, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil.
  3. Combine water and cornstarch in a bowl. Stir cornstarch mixture into the apple mixture; cook and stir until apple mixture is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely, about 20 minutes.
  4. Dust work surface lightly with flour (This portion of flour not included in ingredients). Roll out 1 sheet of pie crust on a work surface with a rolling pin; Use a round cookie cutter and create circles for cookie base. Cover each base the cooled apple mixture. Roll out a second sheet of pie crust with a rolling pin; slice into thin strips with a sharp knife (or pizza roller works well too). Weave pie crust strips together over apple mixture to create a lattice top.  NOTE: Alternative method is to make one large pie flat and cover with apple mixture and lattice then cut circles all the way thru with floured round cookie cutter or drinking glass. Press cookie cutter through dough to create 12 round pies. Transfer to a pre-greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until crust is cooked through a golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 10 minutes. Be sure not to over-cook.
  6. Repeat with remaining pie crusts and apple mixture; place on a second baking sheet. Bake in the oven until crust is cooked through a golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  7. Combine confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a mixing bowl; add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in milk slowly until desired consistency is reached; drizzle over cooled pies.

Let cool to set-up and as always, have a happy day!

It’s time for cookies

I love love love this time of year!  There are so many reason to be happy and spread the cheer.  Cookies are one of the top things on my list to do each year.  I love to bake and I love sharing fun cookies with my friends and family.  This year will be no different.  Cookies are coming out of the oven this weekend.  I thought I would share a few of the recipes that my family has enjoyed over the years and encourage you to jump into the kitchen yourself.  If you are not much of a baker but have always wanted to, baking cookies is a great way to start.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

½ cup shortening

14 cup granulated sugar

12 cup brown sugar

18 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 teaspoon baking soda

1 Tablespoon Hot Water

1 14 cups flour (all-purpose)

12 ounces chocolate chips

12 cup nuts (optional, but if you prefer I suggest pecans)

1 egg, well beaten

Instructions:  Cream shortening then add granulated sugar, brown sugar and egg.  Dissolve baking soda in one tablespoons of HOT water and then add.  Add flour, salt, vanilla extract and mix well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips and mix again.  Drop teaspoonfuls of your cookie dough onto greased cookie sheet. (Note the change from Tablespoon to teaspoon size measure for these cookies, they will spread) Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes.

German Chocolate cookies

Cookie batter

2 boxes German chocolate cake mix, dry

4 eggs

10 Tbsp. butter, melted

FROSTING

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

½ cup butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1⅓ cup sweetened shredded coconut, for drizzle

1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions: Combine cake mix, eggs and melted butter in a large mixing bowl and beat until well mixed. Batter should be sticky and thick.  Roll into one inch balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet. 12 balls to a cookie sheet. (Try using a Tablespoon Measure as a scoop to keep your proportions)  Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes. DO NOT overcook these cookies. Place on wire rack once they are out of the oven and let them cool completely. (Add frosting to completely cool cookies to avoid melting your frosting and having a drippy mess)

Frosting Instructions:  Add evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla to a large pan and place on stovetop over medium heat. Stir to evenly combine and continue stirring until thickened (takes about 12 minutes). Once thickened remove from heat and add coconut and pecans. Beat until thick enough to spread. Spread frosting over the tops of cooled cookies.  You can always add an extra touch by melting some chocolate and drizzling over the tops of the cookies.  Before packaging, let the cookie set-up so the drizzle can cool and the frosting can stay thick.

Snickerdoodles (My Daughter-in-law’s favorite)

Ingredients

1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter

2 Cups Granulated Sugar

2 Large eggs

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3 Cups All-Purpose Flour

½ tsp Baking soda

½ tsp Cream of tarter

¼ Cup Sugar (separate from the above amount of sugar)

1 tbsp Cinnamon

Instructions:  Combine butter with 2 Cup Granulated sugar and beat on medium speed until well creamed together.  Add eggs and vanilla extract. Mix into butter and sugar until egg is well beaten.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.  Slowly add into batter and beat on medium low speed until well combined and dough forms.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a small bowl, combined cinnamon and a ¼ Cup granulated sugar and stir to combine.  Use a Tablespoon to measure your cookies proportionately and scoop cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie dough ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350° F 10-12 minutes. Allow cookie to cool on the baking sheet for several minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oatmeal Raisin (My husband’s favorite)

Ingredients

¾ Cup Granulated Sugar

¼ Cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ Cup Butter

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Egg

¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour

½ Teaspoon Baking Soda

½ Teaspoon Cinnamon

¼ Teaspoon salt

1 ½ Cups of Quick-cooking rolled oats

½ Cup Chopped nuts (Walnuts work great in this recipe, but nuts are optional)

Instructions:  Pre-heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg; blend well. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Stir in oats, raisins and nuts.   Use a Tablespoon to measure your cookies proportionately and scoop cookie dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roll each cookie into a ball prior to setting the dough on the Parchment Paper, and set each cookie about 2 inches apart.   Bake at 375°F. for 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets and transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (Stir the flour and then scoop it, so it’s not packed into the measuring cup/spoon.)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 Bag of Hershey Kisses

Instructions: Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl.  Add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. Mix well and scrape the bowl.  Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture all at once and mix well, but don’t go overboard.  You just need the ingredients combined.

CHILL dough for 2 hours in fridge. (This keeps helps keeps the dough in good form rather than melting into a flat cookie)  Scoop dough and shape into balls, about 1 rounded Tablespoon each. Place 2-inches apart on silicone lined baking sheets. (Use a Tablespoon as a scoop, this will help with your proportions)  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Immediately place a single Hershey Kiss in the center of each cookie while still warm. Let the cookies sit on the tray for about a minute while the Hershey kisses set, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Here a few tips I’ve either read about recently or learned along the way:

Start your recipe with cold butter. It takes longer to soften in the mixer, but warm butter makes the cookies spread too much.

Refrigerate the dough before baking or you will have flat pancake cookies. 30 minutes is good enough, but an hour would be great.

If you are doing a “great cookie bake”, (baking several different types of cookies for sharing).  Try to make all of your cookies the same size.  Using a Tablespoon for measuring is a great way to help your portion control.

Use parchment paper rather than a greased cookie sheet.  This will help is you are using several different recipes or baking a lot of one type.  Unless you clean your greased cookie sheet between each batch, you may end up with severely cooked grease on your pan and a funny taste on the edges of your cookies.  You can toss the parchment paper after each batch and ensure a smoother trend across all of your cookies.

Use butter instead of margarine.  I promise, it makes a difference.  If you choose to use margarine, check the label and be sure it has at least 80% vegetable oil.

Happy Baking, Happy Holidays and as always, Have a happy day!

Fun fall drinks, get cozy

When it’s cold outside it’s always great to get cozy inside by a great fire with a warm drink so I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you to get everyone started off right this season.  These are all family friendly recipes (but each have a twist for adults if you prefer).  Stay warm this fall and winter season and as always, have a happy day!

Butterscotch Cocoa (My all-time favorite)

Ingredients: (makes 1 serving each)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoons cocoa mix
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon butterscotch syrup
  • Whipped Cream

Mix the cocoa and sugar together in your mug.  Add the milk slowly to your cup and stir while adding to ensure your cocoa is smooth.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove (be careful in case your mug has become too hot).  Stir and check the temperature.  If you prefer it to be a bit warmer add another 30 second in the microwave.  Remove again, add the vanilla extract and butterscotch and stir carefully not to splash.  Top off with chilled whipped cream.  Enjoy!  (For the adults trying this… over 21… switch out the butterscotch syrup for butterscotch schnapps and make it one shot sized portion)

Warm Apple Cider

Ingredients: (Makes about 8 cups)

  • 1 gallon store bought apples cider
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Orange
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar

In large saucepan, heat cider to a boil over medium heat.  While heating, add cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks (broken into smaller pieces), orange (cut into quarters), and the brown sugar.  Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.  Before serving, strain your cider and remove cloves, cinnamon and oranges.  IF you prefer, add new cinnamon sticks and orange slices as garnish.  (For the adults trying this recipe… over 21… add 1 cup of your choice of spiced rum or 1 cup of Brandy.  Add this after the boiling process once the heat is reduced to a simmer.)

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds – the best snack!

Every year this is the best treat after carving your pumpkins and getting the inside guts all over you!  As you are carving your spooky or funny face into your pumpkin, remember to separate the seeds into a bowl apart from the gross guts of your pumpkin.  These are a great and easy snack to have late in the day and can keep for weeks in an air tight container!

Here are the easy steps to follow…

  1. Separate the pumpkin seeds as you carve your pumpkin doing your best to keep the gunk out of the seed bowl. The less guts the better.
  2. Once you’ve finished carving and cleaned up your carving station. Be sure to take a moment to read the blog about keeping your pumpkin from molding. Then come back to how to Roast your seeds.
  3. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
  4. Dump the seeds into a colander and rinse them trying one last time to separate the pumpkin guts from your seeds.
  5. Take a medium sized pot and fill with about 4 cups of water. Add the seeds and 3 Tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and drain.
  7. Pat dry with paper towels, this just gets them slightly dry, but not completely. Its ok, they will still bake just fine.
  8. Decide the flavor you want for your seeds. Some great options are as follows: Garlic Salt, Adobo, Ranch, or cinnamon and Sugar. (I prefer two flavors and this year did Ranch and then mixed Garlic Salt with Adobo. They were a hit with my family)
  9. Add the seeds to a large Ziploc baggie and add the flavor of choice. If you choose to do more than one flavor, only add half of the seeds into the baggie and do a second baggie for the second set of seeds. The amount of flavoring you add is up to you, but keep in mind that too much salt can be over powering.
  10. Take a large cookie sheet and cover with aluminum foil completely.
  11. Spread the pumpkin seeds across the foiled cookie sheet. If you are doing more than one flavor, keep your flavors separated on the cookie sheet as well.
  12. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 5 – 20 minutes.
  13. Check the seeds regularly. As the seeds feel dry and crisp, they are done.   Be sure not to let them burn.

Fall is here, time to set the mood

Fall is here and we all get busy around the holidays with work, kids school activities, family activities and it can sometime be hard to get into the holiday spirit or maybe we are in a pinch for a quick last minute fall gift for a party or just a thank you.  Potpourri is always a great go-to for me and also a great way to get your own home into the holiday spirit.  Here are a few recipes for your home.  Check out my Facebook page and Instagram for some great DIY Potpourri projects and gift ideas.

It’s important to remember, there is no right or wrong combination of store bought (or home grown) fruits and spices for the fall to make your personal potpourri.  Some staples are Cinnamon, cloves, star anise, oranges and apples.  Oranges and lemons are great as well.  Here you will find two separate recipes for potpourri.

For an active potpourri (one that you will cook on your stove and need to either continuously add water too or only use for a portion of time) use the following recipe:

In a medium stove top pot, add three cups of water and turn on medium heat. Add two cinnamon sticks, half of an orange, half of a lemon, and 1 tablespoon cloves.  Once the mixture reaches a good temperature, turn to low and let this mixture sit on your stove uncovered.  The potpourri will steep for some time sending a lovely scent throughout your home.  Be sure to check the pot from time to time as the water will evaporate and you will either need to add more or remove the pot from the heat when you are thru with you potpourri for the day.

For a dry potpourri, (one that can be set out in a decorative bowl) use the following recipe:

With cinnamon, cloves, star anise, orange and apples as your ingredients you will want to start by slicing the apples and oranges thin.  Spread them onto a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake them at 250 degrees to dry them out.  Remove from the oven and let cool, add the remaining spices and allow them to marinate together in a decorative jar or bowl.  NOTE: This particular version makes for a great gift and it is always nice to add in the recipe on a nicely printed card so others can do the same.

Enjoy your holiday season and as always remember to Have a Happy Day!

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