Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Well, Mr. Potter, In My Book He Died A Much Richer Man Than You'll Ever Be.'

Sixty-six years ago on Christmas eve, George Bailey was at the end of his rope and was about to jump off a bridge in Bedford Falls, New York. So began the beginning of the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, a movie that I never tire of seeing this time of year.

Even when I was at my most cynical, It’s A Wonderful Life was never corny. On one very lonely Christmas Eve, it helped me through a long night, while with every passing year its message -- considered too simplistic by the movie's few critics -- continues to humble and inspire me.

That message reverberates even more strongly in these troubled times: Each of us, no matter how insignificant we may seem, has the power to make a difference. And that the true measure of our humanity has nothing to do with fame or money, but with how we live our life.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life, check your TV listings or download it from Netflix. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Oh, and have yourself a happy holiday. See you next year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cookies in a Jar

These cookie mixes in mason jars make fun and are sure to be a big hit with everyone you give one to!

Follow the steps below to make your own cookies in a jar. Start out by gathering the basic supplies you will need. Then pick a recipe and gather together those ingredients. Finally, you can fill and decorate the jar. Don't forget to print out a recipe gift card to include with the cookies in a jar.

These cookie in a jar mixes, complete with recipe gift tag, were loved by everyone on our gift giving list and I hope everyone you give them too feels the same way! Be creative when you make your jars, and make sure you add your own personalized, finishing touches!

Gathering Supplies

Start off by gathering these basic supplies. You will use the same basic supplies no matter what recipe you choose.

· Quart Size Canning Jars with Lids

· Scrap Fabric

· Ribbon

· Glue

· Paper

· Recipe and Required Ingredients (below)

Filling the Jar

Follow these simple instructions when you are ready to start filling your jars with the cookie ingredients.

1. Thoroughly wash and dry the jars and lids.

2. Pick a recipe from below and gather your ingredients.

3. Use the instructions and tips from the recipe you choose and fill the jar!

Choose a Recipe and Printable Tag

Browse through the recipes below and choose your favorite to try or you can simply try them all!

Decorating the Jar

Use your imagination and these suggestions to decorate your jars.

1. Fabric: Cut a circle out of the fabric that is 6- to 8- inches across. (I traced around the top of a bowl!) Place the round section of the jar's lid on the jar and center the fabric on that. Screw the other section of the lid in place to hold the fabric. Fluff out the fabric where it comes out from under the lid.

2. Recipe: Print out your choice of the printable recipe card/gift tag that goes with the recipe you chose. Trim closely around the recipe and graphic. Put a small piece of scotch tape on the upper right-hand section of the 'Printable Gift Tag' recipe (right behind the top edge of the graphic). This is to give it a little extra strength. Use a hole puncher and make a small hole in the taped corner.

3. Ribbon: Cut an approximate 3-foot piece of ribbon. I actually used 2 pieces of ribbon with colors that matched the fabric. Thread the ribbon through the hole in the 'Printable Gift Tag' recipe. Wrap the ribbon around the metal of the jar lid and tie it into a bow. Secure in place with a small dab of glue behind the bow and in the back.

Special Butterscotch Chip Cookies in a Jar



  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup high protein crisp rice and wheat cereal
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. Layer the ingredients in the order given in a one quart wide mouth canning jar. Firmly pack each ingredient in place. It will be a tight fit, but all ingredients will fit in the jar. Use pinking shears to cut an 8 or 9 inch circle from gingham, calico, or a seasonal fabric. Place the fabric over the wide mouth lid and rim and secure with a rubber band. Tie on a raffia or ribbon bow to cover the rubber band. Attach a card to the ribbon or raffia with the following mixing and baking directions:

2. Empty jar of cookie mix into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, 1 egg, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Use hands to mix the wet and dry ingredients together. When completely blended, roll into large walnut sized balls. Place on unprepared cookie sheets and use the palm of your hand to flatten each cookie ball. Bake at 350 in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.

Cranberry Hootycreeks



  • 5/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


1. Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart or 1 liter jar, in the order listed.

2. Attach a tag with the following instructions: Cranberry Hootycreeks 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. 2. In a medium bowl, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy. Add the entire jar of ingredients, and mix together by hand until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. 3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. Cool on baking sheets, or remove to cool on wire racks.

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies In A Jar



  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar


1. Combine the flour, baking soda, white sugar, and the chocolate chips. Place 1/2 of the mixture in a clean quart sized glass jar, and pack firmly. Place the brown sugar on top, again packing firmly. Place the remaining flour mixture on top. Cover with a lid.

2. Attach an index card with the following directions: Empty contents of jar into a large bowl. In separate bowl combine 3/4 cup of butter, 1 1/2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add to dry mixture. Drop by tablespoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Holiday Cookies in a Jar



  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate-covered candy (such as holiday M&M's or Hershey's Holiday Candy Coated Bits)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup cocoa crisped-rice cereal (or regular flavor)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips



1. In a 1-quart widemouthed jar, add the ingredients in the order listed. Pack them down firmly after each addition (use the blunt end of a table knife or a wooden spoon to level and tamp down each layer). Screw on the cover (see Wrapping It Up for a note on securing a ribbon beneath the threads) and prepare a gift tag with the following instructions: "To make your holiday cookies, cream together 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 egg in a large bowl. Add the contents of the jar and stir until well blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 4 dozen."

Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies in a Jar


Makes about 36

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup raisins
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together flour, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Layer ingredients in order given in a 1 quart "wide mouth" canning jar. It will be a tight fit, make sure you firmly pack down each layer in place before adding the flour mixture.
Instructions to attach to jar:
Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies
1. Empty jar of cookie mix into large mixing
bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly blend
2. Add: 3/4 cup butter or margarine softened at room temp. Stir in one egg, slightly beaten. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
3. Mix until completely blended. You may need to finish mixing with your hands.
4. Shape into balls the size of walnuts. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart. DO NOT USE WAXED PAPER.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 11 to 13 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove cookies to baking racks to finish cooling.
Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Brownie Mix in a Jar



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa
  • 1 cup REESE'S Peanut Butter Chips or HERSHEY'S Premier White Chips
  • 1/2 cup HERSHEY'S Mini Chips Semi-Sweet Chocolate


  1. 1 Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  2. 2 Layer the ingredients in a clean 1-quart glass canister or jar in the following order (from bottom to top): sugar, cocoa, flour mixture, peanut butter chips and small chocolate chips. Tap jar gently on the counter to settle each layer before adding the next one.
  3. 3 Cover jar and attach baking directions (see below). Makes 1 gift jar.
    Baking Directions: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted and cooled butter and 2 slightly beaten eggs in a large bowl. Gently stir in jar contents. Spread in prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.

40 Home Made Christmas Gift Ideas ~ For Men

Laptop, iPad, and Kindle Cases

clip_image001{Just change the color of the fabric for a dude}

1. Padded iPad Case Tutorial – For the person that has everything (aka an iPad or iPad2) this cute case is the perfect gift to complement their new toy. A great tutorial with lots of pictures.

2. Laptop/Kindle/iPad Sleeve Tutorial – This pattern can be made for any size laptop, Kindle, or I-Pad by adjusting the measurements accordingly. Lindsay also gives suggestions for making a more “manly” if you are giving it to a guy.

3. Treadmill iPod Holder – Speaking as a person who has knocked my ipod off the treadmill, I think this is genius! A perfect gift for the man in your life who is trying to exercise more.

4. Travel Organizer Tutorial – This travel organizer will help them keep their documents organized and easy to find. The people behind them in the security line will appreciate it.

Gifts of Comfort


5. How To Make a Remote Caddy - Here is to wishing the new homeowners never lose their TV remote. This detailed sewing tutorial will show you how to make a remote caddy to help that dream become a reality.


6. Laptop Lap Desk Tutorial - This laptop lap desk is ideal for the avid laptop user. It will prevent you from getting those pesky burns on you legs when your computer heats up, plus there is a handy chalkboard for jotting down notes. (You can also place a notepad there if you prefer.)

7. A MP3 Player Pocket Pillowcase – it is exactly what it sounds like. There is a pocket with strap to hold an MP3 player while napping or relaxing. Keeps that MP3 player right where you want it.

8. Ice Hockey Quilt - Such a fun and original quilt idea for the ultimate hockey fan!


9. Aromatic Heat Pack Belt - A stay-put heat pack pillow with case and belt is the perfect get well gift for someone you know who is feeling a little under the weather. If the heat pack doesn’t make them feel better, knowing you care will.

10. Homemade Heating Packs With Lavender – This simple sewing project makes a useful get well gift, and you can customize it with your choice of aromatherapy for a little extra indulgence. My preference is lavender, but you can also add mint, eucalyptus, or cloves.

11. A Hot/Cold Neck Wrap is the perfect gift for any dad, grandpa, or husband out there. Wouldn’t your dad/husband love to have a cold wrap around their neck after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day or a warm wrap for those aching muscles?!

Grill & BBQ


12. BBQ Worthy Hanging Towels – Make your honey some manly towels that he can use for the BBQ and keep your kitchen one’s clean. {snicker}

13. Grillin’ Towel Tutorial – Use this tutorial to make a grill towel Dad will love…perfect Father’s Day gift! There are five styles in all. All come with the man-stamp-of-approval.

How To Make Cuff Links


14. Monogramed Cufflinks – Turn a pair of thrift store cuff links into a personalized, monogram set for Dad this fathers day.

15. Custom Cuff Links - Use Dad’s favorite picture of his little ones to make these personalized cuff links. I am sure Grandpa would love a pair of his own too.

Tie Craft Ideas


16. Tie Napkins - A funny handmade gift for dad or a cute bib napkin for everyone to use at your Father’s Day dinner. This simple applique can be tackled by even a beginning sewer.

17. Dad’s Tie Gadget Case Tutorial - Turn one of Dad’s old ties into a handy and fashionable gadget case. This free downloadable tutorial will show you how to transform a tie into a cover for some of Dad’s favorite gadgets.

For The Office


18. ‘My Hero’ Scrabble Frame - Edit photos of your kids to black and whitefor the background and then search for sayings out scrabble tiles.


19. Framed Family Handprints – Get the whole family in on the crafting action this Father’s Day. Have each family member trace their hand on coordinating patterned paper and frame it for a keepsake Dad will love on Father’s Day and all year long.

20. Creative Dad’s Day Decor Frame - You’ll use an old shirt of Hub Dub’s, a Dollar Store picture frame, and iron-on leftovers, a white buttoned up shirt, and an old tie.

21. Photo Coasters Tutorial - These photos coasters are any easy, fun and affordable gift. Great for grandparents who are always looking for a new way to show off photos of the grandkids.

22. Digital Photo Frame Makeover – Love the idea of a digital photo frame but want to make it match your man’s personality, follow the tutorial but put your own twist on it.


23. How to Make a Tissue Photo Globe – Jen made this globe for her husband’s 40th birthday, covering it with photos of the past 40 years. This would be a great anniversary, mother’s day or father’s day gift.

24. Star Desktop Calendar With Photos - A fun and useful gift that the man in your life can use all year long.

25. Soda Can Coaster Tutorial - You’ve seen the soda can flowers, right? Now you can take your pop cans to the next level with these fun coasters. A great way to add a splash of color to any family room, patio or office.


26. Wine Cork Monograms – Turn old wine corks into a beautiful monogram that can be hung on the wall for show or to be used as a message board.

Free Printables


27. Dad Subway Art: 2 Designs – 17 Color Choices – most of us have a father figure, whether it’s our Dad, Grandpa, or someone else we are close to that we can look to as an example for direction and guidance in our lives–like a compass.

28. This subway art style printable for Dad can be framed as a gift, printed out to use on a card, or incorporated into your centerpiece for Father’s Day dinner.

Just For Fun


29. Golf Club Head Cover – These golf club head covers would make a perfect Father’s Day gift, or birthday/Christmas gift for the avid golfer. I love the vintage look these have.


30. Lens Camera Pal – Photography is a booming business right now. If you have a friend who is just starting out, consider making them one of the Camera Lens Pals, especially if they are into photographing children. It will prove to be a thoughtful and useful gift.

31. Photo Blocks PuzzleSo, I’m not going to lie to you….even though this is a pretty easy craft, it will eat up some time just because you are doing six sides.

32. Father’s Day Photo Coffee Sleeve Tutorial – Help the Dad in your life wear his heart on his sleeve- coffee sleeve, that is! Now when Dad’s at work he can warm his hand and his heart every time he takes a sip!

33. Giant Jenga - Use scrap pieces of wood to create a giant Jenga game to play with Dad on Father’s Day.

Meaningful Gifts


34. 10 Things I Heart About You {printbales} – This is an easy and inexpensive to make and is full of sentimentality. Kim also links to her free printable arrows you can use for your book cover.


35. DIY Catalog of Love - Inspired by library catalog cards, she decided to replace the book numbers with important dates in their relationship, book titles with “chapters” of their life together, and publisher locations with places that are important to them. the best part? each year they plan to add memories to their library card box.

36. Thoughtful Gift To Men: Peace of Mind - Make a list of all the things you nag you man about and do them. Thereby giving him: Peace Of Mind. To convey it all, I created a stack of cards in a paper box. The images that follow take you through the entire gift.


37. Explosion Photo Box – It is just packed full of pictures but looks stylish just as a box. So here are the instructions to make this awesome box.

38. Pocket Watch Photo Album Tutorial – Turn a pocket watch into an accordion style photo album. What a great gift for grandparents, especially with Father’s Day right around the corner.

39. 10 Things I Love About You Tin - A tin, some mod podge and print some mini photos and you have a fantastic gift and card all rolled into one.

40. Here are 30 frugal gift ideas to show you appreciate someone. What do you get someone if you want to show you appreciate them, but if you don’t have a lot of money to spend?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Gifts on a shoestring budget


3 make it at home Spa gift ideas!

Peppermint Cocoa Body Scrub

I love this easy-to-make body scrub because it smells amazing, rejuvenates dry winter skin and makes a perfect holiday gift.


  • 4 Tbs. honey
  • 6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping teaspoons cocoa
  • 1/2 c. sugar in the raw
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 6-10 Tbs. water
  • 6-10 drops peppermint essential oil


Mix the honey, olive oil and cocoa in a small bowl until thoroughly blended. In a larger bowl, blend the raw and granulated sugar together. Add the cocoa mixture to the sugar and mix well. Add water to get desired consistency. Add peppermint oil to desired scent.

In a warm shower, apply a small amount of mixture to the body. Scrub gently in circular motions. Rinse. Lightly pat the skin dry and follow with your favorite skin moisturizer to enhance the benefits.

The recipe yields approximately 1 1/3 cups of scrub. Package the scrub in small tin, glass, or plastic containers with lids. You can place a clear label with instructions for use on the outside of the container. Use ribbon, an old-fashioned peppermint stick, or a sprig of fresh holly for embellishment.



Grapefruit Exfoliating Paste

Increase circulation and polish the skin with this fresh-and-fruity body scrub .


  • 1 1/2 ounces almond oil
  • 25 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 14 drops tangerine essential oil
  • 10 drops lime essential oil
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil
  • 3 ounces coarse sea salt


  1. Combine almond oil and essential oils in a glass jar and shake well.
  2. Pour the mixture into a bowl and slowly add sea salts. Stir the mixture until a thick paste forms, let sit for one hour, then pour it into a clean glass jar.
  3. Once a week, vigorously massage the scrub over the entire body, then rinse.



Firming Coffee Body Scrub

The scrub is gentle enough for everyday use and leaves skin silky smooth.

Renowned as an anti-cellulite agent, coffee detoxifies and tightens the skin; the ground beans can also exfoliate, reduce fine lines, and fend off acne. I use sugar and coconut in the following coffee-based body scrub for extra scouring power, along with macadamia or olive oil for deep hydration and a rejuvenating essential oil to help wake up the senses.

The scrub is gentle enough for everyday use and leaves skin silky smooth.


  • 1½ cups cane sugar
  • ¼ cup ground coffee beans
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
  • ¾ cup macadamia nut oil or olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 3-5 drops essential oil of choice


  1. Mix sugar, ground coffee beans, coconut, and oil in a bowl until fully combined. Add honey followed by the essential oil.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a plastic container with a lid. (The scrub will keep for 1 to 2 weeks sealed at room temperature.)
  3. Rub a generous scoop of the scrub over your arms, legs, stomach, chest, and bottom, scrubbing medium to hard depending on your sensitivity. (Skin should be moist when applying the scrub.)
  4. Rinse off in the shower under warm to hot water, ensuring the sugar crystals disintegrate completely. Pat dry to allow the oils to soak into your soft, glowing skin.

Note: Those with very sensitive skin may wish to use pure cane sugar because it is less abrasive than raw.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Crack


I know there are probably lot of you out there who either need a really simple last minute gift, or who with the terrible economy want to make INEXPENSIVE gifts this year. This is one of the easiest, cheapest, and yet most impressive gourmet-ish gifts I've ever found. The friend who gave me the recipe called it Christmas Crack because it is addictive, it contains crackers, and you 'crack' it apart, but I've found this doesn't tell people much about it, so call it whatever you wish. It's basically chocolate covered toffee pieces, and it's made with things that are probably already in your kitchen.

1 sleeve saltine crackers
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (salted)
1 11.5 oz. package chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a 10" x 15" cookie sheet with foil (the kind of sheet that has raised edges!). Spray with Pam, or grease VERY lightly with butter OR line pan with tin foil and spray or grease the tin foil. Cover the cookie sheet with a single layer of saltines. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes stirring with a whisk.

*ALSO! If you have a candy thermometer, you can just continue to boil the caramel right in the pot up to 300 degrees and then pour it over the crackers. If you do it this way, you won't have to put it in the oven and will have greater control over the temperature of the sugar mixture and thus it's crackability!

Pour over the saltines, and try to spread it as evenly as possible. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes (Zen moment…watching through the oven door, watch the boiling mixture bubble up through the holes in the crackers). When you remove it, the caramel mixture will be molten and boiling; allow to cool about 3 min, or until you can see the crackers distinctly, which will have shifted while baking. Push them back into order with a fork or knife.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee and let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Once melted spread chocolate evenly. If desired, sprinkle on pecans (or nut of your choice. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts etc.) and press lightly into the chocolate.

* Let cool a bit and then transfer to fridge to harden.**
*Note #1 - I tend to sprinkle some big salt crystals on top, to oomph up the saltiness...
**Note#2 - Sometimes if it's really cold outside, I just put it on the table on my front porch for 20 minutes!

**Note#3 – If you substitute Graham crackers and almonds, you have Faux Almond Roca Candy!

**Note#4 – Pretzel sticks also make a great substitute for the crackers!

**Note#5 – Caramel chips are great sprinkled on top of the chocolate.

**Note#6 - "S'more" version. Instead of saltines, I used graham crackers and as a topping I used marshmallows shaped like snowmen. It tastes great but it’s a bit sticky.

Once hard, break the candy into small pieces and place in air tight containers. Store in the fridge until ready to enjoy.
I warn you, this is addictive to MAKE and to EAT, but go easy on it, as it is literally butter + sugar. I give it as gifts in tins to people I'm attempting to impress (in-laws, boss, etc.), and in gladware to everyone else who has already been impressed and is now just awaiting their yearly fix.

The Question of Crackers
Saltines (or soda crackers to our friends overseas), are the standard option, but this can be made with other things too. Some favorites are matzoh, club crackers, rice crackers (gluten free!) or graham crackers

Nuts and Alternate Toppings
This is also wonderful topped with almonds or walnuts! Or you can skip the nuts and top them with festive colored sprinkles! And be sure to try orange sprinkles at Halloween. Other topping options include crushed candy canes or marshmallows.
The Question of Butter
People have asked if margarine or vegan butter substitutes can work for this. I do not believe they will work the same way because the water to fat ratio in margarine is different than in butter. Besides, margarine is full of lots of not-so-good-for-you stuff. Don't believe me? Then check out noted food-scientist Alton Brown's thoughts on the subject in A Case for Butter. (Transcript can be found here: The Case for Butter) Be sure to check out the internet & your grocery store flyer for coupons for the butter. You'll find lots of them this time of year. And if you do find a good deal on it, stock up! Butter can be frozen until you're ready to use it! And finally, for those who have been taught to fear butter, remember, it is a "sometimes-food". Use the real thing, and enjoy it as a treat, not as its own food group.
*Oh, and don't try "whipped" butter, which has lots of air incorporated into it. The recipe calls for butter in stick form.
Toffee Troubleshooting
Over the years I've had a few people say that their batch of Crack came out soft & chewy instead of crunchy. I've never really had that problem happen, but just in case, here are a few notes others have posted in the thread since I originally put up the recipe.
The Question of Stirring
You must stir continuously while making toffee. This helps the candy to heat more evenly and also reduces the chance of the butter separating or sugar crystals forming. Stirring doesn't need to be vigorous stirring, just slow and steady should do.
Gritty Toffee?
Toffee gets gritty because the sugar has crystallized. Crystallization usually happens because you either let the temperature get too hot, or sugar crystals formed on the sides of the pan while you were cooking and then spread through the candy mixture like a chain reaction. While stirring your toffee mixture, stir steady and gently, trying not to splash the mixture up the sides of the pan. If some does get up there (it usually happens), just take a pastry brush and dip it in hot water, washing the sugar back down into the rest of the mixture.
If Your Butter is Separating Out
If your butter and sugar are separating, there could be a few reasons. Some of them are listed below:
-You didn't stir enough. Most toffee recipes call for constant stirring. If you don't keep the mixture moving, it can get too hot and the butter tends to separate.
-You stirred too quickly. (Not necessarily too much, just too fast.)
-Too hot and humid in the kitchen. If it's a hot and humid day, it's really not a good time for candy making.
-Rapid temperature changes. Start out melting your butter and sugar at a low/medium temperature. Don't raise the temperature abruptly. Using a heavy saucepan is safer because it conducts the heat better and more evenly than thin pan.
-Use salted butter, rather than unsalted. If you use unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp. of salt to help stabilize the mixture.
-If your butter starts to separate while cooking, remove it from the heat and stir it continually until it blends back together again. Don't stir too fast. You may splash yourself with hot butter, and it can also cause more separation. Gradually return to heat, stirring constantly.
-Make sure you put the butter in the pan before the sugar, and allow it melt a little, that way you will have a coating of butter on the bottom of the pan (the other way around the sugar can caramelize and not in a good way, before the butter gets in) melt them together gently at first, then raise the temp so it bubbles, 3 mins is fine, once the two have melted together, it will have lightened in color a bit when it is done.
- have the crackers ready to go, pour on the caramel and 5 mins in the oven (make sure you have had you oven pre-heated up to temperature), watch your oven, it could run a lot hotter than the temp on the dial...mine does, so I tend to watch it and pull it out when the caramel starts to darken...then toss on the choc chips and allow them a few minutes to melt, spread with a silicone spatula if you have your fingers that you do not burn them! (the caramel is hot!)

There are alternate versions of the recipe that call for 1 cup butter, 1 cup packed DARK brown sugar, 1 sleeve of saltines, 1 11 oz. bag chocolate chips & 1/2 cup chopped pecans. In small saucepan, place butter and brown sugar, heat to boil 4 minutes. Spread evenly over crackers. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bunny Shaped Cinnamon Rolls = Cinnabunnies


What do you get when you unroll a tube of Pillsbury Cinnabon® cinnamon rolls and shape them like bunnies? “Cinnabunnies!"


Easter is a fun time in my house because I love to get creative with the kids in the kitchen. Coloring Easter eggs and making special recipes is all part of getting the family together around the table. Cinnabunnies are something I came up with because my daughter is such a lover of cinnamon rolls. I enjoy unrolling those tubes and figuring out what cute little shapes I can make with them.

I start with a tube of Pillsbury Cinnabon® cinnamon rolls.


I usually buy the 8-count roll and make 4 bunnies. I use one roll for the body and then unroll another for the ears. Once you shape the ears, give them a good pinch to connect them to the head. I add raisins for the eyes and nose and two sliced almonds for the teeth. It’s very important to press the raisins and nuts into the dough so that they stay attached when the dough bakes and rises.



Once they are baked, let them cool. Then ice the ears and give them a sprinkle of sugar.


These silly little bunnies make everyone smile.



Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Tie-Dye Cake in a Jar



Take the classic colors of a rainbow, pastel them up slightly, and suddenly you have this springtime treat that is as pretty to look at as it is to eat. I thought it might be fun to add a tye-dyed look to this cake by more loosely layering the colors. Once cooked, the cake can be topped with a hefty dollop of white vanilla icing, or tintest a merry shade of yellow to finish off the treat.

Easter Tie-Dye Cake-in-a-Jar

1 box white cake mix made according to package instructions
Neon food coloring in pink, yellow, lime green, turquoise, and purple
3 one-pint canning jars
1 can vanilla frosting
Rainbow sprinkles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash and dry the inside of each canning jar. Spray the inside of each jar thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Scoop about 1/2 cups of cake batter into five small bowls. It doesn’t have to be perfect, don’t panic if you get a little more of less of one color than another. Tint each bowl of cake batter with about 4-6 drops of food coloring for a perfect pastel.

Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the blue batter into the bottom of each jar. Spoon equal amounts of then green, yellow, pink, and purple batters. Use a knife to gently swirl the colors together slightly. Place the jars in a shallow baking dish, add about 1/4″ in water in the baking dish. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Remove jars and allow to cool completely before scooping a small portion from the top of your cake and adding a hey dollop of vanilla buttercream to the top. Sprinkle & serve, or cover with a lid and store in the fridge or pop into the mail & surprise someone you love!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cadbury Creme Egg Ice Cream



Yowza. I made a version of this last year with homemade frozen custard and some additional mini chocolate easter egg candies -- and it was fantastic -- but the Cadbury creme flavor did not carry through. So, I decided to try a more direct version that is much simpler and you can quickly make at home (without an ice cream maker). The idea was to mix in the crushed Cadbury eggs in a cold bowl with your favorite flavored ice cream (sort of like those franchise places with the frozen marble). As you can see, we experimented with vanilla, but based on our findings other simple flavors would be just as tasty.
1 pint Vanilla Ice Cream (or FroYo)
3 Cadbury Creme Eggs
1 ceramic bowl (frozen for at least 1 hour)
2 wooden spoons
First, place a large ceramic bowl in the freezer for at least one hour. Remove from freezer and scoop out contents of ice cream pint. Place 3 cadbury eggs on top of the ice cream and start whacking with the wooden spoons.


Once the eggs have been mostly desecrated, start mixing and folding the ice cream until the chocolate is thoroughly mixed but you can still make out the yellow clumps of cream in the concoction. At this point, you may want to pop the bowl and it's contents back in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to prevent melting. Once the ice cream has firmed up, you can plate some in a bowl and store the rest in the empty pint container.
A friend of mine also pointed out that using a cracked egg on top of a single serving bowl of scooped icing would also be worth trying...



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cauliflower Soup


I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Come closer now…come closer. Lean in. Are you ready? I’m going to whisper. (I like soup.) Don’t tell anyone!

Okay, so I just made a big deal out of nothing. But the fact remains that I love soup, especially at this time of year. All those fresh vegetables right out of the garden (If you don't like cauliflower, make this soup with broccoli or corn....). Keep in mind that while this soup may appear to have a lot of steps, there’s nothing difficult about it. Just get your ingredients ready and it’ll be a cinch.

Here’s what you’ll need:
The Cast of Characters: Cauliflower, Carrot, Onion, Celery, Chicken Broth or Stock, Milk, Half & Half, Butter, Flour, Salt, Pepper, Sour Cream, and Parsley (fresh or dried).

Wash 1 to 2 heads of cauliflower, depending on how chunky you’d like the soup to be. I use about a head and 1/3 of another head.

Just whack the head in half and get rid of the hard inner core and green parts.

Then just roughly chop the cauliflower.

You could be meticulous and cut the cauliflower into neat little florets…but why?

Next, finely dice one carrot. I just cut strips in the carrot, then rotate the strips 90 degrees and finely dice.

I do the same to the celery: just cut it into strips, then dice.

Same goes with the onion: first cut lines/strips…


Then dice away!

Then say the following word: Mirepoix, pronounced “mi-reh-pwah.” That’s what this is, just a fancy French cooking name for a traditional French Trio of vegetables. If you are in Louisiana, the carrot would be replaced by bell pepper and called the "Holy Trinity".

Place a stock pot or dutch oven over medium high heat and melt 4 tablespoons butter in the pan. When the butter’s melted, throw in the onions.

Stir them around for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they get a little color.

Throw in the carrots and celery…

And stir it around for a minute or so.

Now just throw in the cauliflower. If it’s finely diced, it should measure to about 2 quarts. If it’s large and weird like mine, more like 3 quarts.

Stir it around to combine…

Next, and please don’t hate me, add 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, if you have it. PLEASE, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD AND YOU FIND YOURSELF LUCKY ENOUGH TO LIVE NEAR A SUPERMARKET THAT CARRIES FRESH PARSLEY, or if you grow it yourself...add it in.

If you don’t, however, use dried parsley flakes. In the end, you won’t even be able to tell.

Give it a good stir, reduce the heat to low…

And cover the pot. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice during the process.

When 15 minutes is over, pour in 2 quarts of chicken broth. If you have homemade stock in your freezer, go for it. If you don’t, buy it in the store. Just be sure to buy the low sodium variety so you’ll be able to control the salt content of the soup.

It’s all about control, people. Cauliflower and control.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and let the soup simmer.

While it’s simmering, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

In a separate bowl, pour 2 cups whole milk. I always use whole milk in soups because…well, because.

Add 6 tablespons flour to the milk…

Mix together with a whisk.

As soon as the butter in melted…

Pour the milk/flour mixture into the saucepan.

Stir to combine. Almost immediately, it’ll thicken into a nice white sauce.

Did you know you just made a white sauce? It’s true!

Well, I made it for you, but still. Your heart was in it.

Next, because the world is a crazy place, add 1 cup of half & half to the white sauce.

And now for the fun part: Pour the white sauce into the simmering soup mixture.

Yum. This SHORE smells good. Not that this smells like a beach or a siree! It smells like...heaven!

Now, just throw in a bay leaf or two.

And a little bit of salt. We’ll want to taste the soup before adding much salt, specially if you didn't listen to Momma Greenie and used full salted Broth...

Now just let the soup simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. It’ll fill your house with fanciful aromas and feelings.

Here’s my soup tureen. My old friend, Sissy, gave it to me when I got married and it made my heart go pitter-pat.

I love you, Sissy. Thank you for my soup tureen. It always make me think of you.

China check: Spode “Blue Italian”

Now, here’s the kicker: just before serving, throw 1 generous cup of sour cream into the serving bowl or tureen.

Add 2 to 3 ladles of hot soup into the serving bowl…

Give it a good stir, just to get the sour cream used to the soup.

Pour the rest of the soup into the serving bowl.

And let me tell you, if you don’t think this stuff is beyond yummy, you’ve got another thing comin’.

It makes me tingle. In a really, really good way.

And YOU can tingle, TOO! Just make this soup today.

Here’s the recipe:

Cauliflower Soup

1 stick butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 to 2 heads cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or dried parsley
2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth or stock
2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons flour
1 cup half & half
2 to 4 teaspoons salt, to taste
1 generous cup sour cream, at room temperature

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, or until it starts to turn brown. Add the carrots and celery and cook an addition couple of minutes. Add cauliflower and parsley and stir to combine. Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, pour in chicken stock or broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Mix the flour with the milk and whisk to combine. Add flour-milk mixture slowly to the butter, whisking constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup half & half.

Add mixture to the simmering soup. Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary.

Just before serving, place the sour cream in a serving bowl or soup tureen. Add two to three ladles of hot soup into the tureen and stir to combine with the sour cream. Pour in remaining soup and stir.

Serve immediately.

Oh! And one more thing:

Have a wonderful day!