Thursday, December 29, 2011

Heath Bar Cake

This cake recipe is known as "The" Cake in my house. My oldest son requests this every time I am supposed to bring dessert to a gathering, and also for his birthday. Anytime I bring this to a gathering, I usually return with an empty pan. So if you are looking for a home run dessert, this is the cake for you!

Heath Bar Cake
1 package chocolate cake mix
Ingredients to make cake as indicated on box
1 container caramel sauce- found with the ice cream toppings, I like the one in a squeeze bottle best
1 tub Cool Whip, thawed
1 Heath Bar, a chocolate covered toffee bar
Bake cake according to package directions. Once you remove the cake from the oven, poke holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer, or some thin long object. Once you have enough holes, squeeze the caramel sauce all over the cake so that it can sink into all those holes that you have made. Let the cake cool completely. Once the cake is cool, spread with Cool Whip. Place your Heath bar in a zip lock baggie and then place that baggie into another baggie. Whack away at the candy bar until you have pulverized it into crumbly little bits. Sprinkle those bits all over the top of the cake. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pleated Apron with built in hot pads

I found this apron tutorial on Pinterest a few months ago, and I knew that I wanted to make several of these as Christmas presents this year. I found the tutorial to be very well written and the pictures helped when I was faced with trouble. This is a great project to make! I really liked the built in hot pads, because I am always setting mine down and loosing track of them when I need them!

 A big thanks to my wonderful apron models, Cathy and Megan!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas! God Bless you!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peppermint Thin Mints

The Thin Mint is the most popular cookie sold by the Girl Scouts. I have been guilty of buying these whenever I see a Girl Scout selling them. They are only sold once a year. But now, you can whip these treats up when you have a craving for a Thin Mint.
Peppermint Thin Mints
1 package almond bark
1 box Ritz crackers
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
Candy Canes, crushed
Melt the almond bark and stir in the extract. Dip each cracker in the chocolate and shake off the excess. Place on waxed paper, and sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. Allow to harden before you move them into your storage container. That is it, easy-peasy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Bliss Bars- a Starbucks knock off

I can remember the first time I had a Cranberry Bliss Bar from Starbucks. They are so good!  However, they are pricey. So instead of having sticker shock at Starbucks, you can whip these up at home and share them with your family as you wrap presents.

Cranberry Bliss Bars
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 oz. white chocolate, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 350°. Make cake by beating butter and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt. Beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. Mix in the cranberries and the white chocolate by hand. Pour into a greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Spread evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. Cool completely before frosting.

4 oz. cream cheese  (softened)
4 tsp. lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup diced dried cranberries
Combine all the above ingredients, except the cranberries. Mix until smooth. Spread over the cake. Sprinkle the cranberries on top of the frosting. Lastly, stir together the drizzled icing and drizzle on top of the cake.

Drizzled Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
Whisk together, and add more milk if needed to reach a thin consistency. Drizzle over cake. Allow cake to sit for several hours before you cut and serve. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Buckeyes

These little morsels remind me of a Reese's peanut butter cup.  Yummy! The hardest part about this treat is waiting for them to freeze!

Peanut Butter Buckeyes
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 package almond bark
Mix peanut butter, butter and sugar together. Use hands if needed. The dough should be thick and stiff, not crumbly or sticky. Roll into 1 inch balls and freeze until firm. Dip in melted almond bark and freeze until set.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Triple Ginger Bars

One of my favorite things in the world is ginger. Anytime I can add a little ginger to a recipe, I will. This recipe is one of my very favorite recipes. It has ginger in three forms, ground ginger, fresh ginger and crystallized ginger. Yum, yum and yum!

Triple Ginger Bars
1 package white cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger root
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp sugar
Heat oven to 350°. Grease bottom only of 13x9 inch baking dish. Mix cake mix, butter and eggs with spoon until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients, except sugar. Press dough in pan. Sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 18-23 minutes, or until the edges are a very light golden brown. Cool completely before cutting. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Saltine Toffee aka Christmas Crack

Times are hard. People are looking for ways to stretch every penny. This is a very inexpensive treat to make to take to your Christmas potluck lunch at work or to make for your neighbors. The base of this toffee is made out of Saltine crackers. They make a yummy salty counterpoint to the sugary toffee and chocolate layers.  This is so easy to throw together and as the name suggests, you won't be able to stop eating it- it is addictive!

Saltine Toffee aka Christmas Crack
1-2 sleeves saltine crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 12 oz. package chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with foil. Lay crackers out in a single layer. In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Stir often and bring to a full rolling boil for exactly 3 minutes. Pour over saltines and bake for 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top and spread them when they are soft and melty. Next, sprinkle the nuts evenly over the chocolate layer. Refrigerate for 2 hours and then break into pieces and store in an air tight container.

Simple Pretzel Turtles

I am on a roll with all my Christmas baking. These candies are a staple in my house. I started making these a few years ago, and now they make the "must have" Christmas baking list every year. They are a variation on the Chocolate Pretzel Bites. The strategy is the same, but you will need pecan halves and Rolo candies. Rolo candies are chocolate covered caramels and are quite delightful all by themselves, but when you melt them slightly on to a salty pretzel and press a pecan half on top, the yummy factor sky rockets!

Simple Pretzel Turtles
Small pretzels
Rolo candies
Pecan halves
Lay out the desired amount of pretzels on a baking sheet lined with foil. Unwrap as many Rolo candies as you have pretzels and place each one on the center of a pretzel. Place in a preheated 275° oven for 3 minutes. Immediately press a pecan half into each Rolo candy. Let the chocolate harden in a cool place, I just stick them in my cold garage for half an a hour or so. Enjoy! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate Pretzel Bites

These little bites are super easy to make when you are looking for a quick little treat. They look so festive when they are sitting on a cookie tray or when placed in bags and given as a small token of your appreciation to your child's guitar teacher, or basketball coach.

Chocolate Pretzel Bites
Small pretzels
Hershey Kisses
Holiday colored M&Ms
Lay the pretzels on a baking sheet that you have lined with foil. Place a single Hershey kiss on the center of the pretzel. Place in a preheated 275 ° oven for 3 minutes. Immediately press a single M&M in the center of the Hershey kiss. Chill until the chocolate has hardened

Oreo Truffles

A few years ago, I came across a delightful treat that I am going to share with you. Anytime you take the humble little Oreo cookie and turn it into something else, you will have a winner, every time! These little balls of delight are super easy to make, almost embarrassingly easy, but that doesn't stop me, and it should not stop you! They make a great addition to cookie plates that you give to your neighbors or as a take along to a Christmas party!

Oreo Truffle
1 package Double Stuff Oreos
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 package white almond bark- found near the chocolate chips
1/2 tsp mint extract
Place oreos in a food processor and crush them into fine crumbs. Place in mixing bowl, and stir the cream cheese and the extract. Roll into walnut sized balls and chill for 1 hour. Dip in melted almond bark. Chill and let the chocolate harden.

Here are a few variations that I made this year. They turned out really tasty!

These are Coconut Oreo Truffles- in place of the mint extract, add 1/2 tsp. coconut extract. Sprinkle toasted coconut on top after dipping the truffles into the chocolate.

These are the Orange Chocolate Oreo Truffles. In place of the mint extract you would substitute 1/2 tsp orange extract.
There are so many variations that I am sure you could dream up. These really tasted good. The orange and coconut flavors were not over powering. They were just right.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peppermint Cookies

This week I am going to be baking up a storm. I bought 5 boxes of butter at the store today. I have never done that before. I will be making dozens upon dozens of cookies.  This is one of the recipes that I will be making. It is a classic Christmas cookie studded with crushed candy canes.  Simple and lovely.

Peppermint Cookies
2/3 cup butter flavored shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup crushed candy canes
Cream shortening and sugars, beat in egg. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in the candy canes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until cookie edges just begin to brown.

*Just a quick note about the shortening, I have tried butter in the past,substituting it for the shortening, but the texture was off. The shortening produced a better cookie, at least my family thought so!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

My friend shared a wonderful soup recipe with me from Dinner's On Me. As usual, I changed it a little due to personal taste preferences and also because I forgot to get heavy cream from the store. I used half-and-half instead. I added more carrots and onion, and also a teaspoon of thyme. This soup is super comforting on a cold winter day!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cooked & shredded
1 (4.3 oz) box Rice-a-Roni Long Grain & Wild Rice (original flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and carrots and saute for 7-8 minutes. Add chicken broth, water and shredded chicken. Bring to a boil and add rice (save seasoning packet!). Cover pot and remove from heat.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the seasoning packet and stir to combine. Slowly add the flour (in 1/4 cup increments) to form a roux and continue to stir. Add salt and pepper. Whisk in heavy cream and milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Cook and continue to stir until thickened - about 5 minutes.
Return broth/rice mixture to the heat and add cream mixture. Cook over medium heat until rice is softened and soup is thickened and heated through, about 10-15 minutes.