Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

We pray that you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you a very happy New Year!  We look foward to sharing recipes and crafts with you during 2012!
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Peppermint Candy Tray

Posted by Lori:

I saw this photo on a Facebook friends' page and asked to share it and the recipe with you as a final before Christmas post.  She saw this idea on a blog.  Isn't it neat? 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Unwrap peppermint candies.  Put parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Make your design and leave a little bit of space between candies.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack - peel off paper!  It will be glossy and not sticky!  You can only put cool or room temperature items on the candy tray.

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Acrylic Photo Frame Craft

Posted by Lori:

It always seems that on the few weeks before Christmas we have a lot more craft "recipes" than food recipes, but we hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

These acrylic photo frames were my homemade gifts for my husband's side of the family this year.  They could easily be made to fit any holiday or celebration, but were especially fun to make for Christmas.  In fact, I got so carried away with making them that I have quite a few left over to give to others!

I used 5 x 7 frames, which can be vertical or horizontal.  Purchase 3D embellishments, ribbon, and background paper at a scrapbook supply store.  Cut paper to frame size and insert it into frame.  Add photo then or later.  Hot glue ribbon to frame where desired.  Be sure to leave an open space for photo to slide in.  The photo can be pushed to correct spot using a flat, thin piece of cardstock or tool that is small.  Add embellishments as desired.

Here are photos of my frames.  Photos will be inserted by those who received my homemade gifts.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Can Craft

Posted by Lori:
My daughter made one of these Santa Cans for the county fair in September.  It placed 1st, going on to the Oklahoma State Fair in Oklahoma City, where it won 3rd place in the 4-H metal craft division.  She used a smaller paint can from Michael's for the craft at that time.  

Last week my daughter decided to do these craft cans for all of her girl cousins.  She needed eight cans, but this time she couldn't find the small paint cans.  She decided to buy these candy containers at Hobby Lobby.  They were a little harder to do and needed two layers of the red duck tape to cover up the painted coating on the outside of the can.

Supplies needed for one can:
1 roll red duck tape covering bottom part of can
1 roll zebra duck tape for around the middle of the can...making Santa's belt
1 piece of metallic or glittered silver (or gold) paper cut into a square then cutting a smaller square out of the middle, making a buckle
1 white (some have silver strands in them, as well) boa or white fluffy trim
Red Ribbon
Brushed silver bells

Remove lid from can and set aside. Wrap can with red duck tape, wrapping twice if needed.  Place zebra duck tape around the middle of the can, making Santa's belt.  Glue on the belt's buckle using hot glue.   Hot glue the boa/trim around the top edge of the can (remember to have lid off and not to go too close to the top edge of the can.  Place lid on can.  Make two pieces of red thin ribbon and tie to two jingle bells. Secure the bells to the can by tying them on the can's handles.  Fill with your favorite goodies or leave empty and ready to fill as a gift for someone.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Homemade Christmas Gifts - #2

Posted by Lori:

Here are more from our family Christmas homemade gift tradition:
My mother-in-law made these cute shotgun shell Santas.
One of my sister-in-law's sews these neat t-shirt bags.  The bags are eventually going to be sold by her to help an organization called "Path of Hope Foundation".  Read the note below to see what this foundation does for young, needy girls in Central America.  When she gets her Etsy shop set up, I will have a link to it on my blog.
One of my brother-in-laws got into the homemade gift tradition this year with these nifty "survivor bracelets".  Each cord strand has 7 cords within it that can be used for many "survival" tasks.  How neat!
He even found a way to make this homemade gadget that helps him hold the cords while he is braiding the bracelets!  Look on YouTube for survival bracelet thingy :).....maybe!
One of my sister-in-laws was in Branson, so unable to participate in the homemade gift exchange, but we're looking forward to seeing what she finds for a "homemade" substitute!!

On this GRATITUESDAY, I am grateful for family.....for traditions.....and for homemade gifts made with loving hands....and for organizations such as the Path of Hope Foundation who are concerned with the needs of others.

I'm saving mine and my daughter's homemade gifts for separate posts that I'll share in the next few days.
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Homemade Christmas Gifts - #1

Posed by Lori:
Every year on my husband's side of the family, we do homemade gifts between each of the siblings.  Even some of the niece's are now getting into the "homemade" giving!  I'm posting a few of the homemade gifts today and then will do the others in my next post.
Framed burlap mat stamped with a "W".
Funny how this "homemade" ornament candle holder is packaged so neatly and has a nice little tag dangling from it!  Occasionally, one of the group opts for non-homemade gifts!  Still cute, though!
Glass ornaments with paint swirled around on the inside.  I made some of these years ago, but I really like how my niece used the larger glass balls and the ribbon to hang the ornament.  So cute!
Isn't this paper tree adorable!!???  One of my sister's-in-law saw it on Pinterest using ribbon, but she used paper.  I like the paper a lot!  It seems like it will stay "fluffier" with the paper, as long as I store it properly where it doesn't get smashed.

Remember.....I'll share the rest of the homemade gifts next time!
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Hugs Pretzels

Posted by Lori:
These look yummy!  Can't wait to try them!  I first saw these on Pinterest, then found them at the website below.
Photo and recipe from

2 bags of Hershey’s Hugs
1 “Pounder” bag of Pretzel SnapsBig baking sheet
Waxed paper – for easy removal

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Unwrap hugs. Line baking sheet with waxed paper – if you don’t have waxed, use parchment. If you don’t have either, just use a non-stickbaking sheet. Lay one pretzel down for every Hug and top each pretzel with a Hug. Pop in the oven for 2 minutes, just until they are glossy and softish. Remove from oven and let sit for 1 more minute, to continue the softening process. **This is the only step you can make a mistake on – by laving them in the oven too long they will completely melt and run through the pretzel and all over your sheet and you won’t have a sandwich, just a mess.  Now top each hug with another pretzel pushing down gently, so it sticks together. Pop the baking sheet in the fridge for 20-30 min. to cool them off or leave them at room temperature (it will just take longer).  Store in airtight container.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

20 Gifts to Give

Posted by Donna:

I received this through the mail yesterday. It was in the church bulletin we receive from one of the area congregations. I just loved it and decided to share it with you.

20 Gifts to Give

1. Mend a quarrel.
2. Seek out a forgotten friend.
3. Hug someone tightly and whisper "I love you."
4. Forgive an enemy.
5. Be gentle and patient with an angry person.
6. Express appreciation.
7. Gladden the heart of a child.
8. Find the time to keep a promise.
9. Make or bake something for someone else---anonymously.
10. Speak kindly to a stranger.
11. Enter into another's sorrow.
12. Smile. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.
13. Take a walk with a friend.
14. Kneel down and pat a dog.
15. Lessen your demands on others.
16. Apologize if you were wrong.
17. Turn off the television and talk.
18. Pray for someone who helped you when you hurt.
19. Give a soft answer even though you feel strongly.
20. Encourage an older person.

Charles Swindoll, "The Finishing Touch"

These are gifts we can give everyday of our lives. They're really simple, they don't cost us anything--but they mean everything to others. Plus, these are the gifts that are remembered years and years later. I hope you enjoyed the list as much as I did. Pin It Now!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies

*Note from Lori - This is a guest post from a professional chef.  Be sure to check out Joseph Morris' website listed at the bottom of this post!

Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread cookies are a wonderful holiday treat that many people look forward to this time of year. Unfortunately, those with gluten intolerances don’t get to enjoy traditional baked goods. However, here is a gluten-free gingerbread recipe that anyone will love.
The hardest thing about gluten-free baking is finding good flour. I’ve found that Bob's Red Mill Hazelnut Meal Flour works well and adds a little extra flavor to the gingerbread – you can look for it at your local health food store or online.

For sugar, coconut sugar seems to work well to me. You might also try Sucanut, which is a type of whole cane sugar with a higher glycemic index.

The dough seems to work best if it is refrigerated overnight. You could make the dough on Friday night after your children are in bed and then bake them on Saturday.

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups hazelnut meal flour 
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup softened organic butter
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 large organic egg
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the wet ingredients with an electric mixer. Then mix together the dry and wet ingredients. Separate the dough into three small balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
2. Once the dough is firm and chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lay out a large piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and lightly dust it with sweet rice flour. Take once piece of dough out of the fridge and roll it out to a little less than ¼ inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters, then peel away the dough around the shapes and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the dough. If you want to decorate your cookies, make sure they are completely cooled before you frost them.

Coconut Sugar Icing
1/2 cup powdered coconut sugar (The easiest way to make this is to put coconut sugar in a coffee grinder with a little bit of arrowroot)
2 to 3 teaspoons milk (or almond milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make the frosting, simply whisk together all the ingredients. You might also want to add food coloring if you like.
If you don’t want to use frosting, you can also use raisins, small nuts, organic sprinkles, or anything else you can think of to decorate your cookies. 

Joseph Morris has been a professional chef for over 20 years. He also owns the site Culinary Arts College for students interested in getting a degree in culinary arts.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Whipped Chocolate Gananche

Posted by Lori:

This is a great topping for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake I've been sharing with you in many steps. (I apologize that it's taking so long.  My families schedule has been crazy, and some things I'm having to let go and say no! Sometimes I have to say no to posting a recipe and opt to go to sleep earlier.)

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.  In a small bowl, toss the sugar with the cocoa and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer on high until the cream thickens and soft peaks just begin to form.  White the mixer is still running, add the sugar-cocoa mixture, then the vanilla.

2.  Continue beating just until the cream turns a light-chocolate color and stiff peaks form.  Watch carefully and don't over beat at the stage (the cream might curdle).  (((NOTE:  I think I beat it too long.  It didn't curdle, but went back to a more liquid-typed ganache.  Sooooooo, I added powdered sugar for it to become more icing consistency.))) Use immediately for frosting a cake or piping decorations or cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerate until ready to serve.  Best when used within 1 day.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"No Egg" Nog

Posted by Donna:

I found this egg nog recipe a couple of years ago in a Christmas Gooseberry Patch book. I've always wanted to try egg nog; but, because of the raw eggs, I never considered it. I decided to try this just for fun, and I actually liked it. Larry turned his nose up at it. The word "egg nog" turned him off immediately. If I'd said it was a vanilla milkshake, he would have thought it was good.

"No Egg" Nog

3 oz. pkg. vanilla instant pudding
1/3 cup sugar
8 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 to 1 tsp. nutmeg

Mix the first four ingredients until combined. Add desired amount of nutmeg. Serve chilled. Keeps well in refrigerator.

I hope this is something you may want to try during the holiday season. Pin It Now!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake

Posted by Lori:'s the best part of this many step recipe!  This cheesecake from the Junior's Cheesecake cookbook is really, really good.  At least two of my family members (Not my immediate family.  They are cheesecake snobs :).  Not really, but they don't like it at all!)  thought it was the best they had ever had....even better than Cheesecake Factory.  It is a great recipe! (Thanks, Junior's!)

For Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Layer:

Four 8-ounce packages cream cheese (not low or reduced fat), at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of one 9-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way up the sides.

Place one package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy for several minues, scraping down the bowl a couple of times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after adding each. Beat in the cream just until blended. Be careful not to overmix.

Spread half the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie crust (posted a few days ago.  Search "brownie crust). Using half of the 1 cup reserved cookie dough (Cookie dough recipe posted last week, as well.  On blog home page, search Chocolate Chip Cookies) , drop 1/2 teaspoonfuls on top of the filling.  Cover with the rest of the batter and drop the remaining 1/2 cup cookie dough on top, again in 1/2 teaspoonfuls.  Using a small spoon, gently push down the bits of dough, letting them peek through the batter a little.

Place the pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. (I recommend using an old or disposable pan because the wet aluminum foil will discolor your pan.) Bake the cake at 350 degrees until the edges are light golden brown and the top of the cake is slightly golden tan, about 1 1/4 hours (don't worry if it seems a little too browned.  Mine was and it was perfect.  The top will soften up with the added toppings.) Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and cool in the pan for 2 hours. (Just walk away.  Don't move it.)  Leave the cake in the pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate, preferably overnight or at least 4 hours.  Transfer to freezer for 1 hour.

NOTE: Tomorrow I'll post about removing and decorating the cheesecake.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Embroidery Hoop Craft

Posted by Donna:

This craft is about as simple as it gets. The hardest thing is choosing the fabric with all the cute choices out there. Lori and Kimberly took me to Fredericksburg a couple of years ago; so, that's where I picked up this fabric. I have these hanging in my kitchen. I also made Kimberly and Lori some as well. I've seen these made with Christmas prints to hang on Christmas trees and they're really cute. The vintage Christmas prints are great.

I thought I had posted about these before, but looked back at older posts and discovered I hadn't. They would make such cute gifts or stocking stuffings. The hoops can be found in all sorts of sizes.

I hope this gives you another gift idea. Pin It Now!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted by Lori:

This is step two in the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake.  It's a really, really good chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Junior's Cheesecakes cookbook.  Of course, this dough and the cookies can be made and eaten without having any part of a cheesecake, but it makes a special cheesecake even better.

Next week I will post the actual cheesecake layer, the icing layer, and the whipped topping....putting the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake all together!

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Junior's Cheesecakes Recipe)

2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 extra large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Combine both flours, the baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Cream the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 2 minutes.  With the mixer still running, gradually add both sugars, then the egg.  Continue beating until the mixture is creamy and light yellow, then beat in the vanilla.  With a wooden spoon, sire in the flour mixture just until mixed (don't overmix the batter or the cookies could become tough).  Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

 IF MAKING THIS RECIPE FOR THE CHEESECAKE:  Transfer 1 cup of the dough to a small bowl (to drop into the cheesecake batter).  The rest of the dough will be make into cookies later.  Refrigerate both portions of the dough.

IF MAKING INTO COOKIES:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment, or butter them.  Drop the dough by level teaspoonfuls onto the sheets, about 2 inches apart (you'll have about 50 small cookies about 1 1/2 inches in diameter).  Bake the cookies until golden and almost firm, 9 to 11 minutes (watch carefully and don't let them get too brown).  Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then slide them off the sheets onto a baking rack to cool.)

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Gifts

Posted by Lori:

Mom may have already posted about this in the past, but just in case she hasn't, I thought I would share. She did this for Kimberly and I several years ago. Since then, I've done it for a few family members. It's a lot of fun to put together and lots of fun for the recipient, as well!
Gather up 12 presents - small, large, anything! Some ideas are Christmas tissues, decorative towels, mug with hot chocolate mix, gift cards, books, socks, kitchen items, just to name a few.  This niece-in-law is expecting so it was even more fun throwing in a few special surprises for my expected great niece who will be here in the spring!  Wrap up each present, individually and place them in a large box.
Attach a note or a little poem describing how the recipient should open one package every day.  Sorry this is sideways.  I can't get it to change!
Now, wrap up the big box, attach the instructions with a bow, and deliver your package to your special person!  You could wait and do this for the 12 days right before Christmas, but for me, it's just too hard to wait!  I always do it from December 1st - 12th.

Merry Christmas to YOU!
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brownie Shortbread Cookie Crust for Cheesecakes

Posted by Lori:

Each year for Thanksgiving on my husband's side of the family, I make a cheesecake.  While I've hardly met a cheesecake I didn't like, there are definitely some that are much better than others.  This year's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake is definitely a keeper.  I'll share it with you in four different recipes - four different days. 

Today, for the first day, I'll share the crust.  You could use any crust, but I prefer non-graham-cracker-type crusts.  This one was perfect in taste and texture.  It would be good with a lot of cheesecake fillings.  It's from a Junior's Cheesecakes cookbook.

Brownie Shortbread Cookie Crust for Cheesecakes
Makes one 9-inch crust

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 extra large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending all the way p the sides.  Mix the flour and salt together.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on high until creamy.  Blend in the egg yolk and vanilla, then the melted chocolate.  Reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour just until it disappears and a dough forms. 

Push the dough over the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula.  Flour your hands, then smooth out the dough evenly to the edge of the pan with your fingertips, working in a circular motion.  Don't press up the sides.

Bake the crust just until it's set and forms a light brown crust on top (don't overbake), about 15 minutes.  Leave the crust in the pan and transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.

I'll post the filling in a few days.
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