Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Candle Wax Fortune Telling

See what the New Year has in store for you with a different take on fortune telling. Chop up a birthday candle and melt the pieces in a spoon over a flame.

Quickly pour the melted wax into a glass of ice cold water.

When the wax has cooled and hardened, remove it from the water. The shape of the hardened wax will foretell your future! What a fun activity to do at your New Year's Eve get-together.

I saw three different things in my wax shape.

1. A whale?
(WikiAnswers says whales are often seen to represent creativity and intuition in many Native American cultures. They can also symbolize death and rebirth, a regenerative cycle. They are viewed as being gentle, highly intelligent, and socially advanced)

2. A cat?
(Wiki says cats are known for their independence. They are often known as a symbol of meditation, mystery, and wisdom, such as in Good Fortune. Lastly, cats symbolize love. There is a myth that says black cats symbolize bad luck, and are the favorite pets of the witches. )(thank goodness I don't have a cat!)

3. A man's face?
My husband may not like this one.... unless some man is out there and going to leave me in his will... then he may be okay with it!

Semi-Homemade Doughnuts

These are the easiest doughnuts you will ever make! All it takes is some refrigerated biscuit dough and some cinnamon-sugar. You can make them in a pan of hot oil on your stove top (at least 2 inches of oil) but I usually use our deep fryer. If you don't have a small circle cutter, improvise! I used a medicine cup from children's medicine!


Refrigerated biscuit dough
Cinnamon sugar (or powdered sugar or even frosting)
Cooking oil (I usually just use Crisco when I deep fry)

What you do:

1. Open up the biscuit tube and spread out the biscuits.

2. Use a circle cutter to cut a circle out of the center of each biscuit.

3. Drop biscuits in hot oil. They poof up a bit, so just do a few at a time.

4. Don't go anywhere... these cook fast.

5. After a minute or two, flip the doughnut using a fork.

6. Allow the other side to cook for about a minute or until golden brown.

7. Remove from oil, quickly shake off any access oil and immediately roll doughnut in cinnamon sugar.

8. Try not to eat them all in one sitting. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

December Daring Bakers

Due to my son injuring his knee earlier this month, I was not able to complete the December Daring Bakers Challenge. I was hoping to get to it before posting day, however, his injury was severe enough where he was not able to bend his leg and couldn't walk or even sit in the car (and his bedroom has been temporarily set up in the living room!)

He's only five years old-- so I just couldn't catch a break to get away to even gather the ingredients for the challenge this month! But be sure to check out other Daring Baker's completed challenges.

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

Check out The Daring Bakers blogroll to see completed challenges. The results will have your mouth watering!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rudulph Reindeer Pretzels

Here is a new take on chocolate covered pretzels-- perfect treats for little ones to help make and gobble up for the holidays.

What you need:

Pretzel rods
Pretzel thins (classic size, not mini's)
Chocolate candy coating/almond bark
Red m&m's, regular size
Mini m&m's or other candy
Fruit roll-ups

What you do:

1. Melt chocolate in microwave (be careful to not overcook. If you need to thin your chocolate, use a teaspoon of shortening, NOT milk, butter or water)

2. Open and lay out all of the ingredients for as many reindeer as you will want to do. I started by placing the pretzel thins (classic) on a long stretch of wax paper, with about 3-4 inches in between each one. Also, I cut the fruit roll ups into strips that were about 1/2 inch by 6 inches (for the scarf).

3. One at a time, dip the pretzel rod into the melted chocolate, covering 3/4 of the rod. Place the tip of a dipped rod onto the pretzel thin. I also placed a pretzel thin at the bottom of the rod to make it level as the chocolate dried. (see picture)

4. Carefully maneuver the cut fruit-roll up strip and wrap around the bottom end of the chocolate to mimic a scarf.

5. Place a red m&m on the chocolate as a nose and two mini m&m's/candy as eyes to make the reindeer face.

6. Allow to dry completely before removing from waxed paper.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meringue Santa Hats

Look at these cute Santa Hats! They are a yummy treat if you like meringue cookies. I made some of these last year and my mom was so excited to see them as they were a cookie that she used to love to make and eat. They are easy to make and require only staple ingredients.


2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
Red colored sugar


1. Heat the oven to 200° F. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. Beating all the while, add the cream of tartar and vanilla extract, then slowly add the 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until the peaks stiffen.

2. Spoon the meringue into a quart-size plastic bag.

Snip off a corner and pipe 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch-tall Santa hat triangles onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (you should have about 1/4 of the meringue left).

3. Sprinkle the triangles with the red sugar, then use the remaining meringue to give each one a pom-pom and trim.

Bake the hats until they're hard but not browned, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the hats in it for an hour to crisp before removing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Creamy Caramels

Fourth times a charm, right? I burned the first three batches of this recipe for caramels but finally got it right the fourth time. I've had this recipe for years and have made it before and it always turned out great. I was afraid I was losing my mojo when each batch kept burning this year, but alas! I figured out my candy thermometer has died. Whew!

So hang in there with this recipe-- as my successful batch was made without a candy thermometer. Instead of going by temp, I went by time. But you can go by temp if you have a good candy thermometer-- they've always worked for me in the past.


2 sticks (1 cup) butter
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Place a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil inside a 9 inch square baker. Press to mold foil over bottom and up the sides. Grease foil with butter. Remove foil from baker; place on cutting board or other heat-resistant area.

2. In a medium to large saucepan (my first two batches were done in the 3 qt saucepan up in the picture and I don't think that was big enough so I used a larger one on my last batch), melt butter over low heat.

3. Turn heat off and add brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup. Mix thoroughly before turning heat back on. Make sure it is all incorporated nicely. Clip candy thermometer onto pan.

4. Cook over medium heat (I erred on the side of caution and went to a medium low), stirring almost constantly with a wood spoon until thermometer reaches 248°. This can take 25-35 minutes.

* Since my thermometer was broken, I never made it that far and that is why the first three batches burned. I finally just did my last batch by watching the time, and stirring almost constantly and pulled it from the heat at about 33 minutes. You can tell my the smell that it is at that done stage-- the smell will change (one of my first jobs was at Karmelkorn in the mall... I'll never forget that unique smell of doneness!).

*Caution* Mixture will be extremely hot!

5. Remove thermometer from pan and quickly stir in vanilla. It may bubble and sputter when you do this so be careful.

6. Quickly pour mixture into foil tray. Let stand until firm, about 4+ hours. Do not move tray. Do not refrigerate.

7. To cut, remove foil and place caramel on a cutting board. Use a knife to cut caramel into 1/2-inch squares. Wrap in wax paper.

** You can either butter the knife or run it under cold water (and then wipe dry) to cut the caramels with ease.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Easy Homemade Christmas Tree Ornaments

These are so easy to make and look so elegant. You can really make a bunch of them at a very low cost. I made these last year, so the picture isn't the greatest and I don't have "during" pictures. But it's pretty self-explanatory!

You will need:

empty clear glass ball ornaments
artificial snow
snowflake stickers
1 plastic straw
Funnel (optional)


1. Remove the lid from each ball ornament

2. Fill each ornament about 1/2 way to 3/4 way with the artificial snow. You can either use a funnel to get the snow in the ball, or you can angle cut the end of a straw to use as a little scoop for picking up the snow and then putting down into the mouth of the ornament to get the snow easily inside. (I found this easier than the funnel as the funnel gets a bit clogged).

3. Once you have your snow inside the ornament, put the silver cover back on (I use hot glue to seal mine so they don't ever slip off). Adhere your sticker on the outside of the ornament.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Frosted Sugar Cookies

Cookies and Christmas; Two things that go hand in hand in my family. It's become a tradition for my mom and my sisters and I to get together with all of our kiddies and spend an entire day devoted to Christmas Cookies. We used to make, bake and decorate all of our cookies together, but as our families have gotten larger, the time it took to get through making and baking and decorating nearly 20 dozen cookies started nudging into a second day... and perhaps even a third. We've adjusted our tradition accordingly and no longer make and bake together, and instead, we get together with our already baked cookies (and a few dozen of a few other kinds to swap) and devote the day to frosting the cookies. With 8 grandchildren and still close to 20 dozen cookies, it takes a good chunk of a day!

The recipe I use is the one that my mom has always made since the dawn of time. They melt in your mouth-- even if you are eating it straight from the freezer (is there any better way?). I think it's because they are made with powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. If you make these just once, I promise you'll never go back to other icky sugar cookie recipes.


1.5 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Stir dry ingredients together and blend in. Form dough into three or four balls and refrigerate about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375. Take out one ball of dough and keep the remaining balls in the refrigerator. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured pastry cloth. Cut with cookie cutter. (If you aren't going to frost the cookies after baking, sprinkle the cut outs with sugar before baking.

(tying a piece of red yarn around your head while making cut outs seems to be the trick for perfectly shaped cookies)

Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until delicately golden. Makes 5 dozen 2-2 1/2" cookies.

WATCH THE TIME ON THE COOKIES! They burn easily and the time really needs to be perfected.


2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk

Blend sugar with vanilla and milk until thin consistency.
This frosting sets up nicely so it sort of "dries" onto the cookie.
Decorate with sprinkles and candies.

Each year, the decorating begins with many eager bodies excited to create their own masterpieces...

... and ends with the adults at the table finishing up the decorating (and of course gabbing)...

... while the kids are off doing something else!

Merry Christmas! Time to start your own Christmas Cookie tradition!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Homemade Game Board

I made this game board for my parents for Christmas last year. I got the idea from Family Fun Magazine. The object of the game is to be the first to return home with a box full of treasures collected during a trip through old neighborhoods. But the race to win is only half the fun; the real entertainment is in the reminiscing as players relive family history

What you need:

An old game board (save the box)
Con-Tact paper, clear and white (or one with a subtle pattern)
Solid-colored wrapping paper (I
Glue stick
2- by 4-inch removable mailing labels
A trivia card
Electrical tape


1. Cover the top of the board with the white/subtle Con-Tact paper.
2. Create thirty 2- by 2-inch game spaces using a computer and removable mailing labels, cutting the 2- by 4-inch labels in half after printing them. See the complete list of game spaces below.
3. Affix the spaces evenly on the board, as shown.
4. To mark where the trivia cards are stacked during play, glue one of the cards to the board near the Home space, "Memory Lane" side up.
5. Seal the game board with clear Con-Tact paper.
7. Wrap the edges of the board with electrical tape.


The magic of Memory Lane resides in the appeal of the places you choose for the "Share a Memory spaces": a favorite family cottage by the ocean, an old movie theater in town, the neighborhood school -- any location that your kids love and that evokes memories. Our board has 18 "Share a Memory" spaces, including some showing former family homes. The remaining 12 slots are instructional and specialty spaces, specifically:

Pick a card (make 4)
Swipe! Take a treasure (from an opponent; make 3)
Pick a treasure (from the pile; make 2)
Go to your room! (and skip a turn; make 1)
Start (make 1)
Home (make 1)


Our game box was made by covering the old game box with the same contact paper and electrical tape used on the game board. I also just printed out the name of the game and adhered that to it as well.


Use a computer and printer to create 20 or so 3- by 5-inch cards with trivia questions on one side and "Memory Lane" on the other. We included some questions about current players, such as "Where (city or hospital) was the player to your left born?"; others that focused on interesting family history; and a few that required identifying baby pictures.


We used wooden cutouts (available in the wood section of craft stores) for our treasures. Each represents an important element of life: health (an apple), wealth (a car), happiness (a smiley face), knowledge (a bus), and relaxation (a ship). You'll need a set of treasures for each player. Our game has 4 sets.


Made from empty candy tins, our treasure boxes are just the right size for holding the treasures. To decorate the tins, I painted the tops solid red and you can add some color to the sides with electrical tape (slicing the tape along the openings after it was applied), then hot-glued a charm on each.


To complete the game, you'll need charms matching the ones glued to the treasure boxes to serve as game pieces (one for each player). You'll also need a die.


Each player chooses a game token and its matching empty treasure box. Roll the die to establish the order of play, then proceed around the board based on the roll of the die.

When you land on a space, follow the instructions. For instance, if you land on a "Share a Memory" space featuring your local library, you must tell a brief story about yourself at the library or share a related fact, such as the title of a favorite book. Some spaces reward you with a treasure; others require that you answer a question correctly to earn one.

Once you've collected all 5 treasures, you can turn up the path to Home. If someone takes a treasure from you before you arrive, however, you must go back around the board until your collection is again complete. The first player to roll the exact number to land on Home wins.

Here are the instructions you can copy and print:

Memory Lane

Object of the game:
Be the first player to collect all five treasures and make it Home.

Set up:
Each player chooses a game piece and a matching empty Treasure Chest. Place the game pieces at Start. Shuffle and place the Family Trivia cards face down on the game board. Set the Treasures off to the side of the board. Roll the die to determine the order of play: High roll goes first; play proceeds clockwise around the board.

How to play:

Each player rolls the die on his turn and moves around the board. More than one player can occupy the same space. When you land on a space, follow the instructions.

Share a Memory space: tell a brief story about yourself at the specific location or share a related fact (for instance, if it’s a library, the title of a favorite book.)
Family Trivia space: take the top card from the pile and have another player read the question aloud. If the trivia card requires identifying a picture, the player showing the card must cover up the answer
Treasure space: choose a missing treasure for your collection
Go To Your Room: miss your next turn
Swipe: take a treasure from another player

Once you’ve collected all 5 treasures, you can turn up the path to Home. If someone takes a treasure from you before you arrive, however, you must go back around the board until your collection is again complete.

The first player to roll the exact number to land on Home wins.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Teacher Gift Idea

My friend Suzi shared this cute idea with me. It's so simple to make and who wouldn't love a new whisk and some chocolate? Just fill a whisk with Hershey's Kisses and attach a note that says, "We whisk you a Merry Kissmas!"

I am pairing the Christmas whisk (say that 10 times fast) with a cute little Christmas cutting board and will use a cookie cutter as the bow on the outside of the gift!

My mom mentioned that you could also fill the whisk with popcorn kernels (in a bag?) and have the note say "Whisking you Happy Hullidays!" What are we going to do with all of these creative geniuses?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

November Daring Bakers-- Caramel Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

This months challenge was hosted by Dolores, Alex and Jenny. They chose a fabulous Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting recipe by Shuna Fish Lydon .

Be sure to check out all of the other Daring Bakers creations.

The rules were simple for this month- make the cake and the frosting. Plain and simple. Also, there was an added bonus, sort of like an "extra-credit" (that I flunked) of making, what I hear is, delicious Vanilla Caramels.

I did attempt the caramels, however, I'm not sure where, but somewhere I went terribly wrong. I researched and researched and researched where to find Golden Syrup in my part of town and finally found some almost an hour away from home (which of course, sparked an argument with my husband due to how far away I wanted to (and did!) drive for this syrup). After driving out to get it and paying $10 for two little cans of liquid sugar, fighting with my husband and making the caramels, imagine my disappointment when they were well overcooked and tasted like burnt toffee instead of melt-in-your-mouth-creamy caramels. (And the fact that they burned did not help my argument for why it would be worth driving many, many miles to get the magical Golden Syrup.)

Luckily the cake and frosting redeemed this months challenge. It is FABULOUS and I had absolutely no problems with the cake, frosting or the caramel syrup that you need to make prior to the actual cake.

The original instructions were a bit confusing since you really are allowed to cook-to-taste with the frosting, so I'll add my comments to the recipe with a different colored print. Oh, and I drizzled the remaining caramel syrup on some of the cupcakes---oh yeah, baby. Come to Mama...



10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
( I made 20 cupcakes)
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

4. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

5. Sift flour and baking powder

6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.)

7. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

8. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. (My cupcakes baked for about 20 minutes at 350° and I didn't rotate the pan)
9. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.



2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelizing process)

1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand.

2. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.

3. Turn on heat to highest flame.

4. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

5. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
(I had an oven mitt on my hand and held the lid to a pan as a "shield" as I poured the water in. It worked beautifully.)
6. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.



12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup (I didn't need this)
Kosher or sea salt to taste (I used about 3/4 of a teaspoon)

1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

2. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup (I only used cream and also vanilla, which I added here since it doesn't say when to add it!). Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Easy Thanksgiving Centerpiece

I don't think a centerpiece could be any easier than this-- spray paint some gourds with metallic gold paint and arrange on a cake stand. That's it. Done. Nothing else to it! I had the paint at home, and purchased two bags of gourds for 25¢ each. My entire centerpiece cost 50¢. Not bad!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pilgrim Napkin Rings

My good friend Candy made these napkin rings for her Thanksgiving table. I couldn't help but copy the idea! Hers turned out so much cuter (I wish she had a blog that I could link to so you could see for yourself) because she had "heads" that were a bit larger than what I have.

What you need:

Black paper or card stock
White paper
White paper doilies

What you do:

1. For each ring, first cut a 2- by 7-inch strip of black paper or card stock. Cut a white paper collar, as shown, and glue it in place. For womenfolk, glue a section of white paper doily over the collar, then glue the collar in place.

2. Create a hat from black and white paper, or a bonnet from a strip of white paper cut and formed as shown.

3. Glue or tape a photo of a guest to the hat or bonnet and then to a strip. Wrap the strip around a napkin and secure it with tape.

Candy said I could put a picture of hers on here... yay! Here is how hers turned out... so much better with bigger heads! (isn't her son cute?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I saw this idea from BHG.com. The picture is from their website. I plan on doing this for my kiddo's on the Thanksgiving table but wanted to post the picture now so that the idea is out there for anyone else that may want to dress up a glass for their child.

My kids love drinking from stemware-- they feel so grown up! Allow your kids to drink cider from a stemmed glass. Use pretty ribbon or velvet to attach a little reminder to it so that they know what to say when it's their turn to give thanks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pilgrims Hats

Just in time for Thanksgiving! A treat your little pilgrims will just love to make and gobble up! You can make them with either Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Mini's or with chocolate dipped marshmallows.

What you need:

Keebler Fudge Striped cookies
Orange Tic Tacs
Frosting (tinted yellow)
Reece's Peanut Butter Cup Mini's
Chocolate candy melts

What you do

1. Lay your fudge striped cookies so that the bottoms are faced up.

2. Place a dollop of yellow frosting on the top of an unwrapped peanut butter cup and turn the cup to be face down on the cookie, sandwiching the frosting between the cookie and the peanut butter cup. You want to be sure you put enough frosting on so that the frosting smooshes out when pressed to the cookie.

3. Place an orange Tic Tac on the cookie to represent a buckle on the hat.

If you prefer to make them with marshmallows, follow the same instructions but instead of using a peanut butter cup, use a marshmallow that has been dipped in the chocolate candy melts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Easy Cookie Cups

Want a treat to bring with you someplace but you don't have time to bake something from scratch? These cookie cups would be perfect! Their fancy look makes it appear as if you've been slaving in the kitchen for hours!


1 pkg. (18 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® (or Pillsbury) Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough
1 cup (6 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® SWIRLED™ Milk Chocolate & Caramel Morsels, any flavor


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 20 mini-muffin cups.

Place squares of dough into prepared muffin cups; press down to make a deep well.

Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are set. Remove from oven to wire rack(s).

While still warm, fill cookie cups with morsels. Morsels will soften and retain their shape. Cool completely. With tip of knife, remove cookie cups from muffin pan(s).

1 cup (6 oz.) NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE SWIRLED Milk Chocolate & Caramel, SWIRLED Real Semi-Sweet & White Chocolate, Semi-Sweet Chocolate and/or Milk Chocolate Morsels can be substituted for the SWIRLED Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Morsels.