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Archive for the ‘Cooking/Recipes’ Category

Ah, it’s that time of year, when the kids have a two hour delay from school and the streets are bone dry.  Is it just me, or did they only delay or cancel school when there was actual precipitation back in the olden days?  I guess that’s a side effect of a lawsuit-happy populace, but that’s a post for another day.  Today, we move on to more serious matters–the coveted Christy’s Peppermint Bark Recipe!

I know that the make-your-own theme of my recent posts (liquors and bath salts, what a combination!) may be getting old, especially if you prefer to buy it rather than make it.  I love to make things myself, but I just need to come up with the quickest and easiest way to get it done.  It has to be good, but it has to be fast, and even those of you who prefer to buy it can appreciate that!

Enter the peppermint bark recipe.  I have been making this stuff for at least five years and I’ve tweaked the original recipe to make it perfect (in my very humble opinion).  If you like milk chocolate with your peppermint, this isn’t the recipe.  I only like them together in my martinis–in my bark, I just want peppermint.

Here it is, with inappropriate editorial comments:

Christy’s Peppermint Bark

  • Wilton white candy melts (1 -14 oz. package).  I’ve experimented with all kinds of bark and white chocolate chips, and this is the best base for the bark.  I buy them at Wal-mart ($2.75 each at my store) or Hobby Lobby/Michael’s/ AC Moore (they go on sale for $2.50 around Christmas)
  • peppermint extract
  • red food coloring
  • crushed candy canes or peppermints (I prefer the candy canes; they’re more colorful, although it’s more of a pain to peel the suckers when the plastic sticks to your fingers!  Throw them in the food processor and chop them up.  Oh, and make sure you don’t buy the fruit-flavored Jolly Rancher ones by mistake.  I did that once and it tasted awful, of course.)

The first step is to keep calm and have a cocktail.  Wait, that’s not right!  The first step is to melt the candy melts (sorry for the redundancy of the word melts).

Melt the candy melts in the microwave according to the directions on the bag.  Be sure to use 50% power and stir frequently.

When they’re completely smooth, add 5-7 drops of red food coloring and 1-1/2 t. peppermint extract.  Stir to combine.

Pour into a jelly roll pan covered in aluminum foil and spread it out.  One batch covers about half of the jelly roll pan.

Now, sprinkle the crushed candy canes onto the top.  You may want to press them gently into the bark.

Let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours until hardened, then break into small pieces and put them in the cutest box, bag, or jar that you can find.  I normally use cellophane bags and I get two finished bags out of one 14 oz. package of candy melts.  These can keep several weeks at room temperature if the bag or container they’re in is sealed.  I’ve also frozen the finished product to keep it fresh and it freezes beautifully.

I went into SERIOUS peppermint bark production this year, turning out more than 30 bags.  Of course it has to be fast when you’re making that many!

If you’re just not that into peppermint, then check out Simply Sweet Home’s Holly Bloggy Christmas linky party–there are dozens of awesome recipes to choose from.  Enjoy!

 

 

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Amy and Terry are off on a Hobby Lobby field trip without me (not that I’m bitter or anything) and so I get to do the post today!  In all seriousness, I don’t begrudge them their trip.  They are in Virginia, after all, and I’m in North Carolina, and they have been LIVING WITHOUT A HOBBY LOBBY this whole time!  Can you believe that?  They’ve been so deprived…I assume they took the trailer to carry everything home from the new Hobby Lobby that just opened near them.

I wanted to do another post on quick and easy gift ideas.  If the Christmas cheer in a bottle (a.k.a. homemade liquor) post wasn’t your style, here’s one on easy, homemade ginger and lavender bath salts.  These are great teacher gifts or stocking stuffers, and you can use them throughout the year as a simple birthday gift, too.  They’re inexpensive–always a plus–and easy to dress up with packaging ideas (more on that later).

Let’s get started: simply mix in large bowl 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of Epsom salts (buy these in the pharmacy section), and 2 tablespoons of ground ginger.  If you want lavender, then omit the ginger and add about 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil.  Mix thoroughly and package it up–that’s it!  Some people add colored dye, but I’m not into adding artificial coloring unless it’s absolutely necessary.  Of course, you could substitute any essential oil that you prefer.  The possibilities are endless!  This makes one batch, and of course you can double, triple, quadruple it, etc etc.

Presentation is everything, so have fun packaging it up.  Pour it into cellophane bags, like the Wilton treat bags that you buy in the cake decorating section of the hobby store, or put it in a mason jar.  Tie it off with some ribbon or raffia, and use these Ginger Soak Printables if you’d like.  I print them on white card stock or whole sheet sticker paper, and cut them with a 3″ circle or scalloped punch.  If you find any old silver spoons at a flea markets or a yard sale, tie one to the jar (or bag) with the ribbon and it’s even cuter!

When it’s time to soak, the lucky recipient can throw in a few spoonfuls or the whole bag (depending on how bad her day was) and wash her troubles away.  Come to think of it, why not keep some in a cute vintage jar by your tub?

This seemed like a great idea to share on The Shabby Nest’s Frugal Friday linky party…wow, there are some awesome ideas over there, so take a look!

 

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Every December my neighbor hosts an amazing cookie exchange. I typically scramble to come up with an easy, but tasty treat to share as baking just isn’t my thing. Since we have to bake 8 dozen cookies, (yes, I said 8 dozen cookies), I am always searching for a baking shortcut. I found this cookie recipe on the Picky Palate (http://picky-palate.com) and since I LOVE cinnamon rolls, how could I go wrong with a cinnamon roll inspired sugar cookie. I will admit that I took a major shortcut as I bough pre-made sugar cookie dough- Bah! Humbug!!  I personally cannot tell the difference as they turned out pretty darn tasty in my opinion. I hope this quick and easy recipe helps you get to your next cookie exchange on time with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Cinnamon Roll Sugar Cookies

2 Cups sugar
1 Cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup sour cream
6 Cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

-OR-

Pre-packaged sugar cookie dough like I did:)

12 tablespoons softened butter, (slice 2 Tablespoons 6 times totaling 12 tablespoons)
1 1/2 Cups packed light brown sugar, divided into 1/4 Cups
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon, divided

Frosting
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk, to thin icing

1. In an electric or stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter. Add eggs, vanilla and sour cream until well combined. Slowly add in the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt until well combined.

2. In 2 batches, place in plastic wrap in a disc shape and chill for at least 2 hours for best results -Or- just roll out the store-bought dough and skip all the fuss.

3. Once chilled, cut each disc into thirds and roll into a 1/8 inch thick oval, about 12 inches X 5 inches.  Spread each rolled pieces of dough with 2 Tablespoons softened butter, 1/4 Cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Start rolling from the long end closest to you, rolling into a log shape.  Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch pieces of dough then placing onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from baking sheet.

4.  To prepare frosting, beat the cream cheese until softened and smooth, slowly add powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency.  Frost cookies then place in refrigerator until ready to serve.  These are 100 times better chilled, trust me!!

Makes at least 6 dozen

This recipe is courtesy of: Picky Palate (http://picky-palate.com)

Roll out the dough into a large oval shape

I cannot believe I am typing this part as I always try to eat healthy but it is the holidays,  right?

Spread softened butter on top of dough

Cover the top with brown sugar, cinnamon,  and a bit of sugar (Yum!)

Roll the dough up in Parchment or wax paper, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours

Slice them evenly and place on a lined cookie sheet

Baking in the oven (the entire house smells like cinnamon rolls)

Umm ,Umm, Good~

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If you’re like me, this is the time of year when you need a hostess gift several times a week, as you trot out to one cocktail party after another.  Or, perhaps the in-laws are arriving for an extended holiday visit and you feel the need to premedicate!  Regardless of the occasion, we have three awesome recipes that will have you making your own holiday cheer in a bottle.  These have all been tested and approved by us, in a rigorous double-blind study with multiple repetitions, and we have deemed them perfect to make and serve to everyone on your gift list!

My personal favorite is this limoncello recipe at allrecipes.com, by Michele O’Sullivan.  I’ve made it many times, without tweaking it a bit (as some of the commenters have), and I love it.  The only drawback is that you have to zest TEN lemons to make a batch, so watch your nails and your knuckles and get to work!  Limoncello is great just to sip on its own, or mix it with some citrus vodka and a splash of sweet and sour mix for an awesome lemon martini.

Raspberry vodka, by the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, is as simple as washing fresh raspberries and dropping them into a liter of vodka to sit for at least a month.  There isn’t an online link to this recipe (probably because it’s so easy), but it’s in my copy of her Parties! cookbook that you can find here.  By the way, if you don’t own every single one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, then I highly recommend that you ask Santa for them–they are awesome.

For coffee lovers, kahlua is always a great liquor to make for the holidays.  My favorite recipe for kahlua is from my dear friend Candace, and I’ll post it below.  Be warned, though–the other two recipes are vodka based, but this one starts with Pure Grain Alcohol.  If you’ve never consumed PGA, it’s 190 proof and will knock you on your rear end for days if you’re not careful!  Also, I just read that for those of us in North Carolina, we can’t buy PGA at liquor stores anymore.  You can substitute with vodka without any repercussions, other than the fact that you’ll be able to have a second sip!

One thing you’ll want to remember is that all of these recipes take several weeks to make as the flavors need to blend.  You’ll want to get going on them soon if you intend to use them as holiday gifts.

The last part–but definitely the most fun–is to find cute bottles for your creations and package them up beautifully.  Thrift stores are usually a great place to start, although I’ve found good ones at Wal-mart, Pier 1, Trader Joe’s (I had to drink what was in them first–what a shame!), and TJ Maxx.  Amy was kind enough to make us drink tag printables.  I usually tie a couple of ribbons or some raffia around the bottle’s neck and then they’re ready to give away…or keep for yourself!

drink tag printables

Click Here for Printable

Here’s to holiday cheer!


Candace’s Holiday Kahlua

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee
  • 2-1/2 qt boiling water
  • 1 qt pure grain alcohol (this will probably be 2 bottles)
  • 1/4 cup pure vanilla extract or 2 madagascar vanilla beans

In a large bowl, combine sugar and coffee granules.  Slowly add boiling water, stirring with a whisk until completely dissolved.

Allow to cool completely (this is really important.  Walk away and come back in about 3-4 hours!).  Slowly, whisk in pure grain alcohol.  Slice open vanilla beans and scrape seeds into mixture, or pour in extract.  Whisk together.

Bottle and store in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks.

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