‘Tis the Season(s)

I often wander into Whole Foods and peruse the aisles of down-to-earth, good-for-you products with their wholesome ingredients. The expansive variety of ready-to-eat items on the hot bar. The mingling of the kindred tree huggers…those of us who love to put good into our bodies and do good by Mother Earth.

I always get pizza and 2 cookies. It’s kind of like when I have Mexican. Three crunchy tacos; there’s really no point in looking at the menu. But, I digress…

But did you know that there was magic happening over in the seasoning section?

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I used to have this thing with always wanting one of those gourmet seasoning sets, but I didn’t particularly care for the one-flavor-fits-all packaging. There were always one or two seasonings that I really wanted to try, but didn’t want to waste money on the ones I didn’t think I’d want. Randomly, I found out that you can totally make your own seasoning set at Whole Foods!

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I know right!

So basically, it works like this:

1. Find a super cute container to put your seasoning into. This step is especially important if you’re giving this as a house warming gift… *hint, hint, wink, wink* And bring a mini funnel, if you have one. In retrospect, that would have been helpful…

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2. Take the containers to the counter to have them weighed. When you go to pay for the seasonings, they have to weigh the containers individually and this will ensure you don’t pay double for the container that you brought into the store. Think back to the science experiments in undergrad where you had to weigh each chemical so you didn’t mess up the whole assignment…

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3. Select your seasonings and fill your containers. The best part of being able to make your own seasoning gift set is that it can be super personalized for the lucky recipient!

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4. Checkout! The best part of this whole deal is that you get to sample some spices without breaking your budget. I think I love that part the most 🙂

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I decided to go with Orange Chipotle, Rosemary, Aegean and Yakima Applewood, Smoked Sea Salts. ‘Tis the seasons indeed!

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Does it sound good to you? Let me know in the comments for a chance to use these delicious seasonings in your next dish!

Make It Awesome!

Dreaming of a Wine Christmas

Christmas is just a few weeks away! Even though I’m really looking forward to eating myself senseless for Thanksgiving, I couldn’t wait to share this cute and SUPER easy idea with you!

I wandered into Dollar Tree (which is usually trouble in and of itself) and came across some really cute and shiny window clings. My next thought was literally “these would be so cute on a wine glass!”

And if you knew how insanely hectic the last few months have been, you wouldn’t question why every thought currently defaults to wine…

Snowflake Wine Glasses

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Supplies:

  • wine glasses
  • snowflake window clings
  • hot glue gun, E6000 or other adhesive
  • scissors

Instructions:

  1. Wash and dry the glasses. You want to make sure that you start with a clean work surface. The clings come in varying sizes, so it’s easy to match them up to the size of your glass.
  2. Remove the window cling from its backing and adhere to the wine glass. It has a sticky backing and that’s great for helping to position it.
  3. Use the hot glue gun (or other adhesive) to attach the main branches to the glass. This step is important because the clings are made to adhere to a flat surface and the glass is round. Unless you’ve found some weirdly amazing square glasses that have been hidden from me…

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4.  For the points that are still sticking out from the glass, use your scissors to trim a sliver out so that              the branch of the snowflake will lay flat against the glass. Glue into place.

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It’s seriously that simple! Just a few steps and you have beautiful holiday glassware to use at all of your parties!

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Just add a bottle of your favorite wine and some great company and you’re all set! Remember that when cleaning, make sure to hand wash them so that all of your (not too) hard work doesn’t disentigrate in the dishwasher.

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 Make It Awesome!

Making Dipped Christmas Cookies

Christmas is approaching swiftly!

We had a holiday party at the taekwondo school last weekend and I was supposed to make cupcakes. I was so physically exhausted that I could not stay up long enough to make them 😦 What I did do, was opt for a quicker, and easier, sweet option…

Dipped cookies!

While this seemed to be an easy task to me, some of my friends had either never heard of the techinique or thought it to be really complicated. I promise, it’s super easy! So if you have a holiday party coming up or need a last minute idea for dessert to take to a family dinner, check this out:

1. I went to the store and bought 2 bags of Chips Ahoy cookies. You can pretty much use any cookie you like, these were just ones I picked up because they were on sale 🙂

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2. Melt your chocolate or candy melts. I use a double broiler for the chocolate. If you’re using the candy melts, you can use a double broiler, but you can also use a bowl or other microwave safe container to melt them; follow packaging instuctions.

3. Dip your cookie in the chocolate (or candy melts.) There’s no real rhyme or reason to this step, just dip them in as much or as little chocolate as you like 🙂

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4. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. The wax paper will make it easier to remove the cookies when they’re ready to come out of the freezer. Decorate with sprinkles, jimmies, nuts, whatever. Do it at this stage so that they will be set in the chocolate. I mixed my red and green sprinkles in a bowl together so I wouldn’t have to do double duty trying to sprinkle them on individually.

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5. Freeze the cookies for 5 min. This will allow the chocolate to set. Remove from the sheets.

6. Package and deliver! If you’re going to store them in the refrigerator, make sure that you use cellophane or plastic packaging. If you don’t, the chocolate will sweat and then everything will be sticky and gross. Chocolate and water don’t like each other so much :/

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These are quick, fun, and easy for a holiday party…or any other event! You can make them in any color to fit any theme 🙂

I hope that you have a happy a safe holiday season!

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Independence Day Decor

July 4th is like…tomorrow!

Did you wait until the last minute to figure out decorations (like I usually do?) If so, I’ve got a quick and easy centerpiece for you to make. And the cost?

$5.

Yep…$5. Less if you already have some of the items laying around the house!

This is the centerpiece that I made for my Operation Shower event last weekend:

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These are the supplies you need to make it happen:

  • mini red and blue metal buckets (from Target) – $1 each
  • small flags, set of 3 (from Target) – $1
  • red and white ribbon (from Michael’s) – about $1 with coupon
  • white roses (from Dollar Tree) – on hand from a prior project, otherwise $1
  • stones or clear marbles (from Dollar Tree) – on hand from a prior project, otherwise $1
  • hot glue gun and sticks
  • patience and caution…they mean it when they say “hot glue”

Directions:

  • use the glue gun and line the bottom of one of the buckets with glue
  • put the other bucket on, end to end, let cool/dry
  • measure and cut a piece of ribbon, to hide the seams where the buckets meet, and glue on. Be careful with your fingers!
  • put the stones in the top side. Since these are open buckets, they’re interchangeable in how you want the colors to flow. Some of mine were red/blue and others were blue/red, to coordinate with the place settings on the tables. Adding the stones will weigh the centerpiece down and anchor the flowers and flags in place
  • place the flowers and flags in the stones

There you have it! Very quick and easy…and best of all, inexpensive! If you still need additional ideas for desserts and decor to make, check out my Pinterest board 🙂

This centerpiece can be used with any color combination and by using hot glue, you can take them apart to reuse the containers for another project!

Enjoy and Happy 4th of July!

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How To Make Valiant Cookies

For Father’s Day this year, I decided to make my dad some cookies. I didn’t want to do the traditional necktie or mustache  cookie…even though they’re adorable, I thought I’d go for something different and unique. I didn’t have the proper cutters, and me being a repeat winner of the Procrastinator of the Year award, I’d waited too late to order them in time for Dad’s Day. I was forced to dig around in the cookie cutters I already own and get creative…

So as the basis for my design is described in the card/topper that I made for dad:

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To get thoughts from my head into the oven, this is what I had to work with:

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A tie and a tulip. Can’t really say there’s a real valiant vibe to that, but we’re going with it…

So the first thing, roll out your cookie dough, and place the cutters. Not really any magic to it, but make sure that you have enough space on the bottom part of the tie to make your handle for the sword.

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To make the shield, the next step is to de-stem it…ie. cut off the part you won’t need. Simply using a non-serrated knife should be fine.

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Making the handle of the sword is a little more involved, but still not very complicated at all. I free-handed the design, but if you’re not comfy with that, using a ruler or template is cool too 🙂 Make sure that you cut out the space to reinsert the handle and that it fits properly so that your cookie will bake together and close the gaps. If you reassemble the sword on your parchment paper before trying to move it, it will certainly save you some frustration…

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Bake your cookies according to the directions for the recipe you’re using and let them cool completely before decorating.

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Most decorators will tell you to wait a day so that the oils don’t leach into the icing, but I’m certain that they don’t have nearly as many Procrastinator of the Year awards as myself, so 30 min later…

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Depending upon the consistency of your icing, you can outline and flood at the same time, which is what I choose to do…you know, with it being the Saturday afternoon before Father’s Day and all… I did the same technique when making the shields. I got so giddy coloring in the shield/rushed for time that I forgot to take pictures of these steps, but here’s the outline that I started with:

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The one on the right reminded me of a police badge

Before the handle on the sword dried completely, I thought it would be fancy to add some pearl inlay:

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While that was drying, I decided that I wanted to make an ornate emblem to put on the shield. I’m not that good of an artist so I have to compensate and get creative in that area too. My dad’s zodiac sign is Leo, so I thought. “Man, I’m gonna make a lion to put on his shield!” I found an image online, re-sized it to an inch to fit the shield and used my tracing prowess, a #1 and #2 tip and went to town!

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Despite the perceived awesomeness of my idea, I have to be honest and say this next step was a pain in the butt! Transferring a 1″ piece of really delicate sugar is not the most fun process on the planet. I’m sure there are worse things, but after breaking this thing twice, it’s highly debatable. Carefully lift the image from the wax paper and place it gently on the shield. Try really hard not to swear if, and when, it comes apart. Use some wet icing to fix it to the shield and let it dry.

If you’re doing the tracing technique, make sure that you use plenty of shortening on your wax paper so that the design can be more easily peeled/slid off onto wherever it’s final destination happens to be. To get the shimmer, I just brushed them with luster dust.

So after all is said and done, I made my dad’s Father’s Day cookies and he loved them! It was amazing to see his reaction and then watch him devour them, just after stating that they were too pretty to eat. In all honesty, I might have been slightly offended if he didn’t eat them!

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In retrospect, I think this would be a really cool technique to make shield for other themed parties…Princess Merida from Brave was just crowned as the 11th Disney Princess, so it may come in handy one day!

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Sapphire Blingin’-What I Learned

So for Mother’s Day, I did a dessert table with the theme “A Mother is a True Gem.” I thought it turned out pretty nicely…I really liked the rich blue hues.

For the cake, I decided to make sapphire candy to adorn the cake and it looked a little royal, no?

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About those candy jewels…

All that glitters isn’t gold, nor is it always the easiest task in the world…

I found this awesome tutorial over at Chica and Jo that took a pretty thorough approach to the task. As with any project, make sure to read all of the directions before proceeding. Especially the calibration step…it’ll save you a lot of headaches in the end.

There’s a particular passage in the tutorial that states, “Just pour the sugar slowly and carefully into the molds, taking care not to overfill them. Do your absolute best to not leave huge puddles or trails of sugar between the pieces, because they will be nearly impossible to remove later.”

Correct and correct!

See that? Beautimous!

photos courtesy of Chica and Jo's tutorial

photos courtesy of Chica and Jo’s tutorial

What you don’t see is reality. Well, at least my reality. What the tutorial fails to mention is that the hot, molten, sugar lava will be trying to escape from itself into the cool embrace of the greased up candy mold. This is what will happen:

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not the nicest words were exchanged here…

I quickly figured out that this was fixable. Maybe not the most efficient task, but fixable.

First things first, this stuff is hot. If you can’t take the heat, well, don’t try this in the kitchen.

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Simply take a sharp, non-serrated kitchen knife and clean the edges off of the mold. Remember, the stuff is hot to the touch, but be aware that it will cool very quickly once it’s in the mold. Work quickly and efficiently! If when removing the excess, the entire piece starts to come out of the mold, you’ll either need to leave it alone or sacrifice it to your stomach gods once the mold is cooled and set.

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What about the cup full of hot, molten, sugar lava? If you have to work on cleaning every mold (like moi…) it’ll take some time. In the middle of the candy cleaning, the sugar mixture will cool off, but that’s why microwaves were invented! Probably, maybe? Anyway, depending upon the wattage of your microwave, pop the glass back in for about 30 sec to 1 min. If you don’t mind having the color of your gems differing a very slight shade or two, it’s great for working slowly.

Honestly, no one notices the difference in color when they’re devouring them 🙂

Another thing…remember seeing those faint strings of candy between the gem cavities from the original tutorial pictures? That will happen too, but again, no big deal! You can fix it in a snap!

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Literally…fix it with a simple snap!

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Be sure to check back with Chica and Jo for the original tutorial…it’s actually pretty sweet and I’ll definitely be using their method again in the future. I hope these hints were helpful and will keep the kitchen niceties flowing 🙂

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