Friday, December 31, 2010

Gooey Caramel Popcorn

This is one of my family's favorite treats!  It is a great treat to serve while soft and warm, or to let cool and become a little more chewy.  Last night, my mom decided to try adding cashews in the mix, which you might try, but after eating, my father said, "it's not one of your most inspired ideas."  Let me know what additions or changes you try.  Maybe you will have an inspired idea...

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 -2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Large bowl of popcorn
Supplies
  • Medium Pot
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Large bowl
  • Small bowl filled with ice water
Directions
  1. Pop large bowl of popcorn
  2. Combine all ingredients except the popcorn and vanilla into the pot
  3. Heat on medium until mixture begins to boil
  4. Boil for about 5 minutes until you reach the soft ball stage
  5. To test for soft ball stage, drop a blob of the caramel into the ice water, let sit for a few seconds, then try to form into a ball (if you can form a soft ball, you are done)
  6. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir
  7. Pour over the popcorn and mix together, making sure you do not stir vigorously and burn yourself (it will seem like you do not have enough caramel at first, but keep stirring because you will have enough)
  8. Once all the popcorn is coated, dig in!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jessie's Fabric Flowers Head Band

My sister does not share my love of crafts.  Throughout our lives, when we've said, "let's craft," what we really meant was "why don't I [Malory] craft, while you [Brooke] keep me company."  When Brooke came home on Thanksgiving and showed me the headband she made, I knew this was a craft for everyone.  She shared with me that her boyfriend's sister, Jessie, taught her how to make these simple and cute headbands.  You can make them yourself, but it is much easier with a friend.  They are so easy to make, you will want to make a variety of colors and styles to complement your wardrobe, and give as gifts.

Materials/Supplies
  • 1 stretch headband (I like the ones with non-stick backing)
  • Felt (only enough for 3 small circles)
  • Fabric (3 colors, each needs one small circle and one strip about 22"x2")
  • Scissors
  • Iron & board
  • Low-melt glue gun
Directions
  1. Plug in the glue gun to begin heating
  2. Cut your fabric into three strips that are about 22"x2" (they do not have to be exact)
  3. Cut a circle out of each color of fabric--the circle should be about 1.75" in diameter
  4. Cut 3 circles of felt about 1.5" in diameter
  5. Using the iron, fold each strip of fabric into thirds "hot dog" style--right side out
  6. Begin twisting the end of one fabric strip
  7. At this point, you will want to grab your friend if you brought one (one person can coil, and one person can glue)
  8. Coil the end of fabric and glue down to the center of one fabric circle--right side down
  9. Continue to twist and coil--glue as you go
  10. If you coil all the way to the edge of the fabric circle and you still have more strip left, make sure the fabric circle is covered, then cut the rest of the strip and glue end down
  11. If you coil all of the strip, and you have not covered the entire fabric circle, trim the circle smaller
  12. Repeat with each color of fabric
  13. You should now have 3 complete fabric flowers
  14. Put a strip of glue on the back of one flower (center the strip, and make it only as wide as the felt circles)
  15. Glue the headband to the flower (make sure you put the outside of the headband into the glue)
  16. Smear glue all over one of the felt circles
  17. Glue the circle to the back of the flower sandwiching the headband between the felt and flower
  18. Repeat for each flower placing the flowers close together (the felt backs should touch one another, and the flowers should overlap slightly--when you wear the headband, it will stretch and flatten)
  19. Make more!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yummy Zucchini Cake

I think some people would call this "zucchini bread," but with how sweet and delicious this recipe is, I think it has to be considered cake.  This is by far my most popular cake recipe.  I recently made a batch of cupcakes with this recipe and one recipient said "I could just bathe in these cupcakes!"  Today I decided to make it in a bundt pan to look like a wreath for the holiday season, but it works as cupcakes or any other shape cake pan.

Ingredients
  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • Eggs and Baking Spray not pictured
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 Cup vegetable oil
  • 3 Cups grated zucchini
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
Supplies
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Electric mixer
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Sieve
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Fork
  • Bundt pan
  • Baker's spray (or Pam for Baking)
  • Cooling racks
  • Measuring utensils
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into medium mixing bowl
  3. Combine brown sugar and dry mixture in large mixing bowl--mix well
  4. Beat together the eggs and oil in the small mixing bowl
  5. Add egg and oil mixture to large mixing bowl--add vanilla while mixing these ingredients together (DO NOT OVER-MIX)
  6. Your batter at this point will be sort of stiff and sticky like a dough
  7. Add zucchini and mix until dispersed--the batter becomes much more moist and like a batter
  8. Spray pan with baking spray
  9. Pour batter into pan (use spatula to scrape out mixing bowl)
  10. Bake at 325 degrees F for 50 minutes
  11. After putting cake in oven, remove cream cheese and butter from fridge to soften
  12. Place pan on cooling rack for 15 minutes
  13. Turn cake out onto rack to finish cooling
  14. Cream together butter and cream cheese
  15. Add powdered sugar to frosting mixture and mix well
  16. Mix vanilla into frosting
  17. When cake is cool, serve with a dollop of frosting

Sunday, December 26, 2010

5 Minute Gift Card Holder

Despite my best intentions, I was too busy the last few days to post anything.  The day I made chocolate covered coconut almond clusters, my friend Barb showed me how to make this super simple gift card holder.  While the one pictured is for Christmas, it is really easy to customize for any occasion.

Supplies (enough for 2 holders)
  • 1 sheet 8.5x11" card stock
  • Decorative Paper
  • Colored Pens or Markers
  • You may wish to use stamps
  • Double-stick tape, adhesive, or glue
  • Scissors or paper cutter, you can use scalloped scissors
  • Ruler
Directions
  1. Cut the card stock in half "hot dog" style
  2. Fold the card stock (if it has a "right" side the first fold will be "right" side out) at 3"
  3. Fold the card stock the opposite direction ("right" side in) at 4"
  4. Fold the card stock opposite ("right" side out) at 5"
  5. Fold the card stock the same direction ("right" side out) at 8"
  6. Cut a slit in the paper at the 4" fold--make sure that you leave about 1/2 an inch on both sides of the slit
  7. Use your adhesive to secure the two sides of paper around the slit together (you will adhere the bottom, and the sides, but not the entire paper (your gift card will slide into the empty space)
  8. When you fold all the folds closed, you should have all "right" sides out
  9. Decorate any way you choose!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Covered Coconut Almond Clusters

Almond Joys are one of the candies that I discovered while in high school.  I love the different textures and flavors that make them so delicious.  A few months ago, my friend Barb wanted an Almond Joy Cake for her birthday.  What I created with her that day, became on of my favorite cakes to make (and eat).  I now use the filling to also make these delicious clusters that are a replica of the candy bar I love.

Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 Cups sweetened flake coconut
  • 1 Cup powdered sugar
  • 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips
  • 1 Cup whole almonds
Supplies
  • glass dish or bowl
  • Medium or large pot
  • Medium or large glass bowl
  • Fork
  • Toothpicks
  • Small melon baller
  • Metal whisk
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Mini muffin pan
  • Mini muffin liners
Directions
  1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into the glass dish
  2. Use the whisk to mix in the vanilla
  3. Adding 1/2 cup at a time, whisk the powdered sugar into the mixture
  4. Add the coconut to the mixture, and mix well
  5. Spread the mixture so that it is even throughout the dish
  6. Put dish in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour
  7. Cover the cookie sheet with parchment paper
  8. Remove the coconut mixture from the refrigerator, and scoop one scoop with the melon baller into your hands
  9. Form into a ball and set on the parchment paper
  10. Stick tray into refrigerator
  11. Fill mini muffin pan with liners
  12. Using the glass bowl, and pot, create a double-boiler (see instructions on White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn)
  13. Melt the milk chocolate completely
  14. Use a toothpick to dip each ball into the chocolate
  15. Use the fork to help transfer covered ball into muffin pan
  16. Place one almond on top of ball
  17. When you have covered all balls with chocolate, refrigerate for another hour
  18. Chocolate should set, and you should be ready to enjoy!


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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lisa's Beaded Snowflakes

Sorry this is late today.  My sister came in town last night, so we made these this morning.  My mom, Lisa, and her sister, Lori, designed these a few years ago.  Try different colors, styles, etc.  With a little adult supervision, and help, these are fun (mess-free) decorations that are fun for the whole family to make.  These make great ornaments, garland, or garnish on gifts!

Supplies
  • Variety of beads
  • 20 gage wire
  • Wire cutter
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Measuring tape/ruler
  • Maybe a hot glue gun
Instructions
  1. For each snowflake cut: one 5" wire, one 4" wire, two 3" wires
  2. Take the needle-nose pliers and bend one end of each wire into a small circle
  3. Thread the beads onto one wire.  I think that it looks nice when the beads mirror each other from the center.  The small wires look nice when they are similar to each other as well.
  4. Leaving about 1/2 inch of bare space in the middle of the wire, bend the straight edge of the wire into another small circle
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each wire
  6. Take the largest two wires (bend the largest wire around the other wire matching centers)
  7. You should now have a "t"
  8. Set one of the smaller wires at a diagonal to the "t"
  9. Take the last wire, place it at the opposite diagonal and twist it all the way around the center of the other wires
  10. If your snowflake is loose in the center, you can twist the two straight wires so that there is less room to wiggle
  11. If the snowflake is still loose in the center, use a small dab of hot glue to secure all wires