A Valentine Treat Recap

In our home, we love celebrating Valentine’s Day!  But not for the reasons that you think; if you missed yesterday’s posting, stop by and check it out.  In our home, the kids and I make the sweets instead of buying them – that is – unless I’m having a lazy type of holiday.  I had fun researching what types of projects I had worked on in the years past, and it made me appreciate why I keep my blog running, even if I don’t find enough time these days to do so.  This year, I believe I’m going to make scones and somehow dress them up to make it fitting for the day, but that remains to be seen on “how.”  Why scones?  Why not?  Actually, I made a batch for a group of people and the reviews came back that they were heavenly.  Some people even said they were the best scones they had ever had, so that must be saying something!  Truth be told, my family was so jealous when I walked out the door with this beautiful batch of scones, and didn’t even get one bite.  So I owe it to them to make a batch.

Enough rambling – break out the recap!!  Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!!

Goat Cheese TrufflesGoat Cheese Truffles – what better way to say, “hey honey, I love you, and I know you love goat cheese! And chocolate!”  True story, I made these for a dinner party, and found my husband eating the leftovers (straight from the bowl, not even rolled up!) and thought, hmmm, there must be something to these little devilishly amazing bites!  These chocolates keep you coming back for more.  Great for a “la-tee-da” type of person, or someone you just want to impress. 🙂  You’re welcome.

 

Red Velvet MadeleinesRed Velvet Madeleines – Need a Valentine Day breakfast that will impress?  Try these little delights!  Perfect compliment with a nice cup of tea, or hot chocolate.  You and your sweet other will enjoy this as a nice change of pace.  Also great for a dessert at the end of the day, especially after a heavy dinner.  Want to jazz it up?  Serve it with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

Chocolate Strawberry ShortcakeChocolate heart shortcakeChocolate Waffles with Strawberries – Seriously, words cannot describe how amazing this breakfast can be.  Or dinner, should you decide to mix it up.  I have two pictures here because I made it the shortcut method with pre-made chocolate waffles, while my lovely blogging friend in Oklahoma showed an even better way to make them if you have the time and equipment.  Here is her link to make her fancy waffles.

 

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries – a classic, and yet people still buy these rather than try to make them.  Friends, they are not difficult.  Plus your loved one will love you for trying to make them instead of buying them.  Trust me.  If you don’t believe me, look at who is making them in my pictures of that particular blog post.  My kids, when they were tiny!  Don’t like strawberries, roll some raspberries instead, they are a true delight as well.

 

Finished CakeHidden Hearts Cake – Remember when hiding pictures in a cake was all the rage?  Is it still a thing? I’m not sure, but it’s still fun to create, especially for your kids.  Enjoy the tale of my crazy adventure with making this cake. You will definitely get a laugh.

 

 

 

DIY Valentine Bracelet – This is a fun little project that you can create with the kids.  I definitely recommend following the instructions to make it work.  Seems simple enough, but can be a bit tricky if not careful.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Valentine Cake Pops – I have found myself rolling into a Starbucks buying my kids these sweet bites, and each time I think, “ridiculous what I am paying for these when I know how much it costs to make them!! TONS of them.”  Are they difficult to make? Not if you follow the rules.  And your freezer is your friend when it comes to setting up the cake with the frosting.  I recommend making a red velvet cake with a dark chocolate outer coating – the best!

That’s it for now!  You can search my site for more delights, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Christmas Wreath Tutorial

Christmas Wreath Tutorial

Good morning my friends!  I’ve been meaning to post this article for quite some time now on how to make a Christmas wreath, and though this may be a week before Christmas, you can still take part in this fun project.  Better yet, this is a simple enough of a project for you to teach your children.  I had the wonderful privilege of spending each Christmas season binding a wreath with my Dad, and I thank him today for this gift he has taught to me.  My kids have also learned, and I pray they teach their children one day as well.

Some of you have seen me hashtag #oldfashionedChristmas, and maybe you have picked up on why I have been doing this.  Each Christmas our family makes a point of picking out a live Christmas tree, stringing lights on the tree (VERY time consuming – and an art if you ask me.) We take time to decorate the tree.  We make several wreaths that go out to family members as a gift. We string lights on the outside of the house (family time.)  We decorate the inside of the house as a family.  We go see the tree lighting downtown Waxhaw – and also watched our daughter perform on stage with her dance group she is a part of.  We hit antique stores and see old Santa statues of years past.  It’s very nostalgic and wonderful, but more importantly, the common theme is TIME.  Our society runs fast and the season can truly get away from us if we’re not careful.  Even if you are thinking right now, oh.my.gosh. , I have let Christmas get away.  No you have not.  It’s a week away and you can make it a glorious week to remember – and the week after!  Today, have some fun, get your supplies for this project, and work together joyfully (as you get sap all over your hands) as a family learning a new craft.  Merry Christmas!

Christmas Wreath Making (craft gifted to me from Donald Gill – my father)

  • 18″ wire wreath ring (Michaels sells 3 different sizes)
  • green wire wrap
  • leftover greens cut from bottoms of Christmas trees (and you can add other types of greens too)
  • ribbon (or a pre-made bow)
  • pinecones
  • decorations to add to wreath (optional)
  • wire cutters
  • cutting plier to cut greens

Directions:

Step 1 –  Cut sections of green (with cutting pliers), making them 7-10 inch long.  Try to get both thick branches and small thin branch sections for variety. This is a messy job, “lotta sap in here!” I work in the garage or the back yard if nice outside to keep messes outside.

Cut Greens for wreath

 

Step 2- Set up work area to have sections of green that look nice together, ready to go so it’s faster to string.

Christmas Wreath Tutorial Sections

Step 3- Set wire ring out, and take green wire – wrap end of wire 3-4 times to secure the start of making a wreath

Wire ring

Step 4- Taking a section of greens (4-5 pieces), place bundle with base of the bundle on top of ring where the wire is wrapped and ready.  Wrap TIGHTLY 3-4 times around base of bundle. (But not so tight that you damage the wire ring.)

Wrap GreensStep 5- Grab another bundle and place halfway on top of the base of the previous bundle.  Wrap wire to secure new bundle down – again 3-4 times will you wrap each bundle down.

Green Wreath

Step 6- Continue the whole way around the ring.  The final bundle is the hardest part, as you have to work underneath the very first bundle you have secured, and this is where a tight wrap makes all the difference.

Last Section of Wreath

Step 7- Cut wire off a few inches extra, and secure underneath wreath on the wire ring.  I secure with a few loops.

Secure wire on wreath

Step 8- Decorate your wreath by attaching bow in the weakest looking spot of the wreath. This spot is usually the connection point of the start and finish part of the wreath.  Attach all other pretty ornaments or cranberry and pinecones to dress up the wreath.  Pinecones can be strung on using that green wire and wrapping it inside the cone.

Christmas Wreath Tutorial

 

Step 9- Hang that wreath and show a spotlight on it to show it off!  Merry Christmas!

Carrot Cake Cookies

Carrot Cake Cookies Last night, I actually took time to bake! Whoa. Take a picture.  Oh wait, I did – many, and you get to see just two of them.

I have full respect for full-time working parents who still find time to cook dinner, clean up the house, help kids with homework, drive kids to dance classes (or whatever extracurricular class they go to) and find time to do what they love!  For me, the end of the day is not my finest hour.  I am a morning bird, so my nights tend to drag for me, and my comfortable pillow top mattress calls my name – right around 9:30pm.  Which is not exactly convenient when married to a night owl husband (or having a night owl child!)  Either way, I press on some nights like I did last night and finally got around to baking.

I must share my funny story with making these cookies…

I take a box of Duncan Hines Decadent Classic Carrot Cake mix, and was amused that they had a cookie recipe on the box.  I was amused because I was thinking, just before I saw the recipe, that it would be interesting to make cookies with that box mix, and lo and behold, I was not the first to think of this.  What a surprise.  I’m mixing up the batter as it calls for, only to realize that I’m using STEEL-CUT oats, rather than those instant oats with the old man on the package.  No big deal, right? Well, not so much. I also found that their package of carrots, fruits, etc that needs to absorb water, took in only so much water but not most of it.  The recipe (as I followed dutifully) called for me to put the carrot mix AND water into the batter.  I didn’t want to listen, I thought the dough was looking beautiful… WHY DO I LISTEN?  I am not a rebel… So I followed against instinct.  Mix up the batter and have a weird watery dough mess on my hands.  Well, what to do now?

NOW came the baker in me.  I was excited about this problem because it meant I could actually be creative and figure out a solution.  And I did, successfully!  Little measurements of added almond meal, and a hit of AllSpice and bam!  Good to go… Oh, and the kids had no idea.  They were chowing down!! Little did they know that their Mom stuck in some healthy cut oats and a good deal of almond meal.  Heh Heh… That’s our jobs as mom, isn’t it?  Want to try?

Ingredients:

  • One Box of Duncan Hines Decadent Classic Carrot Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened (they called for unsalted, but I used regular and didn’t taste the salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of steel cut oats
  • 1 1/4 cup of hot water (add carrot mix to this)
  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 1 tsp. AllSpice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soak carrot mix in hot water for 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy.  Add cake mix, eggs, oats, and soaked carrot mix (WITH unabsorbed water.)  Beat until combined.  Add 1/4 cup at a time of almond meal.  If dough is standing up, don’t add more!  But if it was a gooey mess like mine, add up to 1 cup of the almond meal.  Add in Allspice.

Place in heaps on greased baking sheet leaving 2 inches apart from each other.  Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool slightly and transfer to cooling rack.  Cookies are somewhat flat when done. And they taste just fine! 🙂

Carrot Cake Cookies

 

 

Homemade Churros

Churros

We interrupt this healthy lifestyle for a small sweet treat!  Yesterday, I had fun making a dinner for Cinco de Mayo, and felt it was time to learn how to make some churros.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were so simple to make!  And… I was kicking myself for not making them in years past.  Why do some dishes or desserts scare me enough not to create them?  Do you have a dish like that you are afraid to try?  If so, tell me what it is!  Let’s unite on this topic. 🙂

What is not to love about churros?  Sweet, delicate and gives you that “donut” fix… should you need a donut.

I hope you all enjoyed the day yesterday.  If you are craving a donut, I mean a churro, try this simple recipe!

Ingredients (courtesy of Just a Taste):

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 quarts vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

In a low rimmed bowl, add 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon.  Mix together and set aside. In a small saucepan, add water, 1.5 Tbsp sugar, salt and 2 Tbsp of veggie oil.  Mix together and bring to a boil.  In a glass bowl, place 1 cup of flour.  Add boiled water mixture to flour bowl.  Mix together to create a dough ball.

In the meantime, put vegetable oil in a large saucepan.  Allow for at least 3-4″ space above the oil line on the pan for safety.  Once oil heats up to 375 degrees, you are all set to cook.

In a piping tool or piping bag (please don’t use a large baggie, it will break under pressure) pipe out – using the large star tip – a 4-5″ churro directly into the oil.  Please be careful!  Cook until golden brown.

Place cooked churros onto paper towel covered plate to catch extra oil and to allow cooling.  Once cool, roll churros into sugar mixture.

Enjoy!!

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at… CHUY’S!

OMGosh Chuy's

Happy May 5th – Cinco de Mayo!  It’s time to party, and where else, than Chuy’s!  My foodie friends and I had a chance to sample a lot of goodies one fine day, and I am FINALLY having the perfect opportunity to tell you all about it.  I am so grateful that they asked us to come in to sample the food, talk about their restaurant, discuss the reasons why it’s family friendly, and most importantly, the sauces.  Have you gone yet? This event was my first time, and it won’t be my last.  Trust me, it’s goooood.

Truly, it is ALL about the sauces.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the food, and the menu is extensive, but the sauces.  The SAUCES… It’s what makes their food flavorful and unique in taste.  Can someone say “creamy jalapeno sauce?”

Sauces Chuys

Get out the chips, because we’re about to talk sauce.  Oh… and why you need to hit this place up today!

So, I took a few notes on the sauces, and perhaps this will help you make a choice today on what salsa/sauce you plan to dip those chips in!  To make it easy, I’ll label them with heat levels to help you make a decision. 🙂

Mild Heat

  • Ranchero – this sauce take 8 hrs to cook! Delicious…
  • Tomatillo – the green stuff, only better than you can imagine
  • Deluxe Tomatillo – same as above, only with sour cream added for a creamy richness

Medium Heat

  • Tex-Mex – Yeehaw! Chili con carne plus red chili sauce. Love it!
  • Creamy Jalapeno – my FAV. We were told the secret ingredient.  I’m not tellin’. 🙂 This sauce I must rave about b/c it can be put on salads, on chips, as a sauce to top your tacos with.  The sky is the limit.  And… it can be bought in big loads at the store.

High Heat (but not outrageous!)

  • Green Chile – Stunning in flavor because it is made in roux with green chili’s, spicy. Roux? Who knew? 😉
  • Hatch Green Chile –  Dark but clean flavor, healthy recipe, and really zesty.

Did I mention they take their sauces seriously?   How serious?  They have staff specially trained JUST for the sauces. It is their pride and joy, and worth it for every bite.

While we were there, we also enjoyed some of the food and also were able to see the kids menu too.  Let’s just say, even the big kids will be full when leaving.  No doubt about it!  The chicken nuggets? Not some frozen prepared stuff.  They are hand breaded there and cooked on site.  Nice.

Lastly, I leave you with this delightful picture.  For you margarita drinking folks?  This one’s for you!

Margarita Chuy's

Cheers!!

Disclaimer:  Chuy’s provided me with food to receive a fair and honest review.  The opinions of this article are mine.  Yours however may differ.

Chocolate Roses for Mother’s Day

White chocolate roses The Secret Chocolatier

Chocolate.  What is not to love?  This Mother’s Day, my favorite chocolatier in South Charlotte is creating the most unique gift!  Delicate chocolate roses.  Not just any style either.  Read the details below, (and how to order!)

This is not your ordinary rose. It’s chocolate and flowers all in one that are in full bloom at The Secret Chocolatier. Offered for Mother’s Day in white, yellow and brown hues, each petal is hand formed and brought together to create a fully chocolate, edible rose. Each rose is sold as a single long-stem, 1/2 dozen, or full dozen, and wrapped and packaged as a real rose would be. Cost: $15 a stem.

To order, contact The Secret Chocolatier at 704-323-8178, visit http://www.thesecretchocolatier.com/ for online orders, or stop by their retail stores in Cotswold or Ballantyne.

Did you all catch that?  Each PETAL is hand formed… This is no simple stem rose mold they use.  It takes time to create these pretty treats!  I know. I’ve seen them in the store.

Now… to convince my husband to buy me one. 🙂Secret Chocolatier Roses

 

Disclaimer: The opinions of this post are my own. I was not given any compensation to review this company.  I just LOVE their products and stand by them. 

Sauteed Red Cabbage

Corned Beef and Red Cabbage

A couple of weeks ago, my sweet husband ran out to get us dinner, and brought back trout and a side of braised red cabbage. At first glance, I gave it the look that a child probably would; the “yuck” face. But as an adult, I recognized my ridiculous behavior, and gave it a try. And I’m glad that I did!! I would have missed out!

I decided to recreate this dish, with some minor changes. Rather than braise the cabbage, I sauteed it due to time constraints. Also, because I paired this cabbage with our favorite Irish feast, Corned Beef and Cabbage, I didn’t add the crumbled feta.

The biggest question I had was, “what will the kids think?” Well, one child didn’t care for it, but my other child wanted heaps of it! Go figure! I hope you enjoy the flavors and perhaps you will change it up this St. Patrick’s Day and use red cabbage instead of the traditional green. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of red cabbage
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Directions:

Cut cabbage into small strips and break apart. In a large pan (with a lid to match) heat up olive oil over medium heat. Place red cabbage strips into pan and cook until it wilts. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegars and sugar together. Some of the sugar may settle to the bottom, just let it be. Pour mixture over cabbage (leaving sugar residue in bowl.) Using tongs, saute cabbage in pan. Cover with lid and periodically mix up the batch until completely cooked through.

Optional: Serve with a sprinkle of feta if making a food to match up with it.

DIY Valentine Bracelet

Valentine bracelet

Last week we had a few snow days, and found ourselves with too much time on our hands! Good problem to have, except my daughter was getting a little stir crazy. Some of the roads were no good to drive on, but the ones to the local craft store was, so off we went! Sometimes I can truly be a fool and literally walk for an hour around the store looking for a craft, but this time I came prepared knowing what we were going to make. Of course we found it on Pinterest, where else??

The original plan was to make this bracelet for everyone in her class at school as a gift, but after making just one, we had had it. It’s not that the craft is too difficult, but it’s just plain sticky, and I found myself washing the needle many times just to keep it workable. BIG TIP: Microwave the jelly beans for 15 seconds just to soften enough to work with. 

BTW… did anyone notice the one odd shaped looking heart?  My daughter wanted to bite before I got my camera out in time. 🙂

Tools:

  • Heart shaped jelly beans
  • Tapestry Needles
  • Transparent Stretch Cord

Method: I am passing this amazing tutorial over to the original designer, Stuff Parents Need.  Thank you!!

Healthy Pumpkin Pie with Almond Crust

Healthy Pumpkin Pie with Almond Crust

My my my… pumpkin stuff everywhere is cropping up.  Today I slow cooked a pumpkin and found that I had enough puree to create two pumpkin-y recipes and use the seeds for chocolate bark!  I’d say that is a deal compared to buying a can.

While this recipe might seem labor intensive, I assure you, it’s not!  Use the food processor, and you will find it to be a huge asset when making the crust.  Also, the filling is quite simple when used with a mixer to speed things up.  The only time consumer is the bake time (which doesn’t count.)  Best part?  The recipe is fairly healthy!  The crust is a Paleo savvy crust, using an Almond meal, and the filling is made without all the heavy sugars and milks.  If you want to add more sugar or use Stevia, etc. by all means do, but I like to downgrade the sugar we consume in our home when it comes to baked goods.

How did it taste?  I need to put an honest review for you all.  If you are health savvy, than you will appreciate and love the recipe.  My husband and I enjoyed it, as it gave us the flavors of fall that we look for.  The crust was outstanding.  However, if you are a sweet tooth junkie, this will not be sweet enough and I would definitely recommend to use the Stevia instead of the minimal brown sugar.

As they say in the south… “Happy Fall Ya’ll!”

Recipe for the Almond Crust:

  • 2 cups Almond Meal (if you can’t buy it, take your food processor and grind  – but not too much or it will turn to butter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 egg

Place all ingredients into food processor and pulse until a dough ball forms.  Take out and press neatly into a 9″ pie plate.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350º.

Recipe for the filling:

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or one can of pure pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • a dash of the following: cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (If you are a sweet tooth junkie, omit this and use 1 Tbsp of Stevia instead)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into the cooked almond crust.  Bake for 45 min (or until center is set) at 350º.

Almond Meal Crust

Slow Cooked Pumpkin

Slow cooked Pumpkin

One morning I woke up thinking about how I could stuff a pumpkin in the slow cooker to see what would happen.  But then a series of questions started turning in my mind.  What about the stem?  The innards? How would that all react.  And lastly, would a whole pumpkin fit in the pot?

These are the thoughts I’m plagued with when my mind is clear, first thing in the morning.  Really?  A normal person, I would assume, is thinking about work, or the ugly thought of having to get out of bed to let the dog out.  Well, I have those thoughts too, but realty hadn’t set in apparently.

Yes, you CAN slow cook a pumpkin.  No, you need to cut it up and get the innards out, so not only will it cook correctly, but there won’t be a stringy mess to contend with later.

To find the step-by-step details, hit The Happy Housewife’s site with a great tutorial!  In the meantime, I will show some pictures to help you get the idea, and show proof that I too tried this recipe out myself.

What do I plan to make with the pumpkin purée?  I was hoping for Belgian waffles, but I was shut down by my children.  They wanted pumpkin pie.  So… plan on seeing that post shortly!  (Also, just as a side note, I used the seeds for my chocolate bark recipe, which was a big hit in our home!)

Enjoy!

pumpkin halved

Cut up pumpkin

Pumpkin puree