goodies as gifts

Peppermint barkSo how many of you can go the season without a little peppermint bark? When I was in corporate America we would get huge tins of it from vendors, so believe me… my family has eaten their weight in it over the years. So when I thought of giving gifts “from the heart” and from the kitchen this year, I thought of peppermint bark. Here are the ingredients from MarthaStewart.com: (This makes about 2 ¼ lbs.)

  • 2 pounds white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 large candy canes
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil

And easy steps:

  1. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment, and set aside.
  2. In the top of a double boiler, melt white chocolate, stirring constantly.
  3. With a chef’s knife or meat tenderizer, cut or pound candy canes into 1/4-inch pieces.
  4. Stir pieces of candy canes and peppermint oil into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat, and pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; spread evenly. Chill until firm, 25 to 30 minutes. Break into pieces, and serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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Riverbirch branch chandelier

Christmas chandelierI saw this in a Pottery Barn magazine and just had to figure out how to do it. It’s actually a good deal easier than you might imagine. You just have to be willing to screw a few holes in the ceiling. (Your hubby can patch them later.) So here it is. You’ll need:

  • Riverbirch tree branches (these trees are naturally white), or regular tree branches and some white spray paint
  • 8 eyehooks
  • Heavy duty fishing line
  • Christmas ornaments with ribbon
  • Wood glue

Steps:

  1. Arrange your branches and glue them to one another using strong wood glue (you don’t want anything crashing down on your holiday festivities).
  2. Once you’ve allowed the branches to dry (overnight), drill or screw four eyehooks into the corners of your newly formed chandelier.
  3. Next tie the fishing line (be careful of the length, you don’t want to try and measure after your hubby is holding this thing up in the air) to the eyebolts.
  4. Tie on your ornaments with festive ribbon.
  5. Now it’s time for putting the holes in the ceiling; no worries, a little caulk will take care of it after Christmas.
  6. Finally there is the lift and tying the fishing line to the eyebolts in the ceiling.

Stand back and marvel at your beautiful handmade and eco-friendly chandelier. Happy Holidays!!

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simple setting

Christmas SettingsPlace settings don’t always have to be complicated and sometimes the less so the better, especially during the holidays when there is so much to do. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ornament
  • Candy cane
  • Ribbon
  • Holly

Post a comment and share your simple setting ideas for Christmas.

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light up your Christmas cookies

Christmas Light Cookies

These cookies would brighten any holiday gathering (from brightideas.com) and little hands can help decorate them. Here’s what you’ll need and how to make them:

  • 4 cups M&M’S
  • 1 18 oz. roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 16 oz. can vanilla frosting
  • 1 14 oz. package red licorice laces
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • Drinking straw
  • Christmas light shaped cookie cutter

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Knead the flour into the cookie dough until smooth.
  3. Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. By hand, or using a Christmas light cookie cutter, cut out shapes.
  4. With a spatula, gently transfer the cookies to a baking sheet. Using a drinking straw, press a hole at the top of each cookie and place them in the frig for 5-10 minutes. (Chilled cookie dough keeps its form during baking.)
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  6. Separate different colors of M&M’S, and set aside.
  7. Spread vanilla frosting on top of each cookie. Arrange a solid color of M&M’S on top of each cookie.
  8. Let the cookies dry for 30 minutes. Run licorice laces through each hole, connecting the cookies into one continuous strand.

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brrr… brilliant treats

Snowman cupcakesThese cool treats are great for the holidays and for winter birthdays. (Check out our brrr… brilliant birthday invitation.) Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 can vanilla frosting
  • 1 tube black decorating frosting
  • 1 tube orange decorating frosting
  • 1 14-oz. bag shredded coconut, optional
  • 16 pieces DOVE® Brand Milk Chocolate
  • 16 pieces chocolate malted milk balls
  • 1/2 cup M&M’S
  • Standard cupcake pan
  • Mini cupcake pan
  • 16 standard paper cupcake liners
  • 16 mini paper cupcake liners
  • Resealable plastic bag

Follow these easy steps from brightideas.com:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 16 standard cupcake cups and 16 mini cupcake cups with the paper cupcake liners.
  2. repare the cake mix according to the package instructions. Transfer the batter into each cupcake pan and bake minis for 12-15 minutes and the standard cupcakes for 18-21 minutes.
  3. Remove cupcakes from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.
  4. Put 1/4 cup of vanilla frosting in a resealable plastic bag; set aside.
  5. Frost all the cupcakes’ tops with the remaining vanilla frosting, and then sprinkle with the shredded coconut, if desired.
  6. Place a frosted mini cupcake on its side on top of each frosted standard cupcake, using the vanilla frosting to attach it.
  7. Make the hats by using the vanilla frosting to secure a DOVE® Chocolate on top of each mini cupcake. Pipe a dot of frosting on top of each chocolate and attach a malted milk ball.
  8. Add details by using vanilla frosting to attach M&M’S® Brand Chocolate Candies as buttons. Pipe the eyes with the black decorating frosting and the noses with the orange decorating frosting.

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sweet homeade ornaments

Gingerbread ornamentLooking for a unique and fun way to dress up your tree? Well, if you can keep the kids away, these gingerbread cookie ornaments are adorable and make the room smell great too.

Read my post about making sure your cookies come out of the oven the same shape they went in. And be creative with the icing and ribbon. Remember, little ones might not make the tidiest cookies, but their smiles do make the best memories.

Enjoy!

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the perfect man… the gingerman

Gingerbread ManThere are so many decorating possibilities when it comes to gingerbread men. I’ve demonstrated a very easy technique here (just resealable bags of white icing and black icing with the corners snipped), but really just be creative. Decorating cookies, especially with the little ones, is really more about having fun than anything else.

That said, it used to frustrate me when we would place beautifully shaped cookies into the oven and get blobs back out. Here are a few tips so that you can have perfect shapes to decorate:

Dough thickness – it doesn’t matter if you mix it yourself or use the stick from the dairy case, the key is to roll out your dough so that you have a consistent thickness across your cookies so that they cook evenly.

Cookie size – make sure all of your cookies are approximately the same size or your little ones might burn and your big ones will be gummy.

Dough temperature – it is critical that you slide your baking sheet into the frig for 10 minutes before baking the cookies. The dough needs to be cold to hold its shape; the process of rolling and our hands warms it up.

Don’t overcook – it is so easy to peek at a sugar cookie and think it isn’t done. Don’t guess, time your cookies, and once the oven and pan are warm, you might want to cook later batches even less. My rule, take them out before they brown at the edges, usually 7 minutes.

Cooling racks – many people don’t use cooling racks… I highly advise that you do. Cookies will continue to cook on the pan and you don’t want hard and flaky cookies!

Happy baking!

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cookie party prep

Christmas party prepWe’ve held an annual cookie party for our children and their friends for several years now. My best advice… enjoy the time and worry about getting the sprinkles up later.

Our snowman invite, platters, child aprons and cookie jars are perfect for the occasion. Take a peek at our décor and plan your Christmas cookie decorating party. Here are a few tips to get you organized:

  1. Bake gingerbread boys and girls or sugar cookie shapes (at least four cookies per child, plus a few extras in case any break),
  2. Mix up three or four different colored icings,
  3. Create a workstation for each child with a place mat, paper plate and individual cups filled with decorations. This party’s all about creativity, so make sure you’ve got lots of things to choose from, like gumdrops, mini marshmallows, and chocolate candies,
  4. Put paintbrushes, plastic knifes and open containers of icing down the middle of the table so everyone can share. Older kids can try resealable bags filled with icing (snip off a tiny corner), and
  5. Organize each child’s cookies together on cooling racks so the icing can dry (and they go home with their creations) while they enjoy a sweet reward. Serve mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and crushed candy canes, along with the broken or left over cookies.

Before your guests leave, pack up their cookies in little boxes with pieces of wax paper in between to protect the icing. Remember, no matter how you handle your preparations, enjoy the time. These are the things memories are made of!

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