Saturday, December 12, 2009

Peppermint Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

I cut this recipe out of a magazine a few years back and have been staring at the beautiful picture every time I open my homemade cookbook. So I finally decided to try it for a cookie exchange and it was DE-licious. You will be so happy with the result. But just a warning- cut them into small squares or you will be sick. They are that good.

(Courtesy of Food Network)

20 chocolate wafer cookies (Oreos)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon light or dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons sour cream, room temperature
1/2 cup crushed candy canes (see Cooks Note)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust: Process the chocolate wafers in a food processor with the butter, sugar, coffee, and salt until fine. Evenly press the crust into the prepared dish covering the bottom completely. Bake until the crust sets, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Put the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl; heat at 75 percent power until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir, and continue to microwave until completely melted, up to 2 minutes more. Blend the cream cheese, sugar, and sour cream together in the food processor until smooth. Scrape down the sides, as needed. Add the eggs and pulse until just incorporated. With the food processor running, pour the chocolate into the wet ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake until filling puffs slightly around the edges, but is still a bit wobbly in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

For the Glaze: Put the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in microwave safe bowl. Heat glaze in the microwave at 75 percent power until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir the ingredients together until smooth; add the sour cream. Spread glaze evenly over the warm cake and scatter the crushed candy canes over top. Cool completely, then refrigerate overnight. Cut into small bars or squares. Serve chilled or room temperature. Store cookies covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Cook's Note: To crush the candy canes, remove wrappers and place in a resealable plastic bag. Use a rolling pin to roll and break the candy up into small pieces, about 1/4 inch or so. (I personally think this is a joke. I tried it and it didn't work. I found a ziplock and a hammer to be much more appropriate!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

103 Christmas Gift Ideas

1. M&M's - Have a Merry and Most wonderful Holiday Season!!
2. Soup or soup mix - Wishing you a "Souper" Holiday Season!!
3. Frozen or ready to bake pizza - Warm up to a wonderful Holiday Season “Topped" with Christmas cheer!
4. Apples and Hershey's Hugs - A teacher can't live by apples alone...She needs "Hugs" too!!
5. Popcorn Balls - Hoping you have a "Ball" this Holiday Season!
6. Loaf of Bread - For being there when you were "Kneaded", for "Rising" to the occasion, large or small. For never "loafing" on the job; for helping others to "Heel" with TLC. No matter how you "slice it", you do a terrific job loving Others. Merry Christmas!!
7. Jolly Ranchers - Have a “Holly, Jolly" Christmas!!
8. Rootbeer - We're "Root"ing for you to have a Happy Holiday Season and a Wonderful New Year!! (see rootbeer deer at end of list!)
9. Chex Party Mix - Remember Santa "Chex" his list twice to see who's been naughty or be good for goodness sake!! Merry Christmas!!
10. Box of Hostess Ho-Ho's - Hope a merry "HO - HO - H0" fills your heart the whole year through! (Put a Santa sticker on the label)
11. Wire Wisk filled with Chocolate kisses- We “WHISK” you a Merry “KISSmas!!"
12. Jar of Jelly – Have a Holly, “Jelly” Christmas!!
13. Christmas Tray - We "Tray"sure your friendship! Merry Christmas!!
14. Bell - With each chime of this festive bell, may a Christmas wish come true. And bring you peace and happiness to last the whole year through! Merry Christmas!
15. Yule Log - We send you warm greetings this Christmas Season!!
16. Potpourri - May this sweet scent bring back thoughts of warm Christmases long ago! Merry Christmas!
17. Cleaners - You add sparkle and make our life brighter! Merry Christmas!
18. Nuts - We're nuts about you! Merry Christmas!
19. Lifesavers - You've been a life saver! Have a great Christmas!
20. A juice pitcher filled with candy canes- We pitcher you raising a little "cane" during the holidays! Have a Merry Christmas!!
21. Broom - You're "Dust" the finest neighbors we know! Merry Christmas!
22. Paper Towels - Blot out your troubles; absorb the Christmas Spirit!
23. Measuring Cup or Glass Measure - Wishing you Joy Beyond Measure!
24. Bananas - If we could choose our friends, and we searched the whole world through- we'd go bananas trying to find a better bunch than you!!"
25. Any Star ornaments - "Remember the reason for the season!"
26. Chocolate Mousse Mix - "Merry Christmousse" to our "Deer" Friends!
27. Wooden spoon - Whether stirring up cakes, cookies, soups or souffl├ęs; you'll find this spoon useful in so many ways. But whatever its use, it says, "Merry Merry Christmas from us to you!
28. Flowers - If friends were flowers, we'd pick you! Happy Holidays!! Or "You make friendship bloom all year round!"
29. Heart Christmas Ornament - May the Joy and Love you give away, come back to you on Christmas day!
30. Sugar cookies with cinnamon sugar or sprinkles on top- May your Christmas be sprinkled with laughter and love! Merry Christmas!
31. Hershey's Hugs - A friend always knows when you need a little hug!
32. Christmas music CD or Tape - May the sweet song of Christmas make your heart rejoice! Or "May the merry sounds of Christmas bring a Joyful Melody to your holiday season. Merry Christmas!!”
33. Filled Basket - Wishing you a basket full of Christmas blessings
34. Salsa - Add a little Spice to your Holidays! Merry Christmas!
35. Stocking or filled Jar - Have a fun filled Christmas this year!
36. Lamb - Have "eweself" a Merry little Christmas!!
37. Candle - May your days be happy, your heart be light, your Christmas Merry, and the New Year Bright!!
38. Holly - Happy Holly days!
39. Calendar - Keep Christmas in your heart the whole year through!
40. Shaped Sugar Cookies - Rolling out a batch of Christmas Cheer, for someone we think is very dear!!
41. Cherry 7-up - Just a Little Christmas Cheer from Happy Hearts this time of year!! Merry Christmas!!
42. Sparkling Cider - Wishing you a Sparkling Holiday Season!
43. Warm Casserole or Bread - Bundled up with warm wishes!!
44. Popcorn or Carmel Corn - Just "Popping" by with a Holiday Hi! Or "May your Holidays be Poppin'!"
45. Seasoning Mix - Seasoned with Love! Merry Christmas!!
46. Eggbeater or Eggnog- Have an "Eggstra" Special Holiday!!
47. Hershey's Hugs and Kisses - Christmas Hugs and Kisses to You or "Holiday Hugs and Kisses to you!"
48. Apple Pie or Apple Crisp - Wishing you a Scrumptious Christmas!
49. Fruit Basket - May your New Year be Festive and Fruitful!!
50. Any Sweet Treat - Wishing you a season filled with sweetness!
51. Oranges - " Orange" you glad we're Friends!? Merry Christmas!!
52. Chocolate Orange - "Orange" you glad it's Christmas? Hope your Christmas is a Sweet one!
53. Sprite - May your Christmas be Merry and Sprite!
54. Ice Cream Snowballs and Hot Fudge - Here's some packaged "snowball" treats - Just Drizzle Hot Fudge and its ready to eat!...Enjoy!!
55. Snicker Bar - Don't "Snicker", just be glad you got Something!!
56. Mints - Friends like you are worth a Mint!! Merry Christmas!!
57. Matches - No one “Matches” you as neighbors! Merry Christmas!
58. Strainer with a Christmas bow- We couldn't “restrain” ourselves from wishing you a very Merry Christmas!!"
59. Box of Light Bulbs - Have a bright and radiant Christmas! Or “May your Christmas be merry and bright!”
60. Bubble Gum or Bubble Bath - May your holidays "Bubble" over with fun!!
61 Pencil and Notepad - Merry Christmas from our pad to yours!! or Merry Christmas to a "noteworthy" friend!
62. Jar of Pickles - Just in brine, Our wish for a merry Christmas!!
63. Grater and Cheese - To a Grate Neighbor! Merry Christmas!
64. Ice Cream - Have a "Cool" Yule!!
65. Bear shaped Honey - Have a “Beary” Sweet Christmas!!
66. Santa - "Ho - Ho - Hoping your Christmas is Merry!"
67. Angel - Hoping you have a Heavenly Christmas!!
68. Eggnog - Have an "Udderly Moovalous" Christmas!!
69. Gingerbread House - Nibble, Nibble like a mouse, We hope you'll nibble at this house! Merry Christmas!!
70. Mugs with Hot Chocolate Mix - To our special friends who are so Dear, We wish you all a cup of Cheer! (Or for a Teacher- To a Special Teacher dear, wishing you a "Cup of Cheer"!
71. Cocoa Mix - Wishing you a warm and wonderful Christmas!
72. Muffins or Muffin mix - You're getting "Muffin" for Christmas!!
73. Gum - By Gum, You're a great Neighbor!! Have a Merry Christmas!
74. Veggies and Dip - Dip into a wonderful Holiday season and a Healthy New Year!
75. Christmas Shaped pasta - (Or any Pasta and a bottle of Sauce) Have a Pasta-tively Happy Holiday!"
76. Jar of Jam - Hoping you have a Holiday "Jam" packed with fun!! Have a "Berry" nice holiday season!! Or Hoping your Christmas is "Jam-packed" with Christmas Cheer!!
77. Cookie Dough - Here's a little extra "dough" for Christmas! Or Everyone Needs a little extra "dough" for Christmas!!
78. Homemade Frozen Rolls - Here's a little holiday treat. Rise and bake, it can't be beat! Warm fresh rolls just for you. Top with butter that's all you do! Warm Holiday Greetings to you!
79. Brownie Mix - (Or any Mix) Whip up this mix for a wonderful holiday fix! Wishing you a "rich" Holiday Season!! (Be sure to attach the recipe!)
80. Homemade caramels - Hoping you have a "Rich" and "wonderful" Holiday!!
81. Pie - Just a "Holiday Hi" and a tasty Pie!! Happy Holidays!!
82. Divinity - May your Christmas be "Divine" and your Holidays so Fine! Sweet Christmas Wishes!
83. Rice Krispie Treats - Snap, Crackle, Pop; We think you're really tops!
84. Toffee or Brittle - Any way you break it, we think you're the greatest!
85. Fudge - "Fudge" a little on the calories and enjoy the Holiday Season!
86. Cheese Ball and Crackers - We don't mean to sound "Cheesey", we just hope you have a "Ball" this Holiday Season! Or "Spread a little Christmas Cheer this Holiday Season!
87. Apple Anything - (Pie,Cobbler, crisp, muffins etc.) Sending you a "Bushel" of love this holiday Season!! Or “You are the apple of my eye, Teacher!"
88. Banana Bread - Banana Bread just for you, because you have so much to do... We also love you a whole "Bunch" too! Merry Christmas!
89. Cinnamon Rolls - Here's a sweet treat "Rolled" up with warm Holiday Wishes! Merry Christmas!
90. Homemade Chocolates - You're so Sweet...having you as neighbors is really a treat! Have a Heavenly Holiday Season!
91. Cake or Cupcakes - You take the "Cake" neighbor, We think you're first rate! Happy Holidays to you!!
92. Cornbread or Mix - We're not trying to be "Corny" we just want you to have Merry Christmas!
93. Carrot Cake - I Really "Carrot" a lot about you!! Merry Christmas!
94. Spiced Drink Mixes - Hoping your Holidays are "Spiced" Just right!
95. Homemade Ice cream of a Frozen Treat - Here's the Scoop,,,,Hoping your Holidays are a "Blizzard" of fun!
96. Recipe - Just like you's tried and true, just for you! Happy Holiday Baking or Merry Christmas Cooking!
97. Pizza - Hope your Holiday has a touch of "Pizza - z!!" Merry Christmas!!
98. Candle - You Light up my Life! Thanks for your friendship! May your Christmas be Merry and Bright!
99. Crayons and Coloring Book - Hope your Holidays are Colorful!
100. Plant - The kindness you show makes our friendship grow and grow! Hope you have a Happy Holiday!!
101. Soda Pop - I'd "Soda" like to wish you a merry Christmas!
102. Stuffed animal or Beanie Baby or Webkinz- "Pawsing" to wish you a Merry Christmas!
103. Donuts - "Donut" you know we love you??? Have a happy Holiday!

These “root deer” would be a great gift to put together with the kids. Just decorate each bottle in a six pack of root beer with pipe cleaner, pom-poms, googly eyes, felt, and a jingle bell collar.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Homemade Puppet Show Theatre

A friend of mine posted a question about good Christmas gifts, and this immediately came to mind. I thought I would share it with you, since it is so simple and so adorable!

Every time I have given these away, I get raves. And who doesn't like raves? Your kids will LOVE waking up to this and a good set of puppets on Christmas morning!

I have made several versions of this same thing, but basically you are going to make (or buy) curtains and then either use a spring rod (less expensive, but not as sturdy) or a shower-stall curtain rod to hang them in a doorway for an instant puppet show theatre! Both a spring rod and a shower curtain rod are adjustable, so just get one with a range of expansion that fits your doors. Two great things about this product are that it is portable (either from doorway to doorway or from your house to someone else's), and when your kids tire of it, you can simply fold the curtains up and put them in your linen closet. No big toys to store!

The first set I made were just two curtains made from silky purple fabric with yellow stars all over it- it sort of turned out like something for a magic show. But my kids loved them! I made them pretty long because you can adjust the height of the curtain rod depending on how tall the child is. Even my older kids (6 and 8) like to do magic shows and puppet shows. For this set, you can split the curtains so the kids can actually walk through them. (Great for introductions to performances etc.!)

If you've never made curtains, simply get a square of fabric (you want it to be at least 60" wide or up to two times the door width, and the length can be as long as long as you want!) and hem the sides first. Second, hem top and bottom. Then, fold the top down (creating a pocket) far enough that you can fit your curtain rod in the loop, and stitch along the bottom of the folded fabric.

The puppet show theatre in the above picture takes a little more effort, but not much. I simply made two curtains-one for the bottom and a shorter valance one for the top; and then I decorated them with ric rac. This particular set also has a clear pocket on the front so that my kids can put in 'signs' for their show depending on what they are using it for. We've used it for "store," "theatre," "show," and "circus." Once I figured out how to do these well, I actually sold them at a craft fair, and they were the FIRST product to sell out.
Good luck!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Scarecrows

How cute are these 'Sweet Scarecrows' from Family Fun? You can use this cute face with either cookies or cupcakes. We are making these for our kids' table at Thanksgiving. I love a darling, simple craft that brings happiness to our home and smiles to the kids.

Monday, May 18, 2009

No More Smelly Dishcloths!!!

There is nothing I dislike more than a smelly dishcloth. Ugh.

To keep your cloths smelling fresh- once a month, put them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes with a few tablespoons of baking soda, then wash them in the washing machine with a little bleach added and they will be as good as new! Because that's what my mama says and she knows.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Letter Factory

I have meant to blog about this awesome product for a long time! Usually I'm the "no TV mama," but I think I love this DVD even more than my kids! A friend of mine introduced us to this when Emma was 2 years old, and it took her about a week to learn all her letters by name and the sound they made. It has been the same story for Madeline, and the children of family and friends. It is just a simple, but very creative video about letters and their phonetic sounds. And it works! Now, my kids are constantly singing about letters and the sounds they make.

To see other reviews about this video on Amazon, click here.
Once your child has mastered his or her letters, there are also "Talking Words Factory," and "Talking Words Factory 2," which teach them how to add the sounds together to form words (READ)! Try it, you'll be amazed how great it is!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Panoramic Sugar Eggs

As a child, my mom made these and she would set them out each Easter. I remember peering into them, so excited to see a familiar scene of bunnies and easter eggs or chicks at play. I wanted my kids to enjoy them too, so I made these a few years ago and they have held up surprisingly well, even amidst all of our moving. So far, I have only lost two! My kids love them a little too much, so I've had to put them up high on the mantle so they need a little assistance to "look" at them.

I can't say they are the easiest things to make, but they do keep well if you pack them away right. And they are completely edible... made from sugar and water and lots of frosting (minus the cute little mini figures- those are specialty of Michael's).
If you would like a comprehensive tutorial on making these neat eggs, click here. If you would rather just buy them, click here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Last Minute Ideas for Valentines Day Fun

Here are some fun things you can do to make the day special for your family... and they don't require much preparation!

1- Make heart shaped pancakes (just pour it on the griddle in a rough heart shape) or muffins. (If you don't have a special muffin tin, simply put a marble between each paper liner and the muffin tin and it will create a heart shape- I tried it and it worked great!)
2- Put pink food coloring in the milk jug.

3- Find one of those shades of lipstick that you were sure about in the store, but once you got home, you realized it was all wrong, and write a lipstick mirror message for your sweetie.

4- Leave a love note in your child's lunch box, fill the lunch box with heart confetti, or draw hearts on the bag.

5- Give someone a "heart attack" by sticking hearts all over his/her car, office, or door.

6- Call a loved one at work and sing them a love song on the telephone.

7- Wake your kids up in the morning with a kiss and a Hershey's kiss (they might get out of bed faster!?)

8- Blow up red balloons or cut out red hearts to hang over the dinner table.

Please let me hear your ideas by leaving a comment!

Kids Valentine Ideas

We've been having fun at our house... we hope you have too!

Since we always seem to have leftover candy canes from Christmas, it has become a tradition for us to make these candy cane heart Valentines for our teachers.

These are the Valentines we made for the kids to give to classmates. I figure the less candy, the better, since they are sure to come home with a LOT of that.

And this last one was just for fun... I remember having these candy airplanes as a child and I wanted to see what my kids thought. Of course, they were a hit. You need smarties, single sticks of gum, two lifesavers, and a rubber band (preferably not the hair kind, like me).

If you are interested in cleaning out your crayon box, this craft is for you! Get all the little broken crayons together and unwrap them. Fill up a small heart shaped bake pan with random pieces. Bake at 250 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until they are melted. Let it cool and then pop out. My kids loved this.

Paint Chip Valentines

I had some extra paint chips around the house this month, and I decided to put them to good use! Simply trim off the words and numbers, and use the ready-made frames for cute stickers or a message!

For the card, I just trimmed the edges off the paint chip, and mounted it on a white card; added two strings of ribbon and the x's and o's. Quick and cute!

Then, I decided to make little bookmarks for my kids.