Making a Gingerbread House

All the pictures make it look so easy. Right?

Mom and the kids sitting around the table, maybe even with Grandmom, and happily frosting/gluing the pieces together, adding the candy, and then a perfect gingerbread house is completed.

May I ask you, have you ever really tried doing one? With or without kids? It’s really not as easy as those pictures show. And it definitely doesn’t always turn out like it looks like on the box. Even for those of us who are usually quite crafty.

How do I know? Well, last year my daughter and I decided to make one with the grandkids. At the time Rachel was 4 and a half; Ryleigh a year and a half. 

I guess I should’ve said my daughter and I decided to make one. While the kids watched. Or played something else. Or waited to eat the candy that went on it.

We’d actually done one the year before. That didn’t turn out well at all. Besides Rachel being a little too young to really be a lot of help, actually putting these together isn’t that easy. The sides and roof pieces that have to be assembled are “glued” with white frosting. The frosting doesn’t work like my hot glue gun! And getting them to stay upright and in place isn’t a piece of cake, or gingerbread, either! 

Trust me, our finished product from that year certainly isn’t worthy of being seen on here!

Last year though, was a bit easier. But only just a bit.  It may be because we used a different brand gingerbread house kit. Maybe because the grandkids were a year older. Or maybe we’d just learned from last year what NOT to do.

Our daughter learned what not to do. She learned that she had no patience in putting the sides and roof together. So guess who got the job? The same person who did it the year before. As you can see from the pictures.

And getting the roof on and actually getting it stay is almost an engineering project. But I did it. And when the frosting “glue” dried, it actually stayed together. That was an improvement over last year!

Next was the part our daughter and Rachel were looking forward to. Decorating the house. The kits contain all the candy needed for the houses, and there’s usually some left over. Which makes all the kids, big and little, quite happy.

And our daughter and older granddaughter really enjoyed putting the candy on, even though not all of it went on the house. What did little Ryleigh do? She watched for a few minute, grabbed a bit of the candy, and went back to playing and watching cartoons.

Fortunately the house turned out fairly well. We were all proud of our accomplishment. 

So proud, in fact I actually got another kit for them, and we all put together a gingerbread camper. Which wasn’t quite as difficult. Or else we’d learned a little more about how to do it.

So what do you think about our collection? Are you ready to try and do your own? You don’t even need to have kids or grandkids to try it. But that makes it more fun. 

Or you can do what our daughter did and order an acrylic one to put together. Much easier. And lasts a lot longer. Isn’t it cute? And you knew it had to have a flamingo with it!

Here are the finished products. What do you think?

To show how brave we’ve become after this, we now have four gingerbread kits to make this year. We may or may not write about those, depending on the finished products. But you never know!

And why not send your own gingerbread house pictures in a comment. We’d love to see them!

Happy holiday creating! The fun is just beginning!

My Favorite Cookie

Everyone has a favorite. Chocolate chip cookies are usually number one in almost everyone’s answer. With or without nuts.  It’s a big debate, though. Actually I don’t like nuts in cookies. So there’s my answer on the chocolate chip cookie question 

But they aren’t my favorite. They’re good, yes, but my very favorite is oatmeal raisin. And amazingly enough, my best friend has the same favorite! What are the chances of that!

However, recently we’ve both changed our mind, just a little. Because last year when I was making Christmas cookies,  of course I had to have my favorite kind included. I’d already mixed up the dough, and preheated the oven, but when I reached for my box of raisins, they weren’t there!

Now I almost always grab all my ingredients before I start mixing, but this time….well obviously I messed up.

So now what to do? I really didn’t want to do them with chocolate chips, and plain oatmeal cookies are still good, but I needed to have something else in them. Then I saw the package of Craisins. Well they’re similar to raisins, so what the heck?! 

And I mixed those in. And baked the cookies. 

And I tried them as soon as they were cool enough to eat! Absolutely delicious! Definitely a new favorite. Move over raisins! You’ve been replaced!

So if you want to try this new favorite, here’s the recipe for Oatmeal Craisin Cookies. Or, you can always buy a packaged mix and add the craisins like you would those boring raisins. Just don’t tell your secret!

  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 – 8 oz Craisins

Preheat over to 375 degrees. In medium bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together til light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well.

Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in Craisins. (And don’t eat any of them as you’re doing that; save them for the cookies!.)

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes til golden brown Remove to wire racks and cool. And then you can eat a few as soon as they’ve cooled down a bit. You don’t want to burn your mouth!

And if you want to be adventurous, throw in some white baking chips (about 2/3 cup) with those Craisins! They’re awesome as well!

And now…I need a cookie! Or three.

And by the way, did you know that oatmeal raisin/craisin cookies count as breakfast? At least they do in my book. After all it’s a combination of oatmeal and fruit. So……

Leftover Halloween Candy?

That’s sort of like how to use leftover wine, isn’t it? Like who really has leftover Halloween candy? (or wine?)

Well, actually, we usually do have some leftover Halloween candy each year. We usually buy too much (on purpose) because we do enjoy it, and even though I am still working remotely, I do like to have a candy dish in my home office. And what better to fill it with then those miniature pieces of candy that are so tempting.

And at Halloween it’s worse, because the bags are bigger, and they’re usually on sale.

After Halloween it’s even worse because the bags are marked down even more, and if you get to the store early on the day after, you can really stock up.

When our daughter was still a child, we would sit on the floor after trick or treating with her and our neighbor’s son and sort through all the candy, making sure it was ok to eat of course, and then exchanging pieces back and forth if one kid didn’t like something and the other did. We all made out fairly well from the candy exchange and of course, ended up with a lot more in each house than we really needed to eat!

Now that our daughter is married with children of her own, we don’t have as much leftover candy from trick or treating, because we go to their house and join the granddaughters on their Halloween trick or treating. Their neighborhood goes all out for Halloween, with most of the homes decorating their yards with all manner of blow ups, giant spiders, skeletons; you name it, and it’s there somewhere. Many of the residents (and a lot of them are dressed up as well) sit outside in their driveways with their portable firepits going and hand out candy to all the kids. Some even have adult beverage treats for the adults! Those of us with children (or grandchildren in our case) usually rent golf carts from the clubhouse and decorate them, and then drive around the community with the little ones to get their goodies. It’s really a lot of fun, and much easier to ride in the golf carts than walk, because their development is so big.

But back to the candy. I’ve been hearing ads on the radio and seeing Facebook posts about where to donate leftover candy. Well, that may be good for some people, but chocolate candy is a bit pricey, and call me selfish, but I sort of want to eat it…..?

Last year, I ran across a couple of recipes for brownies using Halloween candy. And I thought, why not try it? I had a big bowl of it sitting around in the kitchen, and since I do enjoy baking I tried it. And it was really good! And easy.

So here’s the recipe for those of you who want to try something new!

Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbl flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • t/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1/2 cup chopped milk chocolate candy bars

OR, you may want to use a boxed brownie mix, follow those directions and just add the candy!

To make the brownies from “scratch”, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla together in a separate large bowl using an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined.

Fold in candy and press into prepared baking pan. You can add a little extra, which I did, but just don’t add too much or it won’t cook properly. Bake in pre-heated oven 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack for ten minutes and then cut into squares.

Then enjoy! They’re delicious. In fact, I think I’ll go make some!

Time for Snow Cream!

When I was a child/teenager growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, snow happened a bit more frequently than it usually does now (except for this week’s storm…which may be sticking around awhile). Schools would almost always be closed for up to a week because we got so much, the road crews couldn’t keep up with it all, especially on all the back roads in the area. And that’s sort of the case here right now.

One year it snowed so much, my mother’s white car was literally impossible to see. She had parked it at the end of our long driveway, thinking she wouldn’t be able to get it out if we had a lot of snow. We did. And one of our neighbors had to dig the car out for her, but only after a couple of days when the roads were clear enough to drive on.

My friends who still live there still talk about how one of our friend’s fathers hooked all of our sleds up to his tractor one evening and pulled us around the field for at least an hour, had us warm up by a roaring bonfire (complete with roasting marshmallows on wire coat hangers!), and then his wife had us all inside for hot chocolate. I think most of us were sophomores in high school then, and of course, we were all invincible! I can’t remember how many of us there were, but it was a blast! Now…he’d probably be arrested for child endangerment…if our parents even let us go!

Yes, those were the days….we all had sleds, and would go to a hill in town and sled down for hours. We got chilled to the bone, our clothes got soaked…but who cared! We threw snowballs at each other, and at some of the adults unlucky enough to be in our way. And no one got mad at us. We were young and having fun.

So for those of you wanting to make some with this latest storm, here are several recipes to try. Which of course, you can only make when you have clean fresh snow and we still have quite a bit around here. But for those of you in Florida or California, you’re probably out of luck because I haven’t been able to find any substitutions for snow!

Basic Snow Creamsnow cream sprinkles
1 c milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Whisk ingredients together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. (Note: Be sure to pour the SNOW into the mixture; not the other way around!) Mix together; re-freeze, covered, if necessary, and serve. (You might also add colored sprinkles or colored sugar on top, or even mini chocolate chips)

NOW…that’s not all. While I was researching, I came across several variations of this basic recipe that sound extra yummy. So….how about these:

 

Chocolate Peppermint Snow Creamchocolate snow cream
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp peppermint extract

Mix together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Cover, and re-freeze an hour or so til it’s the right consistency.

Amaretto Caramel Snow Cream
snow cream1 c white chocolate chips
½ c thick caramel sauce
1/3 c milk
½ tsp salt

Mix together in microwave for 30 seconds; stir and repeat until smooth. LET COOL (or you’ll have caramel water!) I’d put it in the freezer and check it often til it’s chilled.

Add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. And the best part, ¼ c amaretto. Resist temptation to try immediately; cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Cake Batter Snow Cream
snow-ice-cream-0131/2 c sweetened condensed milk
¼ c yellow cake mix
3 tbsp cake flavored vodka (the recipes just keep getting better…)
2 tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine above ingredients and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Take a taste if you must, then cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Now….after finding all of these goodies, I can only say one thing…

WE’VE GOT THE SNOW! LET’S MAKE SOME SNOW CREAM!

Christmas Pretzel Salad

I’m not a big fan of pretzels. Never have been. And Jello, well, that’s never been on my list of dessert options either! So naturally when I was first served this pretty concoction, and told what was in it, I was a bit hesitant to try it. But my mother and my aunt both assured me it was delicious.

And  it did have strawberries and cream cheese in it, so what could be so bad?

And ever since that first taste, it’s become a staple on our Christmas dinner table. It’s tasty, and the color is perfect to match the festive red and green of the season. In fact, some of our guests have said it’s too good to be served as a salad, and actually prefer it as a dessert.

I will warn you though, it’s a bit tricky to finish making, because you have to be absolutely sure the strawberry mixture is cooled and won’t melt the cream cheese mixture. Cream cheese and Jello soup is NOT what you’re attempting to make!

But it’s well worth the extra time it takes to create it. Be sure to make it a day ahead to give it plenty of time to set properly.

And it looks really pretty cut into squares and served on a Christmas plate decorated with sprigs of holly! Silk holly, preferably!

 

Christmas Pretzel Salad

2 c crushed pretzels
3/4 c butter, melted
3 tbl sugar

Stir together and mix well. Press into bottom of 9×13 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes til set. Set aside to cool.

1 – 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 c sugar
1 – 8 oz container Cool Whip

Mix together cream cheese and sugar; fold in cool whip. Spread mixture over cooled crust.

2 – 3 oz pkg strawberry Jello
2 c boiling water
2 – 10 oz pkg frozen strawberries

Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Stir in strawberries and allow it to set. When mixture is about the consistency of egg whites, pour and spread over cream cheeses layer. Refrigerate until set.

Serve chilled.

Christmasy Snowball Cookies

I love the look and taste of those Russian tea cookies, especially for Christmas. They look so much like miniature snowballs, sitting on a Christmasy plate or in a crystal bowl decorated with a sprig of holly, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Most of the recipes I’ve seen are pretty much the same…flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, finely chopped nuts, baked and rolled in lots of confectioners’ sugar.

However, I always felt something was missing in them, and as a huge fan of chocolate (I don’t know too many people who aren’t), I finally figured it out. And adding miniature chocolate chips to them makes all the difference in the world! It’s like finding a sweet hidden surprise when you bite into them! And who wouldn’t want that?!

chocolate-chip-snowball-cookies-1-of-4And I’m also thinking about what else I could put in them to make a bit more of a surprise?! Maybe some finely chopped candied cherries, chopped pieces of candy canes, or other assorted baking pieces you find in the store this time of year.

Now here’s an idea I’ve always thought about doing; making them in different sizes, stacking 2-3 snowballs together, and anchoring them together with frosting so you’d have a round cookie snowman! You could use dots of decorating gel for eyes and buttons, and can you just imagine the cuteness!? It’s certainly something I’m going to try when our granddaughter is a bit older. How fun will making those be??

But for now I’ll continue to bake them as usual and just enjoy eating them one by one. In a few years though, who knows…??

Frosty the Snowman may make his appearance!

 

Christmasy Snowballs

3 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c confectioners’ sugar
1 tbl vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 c flour
2 c miniature chocolate morsels
1/2 c finely chopped pecans
Additional confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, & salt until creamy. Gradually beat in flour.

Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts. Shape into 1 1/4″ balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake until lightly browned.

Sift (not roll!!) confectioners’ sugar over HOT cookies while on baking sheet. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cookies to wire racks to cool. Sprinkle with additional sugar if desired. Store in airtight container.

Tip: Combine 1/3 c confectioners’ sugar and colored sprinkles together in plastic freezer bag. After cookies are baked, gently roll and shake cookies in mixture for a festive look! Serve on serving platter with springs of holly and a Christmas ornament or two for decoration!

Red Velvet Christmas Cookies

Last week I mentioned my red velvet Christmas Cookies in my Christmas fudge blog. Well, I had a lot of requests for the recipe, so after making a batch of them this week, and sampling far too many of them, I decided I needed to share the recipe so you can enjoy them as much as we do!

The recipe isn’t original. I found it on several websites as well as quite a few Pinterest boards. But one thing is totally true; they are delicious!! Yes, I modified them just a bit, but the end justifies the means, as the saying goes. In fact they’re so good my best friend (who does NOT like cooking in any way!) asked me to show her how to make them for their church cookie exchange!

red-velvet-crinkle-cookies9-editsrgbRed velvet is a special taste, although many people say they can’t tell the difference between red velvet and chocolate. Perhaps it’s the red color, or perhaps it’s just what the name seems to imply; a richness that you can’t get just anywhere, or in any other recipe.

I will warn you, rolling them into balls to put on the cookie sheets will most definitely turn your hands red! No matter how chilled the dough is! It also helps to rub confectioners’ sugar on your hands (instead of flour) during the process so the dough won’t stick quite as much. But the finished product is worth it. If you love red velvet desserts as much as we do, that is!

So here is the recipe we used. Feel free to enjoy And a word of advice from my husband; they’re even better warm from the oven and served with vanilla ice cream!

 

 

Sinful Red Velvet Cookies

8 oz cream cheese, softened (the last time I made them I had to run to store to get the cream cheese before we went to dinner and ended up bringing it inside the restaurant in my purse to soften while we ate!)

1 stick butter, softened (I never use anything but real butter)
1 egg, room temperature
1 tbl vanilla
18 oz box red velvet cake mix
3/4 c white baking chips

Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.

Beat in cake mix. Blend in chips by hand.

Cover mixture and chill at least 2 hours until easy to handle.

Roll into tablespoon size balls and roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet. I usually make a slight thumbprint on each one before baking.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Cookies will be soft and gooey. Sprinkle with more confectioners’ sugar and red sprinkles for a festive touch.

Remove to wire rack and let cool. Store in airtight container.

And watch them quickly disappear!

What’s So Special About Christmas Cookies?

I admit that cooking is not my most favorite pastime. You can ask my friends, and especially my husband, and they will quickly agree.

They’ll also tell you that I’m not a bad cook at all, when I really decide to do it.

However, there’s something about this time of year…the Christmas season…that actually makes me want to venture into the kitchen, pull out all kinds of wonderful ingredients and recipes, and begin to put my creative talents to work.

You see, there’s one type of food I really truly enjoy making…Christmas cookies!!!


There’s just something special about creating these sugary delights, loaded with chocolate, cherries, colored sugars, colorful icings, and of course the calories are removed just for the Christmas season!

You didn’t know that? Well yes, they are! Santa Claus takes care of it, because after all, he has to eat some of all the cookies those thousands of children leave out for him on Christmas Eve, and if he didn’t remove the calories, well, he’d probably end up very sick and so overweight he couldn’t ride in his sleigh ever again! How does he do it? Well, I’ve been told by a reliable source that he breaks them in half and the calories fall out! Wonder if that’ll work for us!?

Although I have a collection of favorite cookie recipes I make every year, each new year I greedily go through the Christmas issues of my favorite magazines to see if there are any new cookie recipes that are just screaming out to “try ME this year!” And of course, there usually are.

The pictures are gorgeous in those magazines. And the finished products look so delicious I sometimes want to run to the store, grab the ingredients, and whip up a batch, not caring that it’s almost midnight and I should be in bed!


Of course, the cookies I bake never seem to look quite like the ones in the magazines, or in the pictures on my Cookie Pinterest board. But they sure taste good!

I think it’s an obsession. And I have no idea how it started, although I do have vague memories of being in the kitchen with my mom at a very young age decorating cutout sugar cookies in the shape of stars and reindeer. But I just know that every year I go through this, and end up making at least a dozen different kinds to share with family, friends, and co-workers.

Last year I shared some of my Christmas cookie recipes with you. Goodies like my Grandmother’s Fruitcake Cookies, Ben’s Lemon Drops, Candy Cane Snowballs, and Orange Kool-Aid cookies. This year I’ll try to add a few more, along with the Christmas Fudge recipes I already posted; in between my baking marathon, that is.


For now, enjoy the pictures of these wonderful culinary delights, and then try your hand at baking a batch or two. And share your pictures if you’d like.

What’s so special about Christmas cookies? Try making a batch or two, and you’ll find out for yourself! Even if you’re not known for your culinary talents, you may surprise yourself!

Happy baking! And happy eating!

Disclaimer: All content posted here is assumed to be in the public domain. If you find one of your images here and wish it to be removed please contact me.

Photo Sources: 1st Row: bakingbites.com; lilluna.com; onelittleproject.com; 2nd Row: sweetpeaskitchen.com; tasteofhome.com; tasteofhome.com; 3rd Row: keeppycome.com; gimmesomeoven.com; bettycrocker.com; 4th Row: recipelion.com; yesiwantcake.com; bettycrocker.com

Christmas Fudge

One of my mother’s favorites to make for Christmas was chocolate fudge. Along with her Christmas cookies, of course. And she made it every year. It was devoured within a few days.

There’s just something about that smooth, chocolatey sweetness that just screams Christmas! Especially if you add a few shopped candy canes on top of it for decoration. My mother didn’t do that, but if I’m going to cook, I have to put my own touch on whatever I make.

I remember my mom standing in the kitchen, patiently stirring and testing the consistency to make sure it didn’t get grainy or scalded. There is a trick to good fudge making, you know. And with the recipes I have, you really need to use a candy thermometer.

And you also have to remember NOT to try to taste the chocolate mixture as you’re putting it in the pan, because it’s hot and will DEFINITELY burn your mouth! No, I didn’t try it, but just don’t ask who did…..

So I’m happy to share my mother’s fudge recipe with you, as well as a couple others that you may want to try. Yes, you can buy fudge already made, cut apart, and boxed, but this time of year, there’s just something about making real homemade candy and cookies.

Even for someone like me who doesn’t really cook that much!

So here is my mother’s fudge recipe. Feel free to try it, and see how you like it!

 

fudgeRachel’s Chocolate Fudge:
3 c sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 c milk
1 c. light syrup (she used Karo syrup)
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 c butter (real butter, not margarine)

Combine ingredients and cook on low-medium heat until it reaches soft ball stage. Use a candy thermometer unless you want to drip a little bit of candy in a cup of cold water to see if it forms a soft ball. Personally, to be safe, use the candy thermometer!

Remove mixture from heat and stir in 2 tsp of vanilla. Cool for 25 minutes, then beat with a large spoon (not electric mixer) until it thickens.

Spread into lightly buttered 8x8x2 glass baking pan. Let cool, and then cut into squares.
Mom always made two batches; one with nuts, and one without, since I’m not a fan of nuts in cookies or fudge. Try it whatever way you like!

I’ve also included two other recipes here that I’m going to make this year. Please note they are not original creations, and the creators are noted. Please also feel free to visit their websites for more yummy creations!

 

red-velvet-fudge-taste-of-homeRed Velvet Candy Cane Fudge – Taste of Home (recipe created by Crystal Schlueter)
(I love red velvet cake, and I have a red velvet cookie recipe, so I am SO going to try this one!)

2 pkg white baking chips, divided
2/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
3 tsp shortening, divided
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ tsp red paste food coloring
4 c confectioners sugar, divided
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
3 tbl crushed peppermint candies

Line a 13×9″ pan with foil; grease foil with butter.

In large microwave safe bowl combine 3 ¼ c white baking chips, chocolate chips, and tsp shortening. Microwave on high, uncovered, 1 minute. Stir. Microwave at additional 15 sec intervals until smooth. Stir in milk and food coloring. Gradually add 1 c confectioners sugar. Spread into prepared pan. [Sounds easy so far! – Deb]

In another large microwave safe bowl, me; remaining white baking chips and shortening. Stir until smooth. Beat in cream cheese and extracts. Gradually beat in remaining confectioners sugar until smooth. Spread over red layer; sprinkle with crushed candies. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Remove foil; cut fudge into 1” squares. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Visit Taste of Home for more recipes!

 

mint-chocolate-chip-fudge-recipe-chocolatechocolateandmore-60aMint Chocolate Chip Fudge – Chocolate, Chocolate and More©
(Since I really like chocolate mint chip ice cream, this one really looks good!)

3 ¼ c white baking chips
2 tbl butter
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2-3 tsp mint extract (not peppermint)
Green food coloring as needed
3/4 c mini chocolate chips, divided

Line an 8x8x2″ pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave white chips and butter on high for 60 seconds. Let rest one minute and check to see if melted. If needed, microwave further at 15 second intervals. Stir until all lumps are gone.

Stir in milk, and extract. Add food coloring to desired color. Let cool for a few minutes and fold in ½ c mini chocolate chips.

Press fudge into prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining mini chocolate chips on top and gently press into fudge. Refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours to set before cutting into squares. Store between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container.

Visit Chocolate, Chocolate and More© to view this recipe and more!

So are you ready for holiday candy making? Let the fun begin!

4th of July Goodies

In celebration of the 4th of July, we always had family cookouts when we were growing up. Along with fireworks my uncle set off in the field beside our house. When fireworks were legal, of course, way back long ago!

I can still remember the Roman candles he’d set off, making sure we kids were well out of their range, and carefully aiming them away from anything that could catch on fire. (In case you’re wondering, my mother’s house was just outside the town limits, so we didn’t have to worry about any restrictions.) We also had strings of regular firecrackers, cherry bombs, and colorful sparklers that we loved to swirl and make designs with in the air, long before it became fashionable to use them for weddings! And of course, there were those round snappers we threw on the sidewalk so they’d make a sharp “bang”, leaving a tiny trail of smoke.

Oh, the fun we had…..!! And none of us got hurt, thank goodness! Would we do this for our kids now?! Heck, no!

But first of all we’d eat our dinner of charcoaled burgers and hot dogs, with my mom and my aunts contributing homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and of course potato chips and baked beans, with an occasional plate of freshly deviled eggs! What a treat it was, especially combined with Mom’s homemade iced tea punch that I’ve forgotten (sadly) how to make. Although I think it included grape juice…maybe I’ll attempt it if none of my fellow Eastern Shore friends have a similar recipe they can share.

Anyway, nothing could compare with those burgers cooked on that old charcoal grill. It was a great taste treat, with just the tiniest hint of a bit too much lighter fluid thrown on the charcoal briquettes, which somehow always added to the taste to the meat.

Dessert was usually fresh homemade ice cream, the kind you could get a massive brain freeze from if you ate it too quickly. And we usually did! With plenty of strawberries thrown over that pile of frozen vanilla goodness!

119601For years my mom used an old wooden ice cream freezer to make her homemade ice cream. I’m not sure, but it must have belonged to her mother at one time, because even back then, its once bright green paint was almost gone. The inside can had a wooden paddle inside, and we used to argue over who would get the chance to lick that paddle once the ice cream was finally frozen! We’d fill the bucket with rock salt and ice, and turn the handle, only stopping when it would barely turn any more, which meant it was finally ready! There have been many times I’ve wished for that old ice cream maker, because even using her recipe, the ice cream just doesn’t taste the same in the newer, modern appliances.

There’s just something to be said about some of those old vintage products!

Yes, those were the days, as the saying goes! And sometimes I long for those days, to just be able to re-live a few of the good times, to see if they really were as good as we remember them!

So in celebration of this year’s 4th of July, I’m sharing our family recipe for homemade ice cream. Just remember, it may not taste the same if it’s not made in that old wooden ice cream maker, but since most of us don’t have one any more, let’s just see if we can bring back a little of the old time memories, and calories, just for old times’ sake!

Mom’s Homemade Ice Cream
15 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. thin cream
1 c. cold water
1 tbl vanilla
Dash of salt

Mix ingredients together. Fill inner metal container about 2/3 full of ice cream mixture and place paddle in the middle; cover tightly so rock salt (ice cream salt) won’t leak inside.

Pack alternate layers of ice and rock salt around the metal container until the bucket is almost full. As ice melts, replace if necessary, adding any necessary salt to the mixture. Turn the handle and crank away. (It’s a good idea to have a helper or two lined up in case you get tired!)

When handle will barely turn any more, it’s ready! Remove the handle, carefully remove the cover on the inside can, and place paddle in a bowl to be enjoyed by the kids! Place ice cream in freezer until ready to serve.

Note: This makes a wonderful vanilla, however, if you wish, you can add crushed fruit of your choice, but we usually ate it with the fruit generously spooned over it.

Enjoy!

Happy July 4th!

BBQ – Chicken Eastern Shore Style

Summer is finally here! Thank GOODNESS!!! It’s been ages, at least.

Which means backyard pool parties, trips to the beach, grilling out as much as possible, lazy evenings on the porch, and lots of family, friends, and fun!

When I was growing up we had lots of family cookouts every summer. Of course we used charcoal grills, since the propane ones weren’t around yet, and I have to say that for burgers and hot dogs, and steak, charcoal far surpasses the gas grills in flavor!

But barbecued chicken is great on either grill type…especially with this recipe!

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I seriously never had any other kind of barbecued chicken except with this recipe. My mom or one of my aunts would make up a huge batch of it, and one of my uncles would tend the grill out back, constantly turning the pieces and basting continually until they were blackened and done! Sitting down to eat this culinary delight with homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, and fresh tomatoes was a treat beyond compare! Followed by fresh homemade ice cream, of course!

Oh, the wonderful memories….

When I first met my husband and took him to the Shore for a family cookout, I told him we were having barbecued chicken. He was anticipating the kind he grew up with in Kansas City, with their traditional red sauce, and what a surprise he had! But Ben, who could honestly eat chicken every day, actually liked it, even though he continually says, “it’s not barbecued!”

Yes it is. And every summer the highways all over the Eastern Shore are filled with BBQ Chicken fundraiser meals to go, made with this same style of sauce. It’s a tradition, and I have to say, those roadside meals are out of this world!

So here it is….there are slight ingredient measurement variations in each Shore family’s recipe, but they all taste pretty much the same. So kick off your summer grilling and enjoy a new treat! Or, if you’re from my area, see how your recipe varies from mine and throw some chicken on the grill.

Happy Eating!

1 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp pepper
3 tbl salt
1/2 tbl poultry seasoning

Mix all ingredients and either shake well, or blend with an egg beater. If not being used immediately, refrigerate til ready to grill. (Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated, but use within two days.)

Place chicken pieces on grill and baste continually with sauce, turning every 5-7 minutes, basting as they’re turned.

Enjoy!

Baby Shower Treats

You read a few weeks ago about my being a frustrated baker. Well this frustrated baker was busy again last week “baking” up goodies for our daughter’s baby shower. As well as actually concocting a few edible goodies as well.

My basic philosophy on doing special parties is, if you’re going to do it, make it special, and make it memorable. Pinterest is certainly one of my favorite inspirations, and I scoured through many, many different ideas before deciding on what to finally do…..

Since our Saturday blogs are usually about food, I’m not going to dwell on the decorating aspects. But I do have to say this “frustrated baker” had a great time creating edible as well as non-edible culinary delights! With a little help from a few friends with the actual REAL cakes!

In planning the shower, one of the first things I needed to decide on was how to make the food fit with the theme. And since the mom-to-be’s theme was “beach princess” it gave me a bit of a challenge to come up with the right names for the food. After all, you can’t just call them sandwiches and chips!

So the chicken salad croissants became “crabby croissants” with the addition of some handmade crab eyes. Gummy worms, one of the mom’s cravings, became gummy eels. Dipped pretzel sticks became pretzel fishing rods. Colored chocolate drops became sea pearls. And chips and dip…well, “take a dip” signs were very appropriate! Along with a bowl of goldfish crackers. The steamed shrimp, well that didn’t need a label! Homemade sand dollar cookies were also one of the desserts.

 

We were also blessed with two very special and delicious cakes! The beach princess cupcake dress was complete with a beachy mermaid crown, starfish tiara, and burlap shell and pearl sash, all of which will be utilized in Baby Rachel’s first photo shoot. The two-tiered beach cake made by one of the mom-to-be’s friends featured real painted shells, and a very special beachy hair bow, all of which we were careful to tell her NOT to eat!

 

But the two main non dessert items that this frustrated baker contributed were a fabulous (if I do say so myself!) four-tier diaper cake, as well as an array of diaper and onesie cupcakes.

I will share the “recipe” for my diaper cake below, but please, if you’re going to attempt one, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. It took me a few attempts to master the art. Feel free to email me if you have questions.

Recipe for Ashley’s Diaper Cake

90-100 newborn diapers
Paper towel roll (empty)
Curling ribbon
Decorative hat pins with colored heads
Decorative 1-1 ½” wide grosgrain ribbon
1 cake-shaped bank (from Target)
6-8 pacifiers in colors to match shower theme
Decorative baby socks, floral headbands, assorted ribbon flowers or silk flowers
String of decorative pearls (from craft store – I got mine from Hobby Lobby)
Paper crinkles
Clear plastic plate to “serve” cake on

I arranged the diapers in the bottom three tiers of a set of four tiered cake pans. Place ov2012-04-17_23-19-09_206erlapping diapers, 40 in bottom pan, 30 in next, and 20 in the next one. If you think you need a few more, add those as well. Tie tightly together with the curling ribbon so that when you “dump” them out, they won’t fall apart. As you take them out, place them on the cake plate with the paper towel roll in the middle to hold them together. You should easily stack three layers around one roll. For this particular cake I added a second roll, cut it the proper height, and stuck it in the other one. Be sure to use double sided tape on the bottom of the cake plate to attach the layers or it’ll slide off!

The floral bank was the top layer on this one, and I was able to stick it on the paper towel roll because of the hole in the bottom for the money. For the bank topper I’d found a princess tiara crown on a headband, and stuck the band part through the money slot on top. But you can be creative and find something equally as great.

Now that it’s assembled, decorate as desired. Use the grosgrain ribbon to wrap around the layers to hide the curling ribbon. Pin it together in the back of the cake with the colored pins.

Decorate with the pacifiers, socks, headbands, silk flowers, etc. Place the paper crinkles as “icing” between layers and around the base of the cake. Drape the decorative pearls in each layer, stuffing a bit of them between the layers to hold them in place.

Be creative! It’s fun! And if you need more help, there are lots of videos on line to assist you. And if you do make one, please let us see it!

Here are just a few more decorations! (Sorry, couldn’t resist! Remember, it’s our first grandchild!)