Salt + Flour + Water = Hand print?

One snowy night my niece was having a slumber party at my house, she’s 2 and loves to cook. We have this game we play, she pretends to cook with all the pots and pans and we “taste” all the food she makes and its always “delicious”.

I thought of what a fun activity would be for her and I while we “cooked” I thought of the projects I used to do in elementary school and I remember we made ornaments one year with salt, flour and water, and cookie cutters. It’s a pretty simple concept and all the ingredients are readily available in the house.

We had such a fun time and she loved “cooking” all you need is, 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of water. You’ll need to get your hands “dirty” and start mushing and molding the ingredients all together in a bowl, we added food color, she wanted pink.

Once you are done combining all the ingredients by hand, I put a little flour on my work space and got a rolling pin out, it will stick to whatever you set it down on so either flour your surface or place it on a sheet of wax paper. I didn’t have cookie cutters handy so I made a oval shape out of the dough and she put her hand prints and pushed down really hard, we then took a stick and wrote her name in the dough.

Once her hand print was embedded along with her name on the dough, stick it in the oven at 200º for 3 hours (or until they are completely dry depending on it’s thickness).

Once its completely dry, you now have a sentimental work of art that you can keep for years to come. Another option you can do is before it dries and you put it in the oven you can get a straw and ribbon and punch a hole in the dough and make it into an ornament and hang it on your tree for years to come.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Optional, ribbon & straw to make ornament

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New Year, New Dessert!

Happy New Year! With the new year comes a new recipe for dessert, my favorite meal! I know some of you have made your new years resolution, dieting. Well I am here to give you an delicious recipe for your cheat days 🙂

I am a cookie monster, anything cookie, especially chocolate chip cookies! I also LOVE ice cream, and home made fresh whipped cream. What can I say, I am a dessert fanatic.

Last night I whipped up from scratch a Chocolate Chip Cookie Bowel with delicious vanilla ice cream and homemade maple whipped cream! My mouth is drooling just thinking about this amazing creation!

We will start with the Ice Cream Recipe because this may take the longest to do, all you need is half and half, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla—and an ice cream maker. We got our ice cream maker off of Amazon and LOVE it!

VANILLA ICE CREAM
  • 3 c. half and half
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 vanilla bean pods, seeds scraped, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In large pot over medium heat, combine half and half and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain half and half mixture and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt until smooth. To temper eggs, carefully whisk about 1 cup of the hot half and half into egg mixture until smooth. Then whisk egg mixture back into the half and half mixture in the pot. Return to medium-low heat and cook to 170 degrees F, constantly stirring along bottom of pot to ensure even cooking. Once temperature has reached 170 degrees F, remove from heat and strain through fine-mesh strainer into bowl. In the same bowl, cool ice cream base to room temperature in an ice bath, then pop base into the fridge to fully chill, at least 2 hours.
  3. Once base is chilled, process in an ice cream maker. When it’s somewhere between soft serve and ice cream from the freezer, transfer ice cream to container and freeze until firm.

While the ice cream is setting in the freezer its time to start your Chocolate Chip Cookie Bowl!

(I forgot to take pictures of the ice cream process)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bowl recipe: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. …
  3. Instead of pulling out your cookie sheets, you will need a cupcake pan or a muffin pan.
  4. Flip over the pan, and start to form the cookie dough over the cupcake mold. (see picture below for reference)
  5. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool down for about 5-8 minutes so the cookie bowl mold sets and doesn’t fall apart

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While the cookie molds are setting, its time to work on your fresh Maple Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup of Maple Syrup

Place the sugar into the mixing bowl and add the whipping cream and maple syrup. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks. Store any unused portion in an airtight container for up to 10 hours. When ready to use, rewhisk for 10 to 15 seconds.

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and Volia! Your 3 main ingredients are done, now its time to take your vanilla ice cream and fill up the chocolate chip cookie bowl and top it off with fresh handmade maple whipped cream, just add sprinkles and a cherry and you now have a delicious homemade dessert!

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Swap this Cookie for that Cookie

I absolutely love the holiday season and everything that comes with the holidays, the music, the lights, and of course the FOOD!

Over the years the holiday traditions have changed/ evolved and with that the holiday traditions you grew up with are either no longer or have expanded along with family members. I know for me on Christmas Eve it was hosted at my grandparents home, than over the years my parents would host, and then most recently about 3 years ago, I started hosting at my house with my fiance and his family members too.

Over the years family dynamic has changed and the different traditions have emerged. I recently have decided since the holiday season is a challenging one to try to get everyone together that I would start a new tradition, a Cookie Swap or Cookie Exchange.

I started doing some “pintrest homework” how to host the perfect Cookie Exchange.

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Here are some of my tip’s on hosting.

  • Make a digital invite, almost everyone has Facebook now adays or an email. Save money and send the invites out digitally!
  • Request your guests to make ingredients/ directions cards so if there is an allergy a guest will know
  • Don’t know how many cookies to have your guest bring, basically that is up to you but what I did was ask my guests to bring 6 dozen cookies, I had 6 women come so each of them brought a dozen of each cookie home

All of your guests want some kind of guidance!  Some are pros and some are baking for the first time.  Usually, you get someone that breaks the rules, but it’s okay.  As long as you let all of your guests know what you expect, it will all go smooth.

  • Decorate your home, at this time I am sure your home is decorated for the holidays so you may not have to do too much
  • When guests arrive with the cookies have them set up all the cookies in a designed area on the table, I had chalkboard labels to display each cookie name. This makes it easier for guests to know which cookie is which and make it easier for grabbing and voting!
  • Provide a festive drink, you can do hot cocoa, but I just stuck with wine.
  • Provide food/appetizers, while they are eye balling all of those cookies before the trade!  You may choose whether you want your guests to taste the cookies or not at all. Depending upon your budget, you may serve some light appetizers, other sweets, or even a meal. I choose an array of pickings.
  • If you are having a contest, give your guests voting ballets for the categories to vote
    • provide prizes or winner ribbons.

Some Prize Categories can be,

  • Most Amazing Display
  • Prettiest Cookie
  • Most Unique Cookie
  • Most Outrageous Holiday Outfit
  • Door Prize (Ask each guest to bring ONE cookie cutter.  Collect all of the cookie cutters and give them away as a prize!)

Some Idea Prizes can be,

  • Cookie Cookbook
  • Cookie jar
  • Cookie baking sheet
  • Cookie cooling racks
  • Mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoon and/or spatula
  • Measuring cups and/or spoons
  • Cookie cutter(s)
  • Cookie sprinkles
  • Pretty apron
  • Rolling pin
  • Parchment paper
  • Oven mitts

Now the time has come to exchange/ swap the cookies!

  • Take a moment to ask each of guests to share a story of the cookie recipe they brought, or their adventures of baking them.  Also, your guests may love to share some of their family holiday traditions.  This gives the others new ideas for their families!
  • Time to trade and exchange the cookies!  I hand each of my guests an aluminum disposable to go container with lid– found at any kind of dollar store.  I line each of them with holiday decorated tissue paper and now my guests are able to go around and fill up their containers!

I hope you all find this information helpful on planning a holiday cookie exchange party! If you are thinking of hosting one, take some bits and pieces from my experience of hosting and make them your own. Enjoy your time with you family and friends, this gathering should be a fun time to kick back and show your baking skills!

. . . .

The cookies I had made were Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies, below is my recipe

Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1 (11 oz.) bag caramel bites
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream/milk
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate baking bars
  • sea salt, for sprinkling on top
Instructions:
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium size bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and vanilla extract until combined.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing between each egg.
  4. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!
  5. Using a spatula, stir in chocolate chips until combined.
  6. Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough into balls about 1 Tablespoons each and place onto prepared baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  8. Immediately after taking cookies out of the oven, using handle of a wooden spoon, make indentation into center of each cookie. Let cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet.
  9. In a medium-sized bowl, combine caramel bits and heavy whipping cream. Microwave for 1 minute, stirring until caramel is completely melted. Spoon 1 teaspoon of caramel into each indentation.
  10. In a medium-sized bowl, microwave chocolate baking bars for 30 seconds, stirring after each 30-second intervals until chocolate is completed melted. Drizzle chocolate over cookies and sprinkle with sea salt.

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Mirror Mirror…

One of my favorite DIY is turning a typical ordinary mirror into a work of art!

I love the idea of a mirror as an accent above my dry bar so I added some chalk paint “Cheers” and made it look not so odd to have a mirror so high up.

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Really all I did was grab a chalk marker that I found at my local craft store for $5.00 and practiced how I wanted the word “Cheers” to look and then took a leap of faith and wrote it on the mirror.

DON’T worry if you mess up, just take a little Windex and water and the chalk will come off as easy as 1 2 3. Let dry, and try again!

I am such a fan of dolling up mirrors and even old windows with chalk paint, I even created one for my sister’s waxing business so she can add her services on it! It’s really the perfect and easiest DIY.

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To do a window or glass it’s probably the easiest DIY to do because you can type of whatever you want to write on the mirror/glass tape it on the back and take your chalk pen/marker and just trace the letters from the printed page taped on the back and than Voila! You are now ready to hang a unique piece of art that you created yourself!

December, seriously?

Hey guys,

I know its been a little while since I have written, I apologize for that, its crazy to me that its already December 2nd! How did this happen? I’m not ready for the holidays!

With that being said, I recently have decided to start thinking about DIY Christmas presents because truthfully, with all these wedding expenses, there isn’t enough money coming in as fast as its going out. I am sure all the married readers would understand this.

2 years back, I made an adorable painted mug and put coffee and hot chocolate ingredients in a plastic baggie to accompany the mugs, they were so cute and such a big hit.

With the painted mugs, I made a few different kinds, some had cute little sayings, and some had peoples initials and depending on the recipient I gave either coffee grounds or hot coco ingredients.

The supplies for the painted mugs:

  • Sharpie Pens – thick, thin, all different colors. I chose Green, Red, and Gold Metalic
  • White Mug – white works best, or even a solid color. – I got mine at the dollar store! 
  • Oven 
  • Stickers – for designs

1. To do a monogram design you will need a scrapbook stickers. Pick the monogram/design you want and stick it on your mug. You will want to make sure it’s in the right place/angle etc.

2. Next you will want to make dots ALL around the scrapbook sticker. Do some practice dots on some cardboard before hand. Once ready, start filling in the area around the sticker with dots. Really fill in the area. Add a second color if you like. If you mess up, wipe away with some rubbing alcohol on a q-tip.

3. Once you have the design you want and it’s dry – carefully peel off the scrapbook sticker to reveal your design. Do touchups if you need to.

4. Making sure your area is well ventilated – turn on your oven to 350, set your mugs inside and let them bake for 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes is up, turn off the oven and let the mugs cool down inside. I left it in the oven for a few hours.

5. Then of course, fill and enjoy with your favorite beverage.

 

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Once I have decided on what DIY Christmas present I am going to do this year, I will be sure to post it and with pictures so you can all enjoy.

Pickle This

Now that the gardening season is no longer in the full swing of things, I had a lot of vegetables that are still somewhat growing or have just about stopped producing.

One of my vegetables that just stopped producing was my peppers. I literally had about 6 pepper plants and they all sort of stopped growing at the same time, and I figured since the holidays are coming and I come from a big Italian family that has antipasto with every holiday meal and one of the favorites among it is the pickled vegetables I figured why not try my hand at pickling my peppers for the first time. I did eggplant last year and it came out AmAzInGg! So, why not try my hand at the peppers!

To begin, I sang a sweet song to the peppers, haha Just Kidding! I washed these bad boys and let them drain, while I waited for them to completely drain, I began to cut up and mince two (2) cloves of garlic, you know us Italians, we LOVE our garlic!

I then packed the peppers in ever so tightly in a hot sterilized jar I had, leaving about 1/2″ headspace. If you would like now is the time to put in at least 4 heads of fresh dill, or if you don’t have fresh dill you can use 2 tablespoons of dill seeds.

In a saucepan, combine 3 cups of water and 1 cup of white vinegar. Mix in 2 tablespoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, bring these bad boys to a boil.

Once the mixture has come to a boil, you will than pour the hot pickling liquid over the peppers, again leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Adjust the lid and put the closed jar in a boiling water bath for 10 minuets. Once its been 10 minuets, take the jar out of the bath and cool it down before putting the jar in the pantry. Wait about 2 months and then you can enjoy your delicious pickled veggies!

Luckily, in two months my pickled peppers will be ready to eat on December 23, perfect timing for Christmas Eve Dinner!

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Ingredients you will need:

  • 1lb red peppers or 1 lb green or 1 lb yellow hot pepper (8 cups)
  • 4heads fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3cups water
  • 1cup  white vinegar
  • 2tablespoons salt
  • 2cloves garlic, minced
  • 14teaspoon crushed dried red pepper

 

 

 

 

Colorful Colorado

So guys, I know my typical posts are usually DIY’s but this post is about a recent 3 day fun filled trip I had taken to Colorado.

My fiance was turning 30 and I decided for his milestone birthday that he deserves a trip, well he deserves more than a trip because he has to deal with me and all my DIY’s haha.

Justin has always wanted to go to Colorado, for skiing, however, his birthday is in the beginning of October when clearly its still fall and there is no snow, so I had to really do some research to make this trip as memorable and entertaining as it would have been if we were skiing down a black diamond in Aspen. Let me be clear, if HE was skiing down a black diamond in Aspen, myself, I would be perfectly content sipping hot coco in the lodge 😉 Anywho, my research started a month an half before his birthday, first I started to keep an eye out for flights, affordable flights that is. Luckily I pinned something awhile back saying the best time to look for flights is on a Tuesday 6-8 weeks before your trip, which worked out for me because my research started on a Tuesday and it was luckily 7 weeks until we would have left, amazingly I found (2) round trip tickets for $220 each! what a steal!

Now with flights out of the way, I went on every hotel website under the sun to get the best deal, and if you all know me, I love a good deal! Luckily I found a hotel 20 min from the airport and also 10 min from downtown Denver, perfect location and right smack in the middle of everything, and the best part, I didn’t have to pay anything until we stayed. (Bookings.com) This was an awesome find because if I found any better deals I could cancel at any time and it didn’t cost me anything, luckily I never had to cancel because the hotel price and location was perfect for us.

So I checked off the flights and hotel and now its time to plan the days and what we were going to do, the fun part!

I started Googling around “Things to do in Denver, Co” and “Places to eat in Denver” My fiance is a big foodie so I had to make sure we ate at some highly recommended places. I found myself on TripAdvisor and a few other websites.

I made notes of all the top attractions and started to map out our days with the places people recommended, on our first day, since our flight landed at 11:30 AM, we really had the whole day and we didn’t want to waste a day hanging in a hotel room asking each other “well what do you want to do, where do you want to eat, check google” I wanted to have a plan, hence why I made an itinerary to refer to each day.

On the first day, since we would have the whole day, I didn’t plan anything solid, so no tours, or appointments we had to make, it was a flexible day. We picked up our rental at Enterprise and drove off towards the hotel, since we knew we couldn’t check in yet and we were starving, we decided to go to The Source in Denver. The Source is an artisan food market that is in an 1800’s brick foundry building in the North District of Denver’s River. It’s literally a mall for food and its amazing, they have everything and anything you can think of, food related. We ate at the Comida, its a taco truck turned cantina and they serve the most amazing Mexican street food.

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After we stuffed our faces we headed to the hotel to check in, luckily they let us check in an hour early. We relaxed for a bit until it was time for a little road trip at 5 PM to Colorado Springs to check out the Garden of the Gods. Seriously, if you ever have the chance, you need to see these red rocks, they are simply amazing! We opted out of the tour and decided to just walk around the and take in the beauty of the Red Rocks themselves, its an experience that I will never forget.

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After we walked around the Garden of the Gods and took in the beauty of these rocks, we started to get hungry and I have to be honest, I didn’t do my research so I didn’t know where we were going to eat, this was probably the only thing I forgot, but not to worry too much, I went on Trip Advisor and found Caspian Cafe Mediterranean 5 minuets down the road from the Garden of the Gods. This place was delicious, they serve Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek type of food and they even have belly dancers! It was a great ending to a great first day in Colorado.

Day 2,

The next day, I planned for us to go to breakfast at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery in downtown Denver and let me tell you, the 30 minute wait was fine with me after I had my first bite of their amazing OMG French Toast! Justin wasn’t feeling the wait but once the food came it didn’t matter anymore, now we know why there was such a wait the food they serve is not only mouthwatering but pleasurable 😉 HIGHLY recommend!! We ordered the Pancake Flight (shown below, Pumpkin, Blueberry Danish, and Peach Cobbler) a Benny Duo (eggs benedict) and the OMG French Toast

 

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After we indulged all this deliciousness we decided to go for a walk around downtown Denver, we found Coors Field and a bunch of astounding street art, this city really spoke to me. It was just so unique.

We looked back at the itinerary and decided to head to our next stop, The Flatirons in Boulder. Boulder is about 40 minuets from Denver so we hopped in the car and made our way out to Boulder. As we are driving you notice all these mountains from afar, its simply breathtaking and almost like you are in another world if you have never seen views like this before.

The trail for the Flatirons is a 3.3 mile loop trail that leads out from the trailhead westward through open stands of ponderosa pine before the junction with Doudy Draw Trail. Prairie Vista connects with Flatirons Vista South. The views are insane and there is no other way to explain how breathtaking they are. Another highly recommended place!

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After we were done hiking we headed to our last location of the day, a tour on the Banjo Billy Bus Tour around Downtown Denver for an hour an half bus ride telling us and showing us the history of Boulder. This tour bus is not your typical tour bus, its an old school bus tricked out to look like a traveling hillbilly shack, we heard ghost stories, crime stories, and had a history lesson. We even saw a bear in a tree that day! Unforgettable times!

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Once we got off the Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour, we were dropped off conveniently at Hotel Boulderado on Spruce Street which is only a block away from Pearl Street Mall. The Pearl Street Mall is not your typical Mall, its a four block pedestrian mall in Boulder and it stretches from 11th street to 15th street. We did some shopping and explored the different vendors. We ate at the West Flanders Brewing Company, they have Belgian inspired craft beers and delicious “pub food”.

We had a 30 minute drive from Boulder to Denver and after the delicious pub food at West Flanders we decided to get dessert at the Little Man Ice Cream in Denver to add some sweetness to a great day. Little Man Ice Cream is a 28 foot tall 14K ice cream can that brings you the most incredible vegan ice cream handmade with its finest locally sourced ingreidents. Justin ordered the Space Junk and I had the Salted Oreo in their handmade waffle cones. The Little Man experience is another one that is unforgettable, they provide live music, slam poetry, movie nights, and while we were there, their very own pumpkin patch!

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Another perfect ending to an adventurous day.

 

Day 3,

The last and final day, and also my honey’s 30th Birthday!

We decided to eat at the hotel that morning, we had a free breakfast buffet coupon our hotel gave us because I told them we were there for Justin’s birthday.

I scheduled a couples massage for the both of us to start his and of course my morning right, I found a local deal on Livingsocial and it was probably the best decision I made for that day because with all the hiking and traveling, our bodies needed a good massage, and let me tell you, it was just what the doctor ordered!

After our massages, I set up a tour with the Colorado Cannabis Tour, I can’t speak to much on this tour for personal reasons and of course legal reasons but I will say this, it’s fucking amazing and definitely an experience and I HIGHLY recommend.

Last but not least, I treated my man to a delicious meal at the Guard and Grace in Downtown Denver. They really went above and beyond to make Justin’s birthday special. They had a personalized birthday card sitting at our table for when we arrived and everything from the appetizers to the dessert was delectable and exquisite. I couldn’t of asked for better service, food, or drinks. It made the whole birthday vacation perfect and ended our 3 day vacation incomparably.

All in all, I would say if you have the chance to go to Colorado make sure you check out the following places and I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

  • The Source
  • Garden of the Gods
  • Banjo Billy Bus Tour
  • Guard and Grace
  • Snooze
  • The Flatirons
  • Colorado Cannabis Tours
  • Little Man Ice Cream