Butterscotch Blondies with Dark Chocolate Chips

Oh my. My, my, my. It’s all I can say after tasting this little experiment. This “blondie” started out a lot like my PMS Cookies. I had a serious hankering for a good chewy chocolate chip cookie, but didn’t have all of the ingredients necessary. Then I remembered a blondie recipe I wanted to try, and again, didn’t have all of the ingredients, so it was up to my creative whim to come up with something new. This is not actually uncommon for me, but what is uncommon is for the results to be successful enough to want to share them with you.  This time, however, I actually impressed myself! Hopefully I can impress you too!

Butterscotch Blondies

1.5 c flour
1 small box cook and serve butterscotch pudding
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 stick of butter (1/2 c) softened
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
~2 c dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heavily grease 8×8 baking dish with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pudding mix, baking powder, salt. Set aside.
In large bowl, beat together butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Slowly incorporate flour mixture until well combined.
Mix in chocolate chips.
Turn out batter into prepared dish and smooth it out a little. Batter will be very sticky. Don’t worry about making it look pretty, the batter will smooth itself out the rest of the way as it bakes. Bake for 40 min or unit tester comes out moist, but clean.

What Martha Isn’t Telling You About Christmas

Christmas starts in July. That’s it! That’s the big secret that Martha and every other Martha Stewert-Like blogger isn’t telling you about Christmas, and all of those beautiful hand made decorations and gifts. I am sharing this little secret with you, because every Christmas the same thing happens to me.

It starts in the Fall with Halloween; I call it Holiday Fever, and I get it bad! I see all of these beautiful hand made decorations and gifts everywhere. They sparkle, and shine — and taunt me. “Make me. Make me! Make Meeeeee!” They call from the magazine rack in the grocery store. “Don’t you want to give me to your friends?” They beckon from my e-mail. “Your house will be the prettiest on the block,… if only you will decorate it just like this.” I hear as I scan my favorite craft blogs every morning. But what they aren’t telling you is, you have to start planning months in advance to achieve these beautifully decorated houses and handmade gift baskets. If you are a procrastinator with high hopes, like myself, then you may have attempted to get all of these things done in previous Decembers, only to have Christmas come and go in a hot, stressful, flash; leaving you feeling unsatisfied and disappointed.

How can you achieve a beautifully decorated home, make heartfelt handmade gifts and still have the time to enjoy your friends, family and true spirit of the season? Easy, start now! There are so many things you can do in the summer to prepare you for the Fall Holiday Season. Here are a few (ok, several) suggestions to get the ball rolling.

1. Start collecting! Start collecting pine cones for decorations (or one of these cute, homemade fire starters) on your next camping excursion. Not only will you save time, but you will save money, buy not having to buy them.

Click picture for link!

2. Spray Paint now! If you have items (like your pine cones) that you want to paint gold or silver (or white, or green, or red…) do it now. Spray paint doesn’t dry well in the wet Fall weather; dry summer heat is ideal for spray painting.

3. Get cooking! (Or canning.) Homemade jams or jellies, and liqueurs are always appreciated. Jams can be made and stored for months in advance, saving you time later. Liqueurs need time to infuse with flavors and taste better with a little age, so they really need to be made ahead of time. In order to save yourself precious “holiday time,” avoid giving “fresh baked” gifts that have to be made the same week they are given. If you like giving fresh baked cookies, consider making the dough ahead of time and freezing it in an airtight container. That way you will always have fresh baked cookies on hand within 15 minutes.

4. Get Sewing! Or Crafting. There are so many handmade gifts that can be sewn or crafted ahead of time. My current favorite blog is EverythingEtsy.com They have…

5. Simplify! Don’t try to design a different homemade gift or basket for every single person on your list. Pick one or two crowd pleasing themes for your baskets, (or sewing pattern, or craft) and stick to it. Here are two of my favorite gift baskets:

  • Coffee for Two Basket: Include 2 coffee cups, homemade irish cream, chocolate or coffee liqueur (made ahead), a tin of your favorite coffee and a bottle of milk or cream. Save your coffee tins and frappuccino bottles over the summer. Remove labels and decorate with your established theme between now and Halloween. Set aside until Christmas, then fill with store bought bulk coffee and milk or cream just before gifting. You can even make Biscotti a month in advance and store in an air tight container, or cheat, and buy it from your bulk store. Oh, and one more tip; wait to buy your baskets until you know what is going in them! This will save you money, and a head ache, when you go to put them together. I speak from experience on this one.
  • Spa Basket: Make skin care items over summer and decorate the jars ahead of time, so all you have to do is put the basket together come gift giving time. Here are a few recipes for DIY Skin care products: Exfoliating Scrub, Bath Salts, Bath Bombs.

6. Pick one theme and stick to it. Whether it be red, green, and blue plaid; blue and white snowflakes; snowmen or nature inspired; pick a theme and stick with it. You will be amazed at how much easier it will be to decorate your home, and your gifts, if you pick one color combination or character and focus on that when purchasing or creating your decorations. Plus, your friends and family will be amazed at how well “put together” everything looks when even your tree decorations and presents match.

5. Start your decorations early. You don’t have to hang them, but most decorations can be made ahead of time and stored unit the fall.

I hope I have motivated you to get started on those Christmas gifts and decorations, or at least got your wheels turning. For more DIY decorating and Gift ideas, see my Pinterest page!

 

Orange Cream Dreams

Remember those amazing popsicles we had as kids, with the sweet vanilla ice cream in the center surrounded by tart orange sherbert on the outside? I believe they were called Dreamsicles. Well those popsicles were the inspiration for these heavenly cupcakes. I have such fond memories of summers growing up in the hot California sun. Popsicles were a must for every kid (both young and old,) and Orange Dreamsicles were mine and my dad’s favorite. Well Fudgesicles too, but don’t worry, I’m working on a cupcake for that too. In the meantime here is a recipe guaranteed to knock your socks off and probably make you want to slip on your Jellies sandals too.

These delightfully fresh cupcakes were so easy to make; I even cheated and used a box of cake mix for the base. Of course if you have a favorite recipe for white cake, by all means use it. I was just looking for a quick and easy fix to fulfill my cravings for this cool summer treat. What really makes these cupcakes so fantastic, is the frosting! I adapted a vanilla cream-cheese frosting recipe by simply adding lots of orange. The result: a perfect blend of smooth vanilla cream at the start and a surprisingly bright tart orange finish that leaves you begging for more. Oh yes my friends. These little devils are addicting! I bet you can’t eat just one.

Cake Recipe:
1 box white cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/3 c butter softened, but not melted
zest of one orange (aprox. 1 TBLS)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Orange extract
Orange food coloring (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325, and lightly grease, baking pans or muffin tin or whatever you are baking the cake in. Set aside, and lets begin.
2. Beat butter on low to medium speed with electric mixer until light and fluffy.
3. Add cake mix and orange juice until well incorporated. Then add eggs and beat until just incorporated. Do not over-beat or your cake will be flat, and nobody wants a flat cake!
4. Then stir in zest, extracts and food coloring by hand, again, just until well incorporated.
5. Poor into pans and bake until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
APPROXIMATE BAKE TIMES:
13×9: 20-25 min, Mini Muffin Tin: 12-17 min, Standard Muffin Tin: 15-20 min, 9 in cake rounds 18-25 min
I recommend starting with a low time setting and checking your cake often so as not to overcook it.

Frosting Ingredients:
8 oz room temperature cream cheese
4 oz. room temperature butter
3 1/2 c sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp orange extract
fresh squeezed juice of one small orange
food coloring (optional)

Directions:
1. Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy (aprox 4 min.)
2. Gradually mix in powdered sugar and orange juice.
3. Mix in extracts and food coloring if you choose.

Decorating and Serving Suggestions

  • Divide frosting in half, add orange food coloring to one half. Spoon frosting into piping bag fitted with an open star decorating tip, alternating between white and orange frosting. Pipe a swirl of frosting on each cupcake. The end result will look like orange and vanilla swirled soft serve ice cream.
  • Make these cupcakes a day in advance and allow them to cool in an airtight container in the fridge overnight. The frosting will firm up and will be just like a popsicle! These chilled cupcakes will be great for summer barbeques and other hot outdoor activities this summer. Hope you enjoy!!!

Tea Party Shower

In our family we like to keep our babies’ gender a surprise until after they are born; just as nature intended it. For this reason we often wait until after the baby is born, and throw a combined baby shower and “meet the baby party.” My sister-in-law recently had a baby girl; they named her Lilja, which means Lily in Gaelic. I was asked to help with the baby shower and graciously accepted. I’d been waiting for the opportunity to host a girly tea party for someone and this being my sister in law’s first girl, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. After convening with my co-hostesses, I got the green light and was put in charge of the cupcake tower and decorations. Since our beautiful new addition was named after a flower, we decided that the tea party should have a floral theme as well. I decorated the cupcake tower with pink, yellow and lavender paper, white tulle and pink and yellow bows, then started planning the cupcakes. Fondant flowers, heaps of fluffy buttercream and colored baking cups danced around in my head. I couldn’t wait to get started! After a quick trip to the store for some special ingredients and a box of allergen free cake mix for my cousin and her daughter, I was off to work on a very special baking and decorating adventure. It was so much fun! Check out how the party turned out!

Cupcakes with buttercream frosting and fondant Calla Lilies and Gluten and Dairy Free chocolate cupcakes with glistening pink flowers and rainbow dot sprinkles.

For the top of the tower I made a tiny layered cake and decorated it like a giant cupcake.

;

And another view.

Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes!!!

ok, just one more view. Can you tell I was really proud of this one?

The whole sha-bang!

I didn't make this diaper cake, but it was so darling, I had to share it with you. This is Grandma's first diaper cake! Didn't she do great!?

Cake pops tutorial

Easter egg, chick and bunny cake pops! They were a hit with both the kids and adults.

Cake Pop Tutorial
(as per my interpretation of Bakerella’s video tutorial)
Ingredients:
One box of your favorite cake mix or your own favorite cake recipe.
One can of your favorite frosting
1-2 bags of candy melts (or chocolate chips and 2-3 TBLS cooking oil mixed)
Cake decorations of your choice

Tools and Supplies
Mixing bowls (one microwave safe bowl)
13×9 cake pan
Parchment paper
Cookie sheet
Lollipop sticks
Styrofoam block for standing pops in once complete.
Decorating accessories of your choice. I used Wilton Decorating Frosting and decorator tips.

Directions:
1. Prepare cake and bake in 9×13 or larger pan.
2. Allow to cool.
3. Cut cake in quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, break in half and rub halves together over large mixing bowl to crumble. I found it best to have small crumbles, and wonder if this may even work better if you let the cake set overnight uncovered befor crumbling.
4. Once cake is crumbled, add Prepared frosting starting with about half the can, adding more as necessary until you get a nice soft doughy consistency. (Think something between refrigerator cookie dough and regular cookie dough.)
5. Roll dough into balls (or egg shapes for Easter egg pops) and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Allow to refrigerate at least an hour to set up befor skewering.
6. Once cake balls are set up. Melt your candy melts in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until melted. Working quickly, dip tip of lolli about 1/2 inch into melted candy or chocolate, push tip 1/2 way into ball, then dip ball into melts, coating completely. Allow the excess to drip off into the bowl, rolling the pop back and forth between your finger tips. Then push other end of stick into styrofoam block and allow to set until hardened.
7. If you plan on piping, let the candy harden first. If you want to sprinkle them with sprinkles or colored sugar, you will need to do that before the melts set up completely.
Presentation: I let mine sit over night then placed small cellophane bags over them and tied it with curly ribbon to make them a little more fancy. I also wrapped my block in brightly covered wrapping paper for a nice table presentation.

Pop! Goes the Easter Bunny

Easter Cake Pops

My mother in law hosted a huge Easter celebration this year, and I knew there would be lots of kids, so I wanted to make something fun and special for the kids to take home, and really, what is more fun than cake on a stick?! I mean you can put any food on a stick and it instantly becomes more fun and enticing. Ice cream, hot dogs, even vegetables! I’m sure many of you have seen the cake pops that Bakerella is popular for making. If you haven’t heard of her, I’ll just tell you, I don’t know if she is the one who came up with the idea of putting cake on a stick, but she has definitely mastered it! I watched her video on how she makes her cake pops, and decided “This looks simple enough. I’ll just whip some up for Easter!”

Well… let’s just say, “she makes it look easier than it is.” I’m no Bakerella, but I think I did a pretty decent job considering. Check out the pics below and if you feel inspired, check out the recipe here. Please share with me if you have experience making cake pops and if so, what you have learned. I think the most important lesson I learned is that refrigeration is key! The cake balls really need to set up before moving forward. Anyway, enjoy the pictures and give them a try!

Easter egg, chick and bunny cake pops! They were a hit with both the kids and adults.

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“Ultimate PMS Cookie” Recipe and Giveaway Results

Yum!

The other night I was sitting home alone feeling sorry for myself. My husband was working late, (really late) Baby Flescher was still awake and I was exhausted. To make matters worse I was depressed about being practically bed ridden and I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed cookies. Cookies always make me feel better. (Healthy, I know.) I really wanted cookie-dough ice-cream, but we didn’t have any and I was not about to tackle that project “in my condition.” So I decided I could settle for just cookies… or maybe just dough?” We’ll see how far I get”. I thought to myelf as I proceeded to the kitchen cupboards to see what ingredients I had to work with. . . Half a bag of chocolate chips; scratch chocolate chip cookies.  Barely a half cup of oats; scratch oatmeal cookies. “Oh, I know!” I literally expressed out loud as I dashed for the refrigerator. Peanut Butter! Sigh…Only a half-cup left. I had almost given up when I said, again out loud, “Scrap it!” I’ll put them all in the cookie dough! Thus the Ultimate PMS Cookie was born. Viola!

The oatmeal in these cookies give it a nice texture. The chocolate and peanut butter, well what can I say other than they just make me happy? These cookies were super easy to make and only took me about 15 minutes with one arm tied behind my back. Okay, not really, but it is in a cast, so it may as well be tied behind my back. Yes, for those of you following me that is surgery and a broken wrist. All I can do is laugh… and eat cookies. Hope you enjoy this super easy and amazingly delicious cookie recipe! I know I did.

The Ultimate PMS Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter (1/2 cup); softened
1/2 c natural peanut butter; room temperature or warmish
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1+ c chocolate chips (I prefer Nestle Tollhouse)

Tools:
Small mixing bowl
Fork
Large mixing bowl
Cookie sheet
Measuring cups and spoons

Recipe Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first four ingredients in small mixing bowl with fork. Set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, cream together next four ingredients, then add egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  3. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients into the mix, then fold in at least one cup of chocolate chips. Consider adding any other candy that makes you smile, such as toffee, m&m’s, Reese’s, etc.
  4. Scoop by heaping tablespoon onto nonstick or lightly greased cookie sheet and bake 11 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown and centers rise.

Makes at least 18 cookies. Remember, I really wanted cookie dough! If you can keep your fingers out of the pot, you can probably get 2 dozen cookies out of this recipe. Enjoy!

Now that you have your chocolate, peanut butter and oatmeal cookie fix, let’s see who our winner is! ….. DRUM ROLL PLEASE …..

….. And the winner is ….

Alycia Nichols at Tablescapes at Table 21!!!!

Congratulations Alycia! Well that’s all for now! Tune in again soon!

I’m sharing this post on Metamorphosis Monday at:

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