Saturday, July 5, 2014

Copycat Auntie Annes Pretzels

Have you ever taken a trip to the mall JUST for the warm chewey deliciousness of an Auntie Annes pretzel? You are not alone! There should be a secret support group for this addiction.

The warm chewey center. The golden outer crust. The tangy sea salt perfectly placed around the top............ Ohhhh just heaven on a plate (or in a cup if you choose the wonderful little bites perfect for dipping!)

Now you can have this incredible pretzel recipe and enjoy your addiction in the comfort of your own home. No one ever needs to know how much you crave these salty little bites of heaven.
Ok, now I sound like the little devil on your shoulder telling you to do the really bad things.
I'm really just trying to help you here! I promise I am :) You will thank  me after you make these just once! They are as close to the original as it gets. Give this recipe a try and let me know how they come out for you!

2 C. milk
1 1/2 Tbsp (2 packets) active dry yeast
6 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp butter, melted
4 1/2 C flour
2 tsp fine salt

1/3 C baking soda
3 C warm water
Coarse salt
 8 Tbsp butter, melted in a shallow bowl

Warm up the milk in the microwave or on the stove for about one  minute. It should be about 110º. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast. You should be able to comfortably keep your finger in it. Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. 
Add the butter and sugar. 
Add the flour about 1 cup at a time and the add the fine salt. 
Kneed the dough for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. 
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with greased cling wrap. Let it rise for 1 hour in a moist, warm place until doubled in size. 
Preheat the oven to 450º.
Punch down dough and divide into 12 lumps 
 Roll them all out as thin as you can.
Combine the warm water and baking soda in a wide bowl. Form the dough into pretzel shapes (or skinny sticks) , then dip in the baking soda water. 
Place on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt. 
Bake for about 7-11 minutes or until browned. 
Dip each in the melted butter while hot. 
Serve with cheese sauce.

The perfect cheese sauce: 
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 C milk
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
pinch of salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain. Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve warm. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.

If the sweeter version is more your taste, try dipping your pretzels in cinnamon sugar mixture once they come out of the melted butter! Delicious!! 

Let me know how they come out for you! 


Groupon Local Deals

If you are not yet a member of Groupon, you are missing out on some serious savings!! 
They pin point the deals to your location, and find you the best possible discounts on all kinds of items. Like to eat out? There is huge savings to be had on restaurants and food venues all over your area.

Up to 90 % off different businesses in your area.
Atleast once a month GROUPON sends out $ / $ coupons for any number of services they promote.

Take a look and sign up with your email to find the best deals to fit your needs. You wont be disappointed! 
They even have vacation discounts pretty often as well. I think I saw one for a cruise last summer....wishing I had was on a cruise right now :)

Summertime S'mores Cupcakes

These sweet little bundles of deliciousness will be a hit every time at your party or cook out!
We all love s'mores right out of the camp fire. But lets face it, we can't always have a roaring fire when ever we feel like it. These cupcakes are the perfect solution! Your little ones will love the extra goodies on the top. And you will love how easy they are to put together!

If you are a home made chocolate cake lover like myself, you will enjoy the recipe below. If you don't have the time or patience to make them from scratch, any boxed chocolate cake mix will work just as well.

Chocolate cupcakes: (makes 12 - 18) 

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
    In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.
    Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Frost with your favorite frosting when cool.

Marshmallow Butter Creme Frosting:

2 cups butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 (13 ounce) jar marshmallow creme

Cream butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium until butter is soft and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time; beat in almond extract. Gently fold the marshmallow creme into the frosting until thoroughly incorporated.

Frost each cupcake and top with a few mini marshmallows, hershey bar pieces and a graham cracker.
How adorable are these? A perfect treat after your barbeque, or for any school function.
Give them a try and let me know what you think.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Coolest Mason Jar Crafts

Sometimes when your spending the day touring all the town yard sales, you actually do find a few treasures! We have actually had alot of success this year finding some hidden gems. Will be great for the future trash to treasures projects for sure.
This past weekend I found a very large box filled with mason jars of many different sizes for just $4. There has to be at least 50 jars in the box. I don't have a plan yet for the jars, but  I have come across some super cute project ideas. I thought I would share a few of them with you.

WOW there are so many cute ideas for mason jars. I really got inspired with these ones I'm about to show you. I hope you do too. Please share if you decide to create one of these beauties!

Enjoy! ...


I love this idea! Can use any scrapbooking paper to match the decor where ever you use this !


You can never have to many jars/canisters for things in the kitchen and bath! These look great, and her tutorial is very clear and the pictures are great. Definitely made the top of my list!

Courtesy of Oopsey Daisy


I would love to get my own cake!! Super cute idea for a single serving cake in a jar. Seriously, if I got one of these at any party kids or adults party I would be so impressed. What a great idea! 

 Courtesy of Six Sisters' Stuff (Awesome Blog! ) 


I think I have more jars than I do lids in this box, but this pumpkin is just so cute for fall. Just love the cinnamon sticks for the stems. It's so rustic yet full of class!! 

Courtesy of Yellow Bliss Road


Another rustic yet classy little addition to your mantel for sure! I do not have a source of these sweet little jars, but I think with a little mod podge this should be pretty easy to accomplish. Add some twine around the edge for the rustic country feel and it will be perfect.
I'm seriously considering this one. They will make a great gift!

If this is your project, please please let me know so I can give credit where it is due!

Now this is a keeper! Im doing my kitchen in a beach theme, and the added shells in this one is perfect for a night light on the counter. Great tutorial also!

Courtesy of Domestically Speaking


 Mason jars look fabulous painted, but I love the distressed look of these ones. It adds a little shabby chic to any table or shelf. Don't you think? 

Courtesy of Bargain Bound


For the kiddos!! This idea is so practical. Personalized jar cups with lid and a straw for each kid. Personalized with a name tag. Love the whole idea and the striped straw just adds so much character.
 Courtesy of Ginger Snap Crafts


Super cute Halloween monsters!! How easy is this?  I think they would be perfect  going down my front steps come Halloween time. The dollar tree even sells the battery operated tea lights. Would be a lot safer.
Courtesy of JOYBOBO

Well, I think I have found some really great ideas for this big box of mason jars. I hope you found some inspiration in the pages. Do you have a mason jar craft you would like to share? Please let me know I would love to feature you on one of our posts.

Happy Crafting!! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Blue Hawaiian Cocktail

A sweet taste of the tropics in a glass! If you are a fan of fruity sweet drinks, you will love the Blue Hawaiian! On a hot summer night relaxing by the pool, or just in your own back yard under the stars, this refreshing drink is perfect anytime, any where.

1 oz light rum (my choice is meyers)
1 oz blue Curacao liqueur
2 oz's pineapple juice
1 oz cream of coconut
1 pineapple slice (for garnish)
1 maraschino cherry (for garnish)

Combine the first 4 ingredients into a shaker. Shake well and serve chilled.
For an even more satisfying cocktail try adding it to a blender with some crushed ice. Blend until smooth for a fabulous frozen mix!
Garnish with pineapple and cherry. and Enjoy!!

Bread Pudding

There is just something about warm sweet bread pudding straight from the oven! Topped with good vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of  caramel sauce. It just brings me straight back to my youth.

Especially on a cool fall night in front of a great family movie. (OK, now I'm day's 90+ degrees outside and the rest  of my family has their noses in a computer screen also. ... so much for that idea :) )

But the bread pudding is a must have on any type of night. Just  the perfect cure for your after dinner sweet tooth.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! We enjoy it so much, that I have to double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13" pan instead. It doesn't last very long in our house.

6 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
 Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
 In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cooking the perfect lobster!

There will always be the debate on how to cook the perfect lobster. Steamed or boiled?
I will say there is no WRONG way to cook this delicious crustation! As long as it is on MY plate, its perfect every time. :D

My personal preference? I prefer them boiled, for a few reasons. Lobsters cook more evenly and quicker when they are boiled. The meat is also easier to remove from the shell of a boiled lobster.

Fill a large pot about 3/4 full with salted water (if you have access to sea water this is even better)
Bring the pot to a rolling boil over high heat.
Pick up your lobster from the tail right at the back of the body. Don't worry they have rubber bands on those big viscous claws. They can't hurt you.
Carefully submerge the live lobster fully into the boiling water. Head first. Watch that tail, it can flip and splash the hot water out of the pot. Well, I would be angry if someone just stuck my head in a pot of boiling water too! Wouldn't you!?
You can cook more than one lobster at a time if your pot is big enough. Just make sure there is plenty of room/water to cover them all.
 Cover the pot and return to a boil as quickly as possible

Lobster cooking times:
1 lb. Lobster… 4-5 minutes
1 1/4 lb. lobster… 6-7 minutes
1 1/2 lb. lobster… 7-9 minutes
2 lb. lobster… 10-12 minutes
3 lb. lobster… 12-13 minutes
5-6 lb. lobster… 18-20 minutes

Don't add more time if your cooking multiple lobsters. They are in the same pot in the same boiling water. If you over cook them, they become rubbery and tough.

You will know your lobster is ready when ...
The shell is fire engine red all over.  Many New Englanders will say when you can pull the antennae out easily your lobster is cooked.
Remove your lobster from the boiling water and run it under cold water or into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. You don't want to over cook them.
Your looking for the meat to be a creamy white color. You don't want it to be translucent at all.

After you cook your lobster you should shoot me a message  and get my address. Package up all the sweet meat and have it delivered straight to my door. ..... No really! That is part of the instructions I promise! :)


Summertime Flower Cupcakes

How cute would these adorable edible flowers be in the center of your dessert table!?!?
I just fell in love with these cupcakes when we made them for my mom's 60th birthday party.
They are a huge hit and definitely a conversation piece, because they look so intricate and time consuming. But, they are super easy to make! Shhhh, don't tell. That's our little secret.

What you will need:
12 of your favorite cupcakes - baked, cooled and ready to be frosted
Frosting of your choice - I think white makes the color stand out but you can color it to match the sugar color if you like.
Mini marshmallows (I used 13 for each flower)
Decorating sugar - what ever color you want your petals to be
White sugar
Sour apple candy licorice
A ribbon to tie your bouquet together

To  make the cupcakes:
Frost your cupcake. One at a time. You don't want the frosting to harden before you put the petals on.
Cut 13 mini marshmallows in half on a diagonal (from corner to corner) This will automatically make your petal shape.
Dip the cut side into your sugar (You can do all one color or alternate from colored to white every other petal - alternating was my favorite look)

Starting with the outside row press the petals into the frosting cut side up.Alternating with white sugar dipped and colored sugar dipped. When you complete the full circle around the outer edge of the cupcake make your second row just inside the first but lay the next row of petals between the 2 from the first row (see image above) . Continue until your flower is complete.

I used Sour green apple twizzler pull and peels for the "stems" and just tied a cute little ribbon around them to look like a real bouquet.

So so easy and looks like it took hours of time and detail to get it right. You will have so much fun making these! Let me know how it worked for you in the comments below!

Chocolate Covered Fruit Bouquet

Have you ever gotten a gift of delicious mouth watering fruit, arranged so perfectly and designed to perfection?
I received one of these lovely bouquets for my birthday a few years back. It was simply divine! The fruit was so juicy and perfectly ripe I was in heaven.
A few months later I went to send a gift to a friend, so I decided one of these adorable fruit arrangements would be perfect..... Until I saw the price!
I was actually quite shocked at how pricey they were. And I knew I could make something equally gorgeous and for at least half the price. So I did!

I've made a few  of these arrangements over the last year, and each one I like just a little more than the last. Practice makes perfect maybe?

The one I'm showing you today is one I made for a special 14 year olds birthday. I knew she loved kiwi fruit so that was definitely going to be added in. I added strawberries to go with it because lets face it ... strawberries dipped in chocolate are one of lifes perfect little treats!

The fruit:You can dip just about anything in chocolate. But just remember these few helpful tips.  Make sure your fruit is fresh, washed and completely dry or the chocolate will not stick. If you have a juicy fruit (like the kiwi) and its almost impossible to keep it dry, try popping it in the freezer for about 30 minutes after you stick the skewers in each piece.

The sticks: Fruit is definitely good with out it being on a stick, but lets face it every thing tastes better when its on a stick (or wrapped in bacon, but that is another blog post)
Depending what your project is, that will determine what kind of sticks to use. You can get lollipop sticks in the candy making aisle at Michaels or Wal Mart. There are all different lengths to choose from. I've also had great success with just using regular wooden skewers. Also found at Wal Mart or possibly the dollar store too.

The chocolate: I prefer using the Wilton Chocolate melts for dipping anything. It melts more even, and has a nice glossy finish (much bore attractive for the over all look of the finished fruit) and it comes in MANY colors. You can also buy Almond bark in your baking section at Wal Mart. It comes in chocolate and vanilla only. You will have to add food coloring to this if you want other colors than brown and white.

Optional tools:
Mini piping bags for decorating your dipped fruit (or a ziploc baggie with a TINY bit of one corner snipped off works just as good)
Sprinkles or candy sugar to add some pizzaz  and sparkle
Wax paper - Its always good to protect your surface. Once it hardens, the chocolate easily lifts right off the wax paper without sticking to it.

Lets get started!!

Pour about half the bag of the melting chips into a microwave safe bowl. If your using almond bark chop it up pretty fine before melting. The thinner you cut the chocolate the quicker it will melt
Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Give the chips a stir. Continue melting in 30 second intervals, stirring after each time. Until the chips are fully melted. Do not just put it in for 2 minutes and then check it. Your chocolate will burn.

Once your chocolate is fully melted, take your clean, washed and dried fruit that should already be on  the sticks if you choose to display them this way, and gently dunk the fruit into the melted chocolate. Tap the sides of the bowl gently to shake off any excess chocolate.

Lay the fruit on a sheet of wax paper to harden.

It will dry pretty fast. maybe 5 minutes tops. The perks of using this type of dipping chocolate for sure.

If your chocolate coating is to thin, go ahead and dip it a second time just to be sure the fruit is completely covered.

Decorate as desired with a contrasting color (melt also using the steps above) Add some stripes, or shake on some colored  sugar or candy sprinkles while the chocolate is still wet.

If you are making an arrangement, I like to use floral foam or styrafoam blocks  inside the base of your piece. If your base is light weight, glue the foam to the bottom or fill it with rice to keep it from tipping over.

Place the sticks into the floral foam evenly so it looks like a bouqet of flowers (the really yummy kind you can eat! mmmmm!)
To fill in any empty spaces, try using tissue paper or a few squares of toole tucked in between the pieces of fruit. If you really want to go natural, Use fresh mint leaves instead of the tissue paper.

Why not make a mint Juliep for the after party ! :)

I do hope these instructions were clear enough for everyone to understand. Sometimes I tend to ramble a bit and I forget that less is more. But hopefully, you can get past my babbling and make some beautiful pieces of scrumptious chocolate covered fruit!

Monday, June 30, 2014

DIY Jersey Knit Braided Infinity Scarf

I know it is only the end of June, but this year is flying by so fast, the cooler weather will be here before you know it. Don't be mad at me! It's a simple fact LOL We are just about half way through this entire year already. I guess it is true what they say .. The older you get the faster it goes by.

Back on topic here ...
Last winter I made some super cute Infinity wrap scarfs that I just adored. Fashionable? yes! Warm? They are super warm. And perfect for the fall nights. (The fleece one at the bottom is one of my favorites! So snuggly warm!)

They are pretty simple to make and you can get 3 scarfs out of a 2 inch YARD (silly typo I had to leave it in there)  length of fabric. A standard bolt of fabric is 60 inches wide. If you cut this into thirds you will have (3) 20 inch pieces. One scarf uses ONE 20 inch x 72 inch panel of fabric.
I do prefer the jersey knit fabric for these lovely scarfs because of its stretchiness and durability.

Check out the selection of 50% off items at Hancock Fabric- Click the banner to browse!

Jersey Knit fabric in your choice of color (20 inches x 72 inches)
Matching thread
Needle (You can use your sewing machine also to make this easier. I don't have one so I did this by hand.)

Cut your 20x72 inch piece of fabric into 3 sections : 10x72 inch, 6x72  inch, and 4x72 inch
*you should now have 3 strips of fabric

The 10 inch piece will remain solid.
The 6 inch and the 4 inch piece are the 2 you are going to braid. Make 2 cuts in each but DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY ACROSS leave about 1 - 1 1/2 inches on the end. It's easier to braid if you havent cut all the way through to the other end.

Braid your 2 strips, just as you would your hair. once you get to the end you can tie a rubber band around them just so they don't unravel, or a paper clip works too.

Your 10 inch solid piece should now be longer than the 2 braided pieces. Just trim off the excess so they are equal in length. Set that trimming aside you can use it later to cover your stitches.

Time to lay out the pieces and get ready to sew.
Just stack them on top of each other 1. braid 2. flat panel 3. braid so the edge of the ends are flush together. There is no real inside or outside to jersey fabric. I don't recommend using a fabric with a wrong side as it will show both side when your wearing it. 

Sew all 3 pieces together with a sewing machine or a needle and thread.
Do the same thing to the other end so both ends are sewn together. Don't forget to remove the rubber bands if you used them to keep your braid together.

You now just need to sew the 2 ends together. Lay one of the ends slightly on top of the other so your scarf forms a loop. Careful not to twist your pieces. Sew the 2 together.

Finally, take the extra  piece you cut from the solid piece of fabric earlier, and use it to cover the sewn ends. I rolled my ends a little as I was pulling this piece of fabric around them. Just pin the fabric and stitch  it by hand to cover all your stitches and finish off your scarf.

You can wear it just hanging around your neck, or loop it around twice as seen in the photos to give it a bulkier wrapped look.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Balsamic and Garlic Mushrooms

I have always loved veggies. Even as a  kid, we always had fresh fruits and veggies all around us all the time.
I remember going over to my Gram's to help in the garden. We would wander around with our baskets to help her pick. Half would end up in the basket, the other half would end up in our bellies.

Fresh peas, green beans and strawberries were our favorite for sure.
Sitting out on the sun porch with our Gram, shelling peas for hours. Her bowl always ended up so much more full than mine and so much faster. Such great memories of my childhood!
There are so many incredible recipes out there for vegetables now. You can do  so much to them to compliment any main dish. Mushrooms are one of my favorites now that I'm a little older.
I love them deep fried, sliced  and pan fried for a topper on a delicious burger. I also love them just on the side as well.
This yummy balsamic & garlic mushroom recipe is so quick and easy. It goes with everything!

And only 5 ingredients! Makes it even better

1 pound button mushrooms - wiped & clean
1/3 C. olive oil
2 cloves garlic - minced
4 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
3 Tbs white wine (or water)

Heat the oil in a large skillet on med. heat
Drop in your garlic and let it get light brown, about 2 - 3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic or it will leave a bitter taste to your food.
Add in your mushrooms, balsamic and white wine. Cook about 7 - 10 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally to coat the mushrooms with your delicious "sauce". Cook until your mushrooms are tender.
Add salt & pepper to taste and chopped parley for a garnish if you like.

We just had these as a side dish with our sloppy Joe's. Just wonderful. The kids won't eat them, or any other "good for them" veggie, but they will ... in time. all in good time :)