Red Velvet Peppermint Bark

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One of the things I can’t get enough of lately is peppermint + chocolate. I’m obsessed with Chick Fil-A’s peppermint chocolate chip shake, and I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten half a bag of Candy Cane kisses. It’s just insane how much I love it, because usually I could give or take peppermint bark. Eggnog is usually my thing. I’m really not sure what’s gotten into me, but I’m not complaining!

I originally saw the idea for cake batter bark on How Sweet It Is. I’ve been wanting to do it with red velvet, and thought that it would be so festive to use red velvet cake mix in peppermint bark. The results were great! One of my coworkers tasted it, and then grabbed 4 pieces haha! It’s also very simple to make, and it makes a good bit!

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark

I packaged these in simple printed cello bags, and added Christmas sprinkles with the crushed candy canes for a more Christmas-y touch. Y’all know I’m all about sprinkles!

Red Velvet Peppermint Bark
Source: inspired by How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp. canola oil (divided)
  • 3 1/2 tbsp. red velvet dry cake mix
  • 10 mini candy canes, crushed
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • red powdered food coloring

Directions:

  1. Melt the 1/2 lb. of dark/semi-sweet chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, along with 1/2 tsp. of the canola oil, until melted. You’ll want to do this in 30 second increments at 50% power, being sure to stir well between each microwave cycle. Pour and spread the chocolate, using a spatula, on top of a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Allow it to set for 15 minutes.
  2. Melt the 1/2 lb. of white chocolate with the remaining 1/2 tsp. of canola oil, until melted. Microwave this in 30 second increments as well, at 50% power, being sure to stir well between each microwave cycle. Mix in the dry cake mix, as well as the powdered food coloring (a little at a time until desired color is achieved), until everything is well combined. Pour this over the set dark chocolate and spread the red velvet white chocolate carefully, making sure to cover the dark chocolate. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes and Christmas sprinkles liberally over the red velvet white chocolate.
  3. Allow the bark to cool completely before breaking into pieces and serving.

2013 Holiday Bake-Palooza

2013 Bake-Palooza

This past weekend was a busy one in our kitchen. We had our annual holiday bake-palooza for coworker/neighbor gifts! I think after doing this for 4 years, we have figured out a good system for doing this. We were done much earlier than I anticipated, which is awesome. :-)

2013 Bake-Palooza

At the end of the weekend, this was what we ended up with. The packaging this year was a mish-mash of items from Wal-Mart, Target, Hobby Lobby, Pick Your Plum, TJMaxx & World Market. This year was a year to use up leftover packaging from previous years, so nothing is really uniform. However, it doesn’t really matter to me, because I think it looks really fun sitting together.

The recipes that we decided on this year were:

To divide things up, about a month ago, I made all of the cookie dough and froze it using this method in the post. Then on Friday, we made all of the candy (2 batches of fudge, caramel, elf’s mix & bark)., and on Saturday, we baked up all of the cookies and made the bread. It really wasn’t bad at all, compared to previous years. The biggest time saver is making all of the cookie dough in advance, especially when you’re making 3-4 batches of each cookie dough.

2013 Bake-Palooza

These are trays that I made for each of our offices. I purchased these at Wal-Mart for $3, and they come with a lid and a handle. They hold a ton, which is perfect since we wanted to give our coworkers a nice variety of things to enjoy.

2013 Bake-Palooza

This is the inside of the tin in the first picture. We gave these gifts to neighbors, and they were the perfect size. We squeezed in some fudge, homemade caramels, as well as cookies.

2013 Bake-Palooza

Since I work on a very small team, I wanted to give little bags of treats to them as well. Sure, they could pull from the large break room tray that I made, but since my office is pretty large, I wanted to make sure they had their share of the goodies too. :-)

Have you done any holiday baking yet? When do you plan on baking for holiday gifting?

Tree & Wreath Cupcakes

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This weekend is the grand bake-palooza in our house. I have the bags of pre-scooped cookie dough ready, and went on one last Target run for necessary ingredients for Mom’s fudge, Elf’s Mix & a few other recipes that I’ll be sharing on here soon. :-) I just love making these gifts every year…edible gifts are always a winner, and it’s fun to package them up. I’m a sucker for treat boxes, cellophane and a ton of curling ribbon. :-)

This week, I was just itching to throw some cupcakes together. Sometimes, I just have to take those old Wilton tips out and go crazy with buttercream. I actually first attempted these with a grass tip, and they just looked so messy. However, a star tip (#21) did the trick.

I didn’t take pictures of every step with these cupcakes, because they’re pretty simple to pipe out, and you can easily see where I piped the stars.

I started off by thinly frosting (completely cooled) cupcakes with a layer of un-dyed vanilla buttercream (I used this recipe for the buttercream). To make the trees, I started with 5 stars on the bottom, then a row of 4 (between each star in the 5 row), and then 3, 2, 1. For the wreaths, I piped two stars next to each other, and continued in a circle around the whole cupcake. To make the bows, I just used a small round tip (#5) and piped a sideways “8″, and added the edges. The ornaments were made using the same tip, in small, random dots in the gaps of the piped stars. The tree trunks were piped with the same round tip in brown frosting.

I think these cupcakes would be especially festive with a funfetti cupcake recipe, using holiday colored jimmies!

Are any of y’all baking this weekend for the holidays? I’d love to hear about what’s baking in your kitchen. :-) I’m sure I’ll be tweeting about the flour/confectioner’s sugar clouds in my kitchen.

Holiday Cards from Minted & A Giveaway!

As much as I love Christmas, one thing I’ve always gone back and forth on was our Christmas card. Since it’s just me and my husband, nothing really changes in the pictures from year to year, and we don’t really take many posed photos together. Since we never have a picture of us for a Christmas card, who were we going to feature?

Well, one year I decided to take pictures of our dog, Millie. I wasn’t sure if it would be well-received or not, but people loved them! It became our little tradition. Every year, I found it so fun to put Christmas decorations around her (closely watching her, of course), and take probably 100 pictures, praying that she didn’t move since there was a large treat above the camera lens for her to stare at and drool over (which usually resulted in the perfect puppy smile).

Time to fill my stocking, Momma!

This was last year’s picture. I mean seriously…how adorable is that?

So, this year, when I was looking for Christmas cards, I was hoping to find a card with a more pet-centric message. Usually I’d buy something that said “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” from (our last name) and leave it at that. However, this year, I discovered these holiday cards from Minted.com, and included in that are some cards that are specifically meant for pet photos!

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Christmas Cookies & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

It’s now socially acceptable to decorate with all of the Christmas things! I just felt like stating that to you guys. :-P

Since it’s now officially the holiday season, I think I’m going to ask a certain husband who isn’t afraid of heights to go in the attic and grab all of the Christmas decor. ::fingers crossed:: I seriously can’t take 3 steps on a ladder without taking deep breaths and telling myself “I think I can…I think I can…”.

I just love making cookies for the holidays. I bake so many for gifts, since it’s always a winner with coworkers and neighbors. I learned a great trick when it comes to baking in bulk for the holidays…make your dough in advance to freeze and then bake them all later. It makes things a lot easier when you’re making dozens of cookies at once. :-)

What also makes things easier while baking is knowing that your favorite recipes will always come out the same when using quality ingredients. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that good, quality ingredients really do make a difference in your baking. For example, I used to grab store brand flour, and the results of my baking weren’t always consistent. I really thought it was me making a mistake in the recipe, but when I switched to a bag of King Arthur Flour, my favorite recipes come out the same way every time. I will admit that King Arthur Flour is slightly pricier than store brands, but to me, it’s worth it to use a brand that has such high quality standards when it comes to flour. You don’t have to order their flour online only either…they carry their flour at so many stores now (I recently saw their flour at Walmart for $3.95/bag!). Also, I’ve seen quite a few of their baking products, like espresso powder (which is so hard for me to find anywhere else…is it just me?) and specialty extracts, at Sur La Table. :-)

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Peppermint Swirl Sugar Scrub & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

**NOTE: This gift is NOT edible. This sugar scrub is NOT for consumption…it’s a bath/body product.**

I just thought I’d get that out of the way, since all of the other gifts in this blog series are food related….this one is not, due to the use of essential oils.

I love this time of the year, but one of the biggest issues I face is how drying the winter is, especially on my hands. I use so much lotion throughout the winter, and sadly, with all of the cooking/baking that I do, the constant hand washing doesn’t make things any better. It’s probably because the winter sucks the humidity out of Louisiana, but I’m always prepared with shea butter hand lotion and some sort of moisturizing scrub. I know a scrub sounds counter-intuitive, but a sugar scrub exfoliates with the sugar and also moisturizes your skin using the oil. It always leaves my hands feeling nice and soft. I thought that it would be a great gift idea to make these for the other women in my family, since we all go through the same thing this time of the year!

When I saw this idea for a Peppermint Swirl scrub on Dixie Crystals’ website, I knew that this was going to be a winner. I just love minty scents around this time of the year, and since I’m making it myself, I’m able to control the scent (which is great, because some mint scents can smell too overpowering).

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Cinnamon Rolls & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

It’s amazing how quickly one can go through butter for holiday baking, so it’s essential for me to stock up when it goes on sale! Usually $2/lb. is my stock-up price, and when I stock up, I usually buy 10 lbs. at a time. I have to wonder what the cashier thinks of me when I purchase all that butter, and I’ve been asked if I own a bakery once. Nope…I just LOVE to bake!

This recipe for cinnamon rolls goes through some butter, y’all. At first, I thought there was no way all of that butter was going to go in the cinnamon rolls…no way. However….yup…I used over a pound of butter in a batch of cinnamon rolls. 4 sticks alone served as part of the filling! Now, this recipe isn’t just for 8 rolls…I got 48 rolls out of this recipe. It’s the perfect recipe for gift-giving, and it comes from someone who is always cooking for a crowd: The Pioneer Woman.
cinnamonrolls1

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her cinnamon roll recipe, but since it’s such a large recipe, I felt like I needed an occasion to make these. Well, how about the holidays? When this recipe makes 6 pans worth, you could totally get away with gifting this to neighbors, family, friends….whoever you want! I took a tip from The Pioneer Woman, and baked them in cheap disposable baking pans. While they aren’t the prettiest, you can totally dress up the pan by dying the icing, adding sprinkles on top of the rolls & wrapping the pan in holiday cellophane paper! How awesome would it be to give something like this to a loved one?

cinnamonrolls2

These cinnamon rolls were divine. Just…divine. This is my first time making cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I firmly believe that the scent of butter/sugar/cinnamon/dough needs to be in a candle. Holy moly…it smelled like king cake in our house! The rolls themselves were a tender, fluffy texture, thanks to Red Star Platinum yeast. I first heard about Red Star Yeast when I attended a King Arthur Flour seminar a couple of years ago. We were given samples at the seminar, and when I baked with the yeast, I was so surprised at how well the dough rose! I ended up purchasing a full 1 lb. block of Red Star Yeast the next week. I’m definitely a fan of their yeast.

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Lumps of Coal & A Giveaway!

handmadeholidays

I’m ridiculously excited about this week’s posts. As you guys may already know, I’m a big fan of the holiday season. One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to DIY some of the gifts, and this week is going to be all about homemade holiday gifts that you can easily make from the kitchen. So, everyday this week (with the exception of Thanksgiving), I’ll be featuring a fun homemade holiday gift idea, along with a giveaway from some very generous companies whose products I love to use!

Today, I wanted to share with you guys how easy it is to make these adorable “lumps of coal”.

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Red Stick Spice Company & A Giveaway!

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Up until a few years ago, I really had no idea what a difference good, quality spices make in cooking/baking. I’ll be honest…back in the hot dog/blue box macaroni cooking days, I thought that spices never expired! I also thought that you could get away with purchasing the cheapest spices in the store, and you’d still get the same result. However, I learned that spices usually have a shelf life of a couple of years, and it’s always smart to purchase good quality spices.

I remember going to a specialty spice store for the first time when I went to Houston with my husband, and we really stocked up, since we knew that Baton Rouge had nothing like this. It was a bummer, since Louisiana is such a food-centric state…why wouldn’t we have more stores like this? However, a couple of years ago, I first heard of this business called Red Stick Spice Company (in case you didn’t know Baton Rouge is French for Red Stick). I looked up their website, and decided that the first free weekend I had, I had to visit this business and see what they were all about!

Let’s just say I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I purchased 1/2 cup of cinnamon for my holiday baking when I went for my first visit, as well as some other hard-to-find spices that I wanted to use for some recipes. I didn’t shop there very often, because let’s face it, how often do you need to replenish spices? However, they were my go-to when I had a big spice related purchase to make! At some point, the owners decided to sell this business, and I’ll be honest…I was worried about what would happen to this spice store that I’ve just fallen in love with. Well y’all…GREAT things have happened since the new owner, Anne Milneck, took over!

I went to the store for the first time since the new owner took over a few weeks ago, and it was awesome! I’m a sucker for great logos/branding, as well as a store with lovely displays, and this store definitely has all of that!

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Handmade Christmas Stockings

I remember taking a knitting class in college, and learning how to make something simple like a scarf or a washcloth. My instructor always showed us the possibilities of knitting, but I honestly never thought I could ever grasp the idea of the more advanced projects (like sweaters and socks). However, one day while browsing Ravelry, I came across a stocking pattern. It had 5 or 6 colors involved, and the novice knitter in me thought…man, there must be a TON of knots all over the back of the stocking. I had no idea how to weave in colors then, so I thought everything was knots, of course.

Then, the crafting bug hit me when I was on the stocking aisle one year. We bought these simple stockings for our mantel, but I just wasn’t happy with it. I wanted something much more personal with more meaning. I figured there had to be an approachable way to make those stockings that I saw on Ravelry, so I did my research. It really didn’t seem that bad, so I bought some red/green/ivory yarn and took the plunge. I started working on these around Halloween, and didn’t finish until early December. I saved the extra yarn specifically for more stockings in the future, whether it be more furbabies or possible human babies. A gal needs to be prepared. :-P

Stocking Progress

Some knitting notes: For my and my husband’s stocking, I used charts that were included in the pattern. For Millie’s stocking, I googled dog fair isle charts for the paw, bone & fire hydrants. To make the rows fit, I drew my own charts based off of some shapes that I found. I used the duplicate stitch to add our names and ornaments to the trees on my husband’s stocking. I also took notes from Ravelry members, and decreased stitches EVERY round for the toe and heel, instead of every other round.

I’m so happy with how these came out. I had to refer to YouTube quite a few times, but it eventually worked out. I haven’t been able to line them yet, but that will be my project for next year. :-)

Finished Stockings