Early Christmas gift to myself!

Look what I found sitting on my porch the other day!

P1240362Can you see on the box WHO it came from???

P1240363YEP!!  I followed my readers advice and splurged a little and bought myself a Keurig Mini Plus.

P1240376In RED!  Isn’t it adorable?!?!?  I really, REALLY wanted a turquoise one and did a LOT of searching for it.  Either the turquoise was sold out in the Mini size or they don’t make the mini in Turquoise.  That’s okay, I like the red and turquoise color combination.

P1240377And my toaster is also red, albeit a considerably different SHADE of red (the toaster is ‘candy apple red’ and the Keurig is more of a ‘burgundy’ red).  Red is a really difficult color to match.

I can actually have people ‘come over for coffee’ and not be embarrassed to serve them instant coffee now!  The only ‘issue’ now is to find which brand and blend of K-pod I like the best.  There are WAY too many options!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY BLOG READERS!

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Easiest Ever (and BEST) Dulce de Leche (caramel sauce!)

Gooey . . . yummy  . . . and easiest EVER Dulce de Leche.  

This super easy recipe had been around for ages!  I made it for the first time about 30 years ago.  Now, thanks to Pinterest, it’s getting some new press.  I encourage you to give it a try.  You will NOT regret doing so!

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No mixing.  No measuring.  No candy thermometer needed.  And you will NEVER buy caramel sauce ever again once you make your own like this.

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All you need is a can (or THREE!) of sweetened condensed milk  . . .

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(BE SURE to but the cans withOUT the tab top.  I’ve heard that the tabs ‘can’ pop open under the pressure of the cooking process.  Better safe than sorry!)

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Remove the label and put the unopened can (or canS!) in a big pot of water.  Be sure they are completely covered by the water.  Lay your can on its SIDE to avoid hearing it ‘clank around’ during the boiling process.

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Bring water to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let it simmer 3 hours.  Don’t let that length of time discourage you from trying this!  It is SO worth it.   You don’t need to stand over your pot and constantly watch it, so you can easily multi-task while you make it.

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Do it while you are baking Christmas cookies, or decorating your tree, or addressing Christmas cards . or watching your favorite Christmas movies . . . . . ALL you need to do is peek in on your pot of boiling water every 30-45 minutes to be sure your can is still completely covered; top off the water if needed.

5f5a52a55653b6d987bdb06f91391119Three hours of cooking time will give you a thick creamy SAUCE.  If you want it THICKER, cook it for 4 hours.  Once cooking time is up remove pan from heat and let cool for half an hour or so.  Remove can from pan with tongs and place on a cooling rack (keep can on its side during cooling time).  Let it cool overnight.

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Once cool, open and ENJOY!  Serve it as a dip for fresh fruit for your Christmas party.  Drizzle it over popcorn.  Add it to your favorite Chex Mix recipe.  Dip shortbread or biscotti in it.  Add a spoonful to your morning cup of coffee.  Make yourself a Hot Caramel Rum beverage (instead of a ‘hot buttered rum!’ Drizzle a little over your bowl of oatmeal.  Dip a salted nut in it for a sweet and salty treat.  Or just enjoy a spoonful!

P1240494I like to give these as ‘gifts’ to friends and neighbors along with a plate of Christmas cookies, or their favorite coffee beans (or k-pods!) so I add a pretty Christmas paper label.

P1240495And some pretty papers on the tops, and a tag with serving suggestions written on it.

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After you have opened your can, IF you have any left, transfer the rest into a covered glass jar or plastic refrigerator container.

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There are also recipes (on Pinterest, of course!) for making the same sauce in a crock pot or pressure cooker.

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Try it.  You’ll LOVE it!

We interrupt this ‘Trash2Treasure’ blog for a cookie baking marathon.

Yep.  It’s time to bake the Christmas cookies!

P1240379SO many yummy, crunchy and gooey options to add to them!

P1240375I love having a variety of cookies to give out to friends and neighbors, but I hate ‘waiting by the oven’ for the time to ‘ding’.  I tried a different method this year, and made my cookies ‘assembly line’ style . . . as I do with my crafting.

I bought a new set of baking sheets at Costco, so now I have FIVE ‘good’ cookie sheets.  (got rid of the ‘bad’ ones when I moved earlier this year)  So with five cookie sheets to work with, I could easily keep the oven full of baking cookies all the time.

I mixed up all my cookie doughs the day before, wrapped them in a roll in freezer paper and put them in the frig overnight.  Wrote the baking time and temp on the freezer paper.  Pulled them out about 30 minutes before I was ready to start baking, but my kitchen is SO SMALL, I didn’t have any available counter space to put the tray!  And where oh WHERE was I going to put the trays while the cookies cooled?!?!?

Fortunately my garage door (the ‘side’ door, not the BIG door) is four steps away from my kitchen, and it was nice and cool in there.  And my chest freezer, washer and dryer are right there at the back of the garage.  Made for the perfect cookie cooling station!

Turned my oven on the pre-heat, then lined all my cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Grabbed my first roll of dough and a knife and started slicing.  By the time I had them sliced and on the cookie sheet, the oven was ready to use.  In went the first batch; timer set for 8-10 minutes.

WHILE those were baking, I grabbed my second roll of dough and sliced it up and put slices in the cookie sheet.  Timer went off for the first batch.  Pulled them out and put the next batch in and set the timer again.  Took the ‘hot from the oven’ sheet of cookies to the garage to cool, and grabbed my next roll of dough to slice.

Pulled the second batch from the over, and put the third batch in.  Second batch to the garage to cool and first batch was ready to be moved from the cookie sheet to the cooling racks.  Grabbed the fourth roll  . . . . and so on!

P1240384Just kept that process going for a total of 7 batches.  (small batches, so just one sheet per batch, but there are BIG baking sheets and will hold 24 cookies).

P1240380Sugar cookies with crushed peppermint.  (Yes, you can buy bags of crushed peppermint!  So much easier than crushing your own!)  Sugar cookies topped with ‘thin mints’; raspberry and orange.

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Buttery caramel cookies (the caramels come in chocolate chip size!) in front and chocolate mint squares in back (with chocolate and green mint chips)

P1240382Chocolate chip peanut butter cookies.

P1240383Peanut butter Butterfinger cookies on the left.  (again you can BUY a bag of crushed Butterfinger)  Pumpkin chip pecan cookies on the right.

After they all completely cooled, I packaged them up in cute little Christmas tins that I found at Dollar Tree; one big tin topped with a smaller one and tied up with some red and white bakers twine.  (forgot to take a picture of them all packaged)

And MY Christmas baking is DONE!

Snickerdoodles DELUXE!

Baking up a batch of Snickerdoodles for Michael last night, and trying to think of a way to get MORE cinnamon on them,  and avoid having to hand-roll every cookie in the cinnamon.  I have such a time getting each cookie the same size!  So I invented “Snickerdoodles DELUXE”!  They are SUPER cinnamoney!

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And really quite EASY to make.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to turn out though, so I didn’t take pictures as I made them.   

Mix up your dough per the recipe.

Get a big piece of was paper and spray with some PAM no stick spray.

Plop ALL your dough onto the was paper.

Use  another piece of wax paper to flatten out your dough into a big rectangle.

Cover the flattened out dough with cinnamon sugar, then roll it up lengthwise (so it’s as long as possible)

I was in a hurry to get mine done, so I put the roll in the freezer for about 1/2 an hour.  OR you could refrigerate for a few hours or even overnight.  (Covered with the wax paper)

Slice chilled rolled cookie dough.

 Dip each slice into MORE cinnamon.

Place on pan extra cinnamon side up and bake per recipe.

YUMMY!!!

Easy ‘almost from scratch’ Apple Turnovers

I’ve been spending more time in the kitchen lately.  Trying to ‘trim’ the grocery budget back a bit and buy less ‘convenience’ foods.  Which mostly consists of SWEETS in our house.  Michael doesn’t just have “a” sweet tooth.  He’s got a whole mouth FULL of them!  Last week I made some apple turnovers, almost from scratch; and using stuff I already had on hand.
That’s my ingredients.  Although I only used a TINY bit of the frosting.

First I diced up about 1/3 of the apple filling so they’d more easily fit inside the turnovers.

Take one of the crescent rolls and fold over one of the corners.

Smoosh your crescent piece around a bit to get a shape like the one on the right.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Put a dollop of your diced apple pie filling on one side of your smooshed out crescent.

Fold over and pinch the edges together by hand, then use a fork to seal the edges more tightly.  Make three small slits in the top.

Sprinkle on a little more cinnamon sugar and transfer to your greased baking sheet.

Continue the process with all 8 crescents in the package.  If you wanted to, you COULD shape them more ‘perfectly’ and uniformly.  Since I wasn’t even sure these were going to turn out, I went for ‘speed’.

Bake per the instructions on your crescent roll package.   While they are baking, portion out a little bit of your frosting.  I put mine in a ramekin.  Frosting is really optional, except in Michael’s case!  You could also do a simple sugar glaze with powdered sugar and water.

Microwave the ramekin of frosting just long enough to melt it.  (just a few SECONDS!  Watch it or it WILL bubble over very quickly!)

Remove from oven when baking time is up.

Give your melted and now slightly cooled down frosting a stir and drizzle on top of the cooked turnovers.

We sampled them ‘just out of the oven’ and still warm.    Michael gives them 2 thumbs up!

Next batch will be with regular canned fruit instead of pie filling!

Bon apetit!  

 

Electric cake pop maker; FAIL!!

As grocery prices keep going higher and higher, Michael and I are making a concerted effort to be more frugal with our grocery budget.  To that end, I, am doing more ‘cooking from scratch’ and avoiding ‘convenience’ foods.  Michael is a sugar FIEND!  Really.  It’s his ONLY vice (besides junk collecting!); and if don’t keep sweets for him in the house, he’ll pay twice as much and buy them every day.

This cute little electric cake pop maker was on sale (AND the perfect color!!) so I bought it; thinking that I could bake these to pack in Michael’s lunches.  Much easier than trying to pack a PIECE of cake.  And I could bake a batch and freeze some, unfrosted.  Then fix them up with different toppings when I was ready to use them.

For my first batch I used a yellow cake mix; prepared per the box directions (as the instruction booklet says to do) and I added a little bit of maple extract.  Michael loves maple bars, so I was aiming to make ‘maple bites’.

I filled the bottom cups with 1 TEASPOON of batter, per the instructions, and baked for 5 minutes.  They were almost burnt, and they didn’t make up fully round!  Tossed that batch.  I went right into the next batch, NOT letting the machine re-heat to full temp.  Filled the bottom cups right to the rim and baked for 4.5 minutes.  (instruction say 5-6 minutes plus an additional minute after you open the lid!) Nice and round ones this time but still pretty overcooked.  Picked out the best ones from that batch, and tossed the rest.

For such a small piece of cake, that is just TOO well done.  The few at the very back were perfect, and slightly more browned on the bottom.  Next batch I went just 4 minutes and they were still overcooked.  I finished up cooking the batter, picked out the good ones.  Cleaned up my machine after it cooled and hunted down my receipt to return it!

I decided I’d have to dip these in a maple glaze so they’d be moist enough.  Hard chocolate coating (the stuff you melt and pour) like the recipe calls for would come out far too dry!

Powdered sugar and a little maple extract and water, so it’s pourable but not overly watery.  I never measure stuff like this.  (just make it about the color of maple bars!)

I had put my cake balls in the freezer for about an hour.  Heated my maple glaze for about 10 seconds in the microwave; then used a toothpick to stick into the balls and dip them in the glaze.  Let it drip for a bit over the bowl, then put them on a wire cooling rack, over a sheet pan to set up and finish dripping.  Leave them on there until the glaze hardens enough to handle them.

I packaged mine in sandwich baggies and put in the freezer.  Easy to just grab one and toss it into Michael’s lunchbox in the mornings.

Sooooooooooooo . . . when I returned this one to Target, I looked at the cake pop pans that you use to bake in you own oven with.  $18.99 was a bit pricey.  And with the bad luck I had with the electric one, I decided i’s best just make them the ‘old fashioned way’ from now on!  Will share that recipe when the time comes.

Suffice it to say, I do NOT recommend buying an electric cake pop maker.  If you have someone on your Christmas list who has been wanting one, but them a nice BOOK of cake pop recipes for making them the old fashioned way!  I’ve seen some great ones at Michael’s craft stores.

Lemon Raspberry cake recipe

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, especially after some of you asked for the recipe . . .but that cake is just an ‘amped up’ mix from a box.  It’s just cheaper and easier to buy a mix for the actual cake; then spend the extra time and money on the ‘fixins’.  So, now that I’ve got that out of the way, here’s how I ‘amped up’ this basic lemon cake mix and ready-made lemon frosting:

I could NOT find my grater.  I looked everywhere and it’s just GONE.  And I really wanted to add some grated lemon peel to the frosting for some extra lemony zing.  (Michael really loves lemon sweets!)  So I used a cheese slicer to slice off just the yellow part of the peel, then sliced it up really fine and added it to the jar of lemon frosting.  And it DID add a nice bit of zing, but the pieces were a bit too ‘chewy’.  (note to self: But a new grater!!)

Then I took the rest of the lemon and squeezed as much of the juice as I could into a measuring cup and used that as my part of the water the recipe called for.  Form there I just followed the directions on the box; baking mine in three 8″ round pans.

I cooked and cooled my cake and flipped them over onto was paper as soon as they were cool enough to handle.  Let the bottoms (now exposed  to the air) cool a bit then slice your layers.  I have one of those professional  wire pastry slicer for that.  Could NEVER get my layers even if I didn’t.  Wilton sell them fairly inexpensively at places like craft stores in the cake decorating supplies.  OR you can just have a 3 layer cake!

I didn’t want to make the trip to the store that sells the tubes of cake filling, so I opted to use raspberry jam for my filling.  Put the first of my six thin layers on the plate  and spread the jam and just added each layer and a THIN layer of jam.  DO NOT put jam on your top layer.

Next I spread the can of lemon frosting with the rind added over the sides and top of the cake.  I had rinsed and chilled my fresh raspberries earlier, so they were ready to add.  I used a double box and had a few left over.  You’d probably need all of them if you used 9″ baking pans.  Just gently press each raspberry into place, starting around the rim.  Just one or two rows of berries is very pretty too if you don’t want to splurge on berries.  I just lucked out that Costco still had fresh ones!

I put the cake in the frig to chill for a good hour.  Then I took the little bit of frosting I had left and melted it in the microwave and drizzled it over the top of the raspberries.  Quickly put it back in the frig to chill.

Pretty simple really.  And if you couldn’t find fresh berries at all, you could put a thicker layer of your raspberry filling (or jam) on the top too, and just put frosting on the sides.  Then when you drizzle your leftover icing over the top, do it in more of a lattice pattern.

Happy cake baking!