Monday, December 31, 2012

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix




My sister pinned a recipe on Pinterest in the Fall for a salted caramel hot chocolate mix.  It sounded very interesting, so I wanted to try it for Christmas gifts this year.  The directions were a little intimidating at first, because I was used to making hot chocolate mixes that required little effort and definitely no cooking. 

The result was well worth the extra effort.  We liked it a lot more than than the malted hot chocolate mix I made last year (not even going to share that recipe!).  Maybe someday I'll come up with a good one for that.   

This recipe has been adapted from the original recipe at phenomemom.com.

Ingredients for the Caramel:
How to Make the Caramel:
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. Place the sugar in a large heavy pan or large skillet, nonstick if possible.
  3. Melt the sugar without stirring over medium heat.
  4. Once the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan a bit to melt the sugar melt and not burn. It will become a deep amber color after about 15 or 20 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla carefully.
  6. Whisk the mixture until the caramel is smooth again.
  7. Immediately and quickly pour the caramel onto the lined baking sheet and allow it to spread without touching. Set aside and let the caramel harden—1 hour at least.
When you are ready to make the mix, use the back of a large spoon to tap the caramel several times into small broken pieces, small enough to fit into the tube of a large food processor. Turn the processor on, and while running, feed the caramel pieces into the tube so the processor pulverizes the caramel into a fine powder. Keep adding a few pieces at a time until it is all powder (there will be a cloud of caramel dust in the bowl and floating up out of the tube). Once it is done processing, turn it off and follow the steps below to make the mix.

Chocolate Mix Ingredients:
Instructions for Making the Mix:
  1. Add all the ingredients, except the chocolate, to the food processor.
  2. Process the mixture until smooth.
  3. Add the chocolate to the bowl and turn the processor back on.
  4. Let it run until the chocolate has been ground into a fine powder mixed with everything else.

Serving Directions:

To mix the drink, add 3 tablespoons of mix to 1 cup of hot milk. Stir or whisk well. Serve with marshmallows or top with whipped cream (my favorite!).


Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

If giving as a gift, a half-pint size canning jar will fit about 5 ounces of mix. This recipe makes 2 1/2 lbs of mix, so it's enough for 8 jars.



 This is how the melting sugar will look at first.



 almost done melting


now waiting one hour for caramel to harden


 broken caramel pieces, ready for the food processor

 after processing the caramel

This is the dutch chocolate I used.  I had to order it online at Amazon.


the final mix after adding all the ingredients

I gave these bags away as gifts this Christmas.  We saved a bag for ourselves, too.  It is delicious!

 





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Friday, December 21, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I checked the ingredients on our vanilla extract recently.  It definitely isn't as "pure" as you'd think pure vanilla extract would be.  I decided to make some of our own to have on hand and for gifts.


I put off doing this project for quite a while, because I was never in the mood to walk my pregnant self into a liquor store in search of vodka.  I finally bought some one night when my husband, son, and I were walking around downtown Chattanooga, and happened to pass a liquor store.  Imagine my husband standing outside waiting for me with Levi in his stroller yelling "Mama! Mama!" across the parking lot, as his pregnant mommy comes walking out of the liquor store with a big, brown bag in tote.  I'm sure I looked like mom of the year. 

What you will need:

unflavored vodka (bourbon, rum, or brandy will work, too)
vanilla beans
glass containers of choice
a funnel may be handy

Most sources say to use about 5 beans per 8 ounces of alcohol.

Directions:

Wash and thoroughly dry containers. 
Cut beans lengthwise. 
Place the beans in glass containers.
Fill the containers with alcohol, fully covering the beans.
Tightly seal the containers and store in a cool, dry place for eight weeks. 


You can add more alcohol to the bottle as you use the vanilla to make it last a really long time. 

There is some debate as to how long the vanilla should be stored before using.  Some people say three weeks and up to six months.  The most common length of time I have read is eight weeks. 

I found these little bottles at Hobby Lobby.


You know how you have to pay up to around $10.00 for maybe four vanilla beans at the grocery store?

I'm not a fan of that at all.

Amazon sells 25 Madagascar vanilla beans for only $14.99!


Using a funnel makes this part much easier!

I'm going to be giving these away as Christmas gifts this year.  We kept a small baby food jar of it for ourselves.  (I'm constantly working on ways to reuse baby food jars, and plan to create a post on it in the future.) 

I can't wait until it's done "cooking" so we can make something for the first time with pure vanilla! 
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Linked up with:
The Frugal Girls
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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Homemade Spice Rub

Dad, don't read this post! 

My dad follows my blog.  Thanks dad :)  It really is nice of him to keep up with my posts, but he isn't allowed to read this one, because I'm sharing one of his Christmas gifts.  He's pretty sneaky, so I'm sure he's reading right now!

My dad loves to smoke food during the nice weather months.  I thought that making him a homemade spice rub would be a fun project and a gift he would be able to use.  He's very hard to shop for! 


It's actually pretty easy.  You don't have to use orange zest like I did, but I think it makes it so flavorful.  If you do decide to use it, you'll just have to let the zest dry for a day or two.  I also used fresh rosemary, and let it dry for two days.  Rosemary and orange are so delicious together.  Just smelling them together makes me happy!




Ingredients:

-dried zest of one orange
-2 T sea salt
-1 T garlic powder
-2 tsp whole mustard seeds
-2 tsp dried sage
-2 tsp dried thyme
-2 tsp onion powder
-2 tsp turbinado sugar
-1 tsp paprika
-1 tsp dried ginger
-1 tsp dried parsley
-1 tsp dried rosemary
-1/2 tsp ground red pepper

Directions:

After the orange zest is dry, simply mix all the spices together, then lightly crush them until well blended.  The cayenne might clear out your sinuses while you are stirring! 


I stored mine in a cut off zip lock bag, then tied it off with a rubber band.  The tin I used is from Jo-Anns, but it says it's not food safe.  That's why I put the mix in a bag.

This is a great rub for seafood, pork, and poultry. 

I'm excited to try some of my dad's amazing smoked food with it this Summer! 
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Liebster Blog Award

 
I've been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by The Turquoise Home and Mom's World.  A big thank you to my sister in law, Laura and to Darla!  I feel so honored!!   

In case you don't know what the Liebster Blog Award is, it's an award given by bloggers to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. It is to show new bloggers that they are appreciated, and to help spread the word about new blogs. It was created to promote appreciation and recognition among the blog world. Liebster translates to "dearest" (or favorite/best) in German. It is also known as the Love Blog Award.

The Rules:
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose 11 blogs you love (with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post.
5. No tag back (but please leave me a comment on this post with the URL to your Liebster post so I can learn more about you)!

So here are 11 random things about me:
1.  My husband, Michael, and I bought our first home in May of this year. 
 
2.  I cannot wait to have a fully functioning garden someday (hopefully next Summer, but probably not until the next year) to have organic produce at home for much cheaper than the store.
 
3.  I LOVE chocolate.  Michael doesn't, so that means more for me.  My son, Levi loves it, too, so now I have some competition.
 
4.  I really enjoy creative writing.  I just have a problem with plot planning! 
 
5.  If my house were on fire, the first thing (besides my family) that I would grab would be my external hard drive and Levi's baby journal.
 
6.  I used to make cakes, cookies, etc. for my small business called The Sugar Blossom, but quit when I became pregnant with Levi.  I honestly found that it took a great deal of time to make cakes while the price I felt comfortable charging people wasn't enough.  Now I just bake for fun!  I am wanting to try to make macaroons for the first time soon.
 
7.  I don't think I've updated the music on my ipod since Michael and I got married in 2008.  I guess that means I'll be wearing mom jeans soon, too!
 
8.  My Myers Brigg's test results are INFJ.  I like to learn or try figure out what other people are, too.
 
9.  We don't have any pets, but when the boys get older, I would absolutely love to get a poodle!  I grew up with them and love them, but also have allergies to most other dogs.
 
10.  I think I should exercise a little more (who doesn't!?), and am excited to get active after our baby is born in February.
 
11.  I think I want to have four kids.  Michael is thinking three.  We will see how we feel after two :)
 
 
Here are the questions from The Turquoise Home for me to answer:

1. How did you meet your spouse, if you have one? If not, tell your best love story.
I had briefly met him through friends in 2007.  Later that year, he was looking for a job, and applied where I was working.  I thought he was cute, and begged for him to get hired.  We worked together well, started dating, then got married in 2008!
 
2. How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to blog?
I started blogging about three years ago, but never shared any of the blogs with the public until I started this one in March.  I was inspired to blog, because blogging inspires me to try new crafts and recipes to share.  It's an outlet for creativity, and I love it. 
 
3. What is your #1 item on your bucket list?
I don't really have much of a bucket list.  Maybe I should make one :)  One thing I'd love to do is to travel with my husband when our kids are older. 
 
4. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
I have been to Ft. Lauderdale a couple times, and think it's so wonderful there.  I love the weather and beaches.  Michael and I want to go to California as soon as we can!
 
5. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Just recently we had our annual Christmas baking day with my family.  My mom hosts it at my parents' house, and my grandma, aunt, sister, cousins, and I bake TONS of cookies for an entire day.  It's so fun!
 
6. What is your favorite meal?
I love chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes with gravy.  I am from Tennessee after all.
 
7. What is your go-to outfit?
Lately, I stare into the closet hoping that some of my black leggings are clean.  Then, I find any cute long shirt or dress I can to go with them.  Perfect pregnancy outfit!
 
8. What are your favorite blogs to read? List at least 3.
I love comedy blogs.  Crappy Pictures is a hilarious parenting blog accompanied by handmade drawings.  I also like the organic/natural living blog, Keeper of the Home.  I enjoy following Faithful Provisions to keep up with couponing/money saving ideas.
 
9. What projects are you currently working on?
I have been working on making homemade Christmas gifts.  I'm currently working on a good powdered hot chocolate recipe.  I've also wanted to try making rice heating/cooling pads.  They require sewing.  Wish me luck!
 
10. What is your favorite project you've ever done?
Tough question!  I would probably have to say painting on old windows was my favorite recent project: Painting on Old Windows
11. Are you a person who can't live without coffee? Or do you like tea?
I like coffee about once or twice a year, and I mostly drink it for the cream.  I do adore the aroma, and love when my husband makes it in the morning.  It reminds me of travelling, because the airport always smells like coffee.  I like herbal teas.

Here are the questions from Mom's World for me to answer:
 
1. Are you brand-loyal to any product?
Hmm...Yes.  I only use Clear Care contact solution.  It's the only kind I've found that doesn't irritatate my eyes.  That was a boring answer, huh!

2. Do you have a story behind your kid(s) name(s)?
My husband and I were up really late one night trying to think of names.  I said a letter "L", then he said, "E", and one of us blurted out "Levi!".  That was it :)

3. What is your favorite board game?
I love to play BIG Boggle!  It's hard to find in the stores now, though. 

4. Have you ever been to Disneyland/Disneyworld?
I have been to Disney World, but we really want to go back with our kids as soon as we can!

5. What is your favorite movie?
I'd have to say that Amelie and Forrest Gump are my favorites.

6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I used to say veterinarean, doctor, or natural doctor.  Now I just want to be a mom, and maybe someday a nutritionist or a children's art teacher.

7. What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
I won a contest and got to go into a money machine when I was little.  It was so exciting!  I only won $8. 

8. What city do you live in and do you like it?
I live in Chattanooga, TN.  It is an absolutely beautiful city!  The mountains are great.

9. How long have you been blogging and why?
I started blogging about three years ago, but never shared any of the blogs with the public until I started this one in March. I was inspired to blog, because blogging inspires me to try new crafts and recipes to share. It's an outlet for creativity, and I love it. 

10. Do you have someone you idolize or look up to?
I look up to my Grandpa who just passed away.  He always thought of others first, and was an incredible man.  <3 p="p">

11. What is your favorite TV show?
I love HGTV and The Food Network.  Narrowing it down to one is tough.  I like Next Iron Chef!
Here are questions for those whom I nominate to answer:
1.  When it comes to blogging, what types of things do you enjoy: photography, writing, crafting, sharing, networking, etc.?
2.  What types of blogs do you like to follow and why?  You can list them if you want.
3.  Do you think it's difficult to find the time to blog?  Do you schedule certain times to work on your blog?
4.  What is your favorite hobby?
5.  What is your favorite holiday and why?
6.  What place would you like to visit the most?
7.  What's the first thing you would grab if your house was on fire (besides pets and family members)?
8.  Do you have a job in addition to blogging?  ...or are you a stay at home mom?
9.  What is your favorite dessert?
10.  What are some things your dream home would have?
11.  Can you recommend any good books?  Why do you like it/them?

And here are the 11 blogs that I nominate:
The Linden Life
This Little Life of Mine
Parenting with Purpose
Once Upon a Canvas
Life as Mrs. B
Henry's Mom Blogs
281 Fourth Street
Eyes on the Source
Claire's Healthy Home
Moms Surviving Kids
Back to Family

Note to nominees: Please leave me a comment with your Liebster post, so I can read up on you. Also, please link back to this post on your blog. (Please do not be offended if you don't have more than 200 followers...or if you do. :) )
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Eggnog Scones

I really love seeing the grocery store shelves lines with eggnog around Christmas time.  It's a fight for me to not grab a different kind of "special edition" eggnog each time I go shopping. 


Eggnog desserts are all over the place online now that we are approaching Christmas.  Scones sounded really good to me, so I wanted to experiment with my own eggnog scone dessert created from a combination of many scone recipes I've encountered.

Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 C Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sucanat Brown Sugar -- 2 lbs
1/2 C butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp homemade vanilla extract
1/4 tsp Cook's Pure Rum Extract 4 oz
1/2 C organic or homemade eggnog

-For the topping:
2 T organic or homemade eggnog
2 tsp Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sucanat Brown Sugar -- 2 lbs

Directions:

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces, and incorporate them into the dry ingredients. 
In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, rum extract, and eggnog. 
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead to combine.  Be sure to not over-knead.

If you are using a scone pan (wish I had one!), separate the dough into equal pieces, then press them into the (lightly greased) pan.  If you aren't using a scone pan, separate the dough into two halves, then shape each half into a circle.  Cut each half into equal size wedges.  Brush with the eggnog, then sprinkle with the granulated sugar. 


Preheat the oven to 425°.  It's a good idea to place the pan of scones into the freezer (uncovered, 30 min) before baking them.  Then, remove them from the freezer, and put them into the preheated oven right away.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow them to cool on a wire rack. 

You can freeze the scones, and pull them out for breakfast, dessert, or a sneaky midnight snack ;)

If you'd like more of a creamy topping, you can make a fresh eggnog glaze right before serving.  Delicious!

Eggnog Glaze Ingredients:2 T butter
1/2 C unrefined, homemade powdered sugar
1/8 C milk
1/8 tsp Cook's Pure Rum Extract 4 oz
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Directions:
Melt butter in small sauce pan over med-high heat. Add milk and rum extract once butter is melted. Remove from heat. Slowly stir powdered sugar into mixture. Paint onto scones. I like to paint a thick glaze onto each scone. Sprinkle nutmeg over scones. It won't take much nutmeg to add flavor to each scone.


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Friday, December 7, 2012

Homemade Solid Perfume

I think it's so fun to mix essential oils together to come up with a really nice scent.  I recently came across crunchybetty.com's tutorial on making solid perfume, and decided I must try it!  They will be Christmas gifts this year.


First, I'll tell you where I found the tins, because that was a journey in itself. 
http://www.elementsbathandbody.com/50-oz-Slide-Tin-pr-1097.html
This site has really cool bath and body product packaging.  I just love the little tins!  You can decorate them however you want or leave them plain.  They were only $.55 each.  I found the sticky-backed gems at a local craft store.

Making the Perfume

I would rate this project as being easy

Ingredients:

(5 Bars) 100% ORGANIC Hand Poured Beeswax - 1oz each - Premium Quality, Cosmetic Grade, Triple Filtered Bees Wax
Carrier Oil (such as olive, jojoba, almond, grapeseed, etc...)
-approximately 40% beeswax to 60% carrier oil is a good rule of thumb
dōTERRA Essential Oils (of choice)
Containers (You can also use lip balm containers.)


Directions:

First, you will want to test out several essential oil blends until you come up with one you like.  Use approximately 45 drops of essential oil per 4 tsp solid perfume base.  It's a really good idea to measure out how much essential oil you will need, then go ahead and premix it, so it's ready before you even start melting the beeswax. 

Next, melt the beeswax on very low heat in a double boiler.  I just used a glass bowl over a small saucepan filled with water.  Maybe I'll get a double boiler for Christmas this year :)

Once the beeswax is almost all the way melted, stir in the carrier oil.  Keep it on the heat, while stirring until everything is melted. 

Be prepared to work quickly for this next part, because the mixture will harden very soon after it's removed from heat. 

Remove mixture from heat, then pour in your essential oil blend.

Next, pour the perfume mixture into your containers.  This part was so exciting for me!  I couldn't wait to smell the final product.  After about 10 minutes, the perfume will be completely set up. 

Try it on, and see if you like it!  If you don't like the final product, you can always use something to get it out of the containers, then reheat it (being sure to not leave it on the heat past the point that it is melted, so you don't lose any essential oils to evaporation).  You can always add more essential oils to the mixture if you need to. 

I was testing out the oils on a paper towel.  Our home smelled like insane after all this mixing!

I finally settled on some crazy concoctions.  (I made two different perfumes.)

 slicing the beeswax

melting the beeswax

adding the essential oils

waiting for the perfume to harden

These are the little jewels I used to decorate the tins (found at Hobby Lobby).

 labels for the tins

My final scents were Lavender Citrus Rose and Citrus Patchouli.  I added patchouli to the second perfume at the very end, and my oh my...it was strong!  That's why it deserves a spot in the perfume title :)  I really liked grapefruit and rose together, too, but didn't do that combo.

I also tried (and did not like) these combos:
lime, rosewood, and rose
orange, ylang ylang, and cedarwood
tangerine, rosewood, and rose

The hardest part of this whole project was coming up with a blend of oils that I liked.  It's super fun too though!  dōTERRA essential oils blends are incredible, but I also like creating my own from their single oil selections.  Oh, and another difficult part was washing everything the beeswax touched.  Soap and water just don't cut it.  Get as much out while it's still warm, or reheat everything just to clean it.  Simply wiping everything off with a paper towel, then trying to wash it made it so much easier.


If you make your own perfume, I'd love to hear which scents you choose!

If you're looking for gift ideas, check out the bath gift baskets I made for Christmas last year, and the chocolate lip balm (chocolate mint & chocolate orange) I made this year. 

Thirty Handmade Days
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 Signs You Have a Toddler

 
1.) Your house can go from this... 
 
...to this in about thirty seconds. 
Before having a child, I could clean the house, and most likely it would stay that way for a good while.  Now, not so much.  I know several of us moms have seen the someecard that says, "Trying to clean a house with toddlers, is like trying to brush your teeth while eating oreos."  SO TRUE!!


 2.)  One day you will think you have found their favorite food, then the next you will get this face when you give it to them again. 


3.)  Floor food is fair game.
Sometimes Levi won't eat a bite of what I give him, but when he gets out of his chair to find the same food on the floor, it suddenly looks delicious!


4.)  You will go through more batteries than ever before. 
 
It seems like all of Levi's favorite toys are battery powered lately.  He thinks the "new" Christmas toys (that used to be decorations) are the greatest things ever!  They play loud Christmas music and eat batteries like it's their job.
 

 5.)  You find old milk and juice cups days after they've gone missing.
Yes, it's true, and gross.  How do they come up with these hiding places?  I'd rather find the old penicillin growing juice cups than the stinky week old milk ones.  That's me in the reflection below.  Hi everyone!


6.)  Your Christmas tree might look like this!
How many of you have either decorated your tree from the top half up or not at all?  Little ones looove pulling ornaments (toys) off the tree.  Our tree is too skinny and light, so we had to redecorate it, leaving the bottom half empty.  That way, it won't fall on him...again.  (He wasn't hurt, thank goodness!)
 
7.)  "NO" means no, and it also means yes. 
"Levi, do you want any more spinach?"
"No," he says while shaking his head.
"Do you want some milk?"
Another definite, "No."
Then, he gets upset and reaches for it like, c'mon mom, I said I wanted some more milk!
 
8.)  You begin to wonder who the boss of the house is.
I'm discovering how determined a toddler can be.  He knows what he wants, when he wants it. 
 
9.)  You've had to fetch at least one object out of the toilet.  ICK!
I recently made some solid perfume for Christmas presents this year.  Levi happily tossed one of the containers into the toilet.  Don't worry friends who might be getting one for Christmas, I threw it away! 
 
10.)  You had to finally lock up the DVDs that you thought were safe. 
Maybe you did this way before we did.  I think we were naive to the DVD scratching desires of toddlers.  We just put a lock on the DVD cabinet after Levi caused one to skip really bad.  DVDs make the best toys. 
 
I hope you enjoyed the list!  I'm sure there will be a part II in the future.

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