Chistmas Treats: Soft Pretzel Wreaths with Cheese Dip

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This year, I googled “Savory Christmas Food Gifts” and I was super excited to find this recipe for Soft Pretzels. Although mine did NOT come out as full and cute as the ones pictured with the recipe, I can vouch that this recipe is tasty and spot-on. I’d never made dough before and it was really fun and easy.

After my mom and I had made the batch, she mentioned that pairing them with a sauce would make the pretzels even better. I had to agree. And even though I absolutely abhor cheese, I’m a people pleaser — and I know how tasty that combo is claimed to be! So I headed to the store with this cheese sauce recipe, and whipped up a batch. I bought Tillamook cheese, because … Tillamook!

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Because our shapes were just a little off, and they happened to be bigger than what would fit in the containers I was planning to use, I ended up just using bright red lunch bags and scrapbook paper. It was easy-peasy and kept them looking homemade. (Atleast that’s how I justify it!)

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Try this recipe! If you don’t have time during Christmas, this will impress on Game Day, too!


Pretzels (adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients
• 1 package (1/4 ounces) active dry yeast
• 1-1/2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
• 4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
• Coarse salt

Directions

  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add 2 cups flour, sugar and salt. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Divide dough into 16 portions. Roll each portion into a 15-in. rope. Fold each rope in half and twist two or three times; shape into a circle and pinch ends together.
  • Place on greased baking sheets. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with salt or sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 16 Pretzels


Cheese Sauce (adapted from Smells Like Home)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (not package pre-shredded cheese – shred your own)
Kosher salt

Directions

  • In a small saucepan set 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.

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Easy and Super Delicious: Spiced Nuts

Happy New Year! Excuse the Christmas packaging, but I’m a little late on posting this. Couldn’t let it slip by though – this would be a delicious addition to your party tables tonight. They’re quick, easy and fall right in line with everybody’s mindset of staving off sweets after the holiday over-indulgences. You can make these for the party or package them up to give to your friends to start off the new year. Enjoy!

Spiced Nuts (adapted from the recipe found at JaxHouse.com)

Ingredients
  • 1 large egg white
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 40 oz. mixed nuts (I bought in bulk at my local Sprouts market)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 300°.
  2. Beat the egg white until nice and foamy. Mix in all spices. Add nuts and stir to coat.
  3. Bake nuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, pull ’em out and give ’em a stir.
  5. Reduce heat to 250° and bake for another 20 minutes
  6. Let nuts cool completely and store for up to two weeks.
Notes: It was recommended to double this recipe and use 40 oz. of mixed nuts and 40 oz. of cashews. I have to second that recommendation. Cashews rule!
Packaging: The sky is the limit! Use treat bags, brown paper bags or mason jars! I found these clear cylinder containers from my local Cake Supply Store. Similar containers can be found here.

Sweet Treats: Holiday Fun with Oreos

Did Christmas sneak up on you as fast as it did for me this year? With limited time, I decided that I would ditch all my baking from scratch (gasp!) and have a little fun with Oreos this year. After all, it’s kind of merging my love for candy-making with cookies, and how could that be anything but a win? I had a lot of fun playing with different varieties of Oreos and chocolate combinations to make both pops and chocolate-covered treats. It’s so easy to do, I almost feel bad for bragging about doing it.

Christmas Oreo Treats, project #1: Gingerbread Cookie Pops

I’ve been holding on to this little idea for awhile. After I first saw them on Love From the Oven I knew I had to make them. Did you know there were Gingerbread Oreos? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find them here locally in CA this year, but thank goodness Target came out with some generic “Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies” under their Market Pantry label. They tasted great and allowed me to stick with the theme!

All you gotta do to make these cute little pops are buy some cookies, some white chocolate and some popsicle or lollipop sticks (and whatever sprinkles you think would make them look cute, if you’re into that).

  1. Screw the tops off your “oreos”, lay ’em on a tray, and get your chocolate melted. You dip the sticks in the melted chocolate, and gently push them down into the layer of creme filling. Make sure you’ve got enough chocolate on there to stick to the cookie once you put top back on as well. Once they’re put back together (“glued” by the chocolate), stick them in the freezer so the chocolate can set and the sticks will be in place.
  2. Add a pinch of cinnamon to your white chocolate and about 10 mins. after the cookies have been in the freezer, dip them again to make the cookie pop. Add sprinkles/decorations and you’ve got yourself a tasty and adorable little treat!(Find The Domestic Rebel‘s original recipe post here.)


I used lollipop wrappers from Wilton and found cute holiday-themed twist ties to wrap ’em up with. Piece of cake. And because I’m a sucker for those Candy Cane Oreos (and anything Peppermint flavored or themed during Christmas for that matter!), I did Milk Chocolate Candy Cane Oreo Pops as well.

Christmas Oreo Treats, project #2: Chocolate Covered Poinsettia Oreos

Seriously – these are so impressive and all you have to do is melt some chocolate into a mold and stick an Oreo in it – they really are that easy! My mom and I found poinsettia molds on the amazing Fancy Flours site a few years ago and we finally tried making a few last year. Since they turned out so gorgeous, we knew we wanted to make them for gifts this year. We bought Winter Oreos (regular Oreos with red filling) and made red poinsettias, and I bought some White Mint Chocolate to make white poinsettias with Candy Cane Oreos.

First, I melted a tiny bit of red chocolate to put in the center part of the flower mold (I used yellow on the red poinsettias) and let that chocolate set. Then, I filled 1/2 the mold with white chocolate, submerged the Oreo, and covered the top. They’re ready to pop right out of the mold in about 15 minutes!

Christmas Oreo Treats, project #3: White Chocolate Covered Candy Cane Oreos decorated with icing and sprinkles

I bought plain molds like these to get a cleaner look than the pops, and I was really pleased with how they turned out. It was fun to use different sprinkles and toppings to create different looks for each one. I didn’t use anything fancy — just the Red and White sprinkles out of Wilton’s Christmas Confetti Sprinkle Mix, some of the white candy canes from Wilton’s Candy Cane Sprinkles, Crushed Candy Cane Topping and red, white and green cookie icing. Since I didn’t have boxes to fit three, I cut gold cardstock to fit inside of the Wilton Pretzel Bag and used my hole punch to add two holes to feed my ribbon through. I tied it up in bow and had a pretty little trio to gift a few friends with.


In the end, it was a really fun and easy way to dress up Oreos that ended up looking great. I made a few larger variety boxes with 6 cookies and wrapped them up with ribbon to give as gifts, too. I can safely say I’ll be making these again. You should too!

Special Treats: Surprise for Mamas!

I sure am lucky to have a lot of mama friends in my life, and when new babies are born, I like to make “special” cookies, just for mamas. I found this special recipe after I had my daughter and they helped me, so I like to make them for moms who might want a little help, too.

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I made a batch yesterday and wanted to make a few surprise deliveries. My packaging supplies are a little tapped out lately, so I threw together these bags with stuff I already had. It’s super easy, and it’s not hard to do!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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1. Cardstock/Scrapbook Paper Stack; prices vary by brand and store / 2. Scalloped edge scissors; $3.95 / 3. X-Large Circle squeeze punch, $17.99 / 4. Plain brown paper lunch sacks, Prices vary by store

Simply choose whatever paper you’d like to use, cut the same width as the bag. Fold bag down, and fold paper over the bag fold. Punch holes through bag and paper and tie with ribbon or wraphia. Embellish using craft punches, scalloped scissors or whatever you have on hand!

If you’d like to make your own cookies for a nursing momma, check the recipe! Have fun surprising someone, too!

Crafty: Baby Shower Cupcakes + Favor Boxes

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I had the privilege of making cupcakes and favor boxes for a baby shower yesterday —one of my very favorite kind of projects! The hosts chose a “little man”/necktie theme, and wanted cupcakes for both the party and to take home as favors. When they told me baby-to-be’s name was going to be Lincoln and they wanted to incorporate an Abraham Lincoln quote into the favors, I was inspired!

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The boxes were pretty simple. I bought individual kraft brown cupcake boxes and inserts from a local cake supply store, designed the artwork for the quote for on the back, the two circles on the sides and the tie for the front, and printed on kraft brown cardstock. I was able to tuck the top of the tie into the closure tab of the cupcake box on the front.

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I just used the various scrapbook papers I had available for the cupcake toppers — the hosts requested blue, lime green, yellow and orange — and cut little neckties. I used my 1-in. scalloped circle punch to use as a backing and tape to a toothpick.

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All in all, pretty simple stuff — I do love a baby party!

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Crafty: Make a Diaper Cake

RedTricycle_Badge_FNL 1This weekend was filled with celebrations, two of which were baby showers for second-time mommas. And because I’m a momma myself who appreciates practical things now more than ever, I really enjoy gifting diaper cakes. Because seriously — you always need diapers. So. Many. Diapers.

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There are lots of variations on the diaper cake out there, but most are … pretty cheesy. I worked with a woman years ago who taught me how to make gorgeous diaper cakes, and they always turn out cool and pretty darn impressive. It’s fun to play with different ribbons and colors to create a different look for each one. I also like to add a pair of shoes to it as the “cake topper”. Want to make your own? Of course you do! It’s not hard, I promise. Here’s a little “how-to” for you:

What you’ll need:

  • 60 diapers (I use Pampers Swaddlers, size 2. These diapers seems to have the least printed designs on them)
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips (2)
  • Ribbon
  • Artificial Flowers
  • 1- 14″ round cardboard cake board
  • 1-yd. white tulle
  • Hot glue gun and/or double-sided tape

Instructions:
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1. Begin with rolling one diaper (printed design facing inward) and wrap a rubber band around it. (This diaper will be the “core” that all of the diapers are stacked and layered around)

2. Make stacks of about 5 diapers, spaced out equally, one on top of the other.

3. Take these stacks one at a time, and fit and form around the core you created. Keep building, approx. 5 diapers at a time. Keep rubber banding after each stack or so to keep all the diapers together.

4. After stacking and building, create two layers for the “cake”, one larger than the other. I usually use about 30-35 diapers for the larger bottom layer, and about 20-25 diapers for the top layer. (Diaper count will vary, depending on how much spacing there is between diapers)

IMG_012455. After the two layers of the cake reach the desired size, wrap ribbon around the center of each (you want to hide the rubber bands). Cut ribbon to appropriate length.

6. Use a paperclip to attach one end of the ribbon to the rubber band — the goal is not to damage the diapers in any way, you want all diapers to be be fully intact and useable. Attach double-sided tape to the other end of the ribbon and wrap around to close.

7. Once ribbon is centered and secured, cut the flowers off their stems, and use the stem to feed through the center of each diaper cake layer (This will keep the layers from slipping off and will secure them to each other). Cut excess stem from the top so you can’t see it.

8. Use a hot glue gun to attach flowers to the ribbon. Be sure that you don’t get glue on the diapers by gluing on the plastic backing of the artificial flower. When attaching the flower, place your hand behind the ribbon to keep glue from leaking through to the diapers. Attach the flowers to cover the cut in the ribbon.
IMG_012429. Once your cake is assembled, set it on the cake board and place your shoes on top. If you don’t want to use shoes, you can add more flowers, a baby toy, or whatever else you think might look cool. I love Chucks, and because this particular baby has a daddy who lives in his Converse, I knew this cake had to have a tiny pair!
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10. Once you’re ready to wrap, place the diaper cake on top of the tulle, and gather towards the top. Use a rubber band to secure the tulle once you’ve got it wrapped perfectly. I like to cover the rubber band by tying thin ribbon at the top, and for this particular cake, I included a round rattle for the top that went perfectly with my black + white theme.

Hooray for Happy Mamas!
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The second one I made this weekend was for a baby girl — and had some moolah to go along with it! It looks so different!
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Another happy mama!
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What will yours look like?

Sweet Treats: Carrot Cake Fudge

Truth be told, one of the things I love most about this time of year are all those adorable, pastel-colored Easter candies that float around alongside smiling bunny rabbits and super-cute baby chicks. The candy is totally my downfall … I love Cadbury Creme Eggs, Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs, and of course the old-school Easter favorite: Peeps.

It only seemed right to make candy for Easter this year, but because there’s usually such chocolate overload, I wanted to find a chocolate alternative. Then I came across this recipe for Carrot Cake Fudge and I knew I had to make it.

If you’re a fan of Carrot Cake, you’re definitely a fan of this Carrot Cake Fudge. It’s got a thick bottom layer of Carrot Cake flavor, and it’s even topped with a thin layer of Cream Cheese fudge. Yep — that means very rich and decadent. The original recipe called for Carrot Cake M&M’s, but since I never found any, I settled on Reese’s Pieces. I like the way the small bit of peanut butter pairs with the fudge.

Because I was feeling very confectionery, I decided to go old-school and wrap up the fudge in wax paper. I couldn’t seem to stop there, so I made a little “belt” for the wrapper out of various scrapbook papers I had available, and tied it up with a simple tag and wraphia.

Want to make your own? Follow the link for the recipe. Happy Easter!