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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy New Year!

I’ve been a bit quiet while fighting a sinus infection, coping with side effects from the antibiotic for said infection, resting a small hernia so that I don’t have to see a surgeon, and then, because I’m so gloriously accident prone, elevating my foot so three newly rebroken toes can heal quickly. My cup overflowed and I had no creativity to chat about. *laugh* However, I wanted to pop on to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year full of personal success and joy. And pampering, of course. It’s kind of my job to hope and help you work some pampering into your year. *teasing grin* Hopefully you have a safe and fun celebration however you are ringing in the new year!

Thank you for being there for this year’s journey and for your encouragement! My goals are to blog more consistently and revisit my previous creations to improve their pictures now that I have more experience (plus a better camera and a laptop), so hopefully there will be some fun and exciting posts coming soon! Here’s to hoping 2015 goes better! πŸ™‚

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Peanut Butter Bon Bons

Peanut Butter Bon Bons

Just in case you’re cramming in some last minute holiday desserts, or just have a sweet tooth driving you nuts like me, I thought I’d share one of my family’s favorite recipes that you can still make in time for the festivities. There are tons of versions and copies of this recipe, so I’m not claiming any new ground here. I do have a few tips though, plus I really want to share such a yummy AND easy enough recipe that even I can do it. If a recipe is Georgia-proof, then I feel it must be shared with the world. *smile* As usual, the easy to copy and paste recipe will be at the bottom, below the pictures and tips.

In a food processor or sturdy stand mixer combine crushed graham crackers, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and melted margarine until the mixture is thoroughly mixed.

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If the mixture seems too crumbly, then add a little more melted margarine. If it’s too creamy to shape, or won’t hold shape, then you can add a little more crushed graham crackers (use caution, since this will change the flavor a little) or you can cover it and let it chill in the refrigerator for a little bit. (Sometimes the room temperature can cause issues, or tiny variations in the ingredients, or just that wild tendency for things to go wrong like I have.)

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Chilling worked perfectly for me and you can either grab a little out by hand or use a small scoop, like me. The mixture should be thick and hold together pretty well, yet is still pliable, so it can be shaped into balls. Prep a cookie sheet with some waxed paper for easy cleanup. Powder free vinyl gloves work wonderfully, too.

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One handy step in making these, other than the scoop taking the work out of trying to keep things somewhat uniform, is to smash the scoop of filling in your hand, and then roll it into a ball between your hands. The smashing seems to help it stick together better and makes rolling a lot easier without crumbs trying to escape.

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When all of the mixture has been rolled insert a toothpick into each one (unless you prefer to use fondue style dipping tools, then you can skip the toothpicks), cover loosely with a sheet of wax paper, and then refrigerate them for at least two hours. Or set them in an outdoor smoker if you live in the Midwest and it’s December. *laugh*

Once they’ve chilled you can start on my favorite part, the chocolate coating. *grin* You’ll need to melt chocolate chips with a little paraffin wax in a double boiler while stirring frequently until it’s melted smooth. If you’re using two saucepans in place of a double boiler, make sure that the top pan does NOT touch the water in the bottom pan, or else the chocolate may scorch or seize. I’ve also found that cutting up the paraffin really cuts down on the stir time and therefore less worry about ruining the chocolate. I didn’t pay close enough attention this round – cut yours to about half the size of what’s in the picture for an even easier experience. (By the way, if the idea of the wax grosses you out, you can totally leave it out. Your Bon Bons won’t have the gloss and harder shell, is all. You’d be surprised how much wax you regularly ingest anyway, though, so this little bit truly isn’t a big deal.)

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Dip the chilled peanut butter balls into the chocolate, let the excess drip back into the pan, and then place back on your wax paper lined cookie sheet. They can get a little squirrelly when you’re dipping, so you may have to get creative in order to make sure that they’re fully covered. Spin them, swirl with your fondue dipper, pour some over the top with your spoon – whatever it takes. My mom has the spinning toothpick technique down while mine tends to include a little jig (I wish I meant the Bon Bon), swirling the ball with the fondue dipper, and then covering any missed spots by pouring some chocolate from the spoon. You know me, I can’t do anything like a normal person. *grin* That dance is essential for my success for some reason.

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Once the chocolate starts to harden a little you can remove the toothpicks, if used, and I warn you now that usually about half of the toothpicks pull right out as we set down the coated candies, so don’t worry if it happens to you. Shoot, we’ve had the ball slip right off into the chocolate even, so you didn’t do anything wrong. Ahem, back to the recipe…If you want really beautiful Bon Bons (really, the shininess of that chocolate and the allure of peanut butter and chocolate together making yumminess on your tongue isn’t enough for you? I’m all ready happy at this point, but just in case you’re planning a gorgeous spread…), then you can always cover the toothpick holes by spooning a little of the leftover chocolate over them or even by drizzling a contrasting colored melted chocolate over them. The drizzle does double duty – covers the hole and makes them look all snazzy. I don’t do it, but I’ve seen plenty of recipes that call for it. It definitely jazzes them up. I had some issues this round with marks from the fondue tool, plus some hit and runs due to my shaking hand, so there were quite a few to fix before we decided that it’s just for family and gave up. Plus, we wholeheartedly believe in the best part of being the cooks for this treat…if you have leftover chocolate you can just dig in and no one will ever know! *cracking up*

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You may still have a healthy bit of chocolate in your pan after everything is coated. Just take a paper plate (or real one if it has a high edge and a dipped center), cover it with some wax paper, and pour the leftover chocolate on there. The high edge of the paper plate keeps the chocolate in a pool in the center and prevents it from running all over, like your hand or refrigerator. I use that second sheet of wax paper that was used to cover the Bon Bons earlier, when they were chilling before the dipping, to pour the leftover chocolate onto actually. If you do it right you can pull up part of that wax paper and cover the chocolate, too. Once the leftover chocolate cools you can nibble on it, use for something else later, or put in the bottom of your cup when you pour hot chocolate or coffee for a little umph. Personally I vote for nibbling. I’ll fight you for a hunk of chocolate any day. *grin*

Allow the coated Bon Bons to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours. They’ll darken, get uber shiny, the flavors will develop, and they’ll have this awesome crunch when you bite into the chocolate shell. I got a little fancy for the final picture for you, fancy for me at least, and put mine on one of my special occasion “chocolate” saucers with a cup of hot chocolate. The Bon Bons look so pretty and are pure bliss in my book.

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Make sure to refrigerate until serving and to refrigerate all leftovers. In theory leftovers can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. We’ve never ever ever had leftovers, even when my mom made double batches for bigger family parties, so I can’t give any handy tips for that part of the recipe. *laugh*

The recipe:
Peanut Butter Bon Bons

1 cup crushed graham crackers (you can use the food processor or I find it works just as well to put them in a zipper bag and run my rolling pin over them several times)
1.5 cups peanut butter (some swear by chunky for binding, I prefer using creamy because of the texture)
1 box of powdered sugar (or 16 oz by weight)
1 cup of melted margarine (use the stick margarine, not the tub kind, or else it doesn’t have the right oil percentage)
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
Half a bar of paraffin wax , cut into pieces (comes in a box with four bars, found in the canning and baking aisles)

In a food processor or stand mixer combine the first four ingredients until smooth and thoroughly mixed. Scoop mixture and form into a ball, and set on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Once all of the mixture has been rolled into balls, insert toothpicks about halfway in each ball if you will be dipping them that way (skip this if you are using fondue style dipping tools). Cover loosely with a sheet of waxed paper and refrigerate for at least two hours. Melt the chocolate chips and paraffin in a double boiler. Dip the chilled balls into the chocolate and coat the entire surface, allow any excess to drip back into the pan, and then place back on the lined cookie sheet. Once all of the Bon Bons are coated and the chocolate has hardened a little, remove the toothpicks, if they were used for dipping. Refrigerate the Bon Bons at least two hours, until fully firm. Serve while still cool. Bon Bons can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Hopefully this post takes some of the mystery and nervousness out of making these tasty treats. If you follow my tips then the recipe is pretty foolproof. My pictures are proof. *grin* They sound super complicated, but once you’ve made them a few times, it’s not bad at all, as long as your arm doesn’t wear out quickly. You can always call in some reinforcements to help with the dipping and give your arm a break, like I did. I hope you give these a try and enjoy them as much as my family. I wish you a very merry Christmas and happy pampering! πŸ™‚

Crockpot Peanut Clusters

Crockpot Peanut Clusters

I actually found the original recipe on Pinterest (I may have an addiction *laugh*), and the original printable recipe is here, but there weren’t any pictures of the process and there were a couple of hard learned tips that will make your experience much better, so I thought I’d share the recipe. I am not claiming any credit, it belongs to the original blogger. I simply want to share an easy recipe that is truly easy when you don’t make the mistakes I did. *grin*

First off, you need a 5 quart crockpot, a sturdy spoon or spatula, parchment paper, cookie sheets, a scoop, and a little over two hours.

For ingredients you will need 34.5 oz of honey roasted dry roasted peanuts (**My note: Larry said that he doesn’t like the flavor of the honey roasted in the peanut clusters, so I’ll definitely be using plain dry roasted from now on), 32 ounces of vanilla flavored almond bark (in the baking supply aisle and contrary to the name doesn’t have any nuts), 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, and 4 ounces Baker’s German Chocolate bar (found near the almond bark and the bar itself is the full 4 ounces).

Now, I’m going to admit that this is where things started going wrong. We were trying to make the peanut clusters and another candy at the same time, and ditched the other one because so much was going wrong, but found that there was a snafu with this one too. It was the first time I had bought or used almond bark, so silly me didn’t pay attention to the size and notice that the recipe would need part of a second package, so instead I compensated for the missing eight ounces of almond bark by adding that much more of semisweet chips. I liked the results, so I’m not sure that I’ll do it the correct way the next time I make this, but I want to be honest about what went on in case you have the same problem or want to go that way.

Pour the peanuts into the crockpot – it will seem like there’s an insane amount of peanuts in there, but I assure you, you’re doing it right. Next is one key tip that the original didn’t mention. Before layering the almond bark over the peanuts cut that bar up!! I can vouch that the blob of almond bark may soften, but won’t fully melt in the allotted time, so cut it on those scored lines please. You will have a very hard clump that you’ll have to pull out of the pot, chop up, and put back in, all while trying not to make a huge mess, which is nearly impossible, if you don’t chop it at the beginning. *sigh* Anyway, lay the bits of almond bark over your peanuts, and then scatter the chocolate chips over that. Next is the Baker’s bar, which will melt just fine without cutting (it isn’t nearly as bulky as that bark *grin*). Put the lid on it, turn the crockpot to low, and walk away for one whole hour. Don’t stir, don’t lift the lid to peek, nada. Dance around that Christmas tree, pull the cat out of the said Christmas tree, or fall into the black hole of Facebook until your alarm goes off. Whatever floats your boat, but hands off!

Now you can stir and look how yummy it all ready looks!

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Put the lid back on, set the alarm for fifteen minutes, and stir the mixture every fifteen minutes for an hour. It won’t be the prettiest girl at the prom, but it’ll be the one with all of the personality, so don’t worry if the sides look a bit icky like mine.

After the hour of stirring intervals it’s time to scoop. The original recipe just calls for laying out parchment paper, but I don’t have a very big kitchen with tons of cabinet space, so we lined cookie sheets and swapped them out. I tried one batch without a cookie sheet and it was pure misery with some of the candies oozing together into big blobs when I tried to move them a little, so I strongly recommend cookie sheets. The flat AirBake sheets worked best for us. Now, I have no idea what makes parchment better than wax paper for these, but I didn’t want to risk trouble by experimenting to figure it out. Parchment paper it is. *grin* Don’t forget to turn off the crock pot! If it’s really cool in your kitchen you can keep it at warm, but you’ll have a little trouble with the mixture staying runny once you get to the bottom. That’s better than a solid mass though, so I’d definitely do it if I felt it was necessary. You just don’t want to keep it on low the whole time you’re scooping.

We used a tiny cookie scoop for scooping the peanut clusters. While the mixture was fresh and hot, it was more runny and didn’t need the little sweeper arm. As the mixture set up a little more the little arm was quite useful. Make sure to drop the scoops apart from one another.

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Once we had scooped it all (and licked the spoons *grin*) I noticed that the chocolate wasn’t setting up and realized that my house was too warm for them to set up. I must have accidentally grabbed a log of hedge when I loaded the woodstove, so it was nearly as hot as the face of the sun, while it was 30 degrees outside. *laugh* Some creative thinking resulted with utilizing our standing smoker as a refrigerator. Let my amusing substitution show you that if your refrigerator is full of Christmas meal prep, you just need to think outside of the box. Literally. *smirk*

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I left them to cool for about four hours and then brought them in.

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They were good and hard, so I was able to pop them into some zipper bags, and fit those bags into the remaining gaps in the refrigerator then. Even with samples left out (or happily melting in our bellies) I filled an entire gallon bag and a quart bag! Oh, by the way, don’t forget to let these chocolates sit out at room temperature for a little bit before serving, since you don’t want anyone to break a tooth on cold peanuts. Those suckers are hard when they’re cold!

Hopefully this little feature for Serve It Sunday will help if you’re looking for one more item to round out your Christmas dishes. These would also make a great gift, since it’d be easy to put the clusters into decorative mini muffin or candy liners, and then into a festive cellophane bag. The recipe is easy enough that you could cook dinner while it’s melting, too. Just don’t try to make a complicated dessert while making these for the first time. *laugh* They are so worth giving a shot and the original blogger even added decorative candies, so there is a lot of room to put your personal touch to these.

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Enjoy!

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Homemade Sloppy Joes

Hi there! Did you miss me? I figured y’all could use a little break from my rambling after the whole daily blogging challenge. I couldn’t resist sharing a recipe though, so for Serve It Sunday I’m sharing my homemade sloppy joes. I adapted it from a recipe for Sloppy Joe Casserole that I found on Pinterest, original recipe is here, but after having the original we decided to tailor it more toward our taste. The original recipe was good (although I admittedly omitted two ingredients because I had to), but it had a bread topping that neither of us cared for that soaked up almost all of the sloppy joe mixture. After some experimentation this version was born.

I’ve mentioned before that I have some food sensitivities and sadly canned sloppy joe mixture became off limits due to the spices and additives. I’d honestly never seen homemade sloppy joes before, so when I found out it was this easy AND especially that with a little adjustment it doesn’t make me sick, I was tickled pink. The recipe in an easy to copy format will be at the bottom.

First, on the stovetop you brown some ground beef (I vary the amount of meat depending on the mood honestly lol) over about a medium high heat. I use the 92% lean ground beef and it makes for the least greasy sloppy joes I’ve ever seen.
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While that’s cooking I found that if I mix the spices into a paste first and then coat the cooked meat with that before adding the tomato products, the flavors distribute much better, so in a small bowl mix brown sugar, Worcestershire Sauce, ground mustard (it’s powdered, found in the spice aisle), and garlic salt. If you gather the cooked meat into a small circle and pour the spice mixture over it, it’s easier to coat the meat. Stir well to coat the meat (second picture).

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Add tomato sauce and ketchup (yep, two tomato based ingredients) to the coated meat, then stir it in and reduce heat to medium. (Don’t put a lid on it unless you like runny sloppy joes.)

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We’re are some cheese loving folks, so in goes a generous helping of shredded cheddar cheese.

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After awhile the cheese mixes in and it gets all ooey gooey yummy. It may not look it, but this sloppy joe mixture is so thick that it doesn’t drip through the slats in my wood spoon once the mixture is heated well. *grin* It’s not quite “stand a fork in it” chili thick, but it’s pretty dang hearty.

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Use whatever bread vessel you prefer or have on hand (this go around I had leftover sub rolls from French Dips).

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It was so yummy and best of all it’s not overly acidic, so it shouldn’t bother sensitive stomachs! It comes together in about thirty minutes all in one pot, with minimal utensils to wash. Busy weeknight cooks can use the extra time to do a happy dance or kick their feet up. *grin*

Homemade Sloppy Joes (adapted)

1.5 lbs lean ground beef
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 teaspoons dry ground mustard
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (no salt added can)
3/4 cup ketchup
Optional: grated cheddar cheese, to taste
Preferred type of bread

1. On the stovetop over medium high heat brown ground beef in a large skillet.
2. While meat is cooking, mix the brown sugar, Worcestershire Sauce, mustard, and garlic salt into a paste.
3. Once the meat has cooked gather the meat in the center of the pan and pour the spice mixture over the meat. Stir to coat the meat well.
4. Add tomato sauce and ketchup to the mixture and reduce the heat to medium. Do not cover.
5. If desired, add a generous amount of shredded cheese to the mixture and stir it in.
6. Once the mixture is completely warm it is ready to be served on your preferred bread (I recommend a bun or roll, since regular bread may become soggy and fall apart.)

Note: This is a thick version. If you prefer more liquid, cover the skillet after the fourth step. This should keep a bit more of the moisture in.

I hope you enjoy! πŸ™‚

“And I Helped”

My poor mailman delivered the first load of my Amazon lightning sales stuff, so I started wrapping presents tonight. Little Miss Abby got in trouble by smacking the scissors as I cut paper, ripping the wrapping paper itself as well, and decided to dig around in my tissue paper and ribbon organizer (and made a big ole mess of it too! Lol). She acted like queen bee for having “helped”, but she was quite a handful. I couldn’t be angry when I saw where she had settled. The flash made her squint, but she had the cutest, most proud of herself, face at the time and how cute is it that she climbed into the organizer?!

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She also got brave and finally smacked one of the catnip bubbles that Larry blew for the fur babies. She’s a holy terror most of the time, but little cute moments like these make it so worth while.

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By the way, the title is a line from a really old commercial for Shake ‘N Bake. The little girl looked a lot like my mom’s childhood pictures, so I used to say that line to tease her and get her all riled up. *grin* I couldn’t resist it when I thought of Abby helping.

Well, I’m going to go back to wrapping before the next wave arrives tomorrow, so I hope you have a wonderful Tuesday and don’t forget to look for one of those special moments to make all of the frustration worth while. πŸ™‚

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