Category Archives: fall

Sugar Scrub Scrub Scrub

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One of my goals this year was to make handmade gifts.  Well, I didn’t make every gift by hand, but I tried.  I baked my heart out and packaged up at least 15 plates of cookies and yummy holiday treats.  And, when I was done with that, I decided to try my hand at making some sugar scrub.  I love this type of body scrub and I was first introduced to it from L’Occitane.  No doubt, this scrub is amazing and I love it.  However, it is a bit pricey and I use it a lot!  Then, thanks to pinterest, I saw that people were making their own scrub.  So, I did my research and checked out a bunch of recipes on line.  Here are a few for reference:

So, with my research behind me, I decided to go at it alone and started mixing in the kitchen.  I decided upon a sugar scrub to start using olive oil.  I first was going to use essential oils, but then decided against it once I realized that I couldn’t taste it.  I know this sounds crazy, but when you are mixing oil and sugar it seems to me that you should be able to taste it.  And, adding essential oils made it not to tasty.  I know…weird, but I didn’t like the idea of adding an oil that smelled like perfume.  I went all natural with the ingredients and decided upon two mixes after some trial and error….vanilla sugar scrub and gingerbread sugar scrub.  I took my research into consideration and then did what I wanted.

Vanilla Sugar Scrub

  • 3 Cups plain old white sugar
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil – I used extra light olive oil
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla

Simple as that…just put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix it all together until the sugar is completely saturated.  I decided that I wanted my scrubs to look a bit festive for the season so I split the batch in half and colored half of it with a few drops of red coloring food.  That way, I could make red and white stripes in the container.

Gingerbread Sugar Scrub

  • 3 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cups Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves

Same as above…mix all together and it is ready to go.

I had the hardest time finding the containers for the sugar scrub.  I found some glass containers (the last four that were on the shelf) at Michael’s.  These had a screw on top like a mason jar.  And, then I found a set of four at Target that had a clasp top which I loved.  Too bad I didn’t pick up more when I got those.  I went back later to find that they were sold out!!  You want to make sure that the jar has a large enough opening that you can get your hand in to scoop out the scrub and that it is not too deep.  One idea for future batches is to include a cute wooden scoop.  I wonder where I could find those.

Last, but not least was decorating the container.  I choose to do a simple label on the top of the jar that I constructed using craft paper and mod podge.  Believe it or not, this was the first time that I used mod podge and I have to say that I was quite impressed.  I spent the evening making in a mess in my kitchen (again) and I loved it!  I kind of think that mod podge just might be elmer’s glue in a different package.  But, it was fun nonetheless.

Labels & Container Adornment

  • Craft Paper
  • Modge Podge
  • Ribbon (I always like wire ribbon because it holds it’s shape)
  • Foam Paint Brush (small)

 Tips

  • Make sure you wait to add any food coloring in until after the oil is well absorbed into the sugar.
  • Use a small measuring cup to scoop the scrub into the final container.
  • Use a small flexible spatular to pack in the sugar scrub into the container.  It works really well when you are trying to layer colors.
  • Stick with natural ingredients.
  • Be patient and let the mod podge dry … it takes a bit.  Don’t keep touching it like I did.
  • Have fun and be creative.

Happy scrubbing!!

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Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas & Pulling Teeth (Literally)

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It was a busy week trying to wrap up all the loose ends at work (as if that is really possible).  I have finally realized that I will never have everything ‘done’ before I take time off at work.  I am either at that point in my career or in my life that I realize it simply isn’t even possible.  Yet, I still try every single time.

It certainly feels like the Christmas season around the house with presents under the tree, the smell of baking and 70 degree weather (yes, southern California is lovely this time of the year).  Although, I wouldn’t mind a chill in the air.

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas…I narrowed down my Christmas decorations this year and really just kept those things that I absolutely loved.  I mean really loved.  Here’s a small sampling of this year’s tree.

The tree skirt is got to be at least 15 years old.  I made it by hand; it was a cross stitch pattern that I probably bought at Michael’s and took a few years to complete.  It needs to be updated I think; maybe a project for next year.  I am thinking it needs some type of quilt backing and an update on the edge ribbon.  We shall see.

I also tried my hand at a few hand made gifts besides the cookie baking and pretzel bag gifts in my previous post…I tried my hand at some homemade sugar scrub.  Stay tuned for that in my next post.

The biggest bummer about this week was that Cali went in to have her teeth cleaned only to come out with 11 teeth extracted.  Now, first, I feel like the biggest jerk dog owner in the world because her teeth were in this condition.  But, second, I signed up for a teeth cleaning, dropped her off and called to get a status only to find out that they removed 11 teeth.  The initial appointment was predicated on a teeth cleaning and maybe having to remove one tooth…NOT 11.  Much to my surprise when I called for her status, I was casually informed that she was doing well and that they had to remove 11 teeth.  My first response was “how many teeth does she have”.  Well, apparently they have 42.  I don’t know about you, but they would never remove 11 teeth out of a human at once.  NEVER.  I am not a happy camper.  I paid for the x-rays so that they could call and tell me ahead of time what the plan was…NOT so that they could remove 11 teeth and tell me after the fact.  They assure me that this is fairly normal and that she will be fine.  I am most unhappy that no one notified me and when I did call, they were so casual about it.  So, I am waiting for her to come home so I can make her feel better…..I feel so bad.  So, so bad.

Sweet Cali - I am so sorry!

The Truth About Baking

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My baking extravaganza has come to a close….almost.  I currently have cream cheese pound cake in the oven.  And, cream cheese sugar cookies in the fridge ready to be rolled out and cut into shapes.  And, a plan to make more chocolate dipped pretzels.  Okay…I am not even close to done yet.  Somewhere in this post will be all of the recipes for all these yummy treats below.

But first, here are the lessons learned from yesterday:

  1. Martha Stewart is NOT always right.  

  2. Making caramel from scratch is never easy no matter how many times you do it.  (might have been easier if I could have found my candy thermometer).

  3. Not everything always works…tried macadamia nut turtles…sounds great…not so much.  Only if you want to remove a tooth.

  4. You cannot color chocolate with coloring food.  It turns into lovely clumps.

  5. Cleaning is overrated….

Full Plate

I only think it is fair to show the disaster that accompanies the wonderful plate of goodies above.  It is kind of a precautionary note should you decide to do this.  No matter how neat I try to be….it doesn’t quite work.  Creativity is messy for me; very messy.

What a mess!!

Now for the recipes….let me give you a run down of what I made, then they will be followed by a photo (if there is one and a recipe, link to the recipe and tips):

  1. Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods – Easy

  2. Gingerbread – Easy

  3. Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies – Medium

  4. Pinwheel Cookies – Medium

  5. Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars – Medium

  6. Congo Bars – Hard

  7. Cream Cheese Pound Cake – Easy

Dark Chocolate Pretzel Rods

White Chocolate Pretzel Rods

So, these are super easy.  Just your standard pretzel rods, any type of chocolate and some holiday candy decorations.  Make sure that you get chocolate that comes already in chips.  It will make it much easier to deal with and to melt.  Dump the chocolate chips into a microwave proof bowl and heat at 30 second intervals, stirring in between each time.  Do not overheat…it will make the chocolate clump together and you will have to throw it out.

Another little tip…do not get any water in contact with the chocolate as you melt it or it will mess up your chocolate.

Dip in your pretzel and set on wax paper (wax side up)…sprinkle whatever you would like onto the chocolate.  Let dry for about 15 minutes and package them up.

I packaged up the pretzels in some cute Christmas good bags and tied them up.

Pretzel Rods Ready to Give

Next up is super quick and easy gingerbread…they are in the middle of the top photo with the white frosting and red sprinkles.

This is a recipe from Martha Stewart and here’s the link:  Gingerbread

It is super easy and I added cream cheese frosting on top rather than powdered sugar.  It is super easy and makes a perfect gift.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies Ready for the Oven

These are some of my favorite cookies to make.  They just melt in your mouth.  I think they are personally better than the cookies with the hershey kiss on top because these have a soft chocolate center.  These do take some time because you have to roll them prior to baking and then pull out several times during baking to make the indentions for the chocolate.  This is also a Martha Stewart Recipe; here’s the link:  Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

A few hints on this recipe:

  • Roll the balls slightly larger than the recipe says.

  • Take out the cookies about half way through and use a small handle of a wooden spoon to make the indentions in the middle.  I try to press a good 1/4″ down and make a good size indention.  Don’t use anything too big or it will crack the edges of the cookie and your chocolate will spill out.

  • When you take the cookies out of the oven, press down the centers again.  I have never used by thumb…they are too damn hot and it doesn’t work very well.

    Pinwheels in Progress

    These is a fairly simple recipe, but the volume of the recipe is enough to stop the biggest mixer.  And, because there is a lot of powdered sugar in these cookies…it makes a monumental mess.  Poof!

    The most complicated thing about this recipe is getting the dough rolled so that you can make the shape.  I did some research and found a few tips that I will share.  I am certainly not the master, but am starting to perfect this cookie.  Here is the recipe:  Pinwheel aka Bull’s Eye Cookie.

    One thing that I did with these cookies was that I made one roll of cookie dough instead of two…this made the cookies really really big!  Next time, I will roll them into two separate logs so that the cookies are smaller and easier to handle.  First, you have to master the rolling of the dough log…follow the directions on this one.

    I sought out better instructions on how to do this and found it here:  America’s Test Kitchen.  The key to these cookies is wax paper and the refrigerator.  It makes all the different in rolling the log.  For baking these cookies, do not overcook!  As soon as you see the slightest hint of brown edges, take them out of the oven!  Happy rolling!

    The Beginnings of Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars

    So, this is an interesting recipe and I first tasted these when my mom made them a few years ago.  I got my recipe from a cookbook called ‘Holiday Baking’ by Sara Perry.  And, you can find the recipe on line:  Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars.  These are really pretty easy.  The only part that may be tricky is the brown sugar over the stove to make the caramel type sauce.

    One thing you should definitely do is to line your baking sheet with tin foil (shiny side up)…it makes this much easier to cut when they are done.  And, easier to clean the pan!  Enjoy these!

    Congo Bars

    Onto the congo bars…this is a fantastic recipe that I found a few years ago in Martha Stewart Magazine…yes, I know…another from Martha Stewart.  Here’s the recipe:  Congo Bars.

    The most complicated part about making these bars is making the caramel.  I insist on making it from scratch because it is a challenge and always proves to be difficult.  It takes much longer than the recipe says it does and is even harder when you can’t find your candy thermometer.  This is an area where I definitely need to do more work and practice!

    Here’s the recipe for caramel if you are so inclined:  Caramel.  Here are photos below of caramel in process.  It takes way longer than it says in the recipe to turn ‘golden’.  And, be very careful when you pour in the whipping cream because it bubbles up in the pan pretty high.  (FYI…buy extra whipping cream in case you have to try this multiple times.)  And, be very careful and resist the temptation to taste the newly formed caramel….

    The Start of Caramelhmmm...caramel

     

    Cream Cheese Pound Cake

    And, last but not least is cream cheese pound cake.  This is actually a photo of the cake that went in the trash.  I eventually figured out the problem…the temperature on the recipe was not right!  So much for Martha Stewart.  This is an amazing tasting cake.  I eventually made these in smaller individual pound cake pans to give away and they worked great.

    I baked three at a time on a cookie sheet.  They is that I cooked them at 325 degrees for the first 30 minutes and then dropped the temperature down to 300 degrees once I saw the top edges starting to brown.  DO NOT cook at 350 like it says in the recipe.  Here is the recipe:  Cream Cheese Pound Cake  Perfect to slice up and give away as a hostess gift.

    Last, but not least is the sorting and packaging of all the goodie plates…one of my favorite parts:

    Preparing the Plates

    All Wrapped Up

    I will post the recipe for cream cheese sugar cookies and frosting later when I get those started.  Happy baking!