Category Archives: Holidays

A Sweet Valentine’s Day

It’s February 14th and that means it’s time for some sweet treats!  Actually it’s always time for sweet treats, but today we’ll focus on the pink ones.  I have a few ideas for a little special treat for tonight.  Let’s jump right in.

First up the Cherry Chocolate Chip Cheeseball.  I made this one last weekend so I know it’s a winner.  It’s super easy too.  I do want to call out that mine did not set up like the picture.  I mixed it as directed and let it set overnight in the fridge, but it was still very soft the next day.  I ended up sprinkling the mini chocolate chips on the top of the mix rather than trying to shape it into a ball.

Regardless it is delicious.  I served it with graham crackers, but I think vanilla wafers or chocolate graham crackers would also be good choices.  It’s sweetly addictive; consider yourself warned.

Next up are Cherry Krispie Treats with Dark Chocolate.  These look so good.  They’re a traditional Krispie treat with cherry gelatin added for flavor and color.  Plus, they have a dark chocolate coating.  I am a fan of the improvised Krispie treat so I think this would be another quick and easy sweet treat to have as a go-to item.

As a third option let’s consider Strawberry Chocolate Chip cupcakes.  I wish I had a picture to share with you, so maybe these are what I’ll make so I can have a photo.  Regardless, these would be pretty simple to make.  I’ve had the cake variation for my birthday many times.  You’ll need a strawberry cake mix (boxed or homemade, it’s up to you), mini chocolate chips, and chocolate frosting.  I suggest going with my homemade chocolate frosting that I shared here.  You can make it as thick as you want based on how much cocoa you add.

The big thing to remember here is to go with the mini chocolate chips.  They won’t sink to the bottom of your cupcake as easily as the regular size chips.  The regular size seems to sink regardless of whether you add a little flour to them first.

So, hopefully after this you’re feeling inspired to whip up a little sweet treat today.  Regardless if it’s just for you or you’re sharing with others, a sweet treat is always needed.

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Desserts, Holidays


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Homemade Snack Gift Basket

Today I’m sharing some easy, tasty recipes that you can use to create a gift basket to be proud of.  I made my first snack gift basket during a recent DIY Christmas stint.  I had wanted to do something different from the standard gift certificates that my in-laws typically requested.

They normally do a lot of entertaining during the Christmas/New Year week so I thought that a snack gift basket would be a gift they could use.  I had quite a few recipes from one of my stand-by Christmas books.

happiest of holidays

I had looked through this one multiple times but had never actually made any of the recipes in it.  I liked the idea of giving edible gift items but I thought of them as more of an inspiration for a DIY Christmas.  Well, the DIY Christmas was underway so it was time to try this idea out.

I started by deciding on which recipes made sense to make.  There were a couple that had different flavored pretzels, so I whittled it down to one pretzel recipe.  I went with the chocolate covered pretzels as I had other savory options to choose from.  Plus, I knew these were easy and tasty so win-win.

I had made a cinnamon bun popcorn that I knew I wanted to include.  I had also made toffee, which I always do during the holidays, so that was included.  I use the Land O’ Lakes chocolate-covered toffee recipe every year.  It’s a keeper!

The last three items were new recipes for me and they all turned out excellent!  I went with ranch flavored oyster crackers, spiced nuts, and homemade mocha liqueur.  In regards to the spiced nuts, the recipe recommends pecans or assorted nuts.  I had two bags of assorted nuts that I had used for another recipe so I went with those.  I think that really ramped up the “gourmet” factor for this gift.  So if you’re giving this away I’d say go with the assorted nuts.

I used Ziploc sandwich bags to keep the snacks fresh.  Then I put one bag of each snack into these cute Chinese food style boxes.  They had different holiday looks printed on them and they came in a couple of different sizes.  I got them at Michaels for a great price right at the beginning of the holiday season.

I printed out the names of each snack and put them on top of the boxes.  I put the liquor into a clean wine bottle with a twist top.  Then I used a metallic holiday wrapping paper to wrap around the bottle’s label.  I printed out a label for the liquor and attached it to the wrapping paper.  Once I was done with all of that I placed all of the boxes into a holiday basket.

Let me just say this gift was a hit!  My mother-in-law commented on it at least three different times in the days following Christmas.  She also brought it up during this year’s holiday season and said how much she had liked receiving that gift.

This is a great gift during any time of the year.  Plus, you can change out the recipes to add in some seasonal flavors.  The choices are endless.  Let’s recap the final gift basket recipes.

Homemade Snack Foods Gift Basket

Chocolate Covered Pretzels – You just dip the pretzels in melted chocolate.  Add sprinkles, drizzle another chocolate over them, be creative.

Cinnamon Bun Popcorn


Spiced Nuts

Ranch Flavored Oyster Crackers

Mocha Liqueur 

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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Holidays


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Dessert Choices For Christmas

There’s something about the holiday season that makes you want to pull out all the stops.  You want to show up with a dessert that makes everyone “ooh and ahh” about it.  Plus, you want it to taste as delicious as it looks.

I’ve run the gamut from super-rich, chocolatey cheesecakes to dense almond tortes with fresh cranberry sauce.  Each fit the occasion perfectly and was well worth effort.

Almond Torte with Cranberry Jam

Almond torte, yum!

This year I’m on the hunt for a really awesome dessert.  I’ve thought about making something I’ve already made, and know that the taste is guaranteed amazing.  Or, I could pick something new that looks like it could be awesome.  Like a croquembouche!


So fun!

I have a recipe for an eggnog cream-filled version, using white chocolate as the “glue” and drizzled over the tops of the pastries.  It’s in the “Southern Living Big Book of Christmas” holiday book.  It looks amazing!

It’s going on the shortlist for now.  I’m still on the fence about adding anything I’ve done before.  If I did it would have to be the “Black Forest Tart” from the Taste of Home Holiday magazine I mentioned here.  It was so rich and chocolatey.  We’ll have to see!

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Posted by on November 6, 2013 in Holidays


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Creamy Brussels Sprouts With Mushrooms

Myself, and a large chunk of the population, enjoy Brussels sprouts during the holidays.  Now, did I always?  Definitely not.  I had tried them a few times and they just didn’t do it for me.  Then, about five years ago my mother-in-law made Brussels sprouts with cheese sauce for Thanksgiving.  I put one or two on my plate fully intending to try one, but not expecting to like it.  Surprise surprise, I did like this recipe and proceeded to eat the leftovers for the following two days.

That Thanksgiving side dish has brought me to the following recipe.  I ran across this one in my Taste Of Home Holiday magazine, circa 2008.

Creamy Brussels Sprout Bake

Taste of Home Recipe

I’ve made it twice, once for Christmas Eve and once for Thanksgiving.  Both times I felt like it needed just a little something more.  I was still in the “follow the recipe exactly” mindset back then though so I didn’t feel comfortable tweaking it.

That’s not the case anymore.  Since I had some fresh mushrooms that needed to be used I decided today was a good day to try it with some changes.  That included using Portabella mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Not a big change, just a little tweak.

Ingredients for brussels sprouts bake

All chopped up.

I added the garlic, salt, and pepper to the mushroom mixture while it was in the frying pan.  Then, that was added to the cream cheese mixture (which I added a little salt and garlic powder to).  Next up, baking time.

Recipe in the pan

Ready for the oven

I added the cheese at the end, put it in for a little longer, and then we’re ready to eat.  It looks tasty!

Creamy brussels sprouts ready to eat.

Ready to eat!

Overall, I was happier with the additions.  It’s a heavy side dish, so keep that in mind.  I made it as a main dish for tonight and it was more than adequate.  It’s a good recipe to keep on hand, but it still doesn’t beat the one that my mother-in-law made.  I need to ask her if she still has that recipe!

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Holidays


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Christmas Cookies 2013 – The Planning Continues

So, I thought I’d be planning out my Thanksgiving recipes today.  Then I started reading through one of my recent Christmas board pins.  It was linked to a list of “49 Things That Taste Like Christmas” and that was where I found two new cookies for this year’s Christmas Baking list.

Candy Cane stuffed cookies

Candy Canes and Cake Batter, Yum!

One of them is the Candy Cane Cake Batter cookie shown in the pin.  The other is a sandwich style cookie with a brownie like cookie and candy cane butter cream filling.  They both look amazing!

I’m thinking this year may be a bit more heavy on the peppermint flavor.  For a few years it was heavy on the chocolate.  While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all most of the recipes being heavy on the chocolate, I figured it’s good to change things up.

Chocolate and Peppermint

Chocolate and Candy Canes = Flavor of Christmas

One of my favorite, non-chocolate, Christmas cookie recipes is the Candy Cane Cookie.  It’s not a peppermint flavor though, it’s an almond flavored cookie.  The peppermint comes in to play by way of the candy cane dust sprinkled over the baked cookie.

I’ll be following up on those when I start my holiday baking.  That won’t happen until after Thanksgiving.  Last year’s baking weekend was Black Friday weekend.  That means we focused a lot more on candies, fudge, and trying out new recipes.

So now I have three cookies on my final list.  It’s off to a good start but still nowhere near complete.  While I continue building out the list let’s review some favorites from my 2011 Christmas Baking list.

2011 Christmas Cookies

Candy Cane Cookies, Slice and Bake Peppermint Cookies, Double Ginger Crackles, Lime Nut Buttons, Vanilla Bean Angel Pillows (these include homemade vanilla sugar!), Italian Fig Pockets (everyone loved these), Eggnog Cutouts

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Holidays


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