Monday, December 24, 2007

Visions of Sugarplums

Recently, I have been asked to share a few of my favorite Christmas recipes - it's easiest to do here, so Merry Christmas to you from me!

First off my "Cocoa for Two" cones. I got this idea from my friend Hollye - she makes these every year and told me where to get the cone shaped bags *and gave me some ideas for candies to top them with. Then I started getting inspired and came up with a few ideas of my own.
For 96 servings of cocoa mix (or about 48 Cocoa Cones)

  • 16 cups nonfat dry milk powder
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 4 cups Hershey's cocoa
  • 4 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
  • 8 dashes salt
 In a large mixing bowl combine all ingredients; blend well. Store in tightly covered container.

Topping ideas:
2 bags Chocolate chunks
2 bags Andes mint candy pieces
1 bag Heath Toffee pieces
1 bag white chocolate chips
3 dozen candy canes (crush into pieces)
3 bags mini marshmallows.

If you're bagging your Cocoa for gift giving, you'll want to include these directions. For a single serving: Combine 1/4 cup mix and 3/4 cup boiling water in cup or mug; stir to blend. Add marshmallows to hot cocoa, if desired.

*Don't feel limited to the cone shaped bags.  You could make a cute folded-over cardstock header with your spare paper-crafting supplies and just use a zip-top bag for your packaging. Or, how about a Mason jar or other up-cycled canister.

To make the cones - add 1/2 cup mix to a cone, twist down tight and secure with the wire twistie that comes with the bags. Cut excess bag from the top. Drop cocoa mix cone into another cone and carefully add desired toppings. Varieties I used were Andes Mint, Pepper Mint, Toffee, and Double Chocolate chips. Add about 1/3 cup candies or chips and then 1/3 cup marshmallows on top of the candy toppings. Twist and secure the outer bag. Attach a tag with the directions to the top with some colorful ribbon.

To make Chocolate Mousse Chocolate Cups:
I ordered the Belgian chocolate cups online - but I don't recommend the site - the shipping was exorbitant! You can make your own or find another source... I once found some at Tuesday Morning for a steal!
For the mousse I used a recipe from Hershey at their website. I've been making this one for years - I like it because it doesn't have any raw egg like a lot of mousse recipes do.

  • 1T unflavored gelatin
  • 3 T cold water
  • ¼ C and 2 T boiling water
  • 1-1/2 C white sugar
  • ¾ C Hershey’s Cocoa Powder
  • 3 C heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 T vanilla extract

In small cup, (I use a glass measure) sprinkle gelatin over cold water; let stand 1 minute to soften. Add boiling water; stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Cool slightly.

Stir together sugar and cocoa in medium bowl; add whipping cream and vanilla. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bottom of bowl occasionally, until mixture is stiff. Pour in gelatin mixture; beat until will blended.
Spoon into serving dishes. (I like to pipe it with my decorator thingy from Pampered Chef and a big star tip.)

Refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving. Garnish as desired. (I used tiny strips of lime zest tossed in sugar, pomegranate arils and chocolate shavings. Raspberries and mint leaves are nice too, or just chocolate shavings and another batch of mousse without the cocoa. This is really yummy layered in a trifle dish with layers of moist brownie and mini chocolate chips for garnish. Layer brownies in about 1 ½ inch squares, next chocolate mousse, white mousse, brownie etc.

Cover and refrigerate leftover desserts.

And finally - my caramel corn (great for filling decorated paint cans...)

  • 3 qts. fresh popped corn
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (I use butter)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/4 cup honey or white Karo syrup (I use Karo - never tried the honey...)
  • 1 t. vanilla
Melt butter over low heat; add brown sugar and Karo, bring to a boil for 5 minutes WITHOUT STIRRING.

After 5 minutes, add vanilla.

Pour over popcorn mixing and coating evenly. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes.
If you double the recipe still cook the caramel for only 5 minutes.

Happy Christmas to all!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

...And a Partridge on a Paint Can

I found out we were exchanging gifts with friends that we'd agreed not to exchange gifts with this year - so I checked the budget (odd for me...) and decided I'd make something.

I pulled these Basic Grey papers from my stash. They are from the Dasher collection and are Bunny Hill (stripe), Snowbank (snowflakes) and Partridge in a Pear Tree (partridge, branches and berries cut out). The Snowbank isn't on their site... but it's seen it the collection pack there.

The can itself was very easy - just a 2-1/2 inch strip around the middle. Then I cut the partridge, berries and branches from the other paper and glued it to the can. I used Stickles glitter by Ranger to "applique" the partridge to the can. For these predominantly blue and green papers I used Waterfall, Frosted Lace, Crystal, Xmas Red and Pink. I also accented each (yes, each) snowflake with a small dot of the Frosted Lace in the center and I used the Crystal to accent the underlying floral pattern on the striped paper. My favorite is that Xmas Red though... it looked like ruby slippers in a bottle to me, and I just had to have it. Same with the new Making Memories, Cranberry paint. I must have this paint collection... just love it. I see some red, light blue, brown and pink Valentines on the horizon... I'm still very fond of the light blue and red combination.

The ribbon is just some from my stash - came in 10 and 15 yard rolls. Gotta love that.

Oh - what's inside, you ask?
Why, homemade caramel corn, my dear. My finest ever - thanks to some tips from my mom. Got the temp just right this time. I guess you *can't* cook everything faster with a higher temperature...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Can't Explain It

But I'm down another pound and a half this evening. That's a total of 5 1/2 pounds in 8 days. The only thing I've really changed is how I'm using the elliptical machine - and doing the "fat burning" program rather than a plain program. It puts me through about 5 minutes of low intensity work followed by 5 minutes of really working hard. Then back down to 5 minutes of low intensity and back up. I go through this cycle about 3 times in a 30 minute stint, followed by a 5 minute cool down.

I've read a few articles in the last couple of weeks that talk about how there is an increased fat burning effect with shorts bursts of cardio activity followed by short, less intense exercise or strength building exercises.

Can't explain it - but it seems to work!

36 1/2 down, 64 1/2 to go!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another almost 2

Can't believe it - another 1 3/4 pounds today!

Must be that "all caramel corn" diet I was on today... well... mostly kidding.

I think the real issue must be the fact that I've started doing a "fat burning" course for 35 minutes on the elliptical machine rather than just get on and go. Seems to be making a difference so I'm going to keep doing it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2 More

Quick check in - it's been six days since I was at the gym last - this time of year gets so busy... but I made it in this evening for a 30 minute ride on the elliptical in "fat burning" mode.

Yup... Two more pounds for a total loss so far of 33 pounds and 35 1/4 inches since the middle of August. And that's with water retention and a little truffle backslide the other night!

It's weird - cuz I know there's a difference - but then I still see a huge task (pun intended) ahead of me. I still have 68 pounds to go to my goal... I look in the mirror and I can still get very discouraged. Yes - my jeans are a lot more loose, I've got room to fold them over in the rear and thighs - even shirts are fitting better... but they're still pretty big and they're not falling off yet so that I can't wear them.

When I start to feel that way I have to grab my measuring tape - but sometimes there's not a significant loss of inches in the "important" areas. It's very difficult to measure a back hump or be appreciative of thinner ankles and wrists... So to encourage myself, I wrap the tape around me at my beginning measurement and I can see the difference in a real tangible way. I can feel a difference in my health too.

Oh - and walking in my high heels has become a lot easier, as has going up and down stairs!

So I'll keep pluggin' away at it... pound by pound and quarter inch by quarter inch. I'm almost one third of the way there. Eighteen more and I'll reach my first goal - which is to clank the big chunky weight on the bottom of that scale DOWN 50 pounds!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Rest of the Story...

Just in case you were duped into thinking they're always precious gems - I wanted to share what it's usually like...

This was taken after the program ended (and the lights were turned out... sorry) and the cookies and punch we're being digested.

Remember, Michaela was originally going to sing the solo - so she wanted a shot at it on "tape" and we were trying for a better audio since daddy hadn't recorded it the first time. Michaela didn't quite get the words right and got frustrated with herself - then she got downright indignant when Zachary and Jacob tried to fill in for her (read: steal her thunder) My favorite parts are Jacob mimicking mom, (I don't look that ridiculous do I??? Don't answer that... ) and Zachary picking at his nose.

At least no punches were thrown...

Happy Birthday Jesus

I just have to stop for a moment at the beginning of this 2nd week in December, to brag on my kids a bit.

Sabbath evening we participated in the church Christmas program. I've been trying to think of a song Michaela could sing. She's been begging to sing in church for a long time now. But I couldn't come up with anything that didn't require a pianist until the Wednesday night before. I was picking up a track for myself when I stumbled across an "old" song I'd heard done by kids years before on the radio and in our previous church home back in Florida. A sweet little number called Happy Birthday Jesus.

Michaela readily agreed - but the boys wanted nothing of it.

So we began practicing - as much as she could stand to. And then Friday morning (the day before the program) she started "revisiting" the meals of the previous day. The (hopefully) 24 flu had hit her. She spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon sleeping and sipping Pedialite.

It took a lot of talking, but I finally convinced Zachary to do the solo part at the beginning with Michaela coming in with Jacob in the middle and then Michaela could do the little tag on solo at the end.

Well she wasn't even feeling up to doing that little bit on the end and to my AMAZEMENT, Jacob volunteered to do it. My meek, mild, mumbler!

So we practiced and practiced until they couldn't stand to do it any more (four or five times I think... I'm just kidding - sort of...) And here's how they did... Try to ignore the focusing sounds of my little digital camera... and try not to notice the jiggling of Grampa's hand as he uses my camera for the first time... and strain to try to hear the kids for the first 40 or so seconds until their daddy (the sound guy) gets the EQ set and remembers to un-mute Zack's mic.

I was hoping that his audio recording turned out better - but he forgot that part too. They were the first musical number to be recorded after the first musical number of the evening wasn't mic'd and therefore not recorded... But you don't need to know all that... On to the video clip.
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