Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Like It's Quidditch

You will probably want to hate me for this, but don't. I'm too precious.

(CAUTION: Earworm)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

DIY Gifts: Coconut Ganache Bourbon Balls

Holy happy hour, Batman!

These cookies sound so divine, and so simple, that I cannot wait to try them. Vicki, a dear grandmother** of mine, has a Thanksgiving Happy Hour every year in Hank's Bar: her garage was converted to a bar in memory of her late husband, Hank.

**It feels odd to call her a grandmother; she was married to my husband's grandfather, but she never had children. She also happens to be made of awesome, so I'm happy to keep her. ;)

Anyway, the party is always fun - with plenty of flowing booze - so these cookies should be a smash!

Yields approximately 30

For the Bourbon Balls
2 cups vanilla wafers or graham crackers crumbs (ground fine)
2 cups chopped pecans (by hand or in food processor)
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup bourbon or whiskey
6 tablespoons cane syrup or corn syrup

For the Ganache
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons heavy cream

For the Bourbon Balls

In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, pecans, confectioners sugar, and cocoa powder. In another bowl, whisk together bourbon and syrup and then combine thoroughly with dry mixture (I find using my hands works best). Allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
Using a small scoop (I prefer a spring-release ice cream scoop), spoon out rounds of the bourbon ball mixture, mashing flat against the side of the bowl to create a flat bottom. Release onto a sheet pan.

For the Ganache

In a food processor, process coconut flakes into small bits. Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a glass bowl and microwave one minute to one minute and twenty seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted and glossy.

Dip bourbon balls in melted chocolate (you don't have to coat the flat bottom surface), reheating chocolate as necessary, and place on a cooling rack set on top of wax paper. Sprinkle coconut on top of balls, using fingers to cover the sides thoroughly. Re-use the leftover coconut that falls through the cooling rack wires, if necessary. Allow to set for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (they taste even better after the flavor has a chance to mellow). If you don't like coconut, feel free to just cover them in ganache and allow to set overnight.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week. (As if they could last that long!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Edible DIY Gifts: From The Kitchen

I regularly sift through the Apartment Therapy blog, as well as cousin The Kitchn and OhDeeDoh. I find the most interesting articles, from recipes to decor Before and Afters. Today I found this on The Kitchn blog:

Tea, Brittle, Olives & Cake: 10 Delicious Edible Gifts

I am looking forward to working through those recipes for barks and brittles, and I'm interested in their suggested tea blends.

Enjoy - happy gifting!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wish List: Harry Potter edition

I did a little window-shopping on Etsy this afternoon, and I found some super cute HP inspired products. How fun is this stuff?

Owl Post box

Baby Hat (and no, I don't need one yet, but I find cute baby stuff all the time that I want to secretly stockpile)

Wrock tee shirt (or almost anything from this Etsy shop)
To be fair, I'm not sure I would wear it out of the house much, for the exhaustion of constantly explaining it.

HP Themed Magnets

And finally, one for Grags:

DIY Gifting: Tulle Circles

I found this idea over on Dollar Store Crafts (don't hate), and I love it. My first thought was to make tea bags from your favorite loose teas. I have a diffuser, but the holes are too big so I always get tea leaves floating in there. No thank you. So I have gift one in mind for this year!

Our local dollar store has a bridal section with plastic champagne flutes, paper decorations, invitations and thank you notes. I also found these pretty white pre-cut tulle circles. Tulle is that white netting they use for bridal veils and ballerina tutus. It's often cut into circles for making birdseed bundles to toss at the bride and groom as they leave a wedding reception. I picked up a package of these little babies and ran home to whip up some super-quick and ultra-cheap holiday gifts.

Make sachet pouches:
Project Estimate:
Package of tulle circles, $1
Ribbon, on hand or $.50 and up
Various spices, on hand or buy in bulk
Cost: Less than $1 each (the bigger your stash of herbs, spices and beads--the cheaper this project gets!)

By simply adding a small handful of herbs, spices or potpourri to the middle of the circle and pulling up the sides to make a bag, you can create a variety of useful sachets for cooking or home decorating. Sew them closed or just tie tightly with a ribbon. If you intend to cook with them, be sure to take the ribbon off beforehand.
The tulle does not melt when simmered, and you can actually wash them out and re-use them after you're done making your mulled cider or soup stock. The package comes with 15 tulle circles, and you can purchase herbs, spices and potpourri in bulk. So you can make a variety of sachets for just a few dollars. Sweet!

Ways to use sachets:
~*~Fill the bags with whole cloves, nutmeg shavings, dried ginger flakes and broken cinnamon sticks for some yummy mulling spices. Simply add the bag of spices to a pot of apple cider and simmer for five to ten minutes, and voila! Hot mulled cider to warm you on a chilly evening. For a more adult beverage, you can add the spice bag to a pot of red wine, add a generous amount of honey and you've got a delicious hot toddy. Toss a few sachets into a beautiful mug and you've got a great gift for cold weather.
~*~Sew two circles together and fill them with sprigs of basil, oregano, rosemary and other savory herbs for creating soup stock. This would make a lovely hostess gift for Thanksgiving along with a recipe for making soup stock from the leftover turkey bones.
~*~Fill small or large pouches with potpourri (also from the dollar store) for a sweet smelling closet sachet. These make your dresser drawers and linen closets smell wonderful! You can decorate the top of the bags with beads, embroidery floss, paint or glitter glue to make them even more festive.
~*~Fill the bags with candy or other small trinkets and use as stocking stuffers or party favors on your holiday table.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cannonball Read III

I am going to push myself this next year to participate in the third annual Cannoball Read over at Pajiba. I made a long list (quite some time ago) of new books I should read, and even purchased several of them, but I never got around to them. I am a creature of habit, all told. I love reading, but I reeeeally love going back to my favorites over and over again.

Ask me how many times I've read Good Omens or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

A lot.

The Cannonball Read was started 'Alabama Pink', an amazing woman who was a member of the Pajiba online society. She loved reading, and she started this challenge as a push for people to read 52 books in a year. They also had to write reviews on a blog. Quite a weighty task, but many people took it up.

She passed away last year from leukemia, leaving behind husband 'ahamos' and their son Alastair. The yearly read has lived on, and now it is used as a means to raise funds for Lil A's college education.

I am finally taking up the task this year. The rules have become more flexible, allowing for Half Cannonballs or Quarter Cannonballs. I'm signing up for a QC, which means 13 books read and reviewed before winter of 2011. Hopefully I can exceed that expectation, but I've met me, so I'm aiming for 13.

Wish me luck, and read my reviews as I post them!

(Update: I mentioned the Cannonball Read last year, as well as Prisco's 100 Book Challenge. Check it out)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Baking Weekend of DREAMS

The delightful Pioneer Woman has done it again: she is having a getaway weekend giveaway on her blog! This time the winner (and guest) will spend the whole weekend relaxing, making new friends, feeding cows, and... wait for it... BAKING!

Now, I enjoy some time in the kitchen, I really do. I even enjoy making dessert, but "baking" by definition isn't my strong suit. I make cakes from box mixes (which are pretty dang good, thank you very much), and making cookies from scratch is extremely rare, though always worth it.

What I would look forward to most about the baking experience is decorating: I want to learn how to make pretty cookies and fun frosting toppings. I want to focus on DIY gifts this year (and I mentioned in this blog) and many of those ideas will be edible gifts. This weekend would give me a great head start - especially with all of the swag I would be bringing home!!!

Also, I haven't been on a ranch in so very long, and I would love to just see and smell and hear it all. Anyone who has ever stood near a horse and taken a deep breath knows the smell I mean. Yes, there would be unpleasant smells as well, but such is life. Scrape off the boot bottoms and keep walkin'.

If you want to check it out, her blog has all of the details you need.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rally for Sanity

I don't hold a lot of opinions about politics, generally speaking. In fact, I admit to being an "ignorance is bliss" thinker when I can. I am not completely unaware, I merely don't follow all of the shouting.

That said, I found this link for some of the signs seen at Jon Stewart's Rally for Sanity, and I had to share my favorites, because I'm wheezing at my desk right now from laughing: