Happy Independence Day!

July 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

More Wonderland tutorials will be coming up (as soon as I have time to put two thoughts together) but in the meantime I hope you had a wonderful 4th of July!

I know that I did!

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Valentine’s Day!

February 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day!

…yeah, I don’t really get excited about Valentine’s Day. When I was growing up I did get excited about Chocolate Eclair Day, which also happened to be on February 14th, and everyone knows that the real holiday is Discount Chocolate Day on February 15th, but Valentine’s Day itself has always struck me as a little pointless.

Still, I love a theme, and a couple of weeks ago when I volunteered to bring dessert to Bible study I must have had hearts on the brain because this was what I made:


Red Velvet Cake Mix Cookie Sandwiches, Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing and Chocolate Hearts, and one excited and soon to be excessively sugared girl.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that cake mix cookies are not only the easiest thing in the world, they are delicious and decadent–one cookie sandwich was enough to knock me over, anyway.  I had to sit quietly and recover from the sugar rush.

But when I say that it’s the easiest thing in the world, I really mean it–if you need a last minute Valentine’s Day treat, look no further!

For the cookies themselves, you just need

1 box of cake mix

2 eggs

1/2 cup of oil

AND THAT’S IT. You just mix up those three things, scoop out balls of the resulting dough onto a cookie sheet, and bake at 350F for about 8 minutes, until the top of the cookie cracks slightly.  I scooped my cookies out with a tablespoon, but they were very large–next time I’ll use a teaspoon instead.

The icing is also simple:

8 oz cream cheese

6 oz white chocolate

1 stick butter

Beat cream cheese until fluffy, add in melted chocolate (I chopped up my chocolate and melted it in the microwave, stopping every thirty seconds to stir until it was smooth) and softened butter, then mix until light and airy.

Once your cookies have cooled simply match them in pairs, spread with icing, and sandwich together.  Easy as pie.  Except EASIER than pie, because pie can actually be a lot of trouble.

If you want to be ambitious and keep things really tidy, then you can also use a piping bag to fill your cookies:

It’s not really necessary, but it was quick and easy, since I had the piping bag ready to ice my cupcakes anyway–I used the same icing for both red velvet cookie sandwiches and chocolate cupcakes, and it was delicious on both.  The cupcakes, by the way, were Cupcake 22 from Ming Makes Cupcakes, one of my favorite go-to cupcake recipes (Cupcake 1 and Cupcake 24 are also very popular in my house).  To dress up my cupcakes I just melted a handful of red candy coating in a disposable piping bag by microwaving it, stopping every thirty seconds to squish the bag until the candy coating was smooth and runny, then snipped the tip off of the bag and piped hearts out onto wax paper.  Easy peasy, and it made for a pretty presentation–

Happy Christmas! Christmas Dinner

December 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

My contributions for this year’s Christmas dinner were a potato gratin and a chocolate cheesecake!

Here’s my Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust–the crust has two layers, with cheese, pepper, and rosemary sandwiched between them, and it’s filled with Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes layered with cheese (Gruyere and Baby Swiss) and kosher salt, topped with heavy cream, minced garlic, and more cheese, all baked in a springform pan.

It was delicious. Absolutely, amazingly, completely delicious.  It was time consuming to put together (guys, sweet potatoes are hard. Slicing up two of them? Took forever) but so worth it.  And look at how pretty it is!

Find the recipe at Southern Living here.

After dinner we all took a long break before coffee and dessert (I snuck off to take a nap!) but dessert was worth waiting for:

The Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is another recipe from Southern Living–find the recipe for it, and the template for the white chocolate snowflake, on the Southern Living website here.

I made the cheesecake a week ago–I took it out of the springform to let it cool completely in the refrigerator overnight, then put it back in the springform, wrapped it in plastic and hid it in the freezer (you can’t be too careful with chocolate in this house).  I took it out and put it back in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.  The recipe includes a chocolate ganache, but I knew I wouldn’t want to mess with that today, so I used a storebought glaze (Duncan Heinz) instead.

The snowflake is Almond Bark, melted in a disposable piping bag.  I just chopped the bark up, put it in the bag, microwaved it for thirty seconds, squished the bag, and microwaved it for another thirty seconds.  The instructions in Southern Living say to print out the template, lay it under a piece of parchment paper, trace it, then turn the parchment paper over and pipe the chocolate over the traced lines.  That sounds like a lot of unnecessary work to me–I just taped the template to the bottom of a piece of parchment paper.

I put the chocolate in the refrigerator to harden for about ten minutes, then used an offset spatula to slide it off of the parchment paper and set it right on top of my chocolate cheesecake extravaganza.  I went over the design several times to make it thick, because I’d already melted the chocolate and because I was worried about breaking it when I picked it up!

It was delicious, but So Rich. I had to drink a mug of milk in between every bite.  AMAZING but now I must go and die of a sugar overdose.

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

December 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

Here’s a hastily photographed sneak peak of my centerpiece for tomorrow–er, today’s Christmas dinner!

I think it might need more peppermints, don’t you?

Of course, my favorite place for these soft peppermints to be is in my hot chocolate, dissolving slowly and deliciously:

The fire is a definite bonus, of course.

And no Christmas Eve is complete without the greatest of all Christmas movies–no, not A Christmas Story.  No, no, not Elf.  No, not It’s A Wonderful Life, either.  No, not Die Hard!

I mean The Muppet Christmas Carol, of course!

Stay tuned for an update on whether my cooking experiments tomorrow pan out–I’m pretty sure the cheesecake will be edible! the potato gratin, though, will be anyone’s guess–and to find out if I cave and put more peppermints on my centerpiece!

Last Minute Pizazz: A True Story

December 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Here’s a true story, boys and girls: 99.9% of my creative impulses take place in the middle of the night, at the last minute, when I should be doing something else.

I was wrapping my gift for my office Secret Santa and thought ‘hm…this package really needs something.’  I mean, look at it!  Something is definitely lacking here:

But what to do?  Hmmmm…Well, maybe some ribbon. And a hot glue gun.  Yes, a hot glue gun at 1:30am is an excellent idea!

Anyone who says otherwise is clearly sane, and therefore an unreliable opinion.

I formed loops with my ribbon, adding a dab of glue to the center each time to hold the ribbon in place:

Then when I had four ‘petals’ I put a dollop of glue in the center and added a shiny red button

(there may have been a daring post-midnight raid on a button jar first. No idea whose jar–my mother’s? my sister’s? Either way, the jar was left unguarded and vulnerable, and the two buttons that were the slowest and least agile and which also happened to be red were culled from the herd)

A little rolled-up tape, and voila!  So much better!

And What was in the packages? Candy, a chocolate orange, a book of the hardest Sudoku puzzles that I could find, and a knitted snowflake:

In which I request volunteers from the audience

December 2, 2010 § 20 Comments

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is officially permitted to begin!  Are you excited?  I’m excited!

But while I’m excited about Christmas, I’m already thinking about next year, and I need a few volunteers from the audience.

Here’s the thing: I like to do crafts.  I like to make crafts for people.  I love making crafts for swap partners or gifts because I feel free to try out new things and stretch the creative muscles a bit, so I’ve decided that in 2011 I want to make 11 crafts for 11 people (that’s where you come in).  Interested?

Here’s how it will work:

1) Comment on this entry! The first eleven people to comment will get a slot on Charis’ Year (Almost) of Crafts Calender (feel free to recommend a better name for this project when you comment). Be sure to leave an email address where I can contact you, and mention any dietary restrictions or fiber allergies!

EDIT: All the slots are filled! Thanks for participating, everyone! ❤

2) Each person will be assigned a month (if you’d like a certain month–your birthday month, for instance–let me know, otherwise the months will be assigned at random)

3) During your month I will make you something, and send it to you.

4) I won’t tell you what I’m making for you.  And I won’t promise that you will like it. But I will promise that it will be something created by me just for you, and that it will be in the mail to you by the end of the month (I make no promises about when it will arrive).

Some Notes:  Feel free to mention likes and dislikes in your comment–‘I love Doctor Who stuff’, ‘I hate the color green’, ‘I collect things with rabbits on them’, etc., or just list some random facts about yourself (favorite books, activities, personality quirks, etc.).  I’ll interpret your comments however I feel like interpreting them but I will take your preferences into account because I am making something Just For You.

There is no telling what that something might be.  I may knit you something, or paint you something, or bake you something, or I might write you a story or make a video.  I reserve the right to make something strange and/or completely useless, but whatever it is, it will be creative.  Once you receive it the whatever-it-is will be featured on the blog.  Hurray!

Edit to mention: If you’re outside of the US don’t let that stop you from signing up!  I will still mail crafts internationally!

And because a blog post without pictures is just a bunch of words, here are the arrangements that I did for our Thanksgiving tables this year:

Featuring green and orange flowers, mini pie pumpkins, brown craft paper, orange raffia, the Parfait Glass Trio, with the Trifle Bowl as the headliner.  Special guest appearances by the elbows and coffee mugs of my relatives!

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