Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gifts From The Heart For Dollars

By Lisa VanWilliams

We can always find great ideas at the dollar store and it's amazing how many cute things are out there that you can work with.  Here are a few last minutes ideas you could throw together for that unexpected guest, hostess gift, co-worker gesture, your neighbor, your mail delivery person, or the single person with no family that lives next door. Sometimes a simple gesture made with love, for a few dollars, can make someone feel really special. Even if you are not the baker, there are ways to get around it.

We found these really cute mail boxes complete with red flag. We are going to fill them up with some cookies and treats.  You could always use little bags of trail mix and granola bars instead of cookies and candy.

We used these extra large candy cane decorations as gifts for our daughters classmates. We took ribbon and punched a whole through little Christmas Trivia cards and attached a mini candy cane with a note - all items we found at the dollar store.

Gift boxes of all sorts of sizes and designs can be used, just line them with some wax paper and fill them up with goodies.

Lastly we did a few gift bags. For around $8 you can make these cute party bags the kids with love and no one will ever feel left out. Make a few for the girls and few for the boys and you can use little stocking stuffers items like, bubbles, activity book, gloves, hair accessories, socks, crayons, markers, stickers, books, & jewelry.

Happy Holidays from our family to yours.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pineapple Fruit Dip

By Lisa VanWilliams

My Aunt brought this over last weekend for a get together we had and I fell in love. I had the urge to double dip but was able to submerge my fruit into the dip enough to cover it without having to. We are having some friends over tonight and I made it for later. This is a guilt free healthy snack and the pineapple adds a subtle something extra you cant quite put your finger on but it makes it fabulous. Pair this with your favorite fruits and make that fruit salad exciting again. 

All you need is pineapple Greek yogurt, some cool whip, and sliced fruit. Mix an 8oz Cool Whip with a 5.3oz yogurt and refrigerate.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jojoba Revitalizing Conditioner - Calm The Frizz

By Lisa VanWilliams

My daughter has really fine fly away wispy hair and I love how this conditioner calms it down. It has an incredible almond smell to it and it's thick, rich, creamy, and it leaves her hair nice and smooth after rinsing. Even after blow drying, it still feels moisturized and adds a natural glow and luster. 

Jojoba (pronounced HO-HO -BHA) oil is great for the hair and scalp and it has been used for ages as a moisturizer and can be beneficial in treating such things like dandruff, hair loss, split ends & dry frizzy hair. The oil comes from the desert Jojoba bush and the oil is extracted from the seeds.

This is made by Nature's Gate a company that started out of California over 40 years ago and they provide all-natural personal care products like shampoo, conditioner, deodorants, oral care, sun care and more. The philosophy they follow:

Nature's Gate is a company dedicated to developing personal care products based upon botanical remedies. Our philosophy is derived from combining decades-old wisdom rich in botanical, herbal and floral treatments with modern ingredients and formulations.*

It costs $7.79 for 18 fl ounces and you can order it here and check out their other products:

This is for sale at Whole Foods and Nature's Way in Stratford.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Ariel Cupcakes

By Lisa VanWilliams
My daughter will be 4 years old tomorrow and we were on a mission today to make her birthday request - Ariel cupcakes.  For around $11 you can make bakery quality cupcakes of your own.  Party City has everything under the sun for supplies and that's where we got the 50 count of Ariel baking cups, and 24 pack of fun picks for $2.49 each. A decorating tip for the frosting costs about $1.79. 

Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes has a great line of fun cakes he started in 2009 with Gartner Studios and they have do-it-yourself cake mixes like: pink camouflage, regular camouflage, tie dye, blue suede, holly jolly, candy cane, & confetti, just to name a few. We opted for the pink camo and it was on sale for $2.50, and some butter cream frosting on sale for $1.88. 

We made the cupcakes according to the box, and the colors are great!


Once the cupcakes cooled, I put the frosting into a bowl and added some blue food coloring. Stirred it until it was well blended.  I could not find a piping bag while I was in Party City, so I just took a storage freezer bag and cut the tip off and pushed through my tip and filled the bag and started piping.  Enjoy!



Friday, December 12, 2014

Poached Egg Snowman

By Lisa VanWilliams

These snowman eggs are a breeze to make if you have a poacher.  Carrots for a scarf, green & red peppers for eyes and hat, carrots for nose and scarf, complete with olive buttons.  Surprise them for breakfast with these edible eggs. Pair this up with some toasted bread in the shape of a star.

2 eggs
red&green pepper
cooking spray

Pre-cut your veggies before you cook your eggs. You can take a straw and just pop it through the peppers to make eyes and a mouth. Carve a little nose out of the carrot and then use a peeler to make a few long strips for a scarf.  Slice up some green or black olives to make buttons.  Then we used the peppers to make a hat, boots, eyebrows, and arms.  Spray your poaching tins with cooking spray and add eggs. Cook them to your prefered consistency and remove from tins.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mozzarella, Sliced Chicken Breast & Bacon Melt

By Lisa VanWilliams

This is a quick simple sandwich that you can throw together and it tastes great. There's nothing like a fresh loaf of French Bread from your local bakery or market with it's crunchy outer shell and soft warm doughy inside. Pair that with some sliced deli chicken, marinated mozzarella balls, and a few pieces of bacon, warmed and melted up in a Panini press.  Add in your favorite toppings like red roasted peppers,  sun-dried tomatoes, or spiced grainy mustard. Keep them rolling till dinner time. 

Loaf of French bread split in half
marinated mozzarella (from deli section)
1/2 pound sliced chicken breast
4 pieces of cooked bacon

Halve the French loaf and add mustard to one side, mayo to other. Add turkey and then add the mozzarella balls on all sliced up.

Then add your bacon and any other topping on that.

Put your top back on and put in your grill and press it down - 5 minutes each side and rotate it around. Enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Amazon 50% Off Toddler Toys

By Lisa VanWilliams

Today is Green Monday on Amazon and you can find some great deals on toys up to 50% off.  Find items like Thomas The Train, PLAYMOBIL, LaLaloopsy, My Little Pony Princess, and more.  Check them out here: http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=lp_10461437011_gb1h_rlm_c-2_6282_0b8a1874?rh=i%3Atoys-and-games%2Cn%3A10461437011&ie=UTF8&node=10461437011

Thomas Tough Trike  - $17.49 (normally $34.99)

Star Wars The Black Series Clone Trooper - $11.49 (normally $22.99)

Fisher-Price Travel Doodle Pro - $4.99 (normally $9.99)

LeapFrog LeapBand Activity Tracker - $19.99 (normally $39.99)


Fisher-Price Boppin' Bugs - $7.49 (normally $14.99)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Oreo Snowmen Balls

By Lisa VanWilliams

These are fun to make for Christmas with kids or without them and since they are stuffed with Oreos they taste great too! You can decorate them any way you prefer, and use any kinds of candy you like best. Mini Reese's cups on mini Oreos would work for hats, or nonpareils, or you could use mini M&M's for mouths. Lace licorice for scarves or candy corns for mouths. They would look cute on a cupcake too. You don't even have to make snowman if you don't want to, you could roll them in sprinkles or chocolate chips.

package of Oreos
package of cream cheese
mini round chocolates
mini marshmallows
1/2 cup of chocolate semi sweet morsels
1 cup white chocolate morsels
4 orange Tootsie Rolls
candy eyeballs
1/4 cup mini chocolate morsels

Melt 1/2 cup chocolate morsels in double boiler. Dip the mini marshmallow in chocolate and stick them on top of chocolate. Put them in fridge to harden.

Dump the bag of Oreo's in a plastic storage bag and crush them with a rolling pin. Pour the crumbs into a bowl and mix in pack of cream cheese. Once mixed together, make your heads into whatever shape you prefer - round, oblong, oval, etc.  Put them in fridge while you work on next steps.

Unroll the tootsie roll and start rolling it in between your hands warming it up. Pretend you are making a play dough snake and stretch it a little until you can cut it into three sections.  Then make baby carrots by rolling them with your palms and taper one end. Then cross them with your knife and make little imprints so that it looks like ridges on a carrot. Make as many as you will need.

Start melting the white chocolate in the double boiler. I used Nestle Toll House White Premier Morsels but it was not easy to work with. Next time I would probably use the white wafers from Michael's or AC Moore. They are smoother and easier to re-heat as you go.

Dip the Oreo balls into the melted white chocolate with two forks, drip off excess, and put on wax paper to decorate.  Stick in the nose, press on the hat, add your eyes, eyebrows, and last the mouth.  Put them in the fridge to harden as soon as you get them all done. Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Stromboli Bites In Puffed Pastry

By Lisa VanWilliams
This is a zesty puffed pastry filled with cheese, sliced deli meat, hot peppers, and olives but you could use any combination of your preference. For example, if you prefer black olives instead of green ones, or if you prefer a mild peppers instead of a hot ones.  This is a fairly quick appie to throw together and a definite crowd pleaser. These would also work well around the holidays for samplers before a big meal. 

Stromboli is believed to have originated in Sicily and was brought to America by Italian immigrants in the early to mid 1900's. 

puffed pastry sheets
slices of ham, American, Swiss, salami, pepperoni
sliced green olives
1 egg & tablespoon of water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with wax paper. Take out frozen puffed pastry sheets to let them defrost and soften.  When you unroll the pastry, you should have 4 sections, you want to cut each section into 4 pieces.  Stretch them out a little into a bigger square, then fill the square and seal it up.

Once you have them all stuffed, take egg yolk, add water, stir, and brush egg mixture over tops of pastry.

Cook in oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until they turn a golden brown.  Cool them a few minutes and serve. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cowboy Bark Toffee

By Lisa VanWilliams

This is a great holiday gift or treat you can make at home that everyone will love to snack on. This is our copycat version of the Trader Joes Cowboy bark except we prefer milk chocolate instead of dark.  Did you ever buy a bag of pretzels and somehow half the bag gets smashed? This is great way to use up those crumbs or any other snacks in the pantry so they don't get stale. 

Pecans, peanuts, toffee

half a bag of pretzels
3 Oreo cookies crumbled
1/4 cup of chopped peanuts
1/4 cup chopped of pecans
1 cup tollhouse chocolate morsels
1/4 cup English toffee pieces
1 stick butter melted
1/2 cup sugar melted
1/2 teaspoon corn syrup

Line baking sheet with wax paper.  Melt down the butter, sugar, corn syrup (290 degrees max), you can eye ball it too just don't burn it and keep stirring it for like 10 mins. Pour the hot sugar butter onto the pan and immediately pour morsels down and spread. Then add all the other crumbled ingredients and be sure to press down and stay in the perimeter of the sugar so it sticks together. 

Put in the freezer to harden together for 20 mins or so and then break it apart and store in air tight container.  Enjoy!