Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fa la la Food!

Another thing I love about Christmas time is baking.  I love to experiment and make new things.  I also like to bake for my students.  My 4th and 5th grade choir sang You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch this year, so when I saw these cute Grinch cookies on Pinterest, I had to make them.  I got the recipe from this blog.  Here is the recipe:

Grinch Cookies

  • 1 18.25 oz box French vanilla cake mix (I just used white cake mix)
  • 6 T butter
  • 2 eggs
  • Green food coloring
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 t corn starch
Preheat the oven to 375°. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a shallow dish, mix together the powdered sugar and cornstarch with a fork. In a large bowl, mix together the cooled butter, cake mix and eggs. This will be a little hard to stir together. Add the green food coloring and make sure it is all mixed in.

Take two spoons and drop a blob of dough in the powdered sugar. Move it around with spoon until it is mostly covered in powdered sugar. Then, once it is already covered, roll it into a ball and place it on a cookie sheet.

Make sure you don't over crowd the baking sheet because these cookies spread out.

Bake them for 8-9 minutes.   They will look slightly puffed up.

Take them out of the oven and cool for one minute. Then move onto a cooling rack. They will drop a little, but will still be nice and chewy.

I also made a batch using red velvet cake mix for my piano studio's recital but I forgot to take a picture.  They tasted awesome!  My husband took the leftovers to work the next day and they got rave reviews from his coworkers.

 I also made cake pops for my piano studio's recital.  I have never wanted to make these before because the traditional method of making them uses frosting to hold together crumbled up cake.  I do not like most kinds of frosting so these didn't sound appetizing.  Lately, several companies have made devices and pans for making these by just baking cake in a round shape.  I used the Nordicware cake pop pan that I purchased it at Target for mine.
I used the recipe on the package.  The recipe created brownie like cake that was very dense and rich.  Here it is:
Fudgy Cake Pops

  •   3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 24 lollipop sticks
  • 1 package chocolate bark coating (I also used regular white almond bark)
  • assorted sprinkles (I used colored sugar) 
Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease pan and set aside.  In medium saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips and butter together; stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and pour into medium bowl.  Add sugar and cocoa; mix until blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add flour and salt; stir until blended.  Spoon batter into bottom half of pan (without holes) filling each well so it mounds over the top of the pan.  Place top half of pan on top and secure with keys.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out almost clean.  Cool 5 minutes in pan, remove cake pops from pan to cool completely.  Melt chocolate bark according to package directions.  Insert lollipop sticks into cakes.  Dip cake pops in melted chocolate, spinning to let excess chocolate rip off.  Decorate with sprinkles as desired.  Place on parchment paper to set.  Makes about 24 cake pops.

I also decorated some by dipping them in the white almond bark and then drizzling some of the chocolate bark over it.  I let them dry by sticking the stick end into a block of floral foam.  I displayed them at the piano recital in some parfait glasses that I picked up at a thrift store.  The sticks were shorter than I thought so I filled the parfait glasses with some coffee beans then stuck the pops in.  They turned out so cute and they were a big hit with my piano students and their siblings.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Deck the Halls

I really love Christmas.  It is a busy time of year especially for a music teacher at a Christian school but I still love it.  This year I was really excited to decorate our new house for Christmas.  Most of the stuff that I decorated with I had on hand.  I did buy some sweet apothecary jars at T.J. Maxx.  I love that they can be changed up for any season by what you put inside them.
The larger one is holding some natural looking objects.  Not blatantly Christmasy but goes well with the other two.

 I love the pattern on the one with the candy canes.  I was going to put pine cones in the other one but I decided to trim add some trimmed branches from the Christmas tree instead.

Next I decorated the piano.  I swapped out the candles for gold candles, added a few fake branches around the lamp, and filled a vase with mini ornaments and fake berry branches.

Oh and that little snowman guy was a present from a student a few years ago.  He is kind of cheesy but my piano students enjoy pressing the button and making him play.

Next I filled a few more vases with fake snow and mini ornaments.  I have a lot of these cylinder vases because they are from the centerpieces that I made for my wedding.  They were filled with paper dogwood branches that I made.

I also set up a creche on the bookshelf across from the piano.  This is the one that I had growing up.  I bought some ceramic tealight holders at Target.  They are cute when lit up because one has the three wise men and the camels and the other has a nativity scene.

Last year during our city's spring cleaning week, we decided to set my thrift store artificial tree out on the curb.  We always had real trees at my house when I was growing up.  It turns out that using real trees is a more environmentally concious choice than using fake ones.  Also, my cat likes to eat trees and he gnawed on the fake one constantly (and climbed it).  I worry about him ingesting plastic so I would rather he eat actual pine needles.  We picked up this beauty on an extremely cold day in Fargo from a Boy Scout troop.  

I have also been enjoying some holiday baking and I should have a post on that soon as well.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Almost Perfect Crime...and Other Stuff

Above is our lovely Christmas card photo.  I am pretty happy with how it turned out this year!  

So the time period between Thanksgiving and New Years is a time that I feel motivated to do many thing but then I realize that I have started all these projects and suddenly it is December and things get crazy busy for me.  I'm an elementary music teacher and I have a ton of performances during the first three weeks of December.  So all those projects that get started over Thanksgiving break tend to be suspended until all the madness has ended. 

Now on to the almost perfect crime.  Said almost perfect crime was committed by the handsome guy in the photo above.  My husband decided to get an astro start put in my car as my Christmas present.  If you don't live in a place where the winters get really cold, then you may not understand why this is so exciting to me.  When there is a -30 degree wind chill outside, a remote starter is the best thing in the world.  My last car would die in that sort of weather without being started several time in a day.  That meant that I had to go outside in said weather several times a day to start my car, let it run, and then go back out to shut it off.  Now I can just push a button, hallelujah!

This gift was supposed to a surprise for Christmas and my husband almost pulled it off.  He came to the school that I teach at over his lunch break and took my car to the place to have it installed.  I had been considered going to the grocery store over my lunch break to stock up my mini fridge at work.  But...I discovered it was foot long hot dog day in the school cafeteria so I decided to just eat that.  

Normally the key that he has for my car sets of the alarm.  But...I forgot to lock my doors that morning when I got to school.  Also, I normally leave early on Mondays because I teach piano lessons at my home. emergency staff meeting was called so I ended up staying an hour later than I normally would have.  It was perfect...except...he left the manual for the remote on the passenger seat of my car.  His reaction when I handed it to him...Well shoot!  Love it!  

Hopefully soon I will have posts (full of pictures) for these projects: painted guest bedroom (no longer bright green), homemade Christmas gifts for my little sisters, and decorating for a Christmas piano recital.  As my college band director would say, "stay tuned."

Oh and now I am going to watch this while I write a letter to go with my Christmas cards:
I should have this up in my classroom!

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