Tuesday, December 23, 2014

holiday peppermint bark ...

 If you are still scrambling for some last minute neighbor gifts, or co-worker treats, I have a great recipe for you!

It is a simple, quick and easy chocolate peppermint bark.
I love to make it and package it up nice and festive in some clear containers.
Peppermint Bark
  • 2 2/3 cups milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate
  • 3 to 5 drops peppermint oil
  • 2 cups good quality white melting chocolate, chopped into coarse pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped candy canes or finely chopped hard peppermint candies

1) Gently melt the dark chocolate, heating it on very low heat or over hot water until it barely melts.  I use a double boil method with a medium saucepan with simmering water then place a large glass bowl on top with the chocolate inside to melt it.
2) Stir in 2 drops of the the peppermint oil, then spread a thin layer into an 8" x 12" oval on parchment paper or foil.
3) Allow the chocolate to set, in the fridge or freezer for about 15-30 minutes. 
4) Melt the white chocolate the same way, and mix it with 2 drops of peppermint oil.
5) Spread the white chocolate over the hardened dark chocolate. (make sure chocolate is well hardened or it will melt with the white chocolate.
6) Sprinkle the rest of the peppermint crunch on top, pressing it in gently.
7) Allow the candy to cool until hardened, then break or cut it into chunks.
8) Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.
Yield: about 2 dozen pieces.


{photos by me}

Thursday, December 18, 2014

black rhino toys ...

My cute little seven year old Ezra is obsessed with these Japanese wooden toys called, Kendamas.
He plays them non-stop with his friends at school, even at recess, they have moves, and it is great hand eye coordination.

He has been so into Kendamas, that he wanted to start selling them. I for one fully support them because they are fun, simple wooden toys that promote skills, and it isn't an electronic.  I was sold too.
So, Black Rhino Toys was born.

My little entrepreneur is so excited to be up and running selling his favorite toy.  He really is in heaven, it's the cutest thing.  He helps package up the orders, and he even had a little open house Kendama stand with his friends. 
He sells a great variety of Kendama styles, even the hard to find Kendama Pills in many colors.
He is saving all his pennies in his savings account to go towards college, and serving a LDS mission.  The other day he asked me, "Mom, how much is college?"  Ha! I said, a whole lot!
I'm obsessed with the itty bitty 2 inch novelty kendama keychains or ornaments.  Just the right size for elf on the shelf or Barbie.
He also sells Kendama Holders, because he brings his around everywhere, it's nice to have a place to hang it on his backpack.
The mini kendamas are cute!  About 5 inches!

If you still don't know what a kendama is, be sure the @blackrhinotoys instagram account.  There are a lot of fun videos to show you how to play Kendamas!

Be sure to check it out if your little ones like wooden toys that teach some hand eye coordination and some skills!

It's been a fun learning process for Ezra, teaching him how to run a business, about when you start making a profit, how to package up orders, mail them off, and he's already learned how to get his mom to be his first employee for free.  ;)

Follow Black Rhino Kendama here:

{all photos by me}

abc4 good morning utah segment ...

Bright and early this morning I had a chance to go on ABC4 Good Morning Utah.   I partnered with Harmons Grocery to share four quick and easy delicious holiday gifts for your neighbors or co-workers. 
Here is the segment for the Sticky Coconut Corn Pop recipe, and Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Sea Salt and Dried Cranberries.
I realized in my nervousness of being on live TV, I added a much too generous amount of sea salt to the dark chocolate bark.  Good thing I brought that batch home.  I tasted it, and boy was it salty, ha! ;)

And, here is the segment for the Sweet and Spicy Nut mix, and the Rosemary Sea Salt Almonds
I'll be sharing the full recipes soon with pictures.  But until then, I'll post them all here until I can get them posted individually with pictures, in case you are in need of some neighbor or co-worker gift ideas right away. All ingredients can be found at Harmons Grocery!
Nola's Treat-  Sticky Coconut Corn Pops with Nuts

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons coconut extract
2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
pinch sea salt
7 ounces slivered almonds
4 to 8 ounces chopped pecans

In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt and heat over medium high heat to a soft ball stage. (Softball stage: 230 degrees on a candy thermometer)  

Remove from heat, and add coconut extract, vanilla, almonds, and pecans.

Pour over a 15 ounces bag of Corn Pops (In a red bag, brand is called Barrel O' Fun)

Mix until all is covered and well coated.  I like to mix it in a brown paper grocery sack.

Lay out on parchment paper and cool.  Store in an airtight container.

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios, Cranberries, and Sea Salt

8 ounces dark chocolate (70 percent cacao)
1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel sea salt

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Break the dark chocolate into pieces.  Place in a medium glass bowl over a medium saucepan with simmering water.  Melt the chocolate.

When the chocolate is melted, spread onto parchment paper, and sprinkle with pistachios, crasins, and sea salt.

Chill in the fridge until it is completely set up, about 30 minutes.  Break into pieces and serve.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts
makes 4 cups

3 cups (12 oz) Raw unsalted Pecans
1 cup raw unsalted cashews

Place the nuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  Toss and mix around, and bake another 5 minutes.

Let them cool as you mix together the following in a medium bowl:

2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tsp fresh orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you don't like spicy)
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Toss the warm nuts into the mixture until evenly coated.  Then, roast on a parchment lined baking sheet for 12-18 minutes to get them perfectly toasted.  
Be sure to stir the nuts every 4 minutes to prevent burning and clumping together.

Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Mix around the nuts as they cool to avoid any clumping.

Rosemary Fleur de Sel Almonds
makes 3 cups

3 cups whole raw unsalted almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Toss almonds in olive oil in a medium bowl.

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Fleur de sel sea salt to taste

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spread the almonds on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes mixing every 5 minutes.  In the last few minutes add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, and sprinkle fleur de sel sea salt to taste.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Once cool, store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 12, 2014

holiday cookies ...

Christmas cookies
Can you believe it's already time to think about Holiday cookies?  I'm excited to partner with Harmons Grocery and the Harmons bloggers to bring you a fun post full of holiday cookie ideas and recipes!
Christmas cookies macarons
I was able to get together with the Harmons Blogger team to come up with some fun cookies for the Holiday season!  I think cookie exchanges are so much fun!  It would be a lot of fun to get together with friends this Holiday season to have a night to mingle and enjoy homemade cookies!  Here are a few cookies that we love, and wanted to share with you!
My friend Becky of Vintage mixer shared a festive frosted honey Christmas cookie.
Christmas cookies macarons
My friend Si of A Bountiful Kitchen made some yummy chewy chocolate ginger cookies.  They were so good, and she was nice enough to send me home with a bunch of them, I may have eaten almost all of them.
I decided to come up with a new recipe for French Macarons.  I decided to make pumpkin flavored French macarons.  
It was fun to try out a new flavor, and I think pumpkin is a flavor that can go through all the holidays!
They have the perfect blend of holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the pumpkin spice that translate well into Christmas baking.  And, boy your home sure smells like Christmas when you are baking them!

Harmons grocery has an amazing baking isle, they even sell the hard to find whole nutmeg, and they are the only grocery store in my area that I have been able to find egg white powder to help give my macarons a little extra volume!  I call it my "insurance policy" when making macarons!  
Pumpkin French Macarons with Pumpkin Buttercream

Adapted from Les Petits Macarons book by Kathryn Gordon
*Recipe adjusted for higher altitudes.

Yield: Makes 30 sandwiched 1 ½ inch macarons (60 halves)

82 grams almond meal/flour (Bob's Red Mill is a good brand)
82 grams homemade pecan meal/flour* Directions below
Pinch of fine sea salt
¾ packed cup (165 grams) confectioner’s/powdered sugar
1 tablespoon (5 grams) powdered egg whites (*adjustment for high altitudes)
1 tablespoon (5 grams) pumpkin pie spice
½ cup (115 grams) aged* egg whites (about 4 eggs): divided into two equal parts *aged at least 2-5 days
1/4 cup (38 grams) water
5/8 cup (125 grams) granulated sugar
4 drops gel food coloring (optional)

Homemade Pecan Meal/Flour
* Place 1 cup pecans in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse for 1-2 seconds at a time so they don’t get too warm and turn into a paste.  Pulse about 30 times.  Be very careful not to pulse more that about 1-2 seconds at a time, so the nuts do not heat up and turn into a paste. Measure 82 grams of the pecan flour, and add it to the dry ingredients along with the almond flour.

*For homemade nut flours, the batter tends to get thin and runny quickly, be extra careful when you fold, and when whipping your egg whites for form a meringue, whip until stiff, this will help the batter to not be too thin.

Directions: (Be sure to follow directions precisely)
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Pulse the almond flour, pecan flour, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a food processor 4 times for 4 seconds each time.  Sift the mixture with the powdered egg whites.  Stir in ¼ cup (57 grams) of the aged egg whites to form a thick paste, mix with a wooden spoon.

Put the remaining ¼ cup (57 grams) of egg whites in a electric stand mixer with a wire whisk attachment.  Whisk the egg whites on medium speed until FOAMY/SOFT PEAKS form.  Meanwhile, heat the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook without stirring until the sugar syrup reaches the beginning of the soft ball stage (test this by removing a drop of the mixture on a heat proof spatula.  Drop a drop of the mixture and if it forms a half circle and the bottom edges are still domed, then it is ready to go.  If the mixture is still runny, and doesn’t stay in a soft form, it needs a little longer.)  Once it hits the soft ball stage IMMEDIATELY remove it from the heat, and slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the soft peaked egg whites as it mixes on a medium speed.  Continue to whisking the mixture until the meringue forms a medium to stiff peak so it is marshmallow-like. About 3-5 minutes. Do NOT over whip or it will cause the cookie to crack when cooked!

Fold the meringue mixture one-third at a time into the dry ingredient paste (BE DELICATE!).  It will gradually lighten it and make a smooth batter.   Don’t mix too much or the macarons will crack.  To make sure that you have reached the right point, once the ingredients appear combined, lift some of the mixture about 1 inch above the bowl with the spatula.  If it retains a three-dimensional shape, fold it again.  When folded just enough, the mixture should fall right back into the bowl, with no stiffness, in a continuous drip. (It should be like lava, if it is too stiff it won’t get a nice three-dimensional look)

Pipe the macarons into 1 1/2 inch circles and 1 ½ inches apart on a silicon baking sheet lined (or parchment paper lined) pan. Pipe 1 ½ inch circles with a ½ inch round piping tip.  Use the hand you write with to squeeze the top of the bag, and the other hand to guide you to the next circle. Twist with your wrist, and move out without moving up. After piping all the circles, be sure to remove the excess air bubbles by slamming the pan onto the counter (holding it 6” above the table then slamming it down 6 times)  Let the macarons air dry at room temperature for ½ hour (*can take longer if raining) until a skin/crust forms.  Bake 1 sheet pan at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 13-14 minutes (less for convection) (for 1 ½ inch size) until the macarons just come off the baking sheet when you lift them by grasping their sides (the centers will have risen, and will not have any dark indentations).  If the macarons darken too quickly, put a wooden spoon in the door of the oven to prop it slightly open.  Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Pumpkin Butter Cream Filling

Pair with pumpkin macarons
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 tbs pumpkin pie spice
pinch of sea salt
1lb 9 oz confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1) Cream the butter, salt, pumpkin puree, and pumpkin spice for about 2 minutes.  Slowly add the confectioners sugar ½ a cup at a time with a paddle attachment on the stand mixer on medium speed.  Mix until light and fluffy and combined, about 5 minutes, add vanilla bean paste.

Pipe into completely cooled macaron shells with a 1/2 inch round pastry tip, then sandwich the cookies.
I think it would be fun to package them up into little to-go boxes for a cookie exchange, or a little tasty holiday gift for your neighbors or friends. These are my favorite kraft take out boxes from Paper Mart. Tie it up with a little bakers twine, and you have the perfect holiday treat packaged up to share with friends and family.

Here's the run-down on some amazing holiday cookies from the Harmons Bloggers:
Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies by A Bountiful Kitchen
Pumpkin French Macarons by Armelle Blog
Frosted Honey Christmas Cookies by Vintage Mixer
Peppermint Ganache Cookies by Harmon's Grocery Bakers
Melted Snowman Cookies by One Sweet Appetite

{all photos by me, unless otherwise noted}

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

felt ball ornaments ...

felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
I'm excited to share with you this fun felt ball ornament tutorial.
I was able to teach a class this month over at Albion Fit.  We had a fun evening of crafting and amazing cuisine by Food by Tom.  It was the perfect combination! (My outfit is from Tai Pan Trading)
We had some amazing people attend the event, it was so fun to chat and get to know some amazing ladies!  I met so many creative ladies, and even a professional mountain biker, and even Melissa who wrote the book Whole 30!
felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
To get started you'll need to gather a few supplies.

Materials needed:
Felt Balls- I get mine from Hello Maypole
Embroidery Needle with a sharp needle.  Make sure you don't get one with a dull end, it needs to be sharp but with the larger eye for the twine to go through.  I find them in the embroidery isle. I like the size 18.
Twine- I like to use bakers twine.
felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
Step by Step instructions on how to make felt ball ornaments

Step One:
Thread the Twine through the needle eye.  I like to cut a piece about 36 inches long.
Push the threaded needle down the middle of the felt ball and string the twine through until about 4-5 inches remain. 

Step Two:
Bring the needle back around and up through the felt ball close to where the twine came out the first time.

Step Three:
Trim the twine to the size of the other twine.

Step Four:
Tie a loop knot at the end to secure the loop and complete the ornament! Repeat for more ornaments!
felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
felt ball ornaments christmas ornaments
Dress up your tree, or they would even make cute gift toppers for your packaging!

{all photos be me}

Friday, December 5, 2014

holiday gift wrap ...

I really love to wrap gifts, and package up presents.  I don't always have the time to make every package I give all fancy, but when I do, I love to add a few little touches.
I found this wrapping paper at Tai Pan trading, and I fell in love with it.  It also has a great thickness to it, but it bends and folds easily!
I found this black and white striped yard at Joann Fabric, I thought it was a nice touch and added a little unique twist.

I also love to use fresh florals or greenery as a topper.  And, of course some festive mini holiday ornaments and some tinsel.
Pretty enough to go under the tree!

{all photos by me}

Monday, December 1, 2014

christmas cards + and giveaway from minted ...

I'm excited to share with you our 2014 Christmas card!  I also have up for grabs not one, not two, but THREE $100 gift cards to Minted!  Hoping I can help you out in ordering your holiday cards this year!
I am so excited to partner with Minted again this year for our Christmas card! (see our card from last year here)
If you are not familiar with Minted, it is a community of independent artists who create beautiful paper goods like holiday cards, stationary, parties supplies, art prints and more!
The quality of their holiday cards is just amazing.  When you pick up the card, and feel the thickness and quality of the paper, it really is what makes the difference!  I ordered the premium 100% recycled paper for extra quality and thickness.
This year I decided to go with their amazing selection of gold foil-pressed cards.  They are beautiful and shimmer, shine, and sparkle as you look at them!
For our card this year, I chose the classic holiday wreath foil-pressed holiday card design by Alethea and Ruth.  
A new FREE service for a limited time that Minted is offering this year is their recipient address printing option.  They have so many beautiful designs that can add a little extra festivity even before the card is open!
After I uploaded all the names and addresses into their recipient list, it was so nice to just place an order and have all the envelopes come pre-printed.  A huge time saver for me this year!  And, you can't beat the customized look!
I love the look of our cards this year!  We decided to take pictures in front of our new home we built since this is our first year spending Christmas there.
And, the back of our card.  I love how you can customize your card, and add photos to the back or text if you would like.

I don't know about you, but I am so glad to have our Christmas cards checked off our list so early this year!  I love the holidays, and I love to spread Christmas cheer by sending our holiday cards! It is my favorite to receive them in the mail too!

Now, be sure to enter below for a chance to win one of the THREE $100 Minted gift cards up for grabs.

Be sure to enter by Friday, December 5th at midnight!  I will pick three winners December 6th!

Also today, December 1st, is the last day of their cyber Monday sale.  Get 15% off holiday cards with code: 15CM

Best of Luck!

{Card photos by me}

Family Photos by the talented Jessica Kettle Photography.

Friday, November 28, 2014

trimming the tree with winter water factory ...

We usually put up our Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving.  It's always a magical time to play Christmas music, and decorate the tree.  Winter Water Factory,  a darling 100% organic adult and children's clothing company out of Brooklyn sent over these darling tops for my boys, and a dress for my little Norah.  They were the perfect outfits to wear while trimming the tree!
Tommy got the Wild Horses sweatshirt, Norah the Red and Green Domino Mushroom Dress , and Ezra is wearing the Cranes Hoodie.
I decided to let the kids have free reign of the tree this year.  I didn't touch a single ornament, and wanted to see what they would come up with.  I think they did a pretty good job.  I can't decide whether I'll fix it later or not. Wink.
We gathered some of our Christmas ornaments, lights, and decorations.  Some we haven't seen in years, since last year we moved so soon after Christmas, we didn't get most of them out.
The kids were excited to unwrap a few things they are so sure that they have never seen before.
Of course, before I knew it the kids broke out in a game of jump rope with the tinsel, and tie up sister.  
We hung up the stockings with care.
Remember these stockings I made using old thrifted sweaters all those years ago?  They are still going strong.
I'm still deciding on what to do with my mantle this year.  It's always different when you are in a new house, I'm still trying to figure out what is going to go where.
The kids were very serious about what ornaments should go where.
Little by little they made their selections, and decorated every bit of that tree.
They did a pretty great job!  
I always love this time of year!  Now, to decorate the rest of the house..!!

Thanks Winter Water Factory for partnering with us on this post!