Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympic Lunch Party

Decided today that we should do something fun at work after a long, hard week. We're having an "Olympic Lunch Party" tomorrow! Fast & simple, with pizza, salad, & cookies (none of which will be homemade). I threw together some decorations though. Limited budget, not a lot of time. Here's what I came up with, and I'm pretty happy with how it looks!

Flame Cauldron Centerpiece :D
Filled with Olympic Torch Favors.

"Gold Medal" Place Settings

...and Pinwheels!
We're ready to party! At least for an hour...



Olympic Torch

Olympic Fever Strikes!

We're having a fun "Olympic Lunch Party" at work tomorrow. I had one day to come up with some fun decor & favors. Something very quick, very easy. I went to a local party store (Zurchers!) and quickly scoured for ideas. I saw these favor boxes and immediately thought TORCH! So I found some tulle for a flame ribbon. I cut a strip of tulle, folded it in half, and cut flame strips...leaving the folded portion uncut so there were strips on two sides of my "flame ribbon."

I bought some gold Sixlets in bulk to fill the boxes, so they would look like a gold torch. They looked a little plain, so I added a cute "USA" sticker!
I made ten torches, then put them in a "flame cauldron" for the table centerpiece. I really like how this turned out with so little time to prepare! It was really fast.
Everyone will get their own Olympic Torch! And chocolate, which is just never a bad thing. Now that the torches are finished...I think they would be fun to use for LDS Young Womens too!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cookies & Milk Party

Happy 80th Birthday to my wonderful mom! I am the 7th of 8 children, and we have an A-MA-ZING mom. We decided to throw an open house for her 80th birthday. She absolutely loves milk. Loves it. I don't think she goes a day without it. She's also a great cook, baker, & candy maker. One sister came up with the cookies & milk theme. One sister provided the venue and made assignments. One sister provided most of the decorations. I helped with invitations & tags. A brother brought his amazing DIY outdoor canopy. Lots of everyone elses baked cookies & brought milk. We're a pretty amazing group when we all get together!

I'm terrible at tutorials. I'm more of an "ideas" person/put it together person. Not the best teacher. are photos of what we did at least!


I found the instructions to make these here: 


This was a combined effort! about sugar buzz...YUM!


We had whole milk, 2%, skim milk, chocolate milk, and almond milk. Who couldn't find a good one, really? Well, me. I don't like milk. I had water :D


We gathered photos, some mementos, a yearbook, a painting...and made a cute display of our mom. It was a lot of fun looking at little scraps of her life!


This was one of the most fun things ever! One of my sisters makes cakes. Wonderful, cute, beautiful cakes. She provided frosting, fondant, and patient instruction. My sisters and nieces all got together and we decorated 8 cakes for the for every 10 years (or one for each child...we never really nailed that down). Here are the down & dirty photos:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Peanut Butter Finger Cookies


If you like peanut butter fingers (you know, the lunch lady bars), you'll love this "cookie" version! My sisters and I did a Cookies & Milk Party for our Mom's 80th birthday, and we wanted all the cookies to be the traditional, round kind. Here's my version of a 'round' peanut butter finger. They were a big hit!


Peanut Butter Cookies (makes about 4 dozen)

1/2 cup butter (softened to room temperature)
1/2 cup Butter Flavored Crisco
1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, it's up to you)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter, Crisco, and sugars until smooth. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Mix until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

I LOVE using parchment paper on my cookie sheets, but it's not mandatory :) Form 1 1/2" balls of dough, or use a cookie scoop. Use a fork to lightly smash cookie dough in the traditional "criss-cross" fashion. My dough was pretty soft, so I dipped my fork in powdered sugar to keep it from sticking.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes or until edges just begin browning. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.


These are double-frosted, just like the bar cookie. I found a good recipe for the peanut butter frosting, then I used store-bought milk chocolate frosting on top.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp milk

Mix all ingredients until smooth. If it's too runny, add a few tablespoons of powdered sugar at a time until you get a good frosting consistency. If it's too dry, add a tsp of milk at a time. Frost each cookie with PB frosting.

Milk Chocolate Frosting - I used store-bought frosting in a tub, but you can use any milk chocolate frosting you like. Warm the frosting in the microwave for about 30 seconds to make it easy to frost over the PB frosting.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

S'Mores Bites

YUM! S'Mores have always been one of my favorite camping treats! I saw a post on Pinterest from Cooking Classy, and wanted to give the S'Mores Bites a try. Theirs are much cuter though, so you might want to check them out :D

I didn't have the right size circle cutter to make mine round and cute, so I improvised. Here's what I did... 

I used a regular graham crackers. I broke each cracker into it's four "pre-scored" pieces. Then, I carefully broke each of those pieces one more time, to make little squares. I lined a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and placed the squares about 3/4" apart. (I LOVE PARCHMENT PAPER!) I didn't have any mini marshmallows (which is what I wanted to use), so I used regular marshmallows. I used my kitchen shears to cut each marshmallow into four pieces. TIP! Run the blades of the kitchen shears under water between each marshmallow you slice, and they won't stick to the blades. Put one piece of marshmallow on each little graham cracker square.

Preheat the oven broiler. I put the oven rack one down from the top slot. Put the pan in the oven and broil for about one minute. I turn the light on the oven and WATCH the whole time so the marshmallows don't burn. As soon as they are light-brown-toasty, remove from the oven. Quickly place a chocolate chip on each marshmallow. I used Guittard milk chocolate chips because they are YUMMY and they are a little bigger than the average chocolate chip.

These were FAST, FUN, and YUMMY! Perfectly bite-sized. Now that I know how easy these are, they will no longer be a summer-only treat. This may be dangerous...

Smashed Baked Red Potatoes

I love red potatoes...just about any way you make them. I've seen several recipes using this preparation method, so I thought I'd give it a shot using ingredients that I like best! I'm happy to say they turned out yummy, and just a touch crispy from the oven :D

* Small red potatoes
* Butter or butter spray
* Cracked Pepper
* Ms Dash garlic & onion blend
* Parmesan cheese

Wash the potatoes, then boil on the stove top until cooked through & soft. I put a few drops of vegetable oil or olive oil in the water, and it helps keep the water from foaming and boiling over. Drain the cooked potatoes, then spread in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Using a fork, smash each potato. Drizzle with melted butter, or spray with butter spray. Sprinkle with cracked pepper, Ms Dash blend, and Parmesan cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Serve with a spatula.

Grilled Zucchini

Last summer, I attempted to grill some zucchini. I used a tin foil "pouch" I created myself. It all went well, until I tried to bring the zucchini in the house. Half of it ended up on the deck. The rest tasted pretty good :) So, this year, I bought a 8 1/2" x 11" grilling basket. It worked SO MUCH better! This one is from Pampered Chef:

I told my brother in law, Scot, that I was excited to use my new basket, so he gave me some good tips! Here's what I did this time:

* 4 small zucchini squash
* 2 small yellow squash
* 1 orange bell pepper
* 1/4 purple onion
* cracked pepper
* garlic powder
* onion powder
* sea salt
* Parmesan cheese sprinkle

Slice the zucchini and yellow squash. Slice the orange pepper and remove the seeds. Cut into strips, and cut the strips in half. (I used the orange pepper because it's pretty, and has mild flavor.) Peel & slice the onion. Take 1/4 of the onion and chop it into small chunks. Place the veggies in the grilling basket. Spritz generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with cracked pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Use a heat-safe spoon to mix until veggies are evenly coated with the oil & spices. Set on a medium-low grill and close the lid. Stir the veggies while cooking about every 5 minutes until just tender. I cooked my chicken on the other side of the grill at the same time.

When the veggies are crisp-tender, remove from grill. I set the hot basket on a sheet of tin foil I put on top of 2 hot pads. Sprinkle with sea salt and Parmesan cheese & stir to coat. Putting the salt on AFTER grilling keeps the salt from sucking the moisture out of the veggies while they cook. Serve warm! I love the flavor of grilled food!!!

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Chicken

This week, I tried out my new recipes on my sister and her husband. They were good sports :) Carrie is allergic to food. Ok, not ALL food, but a lot of it. She has a board on Pinterest called "Carrie Safe Food," so I went looking there to see what I could come up with to try today. I'm so happy to say I was pretty successful!

I didn't use a recipe, which ends up in success for me maybe 50% of the time. Today I was lucky! I grilled Bacon Wrapped Chicken, and it was yummy! Here's what I did:

* Boneless chicken breast strips
* Bacon
* Smokey Applewood Rub (from Pampered Chef)
* Sea Salt
* Freshly ground pepper
* Olive oil

I cut several round toothpicks in half, and pre-soaked them in some water. Using a cake pan to work over, spritz the raw chicken strips with olive oil. Sprinkle with Smokey Applewood Rub (or spices of your choice) and use your fingers to "rub" & coat the chicken with the oil & spices. For Carrie, I used sea salt and ground peppercorns. Cut bacon strips in half. Wrap half of a bacon strip around each chicken piece. Use the water-soaked toothpicks to secure the bacon on each end (like a straight pin).

Preheat gas grill, then set on medium-low. Grill the wrapped chicken, turning once or twice, until the bacon is crispy and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the toothpick pieces prior to serving. Mmmmmmm! The grilled veggies and red potatoes were yummy too!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cricut: Conditioning your new cutting mat!

I don't know why I didn't know this! I just opened a brand new Cricut cutting mat. It was so sticky, it was ripping my paper. After spending more time pulling the paper off than it took to prep & cut, I Googled. Someone else had to know how to fix this, right? RIGHT! I found a little video where "Cricut Dan" shows how to "condition" your new cutting mat. Voila! It works. I like to share things that work. Here's the link to the video:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jewelry Organizer

Jewelry Organizer! I've seen several versions of this on Pinterest, so I don't claim it as an original idea. I DID find my own, very inexpensive way to make one for myself, and I LOVE it. It is SO MUCH easier to find matching accessories when I'm getting ready for work. Oh...and it looks pretty cute on my wall too :D

I used a metal and plastic curtain rod from Walmart. I don't remember the exact cost, but it was seriously like $5.00. I got several packages of metal, wire shower curtain hangers for $1.50 a package. Hung the curtain rod on the wall, hung the hooks, hung the necklaces. Voila!

One word of caution! This has also made it MUCH easier for my 22-year-old daughter to find my jewelry, and it gets borrowed. Often. I organized my shoes recently. Same problem. It's a good thing I love her to pieces.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I've never made homemade cream cheese frosting. I know. Until today! I had a mix for pumpkin cake, and wanted cream cheese frosting, but I didn't have any store-bought tub frosting on hand. I don't shop on Sundays...and I had a brick of cream cheese, so I Googled recipes and managed to improvise and make some with what I had on hand. It turned out great!!! Excellent cream cheese taste! Not just vanilla frosting with a hint of cream cheese. It's the real deal.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz cream cheese (soften to room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup salted butter (soften to room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
Note: I use a Kitchen Aid mixer. I grew up with one, and don't know what I'd do without it! Recently, I've been using a sifter for flour and powdered sugar, and I like the results. I also like salted butter. I think the salt helps take away some of the "too sweet" taste. You can also use margarine and 1/4 tsp. of salt instead of butter.

Combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla - beat until fluffy. Sift the powdered sugar, add 2 cups, and blend until smooth. Add another cup, and blend. Continue adding 1/4 - 1/2 cup powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want.

I'm thinking this would also be excellent with a touch of lemon extract, especially on chocolate cake or sugar cookies...I may try it sometime.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Skinny Sorbet - for real!

I've been looking for healthy ways to eat yummy food. A year ago, we found out my husband has an autoimmune disorder. One of the odd side effects is a bout with Type II Diabetes. I also have a history of stroke and heart issues in my family, and decided it's time to really take my health seriously.

We've tried many different non-sugar-sweeteners, and our absolute favorite so far is Truvia (a brand of Stevia). I know there is a lot of controversy about sweeteners, but I am comfortable with both Stevia and Splenda products. To each his own :)

In my quest to add variety to our treat-eating, I came up with a really simple, yummy smoothie/sorbet. I'm in heaven! Here's what it looks like:
This is right out of the blender, so it's a little runny, more like a very thick smoothie. If you put it in the freezer for an hour or two, it's more sorbet-ish. I use a Magic Bullet. It really makes it creamy. The only downside is I can only make one or two servings at a time. I'm holding out for a Blend-tec at some point down the road, but for now, my Magic Bullet is the bomb!

Caryl's Skinny Strawberry Sorbet

*3/4 cup unsweetened frozen strawberries
*1/8 to 1/4 cup cold water
*1 tsp Truvia
*1/8 cup Cytomax® Protein Pure Performance Drink, Tropical Fruit (see note)

Combine & blend until smooth. Try not to get a brain freeze. One serving is roughly 44 calories and 4 net carbs. Seriously cool!

NOTE: The Cytomax is optional, but adds a wonderful, sugar free topical flavor, along with some protein. I usually buy it at a local weight-loss clinic, but I've also found it at It is listed as "ready to drink" but it's really concentrated. We use it as a drink concentrate, and mix 1/8 to 1/4 bottle with 16 ounces of water for a great fruity protein drink. Love this stuff!