Thursday, December 27, 2012

Browsing seed catalogs

What am I doing this week? That would be looking through all the seed catalogs I have been receiving through the mail for a few weeks now.

With all the holiday cooking, present buying and partying we have been doing the past month, I haven't really had time to sit down and look through them--until now.

My favorite, so far is a new one, Totally Tomatoes. I just love it because there is almost any kind of tomato I can think of and I dearly love planning for, planting and growing tomatoes. There are just so many varieties and right now I can't even tell you my favorite!

Of course that is not the only seed catalog I will be perusing. I think I will just keep a red pen handy and circle all the things I love. Then I will go through them again and check all the things I must have. After that I will see what my budget will be and order all the things I can afford.

You can get on the mailing lists online and there are more seed catalogs than I can list and it is so much fun to receive them in the mail. It is certainly a wonderful thing to do this time every year. It's fun to at least dream of sunny, spring days. It is also fun to plant the seeds and watch them grow.

This year, there will be a class on seed starting that I am planning to attend on Thursday, January 17, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm that I will be attending at the Coweta County Extension office on Pine Road in Newnan. The $10 fee benefits Coweta 4-H.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fun with oreos

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a Pinterest photo of Oreo cookies on a stick. The link and instructions are at Lulu the Baker. The recipe and photos are very good. They were so pretty that I just had to make them as a craft and giveaway.

Oreos are wonderfully good when dipped in chocolate of any kind. They are fairly easy to make, though Oreos are kind of hard to work with on a good day. They tend to break and some of mine were broken in the pack. I bought two packs as suggested and found I could "glue" some of them back together with the melted candy coating.

They make a great a very nice bouquet--even better if you put them in a vase. I was trying to protect these so I packed them in tissue in a basket.

Individually, that are cute and we all know that Oreos are yummy dipped in chocolate. What kid wouldn't like to have one of these? I wouldn't advise having too many. This is not a healthy food but this does turn something as simple as an Oreo cookie into a small gift.

My tips: When I bought the candy sticks from the craft store, I noticed the cake pop bags right above them. I bought 50 of them and used just over thirty of them. I tied a knot in the ribbon and then a bow and they are holding well.

For a gluten-free version, buy the gluten-free chocolate cookies with white icing. They more than likely won't have "double-stuff" but you could add a little bit of melted chocolate. I used a cake decorating squeeze bottle, also from the cake decorating section of the craft store to easily squeeze out melted candy coating.

These cookie gifts will go to a classroom of 1st graders on Thursday, hopefully at the end of the day so the kids can come home and run out all that energy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No peanut-butter balls

I just had to share this no-peanut butter candy that my daughter made. She substituted sunflower butter or Sunbutter for the peanut butter called for in the recipe. It is a perfect substitution, tastes good and kids are not usually allergic to sunflower seeds.

Here's a link to a recipe and video. So if you need to take something that is lip-smacking good that kids will love for a "no-peanuts allowed zone" Christmas party or event, this is a good thing to make. Just make a substitution. Sunbutter is available in most grocery stores. It is not quite as flavorful as peanut butter but by the time you coat it with chocolate, it is very good. Be sure to get the variety that is the same consistency as regular peanut butter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


My friend Charlotte, known to her garden club friends as the "Straw Bale Lady" has turned me on to a craft I am calling Gooping. She has been purchasing dishes and glassware at yard sales and thrift stores and using a bonding agent called Goop, that according to their packaging claims bonds anything permanently, is making some very lovely and creative art. The best thing is that it costs so little to buy the items and it is so easy to do.

I bought the platter above for under $3.00 and the vase I glued it to for a base was something I've had but never used. Now, since they have been hooped together, I have a nice serving dish.

Above I bought a serving dish and a dessert dish and using goop, put them together. This would be perfect for a cheese ball and crackers. I really love this new craft. I love what can be done with a couple of dishes and a little goop. The dish above set me back about $4.00.

Thanks Charlotte. You are obviously an inspiration!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A star for my tree

I am sure we were like many families who worked this weekend to decorate our Christmas tree. There are years when this chore seems to go very well and years when it is like pulling teeth to complete. Today, I am happy for two reasons. One that it went very well this year and two, that we finally found a topper we like for our tree.

For several years we have looked for a star--one that incorporates the Christmas story--"and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was,"  Matthew 2:9--into our Christmas tree decoration.

I have tried so many toppers including a big bow and an angel but since we have had our man-made tree (this is the third year) all of my toppers have literally been a flop. That is because when I put something with any size and weight on the top branch, it just flops right over. While were were using real trees they all worked but since we purchased our nice man-made one (because of allergies) we haven't had a tree topper that we liked.

I have enjoyed the ease of a man-made tree but I miss the smell. There are things I don't miss. I don't miss the mess, the afternoon choosing the right tree, the tree disposal and most of all, the stitches my husband had to get one year, after cutting his hand, rather than the tree.

After shopping this year for a topper, the first one I bought was a really lovely airy, lighted star at Michael's, but it just flopped right over and the electric cord didn't reach either.

The winner was something I made from two plastic glittered star ornaments purchased from the dollar store, glued together by Goop. I aligned the stars back-to-back, glued the two pieces together, cut out a hole in the bottom of the stars to fit over the tree and my husband carefully put the finishing touch on our tree. We immediately knew it was perfect--and the perfect reminder of why we celebrate this time of year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A new apple cake recipe

I have been a little silent this week because I have been a little under the weather and tired from Christmas shopping, working and also from partying with my garden club friends. On Monday the Crossroads Garden Club had a very nice Christmas party and the food was incredible. I couldn't believe the spread. Every bit of it was simply delicious. I should know because I tried at least one bite of everything--except for my cake. I was just too full to try it that night.

The amazing thing about our party was that everyone brought something different. That sounds just impossible to me. I would have expected a duplicate item but there wasn't even one on the table.

But back to the subject, I have a new cake recipe. I have probably mentioned before that I have searched for years for an apple caramel cake recipe.

Years ago, a very nice lady from Fayetteville, a cake guru, sold cakes from her kitchen. I ordered her apple caramel cake every holiday season and would still be buying cakes from her but ... some terrible person reported her to the authorities and since she didn't have a license to bake and really didn't want one, her kitchen was closed. I am certain that everyone who ever purchased one of those heavenly confections has mourned her kitchen's closing. I know I have and I have been searching for a recipe similar to hers ever since.

At Thanksgiving, I made a gluten-free version and it was pretty good. The frosting wasn't easy to make but was good. It motivated me to bake an non-gluten free cake for our Christmas garden club party.

I was given a new caramel frosting recipe by my friend Angela who found it in a new book I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The book's author, Kathryn Greely shared her recipe online at this link: Angela tried the recipe at Thanksgiving and her guests really raved about it. I had to then try the icing and it was very good.

Here is my version of Apple/Caramel Cake. People at the party really loved it and I don't think it quite matched the cake I remember from the Fayetteville super cake baker, but it was a pretty good second and much easier that hers, I'll bet.

Apple/Caramel Cake

6 small apples, peeled and diced (I used Fuji)
1 cake mix (I used the Duncan Hines Yellow with the pudding in the mix but any kind of cake mix would work)
Add the regular ingredients called for on the back of the cake mix box (My mix called for 3 eggs, 1 cup of water and oil.)
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Peel and dice 5 small apples. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line 3 nine-inch cake pans with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl add the dry ingredients and mix the cake according to the instructions on the box. Add cinnamon and mix well. Stir in the diced apple and stir until well-mixed. Divide batter between cake pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until cake is done. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool.

Caramel Icing

2 sticks butter
1 16-ounce box of light brown sugar (I used 2 1/4 cups of light brown sugar tightly packed which was half of a 2 pound bag.)
1 pinch of salt
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups Confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
1 cup pecans, finely chopped

In a large saucepan add the butter, sugar, salt and milk and cook on medium high until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow to boil for 4 minutes and continue to stir. Remove from heat and pour in vanilla flavoring. Add Confectioner's sugar and use a hand mixture to mix until all is incorporated. Add chopped pecans and stir by hand until well-mixed. Icing will need to be used immediately because it sets up quickly. If icing becomes hard, smooth with a spatula dipped in very hot water.

That's it! Enjoy. This is yummy.