Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Peppermint Mocha Creamer

Generally I'm a black coffee drinker.  I like the taste of plain coffee.  I am not crazy about any flavored coffees.  It's like the bacon flavored donuts.  All it does is confuse the message from my brain to my taste buds.  I did a blog about discovering flavored iced coffee.  Cold coffee changed my mind set so it can accept the flavor.  My family has a different opinion about coffee.  They like the flavors.  For family meals I either have to remember to buy creamer, or they bring it themselves.  One of my son-in-laws can not stand coffee, but he has probably never had a good cup of coffee.  He is a tea snob and has brainwashed our youngest grandson into saying he doesn't like coffee, but prefers English tea.  It is all in good fun, and we joke about it.  My husband doesn't drink coffee or tea.

Coffee creamers can be rather expensive and are sometimes filled with ingredients that are questionable.  I looked on the label of a well known brand.  It had water, sugar, hydrogenated coconut oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, salt, natural and artificial flavor.  The caseinate in this product is a derivative of milk.  I couldn't find a creamer that didn't have milk or if it was milk free, it was full of chemicals kind of like margarine.  I read that margarine is one molecule away from being plastic.  Fake milk is the same thing.  That is why I was excited to find a youtube video by Elizabeth Medero on making natural creamers.  If you want to see the video, just search for her name and Peppermint Mocha Creamer on Youtube.  There are a lot of copy cat recipes for Starbuck's peppermint mocha drink, but this is a creamer you can keep in the refrigerator and add to your coffee or even hot chocolate, whenever you want.  I used Almond Milk for a non milk option, and it isn't very thick and creamy but it tastes delicious.  At least for me, but I don't have much experience with creamers.  Hopefully you will like it too.

Ingredients you will need for this recipe. 

Peppermint Mocha Creamer

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 t. cocoa powder
1/2 t. vanilla
2 cups milk

Mix together 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup of white sugar.  Bring this to a boil to make a simple syrup.  When all the sugar is dissolved, mix in the cocoa powder and vanilla.  Add 1 drop of peppermint essential oil (my new best friend) and 2 cups of the milk of your choice.  It can be heavy cream, half and half, whole milk, skim milk, soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk or any milk you want. 

Mix together.  As you can tell, over two cups of creamer can be made for pennies instead of dollars.  I would imagine you could experiment with different flavors and spices.  Leave out the cocoa and add pumpkin pie spice for a pumpkin flavored creamer. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day 2014

 Christmas 2014 is in the books. 

 It was a bit strange without any snow this year.  Most years our daughters and families go snowshoeing.  This couldn't happen this year.  In fact today, it looks more like Thanksgiving Day.

Other years we have had plenty of snow.

This year there was no snow or ice.  Even the sun came out briefly.

Everyone had plenty of surprises.  Melissa, our only granddaughter, is into Sherlock so most of her gifts were centered around that theme.  When a fourteen year old appears interested in something, everyone jumps on that idea.

Then there are all the boys and their interests.  Dylan and Sam love Legos and comic books.  They talk about DC and Marvel.  They talk about movies and characters I have never heard of.   Guess what they got?  Yup, items related to comics and legos.

Sam did get outside to play with his new pogo stick.  Six year old Jack got one too.  No snow and mild temperatures made it possible to try them out.  In fact, everyone tried them out.  Well, I didn't and neither did my husband.  I was afraid I would injure myself, and we definitely exceeded the weight limit.

Sam jumped 153 times the last I heard.

Our daughter Heather and grandson Jack trying to jump.

Daughter Sarah and son in law Bret also got in the act.

Next it was time for the two youngest grand boys to try out the Radio Flyer Cyclones they got.  These are also outside toys.  I heard many times about the kids having too many toys.  I figured something to play with outside was a good thing.  The adults didn't fit in these, or they would have certainly tried them out.

We also had some funny gifts.  We bought an old RV last summer.  We thought it would be fun to get out and camp without sleeping in a tent.  It was also important that it had a bathroom.  We haven't used it.  Our daughter thought it would be funny to give us this.

The kit contained state park stickers, games and a campfire cookbook.  Hopefully this will inspire us to hit the road next summer.

Heather even got a NSYNC CD.  It shows her age, but I doubt she cares.

Sarah and family played the mustache game.
Now it's Christmas evening.  Everyone has gone home.  We ate too much, we laughed a lot, we played and had a wonderful day.  I got some fantastic gifts.  As of this moment, I feel that I will never be hungry again.  I imagine in a couple hours I will feel quite different.  I won't be logging my calories in today.  I hope everyone had an equally enjoyable day.  I know some did not, and I hope  their day was pleasant enough.  My heart breaks for them and really can not understand how unfair life is at times.  I pray that some day everyone can experience the fun and joy we felt today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cracker Toffee Bars and Other Goodies

Two years ago when I first started blogging, I posted some of our family's favorite Christmas cookies.  Actually these recipes could be made all year long, but for some reason I only make them at holiday time.


My husband's favorite are Mexican Wedding Cakes.  Recipe in the link above.

My husband likes the Mexican Wedding Cakes, but the recipe I make most often is this one.  They are called Quick and Easy Bars, but they are more like candy.  I renamed them Cracker Toffee Bars.  I usually make more than one batch each Christmas season.

Cracker Toffee Bars

1 sleeve of soda crackers or gluten free baked crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 package (12 oz.) chocolate chips
Chopped nuts as desired

Line a 12 x 15 jelly roll pan with foil.  Grease the foil with butter or oil.
Layer whole soda crackers on the foil.

Then in a saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar.  Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
Pour the sugar-butter mixture over the soda crackers and bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Cool for a few minutes and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.  In a couple minutes the chocolate chips will start to melt.  At that point frost the top by spreading out the chocolate.  Sprinkle with nuts and cool completely.  Peel off the foil and break into pieces. 

This year, however, some members of the family can't have the gluten in the soda crackers.  I printed out a gluten free soda cracker recipe to try, but then I found some baked crackers with sea salt that were gluten free.  I used the same recipe.  They turned out fantastic and no one would know that they don't have any gluten.

While shopping for gluten free crackers,  I saw some gluten free pretzels at the grocery store.  I had seen a video on youtube of a person making some bark with only pretzels, fritos and chocolate chips.

Chocolate Pretzel and Frito Bark
8 oz. pretzels (I used gluten free)
8 oz. corn chips
12 oz. bag of chocolate chips (melted)
To melt put chocolate chips in a saucepan over hot water and stir until melted,
or microwave for a minute, stir and microwave another minute.  Stir until smooth then add in another 4-6 oz. of chocolate chips to temper.  Stir those until melted.  Pour over the pretzels and chips.  I had a problem with that, so I just stirred them all together gently and poured onto a foil lined pan.  Then let them cool until the chocolate is hardened.  Break into pieces.  Sweet and salty, you can't go wrong.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Knit Some Slippers For A Last Minute Gift

It doesn't look like I am going to get one of the gifts I ordered.  I ordered two items from an online store.  I received one of them, but the other was backordered.  I am pretty sure I won't get it in time for Christmas.  I like to keep things even with the kids.   To keep the number of packages equal I decided to make these slippers, just in case.  They won't come close to the original gift, but it's better than nothing.  I took a knitted slipper pattern that I have made before.  I modified it a little.

Slippers (Will fit small adult)
Size can be changed with the number of stitches cast on.

On a size 10 knitting needle cast on (CO) 30 stitches with a double strand of worsted yarn
Knit 1, purl 1 across.
Repeat this ribbing row for 24 rows

I use a row counter to keep track of my rows knitted.

Change to double pointed needles, join and start knitting around for 6 more rounds in the ribbing pattern.  Total of 30 rows from start.

If you would rather not join to form a circle, you could continue to knit flat but then you would have to seam the top of foot and the toe.  

Form the toe with a plain knit stitch.  If you knit flat, you will have to knit across and purl back.  On double pointed needles you knit every round.  It is shown in the white area.  If you prefer to make a plain slipper, the rib stitch can be continued to the end of the toe.

Row 1: k3, k2 tog., k 4, k2 tog., k 4, k2 tog., k 4, k2 tog., k 4, k2 tog. K2=26 stitches
Row 2-8 knit around
Row 9: K2 together around = 13 st.
Row 10: K2 together around plus 1 st. = 7 st.

Thread needle and pull through toe stitches and secure.

Fold in half and sew back heel seam.

Then with 3 double pointed needles or circular needle, pick up 42 stitches around the top of the slipper. This will make the cuff.  Knit 1, purl 1 around and be sure to place a marker to keep track of the rows.
Knit around for 24 rows and bind off.  If you want to do this flat, don't seam the back heel, pick up the stitches and knit cuff.  Then seam the back of heel and cuff.

This is the cuff shown using a 12 inch circular needle.

If you decide to put in a stripe remember the cuff folds over.

To do this stripe,  change color at the marker.  Purl around the whole row in contrasting color.  Slip the marker for the next row resume the rib pattern.  I did this three times before binding off.

After I added some stripes on the top of the cuff, I made some ears, sewed on buttons for eyes, and put on a red mouth.  This is what I got.....a sock monkey.

I need a little work on the mouth.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ugly Sweater or Maybe Not

Yesterday my daughter called me.  They are having an ugly Christmas sweater day at her job on Friday.  She asked if I would check around at a thrift store and buy her one.  We had to go to Fond du lac, Wisconsin today, so I was happy to stop.  The first store I went into was Goodwill.  There was another mother and daughter looking for an ugly sweater.  I think many people had gotten there first.  Hardly any sweaters remained on the racks.  What I did see looked exactly like the ones I have in my own closet.  It made me feel really old and lacking any taste in clothing.  Next I tried the Salvation Army store.  I had the same experience.  Last I went to the St. Vincent de Paul store.  Nothing.  Every organization and business in the area must be having ugly sweater day.  I texted my daughter and told her I had more of a selection in my own closet.  Then I looked at what I was wearing today.


When I got home, I packed up a few sweaters to show my daughter.  I hope they aren't ugly enough because that would make me feel a lot better.   I gave them to her tonight.  Our grandson had his 4K Christmas program.  It was very cute.   The kids had so much fun.  Even Santa put in an appearance.

Ewan was a reindeer.

As I looked around the audience, I realized it would be very hard to determine who was participating in an ugly sweater contest and who was wearing their favorite sweater.  It could be very awkward indeed if you complimented someone on their ugly sweater, and it turned out to be one of their favorites.  It is best to keep your mouth shut this time of year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Carrot Cake Gluten Free and Regular

December 14th was my husband's 70th birthday.  My daughter had the family party.  She made lunch, and I made the cake.  I could have sworn I posted my Carrot Cake recipe before, but I couldn't find it so I wouldn't expect anyone who reads my blog to find it either.  I made two cakes.  The first was the one I have made for years.  It was my mother's recipe and is written on a piece of ripped paper in smeared red ink.  If I have posted this recipe before, I apologize.  I don't have a photo of the cake because I didn't take one, but everyone knows what a cake looks like.

Carrot Cake

1 scant cup of oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
7 ounces unsweetened coconut (scant cup)
1 8 3/4 oz. can crushed pineapple with the juice
2 t. vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped nuts

Mix the oil and sugar.
Add the 3 eggs and beat well
Then add sifted dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix.
Next with a spoon fold in remaining ingredients .

Spray a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The second cake I made was also a Carrot Cake but it was Gluten Free.  I did take a photo of that one, for some reason.  I just followed the directions on a Gluten Free yellow cake mix and then added some of the ingredients I used in the regular cake.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake

1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free yellow cake mix
⅔ cup water ( I drained some crushed pineapple and used the pineapple juice instead of water)
½ cup softened butter
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. nutmeg
2 t. gluten free vanilla (used my own made from vodka, which turned out great) 

3 eggs
1 cup shredded carrots
⅓ cup crushed pineapple
⅓ cup unsweetened coconut
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

Mix together and bake at 350 in a 8 inch square pan sprayed with coconut cooking spray
Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before you frost .

I put bigger pecans on top, but I should have finely ground them also.

I used the same basic Cream Cheese frosting used in many recipes.  Numbers in parenthesis are for the 9 x 13 cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 oz. (5 oz.) cream cheese ( I used the Neufchatel cream cheese because it is lower in calories and it was on sale)
6 (10) T. butter
2 (3) cups powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 (1 1/2) T. milk or as much needed to make a creamy frosting

Happy Birthday King Michael,  I hope it was a good one.

Our Grandson's Church Christmas Program

Last Sunday two of our grandson's were in their church Christmas program.  We started out the day attending church.  It was a darling program.  It was upbeat and fun.  They did a great job.

My son in law was one of these puppets, I think he was the green one.

The kids played the bells.

Sam reciting his poem.

Jack, of course, had his memorized.

After church we went to our daughter's house for a birthday party.  It was my husband's 70th birthday.  She made lunch, and I brought the cake.  I made Carrot Cake.  It isn't my husband's favorite, but it's one of mine.  He really likes plain yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  I know it was his birthday, so I will make him that boring cake sometime in the future.  I will post the carrot cake recipe tomorrow for Tuesday recipe day.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Piper's New Christmas Stocking

My daughter and her family have a cockapoo named Piper.  She was one year old this fall, so last Christmas she was only a few months old.  I didn't get around to making her a Christmas stocking last year, but I promised I would make her one before Christmas 2014.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  When the decorations came out for the season, there was no stocking for Piper.   They reminded me that she needed one to match the rest of the family.  The stores don't sell the exact yarn I used in the other stockings anymore, but fortunately I had enough left to do the job.  Hopefully I won't have any more stockings to make or I will be scrounging in thrift stores for another skein.  On Thursday, I thought I better get started.  After all, it's less than two weeks until Christmas.  I used the pattern I created in a previous blog except I charted out a doggie theme.  My dog looks a little strange, but I never claimed to be an artist.  The line by his butt is supposed to be a tail in case you were wondering.


Piper puppy's new Christmas stocking.

These are the first three I made for the family.

Then Ewan was born and I needed a stocking for him.

His stocking before I put his name on.

Ewan's first Christmas.  I can't believe that was 4 years ago.