I love love love making homemade candy at Christmas. It's a family tradition we have been doing for years. It is so easy to make and it's a wonderful treat to gift to family and friends. I think by far the easiest type of homemade candy to make is peppermint bark.
You simply crush peppermint candy and sprinkle it over melted chocolate. Let it harden and cut or break it up. So easy and delicious!
Layer white chocolate over dark chocolate for a pretty layered look.
White chocolate or almond bark (Make sure to use melting chocolate for candy making)*
Dark or milk chocolate (also make sure to use melting chocolate for candy making)*
1. Crush peppermint candy. I put candy in a ziploc bag, wrap it in a thin cotton towel (I think the towel helps keep the peppermint powder mess to a minimum.), place it on a cutting board and crush with an iron skillet. You could also use a hammer to do this or use a food processor.
2. Melt chocolate. Melt in a double boiler or in the microwave in short increments (stirring in-between) There are often melting directions on the package.
3. Spread melted chocolate on a wax paper lined cutting board or cookie sheet. If layering white and dark chocolate, you can put the bottom layer in the fridge or freezer to harden quicker in between layers.
4. Spread the top layer of chocolate over the bottom layer then sprinkle crushed peppermint on top while still melted. You can speed hardening in the fridge or freezer if you like.
5. Once set, cut or break apart into pieces.
*My favorite chocolate for candy making is Ghirardelli pictured below. You can also buy it at Big Lots, Kroger, and Walmart for $3.75 to $4.99 a bag. It is the best quality I have found for candy making. My second favorite is Wilton. You want to use good chocolate for candy making when making layered peppermint bark or the chocolate layers can have trouble sticking together. I would not suggest chocolate chips for this.
Last year my boys and I came up with this simple and frugal teacher gift idea. We wanted to give nice gifts that were still affordable. Since we have multiple school age children, often with more than one teacher, this can add up quickly. And we can't forget our Sunday school teachers!
To start, I bought lots of Christmas coffee mugs from my favorite local thrift store. I think I paid around 10 cents a mug. You can find really cute mugs in thrift stores for a fraction of the retail price and they wash up just fine. In fact my favorite mug (I always use it if it is clean) is a Christmas mug I bought at the thrift store.
Here's a glimpse at our real-life crazy looking house that day. All you need is some goodies for your mugs like cocoa packets, candy canes, chocolate mints, tea bags, etc. You can even add small bags of homemade candy if you like and if it fits your budget you can add $5 gift cards for your local coffee, donut, or pastry shop.
Tie gift tags on with ribbon and use some filler or put in gift bags for easy wrapping and a nice presentation.
What are your favorite simple and frugal teacher gift ideas?
Even though most of us are at the end of apple season, I'm sharing my favorite recipe for homemade applesauce. Because...most of us can go to the nearest grocery store and buy a great big bag of apples anytime we want. Wow! We have it good! Feeling thankful right now. I have heard stories from my Mom and my Grandpa about what my family had to eat during the great depression (like lard sandwiches and mush) so I'm guessing a big bag of (store bought) apples would have been a lavish treat.
Since we're on the subject of food insecurity, I looked up the stats for the state of Kentucky where I live. I found data from 2016 that shows 17% of Kentuckians are food insecure. That's 743,310 people just in KY including over 222,000 children. As a mother of four, it breaks my heart to think of children without enough to eat. I did not set out to write on this topic today, but since we're here, take it as a reminder to count your blessings and if you have more than enough, share with those who do not. Most communities have opportunities available through food banks and churches to help those who need it. Find an opportunity and bless someone.
To make this applesauce, put all of the ingredients in a microwave safe dish and microwave for several minutes until tender enough to mash. It really is that simple except for all of the time it takes to peel and core the apples. There is nothing simple about peeling and coring apples when you have little ones around, but if you can find the time ...totally worth it.
My parents have an apple tree. We don't know what kind of apples they are, but they make really good applesauce. My Mom came down to visit this fall and brought us a big grocery bag full of apples. Since we have an extra fridge, I stored them and made several batches of applesauce over the next two months. I was even able to gift some to friends and freeze some for later. Homemade applesauce makes great gifts, but if you don't process it so that it is canned you need to make sure the recipient knows to refrigerate or freeze it.
Since I was making so much applesauce, I finally figured out that I could use the crock from my slow cooker to make triple batches. It was the largest microwave safe dish I could find that would still fit in the microwave. I did not use the cover since it has a metal ring around the rim, but the crock worked perfectly. You will want to cover the applesauce with a vented lid or cover of some sort when microwaving. We have a vented microwave cover so I used it as a lid for the crock when cooking. A sheet of wax paper would work fine too. Actually, if want you could just cook this in the slow cooker all day. Wouldn't that make your house smell amazing? Once the apples are cooked, you just mash everything together to make applesauce. I just use a simple potato masher (pictured above). You could use an emersion blender or hand mixer too.
In a microwave-safe dish combine ingredients. Cover with a vented lid
(to let steam out) or a sheet of wax paper. Microwave on high for 10 minutes.
Using a hand blender or potato masher, blend to desired consistency. Serve warm or chill for later use.
This is one of my favorite sides to serve with pork loin or Pork Schnitzel. A nice pork loin with some homemade applesauce would go well as part of a festive Christmas meal.
Linking up at Mommy Moments
I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com) to use and post my honest opinions. Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.
Two things our kids love are nature and reading so Hey, Baby!: A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery has quickly become a favorite. It is visually stunning, whimsical, and filled with interesting animal facts. Our boys love this book!
Hey Baby! is filled with gorgeous photos of baby animals from all over the world. The boys get sucked into this book and could look at it for hours. Our kindergartener can't read it all by himself yet, but he loves looking at the pictures and trying to read some of the captions.
The older boys enjoy reading the stories like the story of Jess, the sheepdog who became a babysitter holding bottles for baby lambs. My 4th grader was reading this book before school this morning and kept sharing the stories with me. He loves reading, nature, animals, and especially facts so this has quickly become one of his favorite reads.
Win a copy of Hey Baby! from National Geographic Kids for the budding naturalist in your life!
Hey, Baby!: A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery is available to purchase wherever books are sold, including traditional bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, as well as local independent stores, and mass merchants like Target, Costco, Walmart, amazon.com, and shopng.com/books.
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Since I am a foodie mom blogger, I thought I would share my favorite gifts for foodies, moms, and bloggers just in time for the Christmas season.
First, let me tell you about my favorite jeans. Every mom needs a great pair of comfy and fashionable jeans that she can dress up or down and wear almost anywhere. Last year I wrote a review for prAna Kara jeans and they are still my favorite jeans. In fact, I am wearing them now. In addition to these jeans being super comfortable and cute, they are also made with organic cotton and they are fair trade. My only complaint about these jeans is that I have to wear longer shirts because they are lower waisted. A reader commented on my post that I should try the Kayla jean which is the same jean, but with a higher rise. I think my next pair will be the Kayla jean.
Since we are still talking clothes, I'll share another favorite. I love love love my Pact Organic hoodie. I wear it all the time. This was also a blog review favorite from the past year. Soooooo comfy and cute! They actually have a really good sale going on at their website today. (Referral link. You will get 20% off your first purchase and I will get a credit ) You should check it out. They have some nice things for kids too including some really soft pj's for only $10. My husband reviewed their underwear for my post and he now calls them his favorite underwear. This would be a great stocking stuffer idea as they are a really good deal right now.
I don't actually have any of these yet, but see everyone wearing these cute little boots and think I am finally ready for this fashion trend. I know they have been around awhile and I am slow to adopt trends, but I am a practical mom so that's how it goes. Anyway, I think the practical, but fashionable woman in your life would love a great pair of booties.
I've got one more fashion related item and it's actually makeup. Three years ago, I had my 20 year high school reunion. I decided it was time for a great under-eye concealer. I walked into a Sephora store and asked for help. I came out with the most amazing concealer I have ever used. It is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in light vanilla. It is on the pricier side, but lasts a long time. I am only on my second tube in 3 years. I asked for this one for Christmas last year and this tube will probably last me another year with almost daily use. I do use a small brush to apply it which was recommended by the Sephora lady. My sister did a blind test with my concealer and her own and my mom, my other sister, and myself all thought she looked younger using my Nars concealer.
Now for some foodie gifts.
We'll start with the instant pot craze that is all over the blogesphere. I don't actually have one of these yet, but will probably get one at some point. As much as I love my slow cooker, an instant pot would be nice for the time factor. I asked a fellow food blogger, Lindsay from pinch of yum, who uses an instant pot a lot, which one she would recommend and this is it. You can check out pinch of yum for lots of great instant pot recipes too.
Since this post is starting to get long, here are some more of my favorite foodie gifts. My husband gave me my 12" Lodge cast iron skillet our first Christmas that we were married 15 years ago. It must be my most used gift ever. One year I got a Nordic Ware cookie scoop in my stocking and I use it every time I make drop cookies of any kind. For the baker in your life, you can't go wrong with parchment baking sheets. We just discovered at Thanksgiving that we don't have a small gravy ladle so this will go on my list.
Some gifts for the blogger.
How to blog for Profit by Ruth Soukup is a must read for every blogger. I learned so much from reading her book. I just started ProBlogger and like it so far. I'll have to let you know how it goes. If you buy any books on Amazon today (cyber Monday 11/27/17) save $5 off a $20 book purchase (they have to be sold and shipped from Amazon) with code GIFTBOOK17. (I first saw this coupon code at Money Saving Mom.) I use my Lowell EGO light for almost all of my indoor food photography. It is really easy to set up and works well for close-up still photos. I photograph in front of a window in our kitchen nook, but find I usually need more light than just natural window light. This is also be a great tool for anyone taking photos for ebay or Etsy sales.
As far as blogging resources go, the most beneficial book I have ever read was actually an ebook written by the highly successful food blogger Lindsay of Pinch of Yum. Most of what I know about food photography I owe to her. I actually set a goal this summer of getting two photos a month accepted to foodgawker and I have been accomplishing this every month since. This is coming from a girl who has been rejected over 100 times by foodgawker. In fact, I just found out today that I got three photos accepted this month.
Food bloggers are always on the lookout for interesting dishes that would photograph well. You can find absolute treasures in thrift stores. My current favorites are these homemade bowls which I did find in a thrift store. I usually look for rustic looking pieces without a lot of shine. Shine doesn't photograph well.
In addition to dishes, I keep a lookout for interesting and attractive kitchen towels. Simple patterns in lightweight cotton (no terrycloth) and colors that compliment my dishes are best. I love this striped towel I found at Walmart for a dollar. Another favorite is this towel my sister-in-law brought me from New Zealand. Towels and fabric pieces add dimension and style to food photos and can really make the food pop in the picture. I also use this piece of burlap fabric a lot. I found it in the remnants section in the fabric department at Walmart.
Some gifts just for fun.
I got The Magnolia Story for my birthday and it's a fun read. If you are as obsessed with Joanna Gaines and Fixer Upper as half of the US is, you'll love this behind the scenes look at their lives.
Our family is a board game family, as in serious gamers who go to board game conventions and own hundreds of games (more my husband and the boys than me). While they often play serious strategy games, I enjoy the more lighthearted family type games. My favorite (which we all love) is Wits and Wagers. It's a great game for get togethers, parties, or just family time that anyone can play. We have the family edition too which is geared towards a younger crowd, but our kids play the original version with us and do just fine.
Happy gifting. I hope you all find the perfect gifts for your loved ones and still have time to enjoy the Christmas season and celebrate God's greatest gift, Jesus. Blessings to you all.
Even if you only bake pies once or twice a year, there's something magical about shaping dough, filling it, then baking and sharing your creation with those you love. A homemade pie is a labor of love. It is effort put forth to take simple ingredients and turn them into something special, something memorable. Food brings people together and memories are made around food, both in the kitchen and around the table. Let's make those memories extra special this year with a little extra (homemade) effort and lots of love.
This year for Thanksgiving I decided to jazz up the pecan pie a bit with maple syrup and bourbon. We use real maple syrup all the time so I decided to substitute it for half of the corn syrup. It was a good syrup blend and worked well for both flavor and texture. Bourbon seemed like a natural addition to a maple pecan pie especially since we have been official Kentuckians for a couple of years now.
I went light on the bourbon adding only 2 Tablespoons. Many recipes call for 3 to 4 Tablespoons of bourbon. I thought 2 Tablespoons added just the right amount of flavor without overpowering other flavors. You can always start with 2 Tablespoons and add more if you think it needs it.
Since we're talking food memories and bourbon, I'm getting into the Holiday family memories mood. I have the fondest memories of going to my great grandmother, Doddin's house in Cynthiana, KY every Christmas. We usually only saw Doddin once a year because we lived a 12 hour drive away. Her house was pretty formal and my sisters and I had to mostly sit quietly while we visited in her sitting room. My great grandmother always had a tray of homemade bourbon balls. If I remember correctly they were strong and we weren't allowed to eat them. But that was ok because we always got to go in her kitchen for a special treat of Reese's cups and Coke.
Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie
1 unbaked pie crust
1/3 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. packed light brown sugar
1/2 C. light corn syrup
1/2 C. maple syrup
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. bourbon
1 1/4 C. pecan halves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Whisk ingredients together to combine and pour into unbaked pie shell.
3. Bake 40-45 minutes until crust has browned and filling has set. I make foil pie shields to cover the crust edges and protect them from over-browning and leave them on for most of the baking time. Let pie cool before serving.
Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!
I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own. Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.
When it comes to cookies, chocolate chip cookies are pretty much at the top of the list. And as much as I love baking homemade chocolate chip cookies, I don't have a gazillion hours in the day to make everything homemade all of the time.
To be honest, I don't like most store bought cookies. Many are too soft or too hard and taste like they have been sitting around way too long. With some there is a weird aftertaste that tastes so unnatural it makes them taste like they were made in a chemical laboratory. You don't have to worry about that with Back to Nature Chocolate Chunk Cookies. These cookies are delicious, the perfect crispness, and no weird aftertaste.
My husband, who really should be a food critic, was skeptical at first, but after trying one, he went for another and then another. The only bad thing is that they are kind of addicting. We went through the whole box in just a couple of days.
In addition to being so delicious, Back to Nature Chocolate Chunk Cookies are Non-GMO and contain no hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup. They retail for $3.49 to $3.99 each and are available at almost all major retailers, including Kroger, Ahold Delhaize stores, Publix, Whole Foods Market, and Sprouts Farmers Market. To find a store near you, visit: backtonaturefoods.com/where-to-buy
I love to eat healthy fresh foods like salads, but as the temperature drops, I find myself craving warm comfort foods like soups, casseroles, and breads. While these can be healthy, I notice a decreasing amount of fresh vegetables grace our table this time of year.
The key for me is finding fresh vegetables that I love to cook and eat. Some of my favorites this time of year are carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, cabbage, acorn squash, butternut squash, and sugar snap peas. Sugar snap peas are pretty much my favorite all year long, but they can be a bit pricier so I keep my eye out for the marked down packages. I never pay full price for sugar snap peas because in my local stores, they run $5 to $6 a pound, but when they mark them down 50% or more, I snatch them up. They are usually packaged in the produce section with a sale by or use by date so when they get close to that date, the store marks them down. I use within a day or two of purchase and they are always fresh and delicious.
Since shrimp are on the pricier side too, when I see a deal I buy a pound or two for the freezer. Some of my favorite shrimp recipes are Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo and Shrimp and Grits. I like to buy raw shrimp for recipes so there is less chance I will overcook them. I am almost always multi-tasking in the kitchen since I have four kiddos so any help in the "not overcooking department" is always appreciated.
Slightly sweet and savory with just a little kick, you will love these honey lime shrimp with sugar snap peas. So much flavor in the sauce...pour it over the rice to soak into every delicious bite!
Honey Lime Shrimp with Sugar Snap Peas
1 pound medium or large raw shrimp
1/2 cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
Juice and zest of 2 limes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
¼ to ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas
Hot cooked rice for serving
1. Thaw shrimp in a colander under running water. Then peel off shells. Most shrimp is deveined when processed, if not, remove veins. Set shrimp aside.
2. Mix the marinade ingredients together in a Zipper seal bag or plastic container. Add the shrimp. Refrigerate for ½ an hour or more.
3. Heat a large skillet or wok to medium high. Then add the shrimp, marinade and sugar snap peas. Cook until the shrimp turns a creamy pink color. Serve over rice.
Linking up at Mommy Moments
I think beets are one of those vegetables that are often overlooked like turnips or brussel sprouts. Maybe you've never tried them. Maybe they grace your table once a year for a special dinner. Maybe you tried canned beets once at a salad bar. Whatever your experience with beets, these roasted beets are a game changer.
Simply delicious! These balsamic roasted beets are tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and roasted until tender. That's it. Simple seasonings that come together to create an amazing flavor explosion.
And guess what? You don't even have to get out the measuring spoons. Just drizzle the olive oil and vinegar, grind the salt and pepper and toss. If you have never peeled beets before, let me tell you it's really easy to peel beets after they have simmered for an hour. The skins will soften and come right off with a pairing knife.
Balsamic Roasted Beets
4 to 5 large beets*
Fresh ground salt and pepper
1. Boil beets, then reduce heat and simmer on low for about an hour.
2. Peel beets, then quarter and toss in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3. Toss with salt and pepper.
4. Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees F. or until tender.
*4 to 5 beets is just a recommendation (for a family of 4 to 5). Make as many or as few as you like.
I think it's funny how our approach to Halloween costumes has changed over the years as we have had more children and consequently have less time to devote to things like getting the perfect Halloween costumes for our kids.
I told a friend this story with no intention of posting it, and she said you should write about that. I thought it was such an ordinary thing, but maybe it isn't in our perfect pinterest world of high expectations.
So here is my story…I took the boys to a church Halloween party last week and when we pulled into the parking lot, the boys noticed children in costumes. Uh oh, huge Mom fail, I never even thought to have the boys put on costumes.
I had spent the time between school pick-up and the party trying to get my 8 year old to sit still long enough to do his homework and making homemade applesauce. This is no easy task. It is hard to get him to do his homework every night. We finally got something accomplished with him sitting on a stool in the kitchen reading to me while I peeled and cored apples. This was a potluck church party so I needed to get the applesauce done to have something to take.
Somehow I managed to make applesauce and get all four kids in the car and get there almost on time. We were less than 5 minutes late to a two-hour party, which is on time in Mom-time.
I was feeling pretty good about this, and then we pulled into the parking lot and saw THE COSTUMES! The boys were pretty let-down and I felt really bad so we turned right around and went home. Luckily we live about 5 minutes away, but I knew this would make us a half hour late so I let go of the need to be on time for this one. I pulled into the driveway and said run into the house and grab something out of the costume bin. (We have saved all of our costumes over the years and they are in a big dress-up bin in the little boys’ room, a benefit of having 10 Halloweens under our belt.) I never even got out of the car. I stayed in the car with the baby while the boys ran into the house.
A few minutes later, Captain America, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and a bat came bounding out of the house. I didn’t know what they would choose. We hadn’t even discussed Halloween costumes yet this year and here they were… three very happy boys dressed in costumes they have worn a million times.
Most of our costumes are hand-me-downs, homemade, or purchased after Halloween on clearance or second hand and they are the best. One thing life with four kids has taught me is that simple is usually best and that everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time.
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Welcome to Home Ec @ Home
Hi, I'm Faith, a former Family and Consumer Science (Home Economics) Teacher turned work at home Mom, bringing you family friendly, homemade recipes and homemaking tips to simplify your life. Join me on my homemaking and mothering journey.
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