Tuesday

Shamrock rice crispy treats



Last St. Patricks day, I treated my team to Lucky Charms Rice Crispy Treats for St. Patrick's Day! 
This year I decided to do a little something different!

1/2 stick of butter 
melt in sauce pan then add... 
1 bag of small marshmallows (4 cups)
heat until all melted, mixing while melting... 
add green food dye (color to your preference)
remove from heat, 
add 5 cups of Rice Crispy Cereal
and then lay out on tin foil, cover with tin foil, and use rolling bin to roll to desired thickness
let cool
cut with cookie cutter!
 

Thursday

Wedding Wednesday -DIY Cotton Boutonnieres

C decided he wanted to wear Cotton Boutonnieres. Seems like a reasonable request right? Well, that is what I thought until I started searching for them. They are much harder to find then one would think. I was about to throw in the towel, and my mom happened upon a Handmade Weddings book at the used book store! Flipping thru the pages I found COTTON BOUTONNIERS!!!!
 I showed C, and he was 100% on board. He ordered cotton (left) from Floral Cotton, the Texas tallow (right), lavender (below), clear floral tape and boutonniere pins from Save-On-Crafts. I purchased the navy ribbon from Hobby Lobby.
 All of the supplies arrived quickly and were of excellent quality. I rallied one of my bridesmaids JSBH to help me with the "crafting"... her hubby also came over to "supervise" .. He is British, and actually read thru parts of our honeymoon itinerary ,and provided comic relief. So here is what we did!!!
Here’s what you will need for 12 boutonnieres:
  • Cotton (I bought 24 bolls, I worried, I would break a few stems, I didn't so now I have extra)
  • Texas Tallow (two bunches)
  • Lavender (optional, 1 bunch)
  • Floral Tape ( I opted for clear)
  • Ribbon (I chose navy to match the bridesmaids’ dresses)
  • Boutonniere Pins (I chose pearl ones to match bridesmaids necklaces)
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Scissors

 Group together 2 sprigs of lavender, 1 boll of cotton, and cluter or two (depending on size) of Texas Tallow. Wrap the prior with the floral tape  so it stays together. Then place a small dab of glue on the end of the ribbon and secure to the top of the stems, wrapping the ribbon from top to bottom and back up. Add one more dab of glue to secure the end of the ribbon.

 We created the smaller boutonniere with just lavender and Texas Tallow for the ring bearer.
I am quite happy with how they turned out, and the Mister is over the moon! I would recommend this to any DIY Brides, as they are fun to make and turn out great!

and below are a few additional photos of the boutonnieres...


Tuesday

Caramel cream cupcakes with coconut


Ingredients
  •  Carmel
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoon butter (unsalted)
    • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Cupcake
    • 1/2 cup butter (unsalted)
    • 1/2 cup shortening
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 5 eggs (room temperature & separated)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 cups flour (all purpose)
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 1 cup flaked coconut
    • 1/2 cup finely copped pecans (toasted is best)
  • cream cheese frosting
    • 4 oz softened cream cheese
    • 1/2 pound softened butter (unsalted)
    • 2 teaspoon vanilla 
    • 10 cups powdered sugar
preheat oven to 350
Cupcakes
grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tin, and set aside
I use my kitchenaid/you can also use an electric mixer and bowl. Cream the butter and shortening on medium for 30-45 seconds. Add the sugar, beat until well combined. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until combined. In a small bowl combine flour and baking soda; alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture beating on low. Fold in coconut and pecans.

in a separate mixing bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. fold about one third of the egg whites into cake batter to lighten. fold in remaining egg whites until combined. Spoon equal amounts of batter into each tin

bake 202-25 minutes or until done. Cool. 

Caramel 
place brown sugar and putter in sauce pan on medium heat and cook until butter and sugar begin to melt *around 8-10 minutes* stir occasionally. When the sugar begins to caramelize, remove from heat and carefully stir in a few ounces of cream at a time. When cream is absorbed by the sauce stir in more doing the  same each time until all of the cream is used. When the sauce has reached a thick consistency. transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. If needed, add 1 teaspoon of heavy cream to then out caramel as it cools

frosting
beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until ligtht and fluffy. mixing on low gradually add in powdered sugar until well combined and smooth. Slowly drizzle in caramel sauce while mixer is on to create ribbons of caramel in the frosting.

decorate the top of each cupcake with frosting and then caramel drizzle or pecans or flaked coconut. 


Monday

Homemade pizza Dough


I apologize for not taking more photos. This was my first go around with making homemade crust, and I was focused on the baking and not on the picture taking. C loved it, so we will be trying again soon, and I promise to update with photos along the way.

Ingredients and directions
2 cups warm water
1 Tbls. yeast
pinch of sugar
5 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt

Put the yeast, lukewarm water, and pinch of sugar in the bowl of your mixer. The water should be warm, but not hot (or else it will kill your yeast)(I used hot water from the tap) I read that the sugar is there to give your yeast a little something to nibble on right away to help give your dough a little extra poof.

Add the flour and the salt.

I used my kitchenaid mixer with its dough hook. Mixing on medium-high until the dough comes together in a sticky ball.

Remove the dough hook and bowl from the mixer. (you will have to, to get the dough off) With your hands, knead the dough a few times right in the bowl until it forms a springy ball.

Cover the bowl with a few paper damp towels. (I used a damp dish towel) & set the bowl in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it’s about doubled in size. (I just set on the oven as it was pre-heating for another project)

When the dough has doubled in size, "smoosh" (yes that is a technical term) it down with your hands to squeeze some of the air out of it.

Mix the dough on medium speed with the dough hook, While it is mixing, prep your counter top by putting some flour down.Scrape the dough off the dough hook and out of the bowl.

Use your hands to round it up into a ball, & then cut the ball in half. (this recipe makes 2 pizzas) Round each half up into a ball, place on your baking sheet, roll the dough out so that it fills your baking sheet.

Set the pans aside, uncovered, for about another hour, or until the dough has about doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, prep your toppings, so they’re ready to go when your crusts are pre-baked.
About 20 minutes or so before your hour is up, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

When the dough has doubled in size, pop your pans into your preheated oven and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, or until they’re just starting to turn brown at the edges.
Leave your oven on.
 
Bake at 400 until cheese has melted a d toppings are done how you like them.
We baked for 8 minutes. Then enjoy! 
Disclosure, we used a bit too much sauce...  but overall they were very good.

Tuesday

Caramel Tarts



Ingredients
Crust
8 oz cream sofened cream cheese
1 cup butter (I used unsalted)
2 3/4 cups of flour (I used all purpose)

filling
9 oz of caramel chews
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 F

  • I used my kitchen aid with bowl/stand. But you can use bowl with electric mixer. 
  • Beat together cream cheese and butter for 1-3 minutes/until well combined. 
  • Turn mixer to low and slowly add in flow (1/4 cup at a time) until all is added. 
  • Continue to beat for 1-2 minutes scraping down side as you go
  • In saucepan on medium add caramels and heavy whipping cream, cook just until all caramels are melted, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes
  • use mini muffin tin, press 1 oz sized ball of dough into each tin, making sure to press the dough evening along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes and cool
  • carefully add 1 o of caramel mixture into each muffin tin until all are 2/3 full. and allow to cool sligtly
  • Mine are shown topped with sliced apricots but they would also be great with shaved chocolate!

Sea Salted Carmel Chews


My friends and I recently took a dessert class and I have to say it was informative and fun!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter cubed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, additional used for topping
  • 1 and half cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
Directions
  • Line an 8x8  baking pan with parchment paper and brush or spray lightly with oil and set aside
  • in a small saucepan, bring heavy cream, butter and salt to a boil. Then remove from heat and set aside
  • In a large saucepan on high heat, stir together sugar, corn syrup and water until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring until the mixture turns to a light golden caramel color. (you can gently swirl the entire saucepan occasionally to ensure even heating)
  • Lower heat to a simmer and very carefully pour cream mixture into the saucepan. 
  • Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to 250 F or for candy making aficionados the firm ball stage
  • pour mixture into baking pan and allow to cool completely, about two hours. 
  • 1/2 hours after pouring, sprinkle caramel with more sea salt as desired
  • Remove caramel from baking pan and using a sharp, warm knife, cut the caramel into 2 inch squares
This makes 16-24 chews

Monday

Helium Hand- How to balance work/life/volunteering

My husband often says I have a Helium Hand. For the first year of our marriage I would disagree with him on this. But as they said hind sight is 20/20, and when looking back, I must admit I kinda do.

Q: So what is a helium hand?
A: Someone asks for a volunteer, and your hand just goes up, as if it has a balloon attached.

The Mister has joked that I don't know how to say no. He has even proceeded to ask me a round of questions that he knows I will say no to, to illustrate that I do know how to say no. and then ask why I didn't say no when asked. After a bit of reflection the answer is simple. I call in half Catholic Guilt (yes this is real) - when called upon, I don't want to let people down. and half me believing that I was called upon for a reason (though I am still wondering what the reason is for some of my past commitments)

Entering 2014, I worked to be purposeful in additional commitments I took on, while working to edit those things on my plate. As a result, I enter 2015 refreshed, and rededicated to my commitments. 

Simply put sometimes in doing less, you will do more!

Life
Do What You Love- these simple words are a guiding principal in my life. Thru work, and volunteering I strive to Do What I love. And I do so with the support of friends, family and co-workers. I am the person I am today in part due to these people. Many of these same people have handed me said balloon, while others have talked me into popping it.... 

Work
I am blessed to have an amazing job I LOVE, work for an AMAZING company, and work with/for some truly INSPIRING people. Let me tell you a little bit about my work life. I have been with the same company for the last 15 years (it will be 16 years in just 10 days) I work for a company that values work/life balance and understands that it is important to work to live, not live to work.

One may ask if I am still challenged, and  driven after 16 years, and that answer is a undeniable YES! Leadership continues to push my team and I to be the best version of us, and the best store we can be. And inturn I continue to grow with my team, peers, and company.

It is often said that a team is only as strong as its weakest link- this may hold true, but I prefer to focus on members strengths. I like to think of team more of a twisted rope. A rope that is woven/twisted together- complete with various members strengths and weaknesses, and together we form a tight knit rope- one that can hold together and accomplish anything. I am blessed to be part of a team that capitalizes on each others strands of strengths- one that is comfortable reaching out to ask for assistance.

So yes- in reflecting I do often have a helium hand at work. I raise my hand to take on a project that may help me grow as a leader, I stay late to develop a team member, or have a coaching conversation. I take on an additional project/position to grow the team, or align with a company initiative.I have a hellium hand to strengthen my individual and team rope

As I work on my performance review for last year, I am thankful for the time to reflect, the time to analyze and the time to strategize. But one things holds true- and that is you will continue to see my hand held high in the new year

Volunteering
It is not what we have in our life, but who we have in our life that matters most. This statement is one I could not agree with more, and is one of the many reasons I have stayed involved with Alpha Chi Omega Women's Fraternity over the past fifteen years. Giving back to an organization who has given so much to so many is a no brainier for me. I am passionate about the organization. An organization that recognizes the importance of developing tomorrows female leaders, an organization that fights to bring awareness to Domestic Violence prevention, and advocates for victims, An organization that is striving to change the conversation on so many levels, and an organization that remains relevant to over 200,000+ initaited members across the coutnry.

Over the years my helium hand has gotten quite a work out when called upon to serve the organization.
VP Fraternity Relations, Homecoming chair,  collegiate chapter officer, chapter advisor, long distance advisory board, alumnae chapter member, virtual alumnae chapter member, alumnae chapter president, alumnae chapter panhellenic delegate,  National Panhellnic Conference Volunteer, REPRESENT faciliator, ASTP facilitator, Recruitment specialist, IMPACT facilitator, AFA member, AFA awards committee member, Panhellenic Recruitment Task force member, Panhellenic Exploratory Expansion Task force Memeber, Convention Minutes Committee, Convention Teller, and the list goes on..

I list the previous only to share that I have learned that Alpha Chi Omega will be omni present for its members and volunteers. The organization will serve and call upon you to serve. There are times that members lives will align with them giving back, and there are times the organization will give back. Thus when asked and when I am able I do give back. Over the years, I have also determined that giving back surrounded by friends is more than just giving back. It is creating life long memories. I could not do half of what I have been able to accomplish with out my mentors, friends and sisters. (To the Aggie, Jenn, Amy, and Joys of the world I am blessed to call you more than just a sister, but also a close friend) The morale of this is that if you surround yourself with those who align with your values and passions you can accomplish more together. You will push each other, and challenge each other. You will pick each other up with you are down, and inspire each other to achieve more.

I have also learned that it is important to at times be selfish with your volunteer endeavors. Meaning it is important to at times stop and evaluate what is important to you, and if the volunteer role is still relevant. Questions to ask yourself?
Am I the right person for this role? Could I tap someone else who is more aligned?
Who is my bench strength? and/or who Could I develop to volunteer in this role in the future?
Does this volunteer role challenge me and engage me as a volunteer?
Does this volunteer role truly capitalize on my strengths? and challenge me in ways that allow me to grow as an individual?

These are questions I use to pulse check myself in the many roles I play. And those that know me know my hand is going up less these days, but not because I am volunteering less becuase I am being more purposeful in volunteering.

And if you are thinking about volunteering. I feel it is important for me to share that you must always keep in mind- that to the world you may just be one person, but to one person you maybe the world.

Future
So what does the future hold?
One can be sure that I will continue to have a hellium hand in work and volunteering.

But I will also remain committed to raising my hand in my personal relationships and endevors.
I will raise my hand to date nights
I will raise my hand to blogging
I will raise my hand to travel
I will raise my hand to remain committed to being the best me I can be.

Tuesday

Cheese Lover's Round Up


Lose yourself in this amazingly cheesy recipe round up.


Guest Post Hun... What's for Dinner?


Hi everyone! I'm Cindy from Hun... What's for Dinner?. I am a stay at home mom, to a 9 yr old boy and a 6 yr old girl; in Ontario Canada. I married a Chef many moons ago, thinking I'd be wined and dined every night; which was totally not the case. So I started cooking, which turned into blogging; as a way to keep track of recipes my husband liked and which he wasn't too fond of. 6 yrs later, I'm still blogging and loving every minute of it. Being in the kitchen centers me and relaxes me, so when I'm stressed or over whelmed, that's where you'll find me.

This month Britain and I are swapping guest posts, on each other's blogs. Today I will be sharing an amazing Cheese Lover's Round Up with you. When the colder weather hits, I just want to sink into a plate of cheesy, hearty delicious food. If you love cheese as much as my family does, this post is perfect for you!





Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Bake- Noshing with the Nolands




Mexican Chicken Alfredo- In the Kitchen with Jenny








Skillet Cheese- Life Currents




Gooey & Cheesy Warm Bacon Dip- Kitchen meets Girl








Phyllo Dough Cheese Sticks- Sweet as a Cookie








Cheesy Garlic Chicken- Lemons and Laughs




Mozzarella Stuffed Garlic Rolls- Cooking from a Stay at Home Mom




Chile Con Queso- Who Needs a Cape?




Eat Local with Sweet Grass Dairy- Simply Southern Girl




Hatch Chili Grilled Cheese- Feed Your Soul Too








Cabbage and Blue Cheese Soup- An Affair from the Heart




One Skillet Cheeseburger Helper- Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch




Cheesy Potato Pizzas- Fearless Dining 




Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon & Swiss- Hun... What's for Dinner?




Pomegranate Cheese Ball- My Family Mealtime 
















Beer Cheese Fondue- Melanie Makes








Garlic Herb Cream Cheese Dip- Cooking on a Budget








Garlic Cheese Bombs- Spend with Pennies




Crock Pot Ham & Cheese Soup- Recipes that Crock