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Kraft Cookie Bag (A Gift Idea)

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June 2014 013

I’m always on the lookout for cute packaging ideas that don’t break the bank.  I found this idea in Picture Perfect Parties, which is a gem.  It’s loaded with lots of creative and fun party food and presentation ideas.

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The idea in the book was to hold olives inside the bag with a plastic liner, but I immediately decided the bag would be perfect as a vessel for homemade cookies and muffins.  I can just drop them off, and the recipient can recycle the bag – no storage issue for either one of us!

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And because I’m crazy about protecting my baked goods, I just layered plastic wrap sheets on top – you could also use parchment.  So get yourselves some Kraft paper bags with handles – like these, and just cut off the top near the handles and roll down the rim of the bags.  Fill with baked cookies or muffins and you’re done!

The cookies shown above are Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and the Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you have time, you can also swipe on two coats of chalkboard paint (dry between coats) and label your goodies with a liquid chalk pen.

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Walmart Pickup Grocery

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So let’s get this out of the way first. My husband works for the Walmart Home Office, but I’m just a customer and an equal opportunity shopper.  I wasn’t compensated for this post, or even remotely asked to give my opinion in any way whatsoever – which makes it way more fun to give my opinion!.

Anywho, let’s talk about this new Walmart Pickup Grocery – it’s a whole new store.  It’s smaller than a Neighborhood Market and it has covered parking for pickups.  And I suppose I can’t really talk about it without telling you that I live in Walmart country – that is Bentonville AR.  So this new model is actually being tested out here (in Walmart’s backyard – figuratively speaking) and hopefully will be coming soon to a location near you!

So, why am I telling you about it when you don’t even have one yet? Because I love it. Love it.  Love it.  And I want you to jump for joy and yell into the heavens when you get one!  Because I believe everyone could benefit from this service – new moms, working parents, singles, sick people, etc.  And there’s no charge for picking up your groceries – it’s free!

It takes no time at all to set up an account, plus if you already have a Walmart.com account you can use it to login – easy peasy. Then you can shop the categories, or simply type in the item you’re looking for, and add it to your cart.  If you don’t have time to finish the process in one sitting, no problem!  The site saves your cart for you.

It literally took 5 minutes from checking in to get my groceries loaded into the back of my car.  I’ve been twice, and even though I was hesitant I bought some fresh produce and it was fresh, minus one bell pepper that was a little older than I would have normally chosen.  However, I recognize that I’m really picky about produce.  I get it, everyone’s got their thing, and that’s mine.

My order was correct both times, and I felt like I was cheating.  You know, because I didn’t have to suffer through shopping for all the groceries.  It was liberating, and I was giddy like a school girl.

So happy that I announced to my 4 year old that “I’m so happy right now I could kiss that guy (loading my groceries)!”  To which she appropriately replied “maybe you can ask him on a date.”  Well, that’s not exactly where my thought train was going, but I suppose asking the guy on a date would make more sense than just walking up and kissing him.  First things first – which makes complete sense if it weren’t just an expression.

So, if you live in Bentonville, or in the surrounding towns, sign up for an invitation to be sent to you when this service goes live.  Which I heard was September 29th, 2014.  Don’t blame me if you’re suddenly overwhelmed with indescribable happiness and want to kiss someone too.  Your secret’s safe with me.

Also, if you don’t happen to live near Bentonville, stop by the site and type in your zip code and email so that an update can be sent to you when one opens up in your area.

Salmon Spread

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Peach Crisp 041My dad travels to Alaska every summer, and sometimes, my husband is lucky enough to travel with him and go deep sea fishing.  Needless to say, when that happens my freezer is overflowing with Salmon and Halibut.

It’s been awhile since my husband has been fishing and we’re out of Halibut, but we’re still working on the Salmon.  I think it’s been 4 years.  Ahem.  Anywho, this is an appetizer that my dad has been serving for the last 15 years.

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Isn’t it beautiful?!  Why is pink such an appetizing color?

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Anyway, this is another great way to stretch your seafood.  Instead of serving fish for a dinner party, serve this luscious appetizer before.  It’s more economical that way and it tastes great.  Don’t forget the capers, because they complete this dish.

Salmon Spread Adapted from my dad

8 ounces Salmon, poached (about 10 minutes in boiling water)

1 – 8 ounce block of cream cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons horseradish

1/3 cup of chopped onions

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped

1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (if desired)

jar of capers

assorted crackers

Poach the salmon, then debone and place it in a large mixing bowl.  Add the cream cheese and mash the fish and the cream cheese together – you could also use a hand mixer.  Then add the salt, horseradish, onion, and lemon juice – mix until combined.

Scoop the mixture onto a sheet of wax paper and form into a roll, then wrap tightly in foil.  Refrigerate overnight.  Unwrap the salmon and roll it gently in the fresh herbs and nuts (if using) and place it on a serving platter.

Serve with capers and assorted crackers.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

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September 2014 038I’ve made this coffee cake no less than 5 times in the last few months.  It’s fast, easy, and decadent!  The last time I made it I used a 9 x 13 pan and my husband thought that I had made a pan of cinnamon rolls.  I guess from all the yummy cinnamon and icing.  Who knows!

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So I guess it goes without saying, if you don’t have time to make cinnamon rolls, make this coffee cake instead – everyone will love you for it!

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake Adapted from Lil Luna

1 cup canola oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whole milk

1 cup sugar

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Streusel Topping

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 Tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, vanilla, and milk until combined.

Whisk in the baking powder and salt, then stir in the flour until combined.  Pour half of the batter into the baking dish.

Make the streusel by combining the softened butter with the cinnamon, flour, and brown sugar – I use a fork for this.  Mix until combined.  Sprinkle half of the streusel on top of the cake batter.

Then spoon on the remaining batter, covering as much of the streusel layer as possible.  Next, sprinkle on the remaining streusel.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool, and drizzle with icing (if desired).

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tablespoons milk

Whisk until combined and the icing is thick, but pourable.  Add more sugar/milk as needed for desired consistency.

Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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If you’re wondering – it’s the chocolate that makes these cookies special.  I prefer to use Guittard Semisweet Wafers.  I know that it seems like a specialty ingredient that’s hard to find, but I figure if I live in a town of 40,000 people and have access to them – you might just have a shot at finding them where you live!  Mine are sold at The Fresh Market in the baking section, and they’re also sold online.

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While these cookies are thin – they’re still soft and chewy.  They are a little tricky to remove from the parchment because of the surface area of the melted chocolate.  To help this along, place a metal cookie sheet in the freezer (before making these) and take it out after the cookies have cooled a bit, and slide the sheet of parchment (with the baked cookies on it) onto the frozen baking sheet and let set for a few minutes.  Carefully peel off the cookies, or use a spatula.

Moist Chocolate Chunk Cookies Adapted from Sweet Alchemy

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ heaping cup dark brown sugar, packed

½ heaping cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups chocolate wafers, divided

1 teaspoon Maldon salt, crushed

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugars until creamy.  Add the eggs and beat until combined. Stir in the vanilla, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt.

Add the flour and stir until combined.  Stir in 1 cup of chocolate.  Then scoop (using a #40 scoop) cookie dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

Using the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate, place a chocolate wafer on top of the cookie dough scoops and sprinkle one or two flecks of salt on top of each.

Bake for 5 minutes, rotate pan and bake for another 5 minutes.

Take the cookies out of the oven and slap pan on the counter to knock out air.  Slide parchment off of the baking sheet and let cookies cool for at least 30 minutes before trying to move them.

I prefer to let the cookies set on the parchment for at least a few hours to let the chocolate set up – otherwise, it can get messy!  If you can’t wait that long, try the frozen cookie sheet method notated above.

Glazed Almond Pound Cake

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September 2014 064

I love almond – it just tastes good!  So when I happened upon this recipe, I just had to try it!  I mean, anything will almond flavoring has to be good – right?!

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This recipe did not disappoint!  I would say that any leftovers last for 3 to 4 days, covered.  If your cake starts to turn stale, you can crumble it into crumbs and place them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer to use as a muffin topping.

Glazed Almond Pound Cake Adapted from Noble Pig

3 cups cake flour

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup canola oil

5 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 Tablespoon pure almond extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped – set aside

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a tube pan with nonstick spray and lightly dust with cake flour – set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk cake flour, baking powder, and salt together – set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, oil, and sugar with electric beaters for 3 minutes.  Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until combined.  Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat, then add 1/4 cup of buttermilk – beating until combined.  Repeat adding another 1/3 of the flour and the remaining buttermilk and beat.  Add the remaining flour and beat until just combined.

Fold the whipped heavy cream into the batter until there are no streaks of cream remaining.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then loosen the side of the cake from the pan using a nylon scraper.  Turn the cake over onto a wire rack to cool for about 1 hour.

Invert and top with almond glaze.

Almond Glaze Adapted from Noble Pig

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tablespoons milk (more or less as needed to get glaze to a thick pouring consistency)

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl.

 

 

Fishing Party Favors

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September 2014 023We celebrated another fishing birthday party this past weekend – minus the fishing, we were rained out!  No worries, the birthday boy received a skateboard and has spent his free time mastering that.

These party favors were originally supposed to say “Bait Bucket” and have gummy worms inside, but the birthday boy changed his mind on me and wanted assorted gummy fish.  Being all “Semper Gumby” and all, I switched up the bucket to say “Catch of the Day!” and filled them with the fish.

These cute little buckets were actually found at Walmart in their party section for 97 cents each.  I had previously purchased the chalkboard tags at Target in their $1 section, and I used treat bags (also found at Walmart – this time in the cake decorating section with the Wilton frosting bags – not the cake mix aisle).

The gummies were purchased from bulk bins at The Fresh Market.  All in all, as easy (and reasonable) party favor!

I wrote on the chalkboard labels with a Bistro Chalkboard Marker I bought at Hobby Lobby.  The best part about the markers is that with a wet/damp cloth the chalk comes off.

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Here are the party cupcakes.  They’re both chocolate, the one above has a goldfish and little white chocolate rice balls.

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This one is simply topped with confetti sprinkles and a gummy shark.  Sometimes simple (and easy) is best!

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