A Treat for Santa

A Treat for Santa

I don’t know about you but this is my absolute, favorite time of year! It’s so happy and joyful! It’s the one time of year that my family and I are in the kitchen baking together. As you know, I have a sweet tooth (or perhaps 30 sweet teeth). The treats we make in the kitchen range from candy, cookies, pastries, and cakes. Every year I try to find a new recipe to try, one that Santa might like! This year I have decided on peppermint cupcakes with classic vanilla frosting.

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Looks good, right?! Anyway, this is a really simple recipe that looks so beautiful for Christmas! The cake is made from the Betty Crocker white cake mix. This cake mix is so light and fluffy and just plain good! Once I made the batter, I divided the cake in half and dyed one half red and left the other white. I used a cupcake scoop (three tablespoon scoop) and picked up half in white and half in red and poured the batter in each cupcake liner. Then with a toothpick, I marbled the two colors. Here is the complete recipe from the Betty Crocker website:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/swirled-candy-cane-cupcakes/b255e388-ed5b-4eae-bb0b-923729e05992#!

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Now for the frosting! I used the delicious Sprinkles vanilla buttercream frosting: http://www.food.com/recipe/vanilla-buttercream-frosting-from-sprinkles-cupcakes-222188. This is my favorite vanilla buttercream! This recipe says that it only makes enough frosting for twelve standard cupcakes. However, I was able to pipe 24 cupcakes, but I didn’t use a lot of frosting. Buttercream is a very sweet frosting and too much of it can be overwhelming. Also, you don’t want to lose that peppermint taste in the cake. Finally, I sprinkled the top with crushed, soft peppermint sticks. Trust me, these cupcakes are delicious!

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You might have noticed that I double line my cupcakes. This is a personal preference, but I like to do this (especially with chocolate cake) because the cake can sometime make the liners greasy or they can lose the vibrant colors and decorations. When you double line them, the outer liner stays bright and beautiful. You can also do this by using a white liner to bake with and set the cupcake in a decorative liner later.

For this post, I took some decorating ideas from this lovely blog I found that shared the Candy Land Christmas Party. This is an amazing set up! I decided to make the oversized candy frame and build an easy cake stand.

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The oversized candy picture is made my painting an 11 x 14 inch frame white. Then I covered the glass in a red and white polka dot scrapbook paper. The lollipops are made with two round styrofoam pieces (get them at the Dollar Tree at 2 for a $1). Cover the front of the styrofoam with red felt and then cut out spirals from white felt. Glue these on. Then with clear cellophane, cover the lollipops and tie with red ribbon.

The cake stand is really simple! Depending on how high you want it to stand, find a candle holder (pillar stands work best). Using a hot glue gun, glue the candle holder to a round stove top burner cover. Once the glue is completely dry, paint the entire stand your desired color. Then you can take any ribbon you like and glue it to the edge of the burner cover. I used a red lacy ribbon. I think it looks best for this theme.

It really is a lot of fun to put this altogether. I hope that these ideas inspire you to get your family and friends in the kitchen to bake and celebrate another year. Now I’m going to pop in “Elf,” “Polar Bear Express,” and “The Little Drummer Boy” and have myself a Christmas movie marathon as I satisfy my sweet craving!

If you have any of your own holiday traditions or ideas, please share them in the comments!

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Decorating for Thanksgiving

            Are you looking for some Thanksgiving inspired decorating ideas? I know I’ve always had a hard time figuring out just how to decorate for this holiday. Sure, it might seem simple enough, leaves, pumpkins, and cornucopias, but I’ve never really known how to put it all together. So, I’ve searched the internet for some beautiful and classic decorating ideas to help you get into this holiday spirit!

Fall Hurricane Vase 

Candle Vase

http://www.amandajanebrown.com/2011/09/fall-decorating-with-hurricane-vases.html

Candles always add a note of elegance to any celebration. Placing holiday scented pillar candles in these decorated vases gives you a simple yet beautiful centerpiece to your Thanksgiving table. If you really like this idea, you can also use three tiered vases and create a small pool of autumn leaves or flowers to set them on.

The Thankful Tree

thanks tree

http://www.simplyvintagegirl.com/blog/?s=the+thankful+tree&x=12&y=15

I love this idea! It is so simple and unique! This is the first time I have seen this idea and I hope to do it for this Thanksgiving. It is, as the title says, a tree of thanks. After all, that is what Thanksgiving is all about. All your family and friends can write what they are thankful for on a piece of chip wood and hang it on the tree.

Fall Mantle

Fall-Mantel

http://myblessedlife.net/2012/09/fall-mantel.html

What a gorgeous idea, right? Unfortunately, I don’t have a mantle place, but each element can be separated or moved to fit your home. The banner would look perfect above a picture window. And that basket of pumpkins, how much easier could it be?

Pumpkin Floral Arrangement

floral arrangement

http://www.countryliving.com/crafts/projects/fresh-pumpkin-centerpiece

I can admit, I have never been good at arranging flowers, but this centerpiece is just lovely! The creator of this piece gives directions using a real pumpkin and flowers. This makes for a very elegant centerpiece. However, you can create a similar piece by using an artificial pumpkin you can get at craft stores and silk flowers. This way you don’t have to spend a small fortune on real flowers.

Don’t forget the kids!

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http://thefrugalhomemaker.com/2012/11/14/20-thanksgiving-kids-table-ideas/

If this isn’t the cutest Thanksgiving kids table, well, I don’t know what is! Where was this when I was a kid? “The Frugal Homemaker” has some adorable and fun ideas for the kids this holiday. If you’re planning on having lots of kids over for your Thanksgiving dinner, check out this blog. She offers ideas on crafts, coloring placemats, and desserts!

I hope this has helped you with your Thanksgiving holiday or at least given you some new decorating ideas! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go find this kids’ table and get a head start on coloring my own turkey placemat.

A Thanksgiving Treat

A Thanksgiving Treat

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I have been dying to share this treat with you! As you can probably tell, I have a sweet tooth and a crazy addiction for chocolate – but come on, who doesn’t? Anyway, I’ll be making these for my family on Thanksgiving. After a delicious turkey dinner, something sweet to finish the night is the perfect ending to a fun day with family and friends.

Now this recipe comes from three different recipes. I usually like to have at least two flavors in my cupcakes, in this case, dark chocolate and caramel. This way, there is no flavor that is too over powering but instead a lovely mixture. I’ve tried several different dark chocolate cake recipes, but this one is my favorite! It gives you just enough bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the dulce de leche caramel frosting. My mouth is watering just describing it to you!

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Dark Chocolate Cupcake

(credits to: http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2013/06/chocolate-cupcake-recipe-the-ultimate-chocolate-cupcake-test-baked-by-50-bakers-and-counting.html)

Ingredients:

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 ounces of your favorite chocolate (except white chocolate, candy melts, flavored, or contain mix-ins)

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 large egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/3 cup full-fat sour cream (don’t leave this out, it makes the cake moist)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup brewed strong coffee or espresso, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until fully combined. The end result should look like wet sand.
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler.
  4. Once the melted chocolate is cool enough to touch, add it to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until just combined.
  5. Mix in eggs and egg yolks one at a time until just combined.
  6. Mix in oil, vanilla, and sour cream until just combined.
  7. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder into a separate medium-sized bowl.
  8. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition.
  9. Mix in coffee until just combined.
  10. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and put in the oven.
  11. Check for doneness at 18 minutes – a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake should come out clean. If they are not done, check again every three minutes until they are done.
  12. Immediately remove cupcakes from the cupcake tin and place on a cooling rack or on the counter to cool to room temperature.
  13. If you would like to add a filling, cut out a small portion in the center of the cupcake. Fill with a teaspoon of caramel and replace the center.
  14. Pipe caramel frosting on top of cupcakes with an extra large round pastry tip, and sprinkle on the sea salt just before serving. If you leave the salt on for too long, it will dissolve into the frosting.

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Salted Caramel Frosting

(credits to: http://tidymom.net/2012/salted-caramel-cupcakes/)

Ingredients:

1 block cream cheese, 8 oz, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup Nestle la lechera dulce de leche caramel (if you can’t find this, caramel ice cream topping works)

7-8 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted

Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and blend slightly. Add cream cheese and blend until combined, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the caramel and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Slowly add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and blend on low speed until combined and desired consistency (you want your frosting pretty thick). I used about 7 cups in all.
  4. Increase to medium speed and beat until it begins to get fluffy and can hold its shape.

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Optional Caramel Filling

Link: http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2010/05/triple-salted-caramel-cupcakes.html

This filling is delicious! It really adds a complementary flavor and texture to the cupcakes. It has a little saltiness to break up the sweet frosting. If you decide to add this to your cupcakes, it only fills about 12 standard cupcakes. So, you may need to make two batches, do not try to double up on the recipe, this can change the flavor of the caramel.

As a side note when making this recipe: Once the sugar is melted, it does not take long to turn a deep amber color. Do NOT leave the sugar cooking on the stove; it burns VERY easily.DSCN2339

There you have it, a delicious treat to finish off your Thanksgiving dinner. Let me know how your cupcakes come out, and if you have any great recipes, share them in the comments!

*All pictures are taken by me.

Football anyone?

Football anyone?

Who’s ready for some football? My mom and I are Broncos fans, so we’ve been watching every game this season. They are doing fantastic with a 7-2 standing! After a long week at school of studying, writing essays, and taking tests, one thing I look forward to is watching my team and snacking on my favorite foods!  Well, today I’m going to show you some fun and easy football party ideas.

DSCN2299Chips and dip are great to have out at all times during game time. In my family, we are usually really excited at the beginning and end of games. It’s about the second quarter where we get the good stuff out – hot wings, sliders, and French fries! Then by fourth quarter, we have dessert!

Football Foods

1. The Best Hot Wings EVER!!!

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2. Pork Sliders

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3. Homemade French Fries

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4. Guacamole and chips

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5. Football cake pops (http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2013/03/how-to-make-cake-pops/)

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Following this recipe, you can also buy different colored Candy Melts to match the color of your favorite team! Mine are blue and orange. To make the stringy decorations, I melted the Candy Melts and placed into a piping bag. Cut a tiny hole and quickly drizzle over the cake pops.

 6. Chocolate covered strawberries (http://domesticfits.com/2012/01/16/superbowl-snack-chocolate-covered-strawberry-footballs/)

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You can also do these with brown and white Candy Melts.

7. Strawberry Margarita Punch (http://www.celebrations.com/c/recipe/strawberry-margarita-punch)

Just delicious!

Football Party Decorations

1. Flag banner

This is a really simple banner that you can make to customize your football party! Of course, my colors were blue and orange. Start with 10 total pages of felt – in my case, 5 blue and 5 orange. Depending on how long you want to make the banner, cut out about 24 triangles (you should be able to make three triangles from each page). Glue these triangles to jute cord of an appropriate length. Once dry, use the remaining felt to cut out letter or other decorations for your banner.

2. Table covering

A creative way to cover your table is to imitate the football field! Take a green plastic table cloth (can be found at the dollar store) and using white electrical tape you can make the yard lines. It is much easier to have some help as you lay down the tape. Have one person hold the table cloth tight as you lay down the tape straight and even.

3. Referee backdrop

It is always nice to have a backdrop to your food table. In this case, I decided to use the referee shirt as inspiration. Again, I used plastic table cloths (available at the dollar store) in white and black. Hang the white table cloth centered behind the food table. Cut the black table cloth 6-inch wide strips. Hang these strips evenly on top of the white table cloth so they alternate from black to white to black to white.

I hope you like these recipes and ideas. Those chocolate covered strawberries look too good. In fact, I think I’ll go have some now! If you have any favorite foods or decoration ideas, I’d love to hear about them! Leave them in the comments to share.

 

*All pictures taken by me. Recipe cards are from my own personal recipes and linked in image and pdf format.

Candy Bar

Candy Bar

A bar for everyone, and any theme

You cannot go wrong with candy! Sure, it’s usually just for kids’ parties while adults are stuck with Jordan Almonds, but here is a way to give all your guests what they really want, the-good-stuff!

Candy bars (or candy buffets) have recently become more popular at parties. One of the great perks is the huge variety of candy available. You can easily match your candy bar to your color themes. I built one for my sister’s wedding shower, and let me just say, it was a BIG hit!

The first step to a candy bar is to start buying jars to fill with candy. There are tons of shapes and sizes. Glass always looks beautiful, but they are also more costly, so don’t be afraid to go with plastic. Also, when you’re buying jars, think of places you may not usually go. Thrift stores are great places to look for these jars. That’s where I found most of mine.

Since the wedding shower that I planned was less conventional (adults and kids were there), I decided to go with a more “playful” theme and color scheme. However, simply switch out the candy and change the awning colors and you’ve got a completely new theme. Now, I’m not going to lie, they can be a little bit of work, but with the right planning, you can do this too!

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Building the Frame:

The awning frame is the hardest part. However, it is not at all necessary. Candy bars can be just as lovely without them. If you aren’t a “builder” and don’t have the tools, don’t stress about this part. Or, you can always ask a friend or family member to help you build it.

Tools:

5 wood planks (studs); 1.5 x 2.5 in., 96 in.

14 wood screws; flat head, coarse thread, at least 3.5 in. long

electric drill and drill bits

white paint (or desired color)

dry wall spackle

sandpaper

Directions:

1. Before you leave the hardware store (Home Depot), have them cut your lumber. You can do this yourself if you have the tools, but it’s easier to have it done at the store. These are the measurements: (2) 38 in., (2) 33 in., (2) 25 in., (2) 28 in., (3) 64 in. In total, you should have 11 pieces of lumber.

2. Once you have your cut lumber, begin drilling the holes for the screws. Be precise and accurate or your frame may be crooked. Remember: measure twice, cut once (or in this case, drill once).

3. Follow these pictures to assemble the frame.

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Assemble TWO side panels using: 38 in., 33 in., 25 in., and 28 in. pieces of lumber. Screw each piece into place.
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Stand up the assembled side panels and screw two 64 in. pieces of lumber into place.
Attach the last 64 in. piece onto the frame.

4. Your final frame should look like this.

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5. Once the frame is assembled, cover the screws with drywall spackle and sand down any rough patches.

6. Finally, paint the frame your desired color.

Awning:

Not quite done yet. You have to make the awning now! There are many ways to do this part – use one color, two colors, a pattered fabric, or just buy a pre-made awning (although these can be expensive).

Tools:

2 yards red material

2 yards white material

ruler

white thread

sewing machine

fusible tape (Jo-ann’s)

Directions:

1. Lay out your material and cut 7 strips of red material – 6 inches wide x 35 inches long

2. Do the same thing with your white material.

3. Sew the strips together, lengthwise, alternating colors (ie. red, white, red, white). Only sew 1/2 inch on each end so the finished side of the awning will have 5 inch wide strips. Leave 3 inches at the end, un-sewn. This will be the beveled edge.

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4. An easy way to bevel the edges is to use fusible tape. On each strip, turn in the corners about 1/3 of the way in on each side – glue them down. Then fold up the bottom about 1/3 of the way up – glue it down. Do this to each strip and your awning is beveled. This picture should give you an idea of how it should look on the back.

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5. Iron it flat and attach to your frame using a staple gun, Velcro, or adhesive tape (be sure it can stick to fabric and wood).

The FUN part

Now that you have the hard part done, you can start setting it up! One useful tip is adding risers. These can be anything from boxes to dictionaries. Place them under the tablecloth and adjust. These risers give levels to your candy bar, and it allows easier access to the candy as well, especially if you have a lot of jars.

 

The final step is adding the candy and admiring all your hard work!

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Note: When I set up this candy bar, I did not add risers due to a time constraint. However, as you can see, having levels would add even more appeal to this space.

Alternatives:

If you don’t want to do the awning, a great way to add some flair is setting the table up against a backdrop or a wall. If it is against a wall, you can add a classy, framed sign or hang some decorations.

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More Fun:

Check out these great blogs that go step by step into planning a candy buffet!

http://blog.hwtm.com/2013/10/how-to-set-up-a-candy-buffet-step-by-step-instructions/ (She offers some really great advice on setting up a candy buffet. However, as a warning, the example used is beautiful, but incredibly expensive. There is no need to spend over $1000 on a candy buffet.)

http://seshalynspartyideas.com/how-to-set-up-your-own-candy-buffet/ (She has some great links to online candy stores!)

As usual, please leave comments below! Let me know how your candy buffet comes out! Also, if you have any questions about this post, or any others, feel free to send me a message.

 

 

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos

Do you have a skeleton in your closet? Well I certainly do, and lots of them!

Okay, okay, so this holiday isn’t exactly about our hidden skeletons. In fact, Dia de los Muertos is a traditional holiday that originated in Mexico. It is an important holiday to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have past. In the United States, it has become very popular. While we don’t celebrate it in the same traditional sense, it is still a time for families and friends to come together and talk, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company – a time to celebrate life!

The holiday falls on November 1st and 2nd and is celebrated with some traditional desserts. Whether you want to throw a big party or have some relaxing time to yourself, I am going to share with you two of my favorite traditional recipes that are best enjoyed together: Chocolate Mexicano con Pan de los Muertos (Mexican hot chocolate with bread of the dead).

 

Chocolate Mexicano

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 cups milk,

3 oz. of Mexican spiced chocolate

OR (if you don’t want to use Mexican spiced chocolate)

3 oz. semisweet chocolate,

2 tbsp. sugar,

½ tsp. cinnamon,

¼ tsp. vanilla extract

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Directions:

1. Put everything into a saucepan (large enough to hold about 6 cups of liquid) and place over a medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil.

2. Once the chocolate is softened, beat the mixture with a hand beater. Do this until the mixture is well blended and it has stopped boiling. If you don’t have a hand mixer, a whisk will work too. It might just take a bit longer.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil for a second time. Once it starts to boil, beat the mixture again for about 1 minute.

4. Next, bring the mixture to a boil for a third time. In this step, you will want to beat it and beat it until you’ve created as much foam as you can, or at least as much as you want – I like a lot! This is the part where a hand blender is easier to use; a whisk may not create as much foam.

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5. Finally, pour your delicious hot chocolate into cups and tell your guests this is your own secret recipe!

Note: If you aren’t watching the milk mixture, it can boil over very easily.

Also, the traditional recipe uses 3 oz. of Mexican spiced chocolate. While still delicious, you cannot get quite the same flavor if you use the substitutions.

 

Pan de los Muertos

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1 cup milk,

½ cup butter, softened,

½ cup sugar,

1½ tsp. salt,

1 tsp. finely grated orange peel (about half an orange),

½ tsp. anise seeds, grounded,

1 tbsp. active dry yeast,

Pinch of sugar,

¼ cup of warm water,

2 whole eggs,

3 egg yolks,

1 tsp. water,

About 5½ cups all-purpose flour,

about 2 tbsp. sugar (or to taste),

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1.  Scald the milk, about 180°F. In a large bowl, pour this over the butter, ½ cup sugar, salt, orange peel, and ground anise seeds. Stir this mixture until the sugar is dissolved and let it cool.

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2. Stir the yeast and pinch of sugar into the ¼ cup of warm water. Let this sit until the yeast is softened.

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3. Beat the whole eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl. Save two tablespoons of the beaten eggs into another small bowl and add 1 tsp water, place in refrigerator.  This will be used for a glaze.

4. Mix the yeast and remaining beaten eggs into the milk mixture. Then mix in enough flour (about 5 cups) to make a stiff dough.

5. This is the tough step! Knead this dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and elastic. This will take at least 10 minutes – you will feel like your arms are ready to fall off (I’m not kidding!) Add more flour as needed – about an extra 1/2 cup.

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6. Grease a large bowl (about 3 times bigger than the dough) using butter, shortening, or cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it, making sure to grease all sides. This will keep the dough from forming a dry crust.

7. Cover the dough with a clean, dry towel and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This will take about 1 hour.

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8. Punch down the dough (essentially, you are deflating the dough by punching it) and knead it for a few minutes. Set it aside as you grease two baking sheets. Then, evenly divide the dough into two loaves. Take off about 1/3 of a cup from each loaf for decorations.

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9. Shape each of the large pieces of dough into smooth, round loaves. Place on the baking sheets and brush them with the egg mixture you saved.

10. With the remaining pieces of dough, decorate the loaves. “Cross bones” are the traditional shapes.

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11. Cover these loaves with a clean, dry towel and let it rest in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This will take about 45 minutes. As you wait, preheat the oven to 350°F.

12. Once the bread has risen, brush the loaves with the remaining egg mixture and sprinkle each loaf with sugar (amount depends on your sweet tooth). Bake the loaves for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Let the bread cool (although, I like warm bread). Serve this with your hot chocolate and celebrate Dia de los Muertos!

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Let me know how yours comes out. Feel free to leave comments or questions below!

 

For some other great ideas for Dia de los Muertos, check out these blogs!

 

*All pictures are taken by me.

A Chilling Party

A Chilling Party

Welcome all, to my Halloween party! Find your scariest costume and join me in a peek through this macabre themed festivity. All are invited from the living to the dead.

Halloween invitation

Everyone loves a spooky Halloween party, but who wants to pay the price for decorations you could easily make yourself? Here are some great ways to take simple (and inexpensive) pieces and create your own haunting Halloween party!

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Party Highlights:

Most of these decorations are made from products that cost $1 to $5. Remember, a great party doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

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Spooky Spider Cupcakes: These creepy treats are easy to make and a perfect centerpiece for your dessert table.

Witch and Frankenstein Lollipops: Add some of these lollipops in a bowl with some floral moss and you’ve got another easy treat for your guests.

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Pickled Body Parts: These can cost you a small fortune at the store, but if you make them yourself, you can create these ghastly jars for only about $3 apiece!

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Test Tubes: For an adult party, these are great to use instead of shot glasses! They also fit in with a mad scientist theme.

Skeleton Vase: You could use this as a centerpiece for table settings, and at only $4 apiece, how can you beat that?

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Bloody Skull: Probably my favorite piece, this skull cup adds that real spooky feel to any Halloween party! Use any of your favorite red drinks (add red food coloring if you want it even darker). For the fog, put in a small chunk of dry ice. Make sure the ice is completely melted before you drink. Also, since it is frozen carbon dioxide, it will make the drink “fizzy”.

http://www.ehow.com/how_7565234_use-dry-ice-drinks.html

Leave comments and send pictures of your own Halloween party. I’d love to see them!!

Resources:

*All pictures are taken by me

Essentials to Planning a Party

 

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It’s easy to say you’ll throw a party, but when you finally get down to it, things can get very overwhelming. The best advice for party planning is to prepare well in advance and be organized. These steps may help you for your next event:

STEP 1: Pick a date and time

When you’re deciding on a date and time, keep in mind your guests. Should it be during the week or on the weekend? Will there be kids or adults?

STEP 2: Guest list

Don’t rely on memory for your guest list. Write down every person you plan on inviting (including yourself). This will allow you to keep a tentative number of people you need to feed, seat, and entertain.

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STEP 3: Find a place

Capacity: Many venues will tell you the maximum capacity, but keep in mind the amount of material (tables, chairs, decorations, etc.) that will also be filling the room. You want to give your guests plenty of space. Trust me, I’ve made this mistake!

Indoor/Outdoor: Outside events can be very beautiful, but don’t forget about weather. There is ALWAYS a possibility of rain, so be prepared with a plan B.

Heat: Being from Las Vegas, I know about the heat. Some foods spoil easily, cake frostings melt, and bugs will bother. So, plan for these issues by having the party during the coolest part of the day, keeping the food on ice, and have lots of citronella candles.

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STEP 4: Decide on a theme

          This is my favorite part of planning a party! There are ideas everywhere. Your theme will ultimately be the foundation of your decorations. Take your time on deciding. Here are some really great links to get ideas for your party:

Oriental Trading: http://www.orientaltrading.com/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/

Michaels: http://www.michaels.com/

Jo-Ann’s: http://www.joann.com/

STEP 5: BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET!

            If you don’t set a budget, you may end up spending way more money than you would have expected. Set a limit on each party element: decorations, food, venue, entertainment, etc. Here are a few budget files that may help:

Online budget calculator: http://www.partypop.com/budget-calculator

PDF: http://www.thehome.org/site/DocServer/Event_Sample_Budget.pdf

PNG: http://img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/40697938.png

PNG: http://img.docstoccdn.com/thumb/orig/70634825.png

download 

STEP 6: Invitations

Once you have completed the previous steps, you can begin making invitations.

Include: Who the party is for, the date of the event, the time, place, and a way to RSVP. You can list a phone number, email address, or provide a stamped and addressed RSVP card.

When to mail: Mail your invitations at least three weeks in advance. Allow more time if your guests will have to travel for the event. If you don’t want to hand craft your invitations, here are some great places to check out:

Vistaprint: http://www.vistaprint.com/

Winkflash: http://www.winkflash.com/photo/cards/

Costco: http://www.costcophotocenter.com/Home

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STEP 7: Decorations and entertainment

Once you’ve decided on a theme and a budget, you can start buying decorations and planning how to set up the venue. I find it helpful to make a quick outline of the space and fill it in with bubble diagram. This will give you a visual of how the room will flow. Then decide on what kind of entertainment you would like to have – music, games, etc.

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STEP 8: Food, tables, and chairs

Food – catered, homemade, or potluck: If you decide to go homemade, make sure you factor the cost of food into your budget. If you go with a potluck, make sure you add this to your invitation.

Tables and chairs: Some venues will provide these with the rental of the space. Depending on the event and theme, you may also need to get linens (tablecloths and/or chair coverings). In some cases, you may just want simple paper or plastic table coverings. In other cases, a more elegant event may need cloth linens. Be aware, sometimes it’s cheaper to just buy the linens rather than rent:

Tablecloths factory: http://www.tableclothsfactory.com/

Linen tablecloth: http://www.linentablecloth.com/

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STEP 9: Have a calendar and notebook

This is one of the best ways to stay organized. Write all over your calendar with dates and deadlines that you want to keep. A notebook is helpful to keep a guest list, complete menu, list of decorations, games, prizes, etc. It’s a way to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. 

STEP 10: Have FUN!

Finally, just have fun! Planning a party can be very stressful, but with careful planning and organization, it can be just as you pictured!