Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Candy Cane Cookies

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! We really enjoyed getting to spend time with our families, with friends at a wedding, and even a little bit of down time for relaxing. I am planning to share a few more of our Christmas gift ideas from this year through the rest of the week, and then it will be back to more normal posting.

I wanted to share one more cookie recipe, which happens to be my favorite Christmas cookie. I have actually talked to several people about this recipe lately, so it is finally here! Just a little disclaimer - these are not the easiest cookies. My guess is that I've been making them for 20 years now, so the time and effort they take seems like second nature at this point. They are just soooo good!!

Peppermint Candy Canes

1 c. sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 c. milk
1 t. peppermint extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1 egg
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt

Mix the sugar, butter, milk, peppermint extract, vanilla extract, and egg. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Divide dough in half. Color half red (about 1/4-1/2 teasp. of food coloring) and leave half uncolored, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

It is really important to color the dough before refrigerating because the dough is very stiff when its cold...in fact it is kind of like this:

And it takes a really long time to mix in the color, though eventually it will work.

After 4 hours, break off some of each color dough. I use about a handful, which is around 1/3 of the dough of each color. Roll each out into a long rope, about as thick as a finger.

Use just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. I try to work fast because the dough will get sticky as it warms.

Place the ropes next to each other and cut into about 4 inch lengths.

Grasp each end of a cut section in either hand and twist a few times. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and curl one end so that the dough resembles a candy cane. Garnish with colored sugar or candy pieces. I found these peppermint flavored candy canes that are perfect:

Bake for 9-12 minutes. Mine are usually done after 9, though they could go another minutes or two depending on how thick you rolled out the dough.

Usually I get the dough divided pretty evenly, but this time I had a little too much red....it still tasted amazing though.

These cookies turn out soooo soft and chewy. They pull apart and are just slightly golden around the edges when they are done.

They are irresistible...at least my daughter thinks so!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Food waste Friday

This week we wasted a little bit of bread and a whole lot of yogurt :-( We had just opened this jar for a snack one night, and then I found it still on the kitchen counter the last morning...

Only one week until Christmas!
And remember to check out The Frugal Girl.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Free Olay Lotion after rebate

Here is a great offer from Olay: you can get 2 bottles of their new Quench Body Lotion! Use the rebate form found here. Purchases must be made between December 10, 2009 and January 29, 2010 and rebate must be postmarked by February 12, 2010.
If you are submitting for 2 rebates, you must send for them together.

There are a few coupons for this lotion in magazines, which could turn this into a money-maker. Check out Common Sense with Money to see the list.

I think lotion like this makes a great gift (since we are in the middle of my thrifty Christmas series)...it would look great in a with some bubble bath and a sponge in a little basket!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thrifty Christmas: Part 3

We got our tree on Saturday, and it turned out to be a really great deal!

We really like cutting the tree down ourselves, but with an 11 month old in tow, we decided to check out the fresh cut trees at Willey's first, especially because I had a $5 off coupon. (the $5 coupon is in the newest Clipper Magazine that came in the Thursday mail circulars)

Most of their trees were at least $50, which is more than the cut your own variety, so we were not that impressed. All of the sudden, this guy who works there came up to us while we were looking at a tree with no price tag...

"This tree $40 but I give you special price, $30."

We looked it over really hard, trying to figure our what was wrong with it that they were trying to get rid of the tree! We couldn't find anything wrong, so it came home with us! It turned out to be $29, and then $24 after the coupon.

And we think it looks great.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Food Waste Friday

I am posting late again about our waste for the week because Friday turned out to be way too eventful. We woke up to discover that the house temperature was hovering between 58 and 60 degrees. We do keep it cool, but not that cool! The heat would run for about 5 minutes and then shut off. So it ran enough to keep it warm enough to not freeze, but something was wrong for sure.

I called the builder since our house is new, and they came out to have a look. Just as the builder pulled up, the company that installed and maintains our heater came to do a job next door. Talk about providential. They came and looked at the heat for hours (literally, it was most of the morning) and could not find anything wrong with it. They had to leave to go to another job, but when they came back the heat was working like normal. So we don't know exactly what was wrong, though they think it may have had to do with the strong wind. Everything has been fine since Friday afternoon, so we'll just pray that it stays fixed!

On to the food waste. We actually did really well - only a little bit of salad to throw out. And because of the craziness of Friday, I do not have a picture!

Remember to check out others who are working to eliminate their waste at The Frugal Girl.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thrifty Christmas: Part 2

Homemade Christmas cookies were one of my favorite Christmas traditions growing up. My mom taught me and my sisters how to bake with her from when we were very little, and we turned out to be pretty good at making cookies!

I will be sharing some of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes (most likely as I make my own this year). The first one that I made this year was Molasses Sugar Cookies. These are one of my favorites! They turn out chewy (which is a must for me - I really do not like crunchy cookies) and moist and taste very old-fashioned.

Cookie tins are a great way to package cookies as a gift. I have bought many of my cookie tins from JoAnn's for very reasonable prices (at least 1/2 price) in many different sizes and designs. I have also seen cute cookie tins at different drug stores.

2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. unsulfered molasses
1 egg

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in sugar, molasses, and egg. Beat with a wooden spoon. Beat in the dry ingredients until well combined. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls.

Roll in sugar (I colored mine green)

Place on greased cookie sheets

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 8-10 minutes

Allow to cool for about 1 minute on the cookie sheet so they are easier to remove. Cool completely on a wire rack...but make sure that you eat at least one while they are still warm!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thrifty Christmas: Part 1

One of the best gifts that I enjoy both giving and receiving is food! Specialty food stores (like Harry & David) sell elegant and creative food, especially during this time of year. But the price tag - yikes - is usually really high. So I enjoy going in stores like that and getting ideas of things that I could recreate.
I've found several books to be really helpful in coming up with creative ideas for food gifts. Written by Lonnette Parks, there are several Mason Jar Cookbooks: Cookies, Dessert, and Soup to Nuts. These books are reasonably priced on Amazon (especially if you have been saving up Swagbucks to redeem for Amazon gift cards!) but I have actually gotten these from my local public library. I had to request them from another branch, but they came quickly.

There are also TONS of websites with similar recipes. Check out RecipeLink and DoIt101 for some examples. I cannot vouch for any of the recipes on the websites; I have only used the physical cookbooks.

Mason Jars are so classy looking, especially when tied up with a nice piece of cloth and ribbon. This year I went for a different look by using clear plastic gift bags with Christmas themes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas time is here

I am planning to post about some of our homemade and thrifty Christmas gift ideas over the next few weeks, so this is a warning to any family members -- you may want to avert your eyes or you may see something you should not see yet!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Granola Recipe

We love granola, especially with homemade yogurt. There are TONS of recipes for granola out there. The recipe I use to make our granola is adapted from Miserly Moms.

5 cups quick oats
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. concentrated apple juice
1/2 c. dry milk powder
1/3 c. honey
a dash of cinnamon (the original recipe called for 2 T. but I found that was WAAAAY too much!)
1/2 t. salt

sunflower/pumpkin seeds, almonds, banana chips, other nuts or fruit

In a small saucepan, heat sugar, juice, dry milk, and honey

Until it looks like this:

Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl

Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix until combined. Spread the mixture onto a greased baking sheet (I use 2 large sheets)

Bake at 300 for 40 minutes, stir every 10-15 min.

When the granola is done it will be crunchy!
The granola drys out quicker on the outside, so when I stir I try to move some of the inside to the outside so that it drys evenly. The stirring does break the granola up so that you do not have a lot of chunks, but if you stir gently some will still stick together.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Edited on 12/7....I missed half of a very green bagel and a little bit of apple cider that I bought for super cheap because it was nearly past the sell by date. Maybe next week will be a real 'no waste'!

Nothing to throw out today!

Read more about Food Waste Friday at The Frugal Girl!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free Christmas Music

Did you know there are TONS of free mp3 downloads available on Amazon?

Starting today, December 1st, everyday until Christmas you can download a free Christmas mp3. Today's download is "Joy to the World" by Casting Crowns!

There are also 2 sampler albums of Christmas music you can get for free: Sampler Claus (7 songs) and Classical Christmas (5 songs).

Also check out the entire mp3 library. Sort by price and you will see many, many songs that are free!

Remember that if you are buying music through iTunes, you can shop using Swagbucks and earn 1 SB for every $5 you spend. Swagbucks will keep track of what you spend, so the first time you buy a $9.99 album you only get 1 SB, but the second time you will get 2 (because you have now spent $19.98) and so on.
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