Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries

As with everything else, I put off making the chocolate covered cherries (Christmas 2013) to the last minute.  That meant we had something to do while waiting to ring in the New Year (2014).  Chocolate covered cherries are a long process and I had never made them.  Ever since I had first tasted this delectable homemade candy (30 years ago!), I was determined to give it a try.
The fondant has to be made 24 hours ahead of time so I made it a full day ahead of New Year's Eve.  The cherries had to be thoroughly dried (save a small amount of the liquid).  Then on New Year's Eve we made Seven Layer Dip (which takes four hours to chill), chilled sparkling apple cider, and settled down to video-binge a long-anticipated cable series on DVD (we don't have cable).  
I dipped the very well dried cherries in the fondant which was melted in a double boiler.  These set on wax paper for one hour.  Then I dipped them in a mixture of chocolate chips and a small amount of shortening.  This worked very well, you just have to make sure you don't overheat the chocolate.  The chocolate covered cherries sit back on the wax paper for another two hours.  
We toasted New Year's Day with sparkling apple cider and the most divine chocolate covered cherries.  Then we blasted off our fire crackers for the whole neighborhood to see (since we live in the country).
I was surprised at how many different chocolate-covered cherry recipes there are out there.  Some seemed a little less demanding than this one.  Please let me know if you try this recipe and how it turned out for you.  I would like to try other recipes for chocolate-covered cherries if you have a favorite to share.
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
Prep: 1 hour
Stand: 24 hours
Cook:  1 hour
2-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
2-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 (10-ounce) jars maraschino cherries with stems
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels
1 tablespoon shortening
  1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes to wash down sugar crystals from sides of pan.  Uncover and cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches soft ball stage or candy thermometer registers 236 degrees.  Pour mixture onto a marble slab that has been sprinkled with cold water.  (Do not scrap pan.)  Let stand 4 minutes.  ***I just used a clean kitchen counter***
  2. Using a dampened metal scraper, pull sides of mixture into center repeatedly to ensure mixture cools evenly.  When mixture develops a yellowish tinge, continue working with dampened scraper, stirring mixture in a figure-8 motion.  When mixture suddenly turns white and becomes too stiff to stir, knead with wet hands until smooth and creamy enough to form a firm ball (about 10 minutes).  Place fondant in an airtight container, and let stand in a cool place at least 24 hours before using.
  3. Drain cherries, reserving liquid; place cherries on paper towels to drain for several hours or overnight.
  4. Place fondant in top of a double boiler; melt slowly over hot (not boiling) water, stirring constantly as it begins to melt.  Stir in 1 tablespoon reserved cherry liquid.  (Fondant should have the proper consistency for dipping when candy thermometer registers about 140 degrees.  Temperature should not rise above 140 degrees.)  If mixture seems to thick for dipping at this point, stir in one more tablespoon reserved cherry liquid.  Remove pan from heat, leaving fondant over hot water.
  5. Working quickly and holding by the stem, dip each cherry into warm fondant, allowing excess to drain back into the pan.  Place cherries, stem up, on wax paper; let stand 1 hour or until firm.
  6. Combine chocolate morsels and shortening in top of double boiler; bring water to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; cook until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally.  Remove pan from heat, leaving chocolate mixture over hot water.
  7. Holding by the stem, dip each cherry into warm chocolate mixture, allowing excess to drain back into pan.  Place cherries, stem up, on wax paper; let stand 2 hours or until firm.  Store cherries in an airtight container at room temperature.  Yield: 5 dozen.
Per cherry: Calories 68 Fat 1.6 g
Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 1mg

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Quick and Easy Piping Bag for Gingerbread Cookies

So much goes on during the month of December that things have a way of getting away from you.  That is why the gingerbread cookies didn't get made until Christmas Eve last year!  However, everything turned out great because I enlisted the rest of the gang on Christmas Day to frost the cookies while we waited for our special dinner to cook.  In order for everyone to have a piping bag, I grabbed some freezer storage bags and cut them as shown.
It is best to only put a small amount of frosting in each bag as shown because the frosting will get very warm and messy from gently squeezing it with your hand.  I made a few extra and filled and kept them in the refrigerator so that we could swap them out when the frosting was too warm.  
We found that crushed peppermint sprinkled on top was very tasty and the next time I make this frosting, I will add a smidgen of peppermint extract for flavoring.  Here is the frosting recipe that worked out so well for us.  
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or peppermint!)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until mixture is spreading consistency.  Use frosting to outline gingerbread and to make cuffs, collars, belts, and shoes.  Yield 2 cups.
I find it makes Christmas Day much more relaxing if there is another festive activity going on while the meal is cooking.  Are there any favorite family-oriented traditions that you enjoy on Christmas Day?

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Make Meatballs the Same Size

Love meatballs but not all the time that goes into rolling them out individually?  Want them to be a uniform size?  Here is an quick and easy method for making any kind of meatball including my favorite cheesy sausage balls recipe.  Pat the meat mixture into a rectangular shape out on wax paper or parchment.  Then use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the rectangle into small, equal-sized squares that are easy to separate and roll.  Meatballs freeze really well.  Let them freeze on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in the freezer.  Don't let them touch.  When they have frozen, place the meatballs into a freezer bag.  They will be easy to remove and cook when needed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Homemakers: The Homebuilders of the World

Homemaking skills are so needed in this world.  Today, these important skills should not only be taught to daughters, but also to sons.  Here is the homemaking formula I found in an old church manual:
imagination + skill = creativity
creativity + production = satisfaction
homemaking x creativity = happy living
happy living divided among others = love

I like the idea of training oneself to be a homebuilder.  A certain amount of professionalism should be applied to building our homes.  You get so much more accomplished if the job is taken seriously.  As a homemaker for more than twenty years, I thought of myself as the manager of my own home.  As with all managers, the job requires organizational skills.

To be a successful homemaker it helps to study as much as possible the best ways to go about housework, food preparation, organization, decorating, taking care of plants, pets and raising children.  One homemaker gave the following description, "I learned organization as the mother of a four-year-old and newborn twins. I never got over it.  I still read things, and I write down little bits of information, for later use" (Mary Ellen Jordon Haight).

There are so many great blogs now that are much easier to read than volumes of books. God bless those people who break everything down picture by picture. There's a special place in Heaven reserved for these sharing teachers who do not assume we are all brilliant.  This is just one of the wonderful homemaking blogs available to us now:

homegrown mom

Friday, September 5, 2014

Quick Starts to Your Family's Day

Sometimes repackaging the food in your pantry can make them much more appealing to the household.  When food is getting overlooked, I fill a large bowl or basket with all the leftover items and dispose of their boxes.  Not only does this free up space in the cabinets, it also allows me to display on the kitchen table or counter the groceries that are being overlooked.

This bowl shows instant grits, poptarts, granola bars, and cocoa.  Other items we have had are the mini boxes of cereal and instant oatmeal.  I have done this over and over and believe me IT WORKS!  Not only are you making sure the family is fed in the morning, the cabinets are getting some weeding out as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Grateful Living: Reflections on HOME

This is my post to share a touching story and lovely quotes about the most important place in a person's life--their home...

Best Snowflakes on the Block
It is Christmastime on our street. The homes are decorated with tinsel and many-colored lights. Some windows frame beautifully decorated trees, and well-shaped wreaths hang on the doors. At one home, however, a little confusion of homemade snowflakes congregates in the picture window. They are hung in childhood fashion (not in the adult perfection of other windows nearby) and whisper a special secret about the occupants of that home.

I want to share a secret with you. The secret is that children are more important than picture windows; that fingerprints and boot-drips and carpet stains aren't nearly as important as a child's self-esteem. Those little white snowflakes tell me something more. They tell me that smashed bouquets of dandelions adorn that kitchen table in the springtime and are loved as if they were the most beautiful of imported orchids. They tell me that a pet potato bug in a box can live there unmolested, that helping with a bug collection is just as important as doing the wash, that viewing the first violets of spring with a child's hand in yours is better than a shiny floor, that listening to a child's fears is more important than television, that children's art is more beautiful than the greatest of the old masters.
Oh, they do tell a special story, those snowflakes.
(Sherlene Parker, Ensign Dec. 1976)

A small house well-filled is better than an empty palace. ~Thomas Haliburton

Houses that express comfort and well-being can go a long way toward making us feel at home in the world. ~JoAnn Barwick

Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there.  ~Jacqueline Kennedy

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free...Amish song

'Mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
~Pa, Little House in the Big Woods

God bless this house And all that's in it
A garden of flowers Some books for the hours
Sweet dreams Good Health
and Love, glorious love. ~unknown

“...I remember thinking how often we look, but never see...we listen, but never hear...we exist, but never feel. We take our relationships for granted. A house is only a place. It has no life of its own. It needs human voices, activity and laughter to come alive.” 
― Erma BombeckA Marriage Made in Heaven: Or Too Tired for an Affair

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Storing Wheat

Back of the loaf is the snowy flour, 
And back of the flour, the mill, 
And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower,
The sun and the Father's will.  ~Anonymous

 found at

Here's a good tip on Storing Wheat, from an old Ensign magazine:
"We purchased four shelf boards, and by stacking the three-pound cans we made a wall bookshelf.  These we painted the same color as the wall.  The total cost was seven dollars.  We have a lot of fun when friends compliment us on our new bookshelf.  We tell them there is more there than meets the eye--food for the body as well as food for the spirit.  They are amazed when we tell them about the 420 pounds of wheat stored there."  ~Bernice Ketner  Above is a picture found on Pinterest which gives a similar idea.

Monday, June 2, 2014

T-Shirt Quilt Tutorials

I made my oldest daughter a t-shirt quilt when she graduated highschool in 2008.  That was way before Pinterest, and all I knew about these quilts was a little blip I had read in Country Woman Magazine.  

What I decided to do since I was a novice quilter, was to use kid-friendly quilting instructions found in "I Can Quilt!" by Sandra L. Hatch and Sue Harvey.  The quilt shown is from Lesson 7, Four-Patch Fun Quilt.  We have used this pattern to make quilts to give to children's hospitals and children in other countries.  I highly recommend this book for new quilters or for kids learning to quilt.

I have two other children I would like to sew t-shirt quilts for and so I began Pinning tutorials to try.  Here is my collection of t-shirt quilt tutorials on Pinterest so far:

I would really like to grow this collection of links so if anyone knows of any good sources for t-shirt quilt tutorials or just good photos, please let me know :-)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Favorite Store-Bought Baking Mixes

and What You Can Make with Them...

These hand pies were made with Pioneer Baking Mix.  I baked these in the oven with apple pie filling, but they also make great meat pies.  So quick and easy!  Fill with Sloppy Joe mix and maybe some shredded cheese.

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix--the first dish I learned to make (in a seasoned iron skillet of course!)  I also like using the Jiffy Pizza Crust to make the yummiest bread sticks.  You can find a picture of my breadsticks and the recipe here.  (Just found this great vegetable side with Jiffy: Corn Pudding.

Krusteaz Pie Crust--Just soooo easy!

Pioneer Baking Mix--light and fluffy, beautiful :-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Big Fish Book Review

Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love getting books sometimes that you end up reading in one sitting. It can be so satisfying to read a book from beginning to end and get the whole sense of it at once. I decided to read Big Fish after watching the movie recently. Because I'm not a fan of Tim Burton (sorry!), I never bothered with the movie. Then someone brought it home and I've watched it like five times since! I love that movie!

Big Fish
Big Fish the Book
Big Fish the Movie

For one thing it was filmed in my home town, Montgomery, Alabama. My daughter attended college at the campus where they filmed (not Auburn!) which is also in Montgomery. The book and movie is about facing our own mortality. The fictional son records his father's "fish tales" and interspersed throughout the book are the final moments of a son with his amazing but definitely flawed father. By the end of the book, the son seems to come to terms with his dad.

"I looked at this old man, my old man with his old white feet in this clear-running stream, these moments among the very last in his life, and I thought of him suddenly, and simply, as a boy, a child, a youth, with his whole life ahead of him, much as mine was ahead of me. I'd never done that before. And these images--the now and then of my father--converged, and at that moment he turned into a weird creature, wild, concurrently young and old, dying and newborn.

"My father became a myth."

View all my reviews

What do you think?  Is this Tim Burton's Best Movie or do you prefer another, and if so, why?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vintage Desserts: Brownie Pudding

An avid collector of vintage cookbooks, my overall favorites are Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks.  We have three from various decades in our house (not to mention other BHG specialty cookbooks).  There is always a Brownie Pudding recipe because this is a best loved dessert.  It comes from a January 1944 Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

1944 Better Homes and Gardens Brownie Pudding
My oldest daughter makes Brownie Pudding every chance she gets.  The house smells wonderful and what a welcome sight on a cold winter's day!  Children would probably find the results of this recipe "magical."  This is a recipe I'm sure your family will love!

Do you love Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks too?  What is your best-loved recipe?  I would love to hear from you!

Brownie Pudding  (recipe HERE)
(Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
2 T. cooking oil
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (or pecans), optional
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder 
1-1/2 c. boiling water
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Grease an 8x8x2-in. baking pan; set aside.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, granulated sugar, the 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, the baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla.  Stir in the nuts.
Pour batter into prepared baking pan.  In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar and the 1/4 c. cocoa powder; stir in the boiling water.  Slowly pour water mixture over batter.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 45 to 60 minutes.  Serve warm.  Spoon cake into dessert bowls; spoon sauce over cake.  If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream.
T. = tablespoon
t. = teaspoon
c. = cup

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Relief Society Birthday Ideas

Hey ya'll!  This is a picture of a Relief Society celebration I helped to decorate with my good friend.  She had a huge collection of clown figurines.

1980's Relief Society Dinner with the "Big Top" theme.
The tables had balloon bouquets and were dressed to look like "under the big top."  We always had new people in our Decatur, AL ward so it was really nice to have a spotlight table where new sisters were asked to showcase some of their favorite things on a little table to help us get to know them.  

March is RS birthday time, so for those of you wanting Relief Society birthday ideas, check out my Relief Society Pinterest Board.

Do you have a Relief Society or church Pinterest board?  Let me know because I really would like to follow more of them. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Updated Armoire in Vintage Green

Finally!  With the help of my husband, I finished this DIY armoire.  I painted the whole thing a vintage green with oil-based paint because the wood was not in very good shape.  There was a very heavy mirror in the door that I took out because I wanted to do something a little French country by adding toile and chicken wire in the door.  I will reuse the mirror by having it professionally framed and hanging it horizontally on a wall. On the back of the mirror (which is original to the armoire), was the date November 16, 1928.

My husband made new feet because the ones that were on it did not look original to the piece and did not really match.  My inspiration comes from

Flea Market Finds Before & After: Home Decorating with Makeover Miracles.


With all my DIY projects, I am kind of trying things out on a smaller scale that I might want to do for a bigger project later.  For instance, these knobs very cheaply purchased from Target, are what I would like to buy for my kitchen cabinets when I someday update them.  I would buy a more expensive and durable brand than these because they have already had to be repaired with strong glue.

Also, I love the mini green-tinted glass tiles for a kitchen back splash.  I would really like to use them on an even bigger scale in the bathroom (subway tile-size).  My husband put this tile on the lower top of the dresser.  I wanted this part of the dresser to be more durable.  I learned quite a bit about glass tile by doing a small-scale project with them.  Over-all, I am pretty satisfied with how the dresser turned out and I think this update will last for a long time and helped to protect such an old piece of furniture that probably was not very expensive to begin with.  I find this vintage armoire to be a charming addition to my home.

My big passion these days is to study every blog post I can find to prepare me for tackling my old kitchen cabinets.  I am absolutely terrified of painting them because I want them to be free of streaks and drips.  I have found some really great ideas with this problem and how to antique the cabinets as well.  Here is my Pinterest board for all the cool ideas I have found for my cabinet re-do project.  Please send me any of your favorite Pins as well and let me know if you have a similar board so I can follow it!


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