Friday, December 14, 2012

Tips for an Office Christmas Party!

Office Christmas Parties are a great way to celebrate the holidays and to build employee morale.  I think a good ol’ fashioned pot luck is a great way for employees to participate in the celebration even if they are not “planning” the event.  Here are a few tips to help you pick out what to bring to your office’s Christmas party:

1.  Transportation – The first thing you want to think about when picking out a recipe to share with your fellow employees is how you are going to get it to the office.  If you drive to work, your options are a LOT different than if you walk, bike, or take a train!

If you drive:  the possibilities are almost endless depending on the type of containers you own and the type of driver you are!

If you take a train:  pick a recipe that is easily picked up and sat down, (stay away from things like chili, soup, gravy- anything liquid can slosh around and perhaps make a big mess!)

If you bike or walk:  stick with a recipe that you can fit in your bag (yummy rolls, or desserts like cookies and brownies would be perfect!). 

2.  Temperature- Next, think about the temperature that the items needs to be eaten, or if it needs to be baked/cooked before eating.  If the food needs to be either hot or cold, you need a way to keep it warm or a refrigerator/cooler to keep it cool.  Make sure you ALWAYS look up the proper temperature for foods, you wouldn’t want to be the cause of a breakout of a food borne illness!

A room temperature food is ALWAYS easiest!!

3.  Ingredients-  People have allergies, and I’m sure even though you “know” your fellow employees, they might have food allergies that you don’t know about, or if you do know about an allergy and you want to let someone know about the ingredients in your recipe without calling them out here is a tip:

Create a tent card to place near your dish or platter that says a message about an ingredient, such as “contains nuts” or “gluten free”.  That way there is no question to anyone as to what is in your dish!

4.  Presentation- (Of course, I would touch on this subject, after all it is a party planning BLOG!)  When eating other people’s prepared food, presentation is about 90% of the reason someone decides to put a piece on their plate. 

Let’s be real, if you have two platters of cookies, one is on a paper plate and the cookies look good but were just thrown onto the plate, and on the other seasonal platter, the cookies are nicely formed and placed on the plate as if someone cared, which platter would you eat from? 

It’s all in the presentation (and it doesn’t have to be an EXPENSIVE platter, and there are plenty of ways on Pinterest to turn a paper plate into a very darling Christmas cookie platter!)

Don’t be in a contest with your fellow employees on the “prettiest” casserole, just use your head and put a little effort into it!  (Read here on how to turn “good into great”)     

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Truffles

I'm not usually a big Pumpkin Pie fan, I realize that it is a Thanksgiving staple, but its not sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.... until now!   Another truly unique recipe: 

Bill of Materials:
One Can of Pumpkin
One can of Sweetened Condensed Milk 
(NOT Evaporated Milk!)
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 T Cinnamon
2.5 T Pumpkin Pie Spice
Several Graham Crackers

Step One:  Mix all ingredients except for graham crackers in a bowl until completely mixed. 

 Step Two:  Use parchment paper to line a pie plate (or use a silicone one if you have it) and pour the pumpkin mixture into the pan.  I found that using parchment paper made clean up a LOT easier! 

Step Three:  Place Pumpkin mixture in the oven at 400 degrees for amount 10 minutes, then turn down to 350 degrees and let bake for another 30 to 40 minutes.  Times may be different for different sized pans or ovens.  Just check on it every 8 or so minutes to make sure it is not burning.  (As my grandma always said, you have to "use your head" with this one.)  

Step Four:  While pumpkin mixture is baking, use a food processor to grind up crackers into small chunks!  (I bet you know what we are going to be doing with this!)

Step Five:  Once done baking, pull pumpkin mixture out of the oven and let cool completely!  

Step Six:  Once the Pumpkin mixture is cooled, use a cookie scoop, or your hands, to make truffle sized balls.   

Step Seven:  Roll the pumpkin "pie" balls into the graham cracker crumbs for the "crust"

Step Eight:  EAT!  These truffles have the holiday staple of pumpkin pie but enough sweet to satisfy even the most picky sweet tooth!

You could also use left over pumpkin pie to make truffles too!  Just scrap off the pumpkin from the crust, roll, and coat with graham crackers and you have a new dessert!

 These delicious truffles have less than 75 calories per truffle!  (This does depend on the size of pumpkin pie "ball" - I got 33 truffles out of my pumpkin pie mixture which calculated to only 67 calories a piece )  

Are you a big fan of pumpkin pie?  Is it sweet enough for you, or do you have to smother it with whip cream?  I hope you enjoy these sweet tooth approved pumpkin pie truffles!  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

I decided to make my staple witch hat cookies this year.  They are super easy and delicious!  (Try this to make them into a Thanksgiving Treat!) 

Also, I used these printables to decorate some water bottles that we drank while passing out candy and watching Halloween movies!

Please share links to your party treats in the comments!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Birthday Emily Post

Emily Post (born 10-27-1872) is a house hold name synonymous with etiquette and manners.  Her book is the first thing I go to when I have a question on etiquette (see here).  I have a copy of one of the original book from 1922 that I still use...  

In honor of her birthday today, I decided to share a link to the Emily Post Institute.  The Emily Post Institute is the Post family business spanning five generations.  It studies the evolution and development of new etiquette guidelines based on "core principles of honesty, respect  and consideration" which makes it the PERFECT place to continually find answers to your everyday etiquette questions!  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

6 Ways: Party Inspiration

Need a bit of inspiration for a great party theme?  Or perhaps you have a theme in mind, but no idea how to follow through?  I’m sure you have tried Pinterest or looked at Google images, but sometimes, you want ORIGINAL ideas that are totally unique to you and your party! 

Library:  Have a theme in mind?  Go to the library and find all the books on the topic!  Flip through some pages and gather notes.  You will be really surprised  by the details you can gather.  Also a plus, its FREE!  

Example:  Want to throw a car themed shindig?  Search for car books, you might find an era that you want to focus the party details around.  Find key words (drive, gear shift, wheels, leather, fender) that go along with the theme to be used to “name” foods at a buffet. 

Festivals:  I am taking the opportunity of this fall to go to as many festivals as humanly (and budget-ly) possible.  This has given me A LOT of really great ideas for party details for new party themes all from the sights and smells of the festival.  

Example 1:  A fall festival always smells of apples, cinnamon and popcorn.  The colors are usually brown, orange, perhaps a bit of red and green.  I usually feel all “cozy” at this type of festival.  The next fall party I plan will certainly have these details!

Example 2:  A French festival has Can-Can dancers and a lighted Eiffel tower.  It smells of pastries and fresh bread (not to mention some champagne).  The festival I went to had some lace and French fashion which included Chanel’s classy suit.  I would use these foods, music, and the classy and danty feeling for my “French” Themed party. 

Fabric Store/ Hobby Lobby:  These craft and fabric stores may seem overwhelming to someone who isn’t quite sure what theme they are going to plan around.  However these stores are probably going to have the items you may want to use, or at least use to make something DIY, so why not start there! 

Walmart!:  Just like a craft or fabric store, I use Walmart to buy most of my party supplies (especially now that my local Wally World has a WILTON aisle!  Sometimes when I want inspiration,  I just walk around, find some paint chips to use for a craft, and a pretty wine bottle, and I’m halfway to a girls night in!  (okay, not half way, but on my way!)

 Watch a Movie:  This idea is a lot like the library idea, except it’s a bit more specific.

Example: If I want to theme a party around a movie (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) I like to watch the movie with a pad of paper and a pen to take notes.  You will be surprised of the details you can get!

Clean out your Closet and Kitchen Cabinets:  This idea is probably the cheapest!  Look in your own home for ways to use items you currently have as a piece of your new party them! 

Example:  I use a cake stand/punch bowl as a centerpiece full of apples! 

Have you ever gone out to a store just to get some ideas for a party?  Do you have a Pinterest addiction?  Where do you get inspiration for a party theme?  Share in the comments!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Apple Pie Pops

Welcome to the Last and Final Day of Apple Week!

Today is about a tasty party FAVOR that your guests will just LOVE!

This recipe has a two step process; one is to make the pie crust dough, and the other is to make the actual "pie" pop.

Step one:  Pie Crust Dough


1/2 Cup Butter
1 1/3 Cup Flour
3 - 4 Tablespoons Ice Cold Water

Mix butter and flour while adding a teaspoon of water at a time.  
Continue mixing until the dough cleans off the side of the bowl.    

Step two:  Apple Pie Pops


Pie Crust Dough

4 - 5 Apples Finely Chopped
Dash of Cinnamon
Dash of Sugar
Baking "Pop" Sticks

1.  Roll out a handful of pie crust dough on a floured surface.  

 2.  Use a 3 inch cookie cutter (round of scalloped) to cut out a side of the pie pop.  Then place on a cookie sheet.

4.  Put about a tablespoon of the apple mixture in the middle of the pie crust.

5.  Take a pop stick and place it in the pop starting in the middle of the apple mixture.

6.  Place another pie crust on top of the apple mixture and pop stick.  Then use a fork to firmly press crusts together.  Do this all the way around the pop!

7.  Bake in the oven for approximately thirty minutes.  (I usually start out for ten minutes and rotate the cookie sheet as necessary!)  Once the pops are done, they will be a golden color.  Place them on a cooling rack until completely cooled. 

Turning these pops into a favor is easy!  

You can use numerous different types of packaging to give these "suckers" away, such as:  vases, gift boxes, or even Starbucks Frappucino bottles turned milk bottle (find that easy how to here!)  

If you need to fill the bottom of a vase or bottle, use brown sugar, or some candy (Reese's Pieces would look awesome!)

Have you ever made pie pops before?  How about as a party favor (I really like edible favors!)  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apple Debbie Cookies

Welcome to Day Four of Apple Week!!

Today is ALL ABOUT a tasty apple dessert (that could also be eaten for breakfast, depending on your definition of breakfast!)

This recipe is actually a compilation of a description of a cookie the Mr Fix-It Fiance gave my mother, who then turned it into a full on recipe to share!  I hope you enjoy it.  It is a present from my family to yours!!


3/4 cup unsalted butter, nearly melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1T cinnamon
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup applesauce


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line rimless cookie sheets with parchment paper. It has to be parchment this time. (I use my SILPAT!)

2. In a stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, salt, and cinnamon mix until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, then mix in the baking soda and baking powder. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

3. With a cookie scoop, scoop the dough scrapping off the excess as you go up the bowl. 

4.  Flatten the dough slightly place teaspoon of applesauce on top. 

(Note:  I adapted this a bit, because I had PLAIN applesauce on hand and I REALLY like cinnamon!  I added some cinnamon to the applesauce and then added some of the apple pulp from making apple cider!) 

5.  Place another scoop of dough on top and seal well. 

6. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. After baking, carefully slide the parchment with the cookies onto the counter. Let cool until they are no longer soft but still slightly warm.


Do you have recipes that are family made?  Do you like to eat cookies for breakfast sometimes (I really do!)?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apples & Chocolate

Welcome to the Hump Day of Apple Week!

For today's yummy project I did a lot of experimenting in the kitchen.  One food that sounds really tasty this time of year is a chocolate dipped caramel apple!  However, the best part about these snacks is the chocolate and caramel, not exactly the whole apple. 

I decided to make two different treats with chocolate dipped caramel apples in mind; Chocolate Caramel Apple Pizza and Caramel Apple Party Bites.

For both of these treats, you need these toppings (or anything else that you would think would taste delightful with apples and caramel) 

Next, I used this recipe to make my own HOMEMADE caramel!!  However, instead of using the original tin can, I put the condensed milk in a glass canning jar with a tight lid to cut out any of those harmful BPAs (I'll do a how to on that process another time, I promise!) 

Then, I cut up some apples into thin slices (easy peasy!)

The difference between these two treats is all in the presentation:  

Chocolate Caramel Apple Pizza
1.  Place the apples flat around a plate,
2.  Pour the caramel on top to your choosing, 
3. Throw on those toppings!

The pizza thing is really simple, fast and perfect to make for yourself or in the event of an impromptu get together.  If you are looking for a more eloquent display of your Chocolate Covered masterpiece, try this:

Caramel Apple Party Bites
1.  Cut apples in to chunky slices (about 6 per apple)
2.  Dip one half of apple slice into caramel
3.  Place apple slice on the plate/surface you want
4. Sprinkle toppings on the caramel

Do you like chocolate dipped caramel apples?  Have you tried to make your own homemade caramel?  Share any recipes in the comments!

Monday, October 15, 2012

How To: Apple Cider

Welcome to the Second Day of Apple Week!

Today's treat is not exactly "labor intensive" but is certainly time consuming.  However, the ends do justify the means!  

Apple Cider is my favorite fall drink to sip on while sitting outside watching the leave change, or to warm up while chatting with a couple of friends on a cool fall day.

The process is a bit time consuming because you have to get the juice out of the apple (which is not as hard as that sounds!)  Here's an easy way to make apple cider at home:

Bill of Materials:
(~ 4 lbs to 1 liter of cider)
Food Processor
Coffee Filters
Cooking Pot

Once you have gathered your supplies clean your apples and cut them in to slices.  I cored the apples but you do not need to, nor do you need to peel the apples.  All that "stuff" will be strained before cooking the cider.     

Cut up all the apples in the food processor (mine is a crank!) so it looks mushy.  Then, take a spoonful and use the coffee filter to squeeze the juices out of the apples (this is the time consuming part!).  This juice will be your cider.  Use the funnel if necessary to gather the juice into a cup or bowl.  You will need to use a few coffee filters for this project because the filters will begin to tear.  Don't worry if you get a few pieces of apple in the cider, it will just be "pulp" and you can strain that out during the cooking process!

Now put all your cider into a pot (I actually just juiced my apples straight into the pot) and place it on the stove.  I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer and stew for approximately 30 minutes.  Can you see the steam coming from the pot?  This made the kitchen and apartment smell DELICIOUS!  

Taste test the cider to your liking; 
add cinnamon or sugar to your taste 
and then serve and sip!

Do you LOVE Apple Cider during the fall months?  Have you ever made it at home?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Four Apple Centerpieces

Welcome to the First Day of Apple Week!  

Since getting inspiration from a local Apple Butter Festival, I decided to dedicate this week to different ways to use apples in any upcoming Fall party!  Today is all about:

Centerpieces are great ways to add decor to a table during a party or a dinner for two!  Also, if you need a place to put those apples you just picked, here is a great way to store them with a bit of class!

Using apples as a centerpiece or display is super easy and relatively cheap:  all you need are apples, something to put them in, and a bit of creativity.  Below are a few set ups I came up with, by just using a few things I had laying around the house.

1.  Cake Stand/Punch Bowl

I found a cake stand/ punch bowl in my cabinets and started filling up the bowl with apples.  If you have one of these in your house and you aren't housing cake in it, I suggest using it as your centerpiece!!  The first attempt of this idea wasn't as "bountiful" as I wanted, so I took a bowl and put it upside-down in the middle of the bowl to take up a bit of room (is this cheating or just using resources wisely?)  

I also cut out a few free hand shapes that looked like leaves (or at least as close as I could get to leaves).  You could use a Cricut (or any other paper cutting machine) to get these shapes, or even use real leaves if you have any in your yard!

2.  Small Wood Crate

I have a few small wood crates sitting around my craft room holding ribbon and waiting to be used in just the right craft project.  I decided to dump out the ribbon and try the box as a centerpiece.

I tried this set up without leaves and with a few of my hand crafted leaves, which do you like best?  Sometimes the leaves add a bit of color that a centerpiece needs!  

3.  Wire Basket

Remember this basket from the food cover how to?  It came in VERY handy while trying to make a centerpiece!  Again, I found the plain apples a bit boring, so I added an orange flower from a bouquet that I had sitting around.  I think it adds a bit of fun to the piece, don't you think?

I also like this set up because even if you use a few of the apples, the wire basket still holds its character without being over flowing or full!

4. Flower Store Vases 

I really wanted to make at least ONE centerpiece that I thought that everyone could create without having to buy anything.  Most people I know have at least ONE of these vases that you get with a bouquet of flowers in their home.  I just piled in the apples, laid a couple apples around (and used that flower again) and Voila!  Instant centerpiece!

Note:  Putting apples in a container with hard surfaces may cause bruising!

I had A LOT of fun putting together center pieces!  Some of them were beautiful, and some were just plain UGLY!  Have you ever experimented with using apples in a centerpiece?  

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