Wednesday, December 12, 2012

:::{Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball}:::

I made this for my husband's Rotary Christmas party last night, and it was a HIT!  It is a very tasty flavor combination... But then again, it has bacon in it, so it has to be delicious, right?!?!  This recipe is definitely a keeper, and I will be making it again...

I forgot to take a picture of the finished product because we were in a rush to get out the door to the party, so I'm borrowing the picture from The Recipe Critic)

Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball

(adapted from The Recipe Critic)
makes one big ball or two smaller ones

2 (8 oz each) packages of cream cheese
1 (1 oz.) packet
dry buttermilk ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
4 green onions, thinly sliced
5 pieces of bacon (fried and crumbled) or 1/2 cup "real bacon bits"
1/4 cup chopped black olives, optional
pecans or almonds, finely chopped for coating

  1. Mix together the cream cheese and dry ranch packet.  I put mine in the mixer and used the paddle attachment, which made it so easy.  Otherwise, mix in a bowl until smooth.  
  2. Add the grated cheese, green onions, and bacon.
  3. Shape the cheese mixture into a ball, then roll it in the nuts to coat the outside. 
  4. Keep the cheese ball stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Enjoy! 

:::{Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments}:::

This year I was looking to have a classic look to my Christmas tree, and these ornaments fit the bill.  I remember making a version of these little ornaments when I was in elementary school...  I like this particular recipe because (1) it doesn't call for a bunch of Elmer's glue and (2) the drying process is sped up by baking them at low temp.  They were very easy to make and while they were baking my whole house smelled like cinnamon spice; and they continue to smell delicious even after they have dried.  Plus, they are pretty adorable, if I do say so myself!

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments 

(adapted from katy elliott)
Makes between 30-40 ornaments depending on the size of your cookie cutters.

1 cup of applesauce
1 1/2 cups cinnamon (look for a big containers at the Dollar Store)
2 tablespoons ground cloves optional

You will also need: cookie cutters (I used mini-Christmas themed ones) and string for hanging (I used red embroidery thread)

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºF
  2. Mix 1 cup of applesauce with 1 cup of cinnamon in a large bowl. This is the kinda recipe you’ll need to use your hands to really incorporate the spices. Make sure you don’t miss any wet spots. 
  3. Add the additional 1/2 cup of cinnamon, cloves and continue to incorporate. If it’s too wet add more cinnamon, too dry add more applesauce; keeping in mind, it takes time to mix so don’t add cinnamon or applesauce till you’re absolutely sure it’s well mixed.
  4. Scatter some cinnamon (like if you were rolling out cookies with flour) and roll out applesauce/cinnamon dough to ~1/4″ thick. If the dough is too wet it will make a huge mess and stick to your rolling pin.
  5. Use your cookie cutters to cut out your shapes. If you have added enough cinnamon, the edges will be clean and even.
  6. Place the hearts on a cookie sheet with parchment/wax paper. The hearts can be really close together but not touching; they won’t rise in the oven. 
  7. Using a skewer carefully make a hole through each heart. Stick the ornaments in the oven for an hour or more. The juice from the applesauce needs to evaporate.  I had them in the oven for ~1.5 hours and then I turned the oven off and left them to set overnight. They should be rock hard. If they’re not, give them some more time in the oven.
  8. The next day loop a string through each of the holes to hang on the tree, string together to make a garland or attach to a package.
  9. Enjoy!

Dough should be about this consistency when ready to roll...

The dough should easily form an even ball; if it's crumbly, add more applesauce.
Ready to roll it out, with cinnamon on your rolling surface.
Keep rolling and cutting until you've used up all your dough.
Don't forget to makes holes so you can hang them!
After baking, they should be hard and dry all the way through.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

:::{Rum Balls}:::

This is another of my momma's recipes... She has been making these every year around Christmas time for as long as I can remember!  When I was younger, my brother and I would snoop in the fridge to find the hidden container of these cookies to snitch a couple... Now that I'm of age, I understand that there is a minimal amount of acutal alchol, but they are still a holiday favorite! They are pretty quick and easy, as well as being very tasty and just a little rummy ;)  I'm warning you now, you'll probably want to go ahead and make a double batch...

Rum Balls

1 (12 oz) box of Nilla Wafers
1 cup powdered sugar (plus ~ 1 cup for rolling)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4-1/2 cup rum
1 cup pecans (optional)

  1. Smash, bash, or food process the Nilla Wafer cookies; it is fine if there are still small pieces of cookie in the mix.
  2. Combine the ground Nilla Wafers, powdered sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and pecans (if desired) in a large bowel or mixer.
  3. Add the corn syrup.  Add 1/4 cup of the rum and mix well.  At this point, check the consistency; the dough needs to be wet enough to be rolled into balls, but not too wet or it will be too sticky and gooey.  Slowly add the other 1/4 cup of rum, until desired consistency is reached.  Mine only took 1/2 the second 1/4 cup of rum (so, 1/4 + 1/8 cup = 3/8 cup rum in total).  The resulting dough should look about like the picture...
  4. At this point, you can chill the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or even over night, which allows the rum to really reach its full potential in the dough...
  5. When ready to rolls your rum balls, use a spoon or cookie scoop and roll ~ 1 inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar.
  6. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

:::{The Oil Cleansing Method}:::

I have decided to try something that sounds kind of crazy:
I have started washing my face with oil.
I have combination skin; it gets oily in some places and dry/flaky in others, and I consistently have ~1-5 blemishes, in various stages, on my face at any one time.  There are so many skin care options out there: soaps, scrubs, toners, moisturizers, foam, gel; and I have tried my fair share, but I have never been impressed with any one particular product.  Some will work for awhile, then my skin will adjust and be back to its not-so-happy normal.  I'm definitely ready to try something new!
As I was reading about the benefits of coconut oil for skin, I kept encountering "The Oil Cleansing Method," or OCM for short, and the more I read about it, the more it made sense!  This method has worked for numerous people with all different skin types...  Now I'm giving it a try.

How does the Oil Cleansing Method work?

Our skin naturally produces and secretes oil, sebum, because it needs it.  Sebum helps lubricate, heal, protect, and moisturize the skin so that it can function properly.
When skin is properly functioning it is clear and beautiful.   

Oil alone does not cause blemishes.

Skin blemishes, such as pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, etc, are caused by several different factors, including dirt, hormones, dead skin cells, bacteria, and the build-up of these factors on the skin's surface.

One of the most basic principles of chemistry is "like dissolves like."  So when you cleanse your face with oil, essentially what you are doing is dissolving all the icky, dirty, build-up oil from your face, wiping it away, and replenishing it with clean, nourishing oil.

This washing with oil will actually keep your face from becoming oily 

Because... When you use harsh chemicals to wash your face, you strip your skin of its sebum, so it goes into overdrive and creates more oil; this is what leads to clogged pores and blemishes.

So, in short, when you think about it: replacing the dirty oil on our faces with good quality oil is the perfect solution to so many of our skin problems… including acne!

Now that you know why, lets discuss the what and how...

What oils work best?

Start with Castor oil.

Castor oil is the drawing, cleansing, and purging oil for your pores; it is what will dissolve and cleanse all the dirty build-up, plus it is very antibacterial in nature.  It is actually quite drying, so its proportion will depend on your skin type...
It can be found in most grocery stores with a pharmacy section, and is most often sold as a laxative.

The secondary/carrier oil(s) in your cleanser can vary:
Olive - all skin types
Sunflower Seed - all skin types
Grapeseed - all skin types, especially oily
Avocado - dry and aging skin
Jojoba - all skin types, but very desirable for acne-prone skin
Sweet Almond - all skin types, especially oily
Apricot Kernel - dry, aging, and normal skin

The oil cleansing ratio...

You know your skin best, so you will determine what ratio works best for you.  To begin, it is best to think in thirds:
  • Oily skin: Use 2/3 castor oil to 1/3 carrier oil. (For one application: measure out 2 tsp castor oil and 1 tsp carrier oil.)
  • Normal skin: Use equal parts castor oil and carrier oil. (Measuring out 1-1/2 tsp castor oil and 1-1/2 tsp carrier oil.)
  • Dry skin: Use 1/3 castor oil and 2/3 carrier oil. (Again, 2 tsp carrier oil and 1 tsp castor oil.)
You can measure these thirds out ahead of time and prepare a whole bottle full of oil.   

It might be better to start on a “wash-by-wash” basis before mixing a whole bottle of oil together, just in case you want to change up the ratios if you notice your face is becoming too dry or too oily.   

These ratios are NOT set in stone, but they’re a great jumping off point.

I mixed up a bottle of 4 oz. Castor Oil, 4 oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), and 2-3 drops each of Tea Tree and Lavender essential oils.

How to oil cleanse:

  1. Prepare.  Either mix your oils together ahead of time, or have the bottles ready.  Set a clean washcloth beside the sink.  Turn the hot water on to warm up.
  2. Cleanse.  Starting with a dirty face (it works great for removing make-up, as well), rinse your face lightly with the warm, running water.  Pour a palm-full of oil into your hand and gently apply all over your face.  Massage firmly, but gently, always moving upwards, for 2 minutes, and then let the oil sit on your face for ~30 more seconds.
  3. Rinse.  Soak the washcloth in clean, steamy, hot water.  You want the water to be warm enough to open your pores and remove the oil (it’s probably going to be hotter than the water you usually rinse your face with).  Place the washcloth over your face to steam your skin.  As the wash cloth begins to cool, gently wipe the oil and dirt away, this will also help remove any dead skin cells that are stubbornly clinging on.   Rinse your washcloth and repeat until you’ve wiped all the oil off your skin.  After you have rinsed well, you can either splash your face with cool water to help tone and close your pores, or if your face feels tight, you can moisturize.
That's it!  Your skin will now glow!

According to
This deep cleansing method should be done regularly, but not too frequently. You'll know if you're deep cleansing too frequently by the dryness that your skin will exhibit. Don't be surprised if you find you've unblocked an oil flow for the first few days. Once you remove the plugs from your pores, they will begin functioning properly again. Perfect skin won't happen overnight and while it should take a few massages to achieve your goal, you should notice a huge difference in your skin after the first deep cleansing massage. Give your skin a few days to adjust and adapt to being clean and clear of blockages; understand that the new oil coming from your skin is actually a good sign and will balance out very shortly. You'll find redness and irritation subsiding. You'll find your skin losing that "congested," and thick feeling.
I have only done this twice so far, the first night was before I had bought the castor oil, so I just used EVOO, and that actually seemed to work quite well for me.  The following night, I mixed up my aforementioned bottle of oil cleanser, with the blend of castor oil, EVOO, and essential oils.  Afterwards, my face actually felt surprisingly dry and tight, so I moisturized with coconut oil, as I had been doing previously.  I will probably ramp up the EVOO in my ratio now...  I have noticed that the next morning my face still feels clean, and I haven't felt like it needs to be washed.  However, I have been also incorporating raw honey into my face care regimen, but that is a-whole-nother post (if you want to know more, read here and here)!  Since I wear makeup almost every day, I will probably continue to wash my face on a nightly basis, but time will tell; hopefully my skin tone will even up, and I will no longer feel the need to wear makeup, then I can adjust my face cleansing accordingly...  I will keep y'all updated!

These websites have been very helpful (especially, including the comments from their readers!):

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

:::{Christmas Decor Crafties}:::

This is Blake and I's first Christmas as a married couple, and my first year with my own home that I'm solely responsible for decorating...  So true to form, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration, and I was not disappointed!  Today, I made these little beauties:
I found fake pears and the little bird at the Dollar Tree.  I spray painted them gold, then used spray adhesive to cover them with gold glitter.  I love them so much I think I'm going to go back to the Dollar Tree to get a couple more pears!  They also had apples, which would probably look pretty sweet as well... Also, if it would go better with your Christmas decor, you could always do them silver instead.  I got the inspiration for this little project from this blog, which had ideas for several other fun Christmas crafts as well.
See, I went and got more pears!
Also at the Dollar Tree, I found the fixings to make a wreath... They had various sizes of twig wreaths as well as a variety of fake flowers and colored twiggy, bunches that I took a liking to.  So I cut the branches into individual little sprigs, and wove the wired stems into the wreath; a few took a small twist tie to secure. Then I took a length of wire-edged ribbon that I had picked up at Costco, tied a bow, and hung it on our front door.  All in all, I think it turned out quite festive!

On the inside of the door I hung a cranberry and popcorn garland...  I had never strung popcorn before; it was an adventure!  I used a light weight fishing line, which worked well, but I only had a very large needle on hand.  This did NOT work in my favor, as the popcorn kept breaking, but I think with a smaller needle it would work just fine, and be old-fashioned and quite pretty.  As it was, this was all the patience I had...
And I hung ornaments and ribbon around the window...

I also plan on making these ornaments.
Picture from katy elliot.
They are so adorable!  Plus they are made from a cinnamon/applesauce dough, so they smell like Christmas!  I have all the ingredients except for a heart shaped cookie cutter (I have looked all over Pocatello in vain!), so my gracious momma is sending me one... Inspiration from this blog.

Tonite, I will be rolling Rum Balls (recipe will be posted later this week...).
Yay Christmas!  I love it!

:::{Mock Almond Roca}:::

Last night I had a major sweet tooth (actually this is probably a nightly-post-dinner occurrence...), and I remembered a yummy little treat recipe that a friend had shared with me several years ago.  It has become one of the Christmas treats that my momma and I make every year because it is so tasty, and actually quite easy!  So, before hubby and I popped in a movie (side note, we watched "Lawless," and it was so good!  Pretty violent and plenty of foul language, but if you can get past that, it was a very well made and interesting movie!), I whipped up a mini-batch of the below recipe... I made about 1/4 of a batch because I didn't have very many Saltines and I knew hubby wouldn't help me eat it, and it was about perfect!  But if you are making Christmas goodies, and have people to share it with (this would be a great treat to bring to a Christmas party...), go ahead and make a full batch!

Mock Almond Roca
(recipe from Danika)

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
~40 saltine crackers

1-2 cups slivered/sliced/chopped almonds 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12x17-inch cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  2.  Lay a flat layer of crackers out on the foil; if they don't perfectly go to the edge of the pan, break them in half or fourths to completely cover the bottom of the cookie sheet. 
  3. Melt the sugar and butter until a boil is reached. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is thickened and sugar is completely dissolved. 
  4. Pour this mixture over the crackers and spread to coat evenly. 
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the toffee becomes bubbly. 
  6. After removing the pan from the oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes, then sprinkle on the chocolate chips, let them soften and melt, and then spread them into an even layer with a spatula. 
  7. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle the top with almonds.
  8.  Stick the sheet in the refrigerator and let cool until hardened. 
  9. Break into pieces the size of your choice. 
  10. Enjoy!