Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Growing up, on Valentine's Day, I used to come to the breakfast table to find red and pink decorated gifts from my mom, and our normal dishes often replaced with pretty heart decorated paper plates. It was so fun to get a new game or puzzle or even a Bonne Bell Lip Smacker (the fat ones - my fave was Dr. Pepper). My mom didn't bake much, but used to buy those super yummy Van de Kamp's heart shaped sugar cookies (anybody remember those?). They were in the bakery section of the market, and were stacked in white paper cupcake liners, uniformly lined up in a rectangle box with a clear top. Oh, they were so buttery and crispy and pure heaven. I know I'm making my sister's mouth water right now. We loved those cookies. Van de Kamp's made them for St. Patrick's day too, and for 4th of July, I believe. Unfortunately, they are long gone now.

I miss my mom, and all the special things she always did. But, this year, my dad gave me a beautiful card, and a box of See's candy. Isn't that sweet? I'm glad he still remembers that he's still my first valentine. :-) Love you, Dad.

I also have fond memories of Valentine's parties in school. Remember those? We kids would be sent outside for an extra playtime, while the "room moms" came like little fairies and set up the room all festive in red and pink and often quite elaborately with streamers and such. When we returned to the classroom, we found our desks with cupcakes, punch, and our little construction paper valentine pouches bursting with unpersonalized store bought valentines that said "dear friend" on the envelope. Once in awhile you would get a special one with a clear red lollipop or a really cheap piece of chocolate. I just remember thinking that Valentine's Day was one of the best days of the whole year.

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Anyways, these days I'm the mom and I enjoy giving my family little treats for Valentine's Day to say "I love you." I usually get everyone a small gift, and make a special dessert. This year I put together these easy caramel apples. I might have made them more for myself...but I say they are for my family! I cheated and bought the Kraft wrapped caramels, but they are still good. I just melted the caramels with some half and half, double dipped giant Granny Smith apples, and let them chill a bit. Later, I came back and drizzled dark and white chocolate over them, and sprinkled on a few red non pariels. I think they're rather festive. And, they are a serving of fruit, you know.

Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy your loved ones on this special day.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Coming Soon!

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These newly made soaps are on the curing rack.
Check back soon for another soap sale!

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

WDW - Easy & Healthy Dessert!

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I got a text from my hubby around 3:00 in the afternoon one day last week, asking if I'd be up to having two of his business colleagues from out of state for dinner that night at 5:30. Seemed they popped into his office and he wanted to have them over before they had to fly home in the morning. I said yes, then panicked as I remembered one of the guests was gluten intolerant! I was out shopping for shoes at the time, but thankfully near a Costco so I headed over there to try and get dinner together. I tried to think on my feet as I browsed the store. I decided on Chicken Tortilla Soup, so I grabbed a roasted chicken for that. What would we do without Costco roasted chickens? I picked up salad ingredients and a ready made artichoke/jalapeno dip to go with tortilla chips as an appetizer (which was REALLY yummy, by the way). Then, I got stuck thinking about dessert. I would have no time to make anything at home, and for someone GF, I wasn't about to pick up anything in the bakery section.

I initially thought of fruit, and went to browse around the produce section where I saw some really nice organic blueberries. I thought they would be nice over rice or vanilla pudding, but couldn't find any, so I opted to go with Fage 0% Greek Yogurt instead. The yogurt is not sweet, so I grabbed some Agave to sweeten it, thinking I'd make a yogurt parfait. I hoped that it would go over well with the guys- I have to admit I was a little nervous serving three men yogurt for dessert!

Well, guess what - it was a total hit! The GF guy, Mark, said Fage yogurt with fruit was one of his favorite go-to snacks! And the guys even knew what agave was! Rich loved it as well, and I thought it was quite delicious myself. Agave has the consistency of real maple syrup but has a similar taste to the burnt sugar in creme brulee (one of my favorite desserts). Now I'm using it in everything, over my toast with almond butter, in my tea, and I've had a more than a few of these yogurt parfaits since then! Agave is a great all natural sweetener, and it's cheaper than maple syrup. I think I will even make my granola with it next time.

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The parfait is so easy to make that you can probably see how to make it just by looking at the photo. Be sure to grab a pretty glass or goblet for a nice presentation. I measured 1 cup of yogurt per parfait. I layered some yogurt, then drizzled on some agave, and topped with the blueberries. I repeated that a couple of times until the glass was full. Talk about fast and easy -even elegant and beautiful, too! And, with less than 200 calories and health benefits to boot, this makes a splendid dessert, breakfast, or snack. Enjoy!

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