Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Rims

Can we have a little chat about couponing real quick?  I do not watch couponing shows.  I have heard of them.  I have heard there are people who spend hours a day cutting coupons and who actually *make* money when they go through the check-out line of the grocery store.  To be honest, I am completely befuddled by this.  Sometimes I get ambitious and I look through those coupon pages that come in the newspaper.  I usually end up throwing them away when I realize the coupons either require you to buy twelve sticks of deoderant to get a free one, or save you 25 cents on a package of paper towels.  (Since the big package of paper towels costs like $10 and I spend 25 cents on gum like every time I pass a gumball machine, I find this slightly ridiculous.  Also, being OCD I have panic attacks when I have a million little crumpled coupons overflowing out of all the corners of my purse, so I usually decide it's not worth saving the 25 cents.) 

Anyways.  This was before I discovered Coupon Loving Chicks through Lark's Country Heart (possibly the nicest person in the world and totally the reason I have more than six Facebook friends).  These ladies find coupons for you and post them on their Facebook wall.

Coupon of the day- A 10$ gift card when you spend $50 at Target.  (I'm just gonna assume that I'm not the only one that can't get out of there without spending $50-$100.)  It's basically free money!  Plus then you can justify spending $10 on Lipsmackers or boot socks.  Maybe coupons *are* good for something after all. I am totally converted.

Visit Target's Facebook page, and follow their link to print the coupon; it's only good through Dec 3rd!

Now that we have that out of the way.  I'm going to show you my favorite way to serve hot chocolate, and one of my favorite Christmas "recipes".   Peppermint rimmed mugs.  The great thing about this is it takes about 2 minutes to do. It's INSANELY easy. (Read: Edward Scissorhands can do this.  And he has no hands.)

Also it looks fancy so everyone will think you're kind of a domestic diva.

Plus peppermint hot chocolate is kind of the best.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gettin' social

I think when people see you have a blog they think you're all techy and computer genuisy.  Just to clear things up right now, I am not computer savvy.  I do not speak Html (and only recently discovered that that is a language).  I should probably not tell you how many days and tutorials and cartons of ice cream it took for me to figure out how to make my Dipit header.  I have a drawer full of cables that I am afraid to throw away (but I'm pretty sure they do computery things like connect to the TV or the oven or something).

Luckily my husband *is* tech savvy, and gave me a great early Christmas gift today... 

a Facebook button! See it right there on the right?  That's right, Dip It In Chocolate finally has Facebook.  Many thanks to those who commented or emailed that they would like to follow via Facebook.  I always appreciate your feedback and since I kinda have a big head, I'm pretty much flattered.

I would be delighted if you would follow me.  Especially since I only have like 3 followers right now and feel like the kid who nobody will sit by at lunch cause him mom always packs him tuna or curry or something else that stinketh by lunchtime.  I know this might be hard to believe, but it's kinda awkward writing statuses when you know only your mom is reading them.

In other news, hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Anybody got pie left?

I'll be right over.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remedies for a Flat Cookie

Cookies and I used to have problems communicating.  I would follow the recipe, and then they would do whatever the heck they wanted.  Then I would scream and cry and slam doors.  Actually I never screamed or cried, but I probably did slam a door or two.  No matter what I did I always got flat cookies.  Sometimes I got PANCAKES.   I did everything I could think of without any result and finally decided I was just a horrible cookie-maker.  I could no longer be Mrs. Clause when I got old.  It was a rough time for me.

Luckily, one day I discovered a trick that changed my life. 


A few of us have been having a conversation about this through comments on the S'more Chocolate Chip Cookies post and I wrote this post mainly because I really felt that I needed to share it with *all* of you.  The jist is that flour weights are SO variable.  How much you are actually using depends a lot on the brand of flour, how you measure it, etc.  Usually this discrepancy may not be a big deal, but when it comes to cookies, even a little bit can throw you off. 

The easy solution is just to weigh the flour. The tricky part is that there are lots of answers for how much 1 cup of All-Purpose flour should actually weigh, (all from reputable sources).  The average seems to be about 4.5 ounces, but  I've found 5 ounces to work perfectly for me so that is what I do.

To demonstrate this whole flour craziness, I conducted a little experiment for you this week.  I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. My recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of flour, so I measured that out using  my usual method, scooping flour into my measuring cups and leveling them out.  I then weighed my total flour.

Can you read that? 10.5 ounces of flour. 

We decided each cup should have 5 ounces.  So I'm missing 2 ounces of flour here.  That doesn't seem like a lot, but lets add in flour until we get to 12.5 and see how much that is.

Finally reached the correct amount of flour weight-wise.  And... *drumroll please* ...  I added nearly an extra half CUP of flour.

It's pretty easy to see why I was getting flat cookies if I was only putting in 2 cups of flour where 2 1/2 is called for.

I now measure my flour every time I bake cookies (funnily enough it doesn't seem to affect my cakes and other baked goods so I leave those be), and they all turn out great.   If you are having problems with your cookies I highly recommend doing this.  If this trick still doesn't do it for you, feel free to try some of the other remedies below:

-When a cookie recipe calls for butter, replace half of that with stick shortening (Crisco).  If you want really fluffy cookies you can replace all the butter with shortening, but you will sacrifice some of the flavor.

-Try refrigerating you dough for 20 minutes or so before baking.  Always keep your dough in the refrigerator in between baking sessions  (ie: While one cookie sheet is baking, keep the unscooped dough in the fridge until ready to bake).

-Allow your cookie sheet to cool in between baking sessions.  Once you've removed hot cookies from it, place it in the freezer for a few minutes until room temperature or slightly cool, before using again.

-Check that your baking soda isn't expired.

-Do not melt your butter before using!  This means if you forget to bring it to room temperature, do NOT put it in the microwave to speed the process  (Totally guilty as charged here)

I hope this has helped, and I wish you many a fluffy cookies and the chance to fulfill all your childhood dreams (but being Mrs. Claus when you grow up is already taken, so back off.)
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Fancy Caramel Apples

If you have been annoyed that this picture on my sidebar has no post to it, great news... now it does!  I have been meaning to blog these  (Say this in a Sandlot voice)

Mostly I was stalled because I wanted to give you some pictures to go along with this post.  Well, hard to believe, but it's kind of hard to take a picture AND dip a caramel apple at the same time.  So I waited for a day when my hubs was home and could take some pictures while I dipped.

Speaking of the hubs, these apples were inspired by the ones at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  Men- you should know- there is nothing you can't be forgiven for if one of those apples is included in the apology.  Seriously.  

Reese's is my favorite.  Oreo and Butterfinger are fun, but I always go back to Reeses.  This is a great way to use up leftover Halloween candy at your house (and add more sugary sweets to your household). 
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Julia's Pumpkin Pie (The best pumpkin pie!)

Vegetables and I are not friends.  When I was a kid I used to sit across the dinner table from my little brother.  I didn't get dessert unless I ate all my vegetables, so, naturally, I used to sneak them down to my lap and throw them under the table to land under his chair.  My parents thought he was a REALLY messy eater.  (Don't worry. He was kinda spoiled so he probably still got dessert anyways.)

I think the only vegetables I ever consumed as a child were in the form of pumpkin pie.  My favorite thing about Thanksgiving was that my mom ALWAYS let me have pumpkin pie for breakfast in the days that followed. I could have easily consumed a whole pie if she had let me. The thought of eating it warm or at room temperature completely grosses me out, but an ice cold slice of pie with whipped cream and milk? Mmhmm.  Best breakfast of the year.

This pie is based off of the Libby's label.  If you like that, you will love this.  If you don't like pumpkin pie at all you probably won't like this either.  We can still be friends.  I'd be happy to have your piece.  My mom has been making this recipe for years.  Doubling the spices really gives it great flavor!

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving this week. 

Safe Travels!

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Easy Flaky Pie Crust

You should know first of all that I have no luck with pastry. Particularly pie crust.  Mine rarely turn out pretty and almost always shrink (You'd think I'd just invest in some pie weights but apparently I'm too stubborn for that).  If you want to ask someone questions about pastry I am not your girl.  But ugly or not, sometimes I think it is worth making your own pie crust  just for flakiness and deliciousness factor.  And since it's almost Thanksgiving, I really thought I should give you my recipe for an easy flaky pie crust.  The secret ingredient is vinegar, and it makes a huge difference.

If you're a pie connoisseur, props to you.  I'd like to hire you for Thanksgiving next year.  I can pay you in cookies.  Or secret recipes.  Your choice.
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Gingerbread Hot-Chocolate Stirring Sticks

So I found this package of Gingerbread Men marshmallows at Target last week. 


I had no idea what to do with them but I couldn't resist buying them cause they were stinkin' cute (and like $1.25).  I ended up making these little hot chocolate stirring sticks for my kids.  The best part is even little ones can help skewer the marshmallows.  They taste alright but are nothing special.  They are coated in a sugary mixture so that's why they look a little powdery.

Anyway- easy peasy, and great for a snow day.
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Stabilized Whipped Cream. A boring post, but full of tips and tricks.

This is a picture of an unfinished pie.  But I wanted you to see the piped whipped cream around the edges.  I  love flavored whipped cream on cupcakes in particular. I think it gives them such a light touch in place of the heaviness of frosting.  The problem with whipped cream is it tends to melt into a big mess when out of the fridge.  The solution is to stabilize your whipped cream.

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Cherry Watermelon Jolly Rancher Soda or... Cherry Watermelon Granita

In case you  haven't noticed yet, my maturity level is a little closer to a tweens than a mature adults'.  I buy Lipsmackers on a regular basis and have chip sandwiches for lunch about 4 days a week.  Sometimes I watch One Tree Hill.  So after the Jolly Rancher cupcakes, the soda was pretty much inevitable.  If you are a mature adult you probably aren't even reading this because it sounded nasty.  It's not.  It's delicious.  Make it for your kids.  They will love you for it.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gingerbread Skeletons with Royal Icing

I love this gingerbread people recipe.  I usually heap the spices a little, and I think the flavor and texture is just perfect.  You can cook them the minimum amount of time for a chewy cookie, or cook them a few minutes longer for a crisp cookie.  My only complaint really is that these will spread a bit, so plan accordingly.  If you have a molasses aversion you can replace some of it with honey or dark corn syrup, but if you use a mild molasses (as opposed to blackstrap or "full flavor") I don't think it turns out too strong.

I like to split my dough into 2 or 3 pieces and roll each piece out between two pieces of parchment (one on top one on bottom) *before* refrigerating.  Then I just put the cookie sheets in the refrigerator. When the dough is fully chilled the top paper will peel right off and you can cut out your shapes right on the parchment/tray.  Then just peel off the excess dough and throw it in the "re-roll pile" and your tray can go right in the oven. No moving the dough and having appendages break off. Let's not make this harder than it needs to be, shall we?

These gingerbread men keep well (you can even freeze them), so it's best to make them in advance and decorate a different day.  For your own sanity, really.

When you make your royal icing, be sure to sift your sugar.  Royal icing is tricky to get the consistency exactly right.  If it's too thick your icing will break or just plain won't stick.  If it's too thin it will "melt" all over the place.  I like to spoon a teensy bit of icing into a cake decorating tip (not attached to any bag) and just push my thumb into the wide end to make it "flow" and test the consistency.  If you spoon all your icing into a piping bag and the consistency is wrong it is a PAIN to remove it all, rewhip and try to put it back in a bag.  Just trust me on this. If you're not feeling up to royal icing's diva behavior you can totally use a different icing or frosting.  I just like royal because it dries rock hard so I can stack these and put them in little baggies for neighbors.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Caramel Cinnamon Fruit Dip with Bone dippers

Oh look.  Another belated Halloween recipe.  Don't hate me.

This dip is insane.  It looks like it doesn't make a lot.  But it is RICH and it is SWEET.   You'll probably want to throw a few apples in with the bones to dip just so you don't go into sugar shock.  But this is fan. tastic.  Truly.  I like to pretend think I am a pretty disciplined person but I can't stay away from this.

The original recipe calls for Heath bar/toffee add-ins.  I know this sounds delicious but I just couldn't dig it.  The texture without it is wonderful, and the nuttiness it adds just doesn't work. That being said... you can try it if you want.

PS- You can really eat this any time of year.  You might just have a hard time explaining to guests why you're serving them bone-shaped snacks.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

So my husband teaches sunday school to the 12 year olds at our church.  I was so excited when they asked him to do it because my first thought was "Yayyyy.  Little children to bake for!"  (Not to be the weird witch from Hansel & Gretel or anything.)

I made these for his kiddos a few weeks ago and they were well-received.  (Except for the kid who hates cheesecake which I can completely relate to at the uncultured age of 12.  He will learn.)  We took the leftovers to a neighborhood chili cookoff and when one of his kids spotted them she walked off with an armful of bars.  Compliment received! 

These are a perfect fall bar.  I recommend you make some now, but this recipe make a LOT, so find some random children to fatten up if you need to.
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Apple Pie Granita

I kid you not this tastes exactly like apple pie.  Minus the crust part.  AWESOME.  I had no idea I would love this as much as I do. It's not even that bad for you! Plus. It's call granita.  How fancy does that sound?
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

Ok, can I just tell you guys, I love when you leave me comments? I love ALL comments, but I especially love the ones where you ask a question and you sign them "Anonymous". So then I get to write, "Dear Anonymous".  It makes me feel like a spy, or Ann Landers or something.  I'm a fan.

Anyways, since I've made this bread every year of my existence (not really), I probably need to share the recipe with you.  It's so moist and perfectly spiced.  I can't live through the Fall without baking some of this up.  I like to use a heavy hand on some of the spices (just be careful with the cloves), and if you're feeling crazy you can add some mini chocolate chips. 

Update 8/24/12:  I tried this recipe substituting half the pumpkin for shredded zucchini (excess from the garden!) and it turned out great! I put my first 4 ingredients in the blender, including the shredded zucchini, to avoid stringiness that you sometimes get from using zucchini.  I also made them into muffins instead of bread.  Instructions below. 
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Cinnamon Honey Butter

The thing about being a stay at home mom (or stay-in-bed mom if you're Lindsay Bluth) is everyone expects you to be all domestic.  They expect you to bake your own bread, and sew your own Halloween costumes and scrapbook every time your child picks their nose.  Well... when we first got married, I was not domestic-like.  At all.  I called my mom on more than one occasion asking how to bake a potato. 

I'm working on all that domestic-goodness, but if you, like me, struggle with domesticity (say it out loud.  it's fun.)... just whip up some of this butter.  It takes five seconds.  (Well probably like 5 minutes).  And then you can tell everyone you made your own butter.  Personally I told my mom I churned it myself from the cow I milked out back, but if you're not a high-roller, you can leave that part out. People will still be impressed and want to be you.

PS-I made this because somebody on Pinterest claimed it's just like Texas Roadhouse honey butter.  Moral of the story- do not trust strangers on Pinterest.  It doesn't taste exactly like TR honey butter... but it's pretty dang good. I found it a bit strong on the honey flavor, but I have a bit of an aversion to honey. Probably cause when I was little my sister always told me it was bee's barf. While I was eating it.

Now that you're salivating... feel free to try some honey butter.

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Eyeball Pretzel Bites

Mmmkay, let's not even talk about how belated this post is.  I had really hoped to have this up in time for Halloween, because it's such a fun, easy, treat for kids to make.  (People always say that, but really, truly, your two year old can help you make these. Without you screaming and lunging across the room every 2 seconds to keep him from diving into a hot oven).

I fell ill with the plague of death (aka a cold) and whined and moaned for about 2 weeks (mostly about how you should be able to buy prescriptions through WebMD since you've al-READY diagnosed yourself.  Psshhhhh. By the way, does anyone else end up with cancer every time they use that thing?  I think there's a slight possibility I'm becoming a cyberchondriac.)

And then I got over it and decided you probably still need this anti-recipe, even though it's late.  You can use it next year.  Or you can find some other excuse to make eyeball snacks with your kids.  I'm pretty sure you probably have a myriad of those.

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