Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Classroom gifts on a budget

This year we made teacher gifts and gifts to hand out to our classroom friends for all the kids. They were easy to make and best of all they didn't hurt our pocketbook. We spent under $15 for 6 teacher gifts and enough supplies to make 70 reindeer.

For our Class room friends we made these cute Ruldoph the red nosed candy canes. The kids really had fun helping glue on the eyes and nose and twist on the antlers. It was an easy craft that they could actually help with. Because some of the best gifts you give are hand made! They all got wonderful reviews from the kids classmates.

For our teachers I didn't want to break the bank either. And I've heard enough times from teacher friends that they have plenty of candles, body lotion and #1 teacher items. But everyone loves chocolate right?!

I found some yummy Ghirardelli pepermint chocolate bars on one of the christmas sales this year. I wrapped it simple in a piece of christmas wrapping paper turned to the back side. Added some ribbon and a few bells, a sticker and a handwritten thank you & note on it. The kids added their thanks and name too. I hope they liked them. If you're still looking for a quick gift for someone special, these are wonderful, cheap gifts that the kids can help with and will still leave you with bacon in your wallet!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Come on in and sample some treats

If you haven't figured it out yet, I like to bake! And Christmas time is one of those times I go all out! So come and take a trip over to the Bacon's house, and have a sample or two of each (and Sis bacon I know you're reading, you might want to bring the Benadryl, there are nuts involved!)

What type of candies would you like? Perhaps some cheater turtles?

These are super easy to make, even if you hate going into the kitchen!

Round pretzels (any kind of small pretzel works, at the holiday time you can find these though!)
1 bag of Rolo's Candy unwrapped
halved Pecans

Line pan with parchment paper. Set pretzels on the pan, place unwrapped Rolo in center of each pretzel. Place in 350* oven for 5 minutes until rolo starts to soften and the chocolate looks glossy. Remove from oven carefully. Press a pecan into the center of each while still hot. Let cool on pan. Remove and store in fridge. You can also do this with Hershey's kisses in the centers, and press a M&M into them once warmed too! These are great treats the kids can help with.

Those are quite yummy, but you're looking for something else? Perhaps something rich like fudge!?! Fudge is always a Christmas favorite here. Of course once Mr. Bacon and the kids find the container I hid them in, I usually have to make a second batch (like this year!).

Grandma Bacon's Fudge:

3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Melt chocolate chips and milk in microwave safe bowl until melted (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla and salt (if you're curious what a pinch of salt is, it's less than 1/8 tsp) and nuts. Mix well. Pour into a parchment or wax paper lined 8x8 pan. Spread evenly and place in fridge until firm- about 30 min. Remove from pan and paper, cut into small squares. Store in fridge.

Hey now, I said only a sample of the candies! There are more to try. But Fudge is always good! Now maybe you're looking for something a little sugary sweet. Try this recipe from my friend Nancy for Christmas Crack. Her recipe has been tried and true and tastes wonderful! Its made with crackers, sugar, butter and chocolate it's delicious.

Christmas Crack:

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Single layer of club brand crackers on parchment. If you don't have Club crackers, you can use saltines too.

Melt together:
1 c. brown sugar
2 sticks butter

Boil for exactly 3 minutes.
Pour over crackers and bake at 350 for exactly 8 minutes.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle one bag milk chocolate chips on top. (Semisweet is yummy too!)
Spread them as they start to melt. You can sprinkle chopped walnuts or
pecans on top if you want. CHILL COMPLETELY! ( Nancy says In subzero weather, the front step works nicely for this step, and she's right! It's freezing in Minnesota, colder than my freezer.) Cut up or break apart with your hand and store in airtight container.

Yeah, it's THAT good! Go ahead, make a pan for yourself and see how long it lasts. No Christmas treat sampling is complete without some puppy chow. No I'm not talking about food for your dog, I'm talking about this delicious stuff. It's super easy to make for the holidays and another easy recipe the kids can help with.

Puppy Chow:
8 cups Crispex cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
powdered sugar

In microwave safe bowl or double boiler melt the peanut butter, chocolate & butter. Place cereal in big bowl. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and coat well. Here's the fun part- Place 1 cup powdered sugar in brown paper grocery bag. Pour in coated cereal. fold over bag and shake it around to coat all the cereal. Open the bag and see if it's coated well. If not keep adding in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until all the cereal is coated.

This treat not only is great to munch on at Christmas time, but all year long. I always wondered why we keep some of our favorite recipes to make only at Christmas time. Nothing beats a good pan of fudge or some puppy chow in the July heat either! And they are cheaper than buying candy bars or other treats for in your kids lunch box.

Well do you still have room to sample one more? Just one more teeny tiny TRUFFLE?! It's just not Christmas without over indulging with truffles. These are incredible fluffy and have just enough richness to tame your sweet tooth.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles:

8oz chocolate chips (1 cup)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1- 8oz tub cool whip thawed

1/4 cup each
*powdered sugar
*instant coffee
*ground nuts

Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in microwave safe bowl. Mix well. Let cool for 5-10 min. Gently fold in the cool whip. Don't mix a lot with this or they truffles won't have a fluffy consistency. Place in the fridge for at least one hour to chill. Place your 1/4 cup of toppings in individual bowls. Take 1/2- 1 tsp of the truffle mix and roll into a ball with your hands. This is a messy process so don't worry if your hands get dirty. Roll truffle ball in topping choice and place in mini muffin or candy paper. Place in fridge to chill. Store in air tight container in fridge.

Well I hope you enjoyed your visit to the Bacon's. I'm glad you stopped by for some treats. I hope they helped with that sweet tooth for a little bit. No you say. Well get baking some treats of your own. The best part is none of these recipes are overly hard or take long to make. But they taste like you've been spending weeks in the kitchen.

I'm off to keep baking. The kids are eager to decorate sugar cookies. So off to dig out the recipe. Oh remember a few weeks ago I mentioned how bad my recipe book was getting... Well I think I know what I'm going to ask Santa for- Time to get a new recipe holder!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A mouse in the house

It was the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Or was there? Are these not super cute! Baking time is in full swing at our house getting ready for Christmas. And these are one of the most requested candies I make. I've been making chocolate mice for years now and I had to share with you.

They look and taste amazing and surprising, they are super easy to make.

Here is what you need:
1 jar Cherries with stems
Hershey's Kisses - unwrapped
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
slivered almonds

First start by getting the chocolate chips melting. I toss mine in a double boiler. You can take a pot with a little water and a metal bowl on top too. Or just melt them in the microwave. Just know if you melt them in the microwave, you want to make sure you have everything ready to go as soon as the chocolate is melted because it will start to cool very fast.

Next start draining the cherries on paper towels and unwrapping the kisses.

Line a pan with parchment or wax paper. I'm all ready to go.

Take a cherry and hold it by the stem. Dip it in the melted chocolate. You can use a spoon or spatula to make sure the whole cherry gets covered in chocolate. Place covered cherry on lined pan and add kiss to the front to create the mouse head.

Once you get all the cherries coated, and a head in place it's time to add some ears. Dig though the slivered almonds and find some nice unbroken ones. Dip just the bottom of the almond in the melted chocolate and position behind the mouse head to form ears.

*Note: be careful handling the ears, they break very easy!

Now they are ready to pop into the freezer for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes, take them out of the freezer, pop them off the pan and into an air tight container. Make sure they stay back in the fridge or freezer until you are going to use them to keep them fresh.

Oh and do you know the best way to get rid of a mouse problem?

Bite their heads off!

Stop back soon. I'm going to get more of the yummy treats I've been making posted.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Copycat Nachos?

Last week we stocked the cupboards and fridge full and it was a good thing because this weekend they are predicting 1 to 2 FEET of snow for our area! Right now I'm sipping some coffee, watching the snow fall outside and listening to the kids playing quietly (for once) down stairs while muffins are baking in the oven for breakfast. It's a good start to the day so far! I wanted to post about my budget from our last shopping trip but for one, I can't seem to find where I put the receipt, and I'm pretty sure we went over our grocery limit! One good thing from it is I think we can make it until after Christmas to get groceries again, which would be another 3 weeks between trips. I'm liking being able to go 3 weeks between having to trudge out in the cold weather with the family.

Since I can't talk about what I spent the bacon on, I'll post what our plans are for all that food. One thing we do is meal plan. We usually sit down as a family and discuss what we want for meals. The kids get a say in what we make which helps with what they actually eat at dinner time. Also they get excited about their special meal day where they get to help Mr. Bacon or me make it. It's a win for us! This time we figured with the holiday we needed 14 meals. So what's on our list for the next few weeks?

  1. Grilled Chicken with fried mushrooms, wild rice & mixed veggies
  2. Bacon wrapped pork loin, roasted potatoes, & corn
  3. Chicken and rice, & broccoli
  4. Pizza
  5. Tinfoil meal
  6. Goulash & toast
  7. meatballs & gravy, mashed potatoes and beans
  8. Venison stir fry
  9. Mini burgers, homemade fries & apple slices
  10. spaghetti & garlic bread
  11. country pork chops- this is a one dish meal- pork chops, potatoes & carrots
  12. Tacos
  13. egg Scramble & toast
  14. Beef stroganoff & homemade biscuits
So you can see nothing too fancy or that takes a lot of time, but some pretty darn good tasting meals! They are also in no particular order. We just list the meals we have everything on hand to make and then pick each day from the list. Can you guess which one's the kids choose to make? Little miss Bacon loves spaghetti (ok so she likes the garlic bread, but she always chooses this dinner!) and she gets to help make the garlic bread with me. Little boy Bacon loves scramble and helping Mr. Bacon make it. It's also a meal that is easy on our budget. And Bacon Jr. loves tacos. He helps with chopping the veggies.

We made the tacos already this week. One thing I really wanted was Nachos. There's a little restaurant in town that has nachos on their appetizers and they are really good! I fought the urge to go there and get some. So I decided to make my own at home while the others had tacos, complete with my homemade salsa.

No too bad, and a bit festive with the red & green tortilla chips I bought! They were not quite like the restaurant nachos, but they saved me $8 (Really it saved me more like $40 and two wasted kids meals that we would have ordered and only had 4 fries eaten from them if the whole family would have gone out to eat) I'll happily pocket my $40 for the home made nachos and I'll keep working on making them more like the one's I love to go out for. So here's a challenge, what can you try to make at home instead of going out for? Or how about trying to meal plan to save some bacon for your pocket, especially during this crazy time of year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

Old Mother Bacon...err.. Hubbard went to her Cupboard to get her kids some food. Nope none in here. Lets check the fridge....

It's been a long 3 weeks since we went grocery shopping. Look you can see the back of my fridge! The kids are complaining there's nothing to eat and Little Miss Bacon wants to bake some cookies with Mama, but we have no eggs. So that means it's grocery shopping time. The plans are to go tomorrow, but Mother Nature seems to be as funny as mother goose and is dumping about 6 inches of snow on us tonight and thought out the day tomorrow. I'm not quite sure when I'll get to the store. I normally don't let it go this long between shopping trips and I especially try not to run out of basics like milk, butter and eggs. But someone didn't tell the germ fairy that moms are not suppose to get sick. Not only once but twice in the past 3 weeks I've been sick, first with strep and then some tummy bug. I think I met my quota of sickness for the year! We also went to visit Grandma Bacon's house for thanksgiving so that left little time for shopping. It does seem to have left a lot of time for others to eat since we're out of food!

None of this stopped the big question of the day, "what's for dinner?". What would you do if your fridge was this bare? Call for pizza? Grab some fast food? Nope not Ma bacon! You go digging though your pantry and freezer! Thankfully the freezer is fully stocked with meats. Here's what I found on my quest though the kitchen. Tonight I made quick chicken.

1 lb chicken breast- cut into small pieces
2 cups quick cooking rice
1 bag (about 2 cups) frozen veggie medley thawed
1 can cream of chicken soup
3 cups water
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp paprika
1 Tbsp olive oil

Saute chicken in oil with favorite seasoning. Once browned, add in soup, water, veggies, pepper and paprika. Cook for 10 min or until veggies are soft. Add in rice and cook 5-10 min. longer until rice is done. Serve.

It's a great meal for a cold day like today. We're getting 6 inches of snow! (anyone want some?!) I was happy to find a half loaf of french bread in the freezer too. Add a little garlic seasoning and butter and pop it in the oven, and it's a fast complete meal. I love one dish meals, and a bonus for one's that take less than 30 minutes to make. This is great for busy week nights too when you're tempted to hit the drive though.

One challenge down, on to the next one. I need to go fill the fridge back up! It will be a great challenge to stay on budget, but I'll try my best. I'll even try to post it here along with our meal plan for the next few weeks so you can have a peek into what dinner with the Bacon's is like!