Friday, December 30, 2011

By the Batch - Cheesecake Cookie Dough Bars

Normally around the holidays I bust my butt in the kitchen making all sorts of cookies to give to family, friends and colleagues. This Christmas, being pregnant and always tired, I decided to forgo the tradition. Instead I didn't bake anything until my week of holidays during which I baked only recipes that sounded good to me! And that's how I ended up with these amazing Cheesecake Cookie Dough Bars.

I used a recipe found on Brandy's Baking. While the recipe does have a lot of ingredients and steps it was surprisingly easy to do. I'll apologize now for the lack of pictures in this post - I got into the baking zone and forgot to take any until the bars were completely done - oops!

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Cheesecake Filling:
10 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line an 8" square baking pan with parchment paper allowing a little overhang and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until thoroughly combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes. Remove pan to a cooling rack.

While the crust is cooling, prepare the chocolate chip cookie dough. In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Mix in the flour on low speed until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

In another large bowl cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated. Pour the cheesecake batter into the prepared crust. Using your hand to form clumps, distribute the cookie dough onto the top of the cheesecake batter in teaspoon-sized clumps. 

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top feels dry and firm and the entire pan looks set if given a gentle shake. Move bars to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Chill in refrigerator overnight or for at least a couple hours.

And that's it - you're left with extremely delicious bars that are dangerous to have around the house! I've pinned this recipe and will definitely be returning to it again - maybe next time I'll actually share some ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DIY Baby Closet Dividers

Now that the holidays are over I can start focusing on projects for the baby's room. Which is good since my son is set to arrive in about 7 weeks! Yesterday I organized all his clothing and, since he already has so much in so many different sizes, I decided his closet needed some dividers. There are a ton of cute ones for sale on Etsy but I was pretty sure I could make them myself on the super cheap and I was right!

I used this tutorial from Fresh Crush as my inspiration and then added some touches of my own. I started by cutting oval shapes out of a gift box and then covering them with scrapbooking paper (in the same oval shape) on both sides. Next I traced a circle on each (I used the cap from a carton of half and half but you can use anything as long as it's bigger than the bar you'll be hanging the tags on) and cut them out by cutting into them on an angle. This angle cut is what will allows them to slip them over the bar in the closet.

Next I used my Silhouette to cut out the numbers for each divider as well as little hearts. I glued those on and then, as a finishing touch, added cute little stickers to each divider.

This project only took me about an hour and a half, used all materials I already had on hand, and I'm so pleased with the results. Even my husband thought they were pretty cute and it's not easy to get him enthused about closet organization ;). The best part is that I think these will really come in handy once baby has arrived. And to save you from wondering, I'm left-handed and I hang all my clothes up backwards - if you're going to try these yourself make sure consider which way your clothes will hang when labelling your dividers!

P.S. Linking up to

Paper Issues Blog Design

Friday, December 23, 2011

Last Minute Christmas Printables

It's the evening of December 23 and I can't believe I've only got one day left to prepare for Christmas! Today was devoted to baking (I'll be sharing those results next week) and tomorrow is for wrapping. At least all the shopping is done! If, like me, you're busy with last minute preparations you might appreciate this round up of freebie holiday printables.

Need to keep the little ones busy so you can get everything done? Why not decorate this Christmas tree courtesy of Babalisme. Simply print, cut and let the kids design their own trees. Be sure to visit Babalisme for lots of other adorable freebies as well!

Maybe you're looking for a little last minute decor. If so, check out this cute Holiday Banner from eighteen25. Download and print the pennants and then use white cardstock, bias tape and adhesive to put it all together. They've even put together a tutorial to makes things really simple.

If you're giving away baking as gifts then these tags from Everybody Likes Sandwiches will come in handy. The download includes tags in a few different colours with various baking themed wishes.

If you're still wrapping gifts then you really need to check out this year's Holiday Gift Tag collection from the super talented Helen Dardik of Orange You Lucky! I love that she's got you covered for Christmas and Hanukkah. Click the link to see the full collection and make sure you check out last year's tags as well.

Last but not least, my most viewed post this month has been the Christmas tag printables I created last year. If you haven't seen them you can check them out and download them from here

Well that's it for this holiday season. I hope everyone celebrating Christmas has a very merry one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Paper Cone Wreath

I've been seeing all kinds of variations on the paper cone wreath around blogland and decided it was time to try one myself. So I gathered up some paper and started rolling cones.

I made 16 large cones and 16 smaller ones. The large ones are made from 6x6 squares of scrapbook paper and the smaller ones are 4x4 pages I pulled out of an old dictionary. I found rolling the cones to be a bit tricky at first but I eventually got a rhythm down. The key is to make all your cones as close to the same size as possible.

Once I had all of my cones I cut a circle out of a cereal box and started arranging. I glued a jar lid in the centre of my circle and used that as a guide for the placement of my larger cones. Make sure to lay everything out before gluing anything down - it took me a few tries to get my various patterns into good order. Once I was happy with the placement of everything I hot glued the larger cones down and then hot glued the little cones in between them.

The last step was to cover my jar lid. I cut a circle of scrapbook paper and the Merry Christmas message, inked them and glued them to the centre.

I think it turned out really nicely. I gave this one as a gift but I think I might have to make another to hang in my house. I've also been hunting for a new tree topper and think a smaller version might be just right!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yarn Winter Wreath

Last year I made a winter wreath that I never really liked all that much. When I didn't even want to hang it up this year I decided it was time to try my hand at another. I started with a ball of yarn I had picked up on clearance months ago (never know when discount wool might come in handy!) and a straw wreath form and got to wrapping. I'm very pleased to say that I love this year's wreath!

My pictures don't really do it justice - it was dark last night when I finished (when isn't it dark this time of year?) but I'm too excited to wait for a sunny day to share. I will try to replace some of the pictures once I can take some better ones.

As you can see, I kept it pretty simple. Once the wreath was wrapped I made some paper pinwheels and put glittery snowflake stickers in their centres. I paired the pinwheels with a pretty paper flower.

I bought two clearance picks at Michaels, layered them and then tied them to the wreath with some sparkly ribbon.

The last step was to hang a pretty snowflake ornament in the centre to catch the sun.

And there you have it, simple, pretty and with this colour scheme I can keep it on the front door well past Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Easy No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

Want to make the world's easiest chocolate cheesecake? Have I got the recipe for you! But first, a few disclaimers. When I made this recipe I was expecting traditional cheesecake consistency and that's not really what I got. This cake is more of a fudgey or mousse-like texture. I also thought it would look more like cheesecake (see the picture from the original recipe) but mine actually turned out looking more like chocolate pudding. I'm not sure exactly what happened as I followed the recipe exactly, save for substituting a graham cracker crust for the Oreo crust suggested. Now that isn't to say the cheesecake didn't turn out incredibly because it absolutely did. It's incredibly rich and delicious despite not being the cake I envisioned. If you're ok with that then on to the recipe!


3 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese (softened)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups chocolate chips
Pie crust - the original recipe calls for an Oreo crust but I had graham cracker crumbs so made mine using those and butter.

Melt chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp. oil in microwave for 1-1/2 minutes until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Add melted chocolate to softened cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk and beat until well blended. Pour into pie crust and refrigerate until set.

Super easy, right? Three ingredients for the filling and no baking! And while the look and texture might not be very "cheesecakey" the taste definitely does the name justice. I garnished mine with some of the crust and a little whipped cream and it was a huge hit. File this recipe away for the next time you're looking for quick, easy and delicious.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares

When the lovely ladies over at Hoopla listed these Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares as one of the things they saw and loved last week I was reminded just how delicious and easy they are and decided they'd make the perfect Sunday afternoon baking project.

These squares are so easy that you barely need a recipe and you might just have the ingredients already in the house. All you need is:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 bag of butterscotch chips (300 g)
  • Mini marshmallows
Melt the butter, peanut butter and butterscotch chips in a pot over low heat. Once the mixture is melted and smooth take it off the heat and wait 5 minutes or so until it thickens up. After that dump in some marshmallows - I just eyeball how many to add, it depends on your tastes. Once the marshmallows are coated press the mixture into a greased 9x11 pan. Then stick the whole thing in the fridge to let it harden - or the freezer if you're in a hurry!

Super easy but also really tasty. Something tells me they aren't going to stick around my house for long!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY Glitter Ornaments

I'd like to shake the hand of the first person who came up with these DIY glitter ornaments. They are beautiful, easy to do and the secret ingredient is floor polish. Seriously, floor polish! All you need to make these are clear glass ornaments, fine glitter and Pledge with Future Shine (or Mop and Glo or similar floor polish sold where you live). And the best part is that because the glitter goes inside the ornament you don't end up with it all over your house!

I didn't take any progress photos because there really isn't much to see! Just take the top off your ornament and pour in some floor polish. Swirl it around making sure you are covering the entire inside of your ball and then tip it over and drain the excess back into the bottle. Once all the drips are out pour in some fine glitter (I used Martha's glitter to make mine) and swirl it around. Put your finger over the opening of the ornament and shake it to make sure your glitter gets everywhere. Dump your excess glitter back into the container (you'll be surprised by how little this project actually uses) and put the top back on the ornament. That's it!

Since I was experimenting I made myself a rainbow of ornaments but I think it would be really nice to do a set in red and green or red and silver and give it as a gift. I tied simple ribbon on mine but you can dress them up with stickers, paint or vinyl since the outside of the ornament is still smooth and glitter-free. 

I think this is the greatest idea and I can't wait to make some more!

P.S. Linking up to:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Jars

When I saw the idea for these winter jars over at The Tortoise and the Hare, I knew I had to make some of my own. This project could not have been simpler and I'm so happy with the way my jars turned out!

I started with some of those cheapy dollar store trees that people use when they put together Christmas villages - they were green with fake snow on them. To turn them white I soaked them in bleach and water for a couple of hours and then rinsed them really well. The fake snow kind of melted off and the trees turned sort of yellow. To make them whiter I hit them with some spray glue and then poured white glitter all over them. The last step was to put them in them old jars and then add sugar for snow and to hold them in place. Super easy, really pretty and my winter decorating has finally begun!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Project Round-up

With only a month left until Christmas I'm feeling woefully behind on my holiday crafting! I've got a few projects halfway finished (and taking up my entire dining room table) but nothing I've completed yet this year. But I've decided that no new crafts doesn't have to mean no new blog posts - today I'm bringing you a round-up of some of my Christmas projects from 2010. Whether you've seen these projects before or not, I hope they'll bring you some holiday inspiration. And stay tuned for all new crafts beginning next week!

1. Ribbon Christmas Tree 2. Newspaper Christmas Tree 3. Cookies in a Jar with Freebie Printable
4. Christmas Tag Magnets 5. Origami Christmas Trees 6. Paper Christmas Tree Garland

Have you started your Christmas crafting yet? What about your shopping??

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Wreath Inspiration

I've written before that we have a "no Christmas decorations until December" rule in our house - my husband's idea, I assure you! I don't mind waiting until December 1 but I do find that the house looks a little bare during November once I've taken all the fall decorations down so I've been working on a pretty winter wreath to dress up our front door. I had hoped to have it completed to share with you today but I got sidetracked painting the baby's dresser yesterday and ran out of time. Instead I bring you some winter wreath inspiration courtesy of Pinterest.

1. Yarn Ball Wreath 2. Wrapped Winter Wreath 3. Red & White Wreath
4. Snowflake Wreath 5. Pine Cone Wreath 6. Sweet Gum Wreath

Aren't they pretty? The effort to make a winter wreath is well worth it as you can use it leading up to the Christmas season and then again during January and into February before you put up your cute Valentine's Day wreath. I'm crossing my fingers that mine will be finished this week!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By the Batch - Hot Chocolate Cookies

This coming weekend my husband and I are competing in a cook-off competition. It's Christmas themed and we have to make an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. The trick is that it all has to be done outdoors on a Traeger wood pellet grill! If you're a regular reader you'll have guessed that appetizer and entrée have fallen to Chris to prepare while the dessert is my time to shine. I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to make cookies since that's my Christmas tradition and I thought these Hot Chocolate Cookies were just right for the holidays. Last weekend I made up a test batch to see how the recipe would work on the grill and I was so pleased with the results!

1 cup Salted Butter, softened
1 cup White Sugar
⅔ cups Packed Light Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla
3-¼ cups All-purpose Flour
4 packages (1 Oz. Packets, NOT Sugar-free) Hot Chocolate Mix
1 teaspoon Salt
1-¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
1 cup Each White, Milk, And Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Cream butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, hot chocolate mix, salt and baking soda. Add to wet ingredients in 3 to 4 parts, making sure all is incorporated.  Fold in chips. Chill the dough for an hour or so.  
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spoon dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.   Bake for 9-11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan.

According to Sarah:
These cookies are delicious! You might think 3 cups of chocolate chips is overkill but you would be wrong - yes they are chocolate heavy but they still manage to be not too sweet. To make mine look ever more hot chocolatey I added mini marshmallows a minute or two before the cookies were finished baking. This gives the marshmallows time to puff up a bit but not time to melt.

So what do you think? Do they look award winning?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lest We Forget

Today, November 11, is Remembrance Day here in Canada and throughout the British Commonwealth. On this day each year we honour the memory of the members of our armed forces who fought and lost their lives in the line of duty. In Canada, the poppy is the official symbol of remembrance and we wear them pinned to our left lapels, close to our hearts. But it doesn't have to stop at your lapel. I've found some Remembrance Day themed ideas that can help you express your remembrance, thanks and pride.

You could try making your own poppy to wear like this one from I Could Make That. This one would last you through the years and is safer for children since it doesn't employ a straight pin. Just remember to make a donation to the Royal Canadian Legion even if you're not buying one of their poppies.

I love this Poppy Wreath by How Does She? Amy didn't make hers for Remembrance Day but it could definitely work as a memorial wreath.

These Lemon Poppy Sugar Cookies from The Endless Meal are certainly a different way to commemorate the day but I'm thinking that anything that gets you thinking and participating in remembrance is a good idea.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

-John McCrae

Lest we forget.

Monday, November 7, 2011

By the Batch - Triple Chocolate Cookies

Baked goods have been noticeably absent from our house for the last couple of weeks while we've been getting our sweet fix from Halloween candy. But now that all the good stuff is gone and I can barely bring myself to look at another Tootsie Roll, I figured it was time to get back in the kitchen. Yesterday I had a craving for chocolate cookies. A quick search on Pinterest (seriously my new Google when it comes to recipes and craft ideas) turned up these delicious Triple Chocolate Cookies.

1 cup of butter, softned
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla and one egg at a time until well beaten.Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt then mix thoroughly. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined. Add the chocolate chips and gently stir until evenly mixed.

Drop dough by heaping spoonful on to the baking sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Cool on trays before moving to a rack

According to Sarah:
These cookies definitely satisfied my chocolate craving. They are moist and delicious and super gooey if you eat them straight out of the oven - after letting them cool for a few minutes, of course! I found I had to bake mine for about 12 minutes but since the recipe doesn't specify how many cookies it yields it could be that I made mine bigger. My only tip would be to follow the instruction that says to let them cool on the pan - when first removed from the oven these cookies are really soft and delicate and they'll fall apart if you try to move them too soon. Other than that, this recipe is quick and easy and the results are fantastic!