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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{ Ranch Cheese Ball }

I mentioned in my Cocoa Cupcakes recipe that we were headed out on Black Friday to buy a new tree. We successfully waited long enough to avoid the crush of mad shoppers AND I got my tree at 60% off. 


Here it is. Better photos to come.

Hmmm... my topper is crooked. Must fix that.

My topper is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself, however, it caused a bit of controversy here in the house. See, the Bean is VERY set in his ways. We've been using the same tree topper, made of craft foam and buttons, since he was 2 1/2 years old. I cut it out and he glued on the buttons. He's 15 1/2 now, and it's getting a bit tattered, losing buttons, etc. I have a fresh new tree, with fresh new ornaments (plus all of his yearly Hallmark ornaments), and I just wanted something new. He felt otherwise. So, I was set to put Ole Buttons on top of the tree when he said not to. I didn't know how to feel about that one. I wanted to for HIM. He insisted that a new one go up. By this time, I wanted nothing to do with the new topper, but he wouldn't hear otherwise (he's 15 1/2, remember). So, new topper it was. Ole Buttons is now sitting on my little tree in my living room. Hey, it's a Harry Potter tree. Ole Buttons should be honored. But still.. my momma guilt is working over time on me.


New Topper
It's just a bow I made with an owl ornament inside, but I love it :)
 Ole Buttons in his place of honor. Hey, I'd be happy to retire with Harry Potter.
Just sayin'...

 (yes, that is a collage of my adorable Baby Bean behind the tree)

Harry Potter tree with Ole Buttons

Le Sigh....

There was a point to this post & it totally wasn't to ramble on about momma guilt. 
It was, however, about something ranch. And something ranch is always good.

Last year, around this time, I posted my super complicated 1. 2. 3. Cheese Ball recipe. 

1. 2. 3. Cheese Ball

I had a reader, Donna, who commented on the recipe. She told me about one she makes, which is just as complicated. It too, has 3 whole steps! I adapted my version by using less ranch.

Are you ready?

You'll need:
Ranch Cheese Ball
1 package of cream cheese, softened
1-2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 envelope of Ranch Dressing Mix

Beat the cream cheese til fluffy, add in the dressing mix, beat until combined, finally, add the cheddar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until distributed.

Roll into a ball and serve.

My photos show tortilla chips, that's what the recipe originally called for. Donna mentioned that was a typo, she'd posted something right below it calling for tortilla chips, but I had the photos already taken. People actually ate them at my party on tortillas, but you had to spread it on. I also served it with crackers. 

You can customize this recipe in any way you wish. Add some green onion, some bacon bits, use Italian Dressing mix instead of Ranch, stir in some nuts (nooooooo) if you are the nutty type, etc.

 For my party, I made this, along with the 1.2.3. Cheese Ball & the Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Now, I've made the chocolate chip cheese ball for YEARS. My non-food adventurous son, however, had never tried it. His response? "WHO MADE THIS, IT'S AMAZING!"

"um, I did, child. I've made it for years!"


Never noticed the cheese ball in 15 years, but holds tight to a craft foam star.

That's my boy.

Happy Christmas~


Sunday, November 25, 2012

{ Gingerbread House Tips & Tricks }

 Traditionally, we make Gingerbread Houses. I've done the lot of things. You know, the expensive kits, building one on a box, and then, what I've done for years, the graham cracker house.

Now, I do realize that the graham cracker houses can be quite the pain, but I have some tips for you.

First and foremost, ditch the Royal Icing. White Chocolate is where it's at.
(I use 'Almond Bark', but candy melts will work as well)

It dries MUCH quicker than Royal Icing & it is just as sturdy.

I made 2 large houses and 1 tiny house with 2 boxes of graham crackers (there are 4 in the picture below, but the skinny 2-story was from some leftovers I had in my cabinet). You may be able to get more, but some I broke, and some were broken in the package). The grahams were the el cheapos at Walmart and cost me $1.29 a box. I also used about one full package of Almond Bark (white melting chocolate), which costs around $3.50. The kits make one house and will run you at least $10. 

Savings, Huzzah!

You can do these an an assortment of sizes, but the step by step I'm showing you is what I made this year. I dug up some old photos to show you other sizes.


First, I roll out a bunch of parchment paper/wax paper/foil because once the chocolate dries you have to pry it up with a jackhammer. And that's not cool.

The big houses are 3 sheets long and 2 sheets wide. Lay them out. You'll need 4 sets of 3 (2 for the sides, 2 for the roof) and 2 of the 2 sheets for the width of the house.

Then, glue 'em together. Be generous with the chocolate. Spread it on there. No need to be neat, these will go on the inside.

Allow to dry. You can also make these on baking sheets and pop them into your freezer if you are in a real hurry.

Once they are dry, add line of chocolate to the edges of the sheets of 3. Lean these up to one of your sheets of 2. You have to use really fancy equipment here. Aka, what ever you've got. When these are just set, stand them up, add chocolate to the other ends, and carefully slide your other sheet of 2 in. Allow to fully dry.

For the roof, add chocolate to the top edges of your structure. These should easily lean in on each other without falling. Add extra chocolate to the bottom edge of the roof on the outside to secure. Allow to fully dry.

The hardest part of making the house is definitely covering the peak. What I do is hold a cracker up and score it with a knife so I know where to cut. I make mine using 2 pieces. 

You can see here where the peak is put together. 

This is just 'glued' on the outside. It is not flush with the rest of the roof.

After I've made the first one (and, um before I've added it to the house), I draw out a template on paper to make this step easier for the rest of the houses I'm making.

You can accent with windows and a door if you like.

Tip: do NOT try to just cut the crackers, they will very often break. Use a sawing motion to cut them.

They will still break sometimes, but not nearly as often.

I also make a couple small houses.

These are actually MUCH easier to make. Make a box out of a square (2 sections of a cracker). 

Use 2 squares for the roof as well. The peak for these is super easy. It's just the square cracker turned diamond direction and cut directly in half. These I glue (chocolate) in before adding to the house.

They, unlike the big house peaks, sit inside of the roof.

Now, just glue the roof on, accent, and done!

All ready for decorations!

Just melt up more white chocolate & let them go to town!

Niecey decorating. Why do teenagers write on each other? Please tell me.
Last night the Bean was written on by his cousin and his girlfriend.  He was written on today at church by a friend. He also wrote on all of them...??

Does not compute.

Some of the candies/decorations I used were:

Bottle Caps (the candy), Smarties, Mike & Ike, Gummy Bears, Candy Canes, Snocaps, Gum Drops, Marshmallows, Twizzlers, Sixlets, and cookies. Other things I've used in the past: M&Ms, Mini Oreos, Peppermint Sticks, Candy Corn, Gumballs, & much more!

I bought cheap packages of candy (like the $1 'movie theater' type boxes), and raided my cabinets.
Use your imagination, lots of things would work!

Houses done!

Mine, Bean's, Niecey's, The Girlfriend's.

Well, almost done. The Bean and I went back today and added more to his. It's easier to decorate when not distracted by  your girlfriend and cousin, and writing on each other.

This is the final, final product of his house (along with mine)

We know these aren't going to win any contests, but we enjoy making them each year!

I hope these little tips help you out. Making Gingerbread Houses is so much fun, and it really isn't that hard. Royal Icing is SO overrated. Go chocolate.

Do it.

Happy Christmas!


Friday, November 23, 2012

{ Cocoa Cupcakes }

Welcome to Christmas!

Now that Thanksgiving is over here in the United States, the Christmas season is officially upon us!

Today is Black Friday. Also known as Maim and Injure Day. For the most part, I stay home, in my PJs and shop Amazon. Today, I will be wandering out, but not until later, and not for Christmas gifts.

I need a new tree. Our old tree has served us well for many years, but it's time she was retired. I will miss her.

I really want a slimmer tree. Not the pencil thin trees, but a nice, not so chubby tree. Sorry chubby trees. You are beautiful, you are just not the right fit for my house. So, I will brave it. For the sake of Christmas decorations.

I hope you all (in the U.S.) had a lovely Thanksgiving. Mine was small this year with only my parents, my grandmother, my mother in law, and my grandmother in law. In the morning, as I was cooking, we (Hubs, Bean, and me) stopped to watch a bit of the Macy's Parade, then after everyone left we watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Oh, Clark!!!

It was unseasonably warm (64) here in Ohio, so I did get a few lights put up outside. I won't lite them until tonight though. I'm having a party tomorrow, something I've done for nearly my entire marriage. It's an Ornament Party. When we first started, we'd all make enough ornaments to exchange, but pretty soon, we just had TOO MANY ornaments. Now we just do a make and take at the party, play silly games, and eat yummy food. We all look forward to it every year.

I just LOVE Christmas, don't you?

This is really just my S'mores Cupcakes adapted for Christmas... but...whatever works, right?

I'm so excited to shared Christmas recipes with you. I have so many planned. Let's just hope I can get them all made a posted!

Happy Christmas ~ Tina

 Cocoa Cupcakes

24 Chocolate Cupcakes, baked and cooled
2 Graham Crackers
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1-2 Hershey bars

Chocolate Glaze:
4 Tablespoons of Butter
3 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2-3 Tablespoons HOT water

Marshmallow Buttercream*:
 2 Sticks (1 cup) of Butter (softened)
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2-3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream or Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1- 7 oz container of Marshmallow Fluff
 1/4 teaspoon of salt

crushed candy candy or pepermints
coarse sugar
red sprinkles

I make up these Cocoa Cupcakes the other day. Like a good cup of cocoa, they are chocolate, chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate, and a little mint.

Crush up one candy cane. Add a tablespoon of coarse sugar (or regular works fine), and a tablespoon of red sprinkles. If you want more mint flavor, you can crush more candy canes.

Bake up 24 chocolate cupcakes & allow to cool.

Now, make your chocolate glaze.

Melt the butter in the microwave, then add the 3 Tablespoons of cocoa. Mix well, add in your 1/2 cup of Powdered Sugar & 2 Tablespoons of Hot Water & 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Whisk until glossy. If too thick, add the 3rd Tablespoon of Hot Water.
Drizzle over cupcakes. You can also dip your cupcake into the glaze, twisting a little as your take it out to get rid of excess chocolate.

Let the glaze set up while you make your Marshmallow Buttercream.
In a mixer, add the 2 Sticks of Butter. Beat for about a minute. Then add the 2 cups of powdered sugar in a little at a time. Next, beat in your Vanilla & Marshmallow Cream. Now add your milk/heavy cream 1 Tablespoon at a time. If thin enough, stop there. If not, add more.
This is not a firm buttercream, keep that in mind. It's a softset & kind of a little sticky.
Top each cupcake with a nice sided dollop of the frosting. You don't need to cover the whole cupcake. 
Sprinkle finished cupcakes with the sugar/candy cane mixture.

If you like more mint flavor, add a teaspoon of peppermint extract to your Marshmallow Buttercream.

*My Marshmallow Buttercream is adapted from this Vanilla Buttercream Recipe


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

{ Thanksgiving Placecards }

I did this post last year, but it's a enjoyable little project that you might want to delve into with your kids while they are off school.

Or make them by yourself. I did. ;)

They aren't very hard or time consuming, but they are fun to play with.

Here's the info on how to make them:

Edible Thanksgiving Placecards


Saturday, November 17, 2012

{ Streusel Topped Apple Muffins }

Last night, for the first time ever, the Bean went out with a teenage driver.

Now, my friend Lori's girls have driven him home from school on occasion, but we live under 5 minutes from there. This was an 'out all evening, drive 20 miles one way' type of deal.


I know the guy he went with. I love him, he's a totally great, responsible kid. But still...

The fact that my own kid is now old enough to get his Learners Permit freaks me out.

They went to see "Here Comes The Boom". I told them, beware the TwiHards, but they went anyway. When he got home he told me that they had to park at the Kroger store 1/4 mile away walk a very busy road in the dark. 

I'm so glad I didn't know that until he was home safe!

After that, they went to Mickey D's, got some grub then headed home.

Good news? I survived! 

Even better news?

I made muffins.

These apple muffins would be excellent for Thanksgiving morning. Something light and tasty that won't fill you up for the big day ahead.

 This recipe features apples

and streusel

yum! yum!


Streusel Topped Apple Muffins

 1 1/2 cups sugar (you can use 2 cups for a sweeter muffin)
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
3 cups peeled, cored, diced apples (around 3 apples)

 1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) cold butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup quick oats
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with paper liners.
Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix well combined. This batter is very thick. Almost a dough. Add in the diced apple. Stir well to combine.

For the stresuel:

Cut the dry ingredients into the butter with a pastry cutter or fork (or you can use a food processor), until the mixture resembles peas. 

Fill your cupcake liners almost to the top with the batter, about 3/4 full. Then sprinkle stresuel over the tops.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-24 minutes (check at 20). 

The original recipe says this will make 18 muffins, but I got 24. This recipe doesn't rise much, so I could have filled my liners a little fuller to get nicely domed muffins.

Doesn't matter though, they still taste delish!


So, I made it through this milestone with the Bean.

However, when HE is the one behind the wheel I will definitely need chocolate.

Sorry apples!


Monday, November 12, 2012

{ Nutella Spread & Nutella Cupcakes }

 Blame my friend Darla.

It's all her fault.

These recipes are a direct result of her doing.

You can't blame me, I don't even like Nutella.

Well, they are also a result of my failure, but we won't talk about that.

Alright, fine, we will. The other night, I had an event with my youth group. I decided to make Darla's recipe for Nutella Cream Pies. Then, I, uh... burnt them.

I know, I know, but people, I have failures in the kitchen too. O.F.T.E.N.

I still had more cookies to bake (which I did, which I DIDN'T burn), but it wouldn't be enough.

Then... Light Bulb.

And yes, I totally just typed that in Gru's voice.

I decided to just alter her filling recipe a bit and make.... Nutella Spread.

Here's what I did:

Nutella Spread

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
3/4 cup Nutella
pinch of salt

Beat the butter until smooth, add in the sugar, then add the vanilla and marshmallow spread, along with the pinch of salt. Lastly, mix in the Nutella. Beat until whippy and smooth.

Serve with Graham Crackers, and cookies like Oreos & Vanilla Wafers. In the photo you'll also see some of the surviving Nutella cookies from Darla's recipe, which are delish- and remember folks, I don't even LIKE Nutella. They have a very light Hazelnut flavor, but a rich chocolatey one.

Now, fast forward two days, and I get a request from one of my Youth Grouppers for Nutella Cupcakes (I always bring treats on Sunday Nights). 

Nutella Cupcakes
I used a boxed chocolate cake mix and beat a 1/2 cup of Nutella right into the batter.

Then, I made a Nutella Marshmallow Buttercream

Nutella Buttercream
Recipe by Tina @ Sugar Bean Bakers*

2 sticks of butter- softened
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of Nutella
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
2 squares of unsweetened chocolate,
melted, and cooled to room temperature 

First make the buttercream, by beating the butter for 3 minutes. Then slowly add in the sugar and salt. Splash in the vanilla and heavy cream and beat for about a minute, then add the marshmallow fluff. Add in the chocolate and the Nutella and beat. If it's too thick, add in a bit more heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. Beat unti light and fluffy.

*Adapted from  Darla's Perfect Vanilla Buttercream 

Swirl on to cupcakes & top with sanding sugar. I used pure cane sugar on these.

I actually liked these cupcakes as well. The hazelnut is light here, as well. You can totally taste it, but it's not overpowering. Our youth minister really liked them. I'm not sure how many he ate, but I know it was more than 2!

One of the kids said they tasted like fudge, and hey, that's never a bad thing!

Either of these recipes would be excellent for the upcoming holidays. Great for parties and get togethers.

So, failure sometime equals success. You just never know, do ya!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

{ All About The Mouse Party }

As I've mentioned before, I have monthly, themed game nights.

Last night was this month's.

Since returning from The Magic Kingdom in September, I've been a little obsessed with Disney. A little, as in, 4 orders to the Disney Store in a week's time.

Gah. Issues, I have 'em.

Anyway, it was a no-brainer that one of the game nights had to be Mickey/Disney themed. Luckily, I had no set plans for November. Kismet.

I've mentioned my parties take anywhere from a couple hours to months to prep for. Well, this was a couple hour type deal. Not complicated AT ALL, yet still so fun.

I made up some Mickey Oreo Pops. I've seen these made dipped totally in chocolate, like here, but, I decided to go the simple route. 

Required: Double Stuff Oreos, Black Candy Melts, Lollipop Sticks.

Melt a few of the candies, dip a lollipop stick in it, then insert into Oreo. Then, dip 2 of the unmelted wafer into the chocolate, then into the top of the Oreo to look like Mickey ears.

Quick, easy, and so cute.

I found some Mickey Mouse Peeps at Walgreens. They are in the Christmas Candy section.

I also made some Filigree Mickeys just by melting some chocolate and piping it out into the shape.

I wrote names of Disney characters onto cups. Everyone picked a cup (I held them so they couldn't see the names on them). I'm quite happy to tell you that the Bean was Cinderella. Yeah, that happened. Here my niece holds her Maleficent cup.

I found the fun straws in the Christmas section of my grocery store. 12 for $1.

We then played my super old Disney Trivia game. The most recent movie in it was Beauty and the Beast. L.O.L. It was still fun. Some questions were super easy, and some were so, so hard. Movies we'd never heard of, soundtrack questions, etc!

Early this year, my friend Stephanie told us about this game. We've now deemed it "Visual Telephone" , and it is seriously the most fun ever.

If you have 8 people, you cut paper into stacks of 8 (if you have 5, stacks of 5 papers, etc). Each person gets a stack of 8 papers. The first person writes a word, passes the paper to the left,  the next person looks at it, moves it to the back, and tries to draw it, passes to the the left. The next person looks at the drawing, moves the paper to the back of the stack, and then tries to guess what that drawing is and writes it down, then...passes it to the left.  The following person then draws what that person wrote, repeat process until the original is back to the original author. It is so funny. Sometimes they stay the same, like Jack Skellington and Pinocchio did for us last night, but usually, you'll end up with craziness. Don't worry if you cannot draw, that makes it even more fun.

Last night all of the drawings had to be Disney themed. Please excuse my wonderful writing in the first photo. It says 'bad llama' (Emperor's New Groove).

This one was all going well until the Bean drew the dinosaur looking llama.

Thumper becomes Roger Rabbit, becomes Diva, becomes rabbit. Ok.

Sleeping Beauty becomes Shrek (not Disney, for the record, haha)

When I say it's time to play this game every month, I get cheers. You should definitely try it with friends and family. It works best in groups of 5 and over though.

So, that's it. My Disney party.

There were Disney shirts, Mickey Ears, and Mickey Fingernails (mine)

I had planned on making super cute Mickey cupcakes like my friend Darla made, but I didn't get them done. Next time!

It may have been super quick with barely any planning, but it was a ton of fun!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

{ Peanut Butter Crunch Truffles }

As I said in my last post, my oven was broken.

Good news, my new heating element came today, so the baking is back ON!

In the meantime though, I made truffles.

I've got about 100,000 peanut butter/chocolate recipes on this blog, so, obvs, we are fans. The most popular recipe on this blog, by the way, is a peanut butter/chocolate recipe. So, clearly, we are not the only fans out there.

That post is Buckeye Bites, which would be great for Christmas making and giving. Quick, easy, and delish. Much like this recipe.

The Bean's favorite candy in the wide world is Reese's Cups. For Easter I made these Harry Potter inspired Chocolate Frogs. Apparently, I ruined Reese's Cups for him with these. He begs me to make them all the time. I don't. Bad mom.

Then there is Peanut Butter Buttercream, which is AMAZING on chocolate cake. 

Or how about some cupcakes. Buckeye Cupcakes perhaps? Or maybe Reese's Cup Cupcakes?
I also have a twist on the classic Peanut Butter Blossom Cookie.

Some Cheerio Treats maybe? 

Of course there is the classic Ohio candy, the Buckeye, for which a couple of these recipes are named.

Hmm..maybe I post TOO much. Nah, that can't be possible.

The Peanut Butter Crunch Truffle is almost like a Buckeye. Almost.

Peanut Butter Crunch Truffles
Recipe by Tina @Sugar Bean Bakers

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter (I used creamy)
1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 Stick Butter
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Flour
3/4 Cup Corn Flakes Cereal
 Dipping chocolate

Beat the butter and peanut butter together. Add in the sugars and flour, mix until well combined. Beat in vanilla. Pour in corn flakes, and mix slowly together. 

Once the corn flakes are distributed, roll into balls. I used a small cookie scoop, approx 2 teaspoons, for mine. I got 20 balls from this easily doubled recipe.

Chill for 30 mins, then dip into melted chocolate, and allow to cool on foil or parchment paper.

You can crunch up a few corn flakes for the top, drizzle with more chocolate, add sprinkles, etc.

Would be great with white chocolate too!

Thanks to my friend, Lori, who I've often mentioned here, who not only talked to me on the phone while I rudely ran the mixer and microwave, but also came up with the name for these treats :)

 The adorable little egg cartons and mini wrappers are from Bake it Pretty!
You wouldn't think so, but 3 days later, the corn flakes are still crunchy.

I haven't tried it yet, but I think Rice Krispies would work too!

Peanut butter and chocolate? Yes. And. Please.




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