Crazy Cardinal and Edible Bird’s Nest

I mentioned this female cardinal a while back and she is at it again.   She will fly into the window for some unknown reason and I actually caught it on video this morning.   At first I thought she saw something in the house and moved things out of the way so she would stop.  I was concerned she was going to hurt herself.   After watching the video, I can see her reflection in the window and I got to thinking maybe she is flying at her own image for some reason.   The male cardinal is not far away when she does this so it’s possible she is guarding her space from another female cardinal.   Watch the video – she doesn’t hurt herself and the dogs usually start barking at her insane behavior and she leaves after a few minutes.

The video of the crazy cardinal fits the theme of today’s cookie craft!   Perfect for the upcoming Spring season and Easter celebrations.   These simple to make bird nests will add a special touch to your parties and celebrations.

Bird’s Nest Cookies

1 lb. chocolate or vanilla candy coating

2 cups chow mein noodles

2 cups corn flakes, chopped

Mix the noodles and corn flakes gently with a rubber spatula.   Melt the candy coating in the microwave and pour over the dry mixture.   Blend until all is coated evenly.   Drop onto wax paper and shape into a nest.   You may have to work to create the shape you are trying to achieve.   Place the nest shapes in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden.   Add M&M candies to the center as your eggs.

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Sweet and Simple Decorating

…..and Edible!!

These easy to make decorations will soon adorn all your baked goodies!   From cakes to cookies, cupcakes and everything in between.   You can make them well ahead of time and not worry about spoilage since they harden and last for quite a long time.   Keeping that in mind, you do have to keep the dough that you are not working with in an airtight container – the air will cause the dough to harden.   The dough you will be working with is called gum paste or candy dough and I do have a recipe to share.   I used the store-bought gum paste mix simply because I saw it at the store and bought it.   All I had to do was add water.   The dough is a tad sticky so adding confectioners (powdered) sugar as you work with it helps greatly.

The dough is easy to work with and making flowers, leaves and other designs is actually quite Fun!   I did use food coloring a little, tried pink sparkles which didn’t adhere and mixed in food color paste (the purple) to create a colored flower.   You can make your designs ahead of time and keep for future decorating when the occasion arises.   The recipe for Candy Dough contains 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup cornstarch, sifted, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tablespoon unflavored gelatin and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.   Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer.  Take the mixture and wrap it in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container.   Set aside for 3 hours.   Unwrap the dough and your imagination and get creative!

I melted some chocolate and used a plastic squeeze bottle to draw designs on wax paper.   The chocolate didn’t take long to harden up.   You do have to be careful as you peel it off the wax paper since it is rather fragile.   You can combine your candy dough creations with the chocolate designs and create quite a professional finished goodie!   You can make patterns to follow cut from cardboard or draw a design on paper with pencil, cover the design with wax paper and follow along the lines with the melted chocolate.   The best part is nothing has to be perfect or identical …  just Sweet and Simple

and Edible!!

Added this craft post to Get your Craft On linky… Thanks!

Take Home Treat Surprises!

Tradition in our family calls for everyone bringing a dish to share at gatherings.   It may be a holiday event, birthday or graduation or maybe even a Superbowl Party!   Some bring along appetizers or salads or parts of the main course; whatever it may be, we all eat and Eat Well!   Recently we even had the addition of homemade Baileys Irish Cream…..what a treat that was!

True to tradition we will all gather tomorrow for the big football event of the year.   We will be bringing along a layered taco dip – fashioned after the 7 layer salad, but eaten with chips like a dip.   Most times I also bring cookies and candies

… and we munch all day long.   This time I decided to make Treat Surprises that everyone can take home with them.   This way they can enjoy them without that stuffed feeling and space out the enjoyment throughout the week!   Last night I made some Hard Caramel Candies to include in the packages and it is Yummmmy!

I scanned through my Cricut cartridges and found a few I can use to put all the sweets in – not sure which to use or if I will just opt for little plastic bags which might be easier to grab and take.

We also will be celebrating another birthday … look’s like I have my work cut out for me!   Whatever your plans for the weekend … Eat well and Enjoy!!

Potted Herbs as Gifts

Earlier this week I talked about my herbs which I have growing indoors and they are doing Great!   I planted them back in November so give or take 3 months and you have a good crop to harvest for spicing up your meals!   Then I got to thinking about the upcoming holidays and since I am big on homemade gifts…I thought potted herbs are the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or any Birthday!   I have recently acquired the Cricut cartridge “Freshly Picked” and haven’t had time to delve into what it can do.

What I really like about this cartridge is it’s all about Gardening…one of my favorite things in the world.   So today I took some time and made a few seed packets and little paper signs.   This is only a start … I can do so many creative things with this!

I had the herbs growing in the standard black plastic pots so I transplanted them into nicer terra-cotta pots.   You can decorate the pots any way you desire, any color and even personalize them with names, dates, etc.

Add a packet of those saved seeds you kept from your garden last year and you have a spectacular homemade gift!   You can even include some garden themed chocolates…..Yum!         Perfect!!

I Love to Bake!

I could bake all day long, day after day, and never get bored!   I try to bake healthy using whole wheat flour and adding flaxseed or applesauce as substitutes for higher calorie ingredients.   With our current empty-nester status it is not as common to find me baking away in the kitchen these days, but you can bet I am always searching for a new recipe or two to try out.   This weekend I have a family birthday to celebrate and I plan to bake up a bunch of goodies.   The main attraction will be the birthday cake of course and chocolate candies which has been my latest fascination.

I do have some different flavors I will be experimenting with this week – these are filled with a peppermint ganache and melt in your mouth!   I have also decided to explore decorating the candies and cake with a bit more fancy details.   In the past, I normally would just use store-bought frosting mix and tube icing to decorate.   Researching a bit I have discovered two different homemade frosting or icing I am anxious to try.   Having often wondered about the two but falling short of actually looking into them I would just grab the store-bought can of mix.   Buttercream frosting and Royal icing are the star players I am referring to here.   Buttercream is more creamy and has more flavor whereas the royal icing dries hard and can be used to make flowers and other decorations.

You want to keep the Buttercream Frosting in the refrigerator when not using and it will keep for 2 weeks but must be whipped again before using.   The Royal Icing sets quickly, so keep the bowl covered with a damp cloth at all times to prevent drying.

                                                    and Speaking of Snow……

Here is a cute recipe that is perfect for this time of year.    I am sure young and old alike would enjoy it!

Candy in the Snow – Only one ingredient and a generous snowfall needed.   Gently boil 1/2 cup of maple syrup until it has thickened, for about 5 minutes.   Fill a bowl with clean snow and drizzle the hot syrup over it.  The syrup will harden into “candy” you can eat with your fingers.

Valentine’s Day Cookie Craft

This is an easy and economical idea for creating a wonderful gift for someone special on Valentine’s Day or for everyone you want to share some sweets with!   You can make the cookies, decorate them and package them up all at different times.   This way the crafting won’t seem like an endless project that goes on for hours and hours.  

To start you will have to bake up the cookies and the recipe can be found here –> Recipe for cookies.   If you don’t have cookie cutters, you can cut a template from cardboard of a heart and use that or simply cut the heart designs (or any designs…a person’s initial or even name) free-hand and bake following the directions.

Once you have your cookies baked, you can continue on with decorating or store them and do this at a later time.   I decorated with several different candy wafer chocolates by melting  and dropping the cookie face down into the melted chocolate and then plucking out and placing on a cookie sheet to dry.

Now with the decorating complete, I have to decide how I want to package the candy cookies up.   I kept my decorating simple and the cookies bite-size.   I will be using my Cricut machine and creating from the Valentine’s Day cartridge Love Struck, but for those without the Cricut, here is an excellent link to a blog that lists out many other blogs and tutorials on creating gift bags!!  Mel Stampz: 50+ Gift bag Templates….very helpful, indeed!

Cricuit Machine

Whether it’s packaged in a box, bag or an envelope, I am betting it will be loved and appreciated by those receiving it !

                                        Happy Crafting !   Enjoy and have Fun!

Chocolate Candy Making is No Easy Task!

For years I have made homemade chocolate candies for the holidays!   I would simply buy the candy wafers at the hobby store, melt them down and pour them into the candy molds.   I have been creative at different times and added swirls or peanut butter inside and even made turtles one year with pecans and caramel.   Everyone  loved the creations and I was always proud!  

I rarely indulged in the creations since I found the candy wafers too sweet for my liking.   So this year I got to thinking ….. maybe I should make some good “gourmet” chocolate and I started researching.

This candy book I had picked up some time ago and never really looked at it.   Now I find it listed as a collector item ….. and it has my attention!   I also ordered these books recently and realized that working with chocolate is an art and takes quite a bit of skill!!

The chocolate wafers I have been using are actually a coating and not the real stuff.   The good gourmet chocolate can be purchased over the internet and does cost quite a bit more than the wafer coatings.   I also learned a very important major difference ….. a process called tempering.   This is where you melt down the good chocolate to a specific temperature, let it cool to a specific temperature and then heat it back up slightly in order to work with it and give it that gloss and crunch that goes along with a good chocolate bar.   There are also various fillings and caramels and techniques that need to be mastered and I fully realize that Chocolate Candy Making is No Easy Task!

There are truffles and fudge and candy molds to fill ….. but to be very honest, I think if I have even one more tiny teeny piece of any kind of sweet stuff right now I will lapse into a shivering blob of sugar.   What I really, really want to do is create the ultimate healthy gourmet candy and infuse it with basils, lavenders and all things that remind me of the flavors from gardening!   I do miss my garden once again ………..

Hoping everyone enjoyed the first round of holiday festivities and Wishing you all a  ………  Happy New Year!!!