Fantasy Fudge

What the fudge? It’s that easy?
I’m not going to tell you that this is the BEST fudge I’ve ever had, but my mom has been making it every year at Christmas since I was a little girl. All these years I’ve I LOVED it! When I “became domesticated” (as my dad calls it) and started baking, I asked my mom for this recipe. I was shocked when I realized how easy it was to make. The recipe actually comes from the jar of Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallow creme.

Pretty basic ingredients. Butter, sugar, evaporated milk (you only need a small can but I only had a large one so I put the rest in the fridge for mac-n-cheese), marshmallow creme, semi-sweet chocolate chips or baker’s squares, vanilla and nuts (optional).
In a large saucepan over medium heat combine 3 cups sugar, 3/4 cup butter and 1 (5 oz) can evaporated milk. Stir occasionally until butter is melted.

In the meantime, prepare an 8×8 inch pan by lining it with foil.

Bring sugar mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. 

Boil, stirring constantly, 4 minutes or until candy thermometer reads between 230 and 235 degrees. 
 Remove from heat and stir in 12 oz of chocolate and 1 (7oz) jar marshmallow creme. Keep stirring until melted. You’ll burn a few calories here so don’t feel so guilty about eating the fudge later!

Add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 cup nuts (if desired). Mix well. 
Note: I added walnuts this time. I usually use pecans and have decided that I like the pecans much better.

Pour the fudge into your prepared pan and allow to cool completely. This will take several hours. If you have a cooler room in the house, set the pan in there.
Invert fudge onto cutting board and slice into bite-size squares. Store in an air-tight container and be sure to share with your family and friends.  They will thank you for it!

Fantasy Fudge Recipe

Holiday Centerpiece Makeover on a BUDGET!

If you’re on a budget this year (most of us are) and think you can’t go buy new holiday decor, think again!

First of all, look and see what you already have. Any wreath, centerpiece, etc. can be taken apart and the pieces recycled. Next, check out discount stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Their Christmas decor is pretty nice (and pretty cheap). Third, look around for ideas. Use that little camera phone to snap photos of pieces at friends’ houses, stores, etc. 
Check this out. . .
When I saw this box at Wal-Mart, I knew that what was on the “cover” was not what the actual item in the box would look like. So I opened it up to take a look. It wasn’t bad. . .

In fact, this little piece actually had the potential to be something fabulous! Especially for only $10!!! 
So here is what the original looked like, and there really wasn’t anything wrong with it, It was just the Charlie Brown version of a centerpiece.

So here is what I pulled out of my stash. Mercury glass balls, 2 silver eucalyptus branches, 2 pine branches, and one small pine ring.

I started with the base that was included in the box and added my pine ring that I got from the Dollar Tree.

I wanted a larger hurricane, so I used one from my everyday table scape. This I got from IKEA for 12 bucks, I think. It fit perfectly inside the pine ring and base. I added the ornaments which I purchased at Hobby Lobby last year for a different centerpiece. I think they were about $2 each.
I decided not to let the ring that came with the original piece go to waste, so I cut off the pine needles and pine cones. And the berries? They went in my stash for another project! Then I cut the eucalyptus branches into smaller pieces. These branches were a couple bucks each from Micheal’s.

I placed the snow covered branches and pine cones around the pine ring and secured using a hot glue gun.

After experimenting with the eucalyptus in the greenery, I decided to stop here with this piece.
Pretty nice, huh? Similar to the original, but adding the extra greenery, ornaments and larger hurricane takes a $10 piece and makes it look more like a $30-40 piece. But I’m not finished yet. . .
I put one pine branch (purchased at Micheal’s for $3 each) on each side and added a few eucalyptus branches, securing with a hot glue gun. I then stuck my mercury glass candle sticks on each side of the hurricane. 
And there is the final product! A holiday centerpiece for about $20.
I had a few silver eucalyptus branches leftover, so . . .
I cut them into even smaller branches and stuck them in this little piece that I have on my counter (which, by the way, I bought at Target last year after Christmas for like, $4).

I know it’s not much different, but it just adds a little something extra and it now ties in with the centerpiece on the kitchen table.
You can do it too!

Oh Yeah, Eggnog Martini!

‘Tis the season for some great cocktails!
If you like eggnog, this is one you gotta try! I get so excited when I see eggnog on the shelves in late November. I love it! Love, love, love it! And I also love this. . .

 I’ve tried many different recipes that turn eggnog into a cocktail. I served this one at our last Christmas party and it was really yummy! 

Here is what you need.  You can adjust the measurements to suit your taste.
2 shots eggnog
1 shot Frangelico (or other hazelnut liqueur)
1 shot vodka (regular or vanilla)
crushed ice

Pour liquids into a cocktail shaker and add ice. Give it a few good shakes and strain into a martini glass.
Add a little sprinkle of nutmeg on the top for added flair!

This is a really great drink to serve at a holiday party. You can mix a full pitcher ahead of time so guests can help themselves.

Better Than Pumpkin Pie

 Pumpkin Cheesecake

Next year I want you to forget about the traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. Break away from tradition and try this pumpkin cheesecake. It’s to die for! Trust me, your family might even ask you to make it a new tradition! 
First, the crust. . .

After viewing several recipes and reading many reviews, I decided to make my crust from the ingredients above. Graham cracker crumbs, ginger snaps, pecans, and butter. Adjust measurements to your taste. I used more graham cracker crumbs  than cookies. I also decided to add about 2 Tbsp of sugar after tasting the mixture.
Place ginger snaps and pecans in food processor and process until finely ground so that it looks like the photo below.
Using a fork, combine graham cracker crumbs, cookie and nut mixture, melted butter and sugar.

Transfer to springform pan. Press firmly into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.
That’s it! 
Now, the cheesecake. . .
Here are the ingredients.  Be sure your cream cheese has been sitting out for at least an hour to get nice and soft!
Beat softened cream cheese until creamy, about 3 minutes. PLEASE make sure your cream cheese is soft or your cheesecake will be lumpy. Also, learn from my mistake, use the whisk attachment for standing mixers to beat the cream cheese.

Add pumpkin, sugar, eggs, sour cream and spices and mix just until blended. Add flour and vanilla and continue to mix until well blended, stopping to scrape sides and bottom.

Pour batter into prepared crust. As you can see, mine is a little lumpy. I think this could have been prevented if had I used the wire whisk attachment. My cream cheese was definitely softened.

Bake in a 350 degree oven in or above a water bath. My springform pan would not fit into my water bath pan so I placed it underneath. This is supposed to prevent the cheesecake from cracking due to temperature changes during cooking and cooling.

Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn off oven and open oven door, leaving cheesecake on rack while oven cools then place pan on cooling rack. Once the cake is completely cooled, remove outer edge of pan. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.


  I combined a couple different recipes to make my own crust. The recipe is below. For the filling I followed Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe
Note: I did not follow this recipes directions for baking the cheesecake. After reading reviews I chose to bake using the water bath.

Graham/Ginger Snap Crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
10-12 ginger snap cookies
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 stick melted butter
1-2 Tbsp sugar
In a food processor, process ginger snaps and until finely ground. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, cookie and nut crumbs, butter, and sugar with a fork until combined. Transfer to springform pan. Press into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of the pan.


5 Things to Do with a Pumpkin

I realize these ideas come late, but I hope that if you can’t use these ideas this year 
they will give you inspiration for the future.
Technically the first two use canned pumpkin, but it’s still pumpkin. Right?
#1 – Pumpkin Pie Dip in a Pumpkin

 My friends request this dip from me. It is sooooo good!
I wish I could call it my own, but I got it from Southern Living.
It’s very easy.

Mix softened cream cheese with powdered sugar. Make sure cream cheese is softened or it will
be lumpy when mixed with pumpkin. Add pumpkin and mix until blended. Add spices and
mix until well blended. I add 1/2 tsp nutmeg in addition to the cinnamon and ginger. That’s it!
Transfer dip into a small pumpkin and serve with gingersnaps or graham crackers.

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Dip
#2 – Pumpkin Chili

My bestie Melly from Chicago sent this recipe to me. I have to say I was a bit skeptical of this recipe at first. But I’ll try anything once, so I went for it. So glad I did! The pumpkin gave the chili a rich, nutty flavor. 

 Pretty basic ingredients. Recipe calls for 2 jalapenos, I didn’t even use a whole one. 

I’m a wuss!I used white kidney beans (cannellni beans) because I thought 
they would go better with turkey than dark kidney beans. I also used fire roasted diced 
tomatoes because I really like the flavor.

Chop veggies and saute in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. 

 Add ground turkey and cook until browned. 
Please let me tell you about this wonderful Pampered Chef tool! It’s one of my new faves! 
The Mix and Chop. See the before picture above. . .

and now the after picture! This tool does what it says, it chops up the meat and

mixes it with the veggies. LOVE IT!

Add tomatoes, pumpkin and spices. Bring to a boil and turn down heat. 
Add beans, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

I felt the need to add a good bit of salt at the end of cooking. 
Serve with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro.
You can find the recipe on the Whole Foods website.
# 3 – Paint it!
We got these little guys at the pumpkin patch. I mixed Crayola Kids’ Paint with a little water, stuck a brush in each jar, and let the kids go at it. Parker Reese just wanted to eat the paint (like everything else), but he managed to get a little paint on the pumpkin.
 These masterpieces make a great decoration on my dining room buffet!
#4 – Carve It!

I’m pretty sure most of us know how to carve a pumpkin, but just in case. . .
1. Cut off the top
2. Scoop out the guts
3. Eat the top (no please don’t)
4. Carve the face
5. Light it with a candle


# 5 – Use the seeds for a snack!

 Don’t throw those seeds away! This can be somewhat time consuming, but so worth it! 
Separate the seeds from the guts and soak in salt water for 10 minutes.

 In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.

Strain water from seeds. Remove any remaining pulp.

5Spread seeds in a single layer on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes (seeds should be golden and slightly browned), stirring twice during baking.
There you have it! 5 things to do with pumpkins. 

Oh, wait, I thought of one more. . .
#6 – Use it as a pillow! My cute little monkey!