Category Archives: Holidays

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate FudgeHonestly, does a post with a title like this really need anything more than a recipe? I could tell you about how I’ve just recently developed an interest in bourbon, and the craft of distilling it. Could go on about how discovering I like it has sparked all sorts of mixology adventures. Maybe I should tell you that Maker’s Mark enlisted me in some boozy baking fun, and that they helped in the development of this recipe by sending along a bottle of their amber awesome for me to play with. But really, all you want to know is…

“How do I get this in my belly… NOW?!”

So here ya go, you chocolate-loving-booze-hounds. (people after my own heart)

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge IngredientsOne note about ingredients : Though fudge is oft made with semi-sweet or milk chocolate, this recipe uses high cacao content dark and semi-sweet chocolates. Why? Because this blend helps showcase the smokey notes of the bourbon and plays well with the tart cherry flavor. I tested a few chocolate options and this final blend took the recipe over the top – which is what boozy chocolate should be, right?

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge
Serves 24
Dark, rich and delish, adding bourbon and cherries takes this fudge from holiday treat to confection perfection. I highly recommended using both good quality chocolate and vanilla bean rather than extract.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Bourbon (I used Makers Mark)
  2. 1 cup Dried Dark Cherries
  3. 1 pod Vanilla Bean
  4. 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  5. 1 cup Sugar
  6. 5oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
  7. 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  8. 6 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  9. 6 oz Dark (70% Cacao) Chocolate
Instructions
  1. Place cherries and bourbon in a small sauce pan, allow to simmer on medium heat until most of the bourbon is absorbed into the cherries. Set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat combine milk, sugar, vanilla caviar (insides of the pod) and butter. Allow to come to a simmer. Add chocolate by 1/2 cups, whisking to combine. Once all chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir in cherries and bourbon until combined. Place in a disposable 8x8 foil pan. Top with dried cherries, pecans, walnuts, or almonds (optional). Allow to cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving.
Notes
  1. If you prefer a more pronounced bourbon flavor, decrease the amount of condensed milk by 1 ounce and increase the bourbon to 3/4 of a cup.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

 

 

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

So this is Christmas, and what have I done? Forgotten teacher gifts, failed to mail holiday cards and let the Big Guy down in the stocking stuffing department. In short, I’m failing Christmas this year. Or maybe not. Did you know you can get last minute gifts from your smartphone? No shipping. No wrapping. Nobody has to know how very Grinchy it got.

Generally I’m the very model of Merry and Bright. Most years the halls have been decked by the day after Thanksgiving, shopping finished by December first, by the week of Christmas the oven is  continuously cranking out sweets and savories for friends, family and public servants too.

This year… not so much.

I’m not sure if it’s the 70 degree weather in Maryland – Maryland NOT California! Or loosing one of our fury family members of 13 years the day before Thanksgiving. It could just be seasonal lazy. Who knows. All I do know is that I’m every so grateful that modern technology has my back. Otherwise people might be on to the fact that I don’t really have it all together… any time of year.

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Last Minute Gifts from Your Smartphone

Smilebox Holiday eCards

Didn’t have time to create that cool holiday card, stick a stamp on it and mail it? No worries, you can send an equally awesome eCard with your own photos and personal touches straight from your smartphone. Smilebox has an easy app with lots of customization available through templates and more.

You can create cards, build slideshows, and create collages. Plus this is an Eco-friendly way  to send those holiday wishes.

Text A Gift Card

I can’t even tell you how awesome this feature is. Imagine no shipping charges, not having to fight crowds, no wrapping. It’s a holiday miracle.

I forgot gifts for the kids’ teachers this year. I always give them Starbucks gift cards, because coffee.  This oversight came to my attention sitting in the drop-off line this morning… the last day of school before the break. That’s the level of fail we’re talking about here.

I’m a Verizon customer and the messaging app on my phone allows me to click on a cute little package which then opens up a window with gifting options. Three clicks and all the teachers got texts wishing them a Merry Christmas and happy caffeinated New Year.

Google Store has a similar option as does iTunes. Helpful little elves that they are.

Last Minute Holiday Gifts from Your SmartPhoneBe There, Even When You Aren’t

My parents live in California, where I grew up. We are all the way on the East Coast. It gets pricey to fly four kids, two grownups, and an ostrich in a bear tree across the country at the holidays. Airlines with inflated holiday fairs are the real Grinch, huh? 

Live video streaming is a built-in feature on my Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. All I have to do to let Memaw and Papa see the kids open their gifts, is tap a few buttons and we’re all in the same room.

Sing and Dance Together

Music is a big deal in our house. It seems everything we do from hiking to house cleaning has it’s own playlist. The holidays are when we turn it up to 11.

The kids and I put together playlists for cookie decorating, Christmas dinner, and even to send to our Marine who is stationed far from home. Spotify let’s us all contribute our favorite tunes and share them. We play this music through the audio in the car on the three hour drive to see my husband’s family in New York city, and beam it to our smartTV while we unwrap gifts. The teen even rocks the tunes from her phone while she’s doing dishes… cuts down on the complaining… sometimes.

Even if you’ve totally failed the holidays to this point, if you’ve got a Smartphone you’ve got it covered. Merry Christmas from our family to you and yours!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I occasionally receive cool products to test drive and share my honest thoughts on. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised.  All opinions are my own. 

 

Christmas Rewind with Wizzard

I love that my teen is open to all sorts of musical and artistic expression. Okay, really I mostly love that she digs the same music I do.  One of my favorite parenting moments came when the manager of The Violent Femmes liked a tweet about my kids rockin’ out to ‘Kiss Off’ on one of our epic road trips.

I. Win. Parenting.

While making merry and junk, she began to ponder complain about Christmas songs that get remade with each generation (lack of creativity much?) Wanting to prove that the holiday music scene has more to offer than the 2,147th remake of ‘Santa Clause is Coming To Town’ I decided to I’d share my favorite Christmas song with her; ‘Fairy Tale of New York.’

Naturally we went to YouTube, because actually seeing Shane MacGowan sing is a gift in itself. She loved it, I beamed. Then YouTube served up another Christmas-themed-British-type music video.  My words fall short in describing this, so I’ll just let the video speak for itself.

Were two drummers really necessary? Why is there just one balloon, and is that child beating himself with it? Don’t even get me started on the guy at the piano or the overuse of blue eyeshadow. Did he just kick that child? This is a CLASSIC!

Her reaction… “All. The. Drugs. They must have been on all the drugs.”

Happy Christmas!

 

Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg: cursed (by my own offspring)

Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream with Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom

Racing heartbeat. Rapid breathing. Unrestrained screams of sheer terror. Public mocking from those you gave birth to. It’s all just a day at the park, if you’re me and that park is Busch Gardens Williamsburg during Howl-O-Scream – Cursed.

Some people get totally into Turkey. Others bring the awesome to decking halls (um, lights synced to music and everything). Me? Well, Halloween is my thing.

I own no less than two full, instructional-grade skeletons. You won’t find a single cuddly black cat or smiling jack-o-lantern in my house. I’ve spent decades perfecting the art of scaring small children – even a handful of grown men. People drive from other cities to test their nerve at our doorstep on Samhain.

I do the scaring. Not the other way around… or is it?

I’m not even being ironic with that opening paragraph, people. I screamed. I was mocked. This weekend I suffered the revenge of countless trick-or-treating folk and new family tradition, (a-la-Rosemary’s-baby) was born.

It all started out rather slowly. The park we’d visited in the summer had gone through a creepy makeover. Gone were the Union Jacks that hung in London Square, replaced with posters of Jack The Ripper. Jack-O-Lanterns were strung amongst the trees and some scary spiders lurked. But other than the ghoulishly awesome upgrades, the park remained the same. 

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Emily rode her favorite flying dragon. We enjoyed some Guinness in Ireland, the big kids waited forever to take on Verbolten. Then, with the sinking of the sun, came an eery sound track and time for the small ones to head back to the hotel with dad. 

I stayed behind with Ryan and Kaytie to check out the scares. Yeah, like some theme park is going to be “terrifying” – pfft!

We waited in line for our turn in, “Root of All Evil,” a greenhouse themed haunted house walk through. The wait was long, but there were vendors along the route peddling refreshments, and trinkets. note: the barbequed scallop skewers – worth the waiting in line. Time with my teen and Marine made the waiting fly by.

Walking into the maze I was keyed up to get new ideas for this year’s festivities – then the wall came alive and growled at me! I screamed like a 4 year old, and it was on. At every twist and turn another something, or someone popped out at me and nearly caused me to pee!

This isn’t your mall parking lot “haunted” attraction people. IT. IS. SCARY. I haven’t involuntarily cursed that much in the presence of mixed company since my days in the Navy. Chased through fog so dense that you can’t see two people ahead of you, actors lurk through the hanging vines emitting noises that are decidedly non-human. Emerging back  into the open air, you might think you were safe… until a guy with the chainsaw chases you!

A CHAINSAW!

At one point the adrenaline coursed so rapidly through me that I picked my 20 year old son – a muscular, solid US Marine- up off his feet and tossed him at .. whatever the hell that was that just tried to grab me!

Weak, shaken and down right terrified I turned to my kids for succor. Wrong answer. The two of them where breathless with hysterical laughter.. at me.. THEIR MOTHER!!

At least the small crowd that gathered to point and laugh, having been near me in the maze, weren’t related.

Busch Gardens Howl o scream

Naturally this meant we had to head over to, the “Catacombs” for more. But first, we had to get there. Through Canada where it seems there was some sort of biological disaster. I honestly don’t know because I was hiding behind my son – who pointed me out to nearly every actor roaming the scene all too happy to take part in a game of “Scare the Old Lady.”

Inside the Catacombs it was so bad that I needed to throw my son again – since he obviously wasn’t going to save me. It didn’t help that  his sister sold me out too. I turned around at one point to comfort her only to come nose to bone with a guy in the BEST skeleton makeup I’ve ever seen. Though that didn’t register as I tried to climb UP the wall.

Apparently I’m the best attraction at the park – or at least that’s what the guy ahead of us felt compelled to share.

So traumatized was I that while heading out of the park I felt a soft brush on my arm and took off with a hop. I thought something had come out of the trees after me. Turns out it was only the water bottle clipped to my backpack. Yes, the kids will be telling that story for years to come. 

There is only ONE weekend left in this year’s Howl-o-Scream event. 

When:  October 24-26th 2014 (but is an annual attraction)

Tickets: $75 (ages 10 and up) $65 (ages 3-9)

Parking: $15

Those tickets are pricy, so I did some math for ya. Here in Maryland Bennett’s Curse (a haunted walk through attraction) will set you back $30. Howl-o-Scream features SIX of these type of attractions, PLUS the full fun of the park before the sun goes down, so you do really get your money’s worth.

Not into scaring yourself (seriously, I had nightmares) for fun? Then give it a couple of weeks. On select days November 21st  through December 31st Busch Gardens turns on the charm for Christmas Town.  Sip hot cocoa, stroll through “Europe” enjoying seasonal traditions from all over,  and take in the lovely lights. You’ll love it as much as we do… but dress warm. We learned our lesson on that one last year when we almost became part of Frosty’s family!

This post was made possible in part by my participation in the Busch Gardens® Williamsburg Ambassador program. I paid for my oldest son’s ticket, though the rest of family were provided park passes in order to experience the park and share with my readers.  All other items, including, games on the mid-way, feeding the birds, food and drink (nothing like Guinness on tap), I paid for. My opinions and those of my family are 100% our own – because YOU deserve nothing less!

Simple Steps for a Spooky Halloween Feast

Simple, Spooky, Halloween Feast It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Pumpkins for roasting, blood cocktails for toasting and headstones aglow in the yard. You can keep your jingle bells and turkey dinners, give me banshees and the undead any day. Halloween is my thing. The Samhain celebration in our house always starts with a ghoulish feast – no goulash involved. Hosting a ghostly get-together can be scary simple. Here are a few of my go-to tips for creating a Spooky Halloween Feast .   

Tip #1: Hit the Dollar Stores

I love to peruse those pop-up Halloween shops and warehouses, but I rarely buy there. For the most part they’re just totally over priced. Many of the things you’ll find there can be reproduced with thrifty finds from the Dollar Store or even a thrift shop. Save your money for the big scares.

Tip #2: Raid the Good China

That silver service Gran left ya – the one that’s been gathering tarnish (or patina, if you’re fancy) will lend a great vintage-creepy vibe to your tablescape. Using mismatch serving dishes, old candle holders and turning a glass bowl upside down to replace a cloche are free and up the freaky factor. Mix and match some of the cool paper goods you can find at Target with your fancy chargers or good china. These are all easy and CHEAP tricks for creating that scary-chic setting.

Tip #3: A Dish by Any Other Name

 Castelvetrano Olives are a salty Sicilian treat found on many a fancy charcuterie plate. Put them in a brass bowl perched atop a pair of claw hands and their nearly-neon hue makes them instant, “Eye of Newt.” Mashed potatoes and meatloaf, peeled grapes, jelly donuts with dripping raspberry jam, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese baked in puff pastry, pomegranate punch with a splash of lime grenadine, all sound simply delish. Yes? Call them Roasted Brains, Stuffed Intestines, Nosferatu Choux  and Blood Bath Bubbly, and you have devilishly deviant deliciousness.  

Tip #4: Raid the Craft and Supply Stores

Pass by the Halloween displays at the craft store, or only shop them if you have that 40% off coupon, but still go. There are some great finds in the floral, fabric, and jewelery-supply sections. Feathers and Spanish Moss, tulle in All Hallows Eve hues, and baubles like vintage-style keys, cameo charms and crystals of all colors lend a chill to the air of your tablescape. Cheap skulls of all shapes, sizes, and colors carry the theme throughout too.

spooky tablescape on the cheapOn-line science and industrial supply stores are a veritable wonderland of macabre just waiting to happen. Beakers, flasks, and test tubes… OH MY! A Boston Round bottle with a handwritten, “poison label” does great double duty as a prop in Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory. I picked up a 12 pack of test tubes for less than five bucks.  Fill them with dipping sauces. and give them grotesque labels and you’ve got a party. 

Here are a couple of simple recipes to take your spine-chillingly Spooky Halloween Feast over the top.

meatloaf brains a tasty halloween meat treat

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Trader Joe’s Season-All
2 tbsp onion (minced)
Your Favorite Mashed Potatoes
1/2 cup tomato puree
2 pastry bags

Prep Time:

Cook Time:
Serves: 6

Directions:
Mix meats with garlic, season-all, onion, egg and bread crumbs. Form into 12 balls about the size of your palm. Roll on a parchment covered surface to get an oblong shape. Press two together firmly, six sets in total. Place on a lined baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. In the mean time prepare mashed potatoes. Be sure they are not too loose.

Allow potatoes to cool until cool enough to handle. Fill a pastry bag with potatoes. Pipe onto meatloaf “brains” in a zigzag pattern. Fill second pastry bag with tomato puree. Pipe onto potato layer inside of the grooves, nooks and crannies. 

Note: Barbecue sauce and steak sauce make tasty substitutions for tomato puree. 

Puff Pastry Cheese and Sundried Tomato - Tasty Intestines

Ingredients:
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets (thawed, but kept chilled)
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend
1 package cream cheese (room temperature)
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (oil drained and patted off)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
 

Prep Time: 15

Cook Time: 15
Serves: 6-8

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl combine cheeses, herbs and seasonings. Dice tomatoes and add to cheese mixture. Set aside.

Roll out sheet of puff pastry on a loured surface till it is a rough circle approximately 10 inches in diameter. It does not need to be a perfect circle, in fact the less perfect the better.
Spread cheese and tomato mixture 1/2 inch in from one side of the pastry dough. Fold over the edge of the dough until it covers most of the cheese mixture. Working from right to left, roll the dough over itself forming a cigar shaped roll. Coil onto a lined baking sheet in roughly the shape of an intestine (yeah, I know it sounds nasty but it tastes good.) Brush the top with egg wash. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a sharp knife for hacking into… YUCKY YUMMY!