Thursday, December 29, 2011

Root Beer and Good Cheer

Last minute teacher gifts were only a quick search away on Pinterest (whew!)

Seeing a post for reindeer pop, I headed out to make my own. For under $3 I grabbed a case of Root Beer (brown bottles make for nice reindeer bodies) and brown pipe cleaners, everything else was already stuffed in my craft closet.

These couldn't be easier and quicker to make! Wrap a pipe cleaner just under the cap, twist together in the back and bend up. Cut a few small pipe cleaner pieces and twist around the main antlers to beef them up. Then glue the googly eyes and nose (pom pom, bead, whatever you have that's red). Next time I would use super glue for this, as I found quite a few eyes and noses that came off during my son's delivery. Ooops. Casualties of a 7-year-old.

For the greeting I punched out a scallop circle and slightly smaller circle, adhered those together, and wrote around the edges. A punched snowflake fit nicely in the middle and gave a spot to write who it's from. According to my well thought-out and elaborate plan Coincidentally, "Root Beer" rhymed with "Good Cheer" so I used that for the sentiment.

My son had the best time delivering his Good Cheer (with a handy carrying case!) throughout the day. The bus driver, librarians, gym teacher, cafeteria monitor all received some Good Cheer. I love teacher gifts that don't add clutter, are handmade, inexpensive, somewhat useful, and cute. These sure fit the bill! Oh, and they only took about 20 minutes to assemble. Perfect.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hot Chocolate Bar

Anything beyond mini marshmallows floating in hot chocolate is fancy for us. So I thought it would be fun to gather up a collection of toppings and let guests make their own masterpiece.

Scrapbooking paper folded into a cone shape makes quick (and inexpensive) holders for each topping. I turn the crock pot on low and stir the hot chocolate every couple hours to remove any film on top. The recipe on the Hershey's Cocoa box is a good one.

For this bar I took advantage of the holiday flavored marshmallows (peppermint, gingerbread, and french vanilla), and added caramels, chocolate chips, candy canes and chocolate straws.

I think the kids and adults enjoyed it at our Christmas party. The best was when a wide-eyed young cousin asked, "So, how many of each can we take?"

Good-Lookin' Grapes

[updated to add the recipe]

Need a quick and easy party appetizer? Use a toothpick to dip big, red grapes halfway into melted white chocolate. Then dip the bottom in crushed nuts (peanuts, cashews, whatever you have). Done, that's it. They taste just like caramel apples. Make a ton because they disappear quickly!

You can totally "wing it" making these, but here is a recipe if you prefer to follow one:

1 lb grapes (any color, the plumper the better)
2 cups white chocolate
1 cup nuts, chopped

Place wax paper on counter. Clean and dry grapes. Remove from stem. Microwave the white chocolate in a shallow bowl in 30 second increments*, stirring each time until melted. Put chopped nuts in a shallow bowl.

Stand the grape on its end, then stick a toothpick straight down the center (it's helpful to stand the grape first, otherwise if it rests at an angle all your toothpicks will be pointing in different directions instead of straight up). Using the toothpick, dip the grape half way in the white chocolate, then dip the bottom in nuts. Stand on wax paper to harden. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*If any water gets into the chocolate (from the bowl, your spoon, etc.) it will stiffen. Add 1 tsp shortening to make the consistency smooth again.