Hayley’s Holiday Wishlist

With the holidays around the corner, I think it’s justified I’ve created my very own wish list. I mean, helllooooo then people can see EXACTLY what I want which will make them be like, “omg, I totally want to spend $90 on a flapper dress for Hayley–she’s so cute and knows what she wants so she deserves this.” Or something like that.

So, here goes:

This delectable Angie Bead & Sequin Embellished Dress, $88, from Nordstrom. While I’m 99.98897% positive my ass will also be featured while wearing this dress, I think it’s simply scrumptious, don’t you? Plus, after watching creepy baby-freak Nora on American Horror Story and all her cool flapper clothes I want some. It’s only fair, people.

While this mixer is completely unnecessary (as I already am a proud owner of the ice blue version), I will casually direct your eyeballs up to the picture once more so you can truly see THIS ONE’S HOT PINK!!!!! I need it. It will probably add more awesome sparkles and magic to my baked goods simply because of this cheerful, flirty color. (Can Kitchenaid mixers be flirty? Whatev) Oh, and it’s like, $400…. but yeah….

Philosophy’s Pure Grace perfume ($50) has been a longtime favorite of mine, ever since I went creepy scent-detective on some innocent lady in a store and asked her what perfume she was wearing. It was so fresh and clean–reminiscent of fresh laundry, clean houses and wonderful, non-sweaty summer days reading books in a meadow full of puppies and cupcakes. It’s truly wonderful. I need more. And usually around this time, Sephora hooks it up with awesome Philosophy gift sets, where you can receive a perfume, plus lotion and/or body wash. Yay!


You wanna know the real deal? I cannot LIVE without rubber spatulas. They’re a MUST in the kitchen, and sometimes I’ll go to people’s houses and cook or help cook and I’m like, “hey, can you pass me the rubber spatula?” and they’ll be like, “I don’t have one. Will this work?” (hands over regular spatula). And I’m like “OH MY GOD THIS IS EQUIVALENT TO IF WE WERE SURGEONS IN SURGERY AND I SAID PASS THE SCALPEL AND YOU WERE LIKE “LOL SORRY WE DON’T HAVE ONE, WANT THIS KITTEN INSTEAD?” SO unhelpful and def. NOT the same thing. Jeez, people. Get one. They’re useful for everything! And this one, from the looovely Crate & Barrel ($8), has a cupcake on it. Um duh. Give me 80.

I spotted these awesome sprinkles at my local Michael’s, but you can find them here. It’s Duff Goldman’s (the dude from Ace of Cakes) line of bakeware, and these sprinkles in particular are the delicious-sounding vanilla sanding sugar sprinkles (they have chocolate sanding sugar, too, which I can find multiple uses with–um, like devouring from the bottle). Think of the possibilities, people!! Sprinkle these bad boys on the tops of cookies, blondies, brownies, cupcakes… even pie! Mm.


The one absolutely ridiculous thing I want for Christmas? A trip to New Orleans! Seriously, of all the places in the USA, this is my top pick to travel to. Never been, but I’m 99.9% sure I was supposed to be Southern because Laura is my favorite contestant on Top Model AND I’m a slut for Cajun food. I could live off gumbo alone. While a trip to eat would be expensive, it’d be the damn best present EVER.

Yay, gifts!

But since I don’t want to be a complete selfish hog, here’s some awesome presents (some DYI, some available for purchase) that are totally cool for giving others. I’m really generous.

DYI Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrub from That’s What We Said. The lovely ladies Kristan and Shelly made this oh-so-amazing sugar scrub from scratch, tied it up in a jar with a bow, and gifted it to friends and fam. For under $15, it’s an easy and inexpensive gift that will have any girl who loves pampering herself more reason to take a shower.

Christmas Wreaths by me! These are slightly pricier, but well worth it to give someone you love a completely one-of-a-kind wreath made from scratch. Best of all, you don’t have to be super crafty to do it–just get sparkly picks and hot glue and you’re good to go! Insider tip: search for coupons to your local craft store to save some money before DYI’ing!

Classic 3-way Popcorn Tins from Popcornopolis. Don’t let these fool you–everyone loves popcorn, especially when they get three delicious flavors from the popcorn specialists at Popcornopolis. My dad goes bananas for the Cinnamon Toast flavor, but I’m partial to the caramel corn, the cheddar, and obviously, Cupcake. Best thing? Use the code “GIFTBOX” at checkout for FREE SHIPPING!!

Give your sweets a custom sweet from Chocomize! After hearing about this website from a magazine a few years back, I got hooked! Here, you can create your own custom chocolate bar–by adding delectable toppings like chopped candy bars, spices, nuts, baking chips, fruit and more–to create your own unique candy bar. Or you can choose a variety of pre-made options. So fun and cool!

Kids will be getting plenty of toys, so why not encourage their baking side with a cute baking kit from Crate and Barrel? Get this yummy Santa’s Elves Cookie Mix, plus an adorable snowman apron, and this cute elf cocoa tin to whip up while the cookies are baking. So cute!

Another fun DYI option? These elegant homemade vanilla extracts from Baked Bree. Who knew vodka and vanilla beans could transform into the delicious, all-purpose extract every cook uses? Tie them up with a beautiful holiday ribbon and maybe nestle it alongside a jarred cookie mix (a store bought version above, or this version by Bakerella, where the baking chips can be subbed for Christmas or Hannukkah colors). Easy!

(And if it wasn’t obvious, I’m aware I didn’t really put anything for guys as every year I battle the same WTF problem of what to get the men in my life. I can’t keep gifting socks, but seriously?!! What else is there!? Your guess is as good as mine).

Hope these awesome gift ideas helped both you for your family and you for buying for ME! (I can wish, right?)

Happy Holidays! And stay tuned for a Week of Christmas Cookies (ok, technically only 6 days and they’re not all cookies but whatever, I can make the rules since this is my blog) COMING SOON!

xo, Hayley

Cheesecake Cupcakes

Jessie’s birthday is next Wednesday! (Yay Jessie!)

And when I asked what he wanted to do for his special day, he said “I dunno”, shrugged, and then changed the subject.

I was like… WTF.

Birthdays are BFD’s (big f’n deals) in my book.

Well, my birthday is a BFD. Hello, it should totally be a national holiday. Wait… if it means kids get the day out of school then no, but if it was a national holiday, I’d make sure kids were in school for it. And it was still widely recognized. And people would sing songs about me and it would pretty much be amazing.

(Mark your calendars for January 24…)

But alas, I promised Jessie his birthday would be a day to remember. I can’t not celebrate that–it’s too special. So I’m baking him some Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars (we seriously binged on those the last time I made them), I’m taking him out to lunch, and I totally spoiled the crap out of him with gifts. So it’ll be good for sure.

After all, he deserves it! Hellooo, this is the dude who puts up with my random mood swings, likes the EXACT SAME sushi roll I do, and makes goofy faces and noises with me whenever possible. And last I checked, he was damn cute, soooo nice and definitely in need of some serious birthday celebrations on the 30th.

He called, I am soo gonna answer!

But in the meantime, because he is very nice and went out with me to Black Friday so we could get free popcorn, I decided to make him an early birthday present. You know, because I am horrible at surprises and presents since I want to give them away the second I buy them/know about them.

And if I know Jessie well enough, I know he looooves cheesecake. Like, seriously loves cheesecake. Like I’m pretty sure if he could he’d dump my butt hella quick and marry cheesecake.

Why not make Cheesecake Cupcakes then? Sounds like a perfectly reasonable way to sabotage myself by giving my boyfriend another legitimate reason to think I’m crazy and dump me.

Just kidding. Maybe.. maybe not. Whatever.

Surprise, surprise, Jessie loved them. They taste just like cheesecake, except in adorable cupcake form. We even filmed a video about it!

Happy (early) Birthday, Jessie! I love you!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICsY5_4j0c&feature=channel_video_title]

Cheesecake Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix + ingredients on back of box
1 small box sugar free/fat free cheesecake instant pudding
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 egg
2 cups powdered sugar
About 3 sheets honey graham crackers, crushed into fine crumb
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe & ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with 24 paper liners. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg and powdered sugar until blended and thick, about 1 minute. This is your cheesecake filling. Set it aside.
3. In a large bowl, prepare cake mix according to package instructions. Stir in cheesecake pudding mix until blended. Portion batter evenly into muffin tins, about 2/3 full. Add one small teaspoon of cheesecake filling and spoon it on top of the batter. Bake cupcakes for about 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted around the edge of the cupcake comes out clean or with moist crumbs. Allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 4 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until blended and creamy, about 2 mins. Gradually add powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, until a stiff but spreadable frosting is achieved.
2. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and top with crushed graham cracker sprinkles.

Even though it was early, I was going to stick a candle in one of these cupcakes for Jessie, but he’d already polished off two by the time I found a pack. I’m taking that as a sign they’re good.

Have a wonderful day!

xo, Hayley

Chocolate-Peppermint Cracker Thins

Some things:

1. I’m still familiarizing myself with the concept of being “grown up.” This means I’m kinda sorta nervous about working an 8-hour shift (spare me your evil adult-like laughter; I’ve been spoiled with 5-hr shifts my whole life); I’m still buying costume-y things rather than appropriate work attire; and today I realized I really like my coffee because it is all of 1 teaspoon actual coffee, and about 1/2 cup milk and coffee creamer. No wonder I go through a bottle of coffee creamer in two days time for only a cup of coffee a day. I see now the nutritionals are by the teaspoon, not the half gallon. Oops.

2. I’m really, really, painfully excited for Christmas. And I wish the holidays were a constant thing. I wouldn’t mind buying Christmas presents for my family year-round… as long as Starbucks served their peppermint mochas year-round, Crate and Barrel decorated for the holidays year-round, and I never, ever had to see another damn pair of flip-flops or daisy dukes again. The holidays, for all their lack of shorty-shorts and excess of sequins and sparkles, ROCK.

3. Speaking of sequins, I should inform you I’m apparently part crow and have a minor (okay, major) addiction to sequins and sparkles right now (and by right now, I mean 24/7 allthetime, people). And sequin-y dresses are in, which means I’m salivating like, 24/7. Gross? Yes. Why do I want a sequin dress? Do I want to look like a walking disco ball? (yes) Do I want to look overly flashy? (yes) Am I willing to sacrifice comfort for itchy sequins? (I can still throw body glitter on top of my scratches and rashes, right?) Obviously I have issues. My main one? –how are you supposed to wear sequins after the holidays? I mean, I really can’t imagine my sequin mini dress having a smooth transition into summertime. Let’s debate.

4. This marks yet another year where I’m unsure how I feel about egg nog. Each year I get kinda giddy when I see it in the grocery store, yet when I buy some, no one drinks it. Not even me. It’s like, once it’s in my fridge I want nothing to do with that goopy stuff and why can’t this crap expire fast enough?? Yet when Food Network geniuses sprinkle fresh nutmeg on top and serve it in swanky glasses I can’t help but think, I kinda want some. Remember when I said I had issues? Yeah.

5. I made some Chocolate-Peppermint Cracker Thins because I’m getting warmed up for my annual Christmas cookie gift-away and I thought these would be a pretty perf candidate. No surprise, they were.

With only four ingredients, these are truly a cinch to make–and are awesome gifts. I bagged some up for my coworkers and they were devoured in seconds. Apparently people like chocolate and peppermint–weird.

Chocolate-Peppermint Cracker Thins *adapted by Kraft’s Mint Thins recipe 

1 sleeve Ritz crackers (plain, but I used the reduced fat variety)
1/2 brick chocolate bark (I like Candiquik)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Chopped candy canes or Andes baking chips (I used a mixture of the creme de menthe baking chips and the peppermint for the festive green & red look)

1. First, line a baking sheet with wax paper. To keep it from slipping, tape the ends to the bottom of your sheet. Easy peasy!
2. Microwave your chocolate bark according to package directions, halving cook time if needed. For the crackers, I like zapping my chocolate in a glass loaf pan since I find it’s a little easier than dipping from a bowl, but use whatever works. Once chocolate is melted, stir in the peppermint extract until blended.
3. Dip crackers into the chocolate mixture, one cracker at a time, and coat both sides evenly with chocolate using a fork to flip crackers. Allow the excess chocolate to drip off and place the chocolate-covered cracker on your wax paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes or candy baking chips. Repeat process until finished, about 1 sleeve of crackers.

4. Freeze crackers for about 10 mins, or pop in fridge for about 15 mins so chocolate hardens. Store airtight, or wrap up and gift away!

So easy. What’d I tell you?

The sweet and saltiness is awesome, but frankly, these are like the Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie doppleganger. Except cheaper. And like, way better.

And believe me, 8-hr days are long and tiring and I’m only surviving on coffee creamer so I can use all the easy I can get.

Have a fabulous Monday!

xo, Hayley

Reese’s Fluffernutter Bars

I lied.

I went out on Black Friday, despite saying I was going to spend the day in bed and relax.

Instead I stood in line, in the cold, outside of the mall. And then I watched with awe as people bolted up still escalators, racing hopefully  to their destinations to crowd the entrance and bully the hell out of the employees behind the thin metal partition.

It was IN-SAN-IT-Y to the like, 54234862346834 billionth degree.

Alas, Jessie (he is a good boyfriend for showing up to Black Friday with me, isn’t he?) and I waited outside of Popcornopolis and got a free zebra popcorn cone.

Popcorn + stampeding folk = popcorn and a show.

Anyway, we walked around and observed the cattle–er, people–standing around waiting desperately for random stores to open and I had to wonder, why that store? Like some off-brand shoe store in the mall… um, why aren’t you waiting outside of Macy’s instead? And then I pitied the stores that had no line. No one loves Sanrio or Clarks. Sigh.

Then I watched as people literally went psychotic and began throwing sweatshirts and yoga pants in Victoria’s Secret like some teenage freaks and watched all the ghetto people whoop and holler outside of Finish Line.

Then I went home because this only confirmed I had no life and I was still (barely) surviving from a humongous food coma and a rousing 2-hour game of 31 in which Jessie’s grandma stomped everyone.

At least I got free popcorn…

Anyways, I hope you all had a wonderful, safe and delicious Thanksgiving. I did!

However stuffed from a food coma I was, I still baked more and more. So I made some Reese’s Fluffernutter Bars. And we ate them and laughed at our Black Friday moment and then watched Man vs Food. It was a good Black Friday.

Reese’s Fluffernutter Bars *adapted from 101 Things to Do with A Cake Mix Peanut Butter Brownies recipe

1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
2/3 cup marshmallow fluff
1 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9″ inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, oil and eggs until a stiff dough forms–it will be thick. Stir in pb cups, and then gently stir in fluff and peanut butter, careful not to mix completely (think “ribbons” of peanut butter and marshmallow). Press batter evenly into the bottom of the pan and bake for approx. 14-16 minutes or until golden brown and set. Cool completely, then cut into bars.

If you like, you can easily whip up a marshmallow or peanut butter frosting to glaze on top of these bars, but they’re delish on their own!

Wanna know another way I spent my Black Friday? Filming! I have a brand spankin’ new video coming up soon with a delicious new treat you must try. Stay tuned!

xo, Hayley

White Chocolate & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

 

Let’s go over some things, shall we?

First: Ugly Sweater Parties.

These are, I’m assuming, relatively popular during this time of year. You and your friends gather ’round and celebrate Christmas with boozy egg nog and tacky, heavily embellished and/or crafted sweaters with snowmen and the like emblazoned all over. That’s all fine and good. But…

Where do they get these sweaters?

Some probably get them from thrift stores or hit up the old lady section at Walmart, but I know a couple people who’ve proudly exclaimed, “this is my Mom’s sweater!” or “I got it from my grandma’s.”

Uh…. oookay. But how did you ask for that?

“Hey grandma, I know you have absolutely awful, tacky and ridiculous taste in holiday sportswear, so I was wondering if maybe I could borrow one of your most hideous sweaters to wear to a party I’m going to later. You know, so I can publicly humiliate you at said party by showing off this disgusting sweater you lent me. I can always count on you for ugly crap, grandma.”

Hm.. see what I mean?

Asking someone to borrow something ugly/gross/tacky from them is awkward. It’d be like going to your skanky girlfriend and asking her for makeup tips so you can truly look the part as an authentic ‘ho for Halloween.

It’s just not okay.

So spare your promiscuous girlfriend and adorably-tacky-sweater-wearing grandma’s feelings and just… don’t ask them these things. It’s weird.

Also weird? Stuffed animals in the back dashboard of cars. I mean, why? What is the purpose?

Just a thought.

With the holidays coming up quickly now (can you believe Thanksgiving is tomorrow?!) I need to start practicing some cookie recipes for the annual cookie-baskets I usually make for coworkers, professors, the SPCA, and local firemen.

Um… these are definitely going in them.

They’re based after one of my favorite cookies I pick up every Saturday at a local sandwich shop me and Jessie visit. They’re oatmeal cookies loaded with cranberries and white chocolate. Hello, deliciousness. The cranberry’s add a nice tart pinch of flavor and the white chocolate… well, need I explain more?

Make them. Love them. Right now.

White Chocolate & Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies *adapted from the recipe from the Craisins package, or found here 

2/3 cup softened butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 (5oz) pkg Original Craisins
2/3 cups white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with cooking spray; pat excess spray off with a paper towel. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Add in eggs and vanilla extract until blended. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt until combined. Gradually add flour mixture into the butter mixture, about 1 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips.
3. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto the greased cookie sheets, about 1-2″ apart. Bake approx. 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking time, until golden brown and set. Cool on sheets about 5 mins, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store airtight.

I love how easy these are to wrap up and gift to some of your favorite people. Or to the poor grandmas and mothers of the world who have ugly sweaters… doesn’t matter.

Have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving tomorrow! Eat tons and have fun! And just so you know, I’m all especially thankful for YOU in supporting me through and through. You rock!

xo, Hayley

Butter-Toffee Pecan Bars

Yesterday I walked in on my mother… watching the American Music Awards.

It was about as shocking and surprising as I could get, as no one–I repeat, NO ONE–watches music television in this house.

Least of all her.

Least of all me, who decided by some alien force to sit down and watch a few minutes of it and belt out my rendition of The Band Called Perry’s one song, whatever it’s called, and inevitably mess up the words (you mean she doesn’t really say ‘Shab Nam’?)

Anyways.

Justin Bieber came on and my sister asked why he’s still relevant. Honestly, I didn’t really know he was still relevant. I mean, Ke$ha came and went in the same cloud of glitter and venereal diseases she came in with… so I’m kinda speechless as to why this dude is still around, but whatev, I don’t hate.

So here comes the part where I prove to the world I am a completely ignorant hermit, devoid of pop culture knowledge and any sliver of “hipness.”

While J.Biebs (his new nickname, fyi) was belting it out, he mentioned the word “shawty.”

Now, I’m fairly certain 99% of the population knows what ‘shawty’ means, even if they don’t understand it.

I’m guessing that’s what this whole occupy movement is about… everyone’s enraged that 1% of us are complete morons? Just kidding, I am part of no elite, except for possibly the elite of the musically challenged. That must be it.

ANYWAYS.

I asked my sister in a brief moment of confusion and needing clarity what “SHARTY” meant.

And she laughed at me. A lot.

And my mom made a funny face and laughed as well. So I did, too.

My sister, ever-so-helpful, mentioned it’s not “sharty.” It’s “shawty.” Thankfully, my mom backed up my hermitness by being equally the ignorant music hermit and asked “like ‘shoddy’? Like crappy?”

Apparently it means girlfriend.

I’m gonna go out on a crazy thin limb here and say that something tells me being called ‘shawty’–something dangerously close to both words ‘sharty’ (that awful, awkward half fart, half …you know) and ‘shoddy’–is not a compliment in my book. Again, I may be out of line in saying this but I can think of plenty of things that can’t be mistaken for unfortunate bowel mishaps as pet names from my significant other.

Juuuuust sayin’.

So after my lesson in pop culture jargon and realizing I’m 20 going on 90, I baked some of these Butter-Toffee Pecan Bars and crawled back under my rock.

It was warm and comfortable and did not consist of anyone calling anything ‘shawty’, ‘sharty’ OR ‘shoddy.’ Quite the opposite, in fact.

Butter-Toffee Pecan Bars *adapted from 101 More Things To Do With A Cake Mix

For Bars:
1 pkg butter pecan cake mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup toffee baking bits or chopped toffee candies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, eggs, melted butter and vanilla with a spoon until a soft but thick batter forms. Stir the chopped pecans and toffee bits in by hand until blended.
3. Spread batter into prepared pan using a rubber spatula or spoon into a nice, even layer. Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes, careful not to over-bake. Let cool completely while you prepare your frosting.

For Frosting & Topping:
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2-4 Tbsp milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans & 1/2 cup toffee bits

1. In another large bowl, beat together melted butter, vanilla, milk and powdered sugar until a nice, thick icing consistency is achieved–make sure it’s easily spreadable. Add more milk to thin out if needed.
2. Spread icing onto your cooled bars in an even layer. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and toffee bits, and pop in the fridge to set, about 30 mins-1 hr. Cut into bars with a sharp, damp knife and store covered if needed.

I’m bringing these sweet treats to my job tomorrow to surprise and impress my fellow coworkers, but these bad boys would be kinda sorta excellent on your Thanksgiving table.

Thanks for visiting!

xo, Hayley

Peppermint Bark Fudge

 

Usually my family decorates for Christmas on Thanksgiving day before the big meal. By “family” I really mean I singularly decorate for Christmas, barking orders at my family to fetch boxes of ornaments and such from the attic and hang up the lights as soon as possible. By “usually” I mean every day up to this year, where my brother proclaimed he would prefer we hold off Christmas decorating until after his birthday.

I beg your whaaaaat?

His birthday is December 1st, and while I kind of understand his annoyance with sharing his single day of birth with snowflakes, snowmen and jolly Santa decorations, I’m kinda sorta itching to do something. Can’t I like, hang a snowflake somewhere? Please?

Doing the house up xmas-style has to be my favorite decorating of all time. We have lame Halloween decorations, mostly consisting of our stuffed dummy named Otis whom we hang from a tree outside to scare kiddies with, as well as a Dollar-store investment of a strobe light and maybe a broken light-up pumpkin. Ain’t no spooky spectacular here.

And who actually decorates for Thanksgiving? I don’t think we have ever possessed Thanksgiving-esque decor in this house, and I’d be hard-pressed to find something that wasn’t easily transferable from Halloween (minus the ghosts, vampires, and life-like body swaying in the breeze off a tree branch in your front yard. Whatever.)

Christmas decorating is quite glorious. Ornaments glistening on the pre-lit tree (we buy fake, sue us); festive candles making our house smell like a giant freakin’ candy cane; and obviously, the lights on the outside of our house.

Now, before I proceed with a huge Hayley tirade, please know I’ve thought this out completely and in my mind, I make total sense and everyone agrees with me and no one–I mean NO ONE–questions of judgment. Because I’m right. Always. The end.

I have some Christmas light pet peeves.

1. Blinking lights on timers. One of the biggest of them all has to be timed blinking lights. You know, when you’re looking at a house and half the lights are lit up and you think, “those people are obviously way to lazy to fix that huge long strand of broken lights, those cheap–oh wait, they came on. And now the previously lit up part is dark. This is tacky. Let’s judge those people for their bad taste in timing lights forever until the zombie apocalypse.” Fix your lights and stop their blinking because crazy OCD people like me judge you.

2. Lights that aren’t properly measured out/even. Second runner up is a person’s inability to measure their strand of lights to the trim on their house properly. Some houses will be so gorg, but when I spot that random strand of lights abruptly end in the middle of the garage door’s trim, I’m like … wtf. Meanwhile, the other end of the house has an extra long trail along the side of the house’s trim, which makes no sense. It should be even. Everything should be balanced. There shall be NO UNEVEN LIGHTS ON TRIM. It makes me batty, people.

3. Colorblocking is OK for clothes, tacky for homes. Word. Don’t have half a strand of colored icicle lights, only to have regular gold ones right next to it. Looks dumb, yo.

Since I just berated half of the population and their mode of light hanging, let me address some appropriate measures:

1. Blinking lights =bad. Twinkling lights=okay. If your lights clearly twinkle, and aren’t abruptly turning dark and relighting over and over, it looks pretty. Everyone loves twinkling things.

2. Going all crazy for Christmas. If you clearly spend hours or days making your house into an electrical hazard, I like you–lots. You’re what makes me excited to go looking at lights, but pity you for your PG&E bill. And you obvs should teach a class on proper Christmas light decorating etiquette.

3. Color-changing lights are neat. Color-blocking is a no-no, but if your lights gradually change into different fun colors, it looks cool. I know what’s best–trust me.

I’ll just need to make sure my brother and dad know all the rules of the game before they hang up our lights on December 2… because I will not live in a house with unsuitable light conditions. It can’t happen. It won’t.

Perhaps I’ll bribe them with peppermint bark fudge. Usually food works as an excellent bribery tool in this household. We’re all food-motivated, just so you know. Bake me a cheesecake or cook me dinner and I’m yours, no contest. Unless it’s pork chops, in which case I will probably cry and pout. I hate pork chops, but that’s a different story.

Wanna make yourself some peppermint bark fudge? Of course you do, completely-sane-and-suitable-Christmas-light-hanger-person.

Peppermint Bark Fudge *inspiration for recipe came from Shelly’s 3-ingredient fudge from Cookies and Cups.

1 pkg dark chocolate chips (milk or semi-sweet work, too)
1 can chocolate frosting–don’t get the whipped kind
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup Andes peppermint crunch baking chips or roughly crushed candy canes
1 cup chopped candy cane Hershey kisses* (this is completely optional. You can use an additional 1 cup of crushed candy canes or Andes peppermint baking chips, but I loove the kisses and had to have them)

1. Lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking pan. Set aside.
2. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave according to package directions until smooth and melted, careful not to burn! You can also use a double boiler method if preferred.
3. Once chips are melted, stir in the chocolate frosting and the teaspoon of peppermint extract until blended. Mixture will be very thick. Pour in one cup of the Andes peppermint baking chips, and stir to combine.
4. Spread mixture into your prepared pan. I lightly sprayed my rubber spatula with cooking spray to help press the fudge into the pan in a smooth, even layer. Sprinkle top of the fudge with the chopped candy cane kisses or another cup of crushed candy canes or the Andes chips. Gently press into the fudge with clean hands.
5. Allow your fudge to set, about 30 mins-1 hr, and then use a damp knife to cut into squares. Store airtight in fridge.

Wrap these cuties up for a super-easy treat to give to coworkers, neighbors, your kid’s teacher, or friends. So easy, and only like, 4 ingredients. Can’t beat that!

Stay tuned for more amazing Christmas recipes–I can’t wait! And be safe hanging up those lights!

xo, Hayley

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Anyone who lives two hours east of Sacramento and beyond into midwest and east coast territory will probably hate me for the next couple paragraphs BUT I wish I could see snow.

Being from the valley, the one or two instances of “snow” reported are hardly what anyone who’s seen snow would call snow. It’s more like some pathetic, barely fascinating flake that dissipates before it hits the ground. It’s like even our grass is too hot to keep snow alive.

Boooooo-ring.

One time, my parents took my siblings and I to the snow. Well, we tried go. Most of the time, we’d be nearing a fancy resort and my parents would just pull off at a rest stop, point to some half-melted snow and say, “have at it!” This would, of course, result in all childlike snow-activities like throwing snowballs, half-heartedly making snowmen and making snow angels.

So any real snow-sport activity that requires actual maneuvering in the snow: snow-mobiling, tobogganing, skiing, snowboarding? Yeah, never done that.

But I would be really good at riding on garbage can lids! We used to bring those saucer disks to the snow and have a blast travelling down teeny mounds of snow, falling face or butt first into the powdery white after we crashed.

Good times!

See how poor people have fun in the snow? Screw buying hundreds of dollars worth of equipment–give me a garbage can lid and I’m set to laugh until I cry.

Rich people have no idea how to have real fun.

Anyways, I’ve been thinking about all-things-wintery and am delighted that Starbucks released their winter drinks (almost a month ago but whatever) because I LOVE their gingerbread syrup.

Besides the lattes, I’m crazy for using the gingerbread syrup in my non-fat iced chai tea lattes. It tastes like a liquid gingerbread cookie thanks to all the spices in the chai and syrup. Amaaazing.

So I decided to make a gingerbread cupcake, because I’m sure that’s what poor people who have no snow do to compensate for lack of snow. Or, if you have snow, that’s cool. You’re allowed to make these, too. In fact, you should–they’re super freakin’ good.

Gingerbread Cupcakes *recipe from Betty Crocker’s Big Book of Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe & ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, water, oil, eggs, molasses, and spices until blended, about 2 minutes. Portion batter evenly into muffin tins, about 2/3 full, and bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely while you prepare the frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
About 4 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until blended, about 1 minute. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until a stiff but spreadable consistency is reached. Beat in cinnamon.
2. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes (you may want to double the recipe if you’re piping it high like mine). Sprinkle with festive jimmies or gingerbread quinns, like mine (I got them in a 4-pk at Michael’s). Store airtight.

I can’t believe how a box of yellow cake mix can transform into such a yummy gingerbread cupcake… mmm. The cinnamon cream cheese is totally delish, but the cupcake itself is to die for. Try it and let me know how you like it!

Happy (Non) Snow Days!

xo, Hayley

Cake Batter Cookie Dough Truffles

What a mouthful.

Let’s talk about Christmas. And anti-Christmas people. And Black Friday.

First of all, Christmas: I’m so excited. I’ve gotten everyone’s present already and only need a few teeny things to supplement the bigger, bad-ass presents, like candies and unnecessary knick-knacks I feel each person needs for some unidentifiable reason.

But lately, people have been clouding my Christmas cheer. Hearing strangers talking smack about Christmas music in Walmart. See friends whining on Facebook about how Christmas is coming up *insert angry/sad emoticon here* or begin ranting about how it’s such a capitalistic holiday and so commercialized and blah blah blah. 

Yeah, you all suck.

What’s more, they’ll ask for like, a plasma TV or a new camera for Christmas… because nothing screams ‘anti-commercialized holiday’ like a brand new digital camera. Sell-outs.

Oh, and never ever talk smack about Christmas tunes around me again, you hear? I personally enjoy listening to this jolly music and find myself singing it in March. Don’t hate.

Black Friday. Oh dear god.

I have no reason to venture out this year, mainly because I don’t have a reason to wake up at 2 am and stand in line for hours, trampling petite people for a 42″ TV. In years past, sure. But now, no thanks.

The mall near our house opens at MIDNIGHT.

Um, why? It’s a MALL. It doesn’t sell TVs, pricey cameras, or anything worth being there at MIDNIGHT for.

I love me some Victoria’s Secret like the next girl, but you will NOT see me shivering my behind off for some fruity-colored sweats and matching hoodies, uhnothanks.

Plus, my shopping’s done for, which makes it easier for me to stay in bed watching reruns, eating my weight in turkey, stuffing and cranberry-sauce sandwiches, and perhaps these Cake Batter Cookie Dough Truffles, which would make for excellent gifts, btw.

A few days ago my mom brought home some Mrs. Fields Cookie Dough Truffles from the dollar section at Target (LOOOVE that place–such great, useless stuff to have for a dolla).

My eyes zeroed in on the sugar cookie dough truffles and I wondered for a split second why the hell I have not thought of something so genius. After eating for awhile, suppressing my anger at being uncreative and not as innovative as Mrs. Fields, I decided to make them.

Look at them in all their naked glory. You could stop here… but a little extra sugar and chocolate never hurt anyone.

And it is completely unnecessary to make them at midnight, so enjoy your sleep and non-trampled toes and eat them, like, yesterday. Then be a good friend and give them away in cute containers you picked up in the Target dollar bin. Good friends do that.

Cake Batter Cookie Dough Truffles *idea from Mrs. Fields, but amazing eggless cake batter cookie dough recipe from Julie at Willow Bird Baking! Thanks Julie! 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4-6 Tbsp milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cake mix (just the powdered mix; NOT batter!)
1/4 tsp salt
Vanilla (white) and chocolate candy bark (I love Candiquik, but Baker’s is great, too)Rainbow sprinkles (lots, obv.)

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together softened butter and white sugar until creamy and blended. Beat in vanilla extract only, until combined. Add in the cake mix, salt and flour, about a half cup of flour at a time, until blended–dough will be VERY stiff. Add milk, one teaspoon at a time, until a nice soft dough is achieved (think cookie dough, people). Stir in about 1/2-1 cup rainbow sprinkles, depending on how festive you feel.
3. Roll out teaspoon-sized balls of dough and place on your baking sheet. Freeze for about 30 minutes to an hour to chill and become solid, not completely frozen. While they freeze, prepare your baking chocolate in separate bowls according to package directions.

4. Take one cookie dough truffle and dunk it into a flavor chocolate of your choice and roll it around to cover with a spoon, allowing excess to drip off. Place coated truffle back onto your foil-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with remaining rainbow sprinkles or jimmies. Repeat with remaining truffles, sprinkling tops with sprinkles.
–If desired, drizzle opposite flavor chocolate on each truffle (think chocolate truffles with a white chocolate drizzle) to get fancy. Otherwise, allow chocolate to harden (I put mine back in the freezer) and then eat! Store these in an airtight container (I keep mine in the freezer.. mm) or gift ’em up to someone sweet.

Where have these been all my life?

I have a feeling I’ll need to spend a lot of quality time with these truffles, you know, making up for lost time and all…

And if you’re going out for Black Friday, be safe–and maybe consider steel-toed boots? Who knows… maybe they’ll give you an advantage in the electronics section, though I would never condone Christmastime violence, even for a $400 52″ TV.

Happy Holidays!

xo, Hayley

Mini Caramel Pumpkin Pies

Why am I totally on a mini-rampage?

Well, not a mini-rampage, but an “everything-mini” rampage.

I love small things.

Maybe it’s because I’m subconsciously aware that I’m not mini, so I like small things to compensate for my non-small-ness.

I’m not petite, never was. I’m a towering 5’8″ and come from a family of really tall people.

My dad and 18 year old brother are plagued with shopping for Big and Tall shirts because anything normal-sized looks like something a Ken doll would wear.

I guess I find myself in the same boat, seeing as I have both long legs and a freakishly long torso. Like, my torso alone could probably be at least four feet tall. Okay, probably not. But you get the idea.

And maybe I’m subconsciously liking small things because I’m also not super small, and never was. Girls who fit into size 2–or crazier–a juniors double-0? Noooo way. I got hips for days. And a teensy tummy, no thanks to the fact that I LOVE FOOD.

Also no thanks to the fact that I polished off an entire takeout container of chow mein last night, but that’s only a minor detail in this predicament, don’t you think? The real scary stuff happens next Thursday, approximately 2pm, when I, Hayley Parker, will be stuffing my face senselessly with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, and whatever else I can reach with my scary-long arms until Jessie will roll me out of his house, into his truck’s bed (the cab is for skinny people, duh) and bring me to my grandma’s house where I will repeat the process again, this time, providing myself with ample room for pie.

Mmm, yes. Pie.

Remember how I told you I’m an apple pie girl? Yeah, I am. Still am. Nothing’s changed from two days ago.

But I do love me some pumpkin pie, too. Especially now that I have more maturer taste buds (read: now that I’m more of a fat ass).

A few years ago, I made this Turtle Pumpkin Pie from Kraftfoods.com for Thanksgiving and it was a huuuge hit (um, pumpkin, graham crackers and caramel… can’t imagine why anyone would like that…) Except, I left out the pecans since my mother is allergic to all nuts except peanuts (isn’t that ironically tragic? I cry about this frequently into a bowl of pistachios) and because I wanted to be charged with being brutally gluttonous on Thanksgiving day, not a murderer.

I decided to change things up this year and make mini versions of this family-favorite pie since everyone loves mini things and no one in my house enjoys sharing too much. For these qualities, mini pies seemed perfect. And they’re easy, too, which means less work=more eating. You’re welcome.

Mini Caramel Pumpkin Pies *inspired by Kraft’s recipe

1 pkg (6) mini graham cracker crusts
2 small boxes sugar free/fat free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Sprinkling of ground ginger and ground pumpkin pie spice
1 tub light Cool Whip, thawed
Caramel sauce (I used plain ol’ squirt-bottle ice cream topping)

1. Start by unwrapping your pie crusts and drizzling about 1 Tbsp caramel on the bottom of each crust. (What a good beginning) Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pudding mixes, milk, pumpkin and spices until blended and thickened. Gently fold in about 1 1/2 cups of the thawed Cool Whip topping (you want to fold it rather than mix it, since apparently this stuff can deflate if you are too brutal to it. It has feelings, too). Spoon your filling into each pie crust (you’ll probably have extra filling, which would make it easy to double this recipe and make 12 mini pies; just sayin’)
3. Top filling with remaining plain Cool Whip, spreading evenly. Drizzle with caramel sauce and place in fridge to set about 1 hour. Eat!!

My pictures are kind of messy considering I went a little caramel-heavy today. It was just one of those days, you know? Tough life.

Enjoy these; they’re great!

xo, Hayley

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