New Years Eve.How Time Flys

Its crazy that its already new years eve and this year is coming to an end.So for a final goodbye to 2012 I thought that I should share how grateful I am for all the positive things that have happen throughout this year.I have been given so many great opportunities this past year,especially in the blogging world with all the recipe reviews,books and even product testing.It was lots of fun to try out something new and learn how to be a better reviewer. I may not of been able to accept every review offer;however I tried my best to fit everything in this year and I'll tried even hard for this brand new year that awaits me.

I have so many fond memories for this past year,especially as a blogger.However their are two that really stick out for me.I had lots of fun making my own homemade soda's and my favorite would have to be the orange creamiscle.Also, testing out the Dairyland products was really interesting,especially making my own vanilla ice cream and chocolate mousse.They were so good  an I definitely recommend them.2012 was definitely awesome and I look forward for whatever 2013 brings me.Hopefully more product testing!

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Now that were coming to our last day I thought I should share the last two recipes that I made.They are delicious Christmas treats that I made only a few days before the big day;however one of them can be made anytime of the year.One is a fancy Christmas tree cookie made with a basic sugar dough while the other is a delicious chocolate caramel cluster with homemade caramel.They are both something you need to put time into make;however are well worth the effort in the end.Overall the recipes are simple to follow and pretty adaptable.

They were certainly fun treats to make and looked pretty great in the end.Overall,the mini Christmas tree's did take some time to make, since each ball had to be rolled and stuck together.However they came to be really simple and even fun to decorate,especially when I chose to use a simple water glaze.For my caramel clusters they also took sometime to make,especially when you choose to make a homemade caramel instead of  store bought.However homemade is definitely well worth the effort in flavor and to test out your own candy making skills.In the end, they were delicious little treats.The cookies were a perfect sweet, soft and crunchy sugar cookie while the clusters were a combo of chewy,chocolaty,sweet and even salty.They were all so good that they sure didn't last to long in this house and are definitely two recipes to keep.To learn how to make these recipes, just scroll on down.

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Also, I almost forgot to mention some other great little things that happen this year.One I bought my own Kitchen Aid Mixer at work ,which was $500 originally then down to $249 along with my discount.That was an excellent buy and I try to use it every time I bake now.Also this Christmas I won a giant chocolate basket from work that was actually everything to do with Chocolate, including a fondue fountain.I had my own fondue party with it,which was pretty awesome.Overall,it has been a pretty good year and I hope this new year brings more product reviews and luck.

So Happy New Years! everybody and I'll be sure to enjoy my day off today,before working early tomorrow morning.

 The Recipes

Snowball Trees Adapted from Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publications: Christmas Cookies.

Snowball Trees

1 recipe Basic sugar cookie dough
Green food coloring

Sugar Cookie Dough 

1 cup butter,softened
1/2 sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl,beat butter with a electric hand mixer or mixer. On medium to high speed for 30 second, until creamed.Add sugar and beat till combined.Be sure to scrape sides.Add the milk,vanilla and salt until combined.Beat in as much as the flour as you can with the mixer.Mix in remaining flouring using a wooden spoon.

Snowball Trees

Remove 1/2 cup of sugar cookie dough.Put to the side for the tree stumps.From their tint the remaining dough with green food coloring.

Preheat the oven to 325F.For each cookie,shape green dough into ten 1/2 inch balls.Using an ungreased cookie sheet or using wax paper.Arrange the balls in a tree shape by placing a row of four balls,topped by a row of three balls,a row of two balls and then one ball for the top.While putting them together be sure to gently press them together.Shape plain dough into a 3/4 inch ball and place at the bottom for a tree trunk.Press gently together to stick.Repeat with remaining dough and leave 2 inch space between each cookie.They will slightly spread.

Bake for 10 -12 minutes until lightly golden brown.Let cool on cookie sheet and then transfer to cookie rack.For decorating,combine icing,water and tiny bit of vanilla to create a glaze that has the consistency to drizzle. Drizzle the glaze back and forth on the cookie and decorate with Christmas sprinkles.Let cookie stand until glaze has set.Enjoy!

Makes about 36+ cookies 

 Chocolate Caramel Clusters Adapted from Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publications: Food Gifts

1 8 oz package pecan halves,toasted
Homemade Caramel Recipe
1 12 oz(2 cups) pcg of semisweet chocolate chips
Coarse seas salt  (optional)

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.Grease the parchment to stick to the tray.For each cluster, arrange 5 pecan halves in a single later,close together.

Spoon caramel mixture over each cluster of pecans.Let stand  until firm.

In a medium heavy bottom pan,  melt semisweet chocolate chips over low heat,until smooth.Spoon chocolate over each cluster and gently spread to edges.If you like you can sprinkle the top with coarse salt.Let the chocolate caramel cluster stand  for about 30 minutes until set.Place in an tin and store up to 1 week in the refrigerator.    

Homemade Caramel adapted by Betty Crocker Cookbook New Edition

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix sugar, syrup, milk and salt in a heavy bottom pot.Cook over low heat,stirring constantly,to 230F on a candy thermometer.Be sure to always watch it,It can burn very easily.A finish caramel will be thicker and in soft ball stage.It will also be a dark pal brown.Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.Cool slightly.

For the caramel clusters, keep the caramel warm so it doesn't begin to thicken and set.Keep on a low heat and be sure to stir it while creating the clusters.
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