The prices for gourmet cookie and candy treats can be outrageous. Come Christmastime, one of my favorite retailers features chocolate-covered Oreo® cookies for something like $18.95 for a tin of 12 or 15 cookies. Seriously? Why pay those prices when they’re easy to make at home, where you can control the ingredients, customize the decoration and personalize the presentation. Both of these projects take a little over an hour, make great gifts and can save tons of money.
- 24 Oreo® chocolate sandwich cookies
- 1 bag dark cocoa candy melting disks
- Decorations of your choice
- Waxed paper-lined baking sheets
- Candy dipping tool (or egg dipping tool)
1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, place about 1/3 of the chocolate melting disks. Microwave on 50 percent power for 1 minute and stir well. Return to the microwave, if needed, for 10 to 30 seconds until completely melted.
2. Place a cookie in the melted chocolate and use the dipping tool to flip it over, giving the cookie a nice chocolate bath. Use the tool to lift the cookie out of the chocolate and give it a little shake to shake off any excess chocolate. Place the cookie on the baking sheet.
3. If decorating with sprinkles, confetti, jimmies or sugar, apply the decoration while the chocolate is still soft. If decorating with contrasting shades of chocolate or icing, allow to cool completely.
Chocolate Pretzel Rods
1 bag of salted pretzel rods
1 bag of colored chocolate candy melting disks
Decorations of your choice
Waxed paper-lined baking sheets
Silicon pastry brush or rubber spatula
1. Place the disks in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50 percent power for 1 minute and stir well. Return to the microwave, if needed, for 10 to 30 seconds until completely melted.
2. Spoon about 1/3 of the chocolate onto a dinner plate, keeping the chocolate in a vague rectangle, about 5 by 2 inches in the center of the plate. Spread the chocolate back and forth to make it nice and smooth.
3. Grasp a pretzel rod by one end and, keeping that end clean, dredge the pretzel into the chocolate, rolling back and forth until it’s nicely coated. Use the silicon brush or rubber spatula to help spread and even out the chocolate.
4. Place on a waxed-lined baking sheet to set up. If decorating with sprinkles, confetti, jimmies or sugar, apply the decoration while the chocolate is still soft. If decorating with contrasting shades of chocolate or icing, allow to cool completely.
Notes and hints:
- You can find candy melting disks at craft stores.
- The chocolate can be reheated over and over if you find it becoming thick and hardening up on you.
- Apply sprinkle-type decorations over another bowl or tray away from the chocolate.
- Avoid getting any crumbs, liquid or sprinkles into the chocolate.
- To make party favors, place 3 or 4 pretzel rods in a cellophane bag and tie with a pretty ribbon, or place the cookies in a festive tin or box.
- Adapt this technique to Christmas: use white chocolate and red, green, and white sprinkles!
- Keep these confections, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.-
- Save any leftover chocolate, covered, in the fridge to decorate cupcakes. It can be melted and remelted over and over!Read More
Last month I was visiting a department store in Nebraska and saw the cutest door banner for a not so cute price: $29.95. It was painted canvas and frankly a little short for my front door. At my craft store I found a flimsy nylon banner smaller than a placemat for $6.99. I knew I could do better. This project uses about $7 in new supplies, plus basic supplies you may already have. However, it can be time consuming depending on the image you choose to paint.
- 1 4’x5’ canvas drop cloth
- 48” x 7/16” dowel rod
- Blue painter’s tape
- Paint – acrylic craft paint, leftover wall paint, whatever you have
- Paint brushes
- Hot glue
1. Cut the drop cloth in half lengthwise, so you have 2 2’x5’ pieces. (Save the other piece for a Christmas door banner.) Finish the raw edge by turning under 1/2 inch and sew in a hem, use hot glue, or iron-on hemming tape (my choice).
2. Prime the entire canvas with white primer. (You can skip this step if you want a natural background. Allow to dry.
3. Tape off a 2 inch border all the way around the piece. Tape off stripes or use stickers to create a polka dot motif. Paint the border black.
4. Paint the background of the main panel your choice of color. Draw and then paint your design. Decorate with stamps, stencils, sponge painting – whatever moves you!
5. When everything is dry, cut the dowel to 26 inches with a small hack saw. Roll the top edge of the banner over the dowel and secure with hot glue.
6. Tie the ribbon on one end of the dowel, measure the length you need considering the drop you want on the door. (I made the ribbon long enough so the banner would not obstruct the peep hole.) Tie the other end of the ribbon. Reinforce the ribbon with a dollop of hot glue, just to make it stays in place. (Note: If you’re using this banner on an exterior door, consider sealing it with a clear acrylic sealer to help with water resistance.)Read More
It’s 9 p.m. and you realize you have to take cupcakes to work or school tomorrow. Bakeries are closed, and depending on where you live, you may only have an hour before the market closes. What to do? Check your pantry for staples and a few Halloween treats and you can have festive cupcakes in no time.
- 1 box white cake mix (check the box for additional ingredients)
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- 1 tub white icing
- 1 tub chocolate icing
- Halloween baking cups (optional)
- Fruit-flavored rolls
- Red decorating sugar
- Black decorating gel
- Candy corn
- Candy-coated chocolate pieces
- Cupcake picks
1. Line 24 muffin cups with Halloween baking cups and preheat the oven as directed on the box. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box. Divide the batter and place half – about 2 cups – into a small bowl. Zest the lemon into one half of the batter; zest the orange into the other half. Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full. (Use an ice cream scoop for uniformity.) Bake as directed and allow to cool.
2. Frost half of the cupcakes with white icing and half with chocolate icing. (Room temperature icing will spread the best.) Decorate as desired. See the “Making Custom Cupcake Picks” post for details.Read More
Home décor need not be expensive to be stylish and trendy. Look for ideas in retail stores and catalogs, and re-create the designer looks for less.
These outdoor Halloween ideas do just that – they take on aspects of high-end retail pieces for a fraction of the cost. As a bonus, they’re easy to make with just a few craft store purchases. They are sure to bring some howlingly good results to your Halloween scene this year!
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I decided that my summer wreath had seen its better days. A few years old, the silk forsythia was dusty and droopy and frankly I was tired of looking at it. But as I removed it from the front door, I looked more closely. The wreath form itself was still in good shape, but a bit faded. Instantly I thought of this idea. It is inspired by a high-end catalog wreath that costs much more.
- Twig wreath
- Black spray paint (satin finish)
- Spider webbing
- Plastic spiders
- Cotton gauze strips
- Black roses
- Halloween plaque
- Spanish moss (optional)
- Hot glue gun
1. If reusing an old wreath, remove all embellishments. Spray paint the wreath with the black spray paint, using two or more light layers. Spray paint two 12-inch strips of gauze fabric and a small clump of Spanish moss. Allow everything to dry. (Note: Always follow directions on the spray can. Use spray paint in a well-ventilated area or outside, and use eye protection and a particle mask.)
2. When the wreath is dry, cut a small (3 or 4 inch) piece of the spider webbing rope and, following the directions on the package, stretch the webbing to cover the wreath as shown.
3. Attach the plaque (or other feature embellishment) at the top of the wreath. (I used black wire to attach the “RIP” plaque, but floral wire or bread ties would also work.) Hot glue tufts of Spanish moss around the plaque if desired.
4. Hot glue the roses into place. Place the gauze strips, arranging them with random folds, in blank areas on the wreath. Tack in place with hot glue.
5. Attach spiders randomly on webbed areas with hot glue.
-If you don’t have a wreath to recycle, a new twig wreath is about $3.50 at craft supply stores.
- Go through your Halloween decorations to find embellishments, such as a small “keep out” sign or a small stuffed toy to be the centerpiece of your wreath.
- Use bandaging gauze for the cotton gauze fabric.
- Cut the roses off the “bouquet” they’re packaged as, leaving about 1 inch of stem, then pull the leaves off the bouquet and re-attach the leaves snuggly under each rose. It makes the rose look fuller.
I recently saw decorative Halloween urns with lighted twigs in a high-end catalog. The urns were $89 each, and the twigs were $79 for two bunches – a total of nearly $260 plus shipping, which probably would have been upwards of $30. I knew I could get the same feeling for less, and I did. A pair of these urns came in at about $88, less than a third of retail price. Here’s how!
- 2 black garden urns
- 2 bunches of black twigs
- 2 strings of orange lights
- 2 jars or coffee cans
- Floral foam or sand (for stability)
- Spanish moss spray painted black
1. Secure a jar (or a coffee can or other vessel) to the bottom of the urn with double-sided foam tape, hot glue or your adhesive of choice. Pack floral foam or sand in and around the jar.
2. Place 5 or 6 twigs into the jar. Wrap the lights around these twigs. Fill in around the jar with additional twigs.
3. Arrange Spanish moss around the base of all the twigs.
- Use a variety of twigs for more texture.
- I found the black urns on sale; any plastic garden urn will do. A coat of black spray paint (that bonds to plastic) will make it Halloween ready.
- Sand will make the urn heavy, so make sure it can be lifted and moved into place.
- The Spanish moss is a necessity for this project since it covers all the unattractive bits. At less than $3 for a large bag, it’s a good bargain that will come in handy for many projects.Read More
½ c. pear schnapps
½ c. pineapple juice
Juice of one lemon
One drop of green food coloring (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher. Shake over ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into chilled vampire martini glasses. (See the previous post for details.) Makes 4 generous servings.Read More
These martini glasses are sure to please the bloodsucker in you! They’re perfect for the Bite-me-tini. I found these martini glasses (made in the USA!) at Cost Plus World Market for only $1.99 each. Embellish each glass with Halloween-themed adhesive jewels. I found the embellishments shown for $1.00 (for all of them) at Michaels.These glasses will need to be hand-washed to keep the jewels intact.
For the “blood” – combine 1/8 c. of light corn syrup with 10 drops of red food coloring and 1 drop of blue food coloring. Pour the mixture into a squeeze bottle (available at restaurant supply stores). Squeeze a line of colored corn syrup on the inside rim of each glass. (Hint: Hold the bottle with the tip at a 45 degree angle to the glass and rotate the glass.) Allow syrup to drip down the inside of the glass. Chill before using.Read More