A Valentine’s Tea In the Woods

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
Last year we had a “Bee Mine” Valentines Tea and it was so much fun we had to do another one this year!  My girls love the “Stranger in the Woods” books and videos, and that was the inspiration for this one.  Everything was really pretty simple, and my girls had so much fun helping to make everything.


A Valentine's Tea In the Woods

Here’s what we did:

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods

“Forest Flower Nectar”  This is just 7 up and cranberry juice.  Very well received! I debated on what to make for the girls to drink, as some like the hot herbal tea but not all.  This was an easy fix, they could have either and still drink out of the teacups.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
I love the log cake platter, I bought it at Cost Plus World Market and was happy to have a perfect occasion to use it!

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
I made each setting an acorn cap necklace by making felt balls and gluing them inside acorn caps.  Beforehand I drilled a hole in the cap for a wire loop to put the string through. I wrapped one around each napkin.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
For place settings I used these woodland animal valentines, found here.
A Valentine's Tea In the Woods

Fairy bread, of course, for the girls.  It’s just peanut butter or frosting on bread, dosed in sprinkles.  I used the woodland animal cookie cutters as well.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
For “twigs” I made chocolate dipped pretzel rods.  With them are walnut cookies.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
For the cookie mushrooms I just used the sugar cookie dough I used for the other cookies (You just make a ball of dough, dip a bottle top into cocoa powder, then into the ball of dough.  I froze mine for about 45 minutes so they would keep their shape better, then baked.)

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
For the snails we swirled chocolate and regular sugar cookie dough and used sprinkles for antennas.  Again, I froze them for about 45 minutes to help from spreading.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
The log cake was a big hit!

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
I decorated the cake with marshmallow fondant, using martha stewart molds for the ferns and leaves, a little cookie cutter for the daisies, and freehanded the toadstools.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
The green moss is made by mixing graham cracker crumbs with green food coloring.  We added some candy rocks we found at the amazing Candy babel store.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods
Last minute I remembered we had some deer picks so I added those the mini cupcakes.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods

The cookie cutter set was from Ikea I believe, though the deer was just the bear modified.

A Valentine's Tea In the Woods

More sweets, of course!
A Valentine's Tea In the Woods

Even if you just break out some cookie cutters and make simple pb sandwiches with juice, have a tea party (with tea cups of course!)  I promise you won’t forget it, and your little for sure won’t!

 

Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon Caramels

Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon Caramels

I made these for our Christmas treat boxes this year primarily for my hubby and a dear friend who both love chocolate dipped cinnamon bears (all though, I never did get to dipping them in chocolate for the boxes).  I made a double batch and seeing how many we had after cutting it up I put them in all the boxes.  Much to my shock they were THE HIT.  Not even a close call.   More than one friend said their kids were fighting over them!  I thought they would make a great Valentine’s Day treat as well, and if I wasn’t so busy raising people maybe I’d make a cute card you could print to go with them, you know, something witty like “You’re red hot, valentine!”  I don’t know, you can figure that part out. 🙂
In the meantime, make these.  Give them to your cute hubby.  Or sweet friends.  Or eat them yourself.  Either way.
Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon Caramels

CHOCOLATE DIPPED CINNAMON CARAMELS

3/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 to 1 tsp (depending how strong you want them) cinnamon oil candy flavor*
1 tsp red food coloring gel, optional
Chocolate or candy melts, to coat, optional

Grease an 8 inch square pan (I actually put mine in a larger pan, this just depends how big you want your pieces to be).  Set aside.
In a heavy pot over low heat, combine the butter, salt, corn syrup, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream.  Gently stir until the butter is melted.
Raise the heat to medium-low and clip on a thermometer.  Stop stirring at this point.  Watch the heat, you just want a gentle simmer.
At 236 degrees add the remaining cup of cream and gently stir just barely to mix in.  Allow cooking to 245 degrees without stirring.
Remove from the heat and gently stir in the cinnamon and food coloring if using.
Poor into pan without scraping the pot.  Cool at room temperature before cutting into pieces.
If desired, dip in melted chocolate or candy melts.

*1 tsp is equal to 1 fluid dram, which is the size of the jar the candy flavoring comes in.
Recipe slightly adapted from Mels Kitchen Cafe

Chocolate Dipped Cinnamon Caramels

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp (depending how strong you want them) cinnamon oil candy flavor*
  • 1 tsp red food coloring gel, optional
  • Chocolate or candy melts, to coat, optional

Instructions

  • Grease an 8 inch square pan (I actually put mine in a larger pan, this just depends how big you want your pieces to be). Set aside.
  • In a heavy pot over low heat, combine the butter, salt, corn syrup, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream. Gently stir until the butter is melted.
  • Raise the heat to medium-low and clip on a thermometer. Stop stirring at this point. Watch the heat, you just want a gentle simmer.
  • At 236 degrees add the remaining cup of cream and gently stir just barely to mix in. Allow cooking to 245 degrees without stirring.
  • Remove from the heat and gently stir in the cinnamon and food coloring if using.
  • Poor into pan without scraping the pot. Cool at room temperature before cutting into pieces.
  • If desired, dip in melted chocolate or candy melts.
  • *1 tsp is equal to 1 fluid dram, which is the size of the jar the candy flavoring comes in.
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    A Frame Love Shacks

    DSC02781
    For our family night last night we made our annual “Love shacks”.   This time I wanted to try the A Frame version I’ve seen around.  They were a lot easier to put together, less pieces, and seem a little more structurally sound (especially when working with kids!) 🙂
    DSC02778
    Find my tips and recipe for the original “Love Shacks” here.  I used this A Frame template here.
    DSC02782
    As usual, I let the girls decorate any way they wanted to.  When doing a project with kids, cooking related or otherwise, remember it’s okay if things don’t turn out how you in vision or planned.  I love seeing what they will come up with on their own.  That’s not to say you can’t help if need, but don’t criticize how they want it to look either.  We love to just dump a bunch of candy on a tray in the middle of the table and have fun. 🙂
    Here’s the link to the original “Love Shacks” along with some other Valentine’s day treats!

    LOVE SHACKS
    ls

    CUPID CRUNCH
    cupidcrunch

    HEART-BREAKERS (Valentine’s gift pouches)
    hp

    PUPPY LOVE 

    Cupid Crunch (Valentine’s Day Chex Mix)

    cupidcrunch

    Our standby chex mix, which I just change a little for every holiday it seems. 🙂
    It’s quick and easy, my kids love making it with me (always a bonus!), and it gets eaten pretty quick!  I make a double or triple batch for parties sometimes, and never seem to have any left at the end.  Happy Valentine’s Day!
    CUPID CRUNCH

    DSC00125
    Lay on a lined sheet for the coating to dry, then mix into chex mix.
    DSC00126

    Cupid Crunch (Valentine’s Day Chex Mix)

    Ingredients

      For Chex mix:
    • 14 oz candy coating or almond bark
    • 5 cups Chex (corn or rice)
    • 1 cup peanuts
    • 2 cups pretzels
    • 1 cup Valentine's M&M's
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
      For Heart Pretzels:
    • Red candy coating
    • Large pretzels twists

    Instructions

    For Chex mix:
  • Mix together chex, peanuts, pretzels, and m&m's in a large bowl.
  • Melt candy coating and pour over chex.
  • Stir quickly with a large spoon.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar over chex and stir together.
  • Lay out on a large cookie sheet lined with wax paper to dry.
  • For Heart Pretzels:
  • Melt candy coating and dip outer edge of pretzels to make a red heart.
  • Lay on a lined sheet for the coating to dry, then mix into chex mix.
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    http://mystainedapron.com/cupid-crunch-valentines-day-chex-mix/

    Heartbreakers! (Valentine Pouches)

    hp
    I thought it would be fun to make a pouch for valentines instead of an envelope, so we’d have room to put some fun things inside, like the Halloween Pouches.
    We put some valentine jokes, heart suckers, a couple chocolates, and some stickers inside.
    Here’s the pdf:  valentine pouches

    You could also just freehand cut hearts out.  I sewed ours together, using red paper (I think it would be cute to do pink for girls too, especially if you do different stickers for boys and girls).
    I rough cut the hearts out and placed on a piece of brown kraft paper and sewed around (I did some where I sewed on the line, some I sewed inside the line and used the line as a cut guide.)
    DSC00127
    Leave a space when sewing to insert the treats, then finish enclosing.
    Cut out either with decorative scissors or plain.
    If you don’t fill them very full, you could also just glue the hearts together.  Either way it’s fun for the kids to rip them open.

    Love Shacks!

    ls

    I think I actually enjoy Valentine’s Day more since having kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my hubby, even now that we’ve been married over 11 years.  Even more than when we were googly-eyed newlyweds.   But having kids as just magnified that for me.  We have even more love in our home!
    So for Valentine’s Day we celebrate as a family.  I make a fun dinner and we make “Love Shacks”.  Sugar cookie houses loaded with fun.
    loveshack2
    We had a few friends and their kids over this year and made a party of it.  Each kid got a house to decorate, and we put tons of valentines candy down the middle of the table.

    Each kid got a small plate with some frosting and a knife (pre-“glueing” the houses together really helps here, they won’t fall apart even with tons of candy on them).
    You could also give each kid a piping bag or a ziplock with a snipped corner of frosting.
    We started this tradition because our oldest daughter adores decorating cookies and gingerbread houses.  We usually make a few for friends or family who might be going through a rough time, like the elderly widow down the street we visit with, or someone we love, like my daughter’s therapist.
    Autism has not stopped my sweet girl from being a sweetheart, that’s for sure!

    DSC00141
    For Sugar Cookie Houses:

    4 cups flour
    1 T baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2/3 cup shortening
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    2 eggs
    2 T milk
    1 T vanilla

    In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until softened.
    Add sugar and beat until fluffy.   Add milk, eggs, and vanilla, mix until well blended.
    In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add to dough and mix until well mixed.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate a couple hours to a few days.
    Roll out sections of dough on silicone mats. (I find it helpful to cover dough with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap so you don’t have to over-flour the surface of the dough to roll it out.)

    Here is a template for houses that works well for small kids houses.

    Cut out shapes and take away excess.  I find it works well to have the shapes up against each other, so there is less room for expansion.
    DSC00120

    Bake at 375 degrees for 6 to 12 minutes, depending on size of shapes.
    You want it slightly golden brown.  Within a minute of taking out of the oven, I slide the silicone mat onto a flat counter and trim any excess that may have expanded during baking, and re-score lines.
    DSC00121
    After pieces are cool, make royal icing.  Fill a piping bag (or even just a ziplock with a snipped corner) and “glue” houses together.  I like to use overturned paper plates like my friend Angela does, it makes decorating easier.
    Ideally, “glue” the houses together at least one day before decorating, it makes them more stable for little ones who like to add alot of heavy candy 😉

    For Royal
    Icing:
    1 lb powdered sugar
    3 egg whites (you can substitute 2 T meringue powder and 6 T water alternatively)
    1/2 tsp cream of tartar

    Mix all icing ingredients together until stiff peaks form when the beater is pulled out.  Decorate as desired!

    DSC00136

    Love Shacks!

    Ingredients

      For Sugar Cookie Houses:
    • 4 cups flour
    • 1 T baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2/3 cup shortening
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 T milk
    • 1 T vanilla
      For Royal Icing:
    • 1 lb powdered sugar
    • 3 egg whites (you can substitute 2 T meringue powder and 6 T water alternatively)
    • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

    Instructions

    For Sugar Cookie Houses:
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until softened.
  • Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add milk, eggs, and vanilla, mix until well blended.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to dough and mix until well mixed. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate a couple hours to a few days.
  • Roll out sections of dough on silicone mats. (I find it helpful to cover dough with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap so you don't have to over-flour the surface of the dough to roll it out.)
  • Cut out shapes and take away excess. I find it works well to have the shapes up against each other, so there is less room for expansion.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 6 to 12 minutes, depending on size of shapes.
  • You want it slightly golden brown. Within a minute of taking out of the oven, I slide the silicone mat onto a flat counter and trim any excess that may have expanded during baking, and re-score lines.
  • After pieces are cool, make royal icing. Fill a piping bag (or even just a ziplock with a snipped corner) and "glue" houses together. I like to use overturned paper plates like my friend Angela does, it makes decorating easier.
  • Ideally, "glue" the houses together at least one day before decorating, it makes them more stable for little ones who like to add alot of heavy candy 😉
  • For Royal Icing:
  • Mix all icing ingredients together until stiff peaks form when the beater is pulled out. Decorate as desired!
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    http://mystainedapron.com/love-shacks/

    Puppy Love

    I love Bakerella’s puppy pops and thought they would be so cute for Valentine’s Day, especially paired with a heart and a “puppy love” cookie valentine.  Of course I opted to make mine with my Krispy Pop base instead and I thought a heart for the nose was suiting for the holiday. I only had butter rum life savers on hand but I think a red collar would have been perfect! : )
    For the puppies:
    Krispy Pops, made in balls
    Peanut Butter candy coating
    Large heart sprinkles
    Dark chocolate
    Life savers
    Dip krispy pop in candy coating (or desired color)
    Stand in styrofoam to let coating set up.
    Make the ears.  Melt chocolate and use either a parchment funnel or squeeze bottle to draw teardrops on the inside of plastic spoons. (To make a funnel, curl one short side of a parchment rectangle in to the middle. Wrap other short end around, tape seam on outside if needed.)
    (Make sure hole is small in the bottom) Stand up in a cup or glass and fill with melted chocolate.
    After chocolate has set, the ears should pop out easily.
    Using a small amount of melted PB candy coating as glue, place an ear on either side of the face, and glue on a large heart for the nose and a life saver for the collar.
    Use the chocolate funnel or a food safe marker to make the eyes and mouth.
    For the Hearts:
    Krispy Pops, made in heart shapes
    Red candy coating
    Desired decorations
    Dip heart shaped Krispy Pops in melted red candy coating and gently tap off excess.
    Sprinkle with sprinkles, pop rocks, sanding sugar, or leave plain.
    Stand in styrofoam to set up.
    Puppy Love

    Ingredients

    • Krispy Pops, made in balls
    • Peanut Butter candy coating
    • Large heart sprinkles
    • Dark chocolate
    • Life savers
      For the Hearts:
    • Krispy Pops, made in heart shapes
    • Red candy coating
    • Desired decorations

    Instructions

    For the Krispy Pops:
  • Dip krispy pop in candy coating (or desired color)
  • Stand in styrofoam to let coating set up.
  • Make the ears. Melt chocolate and use either a parchment funnel or squeeze bottle to draw teardrops on the inside of plastic spoons. (To make a funnel, curl one short side of a parchment rectangle in to the middle. Wrap other short end around, tape seam on outside if needed.)
  • (Make sure hole is small in the bottom) Stand up in a cup or glass and fill with melted chocolate.
  • After chocolate has set, the ears should pop out easily.
  • Using a small amount of melted PB candy coating as glue, place an ear on either side of the face, and glue on a large heart for the nose and a life saver for the collar.
  • Use the chocolate funnel or a food safe marker to make the eyes and mouth.
  • For the Hearts:
  • Dip heart shaped Krispy Pops in melted red candy coating and gently tap off excess.
  • Sprinkle with sprinkles, pop rocks, sanding sugar, or leave plain.
  • Stand in styrofoam to set up.
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    http://mystainedapron.com/puppy-love/

    Cookie Valentines

    I was cleaning out the pantry and saw half a package of Vienna Fingers.  No one is eating them (the bowl of freshly made homemade cookies on the counter might have something to do with it!) and I was wondering what I could do with them when I got this idea.  I’d been making some krispy pops for Valentines Day and had been trying to figure out how to add something that said “puppy love” to them.  Perfect! (I’ll show you how I made these cuties tomorrow)  I have all kinds of ideas of other things I could write on them and use for other holidays as well.  I think some made with oreos with a big red heart in the middle would be cute as well.
    COOKIE VALENTINES
    Recipe by My Stained Apron
    Cookies (I used Keebler’s Vienna Fingers)
    Candy coating or chocolate
    sucker sticks
    Decorations (I used large and small heart sprinkles)
    Dark chocolate or candy coating for writing
    Carefully separate cookies.
    Dip sucker stick in melted chocolate or candy coating and press top of cookie back on.
    Holding cookie by the stick, dip in melted chocolate or candy coating. (It may be easier to partially dip in coating and use a spoon to spoon coating over the top.)
    Gently tap excess coating off.  Lay on a wax paper lined tray.  Repeat with all cookies.
    While coating is wet, place decorations on. (If your coating dries, just use a toothpick to dab some melted coating on the back of decorations to “glue”).
    Let cookies sit until coating is set.  To write, make a parchment funnel.
    Curl on short end in to the middle.  Repeat with other end, wrapping it around.
    Make sure your hole is very small.  Fold over the top or use a piece of tape on the outside seam if needed.
    Stand funnel up in a glass or cup and fill with melted chocolate (it doesn’t take very much).
    Practice writing on the wax paper first, then write out your messages on the cookies.
    Let sit until chocolate has set up.
     
    Cookie Valentines

    Ingredients

    • Cookies (I used Keebler's Vienna Fingers)
    • Candy coating or chocolate
    • sucker sticks
    • Decorations (I used large and small heart sprinkles)
    • Dark chocolate or candy coating for writing

    Instructions

  • Carefully separate cookies.
  • Dip sucker stick in melted chocolate or candy coating and press top of cookie back on.
  • Holding cookie by the stick, dip in melted chocolate or candy coating. (It may be easier to partially dip in coating and use a spoon to spoon coating over the top.)
  • Gently tap excess coating off. Lay on a wax paper lined tray. Repeat with all cookies.
  • While coating is wet, place decorations on. (If your coating dries, just use a toothpick to dab some melted coating on the back of decorations to "glue").
  • Let cookies sit until coating is set. To write, make a parchment funnel.
  • Curl on short end in to the middle. Repeat with other end, wrapping it around.
  • Make sure your hole is very small. Fold over the top or use a piece of tape on the outside seam if needed.
  • Stand funnel up in a glass or cup and fill with melted chocolate (it doesn't take very much).
  • Practice writing on the wax paper first, then write out your messages on the cookies.
  • Let sit until chocolate has set up.
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    http://mystainedapron.com/cookie-valentines/
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