Hosting for the Holidays Hot Cocoa Bar

Image source: Southbound Bride
Image source: In Fine Taste

Sweater Weather!

As soon as it gets dark at 5pm and morning frost hardens blades of grass, I crave a hot drink every night. Hot chocolate is my favorite winter aperitif, so when researching ideas for an upcoming magazine article on creative hosting ideas, my favorite idea was–you guessed it–a Hot Cocoa Bar!

Easy Kids Activity: Why not ask older kids and tweens to participate? Set up a separate table with a wintery tablecloth or a cleared countertop. Supply mugs and spoons, mix-ins and containers, and labels and markers, and let the kids set up the display with a place saved for the hot cocoa. After you add the hot drink, they can be in charge of introducing the Hot Cocoa Bar to the rest of the guests.

Perk of the “job?” They get first dibs!

Supplies and Ingredients:

  • mugs, saucers, spoons
  • carafe of cocoa or hot water and powdered cocoa
  • containers with or without labels
  • mix-ins such as cinnamon sticks, chocolate shavings, peppermint sticks, toasted coconut, crushed toffee or whatever are the fan favorites
  • whipped cream and marshmallows

Note: Depending on diet preferences, ingredients may be parve (dairy free), gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan.

Happy hosting, hon!

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Patriotic Checkerboard Cake

I inherited a checkerboard cake pan set from my mother-in-law after commenting how great her checkerboard cakes were. Truth be told, I used the set once and then put it away, only re-discovering it recently. I decided to bake a red, white and blue cake and, though it was yummy, it wasn’t the prettiest! I guess that means I’ll have to try it again.

If you want to try to bake a checkerboard cake, click here to find sets online.

Happy baking, hon!

Assemble layers with icing and ice the cake. Enjoy!

Super Cool Pinata Cookies

Happy (I think*) New Year’s!

One of my daughters loves to throw a New Year’s Eve party and, aside from the friends, games, decorations, food, sleepover, and general merriment, one of the pleasures of her get-together is discovering what cookies her friend’s mom made. (shout out to Ben and Michele!)  This year, she made piñata cookies and they were outrageous!

I’d never even heard of piñata cookies, but now they’re on my must-try list! Hmm…Valentine’s Day, maybe? Since I haven’t made these myself, I’ve included links to people who have. Check out sweetambs  for recipes and a video on decorating a champagne glass (or beer mug). Click Hot Chocolate Hits for recipes and pics of piñata Valentine’s Day cookies, and you can access an easy-to-understand tutorial here: How To Video.

The New Year’s Eve champagne glass piñata cookies, which were decorated on both sides, were made up of three layers of the same shape cookie: one for the top, one for the bottom, and one for the middle. The middle cookie’s center was cut out. Sprinkles and a message were placed in each cutout section before the top cookie was secured with icing.

Why “I think” in Happy New Year? The messages inside the cookies were sarcastic, funny, and said the opposite of “Happy New Year!” You should hear what messages adorn Michele’s Valentine’s Day cookies…on second thought, maybe not! This blog is G-rated!

My daughter and me.

Have you ever made piñata cookies? If so, what were they for? Did yours have candy and messages inside, too?

Happy baking, hon!

Fireworks Are Now Legal In New Jersey, Sort Of

About a month ago, I came across a display like this at the grocery store.

Me: “Umm, are those fireworks? Aren’t they illegal in New Jersey?”

Grocer: “Not anymore. Governor Christie changed the law last year, so no more having to drive to Pennsylvania to buy fireworks.”

What’s the law? What’s allowed? Which fireworks do what?

The following is an excerpt from a humorous NJ.com article by Joe Atmonavage  with all the details.

Legal fireworks are so boring your neighbors won’t even call the cops

Last year, then-Gov. Chris Christie took a stand and signed a bill allowing anyone old enough to have a learner’s permit to twirl around with a sparkler if they so choose, taking New Jersey off the short list of states with blanket bans on fireworks. (Massachusetts now stands alone.)

Signed at the end of last June, the bill legalized “non-explosive, non-aerial” fireworks such as sparklers and party poppers. While shopping the selection of legal “fireworks” was overwhelmingly anti-climatic, setting them off was not as boring as “sparklers” and “party poppers” might sound.

We wanted to get a little bit of everything so we would be ready to show off to our friends and family on July Fourth just how cool New Jersey’s somewhat-new fireworks law is.

Choosing which fireworks to get is harder than it sounds. While you know that at the end of the day they practically all do the same thing (make sparks, create some noise, maybe change colors), the bright packaging with eye-catching images makes choosing a tad harder.

They had the classic pyro toys like sparklers (including neon ones!), snappers, smoke grenades, fountains, as well as small fireworks that don’t do all that much, like snakes in the grass, jumping jacks and something called a “gyro bloom.”

You can buy these in jumbo sets that can cost hundreds of dollars, but you can also buy them individually. We paid $66 for nearly 20 individual packages.