Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chai Tea Beer Bread

Beer bread is one of my favorite things. It's versatile, cheap and easy to make. I've never understood why people need to use the expensive mixes when it is so easy to make with just a few ingredients. This version of beer bread is made from a homebrewed coffee stout, and uses chai tea mix and chocolate chips for a subtle sweet and savory loaf.

Everything you need: self-rising flour, sugar, beer, chai tea mix, and mini chocolate chips.

Combine flour, sugar, and cha tea mix.
Pour in beer

Add chocolate chips

Place in pan.
You need:
3 cups self-rising flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 beer at room temperature
1 tbsp. Wildtree chai tea mix
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix everything together in a bowl.

Place into prepared loaf pan.

Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

Allow bread to completely cool before cutting, otherwise it crumbles.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Twix Bars

I originally made and posted this recipe when I was on maternity leave with The Diva. I made enough of them at the time to fix my craving for a very long time. I dusted off the recipe for my beastie's birthday this year. They are still fabulous and fabulously easy.

I thought it would be difficult to spread the caramel or the chocolate/peanut butter mixture, but everything was warm and pretty much poured itself into the pan. Now I just need to figure out how to loose the 20 lbs I'm going to gain eating these dang things...

1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 bag caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

Spread cookie dough in a greased 9x13 pan (I recommend glass pan). This is easiest done by slicing dough into even slices and placing in bottom of pan. Use your fingers to smush into an even layer. Bake at 350 degs for 18-22 minutes, or until edges slightly brown. Place in refrigerator for 15 - 30 minutes to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, melt together caramels, sweetened condensed milk and butter. Bring to a low boil and remove from heat. Spread on cooled crust and refrigerate for one hour.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir to mix well. Repeat as needed until everything is smooth. Spread over caramel layer and cool.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The (Un)Shampoo Bars from Great Cakes Soapworks

I am embarrassingly behind on posting about the rest of the soap I received from Great Cakes Soap Works. I posted my first review of the Sandalwood Goat Milk bar w-aaaaaa-y back in June, promised to post the reviews of the other three soaps that I bought, and then just disappeared.

I have attempted to write the reviews for the shampoo bars that I bought, and then completely deleted what I wrote. Several times.

Long story short: The shampoo bars didn't work for my hair and that was what I struggled with for an entire summer. Mid-August I finally admitted to myself that these shampoo bars weren't right for my hair. Sometimes that's how it goes. Hair is a fickle creature and getting away from commercial shampoo can be a challenge for anyone. Pantene has a good thing going. The search for the Perfect For Me shampoo bar continues!

On that note, I will be reviewing the shampoo bars as body bars. I only have pictures of the Coconut Honey Shampoo Bar because the Beer and Seaweed Bar pictures were on my other phone - which died a slow agonizing death in the Smoky Mountains this summer (better it than me).

Beer and Seaweed Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, beer, aloe vera juice, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, hemp oil avocado oil, patchouli essential oil, cedarwood essential oil, lemongrass essential oil, seaweed, rhaussoul clay, silk.

Coconut Honey Shampoo Bar Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, water, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, hemp oil, avocado oil, honey, rhaussoul clay, silk, and essential oils of orange, bitter almond, fir, litsea cubeba, and ylang ylang.

First Glance: The bars are round! (Does that make them no longer "bars"?) I love round soaps for their great hand fit. More soap should be round. Nothing extraordinary about the color, a very uniform natural and smooth soap. The Beer and Seaweed was the first that I tried. I loved the earthy smell of the seaweed and patchouli. In comparison the Coconut Honey Shampoo Bar was a very mild scented soap.

First Use: The beer and seaweed was difficult to lather, but once it started there was plenty of bubbles. When I used it for shampoo, my hair smelled strongly of patchouli (not a bad thing when in the presence of other patchouli lovers). Slight scent when used on body but not long-lasting. The coconut honey bar lathers quickly. No lingering scent for either hair or body.

Overall Thoughts: As mentioned, these didn't work for me as shampoo soaps. I did, however, order a second round of the Coconut Honey just to use as body soap!

Give these bars a try instead of your regular shampoo - even though they didn't work for me they might for you.

DisclaimerIn accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dirty Little Secrets

Soap currently in the witness protection program.
I have a secret.

Okay, it's not really a secret because everyone who knows me knows about it, we just don't talk about it. No one ever stages an intervention - they should, but they don't - they just let me do my thing.

I am an obsessive compulsive hoarder.

You knew that already. What was it that gave me away?

My 130+ TBR shelf?

My 12k+ Pinterest Boards?

My lists and half finished projects?

My discarded hobbies?

My latest obsession has been growing over the course of two years. It's so bad that I have a secret  Pinterest board for it. I have two shoe boxes in my bathroom closet to hide it. When we had The Diva's birthday party a few weeks ago, I spent hours stashing stuff cleaning up so my extended family wouldn't see it. Because of all my obsessions, this one I'm the most embarrassed about.
The shower rack. A total of eight soaps currently in play, plus one muslin bag filled with soap scraps.

I love soap. I love to smell soap. I love to use soap. I love to make soap.
My bathroom sink: A lovely charcoal shea butter bar, a lavender spa bar, and a little piece left of the lavender clay bar I sell in the store.

But seriously... how am I gonna ever use up all this soap?



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Panda Bear Cupcakes

The Diva turned 8 in October. That means time for the great Cupcake Challenge. The Diva picks a theme and I have to come up with a brilliant cupcake to go with it.

Since we started the Cupcake Challenge, we have had:
2011: Tinkerbell
2013: Puppies. I forfeited this one and we bought a bakery cake. I know.
2014: Frozen. I did make cupcakes but they were so lame that they weren't even picture worthy. Just picture a blue cupcake, a pile of white frosting with a single large shimmery purple gumball placed on top. The kids loved it - cake! gum! - but it just wasn't Challenge worthy.

So 2015 was the tie breaker year. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew in her little evil Diva heart, she was going to stump me.

She was so close. I literally put the plan together the day before the party.

My inspiration cupcakes were here, but they were mini cupcakes. I knew I was going to have to think bigger to pull it off. Well, here's what I came up with.

I love them. The Diva loved them. And they were so easy. Seriously, from cake mixing to finished decorating was an hour. There are a few things I would change and they are noted here.

2015 Cupcake Challenge success! The losing streak is over!

24 cupcakes, 2 cups mini Oreos, 1 bag M&Ms, 1 bag mini baking Kisses, 1 tub frosting (see notes below), 1 bottle sanding sugar, and 1 fine-tip tube black frosting (see notes below).
Frost cupcakes and dip into sanding sugar.
Split Oreos and place in eye positions.
Secure brown M&M's to Oreo cookie.
Place Hershey Kisses for ears and nose. Add mouth with black frosting (not shown).
Large frosting tip (optional) and frosting bag

24 baked cupcakes (I used a confetti cake mix and dressed it up with milk and real butter)
1 tub vanilla / white frosting [hindsight: I would make a large batch of homemade, or use 2 tubs]
2-4 TBSP powdered sugar (optional)
White sanding sugar
mini Oreos (I used about 1-1/2 "To Go Cups" shown here)
M&M's - you only need the brown ones. I had barely [heh] enough from one bag
Mini Hershey Kisses - I found these in the baking aisle, bonus that they came unwrapped!
Black gel frosting [hindsight: use chocolate or black non-gel next time. within a few hours the gel frosting had started to bleed into the sugar crystals so our pandas had cute little beards]

If using tub frosting, I recommend mixing it up with 2 TBSP powdered sugar per tub. This stiffens up the frosting so that it holds to the cupcake a bit better. If using homemade, make sure frosting is nice and stiff.

Frost cupcakes. I used a large Wilton 2A tip, but you can just plop it on with a spoon. It isn't going to matter how it looks as long as it covers the entire cupcake. Notice that some of mine are not completely covered as I was running out of frosting, and I only have 22 cupcakes as a result.

This next part is kind of scary the first time you do it, but trust me, it's easy. Pour the white sanding sugar into a shallow wide mouthed bowl. Invert frosted cupcake and gently press into the sugar. This will smooth out your frosting and make your panda sparkley. (Trust me, Divas looooove sparkley!)

Place two frosting dots (I used the black gel because I was out of white) towards the top of the cupcake. Split two mini Oreos, keeping the frosted half and placing it on the frosting dot. Place another frosting dot on each Oreo frosting and place a brown M&M. See what you did there? You just made Panda eyes! For fun I made the eyes looking in different directions - up, down, cross-eyed, you get the idea.

Take two mini Hershey Kisses, turn them so that the flat side is up. Press them into the side of the cupcake above the eyes (at about 1 & 11 o'clock) to make panda ears. Take one Hershey Kiss on its side with the flat side towards the eyes and the pointy side towards the bottom of the face. It's a perfect chocolate bear nose - yummy!

Using the black / chocolate frosting, make a swoopy "W" shape for the mouth. Make sure the middle of the "W" is longer and goes up to the point of the nose.

And that is how you win a panda bear cupcake challenge!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Dawn of NaNoWriMo 2015

Here it is... the dawn of NaNoWriMo 2015. Day One. I have spent weeks pushing as much off my plate as I could. I have tried to make my life as simple as possible for this month. I'd like to apologize to my kids in advance for macncheese being on the menu twice every week. Hopefully I come out the other side with a finished manuscript.

One Word

She stood up from the pile of leaves. Her face was sternly set. She wasn’t laughing any more. He reached out to pull a leaf from her hair, her sleeve, and he wanted to pull her close. He wanted to kiss her, but that’s what had driven her out of the leaf pile to start with.

The body has a system. A set appearance. An anatomy of systems. This is a dumb word. What is this? grey’s anatomy. what makes up stuff. be your anatomy.