Simply Sweet Home

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Organizing Tax Information Part 2 - Keeping Up with Receipts and Deductions

Time for my small business accounting & organizational class. This post is kind of long, so I hope you'll indulge me. It's hard to take steps in a business procedure and condense them down, but I think I did an okay job. At least I hope I did. If it sounds confusing or weird, just let me know. Before I begin, let me say that I am not a trained accountant. But I did work in accounts receivable for a few years, and I had to deal with packing lists and invoices on a daily basis and handle record keeping for computer files and physical files. So that experience taught me a lot about organizing and the importance of coming up with a system that works for me, and I've based my own home accounting and record keeping practices on the systems that I've learned in business. I've just put it on a smaller scale. As I've said, everyone has their own way of doing things. What works for me, may not work for you, but maybe my ideas will help somebody or at least give others an idea for a system that will work for them.

This system is primarily used to keep up with expenses that are tax deductible (business or non business), and it's a simple, time-friendly system that you can use throughout the year.

Gathering Receipts
First of all, throughout the year I keep all my papers in a "temporary" file box, until I'm ready to go through them, and the file box contains hanging folders for various kinds of paper work (bills, new mail, and so forth). For my accounting purposes, I have 2 folders in the box for receipts. One is for personal receipts, and the other is for business receipts. About once a week or so, I empty the folders and enter the totals for the receipts onto a spreadsheet. The personal reciepts are entered into my "monthly budget" spreadsheet and are then thrown away. But business receipts (and other important receipts) are entered onto a separate spreadsheet for business expenses and are then copied and filed. (Note - After I pay bills, I place them in the receipt folder as well, so that they can be counted along with all my other receipts.)

Computer Records

At the beginning of the year, I create a spreadsheet/workbook in Excel. You could create an Access database if you prefer or use some other accounting software, but Excel is pretty sufficient for my particular system. (and if you don't have excel, Google has an online spreadsheet program that's free) My spreadsheet is primarily for business expenses, but you can use it to calculate any expenses you like.

For organizational purposes, I create separate worksheets within the workbook for various kinds of expenses. For example, my husband has a truck that he uses for his business, and every time he gets an oil change or has work done on the truck, those totals go on a worksheet labeled, "Truck." Another worksheet is labeled, "Gas," which obviously is for gasoline totals. Another worksheet is for "Office supplies" and so on.

And basically each worksheet contains a list of expense records. At the top of the worksheet, there is title and underneath the title are the headings which my information is entered under. The headings I use are as follows: Date, Vendor, Item Description, Total. Each receipt that I get becomes a record/line item on the worksheet, and all the information from the receipt is entered under the headings.

Paper/Physical Records

Before or after the receipt info. is entered into the spreadsheet, I attach the receipt to a sheet of printer paper. To save paper, I usually attach 2-4 small receipts on to the same sheet of paper. After attaching the receipts and entering all the receipts into my spreadsheet, I make a copy of all the receipts. Then I punch holes in the papers and place them in my Business Expense binder. I have one binder for the original receipts, and one for the copies. (I make the copies b/c sometimes the ink on receipts tends to fade, and I just like having 2 copies. I also got pretty use to the practice when working with monthly credit card statements at my old job.)

Each expense binder is "equipped" with tabs/subject dividers. The labels on the tabs match the labels on the worksheets of my spreadsheet, and the receipts are filed behind the appropriate tab. By creating "expense categories" for your computer spreadsheet and your physical/paper files, it is much easier to stay organized and to keep a check of your records to make sure that they match. It also makes it easier for you to find a specific record.

We've managed to file all of our receipts for the year in a single binder. (with the copies in a second binder) But if you have a lot of receipts, you may want to use more than binder. You may even want to create tabs for specific vendors that you use a lot. And of course, if you're business is bigger, than you can always apply this system to a filing cabinet.

Not Just For Businesses
I know that I've focused on small businesses, and many of us don't have businesses, but this system can be applied to individuals as well. I've used this same system to keep up with receipts for college books. (I don't worry about keeping up with tuition totals b/c the school sends us a tax form w/ that info) And you could use this system for other expenses/tax deductions as well, from medical expenses to charitible donations. (or use a less detailed version for your home budget)

Filing Your Taxes and being Prepared for an Audit.
When it comes time to file your taxes, simply print out all your spreadsheets and use the grand totals for your deductions. No need to to pull out your receipts except to double check your totals. (if you use an accountant, having a spreadsheet or list of totals will make his job easier too.)

You should still keep your receipts in the event of an audit. And I've been advised by an accountant that if you are ever audited it looks much better (to the auditors) if you have a folder or binder of receipts that is neat and organized rather than a box or folder full of loose receipts.

For those of you who don't like to keep paper files and prefer to scan your receipts, that is fine too, as long as you can can quickly print and organize your receipts in the event of an audit. The most important thing is that you are able to take any record from your spreadsheet or computer database and quickly locate the receipt for that record.

Well, that's about all I can think of. I hope this helps.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday for March 31

I'm hardpressed to come up with menu ideas this week. I'm just not in the mood for anything in particular. It's kind of weird for me, because I'm usually full of ideas, but right now I'm just not feeling inspired. But I still managed to come up with a menu, though I could change my mind as the week goes forward.

Monday - Lemon Chicken & Rice
Tuesday - Buffalo Chicken Wraps
Wednesday - Tacos
Thursday - Chicken Salad
Friday- Fried shrimp, french fries, hush puppies
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Steak, baked potato, and steamed veggies

To participate in MPM, visit


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Organizing Tax Information Part 1 - All the Forms You Get in the Mail

I wanted to take a little time to do some posts on organizing your tax stuff, because I think one of the a main reasons people hate doing taxes is because they get overwhelmed with the stacks of paper and forms. So I'm going to explain the system that I have for organizing my stuff, and hopefully it will be of some help to somebody out there.

This first part will deal with all the forms that come in the mail because everyone has to deal with them, and then in the next day or two, I'll explain my system for dealing with receipts that you keep up with yourself in order to take deductions (for small businesses, donations, and whatever else you have).

Generally the tax forms begin coming in the mail at the beginning of January, and you should have all of these by February. If it appears that you're missing something, then you may want to contact the company that you're missing stuff from and find out what the deal is, but generally you can expect to get all your forms fairly early, and if not, then you may also want to check online. My credit union and one of the companies that I had a student loan through had our statements online to print out.

Whenever I start getting my forms in the mail, I immediately get a out a file folder and label it "Taxes" and I write the year on it. I place all my forms in this folder as they come in the mail, and eventually after our taxes have been submitted/filed, I keep all my forms and printouts/copies in this same folder and file it in the filing cabinet at home.

Once I feel that I have recieved all the paperwork in the mail and am ready to file our taxes, I go through the folder and open all the evelopes and I separate the forms into groups. Generally they are grouped into two stacks. One stacks is Incomes. This includes records of our wages, student loan and scholarship disbursements, accrued interest on our savings accounts, etc. I attach all these forms together with a paper clip, and place a post it on top of the stack, labeled Incomes.

My other stack is for Expenses Paid (or whatever you want to call it...I don't call it deductions b/c I have several different kinds of deductions, which will be discussed in the next post). Anyway, this is for forms that we get, regarding interest that we've paid on student loans, tuition that we have paid, and that sort of thing. Again, I clip all of these forms together with a paper clip and label the stack with a post it.

Of course, you may have other forms that come in the mail as well, which you can group any way you like. You may also want to take it a step further and do individual stacks for you and your spouse or other people in the house as well. Or you may want to separate "wage" forms from "bank interest forms," or put all your "college related" forms together. It's really up to you. Everyone has their own personal preferences and an idea of what's logical to them. But this system works for me, it's very simple.

The bottom line is that it is better to have 2, 3, or 4 stacks of paper that are organized, clipped together, and clearly labeled than to have 10 or 20 random sheets of paper thrown together in a folder. Whether you do the taxes yourself or hire an accountant, a little organization will make the work a whole lot easier.

Next time, I'll explain my simple system for keeping up with business expenses and other deductions throughout the year. A lot of people don't take deductions because they either lose their receipts, or they think it is too much trouble and hassle to keep up with receipts and keep a record of their deductions. (but it doesn't have to be a hassle!)

Hope you're all having a good weekend. See ya next time!

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Recipe of the Week: Buffalo Chicken Wrap

In the midst of all the number crunching, we must not forget to eat lunch. So here's a little food for thought. The recipe of the week comes from Eating Well. It seems like wraps are "all the rage" these days, and if you like a little spice in your life, this wrap is for you. (and if not, you could always make it for your husband or other spicey food fan.)

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce3 tablespoons white vinegar, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound chicken tenders
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 8-inch whole-wheat tortillas
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup sliced celery
1 large tomato, diced

1. Whisk hot pepper sauce, 2 tablespoons vinegar and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken tenders; cook until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add to the bowl with the hot sauce; toss to coat well.

3. Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar in a small bowl. Stir in blue cheese.

4. To assemble wraps: Lay a tortilla on a work surface or plate. Spread with 1 tablespoon blue cheese sauce and top with one-fourth of the chicken, lettuce, celery and tomato. Drizzle with some of the hot sauce remaining in the bowl and roll into a wrap sandwich. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

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More Tax Deductions & Resources

Greetings tax filers! Today I have some more tax deductions for you and a few links to some resources that you may find helpful.

Education Deductions:
-Tuition paid (out of pocket)
-Books & other supplies that are required for classes
-Interest paid on student loans (but not principle)
-Lifetime learning credit (a one time deduction)
-cost of special schooling for the disabled

Medical Deductions:
-alcohol & drug addiction recovery programs, and smoking cessation programs
-cost of contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids, etc.
-cost of wheel chairs, prosthetics, and other aids for the handicapped
-wages paid to a nurse
-fees for medical services such as diagnostic tests (xrays, etc), physical therapy, and other medial services
-medical care given to nursing home residents

Other Deductions:
-alimony paid
-moving expenses
-state taxes due for a previous year (paid in the current tax year)
-taxes paid on cars, boats, etc.
-housekeeping, cooking services, etc for a qualified dependent (disabled or otherwise qualified)
-sales tax on large items such as cars
-contributions made to qualified charities
-penalties paid for savings account withdrawals
-credits for buying a hybrid vehicle


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tax Deductions For the Self-Employed and other Job Related Deductions

If you own a small business or home based business, you can deduct just about all of your business expenses. Here are some to keep in mind:
  • Office supplies
  • Postage
  • Shipping supplies
  • Tools & materials
  • Work uniforms (not suitable for every day wear)
  • Safety equipment (hardhats, safety glasses, etc.)
  • Advertising/promotional costs
  • Computer & internet
  • Cell phone (used primarily for business) And long distance business calls, and a separate business line at your home.
  • Business dinners & entertainment costs (up to 50%, and you must specify purpose of the dinner and what clients were in attendance)
  • If you have a home office which takes up 10% of your home and is used primarily for you business, you can deduct 10% of your electricity & utility bills.
  • Books, Magazines, and Journals pertaining to your business.
  • Education/training courses relevant to your buisiness.
  • Liscensing & dues paid to states, your chamber of commerce, etc.
  • Gasoline & vehicle maintenance, if you use your vehicle for your business.
  • Business trip costs.
  • Business gifts up to $25 per client.
  • Office space rent
  • Insurance for business, health insurance premiums, and auto insurance (for business owners who use their car/truck as a primary component to their business)

If you are not self-employed but your employer requires that you own a cell phone, PDA, or a home computer for you job, you may also be able to deduct the costs of these items, as well as home office expenses if you are required to take work home with you. You can also deduct costs for tools, work uniforms (not suitable for daily wear) and other job expenses that are not compensated by your employment

Additionally, if you have been unemployed and actively seeking employment, you may be eligible for deductions.

  • Costs to prepare resumes and portfolios
  • Newspapers & other publications that you purchase to read employment ads
  • Costs to advertise your services in the newspaper
  • Long distance calls to prospective employers
  • Travel costs to go for an interview that is out of your area.
  • Fees paid to employment agencies


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Taxes: The Basic Info

This week, I'm focusing on taxes....yes, the dreaded T word that strikes fear and doom into the hearts of man, woman, and child. For those lucky ones of you who have already filed your taxes, well done! Unfortunately, I know there are still a lot of us out there who have not yet filed, and many will even apply for an extension because they can't meet the April 15 deadline. But hopefully after reading a few posts with tips on the subject we can all get our taxes prepared and filed in a timely manner without all the stress and worry.

For this first post, we'll start with some basic information.

IRS.GOV - One of the best resources to look at for tax information is the official website of the IRS. Their website contains all the forms that you'll need to fill out your taxes. It also tells you all of the basic rules/laws that you need to know about when filing your returns. It includes links where you can file your taxes electronically and outlines the options that you have for filing and paying your taxes at your convenience. Additonally you'll find information about tax deductions and credits and just about anything you need to know about taxes.

Filing online - There are a number of ways in which you can file your taxes online. Check out all your efiling options by clicking here. Some people "fear" efiling, but if you have basic computers skills, there is nothing to be afraid of, beacuse the system tells you exactly what you need to do. (all you have to do is have all your paperwork organized and ready to go) My husband is no accountant by any means, and he was able to use the system to fill out our taxes last year. It only takes a little time, and the cost to file is no more than what you would pay an accountant. In fact, if your adjusted gross income was less than $54,000 then you can file online for free at freefile.

Tax Tips for 2008 -The IRS site lists a lot of important tips on tax credits & deducations which you may find helpful. This page also includes a link to info. on making sure that you get our "stimulus" payment.

Deadlines, extrensions, ect. - The best way to avoid the stress and worry over taxes is to file early. Plan a day right now to do your taxes, or call your accountant today to set up an appointment. The fastest and easiest way to file is to file electronically. (this is also the best way to ensure that your get your return/rebate in a timely manner.)

If you know that you won't have your taxes done by April 15, file for an extension. But keep in mind that if you apply for an extension and you owe tax money, you will have to pay interest. You may also use a credit card for your payment, but your credit card company will charge you a convenience fee, and you should not pay your taxes with a credit card unless you will be able to pay the balance on the card within the next month. If you file your taxes and discover that you owe more than you can afford to pay right now, you can apply to pay your taxes in an installment plan. However, For more info, read How to Avoid Tax Time Problems.

Avoid Scammers & Identity Theft- A few weeks ago I got an email in my inbox about paying my taxes by clicking a link in the email. If you get an email like this, you should delete and report it immediately. Do not reply to these emails or click the links within them. Remember, the IRS will never contact you through email or through the telephone. Never give out your SSN or tax id to anyone. More info.

**In our next few posts, I'll have have a list of tax credits & deductions that are often overlooked or forgotten (and some that you may not even know about), as well as some links to other tax info. sources.**

**I'll also have some tips for organizing your tax information for this current tax season & tips on how you can create a system for organizing all your receipts year round (making for an easy tax season in 2009). In the organizing posts, I'll include an outline of the system I use for my husband's business, which can be applied to individuals and households.**


Monday, March 24, 2008

Menu Plan Monday for March 24

Still feeling a little under the weather today, so I'm keeping the menu post short & sweet. (and don't worry, I've already called and gotten a doctor's appointment for tomorrow morning!) Good Day!

Monday - chicken fingers & fries

Tuesday - sub sandwiches

Wednesday - chicken soup

Thursday - Beef & potato casserole

Friday - Tuna Noodle Casserole

Saturday - leftovers

Sunday - Jambalaya

Visit to view other menus & recipes.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Recipe of the Week: Lemon Easter Bread

Happy Easter everybody! I hope you've all had a fun holiday weekend!

Things have been a little out of whack for me this week. I didn't do a Menu Plan Monday post for this past week, because my mom and stepdad were in town, and we did very little eating at our house. (hence, no MPM for me) And before they got here my schedule was filled with appointments (not to metion, a little housework), and after they got here, I spent the majority of my time with them, shopping, showing them all the sites, and that sort of thing. And on top of that, I've been feeling sick the last few days. So with all this going on, I haven't had much time to devote to posting.

But I'm feeling a little better today, so here's the recipe of the week. (better late than never). I was going to do another Easter dessert for this week, maybe even something you could make using leftover Easter candies, but in my search for recipes, I ran across this bread, and I decided to post it instead. This came from Taste of Home, and though it's called Easter bread, it sounds like a good recipe for any occasion. As I've previously said, I love any and all breads, and I also happen to love lemon flavored desserts, so this is definitely a good combination for me. I hope you all enjoy it!

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
1 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant lemon pudding mix
3 eggs, lightly beaten
5 to 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, butter, pudding mix, eggs and 3 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape into loaves. Place in two greased 8-in. x 4-in. x 2-in. loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 loaves.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Festa Italiana: Cannolis

Proud Italian Cook and Find la Dolce vita are hosting Festa Italiana on March 22. Write a post on your favorite Italian Recipe and join the festival. It should be quite fun.

I'm submitting the following recipe for cannolis. ( these!)


4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup white wine
shortening, for frying

4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream, optional

To make shells, mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter. Add egg yolks; stir with a fork. Stir in wine, 1 tablespooon at a time, with a fork until dough clings together. Form a ball with the dough and let stand for 30 minutes.

Roll dough almost paper thin, on a well-floured surface. Using the rim of a glass (about 3-4 inches across), make circle imprints into rolled dough. Using a paring knife, make sure circles are cut all the way through. Roll each circle of dough around a metal cannoli tube, overlaping the ends and press to seal, flaring out the edges slightly. Fry one or two at a time in hot melted shortening (about 360°F) for approximately 1 minute, turning to brown all sides. Remove from hot grease and drain on paper towels, seam side down.

Let cool a minute or two before trying to remove metal tube. To remove the tube hold cannoli shell down on the paper towel and carefully slide the tube out one end. Leave cannoil shells on paper towel, seam side down to cool completely.

For filling, drain ricotta cheese over cheesecloth if ricotta is watery. Combine ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until combined.

Stir chocolate chips into the ricotta mixture, being careful not to over mix.
For a lighter filling, you may whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream to form stiff peaks, and fold into filling mixture at this step.

Chill filling for about 30 minutes before piping into cooled cannoli shells.

You may garnish the cannoli by sprinkling powdered sugar on top. Use whipped cream, a cherry, and shaved chocolate to garnish. Keep refrigerated until time of serving.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Easy Easter Bunny Party Favor

Here's a cute treat that you can make for your child's Easter party or Easter basket. As a kid, I used to love getting candies and treats with a decorative/crafty twist. But some of us were not born with the craft bone, so this post goes out to all the people who have considered themselves "craft-challenged" but are trying to get better (myself included).

For this project, you'll need:

mini chocolate candy bars

kleenex or gift tissue

a black pen

string/ribbon/fishing line.

Take 2 or 3 candy bars and stack them on top of a piece of tissue.

Roll up the tissue with the candy inside.

After rolling up the tissue completely, the ends will be used to make bunny ears.

Grab each end of the tissue. Pull it toward the top of the "bunny head." Twist the tissue and use string or ribbon to tie the ears tight and fluff them out till you get the desired look and shape.

Use your black pen to draw a face on your bunny.

Make a few of these and arrange them in your child's Easter basket, or make one or two of these for each kid at your child's Easter party.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Recipe of the Week: Easter Bunny Cake

Hello all. This week's Recipe of the Week is Easter Bunny Cake. This recipe is from Betty Crocker. (The link is below the pic) However, there are several other versions of the Bunny Cake all over the net. It's a great treat for kids and adults of all ages.

I just love looking at all these great crafts & desserts for spring. Yesterday, when I wrote the Sweet Thursday post, I couldn't help but hum to myself....."in your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it." Now suddenly I've got "The Bunny Song" from Vegetales in my head...and "Here Comes Peter Cotton Tale." Is anyone else with me? No? Oh well, enjoy the recipe!

Bunny Bake

1 box cake mix. (the recipe calls for carrot, but I like yellow or white)
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
Tray or cardboard, covered with foil
1 container white frosting
1 cup shredded coconut
Construction paper
Jelly beans or small gumdrops
1 cup shredded coconut
Green food color

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Make and cool cake as directed on box for two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans.
2. Reserve 1 layer for another use or to make a second bunny. Cut 1 layer in half as shown in diagram. Put halves together with frosting to form body. Place cake upright on cut edge on tray.
3. Cut out a notch about one-third of the way up one end of body to form head (small end) as shown in diagram. Attach half of cutout piece from tail with toothpicks. Frost with remaining frosting, rounding body on sides. Sprinkle with 1 cup coconut. Cut ears from construction paper; press into notch on top. Use jelly beans for eyes and nose.
4. Shake 1 cup coconut and 3 drops food color in tightly covered jar until evenly tinted. Surround bunny with tinted coconut. Add additional jelly beans if desired. Store loosely covered.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Follow High Altitude directions on cake mix box for two 8- or 9-inch round pans.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sweet Thursday: Fun Easter Sweets

Welcome to a special Easter edition of Sweet Thursday. If you're looking for something to serve at your child's Easter party or a special homemade treat for your child's Easter basket, look no farther! These recipes are fun and easy to make, and they are filled with vibrant spring colors that your kids are sure to love.

1 package brownie mix (with chocolate syrup pouch)
Water, oil and eggs called for on brownie mix package
24 wooden sticks with rounded ends
1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
2 teaspoons shortening
candies or sprinkles

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch pan with foil so foil extends about 2 inches over sides of pan. Spray foil with cooking spray. Make brownies as directed on package for 13x9-inch pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.

2. Place brownies in freezer 30 minutes. Remove brownies from pan by lifting foil; peel foil from sides of brownies. Cut brownies into 24 rectangular bars, 6 strips lengthwise and 4 rows across, each about 1 1/2 by 3 1/4 inches. Gently insert stick into end of each bar, peeling foil from bars.

3. In microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and shortening uncovered on High about 1 minute; stir until smooth. If necessary, microwave additional 5 seconds at a time. Dip top third to half of each brownie into chocolate; sprinkle with decors. Lay flat to dry.

Easter Egg Candies

1 package (10 to 12 ounces) vanilla or white chips
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed
1 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Colored sprinkles, colored sugar and/or jimmies
Directions: In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chips at 50% power. Add the cream cheese, water and vanilla; stir until blended. Chill for 1 hour or until easy to handle. Quickly shape into 1-1/4-in. eggs. Roll in sprinkles, colored sugar or jimmies. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: About 4 dozen (1-1/2 pounds).

Easter Basket Cupcakes
Cupcakes like these are easy to create. Simply bake up a batch of your favorite cupcakes, and cover them with the icing of our choice. I recommend using white icing w/ green food coloring, though any spring color would work just as good. Then decorate the cupcakes with your favorite candies. For the basket handle, use Twizzlers, Airheads, or Fruit Roll Ups. For the "eggs" use jelly beans, mints, chocolate footballs/eggs, Whopper eggs, or whatever you like. These are colorful, fun treat for kids!

Easter Bunny Pudding Cups

2 cups cold milk
1 pkg. (4-serving size) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding & Pie Filling
8 CAMEO Creme Sandwich Cookies
8 each jelly beans and gumdrops
8 pieces red string licorice, cut into thirds
decorating icings and gels
POUR milk into medium bowl. Add dry pudding mix; beat with wire whisk 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.
SPOON evenly into 4 dessert dishes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
INSERT 2 cookies into 1 side of each dish to make the "bunny's ears, then decorate with candies, licorice and decorating icings and gels as desired for the faces.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Get a Kiss For the Cook with these Irish Recipes

As promised, here are a couple of recipes for those who want to have an Irish menu for St. Patrick's Day. The recipes I've chosen are Irish Soda Bread and Corned Beef & Cabbage.

I'm not sure that I've ever eaten any of this stuff. My dad loves cabbage, but I've never been a fan, and I just can't recall eating corned beef ever. As for the bread, in my family I'm known as the "bread eater." My family jokes that I practically lived off of bread when I was a kid. And I must admit, to this day whether it's rolls, biscuits, or baked breads on the table, I always help myself and eat my fair share (if not more). So I'll definitely be trying this Irish Soda Bread!

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Cut in margarine or butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins, if desired. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

2. In a small mixing bowl combine egg white and buttermilk. Add all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until moistened.

3. On a lightly floured surface knead dough 10 to 12 strokes until nearly smooth. Shape into a 7-inch round loaf.

4. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray Place bread dough on baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make 2 slashes in the top to form an X.

5. Bake in a 375 degree F oven about 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm. Makes 1 loaf (16 servings).

Corned Beef and Cabbage

1 3-pound corned beef brisket
1/2 cup sliced onion (1 small)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 cups water
1 1-1/2-pound cabbage, cut into 6 wedges

1. Trim any visible fat from the meat. Set aside.

2. Place rack in a 4- to 6-quart pressure cooker. Add the meat, onion, bay leaf, black peppercorns, and water.

3. Lock lid in place. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe (if you have a first-generation cooker). Over high heat, bring cooker up to pressure. Reduce heat just enough to maintain pressure and pressure regulator rocks gently; cook for 50 minutes.

4. Allow pressure to come down naturally. Carefully remove lid. With a slotted spoon remove the meat and onions to a serving platter; set aside.

5. Place the wedges of cabbage in the pressure cooker. Lock lid in place. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe (if you have a first-generation cooker). Over high heat, bring cooker up to pressure. Reduce heat just enough to maintain pressure and pressure regulator rocks gently; cook for 2 minutes.

6. Quick-release the pressure. Carefully remove lid. With a slotted spoon remove the cabbage wedges. Serve with meat and onions. Makes 6 main-dish servings.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Egg-cellent Eggs, Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of my Easter eggs post. All of the ideas in this post can be used with actual eggs that you eat, but you could probably use a few of these ideas with craft eggs as well.

I've found several ideas, but I chose to highlight the one's which I liked the best. Most of these are fairly simple ideas and as far as I can tell, these ideas are very budget friendly. All of the projects are from BHG and DLTK's Growing Together, and the links to directions and more information is underneath each pic, along with my brief commentary/description.

Take a look and enjoy!

I love this idea. These are made by placing rubberbands or stickers on the egg before dying it. Very cute and colorful!

Colorful Eggs

The colorful designs on these eggs are made with toothpicks & pencil erasers. A great idea, and it's simple.

Dot/Circle Eggs
These eggs are made by glueing colored dots on the egg shell, or you could use stickers.

Pysansky Eggs
Wax is placed on the eggs before dying to make the designs on these eggs. Somehow I think if I did this project it wouldn't look as good as the one's picture here. If anyone takes a closer look at this and decides to try it, let me know how it works out.

These eggs are frosted and then candy dots are placed on them.

You've probably seen eggs that looks simlimar to this. In this case, a toothbrush is used to create the splatters.
This idea is very cool. You use pressed flowers and hot wax to create the floral patterns seen here.

If you decide to try out any of these techniques, I'd love to hear from you and find out how it went!

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Menu Plan Monday for March 10

Hey all. I hope you're all enjoying the Easter and St. Patrick's Day posts, and for all you blog partiers out there, I hope you're having a good time.

Well, the weeks sure do go by fast. It's time once again for Menu Plan Monday. And rather than making a big trip to the grocery store for extra stuff, this week I decided to basically do a de-cluttering of my food supply. I always do an inventory of the kitchen when making a menu just so I'll know what items I already have, but sometimes I'll put something on the list even if I don't need it, just because I like to stay stocked up. (for example, I'm always buying cream of mushroom soup because it goes in so many dishes.)

Well, this week I'm skipping the shopping trip all together, and I'm making dishes that I already have supplies for. This will save me time & money at the grocery store this week, and it will totally clean out my pantry so I can have a kitchen full of fresh ingredients after my next shopping trip. Well, here's the menu I came up with:

Monday - Mexican Chicken Casserole
Tuesday - Chicken Noodle Casserole w/ black eyed peas, corn, & biscuits
Wednesday - Sloppy Joes w/ potato salad and macaroni & cheese
Thursday - Cream of Chicken & Vegetable Soup (either with biscuits or sandwiches)
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - Eat out or fix whatever is left in the kitchen
Sunday - Appetizers & Snacks

For other meal planning posts, visit orgjunkie. Also, for those of you who are interested, I'm going to be posting a couple of Irish recipes later this week for St. Patrick's Day. I'll try to put them up pretty early for anyone who might want to make them for next week. Till then, Happy Monday!