December 31, 2014


After all the buckeyes we had to eat before the Canfield Fair I wasn't sure if my family would be ready for more by Christmas.  Oh, they were ready.  You're going to make us buckeyes, right?  There'll be enough left for us too, right?

Yes, yes there'll be plenty for you too!  They'll be plenty if you keep your little fingers out of the peanut butter filling!  The hardest part of cooking with my family is keeping them away from the dough.  A recipe may say it yields three dozen cookies, but leave the kitchen one minute and that same recipe only makes a dozen and a half.  Funny how those things happen.  

My sister is the worst when it comes to the buckeyes.  She'll be glued to my hip, licking the spatula, taking spoonfuls of peanut butter, and "sneaking" the rolled balls from the freezer.  Really, I don't notice the missing four or five balls on a sheet that was once full.  

You'd think I only make these once a year or something!  Some things have to be kept for special occasions.  Maybe if I put the recipe up they'll start making them themselves...


by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 11 ounces peanut butter
  • 1 pound box confectionery sugar
  • 1 1/2 pounds Hershey’s chocolate
Mix margarine, peanut butter and confectionery sugar.
Roll into balls and freeze overnight.
Melt chocolate in melting pot.
Removing five balls from the freezer at a time, dip in chocolate using a toothpick.
Place in miniature paper cups and freeze until chocolate hardens.

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December 25, 2014

Molasses Cookies

As a kid, these cookies really confused me.  They tasted just like a gingerbread...but were in a circle.  And they were decorated with sugar...not icing.  Someone got lazy and didn't wanna cut out gingerbread men?

Not the case.  While they can satisfy a gingerbread craving with half the work, Molasses Cookies are not the same as Gingerbread Men.  

Mom and I usually don't make them, but in a close second place behind pitzzelles, these are my Grandma's second favorite cookies.  So we decided to whip up a batch this year.  What a daughter won't do for her mother.  

Molasses Cookies

by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 4 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix all ingredients well. Chill dough at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350° F. Roll dough into balls and roll in white sugar.
Press down with fork and bake 10 to 12 minutes.

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December 15, 2014

Gingerbread Men

You could argue the best part of Christmas baking is decorating gingerbread men.  I take that back.  Taste-testing the dough and/or baked creations is the best.  Gingerbread come in at a close second.  

This year a teacher ordered a batch of gingerbread men, so they had to look gorgeous... Well how did I do?  I was pretty proud of myself!  Not a difficult design, but they all turned out decent and uniform.  

Halfway through I was ready to chop off my hand!  (If it was like the gingerbread's arms I would have taken a big bite!)  One batch makes 2-3 dozen...and each cookie has 4 swirls, 2 eyes, a mouth, a bow tie, and two buttons.  Let me tell you that's a lot of decorating! But it was worth it.  Look how beautiful, they belong on a big tray at some expensive Christmas party...

Okay, maybe I'm dreaming a bit...  One day.  One day someone rich or famous will order my gingerbread men for their Christmas party.  But until then I guess I'll just have to keep making them for myself.  

This is really the only gingerbread recipe I'll use.  It's soft and chewy, not too sweet but still has all the flavors of gingerbread.  I'm surprised there were enough cookies left to take a picture!  Or the ones in the photo aren't missing an arm or a leg!

Gingerbread Men

by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Decorating icing and assorted candies
In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, egg, vanilla and lemon peel.
In another bowl, whisk flour, ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cloves. Gradually beat into creamed mixture.
Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or until easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 350° F. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with a floured 4-in. gingerbread man cookie cutter.
Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are firm.
Cool on wire rack and decorate.

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December 12, 2014

Secret Santa Gifts

Secret Santa shopping is either super easy or impossible.  Lets face it, there's no in-between.  Am I the only one, or does every year it seem like I get myself into more and more gift exchanges.  (yay!)  And every year I get stuck with the most difficult people!  (so not fair!)

This year was no different....  I got one easy person, one medium, and one hard.
Easy: my cousin Megan
Medium: my friend (sister) Sara
Hard: my friend Andrew

What do you get a guy for a Secret Santa gift?  It took me almost a week to think of the perfect present... You ready for the ultimate gift for your most difficult... (what are they called? recipient?)  You get the point...

A Candy Card!! Yes, I wrote my own candy card and I'm very proud of it.  I guess I'll let you copy it if you're in the same situation I was...Merry Christmas.  Here's what I wrote (candy bars are bolded) :)

Mr. Goodbar,

        I tried to come up with gift ideas and found myself in a Crunch.  After Black Friday shopping I didn't have 100 Grand and it wasn't PayDay.  I talked to Mounds of people and offered a Whatchamacallit for any ideas, but not even the 3 Musketeers were able to help.  Then, strolling down 5th Avenue, I had a Nutrageous idea.  What about a card that will make him Snicker!  So I'd like to Take 5 and wish you a Merry Twix-mas because your M-Azing friend couldn't think of anything better.

Your Secret Santa, 

There's only one problem.  Mars quit making the "M-Azing" candy bar.  :(  I didn't know this before I wrote the card and really didn't want to change it.  So instead of an M-Azing bar, it's a Hershey's bar with a picture of the "M-Azing" wrapper taped to it.  Just paste this image into Word, change the size (1.06" height and 3.00" width) and print.  Clever right!  He'll get the idea...  

Here's what you'll need...

-Mr. Goodbar
-100 Grand
-3 Musketeers
-5th Avenue
- Reese's Nutrageous
-Take 5
-printed "M-Azing" wrapper
-poster board or foam board
-packaging tape
-sharpie or marker

Start by writing your message on the board in pencil.  I always write too small, so this step is a must, but if you feel you can do it in marker, by all means go ahead.  Trace over the pencil in sharpie once your spacing is okay.  Roll tape and tape each candy bar in it spot.  Sit back and admire your creation, because it's going to be the best gift this year!  (I guess you can take some credit...I won't tell you found the idea online!) :)

December 10, 2014

Pumpkin Yogurt

It’s a little over a week from Christmas and I’m still not ready to give up my pumpkin recipes.  Is it acceptable to eat pumpkin year round?  I hope so because that’s what I plan on doing!

Over the past four or five months I’ve probably ate ten cans of pumpkin puree…on my own.  Wow, I just realized how much that is.  Ten cans..give me a minute to do the math.  Ten cans x 16(?) ounces per can = 160 ounces of pumpkin.  It’s a miracle I’m not the great big pumpkin!!

While some of it has been pumpkin pies, pumpkin squares, pumpkin smoothies, etc. this conception is a little healthier.  Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin, and cinnamon.

It’s been a little too cold recently, but sometimes I’ll mix it up and freeze it for 30 or 40 minutes.  Then it’s like ice cream!  Yummm….(ice cream is my weakness)

Pumpkin Yogurt

by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 1 cup plain or vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a bowl. Mix to combine.
Refrigerate until ready to eat.

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December 3, 2014

Banana Cinnamon Bun Smoothie

For the longest time I was on this smoothie craze.  Banana, strawberry, peach, blueberry, pumpkin...I tried them all.  Thanks to Pinterest I never ran out of ideas.  :)  This was the first "recipe" I tried, and it's probably the one that started my blending obsession.

Recipe is in quotes because there's one thing you need to know about me.  I rarely follow an original recipe.  99.9% of the time I add/remove/double/half something.  Every recipe has room for improvement!!

Feel free to add or substitute your own favorites to this "recipe".  That's the beauty with can throw in just about anything (as long as it's not the main ingredient) and still have a drink that tastes amazing.  Don't like almond milk?  Use cows milk.  Not sweet enough? Sugar, honey, or maple syrup will do the trick.  Too much cinnamon? Just use a dash.  

Banana Cinnamon Bun Smoothie

by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt, vanilla or plain
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Pour into glass and enjoy!

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December 2, 2014

How to Organize a Spice Cabinet

My mom has been on a cleaning frenzy!  From the walls and the cabinets, to the fridge and the basement storage, everything is getting organized before Christmas decorations come out.  Yes, ever since she bought this wall mop in Amish Country, she even mops our walls!   I will admit it's looking pretty nice...

In the beginning all our plates, glasses, bowls, etc. were right by the fridge.  It was nice if you were the only one in the kitchen, but when we were all in there it got a little chaotic.  We would all be in that same corner trying to grab something a plate, silverware, or something from the fridge.  My mom and I decided we needed to distribute the wealth throughout the kitchen.  

The spices got moved over by the fridge.  Changes are we won't be grabbing spices while someones in the fridge or freezer.  Plates, bowls, and glasses are in the opposite corner by the measuring cups. Silverware is by the dishwasher.  We all hate emptying the silverware basket anyway, so keeping it the closest to the dishwasher makes it a little less of a hassle.  

We just have plain shelves in our kitchen.  Since our cabinets are lacking those fancy features, my mom and I have to get creative to organize like pros.  So far our best idea is alphabetical order...creative right!  Here's a list of alphabetical (way too many) herbs and seasonings just incase you need a reference. :) I've seen some pretty cool ideas on Pinterest though...not going to lie, I'm kinda jealous. Here are my top five upgrades...

December 1, 2014

8 Travel Tips for Beginners and Pros

Is it sad that we're already counting down to Christmas break?  14 (school) days!!  Personally, after such a hectic Thanksgiving vacation, I'm looking forward to much needed rest and relaxation.  Doing absolutely nothing all day siting in front of the fire...fourteen days away.  

Not that I didn't enjoy my Thanksgiving vacation, it was amazing, just very busy.  It started on Friday after school when my aunt, uncle and I caught a flight to Atlanta to visit some family.  I was supposed to surprise my cousins, but someone let the cat out of the bag. :) In a family like ours, its not easy to keep secrets!  So we got into Atlanta without any issues (thank goodness!)  

I knew we'd be going shopping.  Why I didn't leave more room in my suitcase...good question.  My bags were pretty full when I came in.  It's a miracle the zippers didn't burst on the way home!  I stuffed more crap into my suitcase than you'd imagine!  Shoes, shirts, boots, tennis shoes, hoodies, purses... I had to buy it!  It was on sale!  

We were in Georgia for five days.  The Browns vs. Falcons game was Sunday, so Monday and Tuesday my cousin and I hit up the shops.  If you're wondering why there was nothing good on Black Friday...sorry we bought it all early.  Literally though, we bought it all.  Christmas shopping 2014 check!

On Wednesday I flew from Atlanta to Michigan.  Talk about climate change!  75 and sunny to 29 and snow...not my kind of weather.  It was my first time flying alone with a plane change.  (Not going to lie, I was a little nervous)  But everything went as planned so it was fine, and I learned a couple tricks for traveling.

1. Roll Your Clothes
To fit way more than you need in a suitcase or duffel bag, roll your clothes.  At first I was could a ball take up less space than a flat, folded t-shirt?  Trust does.  When I folded all my clothes and tried stuffing them in my bag, they didn't fit.  Rolling them gave me a little more space to squeeze in even more stuff I didn't need.  It may be smart to fold clothes on the way there and roll them on the way back...I'll have to remember that for next time!

2. Check In on a Mobile Device
After years of experience, my aunt has found it ten times faster to check in for Southwest on her iPhone.  All you do is check in 24 hours before your flight on your phone and print your boarding passes from the computer at a convenient time.  Next time you fly, try it.

3. Arrive Early and Ready
Get to the airport at least two hours early.  This gives you plenty of time to get through security and find your gate.  Recently, I haven't had any issues with screening, but the day the line is out the door and across the parking lot could be the same day as your flight.  Be safe and arrive early.  You'd rather sit at a restaurant and grab something to eat than miss your flight because your still waiting to get through security.  

4. Know the Airport
If you have a short layover, look at a map of the airport before taking off.  Know which gate you come into and which one you take off from and their locations.  If you need to get to the other end of the airport and are worried you may miss your connections, let someone know. Chances are they can phone the gate and let them know you're on your way.

5. Pack Snacks
Lets face it, sometimes it takes all day to travel and airport food is expensive.  Personally I can't spend $9 on a sandwich $5.50 on a bag of trail mix and $4 for a bottle of water.  I have better things to spend money on!  Clothes, shoes, craft supplies, baking supplies...  Pack a snack or meal in your carry on to eat on the plane.  

6. Use a Sponge Pack
If you want to bring refrigerated food, use a sponge pack.  I knew I wouldn't have time to grab something in Orlando, so my aunt gave this to keep my dinner cold.  It worked a lot better than I expected!  The food was in my bag at least six hours before I ate it and it was still cold!  Just dip a sponge in water, place it in a bag, and freeze it.  When you need an ice pack, throw one in and go!  Just make sure to take the whole bag, not just the sponge. :)

7. Bring Empty Water Bottles
Pack an empty water bottle to fill up once you get through security. Airports have plenty of water fountains, usually by the restrooms, and they're free!  Why pay $4 when you can get it for nothing!

8. Bring a Sweater or Scarf
Airports and planes can be a little chilly!  Bring a light jacket or sweater just incase you get cold. 

November 19, 2014

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

I grew up watching very little TV.  We never had cable and my mom always found different ways to entertain me.  Most of my time was spent in the kitchen with her baking.  I'd "help her do the dishes" or "roll out pie dough".  

"Doing the dishes" was really just me playing in the sink.  I wasted more soap and water than you can imagine, but it entrained me for hours!  And "rolling out pie dough"....I think that's what started my dough addiction.  After mom was done with the real pie, she'd give me the leftover dough to make my own.  With the rolling pin and cookie cutters from my play dough kit, I'd sit at the counter until whatever I was making was just right. (Shhh...don't tell, but of course I sampled a little along the way!)

A couple years ago I discovered the Food Network (aka. the greatest television show on earth!)  My mom and I are obsessed with Pioneer Woman.  We watch every episode when we're at my grandmas.  I  have to make fun of my mom a little though... For some odd reason, she always calls the host "Medicine Woman".  Sorry Ree...for the record one of us remembers your name!  

A couple visits ago, we were watching an episode and came across this Strawberry Oatmeal Bar recipe.  Ree, you're killing us!!  We sit and eat the whole pan in one night!  They're delicious!  We even tried using grape jelly once, but take my word for it, strawberry is still the best.

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars

by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 1 3/4 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10-12 ounces strawberry preserves (or other flavor)
In a standing mixer, mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle half the mixture in a greased 9x13 pan and lightly pack.
Spread preserves evenly over the surface.
Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture and lightly pat down.
Bake at 350º F for 30 to 40 minutes or until light golden brown.

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November 18, 2014

Potato Soup

Every year, usually sometime in October, my great (literally great) grandma comes up for a visit.  It works out perfectly as my mom could use an extra hand peeling and canning potatoes.  We always seem to plant way too many!  A couple years ago we had over 500 pounds!!  Yes, 500 pounds of potatoes for four people!  Of course we shared with family, friends, and neighbors.

But seriously, what do you do with that many potatoes?  No matter what you do -mashed, boiled, baked, fried- they become old after a while.  My mom tried canning them.  Everyone else loved them, but they weren't my favorite.  They were a little soft for my liking.  She also froze several batches of potato soup.  Let me tell you, nothing is better than going in the freezer on a cold day and pulling out a container of potato soup.  Just heat it up and lunch/dinner is served. My kind of cooking!

Since we had so many potatoes my mom offered to send home soup with my grandma.  Of course she accepted!  Who would turn down potato soup!?  My grandma has a one-of-a-kind sense of humor. One morning, my mom went out to feed the horses and left her in the kitchen peeling potatoes.  When she came back in, my grandma was holding a sign that read "Will Work For Food."  

To this day we still laugh and tell her she'll have to help if she wants her share of the garden.  Every year she keeps coming back, so the labor must be worth the reward!

Potato Soup

6 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 ounces evaporated milk

Combine first seven ingredients in a large pot.  Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring often.  
Reduce heat to a simmer and add evaporated milk.  
Cover and cook 30 minutes, stirring frequently, not allowing the soup to boil.
Allow to cool slightly before pureeing in a food processor or blender. 

Copyright © 2014, Grace George. Simple and Sweet Creations. All Rights Reserved.

Click for printable recipe.

November 17, 2014

Chicken Parmesan

I am way too organized.  It's actually becoming a problem.  What!? How's that a problem?!  Let me explain... I organize my closet in rainbow order by style/season.  Papers and worksheets are all in chronological order.  I make lists for nearly everything...weeks in advance.  Going on a trip? Weeks before I'll make a list of things I want to pack.  Yes, even down to the number of socks and underwear. Things to Do, Weekly Menu, Grocery Lists, Dinner Options...I could make a list of all the lists I make but I think you get the point.  

Last week I was looking at my Dinner Options list trying to come up with a menu for the week.  What haven't we had in a while?  You'd think with a list of over forty choices we'd rarely eat the same thing. WRONG!  Most of the time it's the same ten or so things.  

This week I challenged myself to do all things we hadn't had in the past two weeks.  We had fish one night and stew beef another.  But the best was Friday's meal.  Chicken Parmesan!

I can't tell you the last time I made Chicken Parm.  Way too long!! Traditionally, the dish has a bad rep, but this version is waistline friendly!  Just what we'll be needing with Thanksgiving right around the corner!

Chicken Parmesan

  • 4 thin chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • Spaghetti or spaghetti squash (optional)
In a shallow dish combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Place egg whites in a separate dish.
Dip chicken in egg then breadcrumb mixture. Repeat for a thicker breading.
Place in a lightly greased baking dish. Lightly spray tops of chicken with cooking spray.
Bake at 450º F for 20 minutes. Flip and bake an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
Top with sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly.

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November 12, 2014

Stew Beef

Would you believe it was 65º here yesterday?  Yes, 65º F in Ohio in November!  But don't get too's supposed to be 35º and snowing Thursday.  Please tell me how that is possible.  

We just started our wood burning stove in the basement.  I think I'm going to move to the basement!  If you've never experienced the warmth that comes from a fire....heaven.  That's the only word that gives it justice.  It's just amazing.  

I usually take my laptop down and write papers or work on other homework while standing by the fire.  Yes, I have to stand by it.  If I sat down I'd probably fall asleep!  (Sorry...analysis essays usually don't have the most thrilling topics)

The past couple of nights we've even eaten dinner downstairs.  A warm meal by the warm fire...nothing is better than that! Especially when its a bowl of Stew Beef and noodles/mashed potatoes.  

In the morning just throw all the ingredients in a crock pot and, by dinnertime, its ready to go!  Our family of four usually has leftovers too.  My dad loves to take the extra beef with a little sauce and make a sandwich for lunch.  Never tried it myself, but he claims it's delicious.

Crock Pot Stew Beef

by Simple and Sweet Creations
  • 1-2 pounds stew beef
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • Mashed Potatoes or Noodles
Combine stew beef and soup in crock pot.
Cook on low all day.
Serve over mashed potatoes or noodles.

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