Triple Layer Truffle Bars – Recipe from Pillsbury

Image from Pillsbury.com

INGREDIENTS

For the Bar:
1 roll (16.5 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

For the Filling:
4 Tbsp chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix (from 4-serving box)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

For the Topping:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (from 12-oz bag)
1/4 cup butter

Optional Topping: 1 bag Wilton candy cane candy melts

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Let cookie dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften. Line 8-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges.

In medium bowl, mix cookie dough and cocoa until well blended (dough will be stiff). Press dough evenly in bottom of pan.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are set (do not overbake). Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In large bowl, stir pudding mix and 1/4 cup melted butter until well blended. Add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla; beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Spread filling evenly over cooled bar base. Set aside.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butter uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Spread evenly over filling. Optional: melt candy melts and drizzle on top. Refrigerate about 1 hour or until set.

Use foil to lift from pan; pull foil edges away. For bars, cut into 4 rows by 4 rows.

ENJOY!

Trolls Gingerbread House

 

We finally completed our 2017 Trolls gingerbread house.  And BONUS: we were able to break out the leftover Halloween candy to add to the stash that came with the gingerbread kit.

I used my trusty glue gun to assemble the house a couple of days ago, so tonight all I had to do was spread the icing along the house and let the kids place the candies where they wanted to.  They were very excited and up for the task!

Soon after starting, my daughter asked if she could taste one of the candies and of course, once I said yes, she began a routine of 1. place a couple candies on the house….then 2. place a couple pieces in my (her) mouth!  My son quickly followed suit.  I eventually stopped them because I didn’t want them getting all sugared up before bedtime, but I did let them enjoy a few pieces because after all, we only do this once a year and we’re #makingmemories!

It turned out really cute!  My daughter said her favorite part was placing Princess Poppy at the door of the gingerbread house.

My son said his favorite part was eating the candies!

My plan is to let the icing dry overnight, then place it on a large glass cake plate on the kitchen island to display it for the rest of the Christmas season.

Buffalo Check Print Cake Tutorial

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I have been obsessed this holiday season with all things buffalo check print….pajamas, table settings, DIY art, ornaments, even cake.  Yes, I said cake.  I found a couple of jaw-dropping cakes online that were buffalo check print/lumberjack-themed and I knew immediately that I would be making one this holiday season.

I scoured the internet looking for the most “effortless” way of making this cake.  I found a couple of specialty baking pans on Amazon’s website that were designed to create this checkered pattern, but many of the pan reviews were subpar.  Then I found a baking blogger/YouTuber with a website called Cookies, Cupcakes, and Cardio where she made her own templates to create the buffalo check pattern and I knew that this was the method I was going to try.

Please note that the inspiration cake is made from scratch, used 4 layers and 4 colors of cake, and is larger than my test cake, so some of the instructions differ, but the outcome is amazing either way and will definitely impress your guests!  Also note that the inspiration cake was made to be a Lumberjack-themed cake, so it was finished off to look like a tree ring along the outer edges and top; I was solely focused on creating the buffalo check pattern, so I simply frosted the outside and top of my cake and called it a day.  Here’s how I made my cake:

INGREDIENTS

6 inch cake pan

1 Sheet of White Cardstock

Scissors

Pencil

Non-stick Cooking Spray

1 box Betty Crocker Vanilla Cake Mix, with required add-ins – batter divided

1 Cup Measuring Scoop

3 Bowls

Knife

Wilton Icing Colors in Black, Brown, and Red-Red

Vanilla or Chocolate Frosting of your choice (can be homemade buttercream or store-bought works too—I dyed my vanilla frosting black, but this is optional)

DIRECTIONS

Using your cake pan as a template, trace the outer edge of the pan on your cardstock with your pencil.

Find a circular object about 2 inches smaller in diameter than your cake pan (i.e. a coffee cup), then trace it within your first circle.

Repeat one last circle about 2 inches smaller than the last one, so that you have 3 circles drawn on your template.

Cut the circles out and note that you will only need to use the two biggest circles.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray your cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix your cake mix according to the box directions, then using your 1-cup measuring scoop, measure out 1 cup of batter in each of your 3 bowls.

Use your Wilton Icing Colors to dye each of your batters.  You want one black, one burgundy (use a bit of the brown and the red-red), and one red.

Bake each of the batters separately.  In my oven, each 6 inch layer took 13 minutes to bake.

Make sure the cake cools a bit before you remove it from the pan. Place each layer of cake on a separate plate.

Set the cakes in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make sure they’re nice and firm.

Take your first layer of cake and place the largest circle template that you previously cut on top of the cake.

Use your knife to trace around the template and cut your first circle in the cake. (You guys are going to kill me, but I didn’t get any photos of this process!!!!  My bad but I was laser focused on making sure I got this part right.)

Next use the smaller circle template and cut another circle in the cake.  Once you’ve done this, you should have 3 circles that make up your 1 layer of cake.

Repeat this process on the remaining 2 layers of cake.

Now you’re going to reassemble your cake layers mixing and matching the 3 colors of cake.

Here’s how I layered my cake rings (note that the photo above and the photo below this section shown are from the bottom to the top of the cake):

Bottom Layer: large red circle, medium black circle, small burgundy circle

Middle Layer: large black circle, medium burgundy circle, small red circle

Top Layer: large burgundy circle, medium red circle, small black circle

Once you’ve reconfigured your layers, apply a thin layer of frosting between them as you stack them up.

Frost the outer edges and top of the cake.

Then wow your guests with this beautiful and intricate cake!!!

 

 

My Favorite Black and White Christmas Stockings

Happy Saturday, friends!

I wanted to quickly share with you an Etsy shop that I recently stumbled across that makes the most stylish Christmas stockings.  The shop is called HungByTheChimney and the owner’s name is Michelle Swingle.

Here are some of my favorites, but definitely visit her shop because she makes them in many different fabrics.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

And while on the topic of Christmas stockings, I know that traditionally we see them hung on a fireplace mantel, and it’s a beautiful look, however there is no mantel here at Casa De Effortless.  We typically hang our stockings on our stair railings, or along the entertainment center. Here’s a picture of this year’s setup:

TIP: If you do opt to hang your stockings along your entertainment center, be careful not to place them in front of the TV’s power button, or in front of the cable box for that matter.  If you do, you’ll probably be hearing about it from the Mr. or Mrs. Effortless in your life.  You’re welcome!

Check out these alternative methods for hanging Christmas stockings:

Image source Pinterest (uploaded by user)

Image source: Pinterest (uploaded by user)

Image source: christmas.365greetings.com

Image source: Honey We’re Home.com

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

 

Inexpensive DIY Holiday Pictures to Coordinate with your Tablescape

What’s going on, peeps?  Happy Friday!  Today I wanted to share with you how I inexpensively transformed two existing pictures in my dining room so they would coordinate with my Christmas tablescape.

The original pictures looked like this:

There was no way I was going to be able to keep them in the room with my red, gold, and black buffalo plaid check tablescape.  But instead of running from store to store to try and find two holiday pictures to hang, I decided to use items I already had at home to make these pictures work.  Here’s what I used to make it happen:

Wrapping paper, scissors, scotch tape, and packs of letters previously purchased from Michaels was all I needed.  The letters usually retail for $7.99, but I always use a 50% coupon and get them at half price.

I simply took the existing pictures off the wall and wrapped them in my wrapping paper.

Then, using my gold letters, I spelled out words synonymous with the holiday season, Peace and Hope.

I re-hung the finished pictures on the wall and my project was complete.  Effortless, right?

Putting Together a Christmas Tree – the Effortless Way

 

Hi there!  I hope you and your loved ones had a bountiful Thanksgiving with great company, delicious food, and plenty to be thankful for.

Today I’m ready to talk Christmas trees.  I am by no means a tree expert, but I have picked up some tips over the years that I feel have really helped me to put up a beautiful tree each year, so I want to share my process with those who may struggle in this department.

1. The tree

First things first….the Christmas tree.  Faux trees have really come a long way over the years, but to be honest, even before they were as fabulous as they are now, I’ve always preferred a fake one over a real tree.  I never liked the thought of having to keep the tree watered and never mind worrying that it could catch on fire if it got too dry.  Ain’t nobody got no time for that!  Ha!  And I always felt like real trees make a constant mess with the pine needles falling off everywhere.  With my fake tree, I vacuum the floor immediately after putting the tree up, but I don’t really notice a ton of needles falling out every day after that.  So for me, fake tree for the win!

Another important topic when it comes to your Christmas tree is the price.  I have no clue what the going rate is on a real tree seeing as though I’ve never purchased one, but I can tell you that a really elaborate fake one can cost you a pretty penny.

But don’t fret my friends, as they make trees that go along with every budget.  I personally don’t care to spend a ton of money on my tree, but I like to embellish it in such a way that it looks expensive, you know what I mean?

We’ve had a our current living room tree for about three years now, purchased at the end of a holiday season, but I don’t really love the tree.  Hubby brought it home because he found it for a really great price, I’m talking dirt cheap you guys, so I’ve just made it work over the years.  The thing I don’t like about it is that it’s not quite full enough for me.  But I remedy that by adding lots of picks and stems to it, so in the end, it works.  Bottom line, find a tree that you love at a price you’re willing to pay.  And remember it pays to shop off season too.

2. The tree skirt

I’m all about using neutral tree skirts.  The sheepskin skirt you see pictured above is from HomeGoods, but for two years before I found it, I always used the sheep skin rugs I had bought at Ikea.  No one knew except for me that it wasn’t a traditional tree skirt, and honestly, no one really cares.  I think the reoccurring theme you’re going to see in this post is that it’s okay to use unconventional items.  Think rugs, throw blankets, fabric, even sheets of burlap; all of these items work as a tree skirt and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.  And sometimes these items will end up being the design inspiration behind your entire tree.

 

3. Picks and stems

In case you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea what I mean by picks and stems, here are a couple of visuals for you:

Image courtesy of Southern Hospitality

Image courtesy of the Krazy Coupon Lady

You can find these in abundance at Michaels and Joan’s over the holidays.  Buy them.  Lots of them.  I use these bad boys to fill in my tree in the areas that seem bare.  I weave them through tablescapes on my dining table.  Last year, I even used them along with some garland to frame my stairwells.  As you can see, I like the more natural looking ones, usually with pine cones and a bit of flocked snow on them, but these things come in all different sizes and colors and add so much interest to your tree. Don’t be afraid to add pops of color.

4. Ribbon or Deco Mesh

Once my tree is nice and full and I’ve added whimsical items like glitter flowers or poinsettias, I like to add the next element, either ribbon or deco mesh.  I never use both, always one or the other.  Again, in case you’re not familiar with deco mesh, here it is:

And generally when I select ribbon, I tend to go with a thicker width, something like this:

though the one I used on this year’s tree is a bit slimmer than this but it still worked out well.

Deco mesh looks beautiful on a tree, but it can be a bit more difficult to work with, as compared to ribbon.  I’ve used both and generally decide which one I’m going to use based on how much effort I plan on putting in that day. Ha!

5. Ornaments

There really isn’t much to say about ornaments.  Pick ones you love and that coordinate with the feel and theme of your tree.  The deer head ornaments mounted on the wood plaques are the stars of this tree.  I found these at Big Lots the week after Christmas last year and immediately fell in love with them. I was able to score 4 boxes of them for something like $5.00.

One other thing I would like to add about ornaments is, again, don’t be afraid to use unconventional items. The Let it Snow pieces you see hanging from the tree are not ornaments at all, but just a box of gift tags that I found in my holiday stash.  They added the perfect pop of silver to the tree.

6. Tree Topper

I have no fast or hard rules concerning tree toppers.  In years past, I’ve used a traditional star, an angel, even a bouquet of peacock feathers.  This year, I saved two of my picks from the body of the tree and stuck those in the top and called it a day.

7. Vignettes

The final thing I like to do once my tree is all put together is to create a mini scene or vignette under the tree.  This can be a series of wrapped presents under the tree with coordinating wrapping papers, a plate of cookies and milk for Santa, holiday stockings laid out, a spool of ribbon with wrapping paper, the sky is the limit. For this tree, I just placed a metal bucket with leaves and pine cones in it from HomeGoods off to the side of the tree and placed a large Merry sign underneath it with ribbon and pinecones.  The wood of the sign coordinated well with the wood of my deer head ornaments.  Easy peasy.

*Please note: you will notice there is no mention here of any tips or tricks to help you string lights onto your tree.  Not only am I a fan of fake trees, but I’m all about fake trees with pre-strung lights!!  Please search elsewhere if you’re looking for tips for stringing lights, cause’ this ain’t the place!

So there you have it folks.  I hope you found a few of these tips helpful and that your tree decorating process will be just a little bit simpler because of it. Happy decorating!

 

Creamed Brussels Sprouts – a Delicious Thanksgiving Side Dish

Image courtesy of Feisty Chef

As many are beginning to plan and shop for Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this delicious recipe that makes a wonderful accompaniment to a holiday meal….Creamed Brussels Sprouts.

This recipe was given to me last year by a friend of mine that clipped the recipe out of the local newspaper from a Publix ad.  She made the dish for her family and they all raved about.  The Monday morning after Thanksgiving, she managed to get her hands on another copy of the newspaper and she found the recipe to give to me.  Boy, am I glad she did.

I think most people are usually split on whether or not they like Brussels sprouts.  I eat them as a side dish occasionally, but I never really cared for them, you know what I mean?   I typically would buy a frozen bag of them, throw them in the microwave, and season them with salt and pepper.  I ate them because they are low in calories and nutrient-rich, but I would NEVER call them tasty.

This recipe is not only tasty, it’s downright delicious.  I made it a few times last year; for Christmas and Easter and a few other random dinners as well.  Needless to say, this recipe has been added to my recipe box cause’ it’s a keeper!  I have even made a few substitutions to the ingredient list from time to time and it still turns out great every….single…time.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

1 lb fresh Brussels Sprouts (NOTE: you can buy these in a bag pre-shredded to save on time)
3 oz Shallots, finely chopped (I have also used a regular onion)
4 slices Bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tsp Fresh Thyme, leaves only ( I have used ground thyme)
2 oz Deli Gruyere Cheese, shredded (I have substituted Parmesan Cheese)
1/2 cup Alfredo sauce

DIRECTIONS

Remove the ends from the sprouts, cut in half, and slice.

Chop shallots and bacon.

Preheat a large sauté pan on medium heat for 2–3 minutes. Place bacon in the pan; cook and stir 4–5 minutes or until bacon is browned and crispy. Remove bacon from the pan (reserve 2 tablespoons bacon fat in pan).

Add sprouts and shallots to bacon fat; cook and stir 4–5 minutes or until sprouts are tender.

Remove leaves from thyme stems.

Stir in Alfredo sauce, bacon, thyme, and cheese until cheese melts and mixture is hot.  ENJOY!

 

How to Put Together a Thanksgiving Table for Young Children

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. I look forward to the great food, cooler weather, and spending time with our extended family and friends if we’re able to do so. And as I mentioned in another post, Thanksgiving night also marks the beginning of my Christmas decorating, so I look forward to it each year.

As I shared here, my babies recently turned 3 years old and these days, they are Mr. and Ms. Independent. In Thanksgivings’ past, hubby and I have either spoon-fed them their Thanksgiving dinner or sat them in their high chairs so they could feed themselves, but this year, I decided they should have their very own Thanksgiving table.

This table was super easy to put together so I thought I would share 5 quick tips in case others are looking for ideas to put together a table for their little ones too.

1. Select an appropriately sized table.

I like this one from Ikea:

Or this one from Amazon:

2. Pick a tablecloth.

This doesn’t need to be anything fancy and in fact, unconventional items work best since most traditional tablecloths are made for large tables.  I like to use pre-cut fabric, wrapping paper, or even kraft paper works well.

3. Add pops of color using colorful plates and kid-friendly centerpieces.

For this table, my kids and I made a DIY turkey by painting a pumpkin and attaching eyes, a beak, and feathers to it.

4. Create a custom place card with your child’s name on it

There are so many options for this.  I like this edible style made from cookies:

Image from sweetcreationsv Etsy shop

Or this traditional one:

Image from Lifewithfingerprints.com

5. Put an age-appropriate craft on the table.

This can be any type of craft, though I would keep it simple and holiday-themed (think pumpkins or turkeys). For our table, I chose coloring sheets that I made on our computer using free printables.

We are now officially T minus 9 days away from Thanksgiving and I can’t wait!  Here’s to hoping my little ones enjoy their table and Mr. Effortless and I aren’t wishing we had strapped them in to their high chairs!