Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Recap - What A Year!

I pray that you all have had a wonderful and beautiful Christmas.  It's hard to believe that we are rounding the corner into a new year.  My, how time certainly does seem to pass so quickly.

Joyously Domestic is now one year and six months old this month.  It is so hard to believe that so much time has passed since I published my very first post.  Blogging has been a joy and a dream job me.  I'm so thrilled that so many of you have been a part of this journey with me.  I am so incredibly grateful and humbled that you follow along with my posts, read my stories, make some of my recipes, provide me with your feedback, share my content and encourage me in so many ways.  Thank you to YOU!

I was just reading through my blog post from last December that recapped 2012 here on Joyously Domestic.  Here we are twelve months later and the very same recipe that was number one last year is still holding strong as our most-popular post - my Roasted Ranch Potatoes with Bacon and Cheese.  A couple of recipes have knocked it to number two throughout the year, but usually only for a day or two.  What is with you people when it comes to bacon, cheese and taters?  I joke.  It's a fabulous recipe.  I find it all over numerous recipe-sharing sites, Pinterest and Facebook.  My heart is so happy that so many people have enjoyed it.  It has now been viewed almost 800,000 times here.  Holy smokes!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Top Thirteen Blog Posts in 2013 on Joyously Domestic

What a fun year it has been here on the blog!  I posted almost one hundred new recipes along with some party, DIY, craft and homemade gift posts.  I thought it'd be cool to take a look back through our thirteen most-popular recipe posts during the year.  I'll soon be posting a 2013 recap that will include some other topics related to Joyously Domestic during the past year.  For now, however, I wanted to share with you the opportunity to take a look back at the posts that were visited the most.

P.S.  You all have great taste ... these all are some of my personal favorites, as well!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Chocolate-Dipped Festive Fudge Pops (The Tale of An Accidental Fun Dessert)

This is a little story about a recipe in the kitchen going from failure to fabulous.  We've all had those "flops" when we're baking or cooking - the ones that sometimes bring tears to our eyes (and bruises to our culinary egos).  Those moments when we realize that we're staring at a disaster-of-a-result sitting on the counter.  We're sure that the garbage is the destination for our failure, but we rack our brains on how to salvage this mess-of-a-recipe that we've created.

Is it too burnt?  What if I scrape off the bad part(s)?  Can I transform this into something else? 

Well, my dear mother, Dawn, had a new recipe to try for chocolate fudge.  It was on one of those recipe cards that you sometimes see on display at the grocery store.  Now know that my mother is a fabulous cook and baker - and a stickler for following recipes precisely.  She made the fudge recipe, but it never quite set up correctly.  The flavor was outstanding, however.  But, once "set," it was still a bit too um, gooey.  She had been in the midst of a baking frenzy - preparing a huge holiday platter of goodies to take to her company Christmas party.  She refused to use this fudge for her platter since its appearance was well, less-than-stellar. 

She was ready to pitch the fudge into the trash.  But, who just happened to stop by?  Yours truly.

I tasted it.  Loved it.  Stole it.

That fudge and I had a date with destiny.  I knew exactly what to do with it.

Thus, these Chocolate Fudge Pops were born.  Now, I was concerned that another fudge recipe wouldn't work like this one did for making fudge pops.  So, I whipped up a batch of a tried-and-true chocolate fudge recipe that I've used (it is from Nestle and can be found HERE.)

You can add in nuts or omit them.  Dried fruit can be added in, too.  (My mother's fudge had dried cherries in it.)  You could make it studded with crushed candy canes for the holidays as I did for the second batch I tried this method with.  These fudge pops would probably work fabulously with peanut butter, eggnog or vanilla fudge, as well.

The number of servings will depend on the fudge recipe you use and the size you make the balls.  Mine yielded around 20 fudge pops.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Individual Party Cheese Balls

It's such a busy time of the year for us all, isn't it?  And, in the midst of the Christmas shopping, decorating, baking and planning, most of us are racking our brains for recipe ideas for all of those holiday parties we are hosting or attending.

Here's a great appetizer recipe ... one that I plan on making for New Year's Eve and maybe a couple of other Christmas parties we are attending.

The idea is that each guest can take an individual cheese ball along with some crackers.  It allows everyone to have their very own to use on their own plate and it, also, allows people to take those with ingredients they prefer.

What I love about this idea is that there are so many flavor combination options ... especially when it comes to the coatings on these little, adorable orbs.  I've chosen fresh dill, parsley, crushed red pepper flakes and sesame seeds for these.  But, you could use chopped nuts, other herb combinations, shredded cheese or even chopped dried fruit.  (I did try chopped dried cranberries and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Note that they make the cheese balls a lot larger than ones coated in herbs or sesame seeds, for example, so the sizes were not quite the same.)

If you already have a cream-cheese based cheese ball recipe that you love, you can simply use that as your base.  Then, just roll the balls into whatever coatings you like.  You could, also, add in some horseradish, pimentos, dried chipped beef, cooked bacon, cayenne or other ingredients. 

I placed a cute party pick in each cheese ball for easier service.  I, also, find that they make a convenient "spreader" for guests to spread their cheese onto their crackers.

Yields 20 - 24 mini cheese balls.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Old-School" Creamed Chipped Beef

Let's face it. This is about as old school as it gets. Creamed Chipped Beef over Toast. You know it. And, you either love it or hate it. {I happen to love it.} It's about as simple as it gets, too, with regards to preparation. The ingredient list is a very basic one and it takes like, maybe fifteen minutes from start to finish. If you recall this fondly from your childhood, you know just how comforting and awesome it can be.
Even growing up in a pretty conservative, religious home, I still recall this recipe being {affectionately} referred to as "S**t on A Shingle." I'm always surprised that so many people have never heard of this.  This was a common meal in our household ... probably because it was so inexpensive to make. But, I absolutely loved it. Still to this day, it takes me back to my childhood and those comforts of home when I make this.  It's not particularly healthy, but it is super delicious.

The gravy can be served over toast or mashed potatoes.

Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Candy Cane Crunch Peppermint Puppy Chow

Holy moly, friends, this stuff is totally addicting and oh, so yummy!  I've made traditional Peanut Butter and Chocolate Puppy Chow for years.  And, I made (and admittedly devoured) Cake Batter Puppy Chow for the holidays last year.  But, this version just screams Christmas to me!  I am a peppermint junkie, so this is right up my alley.

I use melted white chocolate chips that I flavor with peppermint oil for this recipe, but I am wondering about simply using the Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips that I've seen recently in stores for my next batch.  Alternately, if you're not a fan of white chocolate (or, you're an even bigger fan of regular chocolate), these would be great with milk or semi-sweet chocolate flavored with peppermint oil.  The mix just wouldn't be totally white, however, and would more-resemble traditional puppy chow in appearance.

This would be so fun to package up for coworkers, neighbors or teachers.  But, I'm not quite sure that your batch will last long enough to give away!  I know mine sure didn't!

Holiday Hot Cocoa Kits with Homemade Stir Spoons (Includes FREE Printable Labels)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Well, here in Michigan it is (we just got a good amount of snow fall this weekend).  I hope that wherever you are, you are feeling and enjoying the holiday spirit with the ones you love and cherish.

I am so excited to share this idea with you.  We made a bunch of these up this year for the kids to give to their teachers, their bus driver and a few of their special friends at school.  They are just a fun, little gift that will warm the hearts (and bellies) of the recipient.  I love that they are pretty inexpensive to make and super easy to throw together. 

You can print for free the round red and green labels that I used if you'd like to use them for your own hot cocoa gifts.  All you need to do is right-click the image and save it to your computer.  Then, print and cut.  I find that using cardstock paper works best.  (If you didn't want to create the full top fold-over labels as I did, you could use some cute ribbon or raffia to simply tie off the bags ... and maybe attach a little gift tag to the ribbon.  The ones below can be used with ribbon, too.  Simply use a paper punch to cut a hole in the label.)
You can click HERE for more of my FREE holiday printable labels and gift tags.  They're great for presents or homemade goodies.

NOTE:  Both the large and small party favor bags needed for this project can usually be found in the cake decorating section at stores like, Wal-Mart and Target or at any craft store.  They cost around $1 - $2 for each package.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Festive Holiday Buckeyes

Most of us know and love this holiday classic.  I spruced things up a bit by adding on some holiday-colored sprinkles and decorating sugar.  Not only does adding edible "bling" to these buckeyes give them a much-need pop of color, it, also, helps to cover up the hole left behind on the top of the buckeye by the toothpick used for dipping.

And, I love the variety of mini cupcake/candy papers that can be found these days.  They really jazz things up and I know these will add a touch of festive flair to my Christmas platters this year!

Yields about 6 dozen buckeyes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

FREE Printable Christmas Gift Tags

Happy Holidays to all of my friends here at Joyously Domestic!  I've created some FREE printable gift tags for you to use and enjoy this Christmas season.  They can simply be attached to wrapped gifts and packages, but are, also, so adorable hung with string or ribbon from homemade treat containers or mason jars filled with goodies.  Print and use as many as you'd like.

Just right-click the image(s) you'd like to use.  Save to your computer and print.  They are created in high-resolution jpeg format.  Just be sure to print as a full-page.  For personal use only.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Thirty-Minute Cheesy Broccoli & Cauliflower Soup

I stumbled upon a recipe on Yammie's Noshery for a copycat version of Panera Bread's cheesy broccoli soup. Their soup has always been my favorite there, so I was overly thrilled to try an at-home version. However, I wanted to incorporate some cauliflower into the soup, so I replaced half of the broccoli called for in the recipe with cauliflower - simple as that. {Just broccoli can be used if desired.}

I had my littlest one, Ayvah, home sick from school recently. She and I spent the morning curled up watching Christmas cartoons. When she was up and feeling a little better in the early afternoon, she wanted to get out her coloring books. So, I got busy in the kitchen whipping up a batch of this soup and getting out some frozen rolls to rise. Since dinner was still a couple of hours away, I transferred the prepared soup to my slow cooker and kept it on the warm setting. I was so proud of myself - it was only three o'clock and I had dinner done, blog photos of the soup taken and everything cleaned up. Score one for mom.

What I love most about this soup is that it, literally, takes all of thirty minutes from start-to-finish to make.  I was blown away at how easy and quick this recipe is. And, the taste did not disappoint. Sometimes something that claims to be a copycat recipe really doesn't turn out to taste much like the original. This one tasted just like Panera Bread's broccoli soup {just with a little cauliflower thrown in}.  The only thing I will do differently next time {and there WILL be a next time} is make a double batch.

Yields 4 servings.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Changes to Facebook Business Pages and Ways to Connect with Joyously Domestic

I am saddened by the recent changes being made on Facebook and how it is affecting Joyously Domestic (and many other small business pages).  I have been blogging for a year and a half.  I've worked hard to build up a "fan base" on Facebook.  During the summer and early fall of this year, I was thrilled with a large increase of followers at a rather quick pace.  Thousands of followers were seeing my posts daily in their newsfeeds.  Within the past week or two, however, the growth has come to a sudden stand-still and my audience reach is almost non-existent.

I am close to 5,000 followers at this point on Facebook.  As a FB page owner, I am offered the ability to see my page statistics.  When I post something on JD's page these days, only 100 - 200 of my followers are even seeing the post in their newsfeeds.  It is so incredibly frustrating and disheartening.  Just last week, over 4,000 people were interacting with my page.  This week, that number has dropped to around 400!

Facebook is now coming out publicly and admitting that they are restricting business pages from reaching their fan base unless page owners start paying to advertise and promote their posts.  (Check out this article HERE.)  I simply cannot afford the prices they want to charge and refuse to sacrifice income from my family to pay Facebook.  It's my opinion that if someone chooses to follow Joyously Domestic's Facebook page and any other page, it means that they want to see content from that page in their newsfeed.  When I follow a page it is because I like what I've seen on their page and want to continue to be notified in my newsfeed when they offer up new content.  Instead, so many of us are seeing all of these "Sponsored (a.k.a. paid) Posts" in our feeds - posts that are for pages that we have never chosen to follow.

Many posts have been flying around FB regarding "solutions" to the issue of not seeing posts in your newsfeed.  We are encouraged to "like" posts and comment more.  We are encouraged to click the "share" button more.  We are encouraged to start an "interest list" on FB and include the pages we want to see daily.  From what I can tell and from my own experience, not even doing these things will help much. (Please know, though, that I do love, love, love when you "like," share and comment!)

The bottom line is that unless a page owner is willing to pay big bucks to advertise and promote their page and posts, you most-likely won't see a lot or any of their posts in your feed from this point forward.

So, even though I will continue to post on Facebook and update my page daily, I wanted to remind you all that there are several other ways for you to stay connected to Joyously Domestic and for you to be notified when new posts are up on the blog. 

First, if you are on Facebook often and want to continue to be updated about new blog posts and info, stop by my actual page every now and then.  You'll be able to see everything I have been posting that way.

Here are some other ways to receive updates on new recipes and posts:

  • Follow along with Joyously Domestic on Pinterest.
  • Become a follower on Google+ (it's under my name, Angela Steveson).
  • Sign up to receive email updates right in your own inbox.  (You can find the sign-up box in the sidebar to the right here on the blog.)
  • Become a follower on Twitter.

I, also, am looking into starting a weekly newsletter that you can sign up for (free, of course).  But, for now, I just wanted to tell you that I am missing you and hope that some of these options will work for you so that we can continue to stay connected.

~ Angela

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Puppy Chow

A true family favorite.  This was one of the treats I looked forward to at the holidays during my childhood.  The combination of peanut butter and chocolate simply cannot be beat.  And, that powdered sugared coating ... it's what life is all about.  (Okay, well maybe not what it's all about.  Love, happiness, health and family kind of rank up there, too, but you get the point.)

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A $100 Gift Card Giveway from Private Selection™

UPDATE 12/30/13:  The giveaway contest is closed.  However, you can visit the recipe for the Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls HERE and the recipe for the Oven-Baked Fries with Roasted Garlic & Herb Butter HERE. 
If you are familiar with the Kroger family of stores, you are probably familiar with their line of Private Selection™ products.  I was recently provided the opportunity to develop a couple of recipes using their finishing butters.  They offer six flavors:  Cinnamon Brown Sugar, Honey, Caramel Sea Salt, Roasted Garlic & Herbs, Lemon, Garlic & Herb and Lemon Pepper.
It has been so fun creating and testing some recipes using these products.  Although I did come up with a couple of delicious recipes in which to use their finishing butters, the savory butters can simply be used be on pasta, melted over any meat/fish or used atop grilled veggies.  The sweet butters are amazing spread on fresh baked goods or used to top French toast.  
I'd love for you to check out the two recipes I developed using two of the Private Selection™ Finishing Butters.  I used one of the savory butters in my Oven-Baked Fries with Garlic & Herb Butter and one of the sweet butters in my Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls.

Oven-Baked Fries with Roasted Garlic & Herb Butter

When I was first approached about creating some recipes using the line of Private Selection™ Finishing Butters, I immediately thought of my oven fries.  They have always been a top favorite in our household and I had a strong feeling that the Roasted Garlic & Herbs Finishing Butter would be magnificent with these fries. 
There are six flavors - three sweet and three savory - in the Private Selection™ Finishing Butters line. 



These fries have the perfect combination of crisp exterior and fluffy interior.  People who try them are amazed at just how fabulous they are without any frying.  The trick is in the technique that I use to bake them.  (Covering the baking pan tightly with foil during the beginning stage of baking is the key!)  Once you start making fries this way, I doubt that you'll ever switch back to any other way.

The Private Selection™ Roasted Garlic & Herbs Finishing Butter worked so incredibly well with this recipe.  I loved the ease of using the finishing butter.  All of the flavor components were all right in the butter, so not much else was needed in terms of ingredients to take basic baked fries from mundane to magical!

Click HERE for digital coupons (loadable to your Kroger family of stores shopper's card) for savings on these and other Private Selection™ products. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

These Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls come together pretty quickly and easily using two time-saver products from the grocery store.  I utilize frozen bread dough for this recipe along with one of the sweet finishing butter from Private Selection™.   This is such a simple recipe.  I added in some dried cranberries and dried cherries, but you could omit if you'd like.

If you are familiar with the Kroger family of stores, you are probably familiar with their line of Private Selection™ products.  Since I buy many of the Private Selection™ products on a regular basis, I was excited to learn about their new line of finishing butters.  They offer six flavors:
Cinnamon Brown Sugar
Caramel Sea Salt
Roasted Garlic & Herbs
Lemon, Garlic & Herb
Lemon Pepper
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Private Selection™ line of finishing butters.  It has been so fun creating and testing some recipes using their products.  Although I did come up with a couple of delicious recipes in which to use their finishing butters, the savory butters can simply be used be on pasta, melted over any meat/fish or used atop grilled veggies.  The sweet butters are amazing spread on fresh baked goods or used to top French toast.
Visit the Private Selection website to load valuable digital coupons (including one for any of the Private Selection™ Finishing Butters) onto your Kroger family of stores shopper's card.  (See list of stores included at the bottom of this post.)
For this recipe, I used their Cinnamon Brown Sugar Finishing Butter in both the filling of the rolls and in the icing.  It worked like a charm!  I had never made cinnamon rolls with cream cheese before.  The combination of the tanginess from the cream cheese combined with the sweet, cinnamon-y finishing butter was perfect! 


Yields 8 rolls.

Ultimate Layered Banana Cake (Freeze-Ahead Style)

The wonderful thing about this cake is that it is meant to be baked in advance and frozen until a day or two before you plan to serve it.  It is perfect to have on hand in the freezer because all you need to do prior to serving is to let it thaw a bit, then frost it.  You really do not want to skip the freezing step in this recipe.  Freezing the cake is what gives it its moistness and doing so is part of the recipe instructions.  You'll want to plan to have it in the freezer for, at least, a couple of days prior to thawing and frosting it, but the cake can be frozen for up to three months.

Yields 10 - 12 servings.