I have a special treat for you today. It’s a recipe. Normally I sell this recipe for $1,000 but it’s your lucky day.

OK, I’m just kidding about that, but honestly, it’s worth even more than that because in the world of cakes, this one is worth its weight in gold, which as I update this post is about $1,275 per ounce.

 

Scrumptious 3-layer carrot cake sitting on a glass cake stand with creamy silky frosting and a sprinkling of walnuts

 

You may already be aware of this, but I’ll say it anyway: In this world there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?).


MORE: Dinner-in-a-Box is Not What I Thought!


It’s the kind of carrot cake that would surely be named the Grand Champion in a competition at a fine culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Program if I’d ever had such an opportunity to compete.

This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius! And don’t be surprised when it becomes your signature cake—the one they request for their birthdays. Imagine how beautiful this cake might look on your Easter Buffet this weekend!

As you peruse this recipe, you may be tempted to make a few adjustments. Please do not do that. You’ll think 1 1/2 cups oil is excessive. It’s not. And the pineapple. Seriously? Yes. Do not doubt me.

This is the perfect recipe both in ingredients and proportions, so please follow it exactly. It’s the recipe you’ll be tempted to keep secret and good luck with that! 😉

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Mature woman thinking with hand on chin against white background with Valentine's Day vignette

Valentine’s Day is this week, Thursday! I know, I can’t believe it either.

Bless you, if you are prepared and way ahead of the game. For the rest of us, the way I see it we have six options:

  1. Ignore the day altogether and assume our spouses, kids, grandkids, friends, family, and co-workers, will think we forgot and give us a pass. Not recommended.
  2. Get thee to the card shop and post office to pick up Valentine’s cards and plenty of postage stamps, then get them in the mail, pronto!
  3. Make sweet treats in your kitchen befitting the day—still plenty of time for this one.
  4. Plan a date with your love, even if your wallet is a little thin. Get creative to find reasonable and fun alternatives that require only pocket change—or with any luck, some that are absolutely free. I have a few ideas for you in Great Dates for Couples on a Tight Budget.
  5. Plan a Fun Family Party. Here are 8 Fun Family Games for Valentine’s Day to get you started.
  6. Find the perfect little something for those perfect someones in our lives—there is still plenty of time to do this, too.

Should you be leaning toward option #6, here are 21 great gift ideas sure to please that won’t break the bank.

(You can get delivery on Wednesday, Feb. 13 for any of these gifts by using Amazon Prime, but you need to hurry! Not a Prime member? No problem. Start your 30-free trial today, place your order, get delivery on Wed., then cancel within 30 days—you will not be charged, but yet enjoy all of the Prime benefits including 2-day shipping. It’s legal and ethical; in fact, Amazon encourages us to do this.)

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Friends. Valentine’s Day is next Thursday. This is Friday. Get the picture?

Red-roses-on-Calendar-with-Date February-14-Valentine's-Day

Thankfully, there’s a big beautiful weekend between now and then—plenty of time to make a few of these fabulous homemade treats and sweets!

 

Mini Pies in a Jar

Could there be a better gift for co-workers, neighbors, friends, teachers—and any number of other people—than a single-serving, mini pie in a small jar? I think not!

I have detailed written detailed instructions including recipes here:  The Perfect Small Gift: Pie in a Jar. It really is quite easy and the results are fabulous!

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Here’s my idea of a killer New Year’s Eve, Super Bowl or any other kind of party—one that includes a smorgasbord of dips and things to dip in them.

3-ingredient-dips-anchor-this-beautiful-party-buffet

I’m talking about absolutely delicious hot, cold, savory, spicy, even sweet dips—an amazing variety sure to please all—beautifully arranged so that everyone can easily graze through the evening. All said dips need to be quick and easy to make, too, requiring only 3-ingredients.

Are you with me?

Crab Dip

It’s amazingly yummy, thanks to Mrs. Dash. You will be disappointed if you try to substitute anything else for her extra spicy blend. It has to be this one.

Place all ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Mix well. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Recipe source: Made from Pinterest

RELATED: The 1% New Year’s Solution

Queso Cheese Dip

Tortilla chips-with-queso-cheese-dip-on-wood-old-table

Who doesn’t love smooth queso made with real cheese? Paired with tortilla or corn chips expect this queso to disappear quickly. Thankfully, you can make another batch in oh, about 5 minutes.

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) medium sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

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Here it is, the eve of the day we’ve been focusing on for so many weeks. I know how easy it is to get so caught up—perhaps even lost—in the hustle and pressures of the season with all of the preparations and activities, that we miss what really matters most.

As I write, the house is very quiet. It is nearly daybreak as the sky is turning from dark to barely light. Our family has arrived safely and soon breakfast will be on the table.

house-ready-for-christmas

Gifts are wrapped, stockings are hung, and the finish line is within sight. The grandchildren can hardly wait one more day!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get all of my plans accomplished because as usual, I overplanned. But it’s enough. No regrets. We’re ready.

Now it’s time to relax and enjoy our family as we reflect on why we do this. It’s for the love and joy that brings us hope—the true meaning of this season.

Our hope is that today will in some way bring you closer to those whom you love and cherish most. And may the glorious message of joy fill your heart!

Love and peace,

the-hunts

What must be nearly 40 years ago, while waiting in the grocery store line with my two little boys in tow—I picked up a small holiday recipe book from the folks at Pillsbury Publishing.

What caught our collective attention was the adorable Teddy Bear on the cover—made with bread dough.

That year, and several years to follow, the three of us we made Teddy Bears for family gifts, and what a hit!

teddy-bear-bread

It became a tradition, or so my younger son reminds me—and one of his very best childhood Christmas memories.

A lot has happened over the years, enough so that a few weeks ago when he asked me to continue this tradition with his boys—our two grandchildren—I was nonplussed. Vaguely I recalled the Teddy Bears, but not in such keen detail as Josh.

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Need a last-minute gift for an office party, your trusty mail carrier, a beloved teacher, co-worker or anyone else on your Christmas gift list? Here are nine great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Woman Offering Christmas Gift

Photo explosion box

Imagine a small photo album “box,” made from scrapbooking card stock, which folds out to reveal special photos when the lid is removed. What a perfect gift for parents, grandparents, children—anyone who loves photos. You can make this in just a few hours. In fact, while you’re at it make several. Find a complete tutorial HERE.

Holiday Hash

Combine in a very big bowl:
  • 3 cups Rice Chex
  • 3 cups Corn Chex
  • 3 cups Cheerios
  • 2 cups small pretzels
  • 2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) plain M&Ms
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) peanut M&Ms
Melt 2 bags (12 oz.) white chocolate chips or melting wafers according to the package instructions*. Be careful to not overcook as these chips burn quickly. Pour the melted white chocolate over the mixture and with a strong long-handled wooden spoon toss well to coat.
Spread the hash out on waxed paper and let set until the chocolate hardens.
Store in an airtight container or pour into gift bags. If you get the red and green M&Ms you’ll have a very festive looking result. This makes a lot. You should be able to make 10 to 15 gifts depending on the size of your containers.

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Check the calendar and take a deep breath. We are entering a critical phase of holiday preparation. As shopping winds down and preparations come together, be prepared for something weird to happen.

You may begin to doubt yourself.

Woman-with-gifts-season-of-doubt-and-stess

I only know this because I know myself. It happens every year, so I’ve learned to plan for it.

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