A Valentine's Treat - Red Velvet Cupcake in a jar

Valentine's day is around the corner and if you have kids, you'll probably be making some kind of gifts for classmates, friends, and teachers. Perhaps you're lucky and only have to make a few. We're not quite so lucky. However much you have to make, here's one idea that is sure to be very, very well received. Red Velvet Cupcake... in... a... jar! Boom.

Here's the bonus... they're easy to make. First, pick up some of these 8oz. mason jars. They're sold in grocery and hardware stores.

To decorate the jars, simply cut out some circles to cover the top lid and some hearts to put in the center. You can stretch your creative legs on this, of course, and do whatever you like. After you decorate the lid, glue the lid together (they come in two pieces).

Viola! Super cute custom jar lids. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Ok, now here's the second easy part. Take a shortcut and buy a great cupcake mix. I bought the Barefoot Contessa's brand. Its good, and its close to as good as homemade from scratch. But if you are feeling ambitious and want to make it from scratch, try this recipe - it's awesome!

Once the cupcakes are done you'll need to trim the sides to fit them in the jar.

Follow the directions for the cream cheese frosting. I added a little whipped cream to make it a little mushier. Then I put everything in a ziplock bag, cut one of the corners and used it to pipe out the frosting. Do a little layer at the bottom, then put the cupcake in, then pipe some more frosting on the top. You can even more love by sprinkling in some valentines heart sprinkles (also available at the grocery store).

You can make little custom tags...

...and tie them around the jars to finish them off! Wouldn't you love to get one of these?

Our tasters enjoyed them!

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Sweet Tooth Friday - Rugelach!

I am by no means an expert baker, but I love to bake pastries almost as much as I love designing LI+J products. Here's a favorite recipe that I'm dusting off for an end of week fresh baked treat. They're easy to make and you're sure to love them. The only problem I've found is that they tend to disappear right after I make them - of course, the solution is also easy; just make a lot more of them! Enjoy!

Here's how to get started:

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix butter with cream cheese until creamy. Then add sugar, vanilla and flour. The dough may be a little lumpy at first, but if you mix it by hand a little bit, it will start to form into a ball.

Shape the dough into 4-5 balls roughly about the size of tennis balls and cover each with plastic wrap. Then put them in the refrigerator for about 2 hours (until they're firm).

On a pastry mat, cover the dough with the plastic and flatten it with a rolling pin until its about 1/8 inch thick. Be careful not to get the edges too thin!

Use your favorite fruit preserves for your filling. This part matters a lot. I use Bonne Maman. Spread a thin layer of the preserves on the flattened dough.

Then top it with a mix fruit, sugar, and walnuts. In this case, I put figs with the apricot preserves and raisins with the strawberry preserves.

Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 12 slices starting with 4 quarters and cutting each quarter into 3 slices.

Next, roll each slice from the outer edge inwards like a croissant and place each piece on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper with the tip on the bottom.

Brush the top of each with milk and sprinkle with a sugar and cinnamon mix.

Bake them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until the rugelach turns light brown.

That's it! Have them with coffee or cappuccino (or tea) and enjoy!

Here's what you need:
pastry mat
rolling pin
pizza cutter

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
2 sticks (1 cup butter)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour

apricot and/or strawberry preserves
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped calimyrna figs
1/2 cup mixed raisins

* For the filling, mix together the sugars, cinnamon, and walnuts. Divide evenly into two separate containers and add the figs to one and the raisins to the other.

2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup milk

* For the topping, mix the sugars and cinnamon together.

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