Thursday, April 24, 2014

Honesty....the BEST policy!

Today, I decided to drive to the nearest Ulta store to return a few items I'd ordered online from their website.  While there, I selected a few other items and got in line to checkout.  The representative that assisted me had to go through several steps to complete my return because I'd purchased the items at a discount.  Then she rang up my alternate items and a couple of coupons I had and then surprised me by saying I would have a credit around $7 going back on my card.  The transaction was completed, I thanked her and walked out the door.

As I made my way to the car, I started doing a little math in my head trying to add up the amount of my purchases I'd made compared to my returns and something wasn't right.....

I pulled out the receipt, did some quick calculations, and realized that the representative had credited me twice for one of the items I me an extra credit of $18.  Of course, being human, I was tempted to just drive off into the sunset and keep the extra $18, chalking it up to the store's error.  However, I knew what the Lord would want me to do so I headed right back into the store.  Of course there were about 4 people in line ahead of me and each one seemed to take forever to get checked out....being honest was sure cutting into my day!

Finally, when I got to the front of the line, the same representative recognized me and asked what she did.  I explained that she'd given me a duplicate credit for an item and technically I owed the store $18.  She was so surprised and grateful that I'd come back to right the wrong.  I told her I didn't want her to get in trouble and it was just the right thing to do.  After fixing the error, I paid the amount due and then she surprised me by pulling out a bunch of goodies to thank me for my honesty....
Not only did I leave the store guilt-free, knowing I'd done the right thing, but I was rewarded with a few amazing goodies as well.

So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, remember honesty really is the BEST policy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cookie Truffle Recipe + Tips and Tricks

A few years ago, I was introduced by a friend to a wonderful treat known as "Cake Balls".  It wasn't too long after that Starbucks began carrying Cake Pops, which were essentially the same treat just served on a stick.  While I enjoyed these treats and felt like they were fairly easy to make, I have a rule about NOT turning on the oven during the summer because it gets unbearably hot here.  That is why I was so ecstatic when I came across this recipe for Cookie Truffles in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  While these look similar to cake balls/pops, they don't require turning on the oven! And, in my opinion (as well as many that have tasted these), these taste better than cake balls/pops.

Through the years of making these for parties and even a few catered events, I've had lots of fun experimenting with various flavor combinations and have learned some tips and tricks along the way to give you "professional-looking" truffles that look like they came from a bakery shop :-)  You can even put them on a stick and make them into "Truffle Pops"!
 The basic recipe from Better Homes and Gardens is as follows:
Cookie Truffles
1-pkg of chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling* (approx. 40 cookies), finely crushed
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 pound white baking chocolate, melted (Almond Bark is what I prefer to use)
*Sharalee's Note:  Use regular sandwich cookies and not the double-stuffed.

In large bowl, combine crushed cookies and cream cheese. Beat with mixer on low speed until well blended. Form 1-inch balls by hand. Dip balls in white chocolate; place on baking sheet covered with waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. To store, cover and refrigerate. 
While the directions are pretty simple and straight forward, I picked up a few tricks along the way that make things a lot easier and help you achieve "professional-looking" truffles :-)

Sharalee's Tips and Tricks:
1. Use a food processor to crush the cookies.  I love using the Pampered Chef Manual Food Processor for this as it's easy to clean and finely crushes the cookies in minutes.  Just be careful not to load in too many cookies at one time.
2. Be sure to use a large enough bowl to mix the cookies and cream cheese in....otherwise, you will have crushed cookies flying all over the counter....yep, done that a few times :-)
3. Once cookies and cream cheese are blended, put the mixture in the freezer for 20-45 minutes. This makes a HUGE difference in the ease of dipping the balls in chocolate.  If the cookie mixture is too warm, the dark cookie bits separate in the warm chocolate and "muddy up" the coating.
4. Only melt about 3/4 of the package of Almond Bark for dipping the balls.  This will give you a couple of squares to use for decorating that won't have any cookie bits in it.
5. Use a 1-inch cookie scoop to form balls.  This will provide consistent sized balls and also helps pack the cookie mixture more densely.
6. Only put one ball in the chocolate at a time and "fish" it out with a small spoon.  Try to slide the ball to the tip of the spoon; then transfer to the wax paper-lined tray/baking sheet and gently pull spoon out from under the truffle, being careful not to tip it over.
7. A great way to cover any imperfections is to add a little decoration.  Heat the remaining chocolate and pour into a small sandwich baggie; snip off the end and drizzle over the top of the truffles.  Before drizzle dries, top with colored sugar, chopped nuts or baking chips.  I like to work about 10 at a time just to be sure the drizzle is wet enough for the toppings to stick.

~Flavor Combinations~
Double Vanilla
*Vanilla sandwich cookies with Vanilla Almond Bark
Lemon Cheesecake
*Lemon Sandwich cookies with Vanilla Almond Bark
Peanut Butter Cup
*Peanut Butter sandwich cookies with Chocolate Almond Bark.  Substitute 2 T. of cream cheese for 2 T. of peanut butter
Mint Fudge
*Mint Oreos with Chocolate Almond Bark
Strawberry Fudge
*Berry Burst Oreos with strawberry cream cheese and Chocolate Almond Bark

The next time you need a delectable treat, try making a batch of and your guests will love them!