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Archive for December, 2009

Dec 30 2009

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Easy Dips for Holiday Parties

Ranch Salsa DipThe holidays are here. Amid the hustle and bustle of the season, we are often asked to bring a dish, snack or appetizer to a holiday gathering. These recipes are simple to make and tasty to eat. Try one of these the next time you’re asked to bring something to a gathering.



Ranch Salsa Dip



1 16 oz carton of sour cream

¾  cup thick and chunky salsa

1 packet of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dip Mix

1 bag of nacho chips


1.    Mix sour cream, salsa and ranch dip mix in a medium bowl.

2.    Chill or serve immediately with nacho chips.






1 15 oz can chickpeas drained and rinsed

1 cup roasted red peppers drained and rinsed

½ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Crackers, veggies or pita chips


1.    Add chickpeas to food processor and puree.

2.    Add roasted red peppers and remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth.

3.    Refrigerate.

4.    Serve with crackers, veggies or pita chips

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Dec 22 2009

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Monkey Bread for Breakfast: A Favorite Children’s Recipe

Monkey BreadWhile the kids are off school for the holidays, serve this breakfast favorite. Everyone at The Garage Plan Shop has been enjoying this tasty breakfast treat for years.


Monkey Bread Recipe



½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 (7.5 oz) cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

¾ cup butter or margarine, melted


1.    Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube pan. Mix sugar and cinnamon in a plastic food-storage bag.

2.    Separate dough into 30 biscuits and cut each one into quarters. Shake in bag to coat and arrange in pan.

3.    Mix brown sugar and melted butter and pour over biscuits.

4.    Bake 28-32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in the center.

5.    Cool in pan 10 minutes.

6.    Turn upside down onto serving plate. Pull apart to serve. Serve warm.


Makes approximately 12 servings.


Visit our blog next week for more holiday recipes.

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Dec 15 2009

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Chocolate Lovers Easy Holiday Cookie Recipes

Pretzel TurtlesEveryone enjoys holiday treats. Here are a couple of The Garage Plan Shop’s favorite chocolate treats. They are quick and easy to make.



Pretzel Turtles


Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 4-5 minutes



20 mini pretzels

20 Rolo candies (unwrapped)

20 pecan halves


1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.    Arrange pretzels in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

3.    Place 1 rolo on top of each pretzel.

4.    Bake for 4-5 minutes or until rolo candies begin to melt.

5.    Remove from oven. While candy is still warm press 1 pecan half into each candy.

6.    Cool and serve at room temperature. Store in an airtight container.





Prep time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 8-9 minutes



1 stick real butter

12 oz. Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 14 oz. can Borden sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 ½ cups chopped walnuts

1 cup flour


1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.    Melt butter and chocolate chips in sauce pan over low heat stirring until silky smooth.

3.    Stir in milk and vanilla.

4.    Remove from heat.

5.    Stir in flour and walnuts. Mix well.

6.    Spoon onto foil-lined cookie sheet.

7.    Bake 8-9 minutes. (Cookies will not look done. Take out before edges look crispy.)

8.    Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing.

9.    Store at room temperature in airtight container. Cookies will be soft and chewy.



Be sure to check back next week for a few more of our favorite holiday recipes.

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Dec 09 2009

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Tis the Season to Celebrate the Holidays the Earth-Friendly Way

CandlesIt is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays. But, slow down for a minute. Have you ever noticed how wasteful we are around the holidays? Recently, it was reported Americans will create an extra 25 million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. THIS holiday season can be different. Now is the time for YOU to start a new tradition, celebrating the holidays with amazing earth-friendly flair.


Avoid Over-Gifting – Many people don’t think of gifts as garbage, but the packaging it comes in is instant trash. Give one or two good gifts, being sure to recycle the packaging when possible. And with the money you save by cutting out extra gifts, you’ll be able to donate to charities that help those less fortunate.


Give Homemade Gifts – Sometimes the best gifts are homemade. They often hold sentimental value or reflect on a special memory. And better yet, they don’t come with all that fancy packaging that will end up in the trash as mentioned above.


Reduce Greeting Cards – More than 2.6 billing holiday cards are sold each year and most of them end up in the trash. Trim you card list by just a few people. Send an e-card instead saving postage and reducing waste. If you send traditional cards, buy cards made of recycled paper. Recycle the cards you receive. Cut them up and use them for gift tags next year.


Buy Organic – If you prefer to have a real Christmas tree, check with tree farms before you buy. A local tree farmer might not consider himself and organic grower, but ask if he sprays his trees with chemicals. It is healthier for you and the environment if your tree hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. 


Dial Down the Amps – Holiday light displays left on 24 hours a day can potentially quadruple your energy bill. Use a timer for your light displays rather than leaving them on all night. Replace old strands of lights with LED lights. They use about 90% less energy than standard mini-lights and LED light bulbs have a long life. Or, you might consider cutting back or trimming your light display a little bit.


Light Up with Candles – The holiday season is the perfect time to illuminate your home with candles. Often it only takes one candle to brighten a bathroom or a centerpiece of short and tall candles to light the dining room. Not only is using candles an easy way to decorate for the holidays, but in many cases, it is a good way to eliminate some or all overhead lighting in a room resulting in energy savings. Furthermore, candle heat paired with your own body heat will warm up a room nicely over the course of an evening allowing you to lower the thermostat a few degrees. The result – a reduced energy bill. Remember to use caution around burning candles.


Ship Light – When shipping gifts, think light weight and small. Fewer and smaller packages take up less room on a mail or delivery truck, using less gas and wasting less petroleum.


Reinvent Gift Wrap – With tons of wrapping paper ending up in the garbage each holiday season, it is time to get creative and contact Bulky Waste for assistance with waste disposal. Anything that covers and conceals your gift is an acceptable choice for gift wrap. Think outside the box. Try T-shirts, a colorful throw blanket, a decorative pillow case, or a furry scarf. Better yet, reuse gift bags from gifts you’ve received or have the kids paint and decorate used paper grocery bags and tuck your gifts inside. As for the gifts you receive. Open them carefully saving the paper for next year’s wrapping.


Prepare Just Enough – Tons of food are wasted every holiday season due to special dinner parties and holiday get-togethers. If you are hosting a holiday gathering, don’t overdo it. Keep your menu simple. There is no need to have numerous choices of salad or dessert. Prepare only your favorites ensuring you there will be minimal leftovers. And if you don’t plan to eat the leftovers, send a to-go bag home with your guests.


Recycle – Recycle everything you can. Gifts come with lots of wrapping and packaging. As you open gifts, recycle what you can, plastic, paper, cardboard, etc. But don’t stop there. Recycle your tree. Some local governments recycle trees into mulch while others use them for animal habitats in parks and lakes. However you choose to recycle your tree, make sure you do it responsibly. Remove all ornaments, hooks, tinsel and light strands. Artificial trees can be recycled too. If you’re tired of your artificial tree, donate it to a church, community center, shelter or another place that decorates for the holidays.


It is fun and exciting to be part of the holiday festivities, just remember the holidays are waste makers. That is why it is important that you start changing the holidays for the better. These environmentally-friendly holiday tips will get you started.

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Dec 02 2009

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Tips: Decorating your New Garage with Christmas Lights

Christmas LightsPeople everywhere are starting to get into the holiday spirit. One of the most common ways is by decorating with Christmas lights. An exterior display of Christmas lights can range from a simple strand of white lights framing the garage door to an elaborate display of multi-color lights outlining the entire detached garage and surrounding landscaping. No matter how you plan to decorate the outside of your new garage with holiday lights, these tips will help you hang them with less hassle.


1.    You will need extension ladders, holiday lights, extension cords, measuring tapes, light clips or hooks, and a hammer. An assistant will come in handy, too.

2.    Start by sketching the outside of your garage and determine what you want to decorate – the gables and eaves, the garage and entry doors, windows, landscaping, etc. Indicate locations of available outlets on your sketch. Measure the width and depth of the garage. Have your assistant record the measurements. Measure the height of bushes and trees you plan to decorate.

3.    Determine how many lights you will need for the project. Most lights come in lengths of 25-200 lights. Decide on a color scheme for your lights and whether you prefer, blinking, chasing lights or solid lights. Simple Lighting explained that considering these factors thoughtfully ensures your project will have wonderful lighting and the perfect atmosphere.

4.    Purchase and test lights. Most department stores and home centers carry holiday lights. Buy those rated for outdoor use. They are more weather resistant and usually larger and bolder making them stand out against your garage and landscaping. Test each strand of holiday lights before you hang them. You don’t want to hang all of them only to find some don’t work when you flip the switch.

5.    Hang the lights according to your plan. Securely position light clips or hooks at regular intervals under the eaves of your garage so the lights do not sag. Hang them one strand at a time making sure the strands are tightly connected to one another. You may want to wrap/seal them with electrical tape to help keep rain and snow out. This step will require help from your assistant – holding the ladder, holding strings of lights, etc. If it’s too much of a hassle for you to do but you still want to spark the holiday spirit, fret not because there are professionals who offer services like christmas light installation.

6.    Light the landscaping. Wrap tree trunks and branches with lights. Wind or zigzag lights through each bush. Wrap lights around hardscape features such as gates, trellises and arbors.

7.    Tape down any extension cords so residents and guest do not trip over them.


Other Safety Tips


1.    Hang lights on a dry day when it is light outside. It reduces the chance of electrical shock and slipping on the ladder.

2.    Make sure your lights rated for exterior use. Interior lights are night designed to withstand the elements such as snow and rain.

3.    Check wires for damage to insulation. Throw away any that are damaged. It is not worth risking a house fire just because you tried to save a couple bucks on cheaply manufactured lights. 

4.    Use plastic light clips or hooks. They are safer for the wires than a staple gun or nails, and  they are easier to remove.

5.    Use multiple outlets to reduce the load on a single outlet.


Think Green


1.    Considering buying LED lights. They consume 80-90% less energy than traditional incandescent lights and some can last up to 20,000 hours. Also, LEDs are cool to the touch.

2.    Use a timer for your holiday lights. This way you won’t forget to turn them off before bed, and you will save energy by not keeping them lit all night.


With these helpful tips, you are on your way to decorating your garage with Christmas lights safely, spreading holiday cheer and doing your part for the environment.

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