Monday, January 16, 2017

A simple little project

I'm finally getting around to show pictures of a simple ornament I put together in December.

Back in November I took part in a cookie swap at a local library.  One of the librarians had all of the makings available for a simple craft -- an ornament made with a canning jar lid.  She had the lids, plus ribbon and trims, and Christmas cards, fabric, etc.  My granddaughter Julia and I each made an ornament.  When I left the library that evening, I had the basic ornament to take home with me.  I used the inner part of the lid to trace a circle on part of a Christmas card -- I chose one with a lighted house on it.  Then I ran a loop of red ribbon between the two parts of the lid to use as a hanger, and hot-glued the circle in place.  The pretty gold and white trim made an attractive edge as I hot-glued that around the inner part of the rim.

I didn't hang the ornament right away because I kept thinking it needed a little something more.  I think it was after Christmas when I finally found time to finish it.  I took some yellow glitter glue and brushed it over the lighted windows in the scene with a toothpick, and let that dry.  Later, I gently brushed Mod Podge over the entire scene, and sprinkled it with fine glitter.  Once that was dry, I hot-glued a small sprig of red berries and green leaves to the top inner edge.

I was pleased with how it came out, although the back of the ornament is not so pretty -- festooned with strings of hot glue.  People were waiting in line for the glue gun at the library and so I had to hurry.  If I make more of these, I will make every effort to be more careful with the hot glue. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oh what fun!

... it is to ride in a car with a tree on top!  🌲

I've shared before how I love the look of vehicles with Christmas trees on top.  My daughter Carrie knows me well!  She gave me a glittery gift bag with a scene similar to this on it, though not exactly the same:
image from Pinterest
In the bag were the adorable Christmas cards which you see at the top of the post, plus several other fun items she had found.

Sorry for the blurry picture; but this is a sweet tray.
The blurry photo doesn't show the details well, but I love the red and black checked border!
Just the cutest!
She found the plate above at Walmart and bought two of them for me.  Simply the cutest!  Notice all of the detail on this plate, with the background, snowflakes, and so on.  Love it!

Hope you've had fun viewing some of my favorite gifts ever!

Monday, January 02, 2017

Coconut Gingeroons

I've had this recipe a long time and can't even remember where I got it.  The cookies are the molasses ones with the red and green sugar on the racks above.  I copied the recipe from a magazine or cookbook onto a blank card without noting the source. 

I don't make these every year, but I always need to make some sort of spice cookie for my assortments.  Sometimes I make Pepparkakor, sometimes Gingersnaps, but this year I decided to make the Coconut Gingeroons.  They are very good, and a little bit different, but they never taste quite as good as they sound, given the delicious ingredients.  I keep hoping that one year they will magically be wonderful.

I'm thinking that if I followed the directions as far as the size of the cookies (I always make them smaller) and the directions for baking them on foil and dipping the tops in water, that might do the trick.  I've never followed the directions exactly -- and that does tend to be important!

Here's the recipe:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. soda
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups shredded coconut
Water for dipping
Sugar for dipping

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Beat butter till creamy with an electric mixer.  Beat in brown sugar, then egg and molasses, until fluffy.  Stir in the flour mixture until smooth, then stir in the coconut.  Chill dough for several hours.

Roll dough by level tablespoonfuls to form balls. Quickly dip tops into water, then in sugar.  Place on foil-covered cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly.

Bake 15 minutes at 375º or until lightly browned.  Cool on racks.  Makes 3 1/2 dozen.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The actual Christmas baking list for 2016

Last year's list
Every year I post a tentative baking list of cookies, candy, snacks, etc. that I plan to give as kitchen gifts.  And it seems as if every year, that list gets tweaked in a major way.  You can find my tentative 2016 list in an October post.  Meanwhile, here's what actually got baked or otherwise prepared in my Christmas kitchen this season!  I've included links just in case anyone is still interested in baking.

Whipped Shortbread Cookies
Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

Eggnog Log Cookies
Photo by Taste of Home
Chocolate Spritz
Chocolate Mint Crisps
Coconut Gingeroons (I'll share this recipe soon)
Chocolate Mint Crisps (photo by Taste of Home)
Sacher Torte Cookies
Sacher Torte Cookies
Date-Nut Casserole Cookies
 Then there was candy, as well:
Cookies 'n' Cream Fudge
Marbled Peanut Butter Fudge (an experiment that didn't really succeed.  I'll blog about it eventually)
Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices
Heavenly Delight
Coffee Shop Fudge
Coffee Shop Fudge -- photo from Taste of Home
 Arlene’s Easy Fudge

And several more kitchen gifts:
Hot Chocolate Mix
 Bran Muffins
Little Apricot Cakes (recipe shared a few days ago)
White Chocolate Snack Mix
 Cinnamon Pretzels.

And that was it for this year's baking output!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Final baking report for Christmas 2016

Some of our kitchen gifts ready to go.
I'll share the actual 2016 baking list (as opposed to the tentative list) tomorrow, but for now I will just share about the baking for Christmas 2016, which I finished up on Christmas Eve day.

I don't have a lot of counter space (and I often need it for other things I'm doing in the kitchen) but I do have a large table, so that is often my cooling and decorating surface for cookies.  I lay down sheets of newspaper topped with waxed paper to protect my table/tablecloth/place mats, then place wire racks atop that.
The eggnog logs had been baked previously, but now I frosted and garnished them.
 The eggnog logs were frosted and then a fork run through the icing to resemble tree bark.  Then they are sprinkled with nutmeg.

Below you see the little apricot cakes (mentioned in an earlier post) all wrapped up.  I used regular and green foil to package the ones you see here, plus a festive tie of ribbon, metallic trim, or bakers twine in red/green. 
 The cookies below and above are jam-filled shortbread thumbprints.  Raspberry jam is what's called for (I use the all-fruit type), but I ran out and used apricot in some.  These are waiting to have the icing added.
 Below you see part of a batch of chocolate spritz to the right.  We were about to run out so I had to bake some more!
 And below are the shortbread thumbprints with the glaze added.  I got it a bit too thin so it soaked in more than I like.   Still pretty, though ... and absolutely delicious!

So there you have it.  There is still one item I have not done -- the chocolate-dipped orange slices -- but I will still make those because people at church love them and they go well on the cookie and fudge trays I'll bring for Sunday potluck lunches for as long as the frozen goodies hold out.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some time with my Christmas notebooks

 In the last few days, I've spent an hour or so working in my Christmas notebook.  (If you'd like to know more about this notebook and how I use it, click on "Christmas notebook" in the word cloud of labels in the sidebar for more posts about it.)  The notebook above is not my full-fledged Christmas notebook, but I've done some work in it too.  I bought this little Mary Engelbreit planner for $1 at a dollar store in Nevada!  It's handy for jotting short notes about our holiday each year, and there are several more years' worth of pages in there. 

I've shared some of my planning with you before, but here's what I've been doing recently.

I took a fresh sheet of Christmas-themed computer paper (always on sale after Christmas) and listed down everything that we gave for Christmas gifts.  Of course, I had already made a list, but some things changed with the actual gift-giving:   I couldn't locate a source for a particular gift, I changed my mind, etc. etc.  I started the list in January 2016 and by the time Christmas came around, my list had been scribbled on, crossed out, and so on.  So that there will be no confusion next year and I don't give someone a duplicate book or whatever, I make a nice, neat list.

Sorry for the poor quality -- this is one of my copied-over lists.
 Then I tuck it in the "Christmas Past" section at the back of my notebook.

Then I take a fresh piece of lined notebook paper and start a new list for the coming Christmas.  Some things are going to stay the same, pretty much.  For instance, we always give my mother-in-law homemade bran muffins,  a jar of homemade hot chocolate mix, and a bag or box of clementines.  So that is already on 2017's Christmas list next to her name.  (We used to give her bran muffin batter so she could bake them as needed, but now she prefers to receive the baked muffins.)  I made my dad a photo calendar this year and will plan to do the same in 2017.

Some gifts, like a science center membership for one family, a gift card for another, etc.  will be the same again next year, so I make sure to write those down.

I have already ordered a couple of items for next Christmas, so I've made note of that on my catalog/internet order form.

Another thing I like to do is to look over my crafting time lines and add in new projects I want to start and note whether I need to buy materials for them.  This year, I'm tentatively planning to make handcrafted gifts only for birthdays as I did in 2016.  It worked out quite well.

I also took a fresh sheet of notebook paper and started listing ideas for 2017 birthdays.  I just jot down each person's birthday and their name, and I do this in order of where the months fall in the year.  We don't have any birthdays (other than my own) until March, so I start there.  I already have a few birthday ideas, having seen how certain Christmas gifts were received. 

I also like to note any new recipes we tried and how we liked them.  And I make a note of any new decorations we added, where we put them, and where I will be storing them.  This making note of where Christmas items are stored is something I need to get more specific on in the coming year.

I actually have several Christmas notebooks: this big one, with its wealth of planning forms, gift ideas, and so on;

  a smaller one which contains memories and family recipes; and then a smaller one still, which is pictured at the top of this post. 

It's a great feeling to start with 2017's Christmas planning -- before 2016 has even ended!  Why not brew yourself a cup of holiday tea and get started?  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Little apricot fruitcakes

It had been awhile since I made these little cakes for Christmas kitchen gifts, but this year seemed like the opportune time when I found a good buy on apricots at a local discount store.  At the same store, I found something I used to have -- food-safe holiday tissue paper and colored foil -- but that I have not seen in years, not even on the internet, and I've looked!  Finding those lovely wraps -- there was also a white tissue with blue snowflakes -- just confirmed to me that I should make the apricot cakes again.  In the above photo you see my cakes all wrapped up ready to give.  Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup water 

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder  

1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar

3 eggs 
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins (either dark, golden, or a combination of both)
1 cup chopped dates
Grated rind of 1 orange

1/2 cup chopped walnuts   

1/2 cup slivered almonds

A day ahead, combine the water and 1/2 c. sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, pour over apricot pieces; stir and let stand, covered, in a cool place overnight. (I put them in the fridge.)

Next day, sift dry ingredients together onto wax paper, then return them to sifter and sift again. With electric beater, cream butter and 1 c. sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each; beat in vanilla. Toss raisins, dates, orange rind and nuts with 2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture. Fold the flour, the fruits/nuts, and the apricots (lifted from their syrup with a slotted spoon) into the creamed mixture just until well distributed. 

Heat oven to 350º. Turn batter into a well greased and floured tube or Bundt pan, or use smaller pans. I use about 9-10 small loaf pans. Bake tube or Bundt pan about 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and beginning to pull away from sides of pan. (Obviously, bake smaller pans for a shorter time.  My small loaves take 35 to 40 minutes.) 
If using large pan, let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to finish 
cooling. For the small pans, let them cool 5 minutes or so before turning out on rack to finish cooling, as the cakes above are doing.  Those are Eggnog Logs in the background.

This wonderful recipe is from Cook & Tell December 1988.   I love to make this in little loaf pans to include in gift baskets for friends and neighbors.

If you enjoy apricots or a really tasty fruitcake (which most are not!),  I hope you'll give this recipe a try.  The little cakes are festive, but they would make nice kitchen gifts any time of year, not just at Christmas.