Thursday, December 29, 2011

New home decor...

As anyone with a child at Christmas time knows, the old toys are out and the new ones are in, at least until you actually attempt to get rid of the old ones and then a tantrum of epic proportions ensues. 

In our home the old toy regime has been over-thrown and new rulers are in place.  My living room will now become the realm of hot wheels cars and wooden train tracks...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sweet 16th! Ninja-bread men and Coconutties

Hello and happy sweet 16th!  Today is extra sweet because I have two goodies to share with you: Ninja-bread men and Coconutties!   Also sweet, I got off from work early today so I actually have time to write this before the holiday ugly sweater party this evening, (pictures to come later hopefully)  meaning it will still really be the 16th by the time it gets posted :)

Now, lets get on to the good stuff.  I think we'll start with the Ninja-bread men as I did tease you all with the pictures of the cookie cutters.   The cutters came with recipes but I decided to go with a spicier one from a cookbook I have.   This is the book.

Gingerbread people recipe:

1 stick unsalted butter at room temp.
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. honey or light corn syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 c. flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cardamom

glace icing to decorate - this links to Our Best Bites page for the making and the use of glace icing.  It is a  very helpful tutorial.

 For the cookies, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy with a wooden spoon or a whisk.  Then whisk in the honey and the egg.

In a separate bowl mix all of the dry ingredients together.  Then gently fold the flour mix into the butter mix.  Do not overmix or the cookies will not be crispy.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick.

Use cookie cutters to get your shapes and place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  (The parchment is actually kindof important for these. It keeps the cookies from spreading as much and if you don't use it they stick to the pans.)

Here are some pre-baking: (note the lack of parchment...trial and error at work here)

Here are a few that never made it to the battle:

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes then allow to cool slightly on the cookie sheet.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then decorate!!!

If I included a tutorial on making the frosting this would get to be painfully long, so follow the link for glace icing above and I'll just show you some of my fun pictures :)

Here are the outline borders:

You can see here some of the whole ninjas and some of the unfortunate accident ninjas.

And here they are with their base coat of color:

And here they are battling it out:

At first we thought that team red was winning:

But then it became clear that the ultimate threat to the ninjabread man is not the other ninjas, but a hungry toddler...

BTW, these cookies are way better the second or third day, they get softer rather than being really crunchy.  They keep well in an airtight container.

Anyways,  moving on. 

So at work one day a couple of weeks ago I was asked how the coconut syrup was (coffee flavoring) and I responded that it was "coconutty", as any sane person would know.  This then led a friend of mine to ask if I had intentionally made a "Despicable Me" reference.  I hadn't, but then I decided that the coconutties in the movie could indeed be a real and awesome cookie.  So I created them. 

They are a chocolate cookie (cocoa) with almonds (nutty) topped with coconut (coconutty!)

For the basic recipe I adapted a chocolate cookie recipe I've had floating around in my recipe box for years.  I think it came from a chocolate chip package originally.  Here is my version.


1 1/8 c. flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 stick butter at room temp
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c. thin sliced almonds (you could easily sub any other kind of nut you like best)
aprox. 1 c. flaked sweetened coconut

Combine the flour, cocoa, soda and salt.  Then with a mixer, cream the butter, both sugars and the vanilla.  Add the egg.  Gradually beat in the flour mix.  This dough gets really thick and hard to mix.  Stir in the almonds.

Now make a little ball with the dough and press it into the flaked coconut :

Place on a cookie sheet:

And bake a 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until the cookie is set and the coconut is nicely toasted:

Cool on wire racks and enjoy!

So there you have it.  Two delicious cookies for the holidays (or any time of the year in my book)!

Happy Baking and Happy Holidays

edit:  I'm sorry, I've failed once again at picture taking and took 0 pics at the holiday sweater party.  whoops.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DIY Holiday Stockings

Hello!   Today I'd like to share with you all the happiness I am feeling for finally completing my family's Christmas Stockings.
I have been meaning to make us some stocking for the last couple years and just wasn't inspired and/or couldn't find the time.

This year though I finally found an idea I loved (thanks Martha Stewart magazine) and it was destined to be a 'do it yourself' project. 

Best of all, this project cost almost nothing!  I paid about $5 for 3 thrift store sweaters and the rest of the supplies I already had. 

Here's what you need per stocking:

1 adult size sweater (preferably with a pattern or cable knit design)
lining fabric
stocking shape pattern
sewing machine or a serger
ribbon (optional)

The first step is to wash your sweaters.  I washed and dried mine hoping they would felt up a little which of course they didn't because they're not wool.  Oh well.  

Next cut a stocking shape out of both sides of your sweater.  I used an old stocking as a template then placed pins in my sweater to hold the two pieces together while I cut them out.  The pins also served as my cutting lines.

As you may notice, this sweater had a lovely turtle-neck collar that I chose to incorporate.

Next cut out lining fabric the same size as your sweater fabric.  Something that is not stretchy will work best for this as you want it to hold your sweater material in the stocking shape.  I tried a few different things (cotton twill, basic weave, and a stretch poplin) and they all worked fine.  You could have a lot of fun with prints for the linings but I kept mine all basic solid colors.

Now you'll need to un-pin the sweater fabric and insert the lining between the two sweater pieces.

I decided to do french seams on my stockings to keep the sweater edges from unraveling but a serged stitch would also work fine.  For french seams, leave the stocking as it is and sew around the edges leaving an opening at the top.  Then trim the seam allowances down quite small.

Turn your stocking inside-out, pin the edges tightly and sew again, making sure to catch the first seam allowance inside your new seam.

Next I basted the lining to the sweater fabric around the opening.  I did this by hand but it could be done by machine at this step or at the beginning.

Now add a hanging loop of fabric or ribbon:

Make sure the loop is attached to the lining fabric and not the sweater.  If it is attached to the sweater fabric it will pull funny and not hang very nicely.

Now you're ready to hang it up!

Here's our whole bunch!  Stockings hung by the chimney with care...

This wasn't too hard of a project,  It took me about 3 hours total including cutting out and ironing. (I am an experienced sewer)   I will say that pinning is very important with the knit fabric as it will try to stretch.

Happy sewing and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Almost holiday cookie time!

Did everyone have a good Thanksgiving holiday?  I sure did.  I managed to forget to take pictures but we had three (yes three) Thanksgiving dinners in as many days and one more still to come.  I of course did some baking, made some orange cranberry muffins, and more to come most likely.  But mainly I'm excited for Christmas cookies. 

See, people tend to give me baking things as gifts quite a bit (which rocks) and this summer I received these:

I have several things from this company and they all make me smile :)

Now the ninja cookies would be awesome on their own no doubt, but I also happen to have these:

So this year there will be an epic ninja Christmas cookie battle at my home.   Results to follow soon. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Winter Wonderland

This morning we woke up to this:

The little man was thrilled and with no school or work today we all got to go out and play. 

We made a snow man:

okay, actually I made a snow man while snow balls were being thrown at me...(fortunately his aim isn't great yet)

And when we came back inside we warmed up with hot cocoa and these cinnamon buns I made the other day.  Yum.

Are you enjoying your Saturday?  Hope so.  

And now to work on some hats : )

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sweet 16th! Turkey Cookies

Hello friends!  This month's sweet 16th is a cookie that is fun for the whole family to help make.  This has been a Thanksgiving time cookie tradition in my family since I was a little girl and now I'm thrilled to be making them with my son.

Here's my would be helper:

he was going to be helpful until he realized he could just eat the ingredients by themselves...

Speaking of which, here's what you need:

candy corn, caramel, chocolate kiss (or chocolate stars, I couldn't find any this year) and a striped cookie.

The first step is to unwrap a handful of caramels and then microwave them for 10-15 seconds until they are soft.

Smush the caramel into a vague turkey body shape and press it onto the chocolate kiss.

Next press the back of the caramel onto the cookie:

Finally, press the candy corn in for the beak. (I recommend laying the cookie down flat for this step)

And voila!  You can build yourself a whole flock of turkeys!

Gobble gobble gobble!

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Little Birds

Earlier this year (months ago in fact) I came across this fantastic idea (as well as the pattern) for a little bird mobile and I had to make one: first because I love birds, and second because I might have a few too many fabric scraps laying around.

I started making the birds over the summer and although the first one turned out rather cute, it was gigantic!  I re-printed the pattern in 1/2 size.  Here is the difference I ended up with:

The big bird is about 6 1/2 inches in length while the little one is only about 4 inches.  Much better.

So I made up a bunch of the little birds:

Next I needed to get some sticks for the birds to sit on in the mobile.  Conveniently there was a well timed wind storm and the tree in my front yard dropped a large branch which I cut up into smaller pieces.

After a last minute run to the hardware store and some rummaging through my craft supplies I had everything necessary to start constructing the mobile.

Next I trimmed my sticks down to size:

And started constructing from the bottom up.  The first (lowest) layer was the hardest mainly because I was still trying to get the hang of the balancing everything.  I used some small pebbles to help counter the weight of the sticks and birds. 

And two hours later, here it is!

I used small eye hooks screwed into the sticks to keep them from spinning down.  For the string I used waxed Irish linen thread for its knot holding abilities.   I stitched my birds onto their perches but I also used a dab of hot glue to keep them from spinning.

Happy crafting!

On an unrelated note, I received a new cookbook in the mail today!  Expect goodies soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cooking challenge re-visited

So remember when I posted this?   Well, I finally got around to doing something with that pumpkin!  I found this recipe on NPR that was for stuffed savory pumpkin and had to try it (or, something like it at least).  So I carved up my pumpkin and got to work. 

Here's my pumpkin all cleaned up:

and ready to be cleaned out.

I got all the stuff together that was going into the pumpkin:

To this I also added spices (in unmeasured amounts salt, pepper, Italian spice and nutmeg), some cream and a bit of mozzarella cheese.  I stirred all of the ingredients in a separate bowl and then packed it into the pumpkin.

Then I put the lid on:

and attempted to put it in the oven.  At this point I discovered that it did not actually fit in my oven and I had to cut off the stem.  Not a big loss really as the stem was rather prickly. 

So I was following the recipe which was for a pumpkin about 4 pounds in weight.  My pumpkin was closer to 8 pounds.  So after about 2 1/2 hours of baking at 350 degrees, the pumpkin was perfectly done but the stuffing inside was not.  It was at this point out of desperation and hunger I removed the stuffing and baked it by itself.  Then I re-stuffed it : )  (cheating I'm sure).  But it sure looked nice:

Yum!  Time to eat at last.

This was all well and good for serving but I couldn't very well stick an entire stuffed pumpkin in the fridge, so I took the stuffing out (once again) and scraped out the flesh of the pumpkin:

At last I had an excuse to use my hand blender in order to blend up the pumpkin:

Now I will have to re-visit this pumpkin cooking challenge again.  I think I ended up with something close to 5-6 cups of pumpkin puree.

Sorry for the picture heavy post with a severe lack of actual baking instructions.  I'll be back soon with an update on those little birds.