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!