December 19, 2010

More Christmas Baking

Well, I've been kind of sick the last week and therefore lazy. This weekend I ended up having to catch up on all my regular house chores and do my Christmas baking (since I'm having people pver for Boxing Day). The baking turned out so-so. I made chocolate chip cookies, which were fine but nothing really special, and some sugar cookies, again not so special. The sugar cookies ended up being not very pretty or sweet but I'll set them out with a chocolate fondue so they'll be fine. I wanted to make pretty swirled ones like these: Mine are swirled but not as pretty, damn that Martha Stewart and her perfection!

I did however manage to make some good Rugalach, I've only ever made it with these two types of fillings but I know jam is pretty popular as well. This recipe makes 32 cookies.

Rugalach Cookies:
1 cup butter (room temp.)
250g cream cheese (room temp.)
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

Cinnamon Filling:
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Chocolate Filling:
1 cup finely chopped chocolate (dark)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Steps:
1. Cream together butter, cream cheese until smooth, then add the flour and salt.
2. Wrap dough and chill for an hour.
2. Mix together filling ingredients (chocolate or cinnamon) and preheat oven to 350F.
3. Cut the dough into 4 pieces and form into balls.
4. Roll each dough ball into round discs about 8 inches in diameter and cut each disc into 8 triangles.
5. Sprinkle filling at the widest end of the triangle and roll (from wide end) inwards like a croissant.
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6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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December 15, 2010

DIY Glitter House

Well, as you may have read, I really, really want a Cardboard Putz House, but I probably don't have enough time for shipping (plus I've already spent quite a bit this Christmas) or time to attempt to make one myself. Luckily, I was at Michaels (a craft store) looking for my one last gift for a crafty friend when I saw these:

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A little cardboard house and a church ornament. I'm pretty sure that I've seen these before, so they are probably pretty easy to find elsewhere in the world. I snipped off the loops (for hanging) and painted them using acrylic paints:

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One they were dry, I coated small sections (for example the roof, one side, etc.) in all-purpose white glue and sprinkled (a heavy sprinkle) them with clear glitter. This part takes quite awhile since it's best to wait for the glue to dry a bit before doing another section. Make sure to do this part over a bag or newspaper because glitter is messy. The glue will look murky until it completly dries, but it will dry clear so don't worry.

and here is the final product:

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Aren't they cute? The plan is to make a couple each year and eventually I'll end up with a whole town. Next time I'll try making them from scratch.

December 14, 2010

Cardboard Glitter Houses or Putz Houses

I’ve found this hilarious blog that I felt I had to share. It’s called Jen but never Jenn, the author is a Canadian writer from Toronto and on top of being funny, she’s conducted an experiment called “the 50’s housewife experiment”. She tried to be the perfect, idealized 50’s housewife for two weeks (click the title to check it out). It’s pretty inspiring and reminds me of Ruth’s Mid-Century menu post on the No Pattern Required blog. One day, when I have the time I think I may just have to steal this idea for myself, meat and gelatine intrigue me and my house could definitely use a good strong retro cleaning. Recently Jen posted about Cardboard Putz Houses, I had not heard of these before but man, are they cute. I have decided that I need one, NEED. Check these out:

These little cardboard houses have apparently been around for a long time, the tradition starting in German. It gained popularity in the 20s when Japanese companies started producing brightly colours, sparkly variety’s for dirt cheap; they were sold in dime stores. The house had little velum windows and a hole in the back where you could insert a bulb from a string of lights, making the windows light up. These little Putz house are the precursors to the lovely Ceramic Christmas Villages that people have now. The cardboard house remained popular into the forties, when they were slowly replaced with plastic and ceramic houses.

I’ve always liked the ceramic villages so it’s not really a surprise that I like these. I think these would go great with my candy-coloured Christmas stuff and I plan on eventually having my own little town of them. You can find vintage Cardboard Putz houses on eBay and Esty, and there is a site that makes new ones (custom made), this site also has more info on the history if you’re interested.

December 11, 2010

Cookies, Holiday Baking Part I

Well, it's my birthday weekend and I'm too busy to really celebrate. I have a weekend course and my husband has a final exam today (Saturday) in French that he has been really stressing about. He's tried his best, he made dinner and bought me a knife set (??????), so I made him some cookies. Ok, maybe they were for me too. I've been in a baking mood lately, maybe it's because we're getting close to Christmas or maybe it's the horrible, horrible cold snowy weather. I ended up making chocolate thumbprint cookies, they were very yummy and I am now planning on making some for Christmas (yes, we ate the whole batch :( ). The recipe called for kraft caramels (which I didn't have) so I used what I though were butterscotch filled chocolate cups, they turned out to be mini-cups. I think this recipe would have been great the original way or with Rolos. It makes about 2 dozen cookies.

See how tiny these cups were? They didn't even fill the thumbprint!:

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Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
24 candies (rolos, caramels or chocolate cups)
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans

Steps:
1. Seperate your egg (reserve the white for later). In a bowl cream (combine) the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolk, vanilla and milk.
2. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt, mix well. *
3. Refrigerate for 2 hrs or so until dough has cooled and it easy to roll.
4. Pre-heat overn to 350 F. Shape the dough into balls and roll in egg white, then pecans to coat.
5. Place the cookie on the sheet and use your thumb to make an indent in the centre (this is the thumbprint part). Place a candy in each "thumbprint."

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Here are my deformed cookies pre-baked.

6. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookie are firm.

*recipes normally have you mix the dry ingredients seperatly, then mix with the wet ones but I'm pretty lazy about this and just add them all in at once. I've yet to have a problem, but I would say do it whichever way you prefer.

Stay tuned for more Christmas baking in the weeks to come...

December 6, 2010

Table Runner Complete!!

I now have three of my christmas projects completed! I'm only half done my list but I'm feeling pretty confident. I ended up making a very simple table runner, I figured the fabric is very busy and my tree skirt it very busy so the rnner should be a bit more simple. Its a basic rectangular shaped runner, one side has no real decoration and the other has two mittens appliqued on. I just used a top stitch to attach the mittens; I figured it would look cute if the fabric ravelled a bit on the edges, the best of mittens are always a bit fuzzy anyway. I stitch the two rectangles together with some quilting batting in the middle to give the runner a bit of substance.
I also quilted the runner in a series of "curly q's."

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Overall, this was also a really easy project but like how it turned out. I really love the fabric though, it's Michael Miller, and just oh so fun. Look at it:

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You can see what I mean by curly q's in that picture as well, I guess swirls would be a good descriptor as well. This thing may need a good ironing...

Here's the finished project:
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December 5, 2010

Three Bean Salad

We went for dinner at a friends place last night and I offered to bring something. She suggested a side, but she didn't know what she was going to make so I had no idea what my dish had to include (veggies? starch?) or what kind of food it was going to be paired with. She also had no idea whether or not she would have extra space for re-heating. So I made a salad, three bean salad. I like this recipe because it's quick, easy and pretty healthy. I have no idea what a three bean salad is actually suppose to taste like so I am not sure if this is very traditional or not (I've only ever seen it in deli's and it appears to have a vinegarette, please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong), so this is my take on a classic deli dish.

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Three Bean Salad

Ingredients:
1 can red kidney beans (rinsed)
1 can white kidney beans (rinsed)
2 cups of steamed green beans (cut into bite sized pieces)
1/8 cup olive oil
3/8 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tsp parsley
2 1/2 tsp cumin
pepper to taste

Steps:
1. After you've steamed and cut up your green beans, combine with the two kidney beans in a bowl.

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2. Mix remaining ingredients and pour dressing over the beans. Stir and let sit a bit before serving.

I actually prefer to let this sit for an hour before serving to let the dressing really soak into the beans but it tastes fine served right away.

There you have it, a very quick and easy dish containing veggies, carbs and protein.

December 4, 2010

A New Christmas Wreath

Well, I've been battling a bad cold. It's terrible and it means that I have been very, very lazy and watching a lot of horrible movies in my spare time (and Sudoku, but at least that exercises my brain). I have however managed to complete one thing this week, a new and inexpensive wreath for my front door. It's a salt dough gingerbread man wreath.

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I made a batch of salt dough, rolled it out and used some cookie cutters to make the gingerbread men (if you can make sugar cookie, you can do this no problem). Here's the recipe that I used:

Salt Dough (basically this is homemade playdough)

1/2 cup of salt
3/4 cup water
2 cups flour

1. Mix ingredients together and knead into a ball. Don't worry about over-kneading this stuff, it will be a bit tougher than cookie dough and you may need to add a bit of extra water. It's done when it seems rollable.

I used food-dyed water in an attempt to make them brown-gingerbread like in colour. As you can see this didn't really work. I think the food dye reacted with the salt because it turned very pink after I threw the brown water in. I later read that strong coffee or tea is your best bet for dying the dough brown (use it instead of the water). Oh well.

After you cut out your dough, place it on a tray and bake at 200F for 4-5 hours. I flipped mine halfway through and then I let them sit in the oven overnight to let them dry out even further. After they were dry I used puff paint (fabric paint) to drawn on some "icing" and gumdrops. Again, I waited for it to dry then I coated all of the men in varnish (since I wanted to put the wreath outside and I'm hoping that it will last for a couple of years.

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I laid the cookies out in a circle then I used a hot glue gun to stick them together and tied them with a ribbon for hanging and more security.

I think it looks really home-made and homey. Perfect for Christmas (I'm the type that likes those popcorn and cranberry garland).