Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cookie Decorating Time!

Do you like to frost cut-outs?  Do you not have time for royal icing and flooding??  Want a great tip?  Let the kids do it!

If I am making cookies for a gift or to take to a party, I spend the time to make royal icing and flood the cookies.  This is time consuming and can be a process, depending on how elaborate the decorations get.  However for sugar cookies for family, I let the kids help.  They are so excited to unleash their creativity, and it's one less task for me.

Here's how I set it up.  I take a can of vanilla frosting, add 1/8 tsp. of an extract (I used Almond but cinnamon, anise, vanilla, lemon are all yummy), divide it up, and color with food dye.  Then I get out all my sprinkles, sugars, little candies, chocolate chips, etc.  I set it up on the table and let them loose.

Have fun, let the kids have fun, and enjoy the time together! 






Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gingerbread Men Cookie Recipe

Christmas is a week away!  Are you ready?  I finished my cookies today, shopping is done, so I could say I am.  Well except for last minute things, of course.

I spent yesterday making dough and today baking it off.  I like to do my cut-outs this way.  The dough has ample time to refrigerate, and I don't stress trying to carve out three hours to make cookies.  I can prep the dough in about 20 minutes or so, and spend 30 minutes the next day to bake.

Onto the cookies.  I don't like a crispy cookie.  I like my chocolate chip cookies ooey and gooey.  I like my cut-outs tender, and I definitely like my gingerbread with a soft texture.  The tricky part about this is a getting a dough firm enough to hold up to cutting out and decorating without falling apart, yet maintaining a soft texture.

This recipe is perfect!  It is a softer dough, so the refrigeration part of the dough is key. I keep refrigerating my scraps in between baking as well.  The colder the dough the easier it is to roll and cut.  Also keeping the dough cold will help the cookies to maintain their shape when baking.

I cut out my gingerbread into little men.  These will be going to school with Adam along with sugar cookies for decorating on Monday with his class.  However, feel free to cut your dough into other shapes like trees, stars, stockings, etc.

Once the cookies are cooled completely, decorate any which way you desire.  Grab a can of frosting, candies, sprinkles, and let the kids go crazy. 

I used a 4 inch cutter for the first batch and it yielded about 20 cookies.  The second batch I used a 3 inch cutter and it yielded 3 dozen.

recipe (Adapted from Taste of Home)

1/2 c. softened butter
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. molasses
1 egg
2 tbsp. water or milk
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add molasses, water or milk, and egg.  Mix until combined.

In a large bowl, sift together all your dry ingredients and spices.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  Once combined, form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a well floured surface roll the dough to about 1/4 " thick.  Cut in desired shape(s).  Place onto a greased cookie sheet or parchment lined sheet about 2 inches apart.  Reroll scraps and repeat.


 Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.  Allow to cool on pan for two minutes, and finish cooling on a rack.

Freeze undecorated for 3 months.  Decorate as desired and store in an airtight container for a week or so.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lined Simple Apron

I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving.  Our was quiet at my mom's, but pretty perfect.  It's the first year the boys went back for seconds and thirds.  They normally eat a holiday hot dog, but this year both boys ate the Thanksgiving dinner.  It only took 9 & 7 years ;)

With the holidays in full swing, I figured some of you may want or need a quick little gift idea. It would be adorable paired with a cookie or brownie in a jar recipe.

I say it's quick because I made it in about two hours.  For me that is terrific.  I'm sure for an experienced sewer it may be an hour project, but I was impressed with my efforts of one evening.


Materials

  • sewing machine
  • scissors
  • thread
  • fabric pen or pencil for marking
  • iron
  • 2 coordinating fabrics, 1 yard each
  • additional piece of fabric measuring 28" x 12"; this fabric is for the neck strap and waist ties so it can be one of the above fabrics or another coordinating fabric
First wash, dry, and iron the fabric.  The apron will be washed, so you don't want it shrinking afterwards and getting all wonky....yes that is a technical term.

Second, trim any loose threads.  With the smaller piece of fabric cut two 28" x 3" strips (for waist ties) and one 24" x 3" strip for neck strap.  I left you a little bit extra on the supply list in case of error.

Fold the strips with right sides together lengthwise and sew a seam, making a long tube.  With the neck strap you can leave both ends open.  With the waist ties, sew one end closed. 

Turn the straps right side out.  There is no easy way to do this. I use a pencil or knitting needle to help ease the fabric through the tube.  It takes patience! Iron all the pieces and set aside.

Now onto the body of the apron:

Trim pieces to 22" x 36". With right sides together layer front and back of larger rectangles.  Pin in place to avoid shifting.

Measure 6" down from the top and mark with a dot.  Then measure 5" in from the sides and mark with a dot.  Connect the dot to a make a 45 degree angle and draw a line.  This makes the angle on the top of the apron.


Here comes the trickiest part....and it takes a bit of thinking.  You want to position the waist ties and neck straps.  Fit the unfinished end of the ties into what will be the side seam, on the inside of the two pieces of fabric. Pin in place.  You won't be able to see the ties when you are sewing, but when you turn the garment right side out, they will be in place.

I measured by side straps down about 4 inches from the bottom of the 45 degree angle.  You really want to take a few minutes to play with this.  If want them higher or lower you can adjust accordingly.

You also want to place the neck strap in the same way. Pin in place.  This is a bit easier, as I just placed them at each end of the top of the apron. Remember the neck strap will be on the inside of your project as you are sewing.



Now sew together the seems.  I started at one side of the bottom hem and worked by way around, leaving about six inches on the other side of the bottom hem, for turning the project right side out.

Finally, turn the opening at the bottom to make a seam and stitch.  I ran a top stitch along the entire bottom hem to make the seam look intentional.

All these measurements are approximate for an adult.  You may need to lengthen or shorten the neck strap, waist ties, or length of the garment to fit the person who it is for.

I like it because it is lined with a coordinating fabric and gives a very finished look.   Also I used both fabrics on the neck strap, since technically it can be considered reversible, and to give it a fun look.


Good luck!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mini Pumpkin Breads

Here's an easy recipe for left over pumpkin puree.  I bought the big can of pumpkin puree, but only needed half of it for my pie.  I didn't really want to make two pies (mainly because I would eat them both).  So I used the rest of the pumpkin to make quick mini pumpkin loaves.

This recipe was given to me years ago by a fellow crafter.  I believe she said it was a Weight Watchers recipe.  All I know, is it is delicious and requires little effort.  The original recipe is two ingredients: cake mix and pumpkin.  I added vanilla and cinnamon to mine just to bump up the taste.

recipe

1 box of spice cake mix (carrot works too)
15 oz. pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.  Pour into desired cooking pan. (Batter will be very thick.)  I used a mini bread loaf pan, but you can use a cupcake pan or bundt pan too. 

Follow package instructions for baking.  For example, cupcakes take approximately 18 to 23 minutes, bundt pan will take 45 minutes or so.

The mini bread loaves took about 24 minutes.  Enjoy warm or freeze for up to 3 months.  Sprinkle with powder sugar to make it extra fancy ;)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Apple Pie Oatmeal

Do you ever go to bed dreaming about food?  I do.  In fact most of my cravings come at night while watching T.V. with those commercials with the most appetizing foods.  Last night's craving came courtesy of my Words With Friends playing. 

You know how you have to watch those advertisements in between plays?  Most of the time they are annoying, and I don't pay attention.  However, one did catch my eye.  I believe it was a commercial for Ziploc bags and containers.  It featured oatmeal. 

Seeing how much I love oatmeal, I sat right up in bed and watched the whole 30 seconds worth.  Basically it was oatmeal with different toppings that can all be stored in Ziploc. 

Let me back up a bit.  I said I love oatmeal.  I mean I have a true love affair with it.  Whenever we travel, most hotel breakfast buffets include oatmeal.  Mainly because it can be made in vast quantities and disguises itself as the healthy option among all the pastries.  It's always on my plate, or actually in my bowl, for breakfast when we travel.  I also enjoy it weekly at home.

The best oatmeal I ever had was at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.  I joked with my husband that it was probably generic oatmeal that cost pennies, but it was so darn good.  Of course the buffet also offered toppings galore to adorn the piping bowl of goodness.  Every morning I changed it up.  Sometimes I would use just nuts while other mornings I added raisins and cinnamon.

OK, now that I have discussed my love for oatmeal, lets get to the recipe.  Last night I saw an oatmeal topped with some sort of baked apples.  Well this morning I woke up wanting it for breakfast.  So here is my version of apple pie oatmeal inspired by Ziploc.

recipe

1 c. prepared oatmeal, from scratch or the little microwave packets
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1 pat of butter, roughly a teaspoon
1 tsp. brown sugar
pinch of apple pie spice or cinnamon

In a small skillet over a medium heat cook the diced apples in a dry pan.  Stirring occasionally for about 3 to 4 minutes.  This just softens them a bit. The apples will still have a bit of texture to them, but that's how I like them.  If you want yours softer just cook them longer.

Meantime prepare your oatmeal and set aside.

After the apples have softened a bit, add the butter, brown sugar, and apple pie spice.  Cook for additional minute stirring to coat.

Top the oatmeal with the apple pie filling mixture.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Snovember To Remember!


Oh boy it's been a tough couple of days.  Everything started off great as can be this week.  We celebrated Brandon's 7th birthday on Sunday with family.  Monday was a normal day, and then Monday night Brandon made a birthday wish.....he wanted a snow day for Tuesday.

Well, we got it and then some.  I think he wished a little too hard.  In Hamburg we had a record snowfall of 84.5 inches (7 ft.) in approximately 48 hours.  Other surrounding areas received the same treatment from Mother Nature.

The problem with all the snowfall is first it's very heavy and regular plows can't push it.  Secondly, there is no place to put it.  City areas are actually trucking it to old parking lots.  Cars have been abandoned for their driver's safety.  The National Guard has been called in to help the efforts. 

This isn't even the biggest problem.  We are set to have the temperatures warm up this weekend.  Now the snow will melt, compact, become even heavier.  This makes for the collapse of roofs and major flooding.  If the storm drains can't handle the melting, water will back up into homes.  Ugh! 

With all this being said, I have to say we live in a great community.  Everyone pitches in to help each other.  Strangers offer food, shelter, clothing, to each other. Checking on neighbors and digging each other out. It really is remarkable! I am so glad to have moved home :)

For our household, Jay has had a few impromptu days off from work, but he has been working tirelessly here clearing snow.  The boys have had four days off of school, and some playtime with neighbors.  I have been able to clear out the freezer and rotate my food supply.  Even though I ran out of bread two days ago, and I am on my last half gallon of almond milk, we are just fine.

Last night after Jay already cleared about 4 ft the day before


I am so thankful for all the people in our community who are helping us.  From the police, to the plow drivers, to the workers who are at Tim Horton's supplying coffee for the first responders.... THANK YOU!

For all my fellow Buffalo peeps, hang in there.  For all my out of town friends, keep us in your thoughts.  We still have a bit to go for normalcy, oh and Thanksgiving is around the corner.  (I don't want to even think of the grocery store madness this week)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Quick Caramel Dessert Sauce

Tomorrow we our going over to my in-laws to spend the afternoon.  I am bringing an apple cake, but wanted a sauce to pour over the top.  Caramel sauce goes perfect with apple anything, but I didn't have heavy cream in the house.  I also did not want to make a trip to the store, seeing it is so cold out.

I rummaged the pantry and found a can of sweetened condensed milk.  OK, I have plan.  Condensed milk, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon equals yummy dessert sauce.


recipe

1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a sauce pot over medium heat, simmer sweetened milk with brown sugar, whisking for about five minutes.  Add vanilla and cinnamon, and continue to whisk for another five minutes.  The sauce will thicken slightly but be very pourable. The sauce is very light in color, but the longer you cook it the thicker and darker it will get.  I liked mine a nice blonde shade ;)

 Serve immediately over ice cream, cake, pie, a flip flop.  Well not really of flip flop, but you get my point!

Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.