Friday, December 27, 2013

bake: cookie butter blossoms

I usually bake up a storm for the holidays but that was back when I lived in L.A. and had people to share it all with. up here it is mostly just the a-go-go family and if I bake like I used to, much of it would got to waste so I really limited myself to two types of cookies, a pound cake, and these awesome chocolates. The nephew-a-go-go can't do nuts so I went with a childhood fave... snickerdoodles for sure and then I thought of the jar of cookie butter I have been hording forever, why not bake with it? One of my standbys is peanut butter blossoms, I thought why not try them with cookie butter instead? And so I did, kisses and all...
There are many recipes for peanut butter blossoms, I went for this one and cut the brown sugar in half, used real unsalted butter, rolled them in cinnamon and sugar, and popped the dough in the fridge overnight. Unlike the peanut butter blossoms, these did not puff up but spread out. They also did not remain chewy but crisped up like a gingersnap. They were a hit all the same (the bath the mister took to work disappeared pretty quickly) and next time I make them I may just add chopped chocolate to the dough instead of topping them with kisses...oh and the first batch was baked at 10 minutes and were a bit too gooey so go for 12 minutes and enjoy the crunchy goodness that is a cookie butter blossom.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

diy: ten minute stocking

Hi there! Like I said in my last post I misplaced our stockings and decided to whip up some new ones until I could uncover the missing stockings. My plan was to use some of this awesome grey fabric I thrifted from an old sheet and decorate them with doilies and pom-poms. I did not account for my allergies or the fact that the awesome grey fabric is probably hiding out with the stockings.
After undoing all the nice box piling I had done last week in the scary pink room, I was at my wit's end and ready to bag the whole idea. It's Christmas eve, I have a lot of wrapping to do still, a pound cake to bake, a gas tank to fill up not to mention the exploding ginger ale incident. I was ready to walk out and use lunch sacks like Grandma used to use but then I spied a pile of linens my dear friend Amy passed along to me and in that lovely pile was a lovely lace-trimmed pillowcase. Instantly I could see it as a stocking. How easy and pretty it would be and I believe I have another pillowcase in the linen cabinet that would work as well. The hemmed edges of the pillowcases would make a great top part of a stocking. Luckily I had my template from last year's denim stocking and so without much thought to the eggs on the counter I grabbed my scissors and some pins and hopped to it!
Turn pillowcase inside out and position stocking template on top, utilizing as much of the print as you can. My template was shorter than  what would allow for the fun part of the fabric so I pinned it where I wanted it and envisioned the rest of the template to the top hemmed edge. Pin in place and cut excess pillowcase away. Note: Some people will cut out here stocking shape right then and there but I prefer to work from a rectangle, stitch, then cut. This allows for more wiggle room for less-seasoned sewers.
Bring to machine and position foot at top edged hem pointing down towards your template (unless you drew a longer stocking shape to fill up your pillowcase) and begin to sew using the needle-foot as a seam allowance guide. I eyeballed my template and attempted to stitch two-three inches away so that my stocking would be wider than what I had drawn out. Another tip is to use a darker bobbin thread so that you can easily see where to trim your fabric away. All white thread might make is more difficult for the myopically challenged like myself.  Don't forget to backstitch!
Trim around stitched edges and snip a few vertical slits into each curve if your template had curves. This will keep it from puckering when turned right-side out...though mine still seems to pucker...grab up a bit of scrap fabric about six inches long. Fold it into thirds width-wise. This will be your hanger. Use a zig-zag stitch to hold all layers together, fold in half and stitch to the top of your stocking along the back seam. To do this, you will need to remove the arm cover of your machine so that you can insert your stocking over the arm to stitch the hanger on without stitching through all sides of your stocking. You can also use ribbon for this part or you can hammer in a grommet or hand-stitch your hanger on.
Turn right-side out and Ta-Da! A nifty, pretty stocking in about ten minutes! Can you guess which one is mine? Merry Christmas!

putting those gift tags to use

It's been a comedy of errors today at the homestead. All on my behalf...I have misplaced our Christmas stockings, my pretty giftwrap idea went awry when I couldn't find my pens, too much cake batter in a too little pan makes for a BIG mess, and an exploding can of ginger-ale knows no bounds.
Fill-in Christmas stockings have been made (diy coming soon), I added pom poms to craft paper and created a different kind of pretty wrap, the cake is still tasty even though there are a few burnt blobs on the bottom of the oven, and after two, three, and then four passes of a wet towel, mop, and scrap towel the floor is as good as new, even better than before. But boy howdy, am I pooped!
So while my initial plan of a silver and gold Christmas did not work out, the neon-happy of my washi tags and pom-poms make for a very festive gift wrap. I think they might be more me than the silver and gold anyway...perhaps the universe was telling me to stay true?
And since the wee packages were so darn happy, I had to take pictures of them. I just had to! They make me smile.

And serendipity hit when I stacked them up and saw they looked like a tree...add one snowflake star...perfection!

Monday, December 23, 2013

make: chocolate cashew ginger candies (guten-free!)

Just a few ingredients pack a powerful tasty punch! This is a roundabout recipe, something I make without measuring. There was a variation of the recipe once form a book I no longer have that used graham crackers and macadamia nuts but darn if macadamia nuts aren't so expensive, so I made up this recipe instead...

Here's what I used...
*1 pack (8oz) of gluten free ginger snaps from Trader Joe's
*2 10oz bags bittersweet chocolate chips (guitard)
*2 10-12oz  bags milk chocolate chips (guitard is a fave)
*1 1/2 cups or so of lightly salted cashew pieces
*1/2-1 cup candied ginger chips
*flake sea salt
These chocolates are not labor intensive but do take a while to make as the chocolate needs to set between dippings. Make sure to clear space in your fridge or freezer for a cookie sheet to rest without toppling over. Fill a medium to large soup pot with water and place a heat proof bowl on top making sure the water does not touch the bowl. Dump both bags of bittersweet chips into the bowl and let them melt. Stir every now and then to distribute that heat. While the chocolate is melting, place cookies into a plastic bag and roll over with a rolling pin to crunch them up a bit. They will crumble a lot so don't roll until you have only crumbs, leave a few chunky bits in there. When chocolate is melted, remove from heat and add your cookie pieces, ginger chips and cashews. Stir until combined. The chocolate will be glossy and the mixture will be loose.
Use two spoons to drop very small blobs of the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper (they will not be pretty). You can go bigger but they are very difficult to bite through and enjoy when they are more than a mouthful (but cutting them half has its advantages). Think almond sized blobs. You can place the blobs fairly close together to use up as much space as possible on the cookie sheet. Place in your refrigerator or freezer for fifteen minutes or until set. I had to use three cookie sheets for this but only had room for one sheet at a time in the fridge. This part can be done a few days before the next round of dipping.
Once the chocolate is set it is time for round two of dipping. Pour one bag of milk chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl. I use a four cup measuring cup. You want the container to be taller than wide so that the chocolate, once melted, is deep enough for dipping. Melt in 30 second increments and stir in between. Make sure your container is absolutely dry and that you check on your chocolate. Both water and over heating can seize it making it unusable. Once your chocolate is melted, use a fork and your fingers to coat each piece of candy, placing it back onto your covered cookie sheet. To make this easier, remove all of the to-be-dipped pieces and put them on a plate or in a bowl before you begin. When your cookie sheet is full add a pinch of sea salt to the top of each candy. Return to fridge to set. To use up as much chocolate as possible, use a spatula to scrape sides of container. I usually abandon my fork by the third piece and end up with one hand completely covered in chocolate. To finish of the remaining chocolates, add your second bag of chips to the container and return to the microwave for melting. By the time you finish dipping the last round your cookie sheet in the fridge should be set.
These are crazy good candies! I made these gluten-free as I was bringing them to a potluck where I knew someone was gluten-sensitive. Not all chocolate chips are gluten-free so do your research before you get to melting the whole shebang. The ginger chips from The Ginger People are gluten-free and super tasty. If you do not need gluten-free chocolates, go wild! Chop up a fancy candy bar and use nutter butter cookies or pie crust or oreos! I did up one batch last week and ran out of milk chocolate for dipping (I only used one bag) so I popped the candies that needed to be double dipped into a container and did them a few days later when I had more chocolate. I also had only used two-thirds of the crumbs so used made up another whole batch. By the end of all the dipping I was left with three candies un-double-dipped. They were pretty tasty too, not so pretty to look at but yummy all the same.
Pop a bunch of sweets into a wax bag, add a pretty tag and gift away!  Throw a candy making party where people bring different nuts and cookies, customize the candies for friends with allergies, add dried cranberries or chop up candied orange peels...soooo many ways to make these! Happy Holidays!

diy: washi tape gift tags

I know there are a zillion washi tape projects out there and amongst them there are probably a lot of gift tag diys too but here's what I made for this holiday season to go with my silver and gold gift wrap (which I still need to get to, wrapping, that is).
Gather up yer washi tape, don't worry about using all of the same color or making sure it matches. The more colors the merrier. Grab a sheet of card stock and get ready to layer.
I have a nifty tag-shaped paper punch so I layered my tape pieces in all sorts of direction for more variety when punching out. If you do not have a punch, don't worry, you can cut out your own shapes or use an online template. Layer your washi pieces in a manner that pleases you. Have scissors handy if you want clean cuts.
When I got to the awkward part of my paper, I flipped it over and trimmed off all the excess tape and used that to fill in the white space.
Punch or cut out your shapes using as much of the paper as possible. I begin on the far left of one side and punch all the way around. Next, I use scissors to trim the funky bits left-over and punch around again repeating until all of the paper is used up.
Use a hole punch to punch a hole for lacing. I have misplaced my regular hole punch and so pulled out this tiny punch and was not happy with the results. I then went off in search of another only to find a vintage three-hole punch in the mama-a-go-go's room and so made do with that.
Aren't they pretty? I think they would look great tied to craft paper packages and boxes.   I have two sets of gift wrap to use. One is a store bought black paper with vibrantly colored snowflakes and the other is plain white paper I have drawn designs on with metallic markers. I think the color of these tags will work with both. Make a bunch and gift them to friends to use throughout the year. I can't wait to finish (ahem..begin) wrapping!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

diy dillydilly: cheater potholders

Years ago when I ran the five things group we had a potholder swap. I worked my gifted arse off stitching up five chicken potholders, wrestling with the thick insulated padding and breaking needles on bias tape that did not like me one bit. The pay off would be five awesome handmade potholders from five crafty internet friends only the person hosting the swap never mailed them out and that was that. Since then I have wanted to make potholders but have dreaded the idea of all that wrestling. When I decided to make the recipe boards I knew I wanted a stitched potholder but how would I do it? The answer came to me at a very random moment (I think I was at school)...make slipcovers fro dollar store potholders (or other, older potholders you already have). So here is my cheater diy...
Select a pale or plain potholder from the dollar store, thrift store, or your own stash of potholders. Measure the top and one side of your potholder and create a pattern from newspaper with a 1/2" seam allowance on three sides and a 1" allowance on one side. Make sure your pattern is on the fold of the newspaper with your longest sides running perpendicular to the fold.
Iron your fabric if you need to, pin pattern and cut. I used a light-weight mock denim that I am quite in love with (I want to buy a bolt). Fold fabric in half with right-side facing in, pin to hold and stitch along three sides (include the fold) leaving the end opposite the fold open.
Turn right-side out and poke those corners out as much as possible. Fold in the open edge as evenly as you can and press with a hot iron.
Slide your potholder inside, adjust folded opening, pin if you need to and stitch closed. Go around the entire holder with a zig-zag stitch for fun, use a contrasting thread if you like and snip all visible threads. Mister said I should have used chalk to mark my lines but I like it wonky, if you prefer a nice even stitch, use a ruler and chalk to mark your lines.
To add decoration, thread up an embroidery needle with all six skeins of your embroidery thread color of choice and stitch away. Leave all knots on one side of your holder or not...they can add to the design element. Tie off and snip threads and you now have a swanky potholder/trivet!

**if you do not have any potholders and do not wish to purchase any, three or four layers of wool from a felted sweater should do the trick. If you have only two layers, whip up a trivet or coaster set instead and go felt crazy!