Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Elf on the Shelf: Week Three

Day 15:  Making Lunch!

Day 16:  Dino Trouble

Day 17:  Jingle's Secret Identity

Day 18 : Jingle Riding the Train!
 Day 19:  Acme Rocket Fun

 Day 20:  Free Reindeer Poop

Day 21: Swinging!

2013 Elf on the Shelf: Week Two

Day Nine:  Acrobat Elf

Day Ten:  Solo Cup Tree

Day Eleven:  Making Brownies

Day Twelve:  Playing Nintendo

Day Thirteen:  Camping Out

Day Fourteen: Giving a Gift

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013 - Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles


This is my first year to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and I just loved it!  I knew immediately which recipe I wanted to make for the 3 other bloggers that were lucky to have me get their names:  Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles.  I've been making these cookies for years, because they are truly some of the best tasting cookies I've ever had, so of course I had to make them.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Chai Snickerdoodles
recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

Yield:  3/12 doz. large or 5 doz. small

  • 2 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp each: ground cinnamon, grown ginger, and cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together sugar with all the spices in small bowl; remove 1/2 cup to a pie plate or small dish for dredging and place to the side.  Add cocoa to small bowl with sugar/spice mixture and stir to blend.
  3. Beat butter in an electric mixer bowl until fluffy.  Add the spiced cocoa mixture and beat until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla, then add the flour and baking powder at low speed until combined.
  4. Form tablespoon sized balls.  Roll them in the reserved sugar mixture and arrange 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Press cookies down slightly with your hand or the bottom of a glass.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes.  Cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.

I hope they were enjoyed by all who received...

...and, that everything arrived unbroken!

Goodies Received

The first dozen I received were some Chocolate Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies.  They were really cold when I got them, but I warmed a few up in the microwave, and boy were they good!  It was like eating a cup of hot cocoa!  Unfortunately, I seemed to have misplaced the card that came with them, so I don't know who sent them. =(  *I've recently been informed that it was Mary of Newtonienne Noshes, that made these delicious cookies.  So, thank you, Mary!

This was the 2nd batch I received, from Madeline of Munching In the Mitten.  These Peanut Butter cookies with PB and chocolate chips were in a word, amazing!  My son and I thoroughly enjoyed every single crumb!

Lastly, just yesterday night at 8pm, UPS delivered my 3rd parcel of goodness.  Quyen from Kitchen Runway sent me Cookie Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.
I'd never tasted cookie butter before, so this was a real treat!  The cookie butter added a richness to the cookie that normally isn't there with your typical chocolate chip.  So, thank you so much Quyen!
I would like to say thank you to the sponsors of the the swap for their wonderful contribution to the cause, and for the fantastic goodies that we received from them.  I can't wait to see what next year brings!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

2013 Elf on the Shelf: Week One

It's that time again!  This is our 2nd year of doing the Elf on the Shelf thing, and I couldn't wait to get started!  Crazy.  I think I like it more than he does, although that will probably change, come day 25.

Day One: Jingle came flying in!

Day Two:  Jingle went for a ski!

Day Three:  Decorating Grandma & Grandpa's Christmas tree

This is our 2nd year of surprising grandma and grandpa with a decorated tree.  It's a lot of fun for my parents, and for me to see how long it takes them to notice!

This year I made all new ornaments for the event.  You can see all the ornaments and detailed instructions pictures here!

Day Four:  Making a Lego Christmas tree

Day Five: Superhero Elf

Day Six:  Climbing for Candy

Day Seven:  Bath Time!

Day Eight:  Playing Angry Birds

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Americana Christmas Ornaments

I had already decided to make my mom some new Christmas ornaments in an Americana theme for their tree this year, to continue the tradition of our Elf on the Shelf decorating their tree while they were away. 

After being inspired by some ideas on Pinterest, here's what I did. 

Fabric Wrapped Stars

I purchased several different designs of fabric in 1/2 yard increments.  I then cut that fabric into 1 1/2" strips, roughly (don't cut up the whole 1/2 yard!).  I didn't really measure, I just eyed it.  I then used some wire to make a star, and proceeded to wrap each wire frame with fabric.  (I used several different wires for this, basically because I only wanted to use what I
had on hand.  I tried a coat hanger, pipe cleaners, some other wire that I had from who knows what, and finally settled on some floral wire, that I doubled up.) I hot glued the ends, so that they wouldn't unravel.

Fabric Covered Ornaments

My next inspiration came from Good Housekeeping.  You can look at it here.  Mine are pretty similar.  I measured out (from the 1/2 yard fabrics I purchased) 13"x13" pieces for each ball.  Now, I'm not sure what type of circular object they used in their instructions for the actual ball, but after much scouring of Hobby Lobby and Walmart, I went with a 12-pack package of wiffle balls.  They were the perfect size and ended up being about $.62 each.  Not bad.

After wrapping the ball with the fabric, I tied a piece of ribbon around the top and tied it in a bow.  Pretty simple

I tried a few other decorations on the bow, like some white berries, but I ended up just sticking to the original bow.

 I had a few wiffle balls left over, so I used some of the scraps from my wire covered ornaments to cover these extra balls.  I would recommend cutting those fabric strips in half, to about 1/2"-3/4".  The smaller strips are easier to fold around the ball and make it less likely to have gaps.  For these fabric strip covered balls, I also simply finished them with some hot glue at the top, then I attached a ribbon hanger and a button on the top to complete it.  I thought they turned out very cute!

 I liked the look of those larger fabric strip covered balls so much, that I did some small ones too!  I had some small Styrofoam balls in my stash, so I used the same method and covered these balls as well.  I finished these off with some ribbon hangers and a pearl bead with a straight pin through the top.  It couldn't be easier.  You could hot glue these as well for added security, if you'd like.

Candy Canes

I got the idea for these candy canes here, but I didn't go into their actual post to see how it was made.  I simply used the same method I did with the wire star ornaments.  Cut your fabric of choice, preferably something with red in it, and wrap to your heart's content.  I wish now I had done the ends differently, but it's too late!
 USA wired ornament

The last wired ornament I made was in the shape of "USA".  I didn't do any more of these for several reasons, the most predominant one being that it was a pain.  Again, I doubled up on floral wire to make the shape, then used strips of fabric to cover it.  I hot glued the ends down, and attached a piece of ribbon from the U to the A as a hanger.
Denim and Corduroy Ornaments

I originally got the idea from here, but they didn't have a tutorial, which saddened me.

I used an old corduroy shirt for the red ones, and some of my son's jeans that had holes in them for the denim ones.  I simply cut a star pattern out and stitched them together on a sewing machine.  I only made a few of these, because they too were a major pain in the hiney.  I finished them off with some twine on the denim, and yarn on the corduroy.  Cute, but not worth it, if you ask me.

American Flag Ornaments

The last ornament type I did was to cut out 6 pockets from my son's old jeans that had holes in them.  I then proceeded to paint red and white stripes, and on some, I actually painted the blue behind the "stars".  I used a pencil eraser to paint on the "stars".  I had to do 2 coats of paint on each.  To finish, I hot glued the pockets shut, and inserted some twine into the pockets as a hanger.

Whew!  When I post it here, it seems like a lot of work, but it didn't feel that way when I was doing it.  It was just something that had to be done before our Elf antics!  I'll post the final tree decorated when I'm doing my recap on our Elf on the Shelf:  Week One.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Homemade Canning Gifts: Day Five- Vanilla Pear Butter

The last canned gift I made was vanilla pear butter.  It was a small batch that only gave me about 4 jars.

Vanilla Pear Butter
I didn't really use a recipe, but this one closely resembles what I did.

2 lb pears, peeled, chopped
juice of 2 lemons
1 1/4 cups water
1 vanilla bean, split
3 1/2 cups sugar


1. Place the pears in a large pot with the lemon juice, water and vanilla pod; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Then uncover and cook for 20 minutes more or so, until the pears are soft.
2. Remove the vanilla pod from the pot and scrape the seeds into the pear mixture. Blend the fruit with the appliance of your choice until it becomes a smooth purée.
3. Now measure the amount of purée you have, as you place it back into the pot. Add half as much sugar as there is purée (e.g. if you have 4 cups of purée, add 2 cups of sugar.) Stir over low heat till the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, put the jars and lids on a baking tray, place the tray in a cold oven, turn the oven on to 225 F, and bake the jars for 30 minutes to sterilize them.
4. Boil for 25 or so minutes, or until the mixture is quite thick and somewhat golden.
5. Take the jars out of the oven and ladle the hot butter into the hot jars. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth, and put the lids on immediately. Process the jars for 20 minutes in a water bath.

I love giving homemade gifts at Christmas, plus that means no waiting in line!  Bonus!

Homemade Canning Gifts: Day Four- Carrot Cake Jam

(I've had some computer issues, so sorry for the delay!)

As I mentioned in an earlier post on spicy pickled carrots, I had an alarming number of carrots that I needed to use quickly before they went bad.   Enter Carrot Cake Jam.  Although this recipe was on my list to do one day, I found myself moving it to the top of the list an effort to use up said carrots.

Carrot Cake Jam

Carrot Cake Jam

I followed this recipe exactly, except for the whole pectin fiasco.  So, I just left the jam to simmer, until most of the liquid cooked out.  Works every time!

Next Up:  Pear Butter

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Homemade Canning Gifts: Day Three- Apple Butter

I prefer fruit butters to normal jams/jellies, but they require SO MUCH FRUIT, I usually only do small batches.  Last year I made a small batch peach butter that was so freakin' fantastic, I only gave away 2 jars and kept the other 2 for myself!

I used a slow cooker recipe for this particular batch.  The only real benefit of the slow cooker method, in my opinion, is that I didn't have to watch a pot on the stove all day, which actually means a lot to me.  So, I may be doing this method more often.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
recipe slightly adapted from here


6 1/2 lbs apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 c. sugar
1 c. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 T. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T. vanilla

  1. Place apples in slow cooker.  In a medium bowl, combine sugars, spices and salt.  Pour the mixture over the apples and mix well.
  2. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 10 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
  3. Uncover, and stir in vanilla.  Continue cooking uncovered, on low, for another 2 hours.
  4. Use an immersion blender, or transfer mixture to a regular blender, to puree the apple butter until smooth.
  5. Transfer to jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Or, refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Bench notes:
- I used Gala apples, because that's what was on sale!
- I used a regular blender to puree the apple butter.  Just be sure to transfer in small batches, and to leave the top off the lid and cover with a towel.  (Hot mixtures like to explode in blenders, if the steam can't get out.)
- The original recipe called for 1/4 tsp. cloves, but I think anything more than a flake of cloves is too much, so I omitted it.

Up next:
Homemade Canning Gifts:  Day Four - Carrot Cake Jam

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Homemade Canned Gifts: Day Two - Spicy Pickled Carrots

I recently found myself with an abundance of carrots, from a juicing experiment gone horribly wrong.  So, before I found myself with 10 pounds of rotting carrots, I thought I'd better put them to use.  My entire family (excluding myself) loves spicy foods, so I thought this sounded like the perfect solution.

Spicy Pickled Carrots
recipe slightly adapted from here

1 1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 c. water
2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 lb. carrots, sliced (some of the small carrots I left as sticks, and then I also shredded some to make a relish of sorts.  Totally up to you!)
1/2 lb. daikon radish or other veggie (I used purple radishes, cauliflower and okra)
6 jalapenos (I also used a couple of hotter peppers that I found)
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
2- 16 oz. glass jars with lids

  1. Prepare your water bath for canning.
  2. Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water.  Let dry.
  3. Bring to a boil, vinegar, water, sugar and salt, until sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. While your vinegar mix is cooking, wash and cut your veggies to your preference.  (Please remember to use caution when cooking with hot peppers.  I treat them like a contagion.  Rubber gloves, mask, protective eye wear, etc.)
  5. Fill each jar with the peppercorns, garlic and veggies.
  6. Fill each jar with the liquid and secure lids and rings to fingertip tightness.
  7. Process each jar for 10 minutes.  Place on counter to cool, and do the happy dance when all your jars have popped.

I had a LOT of carrots, so obviously I doubled and quadrupled this recipe, until all my vinegar was gone.  Poo.  Anyway, I came away with 15 half pint jars when the night was done, and still had enough veggies to do twice that again.  (sigh)

I did 2 jars of shredded carrots and radishes to make a relish.  These, I did not process in a water bath, but instead moved directly to the fridge for them to chill.  I'm imagining throwing the relish on a hot dog at some point.  I also did one jar of strictly okra, because I love me some pickled okra!  And, I did one jar of carrot sticks, instead of sliced.  All in all, I think it turned out well, and I hope it's a nice addition to the other gifts I'm making.

Check back with me tomorrow for-

Day Three:  Apple Butter
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