Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

And Don't forget, starting in December...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vanilla Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting

vanilla shortbread peanut butter chocolate frosting
Tis the season to start thinking about holiday cookies.  So, I am kicking off my holiday baking series today.  Get ready for two delicious treats a week that you can use to knock the socks off of anyone who tries them.  They are fool proof, decadent, fun and delicious.  Once Thanksgiving is over, check back every Monday and Wednesday until Christmas for a seriously yummy recipe to try.  Today's is a little preview of the goodness to come.

My sister and I throw a cookie party every year in December.  We encourage our friends to be inventive.  Try something new.  Wow us with their cookie prowess.  If you have a cookie party to go to, or just want to impress your friends and family with a heavenly treat, these shortbread cookies are for you.  The shortbread is buttery and crisp.  The chocolate peanut butter frosting rich and creamy.  The perfect holiday cookie.  I originally posted this recipe over at the Inspiration Cafe.  Click here to read the original post.

You eat with your mouth and eyes when it comes to this cookie.  They are visually impressive and get the mouth salivating for a nibble.  Once you've had a bite, you are overcome. 

These cookies can be made in advance.  The cookie part, anyway.  There is nothing I love more for a party than something that takes me less time than something else, but is still amazing.  The Mister loves anything that has chocolate and peanut butter in it.  I love anything that has shortbread in it.  My daughters love cookies and frosting.  This is clearly the perfect cookie for my family.

The dough needs to be chilled.  This is why it can be made in advance.  So, if you want to whip up a batch, spur of the moment, keep this in mind.  You will have to allocate enough time for chilling of the dough, cooking of the cookies, cooling of the cookies and the making of the frosting.  It's worth it.

When frosted, they look a bit like a chocolate rose.  Experiment with different tips, you may just be pleasantly surprised.

If you feel like giving them as a present, dress them up in cupcake wrappers and a pretty box.  A little tissue paper goes a long way towards classing something up.  Cellophane is a fun way to make something fancy, as well.

And, if the piping bag and tips are too much to comprehend, just spread some of this glorious frosting on with a knife.  It might not have that visual impact of the chocolate roses, but they'll taste just as sweet....and you can lick the knife after.

Vanilla Shortbread Cookies with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting
**makes 30 cookies**

Vanilla Shortbread Ingredients
1 Cup butter, at room temperature
2/3 Cup Sugar
2 large egg yolks
Splash of Vanilla
2 Cups flour

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer until light and fluffy with paddle attachment.  You will notice the color gets lighter.  Add in the yolks, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.  Add a splash of vanilla...maybe 1 tsp. and mix well.  Add flour and blend until just combined.  It will look very crumbly, a lot like pie dough.  This is what you want.

Split the dough into two batches and place on plastic wrap.  You are going to compress these crumbles into a cohesive dough by pressing the plastic wrap around the dough and squeezing until it is a nice cylindrical shape and the dough is firmly compacted.  My dough was shaped more oblong, do what you like.

Place dough in freezer for 30 minutes.

Once chilled, remove dough and cut into approximately 1/4" slices.  Use a nice sharp knife for this.  Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, spaced about an inch apart.  Bake for 20 to 22 minutes.  You do not want your shortbread to brown in any way, really.  You want it to be light blonde in color.

Place cookies on rack and let them cool completely.

Frosting time!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting Ingredients
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbl. Creamy Peanut Butter
1.5 Tbl. softened butter

If you have a double boiler, you can use it.  Or just be like me and get a pot of simmering water going, then put a glass bowl large enough to fit on top of it. 

Finely chop your chocolate.  I used a large block of Callebaut chocolate, you can also use nice quality semi-sweet chocolate chips.  If you're using the block, I find a serrated knife is the best way to chop it.

Place your chocolate, peanut butter and butter in the bowl and then put the bowl on top of the simmering pot.  Let it melt.  Stir until nice and smooth.  Once completely melted, you need to let the frosting cool.  I put mine in the fridge and stirred it every few minutes.  This is where you need to pay attention if you're going to pipe it...As soon as it has thickened to frosting consistency, you need to get it in your piping bag and get to work FAST!  It will get too thick to pipe in just a few minutes.

The frosting tip I used is an Ateco 16.  It's how you get the petal appearance in your frosting.  Fold down the edges of your piping bag so you don't make a huge mess, dollop your frosting in. Unfold the bag, twist it tightly and get to decorating the cookies. I start in the middle of the cookie and make concentric circles around and around until you get the look you want.

Let sit.  The frosting will solidify a bit more.  It won't get rock hard, but it is solid enough that if you want to wrap the cookies up and place them in decorative tins, they'll be just fine and won't lose their good looks.

Also, this amount of frosting was just enough to frost this one batch of cookies...and that's probably only because I broke a couple of my cookies.  It might be wise to make a double batch of frosting.  The frosting is so good, you'll find ways to use what's left.

This is the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate and it marries so nicely with the vanilla shortbread cookie.  Just wonderful!  Hope you enjoy!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Make your own cloth napkins....for the feast, of course!

cloth napkins pocket
Something I love about holidays, is the chance to class things up a bit, just for one day.  Fresh flowers decorating the front room, new soap in the bathrooms, specifically made for whatever holiday you're celebrating (pumpkin spice latte or cranberry pine) and your finest silver and china on display.  

If you've got all of the above, what else do you need for a really classy affair?  Cloth napkins.
It is so not me to just buy cloth napkins, so of course I am going to make them myself.  I wanted them to be fun and have a splash of color to add some festiveness.  It came to me that it would be so convenient if there were a silverware pocket in the napkin itself.  That way Uncle Boris doesn't take my fork when the pickle and cheese dish passes by and I'm distracted by the selections.
I did a bit of research on how big a formal cloth napkin should be.  They are approximately 20" x 20".  That is too huge.  So, I battled.  There was my need to be classy with my need to not use a hundred yards of fabric.  I met somewhere in the middle.
Supplies needed for Feast Napkins...
1. Enough white cotton and enough patterned cotton for as many napkins as you want to make.  I can get 9 napkins, measured 13 x 13 in a yard of white fabric.  So if you only need to make 9 napkins, you would need 1 yard of white and 1 yard of patterned.  White fabric on the front, a pretty pattern on the back.
2.  A selection of jewel-toned fabric cut in 1/4" lengths.  Whatever colors you like.  I have magenta, plum, turquoise, pumpkin and lime green.

Measure out your cutlery.  As you can see, mine came to 3 inches wide.  So, I cut my jewel-toned fabric 3.5 inches by 4.5 inches.
Fold each side over approximately 1/4".  This is something I just eye-balled, but you can be more accurate.  Iron it down so that the seem holds the crease.
 Do a scant stitch across the top of the pocket.   This is so there are no raw edges at the top.  Straggly, stringy raw edges= not classy.
Now, to get your pocket to line up evenly, I drew a line 2" from the bottom of the 13 x 13 inch square of white fabric with an erasable pen.  Then I drew a line straight down in the middle of the white fabric.
Draw a line straight down your pocket, directly in the middle.  Now line things up.  Put the bottom of the pocket on the line that goes across.  Make sure the line down the middle of the pocket lines up at the top and the bottom.  Pin it down.   This will ensure that all your napkins are exactly the same.
Starting at the top of one side, stitch a scant seam around the remaining 3 un-sewn sides of the pocket.  Make sure you've got your seam allowance tucked behind the pocket before you sew it down.  Backstitch at the beginning and the end.  Do not sew across the top!  First of all, you've already sewn it and are making a pocket, after all.  You need someplace for the silver to go.  So don't sew it shut.
Take your back piece of fabric, and lay it on the white fabric.  Front sides together.  Pin securely all the way around.
You are going to leave an unsewn space of about 3".  The reason for this is because you need to flip your napkin right side out.  So, to mark where I am going to leave the gap, I just do an X with pins.  I start at one X and sew all the way around and stop at the second X.  Make sure to backspace at the beginning and end so you don't rip out stitches.
Sew around the edges using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Flip it inside out.  Make sure to poke out your corners with the blunt tip of scissors or something.  Press the seams, making sure to press the un-sewn space matching what has already been sewn.  You don't want this part to stick out funny so match it up with the sewn bits.   Do a scant stitch around the entire edge of the napkin.  This does two things, it gives you a decorative edge of stitching, but it also closes up the space that's left where you flipped the napkins right-side out.
Done.  If you think this looks like too much work, don't worry, it's actually a very snappy project.  Once you get going, you'll be surprised how quickly you get these completed.
See how nicely they fit.  See how straight the lines are on your pocket!!

Get creative.  I tied my napkins with a gold ribbon, placed them on top of the plates and called them gorgeous.
Try cloth napkins this year...classy!  Even if your cheese and pickle plate includes sliced Velveeta. 

Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Homemade Christmas Ornament...Thanksgiving Fun

What kid (cough, cough, Mom) doesn't love fluffy stuff and crafting with feathers?  I am telling you, Ornament 2013 is going to be a hit Thanksgiving afternoon.

Oh, I just want to squish them and squeal at their cuteness...don't you?  And of course I had to go with a chicken design this year.  2013 is the year of the chicken for my family.

Here's how to make them, easy and quick...a bit feather-y...but so much fun!  This post is a bit picture heavy, but trust me, this project is so easy to make and the kids love em!

Supplies needed:
Craft Glue. Styrofoam balls, mine are 3" or 76 mm, white feather boa and red feather boa to be cut up and any add'l feathers if you so choose.

Scissors, tiny craft pins, small black buttons, ribbon for beak and feet, embroidery floss to make a loop to hang on the tree and a curved needle, often used for tying quilts and/or suturing festering wounds....

Thread curved needle with floss, insert into what will now be the top of the chicken, curve it around and back easy, and no styrofoam balls were broken during this procedure...which is what I thought a straight needle might do.

Pull thread through, remove needle and proceed to tie in double knot.

1.  Cut cute chicken cheeks out of fabric.  Be creative.  Have fun.  My cheek circles are just a touch bigger than a quarter.

2.  Thanksgiving day, you could have several cheeks pre-cut and let the kidlettes choose their favorites.  I am also going to have all my balls pre-strung with the floss.

3. Cut a length of ribbon for the beak, approximately 3 to 4 inches.  Be generous because you can trim it later if too long.  In the middle of the ribbon, you are going to bend it like in the picture.  This is so you can pin the beak on.  I can't describe this move in words....Just look at picture. 

4.  Pin beak on.  One pin in the top loop, and one in the bottom loop.  Arrange beak so it is open wide.

5.  Position cheeks in a way that is pleasing to you.  for me, this is slightly below the top of the beak.  Glue in place.

6.  Glue on eye buttons.  Position them so they are in the top corner of the cheek, with the edge of the button slightly hanging over the cheek.  This is for optimal cuteness.

7.  Take another 3 inch length of ribbon, fold it in half in the shape of a V.

8.  Pin feet ribbon on in 3 spots.  One at the top and one on each foot.   This is so your feet stick out at the appropriate angle.

9.  Cut off a bit of red boa...glue to top of head, be careful of thread.  The reason I have you glue on the comb before the white feathers is so you know where the top is.  Be careful and hold the comb up when you're putting the white feathers around it, or you will glue the comb down.   Enjoy the adorableness you have made thus far.  Ohhhhh I just want to squish you! 

10.  Time to start on the feathers.  If you choose to use some colored feathers, put them on first so you can overlap them with the white ones.

11.  Cut a bit of the white boa off...separate into feather and fluff...chunks.  The face needs smaller bits of feather and fluff, but you can cover wide swaths of backside with larger pieces.

12.  Start gluing.  I just glue a small section and stick on feathers.  I start around the face first.  After the entire ball is covered in feathers and fluff, I trim around the eyes if they are being obscured like in this picture.

13.  Be prepared for feather fluff to go....everywhere.  Up the nose, in your hair...use this extra fluff to cover any glue-y spots that aren't covered in feathers.

Using a small piece of muslin, put the year and name of whoever made the chicken.  Glue it on.  I just wrote in pencil.  I find markers bleed, and it's not going to be washed, so I figured pencil is just fine.

While feasting, let these little fluff-balls dry.

 Who's pretty?

 Yes you are!

 Gotta love the green cheeks.  Not my kids, of course, but some child who likes green.

This chicken, was sprayed with glitter spray paint.  Hard to see, I know.  This is a fun idea to add a little shimmer but I found that it matted down the feathers a bit...which I didn't like the most.  So I decided against spraying them all with it.

Thanks for reading!!


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pre-Feast Activities for kids part deux...Thanksgiving fun

This project is for when dinner is almost ready.  You've rounded up the kids so they are close at hand, but you want to keep them occupied just a bit longer.  Daddy's carving the turkey, Auntie is tossing the salad and Grandma is piling warm, buttery rolls into a basket.

Pretend this is your table setting, notice the canning jar in the corner.  You are going to make one of these for each of the kids in your family.  Here's the supplies you'll need:

You will need a pint size canning jar for each child.  You will need 16 crayons per each jar, and you will need an assortment of construction paper.

Cut several pieces of construction paper in half length-wise.  Whatever colors you like.  I put in 4 pieces of paper per jar.

Write a note for each of your children, letting them know all the reasons you are thankful for them.  This is a nice thing to read during your Thanksgiving meal. I always like to emphasize being thankful on Thanksgiving.

Put 16 crayons on the perimeter of each jar.  Roll up the 4 pieces of construction paper and put them inside the crayons.  Take your list and roll it up even tinier than the construction paper, and place it in the middle of the construction paper.

Decorate it!  Tie a piece of burlap and a bit of gold ribbon around each make it festive.  You can't have ugly crafts at the table.  It is a feast, after all.

While you're waiting for the feast to being, have the kids draw pictures of what they are thankful for.  If they are old enough, they can write what they are thankful for as well.  But nothing keeps my kids occupied like drawing pictures.

My Oldest... thankful for the turkey. 

My Youngest said she is thankful for me.  Aaawww she drew a sunflower.

Thanks for reading!


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