Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's Christmas Baking Time!!

We have been very busy crafting and baking (and snacking) the past couple of days. Sydney had a big party this afternoon with 20 junior girls. They all brought dips to share and exchanged secret Santa gifts. Harper received a cute little craft from one of the girls in her class, and excitedly completed it in record speed for any craft set that I have ever seen.


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Carson enjoyed eating her fair share of cookie dough while my mom was not looking. She was standing on her stool at the counter and asked me to hand her a spoon. I did, and she promptly stuck it into the bowl we mixed the cookies in and ate some of the dough. She's such a little stinker. :)
 
 
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Here is the recipe we used for some pecan packed chocolate chip cookies. Because just plain chocolate chip cookies just don't cut it. Fresh pecans from my grandma in Georgia made the cookies even better. :)
 
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Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 2 dozen
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
1-12 ounce bag chocolate chips
 
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Add in the vanilla and one egg at a time until everything is well mixed. Slowly add in the flour mixture with the mixer running on low speed. Once the flour is well incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips and pecans. Drop 2 tablespoons at a time of the cookie dough 1” apart on a large baking stone. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 8 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
 
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I think this cookie fits in with the holiday baking atmosphere. I used my Christmas cookie paper and Christmas cookie stickers to make a very yummy looking card. If only I could make my cut-outs look like the ones on the card....
 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

American Girl Doll Stockings

I made these mini stockings for two of the kids I babysit/ tutor to use with their American Girl Dolls. I will deliver them tomorrow stuffed with some little treats. I know that I would have died for homemade American Girl stuff from my babysitters when I was younger.

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I have made several different mini stockings in the past, and I decided that my pattern would be perfect for 18" dolls if I enlarged the top and toe a little to better slip in goodies. This time around I also made a little cuff out of matching fabric instead of just sewing ribbon around the top. I think they turned out really cute. I plan on making some for Harper and Carson later this week.
 
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Did I entice you the other night with my recipe for fresh cranberry muffins? Are you dying for more ways to use up some yummy cranberries before their too-short season ends? I have another Christmasy breakfast/ brunch recipe to use up the rest of your bag in another delicious way. Look forward to more cranberry recipes in the future as I have fallen in love with the tart little berry.
 
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Fresh Cranberry- Orange Oatmeal Pancakes
serves 2-3 (10 medium pancakes)
½ cup quick oats
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
½ cup orange juice
½ cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
 
Mix together the flours, oats, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, milk, vanilla, and orange juice. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring in the cranberries. Allow the batter to sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Preheat a pancake pan over medium low heat. Drop 3 tablespoons of the batter at a time onto the pan. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, and the top begins to look dry with bubbles. Flip and cook the bottom until golden.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cookie Dough!!

'Tis the season for holiday baking and cookie tasting! But what if you are in a rush and do not have time to actually bake cookies? What if you are dying for some yummy cookies, but with the turkey, rolls, and dressing, there is absolutely no space for a pan of cookies? What if you are one of those people who cannot wait until the cookies bake and just like to eat the dough raw? Fear not, I have a solution. Cookie dough balls!! Made without eggs, these peanut butter cookie dough balls are like eating raw cookie dough, but you do not have to worry about getting salmonella or the thought of eating an uncooked egg. Here's a recipe for my peanut butter flavor, and I have a chocolate chip cookie dough balls recipe from past cookie dough cravings.


Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls (1)

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls
makes 16
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
3-4 tbsp milk

Mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugar. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, adding enough milk to form a nice dough. Roll about 2 tablespoons of the dough at a time out into balls. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
 
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You might just want to pack up some of those delicious cookie dough balls along with a nice card to show appreciation to teachers, pastors, or service people. What is a better way to thank someone than by giving them a heartfelt card and delicious treat? 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Cranberry Muffins

This time of year is the only time that you can find fresh cranberries at the store. After Christmas they seem to disappear until the next Thanksgiving. Hurry up and make these delicious, light cranberry muffins before it's too late!

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 We always have dried cranberries in our pantry, but hardly ever have any fresh. My dad actually did not know what they were. Everyone had fun sampling the cranberries. My dad thought they were too bitter, but Syd, my mom, and I like them. I don't think Harp was much of a fan. Cooked in a sweet muffin batter, anyone would love fresh cranberries. Good thing I'm giving you the opportunity to try such a delicious muffin recipe. :)

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Fresh Cranberry Muffins
makes 18
1 ¼ cups coconut flour
2 cups rolled oatmeal, blended into a flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries, plus a few for the top
1 cup applesauce
2 ½ cups buttermilk
¼ cup oil
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and oil a muffin pan. Mix the flour, oat flour, coconut flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together. Add in the cranberries and zest. Whisk the applesauce, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and oil together in a separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin pans. Stick a few of the extra cranberries into the tops of the muffins. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins sit for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
 
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Santa Claus is coming to town in less than a week! I sent this card out yesterday, and I hope that it beats Santa to its recipient. Don't you love the Santa belt ribbon and cute sticker?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Warm Winter Meal

I went all out for Switzerland tonight. I had saved cooking Switzerland for a night that I was home and my dad was not. All the recipes I found were quite cheesy, and I knew that everyone in my family would love them. (Excluding my cheese hating father.) The other reason I chose Switzerland for a night that I was home was because my mother and I traveled to Switzerland together the summer after my senior year of high school. It was a lovely country, and I wanted her to be a part of my recreated Swiss meal.

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To start off, I want to share a little bit about the alpine country of Switzerland. My mom and I found Switzerland (at least the part we saw of it) as quiet and quaint. We loved it, and my mom said it was her favorite part of our trip. There is much more to Switzerland other than skiing and hiking. There are tons of amazing museums, beautiful old churches, Roman ruins, and tons of other cool things that you should check out. Stay away from the tourist traps and enjoy the Swiss culture. You won't regret it. Here are some cool facts about Switzerland:
  • Switzerland is home to the Romansch language spoken in the canton of Grischun. Along with Romanasch, French, German, and Italian are the national languages.
  • They use Swiss Francs as their currency instead of the Euro.
  • There are over 1500 lakes.
  • They have an amazing (and really dense) system of railways.
  • The traditions of yodeling and playing the alphorn are still alive today.
  • They have the only government with direct representation. Any citizen can overthrow a law with the majority vote.

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The cuisine of Switzerland is very diverse. It reflects the neighboring countries of Italy, Germany, and France in the different regions boarding these countries. There is also a distinct Swiss cuisine that focuses heavily on cheese and potatoes. I think I hit the uniquely Swiss cuisine aspect right on with all the cheese and potatoes that I used. Switzerland is also known for it's fine dining. It is ranked number two for Michelin restaurants out of the entire world. Like everything else in Switzerland, my mom and I found the food to be super expensive. I guess deliciousness comes with a high price. Just don't order the Basel salad if you don't like raw hot dogs or pickles. I speak from experience. :)


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I just had to make Swiss fondue because that's what Switzerland is known for. Fondue is a winter treat, so my mom and I did not get to try any while we were in Europe two summers ago. I've always wanted to try fondue, and I thought that my Swiss meal was the perfect opportunity. Fondue was first created by poor Swiss peasants who could enjoy the warm dip during the winter months. It was a meal in itself. If those poor Swiss peasants lived in the US, they would have had to find some other meal. My first disappointment surrounding the fondue came when I tried to buy the emmental and gruyere cheese at the store. They were over $10 each for just a little bit. $20 for half a pot of fondue? I think not. Thankfully I found a fondue package at World Market for a premade fondue mix. I know that using packaged food during cooking through the world is a little shameful and embarrassing, but I had no other option if I wanted my fondue. Making the packaged fondue was surprisingly easy, but serving it was not. My second fail was the lack of a fondue pot to use to keep the cheese warm. Oh, well. I figured that we would gobble the fondue up before it had a chance to cool off. Disappointment #3 was the extremely strong presence of the white wine in the cheese. We couldn't eat it, and ended up throwing it away after a few bites each. It was just too strong. My mom wouldn't even let the kids eat any. I was so upset. It's a good thing that the rest of our Swiss meal was so good....


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I do want to share a few fondue etiquette tips before I move on. Just because my fondue experience was less than stellar does not mean that you should completely abandon it. A tone of Swiss people love it, so it can't be too bad. Maybe we just did not like it because it came out of a package. We generally don't eat all that much processed food, so we're used to the good homemade stuff. Anyway, you should never double dip into the pot. Put the bread on your fork, dip it into the cheese, and then remove the bread to your plate before eating it. If a man happens to drop his bread into the pot, he has to buy everyone else drinks. (Good thing we were all girls tonight, and 4 out of the 5 of us are underage.)
 

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This dark rustic loaf is a good choice to go along with fondue. It is typically made out of wheat flour type 1050, but you can't really find this type of flour outside of Europe. Unfortunately to average American grocery store does not carry such a wide variety of flours. To replicate the type 1050 flour which is slightly darker than unbleached flour, I used a little whole what flour in the dough. We were all pleased with the results. More bread was eaten than fondue.....

Weizenbrot
375g (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour
125g (about 1 cup) whole wheat flour
4 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
1 ¾ tsp salt

Use an electric mixer to mix together the yeast, water, and half of the flour. Beat on high for thirty seconds, and then let it rest for five minutes. Repeat the process of beating and resting three more times. Cover and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for one hour.

Once the dough has risen, add in the salt and mix vigorously in your electric mixer until it is well incorporated. On the slowest speed, add in about ¼ cup of the remaining flour at a time until a soft dough has formed. You may need to add up to ¼ cup more of warm water. Knead vigorously for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and put the bowl in a warm place to rise again for an hour or two until it has doubled in size.

Gently knead the dough and roll it into a snake. Roll the snake up into a snail, cover, and allow the bread to rise for a final 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and bake the bread on a stone for 20 minutes. Turn the pan and bake for another 20 minutes until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.


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This soup was the highlight of the meal. Everyone loved it, and I wished that I had made more. Originally I had my doubts about my mom and sisters liking the soup because of all the onions, but they loved it as much as I did. Sydney and I fought over the last bowlful. Basler Mehlsuppe is like reverse French onion soup because the soup is poured over the bread and cheese instead of the crouton being placed on top of the soup. This "flour soup" is a traditional dish from the city of Basel served for Fasnacht. I thought the hearty soup would be just as appropriate for a cold December day as during carnival. I just wish that my mom and I had visited Basel during Fasnacht so that we could have sampled an authentic version of this amazing soup.

Basler Mehlsuppe
serves 4
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
4 cups beef broth
½ cup red wine
1 parmesan cheese rind (not traditional, but delicious)
4 thick slices of bread, toasted
½ shredded sbrinz or gruyere cheese

Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add the flour and toast until golden brown. Set the pot aside. Heat the butter over medium heat in a pan. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until the onion is translucent and golden. Whisk the onion and flour together in the pot. Slowly whisk in the beef broth, making sure there are no lumps of flour. Add the red wine, cheese rind, and seasonings to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Place a piece of the toasted bread topped with 1 tbsp of cheese into four bowls. Ladle some of the soup into each bowl and top with the remaining cheese.


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My mom ordered rosti one night in Switzerland, and she loved it. Although she claims to not remember this, I wanted to make the rosti again for her and the rest of us. Rosti are like huge potato pancakes fried in butter. Flipping them over can be a little tricky, but mine was a success tonight. I should have added a little more salt and pepper because the rosti did not have much flavor, but other than that it was enjoyed by all. (Except for Carson who refused to put it in her mouth.)

Rösti
serves 4-6
2 large russet potatoes
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the potatoes and a pot of water to a boil. Cook until not quite tender. (About 10 minutes.) Allow the potatoes to cool and peel their skin off. Grate the potatoes into a large bowl and season to taste. Heat the butter over medium heat in a 10” skillet. Pat the shredded potatoes down into the skillet. Cook for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Flip the rosti onto a large plate and then slide it back into the pan, uncooked side down. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until the other side is browned as well.

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Alpine macaroni stood out to me while I was researching Swiss recipes. My mom and sisters love mac and cheese, so I wanted to try this Swiss rendition. The diced potatoes added in along with the onions gave it a unique twist. Harper really liked it. My mom and Sydney were not a fan of the onions, but still liked the rest of it. I had actually quartered the amount of onions that were supposed to go in it, so that they would like it better. It also was a little bit drier than your typical American mac and cheese. My mom said it was not quite creamy enough. All of this being said, everyone still really liked the dish.

Älplermagronen
serves 4-6
½ pound macaroni pasta
½ pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
¾ cup shredded gruyere cheese
½ cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the butter over medium high heat in a skillet. Add the onion and cook until it is nicely browned and crispy. Throw in the garlic during the last 5 minutes of cooking the onions to sauté it. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta and potato cubes according to the directions on the pasta box. Pour half of the pasta and potato mixture into a 9”, 2.5 quart baking dish. Top with half of the cheese and then half of the onions. Pile on the rest of the pasta followed by the cheese and onions. Evenly drizzle the cream over top. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and cook the pasta for 15 minutes.


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This simple applesauce stood out from my mom's typical recipe because of the addition of a little butter. Butter can do a lot to improve flavor, as the Swiss seem to know. They love to serve this applesauce along with their macaroni. Sydney loved it on top of her rosti. She said it helped give the bland potatoes a bit of flavor. Carson also loved the applesauce and literally licked the bowl clean. 
 
Apfelmus
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water

Heat the butter over medium high heat in a small pot. Add the apples and sauté for 5-6 minutes. Whisk the sugar and water together. Pour this mixture over the apples, stir, and cover. Bring the apples to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 30 minutes. Mash up the apples into a thick apple sauce. Serve with the Älplermagronen.


 
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Another Basel dish, brunsli are like a brownie- cookie hybrid. They are a common Christmas cookie that you can find in Basel during the holidays. They were decent, but the slight hint of cinnamon and cloves threw everyone off. Harper really enjoyed them, though. She likes anything chocolaty and sweet. 

Basler Brunsli
makes about 2 dozen
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup ground almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
dash of cloves
1 egg white
powdered sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, process the chocolate chips with the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, ground almonds, cinnamon, and cloves until everything is ground up fine. Whisk the egg white until frothy. Mix the egg into the chocolate mixture. Roll the dough out onto a surface sprinkled with powdered sugar. Roll it out about ¼ inch thick. Using 2-3” heart or star cookie cutters, cut the dough into cookies. Arrange on a baking stone about an inch apart. Allow the cookies to rest for two hours. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until the tops are firm and the bottoms are golden. Allow the cookies to cool on the stone before removing.
 
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Overall, Switzerland was a success. The fondue was a flop, but everything else turned out really well. It's a good thing, too, because I started cooking at 9:30 this morning and did not finish until dinner was on the table at 7. Thankfully everyone was pleased with the results. Switzerland yielded a very homey and warm winter meal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

There's no such thing as too much dressing.

My aunt made some delicious dressing for us when we visited on Thanksgiving. I begged her for the recipe, and she kindly shared it with me. I thought no one could beat her sister's (my grandma) cornbread dressing, but I was amazed at how delicious her dressing was. At first I was a little scared to try it. Canned oysters generally are not my thing, and I was afraid that the dressing would taste like a giant, mushy oyster. Thankfully it did not, and I liked the dressing so much that I had to make it for myself. I used her recipe, but made my own bread crumbs and seasonings instead of using a boxed stuffing mix. I wanted to share the recipe with you all so that you can bring this southern classic to your Christmas table.
 
 
Oyster Dressing (3)



Oyster Dressing
14 ounces slices of sandwich bread, cut into ½” cubes and toasted
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried ground sage
1 tsp dried thyme
2- 14 ounce cans chicken broth
2 eggs
2- 8 ounce cans oysters
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil a 9X13” baking dish. Heat a skillet over medium heat with the oil. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Toss the seasonings with the bread cubes in a large bowl. Drain the oysters, reserving the oyster water. Cut the oysters into small pieces and mix them and the onions into the bread cubes. Whisk the eggs, broth, and oyster water together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 50 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow the dressing to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
 

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This card has a funny story behind it. I made it as a thank you card to my uncle Brad who I saw at Aunt Eva's house on Thanksgiving. You can tell how long it had been since I had last seen him because he gave me my graduation card on Thanksgiving day. Not that I wasn't thankful, but I'm closer to my college graduation than my high school graduation. I guess he was just trying to kill two birds at once. Either way, I appreciated getting some unexpected cash, and I wanted to share my appreciation with this snowman card. Isn't he cute?

Monday, December 15, 2014

10 More Days!!

Here's another card to continue with our Christmas card mania. I am up to my ears in Christmas cards. Soon I need to start sending them to make sure they arrive on time. This one is another thank you card decorated with buttons an some cute paper. I lucked out with some adorable "Merry Christmas" patterned paper that fit the width of my card perfectly.

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