Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 Days and Counting...

Something must be seriously wrong. I seem to have an abundance of time to dedicate to the fun parts of Christmas.

Tonight we went on our annual Cocoa Cruise. Kids, carols, cocoa and Christmas lights.

Doesn't this look like a leg of Buddy the Elf's trip to NY City?

Henry wore the 3-D glasses for increased viewing pleasure.

We went to Starbucks and ordered 7 hot cocoas. The Starbucks man asked Doug if he was sure he didn't want 12 and then said, "That'll be $941.00, please pull ahead." Funny Starbucks man.

We also had time to make cookies for Junie's friends and relatives. Wholesome and chicken-y!

Ready to deliver to good dogs everywhere.

Junie B's Biscuits
made with love

2 cups unbleached wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
pinch of salt
1 egg
3 T. vegetable oil
2 t. finely chopped parsley
3/4 cup chicken stock

Mix flour, cornmeal and salt in a bowl. Mix egg, oil, parsley and chicken broth. Add liquid to dry ingredients and mix well to form a soft dough. Knead to smooth. Roll to a 1/2" thickness and cut with the cutter of your choice.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Cool completely before packaging.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

4 Days and Counting...

A good-natured snowball fight...

Many games of UNO.....

Time for a batch of butterscotch caramels...

I must be missing something. This is going waaaay, too well....

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best Gift

Books make great gifts.

Last week Henry asked if he could read to me. It was his first Non-Seussian book.

Maybe there is a better gift.

5 Days and Counting....

The decorating is done...

Only a few gifts left to wrap....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And The Winner Is.....

Lucky Linda! She wins this adorable snack packet by Abeego!

Now what special treat shall I fill it with.....

That Boy In The Backyard

Junie B. has a boyfriend.

His parents call him Lefty. We call him that boy in the backyard.

They are in love. The cute kind of love, like when the neighbor boy kisses the girl at the first grade Christmas party.

To avoid the love that comes later, Junie paid a visit to Dr. Jennie.

The down side of this, for all of us, is while convalescing, June has had to miss her standing 3:45pm play date with the boy in the back yard. Henry calls it tea time.

Everyday when the kids walk in the door from school, she begins running from window to window looking for that boy. So sad - young love.

This final straw, this view through the screen door.

So forlorn. He loves her. And so.... four o'clock, they had tea.

I am pretty sure she'll hold her own in this relationship.

She's faster than he is.

That's my girl.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Cheri,

I am blessed to have many, many wonderful people in my life. Family and friends, amazing in the their own right. You are one such friend and one of the most incredible people I am privileged to know. Mother, wife, daughter, friend and talented artist. A tireless volunteer, how you manage to share so much of yourself with so many is truly enviable.

You give so much to so many and at the holidays, if possible, you kick it into high-er gear....

One of the many thing she does (besides support the human spirit) is host a holiday party for the children of Lazarus House in St. Charles. Last year, I made some cinnamon ornaments for her to give to the kids to decorate.

Have you ever made these ornaments? They've been around for years, are so simple and warm the air with the fragrance of Christmas.

All that's needed are a few ingredients from the dollar store. Applesauce, glue and cinnamon.

Roll it out with a sprinkle of flour to prevent this damp dough from sticking too much. While any shaped cookie cutter works, I am partial to my giant mitten. Festive for the holidays but still welcome in January.

After rolling them out, make a hole with a drinking straw and place them onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Turn cut-outs a couple times a day. It'll take a few days for them to dry completely.

Once dry they can be painted, glittered and glued. Tied with yarn they are adorable hung on the tree or door knob or hidden anywhere their cinnamon-y scent is welcome.

Thank you Cheri, for giving me the opportunity to share a simple thing that I can do. For reminding me to give. For letting me help in the smallest way to warm the hearts of others.

I am truly grateful for you and your amazing friendship.

Christmas Love,


Cinnamon Ornaments

1# cinnamon
35oz. applesauce
2 oz. school glue

Mix all ingredients together to form a stiff dough. Allow to rest a few minutes to hydrate then roll out to a 1/2" thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters then allow to completely air dry before letting your imagination run wild with decorating ideas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What's In Santa's Bag?

While preparing for a kitchen gifts class the last several weeks, I poked around my own cabinet of goodies, dollar stores and big box stores for cute presentation ideas. The best part and best presentation idea came from an impromptu visit to a great little shop by the name of Peaceful Parlour. This new addition to Geneva is the ONLY place in the Chicagoland area to pick them up.

It was there I found my new favorite thing just in time for Christmas. Abeego makes lovely hemp/cotton fabric infused with beeswax and plant extracts then fashions it into adorable snack bags. Check out the sweet details.

Give one filled with homemade treats. The lucky recipient can re-use it for leftovers, lunchboxes and snacks on the go. Cool, huh? They make "flats" too. Round or square in three various sizes. Fill an inexpensive glass bowl with your signature dip and top it with a round for your favorite hostess. Less plastic wrap. Nice.

So guess what the other best part is?

In the spirit of giving and because I know you've been good, I am going to give one away. Leave a comment and at the end of the week, I'll draw a lucky winner from Santa's bag.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Food for Giving

It's Christmas and time to make food gifts. It's always challenging to come up with something new and delicious and lots of fun finding creative things to use as packaging. The greatest pleasure is having my creations added to wish lists year after year. My brother-in-law loves my marshmallows and I've made many (many, many) pounds of Layered Peppermint Crunch.

Like last year, I wanted to share a few of the ideas I came up this year for my Homemade Holidays class.

Who wouldn't love having all the ingredients for a cozy meal tucked away in the cupboard? All that's needed for this post holiday Bean Soup in a Box is the leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner.

Panetonne is a traditional Italian favorite. This heavenly enriched bread is one of my favorite things. Making it takes hours and hours but these Panetonne cakes are an easy way to get that festive flavor within an hour. Using the Italian waxed molds make them super cute and extra easy to clean up.

One of my year round favorites are jellies, though typically in the form of grocery store gum drops, orange slices and spearmint leaves. These ruby jewels are made with Wisconsin cranberries and rolled in sugar to make them sparkle.

The favorite of the evening far and away were the Mocha Blocks. When swirled in a cup of hot milk you have a rich and delicious cup of mocha. Modified a bit from a King Arthur Flour recipe, they are easy to put together, keep well and make many, many cups of mocha.

I may just go stir one up right now.

Merry Christmas to me.

Mocha Blocks
nominally modified from King Arthur Flour

1 cup cream, divided
1 T. espresso powder
2 T. corn syrup
1/4 t. salt
1 cup sugar
1 T. vanilla
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 T. cocoa blended with 1t. espresso powder
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
wooden stirs or sticks
Using two pieces of parchment paper, line an 8" square pan so all four sides are covered. the bottom piece of parchment may be used as a "sling" to remove cnady from the pan.
Place 1/2 cup cream in a saucepan. Add the espresso powder, corn syrup, salt and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil. Cover the pan and let it boil for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan, and check the temperature, it should be between 235 and 240 degrees. If it is, remove from the heat and add the vanilla; otherwise, let the mixture boil for a minute or two more. Set aside to cool.
Sift together 1 T. cocoa powder, 1 t. espresso powder and 1/2 cup sifted confectioner's sugar.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup cream into a saucepan. Heat until it's just beginning to steam. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and let sit about 5 minutes to melt. (Alternatively, use a double boiler) Then whisk vigorously until the mixture is shiny and smooth.
Add the sugar mixture to the chocolate mixture; stir to combine. Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the powdered sugar mixture. Refrigerate to set up. Remove from the pan and turn over, sprinkle with the remaining powdered sugar mixture. Cut into 1" cubes. Stack 2 or 3 cubes on a wooden stick.
To enjoy these tasty cubes, heat up any combo of milk, half and half, or cream. Pour into a mug and stir slowly allowing the mocha blocks to melt! Enjoy!
Yield: 64 blocks; 21-32 servings