Friday, December 24, 2010

Inspired by 12 Drummers Drumming: Gift Drums

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!  Well here it is:  the last day of my 12 recipes and crafts inspired by the 12 days of Christmas.  It has been a good challenge for me and I've had fun.  This last craft is really easy and great for packaging Christmas cookies that you are planning to give as a gift.  What you need:

Empty tin or even oatmeal container (I used an empty pirouettes cookie tin)
scrapbook paper
ribbon (I used two kinds:  one was 5/16" and one was 7/8")
mod podge
measuring tape or ruler
glue (I used a heavy-duty glue stick and hot glue)

If you are using an oatmeal container, cut it down the the desired height.  Take your tin or container and measure the height.  Cut scrapbook paper to that height and wrap the container.  Cut additional strips if it's not long enough to go all the way around.  Glue the paper onto your container.  Mod podge it on.  Now cut lengths of thin ribbon and attach them in a "v" pattern to resemble a drum, as well as a top and bottom border.  Glue them on and mod podge over them too if they need additional help sticking.  
Now at this point, the original lid to your container may not fit anymore.  If not, trace the opening onto scrapbook paper and draw small tabs coming off it.  Cut out the circle and tabs (see picture below).

Fold the tabs down and glue them to the thick ribbon, leaving about 8" of ribbon loose before the first tab so you can use it to tie a bow later.  After gluing the last tab, leave 8" more loose.  Put this new lid on your container and tie a bow with loose ends of ribbon.  Fill your tin with something tasty, and you're done!  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inspired by 11 Pipers Piping: Candy-Stripe Cookie "Flutes"

I saw this recipe in my Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook ages ago and thought these looked so cute, so I was glad when the pipers piping gave me an excuse to try them out.  I made these cookies thinking they looked a little like flutes.  You can even poke some holes in them while they're still warm to make them more flute-like (see picture below), but I liked them better like this. 

Since this is a Martha recipe I won't post it on my blog, but you can find directions online here.  First, though, some comments people posted on the Martha Stewart site mentioned some trouble they had with these cookies.  I honestly thought they were a lot easier than they looked, and while they didn't turn out as perfectly as hers, I still thought they were fine.  let me just add a few things to make the recipe easier: 

1. I used cereal box cardboard to make my rectangle stencil and it worked great. 
2. When it says to spoon a heaping tablespoon onto the cookie sheet, it just means heaping, not as full as you possibly can fill the spoon. 
3. You want the batter spread fairly thin.  If you feel like you've got too much you can sort of spread the excess onto your stencil and lift it off. 
4. Finally, these can be really hot and hard to roll when they come out of the oven, so if you keep a small bowl of ice water nearby and soak your fingertips in it for a minute before they come out, dry your hands, and then roll the cookies, it helps.  If worse comes to worse, you can just put band aids on all your fingertips to protect them when you roll. ;)

Cookie with flute holes

Uncooked batter with stripes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Inspired by Ten Lords a Leaping: Johnny Jump Up Christmas Cards

You may be wondering right now, "what is a Johnny Jump Up and what does it have to do with Christmas cards?"  Well I'll tell you.  Johnny Jump Ups are also more commonly known as violas and are a cute little flower that "jumps up" in the spring.  When I thought of lords a leaping, I thought about this flower and figured lords-a-leaping=johnnies jumping.  But how to make them work for Christmas?  Family Fun had this fun article a while back on making your own plantable greeting cards by making homemade paper with wildflower seeds in it, and I thought "hey, you could do that for Christmas!"  Or, as shown above, you can trace a Christmas cookie cutter onto the paper, cut it out, and attach the shape to the inside of a Christmas card.  Just make sure that you include directions for planting and watering and such (you can find this information on whatever seed packet you use).  I found my johnny jump up seeds at a local garden store, and while the seed packet pickings are more slim at this time of year than in the spring, you should be able to find something that will work, particularly if you're not looking for just one type of flower like I was.

I could give you step-by-step instructions, but the Family Fun article linked above is great with pictures and clear instructions and everything.  Just be warned, this project does take some time because you have to soak paper strips overnight, and then after you make your paper it has to dry for 24 hours.  Have fun!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Inspired by Nine Ladies Dancing: The Nine Ladies Dancing Mocktail

This holiday drink is one part mocktail, one part kitchen science experiment.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term "mocktail," it is a mixed drink that doesn't contain any alcohol.  In these parts, Shirley Temples, Virgin strawberry daiquiris, etc. would be considered mocktails.  So that's the mocktail part of this drink.  Now on the to science experiment. 

Back when I was in seventh grade, my science teacher showed us an experiment where you put raisins in Mountain Dew and they appear to swim around in the soda.  What happens is the wrinkles on the raisins catch carbon dioxide bubbles which then raise them to the surface, where the bubbles pop and send the raisin back to the bottom of the glass.  When it's raisins and Mountain Dew it looks a little like beetles swimming in sewer water.  Ew.  However, I got to thinking.  If I used 7-up (lemon-lime sodas are frequently used in mocktails) and craisins, would they swim or "dance" around like the raisins in the old science experiment?  So I tried it, and sure enough, friends, my craisins danced. 

It's really kind of fun to drink this and have craisins dancing around in your glass.  Kids would love this, which is great because being alcohol free, this is a kid friendly drink.  Yay!  Here's how to recreate Nine Ladies Dancing for yourself:

-Two parts (I used 2/3 cup) cold 7-up or other lemon-lime soda (if you use it from a can it tends to have more bubbles than the plastic bottles and hence will give you more dancing time.)
-One part cranberry juice (I used 1/3 cup)
-Nine craisins
-One orange

Directions: Put nine craisins into the bottom of the glass.  Quarter the orange and squeeze juice from one quarter into the glass.  Add soda and cranberry juice and mix.  Garnish with an orange slice if desired.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Inspired by Eight Maids a Milking: Punched Tin Milk Pails

I love the look of punched tin candle holders, so I thought using miniature milk pails to make some would be fun.  This may be one of the easiest crafts I have ever done.  It would be such a great one to do with kids--unfortunately I had a busy day and didn't get around to this until my three year old was already asleep, but I may save some tin cans and make some more so he can help.  Just be careful if a child is helping you because the punched holes can be sharp on the inside of the bucket.  I chose to do a kind of star pattern on mine, but you could do anything you like--Christmas trees, animals, or just pretty swirls.

You will need:
Tin can or small metal bucket
Small nail
Pencil or marker
Gloves or a towel (to hold the frozen bucket if your hands get cold)
Small votive candle or tea light

On the outside of the can or metal bucket, draw a design (it doesn't have to be perfect, as you can see from mine above).  Fill the can/bucket with water and freeze for two days.  This keeps it from collapsing when you hammer it later.  Just a note, I got a super cheap metal pail and when I froze it, the bottom popped off.  No worries if that happens, just hammer it back on after the ice is removed later.  Anyway, after two days when the ice is nice and solid, take the bucket out of the freezer and use a small nail and hammer to punch holes of various sizes in the pattern that you drew.  Remove the ice by running the bucket under warm water until the ice can slip right out.  Dry bucket and place a candle in it.  If you have a hard time lighting the candle, I've heard you can light a dry spaghetti noodle and use that to reach down inside your bucket to light it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inspired by Seven Swans a Swimming: Chocolate I'd Like to Swim In

Can I make a confession?  Today's post was actually supposed to be about white chocolate dipped swans made out of marshmallows that you could float in your hot chocolate.  Get it?  Swans swimming in your hot chocolate?  But sadly, my swans turned out more like ugly ducklings, so until I perfect them (maybe next year?), I'm going to go with this chocolate sauce that I'd be happy to swim in instead.  Call it a cop out.  Go ahead, it's o.k.  It kind of is.  But that doesn't mean this chocolate sauce (which comes to me by way of one of my cousins) isn't the greatest thing to happen to ice cream since cookie dough.

This chocolate sauce is nice and thick, and unlike some other chocolate sauces I've tried, it can keep in the fridge for weeks without turning grainy with sugar crystals.  The key is not letting it boil, and blending it in a blender.  Try it out.  And resist the urge to just fill a bathtub with it and jump in.

Hot Fudge Sauce
3 c. sugar
3 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tall can evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. butter

Melt chocolate and stir together with milk and sugar.  Heat together until sugar is dissolved.  DO NOT BOIL.  Pour into blender and beat on high speed until mixture thickens (10-15 min.).  Add vanilla and butter and blend.  Will store in fridge for weeks.

Inspired by Six Geese a Laying: Pavlova "Nests"

Kind of late on this one, but since the sun hasn't come up on the seventh day yet, I'm still counting this as the sixth day of Christmas. 

I first had Pavlova when I spent a Christmas in New Zealand visiting my parents who were there on a mission.  I loved that Christmas.  I love Christmas here, but it had such a different feel down under.  Instead of sledding and hot chocolate there were barbecues and Pavlova.  Steve the sheepshearer also shares some of the credit for making that an enjoyable Christmas, but that's another story.  Anyway, Pavlova is said to be named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, a graceful, ethereal dancer who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.  Both countries claim to be the inventors of the light-as-air dessert, but since I first tried it in New Zealand, I tend to favor them in the debate.

Pavlova is a baked meringue type of dessert with a crisp outer texture and a marshmallowy interior.  Typically it is topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream.  Doesn't that sound good right about now when you're all weighed down with heavy holiday desserts?  Although the Pavlovas I had were large ones about the size of a cake, the ones I made were individual ones in order to better represent the nests of the geese-a-laying, and I kind of like them better this way.  You could just set out the whipped cream and a variety of fruits and everyone could top their own however they wanted to.  Just a little tip, though, I like sweetened whipped cream as much as the next American, but you might want to go New Zealand/European style here and not sweeten it since the Pavlovas are sweet enough on their own.  You really won't miss the extra sugar.

And now for the recipe:  If I could come up with my own take on these, I would, but I just don't think I could come up with a recipe I like as well as this one at Simply Recipes.  It's easy to follow and gave me great results.  Really, I don't mind sending you over to another blog or website if their recipe is superior to what I could come up with, because that's what we're all about here at Where It's Green--celebrating the fact that sometimes things are better elsewhere and that's great.  Just come back when you're done.  We've got a maids a milking craft tomorrow that I'm excited to show you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Inspired by Five Golden Rings: One Golden Ring...

...of caramel pull-apart bread.  Mmmm.  If you put caramel pretty much anywhere in a title, you're going to have my attention.  I love this recipe.  It's great for breakfast when you have holiday company--you can literally put it together in about five minutes the night before, let it rise overnight, bake it in the morning, and there you have it.

Caramel Pull-Aparts

2 dozen regular size frozen rolls (I use Rhodes because that's what I can find)
1 box regular butterscotch pudding
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. margarine
Chopped nuts (optional)

Arrange rolls in greased bundt pan.  Sprinkle dry pudding over the top.  Melt butter with sugar and drizzle over rolls.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and nuts.  Let raise for 6-8 hours (overnight) at room temperature.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.  Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then invert pan and let hot caramel run down through rolls.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inspired by Four Calling Birds: Four Birdy Gloves

Ah, how cozy.

O.K., so there are only two birds, but there are four gloves involved in this craft, so I decided it would work for the "four calling birds" day of Christmas.  I saw this idea a while back on Studio 5 but I can't find the link again, so I'm not entirely sure this is how they did it, but that's o.k.  It still works for me.  This would be a great friend gift for kids to give--inexpensive, cute, and easy.  How easy, you ask?  Oh, I'll show you.  Or rather tell you.  Here goes:

Take two gloves (aka one pair).  Place one glove on your hand.  While wearing said glove, put the other glove on the same hand so the fingers and thumbs are matched up.  Remove gloves leaving the first glove inside the other glove.  Stuff the wrists of the gloves up inside the gloves to make the belly of the bird.  Glue an orange beak made of cardstock or construction paper on the thumb and draw two eyes on either side of the head, if desired (come on, no one's really going to care about two little black spots on one thumb, are they?)  Fold the fingers down to make the wings and either just leave them folded (as in the picture below) or tie them so they'll stay folded a little better (see the picture below that). 

Don't let the pidgeon drive the bus

Maybe I should have used string that would actually match the birds.

You could even just leave the fingers all standing up and call it a turkey for Thanksgiving.  See how easy that was?  Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Inspired by the Three French Hens: Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

I toyed with the idea of Cornish game hens for today's recipe, but this is one of my all time favorite soup recipes and I've been wanting to post it for some time.  And don't you just feel like curling up with a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup on these wintry nights?  This recipe can be prepared one of two ways: boiling chicken and making your own broth, or making broth from chicken bouillon and precooked chicken.  I usually do it the latter way and cook my chicken on the George Foreman just because I have a hard time getting chicken to be good and moist when I boil it, but you can do it either way.  So here's the recipe, given to me by my talented sister-in-law, Catherine:

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
2 quarts chicken broth (made either by boiling chicken in 2 quarts water with 2 tsp. salt or with chicken bouillon)
3 lbs. chicken, diced
3 large carrots, cut
2 large celery ribs, cut
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1 T. dried parsley
3 cups egg noodles
1 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour

Cook vegetables, pepper, sage, celery salt, and parsley in broth for 12 minutes, then add 3 cups egg noodles.  Cook 12 minutes more.  Add 1 cup evaporated milk.  In a separate saucepan, melt butter.  Add flour and stir until smooth.  Add to broth and stir.  Stir in chicken.  Adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt or more pepper if desired.  This soup is also great the next day, but you may need to add a little milk when you reheat it because it can get really thick.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Inspired by Two Turtle Doves: Turtle Bars

I have never been a huge nut fan, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for turtles.  They were the Christmas candy I would always eat the fastest growing up, and I didn't even mind the pecans.  I also love cookies.  Especially easy-to-assemble bar cookies.  So when I thought of something that could go with "Two Turtle Doves," I decided to try making turtle bars.  This recipe is based loosely on various ones I've seen here and there, but I kind of just did my own thing, and was pretty darn pleased with the result.  I used refrigerated sugar cookie dough for simplicity's sake, but you could certainly make your own from scratch if you prefer.  Also, if you worry about the dental work that could result from eating chewy caramel (although no one in my family lost any fillings eating these), you could just drizzle caramel ice cream topping over these bars.  They will be a bit more messy, but still delicious, I'm sure.

Turtle Bars
1 roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough
5 oz. chopped pecans
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla
20 caramels, unwrapped
2 Tbsp. milk
1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a 9x13" pan, spread refrigerated cookie dough.  If the dough is a bit cold and stiff you can break it into four pieces then use your hands to work on one piece at a time to spread it evenly into pan (see picture below).

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle pecans onto hot crust.  In a small bowl, mix sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  Pour over crust and bake for 20-23 minutes to allow it to set up.  Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack.  Melt caramels and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, just until melted (any longer and the caramel will be too hard.  Where It's Green will not be held responsible for any lost fillings due to eating too-hard caramel.)  Drizzle caramel over filling.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Allow bars to cool completely before cutting.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Spiced Pear Jam

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to day one of...

12 Recipes and Crafts
Inspired by the
12 Days of Christmas

Yes, Christmas is officially just around the corner, and to assist with the countdown I have assembled 12 recipes and crafts inspired by the different gifts in the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and I will be posting one a day.  Will Becca really be able to do 12 straight days of posting?  Will she come up with anything even remotely interesting for each day?  Will she stop referring to herself in the third person?  Only time will tell, dear readers, but I plan to try my darndest. 
To kick things off, here is day one's recipe, inspired by the partridge in a pear tree:  Spiced Pear Jam. 

Oh, how I love this jam.  I believe the recipe originated with my Aunt Jean, but all of my aunts, my grandma, and my mom have been known to make this excellent jam.  It is the taste of the holiday season to me, especially since we would eat it on scones for Christmas or New Year's breakfast.  I have never actually canned my own jam before, tending instead toward the easier freezer jams, but I wanted to try it this year so I could give jars away for Christmas gifts, so I borrowed my mom's canner and gave it a whirl.  And you know what?  It wasn't nearly as hard as I feared.  There's a whole section on canning in my Better Homes cookbook which helped me figure out the basics of canning, and you could also contact your local extension service for tips.  Really, you should give this recipe a try.  You won't be sorry.

Spiced Pear Jam
4 1/4 c. mashed pears
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. all-spice
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 pkg. Sure-Jell or 1/2 bottle Certo
7 1/2 c. sugar

Measure fruit into large pan.  Add lemon juice, pectin and spices.  Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Add sugar all at once and return to a boil, stirring continuously.  Boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Skim.  Ladle into sterilized jars.  Seal with paraffin or process in boiling water bath for 5-10 minutes.