28 December 2010

12th Day of Christmas

During the holidays it's always important to have some snacks set out for people to munch on. Here are a couple sweet little things I made for my parents and sister as gifts but could also just be set out to tide people over while they wait for a big holiday feast :)

The first is chocolate espresso bean bark. My family is a big fan of chocolate covered espresso beans, but it's tough to get individual coated beans when you are making them at home. Bark, on the other hand, is super simple, and the taste is the same.

Start by greasing a large (but small enough to fit in your freezer) cookie sheet with vegetable or canola oil. Then spread about 1.5 cups of espresso or coffee beans in a single layer on the cookie sheet.
Melt a bag of dark chocolate chips with 1.5 tbsp canola or vegetable oil in the microwave. Use nice chocolate chips for this, like ghiradelli.
Let the melted chocolate cool a bit so that you can touch it without burning yourself but it is still very liquidy. Then drizzle it over the espresso beans, trying to cover as much as you can.
Use your hands to smear the chocolate around so the all the beans are coated and you have a large rectangle of chocolatey-coffee bean goodness. Use a spatula to flatten the beans out into pretty much a single layer again.

Stick the cookie sheet into the freezer for about 30 minutes to harden the chocolate. When it is completely hardened, remove from the freezer and pry up the bark with a knife or your fingers. I found it came up very easily.
Use your hands to break the bark up into small pieces. Bag it for a gift or put it in a bowl and set it out for people to snack on.

The second little treat is something called Sparkling Cranberries. Basically I had a bunch of cranberries leftover from making the cran-apple spiced vodka and I didn't want to waste them so I looked up simple cranberry recipes and this was my favorite. It's very simple and very delicious.

Start by making a simple syrup out of 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Boil them together on the stove until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool to about room temperature.

Put 2 cups cranberries in a large tupperware. Pour the simple syrup over the cranberries, cover, and store in the fridge overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries and toss with some granulated sugar. Let the cranberries air dry for several hours.

When the cranberries are mostly dry, toss again with granulated sugar. Repeat the tossing until the cranberries are coated.

That's all there is to it! The cranberries are slightly tart but also sweet- so yummy!
Thanks for reading my 12 Days of Christmas posts! They were fun to write. I'll be back in the next day or two with my regular posts :)

Happy holidays!

11th Day of Christmas

  Ok so I suck... I can't believe I went all the way to the 10th day of xmas and then got swept up in holiday madness and never posted days 11 and 12! for shame. Ah, well, at least I cranked 10 out on time. These next 2 days are quite belated but they're still cute ideas, so enjoy!

A long, long, time ago (before I was born) my parents made salt dough ornaments to hang on the christmas tree. Over time most of them have disappeared or broken, but there are still a couple floating around in our ornament boxes. I've always loved having a christmas tree with handmade ornaments on it- it makes it so much more special. This year we decided to make some new salt dough ornaments so that Jenny and I will have some of our own to put on our future christmas trees :)

Jenny did the dough making so I don't have a ton of pics, but I'll post what I have.

I think she used a recipe that called for mixing 2 cups of all purpose flour with 1 cup of salt and then slowly mixing in 1 cup of warm water. A ball of soft, pliable dough should form. It shouldn't be too sticky- if it is, add more flour. If it's crumbly, add more water.

There are two different ways to make salt dough ornaments. You can roll the dough out like you would sugar cookie dough and use cookie cutters to make 2D shapes, or you can shape the dough like clay to make tiny sculptures. We did a little of both, but the first way is pictured below. Don't forget to poke holes in the ornaments so that you can hang them on the tree!
Bake in an oven at 350 degrees for about an hour. Don't worry if they get a little brown, since you will be painting them. The ornaments are done when they are completely hard.
Let the ornaments cool, and then paint! Regular acrylic paints work best.
It might be too late to make these for this year, but salt dough creations can be fun all year long :) now hang on a sec and I'll get the 12th day of christmas up ^^

24 December 2010


Christmas eve/nice winter night to all :)
My family is going to sit down and eat some tamales soon. We've spent the day decorating and baking and things, and it's been very nice. I'm going to be back later with a salt dough ornament tutorial, but in the meantime- I stumbled upon this sweet video earlier today and I think it's really quite beautiful and amazing. Enjoy your festivities!

23 December 2010

10th Day of Christmas

Today is yet another handmade gift post. The only person who can't read this is my sister :). This is an easy and super cheap idea, if you already have everything you need for the project (which, chances are, you will). The only thing that might be a little pricey is essential oil, but a little bottle of it will probably last you years. Other than that, this gift will cost you less than 5$ to make.

I'm talking about homemade bath salts. They're simple but they look (and smell) fancy and will last a long time. They are a great gift for anyone with a tub :)

You will need:
kosher or epsom salts- I used two large boxes of kosher salt to make three large jars and 1 small jar of salts. I had extra as well.
essential oils of your choice- I used lavender, jasmine, and "calm water" from the body shop.
food coloring
ribbon for decorating
paper for tags

and that's it!

Start by washing out the jars you want to use.
Measure out the amount of salt needed to fill all the jars, and then divide the salts into however many types of essential oils you want to use.

To make the bath salts, add several drops of food coloring and several drops of one essential oil into the bowl of salts and stir until the color is uniform. When mixing colors (such as red and blue to make purple) mix the food coloring in a spoon first and then add it to the salts.

I decided to layer the different bath salts into the jars, but you could do one kind for each jar if you like.

22 December 2010

Update (and a song)

What with all the days of christmas posts I haven't really had a chance to write about whats going on in my life these days. I drove up to Prescott last friday and spent a nice few days with my parents, doing some holiday shopping and gift making and going out to dinner and such. Yesterday the three of us made the 6 hr drive (through pretty much non-stop rain) over to LA to see my sister. The four of us are staying at her apartment for Christmas which I think will be very nice. Today we got a Christmas tree and they did some grocery shopping while I finished up making the last of my gifts (the most perishable ones). I posted my 9th day of Christmas blog and then we ate dinner and watched a couple episodes of Dollhouse (which I love but now think might be too fast-paced or confusing or violent for older minds..). After that we played a few rounds of bananagrams and now we're all in my sister's room getting ready for bed. My sis and I are sleeping in her bed and my parents are sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Definitely close quarters. I love my family but I'll probably have to find some way to get some solitude at some point :)

I'm really excited for Christmas... mostly because I just want to give everyone their presents already! I love making/buying things for people and I hate having to wait until they can open them. I'm also excited for all of this holiday madness to be over so I can just curl up with no obligations and read a book or something. Even though I'm on winter vacation I haven't felt like I am because I've been so stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed with all the stuff I've been doing. For the most part I've enjoyed doing it all but it definitely wears me out.

So that's what has been going on lately. Before I go, I'll leave you with a song I've been playing a bunch recently. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I've been listening to the band First Aid Kit and really loving them. Here's a song that I think is really beautiful (and a lot of fun to sing :) ). I've included the lyrics so you can read them... because I think they're nice. lol.

I met up with the king
He confessed his body was burning
I met up with the king
His body had began to rot
And he said,
"Don't think less of me,
I'm still the same man I used to be,"
But no one believed him
No one believed him

I once knew a pretty girl
And she was in love with the world
And she loved a young man
Who loved her body but never saw her mind.
He took
Everything she had kept
And then took everything else that was left.
But no one believed her
No one believed her.

I feel just like the king
As I fall on the muddy ground.
I feel just like you, girl
There's people thinking they know something now
Well I don't know anything at all
And we mean nothing to history
Well, thank God
So tell me,
Do you believe me?
Do you believe me?
I bet you don't
I bet you won't.

have a lovely evening

9th Day of Christmas

Mom, Dad, Sis, Don't read :)
Alright. Today is another handmade gift post. It takes a small amount of work, but with a sewing machine it takes literally like 5 minutes. I sewed by hand and the whole project took me only about an hour. I'm talking about handmade handwarmers! They're perfect for the winter months when it can be sooo cold outside. They basically look like little bean bags that you microwave for 30 seconds and then slip in your pockets or carry in your hands. You can also just lay them over sore muscles for some relief.
Making them is simple. Pick some fabric that you think the person you are making these for will like. I went to Joann and bought three squares of discounted leftover fabric- there are usually lots of cute options.

Cut the fabric into bean bag size rectangles- two for each handwarmer. pin the rectangles together, patterned sides facing each other, and sew up three full sides and all but 1 inch of the fourth side. Invert the sewed pouch so the the stitching is on the inside.

Using a funnel and a measuring cup with a spout, fill the empty handwarmers with regular dry white rice. leave some room so that the handwarmer is easy to hold on to and not too heavy. After it's filled, stitch up the open inch of fabric.

To use, microwave the handwarmers for 30 seconds. They should retain heat for about 30 minutes :)

21 December 2010

8th Day of Christmas

Every year in my family we eat tamales on Christmas Eve. It's a tradition in mexico and somehow we picked it up... probably since we're pretty close to the border. Some years we buy them, but for the past several years my Dad and I have made them together. It can be a lot of work but I think it's totally worth it!

We always make some pork tamales and some green chili and cheese tamales. They are both delicious.

My dad always makes the pork so I'm unsure of the recipe, but I think it comes with the tamale making kit you can buy near the bags of dried chilis in a supermarket. Or, you can use one of these recipes.
You will need the prepared pork filling, a large can of whole green chilies, a large block of cheddar cheese, some masa, some lard or butter, and some dried corn husks.

The masa is prepared by mixing it with some lard or butter. There should be a recipe on the masa bag.
Cut the cheese into 4 inch long cm wide blocks. I cut 24.
Soak the corn husks in water to loosen them up.
Tear the chilies into strips- about 4 strips per chilie
 To assemble, take one of the corn husks and spread about 1/4-1/3 cup of masa on the larger end. What you see in the next picture is a little thin- you would probably want a bit more masa.
Put your filling on the masa- for the vegetarian ones, I layered a strip of chili, then a chunk of cheese, then another chili.

Roll up the tamale and then tuck the end over the keep it secure.

Steam upright (open ends up) in a large steamer for about 45-60 min. serve immediately with salsa and refriend beans or freeze/refrigerate and reheat by re-steaming or refridgerating.
delicious! I'll try to post a pic of the finished product and our dinner on christmas eve. happy tuesday lovelies!

7th Day of Christmas

Since today is monday (at least it was when I started writing this), I thought I'd make a movie-monday themed day of christmas post. Originally I was going to just do one really interesting lesser-known xmas movie, but it kind of seems like all christmas movie are so popular that there is really nothing I can put on here that will be very new to anyone. I mean some of the best holiday movies- Home Alone, Elf, A Christmas Story- have been seen by EVERYONE. So, instead of racking my brain trying to think of hidden gem holiday themed movies, I'm just going to give you a list of my personal holiday favorites- regardless of the fact that a fair few of them are big budget hollywood films ^^

hehe. it's such a silly story. and it's nice to see will ferrell in such an innocent role. Also, I love zooey deschanel and all her movies, even if she does look totally different when shes blond and wearing an elf suit. I think I mostly like this movie because of the scene where zooey and will sing Baby, It's Cold Outside, cause honestly I can't remember much else about the movie haha.

It's a Wonderful Life
Ah, a classic. This is such a sweet, life-affirming movie. I just love it. I'm sure pretty much everyone knows the story of this one so I won't go into it, but if you don't you should watch it!

The Holiday
This is undoubtedly one of my favorite movies of all time, no matter what part of the year it is. When I first saw the pay-per-view trailer, it annoyed me to no end because it just shows these women shrieking. Blegh. But, eventually I ended up watching it somehow and LOVED it. It's both a love story and a story about healing and self-appreciation. It's so sweet, and Jude Law is incredibly cute in it. And Jack Black is sweet and funny without being annoying, as he can sometimes be. Plus, it has Kate Winslet- undoubtedly one of my favorite actresses. She's so beautiful and amazing in this movie. Geez, i don't even know. I mean, it's definitely a romantic comedy, but it's such a GOOD one, you know? If you haven't seen it, by all means, do so very soon.

Now, technically this rock opera [turned into a major motion picture] takes places over the course of an entire year. However, a good 1/4-1/3 of it takes place during christmas and new years. it also begins and ends on December 24th (9 pm, eastern standard time). I won't pretend that the film holds a candle to the original broadway play, but it's still very good. It has most of the original broadway cast and contains most of the original songs/script. If you aren't familiar with rent, i encourage you to become familiar because it seriously changed my life! It is the most beautiful, affirming, wonderful story of friendship, love, freedom, beauty, expression, and bohemia. Geez it's good.

Love Actually
This is another sweet little romantic comedy. It's one of those movies that follows several stories at the same time, and at the end they all turn out to kind of have to do with each other. It's a very sweet, very fun holiday film. It's both hearbreaking and heartwarming at parts- truly a wonderful snapshot of love in many different situations. watch it! Sidenote: british children are THE cutest.

SO, there you have my five fave holiday-ish movies. At least the ones I can think of right now haha. Please, rent a couple and enjoy! they are all quite wonderful, I promise.


20 December 2010

6th Day of Christmas

Hooray for being tired in spite of being sooo exhausted! I have to admit, I'm partly staying up and writing this because I wanna stay up anyways an see the lunar eclipse tonight around 1 am.

In a perfect world, I would have 4 nice, neat cookie recipes for you with step-by-step instructions and photos. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and I'm not about to write a million page long blog entry at 10:30 pm haha. However, I'll still give you 3 recipes (We used a mix for the gingerbread anyways- for shame!) and a recipe for royal and flood icing (and some decorating tips! although, nothing you wouldn't learn over at P-Dubs :) ). Plus, I still have lots of pretty pictures.

Lets just cut to the chase or else we'll be up all night!

First, I made the royal icing. You don't have to make it first, but I did. so I'll post it first.

I made a double batch of the following recipe. It made a lot- like 5 or 6 cups maybe. or more.

4 tbsp meringue powder (find it at a craft store like Michael's or Joann)
Scant 1/2 cup water
1 lb powder sugar, sifted
1 tsp corn syrup

Supposedly you should use your paddle attachment on your electric mixer for this recipe. I don't have a paddle attachment, so I just used my regular beaters. It worked fine, although a paddle may work faster.

Combine meringue powder and water in a mixing bowl. Beat until frothy and foamy (about a minute).
Add sifted powder sugar and corn syrup. Turn on your beater and just let it go... you want the icing to get thick enough to form stiff peaks (you should be able to dip a spoon into the icing, turn it over, wave it around, and not have any of the icing jiggle or fall). It took me about 15 min.
Then, divide icing into separate containers depending on how many colors you need. I made four colors (red, blue, green, yellow) and left some white. I used your typical grocery-store liquid food coloring, but i would recommend gel food coloring that is made for icing. You will get much deeper colors.
From the royal icing you can make flood icing (used to fill in the majority of the cookie) Do this by adding water to the royal icing 1/2-1 teaspoon at a time, mixing well after each addition until the icing is the consistency of syrup. The tip that Bridget from Bake at 350 (where I got this recipe) gives is to raise a ribbon of icing and stream it back and forth on the surface. If the ribbon disappears into the rest of the icing within a count of "one one-thousand two-one thousand", then the icing is ready. The royal icing goes into piping bags while the flood icing goes into plastic squirt bottles.

Alright. Now let's jump to the cookie recipe. I used Bridget's almond sugar cookie recipe, which you can find here. Except- my mom and I made a ridiculous triple batch of the dough because we were making half almond sugar cookie and half peppermint for a different cookie. Here are some pics from the dough making process:

yummy. you can chill your dough for later or roll it out and cut out some cookies right away. I'm pretty sure the dough ball you see above is half of what I actually made- I added about 1.5 tsp almond extract to this dough. the other half I divided in half again and then added red food coloring and 1.5 tsp peppermint extract to one of the halves (have I confused you with all the halves yet?)

After you have baked and cooled your cookies, it's time to decorate!
Royal icing in the piping bags is used for outlines.
Use flood icing to fill in the outlines- drizzle on a moderate amount (with some cookie still showing) and then use a toothpick to spread it out to all the edges. I worked on 12 cookies at one time. I did the outlines first, then the base flood, then went back around to do details. I really like how they turned out!

eek, they're so cute. haha.

but there's no time to gawk! onward, to the next recipe!

With the red peppermint cookie dough and leftover plain cookie dough I made peppermint candy canes- a tradition in my family. There's a video of my mom and sister making them when my sister was three. My dad has the camera, and I'm in the doorway only 7 months old in a little airplane chair thing that's suspended from the ceiling. it's really cute :) and even though I have no idea when or where the tradition started, I love making these cookies every year.

It's very simple. Just use the sugar cookie recipe above, but omit the almond extract. Divide the dough in half and add peppermint extract and red food coloring to one of the halves. Roll the dough into long ropes a little bit at a time- some of the white, some of the red.
Twist 5-6 inch sections of the dough together and bend into a candy cane shape.

Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
 So cute :)

Next up is another family tradition, but this one started long before I was around. In fact, we still use the same tool that my grandma used when my mom and her sisters were little girls! I'm talking about spritz cookies. Chocolate ones.

The recipe we use is from an ooooold betty crocker cook book. It's so cute a vintagey! Check out the little drawings and faded paper:
Here's the recipe, in case you can't read the teeny tiny blurry writing:

2 sticks softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend butter, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.

Melt the baking chocolate in a double boiler and add to the butter/sugar combination. Blend in flour, a cup at a time. If you own a spritz cookie maker, then follow the instructions that come with it- some degree of stuffing the dough in a tube with a thin metal shape maker at one end and pressing the dough through. If you don't have a spritz maker, I think this dough would be perfect for rolling into a log and slicing in a slice and bake manner.
Decorate with sprinkles and little candies
bake for 10-12 minutes. these are perfect for putting in little tins and giving as gifts. the little shapes are so cute!

I also made some gingerbread cookie dough out of a mix, and then my mom rolled it out and cut out some gingerbread cookies with cookie-cutters from her childhood. She also decorated them. We gave them, and almost all the other cookies to my grandma and aunt (although there is still a lot of cookie dough left over that we will use when we go to california tomorrow)
Well, there you have it. My cookie post. about 1 hour to write, 10 minutes to read, and 2 days to actually do haha. And now onto my movie post and we will be back on schedule! 

Go and check out the lunar eclipse tonight if you get a chance, it should be really cool- and the first total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice for like 300 years!