Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hostess Gift

I was in need of a non-Christmas hostess gift recently. Now, I'm a baker and I love making Christmas cookies, but for this occasion they just weren't right. This was not a Christmas party. So I did some thinking, did some blog searching, and came up with a jar of spiced nuts. I know, I know, spiced nuts are really something that you only make at Christmas, but this was a gift for people who aren't really into sweets (what? I know). So the spiced nuts were what I came up with. And you know what? They were so good that I might bring them for hostess gifts year round. So there.

The jar is a repurposed molasses jar (from all of the Molasses Cookies I made over the holidays). The paper came from my new favorite find LollyChops. She has designed all sorts of beautiful, beautiful freebies and I was beyond excited to find them. And so grateful that she takes the time to make them available.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Won Cuff Links!

One of my favorite blogs, Little Birdie Secrets, had a contest recently. They were giving away a pair of plain, unadorned cuff links. To win you had to give them an idea of what you would do with them. They picked their three favorite ideas. And they picked mine. As one of their three favorites! Look, here's the proof.

I know it is a small prize from a small contest, but it has really made my day and boosted my confidence. Thank you Little Birdie Secrets, this means a lot to me!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eggnog Cupcakes

Last year I was looking for a festive Christmas cupcake to take to a couple of family holiday gatherings. I wanted something that signaled holiday. Spice. Aroma. Not Chocolate. I considered gingerbread, but gingerbread is never as popular when it's not a cookie.

And then I stumbled upon a few Eggnog Cupcake recipes on a few of my absolute favorite cupcake blogs. And I knew I had my holiday recipe. Easy to make. Involves alcohol. I knew I had a holiday hit on my hands.

I ended up using the cupcake recipe from Chockylit, but left out the pastry cream filling and used my own made up recipe for a eggnog rum glaze instead of her Bourbon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. Very east to make and gave me the festive results I was looking for.

I thought they were great. Something different and tasty and festive. However. Yes, I said however. They were not well received at either family holiday party at which they made an appearance. I had lots of leftovers. At one party they were given a polite taste by a few before people moved on to some boxed brownies that someone had brought. Everyone else passed them up entirely. At the other family gathering they went completely untouched in favor of store bought cheesecake. Store bought! And I even pointed out that there was rum in both the cake and the glaze!

So this year I'm just picking up whatever is on sale at the grocery store on my way to the party.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Molasses Cookies

Baking is, perhaps, my favorite part of the holidays. And this is probably my favorite cookie recipe. I started making them several years ago after searching for something a little more "holiday" than chocolate chip cookies and something easier than rolled sugar cookies. And I found absolute cookie heaven with this recipe, let me tell you.

It is slightly adapted from this recipe found on

Molasses Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves

1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar for rolling

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325°F. and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.

In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, shortening, and sugars until light and fluffy and beat in molasses. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture and combine well.

In a small shallow bowl put remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form dough into 2-inch balls and roll in sugar. On baking sheets arrange balls about 4 inches apart.

Bake cookies in middle of the oven 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. (Cookies should be soft.) Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Notes: Bigger cookies are better. I've done smaller sizes and they just don't get as nice and chewy. Also, I've done half batches several times with no problems. And these are better a day or two after you bake them (rather than fresh out of the oven). It gives them time to get nice a chewy and for the spices to settle in.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake Heaven

I was responsible for dessert for the Solche Thanksgiving this year. Two desserts. I love being responsible for dessert. An occasion to bake for is a good occasion. But this occasion came with some unique challenges. You see, Solche Thanksgiving was on Friday evening. And on Thursday morning I was leaving for the mountains, not to return until Friday afternoon. This means that I needed two desserts that could be made on Wednesday and still be fabulous on Friday.

So I made the wine cake cupcakes which are easy and always popular. But for the second dessert I decided to try my first cheesecake. In my fancy springform pan. I wanted to do a pretty layered cheesecake, the recipe for which I cut out of a magazine years ago. But I chickened out and went with a basic pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I copied down from somewhere a few years ago. And my grandmother's graham cracker crust recipe. And wow, was it good. I mean really good.

A few minutes before we were supposed to leave I decided that it wasn't pretty enough so I made a quick chocolate drizzle out of melted chocolate chips and shortening to fancy it up a bit. I was very happy with the results.

1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup melted butter

Mix together all three ingredients. Press on bottom and sized of 9 inch springform pan.
Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

16 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 dash cloves

2 eggs

Combine cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla and spices. Mix with a hand mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs. Mix until blended. Pour into crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until set. Cool. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight. (or in my case for 2 days)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cute Purse for My Cute Niece

My niece, Cass, had a birthday recently. I decided to try to be crafty instead of spendy for a gift. An this is what I came up with. My main sewing experience is with a one handled bag from a tutorial I found on the internet (I'll blog that one on a later date). I have made several versions of this one handled bag and I figured it wouldn't be too hard to add another handle and cut down the size a bit. Oh, how I overestimate my talents.

I made myself a pattern out of an old paper bag from Trader Joe's. So far so good. But while cutting out my fabric I didn't realize that one of my pieces was a little short on the bottom. So I lost about a half inch right off the bat.

And two handles is the same as one, right? Right? You'd think so, but apparently not. Not for me, anyway. I had to take them off. Not once, but twice. So I lost a little length there too.

But all in all I'm happy with the results. It was all made with pieces from my stash. And I got to use my beloved ric rac for the very first time.

If you'd like the measurements I used for the pattern just leave me a comment and I'll blog them.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

Made these cupcakes for Thanksgiving last year and I'll probably make them again this year. Simple, tasty, and easy to transport. It is a wine cake recipe that has been a part of my family gatherings since I was small, usually in bundt cake form. Also, my husband's family isn't real big on sweets so a cupcake without frosting is right up their alley.

Wine Cake

1 box white cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sherry wine
1 tsp nutmeg (although we sometimes leave it out)
1 tsp almond extract (although we always leave it out)

Mix all ingredients together and beat for 5 minutes at medium speed. Put into a greased Bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Or, as in this case, put in muffin tins and bake for however long the boxed mix says to bake cupcakes.

When cooled, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toddler Purse

For the first time in my life I made myself a pair of cutoff shorts out of an old pair of capris. My husband absolutely hates them, but that just makes wearing them all the more fun sometimes, right? Well, with one of the remaining legs I decided to make Abby a purse. Super easy, all of the materials (handle, felt for flowers, buttons) were already in my stash. Making something with supplies on hand gives me such a feeling of accomplishment. Like I'm actually using some creativity and resoursefulness. That isn't really a word, is it?

Anyway, back to the purse. I traced a cookie cutter to get the flower shape right and used a button that came with a shirt that is long gone. I made the handle too long, I've decided, so if I ever make another purse out of the other leg I'd use probably about half as much webbing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Halloween Goodness

I had a little Halloween playdate here for my 2 year old daughter and a few of her friends. I wanted everyone to have a favor to take home, but budget is always an issue. So I got crafty. Using some wool felt that I had on hand from a disasterous Christmas project last year and some embroidery floss leftover from making felt food I designed these treat bags. The only thing I had to buy was the ribbon for the handles. I filled them with stickers and stamps and spider rings. Oh my.

Here I Go

I'm starting on a new blogging adventure. My goal is to blog about:

1. Crafts I make
2. Things I bake
3. What I love about my desert
4. Things I like in my community

This sounds like two separate blogs to me, so we'll see how well it works together.