Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Festive Fruit Basket Liners

When I was a teenager we made larger versions of this cute little basket liner for church fruit baskets we helped deliver (using Christmas material of course).  I have given many, many cookie plates and gift baskets throughout the years.  The cookie plates are something my extended family did for each other.  My favorite thing to receive on a cookie plate was Aunt Janice's divinity.

I like to fill my gift baskets with things like homemade mocha fudgefreezer cookiesbanana bread, and candy, fruit, and nuts.  Baskets can be found at stores like Hobby Lobby.  The dimensions for making a pattern of a small basket are 15 x 12.5 inch rectangle, with corners cut out so that you have a long flap of 8 x 4 inches and a shorter flap that is 5 x 3.5 inches.  Happy Giving :0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fragrant Vintage Ornaments

Satisfy your handcrafting urge by making Fragrant Vintage Ornaments.  Though mostly made from items in your pantry, these ornaments are not edible.  This recipe makes about 12 ornaments.  They can be used for tree and package decorations, bookmarks, necklaces, pins, and/or drawer fresheners.

First combine 1 cup of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground cloves and 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg with a whisk in a medium size bowl.  With hands, work 3/4 cup applesauce and 2 tablespoons of Aleene's Tacky Glue and mix with hands 2 to 3 minutes to make a mildly wet dough.  If it is too dry and another tablespoon of applesauce.  If it is too wet add a little more cinnamon.

Divide ball into four balls and knead dough like Play Doe.  Keep the other balls of dough covered with a damp cloth until you work with it.  This is a good time to pass out dough to as many as 8 children by dividing into 8 pieces.

Placing the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap, roll or pat to 1/4 inch.

Take off the top plastic and cut dough with cookie cutters.  When doing this project with children, cookie cutters with few corners works best.

As long as the dough has been well kneaded and not rolled too thin, the dough should be easy to peel away and reused.  The cutouts can be gently peeled off the plastic and placed on a cookie sheet.  I like to line my sheet with parchment.

Using a straw, make a hole at the top of the ornament, but not too close to the edge.  Place in an oven no more than 200 degrees for 2-4 hours, turning over halfway through.  Or place in a sunny window on a cooling rack turning over time to time to ensure even drying.  This could take up to 4 or 5 days.

When ornaments dry, you can insert ribbon--cut to 22-inch lengths--through hole and tie ends into a knot.  Tie another length into a bow around first ribbon near ornament top.  Ornaments can be decorated with opaque paint markers found in arts and crafts stores, if desired.  I used white Puffy Paint to make it look like royal icing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Retro-Christmas Stockings

The first time I saw this idea was when my Aunt Phala brought one for each family at my Grandma's annual Christmas party.  These are what I call Retro-Christmas Stockings.  When I was still a newlywed, my husband's mom gave each of her children's family's one of these stockings. Growing up, he and the other siblings got at stocking each year and his mom would put their name on a slip of paper at the bottom of it so that they wouldn't get mixed up (seven children in the family).  I'm not sure of the actual history, but it seems they come from the Depression Era.  If you're thrifty, you use old, (clean) knee-hi pantyhose (stockings as we called them), however, I buy the cheapo new ones.  Then in each "stocking" you place

  • about a cup of mixed nuts (in their shells--very pretty)
  • an orange, couple of tangerines, and a red and green apple (I like the smaller apples)
  • Christmas candy (something that won't melt!)
  • and a small gift or two (could be a handmade ornament for the family tree, or for an individual, socks, gloves--a tie for men or missionaries, scarf for a woman, small toy for a child)

Distribute the items evenly throughout the stocking.  Then tie with curling ribbon.  They can be made assembly line fashion and generic so that each family gets the same thing, or you can make them by males and females each sex getting the same items.  Or if you do them for your own family members like I do (five in all), I make the small gift a little more personal.  This is also a nice gift for visiting and home teaching families and employees or coworkers.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Candy Cane Reindeer Ornaments

Reindeer Ornaments would make cute table centerpieces for parties or to decorate side and coffee tables.  I like to decorate my tree with them and then give the reindeer out to visitors (especially children).  You need mini red poms for the nose, mini googly eyes (I could have gone up one size on both), and brown pipe cleaners.  Also Aleene's fast drying craft glue keeps the eyes from sliding, and don't forget the box of candy canes!  This is a pretty good project for kids.

First cut a pipe cleaner in half (unless you want really big antlers).  Making sure the candy cane is in the middle of the pipe cleaner half, twist the pipe cleaner around the top of the candy cane crook.  Then fold the pipe cleaner in 45 degree angles about two or three times (more for larger antlers).  Put a bead of glue on the back of the antlers behind the twist so that the antlers stay on tight.

Next glue a pair of googly eyes to the candy cane making sure they touch each other.

Add a red pom for a nose.

Setting each into a cup is a good way to help them dry safely.  If you made your antlers large, they can lay flat on a table.  Now read Imogene's Antlers by David Small (hilarious!  He also wrote George Shrinks):

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Steve's Perfect Sweet Potato Pie

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. butter or margarine
3 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1 t. ground nutmeg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. lemon extract
1 (12-oz) package frozen deep-dish piecrusts, thawed
Garnishes:  whipped cream, grated nutmeg
Cook sweet potato in boiling water to cover 30 minutes or until tender; drain.  Beat sweet potato and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until really smooth.  Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, beating well.  Pour mixture evenly into each piecrust.  Bake 350 degrees on lower oven rack for 45 to 50 minutes or until set.  Garnish, if desired.  Yield:  2 9-inch pies.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Freezer Slice and Bake Cookies

Making Christmas Cookies in South Florida, 1999
Forget the Pilsbury Cookie Dough!  Make homemade cookie dough rolls that you keep in the fridge or freezer.  This way you know exactly what's in the cookies you bake for your family and you always have a snack or refreshments on hand.  I've given rolls of cookie dough (including the directions) as gifts for visiting or home teaching.  You never know when you'll be called upon to provide cookies and I'm really surprised when folks don't expect home baked cookies--but they are always impressed!  I clipped these recipes from an old Southern Living Magazine and bake them often.
Chewy Chocolate Cookies
1-1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
4-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. chopped pecans
1 (6-oz) package semisweet chocolate morsels
Cream butter; gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.  Combine flour, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture, beating just until blended.  Stir in chopped pecans and chocolate morsels.  Shape dough into 3 long rolls, 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap each in waxed paper, and freeze overnight.  Unwrap rolls, and cut into 1/4-inch slices; place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14  minutes or until lightly browned.  Yield: about 7 dozen.

I really like cookies made with shortening.  The texture is beautifully crisp.  Sometimes if a recipe calls for butter I might use half butter and half Crisco.  I never use margarine because it doesn't bake well.
Lemon Pecan Dainties
1/2 c. shortening
1 egg, beaten
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. grated lemon rind
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c. chopped pecans
Cream shortening; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add egg, lemon juice, and grated lemon rind; beat well.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in pecans.  Shape dough into a long roll, 2 inches in diameter; wrap in waxed paper, and chill 2 to 3 hours or until firm.  Unwrap roll, and cut into 1/4-inch slices; place on lightly greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.  Yield: about 3 dozen.

This cookie is chock-full of healthy goodness.
Oatmeal Nut Crispies
1 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t. lemon extract
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
3 c. quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Cream shortening; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add lemon extract, beating well.  Combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon; add to creamed mixture, beating well. Stir in oats and pecans.  Shape dough into 2 long rolls, 2 inches in diameter; wrap each in waxed paper, and chill 2 to 3 hours or until firm.  Unwrap rolls, and cut into 1/4-inch slices; place 2 to 3 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.  Yield:  about 7 dozen.

This is my favorite cookie of the bunch!
Double Peanut Butter Cookies
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 creamy peanut butter, DIVIDED
1/4 c. light corn syrup
Combine flour, sugar, soda, and salt; cut in shortening and 1/2 cup peanut butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in corn syrup and milk.  Shape dough into a long roll, 2 inches in diameter; wrap in waxed paper, and chill 2 to 3 hours or until firm.  Unwrap roll, and cut into 1/4-inch slices; place half of slices on ungreased cookie sheets, (I use Reynolds parchment to line my cookie sheets).  Spread each with 1/2 teaspoon peanut butter.  Top with remaining cookie slices, and seal edges with fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.  Yield:  about 2 dozen.  Doesn't make a whole lot, but they are big and filling and sooo good!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Best and Prettiest Slaw for A Lighter Thanksgiving Menu

A healthy alternative at the Thanksgiving table is our family's favorite slaw.  I wanted to show the clipping because the presentation is so pretty.  I learned this in a Weight-Watcher's class, but the recipe is Southern Living Magazine.  I call it Sweet and Crunchy Slaw because it has cider vinegar in it, unlike the other vinegar slaws I've tried.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three Day Chili

Instead of cooking the week of Thanksgiving, I fix a big pot of chili that will last for days.  Then it's easier to get ready for our Thanksgiving Feast.  

The first day I made a big thing of rice in my rice maker to go with the chili (one way to rotate rice in my food storage).  I place chili on top of rice and sprinkle grated cheddar on top so it melts.  It's very filling and you can use brown rice for a healthier dish.  

The second day I had chili with corn muffins.  The corn muffins fill you up so you don't eat too much chili.  

The third day I made taco salad using the last of the chili (chopped lettuce, tomato, corn chips or tortilla chips, sour cream, grated cheese, etc.).  See my Tacos in a Frito's Bag.

It was also time to get Scrap Happy!  I had to make room in the refrigerator for my make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes.  I used extra eggs, scraps of cheese, 3 pieces of leftover bacon, toasted some bread, and whipped up the last of the instant grits from the pantry to make scrambled eggs with cheese and bacon tossed in, and toast and grits.  That took about 15 - 20 minutes.  We also have been eating on paper plates all week to cut down on the dish washing.

Pretty Chili 
(Yield: 5 servings--can be doubled or tripled)
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. onion, chopped
1 c. green pepper, chopped
1 can (16-oz.) chili beans, undrained
1 can (16-oz.) dark red kidney beans, undrained
1 can (6-oz.) tomato paste
1/2 c. water
1 T. chili powder
2 t. oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
Garnish with chopped green onions and sour cream, if desired
In a large pan cook beef, onion and green pepper until meat is browned.  Drain excess grease.  Stir in remaining ingredients except green onions and sour cream.  Bring to a boil.  Cover; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with green onion and a dollop of sour cream.

UPDATE:  I decided to include my favorite 1980's Taco Salad recipe.  This is the best taco salad and the secret is the refried beans and taco sauce:
1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 (16 oz.) can refried beans
1 (16 oz.) jar taco sauce, DIVIDED
8 c. lettuce, torn in bite-size pieces
1/2 c. sliced black olives
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 lg. tomato, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. tortilla or Frito's chips
Prepare ground beef according to directions on seasoning mix package.  Add refried beans and 3/4 c. taco sauce.  In large serving bowl, arrange half the lettuce.  Add beef and bean mixture.  Top with remaining lettuce, olives, onion, tomato, avocado, cheese and chips.  Serve with remaining taco sauce.  Yield:  6 very hungry servings.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Old-fashioned Travel Games

This came from a really early Southern Living Magazine--like from the mid-seventies!  I love to read really old Southern Livings.  The early eighties must have been really good issues and not disposed of cause those are the only S.L. I couldn't find.  As you can see in the scanned photos, these kids are not wearing seatbelts!!!  Well heck! neither did we in the mid-seventies.  I would have been about these children's age.  I had an aunt whose nine kids were all geniuses and they always wanted to play car games that were way over my little pea brain.  But I kept this article cause I think the little ipod thingys and other techy toys need to be left at home, and moms actually find their arts and crafts supplies, dust them off, and prepare games that can involve the whole family.

Anagram--Cut some small squares of paper.  Write one letter of the alphabet on one side of each square, making more vowels than consonants.  Turn the lettered side of each square down.  Draw six squares, and try to use the letters in one or more words.  Score one point for each letter used.
Name Pictures--Try to write your name in as many ways as you can.  For example, you can make tall, short, fat, striped, and polka-dot letters.
Pathways--Make up a theme for a game.  For example, you can choose a treasure hunt or animal safari.  Draw a numbered path of squares on a piece of paper.
Use coins for men, and throw the dice to determine the number of moves for each man.  The first one to get to the end wins.
Puzzles--Draw a picture on a piece of paper, and color it.  Cut the picture into pieces; then try to reassemble the picture.
Spot a Word--Write the letters of the alphabet in a column on the left side of a piece of paper.  Opposite each letter, write a word that begins with that letter; use only words that you actually see printed on signs along the road or the names of animals or objects you see.
Squiggles--Draw an oddly shaped line on a piece of paper; then try to turn it into a funny face by adding other lines.
The following verbal games are good to suggest to children who cannot read in a moving car.
Animal Game--Take turns naming kinds of animals.  The last one to name an animal wins.
Color Game--Name a color, and take turns naming objects that are that color.  The winner is the one who is last to name an object.
Name All Your Relatives--Name a relationship, a cousin, for example; then try to name all your cousins.  Or you can name a city or state and try to name all the relatives who live there.
Tapes--Many families take a cassette player along on trips.  Children can record impressions of the trip, or amuse themselves by recording their voices.  They can also play tapes recorded on previous trips.  (YOU CAN STILL BUY TAPE RECORDERS AND TAPES!!!--They're not obsolete!!!)


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