Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Christmasy craft project


For those who don't follow my Christmas blog, I thought I would share the link to my most recent post over there. In the Christmas craft forum I frequent, the 25th of every month is Rudolph Day. Hence, yesterday was the Rudolph Day for February. The ladies encourage one another to do Christmasy projects on Rudy Day, and this is what I did yesterday: Christmas Throw!

I've had the fabric for years, not just sure how I wanted to proceed with this project, but yesterday I just went for it! I'm so pleased to have finished this project at last!

Slow-cooker Jambalaya ~ highly recommended!

(Photo by Taste of Home)
Thought I would quickly share the link to a delicious slow-cooker jambalaya recipe: Hearty Jambalaya. I made the jambalaya this past weekend for our church potluck.

I did make just a few changes: used about a pound of chicken tenders for the chicken component; used only a half pound of sausage (I used smoked beef sausage) and, for the shrimp component, just used a bag of the small frozen salad shrimp and stirred them in at the beginning of the final hour of cooking. I don't see how it could have been any more delicious!

Fabulous giveaway at Prairie Flower Farm!


Prairie Flower Farm is having a party and giveaway! Go here for all the details!

I have become a regular visitor at Prairie Flower Farm. I enjoy reading about Linda's life, her work, her family, her crafting, and her faith. Linda is also an early bird reviewer for Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, and that' s just what she's giving away -- plus a lovely handmade coupon organizer in a choice of three colors. She also shares an incredible-looking recipe from the cookbook (Mom's Very Best Recipes) in this post, so you'll want to be sure to take a look at that as well.

The last day to get in on this giveaway is Monday, February 28, so get on over to
Prairie Flower Farm and join in on the party!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

An old favorite ~ Sausage Pasta Soup

(Photo by Taste of Home)
At our house, every Wednesday night is soup and pizza night. In warm weather, it may possibly be salad and pizza night. I do this because Wednesday afternoon is a very busy time for me, with lots of time spent out of the house, and then Wednesday evening we go to church for prayer meeting and our granddaughters' Patch the Pirate Club meeting. I leave the pizza dough in the bread machine while I'm away in the afternoon, and usually make a simple soup when I return. It simmers while I assemble and bake the pizzas.

Last night we had an old favorite, Pasta/Sausage Soup. I have been making this soup since I first cut the recipe out of Country Woman magazine in 1992. It is very quick and easy, but tastes as if it had simmered a long time. It's a very flavorful soup. Here's the link if you would like to try making this soup: Pasta/Sausage Soup. I keep Italian sausage in the freezer at all times, along with frozen diced green peppers, so I can make this soup anytime. I usually only use a half pound of sausage, and it is just fine. Also, I omit the Worcestershire sauce since one of my granddaughters is allergic to the anchovies in it. It tastes just fine without this ingredient.

Hope you enjoy this soup as much as we do!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February frost patterns


This past weekend, Mr. T noticed these pretty frost patterns on an upstairs storm door.

To me, they look like a bunch of small flowers, perhaps impatiens, clustered together. All in white, of course!

This is a clearer photo. Aren't they pretty?

"By the breath of God frost is given, and the breadth of the waters is straitened." (Job 37:10)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Country Baking sampler ~ finished at last!!

Last evening I finally completed a UFO of many years' standing.
This photo shows it partially finished:

I had actually finished this cross-stitch sampler about 3 years ago, but could never decide what to do with it. I didn't really want to frame it. I had decided finally to frame it in fabric, but when I went looking in my stash one of the first things I found was a green dish towel that perfectly matched the green in the sampler.

The only problem was that I had already cut the dishtowel in half in preparation for another project which I had not continued with. (Don't ask ~ the less said about that, the better.) So here's what I did: I cut even a little more off one end of the dishtowel so that it would be a better fit for the stitchery. Then I sewed the two pieces together again. And I used what I cut off to make a hanging sleeve for the back. The hanger is a recycled dowel and cord from an outdated calendar towel. I always save those and have used many for this type of project.

Here's a closer look at the top half of the sampler:

And then a closeup or two of the lower half:
Love the Bundt® cake at the top left of this section, and the quilt hanging from the wooden spoon toward the right side of the picture.


I am so happy to have finished this project! Now I can display it in my kitchen ~ although I have yet to find just the right place to hang it.

Valentine sweetness from a dear friend


On Valentine's Day, I received a manila envelope in the mail from my dear friend J. What a creative little gift she put together!

First was this adorable felt heart, trimmed with embroidery and reading "Friend".

When I asked J. where she found the pattern for this, she told me she just made up this craft out of her head. I wish I had gotten a less blurry photo, but was in a hurry. Maybe I can take another picture later. Those are tiny embroidered roses up by the top of the heart. Isn't it adorable? I would love to make some of these for gifts for next year.

And then there were these three crocheted coasters in such Valentine-y colors!

Aren't they just beautiful!? I can see these done in fall colors, Christmas colors, even blue, white and gray for winter.... I will definitely be making some of these! They are made with cotton yarn like one would use for dishcloths, so are easily washable.

This thoughtful surprise surely lifted my spirits this week! I am so thankful to the Lord for my dear friend J. and her thoughtful ways.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Our snowy landscape


Snow covered apple tree
I thought I would show some pictures of our snowy surroundings while they still look somewhat like this. It's been warm up here the past couple of days, and things are melting. I don't think any of us are deluding ourselves that spring is near, but days like this surely make it seem nearer. Here's what you'd see if you drove into our snowy driveway:

Snowy treetops out back:


"God thundereth marvelously with His voice; great things doeth He, which we cannot comprehend.
"For He saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise the small rain, and to the great rain of His strength." (Job 37:5-6)


Next year's firewood covered with snow:

Year after next's firewood (still in log form) covered with snow

More wintry woodpiles


"[The LORD] giveth snow like wool: He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes.
"He casteth forth His ice like morsels: who can stand before His cold?
"He sendeth out His Word, and melteth them: He causeth His wind to blow, and the waters flow." (Psalm 147:16-18)

More winter woods

And more wintry woods



And yet one more of the wintry woods

"Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.
"By the breath of God frost is given: and the breadth of the water is straitened." (Job 37:9-10)



And one last picture of our snowy surroundings (the "mountain range" in the foreground is actually our stone wall!) :

"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?" (Job 38:22)

Winter ribbon board


Now that my winter cards been taken down from the ribbon board and replaced with vintage Valentines, I'm finally getting around to posting a picture! Most of these winter cards are not old -- they are just ones that I enjoy seeing.

The card shown at the top of the post here is by Fred Swan -- how I enjoy his art! You will see that it's one of the cards on the ribbon board as well.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My favorite versatile recipe for baked goods


Last week (or was it the week before?) I had some leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge and remembered this wonderful recipe I often made in years gone by. It makes 100 rolls, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, or whatever. Even though I had plenty of mashed potatoes, I divided the recipe in half. I made half of the dough into dinner rolls and half into cinnamon rolls. I used the doughnut glaze recipe (again, half of it) on the cinnamon rolls. This is a fantastic recipe! If you don't have leftover mashed potatoes on hand, this is so good that it's worth cooking a few potatoes for. The recipe is from the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Jantzen Longacre.


Edna Ruth Byler's Potato Dough Baked Goods

Makes 100 doughnuts or rolls

Dissolve:

3 pkg. dry yeast in

1 cup lukewarm water

Mix in large bowl:

1 quart scalded milk

2 cups mashed potatoes (no milk added)

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

Let cool to lukewarm, then add:

Yeast mixture

6 cups flour

Let stand until mixture foams up (about 20 minutes)

Add:

2 eggs, beaten

1 Tablespoon salt

11 to 12 cups additional flour

A little more flour may be needed, but dough should be soft. Turn out on floured board and knead until satiny. Let raise in warm place until doubled in bulk.

Doughnuts:
Roll out dough, cut doughnuts, place on trays and let raise until not quite double. Fry in hot shortening (375 degrees). When drained and while still hot dip in glaze mixture. Insert a stick through holes and let a number of doughnuts drain over glaze bowl until next ones are ready to do.

Glaze:

Combine:

1 pound powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Dash of mace

Enough rich milk to make thin icing

Cinnamon buns:
Prepare a mixture of sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Roll a piece of dough to about 18″x9″. Spread dough with butter and sprinkle over some of the sugar mixture. Roll up the dough as for jelly roll. Cut 1 ½” chunks and place in greased pans, pressing down lightly on each chunk. Cover and let raise in warm place until nearly double. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned. These may be iced with doughnut glaze as soon as they are taken from the oven.

Sticky buns:
Handle dough same as for cinnamon buns, except make a mixture of brown and white sugar, cinnamon, and a little white corn syrup and water. Spread in bottom of heavily greased pans with nuts, if desired, before putting in rolls. Immediately after baking, invert pans over trays and let syrup run down before removing pans.

Dinner Rolls:
Shape dough as desired; place on greased pans, and bake at 400º starting on a lower rack and changing to upper rack about halfway through for 15 minutes of baking time. Brush tops lightly with butter to remove any floury appearance.

Coffee Cake:
A good way to use all the leftover bits of dough -- put dough in greased pan, dab or punch holes in it, and spread leftover sugar, syrup, or butter mixtures over. Let rise and bake as for cinnamon buns.

To freeze:
Let baked goods cool. Wrap or place in large plastic bags and freeze the same day.

Note: This recipe is also quite good using part freshly ground whole wheat flour in place of some of the white flour.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!



Just a note to wish all of you a very happy Valentine's Day! I thought I would show a couple of my more recently acquired vintage children's Valentines.

This mouse one is not my favorite, but it is quite old -- from the early 1950s.
The puppy one is adorable, I think.
Hope all of you and your families have had a lovely Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine baking: molded and pressed cookies


For today, I thought I would share some Valentine cookies that are not cut-out ones. If you hate the thought of dragging out the cookie cutters and the rolling pin, try one of these. Most of them are molded cookies -- that is, you roll them into balls or otherwise shape them by hand -- and one uses a cookie press.


HUGS & KISSES COOKIES

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 Tblsp. milk
2 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
9-ounce bag chocolate kisses or hugs, unwrapped

Heat oven to 350º. Beat together butter, sugars, and vanilla until blended. Add eggs and milk; beat well.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, blending well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake 11 minutes.

Cool 1 minute; press a chocolate kiss or hug into the center of each cookie. Cool another minute before removing cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield: About 4 dozen cookies.

These were a big favorite when our kids were away at school. Each week I would send a tin of cookies back with them, to get them and their friends through the week.

These Almond-Raspberry Kisses are so pretty and just perfect for Valentine's Day.

In fact, about any cookie recipe topped with a chocolate hug or kiss would be appropriate.

And here is a recipe I tried recently.
(Photo from Tasty Kitchen)
Very pretty and very appropriate for Valentine's Day! They happen to be delicious, too:
Strawberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had forgotten about this one until I came upon the recipe card while searching for something else. I copied this recipe from a newspaper ages ago. It's an easy way to make a more or less heart-shaped cookie. I used to make these for Valentine treats years ago. These cookies have the added nutritional advantage of oats. Note that the dough must chill several hours or overnight.

SWEETHEART COOKIES

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 Tblsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Pink Frosting:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 Tblsp. softened butter
4 tsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 to 3 drops red food color
Valentine sprinkles if desired

For cookies, beat together the butter and cream cheese until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat again. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the oats and nuts (if using). Mix well. Chill the dough several hours or overnight.

Form chilled dough into 1-inch balls. To shape into hearts, press each ball to flatten slightly. Pinch at the bottom end to form a point. With index finger press dough from top edge of cookie toward point, to make indentation at top of heart. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350º for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool.

For frosting, beat all ingredients until smooth. Frost cooled cookies. If desired, sprinkle frosted cookies with Valentine sprinkles. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Here's one more of my favorites. If you have a cookie press, you can make heart-shaped cookies without rolling and cutting. I make this recipe: Fruity Pastel Cookies using raspberry gelatin powder.

Makes a lot of very easy, bright pink heart-shaped cookies.

Have fun with these Valentine cookie ideas!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine baking: cut-out cookies


Today I thought it would be fun to share a few recipes for Valentine cookies. Of course, almost any cut-out cookie could be made into a Valentine cookie by simply using heart-shaped cookie cutters and then trimming with pink or white icing and Valentine sprinkles or red or pink sugar. The ones my mother used to make for our school Valentine parties years ago were just heart-shaped sugar cookies frosted with pink icing. So, in that spirit, here are links to some of my cut-out cookie recipes. Frost and decorate as you please!

There are several cut-out cookie recipes here in this post at my Christmas kitchen blog: Cut-out Cookies . Any of them would make a nice Valentine cookie.

For a chocolate cut-out cookie, this one is my favorite: Cocoa-Molasses Cookies.

But this one, from Cook & Tell, is a close second:

CHOCOLATE JUMBOS
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup melted shortening (for example, one Crisco® stick, melted)
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup warm water or coffee
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp. cloves (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt

Beat the egg; add sugar and molasses and beat 1 minute more. Dissolve the cocoa in the melted shortening, cool slightly; then add to batter and beat again. Dissolve the soda in the warm water or coffee and vanilla. Sift together the flour, salt, and spices if using. Add soda mixture to the batter alternately with the sifted dry ingredients, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Chill dough for 1 hour before using.

Roll out dough 1/4-inch thick on a lightly floured surface; cut into shapes. Bake about 8 minutes at 350º; do not overbake; you want them to be fudgy, so watch carefully. Remove to racks to cool.

When cool, frost generously with a vanilla butter frosting. If you need a recipe, try this: 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 Tblsp. softened butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, and up to 5 Tblsp. milk -- start with half that amount and stir in more milk as needed until smooth and spreadable.

Makes a good amount of cookies! (Leave out the spices if you prefer your chocolate flavor unadulterated.)

If you want to get really fancy with your cut-out cookies, look back to this January post with the chocolate sandwich cookies and the raspberry lemon ones: Fancy Cut-out Cookies.

Or, even more special for Valentine's Day, try these:

CHERRY SWEETHEARTS

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 cups flour
2/3 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries, drained and dried well on paper towels
Glaze:
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 Tblsp. cherry juice (from jar of maraschino cherries)
Topping:
About 30 maraschino cherries, halved, blotten well on paper towels
Filling:
About 1/2 cup cherry or raspberry jam

Beat the butter, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift together the nutmeg and flour and beat about half of it into the mixture; add the remaining flour to the dough and beat well. Form dough into a ball; wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a well-floured surface, roll the dough into a circle, about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the cookies with a 2-1/2-inch scalloped cutter (hearts would be pretty, too) and place on greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 13-16 minutes at 350º. Remove and cool on racks.

For glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and cherry juice to make a thick glaze. Place waxed paper under cooling rack. Pour the glaze carefully over half of the cookies to within a half inch of edges. Let stand 4 to 5 minutes, then place a cherry half (rounded side up) in center of each glazed cookie. Let glaze set completely.

Sandwich together with remaining, unglazed cookies with a thin layer of jam between. Store these cookies airtight at room temperature. Makes about 5 dozen sandwich cookies.

I have only made these a couple of times, but they are picture-perfect for Valentine's Day -- like something you would see in a child's picture book.
Have fun with these! Later today (or possibly tomorrow) I will share some ideas for simpler, molded or pressed Valentine cookies.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Felt Valentine cookies, take 2

In yesterday's post about Valentine crafts, I showed some felt Valentine cookies I had made.

I also showed some cookies in progress. I had the idea to try embroidering a white chain stitch around the edge of the pink frosting (securing the frosting to the top part of the cookie in the process), rather than blanket-stitching the frosting in place with pink thread as I had done on the others. It was just an idea -- I had no idea if it would actually look good.

I'm pleased to report that it worked out very well indeed.

In fact, I like the way it looks so much that I am doing the rest of the cookies the same way. I used 2 strands of white embroidery floss to do the chain stitching, and I used the same white floss to attach the beads on these. (I had used pink thread on the others.) I thought using the white floss might make the beads look more like sugar crystals. I think it really did have that effect.

Here are the two kinds of cookies together.

I still like the original ones, but I like the white-trimmed ones even better. Which do you like best?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Simple Valentine crafts


With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought I would share a few simple crafts. Some of these could be done with the kids or grandkids or even a Sunday School class, Scouts, etc.

First up, these sparkly heart ornaments made of felt and trimmed with glittery beads and sequins.

You'll find the directions here: Sparkly Heart Ornaments. These look nice on a wreath, too.

Valentine banners are easy to make and can be personalized to look nice in any room with any decorating theme.

Basically, you cut paper shapes -- either a pennant or scallop shape would work well -- decorate them with Valentine doilies, stickers, etc., punch holes in the top edges of each shape and string them on a ribbon or cord. You can decide if you want to spell out a word -- I used L-O-V-E -- or a saying like "B-E * M-I-N-E", or you can make these without any lettering at all. Letters could be stenciled on or you could print them on or use rub-ons or cut-out letters as I did. You could even decide to string the shapes vertically like a bell pull. I used plaid scrapbook paper for my pennant shapes, but it has not held up really well over time. I think if I made more garlands (and they would be fun for any season!) I would first glue the scrapbook paper to card stock or lightweight cardboard. Fused fabric would work well, too.

Beaded hearts like these are easy and fun for kids to make.

You take a chenille stem and cut it in half. I usually use red stems, but gold, silver, or iridescent would all be pretty, too. Bend one end of the stem up about a half inch to hold the beads in place. Then string red tri-beads onto the stem to within a half inch of the other end of the stem. Twist the 2 ends of the stem together to secure -- it will be basically a circle shape -- then, bend in the middle to form a heart. Add a hanger of gold or silver cord or even fishing line. I like to dangle these hearts from my kitchen cupboard knobs,

but they are pretty as suncatchers or hanging from chandeliers or, as here, on a ribbon board filled with Valentines.

Lastly, felt Valentine cookies

are fun to make, both for use in play kitchens or at doll tea parties, or just for decoration. (I plan to put a few on a plate inside a little glass cake dome.) There are tutorials out there to make these felt cookies, but here is what I did: simply traced a heart cookie cutter on cookie-colored felt and cut out the "cookies" -- 2 felt shapes for each cookie. A lighter tan would have been nice, but I was using what I had on hand. (The nearest store with felt squares is a good 40 minutes away.) Then I traced about a half inch inside the cookie cutter on pink felt and cut that out for the frosting -- one shape for each cookie. Again I would have preferred a lighter pink, but this sort of rose color is what I had. Then I blanket-stitched the frosting onto the top cookie shape of each pair, using pink thread, and sewed on beads for "sugar crystals". Red and pink beads would look nice as "sprinkles" if preferred. Then I blanket stitched the 2 cookie shapes together, using tan thread, with the frosted one on top. Done!

Here are a couple of cookies in progress. I am experimenting with a white embroidered chain stitch on the second one, to look like white frosting trim. Just an idea I had -- we'll see how it works out!
Oh, and don't forget these pretty votive holders: Sparkly Votive Holders. They are especially fun to make with Valentine stickers and plenty of glitter.

Hope you have fun with these Valentine craft ideas!