Tuesday, December 13, 2011

First batch of Christmas Cookies - 2011

I spent the day yesterday watching Christmas movies and making Christmas gifts and Christmas cookies.

And the first batch of Christmas cookies this year were the White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread cookies that I found on Pinterest.  I really love the flavor of shortbread but hadn't ever tried making any.  And these turned out just delicious and they are beautiful too.

I will share the recipe which was actually pinned from Better Homes and Gardens.  The green bold text are my notes and recommendations.
White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
Makes: 60 servingsYield: 60 cookies
Prep: 40 minsBake: 325°F 10 minsper batchStand: 30 mins
  • 1/2
    cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 1/2
    cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2
    cup sugar
  • 1
    cup cold butter
  • 12
    ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
  • 1/2
    teaspoon almond extract
  • 2
    drops red food coloring (optional)
  • teaspoons shortening
  •    White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)
    1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.
    2.In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. (use a good quality white chocolate here.  Or use white chocolate chips if you don't want to spend the time chopping chocolate.  I like the texture and consistency of the chopped chocolate.)  Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball. (A kitchen aid or other mixer with a dough hook makes this step much easier.  If mixing by hand just don't give up.  It takes a little time and effort.)
    3.Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. (I used a small cookie scoop.  A must have in my kitchen for uniform shaped cookies.)  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds. (if the edges of your cookies "crack" a little, just press and smooth a bit with your fingers.  Since these are shortbread cookies the size and shape of your cookies won't change much during baking.)
    4.Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
    5.In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. (I used white chocolate almond bark for this step and didn't use any shortening.)Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60. (I got more like 40 cookies when I baked this recipe.  My cookies may have been a little larger than the recipe recommends.)
    from the test kitchen
    Storage Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Lemons with Candy Cane Straws

    To be honest, I can't remember where I first read about these fun little treats.  If I had to guess I would have to say it was likely the "Family Fun" magazine.

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that magazine and would highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't get it.  It has so many fun ideas for holidays, crafts, gifts, activities, and recipes.  

    So, Lemons with Candy Cane Straws have become a Christmastime tradition at our house.  Kids of any age would enjoy this yummy treat.

    Want to give it a try with your kids.  Here are a few steps to follow.
    1. Wash your lemon and roll it along the counter to get the juices flowing.
    2. Use the point of a knife to make a little spot to insert the candy cane.  Taylor did hers at the side, but I would suggest inserting the candy cane on the end.  This gives you more opportunity for juice.
    3. Lay the candy cane on a cutting board and hit the straight end of the candy cane with the back of a butter knife to break off a small piece.  You want a "raw edge" on the end of the candy cane.
    4. Now go up toward the bend of the candy cane and break again with the back of a butter knife.  Try for a fairly long straight piece of candy cane.  (Candy canes seem to have a way of breaking where you really didn't want them to.  You may end up with some pieces of candy cane for those peppermint pretzels or other Christmas candy recipes.)
    5. Insert the candy cane into the lemon and start sucking.  Some candy canes already have a nice straw hole in them.  Other candy canes take a bit of work and sucking to finally get the juice flowing through. (Bob's Candy Canes seem to work really well)  
    I hope your kids enjoy this fun recipe which kind of becomes a little activity.  And hopefully this will become a tradition at your house too.  :)

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Organizing our Freezers

    Our family of 6 is now down to a family of 4 after our two oldest daughters have moved out, but organizing everything is still a full time job.

    And one of the areas that always seems to be out of control is the freezers.  We have two side by side refrigerators and one chest freezer.  So on Sunday my husband and I decided it was time to empty them and do a big clean and purge.  We had so much stuff that had gotten freezer burned and needed to just be thrown out.  I hate throwing stuff away, but there isn't any use in paying to keep things frozen if you won't ever use them.  Our counters looked like an explosion of all the freezers as we emptied everything out.  

    While trying to organize and put things back in the freezers I was met with the problem of how to organize our chest freezer.  Stuff gets down into the bottom of that freezer not to be seen again for years.  My solution.....those re-usable grocery bags.  Perfect!  I made one bag for our bread items and one bag for plastic containers of leftovers (usually soups and chili).  Now we can lift those out easily to see what is underneath, and then easily return them to the freezer.
     I used a Sharpie to write on the front of the bags to designate the contents.
     I hope this little organization tip will help you.  I find myself walking to the freezers to look inside and enjoy how wonderful they look now that they are all organized.  It is great to know exactly what is in the freezers and to be able to find everything.  And it will make meal preparation and grocery list making so much easier too.

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Our Advent Calendar

    Today is December 1st so it is time to get the Advent Calendar ready.  My children always enjoyed our Advent Calendar tradition.  And I have to say that I enjoy it too.  Now that our youngest is 13 I am dreading the day that she says she is "too old" for that kid stuff.  At that point I guess I will have to torture my husband with the Advent Calendar tradition.  :)

     I made this advent calendar a few years ago.  The base of the calendar is a metal cookie sheet (the bottom of the cookie sheet is decorated) and the tins are Martha Stewart party favor tins which I got on clearance.  The original idea was to put magnets on the back of each tin to attach it to the calendar.  But I had too many decorative layers of paper so the magnets weren't strong enough.  The inside of each tin lid is decorated with a circle of cardstock and a number cut from my Cricut.  The decorations and the title are also cut from the Cricut. Each tin is hot glued to the patterned paper square behind it.  I also used patterned paper to decorate the top and bottom inside area of the handles. 
     The inside of each tin is decorated with patterned paper that matches the paper used on the square under the tin.  The numbers in the lid represent the numbers left until Christmas.  And the numbers inside of the tin represent the actual date on the calendar.  This just makes it easier for the kids to see if they have opened the correct number of tins.
    I put candy in some of the tins and little slips of paper describing where other special treats are hidden.  The kids always love opening the lid to find a special note.  The slip of paper that I am showing here tells Taylor to go to the large freezer to find her frozen treat.  (shhh....it is peppermint ice cream)  The kids take a lid off each day and then store the lids in a bowl until Christmas.  
    The tins only hold one piece of candy, but you can have the candy for other children in a different location to give everyone when the tins are opened.  

    I hope you enjoyed reading about our Advent Calendar and maybe even got some ideas for your family.

    My first post at "A Work of Heart"

    I am so excited to start my personal blog.  I have been so busy working on the Shelly's Images blog and just haven't had time to work much on a personal blog.  But I often want to share crafts, projects, ideas, and just day to day life, so I thought now was as good a time as any to dive in and get started.

     This project is for the challenge at Shelly's Images Blog this week.  The challenge this week is a special 2 week challenge called "There's no business like SNOW business".  Be sure to drop in at the Shelly's Images blog to see all of the projects by the DT. 

    Image: Shelly's Images "Snow Lady"
    Coloring: Copics
    Papers: Bazzill Cardstock and Patterned Paper from my stash
    Extras: Snowflake Brad, Holographic Embossing powder for edging the title and to add sparkle to the snowflakes, Clear embossing powder to add shine to the carrot nose and hat greenery, Twinkling H20 to add shimmer to the snowlady.

    It seems like AGES since I worked on a layout and I have to say that layouts are a whole different beast from creating cards.  It took me a little time to get back into the swing of creating a scrapbook page.  But I am SO far behind and really have to get busy creating scrapbook pages again.  I think that will be my New Year's Resolution.

    Thanks for coming to see my first post here.  I am so excited to share lots of works of heart here.

    Challenges to Enter:
    CCEE Stampers: Snowflakes and Bling
    Digi Doodle Shop's Best: Lots of Sparkle
    Delightful Challenges: Let it Snow
    Forever Friends Challenge Blog: Use an animal
    Paper Crafting Journal: Anything Goes
    Willow Sketchie Challenge: Anything Goes
    Cooking it up with Katie: Anything Goes
    Paper Shelter Challenge: Anything Goes
    Stampin' Royalty: Anything but a card
    Whimsy Inspiration: Anything but a card