Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christmas Arrangements

Well, the hustle and bustle is winding down, but I'm still enjoying the Christmas break and the tree and all the lovely decorations. The dogs are enjoying the snow and I'm happy that now I only have to deal with puddles and not mud.

I was lucky to receive this gorgeous fresh arrangement in Santa's sleigh from a dear friend for a combo birthday/Christmas gift. I forgot to take a photo for TWO weeks and look how well preserved it was. I love fresh flowers and was happy that I was able to enjoy this display for so long.
I can show you this outdoor cone arrangement now since it is happily hanging at my sister-in-laws house. I bought her this cone shaped arrangement from the same gentleman that does my urn arrangement. I loved the container and I hope she does too.
I think that was the last time the sun shone here is Southern Ontario.

I was also able to take in a container that I had purchased a couple years ago and have it refreshed at the same place.
These arrangements last well into the spring. Well worth the investment!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas Tag Swap

I was invited to participate in a tag swap hosted by Rosanne always does such a nice job hosting. She puts a special effort into presenting the food and makes everyone feel comfortable. I particularly liked her grape trees. This was my first attempt to hook up to someone's blog so I hope the link works for you and you check it out.

Here's the tag that I made for the swap. (Did I mention we had to make 18 of each?!?)

I embossed the Kraft cardstock with birds and flowers and did a border along the bottom. I cut a doily and cut many poinsetta pieces using the Nestabilities pointsetta. I inked everything, then crumpled the flowers and the leaves to add a little dimension. I cut and stamped a Christmas ticket and then added a ribbon. I think it turned out pretty well. At least, I wasn't embarassed to pass it around at the swap.

Here's some of the other tags I received. It is so interesting to see what people come up with and so nice to go home with a variety. Is it less work then a cookie swap? Definitely not, but a really nice idea.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Traditional Shortbread

This is my favourite Christmas cookie. I like ALL kinds of shortbread, but this one is the best and has the simplest of ingredients. The recipe comes from a church cookbook "Coffee Hour Favourites" printed in 1982. I say printed not published because I'm pretty sure somebody typed it and then they photocopied the recipes. These are the best recipes. I'm sure they were made many times by the lady who submitted it. This recipe is called Etta Sawyer's Shortbread cookies. I'm pretty sure Etta knew what she was talking about.

Etta Sawyer's Shortbread Cookies

1 lb. unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
4 cups flour
pinch salt
Mix and refrigerate for 3 hours. Let warm up a bit, knead briefly and roll out to 1/2 inch.
Bake for 20 min at 300F, then turn off oven for 5 minutes. Then remove.

That is the recipe as it was typed. I bake them around 325F (I have a convection oven) and just take them out when they have a very slight tinge of brown around the edges. They freeze really well too. If they last that long.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Packaging Treats

Presentation is everything! That's what our mothers always told us so when I give away my candy and other Christmas goodies, I always like to put them in a cute package. The problem is when you do many for craft sales etc, it's difficult to come up with quick and cost effective solutions. Thank goodness for the Dollar store.
Here's some ideas that I used this past season....

I'm a sucker for anything with a clear display window. Aren't these adorable?

These held a dozen Snickerdoodles quite nicely.

These were perfect for fudge and nuts and bolts or you could use portion cups with snap-on lids for a less costly alternative.

Another quick and easy way to dress up some candy is with a doily folded over the plastic ziploc bag. I would have decorated this up a bit more but I made quite a few for my little Christmas sale so time was a factor.

I love it when my house looks like Santa's workshop but unfortunately I don't have any elves to help with the clean-up. Time to get organized and set up for the wrapping station. Hope you liked my ideas.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Easy Gingerbread cookies

Every year I like to try a couple new recipes even though there would be a mutiny if I didn't make the old favourites. I found this recipe on the Internet and it called for Hershey kisses. Well, who are we kidding? Nobody likes unwrapping those foiled pieces especially when you're in a hurry. I don't even particularly like gingerbread but I have it on good authority, that these little morsels are out of this world! And it's so much easier to pop on a Merken's chocolate wafer. (I used white and dark chocolate) then to use the kisses but it's up to you.

It's worth baking these just to get the fragrance wafting through your house. A soft, chewy gingerbread cookie without all the work of rolling and icing. Try it, you'll like it....

Gingerbread Kiss Cookies
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

For rolling: 1/4 cup sugar
Mix butter, sugar, molasses. Add egg and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients, then combine with moist.
Roll into small balls and then roll in sugar.
Bake at 350F approx. 10 minutes or until tops crinkle. Immediately press in a chocolate wafer
and wait until completely cooled to store. If you can wait that is.

FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO DON'T READ through the recipe "Should be
chilled at least one hour before rolling!)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Sugar Cookie Bars

If you're in a hurry and don't like to roll out sugar cookies, this is the way to go. It's fast and it makes a huge amount so you won't mind sharing. The texture is a little more cake-like and you can ice with as much icing as you like. I think next time I make them, I will add a bit of nutmeg as I like that flavour in my cookies.

Sugar Cookie Bars
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
5 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. nutmeg (optional)

Frosting: Your favourite buttercream or store bought(shudder)

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla and mix well. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and add to wet mixture and mix until just combined. Spread on a greased baking sheet (13 x 18). Bake at 375F for 10 -15 minutes, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean (they won't look done so do the toothpick test)
I think I may have left mine in a hair too long. They will set up a bit while they cool.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Microwave Peanut Brittle

This recipe is pretty fail-proof. Once you figure out what container to use and have your ingredients ready to go, it's a breeze. Just remember you need to work quickly at the end and wear BIG oven mitts.

Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup salted peanuts
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda

Line a cookie sheet with foil and butter it.
Combine sugar and corn syrup in a 2 quart glass bowl and microwave on high
for 4 min.
Stir in peanuts and microwave another 3 1/2 minutes
Stir in butter and vanilla and microwave another 1 1/2 minutes.
Stir in baking soda and immediately pour onto cookie sheet.
Cool and break into pieces.

Note: My microwave is not very hot so you may have to play with the times but this is the original recipe so it must work quite well with the varying microwave wattages.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Nuts and Bolts

It wouldn't be Christmas without a large roasting pan full of Nuts and Bolts. This recipe came from a neighbour of ours when I was growing up. It's pretty traditional but what I like about it is that it does not leave an aftertaste of garlic and onion. If you like yours a little more seasoned, add more of both.

1 box Shreddies
1 box Cheerios
1 bag of pretzels
2 cups of salted peanuts
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup oil
1 cup butter

Melt butter, add oil and Worchestershire.
Combine onion and garlic salt.
Put in roast pan and pour liquid over gradually. Sprinkle combined salt mixture over cereals.
Bake at 325F for 1 hour stirring every 15 minute. (This may vary depending on your oven. Make sure the cereal is toasted but not burnt)
*In the last 15 minutes, add pretzels and peanuts.

WARNING: This mixture is addictive.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Whipped Shortbread

Soft pillows of buttery perfection! I love Christmas baking. I get to make all my old favourites and give them away. People seem to enjoy receiving a homemade gift and I enjoy making them.
This is a classic, I'm sure you've made it before but in case you haven't here's my tried and true recipe.....

Whipped Shortbread
 1 lb. of butter (softened)
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 cups of flour
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Cream butter, sift dry ingredients and then add them along with the vanilla in a electric mixer and beat until the consistency of whipped cream.
Drop by teaspoon onto cookie sheet. May be decorated with sprinkles or red/green cherries.
Bake at 350F for 15 to 20 minutes.
Stores well in covered tin.

Well, I'm off to make some peanut brittle.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Yellow Roses

  Some very good friends came over on Saturday evening after an exceptionally good Christmas Music concert at Benton St. Baptist church featuring a full orchestra and an excellent choir that included my very own Aunt and Uncle in their midst.
I received this beautiful bouquet as a hostess gift. I looked up the meaning of yellow roses even though I already knew what they signify but here's what they said...
The meaning of a yellow rose stands for joy and happiness but most of all yellow roses mean
 true friendship.
I am very blessed to have Kathy and her family as my friends for over 20 years. Thank you for the lovely flowers.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


In all my years of baking, I have never made a Snickerdoodle!  Maybe it's more of an American creation. I've never heard of anyone making them in my circle. Anyway, I'm sorry I waited. These cookies are simple and delicious. As much as I love shortbread, I found using this recipe with shortening makes them just a little different and yummy enough to put on your tray of Christmas goodies. They also send a delightful fragrance of cinnamon and baking to add a festive feeling to your home.

Earlier this week, I got together with my much younger first cousin J, for our Annual baking session. It's always a fun time to get together, share a few laughs and pass down some baking tips to the next generation. I hope we get to do it for many years to come.

The weather has been gloomy here in Southern Ontario so I had to use this picture fresh from the oven. They still look great. Just passed my 5000th pageview and 100th post in 2012. Thanks to my readers. Hope you continue to enjoy my posts.


1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

For rolling:
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Cream shortening, sugar and eggs. Sift dry ingredients and stir into moist.  Chill dough until firm, at least one hour. Roll dough into small balls and roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture. Bake at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes until cookies are flattened and crinkly.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas Shortbread Squares

The calendar has turned to December and I have started my Christmas baking. I always start with shortbread and then progress to the other items that I prefer to refrigerate rather then freeze. I find so often that you need the items well before actual Christmas day if you want to take them to various events. Every year I swear I will start earlier but it never seems to pan out that way. Regardless, this is one part of Christmas preparations that I particularly enjoy even when I'm pressed for time.

I won't lie, these squares can be a little tricky. They have to be watched carefully in the oven to avoid over-browning and they are very sensitive when you are cutting them. The bottom can get a little crumbly and separate from the topping. I'm going to try a little less flour in the base, next time I make them but these ones turned out pretty well.

It starts with a shortbread base (can't go wrong with that)...

Then you add a topping off sweetened condensed milk, raisins,coconut and cherries (I usually put nuts in everything so this is a nice change)...
Don't they look festive? I didn't have green cherries but I think they look good anyway.
 Happy Christmas baking!

Christmas Shortbread Squares
Base: 1 cup butter
1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup coconut
2/3 cup red and green maraschino cherries, chopped fine
1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x9 baking pan
Cream butter and sugar together. Blend in flour, pat dough into pan and pierce with a fork every half inch. Bake 30 minutes.
Combine remaining ingredients. Spread evenly on shortbread. Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan, Cut into squares. Sprinkle with icing sugar if desired.