Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweet, Spicy Gingerbread


MMMMM!!!! Gingerbread!

Nothing smells better than sweet, spicy, gingerbread cookies baking in the oven and they are so delicious!

Gingerbread is an old European tradition. It was first made by monks to celebrate special occasions. Ginger was one of the spices brought to England and France by the Crusaders. It was used as a preservative and baked into cakes and added to meats to make them last longer.

Today we celebrate Christmas with decorated gingerbread cookies and houses. Gingerbread is good any time of the year.

You can make easily make gingerbread from scratch. There are hundreds of recipes on the web. Most of the recipes call for a lot of spices and molasses so they can be expensive to make. About.com has a recipe called a Shortcut Gingerbread House and Cookie Dough Recipe that looks pretty easy and uses a spice cake mix for the base. You can buy mixes and kits that work well too. You can make houses, cookies, cake, muffins, even pancakes.

Here is a gingerbread pancake recipe that I like:

Gingerbread Pancakes
Ingredients:
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ cup fat free milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 tbsp. oil
Heat nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Combine the first 6 ingredients in bowl. In a separate small bowl, combine the next 4 ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry mixture and stir until just mixed – do not over mix. Pour ¼ cup of batter on skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes or until bubbles begin to form. Flip, and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup or whipped cream. You can even make them in the shape of a gingerbread man by spooning out the shapes on your skillet for head, body, legs, and arms.

Just as delicious as IHOP and will help use up some those expensive spices if you bought them for cookies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Cranberry Magic

Cranberries have almost magical healing properties. These pretty little berries were used by Native Americans to make poultices for healing wounds. Eating cranberries can help prevent infections, increase blood circulation, act as a diuretic, prevent skin irritation, and prevent dental decay. They are high in vitamin C and antioxidants and they are low in calories. An 8 ounce glass of Ocean Spray Cocktail has 130 calories and contains 100% of the daily recommendation of Vitamin C. There are many different varieties of cranberry juice including a pomegranate/cranberry mixture which is delicious!

There are hundreds of cranberry recipes and making cranberry sauce is incredibly easy. Fresh and canned cranberries are on sale this week in many grocery stores. Here is an easy recipe for making your own cranberry sauce:

Ingredients:
4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Wash cranberries. Bring water and sugar to a boil in sauce pan. Add cranberries and simmer on low heat until berries burst – about 10 minutes. Add pecan, orange zest, or spices if you prefer. Cool at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Makes 2 ½ cups. I like to use half strawberries and half cranberries in my sauce.

You can store cranberry sauce for about a month in the refrigerator so it is one dish you can make ahead of time. Leftover cranberry sauce can be added to your morning oatmeal or yoghurt. There are many recipes for cranberry bread, muffins, cake, and main dishes that use cranberry sauce. You can also make a beauty treatment with those leftovers. Cranberry facials are very good for oily skin. Just mix together equal parts of cranberry sauce and honey. Spread over face and leave for 15 minutes and rinse off with warm water.

Raw cranberries make pretty decorations too. They can be arranged in jars with candles. Fill a glass bowl with water and add some fresh cranberries and floating candles for a festive centerpiece. They can be strung together with dental floss for a pretty garland. They can be glued to wreaths, candles, and styrofoam balls and cones. See oceanspray.com for more decorating ideas and crafts plus delicious recipes. Cranberries make very festive Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy Turkey Centerpiece


This turkey centerpiece is quick and easy to make, inexpensive, and can be made in a variety of ways.

Basic materials:
Orange
Suckers
2 googly eyes or buttons
Scraps of orange and red felt or construction paper
Serrated knife
Glue
Plate or platter.

Lay orange on its side.
Insert sucker into top front of orange for the head
Insert 5-7 suckers into the back top of the orange in fan shape for the tail.
Slice a small amount off the bottom of the orange so that it can stand up straight and place on a plate or platter.
Cut a small triangle from the orange felt or paper for the beak and two teardrop shapes from the red for a gobbler.
Glue googly eyes, beak, and gobbler to the sucker head and let dry.
Variations:
1. Insert pattern of cloves into orange for a more textured turkey before inserting the suckers.
2. Insert small feathers for the tail instead of suckers.
3. Arrange loose cranberries, small acorns, or candy corn around base of turkey.
4. Cut a small pilgrim hat from felt or construction paper and glue to head.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

I don’t know if the Pilgrims ate sweet potatoes on that first Thanksgiving but most of us like to serve them with our dinner. My mother used to open a couple of cans of sweet potatoes, put them in a baking dish, top them with some brown sugar and marsh mellows and bake until they were nice and brown and gooey. Unfortunately, it was not a very tasty dish and it put me off sweet potatoes. I didn’t start liking sweet potatoes until I had a baked one in a restaurant. Now I love them. I buy the wrapped and ready to bake sweet potatoes in the grocery store. You can microwave them in minutes and add your favorite toppings.

Every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make a sweet potato casserole. Last year I was feeling lazy so instead of peeling, boiling, and making a sweet potato casserole, I washed them, wrapped them in foil, and baked them in the oven along with my turkey. After about an hour and a half, they were nice and soft. I pulled them out of the oven and let them cool just a little. I sliced them in half, scooped out the pulp, and mashed them with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. They were amazingly delicious! However, if you do need a prettier dish for company, this sweet potato casserole is easy to make and tastes delicious. It also has some crunch to it.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients:
2 lbs. sweet potatoes
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup flour

Peel and cut potatoes into chunks. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat until tender (about 20-25 minutes). Drain and return to pot. Mash until smooth. Cool 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt half the butter. Using a large bowl lightly beat eggs and then beat in vanilla, melted butter, and sweet potatoes. Transfer to casserole dish. Combine sugar, pecans, and flour. Work in remaining butter with fork until pea sized crumbs form. Sprinkle over potato mixture and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Candy




Do you really need to fill a candy dish full of candy so soon after Halloween? I do. I like to have candy around for all occasions. It’s good for the kids and for adults who don’t care for pumpkin pie.

Here is a list of some of the candies I like to have around for Thanksgiving: candy corn, Melocream Pumpkins, Melocream Autumn Mix, chocolate turkeys, and orange and black jelly beans. There are also harvest or autumn themed M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, and other treats. They look pretty and festive and can be used to decorate cupcakes, cookies, cakes, Rice Krispie treats, and other desserts.
It is also fun to make treats out of candy.

Pilgrim Hats are easy to make and are a fun activity for children. You simply place a small drop of frosting on a round chocolate covered cookie and place a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup on top. Draw a ring around the hat with a square if you‘d like your hats to have a buckle or simply attach an orange m&m or tic-tac with a drop of frosting. I found this idea in Woman's Day magazine years ago and we make every year.

Oreo Cookie Turkeys are fun to make and can help use up your Halloween candy.
Ingredients:
24 Oreo Double Stuff cookies
12 miniature peanut butter cups
12 malted milk balls
1 cup candy corn
4 ounces chocolate frosting
4 ounces white frosting
red food coloring.
Place one Oreo cookie as the base. Put one teaspoon of chocolate frosting on top. Place one small peanut butter cup on its side so that the top and bottom are perpendicular to the base -- and stuck in the frosting. Place a teaspoon of chocolate frosting on the top(widest part) of the p-butter cup. For the second cookie. Stick some candy corn into the oreo 'stuff' along one edge for the feathers -- pointy side down. They should fan out around the edge. If you have trouble doing this, you can help them stick with some white frosting. Place this second oreo cookie (the tail) on it's edge and sticking to a dab of brown frosting on the back of the peanut butter cup. Place a dab of chocolate frosting on top of the peanut butter up (for the head). Place a malted milk ball on top for the head. Take a small amount of the white frosting in a separate dish. Mix in red food coloring. Use a toothpick with the white and red colors to place eyes, and wattle. You can pinch off the small pointy top of a candy corn and dip it in brown frosting for the beak. This recipe and picture comes from Recipezaar.com.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Free Crochet Turkey Pattern


Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is only 3 weeks away. Today I am sharing one of my turkey crochet patterns. I like to put these in the Thanksgiving cards
to be mailed to our relatives who won't be coming home for Thanksgiving. they are very quick and easy to make.
Thanksgiving Crocheted Turkey
Materials:
Small amounts brown, red, and variegated yarn.
G Hook
Small black bead or wiggly eye

Body:
Using brown, chain 3 and join.
Round 1: 8 dc in circle. Join to top of ch3.
Round 2: 2dc in each dc of round 1. (16dc)
Weave in ends.

Head:
Join red with a slip stitch in any dc from round 2.
Chain 3, 2dc, chain 3, sl in same dc.
Weave in ends.

Tail:
Join variegated yarn to the 5th dc back from head with sl.
Chain 5 and join to same dc with slip stitch.
Chain 5 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 7 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 7 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 9 and slip stitch to next dc.
Chain 9 and slip stitch to next dc.
Weave in ends.

Feet:
Join red with a slip stitch to 2nd dc away from end of tail.
Chain 3, slip stitch in next dc.
Chain 3 and slip stitch in next dc.
Weave in ends.

Finishing:
Glue black bead or wiggly eye to head.

Suggestions for use:
Glue turkey to a magnet or napkin ring.
Sew to clothing, napkin, placemat, bag, etc.
Attach a ribbon and hang from cabinet knob.
Glue a bar pin or use safety pin to attach to clothes.