Thursday, January 5, 2017

Handmade Christmas Gifts

I'm a big fan of giving and receiving handmade gifts for many reasons. I like gifts to be about a thought rather than the amount of money spent. I like holidays to be focused on things other than presents, pressure and items. I like to focus on experiences, words and thoughtfulness. The act of making handmade gifts is also a fun creative outlet for me and the boys. That said, here are the gifts we did this year;

Instead of doing our traditional cookie baking this year I decided to simplify and go with chocolate dipped pretzel rods covered in sprinkles. I got all of the stuff set up but the boys were able to do this mostly on their own with some supervision from me. They enjoyed making and eating these goodies and had such pride when they were able to give their teachers items that they themselves had made.

Every year we make a different ornament for our family members and close friends. This year we did these super simple birdseed ornaments that can be hung outside to feed the birds (or inside if you prefer). Eli was able to help me press this mixture down into the cookie cutters and poke in straws for the holes.

For the grandparents I always try to incorporate something that the boys are able to make. This year we did these note cubes. This was so quick and easy. I bought plain note cubes and let the boys color all over the sides with markers.

This Chocolate Peppermint Lip Gloss was super easy to mix up and smells quite festive.

I melted 1/4 c un-petroleum jelly and 1/4 c coconut oil in the microwave at 30 second intervels. Then stirred in 1 stevia packet, 1 tsp cocoa powder and 6 drops of peppermint oil until well mixed. Then I poured the mixture into these little lip gloss pots and let it sit for a few hours until it solidified.

These Curried Lentil and Wild Rice Soup Mixes are super easy to whip up and all the receiver has to do is add 7 cups of water and 25 minutes of cooking and dinner is served.

For these I layered 1/2 cup green lentils, 1/2 cup red lentils and 3/4 cup wild rice in a pint jar.  Then I mixed together 1 Tbsp sugar, 1.5 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dried parsley, 1 Tbsp curry powder, 2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp ginger and 1/4 tsp coriander and put in a small bag. I set the bag in the jar on top of the rice and attached a label instructing to rinse the rice and lentils in a strainer, then put them in a large pot with 7 cups of water and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the rice and lentils are tender.

Two of my boys got these stuffed owls because they were obsessed with them when I made them for friends.

And the third boy got one of these monsters.

For more of my handmade gift ideas sort through my older posts by selecting the Gifts/ Holiday label in the sidebar.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Spinach, Artichoke and White Bean Soup

Spinach, Artichoke and White Bean Soup

I couldn't decide whether to leave this soup chunky or puree it.  I ended up partially pureeing it using my immersion blender and was happy with that result, but you could definitely go chunky or entirely pureed with this soup based on your preference. Serve this soup with some crusty bread for dunking and additional parmesan for topping.

-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (15 oz) can artichokes, drained and chopped into a chunky dice
-2 (15 oz) cans white beans, rinsed
-3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
-2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 c cream
-zest and juice of 1 lemon
-1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
-4 cups spinach, torn into bite sized pieces

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion, saute until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add garlic, saute an additional minute, stirring constantly. Add artichokes, white beans, broth, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low so that the soup is not boiling. Add the cream, lemon juice and zest and parmesan, if using. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until all of the spinach is wilted. Puree if desired or serve as is.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Handmade Baby Shower Gifts

Here are some of my favorite handmade gifts to give and make as of late for baby showers and 1 year old birthdays.

These skirts are so simple to make. I mostly followed this tutorial.

This sweet little doll. I mostly followed this pattern but increased the size.

These simple headbands.

This monogram onesie, baby bow tie, paci clip, bandana bib and giraffe rattle.

These stuffed owls. I mostly followed this pattern but eliminated the feet.

These stuffed monsters are a more masculine alternative to the owls for little boys. I mostly followed this pattern but eliminated a few steps and increased the size with my copy machine.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes

I made these for a friend's birthday and used Ina Garten's recipe because she has never steered me wrong before. I love everything about these from the shredded coconut, to the cream cheese frosting, to the almond extract in the batter and the frosting.

-3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-2 cups sugar
-5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
-1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
-3 cups flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 cup buttermilk
-14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:-1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
-3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
-1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Snickers Rice Krispie Bars

Snickers Rice Krispie Bars

-1/2 stick butter
-5 cups mini marshmallows
-5½ cups rice krispie cereal
-½ cup peanuts
-11 oz caramels (unwrapped) or caramel bits
-3 TBS heavy cream
-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt butter over medium low heat in a large sauce pan. Add in marshmallows and stir together untill the marshmallows are completely melted. Pour in rice krispie cereal and stir together untill the cereal is completely coated. Pour cereal mixture into a greased 9x13 in pan and press down evenly.
Sprinkle peanuts evenly over the top of the rice krispie treats.
Combine caramels and heavy cream in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir until caramel is melted and smooth. Pour caramel evenly over the top of rice krispie treats.
Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments (for about 90 seconds total), stirring after each interval until smooth. Pour chocolate over the caramel layer and spread evenly.Let chocolate set completely, cut and serve.

Mango Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Mango Black Bean Quinoa Salad
For mine, I diced an avocado and stirred it into the salad just before serving, but my hubby doesn't like avocado so the salad isn't pictured with it.

-1/4 cup lime juice
-1/4 cup olive oil
-2 Tbsp sugar or honey
-2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp cayenne
-1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
-2 cups mango, diced
-1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2 red onion, diced
-1/2 red bell pepper, diced
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Whisk together lime zest and juice, olive oil, sugar/ honey, cumin, salt and cayenne. Toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or chill until serving.

Mango Curry Quinoa Salad

Mango Curry Quinoa Salad

-4 Tbsp olive oil
-4 Tbsp lemon juice
-4 Tbsp yogurt
-1 Tbsp sugar or honey
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
-2 cups mango, diced
-1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
-3 scallions, sliced
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, sugar/ honey, salt, cayenne and garlic. Toss dressing with the remaining ingredients, serve immediately or chill until serving.