Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pictures, recipes and crafts...oh my!

We have been busy here by the mountain. With the Holidays on the horizon we have been trying to get everything ready and in order. I am typically a fairly organized person but...for some reason xmas always sneaks up on me! Cards have not been mailed, I am stil struggling with the xmas picture, gifts have not been mailed....oy! But, we have our tree up and decorated (a 10 foot tree, no less! Yay for high ceilings!) I am almost done with my shopping and I am actively getting cookies made and frozen :)
AND we have been a crafty bunch here :) Wanna see? We decided to make crayon cookes ;) Cool and fun way to use up your crayon *nubs* that end up sitting on the bottom of the crayon bin.
Step 1) Find all your nubs. Peel them if necessary and place them in piles according to color:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Then, put no more than 3 colors into a greased muffin pan. We happened to have holiday muffin pans. :)

Put pans into the oven for about 10 minutes. Then, turn the oven off and open the door. We left our crayons in the oven to cool so we didn't mix the colors while they were liquid. They need to sit in the pan until completely cool, then you get these:

Fun, no? :)

We enjoyed it. We are going to give some with homemade art journals to a few friends/cousins :) in a little bag.

I also did some baking this week. I made the brown bread again, but this time I added 2 eggs and it made it less dense. MUCH better, I think. Dense is good, but the addition of the eggs made it a more versatile bread. I also made some cookies...the oatmeal I made before, and...

Chocolate Mint Chip cookies ala Martha Stewart

I added a bag of mint chips to this recipe, though the original recipe did not call for them.

2c plus 2T flour

3/4c dutch cocoa powder

1t baking soda

1/2t salt

1 1/4c butter, room temp.

2c granulated sugar

2 arge eggs

2t vanilla extract

1 bag mint chips, optional

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and soda into a bowl. In separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanila and beat until combined. Reduce speed, then slowly add flour mixture(and chips if you are using them) and beat to combine. Form dough into a flat disc, and cover with plastic. Refridgerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 mins. Let cool on sheet for about 5 mins then transfer to a baking rack to cool.

You could also add crushed candy canes to the recipe if you fancy...:)

Today, we are making PB Kiss cookies...but you will have to wait for that recipe!

We have had a dusting of snow here, which the kids are playing in. Lilly made snow angels on the deck ;) and JD has been snowboarding down our back hill. Silly kids. I can't wait until we get a REAL snowstorm!

The chickens are not minding the snow/cold so far...which is pretty encouraging. I have been taking out extra treats/food for them to give them something warm to eat once or twice a day on the colder days as well as having the kids go out and poke through the ice to make sure they can get water. We also have been keeping an eye on Domino the Rabbit who lives outside now...she seems pretty content out there, though I am thinking she misses having free run of the deck. Well, rabbit...when you not only eat the deck but also the HOUSE you get what you get. She has extra hay in her little cubby and Hubby built her a shelter to protect her from the wind/rain/snow. We have to switch her water out more oftn as it freezes quicker! We are only getting about 3-4 eggs a day, and I decided to not light the coop for the winter. I know it can increase egg production, but I figured I'd let Nature take its course and let the chickens do whatever works for them.

School is moving right along. JD is having a bit of a challenge with Math right now, so we are spending some extra time practicing multiplication /division. He is doing really well with his reading and phonics though! Lilly is doing wonderful in math AND reading/phonics and is writing ALL the time. She is making cards, lists, etc and loves to read books. Max is...well, Max. He does his thing!

We are still working on Habitats and most likely will throughout the rest of the month. We finished Danny Meadow Mouse in the Burgess series, and are now on to Jerry Muskrat. We have really been enjoying these books as they are SUPER for learning about animals and their habits in the story form. We have had numerous conversations about deer, mice, fox, etc based on things we have learned in these books so far. :) Poems are continuing, we are sticking to the 2 we started this month as they are proving a bit more difficult to memorize! I will post pics next time of our art 'class' as well as other xmas/holiday crafts...

We are hosting the co-op Holiday party which is celebrating all December Holidays...we are doing Solstice and will have a craft and snack. We will cover xmas, Channukah and ??? Should be a good time :) Also hoping to get in some skiing with our neighbor-friends which is nice as the moms are slow, and the kids are least we will know they are together as a group, lol. I need to get pics of that... :)

I am thinking of some winter canning, quilt-making and an adventure in all things bread for next month. That is...if I make it through this one!

Happy Winter!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter is here.

Woobaby! It is cold outside! Thank the gawds that Hubby was able to fix our pellet stove, which had decided to recently pitch a fit and stop working. Well, after a stern talking to (and some oil, so I've been told) it is back up and running! I decided that baking was in order since it was so cold outside...

I made 2 loaves of brown bread, 4 loves of cranberry awananda bread and A LOT of chocolate cupcakes! I figure its better to spread out my baking instead of baking 15 things in one day, like I usually do lol. I have MANY cookies to bake so I figured I would get started with something easy like bread.

Want some recipes? I know you do :)

One Bowl Chocolate Cake
This is a Martha Stewart recipe. It is super easy, and my go-to cake recipe. I cringe over the amount of sugar used but hey, its cake! I made cupcakes for a friend's b-day and ended up with LOTS! This recipe is supposed to make 2 9 inch rounds, and for us it made 36+ cupcakes.

1 1/2c unsweetened cocoa
3c flour
3c sugar
1T baking soda
1 1/2t. baking powder
1 1/2t. salt
1 1/2c water
3 eggs
1 1/2c. buttermilk (I used yogurt, which I watered down slightly)
3/4c oil
1 1/2t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put everything into a bowl and mix until smooth. Pour into greased pans/cupcake pans and bake cake for 35-45 mins(test after 35 mns) and 25 mins for cupcakes.

Easiest Brown Bread Ever
I used to use a recipe from a dear friend of mine to make brown bread...until I found this one. OMG, it is SO simple and makes perfectly dense molasses-y bread.

2c flour(ww, white or half and half)
1c pastry flour(you must use this)
2t baking soda
1/2t salt
2c yogurt
1/2c molasses
1/2c raisins(optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stir ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Add the yogurt, molasses and raisins. Stir batter until completely mixed. (I found it was easier to just use my hands)Dough will be stiff and somewhat sticky. Divide dough into 2 greased loaf pans and bake for 1 hour.

Cranberry Anadama Bread
This recipe is somewhat more involved, and it is helpful if you have some knowledge of baking bread from scratch. SO worth it though as it is a very hearty bread that is great as toast or as sandwhich bread.

2 1/2c water
2/3c stone ground corn meal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/2c molasses
4T butter(I used olive oil)
2 1/2t salt

2T dry yeast
1/2c warm water
1/4c plus 1/2t sugar
1 1/2c cranberries(fresh is better, but frozen is ok too)
7-8c flour(I always use King Arthur)

Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Lower heat to medium high and slowly add cornmeal, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Cook until thickened, about 5 mins (should look like oatmeal in consistancy) Add molasses, butter and salt and set aside to cool down. (I put mine in the fridge, as I am not patient)

Disolve yeast in warm water and add 1/2t of sugar.

Process cranberries in FP with 1/4c sugar just until berries are chopped ans sugar is mixed in.

Once cornmeal mush has cooled, add it to the yeast mixture along with the cranberries. Mix well, then gradually start adding flour. Once the dough becomes difficult to stir, dump on to a floured counter and start kneading. You want to continue to add flour and knead until you get as close to 7-8c flour as possible, and the dough should not be sticky and should be somewhat elastic. If you press your finger into it, it should bounce back. This process should take somewhere around 10-15 mins, depending on how good a kneader you are :)

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Place in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size. Then take dough out of bowl and knead it a few times to get the excess air out. At that point you can divide the dough into 2 sections(I actually did 4 and still got full sized loaves...just sayin'...) and shape into greased loaf pans. Cover pans with a towel and let them sit for another 45 mins or so, until the dough rises to the top edge of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 45 mins, or until the tops are nicely browned and the bread makes a hollowish thud when you flick them. Cool on a wire rack.

SO worth the effort!

School is continuing along, with our December 'agenda' :) We will be starting our Holiday readings next week in prep for our holiday co-op party which will be celebrating several December traditions. We always read T'was the Night Before Xmas as well as the History of Saint Nick(great read, btw...I recommend it!) We will also be doing some *extra* crafting 'round here for gifts and such...but that will be in the next post...

Now, we are off for our first ski of the season! School is postponed until this afternoon... :)