Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 12: Braided Holiday Bread

Hello everyone! And Merry Christmas Eve!

I know I'm really down to the wire here, but I wanted to make sure I finished up the 12 Weeks of Christmas gifts! And I wanted to finish off  by baking some bread.

I know that many of us are spending time with family or friends or wrapping last-minute gifts tonight, so I'll keep this short and simple. I got the instructions for this braided bread from Chef In You. For some reason, I just thought it was so fancy and perfect for Christmas. I think we're going to make some blackberry jam to go with it too! You can go to the original website for detailed instructions, but here are all of my pictures from the process! Enjoy!!



I think this homemade bread would make a great host/hostess gift!

I hope you guys enjoyed these projects as much as I did! It really helped me to get out of my crafting comfort zone and try new things!

Merry Christmas to you all from the Sanders family- we hope you have the best one yet!

Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 11: Personalized Coffee Mug!

You know how sometimes you think a project will be really hard and then it turns out to be basically the easiest thing ever? THIS is one of those projects.
You will need:
  • A porcelain coffee mug
  • A porcelain marker from the craft store
That's all you need! You just draw whatever you like on your mug with your porcelain pen- words, doodles, patterns- let the ink dry overnight and then bake it for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. THAT'S IT!




I just wrote some words in different font styles on mine like "hot chocolate, coffee", and "good morning". I think it turned out pretty cute!




















I actually made another really cool project using my paint pen, but I don't want to ruin the Christmas surprise on here. Maybe I'll share it later!

You should really try this craft project. It's so simple! By the way, they also make glass pens so you could do the same thing with clear glass items! The pens are so good and they make your creations dishwasher safe!

Oh my goodness, we only have ONE PROJECT LEFT! And I will be doing it sometime later this week! See you then!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 10: Salted Caramel Sauce

A friend of mine called me yesterday to ask me some questions about this salted caramel sauce I always make for parties and gifts and what not. I'm so glad she called because she reminded me that I had planned on sharing the recipe on the blog for Christmas! (Well, I'm also glad she called just because she's cool )




















First off, the recipe is not my own. I use this recipe from the Cooking Channel's Kelsey Nixon:
Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

The recipe is actually pretty simple and doesn't contain any particularly special ingredients. It's mostly just made up of things you probably have around the house.

You will need:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher or sea salt (not regular table salt)

And put a spoon in your freezer....I'll explain later...

Ok, so if you want to some amazingly delicious salty- sweet caramel sauce, here's what to do:

First, put the sugar and water in your largest saucepan. I use a larger saucepan because hot sugar can be super dangerous. Don't start to heat it until both ingredients are in. Then, heat the mixture on low and whisk to combine.


Now take the whisk out and resist the urge to stir the mixture any further. Turn the heat up and allow the mixture to reach a boil.

Here comes the magic. Let it continue to boil until the mixture turns a deep amber color (5-10 minutes).

The color is starting to change...
Just about there.....
Here's where I stopped it. It will be deep amber on the sides, but probably never turn the full color in the middle because you can't stir it to evenly distribute the color. But it's ok- it's SUPPOSED to look like that.
I allowed this batch to get a little darker than I usually do, but it ended up tasting amazing! You want to let it get nice and dark, but don't let it start to burn or smoke. If you do see a little smoke starting, take it off the heat imediately.
ALWAYS BE VERY CAREFUL WITH BOILING SUGAR. IT IS ALWAYS HOTTER THAN YOU THINK IT IS.

Now that we're done boiling the sugar and water, take the pan off the heat. Pour in the heavy cream. A little warning: this step can be a little terrifying the first time you do it. It foams, bubbles ,clumps up and makes crazy noises. But once again, don't worry- it's supposed to do that.

Whisk in the cream very carefully. It will look something like this after you've whisked it:


Now just toss in your butter. I don't pre-soften mine or anything because the mixture is so hot it will melt the butter in a minute or less.



The last step is to add some salt. The salt is what really makes this sauce super special. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt, but I probably use more. I don't measure it.

I suggest starting with the one teaspoon and then carefully taste testing it and adding to it if you want.

Are you wondering how to taste test sugar that's been boiling without burning your tongue? That's what the spoon in the freezer is for! The coldness of the spoon allows you to taste it while the mixture is still hot. Still, proceed with caution.

And that, my friends, is all there is to it. I promise- it is a very easy recipe. This recipe usually yields about 1-2 jars (depending on the size of the jar of course). I don't typically double the recipe or anything. If I want to make multiple batches, I just do it one batch at a time for safety reasons.After the sauce has cooled, put the lids on your jars and refrigerate them immediately. The recipe says it will stay good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

I hope you'll try this recipe out! It's SOOOOO GOOD!

P.S. Wondering what you can use the sauce for? Anything really but some of my favorite choices are ice cream or apples! I've also used salted caramel in baking recipes and to make salted caramel buttercream!

Or you could just eat it with a spoon. I won't tell.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 9: Ornaments Part 2!

So if you've thought ahead about my 12 Weeks of Christmas, you would notice that we have 3 projects left and only two weeks to do them! So be expecting two in one week either this week or the week before Christmas. I can't believe it's coming so soon.

So here's the story about today's DIY project. Last Christmas, I mentioned to Bryan how much I LOVE to receive handmade gifts. Don't me wrong, I love to get store bought gifts too, but something is so special about someone spending time to make something especially for you. And guess what? Bryan made me a present!

He made me a Christmas ornament! And it means SO much to me! Crafting isn't usually his thing, but he did it just for me!

How did he make it?
 Well he was very resourceful....

The main part of the ornament is a jar lid. He used photoshop to write a super sweet message to me (this step is optional). He measured and cut the picture to fit the jar, and mod-podged it into the center.

For the top, he took one of the little jingle bell ornaments from our tree and removed the top. Then he attached the top to the lid. You could use ribbon or something instead, but I think this makes it look really professional!

FYI: It is super easy to twist the tops off of the bells.


I am so thankful for my husband. He is always such a thoughtful gift-giver!! I really want to make more of these picture ornaments to personalize our tree even more, and to capture each year's memories.





I hope you all are having fun getting ready for Christmas! We sure are!

P.S. Didn't Bryan do a great job on the tree this year?!?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 8: Mini Christmas Stockings!

My mother-in law is really great. She is super crafty and can make just about anything (like our WEDDING CAKE for instance). But I really love something else that she's crafted- she has made home made stockings for every member of her family. I was so honored when she made me one! She has made one for all of her children, all of their spouses and all of her grandchildren! And they're so fancy...embroidered names, with cute little Christmas characters sewn on.

The stocking she made me has a bunny with a scarf on! So yeah, it's pretty amazing.

Well, feeling inspired by those stockings, I decided to make some mini-stockings. They're perfect for filling with little treats and giving out to friends. They're not nearly as beautiful as the ones she makes, but they are a very fun and easy project.

Let's get started!!!

Step 1: I printed off this pattern from Martha Stewart. It completely belongs to them, I do not own it. Bryan helped me enlarge it to the size of a regular piece of paper. If you want that template I can e-mail it to you! I'm having a hard time posting it to the blog, but I'm MORE than happy to share.

Step 2: I traced and cut out two stocking shapes from the template.


Step 3: After I was done with template, I decided to cut the top off of it so that I could have a template for the top "rim" of the stocking.

















Step 4: I cut out two of those rectangles for the rim of the stocking and sewed them to the tops of the stocking shapes. Make sure to think through which way the fabric will face as we are going to turn it inside out later. I used fleece for my stockings and honestly, the sides don't look all that different.

Step 5:
I pressed the "rims" to the outer side of the stocking.
Step 6:  I "sandwiched" the pieces together. The sandwich should look something like this:

Step 7: Time to sew! Sew all around your sandwich EXCEPT for the top! You don't want to sew your stocking closed! ;)

P.S. You could do this with a machine, OR by hand. It won't take too long either way.
Step 8: I cut little slits in the fabric where the round parts are (the foot and the heel). This helps them to look rounder when we turn them out.Just be sure to not cut through your stitching!!
Step 9: Then I just turned it all inside out!
Step 10: THE FINAL STEP!
I realized that I didn't sew in a little tab to hang the stocking with so I just quickly cut a small piece of fabric and hot glued it into the stocking. You could totally sew it in, but you will probably want to sew it in before you sew the whole stocking together because at this point you would be sewing through too many layers.


















Thanks for reading!!! I hope you all are getting in the Christmas spirit! We sure are! Bryan put the tree up today! WOOHOO!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 7: Make-Ahead Cookies!

I am a little behind on my 12 Weeks of Christmas!  I had planned on posting this past weekend after the Thanksgiving festivities and Black Friday shopping, but unfortunately Bryan and I got very sick over the weekend. I'm very thankful that we are feeling better now, and that it's all over.

Now that it IS all over, I feel ready to post about today's Christmas gift- a delicious cookie recipe! If you're wondering why I'm sharing a cookie recipe with still about a month until Christmas, it's because you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it! You could make a few batches and then have home made cookie dough on hand for gifts next month!

I got this recipe for Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Sparkler Cookies from Serious Eats. These cookies are all that their name promises- sparkly and VERY chocolatey. They're not super sweet, but have more of a rich, real chocolate flavor. They're a little flaky and a little chewy. I LOVED them.



(The finished product)

This recipe is really pretty simple. For the dough, you will need:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

  • Pinch of cinnamon

  • Pinch of salt

  • 2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • You make this dough just like most others. First, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add them slowly to the butter/sugar/vanilla mixture.

    Here's the dough when it's finished- kind of crumbly- looking, but the flour mixture is well incorporated. If you want to test the texture of your dough, just take out a small piece and try to form it into a ball.

    Next, you take the dough out and divide it into two even balls. Then, wrap them separately in plastic wrap or in Ziploc bags.

    (I realize they don't look super appealing here- they will get better).

    Expect it to be a LITTLE challenging to form them, because the dough really needs some time in the fridge to set up properly.

    Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

    After 30 minutes have passed, take the dough out and give yourself a nice, clean space to work on. Form each dough-ball into a log: just like you would find with a store bought cookie dough! Make sure to roll them so that they are not hollow in the middle!! That is SO important! Wrap the logs airtight in plastic wrap.

    If you want to just give the DOUGH as a gift instead of baking the cookies yourself, you could wrap them in plastic and then wrap them in parchment paper to make them a little prettier. If you do that, remember to add instructions for the last steps of the recipe, and remember that this dough is more of a "going-over-to-their-house-and-put-directly-in-their-freezer" gift rather than a "put-under-the-tree-for-a-week-and-let-it-go-bad" gift if you know what I'm saying.

    As long as you seal them airtight in plastic wrap, they will last for up to 2 months in your freezer. So if you plan on actually baking these cookies in December, you're done for now! If you're making them immediately, 1 to 2 hours in the freezer should do the trick.

    I wanted to try out the whole recipe so here's what you (or the recipient of the frozen dough if you choose that route) will be doing about 1 month from now:

    You'll need one egg yolk- slightly beaten. Lightly brush the two dough logs with the yolk. Next, roll the logs in a good amount of sugar. I did this part in a clean baking pan so I wouldn't have sugar all over my counter top.


    Now- cut some slices to make cookies!!! The recipe says the cookies should be about 1/2" thick. I just sort of estimated.


    Now, bake them at 350 degrees F, for about 15 minutes- keep your eye on them! They don't spread much at all, so you can fit quite a few on a pan. Oh, and don't use the baking pan you used to roll the logs in sugar unless it is cleaned really well. The sugar will BURN!

     After baking, let them sit for a minute before removing them from the pan or else they may fall apart.

    Sidenote: We bought a silicon baking mat about a year ago, and it is seriously one of my favorite things in my kitchen! I feel like they make our cookies turn out SO much better! I definitely recommend them! If you don't have one, I suggest parchment paper.

    These cookies are a great Christmas present, and I think they would go great with some coffee! That would make such a cute gift set!

     I also love that you can make these ahead of time! Many other cookie dough recipes can be made and stored this way, but I know that some work better than others. If you have a specific recipe in mind, you might want to do some research (aka Google it) first just to be sure it's safe to freeze!

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    12 Weeks of Christmas- Week 6 : Handpainted Tea Towels

    Once upon a time, I took a sewing class. We were told to go out and buy an entire bolt of unbleached muslin (a somewhat inexpensive cotton fabric).  The sewing class ended up going really badly for me. I struggled in it, fell behind, and then I stopped trying and doing assignments and then I failed the course.

    So... long story short, I have a TON of muslin left over.



    After looking around online, I found out that you could make tea towels (or dish towels) from muslin! And it's really easy. I was so excited.

    If you don't have a large amount of muslin taking up space at your house like I do, you could buy the tea towels from Wal-Mart or someplace like that and then decorate them. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

    I found this tutorial for making tea towels from old tablecloths and then stamping them with fabric paint over at A Beautiful Mess- a blog all about fashion and creativity!

    For my tea towels, I used one I already had to measure my fabric. Make sure to add a little for seam allowances. Then, based on the tutorial, I folded each raw edge over twice (1/4 inch each for each fold) and then pressed them carefully with my steam iron. This gives you neat little edges.

    Then I sewed all of the folds in place.

    After you do your sewing, you'll want to steam iron/press all of the folds down again just to keep it all nice and flat.

    Next, using my Marks-Be-Gone fabric marker (that I used back in the embroidery tutorials ), I made some shapes on the bottom third of my fabric- mostly just freehanded. You could do any sort of design you wanted!

    Then I took some fabric paint (VERY cheap at the fabric store) and a small paint brush and filled in all of my lines.

    Here's the result:

    The paint is still drying in these photos. The bottle says to let it dry for 72 hours before washing it. Oh and be careful drying it- this IS 100% cotton!

    I think I'm going to keep this particular towel for our house! We really need a new one of these (the one I used to measure my fabric is getting pretty yucky).

    Tea towels are a very versatile Christmas gift! Not only are they good for washing dishes, they also really come in handy when baking- making cake rolls, covering food to keep it warm, or covering bread dough while it rises. This would also make a great housewarming gift!

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Anniversary!

    Yesterday was our 3 year marriage anniverary. I am so thankful to have Bryan as my husband- there is absolutely no one in the world like him. He is kind, selfless, smart, hilarious, adorable and unique. He is a great husband who has made great decisions for our little family and I love him so much.

    Yesterday was really a nice day. Bryan was so sweet and bought me a special present- A NEW PHONE!!!

    I've wanted this phone, the LG Lotus, for SO LONG!!! I tried to get it the last time we bought phones. The salesperson said they had ONE left, but he couldn't find it anywhere in the stores. Now they don't sell it at all! But Bryan found one and I am ECSTATIC! 

    IT'S SO PRETTY!!! And so much better than the phone I had.

    I made him a delicious (atleast I hope it was) dinner and dessert!

    For dinner: Lasagna WITH REAL MEAT! Since I'm a vegetarian, I obviously don't eat meat, and I don't really cook it either. But I thought it would be nice to make this for Bryan- it is a VERY SPECIAL day after all.

    (Of course I still didn't eat any).

    And for dessert: Bread pudding made with vanilla spiced eggnog,  cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and sweet icing!

    Yep it was a pretty great day! And this is only year 3! I'm so excited to spend the rest of our lives together!

    I LOVE YOU BRYAN!!!!!!

    P.S. Come back later this week for a new "12 Weeks of Christmas" present!

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Atlas Shrugged- Finished!

    First of all, Happy Veteran's Day everyone! Thank you to everyone who puts their lives on the line and serves to keep our country safe. I am proud to have family members and friends who serve/ have served in the military like my dad, my sister, my grandpa and many more.

    So today's post is about this painting I've been working on. Back in September, a friend of mine asked me to make a large painting of the cover for the book Atlas Shrugged as a present for her boyfriend. I showed you the beginning of my work and what I wanted it to look like. Well the painting is all done now and I'm happy to be able to give it to them! I thought I'd show you all the final product!

    Here's the actual book cover:



















    And THIS was my progress in September:



















    And now here it is, all finished (minus a few final touches maybe):

















    I'm really happy with the way it turned out and I hope she is too. I really love to paint, but I don't do it too often because it's kind of an expensive hobby. This project was great because I didn't have to pay for any of the supplies!!! :) I was so thankful!

    Thanks for coming by today! But before you go, have any of you been able to make any of the 12 Weeks of Christmas presents yet? If so, could you send me a picture??

    I'd love to see what you've done, and  (with your permission) to share the pics with all of my friends on here!

    Thanks!! :)
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