Friday, November 30, 2012

Boterkoek... a special treat for St. Nicholas' Day (December 6th)

Scrolling through an old cookbook this morning, I rediscovered a recipe one of my "mothers" gave me for Christmas my first year teaching.  

Boterkoek (butter cookies) is a Dutch treat.  It was often featured on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day.  If you enjoy the richness of shortbread, you'll love this recipe.

Boterkoek for St. Nicholas' Day

This is the recipe I was given.  


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 egg yolk

Mix (low speed) until dough forms into a ball. (3-4 minutes) 
Knead on counter for about five minutes.
Pat into a greased 8" pie plate.
Glaze with some of the egg white.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes.  It should be 
nicely browned on top, but the inside should be slightly soft.

Cool before cutting into very thin wedges.
Cookies do not keep long, but if baked until done, 
they become too hard.

I'll definitely make this again, but here are a few things I learned today...

Because of that warning not to bake too long, I took mine out at 12 minutes.  Next time, I'd leave it in for a few minutes longer.  

When I googled other Boterkoek recipes to compare, I learned that many used almond flavouring and added almonds in a pattern on top.  I like the flavour of my version, but almonds would be nice to try.

A great website to check is The Dutch Table.  Their version of Boterkoek is similar, just a larger quantity and they've added vanilla and lemon!  A fancier  Boterkoek might also have almond paste sandwiched inside!  Yum!  

The Dutch Table shows how to press the traditional pattern on the top.  I tried pressing a design with tiny cookie cutters, but it didn't really show up well after baking. 

The Dutch Table - traditional pattern for Boterkoek

Would I make this again?  You bet!  Because it's a smaller quantity of dough and uses an 8" pie plate, it would be easy to make in a disposable, aluminum pan, perfect for a hostess gift.

See this recipe and other great treats at Weekend Potluck #44.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Learn to knit... more (free!) Christmas tree decorations

After knitting quite a few little stockings and hats, I've moved on this week to Christmas bells.  This has to be the easiest, quickest project yet!  

I started with this free pattern, but have made a number of adjustments (needle size, yarn, etc.) along the way.

Needles: 4.0 mm or size 6 (US)
Yarn: Vanna's Choice by Lion Brand 

Cast on 15 stitches then knit one row.

Row 2: Purl 5; knit 10
Row 3: Knit 15

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have about 38 - 40 rows.  Note how the rectangle begins to flare and the five knit stitches begin to curl.  Finish at the curled end (bottom of the bell).  

Leave a 2 foot tail when you cut the yarn.  Use that tail to sew the sides together (a tube shape).  Continue by gathering the stitches around the top and pulling tight to close off the top.  Now that you have a bell shape, put in a few stitches at the top of the bell to secure the yarn.  

But don't cut the tail.  : )

With a crochet hook, use the remainder of the tail to crochet 15 single crochet stitches to make a loop to hang your bell.  Stitch to secure the end of the loop at the top of the bell.

But don't cut the tail.  Not yet!  : )

Use the remainder of the yarn to sew a jingle bell inside.

NOW cut the tail.  : )

Since these little bells are just one colour, you can add a yarn "bow" (2 rows of 15 single crochet stitches), a ribbon bow or a Christmas button to add some extra Christmas colour.

I'm quite excited and looking forward to giving an assortment of these little knitted ornaments to two young families just starting their Christmas tree traditions!  If I have time before Christmas, I would also like to try the little mittens and bags pictured below.

Have a great day!

From Santa's workshop,

Check out Craftaholics Anonymous (Christmas Craft Linky Party
for this project and many more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

# 76 Homemade granola...

Guess what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow!

4 cups oats
1 cup dried fruit
(Your choice!  Raisins, craisins, dried apples, apricots...)
1 cup seeds and nuts
(Sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds...)

Mix in large bowl.

3/4 cup liquid honey
1/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk together and add to dry ingredients.
Mix thoroughly with wooden spoon.
Spread on large (12x17") pan with sides.
Bake at 300 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
Stir every ten minutes while baking.
Makes 7 cups.

This would make a great gift for a hostess, neighbour, teacher...

Monday, November 26, 2012

# 75, downloadable letters for crafting

Here's something you might be interested in!

Leo Reynolds has an amazing photograph collection on Flickr!

In particular, look at his collections of letters and numbers.  You can choose a pre-made set of letters such as this one...

... or browse through individual letters for one you especially like.  For example, there are 973 photographs of the letter "A".  You are allowed to download and use the letters for non-commercial purposes.

Imagine printing out the letters for a child's name and framing them individually...  

Or, printing just a child's initial and using it in a collage frame of photographs...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

# 74 What's for lunch? Potato soup...yum!

Maggie's Potato Soup

1/2 cup finely chopped onion or leeks
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 cups diced potatoes 
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, pepper, parsley to taste

In a medium pot, melt butter and olive oil.
 Slowly, (low heat) saute vegetables at least ten minutes.
Stir every so often to make sure nothing is sticking.
Add chicken broth; bring just barely to a boil.
Simmer about half an hour.
With a potato masher, mash about half the potatoes.
Simmer another five minutes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

# 73 Cucumber flower cups - super simple!!

Today I discovered Superstore has online videos with one to two-minute "how-to" and recipe clips.  Click on the "recipes" and scroll through the pages to see what I found...

... a video, Beautiful Veggie Hors D'Oeuvres, shows how to make cucumber flower cups!    

I used an English cucumber to try this for myself.  It works!  Even the "twist gently to separate" part was actually very simple.  With some practice, I think I could make the sides thinner which would make the cups even more delicate.  

Filled with dip, these would be a nice addition to a veggie platter.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

# 72 Learn to Christmas tree decoration patterns

The hats are from Knitting On the Net - the simplest, quickest project imaginable!  I made the brim 10 rows so it looks a little fuller.  I'm using this pattern to learn how to use multiple colours of wool and create patterns.  The hats fit perfectly on top of a bottle of wine, beer or gourmet ______ if you want to dress up a hostess gift.

The stocking pattern from Little Cotton Rabbits is also free. I'm using it to learn how to follow a pattern chart and make heels.  It's a perfect size for some Hershey Kisses or a Matchbox car!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Club

It's a bit windy today for a walk, so I settled down this morning with my new book...

...from my KidLit Book Club.

This is the simplest of clubs (the way clubs should be) and that's why it works so well.  

Our club has been in existence for over ten years and at least 2/3 of the dozen or so members have been there since the beginning.

The year starts in September with each member choosing and purchasing one book.  We connect through email to ensure no duplicate titles and usually aim to get a newish book that we don't think anyone has read.  If someone has read a book, however, it's no big deal. Our particular club focuses on children's literature, but any theme would work.

Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month, September - June.  We take turns hosting.  At the first meeting, titles are recorded in an old notebook - this is NOT a high-tech club!  We decide on a rotation order for the books (I always receive from Pauline and pass along to Catherine) and the books begin to circulate. 

I get to keep each book for one month, then pass it along to the next member.  Sometimes life gets busy and I don't have a chance to read a book - no pressure - I just pass it along at the end of the month.  

The person hosting the monthly meeting gets to choose a theme: book ideas for Christmas gifts; books that evoke good memories; gardening books, etc.  An email is sent out to remind people of the meeting location and share the theme.  If I have a few books that fit that month's theme, I'll bring them along for the "show and share" that starts the "meeting".  Random conversations about other books we've been reading or hope to read, etc, usually happen next. The host provides wine, tea and something yummy to eat.  

And that's it!  No fees, dues, complicated rules, just good books to read and share... my kind of club!

Monday, November 19, 2012

# 71 Knitting...Santa hats and mini-stockings

Yesterday I finished this little project - a Santa Beanie!

It's based on the baby hat I knit last month...

...with a few modifications.  

The red is "Scarlet", Vanna's Choice by Lion Brand and the white is "Natural" Bernat Soft Boucle.

I followed the directions and used the two sizes of needles as outlined in the original pattern. The end is stuffed with wool scraps and tightened to create a pom-pom effect.

Notice the "laddering"?  I didn't know what that was until I discovered this video at VeryPink.  Lots to learn!!

Next project?  Perhaps these mini-stockings.  Aren't they sweet?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

# 70 T is for tourtiere...please help!

Tourtiere... those wonderful French Canadian meat pies that are a tradition at Christmas... 

Tradition or not, a tourtiere is a great "make ahead" as the pie can be assembled and frozen, then baked straight from the freezer just before serving.

Unfortunately, my French Canadian daughter-in-law's recipe makes 15 pies so I tried this version by Montreal Gazette food editor Julian Armstrong (A Taste of Qu├ębec).  Easy to make, it has a very mild "pork only" flavour.  The pie crust is from The Pioneer Woman.

Julian Armstrong's Tourtiere

Any suggestions for a spicier, pork and beef filling?  Please pass them along!  Merci!

Friday, November 16, 2012

# 69 Light supper for one: Mushrooms on Toast

On my own for dinner tonight, I felt like something quick and light.

Mushrooms (in a creamy wine sauce) on toast

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
7 - 8 button mushrooms, sliced

Saute (medium high heat) onions and mushrooms in butter. 
Sprinkle with pepper and herbs.  (Tonight I used marjoram.) 
Salt lightly when mushrooms are cooked.

2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons low-fat, spreadable cream cheese (in tub)
2 tablespoons milk

Stir as you add wine, then cream cheese, then milk. 
Keep stirring until cream cheese has melted.
To make a thinner sauce, add a little more milk.

Serve on toast. 

Check out Weekend Potluck # 43 at The Country Cook
for this and other tasty recipes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

# 68 A miniature post...

Have you seen Super Size Me (2004)?  You should.

So today, a miniature, 100 word post...

A tiny Santa hat in progress...

At the rate I'm going, do you think my little granddaughter will mind wearing it in January?  Just asking!!

After my "Fake It Frugal" post, it was suggested I try the corn muffins. I'm glad I did.  I especially like how they make a smaller quantity.  I still made a dozen, but they're tiny! This was my mother's muffin pan - way smaller than today's pans.

"Fake It Frugal" Corn muffins

Finally, have you tried these?  Sweet, easy to peel and perfect for little people!  Even the box is cute!
Mini Honey Mandarin Oranges

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

# 67 Christmas ornaments: little handprints, big memories

Yesterday, my daughter-in-law bought some clear balls.  She's planning to put feathers in some of them.

She also bought some "baby safe" glue and pink glitter to try one like this example.  She plans to make two "special" ornaments each year with our little for the family tree and one to save for when she has her own tree!

At school we made snowmen ornaments.  Here's mine!  White acrylic craft paint was used to make a handprint.  The palm became the ground and the fingers were decorated with Sharpie felts

Some more handprint ideas from Pinterest...  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

# 66 Pinterest to the rescue! Five Christmas gift ideas : )

In Michael's today, I started to hyperventilate.  It is SO CHRISTMAS in that store!  

A cup of tea and a dose of PINTEREST later, I'm feeling much better.  Inspired even!  

1.  Coasters!  Adhere photographs with Mod Podge to 4x4 tiles; spray with clear spray paint and attach felt pads.

2.  This organizer would make a good gift.  

3.  A Christmas book and a pillow would be perfect for my baby  granddaughter.

4.  And a no-sew, coordinating fleece blanket for "wrapping paper" would be easy.  

5.  The best idea of all?  Reproducing old family recipes onto tea towels!  I want to check this one first.

Monday, November 12, 2012

# 65 Living with a "nester"...

Eek!  Someone forgot to tell me we're halfway through November!

My November goal was to create a "kid" guest room with all those carefully saved toys neatly organized....

It hasn't happened.  Yet.  To be honest, there's a lot of decluttering that needs to happen first.  As a sentimental hoarder married to a "nester", we really need professional guidance!

nester  (noun)  
1. person who immediately builds a nest of clutter and "stuff" whenever and wherever he lands/sits/parks for more than two minutes.

Hopefully, Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist and his 12-12-12 challenge will help.

Wish us luck!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lest we forget...

I dream of giving birth to a child 
who will ask, "Mother, what was war?"
~ Eve Merriam

Today, please take a moment to remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace.
They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

# 64 Many calories later..."fake" Betty Crocker Cookie Mix recipes

Yesterday, I discovered Heather at Fake-It-Frugal.

Her mission is to save money by replicating at home a wide variety of products....Bisquick, Windex and Betty Crocker mixes to name a few.

Oatmeal Raisin & Chocolate Chip
In the name of science, I  "researched and tested" the Fake Betty Crocker Cookie Mixes.  It takes only minutes to prep and store the dry mixes in ziplock bags, ready to grab and bake at a moment's notice.  The Oatmeal Raisin and Chocolate Chip turned out well. There are sugar and gingerbread recipes as well.  

Fake-It-Frugal also has a Brownie Mix I'd like to try.

Friday, November 9, 2012

# 63 Poppy Seed Bundt Cake - a "retro" one-bowl recipe from 1979!!

Colonial Seed Cake
(Family Circle Magazine; August, 1979)

1/2 cup poppy seeds
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 - 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Combine poppy seeds and milk; leave at room temperature for 1-2 hours.  Let butter and eggs warm to room temperature.  Butter should be very soft.

Grease/flour bundt pan.

Put all ingredients in large bowl.  
Scraping sides, beat at medium speed one minute.  

Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out.

Visit Weekend Potluck # 42 at The Country Cook
to see this recipe and many more!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

# 62 CBC Radio

CBC, Canada's national radio and TV, is a bit of an unknown treasure.
Our clock radio alarm is set to CBC Calgary, a gentle way to start the morning.    

During the day, I'll listen to CBC podcasts while baking or knitting. 

Stories, music and gentle humour?  You might enjoy the Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean.

Another favourite is Randy Bachman's, Vinyl Tap. Randy is a Canadian musician  (The Guess Who; Bachman-Turner Overdrive).  He has an incredible music background.  His shows feature classic rock, usually based on a theme, with lots of background information and stories shared.

CBC - tune in!