The Man and The Birds

christmas-birds

Paul Harvey was a radio broadcaster that I grew up listening to each and every week.  I had not heard any recordings of his stories for several years.  Then, yesterday, before our Christmas Eve family dinner, my husband played the audio of “The Man and the Birds”.  Such fond memories of my childhood and such tremendous meaning in that story.

Today, Pastor Wes at our church (Berean Baptist) also read this story.  Once again I was reminded of the meaning of the story.  There are many in our society who have not fully grasped the meaning of Christmas and the significance of God’s love for us.  So, maybe this story will touch them and help them to gain the perspective of the wonderful gift we have been given.

The Man and the Birds by Paul Harvey.

Holiday Candy

Last year I discovered a couple recipes for making candy the easy way – in the microwave. So, this year, I decided I would try to find a few more recipes.  And, since fudge is a traditional holiday treat, I thought I would try a few microwave fudge recipes. I found two different types of recipes – one using sweetened condensed milk and the other using evaporated milk and marshmallow fluff.

Peanut Butter Fudge
3 cups Peanut Butter Chipsimg_1999
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 cup finely chopped, salted peanuts
1  cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Line a 9″ pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  In an 8 cup microwave bowl, microwave chips uncovered on medium in 1 minute increments for 3 to 4 minutes until melted and smooth, stirring well after each minute.  Stir in milk, peanut butter, and peanuts until blended.  Press mixture evenly into pan.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, microwave chocolate chips and cream on high for 60-90 seconds, stir until smooth.  Spread evenly over fudge.  Refrigerate for one hour. Cut into 8 rows of 8 pieces. Store in an airtight container.

White Chocolate Fudgeimg_2004
3 cup sugar
1 (6 ounce) can Evaporated milk
1/2 cup butter
12 ounces Premium White Chocolate Chips
1 (7 1/2 ounce) jar Marshmallow Fluff
1 tsp vanilla
1  cup toasted chopped almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Line a 9″ pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In an 8 cup microwave bowl, combine sugar, milk and butter and microwave uncovered on high for 3  minutes.  Stir and microwave for 7 additional minutes, stirring every minute.  Add chips and marshmallow fluff and stir until melted and creamy.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until blended.

Press mixture evenly into pan.  Refrigerate for one hour. Cut into 8 rows of 8 pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Both recipes turned out well.  Although traditional fudge is much fluffier.  So, I will probably return to those in the future.

I did make the Microwave Peanut Brittle and English Toffee (recipes found here:Microwave Candy – English Toffee and Peanut Brittle) that I had tried last year.  Those were very tasty again!

Holiday Baking – Thumbprint Cookies

Day Two of holiday baking included several different of Thumbprint Cookies

Salted img_1981Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
Cookie:
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granular sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs (yolks only)
2  1/4 cup flour
Filling:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 Tbs heavy cream

Combine 1 cup butter, sugars, egg yolks and vanilla and beat until creamy.  Add flour and beat at low speed until well mixed.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape dough into 1″ balls.  Place on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, 2″ apart.  Make an indent in the center of each cookie with the end of a wooden spoon handle.  Bake for 7-10 minutes until edges begin to brown.

Combing brown sugar with 1/3 cup butter in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to boil.  Continue cooking and stirring for one more minute.  Stir in whipping cream.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.  Spoon 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture into the center of each cooled cookie. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprint Cookiess img_1972

Trial #1:  Follow the recipe above.  When the cookies are removed from the oven, top with a chocolate star candy and cover with caramel.

 

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Trial #2:  Follow the recipe above.  When the cookies are removed from the oven, top with a chocolate star candy and drizzle with caramel.

Trial #2 looked nicer and tasted better!

 

Red Velvet Thumbprint Cookiesimg_1982
I made these last year and really liked them. So, they were included in my baking this year as well.  For the recipe, see the December 15, 2015 posting. 

Holiday Baking – Pretzel Butterscotch Cookies

With Christmas fast approaching, I have started my holiday baking.  Each year I try to find a new recipe or two to try.  This year, I actually come up with a couple ideas myself.

My first idea was  inspired by a recipe that I saw in a magazine – Pretzel Butterscotch Fudge.  When I saw the recipe, I thought that the combination would work for making cookies.  Using the classic Tollhouse Chocolate Chip recipe, I set out to try out my idea.

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For my first attempt, I simply replaced the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips and replaced the nuts with pretzel pieces.   The result tasted good.  But, in my opinion, there was too much butterscotch flavor and not enough pretzel crunch.

 

So, I decided to try again.  This time I reduced the amount of chips by half and doubled the amount of pretzels. The changes were successful – these tasted great!

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Butterscotch Pretzel Cookies
2  1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granular sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 cup pretzels, broken in to pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chips and pretzels. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Winter Wonderland

Our first significant snowfall of the season has come.  We now have about 5 inches of snow, making my yard look like a winter wonderland.

While I am not very fond of driving in the snow and I really don’t like the cold weather that comes with it, I do like how pretty the snow looks.  The beauty of the snow comes just as I finish a table runner for my kitchen to use at Christmas time. I saw a lovely bargello runner a few years ago and decided that was what I wanted to make.

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Bargello Quilting

Bargello is a type of needlepoint embroidery that consists of upright flat stitches made to create motifs that depict motion.  The name originates from  a series of chairs in the Bargello palace in Florence, Italy, which have a “flame stitch” pattern.  Traditional designs are very colorful and use many hues of the same color for a shading effects that creates the sense of movement.

A bargello quilt is one that is made of strips of fabric sewn together to create the movement similar to that seen in bargello embroidery. The technique looks difficult, but is actually quite easy. If you can sew a straight seam, you can do this! Even though there appears to be  smany curves and shapes featured on the quilt, there is no curved piecing whatsoever.

All ranges of color are used, from light to dark. When choosing colors, there are many choices. A common option is a variety of shades in a single color family for a monochromatic quilt. Another common option is two complementary colors. That is why I decided to use this technique for my table runner – red and green are complementary colors and would work well for a bargello quilt.

Strips are cut at a specific width and sewn together lengthwise – I used 2″ strips of fabric that, when sewn, would finish to 1 1/2″ wide . The first and last strips are sewn together lengthwise forming a tube of strips with  the seam allowances facing out.

The tube is then cut vertically (opposite of the direction that they were sewn) to make many narrow loops. For my table runner, the strips were cut in the following widths:

1/2″   3/4″   3/4″   1″   1 1/2″   2″

These loops are then opened at the seam between different pieces of fabric and then sewn together.

To add the ornaments, I used my Bernina cutwork tool to cut and embroider different colors of fabric and thread. Some were simple circles, some slightly more complicated shapes with embroidery to depict decoration on the ornaments.

embroidery

This was a fun project to make!