The photo from my recent Thanksgiving dinner that attracted the most attention was the cookie tree I made for the kids in our family. Since there were a lot of comments about how people might like to do this for Christmas, I thought I would give you a quick breakdown of how I put it all together (minus photos - I didn't take many!).
1) For starters, I made my sugar cookies three weeks before Thanksgiving weekend. There is enough to keep you busy in the days leading up to a big holiday that I'm sure you can think of other things that will need your attention more than cookies. Take a free afternoon a few weeks before the big day and whip up a batch, cutting them into shapes that match the theme of your event.
2) Before baking, use a straw and poke a small hole in the cookie. This will be where you thread the string or ribbon that you use to hang them. Make sure it isn't too close to the top of the cookie; I make my holes 1/4" down from the top. Bake the cookies as per the recipe and store them in an airtight container in the freezer until you need them for decorating.
3) Make the royal icing one week before decorating. My friend Marian assures me this okay. Because I used her recipe, which is made with meringue powder and not egg whites, it can be stored in a lidded container at room temperature. Colour your icing at this point, or do it just before using it. Keep different colours in separate containers.
4) Two or three days before your party/holiday send your husband and youngest son on a walk to find decent, yet barren, branches. Dig out a tall container - I used a stainless steel one I had picked up at the dollar store - and fill it almost full with sugar. Insert the sticks into the sugar, positioning them however you like. The sugar will hold them in place. To me, it looked like the branches were in snow so I covered mine with leaves from my front yard. For winter holidays I would leave it as is...it will look pretty and seasonal.
5) The day before you need your tree, remove the cookies from the freezer and decorate them with the icing. Allow the cookies to dry for a minimum of 8 hours in a non-humid space. Slide the dried cookies onto your ribbon/yarn/string and tie a double knot at the top. Hang the cookies from the branches, spreading them out evenly over the tree.
I think this would be a brilliant addition to any birthday party. Just cut out cookies that match the theme of the party, or go with something fun and festive like balloon-shaped cookies paired with ones that are cut out in the number of the birthday child.
I've made t-shirts for my kids and my niece, and last night Jackson and I worked on a new Spiderman top for him, seeing as his wardrobe was lacking the appropriate attire needed to emulate summer's most popular superhero (that is until the new Batman movie comes out later this week). He fashioned some Peter Parker-esque glasses from leftover movie theater 3D ones, and they become the accessory du jour on Saturday for both boys.
Here's the how-to:
I love to come up with simple ways to dress up a dinner or holiday table, and these Easter place settings fit the bill perfectly, I think.
I wanted something for the upcoming Spring holiday that didn't involve dying eggs, or drawing on them with assorted waxy implements. Instead I was looking for a pretty decoration that would take less than fifteen minutes, and ideally might even be made by the kids, if they were interested. As a busy mom, I don't always have the time for massive amounts of crafting just before the Easter holiday (oh, how I wish I did!), but I still want the table to look pretty and festive, you know?
To make these you need the following: eggs, egg cups, Easter-shaped cookie cutters, wooden skewers, cardstock, and fillings of your choice: dirt, candies, herbs, faux or real flowers, etc.
Crack the top of the eggs with a spoon and peel away the shell leaving a small opening. Drain the egg from within and place the shell in a bowl of warm soapy water. Carefully wash the inside and set it out to dry for a minute or two.
Place the eggs inside the cups and fill them with jellybeans, chocolate eggs, dirt, herbs or flowers. I used a little dirt from my garden, chives, Mini Egg candies, and jelly beans. Once the eggs have been filled, trace a cookie cutter on a colourful piece of paper and cut out your Easter shape. Tape it to a wooden skewer and write the names of your guests across the image.
Voila...the easiest Easter place setting you can make!
This week on the Eat Savvy blog I shared a cute idea for St. Patrick’s Day that I thought you might be interested in. These are little pots of minty chocolate pudding, made with just a few common pantry ingredients. I liked this idea because it eliminated the typical fake green food colouring that is added to so many foods this time of year. Oh, and see the serving vessel? It’s a votive candleholder! If you don’t keep glass ramekins on hand (I don’t!) these are perfect for kid-sized portions and party foods. They cost about $3 for half a dozen or so, and I love to use them at dinner parties, for both the lighting options and the serving ones.
Two weeks ago I had the chance to chat with Chef Michael Smith about his newest project, a collection of webisodes he's prepared with Canadian Lentils and the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers. He was charming and fun to chat with and you can read more about his latest adventure here.
I was in desperate need of a shaker for my powdered sugar, so I fashioned one out of an old jam jar. A few nails hammered into the top created the holes I needed, and now it's one of my favourite new kitchen tools.
I’ve been working on the next edition of Party Savvy, and this time I found myself making a slew of themed paper cups. They were so fun to put together and I figure if all else fails, maybe I’ll have a career as a party cup designer. Ha!
Have a great day!
The latest edition of Party Savvy published last weekend, and I couldn't wait to show you some of the photos of the food I put together for this seasonal celebration. I wanted to wait until it was officially December 1st, and now that we're here, I present to you the Holiday Party for Kids!
We wanted this party to reflect the spirit of the season without being too Christmas-y and I think it's safe to say we succeeded. With the exception of the cheesy tree, almost every recipe could be used for a winter-themed birthday party in addition to a holiday gathering. Seventy-five percent of my four-person household celebrates turning another year older in January, and I think we can all benefit from some fun ideas for the long winter months ahead.
Think Snowman Sandwiches, a Cheesy Christmas Tree, Turkey and Mashed Potato Cupcakes and a Winter Wonderland Cake . Oh, and let's not forget about the mini gingerbread houses, milk and cookie cocktails and peppermint marshmallow pops.
I absolutely adore putting these parties together. For the complete recipes and how-to's head on over to Savvy Mom for all the details!
I came across this idea from the Design Mom blog quite a long time ago, and as soon as I saw it I made a chicken-scratched note on the front cover of my well-worn notebook that said "pretzels, Rolos, pecans. 300 degrees, 2 minutes."
Yesterday, I deciphered that cooking code and turned it into my newest baking obsession. I do use the term baking loosely here, for there really is very little of it within the "recipe", and all of the ingredients are store-bought. But the result is the tastiest little piece of candy worthy of holiday and hostess gifts. If you're reading this and you know me personally, you now know what you'll likely receive a small jar of over the holidays.
The how-to couldn't be easier. Lay some pretzels on a baking tray and top them with a chocolate covered caramel candy. Bake them at 300 degrees for 2 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and top the candy with half a pecan. Press the nut down into the chocolate, and the caramel will ooze itself around the salty pretzel.
Personally, I do think they're a little too brown looking, but I'm willing to sacrifice looks for taste, of which this has plenty. Not to mention, you can make about 10 dozen of them in less than half and hour, while listening to the guitar and the clarinet being practiced simultaneously. Anyone who's done that knows you can't possibly focus on a challenging recipe. One that requires three ingredients and only five minutes sounds about perfect though.
As you can see, I made some homemade apple vodka. It was ridiculously easy, and I'm so thrilled with the results that I'm certain a few jars will likely find it's way into my homemade holiday gift stash.
The process is quite simple; remove the core from the centre of an apple and roughly chop the remaining parts, leaving the skin intact. Fill a mason jar half way with the apples pieces and cover with vodka. Seal tightly with a lid and place in a cool, dark space for 3-4 days. Visit your vodka once a day and give the jar a little shake.
After four days, strain the apple pieces, using a metal sieve lined with cheesecloth, and pour the vodka back into the jar. Seal it tightly and affix with a fun label.
How easy is that? Not to mention it's pretty tasty too.
For gift giving I would likely include a recipe that could use the vodka, or I might even give it with a nice set of new highballs or fun drinking glasses.
Thanksgiving is my holiday to host. I'm not sure how that came to be, but I can't really remember not holding Turkey Day at our house. So, seeing that I don't venture to someones home for the meal, or travel out of town, I don't need to worry about a hostess gift. But if I was to go somewhere I think this DIY spice kit would be my gift of choice this year.
Made up of three homemade seasonal seasonings (that's a tongue twister), this kit is incredibly easy to assemble, and I can't imagine that the recipient wouldn't find a use for all three items in the coming months. And if she wasn't likely to make chili or mulled wine, you can bet she will now that you've given her the most essential ingredients for both creations. And the pumpkin pie spice, well that's a pantry must-have this time of year, isn't it?
Thanksgiving Hostess Gift: Spice Kit
Pumpkin Pie Spice:
1. In a small bowl combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight, lidded container.
1. In a small bowl combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight, lidded container.
1. Arrange lemon and orange rind on a rack; let stand until dry and brittle, about 24 hours. Break into 1/4-inch pieces into bowl. Add cloves, allspice, star anise and cinnamon; stir to combine.
2. Make a spice bag from 2 to 3 layers of cheese cloth. Put the spices in the center of a 6 inch cheesecloth square and tie cloth shut with kitchen twine. Use one bag to every 2 quarts of apple cider or wine.
The latest edition of Party Savvy has been published, and the theme for this month is Perfect Picnic Party. I can't think of a more fitting subject matter for the last month of summer, when outdoor eating should be at an annual high.
I came up with this watermelon cake for the party, and I love how it turned out. Ridiculously simple to make, I can honestly say that it's the ants on the candle that I was most pleased with.
PS - Tomorrow I'll show you a sneak peak of the menu and table decor for this party!