It seems like I blinked, and then it was gone. December tends to do that doesn’t it? By the time you get through the parties, work functions, kids sports, concerts, end of year break ups, and all the other things that seem to occur in December, it goes by in a flash!
I did manage to get a few things done over the month…just getting them here was the issue! So here are a few things that I was going to share with you and never go around to posting (so sorry!)
This Santa count down kit was purchased mid way through the year. With the kids now 11, 9 & 5, I knew it wouldn’t be long before they grew out of it, but I couldn’t resist. I made it in an afternoon using felt, template plastic, and thread. The kit came with the blackboard fabric and all the instructions on how to make it. It was a quick, easy project. The kids loved counting down the days and the 9-year-old made a point every morning to remind me to change the numbers. The kit was from Marg Low. She has some fabulous designs which you can check out here: marglowdesigns.typepad.com. I can’t wait to use him again next year!
Every year I make several different recipes. I then put a little of everything into a bag for all the teachers who’ve helped the kids throughout the year. This year I had 11 bags to fill. Each year there are two “must haves”. They are choc orange biscotti and shortbread. Then I look back at old recipes that I’ve kept and check out what new recipes have come out in my favourite food magazines. I try to make at least 1 or 2 new recipes…not only to keep it interesting, but to keep me on my toes! In this year’s bags were rocky road, chewy caramels with salted peanuts, shortbread, spiced candied nuts, choc orange biscotti and mini gingerbread loaves with lemon icing.
The rocky road and chewy caramels with salted peanuts came from the 2013 Celebrate Donna Hay magazine (Issue 72). The chewy caramels were my favourite. The salted peanuts were sooo good mixed with the caramel. I haven’t yet tried the rocky road, but with dark chocolate, Turkish delight, marshmallows, pistachios and dried cranberries….what’s not to like? I did also try the chocolate caramel brittle recipe from the magazine. It was a disaster! The butter separated and the caramel burnt. Oops! Oh well, I’ll try it again another day…hopefully with better success!
The shortbread recipe is from my mother-in-law. A super easy recipe, that can convert to gluten free by just changing the plain flour to gluten free flour.
Ingredients: 1/2 lb butter, 3/4 lb flour, 3 oz sugar and 1 oz icing sugar.
Soften the butter and add the sugars. Beat until pale and fluffy. Add the flour and mix until combined. Then separate mixture into three. Pat each section into a log shape (the shortbread is sliced from this, so make it whatever size you’d like….mine end up around 5cm high and 4cm across). Slice the shortbread from the log (around .5cm thick). Put onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook in a low oven (130 degrees) for 20-30 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
The mini gingerbread loaves with lemon icing came from the December Coles magazine. Super easy and the smell while they were cooking was fabulous!
The choc orange biscotti recipe comes from a close friend….it’s a close guarded secret..so I’m afraid I can’t share it! I think of her every time I make it. It’s what friendship is all about, don’t you think?
The spiced candied nuts were also new to my repertoire. Miss 9’s teacher isn’t much of a sweet tooth, so I wanted to put something in with her taste in mind. The recipe is one I’d pulled from a magazine (I think from a copy of Delicious) ages ago. It’s a Jane Strode recipe and was really easy to do. I did 3 times the mixture, which made it a little difficult to stir and I don’t think it turned out quite as candied as it should’ve been…next time I’ll just do one batch at a time!
Spiced Candied Nuts:
Ingredients: 60g unsalted butter, 75g caster sugar, 400g mixed nuts (try pecans, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts and macadamias), 15g mixed peel and 1 tbsp mixed spice
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Melt the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and 1tsp salt. Stir to dissolve. Add the nuts, peel and spice and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter mixture starts to foam and stick to the nuts. Continue to stir until the nuts are coated and toasted (ensure the butter doesn’t burn). Spoon onto the tray, cool and then break apart. Store in jars for up to 2 weeks.
And finally…a Graduation Cake!
Just to add to the December fun, I was asked to make the Grade 6 graduation cake. It was a pleasure to make it for an awesome bunch of kids. I can’t wait to watch them spread their wings next year!
The cake was a chocolate mud cake with ganache icing. I then melted chocolate and cut it into rectangles the same height as the cake. On each rectangle, I wrote each child’s name in white chocolate. They loved having their own personalised square of chocolate!
Sorry…such a super long post! I hope it gives you some ideas to tuck away for next Christmas, because if 2014 is anything like 2013, it’ll be here in no time!