Thursday, December 19, 2013

Crock-Pot Christmas Potpourri

I love the smells of Christmas and my favorite way is simmering this easy to make potpourri in a small crock-pot.
You can simmer this on your stovetop if you like, but I'm always afraid I'll forget to turn it off so I started simmering it in a crock-pot. Works great and smells amazing.
I don't necessarily go by a recipe, I just add what I have on hand. Most of these ingredients are optional.
2-3 cups of water or fill your crock-pot about 3/4 full. I don't measure.
slices of an orange and the peeling
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
4 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp cloves
1 tsp vanilla
1 tea bag. I use this only if I have something fruity like orange or a berry tea that I'm trying to use up.  Constant Comment would be good too.

Put everything in your crock-pot and let it simmer all day.
Add water as needed.

Linking to: Chicken Chick

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DIY Winter Scene Jars

These winter scene jars are super simple to make and cost almost nothing. They are so easy you almost don't need a tutorial but I'll tell you anyway.
I used these hurricane vases that I had on hand, but you can use any glass jar, especially mason jars.
First we are going to create some frost. You can use artificial snow spray if you like but this is how I do mine. Rinse the inside of your jar and sprinkle regular table salt on the inside of the jar while it's still wet. Let it dry and you have frosted jars.
Oh.....please try not to leave a fingerprint on the inside of the jar like I did below!
 If that happens just wet the spot a little and sprinkle more salt.
Next pour in your snow. You can use fake snow, Epsom salt or even white sugar. Whatever you have on hand. I like to use Epsom Salt because my trees sit more firmly in it. You could even add some glitter to your snow for extra sparkle.
Now I rummaged through my Christmas decorations to see what I could put it my jars. It can be as simple as a few bottlebrush trees.
In this one I cut a piece of grapevine garland to fit in the jar, added some moss and a bird.
And in the third one a snowman ornament, pinecones and some fake berries. There are so many possibilities.
Once I started it was hard to stop. I have a few more ideas rolling around in my head for another day.
These were so easy I hope it inspires you to give them a try.
 Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Soft Christmas Cut-Out Cookies

When it comes to Christmas cut-out cookies, this has been my go-to recipe for years.
My cookies might not be the most beautifully decorated Christmas cut-outs, but they are soft and flavorful. To me it's more about flavor and a soft, melt in your mouth cookie than how elaborately it is decorated.
 After mixing your dough according to the recipe, cover and chill overnight or for several hours. I take a knife and score my dough into four equal parts while it's still in the bowl. At this time if you don't want to bake all your cookies at once you can freeze part of your dough if you like.
The dough will still be sticky so flour your surface and rolling pin generously.
Roll out one quarter of the dough at once. You want to keep it at least 1/4 inch thick.
Usually I use all different shapes of cut-outs but today because it was snowing, I decided to do snowflakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes or lightly browned.
If you don't have buttermilk on hand you can substitute 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus milk to make 1 cup. Let stand for 5-10 minutes.
If you like your cookies soft like I do, make sure you don't roll them out too thin and don't overbake them. If you like them crispier, roll the dough out thinner and bake a little longer.
 Now I know Royal Icing is what most people use to decorate their cookies, and is necessary if you are doing a lot of detail, but trust me on this......Butter Cream Icing is the best! 
By the time I get my cookies mixed, chilled, and baked, I just don't have a lot of time left for decorating so I keep it real simple and just sprinkle them with sanding sugar.

Soft Christmas Cut-Out Cookies

2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
6 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. vanilla

Cream butter, add sugar and beat well. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients alternating with buttermilk. Add vanilla. Chill several hours or overnight. Roll out on well floured surface about 1/4 inch thick and cut. Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes. Don't overbake. Let cool on cookie sheet for a minute or two before removing.

Butter Cream Icing:
1 stick butter, very soft but don't melt.
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp very hot water
Mix until smooth adding more water or powdered sugar until the desired consistency.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Canadian Rockies

Mount Amery
This long overdue post is continuing day 9 after leaving the Columbia Icefields.
 Just a few more photos as we head back to Banff to spend some time in town.
Finally we had a bear sighting. The lack of wildlife was disappointing but we saw this bear and cub by the side of the road and one other bear not far from this one. Not a grizzly like I was hoping, but at least we saw bear.
Mount Rundle
Bow River
 Banff is very much a scenic tourist town. The town's main street was intentionally laid out in such a way that it would offer the best possible views of Cascade mountain.
Driving down main street one looks as if he is driving straight into Cascade Mountain.
 St. Paul's Presbyterian Church
 I saw a lot of these unfamiliar birds in Canada. Finally found out they were Magpies. 
 We stayed at the Chateau Canmore a Quality Resort in Canmore. Air Conditioning at last! I guess the AC is what made it a Quality Resort because the rooms sure could have used some updating!
Some more of those beautiful delphiniums in front of the hotel.
 I think the three peaks in the center behind the lamppost and to the right are the Three Sisters. We will get a better view of them in my next post. On the other side of those mountains you will be in the prairies. 

I loved the long days in Canada. Still daylight at 9:30pm.
This was our last day in the Canadian Rockies and then we begin the long trip back home.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Best Cranberry Salad

I'm reposting this recipe because next week is Thanksgiving and it's not too late to add this delicious Cranberry Salad to your menu. It is hands down the best ever!

I thought the recipe I always used for Cranberry Salad was already the best one ever, but recently I had this one with the addition of a cream cheese layer. Well.....I always thought cream cheese makes everything better and now I know for sure. This is over the top delicious!

First mix jello with boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Add cold water and orange juice concentrate. Orange concentrate was not in this recipe but I love the citrusy flavor it adds so I adapted the recipe to include it. You can leave it out and add 1/2 cup extra water if you like, but you really should include it!
 Let this set in the refrigerator until partially jelled.

Meanwhile chop your cranberries and apples and mix in your sugar and drained pineapple. And nuts if you desire. I like nuts in it but my family doesn't so I omit those.

Mix the jello and cranberry mixture together. Should look like this.

Pour half of your mixture into a 9x13 pan. Let set in fridge until firm.

Meanwhile beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together. I could eat this by the spoonful!

Spread on top of jello layer.

Put remaining jello on top and let set til firm.

Cranberry Salad

1 package cranberries chopped fine
1 15 oz can crushed pineapple drained. Save juice for cream cheese mixture.
3-4 apples peeled and chopped
6 oz orange juice concentrate
1 cup sugar
3 (3 oz) boxes strawberry jello or any red.
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts optional

1. Mix 3 boxes jello with 2 cups boiling water. Stir until dissolved.
2. Add 2 1/2 cups cold water and orange juice concentrate. Let this jel slightly.
3. Mix together chopped cranberries, drained pineapple, chopped apples, sugar and nuts if using.
4. When jello is partially jelled add cranberry mixture.
5. Pour 1/2 of the mixture into a 9x13 pan . Refrigerate until completely set.
6. Beat softened cream cheese and powdered sugar together. Add a bit of pineapple juice if needed to make a spreadable consistency.
7. Spread cream cheese over set jello. Pour remaining cranberry mixture over the top. Let set until firm.

Linking to
 Foodie Friday
 Mealtime Monday

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fall at Mohican

Even though this years leaf color has been far from the stellar year we had last year here and here, a few Sundays ago we decided to take an afternoon drive to the Mohican State Park. We should have gone one week earlier for peak, but some areas still had nice color.
Couldn't resist taking this photo at the Amish neighbors gathered for church.
  Mohican State Park is located in southern Ashland county and is comprised of 1,100 acres. The Mohican-Memorial State Forest surrounds the park with 4,795 acres.
Our first stop was the firetower which is one of the last remaining in Ohio. We climbed the 100 plus steps to the top to take in the views.
A few views from the firetower.

 It was windy up on the tower and it caused just enough blur to make this picture look like a painting.
Covered Bridge over the Clear Fork of the Mohican River.
The Clear Fork of the Mohican River.
Clearfork Gorge from the Overlook

Wolf Creek/Pine Run Grist Mill
This grist mill in 1831 and was originally located north of Loudonville at Wolf Creek. It was moved and restored at this location in 1971 next to Pine Run Stream.
I was disappointed to find they had closed for the season.
Landoll's Mohican Castle
Since we were in the area we decided to take a little time and find this resort in a very remote area not far from Mohican. Up a narrow, gravel, winding road, miles from the nearest highway is not where you would normally find a castle. Just as we were certain we were on the wrong road, there it was.

Love the beautiful stone work!
We took a longer scenic route 'Wally Road Scenic Byway' on the return home and came across this beautiful old 1800s schoolhouse. Almost reminds me of Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains.
The plaque says Mohican Log Cabin, also on Wally Road.
LOVE old barns!

The Wally Scenic Byway is 10 miles long and travels through 3 counties on county roads that parallel the Mohican State Scenic River. Wally Road was named for The Walhonding Railroad that once ran this same route along the Mohican River. Today when you drive Wally Road you are driving over the exact same route the railroad followed.