Happy Christmas! Christmas Dinner

December 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

My contributions for this year’s Christmas dinner were a potato gratin and a chocolate cheesecake!

Here’s my Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust–the crust has two layers, with cheese, pepper, and rosemary sandwiched between them, and it’s filled with Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes layered with cheese (Gruyere and Baby Swiss) and kosher salt, topped with heavy cream, minced garlic, and more cheese, all baked in a springform pan.

It was delicious. Absolutely, amazingly, completely delicious.  It was time consuming to put together (guys, sweet potatoes are hard. Slicing up two of them? Took forever) but so worth it.  And look at how pretty it is!

Find the recipe at Southern Living here.

After dinner we all took a long break before coffee and dessert (I snuck off to take a nap!) but dessert was worth waiting for:

The Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is another recipe from Southern Living–find the recipe for it, and the template for the white chocolate snowflake, on the Southern Living website here.

I made the cheesecake a week ago–I took it out of the springform to let it cool completely in the refrigerator overnight, then put it back in the springform, wrapped it in plastic and hid it in the freezer (you can’t be too careful with chocolate in this house).  I took it out and put it back in the refrigerator to defrost overnight.  The recipe includes a chocolate ganache, but I knew I wouldn’t want to mess with that today, so I used a storebought glaze (Duncan Heinz) instead.

The snowflake is Almond Bark, melted in a disposable piping bag.  I just chopped the bark up, put it in the bag, microwaved it for thirty seconds, squished the bag, and microwaved it for another thirty seconds.  The instructions in Southern Living say to print out the template, lay it under a piece of parchment paper, trace it, then turn the parchment paper over and pipe the chocolate over the traced lines.  That sounds like a lot of unnecessary work to me–I just taped the template to the bottom of a piece of parchment paper.

I put the chocolate in the refrigerator to harden for about ten minutes, then used an offset spatula to slide it off of the parchment paper and set it right on top of my chocolate cheesecake extravaganza.  I went over the design several times to make it thick, because I’d already melted the chocolate and because I was worried about breaking it when I picked it up!

It was delicious, but So Rich. I had to drink a mug of milk in between every bite.  AMAZING but now I must go and die of a sugar overdose.

Happy Christmas!

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Happy Christmas!

December 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

Here’s a hastily photographed sneak peak of my centerpiece for tomorrow–er, today’s Christmas dinner!

I think it might need more peppermints, don’t you?

Of course, my favorite place for these soft peppermints to be is in my hot chocolate, dissolving slowly and deliciously:

The fire is a definite bonus, of course.

And no Christmas Eve is complete without the greatest of all Christmas movies–no, not A Christmas Story.  No, no, not Elf.  No, not It’s A Wonderful Life, either.  No, not Die Hard!

I mean The Muppet Christmas Carol, of course!

Stay tuned for an update on whether my cooking experiments tomorrow pan out–I’m pretty sure the cheesecake will be edible! the potato gratin, though, will be anyone’s guess–and to find out if I cave and put more peppermints on my centerpiece!

Last Minute Pizazz: A True Story

December 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Here’s a true story, boys and girls: 99.9% of my creative impulses take place in the middle of the night, at the last minute, when I should be doing something else.

I was wrapping my gift for my office Secret Santa and thought ‘hm…this package really needs something.’  I mean, look at it!  Something is definitely lacking here:

But what to do?  Hmmmm…Well, maybe some ribbon. And a hot glue gun.  Yes, a hot glue gun at 1:30am is an excellent idea!

Anyone who says otherwise is clearly sane, and therefore an unreliable opinion.

I formed loops with my ribbon, adding a dab of glue to the center each time to hold the ribbon in place:

Then when I had four ‘petals’ I put a dollop of glue in the center and added a shiny red button

(there may have been a daring post-midnight raid on a button jar first. No idea whose jar–my mother’s? my sister’s? Either way, the jar was left unguarded and vulnerable, and the two buttons that were the slowest and least agile and which also happened to be red were culled from the herd)

A little rolled-up tape, and voila!  So much better!

And What was in the packages? Candy, a chocolate orange, a book of the hardest Sudoku puzzles that I could find, and a knitted snowflake:

Holiday Sweets: Sugar Cookies with Peppermint Kisses

December 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

These are quick and easy to make!  Just make your favorite sugar cookies and, when they’re fresh from the oven, press a peppermint Hershey’s Kiss into the center of each one. Ta-da! Simple.

For an extra flourish, though, you can add swirls and stripes to your cookies with decorating gel–

Decorate the raw cookies before they go into the oven–the gel will sink in as the cookies bakes (Caution: if you decorate with gel DO NOT top your sugar cookies with a sprinkling of sugar! It will make your cookies look like a crime scene. Trust me. If you’re not using decorating gel then feel free to roll those suckers in as much extra sugar as you like).  The design will be distorted as the cookie expands, so simple is best–my prettiest cookies were basic swirls and stripes.

These cookies are Angela Approved!

Holiday Sweets: Brownies & Mint Chocolate Truffle Kisses

December 11, 2010 § 3 Comments

I think it’s time for holiday sweets, don’t you?

Yes, please, I will take a dozen!

These fudgy brownies are such a family favorite that we keep the recipe taped to the inside of the cabinet door. Now they’re all dressed up and ready for the holidays with my new love, Hershey’s Mint Chocolate Truffle Kisses.

RECIPE: ELLISON FAMILY BROWNIES

2 sticks of butter

3 heaping Tablespoons of cocoa

2 cups of flour

2 cups of sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Melt butter and add sugar, mix well.  Mix in cocoa and add eggs, vanilla, and salt.  Add flour and mix thoroughly.

For regular brownies, grease 13 inch pan and pour in batter.  Bake at 325F for 35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

For holiday brownie bites, line a mini-cupcake pan with cupcake papers and spoon in rounded teaspoons of brownie batter. Bake at 325F for 25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

While your brownies bake unwrap the Hershey’s Chocolate Mint Truffle Kisses.  When your brownies come out of the oven press an unwrapped kiss into the center of each one.

Or, if you get bored with spooning batter into tiny cupcake cups, just top a pan of ordinary brownies with Mint Truffle Kisses and green sugar sprinkles.

Note: The kisses will melt a little when added to the warm brownie.  Consume immediately if possible, but if you want to transport these beauties without getting chocolate smeared everywhere then pop them into the refrigerator so that the chocolate will harden again.

Knitting Doll & Book Box for TARDIS Day

December 6, 2010 § 2 Comments

I made this little doll–she’s about the size of my hand–for a TARDIS Day gift swap. She’s handsewn out of wool felt, her knitting needles are toothpicks with beads glued to the ends, and the Doctor Who scarf that she’s working on was knitted (by me, of course) out of embroidery floss on size 0 needles.

TARDIS Day was on November 23rd, so I think it’s safe to show her to the internet without ruining anything for the recipient!

The pattern for this little doll is from Nuno Life, a blog full of cute patterns for handsewn dolls.

There aren’t a lot of detailed instructions (Runo, the creator of Nuno Life, is not a native English speaker) but the pattern and the pictures are pretty self-explanatory.  This little knitting girl was quick and easy to make! I think it would be a good project for someone sewing a doll for the first time.

To go with her, I got a paper-mache box in the shape of a book and painted it to match the diary that River Song carries on Doctor Who:

I filled it with nommable goodies–two cookie recipes that I’ll be posting very soon!  In fact there will probably be a series of cookie posts, because I have been on a cookie making spree in the last several weeks and ended up with my own variations on a few recipes.

The 2011 Craft Calender Master List

December 2, 2010 § 3 Comments

I’m doing a personal monthly craft challenge in 2011, and these are my lovely assistants!

In January I will make something for Sharon √

In February I will make something for Jo √

In March I will make something for Suzy √

In April I will make something for Nia √

In May I will make something for Melody √

In June I will make something for Jenn

In July I will make something for Kate

In August I will make something for Chesna

In September I will make something for Kyra

In October I will make something for Sophia

And in November I will make something for Sarah!

(and in December I will make something for myself 😉

Special auxiliary assistants: Risa aka Mama, Jensen aka CUTEST BABY EVER

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