Candy Cane Cooler

November 30, 2012

Candy Cane Cooler

I stumbled across this recipe for Candy Cane Coolers awhile ago, 'pinned' it, and decided to give it a try once candy canes were back in season for the holidays. Well, last week I finally got around to making the recipe, and it was nothing like I thought it'd be. It wasn't sweet, and it didn't pack the strong peppermint punch I was hoping for.

But I figured why waste all this delicious vodka? So instead of giving up, I decided to experiment around to make the drink I really wanted. Once I was done, I was really surprised! It's delicious. Sweet, but not cloyingly sweet, peppermint-y and cool, and very boozy. A little goes a long way. I think I'll go ahead and whip up another bottle for all upcoming holiday parties this year.

Candy Cane Cooler

Candy Cane Cooler
5-6 large peppermint candy canes, crushed
12 ounces vodka (mint-infused would work great if you've got it)
4 ounces brandy
6-12 ounces half-and-half
Simple syrup or flavored syrup, to taste
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract (optional)
Mint sprigs and small candy canes for garnishing

Crush the candy canes into pieces and pour into a quart-sized bottle or jar. Top with the mint-infused vodka, brandy, and half-and-half. Shake well, and set aside for 30 minutes until the candy canes begin to dissolve, and the liquid turns pink.

Shake again, and add the simple syrup (peppermint or vanilla flavored syrup works too), 1 tablespoon at a time, until the flavor suits your tastes. Optional: add 1/4 tsp. of peppermint extract. Store in the refrigerator.

Shake before serving. Pour in a cocktail glass over a cube or two of ice, and garnish with a sprig of mint and a small candy cane over the rim of the glass. Tip: If the beverage is too strong for you, cut it with a little more half-and half or milk.

This and That

November 28, 2012

Untitled

Someway, somehow, I managed to avoid both Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year, though I was sorely tempted, especially by yarn sales at a certain shop I frequent. Ehem. 

Truth is, I've got my hands full right now when it comes to yarn, and I try really hard to only buy as needed so I don't have unused ball after unused ball collecting dust in my stash. And right now I need to focus on my Christmas knitting most of all, after which I may need a break.

Untitled Untitled

Thanksgiving was really nice this year. Have I mentioned it's my favorite holiday? We had three dinners, two of which were hosted by us, so Matt and I have been feasting on turkey and all its counterparts since last Thursday. We even managed to boil both carcasses for turkey stock, some of which we'll freeze for later, and some of which I'll use to make a soup with our leftovers tonight. It's getting cold outside, so a warm bowl of soup seems preferable to another plate full of microwaved mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Taproot Magazine

I also wanted to mention this magazine. One of Matt's co-workers sent him home with issue 2 and 3 a couple months ago for me to read, and I didn't get around to it until recently, but wow. I'm hooked! Taproot Magazine is an ad-free periodical that's “written by and for people living fully and digging deeper; people who are interested in deepening their connections to their families, communities, and themselves as they strive to live locally and closer to the ground.”

It's full of amazing stories, recipes, and even a knitting pattern or two. I'm planning to subscribe ASAP, as well as purchase all the back-issues, and I'd recommend it to... anyone reading this post, really, because I imagine we're all similarly minded people.

Anyway, I know I've been light on my food-related posts lately, but I have a really delicious beverage recipe I'd like to share with you ASAP. It's perfect for the holidays.

Until then!

Bandana Cowl

November 20, 2012

Bandana Cowl
Bandana Cowl Bandana Cowl

This Bandana Cowl is a really fun, quick knit. I made it especially for Matt to wear to work 'cause it gets stinkin' cold in the mornings around here, and sometimes a scarf can be too bulky or too much of a hassle to deal with when you're in a rush.

The yarn I used for this project was Vickie Howell's Sheep(ish), which is a wool-acrylic blend that's really soft, and maybe a little squeaky. Matt and I were browsing around JoAnn's sometime last month, and spotted it on sale for less than $2 per ball. I couldn't resist, and picked up four balls. And since the project only takes two balls, this is officially one of my cheapest knits ever. And! I have enough leftover for another cowl, or maybe a hat.

Almond Roca

November 19, 2012

Almond Roca

For me, the holidays aren't complete without these Mountain Bar Cookies, and a tin full of Almond Roca to snack on and give as gifts. But this year, instead of buying my usual can of Brown & Haley, I decided to try this recipe for homemade Almond Roca for the very first time, and it was delicious. Even potentially better than store bought, which is saying a lot 'cause I really like the stuff.

Regarding the original recipe, I made a couple of changes based on suggestions I read in the comment section. For instance, I added some salt to bring out the flavor of the nuts and the toffee. I also roasted/chopped the nuts beforehand to ensure they didn't overcook and become bitter. Otherwise, this is one of those simple candies that really doesn't take much time to prepare.

A couple tips to keep in mind:
-Substitute almonds for any other roasted nut you'd like. Cashews would be delicious.
-Don't double the batch!
-Pick a chocolate you'd enjoy eating straight-up.

Almond Roca
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 pound butter (two sticks)
2 cups raw almonds
Pinch of Salt
1/2 bag (6 oz) chocolate chips or 1 standard sized bar of chocolate

Spread the almonds out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, stirring every five minutes, until roasted. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Chop finely, sprinkle in a pinch of salt, and set aside.

Line your cookie sheet with parchment or a silpat mat and set aside.

Pour the sugar, water, corn syrup and butter into a medium sized heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. While stirring, allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, stir constantly and allow to cook for another ten minutes. Once the mixture has turned a deep amber, remove from heat and add half of the chopped almonds that you set aside earlier. Add another pinch of salt, and stir until almonds are incorporated.

Spread the mixture over your parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread the mixture as thin as it will go. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot mixture and let sit for two minutes until the chocolate has melted. Spread the chocolate over the toffee as evenly as possible, and top with the other half of the nuts before the chocolate hardens.

Let sit until hardened at room temperature. Break into bite sized pieces, and store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Claudia Scarf

November 16, 2012

Untitled

This little gem took me five days to crochet, and two more days to block, and it was worth every minute. Sometimes the simplest projects are the most beautiful, which was certainly the case with my Claudia scarf.

Claudia Scarf

The minute I saw it, I fell completely in love. And I'm so happy with how the yarn worked up. It's light and airy, soft and warm. And it's all for me.

Claudia Scarf Claudia Scarf

I think it's important to squeeze in a little time for yourself during the holiday knitting frenzy. I still have a few small projects to make for others before Christmas comes, but I'm not worried. I work best under pressure.

On Houseplants

November 13, 2012

Wren's Shadow

Daylight saving time ended last week, so it's starting to get dark around 4 o'clock these days. This time of year is always welcome for me. I miss the sunlight and the warmth, but I also tend to feel the most creative and inspired at night time.

Spider Plant

Up until this year, the only houseplants we kept were a peace lily and a spider plant given to us by Matt's family. Unfortunately, our poor plants were shoved in a corner by a window in our old apartment, and just barely kept alive. I'd water them whenever they were looking droopy, but I never fertilized them because I didn't know I was supposed to.

After we moved, I decided I wanted tons of houseplants throughout the house. But first, I figured it'd be a good idea to see if I could nurse our existing plants back to life, which was difficult to do because they weren't treated very well during our move. I think we left them out in the car too long on a 90°F day, so the leaves were nice and scorched.

Peace Lily Peace Lily

It took weeks of careful monitoring before I saw any change. The peace lily was especially problematic, drooping only two or three days after a watering. I wasn't sure it was going to recover, but I pruned off the dead leaves, fertilized, and made sure the water levels were where they were supposed to be every day until finally it bounced back, sprouting up new growth. The leaves on the spider plant changed as well. They went from a droopy pale yellow to a perky deep green.

After that, I didn't have to monitor either of the plants as closely as before. I put them on a watering schedule that I sometimes forget about, but they're doing just fine. And because I passed the self-imposed houseplant test, I decided it'd be okay if we went ahead and brought a few more houseplants to the nest.

Blooming Spider Plant

Lucky for us, Matt's generous co-workers sent him home with a devil's ivy plant and a huge holiday cactus. I wish I'd snapped a 'before' photo of the cactus for you, but you'll just have to trust me when I say it was seriously out of control. Without knowing what I was doing, I gave it a bushwhacking, and set it over by the dining room window under our spider plant. Now that it's getting colder outside and darker earlier, I'm noticing little buds growing on the holiday cactus, and babies growing on our spider plant, so I guess I must've done something right after all.

So now I'm keeping an eye out for more houseplants. I'll probably use our spider baby to grow another spider plant, and I may propagate another holiday cactus from the one we already have, but I'd like to add some new varieties. Especially plants that are non-toxic to cats. We keep our devil's ivy and peace lily out of feline reach, but I'm running out of high places.

Any suggestions?

A Little Crochet

November 7, 2012

Willow Catkin Hood Willow Catkin Hood

Once again, I find myself surprised at how quickly crochet projects work up compared to knitting, and how much more yarn they tend to use per square inch. This project, the Willow Catkin Hood, only took me a day to finish once I figured out the sizing, and I haven't taken it off my head since. It's really warm and comfortable. (Sorry for the crappy webcam pics.)

The pattern for this project gives you sizing information for babies, toddlers, teens and adults, but I found that the adult size is way too big. In fact, the teen size is a little roomy, too, but I like it that way. Still, the pattern is simple enough to improvise if you need to adjust the size. Also, instead of measuring only three lengths of yarn for each tassel, I measured out 18 lengths. This gave me much thicker braids.

Untitled

After I finished my Willow Catkin Hood, I decided I wanted to keep playing with my crochet hooks, so I started in on this pretty little thing. I don't usually go for the lacy projects, but this one is beautiful. As for the yarn, I've had my eye on Knit Picks' Stroll Tonal yarn in the pearlescent colorway for quite awhile. It's lovely, and perfect for this scarf.

I've got a few other projects in the works, but I'll have to wait to share those with you until after Christmas. Maybe just a sneak peek or two. :)

Anyway, today I'm planning to make some stew and cornbread in the crock pot, and order advance tickets to see The Hobbit next month. I'm so excited!