Wednesday, 18 December 2013

{Christmas Gifts} Posh Hot Chocolate in a Jar

So there is only one week to go until Christmas! Perhaps you've had all your presents wrapped and ready for a while now, but who doesn't have a few last-minute gifts still to prepare? I've an idea for a hot chocolate gift a few times, and yesterday I had to opportunity to fill a jar myself. It was very easy and quick to make, and a lot of fun too. And it would make a wonderful gift because it's been handmade and presented with love and care. It will keep for a while too because all the ingredients are dry and sealed in the jar. 

Basically, you layer up sugar, cocoa powder, milk powder and finally chocolate and mini marshmallows in a clean sterilised jar and add a tag explaining how to use it. You can add a sticker label, ribbon or raffia, and a gift tag to make a sweet gift even sweeter! It would be worth making several jars at a time as you will always find someone to give them to.

Posh Hot Chocolate In A Jar

Approximate measures per jar:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
An empty jam jar, clean
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup milk powder
1/3 cup dark chocolate
1/3 cup white chocolate
1/3 cup mini marshmallows

    To sterilise your empty jar, put it in the dishwasher or fill it with boiling water and then drain after a few minutes. The heat will clean and kill germs. Dry the jar thoroughly.
    Take 1/3 cup (or a heaped tablespoon) full of the sugar and carefully pour it into the bottom of the jar. Gently shake the jar so that it settles in an even layer.
    Next do the same with 1/3 cup cocoa powder, and then 1/3 cup milk powder. Make sure they form fairly even layers.
    If you have only reached half the height of the jar or less, repeat the pattern once more, so you have six layers.
    Chop the chocolate finely and layer it on top of the last layer of milk powder. Top with the mini marshmallows. 
    Decorate as you wish, and add a tag or label with the following instructions: Shake or mix the contents of the jar together until combined and return to jar. Add five teaspoons to a cup or hot milk or water and stir for a delicious cup of festive hot chocolate!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

{Christmas Food} Cranberry and Chocolate Panetone

When I saw this recipe for Choc Cherry Panettone on The Pink Whisk blog as one of the 12 days of Christmas bakes, I just knew I really wanted to make it. And so when I was asked to make something sweet for a Christmas party, I decided to go for it. I made them fresh and I was only able to take a few photos before they were served, but I thought I'd share anyway.

In terms of taste, it wasn't like one of your average shop brought panettone. There is no alcohol in them or the usual additions raisins and peel mix, and the texture is slightly different, more muffin-like. The sweeter taste comes from the enriched dough as well as the chocolate and cranberries.

I ended up using dried cranberries instead of cherries and they were cheaper and maybe a little more Christmassy. It really was a day-long process, with several steps in-between rises. I started the dough at about 9:30am, and the panettones were finished at 4:30pm. The recipe instructions were very clear and easy to follow, and having step-by-step photos was great when I needed more clarification on what the dough should look like at each stage. I doubled the quantities to make 24 muffin size panettones. We only had one muffin pan with 12 holes so I decided to rise half of the balls of dough in a shallower pan and then transfer for baking. This didn't really work and they squashed down when I transferred them.
These were really worth the time spent in the kitchen and really enjoyable to make, and everybody loved the taste… I might even say they were the perfect Christmas bake.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

{Christmas Crafts} JOY Cards

Ahh… Christmas! With all my presents finally planned, and talk of the decorations going up soon, and a Christmas buffet to prepare, it is really starting to feel like 'tis the season to be jolly. And of course, there's the Christmas music playing out as well, mainly carols for me. I'm also thinking about Jesus a lot too, because after all, it is CHRISTmas. Check out the Advent Sunday video series at as Ann lights the candles and talks about Hope and this week, Peace.

One thing that heralds the arrival of the proper Christmas season is Christmas cards. When we get the first ones through the post, we start writing ours (yes, sometimes we're late with that, too.) Last year I made Christmas cards for my family to send out in two designs. We didn't have to write in them as I printed a Christmas greeting and Bible verse onto the card before adding designs to the front. That saves a whole lot of work with as many names to write as their are in my family!

This design was the simplest and easiest to make out of the two designs I tried, and was fairly inexpensive as card making goes. The bottom half of the card is covered in pretty craft paper, and then the join is covered by some silky ribbon stuck on with double sided tape. I was pleased to find something that didn't look to gaudy or tacky but still Christmassy, I think. The finishing touch was a 'JOY' label that I designed and printed onto card. 

I hope that you enjoy reading these kinds of posts and are inspired for your Christmas making… what about tags or gift wrap on this theme? What signals that Christmas is here for you? What are you planning on crafting for this Christmas?

Monday, 9 December 2013

{Christmas Food} Mini Meringue Kisses

Hello again! I hope you are enjoying your Advent and finding lots of inspiration… just like I have, with these Mini Meringue Kisses. These would make a really sweet gift presented in a cute box or jar for Christmas. They also make good snacks for those little sugar cravings (not sure if I'm meant to own up to that though!) I made them for a little tea party my sister and I held and they went down really well with our guests. I can see why: they are very visually appealing and taste very sweet!
The recipe is found here on the Good Food Channel. I found that the instructions could have been more thorough and the first batch I made in green didn't work. So I'm writing my slightly changed version here.

Mini Meringue Kisses

3 large or 100g egg whites
100 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
100 g icing sugar
pink, blue or green or yellow liquid food colouring

    Preheat the oven to 80C/60C fan/gas mark ¼. Line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
    Before you start, make sure that the bowl you are using is completely clean and grease-free. Put the egg whites plus a pinch of salt into the bowl and start whisking at high speed with an electric mixer.
    As the egg whites are stiffening, slowly sprinkle the caster sugar into the mix. Keep testing the meringue to see if it is ready, it should form stiff peaks and hold still if you pick it up and hold it over your head!
    Add the vanilla extract and slowly fold the icing sugar into the meringue mixture using a rubber spatula. Be really gentle and careful not to deflate the mixture and lose all the air you just put into it! 
   Separate the meringue mix into three equal parts. Keep the first white, and add a few drops of your desired colour into the others. Slowly and carefully swirl the colouring around with the end of a teaspoon. 
   Place a star nozzle in to three piping bags then fill each one with a different coloured meringue mixture. Pipe little circles about 1-2cm in diameter onto the baking trays lined with greaseproof paper.
   Place the meringues in the preheated oven for between 2–3 hours or until they have fully dried out. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

{Christmas Crafts} Yarn Along {4th December}

I always love reading the Yarn Along posts at Small Things blog and today I thought I'd join in with my latest Christmas knit! Unfortunately my read isn't as exciting as 'The Greatest Gift,' which sounds lovely and I really want to get. Maybe next Advent.

I knit one of these hearts from a free pattern from Yarn Tree Designs and am beginning a second one. The pattern is very easy to follow and makes a lovely little heart, the size depends on what size needles and wool you use. I used DK wool (my needles aren't marked but they suit the wool very well) and at the largest point my heart is about 7cm. I only made one tiny addition to the pattern, knitting a little string so that I can hang the heart as a decoration. I literally just kept knitting this one stitch back and forth until it was a long enough chain. (I'm sure a crochet chain would look better, if you know how to crochet, which I don't!)I was a little disappointed with my embroidery skills for the rework on this heart, hopefully I can do better next time. Find the free downloadable pattern here.

And on to my recommended read, 'The Magician's Nephew' from C. S. Lewis 'The Chronicles of Narnia' series. I absolutely love this series of books since they were read to me when I was younger and I am now going back to read them all over again. I started with this book and realised why these books have such a draw to them. The descriptions are really beautiful and lovely, I recognised some parts from the book from when I'd read them quoted elsewhere. I was reading parts out to my sister one evening because I thought they were so great. The story plot is very fast-paced and the writer has such a good imagination for all the strange things that happen in the different worlds he has invented in the book.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

{Advent Adventure} God's Promise of a Saviour

This year in my advent bible reading plan (which I've named Advent Adventure) I am focusing partly on the Old Testament, and how Jesus’ birth was the fulfilling of many prophecies and promises God had made to His people the Jews. I am going to post up some of my daily readings to the blog, and I hope you find them helpful for you as you think about Jesus, specifically in His birth, and what it means for Christians.

Since when Satan tricked Adam and Eve and man fell, sin entered the world, but God promised his people a Saviour, which would bruise Satan's head, defeating him.

       So the Lord God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

He made a promise to a man named Abraham that one of his descendants would bless the whole world. That descendant was Jesus.

Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”Genesis 12:1-3

God told this promise to Moses, too, as he led God's people to the land he had had promised to Abraham.
And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LordI appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’” Exodus 6:2-8

One last promise I will mention here out of the many God made about sending His Son the earth is the one he gave to David.
“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you." 2 Samuel 7:12-15

Look out for more Advent Adventure readings coming next week!