Jolly Vinegar Jars

Jolly Vinegar Jars Make a Great Christmas Gift

Tiny bells spring from the corked caps of these unique vinegar jars. Who wouldn’t love this festive, fruity and fun gift of jolly vinegar jars? Friends will remember this fun gift when they’re preparing salad dressings and meat marinades.

Jolly Vinegar jars
Vinegar for Jolly Vinegar Jars

For Jolly Vinegar Jars you will need:

Sharp needle
Bottle with cork
Wire cutters
Metallic wire in red and green
2 silver flat beads
Silver pony beads
Silver long, thin beads
Metallic beads in red, green, and silver
Ice pick
4 small silver jingle bells

Fruited Vinegar for Jolly Vinegar Jars

Use this tea-based vinegar in a favorite recipe for vinaigrette.

1 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
1 bag raspberry, orange, blackberry, or cranberry-flavored tea

In a glass measure combine the vinegar and tea bag. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Remove tea bag. Pour into a clean glass bottle and cover with a cork or nonmetallic lid. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Use vinegar in salad dressings and in meat marinades that call for a fruit-flavored vinegar. Makes 1 cup vinegar.

Ginger-Orange Vinegar: Add 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger and an orange tea bag to the 1 cup vinegar. Strain vinegar before pouring into the clean bottle. Cover with a cork or nonmetallic lid.

To Present Jolly Vinegar Jars As a Gift:

You will need a sharp needle; bottle with cork; wire cutters; metallic wire in red and green; 2 silver flat beads; silver pony beads; silver long, thin beads; metallic beads in red, green, and silver; ice pick; and 4 small silver jingle bells.

Use needle to make four holes in the cork, top to bottom, like holes in a four-hole button. Cut an 18-inch length of both colors of wire. Fold each piece of wire in half. From the bottom of the cork, push the wire ends through the holes, making an X on the bottom of the cork. Thread two silver flat beads over all wire ends. Thread each wire through a silver pony bead, then through a long, thin silver bead. On the green wires, slide on a red, then a silver bead. On the red wires, slide on a green, then a silver bead. Leaving 1 inch at the end, wrap the wire ends around an ice pick to curl; remove ice pick. Slip a jingle bell on the end of each wire. Loop the wire ends to secure the jingle bells. Thread metallic beads on a 6-inch length of wire. Thread on enough beads to go around the neck of the bottle. Twist the wire ends together to secure. Trim the excess wire.

Also Try This: The beaded ring around the bottle neck can also be used as a napkin ring. Make numerous rings in this same manner and give them as a matching set.

Nutritional facts per 1-tablespoon serving: Calories: 7,  total fat: 0 g,  saturated fat: 0g ,  cholesterol: 0mg ,  sodium: 1 mg,  carbohydrate: 0 g,  fiber: 0 g,  protein: 0 g

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Home Made Christmas Gift Box

Home Made Christmas Gift Box Recipe

Make a very pretty Christmas gift box out of cookie like ingredients! Use the included Royal Frosting recipe for all the finishing touches. Decorate as desired.

Home Made Christmas Gift Box
Home Made Christmas Gift Box

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
Royal Icing (recipe follows)
Directions:
Blend all ingredients except flour with an electric mixer until light and well blended.  Stir in flour just until blended.

Press dough evenly into a 15-by-9-inch pan.  Cover and refrigerate one hour.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into four 5 by  5-inch squares (top, bottom and sides) and two 4-inch by 5-inch rectangles (two sides).  Prick the dough with a fork.

Bake at 300-degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until pale golden all over and slightly darker at the edges.

Cool slightly, then retrace cuts with a knife.  Cool completely.

Assemble box using colored Royal Icing (if desired) as glue to hold pieces together.  Decorate with pastry bag and tip, using assorted sprinkles, if desired.  Allow to dry before using.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:
1/3 cup egg whites
6 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions:
Blend all ingredients together to make a stiff, but spreadable icing, adding a little water or powdered sugar as necessary.  Tint with food coloring if desired.

Recipe makes one Home Made Christmas Gift Box.

Decorating Tips for Your Home Made Christmas Gift Box

  • Ice the boxes with your favorite frosting.
  • Add delicious decorations; nonpareils, almonds slivers, jelly beans, colored candies, gold/silver confection balls and edible glitter work great!
  • Use satin ribbon, fruit roll-ups, or Royal Icing to make a bow for a nice finishing touch.
  • Satin Ribbon: Using a pastry bag and #103 wide tip faced down, squeeze out Royal Icing.  Cut out in 3-inch long sections, loop and let dry.  Arrange on box.

Creative Uses for Your Home Made Christmas Gift Box

  1. Secret Santa, thank you and hostess gifts
  2. Unique containers for candy and other fun treasures
  3. Great party favors and personalized place cards
  4. Different size and shapes make colorful table decorations and centerpieces

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A Beautiful Bag of Biscotti

A Beautiful Bag of Biscotti

Slice your way to an easy yet special gift with slice-and-bake cookies and a few well-placed slits in a bag. Complete with the colors of the holidays, this biscotti updates the old-fashioned fruitcake.

Gift Bag of Biscotti
Gift Bag of Biscotti

 

What You Need:

  • Printer paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • 2 brown lunch sacks, or bag of choice*
  • Cardboard
  • Crafts knife
  • Paintbrush
  • Silver paint
  • Thick white crafts glue
  • Gold marker
  • Star stickers
  • Parchment paper or waxed paper

*If you want to get a bit “fancier” and save time, use a pre-made, store-bought decorated Christmas bag, or decorate your own as desired – use your imagination! Or just go with the brown paper bags if you enjoy creating you very own special bag – either way this presents itself as a wonderful holiday gift.

To Present This Biscotti As a Gift:

You will need printer paper, scissors, pencil, 2 brown lunch sacks, cardboard, crafts knife, paintbrush, silver paint, thick white crafts glue, gold marker, star stickers, and parchment paper or waxed paper.

To make a tree pattern, fold the piece of printer paper in half. Using the fold as the tree center, cut a simple tree shape, smaller than the front of the paper bag. Open the pattern and place it in the center of the bag. Trace around the pattern on the front of the sack, tracing only the right side. Place cardboard in sack. Using a crafts knife, cut along line and fold back. Cut a whole tree shape from another bag. Paint one side silver; let dry. Fold in half. Glue fold to center of tree on bag. Glue silver paper behind opening. Let glue dry. Draw a horizontal 1×3-inch rectangle at the tree base. Color in with gold marker. Cut out three 1/4×1-inch pieces from extra bag. Glue pieces vertically on gold rectangle as shown in picture. Let glue dry. Outline the outside edge of the tree shape using a gold marker. Add star stickers where desired. Line bag with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Also Try This: For quick cutout shapes, use a symmetrical cookie cutter such as a bell, angel, or snowman.

Christmas Biscotti Recipe

Christmas Biscotti
Christmas Biscotti

These twice-baked cookie treats are full of dried cranberries or cherries and pistachios for red and green dots.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup vanilla sugar*
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dried cranberries or snipped dried cherries
3/4 cup chopped, shelled green pistachio nuts

Directions:
In a mixer bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the 2/3 cup vanilla sugar, the baking powder, and cardamom; beat until combined. Beat in the eggs. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour and the cranberries or cherries and pistachio nuts until combined. Divide dough in half. If necessary, cover and chill dough until easy to handle.

Shape each portion of dough into a 9-inch log. Place 4 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet, flattening slightly until 2 inches wide.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool loaves on the cookie sheet for 1 hour.

Cut each loaf diagonally into 1/2-inch slices using a serrated knife. Place slices, cut sides down, on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Turn slices over; bake 8 to 10 minutes more or until dry and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes about 32 biscotti.

*Note: Prepare vanilla sugar by filling a 1-quart jar with 4 cups sugar. Cut a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and insert both halves into the sugar. Secure lid and store in a cool, dry place for several weeks before using. Will keep indefinitely.

Nutritional facts per serving (1 biscotti): Calories: 89, total fat: 4g, saturated fat: 2g, cholesterol: 19mg, sodium: 50mg, carbohydrate: 13g,  fiber: 1g, protein: 2g

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Christmas Cranberry Creation

Christmas Cranberry Creation

Why Christmas cranberry creation? Studies indicate that on a per-serving basis, cranberry juice, Cranberry Syrup#, sweetened Dried Cranberries, cranberry sauce and cooked cranberries have comparable amounts of tannins. With anti-adhesion and antioxidant capabilities, cranberries have a dual-action health formula that most foods do not have.

Make a Christmas cranberry creation

So we decided to get the holiday spirit and do our best to share a Christmas cranberry creation. Another idea for your Christmas treats but one that is also so very good for you!

Christmas Cranberry Creation

A tall bottle of cranberry syrup sparkles with one of the brightest colors and flavors of the season. The health benefits noted will be there, but you won’t need to have a care – just enjoy the Christmas cranberry creation and  reap the benefits as a side bonus.

While the cranberry sauce is boiling on the stove, have fun  decorating the bottle. What you’ll need:

  • Plastic gloves
  • Paintbrush
  • Etching cream
  • Clear glass bottle
  • White paint pen
  • White cloth
  • Gold cord

Cranberry Syrup

Cranberry SyrupPancakes, waffles, and even ice cream get a flavor boost with a generous pour of this sweet-tart syrup.

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups cranberry juice
1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
1/4 cup sugar

Directions:
In a medium saucepan combine cranberry juice, cranberries, corn syrup, and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Boil 30 to 40 minutes or until reduced to 2-1/2 cups.

Pour syrup through a small-mesh strainer or a strainer lined with 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth. Discard cranberries. Cover and store syrup in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups syrup (thirty-two, 1-tablespoon servings).

To Present This As a Gift

  1. You will need the plastic gloves, paintbrush, etching cream, clear glass bottle, white paint pen, white cloth, and gold cord.
  2. Put on the gloves to protect your hands. Using the paintbrush, paint etching cream in a band around the bottom of the bottle, following the etching cream manufacturer’s instructions. Let the bottle dry after washing off the cream. Add random dots with the paint pen to unetched area of the bottle. Let dry. Pour Cranberry Syrup into bottle. Replace cap. Fold square of white cloth over top of bottle; secure with gold cord.

Also Try This: To achieve an etched effect, use frosted spray paint, masking off areas you want to remain clear.

Nutritional facts per serving: Calories: 40, total fat: 0 g, saturated fat: 0 g, cholesterol: 0 mg, sodium: 10 mg, carbohydrate: 11 g, fiber: 0 g, protein: 0 g

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Easy to Make Christmas Pomanders

Easy to Make Christmas Pomanders

We love Christmas! And making fun things with loved one’s both grown and small is one of the season’s greatest gifts.  Here we share one of our favorites to do and the little girls have a blast helping! These easy to make Christmas pomanders make a cool and sweet smelling ornament to hang on the tree – or anywhere – for Christmas.

Christmas Pomanders
Christmas Pomanders

 

To make your Christmas Pomanders you will need:
1 lemon OR 1 orange
5 to 6 ounces cloves (whole)
Ribbon
2 tablespoons orris root
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Lemon or orange oil

Push the cloves into the rind of your lemon or orange. Try to cover the whole surface. Mix together orris root, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon or orange oil in a small bowl or plate. Roll the fruit around in the mixture. Wrap the fruit in tissue paper, cheesecloth or netting and place in a drawer or hang in a closet.

To Make Christmas Pomanders as Decorations or Gifts:
Cut a piece of ribbon, 34 to 38-inches long. Place the middle of the ribbon at the top of the fruit, and draw the ends down to the bottom. Cross and twist the ribbon and draw it back up to the top, just like you were tying a package. Tie it into a bow at the top.

If the ribbon wants to slip and slide, you can secure it with a little dab of glue at the bottom of the fruit where it crosses (+).

You can dab a little paint and/or glitter on the cloves if you want your pomander to be a little more colorful.

Have fun decorating your Christmas pomanders to your liking. Personalize, customize and most of all, have a blessed Christmas.

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BEST Holiday Cookie Baker EVER!

Be The BEST Holiday Cookie Baker EVER!

The tradition of using spices in holiday baking dates back at least to the Middle Ages. Use them and these holiday cookie baking tips to be the best holiday cookie baker ever!

Europe’s first cookies were simple honey cakes enlivened with freshly ground dried clove buds, sweet cinnamon tree bark or pungent ginger root. Spices were laboriously transported along trade routes from India and the Spice Islands to Syria and Egypt, and then to Italy and the rest of the continent. These highly sought – after seasonings not only added inviting flavor, but, because of their rarity and high cost, signaled the importance of the season itself.

Best Holiday Cookie Baker Cookies
Holiday Cookies

 

While today a whole world of spices is readily available and quite affordable, spices still impart a sense of festivity. From gingery cranberry biscotti to coriander – spiced apricot thumbprints, these special cookies make the holiday bright. Bake them for fun of  it, for gifts or casual entertaining. Or for the simple pleasure of eating incredibly good homemade sweets. Or perhaps the best reason is for the fragrance and flavor that linger in memory long after the holidays are past. So get ready to become the best holiday cookie baker ever!

Holiday Cookie Basics

Baking cookies for loved ones warms the heart. You WANT to be the best holiday cookie baker for them. Here are some helpful tips to ensure top-notch, mouth-watering cookies.

Cookie Fats and Leavening: Selecting the Right Fat

Real butter only for the best holiday cookie baker
Stick of butter

Several types of fat are used in cookie baking. Butter is often used because it gives good baking results and excellent flavor. Salted and unsalted butter may be used interchangeably. If you use unsalted butter for cookie baking, you may want to slightly increase the amount of salt in the recipe. Use the convenient marks on the butter wrapper for measuring.

If you choose to use margarine for cookie baking, use one that contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil. If you can’t tell from the front of the margarine package, check the nutrition label. The margarine should have 100 calories per tablespoon. Those margarine’s with less than 80 percent vegetable oil have a higher water content and can result in tough cookies that spread excessively, stick to the pan, and don’t brown as well. Margarine’s also have convenient measurements on the wrappers.

Shortening is sometimes called for in cookie recipes. Shortening now comes packaged in sticks which are marked with measurements, just like butter or margarine. Shortening also comes in cans. To measure shortening from the can, press it firmly into a dry measuring cup and level the excess off with a straightedge.

Cooking oil is occasionally called for in special recipes. However, don’t try to interchange oil for butter, margarine, or shortening.

EggsEggs

All of the recipes that you will find on our Web site were tested with large eggs. Use fresh eggs for best results.  This goes for the Healthy Holiday Recipes, as well.

Leavening

Baking powder and baking soda are both important when making cookies. They are chemical leavening agents that produce carbon dioxide to help cookies rise. Double acting baking powder produces gases in two stages: first, when liquids are added and then during baking. Baking soda creates carbon dioxide instantly when it is mixed with acidic ingredients such as buttermilk, sour cream, or fruit juices.

Any recipe that uses only baking soda as leavening should be baked immediately, before all those bubbles deflate. Store baking powder and baking soda in a cool, dry place. For best results, replace every 6 months or check the “use by date.”

Measuring

Measuring cupUsing the right utensil to correctly measure recipe ingredients is important for consistent results. Remember, you are striving to be the best holiday cookie baker ever! Or at least in your family!

Measuring Liquids

To measure liquid ingredients, such as milk, use a glass or clear plastic measuring cup with a spout plus a rim above the last mark that guards against spilling. Set the liquid measuring cup on a level surface. Then, bend down so your eyes are level with the marking on the cup. For measuring liquid, such as vanilla, in a measuring spoon, fill the spoon to the top, but don’t let it spill over.

Measuring Dry Ingredients

Level off a dry measure. To measure dry ingredients, such as flour and granulated sugar, use nested metal or plastic measuring cups. The top edge of the cups are flat to allow excess dry ingredients to be leveled off. To measure flour, stir flour in the canister to lighten it, then spoon into the cup. Use the straight edge of a metal spatula or knife to level the top. Don’t pack the flour into the cup or tap it with the spatula or on the counter to level. Granulated and powdered sugar are measured the same way as flour. However, to measure brown sugar, press it firmly into a dry measure so it holds the shape of the cup when it’s turned out.

Best Holiday Cookie Baker Equipment

Cookie Sheets

Choose cookie sheets with very low sides or no sides at all. The pan should be dull finished and of a heavy-gauge aluminum. Use lighter-colored cookie sheets since dark-colored ones sometimes cause the bottoms of cookies to over-brown. Cookie sheets with a nonstick coating let you skip the greasing step, although the dough might not spread as much, giving you thicker, less crisp cookies. Only grease the cookie sheet when the recipe instructs you to, otherwise the cookies may spread too much and become too flat.

Use rectangular and square cake pans to bake bar cookies and brownies. Other types of cookies won’t bake as evenly in a pan with an edge. Cookie sheets that are insulated often will give you pale cookies with soft centers. If you are making cookies with a large amount of butter, such as sugar cookie cutouts, the butter may melt and leak out before the dough is set. And, if you bake cookies on an insulated cookie sheet long enough to brown them on the bottoms, the rest of the cookie may get too dry.

Mixers

MixerCookie dough may be prepared using either a handheld electric mixer or a standard mixer. Portable (handheld) electric mixers are perfect for light jobs and short mixing periods.

If you use a handheld mixer, you may need to stir in the last amount of flour by hand because the dough is too stiff for the mixer to handle easily.

 

Your Oven

It’s a good idea to check your oven temperature occasionally. A temperature that’s too low lengthens the baking time, causing cookies to have a coarse texture and be dry. A temperature that’s too high will cause cookies to brown too quickly. The oven should be preheated at least 10 minutes before baking cookies. To check the accuracy of your oven temperature, set the temperature at 350 degrees F and let it heat at least 10 minutes. Place an oven thermometer near the center of the oven. Close the oven door and let it heat at least 5 minutes. If the thermometer registers too high or too low, reduce or increase the setting by the number of degrees difference. If the oven is more than 50 degrees off, have the thermostat adjusted.

Storage

Cookie Dough

Cookie Jar with Cookies
Cookie Jar

Many cookies can be frozen for up to 3 months. Most cookie doughs, except bar cookie batters and meringue-type mixtures, can be refrigerated or frozen before baking.

Just pack your favorite dough into freezer containers or shape slice-and-bake dough into rolls and wrap. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months. Before baking, thaw the frozen dough in the container in the refrigerator. If it is too stiff to work with, let the dough stand at room temperature to soften.

Short-Term Cookie Storage

Be sure to cool cookies completely before you store them. Place the cooled cookies in storage containers with tight-fitting lids or plastic storage bags. Separate layers with sheets of waxed paper. Keep crisp cookies and soft cookies in separate containers. Also, keep spicy cookies separate from delicately flavored ones. Store frosted cookies in a single layer. If you allow the frosting to dry, you can stack them. Just remember to place waxed paper between the layers.

For short-term storage, keep cookies up to 3 days at room temperature. Bar cookies can be kept in their own baking pan with a tight covering of plastic wrap or foil for a time. If a cookie filling or frosting contains cream cheese, sour cream, or yogurt, store the cookies in the refrigerator.

Long-Term Cookie Storage

For longer storage, place completely cooled, unfrosted cookies in bags or containers that are intended for freezer storage. Use a sheet of waxed paper between layers. Seal, label with contents and date, and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw cookies in the container about 15 minutes before serving. If cookies are to be frosted, thaw them before spreading icing.

Drop Cookie Tips

Cool Your Cookie Sheets

It’s important to allow cookie sheets to cool between batches. A hot cookie sheet may cause the cookies to spread too much. And, the cookies may brown too much around the edges. For spritz cookies, it’s very important to cool the cookie sheet to room temperature before pressing the dough onto it. If the sheet is warm, the cookie press won’t release the dough properly.

Using Spoons

When making drop cookies, use a spoon from your flatware, not measuring spoons. The deeper bowl of a measuring spoon makes the dough difficult to remove. Push the dough off of one spoon with another spoon or a small spatula. For even baking, keep the dough mounds even in size.

Using a Food Scoop

For evenly shaped, evenly baked drop cookies that are all the same size, use a food scoop. They work like ice cream scoops and come in various sizes. The higher the number, the smaller the scoop.

More Cookie Tips

Removing Bar Cookies from the Pan

To make it easier to remove and cut bar cookies, line the baking pan with foil. Here’s a simple tip: Tear off a piece of foil that’s large enough to extend over the edges of the pan. Invert the baking pan on the counter-top and shape the foil over the baking pan until it fits. Turn the pan upright, then place foil inside, smoothing it to fit inside the pan. If your recipe says to grease the pan, grease the foil lining instead.

Meringue Cookies

Here’s a simple tip that allows you to easily remove delicate meringue cookies from the cookie sheet: Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. Use the food-safe parchment paper instead of brown paper grocery bags because they may contain recycled materials. After baking, transfer the meringue cookies to a wire rack for cooling.

Cookie Doneness TestApple shaped kitchen timer

Check cookies for doneness at the minimum baking time called for in the recipe. A kitchen timer is a helpful reminder. When the cookies are done, remove them from the cookie sheet immediately unless directed otherwise in the recipe. Some cookies are left on the cookie sheet for a specified amount of time to let them set. Use a spatula to transfer hot cookies to a wire rack for even cooling. Wire racks can be easily cleaned. Let the cookies cool completely before storing.

There. You have all the tips you need to be your families best holiday cookie baker – EVER! 😉