We’ve been working overtime to get ready for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. The baking scene is unreal! This morning, the girls requested a morning in tutus, so they can dance and dance, and take a break from baking, after school is done, of course.
Being a seat of the pants kinda gal, I’ve decided to go the food basket route for gifts. And… plans have changed. Still doing a food basket, but the food changed to meet the supplies in the pantry. I’ve been thinking about documenting these, but I just hadn’t had the time to do so, until this morning. To add incentive Life In A Shoe has a linky post! So here I go! These are some of the foods we are baking/making for the Holiday, or for the gift baskets:
- Apple Butter/ Applesauce: We made and canned A LOT of that this year. Seeing how many cans we have, and how fantastic this homemade batch tasted, we’ve decided to add that into our baskets.
The recipe is easy. For Applesauce:
Core, cut, and peel the apples. (no need to dice, slices are fine.)
Put them in large pot, with a little water in the bottom.
Set to simmer for a few hours (slow cook.) keep on a low temperature.
Once it begins to bubble, turn down the temperature even lower, and stir regularly to avoid burning. (Once every 15 minutes is fine.)
1-3 hours later: Voila! Applesauce!
The size of your pot will change the cooking time, as will your individual taste. The more smooth you like your applesauce, the longer you cook it. I like it chunky, and I’m impatient, this great combo makes me cook it for less time!
If you want to make it into Apple Butter:
Add sugar (to taste, a few cups per pot usually does it)
spices (to taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice.)
Cook it down for a few more hours in a crock pot to make apple butter, it will be a smoother consistency.
Use an immersion blender to finish it out if you want it really velvety. Personally, I like that *rustic taste.*
If you are one of those folks who needs a recipe: Check this one out. It is a FABULOUS step by step. Not to mention, she even goes through how to can it. You don’t have to, if you don’t like, as it will be good in the fridge for two weeks, without the canning process. If you like the pantry ready way, though, feel free to can!
- Pumpkin Bread! I have a lot of pumpkins that we used to decorate our porch. Three in fact, three massive Jack O Lantern Pumpkins. To add to that fun, my sister has 2 of the same size, same kind that she is giving me to cook down. Jack O Lantern Pumpkins tend to be a bit stringy, and difficult to make smooth. They also just don’t have the rich flavor of a sugar pumpkin. This makes them almost always useless for pies. But… They are FANTASTIC for breads! I use this recipe I found on Allrecipes for my pumpkin bread. It is moist, light, and delicious. Not at all heavy or overly spicy. I also try to use fresh ginger, it is a bright note in the bread that makes it cheerful and warm, as opposed to mellow and heavy.
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies: These are quick and easy, and I usually use canned pumpkin, as I make these for a snack when I’m in a pinch. I also skip the chocolate chips. You can use raisins instead if you like, but I personally prefer a clean pumpkin taste with no distractions! I like my classics! I also round it out with a few more spices to taste, a bit of nutmeg, a pinch of allspice, just to make it more like a pumpkin pie in a cookie! It is fantastic, quick, and SO moist!
And since I’m self conscious, and didn’t only want to put food in the baskets, we also added a few other goodies, and made a science project out of it. In addition, we saved some wicks, and some wax to do a little history lesson on traditional candle making:
Sand Candles: (makes roughly 20-30 candles, depending on size.) (If you want a photo tutorial, stop by here.)
a 4 lb block of plain wax
20-30 tea light wicks with metal disks on the bottom
a bag of sand
a container of glitter (we used gold.)
a baggie of seashells
A dye block and scent bottle (I used an old candle with scent and a color I liked instead.)
A container to press into the mold (I used an old baby bottle. You can use a candle cup, a candle mold, a handprint (from your child) a footprint (ditto) anything you can imagine!
Here is how you do it: If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make one! I used a metal mixing bowl set on top of a boiling pot of water. The bowl had to extend into the water, but not touch the bottom. Also, it must ‘seal’ at the lip of the pot. The bowl must trap the steam into the pot.
Cut off a bunch of wax, and place it in the double boiler. While it is melting, put the sand in cardboard boxes. A few inches deep is good. I used an old baby bottle for a mold, but you can use anything. Sprinkle a LOT of glitter over the sand in the box, then press your mold into the sand, creating your candle shape. Gently press seashells into the sides of your “mold” making sure that some bits protrude into the mold, to be sure they are in the wax! Place the wicks in the center of the mold, pressing the small metal disks into the bottom of the sand. When the wax is melted, shave off some of your “dye block” (be it an old candle, with no soot or debris on it!) until you get the color you like. If you want to test it, splat a small dot of wax on a piece of paper. It should harden in a moment and give you a true indicator of color. Once you’ve achieved the desired color, remove the top of the ‘double boiler’, (wear gloves! It is HOT!) and pour the wax into your “molds” in the sand. Wait until they are full hardened to remove them, dust off excess sand, and then make a *new* mold where the old one was!
This was a fantastic science activity that we were able to journal, repeat a few times, and the metal bowl cleaned out admirably with dish soap and hot water! It was also surprisingly child friendly with a few precautions and clear boundaries. Even Ava (our toddler) helped to ‘decorate’ the molds! The girls were VERY impressed with the finished product, and frankly, so am I! It was also quite inexpensive since I was able to go to the craft store, coupon in hand, and buy all my supplies for half off. All told, you have a priceless hand made gift for less than you would buy a generic candle at the dollar store. If you are looking for economical and precious gifts, this is a good one!
We will probably find/do more crafts, foods etc this season, but hopefully this little list gets you thinking about what you can make this season for family and friends!