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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stained Glass Window Biscuits

A few days ago I smashed my food processor on the ground, I'd like to say it was a fit of pique, but it was simple clumsiness and poor luck. As a result my cooking repertoire has decreased significantly. Every Christmas I make my 9 cup gingerbread biscuits. Turns out they don't go well without a food processor.

This is what we got up to this year. But I'm not posting a recipe because they taste abominable.
[edit 10 December 2012]

Okay I have changed my mind. You deserve a recipe and here it is:

Sian’s 9 Cup Gingerbread Recipe.

Lasts 2-3 weeks in the fridge and can be baked up at any time.

In a food processor bowl add:

9 cups of standard flour

½ cup ground ginger

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1.5 cups soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Slowly pulse this mix whilst adding:

1 block of butter chopped into squares or 2 cups of solid coconut oil

Once the mixture is well combined and ‘shreddy’ like breadcrumbs slowly incorporate the following whilst pulsing the processor

2 cups molasses or golden syrup

The mixture should come together in a ball, if it does this before the molasses is entirely incorporated then you can stop earlier.

These biscuits should bake in 7-12 minutes depending on oven heat, recommended baking temp is 160 degrees Celsius. I use baking paper on my trays and on my bottom try I double paper it to prevent brown bottoms.

What you don't do.

Melt the butter and syrup together and mix it into the dry ingredients hoping that this lazy method will somehow replicate the original recipe., then when you realise you have run out of syrup and the mixture is still dry add water in the vain hope to rescue your mixture. Then crumble with defeat when you taste the final baked item and it is horrible…

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The advent of Christmas and other things.

Every now and then I spend some time lurking on Pinterest and crafting blogs. I have a whole board dedicated to yule type crafts and ideas and every so often I open it up to look at all of the projects I could do… if I had unlimited time and unlimited money. In a perfect world my house would look like a playbook of perfect projects and perfect parenting. But I don’t have money, and I don’t have time, so seeing Pretty Polly’s Perfect Party Planning and Paper Project Post makes me feel a more than a little inadequate. In fact almost every project blog makes me feel slightly inadequate, I simply don’t have the time and money to reach those levels of achievement on a weekly basis. Let alone blog about it. Sometimes I wonder if these types of blog posts set the bar too high, and create an artificial sense of inadequacy to those parents who simply accomplish the basic day to day life necessities (me most days, still in my bathrobe right now). It’s so important to realise though that these blogs are just snapshots of someone’s endeavors. Simply the finished product shown in a flattering light, after all, photographs only show one angle. And that goes for my blogs too! The parents putting these blogs together aren’t their fancy crocheted toilet roll cover or their 5 year olds haute couture birthday party. They are creative people with cameras, who like to share their triumphs. So instead of feeling inadequate I need to realise that the people behind the blogs are human too and that the stuff we don’t see is just as integral to the finished item as the pretty pictures we do see, which tell one side of the story.

This year I set myself a challenge. I have wanted to make an advent calendar for the last few years. I see an advent calendar as a great way to engage with your kids if done properly. I want to make something a little special with activities, concepts and ideas. I see advent calendars as an excellent learning activity, both as a counting and a patience exercise. Given that I didn’t even start thinking about the calendar until 2 days before December 1 the deck was stacked against me.

After spending hours cutting up fabric and then realizing the idea of sewing all of the pockets was beyond me right then, I had a brainwave. A few years ago, I went to wedding that had pyramid boxes for the favours and from this sprung the idea of Christmas tree shaped boxes and from there the idea grew, so this is my Perfect Pinterest Project .

The pictures I took don’t show me spending too much money at spotlight or sitting up late until 2am with my almost deliriously sick and tired husband cutting out cardboard templates. It doesn’t show me facepalming because after making my own calendar to move away from the candy paradigm I ended up putting more candy in. They don’t show the wonky pencil lines or bad folding, they don’t show my half started fabric bunting calendar or the painstaking cross referencing of the little notes with my diary so the activities matched up with our work schedule and salary. They don’t show any of that, just the finished masterpiece photographed from a flattering angle. Looks great doesn’t it!

Late Night Picture when we finally finished

And what did I put in the boxes day by day?

1. Today is the first day of Christmas, lets find a tree and decorate it! Trees are a symbol of new life after winter. The idea comes from our northern hemisphere where it snows during Christmas time. In New Zealand we celebrate summer solstice and it is sunny. But we love the smell of Christmas trees anyway. MMmm

2. Here is some candy we can use to make some stained glass window biscuits, when we hang them in the window we can see the sun shine through them.

3. Lets draw a map for Santa so he can find your house. Here are some doubloons for your pirate treasure.

4. Today we’re going to the farmers market , we can look at the beeswax decorations and listen to the buskers play music. Here is a dollar to give the musicians. What is a Christmas song you know?

5. Christmas is a time to remember people who have less than us, lets get some food from the cupboards to take to the food bank. The food bank is a place that gives food to people who are hungry and don’t have money to buy food. They are very kind.

6. Here are some pine cones we can use to make beautiful decorations. Today we can also choose a special Christmas decoration for the tree from the trade aid store.

7. Here are some candy canes so you can make peppermint hot chocolate and wear your lovely new summer pyjamas.

8. Tonight we are going to go for a night picnic to look at the stars and see the Christmas lights on our way back home. We are going to look for Rehua (antares) which is the summer star. It symbolises summer fruit and summer heat.

9. Today is your nativity play, you get to dress up today, here is your costume. Grandma and grandpa are going to watch you sing!

10. Today you go to grandmas house, here is $20 so you can buy a present for mum and a present for dad. Have fun choosing!

11. Only 14 days until Christmas, lets going to the berry picking! Berries are the first harvest of the summer season. We like strawberries and raspberries but there are also lovely native berries likemakomako, konini and purple hinau berries.

12. Today mum makes the Christmas pudding, can you help her? Here are some lucky coins we can bake into the pudding to find!

13. Look under the tree, here is a Christmas story for you to read with dad tonight.

14. We’re going to the beach today, lets build a really big sandcastle and decorate it.

15. Here are some stickers so we can make a card for grandma and grandpa, who else do you want to make cards for?

16. Today we are going to make gifts for your teachers, homemade chocolates!

17. Movie night! You get to stay up late and watch a movie with mum and dad and eat popcorn. We have a special Christmas movie for you.

18. Let’s decorate biscuits and make a gingerbread house together

19. Here are some stamps we can use to make wrapping paper out of old newspapers and paper scraps. Now our presents can be beautiful under the tree.

20. Today is the longest day and the shortest night. It’s called summer solstice. We’re going to harvest our garlic today.

21. You have lots of toys you don’t play with any more, can you help me choose 3 of them to give away?

22. Today we are going to make cheese and have a pizza party with our new pizza oven.

23. Today is Christmas eve eve! We are going to plant a beautiful native tree to replace the one we cut down. This is the pohutukawa which is the New Zealand Christmas tree.

24. Tonight is Christmas eve, light the Christmas Candle, hang out your stockings and leave a biscuit for santa. Does he need a key to get in?

25. Christmas day today. Check your stockings!

A lot of these ideas come from my current favourite book ‘Celebrating the Southern Seasons’ by Juliet Batten. She has a blog about it here. Her book is a fabulous guide to seasonal celebrations relevant to those of us in the southern hemishphere and has great ideas for creating traditions related to New Zealand and the seasons. Themes for the Summer Solstice are the colours Gold and Red, harvest with freshly baked bread, honey and berries and the traditional story Kauri and the Whale or Demeter and Persephone. 

So far the advent calendar is going down a treat, and my sons don't care if I took pretty pictures and blogged about it or not.
Candy Cane Hot Chocolate