Thursday, 27 November 2014

C is for Christmas Playdough

Christmas Playdough

Playdough that smells like Christmas.  Well sort of.  This Christmas Day Playdough from Nurturestore does smell Christmassy although it is a traditional European Christmas scent.  Orangey, cinnamony and cosy.  Which is really truly lovely. 

I would like to make an Australian Christmas scented playdough but I am not sure how to combine Eucalyptus leaves, hot summer day, beach and barbecues into a smell with out it ending up like a cleaning product!

So this year I am sticking to the Christmas Day playdough.  I also made a batch of Snow Playdough and scented it with Peppermint essence and some Green sparkle playdough using the same base homemade playdough recipe. 

Christmas Playdough

I set them up for Bear and Bee as an Invitation to Play with rolling pins and Christmas themed cookie cutters.

Christmas Playdough

And we also practised our rolling skills and made playdough candy canes.

What is your favourite Christmas scent?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

F is for Fun Food for Christmas

Fun food christmas

Over the last few weeks I have been working on our family Advent activities for this year.  We will have an Advent Calendar as usual along with reading through our collection of Christmas stories.  This year I am also going to do a Jesse tree with Bear and Bee to take the focus away from receiving presents to more of the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Fun food christmas

I have nearly got our Advent Calendar finished - just need some numbers on the drawers.  In the past I have used envelopes and boxes but this year I finally found a set of drawers that I liked (and could afford).  I have the activities printed out ready to go in the little drawers.  I just need to buy a few small treats to go in there too.

If you haven't got your Advent Calendar sorted yet or you just want some ideas of activities to do with your children over the upcoming school holidays I have a list that should help.

Here are 24 food related festive activities that you can do with your children throughout December.

Fun food christmas

1. Make and decorate Salt Dough Ornaments. Change these Easter ones by the threefootcooks to more festive versions using Christmas shaped cookie cutters.  There are lots of ways to make salt dough ornaments.  This is our favourite one.

2. Build a Gingerbread House.  If you have plenty of time, bake the gingerbread and cut out the pieces.  If not, buy one of the many great kits available. I have my eye on an Australian outback shack from one of our bigger grocery stores. But whatever option you go for make sure you use this Gingerbread House 'glue' by Kids Activities Blog.  It is the best. In Australia you buy meringue powder from speciality cake decorating suppliers or subsitute Pavlova Magic from the supermarket.

3. Make Reindeer Food.  This idea comes from Parenting Fun Everyday. It will be a perfect and inexpensive gift for Bear's and Bee's kindy friends.  While you are over looking at this site check out the rest of Amber's great Christmas activites.  She has put together an eBook which you can purchase to make downloading easier or you can get each activity separately for free.

4. Whip up some Christmas Popsicles (Ice Blocks).  Ice Cream is good in any weather right? We are going to use a recipe from one of my favourite cooks Donna Hay as a base and make our own.  Check the blog soon or better yet sign up to our newsletter to keep in touch.

5. Put together a food hamper for charity.  Non- perishable food items like rice, pasta, cereal, meals in a can and baby food are just some of the items that you can donate.  Have a look at this article on Food Drives from Foodbank in Australia for more ideas or contact a local charity in your town or city.

6. Have Breakfast for Dinner.  We use this simple tradition on a number of occasions throughout the year (like the start of school holidays) and you can make it extra special for Christmas with some simple touches.  Read about having Breakfast for Dinner over at Peace but not Quiet.

7. Bake Cookies for Santa or the neighbours.  These Christmas spiral cookies made with the threefootcooks are good.

8. Make Christmas Popcorn to eat while watching a Christmas movie.  This year we are going to try this delicious sounding Christmas flavoured sugar from Nurturestore.

9.  Make real hot chocolate. Or if it is summer where you live (just like it is for us)  make Iced Chocolate just like Bee did on threefootcooks.

10.  Bake a Christmas Cake together.  Dig out your mum's, aunt's, grandma's cherished recipe and have a go at making it as a family.  Here is my mum's recipe.

11. A great homemade Christmas gift is Cookies in a JarBe a Fun Mum has a simple to follow version that would make delicious gifts for teachers, family friends or relatives.

Fun food christmas

12.  Bake some Homemade Dog Treats using this recipe from threefootcooks and take them to the animal shelter.  Check first with the shelter if they will accept these.  Otherwise find out what they do need like old blankets and towels, kitty litter or canned food and put together a donation basket.

13. Hold a Gingerbread Party Playdate just like this one from I Can Teach My Child.  I love how it includes the gingerbread creations going missing along with reading The Gingerbread Man story.

14. Make Christmas Cone Cakes with the threefootcooks.  Baking these cupcakes in ice cream cones in the microwave means they are quick and easy to prepare.  Leaving plenty of time for the kids to be creative with the decorating.

15. Challenge the kids to make these gorgeous Gumdrop Snowflakes from Tips from a Typical Mom.

16.  Bake a batch of Angel Halo Biscuits with your kids like I did with the threefootcooks.  They are quick, easy and delicious. 

17.  Mix up a batch of Christmas playdough and let the kids go crazy with the cookie cutter. We made this Christmas Day playdough from Nuturestore and it smells divine.  I love that it is scented using herbs and spices.

18.  Throw in some Kitchen Science by making these Christmas Peppermint Creams.  We made these a few years ago and they worked really well.  Follow the links to the original recipe on the Science Sparks site.

19. Make Candy Cane Chocolate Hearts with Be a Fun Mum.  Another great idea for school friend gifts.

20. Eat Dessert first.  Pavlova is a traditional dessert often included on Australian Christmas dinner tables.  How about getting the kids involved in making their own.  There's no need to make the pavlova base yourself.  If you do want to try making your own One Perfect Day has a recipe for Super Simple Never Fail Pavlova. Buy a box of mini meringues or meringue drops, cut up some fresh fruit such as bananas, berries, mangoes and kiwi fruit and whip fresh cream.  Lay it out on the table in small bowls and get the kids to layer up their own plates. 

21. If your children are breaking for school holidays soon this Christmas Tree Bread from Mess for Less would be a fun and tasty way to keep them busy.

22. Need some Christmas gift ideas? Try these Snowball truffles from Here Come The Girls.

23. Angel Cakes. A sweet take on the more well known Butterfly cakes, here's how we made Angel Cakes.

24. Turn your gingerbread cutter upside down and make these Gingerbread Reindeer from Martha Stewart.




Monday, 24 November 2014

A is for Angel Cupcakes

Angel Cakes

With the festive season in full swing, it can be tempting to try and do everything bigger and better. Often, however, the simple ideas can be the best.

Take these Angel Cakes for example.  They are a simple combination of vanilla cupcakes, vanilla icing and icing sugar.  But they make for the perfect Christmas treat.

Angel Cakes

Most people would have heard of, and probably made, Butterfly Cakes.  All you need to do to make these super cute Angel Cakes is make a batch of your favourite cupcakes as you would for Butterfly Cakes and reposition the wings.

Angel Cakes

How wonderfully delightful are these Angel Cakes?
Angel Cakes

Here is how we made them.

Angel Cakes
Makes 12

Ingredients
For Cakes
120g unsalted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

For Icing
2 cups icing sugar mixture
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons hot water
extra icing sugar for dusting

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Line a cupcake tray with paper liners
3. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Mix in the vanilla.
5. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
6. Add flour and milk and mix well.
7. Spoon batter evenly among paper cases.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
9. Allow to cool for a few minutes in tray before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.

10. To make the icing, mix icing sugar and butter together in a medium bowl.
11. Add water and mix until a smooth paste forms.

Angel Cakes

12. To assemble the cakes, cut a disc from the top of each cake.

Angel Cakes

13. Fill the top of the cake with icing.

Angel Cakes

Angel Cakes

14. Cut the cake disc in half and gently stand each half upright in the icing to form wings.

Angel Cakes
15. Dust with icing sugar.

Angel Cakes


C is for Christmases Past

This is my mum's recipe for Christmas Cake.  We will be making a version of this for our own cake this year as we won't be at my mum's for Christmas Day.  I believe it is good to carry on some traditions from the past in order to keep us connected with our families and ancestors.

Christmas Cake Recipe

Do you have family Christmas traditions that you are keeping this year?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

T is for Too Hot for Hot Chocolates!

Iced Chocolate

With the temperature regularly reaching 30°C or above (86°F) now it is definitely summer here already even if officially summer doesn't start for another week yet. 

This also means it is definitely too hot for hot chocolates.  Why am I talking about hot chocolates I hear you ask? Hot chocolates, marshmallows and Christmas seem to go hand in hand.  Well they do if you live in many parts of the northern hemisphere anyway.  But here? Not so much.

So with Bear and Bee both keen to start doing anything Christmassy, we changed up the Hot Chocolate tradition for Iced Chocolates.  Much more suited to where we live and delicious for an after kindy afternoon tea.

There are many recipes for making Iced Chocolates just as there are many recipes for making Hot Chocolates.  This is how we made our Iced Chocolates.  It is not really a recipe though more just a suggestion of what to do.

Iced Chocolate
Serves 1

Ingredients
1 tablespoon chocolate flavoured topping (like you pour over ice cream)
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
250ml milk
whipped cream, grated chocolate and extra chocolate topping to serve.

Directions
Iced Chocolate

Iced Chocolate

Iced Chocolate

1. Place the topping, ice cream and milk in a blender or a milkshake shaker like our Tupperware one.

Iced Chocolate

2. Blend or shake for 1 minute.

3. Spread a little extra topping around the inside of a glass.

Iced Chocolate

4. Pour in the milk mix.

5. Top with whipped cream and grated chocolate.

Iced Chocolate

6. Serve and enjoy!

You could replace the chocolate flavoured topping with powered chocolate drink mix or even make your own chocolate mix.  Whisk together 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1-2 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it) with a little hot water.  Use in recipe in place of topping.




Thursday, 20 November 2014

A is for Angel Halo Biscuits

Angel Halo Biscuits

Every year around this time I start making a list of recipes for Christmas meals and treats that I want to try out.  I love looking through all the Christmas themed magazines and marking the ideas that I want to do this year.  That doesn't mean I always get through my list.  Often there is too many things on that list or as happened last year (and will probably happen again this year) I run out of time because we are moving house.

So when I came across the idea for Angel Halo Biscuits in the Christmas edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine I knew I needed to give it a go as soon as possible.

Angel Halo Biscuits

Angel Halo Biscuits

It is a fairly simple recipe using ingredients that you will probably have in your pantry and quick to make which is handy if you have last minute guests popping in over the Christmas break.

Angel Halo Biscuits

These simple biscuits are equally delicious with a glass of cold milk or with a well deserved cup of tea.  I adapted the recipe slightly to suit our tastes.  I would recommend adding a little ground cinnamon or nutmeg if you want more of a Christmassy flavour boost.

Angel Halo Biscuits
Makes 14 depending on size

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
100g unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
extra plain flour to dust surface when rolling
To decorate:
1/2 cup pure icing sugar or icing sugar mixture or Icing glaze and yellow sanding sugar

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
2. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Angel Halo Biscuits
Bee sifting flour and bicarb soda
3. Sift flour and bicarb soda into a large bowl.

Angel Halo Biscuits
Bear whisking butter, sugar and egg

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar and egg.

Angel Halo Biscuits
Making a well in the centre of the flour

Angel Halo Biscuits
Pouring in butter mixture

5. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the butter mixture.

Angel Halo Biscuits

Angel Halo Biscuits

6. Mix until a dough forms.
If the weather is warm when making these biscuits I would recommend putting the dough in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before rolling.  

Angel Halo Biscuits

7. Take 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a sausage shape on a lightly floured surface.  Be careful not to use too much flour for rolling or it will make the dough too dry and crumbly.  The dough sausage should be about 1 1/2 to 2cm wide.

8. Repeat with remaining dough.

Angel Halo Biscuits

9. Carefully shape the dough sausages into rings and place on the prepared baking trays.

10. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until firm.

11.  Cool slightly on trays before transferring to a cooling rack.

Angel Halo Biscuits
Bee sifting icing sugar over the biscuits

Angel Halo Biscuits
Sprinkling on the coloured sugar

12. To decorate, either sift over icing sugar or make a quick glaze with 3/4 cup icing sugar and 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of hot water.  Dip the biscuits in the glaze and sprinkle with yellow sugar.

Angel Halo Biscuits


If you like this recipe download the printable recipe card for this recipe from here.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

P is for Pumpkin Sugar Cookies


Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

These Pumpkin Sugar Cookies are Boo-tiful (sorry couldn't miss the opportunity!). If you are looking for a simple Halloween or Autumn treat that the kids can help with, then try these.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

The pumpkin flavour is subtle so even your fussiest eaters should be happy with these cookies.  I deliberately kept the spices to a minimum to suit Bear's and Bee's tastes.  You might like to use a little more cinnamon or add some nutmeg too.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

The colour of the dough will be paler after baking so you may want to add a few drops of orange food colouring to enhance the pumpkin-y-ness of the baked cookies.

For this recipe I adapted the Basic Sugar Cookie recipe from Martha Stewart.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
Bear cutting out shapes.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
Bear decorating cooled cookies.
Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Makes approximately 30 depending on size of cookies.
 
Ingredients
3 cups plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
1 (220g) cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
Icing in various colours to decorate

Directions
1. In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
2. Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Beat in egg and vanilla.
4. Add pumpkin puree and mix well.
5. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture.
6. Mix until combined.
7. Divide dough in half and flatten into disks.
8. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze until firm.
9. Preheat oven to 160°C and line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
10. Remove one disk of dough from freezer and let stand for 5 minutes.
11. On a floured surface, roll out dough to approx 0.5 cm.
12. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.  Make sure you dip the cutters in flour to help stop them sticking.
13. Use a spatula to transfer the shapes to a prepared tray.
14. Reroll dough scraps and cut more shapes.
15. Repeat with remaining dough.
16. Bake until edges are golden. Depending on the size of the cookies this should take 10-18 minutes.
17. Cool cookies on a wire rack before decorating with icing.

You can download a printable recipe card for this recipe from here.