Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saint Lucy's Day and Lucia Buns

So, after the whole Saint Nicholas visit, the next tradition we have is the visit of Saint Lucy. No, we're not Swedish, but it's still so much fun. The youngest girl in our house dresses in a white gown, and wears a wreath of greenery in her hair. Maggie is old enough to carry the tray now, so it's her turn^^

And I have my recipe for my special breakfast rolls. Don't they look tasty?

Christmas Lucia Buns Recipe

2/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup dry milk
1/2 stick butter, cubed for melting (little pieces)

1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp yeast

1 egg + egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
3 cups all purpose flour

1 egg white

First combine water, butter and dry milk.
When the mixture has cooled to bathwater-warm, add the sugar and the yeast. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes (it's a good time to seperate that egg)

Add egg and egg yolk, cardamom, and a cup of flour.
Mix well, then add the salt and the rest of the flour a bit at a time. Knead (play-dough time^^) for about five minutes, then oil the surface and cover with a towel.

Wait 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled.

Punch the dough down, then divide the dough into 20 equal parts. Form each part into ropes about 6 inches long.

Put two ropes in an x shape on a greased cookie or baking sheet, then curl/roll the ends up towards the middle. Repeat for all the remaining bits. Allow the buns to rise for about 30 minutes.

Remember the egg white? Mix that with a tablespoon or so of water. Put a raisin at the center of each arm/curl of the bun (4 for each bun), then brush the buns with the egg white mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 15 - 20 minutes. They are done when they are golden brown. The picture has a couple that are a bit too brown, but that's what I get for spending too much time gathering greens. Best eaten warm; and they keep well in the fridge.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saint Nicholas and the Land of Sweets

Happy Saint Nicholas Day! In several cultures, this is the day Saint Nick (or Santa) comes to visit. He sure left a lot of stuff in  my stocking^^
Saint Nicholas was actually the bishop of Myra (modern Turkey) in the early 300's. He was known for his defense of children; in particular young girls being forced into marriage. In fact, he is the patron saint of children. Almost a thousand years latter he became a favorite among Scandinavian children due to the nuns that taught them; the nuns used his feast day as an excuse to collect food, clothing, and toys in time give them to the poor among their students for Christmas. 
Maggie's class also conveniently went to see The Nutcracker ballet at the University of Northern Alabama. Most of the ballet was put on by local kids, like these sweet little gingerbread men.  

What special things do you do befor Christmas?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spiced Tea and Shawls

It's that time of year when hot drinks and warm clothes aren't just luxuries; they're necessities. So I have this nice recipe for my spiced tea and added this new shawl made by a technique that I invented/taught myself. After all, there's nothing new under the sun, so maybe I just re-invented it.^^ It's kind of a cross between crochet and weaving, so I have no idea what to call it. Suggestions?

Makes about a pint of spiced tea mix

18 oz Tang (or other sweetened orange drink mix)
1 dry unsweetened lemonade packet
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
3/4 cup instant tea

Mix. That's it; just put it in a bowl and  mix. To brew you just add a heaping spoonful to a coffee cup with some hot water.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are having as much fun as I am up at my grandmother's, that you are eating lots of good food, and that you have lots of things to be thankful for^^

Train tracks and fall leaves. I'm thankful for the great weather!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rose and Mistletoe Kanzashi

One of the reasons I love making kanzashi is there are so many flowers, plants, and other natural things you can create with the technique. I especially like coming up with new kanzashi designs based off of local plants and animals. Some purists would say some of my creations are not traditional, and therefore I have no business calling them kanzashi at all. I think it is the spirit more than the rules that define an art form, and by creating based off of my surroundings I am adding to the art rather than making something completely different. What do you think?
My version of a rose kanzashi.
My completely original kanzashi; mistletoe. 
I'm not sure the plant can even grow in Japan, but it makes a nice kanzashi^^ 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

You know, we're pretty lucky in this country. Voting for who we want in charge, the ability to remove them if they turn out to be bad leaders, the right to complain. Of course some people take that right a little too far, but there you have it. Maggie thinks this whole business is getting out of hand. She's not sure who's running for what other than president, but she's pretty sure name calling isn't nice. I tend to agree. See you at the polls, and no, I don't want to know who you voted for^^

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls Day and Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

My family celebrates? All Souls day. Not sure celebrate is the word I'm looking for, but it'll do. Much like Obon in Japan, All Souls day is a way to remember everyone who has died, and to pray for both their happiness in the after life and that we might see them again after our death. Most people don't believe that the dead come back on this day as ghosts to visit like Obon, but I'm sure there's some who do out there somewhere. It's a pretty quiet, but international, festival; unless you celebrate it in Mexico. There they call it 'the Day of the Dead' and it's like a funeral, Halloween, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one. I have never heard the more widespread All Souls day be brought up on the news, but I think the world has heard of Day of the Dead. Crazy, right?

Many cultures have a fondness for round themes when it comes to the departed. Both Buddhists and a variety of Celtic folk stories say ghosts like round foods like rice balls and cakes. What else would I make then, but my baked pumpkin doughnuts? Here's my recipe, which is oil and butter free and full of spiced pumpkin goodness^^

Pumpkin Doughnuts

1 small can pumpkin
1/2 cup honey (or 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed, and 2 TBSP extra milk)
1&1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
2&1/2 cups self rising four
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons or so cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered or confectioners sugar

Mix the pumpkin, spices, and honey together in a bowl. Add the flour, milk and eggs and mix some more. Dough should be thick, slightly thinner than peanut butter. Spoon into greased doughnut pans (I got mine from Wilson's Cake decorating supplies. The pan is like a muffin pan, but doughnut shaped!)You can also use muffin liners and make muffins instead.

Bake at 350 F until a toothpick comes out clean, about 8-10 minutes for the doughnuts. DON'T overcook them; if the bottoms get more than slightly brown you'll end up with dry doughnuts, and that's bad^^

Mix the sugar and cream cheese in a micro wave safe bowl. Then, nuke it for about 30 seconds. Drizzle over slightly cooled doughnuts. Best eaten warm of course, but you can microwav the about 30 seconds and they'll taste fresh baked. Keep them in the fridge for over a week; they freeze well too as long as you don't glaze them before you freeze them. Makes about 18

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween!Hope you had lot's of fun, lot's of treats, and no bad candy!

Crochet Amigurumi Spider

Crochet spider pattern will be available at my shop again next year!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Shepherd's Pie, ala Monster

Here's a twist on a classic shepherd's pie. Normally one just spoons/smears mashed potatoes over the top. These spooky little monsters/ghosts are made with a mixture of mashed potatoes, eggs, cheese, and spices; then shaped and decorated. You could even tint the little guys colors to match your party!

Shepard's pie ala monster
Robert was my helper today. Aren't his ghosts spooky?

Pie mixture;
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, etc)
1 pound ground beef
1&1/2 beef gravy
Whatever other veggies you want, like half an onion, a can of tomatoes, etc.

Potato mixture;
2 cups water
2&1/4 cups potato flakes
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
2 eggs

First you want to cook the ground beef in a skillet until you can't see any pink. If you're going to add onions, which I do, cook them with the beef.

Drain it well, then dump it into your pan. I use a 9x13 inch Pyrex, but you can use any baking pan that holds about 2 quarts. Drain and add any canned veggies now.

About this point you need to put the two cups of water on to boil for the potatoes.

Put the frozen veggies (minus some peas or something for eyes) in the skillet with a dash of water, and heat until all visible ice is gone and they are warm to the touch. You could cook them all the way, but you'll cook them in the oven so why bother?

Dump the veggies in the pan and add the gravy. Mix it all up and smooth it down a bit so it's nice and flat for the monsters.

Now that your potato water is boiling, pull it off the stove and add all but the eggs. It should be rather stiff. Give it about five minutes (time to wash that skillet^^) and add the eggs. Once you've done mixing it should be cool enough to touch and work with.

Shape those monsters with your hands (and your little kitchen helpers, as long as they don't try and eat it. Raw eggs, yuck). Decorate with reserved veggies. (I just used peas for the picture. Lima bean eyes, carrot spikes, or corn bumps would be fun.) Any leftover veggies from decorating can just be dumped into the baking pan. Put your monstrous potatoes on top and bake until potatoes are slightly brown (about 20 minutes)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Costumes

On the one hand, yukata make great Halloween costumes. On the other, I hope nobody freezes. There was frost on the ground this morning! Here are two new yukata; a lovely purple and green combination with one of my pre-tied obi, and a sakura (cherry blossom) one for a Madame Butterfly costume. Both future owners are apparently very sophisticated young ladies; I know I wouldn't have gone as an opera character at eight years old!

Sakura/Cherry blossom Yukata

Purple and Green Yukata