Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Goodies

We had Christmas a day early at my mom's, because my niece will spend tomorrow with her mom.  I would show you the small amount of Christmas knitting and crocheting I did, except that I didn't bring my camera cord, so you will have to wait to see the cute knitted elephant and the crocheted birdie.

Instead, I'm going to share a couple of my favorite recipes of the season.  Although they are both candy, they are very, very simple.  Pretty much anyone can make either of these, even if you only have a microwave.  No candy thermometer needed!

I got the first recipe, Tiger Butter, from my friend Nancy in San Antonio.  She used to bring it to work, and after she moved to Houston in 1990 (twenty years ago!!), I started to make it.  Back then, white chocolate was hard to find - I had to buy it at the chocolatier.  You can still use bulk white chocolate if you like, but white chocolate chips work just fine.

Tiger Butter

2 2/3 cups white chocolate chips (this is one 12-oz package, plus 2/3 cup more.  Or use one pound of bulk white chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces.)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup (that's a 6-oz package) semisweet chocolate chips

Line a rimmed cookie sheet/jelly roll pan with foil and set aside.

Melt the white chocolate together with the peanut butter.  If you do this in the microwave, use 80% power, and zap it for 1 minute, then stir it, then zap another 30 seconds.  Stir it good -- chips like to hold their shape -- and if it's still not melted and combined, keep zapping at 30 second intervals, stirring well after each, until the mixture is smooth.

Next, melt the semisweet chocolate chips.  The same microwave technique applies here.

Pour the white chocolate mixture into the pan and spread it to the edges.  Drizzle the semisweet chocolate over it, then use the tip of a knife or a toothpick to swirl it all together.  This is my favorite part -- it looks like paisley!

Refrigerate for an hour or so, until it's firm, then break it up into small pieces and store in a tin.  It doesn't have to be refrigerated, but it's best to store it somewhere fairly cool.

Cherry Almond Fudge

This recipe was clipped out of a magazine, probably around 1990.  The recipe calls for almond extract, but I always use vanilla instead. It also uses candied cherries. These are the cherries used in fruit cake - there's usually a special area in the grocery store devoted to fruit cake ingredients starting around Thanksgiving.  I know some people worry about the dyes used in candied cherries; if you're one of these people, just make a different recipe!

12-oz package (2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup candied cherries, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a 8 inch square pan with foil and set aside.

Combine the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, and melt using the zap-and-stir method described in the Tiger Butter recipe.  When the mixture is smooth, stir in the almonds, cherries, and vanilla.  Pour into the pan and smooth the top.  Refrigerate for a couple hours, then cut into 1-inch square.  Store in a tin -- I always put the Tiger Butter and the fudge in the same one.

So there you go - a couple easy peasy candy recipes.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Catching Up

I promised myself that I wouldn't do any Christmas knitting this year, and I almost stuck to it!

At least six weeks ago, I offered to make my niece a hat.  She chose the pattern and yarn (from a selection I offered, of course), but then asked for a flower on it.  This is what's holding me up.  I'm making two or three flowers, on pins.  The hat and two flowers are done - except for the actual making up of the flowers.

Hat + Unfinished flowers

The hat is Everglade in Tempted Yarn's Good Grrl (colorway VaVaVoom).  The flowers are the Ruffle Rose and the Cabbage Rose from Knitted Flowers by Nicky Epstein, knit from Cascade Ultra Pima in color number 3749.  (She asked for a purple hat with orange flowers.  Really!)

My niece is also crazy about elephants, so I thought I'd knit her one.  Sigh... like the roses, the problem with the elephant is the putting together.

Elephant pieces

These are most of the parts of this elephant -- 4 legs, a head/body piece, a trunk, and one ear.  I still need to knit the second ear and the tail.  I'm using Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Oxford Grey and a sparkly white they call White/Multi.

I need to get these done.  I'm also planning on crocheting my mom a couple of pot holders.  All in all, this is very manageable.  I just need to do it!

When not working on these projects, I've been working on a co-worker request.  I'm knitting Ysolda's Peaks Island Hood out of Manos del Uruguay Maxima.  Kelly, in the next office, saw a hooded scarf on Etsy, and asked if I would knit something like it for her.  Last Saturday, we went to Crazy Girl, where she chose the yarn and the colorway, neither of which would have been my first choice.  However, the yarn is amazingly squishy, and the colorway (M8881 Beehive) is working beautifully. 

Kelly's hooded scarf

If you check Ravelry, you'll see that some people have issues with this pattern, but I'm really enjoying it.  Instead of making one end longer, to be buttoned, I'm doing both ends long, with no buttons. From the pictures, it looks like getting the button holes in the right place is hard, and Kelly thought the buttons were a little odd anyway.  I need to finish up those roses and the elephant, so I can work more on this.  It's cold here!