The scent of Christmas – Mulled Wine

That time of year again! Hope you are enjoying the first days of Christmas.

I¬†will be making this at the weekend…

Really enjoy the process and the scent that it leaves in the house. For children, if you boil the red wine rather than keep it on really low heat, you will eradicate the alcohol. This drink can therefore be served to them aswell…(or just heat some plain ribena – that is gorgeous warm!) ūüôā

Click on the link below to be taken to the recipe.

The scent of Christmas – Mulled Wine.

Salt Dough Ornaments and Reindeer Food!

So, we have almost got there! Christmas is less than five fingers away…that is how it works with my four-year old anyway!

It is getting harder for the children to sit still and activities that get them concentrating for more than two seconds are always welcomed!

The first one is a great one for all ages, but specially for those that are able to spell a few words on their own. It is making little salt dough ornaments for the Christmas Tree that the children can initial, write a note on or simply decorate. The dough can also be used to make name tags for gifts which is very cute, or simply little gift tags with messages on – like the one in the picture above.

Salt Dough (recipe also found here)

300g flour
150g salt
200ml water – ish!
 
  • Pre-heat oven to 150C
  • Place flour and salt in a bowl
  • Pour water in as you stir – when dough comes together stop adding water!
  • Get your hands in the bowl – knead¬†the dough¬†– if it feels a bit dry add some more water – if it feels too sticky add a bit more flour
  • Let your children have a piece of dough each, give them cookie cutters as well as rolling pins. Another great tool is a toothpick! They can draw faces, write notes or simply make their shapes look like hedgehogs (my youngest decided that was best use of them!)
  • Make sure you put a hole in the top, using toothpick, if you want to hang the ornament on the tree or place on ribbons for gifts
  • Once decorated – glitter is good here – put the shapes in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 1 hour – may be less if¬†the¬†shapes are rolled thinly¬†– keep an eye on them. They should be light brown.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and let cool – once cool paint with acrylics or leave as are
  • Hang them on the Christmas Tree, string onto gifts or decorate windowsills in your home

REINDEER FOOD

The second activity, and this is a MUST of course, is Reindeer Food making. How will Santa and the Reindeer know where to land if this is not sprinkled on the lawn or in front of your house?

This may look like sparkly cereal to you, but believe me, to a child it is magic! So simple and so sweet to see how excited about it they get. Mine decided to make quite a few of the little parcels and we went to a few friends of theirs and handed them out.

Reindeer Food

1 tbsp oats
Half a weetabix
1 tbsp bird seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp raisins
Glitter of your choice
 
  • Add all the ingredients in a bowl – the children can have a tablespoon each and combine it.
  • Good stir
  • Then add sprinkles – lots! This is what¬†lights the way in the night….
  • Fill little baking parchment parcels with a few tablespoons full of¬†“food” and wrap¬†up.

  • Save them for the evening of the 24th
  • Let your children write this little poem to go with it – or just read it to them! You can make up your own of course!
  • Make sure Santa does stop by….:-)

Reindeer Food Poem

                                                                                                                                                On the 24th at night
When the stars are shining bright
Be sure to take this magic food and sprinkle on the lawn
On Christmas, Santa’s reindeer travel miles before the dawn
But here’s a secret I have to tell, one you must try to keep
That Santa’s reindeer only come when you are fast asleep
So quickly put your jammies on and get a story read
Then sprinkle this magic treat outside and hurry off to bed!
 

All that is left for me to say is Have a Lovely Christmas РI hope you have a really special and memorable evening and morning Рand that your wishes come true! Thank you for reading along and commenting, it really makes me smile when you do!

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

Are you a fan of luscious and chocolatey peppermint mocha? Do you like hot chocolate to be rich and creamy Рwith marshmallows melting on top? I DO!

Mint and chocolate go hand in hand, specially at Christmas time, and marshmallows definitely go hand in hand with hot chocolate..so what better than peppermint marshmallows? I craved them…so I made it the children’s Advent activity to feel less guilty! ūüôā Sharing is caring, right?

Very easy¬†to make¬†but patience is needed….You must whip/beat the mixture for a good 20 minutes. This first batch..well…I didn’t wait – the flavour was stunning and the way they melted in hot chocolate divine¬†– so creamy – but¬†they did not have the right marshmallow texture.

So, second time around¬†I switched from food processor to hand-held¬†mixer half way through as I smelt burning and the mixer felt very warm…didn’t want to ruin any appliances…did mix for a full 20 minutes though…and they are stunning! The children particularly enjoyed licking spoons for this one…the batter is almost too good to cook!

These are really lovely wrapped up in clear bags, with ribbon, as a Christmas treat or gift.

Peppermint Marshmallows (adapted from Annie Rigg recipe)

Handful of peppermint sweets – your choice
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
6 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp powdered gelatine
400g granulated sugar
250 ml water
50g golden syrup
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 tsp peppermint flavouring – optional and only if you like them really strongly flavoured
green food colouring (if wanted)
 
  • Preparation is everything – especially if you are making this with the children! Set out everything, weighed, in little bowls and let them tip ingredients in and stir etc
  • Mix icing sugar and cornflour in a bowl
  • Grease a square baking tin¬†– or any shape to be honest – square just makes the marshmallows more symmetrical. It should be at least 4-5cm deep and not bigger than 23cm wide. Dust the tin with the cornflour and icing sugar mixture making sure to keep any leftover mixture
  • Place 6 tbsp cold water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine into it – set aside
  • Place 250ml water and the sugar and syrup in a saucepan (looks cool!)¬†and place over medium heat – stir to dissolve sugar

  • Bring mixture to the boil and¬†cook for about 10-15 minutes – ideally the sugar mixture should come in at 120C¬†on a sugar thermometre – but if you do not have one (I do not!) – drip some of it into a glass of water; it will be ready when it creates a hard ball rather than dissolving
  • While this is cooking, bash up your peppermints by placing them in a freezer bag and hitting them with something hard! Once crushed – put aside for later

  • Remove from the heat and¬†add the now spongy gelatine –¬†stir thoroughly¬†to combine and dissolve the gelatine
  • Whisk the egg whites in a bowl with a pinch of salt (helps to stiffen them) – make sure you can turn the bowl upside down without the egg whites moving! That is your sign that they are whipped enough
  • While stirring, add the peppermint flavouring if you are using this, the crushed peppermints and the hot syrup in a steady stream. Keep stirring for 20 minutes or so – what you want is for the mixture to be really thick and creamy. And I mean VERY thick…no cheating or you will have very “wet” marshmallows!
  • Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin – add food colouring to the other half if you want them to look a bit green – and then add the coloured mixture on top of the white one

These are my second batch – made them pink as my daughter requested it! ūüôā

  • Leave the tin, uncovered (FAR away from your children who by now have realised this is tasty stuff…), over night
  • When you are ready, dust a work surface with the cornflour/icing sugar mixture and tip the marshmallows out. You may need to pull a little at it to get them out and the bottom will be a little sticky. All good.

  • With a sharp knife –¬†cut to shape!

Made mini marshmallows for the children

If you do not like peppermint – just add vanilla essence and leave out the peppermint sweets and flavour!

You can also make shapes Рsimply use a spoon and dollop the marshmallow mixture onto greaseproof paper. A bit tricky to get off the paper but do-able! Having learnt-by-doing, trick to this is to make a ginger bread biscuit or other biscuit in the shape you would want, and then dollop the mixture on top. Marshmallow biscuits! Yum!

The best though, and we all agreed, is this:

Make yourself a large cup of real hot chocolate and throw in these peppermint marshmallows!¬†As they are fresh…the way they melt is like¬†nothing I have ever tried. Heaven in a¬†cup!

Perfectly melted! 

Glass Stained Christmas Biscuits

Probably the prettiest biscuits I have ever seen or made! I loved making these, as did the children! It was one of their Advent activities – inspired by an Annie Rigg article I read.

Great as a gift, a treat, a fun activity….also very easy! The most difficult part was bashing the sugar boiled sweets! Thought the children could do it but they actually found it too hard.

Probably worth while to mention that the sugar boiled sweets return hard once they cool – I somehow managed to make myself believe they would be soft and gooey….NO! Rock hard. If you prefer a soft, jammy centre, make the biscuits as per recipe but instead of sugar boiled sweets layer two biscuits on top¬† of one another – one with shapes cut out – and fill the cut out bit with jam! Will not be stain glass effect…but very tasty! ūüôā

Glass Stained Christmas Biscuits (basic dough recipe the same as Cookie Christmas Tree)

 
450g plain flour
225g butter – softened
225g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
Sugar boiled sweets – different colours
 
  • Put flour and butter in a bowl and chop into it until the mixture resembles big breadcrumbs
  • Add caster sugar and continue combining
  • Add vanilla essence and crack the egg into the bowl and keep bringing the dough together¬†– I usually crack it into a cup first…just in case it is a bad one!
  • Keep bringing together until you have a smooth dough ball. Wrap this in cling film and place it in the fridge for about an hour
  • Put the boiled sweets in freezer bags and bash with something hard!!! Keep colours separate as this gives a prettier end result

They sort of resemble little semi-precious stones…I think so anyway!

  • Once the dough has chilled pre-heat oven to 200C
  • Line baking trays with¬†baking paper
  • Roll the dough out quite thinly – it rises a tiny bit in the oven but not much – and cut your shapes! Snowflakes¬†are really pretty as are hearts and stars. If you have a Christmas Tree shape this would be sweet with little holes for glass stained effect baubles…
  • Lay them on the baking parchment trays and fill the holes you have cut in them with the crushed sweets – the children enjoyed this almost more than eating the dough every time I turned my back to them!!!
  • Once the biscuits are filled put them in the pre-heated oven for 10ish minutes – maybe slightly less depending on your oven. It is fun to watch the sweets melt…
  • Once cooked let them cool completely¬†on the tray before moving!¬†Tthey will come off ever so easily when cold and can be hung, stored or given away as gifts at Christmas Parties!

Bites of Gold

Every now and again something so tasty comes along that it stays with you – it creates memories and tradition! This recipe is one of those “somethings”.

Imagine this – it is the 24th of December and the snow is a thick, white¬†blanket outside. Candles are lit, the house is warm and the smell of turkey roasting is making its way to your nostrils.¬†Having just returned from Church, it is dark outside, and excitement is building. A glass of champagne is served while your¬†nutty aunt does her crazy laugh in the background, the salmon toast goes round the room…And then – out come the little Christmas Tree trays with THE bites of gold on them…. The tastiest little cheese bites you will ever have, I promise! And you know it is Christmas Eve.

They are home-made by Oldefar – great-grandfather – who¬†at 86¬†still makes them like no one else can. We all fight (politely of course!) to ensure we get our share – the children are learning fast and even my 1-year-old was at them last year! They partner Champagne perfectly, they are light, they crunch, they melt…little puffs of magic! Christmas would not be right without them…tradition is tradition!

Emmenthal Bites

200g flour
200g grated emmenthal
200g butter – softened
1 egg yolk – the egg white is saved for brushing the biscuits prior to baking them
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
 
  • Combine all the ingredients
  • Leave in the fridge for an hour
  • Roll out rather thinly – they puff up in the oven
  • Cut to your desired shape – small is great as it makes them really delicate
  • Lay on baking sheet and brush with egg white
  • Bake in oven for 10 minutes at 175C
  • Let cool completely on wire rack before storing air tightly – will keep for a week (probably more but mine never lasted that long!)

The scent of Christmas – Mulled Wine

This morning, as we were all rubbing our eyes and waking up slowly, my daughter said “Mummy, there was a smell in the house last night, and it is here again – what is that smell? It is like oranges, like lemons, cinnamon…what are you making?”

I loved it,¬†it really made me smile – I answered “It is the smell of Christmas”….

The truth is, it is the smell of Christmas! As she was falling asleep I was baking ginger bread houses and in the morning, as she was waking, I was peeling oranges and lemons for a big batch of mulled wine.

The aromas in our house at the moment are soul warming. They hit you as you open the front door – Christmas tree,

 cloves in oranges in windows,

 ginger bread and vanilla biscuits,

¬†my grandfather’s Emmenthal cheese biscuits

warm roasted chestnuts

Рit is like all the food we have been cooking over the past few days have taken over and are seeping into every fabric in the house, under our skin and bringing out smiles and joy. I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

The winner of Christmas Scent for me though has got to be Mulled Wine. It stays in the kitchen for days and combines all the flavours I adore – bay leaf, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange and lemon, star aniseed, port wine, red wine….yum!

Here is my version (a mix of a family recipe and Jamie Oliver’s)- I will write down the ingredients you will need FOR 2 BOTTLES OF RED WINE – double, triple or more…up as needed! Hope you will like it – it is full of spice and flavour and¬†has quite a kick!

Mulled Wine

100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
Juices and peel of an orange
1 orange, sliced
Peel of a lemon
2 star aniseed
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 vanilla pod – sliced open
2 tsp of each Рground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg
Tea bags (can be bought in tea shops)
2 bottles of red wine
2 glasses of port wine
1 handful of raisins – soak in port wine for 12 hours
1 handful of sliced almonds

 

  • Place your raisins in a mug and cover with port wine – leave for 12 hours
  • Make a little spiced¬†parcel by filling a tea bag with¬†a tsp of each – ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg as well as the¬†whole cloves, cardamom¬†and 1 star aniseed – tie it shut

  • Put both¬†kinds of sugar, orange and lemon peel, orange juice, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, vanilla pod,¬†1 star aniseed¬†and a tsp of each – ground cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large pot

  • Add red wine to cover the sugar – not a lot needed¬†– ¬†and bring to a boil
  • Stir until sugar dissolves and let boil until a thick syrup is formed – this shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes
  • Once thick – and the scent in your kitchen will be to die for right now – turn down the heat low and add the remaining red wine, port and orange slices

  • Let it warm through – never boiling (this “kills” the alcohol) – until ready to serve
  • About 10 minutes before serving, throw in¬†the soaked raisins and sliced almonds
  • Serve with a spoon – to allow everyone to spoon out the flavoured nuts and raisins!
  • YUM!

Great use of my pasta machine – Vanilla Biscuits!

About five years ago I bought a pasta making machine. It was bought with¬†much anticipation, not least that of my husband, of great homemade pasta dishes. The truth is, I brought it home and put it in a cupboard and well…it has been in that cupboard, unwrapped, for five years!

You may wonder what it has to do¬†with Danish Vanilla Christmas biscuits…a lot actually! About two weeks ago I made pasta for the first time using¬†the machine! It was disastrous, hilarious and absolutely divine all at once! That story is for another blog though! The exciting bit is, for me at least, that while making pasta I realised this machine could be used to make these gorgeous, probably my favourite, Christmas cookies! Vanille kranse – or Vanilla Wreaths directly translated.

It worked a treat and here are the results! YUM!

 

The recipe is, once more, a family one! Passed on to me and gratefully received! It is the fresh vanilla and chopped almonds that make the difference! The flavour is beautiful with¬†the biscuits melting in your mouth, but¬†being crisp at the same time… You must make (and eat)¬†them to understand!

500g plain flour
375g butter
250g sugar
1 egg – stirred
165g chopped almonds
Seeds from two vanilla pods (slice the pods open and scrape out the seeds Рsee picture below if you have never done before!)
 
  • Put flour and butter in a bowl and chop into the butter with a knife until the mixture resembles bread crumbs
  • All other ingredients go in – remember to give the egg a quick stir with a fork before adding it
  • Knead it until it comes together – it is quite a soft dough due to all the butter (never claimed this was a healthy recipe!)
  • Leave in the fridge for a few hours to cool
  • Using a mince maker machine – or in my case a pasta machine with rigatoni shape attached! – make finger long sausages and bring them together to make a circle – hard to explain – see pics!
  • Bake in a 200C oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown