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 – I hope you have a really special and memorable evening and morning – and that your wishes come true! Thank you for reading along and commenting, it really makes me smile when you do!

Advertisements

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

Are you a fan of luscious and chocolatey peppermint mocha? Do you like hot chocolate to be rich and creamy – with 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! 🙂 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! 🙂

  • 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 – simply 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! 

Oven Drying Clay

The dough takes five minutes to make and the children can then sit and create for hours! Don’t sit them down with it and use it as an excuse to go onto the computer or make phone calls….sit with them as it really is a lovely way to spend time together. Once your, I am sure, incredibly marvellous creations are completed they go in the oven and can be painted with acrylics when completely cold.

They become crooked and pick their own shape while cooking – this adds to the charm! Rustic, different and very home made!

You can pretty much make any creation fit to the season – we have made many candle holders and painted to fit (Orange for Halloween, Pink for Valentines, Gold and Red/Green for Christmas), hearts to hang from the Christmas Tree, Picture Frames also – they all make fantastic gifts!

These bats were for Halloween – we wrote messages on the back in black ink and presented them as party gifts

Pre-painted look

Add glitter, beads and glue – messy but so pretty!

300g flour
150g salt
200ml water (maybe slightly more or less – start with less and add if needed)

  • Pre heat oven to 150C
  • Combine salt and flour and add the water slowly – keep adding until the dough feels easy to knead. It should not be sticky.

Now you can get creative. If you have cookie cutters by all means use them. If  not, use a sharp knife to stencil out any shapes you can imagine!
If you want to make a tea light holder, as pictured all the way at the top, follow these steps:

  • Roll out dough to 5mm thickness.
  • Using a glass, press out a circle – this will be for the bottom of the candle holder. Ensure it is large enough to hold the tea light.
  • Roll out a rectangular shape, 5mm thick and not more than 5cm tall.
  • Fold and press the rectangular shape onto the circle – ensure it is on well.
  • Correct any dents and bruises! Ensure it stands tall and the tea light can fit into it.
  • If you want to have shapes, figures or small holes in the holder, to let the light shine through, scratch these into the sides using a sharp knife. Don’t make holes too big as this could make the holder collapse.

Once all your creations are done place them on a baking sheet lined tray and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours – 2 hours if items are really thick and 1 hour if they are small or thin.

Once baked, let cool on a wire rack and paint with acrylics when completely cold. Use glue to add beads or other bits. Contour gold pens and glitter are also beautiful on.

The picture frame requires some more work! Cut a piece of cardboard to fit the back side – cover it in a pretty piece of fabric and glue to the cardboard. Glue the fabric to the picture frame ensuring you leave enough of an opening to slip a photograph into it! Let dry, pick your favourite shot and wrap it all up as a gift! Beautiful.

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

These are lovely as gifts and look beautiful on any table, for any occasion! We had a three-layered cake stand full of chocolate dipped strawberries at our wedding reception – they go wonderfully with champagne!

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa content)

Fruit of your choice – good ones are:

Dried, soft apricots
Strawberries
Apple slices
Cold banana slices
  • Slowly melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Do not allow to boil as chocolate will go hard and grainy.
  • Once melted, remove from heat but keep bowl in the hot water so the chocolate does not start to cool down.

  • Dip the fruit into the bowl and place it on a large piece of baking paper/parchment. Let the dipped fruit air dry (unless it is a very hot room in which case the fridge probably is best).

  • When the chocolate is completely dry, remove from parchment and put in pretty presentation bags with string (if a gift) or in a lovely jar or simply in a bowl on the table!

  • Keep in the fridge until serving – will keep for 2-3 days.

Chocolate & Oat Truffles

These are delightful to look at, fantastic as gifts and easy to make. Great one for little fingers to roll!

Chocolate Truffles

These are quick and light as they are made with no butter. They are a treat served with coffee after dinner or at a coffee morning with the mums! I have rolled these in desiccated coconut, chopped almonds and cocoa powder but you could use anything – white chocolate, sprinkles, silver balls – depending on theme and occasion. With Christmas coming you could even roll them in greens, red and gold…

150ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa content) broken into small pieces
2 tbsp Baileys (can be left out and replaced with double cream for a child friendly version)
Desiccated coconut, Cocoa powder, Chopped almonds to roll in
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl.
  • Bring the double cream to a light boil in a saucepan, let cool slightly, and then pour over the chocolate.
  • Add the Baileys and stir continuously until the chocolate has completely
    melted.
  • Whisk the mixture for 5-8 minutes until it starts to get
    stiff and cold.
  • Cover and put in the fridge for about 90 minutes (or until
    set).
  • With two teaspoons (or your fingers, or your childs fingers!), shape small balls and roll these in the
    covering of your choice. Once completely covered, place in fridge until you are ready to serve.

Oat Truffles

75g chocolate (I prefer 70% or more cocoa content but can be made with milk chocolate)
2 tbsp double cream
25g soft butter
100g icing sugar
125g rolled porridge oats
75g desiccated coconut
Grated Peel of an orange
Desiccated coconut to roll in
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and put into a heatproof bowl within a gently simmering saucepan of water.
  • Once melted, let it cool slightly then stir until thick and flowing.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the mixture is well combined.
  • Using your hands (this is great for the children to do!), shape the balls and roll them in desiccated coconut.
  • Place them in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Word or warning – be careful not to leave out on a plate….they will vanish!!!

Cornwall Granola

Lovely as a mid morning snack (just grab a handful), great on natural yogurt with a dollop of homemade strawberry compote or in its own right in a bowl with some milk!

2.5 cups crushed weetabix
5 cups jumbo oats
2.5 cups chopped hazelnuts
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2.5 cups raisins (can be left out)
2.5 cups desiccated coconut
1.5 cups pumpkin seeds
1.5 cups sunflower seeds
2.5 cups halved walnuts
2.5 cups honey
125g melted butter (reduce this by half and add some water for a lower fat version)
  • Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Place on baking tray and bake in 150 C degree preheated oven until toasted and golden (20-30 minutes) – stir occasionally
  • Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
 
TOP TIP
 
Great as a homemade gift from the children or you! Simply wrap in a cellofan bag or bottle in a jam jar and tie with a pretty ribbon.