Gingerbread Christmas Trees

This gingerbread recipe is from the old La Leche League Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook.  I love that there is only honey and molasses for sweetener, and that it uses whole wheat flour.  These cookies turn out to be “sturdy” instead of doughy but still taste very yummy.  The icing is called Royal icing, and while it is not exactly delicious, it does a great job holding the stars into little trees. 

Gingerbread Cookies
1/4 c. honey
1 c. molassses
1 egg
1/2 c. oil
1 1/4 t. cinnamon
1 1/4 t. ginger
4 c. whole wheat flour
4 t. b. powder

Whisk together wet ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.  Add dry to wet.  Mix until a stiff dough forms.  Form into a ball, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours; more is better.  Roll out with ample flour 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick.  Dip cookie cutters in flour before using.  Bake cookies at 325 for 10 – 12 minutes, until light brown on edges.  Cool.

Royal Icing
1 pound powdered sugar
1/2 t. cream of tartar
3 egg whites, room temperature

Whisk together sugar and cream of tartar.  Add egg whites, and whip for about 5 minutes.  Keep bowl of icing covered with a damp cloth as it dries out quickly.  Use immediately.  This makes more than you need, so if you want to make a 1/2 batch or 2/3 batch, go for it.

To make the trees, use different sized star shaped cookie cutters.  I made little trees here, so I only used 3 sizes of stars, and only 2 stars of each size (so six stars/tree).  When I make tall trees, I will use 5 or even 6 sizes and do more of each size.  Overlay the stars, going from big stars to little stars, so that the points do not directly overlap.  If your cookie cutters are sized well, and you are doing a tall star, you can even do a pretty spiral pattern with the points of the stars.  Use just enough icing to glue the cookies together; too much and they will slide and not stack straight. 

Let the icing harden for a few hours.  You can then dust them with powdered sugar, if you want.  Also, if you situate the top stars so that is it vertical comparedo the other stars with are horizontal, it looks really, really cute.  I was making 30 of these trees for a Chrsitmas cookie exchange so didn’t have the extra minute to hold the little star there until the icing had hardened!

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Cleaning a Glass Top Stove

In the three houses that Steve and I have lived in togther, we have had a regular coil burner stove, a gas stove, and now a glass top stove.  At first I hated the glass top stove, but now I think I like it the best, in terms of cleaning it, at least!

Every night (ok, almost every night), I wipe down the kitchen counters, sink, and stove with my tea tray spray and a damp cloth.  This keeps things from adhering and encrusting on the stove too much.  Once a month, and I admit it should probably be more often that that, but oh well, I do a deep clean of the stove and sink.

no harsh chemicals needed!

It is pretty easy to do, but does take some time and a bit of elbow grease.  First, I spritz the entire surface of the stove, concentrating specifically on the burners, with pure white vinegar. 

I let that set for a few minutes, and then sprinkle baking soda over all the vinegar so that it “fizzes.”  Then I let that set for a few minutes.  The reaction of the baking soda and vinegar helps to loosen the gunk on the stove a little bit.  Plus all that excess baking soda provides an abrasive scrub for further cleaning the stove, but is soft enough not to scratch the glass surface. 

So once it has fizzled out, I scrub the stove with a sponge, and then wet and rinse a rag to wipe all the baking soda off.  I have to rinse out the rag and wipe the stove down a few times to get it all sprakly clean.  You can follow this up by spraying the stove with a glass/mirror cleaner and wiping that off accordingly, but I generally don’t bother with that. 

Oh, I clean the stainless steel sink the same way: vinegar, baking soda, and a good rinse.

Posted in homemade cleaning solutions, keeping house | 2 Comments

Cranberry-Orange Chutney

I don’t really remember where I originally found this recipe for cranberry chutney, but I have been making it for years now, with a few added twists.  I usually double this and cook it in a big pot so that there are leftovers to put on oatmeal with yogurt.  Sorry I don’t have photos of the finished product; my camera battery died!

juice of one orange + water to equal 1 c. liquid
3/4 c. white sugar (you really can’t skimp on this!)
12 oz fresh cranberries
1 medium granny smith apple, chunked into small pieces
zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/8 t. ground cloves

Before you juice the orange, zest it, and reserve the zest.  Add water to juice to equal one cup of liquid.  Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Add apple pieces.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil again over medium heat, then simmer gently for 10 – 15 minutes, until most of the cranberries have popped and the mixture is “saucey.”  It will thicken as it cools.

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Wordless Wednesday: Squirt Stuff

As of yesterday, Steve and I are done with all baby-related items on the “to do before Squirt arrives” list.  There are still things on the list, like make the candy/gingerbread house, keep installing windows, etc., but all baby things are done!

Here are some photos of things that we now have ready for when Squirt decides to show up!

dresser set up in our bedroom; Steve repaired and I repainted this and the changing table

changing table with changing pad on top (this time the diaper bag is setting there instead of the cat)

Moses basket for when we need to set Squirt down for a moment; little airplane "mobile" pendant

diaper bag packed and ready to go

labor and postpartum bags; Steve said he hopes he doesn't mistake those for his flight bags, or else he'll go to reach for his headset and pull out a onesie!

practicing on a stuffed animal for how to put the prefold cloth diapers and Snappis on!

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Homemade co-sleeper

co-sleeper all set and ready to go

Steve and I decided a long time ago that we wanted to co-sleep with our baby.  There are many, many reasons why it is recommended that mamas sleep with their babies.  I encourage you to check out this link if you are interested in the hard science and research behind this recommendation. 

Our two main reasons for wanting to co-sleep are that we want to get the most sleep possible, and it just seems natural to sleep with your baby.

I am planning on nursing exclusively for the first 6 months at least.  The fantastic thing about nursing (well, one of the many!) is that the milk is all there and ready to go, even at 2 am.  So if the baby is in bed with me, all I have to do is wake up enough to get him/her latched on, and we can both drift back to sleep with baby’s tummy full.  Also, because I will be right there cuddled up with the baby, I’ll be able to notice its first little fussing noises and movements and “catch” the need to feed before the baby has to resort to a full-blown wail to get my attention.  That sounds much more preferable to me than traipsing across the house to a nursery, getting the crying baby out of the crib and settled down enough to nurse, nursing, getting the baby back to sleep again, and walking back to my bed–at which point I have to settle down enough to sleep after being fully awake for that whole time.  No thanks! 

For the past 9 months, the baby has slept with us, albeit inside of me.  That is what he/she is used to.  Our rhythms and the sound of our voices, my heartbeat and breathing.  When you are little and new and EVERYTHING is scary and experienced for the first time, it is very helpful to have familiar surroundings, sounds, and smells.  Well, that is us!  No other mammal that I know of forces their brand new offspring to sleep by themselves.  Why would humans think that we have somehow evolved beyond the need to have our babies close to us, even at night time?

I don’t know how long the baby will sleep with us.  Maybe 6 months; maybe 4 years.  As long as the entire family is satisified with the situation, then we see no real reason to change it.  When it stops being the ideal solution for whatever reason, then we will move on to plan B, which we will formulate when we get there.  🙂

Anyway, the point of this post was really to showcase Steve’s carpentry skills!  He built a litlte “stand” for the crib mattress so that there is plenty of room for everyone in the bed, and so that it is safer for the baby, too.  The captions explain each photo.

the frame is slightly smaller than the mattress so that the mattress is super snug right up against the walls and the my side of the bed

matress goes right on top so that is completely level with our matress

beautiful construction! He made this out of pretty pine 1x4s

this part is a groove that runs the entire length of the frame and allows the frame to attach securely to the frame of our platform bed

very sturdy! the baby can use this for years! Also the slat portion comes off from the legs, so it would require very little construction to turn it into a little toddler bed if we ever need it for that

Posted in natural family living, sewing/crafting | 3 Comments

Millet Cheese Casserole

I have made this recipe twice now, and really, really like it!  It is reminiscent of macaroni and cheese, but with millet and an added depth of flavor.  You can cook it on the stove, in the oven, or in the crockpot for 2 hours on low.  I use about 8 – 10 oz. sharp cheddar cheese.  You could probably also use quinoa or barley or some other grain, but millet is nice because it doesn’t clump together and provides a nice change in texture from the gooey cheese.

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Wordless Wednesday

Featuring, once again, Eddy!

standing on top of the kibble storage bin; if we leave his food in the original bag he rips it open and gorges himself

but that doesn't mean he can't try to get into this bin!

perched on top of Squirt's changing table

it has become his new favorite spot

with his blanket, Mrs. Eddy, on top of the love seat

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