Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Drying and Freezing Herbs

Fresh herbs are just the best when they’re available in the summer, and I want to keep them around all winter, too, by Drying and Freezing Herbs. I like to keep a pot of herbs on my deck so I can just go out and cut them whenever I need them. I have posted about my Herb Pots before, and if you check out that post, you can see how they SHOULD look. This summer was a very weird one for weather here in Minnesota. We had a cool, rainy, late spring and then the summer was pretty wet and then August into September was cooler than usual. Whatever the weather and whatever the reason, my herbs just did not do well this year. I tried moving them around, thinking maybe they weren’t getting enough sun (the trees in our yard have grown to ridiculous heights and are now casting way too much shade). That didn’t help. They really did look pretty good earlier in the summer, but then the pots got too much rain, and some of the herb leaves turned yellow. Most of them don’t look too bad at this point, they just didn’t grow very much – they stayed pretty small. I still want to preserve some to use this winter – herbs are so expensive to buy fresh – every little bit helps!

Here is my big pot of herbs. This pot is usually FULL of herbs by this time of year. At one point, I thought I wouldn’t have ANY to dry or freeze this year, but they came back somewhat during the last few weeks.

This is the mint. I told you – too much rain! And look at how it ended up with flowers on it. I keep the mint in its own pot so it doesn’t take over everything else – it grows like crazy. To be fair, there isn’t great drainage in this pot – it’s an antique crock.

This is my pathetic basil. I seriously at one point never thought it would look THIS good! Ugh! Not enough to dry this year – there’s always NEXT YEAR!

The rosemary looks great – there’s just not a lot of it. While I’ll dry this when we get further into fall, I’ll try to keep it in the pot until first frost – maybe even longer.

This is the sage, and while it’s not very big, it looks pretty good. I’ll also dry this later in the fall.

The thyme is one of the worst with the yellow leaf thing. I just have to believe it’s because of too much rain. But it looks pretty good, and this is after cutting some to dry already.

Now we come to the beast. This is my chive BUSH down in the garden! It’s HUGE!!! Everyone I know has gotten a bunch of this to plant at their home, and I send cuttings of it home with people all the time. It will last a week or two if you put it in a glass of water like a flower bouquet. I have already frozen some for the winter and also made a batch of Chive Blossom Vinegar with the pretty purple blossoms from this plant.

I had to put this photo of one of my hasta blossoms in here, too, just because. ūüôā

To preserve the chives and mint, I chopped chive stalks and mint leaves and put them into a couple of old ice cube trays, filled them with water, and froze the cubes. Then the cubes went into freezer zip top bags, were labeled, and hustled into the freezer for use this winter. When it comes time to use them, I’ll thaw the cubes on a piece of paper towel until the herbs are free from the ice and ready to use.

I filled the cubes pretty full of herbs.

I’ve never tried this with mint before. I’m hoping the leaves will thaw perfectly and will be useable just as they are once they’re free from the ice.

For the thyme (later I’ll do the same for the rosemary and sage), I cut the stems, put rubber bands around the ends, and used an unbent paper clip to slide through the rubber band and hang on my pot rack. If you’re concerned that they may get covered in dust while drying, you can put a piece of tissue paper or paper towel around the stems and over the leaves to protect them. I think these will dry fast enough so I don’t need to do that. Well, I have a few to save for using this winter. I hope to make some Compound Butter or maybe some Herbed Cheese Spread (btw – this post is where you can see how the herbs looked in July as opposed to how they look now – they looked great then!) before drying or freezing all of them.

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Homemade Ricotta on Toasts with Tomatoes

I can’t wait to share this Homemade Ricotta on Toasts with Tomatoes today! This is something I’ve never tried to do before, and with the help of the unbleached, natural cheesecloth from Cheesecloth.com, I’m giving it a try! I love that Cheesecloth.com has an unbleached variety, because sometimes the cheesecloth that’s bleached white can have a bit of a bleachy smell, and who wants that? Not me! I LOVE this unbleached variety (plus its pretty). Who knew making your own ricotta cheese at home would be so easy? I loved making it! It’s like magic – only it’s science! It was easy to do, it was delicious, and I can’t wait to try it again. Let’s just get on with it so I can show you how I did it!

There are recipes for how to do this all over the internet, so I’m just going to type it out.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Homemade Ricotta

Set over a large bowl:

a sieve lined with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth (if you don’t dampen the cheesecloth, it may spill out over the top of the sieve instead of draining properly)

Pour into a large stainless steel pot:

4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

Stir in:

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat and add:

3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice (I used white wine vinegar)

Allow to stand one minute (I did give it a little stir), until the vinegar causes it to curdle and separate.

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth lined sieve and allow to drain about 20 minutes (the longer your let it drain, the firmer the ricotta will be).

Discard the liquid that collects in the bottom of the bowl.

Transfer ricotta from the sieve to another bowl.

Discard remaining liquid and cheesecloth.

Use immediately (if you like it nice and warm) or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

For the tomato topping (depending on taste), mix all together:

2-3 red, ripe tomatoes, chopped

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

4-6 Tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

basil leaves, chopped (as much as you have in your garden or as much as you like)

Like I mentioned above, I LOVE this unbleached cheesecloth from Cheesecloth.com!

I cut the cheesecloth to the appropriate size and dampened it, then gave it a shake to get rid of any threads left on it from cutting it. Lay a double layer into your sieve over a bowl and you’re ready to drain the mixture.

4 simple imgreidents – that’s it!

Once your mixture has curdled, pour it into the sieve. My sieve is small, and I didn’t know if it would hold all of the mixture, so I made another sieve with cheesecloth using my colander (in the background).

It worked! Look how pretty! I got too excited and ripped the cheesecloth off and pulled a chunk off the side, but wow! I impressed myself!

I took the ricotta from both sieves, mixed them together, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and put it all into the refrigerator until I needed it. It should last about 4-5 days covered in the frig.

I cut slices of a baguette, lightly drizzled olive oil on them, and baked them at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until they were crisp, but not too crisp.

Next I made the tomato bruschetta-type mixture to put on the top.

I originally wanted to make this tomato mixture with balsamic vinegar (above photo), but when I was about to pour it in, decided to use a lighter red wine vinegar instead.

OMG. Yum. The ricotta cheese is SOOOO smooth and creamy and delicious and the tomato mixture adds a punch of flavor.

I know ricotta cheese is an Italian thing, but the kitchen totally smelled like Grandma and Grandpa’s kitchen when I was making this – they were dairy farmers, after all. Watch for a Scandinavian idea using ricotta cheese later this fall! Making ricotta cheese at home was SO easy to do, especially when I used the unbleached cheesecloth from Cheesecloth.com. The ricotta cheese is simple, pure, and made from totally natural ingredients. I will be making this again and again and again. I have found a new appetizer that really packs a punch and is amazingly smooth and creamy at the same time! It’s so easy to do – try this fun little science experiment, make your own Homemade Ricotta Cheese on Toasts with Tomatoes, and be the hit of your next party!

 

 

 

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Make Your Own Colored Sugar

Since we’re heading into the time of year when we probably use colored sugar more than any other, today I’m going to show you how to Make Your Own Colored Sugar. You can use this to make any cut out cookies for all the upcoming holidays. You can use colored sugar for recipes like Sugar Cookies, Sugar Cookies #2, Sugar Cookies #4, Ginger Cookies #2 or any other cookie that calls for sprinkling on a sparkling coat of colored sugar. It’s so easy to do, you’re going to wonder why you’ve been using store-bought colored sugar. All you need is sugar and powdered food coloring. Now is the time to get your pretty colored sugars ready. You’ll save time AND money by making your own colored sugars now before the holiday season starts. Get a good line-up of colors ready now and you’ll be good to go.

Here is the project as I made it:

Colored Sugar

I totally do this by how much I like the color. If you want to measure everything out, you sure can go ahead and do that, but I don’t.

I always put the food coloring on a paper towel so it doesn’t color my cutting board. Have your sugar in bowls, ready for adding the powdered color. You can use as much as you will use for the holiday season, or make enough to fill whatever container you want to use. I tend to use the old containers from past sugars that were store-bought.

Just shake out some of the powdered color onto the sugar in the bowl. It doesn’t take much. You can always add more if you want a darker color. If you need to add more sugar to lighten it, you’ll just end up with more colored sugar.

Stir the sugar and powdered food coloring together until it’s evenly colored. That’s it. When using red – less powder will make it more of a pink color – more powder will make it more red.

When the color is mixed to my liking, I use a funnel to put it into a bottle for sprinkling. You can store it in any airtight container and just sprinkle with a spoon, too. Either way works just fine.

I use the three primary colors, because you can mix them to get any color you want. You can also buy many different colored powders so you don’t have to mix them, but to me, mixing them is half the fun! You can search for a color wheel on the internet to find out how to mix the three main colors to make more colors, like orange, green, and purple. I love doing this – and it’s so much cheaper than buying bottles of colored sugar. You can even make your own custom colors! Give this a try. Now is the time – before our holiday baking begins – to learn how to Make Your Own Colored Sugars.

 

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Freezing Rhubarb

Today we’re going to talk about Freezing Rhubarb. Years ago, when I started making a lot of rhubarb recipes for this blog, my mom told me that she and Grandma didn’t usually use rhubarb after the first of July. This was apparently because the stalks got “woody” and tough and didn’t taste so great. By this time of the summer, I’ve made a lot of rhubarb recipes and because my rhubarb plants were so hugely productive this year (who knows why, but I like it!), I feel the need to preserve some of it for next¬† year. Unfortunately, some years are less productive, so just in case – we’re going to freeze some so we can use it next winter when we need a little springtime, or in case of a less productive year and we need to supplement the fresh stuff with some frozen stuff.

I have to say, this was the best year that I’ve ever had with my rhubarb plants.

This plant is on the west end of my garage garden (on the south side of our garage).

This plant is on the east end of my garage garden. You can see that the stalks aren’t huge after all the picking I’ve done this spring, but there is still a lot of rhubarb left on these plants, and if you look closer, you can see that there are still shoots coming up and out! Unbelievable! This is AFTER all the rhubarb recipes I’ve made this year and AFTER I’ve picked what I want to freeze. As long as there is this much left, it only makes sense to freeze some and have it ready for next winter and/or spring.

Remove those beautiful big leaves and the little tail parts that pull out of the ground. Wash them well and dry off the stalks.

I cut the stalks into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces. There are usually a few places that are a bit funky on the stalks, whether it’s from bugs munching on them or from their rubbing against my little fence that runs in front of the plants. Just trim off anything funky. You know – yucky.

Seriously – look how pretty!

Try to get the pieces into one single layer on a baking sheet (I might have had a bit too many pieces on this sheet, but they froze just fine and didn’t stick together). You can cover the sheet with parchment paper if you want to, but I didn’t need to do that. Into the freezer for at least one hour so they’ll get frozen, frosty, and firm up.

Out of the freezer and ready to be bagged! Use a large spoon if you’re worried that they’ll thaw too quickly, but I just used my hands because I only had one pan. I did it pretty quickly. Because of freezing them in a single layer and then bagging, you can just measure them when you’re ready to use them instead of measuring while bagging.

Of course, I use freezer zip top bags. Try to get as much air out as you can to prevent freezer burn. I have heard of some people using a straw to suck out the air. I’ve never been able to get the bag closed in time when I do that, so I don’t do it. Go ahead and try it if you want to, but I just press the air out and zip the top shut. Don’t forget to label the bags with a date and what’s inside. I don’t know about you, but there are times when things have been in the freezer too long, you can’t really tell what the heck it is. There. I’m ready for a taste of springtime around, say, about February or March of 2019. I can dream about this all winter: muffins, dessert, Torte, cake, sauce, pie. Maybe I should go out and cut some more – I might not have enough. I need to have some in case it’s an unproductive year, too! Try Freezing Rhubarb and get yourself a taste of spring for next winter!

 

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Limoncello and Freezing Lemon Juice

Making Limoncello was my daughter’s idea after she brought home those beautiful lemons from California last winter. We had a lot of lemons, and after making¬†all of those wonderful¬†recipes with them, I still had a bunch left over. Why not?¬†I’ve never had Limoncello and it sounded delicious.¬†I’m up for it.

See what I mean? They’re seriously beautiful lemons.

This is MY lemon tree. My kids gave it to me for Mother’s Day several years ago, and it has barely – and I mean barely – survived the winters in my kitchen where it gets the most sun in the house. The poor thing really needs A LOT more sun than it gets here. Let me add that in this picture, it is looking VERY good. I’m not even going to show a photo of what it looks like right now – a lot of¬†blossoms, but yellow leaves that are falling off faster than summer is getting here. The tree has done well being out on our deck in the summertime, and it NEEDS to be out there. It’s done well enough to give me 2 whole lemons! Just enough to make myself 1 lemon drop cocktail!!! There are recipes all over the internet for making Limoncello, and that’s where I found the instructions to make it.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Limoncello

Wash and scrub 12 lemons (organic, if possible). Peel them with either a vegetable peeler or knife, getting the peel as thin as possible, without any of the white pith on it. The pith makes it bitter, so you could use a little knife and carefully cut or scrape off the white pith.

Juice the lemons, but¬†don’t waste that wonderful juice.

I froze the juice in¬†1 cup amounts in zip top freezer bags. Freeze them flat and you can stack them in your freezer to take up less space. It’s also easier to break off what you need when it is frozen flat. Use this over the summer to make Lemonade, Lemon Meringue Pie, or Lemon Meringue Pie #2.

Put the peel into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and add one bottle of¬†grain alcohol (which I couldn’t find) or 100¬†proof vodka (which is what I used).

Let it¬†sit for¬†3 weeks and get all nice and lemony from the oils in the peel. I labeled it¬†so I wouldn’t forget how long to leave it alone.

After 3 weeks, filter the peels out of the vodka. I used a coffee filter put inside my mesh strainer to do this. Press all the vodka out of the peel and filter. Don’t waste a drop!

Now you have the beautiful, fragrant vodka, but you need to add some simple syrup. Heat 3-4 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar until sugar is dissolved. Let it cool. Add the simple syrup to the lemon vodka and combine. Now you have your Limoncello.

I used a funnel to pour it¬†into a bottle¬†–¬†we had a few clean, old plain glass bottles and that’s what I used. Top it with a cork and you’re done!

Here is the beautiful, yellow, lemony Limoncello. It had a mellower, less lemony taste than it might have if I had used regular lemons – these are Meyer lemons with a sweeter, milder flavor. This also makes a great gift – tie a pretty ribbon around it, add a gift tag, and you’re good to go!

I’m glad I tried this. It’s delicious, and when you store it in the freezer, it’s nice and icy cold – you can even enjoy it with some sparkling water and/or over ice.¬†Or try it over cake or ice cream.¬†Try this stuff on anything. Limoncello is the perfect after dinner¬†cocktail for a warm summer night.

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Lemon Cutting Board Cleaner

Today we’re “cleaning up” our¬†recipes using the lemons my daughter brought home from California. Ha! No pun intended. Well, yes, the pun IS intended. This is the last¬†one where we’re letting the “sun shine in”! It’s time to move on to other things, but I had to do one¬†last thing using¬†those beautiful¬†lemons.

I use my cutting boards a lot to cut up onions and garlic, and they tend to get a bit smelly. Do you ever have that¬†problem? There have been times when I have cut fruit or bread on my board, and they end up smelling like onions. I need to clean them from time to time¬†and keep them in tip-top shape.¬†Because we’ve been doing so many lemon recipes, I happened to have a lemon leftover. Aha! It’s¬†the perfect¬†time to clean and disinfect my cutting boards! I had used the rind, but didn’t need the juice of this lemon, so – time to give the boards a good scrubbing.

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Cut your lemon in half and sprinkle on some kosher salt.

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Squeeze on some of the lemon juice.

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Take the lemon half and give it a little scrub on top of the salt, then let it sit for a few minutes. Wow – this lemon doesn’t look so great after losing it’s rind and sitting for a couple of days, but the juice will still do the trick. You could also use a half of a lemon after you juice it, just scrub it like it was a normal half of a lemon. Also, you can¬†do this with lemons that are a bit past their prime and don’t look so great.

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After the juice sits on the board for a few minutes, give it a¬†GOOD scrub with the lemon half. Wipe it down, give it a¬†thorough rinse, and that’s it!

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This doesn’t take out the cut marks, but it does do a good job taking out the smell. It’s fresh and clean!

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I like to¬†put some mineral oil on a cloth, rub it in,¬†and give it a pretty shine, too. The boards¬†get so much use, they tend to get dried out. There you go – all ready to go and good as new! I’ll miss using those bright, sunny, and fragrant lemons, but spring will be here soon, and it’s time to move on. Check back for springtime recipes coming¬†soon!

 

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Hygge

Grandpa’s father (obviously my great-grandfather) was Danish. This is a photo of him and his amazing mustache. Just look at that thing! So cool!

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Because of this bit of Dane in me, whenever I hear about something that’s Danish, my ears perk up. Suddenly, I’m hearing about Hygge – everywhere! Hygge is a Danish word, pronounced hue-gah,¬† and according to the website hyggehouse.com, is¬†about “making ordinary, everyday¬†moments more meaningful, beautiful, or special”. Some say it’s the Danish art of making things¬†cozy. Here in Minnesota, we’re finally starting to see a bit more daylight, but it’s that¬†part of the winter where this cold and snow thing really starts to get to ya. I say it’s time to explore Hygge and make the rest of winter waaaaay more tolerable. Seriously.

While they say this is a Danish thing, this is something we’ve always done in our family, and I’d like to think it was a combination Scandinavian thing. Grandma’s mother and dad were both Swedish, and Grandpa’s mother was Norwegian and his father was Danish. Unfortunately,¬†Grandpa’s father died when he was 2 years old, so I don’t think a lot of the Hygge factor came from him. Grandma, and therefore my mom, taught¬†me and my sister¬†how to make things cozy and comfortable, but it was just the way things were. It seems like common sense.

In doing a bit of research about Hygge, I found that in 2009, Oprah did a piece on the Danes being the happiest people in the world, so there might be something to this keeping cozy thing. Recently, I was reading my Oprah Health Newsletter and they talked about a book called The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking that has some great ideas for getting more Hygge.¬†I don’t even know if I’m phrasing that right. Hmm.¬†Let’s see if we can find a few of those suggestions for Hygge¬†in my house.

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I¬†have¬†several of the Hygge¬†suggestions here on the corner table. One is to have something “sinful”, or something that¬†would be considered giving yourself a treat. Chocolate is perfect for this,¬†and¬†I keep chocolates in the green candy dish, handy for when we need just a little something special. The tall glass container is holding my Potpourri with Dried Orange Slices that I made last fall, which is both pretty to look at and also has a wonderful scent – both Hygge type things, I would think.

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Another thing needed to make your home cozy is a candle or two. Or more. Scented candles are great, but only if you really enjoy¬†the scent. I love to have candles lit during this darkest time of the year.¬†When I went on the trip to Sweden and Norway, it was September and they already had candles lit all over, everywhere. I loved that. I’m sure there are people who would say I have way too many candles sitting around my house. You just can’t have too many, in my opinion.

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Setting out things that remind us of happy times is another¬†way to help to make the house cozy. Photos are a great way to do that – maybe put out photos of family or friends, or a vacation memory. I’ve set out a photo of a whale tail that I took on a whale watching boat¬†trip we took when my husband and I¬†went to Massachusetts a year ago. In the little glass container¬†is some of the sea glass we collected on the beach during that same trip. Every time I look at those two things, it brings back the many amazing memories we have of that vacation, and it makes me feel so good. The green candy dish, that I keep the chocolate in, was a gift that my mom and dad received at their wedding. That’s¬†another great memory for me because I remember it being around and used my whole life.

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My favorite¬†suggestion¬†to make the home cozy is to have a¬†“nook”¬†to snuggle up in with a blanket, a book, and a cup of hot chocolate or tea. I don’t have an actual “nook” area, but the couches and corner table make a bit of a “nook”, where my book, my reading glasses, my cup of something hot, and my cozy blanket are all handy and easily accessible.

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This really is the place for your most snuggly blanket. The more cozy, the better! If you have more than one snuggly blanket, put a few out for you and your family and friends to get cozy with when they come over for a visit. You could play games, put together a puzzle, and just enjoy each other and being together. That’s an important part of Hygge – making more of those memories.

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It’s nice to keep a few of your favorite books handy, so you can snuggle up and read whenever you feel like it. Don’t forget a nice cup of tea to share with family¬†or friends. I¬†like to¬†have an abundance of warm beverages available at all times: tea, hot chocolate, coffee – and several different kinds of each. Sharing the cozy is important, so you will have more of those great memories of happy times. Make your home a beautiful, cozy, meaningful, warm, special, and welcoming place for you, your family, and your friends. What could be more important? Nothing. Winter is the best time to start putting Hygge into practice, and get happy like the Danes – the happiest people in the world.

 

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Day 12 – 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas – Rosettes

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Today is the 12th and last day of the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing all of the Scandinavian treats, crafts, and fun things I’ve posted here for you! There are so many more to share – I may have to do it again next year! I’ve saved the trickiest thing for last. Today we’re tackling Rosettes. These are a fried¬†treat that are¬†kind of a cross between a donut and a cookie, and while they¬†aren’t necessarily hard to do – they can be a bit tricky. When I pulled out the recipe, I had clipped an extra piece of paper to it with some “helpful hints” on it. There will be more on the “hints” as we go along. Ok – deep breath – here we go . . .

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Rosettes

Beat:

2 eggs

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 drop almond flavoring

Add:

1 cup milk

1 cup flour

Mix until smooth.

I let the batter sit about an hour before starting to fry.

Fry in hot oil (about 375 degrees) on rosette iron.

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This is another recipe with incredibly simple ingredients.

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Once you have the batter mixed smooth, let it sit about an hour. I have read that “hint” somewhere since the last time I made these, and as far as I’m concerned, the more “hints” you have to help you out with these, the better.

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Dip the iron in the hot oil first for a few seconds, then dip it into the batter – being careful NOT to dip it more than 3/4 of the way up the iron or it won’t come off. I had some trouble getting the batter to stick at first, so I held it in the batter for about 5 seconds and that worked great. One of the “helpful hints” that was on the sheet clipped to the recipe, to not hold the iron in the batter very long. This is what’s so funny about making rosettes – sometimes one thing will work and the next time you make them, it may not. It’s total trial and error from time to time. I just might not make them often enough. This was a treat that my dad made with my sister when we were growing up. It ended up being their “thing” because they had the system DOWN.

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Hold the iron with the batter on it in the hot oil until the bubbles¬†slow down¬†a bit – about 30-40 seconds, and if you don’t keep it under the oil, it will fall off of the iron. We had a little trouble with that a couple of times (my¬†daughter helped me and made some of her first krumkaka – it took her awhile to get the hang of it).

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I usually have a knife handy and use the point to help get the krumkaka off of the iron and onto a paper towel to drain and cool.

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My family likes them to be dipped in sugar. Grandma did this right before serving, but we decided to try it right away AND before serving if they need more.

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It made a nice tray full. I never had such good luck making them Рespecially the star ones Рit must have been help from the ancestors!

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Rosettes are the quintessential Scandinavian thing, as far as my family is concerned, and it was the perfect way to end the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas! I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have during the last 12 days! Thank you so much for reading and following along on this journey!

God Jul!

 

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Day 11 – 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas – Ice Lantern

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We are at Day 11 of the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas, and today we’re making Ice Lanterns. You can do these several different ways, but I made this one by freezing it in an old tin mold. You can also freeze water in a balloon (don’t forget to tie the balloon shut so you don’t lose the water out of it) and freeze it halfway so there is a hole left in the middle – that’s where you put the candle. Be careful – if you let it freeze too much, you won’t have the hole to put the candle in. Not that I have any experience with that or anything.¬†Freezing it in the mold is really fun and pretty foolproof, so let’s get started!

Here is the lantern as I made it:

Ice Lantern

Find a mold that you want to make into a lantern – I have used a bundt pan and a tube pan in the past. You can also use containers of two difference sizes, using the smaller one to make the center hole where you’d put the candle.,,,

Decide what festive decorations or ornaments you want in it – you can leave it just plain clear water if you want to, but I tend to want to make it more festive looking with bits of evergreen and fresh cranberries. You could add any decoration that won’t be destroyed by the freezing process.

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I start by putting the greens and berries in the bottom of the mold.

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Then I put just enough water to cover the greens and berries and set it out on our deck (if it’s cold enough) or into the freezer to freeze. If you fill it with water, the goodies will float to the top, therefore being on the BOTTOM of the mold instead of the TOP of it where they show up better and are pretty when you add the candle’s glow. Once that part is¬†frozen, fill the mold with water as full as you want it and freeze until it’s firm.

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I put the frozen lantern out on our deck. It seemed like it might not show up very well, so I initially put it on a white plate, but I liked it better without the plate.

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They glow so nicely when you add the candle. I have lined our front steps and driveway with these over the years. It’s so much fun to do when you have guests coming over for the evening.

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You can see the evergreen branches and fresh cranberries showing through the ice. The glow of the candle shining¬†through these ice lanterns is so special and welcoming. It isn’t just a Christmas thing – these would be great to do for any gathering all throughout the winter. This reminds me so much of our trip to Sweden and Norway where there were candles everywhere. I think it’s a very Scandinavian thing to do!

 

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Day 6 – 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas – Cinnamon Ornaments

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It’s Day 6 of the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas and we’re getting crafty. Today we’re going to make Cinnamon Ornaments. They’re supposed to mimic pepparkaker, or gingerbread cookies, only they smell better and continue to smell good all through the holiday season. Because we’re now halfway through the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas, I wanted to share¬†this photo of one of Grandma’s aunts. She was on a trip with her mother back to Sweden when this was taken, and I think it was on the farm where my great-great-grandmother lived before she immigrated to the United States in the mid 1800’s.

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I just love this photo! Maybe she’s spinning some wool into yarn to make mittens?!!!

Now on to the Cinnamon Ornaments. There are recipes and instructions for this all over the internet, but I’m sharing a recipe I made with my kids when they were little. I did add a little bit of a secret ingredient – shhhh, don’t tell anyone, just put it in. It makes all the difference!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Cinnamon Ornaments

6 Tablespoons applesauce

1/2 cup cinnamon

Add the secret ingredient:

1 Tablespoon ground cloves – it adds an amazing fragrance!

Mix into dough.

Roll out dough about 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters.

Bake 5 minutes in microwave (this was years ago – now I have a bigger and better microwave – I only put them in for 2 minutes and went from there) or until dry.

Don’t forget to make a hole for a hanger.

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This is a simple craft that uses simple ingredients.

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I put a piece of parchment paper on the baking sheet so that you just roll it out (right on the baking sheet –¬†I used my childhood rolling-pin – it was the perfect size!), cut out the¬†shape,¬†peel away the outer extra dough and leave the shapes on the sheet. This was something I learned after rolling out the dough on my kitchen counter and being unable to lift the shape because it stuck. Not fun. My daughter was helping me and thank¬†goodness¬†she was there with the brilliant parchment idea!

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I think I made these stars a bit thin. Try to keep the dough about 1/4 inch thick. Don’t forget to make a hole for the ribbon to go through! I used a plastic drinking straw for making the holes.

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After they’re baked, they look just like gingerbread cookies! An added benefit – your house will smell amazing while these bake! The shapes may have some ragged edges, but they rub off easily if you’re careful.

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Add a bit of ribbon for hanging. I tried to find one that was as Scandinavian as possible!

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These Cinnamon Ornaments look just like pepparkakar and are so pretty on the tree. They add that warm and homey fragrance of cinnamon (and cloves Рshhh!) that smells so Scandinavian and so much like Christmas.

 

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