Between trying to finish my last few papers for my Master’s program, a vacation in Florida, working full time, and all the Christmas-related activity this year, it’s no trouble to see why I haven’t posted since September, but I did spend some time trying new recipes and crafting for the holidays this year.
I finally tried my hand at making decorated sugar cookies, and I made some to give away to my coworkers for Christmas:
All the sugar cookies are decorated with royal icing with the exception of the stars and the flower. In the photo above, clockwise from left are the following: Vanilla-flavoured snowflake sugar cookies with silver dragees; vanilla people cookies with coloured sprinkles; vanilla stars with chocolate drizzle and crystallized ginger; an orange flower (flavoured with real orange zest) with chocolate drizzle and snowflake sprinkles; orange mittens; and in the center is an orange dove.
I made the following pinecone elves based on a Martha Stewart idea. I didn’t put strings in their hats so that they could be hung as ornaments because I think that would have ruined them. They actually looked much cuter just sitting on the branches of my Christmas tree, which is how I displayed them.
For photos of the individual elves, you can click on the photo above to see them in my Flickr photostream. For some of the elves I free-hand embroidered their little scarves with flowers.
I also made felt Christmas candy-cane mice based on another Martha Stewart idea, and tried my hand at making felt stockings using a template that I’ve had around for years but just never used. Those felt stickers you can get at craft stores like Michaels made cute embellishments for the stockings. I used snowflakes on some stockings and Santa hat stickers on others (they aren't shown in the photos below)—I just peeled off the backing from the stickers, applied a little glue with the glue gun, and pressed them on. I gave some of the mice and stockings filled with little candy canes to coworkers and family members.
Of course, the Christmas Eve festivities at my house wouldn’t have been complete without the Penguin cheese tray (like last year), featuring olive penguin hors d’oeuvres and a cheeseball igloo. This year I made a Christmas tree cheeseball, too.
In case you’re curious about the flavor of the cheeseballs, the igloo is made with one container of Philadelphia Herb and Garlic cream cheese, finely grated fresh garlic (one or two cloves, or to taste), toasted chopped pecans, real bacon bits, grated cheddar cheese, and freshly ground black pepper. The Christmas tree is made with about half a block of plain cream cheese (light, I think), some finely grated fresh garlic (one or two cloves, or to taste), a pinch of Italian seasoning, a few pinches of dried dill, freshly ground black pepper, and parmesan and grated mozzarella cheeses. Once I formed the Christmas tree into a conical tree shape, I rolled it in dried dill, pressing it in to make it stay, and added thin rings from a red pepper for garland, some bits of carrot (left over from cutting the beaks and feet for the penguins--waste not, want not!) for tree ornaments, and I cut a star out of a carrot slice for the tree topper.
And the pièce de résistance was my chocolate Bûche de Noël, or yule log cake, that I served on Christmas Eve. Made with a chocolate genoise cake and filled with a layer of Nutella and chocolate mousse, and frosted with my chocolate-hazelnut (Nutella) buttercream frosting, it was absolutely delicious, even though I only used half of the recipe for the genoise resulting in a tinier log. But it was the addition of my handmade marzipan elves that really put this creation over the top:
In addition to the elves, I made a marzipan snowman, marzipan mushrooms, and marzipan acorns. The "snow" around the cake is coconut, and those are chocolate rocks outlining the perimeter of the tray. The "bells" on the elf hats of the baby elf and the snowman are silver dragees. It's the first time that I've ever made a Bûche de Noël. It was challenging but worth it.
And finally, a picture of my pretty Christmas tree at night:
It’s become abundantly clear that I need to invest in a new digital camera. The one I used for my photos above was just an inexpensive little Olympus one that I bought in 2004. Hopefully, my next post won't take me over three months to get around to writing like this one, but perhaps by next time I'll have better photos to share.