Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Baking: A Few of my Favorite Things

Don't you love perusing the baking aisle of your market this time of year? So many interesting and long forgotten specialty items, not to mention great sales on all of the staples. Every year there seems to be a few items that I have been holding on to and set aside strictly for the purpose of Christmas baking. Here are a few items and ideas that I'd like to share with you:

Homemade Vanilla

Okay, this bottle comes from the very private vanilla reserve of Bob at Small Kitchen Cooking, but the great news is that you can make your own private reserve too. He has a great tutorial on his blog about it, and there is also one by Heather over here. It looks so easy that it makes me wonder how we ever got to the point of buying vanilla extract at the store. This one from Bob is made with rum, making it somewhat sweet and pungent. I can't wait to use it- no extract needed!

Elderberry Jelly

Since elderberries are somewhat scarce, I hold on to this homemade jelly with plans to use it in my Christmas trifle.

Gingerbread People and other fun cut-outs

Last year I made these Gingerbread Folk from a recipe on the Simple Folk blog. Let me say, I consider this to be the absolute best gingerbread cookie recipe. We usually decorate ours plainly with raisins, but you could really get very creative with these.

Making Fudge

Okay, I haven't made fudge in forever. But this is a great time of year to do it because evaporated milk is on sale everywhere, and it makes a nice little gift, all wrapped in wax paper and boxed with a bow. I have a recipe for a honey-nut fudge that I'd like to try.

As a side note,
the experts say this is a good time of year to buy new baking powder, since it loses it's potency with time. You can test yours by pouring 1/3 cup of hot tap water over 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder in a cup. It should bubble up like a mini hurricane. Mine failed the test...and I'm terrified to proof anything else around here.

The last thing I was saving for Christmas baking were those black walnuts I harvested from the back yard and hung up to cure. They haven't been cracked yet and there' s a little bit of a funny story there. It seems that we were planning on picking up one of those specialized black walnut crackers when we took our jaunt out to Ohio, and somehow came home without one. We couldn't believe it! So, that's still a project on hold for now. But those nuts are ready and waiting.


  1. Hi Monica!!! I loved hearing and seeing your favorite baking things. I have a few cookie cutters from when I was little making cookies with my mom. They are one of my cherished things in my kitchen. That and my mom and my grandmother's rolling pins!!!

    God's Blessings,
    Amy Jo

  2. Monica, Im just popping in to say HEY. Miss you around the homestead,lol. I see that your doing the same thing that Im doing, baking. I have tons left to do and I hate the fact that Im eating too much of what Im baking. BAD KITTY.........blessings......Kitty

  3. Hey there you are....following you over...I love your herb section...I am going to try the scallions thing at home...after we get back from florida...

    Miss ya at the homestead but will visit ya often here!
    Blessings, Kelly

  4. Don't forget that YOU wanted the Rum-based, which I warned was a bit stronger smelling than the rest :)

  5. It's true! It smells sweet and pungent like a fancy cake!

  6. Hi Monica,
    thanks for stopping by!
    Have a Merry Christmas!
    ~Tina and family

  7. 18, 2008 at 10:02 AM

    Good morning Monica.. I'm behind reading blogs just trying to catch up.. When I saw you made great gingerbread cookies I'm making some today along with fudge. Can you share your gingerbread cookie recipe? Thanks.. Hope all is well with you and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..
    Blessings Brenda..
    PS I got a card from Danial King and family.. The one that owns a greenhouse and has harness buiness..

  8. Oh, please tell me you managed to secure a tool for cracking black walnuts easily!

    Also, I clicked on the link above for "Gingerbread Folk", but couldn't find a recipe. I'd love that recipe one day when the colicky one is napping and you have nothing better to do. Haha! Thank you!!

    1. Oh no! I guess that blog is gone. Oh well, someday when I unpack my kitchen again, I'll get you that recipe. I've got it on a recipe card in storage.

    2. Oh, dear! You ARE living with hardships I hadn't even imagined if the recipes had to go in storage! I hope this great weather is letting The Mister get lots accomplished on the house.

    3. Forgot to hit "reply"...see comment below. Also wanted to add that the Mister is certainly getting more done now than he did over the summer!

  9. Oh yes, just about every non-essential item we own is in storage. The last thing you want to do is have to move it around the house as you work, or have it get dirty or damaged. That happens all the time.

    1. Very true! A recipe box may never recover its organization once it's been spilled out all over the floor!

      So glad to hear about the progress being made on your home!


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