Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Gosh, did I just disappear for over a week?

:) I can't possibly be upset about it though, because aside from Christmas fun, I also unloaded and re-organized the craft closet (it made me scream and pull my hair out every time I opened it) and took down Christmas!

Mom and I discussed it, and Christmas decorations are awesome (really) but at the end of the whole thing, taking them down is a little liberating.

Anyway, on to Christmas gifts :)

These are flavored vodkas :) The peppers one is (clearly) just peppers, but it's meant for Bloody Marys. My brother tasted it and said it's very spicy. To make it, you just fill part of the bottle with dried peppers (these ones are from my Aunt Linda's garden, but you can find them with the Mexican spices) and then pour the vodka over. The longer it sits, the more pepper flavor is in the vodka, so be careful!

The red one is cranberry. This one is a little more time-intensive. First, you crush the berries using either a blender (just for a couple seconds!) or you chop them. Then you add just a little simple syrup. The amount you add is completely up to personal taste, so it might take a couple batches to get it just right. Just give away the batches you end up not liking, because someone's bound to like it :) You also have to be careful with what  fruit you're using. Cranberries are fairly sour, but if you were using strawberries you would want to use less (or maybe none at all?). It just takes some experimentation. After you put all the ingredients in a big jar together, you leave them for 5 days or more (depending on how much flavor you're going for) shaking occasionally, and then you strain out the chunks into a different jar.

The one in the brown bottle was another easy one. It's half a vanilla bean and a cinnamon stick. If you wanted more of one or the other, you could use a whole vanilla bean or two sticks, but I was going simple. We gave this to one of Mr. Nicholas' cousins, and he thought it was awesome and made everyone at the party taste it!

Because they're not difficult to make, flavored vodkas make good gifts, especially because most people can't believe that you flavored your own vodka. Other ideas: peppercorns (wouldn't they be pretty floating in there?), star anise (I see no reason why you couldn't leave it in star form), or orange (probably using the rinds, but be careful to cut off the pith). Your options are pretty much limitless :)

This, this my friends, is flavored coffee. Home-made, flavored, delicious coffee. I started with grounds for this batch, and added cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt (yup, salt). The salt helps cut some of the bitter of coffee, so it's just a way to get a super-smooth brew. The way me and Nick decided what we wanted is we made one cafe-press batch and then when we liked what we had we made the big batch. Be sure to keep good notes of what you add, you want to make sure you get the proportions right. There's some recipes out there if you want some guidelines, but I kind of recommend you just take it a step of a time starting with what you like.

If you're into grinding your own beans, you can add cinnamon sticks, allspice seeds, nutmeg chunks, or whatever you want to the beans before you grind them. I think it would be awesome to add a couple cocoa beans to the mix, too, but where you do find cocoa beans?

Just a note regarding store-bought flavored coffees: usually they're flavored with oils that are added to the beans to give them flavor. This is a way for you to add natural flavor to your coffees :)

Of course this one was probably obvious. Those are cocas. You can find recipes for these all over the place. I used powdered milk, powdered creamer, cocoa powder, sugar, and added a layer of peppermint chunks or marshmallows while jarring. I think they turned out cute, and we kept some here for us to try, and it's pretty tasty. The recipe I used said to put 1/4 of a cup of mix in each cup, which is just stupid. I used a mounded tablespoon and thought it was plenty strong. That person must have been writing his recipe for the taste of six year olds. We used two different flavored dry creamers: hazelnut and french vanilla. It added a nice secondary flavor to the cocoas :)

This is a meat rub :) You can find recipes for these everywhere, too. I would like to say that I knew enough about meat rubs to have just figured it out on my own, but I picked a recipe. I don't really know anything about cooking meat. I do know that this recipe took a heck of a lot of cayenne pepper, though. And it made me sneeze. We kept a little of this to try ourselves, so hopefully it's yummy :)

These are another obvious one :p Cookies in jars! I love these because I feel that at least half of the fun of cookies is making them with someone else! So yeah. You can find the recipe here. The recipe calls for chocolate chips but I switched it up with walnuts, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, and pecans. It was fun picking which person would like which recipe best! We gave the chocolate-peanut butter one to Nick's brother and his girlfriend because he likes peanut butter, but she likes was perfect :)

Other gifts we made included a Tunisian crochet panel, a knitted bag, a sewn hot pad, and a few beers. The beer was for my brother. He's the black sheep of the family because he's not a wino. I promised him a knitted sweater for Christmas and instead gave him beer. Am I a bad person?

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