Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Little Less Than 2 Weeks-Crafts, Dolls and Recipes!

 A little less than 2 weeks before Christmas!

We are almost done with our house renovation.  Unfortunately I can only decorate in 3 rooms this year so I haven't done as much decorating and crafting as I usually do.  I had an hour the other day and decorated some wine bottles.  I HAD bigger plans for them but this year time has completely gotten away from me so I had to settle with just pretty and not really creative and artistic.

This summer we stopped at St. Michael's Winery on the Chesapeake Bay.  I got so many ideas in a little boutique next door.  It was full of beautifully decorated lit wine bottles.  Since it was summer the bottles were decorated with sand, tiny shells and glitter.  I'm going to start saving special wine bottles to decorate this summer.  

A few weeks ago my husband drilled some holes in the back of the bottles.  I bought some single strand white lights at JoAnn's and stuck the whole string inside the bottles.  Then I decorated them.  They are so pretty and festive lit.  Before the season is over I'm going to look for single string battery lights because then I won't have to worry about placing the bottles near a plug. And this summer I can use them outside for decorations on my patio tables.  It sure is hard to think of sitting outside right now!

I have them in 3 different rooms.  This is the one on my bar.

 Here are a few of the snowmen I have made over the years...

 I LOVE my Christmas Mice under the tree...

Now a few dolls 
 Silver and Gold Angels...


My Little Christmas Couple...

Little Sweethearts are everywhere...

Chris' treasures from childhood...

Food Again as always!!

No, this isn't real...

But the Venetian Cookies below are everyone's very favorite Christmas Cookie.  I found the recipe years ago in Good Housekeeping magazine. They take time to make but they are really delicious and special.  They taste like a delicate pastry with the combination of almond paste, apricot preserves and chocolate.  After you've made them once they are really pretty easy.  I have some tips at the end of the recipe that will help.  

venetian cookie bars
Total Time: 1 hr 30 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Oven Temp: 350

U.S.MetricConversion chart
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup(s) sugar
  • 1 can(s) (7 to 8 ounces) almond paste
  • 1 1/4 cup(s) (2 1/2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon(s) almond extract
  • 2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 20 drop(s) red food coloring
  • 20 drop(s) green food coloring
  • 1 jar(s) (12 ounces) apricot preserves, strained
  • 4 1-ounce squares semi-sweet chocolate, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 15 1/2- by 10 1/2-inch jelly-roll pans;* line pans with waxed paper, allowing waxed paper to extend over ends of pans. Grease and flour waxed paper.
  2. In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites with 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form; set aside.
  3. In large bowl, with same beaters, and with mixer at medium speed, beat almond paste and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until well blended (there will be some small lumps of almond paste remaining). Reduce speed to medium-low; beat in margarine or butter until blended. Beat in egg yolks and almond extract until blended. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour and salt just until combined.
  4. With rubber spatula, fold egg-white mixture into almond mixture, one-third at a time, until combined.
  5. Remove one-third of batter (about 1 1/2 rounded cups) from large bowl to small bowl. Remove half of remaining batter from large bowl to another small bowl. (You should have equal amounts of batter in each bowl.) Stir red food coloring into 1 bowl of batter until evenly blended. Repeat with green food coloring and another bowl of batter.
  6. Spread white (uncolored) batter in 1 jelly-roll pan. With metal spatula (offset, if possible), spread batter as evenly as possible (layer will be about 1/8 inch thick). Repeat with red batter and another pan. Repeat with green batter and remaining pan.
  7. Bake layers 10 to 13 minutes, rotating pans halfway through cooking time, until layers are just set. It is important to undercook this batter slightly to ensure moist cookie layers. (If you don't have enough oven space for 3 pans, you can bake 2 layers at once, then bake the last layer separately.)
  8. Let layers cool slightly in pans on wire racks, about 5 minutes. Invert layers onto racks, leaving waxed paper attached; cool completely.
  9. When all 3 layers are cooled, remove waxed paper from green layer. Place green layer on serving tray or platter; spread with half of apricot preserves. Place white layer on top of green layer, waxed-paper side up; remove waxed paper. Spread with remaining apricot preserves. Place red layer on top of white layer; remove waxed paper.
  10. With serrated knife, trim edges (about 1/4 inch from each side). Spread melted chocolate on top of red layer (not on sides); refrigerate until chocolate is firm, at least 1 hour. If you like, after chocolate has set, cover and refrigerate stacked layers up to 3 days before cutting and serving.
  11. To serve, cut stacked layers lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 12 small rectangles. Store cookies in tightly covered container, with waxed paper between layers, in refrigerator.

Tips & Techniques
*If you have only 1 jelly-roll pan, you can still make this recipe. Just bake layers 1 at a time, and be sure to let pan cool completely before reusing.
My tips:  Bake them in the small foil rectangle pans from the Dollar Store.  There are 2 to a pack so they are 50 cents each.  The batter fits perfectly in these pans and then all you have to do is throw them out after.
Use a silver knife to spread the batter.
I use my Cuisinart to help blend the almond paste and sugar because it is very lumpy.
Bake 8 minutes first and then keep checking because they bake very quickly.
They store well.  I keep all of my cookies closed tightly on the upper landing of my garage outside my backdoor in the "mud room".

Read more: Venetian Cookies - Good Housekeeping

See you soon!!  


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