Monday, December 21, 2009

The Best Gift - Family

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:
the presence of a happy family
all wrapped up in each other.
Burton Hillis

I'm so excited - my younger sister is going to celebrate Christmas Eve with our family. That is the best Christmas present ever!

Money Savings

Last year, I gave my nieces homemade bath salts for Christmas.  I experimented mixing different scented oils together, and came up with a couple they really liked.  Scented oils can be found at health food stores, or in the aromatherapy section at your drug store.  Here's the recipe:

1 cup sea or kosher salt
1/2 cup Epson salt
12 drops of scented oil
1/4 cup baking soda
food coloring (optional)

Blend both salts and oil in bowl; add baking soda and mix well.  Pour in bottle or jar, add a homemade label. 

Different fragrances and fragrance combinations I have tried:

Grapefruit and Peppermint - Refreshing and Stimulating
Tangerine and Peppermint - Refreshing and Calming
Grapefruit and Tangerine - Refreshing and Relaxing
Lavender - Calming and Soothing


Chocolate Shortbread

4 oz. (4 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsps. vanilla
2 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped - if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease two large baking sheets.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring frequently.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.  In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the melted chocolate and mix thoroughly.  Sift the flour with the baking powder.  Using a pastry blender, work the flour mixture into the butter mixture until it is thoroughly blended.  Mix the chopped walnuts into the dough by hand.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch.  Cut out the cookies into desired shapes using biscuit or cookie cutters.  Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cookies are light brown.  Remove the cookies from the baking sheet after 2 to 3 minutes, when they are still warm to touch, and cool on wire racks.

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