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Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas gift ideas

Some ideas for you this Christmas...

Now, as you are probably aware by now, I am into simple, easy and if possible, budget-friendly gifts. But how the heck do you do that?!
Well, I have been having a little brainstorming session with myself....Little O wasn't much help in this department, so I was on my own here. Nevertheless, I managed to come up with a few ideas that I am going to try this year. So I am thinking I will share them with you here. What do you think?!

Idea number 1.
I found this recipe on Design Sponge a gorgeous blog I often visit, with so many great ideas, recipes and before and afters to ooh and ahhh over. Its fairly easy, although I had to try a few times to try and make the be prepared to have a bit of a practice...

Salted Caramel

in the kitchen with: kathreinerle’s salted caramel spread
Image from Design Sponge

1 1/2 cups (300grams) sugar
3 1/2 tbsp water (I actually ended up not adding the water as it tended to make it crystalise, so I would suggest trying it without the water and see how you go)
240 grams of butter cut into small pieces
1 tsp salt
200grams of warmed cream

Place the sugar evenly in a saucepan on low to moderate heat, it should start to liquefy at different spots, usually around the edges first. You need to watch it carefully so that it doesn't burn. Once it starts to brown and liquefy around the edges of the pan, start to draw the sugar in to the middle of the pan to prevent from burning. Once burnt you cannot will have to start again.It is also important not to over-stir it as it can cause the sugar to crystalise. It should start to turn a nice light mellow colour and then darken, so you need to watch it carefully that it doesn't get too dark.
If the caramel starts to go a bit lumpy/crystalise, just lower the heat and stir it a bit more. Go here to get a more detailed how-to.
Once you get to the colour you want (the light the colour the sweeter it is...the darker it gets the more bitter caramel flavour you get...I like it a little dark.), add the butter, little by little, stirring with a wooden spoon as you go. Be careful, though, as it can splatter.
Add the salt and cook for another 2 minutes
Remove the pan from the heat and add the warmed cream. Keep mixing until well combined.
Pour into sterilised jars and allow to cool before sealing and refrigerating. The caramel spread needs to be stored in the fridge and can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 months....but as if it would last that long?! Well itwouldn't in my house, that's for sure! It is soooooo delicious!

Image from Design Sponge
Idea number 2.
This next idea is so easy...I promise!! I have always wanted to make some vanilla sugar and to own the truth I never use real vanilla pods. I am a vanilla extract kinda girl...mainly because its cheap as. So this recipe really appealed to me because it just seems such a treat (sad I know!) and you can use it for so many things.

Vanilla Sugar

1 vanilla bean pod
1 cup caster sugar
1 mason jar or jam jar (sterilised)

Slice vanilla bean pod down its length, then chop it up into quarters

Place in mixing bowl with the caster sugar and mix

Pour into jar and seal.

Can't get much quicker or easier than that eh?! You can make a little tag to tie onto the jar and include some ideas for how to use the sugar eg. sprinkle on pancakes or french toast, dust over freshly baked cakes or shortbread.

Idea number 3. the name so cleverly suggests, is my Ouma's shortbread recipe. I have great memories of going to her house and eating shortbread she had lovingly made for all us kids and sipping (very watery) cordial from her aluminium coloured cups. I absolutely loved going to her house and it was always such a treat to eat her shortbread. My mum handed down this recipe to me for my kitchen tea party before I got married. I had fun making it for this post and taking pics of all the processes, I think it just made me appreciate it a whole lot more. Hope it works for you!

Ouma's Shortbread

185g (6oz) of butter
1/2 cup of icing sugar
2 cups of plain flour
1/2 cup rice or cornflour (I usually use rice flour)
A good dash (or lashing!) of vanilla (and if you wanted it to be extra special you could use a vanilla bean)
Another twist, could be to add orange or lemon zest for a slightly citrus flavour. could add some chopped up dried cranberries, to add a pop of Christmas red and we all know how I love red!!
You can also sprinkle a little sugar on the dough before it goes in to the oven to bake....adds a nice crunch.

Beat butter and vanilla until soft.

Add sugar gradually. Increase the speed of the beaters and mix until light and creamy. Mix in sifted flours (on low speed).

Press or roll out and cut into fingers or use cookie cutters.

Place on a greased tray or on grease-proof paper.

Cook in moderate oven (180 degrees) for 15-20 mins. Until a nice pale golden colour.
Cool and package in clear plastic/celophane bags or in a cute mason jar, add a cute little Christmas gift tag and there you have it!

So those are my gift ideas for today.
I may post a few more that I am concocting as we speak....we'll see how I go for time and how many things I can tick off on my ever increasing to-do list!!

See you soon,
xo Rachel


P.s Don't you think all this mixing would work sooooo much better and make everything taste soooo much more delicious if you could just use one of these babies? I am pretty sure it would. The gorgeous Sarah from is giving one away for christmas....not bad huh?! Sarah has the most gorgeous blog and I often love popping by for a quick visit and a peek at her lovely posts. You can oogle at this beautiful red mixing baby here

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