Friday, November 28, 2008

Cranberry-Orange Relish and PawPaw Recipes

I made cranberry-orange relish yesterday as a Turkey Day side dish and I believe the orange in both the relish and my first attempt at pawpaw preserves is what I don't like.

My aunt, Shirley, did like the relish. I think she and I are the only ones that tried it. I used the recipe on the back of the cranberry bag:

Cranberry-Orange Relish

1 bag (12 oz.) cranberries, rinsed
1 medium orange, seeded and quartered
3/4 cup of sugar, more or less to taste

1. Chop the cranberries and orange in a food processor.
2. Add 3/4 cup of sugar to the dish. Add more or less to taste
3. Let set for several hours or overnight in refrigerator before serving.

I could have used more sugar to see if that would have balanced out the twang of the orange. I also probably didn't peel off enough of the pith (white part on the orange) and that's bitter.

For next year's batch of pawpaws, I plan to use a recipe a woman gave to Chris when she learned I was canning some of our fruit:

PawPaw Butter

1 1/2 quart pulp
1 quart sugar
1 package of Sure-Gel
1/4 lime or lemon juice.

Hopefully I'll like this recipe much better than our own.

Homemade Christmas Tree Ornaments

One of my grandmother's neighbor gave me a handwritten recipe book as a wedding gift earlier this year. It's filled with medicinal and food recipes, conversion tables, substitution suggestions and stories.

One recipe is for homemade Christmas ornaments using staples from your kitchen. The neighbor said she copied the recipe from a magazine years ago. Here's what you need:

Homemade Christmas Tree Ornaments

1 cup Morton or other table salt
2 cups flour
1 cup water
cookie cutters

1. Mix salt and flour in a bowl. Stir in the cup of water a little at a time.
2. Knead dough 7-10 mins. until dough is firm.
3. Roll dough out about 1/4 inches thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out the ornaments.
4. Poke out a hole in the top of each ornament using toothpicks or other tool.
5. (Optional) Decorate each ornament by drawing on them or adding other pieces of dough with water for a 3D effect.
6. Bake on a cookie sheet at 325 degrees for 30 mins. or until hard.
7. When cool, brush varnish over the ornaments to protect them from moisture.
8. Paint ornaments and decorate them using other craft items, such as glue and glitter.
9. Threat, yarn, ribbon or wire can be used to hang the ornaments on the tree.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Easter Egg hunting in the fall and a Christmas flop

Have you heard of the pawpaw fruit?

Many people may be familar with the traditional childhood folk song that refers to them, but many people have never actually seen or tasted a pawpaw.

According to The PawPaw Foundation, the fruit is a native to the Americas and can be found near creeks and rivers in forests of eastern United States. The fruit sort of looks like a banana and has a very tropical scent.

Chris and I have five, fruit-producing pawpaws at the bottom of our property and there are several more smaller ones growing but not yet old enough to produce fruit.

My grandmother, whom I affectionately call Nannie, was so excited to learn we had pawpaw trees. She used to sit under her uncle's pawpaw trees and eat the fruit with her cousin, Madeline. She immediately ate one earlier this season when I brought a few to share with her.

The last couple of years have been too dry for the sensitive trees to produce any fruit. But this year we had a bounty.

So, I decided to gather some of the fruit and turn them into preserves. It was like Easter egg hunting in the fall. Supposed to be 3-6 inches in length, our longest fruit was 3 inches. I had to search among tall, green grasses and weeds to find the grass-colored, egg-shaped fruit.

Deseeding the fruit was not fun. It took hours to find the best way to extract the long, slender seeds. Chris and I finally decided the best way was to separate the seeds from the fruit was to use a colander with big holes and to manually pick out the seeds from the cooked fruit.

I used this recipe from the Kentucky State University for the preserves:

Pawpaw Preserves
12 pawpaws (about 5 lbs.)
2 cups water
3/4 cups sugar
1 lemon
1 orange

Peel pawpaws. Put in kettle with water, without removing seeds. Boil until soft, then put through a sieve. Add sugar and juice of orange and lemon. Boil until thick. Grated rind of organge or lemon may be added. Put in sterilized jars and seal.

I tried the fruit for the first time this Sunday. I wasn't impressed. Neither was Chris. But I'm not one for citrus type preserves, such as citron, so maybe it's just not my thing.

The Kentucky State University site also lists several other types of recipes that I'm willing to try, such as cookies.

Needless to say, the pints I stashed away for Christmas may not make it into gift bags. Except maybe Nannie's. She loves pawpaws.

Isabella Amaya's gift

I cohosted a baby shower for a friend Nov. 16. Everything turned out great, but I couldn't have done it without the help of my cohost, Katy, and two other people.

As promised, here's a picture of the blanket and hat I made for the soon-to-arrive bundle of joy, Isabella Amaya.

The pattern is from Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'N Bitch: The Happy Hooker. It's a wonderful crochet book for beginners and I recommend it to knitters and beginning crocheter's alike.

Seen here is Isabella's parents, Alice and Brian. Congrats, you two!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Recycle those bottles . . .

. . . into ornaments!

Here's another quick and easy project to make your own Christmas decorations. Thanks to esprit cabane, the magazine of crafty and green living ideas, for the how-to!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Local fashion show

There's a new trend in the fashion industry to upcycle old, worn out and vintage clothing.

Kelly Cox will debut her upcycled clothing line, Nouveau, this Saturday at Design Archives, 338 Tate St., Greensboro, N.C.

For more info on Cox or the event, check out News and Record reporter Tina Firesheets' feature.

For more information on upcycling, visit here or here. You can also google "upcycling" and find projects to reuse items from old clothing to plastic bottles.

Lighted Tree Ball

News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) has a great tutorial on how to make lighted tree balls. Go on over and check out the multimedia. All you need is some chicken wire and mini Christmas lights.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A economical way to decorate this Christmas

If you're like me, you love to decorate. Especially around Christmas time.

I've wistfully been eyeing new red and white poinsettia garlands, snowmen window cling-ons and bright, shiny lights for the holiday season. But with a dark cloud of possible layoffs lingering over my household and the downturn in the economy, I've been clutching my purse close.

But here's a brilliant idea. How about making decorations?

Craftstylish has a wonderful idea -- an origami reindeer made from interfacing -- and so does BurdaStyle -- an Advent Calendar wall hanging.

Interfacing is used in sewing, so you'll find it at any of your local stores that carry fabric. If a reindeer isn't your thing, look for other origami shapes. Interfacing will help your creation hold its shape and stand on its own.

Many people celebrate the days leading up to Christmas with Advent Calendars. Commercial calendars are little cardboard packages with punch out windows for each day. Inside each box is a little bit of candy.

Burda's twist is little stockings filled with treats. The dates can be embroidered or appliqu├ęd on the front of the stockings.

If I think or find any ideas, I'll share them as we near the holiday season. Feel free to share any of your own ideas.