Friday, December 11, 2015

Rudolph Treat Jars

I recently got to spend a magical week with three of our grandchildren. While I was there, our thoughts naturally turned toward Christmas. One of Delys' goals was to come up with an idea for a fun gift for their friends and neighbors that the children could help prepare. Glancing through a craft catalog, she saw a kit for creating reindeer treat jars. The kits weren't cheap, but we realized that we could purchase our own supplies and make them ourselves much less expensively. (These would make great teacher gifts.)

Here is what you need:

glass jars with lids (we chose pint size, but you can go bigger or smaller )
brown felt
brown pipe cleaners
large red pom poms
large googly eyes
hot glue gun and glue

Use the top of the lid as a pattern and trace a circle:

Fold the circle in half and cut two small slits near the center:

Fold a pipe cleaner in half and thread it through the slits to create the antlers:

Bend the pipe cleaner into a fun antler shape, glue the felt circle to the lid, and replace the metal rim. Ben and Katie, ages 4 and 6, were great at threading and bending the antlers:

We were worried about using hot glue with the children, so we chose over-sized eyes and pom poms so that their small fingers would stay far away from the heat. We placed the glue dots, and they simply put the eyes and nose over them:

Of course, the best part of the process was filling the jars with candy. We chose Tootsie Roll minis, small sleeves of Whoppers, and Smarties. But Kisses or Dove or any wrapped candy would be perfect. A whole lot of sampling went on . . . .

We trimmed the rim with ribbon--you could also add a bell--and Rudolph was ready for Christmas delivery:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Beef & Barley Vegetable Soup - The Perfect Beginning to Autumn and Winter Feasting

Does anyone else get excited for soup season? That is what I just now decided to call when it is cool enough to start making delicious, aromatic, savory soups.

I adapted this treasure of a recipe from one that my mother-in-law sent me last year. Basically, everything about this soup is healthy (you can take out the beef if you want to) and it freezes really well. You can freeze it into single portions and take it for lunch.

Beef and Barley Vegetable Soup

2 c. pearled barley--cook per pkg. instructions while preparing the rest of the soup.
2 Tbs. olive oil
1-2 lbs beef stew meat (you can usually find chunks of beef that are perfect for stew in the meat aisle)
2 c. chopped onion
6 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 c. beef or vegetable broth
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
6 c. chopped baby spinach or 1 10-oz. pkg frozen spinach, OR 6 c. finely chopped kale (can substitute cabbage as well)

While barley cooks, brown the beef and saute onion and carrots in olive oil for 5 minutes (use a large stockpot--this recipe makes 8 three-cup servings).. Add garlic, sauteing 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes, tom. paste, Worc. sauce, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to low boil, simmer 20-25 minutes until carrots are tender. Add greens and cooked barley, stir well. Remove from heat and serve.