Tag Archives: DIY

Gifts in Jars: Bacon Beer Jam and Spicy Gingerbread Syrup

28 Dec Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Let me just lead off with this- I know this doesn’t help anyone with their holiday gift giving since Christmas is now over.  Sorry about that!  In the few days leading up to the Christmas, I was far too busy finishing off gifts for friends and family to type anything up- I just figured I’d blog our food gift recipes from this holiday season sometime in January and queue them up to post next winter when I had time to take a few proper pictures and people had homemade gifts on the brain once again.  (I can’t even begin to imagine how awesome it might feel to be 10 months ahead!)

Flatteringly enough though, I’ve gotten quite a few requests from friends wanting the recipes for the gifts I made this year and it’s far easier to share them here than via email so I I’ve decided to neglect my dreams of preplanned posts in the spirit of kitchen collegiality.

This year I made a bacon beer jam adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe.  Her’s uses bourbon, but I modified it for our our kitchen using bourbon barrel aged beer (specifically Rahr & Sons Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer from Fort Worth, Texas y’all!) with spectacularly amazing results.

Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Because who doesn’t love great bacon and amazing beer?  That you can spread on a warm biscuit.

Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Shockingly, some people don’t love bacon and beer… even when spread on a warm biscuit.

And some of them are really great people with whom I am dear friends… which meant I had to have another homemade gift option this year.  Since the arrival of the Nespresso machine my amazing husband gifted me during my bout with mono, I’ve become a bit of a latte devotee so I decided to also make homemade Spicy Gingerbread Syrup- thin for my fellow latte drinkers and thicker for my non-coffee friends to use on desserts or pancakes.  The best part is that it is super easy and uses ingredients you already have in your pantry!

Bacon Beer Jam- Go Running, Mama!

Bacon and Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups shallots, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup bourbon barrel aged beer (room temperature, poured carefully to avoid foaming)
  • 1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Directions: Working in three additions, spread bacon in a single layer in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until browned, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Remove the fat and clean the pan between each addition of bacon.  After the last addition, reserve browned bits and 1 tbs fat in the pan (slightly less if your bacon had a considerably high fat content).

Add shallots and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes.  Add spices and cook one minute, stirring constantly.  Increase the heat to high and add the beer and maple syrup.  Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan frequently to incorporate browned bits from bottom of the pan. Add vinegar and brown sugar and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add the bacon back to the pan.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces to a thick glaze.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until it reaches your desired consistency.  Transfer to glass jars and refrigerate at least one hour before using.  Jam will keep up to four weeks in a refrigerated, tightly sealed glass jar.

Makes about five half pint jars.

Spicy Gingerbread Syrup- Go Running, Mama!

Spicy Gingerbread Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups organic granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • generous 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions: Combine all ingredients except the vanilla extract in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn down heat to a simmer and allow to thicken while simmering- 10 to 15 minutes- until it is the consistency of maple syrup. Refrain from stirring.

Once it reaches the correct consistency, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Allow to cool before pouring into a lidded jar.

Syrup will keep a few weeks in the fridge.

Makes about four half pints.

Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments

17 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Looking for even more ornament ideas?  Check out our Salt Dough Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

I’m pretty close to breathing a a sigh of relief because we’ve almost completed all of our homemade gifts for this year.  I grew up with a mom who could command salt dough to do some pretty spectacular things, so that’s what we’ve used for our homemade ornaments in the past.  There are a couple of challenges with salt dough though- it takes forever to dry completely so you can paint and varnish and the surface isn’t completely smooth which gives it an adorable, shabby appearance but makes it hard for a little one to decorate with anything other than a paintbrush.

This year we were getting a later start and we also wanted to get started with our gift ornaments with some other playgroup friends during what Baby Bird referred to as her “ornament play party” so I decided that we would switch to baking soda clay for this year.  Baking soda clay bakes to dry much quicker than salt dough and dries with a perfectly smooth finish- my beautiful friend Kristin who joined us with her son for ornament creation pointed out that they looked and felt exactly like the ornaments available at the ceramics studio she and I have visited with our kiddos in the past.  She is right- they have a smooth, non-porous finish with a light sheen from the baking soda that makes them look special even without decorating.

The best part is they can be decorated with crayons and markers should you choose to keep the paint packed away.  You could even toss a few dried ornaments and markers into a ziplock bag in your purse to tote along for moments when your little one needs a fun activity if you are in a waiting room or stuck in traffic.  Baby Bird and I packed up a few with some markers to deliver to the porch of a friend with a sick kiddo who had been stuck at home for a few days.  There is nothing better than a virtual playdate delivery!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

The night before our “ornament play party” I made a batch of baking soda clay and Baby Bird and I cut lots of fun ornament shapes with our cookie cutters.  I baked them that evening so the kids would have an activity to work on while I made fresh clay for the kiddo’s handprint ornaments.

The precut, baked ornaments were a big hit and kept little hands very busy.  So busy, in fact, that I ended up sending the baking soda clay I made for handprint ornaments home with my mama friends…so I’ve been on the hook to provide step by step instructions for just what to do with that bag of clay I sent home!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

As you can see, Baby Bird is on a monochromatic kick.

This year I decided I’d like to give handprint reindeer and fingerprint Christmas trees since it has been two years since made anything that included Baby Bird’s fingerprints.  Instead of doing relief  handprints for a second year in a row, I opted for cutting a stencil of Bird’s hand to use for the reindeer.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I moved the cut shapes to a baking sheet lined in parchment and had Baby Bird make little fingerprint indentions on the trees-pinky finger at the top down to thumb at the bottom.  Then into the oven!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I started with the trees since I knew they would be my most time consuming project.  I’ve discovered that things turn out better when you paint the edges of your ornaments first.  Otherwise, you end up with a slightly noticeable border on the face of your ornament.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Once the trees were painted and dry, I primed the fingerprint reliefs with white paint I applied wit a cotton swab so that Baby Bird’s fingerprints would really stand out.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I let Baby Bird select the colors we would use for each fingerprint and made sure we had wipes close at hand before we started adding colored fingerprints to the tree.  Two things to know- 1) there WILL be mess when you paint on a toddler hand so prepare for it and 2) you have to work at the speed of light to ensure your tiny artist doesn’t grow weary of the project in the middle!  So be prepared.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

We worked finger by finger down the trees- we first did all the pinky finger marks on our trees and worked out way down… much easier that doing each tree separately.  Though it took considerable guiding to ensure Baby Bird’s prints made it in each proper place, she had a blast yelling “Smooosh” each time she squished her finger into the indention and left a print.  Oh, how that girl loves to smoosh.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

When I decided on fingerprint trees, I hadn’t quite decided if the fingerprints should represent ornaments or lights.  Once all the color had been applied, the fingerprinted trees looked adorable but they just didn’t feel complete…

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

So I added a “string” to make fingerprint lights which felt much better!

Once they were dry, I hung them from a drying rack outside and sprayed them with a coat of low gloss acrylic sealer.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

While the trees dried, I move on to the reindeer handprints which were insanely simple by comparison.

Paint the handprints brown.

Seriously.  That’s it.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Once the paint is dry, spray them with a sealer and apply eyes, a nose, and a bow.

Done.  Wham, bam, Happy Holidays Ma’am!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I love that they feel totally different from the Santas and Penguins with gave as gifts last year, but are every bit as homespun and heartfelt!  Between these, the cinnamon clay ornaments, and the reindeer tea towels we have in progress we now have holiday gifting from the toddler locked down. Such a nice feeling.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Baking Soda Clay

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 1 tbs cooking oil (I use olive or grapeseed since we don’t keep canola or mixed vegetable oil in the house)

Directions:  Whisk baking soda and cornstarch together in a medium sized saucepan.  Add liquids together and slowly whisk into dry ingredients.

Place saucepan on a burner at med/med-high heat and stir frequently with a silicone spoon/spatula.  Mixture will boil and then begin form clumps- once you see the first bubbles reach the surface of the mixture, move from stirring frequently to constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go.  Mixture will soon form a thick mass that holds its shape and will be the consistency of slightly dry mashed potatoes.

Turn mixture out into a glass bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel to cool slightly.  Once cool to the touch, turn out onto parchment and knead until very smooth.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F.

On parchment lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out dough to a thickness between 1/4- 1/2 inch.  Less than 1/4 inch thick will cause cracking and breakage during the drying process.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven for 90 minutes, rotate sheet and flip ornaments, and return to oven for 30 minutes more.

Once dry and cool paint, decorate, and varnish as desired. If painting a more detailed design, brush ornaments with a damp sponge before painting to allow better paint manipulation as paint adsorbs quickly.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hand Heart Cookies

15 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

We’ve got hearts and hands on the brain at our house right now.  Baby Bird and I send lots of time talking about feelings and sharing affirmations, and it seems that hands and hearts are frequently in the rotation.

“I like your gentle hands… thank you for your caring heart… I’m glad I had your helping hands around… I appreciate your kind heart.”

These are good times, my friends.

It also makes it extra special to make our favorite cookie gifts for the helping hands in our lives since Baby Bird is becoming  hyper-aware of how kindness and helping affect her day and the lives of those around her.  Dance teachers, tutors, neighbors, and the nice ladies that give her big hugs at Daddy’s office- kindness deserves to be recognized and affirmed.

When making gifts I like Baby Bird to be as involved as possible in each step, and cookies are a pretty perfect way to engage her because she can contribute to each step.

I pre-measure all of our ingredients and let her add them to the bowl.  With a little help, she’s a great whisker too!  I even let her run the final pass of the rolling pin when rolling out our cookie dough.

And of course, her hand print creates the cookie shape for this gift.  I create a stencil of her hand and then hand cut the cookies from the dough with a knife.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

I also create a heart outline stencil.  Once I’ve cut the cookies I lay the stencil over each one, paint the interior of the stencil with an egg wash, and let Baby Bird sprinkle the stencil with colored sugar.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

We let the cookies cool completely on a rack… which is normally when Baby Bird volunteers to “help” taste them.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Once they are cool, Baby Bird gets to decorate the cookies with cookie markers all by herself!  She is always so proud of this part because she gets complete creative control.  And she always snaps a few “fingers” along the way, so I’ve learned to make about half a dozen more cookies than we need.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

The end result is beautiful in a way that only gifts made by a toddler can be- so sweet!

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Then we bundle up a pair of hands (right and left!) and attach a note thanking our special friends for their helping hands!  It makes a great gift for people who aren’t close enough to us to truly want a toddler made craft to hang on the tree or display in their home- but who would probably do so out of politeness- but who deserve a heartfelt gift for the way they contribute to our lives.

Gifts from the Heart: Helping Hands Heart Cookies- A great edible gift using your little's handprint and artistry at Go Running, Mama!

Helping Hand Sugar Cookies with Sanding Sugar Hearts

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus some additional for rolling)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk for egg wash
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • colored sanding sugar

Directions:  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in 1 whole egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Divide dough in half and flatten into disks.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and freeze for about 20 minutes to firm.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove one disk of dough and let stand 5 minutes.  Roll dough 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Cut handprints by hand or using a cookie cutter.  Carefully transfer handprints to a parchment lined baking sheet and place in freezer for 8-12minutes.

Combine egg yolk with 1 tbs water to make an egg wash.

Remove from freezer, place heart stencil over each cookie, paint with egg wash, and sprinkle on colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 8-15 minutes depending on handprint size and thickness.

Allow to cool on baking sheet for 3 minutes and then transfer to cooling rack using a spatula.

Repeat with remaining dough.

Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments

2 Dec Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Looking for more homemade ornament ideas?  Check out Baby Bird’s amazingly awesome Baking Soda Clay Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

 

Baby Bird might be less than three years old, but we’ve helped her to establish the tradition of making homemade gifts for her loved ones (and she’s got a whole lotta people to love) each holiday season.  Last year we made salt dough ornaments with her hand and foot prints that turned out absolutely adorable.  I’m seriously sad I didn’t make a few extra for our tree!

A few days ago I got a text from another stay-at-home mama friend on a budget asking for the how-to on our salt dough ornament activity from last year, so it seemed like the perfect thing to share right here!

Salt dough is easy and inexpensive. It take a little muscle to knead it to the right consistency and a little more patience to get it to dry out fully before the painting stage, but the moderate effort required is well worth the absolutely precious outcome.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a more impressive gift project using items that exist in your pantry!

The first step is a simple one: Mix up a batch of salt dough in your stand mixer (recipe below).  You aren’t going to eat this one (although if your little one nibbles a corner during the creative process- it is non-toxic!) so you can mix like crazy without having to fear over-glutenizing the flour.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once everything is well mixed, turn out the dough and knead it well.  Toddlers love to help with this step even though their assistance doesn’t really help.  Who cares!  Helping hands and working hands learning to care and assist at home.

Knead until smooth, then cover with a damp towel and let it rest for about a half an hour.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

After the rest period, I rolled the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness on floured parchment on a cookie sheet.  The cookie sheet is totally necessary if you’re going to do little feet and don’t want those feet on your counter.

To get the best hand and foot print impressions possible, I moved the tray to the ground and had Baby Bird step hard on each foot for a footprint or get down on the hands and knees and really lean into her hand print- salt dough can be resistant at times.

Once I had the basic impressions, I cut around them with a knife and removed the excess dough.

Then, I brought the tray down the the floor again and had Baby Bird lean into her prints one more time to make sure the impressions were set deeply into the dough.

I cut holes using a straw and then they were ready for the oven!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

It’s important to make sure the ornaments are completely dry before you paint and seal them or they will never really dry out… and could get moldy. Ewwww! (Moldy ornament does not equal beloved gift)

After the first three hours, rotate the pan as needed and flip the ornaments if the back side doesn’t seem to be drying.  After turning off the oven, I just left mine in over night in the warmth of the oven to ensure they were completely dry.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

The painting is the fun part!  I’m sure Baby BIrd would have loved to assist with this part, but I was keen on making penguins and Santas that really looked like penguins and Santas.  If the design isn’t the important element for you then let your little one dive in!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Footprints make ideal penguins and snowmen, while handprints are great Santas and reindeer.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once painted, let your ornaments dry completely.  Don’t forget to paint the backs once the fronts are dry- ornaments have a tendency to spin around on a tree!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once the paint is dry, hang your ornaments on a rack outside and give them a quick shot with an acrylic sealer to keep them looking lovely for years to come!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

How happy do they look!? So happy.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Salt Dough- The Basics

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients (beginning with only 3/4 cups water) in stand mixer and mix until completely incorporated.  Add more water- a teaspoon at a time- if needed.

Once fully incorporated, turn out onto waxed paper and knead until smooth.  If choosing to add food coloring, do so at this point by adding small amounts of gel coloring between each kneading.  Allow to rest about 30 minutes at room temperature, covered by a damp towel.

On lightly floured parchment, roll our dough to a thickness between 1/4- 1/2 inch.  Less than 1/4 inch thick will cause cracking and breakage during the drying process.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven until dry 4-8 hours.  After the first 3 hours, check hourly for dryness.  Rotate the sheet and flip the ornaments as needed to ensure ornaments dry evenly and completely.

Once dry and cool, paint, decorate, and varnish as desired.