Pepper Cookies (Pebernødder)

The most original northern Christmas cookie is the pepper cookie. Before the modern stowe, this was the only cookie you were able to make yourself for Christmas.

The original recipe originates from Germany in the fifteenhundreds  and was made with rye flour, honey and strong spices.

My favorite recipe is from the fantastic Danish bakery Lagkagehuset (The Layered Cake House). The smell, taste and consistensy is perfect and children can easily make them.

Pepper Cookies (about 300 pieces)

  • Butter (2 cups/250 gr.)
  • Sugar (2 cups./250 gr.)
  • Whipping Cream (3.5 fl. oz./1 dl.)
  • Plain flour (18 oz./500 g.)
  • Ground ginger (1 tsp.)
  • Cinnamon (1 tsp.)
  • White or black pepper (1 tsp.) Black pepper will give you a little more umf, which in my opinion is a good thing.
  • Cardamom (1 tsp.)
  • Baking powder (1 tsp.)
  • Baking soda (1 tsp.)

Pepper BisquitsI often use gloves when I bake. This makes it possibly to attend to children in need in an instant. Make sure to use Nitrile rubber gloves approved for food contact. You can get them at about $0.2 a pair and though not as stretchy as rubber, they have a perfect fit.

20151124_203046_resizedWhip butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Whip the cream in at low settings. Mix spices, baking powder and baking soda into the flour and mix everything together. Roll the dough into sausages (thick as a finger) and cut in small pieces. Roll them into small balls and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for about 7-10 minutes at 400 ºF/200 ºC.

You can freeze the dough for later use. If you flatten the bag it will take up less room in your freezer and will defrost quicker.

Eat them all yourself or give them to friends and family in jars or Danish woven Christmas hearts. Or you can play mouse.

Mouse – a Christmas game

Place a row of cookies on the table. One kid leaves the room and the others name one of the cookies “Mouse” The child is called back in and is allowed to eat until he/she picks the Mouse. At this point everyone yells MOUSE and a new kid leaves the room.

What is your favorite Christmas cookie?

Danish Woven Christmas Hearts – patterns made with Microsoft office tools

The woven Christmas heart is a Danish tradition founded by H.C. Andersen in the 1860s. The kindergartens helped spread the hearts (around 1910), as it was used to strengthen the children’s creative skills, patience, fine motor skills and self-discipline.

Danish Christmas hearts are woven with two pieces of folded glossy paper traditionally in red and white, but you can chose whatever colors you like.

I find it a lot easier and faster to print the pattern directly on the glossy paper than the old fashioned method where you first make a cardboard template.

  1. Find a template (on google images) that you like. If you are doing this with children or are a beginner or just not that patient, choose a simple classic pattern.
  2. Use a snipping tool to cut around the image (I use the free Microsoft snipping tool).Skærmbillede 2015-11-16 09.58.27
  3. Copy-Past the image into Microsoft word. Change the size to your desire. I use about 9×13 cm (in 3.5×5).Skærmbillede 2015-11-16 10.02.50
  4. Paste the pattern twice to Microsoft paint. Right click on one of the patterns and rotate it 180 degrees. Depending on the pattern you may need to also mirror. If your are making a simple pattern and want to cut with scissors, you only need to paste the pattern once.Skærmbillede 2015-11-16 09.59.15
  5. Align the two patterns.Skærmbillede 2015-11-16 09.59.40
  6. Print the template directly on glossy paper with the lowest quality (you don’t want the ink showing through the finished heart). Make sure that you are printing on the backside of the paper.
  7. Cut out the pattern with a pair of scissors (you can fold the template in the middle for easier cutting) or with a scalpel which is necessary when your are making more advanced hearts.
  8. Now braid
  9. Remember to attach a handle.
  10. Fill it with treats and hang it from the Christmas tree.

IMG_3232

Merry Christmas

 

Mason Jar Animals – Doing It Right

You’ve probably noticed the infinite possibilities with mason jars. Personally I am very fond of the ones with glued on animals and knobs.

mason jar knob

You can find several tutorials on the web already, but I’m sorry to say……they kind of suck. They will tell you that you only need a glue gun and some spray-paint and you’re good to go. I promise you that you will regret it.

Nooo….. you do need more than just a glue gun and some spray-paint

This is what you have to do if your are planning on gluing plastic animals on the lids:

  1. Sand the lids lightly
  2. Wash the lids using basic cleaner
  3. Sand the bottom of the animals feet and be thorough. The greater the contact area is between animal and lid, the better the glue will do its job.
  4. Clean the animals with a toothbrush and basic cleaner.
  5. Remember: After cleaning don’t touch lids or animals before your are completely finished with the project. Any grease will make sure the paint doesn’t stay in its place. Wear clean rubber gloves.
  6. Glue the animal on the lid using super glue (cyanoacrylate seems to work well) – not an ordinary glue gun.
  7. Spray on a base coat of primer – otherwise your paint may slide right of
  8. Spray-painting several thin coats with dry time (about 15 min) in between will give a nice result. Raise the lid above surface of the table so it doesn’t stick.

If you are attaching knobs just do step 1-2, 7-8. Use a drill to punch through the lid and saw of the excess knob screw with a hacksaw.

Remember to spray with the bottle upside down (outside) in between each coat so it dosn’t clog.

 

Mason Jar Dog

I’m using these jars for toys and dog treats.

 

Pumpkin Preservation – Scientifically

Background

Pumpkin carving is a fun seasonal activity for kids as well as grownups. Unfortunately carved pumpkins go bad fairly quickly and in the pursuit of making their hard work last a bit longer, several bloggers have sought out ways to minimize microbial growth of moisture loss.

When searching online, different methods are advocated as being THE WAY to preserve your carved pumpkins. There is however no real consensus on the best method.

The experiments used to test the different methods have all had the same obvious flaw. They use different pumpkins to test different methods.

Pumpkins with different genetic makeup will theoretically have different resistance to drying and attack from microorganisms. Likewise the environment the pumpkins grew in, will also likely affect their resistance to said factors.

In this experiment I tested 6 different methods to preserve a carved pumpkin while trying to minimize  the: “no two pumpkins are created equally” problem.

Method

I chose a pumpkin in good condition, divided it into 6 fairly equal size pieces. One of the pieces was left untreated as a control and the remaining 5 pieces were treated with one or more of the following preservation methods:

disinfectants

  1. Rodalon (used undiluted, contains a mix of benzalkoniumcloride and didecyl ammonium chloride in a 2,5 % aquous solution)
  2. Bleach (used undiluted, contains sodium hypochlorite in a 1-5% aquous solution, pH 12,3)
  3. Soap (a type of soap used in Denmark for cleaning with a pH of 11-12)
  4. Clear coat spray paint
  5. Pure silicone spray (automotive product that protects from moisture)

Before starting this experiment I had a theory that the optimal treatment would consist of an initial treatment with a disinfectant, followed by an inert barrier of sorts. To test this, half of the surface area of the pumpkins treated with rodalon, bleach and soap were all treated with a subsequent layer of silicone spray.

To mimic realistic conditions common carving tools were used to process the pumpkin (ice-cream scoop for cleaning out seeds and knife for carving) and no special steps were taken to ensure “sterile” working conditions. All carving was done in a “clean” kitchen environment with tools washed in the dishwasher.

The pumpkin pieces were treated one by one and placed outside near an exterior wall of our house, under the overhang of the roof, but far enough out that any rain would find its way to the pumpkins. The pumpkins were then left untouched with no repeat of the initial treatment until a winner could be announced.

Results

decay large text

 

After 9 days there was a clear winner. The rodalon treated pumpkin had done far better than any of the others and had next to no signs of microbial growth, while all competing treatments had considerable amounts of microbial growth.  The closest runner-up was the pumpkin treated with bleach, followed by the silicone treated pumpkin and the untreated (control) pumpkin on a joint third place. Surprisingly the silicone spray had no discernible effect on the pumpkins, regardless if the pumpkins had been treated with disinfectant or not. The soap treated pumpkin did slightly worse than the untreated pumpkin and the clear coat treated pumpkin did worst of all.

Discussion

Truthfully there will probably never be a “gold standard” method for preserving pumpkins. The number of factors influencing the decaying process is staggering. These include, but are not limited to: Type and amount of microorganisms introduced to the pumpkin, tools used to carve and “gut” the pumpkin, temperature, air humidity, precipitation levels, pH levels (in both pumpkin and precipitation), UV levels (uv light kills microorganisms but also degrades bleach) and the pumpkins own resistance to all of the above.

Conclusion

Unless we all start using genetically cloned pumpkins, and tightly control the environment in which the pumpkins are grown, transported, carved and later stored for viewing, different similarly performing preservation methods will come out the winner depending on the environmental factors and the particular pumpkin used.

However under the conditions this pumpkin was tested, Rodalon clearly yielded the best results in preserving our carved pumpkin. Rodalon is a brand name but products containing the same basic ingredients can be found using the US Household products database and searching for either Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride or Benzalkonium chloride. Both chemicals are Quaternary ammonium cations and can probably both be used with similar success.

Keep in mind when using strong disinfectants like these, that this is to be done with proper personal protective equipment in a well-ventilated area and is always a job for the grownups. Never mix disinfectants, or other chemicals, as the result can be fatal. As an example mixing bleach with an acid will produce Chlorine gas which will kill you fairly efficiently.

Happy Halloween

 

Painted Kitchen Utensils

Painted kitchen utensils are all over the web right now and since we needed some new salad servers, I decided to try it out.

Ombre utencilsI gathered some inspiration on Pinterest from Liz and Sarah and ended up with some dark blue acrylic paint.

Preparation is everything so make sure that your utensils are cleaned, as greasy fingerprints will make it difficult for the paint to stick.  Don’t touch the utensils without gloves once you have cleaned them. Sand the handle lightly and you are ready for the paint job.

Remember you should only paint the handle of the utensils due to food safety

I got my (very cheap) utensils from IKEA but you can them a lot of different stores. I painted them twice and gave them two layers of clear coat. In between paint coats I sanded them again as the wood grain rose slightly.

Neon Utencils

Use a good quality masking tape for the border

 

 

I tried wasing my new salad servers in the dishwasher og even though they didn’t suffer an immediate death, they didn’t like it that much. I recommend that you wash them by hand.

Painted Kitchen Utelcils

I wonder if it’s possible to use porcelain paint instead (dishwasher safe). Has anyone tried that?

Painting Clean Edges

Our recent addition to the family prompted a space reallocation. M got the old office and A got M’s old room. Most of M’s old room is white, but a single wall was painted with stripes of white and two shades of green. Painting 10 centimeter wide stripes in alternating colors on a whole wall is fairly time consuming, (but a Paint samplescheap alternative to putting up wallpaper) which is why K reassured me that the colors were gender neutral and I would not have to repaint the room, if we got a girl at some point. Turns out gender neutral colors change over time and  3 years later we are repainting (purple with a white border)……deep down I guess I knew this would happen.

This is what I learned about how to get those perfect sharp edges:

  1. Get a good quality masking tape, which will make removing the tape cleanly a lot easier.
  2. You will need two colors of paint, even if your wall is allready the color you want as a base. Even the best masking tape will still let some paint bleed under the edge of the tape and the only way to get around that problem, is to control which color bleeds under the edge.

The process is best explained with an example. Say you have a white wall and you want to paint a purple stripe on it.

  1. Start by masking off the border of the purple line, making sure to press the masking tape thouroughly to the wall.
  2. Paint the border of the tape you want to end up as purple, white (the base color) and let it dry. ThisMasking tape allows the white paint to bleed under any part of the tape that is not completely closed off.
  3. Paint the stripe purple, making sure not to go beyond the outer border of the masking tape.
  4. When you have finished with the last layer of purple, peel off the masking tape carefully to reveal a nice clean border between the two colors.

Keep your brushes in a closed plastic bag and you will be able to paint with them over and over again without rinsing, for at least a week.

EdgesSo A’ room now has a purple wall and I thought the room was finished, but last week I overheard K telling some friends that she has some regrets about the color and now wants wallpaper instead!!!……….

Pumpkin Pie & a Failed Pinecone Paint Project

I never had Pumpkin Pie before, but according to Pinterest everyone is eating Pumpkin Pie this time of year, and with so many people eating the same thing, it must be good. Unfortunately Pumkin Pie is not at tradition where I live, so I had to make some myself to get a taste.

Pumpkin PieI looked for an easy  recipe for beginners and found Easy Foolproof Pumpkin Pie. Sounded promising. This recipe suggest that you use canned pumpkin and that’s absolutely fine by me, except for the fact that I couldn’t find it anywhere. The only solution was to make the puree myself. I used this recipe for Pumpkin Puree and because I chose Hokkaido pumpkins I could skip the peeling part. You simply put the roasted pumpkins and the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and that’s that.  Very easy. I don’t know what happened to the surface of the pie though. It certainly doesn’t look like Lindsey’s, but it did taste great.

Pumpkin PieYes… this is the right amount of whipped cream

 

 

 

After pie eating we had a little DIY planned. I saw this post on how to paint pinecones and thought it would be a fun little project for M and I. The look we where going for was something like this:

but O’s first comment when he saw our work was that they looked kind of like old dog turds.

Painted Pinecones

 

Thank you very much darling…..

Apple Brownie and Apple Juice

ApplesWe are literally drowning in apples this year. We have already filled the freezer with applesauce, which will later be used for apple trifle and yesterday we juiced the remaining apples.  When you juice you get a lot of pulp and it really annoyed me to let that go to waste. This  time I tried putting it in a cake. I used this Rivercottage recipe for Beetroot Brownie and simply replaced the beetroot with apple pulp. The apple pulp is a little dry compared to freshly blended beetroot, so to compensate I added 1 dl. of water (3 fl oz) to the pulp during blending. Even when I know there is apple in this recipe, the taste is still only that of great brownie.

Applejuice

Tip: Freshly squeezed juice should be consumed pretty fast, but if you freeze it in cleaned milk cartons, it will last several months. For apple juice you might consider adding a little bit of lemon juice to reduce discoloration due to oxidation.

 

5 Effortless Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy

You bought the dog before you got kids, maybe even before you found your soul mate. You had all the time in the world to keep the dog company. You went on long walks 5 times a day and hiked on the weekends, trained every Wednesday and cuddled for at least an hour after work.

Suddenly something happened – life took a turn. Maybe you went from part-time employment to full-time, maybe you always had your dog with you to work, but weren’t able to do that anymore, maybe a baby arrived, maybe a baby with colic arrived. The possibilities are endless but we all have periods in our lifes, where its challenging to get everything done and sadly, but often true, the dog are last in line.

Here are some of the things we do to keep our (high activity) dogs happy on busy days…

Continue reading 5 Effortless Ways to Keep Your Dog Happy

Color Changing Activity Board for Toddlers

At the age of 2, M was pretty adventuros and kept us busy tidying up closets  and drawers. Part of our effort to keep his little hands busy, was to make him an activity board (busyboard). Here he could explore to his heart content, without any risk of cuts, burns, poisoning, electrocution or breaking expensive items. The board itself is nothing new.

Basically you cut a piece of fiberboard or plywood to desired size, paint it as you like, populate the board with whatever your child likes and mount the board to a suitable wall.

Our son had a special intrest in switches and colored lights and to accomodate that, I decided to mount 3 switches each controlling one channel of an RGB LED. The idea is that the individual colors can be turned on or off, one by one, enabling the child to mix the colors. The result can be seen in the video below.

The light feature is designed to be inexpensive and very easy to build. Its based on a single 5mm RGB common anode LED with voltage reducing resistors for each color.  However individual leds for each color could just as easily have been used. I used hot glue to diffuse the light.

The diagram below shows the curcuit alongside my ghetto implementation of it.

diagram and implementation

As seen I built it using whatever I had lying around that day, making this instance of the project very inexpensive and low impact. Except for paint, solder and hot glue every part is made with salvaged materials.

When someone sees the board for the first time, children and adults alike, they seem to go straight for the light switches and stay there –  fascinated.