Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Countdown Blocks

Christmas was over a month away when I began making these and here it is, Christmas day, and I am just now posting about them.  I guess the date doesn't really matter, but I did mean to get them up earlier!  Simon made my project possible by making two cubes out of some spare wood he had.  I had initially planned on buying some unpainted wooden blocks but that turned out to be difficult to find at my typically shopped stores so this worked out really perfectly.  Obviously that chance of extra materials and the right tools doesn't fall into place for everyone, so I am confident in saying that a more forceful hunt would result in the right find.  
-Two 2inch wooden cubes
-12 squares of paper cut to JUST smaller than the cubes 
(depending on how much of the under color you want to show)
-Paint that is suitable for wood
-Punched out or cut out numbers 0-9 with the 0-2 needed twice
    The 9 will need to be one that works for both the 6 and the 9 depending on which way it is           shown; Otherwise it is not possible to have a "00 days of christmas."
-Modge Podge (I just made my own with water and liquid elmers glue.  It is cheaper and more practical considering the small amount used for this project)
-Foam Brush (for gluing), paintbrush (for painting)

 Here are the wooden blocks
 Paper Squares
 I chose a mixture of christmasy prints from a scrapbook store for mine, but solid colors would work too.  The busier the color pattern is, the more difficult it will be to read the number.
  It is important to get paper that coordinates in all combinations.  In almost all of the number combos, each paper will be matched with all the other papers so to use two that completely clash won't turn out well. 
 Simon is AWESOME and surprised me with a stand for my blocks so that really made the whole project complete!

 First, I painted a solid coat of "Real Red" Paint on all sides of the blocks.
I also painted the base ("Grass Green")
Modge Podge: About a 1 TBS water to 1/8 cup glue ratio, mix well.  If the paper is not sticking well to the blocks add more glue.   
 Then using my homemade modge-podge concoction i drenched the paper squares (only intentionally on the side going onto the wood but the whole paper ends up getting wet in the end, it works well that way)
Then I placed them where I wanted on the block and smoothed out the bumps.

 I took advantage of the education resource center at our school to get the number punch outs but if that is not an option, your church resource room may have a die cut machine or you can buy pre-cut numbers at a scrap-booking store.  
I used the same paint from the blocks and base to paint the paper numbers so the colors wouldn't clash.  Then after they had dried I used the same drenching method to attach the numbers.  Make sure on the 6/9 square that the background paper looks good both upside down and right side up.  For instance, my christmas tree background wouldn't have worked for it because it would look silly upside down.  
Also, when gluing the numbers you have to plan out which ones for each block:
Block One: 0,1,2,3,4,5
Block Two: 0,1,2,6,7,8
Here is my final product.  I had to cheat a little and photo shop the written letter in because I some how forgot to take a picture once the letters were dry.  But, this is a pretty close resemblance.  Swirly white letter saying "Days Till Christmas"  I also painted white snowflakes around the edges of the base.  I will put a finished picture up eventually. It is in storage already so I can't yet but i wanted to get the post up regardless (we are moving).
So, this is my newest addition to my christmas decorations but the countdown is over!
Merry Christmas Everyone!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cheddar Biscuits and Roasted Broccoli with Smashed Garlic

For Simon's Birthday I made a birthday dinner at home and I decided to try out a bunch of new recipes.  I  tend to stockpile recipes that I like until an opportunity arises.  I do realize, that making a meal of completely untested recipes (at least by us) could have been a disaster; But I am happy to report: no disaster occurred.  The whole thing was a bit more stressful than meals usually are but that was probably more due to pressure I put on myself rather than the complexity of the recipes.  
   So anyways, I decided not to put all of the recipes on here but, rather, just the two that were both simple and turned out really well!!  
Some background: Seafood- not my favorite.  But I always loved going to Red Lobster for the DELICIOUS cheddar biscuits that they serve all-you-can-eat style! I had heard they were pretty simple to make so I went hunting for a good copycat recipe and here's what I found.  Personally, I think they are  identical!

2 1/2 cups bisquick baking mix 
4 Tbsp cold butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cups cold whole milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Brush on top
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
1 pinch

Preheat oven to 400°F.   
Combine Bisquick and cold butter. Don’t combine too thoroughly. There should be small chunks of butter about the size of peas.
Add cheddar, milk and 1/4 tsp garlic.
Mix by hand until combined, but don’t over mix
Drop 9 equal portions onto greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are light brown.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a bowl. Stir in 1/2 tsp garlic powder and parsley flakes.
Use a pastry brush to spread garlic butter over tops of biscuits.

Now, for the Broccoli.  I LOVE vegetables but I don't really enjoy boiling them, so I try and find a variety of ways to make them in the oven while still keeping a lot of flavor.  Another thing that attracted me to this recipe is how few ingredients are needed and how low maintenance the whole thing is!

1 1/2 lbs broccoli florets, cut long with part of stem
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 450°. In a baking dish combine broccoli, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Roast broccoli about 20 minutes, until broccoli is browned and tender.

We had the biscuits for an appetizer, broccoli, mashed potatoes and balsamic glazed skirt steak for the main course and strawberry cake for desert.  (I may put up the strawberry cake eventually because it was so hard to find a strawberry cake that didn't call for strawberry gelatin and/or a box cake mix).