Front Door Poinsettia in a Basket

Front Door Poinsettia in a Basket

I’m just not one to spend money on what I would choose to call ‘frivolous’ expenditures. In the summertime, I have a garden full of perennials to keep my home full of flower arrangements, but winter time is a chance for me to be a little more creative in my penny pinching.

Our local craft supply store is always putting things on clearance, and these poinsettias were just the thing for my front door. I have lots of various pines and evergreens on my property, so with a little decorators foam, my rod iron hanging basket and pruning sheers, I came up with this. My outside wreaths and swags are contemporary in nature, silver balls, white and silver ribbon, mini-ornament balls. I am quite pleased with the way it turned out, and for the cost of a fancy cup of coffee, I have a beautiful (and freeze-safe) front door welcoming arrangement.


Cranberry Clusters

What is Christmas without a cookie exchange or two to go to? I’ve hosted my share of them in the past, but this year it is a welcome change of pace to go to a cookie exchange and let someone else take charge. Due to a bible study, I missed one of my favorites, hosted by a lovely woman who truly has the gift of baking. I’m not complaining cause there is a bright side, another friend is hosting one next week. So out come the cookbooks, pouring over and contemplating which treat to bring.

These little gems are my oldest daughter’s absolute favorite. They combine that perfect balance of sweet/tart, crunchy/creamy, juicy/dry. I cannot describe fully enough how delicious these glistening ruby delights are, you will just have to make up a batch and judge for yourself.

They are a little putzy to make, but trust me, they will be the first to fly off that cookie laden table. As I’ve mentioned all to many times before, its cold here. But, cold is only one aspect of living in a place where ‘cold’ is a runner up to the North Pole cold, its bitterly dry also. So, here in my environment, these babies will keep on a cookie platter for a few days at room temperature. Since you are in essence ‘candying’ the berries, humidity is your enemy. If you are in a moist environment, eat them quickly (trust me, not a problem) or store in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 5 days. They will get soft, but the flavor will remain.

Cranberry Clusters
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cup chopped white chocolate (a good quality white melting bark will do also, and sometimes works better than white chocolate which can seize easily)

Combine the sugar and water together and cook to a hard-ball stage, 250-265 deg.
Remove from the heat. I put my pot on a heat pad to retain its heat for as long as possible.
Working quickly (but carefully, hot sugar burns, badly!) drop 3 cranberries in to the syrup and using 2 forks clump them together and flip to coat. Remove quickly and put on a piece of waxed paper or siliconed parchment. (a silpat mat will also work)

You will likely get about 7-8 clusters out of this batch, the first ones will be clear like glass, the last ones will start to look frosted. Stop when the sugar starts to crystalize. Now, at this point, I suppose there is a way to reheat the sugar and continue on. I have not found a way to do that effectively. I have found, in my experience, that you never get that shiny clear result when you try reheat the sugar. For me, because I’m sort of picky, I just make another batch or two of the sugar syrup, depending on the quantity I need. Play with it yourself and decide. Using a non-stick pan makes all the difference in the world as far as clean up goes!

While your candies are hardening, melt the white chocolate (or bark) in the microwave or in a double boiler. (It is advisable when dealing with all chocolate to be sure not to let any moisture get in to it, as it will cause it to seize)
Then dip the flat side of the cooled clusters in to the white chocolate, leaving the tops uncoated. Set aside on the parchment to harden.

I put these in small candy cups when I give as gifts, but they are just as beautiful scattered on a cookie tray.
Trust me, you want to have all your treats leave first? Make these.

Whether for dessert, cookie exchange or a party, these will please.

Image