Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vodka Infusion... take two

What to get guy friends for Christmas other than booze? I mean really?? I can't just gift a bottle of liquor... The crafty side of me just cringes at the thought of that. So... the husband and I decided to give it a kick. We read that infused vodkas are really easy to make... so a few months back we gave it a shot. We both like sweet and spicy (which is why we love Thai food), so we decided to make a crushed red pepper flake and blackberry infused vodka. Sounds great, right? Well, the math teacher of the pair (not to name names or anything) thought the directions said to allow the flavors to absorb for 2 weeks... um, no, they were only supposed to infuse for 2 DAYS! The infused vodka is still in our freezer... and we only bust it out for the rare occasion of a bloody mary. Some days we volunteer ourselves for immediate infliction of pain by just curiously allowing the liquid to hit our lips once again (it MUST NOT be as spicy as I remember...) It always is.

Our vodka fail was a joke among our friends, so we thought we would redeem ourselves with a little Christmas inspired infusion.

Vodka infusion Take Two...
Candy Cane Vodka

We bought a one liter bottle of Smirnoff (you don't want to go too cheap because the burn of the vodka will mask the flavor that you are trying to infuse). Next time... because this one WAS successful (wahoo), we will spring for an even pricier bottle. We have class (most of time... we do live on the Westside afterall).

One bottle was enough vodka to fill two pint size mason jars.

We bought one box of peppermint candy canes and used all but two in the infusion (saved two for packaging-- this wasn't even my idea... I think my craftiness is starting to rub off).

We took about two or so shots out of the bottle so that we would have enough room to add the candy canes. Just enough to make a stiff screw driver for the mixologists. We added the candy canes and put the bottle in the refrigerator for two days. Every time we opened the refrigerator to get something we would give the bottle a little shake. The candy canes dissolved after about a day, so we knew it was ready to be packaged.

I had some craft paper left over from when I packaged the Homemade Hot Cocoa, so I busted out the Cuttlebug machine and used the largest circle die to make the labels for the lids. I used mod podge to adhere, hemp to adorn decorative candy cane and gift tag, and voilĂ ... a booze gift that One Smart Cookie is proud to give.

The boys that were on the receiving end of this vodka infusion were also my taste testers for the Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix. My husband and I had about 1 shot of candy cane vodka left over, so he made a Hot Cocoa with Candy Cane Vodka... let's just say he finished the cup in about two minutes flat.

Score two for the O'Briens... DIY Christmas success!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's a DIY Christmas

It's something about the season of Christmas, and the thick cloud of holiday cheer, that beckons my crafty and creative alter-ego to surface and shine for the month of December. Many nights (like tonight) I end up staying up late to organize and devise plans for my Christmas DIY gifts. I walk through the crafting stores consumed by my eagerness to get to work, and overwhelmed by endless possibilities that await on each aisle. I am indecisive enough as it is... give me 500 different colors and patterns of craft paper to choose from and I'm done for!

I love to create, and I love to gift my creations. I have always preferred to give and receive thoughtful homemade items... and I can remember being enveloped by this urge as a child as well. I love the consideration and time that goes into the art of the home good... thinking about how and what to make is the most fun.

Last year because money was a little tight I decided to make all the women in our family and my 6th grade room moms scented sugar scrubs. This year it's Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix!

I took the idea from Pennies on a Platter's Hot Cocoa mix (originally The Brown Eyed Baker's Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix), and then I just revised it based on what I had available in my pantry.

This recipe is SUPER easy to make-- all you need is a powerful food processor or blender and some canning jars for your finished product.

  • 3 cups dry milk powder
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl
  2. Blend in a food processor in small batches until all is combined and chocolate is finely ground.
  3. Transfer into small air tight canning jars  
    1.  I decorated my canning jars with Christmas craft paper and mod podge (gotta love the mod podge!), instructions, and a ribbon with gift tag
Yield: about 20 servings 
Hot Cocoa, Anyone?
Good for up to three months.

To make:  Mix 1/3 cup of cocoa mix with 1 cup warm milk. Enjoy :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year

The Christmas tree is decorated, the stockings are hung, the house smells of ginger and cinnamon, the ceramic light tree glows softly in the background, the dog scratches at the back door because it is too cold for a Whippet to stay outside, Doodle Bug, mom, and dad cuddle close to keep warm and sneak extra snuggles, checking the mail becomes the daily excitement... it is Christmas... and we are so blessed to have what we have, and possess no want for anything more.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!