Saturday, December 26, 2009

Butterscotch Bark: A New Decadence

Here's the new recipe I tried... well, thought-up... this year for Yule and Christmas. With my new step-grandson visiting, I was careful to avoid chocolate and red food coloring, as requested. So, I came up with this super-easy variation on peppermint bark (couldn't find white peppermint candy this year, anyway). It tastes totally sinful!

Now I want to try this with other hard candies, like lemon drops or root beer barrels.


11 oz. (1 pkg.) white chocolate chips
4 oz.(1/2 cup) butterscotch hard candies, unwrapped


Place candy in a heavy plastic bag, and hit with a hammer to break up into 1/4” or smaller pieces. For best results, do your hammering with a folded towel under the bag, placed on a hard floor or cement. This will leave some candy powder, so a few layers of plastic wrap or paper towels under the bag will help.

Place white chocolate in a microwaveable bowl. Cover and microwave for 2 minutes or less, depending upon the wattage. Stir until smooth, then stir in the butterscotch.

Spread the mixture 1/4” to 1/2” thick on waxed paper placed on a cookie sheet or in the bottom of a large, flat pan . Cool in refrigerator for about 45 minutes.

Break into bite-sized pieces and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Another one of our Yule favorites is this nonalcoholic wassail. My kids have loved it since they were little.


1-1/2 quarts (32 oz.) apple juice
2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
juice from 1 lemon
9 allspice berries
9 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 small orange (optional)


Place spices in a spice infuser, tea ball, or cloth bag. The wassail can be made with ground spices instead: use about 1/4 tsp. each.

Combine juices in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add the spices and boil for 1 minute. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or more.

Turn off heat and serve with a ladle, or turn down to a very low simmer to keep warm. This can also be transferred to a crock pot for serving and keeping warm. If desired, you can add a clove-studded orange or orange slices to the punch bowl.

Serves 8 - 10

Note: It comes out sweeter if you use apple juice without vitamin C added. You can also use apple cider, but there will be a bit of alcohol, which is mostly cooked out by the time the wassail is served.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Onion Pie!

The main dish for our Yule dinner is always onion pie. It's a warm, yummy vegetarian comfort food--perfect for the Winter Solstice. The picture here was made the day after, with leftovers. When chilled, it slices into wedges very well, but when it comes out of the oven, the only way to serve it is with a spoon, like a cobbler. This recipe serves about 12 people, and I make it in a huge, round terra cotta casserole dish. You can halve this recipe and bake it in a 9" deep-dish pie pan.


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 med. onions, sliced into half-rings
1 sm. cabbage, chopped in 1” pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1/2 tsp. ground)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 tsp. salt
5 med. tomatoes, cut into 1/4” slices,
          or 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and diced
1/2 lb. mild white cheese, such as Monterrey Jack, cubed (1/2”)
2 pie crusts, uncooked


Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.

In a very large pan, melt butter. Cook onion, cabbage, and garlic on medium heat until softened. Stir in thyme, pepper, and salt.

Spread the onion mixture in the bottom of a large casserole dish or two 9”deep-dish pie pans. Add the cheese, distributing evenly. Lay the tomato slices on top.

Place the pie crust(s) over the tomatoes, arranging to completely cover the pan--overlapping crust is fine. Any pie crust that extends beyond the edge of the pan should be folded inward, to lie loosely on top. Cut slits in the crust to vent.

Bake for 45 minutes (20-30 for half recipe) or until crust is browned. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a spoon, like cobbler.

Note: this pie refrigerates well, and can be cut into wedges when cold. Heat slices individually in microwave or conventional oven.

Serves 10-12.

For more of my favorite cabbage recipes, see
How to Cook Non-Yucky Cabbage
Barely Borscht
Cabbage Soup
Maple-Pecan Fried Slaw

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Elf Warmers

Short and cute, these wristwarmers make a fast crochet project... great for stash-busting too. The instructions for making them are included in the Witch Warmers in Crochet pattern. Just use the short version notes in italics. You can make short anklewarmers, too, and a matching neckwarmer to complete the look.

If you prefer, you can knit these using the original Witch Warmers pattern, designed for knitters.

The yarn for this project was I Love This Yarn Sportweight by Hobby Lobby. It's 100% acrylic, inexpensive, and it has a lovely, soft feel when working with it and wearing it. In order to make this project, I broke down and bought acrylic to save money, and I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. Since these wristwarmers were a holiday project, I don't expect to be washing and drying them a lot, so they will probably continue to look good for a long time.

You can find another variation for Witch Warmers in Crochet here:
Evening-Length Winter Warmers

Monday, December 7, 2009

Smooth-Finished Chain Circle

When crocheting in the round, like for socks, mittens, hats, or sleeves that start at the cuff, it’s nice to have a smooth circle from the joined base chain. After all, it will be a very visible end of the finished item. But what to do about the little jump in the circle that appears at the knot?

Here’s what I have come up with:

1. After finishing the piece, use a yarn needle or small crochet hook to draw the tail yarn through the chain beside the knot. That would be the next-to-last-made chain of the foundation or base chain that the knot and tail are “pointing at.”

2. Then split the tail yarn into 2 strands.

3. Draw one strand back through the first stitch in the first round, on the other side of the knot, in the inside of the work.

4. Tie the 2 strands together, and work in ends.

For more crochet tips to help with the Witch Warmers in Crochet pattern, see the following posts:
Forming a Base Chain Circle
Avoiding Stiff Crochet
Swatch Wars

Friday, December 4, 2009

Forming a Base Chain Circle

For me, this can be the hardest part of an in-the-round crochet project: getting the circle made without a twist in the base or foundation chain. In order to crochet in the round, usually a number of chain stitches are joined to form a base chain-circle. This is how the ruffle starts on the Witch Warmers in Crochet armwarmer and legwarmer.

Here’s how to do it:

1. When you have finished chaining, hold the hook with the last-made loop in your right hand and the front of the chain facing you.

2. Grasp the hook-end of the chain between the thumb and forefinger of your right hand, and then grasp the chain a few inches or centimeters out from the hook with the thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Be sure the fronts of the chain stitches between the hook and your left hand are facing you.

3. Slide the left-hand thumb and forefinger to the left along the chain stitches, straightening and smoothing for a few inches or centimeters.

4. With the hook still in your right hand, release your right-fingers’ grip on the chain and re-grip the chain farther along, next to the left-hand fingers.

5. Repeat until you have reached the end of the chain stitches--the first-made chain.

6. Keeping the end of the straightened chain in your left hand, let go of the chain with your right fingers and bring the hook (still in your right hand) and the first-made chain end up and around so the hook and the yarn tail are pointing at each other, again making sure the fronts of the first and last chain stitches are still facing you.

7. Slip stitch into the top loop (or the front) of the first-made chain.

8. If you’re using a removable stitch marker, place it in the loop on the hook.

For more crochet tips to help with this pattern, see the following posts:
Smooth Chain Finish
Avoiding Stiff Crochet
Swatch Wars

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Witch Warmers in Crochet

Witchy-striped, ruffled armwarmers, legwarmers, and a neckwarmer are crocheted with sportweight yarn and fitted for a feminine look. This is a crochet re-design of my knit pattern, Witch Warmers. Fast and fun to make: no seaming or blocking. These warmers are great for Halloween, and they can be made in other holiday, piratey, or school colors… or to complement your everyday witch wear.

The legwarmers are kneesock-length and can be made in a short sock length. The armwarmers cover most of the forearm and can be made in a short wristwarmer length.

An innovative ruffling technique is included, which produces a uniform ruffle that keeps its shape. In addition, a smooth striping method is provided for sharp-edged, toothless stripes that are practically jogless.

U.S. crochet terms

Sizes Women’s X-Small (Small, Medium, Large)
Size X-Small is shown in photos.

Skill Level Intermediate

Yarn 600-700 yds /550-650m for complete set

Plymouth Encore DK wool blend
3 skeins #217 black: main color (MC)
3 skeins #1317 turquoise: contrast color (CC)
Photo shows discontinued Lion Brand Wool-Ease sportweight, #130 Green Heather. Pattern includes specific yarn amounts for the neckwarmer, armwarmers, and legwarmers as well as for the full set in all sizes.

Substitute Yarns: any wool, wool blend, or acrylic sportweight / DK yarn that crochets to pattern gauge

Gauge 16 sts x 14 rows = 4”/10cm x 4”/10cm flat swatch, single crochet in front loop only.

3 Schematic Diagrams: Armwarmer, Legwarmer, Neckwarmer

You can find crochet tips and variations for this pattern in the following posts:
Evening-Length Winter Warmers
Short Version: Wristwarmers
Peppermint Warmers: Uneven Stripes
Fingering Weight Vartiation: Halloween Treat-Warmers
Smooth Chain Finish
Forming a Base Chain Circle
Avoiding Stiff Crochet
Swatch Wars
Pumpkin Warmers

The Witch Warmers in Crochet pattern is available for purchase as a download here and on Ravelry. $3.00 USD

I owe a debt of gratitude to the talented Swedish crocheter, Absinthia, who figured out how to make the stripes jogless for these warmers.

Many thanks also to Erssie Major, a most-admired pattern designer and contributor to well-known knit magazines and websites, who provided a bang-up tech edit for this pattern, and made it way, way, way, way better!