cooking

Or is that “pain grillΓ© aux amandes”?

My latest kitchen experiment was borne out of wanting to avoid the restaurants on Mother’s Day. It’s right up there with Valentine’s Day as far as overcrowding and the antithesis of a relaxing, enjoyable meal. Luckily, I had recently borrowed The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook from my local library, and had tons of inspiration.

I opted for almond-crusted French toast, and although “crusted” isn’t a super-appetizing word (it makes me think of the top of the ketchup bottle), this was delicious! It’s not my recipe to reprint, but it’s similar to this – only vegan, so coconut milk for thickening instead of eggs – although there’s no cinnamon in the mixture. Instead, add in some orange zest: the recipe called for a teaspoon, but I chose to zest until my orange was zest-less, because a little extra flavour never hurt anybody.

Speaking of unappetizing: there was something a little off-putting about soggy bread with almond slices stuck to it. I got all of my bread dipped and almond-ed while I waited for my pan to heat up, and seriously had my doubts before the first side turned golden brown.

But before long, we were cooking (ha! In more ways than one).

In a moment of inspiration, I peeled the orange who had so bravely given its zest to the cause and served it on the side as a juicy little amuse-bouche. Who knew that citrus could be so tasty outside of the usual season?

This couldn’t have turned out better. The orange flavour really came though in the toast, and the almonds provided a wonderful crunch. The best part? It takes less than half and hour to make, so this is a lot of impressiveness for such a short amount of time. I made some for a friend for lunch the following weekend, and it tastes just as good when you’re not trying to avoid crowds.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Ich habe einen Hassen…er, ein Kreis

I can’t remember when I first encountered them, but every Easter the German bakery near me makes these…well, I’m not quite sure how to classify them. (Oh, this post is off to a great start!) They look like they could be cookies – they’re sized to be held in one’s hand and not so complicated that a fork is required – but they’re thick and puffy and in cross-section almost look like a small, not-very-moist, sturdy cake. And one of the staff members once commented on them using a yeasted dough…does that make these bread? The bakery itself coyly calls them “Bunny Faces”, and they usually get consumed so quickly that no one’s taking the time to reverse-engineer them to put a label on them.

Some careful googling took me down a rabbit hole (ha!) to this recipe. Sure, the ones in the picture had clearly used a different bunny-shaped cookie cutter, but these were them! Finally, I could make these, and…uh, what’s quark? I had never heard of it (much less seen it in a grocery store), but every person I spoke to who was of German or quasi-German descent knew immediately what I was talking about and pronounced it differently than I had been. (Because I know you’re curious: I had been saying the last part of the word like “orc”, but it’s really like “arc”, or “ark”, depending on whether you’re doing geometry or building a boat of epic proportions.)

That all changed this year, when a chance detour down the dairy aisle yielded this:

“Quark makes you strong!”

I twisted my Baking Buddy’s rubber arm to help me with these. We took our task very seriously and even broke out his kitchen scale to follow the recipe as accurately as possible. Yes, you can search online to discover that 150 g of sugar is approximately 3/4 of a cup, but that’s not a very precise approach.

Even after mixing the wet ingredients together, the batter looked like no other cookie dough I’ve seen.

Once the flour and baking powder have been added, it needs to rest for half an hour or so before kneading it briefly and rolling it out. It might not be a yeasted dough, but it sure behaves like one.

It’s already puffy before being baked! I didn’t have a bunny cutter, so we started out making little cats before deciding circles were easier.

I was a little skeptical about brushing them with melted butter before baking, but they didn’t appear greasy in the slightest after coming out of the oven.

The bottoms got a beautiful golden colour, though!

We opted to skip the step of brushing them with more melted butter before turning them into the sugar, but still got plenty to stick because they were still hot when we did this.

Look at that inside! Is it a cake? Is it a cookie? Who cares – it’s tasty as all get-out!

They don’t have as much colour on the tops as the bakery version does, and we think if we make them again we might try an egg wash to combat that. The prepackaged vanilla sugar we used didn’t seem to have a lot of kick, either, so this may require homemade vanilla sugar.

All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with how they came out for a first attempt. It’s nice to have an at-home version for when they’re out of season at the bakery.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

Other Crafts

We invited the dancers, JFK and Stalin

Oh, no! Using humour to drive home the importance of using the Oxford comma? That can only mean one thing…it’s National Grammar Day!

I’m not only a witty child, I’m also an incurable dork. For the ongoing happy mail swap I take part in, I decided to turn last year’s Punctuation Saves Lives calendar into notecards to send out.

Start with one calendar:

Cut a few 8.5″ x 11″ pieces of cardstock in half, then score and fold each half to create a 4.25″ x 5.5″ card (A2 sized):

Affix the thumbnail images from the calendar onto the cards. When I first did this, they looked really stark, so I gussied them up a bit with co-ordinating washi tape.

To be extra-resourceful, I then trimmed each full page from the inside and then scored them to make co-ordinating envelopes.

They’re just waiting to be signed and addressed before they can start winging cheerful geekiness all over the place.

Thanks for looking…and remember, always check your punctuation! πŸ™‚

Other Crafts

Where are you now, my fingerprints?…er, fingertips?

(post title inspiration can be found here)

For my mom’s birthday, I wanted to have at least one homemade component. I wound up with several: a card, a nifty poochie-style bag to hold her swag, an altered Altoids tin meant to hold a gift card, and these fingerless gloves.

Or is that fingerless mittens? Generally the defining characteristic of gloves is that they have, well, fingers. In any case: something meant to help keep her hands warm while affording her dexterity.

I found the pattern in some sort of “Autumn Crochet” magazine I had picked up for myself, and luckily had one of her favourite colours in my stash, so it was meant to be.

(Please excuse the Enid Sinclair-inspired nails.)

Isn’t that purple something? It’s called “Amethyst”, and I think it pops even more in real life.

What was really cool was how the gloves were constructed. The ribbing comes first, created by rows of back-loop-only stitches, then you stitch the ends together to create a tube, give the works a 90-degree turn right here:

…and start your rounds to form the upper part. It’s all done as one piece and doesn’t come off your hook until you have a fully-formed glove. Pretty neat, eh? I’m especially proud of the fact that I kept my tension even enough to produce two the same size. πŸ˜‰

It’s still a little bit cold out for her to wear them, but these will be just the thing once spring starts springing and she needs just a little coverage.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

cooking

No enchiladas in the icebox, and the television’s broke

(Bonus points if you recognize the title of this post as being from Pat Boone’s 1962 single “Speedy Gonzales”.)

Today, I come to you not with a decadent dessert, but with a quick and easy entrΓ©e. I’m pretty sure my junior-high Home Ec. teacher wouldn’t classify this as food, and I secretly kind of agree with her (purely hypothetical) assessment, but when you’re hungry but also unmotivated, this does the trick.

I first spotted this “recipe” on Buzzfeed, which of course sources its content from Reddit, whose original poster saw a video for this on TikTok. This feels a bit like the 21st century version of passing a recipe down through the generations, albeit at warp speed.

Preheat your oven to 400Β°F, grease a baking dish, and let’s get started.

Start with some frozen Taquitos. I used plant-based ones from my favourite independent grocery store, but any kind will work. Once your oven is up to temperature, pop them in there for 10 minutes.

Once your 10 minutes are up, turn them over and pour a can of enchilada sauce over the works. I used verde sauce which admittedly looks a bit nasty in photographs but smells and tastes heavenly. Sprinkle some shredded cheese over the top (my designated shopper brought me old Cheddar), and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Crispy shells and melted cheese? Check and check.

Et voilΓ , lazy enchiladas in 20 minutes. Like I said, maybe it’s not food-food, but it’s quicker and cheaper than hitting up the local drive-through. It’s also no slower than making Taquitos the usual way, so for 20 minutes the choice is yours. I made these a couple of times over the holidays, and they hit the spot.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the third day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: a night known for being starry!

Earlier this year (or maybe late last year?), I read about a shop called CrossStitchObsession that produces charts of miniaturized works of art in cross-stitch form. The picture the article featured included a tiny version of van Gogh’s The Starry Night, and one of my nearest and dearest particularly admires that painting. This was a stocking stuffer just waiting to stuff!

I had my doubts when I first started – it really didn’t look like too much.

Gradually, though, a picture began to emerge.

Before long, anyone would have been able to recognize it!

It actually got harder to do the further I got! I’m not one for marking up charts to cross out what I’ve already stitched, and without that, trying to match up the blank spots on the perforated paper to the chart became quite the trick. There are so many shades of blue in this, and they all started to look alike after a while.

I backed it with some navy blue cardstock to give it a little sturdiness. The mini easel was one of those miraculous Michaels finds. They came in a pack of four, so I might have to stitch a few more mini masterpieces.

For comparison, here’s the original painting (image courtesy of the MoMA website):

That the designer(s) got that much detail into a 2″ x 3″ pattern is simply astounding. I’m so excited for him to unwrap it on Christmas!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, Cross-stitch and Embroidery

On the second day of Craftmas…

…my true love gave to me: two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree!

“Wait, wait, that’s not how this works! You’re just supposed to use the format of the song to talk about what you’ve made, not rip it off word-for-word. You know better than that! Now, what did you actually make? OK…two…turtledoves and…a partridge in a pear tree? Really? Uh, carry on, then, I guess.”

I don’t collect much anymore. Sure, my tsundoku spiralled out of control during the pandemic, but books don’t count, right? One soft spot I have, though, is cross-stitched interpretations of “The 12 Days of Christmas”. I’ve probably got no fewer than six or eight different patterns, not to be stitched (yet!), but to be admired and the possibilities dreamt of.

Late last year, I was delighted to see that Satsuma Street had been offering, for the last two years, an ornament pattern for the first two days. Not only do I *heart* Satsuma Street, but stitching a single 3″x4″-ish ornament felt much more achievable than the entire 12 days at once – although I also own that pattern of theirs.

Anything that starts with colours like this has to be good right?

I worked on these at a nice, leisurely pace, occasionally setting them aside if something more pressing came along, but got the beads and sequins added in time for them to go on the tree this year.

I backed them with white felt for a little extra stability, and used an iridescent white metallic thread for the hanging loops.

She already has a French hen in this year’s ornament collection, so I’m sure you can guess what’s going in my virtual cart. I’m hoping she continues with this series, because I’d love to be able to display all twelve days, eventually…just nine more years to go, at the current rate!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

craftmas, General Sewing, Other Crafts

On the first day of Craftmas…

My true love gave to me: a calendar to count down daily!

Back in the summer sometime, in the course of scrolling through Etsy, I came across a panel of 24 mini-stockings meant to be made into an advent calendar. Did I need it? No. But also maybe yes. In either case, it was delivered to me in short order. If you’re curious and/or want to try this at home, kids, it’s the “Merry Christmas Mini Stocking Advent” by Makower.

The instructions included were pretty straightforward: lay your stocking panel wrong-sides-together on top of whatever fabric you want for your stocking backs, pin and cut.

Of course, I had help.

Once they were all cut out…

…I could pin each front-back pair and sew them together.

It’s funny how much smaller they are once they’re turned right side out! From here, the instructions cheerfully directed me to press the top edge under 1/4″ and stitch close to the edge, then cut ribbon into 6″ length and fold in half and stitch the ends to the inside edge to create hanging loops. There was no way those tiny little things were going to fit around the needle plate on my machine, and I wasn’t about to hand-sew a hem. Instead, while they were inside out, I pressed that top edge the recommended 1/4″, and then turned them right side out and pressed everything – including the top edge. It still created a neat finish, and I can always sew them later if I change my mind.

Rather than deal with making ribbon loops, I decided to attach them to their display rope (that’s a very technical term) using mini clothespins. Thankfully, both the clothespins and the Command Hooks supported the weight of the chocolates I had tucked inside.

I really like that each stocking’s design is oh-so-slightly different. Even the ones that look the same have small differences!

After the day’s chocolates have been, um, dispensed with, the stocking gets re-attached, toe-up, to keep the wall from looking empty as the 24th draws closer. I’m looking forward to turning this into a yearly tradition, where the only decision is what kind of treats to fill them with.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Just kidding, pumpkin spice…we love you!

I had to go at least a little pumpkin-y while the season still permits, didn’t I? Don’t get me wrong, the apple bread is still firmly in my repertoire, but it’s nestled in there right beside pumpkin as an autumn-y bake.

I’ll keep it short and sweet, because Christmas crafting time is ticking away, and you’ve got better things to do than listen to me wax poetic about pumpkin, don’t you? Besides, this baking adventure wasn’t born out of sentimentality, but of pragmatism: I had a container of pumpkin in the fridge as well as half a brick of cream cheese, and I wanted to use them both up.

Over the years, I’ve mish-mashed a few pumpkin cupcake recipes together and honed the finished result until it was perfect. So without further ado, I present…pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon-cream cheese frosting.

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk* (see note)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (or more, if you’re a fan – I used a heaping teaspoon)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • *NOTE: if you want these to be pumpkin spice latte cupcakes, you can dissolve 4 1/2 tsp. instant coffee in your milk. And if you want these extra-coffee flavoured, keep about 1/4 cup from your morning pot of joe set aside to brush on the tops of the cupcakes before frosting them.
  1. Preheat oven to 350Β°F, and line a 12-cavity cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium-to-large bowl, stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 20 – 24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting. If you’re going the coffee route, it’s easier to brush the tops with it while they’re still warm-ish.

For the frosting:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (attention, cinnamon lovers: my teaspoon was heaping to the point of being nearly 2 tsp.)
  • 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar, depending on desired consistency
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and cinnamon on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until combined, adding more as needed to achieve the consistency you want.
  3. Add the vanilla and beat on high speed until well combined and creamy. Frost your cupcakes, and marvel at the flavour explosion.

If cinnamon isn’t your thing, these are also great topped with a whipped cream topping like I did here.

And now, back to holiday crafting. Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Take that, pumpkin spice!

As soon as the calendar flipped over to October and I could start thinking autumn-y thoughts without feeling like a total weirdo (says the girl who had her first pumpkin spice latte of the year sometime in August), I decamped to my baking buddy’s kitchen to try out a recipe from Ree Drummond for cinnamon apple bread. It wasn’t going to take much more effort to double the recipe so we each got a loaf out of the deal.

The best part? When I first floated the idea by him, he came back with, “I’ll chop the apples!”

No way was I going to pass up that offer. While he diced, I prepared the pans and got the dry ingredients together, and we finished at almost the exact same time. Teamwork makes the dream work!

The recipe name is a little bit of a misnomer: the only cinnamon in it is used to coat the apples.

Once he finished up with his A+ dicing, we got the wet ingredients together, added them to my carefully assembled dry ingredients, and folded in the apples and pecans before divvying it up between the pans.

It’s not super inspiring-looking here, but it gets better. Promise.

Told you!

The recipe recommends baking for an hour-ish, and after half an hour the house smelled like warm apple goodness. It’s hard not to get your hopes up when something smells that good, and luckily, this didn’t disappoint.

He even had a little jar of apricot jam at the ready to be warmed up in the microwave and brushed over the tops of the loaves. I wasn’t convinced that step was necessary – I just figured it would make things sticky, and I don’t like sticky fingers (apologies to the Rolling Stones). But I’m glad he talked me into it! Look at the difference between the glazed loaf (on the right) and the to-be glazed loaf:

They came out perfectly!

This recipe is definitely going in our “make again” pile. It’s moist and flavourful, although we agreed we’d add some cinnamon to the batter the next time (or maybe nutmeg). I’m also told the leftovers make great French toast, and can’t wait to try that the next time.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚