Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Handmade Christmas: Part Deux

I had myself a little candle-making party today. I'm sorry, but the best thing about working in education is these long breaks. A week off for Thanksgiving? Yes, please.

So in my quest for great handmade gifts, I'd remembered seeing these on Martha's website. I had a huge (I mean silly big) candle and this cute set of teacups, and all I really needed were the wicks. These took longer to find, but I finally found them at Michael's.

I did make a huge mess at one point (melted wax all over the table) but these were totally worth it. I think they make cute gifts and when the candles are spent, the recipient can just put the teacups in the freezer and the remaining wax will just pop out. Voila! New cup. Martha's are quite cute. Directions here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin pudding

Found myself craving pumpkin pie yesterday and was feeling absolutely unwilling to wait until Thanksgiving to get some. I'd seen this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen a few days earlier and was considering making some of these when I ended up talking to my sister who told me she'd just made them.

Luckily, she told me to amp up the flavor a bit. I added additional salt, sugar and spices and followed the recipe for cooking the pumpkin on the stove top first, although I didn't put it in the food processor like the recipe suggests.

Anyway, they are crazy good. They're like pumpkin pie without the crust. I made them in a cupcake pan, with liners and just eat them from the cups. And while we didn't have any gingersnaps to eat them with (also as suggested) I found that the graham crackers we always have on hand do the job just fine.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

More handmade gifts

Embellished tote bags for my gals who like to tote things. For directions, go here

Healthy breakfast recipe

Preheat oven to 180C, 350F
Cream together 2oz butter with 4oz runny honey.  Gradually mix in a beaten egg.  Add 4oz of grated apple and 2 small mashed bananas and 3oz of self-raising flour. Finish off with 2oz of any dried fruit (or in a less healthy version chocolate chips!) and 1 tsp of grated lemon or orange zest.
If the mix is very sloppy, add more flour until a spoon will stand upright in it and bake in a shallow, lined tin until browned (approx 40 mins).
Cool and cut into fingers to serve, it will last 4 days in an airtight tin if it isn't eaten in one sitting!

Homemade Christmas gifts

This year, I and (some of) my family have decided to go all handmade on the gift-giving. I'm excited because it's always something I've wanted to do. And with the Occupy protests going on around here, it's a natural choice to forgo the frenzied dash to buy and rather, make.

I have so many ideas: homemade sugar scrubs, potholders, children's smocks, bags, aprons, blankets....and on. I've decided to organize my projects here on the blog, and gather cool ideas for future works.

For Jack, I'm making a boy version of this smock:


And I was thinking a pillowcase:

Source: Mousy Brown

And that's all I've got so far. In other news, Jack and I made an autumn mobile from things we gathered at the park.

And I made another one of my grandma's recipes, these Cranberry Almond cookies

The cookies were delicious when they first came out of the oven, but they softened up quite a bit over the last day; maybe it's the fresh cranberries. I've been storing them in plastic, perhaps waxed paper would keep them more crisp. Very balanced flavor though and the almonds and cranberries are great together. 

I'm cooking my way through my grandmother's recipes, I inherited them when she died a few months ago. It's such a personal experience, holding these cards that she wrote in my hands.

Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful fall...

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The first time I ever had a macaroon was in Beauvais airport outside Paris as I was about to leave France for what I thought would be quite a long time. On my way out of Paris, I stopped by this little patisserie on the corner close to my hostel to pick up some treats for the plane ride back to Ireland. I think I'd stopped at the same patisserie at least every day of my short visit, probably to pick up an almond croissant or a baguette or something I couldn't pronounce (example: mille fuille). 

Anyway, back at the airport I hastily pulled out the chocolate macaroons. As I bit into one, I fell head over heels. The chewy, fudgy texture was somehow delicate, the chocolate was sophisticated and cocoa-y. I somehow managed to save the other macaroon (yes, I knew to buy two!) for my sister who was back in our apartment in Dublin. A fellow pastry and chocolate enthusiast, she too swooned over the petite delicacy.

Fast forward five years. My sister and I are back in the states, living an hour apart. I just happen to buy some almond meal at the store one day, my subconscious sweet tooth hinting at macaroons in my future. And lo and behold, my sister and I happen to have an afternoon together--one that would be perfect for making macaroons.

We found the recipe in Martha's Baking Handbook, my new favorite cookbook. The recipe for the cookies was spot on, but I would definitely swap out a different frosting. Her recipe calls for Swiss meringue buttercream which I found to taste almost like whipped cream. The macaroons I had in Paris were sandwiched with a dense, silky, almost chewy filling. Find the recipe here.

Oh, and the chestnuts I roasted were not good. I don't know what happened, but they tasted rancid. Gross.