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Sunday, 28 October 2012

DAY OF THE DEAD COOKIES



It didn't even occur to us to have a Halloween party this year. I mean, we had one last year and it was great, but seeing as we have a few other things going on right now, it wasn't the first thing on our minds. Then a friend asked if we were planning on having one again this year. Not really sure what are plans are for Halloween, we answered, but a seed was sown. Then a second friend asked. But what finally converted us was when we saw the Halloween aisle in the supermarket and our heads started buzzing with ideas, we got all excited and remembered how much fun it is to throw a party, and a decision was made.


Of course, I pretty much started with my decorations straight away. Hello cobwebs, cut-out bats and creepy pickled faces! Of course I needed to make some Halloween themed edibles as well, and after perusing the internet I came across a recipe for little skull day of the dead cookies on 101cookbooks.com. They looked pretty fun and relatively straight forward to make, so I decided to give them a bash.

I was pretty happy with the results and the taste of the cookies exceeded my expectations. I mean, I picked the recipe mainly because the cookies looked cool, but it's always a bit of a downer when the taste doesn't quite hold up and you're left with a visually pleasing but meh-tasting cookie. These went down a treat with the party guests though, and I'll definitely be making these again. I didn't end up changing anything with the recipe, so the recipe below is the same only in metric measurements.

 Day of the dead cookies (recipe from 101 cookbooks):

Vanilla dough:
250 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
115 g butter
200 g sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate dough:
125 g flour
60 g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
115 g butter
90 g brown sugar
100 g sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Start with making the vanilla dough. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy in another bowl, and then add the egg and vanilla extract. Once it's all combined, add in the flour. Roll the dough into a sausage, cover in cling film and leave in the fridge. In a new bowl, start the chocolate dough in the same way. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy, and add egg and vanilla. Once that's mixed in, combine the flour mix into the dough. Roll it into a sausage, cover in cling film and put in the fridge. This dough is a million times easier to work with when it's chilled (or even frozen), so leave it in the fridge for about two hours, or even over night if you have time.

The original recipe recommended shaping the dough and poking eye and mouth holes in the dough sausage before cutting, and then slicing using some floss or thread to prevent the cookies from losing their shape. However, I found that no matter how hard I tried, I ended up having to reshape the cookies post cutting, and I'd thus recommend just cutting normal cookie shapes, and then shaping them once assembled. That way you'd also avoid the issue of having a funny shaped vanilla cookie on top of a different funny shaped chocolate cookie. Don't try for perfection though, as the oddly shaped ones often turn out the creepiest! Bake for about 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 175 degrees Celsius. Makes about 36 cookies.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

BOWS, BOWS, BOWS



On Tuesdays, if I can, I head over to Say it Ain't Sew at Hillhead Bookclub. It's a wonderful little sewing group lead by the lovely and talented Miss Iona Barker. It's completely free and all materials are provided and if you're nearby and enjoy sewing, I definitely recommend you pop by. Each week we usually have a little project, and last time we made bows. They're easy to do and super cute, so I figured I'd make some more of them.



All you need for this project is scissors, needle and thread, and of course fabric of your choice. Pretty much any fabric will do, and you don't need a lot of it so this is great for using scrap bits of fabric you have leftover from a previous project.





Step 1: Cut a rectangle from your fabric. Since you're folding the fabric, your bow will roughly end up being half the size of the size of the fabric you cut. I made mine roughly 14.5 cm by 11.5 cm and ended up with a bow that measures roughly 7 cm across. Step 2: Fold the two longer edges in towards the middle. Step 3: Fold the shorter edges in towards the middle. Step 3: Stitch down the centre, connecting your two folds. You could skip this step if you want, but I find it makes the bowl a little more durable, as well as a little easier to handle for the next steps.

Step 5: Pinch together the fabric in the middle. Step 6: Make a couple stitches and wrap the thread around a couple times, and make a few more stitches to secure it. Step 7: Get a separate piece of fabric, and fold to fit. Step 8: Wrap the folded piece of fabric around the centre of the bow, and stitch to secure. Loop off to finish.


You can attach a bobby pin to the back and use for your hair, or you can sew a strap or an elastic to the back and wear as a bow tie. Christmas present for your dad, perhaps?


Monday, 22 October 2012

CHILLI LIME KALE CRISPS



Lo and behold—kale! A vegetable of near mystical powers, crammed full of calcium and vitamin K and C and a bunch of other stuff that I have no idea what actually is but that I’ve been lead to believe is really good for you. It's a few months since I was in Dublin and came across a bag of vegan spicy kale crisps in a local shop. At first I found the taste a bit unusual, but then I realised I wanted more of the flavour. You know, when you've finished chewing and swallowed and the taste starts to fade, it’s like your mouth starts missing it and you have to have another bite? Anyway, before I knew it the whole bag was gone and I had to go get more. 

These crisps aren't exactly like the ones I had in Dublin, but my batch disappeared just as quickly. These are tossed with olive oil and seasoning and then baked in the oven until crisp. The seasoning is a salt mix I'm also somewhat obsessed with these days. The below measurements will give you far too much for your kale, but don't worry, it pretty much goes on everything. I've been putting it on boiled eggs, baked potatoes, roast vegetables, popcorn--it adds a lovely bit of tang to just about everything.


Chili and lime kale crisps recipe (method adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

200 g kale (I used curly kale, but I’m sure any kale would do)
olive oil
4 tbsp flaky sea salt
zest from 1 lime
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp hot chilli powder (more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)
sunflower seeds (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 150⁰ celcius. Zest your lime into a bowl. Add salt and stir until evenly distributed.  Add coriander and chillipowder and mix. Rinse kale and remove the stems. My kale was already chopped but if yours is in larger pieces, you might want to chop or tear these to a more bite friendly size. Put kale in a bowl and toss with a splash of olive oil and the salt mix. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up, and spread out a layer of kale. Leave in the oven for about 20 minutes. Take it out halfway through baking, stir and turn the tray around so the heat gets evenly distributed. Once baked, empty in a bowl and sprinkle on some sunflower seeds for extra crunch. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

CHOCOLATE COFFEE CAKE

Today is Graeme's birthday. For a very long time, he was very against having any sort of celebrations. I wasn't even allowed to bake him a cake. Of course, I did not agree with this anti-birthday rebellion. And seeing as I've been watching a lot of shows on the food network recently, I really wanted an excuse to bake a cake. So eventually, last night, he agreed to letting me bake him a chocolate coffee cake with a dark chocolate ganache, as he saw a recipe for it in my copy of Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. A last minute emergency trip to the supermarket to buy the needed ingredients followed.

I ended up changing a couple things in the recipe though. For example, the recipe calls for shortening and corn syrup, two ingredients I'm not a massive fan of cooking with. Not that I even think I can get them here--do they sell this in the UK? I also struggled to find the ingredients needed for the coffee buttercream, and thus abandoned their recipe all together and used my usual and much simpler buttercream recipe. It's also supposed to be a three layer cake using 8 inch cake tins. The recipe tells you to get out your three 8 inch cake tins and bake all the cakes at once. I only have a 9 inch cake tin, and I only have one, so I decided to make it a two layered cake.

So after some present unwrapping, a birthday breakfast trip to Tribeca and a bit of thrift shopping, my cake baking commenced. The process pretty much took me all day and when I was done the sun had set hours ago, hence why the photo of the final product isn't the greatest.


Monday, 15 October 2012

HILDE AND THE BIRD PARADE

I love surprises. What I love even more, is when Past Hilde surprises Future Hilde. Past Hilde knows Future Hilde so well. And today, Past Hilde had arranged a very exciting surprise for Future Hilde, and pre-ordered Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson. Don't you love it when you pre-order something, forget all about it and then the postman delivers it and you get all excited again?

I'm a huge fan of Luke Pearsson's graphic novels. He's done quite a few different ones, but my favorites are the Hilda-series and I have them all, Hildafolk, Hilda and the Midnight Giant and now Hilda and the Bird Parade. I'll admit--when I first bought Hildafolk, I bought it mainly because of the name of the character, and the fact that it was about a girl who ran around in the mountains and drew rocks and hung out with trolls and stuff. I mean, that's basically what I spent my childhood doing in Norway. More or less, anyway. Not to mention how Hilda has a little friend called Twig--it's Bo, hello! But I absolutely love the style of the drawings too. The style and charactures reminds me a lot of Moomin by Tove Jansson, which was a favorite of mine as a child. And I love how Luke Pearson uses colour too, keeping to a palette and using different shades within it.



I can't wait to enjoy this on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket with a hot cup of tea! And I really hope Luke Pearson keeps making these, so Past Hilde can surprise Future Hilde again!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

MOVEMBER

So if you haven't already heard of Movember, you should probably read up on that right now. It's an absolutely brilliant movement where moustaches are grown in order to raise awareness and funds for means health and in particular prostate and testicular cancer. Facial hair and charity, what's not to love?

This year Graeme's been involved and designed the Good Ship Mo, a limited edition t-shirt for Movember. It's printed on organic white cotton, each t-shirt sold raises 5 pounds for the cause. Make sure you get yours in time before they run out!


Monday, 8 October 2012

HUEVOS RANCHEROS WITH TEQUILA SALSA


For the past couple of days, I've had my nose buried in a book. First, I finally finished off Life of Pi. It was one of those books I'd been meaning to read for ages, and I'm so glad I finally did. This sparked an urge to just sit and read for hours and hours, which is exactly what happened when I picked up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I've been quite into my crime novels recently, after my mom bought me a Jo Nesbø book and I ended up reading a couple of them. She's always eager to remind me of my roots and pretty enthusiastic when it comes to just about anything Norwegian.

But as much as I've been enjoying my reading, a girl's got to eat, and this has been my lunch of choice as of late. Traditionally a breakfast, but tastes just as good any other time of the day! I've seen some pretty different ways of making huevos racheros, and I guess this is how I prefer to make them--folded over so they look a bit like a tex mex version of an omelette. I guess it pretty much is the tex mex version of an omelette. The salsa isn't a hot one, but it certainly is refreshing. Alternatively, if you want some extra heat you could always add a chopped chilli. And why shouldn't you be adding tequila to your lunch menu?


Tequila Salsa recipe:
1 beef tomato
1/2 red onion
40 g coriander
juice of 1 lemon
flaky sea salt
splash of tequila

Directions: Chop up the tomato and the red onion. Chop up the coriander and mix it all in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, season with salt and add a splash of tequila. The idea isn't to overpower the salsa with tequila, just add a bit of extra flavour.

Huevos Rancheros recipe (per person):
1 tortilla
1 egg
some grated cheddar
sweetcorn (optional)
jalapeños (optional)

Directions: In an oiled pan, heat one side of the tortilla. Once it's browned a little, flip the tortilla over. Add the cheese and crack the egg on top. If you want to add any extras, add them before the egg cooks. Since I like to fold my tortillas over like an omelette, I tend to try to keep my egg and filling to one side of the tortilla. Once the egg is near cooked, flip the whole thing over. Don't worry if everything goes all over the place, it's supposed to look messy and you can just scoop in any escaped filling at the end. The folded tortilla will hide all evidence.

Serve with the salsa, and potentially some refried beans, sour cream or guacamole. Sadly I'm allergic to avacados, so no guacamole for me!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A BIRTHDAY CARD FOR MICHAEL

I've been doodling a lot of woodland creatures recently, so I decided to make my old flatmate Michael a birthday card with some of them on it. I was planning on using Adobe Illustrator to practice a little, but eventually I decided I was too comfortable where I was sitting, and ended up just free-handing it straight on the card in stead, while Bo and Graeme had a wrestle.


It was actually Michael's birthday about two weeks ago. But as his celebrations were postponed until today, it only gave me extra time to actually buy him a present and make him a card. I think if more people gave me a two week warning I'd probably be a lot better at actually organizing a card and present for them. Just saying!




Wednesday, 3 October 2012

DIY RAG RUG



Flat 3/6 is a pretty small flat. There's not a lot of storage space, so in order to keep a pretty basic level of order in the flat I do genuinely try to limit my hoarding, difficult as it may be. For example, we have far too many bedsheets. Even after haven given a couple to charity, we still have about six or seven left, which is way too many when we only have one bed. To add to it, we also recently received a king sized duvet, which means these six or seven duvet covers won't even fit our duvet. I've been looking for ways to recycle all these sheets though, as I feel it's a bit of a waste just binning them or giving them away to charity. I mean it's a lot of fabric, just aching to be used for something.

So when I saw the idea of crocheting a rug and using old bedsheets for yarn on Meet me at Mikes's, i got pretty excited. I ran out and bought a giant crochet hook straight away (I had been waiting for an excuse to get one anyway), and went home and started ripping up one of my bedsheets.





This is an extremely simple project, so the list of supplies is pretty short. You'll need fabric. In my case, I used old bedsheets, but you could easily use any fabric, maybe a set of old curtains or a table cloth or something. Or of course just regular old fabric. Other than that, you'll probably need a pair of scissors to cut the strip, and then of course a crochet needle to crochet it all together again. I used a 9 mm crochet needle.

First you'll need to make your fabric rag yarn. There's loads of tutorials online on how to do this, but the gist of it is that you cut a ginormous continuous strip of fabric, which you then roll into a ball of fabric yarn. A lot of tutorials recommend doing all your cutting first, but I prefer cutting and rolling as I go along to limit knots and tangling. I also prefer tearing the fabric rather than cutting. A little less control, but it's a lot faster and the strips turn out pretty straight. Plus, I quite enjoyed tearing up my bedsheets. It made me feel a little bit like a the heroine of a story who's tearing up her bedsheets, tying them together and escaping through the window. Yes, I probably need to get out more.




Once you've got your ball of fabric yarn, the remaining is just crocheting. Of course, you can chose to follow a number of crochet patterns for this. I decided I wanted my rug a bit different, so instead of just doing a big circular rug, I decided to make several circles and join them all together. Each circle started out with 10 hoops, and then I just added on circles using a treble crochet stitch until the circle was as big as I wanted it. Once I had enough circles in different sizes, I joined them all together. One bedsheet resulted in four bigger circles and three smaller circles, i.e. a nice, irregularly shaped rug for the hall.



Any other suggestions of what i can use my extra bedding for?