Dinner the past few days…

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…. has been hard to find inspiration for. But I’ve discovered a winning combination that is so good, nice and easy, and tasty.

We’ve started receiving potatoes from our CSA, and last year they just piled up into a giant mound of potatoes. This year I’m trying to use a few each week. For dinner, I’ll chop up a few (they’re small, so usually about 4-5) into small cube-ish pieces, let those fry in a frying pan for 15-20 minutes, stirring every now and then to let the various sides get browned, then dump potatoes in a bowl. Cut up some cherry tomatoes, green onions, avocado to go on top. Plop a fried egg on top of that. Yum.

Yesterday I spiced up the hash brown part with some jerk spice I bought at work. I love the jerk spice! When we were in Costa Rica, we went to Puerto Viejo and had brunch at Bread and Chocolate. P had this AMAZING plate of hash browns in jerk sauce. If they sold the sauce I would have left clothes behind to bring back 4 bottles. So good. The dinner I made wasn’t saucy, but a little spice mix goes a long way.

Bread and Chocolate

Lemon Poppyseed Cake

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This was one of my favourite dessert treats growing up. That little bit on the top of the cake where it cracks when baking? That’s the tastiest part. I don’t make it very often now, as P doesn’t like poppyseeds. I know, I don’t understand it either. What isn’t to like? They don’t even taste like anything!

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The recipe is a clipping from an old magazine, and a few years ago when I was visiting, mum copied it for me with her colour printer. I took it home and added it to my recipe scrapbook.

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Here’s a close-up of the clipping if you’re a lemon-poppyseed lover like me. I’ve never done that last step of sprinkling with sugar before serving – the best part about this cake is that it is perfectly sweet, without going too far. I buy Starbucks’ lemon poppyseed loaf sometimes, and it is tasty, but much too sweet compared to this cake.

Cookie Dough Cupcakes – The Best of Both Worlds!

cookiedoughcupcakesfeatureI made these cookie dough cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday. I Pin/bookmark recipes and then just wait for the proper excuse to make something decadent, and it’s usually my coworkers who prosper. And me, of course, because I get to lick the spoon (and bowls, and forks…) when I’m all done baking.

Eating cookie dough is one of my favourite things about baking from scratch. I’ve always been aware that eating raw eggs is not the best thing to do, but when they’re in raw cookie dough, I don’t care. Finding this recipe with an icing and a filling that claim to taste like the real thing sounded too good to be true.

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I found this set of recipes on Pinterest via Dine & Dish. She used a vanilla cupcake recipe from Restless Chipotle, and a cookie dough icing and filling recipe from Tidy Mom. The combination sounded perfect, so I did the same thing!

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I didn’t have vanilla sugar or a vanilla bean, so I used vanilla extract and also some pure vanilla powder I have to get the double-vanilla-whammy.

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I debated about the filling because I thought it would take up too much time, but with a sharp little paring knife, you can cut cones out of the top of cupcakes quite quickly – in less than one episode of Red Dwarf!

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The recipes are for 24 cupcakes, and I needed 36, so I multiplied everything by 1.5. I had so much cookie dough filling leftover. Not that it went to waste, mind you, but we probably shouldn’t have eaten it by the spoonful. I could have just done the regular cookie dough cupcake filling recipe and been fine.

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I found the best way to fill the cupcakes was to roll a little ball of filling and then press that into the hole I had cut out of the top of the cupcake.

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I used the same big icing tip I used for my meringues last week to pipe the icing. Sidenote – this icing recipe has flour in it to get that cookie dough taste. Remember to put a sticky or a sign on the container at work, because gluten-free eaters are certain they can have the icing. A GF actor came up to me and told me they looked so good he ate the icing off of one of them…. oops.

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Safeway had the tiny chocolate chips, I was very impressed with that.

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The cupcake carrier got a good workout that week. I brought it to work full of these, another coworker brought it home when it was empty and returned it a few days later full of strawberry & cream cupcakes for yet another work birthday!

Canning Gear – Second Hand!

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If you think you want to get in to canning your own jams, jellies and salsas, or if that’s your bag already, try checking out second-hand stores! I got the entire haul above for $21. That’s 20 jars, plus a giant canning pot complete with jar lifter inside! Each jar was only $0.29 at Value Village. I’m never buying new again!

All the jars are currently running through my dishwasher, along with the ring halves of the lids.

I’ve written about canning a few times, all those posts are here.

!IMPORTANT CANNING INFO!

If you are going to buy jars second-hand, never use the flat half of the lid to can your jams. The disc part only seals once, and if you’re buying used, you don’t know what it was used for before it became yours. After it’s been opened it won’t seal properly again. If you want to keep dry goods (rice, spices, paperclips), feel free to use them, but never use them to can again. I save mine so I can store stuff in jars if I want to, but I make sure to mark all used ones with an X in Sharpie so I don’t mix them up with the fresh lids.

All I need is a pack or two of lids and I’m ready for the summer canning season! P already complains about the number of jars we have in our pantry…. he’ll thank me when they’re full of plum sauce and mango chutney though.

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There was only on of my very favourite pattern – the quilted diamonds. Any jam that goes in the few of those jars that I have stays here.

I already had a pot I use for the boiling-the-jars part of canning, but this one is huge, plus it has the lifter. My old canning pot may turn into a dye pot sometime soon, so it isn’t a waste! Not that a pot that size for $12.99 is a waste either way.

Do you can? You should!

Vanilla Pear Muffins

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Muffins are probably the thing I bake the most. They’re fast and easy, you don’t need the mixer (you really shouldn’t mix muffins in a mixer, it makes them tough), and they’re great for using up random fruits that are going soft in the fruit bowl. I always buy more fruit than we will eat when I go grocery shopping, so our fridge is full of brown, frozen bananas. And sometimes, the fruit bowl is full of soft pears. I found this recipe for Vanilla Pear Muffins at A Pastry Affair. To make them extra vanilla-y I used some powdered vanilla that I bought at a specialty grocery store in town. I’m pretty sure it is just crushed vanilla beans, but it is lovely and strong, and gives you those pretty black flecks.

Next time I make these muffins, I’ll probably cut the pears up smaller and mix them in to the batter, rather than stick them in the tops, although that is a pretty look. I just like more pear in each bite!

Meringue Swirls from Martha-mag

Martha Stewart Creamsicle MeringuesThese “cookies” (is it just me, or do these meringue swirls seem more appropriate for the word “sweets” than cookies?) were on the cover of the May Martha Stewart Living magazine. A coworker and I both have subscriptions, and we both ended up bringing them in to work to read. People reading over our shoulders were debating about how the meringues in the magazine got those perfect orange stripes. The popular theory was Sharpie drawn on after. Having read a few *cough* Marthas in my time, I was pretty sure the instructions would tell you to paint the inside of your piping bag. Yup! We all agreed that it would never work so perfectly.

Fast forward a few weeks, and a different coworker wants to do a bake sale to raise funds for a bike ride for MS that she’s doing. I volunteer, and just happen to have a freezer full of egg whites! I whipped them up, the painted my bag:

Martha Stewart Creamsicle Meringues painted icing bag

Martha recommends gel food colouring, but P is away right now with the car so I had to make do with what I had here/could get to on my bike. I had pink gel, and regular yellow, so I mixed those up to get a nice orange. I also didn’t have any paintbrushes that weren’t painty, so I used my finger to “paint” some stripes on the inside of the piping bag.

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Not bad, but the stripes got very pale quite quickly, I could’ve smeared some more on, and it might have lasted longer.

These little bites are delicious – you add orange zest and vanilla to get that creamsicle flavour.

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I used a Wilton 1M tip. It’s one of the jumbo ones that doesn’t actually fit in the regular-sized coupler. I’ve never bothered to buy a bigger coupler because the tip fits perfectly in the end of a piping bag, and is just too big to pop out when you’re working.

Healthy Lunch Pizzas

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It’s a pretty simple recipe. Basically, put anything you would put on a personal pizza on a portabello mushroom (remove the stem first). Then bake until cheese is melty!

The best part about this recipe is the website it introduced me to: Once a Month Mom. Now while I am nobody’s mum/mom, I do like to eat. I like to eat immediately once I’m home from work. That is, during the weeks that I don’t eat dinner at work. This usually means that the fridge could be stocked with all sorts of good things, but I want FOOD and I WANT it NOW so I’ll fry an egg. Or have cereal if getting the frying pan out will take too long (this is assuming P hasn’t been at home that day to cook, because when he is, he does, and I love him for it). I could see us using a lot of the OMM recipes, especially their whole food, veggie, and dairy-free menus. (I’m just not a ‘open a can of mushroom soup’ type of person).

The things that need to be thrown in the oven before eating will be great for rehearsal days, when I work 9am-6pm, and the things that just need to be put in the microwave or toaster oven will be great for tech days, when I work 12pm-12am! And, I’m always up for a great muffin recipe. :)

I love having a stocked freezer – stocked with meals, not just frozen meat and ice cubes! It’s great to help tighten your literal and financial belts too. We aren’t running to pay $$ for greasy things that we probably shouldn’t eat. Just grab something from the freezer! We do need to invest in some more food containers though, they’re all ending up in the freezer now.

That’s the way the crumble crumbles

I love me a crumble. I love fruity desserts, but I also love butter and flour in any combination on top of my fruit. Crumble is almost instantly prepared, and reminds me so much of my childhood, where dessert was whatever fruit we’d picked that day, with oats, flour, and butter on top.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

My mum flew out to visit last weekend, and brought me some of the first flush of rhubarb from her garden. I chopped up some of that, along with some strawberries from our fridge, and filled this casserole dish about 3/4 full. I sprinkled 1/4 cup of sugar over it all (because rhubarb is tart!) and gave it a quick mix.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Then I mixed a cup of whole wheat flour with a cup of oats and a cup of sugar in another bowl. I normally use brown sugar, but we were out for once! Then I pulled 1/2 a cup of butter out of the fridge and mixed it into the flour mixture with my hands.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Pat that mixture on top of the fruit, then bake it somewhere around 400 until the juices bubble up around the edges (almost an hour this time).

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Try to let it cool (my tongue still feels burnt 4 days later), then dig in!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Blood Orange Marmalade

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I made marmalade the other week using one of my favourite new canning books, Canning for a New Generation. I used the navel orange and lemon marmalade recipe, substituting most of the regular oranges with blood oranges. You can see the difference in the colours of the flesh above.

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A sharp vegetable peeler made short work of the zest from a few of the oranges, but sectioning them and reserving the membranes in my jelly bag took a lot of time. An hour or two of cutting, I’d guess. My fingers were prune-y by the end of it!

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But, I managed to save as much juice as possible, and had a been glass full of membranes and seeds afterwards.

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And a lot of compost, if we had a compost bin. Our garbage can smelled sweetly citrus-y for a few days though!

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This is my canning set-up, and my favourite pans to use. I bought the big silver one specifically for canning, and store extra canning things in it (magnet wand, jar lifter, extra lids & rings) in it to save room in our storage room. I also use a layer of spare rings at the bottom of that pot so the jars don’t touch the metal bottom.

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Our kitchen has a few of these moustachey sun-face dudes scattered throughout the terracotta tile. They amuse me.

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And the terracotta colour is pretty close to the colour of (mainly) blood orange marmalade!

Roasted Blood Orange Chocolate Tart

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I made this tart for a work potluck, and it was a huge hit. The oranges are roasted for so long that they are most of the way to marmalade by the time you’re eating it, which makes it a hit with me. There’s something about January/February that makes me crave marmalade. Probably because my mum cans 30+ jars of Seville orange marmalade every year to keep my dad in sandwiches for another 365 days. I’ll post about making my own marmalade later, today is about the tart.

I saw a basket of blood oranges at Safeway, and had to buy some most of them. I couldn’t remember seeing them there before, so they were a novelty. Then that night, I was reading my February issue of Martha Stewart Living (on the iPad… Canada Post seems to have taken my Feb issue hostage) and found this tart recipe. I figured it was a sign, and arranged a potluck at work for the next weekend so I’d have an excuse to make it.

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Roasting the oranges was fun, and made the kitchen smell delicious. I started with those, as they roast for 2+ hours, and made the tart shell in between basting the oranges with orange juice. I feel like that shortened some of the kitchen time, as you have to be in and out of the oven every 30 minutes anyway.

Roasted Blood Orange Chocolate Tart – Adapted from (my hero) Martha Stewart’s Feb 2012 Living magazine.

I’ve laid out this recipe in the order I did things – give it a read through before starting to make sure it makes sense to you.

Makes 8 slices of tart.

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Oranges, pre- and post- roasting. Inset is a regular orange for comparison.

Ingredients – for the roasted blood oranges:

4 blood oranges

1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice (4-5 regular oranges, squeezed)

1/3 granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 325F. Leaving the peel on, cut oranges into 1/4″ rounds (I discarded the tops and bottoms that were all peel) and arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or large metal baking pan. Pour 1/4 cup of juice over the oranges. Lay a piece of parchment paper on top, then cover tightly with tinfoil. Cook until peel is tender, about 2 hours, pouring 1/4 cup of juice over them every 30 minutes.

Ingredients – for the tart shell:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg yolk

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Once the tray of oranges is in the oven, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment  until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla to combine. Reduce the speed to low, and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the cream in 2 additions (I did 2 tablespoons for the first cream installment, and 1 for the second). Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate until oranges are at 1.5 hours in the oven.

Ingredients – for the filling:

1 cup/250mL  mascarpone cheese (at room temperature or close to it, so it is easily mixable)

2 teaspoons powdered sugar

1 orange

Once the dough is in the fridge, zest the orange, then mix the zest and powdered sugar into the mascarpone. Refrigerate if you are assembling the tart on another day, leave out to stay soft if you are doing it today.

At the 1.5-hour mark for the oranges, take your tart dough out of the fridge. Roll it out to a little less than 1/4″ thickness on a lightly floured surface. Fit the dough into a 9″ fluted tart pan with removable bottom. (I found mine at Crate & Barrel) If it tears a little, just patch it with scraps, pressing and smoothing the edges down so everything is level. Trim the edge flush with the top of the pan. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

At the 2-hour mark for the oranges, increase the oven temperature to 375F. Remove and discard the tinfoil and parchment paper, then sprinkle oranges with the granulated sugar. Add the last 1/4 cup of orange juice, then return oranges to the oven for 15 minutes. Add the water and roast until slightly golden, 2 – 3 minutes more. Cool completely. I pulled my oranges out of the pan and let them cool on wax paper, because I was pretty sure that when they (and all the sugar/juice in the pan) had cooled, they’d be cemented to the cookie sheet.

Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Take tart shell out of the freezer and prick the bottom all over with a fork. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Assemble the tart by spreading the mascarpone in the shell, then layering roasted oranges on top.
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Storage:

Completed tart can be stored at room temperature for up to one day (I used a cookie tin that probably doesn’t seal completely).

Un-baked tart dough can stay in the fridge for up to 2 days.

I stored my roasted blood oranges overnight on the counter at room temperature in plastic containers with the lids not quite fully closed, so they didn’t get too soggy. The tart shell I left out, uncovered. Mascarpone should go in the fridge overnight, but remember to let it warm up before trying to spread it.

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$18 for mushrooms?

My mum sent P and I a cookbook for Christmas:

River Cottage Everyday Veg

It’s a really fun book by a UK author/TV chef, and it only has veggie recipes in it. The author is not a vegetarian, but wanted to get people excited about eating vegetables, something I can totally get behind.

Mum bought us the UK edition, so there’s a lot of converting involved in the recipes. That’s a little odd, considering that Canada and the UK are both using the metric system, but he calls for cans of kidney beans measured in grams, and all the cans I buy at Safeway are labelled in mL and oz. But it’s nothing a scale and/or the conversion app on my iPhone can’t handle.

We’ve made a few recipes from it so far, but I wanted to talk today about the Mushroom Stoup. Called ‘stoup’ because he couldn’t decide whether it was a stew or a soup, it is a super-thick, mushroom-y meal in a bowl.

I’ve never been a fan of mushroom soup, but then my mushroom soup experience so far has really only been the gloppy, gooey canned stuff, or worse: stuff cooked in the gloppy, gooey, canned stuff like it’s sauce. ew. Salt overload! The photo looked so enticing, and it used some of the veggie stock we’d made (also from the book) a double batch of and frozen, so we decided to give it a go. I also wanted to try out the optional dumplings included in the recipe – just self-raising flour, butter, and cold water rolled into balls and tucked into the stew to cook for the last 15 or so minutes of simmering.

One of the ingredients was 50-60g of dried porcini mushrooms. I got to Safeway and found that while they carried dried porcini mushrooms, they were sold in packets of 14grams each. Ok, so I’ll need 4 packets, which will cost…. $18?!

I did debate about buying them for a few minutes, and in the end decided to give it a go. It was our first time making the recipe, so I figured we should follow the directions fairly closely. You soak the mushrooms in hot water for a while, then strain and reserve the water, and put the mushrooms into the pot, along with fresh mushrooms too. As we’d splurged on the dried mushrooms, I just used button mushrooms for the fresh.

OMG this meal was so good! It was amazingly flavourful, and the dumplings were delicious. Why haven’t I been making soups and stews with dumplings before now? I ended up using dumpling directions from a Jamie Oliver book I have and love, just because of the measurement weirdness. Same basic idea though.

When I told people at work I was eating mushroom soup, someone looked in my bowl and said ‘no way is that soup, there’s no liquid. And you have a fork in your hand!’ so the ‘stoup’ label is appropriate. I think this is what mushroom soup is meant to taste like, and it is nothing like the canned stuff!

When does a soup cross the line in to stew for you? When is it not even stew, and just a pile of mushrooms?

The Sauerkraut Experiment

Way back when, in my last CSA post of the year on October 15th, I mentioned I was going to try making sauerkraut with all the cabbages I had. Today, after renewing our share in Sundance Fields, I decided I should probably post about how that went.

Sauerkraut

I chopped up a lot of cabbage. LOTS of cabbage, but the right amount by weight, according to Martha. All that cabbage filled my 3 biggest mixing bowls. Then I added a little salt and some caraway to each bowl and got squishing. I was very concerned that it wasn’t all going to fit in the 3 jars I had, but after a lot of massaging, I dumped one mixing bowl into the other. Then a bit later, all the cabbage fit in one mixing bowl. Then, it only half-filled that mixing bowl! There is so much water in cabbage! It all packed very nicely into my thrifted mushroom jars. Apparently I have a thing for mushroom kitchen accessories, my favourite vintage pyrex pattern to find is this one. You can see them in a bunch of my other food posts on the blog too.
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I followed Martha’s schedule for letting sit and opening the jars every now and then to release the gas. One jar made a satisfying ‘psssst’ sound every time I opened it, which was reassuring. Then, I kinda forgot about them. I remembered about a week or two after you were supposed to put them in the fridge, then I put off checking on them because I was scared of what I would find. When I did get around to it, one jar had gone disgustingly, stink-up-the-whole-kitchen fuzzy. The other two though, were fine! I tried a little forkful, and then spent the rest of the day saying to myself  ‘Do I feel sick? How is my belly?’ but everything was ok.

Then I realized that while I had fun making sauerkraut, I didn’t know what to eat it with. I’m not a big sandwich person, so I found a recipe for sauerkraut fritters. They weren’t bad, with some goat cheese on top, but not amazing. I think I’m just not a huge sauerkraut fan (except when friends K&E put it in their stuffing at Christmas. YUM!).

Have you ever made something more to see if you could, than because you’d eat it/wear it/use it when you’re done?

Rehearsal Snacks

I have a reoccurring problem. It happens to me every day, between 3pm and 4pm. I’ll be sitting at the table at work, trying to work, and I seem to lose control of both my neck and my eyelids. My eyelids droop, my chin heads toward my chest… it’s a terrible case of what I call ‘the 3 o’clock sleepies’. Between my love carbs at lunch, the buzz of the fluorescent lights, and the fact that we’re in a windowless room, I just can’t help myself. If I worked in an office, I could get up and go for a walk around the cubicles or something. But I’m meant to be recording the blocking the actors are doing, or reading along with what they’re saying (which really doesn’t help the sleepies) in case they need me to yell their next word. It isn’t a situation that I can just leave. What pains me is worrying that people will notice, and think I’m bored or disrespectful. Really, I just can’t control it. Eating protein helps. Endless glasses of water also help, but then I have to pee – see above re: being tied to the desk.

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest the other day, and made a batch of energy balls for rehearsals this week. I made this first batch almost exactly as the recipe says, only substituting cocoa nibs for chocolate chips. I even had the ground flaxseed! Hm, I left out the vanilla just because I forgot it, no other reason.

Here are the balls in action, sitting on my (heavily annotated) costume plot:

As soon as I feel the first drooping of the eyelid, the first little bit of dizziness that resisting that pull creates, I snack on one (or all 3 – they’re tasty as well as useful). It’s helped! I’ve staved off the sleepies for 4 days in a row so far. We’ll see if it still works on Sunday, which is usually the day of me wanting to take a nap all through work, not just at 3pm.

What I love about this recipe is that, even though it’s delicious as written, it is endlessly adaptable. I would love to try putting some cinnamon into a batch. I’d love to try some dried fruit, like cranberries, although I think the balls would hold together best if you chopped the fruit fine. Dried wild blueberries would be delicious, and small enough to begin with. Various different nut butters of course (I used natural peanut butter, but I bet it’d be delicious with hazelnut butter!), different varieties of honey…. As I said, endless. And delicious. And good for you! I think… nuts are good for you, right? Protein?

Christmas Open House

This year being the first year that I’ve had more than 3 days off for Christmas in a while, we decided to try doing an open house again. We chose an open house format for our party because many of our friends would be working no matter what date and time we chose, and this way they could stop by before or after work. I had great fun baking up a storm, and because way less people came than we expected, we’ve been having great fun eating all the leftovers and not cooking at all.

After everything was set up, I realized that my camera battery was dead, so all photos in this post were taken with Hipstamatic on my iPhone.

We bought all these tiny teal Christmas balls last Boxing day for something silly like 90% off. We were going to use them as wedding decor, but decided it was too much effort in the end. I really wanted to turn them in to some sort of chandelier-y thing, and it worked! We knotted them on to fishing line at random intervals, and knotted a blue jingle bell to the end of each string for weight. I thought it was very whimsical and festive.

I baked. A lot. We had Lime Linzer Cookies, Brown Butter Shortbread, Lemony Slice & Bakes, Peppermint Meringues, Chocolate Spice Drops, Eggnog Coffee Cake, mince pies made with mum’s homemade mincemeat…

And that was just the baking! For savoury, we did our favourite caramelized onion dip, spinach-avocado dip, pizza monkey bread (with chicken chorizo and goat cheese), Caesar salad devilled eggs, and curry chicken wonton cups. Plus veggies, naan, and chips for dipping.

I used these printables from Hostess With the Mostess for the food labels.

It was great to see the people that did come, and I know those that didn’t are probably having a busy holiday time. Hey, it meant we didn’t have to cook for a few days afterwards!

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