December 20, 2012
by Anke
0 comments

Cinnamon Stick Santa

….and here is the last of my trio of cinnamon posts.  After Cinnamon Ornaments and making Cinnamon Candles,  it is now time to use the rest of all those cinnamon quills and pieces of cassia bark to make some Cinnamon Stick Santas.  I know, I know….not everyone goes for the Santa thing, but these guys are really cute.  You can call them St Nick, or Knecht Ruprecht, or Father Winter if you like.  Whatever their name,  they made my boys smile and were fun to make.

Equipment:
Red craft paint
White craft paint
White puffy paint or fake snow paint
Black craft paint (I used a black Sharpie instead)
ribbon
craft glue

The process is easy enough.  Paint I wide band of red for the hat, followed by a smaller band of pink for the face.  I did not run the pink right around, preferring my face to just be in the front.  Once these two are COMPLETELY dry, you can add the eyes (and mouth if you like), and a long bushy beard.

You could try running the beard all the way down the quill, or you could paint a red ‘coat’ on as well.
I gave Santa a smile on the bigger cassia bark pieces, but left it out on the smaller quills.  No coats for my guys as I wanted the natural bark look.

To finish them off, add a blob of glue on the back or inside the top and attach a ribbon for hanging.  The colours stand out beautifully on the fresh evergreens.

That’s the last exclusively cinnamon post, I promise.  Not saying that other posts won’t have cinnamon in them, just not ONLY cinnamon :)

 

 

Cinnamon candles

December 19, 2012
by Anke
0 comments

Cinnamon Candles

Since I went a bit overboard with the amount of cinnamon I bought for the last Cinnamon Ornaments post I have a couple more cinnamon related projects to show you.

This one is the absolute easiest, no craft skills required at all…..but they make great decorations or decorative gifts.

I had a bag full of large cassia bark as well as the more traditional cinnamon quills, so in the photo you can see that I covered a large candle in the cassia, a smaller one in the cinnamon, and for those who don’t have the right sized candles, a glass votive candle holder which can also be used for tea lights.

The process could not be easier.  Find a candle you like to use, put an elastic band around it (not too loose, not too tight), insert cinnamon quills all around, and finally tie with a ribbon or raffia to hide the elastic band.  Done!

The same process goes for the glass candle holder.  If you are using one of these, look for something that has pretty vertical sides.  I tried doing it with sloped sides and it doesn’t really work.

That’s it!  Easy as…

Only one more cinnamon project to come, I promise :)

 

Made from cinnamon ornaments.

December 18, 2012
by Anke
0 comments

Cinnamon Ornaments

Just in time for the silly season, lets have a look at some seasonal herbal gifts and decorating ideas.

This first one seems to make the rounds every so often, but I had not tried it before.  Who had the idea to make a dough out of cinnamon and apple sauce?  Were they cooking/baking and the cinnamon slipped?

Cinnamon Ornaments

I looked through the myriad of recipes online and grabbed the one that made the most sense to me. Then I stopped by my local Indian spice store where I bought way too much cinnamon – powdered & quilled.

The process is easy enough: Equal amounts of ground cinnamon and applesauce are mixed into a cookie like dough.  Some recipes add a couple of spoonfuls of white glue, I didn’t.  I did however play with the scent.  Crushing up a few allspice berries, cloves and a good grind of fresh nutmeg was a wonderful idea, but a complete waste of time.  The large amount of very fragrant cinnamon overpowered the smell of the other spices.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper.  Don’t make it too thin, they will be impossible to lift off and may shatter after they have dried.

From here it is just a matter of using for favourite cookie cutters.  Get the kids involved too. Do not be tempted to eat the dough. I may have been that silly to test it in case the kids wanted a nibble, and as much as I love cinnamon…..burning the flavour into my tongue was not fun *laughs*

I liked the idea of letting the ornaments air dry for a few days, but with our ridiculous humidity at the moment (heatwave didn’t you know?) it became necessary to dry them in the oven instead.  In case you think that they look a little too tanned, yes….I may have overcooked them.

 

Recipe I used:

  • 1 c. cinnamon
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. allspice
  • 1 t. ground cloves
  • 1 c. applesauce

Combine dry ingredients. Add applesauce a little at a time, mixing thoroughly. Roll out and cut shapes. Allow to dry 4-5 days. Or dry in a slow oven for 2 hours. Paint after completely dry.

Given all the cinnamon supplies I still have, I’ll have to come up with more seasonal cinnamon ideas for you.

 

December 16, 2012
by Anke
0 comments

Potted Lemon Balm Prawns

It has been a very long time since I last posted. A lot has happened, a lot of blog post potential passed through and never got recorded.

In the smallest nutshell version:  Over the past few months I have been hit by some fatigue bug, and I also rediscovered my art.  I probably don’t have to point out that it really sucks coming up with all sorts of inspired ideas and not having any energy to do anything about it.  Anyway……onwards and upwards….

My wonderful husband supports all my wild and crazy interests, so the other day when he parked in front of a second hand bookstore that was closing down he saw it as a wonderful opportunity to blow me away with a huge armload of herb books.  One of those books is Herbal Gifts by Joanna Sheen, which was published 21 years ago, and it is in this book I found this really lovely recipe for potted prawns. Well, to be honest she called them shrimp, but even though we can get those here they are really mostly found in Chinese fried rice.  We like our shrimp a lot meatier, in the form of prawns.

Easy to make, which you all know I like, includes one of my favourite herbs (always a bonus), and it’s wonderfully delicious as well.

If any of you have had potted prawns/shrimp before, can you tell me how to eat it neatly?  It was a messy affair piling it onto the bread and trying to keep it there. So if you have any tips on how it is meant to be done, please feel free to share.

Lemon Balm Potted Prawns

This is what I did:

I took 220g of cooked prawns, chopped them into chunks.  Then I melted 50g of unsalted butter, skimmed off any foamy bits, added 1 tablespoon of lemon balm (chopped), 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, and some salt & pepper to taste. I popped the prawns into the flavoured butter, mixed it all together well, then spooned it all into a ramekin.  To finish it off I melted another 20g of butter (don’t forget to skim) and poured it over the top.  Off into the fridge over night…..and ready to munch on with crusty bread ,and a fabulous chilled bottle of white.

That’s it! Told you it was easy.  You could substitute fresh crab meat, which would make the spreading a bit easier, or if seafood is not your thing, how about chicken?

I’ll definitely be making this one again.  …..and again.

Note:
I’ve listed this as gluten free as the recipe itself does not contain any gluten as long as you leave out the suggested crusty bread.

popthumb

March 7, 2012
by Anke
2 Comments

Cakepops – Bite sized works of art

It used to be cakes you took to school for your child to share with his classmates on his birthday.  Then cupcakes ruled the birthday scene for a few years.  Now, cakepops are the latest trend in cakey-ness, so that is what I made for my son to take to school with him.   I love how small they are.  Enough to be special, and way not enough to spoil an appetite.

Spent some time behind the moon recently and don’t know what cakepops are?  Cakepops are cake popsicles, bite size morsels of cake, on a lollipop stick and beautifully decorated of course.

If you have a look around the web, which by now you should know I always do, you’ll find that almost all the instructions for cakepops tell you to bake a packet cake, mush it up and  mix that with some packet frosting/icing.  What you’ll end up with is a REALLY sweet mix.  I guess that’s fine since they are so little, but……come on….

Since you are baking anyway, why not throw a couple more things together and NOT bake a packet cake?
And while you are in the swing of things, why not mix icing sugar with cream cheese instead of the packet frosting?
Anyway, that is what I did.  I found a lovely how-to here  (used the white cake recipe I used for the Lego cake) which also had a much more appealing icing that the others I saw.

Once I had baked the white cake, cooled it completely, I crumbled it into a bowl, mixed it with enough cream cheese icing until it held its shape when squeezed.  (I seems silly to write out the exact same recipes that are at the above links, so I won’t.)

Roll the mix into walnut sized balls, insert your sticks and pop into the fridge for awhile.  As you can see I used wooden popsicle sticks, I figured they would be easier to hold for little hands, and I had no idea where to get the other kind ;P

Now comes the fun stuff of decorating.  There are plenty of examples to be found of really intricate sugar work, some really beautiful pieces of art that are a shame to eat.  Me being me, that wasn’t going to happen.

I chose to dip 1/2 the batch into white chocolate, put on sprinkles, then when set dip bottom half into milk chocolate.  The other 1/2 of the batch went into the milk chcocolate and once set I squiggled some white chocolate over them and again threw on some sprinkles.

The result was really surprisingly lovely, dont you think?

What a great way to use up left over cake too.

 

cakethumb

March 5, 2012
by Anke
2 Comments

Making a Lego birthday cake

A Lego party requires a Lego cake.  Who’s idea was this Lego theme, anyway? Oh yeah…mine.

For inspiration I looked around the net, but the amazing examples I found did little but deflate my enthusiasm given my cake making skills.

Betty Crocker to the rescue!!! A page with step by step  Lego cake instructions was the answer to my dilemma. All was well again.
And as much as I am grateful to Mrs Crocker coming to my aid, I did not use her cake mix and packs of frosting as the “recipe” states.

Instead I found this fabulous all purpose white cake recipe here.  I can see this becoming my go-to cake for many occasions.  It’s really yummy, nothing  ‘basic’ about it.

For the icing I used a recipe which I was also using for the cakepops that Harry was to take to school the day after the party.

So this is it, MY version of a Lego cake:


It won’t win cake show awards but it received many beaming smiles and compliments from our Lego loving guests and the birthday boy.

Next up: Cakepops….

LegoCakethumb

March 2, 2012
by Anke
3 Comments

Lego themed Birthday Party

A few days ago our darling Little Professor turned 6.  This year was a first in that the party took place at home & indoors.  Usually we do things outside in the garden or at some other venue, but this year I wanted to cut back on the expense that birthday parties bring with them, and the rain took care of the rest.

Since Master6 is Lego obsessed at the moment it seemed logical to make it a Lego themed party. Luckily there are loads of resources online, thanks to all the other mums out there who record what they did for their younglings’ parties…..and more importantly, HOW they did it.

For our party I scoured the net to pick and choose which bits would suit our party, my crafting abilities and my schedule.

Sorry this post is fairly photo heavy, but there is no other way to show you what we did.

For the decorations I made several meters of bunting alternating 3 Lego blocks with 1 Lego man.  All just printed out onto A4 coloured paper – two blocks/men per page.  The strawheads came from another party post here.
The kids really liked those and compared their cool faces. Of course I had to have a birthday boy banner, so I used the Lego font from here to print onto white paper, cut it out and glued it onto red A4 paper. Easy!

As the kids came in they got to guess how many Lego blocks were in the jar.  There was a prize for the closest number. With a range between 11 and 900, the closest turned out to be 90 as there were 78 blocks in the jar. Instead of the usual “stick the tail on the donkey” we played “stick the smile on the Lego head” .  This was so popular the kids asked for an encore turn.  Then the “pick up Lego blocks with a straw” caused much hilarity but everyone was really focused which was great to see.   We had one other Lego game up our sleeve but being inside the kids had plenty of pent up energy to expend so we chose to play “musical statues” instead.  This let them go a bit crazy and use up some of that energy before parents came for pick up.  I know that my two were certainly worn out by the end of it.

 What would a birthday party be without cake?  Hmm, I would say a birthday party where I hadn’t agonised for days on end how to create such a beast.  I always have these great pictures in my head, but I am really not a baker and certainly not a cake decorator, which means that the end result is far from the initial mental picture.

This time around, may I say that the cake TASTED great.  The icing was nice too, even if technicolour.  The execution  of the icing itself was a bit squiffy though. It could have been a lot smoother.  But guess what???  The exclamations of amazement and wonder by our Lego loving guests and my now 6 year old who said it was the bestest birthday/party/cake EVER! ……. is all I need.


Since I was not about to make this cake twice, nor was I inclined to make Lego cupcakes, I decided to go with this new fad of cakepops for Harry to take to school the next day.  Cakepopsicles turned out to be the perfect sizing for a school birthday treat to share with his classmates and teachers.  Cute huh?

I’ll write up the cake and cakepops recipe over the next couple of days and post them here too.
Some of the amazing Lego party posts I used as resources:

http://crunchycatholicmomma.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/lego-party.html

http://deliacreates.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/lego-birthday-party.html

http://powellfamtx.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/lego-party.html

http://meandmyinsanity.com/2011/02/party-party-trend-legos.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FwzNou+%28My+insanity%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

http://winksanddaisies.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/lego-party-fit-for-six-year-old.html

Homemade Hanuta

February 28, 2012
by Anke
5 Comments

Nutella-phile: Hanuta – Recreating a childhood favourite

I was at high school when Nutella finally arrived in Australia.  The tuckshop stocked these little portion packs which they served with a spoon.  A spoon?  For Nutella?  What was the world coming to?

You see I was raised with Nutella as a breakfast or snack food to be spread on gorgeously fresh bread – white, sourdough, rye, crisp, any type of bread.  Oh and it still had unsalted butter underneath, because it was obviously not fatty enough.  So you can imagine my surprise that there was an entire population that had never heard of this gift from the Gods.  I tried my best to educate my poor, ignorant peers but they thought that putting Nutella on bread was just weird.  *sigh* Philistines!

Moving on……

A little while ago I came across an entire blog dedicated to Nutella – BELLA nutella.  YAY!  Reading all the wonderful recipes, I was inspired to recreate a childhood favourite (which is also not available in Australia) called Hanuta   which is a yummy chocolate, hazelnut slice.

Image thanks to Wikipeida

Ingredients

200 gr. whole hazelnuts
375 gr. Nutella jar
2/3 cup (80 gr.) unsweetened cocoa powder
wafer sheets

Method

  • Toast hazelnuts in a dry, hot pan. Keep them moving so they don’t cook.
  • Bundle up the hot nuts to rub off as much of the skins as possible.
  • Chop hazelnuts into small pieces.
  • Add most of the nuts to a bowl with the Nutella and cocoa, keeping some aside for decoration.
  •  Mix well until combined. Bear with it, it will form a smooth(ish), firm dough.
  • Spread mix evenly onto one wafer sheet. It’s really rich so don’t make it to thick.
  • Place second sheet on top and press gently.
  • Cut into serving sizes.
  • Dip cut edges into chopped nuts.

My Observations

Number 1 observation:  I ate way too much homemade Hanuta.

This is easy to make. I know I keep saying this but I happen to like recipes that are uncomplicated.  There is no cooking involved, just chuck everything together, spread, cover, cut, dip, fridge.

I cut a few into the traditional square shapes and the rest of the big wafer sheet I cut into smaller bite sized pieces which I served at Little Professor’s 6th birthday party.

Speaking of wafer sheets, you’ll probably want to know where to get those.  I googled for you and can’t find a definite search term.  People seem to call them different things, and I have no idea why I didnt take a picture of the packet before I started.  I have seen them only in delicatessens that stock Russian/Eastern European foods.  However, they also may well be available at baking supply stores.

It’s a lot of Nutella and the added unsweetened cocoa makes it even richer, so dont make the chocolate layer thick.  Even if you are a chocoholic, you will not need it thick.

I wrapped the big squares individually in aluminium foil and put them in the fridge.  The little ones didnt last long enough to worry about packaging.

A lovely ‘sometimes’ snack.

 

LemonCakeThumb

February 19, 2012
by Anke
9 Comments

Spelt Lemon Drizzle Cake

Do you like lemons? I like lemons!  Whether it’s sweet or savoury, the taste of lemon can give a dish the perfect lift that makes it go from good to woohoo.

When we were last in the UK my mother in law, B, made a cake I really liked. A Lemon Drizzle Cake, lovely and moist with just the right amount of lemoniness. It’s the type of cake that is nothing special to look at, it’s all in the texture and flavour.

The trip was in late 2010 and I’ve only now got my hand on the recipe.  This turned out to be fortuitous because last night Jamie Oliver tweeted his Nan’s Lemon Drizzle Cake and it gave me a great opportunity to compare recipes. You might think that I am somewhat biased toward family, and ordinarily you would be correct, but being a huge Jamie Oliver fan this was going to make me reasonably objective.

B’s cake is pretty straight forward: Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, lemon rind, milk. Bake. Drizzle with syrup.

Jamie’s Nan’s cake is more complex adding almond meal, poppy seeds and an icing after the drizzle.

Obviously the only way to compare the two would be to make both and taste. Right?  Well yes, in theory that would be the right thing to do but since I wanted to use spelt flour in B’s recipe and I am new to using spelt flour I had no idea how it would go with almond meal.  So I did the next best thing, I baked B’s cake and looked at the gazillion comments on Jamie’s site to see what people thought of his Nan’s version.

Ingredients

4oz (120g) butter
6 oz (180g) caster sugar
6 oz (180g) white spelt flour
2 1/2 level teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
2 1/2 fl oz (80ml) milk
3 extra tablespoons sugar

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180° C/ 350°F /gasmark 4
  • Cream butter with sugar till white, add eggs and beat till fluffy.
  • Sift flour and baking powder into the wet mix.
  • Stir until combined – don’t over work it.
  • Add zest and milk.
  • Mix until all combined.
  • Pour into greased and floured cake tin.
  • Bake for 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Cool in tin for a few minutes then turn out.
  • Mix lemon juice with 3 tablespoons of sugar, stir until dissolved.
  • Poke all over with skewer while still hot.
  • Drizzle with lemon/sugar mix and leave to cool.

My Observations

B’s recipe called for self raising flour, which I replaced with spelt flour and baking powder. If you wish to use self raising flour use the same quantity as above but reduce the baking powder by 2 teaspoons.  If you want to use plain wheat flour then just swap it, everything else stays the same.

Since I didn’t bake Jamie’s Nan’s cake I can only assure you that my version tasted terrific!  It was light and fluffy and moist and I seriously want more. For fairness sake I really should bake the other one and not just go by other people’s comments.  Many liked Jamie’s version, a lot said it was just too heavy and flat.

The boys scoffed their serving, asking for more before having finished the last bite.  I was having a hard time keeping the last one for their father out of reach of sticky, little hands.

Easy, fast, yummy.
The spelt makes it easier to digest for people with wheat intolerances (like me).