Happy New Year!

…just a week late, but nevertheless… I hope you had a lovely holiday. πŸ™‚

Mine was OK. My sisters came for a two-week visit, which was lovely – I hadn’t seen them in about a year and a half. The downside was that we were all sick. Little J had a high fever on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and he spent the days sleeping. He opened some of his presents on Christmas Eve, as is the Finnish custom, and the rest on the 27th when he finally felt better…

But we did get to do some fun stuff too. We drove up to Whistler for a day, and the best part of the trip really is the scenery…. The highway runs between the mountains and the sea, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and we stopped at few different viewing spots to take photos.

Photo credit: my sister Anna

Photo credit: my sister Anna

On New Year’s Day I remembered a package of puff pastry in the fridge. I had bought it frozen for some Christmas pastries, and hadn’t used it… We also had some apples that were getting old, so I made a quick apple pie that turned out great!

First, layer the pastry into a pie dish. Peel and slice the apples, approx. three of them, and spread the slices on the pastry. Sprinkle cardamom and cinnamon powder on the apples, and add a dash of salt. Really.

Then the secret ingredient…

secret ingredient

Take about half a dozen of these little treats, cut them up into little pieces and spread over the apples.

Fold the edges of the pastry on top of the apples if needed, and brush with egg wash. Bake in 175C / 350F for about 20 min until the edges are golden brown.

And voila!

It was really simple, and really tasty. πŸ™‚ Another good Indian custom is to start a New Year off by eating something sweet – as in, it should be the first thing in your mouth after midnight. πŸ™‚

Oh, talking about Indian customs… I sorted out the new clothing thing by buying a pair of socks and a pair of tights. I needed the socks anyway, and I’ve come to a conclusion that I’ll never manage to make a pair of decent leggings (since I can’t seem to manage a decent t-shirt, and that’s just so much easier…) so I might as well buy a pair since I really need one. I also had a skirt I had knitted last fall but hadn’t worn at all, so that rounded up my three new things to wear on Christmas, birthday and New Year. It’s a bit of a cop-out since it wasn’t three new outfits but it’ll have to do.

Orange Butterscotch Muffins

Shortly after J was born a lady from our church brought us a bag of lovely orange and date muffins. She shared the recipe with me. Couple of weeks ago I really wanted to make some muffins but I didn’t have all the ingredients at home. I played around with the recipe a little, and here is the result.

Orange Butterscotch Muffins

1/2 cup orange juice (preferably fresh)
1 orange, peeled and cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.

Puree the orange juice and pieces in a food processor or blender. Add egg and butter, and blend until smooth. Add sugar and blend to combine.

Mix flours, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl, and make a well in the middle. Pour in the orange mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in butterscotch chips.

Scoop the batter into lined or greased muffin tin. Bake for 15-20 min until golden on top, and thoroughly done (use the toothpick test). Cool on a wire rack.

This batch makes 12 muffins – unless you’re baking with a toddler, in which case it makes 11. And in that case you’ll also have to wash the kitchen floors and walls afterward.

If you’re not a fan of butterscotch chips I think chocolate chips or chopped pecans might be nice. But I haven’t actually tried the recipe with those… If you do, please let me know the results.

Orange butterscotch muffins

The Best Gingerbread Cookies

Sorry I’ve been so silent. Life has been busy, and I just haven’t had much to say.

Here’s something, though… My friend and I have spent two days this week baking cookies. This gingerbread cookie recipe is my mom’s, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s a bit of work but so worth it!

Gingies

Gingies

150 ml molasses
200 g sugar (approx. 250 ml)
250 g butter
2 tsp each, cinnamon, cloves and ginger
1 tbsp powdered orange peel (I haven’t been able to find this anywhere! The recipe works well without)
2 eggs
500 g all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking soda

Melt the butter in a kettle. Add in molasses, sugar, and spices, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool down for 10 min.

Add eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour and baking soda. Let the dough chill until the next day.

Cut the dough in four or five parts (depending on your counter space). Roll it out to approx. 2 mm for crispy, thin cookies or 5 mm for thicker, chewier cookies. Cut out shapes and bake them in 175C / 350F for 5-8 min, depending on the thickness.

Decorate the cooled down cookies with royal icing (blend of icing sugar and water, with food colouring if desired). This recipe makes about 100 thin cookies. You can also use the dough for a gingerbread house – in that case roll the dough thicker.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Apple Chips

I made some lovely spicy apple chips last week! Here’s how – try it. It’s easy and delicious!

First, take two or three apples, and core and slice them. Peeling is optional – but I’d recommend it if you’re using wax-covered apples. Firm, slightly tart apples work best for this job. I’m using Royal Gala because that’s what we had at home.

Next, lay the apple slices on a baking sheet, as tight as you can. Sprinkle the spice of your choice over the slices. Cinnamon and cardamom go well with apples but you can always experiment. I used Garam Masala, an Indian spice mix, and it was great! Don’t add sugar, the drying process will bring out the sweetness even from the most tart of apples.

Next, turn your oven on to the lowest possible setting. Put the pan in the oven and leave it overnight. Since the whole point of the process is to get rid of all the moisture, leave a spatula or something in between the over door to keep it open and let the moisture escape.

And that’s how easy it is! Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the finished apple chips… They vanished quickly. I’ll add a photo when I make them again.

If you try some unique flavouring on your apple chips, please share it on the comments below. We’d all love to hear it! πŸ™‚

Paperless kitchen

I have decided that paper towels are useless. They have to be, people survived hundreds of years without them… (For the record, I hate it when people make that argument. Life and society have changed so much in a hundred years, it’s usually not valid. But I digress.)

Where was I? Yes, paper towels. I think we can do without them. And once again, inspired by Pinterest, I took out my sewing machine and got to work.

I happened to have a stack of flat diapers that we had never used.

They are made of cheese cloth like cotton, and I figured they would be a good base for our towels. I cut them into squares and trimmed off the hemmed edges.

Next I found some cute cotton flannel from our local fabric store (very addictive place, I might add). I looked for old cotton flannel sheets from thrift stores first but didn’t have any luck – I only found cotton-polyester blends. But this one wasn’t too expensive.

I cut it into squares according to the diapers I had already cut, and a meter of flannel gave me a dozen pieces. Next I simply layered a piece of flannel with a piece of diaper fabric, and sewed a short zig zag stitch around all the edges. If you have a serger it’ll probably do a better, much neater job… But I don’t so zig zag had to do. Afterwards I trimmed the edges as close to the stitch as possible.

Next step; snaps. Just in case I haven’t mentioned before, I’m really excited to own a pair of snap pliers… I’d like to put snaps on ALL THE THINGS but that might not be convenient. (“Honey, did you really have to put snaps on my socks and ties?”)

Then, all that was needed was to snap all the towels together and wrap the whole thing around an empty paper towel roll!

O
oops, it’s not looking very tidy… 😐

The next problem – our paper towel roll holder is very, very cheap and very, very flimsy. I can barely hold up the weight of a regular paper towel roll, and this thing is way heavier…

So I used one of those over-the-door bars and a piece of ribbon, and voila!

The towels are really absorbent and are getting a lot of use. There are just two things I’d rather use the paper towels for – cleaning up cat barf, and cleaning fish for cooking. It would be more pleasant to use something disposable for those jobs…

What to do with an old t-shirt?

I’m the first to admit, I have spent way too much time on Pinterest.

However, I don’t just pin things, I actually use some of the ideas there. Like this one; dishwashing soap and vinegar in the handle of the sponge. Our shower is really clean these days! And then there are all the recipes… Like this cookie dough dip (which is cream cheese frosting with chocolate chips, really…) or the most excellent cream cheese banana bread… And I may or may not also have memorized a recipe for a brownie in a mug.

There are also myriads of ideas for crafts, and I’m a sucker for those. I’ve pinned more knitting patterns than I have time to knit until the day I die. Even if I live until I’m 104. And then there’s sewing, and scrapbooking, and and and…

There is, however, this very cute pattern for a baby romper from an old t-shirt. Hubby had a t-shirt that was very dear to him but that had holes in the hem. So I thought, why not… And turned it into a romper for J!

The original pattern has envelope neckline. The neckline turned out to be too small for J, it just wouldn’t go over his head… And the romper didn’t sit well on the shoulders either. The shoulder seams were pulling up, and it just didn’t look comfortable. Also, the crotch of the romper was confusing – I must have sewed the pieces together somehow wrong. I ended up redoing the crotch three times…

I redid the shoulders – took the seams apart and made regular shoulder seams. The shoulders are still very narrow and the sleeves pull high up but it’s better. I also cut an opening on the back (so that J’s head would actually fit through!) and made a snap closure for it. Not my tidiest work ever but it’ll do.

I’m working on making my own romper pattern with regular shoulder seams, with snaps on one shoulder. I’m not sure there’s a way to use an adult t-shirt’s neckline in a baby romper as is, I will have to see. I will also figure out a way to redo the crotch… There has to be an easier way. And next time I will use a t-shirt that hubby is not quite so fond of… (Note to self: Don’t use precious things as materials unless you know exactly what you’re doing.)

Chocolate Chip Cookies – finally!

This one is long overdue – but here it is! The recipe for my friend Alaina’s chocolate chip cookies. And yes, I do have her permission to share it with you!

She actually had the recipe printed on the thank you card she sent out when her son was born. Such a brilliant idea!

Alaina’s Chocolate Chip CookiesΒ 

225g butter
125g caster sugar
200g light brown / golden brown sugar
345g flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
350g chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 190C (375F).

Combine butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla, mix until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, mix until well combined.

Roll dough into balls. For large cookies, approx. 90g per ball – flatten the balls to about 1cm thick. For small cookies, approx. 30g per ball. Place the cookies on a lined cookie sheet, well spread out. Bake until golden brown.

Our baking day edition: We replaced some of the chocolate with toffee chips (oh yes, we use those on everything…). The cookies were almost too sweet – but oh so delicious anyway… πŸ™‚

Also, when we weighed one of our cookies it was about 60g, and it was a good size. So just make the cookies the size you like and it should be good… You don’t need a scale. πŸ™‚