Tag: cooking


Another entry in my “fruit cakes and breads do not suck” series – Christmas stollen. It’s coated in powdered vanilla sugar. We made a vanilla stout a few years ago — and I pulled out the vanilla husks, poured some white sugar into a container, and mixed the husks into it. Those vanilla husks are still making a vanilla flavored/scented sugar. To make castor sugar, you can just throw a cup or two of sugar into a blender (make sure it has a glass container, the sugar will scratch plastic) and blend for a minute or two. This is *not* a replacement for commercial powdered sugar – that’s a blend of corn starch and finely ground sugar.

Anya really enjoyed this bread (probably because of the sugar coating!)

Penguin Snacks

While looking for a healthy snack for Anya’s preschool Christmas party, I came across quite a few cute but not-for-bunches-of-kids snacks. One of them was penguins made of olives, cream cheese, and carrots. The not-kid-friendly part was the toothpick that holds the whole thing together. Well … turns out you can make them without toothpicks. Don’t move them afterward, walk softly … and there is a lot of intricacy that means I’m not making enough for a party tray. But Anya loved having half a dozen little penguin snacks to munch on today.

Use a small olive and a jumbo olive. Slice a section from the jumbo olive. Roll cream cheese into an oblong shape & stuff into the olive. Slice a carrot into circles, and cut a small triangle from each circle. Set the stuffed jumbo olive on the carrot circle. Put the carrot triangle into the small olive, smear a little cream cheese on the ‘neck’ part of the small olive, then stick it onto the jumbo olive. Voila, one penguin.

Fruity Cakes and Breads

It’s the time of year when Americans make fun of fruitcake … which, having seen the strange brick-shaped thing studded with something that claims to be candied fruit … yeah, that thing sucks. But real fruitcake and other breads with real candied fruit/peel are incredible. I’ve got a bunch of fruit and peel candied and have been making breads.

This panettone got scorched at the bottom – I think it was the tin on which I set the baking paper. I’ll use something else next time.

Christmas Healthy Snack For Preschool

Not sure why no one seems to sign up to provide the healthy snack for Anya’s preschool parties … I guess it’s not as much fun as providing the unhealthy snack that you know everyone is going to love. We’ve been volunteering; and it’s an opportunity to find interesting, festive, but still healthy snacks. For the Christmas party, we made pita trees. I found them on the Betty Crocker web site.


These are pitas cut in sixths (pie-shaped wedges). They are topped with a spinach hummus and finely diced red pepper (we’ve made them with multi-color peppers, tomatoes, carrot shreds … basically any colorful combination of vegetables). A thin pretzel stick is inserted into the bottom to make trunk – but leave that to the last minute, otherwise you have soggy pretzels! You cannot pick them up by the trunk, although pretty much every kid tried.

Spinach Hummus Recipe

1/4c tahini
1/4c fresh lemon juice,
About a cup of dry garbanzo beans
Package of frozen spinach (thawed)

Pressure cook the garbanzo beans for 45 minutes on the high pressure (yes, that’s massively overcooked – I get a much smoother hummus by overcooking the beans), then allow to cool. Blend the tahini and lemon juice in a food processor until it is smooth. Add the drained garbanzo beans and run the processor until smooth. Squeeze the spinach to dry it out, then slowly add to the hummus and blend to combine. I was going for color – I wanted a bright green.

Halloween Planning – Healthy Snacks

Anya’s preschool has a sign-up for Halloween party volunteers — and no one took “healthy snack”! We have a couple of lot of Halloween parties this year for which I’m coming up with non-candy but still Halloween-y treats … what’s one more?

So my current Halloween snack list is:

Friends Parties: tangerine pumpkins and witches’ broom pretzel/cheese snacks

Friends Parties: Scarecrow veggie platter


Cinnamon Raisin Bread




  • 2 cups raisins
  • 4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 8 Tbs. sugar
  • 8 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 2-1/4 tsp. yeast
  • 2 tsp.  sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 large egg
  • 9 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 3T cream


Soak raisins in warm water for 5 minutes, then drain.

Add 2T sugar to warm water and stir. Sprinkle yeast on top of water and let sit until yeast is frothy.

In a stand mixer with bread hook attachment, combine flour, 2T cinnamon, and salt. Mix to combine. Add milk, egg, 3T of butter, and water. Mix for about five minutes. Knead raisins in by hand to avoid crushing them.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the dough looks slightly puffy, about 60 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 6 Tbs. each cinnamon and sugar. Melt 4 Tbs. of the butter.

Line a baking tray with a silicone baking mat. Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece out to 1/4 inch thick. Spread the melted butter on the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over both rectangles.
Roll each rectangle into a cylinder. Place on silicone baking mat, seam side down. Brush loaves with cream. Let rest at room temperature until the dough has risen, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Heat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes – loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Place loaves on a rack to cool.

Apple Faces & Strawberry Lemonade

Today was Anya’s turn to bring a snack to preschool. She wanted to make apple faces like we made for Halloween last year, but the school has a strict no-nuts policy. Shorter ingredient list — just Fuji apples, fresh strawberries, and unsweetened carob chips. Omitting peanut butter made affixing the carob chips to the apples more challenging. I debated using tahini – apple and sesame goes well together. But that didn’t seem to mesh well with strawberries and carob … so I decided to make little holes to hold the carob chips.

To start out, you need something to prevent the apples from oxidizing after they are cut. Lots of choices – submerging them in plain water, ascorbic acid, citric acid, or honey and water. Just make sure the apples get treated after each cut.

Core each apple. I used a really sharp tournée knife and pared out little eyeball sockets. I used the same knife to pare out a mouth – cut a straight line for the top and a concave curve under the straight line. The curved point of the knife popped the slice out quite nicely.


Then drop the carob chips, points down, into the socket. Voila, a tray full of apple faces.


The “juice” I made is strawberry lemonade — almost two pints of strawberries, juice from half a dozen lemons, and eight cups of water. It is sweeter and more strawberry flavored than I usually make, but I wasn’t sure if *lemony* lemonade would be palatable to everyone. I put the strawberries, lemon juice, and two cups of water in the blender and blended until it no longer had chunks. Put four cups of water into the jug, then added the strawberry/lemon puree. Capped, shook, and tasted. Mmmmm! It’s better cold, so we brought a couple of ice packs along – Anya’s owl bag is insulated, so the jug should stay cold.