We came back from our Thanksgiving trip to Houston with full bellies, bags of leftovers, and a box of oranges. Nick’s aunt has an orange tree in her backyard, and when we went to visit, its branches were heavy with hundreds of the ripe fruit. Nick cut them off and plopped them in this box until I said it was heavy enough. I knew right away I’d be making some curd.
My go-to lemon curd recipe is from Joy of Cooking (minus the vanilla extract), but I knew the orange version wouldn’t be right for the fruit we picked– because the oranges were so sweet, I knew I’d want to decrease the sugar and add a little lemon juice for tang. This recipe calls for both those things, with the genius added step of reducing the orange juice for a more concentrated flavor. It’s pretty much perfect.
The curd came out creamy, brilliantly golden, and not too sweet, and I have been eating it for breakfast every day on a freshly-baked biscuit. We saved a dozen or so oranges for snacking, and the rest were juiced into a gallon of the freshest OJ I’ve ever tasted. I think I’ll definitely need an orange tree of my own, someday.
This cake was for my mom-in-law’s birthday. We knew we wouldn’t be in town the day of, so we carted it the five hours from our house when we visited for Thanksgiving. It turns out five hours is exactly how long a buttercream frosting can hold up under the weight of several chocolate roses, because not a minute after we arrived, it started to fall apart. Next time, the cake’s going in the cooler.
My mom-in-law is a lady of simple tastes, so I went with the same flavors I used for the last cake. I made each rose out of modeling chocolate (also known as candy clay) and dusted the edges of the pink petals with an edible “pearl dust“. The modeling chocolate was really easy to work with, and very hard not to snack on. I found this tutorial pretty helpful, but I mostly just referred to pictures of actual roses. While every rose turned out pretty good, in hindsight I wish I’d planned their final arrangement a little more as I constructed them. I ended up sticking them to the cake with a glob of buttercream, and it looked a little weird from a few angles.
Luckily, the cake itself was really tasty, and I’m pretty sure everybody forgave me for its slight collapse and improvised rose placement. I hope it was worthy of my wonderful mom-in-law, who is one of the most loving, generous, and fiercely loyal people I know. Happy birthday, mom!
My little sister and her friends recently moved into a house in my old neighborhood in Houston. In lieu of a houseplant, I sent her some felt craspedia, otherwise known as billy balls. I was planning on writing up a tutorial on how I made them, but somebody already beat me to it. In addition to wet-felting, I went back with a felting needle to give them a little extra texture. And instead of floral wire, each is glued to the top of a long, thin stick. I also kept mine a little larger, for a more dramatic look.
She also got the milk glass vase and a batch of rosemary shortbread, because it’s crazy good and it travels well. I love sending packages.
- I’ve become increasingly obsessed with cake decorating techniques. More on that later.
- I’m planning my thanksgiving dessert contribution with the help of this.
- I spent more time watching this yesterday than I should probably admit.
We got a few cucumbers in our csa a while back, and I knew it would be a challenge to use them all up. I like the flavor of cucumbers, but something about the texture is off-putting to me (I feel the same way about melons, sadly). They are delightful in pickle form, but with no less than three batches in our fridge right now (occupying more than a few jars), I decided against taking up more precious real estate. Two were used up in a huge and delicious batch of tzatziki, but with our greek food craving completely satiated, I had to come up with a use for the last remaining cucumber. Enter, cucumber mint water:
I like plain water just fine, but it’s nice to jazz it up every now and then. In a medium-sized carafe, I muddled six or seven mint leaves, and added several slices of cucumber. I used a zester to score the side of the cucumber for extra fanciness, but of course, this is optional. You could also add slices of whatever fruit strikes your fancy– I think I’ll put a few lime slices in the next batch. The mint flavor will intensify a bit after about an hour, so make this ahead of time if you’re serving it to company. It’s not required that you drink it with your pinky out, but it’s fancy enough that you could.
There’s a dearth of decorative pillows in my house. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not the type that likes to remove six or eight ruffled cushions from her bed before she can even lay down, but my sofa and chairs are almost all empty and could use a little something extra. This isn’t for lack of planning, though– there’s a whole shelf in my craft room dedicated to pillow forms, and several yards of fabric stashed away that at one time or another was meant to encase them. So, yesterday, I finally brought the two together.
I spent an embarrassing amount of time looking at pillow patterns on the internet before I happened across this one. It looks pretty fancy, but luckily is the type of thing that appears to require much more effort than it really does. I followed this lovely tutorial and also used suede cloth– though in the mustard color that seems to find its way into every room in my house. I didn’t have a needle long enough to tuft the center, but I think I’ll go back and tuft it later. I’d recommend a slightly smaller pillow form or increasing the width of the fabric an inch or so, because it took both me and Nick each using both of our hands to cinch the ruffles closed. Completing this project has me inspired to make my way through all the pillow forms on my shelf, so check back for more soon.
We went out of town last weekend, and when we got back our thermostat read sixty-three degrees. I put on some flannel pajamas and a thick pair of socks, and I made myself a cup of tea.
Having spent my last three autumns in a place where all four seasons are fully represented, I prepared myself to expect a slow transition from Texas summer to fall. While it’s not scarf weather yet, I think I can safely say we’ve passed the choking heat of summer, and sooner than I expected.
In honor of cooler temperatures (and the approach of Nick’s favorite holiday), I baked a few batches of macarons. The vanilla bean cookies were made to contain the last bit of leftover frosting from this project. The chocolate and pumpkin show off some Halloween colors (although a recent bite of black sesame gelato has me thinking of ways to make that into a macaron, and it’d be perfect for Halloween, too). I filled the chocolate macarons with a whipped ganache, and the pumpkin ones with a spiced mascarpone filling, so each bite is like a little taste of pumpkin pie. I might sneak a few more from the fridge right now…
In celebration of his first paycheck (and the fact that we didn’t go broke waiting for it), Nick requested a chocolate 6-layer cake. Since he hardly ever asks for anything except pizza and pancakes, I was happy to oblige. The chocolate butter cake and the silk meringue buttercream are both recipes from this book, and the filling is a simple chocolate mousse. I topped it with a few milk chocolate curls, which were not quite as easy to make as the youtube video promised.
I’ve made a few cakes in my day, and most have been both pretty tasty and pretty ugly. I can dedicate hours to baking and mixing up fillings and icings, but by the time I get to cake construction, I am usually in a hurry to be done and I do a rushed job. Tired of my usual “rustic” icing application, I decided to put some effort into it. I am pleased as punch with the results. I’m thinking I should invest in a lazy susan so I can achieve an even cleaner icing application, but it hasn’t been quite long enough since I’ve packed and unpacked my entire kitchen before I can add another item to the collection.
My newly discovered cake-making skills have me itching to make another– anybody got a birthday coming up?
I saw this page last week and immediately stopped everything to start my own branch-weaving projects. Traditional weaving can be somewhat tedious– there is a lot of slow, meticulous prep work to do before you can actually start– and while I find the repetition of weaving relaxing and meditative, I can imagine that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. Branch weaving is another story entirely– within an hour you can hold a finished product in your hand.
The contrast between the branch and yarn make these inherently interesting, but combining varying weights and colors takes it over the top. It’s a great rainy-day project (provided you’ve saved a few dry branches) and is simple enough for kids to complete!
I’ve wanted to be part of a csa for four or so years, but time and budgetary constraints always made it a less than ideal option for us. When we heard that a local farm was offering shares for the fall, we signed right up.
While I’m highly attuned to the seasonality of fruits, my vegetable knowledge is a little lacking– so I’m super pumped about learning what produce is available when in our city. I also love the challenge of coming up with ways to use everything in our share. So far, I’m thinking I’ll make:
- Kale chips
- Spicy pickled okra
- Fennel bulb rosemary chicken
- Mulberry galette
I’m still trying to figure out how I’ll use the amaranth greens I got, since they’re new to me. My love of Indian cuisine means powdered turmeric is a staple in my kitchen, so it’ll be interesting to see how the fresh root compares. I can’t wait to get cooking!
Our new place is the first in a while that we haven’t been allowed to paint. I was simultaneously appreciative of our last few laid-back landlords, and happy I wouldn’t have to spend hours working before we could begin to unpack and set up furniture. The walls are painted a warm cream with a white trim, which is a perfectly neutral backdrop for most of our furniture, but when paired with the kitchen’s white cabinets and grey tile floor, the effect is pretty austere.
In need of some bright pops of color and a place to put dishes, I dreamed up some kitchen shelves, and Nick helped me make them. We picked up a few brackets from ikea and painted them white. The shelves themselves are made of birch plywood, and I painted the edges a bright yellow and orange. The tops and bottoms got a few coats of tung oil so they’d match the cart on the other side of the room. It was a really easy project and it did the trick!
In other news:
- I’ve got a few crafty commissions and a new part-time gig making props for the university’s theater department. I’ve finally gone from a stay-at-home cat photographer to a part time stay-at-home cat photographer. Success!
- This was a delicious treat.
- It is breezy and overcast outside, and this is the perfect soundtrack (Side B especially).