just a brief announcement

I made chocolate chip cookies the other day, but I was craving both sweet and savory and so I came up with a brilliant plan.....
Make the salty!
Now I am not a big salt person. In fact the roommate would happily regale you with tales of my foods need for being salted post cooking due to my stinginess with the spice while I was making it, whatever it was. However, sometimes I want salty and when I want salty I want it bad. So I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and then I added approximatly two tablespoons of salt to the batter. Now that's a lot of salt it is true, and this was a gamble bacause I easily could have ruined a perfectly good batch of cookies with TOO MUCH SALT. However it ended up working out just great. In fact it was more than great, it was fantastic glorious and unbelievably tasty. Just what I wanted. A soft cookie that falls apart and as the chocolate melts in your mouth you suddenly get a hit of the salt and it's JUST RIGHT.
Anyway as this is nothing I've ever done before and I was really satisfied with the end results I figured I would share my triumph. This is for sure something I will be doing again. Just think I satisfied to taste cravings and only had to clean my mixing bowl once!


fixing the minnie mouse dress

So I found this dress at the Alameda Flea back when it was all warm and sunny. What was that? yesterday? Anyway now it's cold and raining and while I like rain I also like to keep some summery warm weather inpirational stuff around. So I figured, even though it's not gonna be warm enough to wear this dress for a loooooooong time I thought it would be nice to fix it up so that it is warm enough to wear it, it will be ready to be worn.

So while this dress was an awesome find (like if Minnie Mouse went to a sock hop) and it had pockets and appeared to be handmade, all the smocking was worn out in the back. So that was the first step, make it so it wouldn't fall down.

I decided instead of tackling smocking right now, I would go the easy route and got a roll of two inch wide elastic and fit that into the back of the dress over the now defunct smocking.

It involved an alarming amount of pins and some scrunching of my face in concentration and I tugged the two sides so that it would be straight. However it worked so it was worth the strain.
After that was complete I figured I may as well deal with the buttons as well. There was one missing and they were white and sort of small. And I thought that it would be nice to make them, I don't know, blend more with the dress. And a white dress with big red polka dots, needs big red buttons of course!

And Voila! Some slight adjustments and I've made this bargain find wearable. Of course now the weather will not cooperate with my desires.But I'll be ready. When it warms up this ridiculously cartoon-y frock will be the first thing I reach for. To celebrate the sunshine.

And in honor of my love of polka dots here are some trees wrapped in polka dot paper. These were awesome in person, a whole avenue of them stretched out along the river in London.


can't think of a whitty title so heres what i've made

Was invited to a Cajun themed dinner party and asked to bring something for dessert. Now what do you make for a Cajun dessert? Everyone seems to connect Cajun food with Lousiana, and more specifically New Orleans. And therefore the first thing that comes to mind to make in benya's, the famous fried dough treat of New Orleans. However the idea of combining myself and hot oil in a frying pan, well lets just say it sounds like a very bad idea. So I searched around for inspiration and kept coming up with recipes for chili chocolate cakes. So I decided to make one of my own without a recipe. Most of them called for about one tablespoon of chili powder so I went with that. I made three low layers and then mixed up a lovely chocolate sort of sauce to spread between them, and pour over the top. So that it could artfully drip down the sides of course. Was very tasty. Not too much of a chili kick but definetly enough to make what would have been a perfectly ok dense chocolate cake a lot more interesting.

Another thing I kept coming across in my searching for ideas was pralines (pronounced PRAAA-leens if you want to be all authentic sounding) which sounded like fun, and very simple when you look at the list of ingrediants, so I thought I would give it a whirl. However it is funny to note that I was not excited about the idea of hot oil with benye's but I was totally thinking it was ok to make my own caramel. Which is very very hot butter and sugar. like 200 plus degrees. I guess I didn't go far eonough with that thought. Or rather didn't think it at all because as my trusty sous-chef/roommate was helping me stir the ever-hotter mixture I was totally unprepared for it getting to the bubbling state. Where the bubbles then burst, spraying me with bits of absurdly hot stuff which would eventually be caramel. It left burns all up my arms. Scars. Ouch. Should have known better, and you've totally got to get all up in there to form the candies. Which means burns all over my fingers as I rearanged the pecans to look not so messy. Still they did tasted fantastic.
And here's a very funny storefront in Scotland. In honor of me laughing at my pain. Burnt fingers and some spicy spicy cake are not the end of the world (thank goodness or considering how much I burn myself the world would have ended about a billion time over!)


zucchini in baking?

Gifted an alarming amount of zucchini? Wondering what to do with it? What do you mean you didn't think of baking with it right away?! For shame!

I know it's not the most obvious of combinations, but zucchini bread's darn tasty so why not add some chocolate?

And make it into muffins? I say yes. Yes to chocolate zucchini muffins so moist and chocolate-y. Yum.

And I leave you with....a rather famous hand. Recognize it? I know it's not the creation of man or anything, that one you can spot a mile away, but it's still neat. And old. So it therefor deserves a fair bit of respect alright? Good.


halloween bits 'n pieces

I know the holiday has come and gone, but it's my favorite (well that's not too accurate, they are all my favorite when they are about to happen or recently experience, cause in a few weeks Thanksgiving will be my fav, just wait and see)and I did some fun things for it so I figured I'd corral a few of them up here.
First, a friend was going to dress up as a cop but she didn't like the badge that came with her costume and asked if I could perhaps craft her up something better. I replied that if she wanted something modest and authentic that perhaps she should seek elsewhere, but that if she wanted something that was sparkly and shiny and more than a little over the top that I was the right girl for the job. She of course replied that she did want something 'bling-y' so to the glitter I went.

I actually made two cause there was a fellow cop that evening. I cut out two shield shapes I sketched on a heavy mat board I had sitting around, and blacked the front back, and edges with a strong black marker (it actually got to my head a bit with all the fumes). Next I cut sightly lopsided stars out of heavy black paper. Then it was time for the glitter. A sort of large disco-ball shaped gold glitter, and a black micro-glitter.
The shield and star were both covered with the traditional grade school method of brushing glue over the surface and then pouring glitter over that and wiggling it around until it stuck. This results in a rather large amount of mess, with glitter all over the place, and in your hair and on the floor. But that's just festive so who cares. Certainly not me. Then I whipped out the hot glue, to attach rhinestones to the edge of the shield, to adhere the star to the front of the badge, and to put a pin closure on the back, so that it could, in fact, be worn. And then I piped on Oakland Vice with metallic puff paint. It was very well received by it's intended recipient.

Next we have our holiday window, or a glimpse of it. We have decided (roommate and I) that it should be just a fluid change from holiday to holiday cause we really like how festive it is. She cut jack-o-lanterns out of brown paper bags and I made a web like net out of twine, with pipe-cleaner spiders lurching in it, and hung bats from the edge of the window. And lastly, I picked up a short string of white mini lights for about two dollars, and drilled holes in some mini sculls and pumpkins to place over the bulbs like little lanterns.

Of course I only had eight of each and at least fifty lights to cover, so I also made copious numbers of little orange and purple (don't know why but purple seems like a Halloween color to me) origami boxes to fit over most of the other lights. The end result was both spooky and super cheerful. Should be easy to transition the lights into a Thanksgiving theme, maybe with more red and gold lanterns? or leaf garlands? hand print paper turkeys? wait and see...

Oh and lastly, no pictures of my costume this year (I was a circus sideshow-painted lady) but here is a fantastic piece of costumery, I give you McFuzzin the traveling fur coat (not real, actually fake shaggy grey monkey fur, just to be specific). McFuzzin was taken from a market in Turkey or Switzerland, can't remember which, and passed from traveler to traveler in the hostels around Europe, until it was passed into my hands at Aphrodite's Palace in Athens. I took it with me on the ferry to Italy (made a good pillow) and wore it around Rome for a few days. This is McFuzzin in all it's glory as I sat on the edge of the Trevi fountain. It was about 95 degrees that day but I will sacrifice a lot for the sake of awesomeness, ant thus, McFuzzin was pulled out for this glorious photo op. Hope all had a spook-tastic Halloween!


three pies in one week

Of course this is about all I got done but three pies is nothing to sniff about. Or rather, yes, please do sniff, absorb the aroma through your skin. The apartment smelled fantastic all week. Pie in the oven is such a magical thing, plus it's like a heater and aromatherapy simultaneously. Fan-freakin-tastic I tell you.
What is the reason for making this much pie in a short span of time (a span of time in which my roommate was out of town on business no less and so I was forced to consume mass quantities of pie solo and without any assistance)you might ask? To perfect my pie crust gluten free style. And why the rush? Well I will reveal that later. Soon hopefully if I finish the project on schedule but lets just say (hint hint) it better be done by the end of the year or it won't really make sense.
First up we have an apple zest pie (forgive the terrible picture, it was photographed late at night and by the time the sun came up not once remained of it's once noble if somewhat higgilty pigglty lattice crusted self but some un-photogenic crumbs. So I am glad I took a photo at night. A lovely taste to the crust, sweet and a definite nutty undertone from the almond meal mixed in. But very dry and flaky. Perhaps too much dry ingredients and not enough butter? The filling was apples from my parents trees with orange zest and juice. The crust did not hold together well enough to weave into a very appealing lattice so I finally threw in the towel and started slapping strips of rolled out dough willy nilly just so I could finish and get it in the oven. Despite it's faults, a lovely pie and a good start.

Now for pie number two, the Cajun sweet potato. The crust held together much better due to an addition of two more tablespoons of butter, though I did decrease the sweetening in the crust itself this time and while that went well with this super sweet filling, it may not be so good for the everyday fruit pie. Also I must remember to cover the edges as rice flour has a tendency to burn very easily and a singed crust is so disappointing. As for the filling. Magical. Sure it's pretty much pumpkin pie but with sweet potato instead. But as sweet potato's are my favorite vegetable to consume in mass quantities all through the fall and winter, there isn't much better than discovering another way to prepare them. And when that way involves cream and butter and nutmeg? I am on board all the way.

And finally pie number three (I feel like I am hosting a dating show for bakers here, this is so odd). The crust was superb, light and so buttery (perhaps because I added even more butter? perhaps because I cut the butter in right after I pulled it out of the freezer having heard a rumor that the colder the butter the better the crust? who knows)and just the right hint of sweetness. I also hit upon both a new combination for the filling (pear and raspberry which was a great sweet and tart dichotomy) and a very pretty way to do a decorative and festive fall top crust with out being forced to battle with delicate lattice strips....leaves! Turned out very pretty (I remembered to cover the pie with foil for the first half of it's baking time to avoid a charred top) and tasted divine despite the fact it was impossible to sneak bites of owing to the way the juices stained your face. Dead giveaway, but also the hands down winner. Now hopefully I can read my own handwriting so that I can recreate this pie on the spot without all this mad having-to-bake-three-pies-in-one-week-to-get-it-right stuff. So tiring. If it weren't impossible I would say I was feeling sick of pie, but that's not something the universe allows. After all, the varieties are endless, and it is butter-tastic. So what's there to get sick of?


i baked bread!

That's right, bread. The most ominous, finicky and difficult of all baking creations (at least in my eyes). The thing that cannot be fixed by chocolate frosting or some artful cutting-out of bad parts. It has to rise. Ingredients matter not only in their proportion to each other, but their reaction. They've gotta, like, do stuff. So if you don't get it right it's no bueno. And gluten free bread is a problem area. I am aware of what I'm going up against here. But if you don't try you certainly won't succeed. Therefore, I pulled out the ingredients and got to work.

It wasn't bad for a first try. Not bad at all. Good crust. It even rose though noticeably less than a more glutinous bread. But a good open texture could be seen within the loaf which thrilled me to no end as that's what I most often come across as a problem with store bought gluten free breads. That is their density. I mean like they could totally be used as a doorstop, or to build a brick wall. Not so good for eating. And it's hard to think of it as bread if it can ONLY be eaten when toasted.

So I ate mine fresh, warm from the oven and not toasted at all. And it was quite good. I think next time I may try to go for a flour equation that is lighter on the bean flour cause there was a bit more of taste of garbanzo's that I am partial too but on the whole to a lot else to find as faults with this hear petite loaf.

And I had some a day later with jam and it was still good. Un-toasted. I would call this a victory. Will there be more bread-making in my future? I think so. I may even tackle sourdough. Stay tuned.
Oh yeah and here's some crumbling ancient Greek architecture, to got with the bread. Random I know but I like the picture. And they had bread in Greece. I think. I mean of some kind. So yeah that totally fits or at least I'm just gonna go with it!


Mmmmmmm colors..

I made macaroons. And then I decided that they weren't holding together like I wanted them to and I made a new batch a bit more like rice crispy treats and so I melted marshmallows with butter and stirred the coconut into that and it was fantastic. Here you can see the two varieties with colored white chocolate, the colors were used to differentiate the two versions. It was decided that the more unusual marshmallow variety was the winner and will therefor be the recipe I go with for my project. Not to imply that the more classic one was no good at all, it was quite lovely but I can only go with one and the marshmallow-caroons were a bit more interesting as so, we have a winner!
I have also been working on some colorful books. Which were made to fit in some fabulous boxes from work, and will go with some other paper products I am making, in a color coordinated set.
Holiday decorations are being done bit by bit every day, and I made a great string of lights, but I really do wish that I had an enormous sign like this:


baking up a storm

Scones are not easy. In fact they are down right difficult. Finery even. In fact, to get the recipe hammered out for these took four attempts. That's right I had to make scones not two or three times but four, to get something edible and as close to perfection as a gluten free scone can be.

To me eyes (or mouth as it were) the key to a scone is the texture. A flaky fall-apart sort of design that is easily peeled into halves to apply a liberal smear of butter (the only way to improve a fresh-out-of-the-oven scone is to add butter, therefor the texture must be right for the application of sad butter to go off without a hitch. No one wants to go to butter their scone only to find that it crumbles and falls apart at the slightest touch. That's not the way things go) that's the goal. Therefore, the multiple attempts were necessary to achieve said perfect consistency. I actually had to take a break after batch number two, as it was just too horrible for me to even convince myself to recover from. It took nearly a month for me to approach the subject of scones again. But approach I did. Snuck up on the darn things and knocked their socks off is what I did. The key is to go for the whole enchilada. No humble drop scones are these, no. They are the flaky-buttery scone one dreams of, formed in thick wedges and brushed with milk to make a lightly browned top in their short sojourn through the oven. And that seemed to be the key. Try and try and try again. Go big or go home and all that. More motivational sayings? I've got a whole armful here I can just keep chucking them your way if you like. Just say the word.

So the scones turned out awesome. Just when I was losing faith in them (perhaps cause I burned the third batch badly and it was just so sad I almost scraped the whole idea) but no-get up at eight on a Sunday morning and take one more shot at that unicorn of a recipe. That's how we roll in my casa. Another win for team max.

Oh yeah, while the oven was on, in our unseasonable and decidedly non autumnal 90 degree weather, I decided to continue baking. Clockwise from the left you have cornbread with bacon and Chile's, apple zest pie and an onion and asparagus quiche. The amount of dishes that were done on this most bake-tastic of days was so alarming it passed alarming and just became downright ridiculous.
And I'm tired just looking at these so here is some lovely beach for your viewing pleasure. Southern hemisphere beach. They have different stars there. Enjoy.


a printing fiend

Been doing lots of printing recently. And as I am not in posession of a press, this printing is done using the back of a big spoon and lots of elbow grease.

So as you can see..... the fruits of my labor are vast. I'm developing some serious arm muscles here. Now I just have to figure out what exactly I am to do with all this stuff now it's printed.

Also made some fan-tabulous chocolate cupcakes. Sort of like the ones I made forever ago in February for Valentines Day, but even better as the cake-y texture was spot on this time. Airy and not dense as many gluten free baked goods seem to be. Pretty exciting as I developed the recipe myself. Small victory.

And, one for the road folks, here's the travel pic of the day. This time it's some amusing signage. Enjoy

fruit tarts (worth making a second time)

I had to make them twice to get it right (well they were perfectly lovely the first go round but I thought they needed a little something extra so I added sesame seeds to the tart shells and used plums instead of nectarines and more of them so there was a better fruit to pastry ratio. But really anything that has a little bit of this:

(that would be respectable sized pads of butter melting in pans)and this:

(fruit simmering in that glorious butter -plus some cinnimin)and you are on to something good. Cook the fruit until it is shiny and the delightful aroma of warm butter-coated plums floats out into the living room and spoon into some crisp mini tart shells and you've got something spectacular. While also being crisp and fruity and summery, and of course, most importantly, totally appropriate for breakfast.

Plus they looked so cute all lined up. And buying sesame seeds is awesome cause you've got to go to the bulk bins and they are so small and satisfying en mass and make such a charming shhhhhhhhhhh sound as they are scooped up into a bag. Maybe I should use them more often.

I of course was a bit (or more) silly and had to make both things I made go together and be consumed at once (despite them being a strange combination) and so I topped a tart with some ice cream I made. No not vanilla or anything sensible, but orange-cicle chip. Yup, and I put a scoop on my plum tart. And it was fantastic.
Now in the face of an oncoming winter, I give you........................
tree scarves!


celebratory harvest moon peanut butter brownie

Yes, one singular brownie. Created in a low-walled very wide tart pan. Mostly inspired by my need to make a really big brownie to see if it would, if it possibly could work. And maintain some semblance of structural integrity. I did also draw some from the sight of the enormous glowing moon behind silhouettes of trees and reflecting off the water as I crossed the bridge. This sight being seen the night of Friday last. I know. I am once again posting late. However, I'm hoping if I allow you to revel in the glory that is this brownie I can hold but which is larger than my own head, perhaps I can distract from the tardiness of this post.

See??!!! Is it not extraordinary?! And no butter was used in the making of this baked good. Surprising but true, in fact the peanut butter held the whole thing together. And added crunch. One always could do with more crunch.

At least that's what I believe. Besides, how often do you see brownies shaped like this? and it cut so well and held up remarkable. Next I will conquer the gigantic cookie. But first I have to catch my breath. That this is a bit weighty, I mean after all, it's the size of the moon!


I take requests

Well first I made dinner, and it was mighty tasty.

However the most important point is that I pulled out the ice cream maker again (I know it's been ages like as in a whole week or so since my last batch) and as the title implies, I took a request.

Specifically, the roommate was having a no-good-very-bad day and wanted Cherry Garcia ice cream so I picked up ingredients (namely marascino cherries and lots of cream) and made exactly what she was craving. Twenty-four hours after the request was voiced that is. Still it is impressive. Be impressed.

And it was delicious. Just the right mix of thick and creamy vanilla with chunks of fruit and small crunchy chocolate morsals. Super super super yummy.
And a fun sneak peak of some stuff I have been working on. Involving stencils and stripes.

And a travel pick for the road. The red beach, on Santorini in Greece. Very pretty even though a sharp sharp manical rock cut my foot when scrambling up a hill.

But how can one resist the blue blue sky?! One can't is how.