Ever since my parents brought home an Apple IIc Plus in the late 80's, we've been serious fans of the company. My brother even works for them now. So when the hard drive on my 2007 MacBook failed Monday night as I was uploading photos, it was comforting to know that, because I had recently backed up my data and the hardware was still under warranty, it would be a quick process to get it up and running again. After a thirty minute Genius bar appointment at the Michigan Avenue store, I left with a new hard drive and an updated operating system.
It will take me a few more days to transfer all of my photos back to the computer and pick up editing were I left off, but I wanted to put up a quick post to remind all of you to back-up your data when you get home from work this evening. I am so glad I recently did.
The lovely crepe you see in the photo is from the Rooster Cafe in St. Louis, Missouri. My friends Matt and Diana were married in St. Louis this summer and while we were there we dined at this excellent restaurant every morning. If you are ever in the city searching for brunch, I would highly suggest this establishment.
This post is the last in a series of three on edible handmade gifts. You can find the first post on homemade vanilla extract here and the second post on infused vodkas here.
Peppermint patty candies are festive and, believe it or not, incredibly simple to make. They only call for a few ingredients, making them easy to turn out quickly and cheaply. In a matter of 30 minutes, you too could have your own tin of these easy chocolate treats that serve as a great last minute gift.
I came upon this recipe over at The Kitchn earlier this month and was surprised how easy it seemed. I made a batch last week with great success and decided to double it and give these chocolates as gifts.
I only made one slight change. Where the recipe calls for refrigerating the filling for 20 minutes, I popped it in the freezer. I refrigerated the first time around and the filling became gooey and misshapen when I tried to coat it in the melted chocolate. In my experience, there was no discernible difference in the texture of the filling in the final product using either method.
I had some cellophane bags that I was planning to wrap these in, but I was lucky to see this quick guide to making gift boxes at Heather Bailey's beautiful, color-drenched site. While the original project is intended for gift cards, they perfectly fit three or four chocolates.
I didn't have any fancy paper, but I did have some plain heavy card stock sitting around. I printed ten of these out, cut them with regular scissors, and scored the folds with an empty mechanical pencil. Some pink tissue paper and a decorative stamp completed the packages.
Nick was also making candy this weekend. He had the ingenious idea to make a Twix style candy bar with pistachio butter. He made shortbread cookies, processed pistachios into a butter, and dipped the whole thing in semi-sweet chocolate. Delicious!
Handmade gifts might take longer to prepare, but it is a lot more satisfying than selecting a regular store-bought item -- and quite a bit cheaper too. I hope you have enjoyed this edible handmade gift series. These new projects are sure to be holiday staples for me for years to come.
This post is the first in a series of three on edible homemade gifts. You can find the second post on infused vodkas here and the third post on homemade peppermint patty candies here.
Each year I test my crafting skills with a new handmade gift for the holidays. These projects have been met with varying degrees of success. A few years back I labored over handmade soaps that ended up looking tacky and wallowing on my friend’s sinks for months. Another year I knitted little finger puppets that no one seemed especially excited about but me. Lately I’ve been sticking to handmade gifts of a more edible variety, and I think I may have finally hit my stride.
This post will be the first of three in an edible homemade gift series. Homemade vanilla extract is easy and fairly inexpensive to make. While it is too late to make your own for this holiday season, the next two gifts in this series will be easy to have ready in a week.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that store bought pure vanilla extract is very expensive. I go through a lot of the stuff in my kitchen, and the cost was adding up. I also found that I was avoiding recipes that called for whole vanilla beans because I couldn’t justify the cost unless it was a special occasion.
Around this time last year I about read about the Organic Vanilla Bean Company that sells low cost vanilla beans through Ebay. I ordered 30 beans for under $10. I highly recommend this economical option. However you decide to get your vanilla beans, making vanilla extract is a simple process. I recently read, and recommend, the excellent and highly detailed instructions at The Traveler's Lunchbox. Read on for my short and sweet method.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
1 liter cheap vodka 10 vanilla beans
Split the vanilla beans down the middle. (Scrape out some of the seeds if you have an immediate use for them, otherwise just toss them all in.) Cap the bottle and give it a shake. Stash the bottle in a dark place, like the back of your pantry or in the basement. Every time you use a vanilla bean, add the pod to the bottle and give it a gentle shake. The vanilla extract should be ready to use in 6 - 8 weeks, but it will keep much longer.
I will be visiting New York with my mother and some of her friends from June 25 to June 29. Clotide has compiled some excellent recommendations for the city, but if anyone has any other advice (we did all the museums, etc. a few years back) I would love to hear it.
More to the point (or perhaps just in addition) I would love to hear recommendations for bakeries that have good breads. Thanks for any help!
They actually popped this time! I broke down and bought a real popover pan. (about $17, Chicago Metallic, purchased at Freehling Pot & Pan in Hyde Park). I also used a new recipe this time so that could have made the difference as well. I highly suggest investing in a popover pan if you plan to make popovers.
This recipe called for warm milk and room temperature eggs, as well as 1 hour of allowing the batter to rest after it is mixed. So keep these things in mind if you plan to use this recipe.
I will have to try my other recipe with my new popover pan sometime soon to compare.
Since beginning this blog I have learned quite a bit about baking, cooking, and photography. I still have a long way to go in all three categories, but especially the latter. A few months ago I combed Google for some food photo advice and I thought I would share some of the sites I culled.
Please feel free to send me links to sites that you have found particularly helpful on the same subject and I will add them to the list to share with others.
Food Photography Blog: A useful site with some 'tricks of the trade' advice. However, the author's suggestion that perhaps the reason most photographers are men is due to the fact that the gear is so heavy (!) is less than enlightening.
These Cortas Kamar-Deen Apricot Sheets (1 lb 2 oz. Apricots, glucose, sugar, olive oil.) were part of our Devon loot.
I have been debating what to do with them for a bit now and I thought I would open up the issue for suggestions. Please email your suggestions to me at [email protected] and the winner will get to see their suggestion put into action on the this site and I will send you some small, inexpensive, and hopefully unique culinary good from Chicago.
All submissions should be in by March 10th. Two weeks from today.