29 September 2011

Not a happy post

This was supposed to be a happy post. It's number 100! I was planning on getting stuff ready for a celebration and a giveaway. But instead, I've got little to post and little planning got done. This monday, my grandmother passed away at the age of 89. She was a great lady, she was sweet, she was funny, she was wonderful and I loved her dearly. She was my yarn-buddy: throughout her life, she had been the co-owner of a chain of yarn shops in and around Amsterdam, has tought knitting and crocheting classes, and when I told her in 2009 that I learned to crochet she was so excited that she gave me all her yarn that she no longer wanted or could use. Most of my stash: grandma's yarn. When I picked up knitting again after her trying to teach me at least 5 times in the past and never getting it right, and told her on the phone, she kept telling me how amazing she thought it was. Whenever I showed her an FO, she'd inspect it just so she could tell me my stitches were perfect, or my sewing up was great. The past 2 years, our connection was strengthened by our mutual love for yarn.

Tomorrow, we're going to say our last goodbyes and I thought it only appropriate to make something to send along with her. I crocheted a little rose. I hope she likes it.

Bye, grandma.

25 September 2011

Cakey goodness!

Cake in all types, shapes and forms! Or, well, actually, the same cake, only in 3 different stages.

I decided that I had to make a cake for my sister's birthday. But not just any cake: a Nutella cake. Oh yes. A simple cake, with Nutella swirls, with a strawberry jam filling, covered in a Nutella buttercream, and topped with whole strawberries.

That one. My photoshop skills aren't as madly l33t as I would have hoped, but you get the point. And that point is Nutella-coloured.

Naturally, I had this all planned out days before her birthday and got a bit restless, creatively, so I decided to make a little keychain for her to remember this cake by. (Hoping, of course, that the cake would be something she'd want to remember..) The cake went 3d!

And then... It was time for her birthday party. Having never done a cake like this before, I was a bit nervous about the outcome... And because my sister and her friend wanted to help, it didn't exactly turn out the way I wanted to (that's what you get when 3 people try to get cake batter into 2 tins and add Nutella in there somewhere... That's right, a mess.) and because my parents have a silly oven that gets way hotter than the temperature you set it to, I managed to burn one of the two slightly. Hrmph.

Thankfully, a lot can be fixed by simply using a sharp knife. (that's not a universal truth, by the way. just to be clear. I doesn't go for relationship problems, for instance.) I cut the crust off, took off the bottom, and it was basically good to go! Plus, a lot can be hidden underneath a nice, thick layer of Nutella buttercream.

The final result: absurdly sweet. Gorgeously Nutella-ey. I hope. I didn't have a single bite due to a massive headache which sent me home after dinner, before the cake was brought out, so I still have to check in with my sister to see if it was actually any good. But the components, the cake, the Nutella frosting, the strawberries, the jam... they were all very tasty.

It was a fun little project to try my hands on, as well. Since I had never made buttercream frosting before, I didn't know what the right consistency was supposed to be like, but I think it could have been thinner. I had a bit of a rough time getting it to stay on the cake when spreading it, as you can see by the holes and unevenness of the frosting. This may have been my rookie roots showing, though. I didn't read up on how frosting is supposed to 'work'. But it was tasty, so that's a win in my book! My sister was very pleased as well, so that's another win! And I'll just make sure to read up beforehand next time I try my hand at a cake like this. Because I will be making something like this again, for sure!

22 September 2011

All that baking can't be good for one's diet.

It's September again! And in our family, that means... birthdays. I think I can safely say that not a day goes by in September without it being the birthday of someone I know. Thankfully, most of those people are not my direct relatives so there's less pressure to buy them gifts or make them things. However, 3 of those people are my brother, mother and sister.

I didn't plan for this to happen, however, all three of them got something baked or cooked for their birthday. (and I say 'got', even though my sister technically hasn't received hers yet. More on this later.) First, my brother. He turned 26 this year and in an act of childlike defiance of his age, decided that he wanted to make a rainbow cake for his birthday party. Yes. A rainbow cake.

Of course, he decided this without having a clue on how this would actually work. So, I decided to give him a hand. On a stormy Saturday afternoon, I came over to his house and, while fending of nosy cats that were desparate to find out what was going on in that kitchen and whether it was something they could steal and eat or not, we made a massive, multi-coloured, striped monstrosity-slash-rainbow cake.

(With faces on the side. Does anyone else see faces in this cake? It freaked us out a bit when we took it out of the oven...)

Which he later topped off with lemon-flavoured frosting and Skittles. Yes, he really turned 26, not 6. It was a bright, multi-coloured, sugary mess but it was a big hit at the party!

The monday after this sugarfest was my mother's birthday. I decided to throw her a special birthday dinner based on English pub-meals since she loves the UK, loves pubs, and we have such great memories from last year's holiday where we spent a week with the eight of us in a lovely, lovely inn in the south-west of England and really enjoyed the big, homely dinners we had there. So I decided to invade their kitchen for the day and make a big dinner! I was going to make:
- tomato soup with fresh herbs
- breaded garlic mushrooms
- 2 different types of meat pies (chicken and leek and curry-beef)
- fish and chips
- mushy peas
- and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

A bit much? A bit much. There were supposed to be eight or ten of us in total, but as always, things did not go as planned so my sister ran off halfway through dinner because she had driving lessons, my brother ran off halfway through to pick up his girlfriend from the train station, and my planning was less than perfect so I ended up still working on dessert while people were already coming in for coffee and cake. Dessert ended up just being served out on the table and people could grab one if they wanted.

This was the only picture I could take. I didn't have the time! I was rushing through the house, running in and out of the kitchen... I guess my planning wasn't as good as it could be. I should have started earlier, or made some stuff in advance. But the end result was absolutely wonderful and my mother was baffled that I had made everything from scratch, including the pastry for the meat pies and the caramel sauce for the sticky toffee pudding! (that was exciting to make, by the way. I had never melted sugar before, and it took quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, but the end result was the hit of the evening. My brother was speechless. It takes a lot for him to be speechless.)

Lastly, my sister's birthday. It was her birthday yesterday, but with a sick BF we decided not to go over for dinner and I emailed her part of her birthday gift.

Cake? Yep! It's still a surprise what kind of cake it will be, but she's going to love it, I'm sure. I'll tell you all about it when it's done and she's received her other gifts!

Oh all right, one more sneak peek then. But that's all I'm giving you!
Kind of a giveaway, really, isn't it? But you'll just have to wait until after Saturday to find out what kind of cake it really is! Stay tuned!

7 September 2011

We're a real family now!

It has been a dream of mine to own a pet of my own. I grew up with two cats in the house, have always had rabbits until I moved out of the house, the BF grew up with parrots... So to live in our own house, with just the two of us, without any pets.. It took some getting used to. And there was also the eczema issue, which means that any pet that leaves hairs behind is a no-go for me. In other words: pets were out of the question.

This Monday, I lamented the lack of animal companions in our household out loud and declared: "I want a pet! Any pet! Even a fish. You know what? I want a fish. I'll take a goldfish!" The BF, ever the enabling one, said he'd give me a goldfish if that was what I wanted. So off to the pet shop we went! Since it's a small pet shop, we heard the chirps of birds as soon as we came in and, since we couldn't find the fish tanks immediately, wandered down the aisles towards the bird cages. And promptly fell in love. With two little lovebirds.

Actually, no, I should rephrase. We fell in love with all 4 of the lovebirds they had at the shop. We just couldn't take all of them home! So after some deliberation, and some planning, and some measuring and researching possible tables we could put a bird cage on, and some q&a with the nice lady from the pet shop, and some more q&a, and some back and forthing, and a trip to Ikea on Tuesday evening after work, and a trip to the pet shop on Wednesday during lunch time...

We are now the proud owners of two gorgeous little lovebirds!

Meet Anzu and Al'ar! Geeky names for geeky pet-owners. These little pretties are 3 months old, just the right age so we can still train them and let them get used to being handled by people. They're currently slowly but surely getting used to the cage and their new surroundings after a scary trip home in a tiny, tiny cardboard box and have been chirping and chattering away quite loudly already (sorry, neighbours) but they're quiet and more relaxed at the moment. Expect more updates with gorgeous bird pictures! But not now. Now it's time to admire these two gorgeous birds some more!

5 September 2011

I got myself a new toy

It's a great toy! It allows me to make GIANT, BIG, HUGE treats. And dinner.

See? That was dinner. Meat pies as big as my fist! (am I the only one who can't look at 'meat pie' without thinking 'there's a smutty joke in here somewhere'? I am? Oh.) These were really good, and so unbelievably filling that we had one each and couldn't eat another bite! There's two in the freezer right now, for when we're not in the mood to cook. (I made them using this recipe, but they did turn out quite salty, though we think that may be my fault since I used concentraded beef stock in jellyform (it was a new product, I was curious, and in the commercial, it wiggled when they took it out of the package. Really, it couldn't be helped.) and used 2 instead of just 1.) For the pie crust I used this recipe and tutorial from The Pioneer Woman, which is an excellent tutorial and recipe! I only used butter for the crust, because I don't think lard in any type or form is used in Holland. I may be mistaken, though.)

The only downside of my new toy, though?
It's handwash only. Sigh...

2 September 2011

Sweetfest: rocky road!

Does that sound nasty? It sounds nasty, doesn't it. That should totally be the name of a candyshop-related porn.

Anyway, on to the good stuff! While on holiday, the BF and I discovered the joys of Rocky Road. Big, chocolatey treats filled with nuts, dried fruit, and tons of marshmellows... What's not to love? And it sounded so unbelievably easy, too! So I made rocky road today. And you can make it too! Let's get started, shall we? You need...

Marshmellows. About 100 grams, but feel free to eyeball this a bit. It's not about absolute measurements. Doesn't that look tasty though? And painfully sweet? It's even shaped like a heart!

Raisins! Again, eyeball away. This is about 200 grams and I used a whole lot of these (not all), because I like raisins. Who doesn't? (Seriously, who doesn't? Because I don't think we can be friends anymore if you don't like raisins.)

Peanuts! Ooooh, peanuts! I used about 100 grams. Now, obviously, if you don't like peanuts or can't eat peanuts because your head will swell up and turn ten shades of purple if you do, by all means, leave them out. I don't care about them too much. Not as much as I care about the raisins. (you can also substitute these with cornflakes or other types of nuts.)

Chocolate! Hmmm, chocolate. I used 200 grams of milk and 300 grams of dark chocolate, chopped up into bits. (I love chopping chocolate, preferably with the biggest knife I can find. Makes me feel like a warrior. A chocolate warrior.)

I melted the chocolate au-bain-marie (just because I wanted to, you can melt it in the microwave if you want. Put it in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke it at 30 second intervals, stirring between rounds, until all the chocolate is completely melted.).

Once all the chocolate was completely melted, I dumped in all the tasty treats. Oooo, Mount St. Tastytreats!

Take this as a lesson, kids. Never build on a swamp. Especially if it's made of chocolate, and what you built is actually a loose mass of peanuts, raisins and marsmellows.

This concoction went into an aluminium foil-lined, rectangular baking dish and then into the fridge for a couple of hours. Or actually, about one hour. The BF got impatient.

So we took it out, lifted it out of the dish and peeled off the foil. Then we cut it into small bits.

Hmmm.. Pretty!


And pretty tasty, too!

Definitely an easy and delicious thing to make when you're in the mood for something sweet!