Lemon + Raspberry = Yum!

December 31, 2012

Wouldn’t you know it, I’ve got myself a little tradition at work.  I’m not sure how this went from being a one-off to a regular occurrence, but it seems now that whenever someone leaves (because of retirement or whatnot), they get sent on their way with a lovely gift-box of cupcakes from me.

I made lemon cupcakes with a raspberry-cream cheese frosting for my boss, whose last day before maternity leave was technically today.  Since the office was closed for New Year’s Eve, though, I brought them in for her last week.

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I was really happy with how they turned out…the flavours pair together very well, and they were such a nice change from the standard Christmas sweets that had been everywhere for the last month.

Evidently, I have a reputation as the Cupcake Girl, because I don’t even have to be present when the cupcakes are discovered.  She showed up at my cube a half-hour after I had arrived and deposited my package: “Did you leave cupcakes on my desk?”  Of course I did…who else would it be? 😉

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Home for Christmas

December 25, 2012

Right by the [bad word, bad word] skin of my [bad word] teeth…

I decided that for Christmas, my mother needed a cross-stitched picture of three kitties, to reflect ours.  So, with little regard for how much time this might actually take, I set to work:

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It was one of my goals for the year to complete a Peter Underhill pattern, since I keep buying them but not stitching them, so this was kind of a two-birds-with-one-stone deal.

I’m quite pleased with how it came out, and so glad I switched out the 14-count white aida that came in the kit for sparkly 28-count evenweave.  I think the sparkles really add a festive touch.  It’s not washed or anything, yet; I put in the final stitches at roughly 7:45 this morning.  My mother is delighted, and is trying to decide whether she wants to frame it, make it up into a cushion cover…

I also got to carry on one of my favourite Christmas traditions: making homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I do all the prep the night before, including slicing them and placing them in the pan, then refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, they just need to be proofed a tiny bit, and then baked.

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The recipe is from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and couldn’t be simpler or tastier.  This alone was worth the price of the book, and the buns have come to be eagerly anticipated.  You need a bit of a sugar rush to open presents!

Merry Christmas!

Or so says comedian John Pinette.  I generally try to not take standup comedy as gospel, but I’m kind of inclined to agree with him on that count.  If you read this blog with any regularity, you know my feelings on gluten-free baking.  I’m certain that if I had to go gluten-free, I’d lose 20 pounds within the first month, easy.

But…remember the coworker who asked if I could find a good gluten-free corn bread recipe for her? (“A very corn-y joke“)  Evidently my baking didn’t kill her, and she decided she had to get more of what I had to offer.  *snerk*  “Here’s my Christmas wish,” she began as she appeared at my desk one morning, and spread out a recipe clipped from the newspaper.

“Pumpkin-almond cookies?” I read.  The ingredient list seemed fairly straightforward, except for the almond butter and – oh, crap! – having to spend an hour reducing pumpkin purée before baking.

“But gluten-free.”  Of course.  She went on to say that she had a big jar of almond butter at home, all-natural, from Costco, that she wasn’t using, and I could have the whole thing.  How can you refuse an offer/request like that?

When I went to the bulk store for gluten-free flour, the little information slips attached to the bin recommended adding xanthan gum for best results.  Of course, they didn’t sell xanthan gum in bulk, only in huge bags, so that necessitated a trip to another store to get a smaller package.  (At 1/4 tsp per cup of flour for cookies, a 100 gram bag will last me forever.)  Ingredients procured, I got a-baking yesterday:

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I have to say, they’re not half-bad.  Maybe adding xanthan gum really does make a difference!  I think part of the reason these worked is because the moisture in the pumpkin helps counteract the dry crumbliness that usually befalls GF baking…that hour spent reducing it was worth it, by the way.

My mom says that it’s the best gluten-free baking she’s ever had, and certainly the best that I’ve ever made – high praise, from someone who can eat the plain old glutenous version with impunity.

Now I just have to wait and see if my coworker thinks they were worth the wait.  I’ll be bringing a tin of them in for her tomorrow for a Monday surprise!

(Because I’m capable of domestic arts that aren’t just cupcake porn, doncha know…)

(But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of that!)

Every year, one of the no-kill cat shelters in town has an open house, sort of a fund-raising/awareness/adoption drive.  They hold a bake sale, too, and put out the call for people to bring in baking to help the cause.  I try to make something tasty each year, and one year I recall phoning in sick to work so I could stay home and bake a few dozen cupcakes (I’ve since improved my time-management skills).

I wanted to do something just a little different this year.  Baking is fine, but homemade treats grow stale quickly, and what if they don’t sell?  Isn’t there something a little more tangible I could do?  Then it hit me: what about a couple of cute half-aprons?  They make the perfect hostess gift, and can be tied on long after the cookies have turned dry and crumbly.  I used fun faux-retro prints to keep things merry and bright, and had at ‘er.

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To make them, I measured an apron of my mother’s and drafted up a pattern of sorts.  They were really simple – I think I spent more time steaming my fingers with the iron than sewing – and generously-sized.  I’m not a skinny girl, but the ties wrap all the way around my waist back to the front.  The whole project would have been a great exercise in de-stashing, too (besides helping the homeless kitties), if I hadn’t gone out and bought fabric specifically to make these.  Next year…

I even made little tags with care instructions:

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But, you know, they did ask for baking and not for cute housewares, so I did bring something edible, too. My world  city  inner-circle famous Cuban Lunch candies, packaged and ready for giving, or just for enjoying yourself:

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Hopefully I’ll help them raise a few dollars to help the kitties…what a nice start to the holiday season!