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are you ready?

Give away day is almost here, and I for one, can hardly wait! I’ll be joining in the fun again this year, so be sure to check back on December 13th for your chance to win a fun handmade gift.

It was snowing like crazy again in Edinburgh today, so much so that my office actually closed early. Unfortunately all the buses were shut down, so after the three mile trudge home in the snow I’m now all warm and cozy in our little flat. With the extra time I decided to bake up some yummy bread, put on the Christmas tunes and get to work on a couple craft projects. Not a bad way to spend a Monday afternoon… Hope that wherever you are reading this from you’ve got an equally cozy day ahead of you. And just before I get going on my sewing I think I’ll make up a pot of festive Wassail punch. Traditionally this punch has a lot of egg in the drink, but I prefer my sans egginess and think this recipe is delish. Care to join me for a cup?

Wassail Holiday Punch

  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup lemon juice (depending on how tart you like your wassail)
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2-4 Tbsp honey (depending on how sweet you like your wassail)

Combine all the ingredients in the crockpot and let simmer away all day. Alternatively, if you’re pressed for time you can cook all the ingredients on the stovetop. Simply combine, bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

happy thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving, and today I have so many reasons to give thanks! J came home last night after a week-long trip away, this afternoon we will gather with friends to celebrate Thanksgiving (thanks to A we’re even having a turkey, which is a huge feat given our crazy ovens over here), and tonight we will head off the official tree lighting ceremony, followed by a beautiful concert at St. Giles and a walk through the Christmas markets that are opening today. It’s like Edinburgh is throwing a great celebration just for Thanksgiving! I’m so looking forward to it all, and continually thankful for the time we have to live abroad and enjoy many new friendships and experiences.

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May your hearts and stomachs be full today!

 

saturday soup & sewing

(I made this soup and sewing project last Saturday, but didn’t get around to posting it. As I’m off to Geneva tomorrow, I thought I’d post it now in my absence… Have a great weekend!)


Edinburgh has been so blustery and stormy the past few days, that I knew I had to make up a big pot of warming soup to fuel all our weekend adventures. So, I went to our fridge, grabbed all the veggies we had and threw them in my much loved pot and started sauteing. While I was busy stirring I happened to look over and spy a pumpkin I’d bought several weeks ago to and a little autumn flair to our flat. I decided it would be the perfect addition, and quickly chopped it in half and popped it in the oven to roast. This is a really simple soup that is perfect for using up less-than-perfect produce. This version had a pumpkin, half a winter squash, a carrot, a parsnip, one onion, four garlic cloves, and a handful of cauliflower left over from earlier in the week. Truly, any vegetable would do. Once everything was nice and soft, I added 1/2 tsp thyme, a little salt and about 4 cups vegetable broth and then simmered for a good 45 minutes or so. To finish things off I gave the whole batch a whirl with my hand blender and then added some creaminess with about 1/4 cup creme fresh. I also roasted the pumpkin seeds in a little olive oil, salt and paprika and they added a pretty garnish and gave some good crunch to the soup. So easy, so nutritious, and seriously good.

I love having good bread to serve with soup, and as I also had some cheese and green onions to use up, I decided to make some Cheese and Green Onion biscuits. Yum. I created these by combining several different recipes, and thought I’d share the finished result with you here. Hope you enjoy it!

Cheese and Green Onion Biscuits

makes about 8 biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup (1 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I used Manchego)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 cup buttermilk
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and paprika. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixtrure resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cheese and green onions. Pour in the buttermilk, and stir with a fork until mixture just comes together to form a sticky dough. On a lightly floured work surface, with lightly floured hands, pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round.
    2. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut out the biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
    3. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Travel Wallet

    This weekend I’m off with my dear friend Ashli for a fun getaway to the lovely Geneva, Switzerland! J and I normally carry an Eagle Creek travel case with us to keep all our papers, tickets and passports neat and tidy. But, as J is off at a conference in Atlanta with our trusty travel case this week, I decided it was time to make one of my own. I used this tutorial, which was great. The only trouble I had was sorting out the zippers. I just couldn’t seem to figure out how they were attached from the tutorial, so I ended up making that portion up on my own. I think it worked out great, and my travel wallet is now all filled up and ready for its first big adventure. Hurrah!

    ¡olé!

    For the past three or four years J and I have significantly cut down our meat consumption. Usually this means lots of yummy vegetarian soups and salads with interesting grains, nuts and beans thrown in for good measure. My favorite meal we make is far and away beans and rice. This dish has endless possibilities by using different beans, mixing in a wide variety of veggies and fruit, (seriously… mangos are delicious in this dish!) and using different herbs and toppings. So today, I thought I’d share our beans and rice recipe with you as well as the latest addition to this family favorite. Homemade tortillas! This was born out of necessity as it is nearly impossible to get good tortillas in Scotland. And now that I know just how easy they are to make I can’t believe we were ever buying tortillas in the first place.

    J’s ultimate beans and rice recipe

    • 1 cup beans
    • 1 cup rice
    • ½ cube goya vegetable bouillon (with tomato paste) (or you can use regular veggie broth and add in 1-2 tsp tomato paste.)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • ½ onion
    • ½ potato
    • 1 carrots
    • ½ green pepper
    • ½ orange/red pepper
    • ½ hot pepper
    1. Soak beans overnight (1/2c of beans per 4-6 servings, where a serving is a bowl for 1 person)
    2. In the morning or afternoon when you’re ready to start cooking, clean and drain the beans (sort out rocks etc.).
    3. Return beans to pot and after draining add water (3:1 – thus 1½c water per ½c beans used)
    4. Add bouillon (goya w/ a hint of tomato is best) to water for simmering, as well as salt and pepper
    5. Bring beans to a boil, simmer until al dente (when a sampled bean or two is 5 minutes away from the perfect texture), usually 45-75 minutes
    6. When beans are 15-20 minutes from being done, cook vegetables (onion, green/red peppers, etc. – be creative!) in a frying pan. Add denser vegetables to simmer with the beans (carrots, potatoes, etc.).
    7. Note: For arroz amarillo: fry vegetables with ½ teaspoon of ground achiote or annatto
    8. When beans are done simmering, drain beans and reserve liquid
    9. Add “bean water” back into pot at 2:1 ratio (1c water per original ½c beans)
    10. Add rice (uncooked) to pot 1:1 ratio with beans, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then simmer for 15
    11. Add fruit and other garnishes (mango or fresh tomatoes are great).

    We also love to add a bit of creme fresh or sour cream, and no meal is complete without Cholula… We go through that stuff like water!!

    Homemade Tortillas

    • 1 2/3 c all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 Tbsp oil
    • 2/3 c warm water
    1. Sift flour into the mixing bowl along with the salt.
    2. Add oil and warm water in a steady stream over flour mixture. Stir well with the fingers of your other hand. Continue to mix until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms.
    3. Sprinkle a little four onto the work surface. Knead dough for about five minutes until it feels smooth and plump. If dough feels too sticky, add a little more flour.
    4. Cover the ball of dough with upturned mixing bowl and let rest for 15 minutes. This allows the dough to relax and makes it much easier to roll out.
    5. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each piece into a ball. Flour the work surface and rolling pin and then roll out ball into a very thing round, roughly the size of a lunch plate.
    6. Pass the rolled-out round from one hand to the other to shake off any excess flour as this will toughen the tortilla. Carefully lay the tortilla in the hot pan. Let sit for 30 sec-1 minute, until you see little white spots forming on the surface, then flip it over; it should be patched with brown underneath.Cook the other side for another half minute. Set aside. Repeat process for each dough ball.
    7. Tortillas are best eaten right away, but if you wrap them carefully and store in the fridge, they can be reheated the next day. Enjoy!

     

    cozy

    J was off early this morning to catch a train up to Aberdeen, which would have been fine, except our dear cat, Sam, took that to mean it was time for me to get up too… at 4:30 am. And if Sam wants you up, you’re up. He is one tenacious little fluff ball. So, once I accepted it was going to be an early start to the day I decided to embrace the coziness of dark fall mornings and make myself a yummy breakfast, cuddle up with a good book, and enjoy the stillness of a new day.

    so self satisfied.

    A couple hours of reading later, most people were just starting their days, but I was fully awake and ready to go! I decided it was a perfect time to work on a project I’ve long wanted to make as my hot water bottle and I are somewhat inseparable during the cold long months of winter here in Edinburgh. But, the bottle is made of rubber and always smells a little, well, rubbery which is not quite ideal. When I came across this tutorial, I tucked it away knowing I would eventually get around to making one. The project came together really fast, and in about an hour my hot water bottle had a cozy new cover, and no more rubber smell.

    Hot water bottle covers are quickly gaining popularity as people are using them more these days as they are a good alternative to cranking on the heater, making them a more environmentally friendly way to keep your tootsies warm on chilly nights. If you’re not up to making a cover yourself, there are currently some great designs available for purchase. Check here, here, here and here for some fun ideas… great Christmas gift idea, no?

    Also, in case you’ve missed it, it’s my favorite time of year over at Sew Mama Sew again as all month long they are celebrating handmade holidays. Go over and check it out. Loads of great ideas to make or buy from etsy as well as lots of opportunities to win some great prizes! Hurrah!

    I admit it. I. Love. Christmas. And I honestly don’t see anything wrong with listening to Christmas music year round. Unfortunately, J disagrees so we’ve had to negotiate a listening schedule we can both abide by. That means no Christmas tunes before my birthday at the end of October. It used to be no Christmas tunes until after Thanksgiving, but as we keep moving to countries that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving for J’s schooling, I’ve managed to gain a little ground.

    Anyway, in preparation for the upcoming Yuletide season I’ve had a lovely weekend filling our home with the delicious smells of Christmas and working on an Advent Calendar that I’d fully intended to make last year, and am determined to have finished in time for Advent this year!

    One of my favorite hangouts in Edinburgh is a lovely cafe called Peter’s Yard. It is situated just off a gorgeous park, and come rain or shine the cafe always feels light and airy. I love it. On top of the perfect-for-me atmosphere, they also have the MOST incredible baked goods. My absolute favorite pastry is their cardamom bun. Truly delicious, and mildly addictive. Served alongside a steaming mug of Rooibos tea and a good book and that’s me sorted for the afternoon. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making some cardamom buns for awhile now, and though they aren’t quite the same as the buns from Peter’s Yard, they are quite tasty, and a good substitute in a pinch.

    Cardamom Buns

    (adapted from Tessa Kiros’s recipe in Falling Cloudberries)

    bun dough

    • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
    • 100 g (3 1/2 oz.) caster sugar
    • 2 packets active dry yeast
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 125 g (4 1/2 oz.) butter, softened
    • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
    • 1/2 tsp. allspice
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 470 g (4 1/4 cups) plain white flour

    spiced butter

    • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. freshly crushed cardamom seeds
    • 50 g (1 3/4 oz.) caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp. for sprinkling on top of prepared buns
    • 80 g (2 3/4 oz.) butter, softened
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten

    Put the milk and sugar in a bowl, stir to dissolve sugar. Add yeast, leave for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to activate. Add the egg, butter, cardamom, allspice and salt and mix in. Add the flour, bit by bit, mixing it in with a wooden spoon until you need to use your hands, and then turn it out onto the work surface to knead. It may seem a little too sticky initially, but will become compact and beautifully soft after about 5 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a clean cloth, and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size (1 1/2 – 2 hours).

    To make the spiced butter, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Divide the butter into four  portions and keep on one side.

    Put the dough on a floured work surface roll out to a rectangle measuring 20×16. Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough with a palette knife or blunt knife. Sprinkle with spice mix, covering the whole surface with quick shaking movements of your wrists. Lightly press dough to push spice mixture into the butter. Fold the bottom 1/3 of dough over itself. Next fold the top third down, so that the dough has been folded as you would fold a letter, only in a landscape, not portrait orientation. Then, using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut 1″ strips of the folded dough. Take each piece and tie into a knot, tucking the ends under.

    Line two large baking trays with baking paper, or bake in two lots if you only have one tray.  Put the buns on the baking trays, leaving space for them to puff and rise while they bake. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle a little sugar, cinnamon and crushed cardamom over the top.

    Leave the buns to rise for half an hour and preheat your oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Bake them for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden. Check that they are lightly golden underneath as well before you take them out of the oven. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature and, when they are cool, keep them in an airtight container so they don’t harden.

    Makes about 20 buns.

    Advent Calendar

    This next project is one that I have been working on for far too long. I first saw it here, and have been dreaming about making one for our home ever since. Well, this year is the year, and this weekend I’ve been busy cutting all my squares for the pockets and lovely red felt numbers to mark the days. I’m so excited for the finished project and can’t wait to hang it up to use this year! What do you think, is mid-November too early to start decorating for Christmas? Here’s a pic of my progress so far, I promise to post another once I’ve got it finished. Now I just have to figure out what to fill the sweet pockets with…

    pancake art

    Well, it has been a ridiculously long week at work, so today is a day I plan to fill with all my favorite things… A hike through the country, a visit to the farmer’s market, a trip to check out a groovy grassroots venture here in Edinburgh, and an evening with new friends. Delightful. So what could make a wonderful day even more wonderful? Pancakes. And not just any pancakes, I’m talking about a little domestic art to start the day off right. I recently stumbled across this amazing blog (go check it out… this guy is INCREDIBLE!) and couldn’t wait to give it a try myself. I decided my first attempt at pancake art ought to reflect a bit of Scotland. Definitely room for improvement, but my mind is already spinning with new ideas for pancake creations!

    Just in case you need interpretation… it’s a wee sheep, standing on a lovely field of homemade applesauce! 🙂