April 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Traditional and British indeed! This steamed pudding challenge was exciting for me since I've never made a steamed pudding before and do not have any experience working with suet. I had originally wanted to try a steak and kidney filling but last weekend's menu just didn't accommodate another meaty dish so I settled on an apple and cinnamon filling.

It is somewhat of a strange concept to us North Americans to put animal fat in a dessert type item, however, I just chalked it up to being similar to using lard in a pie crust. I found prepackaged suet in my local grocery store and as described by Esther, was able to crumble it into tiny pieces after separating the fat from the membrane (this doesn't sound too appetizing).

The dough came together as described in Esther's recipe. I was able to use a large soup bowl as my pudding bowl and cut up four apples, threw in some cinnamon and brown sugar and put the pastry lid on. This pudding steamed for two hours and unmolded very easily onto a plate.

I was surprised at how the pastry turned a nice, golden colour from the steaming. Here is the inside of the pudding. I gave it a nice dollop of caramel sauce for some extra tastiness and it was indeed tasty. The pastry was a little salty, even though I only added a pinch of salt, so the caramel sauce helped it taste more dessert-y. It was quite tender and the apples kept their shape despite the two hour steaming. In the end I'm glad that I did this challenge. If I were to try it again I would probably use vegetable shortening instead of the suet as it was time consuming breaking the suet apart (not to mention super greasy) and I would do a savory filling. Thanks, Esther, for the fun challenge!

Happy birthday!

LOLcat says "Happy Birfday N"

Today is a special day at Balkan Style. A mere 30-ish years ago our good friend, N, was born and graced the world with her crafty presence. N has a talent for telling very excellent stories such as ones about when she used to work at a particular doughnut chain ("I only made balloon cakes"), stories about her first several dates with her now partner, J ("There was a hole in my stocking so I crossed my legs to try to hide it"), and of course stories about a 30-plus hour bus ride down to Minnesota (not sure where to start with this one). N, thank you for sharing your talents with the blogosphere and for those who have met you and those who know you, thanks for the laughs! Happy birthday!

At My Kitchen Window

Sometimes when you are scrubbing a cheddar omelette off the skillet and the spatula, and the smell of cooked egg and cheese is making you gag a little, it's nice to look up and see some pretty flowers.

I finished the sweater on Saturday, and I put phoney seams down the sides and weaved 3/4 of the bajillion ends in.  When I get the other 1/4 of the bajillion ends weaved in and the sweater blocked, I will proudly show it off to you.   It fits!  And I am so happy that I could seriously marry it.  Just saying.


Behind the Scenes

The Bumblebee is modelling (unreluctantly once again) our newest craft table project.  My sister and I whipped up a dozen of these head scarves last weekend in multiple sizes.  We really do have something for everyone.  Funny thing is we only asked her to try it on, and we never got it back.  I insisted that we needed it for our craft table, and she threw us a fiver and told us it was SOLD.   Our first sale!!  The pattern can be found in Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing book.  I LOVE this book.

And I've delved into the fair-isle yoke!  I found the two shades of purple in my underbed stash.  They are Noro Cash Iroha, and I am not sure that I should have used them.  Maybe I should have stuck with a similar ply as the Patons Classic Merino Wool as the cream, green and paprika.  Regardless, there will be no frogging - just knitting full steam ahead.  I wouldn't be surprised if I am finished this sweater in the next week.  Just in time for the summer. :)


Happy Earth Day!

Happy 40th anniversary Earth Day! Celebrate and help our planet by:

- making a planet earth shaped cake.
- replacing store-bought cleaners with your own homemade ones.
- designate one day a week and eat no meat. Check out Meatless Monday for recipe ideas.
- check the air pressure in your car tires since low pressure reduces fuel efficiency.
- plant something or visit your local farmers market for your produce instead of going to a big box grocery store.
- bring reusable grocery bags to the store with you or make your own out of old t-shirts.
- visiting your local library.
- wash and reuse plastic zip-top bags and make an easy bag dryer to hang them on.

Caucasian baby of unknown gender

I don't only make baby shaped cakes, although it may seem like it. Baby shaped cakes just happen to be very popular around here for some reason. This particular baby cake went to Wisconsin with a former colleague of mine who ordered it for a cousin's baby shower. The order came in the form of an email that went something like this:

Sorry for the last minute order but I need a baby cake for my cousin's shower this weekend in Madison. It is a Caucasian baby of unknown gender. Please do a chocolate head and a vanilla body.

Want to Make a Scarf to Match Your Newfie Mittens?

We just received this request on the Newfie Mitten pattern post:

"I made a pair of these for my aunt and she loves them. She wants a scarf to match! can you post a pattern for a scarf to match? thank you."

That's easy!  No need to make a pattern because it's pretty much already out there.     You can find the pattern free here!  You'd be basically just knitting a super long dish cloth!  Just keep repeating the pattern until it's long enough to wrap around your neck one or two times, and cast off.

That felt like the laziest answer, but that's it in a nutshell.


Using Up the Lunch Apples

Don't let the tin foil plate fool you.  I made this entire pie from scratch.  The pastry and the pie filling.  See, we buy lots of apples for lunches.  Work lunches and school lunches.  This isn't to say that they get eaten.  I also unpack lots of apples at the end of each work and school day.  The girls rarely eat them.  The cookies and popcorn are always gone, but the apples mysteriously return home.  Another reason I always have a mountain of apples, besides no one eating them, is that one daughter will only eat green apples and the other, only red, so I buy double what we could realistically eat.  I'm indiscriminate when it comes to eating apples.  I will eat any put in front of me.  I also like to smell them.  But I really can't eat ALL of the apples myself.  So every couple of weeks, I am forced to come to terms with a load of rotting apples.  I make a lot of applesauce because I am really lazy.  This week, I cracked open a veritable cookbook, and I was lured by the recipe name - Best Ever Apple Pie.  Hells ya.  It was fairly easy with the exception of peeling and slicing many an apple.  I did good.  My only complaint is my timing.  How come I didn't churn this baby out Easter weekend or another time when I was needing to dazzle friends and family with my superb baking skills.  I really like to be fawned over.   Instead the four of us sat around with forks hunched over the table  in our pyjamas, and admittedly there were some mumbles and grunts and empty plates that indicated a job well done. Who am I kidding?  That'll do.  I'ma gonna take it however I can get it.  The next day, I went to the Goodwill and picked myself up a glass pie plate.  I'm set.


Progress Report on Fair Isle Yoke Sweater


I brought some forsythia branches inside to enjoy.   Serious love.

Happy Friday!


We've stamped brown paper lunch bags with some botanical doodads and purchased black raffia string to complement the black ink.  These will serve as our bags for the small fiddly items at our upcoming craft table.  This was a simple project when we could no longer bead another earring.  I think it adds a dash of pretty while not costing us an arm and a leg.  There's a hole puncher hiding in there somewhere too!
And the goodies for inside the bags include these sweet magnets we whipped up using my huge stash of buttons and my sister's scrapbook supplies.  I admit we got a tad competitive.  Mine are the pretty ones. :) Of course.


Sweet things

When 2:30 rolls around I grab a cup of tea and something sweet as a little pick me up. Unfortunately this frosted doughnut wouldn't be able to satisfy anyone but if you're doing some sewing it would come in handy. I crocheted this doughnut pin cushion for my sister whose birthday is coming up. The sprinkles are straight pins so keep an eye on it before someone takes a bite!
This is an actual cake...no yarn here. Mr. T was out of town for a conference so upon his return I decided to surprise him with a chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream. Yum! I'll take advantage of any opportunity to have cake.

Marvelous Grasp of the Obvious

Sometimes my eye lids swell up while I sleep, and by the end of the day, my eye lids look normal again.  I use cold cloths to reduce the swelling with some non-drowsy allergy meds.  Very important that the meds are non-drowsy.  I thought I was resistant a couple of times, and well, I'm not.   Today I made it to the doctor.  She said my eye lid is definitely swollen.  I asked why.  She said it could be a number of things, but she'd just be guessing.  And with that she exited the room.  I mumbled my gratitude and let myself out.   I suppose some things are just meant to be.

The Bumblebee would like to show you that her mum has a sleeve in addition to the body.  The second sleeve has been cast on, and is being knit up 'rapidement'.   Nice tat, kid.

Now to figure out the colours for the fair isle yoke.   Of course all of the pencil crayons require a good sharpening . . .


Our Foray Into Embroidery

The littlest and I went to a free embroidery workshop last night at the library.  The project was to make a mini pin cushion, and our very sweet and patient teachers were a group of ladies from the Canadian Embroiders Guild.  About halfway through, the Bumblebee declared rather loudly, "This is not as boring as I thought it would be!"  In fact had it not been past her bedtime when we returned home, I'm certain that she had enough interest and energy to whip up ten more!   To give you a sense of the size, the base is simply the lid of a water bottle.  They're very little.  We think they would also be great for cupcakes for her teddy bears or stools for her polly pockets.


P.S.  Do you have ten seconds to spare?  I did, and I made some of this nifty gardener's scrub.  And then I dragged my little jar to work and showed it off to anyone who would listen.  I think that some of them were seriously wowed.


New Orleans is an interesting town. Beautiful architecture abounds.When I think of New Orleans I think of balconies and warm, muggy days. I also think of Bourbon Street and the fun that can be had.
If you look closely at the tree above you can see beads hanging from it. Take the street car down Magazine Street and you would have thought that beads grow on trees in the south.
And a trip to New Orleans is not without cafe au lait and beignets on the patio of Cafe du Monde. I will spare you the picture of me covered in powdered sugar.

A Weekend Spent Outdoors

I'm going to experiment with the x-large picture feature in blogger.  Excuse it if it is too gigantic.  I just want to see how truly big extra large is.

Anyways, the littlest and I have been all over the countryside the past two days. 
  • We've been to the beach and been sunburnt.
  • We've flown a kite all over a close by field, and now we're pros.
  • We've skipped in the driveway, and although it took nearly an hour, she managed to get jump rope four times in a row (I did eleven, but could have easily jumped more had the rope been longer and not had to hunch over while jumping!) 
  • We've been to a garden centre and smelled all the flowers.
  • We've been to the doctor's and got some eye drops.
  • We ate a chocolate bunny for dinner.  Well, not me.  But she did, and I let her 'cause those eye drops really sting, and I still want to be the funnest mum.
  • We drove fast, and we drove slow.  I never did find a happy medium for her.  She's a horrible backseat driver.
  • We completely tired ourselves out, and someone needs a bath!


Happy Easter

The littlest has hunted down all the chocolate-filled Easter eggs (she's shaking down her big sister for 25 dollars for finding her share), and the eldest is already dressed for Easter dinner at her boyfriend's house.   I guess it'll just be the Bumblebee and I for the rest of the day as J is heading to bed after working all night.  It's looking to be a nice day, so I think we'll head to the lake.  I'll take my knitting and camera.  The Bee can bring along her super secret ninja pet and a bag of chocolate to stave off any hunger.   Oh dear, skipping rope in the living room makes a lot of noise.

I'm trying to decide on a colour scheme for the fairisle yoke.  I'm doing my best to avoid going yarn shopping.  The pale pink is already out of the running although I still like it.  And the tan has been replaced by a truer cream wool.  The peacock-y teal, and the chocolate brown are definite choices.  Any suggestions out there?   The body of the seamless sweater is coming along swimmingly.  I've even managed a few short rows across the back with only one little noticeable snag.   That counts as success.  Once I have the body and the sleeves done and before the yoke is knit, I plan on dropping a stitch under each pit down to the garter-stitch hem and then picking them up with a crochet hook for phoney seams.  I'm going to learn so much with this project!  I'm so excited. :)

Happy Easter!


Easter Activity

With our big family dinner already inhaled, we have the rest of the long weekend to recuperate and simply enjoy some downtime.  Today we went to the market and bought bunches of tulips, we stocked up on books and movies from the library, we decorated eggs, and we ate leftovers.  The littlest has noted that she would like to stay up and sneak a glimpse of the Easter Bunny tonight, and I'd like to say that I came up with some brilliant reason why we couldn't, but I was and still am at a loss.  It may be a very long night.