Archive for April, 2010

Recipe: Coconut Macaroons   Source: Nana’s handwritten recipes

Hubby and I were craving something sweet last night but there was absolutely nothing in the house that met that description (I offered to make hubby a smoothie but he turned me down – good, but not really a “dessert”).    Then it was Nana’s recipes to the rescue with this very simple recipe for Coconut Macaroons.  (yes, it is as hard to read as the photo shows)

I love anything with coconut so I was really excited to make these.  And I liked the fact that the recipe just made a dozen – perfect for a family of two to share.

Coconut Macaroons

  • 4 oz coconut ( the recipe actually say 4 oz or one package, but there was a HUGE difference between my package and 4 oz.  I used my scale and weighed the coconut)
  • 1 egg well beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Mix coconut and sugar well.

So far, so good.  Easy peasy, right?

Beat egg thoroughly until stiff, then add to coconut mixture.

Ok…so I know I am not the most advance cook or baker, but I’m pretty sure that you can’t beat a whole egg until stiff (and then I googled it just to make sure that I was right about that…I was…) So…did this mean that I was supposed to separate the egg and beat the egg white until stiff?  Did the term “stiff” in regards to the egg not mean what I think it means?  Or was this just another one of Nana’s…um…”typos” (what do you call that when it refers to actual writing?)  As I had already started to beat the egg, just in case it surprised me and actually did become stiff (it didn’t) I just beat it really well until it was nice and frothy.  Cooking is an art, not a science, right?

Add flavouring and blend well.

Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking sheet.

Bake in moderate oven (350) for 15 – 20 minutes. 

15 minutes was too long for these in my oven.  They were definitely a little more brown than they should have been (that didn’t stop us from eating them though…).  I would add to these instructions to remove them immediately from the pan onto a wire rack, otherwise they kind of stick to the pan, and in the process of trying to get them off they get all squished and some of them might fall apart and the sticky goo might make your spatula really hard to clean.  Of course, you have to eat the sticky, gooey, fallen apart ones right away – that’s just the way these things go. 

If you have any left, store them in an airtight container.  I found them to be crunchier the second day, but, then again, they were a little dark around the edges to begin with.

The recipe makes 12 absolutely delicious coconut confections.  Yum! 

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In the past two weeks I have been involved with 3 pattern tests and am happy to say that after spending all day seam-binding the last quilt, I’m done!  The quilt is still top secret at the moment (don’t I sound like the sewing spy?  I’d show it to you, but then I’d have to…ummm….poke you with my sewing needle?  Ok…maybe I’m not really a spy….)  Anyway, although I can’t show you the quilt (yet) I can show you my latest pattern test.   I was very, very lucky to be able to test the Ruby Lou doll pattern from Sew Much Ado

First off, I have to say what an amazing pattern this is!  I have never made a doll before and she made the process extremely easy.  It wasn’t as hard to make a doll as I always thought it would be.  I am so proud of my finished Ruby Lou!

She even has a reversible skirt!

Isn’t she cute?    And…she was made entirely from my grandmother’s fabrics!  I wonder if she knew she had all the making of a doll in her stash?

The PDF pattern for Ruby Lou is already available with a print pattern coming out soon.  There are lots of other fun sewing tutorials on the Sew Much Ado blog too!

Can you believe that this is my 6th pattern test?  I’m beginning to feel like a professional! 🙂

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Recipe: Rolled Oats Crackles    Source: Nana’s handwritten recipes

Here is another of Nana’s handwritten gems. 

I’m not sure what the bit at the top concerning King James is all about – perhaps it was a homework assignment that had to be started over (see how money is written twice?) and became recycled as recipe paper?   Oh the questions I would ask Nana if I could….  I also giggle at the spelling of immediately – these were definitely the days before spell check!

This is a pretty simple and straightforward cookie recipe.  The only ambiguity is the temperature of the oven, which, when glanced at quickly, seems to say “cook in a snot oven.”  Now, I know I am unfamiliar with cookery in the early 20th century but even so I have a feeling that is not what she meant to write!  After trial and error (and a few overcooked cookies) I discovered that a hot oven of about 425 will cook these nicely.

Rolled Oat Crackles

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup fat (I used butter, of course!)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Use muffin method of mixing.  In other words: Combine all of the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add the wet to the dry and mix together.

Hmm…no raw eggs in this cookie dough…that means it’s safe to eat it uncooked right out of the bowl…..

If you’re a purest and want your dough cooked… drop by spoon onto greased cookie sheet and press into wafers. 

Bake at 425 for about 8 minutes, or until delicately brown.   Remove from pan emmediately…I mean…immediately. 


I brought these to a friend’s house to share and they got good reviews from everyone.  They are just a nice, simple cookie.  I am not exactly sure why they are called “crackles”   When I read the recipe I thought maybe they would have cracks on top like molasses cookies, but they don’t.  Then I wondered if they might be really crunchy, but they aren’t (well, other than the ones I burnt when trying to figure out the oven temperature…).  Are there any crackle experts out there?    What is the difference between a crackle and a regular cookie?

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Pocket Quilt

Here is one pattern test revealed!  This is the “Pocket Quilt” pattern from Puking Pastilles.    Once again I found her patterns easy to follow and fun to make.

I had so much fun picking out these fabrics.  I had several combinations of colours picked out including girlie pinks, soft-coloured flannels and bright rainbow-coloured solids.  I just love laying out colour combinations and trying to add different fabrics until I find just the right combination.  In the end, these bright somewhat western-themed fabrics made the cut into the final quilt.   The blue rope-patterned fabric  is a remnant of a piece I bought way back when I was teaching preschool and I used it to make a cute cowboy vest for the dress-up corner (I wish I had taken pictures of all the dress-up clothes I made, they were so much fun!).    I love the way it combines with the bandana-patterned red (one of Gran’s fabrics!) and the camping bears and wood grain pieces.  The binding was tricky.  I must have tried almost every piece of fabric I owned before I happened on this brown plaid when I was looking for something else (isn’t that always the way things go?) 

The quilting was done by machine and is all free-motion.  I know it’s not perfect but I think it is some of my best machine quilting yet!   I used the orange thread and the loopy design to mirror the rope pattern on the blue fabric.

And then there is the pocket side!  I used a soft and cosy flannel for the pocket itself.  It’s a very cuddly place to store a favourite stuffie!  (I am thinking I need to make  a horse stuffie to go with this quilt. I think I saw a pattern for one not that long ago on a blog…somewhere….)

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Happy Earth day!  I have had it in my mind for a while that I would like to do a post on making your own cleaners, and what better day to do it than on a day when we celebrate all the ways we can take better care of our Earth?

Some of the things I love about making my own cleaners is that my house doesn’t smell like chemicals, I don’t have to deal with bottles of stuff with warnings like “use in a well-ventilated area” or “may cause irritation if it comes in contact with skin,”  and they’re cheap and easy to make!   It’s a great way to save money, save the earth, and preserve your health, all at the same time!   What more could you ask from a household cleaner??

There are really only two main ingredients in my cleaning cupboard and they are vinegar and baking soda.  With those two items I can clean almost everything in the house (and I always have the ingredients on hand to create “erupting volcanoes”  a fun science trick that never ceases to please the little ones in my life). 

 Plain vinegar is great for removing water stains from toilets (pour some in and soak overnight) and as a fabric softener in the laundry.  It is also the main ingredient in two of my favourite cleaners.   And don’t forget to save the empty bottles for making your own laundry soap!

Window and Glass Cleaner  Combine 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a spray bottle.  Spray the surface and wipe with newsprint.  The trick to getting a streak-free shine is to continue to use dry pieces of paper (once the newsprint is saturated it will streak).  I just keep folding the paper over on itself as I go to keep it from getting too wet. 

All-Purpose Cleaner  Combine 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water in a spray bottle.  Add 20 or 30 drops of eucalyptus oil.  You could probably also use tea tree oil.  I use this for general cleaning and disinfecting (counter tops, sink handles, light switches, door handles, toilets, the telephone, etc).  I also use it with my Mr. Clean wet mop – when the cleaner that came with it ran out I just filled the bottle up with this instead and it works great!

Plain baking soda is great for scrubbing and scouring!  I use it to clean sinks, tubs, toilets, the oven top and the fridge (it’s great for getting finger marks off the handles.)  Simply sprinkle on, add a few drops of water, and scrub away with a cleaning cloth.   Use steel wool instead of a cloth and you’ve got a fantastic oven cleaner (without the noxious fumes).

Hubby thought of the idea of putting it in a jar with holes on top.  I used to use the “reach into the bag and pull out a handful” method but this is much neater!

Salt is also a great cleaner and can really shine up a kitchen sink!  I will also sometimes use a half a lemon to freshen things up too!

While we are talking about cleaners I should mention that I do not have paper towels in my house.  (Correction, hubby has some which he hides away somewhere for his use only but I think in the whole 5 years we have been married he has only had to purchase them once or twice).   Growing up with paper towels I didn’t really know what to do without them at first, but now I can’t remember what it is that I used to use them for!   Instead of paper we bought a large pile of dishcloths that are used for cleaning only (they are a completely different kind and colour than the ones we use for dishes) and they are used for all sorts of household messes and tidy-up jobs. 

These are my dusting cloths.  The red pieces on top were cut from an old sweater and I have to say they are the best dust cloths I have ever owned (Swiffer would be jealous).   I’m not sure what the sweater is made of (it’s definitely not wool) but if I ever see another one like it in a thrift store it’s mine!  The cloth underneath is flannel (actually a piece of one of my baby blankets if you can believe it – that cloth is 31 years old and still in use!) which also works well for dusting and cleaning.

I will leave you with this photo which I took for hubby as a joke one day: 

What I wish would happen when I leave the house each day...

If you have any “green” cleaning tips or other recipes for simple homemade cleaners, I’d love to hear them!

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Earth Day Books

I am a guest poster on Playing by the Book today as part of their “Fantastic Fiction for Kids” series.   In honour of Earth Day (tomorrow) I share a selection of my favourite environmental education stories.  Check out my post, and then be sure to check out some of Zoe’s other posts for reviews of some great children’s books and  creative and inspiring activities for kids.

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Recipe: Nut Snacks  Source: Nana’s handwritten recipes

I have decided to take a bit of a break from the “Handy Reliable” and attempt to make some of my great-grandmother’s other recipes.  I was particularly interested in the hand-written recipes as I assume if she took the time to write them down, and if she saved them all those years, that she probably actually made them (although if she is like me she might have written down many recipes to try “sometime” and then just never got around to it…)

I decided to start with this one, for no other reason than I had all the ingredients in the house.

Nut Snacks

  • 1/3 cup butter                             1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar                               1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 egg yolks                                     1 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt

_____ (this word is unreadable) into a thick paste, spread into casserole.

I just mixed everything together into something that didn’t really look like a paste, but I went with it anyway.

And pressed it into an 8×8 pan.

The recipe continues…

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts or chocolate chips

(is it just me, or if you made them with all chocolate chips would they cease to be “nut” snacks?)

Spread onto the other mixture and bake 20 minutes in a moderate oven.  Cut while hot.

Seems simple enough.  I beat my egg whites a little and then added the sugar (I used demerara because that’s what I have on hand) and then went to add the walnuts.

Ok…so I thought I had all the ingredients in the house.  I went searching in my cupboards for other nuts and found these

which didn’t quite look like it would make up the difference but I dumped them into my new favourite kitchen gadget and ended up with this

which still didn’t equal even half a cup even with the walnuts.  So I pulled out these

Don’t be fooled, they are carob chips, not chocolate.  And no there wasn’t quite enough of those either…. I am considering renaming these “clean-out-your-cupboard-snacks.”  To top off the last little bit to make a full cup I threw in some sesame seeds, because, well, I had lots and why not?

Ready for the oven:

And after spending 20 minutes at 350 it looks like this:

And when the recipe says “cut while hot” it doesn’t really mean it, because the top part is still a liquid when it comes out of the oven until it cools off quite a bit.  “Cut while still warm” might be a better descriptor. 

And the verdict…..yum!  I was expecting them to be super sweet like a butter tart square, but they aren’t, which is really nice (although they are sweet enough, don’t get me wrong…)  I did find the bottom a little doughy and wonder if it wouldn’t benefit from being cooked a little first, like you do with some other bar recipes.  I might try that next time and see what happens.  Overall, a yummy little square.  A perfect little bite for when you feel like something sweet.

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First Flowers of Spring

Despite hail, and rain, and snow (all on the same day!) I discovered these in the front garden last week:

They are the first flowers in the garden this year!   I believe this plant is Bethlehem Sage (also known as Lungwort).  Don’t you just love the first flowers of spring?

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More Secret Sewing

More secret quilting going on here.  I’m actually working on two pattern tests this week – yikes!  Good thing I like to be busy!  Because it’s secret sewing I can’t show it to you yet (and I can’t wait to show off my free-motion quilting, I think I am finally getting the hang of it!) I’ll leave you with a sneak peak of the fabrics:

I fell in love with the beach print fabric when I was on Prince Edward Island last summer.  I don’t usually impulse buy fabrics (with Gran’s fabric taking up every bit of space in my sewing room I have no room for more fabric that I don’t yet have a plan for) but I fell in love with this one and couldn’t leave it behind. 

I love to walk barefoot on the beach, I think it might be one of my favourite things in the world.  There’s just nothing like the feeling of sand underneath my feet to make me smile. 

So you see…I really couldn’t leave that piece of fabric behind now could I?  And doesn’t it feel like a hot day on the beach with all of those other bright-coloured fabrics next to it?

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Recipe: Macaroni Soup   

Source: The Handy Reliable Cookbook  Date: 1892

If there was such a thing as convenience food in 1892, this recipe would be it.  Provided you already have some stock made you can have a delicious dinner in less than an hour.   Compared to the two-day affairs of  some of the meat recipes, this is lightning fast!  Here is the recipe as printed:

Macaroni Soup  The macaroni must be boiled in water for 10 minutes, strained and put in boiling stock, in the proportion of half a pound to the gallon; simmer slowly for half an hour, and serve very hot, with grated cheese in a separate dish.

Did they have packaged macaroni in 1892?  You had to butcher your own ox-head but you could buy macaroni off the shelf…I must admit this one surprised me. 

Regardless, I will start by saying that this recipe is worth making!  It got two thumbs up both from myself and my hubby and has been added to the list of meals that we will make again.  I made a few changes when I made mine, but either way it is a keeper.  Here is what I did:

1.  I made my own chicken stock.  There is nothing like fresh stock.  If you have never made your own, you really should give it a try.  Not only does it make use of chicken bones, which you would otherwise throw out, but it is full of nutrients and tastes great.  I boiled mine for three hours without a lid, resulting in a nice condensed, flavourful,  broth (not at all like some of the thin stuff I have bought at the store).   My Dad always said that the sign of a good soup broth was if it turned to jello when refrigerated.  There are lots of recipes out there for broth – I cook my bones with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.   It keeps well long-term in the feezer or short-term in the fridge.

2.  Saute one chopped onion in some butter.

There were no vegetable oils in 1892 – and after reading this book  and this book it is rare that I use them in my kitchen either. 

3.  Add peeled, chopped carrot and some chopped celery and saute until slightly soft.

4.  Pour in your stock. 

4.  Once the stock is boiling, add your drained macaroni.

5.  Simmer for half an hour.  Serve with cheese on the side. (I used an aged white cheddar)

6.  While the soup is still piping hot, sprinkle the cheese on top and let it melt into the soup – so yummy!

If desired, serve with a yummy grape foccacia:

This is totally optional and completely unrelated but I was so happy with the way this turned out I had to take a photo of it too.    Nothing like mixing a modern favourite with something from 1892….  The grapes are local and very sour but they taste great in the bread and I also mixed in handfuls of fresh herbs into the dough.  I used this recipe for the dough and then added my own herbs and topped it with the frozen grapes before the last rising (and yes, I used all white flour, because I used all of my whole wheat flour in a big double batch of zuchinni cranberry muffins, which I then burnt beyond eatability…this was after I nearly burnt the house down when my toast caught on fire and my batch of yogurt didn’t turn out and I can’t remember if I added an egg or not to my perpetual pancake batter before I put it in the fridge…please tell me other people have days like this too…)  I know it makes the meal a little carb heavy as a meal – but I was just so happy to have something turn out the way it was supposed to – it was that kind of day.

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