Ivanka has turned 6 months old! It feels like it was a week ago that we brought her home from the hospital, and yet it feels like she’s been here always. The first two and the most exhausting months have simply disappeared from my memory. I know there have been sleepless nights and tears and exhaustion, but I don’t really remember all that. As we all know, that’s how a woman’s brain is designed. It erases all negative memories connected to giving birth and raising a child.
Ivanka has changed so much from a tiny orange-skinned creature to a lively baby interested in everything. She wants to touch our books, drink our tea, taste our food, and of course her biggest dream is to play with the notebooks, mobile phones, and electric cords. The sports programme is prevailing at the moment: she is more interested in learning to crawl and trying to stand up than to learn pronouncing new sounds… what she does love though is to spit with a loud bubbling “ppp” sound - she can do that for hours… *sigh* hope she will make us happy with some more advanced sounds soon!
To celebrate Ivanka’s little anniversary, I made some cupcakes. Well, strictly speaking these were muffins topped with cream cheese and whipped cream and they were too large to be called cupcakes, but anyway. Cakes, mini cakes, large cupcakes, whatever - I am proud that I have managed to bake and decorate them:) They are not as neat and beautiful as what I’d like them to be, but I believe they’re quite okay for a busy Mom :) I’ve never been a perfectionist, after all.
I adapted the recipe for lemon muffins from here and topped them with cream cheese that I whipped with some maple syrup. I had baked these muffins before and I loved how well buttermilk and lemon paired, not to mention how fluffy the batter was thanks to the combination of acid and baking soda. For the other sort of cakes, I used the same proportions, incorporating some whole wheat flour, frozen sour cherries, cinnamon, and nutmeg. For some reason I love the combination of nutmeg and cherries. These muffins/cupcakes came out more moist and dense, with a pleasant homely flavour of whole wheat. I decorated them with cherry-flavoured whipped cream and coloured sugar hearts… I hope Ivanka liked them even though she couldn’t eat them! :)
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“No more expensive foods until the end of the month”, I said to myself after receiving my January bills. I just wasn’t prepared to pay TWICE as much for things like central heating and water; seems like someone’s prosperity is improving in the new year, huh. Then I sat down and started to ponder what those expensive foods of our daily menu could be. I couldn’t think of any luxury foods I had recently bought - dried dates sounded like the most decadent of my latest purchases. It’s just that in a country with 22% VAT, everything is freaking expensive. So I headed off to the supermarket and bought potatoes, cornmeal, oatmeal, some butter (certainly we will have to cut down on that next month, haha) and other staples like milk and flour. If they raise VAT to 23%, we’ll have to rename our blog to “Creative Cooking with Potatoes” or something like that.
Anyway. If you like cornmeal as much as me, and even if you don’t have to think of 10 next ways to cook polenta because your family budget is staggering, you MUST make these cookies. I found them on a blog called 6 Bittersweets - it’s so beautiful and inspiring and fresh, I just can’t take my eyes off those stunning food photos. Xiaolu adapted the recipe from Bon Appetit, and I adapted it from her blog, substituting finely diced dried apricots for cranberries just because that’s what I had at hand. I think I’ll bake polenta cookies again for my birthday, and make both cranberry and apricot versions. They’re so yellow, crumbly, homeopathically salty, and noticeably lemony even though there’s just one teaspoon of fresh lemon zest in the dough. The smell of baking polenta cookies will make your home a million times cozier than the most expensive furniture would do. And with remaining egg whites, I made a small batch of tiny raspberry jam meringues, so we had enough sweets for all weekend.
Oh and it’s snowing again today, all day. How sweet :-/ I decided that no matter what, we have our own micro spring in our home. I’m terrible at growing flowers, but luckily I have a good relationship with bulbous plants, so I’m going to buy more hyacinths and, hopefully, crocuses.
Lemon Polenta Cranberry Cookie recipe at 6Bittersweets
Last week we bought some incredibly soft and sweet autumn pears, and Mom immediately came up with the idea of a Pear and Cream Cake. We used frozen puff pastry – or you might prefer to make your own at home, which means you are a very patient person :) I easily come to a compromise between the store-bought and the home-made when it comes to puff pastry. They sell some really good-quality pastry in a nearby supermarket, and it makes life so much easier! Isn’t a home-made croissant or turnover made with frozen puff pastry still better than having sandwiches for lunch again?!
Anyways, we laid those sugary-simmered pears on a sheet of pastry, topped them with whipped egg and cream, sprinkled the cake with almond shavings, put it into oven and waited for 45 minutes, enjoying the warm smells of melting cream, vanilla, and baking pastry. The cake came out tender and sweet, with a very mild citrus flavour and a dreamy touch of vanilla. We let it cool until room temperature, so it became easy to cut. You might as well try serving it warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Read the rest of this entry »
In this Northern country we happened to live in, autumn is approaching already. I’ve noticed I have much less cravings for ice-cream and sorbets, and much more for tea, hot chocolate and something sweet and baked, preferably something you can prepare on a Friday night and stretch the pleasure into the weekend.
Sunny P said she was with me about the lemon zest diet – well, unfortunately I haven’t yet thought of one, but we did make a pie with four large and juicy lemons the other night. Just imagine that tart-and-fruity filling wrapped into a soft, moist pastry. Mmm. I think we’ll be making this pie with cranberries in place of lemons some time in future, and of course I’ll post the recipe and pictures if we do. Basically you might use almost any fresh berries as a filling, but something sour is better. And the most exciting thing about lemon filling is that you grind the lemons entirely, with all zest.
Another important tip is to let the pie cool properly before serving. Maybe even leave it in a cool place overnight and let the lemons soak into the pastry.
Finally, about the lemons. We had those really sour ones, so we took 1 cup sugar per lemon for the filling. If you prefer to use sweeter sorts of lemon, such as Meyer or other, please make sure you re-calculate the amount of sugar you need. Read the rest of this entry »