Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year Everyone!!

Roses and Cupcakes for All in 2014!! 
 I do hope this is a prosperous, healthy, happy and inspiring year for everyone, full of laughter, cake and creative delights.

Most appreciatively to YOU from the frozen wilds of Maine:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mini Christmas Pudding Dried Fruit Balls

Awww - aren't these charming little Christmas Pudding sweeties! Chock full of dried fruity goodness, subtle, tart, almondy, tooth-achingly sweet in a good way balls of deliciousness!

This is a very simple but very sticky recipe - the original recipe which I gleaned from British Country Living's December issue said to work the dried fruit through the finest blade of a mincer - which you can do if you happen to have a mincer but as I didn't I first tried a coffee grinder and when that got quickly clogged I resorted to some serious chopping with a cleaver type knife in small batches by hand and it worked really well albeit somewhat time consuming - so let us begin!

You can use any combination of dried fruits that strike your fancy - you can see from the dark colours of mine that I chose organic, non-sulphured but whatever tastes good to you should work well - just follow your tastebuds!

This recipe makes 9 hearty Christmas Balls! Recipe multiplies no problem!

2oz/50g of toasted almonds

2oz/50g dried apricots

2oz/50g mixed raisins, white raisins/sultanas and currants

2oz/50g soft pitted prunes

2oz/50g crystallized ginger

1oz/25g dried cranberries - I chose really bright in flavour ones sweetened with apple juice so the end result had a nice tang!!

3 teaspoons honey

Finely grated zest of one unwaxed preferably organic lemon

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 heaped teaspoon of freshly grated ginger

goodly pinch of freshly ground nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon or any combination there of - also you could add a big pinch of ground ginger if you don't put in the grated fresh ginger.

Plate covered in granulated sugar to roll the balls in.

1. Toast the almonds until fragrant - about 5 minutes at 375 but it varies so check regularly they are not burning.

2. Let almonds cool completely.

3. Put almonds in a small plastic bag and bang with a heavy rolling pin until they are broken into small pieces.

4. Grind in a coffee grinder in 2 batches until fine - they may get a bit oily but that's actually OK in this recipe.

5. Chop, chop, chop all the dried fruit in small batches until they get nice and sticky, the pieces are small, there are no chunks and they hold together when pressed.

 6. Mix the fruits, ground almonds, honey, grated ginger, spices and lemon juice and zest with a fork until evenly blended.

7. Take about a small tablespoon of the sweetmeat and roll into a ball, if it doesn't stick together add more honey, then roll in the sugar on the plate and pop into a sweet little paper cup. Ta dah - that's pretty much it except for...

HONEY ICING to make it look like a little Christmas Pudding:
 This is the wing it part - 

2 heaped tablespoons of icing/confectioners sugar sifted so there are no lumps.

Honey and milk - just a tad of each.

Starting with a teeny tiny amount of the honey in a small bowl slowly slowly slowly add some honey and blend until smooth, add a little milk and blend until smooth and work the whole into a dense, thick paste that won't run when you put the tiniest bit on top of one of the Christmas Balls - work it a little to drip as above and then allow to dry. This is the hard part - hard to know how thick, hard to know how SMALL of an amount to pop on the top of a ball, hard to know how little honey and or milk, that can depend on the humidity, to add to the sugar but err on the side of less and least and you'll be fine.

I should have bought some Maraschino Cherries to put on the top - the flavour would have gone well with the almond in the sweets and you can buy non-artificial ones from The Silver Palate so instead I used some raspberry infused cranberries that were redder than the ones in the recipe.

Next time I make these I think I will add a ball of marzipan in the middle and maybe switch out the apricots for dates - I LOVE marzipan and think that would be a real treat!! The flavour does develop a little with time so you can make these a day ahead if you'd like.

Let me know if you make these and feel free to post your pics on my Facebook page HERE 

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We are awaiting a big snowstorm here in Maine - Electra is her name! I love blizzards and hope to get some nice photographs - in the meantime here are some pictures from a snow earlier this week.
 A little red squirrel is getting a snack ready for later!

 My favourite apple tree has plenty of apples for the deer who love to come for a midnight snack - last year we didn't get a single apple because of an early springtime frost - you can see we got plenty this year!

This blogpost is part of the December Tea Time Treats over at Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers - do bob over and have a look at all the yummy sparkly delights - click in the box below! Thanks!

Tea Time Treats

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Apricot Holiday Steamed Pudding for Christmas or maybe even Thanksgiving...

(Those are the zested lemons cut into slices before I make them into lemonade this evening, they look a little dry so I thought I would explain!)
Here is my pudding for this year's Holiday celebrations - I think you could easily make this for Thanksgiving and just let it mature for a few days, or store it away for your Christmas Family Dinner - it is a variation on the usual densely fruit studded, very sweet and divine luscious Christmas Pudding - the likes of which you will find HERE on the beautiful Lavender and Lovage blog.

My Steamed Apricot Pudding is a slight variant on the Apricot Holiday Pudding found in "Glorious Gifts from your Kitchen" by Lisa Yockelson - it does contain SUET (luckily I could get local suet from grass fed, farm raised, humanely treated beef) which is a necessary part of a good traditional steamed pudding so it is not for vegetarians, I do have vegetarian alternatives listed at the bottom of this post - I suppose you could substitute butter for the suet but I think the pudding will be more greasy and I cannot guarantee it's keeping quality as suet is added not only to make a less greasy pudding but also improves the keeping qualities of a pudding made so long before the day it will be eaten.

As you can see I had no real holly to hand so I printed out one of my own designs and made it a little oversized for more wit - et voila, holly is on top of the pudding, an absolute necessity if it is going to be eaten on Christmas Day!! :)

So let's begin!! Have a nice big pasta pot/double boiler ready on the stove with bubbling hot water and make sure the water comes up to only about half way up the sides of your chosen bowl - butter very well a pudding bowl of 2 pint/one quart/4 cup capacity.

Makes a pudding sized for about 6 people with dainty appetites - this pudding is nowhere near as sweet as the usual pudding so I am assuming people might want larger portions:

6oz/1 heaped cup dried apricots ( I used Turkish apricots, organic and unsulphured thus why they are not bright orange) chopped into 1/3" pieces
4ozs/ 1/2 cup whole milk
4ozs/ 1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or light cream
1 tablespoon of freshly grated gingerroot

1. Put these 4 ingredients into a pan together and simmer very gently on the stove for about 20 minutes until the apricots are nice and soft then strain the apricots and set aside the resultant cream until cool - don't leave this alone it can curdle really quickly, stay with the pan and stir whilst the apricots soften and soak up the milk/cream.

4oz/1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda/bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2. Sift all of the above together and reserve on a sheet of parchment/baking paper- or a plate - whatever you have to hand - the paper helps you get it into the bowl better as you can curve it to direct the flour etc.

4oz/1 heaped cup of suet - the best quality you can find, grated - best done when the suet is very cold but then allow to warm to room temp.
2oz/ 1/4 cup/ 1/2 stick of salted butter softened to room temperature
4ozs sugar/ 3/4 cup sugar 
Finely grated rind/zest of two, preferably organic, unwaxed, lemons

3. Cream the butter and suet until fluffy and well blended
4. Add sugar and beat until light in colour and even fluffier.
5. Add the lemon zest and blend until evenly distributed.

2 large eggs whisked
1 1/2 ozs/heaped 1/2 cup white bread crumbs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract 

6. Add the whisked eggs in 4 goes and beat between additions.
7. Add the flour/dry ingredients in 2 goes and blend well between additions and add the drained apricot cream alternately.
8. Blend in the apricots gently but evenly.
9. Finally blend in the breadcrumbs.

Ta dah - you have your pudding batter:
Your batter may well look a little curdled but worry not - everything will be OK

10. Spoon the thick batter into the well buttered bowl - there should be quite a bit of space left at the top of the bowl - this pudding expands quite a lot so you don't want it too full:
 11. Cut two circles, one each, of parchment paper and aluminum foil a good bit bigger than your bowl top and secure with rubber bands, then tie string thusly around the bowl so you'll be able to pop it into the steamer and back out without much trouble or burned fingers!
Yes this is a different bowl from a different pudding - I forgot to get a pic of this one before it went in - oops!!
12. Bob your pudding into the steamer and let her steam for 2 hours - check occasionally that there's enough water in there and don't let the pan burn dry - not at all recommended for all sorts of reasons!

13. After 2 hours lift the pudding from the steamer and set on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then uncover the pudding and allow it to cool completely.

14. Now wrap in waxed/parchment paper and pop into an air tight container until you are ready to reheat for it's debut at either the Thanksgiving or Christmas table - to do such put it back into the bowl it was steamed in - again well buttered and back into a steamer for about an hour until heated through.

For this pudding I made Sticky Toffee Pudding sauce and thickened it a bit with confectioners/icing sugar and slathered atop and added my 'fake' holly, again not traditional, the sauce I mean, but oh so very good:


2 1/2oz/ heaped 1/4 cup brown sugar 

1 1/2 oz / 3 tablespoons salted butter 

 2 tablespoons cream or half and half 

1. Put all three ingredients in a pan to melt together, mix and keep mixing whilst letting it bubble a couple of minutes until it gets a bit thick - allow to cool and then add a tablespoon at a time of confectioners/icing sugar until the sauce gets quite thick then quickly spread on top of the pudding:
As you can see this is a light coloured pudding and it is very light in texture too, it cuts beautifully - a quiet pudding, James says for an American it is most similar in flavour to something like a Date and Walnut loaf - not too sweet but still quite delightful. It is best served warm as the suet makes it a bit dense when cold.
It does definitely need a few days to develop the flavour so it you are thinking of making if for Thanksgiving do so in the next couple of days!!

Happy baking, steaming and Holidays to you all - please let me know if you make this and feel free to post pics on my FACEBOOK PAGE
For the Folkloric Star fabric, also available as wrapping paper, in the pictures click HERE, for the polka dot holly and other polka dot Christmas items click HERE and for the Blue Rhapsody napkins click HERE 
Thank you!!

Vegetarian options for a Christmas Pudding:

New England Christmas Pudding

Traditional Christmas Pudding
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Please vote for my Autumn Leaves at Spoonflower and free shipping from Society6 - yippee!!

 I recently, actually just this week, created this regular repeat from photographs I have been taking over the last few weeks. I decided to cut out the leaf/branch images and drop them onto a clear blue sky aqua ground for pop and brightness and leave some open space for change of pace in the full sized repeat where the leaves are just about life sized:
Sorry the colour is so bad on this - the nights are drawing in so early these days I forgot to take this pic when we still had daylight but it does give the scale of the print.
 I thought this would be an uplifting wallpaper that makes it seem like one was wandering through the autumn woods in Maine - a wonderfully inspiring thing to do any time of the year but Autumn is especially nice. Here are some of the pictures I used to create my design:

So I entered my design into this week's competition over at Spoonflower and I'd be ever so appreciative of your vote over there :)
Here's how the design looks in repeat:
Please CLICK HERE to vote
To vote just scroll down until you see my design then click on the check/tick in the upper left of the image, it shuffles for each voter so I can't tell you where it is - you can vote for as many others as you like (and there are some other lovely ones on there) then the long scroll down to the bottom, and you do have to go all the way down, to put in a 'you're not a robot are you?' word test.
Thank YOU so much in advance - Patricia 

This week until Sunday November 17th there's also FREE worldwide shipping from my Society6 shop with THIS specific link. 
(The offer is not available on framed prints, stretched canvases or pillows/cushions WITH inserts but the cases on their own are eligible).
Here's just a smattering of the items I have over there that are eligible. 

Thanks for voting, shopping and stopping by - time for a recipe next blogpost!!

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Etsy Maine Team Online Cash Mob is here!!!

 Today's the day!!
Etsy Maine Team has been planning this day for months and hopefully it will be a huge success for so many small online Maine businesses, many of whom are offering specials just for today. 

From Wikipedia "A cash mob is a group of people who assemble at a local business to make purchases. The purpose of these mobs is to support both the local businesses and the overall community." - unlike a physical cash mob ours will be all online to support our team in Maine and hopefully bring an infusion of cash into our local economies as a wonderful start to our Holiday season. 

How fun to be able to support so many small online businesses from the comfort of your own home with a nice cuppa and still in your PJ's!! No holiday crowds, no driving - just you and your computer, or maybe your mobile - ahhhh!!!

Here's a direct link to ETSY 

And here's a smattering of the items available in my own Etsy shop 
 I am offering two discounts at my Etsy shop just for today November 8th; For the US there will be free shipping with the code NOVEMBER8 and for overseas shoppers there's a $5 discount with the code WORLDNOVEMBER8 (both for orders of over $20 which the vast majority of my items are)

 Thanks in advance for supporting a teeny tiny Maine business - Patricia

Please share this post to help spread the word far and wide and thank you in advance for doing so!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sticky Yorkshire Parkin for Bonfire Night

Oh my goodness this is a good one! 

For the past couple of years around this time I have been trying out some Parkin recipes and thus far have been heartily disappointed - the ones I made came out dry, overly chewy and not in the least bit sticky UNTIL....I discovered this recipe from the wonderful blog Lavender and Lovage which reminded me of all the wondrous Sticky Parkin I ate as a child in England every crisp and crackling Bonfire/Guy Fawkes Night - an evening full of sparklers, Roman Candles, Catherine Wheels, wood smoke, the pop of fireworks, the smell of Autumn in England, red toffee apples and....parkin!!!

My sincere thanks to Karen the author of said blog for rememberance of things past - this time with parkin instead of madeleines!!

And so to the recipe which is best made the day before at the very least but was even better after two days maturing!

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F and grease an 8" square glass baking dish 


8oz/225g white flour (self raising in UK in the US add one teaspoon of baking soda)

2oz/55g/ medium oatmeal/pinhead oatmeal - I could only find regular oats so I swished them quickly in a coffee grinder to break them up a bit

4oz/110g brown sugar

2 tsps fresh ginger grated very fine - if you are as fond of a ginger spicy kick as me go to 4 teaspoons!
1 large egg

7fl oz/200ml whole milk

2oz/55g/ 1/2 stick salted butter

4oz/110g black treacle if you can get it or good quality unsulphured molasses

2oz/55g crystallised ginger cut into small pieces
1. Soak the oatmeal in the milk for at least 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile sieve the flour, sugar and bicarb/baking soda in a medium sized bowl and add the crystallized ginger after mixing. 

3. In a small pan heat gently the butter, treacle/molasses and grated fresh ginger until melted - allow to cool. 

4. Whisk the egg in a bowl and add the soaked oats in milk - stir until well mixed. 

5. Add the egg mix to the melted molasses/treacle mix 

6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well but gently until you have a batter that looks like this (and tastes divine!!), make sure to leave enough to make licking the bowl a good treat!!:
7. Pour the batter into the buttered dish and bake for about 1 hour until a toothpick comes out clean when pricked into the centre of the cake.

8. Allow the cake to cool then make the:

This stuff is SOOOOOOO good, I have to say I am not a big fan of treacle/molasses but this is quickly making me into a convert!!!  

2oz/ 1/2 stick salted butter 

2oz in weight treacle/molasses 

1oz sugar - white or brown

2 or 4 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger 

nice pinch of sea salt!! 

Melt all the above in a small pan until bubbly and pour 'gingerly' ha ha over the cake thus, try to keep it on top of the cake and not pouring down the sides - as you can see it's pretty thick so that shouldn't pose a problem:
You can see some little pixie has taken a couple of slices of the cake before the addition of the sticky ginger topping as she needed to check the worthiness of the parkin for the topping - they thank heavens were both wonderful - yea!!!!
Now for the hard part - YOU HAVE TO WAIT AT LEAST A DAY FOR MORE WONDROUS STICKINESS TO DEVELOP, and if you can manage it 2 days - you'll thank me for the wait!!
Keep it covered, at room temperature in the dish you baked it in!!!
This is a great cake for a frosty or snowy winter day and it would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving menu too. 
Great with a cup of tea!!

I was lucky enough to find local Maine ginger which is so good - which has a very thin skin so no need to peel - available at the Belfast Food Co-op - if you're in town go and get some NOW:)

Happy Bonfire Night if you're in Blighty - eat a toffee apple for me will you? 

Please enjoy this pic of the last of the maple leaves to still be 'hanging around' on a cold November blue sky day in Maine!
If you're interested in the "Blue Rhapsody" napkins featured in this blogpost you can purchase them HERE at my CafePress online shop - thanks!! 

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Society6 adds cool mugs to the mix!!

I am so pleased with the nice mugs Society6 just added to their inventory of available items. The fact that they are full coverage makes them a really nice canvas to work with.

Society6 automatically adds one of my previously loaded images from another item to the mugs and if that image doesn't look right I have to create a new design for the mug template and make sure every mug looks perfect from front and back. Most of them look good right now but there are a bunch I need to redo in the next couple of days - here's the first one I redesigned, and had fun doing it too!
Rainbow Rooster on Yellow is available HERE

...and this is a link to all the mugs in my shop.

Thanks for stopping by! Next post is for a wonderful sticky, oaty, treacle-ey tray bake so stop back soon and please consider following me on bloglovin' so you never miss a post.

Thanks - Patricia 

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Farewell golden leaves of Autumn 2013

The last of the golden leaves of Autumn

At a certain time of the afternoon, round 4pm, on a blue sky Maine day the leaves set afire and beauty abounds.