Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pumpkin Cookies... Good Enough For Breakfast

My friend, Michelle, came over for dinner one Sunday evening with her kiddos. She arrived with fresh baked cookies. How she managed to make them with her two active kids (3 year old girl with energy to burn and 1 year old boy who has been walking since 9 months) I don't know. I know, I know, people ask me the same thing, but at least for now, my babe doesn't walk. Her son walks, runs, AND climbs! You can't take your eye off of him for a second. She never even sat down while eating my lasagna, she ate her whole plate while keeping him from near disaster. I am telling you all of this in the lead up to this cookie recipe so you know that you CAN find the time to make them. The day after Michelle's visit, while eating the last few cookies, Quin looked at me and said, "You should get this recipe from Michelle." Wise child...

These cookies are cakey and light. They have a nice combination of ingredients that you might normally not think about putting together. They are great for an energy pick-me-up. I have added them to my list of good nibblies to make for new nursing moms, who often can only grab quick, simple things to eat when their energy is waning...

Sweet Pumpkin Cookies
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
I use organic ingredients wherever possible

1 c. butter
1 c. natural cane sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. toasted peanuts
1 c. raisins (I use CURRENTS)
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375.
Cream together the butter and sugar, and then add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt and then add to the mixing bowl. Stir well to form a soft batter. Stir in nuts, raisins and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 10-15 min.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Part Two Baltic Amber Teething Necklace- How to Make One For Your Baby

I decided to make my daughter her amber teething necklace, which I first wrote about in post "Part One". If you don't want to make your own necklace there are several places you can buy one online. If you go to and search on "amber teething" many sellers pop up. If you would like to make one please follow the simple tutorial below. I bought my beads online from Amberizon. My beads came from Latvia and are good quality. It is possible to get fake glass beads if you don't have a reputable source. Amberizon has many kinds of beads to choose from as well as necklaces that are already made. I ordered raw baltic amber beads as these are said to have the strongest calming properties. The one ounce package contained enough to make one 12.5 inch necklace, with some left over beads to add to the length of the necklace as my daughter grows. The quality is great, the various colorings of the beads are beautiful, and the holes are quite uniform.
PLEASE NOTE: I ordered 1513, which from the photo looks like rusty rocks, but what I received are the beads you see in this tutorial. They do have a frosted unpolished look, but they vary in color and don't look like the photo on the Amberizon site...

How To Make an Amber Teething Necklace Tutorial

What you need:
1 oz of Baltic amber beads
1 magnetic barrel clasp
beading thread of your choice (I made this necklace twice before I opted for six strand embroidery thread because it is strong and makes good sized knots. Other people use silk thread or hemp)
beading needle
elmer's glue

Step One
Tie one end of your thread around the end of one part of your barrel clasp. Tie several secure knots. Glue the knots. I didn't glue the knots the first two times I made this necklace and both times the knots came undone at the clasp. When this happens, you have to retie the whole necklace because the thread is too short to just retie it to the clasp. Tres frustrating! If you know anything about crimp beads, as seen in this photo, you can use one, but in the end, I didn't.

Step Two
Slide a bead onto your needle, then down securely to the knots at the clasp, and knot behind the bead, then repeat until you have a necklace that is the length you want. Knotting after each bead serves two purposes; if the necklace breaks your beads will not fly all over the place and your child is less likely to choke on a bead.

The best way to get a tight knot, right against your bead, is to make your knot, then slide you needle halfway into the knot (see photo above), then pull the loose thread coming up from the knot tightly down against the needle against the bead (see photo below). Slide your needle out as you continue to tighten. You want your knot to sit firmly next to your bead but not pull into the bead. For more on basic beading using knots see this video.

Step Three
Repeat step two until you get to the length you want. Now you can tie on the other end of the barrel clasp securely to the end of the necklace and glue the knots. Once it has dried, put your necklace on your baby and admire it.

To Care For Your Necklace
Some people leave their child's necklace on all the time but I take my baby's off when I bathe her. Do not wash your necklace with soap, which will leave a residue, hindering the healing properties of the necklace.

Part One of Baltic Amber Teething Necklace for Your Baby - How They Work

I first heard of amber teething necklaces from a friend whose child wore one. At first I though the child was supposed to chew on them to get relief. This is not the case. A baby need simply wear one against the skin in order to feel better while teething.

How do they work? There are two theories behind this. The first is that amber, which is a resin, not a stone, is warm to the touch. When the skin warms the amber it releases very small amounts of healing oils which travel through the skin to the bloodstream. In parts of Europe, amber teething necklaces are sold in pharmacies and doctors recognize the calming effects they have on infants when they are in pain.

"A second theory is based on scientific findings which have shown that amber is electromagnetically alive and therefore charged with a significant amount of organic energy. Its special attribute is the fact that it is electronegative. Wearing amber produces negative ionisation on the skin's surface. This, in turn, has a positive influence on the human body. The negative ions assist in the in the prevention of illness. These health-promoting effects apply to babies, children and adults alike."
Found here

Like many natural remedies and even drugs, nothing works for everyone. However, the dozen or so families that I know who use these necklaces swear by them. I must say that I can tell a difference in my baby. She doesn't drool or hold her mouth in that painful way that my other child did when she was teething. I use my necklace in combination with occasional homeopathic camilia drops to soothe and provide pain relief. I have never needed to use a drug for teething with either child. Sometimes the only way I even know a tooth is coming is that my baby has a diaper rash, something she only gets when a tooth is breaking the surface. Known teething complications include lack of appetite, upset tummy, ear ache, fevers and colds. Anyway, there are no side effects to wearing amber for long periods so I feel they are worth a try.

Tomorrow, in part two, I will include a tutorial on how to make your own amber teething necklace.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Little French Canadian History Lesson - Pouding Chômeur Recipe

My husband is French Canadian. He is from outside of Ottawa, so he is Franco-Ontarian, but we did live in Quebec for awhile. In fact, our eldest daughter was born there, so she is actually Quebecois on paper. I was born in Minneapolis but my great grandfather on my father's side was French Canadian... you don't have to be French Canadian to enjoy this recipe, although if you aren't, you may have never heard of it. Read on for a brief history...

Pouding chômeur means pudding of the unemployed or poor man's pudding. Or as my husband's family calls it, which may or may not be politically correct, welfare pudding. It was created by Quebecois women, factory workers, in 1929, during the Great Depression. It used cheap, common ingredients, like flour, brown sugar, and water.

I must say this version is less than cheap with real maple syrup and a ton of butter. We used to live in Eastern Canada, where real maple syrup was cheap and available everywhere. In recent years there have been bad seasons and the price has gone up because it is more scarce. But, not as scarce and expensive as it is now that we live in Eastern Canada. An $8 can, 540 ml, is about $12 here. If you buy 12 cans in the East they are as little as $4.50 a can but here you can't buy in bulk. The cans weigh a ton, so having family ship them to us would be a bit ridiculous. So, we have come up with a way to ensure we never have to resort to Aunt Jemima. When friend or family come to stay with us, they bring use cans of syrup. It is their "toll" for staying with us, if you will. And we always buy 10 cans when we go home for a visit. It has worked well so far, I have only had to sell my blood twice to buy it here... ok, I am only kidding... but I probably would...

All this about syrup being scarce brings me to why I made pouding chômeur for the FIRST TIME the other night. To ration our syrup supply, we usually only use it on homemade crepes, pancakes, waffles, french toast, and with blueberries on our porridge. However, we have family coming this week! I checked our "stash" and since we still have 6 cans, I decided I felt ready to use some of our precious syrup in a recipe. In fact, the recipe ON the can. I don't usually try the recipes on the sides of boxes or cans, but I figured the maple people must have a good recipe for this French Canadian favorite. Plus, it is pretty darn easy. I was able to throw it together while cooking dinner, and it baked while we ate. I can't tell you how amazing the smell of maple syrup baking is. YUMMY! And you would have thought it was Andre's 5th birthday. He was giddy with anticipation. His mom called just before we took it out of the oven and he told her what I was making while practically beaming with pride. She wanted to know if it was her recipe... I will have to get it but she agreed the one on the can would probably be good. Andre took the pouding out of the oven and said it smelled and looked perfect. And it tasted amazing. Andre ate helpings that would not be considered healthy. And I just ate the last one while writing this. Trust me, this is worth trying. And PLEASE do not substitute fake maple flavored syrup (I don't think it would withstand the 5 minutes of boiling that is called for). If you don't have the real stuff, do a google search for a recipe that uses brown sugar. I used organic sugar, butter, and milk and unbleached flour.

Pouding chômeur de Grand-Mere Elmina
Off the side of a Quebecois can of maple syrup

- 1 1/2 c REAL maple syrup
- 3/4 c water
- 1 c sugar
- 2 c flour
- 1 c melted butter
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 c milk

Mix maple syrup with water and boil for 5 minutes. Combine flour, sugar, and baking powder with milk and butter. Spread dough into a tube or bundt pan (you can use a square or rectangular pan but the syrup may boil over while baking). Pour boiling syrup over dough. When the dough floats to the top of the syrup (about 5 minutes), place in 350 degree oven and bake until golden and toothpick in the center comes out clean (about 30 minutes).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Favorite Vintage Treasures - Handpainted Eggs from Mexico

My grandfather passed away in late August. My family went to Minneapolis to celebrate his life with my extended family. It was a hard time but he had lived an amazing life. My grandmother busied herself with giving us many of his things. I think that after we went home she continued to sort through her belongings. My mother sent my kids a box and inside was a box for me from my grandmother. It sat on my table for days, because life was busy and I often don't like to open surprises right away. I like to wait for a quiet time to appreciate whatever is inside. The box was an old Salvatore Ferragamo box, which spoke volumes; my grandfather was a well dressed man, and he loved my grandmother, and it seems so appropriate that he would buy her expensive shoes to show his love and respect for her. It is very romantic. The hand written note on the index card on the box said "We hope you will enjoy these eggs, we have." Inside were the most amazing little hand painted eggs I have ever seen! They were made in Mexico. I LOVE THEM!

Aren't the amazing!? And the weird part is I don't remember ever seeing them before. My grandmother, Meme, would let me play with anything when I was a child, and some of these eggs looked like they had been repaired. And some of them needed to be repaired, as my grandma had wrapped them in toilet paper and a few of them didn't make the trip. Quin and I glued those back together and now they are as good as new, on display on shelves in our stairwell. A little group of treasures that we will pass several times a day that will make us think of Meme and Poppa.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How To Use Up Your Leftover Holiday Cookies & Candy Canes? Make Ice Cream....

We do our best to consume all the holiday goodies that we make or receive, but there always seems to be an extra tin of Christmas cookies that are getting too hard to eat without dunking them in a hot beverage... and what to do with the 100 mini candy canes that were hanging on the tree? If you get to know me long enough you will find out why I am called "Princess Ice Cream". Pretty much everything in our kitchen is fair game for the ice cream maker. With a good base most anything can taste great as ice cream. If you have an ice cream maker you will find my recipes for chocolate chip candy cane ice cream, using an easy french vanilla base, as well as my Christmas cookie ice cream, using a sweet cream base, below. No ice cream maker? Just let a bowl or pint of your favorite vanilla soften, then stir in the crushed canes or cookies by hand and refreeze. Or use your blender to make a delicious shake.

Chocolate Chip Candy Cane Ice Cream
By Tiffany Teske

French Vanilla Base
I use organic ingredients wherever possible...
2 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of whipping cream
1 cup 3.25% milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Red food coloring (optional)

Chunky stuff to add to base...
3/4 to 1 cup crushed candy canes (I put mine in a ziploc and then beat them with a rolling pin)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Beat eggs with a whisk for one minute. Add the sugar and continue to whisk for 1 minute. Add the cream, milk, vanilla, and a couple drops of food coloring (if using) and whisk until combined. Freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions. Two minutes before the end of freezing, add you candy canes and chocolate chips.

Christmas Cookie Ice Cream
by Tiffany Teske

Sweet Cream Base
I use organic ingredients wherever possible...
2 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of whipping cream
1 cup 3.25% milk

1 cup of an assortment of crushed Christmas cookie (use the same method as for crushing candy canes)

Beat eggs with a whisk for one minute. Add the sugar and continue to whisk for 1 minute. Add the cream, milk, and vanilla, and whisk until combined. Freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions. Two minutes before the end of freezing, add your crushed cookies.

Tada! Chocolate chip candy cane ice cream! I have a Cuisinart Pure Indulgence™ 2 Qt. Frozen Yogurt-Sorbet & Ice Cream Maker, which costs from $80 - $100 (in the US & Canada). It works great for the price. If you like frozen treats please keep an eye on my posts, I plan to feature a lot of ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet recipes in 2010.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tabula Rasa and My Tortilla Soup Recipe

I feel that starting fresh can always be an option, but I love the formal feeling of a new year and how we can start anew with a clean slate. My friend Tina reminded me of the concept of Tabula Rasa, which is Latin for clean slate. At the beginning of the New Year it is a time for people to make a fresh start. It is an opportunity to start over without prejudice. Or as my favorite definition puts it, you can be like someone with "a young mind not yet affected by experience".

I enjoy change, I like to try new things, and to be open minded. I bring this attitude to many things including my cooking. In any given week I have several plans to tackle new recipes that I have never tried. This week, I set my sights on tortilla soup. Yum! I adapted a recipe to make it vegetarian. I use organic ingredients wherever possible. This recipe is also vegan if you remove the cheese and sour cream. I would say this feeds four adults 1 cup of soup, it makes about a liter. My husband and I each ate a large bowl and our 3 1/2 year old ate a cup sized bowl.

Tiffany's Tortilla Soup
5 small tomatoes
1 small white onion chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro (can use parsley)
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Stone-ground thin style corn tortilla chips
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 avocado diced
1 cup sour cream

1) Put tomatoes in a pan boiling water for two minutes, until skins crack. Remove the tomato skins by peeling off. Put in food processor and blend with onion and garlic.

2) Heat oil in a 2 liter saucepan. Add the tomato mixture. Cook until it changes color and tastes cooked. My soup was more orange than red but this was because of the original color of the tomatoes.

3) Add the broth and heat until it starts to boil. Simmer and add chili powder, salt, & pepper.

4) Pour into deep bowls. Place a handful of chips on top of the soup then garnish with cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Serve immediately.

Now I can check that one of the list. And make it again...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Continuing to Balance Family, Friends, Home, & Art Making in the New Year...

The New Year always puts me in a reflective state. It makes me assess my goals for the future and also makes me look at what I have accomplished during the year. I often have things I want to post about that take me a long to time to get to... this is one of those posts.

This summer, I was invited to be part of an exquisite corpse. It is really not as creepy as it sounds. It began as the parlor game "Consequences" and was later used by the Surrealists on the 1920s. The written version involves passing around a sheet of paper upon which each person makes an contribution then folds the paper to conceal part of what is written before passing it to the next person. Later this game was used with both drawing and collage, with the paper being folded in thirds and each person contributing based on seeing very little of what is above or below. Our project was quite different from these examples...

Believe or Wolfwig Dreams of Venice by Alice Helwig

I was asked by Calgary painter, Alice Helwig, to be part of her exquisite corpse. She created the first piece, the collage above, and then sent a color photograph of it to the next artist, who had two weeks to create a work based on what they received. We were also given a theme to work within. The other artists who participated were Simon Wroot, a metalsmith, Barb Fyvie, a painter, Susan Thorpe, a potter, and Susannah Windrum, a metal worker, mixed media painter, and arts administrator. I work mostly with photography and mixed media. A diverse group, to be sure.

I will not post all of the contributing artists' work here, since Alice did an amazing job of explaining our project and showing each piece along with an artist's quote on her blog. I chose to create a collage. Below you can see images of it and read my statement about my process as well as the materials I used.

Title: The Imagined Illusion of Balance
This is the 5th piece in the series.

Process: I thought about the theme, “the joys and difficulties of being an artist”, before I received Simon’s piece, so I must say I was more influenced by it, than by Simon’s amazing work. For me, as the mother of a three year old and four month old daughters, finding the time to make art is always a challenge. A natural night owl, I generally toil in the latest hours of the night or wee hours of the morning, with my youngest child strapped to me, sleeping. I spend my days thinking about when I will be able to make art, while I am cooking, cleaning, caring for my kids, and trying to do a bit of crafting. As any artist, making art is like breathing so I need to do it. I am infinitely happier, as well as more patient, when I have had time to create.

The Imagined Illusion of Balance by Tiffany Teske

I wanted to make something light hearted to convey my thoughts on trying to find balance amongst the important things in my life and my challenge to find the time to make art. I decided to work on a collage, which is usually something I can create in one sitting, however, this one took me several days of thinking, arranging, viewing, rearranging… I usually start with a vague idea of what I want to accomplish and a pile of materials with which to make it all happen. In this case, I started with a small canvas, 6x6”, and a paper napkin that I brought home from a BBQ (I am a bit of a magpie). The paper has a repeating pattern which reminded me of clocks. The color palette of brown, pink, gold, beige, and white is lovely. The ribbon was added to remove some of the business of the background. The Polaroid had to be added because in most of my photography and art I work with Polaroid. It is blank to act as a backdrop to the woman, but also to put her in “the box”. But, as you can see, both her feet and head are not actually in the box, and the way her head is tilted in thought helps to illustrate that she is in fact thinking “outside of the box”. The “balance” text over her eyes makes her more universal, less individual, but also illustrates she is blinded by her constant thoughts of trying to be balanced. The definition of balance is hovering in an unbalanced state over her. The camera is over her heart both because of her love for creating with it but also because her need to use it is like her need to have blood pumping through her heart. The buttons are like bullets in front of items on a list, but are also fasteners, and the list is of things most important to her. The stitching binds her to these things. “Art Making” is hand written to distinguish its special place of importance on the list. I chose the title because this woman seems to have it all together when people look at her, but in reality, it is all an illusion. Like everyone else, she does the best she can, but makes no secret about her inability to find true balance between all that she loves and needs.

6x6” Pre stretched canvas, tissue paper, vintage ribbon, buttons, embroidery thread, text and images from a vintage sewing book and dictionary, under exposed Polaroid 669 pack film image

Four of the artists, including myself, met in early October to show our work to one another and to bind the images and text about each piece into a book. I had not met any of these artists in person, so it was great to have known Alice via the web, and then through her to meet these other amazing artists. One of them lives in the next town and she and I plan to work on more projects in the future, hopefully with new artists and artists from this group. The works from our exquisite corpse were on display for the month of November at the Calgary Jewish Academy.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wake Up! It's 2010!! My Lucky Rooster Wishes You Good Luck!

Happy New Year! I found this adorable pitcher at the thrift store and knew my girls would love that water pours out of the rooster's beak. I thought about using it in this post because well, cock-a-doodle-doo it is time to wake up to the New Year. But then, after doing a little research I found out this little guy has a pretty fascinating history. He was made in Portugal, recently I am guessing, but the origins of rooster pitchers dates back to the early Renaissance period in the Republic of Florence, Italy.

"In the 15th century, the Medici family was the wealthiest and most powerful family. With all of their wealth and glory, the Medici patriarch, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and his brother Giuliano, had only one rival, the Pazzi family. The Pazzi family had a thirst for power. They were determined to quench that thirst even to the point of murder, which included the assassination of their rivals.

The Medici family owned a vast amount of land where peasants from neighboring villages would come to work. As a reward for their work, the Medicis frequently held extravagant feasts for these laborers. It was common to overindulge and to become so drunk that the revelers and all the guards would pass out and fall into a deep sleep as a result of their drunken state. These diversions were especially loved by Giuliano, a fact the Pazzi family knew well.

Using this knowledge, the Pazzi family devised a plan to have a conspirator suggest to Giuliano that a feast should be held for the perished village of Gallina. The Pazzis deviously planned to send their hired assassins to the village to wait until Giuliano and his guards fell asleep. They planned to assassinate everyone.

The feast honoring Gallina took place in the fall of 1478. Giuliano was present along with his guards, exactly as the Pazzis expected. Once the feast ended, the assassins crept into the village and proceeded through the barnyard. Unfortunately for them, their path through the barnyard woke the roosters, thus causing them to cluck hysterically. The noisy, clucking roosters woke the rest of the village. Giuliano and his guards captured the assassins and killed them.

Thankful for his luck with the roosters, Giuliano decided to hold another festival in honor of these lucky birds. He arranged for artisans to create majolica ceramic wine pitchers of these protectors and presented them to the peasants as a sign of good luck. As the years passed, it became an Italian tradition that has been dispersed throughout the world. Today, people continue to give these good luck majolica pitchers to friends and family. Most often, this gift of Good Luck is given as a housewarming or wedding gift to protect the recipients from any danger that may come their way."
By Ronnie's Specialities from Around the Globe

What a great story! And now I have one more good idea for housewarming and wedding gifts. So best wishes and good luck to you in 2010!!