Yuletide Greetings

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Indeed, Yuletide greetings to you all.

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, celebrated as the festival of Yule in ancient and modern Pagan traditions. Yule was the traditional mid-Winter festival of ancient Europe, before being adopted and adapted by The Christian Church into the festival of Christmas. Being the shortest day of the year – that is, the shortest period of daylight between sunrise and sunset, obviously every day is always 24 hours long – the festival of Yule is based around the celebration of the sun returning and bringing life back to the world with the (gradual) move out of Winter towards Spring.

Whatever you want to call it – this time of year always makes me want to bake and feed people! So I do like to mark the Solstice with a bit of baking. Of course, the Chocolate Yule Log derives from the tradition of the Yule Log which was an actual wooden log that was burnt to celebrate the Solstice. I didn’t fancy lining myself up for the stress of trying to roll my own Chocolate Yule Log – instead I decided to go down the route of orange, marzipan and cinnamon as ingredients that make me think of warmth and sunshine.

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I used this recipe from Sweet Paul for Norwegian Skillingsboller, that’s Cinnamon Buns, although this recipe has an awesome twist of added marzipan! It takes a bit of time to make as it is a yeasted dough, so you need to leave it to rise, but other than the waiting the recipe is pretty easy. Note: mixing the butter into the dough is very messy!

Mine turned out a bit, haphazard looking – but this isn’t GBBO and I’m not marking myself on presentation or uniformity, it’s all about taste for me.

The finished buns are delicious, I’m going to struggle to restrain myself from eating them all. I did a taste test when they were warm and they were amazing – I’ve also had one cold and it’s still really good, but it might be worth zapping one in the microwave for a few seconds to warm before eating.

I also made these Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins from Olive Magazine. I haven’t tasted one of these yet, I’ve been too busy focussing on the Cinnamon Buns, but they smell really yummy 🙂

UPDATE: I’ve just tried one of thee and they are lovely! Light and orangey and not too sweet, surprisingly! Recommended 😊

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I have a feeling I may take a few steps backwards on my weight-loss over the next week :/

Hope you are all enjoying the festive season, whatever you celebrate and whatever you eat!

Love

Betty

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Christmas

Just thought I’d put up a post of pictures of my Christmas day. We were with Pete’s parents this year and had a lovely time, we were both thoroughly spoiled in terms of food, drink and presents.

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Hope you all had a lovely and relaxing time 🙂
Love,
Betty
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Absolutely Shattered

Today, I tried out my new OPI shatter polish in gold, that came in my December JolieBox.
I don’t own any other OPI polishes, largely due to the price, but have been aware of the brand ever since I first heard about their Muppets collection (want). I have also never used a shatter polish before, but have been interested in trying one out for a while, so I was really pleased when I found this in my box.
While gold isn’t a colour I wear a lot of, this polish is so pretty and just screams Christmas, so I’ve been eager to try it ever since it arrived!

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Here I’m wearing a No7 polish in Damson Dream underneath the shatter polish. I liked the combination of the deep purple-toned red under the gold, especially during the festive period 🙂 I’ve also got a top coat on top here, which I don’t always do, as suggested on the bottle, and it did really increase the shine and sparkle of the gold.

The OPI polish was really easy to apply, with a good brush and consistency. The shatter effect developed a lot quicker than I was expecting and was fun to watch. I think I would buy more OPI polishes in future, if I’m feeling flush!

This months JolieBox (actually the first UK JolieBox, previously known as Boudoir Prive) was really impressive. While the (full size) polish is probably my favourite product, the others were all also really exciting. Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave the rest of the box at home while I’m away for Christmas so can’t play with or write about the rest of the box yet.

Hope you are all getting in a festive mood. These nails have definitely helped me 🙂
Betty
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Wish List: Books

I love books. I buy a lot of books, I read a lot of books and I give a lot of books as presents.
Now, I’m sure there are some of you out there who don’t consider books to be good gifts, but a thoughtfully selected book can be the best present. Fair enough, some of the little novelty books they have by the tills in book shops can be a bit of a waste of a (small) tree, but even then, if the joke is appropriate, it can still be a good gift.

One problem I have with giving books as gifts is that, for every book I find to give to someone else, I find at least two I want for myself! So, for anyone out there thinking of getting me a Christmas present who is stuck for ideas, here is a brief run-down of some of the books currently loitering on my Amazon wishlist.

In no particular order;

1. The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking by Kate Payne

I only found out about this book a week or so ago when I saw it reviewed in the latest edition of Mollie Makes, and it went straight on to my wishlist. It has airs of Domestic Sluttery (which I love and still need to write about), cheap and easy ways to get on with being domestic without it taking over your life.

2. Outsider Tart: Baked in America by David Muniz and David Lesniak

What better than being a Domestic Slut and an Outsider Tart (combined with Happy Hooking, there seems to be a downward turn in the morals of domesticity).
As you should know by now, I love to bake and eat cake, so this book is pretty perfect. The recipes inside are described as ‘decadent’ and cover all my favourites from cupcakes to brownies and cookies.
The obvious American influence suggests a significant calorie content as well.

3. Chic on a Shoestring by Mary Jane Baxter

Another book for living a stylish but budget lifestyle, with an added vintage twist. Bringing together my other loves of clothes, accessories, crafting and vintage styling.

4. How to Make Jewellery with Tatty Devine by Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine

Oh look, more crafting and accessories! What can I say, I know what I like!
I’ve always been a fan of Tatty Devine jewellery, although so far haven’t ever had enough excess cash to buy myself any. So, this book seems like a good solution, make my own TD inspired pieces and keep myself occupied in the mean time.

5. Preserves: A Beginner’s Guide to making jams and jellies, chutneys and pickles, sauces and ketchups, syrups and alcoholic sips by Jill Nice

I really enjoyed my first attempt at making jam earlier this year. While I still have quite a lot of what I made left, I’m keen to find out more about jams and preserving so I can try something different next time.
This book seems pretty comprehensive and I like the cover (not that I’m judging…).

6. CakeSpy presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar Filled Life by Jessie Oleson

I may have a bit of a cake obsession, but as long as part of that obsession is filled with cake related books, I should be safe from obesity and diabetes for a while.
I’ve been a reader of the CakeSpy blog for quite a while now, and when I heard she was publishing a book I knew I would have to have it.
Yet more high calorie american baking goodness, all wrapped up in a pink cartoon-y shell. Perfect 🙂

7. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Something a bit different.
I like Tina Fey, I have heard good things about this book. Not much more to say!

At present, there are 151 books on my Amazon Wishlist, so I think I’ll leave you with just this selection for now. The rest are a pretty eclectic mix of brief introductions to…., popular science, lifestyle, autobiography, fiction, craft and a lot of things in between.

I’ll leave you with this video of a kid who doesn’t want books for Christmas, just because I think it’s funny.

Best Wishes,
Betty
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Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Now it is December, I can just about allow myself to think about Christmas.
For a number of reasons, I am trying to do a Nothing New/Handmade type gifts this year. Basically, no big brand goods. I haven’t had as much time for trawling charity shops or crocheting as I had hoped, so it’s looking like a lot of my gifts are going to be food based!

Yesterday I made Vegan Chocolate Truffles that are (hopefully) going to be Christmas presents (if I don’t eat them all first). They were so easy to make, so I guess if I do eat them all I can always just make more (although I may not fit into my party dress).



Recipe


The recipe is actually really adaptable, so I’ll give you the ingredients I used but also some suggestions for variations that you might want to try.

I used;

  • Approximately 100g of cashew nuts (mine weren’t roasted, you could use roasted but only if they’re not salted too)
  • A small amount of soy milk (you could easily substitute with regular cow’s milk, any other type of milk substitute or even just water)
  • 400g dark chocolate (I used dark and made sure it had no milk/animal ingredients to make mine vegan, but you can use milk chocolate if you prefer and don’t need to make them vegan friendly)
  • A good glug of Kahlua (there are so many alternatives you can use here, any spirit/liqueur you like – Baileys, Whiskey, Rum maybe even Creme de Menthe for an interesting minty twist? Or you can skip the alcohol all together and use a teaspoon of vanilla essence or other food flavour essence)
  • Some cocoa powder and/or icing sugar
  • You will need some kind of food processor, doesn’t need to be fancy, I used my small Kenwood Mini Chopper and it was fine.
The number you make will depend on the size of your final truffle, but using teaspoons full of the mixture I made about 28 truffles from these ingredients.
How to;

1. Soak the cashew nuts in water until soft. Some recipes will recommend you do this overnight, but I only soaked mine for 2 or 3 hours and they were fine. Once soft, drain off the water.
2. Put the cashews into you food processor and blend until you have a reasonably smooth paste. Add the soy milk/alternative as required to help the paste form without making it too wet. I found I had to mix a bit then scrape around with a spatula to make sure all the bits got mixed. My final paste looked and felt quite gritty, so it doesn’t need to be totally smooth. I didn’t use mine straight away so put it in a jar in the fridge until I was ready to make the truffles.
3. Melt your chocolate. Usually I’m a microwave chocolate melter, but as I was using so much chocolate and wanted this recipe to go well, I used the old pyrex bowl over a pan of hot water method. Once it’s all melted take it off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes before the next step.
It’s really hard to resist dipping your finger in 400g of melted chocolate 🙂

4. Now combine your cashew nut paste and chocolate and add your spirit/liqueur/flavour of choice. Make sure you stir it thoroughly so that the chocolate goes all the way through the nut paste. Once combined, cover the mixture and put it into the fridge for maybe half an hour. The chilling is necessary or you will really struggle to make the truffle balls.

My combined chocolate and nut paste

5. Now it’s time to make truffles! Take small amounts of the mixture (depends on the size of truffle you want, I used teaspoon sized scoops) and roll it in your hands to create a rough spherical truffle shape, the roll in your cocoa powder and/or icing sugar. Most truffles come rolled in cocoa powder but I always think this is too bitter so I mixed my cocoa with some icing sugar to take the edge off. The rolling can help you get the shape as well, as it will stop them sticking to your hands. I placed my finished truffles in mini cake cases, but they can just be placed on a tray covered with greaseproof paper or cling film.
This stage can get very messy, I had to wash the excess chocolate and cocoa powder off my hands after about 3 or 4 truffles.

6. The truffles need to be left to set, you can do this in the fridge but I just left mine on the side as my fridge is far too tiny to accommodate a whole tray of truffles as well as it’s regular inhabitants.

And, that’s it!

So far, I’ve managed to only eat one, and that was a necessary tester! The final product is probably a little firmer than I was expecting, maybe a bit more fluid in the nut paste, or a bit more nut paste in the overall mixture might fix that. Or I might just pour a load more Kahlua on a couple and see what that does.

Now, mine probably aren’t going to win any beauty prizes, but if they looked too good people might not believe I made them!

I keep thinking of more variations that I could try; coating the finished truffle in chopped nuts, or having a whole nut in the centre, or a whole nut inside and chopped nuts outside for your own sort of Ferrero Rocher, or topping with sprinkles, putting a whole raspberry in the middle, making them with white chocolate, making them with some of the fancy flavour chocolates from Hotel Chocolat (like their caramel flavour chocolate!)…..I think this list could go on. Any other suggestions are welcome too.

I do have one specific variation in mind that I will let you know about once I’ve tried it to see if it works.

As a final note, I would like to welcome my newest blog followers! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this post and my others to come.

I hope December is going well for you so far, and that the build up to Christmas isn’t causing you too much stress or annoyance!

Love,
Betty
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