Hello again, at long last! How I’ve missed you, dear readers, and how I’ve missed sharing on my little blog. The last month has been a whirlwind of house hunting, cat sitting and various work projects – including becoming a contributor over at A Beautiful Mess! If another few weeks go by without a new recipe or DIY here at Crafts and a Cat, pop over to ABM and there’s a good chance I’ll have a new post up there. You know, if you’re really missing me (hi mom!). And now, the time is ripe (not sorry) to share an old favorite of mine, frozen chocolate dipped bananas.
I’ve been making these since high school, when the only other things I could make were cheesy pasta and PB&J’s. They’re wonderfully easy – you dip the bananas in melted chocolate, add toppings and freeze. I’ve made them with kids too, and it’s a lot of fun when you (the adult) do the dipping and the kiddos get to go crazy with sprinkles, crushed cookie bits and the like. These toppings are the grown up version: toasted coconut, for my coconut loving husband, simple yet decadent flaky sea salt, and a Greek-inspired one with dried rose petals and chopped pistachios from the Kosmas family orchard in Greece. Yes, I am that spoiled. Next time I’m going to try freeze dried fruit and tiny candied flowers. What would your ideal toppings be? Continue Reading
As I write this post, I am trembling with excitement because P and I went house shopping today and stumbled across our dream home. Eeee!! I’m trying really, really hard not to get my hopes up about the house because everyone we know in Portland who’s bought a house recently has gone through several rejected offers before securing a home. Before we started this process we promised each other we wouldn’t get attached to any houses, but I just have a feeling about this place. I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe that sometimes things align in your life with perfect timing and you know when it’s happening because everything feels right. Do you know what I mean? It’s the same feeling I had when I met P and knew immediately that he was my person for life. Eeeeeee! Now that that’s out of my system, I’m brewing some herbal tea and cutting myself a piece of P’s leftover birthday cake to calm down.
While we’re talking about cake, I’ve been meaning to share this super simple yet incredibly delicious blood orange olive oil cake. It’s airy and moist and not too sweet, with a citrusy zing and the prettiest pink glaze I ever did see. Since it’s made with olive oil instead of butter, the only fats it has are the wholesome, healthful kind. My mom came over and reluctantly tried some – she’s not much of a sweet tooth – and immediately asked for a second slice. Yesterday she called and asked me to make it for her birthday in June. It’s officially a winner! You’ll want to make this one before blood oranges disappear for the winter if you’re like me and you’re currently hooked on everything pink, but even after they’re gone this would be tasty with any regular orange, too. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!
My first post of the year is one I promised way back in 2016. I meant to write it up sooner but got busy with the holidays and work and before I knew it the year had disappeared on me. There’s never a wrong time for cake though, and I promise this one is worth the wait! I am by no means an expert baker, but there are a couple desserts I’ve made over and over again, experimenting with temperature and ratios with obsessive attention to detail until they are perfect. This chocolate olive oil cake with rosemary buttercream is one of them. The first time I made it, it was a humble loaf cake with lumpy buttercream slathered on top. As I’ve refined the recipe and learned baking lessons by making mistakes (always sift powdered sugar before dumping it into creamed butter!), it’s matured into a simple but elegant layer cake that’s a family favorite for holidays, birthdays and just because. The one pictured here was my family’s Thanksgiving dessert.
The cake itself has no butter; olive oil and just enough sugar and a splash of apple cider make it rich, moist and not overly sweet. The buttercream is infused with fresh sprigs of rosemary and is an earthy, herbal contrast to the chocolate cake. If you saw last week’s post you already know how fond I am of rosemary, especially in sweet incarnations. I’ve made this cake throughout the year, and no matter when you eat it, it seems perfectly seasonal; maybe it’s because there’s fresh rosemary in the garden all year, or because chocolate never goes out of style. I’ll make it again next month for P’s birthday; he’s requested it for the past few years and I’m happy to oblige. When I bake it, I get to eat it too, after all. Trust me, this is one you want to save for your next occasion. Continue Reading
If you’re already in the market for a New Year’s resolution, or are just looking to change things up in the dessert department, I’ve got one for you: baking with tea! Why more of us aren’t doing it on a regular basis is a mystery to me; maybe it’s that we’re in a rut of thinking of tea as only a beverage. If you think about it though, using tea to flavor food is no different than using other dried plant bits, like pepper, thyme or basil. When you’ve got a really flavorful tea, adding it to your basic baked goods can completely transform them with depth of flavor, delicate floral notes or a hint of citrus zest.
In this case, I used one of my favorite Stash winter teas, Christmas in Paris, to infuse my trusty chocolate chip skillet cookie with extra chocolatey flavor, a hint of lavender (that’s the Paris part!) and a touch of cool peppermint. Oh, and I decided to make a quick batch of tea infused no-churn ice cream too, and it turns out tea also tastes amazing in ice cream form.
Don’t ask me to explain the science behind the magic, but dairy happily takes on the flavor of whatever you put in it. So working the flavor of the tea into the skillet cookie and the ice cream is as easy as steeping a few tea bags in melted butter and cream before mixing everything together. Just like when you make a cup of tea, the strength of the tea flavor that comes through is up to you. Simply use more tea bags for bold flavor or fewer for just a subtle hint of tea. Either way, you’ve got a uniquely delicious cookie and ice cream pairing on your hands.
Why use the same tea to infuse both the cookie and the ice cream, you ask? This particular tea lends itself well to both, but in different ways: the cocoa shells in the tea add a smooth chocolate taste to the cookie batter, while in the ice cream I taste more of the peppermint, which keeps it from feeling too heavy. Whether you cut your skillet cookie into humanely portioned slices and serve it like pie a la mode, or just dive in with spoons like P and I did, I guarantee it won’t last long.
As I write this, early autumn rain is pouring and the wind is whipping around, making tree branches rattle against our windows. It’s hard to believe just two weeks ago it was 100º out and instead of the thick wool sweater I’m wearing today I was still enjoying sandals and sunglasses. But instead of mourning the passing of another short summer, I’m deciding this year to embrace fall and all its coziness with open arms. Bring on the soggy leaves, mud puddles and constant gray drizzle! I’m going to be curled up on the couch with my pumpkin bread, hot tea and a book, and when you have comforts like those, you hardly notice the new chill in the air.
The past week has been unusually hectic with multiple work deadlines for me, the first week of school for P and another health scare for Bisou. I didn’t think I’d find the time for a post this week, but yesterday all of my scrambling during the week paid off and I was able to start the long weekend by mid-afternoon. The first thing I did was whip up this (relatively) healthy pumpkin loaf. I’m not usually much of a baker; as much as I love sweets, a glance through most dessert recipes is enough to put me off actually making them. All that refined sugar and saturated fat! So I’m happy to share this pumpkin olive oil loaf with you which is incredibly moist, sweet and all around tasty and completely free of refined sugar and animal fats. Who knew it could be done? If you add the optional rosemary buttercream, you’ll be getting a good dose of all that sugar and butter stuff, but the pumpkin bread is rich and flavorful enough to stand on its own if you’re looking for a truly healthy and wholesome dessert. Continue Reading