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
I meant for last week’s hot chocolate post to be my last one for 2016, but what can I say? These past few days I’ve been overcome with New Year’s excitement. This year has been a seemingly nonstop string of ugliness and disappointment, and as it winds to a close I know I’m not the only one who won’t be sad to see it go. I’m counting on 2017 being a better year because it just has to be, and I’m going to do my best to start the year off on a positive note. I’ve spent a lot of the past couple months dwelling on the bad stuff the year has brought (I don’t want to bring up a sore subject, but it allll went downhill after the election in my book). I’m trying to balance that negativity with some reflection on some of the great things that have transpired this year, too. I was able to leave a draining job to follow my dreams full time, P and I celebrated a year of marriage and I’ve been lucky to meet some incredibly inspiring and supportive new friends.
In that spirit, P and I decided to throw a last minute New Year’s Eve gathering at our place. It will be just a few friends gathering to say good riddance to 2016 and usher in 2017 together. A New Year’s Eve party calls for cocktails, and that’s where this fruity, herbal and refreshing rosemary gin cocktail with fresh grapefruit juice comes in. It’s no secret that I love rosemary, especially alongside sweet flavors. I made a rosemary-infused simple syrup for this drink and topped it off with a sprig of sugared rosemary for good measure. I also love winter citrus and I’ve been buying it by the bushel the past couple weeks. Pink grapefruit gives this drink its lovely color as well as a tangy – but not sour – punch, but any grapefruit variety will work nicely. Add a splash of gin and you’ve got yourself a perfectly balanced cocktail: a little sweet, a little herbal and so pretty you’ll want serve it to guests. (Psst. It’s easy to make it a mocktail by swapping the gin for tonic.) Read on for the recipe and a little making-of stop motion. Hope you enjoy it, and Bisou and I will see you in the new year! Continue Reading
Late last week a winter storm swooped in over Portland and we were snowed in for a couple days. It was only a few inches, but snow isn’t a regular enough occurrence here for streets to be plowed or salted overnight. Instead, everything just sort of shuts down until the rain washes it all away. It’s pretty magical seeing everything clean and still, knowing you officially don’t have to put on real pants for the day. We used that time at home to listen to some Christmasy records, finally wrap presents and we even took Bisou out in the snow for the first time. She loved feeling the freshly fallen snow on her paws and seeing chubby winter squirrels running through the trees right above her (hop over to Instagram for some Bisou in the snow pictures). On the flip side of the snow storm was our dwindling food supply. We ran out of leafy greens and bread after the first day, and I didn’t have the stuff to make gingerbread cookies to go along with the music and gift wrapping. I did have the chocolate and milk on hand to whip up some rich and silky lavender hot chocolate though, and it fit the bill!
I grew up drinking hot chocolate from a packet, and while those little marshmallows do bring back fond memories, hot chocolate from scratch is so much tastier and free of mysterious additives. I usually make it with a dark, high quality chocolate bar chopped into pieces. I couldn’t get to the store though, so I swapped in the semisweet chocolate chunks I had in the pantry. Lesson learned: you can use just about any chocolate and not go wrong. You can use any milk too, dairy or otherwise, but whole milk does give the hot chocolate a rich, creamy quality that’s hard to top. Dairy milk is also the easiest to infuse, which is a plus if you want a lot of lavender flavor in your hot chocolate. My favorite part of this recipe is that it can be tailored to any consistency: use a bit of chocolate for a silky and light hot chocolate, and a whole lot for an extra rich sipping chocolate. Continue Reading