Friday, December 14, 2012

Benne Seed Cookies, a Lowcountry Tradition

As promised, I'm back with another favorite cookie recipe of mine.  If you have ever visited Charleston, SC, then you may have tried these before.  And if you haven't, well you don't know what you're missing! For those who don't know, Benne is the Bantu word for sesame.  They were brought over to the South from East Africa in the 17th century.

There are different versions of this recipe out there. And some recipes call them wafers. The one I use, I copied from one of my Mom's cookbooks. I don't know who to credit, but just know that this is not my own recipe.

Benne Seed Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teas. baking powder
1 teas. vanilla
1/2 cup toasted benne seed

Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in eggs. Stir together the flour and baking powder, add to mixture and blend well. Stir in vanilla and benne seeds. Drop by teaspoonful far enough apart to allow for spreading. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack.


The sesame seeds I have are roasted already, but if yours aren't you will need to toast them to bring out the flavor.

I bake them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  I leave about 2 inches in between cookies. 

Yum!
These cookies are thin, crisp and delicious. You won't be able to eat just one! It's a good thing this recipe makes well over 100!  Give them a try, maybe they will become a tradition in your home too.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Russian Tea Cookies

I knew this day was coming.... And I'm not talking about the repetitive date of 12/12/12.  No. I'm talking about cooler weather. The past few days here have seen above average temperatures. Mid to upper 70's! Yeah, in December! It has felt more like Easter than Christmas.... But today is rainy and cold. Well, it's in the 50's. One man's cold is another man's comfort, but to me it's COLD! So what better way to spend the day than baking some cookies!  So, I turned on some Christmas music and prepared to get into the Spirit of the Season!

I usually bake an assortment of cookies during the Holidays and today I decided on an old favorite of mine, Russian Tea Cookies.  I got this recipe from my Mom, but I don't know where it originally came from. Now there is nothing extraordinary about these cookies.  No colorful sprinkles, no fancy shapes, no exotic flavors. They are really rather ordinary.  But I love them.

Russian Tea Cookies

2 sticks butter
1/4 teas. salt
1 cup powdered sugar
2 - 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teas. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter. Sift together dry ingredients.  Add to the butter and combine completely. Stir in vanilla and nuts.  Form small balls and press down slightly with your fingers. Bake slowly at 250 - 300 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes, until lightly browned.

I bake mine on parchment paper. These are ready for the oven.

Simple and delicious. They are crunchy, melt in your mouth good! And they're perfect for dunking in your hot tea or coffee. They go great with milk and eggnog too!

I made mine small, that way you can eat more than one!


Save some for Santa!



Maybe you will decide to give this recipe a try. If you do, I would love to hear what you think about them. I'll share another one of my cookie recipes next time. Until then, happy baking!


Friday, November 16, 2012

National Button Day

Yep, it's finally here.....November 16........National Button Day!!!!

What?  You mean you haven't been looking forward to this day all year?

Well, to be honest, me either.  I didn't even know there was a National Button Day. But it's true and today's the day!!!

So, button lovers and button collectors everywhere rejoice! This day only comes once a year. And in honor of this special day I will share with you some of my very own handmade polymer clay buttons. Enjoy!









Make sure to stop by my Etsy shop to see what's available.  I'm always adding something new!  Hope you have a fabulous day!



Monday, November 12, 2012

It's in the mail.....

Are you an internet shopper?  Do you like sitting around in your PJ's searching for that perfect gift?  It's very convenient, not having to go out to an actual store to get what you want.  Especially now that the Christmas shopping season is getting started. Who wants to fight traffic and crowds? I guess some people get a rush from it but not this gal. Oh no! Nothing is going to entice me to go out in the Black Friday madness! I'm going to sleep in on that day.
But internet shopping does have it's drawbacks.  You can't actually pick up the item you are looking to buy. And sometimes you have to wonder, "is it really going to be just like it looks in the picture?" And then there's the wait! I sometimes get a little impatient waiting for my purchase to arrive at my door.
That is just what I had to do last week.  I ordered something from an Etsy friend of mine and then had to wait for the mailman.  Even though I knew it wouldn't be here the next day, I was listening out for the sound of the mail truck making it's rounds in my neighborhood.  But then it happened! I heard him stop at my box and a few seconds later the doorbell rang. The wait was over!
I went to my door and there it was, a small box sitting on my front porch. I quickly called out a thank you to my mailman and rushed inside to open my package. And let me tell you, the anticipation was well worth it!
I'm sure by now you are wondering what I got. And here it is!  My very own one of a kind handmade bowl from S&G Inspirations!


This one is mine!

So, was is just what I was expecting? Did it look just like the picture? Was the size the same as I imagined it would be?  No. IT WAS EVEN BETTER!!!!  When I first ordered this bowl I thought it would be perfect for that loose change my husband always seems to have.  But oh no! This bowl is too good for nickels, dimes and pocket lint!  

Here are a few other items Kelly and her husband Craig offer for sale. To see all the rest go on over to their Etsy shop. 

Kelly makes items for women like this super cute clutch bag,



hair accessories for girls like this headband,



and Craig makes wooden home decor items like this vase.



And Kelly made these hair pins using polymer clay buttons she bought from me!


So if you want to do some shopping but don't want to leave your home, check out S&G Inspirations.  Get yourself or someone on your Christmas list a handmade gift.  The few days of waiting are so well worth it. You'll have yourself an awesome gift or two that you will never find anywhere else. And if you think the items look great in the pictures, just wait until you see them for yourself! 






















Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Breath Easy...ahhhhh

It's that time of year again. And no, I'm not talking about the upcoming Holidays. I mean it's cold and flu season. As I sit here typing this I am all snuffly and snotty. Gross, right?

And you know how some cough drops open up your sinuses? What is it about them that helps relieve your breathing when it feels like you have cotton balls shoved up your nose?  Eucalyptus! Well, I turned to the all knowing Google and found this out about eucalyptus:  Eucalyptus steam inhalation is recommended by some alternative practitioners for relieving nasal congestion and sinus congestion, usually from colds and flu. It can be done two to four times a day to relieve symptoms. If you're not able to do this, a steamy shower, vaporizer, or facial sauna is an alternative. (source: http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/1/a/Eucalyptus.htm)

I don't know about you but I want something a little more practical than holding my head over a steaming hot bowl of eucalyptus infused water four times a day.  So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to place an order with Shannon from A Moment in Paradise. You see, she offers these aroma beads scented with eucalyptus oil.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/114143965/aroma-bead-sachet-air-fresheners



I have ordered from this shop in the past and I know I will be just as satisfied with these aroma beads as I have been with all of my other purchases.  I'm even thinking about asking her to make me some candle melts with this scent.  I can just imagine my whole house smelling of eucalyptus. I may never be stuffy again! Now I'm not claiming that this will cure you of your cold or sinus troubles but it sure beats the taste of those nasty cough drops!

So head on over to A Moment in Paradise. Shannon is a great gal to do business with. And tell her I sent ya!






Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Moment in Paradise

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the beach.  Given the choice of where to spend a vacation, I always choose a warm sunny locale.  The salt air, the sun, the sound of the waves, the warm ocean breezes......what's not to love? Just take a look at this picture. I've been going to the beach since before I could walk.
Me and my Dad at Edisto Beach 1966


But ya know, it's not always summer here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  We do have days that are just too cold to stroll the beach.  So what do I do about that longing for the sounds and smells of the ocean? Turn on some beach music and light up a candle. Yeah, a candle! But not just any candle. It has to have the aroma of a tropical paradise. How does this sound:

                     Caribbean fragrance - A tropical paradise blend of coconut, fresh sliced pineapple with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Or what about this:

                   Sea Salt & Lotus Blossoms - The scent of fresh air, sea salt, ocean mist and aquatic florals come together to create a sexy, modern twist on this fresh & clean fragrance, complete with tender green notes and beachy musks.


Don't those sound intoxicating? So, you may be wondering where you can get your hands on some of these candles. Well I'm going to tell you.  A Moment in Paradise. That's the Etsy shop owned by the one and only Shannon Rose. You see, Shannon has a love of all things tropical too. She offers so many great sounding fragrances, you'll have a hard time choosing! She doesn't have just hand poured candles, but candle melts and air fresheners too. So if you find yourself longing for a tropical escape during the upcoming long winter months, I invite you to go take a look at Shannon's shop.

Light up a candle and set the mood. You'll be glad you did!





Thursday, October 25, 2012

Soup, it's whats for dinner

I am not a fan of cold weather. I wish I could just hibernate in the winter and emerge when the grass is green again. But I do love soup! And the only time I have a hankerin' for a hot, steamy bowl of soup is when the temperature drops below 70. I know, 70 degrees isn't a big deal for some but anything less than that has me searching for a sweater.

I just made my first pot of soup this season and it is so yummy and easy, I thought I would share the recipe. I've made it a couple of times before and it always turns out great. I cut this recipe out of the local paper about 3 years ago. It is originally from "Sunday Soups" and includes some of my favorite things. I'll copy it the way it's written and leave my notes at the end. Here it is:

Chickpea and Pasta Soup with Rosemary
serves 4

3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup small, short dried pasta, such as tubetti, ditalini or mini penne
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Salt to taste
3 ounces (about 3 cups) fresh baby spinach or turnip green leaves
One 3 to 4 ounce piece of parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano

Pour the stock into the pan and add tomatoes. Add 1/2 cup of chickpeas. With an immersion blender, puree the soup mixture. Add the remaining chickpeas, bring to a boil, add the pasta, chopped rosemary, and salt to taste. Return to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. If the soup cooks down too much, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups additional stock or water and return to a simmer. Add the spinach or greens and cook until wilted. Taste and season with salt if needed.
May be made several days ahead and frozen up to three months. To serve, ladle hot soup into 4 bowls and peel thin strips of parmesan over each serving.

Now my notes:
*Since I don't have an immersion blender, I dump the can of tomatoes and 1/2 cup of chickpeas into my blender and puree them. I then add that to the vegetable stock. And I don't make my own stock, I use canned. And I don't chop my rosemary either. I just add 5 or 6 sprigs to the pot and discard them when the soup is done. I'm not a fan of chopping, besides I just like the flavor it gives.  I almost always have grated parmesan cheese on hand, so that's what I use in place of slicing a whole piece. I try to keep things as simple and quick as possible!

And that's all there is to it. Quick and easy, no fancy ingredients and it tastes fabulous. Add some crusty garlic bread and dinner is served. I hope you try it because you're gonna love it.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Is it Fall yet......

Here it is the start of the second week of October. But just because the calendar says it's Fall doesn't mean it feels like Fall. My AC is still on full time and I'm still wearing shorts.  But, the good news is that the weather forecast is calling for cooler temperatures this week.  And I'm so glad.  Fall is my favorite season. I love the cool mornings and warm afternoons. And of course there's the colors! Orange pumpkins, the bold purples and bronze of chrysanthemums and of course the yellows and reds of the changing leaves. And I love walking outside in the mornings with a warm beverage, taking in the Autumn smells.

I came across a recipe a couple years ago that is perfect for cooler weather. It's for Chai tea.  Now usually the only way I drink tea is on ice.  But this recipe is a must have for me now. So I thought I would share it with you.  It has quite a bit of sugar in it, but I like my tea sweet, I'm from the South you know!  But I'm sure you could tweak this recipe to suit your taste. This is the original recipe as I found it on Allrecipes.com and I love it! 

Chai Tea Mix

1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powered nondairy creamer
1 cup French vanilla powered creamer
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweet instant tea
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
optional: 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
              1 teaspoon ground allspice
               1/4  teaspoon white pepper

Combine all ingredients.  


Blend in a food processor until it's a fine powder.  












To serve: Stir 2 heaping Tablespoons into a mug of hot water.


I think this would make a great gift, wrapped up in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon, tucked into a mug. Or put some in a canister with the recipe written on a handmade tag. I'm sure the recipient will love it!

So even though my thermometer says it's close to 90 degrees, I could not resist making myself a cup. I think I'll enjoy this one sitting under the air conditioner vent!





Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spice Things Up!

Today I want to share with you my latest experiment.  Now this is in no way something new that I have come up with, I read about this quite some time ago. But I finally got around to trying it for myself. I'm talking about adding inclusions in polymer clay.  And the inclusions I chose were straight out of my spice cabinet.


All you need is some translucent polymer clay and some spices! Mix your spices into the clay, shape it, bake it and you're done!

Here is what mine turned out like. I love the earthy colors!  Oh, and they smell good too.



From left to right, ground cloves, pumpkin pie spice, ground allspice, ground ginger, ground turmeric, paprika, dill weed and ground sage.

And that dark brown one on the left, that one has coffee grounds mixed in.  That one is my favorite I think.


I haven't decided if I will make something with these or just list them as is.  They would make a great necklace for a chef or anyone who loves to cook, don't you think?

Well, that's all for now. I think I will go make some more. See ya next time...... 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Work in Progress

It's Labor Day. September already. Where has the summer gone? I can hardly believe school has started and Halloween costumes and candy are in the stores. Before you know it Christmas will be here and gone too.

So what have I been doing with my time? Hmmmm, well August was a pretty good month for me.  I ended up with 20 sales, which is huge for me. Four of those were custom orders and totally unexpected.  And today I'm working on another custom order. Take a look.


Another Etsy shop owner contacted me about making some cabochons for her mosaic clocks.  She wanted  something to go along with a Celtic knot tile she is using as the center of one of her clocks.  These are the colors she asked me to use, copper, orange, turquoise, aqua and black. Yeah, it's large!



This is the cane after I started reducing it down.  Still has a ways to go before it's small enough for me to use.


And here is the first cabochon! What do you think? I guess it's not too bad for my first try. I'm still waiting to hear back from the customer before I go any farther with this project. I really hope she likes it.  

I am going to have a lot of this cane left over and need to start thinking about other ways to use it. 

I did make these pretty cool beads from some of the scrap ends. I really like this type of bead. They look different on all four sides.  

Well that's about all for now.  Next up is another custom order from the same shop owner. But I'll save those details for next time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And the Winner Is.....

Two months ago, at the beginning of summer, I was feeling a bit uninspired. I was wanting to create but all I could do was sit at my table and stare at my clay.  No ideas, no direction. So I issued a challenge.  I was hoping someone would kick start me into doing something that I otherwise may not have thought of. And I am happy to say, that's exactly what happened!  I received 6 suggestions. Just enough to not be too overwhelming yet just what I needed.  I offered those who gave me an idea the chance to win what I had made per their challenge.  So, as a reminder, here are the 6 projects.

marble beads suggested by Katharine
African themed beads suggested by Jeanne








Frogs suggested by Karalee

Dolphins suggested by Lulu Divine
Snake beads suggested by Sarah


 
Watermelon beads suggested by Kimberly


Well, I put all of the names in a hat and had my daughter pick a winner.      


And the winner is.........Sarah!  Congratulations!!!!!!
I want to thank everyone who took the time to help me out of my creative slump.  This really did get me to thinking.  If you ever feel like you are running into a brick wall, just turn to your friends.  They will help point you in another direction.