I was at the train station few months ago, and saw the most amazingly dressed man. He was wearing a beautiful Liberty of London button down shirt, and the perfect pair of jeans. I was taken by the outfit as it traveled onto the train, through airport security, and all the way to Dallas…when the man walked off the airplane from few rows in front of me.


When my sister suggested sewing denim Christmas stockings, the inspiration stayed with me.


These stockings aren’t too big. Perfect for special treats, a walnut or two, and a tangerine. Maybe some marzipan, or little bar of chocolate.

There are 5 different designs, some right side out, some inside out. They are all unique, and mix and match well! Each of the different denim fabrics has a different Liberty print loop to hang on the mantle.


I felt a little bit like an elf all weekend, with piles of fabric and stockings migrating around the room. Now the stockings are finished, and ready to go to their new homes. They are available in San Francisco at Beacon Coffee and Pantry, and online at Etsy.com, shop name: TorreyWitherspoon.


borken pecan pie

November 25, 2010

Pecan pie, from a recipe from my dear friend Jeanne McCanless. Jeanne passed away last week, and we are all thinking of her, and all that she shared with us, taught us, and gave us. She is someone who I am particularly thankful for today!

Here is her pecan pie recipe. Due to a slight spelling error it has turned into “borken” pie, which is how I will definitely remember it.

Utterly Deadly Southern Pecan Pie (Borken Pecan Pie)

4 eggs
1-1/4 cups clear Karo syrup
1-1/2 cups borken [sic] pecans
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Boil sugar and syrup together three minutes. Beat eggs (not too stiff) pour in slowly the hot syrup, add the butter, vanilla and pecan meats. Turn into a raw pie shell and bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly…which is typical. I was afraid to add the eggs right into the hot syrup, so I whisked the butter and syrup into the eggs, bit by bit.  I also added an extra 1/2 cup pecans…

The pecans came from my dad. I think that he got them at the Dutchman’s Store, and they are this year’s crop from Missouri. Yum!

Jeanne got the recipe from a coworker when she was a telephone operator. According to Jeanne’s son Jamie, they would actually have the pie on Christmas Eve, as it is super rich! It would be a treat all by itself.

40 days and counting

November 7, 2010

I was talking to my friend Emily a few days ago and we started discussing baking, and Christmas break, and I remembered that I needed to start another batch of grapefruit wine. I made (and blogged about) this recipe last year, and it turned out so well that I decided to make it again.

It is a recipe from Saving the Season, and originates in Southern France. It is a simple recipe. Place sugar in the bottom of several very large glass jars. Layer fruit on top, pressing down a bit as you go.

Add a little bit of chamomile and vanilla, and top with vodka and wine. Then let it sit for about 4o days before straining into bottles. The jars are mixed a bit and topped off during the first week.

This recipe makes me want to live near citrus trees so badly!!!

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I can indeed bake a cake. I bake cakes so rarely, that when I see something that looks interesting, and I have the inclination, I just need to do it! This afternoon, while browsing npr.org, I found a recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake. Being the lovely beer drinking holiday that it is tomorrow, I decided to make this one…

Then I went through all the formalities. Made a list (left it at home by accident), called my brother to look up the recipe online and advise as to the type of beer recommended (while wandering aimlessly through the wine and spirits section of Drugtown), bought the rest of the ingredients from memory, went home, and baked the cake.

I love the satisfaction of following a thought from start to finish so quickly. (It wasn’t a particularly daunting task, but completed all the same.)

I don’t think that I have ever tried beer in baking. Sometimes my mom cooks with beer (most famously, welsh rarebit), but I can’t remember her baking anything either.

This particular recipe, by Nigella Lawson, calls for called for Guinness, and so I went to Drugtown and purchased a 6 pack (taking care to get the “real” stuff imported from Ireland), for which I only needed one cup…

The beer is heated in a large saucepan with the butter, and it created in my kitchen a deliciously tasty aroma of beer and butter…sounds kind of gross, but it wasn’t . I have never mixed a cake in a saucepan, and was a little worried that I might cook the eggs and sour cream mix (being incorporated below). I didn’t though, and everything went smoothly, and I got the batter into the springform pan and into the oven.

I broke down and drank the left over bit of beer (breaking my no drinking while operating hot ovens rule..). There was only a little left, and it tasted particularly delicious paired with the left over batter!

The frosting is a cream cheese, cream, and sugar frosting. It is layered onto the top to mimic the frost on the top of a pint of Guinness. The cake isn’t too sweet, and the tartness of the cream cheese goes well with the rich chocolate flavor of the cake.

I took the cake into to work in my pie carrier basket, which is the perfect size to carry pies and cakes around. As the day went on, the cake gradually diminished in size, and when I took the basket home, there was one piece left for my mom…thanks to everyone that helped in eating!

valentine hearts

February 13, 2010

My mom and I made these this morning. She has been making these for Valentines Day for as long as I can remember. The cookies are sweet, but not too sweet, because of the chopped almonds. The pink frosting with almond extract is delicious. And the fresh taste of raspberry jam in the center completes them. This actually might be my favorite cookie. There is something about making a cookie once a year that makes it extra special. I like to make these and pass them out to friends on Valentines day.

When I made it over to my mom’s house this morning, she had all the ingredients measured out, cooking show style.

The cookie dough is a simple mixture of the usuals. Butter, flour, nuts, sugar, etc. I like to make assorted sizes (we got carried away and only made one size this year..), but nothing too big as the cookies are double layered. Too big and there is just too much cookie.

We first chopped the nuts, rather coarsely in the food processor. Then we creamed butter and sugar, added vanilla and sour cream (egg replacement), and finally the flour. The dough is rather dry and crumbly, but you don’t want it too moist, or it will turn a little cake like and the cookies won’t be as crisp.

My mom rolled all the cookies out.

She was really good at jiggling the dough with the spatula to separate the cookies from the surrounding dough.

Once the cookies were cooled, it was time to spread them with jam, and make little cookie sandwiches. I saved a jar of homemade raspberry jam that I made this fall for the center layer. I put on just enough to make the cookies stick, making sure that nothing dripped down the sides of the cookies.

It is important to jam the undersides of the cookies together. They stick better that way, and then the outside of the cookies look better too!

The icing is made with powdered sugar (we used the natural stuff, even though it is a little more “home-made” looking), almond extract and vanilla. To give it color, we chopped up some beet stems and boiled them for a few minutes in water. Then we added the colored water to the icing, adding a little extra powdered sugar to stiffen it up.

The icing is carefully applied to the top of the cookie with the back of a spoon (another trick I learned from my mom…).

The whole jam and frosting part took for ever!

And always, last step is to wrap the cookies up in parchment paper packages. This particular grouping is ready to go to the post office!

Swati came to visit for Christmas, and she brought with her the idea for pumpkin soup. Joumou, a type of pumpkin soup, is traditionally prepared for Haitian Independence Day (incidentally New Years Day). Although it is traditionally served for breakfast in Haiti, we got around to eating it late in the afternoon, settled around the fire. We used several different recipes to come up with a yummy, vegetarian version of the soup. Probably a little different from the one Swati had in Haiti, but pumpkin soup all the same.

I started the soup with “winter broth” from The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison. Winter broth is my absolute favorite comforting winter food. I added extra pumpkin (including seeds and peels) to the broth because it was intended for pumpkin soup. The main soup pumpkin came from the farmer’s market about 3 months ago! Talk about long-lasting. Swati rinsed the seeds and set them out to dry to save for my pumpkin patch next summer.

Then I sauteed a little onion in some olive oil and added cubed pumpkin, and winter broth to cover. I put the pot on the wood stove to simmer. When the pumpkin was tender, I pureed it and set it aside.

Meanwhile, I put a little oil in a new pot and added some freshly grated ginger, shallots, 2 cloves, and a few cloves of whole garlic, pierced with a knife. While these veggies cooked, I added celery, potato, and carrots, and a dried hot pepper from my friends garden!

After a few minutes I added some more broth and the pureed pumpkin and set the entire pot onto the wood stove to simmer until the veggies were tender. About 20 minutes, slowly boiling. Yum!!

In case you were wondering, the photos in this blog are particularly beautiful. Thanks to my resident photographer, Swati!

I made these a few weeks ago, and they were delicious! And way too easy. I have a shelf of canned pears in my pantry. They are preserved in a 30 percent simple syrup. I also have a somewhat dwindling (but still plentiful) supply of grapefruit wine. I simply opened the jar of pears, plopped them into the pan, added a cup or so of grapefruit wine, and put the pot on the woodstove to simmer over lunch.

If you don’t have home canned pears and grapefruit wine, I would recommend peeling and poaching fresh pears in water with a little sugar to taste. You can add a cup or so of regular white (or red) wine, and some additional citrus peel here as well.

Meanwhile, I prepared a sauce of cranberries. Place a handful or so of cranberries in a medium sized pot on the stove (medium heat). Add a few strands of orange zest and a sprinkling of sugar. Not too much that it makes the cranberries sweet, but not so little that they are unbearably sour. If you have just rinsed the cranberries, the water left should be sufficient, but if you are starting with dry cranberries, add a sprinkling of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until most of the berries have popped, and the sugar has caramelized a little. Set aside.

Ladle the warm pears and a generous amount of the liquid into a little bowl. Spoon the cranberry mixture over the top and serve right away. I would definitely serve with fresh cream. The bitterness of the grapefruit wine complements the sweetness of the canned pear syrup, which is almost a juice, and the cranberries give the whole thing an extra zing!

(They look really pretty, but I didn’t get around to taking a picture of the final product…)

ditch trees

December 28, 2009

This year, and many years in the past I have gotten a Christmas tree from the ditch. When I was little, my dad would go out and find us little trees for our bedrooms. I always looked forward to this, carefully decorating the little tree in my little room. Now that I have a house, I still like to find a tree outside somewhere and use it. I really like unusual trees, and have found that they are readily available in ditches. Ditch trees around here are often arborvitae, also known as red cedar, and are usually cut down every few years anyway, so I don’t really feel too bad about using them.

On Christmas Eve, my friends Swati and Eric and I went out to collect some Christmas cheer. We used Eric’s big car (another reason that I need a pickup truck..) to haul the tree after we cut it down. This year Eric had a source for the more traditional pine ditch-tree (not the scraggly arborvitae). We drove to the spot, found a “minimalist” tree, chopped it down, and brought it home. The whole process took less time than it would have to go to Hy-Vee, select a tree, pay for it, and tie it to the top of the car.

My sister Nozomi was visiting for Christmas with her parents. They came over right after we brought the tree inside and put all the lights on. I LOVE having family visit for the holidays!!!

Since I only had 12 ornaments and 1 strand of lights, the slightly sparse tree worked out very well. The ornaments are knitted Christmas balls, that I made last year out of Noro yarn. They are very nicely multicolored and cheerful.

christmas apples

December 23, 2009

This pattern came from my friend Jeanne. She used to have a knitting shop in Oskaloosa, and one of her customers brought it in to her. Not sure where exactly where it came from, but it sure is cute! And a great way to use up scraps. It is quick, easy to finish, and satisfying to knit.

The apples are knit in garter stitch with short row shaping, and sewn up the side. I stuffed mine with colored wool, and then gathered the strings from to and bottom to shape the apple.

I have some sort of ambitious plan to finish 12 of them for Christmas, but am not sure that I will make it. Currently at 8.5 and counting…

Jeanne gave me 4 apples (including the one pictured above) which are hanging on my “tree” along with some unfinished apples as I haven’t  gotten to the leaves and stems yet.

The stems are tiny little i-cords, and the leaves are little spots of garter stitch.

Supplies for Knitted Apple Ornament

Yarn scraps in various shades of red, green, brown, or anything else that you might like an apple made out of. And some wool batting (you can also use polyester, but I find that stuffing with wool makes a much nicer feeling object. You will also need a sewing needle and some knitting needles that coordinate with the yarn (a tight gauge is good for this project).

I will post the pattern later today, as I am at home and left it at work…

christmas in a pot

December 21, 2009

This is a  simple recipe for making your house smell all spicy and delicious (without baking!). Having been really busy at the store this week, this is the perfect way to make my house feel like I have been making stuff…

This is also a great method to add a little more humidity into your home, which is good this time of year.


A large enameled cast iron pot (stainless steel works too)

1 orange, cut in half

a stick of cinnamon

5-10 cloves

Place above ingredients in a large pot with a good amount of water. I like to squeeze the orange a little to release some of the juice and oils from the skin. Set the pot on a trivet on your wood stove if you have one, or on the kitchen stove on low. Keep an eye on your pot to make sure that it doesn’t boil dry!

Enjoy the wintery citrus and spice smells!!