The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

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To egregiously paraphrase Dickens, though I’m sure he’s quite used to it by this point: you there! What day is it? Why it’s my annual edible gift recipe round up! 

In case this doesn’t make any sense, let me explain: each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts here on hungryandfrozen.com which I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want some kind of prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process. I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as last year’s as there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and appreciate your understanding.

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This time last year I was naively hopeful that once 2021 drew to a close COVID-19 would be behind us but instead, it’s managed to get on top of us in new and innovatively terrifying ways. Just last week, after a quarter of the year spent in lockdown, I was (somewhat dramatically) not sure if Christmas would be happening at all, even now it feels like a bit of a mirage and I’m somehow overthinking it yet entirely unprepared at the same time. All of this is no reason not to cook though, if that’s what you like doing. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep (perhaps also with a note reassuring of your vaccination status if they’re a stranger that you’re giving something to). But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

I realise to heaps of people Christmas is – quite reasonably – just another day of the week! But generally, there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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Anyway, let’s get to the list. I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fourteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient that either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and makes an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

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Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the first three (four, technically, since the Christmas Stars and Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits are basically the same) cookie recipes in this list a LOT this year and recommend them the most enthusiastically out of the biscuits on offer.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: unless you can find overproof vodka, the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs won’t be ready in time for Christmas; either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday – or next Christmas.

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music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I have a small tradition where I wait till December and then watch this extremely grainy video of a very goofy song being performed and CRY. (Here I need to really emphasise that this is absolutely not a song you’re supposed to cry at.) It’s Donna McKechnie’s rubber spine, it’s the diagonal thing they do at the end, it’s the anticipation, it’s Christmas, it’s everything.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals, by The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Why am I consistently drawn to rap rock? Because it’s fun and great, that’s why!! (When does rap rock become nu metal? Not here, but I’m very happy on either side of course.)

The Only Heartbreaker, by Mitski. Anxious and beautiful and synthy! I don’t know what it is about synths, specifically, that makes me all “this song sounds like it has already existed. How can this be a new song” and here I am again saying that this song sounds like you already know it. I don’t mean that it sounds derivative of anything – I mean that it sounds like it was your favourite song from a long time ago and you’ve only just heard it again for the first time in forever. I guess the obvious answer is that synths sound like they’re from the eighties and it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve already heard it but I think it’s something more in the neon yearning quality of synths themselves? Anyway, I love it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

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You and I both know that the “three-ingredient” bit of this title is doing a LOT of heavy lifting and lede-burying, but if I’m going to get you to cook a can of condensed milk for hours on end with a potential boiling explosion of caramel hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles, I’ll try to at least make life easier for you elsewhere. Are these chocolates fast? Absolutely not. Are they easy? Not exactly. Are they messy? To an unhinged degree! But do they require only three ingredients? Yes, I can legally confirm that. Is it possible that the most strenuous part is reading my overly-talky, explanation-heavy recipe, and these actually aren’t that bad, especially if you’re not trying to make the chocolates, photograph the chocolates, and film the process for a TikTok video that no one will watch at the same time? Yes, that is also something to consider!

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Three things will make this all a lot easier for you: firstly, just make the chocolates and don’t try to involve a camera while you’re doing so. Secondly, do not use a brown silicone chocolate mould as I did, thus making it impossible to see whether the chocolate had sufficiently coated its surface. And thirdly, make peace with the fact that you’ll have to set aside some time to cook the can of condensed coconut milk in a slow cooker (much easier) or a pan of water (risky, but also the way it’s been done for generations by people of stouter courage than I).

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate caramel hearts ♥️ recipe at hungryandfrozen.com ♥️ #chocolate #vegan #christmas #nz #caramel #homemadegifts #fyp #whittakerschocolate

♬ Sweet Love – Anita Baker

Now that I feel content that I’ve thoroughly briefed you with all the information, let me reassure you that I wouldn’t make you do all this for nothing. These chocolates are REALLY delicious, with burnished caramel barely contained by a delicate, bittersweet chocolate shell, and each bite releasing a wave of toffee into your mouth. Condensed coconut milk is a miracle of modern invention for the sweet-toothed vegan about town and it’s really opened up a world of possibilities for me, cooking-wise. Heating it over a long period of time in its little can concentrates the sugars even further, giving you a rich, dark-golden caramel which ably emulates the fillings of the sort of chocolates which always disappeared first in the sampler tray.

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We all know Christmas is less than a month away, and while it’s hard to plan for, between our still being in lockdown (day one hundred and…something?) and persistent anti-vax nonsense and general confusion, there’s no denying that these chocolates would make an excellent gift, and I’m definitely not going to coyly act like I wrote about these for any real purpose other than to put that thought into your head. (I mean, I always want caramel-filled chocolates, but lies do not become us.) Make sure you give them to someone you genuinely love, given the effort involved – but if plans remain uncertain, you could also simply, and serenely, and justifiably, make a tray full of these handsome, gleaming little hearts all for yourself. Should you wish to really push the boat out you could tint the caramel with instant coffee powder, or peppermint essence, or orange extract, but as they are – just chocolate, caramel, and salt – well, there is no finer combination.

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Three-ingredient Vegan Chocolate Caramel Hearts

These vegan filled chocolates are fairly messy to make and involve some significant legwork between acquiring a silicon mould and caramelising the condensed milk but the finished chocolates are delicious, gorgeous, and make a wonderful gift. And there really are only three ingredients. Despite all the instructions here there’s nothing unexpected: just melt, fill, and chill. And whether you’re keeping these for yourself or wrapping them up, store them in the fridge at all times. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk, caramelised (see notes)
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • a pinch of salt
  • equipment: 1 x 15-heart silicone chocolate mould, clean and completely dry

1: First, sort out your caramelised condensed coconut milk (see the notes below). It’s best to do this the day before you plan on making the chocolates, to allow time for the cooking and the cooling and so on.

2: Melt your chocolate – I do a sort of half-assed attempt at tempering by melting 3/4 of the chocolate in a metal bowl resting on a pan of simmering water – without the water actually touching the bowl – stirring fairly vigorously, and once it’s hot, removing it from the heat, stirring in the remaining 1/4 of the chocolate, and returning it to the heat for a few moments once it’s combined and fully melted. Does this make any noticeable difference instead of just melting the chocolate all at once? I don’t honestly know, but I’ve committed to this bit and can’t back out now.

3: Use a teaspoon to ferry chocolate generously into each heart indentation of your silicon mould, and use a toothpick or a small, clean paintbrush to make sure all the sides are coated in chocolate. Now, upend your silicon mould over your bowl of chocolate and shake it gently to allow any excess chocolate to drip out. It’s very hard to do this without being messy and I am sorry! Place the silicone mould on a small tray and put it in the freezer for about five minutes to let the chocolate set.

4: Meanwhile, tip out roughly half the tin of caramelised condensed coconut milk into a small bowl and stir in the salt (see notes). Now, the easiest way to fill the chocolates is by fashioning a piping bag out of a sandwich bag, sitting it in a cup and carefully pouring the condensed milk into it. Remove the silicone mould from the freezer and then – and only then! – snip the very end of one of the corners of the sandwich bag. Carefully fill each chocolate about 3/4 with the caramel, carefully lifting the sandwich bag up and perhaps using your finger to stop the caramel dripping as you move between chocolates (again, messy, but if you come up with a better method please let me know). Return the mould to the freezer for another ten minutes – the caramel won’t freeze, but it will firm up slightly. Keep the remaining chocolate in its bowl sitting on the pan of water, turned off, and it should stay malleable.

5: Remove the silicone mould from the freezer once more, and spoon the remaining chocolate generously over each heart, thus sealing the caramel inside. Use a flat-bladed knife or bench scraper or something similar to scrape off most of the excess chocolate, and return the mould to the freezer one last time. Ten minutes later, eject the chocolates from their moulds – they should pop out easily and cleanly from the silicon – and store them in an airtight container in the fridge until required.

Makes 15 caramel-filled chocolates. If you want to make more – and there’s certainly enough caramel leftover for at least two more batches – I recommend only melting as much chocolate as you need each time.

Notes:

  • If you have a crock pot/slow cooker, caramelising the condensed milk is a snap – simply remove the paper label, place the tin on its side in your slow cooker, cover it with freshly boiled water – and really cover it, make sure there’s plenty of water submerging it – place the lid on top, and cook it on high for four to six hours, then let it cool completely, removing the can only once the water is cool to the touch. I recommend doing a couple of cans at a time since caramelised condensed milk is useful to have on hand and it feels less squandering of time and resources to turn on the slow cooker for more than one tin.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can simmer the can for three hours – label removed, on its side, fully and generously submerged in water – in a pan on the stove, with the heat on low and keeping a careful eye on the water level. Top up the water level frequently, and rotate the can occasionally to stop it scorching. Not to sound dramatic but if the water level drops enough so that the can is no longer submerged, the pressure could explode the can, sending boiling caramel everywhere. Please don’t let this happen!!
  • If you really don’t want to/have the energy for caramelising your condensed milk in its can – entirely reasonable!! – you can simply empty the contents of the tin into a small saucepan and stir it over a low heat till it darkens and thickens slightly, then allow it to cool.
  • If you don’t want to unnecessarily get a bowl dirty just to stir the salt into the caramel, you can either sprinkle the salt directly into the opened can of caramel or attempt to mix it in once the caramel is in the piping bag, and to be honest if I wasn’t filming it for TikTok, this is probably what I would’ve done, too.
  • Finally, the brand I used, and the one that your supermarket probably also stocks, is called Nature’s Charm, it tends to be hidden away in the dank corner where the vegan food is hidden instead of being next to the condensed dairy milk, or at least it is in my local supermarket. 

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music lately:

Stephen Sondheim died yesterday, aged 91, and I am grieving. You know that scene in Derry Girls when the 97-year-old nun dies and Granda Joe is solemnly like, “struck down in her prime.” That’s how I feel! His impact on me – let alone his impact on musical theatre – let alone on the world – can’t be overstated, it just can’t. We spent yesterday honouring his memory by listening to wall-to-wall recordings, and his is the only music I want to share with you today, so. This is just four songs that I love, it’s not meant to be a definitive cross-section of his work.

Move On by Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, from 1984’s Sunday In The Park With George. If you only listen to one song, let this be it. “The choice may have been mistaken/the choosing was not” – the harmonies one minute and thirty-five seconds in – I’m crying already.

Ladies Who Lunch by Elaine Stritch, from 1970’s Company, my favourite Sondheim musical – I had to lie down for an hour the first time I watched this video, where she’s singing directly and menacingly into the camera. One of the many things I love about Sondheim is that he wrote songs and roles for women who were old, who had lived, who had been around, songs that make no sense unless performed by a person of significant experience. This is inarguably one such song.

Could I Leave You? from 1971’s Follies, as performed by Dee Hoty in the 1998 My Favourite Broadway concert. Sondheim’s songs were so funny! His little internal rhymes, and the arch, conversational tone they suggested, and the way he kept you guessing – and the way that a song would become bleaker the funnier it got – no one did it like him. This isn’t necessarily his most humorous song, but it’s one of my favourites, and I love Hoty’s rendition.

No One Is Alone, from 1987’s Into The Woods, as performed by Norm Lewis – one of Sondheim’s most reassuring and comforting songs, yet it doesn’t patronise you for a second. Norm Lewis with his rich voice is just who you want to hear this from but there’s not a version of it I don’t love, and each is a classic in its own right.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Why waste your breath chasing originality when you could instead obsess over one thing contingent only upon your getting sick of it, which does not seem likely anytime soon? I’m talking of course about salted caramel (but also I could be talking about, say, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, a book that I loved as a kid and would re-read and re-read and every time I tried to get into literally any other book by CS Lewis it felt joyless and like hard work which, in the fullness of time, perhaps it really was, but anyway!)

Despite being, as a concept, utterly normal and unsurprising, salted caramel still manages to make eyes light up and taste buds limber up and for that – and its sheer deliciousness of course – I respect it. It’s truly the Saturday of foods, it’s switching the channel to find The Castle is on TV for the hundredth time and stopping to watch it for the hundredth time, it’s the culinary equivalent of the Grease megamix or Come On Eileen at the wedding dance floor, the food about which no one will ever say “oh god, not this again,” and even if they do try to front like they’re above it, a mere taste of whatever salted caramel confection is on offer will suddenly and stickily erase all attempts at snootiness.

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This salted caramel ice cream recipe is simple, has few ingredients, and does not require an ice cream machine – my personal vendetta against Big Ice Cream Machine guarantees you’ll never need one while I’m around – but, much like this blog post, there is a lengthy preamble to get through before you actually reach the gratifying part. By which I mean, you have to caramelise a can of condensed coconut milk by boiling it for several hours under a thick layer of water – while we fortunately live in a bountiful age where vegan condensed milk is a thing, we haven’t quite reached the convenience of ready-caramelised stuff yet (on the upside, it gives you something to complain about.) The process itself isn’t difficult or anything, but if you don’t have a crockpot you’ll need to situate yourself in or near the kitchen to make sure nothing burns or explodes, hence why I suggest making a double batch to give you maximum caramel output for your efforts.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan salted caramel ice cream🍦recipe at hungryandfrozen.com🍦SO GOOD🍦 #saltedcaramel #recipevideo #veganicecream #nochurn #icecream #pinkaesthetic

♬ Glory Box – Portishead

Once that step is complete it’s just a little mixing and freezing and you’ve got the creamiest, lushest ice cream rippled with waves of golden, burnished caramel. It tastes amazing, and the texture is glorious – chilling the coconut cream first and whipping it gives an airy denseness that I’ve been missing from my homemade ice creams; possibly the modest slosh of rum that I added helped the texture too, but you can leave the alcohol out and replace it with vanilla extract.

So no, this isn’t the first salted caramel recipe (or even the first vegan salted caramel ice cream recipe), nor will it be the last – and as long as salted caramel continues to taste this incredible, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Vegan, four ingredients, no-churn – of course! I’ll never ask you to use an ice-cream maker – and I know I say this every time, but this really is my best ice cream recipe yet. It’s creamy and soft and rich and rippled with caramel – truly the stuff of dreams. The caramel step is 1000% worth the wait, and I swear the process is a lot simpler than my wordy method makes it appear. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • salt, to taste

1: First, caramelise your condensed milk. A crockpot is ideal (and frankly, in my opinion, the best use for them) since all you have to do is cover the tin (with the label removed) in boiling water, cook on high for about four hours, then allow to cool completely, still in the crockpot. Otherwise, you can use the stovetop, bearing in mind that you’ll need to pay a lot more attention to it – place the tin, label removed, into a saucepan, cover completely with water, and boil for three hours, watching constantly to make sure nothing bad happens and that the water level doesn’t drop – my understanding is that if it evaporates enough so that the tin is no longer submerged, you could have a messy and dangerous explosion on your hands, so please consider yourself warned. While the condensed coconut milk is cooking, take this opportunity to place the can of coconut cream into the fridge to chill and firm up. Everything beyond this step is easy, I promise.

2: Once the can of caramelised condensed milk has cooled completely in whichever vessel of water it’s been bathing in, remove the tin and spoon about 3/4 of the now richly dark caramel into a mixing bowl. Take the coconut cream from the fridge and spoon the thickened coconut cream from the top into the mixing bowl. Using electric beaters (or a whisk and some exertion) beat the caramel and coconut cream together until thick and mousse-like, then tip in any remaining coconut water from the can of chilled coconut cream along with the rum if you’re using it and beat again to combine. Finally, beat in a good pinch of salt – bearing in mind that it’s always easier to add rather than subtract – and taste judiciously till you’re satisfied with the levels of salinity. (Also, you could consider stirring some salt into the condensed coconut milk before adding it to the coconut cream – or sprinkling more salt over the ice cream before freezing – or both! Your tastebuds will know what they want.)

3: Spatula this incredibly delicious mixture into a freezer-proof container and drizzle over the remaining 1/4 can of caramelised condensed coconut milk, using a skewer or something similar to ripple it throughout the cream. Cover the container and refrigerate for two hours – which I swear improves both the flavour and texture – and then, finally, freeze for around six hours or until solid. No need to tamper with it in any way during this time, although it’ll be easier to scoop if it sits on the bench for five or so minutes before serving.

Makes around 750ml. Since this is a fairly small quantity – about four servings – and since the caramel takes significant time to do its thing – I highly recommend making double quantities.

Notes:

  • There’s only one brand of condensed coconut milk on the shelves in New Zealand as far as I know, so that’s the one you’ll be getting. If you’re not vegan I guess there’s nothing stopping you from buying ready caramelised condensed non-vegan milk, but you know that already!
  • I said full-fat coconut cream and I meant it, if you choose low-fat or coconut milk then be it on your own head. I almost always get Pam’s, it’s inexpensive and does not appear to be watered down too much like some brands.
  • Instead of rum you can use bourbon, or brandy, or leave it out and add a teaspoon of vanilla instead.

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music lately:

Can I Help Me? (キャン・アイ・ヘルプ・ミー) by Plastics. Their 1980 debut album Welcome Plastics album is so good – I love the Apache-esque guitar lick and insouciant vibe of song in particular.

Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise. I’m re-watching Twin Peaks with my brother (who’s watching it for the first time) and, well, there’s never a wrong time to be reminded of this song, which is simply one of the best songs in the world!

Lot’s Wife from the Broadway musical Caroline, or Change performed by the supremely talented Sharon D. Clarke at the 2019 Olivier Awards; there’s this part in the middle where she just holds this huge note for what feels like hours, an absolute standing ovation of a performance.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

breakfast on incandescent, built to chew, dream to find another world

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I often say (and prove) that it takes a village to raise me, as is the case with today’s recipe. I was gently prompted by my wise friend Charlotte to get snacks (that was actually essentially the entire advice but I was like my god, a fresh and bold perspective from a true maverick, which tells you what kind of baby the village is dealing with here. But also: having snacks on hand is useful! I mean, did you know that, without someone telling you?) And then, acting upon this advice and making myself a large batch of granola – cheap, filling, nutritious, snacky – I was suddenly panicking that I wasn’t going to get it photographed before darkness fell and my wise friend Kate was simply like “why don’t you take a little out of the oven and put it in a bowl and photograph that while you carry on cooking the rest” and I was like my stars, a genius walks amongst us, lo and behold her shrewdness meant I was able to take the photos you see here in the last fifteen minutes of workable light that the day held, and in doing so I realised I’d actually forgotten when I’d even put the granola in the oven in the first place, and it was in fact extremely ready to come out anyway. This all might sound really stupid but I’ve been experiencing higher than usual anxiety (I’m fine and my higher-than-usual anxiety is way lower than the everyday-anxiety of a few short years ago but it still comes around, you know?) and when it’s there it means my brain is less able to put one foot in front of the other than usual and my usual is honestly not that impressive anyway, and having things slowly spelled out to me still feels like I’m trying to sit an exam that I haven’t studied for, and what looks like a simple conclusion seems like the most staggering realisation.

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I have made a lot of granola in my time, and I confidently assert that this is one of my best. To expound the “get snacks” advice – now that I’m not working, I (a) have resumed a relatively normal body clock and so am actually eating breakfast, (b) am not getting fed at work and so need way more of those aforementioned snacks, and (c) I’m not earning any money so it behooves me to make something at home in large quantities rather than recklessly just buy food when I’m hungry. Granola is a tidy solution. It’s simple to make, it lasts for ages, it’s not too expensive to put together, it’s nutritious, and it tastes good at any time of the day.

Caramel Walnut Granola

A recipe by myself

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup linseeds
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil or similar plain oil
  • 1/2 cup date syrup
  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large pinch sea salt, to taste

Set your oven to 150C/300F, and get out your biggest roasting dish – the sort that’s the size of one of the entire oven shelves ideally – and line it with a large piece of baking paper.

Pour the oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts and linseeds directly into the paper-lined roasting dish, and stir to combine – or just use your hands to shuffle everything about. Drizzle over the oil, then the syrup – and I recommend it in this order so that the syrup slides easily out of the now-oiled measuring cup – and stir it in, or again, use your hands. Place on the lowest shelf of the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring once or twice partway through, till it’s golden and toasty and browned. Allow to cool, then stir in the dates, chia seeds, cinnamon, and salt, then taste some to see if it needs anything extra. Store in an airtight container. This makes a lot.

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This recipe is very comfortingly low-key – the caramel flavour comes from the date syrup, which helps give that requisite crunchy clumpiness to the oats as it crystallises under the oven’s gentle heat, plus actual dates, which taste like little chewy nuggets of toffee. Date syrup is relatively easy to get hold of these days but if you can’t, golden syrup or maple syrup would be fine instead. It’s worth hunting for though – date syrup has this almost liquorice intensity without being too overtly sweet, I really love it. The slowly toasted walnuts, buttery and soft, mesh so well with the date flavour but obviously granola is one of the easiest things to go off-course on to suit your own tastes, needs, and accessibility. You could consider adding almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, I’m just naming nuts and seeds now but you get the idea, dried apricots or dried apples or dried cranberries or figs, you could leave out the coconut or add heaps more, you could leave out the chia seeds or find an even more expensive superfood to add. I went with lots of 1/2 cup measures to make things easier but if you’ve got more or less of any ingredient that’s totally fine.

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By this point your finished product might end up being several times removed from mine, but like, I only came up with this particular recipe because I wanted to use up as many ingredients as possible that I already owned, so why shouldn’t you? And the point is: we’ll both have snacks.

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If you’d like further granolae of mine to consider, I recommend my recipes for Lux Maple Granola, or this Buckwheat, Cranberry and Cinnamon Granola (both gluten-free for what it’s worth) or Strawberry Jam Granola which I blogged about the last time I was staying with Kate and Jason almost five years ago (as well as taking a village it also took a village, and Kate and Jason are such village people.)

PS: As always, thank you in particular to my Patreon patrons for supporting me and my writing, you’re literally so immensely important. A mere handful of dollars per month directly influences my ability to write and indeed, snack, and gets you exclusive content in return, like book and film reviews or what star sign I believe each character from Gavin and Stacey is or a recipe for the best vegan scones. Signing up is easy and my gratitude is real.

title from: Metropolis, by Janelle Monáe, one of her very, very early works, I’m talking literally a demo album from 2003 – although its spaciously lush r’n’b sound and conceptuality feels amazingly recent.

music lately:

Waiting Room, by Fugazi. I just love this lurching, shambling song with its oddly sanguine call-and-response. (Credit where it’s due: I was reminded of this song after listening to an excellent Spotify playlist from La’Shaunae, one of my favourite models, for Tunnel Vision, one of my favourite fashion companies.)

My Sweet Lord, by George Harrison, look, it’s just very twinkly and uplifting and I have a real thing for songs that appear to start in the middle of the chorus and then just stay there, simply keep giving you more and more chorus, bigger and bigger, it lends them a weirdly addictive urgency of sound.

Mein Herr, by Liza Minelli, from Cabaret. Such a fantastic number – there’s something so satisfying about the way the lyrics travel across the beat in Minelli’s rich voice – “it was a fine affair, but now it’s over, and though I used to care, I need the open air” – and that exquisite, deliberating Bob Fosse choreography, so much about the negative space, with the bodies almost frozen in place but for a wiggling finger or rotating ankle, until it explodes into the floor-slapping finale.

Next time: I made a spaghetti recipe that turned out surprisingly amazing for how simple it was, I intend to try it again and if it turns out that it wasn’t a total fluke, well, you’ll be hearing about it.

which definitely is as exciting as pudding

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Christmas is approaching with all of the endlessly slow then suddenly in-your-face manner of, oh, to pluck an allegory from the air, the Golden Bangkok pre-amble to One Night In Bangkok from the musical Chess, you know the one, you’re like “oh nice, an overture to open the second act, that’s reasonable” and then after a while you’re like “they’re really just … going to repeat that third movement again” and after a while it’s like “look, when will we ever get to hear Murray Head attempting to rap somewhat incongruously in the middle of this sung-through musical?!” and then suddenly there’s a flurry of violins and there he is rhyming “oyster” with “cloister” and then it’s over! With all this in mind, I made up a pudding recipe for Christmas Day.

But first: I have not been feeling entirely like myself lately, I would say in fact pretty definitively that it has been, in fact, what would appear to the casual observer to be something approaching a depressive episode; the casual observer might follow up by saying “but Laura? Why? Everything appeared to being going fairly wonderfully, perhaps more wonderful than you’d ever dared to be possible and full of more possibilities than you could ever dare wonder, how on earth could you be feeling so down?” And I would reply “well that’s more of a fervent observation than a casual observation but I relish the attention nonetheless.” I would then say, “I’ll tell you why it is so, that I’m feeling kind of blank and absent and not inclined to do much other than lie in bed and watch Frasier. I’ll tell you exactly why.”

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The reason is: you just cannot predict when it’s going to happen, no matter how much trust and faith you put into your current situation, no matter how tightly you hold onto that handful of sand, no matter how long the overture to One Night In Bangkok goes on for, sometimes it just surprises you by not being that thing anymore with all the speed and subtlety of a brick thrown into a bowl of jelly. Now, what I am not saying is that you should go through life with your trust dried out and hardened like an old piece of bread just in case you start to feel down. Please, continue to enjoy a moment without suspicion. I’m just saying, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. It is what it is. And while it is what it is, I found myself also feeling like, completely furious about it. I went from never better to better never and I didn’t want to cook or write and that was so infuriating to have these two things that are so crucial to my existence not available to me.

But anyway – because (a) it’s Christmas and I would like to bring this jingle-bell curve upwards and (b) because there is more to the story than me being intermittently subdued or incandescent with rage: I came up with a recipe! Which I believe is absolutely a sign of getting better. And now I’m writing about it! Cooking and writing! And indeed, before you get too worried (another thing I’m mad about: now I have to worry people? That’s so far down the list on my preferred forms of attention!) I genuinely am on the up and up and have been doing lots of good good things to augment my festiveness: my best friends Kim and Kate came over and we drank bubbles to toast 2/3 of us finishing work for the year; I’ve been watching Christmas episodes of my favourite television shows; I’ve been listening to the Christmas albums of various Broadway stars; I’ve done my Christmas shopping; I went to my work Christmas party and danced in the sun for roughly yet literally four hours straight and it felt really, really, really good.

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AND there’s this Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding! Which I made up out of nowhere! And it’s unbelievably delicious! It’s also a pretty straightforward concept: just regular sticky toffee pudding but with some Christmas elements added to make it aggressively seasonal, yet I cannot express how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. By way of illustration: on the day that I made it last week, a friend had come to visit on her way to therapy and we sat there just looking at it and I was like “tbh I’m too depressed to eat, do you want some?” and she was like “honestly I’m too anxious to eat, no thanks.” And so we carried on looking at it. But then, bolstered, united, and probably with a sense of friendly obligation on the part of precisely one of us, we decided to share a slice and agreed that it did indeed taste fantastic! That’s how good it is. So caramelly and butterscotchy and (*checks thesaurus*) caramelly! So dense and rich! So (*checks Nigella*) redolent of Christmas! (Nigella uses that word a lot, that’s the joke.)

Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding

A recipe by myself

  • 1 cup dates, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup/250ml boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or neutral vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (optional tbh)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or similar)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa

Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (look for one with 80% or higher coconut extract)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons custard powder (or cornflour) mixed with two tablespoons cold water

Set your oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease an oven dish, you know, one of those standard sized ones that you might bake a pudding or brownies in?

Place the dates, cranberries, prunes, baking soda and water in a large mixing bowl and allow to sit for five minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, with the flour and cocoa last (and consider sifting them, I reckon) and spatula the lot into the baking dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes – it will depend on your oven – until the centre springs back when you press lightly on it and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean. Cover the edges with tinfoil if they seem to be browning too much while the centre is still uncooked. Again, depends on your oven.

While the pudding is in the oven, get started on the sauce. Tip the coconut milk, brown sugar, golden syrup, salt, and cinnamon stick into a saucepan and bring to a good solid simmer. Allow to bubble away very gently over a low heat for half an hour, swirling occasionally and scraping down the sides with a spatula if need be. Once the time is up, remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the custard/water mixture. When the pudding comes out of the oven, stab it several times with a skewer or knife – whatever you’ve been using to check its done-ness – and pour over roughly a third or so of the sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a jug for people to pour over as they please.

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Obviously cranberries are super Christmassy, I also feel the warmth of cinnamon drifting through the toffee sauce and the intensity of all the spices in the pudding itself offer that let-it-snow cosiness which I somehow feel impelled to conjure up despite the sweatingly intense heat of a New Zealand mid-summer Yule. Now, the prunes, they’re honestly just there because I happened to have some; you could leave them out and up the cranberries, or you could include some raisins or sultanas for a more fruitcake buzz. You could consider a splash of brandy or rum in the sauce, or the cake, or your mouth, to add to the general festivity, and you could also consider not worrying at all about the fact that this recipe happens to be vegan: it tastes fulsome and rewarding and abundant and like pudding should.

This morning I, the prodigal son, the fatted calf, am flying up to stay with my family and spend Christmas with them for the first time in a few years, and I am honestly extremely excited to cook this for everyone, and! To relive the traditions of a Christmas at home: seeing the tree decorations from my childhood, listening to the old Disney and Tin Lids and Bing Crosby albums, being studiously, ruthlessly ignored by the cats. As for you, I hope you also have a wonderful time however you observe the holiday: casually or fervently.

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title from: Sam, a mellow ballad as lethargically slow-moving as toffee sauce from my absolute favourites, Meat Puppets.

music lately:

I started watching this musical TV show called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and while I tend to be cautious in terms of receptiveness to parody musical numbers the absolute homework that went into this show is genuinely extraordinary, it’s like, scholarly when it comes to musical references. The title refrain from West Covina, the song the lead character Rebecca sings about deciding on a whim to move cities in the hopes of running into a guy she used to date is really very beautiful. (I also recommend the impeccable Marilyn-ness on The Math of Love Triangles. and I think I also learned some maths from it?)

Mudhoney, Into the Drink. Good energy.

Velvet Underground, Heroin. As utterly bewitching as it is useful as a unit of time to sternly instruct yourself to clean your room for the duration thereof.

Next time: I’m going to try to blog again before the end of the year and also just generally continue hurtling ever upwards on a one-horse open trebuchet!

sometimes I think you’re just too good for me, every day is Christmas, every night is New Year’s Eve

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With last week’s post being absolutely enormous I thought I’d make this one fairly low-key, calm, brief. But then I watched classic Christmas film Die Hard for the first time ever and it’s really hard to not feel seasonally hyped up after that, right? So instead I decided to do the absolute opposite and give you something high-key, vast, yet still fairly calming in its own way: my annual round-up of recipes from this blog that I think would be worth considering if you’re wanting to do the home-made edible Christmas present thing. Whether or not Christmas is something you acknowledge, be it for religious reasons, self-preservation reasons, or something else entirely, there’s no denying that it’s going to literally happen this very month and besides, you could use this list at any time of year that you have a person for whom a gift is required. I for one think there’s nothing more delightful than the tangible and consumable result of a person’s concentrated time and effort as a gift, not to mention the joy of stomping on the delicate, exposed foot of capitalism by DIY-ing it yourself. (That said – and look, no one is out here defending capitalism, don’t worry – I’d also like to throw my voice to the chorus urging you to consider shopping local/small/ethical/indigenous/gay/generally independent this season.)

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THE HUNGRY AND FROZEN MODERATELY INDISPUTABLE LIST OF EDIBLE GIFT RECIPE IDEAS FOR LIFE, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

Caveat 1: Because this goes so far back through the archives, the majority of which I spent neck-deep in butter, well, there’s going to be some butter. I’ve marked accordingly whether a recipe is vegan, also gluten free if applicable – I see you!
Caveat 2: Because this goes so far back through the archives the continuity/life details on display in any given post might be kind of jarring and this is what happens when you write about many details of your life for eleven years! But if we can handle our TV characters like, changing haircuts and so on throughout the course of a series, so can we handle such things here.
Caveat 3: (And just know that I couldn’t help but hear “O CAVEAT THREE-EE-EE” in a superloud, third-time-round, “O come let us adore him” vibe in my head) I moved my blog over to WordPress halfway through this year and all the formatting completely fritzed out, so just know, every single individual blog post that I’ve linked to here that does have, y’know, line breaks, has had its individual html edited by me, and I haven’t quite managed to catch them all yet. This caveat is more of a weird flex, but.

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Category 1: Things in Jars

Too easy! Jars make everything look pulled together and clever, whether it’s the unsinkable salted caramel sauce or some pickled-into-submission vegetable. To ease any anxieties – which you admittedly might not have even considered having, but that’s why I’m here –  on the part of both giver and receiver, I advise including a gift tag with some recommendations of how to use the stuff within the jar ( and “consume in one go in bed” is entirely viable here.)

Subsection A: Saucy Stuff

Subsection B: Stuff stuff

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Category 2: Baked Goods

As easy or as hard as you like, whether it’s some cookies in a takeout container with a ribbon around it (and honestly: those takeout containers – you know the ones – are always useful to have around so it’s not a cop-out) or whether you go full out, make someone an enormous Christmas Cake and find a tastefully yet jaw-droppingly stunning plate to serve it on and make that part of the gift too. To maximise on tis-the-season seasonality I recommend embarking on all baking projects late at night with some kind of liqueur by your side, it just feels right.

 

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Category 3: No-bake Novelty!

This is (a) lots of taxing recreations of candy you can get for like forty cents at the corner dairy, (b) lots of stuffing existing products into other existing products and (c) nevertheless the most fun category.

And one more for luck:

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Almond Butter Toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 heaped tablespoons crunchy almond butter
  • 250g dark chocolate
  • sea salt

Line a baking tray or tin with a large piece of baking paper.

Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, without stirring at all. Let it continue to bubble away for five to ten minutes, until it just starts to turn golden – even though it’s boring for a while, don’t walk away or lose focus or it WILL burn, it just will – and as a pale gold cast creeps across the bubbling sugar, at this point immediately remove it from the heat. I hate to be harsh but if the sugar has turned a dark golden brown this means it’s caramelised too far and will taste harshly bitter and burnt; better to start over with more sugar and water than to try to forge ahead, I promise (I speak from much experience.)  Stir in the almond butter, and, working quickly and carefully, tip the lot onto the sheet of baking paper, coaxing it around with a spatula if need be to make it an even shape/thickness. Sprinkle over a good pinch of sea salt. Allow to set and get completely cool, then break it into pieces. 

Melt the chocolate however you prefer – short bursts in the microwave does it for me – and dip each piece of toffee in the chocolate before returning to the baking paper lined tray to set again. Sprinkle over more sea salt if you wish. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

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This stuff tastes not entirely unlike those magical Daim bars (or Dime bars as they’re known in the UK) with a buttery, snappish crunch that is somehow sweet enough to taunt the teeth with impending fissures and yet mellow and balanced enough for you to eat an alarming quantity without giving it a second thought. As is or chocolate-dipped: novelty perfection. (And especially delicious if kept in the freezer, for some reason.)

I guess humans make traditions to give us something to cling on to in a harsh world, something that marks the passage of time other than the time itself, and making this list has become something of a tradition for me so it’s nice to visit it again, even as my eyeballs throb from all that painstaking hyperlinking. Even if you don’t make a single thing on the list – and you’re under absolutey no obligation to – the fact that you’re reading this far means you’re part of my tradition too. Sentimental, yes! But as I said: I watched Die Hard for the first time, so, you understand.

title from: Sade, The Sweetest Taboo. The sultriness! Ma’am!

music lately:

The Pure and the Damned, Oneohtrix Point Never ft Iggy Pop: “Someday I swear we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to, and we can pet the crocodiles.”

Turkey Lurkey Time, from the 1969 Tony Awards performance from the musical Promises, Promises. Another tradition! Every year on December 1st and not a moment sooner I rewatch this and every year I am breathtaken anew! Michael Bennett’s audacious choreography that cares not for your chiropractic bill! Donna McKechnie (in the red dress), triple threat, rubber-legged, spinal chord cracking like a whip! The lyrics which are SO STUPID! The final minute which every time makes tears spring to my eyes at the sheer magnitude of it!

Whack World, the album by rapper Tierra Whack. Every one of her songs is precisely one minute long (which is just perfect for me) with its own precise personality. I particularly love Black Nails and F**k Off.

Next time: less REALLY will be more, I promise. 

could we start again, please?

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In the time between my last blog post in mid-June and right this very second, I’ve been, with modest effectiveness, working on getting this site to a point where, to use a metaphor to briefly illustrate a much larger point while also weighing it down by explaining my use of metaphor in a belaboured, some might say deeply unnecessary way: the romance is rekindled in the relationship. I’ve loved writing this blog for almost eleven years now and damn it, I’ll love it again.

Part of that includes the added dimension of encouraging you strenuously to subscribe to this blog so you can receive the posts, before anyone else sees them, in your inbox each week! I just thought it would be fun!  What you’re reading now is the post, (edited lightly for context), that I already sent out, because of course this is still a functioning blog and I don’t want to make you sign up to get these posts sent to you. But it’s like, aren’t we all conspiratorial and cosy and secret, and isn’t this easy, just me landing in your inbox without the unspeakable drudgery of having to go manually find my blog yourself. It’s a little like the pilot episode of a TV show where I’m seeing what works, things might get moved around without explanation in further episodes, but if I didn’t actually post this now, unpolished and unprepared as it is, it might never happen. But also like, imagine me being polished and prepared ever. It’s good to laugh!

I realise the last blog post I did back in June is VERY heavy on this same kind of talk about, you know, where am I going and what am I doing and is it just that I’m too tired all the time or is it that I’m scared that if I had the time to create I still wouldn’t achieve anything, so I’m going to try to not double down on that. I will concede that the last few weeks have been massively busy at work with the Wellington on a Plate food festival going on and what I’ve lacked in spare time I’ve made up for in lack of spare time.

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But here’s what I’ve actually done. While the layout of the new-not-new hungryandfrozen.com isn’t perfect and there’s broken links everywhere and strange formatting from the blog being uprooted from format to format like an army brat; I feel like this latest home has a warmth that the last one was lacking a little, and that made me feel distanced from what I was creating. My dear friend Jason patiently walked me through the entire process and did a lot of fiddly code work, and even more heroically, a lot of answering my endless emails. (Did you know he moved 640 blog posts over to WordPress for me? “What a dick” I said, upon discovering I’d written that many.) My wonderful friend Matt made me a beautiful new logo – scroll up and look at it! – which I feel kind of encompasses everywhere that the blog and I have been. And finally I, Laura Vincent, wrote this post. What a hero.

Because I love to not be able to see the woods for the trees, I naturally got incredibly stuck on just what recipe to don’t-call-it-a-come-back with. Whether it’s ADHD or I’m just a slatternly genius, I genuinely cannot achieve a single thing during the allotted, logical achievement time. No, not for me: I instead must wait till the very last minute and then do it all at once, heart pounding and words falling over themselves. That’s what happened here. After tapping my foot impatiently for days and days this black salted caramel ripple ice cream came about in my head very suddenly, and thank goodness: it’s incredible. And ice cream being one of my very favourite foods: it’s appropriate.

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Tahini has this rich, fudge-like texture and while I was sold on the blackness of the colour alone, for vague goth reasons unrelated to being even the slightest bit goth and more about simply enjoying ascribing the word goth to things willy-nilly in a doubtless irritating way – the actual flavour is a little sweeter and more mellow than regular tahini. If that’s all you can find though, it’s extremely sweet as. The other major component is simply golden syrup, which has this buxom sweetness, all mouth-fillingly caramelly and sticky and almost buttery once you add the salt to it.

And almost is the crucial word there, because I guess the other thing of note since I last posted is that I’ve decided to go a bit vegan. I hesitate to actually label myself as such with any fanfare since that would seem to set me up for failure, but it’s just something that I’m doing and I am enjoying it. Initially I was all, “restrictions make creativity flourish!” but now it’s less about the absence of animal products and more about the abundance of literally everything else. I wouldn’t say I don’t want to talk about it per se, since all I want to do is talk about myself, but it’s just something I’m trying and it’s been very low key and do-able so far.

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So it helps if you think of this salted caramel sauce as not just good in comparison to what it’s not, but in fact how good it is on its own terms: salty-sweet, slow-movingly thick as it slides off a spoon into your mouth, buttery and butterscotchy and rich. Freezing amplifies the fudgey texture which contrasts deliciously with the icy, clean swirls of delicately flavoured coconut cream wrapped around it. On top of which, this ice cream is – as I intend for all my recipes to be – really, really easy to make.

Black Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 125ml/half a cup black tahini
  • 125ml/half a cup golden syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut cream
  • Sea salt, to taste, but at least a teaspoon

Get a jar ready to tip the sauce into. Warm the ingredients together over a low heat in a saucepan, stirring constantly, till it forms a thick, shiny black sauce. Remove from the heat and spatula into the jar.

Black Salted Caramel Ripple Ice Cream

  • 125ml/half a cup black salted caramel sauce
  • 2 x 425ml cans coconut cream (forgot to say this in the email, but absolutely use the remainder of the can from which you took the small amount of coconut cream for the sauce, as opposed to opening a whole other one) 
  • two tablespoons golden syrup

Empty the cans of coconut cream into a large bowl and whisk in the golden syrup. Continue whisking briskly until the coconut cream thickens somewhat, like, it’s not going to look like whipped cream but it’s going to have some body to it, you know?

Pour the coconut cream into a container and freeze for at least an hour, until it’s partially solid. At this point, drop spoonfuls of the caramel sauce into the semi-frozen coconut cream and use a skewer or chopstick or similar to swirl ripple patterns into them. Try to use as few movements as possible or the whole thing will end up grey, and the point is to have dollops of caramel sauce amongst the frozen coconut as opposed to blending it all together.

Freeze for about six hours, or until completely solid, then take it out of the freezer about twenty minutes before you want to eat it to let it soften a little.

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If this has stirred within your loins an urge to make further frozen things, may I direct you to other blog posts I’ve done of this nature, such as my recipe for Cucumber and Lychee Sorbet or my recipe for Lemon Poppyseed Ice Cream.

title from: Could We Start Again, Please from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, an eleventh hour plea to match the eleventh hour nature of well, literally everything that I do. I first came into contact with this musical when we saw the local production of it up in Auckland in 1994, with laser lights and Janet Jackson microphones and people from Shortland Street in it, naturally it had an enormous effect upon me. Whoever did the arrangements for the vocals in this particular production and decided to have Simon Zealotes slide upwards on “ought to call a halt”, thus adding extra drama and anguish: thank you. Margaret Urlich was so beautiful as Mary Magdalene and I stand by my 1994 assertion that her voice sounds like two silver coins being rubbed together.

music lately:

Mitski has been casually, effortlessly ruining me. I’ve been listening to Thursday Girl over and over and over, it has this mellow early 90s singer songwriter Natalie Merchant Sophie B Hawkins ache that I genuinely cannot get enough of.

I’ve been watching a lot of this show Kingdom about MMA fighters and initially I thought the soundtrack was amazing but occasionally it’s more that no, the snippet of this song just sounded amazing while these handsome men were doing some high-stakes beating up of each other. I Got Skills by Mozes and the Firstborn though, is appealing in or out of diegesis.

Next time: I don’t know yet but it’s good to be back. Uh, and it will be something vegan.  And you’ll find out sooner if you subscribe, but also just waiting for the blog posts is ENTIRELY valid. 

and her pink skies will keep me warm

I was a very righteously-opinioned child. For example, I took the mathematics curriculum as a DIRECT PERSONAL SLIGHT against myself and would injuriously huff about it at any given opportunity (and especially in opportunities that weren’t given.) Like, in any schoolbook from my youth I’ll take jabs at it – not least in the actual maths workbook itself where I’d constantly write evaluations of my work complaining about how unfair and stupid maths is, and take great pleasure in defacing each and every possible blue-lined square with colours and stars and patterns. God help the defenceless teacher if there was an “about me” section in any piece of work – I’d be all, “I’m Laura Vincent and I hate war, people who don’t understand the genius of the Spice Girls, and the fact that I have to do pointless, irritating mathematics.”  

 the rose tint

the rose tint

That’s just one example. I was also vehemently against the colour pink, simply because I wanted to rebel against the generally held gender norms that pink was for girls and blue is for boys. I definitely went through a distinct Barbie doll phase (I was in it mostly for the fashion, but I do remember being with my cousins and pretending to burn a Shaving Ken at the stake while several other Barbies danced around him triumphantly as we sung Sacrifice by Elton John – “we’ve got a Shaving Ke-e-en, and he’s our sacrifice”) but after a point I truly felt like not seeking out pink things made me somehow more superior. Pink was obvious. Obviousness was weakness. 

Tiny jerkfaced me could never have predicted that in the year 2017, I would embrace the very shade that I so long derided (okay so from the years like, 1999 – 2014 I was honestly neither here nor there on it) in the form of Millennial Pink.

Millennial Pink is a real phenomenon (there’s a great article charting its rise to prominence) and I ADORE it. In these garbage times, this shade is soft, it’s kind, it’s calm AS HELL, it’s really, really pretty. And it’s increasingly charmingly genderless, which I feel lil no-wave feminism me might have appreciated. It’s the colour of soothing tumblr aesthetics, of Drake’s puffer jacket, of Rihanna wearing pyjamas in the club, of watching makeup tutorials till you fall asleep, of brutally plain late 90s slip dresses, of rose quartz crystals, of Jenny Holzer truisms, of the icing on top of cream buns and doughnuts, of peonies and rose petals, of bleached and coloured hair on Instagram, of sun-faded walls with bright green plants propped up against them, of fluffiness and softness and dreaminess. 

All of which possibly sounds stupid but like, I like what I like. 

Hence why I found myself starting with a colour as an inspiration point and working backwards from there, and ended up with this extremely delicious toffee.  

I had some almonds kicking around from making orgeat for work and in the spirit of sustainability or the illusion thereof, I decided to surround them with crunchy, buttery toffee and smother them in rose-tinted white chocolate. Anything caramelly just bloody does it for me, and I sheepishly prefer white chocolate over the other sorts, so this resulting slice was extremely 100% my idea of a good time. Making toffee from scratch does require some patience and a healthy fear of getting too close to the relentlessly boiling sugar. What you get though is the most glorious stuff – your teeth sliding effortlessly through the silky, vanilla-y white chocolate into hard, almond studded salty toffee which shatters as you bite down into chewy caramel crystals.  It’s intense and it’s wonderful.

millennial pink salted almond white chocolate toffee

a recipe by myself

  • 250g butter
  • one and a half cups caster sugar
  • a decent pinch of sea salt
  • one cup of toasted almonds, blitzed in a food processor so they’re rubbly and chopped
  • 250g white chocolate
  • one teaspoon vegetable oil
  • a few drops of pink food colouring

This recipe looks really really long but it’s just a convoluted way of saying boil stuff then chill it then cover it in chocolate, it’s all pretty straightforward I promise. 

Line a regular sized brownie pan with baking paper . In a large saucepan, heat up the butter, sugar and salt and allow it to come to the boil. Let it bubble away, stirring only occasionally (it might seem like the butter won’t absorb into the sugar but as it boils the sugar will take it in, give it a few gentle stirs though if it eases your mind.) After a while, take a spoonful of the boiling sugar and drop it in a glass of cold water. Let it sit for a few seconds and then taste it – the texture you’re after is a good hard toffee crunch. If it’s more fudge-like, then you need to let it carry on boiling. 

Once you’re at this point, remove it from the heat and dump in the almonds. Give it a quick stir and spatula it briskly into the waiting brownie pan. This is like, the hottest thing on earth and it will continue to bubble VERY disconcertingly in the pan so just let it settle down for a bit before you put it in the freezer or it will throw your entire ecosystem in there out of balance. 

Once the toffee is cooled and firm to the touch, melt the white chocolate gently with a teaspoon of vegetable oil and add the merest droplet or two of pink food colouring. Stir gently and add more colour if you desire but go slowly! I used literally like, three drops for this stuff. Spatula it evenly over the surface of the toffee, and gently bang the base of the tin against the bench to settle any lines in the chocolate. Return it to the freezer, and then when that is finally set, slice it however you like and eat the damn stuff. 

 pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

pink is the flavour, solve the riddle

To be honest almost every time I make something starting with aesthetic instead of flavour or texture as the inspiration point I end up screwing up the recipe completely, as though the universe is admonishing me for being driven by such base instincts, but this worked out perfectly. Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that wanting things to be pretty is like, not the worst. I ended up taking it around town and dropping off tasters of it at various beloved establishments before bringing the rest to work for my team like some kind of actual heroic angel. I know there’s some still waiting for me tonight when I go to work and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Just one woman’s opinion, but go forth and embrace pink. Oh and maths really does suck, I was right about that one. 

title from:  Frank Ocean, Sierra Leone, from his extremely very perfect album Channel Orange. 

music lately: 

I am regrettably completely head over heels for this guy from the UK called Rat Boy, who was clearly bred in a lab with the express purpose of being to my personal taste. Sample song: Revolution. 

As well as being an absolute BOP, Charli XCX’s song Boys is like…Millennial Pink condensed into one explanatory video. 

next time: It’s (SOMEHOW, and I suspect HIGHLY ILLEGALLY) September now, so like, let’s shuck off the heavy winter food and get into spring (it’s honestly colder outside than it has been all year but a gal can remain optimistic!) 

pile on many more layers, and i’ll be joining you there

three chocolate cakes sandwiched together with cream cheese icing and crushed up creme eggs and you can’t see it but there’s also an implied *painting nails emoji*

Well, Mars may be in retrograde and my April tarot card may be the tarot card equivalent of a heavy resigned sigh, but: ya girl is out here being thirty finally. (She says, quite thirty-ish-ly.) It seems only right that the first blog post I do after my birthday is for a birthday cake, yeah? Not my own, but instead one I made for my pal-and-colleague’s girlfriend’s 21st, because that’s a thing I do sometimes. Such a momentous occasion and an honour of a task calls for something a little no-holds-barred, and with the simple brief of “Cadbury Creme Egg” I set to work on what turned out to be this three layer masterpiece. Being the dingus I am, I stupidly only took a few cursory snaps of it on my phone rather than sitting it down and lovingly photographing it with my proper camera, but I was so pleased with the results – like, look at that thing! It’s beautiful! – that I decided to blog about it anyway, hasty photos and all. Who knows when you, yourself, might need to make a three layer creme egg cake!

 champagne for my real friends

As for my birthday, I won’t sugar-coat it for you: it was wonderful! It started when the clock ticked over to midnight the night before because I was still working; however all the hugs and frolics made it fun and I liked that I got to catch my birthday in the act, right as it started, without wasting a drop of it. As someone who wastes a lot of time fretting about wasting time, that was nice. The day proper had a professional hair wash and straighten like I am a fancy rich woman who just does that, real champagne, delicious brunch, the receiving of exciting gifts like tequila and a gilded bowl and Lana del Rey vinyl and a rather gobsmackingly beautiful record player; rewatching Once More With Feeling; a phone call home where tales of my birth and incredulity at the passage of time since then were recounted, and then lashings of wine and platters and selfies with beauties at the place where everybody knows your name (yeah, that’s right, I went back to work to hang out on my birthday, that’s how much I like the place.)

a bad but maybe useful photo of the three layers waiting to be iced

So, the cake! Oddly enough it was incredibly un-stressful to make – I made it in my mornings between doing wall-to-wall shifts at work and was still generally very serene the entire time. The mixture generously makes three moist, rich cakes with near-perfect tops for stacking and icing (I sliced a bit off one to make it super evenly flat, and this is how I know it tastes extremely good.) The icing of it is also very straightforward, and in fact the hardest thing about it is getting your hands on some creme eggs. I was going to ice the whole lot like a more traditional cake but decided to leave the sides nakedly exposed with the icing tightly spread into every gap a la momofuku – it’s actually much easier, and that way you can see the cakes themselves in a “you’re damn right this cake is three layers tall” kind of way and it’s all rakishly messy yet neat at the same time.

I could’ve gone for a more hardcore filling but decided that the tang of the cream cheese would gently counteract the bone-dissolving sweetness of the fondant inside the eggs while still showcasing them. Honestly, the more novelty involved the more serious and thoughtful you have to be. This cake is so majestic and tall and the creme eggs look so cute all halved and nestled in together that you really don’t have to worry about any further decoration but there’s also nothing stopping you – my one concession was to quickly melt a caramac bar and pour it onto the top layer to echo the look of the eggs’ filling, but it’s not that necessary.

These recipe instructions are long as hell, I grant you, but it’s honestly more or less chill. I just like to reeeeally explain stuff. As I point out in the recipe, I only had two caketins so baked two layers at once followed by a third, and it all worked out. Also, this would be easier with a cake mixer probably but I used a mere wooden spoon and honestly didn’t even do that great a job of creaming the butter and sugar and it STILL worked out fine so – let’s all just breathe.

triple layer creme egg cake

I made the actual cake itself by following the recipe from this site pretty well to the letter; all the random measurements are a bit of a faff but the cake same out perfect so I’m happily and trustingly passing it on to you. I deviated and made my own icing, if you wanted to take this cake in a whole other direction you could use whatever filling and icing you like. It’s a very good starting point.

cake:

one and a half cups good cocoa powder
one and a half cups boiling water
one tablespoon instant espresso powder (or plain instant coffee if it’s all you can find)
three quarters of a cup of sour cream
one tablespoon vanilla extract
375g soft butter
two and a half cups sugar
three large eggs
one and three-quarter cups plain flour
one and a quarter teaspoons baking soda
a pinch of salt

Take three 20cm springform caketins and line the bases with baking paper. Grease the sides with butter and sprinkle a little cocoa over them, shaking the tins about till they’re fairly evenly covered with a cocoa dusting. Set your oven to 180 C/350 F.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cocoa, coffee powder, water, and sour cream till smooth. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time till thoroughly incorporated, then add about a third of the flour and baking soda (you’re gonna want to sift them if you’re going to all this trouble, the last thing you need is baking soda lumps) along with the cocoa mixture in alternating quantities, mixing till it’s a suddenly-enormous dark, smooth chocolatey batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the three cake tins, smoothing down the tops. Place them all in the oven and bake for thirty or so minutes, rotating their positions on the oven shelves halfway through to ensure even baking. If you only have two pans, then just bake two cakes using 2/3 of the cake mixture, then while they’re cooling, put the remaining third of the batter in one of the used cake tins and bake that after. This is what I did and it was totally fine.

Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Icing:

100g soft butter
500g cream cheese (this sounds like a lot but it’s just two of those Philadelphia packets) at room temperature
two cups icing sugar, but have more just in case
five or so creme eggs (perhaps grab a few extra in case anything goes wrong.)

Make sure both the butter and the cream cheese are soft, and your icing sugar isn’t lumpy, and then just mix the hell out of all three ingredients till you have a ton of icing.

Assembly:

Slice the peaked tops off any of the cakes if they’ve risen too much, so that they’re all more or less flat. Place one cake on your chosen serving plate, and place a good dollop of icing in the centre. Spread it out fairly evenly using the side of a knife. Unwrap one creme egg, roughly chop it, and sprinkle/drop the whole lot evenly on top of the icing. Then place another cake layer carefully on top.

Don’t worry if there are massive gaps between the layers, we’ll take care of that later. Repeat this process with the next layer of cake and another egg.

Finally, put the top layer of cake on and spoon most of the remaining icing on top. You want a decently thick, even layer on here. Now, using the side of the knife, smear remaining icing into any gaps along the sides, running the knife’s side around the sides of the cake to press it all in and to create a messy yet smooth look. Does that make sense? You kind of want the cake to look like it has just fallen out of a cylinder. Halve three creme eggs and arrange them, cut side up, on top of the cake. I melted a caramac bar and drizzled it into the centre just to add to the creme egg look, but it’s not essential. You now have a damn creme egg cake.

So I ate a bit of cake off-cuttage and a lot of icing and loved it all, but in order to strike real faith in your hearts about this recipe, let me quote the actual recipient of the cake, the birthday lady herself: “Argh it was amazing! With all of the layers and all of the creaminess and chocolate and just the fact that a cream egg could be transformed into a cake. Super awesome and delicious”.

I had a lot of fun making this cake and it was such a nice opportunity; and should you ever be called upon to make a fancy big cake I definitely recommend this one. If creme eggs are emphatically not your jam, I think this would be amazing with roughly chopped caramel-filled chocolate covering it with the caramel dripping everywhere; or with smashed up oreos, or with milk chocolate melted and drizzled all over the top, you see what I mean? For an enormous time-consuming cake made to a very specific brief it’s really quite versatile.

what a cute 30 year old.

Finally: fun birthday fact! It turns out that if you say “Happy Birthday” to me I’ll immediately say it back to you without thinking. I’m not sure if it’s cute or weird or both (the Laura Vincent Story) but it’s what my brain has decided is a fantastic reaction and I can’t break it. Not that I – or indeed, you – have to worry about it for another year. Happy birthday!

title from: Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I may not be inspired by Pink Floyd to write poetry anymore as I was in my teens – for which we can all be relieved – but this song still goes off. Very slowly. And what an imperative in that title!

music lately:

Something To Sing About, from Once More With Feeling. As I said, on my birthday I rewatched this, the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon can be ever so Joss Whedony but I’ll never deny the incredible cleverness that went into writing this episode. All the songs are brilliant and Something To Sing About is 100% NOT the best place to start if you don’t know the story because of the massive spoilers and lack of context but it’s still my favourite and you should watch it anyway. Buffy’s eyes! The discordant wobble when she sings “heaven!” Spike’s half smile when he sings back at her! The time signature changes! I died.

By My Side, Godspell. I busted out my copy of the original broadway cast recording of the musical Godspell on vinyl and while it hilariously does not hold up, the music is still endearing and By My Side is still one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Penguins and Polarbears, by Millencollen. Couldn’t say why, but I truly adore pop-punk singers when they sound completely congested, which Millencollen delivers upon handsomely. If the lead singer makes you want to swallow an antihistamine for your own safety, then chances are I’m all over it. (There’s a point during the Green Day Bullet in a Bible concert performance of Brain Stew where I’m pretty sure lead singer Billie Joe is literally just dribbling incomprehensively and I love it.)

next time: I think I mentioned last time that I made homemade matcha mayonaise but I also made this awesome granola stuff. Either way: deliciousness awaits you.

 

perfect hexagon of the honeycomb and you soothe yourself with the shapes you know

how much trouble can one ice cream be?

Prologue: Laura.

Confused yet? I decided to write this blog post somewhat in the style of a Baby-Sitters Club book, for no good reason other than it occurred to me and I ran with it.

Chapter 1

WHUMP! CLATTER! 

That’s the sound of me jumping onto my bed while holding a bowl of ice cream and delicious homemade honeycomb sauce, immediately knocking over the worrying number of empty juice cans that I’m lazily keeping beside it instead of putting them in the bin. “Auughhhh!” I just manage to stop the rapidly-melting ice cream and warm sauce from spilling over onto my bed. What a day!

I guess you’re wondering by now who I am, and what I’m wearing. Well there’s me, Laura – I hope you’re taking notes, I’m going to quiz you on this later! Psych! I’m kind of the humorous one here, or so I always say. I’ve got chin-length unruly red hair and glasses, but people do still hang out with me. I’m wearing these old cerulean blue shorts that I think used to be part of some boys’ high school regulation gym uniform (I love vintage!) and a white crop top that has the word “CHALLENGE” written across the front in big black letters, because I like to wear clothing that doubles as a friendly warning for what kind of person I am. I don’t have pierced ears, but people do still hang out with me. Most importantly, I’m eating ice cream, even though it’s not even breakfast time yet. I know what you’re thinking – how do I eat all this ice cream without getting in trouble? The thing is, I’m kind of an individual when it comes to doing what I want. I’m also the only person ever that has ever been into cooking. It’s kind of my one personality trait. If anyone else likes it, I’m certainly not acknowledging it!

this ice cream is sensitive and a good listener

Chapter 2

My best friends work during the day and I work at night, but when we get together, we always have a good time! We’re the best friends you’ll ever have. Does that sound like a threat? I’m inclined to tell you the intimate details of their respective family history, but that would be really weird, so I’ll just do a brief hagiography (that means documentation of the lives of saints, it’s a word I learned recently). There’s Kim, who has lo-oo-ong dark hair and the enormous macadamia-shaped eyes of a curious woodland deer. She’s kind of the wise, yet wickedly fun one of the group. Kate has just dyed her hair blonde, which means she is now even more popular and sophisticated – she also has a crazy household with a cat AND a dog, and a real, live, husband! Confusingly, Kate is also wise yet wickedly fun. This week because of Easter and having days off I’ve been able to see them relatively heaps and it has been very good for the soul, as the saying goes. For example, on Monday night we sat on the floor of my bedroom (it’s a great meeting space, I’m so lucky to have my own one!) and ate Pop-Tarts and drank Boulevardiers. That’s a cocktail which is like a negroni but uses bourbon instead of gin, and it’s one of my favourites. We clinked our glasses together in what we call “a toast”, and in that moment we felt like real Big City women.

darn it! I said ruefully. I only described their hair, not their outfits. 

 

Chapter 3

“We’re finally getting to the plot!” I thought ruefully, tucking a lock of unruly red hair behind my tragically unpierced ears. So, I’m kind of the “food blogger” around here. I’m also kind of an ideas person. I have Big Ideas and then Occasionally Make Them Happen Around Three Weeks Later If I’m Awake Enough, I know, it’s a little exhausting trying to keep up with me! When my Ideas and food blogging combine – bam! Honeycomb Sauce. Okay, okay, I had honeycomb ice cream at a local restaurant and immediately decided that honeycomb was the new salted caramel, and wanted to make some version of it for myself to have again and again in the comfort of my own bed and/or more normal area in the house to eat. But after some time I learned a little bit about myself and a lot about the true meaning of friendship: it’s not a competition. Salted Caramel may be heavily overexposed, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. Honeycomb is just a flavour I hadn’t thought about in forever!

I know what you’re thinking – just honey and sugar? Way too sweet. Booooring. About as fun as a pop quiz or getting Salisbury Steak for lunch, neither of which I’ve ever actually experienced.

In fact, the delicate floral sweetness of the honey and the richness of the butter come together to make something pretty magical, and very individual. It doesn’t taste overly of honey, it’s more reminiscent of (that means “reminiscent of”, it’s a word I learned recently) actual honeycomb, the kind of stuff that you find inside Crunchy Bars or other similar candies hidden around your room. This sauce isn’t perfect – I admit! – half of it remained saucy and the other half solidified as soon as it hit the cold ice cream, but this was all so fun and delicious that I decided to share it with you anyway.

honeycomb sauce: a delicious prototype 

A recipe by myself. I’m thinking of adding a tablespoon or so of cream to it next time to see if that keeps it more liquid but I do love it just like this. 

100g butter
half a cup of sugar
one tablespoon brown sugar
one heaped tablespoon honey

Heat everything together in a saucepan, stirring gently as it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat once it starts bubbling and continue stirring for a bit. Allow it to cool somewhat (it’ll be like actual lava initially) before pouring it all over your ice cream. 



Chapter 4

I decided to end the day with ice cream and honeycomb sauce – after all, I’m a grown up and kind of a bad girl who makes her own rules. The remaining sauce had turned rock solid in the fridge, so I had to carefully sit the bottle inside a cup of boiling water to soften it, but during this time, I learned five more lessons about friendship. Unfortunately I’m still wearing the same outfit that I was at the start of this story, but to pad things out a bit, I’ll tell you about what I wore yesterday: a vintage white minidress with pink and orange diamond patterns across it and a high neck with a collar. I wore it with my yellow socks with pizzas on them and chunky black ankle boots – pretty wild, huh? I’m a pretty wild dresser!

feel free to judge how well the illustration matches the description

Prologue:

Ice cream twice in 24 hours – that day was a summer I’ll never forget.

title from: One Beat by Sleater-Kinney. Howl-y goodness. Oh yeah, and while I’m all “what would Kristy Thomas, President of the Babysitters Club, have to say about Sleater-Kinney?” I’m also dropping the conceit for the remainder of the blog post, okay?  

music lately: 

I’ve finally given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton a proper listen and I am predictably entranced and addicted. That man is a beautiful genius and I will ramble at extreme length if given the chance to talk about him. Also look, please just watch him and other members of the cast perform My Shot for the damn president at The White House and I dare you to not get shivers.

Listening to one modern musical about historic political American times got me thinking about another one: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which in the opposite direction of the incredible success of Hamilton, ran for a mere hundred and twenty something performances on Broadway before closing. I saw a production of it in New Orleans a few years back but haven’t listened to it since; its pop punk sound is like…perfect? I don’t know what the best entry point would be, maybe Rockstar if you want something fast or Saddest Song if you want something amazing.

Kid Cudi with MGMT, Pursuit of Happiness. Whatever track this samples is intoxicating and then the rest of the song has the temerity to be excellent as well. This song is moderately ancient but sounds so fresh.

next time: the novelty is over, kids, and I have some brussels sprouts to emphasise this (they’re fried with pistachios and truffle butter though, so)