October 3, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
Since my first foray into making donuts this spring with vanilla bean cake donuts, which I doused in blueberry glaze, I decided I couldn’t let the ubiquitous pumpkin spice season pass me by without making another batch of donuts! Or, in this case, I made like three or four different versions of these donuts until I decided they were good enough to pass the test. And then, I decided because they originally called for so little butter, we should just make them vegan and tried that out a couple of times, too. So here’s the deal with these particular donuts. They’re exceptionally good. They’re best eaten the same day and precisely 0% of people are going to guess that they’re vegan. Oh, and unlike a lot of “pumpkin” spice concoctions, they do in fact contain pumpkin. They’re also pretty darn simple to make so if you haven’t yet gotten yourself a donut pan, I suggest this one. I coated them in cinnamon sugar because my favorite apple cider donuts from our local cider mill are covered in cinnamon sugar and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Skip the cinnamon sugar if you like a less sweet donut and serve ’em up with coffee for the perfect fall treat.
Pumpkin Spice Vegan Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar
Makes approximately 12 donut
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 10 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup cinnamon sugar (2 tablespoons ground cinnamon to 1 cup of white sugar)
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, brown sugar, 6 tablespoons of the coconut oil and pumpkin. Gently mix into the dry ingredients until just combined being sure not to over mix. Spray a donut pan generously with non-stick cooking spray, then spoon donut mixture into each ring until 3/4 of the way full. (Dough will be sticky and quite thick so use the back of your spoon to spread it around if need be.) Bake for 11 – 12 minutes or until donuts spring back to the touch. Remove to a wire rack to cool. While cooling, prep your cinnamon sugar and make sure the remaining 4 tablespoons of coconut oil are melted. Then, one by one, quickly dunk each donut in coconut oil and then toss in cinnamon sugar until well coated. Return to the wire rack and then eat as soon as possible but beware! One will definitely not be enough.
[Recipe + art direction by Cyd Converse | Photos by Alice G. Patterson for The Sweetest Occasion.]
September 29, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
I was 15 when I made my maiden voyage to Europe when we went over to visit my stepfather’s family in Germany. At the time, Nutella wasn’t available in the States and my first taste, spread onto crusty bread of some variety, was like heaven. For years, before it was widely available here, our family in Germany would smuggle it across the pond on visits or send over a shipment around Christmas, and my sister and I would hoard those precious jars like they were filled to the very top with pure, molten gold. So, as you can see, my love affair with Nutella is real and it is deep, which might explain why as the weather is getting colder and the sunshine less plentiful I am all about all the Nutella things. Today I’m dropping 12 out of this world Nutella recipes, right here, right now. You’re welcome. Or, I’m sorry. Whichever.
1. Nutella stuffed brown butter blondies
2. Nutella s’mores puff pastry pop tarts
3. Nutella crunch cake balls
4. Nutella swirl cupcakes
5. Nutella oatmeal cookie shake
6. Nutella swirled vanilla ice cream
7. Nutella truffles
8. Nutella fudge brownies
9. Nutella and smashed Oreo cookies
10. Nutella and brownie parfait
11. Nutella cookie ice cream sandwiches
12. Nutella cookie dough ice cream cake
September 28, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
[Lettering by Juliana Moore.]
I think the only right way to open this conversation is to say how deeply and completely I love our daughter. Lest anyone should come at this thinking that I’m being flippant or ungrateful, I assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. I have friends who are struggling to get pregnant. I have friends who have lost babies to miscarriage and pre-term labor. I have friends who struggled with infertility and years of IVF until their bodies gave up and begged for no more. I have friends and family who have lost children, including my own parents who buried my brother. I’m not making light of any of those situations and my heart breaks in each and every case. I am fully aware of how lucky I am that I seemingly got pregnant so easily and had a pretty incredible pregnancy without even so much as a lick of morning sickness. I am fully aware of how lucky I am to wake up every day to a remarkably beautiful, inquisitive, happy little baby who lights up every damn moment like the 4th of July. All of that said, I never planned to have a baby. Ever. And no matter how much I searched, I couldn’t find anyone talking openly from a position like mine when I discovered I was pregnant, so I’ve decided to go out on a limb and be that person.
p.s. I am writing this post because recently we talked about divorce, and I think we all agreed we should talk about these real life things more often. So, here goes nothing.
September 23, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
I’m sharing today’s DIY project (actually an oldie but a goodie from way back in 2013), because it’s officially fall, which means in our house I’m about to go into candle burning mode in high gear. A few years ago I started making my own candles after dragging my feet for so long, convinced it was some super complicated process. Guess what? Making your own candles is really pretty simple, and today I am excited to share the process step-by-step with you again. (I’m sure this will be new to many of you and perhaps a welcome reminder to those of you who have been reading for a while to give this a try!) I am personally partial to making beeswax candles because they burn much cleaner than many other varieties of wax. Unlike paraffin wax which can really muck up you air quality, beeswax can even help purify the air in your home, and personally I really like the natural color and fragrance. You can customize the fragrance with essential oils and with the holiday season coming up, these homemade candles make great DIY gifts, too! So. Have I convinced you yet? Let’s get to candle making!
- Double-stick adhesive
- Essential oils (optional)
- Wax pouring pot
- Jars, metal tins or similar
Typically speaking, beeswax is quite widely available in one ounce or one pound blocks – you can find it at local craft stores or you can source it online, generally much cheaper. (Amazon has it at a really great price here!) For point of reference, three pounds of wax will give you an approximate yield of five of the smaller tart tin candles (shown here) and three mason jar candles. No matter how large your block of wax is you’ll want to first cut it down into smaller chunks. This will allow it to melt much more efficiently. A sharp knife of any kind will do the job here, although I don’t necessarily recommend anything serrated or you’ll grate the wax as you’re chunking it up which has the potential to result in quite a bit more waste.
Once your wax is in chunks, it’s time to start melting over a basic double boiler. I have a simple metal wax pouring pot (available at craft stores) but you could instead opt to use any heat-safe container (such as a glass Pyrex bowl), place it over a pot of water and then bring the water to a boil. Keep in mind that the wax is going to be tough to clean out of whatever container you use (thus why I opted to buy the pouring pot) so you don’t want to use anything you aren’t ok with being permanently relegated to candle making. You want to use a thermometer in conjunction with your double boiler and melt the wax until it reaches about 145° – a little warmer is ok, but try not to exceed 175°. While it’s melting, you should be prepping your containers!
You can definitely have fun playing around with different containers, but I personally love these tiny tart tins which make pretty perfect little candles. I’ve also found that mason jars or jam jars work well, or you could also experiment with any pretty glassware or tins you might already own, as long as it’s a material that can withstand the heat of the melted wax. (Which is why I knew tart tins and mason jars would work because both are designed to hold up to heat!) I opted to use pre-made wicks but you can also make your own. The pre-made wicks help keep things nice and simple, which is never a bad thing. You’ll need one wick per candle, which you’ll adhere to the bottom of your container using double-stick adhesive. Keep the wick long and hold it upright over your candle by wrapping the extra length around a skewer (or a pen or pencil…you get the idea) and propping the skewer up between two glasses or whatever else you have handy. Once your containers are prepped, place them on top of a sheet of parchment paper on a heat-resistant surface – I used a cutting board. (This just helps to protect your counters from the heat and any wax spills that may occur.)
When your wax is thoroughly melted, carefully pour it into your tins or jars, being cautious not to splash it on the container or yourself. (It is melted wax after all and it will hurt!) Don’t fill your containers completely – it looks nicer with a bit of extra room at the top! I found with larger candles (such as the mason jars) the wax shrink a bit as it cools so you’ll want to reserve a bit of unmelted wax so you can go back later, repeat the melting process and top off your candle with more wax so it looks nice and full. Then let the candles cool completely (overnight is best) and then trim your wicks so they’re roughly 1/2″ tall. And that’s it! You just made candles. And they’re awesome. (Truth. All of your friends will think so.)
If you are interested in scenting your candles (which is certainly optional because the beeswax has a rather subtle yet lovely natural fragrance that is really quite nice), you’ll want to add fragrance by way of essential oils once the wax is melted but prior to removing it from the heat. Here I used NOW essential oils which I scored at a local organic market. Simply add about 1 gram of oil per 1 pound of wax and give it a quick stir with a skewer. Remember this should be done while the wax is still over the heat, just prior to pouring it into your containers. You can add more or less depending on the level of fragrance you’d like and combine oils to suit your fragrance fancy. Lavender, eucalyptus and lemon are my personal favorites, sometimes all combined together!
This is still one of my favorite crafts to date. It is just so much simpler than you’d think, and it’s such a lovely way to add something homemade to your everyday home decor or to give to a sweet friend as a gift. I sincerely hope you give this a try sometime – you’ll be surprised how easy it is and how cool it feels to be all like, “Yeah, I just made candles.” Or maybe that’s just me. But either way, have fun and let me know if you give it a go!
[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion. | Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]
Candle making supplies from Michaels
Essential oils by NOW, purchased locally
Tart tins from Bed Bath & Beyond ($0.79 each)
Ball jars from Target
September 20, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
Yesterday morning I started the day on the phone with my dad discussing Thanksgiving. Bob and I are hosting this year because, frankly, we couldn’t hear of any other options with it being our first holiday season in our new home. With my huge family and his family combined, we will be serving up dinner for nearly 30 parents, siblings, nieces and nephews so two months out the preparations begin. Should we have a ham in addition to turkey? (Answer: Yes!) Who is doing the stuffing? (My mom. Always.) Do we have enough chairs? (Ummm…nope!) All of this talk about cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie got me digging through the real party archives where I uncovered five of my favorite, festive fall parties to share with you today. I’m sharing a few photos from each party, plus you can click any of the links to take you to the full feature. Ready, set, let’s party!
A seasonal harvest feast | Photos by Britt Chudleigh
An apple farm | Photos by Rachabella Photography
A pretty outdoor fall dinner party | Photos by Jessi Nichols Photography
A rustic farm dinner on the farm | Photos by Veronica Lola Photography