Tag Archives: recipe

Homemade Perfumed Vanilla Oil

4 Apr

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After years of trying to track down my favourite vanilla oil from the Body Shop I was told that it is officially not available for purchase anymore.  I wore that perfume since my early 20s and absolutely loved it (especially since it’s one of the only fragrances that I could wear without the  constant sneezing, watery eyes and headaches).  And I used to get so many compliments as well!  The scent was really a perfect mix between sweet with a hint of spice and was mild enough not to be too overbearing.  Besides the odd comment about smelling like a batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies I really loved everything about that oil.

So after seeing it on ebay for $150 a bottle I finally decided that I needed to try my hand at perfume making.  And in the end I have to admit that it’s quite simple.  All you really need is lots of patience to get you through the 4-6 weeks of waiting until it’s finished.  Patience is definitely not my strong point so I actually found that the most difficult part.

The finished product has  a really lovely deep vanilla scent that actually lasts for quite a long time.  I use it as a body perfume, room freshener and bath oil.  I’ve even been know to put a bit on our beloved cat Birdie because, well, he stinks.

Everything you need to make this simple Vanilla Perfume Oil is shown in the photo above: vanilla beans, vodka and jojoba oil.  

Read on for full instructions on how to make your own… Continue reading

Fudgy Chocolate Cake with Dates

4 Mar

This past Christmas a good friend of ours brought us some dates back from his recent trip to Algeria.  I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I thanked him and then proceeded to hide them away at the back of my baking cupboard.  I’ve had a thing against dates that goes back to childhood.  My mother and grandmother would always sneak them into various sweets and desserts or try and get me to eat them straight-up.  It was torture.  Just the look of those dark brown sticky LARGE looking raisins really made my stomach turn.

But I’m happy to announce that at 39 years old I’ve finally matured and realised that dates aren’t all that bad actually.  I’m still not interested in eating them straight-up but can admit that added to certain dishes they can really enhance the taste and texture (including a mind-blowing Lamb and Date Tagine we ate in Morocco).

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So a few weeks ago I dug in the back of my baking cupboard and got out the box of Algerian dates.  I decided I wanted to try to make a fudge chocolate cake and thought the dates could be a perfect way to intensify the flavour (and make it a little bit healthier?).  And the result was delicious.  And keeping with family tradition I did not tell my kids the secret ingredient in the chocolate cake they were so happily enjoying.

This recipe seems quite fussy with all of the different steps and bowls that have to be used but it really is quick to make and so worth it.  The addition of cinnamon with the chocolate and dates makes it a really deep and rich cake.  I’ve proclaimed my love of the chocolate and cinnamon combination here in the past when I made these Chocolate and Fresh Cherry Cakes with Cinnamon.

Read on for recipe… Continue reading

Mini Cheesecakes with Mincemeat

17 Dec

Today I have a little re-post from last Christmas.  My lovely friend Judith from the amazing blog Joelix wrote this guest post for me after I had hand surgery a few days before Christmas and was unable to do anything for close to six weeks.  These Mini Mincemeat Cheesecakes have been a big hit here on Jillian In Italy (and Pinterest) and I’ve heard from several readers that they are absolutely delicious. I have them on my to-do list for this coming week-end.  Click on photo for last year’s post and free downloadable recipe.

joelix-mincemeatpies1Many thanks again and gros bisous to you Judith!
(check out Judith’s ABOUT page on her blog…by far the best and most creative photo of any blogger around)

Japanese Sponge Cake (Castella Cake)

7 Aug

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Here I am getting ready for a three week vacation to Canada. The bags still aren’t fully packed and the house not ready to be left for almost a month. And I’m feeling really relaxed. Did I mention we leave in an hour? I’m usually one of those people that has everything ironed and packed a week beforehand, the house spotless and in order and the kids cleaned and clothed and ready for the airplane hours before we leave the house. Did I mention the kids are still in their pajamas splayed out on the carpet reading comics as I type this? I blame it on the heat.IMG_0783

So the other day, instead of ironing clothes for five people for three week’s vacation, I decided to make a cake that I’ve been dreaming about since we were in Japan last year. It’s a typical sponge type cake that you find all over Japan and it has this soft and moist spongy consistency that is light and fluffy at the same time. Confusing I know. It’s thought that the cake actually originated in Portugal and was brought over to Japan in the 16th century (to the southern island of Kyushu).

Surprisingly enough there is no butter or oil in this cake. Which means it’s absolutely sin-free and healthy of course. It has a lovely pale yellow colour (thanks to the 6 egg yolks) and is so pretty when served on a plate with a side of peaches (which I saute in butter and brown sugar).

Read on for recipe…

Continue reading

Italian Crostata

4 Jul

IMG_9551First of all I have to admit something.  For my first decade of living in Italy I didn’t even attempt to try a piece of crostata.  To me it looked dry and tasteless.  And it was full of jam.  I used to despise any sort of dessert that involved jam.  Then one day I found myself starving at a kid’s birthday party  and the only thing being served was crostata.  So I took a piece to relieve my hunger induced headache and I couldn’t believe how delicious it was.  At first I thought it was probably due to the fact I hadn’t eaten all day and chopped liver would have tasted divine.  But in the end I realised that crostata is delicious.  Really delicious.

This past week I spent the morning with one of my closest Italian friends and she kindly taught me how to make the basic Italian Crostata.  It’s surprisingly easy, only has 5 ingredients and it takes minutes to prepare.  That’s my kind of recipe.  There are the traditional jam filled crostata as well as the blind baked crostata pie shells which are filled with anything from pastry cream to Nutella to fresh fruits after being baked.  The options are endless.

IMG_9553Read on for recipe. Continue reading

Sciroppo di Rabarbaro

8 May

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Here in Italy the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and fragrant and I’m blissfully content to be able to get out in my garden and putter around.  I’ve been busy planting all sorts of new plants, trees and bushes.  I expect about 25% of them to survive as I have a pretty bad track record in the gardening department.  My heart is in the right place but I just don’t have that special touch needed to keep my garden alive and thriving.  I’ve been known to even kill lavender which is pretty much impossible in the Italian climate.

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One plant that seems resistant to me and my non existent green thumb is rabarbaro (rhubarb).  Due to the fact you can’t buy rhubarb in any of the grocery shops or vegetable stalls we planted it a few years ago and it is thriving.  I show it off to everyone who comes by our house and apparently it’s known to all to be the fool-proof plant (why didn’t I know this years ago?).  Just in the last three weeks our rhubarb has taken over an entire bed and is threatening our beloved strawberry patch.

So to give our strawberries some room to breathe and grow I decided to cut back the rhubarb a bit and make some of my favourite Rhubarb Syrup.  I’ve always loved the delicate spiciness it brings to cold summer beverages.

But what I love the most about this syrup is the dainty light peachy rose colour it has.  I could design whole summer cottages with that colour as my inspiration and theme.  So lovely and reminiscent of warm breezy summer days in Nova Scotia.

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Read on for the quick and very simple recipe for Rhubarb Syrup and these delicious cocktails above (which I’m contemplating naming “Jillinis“).

Continue reading

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Speculaas (Biscoff) Cookies

23 Apr

I love chocolate chip cookies.  I love oatmeal cookies.  And I love speculaas cookies.  So last week-end when I was looking for something to bake I thought making a mix of these three together would probably be the world’s greatest invention ever.

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Last month when my in-laws visited from Belgium they brought me a huge jar of speculaaspasta (or speculoospasta to some) which is pretty much Belgian spice cookies ground into a creamy spread for bread.  It’s a relatively new invention and it has become a staple breakfast item in a lot of Belgian households.  Before the spread was available my husband’s family would eat a piece of bread with butter and the cookies laid on top.  Strange but true.  Belgians have very peculiar breakfast habits that I’ve happily adopted.  Chocolate for breakfast?  I’m not going to reject such a thing.

1-IMG_7706I know this spread’s popularity has reached all corners of the world in the past few years.  In North America it’s usually sold as Biscoff Spread if I’m not mistaken.  In any case, if you ever come across it, grab a few jars.  It’s great for eating on bread, spread on top of cake or simply eaten by the spoonful.  And of course for baking.  Go here to find so many delicious looking recipes using this spread.

Read on for the recipe for these delicious Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Speculaas Cookies. Continue reading

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