Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vintage Inspired Chalkboard

I did this quick little project over two years ago and am just now getting around to posting it. I had completely forgotten that I photographed it until I came across the photos the other day. In any case, I thought I'd share it with you nevertheless! For my birthday a couple years ago, I wanted to throw a small cocktail party in my honor and serve a selection of classic cocktails. That's when I got the idea to make a chalkboard to display the drink list.

I stopped by my local thrift store on my way home from work and found this gold colored frame, which as you can see, had seen better days. I bought it for one dollar and was on my way. Originally I was going to do a sort of crackled effect on the frame, but decided to use the character it already came with. I simply pulled off the old paper from the back and cut the wire. I took some silver paint and painted a light coat over the frame. When it was dry I simply sanded it in places to reveal the old frame underneath. Then I went to my local hardware store and had them cut a 1/4" thick piece of wood to fit inside my frame. Using chalkboard paint you can find at any craft store, I painted the cut wood and stapled it into place. Voila, I had my vintage inspired chalkboard!

I love how you can transform something outdated into something functional and beautiful to look at. And all for under $10! The original gold paint shows through the silver coat, giving it a tarnished effect. Over the last couple of years I've used the chalkboard on all sorts of occasions, from birthdays to Academy Award night parties, or anyplace where I've needed to display a list or menu. I love it so much, I think I might need to find a permanent place for it in my kitchen!

Here's what you'll need:
  • An old frame, preferably with some character
  • Wire cutters 
  • Whatever colored paint you'd like your finished frame to be (metallics work great) 
  • Fine grit sandpaper 
  • 1/4"-thick wood cut to the size of your frame
  • Chalkboard paint 
  • A staple gun
  • Picture frame wire and hooks (optional)
  • Chalk

Here's how to do it:
  1. Using wire cutters, remove any old rusted wires. Remove the paper, back of the frame (if it comes with one), and glass and discard.
  2. Paint a light coat of your desired paint color over the frame, and let dry for several hours or overnight.
  3. When the paint in dry, lightly sand it off in places to reveal the original color(s) below. 
  4. Paint the 1/4"-thick board with chalkboard paint (this may take several coats).
  5. Once the paint is dry, place it inside the frame and use a staple gun to staple it into place along the inside.
  6. If you plan on hanging your chalkboard, reattach some new picture frame wire to the back of the frame.
  7. Use chalk to write whatever your heart desires!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Addy's Fairy Birthday Cake

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be home for my niece, Addy's 3rd birthday. Last year I was so excited to make her "Backson" cake, inspired from her then toddler trending hit Winnie the Pooh movie. I asked my brother, Jeffrey, and sister-in-law, Patricia, if I could have the honor of making Addy's cake again this year. Lucky for me, they said yes! Kids change a lot in a year, and now Addy has moved on to her "girly" stage and developed a love of fairies. An obsession which grew out of Disney's Tinker Bell movie series. I had never heard of these fine films and quickly felt totally out of the loop and way behind the times! 

After we arrived in California, Addy made Aaron and I sit and watch a couple of these Tinker Bell movies (which I won't pretend I didn't legitimately enjoy), where I learned all the inner workings of this magical fairy world, and helped give me more inspiration for her cake. I got quizzed later on all of the fairy names in the movie and failed miserably... "No Uncle, this fairy's name is Iridessa, not Silvermist!" You can't blame me for trying.

I really can't take that much credit for creating the cake, as it was all Addy's idea. A few months ago (yes, her cake planning began MONTHS ago), she called to inform her Uncle that she had decided on several colors for her cake. She also had some delicious sounding ideas for what type of cake she wanted. First there was the strawberry lemonade cake with a cherry on top, and then it moved on to the chocolate cake with raspberry filling, and finally she settled on a chocolate cake with butter cream frosting. Pretty sophisticated for a 3 year old, right? I was also informed that I would need to dress up as the dreamy boy fairy, Terence, at the party (alas, there weren't enough fairy wings to go around, so I was off the hook!) 

Her party was so much fun, even for adults! Trish, and her mom, Patty, made a beautiful ribbon Happy Birthday banner to hang as decoration. Trish also hung wands and wings by the door, so when each of Addy's friends arrived, they could choose which kind of fairy they wanted be. There was a big jar of homemade strawberry lemonade and all sorts of delicious treats and goodies, with pixie dust no less! My brother, Aaron and I snuck off to the park by their apartment, and hung a pinata to surprise Addy. Before we knew it, little fairies arrived one by one at the park. Addy was much too gentle to hit the pinata, and opted for a delicate pat. The bigger kids took care of it, and soon there was candy to be had for all!

This year, I was so excited to get to make a pretty cake with roses and mushrooms. I dyed the the vanilla butter cream frosting a variety of colors to create the flora and fauna. I made the mushrooms from meringue, which I piped into mushroom shapes and dried out in the oven. I used the same recipe as for the Buche de noel cake I did a couple years back, only  dyed the caps red and dotted them with white frosting. I think the fairies (provided by mom and dad) added the perfect touch. I was a little too busy this year to snap some step-by-step photos, and write down the exact recipe I used, but I thought I'd share the pictures none the less. Hopefully it will provide some ideas to anyone in need of fairy-inspired cakes. 

Once we got back to New York, my brother and Trish called to say that Addy had one criticism for the cake. I forgot the cherry on top! Well, it will just have to wait until next year, and I can't wait! Happy 3rd Birthday Addy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Celebrating 2 Years!

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Persimmon & Peach! A great big thank you to friends, family, fellow bloggers and readers for following along. I constantly look forward to sharing and celebrating food with each post. In honor of my second anniversary, I thought I'd repost some of my favorite photos/recipes from the past year. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement and support!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spiced Blueberry Honey Jam

I absolutely love this jam! There's nothing like fresh blueberries from the farmer's market, ripe and bursting with flavor. This jam is so indicative of summer, every time I taste it, I can't help but be transported to sunny summer afternoons. It tastes like blueberry pie in a jar, which is never a bad thing. I'm a bit late in posting this recipe, as summer's almost over, but better late than never!

When I developed this jam recipe last year, without using pectin, my first batch was a little over-cooked. It was sort of an unintended blessing, as I got to use it for some scrumptious thumbprint cookies. However, when a jam doesn't set the way you'd intend, it can be a bit discouraging. Which brings to mind a recent post I read by Marisa McClellan, from her blog, Food in Jars. I'm paraphrasing, but she wrote how jam is a lot like life, in that it may not always turn out the way you intend, but you can almost always turn it into something useful and delicious. And it's true, life is messy and so is jam! There are so many factors going into how and why a jam sets, often times it's dictated by the weather or the conditions of the fruit etc. Marisa makes an important point: never apologize for your jam! If it's underset, call it a syrup and use it on pancakes or for glazes, and if it's overset, use it for cookies, or some other delicious filling. It's a nice reminder to go easy on yourself and your jam. Se la vie!

This year, I decided to use Pamona's Pectin to to help maintain that fresh blueberry flavor, and was very pleased with the results. Using pectin doesn't require extended cooking, which breaks down the berries and gives the jam that "cooked" taste. Using Pamona's Pectin also lets you significantly reduce the amount of honey and/or sugar in the jam, allowing the flavor of the berries to really shine through (I've used a combination of honey and sugar in the recipe below, but feel free to exclude the sugar and use all honey if that's your fancy). The spices give it that special old fashioned taste you just can't find in ordinary store-bought jams. The best part is, you can make this fine little jam anytime you please, as frozen blueberries work just as well. 

Adapted from the Pamona's Universal Pectin pamphlet 

2 lb. (6 cups or 3 pints) fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed), picked over, stems removed, and washed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons calcium water (see notes below)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup honey, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons pectin powder (see notes below)
1/2 cup sugar, plus more as needed (optional)

In a large Dutch-oven or heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot, combine the blueberries, lemon juice, calcium water, cinnamon, and allspice. Crush some of the berries using a masher and bring the mixture to a full boil.

Meanwhile, pour the honey into a small measuring cup. Add the pectin powder and stir to combine. Once the fruit is boiling, add the honey and pectin mixture to the pot and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin. Add the sugar (or 1/4 cup more honey) to the pot and stir to combine. Taste to see that the jam is sweet enough, adding more honey or sugar if necessary. Return the jam to a boil and remove from heat.

Ladle the jam into hot, clean jars, leaving a headspace of ¼-inch. Wipe the rims and apply the lids and rings. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water-bath canner (for 4 oz. jelly jars or 8 oz. half pint jars). Turn off heat and let jars sit in canner for 3 to 5 minutes before removing. Allow jars to rest on a dishtowel undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Check seals, label, and store in a cool dark place for up to a year. If any jars did not seal properly, place them in the fridge and use within 3 weeks. For more information, see my step-by-step guide to canning here.

Yield: 4 1/2 to 5 cups


  • Each box of Pamona's Pectin will include a packet of pectin powder and calcium powder. This recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of calcium water and 2 teaspoons of pectin powder. To make the calcium water, combine 1/2 tsp. calcium powder with 1/2 cup of water in a small jar with a lid and shake to combine (refer to Pamona's Pectin pamphlet for more information).
  • There are many types of pectin on the market, in both powdered and liquid forms, such as Sure Jell, Fruit Jell, and Certo, but I'm really fond of Pamona's Pectin. As stated on their website, "Pamona's Pectin is a sugar-free, preservative-free, low-methoxyl citrus pectin that is activated by calcium." Since this pectin doesn't require sugar to jell, you the cook get to decide how much sugar (if any) you'd like to use. In fact, you can use honey, maple syrup, or agave (plus many more sweeteners) in place of sugar if that's your fancy. I've found it to be an extremely versatile product allowing me lots of freedom as a cook. They even have a "Jamline," a jam hotline to call incase you need jamming advise or questions about their product or a particular recipe. 
  • You can find Pamona's Pectin at well-stocked grocery stores such as Whole Foods. You can also purchase it on the world wide web here.