Cooking with Alison

Archive for the ‘DIY and Crafts’ Category

Crisp and Crunchy Gingerbread Cookies Recipe (and DIY Gingerbread Decorations)

In Cookie Decorating, Cookies, Desserts, DIY and Crafts on December 7, 2014 at am

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I hated gingerbread until two years ago, when my friend Allan made delicious chewy gingerbread cookies for his naughty cookie decorating party (see the photos of our x-rated cookies here).  Last year, I fell even harder for gingerbread when I discovered this recipe for wonderfully crisp and crunchy gingerbread cookies.  They were addictive!  I made more batches of mini gingerbread men than I could count and turned some of them into decorations for my family’s Christmas tree (see below for how to make gingerbread ornaments and garland).  They made the tree smell delicious.  Thank you to the White family for sharing this recipe with me.  For an even better gingerbread idea, see not martha’s gingerbread mug decorations here.  They are mini gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of mugs!!!  I can’t wait to make these next year!

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How to Make a Donut Pillow (or a Giant Donut Halloween Costume)

In DIY and Crafts on October 18, 2014 at am

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John is obsessed with donuts, and since I needed to preoccupy myself while recovering from a concussion, I decided to make giant donut pillows that could double as halloween costumes.  I am a beginner, self-taught sewer, so if I can make this, anyone can.  You could also make tiny accessory donut pillows, if preferred.  The steps are the same, you just need less material.

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Curried White Bean and Sweet Potato Soup (and DIY Meal in a Jar)

In DIY and Crafts, Soups and Salads on October 13, 2014 at am
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Curried white bean and sweet potato soup made without coconut milk

I was inspired by The Bean Ladies at Toronto’s One of a Kind Show in December, 2013 to make a curried white bean and sweet potato soup.  The flavours of this soup are mild; the spice from curry and cumin is balanced by the subtle sweetness of the sweet potatoes and brown sugar.  To add richness and/or another layer of flavour to the soup, try making this soup with coconut milk. I have also given these soups away as gifts in the form of meals in a jar (DIY meal in a jar instructions provided below).  This soup can easily be made gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan.  See another recipe that was inspired by The Bean Ladies here (Split Pea Soup and DIY meal in a jar).

An example of a meal in a jar (split pea soup)

Example of a meal in a jar (split pea soup)

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DIY Housewarming Party Decorations and Take Home Gifts (and our Menu)

In DIY and Crafts on May 27, 2014 at am

When John finally settled into his first home, we threw a housewarming party to thank everyone that helped him get set up and to show all of his friends his new condo.  I’ve read that the tradition of having a “housewarming” started when neighbours would bring firewood and build fires to warm a new home and repel evil spirits (see source here).  I’ve also read that in France, the original housewarming custom was to thank all of those involved in building the home by inviting them over for dinner (see source here).  Nowadays, when we settle into and celebrate our new homes, our family and friends come bringing their warm wishes.

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The budget for John’s housewarming party was fully dedicated to the party room rental and, of course, the food and drinks.  We also spent a little bit of money on small, random take home gifts.  So we had to spend next to nothing on the decorations (did anyone else hear, DIY project?).  It didn’t take long for me to find inspiration online.  I’ve shared my favourite housewarming ideas and DIY tutorials below.  Happy Housewarming!

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How to Make a Diaper Cake (and my Favourite Baby Shower Games)

In Cake Decorating, DIY and Crafts on March 22, 2014 at am

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This DIY diaper cake tutorial should have been written five years ago – when I actually made the diaper cake and when this trend was the most popular.  But regardless of whether or not this is a new idea, I still love it and I can’t think of a better gift or centerpiece for a baby shower.  I’ve now been involved in throwing a few baby showers, and planning the games is always my favourite part.  So I’ve shared a list of my favourite baby shower games as well.  I’m sure it will come to no surprise that 2 of the 3 are food related.  😉

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Delicious Split Pea Soup Recipe (and DIY Meal in a Jar)

In DIY and Crafts, Soups and Salads on December 15, 2013 at am

This is a simple recipe for a delicious split pea soup that you can easily turn into a meal in a jar and a great gift.  (This soup is gluten free and can be made vegetarian, vegan, and dairy free.)  I love giving meals in jars as hostess gifts and housewarming presents.  For people that live in emergency-prone areas, canning meals in jars is essential to being prepared for anything.  Some of the better food preservation methods require equipment such as pressure canners, vacuum packing machines, oxygen absorbers, and freeze dried foods, etc.  You can find more information and meal in a jar recipes here.  You won’t believe the range of meals that you can put in a jar with a shelf life of months to years.

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This split pea soup recipe was inspired by The Bean Ladies’ Lickety Split Pea Soup.  In December 2013, I had the opportunity of sampling two of The Bean Ladies’ products at The One of a Kind Show in Toronto, ON.  Their bean soups were delicious, but, in my opinion, very overpriced.  So I recreated their soup recipe for a fraction of the cost.  See my recipe for Curried White Bean and Sweet Potato Soup, which was also inspired by The Bean Ladies (coming soon).

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DIY Cake or Mini Cupcake Stands (Plus Tips for Spray Painting)

In Desserts, DIY and Crafts on September 27, 2013 at am

I just love do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, but I haven’t taken on very many (see my DIY stocking advent calendar here and DIY paw print keepsakes here), because they usually require a lot of basic tools and/or materials that I don’t have the spare cash or storage space for.  So when I learned how easy it is and how few supplies you need to make your own cake stands, I just knew that it was just a matter of time before I’d get started on making these.  You see, I love cake stands.  I covet and I covet and I covet, but I haven’t purchased one yet, because all of the cake stands that I’ve seen and liked cost at least $80 each, and I just can’t justify spending that kind of money on things that I don’t actually need, that I don’t use often, and that take up significant cupboard space.  But after sitting on this idea for over two years, I decided that my sister’s surprise 28th birthday party was the perfect occasion to justify owning and making some cake stands.  I used them to display chocolate cupcakes with nutella frosting (recipe here).  For contrasting height, I also served a two-layer strawberry and vanilla cake (recipe here) on a basic cake board.

Photos below:  You can see the before and after photos below.  I was lucky enough to find this cute and unique white plate that was quite flat and in like new condition.  It cost only $1 and I didn’t have to spray paint it, which also means that it’s completely food safe.  I paired it with an interesting thick and heavy wine glass that I turned upside down.  The wine glass cost $1 and I decided to spray paint it yellow for a fun and bright contrast.  

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DIY Paw Print Impressions for Decorations or Keepsakes

In DIY and Crafts on August 14, 2011 at am

I wanted to make paw print impression keepsakes of my “new” old dog.  But the only kits that I could find were surprisingly pricey (or had poor reviews) and came with display frames that I didn’t want.  So I decided to save some money and make my own.  These are fun and easy to make and they’re great as a kids’ craft project.  You could make childrens’ hand prints too.  How-to instructions are provided below.

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Healthy Dog Treat Recipes (300th Post!)

In Cookies, DIY and Crafts on August 11, 2011 at am

This is Cooking with Alison’s 300th post!  I am dedicating it to my dog, the old man Blue.  You’re the love of my life.  May you be with us for the 400th, 500th, 600th… posts too. 


Wheat and corn are common fillers used in most commercial dog food and treats.  Not only do dogs have difficulty digesting gluten and corn, these ingredients have been linked to various allergies and health problems.  Luckily, it is incredibly easy and cost-effective to make your own healthy, human-grade treats.  All of the following treat recipes are gluten free, corn free and soy free, and can be conveniently stored in the freezer.  Please share your homemade dog treat recipes by posting a comment!  Please note that if your dog has, or is predisposed to, any health concerns, you should consult a veterinarian before trying anything new.


Photo above:  Homemade peanut butter, bacon, and carrot dog biscuits.  Recipe below.

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How to Make a Christmas Stocking Advent Tree (and Stocking Stuffer Ideas)

In DIY and Crafts on December 24, 2010 at am

Ed and I agreed to place a small budget on our Christmas presents this year, so I decided to be creative with a DIY (do it yourself) craft project.  I thought that an advent calender would be the best way to stretch out the value of a low budget gift.  I also loved the idea of surprising him every day for about a month.

[Photo above:  It’s too bad that Ed’s Christmas tree was so small, because you can’t tell how cute the stockings really are as they’re only about 4 inches tall.  Also, it would have looked much nicer if the stockings had been dispersed throughout the tree like ornaments.]


I’m a beginner with the sewing machine so it took me 3 nights to complete this project.  I sewed 24 mini stockings for him to hang on his Christmas tree (see sewing instructions below) and I filled each one with a small gift.  I chose to make my stockings using different colours and patterns, but you could make them all the same if you prefer.  I found Christmas themed wine charms at the dollar store, wrote the numbers on the back of them (1 to 24) and attached them to the corresponding stockings, so he would know what order to open them in.

The great thing about these miniature stockings is that they can be reused as ornaments, gift card holders, small gift bags, or cutlery/flatware holders when entertaining (see here).  In fact, Crate and Barrel sold knitted stocking flatware holders one season.

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Miniature Food Display

In DIY and Crafts on March 17, 2010 at pm

For my sister’s birthday one year, I enrolled us in a Beginner’s Miniature Food Display Course where you learn to use specific clays and dyes to make miniature fake food.  In the course that we picked, we learned how to make a miniature black forest cake and miniature dim sum (bbq pork buns, siu mai and ha gow in a bamboo steamer).  We had a great time and if you search for “miniature food” on http://www.youtube.com, you’ll see some amazing things that other people have done.

Note that the black forest cake is sitting on a miniature doile  🙂  and the cake box is even smaller than the bamboo basket.

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