Tag Archives: baking

Day 13 – Getting a Grilling: Interview with Jillian van Ness

Well it’s nearly the very last day here at AMDD headquarters and I am sad. I like blogging about all this stuff, and I know I don’t need to make excuses to do, I can do it any time, but it feels nice to make a little event out of it. In fact I am thinking seriously about putting together an e-zine to release twice (maybe more, maybe less) a year, but that idea is still very much in the ‘floating round my head’ stage.

And so on to today’s goodies. I feel the need to make something tasty to go with my yummy old brew coffee that is working its magic in my fridge right now. So I’m including my adapted recipe for ridiculously tasty, ridiculously easy muesli bars…healthy and yummy!

Also here is a few thoughts and lots of inspiring photos from artist/musician/superwoman Jillian van Ness. I hope you enjoy…

Getting a Grilling – Jillian van Ness

Jillian van Ness is an artist who is very hard to put in a box! More than just ‘make art’, she seems to be ‘living art’ or at least making it constantly, spontaneously and without regard for different mediums, genres, materials and styles. She is a musician, songwriter, book-maker, crafter, writer, traveller, painter, photographer and Permaculture enthusiast. She currently lives in California. You can contact her and hear her music at myspace.com/jillianvanness

I was fortunate enough to meet her while attending music school and have found her creative abandon inspiring. She shared these few thoughts and photos with me recently…

1* Describe a typical day in your life.

Oh goodness. A “typical” day in my life. I’m really looking forward to that! My partner, Adam and I recently returned from a stint abroad, living and working in Ethiopia and have been essentially living out of our truck, searching for a home in the States from coast to coast. (If any of you know of a place for a teacher, an artist, and some gardening, outdoor adventure lovers, please get in touch!) A typical day for me right now starts with a fruit bowl, herbal tea, and a walk with my dog, and ends with a hot bath in sea salt and lavender. I also carry a stack of sticky Post-it notes around with me in my purse or pocket to write down any creative idea I have during the day. When I’m on the run and don’t have time to get out my art supplies, this helps me feel like I still have an outlet for all my creative energy and am honoring my artistic side, no matter how fleeting or realistic it may be. A typical day for me right now is very uncensored and very much about being in the flow.


2* How would you describe your ‘Artistic Style’?

I would call my artistic style “intentionally spontaneous” and always incorporating partial if not total elements of sustainability, recycling, up-cycling, etc. I’m a collector, so when I find objects, I sit with them awhile and wait for them to tell me the best way to use them or incorporate them into a piece. Sometimes I don’t even use that object in a tangible sense. Later on, it may become the inspiration for or subject of a children’s song or a greeting card.

I’m also a student of the Permaculture movement, working to holistically integrate my life as much as possible. Over time, I’ve noticed how one Permaculture principle in particular has wriggled its way into my creative practice, and that’s this idea that,”The problems are the solutions.”

When I hit a wall or spill, break, lose, crack, falter, or the original vision just falls completely to pieces… I find that everything’s better when I just allow that new reality unfold: my reactions, my attitude, and ultimately, the piece or project I’m working on are always better for it. Think of it as an exercise in Trust. Trust that everything will be okay in the end.

3* Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork/writing/music at the moment.

I”ve recently completed my first installation piece called, “The Last Apothecary” which exhibited last week in San Francisco, CA… and even though I’m tired, I’m still pretty excited about the concept and other spin-off projects that may come from it. I created the piece in response to a call for Eco-Art around the theme of “Water” (and the political & social implications of the element).

-Quick fire-

~Pretty interesting or interestingly pretty? Interestingly Pretty

~Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles

~Boxers or Y-fronts? Boxers

~Abstract or Realism? Realism

~Blondes or Brunnettes? (or redheads?!) Anything as long as it’s curly!

~Clooney or Depp? Depp. c’mon.

~Classic or Modern? Modern

~Custard or ice-cream? Ice-cream! Gelato!

~World Cup or World Series? World Cup

~What’s your favourite colour? I love blues… Caribbean to cerulean.

~When are you happiest? When I’m outdoors or submerged in water.

Muesli Bars

adapted from recipe by Nigella Lawson’s ‘Nigella Express’


  • 1 x 397g can condensed milk
  • 250g jumbo oats
  • 100g raisins
  • 200g mixed seeds…I love pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, poppy, anything you like…
  • 125g almonds…I like mine with a mixture of whole (big and crunchy) and sliced (blend in with the jumbo oats really nicely)
  • anything else you like really…add chocolate chips for naughty ones or cranberries for sweet n’ sour. Why not try peanuts, hazelnuts or walnuts instead of almonds? The original recipe calls for shredded coconut as well, which I don’t like, but hey! In fact, if you have leftover, never-going-to-get-eaten muesli lying at the back of the cupboard, why not throw that in too…the more the merrier :)


Preheat over at 130 C and throughly grease a 23 x 33 x 4 cm tin…better yet grease baking paper so you can lift it out or use a disposable tin.

Warm the condensed milk in a pan ’til runny.

Mix together all your dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add the warmed condensed milk and blend throughly until everything is coated and sticky.

Press your mixture into your tin…it’s super sticky at this point so hand may have to be used.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from over and let cool for 15 mins before cutting into 16 or so chunky bars.

And enjoy…


Day 5 – Mango Muffins with Lime Icing

I’ve got that Friday feeling! Not in the mood to craft but totally in the mood to bake something tasty and devour in front of a DVD tonight.

This recipe is based on a delicious Pumpkin muffin recipe my friend Kelly gave me. Unfortunately I couldn’t find tinned pumpkin anywhere in Ireland (I order it on the internet now) but did come across tinned mango. Intrigued, I bought it and with the help of my baking-guru friend Michelle, whipped up this tasty little number.

The lime icing adds zest to the fruity muffin and makes a pleasant change from lemon icing. I like them as a summery alternative to banana and walnut or chocolate muffins. If anyone has any adjustments, tips or comments after making these please feel free to comment, especially if you made them using fresh mango. I would love to hear how they turned out for you!

And as something to amuse you while you munch on your fresh muffins, click here for my interview with best-selling author Helena Close on the hows, whys and wherefores of writing, what her inspiration is and who she likes best…Clooney or Depp! (We ask all the most important questions here at AMDD!)

Mango Muffins with Lime Icing

To make 12  muffins you will need…


  • 225g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g white sugar
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Mulled Wine Spice…or whatever mix of spices you like to taste, these are just what I had in the cupboard!
  • 125ml oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml (250g approx.) sweet alphonso mango pulp, or if you can’t find this, puree fresh mango with a little water and a dash of lemon juice (For those living in the UK, I found the mango pulp in Tescos).
  • 1 tblsp cream cheese
  • 100g icing sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1 tsp lime juice (fresh or bottled)


Preheat oven at 180C (350F) and line or grease a muffin tray.

Mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder and spices). Then add the oil, eggs and finally, the mango.

If the mixture is a little too stiff, add extra water until you have a batter that is dropping consistancy. Place in the muffin tin and bake for roughly 25 mins (skewer check them near the end to make sure the batter in the middle has been cooked).

For the icing, mix the cream cheese and lime juice together to make a paste. Then sift the icing sugar into the paste until you have a nice icing consistency (I’m not exactly sure how much icing sugar I used. I just kept going until I had a nice white, spreadable icing) .Wait until your muffins have cooled before icing them.


Enjoy! x x

——>Click here for the interview with novelist Helena Close<——-

Rafa Nadal + Almond Cake = Heaven!

Hello from mild and cloudy Melbourne! What a difference from the heat and humidity of Queensland, a welcome relief if I’m honest, but I hope it warms up a little for the tennis tomorrow.

After a few blissful days down the Gold Coast, hanging out at Byron Bay, sunbathing on gorgeous sandy beaches and going on a rainforest walk at Mount Tambourine, we finally got the show on the road and flew down to Melbourne. We got in late last night and have been catching up with the Darling Boyfriend’s brother who is visiting from Ireland.

But tomorrow the fun really begins! Aussie Open time! And we just found out who we will be getting to see play…Kuznetszova, Clijsters and…NADAL! Yup, that’s right, I’m going to be watching Super Rafa tomorrow afternoon and I can’t blinkin’ wait. Don’t worry, there will be photos galore and maybe even a little face- painting to show our most loyal support. I’m thinking a Belgian flag on one cheek and a Spanish one on the other for Clijsters and Nadal. Sweet!

Speaking of sweet things, I got the sweeeeeeeeeeeetest present the other day in the form of a translation of a traditional Spanish almond cake, or Tarta de Santiago, from Lovely Ellen. Lovely Ellen is well aware of my addiction to almonds in general but when combined with the awesome power of baking I am powerless to resist.

And here is one made earlier by Helena, complete with highly authentic Santiago cross dusted on with icing sugar. She also added flaked almonds to her cake mix to give it a nice crunch.

Ellen’s Translation Cake (Tarta de Santiago)


  • 250g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds (you might want to grind them yourself, cause I think they should be a little coarser than bought ground almonds)
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g of butter (melted)
  • 175g plain flour (sieved)
  • 125ml milk
  • lemon zest
  • icing sugar to dust

It’s basically just add them all in one after the other and mix; butter and almonds first then sugar, eggs, flour, milk, zest.

Then throw in the oven at 180 degrees for about twenty minutes.

If you want to print out the cross for dusting just google “cruz de santiago”. It so simple, and very tasty, and you can tweak it to your tastes. That quantity filled a 10″ cake tin for me as a quite thin cake.

I am including the link for the video that the original recipe is from. It’s all in Spanish but it is interesting to see how the ingredients are combined – each one added by itself, throughly combined before the next is put in.

Let me know what success you have with the recipe. No baking for me at the moment, what with all the travelling, but first chance I get I’ll be making this! Thanks Lovely Ellen!


Helena’s Foolproof Gingerbread

Helena’s Foolproof Gingerbread

by Helena Close

I moved to the west coast of Ireland last year and after the novelty wore off I found myself with a very severe case of Cabin Fever – just cliffs and sea and bog outside my door and a constant whining wind! I thought I was living in an Enya video but baking proved my saviour. I am a writer (or so they tell me) and I bake like I write – sporadically and furiously. So there could be a month of wonderful cakes and buns and then nada for three months!

This is a recipe I stole from my good friend Monica. It is foolproof and delicious – the best gingerbread ever! For a crispier bread roll the dough a little more thinly. Dust with icing sugar when cookies or men are ready (are men ever ready?). It will keep in an airtight tin for days and actually tastes better the older it is!


  • 190g brown sugar
  • 150g golden syrup
  • 150g butter
  • 5ml each, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 5ml bic. soda
  • 5ml cold water


1. Set oven to 180c (maybe a bit lower depending on your oven)
2. Put sugar, syrup, spices and butter into a saucepan and stir gently over a low heat until the butter has melted
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. Beat egg with a fok.
5. Disolve the soda with water in a cup.
6. Sieve flour
7. Once the sugar/syrup mixture is cool, add in all other ingredients.
8. Mix well and turn onto a lightly floured board – kneat lightly and shape as desired.

Bake for about 10 – 15 mins depending on the size of the pieces.

Helena Close is an amazing writer and a bad influence. She wrote ‘Pinhead Duffy’ and ‘The Cut of Love’, and taught Little Fire how to swear! Her new novel – The Clever One – is out in 2010.


Jill’s Super Easy Chocolate Fudge

Super Easy Chocolate Fudge

by Jill Casavecchia

Today a good friend of mine, Jill Casavecchia, leaves our lovely little village in Ireland and begins a new life in Brisbane, Australia. She arrived this morning after spending New Years somewhere over Abu Dhabi, I believe. Todays post is her wonderful, super simple but ridiculously tasty Chocolate Fudge recipe, that I hope you all enjoy. Thank you Jill for being a part of this project during such an exciting and busy time in your life!


  • 1 lb. or 3 cups powdered sugar (icing sugar in the UK)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil/tin foil, allowing foil to extend over sides.
  2. Butter foil.
  3. In bowl, mix together sugar, cocoa and cinnamon.
  4. In a saucepan, heat butter and milk until butter melts.
  5. Add vanilla extract.
  6. Combine with sugar mixture.
  7. Stir in nuts.
  8. Pour into prepared pan.
  9. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  10. Use foil to lift out of pan. Cut into 2-inch squares. Diagonally cut each square in half, making triangles. (Garnish with whole nuts, if desired.)Makes 1 pound (32 servings)

Jill is a California/Arizona native, who has been living in Northern Ireland for the past four years and today arrives in Brisbane, Australia to begin another adventure. She is a Waldorf teacher, jewellery designer (check out her brilliant etsy store) and creative nut.