Category Archives: Family & Life

Looks Like We’ve Made It

A very brief post about Thistle’s opening at the PNC Second Street Market last Saturday . Our opening went very well, many thanks to those who stopped in to see us.

Our jazzy new logo & sign at the 2nd Street Market


Our side display at the 2nd Street Market

Our booth



Filed under Family & Life, Shop

How Small Business Ownership Ate My Life and Other Musings

Hi there. It’s been a while and I’ve really missed you. Starting up my bakeshop turned out to be exponentially more difficult than I imagined, involving very little sleep, lots of scrubbing, painting, moving and much more. I’d say I wasn’t prepared, but I was. It was time to move Thistle to the next level. I want to be successful. But until you do it, you cannot know what to expect. And I underestimated the time, money and labor that would be necessary. But I think a lot of businesses do. You just have to power through. So that’s what I’m doing. It helps to be surrounded by tons of sugar and caffeine. It also helps to be in with the pizza guy and drink lots of beer.

One of Mr. Radar's first homebrews, Chestnut Ale (with real chestnuts, of course)

Recently, several Dayton media outlets have had some nice things to say about me. So I thought I’d share:

Over at the Dayton Daily: “Dayton Baker Scores National Recognition
And the Dayton Online Magazine, Cook’s Spotlight:

I’ve also made a number of cakes, and I can only post a few, so here are some highlights.

Vegan Strawberries and Cream cake

Puppy & hearts cake

sparkly rainbow unicorn cake with rainbow swirl vanilla cake (and lots of sprinkles per client request)

I’ll be back on Thursday to share with you our opening day menu. Opening day is Saturday, February 11. And we’ll be coming in with a bang- with enough red, pink and hearts to make Valentine’s Day extra special.


Filed under Family & Life, Shop

Snapshots and Applesauce

It’s the holiday season…and..I’m really busy. Lots of great things are swirling around me and I couldn’t feel more grateful. I’m super excited that Ghostlight Coffee is doing excellently. Thistle stocks freshly baked goods every day.  We try to bring at least one new product in along with the old favorites. I couldn’t be happier about the selection of baked goods or the reception. If you follow our Facebook page, you’ll know that we will be opening a retail shop at the PNC Second Street Market in late January 2012, in time for Valentine’s Day. I am BEYOND excited about this. Living the dream and it is absolutely incredible. I couldn’t be more happy or grateful.

Did I mention the delicious drinks at Ghostlight Coffee? No? Oh here you go. S’Mores Mocha. And sock monkeys. It pretty much doesn’t get much better.

I’ve also been working hard on custom orders and a few events, like this one:

And this one:

Last weekend, Mr. Radar and I were determined to spend the whole weekend together. He helped me package and clean when I had to bake, and in our moments off we had a lot of fun! We (okay, Mr. Radar did all the hard work) cut down a Christmas Tree at Country Pines farm in New Lebanon, Ohio. While we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by Mile Creek Farm for some eggs, vegetables and a good chat with our friend Emily. We traipsed along the farm in her wake. She weaved in between all the fields, despite the fact that she is in her last month of pregnancy. She wouldn’t let us harvest the vegetables.  But we had a great time and we couldn’t be happier for Ben & Emily, their son Evan and their newest addition! We can’t wait to meet her.

We bought bubble lights for our tree and made homemade salt dough ornaments. That exploded because we accidentally used self-rising flour. (Oops!!) We also made a huge pot of applesauce with the help of Steve the Weather Watcher.

It’s not as Charlie Brown as it looks, I swear!

Vanilla Bean Applesauce

3 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 to 1 1/2 cups Apple Cider

1/4 cup Bottled Lemon Juice*

1 Vanilla Bean, split and seeds removed

(1) If you are planning to can the applesauce, fill your water bath canner, set out your jars, rings and lids; sanitize everything.

(2) Combine all ingredients in a big stock pot or jam pan. Set oven to medium heat, and stir occasionally. Cook for twenty minutes. Turn up the heat to medium high and cook for another ten minutes. The mixture will start to boil and the apples will break apart. You can continue to cook the mixture until the apples break down, or you can use a stick blender to blend everything together. Make sure to remove the vanilla beans before blending. You want to save the pieces to put in the jars!

(3) When the applesauce has obtained a thick consistency and starts to bubble in a lugubrious fashion, it is ready. Ladle into sterilized jars** and process for ten minutes. Turn off the boil and let sit in the water for another five. Check seals in the morning to ensure that the seal is safe.

*I used bottled lemon juice for safety in this recipe. The acid is necessary to get rid of any germs, so please don’t use fresh this time! There is no added sugar here, so there is no room to play around with acid.

**I like to use bigger quart jars with a wide rim because I think it is easier to get the applesauce out. For gifts, make pints or half pints.

PS: If you live in Ohio, pick up a copy of today’s (Thursday, December 1) Columbus Dispatch. My Meyer Lemon Pizzelle recipe is featured!


Filed under Family & Life, Recipes, Shop

Meyer Lemon Pizzelle

I’ve posted about these cookies before. A long time ago, on my old blog. But this old recipe was chosen as a community pick this week by the editors of Food52! I haven’t had a lot of time for recipe writing lately, and I was really surprised when they chose this recipe as a pick for Best Holiday Confection. The winner, by the way, was Pine Nut Brittle. It looks seriously amazing. If I weren’t allergic to pine nuts, I’d be all over it.

Meyer Lemon Pizzelle, Lovingly photographed by Thistle's favorite photographer Nicole Hodac.

Over on food52, my recipe was photographed by another photog, Nicole Franzen. The editors made the cookies a bit different than mine- thicker, more golden. Extremely beautiful and I’m going to give that method a try. My Aunt Ginny, who I know reads the blog, was my inspiration for this recipe. I had tried a lot of different tactics to get the Meyer Lemon flavor into the batter. I tried Meyer Lemon extract at first, but it curdled the batter and had a strong taste too reminiscent of Pine Sol. Meyer Lemon zest didn’t provide enough flavor. I was frustrated and wanted to give up. I enumerated my pizzelle trials during our regular telephone conversations. Off the cuff, Aunt Ginny suggested adding the  melted butter very slowly. I always poured it all in a single go. It was a simple solution and it worked.  The butter was better incorporated into the batter, so when the extracts were added, nothing curdled! She was more skeptical about the Meyer Lemon. I believe her exact words were “Eh, if you think it will work, Hilary.” It did work, eventually.

Meyer Lemon Pizzelle

Makes 40-50 depending on iron size

1 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar

6 Large Eggs, room temp

2 Sticks of Butter, melted and cooled

3 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Pure Orange Extract

Zest of 3 Meyer Lemons

4 teaspoons Baking Powder

4 cupsAll-Purpose Flour, spooned into measuring cup

(1) Combine the sugar and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until well incorporated. The eggs must be at least room temperature. Cold eggs will result in an unworkable batter.

(2) Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the mixture, while mixing on medium speed. Add the extracts then the zest.

(3) On low speed, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time. Alternate between medium and low speed while beating in the flour. (I turn it to low while pouring in the flour; medium to incorporate the flour before adding more).The batter should have a satin sheen to it, but should be light and stiff. If your batter is too liquid, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time until the batter is stiff.

(4) Using a tablespoon scoop, place dollops of batter into the iron. Repeat 20-25 more times depending on iron size. The cookies take about 25-30 seconds in the iron. Fresh, hot cookies can be rolled or shaped into cups


Filed under Family & Life, Recipes

Kale Chips inspired by the Jade

Salisbury, England is an unlikely place to have the best meal of one’s life. Most associate Salisbury with its gorgeous Cathedral and stunning country landscape.

But in Salisbury, at the Jade restaurant, it happened. I had the best meal of my entire life.  (Pictures were not allowed, so my description will have to suffice). It was a seven course Cantonese feast, with excellent jasmine tea. Our first course was Satay chicken, mini egg rolls, and fried sea weed. Then the third course: crispy fried duck with pancake and plum sauce.  Then came the chili spiced prawns, chicken in vinegar sauce, thinly sliced beef, lobster and more. And it just went on and on. Mr. Radar and I, stuffed to the gills, attempted to decline dessert. The restaurant staff chuckled, and Joe, the owner proclaimed that we were the only Americans he ever met with “small stomachs.”  Joe animatedly chatted with me about how he sourced his seafood and how the kitchen staff butchers its own meat and seafood.  I was delighted to meet Joe, someone who is clearly passionate about local food and cares deeply about the product and service. Joe and his restaurant delivered.

I am determined to make crispy Peking duck with homemade pancakes for Christmas dinner. But it is the fried seaweed that haunts Mr. Radar’s memories. When we got home, I suggested that I make baked Kale chips, which I think have that sea weed crispness and taste. Mr. Radar argued with me, logically pointing out that Kale was not seaweed. Kale is not seaweed, but with a pinch of sesame seeds, a touch of spice and sea salt, these are a delicious alternative to the Jade’s offering.

Baked Kale Chips with Chili & Sesame

Inspired by SmittenKitchen

1 Bunch Kale (I like Dinosaur or Russian for this the best)

Scant tbspn Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Sesame Oil

1 tsp Sesame Seeds

1/4 tsp Sea Salt (to taste, I like a bit more but feel free to use just a pinch)

1/2 tsp Chili Powder

Preheat oven to 300. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash the Kale thoroughly, and remove the bottom portion of the stalks. Dry very well. I like to use a salad spinner and then paper towels. Cut or tear the kale into 2 inch pieces. Combine the two oils in a gallon size ziploc bag. Add the kale and shake vigorously. Sprinkle in half of the spices and shake some more. Add the rest and shake some more.

Spread the kale in a single layer on the parchment. Try not to overlap, or the kale on the bottom will not cook. Cook for 30 minutes. Check for donenesss after twenty minutes, and remove any chips that are already crispy. Continue to cook for another ten minutes. Pull the chips out of the oven and make sure all chips are crispy. Any pieces that are tender or under done, put back in the oven and back for another 3-5 minutes.

Store in an airtight container for several days. But they won’t last that long.


Filed under Family & Life, Recipes

A Very English Birthday

Mr. Radar left for London at the end of September. I was very sad. He’ll be gone for all of October, inconveniently missing my birthday. Obviously, I thought it was a plot to miss my birthday and thus get out of party planning.  I pouted a bit (okay, a lot) and complained that he was so rarely home. He just came back from Greece, after all. And he was going to leave me home alone, with just the dog to protect me from our heathen black cat.

And then I found out about the surprise. Mr. Radar is a terrible secret keeper: he bought me tickets to visit him in London. He wanted me to come out for the entire month, but how could I abandon Thistle? So I went to England for two weeks instead. And it was glorious. I’ve got lots of pictures this time and I’m so excited to share the details of our trip with you.

I should mention that Mr. Radar is in England to take his Viva examination at University College London. The Viva is the English equivalent of the American comprehensive examination for a PHD. On October 17, he passed. There was much celebration involved. Congratulations to Mr. Radar- who is well on his way to becoming Dr. Radar. Here he is at the Natural History Museum with Charles Darwin. (He did not want to pose for this picture, and it took a bit of cajoling to get him to agree to this- and any other picture that I wanted to take with him in it).

Queen Mary’s Garden, in Regent’s Park is one of our favorite places. The roses are still in bloom!

We also took a jaunt over to Salisbury, where Mr. Radar gave a talk. I frolicked at Stonehenge and the Cathedral while Mr. Radar worked.

More on our trip later! I can’t wait to share my favorite London eats, our favorite sights, and tell you all about our mini-trip to Salisbury.


Filed under Family & Life

Coming Up Plaid

The autumn leaves are starting to turn here in Dayton. It’s my favorite time of year. My favorite month of the year! October. I rejoice every time it gets here. Its my birthday month, and I think the most beautiful month of the whole year. From afar, the landscape seems to be a woven plaid of rich oranges, reds, yellows and browns. Ordinarily, Mr. Radar and I would hike extra, enjoying the cooler weather and beautiful scenery.

But this year, he is in soggy London. I’ll be joining him for a bit later in the month, but until then I’ve been busying myself with orders.

Plaid sugar cookies, inspired by the Fraser family tartan. (Though I know the whole tartan/clan relationships were largely manufactured to drum up tourism, I still like it!) These were a custom order and I’m extremely proud of them.  Here’s a look at the other cookie design that was part of this order:

I’ve been making a ton! of granola, too. As well as shortbread, figgy darlings and custom jams. Needless to say, I’ve been a bit busy since Mr. Radar has been away.


Filed under Family & Life, Shop