Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(Almost) Daily Ritual...

I occasionally go through phases where I drop coffee from my nearly daily level of consumption. But for many reasons I always come back to it; I really love the flavor of a good cup of coffee and it really is often a social outlet as well, either as a quick post school drop off checking in with friends or a chance to linger and really catch up with someone.  But there is something about a quiet cup at home that I love too, the waiting for the kettle to boil, the smell of the grounds as they are being scooped into the filter, and that first sip as you settle down to enjoy this freshly brewed cup are among favored moments of the day.  Oh, and that jar back there, yep that is fresh, milked-myself-two-days-ago goats milk.  No better coffee creamer out there in my humble opinion.

A friend recently gifted me with this handy coffee making tool.  Do you call it a filter?  I am not even sure what it is called, but I LOVE it!  It is perfect for making just one cup (well OK maybe I have been known to run more water through that used filter for a second cup on occasion, kinda like reusing a tea bag right?).  What I really love about my new coffee tool is that without fail, every single cup of coffee I enjoy made with it, is even better because it always brings my friend to mind.  Thank you Lisa!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Another Birthday Means More Kitchen Creations...


OK, so I think I'm kind of on a roll with all these winter birthdays and truthfully I am loving it.  This time around, I made a couple batches of Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.  I may have had to do some quality control sampling along the way, I mean who can refuse roasted hazelnuts blended with Penzy's Dutch Cocoa Powder, ooohhhhhh YUM.  I got so carried away with the making I totally spaced the photographing, so here are just a couple pics from the beginning and the end.  I really hope anyone who enjoys Nutella will give this a try, it takes the spread to a whole new level.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Thank Goodness For Birthdays...



So it seems that Birthdays are my mojo in the kitchen of late.  I took the time to get busy making a special treat as a belated gift for a friend the other day, I am so hoping she supports my "better late than never" theory.  We were about out of our last jar of curd (a favorite of my youngest to top pancakes with) and I know my friend loves curd as much as we do here.  Up until last year, lemon was the only flavor of curd I had ever tried, it honestly never even occurred to me that there were even other kinds.  Last year I happened upon a orange vanilla curd recipe from my trusty advisor to all things jarred and it is now my absolute favorite.  It has a bit of a softer flavor than lemon and the addition of vanilla beans takes it to a whole new level of delicious!   It is well worth the time to make a batch or two for yourself,  we love it on pancakes but I also like to mix it into yogurt with nuts or granola and fruit.  I imagine smeared on a  nice thick slice of your favorite toasted bread it would be heavenly.  Though my recipe sites a fairly quick cooking time, it has never worked that way for me, generally I need to give a solid hour of time standing and string at the stove, but really please don't let that stop you from trying this out.  I promise you it will be well worth your time.

Monday, February 2, 2015

More Cake...



This winter has found me feeling a bit blah in the cooking department for some reason.  But I'm trying to shake it off and today I found myself itching to bake a cake.  It helped that there was a special someone celebrating a birthday today, and I really wanted to make something homemade for this celebration.  After a quick look through the pantry, a little help from Google and knowing that chocolate would be a choice ingredient for this Birthday Celebrant I landed on this gluten free chocolate cake made with almond flour.  I also had a bit of marshmallow fluff on hand from holiday fudge baking so I did some searching for a marshmallow frosting.   And well, I think I have hit on a new birthday favorite!  If you really wanted to get fancy you could top the cake with some graham cracker crumbs and call it a s'more cake.  The cake was a crowd pleaser and came together fairly simply and with ingredients (minus the marshmallow fluff) that we always have on hand.  I love it when things come together so simply and deliciously.  I'd love to hear what other folks do to get out of the winter slump when it comes to cooking, do you just let your self roll with it -- sure that it will pass or do you try to jumpstart things in some way to get back on track?  I feel I've been "rolling with it" a bit too long and am hopeful that this cake will serve as a bit of a jump start.  I don't know what tomorrow has in store but I am hoping to find myself back in the kitchen letting some creative juices flow.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another Cake...



One of my most favorite ways to spend time is cooking along side a friend, especially in fancy-dancy kitchens.  Yesterday I got such a chance and pounced (maybe even inviting myself over), to bake with a friend who is an amazing baker.  Not only does she consistently wow us all with her delicious confections, she is fearless about tackling new and seemingly complicated recipes.  A while back I had posted this torte recipe from Smitten Kitchen but have been totally intimidated to try the whole meringue thing, but not this friend.  She jumped on it and has made the torte several times all the while raving about it and extolling its amazingness.  Earlier in the week she mentioned that she was planning on making said dessert for an upcoming school event and I jumped right in and invited myself over to watch and learn from this master baker.  She upped the anti on me, informing me that I would not simply watch and learn but I'd bake right along side her and make one for myself.  So I packed up my eggs, cream, chocolate, vanilla, sugar and hazelnuts and headed for her lovely kitchen.  We baked, she instructed, we chatted and had a generally great time.  It was a great way to spend a particularly cold Northwest afternoon, thank you very much.  What I most love about this dessert is; that it is naturally gluten free so no experimenting with flour mixtures, it combines two of my most favorite flavors (chocolate and hazelnut), and it is a show stopper.  If you are looking for a dessert to wow a crowd yet is really fairly quick and simple to pull off, this will be your new BFF.  I hope you will not be like me and let intimidation get in the way, do yourself a favor and head to the kitchen this weekend to make this delicious treat.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mindful Monday...



Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver 
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fermenting...






Are you on the fermenting bandwagon yet?  I'm trying to hitch a ride myself, but still very much in the early learning stages.  I figure that it can't hurt, and within safe reason I love anytime I can present and prepare food for friends and family that has been minimally handled/processed.  So I am dipping my toe into the world of making my own fermented foods.  So far my two attempts have been kombucha and lacto fermented salsa.

A year or so ago I started buying those bottled kombucha drinks at the local natural food coop, and I was quickly hooked.  Those babies are expensive though and so I began researching how to make my own.  About that time I connected with a friend of a friend who had recently started experimenting with making her own kombucha and was willing to share some scoby and teach me the basics.  So after an afternoon spent sampling her variations and gleaning as much as I could from her experience I took home a couple scobys and set out to ferment my own kombucha.  I love this tutorial on brewing your own.  Once the tea was ready, I am finding that 7-10 days is a good amount of time for fermentation in our home (though with cooler temps settling in that may begin to stretch longer), it's time to flavor your tea.  Over the summer we used seasonal fruits, mostly berries, along with lemon and ginger to flavor our tea but now that fall is kicking in I'm thinking a pear/ginger combo sounds really great.  Have you tried making kombucha?  If so what are your favorite flavor add in's?

My second foray into the world of fermenting has been lacto fermented salsa.  We love salsa in this house and during the summer months when tomatoes are at their best we make and consume a lot of it.  That and my obsession with buying produce by the box led me to my first attempt at fermented salsa.  I had an abundance of tomatoes both from the garden and supplemental purchases and was looking for something new to try in the way of food preservation.  I stumbled on this blog post about fermented salsa and made quick work of transforming the remains of my tomatoes into several quarts of the best salsa I've ever tasted.  Not only is it super tasty, it is really fairly quick and easy to make.  A few rough chops, some blitzing in the food processor and a few days on the counter and you are good to go.  And no cooking folks!  No standing over a hot stove water bath canning salsa in 100 degree temps.  From what I've read you can hold fermented salsa in the fridge for fairly lengthy periods, likely longer than you will need because if you like salsa you will eat your way through your jars very fast.  The inner hoarder in me wants to make enough to last us well into and hopefully through winter so I dug a bit deeper and found that you can freeze this salsa with decent results.  I've got a tester quart in the freezer and another gallon plus working it's magic on my counter at this very moment.  Once we crack open the frozen jar I will report back but I do have high hopes.  I took a jar of this along on a weekend trip with friends and it got a raving thumbs up, even by my onion and pepper hating friend.  I was even able to successfully use it as a bribe for a teen friend of ours, its really that good.  I hope you try for yourself, I'd love to hear what you think.