Saturday, December 31, 2011

I made a bed . . .

Just recently, and very much by chance, we got a new bed. It was way too nice to set on the floor like we had our old futon mattress . . . I didn't really like the idea of the puppies thinking it was as much theirs as it was ours. So I decided to build a bed frame to put this brand spanking new mattress on. To some this may sound easy, and even to me, I knew it wouldn't be too hard . . . But just like a kid is proud when they do a grownup's job, I feel proud every time I make something out of wood. 
 I designed it simply, using 2x12's and 2x6's. It was more work to carry the wood in than anything else. 
 And now finally, hurray, we have a wonderful bed . . .
Our bedroom may be a converted hallway, but our bed is a king's dream.

                                                 Cheers ~ Marica

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Habanero Chocolate Truffles . . .

Spicy? Yes . . . 
Dark chocolate? Definitely . . . 
Melted and infused . . . 
Habanero chocolate truffles . . . 
These are very easy to make. I came across a habanero chocolate bar a few weeks ago and was so blown away I decided to try making some for myself. Luckily the habaneros that my husband had planted this year still had fruit hanging on for dear life . . . I threw a few in a pan with a half pound of Trader Joe's eighty proof chocolate, a dash of heavy cream and a tad bit of butter. Mixing well and melting gently, the spice of the habaneros immersed themselves, and a sprinkling of cinnamon and tangerine rind was all it needed to send me over the edge. I am in love. Truly!!! To finish it all, just pick out the habaneros and pour the chocolate onto a piece of parchment paper. Let cool before slicing and devouring. I recommend refrigerating if there are left overs. Please do realize these are SPICY!!!

                        Best wishes to everyone in the new year ~ Marica

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas . . . And yes, poppy seed cake with brandy sauce . . .

Well the whirlwind of Christmas just is sputtering to a close . . . I realized I think I might enjoy the lead up to Christmas more than the actual day, or days, themselves. Here a a few pictures of what happened over on this end of the world. I didn't record the hurried messes or grouchy voices, I caught a few glimpses of the pretty things . . . Like my eight-year-old's last minute made Christmas dress . . . She always reminds me the day before or so, and then I remember, "Oh yes, we need to do that too . . ." So we hurry to the fabric store and somehow, it always gets finished in the hours before it is worn, and threads just barely snipped, and then it looks as though we had planned it so well and she has had it hanging in her closet for weeks. Shhh, I like that part of the last minutes before it all begins . . .
And the deep yet bright colors of Christmas eve . . . 
And the quiet light the of the morning . . . The day so many children dream about all year . . . 
 And then there are the chocolate Santa's that look so much better than they actually taste . . .
 And lastly, poppy seed cake with brandy sauce and pecans . . . 
Poppy Seed Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl mix:
2 cups butter soft
2 + ½ cups brown sugar

Add:
Tangerine rind
1 + ½ cups sour cream
8 eggs, one at a time then stir
½ cup milk

Mix in a bowl:
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

 Combine ingredients then pour into a buttered budnt pan. 
If your pan is not very big, pour excess batter into a loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

For the brandy sauce I just pour brandy in a pan over medium heat, 
added brown sugar and a couple tablespoons of butter.
I also threw in a cup or so of pecans
Once everything is desolved turn off the heat.

When the cake is cooked and turned out onto a plate,
poke toothpick size holes all over the top of the cake.
Pour the brandy sauce with pecans over that and
if you want to make it extra fancy, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

                                               Hope everyones holidays were fabulous ~ Marica


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter . . .

In our house it is starting to show . . . 
 Holiday meals . . . Salad with pear, pecan, goat cheese and honey mustard dressing . . . 
 Brownies with swirled cream cheese and bits of candy-cane baked on top . . .
And our Christmas tree . . .  
Finally . . . It took us forever to get one. We always buy potted live trees, but this year they were so expensive we almost gave in and got a cut one.  But by the time we went to pick out one of those, all the Christmas-tree stands had sold out. So back to the plant nursery we went . . . And now everytime I look at the tree I feel so glad . . . It is so beautiful and someday will get to grow to be so tall.

                                                      Happy Holidays ~ Marica


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tid bits of lately . . . Christmas cookies, making ornaments and gingerbread men . . .

Well it feels like forever since I've had time to sit down for a minute and post anything about anything. We have been so busy and done so much, but somehow things keep slipping past my camera without being captured. 
 We made ornaments with styrofoam balls, scraps of cloth and a whole lot of sticky glue . . .
 I really like the way they came out, but the process wasn't as easy as I'd imagined in my head. 
 We made gingerbread cookies . . . And found out they date back to over a thousand years ago. 
In the fourteen-hundreds Swedish nuns made them to ease indigestion . . .
 We began reading Holly and Ivy, one of my most favorite books ever . . .
 I highly recommend it, the artwork is so pleasant to look at that as a kid I would 
spend hours pouring over the pictures. 
And we made Christmas cookies . . . Yeay for a real working oven!!!!
Christmas Cookies

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl combine:
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon guar gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add and crumble with your fingers until evenly combined:
1 cup butter soft

Add and mix into a ball:
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 grapefruit squeezed (a lemon or orange is fine)

If the dough is too dry add a tiny bit of water until it is 
the right consistency. 

Roll out, cut into shapes and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes
or the cookies are slightly golden. 

For the icing I didn't measure the powdered sugar so:

Mix:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup or more citrus juice
and then add powdered sugar until it is thick and smooth
but still spreads. 

                                              Cheers ~ Marica

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Things of late and Dark Chocolate Carob Fudge Brownies GF . . .

December has begun . . . Cold nights and cozy almost winter days . . . 
Lots of wool and decorating . . .
Board games . . .And toasty fires to warm our dinners outside . . . 
Where we live it is cold enough to need the fire, but still warm enough to eat outside  . . . 
And then there were these . . . 
Chocolate Carob Fudge Brownies . . .
Gluten and Dairy Free

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a large bowl combine:

1 egg
1 + 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil melted
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a separate bowl combine:

1 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup carob powder
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt

Mix dry ingredients with wet.
Pour into an oiled loaf pan.

Bake at 300 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes
or until the middle is pretty steady.
Let cool before serving.

I love this time of year . . .    


                                                       ~Marica

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Leftover Cranberries become cake . . . Gluten and dairy free . . .

Well what do you do when you have a bowl brimming with leftover cranberries . . . Packed into a sadly overstuffed refrigerator . . . And not enough gumption to eat every very last bite of what otherwise could be called the prize delicacy of leftover thanksgiving. There are lots pf prize leftovers . . . So many that the chocolate mousse eventually soured and the almond shortbread was of a yesterday sort of thing. But the cranberries held their head high and just kept waiting to be eaten. I waited with them. I love cranberries, but only so many at one time. Cake was one of those far off solutions that eventually became a prominent necessity if I didn't want the cranberries to join the passé
 mousse in the afterlife of decomposition and a sour bacteria ridden existence. So cake it was . . . 

Leftover Cranberry Cake
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix:
4 eggs
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup grapeseed oil

In a separate bowl mix:
1 cup masa flour
1 cup sweet white rice flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine the bowls and mix gently. Add:
1 + 1/2 cups leftover cranberries drained
Zest of 1 lemon

Pour into oiled bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and the edges of the cake have moved away from the edge of the pan. This is a pretty moist cake, especially when it first comes out of the oven so the tooth pick test won't work very well


                                                                         ~ Marica

Monday, November 28, 2011

Masa Cookies, gluten and dairy free . . .

Simple, if you have the ingredients . . . Yummy, when you want something different . . . 
Snackish, if it is morning . . . And almost winter, lets turn our ovens on . . .
 These can be rolled, even iced if you want a healthy Christmas cookie . . . 
 The kids were thrilled to make "shape cookies" as they call them . . .
 Golden so fast it wasn't hard to wait . . .
 So here is the recipe . . .

Masa Cookies
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl mix:
3 cups masa flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom 
1 cup brown sugar

Add and rub with your fingers until forms crumbs:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Add:
2 eggs
1 cup almond or coconut milk

Roll out between sheets of parchment paper, oil if the dough sticks.
Cut into desired shapes and lay on oiled cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

                                                                ~ Marica

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pear Heaven, Building Benches and good ol' Thanksgiving . . .

Well lets start off with Happy Thanksgiving . . . Yesterday was a busy day of food making, house cleaning, bench building, and then of course feasting. We spent our morning building benches so we could eat outdoors at our big table . . . 
The kids were very helpful, really truly, and so they went together pretty quickly . . . 
They also gathered tons of persimmons which are weighting down the big tree out front
 of our kitchen window. I've never lived with a persimmon tree before, the fruits sure are beautiful,
 but it is going to take some inventiveness to come up with a way I actually will 
enjoy eating them . . . 
We did a few firsts yesterday:
Firsts biscuits baked in our oven . . . We finally have our oven hooked up . . . 
First fire in our outdoor fireplace . . .  
First Thanksgiving here . . . First Pear Heaven . . . Yes, you all must be told about the Pear Heaven . . . 
It was something gnawing at me . . . needing to be made . . . 
and almost included apples instead of pears, 
which I have to say would have in no way been the same thing


So to make Pear Heaven, first bake a batch of:


Almond Short Bread Cookies:
I do want to say, I am not entirely sure of the temperature, 
but I think I baked them at 400 degrees.


In a large bowl mix by rubbing with your fingers until 
all the butter is in crumbs :
2 cups unbleached white flour
12 tablespoons very soft butter


Add and mix:
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cups brown sugar
dash cinnamon
dash salt 


Add and mix gently until combined:
Zest from 1 lemon 
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Roll out carefully into a rectangle on wax paper,
 then chill in the freezer for about 20 minutes.


Slice into 1"x 4" rectangles, but leave it as one large block while it bakes. 
Poke with a fork evenly to prevent buckling. 
Leave on wax paper and place on a cookie sheet.


Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden at 400 degrees.
Let cool before removing them from the pan.

While they bake make a small pot of: 


Brandy Sauce:
In a small pan heat and mix until sugar is desolved:
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest from 1 orange


The Pears
Now, sauted in a large pan with 1 tablespoon of brandy sauce,
covering and letting them cook until just tender then turn off stove: 
1 tablespoon butter
6 pears sliced, and cored
A dash of:
 cinnamon
nutmeg
cardamon
cloves


Serve Pear Heaven in a small dish with pears on the bottom, 
a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream, a bit of brandy sauce 
over the top, and an almond shortbread cookie tucked in for good measure.
 I decided this year I would do more delicate desserts, 
figuring after such a huge meal it would be a more enjoyable concept . . . 
But then, after we all ate, only the kids really had room for proper 
dessert eating anyway.


                             How was your thanks giving?    ~Marica

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

An excursion to the outdoor bookstore . . .

I have always taken for granted that our small town has an outdoor bookstore. It wasn't until this year, when our very good friend who works there mentioned the rarity of such things, that my mind went click click and I realized you just couldn't maintain an outdoor bookshop in most climates. Where we live has its rains for sure, but most of the year the sun shines and the clouds stay at bay. Of course, those of us who grow up here yearn for more "weather" but there is a certain charm to the flexibility of indoor/outdoor living . . . 
So last Monday we decided a mini fieldtrip to the outdoor book-haven was a perfect opportunity to enjoy one of our favorite places in this town, and take advantage of our 
"Inside" connection . . .
It was fun seeing the kids walking through the endless corridors of bookshelves . . .
We were given the exclusive tour . . .
From Anthropology to Science Fiction . . . 
They searched and weighed their options . . .
 Finally to each pick out a book or two to take home . . .
It was a lovely bit of time in the world of sunshine and books . . .

                                                                                                                  ~ Marica