The Final Brownie (for now)


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Life has been crazy busy with working, a little travel, and a huge garden project that had to be completed before any actual gardening could happen—remember the bovine invasion of last summer? All of a sudden (again), my little blog has grown dusty and forlorn. It’s been so long since I’ve posted that I practically don’t know where to start!  I think the best place though, is with the last of the Brownie Challenge recipes.

I’ve been promising, and it’s taken awhile, but here it is. I’ve made this one up a lot since I found it, and I have to say, it is my MOST favorite…for now anyway.  It’s easy to throw together—no more mess than a mix, really—and the end result is worth an extra measuring cup to wash up. The batter smells divine while you’re mixing it (if your idea of heaven includes chocolate), and once it hits the oven…oh my! There’s nothing like drifts of dark cocoa wafting through the house. Best air freshener ever!

These brownies are dense and chewy, with a quick, crisp, ‘bite’ to the crust. The cocoa taste is rich, dark and not-too-sweet. It’s a brownie that begs for a glass of ice-cold milk, or a really fabulous cup of coffee. Maybe both, because who are we kidding? You know you’ll eat more than one.


Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from smitten kitchen’s adaptation of Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave safe bowl and microwave it until the butter is melted. Use a lower power setting, and stir occasionally to blend all the ingredients. The mixture should be warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon, then add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. When the batter feels thick and is shiny and well blended, stir in the flour until it disappears. Then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment paper, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares for serving.



And before I finish, I have to show you a picture of the new garden project! My husband did such a beautiful job of this fence, that I just have to show it off!

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Gorgeous, yes?  And hopefully, cattle proof.

One other thing I promised you—an ‘up-grade’ to box mix brownies…

1) Use a name brand mix. Store brands just don’t have the same flavor. My preference—and I’ve tried them all—is for Pillsbury. I always used the ‘family-sized’ (9x 13’ pan) in the plain chocolate or chocolate fudge flavor.

2) Substitute strong dark coffee for the water in the ingredients. Don’t worry, they won’t taste like coffee.

3) Add 1 Tblsp of unsweetened cocoa powder

4) Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract

5) Add 1/2 to 1 cup of good quality dark chocolate chips

6) If they’re ‘company brownies’, I frost them when they’re cool with whatever left-over chocolate buttercream I have in the freezer OR I ice them with the same thing, by spreading it on while they’re still warm.

I used a 9” by 13” glass pan, lightly greased, and baked them for 28 minutes at 325 degrees.

In a hurry to cut them? Use a plastic knife—the disposable kind for pic-nics and such—and the brownies will cut cleanly.

That’s it… a simple fix that adds a ton of depth and flavor!

Now it’s back to the kitchen to finish baking (the brownies for today’s blog, cookies for the husband while I’m out of town, biscotti to take to my Aunt, and something cake-ish) and then I’m out to the garden!

Thanks for visiting me, and love~



An Ordinary Beauty


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Sometimes, a chore that is simple and often repeated becomes mundane, routine—like washing produce after a trip to the market, or making soup from last night’s left-over chicken. But when the sun suddenly pours through the window, illuminating the commonplace and ordinary, I am quickly reminded of how much beauty there is in those ‘every-day’ things and activities, and that I am blessed and privileged to enjoy such largesse from a generous Creator.


I hope there is beauty in your day today~
With love,

Some Of Us Are Dunkers…


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I thought about getting dinner started (some sort of pasta with a ragu of venison or duck).

I thought about running the vacuum over the fine layer of cat fur insulating the living room rug.

I thought about going for the run I missed this morning (why run when you can sit at in a car dealership service department?).

I even thought about doing some work in the garden as an alternative to any sort of indoor pursuit.

Then I thought about a cup of hot coffee. 

With a biscotti to dunk in it.


While sitting in the sun on the patio.


It’s true…we become what we think of.


I hope you’re having a beautiful Friday, and thank you for visiting!

Chocolate Almond Biscotti
(oh-so-slightly-adapted from Pastry Affair)
Yields about 1 dozen

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces chopped, toasted almonds
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate, to melt for drizzling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt together thoroughly and set to the side.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating in completely after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually add the dry ingredients, blending until uniformly moist.  Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips. The dough should be relatively dry to the touch.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, form the dough into a log about 12-inches long by 3-inches wide.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the dough cracks on top and just begins to brown (a bit tricky to tell with dark chocolate dough).  When done, allow it to cool on the cookie sheet for ten minutes, or until the dough is cool enough to handle.  With a serrated knife, cut the log into 1/2-inch slices.  Place the slices cut side down onto the baking sheet, and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until the biscotti slices are lightly browned. Turn the biscotti over to the other cut side, and bake for another 8-10 minutes.  If you don’t like yours crunchy, you can skip this final baking.  I like mine very crunchy (better for dunking and storing) so I add an additional baking, standing them upright on the baking sheet and baking them for another 5 minutes or so at 300 F.

When the biscotti are cooled, melt the ounce of chocolate (chocolate chips are fine for this) and drizzle it over them, either with a spoon, or by putting the melted chocolate in a small plastic bag with the tiniest bit of a corner snipped off.

Allow the biscotti to dry completely before you store them.


Out of the Dreariness…


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Hello and good morning!  It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you, and I’ve missed you all terribly.  I think I’ve been sucked into the weariness of winter–smothering in the soul-draining gloom of rain and grey.

Really though, it’s time to come out now.  The daffodils are a riot of yellow everywhere I look, and the daphne’s scent teases me with the promise of longer, brighter days. Our lambs are coming too–a set of twins the other day, with eleven more mamas to go.


I’m headed off this weekend for a short trip to visit my daughter (which may or may not be blog-worthy), and when I get back, it will be a new season.  Still raining probably, but with more light and warmer temperatures.

But, I will be back–even though the weather is infinitely better where she is–and when I return I’ll have one more brownie recipe to share.  It’s my favorite, and I’ve been saving it for last in the Brownie Challenge. Plus, I promised I’d show you how to dress up a box mix of brownies so that they taste amazing and very un-boxy.

And, I have to make this beautiful thing for a friend.


So now, out of the dreariness, into the cheeriness…


With love, and looking forward to being with you in the kitchen (and garden!!) again soon,


Home Made Granola Bars


I’m re-posting this today for several reasons. First, because I’m making them right now to send to my son in response to his plea for home baked treats, which was (very) thinly disguised as a Valentine greeting. Second, because they’re really, really, good!

Originally posted on View From My Kitchen Window:

Granola bars are great right?  I mean, they have oats in them so they MUST be good for us!

Okay, maybe not so much.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with granola bars.  Whether putting them in a lunchbox, or packing them for a hike or post-run snack, they seemed like a more virtuous choice than cookies or—gasp—a candy bar, but the reality is, most commercial granola bars are really just dessert.  Not always a very good one either.

Now for the good news!  Granola bars are uber-simple to make (especially if you have a stand-mixer), they store well (with NO preservatives!), and there is an infinite variety of things that you can hide in—oops!—I mean add to them to boost their nutritional value!

I make these, and then wrap them individually in wax paper* for lunches, snacks, breakfast—hey, why not!  There’s oats in ‘em, so wash one down…

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For The Birds


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It’s pretty cold here at Casa Fulton…cold enough to keep me indoors and occupied with things that can be accomplished in front of the fireplace, or at the stove.  We’re expecting snow (a bit of a rarity in our neck of the woods), which—even though it’s not my favorite form of weather—I would actually welcome right now, because it would warm up a bit.  Plus, snow is kinder to the garden than dry and 19 degrees.

Snow is NOT kind to the little birds, however, and because they are accustomed to more hospitable treatment here, I do a little extra for them.  I don’t have water heaters for the bird-baths, so I fill them regularly when it freezes.  I put extra seed out, and bring the hummingbird nectar in at night so it doesn’t turn to a solid chunk of sweet ice.  The hummies come before daylight, so I have to get it back outside early.  I could see them silhouetted in the branches of the magnolia this morning—waiting for me—and they didn’t fly away when I re-hung it.

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I hang suet out too, but when the starlings discover it, I have to bring it in, or else they will drive off all of the smaller birds while gobbling all the suet in minutes!   The birds need extra sources of fat for calories and energy, so another thing I put out for them, especially if the starlings have made a surprise raid, are pine cones with fat and seed in them.

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These are so simple to make, and they are also a great project to do with your children who are home from school for a ‘snow-day’.   They’re a great way to use extra bacon fat—something I always keep on hand (stored in the fridge) for adding an extra layer of flavor to foods that want it.

You can use peanut butter too, but the birds at our house prefer the bacon fat (who doesn’t like bacon?), so I just use that now.  It’s less expensive as well.


All you need is a pine cone, some fat, and some bird seed.  Oh, and something to hang it with—string, yarn, wire, or the Christmas ornament hanger you pulled out of the carpet last week and threw in the kitchen junk-drawer.


Soften the chilled fat, coat the pine cone in it (your hands will be really soft after, and your dogs and cats will suddenly be very affectionate) and then press the seed in it.  Hang it out on a tree branch, and then wait for word to get out in the avian world that dinner is ready!

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Stay warm, and thanks so much for coming to see me!


Brownie Challenge Re-visited


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I haven’t forgotten, nor have I been lax in the brownie-baking department.  Here today is what may be the winner in my personal competition, from Kristin Rosenau’s beautiful blog “A Pastry Affair”, which in a stroke of chocolate serendipity,  appeared in my in-box the day after I did my first brownie challenge post.  Brownie Kismet!  I’ve made it several times now–just to be sure–and they haven’t let me down yet!  I still have a couple more recipes to try out before I’m done, but something tells me that this one will emerge with the crown!  I’ve included her original metric measurements (which I used the first time I made these) for those who may want them.
Just to be sure.


More brownies to come, but thanks so much for stopping by today for this one!





Double Chocolate Brownies
lightly adapted from

Yields 16 servings (not in my house…)

4 tablespoons (56 grams) butter
4 ounces (110 grams) dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I used dark, as I prefer more chocolate, less sweet)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (150 grams) brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (85 grams) dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (again, dark–72%)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 9×9-inch pan (I didn’t have one, so I used a 7x11glass baker instead.  I like to line my brownie pan with a piece of greased parchment—ends hanging off the long edge of the pan, for ease in removing and cutting.

In a large saucepan (or glass bowl, if you’re using a microwave oven), melt the butter and chopped chocolate over low heat until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the eggs, sugars, and vanilla extract.  Fold in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Let the batter cool to down a bit before adding the chocolate chips, as you don’t want them melting into the batter.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean with a few crumbs. Cool before slicing into squares for the cleanest cuts. (Or if you totally can’t wait, use a plastic knife)

Make sure to invite someone over, or you will eat the entire pan yourself.




A Tale of Quinoa


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What happens when a barefoot, granola-souled, flowers-in-her-hair, back-to-the-land, mostly-vegetarian, singer/guitar player meets a Stetson-hatted, pickup truck driving (with a gun-rack—for holding lariats and coffee cups, because gun-racks are not a good place to keep a gun), boots with spurs and Wrangler wearing, team-roping cowboy?

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Yep, they get married. Although to be fair, I did have a horse at the time and rode constantly, I just rode bareback and barefoot a lot of the time.

Often with flowers in my hair.

After the addition of a wildly creative girly-girl and an athletic, no-life-without-sports boy, we became a household of radically varying tastes and persuasions.
When it came to food, the husband would eat a cheeseburger and fries for lunch every day (and he did, prior to marrying me). Dinner every night would be a steak (or venison or the fruit of whatever the day’s hunt produced) and baked potato with butter AND sour cream, and chives. He passed that gene on to the boy.

Chives are a green vegetable, right?

I on the other hand, would eat something different and laden with vegetables (or dessert) at every meal. (The girl went for the longest time on a diet that included about six items–mostly dessert.  Fortunately, she outgrew that.)

Someone was going to have to adapt, and may I say that they have done an admirable job! Once again though, in the interest of being fair; I cook, and the rest of the family—not so much, so they have always been at my mealtime mercy.

As the years have multiplied (and the offspring have grown and are mostly gone), so has my former cowboy’s gastronomic repertoire. He has finally gotten accustomed to being the culinary equivalent of a laboratory mouse, and I think he actually likes the fact that I can go weeks on end without repeating the same menu—every night is ‘Chef’s Surprise’! Well, unless it’s something I’m in love with at the moment—then it can show up on the table pretty regularly until my infatuation with whatever it is wears off. Or unless it’s pasta.

One of the things we are trying to do, is to take part in “Meatless Monday”. While there are plenty of nights throughout the month that our meals are meatless, having one night where that is the plan ahead of time makes planning my weekly menus much simpler. Plus, I love the whole ‘unity’ aspect of millions of people all over the world taking part in the same thing at the same time.

Pretty cool when you think of it like that, huh?

That being said, I’m having a tough time with Quinoa. No, I don’t mean cooking it, I mean getting excited about cooking it. Or eating it. I don’t know why, but the current darling of the vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free world just does not excite me the way say, wild rice does. Or Polenta. I LOVE everything about Polenta—scattering the grains into the boiling water, stirring it, that wonderful ‘pop-poof’ sound it makes as it simmers and thickens—oh wait, I’m supposed to be writing about Quinoa.

So, in an effort to broaden my thinking about Quinoa, I made some the other day to turn into some patties that I saw on Pinterest a few weeks ago. I thought they looked like an interesting and tasty addition to the rest of that night’s meal of roasted root vegetables and Brussels sprouts. (The root veggies were carrots, parsnips, garnet yams, and sprouts with olive oil, coarse salt and cracked pepper—thanks for asking.)

They were definitely fun to make, but when I taste-tested them…well, let’s just say that I felt they would fall short of the husband’s expectations. I whipped up a Thai-inspired, spicy, peanut sauce to dress them up, and with the addition of the sauce, they became something that I will make (and that he would eat) again. They taste fine (with the sauce), they’re economical, nutritious, easy to prepare—but so are lots of things. Like Polenta.

But the real reason these little guys will make a regular visit to our kitchen is this; re-tasting them the next day, I uncovered their true glory—they are a fantastic sandwich filling—one that even the cheeseburger-and-fries husband loved! Whole-grain bread with a dab of Dijon mustard, some thinly-sliced red onion, with a bit of Jarlsberg swiss cheese (gruyere would be good too) melted on them put these patties over the top!


They have definitely earned a spot in the rotation for now, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to love Quinoa—although I’m not sure I’ll be serving it with a Bolognese sauce or Chicken Cacciatore anytime soon.

What are some of your favorite things to do with Quinoa? I’m looking for more ways to use it, so please comment and let me know what you love to make with it!
Happy Monday, and thanks for coming to see me.

Quinoa and Spinach Patties

You need:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T minced onion
  • 2 large scallions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 cup steamed spinach, chopped (frozen is fine—make sure to squeeze as much moisture out of the spinach as possible)
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs *


  • olive oil (for the pan)

To make:

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly and place the grains in a medium sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender and has absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes. Let it cool.


Combine the quinoa and all of the other ingredients in a large bowl.  Let it sit for a few minutes so all the liquid will be absorbed. The batter should be moist, but not runny. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to form patties. Flatten to about ¾ inch thick.


I do think the little tails they sprout after the rinse are kinda cute.

I do think the little tails they sprout after the rinse are kinda cute.


Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. In multiple batches, cover and cook the patties for 8-10 minutes on each side, or until browned and golden.


*These can be gluten-free if you use GF breadcrumbs



Waiting For The Violets


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I am not a winter sort of girl—snowy paths and frozen fields are (in my opinion) best suited to Christmas cards and folks who like to ski.

Christmas is past, and I don’t like skiing or any other form of activity that involves snow, unless you consider sitting by a fire with my hands curled around a steaming mug of chocolate (or hot mulled wine) while watching the snow fall outside the window an activity.

Now is when I begin to long for sunshine and more hospitable temperatures.   My attitude and outlook on life can begin to cloud over a bit.  Sometimes quite a bit.    I daydream of long stretches of time spent working in the garden, and of being anyplace warmer than where I am.


But, as much as I love summer (I would love spring too, except here in the Willamette Valley it’s more of a state-of-mind than an actual season) I hate the thought of wasting time by wishing my life away.  Each of us is only allotted a certain number of days, and I am not in a rush to see mine come to an end.  So I try to be patient, and learn to love the waiting.

I go on walks with the dog and look for things I wouldn’t see at other times of the year—rose hips encased in glittering ice; bird nests blown down in a storm; icy-edged streams with wild mallards splashing in them, jumping up when they see me and flying noisily away—and I wait.

I begin to poke about the garden and look for signs that this season is tiring and the next is gathering strength—the swelling of the buds on the japanese maples; the daffodil spears beginning to lengthen almost as imperceptibly as the lengthening of the daylight hours; and the clusters of daphne buds fattening and pinking up as their bloom time gets closer.

But mostly, I wait for the violets.

After Christmas, I begin to look for them each day, waiting for the tiny purple blossoms to peek out from under their protective canopy of green.

I wait for the violets because I know that when the violets appear, winter will begin to make room for spring—and that my wonderful friends, fills me with hope!

I wait for the violets, because when violets come, it will only be a short time before the daphne opens  saturating the air with its citrus-y sweet fragrance. (If ‘hope’ had a fragrance, it would smell like daphne odora.) Then the daffodils will bloom, the quince, the camellias, and…I think you understand.

 Today, the violets arrived.


Thanks for coming to see me!   Happy Day to all of you…may it be filled with violets, or whatever brings you hope!

With love,


Learning Something New!


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Today is the day I’m going to learn to crochet!  I’ve knitted up the beautiful English wool into my new favorite scarf,


but now I have that lovely, soft, sunrise-colored yarn that needs to be made into something.


Mostly I’m looking for a reason to while away a couple of hours in front of the fireplace with coffee and something soft and beautiful in my hands.  It’s just that sort of day.

And, look for an update soon on the Brownie Challenge


I just want to bake what could possibly be the most perfect brownie EVER, one more time before I share.  I’d do it today, but we need to have something other than brownies for dinner tonight.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and wish me luck!


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