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!
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.
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.
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!
Stay warm, and thanks so much for coming to see me!
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 www.pastryaffair.com
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.
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?
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
- 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)
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.
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
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!
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!
Everybody is all about challenges right now.
A plank a day.
Fifty squats a day.
Three miles a day.
Seven days of ‘clean’ eating. (And just what the heck is clean eating, for crying out loud!? Are we not supposed to pick MnM’s up off the floor? Are we so starved for things to feel guilty about that we’ve made some foods ‘dirty’ now? Remember when ‘sex’ was dirty? Yeah, that didn’t work so well either, did it?)
Not to open up a Pandora’s Box here, but how about a little challenge we can all agree on…I’m thinking something like a Brownie Challenge!
Yep, not hearing too much criticism now.
How about, “How Many Things Can I Stuff In A Brownie?” Or “A New Brownie Every Week”. Or for the over-achievers, “A New Brownie Every Day”!
I think there are all kinds of possibilities, although I’m not sure about how Brussels Sprouts would work in this one.
Me? I’m going for “A New Brownie Every Week”, although I may average a little more frequently, depending upon how long the chocolate supply holds out. There are just so many delectable looking recipes out there, and with the current sloppy weather, this seems a good time to start trying them out. Well…that, and my post-holiday ‘sugar-free challenge’ has lost its luster.
On a less humorous but still brownie-related note, it’s been a tough couple of days.
Today I was wistfully thinking of my brothers and sisters, all of whom are scattered about the western half of the U.S. The last time we were all in the same spot (three years ago), there were multiple requests for me to make brownies, which I baked multiple times over the course of the few days we were together. Thinking about all of them made me a want to bake brownies—for me and for them—as though somehow in the making, they all (including spouses and children) would miraculously appear in my kitchen. Unfortunately, time travel and teleporting I have no recipe for. Brownies though, I can handle. So I did what I could…I baked.
Since I had some left-over coconut filling* and chocolate butter-cream in the freezer, I decided to throw them all together. If you’re the planning sort—a “30 Days To Organizational Nirvana” type—then you might actually plan on making a German Chocolate Cake with the intention of having left-over frosting and filling to make these. If not, then this recipe for Brownies stands up nicely on its own, without any additions or random bursts of culinary creativity. They are dense and chewy…my kind of brownie.
I hope you find a reason to bake brownies this week. If you decide to join me in my challenge, please let me know what your favorite recipe is. I’m always up for trying a new one!
With love (and chocolate)~Lorrie
Brownies with German Chocolate Filling
3 oz unsw. Chocolate
½ cup butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¾ cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides
Coat the bottom and sides with cooking spray, or grease thoroughly
Melt the chocolate and butter in large microwave safe bowl
Stir in the sugar and mix completely
In a small bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla, and then stir into the chocolate mixture
Blend in flour
Spread half the batter in the prepared pan (an off-set spatula is handy for this, but a butter knife will work too)
Carefully distribute the coconut mixture over the top of the batter
Spread the remaining batter over the top of the coconut, spreading it as close to the edge of the pan as possible
Bake for 35 minutes
Remove the pan to a cooling rack. When the brownies are still slightly warm, take them from the pan by lifting the edges of the parchment paper and setting them back on the rack. If you want a glossy icing, frost them with the buttercream, so that it will melt. The icing will harden when the brownies are completely cool.
*My last post contained some mention of a German Chocolate Cake. Since I almost never make a cake with fewer than 3 layers, I always double frosting and filling recipes. Sometimes (if no one is at home when I’m baking) there is left-over, which I freeze to
eat later when I’m by myself keep on hand for last minute desserts.
I love the feeling that is universal to most of us each January first—thoughts of fresh starts, do-overs, re-inventions—and all of the anticipation that comes with the flip of the calendar. We spend a little time reflecting, and then—like so many race horses collected at the starting gate, waiting for the bell to ring and the gates to clang open—off we go, full of eagerness and excitement!
I’ve been absent from my blog for a few weeks, happily buried in all of the preparation for the holidays here in the Fulton home, which this year included one last over-the-top meal on New Year’s Day for my son’s birthday. He is a New Year baby (he wasn’t the first that year, but he was definitely one of the biggest!) and since he moved away for college a few years ago, we don’t always get him on his actual birthday.
Now it’s time for me to re-evaluate and prioritize my schedule, resume some of my pre-holiday routines (especially my weekly walks with my friend Val), and begin some new routines. It’s time to start planning the garden, and to start work on some of the winter garden projects. (If my daughter was editing this, she would add that it’s time to plan HER birthday, and to get busy making those Lemon Squares!) I want to tackle some more advanced knitting patterns, and learn to crochet. I have a few cookbooks that I want to work my way through, and one of the things I am MOST looking forward to, is carving out regular time to write and work on new recipes to share with you!
Happy New Year to all of you, my lovely friends! I hope that your holidays have been blessed, in whatever ways are the sweetest to you and that for each of you, this infant new year is filled with promise and hope.
(Update: baked again and photographed 12/14/13)
Apologies are due right off the bat for the font and formatting inconsistencies. No amount of editing, re-typing, cutting and pasting is working, I’m running up the white flag!
I’m also sorry I don’t have a delicious looking picture to share with this recipe, but we’ve eaten it all (until next week) and my friend Julie just asked for this recipe. Since I’ve just gotten it all typed up, and because she’s not the first person to request it this week, I’m posting for all to bake.
This tender, fragrant cake is sooo good, and when it’s baking the whole house smells like Christmas! I prefer to make the smaller loaves so that I can freeze a couple for emergency desserts or impromptu coffee with friends over the holidays. Plus, we eat whatever is sitting out, so
tearing through eating a small one makes us seem so virtuous, nutritionally speaking.
So here it is, friend Julie (and other lovely friends). Bake, eat, and ENJOY…and don’t forget to lick the bowls!
With love, Lorrie
Gingerbread Loaf Cake
(adapted from an online recipe I’ve had so long I don’t remember the source)
Makes 1 9 x 5 loaf pan or 3 mini-pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup white sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
Zest from 1 orange, divided in half
1 cup applesauce
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz soft butter (or use 8 oz total cream cheese instead)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Half of orange zest
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Juice from zested orange
What to do:
Preheat oven to 350°F Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan, or 3 mini loaf pans
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, half of the orange zest and salt, and set aside.
In a large bowl, or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until its light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Dissolve the baking soda into applesauce, and then mix it into the creamed butter. Add in the flour mixture, blending until its smooth, but don’t over-do it.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan(s).
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out just slightly sticky. Be careful not to over bake, for this cake dries out easily. Remember that the toothpick shouldn’t come out clean, but a little sticky.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese or cheese/butter blend until its light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and orange zest. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar, and add a small amount of the orange juice to get the texture you want. Frost the cake when it is completely cooled. ( This cake tastes best if you make it the day before you plan to serve it. It also freezes well, un-iced.)
Are you tired of baking Christmas cookies yet?
I thought not, and unless you’re the sort who’s baked, wrapped, and stored all of your cookies by Thanksgiving, you’re still in ‘baking mode’. If you are tired of (or done with) baking cookies, then read no further. (But if you didn’t make these, I feel sorry for you.)
If you’re anything at all like me, there is still a dusting of flour on the kitchen floor. The aroma of spices and chocolate is masking the scent of wet Labrador Retriever (who is often lightly coated with sugar, owing to her habit of lying in wait under whatever surface I am working at), and you’re still pouring through magazines and blogs collecting new recipes to try.
So to those of you still baking—if you haven’t made these—I say…”What in the name of Saint Nicholas are you waiting for?!”
Go tie on that apron, fire up the mixer and your oven and get started! Even if you’re through with your holiday baking, someone you know is having a lousy day (maybe even you?) and these cookies will make it better. I promise.
With their sparkly, crunchy, crust and their spicy, chewy, center, these are a little bit of cookie heaven. In fact, they’re so wonderful, I think they may have been invented by angels!
They’re easy to make, and easily made vegan. They store well (if hidden well) and you can make the dough and keep it on-hand in the fridge—put it in the back…waaay in the back and labeled ‘beef- stock’ or something. Now you’ll have fresh-baked cookies whenever anyone drops by over the holidays.
Or whenever you really, really, really NEED a warm and spicy cookie.
Happy baking (and munching) to all!
(adapted from the blog “Will Cook for Friends”)
Makes about 5 dozen
*What you need:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger *
2 tsp ground cinnamon *
½ tsp ground nutmeg *
½ tsp ground allspice *
¼ tsp ground cloves *
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped *
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (these cookies can be vegan if you substitute an equal amount of non-dairy margarine)
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup unsulphured** molasses
1 (or more) cup coarse (sanding or raw) sugar, for rolling the balls of dough in
Crystallized ginger is much easier to chop if you put it in the freezer for a bit first.
*All of these ingredients would be very costly if you are buying them by the jar in the baking-spice section of your grocer. Instead, get the molasses there (I use good old ‘Brer Rabbit’, found with the syrups and sweeteners) and then wander over to the bulk bins, where you can find all of these spices already ground and costing only coinage instead of loads of the paper stuff! You can usually find crystallized ginger over by the dried fruit area of the bulk bins as well.
** Unsulphured means that the molasses is made from ripe sugarcane, and is untreated. Molasses made from unripe cane has sulfur dioxide added to ripen and preserve it, and sulfur isn’t a good thing to eat.
What to do:
1. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add the the chopped crystallized ginger, breaking up any clumps.
2. In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, thoroughly cream together the butter and brown sugar. Pour in the molasses and beat well.
3. Gently mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. This is best done by hand to ovoid over-mixing. The dough should be thick and rather sticky. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to fold back over itself. Pat the dough into a thick disc. Wrap it up and refrigerate until firm, at least 1-2 hours. (I’ve kept this dough for a week.)
4. When the dough is firm enough to handle, tear off small chunks (walnut sized), and roll each into a ball. Next, roll each ball in the coarse sugar, and return to the fridge to keep cool. The rolled cookies can be stored in the fridge, or frozen in an airtight container, for future baking.
5. Preheat oven to 325f. Place the chilled balls of dough onto a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Space them 1 ½” apart, as they will flatten completely. Bake on the middle rack for 10-12 minutes. If you bake them a minute or so longer, they will be even crisper. Let them cool 3-4 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a wire rack. ( Right when I take them out, I sprinkle them with a bit more of the coarse sugar, for extra crunch and sparkle.) Once they’re completely cool, they can be stored airtight for several days, or frozen for even longer. Just be sure to hide them!