Once again, it seems as though I’ve fallen behind in just about every area of my life. Well, perhaps not the laundry, but that would be the only thing.
There are seeds still to be planted in the garden, and weeds still to remove. There is no surface in our home that would pass a ‘white-glove’ test, or even a ‘brown-glove’ test! The dust layer has gotten thick enough to plow, and until yesterday, there was hardly anything to eat in the house. The pantry was so bare it could have become a spare room, as grocery-shopping had been more of a ‘fly-over’ on my way home from work. Actually, it was getting to be sort of a game to see if I could put together a decent meal without even going to the store.
The office work has been stacking up (I’m currently working out of piles instead of files) and cooking, baking, writing and taking pictures for my little blog have not even made the ‘to-do’ list. Nary a cake nor cookie has emerged from this kitchen, except for this sweet little ‘cupcake dress’. This was for a bridal shower for my friend Jennifer’s daughter. And because Jennifer is not a total flake with a camera (ahem … that would be me), there is actually a picture of it, which she has been gracious enough to share with me so that I can share it with you. Thanks Jennifer!
There has been time away for another bridal shower and wedding–a lot of time really, since it was our daughter Mary’s wedding–and then there’s that whole ‘work-for-a-living’ thing. Add in a couple of priority projects (more fencing for the sheep, completion of the garden fence, and demolition of my disintegrating greenhouse) and everything else just skidded to a halt.
(And if I’m being totally transparent, there was–and still is–basketball. First there was March Madness, then the NBA play-offs, and now the finals. Basketball is important stuff here people, really! In fact, I’m thinking about learning to love the WNBA this summer, because those women are crazy-good athletes!)
But today is a slower sort of day. Work is calming down for the summer, and it is raining. I did some combat shopping yesterday (five hours and five stores worth with another hour of putting it all away), so today my friends, is a good day to get caught up with some baking and writing–and maybe even a few photos! Today is a Granola and Oatmeal Cookie kind of day. Actually, it was bill paying day too, but after excavating through the piles on my desk, they’re all done for the month. Now I can do something fun, like baking.
I’m taking today to restock a few things for the week–vinaigrette for the nightly salad, cookies for the husband’s lunchbox, and Granola just because.
Just because I love it.
Because it’s the perfect added little crunch to a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt. Because it’s a handy and portable afternoon snack (just add a few more nuts and some dried fruit–or chocolate chips).
Because the tiniest ramekin full of granola with a little milk poured over is a comforting and satisfying bed-time snack.
I could go on, but really, home-made granola tastes better and is cheaper and more nutritious than anything you can buy in the store–chocolate chips not withstanding. There are an infinite number of variations of ingredients, so you can change things around to suit your tastes and needs.
I’ve been trying out some different granola recipes lately, but my current favorite is a riff on this one from Julie at Lovely Little Kitchen . I’m really liking hers at the moment because of the short baking time, the ground nuts, and the lovely flavor that using coconut oil adds. (Her blog is pretty great too–I love reading her even if I’m not trying out her recipes!) You can find her original recipe here or try my version, which is a little less sweet (my preference for most things not dessert).
Cookies and Granola … not such a terrible way to spend a rainy day after all !
I hope today has found you with a bit of something to enjoy~
Thanks for reading, and please comment if you think this is something you might like to try, or even if you have no intention of trying it. Maybe you HATE granola! (Hopefully you love cupcakes…) Your comments are what make this whole bloggy thing work!
Quick Coconut~Almond Granola
(adapted from a recipe by Lovely Little Kitchen)
1 cup almonds, divided in half
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar (or 1/3 cup for sweeter granola; using the lesser amount of sugar will also result in a slightly less crunchy texture)
1/3 cup honey ( rice or maple syrup will work too)
3 Tblsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the almonds until they are very finely chopped.
- Coarsely chop the other1/2 cup of the almonds.
- Place the almonds, along with the oats, coconut, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar into a large bowl, and combine them thoroughly.
- Put the honey and coconut oil into a small microwave-safe bowl, and heat for a few seconds to melt the oil. Stir, dissolving the coconut oil into the honey, and then add the vanilla and almond extract.
- Pour the honey mixture over the oats, stirring to combine them until the oat mixture is well coated.
- Spread the granola mixture evenly onto a large, parchment lined baking sheet. Use one with sides so you don’t lose any of those lovely grains onto the oven floor.
- Bake the granola for 5 minutes, and then stir it around. Return it to the oven for 5 more minutes.
- You can pour the granola in a thin layer onto a piece of wax paper to let it cool, or leave it (as I do) to cool on the baking sheet.
- When it cools completely, you can break the granola into clusters and store in an airtight container or bag.
It’s that time of year.
You know, the time of year where we collectively take stock of the 360-ish days-before-yesterday to ponder every mistake we think we made, all of the negatives in our lives that need to be changed into positives, and most importantly (to us), all of the virtuous modifications we’ll make for the coming year in our homes, habits, relationships, jobs, diets; the list is endless!
While I tend to avoid dwelling on the negative, as well as the ‘year in review’ stuff that clogs most forms of the media at the end of every year (I’m lousy at back-tracking), I do love the idea of a fresh start.
For me, this happens twice a year, at summers end and at the start of the new year. I’m not really sure why, but I suspect that these two times coincide with the biggest breaks from my ‘normal’ (and I use that word liberally) routine. Other disruptions in my personal universe can bring on the need for a reboot, but I can always count on these two making their regularly scheduled appearance.
In the summer, I cram as many days as I can with sunshine, gardening, meals taken on the patio, neglecting housework, and letting my job, the weather, and the needs of the garden determine the flow of my daylight hours.
The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years Day also suspend my normal routine as well–the menu, the decor, the social calendar all change to accommodate the holidays, plus a birthday and a wedding anniversary.
As much as I love both of these seasons, I also love a fresh beginning when they are over. Well, maybe I’m a little reluctant to let go of summer, but when I finally accept the reality of its ending, I embrace the change whole heartedly.
So what does all of this rambling have to do with confessions?
Hold on, I promise I’ll get there.
Part of my ‘Fresh Start’ has to do with this blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and one of the things that I keep coming back to is this–why do I do it? Why did I start it and what is it’s purpose?
And wonder of wonders, there actually is one. A purpose, I mean. And, it has existed from the very first post.
I write this little blog (not as often as I’d like because I am neither a very disciplined nor diligent writer) to encourage and inspire.
I write to encourage you to try recipes or foods that you’ve never tried, or thought might be to complicated to attempt; to plant something simply for the delight of watching it grow; to spark creativity in some form or another.
I write to share the things that I love in the hope that some of you will love them too, and that they will bring a bit of joy to your day.
With these things in mind, I want to share more often this year.
That, my friends, will require the addition of a little more of the aforementioned discipline and diligence. And, in order to do that, I reach the confession (of sorts).
Phew! I bet you thought I’d never get to it!
I have ‘a thing’ for cookbooks. I’ve had it almost forever. Without some sort of inner restraint, it would balloon into a full scale compulsion.
It started when I was about seventeen, and by the time I was in my late twenties, I had amassed a pretty huge number of them–all of which I devoured like novels. I treasured every one of those books–just the sight of them spilling off of the shelves or stacked on the kitchen table would bring me happiness.
When I needed to learn something, I inquired of Julia, or Fannie, or Marcella, or Laurel. There was inspiration galore within the pages of Tassajara, Moosewood, and so many others! My cookbooks always made me feel ‘at home’, no matter where I was living or what my circumstances were at the time.
And when almost every one of them–probably close to fifty or so–were destroyed in a flood, they taught me another enduring lesson; that contentment and comfort do not come from objects.
For the longest time, only the few that survived the flood (plus a couple of ‘staples’ that I replaced– live with out “Joy of Cooking”? No way!) were all that occupied the shelf.
I still loved them though, and as the years accumulated, so did the cookbooks. It took quite awhile, but gradually the collection re-grew, and they have continued to multiply. And though I have more than I could possibly wear out in two lifetimes, I am still a push-over for any glossy tome full of recipes that look and sound wonderful to eat, with a particular scarcity of restraint when it comes to French or Italian.
I know, I’m weak…
Okay, I’m done with confessing and returning to the idea of a fresh start now…
This year, I want to use my cookbooks more. Lacking a restaurant or a huge family, the best way for me to do that is to share the recipes in them with you!
Of course, doing this will require a little more discipline–not just in blog posts, but in menu making at home.
A menu will require a shopping list.
A shopping list requires a budget.
Because unlike these beauties that I just plucked off of the tree in the greenhouse,
Probably not at your house either.
All of those things though–recipes, menus, lists,spending–are part of my fresh start for the New Year, beginning with these three books that have been sitting on top of the stack, waiting patiently for the holidays to be over.
Here’s a preview of what I’m hoping to share with you in the coming weeks…
Among countless others, I’m dying to try the Grilled Polenta with Mushroom and Red Wine Ragout and the Penne Contadina from “Sonoma: A Food and Wine Lovers’ Journey” by Jennifer Barry and Robert Holmes. Oh yeah, and the Lamb Stew with Lemons and Olives.
The Braised Lamb Shoulder with Marsala and Cinnamon in Erica De Manes’ “The Flavors of Southern Italy” will be appearing soon I think.
And since I have plenty of lemons right now, the Roast lemon-garlic Chicken with Green Olives from “Seriously Simple” by Diane Rossen Worthington is a ‘must try’.
Do any of these dishes sound as wonderful to you as they do to me? Would any of those books fan a little flame of creativity in your kitchen, like they do mine? I hope so.
What is your ‘fresh start’ for 2015? (Wow, I just wrote the date for the first time–eek!) I’d love to hear your comments below!
Thanks for stopping by and reading. I hope your New Year is filled with joy, as well as good things to eat!
Cooking, baking, and working on recipes (and alas, eating) have taken a back seat to work and the garden. It probably doesn’t help much that I’m kind of an ‘all-or-nothing’ girl–whatever is my obsession du jour dwarfs whatever is not. Right now, my thoughts are all about the garden!
And cake. I think about cake a lot lately too.
Summer is definitely here–though it may rain because I have my first day off tomorrow in the last seven–so I’ll be doing battle with the little weeds that have sprouted up in my absence, along with a myriad of other garden chores and projects that I really am excited about! Of course, if it rains, I’ll have a reason to stay indoors and bake a cake.
I did manage to get some Limoncello made, though it won’t be ready for another week or two.
I’ve already thought of a cake that I want to make with it. More than one, if I’m brutally honest. And wouldn’t it be beautiful with these Nasturtiums to decorate it with?
And, oh my goodness! I just realized while writing this post, the June 13th will be my little blog’s first anniversary, and one fabulous reason to make a cake!
So, until the next post, which will probably be about cake, here are some bits of what’s going on in my garden and kitchen…
What’s happening in your world? What are you growing (or baking) that you are excited about?
Thanks so much for visiting,
Yesterday there was bright, warm sun. With it came plenty of activity (and distractions) in the garden.
And today it rains, with no let-up in sight for a few days.
I took advantage of the wet weather to run into town and pick up a few necessities. (Really what I wanted to do was bake cookies.) I’m not a fan of grocery shopping under normal circumstances, and when it’s sunny, we’re apt to run precariously low in the pantry. The house falls into neglect too, but since we’re outside, no one really notices.
When I came home, it was raining even harder. I still wanted to make cookies, but I made soup instead—our favorite Beef and Barley soup that my grandmother always made from her friend Sylvia’s cookbook.
It’s still raining.
I’m making cookies now.
Trust me. You want them.
Deep, buttery flavor. Crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle. And I don’t know exactly what’s going on when all that melty butter hits the brown sugar and blends with the white and dark chocolate, but whatever it is, it makes me forget about all the rain.
I think it’s the cinnamon.
This recipe was tucked away on one of my Pinterest boards. I guess I was saving it for a rainy day. It’s from a delightful blog called “The Café Sucre Farine” (The Sugar and Flour Café) and the author calls these “I Want to Marry You” cookies.
Now that I’ve made them, I can see why. Or, if you’re not the marrying type, I think they could be the start of a very serious relationship.
I guess you’ll just have to trust me.
Have a lovely day, even if it’s raining where you are. Remember, you can always bake cookies!
If you’re going to make these “I Want to Marry You Cookies” (Chris Scheuer; Café Sucre Farine) you’ll need:
• 1 cup butter, melted
• 1 ¼ cups brown sugar
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup uncooked rolled oats
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 cup white chocolate chips
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup coarsley chopped pecans
1. Put both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand).
2. Melt the butter completely (microwave or stovetop)
3. Pour the melted butter into the sugars and stir until mixture is blended and smooth. Chill the mixture for 10 minutes. I know you’ll be tempted to skip this step, but don’t. Trust me.
4. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, oats, soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set to the side.
5. After 10 minutes, remove sugar mixture from the fridge, and stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
6. Mix in the dry ingredients.
7. With a wooden spoon, stir in the white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, and pecans.
8. Roll by hand into medium-size balls or use a scoop, and place on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Chill on baking sheets for 30 minutes.
9. Don’t skip the chilling step this time, either.
10. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and bake for 14-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool for several minutes on pan, then transfer to cooling rack.
11. If you can, let them cool completely before you tear into them. This will give the flavors time to deepen and develop.
36-ish cookies, depending on size
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.
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.
“Raise a song of harvest home! All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin;”
I am keenly aware that I am the girl who waits impatiently for the arrival of summer, the one who can get a bit complain-y about April showers, and who frantically tries to wring the last bit of daylight out of summer’s end. Yes, it’s true–I have Pinterest boards devoted to images of sunnier climes, things that grow in those warm dryer places, and food to eat while basking in all of that summer sun. The mere sight of a warm stucco wall with a bougainvillea vine trailing over it can keep me happy all day!
On the plus side though, and one of my attributes, is that I don’t hold grudges. When the last of one season is undeniably packed up and put away, I fall in love with the next, which at the moment, is mid-autumn. In the early part of autumn, I can still persuade myself into believing that there’s still some drops of summer remaining. The sun pours warmly onto the patio more days than not, there is still the pungency of basil and tomatoes in the air, the house wine continues to be crisp and white, and we spend more time outside than the dog does.
It’s not early autumn any longer…not by a long-shot! But at the moment, I am so enthralled with November that I’m not even missing July or August one little bit. (Talk to me in February or March though—I’ll have had a change of heart by then…)
I’ve been thinking a great deal the last day or so about just what it is that makes this time seem so sweet. What came to mind was this; for me, this part of the season has a tangible peace and beauty that makes me want to stop and drink it all in…just sit for a moment and absorb everything around me until my mind and heart and soul all feel full.
In November, ‘life’ is quieter. All of the busyness of the garden, the comings and goings of the household, all of the ‘doing’ that comprises the long hours of shining sun and balmy air—all of that stops. The birds are quiet—there is no finch or sparrow song, the juncos make only their tiny ‘chit-chit’ sound as they feed, the red-wing blackbirds are gone, and the robins haven’t arrived—there is only the sound of the wild geese as they fly over each day.
There is little traffic going by on the way to the river, and everyone is driven indoors by the rain. All of the sounds of summer have given way to a different pitch and rhythm—the pop and snap of the logs in the fire place, the hum of the occasional helicopter as it lifts the harvest of Christmas trees out of the surrounding hills, the simmer of soups and sauces on the stove, and rain. Rain as it patters on the last of the jewel-toned leaves. Rain as it blows into the stove vent, sounding like little pebbles pinging against the metal pipe. Rain as it shimmers down the windows in torrents, blown by the storms coming in from the Cascade Mountains in the east, or the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Now I am no longer distracted with the outside chores. Nothing but the citrus in the greenhouse needs watering. Any weeding that didn’t get done will have to wait. There are no projects to do, nothing to plant, and nothing to prune. Anything I didn’t finish (or get to start) will be there when spring comes.
Yes, I do love summer, but there is so much to love about November as well!
I love that there is still indescribable color everywhere, and how it shines in such bright contrast against the rainy-grey softness of the landscape.
I love that there is time for reading, knitting, cooking and baking.
I love filling the bird-feeders and watching the chickadees and finches stuffing themselves on sunflower seed, while the juncos and ring neck doves clean up below them.
I love playing board games and cracking nuts in front of the fireplace, and watching football and basketball on the television with my husband.
I love thinking about the approaching holidays with the home-comings of family and the gatherings of friends.
While I am continually working at wearing gratitude as a lifestyle, and not confining it to just one month of the year, November does seem a good time to be still, and really soak in—no, revel in—all of the beautiful, wonderful, life that surrounds me. I am blessed, and hoping that all of you—my beautiful, wonderful, friends—are too.
Thank you so much for visiting! Happy November…
I know life will transition from a full-on gallop down to a jog when the weather turns finally and irrevocably to Willamette Valley Winter (Good bye Sun! See you on July 5th!!), but for now, it’s Autumn at her best!
It’s brilliantly sunny, with forget-me-not blue skies, and so much color in the landscape that it’s like living in a post card. Vineyards, vine maples, and pumpkins are set against a backdrop of fir trees and green pastures, all framed in with sunrises worth getting out of bed for, and sunsets begging to be lingered over—preferably with a glass of wine.
With this glorious weather comes, not only the urge to be outside, but also the little insistent voice in my head saying, “Get those citrus in the green house! Cut the roses back so the November winds won’t topple them! Mulch the garden! Plant the garlic—you‘re late! Pull the weeds while they’re small! And for goodness sake, CLEAN OUT THAT POTTING SHED!”
Really it’s a nagging voice, but it’s right.
I’m going to listen to it though, and begin day two of re-claiming the land. Since I have several days off from work, and the weather is forecast to be co-operative for all of those days, I will heed the insistent little voice in the hope that when Spring arrives, I will be completely ready. Plus there is the added bonus of not being guilt-ridden every time I look out of the window this winter. This means that cooking and baking (other than for maintaining the feeding and good humor of my family) are on hold for a bit, in spite of the fact that I have just been given what must be the world’s most beautiful pie plate! Currently, it sits distractingly on my kitchen counter.
So…donning gloves and pruning shears, off to the garden I go. But before I leave, here’s a taste of the week.
Enjoy the day, and thanks so much for coming by,