Tag Archives: baking

The Sunshine State?

16 Jul

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Growing up, we moved around a lot.  Every 2-4 years my family and I were packing up and relocating to a new state for my dad’s job, giving us new experiences and new fun.  Each place had its own charm; Bartlesville, OK holds great memories of walking with my mom to pet the horses at the ranch down the street.  And I’ll never forget Brahm’s – it’s still my favorite ice cream shop, and the taste of their burgers lingers in my mouth to this day.  Littleton, CO had the entire genuine western regime one may think of when cowboys ride off in the sunset.  I loved that place – even buried a penny in one of Jenn’s baby jars in the backyard with a note asking the treasure hunter to mail it back to me (I never heard anything).  When I moved out of the house on my own to the painted sky of Arizona, the rumors regarding the magic of the desert are more than true.  There may be nothing more amazingly beautiful than the desert sky (and yes, it is a DRY heat).

But there is one place that never really touched me as home.  I’m not sure why.  Somewhere in the lost cabinet of a house where odd socks and spare change and broken shoelaces go to hideout forever, is a videotape of a very memorable Thanksgiving in Houston, Texas.  We lived in a beautiful home on a cul-de-sac, with a pool and giant kitchen, with wings of the house that we could easily get lost in (which we sometimes did).  Jenn was 4, I was 11, we had recently gotten our dog, Casey, who was truly a wild-ass Texas dog that would run, run, run like a blur of brown and white lightning until we literally had to catch the animal like a greased hog-tie.

During times of naughtiness, we had a perfect “time-out” spot on the bottom step of our huge, winding staircase.  It was a place, which Jenn found herself maybe a few times, and my mom’s more-than-annoyed modulation of, “Go sit on the step!” during times of post-toddler vs. pre-pubescent sibling rivalry still rings clearly (although now it makes me laugh when I think of it).  Once during an “on the step” time, unknowingly to my mom, Jenn climbed upstairs, grabbed a pillow, blanket, and a Where’s Waldo book.  Maybe it was her 4-yr old way of Sticking it to the Mom, or maybe she really was clever enough to make her time-out experience somewhat enjoyable.  Whatever the reason, after a very prolonged period of quiet, we peeked around the kitchen corner to find Jenn’s legs stretched out the length of the step, book sleepily fallen on her chest, singing the zzz’s (a picture of this moment lies somewhere… Mom, blackmail?).

So maybe it was my I’m-so-cool-because-I’m-in-sixth-grade-so-everything-is-emo-and-everything-I-say-needs-to-have-an-“ugh”-noise-after-it phase of life, but I did NOT like Texas.  The Thanksgiving videotape, where Dad’s deep voice happily booms from behind the camera, where Mom’s smile stretches a mile as she delivers a perfectly browned turkey, where Jenn’s jibber-jabber about giving thanks for the strawberries and a giant chicken, and where we are all dressed for the occasion in the formal dining room, lends only the image of a Martha Stewart Holiday until my face comes into focus.

“Jilly! Where are you on this Thanksgiving?” Dad’s chipper voice was a decent attempt to change his daughter’s sullenness.

“Texas.” Period.  Ugh.  Sulk.

“Texas!” there’s the chipper again, “It doesn’t sound like you like this place so much, hu?”

Cue: another “duh, Dad” face.

Enter: Jenn almost standing on the table in excitement.

“Well, I live in Texas, and I think it’s Woooondderrfulll!!!!!” The exaggerated arm movements and the high-pitched, very fast talking voice that you are probably imagining out of my little sister at that moment are all true.

For a place that brings back so many clearly vivid memories, I never took to it.  I remember the GIANT bugs, and the greenbelt where Casey tripped Dad and cut up his shoulder.  I remember when I had chickenpox so badly during a 90+-degree summer with gagging humidity that the only thing that gave relief was just floating in the pool.  I remember the time where mom flipped out over a gecko and chopped off its tail and the tail flipped around wildly which made her scream even more, so the terrified (I’m sure) tailless gecko scampered into the scale which made the scale end up tossed into the backyard.

And I remember the thunderstorms.  The everyday cracking, pouring, God was power washing the Earth, thunderstorms.

I think all the moving of my youth kind of primed me for this military lifestyle.  As we are now in Florida, I find myself making new memories, cooking new foods, and trying to experience all we can in the short three years we will be here.  But for some reason, Houston keeps percolating in my mind – little blump, blump, blumps of familiar feelings, images, and scents.  Florida is reminding me, more and more, of Houston.

And I like it.

The icing on the cake is the thunderstorms.  Everyday we wake up to bright, goldenrod sunshine pouring in our bedroom windows, but as sure as the rooster roosts, by noon it’s pouring.  At first we were worried about Sig and his reaction to the smack-you-with-a-two-by-four thunder, but our super laid back, Owen Wilson (if he could talk), Oregonian dog did nothing more than raise his head to the noise.  Huh.  That was new.  Yawn.  I’m sure everything is fine.  But I hope it stops raining before I have to poop again.  Sigh.  Stretch.  Sleep.

Since I have been holding the house down these last few weeks as Rob becomes accustomed to his new job and schedule with the Coast Guard, I have felt it is my duty to make this house a home, especially in a place that feels so different to him from Oregon.  Meanwhile, I’m realizing my ease in the transition is that his place feels so familiar to me.

One thing that I know is Rob loves a cookie.  Especially one with chocolate chips, or, if he’s really lucky, the M&M ones Meagan bakes back in Oregon.  Personally, I feel there is something so comforting (and a little naughty) about having a cookie for breakfast, so in an effort to truly make this house feel – and smell – like a home, cookies, albeit somewhat nutritious in my book, needed to be baked (I waited for a daily thunderstorm, so at least having the oven on during the Southern summer felt validated).

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Thus, the Honey Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies were invented.  They are little old-fashioned, two-spoon drop cookies of oat-y goodness, just sweet enough to be a cookie to return to over and over again.  Hearing the, “Babe, it smells good!” as Rob came home made me just as happy to know he was going to enjoy eating them.  Cookies help make a house a home.

So, as I’m coming to the realization that our Sunshine State is really a quite rainy one, it’s ok.  Thanks to Oregon, we are used to the rain.  Thanks to Houston, I’m used to the storms.  And thanks to the Coast Guard, we’ve got many more memories ahead of us.

Enjoy the cookies – preferably on a rainy day.  🙂

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Honey Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 30 small cookies)

  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • ½  c quinoa flour (this adds a nice balance to the sweetness of the honey, as well as some protein – again, great for breakfast)
  • ¾ c old fashioned oats
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick room temperature, unsalted butter
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c good honey (preferably local – it naturally helps with allergies)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ c mini chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)
  • *optional: sea salt, or Maldon salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients, minus the chocolate chips, in a bowl, whisking until combined. 

In a mixer (or using a hand-mixer), cream the butter and brown sugar together until just combined.  Add in the eggs, honey, and vanilla and mix to combine.  Scrape down the edge of the bowl, and in thirds, mix in the dry ingredients.  Once all combined, mix in the mini chocolate chips. 

Using two regular kitchen teaspoons, scoop the dough onto the lined baking sheet, leaving a bit of room for slight spreading.  I fit about 15 cookies on one baking sheet. 

NOTE: If using sea salt or Maldon salt, sprinkle the cookies with just a pinch of salt 3 minutes AFTER they have gone into the oven.  The salt really does add quite a nice, delicate touch to the sweet bites.

Bake for 10-13 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown, and the tops feel firm.  Place on a cooling rack, and enjoy when your taste buds can’t handle it anymore.  And your house will smell just lovely.

Enjoy! 

An I Love Lucy Moment

16 Aug

Right here:

Yep, the bottom gave out on one of the 10-pound flat of blueberries we picked last week, leaving what could have been Sig’s dream come true.  After the spillage, in one quick motion, Rob scooped up the blueberry-loving pup in one arm (who was more then well-aware of what just happened, and quickly thought he could possibly “help”), grabbed the kitchen camera with the other, all the while giggling like a little school girl waking up Christmas morning.  Luckily, I was wearing black shorts.

There were berries under the couch, under the TV stand, not to mention on us.  Our hands and nails were stained a dark purple half-way through the clean-up, until Rob got the, dare I say brilliant, idea to use pancake spatulas to scoop up the massive amount of rogue fruit.  It worked, although, I’m sure it was quite a sight: two grown adults on hands and knees, butts in the air, scooping up everywhere-blueberries with black spatulas, doggie outside whining at having been demoted to a spectator behind the screen door.  We were able to clean up the blueberries without squishing too many (although the Lucy and Ethel grape-stomping scene was vividly on repeat in my head).  And those that did not survive the fall, or the feet, Sig happily partook.

While I do not recommend eating many fruits off the floor, I figure if you boil something long enough, all the germs are bound to die, right?  Luckily, I still had some frozen blueberries that needed a “preserved” home, so I quickly got to canning my blueberry sauce, making room in the freezer for the new batch of living-room-floor-berries.

The blueberry sauce can pair with everything.  Seriously.  It is the seen-on-tv-type sauce when it comes to versatility.  Because it is not sweet, just perfectly blueberry-y, oatmeal, ice cream, chicken, steak, and mixed into a vinaigrette have all been viable (and delicious) options.  But my new favorite was this morning’s meal: Rosemary Chia Banana Bread paired with the Blueberry Sauce.  Simple, summery, light, healthy, and delicious.  Chia seeds are similar to flax seeds, and are a huge staple in the supplemental health department.  The Rosemary combined with the banana gives the bread a very earthy taste.  It’s probably my new favorite breakfast bread.  Adding the rich, tangy, blueberry sauce make this morning a far cry from yesterday’s debacle (much to Sig’s dismay).  Nothing yet has spilled today, but, it’s still early – haven’t even begun preparing dinner!

Rosemary Chia Banana Bread (makes one loaf) 

  • 1 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/8 c chia seeds (flax seeds are a good substitute) 
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 8 oz plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 overripe (black) bananas that have been frozen, then thawed, then peeled (keep any liquid) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Lightly butter and flour a loaf pan, and set aside. 

Mix all the dry ingredients (including the rosemary), minus the sugar, in a large bowl, and set aside.  In a stand (or hand) mixer, cream the yogurt, vanilla extract, and sugar together until creamy.  In three separate batches, mix the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until dry ingredients are just incorporated each time.  Add the thawed bananas and all the liquid from thawing the frozen overripe fruit.  This will add a ton of flavor, as well as create moist bread.  

Once the bananas are incorporated, pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the bread is golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  

Cool, and enjoy with blueberry sauce! 

Blueberry Sauce (makes 3 pints) 

  • 1 gallon frozen blueberries (equals about 16 cups) 
  • zest of one lemon 
  • juice from two lemons 
  • 3 tbsp confectioners sugar 
  • 3-finger pinch of salt

Pour all ingredients into a large pot, and heat over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble and starts to foam.  Spoon off the foamy top layer, and lower the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.  You will know the sauce is done when the bubbles become gloppy, and the mixture coats a spoon.  There will still be chunks of blueberries in the mixture, which gives the sauce a nice texture.  It should taste like true blueberries – not jammy, or overly sweet.  Just blue.    

Follow an approved canning/preserving method, or keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a few weeks.   

Enjoy!  

They’re Baaaaack!

15 Apr

One of the first things I learned in foraging on the Oregon Coast is that Banana Slugs are delicious.  Might I clarify learned, as in, someone told me so.  My pleasantly surprised, “Oh, I have so many of those in my backyard!” statement lead to the thankful explanation that the backyard ones should NOT be eaten.  Those slugs live off poop.

Needless to say, I have not delved into the wonderful world of Gastropods.

Figures, since Sig donates his fair share of excrement to the earth, and waiting for the sun to dry the ground just enough to collect his donations hasn’t happened, since, well, pigs flew around dropping the money that grew on their barnyard trees.  Thus, the slugs are back!  They kill my rosemary plants every year, wrapping their black, slimy, squidgy bodies up and around the very top branch, leaving not one little pine leaf unslithered.  Blech.  And now they have taken a liking to little Siglet, attaching themselves to his furry shorts every chance they get (maybe to get closer to their food source?).  There’s nothing like the comfort of walking around the house barefoot, until you step on a slug.  Squish.

There are many home remedies for slug removal, the most common being beer.  Can’t you just picture it: good ol’ drunk, fat slugs having their own little frat party until they pass out?  (Don’t worry – no hazing involved.  These are civilized slugs.)  And normally, I’d be all for the drunken explosion of herb destroying slimy bugs, but there’s a big problem: Sig. Loves. Beer.  We’d have dead slugs and a slurring Sig.

So in honor of the fact that I can’t kill the slugs, and Sig can’t have the beer, and Rob is underway and is not allowed to have beer, I decided to make a tasty pub concoction: Honey Oat Beer Bread.  Toasted with a slather of Orange Butter and you’ve got a treat that any person, or slug, or Sig for that matter, would enjoy.

A Caution Tested Through Experience: This bread will make your house smell heavenly while baking.  But, like most breads, it’s best after having cooled quite a bit.  So, have a hanky ready (to wipe the ensuing drool) and consume yourself with a good book to avoid scalding your mouth.

Honey Oat Beer Bread with Mandarin Butter (makes 1 loaf) 

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 c 5-grain oats, plus more for sprinkling on top (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand) 
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 + 1/8 c honey
  • 1 bottle good flavorful beer 

Mandarin Butter 

  • 1 stick room temperature butter 
  • 2 mandarin oranges, zest and juice 
  • sprinkle of fine sea salt 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To make the butter, using a small spatula, mix all ingredients together until incorporated.  Taste for seasoning.  When mixed, spoon onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and mold into a log.  Put in the fridge to harden.

For the bread, mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add 7 tbsp of the melted butter, the honey (tip: it pours and mixes better when warmed; just heat for about 15 seconds in the microwave), and slowly pour in the bottle of beer.  With a heavy whisk, mix together until just combined.  The dough should be loose, but thick.

Pour into a prepared greased and flour-dusted loaf pan.  Top with a sprinkling of oats, and then drizzle with the last tbsp of melted butter.

Bake until golden and when a took pick is inserted, it comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Let the bread cool, then spread a dollop of Mandarin Butter on top.

Enjoy!

 

 

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