Tag Archives: chocolate

Vacation Album: Ft. Bragg to Sea Ranch

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Looking at the mouth of the Noyo River just south of Ft. Bragg on my morning walk. State Route 1 crosses over above the river.

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Businesses along the wharf have beautiful (and often humorous) signs.

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“No phone, no TV, No WIFI. No problem. You are on vacation.”

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I thought of you, Ariel.

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Hiking up the hill to our motel I looked down at the wharf and harbor it was very peaceful.

After a bit of sunny weather in the Ft. Bragg area, going south to Sea Ranch we found it grey and foggy.

Nearly every day for the rest of our vacation was cool and grey.  Here are some pictures from Sea Ranch where we were joined by first my mom and Molly, and then my sister Kathleen.

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Abalone divers getting ready to go into the water.

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Low Tide on Walk On Beach.

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Gooseneck barnacles and mussels on the rocks.

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Rem and I made a cake to continue his birthday celebration: Double Chocolate Layer Cake from Smitten Kitchen.

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The cake pans were a little smaller than called for, so we made a few cupcakes too.

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I decorated the cake with nasturtiums.

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The sun came out on the day we were leaving.  My mom, Kathleen, Molly and I walked at Gualala Point and down on the beach.

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There was still a little finger of fog over Gualala.

It was time to pack up and get ready for our drive home after a wonderful vacation.

Thanks for your visit.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a guest blog entry. Today’s guest blogger is Rem. Rem will wash any animal, any size for only $19.95. So if you have a huge pet, let’s say an elephant, you win!

 

I decided to bake cookies this morning and Dianne suggested I do a guest blogger entry. So here is my story about these delicious chocolate chip cookies.

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I decided to make cookies for Dianne’s family Easter brunch. I first made these cookies a couple of weeks ago but I don’t remember why. Then again I’m not bothered as ever since I landed on my head I forget a lot. So it doesn’t matter why I made them but that I made them and people liked them.

I found the recipe on Martha Stewart’s website. I was surprised to see her as one of the guests Roast of Justin Bieber. Did anyone else see it? Man did he get dragged over the coals! I can’t imagine a more deserving person. You could even make cookies while laughing and watching it.

So I was looking for a soft chocolate chip cookie recipe and found this one. I discovered it wasn’t far off from the Nestle’ Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe.

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The chocolate chip cookie ingredients.

The batter goes together quickly. I made sure to add the flour with baking soda mixture gradually into the butter, sugar and eggs mixture. I also added the chocolate chips gradually into the dough.

Gradually add the flour into the dough.

Gradually add the flour and mix into the dough.

Add the chocolate chips. Taste testing is encouraged.

Add the chocolate chips gradually. Taste testing is encouraged.

Ghirardelli chocolate, a San Francisco food!

Ghirardelli chocolate, a San Francisco food!

The recipe directions says to, “drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about two inches apart.” I found that size to make cookies too big for my liking. The 15 large cookies it yielded needed to be baked longer than the directed eight to 10 minutes.

Chocolate chip cookie dough awaiting baking.

Chocolate chip cookie dough awaiting baking.

Allow plenty of space between cookies so they do not touch when done baking.

Allow plenty of space between cookies so they do not touch when done baking.

Tasty cookies but too large for my liking.

Tasty cookies but too large for my liking.

The second tray of cookies were slightly smaller and the third sheet made 25 cookies which I thought was the right size to pop in your mouth and have a drink of milk.

Take the cookies out once the edges are golden brown.

Take the cookies out once the edges are golden brown.

The dough is pretty addictive so the amount of cookies made will depend both on the size of the cookies as well as how much dough you eat.

If you make these cookies, post a note and share how they came out.

Happy cookie dough

Happy face cookie dough. Who says you can’t play with your food?

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Walking Sea Ranch & Turning 55

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I’ve celebrated another birthday at Sea Ranch and so far 55 agrees with me. Yes, I’m falling apart…

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…but slowly.

I managed a zipline course just days before my birthday which included both fear and fun in exhilarating measures.

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I decided to walk the length of the Sea Ranch bluff trail while on vacation, something Rem suggested and reminded me I’d done a few years ago. With my Fitbit I could log my steps and mileage and Rem agreed to drop me off and pick me so I wouldn’t have to backtrack. It is a beautiful way to experience the coast.

Sunday, March 1

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Walking north from the Sea Ranch Lodge on the first day I soaked in the gorgeous ocean views, the soothing sound of the waves, and the familiar smell of salt air and sage-like plants along the trail.

The trails here often seem like something out of a fairy tale, with bridges crossing small creeks, tunnels formed from wild hedges and seals barking on the rocks and in the water below the bluff.

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Rem and I weren’t sure our cellphones would work so I’d picked a spot to meet about 4 miles up the coast, where a short trail linked the bluff and the end of the aptly named (and currently blooming) Wild Iris street, near the White Barn.

Distance: 4.21 miles. Steps: 8,600.

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That afternoon, Rem and I baked my birthday cake, using the recipe I’d previously made as cupcakes: Chocolate Cake with Guinness. I remembered it being a delicious, moist cupcake, not too sweet, with a deep chocolate flavor and a slight earthy quality from the stout.

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Monday, March 2

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We started my birthday by driving down to Shell Beach (the beach closest to the house) to watch the sunrise. Low clouds thwarted that idea but once up and out, I decided to walk south from Shell Beach to meet up with where I’d ended the day before, Wild Iris. There are numbered trail posts that help to match your location with the map, though they don’t indicate distance, which is too bad.

Rem headed back up to the house and I headed down the coast for the first of two walks that day.

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Walking along I enjoyed some of the Sea Ranch architecture. Houses are in shades of grey and brown, like driftwood. From the street side, this one is tucked down into a berm and the grassy roof helps it to blend into the surrounding landscape.

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From the side you see skylights and the grass roof.

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From the ocean side it looks more conventional, with more skylights and plenty of windows to enjoy the view.

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Another house reminded me of photos I’ve seen of African rondavels.

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This house has a wall that is almost all glass. A little greenhouse-type structure in the corner protects the hot tub from chilly coastal winds while retaining the view.

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Once again, Rem and I met at Wild Iris. Back at the house I made one of my favorite breakfasts: a fried egg sandwich with bacon on a toasted English muffin, and Rem gave me the birthday card he’d made.

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Cheeky. But he can get away with it since 1. I love that he makes me laugh and 2. He gave me a spa day at Imperial Spa  in San Francisco for my gift.

Sitting in the window seat reading and crocheting on my very-slow-growing scarf was an important part of my morning.

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…as was putting together my birthday cake. I split the two cake layers to make four thin ones and layered them together with semi-sweet chocolate ganache.

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Buttercream frosting with instant espresso powder was the finishing touch. I did a crumb coat (thin layer of frosting to keep the crumbs in place), let it sit in the fridge a bit before swirling on a ridiculous amount of frosting. The leftovers went into the fridge to eat sandwiched between graham crackers.

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After lunch (open faced tuna melt with Swiss cheese), I went on the next bit of my walk. I started at the trail head by Shell Beach and headed north again.

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Rem and I met at the corner of Tide Pool and Sea Drift, not far from the Del Mar Center.

Distance: 4.73 miles. Steps: 10,728.

I brought The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman along on the trip and picked out “Flat Roasted Chicken” for my birthday dinner but instead of the tiny potatoes she fixed with it, I’d been wanting to make hand cut pasta for ages. So we did! I’ll write another post soon with more details on the spatchcocked chicken and fresh herb pasta. Suffice to say, it was a red-letter day dinner.

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It was ambitious and we were both tired after the busy day, but it was fun cooking together and both dinner and dessert were delicious. Rem surprised me with another gift certificate (for art supplies) and we finished the day with a soak in the hot tub.

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Tuesday, March 3

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Walking north from the spot I reached on Monday, I noticed the different textures of the landscape I was passing through.

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The views are often breathtaking and the path continued to unfurl like a story, hiding then revealing portions as I walked.

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I passed one of my favorite Sea Ranch homes, one whose interior I’d love to see, as well as others that caught my eye for their charm or quirky design.

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This huge play fort is carved out of trees and hedges and is large enough for me to stand in without stooping.

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For the 50th Anniversary of The Sea Ranch, historical trail markers such as this one have been added alongside the path.

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Although it isn’t part of The Sea Ranch, I wouldn’t consider this bluff-trail walk complete without a coda: the portion in Gualala Point County Park. I gave a small mental cheer when I passed the last numbered trail post, but continued on.

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I thought of my dad along this last section, remembering one summer when we both had our bikes at the house. We rode at different times of day, and would leave small offerings for each other at the last sign on the path just before reaching the beach. A pine cone or two stacked pebbles would be arranged for the other person to find on their next ride.

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I looked for pebbles to leave and thought about all the feathers I’ve found since he died. I hadn’t seen any feathers on the bluff, although until then I hadn’t been looking for them, and thought it would be nice to find at least one small feather.

Sure enough, I found just that: a tiny white bit of down, about the size of my thumbnail. I kept looking and found a second and then third itty bitty little feather. It made me laugh because if you asked my dad for a small portion at a meal, he would dish up about a teaspoon of lasagna or a single strand of spaghetti. Somehow, those three tiny feathers made me think he was saying, “One small feather? Here you go, is this small enough?”

Coming to the last curve, I took in the last gorgeous views.

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I found several small pebbles and left them at the sign by the beach.

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Walking back to where I was meeting Rem I saw several clusters of daffodils I’d missed before. We have daffodils blooming at home in San Rafael in two planter boxes on our patio. There are also daffodils in bloom in front of the Sea Ranch house and many other homes here, which makes me happy because they always remind me of my birthday.

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Distance: 4.66 miles. Steps: 10,323. (The extra part, in Gualala Point County Park, was 1.46 miles and 7,011 steps, which is reflected in my total distance).

This walk felt like a gift to myself that I unwrapped as I walked along.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Bad Day/Good Cookies

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Tuesday, January 20th, was the first day of the spring semester at College of Marin, where I work.  It is usually a very busy, stressful time with classes getting changed, students getting lost, and a good amount of panic, misunderstanding and poor communication.  By Friday, all I wanted to do was eat peanut butter and chocolate. For dinner.

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I know I ate something more sensible than that, though I don’t remember now what it was.  What I do remember is the cookies I baked after dinner. I’d enjoyed them at my friend Maria’s house on the Monday Martin Luther King holiday when we were crafting Valentine’s with her daughters and remembered their rich, crumbly peanut buttery goodness, loaded with chocolate chips.  Happily, Maria had the recipe on her phone and sent it promptly.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found it a little strange that Maria’s recipe came from King Arthur Flour and it is a no-flour recipe. It doesn’t matter though, because this recipe makes a wonderful cookie and I certainly didn’t miss the flour.

No-Flour Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

From King Arthur Flour (and Maria)

Ingredients:

1 cup smooth peanut butter (I didn’t have enough smooth peanut butter so used part creamy and part crunchy and they were delicious)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chocolate chips (when I made them, I used a generous hand with the chocolate chips and felt it was a little too much chocolate for the peanut butter, so next time I’ll stick with the recipe as written)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the peanut butter, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl and beat together with a mixer at medium speed, until well-blended.

Add the egg and vanilla, and blend on low-medium speed until incorporated.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop dough by rounded tablespoons (use a tablespoon cookie scoop if you have one – I don’t and just used a soup spoon), making them about the size of a walnut.

NOTE: I used natural peanut butter which the King Arthur site warned against as it makes a more dry, crumbly cookie.  The dough was very crumbly but I could scoop it with a spoon, gathering the crumbly dough and roll it in my hands to make balls.

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Press the top of the dough to flatten just slightly.  I forgot to take a picture until they were already in the oven but I didn’t press them down much.

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Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool right on the pan. The tops should be slightly crinkled. Pull them out before they begin to brown on the edges.

Yield: 20 cookies.

Less than a minute until the cookies are done.!

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I know that eating cookies isn’t the answer to stressful situations. I was also walking my 10,000 steps every day and I’m not going to get worked up about baking a batch of 20 or so cookies.

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Thanks for your visit. Here’s to good cookies AND good days.

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O Henry Bars (Two Ways)

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I saw these bars mentioned on a friend’s Facebook status.  Andy had baked a batch using her friend Leanne’s recipe which turned out to be the recipe of Leanne’s cousin, Megan! It is an oatmeal bar topped with a combination of peanut butter and chocolate. They are pretty easy to make and they are delicious.  The recipe looked like the best one of many I saw online and once I made a batch I didn’t need to try any others.

They would make a wonderful, sweet Valentine for someone special.  The first time I cut them into average brownie-sized bars and when I made them again, I cut them smaller, more like a piece of fudge.  They’re very rich and the small size makes them less guilt-inducing.  I also put them in candy papers for giving.

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Rem and I make holiday treats for our neighbors after Christmas and one family is vegan. I read a few articles and blog posts about replacing butter with an equal measure of extra virgin coconut oil. By subbing coconut oil for the butter, this recipe worked beautifully.  The oil adds a mild coconut flavor that works well with the other ingredients.  I found organic, extra virgin coconut oil at Trader Joe’s.

Here is my slightly adapted recipe:

O Henry Bars

Ingredients

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Bars:

2/3 cup softened butter * (1 stick + 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup (I had light corn syrup in the cupboard and used it, but I think dark corn syrup would work fine too)

1 tablespoon vanilla

4 cups rolled oats (I’ve made it successfully with quick oats)

Topping:

6 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

pinch of salt, optional (I use unsalted peanut butter and thought the salt helped balance the sweetness in the bar)

* You can substitute 2/3 cup of extra virgin coconut oil for the butter.

Directions:

Set oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Beat together butter and sugar until well-combined and creamy.  Beat in corn syrup and vanilla.

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Stir in oats.

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Press mixture into a well-buttered (or sprayed with non-stick spray) baking dish.  I used a glass 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish but it could be a little larger and still work, just watch the baking time because it will be thinner.

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Bake 12 to 15 minutes – err on the side of underdone rather than overdone.  I found that I slightly over-baked the pan with the coconut oil and they were a real challenge to get out of the pan.  Delicious but I learned that I should have taken them from the oven sooner.

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This picture is the butter version and it looks a little gooey and soft still.  The coconut oil version was more toasty and dry looking.

Let bars cool in baking dish.

Once they’re cooled, make the topping: in a medium/small, microwave-safe bowl combine the chocolate chips and peanut butter, and salt, if using.

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Heat on high in microwave for 1 minute, remove from microwave and stir.

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Continue to heat for 15 second intervals, stirring after each, until chocolate and peanut butter are melted and you can stir them together into a smooth mixture.

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Spread chocolate-peanut butter mixture on oat bars.

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Chill until set before cutting.

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Store in a airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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A Visit to Pinterest HQ

Welcome to Pinterest

After our morning walk (in a steady drizzle), my sister Kathleen and I went to #38 Makers Show at Pinterest Headquarters on Saturday.  I was delighted to see their space, and attending a Pinterest-curated craft fair of SFMade vendors was also pretty cool.

The weather had cleared up by the time we got into the city.  There was a line outside the brick warehouse in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood.

One end of line Getting closer

Although it wrapped around the corner, it was moving fairly steadily.  As we chatted in the sunshine, a staffer brought around a tray of cookies and pointed out cider at a nearby table so the wait was really pretty nice.

Autumn Cookies

Once we got inside, there was music playing in the large, industrial space.  A buffet table was loaded with delicious snacks for munching, and there were interesting things to look at in every direction.

A large blue assemblage to one side served as both a room divider and artwork.  It reminded me of “It’s A Small World” at Disneyland.

Blue Room divider

More blue

We stopped for a nibble before checking out the vendors.

Menu

Just for fun I had scribbled out a “Pinterest Bingo” card for each of us. I made a list of items that I thought we might see at a Pinterest event.  Kathleen rolled her eyes a bit but went along with my silliness.  We saw infinity scarf and Mason jars before we even got inside!  Other items I was able to cross off were fingerless gloves, ampersand, chevron pattern and cake platter.  We didn’t see spray-painted plastic animals, something felted,  something Steampunk, tissue paper or washi tape.

This is a wall with pictures of some of the original pinners on Pinterest.

Wall of users

I decided not to take pictures of the crafts because it was crowded and a little tricky to get good quality photos, which they all deserve.

Here are links to some of the sites of makers that had products that caught my eye.

3 Fish Studios – I love the graphic of the bear hugging the state of California.

BikeWrappers – Reflective, protective, decorative wraps for your bike frame.

b-spired – Greeting cards made from laser cut wood.  They also had some wooden bow ties, laser cut ornaments and cute old-fashioned toolboxes.

DDCC – Dirty Diana’s Clean Clothing – Beautiful active wear for women. “Live clean. Get Dirty.”

Drywell Art – Quirky artwork for eaters and drinkers – lots of diagrams and charts.

Hilside Bags – Zippered bags in tons of fabrics and many different sizes, with oilcloth lining.  You can do custom-order at her website and choose the exterior fabric, interior oilcloth lining and color zipper or choose an exterior and let the designer choose the others for a more economical option.

Kika’s Treats – Locally sourced sweet treats, like the delicious caramelized graham crackers dipped in chocolate, with alternative sweeteners, no white sugar or corn syrup.

note*ify – City-inspired cards and other paper products.

Poco Dolce – Delicious gourmet chocolates

Richshaw Bagworks – I was tempted by their graphic Golden Gate Bridge tote bag and at their website found cool customizable backpacks, messenger bags and other bags and totes.

Sharon Zimmerman Jewelry Design – Modern jewelry with interesting organic shapes.

Urban FarmGirls – Gorgeous living wreaths with grapevines and succulents.  Garden and plant design.

Usagi Team – Bow ties for the well-dressed pet.  Some with shirt collars, some without.

Wildebeest – Pet leashes, collars, harnesses, and my favorite, the “meadow” pet rug.

There was something for everyone, including this pup.

Golden

The show was set up in the wide open first floor cafe space.  Office areas and the stairs were cordoned off, but there was plenty to see.

Ready Steady Go

DIY

How about this office desk…

Office Desk

made from a car?

made from a car

harassment Nothing GoodBoring Shit

Pinterest offices are pinned on a full wall-sized world map – this just shows the a portion.

Map

Conference Rooms are named after Pinterest trends (is Kale available?  OK, let’s meet in Ombre then).  And if you want to meditate or nap, just slip into the Quiet Room.

Shhhh

A stacked suitcase/plant stand.

Plant stand

How about a Lego wall?

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As we left, we got a freebie: Pinterest artists were silk screening posters on the spot and giving them away.

38 Makers Poster

SFMade is holding a holiday gift fair on December 13 & 14 but it won’t be at Pinterest.  It is at Fort Mason Center, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and it is free entry.

We stopped by the San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart and though we saw some beautiful flowers, Kathleen just bought one succulent.

Succulent

I’m sure it would have been bustling in the early morning on a week day but it was fairly quiet on this weekend afternoon.

Pink & White

Purple

For more photos of the Pinterest Offices, check out this BuzzFeed article.

Thank you for your visit.

Bay Leaf Pepper Berry Wreath

 

 

 

 

 

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt

Scoop of Chocolate PB Yogurt

It turns out the reason I was feeling so draggy was because I was fighting an infection.  I had a cracked tooth that couldn’t be saved so it was pulled AND (there is a connection here) so I have to eat soft foods!

It hasn’t exactly been a fun week.  I’m not sleeping well.  I have what feels like a huge hole in my mouth.  But everyone has been kind and caring and done their very best to take good care of me.  I am really a huge dental coward and have had a few negative experiences at the dentist in the past.  Some of my teeth are just bad.  Like – they probably shop-lift and litter and I’m sure some of them smoke out behind the bleachers.

It took a real effort on my part to take myself to the office of the endodontist for a consult.  And to learn I would not be having a retreat of a root canal (that my own dentist had termed “really difficult, I wouldn’t touch it”) but instead would need to have the problem tooth extracted was both a relief and something else to be anxious about.  However, I was sent to an oral surgeon right away that afternoon.  I picked up Rem on the way for support and to drive home after, the deed was done in fairly short order, and I was asleep for the procedure.  That helped a LOT!

Anyway, the silver lining is that eating ice cream is expected and even encouraged after such an experience.  And this recipe uses Greek Yogurt and peanut butter so it is full of protein. So the day after the procedure, Rem went to the store to pick up the ingredients, and we made it together.

I found this recipe at Tasty Kitchen then followed the link back to Alaska From Scratch who adapted it from Martha Stewart.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt

Barely Adapted from Alaska From Scratch

Ingredients:

14 oz. sweetened, condensed milk

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups plain Greek  yogurt (I love Fage brand, and used the 2%)

1 cup milk (ours is 2%)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
Directions:
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) beat together the sweetened, condensed milk, peanut butter, vanilla and salt until smooth.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk and cocoa powder until well combined.   (I confess, I didn’t try this but my cocoa went in and made a bunch of lumps, so I ended up putting the mixture through a sieve – I hope this will save that step).
With mixer on low, add the cocoa mixture to the peanut butter mixture until combined.
Scrape the mixture into the bowl of your ice cream maker and process until frozen, about 20 minutes.
Out of the Ice Cream Maker
When it comes out of the ice cream maker, it will be a lovely soft-serve kind of soft.  On a warm evening, it will melt quickly.
Two Melty Dishes
It is also very dense and rich.  I might try this recipe without the cocoa powder.  I’ll let you know if I do.
It freezes up fairly hard so allow a few minutes to soften before scooping.
Scoop, Spoon, Go
Thanks for checking out this recipe.

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Easter Ideas

Egg Shape Chocolate

Beautiful soap mold used for Chocolate Nutella Fudge – pretty and delicious for Easter.

Filling Blue Egg

Basket of Eggs

Cracked!

Crack-Me Eggs: blown eggs, dyed, filled with candy.  Crack open to get the goodies.

Washi Tape Easter Egg

Quick and easy Washi Tape Easter Eggs: cover blown eggs (or kraft paper eggs) with torn pieces of washi tape.

Muffin Cup Quiche

Muffin Cup Quiche will use up some eggs (if you’ve been blowing eggs to decorate the shells).  They’re also delicious!

Beautiful Hat Card

I designed this hat-shaped card with paper roses for Mother’s Day but wouldn’t it be a lovely Easter Bonnet?

Thank you for stopping by.

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Art from the Heart 2013

Bullseye

Rem and I exchanged our annual Art from the Heart Valentine projects.

Read more about this tradition that we started about 11 or 12 years ago here with pictures of many previous creations.  See the 2012 heart-art here.

I had my idea but didn’t start on it until the Sunday before Valentine’s Day.  Luckily it came together fairly well.  My original idea was simply a dartboard with a heart in the center or maybe I should call it a heart-board.

Heart-Board

Rem listens to some British radio shows and I heard a chat about darts one day and that got the seed of an idea planted. I picked up some cork tiles and wire and looked up images of dartboards.

This isn’t meant for real games of darts but I wanted to capture the look of a genuine dartboard.  It is a little less than 12 inches across (the size of our dinner plates, one of which proved handy for tracing a large circle).

I hadn’t planned on making a dart but when the board was done I realized it needed one to hit the bullseye.

Dart in Heart

Half of a bamboo chopstick, wire for the point with washi tape and some gold embossing powder for decoration and red paper hearts for the flight – or what I thought of as the feathers at the back end and I had a dart.

Wire numbers and letters spell out the date and my simple message.

Love letters in wire

I asked Rem about his creation, which he calls the Love Shack.

Love Shack

He was inspired by some aluminum loaf pans we have in the cupboard and he thought of making a little house.

Looking Down on Love Shack

Rem wanted a larger surface to work with than the loaf pans and found disposable aluminum cookie sheets at the grocery store.  He liked the textured surface.

A small heart punch (he knows his way around my craft desk) worked well for windows with red and pink paper glued on the inside of the shack.

Open Door, Heart Windows

He devised a series of tabs and slots to hold the folded foil house together.

Folded Foil House

Both of us spent hours on these creations which will be added to the walls on either side of the bed.  Some of the projects over the years didn’t lend themselves to being on a wall, but many are there.

Creations I’ve made for Rem are on his side.

Rem's Side

And the ones he’s made for me are on my side.

Dianne's side

Rem also made dinner for Valentine’s Day using a recipe from the cookbook I gave him for Christmas, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, The Basics.  We had Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli (delicious.)

He surprised me with deep, dark chocolate brownies for dessert, also from the cookbook, and homemade vanilla ice cream.

Heart Shaped Pan of Brownies

Warm, gooey and really chocolatey.

Warm Brownie & Ice Cream

Which is directly related to my decision to trot trudge up and down these stairs Saturday morning.

Larkspur Stairs

Oh, we also made cards for each other.

Big Red Heart

Photobooth Valentine

I used a strip of pictures from a photo booth we visited at the Groundspeak offices in Seattle while we were on vacation last fall.

Thanks for the visit.

 

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Chocolate Nutella Fudge & Truffles

Chocolate's for Valentine's Day

I love chocolate.  And what is Valentine’s Day if not a reason for sharing and eating chocolate?  I also love all my reader’s, so I’m sharing this delicious recipe with you so you can make it and share it with your loved ones for Valentine’s Day.  Yes, yourself, friends, co-workers, and neighbors all qualify when it comes to sharing chocolate.

I saw the recipe here on Rachael Phillips self-named blog.  I made a batch at Christmas time but didn’t take any pictures.  I also had the idea of making it into little hearts or rolling it into balls for truffles and decided I would have to try them both to show you.  Both worked out, to a degree.

Fudge Hearts

Although I titled this post “Chocolate Nutella Fudge”, I’ve also made it with Cocoa Almond Spread from Trader Joe’s.  Both are very good but I think I prefer the Nutella version.  This is really creamy, delicious fudge.  It is on the soft side so needs some time in the fridge to set up.

Chocolate Nutella Fudge

Adapted from Rachael Phillips

Fudge Ingredients

Note: The recipe for the truffles is the same as for the fudge – it just depends how you mold, cut, or scoop and roll the finished product. Truffle details follow.

Ingredients:

14 oz. container sweetened condensed milk

1 cup Nutella or Cocoa Almond Spread

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

5 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla (not pictured above because I forgot to get it out)

Optional for decorating fudge hearts:

Colored Sanding Sugar

Cocoa Powder

For Truffles:

grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

Cocoa Powder for coating

Directions:

I read several recipes, including the one on Rachael Phillips, that suggest using a double-boiler (or creating with a bowl over simmering water in a saucepan) for this recipe.  You can do that.   I’ve had good luck using my microwave when melting chocolate.  If you use the microwave, use in short bursts of time and check it frequently.

Either way, you need to combine the ingredients and heat them gently until the chocolate chips are melted and the whole mixture is combined into a smooth, velvety bowl of chocolatey wonderfulness.

For the microwave version, I use a large microwave-safe bowl and dump in all the ingredients.  I meant to add the vanilla at the end but forgot and put it in with everything else. I cut the butter into chunks.

Heat on 50% power for 1 minute than stir.  At first it’s kind of a mess:

Melty Mess

The butter is partially melted, the chocolate is getting soft but isn’t really ready.  Give it a stir and then back into the microwave for another minute on 50% power.  Your microwave is very likely different than mine.  After 2 minutes at 50% power, reduce your cooking times to no more than 30 seconds at 5o% power before checking it and stirring it.

This is starting to look better:

Still Grainy

But when you lift the spoon, you can see it’s still got un-melted bits of chocolate and it looks kind of gritty.

Spoon of Melty Chocolate

But a little more time and a few good stirs and it comes together into this smooth mixture.

So Lovely Stirring Chocolate

If you want to make a traditional pan of fudge, butter an 8×8 inch dish and line it with parchment paper with enough extra paper to come over the sides.  This will help you remove the fudge from the pan once it has set.

However, you can really step it up and mold the fudge.  You may recall last year when I made crayon hearts in silicone ice cubed trays from IKEA.  I pictured creating creamy chocolate fudge hearts but I could NOT find the molds.  I cleaned up my craft supplies last spring but didn’t recall surplussing the molds.  Rem and I went to IKEA but sadly, they didn’t have any of the heart shaped ice cube trays in stock.

But then good news/bad news!  Good news: Rem found the molds in a cupboard!  They still had melted crayon in them and I wasn’t sure about using them for food.  I figured kids eat crayons so if I cleaned them really well it would probably be ok.  I thought a few seconds in the warm oven would soften the crayon and then I could wipe off most of the melted crayon before giving them a good scrub.  I put them in the oven for just a few moments…and promptly forgot about them.  Bad news: Dianne melted the molds.  Please don’t do this at home!

Riuned, Melted Molds in Sink

But I was able to find NEW heart-shaped silicone molds online on eBay from eHappyHome, and I also had a food-grade mold from Chase Creative Molds (designed for soap) so I was ready for making some fancy fudge.

Bird Mold

The bird mold came out beautifully but the little hearts tended to stick.  Next time I would use nonstick spray before putting the fudge in the molds.

Fill the mold by spooning the fudge into the mold and leveling it off with the flat back edge of a butter knife.

Full of Chocolate Fudge

Messy Molds

Filled Fudge Hearts

Chill the fudge.  If you have the time and patience, chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight before cutting or unmolding.  Or put in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes and carefully unmold.  I’ve read that tapping the filled mold will help pop any bubbles.  I didn’t try that and don’t know how well it would work.  There were some air bubbles but I was still very happy with how beautiful the oval molded fudge with the bird design turned out.

Beautiful Chocolate Bird

The hearts were a little trickier.  When I twisted and flexed the trays the little hearts tended to stick at the very bottom, which when unmolded is the top of the heart.  Again, some nonstick spray would probably have helped here.  I was able to reshape the hearts with a small off-set spatula but I decided a little cocoa powder or sanding sugar would give them a little cosmetic assistance.

Four Sparkling Fudge Hearts

The less you handle the shapes, the better.  I dipped the side of some hearts in pink sanding sugar and the tops of others.  Some I showered with a sifting of cocoa powder.

happy valetine's day

They’re not perfect.  They’ve got character.  And no matter how lumpy looking they are, they taste as silky and densely chocolate as the original fudge.

After filling the molds, I still had fudge mixture in the bowl to use.  It was about to become truffles!

Grating Orange Zest

I used my microplane zester and grated the zest from one orange into the fudge and stirred it in. I poured the fudge into an oval glass dish.

Pouring Fudge

I chilled it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  Than, using a melon baller, I scooped up balls of fudge.  A spoon would work too.

Scooping Truffles

You can decide what size you want your truffles to be.  Mine were about the size of a walnut.

Sifted Cocoa Powder

Roll the ball between your palms and drop it into a shallow dish of sifted cocoa powder and move it around.

Truffle in Cocoa

Cocoa Coated Truffle

Pop the truffle into a little pleated paper cup and it’s dressed and ready for Valentine’s Day.

Pretty Truffles

Keep the fudge, fudge hearts or truffles chilled.  If you can keep from consuming it, it lasts quite well if kept in the refrigerator in a sealed tin or plastic tub.

Lots o' Choco

Thank you for coming by and reading my blog.  As always, I encourage and appreciate your comments.

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