Around the world on a day off

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Amsterdam, Viet Nam, Italy and Greece… all on a day off.  Just for fun, David and I recently took the Downeaster Amtrack train out of Durham, New Hampshire to Brunswick, Maine and what a pleasant surprise to have our senses tickled with artistic influences from all those continental destinations.

First stop upon arrival; Vietnamese food at the restaurant Lemongrass.  Sweet potato and shrimp crisps, Pho [soup] with lime, lemongrass and basil, chicken bean sprout salad.IMG_0794 IMG_0796 IMG_0798 IMG_0799

Next stop; Bowdoin College to visit its art museums.  Surrealism photography and Arctic expedition artifacts.  But the campus itself, founded in 1794, was art in itself.  Classical architecture, so well-appointed with so much detail, made us feel like we were in Europe.

IMG_0801IMG_0803IMG_0810IMG_0807IMG_0814 IMG_0813After immersing ourselves in art, we took a stroll through the town peaking our heads into antique and home decor shops, then ended our day with happy hour wine and apps at the local, agrarian Greek and Italian restaurant Trattoria Athena.  Prosciutto wrapped artichokes, cheese stuffed “crepes”, cauliflower cakes.  A perfect day off.

IMG_0815 IMG_0816 IMG_0818 IMG_0817For your own perfect day-off, try these to-die-for cauliflower cakes that I worked out the recipe for.

 

 

 

 

Perfect day-off cauliflower cakes

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Inspired by my recent culinary excursion on a perfect day off, I worked out the recipe for these unbelievably delicious cauliflower cakes.  For you Winifred… :)

Steam until tender, about 15 minutes:

  • 1 1/2 pounds (2 lbs with stem and leaves) cauliflower broken into florets

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In a food processor, puree the cauliflower then blend in:

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 T minced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chick pea (garbonza bean) flour
  • 1 beaten egg

Form this mixture into 30 patties.  Note that they will be crumbly.  Press each patty into:

  • almond flour – 3/4 cup total for all patties.

Press them again into:

  • unseasoned Panko bread crumbs (if you are gluten-free these days, then just press them again into more almond flour) – 3/4 cup total for all patties.

Place patties onto a rack to rest for 30 minutes and to firm up.  After this time they will not be crumbly any longer.DSC05439

 

In a frying pan on medium-low heat, warm some *spiced clarified butter (Ghee) till just smoking.  Fry each patty until they are golden on each side.  Serve with lime.  NOTE:  I used a flavored Ghee that was a gift from my friend Winifred.  She obtained it on-line from Pure Indian Foods.  I used the Niter Kibbeh blend that contains cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric and nutmeg. DSC05445

NOTE: if you can not obtain this pre-blended spiced butter then add some of these spices to your own clarified butter.

Color theory; easter table setting

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Easter is an excuse for using lots of color and I’ll take any excuse I can get!  Traditions in egg coloring and flushes of spring flowers draw us to dressing our tables with lots of it for the holiday.  My table this year is pulled from the color in my collection of Ukrainian hand dyed eggs.

Each year I decorate using my egg collection and every year is an excuse to use a different color combination.  I decided on a Triadic Complimentary Color scheme this year.  These schemes are the most lively because the colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel create a visual vibration as the optic nerves are tickled to make sense of them.  In short, when complimentary colors are placed next to each other they make each other more appear more vibrant.

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easter color theoory

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Find some Ukrainian eggs through the League of NH Craftsmen in Meredith, NH.

 

 

Color Your Life Workshop

Painting pillows

Color makes us feel good. There is a reason for this; as part of the electromagnetic spectrum, the energized wave lengths of color affect our emotions by activating our endocrine system to release pleasure hormones.

On Saturday May 17th I am teaching a color class through the Concord Hospital Wellness program held in the Craft Center at the League of NH Craftsmen headquarters.  In this class learn about how color can change your mood, what colors make you feel best and how to incorporate them into your home. Experience this color theory through painting and penciling on fabric to end up with the components for a throw pillow to be assembled at home later. [NOTE: no sewing experience is needed. Non-sewing methods can be applied.] Demonstration, lecture and worksheets also included. $60.00 for the class plus $20.00 materials fee.  FUN!!

Saturday, May 17th, 10-2

League of NH Craftsmen Headquarters

49 South Main Street, Concord, NH

Please contact the Center for Health Promotion to register – 606-230-7300 or register through LNHC by phone 603-224-3375 or on-line.

Click here to download the information PDF shown below.workshop

50th birthday party cupcakes

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David requested cupcakes for his 50th birthday party.  I used the request as an excuse for another creative endeavor, to tweak some of my existing recipes and formulate some new ones. They were a hit and many of the party guests wanted the recipes for all three varieties so here they are.  Feel free to share them but I would be very upset if you printed or published them without my permission since they are my originals.  Enjoy!

Coconut Coconut CakeDSC05415

MIX: With an electric mixer on medium/high, beat until very creamy and light colored:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, very softened to room temperature.  In New England winters – & this years spring! – room temp is not warm enough.  I microwaved my sticks additionally for about 15 seconds.  Having very soft butter is important.
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar added bit by bit.

Beat into the mixture one at a time:

  • 4 large egg yolks

Slowly add to the mixer, alternating with each other 1/3 at a time, the following two mixtures.  Blend well after each addition:

  1. Sifted together: 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt
  2. Stirred together: 1 cup coconut milk, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Remove completed mixture to a large bowl.  Use the mixer to beat the following until soft peaks form:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar added bit by bit

Fold the beaten egg whites into the mixture until no white shows then also fold in:

  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

BAKE: fill batter 2/3 full into paper lined cupcake tins or foils.  350° for 17-22 minutes just until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  They should still be moist looking.  Let cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove each cake to a rack to cool completely. Makes around 30 cupcakes.

FROST: Combine the following in a mixer in the order listed beating after each addition until light and creamy:

  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter; softened like above
  2. 4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  3. 1/4 cup coconut milk
  4. 1 tsp vanilla

Spread frosting to cooled cupcakes decorating with toasted coconut sprinkles.  To toast coconut:  spread some sweetened flaked coconut onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven for 15 minutes stirring often to keep browning even.

Carmel Chai Spice Cake, gluten-freeDSC05405

MIX:  With an electric mixer on medium/high, beat until very creamy and light colored:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature. In New England winters – & this years spring! – room temp is not warm enough. I microwaved my sticks additionally for about 15 seconds. Having very soft butter is important.
  • 1 1/2 packed cups of light brown sugar adding bit by bit.

Beat into the mixture one at a time:

  • 4 large egg yolks

Slowly add to the mixer, alternating with each other 1/3 at a time, the following two mixtures. Blend well after each addition:

  1. Sifted together: 2 2/3 cups gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill mix), 2 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground chai spice*
  2. Stirred together: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Remove completed mixture to a large bowl. Use the mixer to beat the following until soft peaks form:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar added bit by bit

Fold the beaten egg whites into the mixture until no white shows.

BAKE: fill batter 2/3 full into paper lined cupcake tins or foils. 350° for 17-20 minutes just until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. They should still be moist looking. Let cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove each cake to a rack to cool completely.  Makes about 30 cupcakes.

FROST: Combine the following in a mixer in the order listed beating after each addition until light and creamy:

  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter; softened like above
  2. 4 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  3. 1 tsp ground chai spice*
  4. 1/2 cup caramel sauce (recipe following)

Spread frosting to cooled cupcakes and decorate with a caramel sauce drizzle.  I filled a condiments plastic bottle with a tube-nosed cap to drizzle with.

Caramel sauce:  You can use store-bought but I have not found any that is real caramel instead only tasting like brown-colored corn syrup.  This one is amazing!  From Joy of Cooking, in a small heavy sauce pan pour:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup water poured over sugar to wet it all.

Heat on medium flame swirling pan until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Turn up heat to med/high, put the lid on the pan and cook for 2 minutes.  Remove lid and continue cooking until the mixture is deep golden brown swirling the pan as it cooks to keep it mixed.  It will brown at the edges first then begin smoking when done.  Remove from heat and add in:

  1. 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into piece.  Whisk in completely.
  2. 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Whisk in completely.
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  4. a pinch of salt

NOTE: if caramel gets lumpy then simply reheat on low whisking until it smooths out.

*Chai spice is the spice blend that is used in chai tea.  I have a tin of my daughters blend so ground the whole spices in a designated coffee grinder to make my own fresh powdered spice (whole star anise, whole allspice, whole fennel/anise seeds).  However, you can substitute the 5 Spice Blend asian powdered spice available at any supermarket.

Red Velvet Beet Cake, David’s favoriteDSC05403

PREPARE:  put in a small sauce pan then heat on low until melted together:

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2oz. broken up unsweetened chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)

Whisk to smooth the mixture out adding in then letting cool completely:

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red liquid food coloring or 1/2 tsp paste coloring

Drain, then grate, then drain again squishing out all the liquid:

  • two 15oz cans of sliced beets

MIX:  In a mixer add then beat together:

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Add the melted, cooled chocolate mixture plus the grated beets to the egg/sugar mixture blending completely.  Then add, mixing well, the following ingredients that have been sifted together:

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

BAKE: fill batter 2/3 full into paper lined cupcake tins or foils. 350° for 17-20 minutes just until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. They should still be moist looking. Let cool in the tins for 10 minutes then remove each cake to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

FROST: Beat in the mixer the following ingredients adding in the order listed:

  1. 1 stick of unsalted butter very softened to room temperature. In New England winters – & this year’s spring! – room temp is not warm enough. I microwaved my sticks additionally for about 15 seconds. Having very soft butter is important.
  2. 8oz. cream cheese softened the same way.
  3. 3 cups powdered confectioners sugar
  4. 1 tsp vanilla

Frost cooled cupcakes then sprinkle with red sugar and some grated chocolate.

 

 

50th birthday comedy club

DSC05397My husband David turned 50 over the week-end.  To celebrate his transition he decided to let his normally shy self out of the proverbial ziplocked bag and showcase his hidden talent for stand-up comedy.  Our small barn became a club & hosted a hilarious evening with friends!  See his video debut below.

The marquee sign was made from foam core.  I painted the edges with artist’s acrylic paint, punched holes through for a strand of Christmas tree lights that I place clear bulbs through.  All was duct taped in the back to stay flat.  Words were printed on my large format ink jet printer onto tabloid size paper.

party invitationThe PDF invitation was made in the Pages program of my apple computer.

Our guests were asked to bring some finger food to share and a joke to tell.  The actual intent of the evening was a surprise.  Knock knock…who’s there…DSC05401

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DSC05372The Whinery sign above the bar/counter was made by lightly painting a piece of wood with semi-gloss wall paint.  For ease I purchased a pre-cut piece of thin plywood at Michael’s Crafts.  I then laid out the lettering in my computer, used the “flip” function to reverse the words then printed it out again on my large-scale format printer.  I taped this onto the board print-side down and traced the outline of the words.  The ink on the paper leaves lines so I then had a pattern to color in.  I simply used a felt tip pen for speed and ease.

“The Whinery…get it off your chest.”

DSC05374One of the best gags of the evening was David’s “microphone”.  Fashioned from a round of plywood, some PVC pipe and a rubber-banded black sock, it provided a great prop for many, MANY jokes…”Hey, it this thing on?”  “Can you hear me in the back?”, “Let me get closer to the mike”, heads were banged on it (with faux feed-back sound from the audience) and we pretended to pull the mike off the stand.  It only stayed somewhat propped up because of the hole David drilled into the floor of his “stage”.
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See David perform his routine at his own just-for-fun blog site JacksonDavidComedy.com

staring in the face of 50

Wise Guy winter wisdom

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DSC05341After going to bed last night knowing a big storm was coming in later this week and then waking up to an additional dusting this morning, I knew I needed some encouragement.  So I went to my Wise Guy Cards.

Like I promised earlier this year, here is another quote from that box to cheer us on towards warmth… because the memory is a powerful thing!

“In the depth of winter, I finally realized that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus

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