Chasing dreams

Over the summer, I had a bad case of writer’s block. I had nothing, nada, zilch. 

Looking for inspiration, I listened to a TED talk hoping to learn how writers found their spark. One lecture, had me mesmerized. Elizabeth Gilbert shared about poet Ruth Stone, how she “would run like hell home”, chased by a poem. She had to get to a piece of paper to write before the words thundered through her. If she didn’t write, it would be lost. Continue reading

Chocolate cake…one piece at a time.

img_2322After seeing a recipe for a three-ingredient chocolate cake, I accepted the challenge.

1 ripe banana
1 egg
1 Tablespoon Cacao

Blend and pour batter into a ramekin, 3/4 full and bake.

This recipe makes one large ramekin or two small, but size of banana may play a part.

So far, so good. The original recipe suggested to microwave, however, I attempted this years ago and found it inedible. This time I baked it for the suggested time and temperature, but this was not long or hot enough.

The second test cake, I baked it at 375 degrees for 16-18 minutes.  Of course this doesn’t have the same texture as a traditional cake.  It reminded me more of bread pudding but without the bread!  Regardless, this was simple and tasty enough to make again.  Also, it’s best served warm.

Next attempt, I may add a handful of chopped nuts or chocolate chips to the batter.

We did add a dollop of whipped cream, but ice cream would be good too.

Put this under the category of “emergency” desserts.

If you need to omit the egg, I liked the suggestions made by Joy the Baker.

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Playing hooky

Even though we live an hour shy of the shore, I rarely go. I don’t know anything about  traffic patterns, parking or beach badges. Thank goodness for “phone a friend”. Just like the game show “Who wants to be a Millionaire”, if you don’t have an answer, you call someone who does.

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The previous days had been stormy and brutally humid. The weather was breaking and the shore seemed like an ideal place to take our house guest from Ohio. Over dinner, as we were finalizing our day trip, I turned to husband and said “why don’t you join us?”  Then asked Jessie if she wanted to play hooky too.  Hooky is one of her favorite words. It means fun is to be had.

The timing was right, husband was game. As for Jess, one trait people with Angelman Syndrome have is impulsivity.  Sometimes it’s good to break routine.  Didn’t have to ask her twice, she was in.

IMG_1502The next morning we headed for Belmar. At the time, we didn’t realize  we chose the best day. The skies were clear and it wasn’t very crowded.  While husband went to get the badges, I called a rental company.  Within seven minutes, we had umbrellas and lounge chairs delivered and set up. It was like hotel service but without the hotel!

Even though we were slathered in sunscreen, the shade from the umbrella was welcome. Jess planted herself in the sand and was happy as  a wave that dances on the sea.  I was going to say “happy as a clam”, but how do we really know if clams are happy? The ones I’ve known ended up in soup or at a clam shack…IMG_1533

We were not lacking for entertainment. A surf school was in front of us, on the other side of the pier is a relatively new bird sanctuary. Now that they have their own private space, rare birds are making an appearance.

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IMG_1522Good eats were a short stretch down the beach. Specifically, Playa Bowls, a refreshing alternative to fast food.

For fear of getting too much sun, we left around noon. It was too early to head home, so we drove through a few shore towns before ending up at the Seaside boardwalk for lunch. None of us had walking shoes, so we did the tourist thing, we rented a surrey.

 

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With the sky so blue, we couldn’t help but sing the song from Oklahoma,

All the world ‘ll fly in a flurry
When I take you out in the surrey
When I take you out in the surrey
With the fringe on top…

When it was time to head home, we realized that we had been given a gift, time together on a beautiful summer day.  It’s amazing how only nine hours felt like a weeks vacation. It doesn’t get better than that!

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Volunteer…you are needed!

Everyone has their passions. Some like working with the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and others with special needs. Then there are those who prefer to garden and have their hands in the dirt.  I fall into yet another category, my calling is to work with animals. I once volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but realized that my gift is with the winged or four legged.

For a few years, I volunteered at the local Wildlife center. Animals that had been displaced, injured or orphaned were brought in every day. My job was to clean and feed.  They had bats, baby bunnies, chipmunks, fox, ground hogs, skunks, squirrels, opossums, snakes, turtles and baby deer, as well as, baby  birds, eagles, hawks, owls and vultures.

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  • The Owl  is a resident and is used for teaching. I picked up the Cardinal on the road. He had been flying in circles, probably neurological. The Wren was one that had been caught in a sticky mouse trap.

The majority of my time was spent with the birds. The babies were fun, but I was enamored with the owls. Like all of the animals at the WLC, they had their own special diet.  The big owls lived in outdoor aviaries, but the smaller screech owls lived inside.  They were fed pinkies which needed to be cut into pieces with scissors.  This job was not for the squeamish.

After a few seasons of cleaning the butts of baby birds, I was ready to do something different. Last year, after we adopted a four-month old puppy from Georgia, I knew where I wanted to volunteer, with Soco.  It’s a tough job playing with puppies, but someone has got to do it.  Of course it involves changing paper and picking up poo, but it’s okay, they are just babies.

Every time I volunteer, I fall in love. For a fleeting moment, my heart makes me want to adopt, but then my brain takes over.  Our home has filled its quota of rescued dog and cats.

How fortunate I feel to have the opportunity to work with dedicated dog lovers. These are mostly rescue dogs, as well as, some who have been surrendered. Georgia is a state that does not have a spay/neuter policy.  If a rescue operation doesn’t step in, their odds of survival are not good.

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Chester, a very sweet boy! He’s about 8 months old.

 

 

Here are just a few photos from  today.  Maybe you will see a face that says “pick me”, don’t hesitate to go and meet them. If you have an opportunity to adopt a rescue, you won’t be disappointed. They know they are lucky dogs to find a  home.

 

 

The puppies:

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Spaghetti…leftover or new beginnings

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This didn’t photograph well, but don’t let that fool you. This was so good, this was all that was left to share.

After having spaghetti and meatballs, there’s often leftovers. What to do, what to do.  Sure, it can be reheated, or you can reinvent it and make a spaghetti pie.  Basically, you can add anything that works together and pleases your palate.

The world is your oyster when making Spaghetti pie.  If you double the recipe, use a spring form pan. This will make it taller and makes for a fun presentation for a party.

I didn’t have a large amount of pasta left over, so used a 9×11” casserole dish.  In my fridge, besides the meatballs, I had leftover pulled pork and fresh spinach. Yum!

Use this basic recipe as your guide:

preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 lb. cooked pasta (I used Angel Hair that was gluten free)
2 eggs
4 oz. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
8 oz. marinara sauce
1/4 cup water (or milk, half&half, vodka…)

4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sour cream
4 oz. mozzarella cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic
S&P to taste

  • Stir in the eggs, Parmesan and spices to the cooked pasta (you can use whatever pasta shape you have on hand). The eggs help the pasta retain its shape and prevents it from puddling on your plate.
  • Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a prepared (greased) 9×11” pan.
  • Next use half of the spaghetti mixture
  • Dot this with the sour cream and cream cheese. I eyeball this and roughly drop a teaspoon of each like I do when baking cookies. Either shred or cut thin pieces of mozzarella.
  • I used a jarred marinara sauce (choose one that doesn’t have fructose corn syrup or sugar). If I cut the sauce with water, half&half, cream or even vodka, it tastes more homemade and loses the prepared-jar-taste.  Often I will add the liquid to the jar to get every last bit of sauce out of the jar, using just enough that it cleans it out, but not so much that it becomes runny.
  • Repeat this layer.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes, or till bubbly

You really can’t go wrong. Use as much or as little cheese as you want.  If you don’t have mozzarella, there’s no rule saying you can’t use cheddar or Swiss. Ham or bacon, or just leftover veggies. If you have leftover chicken, just chop that up, add artichoke hearts and mushrooms and you have a completely different dish. As I said, the world is your oyster 🙂

Greek Ziti & Ice cream sandwiches

We’ve been held up in the house too long for one reason or another.

When I’m bored, it’s my motivation to try new recipes.

IMG_8788Dinner:   If I had the ingredients, I would have made Pastitsio but ended up making a version of this Greek Ziti instead. When I say version, it means I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I improvise, substituting with half a box of Cavatappi noodles, 24 ounce jar of marinara sauce and a third cup of milk and gluten free panko crumbs.  The nice thing about making this type of dish, is that you don’t have to be as precise as when baking.

IMG_8790IMG_8791Dessert:. An ice cream sandwich recipe caught my eye. I’ve never attempted them before. I didn’t realize that they take no time at all to make. This took less time than baking a batch of cookies.

For these, I almost kept to the recipe. I replaced the all-purpose flour with GF flour.  I cooked this directly on the Silpat but it would have been just as easy to use parchment paper.

I chose not to soften the ice cream, but cut slices with a knife.  For the sandwich, I used a pizza cutter and a ruler.  It would have been fun to cut them in bite sized pieces.

If I spent more time, I could have made them look prettier, but it didn’t matter, they were eaten too quickly.

The nice thing about posting recipes is at least I know where I can find them!

Ingredients for sandwich, preheat oven to 350, cook for 10 minutes, cool before assembly

  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups (2 pints) (950 ml) Ice Cream (Homemade or Store Bought), slightly softened – see what happens in step 6 if you let it get too melty!!
  • 10 x 15 inch (25 x 38 cm) rimmed baking sheet

 

 

Is life a game, or a box of chocolate?

IMG_0914Life isn’t fair, so get over it. I find myself thinking this more often than not. I’m so tired of hearing people lament about their lot in life. I’m sure some will think how can I possibly say this because we have been blessed in many ways. We live in a home with running water, a toilet (three in fact), heat, clothes in our closet and our pantry is full. Even our family is intact. By all accounts, we are the top 1% when compared to the world. I’m even more fortunate because I have a dog at my feet and a cat in my lap. Continue reading

Apple roses

Apple roses

Golden Delicious Apple Roses

Don’t let puff pastry fool you into thinking these are difficult to make.  After seeing this recipe, I decided  to try my hand.  I used Golden Delicious apples because it is what was in my pantry. I substituted a cinnamon glaze for the apricot preserves which gives it more of an apple pie flavor and isn’t as sweet.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2 apples, cored and sliced thin
2 tsp. lemon juice

Place the apples in a microwave bowl, add enough water to cover,  cook for 3-5 minutes

1 sheet puffed pastry.

Even the pastry by rolling out. I dusted with tapioca flour, but regular flour can be used. The original recipe called for 6 strips, but I only was able to get 5.

Blend the following and brush on the pastry:

1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. butter, melted

Place the apples on the pasty and gently roll. Because I used a min-muffin tin, I cut the strips in half and put then popped the roses into a greased tin.

Cook for 40 minutes. Remove the roses from the pan as soon as they come out of the oven so they don’t stick.

Dust with powdered sugar. Eat them as soon as they are cool enough not to burn your mouth, but room temperature is good too. These apple roses are decadent, but not indulgent due to their size. Yum!

IMG_6414If you want something even more indulgent, have you tried crack bacon? It lives up to it’s name.

 

 

Whole30 update

Eating out on the Whole30 was easy. Sesame crusted Ahi on a bed of seaweed, Yum!

Eating out on the Whole30 was easy. Sesame crusted Ahi on a bed of seaweed, Yum!

We completed our Whole30 and there is much to report.

Giving up sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, junk food and anything that had sugar as an ingredient wasn’t difficult. Finding food that didn’t have sugar listed in the ingredients was the challenge. I’ve always made my own salad dressings, but for this, I needed to make our own catsup and mustard because they both have sugar, as well as mayonnaise (because it uses soy oil). Butter was not allowed, but clarified butter (without the milk solids) was acceptable. Hollandaise sauce is allowed, yum, but soy sauce was a no-no. Substituting riced cauliflower for rice didn’t have a warm reception. Nothing worse than have something look like one thing but taste like another.

Before we began the Whole30, our menu was boring and was in a serious cooking rut. I took this challenge as if I were a contestant on Survivor. Only fruit, meat and veggies for us!

As for the results, Jess was the biggest loser and lost ten pounds. Husband also lost ten and I was the slacker losing only seven. We all lost inches and now I wish that we had taken our measurements. Other benefits were not being hungry or needing to snack. Our complexions improved, energy level was boosted and we did not feel any afternoon slump.

We are now at day 54. For the most part, we are still avoiding bread, pasta and sugar, but we each have had some food that had been 86’d. After 30 days, we were to reintroduce the eliminated foods to see how we feel, but haven’t wanted to do this yet. Even though we are on a plateau with weight loss, we are still losing inches.

We each had foods that we missed. For Jess, it was ice cream, husband wanted a beer and the hardest part for me was not being able to have a sandwich. However, the benefits totally out weighed the negatives.

Finally, I do miss mindless eating. It makes football games go by faster and it gave me something to do with my hands, but in all seriousness, seeing my family look leaner and healthier is the best reward.

Fruit Pancake

IMG_5690This is a filling breakfast. The fruit gives it a natural sweetness. It has a fluffiness like a bread pudding, but it is GF. After one bite, you feel like you are cheating!

This recipe is for one serving, so multiply the ingredients. Typically I times this by three.

1   Banana, mashed
2   Eggs, beaten
1   Apple, peeled and sliced

1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 cup  Raisins. reconstituted
1 tsp.  Butter (clarified)*

  • To reconstitute the raisins, let them steep in hot water while you go to the next step.
  • In a non-stick pan, using a dab of (clarified) butter, cook the apple with cinnamon till fork tender.
  • mash the banana, add the eggs, vanilla and pinch of salt, blend till it makes a batter. You don’t need to get all the lumps out.
  • Drain the water from the raisins and combine all ingredients together.
  • Heat non-stick pan with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of butter, add all the ingredients and cover (I like to use a clear glass lid so I can see how it is cooking).
  • originally, I made two pancakes, now I just make one big one which is 2 ladles (one cup). Once the base has formed and the edges are solid, it is ready to flip. Then cook till it is no longer runny.

hint- If you are using regular butter, you will need to wipe the pan after each pancake. it will make it easier to flip.  If you don’t feel confident to flip, just turn it over with a rubber spatula, it will taste just fine!

* if you are doing a Whole30, clarify butter in order to remove the milk solids