Out of the Doldrums

I know, I know: it’s been a while. A few of you dear readers have not been shy about letting me know 🙂 We’ve been doing things, even things worth sharing, but I’ve been stuck in some late winter doldrums. I realize the calendar says it’s spring, but it’s still winter here.

East Bay, as of Sunday. It’s still frozen; the ice out there is just clear.
still winter

Our neighborhood, yesterday
spring snow

Also yesterday, so it’s not all snow, but there’s enough
spring snow-2

Fortunately, we have had some good family and friend time to break things up. We went to Ohio and had a terrific family visit at the end of March (more on that later), and then shortly after we got back, we hosted our friends Melinda and Matt on a three-day eating marathon.

Melinda and Matt, in front of a frozen East Bay – on spring break
Melinda and Matt

I’d classify their trip otherwise, but really, all we did was talk, eat, and sleep. I managed to take Petey on a few walks, so it was entirely gluttonous…just mostly. Hanging out with non-local food lovers underscores how ridiculously spoiled for choice we are. And even after visiting several of our area favorites, Trattoria Stella wins best food by a landslide. So, next time you’re in my neck of the woods, give me a shout and we’ll go out for a swanky dinner. Or even better, a delicious and more affordable lunch!

Our lunch at Polish Kitchen. Sharing bad photos because a friend always asks and I finally remembered – by which I mean I borrowed Tony’s phone and grabbed these shots well after we’d started eating! Pierogi on the left, goulash on the right.

Because the winter’s been dragging, I have been less maniacal about grabbing the camera. I’ve still been outside quite a bit, because cabin fever strikes daily even if the shutterbug doesn’t. But, thanks largely to warmer temperatures, I’ve started picking up the Nikon more again, and it feels good. Also, look at this cuteness. My heart asplode. Aren’t they just the cutest? I have another super-cute one lined up for Facebook later, so keep your eyes peel for that…assuming you like interspecies love 😉

And, last, some color. Because our world is becoming increasingly colorful. The drifts along the road are still a good bit above my waist, but there are clear spots in the yard, and the other day I actually had to take my coat off and walk in a tank top. Spring is on the way my friends. Enjoy it well 🙂

Lavender Lemon Bars

My little lavender plant is blooming, which is terrific because I’ve taken a shine to lavender in my treats.
lemon lavender bars-1
I had just bought lemons to make lemon lavender ice cream, but then one of my favorite food bloggers posted a recipe for perfect lemon bars, so I scrapped the ice cream in favor of bars.

Her description of the bars she made nails it: these are nice and lemony without being either too sweet or too tart. I left my butter in fairly large pieces, which makes the crust both flaky and a little crispy. I used kosher salt, but if you’re one of those people who hates salt in your desserts, just leave it out.

If you’ve been thinking about something sweet for the weekend, stop looking and go with these. I promise you: citrus and lavender are a match made in heaven 🙂

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on bars
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon lavender flowers
1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, from 3 large lemons
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 2 to 3 large lemons
1/3 cup half-n-half

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper and lightly grease the foil/parchment.
Stir together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the pieces of butter and cut it into the dry ingredients using your fingertips until only pea-sized pieces of butter remain. Fold in lavender. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer.
Refrigerate for ~20 minutes and then bake until light golden brown, ~20 minutes.
While the crust is cooking, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl. When you take the crust out of the oven, whisk in the lemon zest, juice and half-n-half and then pour immediately onto the warm crust (Mel says it’s important that the crust is still warm, and I trusted her!). Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F and bake for ~20 minutes until the filling feels slightly firm to the touch. Cool the bars to room temperature, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and cut into bars.

lemon lavender bars-6

Recipe adapted from http://www.melskitchencafe.com. I used unsalted butter, but added kosher salt to my crust, and mixed things less. I removed the salt from the filling, used half-n-half, and a little more lemon.

{Semi-Homemade} Cherry Crumble

So…I hurt my back. I went to the chiropractor several times, and eventually got clearance to return to light workouts. Just as I was feeling pretty much normal, I fell apart again. Not that I can walk all that well anyway, but top it all off with it is snowing here, and we made plans to stay in yesterday.

cherry crumble in pan Continue reading

{Green} Chocolate Smoothie

Green chocolate? you ask. Or maybe you don’t because you’re already in on the secret. One moment while I explain myself. It’s been a while since I’ve posted any food, not because I haven’t been cooking good stuff, but because I have been completely uninspired to share it. We’ve eaten lots of healthy stuff, and lots of unhealthy stuff, and I just didn’t feel like you needed to know about. But, this I feel like you need to know about.

I expect at least some of you to completely turn your noses up at this. It doesn’t sound great. But I promise you, if you like smoothies and you like chocolate, this is a winner. Heck, even Tony likes this – really likes it – not just consumes it because I made it. I would even share this with my carnivorous father. I’m not saying it tastes like a creamy chocolate milkshake, but this smoothie is thick and creamy, and super chocolaty…it’s a bit like pudding.

I double this recipe in the morning for two large smoothies, which I make in a Vitamix. You can do this in a “normal” blender if you make a smaller batch and take your time.

Also, I don’t taste it anymore because we have these every morning, but you can kind of taste the spinach the first couple of drinks. Don’t worry. You totally adjust and then it’s all yummy chocolate.
green chocolate smoothie

1 small handful raw cashews
1 heaping tablespoon golden flax meal (can use the same amount of flax seeds)
1-2 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder (I prefer Hershey’s Special Dark)
5 unsweetened, dehydrated dates (the ones I buy at Sam’s are still pretty soft, and small)
2 handfuls of baby spinach
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk of choice (We prefer vanilla almond milk)
1/2 cup water

What I mean by “handfuls” and “heaping”:

Place ingredients in blender, in the order listed. Blend until smooth. Enjoy.

green chocolate smoothie-2

Spicy Molasses Sandwich Cookies

molasses sandwich cookies

Not that I needed an excuse to share these, but did you know that today is National Cookie Day? I confess that I think pretty much every day is cookie day, but I won’t hesitate to celebrate. The thing about cookies is that you can have one and call it a sensible dessert. Or you can overindulge and call them breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not that I’ve done that. I usually get at least one real meal in on a cookie day 😉 Continue reading