Cooking + Baking

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Oh, the chill we’ve had as of late! But how a pretty frosted landscape makes braving the icy winds worth it.

Cuddling with my favorite newborn!

Made this beautiful cheesecake (those are vanilla bourbon apples on top) in celebration of the little one’s parents and grammie visiting. I gilded the lily by dousing it in caramel sauce. No one complained.

 

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Pike’s Peak in a cloud hug! I volunteer at a retirement home, spending time with hospice patients. One of my ladies, when asked if she had a nice view, said, “It’s nothing much.” Not taking her at her word because I am a woman of my own mind, I glanced out and saw Pike’s Peak. She said she’d seen it so many times she was over it.

Though I am open to many possibilities in life, this really isn’t one of them. Nearly every day, I see this great mountain, and am always delighted by it. It’s here for me!¬†And you, too! I felt the same over my sixteen years in Portland; every day I caught sight of Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helen’s, and Mt. Adams was a finding a penny on the sidewalk kind of day, simply the best.

The days are also getting cooler and more trees are starting to turn in our neck of the woods, which means Juniper has occasion to wear a coat. This is a snazzy new one that fits nicely and looks absolutely adorable. How about that dog walker, too. Handsome!

In addition to making kombucha (peach, mixed berry, ginger turmeric, and apple are our best flavors), I have started a wee batch of mead! Honey, water, hibiscus, and time. Fingers crossed that it tastes as lovely as the color. So pretty!

My pack! I snapped these post teeth cleaning (done by yours truly). As you can imagine, it ranks right up there with nail trimming (the hubster’s job) as Juniper’s least favorite activities. Post trauma cuddles go a long way!

Views from yesterday morning’s walk. I know I’m like a broken record, but seriously, this place is so beautiful!

Finally, when I was in college, I was struck by ecological succession. A glacier rests cozily during the ice age; it’s remains melt into a lake; the lake turns to a meadow; the meadow turns into a forest. A magical progression, with every manner of life supported.

During our road trip a few weeks back, I saw a woman who had once been one of my very best friends. For a whole host of reasons, I stopped speaking to her about 18 years ago, a heart-wrenching decision that took me years. Afterward, zooting through the jeweled meadows and forests with a head full of memories, I realized how we are kin: a series of individual beings occupying the same space throughout time. Parts grow and flourish, ebb and flow, advance and retreat, each the same but very different. We spend small forevers with creatures great and small. Some of these creatures nourish, some don’t. Same goes for our experiences, in our own minds and out in the world. As I am solidly in mid-life, I am ever more keen on experiencing all that uplifts and take calculated steps to achieve that goal. This means spending more time with the right people, less or none at all with the wrong ones, as well as being less inhibited about taking risks or trying something new.

So to the picture! I have always wanted to go to a rave, to dance myself silly. Sadly, I never took the opportunity. Then one episode of High Maintenance (my very favorite show!) had a story line with a day rave, and I got super excited. Dancing in the morning? No drugs or alcohol? Where do I sign up?! I searched the interwebs and found Daybreaker, the brainchild of Radha Agrawal, and bought a ticket for their most recent party at the Boulder Reservoir. I went alone but was never on my own, enjoying the best community of huggers, body painters, and glitter mavens! I danced for three hours, laughed and cried. Best of all, I was part of something joyful, radiant, and true. Here’s to more…

I don’t post many recipes anymore, mostly because there are PLENTY of places to find them, and I don’t necessarily feel like I have anything special to offer. By the process of deduction, I hope you’ve realized this strawberry rhubarb cake IS something special. I’ll give you three reasons. 1. It comes together quickly. 2. Greg hollered from the office, “I don’t know what you’re making in there, but it smells AMAZING.” 3. It tastes even better!

So, yeah, it’s good. I used rhubarb from my garden, which makes me feel extra warm and fuzzy. The pieces are kind of itty-bitty because the stout & gorgeous first stalks, just days from perfect ripeness, were positively mauled by a hail storm. Giant sad face. Giant. These are the little babies that came after, harvested just this morning. I’ll take it however it comes.

Also, if you like a really rhubarb flavor, I’d use another cup of it. I was worried that it would be too sour and was definitely wishing for more.

2 or 3 cups sliced rhubarb

1 heaping cup quartered strawberries

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in pieces

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup flour – I used half all purpose and half whole wheat

Toss the rhubarb in a bowl with 3 tablespoons sugar. Spread strawberries and rhubarb evenly in a generously buttered 10″ pie pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until lightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Pour the butter into into a medium bowl. Stir the 1/2 cup sugar into the butter. Gently stir in the eggs and vanilla, then the flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the strawberries and rhubarb. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until crusty and lightly golden, 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for as long as you like. This is delicious warm or at room temperature. A dollop of whipped cream or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would be extra-extra.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Oodles of zoodles, and a few meatballs, too. Zoodles, if you don’t know, are made by spiralizing a zucchini, which is pretty darned awesome. Heat them in the oven, and they, to my mind, are the best substitute for pasta. But that isn’t really fair, because I would honestly rather eat the zoodles. Really!

Why? I have been trying, and succeeding a good 90% of the time (sweets the weightiest albatross), at eating low carb. Not to be part of a growing bandwagon, but because my body has gotten very LOUD about what constitutes its best fuel. After trying just about every food combination imaginable to keep my hormones (and dreaded endometriosis) in check, keto (low carb high fat) works THE best. I have very little pain, fewer hot flashes, better digestion, more energy and focus (I didn’t know how foggy I was until I made the change). Also, to quote my friend Chrissie, “Where did your wrinkles go?” She is exaggerating, but my skin looks and feels great for a forty-six(!) year old. So zoodles, and casseroles consisting of my favorite pizza toppings (fennel, roasted bell pepper, mushroom, & Italian sausage), salmon, hamburgers without buns, bacon, and piles and piles of green things: broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, kale, lettuce, avocado, cabbage. These are my staples. So good.

Such a sap for this sweet girl, who, even in sleep is almost always on the move, wiggling, panting, stretching, smiling, cuddling. Juniper Beulah, I love you!

And to make this post an even more odd assortment, tomorrow I am going to my grandparents house for the first time since my Grandpa died. For reasons both obvious and puzzling, I am feeling a bit wrecked at the prospect. My family, member by member, is taking furniture and knickknacks, items random and sundry, and dispersing them to the four winds and our respective homes. My list includes a ladder-back chair, a whisk, bookends, a bowl, muffin tins, and a stool. Every single item touched by my grandparents hands, well used, loved even. Soon enough the house will be empty of Lewis and Sohn and Johnstone traces. With laughter, the sound of traffic, the flutter of toilet paper by the heat register, the creak of stair to the basement, a glimpse in the mirror at the end of the hall seen and heard by other eyes, filled with other voices. More than sixty years of memories. My whole life, thus far, and I am at a loss. Say a little prayer for me…

Boozy

I’ve been steeping, marinating, concocting – what is the best word? I digress, these have been hanging out in dark spaces to come to their absolute most delicious state. Yes, that. Most delicious. The top photo is of vin d’orange and the second, Bourbon Cherries. I started each almost two months ago and kind of forgot about them until we cleaned (bye-bye dust bunnies!) and re-organized our laundry room yesterday afternoon, unearthing the vin d’orange from a crowded shelf of glassware and canning supplies waiting for our next tango. Mine is rather cloudy, little orange bits bullying their way through my strainer funnel. What is most important, however, is the flavor. Hot diggity is this stuff good! Were I not on the low carb train, I would have downed a glass, imagining myself and the hubster (Juniper, too!) lying prostrate on a picnic blanket in an Ojai orchard. Yes ma’am! Instead, I took some thoughtful sips and declared my work heartily done. Same goes for the cherries, though I would probably be in Hood River, because cherries!

Had I been a real planner, or more precisely, seen talk of this goodness¬†before December, I might have made them earlier and given them as holiday gifts – maybe next year! Here are the recipes, should you like to get your own ball rolling…

Vin d’Orange

1 bottle rose wine

1 bottle sauvignon blanc

1 cup vodka

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla pod, split and scraped

4 navel oranges or whatever orange you prefer, just making sure you’ve got enough relative to the size

Combine wine (you could also use two rose or two white – I couldn’t decide!) vodka, and sugar in a 3 quart, wide mouth jar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla (many recipes call for a star anise or two or three, but as pretty as it looks, I don’t like the flavor) and the oranges, stir to mix. Cover tightly and store in a cool, dark place for about a month – or two if you’re forgetful! Strain as best you can into another jar and store in the refrigerator.

I think it’s great on its own, but wager it would be pretty special mixed in some bubbly (water or wine – you decide!), too, a nice orange wedge as garnish.

 

Bourbon Cherries

1 cup bourbon

1 cup pitted cherries

3 T sugar

1/2 vanilla pod, split & scraped

Combine bourbon and sugar into a jar large enough to hold all the cherries (I don’t know how big mine is – sorry!), and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla and stir. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for about a month. Eat by the spoonful (ha!), put over ice cream, vanilla cake, chocolate cake. Give your whiskey the height of splendor with the addition of one or two. Put in an Old Fashioned or a martini, you get the idea…

Enjoy!

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