Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Green Wrap

I've always loved a simple wrap. They're fast and easy to make and work well on the go. This past summer I started experiementing with different vegetarian combination wraps, and I fell in love with the flavors in this wrap in particular. I made this green wrap with a spinach tortilla (gluten free), hummus, fresh baby spinach, avocado, cucumber, and quinoa with zucchini and parsley--all healthy, all yummy, almost all green.

Ahead of time, I cooked a cup of quinoa with zucchini and parsley. This quantity of quinoa allows me to have a healthy source of protein to use in different dishes for up to five days. There are quite a few quinoa tutorials out there, but the most important piece of advice I have for cooking quiona is rinse the quinoa well before you start cooking it.

When I am ready to make the wrap, I put down a piece of parchment paper to help with rolling the wrap and eating on the go. I also slice the cucumber and avocado and set out the spread for easy assembly.

I spread the hummus on first as a type of glue for the other ingredients.

Then, I add the spinach, avocado, cucumber and top with the quinoa.

Finally, I wrap it with help from the parchment paper and am ready to enjoy lunch.

Let me know if you give this wrap or another green variation a try. Happy eating, y'all!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Peanut Butter Dog Cookie

Atticus always joins me in the kitchen while I bake, so I thought that I'd bake something especially for him this time. I read through a few dog biscuit recipes to get a rough idea of proportions. I decided to keep it basic for the first batch and go with peanut butter as the main flavor because I know Atticus loves it.

This recipe made a lot of biscuits, but with my chowhound I'm sure they won't last very long.

Atticus's Peanut Butter Cookies
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup organic cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1 Tsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup and 2 Tsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, oats, corn meal, and baking powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix until evenly combined.

Add the eggs, peanut butter, and oil and beat until incorporated.

Add 1 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of water. Beat until the dough comes together. Add the tablespoons of milk one at a time as needed to bring the dough together.

Separate into manageable-sized disks according to the size of your rolling surface. Roll out one disk at a time into an even thickness. Mine came out to be a little more than 1/4 inch thick, but you can add thickness and baking time if you want a biscuit that more closely resembles the thickness of store bought ones.

Cut out cookies into desired shape and place on a lined or greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 16-18 minutes or until firm.

Since making these, I've read some articles about the use of cornmeal in dog food, and it seems to be a highly disputed subject. I used cornmeal because I thought it would add texture and weight to the cookies, and I saw it in other recipes. I will play around with the next batch I make and possibly make some changes like adding apples/apple sauce, omitting the cornmeal, and adjusting the proportions of the other ingredients accordingly.

Atticus highly approves of these cookies!

Let me know what your hounds think.

Happy baking, y'all!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A whole wheat, oat, and strawberry muffin

This recipe came out of a late night baking experiement. It has been quite a while since I have tried my hand at developing a new recipe, but I was wide awake, Atticus was being wild, and I had two cartons of strawberries on the verge of going bad in my fridge.

I used my other whole grain muffin recipes as a starting place and worked from there.

Whole Wheat, Oat, and Strawberry Muffins
Yield: 24 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsps baking soda
1 Tsp cinnamon (I might cut this down to a tsp next time)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
5 Tsps butter (melted and cooled)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 Tsp vanilla
2 cups fresh strawberries (sliced)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers or spray with non-stick baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl until consistently incorporated.

Add the slightly beaten eggs, cooled butter, oil, milk, and vanilla to the to the dry ingredients and mix.

Fold in the strawberries.

Fill the muffin tins and bake for 18 minutes or until the center of the muffin bounces back when lightly pressed.

I took these to the office, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. This was my first time to bake with strawberries. I was pleased with the result. If you try them, please pop back over and leave feedback.

Happy baking, y'all!

Blog Lovin' Claim Post

I've bitten the bullet and joined blog loving. They tell me I need to post this link to "claim" my blog, so here goes nothing:

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/5061433/?claim=krfyughkv3z">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Head on over to bloglovin.com and follow me that way, if it sounds like fun to you.

Have a joyful day, lovelies.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Sponge Cake with Fresh Strawberries and Whipped Cream

It's strawberry season again, y'all! Even though the weather here has been much cooler than normal, strawberries remind me that springtime is indeed here to stay.

When I told Mom that I wanted to make a cake for a friend's belated birthday, she suggested that I try this sponge cake recipe with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. It's not your typical icing laden and often chocolate birthday cake, but it made sense in this scenario because I wasn't giving it to Charlie on his birthday and Sandy doesn't eat chocolate. Think of this cake as the birthday version of angel food cake, strawberries, and cool whip--richer and more decadent but still fresh and light.

This hot milk sponge cake recipe comes from my great, great aunt Ollie by way of my great grandmother Anne. My grandmother Eleanor then gave the recipe to my mom in the 1970s, telling her that the recipe was over 100 years old at that time. I cherish recipes with histories because I enjoy feeling connected to the women in my family who have come before me.

1 cup AP flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup hot milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 carton strawberries
2 tsp sugar
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tsp powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla

The well used copy of the recipe that my grandmother wrote for my mother, the title reads: "Cake Aunt Ollie (Mother's cake)." 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure out all of the ingredients through the vanilla, making sure to cleanly separate the eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder together.

Beat egg yolks until they form stiff peaks. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until they reach a pale yellow color. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the egg and sugar mixture. Add vanilla. Fold in the egg whites. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with tin foil. Do not grease the pan or the foil. Bake for 25 minutes.

For the topping:
Cut up the strawberries into your desired size. Mix 2 teaspoons of sugar in with the strawberries. Begin the whipping cream on a low speed in the mixer increasing the speed as it thickens. Add 2 tablespoons of sifted powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla to the whipped cream.

Let the cake cool and turn it out onto the serving plate. It is not the prettiest cake uncovered as you can see above, so cover the top with whipping cream. Then, cut the cake and serve it with strawberries.

This was the first time that I have made this cake on my own, and although I did not taste it, I received rave reviews about it from those who had a piece or four.

Happy baking, y'all!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Choosing to Live in Joy

While looking for an inspirational quote to put on a coffee mug for a friend (yes, I bit on the sharpie mug craze), I came across this pin that I immediately sent to my mother. 

These words resonated strongly with me. I'd recently had a conversation with a friend about trying to be joyful even when we weren't necessarily in a state of happiness, which left me thinking about how to realize and acknowledge daily joy.

I decided to challenge myself to take a photo each day that I felt captured a moment of joy in my life.

my first #choosetoliveinjoy photo -- a homemade
latte in a cup I made at Montreat

a sucessful DIY floral sweatshirt

Valentine's Day cookies for my students 

Before this challenge I had only hashtagged on instagram out of sarcasm. I also do not tweet, so I am a bit hashtag illiterate. But I decided that I would seriously hashtag this challenge as a way to name my joy and collect the photos. First, I used #itsthesmallthings and #choosejoy but then moved to #choosetoliveinjoy.

walking my stinker

This challenge has been a rewarding one even in the short span of a few weeks. One photo a day doesn't make me an ever smiling and constantly cheerful human being, but it does remind me for even just a moment that there is this one reason and a multitude of other reasons to live joy and that it is my choice to do so.

my view from a boat ride

I have missed posting a photo on a few days, but I plan to keep challenging myself to capture everyday joy.

a new doggie friend, Petey

enjoying my fire pit

Coffee and visiting with a dear friend

I've had a trying year, one of painful endings, nagging questions, and lingering doubts, but I have experienced great joy, too. Joy in the overwhelming love and support from my family and both old and new friends. Joy in the spending time with smallest people in my life, Ellie, the Lewis children, and Niamh. Joy in adopting and being adopted by Atticus, one of God's four-legged ambassadors of unconditional love. Joy in the small things--a successful class, a good cup of coffee, and a peaceful walk with Atticus. Joy in reclaiming, moving forward, making new plans, and working toward goals. Joy in a list that is far too long to capture here.

a dream come true each Thursday night when
 I pass Ms. Welty on the way to teach
an English class at my alma mater
a regal sit
pizza and beer with Lulu

I hope reading this has reminded you of everyday joy in your own life.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A DIY Fire Pit

Hi there, it's been a while since my last post. I apologize. Life simply gets in the way sometimes.

I have quite a few finished projects on my "to blog" list, but I am going to jump ahead and write about the fire pit that I built a few weeks ago.

Photo: First fire in the fire pit I built #feelingaccomplished

Fire mesmerizes me. It calms me and makes me feel connected to all the multitude of generations before me who gathered around a fire. I could go on and on about that, but I'll spare you and get to the details.

Over Christmas break, I burned a fire in my mother's re-purposed iron fire pit almost every afternoon. I started this ritual somewhat out of desperation because Stella and Atticus, my parent's pit bull and my growing coonhound, destructively played all afternoon long and needed to be outside but wouldn't stay out without a human companion. As I enjoyed these afternoons, I started to think about building a pit in my backyard at school. It is much smaller than my parent's yard, but I figured that I had enough room. Not wanting to spend the amount of money that a nice iron fire pit costs, I decided I would see if I could build one. I looked on Pinterest, but most of the tutorials that I found were quite involved and almost as expensive as a big metal one would be. 

So, one nice afternoon, I headed over to Home Depot. I wandered around the landscaping section, pricing and brainstorming. I settled on 30 of these red concrete retaining wall blocks and a bag of garden rocks. These blocks came in a few different colors, but I stuck with red since the bricks around my herb and vegetable gardens are red.

Two nice employees loaded the blocks into the back of my Subaru, and I headed home as the sun was setting. I really wanted to get the blocks unloaded that day, so I raked away the leaves from the area where I planned to build the pit and turned over the soil in a rough circle, making sure to keep the ground as level as possible. We do not have much grass in our backyard, so I did not have to deal with that burn hazard. If you have grass, you'll want to remove it from the pit circle before you begin to place the blocks. 

I put on garden gloves and headed out to carry stones from the car through the house because we do not have an easily accessible gate to the backyard. Atticus was quite excited about the whole operation and kept up with me most of the time. The blocks were relatively heavy, but I was able to carry two at a time. I laid the bottom of three circles, consisting of ten blocks, with the back groove positioned down because I knew I wouldn't like the appearance of the grooves showing on the top blocks. 

Moving onto the second layer of blocking, I alternated them as brick layers often do. This helped with stability and aesthetics. I finished with the third layer of bricks, matching the placement of the bottom layer.

I put the pavers that you see in the first picture around the pit the next day to help with reducing the burn hazard and to give a dry place to walk since it can be a little muddy near the pit after a rain.

A rare snow in Alabama

Here's a break down of my costs: 

Wall blocks: 30 blocks x $1.91 = $57.30
Rocks: 1 bag = $3.98
Pavers (optional): 25-30 pavers gift from a neighbor = $0.00
            but these look similar (30 x 1.74 = $52.20)

My Total: $61.28 plus tax
Total (with optional pavers): $113.48 plus tax

So, without having to buy the pavers that aren't necessary, the total comes well below a nice metal pit.  I've been very pleased with the pit thus far. I've burned fires with friends and a few small ones on nights when it is just me and Atticus. I'm sure there will be many more nights around the fire this spring and fall. My father sent some pecan wood with my mom this weekend, and I can't wait to try it out on Friday night.