Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Loosing my hair

Today was Maine Day, a traditional day at the university during the last week of classes. Classes are cancelled and it is a big party with free BBQ, mud volleyball championships, bands, and loosing your hair for charity next to the river. Note: the temperatures were still in the low 50sF/12C.

MD_1

MD_2

MD_3

MD_4

MD_5

MD_6

MD_7

Sometimes, hand-holding is required.

MD_9

MD_10

MD_11

MD_12

MD_13

MD_14

MD_15

MD_16

Spring fling

This year I avoided one of the pitfalls of spring: over-exuberance about the warmer weather, abandoning winter clothes, wearing sandals, jeans jackets and tees instead. This often results in being thrown down with a cold. I am still wrapping myself in my winter coat, like a plant, weary when it is really safe to bust out the buds. The bike had a ‘super deluxe’ tune-up, the cables, gears and the brakes are newly adjusted, cables replaced and it is time to ride to work again, without horse powers, just human power.

spring_lunch

Meanwhile lawns have turned green. Crocuses and daffodils line the still barren landscape as the first messengers of a much more lushes season. A wave of spring blooms will capture the landscape soon. By that time all the students will be gone, and the slow summer pace in a college town will start.

As for now, it is the pleasure of teaching final classes, graduating students, and planning end of semester parties.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brownies on a Sunday

It is one of these Sundays. The work pile is sky high. The weather is dreary, cold and rainy, and all the new outdoor cushions only look good, and looking at them has to suffice. Plus, the new work week is near. One day ahead.


navy_cushion

With sadness I read this morning that friends from Switzerland had to put down their wonderful dog today. She was hanging in there, loving everyone and life, but had many health problems in her 16th year of life. I spent much time with them when they just adopted her, and fondly remember the days I spent ‘puppy sitting’.

gypsy_liegend_cut

To infuse my day with a little bit of comfort, I baked brownies again. Typically I share my baked goods at work. but these I cut up into bite size pieces, and freeze them. They are really good, right out of the freezer with hot coffee. Or a dessert snack.

vegan_brownies_0
vegan_brownies_1
vegan_brownies_2
Chocolate Brownies, almost vegan.
Makes large 17 by 11 inch cookie sheet of brownie, or 2 regular sized brownie pans.
  • 4 tablespoons +  4 teaspoons ground flax meal
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 cups pure cane sugar 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (*)
  • 1 cup and 4 TB all-purpose gluten-free flour (e.g. Trader Joes or King Arthur)(*)
  • 1 cup oat flour (*)
  • (* or: 2 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons gluten-free or regular flour instead of the other flours)
  • 1 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 9 ounces dark chocolate chips, about 1 1/2 cup standard sized chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 325* F and lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 17 x 11 pan.  In a small bowl mix the ground flax and water and set aside so that it can thicken and gel.
  2. In a medium bowl sift and stir together the flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together until fully combined.  Set aside.
  3. Melt the coconut oil and chocolate together in  a microwave-safe bowl in 30 second increments —stirring each time, until fully melted.  Stir to combine.
  4. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and the flax mix. Add the instant espresso powder, vanilla, and almond extract until fully combined.  Now, add in the melted chocolate/coconut oil mix, mix until fully combined.
  5. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Use a spoon, and add spoon by spoon so that it does too much. Keep the stand mixer on low speed. A thick but soft dough will form. 
  6. Spoon the dough batter into the pan and evenly distribute to the edges with a spatula or your fingers.  The dough should be very soft and easy to press/spread.
  7. Place in the center of your oven and bake for ca. 35 minutes. The sides will rise slightly higher than the center.  Allow to cool for 30-45 minutes.
  8. Once cooled it can be cut into bite-sized pieces and frozen.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday morning and shoes on my mind

It’s Friday. Time to unwind is close. The sun is out again. The mood barometer is ticking up. Much necessary downtime before the final mile. Friday mornings are also a good opportunity to explore the sales emails in more depth, not to buy necessarily but to get in the mood for summer.

When I perused the new collection from JCrew this morning, this look captivated my attention:

 JCrew_birkenstock

What do I see?  Birkenstocks?! At JCrew? …. Indeed, Birkenstock for J.Crew. Aren’t they beauties?

A4281_WT0002

The clean white look. For those brisk summer days in the Hamptons. The same model in navy blue is also a classic, especially for jeans.

A4281_BL8133

Or maybe metallic silver? I can only think of kale eating hippie and sputnik had a baby in the 90s who now wears cool birkenstocks in 2014.

A4282_GY6589

Or this cool wet stone patent leather look? For all the natural color looks, the whites and beiges and turqoise.

A4283_NA6205_d3

Obviously, JCrew picked up on the trend that Birkenstocks are chic again.…… and time to wait for a sale and trying them on in person in the store.

My heart has been pretty much set on these babies since I saw them in the catalogue in March:

slingbacks

Jeans colored slingback pumps…. for the casual summer look. Unfortunately they are also $278 so I will have to pass.

slingbacks_pumps

Then, there is also the Sophia Webster Shoe Collection on JCrew. The Lola kitten-heel pumps in blue leaves is my favorite.

have a good weekend!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The last few miles of the marathon

The countdown is on. The weeks, half weeks, are counted until finals week. Somehow, the work seems to pile up before everyone leaves for summer. It sometimes feels like the last miles of a marathon. You are exhausted already, but determined to make it to the glorious finish line. Then, collapse, recharge, and don’t want to run another marathon for a long, long time.

The weather changes between wonderful, warm days, still surprisingly mild after this long winter, and mild, gray, rainy days like today and the next few days. I started to run again, with the Couch to 5k program, now conveniently time-able via iphone apps, and the bike is in the shop for a tune-up. This will be a ‘in shape’ summer again, where free days are spent hiking up mountains instead of perusing antique stores and restaurants like last summer. You have to be in shape for that, since huffing and puffing up the mountains, sweating profusely,  is no fun. The elegant mountain gazelle looks more appealing…..

GF_chocolate_mini_bundts_5_gr

Yesterday I walked home after work. While all I wanted was to collapse in front of the TV with hot cocoa and one of these donuts, I had to pack up again and venture out for a midweek grocery shopping haul since the fridge was blaringly empty. That typically does not propel me into going shopping until one item is running low: milk for the morning coffee. 

GF_chocolate_mini_bundts_11

GF_chocolate_mini_bundts_9_gr

There was time to bake on the weekend. Ashley’s baked donuts became edgy mini bundts with the beautiful heritage mini bundt cake pan.

Onwards to another mile….. 24!

Guide to Portland, ME

 

Found this this morning on designsponge--- an guide to Portland, Me, 2014 with its ever changing scene of the local community.

portlandmainecityguide

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring time menu

It is the Easter weekend, and people take the opportunity to celebrate, not quite like Christmas, but the spring time equivalent. Potlucks, Easter egg hunts, Easter Sunday potluck brunch, church lunch --- here are a few ideas for the days: spring time salads, vegan waffles and savory mini muffins. Just add minosas and a tart, and you are set.

couscous_salad

springtime israeli couscous salad

lentil_quinoa_chive_salad

Lentil quinoa salad with chives

waffle_stack

Vegan chia waffles

mini_feta_muffins2_thumb[5]

Feta spinach squash muffins

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Deal alert

The sun shines. The work week is almost over, today is prepared (until 11pm last night); it just needs to be served out, and then it is the Easter weekend. On cue, my lust for all things shopping returned, and emails from retailers are read again instead of deleted in batches. ---

Shopping carts at JCrew factory are filled, and left unattended with artist’s tees, short sleeve navy sweaters and new necklaces. Aldo sandals are checked out. Then my real shopping instinct is peaked by an extraordinary deal--- the Le Creuset saucepan for $79.  $79!!!! When I bought the same sauce pan in the winter, it was “on sale” for $139. This size (1 1/4 qt) is excellent for 1-2 person meals, the smallest useful le creuset, and the quality is just superb. Risottos don’t burn and come out creamy without having to constantly stir (like with stainless steel pots), pasta dishes come out great and stay warm for a long time, and, keeping the lid on, dishes cook energy-efficiently on low heat. It is my new favorite pan. I should get another one!

But, the voice of reason says, one is enough. At least, you know about the deal. (comes in flame, indigo, marseille and rosemary).

lecreuset_2

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Peekaboo..

While yesterday it felt like spring….
64e8d89f7b1b50f661d04605b318157a
Today, it was a white awakening.
snow_apri_2l

It happens. It is April. The sun is out again and melts away the snow. The clusters of black and red-bellied birds are hopping in the white lawn in front of the house, which delights V. who is looking out from her cat throne while taking a sunbath, and worries me that I might have grubby snacks under the lawn.

snow_april

Oh winter. You are not going easy this year.

On a more interesting note:
If that does not make your day, maybe this time-lapse video of Lotte from age 0 to 14 will.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring has arrived

My heart was pounding.

Sweaty palms.

I breathed heavily and my stomach cramped up.

Then, I walked into the bedroom, scooped up V., placed her in the un-mounted cat carrier, placed the top back on while holding her in place, and clipped the safety locks shut. She was too surprised to protest and claw her way out again. The worst was over. Then, we drove to the vet for her annual exam. I had tried other ways of getting her into the carrier before, like stuffing her in through the open top door. We were both battered and clawed after that, she won and I had to maneuver her out from under the bed again. I wonder how long the surprise scoop will work in the future.

All signs these days point to Easter and Passover. Recipes for deviled eggs abound. Or baking an easter bunny.

Painting Easter eggs.

easter_Eggs

Or crocheting little daisies for the table d├ęcor.

easter4

The weather decided it needs a little bit more winter, and it will snow tomorrow morning. The weather in April is known to be undecided. The lawns look like lawns in California at the end of summer: sandy brown. The first mint, chives and the rhubarb are bursting through the ground. The bicycle is pumped up and waiting as new transportation to work.

Spring has officially arrived. Mostly.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring smoothies

It is time for spring cleaning, and not just the house and the garden. The fast way for an physical energy jump? A smoothie.

smoothies

The vegan smoothies:

e0c2a595fab2d5e8dd2e3cda66ce16fb

An arugula  smoothie with seedless grapes.

6c10feface1ea6994556c3b9513fa30e

A classic baby spinach greek yogurt smoothie, a gentle introduction to green smoothies for everyone!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lemon Almond Teacakes (GF)

Within 2 weeks we went from 4 feet of snow and freezing temperature to summer. Yesterday it was so warm, people had lunch at the tables on the sidewalk. I put the patio chairs and the first umbrella on the deck, and cleared out the garden from winter debris, uncovering the first herbs. It was so warm it was time to wear shorts. Life is good.

For the first patio Saturday afternoon coffee and cake get-together, I made individualized GF lemon almond cakes and coconut rum cakes.

lemon_cake_5

The first cakes were inspired by the still ripening Meyer Lemons. One of them I had used in a wonderful lemon asparagus risotto. The zest would be wonderful in these tea cakes to infuse them with lemon aroma.

lemon_cake_3
lemon_cake_1
The second batch was inspired by coconut and rum --- a similar base dough but with different flavors. The texture of both is wonderful fluffy, not too sweet and slightly caramelized on the outside.
lemon_cake_2
Individual cakes are a really good idea because not all of the cake might be eaten with a small group of friends, and the rest can easily be frozen for another time. Perfect to partition. The slightly bigger cakes are great to share for 2 people.
lemon_cake_4

Lemon Almond Tea Cakes (glutenfree)
special equipment: Nordic Ware Garland bundt pan
  • 5 TB softened unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
  • zest of 1 organic Meyer Lemon
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2/3 cup glutenfree all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de sel
Preheat your oven at 350 F. Spray your mold generously with a baking spray.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and Fleur de sel; and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one after the other, incorporated well before adding the second egg. Add the lemon zest, the lemon juice, and the almond milk.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.
Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake the teacakes for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding (important! they are kind of soft and will fall apart otherwise), leaving them to completely cool on a rack.

Coconut Rum Tea Mini Cakes (glutenfree)
special equipment: Nordicware rosebud platinum pan
  • 5 TB softened unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup blond cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 TB almond milk
  • 3 TB dried unsweetended coconut
  • 1/4 ts of coconut extract
  • 1/4 ts of rum extract
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 cup glutenfree all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de sel
Preheat your oven at 350 F. Spray your mold generously with a baking spray.
In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and Fleur de sel; and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one after the other, incorporated well before adding the second egg. Add the almond milk, extracts, and coconut, and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.

Fill the molds 3/4 full and bake the teacakes for about 30 minutes, or until the toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding (important! they are kind of soft and will fall apart otherwise), leaving them to completely cool on a rack.