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Just a simple gal living on the outskirts of Portland making ends meet. I have lived in Portland for over 20 years and I am happy to call it home. On this blog you will find everything from cooking to my crazy life. I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


I spent another Christmas with a bad cold. This year was the worst the bf and I had plans and everything with the exception of taking the hell hound to the park was canceled. I was so sick that the bf slept on the roll away cot in the living room so he would not catch my cold... Next year things will be better.
I did manage to make some delicious goodies for home and for the bf to take to work to share. I made some coconut flour brownies and toffee with nuts and chocolate. Both recipes are super simple and easy to do...perfect actually when you are sick as a dog.
Coconut Flour Brownies
Lay out your ingredients into individual bowls.
Mix all the melted butter, honey and vanilla together.
Then mix the egg, cocoa and coconut flour in with the butter, honey and vanilla.
spread into a greased 8 x 8 pan and bake at 300 for about 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. I did make a change to the original recipe I added 1/2 tsp of salt. I honestly feel chocolate does better when you add just a little salt to set it off.
4 Ingredient Toffee
Making toffee is easy if you make sure and have all your ingredients together and at hand, and having a thermometer is essential. Timing and heat are the two most important factors when making this easy candy.
Having room temp butter will make things go a little faster. Since I don't have a third arm and hand sprouting from the center of my body to operate the camera I was unable to take more photos of each of the steps. Use your imagination...lol.
This recipe is easily adaptable to your personal tastes. I did use semi sweet chocolate and pecan bits, but you could easily use white chocolate and macadamia nuts or pistachios and dark chocolate.
Lastly I made a traditional family favorite... Russian Teacakes I don't think there has ever been a Christmas celebration in my family that didn't involve mounds of these deliciously addicting cookies. They were my favorite as a child and they are my children's favorite today. I don't deviate from this tried and true recipe. Just remember one thing they are always better with butter.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday, and are looking forward to the coming year. I did manage to pack away Christmas yesterday and go through things and toss some relics out and organize things to make ready for next year. I think it is always helpful to have a handle on all that before the month of December and the holiday madness begins again.
Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Odds and Ends

I have been busy, but I am pretty sure everyone else out there is busy to. This is the month of madness. The month where we spend to much time energy and money busily trying to get that one thing or trying to get from place to place in record time...honestly certain aspects of this holiday I hate. I want simpler, quieter and calmer moments. Time to reflect, time to relax, to be able to enjoy the moments with family and friends. I keep telling myself that next year things will be different...I will find the time for all the quiet things...sigh.
The tree is up and this morning I wrapped and put the first of few gifts under it. For some people it is the amounts of gifts under the tree. This years gift for me is four-legged and healthy, and that is all I really care about this year. Shockingly, the chupacabra a.k.a. Katsu is ignoring the tree and it's many wonderful glass and hand beaded ornaments...so far not one casualty. (Side note the tortie kitten in the house (Willow, Bean or Willowbean) has decided to play the role of "The Grinch" this year by stealing Christmas and running off with every single bow I just stuck to every single package...Oye!).
I had my Christmas cards done, addressed and in the mail the first week of December. I am very proud of myself for that. I send out about 30+ card per year, and I never seem to get more than a handful from family and friends. Christmas cards are a old time tradition that I love to do. I love getting cards in the mail it puts a smile on my face and I like to think that my cards put a little smile on friends and family faces as well.
One more note about Thanksgiving and pie...I love pie, and one of my favorite is pumpkin pie. We have it every Thanksgiving, and maybe once or twice before and after Turkey Day. One of the reasons my pumpkin pie is so good is the love I bake into it...o.k. maybe it is a little more than love...haha.
First you start with some lovely pie pumpkins and a sharp knife.
Cut them down into manageable chuncks.
Use that handy dandy tool that you used when making Jack O Lanterns way back in October...if you can find it...check the junk drawer in the kitchen...under the unwound roll of dog poop bags...that is where you will find it. Scrap out the goop you don't want. Peel the skin from the pumpkin with a sturdy vegetable peeler.
Steam those big chunks of pumpkin until nice and tender.
What a gorgeous color!
Then puree the pumpkin in your food processor until you get a nice smooth consistency. Then after the pumpkin cools completely measure it out (It takes a cup of pumpkin for an 8 in. pie) and place in containers to freeze and use later.
Well the next step in making merry around here will be putting the finishing touches on on the gifts...if Willow ,the Krampus's handmaiden, will let me, and making the Christmas cookies for home and work. I have selected the three that I will be making so things should go smoothly.
K.B. shopping yesterday was fun always is, and we will have to do it again after the holiday madness subsides...Jan 25th...hehe. Lets start with Donuts...you know where.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cat Door

In the midst of baking and cooking and doing what we do on the weekends housework, work from home and home projects (you should see the list). The bf finally tackled a project we have been wanting to get to for some time. A cat door from the hallway to the spare room (we use as a giant walk in closet) for the cats to come and go and not be harassed by the resident chupacabra.
Step one...cut hole in wall. I love being a homeowner for this reason. I can cut a hole in the wall, and no one can stop me.
Cutting and fitting the the trim around the outside of said cat door.
Cutting and fitting the inside trim.
From the other side.
It turned out great. The cats love it...and sometimes the my adorable chupacabra lets them use it.
If you were expecting measurements and angles for a how to tutorial on the cat door...sorry but around here I don't mess with the bf power tools (unless its used to carve a jack o lantern)and he doesn't mess with my immersion blender.

One more Christmas Cookie

So as I mentioned earlier that I would have another Christmas cookie recipe to try out...It was by far the biggest hit yet. I don't know what it is about ginger but it somehow has the magical properties to transport me back to the Christmases of my childhood. Ginger is warm, comforting with just a little bite to keep you on your toes. I love that bite. Molasses is something dark and mysterious and lives on a shelf in your pantry until the holidays roll around. Unless you are me...I love molasses and go through a few bottles a year.
Chewy Molasses Cookies
Into a bowl you place 1 stick of super soft butter (almost to the melting point), 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup dark molasses (you can use light in a pinch), 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar. Cream these ingredients together. Into a second bowl place 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 3/4 tsp. cardamom, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1 to 2 pieces of crystallized ginger finely diced (it should equal somewhere between 1 to 2 tablespoons). Blend these dry ingredients together with a fork.
Add 1 large egg into the butter and sugar mixture and incorporate.
Start adding in the flour mixture a little at a time blending in between additions.
You can go ahead and bake these right up or put the dough in the fridge over night and bake the next day. If you decide to wait and bake later make sure you let the dough come to room temp to make things go easier.
Roll the dough into 2 inch balls and then dip in raw sugar making sure to cover all but the bottom of the cookie.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for somewhere between 8 and 10 min. It took me 9 minutes per batch and I probably could have pulled them about 30 seconds sooner...crazy as that sounds it does matter.
These cookies were disappearing off the plate at my office almost as fast as I put them out. The bf said people at his office were very happy with these. I tell you it is the ginger it brings back warm memories of Christmases past. Bake up some memories.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas Cookies

So I have been working on some Christmas cookies to bake and give this holiday season and I think I have come up with a couple of recipes so far that will be perfect for gift giving. A few weeks back I made Chocolate Anise Biscotti and I had mentioned that I was going to switch out a few things and do a lemon blueberry flavor...well it turned out delicious.
I simply left out the anise and chocolate and made the addition of the zest from one lemon and 1/2 -1 tsp. of lemon extract and a handful of dried blueberries. Then to finish I mixed some confectioners sugar with some fresh lemon juice and drizzled over the completely cooled biscotti.... it was delicious. Big hit with both my office and the bf's office. This will probably end up on my cookie gift giving list.
The other contender is Chocolate Espresso Snaps. Super simple and they really satisfy that chocolate craving. These were also a huge hit with the co-workers
Into one bowl you add 3/4 cup butter, 3/4 cup shortening, 2 cups of white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cream these ingredients together. Into the second bowl mix together 3 cups of flower, 1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder, 2 Tlb. espresso powder, 4 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt.
Into the first bowl with the creamed together butter and sugar add two eggs one at a time blending between each egg.
Then start adding the contents of the second bowl to the first bowl 1/2 cup at a time blending between each addition.
Yum...chocolate cookie dough.
Roll the dough into 2 inch balls and then roll in sugar. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for somewhere between 12 to 14 minutes (depends on your oven).
Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for several minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely.
When completely cooled you can store these scrumptious cookies in a airtight container...Ummm we ate them one and all over the course of a weekend. Monday saw the last of them going to the bf's office.
For me Christmas gift giving cookie has to be simple yet scrumptious. I have to be able to easily half the recipe if needed, and the cookies have to hold up well for traveling over the river and through the woods. I don't want something that is really complicated or fussy. A cookie that stands up well to hot cocoa and compliments the flavor and will also go nicely with that glass of milk for Santa Claus. I have one more recipe to try out this week, but first I need to replenish my supply of parchment paper...Have a great rest of the weekend.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Official

Halloween was Friday night marking the official start of the Holiday season. From here on out there will be dinner parties and cocktail parties to attend and all things wintery will be done. I know the store got a jump on things by quickly marking down and taking down Halloween decorations (on Halloween) and putting up Christmas display. In my own simple way I have gotten a jump on some things, other things can just wait. The pumpkin wasn't carved until Halloween for example but...two weeks ago I made a batch of biscotti to see if I liked it enough to make it and give it this Christmas. I love using the people at work and at the BF's work for the purpose of trying out my new recipes, and honestly they don't seem to mind all that much either.
Chocolate Anise Biscotti
In a large bowl cream together 1 stick of unsalted (you could use salted) butter and 3/4 cu. of white sugar.
Add 1 tsp. of ground anise to the butter and sugar.
Add two large eggs one at a time combining after each egg is added.
Then in a separate bowl combine 2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder and 1/4 tsp. of salt (some people like more).
Combine flour with the butter mixture in batches.
Then mix in by hand somewhere between a 1/2 cup and 1 cup of mini semi sweet chocolate chips. I think I added about 2/3 cup.
Flour your counter and make a slightly flattened log 16 in. long and 3 in. wide. Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet. This is not easy but it can be done. Keep the faith.
Bake log in a 350 degree (preheated) oven for somewhere between 20-30 min. I baked mine for exactly 26 min. and I wish I would have cooked it a little bit less. Cool log for 30 minutes before cutting.
Cut the biscotti diagonally with a sharp serrated knife somewhere between a 1/2 in. and 3/4 in. thick. Place cut side down on a baking sheet.
Back in the oven they go until lightly toasted. Should take about 15 min. but it really depends on your oven and how toasted you want your biscotti. I also turned mine over about halfway through the baking time.
Gently place cookies on wire rack and let cool completely. Everyone really liked these, but next time I need to adjust the time for what I am looking for, and I think I will swap out the Anise for lemon zest and the chocolate chips for dried blueberries.
I would like to thank everyone who helped with donations to Katsu's gofundme page. Katsu is home and doing great. The procedure he had turned up an issue that can not be fixed surgically, so we are left with trying to keep him healthy, happy and infection free. It is going to be a project, but he is worth it right down to the last tiger stripped hair on his bushy tail. He loved being a part of Halloween this year buy gently barking at the few trick or treaters we had.
Had K.B. and Mr. B over for dinner last night good food, good fun, and loads of conversation...perfect evening. I made my Brisket, buttermilk mashed potatoes, my biscuits and spicy, garlicy sauteed green beans. Yup it was delicious. For dessert I made Cannoli Cheesecake the day before. If you try this recipe keep an eye on your baking time. I actually had to bake this 15 min. longer that the recipe calls for...and I may move that up to add ten more min. the next time. Super yummy cheesecake.
Have a great rest of the weekend. I am off for a second cup of coffee and to work on my Thanksgiving greeting cards.