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Archive for the ‘favourite things’ Category

Recently, while out walking near Granville Island, we stopped at a coffee bar and Rand bought a giant apricot oat cookie thingy. It was amazingly good! Chewy, flavourful and filling but wholesome tasting, by which, I suppose, I mean not too sweet.

I looked online and found a very similar sounding recipe, which was gluten free and vegan.

While we are increasingly experimenting with meat free menus, I don’t see my love affair with dairy ending anytime soon.

And I definitely can’t be bothered to stock all the specialty ingredients required by this recipe (almond milk, coconut sugar, coconut oil, etc.) or to soak dates and blenderize all this lovely dried fruit.

So today I came up with a simplified version, and they are so good. Excellent right out of the oven for breakfast, and they would be a wonderful addition to a road trip. Had to write my modified version down right away, so I can make them again and again.

Update May 2020

I find this is a pretty flexible recipe: you can add a bit of flax seed, change the fruit or nuts, whatever. The key is to end up with a sticky but not wet dough, in order to pack the cookies into your dry measure mold (or a ramekin) and have them fall out of the mold onto your baking sheet, then hold this consistency through the baking process.

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup rolled whole oats

1 cup flour, can include some buckwheat or whole meal…

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Half cup or more sliced almonds, rough chopped, toast them for best flavour

1/4 cup finely minced dried apricots plus….

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/4 cup melted margerine

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Combine oats, flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar and coconut.. then almonds, apricots.

Add vanilla to milk, stir into dry ingredients, along with melted butter. Stir to combine. This will not “come together” like a cookie dough, but it does take a few minutes of stirring to ensure all the ingredients get damp and sticky, so keep stirring.

If necessary, add another tablespoon or two of milk, one at a time, to get everything to a damp and clumping consistency. Now, use a 1/2 cup dry measure to mold into 8 large or ten medium breakfast cookies.

Bake about 15 minutes, at 350F, then check to see if they are slightly browned on the top and bottom edges. May need another five minutes, if not.

Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then gobble ’em up.

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My sister made this. I am very jealous. She was always the artistic one. I have strong artistic impulses but no real eye or talent. She found this beat up and broken glass insulator in the boathouse of our family cottage near Nelson. Two pieces of driftwood and two nails later, she had created something I would pay to own. So cool that it perfectly holds a tea candle, making it both beautiful and useful.

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Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, so why not pass on getting sucked into the commercial hype of it all and show your love with a unique breakfast treat.

This looks great just out of the oven and tastes even better. I adapted this slightly from a recipe given to me by Mary Wallgren, from the Idaho branch of my mom’s family.

You will need a blender and also a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have the skillet, perhaps you should? Next thing you know you will be making frittatas and oven-fried chicken.

If you are really frugal, pick up a grotty cast skillet at Value Village and recondition it. There are instruction for this process on-line. It is a bit of a dirty job.

INGREDIENTS

Filling:

2 apples, peeled,cored, sliced
2 T brown sugar
2 T butter or margerine
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

Batter:

3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp orange peel zest (optional)
3/4 cup milk

3 T butter or margerine
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

METHOD

In a bowl, stir together apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and lemon juice until apples are coated.

Melt 2 T butter or margerine in a regular skillet on the stove top, add apples and saute until apples are tender – at least 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set this skillet aside for now.

Place your 11 inch cast iron skillet into cold oven, and set to 400 degrees.

Now, into blender put your three eggs, and blend really well.
Reduce blender to low speed. Add flour, salt, granulated sugar and orange zest.
Then slowly add milk.
Stop blender and scrape down sides to ensure all flour is being combined.
Blend again for one minute.

Carefully remove cast skillet from oven using two oven mitts.
Place on cold stove top and add 3 T butter or margerine, moving it around with a spatula until melted but not browned. Carefully add batter from blender, then distribute cinnamon sugar apples on top and return to oven using two oven mitts. Bake 25 minutes, until edges are puffed and brown. Test centre with finger to ensure fully cooked.

Dust with icing sugar, cut into wedges and serve with maple syrup.
Caution: Don’t forget and touch the pan. Hot!

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Its tough to find time to blog when you are trying to move a project along and tend to the business of work and family at the same time. I’d hoped to post pictures as we progressed, but here, in short, is the first bathroom we demo’d, in its new glory.

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Only missing is the back splash tile, which will be installed in few weeks, when we will have a few jobs for the tile layer to complete at once.

I had some professional help with this, by way of a friend who is a professional designer: Jenn Brown Interiors

Most importantly, she gave me the kick-start I needed. I just didn’t know where to start, and so she arrived with a ton of samples and helped me clarify needs vs. desires, priorities and a vision of the style we wanted.

Our family home is simply that. It is full of the stuff of our lives and will never look like a magazine house, nor would we want it to. We live here, and have done for two decades, so things get worn, and even when we can keep up with repairs and touch ups, things get messy and sometimes just plain dirty. We love our pets, but they take a toll on things as well. So we were looking for an update to our old pink bathrooms that incorporated practical solutions for better organization; reduced visual clutter, and easy clean and hard wearing surfaces. And a reasonable price point, of course. Because we are frugal.

And so far I would say we are hitting it out of the park in terms of getting what we want and need.
One of the nice things about Jenn is that she listens well. If you want her to just design and create a new space for you, she will do it. But we wanted to make our own choices and do a lot of the work ourselves. It gives us a great sense of satisfaction when it works out, and we learn stuff when it doesn’t. She was able to go with the flow, and our rather slow pace.

She knows a lot about various products, and was especially helpful at things like picking out tile, which is, frankly, overwhelming. She is also a very frugal person, and knows lots of ways to get a great look for less. Her fees were easily offset, in my view, in savings that directly resulted from her advice and product sourcing. So a great value and highly recommended.

Now that we are well on our way, we are mostly using her as an occasional resource, and for referrals to trades people she has used and trusts. Once our bathroom projects are completed, I’m going to enlist her advice to refresh our bedroom and the front hallway, and maybe re-stage our living room too. Project creep!

More and better photos, information about the products we chose (and why) and a rough cost break down for this first bathroom to follow shortly.

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If you noticed my new friend in my last post you already know something about this. This month, for the first time, both Bu and Lu moved away to school and we are officially empty nesters.

In advance of this event I succumbed to a long held inclination and adopted a rescued dog. Received him rather suddenly on the day Farley Mowat passed away. And since he had just been plucked from a shelter with very low adoption rates – if you catch my drift – in the greater Los Angeles area, we recognized his new citizenship and a new start in life by naming him after that great Canadian writer.

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Now Farley goes most places with me.  He is happy at the cottage, so with rental season winding down, he and I will start to spend some time there. For a smallish dog he is pretty versatile: Canoes, hikes and travels well with us. We are vastly contented with each other. Cottager – who was agreeable to a dog but not really enthusiastic – likes him too.

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As the saying goes, adopting a rescue dog won’t change the world, but it will change that one dog’s life forever – and your own.

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Three key elements:

A place of quiet beauty where you can relax!

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Flowers from my cottage garden

Refreshments …

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Cold beer served Dutch style

And a friend to share it with…

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The Cottager is questing on the Camino de Santiago in Spain at the moment and if inclined, you can see what he is up to on his blog where he posts a few lines and some great pictures almost daily.

I spent the better part of a week at the cottage, just catching my breath and bonding with my new friend Farley. He is a rescue from an L.A. shelter and is now permanently on vacation.

Farley

The Urchins had a week at home without mom harassing them to clean up after themselves. And the cats were happy just to have a week without the dog, whom they do not consider a particularly good addition. And so for the price of one plane ticket to Spain, 7 winter-weary creatures had a vacation.  Told you I was frugal.

I did get a few things done.  The deck got its last ever coat of stain. Before it is due again we will rebuild and only use an oil product after that. Stain is a hassle.

unstained deck

stained deck

I also did some gardening at a relaxed pace, having decided to limit rentals and keep the cottage principally for my own enjoyment this summer. 

A few good friends came to visit. My parents came too, which was wonderful as the have only come in fall or winter before and hadn’t seen my garden to advantage or walked on the beach.

petenpatter

Besides these pleasant events, the highlight of my vacation was having nine or ten blissful and uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. No doubt Cottager and the Urchins have better highlights.

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So satisfying to pick one sad corner of the garden and do some spring cleaning.
That’s what I did last Friday while waiting for the honey wagon to come and pump out the septic tank.

Before

Before

and After

and After

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When we married, I drew out a Shaker style design for a queen size bed, and Cottager made it up for us. I loved the bed but once we had two squirming toddlers squeezing in with us on weekend mornings we upsized to a king mattress and the Shaker bed went into storage. We initially set it up at the cottage, but the full box frame was a space killer in either of our small bedrooms here, so as it stands, only the headboard remains in use at Keats View.

The side rails of that bed were 2×10 fir planks. I saved those and – two years ago- drew up a plan to convert them to a console table for the cottage. Twenty-plus years into our marriage, the Cottager fulfills my whims with slightly less alacrity than in earlier days. And that is why this console table took six hours plus two years to create.

If I had a brownie for every time we discussed this project since I first raised it, I’d be pleasantly plump. A few weeks ago, Cottager stumbled on a plan for a table base that incorporates schedule 9, 1 inch (ID) steel pipe and cast fittings. Suddenly, I had buy in. And now I’m blogging from my new table at the cottage. When you see what it replaced, you will understand why I was so (unreasonably?) impatient.

The pipe and fittings cost $90 including custom cutting and threading at Pipeco in Chilliwack, which is a contractors supplier that considers no job too small. Just add one can Tremclad flat black primer. (Important note: the pipe has a greasy coating that must be removed with solvent before spray painting.) So for about $100 this definitely qualifies as a frugal project.

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The ugly ugly table I had to wait years to replace.

The ugly ugly table I had to wait years to replace.

The new table.  I love it.  For breakfast and the news, for writing, for everything. Thanks Cottager.

The new table. I love it.
For breakfast and the news, for writing, for everything. Thanks Cottager.

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Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

Makes 5 dozen: These are going to my son and his room mates at UVIC

What makes a good Valentines Day recipe to show your love to those special people in your life?

That depends on where you are in life. If you are in your 20s you probably want something beautiful and decadent to impress your partner (See the Food of Love 2012.) In you’re in your 70’s it might involve prunes (See Plum Clafouti.)

I have one son at university and another about to go. This year the Food of Love demands something delicious but easy; involving inexpensive ingredients and producing a big batch. This is for all the students out there.

If, like my son, you are on a budget, buy an inexpensive brand of peanut butter when it is on sale, get your chocolate and butterscotch chips and your oatmeal from the bulk section, and buy a box of margarine squares to keep in your freezer. These are pre-measured half cups perfect for baking and also sub in when you run short of regular tub margarine.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup margarine (2 sticks or squares, softened)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
.5 cups butterscotch chips

METHOD
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine softened margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
Beat until very light and fluffy. Fluffier!

Combine flour, oats and baking soda in a smaller bowl, stir to mix.
Add into creamed ingredients and mix well.
Add in chocolate and butterscotch chips; stir.

Scoop dough into golf size balls on greased or parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake 10 minutes. If not browning slightly, give them 2 more minutes.
Cool on rack. Turn off the oven, Hon!

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