Tag Archives: chocolate

Daily Sustenance

It’s been cold here this week, and hailed for a few minutes yesterday. I hope my plum blossoms were not damaged! Maybe some that were hiding under leaves will be able to become plums.

Last Sunday our parish women’s book group was scheduled to meet at Ann’s house to discuss Father Arseny. I hadn’t planned to be there because Soldier and Liam were flying in from Colorado to celebrate my birthday with me; so I didn’t reread the book in preparation.

Of course my guests cancelled their plans, for everyone’s safety, and the women held a lively Zoom discussion which I “attended” along with eleven others. I sat in my garden at my laptop most of the time, until it got too chilly. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and decided to meet again in a week just to chat; we’ve been missing each other and don’t want to wait a whole month or more till we’ve read the next book.

Now we are reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. This title is a good one for a few reasons:

1) Several of us love George MacDonald and his books have come up before in our list of possible group reads.
2) Even though physical libraries are closed, his works are easily found as free library digital editions, for 99 cents on Kindle and as audiobooks.
3) For families with more time together sheltering in place, it’s a good read-aloud.
4) I haven’t read it for a long time, but knowing MacDonald generally, it’s likely good nourishment for our souls that need extra sustenance right now.

 

Sustenance consists of those things we need for life and health. The opposite is deprivation or starvation. Often our souls are starving for spiritual food when our bodies are overfed.

I had the odd experience in the last week of several times being so busy socializing that I didn’t take time to eat. Because of the many anniversaries and birthdays in my extended family, in addition to dear friends phoning to talk about the pestilence, I was on the phone more hours that week than I had been in the previous six months. Because I’m generally overfed, that brief bodily deprivation had little effect. Since then I’ve also caught up on Alone Time.

And I’ve cooked some things. When my Painted Lady runner beans produced a bumper crop last fall I resolved to make soup with them during Lent. What I came up with was a vegetable soup rich with onions and garlic, and not too many beans. It’s sustaining for sure.

 

Over the decades I’ve discovered two sorts of (vegan) chocolate pudding that are great for breakfast, and I don’t see that I have shared the recipes here before. Well, I did share a link for this version of the chocolate chia seed pudding, and here it is again: Minimalist Baker.

But the one I’ve made many more times in various flavors is so simple and adaptable, I didn’t even measure yesterday when I made a batch.

SILKEN TOFU PUDDING

-an amount of silken tofu, say, 14 oz.
-cocoa powder, try 1/2 cup
-sweetening to taste: sugar, maple syrup, etc.
-cinnamon or vanilla or almond extract, etc.

Mix in food processor until smooth, divide into portions and eat or refrigerate. Of course you might top it with fruit or nuts or granola. The above amounts are what I used last night and I divided it into three containers. I think it’s a good breakfast food because it has protein and caffeine, and don’t we all like something easy for breakfast?

I have made it without chocolate at times, in the past. I think there was a lemon version, or a pumpkin spice, but as I remember, chocolate was the winner.

 

My remodel: It is not finished; some construction workers are willing and wanting to work at this uncertain time, and some are not, so I am preparing my mind for an indefinite prolonging of this mess. Three times over the last 16 months I’ve moved out of my walk-in closet, into a spare bedroom across the house that is even now serving as my dressing room, with my clothes stacked all over the bed, my laundry hamper squeezed in the corner, some of my hanging clothes squeezed into the wardrobe.

My goal now is to clear that room and somehow fit my clothes and shoes into my own bedroom, and use it as my dressing room. It has no closet currently, and is still full of storage, but I can move some of that stuff temporarily into the sewing room cabinet that is waiting for doors, as you can see in the photo above that I have already begun to do.

The workers’ clutter in the sewing room I hope I can stash in the garage or the unfinished closet, depending on whose it is, so I can clean up the sewing room, too. I am tired of waiting to wash the windows, and I want to be able to sit in there in the mornings. Do you think that as soon as I complete all this work, the construction guys will come back and make a mess again? If they do, I won’t complain. That’s the walk-in closet at right, which I can’t even shut the door to. It’s been the view from my bathroom for two months now, unchanged.

The new guest bathroom is usable except for things like the shower curtain rod and towel ring. There are six such accessories that a worker came to install one day weeks ago, and he completed two of them.

Outdoors, I myself have neglected the garden quite a bit, but it’s still a lovely place to stroll, and I’m cutting asparagus and waiting for snow peas to show on the tall vines. (You can see them at the back in the last picture below.) The Coast Bush Lupine I planted sometime last year is now covered with buds! Everything looked so pretty after the rain and hail, these recent mornings when the sun broke through.

There’s plenty of sustenance in my larders!

In the kitchen on St. Stephen’s Day.

Today was a cooking day, mostly. I baked a few more of the cookies I already showed you, and started in on several more kinds…

1) Rich chocolate cookie from the Fine Cooking website. The best flavor, but overly tender and crumbly for my use. I wanted a cookie to fill with the Ghirardelli peppermint chunks I had bought. Did a lot of experimenting, baking three or five cookies at a time.

2) Spiral Green Tea Cookies that turned out kind of blah, in both color and flavor. Maybe they would be a brighter green if my matcha powder were newer?

3) Black Walnut Icebox cookies from Linda of The Task at Hand blog. These are really good!

4) Peanut Brittle from Suburban Jubilee. What drew me to this recipe was that it didn’t require a candy thermometer. It was easy and delicious.

5) The first batch of Licorice Meringues were a product of the kitchen last week; I didn’t get to making a second today. The recipe is from Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus, a cookbook that Kate gave me.

The flavor depends on dried licorice root powder, and the color comes from stripes of black food color gel that you paint on the inside of your piping bag. I want to make more of these because I think they could use more of the licorice element, and because I hope to get closer to making my cookies resemble the gorgeous ones in the book.

 

Oh, and I did cook three sweet and stripey squashes that came in my farm box. My next farm box is coming soon so it’s good to clear out the shelves. I ended my dinner with one of them, and they are pretty enough to close out my foodie report.

Almond Chocolate Macaroons

Of Christmas cookies, one of our family’s recent favorites — that is, in the last ten years — is this intense chewy marzipany one, the recipe for which I found on the website of the Odense company. When I use a different brand of paste that comes in an 8 oz. package, I just nibble a little to make it come out even.

ALMOND CHOCOLATE MACAROONS

1-7 oz box almond paste, grated
1 cup confectioners sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup cocoa, firmly packed [I don’t how one might pack cocoa]
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For topping: 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment.

Combine almond paste, 1 cup of the sugar, cocoa, flour and salt in a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer beat on a low speed until all ingredients are incorporated.

Add egg whites and vanilla. Beat on a high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until a smooth, shiny paste. *Cover and chill dough for one hour.

Add remaining confectioners sugar to a small bowl. Drop dough into sugar by a level tablespoon measure (not flatware) [I use flatware], or a lightly oiled cookie scoop. Quickly turn dough (it is sticky) to cover with sugar. Roll into a ball between palms and drop onto cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.

Bake for 16-18 minutes or until firm on top. Cool on wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Best if eaten within 3 days.  [Stored in the freezer or our cold garage they keep well for longer than this.]

The recipe says it makes 18 cookies, so I always mix up a double batch.

*Dough can be chilled for up to 24 hours. [I have saved it for days] Make sure it is covered well to avoid picking up refrigerator odors.

Merry Christmas Cookies to YOU!

Gingerbread Experiments

gl-chips-etcOne of my favorite flavor combinations is chocolate and ginger. Years ago my friend Madalyn served a chocolate chip gingerbread that I loved, but I guess I lost the recipe at some point. I found a substitute online, and I started baking it as a bundt cake, but it’s often a problem….

No matter how thick the batter, the chocolate chips like to sink through it as the cake bakes, and they may all end up on the bottom of the cake and maybe even burn. 😦 To prevent this Madalyn used to put the batter in the 9×12 baking dish and sprinkle the chips on just before putting it in the oven.

If you want to try this cake you can also find a recipe online. I will tell you some things I have learned from mgl-gingery many experiments:

1. Don’t use silicone bakeware. I was given a set of this once, and the silicone bundt pan was the worst for burning on the bottom, which becomes the top when you turn the cake out, and has to be sliced off before glazing or frosting.

2. The recipe online doesn’t have enough ginger for me. I tripled the powdered ginger and added some fresh grated ginger as well.

3. I thought a little more butter would be better – of course! – so I used a whole cup, instead of 3/4 cup. I don’t see the purpose of whipping the room-temperature butter with the sugar, etc. if you are going to melt it all by adding hot water shortly, so I might combine some steps. To get a thicker batter I should use less hot water.

4. The recipe has more sugar than is optimal. I used one cup and that made a cake that was plenty sweet.

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5. If you want a black cake such as I made this time, use the Fair Trade Black Cocoa Powder sold by Frontier. I think it has a very odd flavor, not like chocolate at all and more like chili powder, but I had it on hand, and its flavor goes okay with all the spices that are in this recipe. I regret buying it, however!

6. My next experiment will be to make this recipe as cupcakes; I will try to make a thick batter so that the chocolate chips I sprinkle on at the last minute might not sink all the way to the bottom. If I could find some small and extra-dark chocolate chips it would be helpful; the Ghirardelli 60% cacao are very big and that no doubt causes them to sink through the batter faster.

7. If I perfect the recipe I will post my Best Version. And if any of my readers already bake a similar cake, I’d love to hear about it.

My cake was rather mangled by the time I got it out of the bundt pan where so many of the chips were burnt and encrusted on the bottom. But it didn’t fall apart. I was able to slice it and put a large dollop of whipped cream on top of each serving, and everyone thought it was a gastronomic success.

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