Tag Archives: gingerbread

Forest and cookie critters.

June beetle on the Deadfall Trail

I forgot to show you the summer “bugs” I saw on my trip last week. I know you wouldn’t want to miss them, so I’ll put them at top here. Also so that I can have a flower or something more traditionally pretty at the bottom.

They were all the large size of insects that I only ever see when camping or in the forest, and Pippin does live in the forest. As soon as I would step outside in the early morning my senses took me to mountain camping trips, where the air at the beginning of the day is cool and dry and piney.

Robber Fly

 

One 95-degree midday Ivy called me over to see a creature resting in the shade on the tree swing. It was a surprisingly still subject, which enabled me to identify it as a Robber Fly. And the morning that I departed, a huge Western Sculpted Pine Borer landed on Pippin’s arm. She brushed it off and then collected it on a paper, where it sat, possibly stunned, and posed.

Western Sculpted Pine Borer
Butterfly Milkweed

My first morning we found a chipmunk on the front doorstep, which a cat had brought as an offering. The second day the sliding door would not shut, and the children and I finally figured out that a dead mouse was jammed between the two doors. I could not access it to get it out, but when she got home Pippin managed after laboring with a yardstick. The next morning another mouse was left at that back doorstep, which I disposed of. Four cats live with the family and at least two are hunters.

We watched “My Octopus Teacher” one night. Have I already mentioned that movie? I also saw it with my Colorado children last summer, and like it very much. I’ve heard a couple of people say that they wish there were less of the narrator and more of the octopus, but if it weren’t for the narrator-photographer, who visited the octopus nearly every day for a year, there would be no story. He had to tell it in his way.

As it about how whole experience of interacting with the octopus helped him move into a healthier life and frame of mind, I have to take it as it is, take the human subject as he is. Without agreeing with all of his presuppositions about nature, I very much appreciate that his relationship with the creature was thrilling and healing. Ivy declared that it is her favorite nature movie. Over the next several days she drew one picture after another of ocean landscapes.

Often the children would draw while I read to them, and I read for at least an hour every evening before bed. Mostly this time I read from The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon. I gave this book to my grandchildren a few years ago, thinking it was an anthology she had compiled of others’ works. But no, all the stories are by Farjeon herself.

They are the most unusual children’s stories I’ve ever read, a combination of fairy tale style with more realistic everyday happenings, and silly stories that make us laugh and laugh. But all happy hearted, and many brimming with pure Goodness. If Scout had not been away at Boy Scout Camp, he would have insisted that we read “The Princess Who Cried for the Moon,” a very long story about a whole kingdom of people who don’t have their thinking caps on.

Eleanor Farjeon

I still haven’t read the whole lot, but I did notice that the last entry in this edition is not a story by Eleanor but a piece titled, “Tea with Eleanor Farjeon,” by my beloved Rumer Godden. I read that one aloud, too, and Ivy was interested but Jamie drifted away. Eleanor sounds like the sort of old lady I would like to be. I wanted to quote from Godden’s article, but I can’t find my own copy of the storybook at the moment.

I spent six nights  last week at Pippin’s Mountain Homestead, longer than any other visit. That gave me time to go with the children to the library and to have a breakfast picnic in their favorite park that features a tiny waterfall and “jungle.” Ivy made her dragon to fly over the creek, and I discovered chicory and more.

There was lots of water play in the back yard, resulting in burned shoulders. And a big batch of gingerbread for cutting out with my new tiny animal cutters.

I suppose it’s because Pippin’s garden in the middle of the forest gets extra water, that the ferns constantly encroach. I was watering the new zinnia and dahlia sprouts and wondering at the robust ferns still popping up everywhere. They push against the deer fence that surrounds the vegetable and dahlia enclosure, and try to colonize the whole inside space, too.

Where I pulled out a few fronds to let sunlight on to a strawberry bed, we saw that frogs had been living among them. And while I aimed the hose at small flower plants, Duncan cat lay nearby in his cool and ferny hideaway and begged me to leave that colony as is. And for now it remains, another corner of the estate hospitable to critters.

Muddy creek and spicy cake.

gl-1-9-pine-branch-img_4080A big branch fell from my Canary Island Pine last night, just missing the lemon tree that we intentionally planted under its leggy canopy, hoping for a bit of frost protection; I hadn’t thought it might be a dangerous location instead. It’s been very blowy and wet in these parts – lots of flooding in the county, though not in my neighborhood. Today came a break in the rain, so I walked again along the muddy creeks.

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I was surprised to see this tree looking like Autumn. How could it still hold on to its leaves through the gale? I guess our winter is very like some people’s Fall. gl-1-9-cotoneaster-with-robin-jan-9-2016

It was cool, not cold, the air as fresh as can be. A hundred robins would startle and rise up in a swirl out of the cotoneaster bushes when I walked past, and then settle back down to eat the berries. One is sitting in this bush but he is hard to see.

Big limbs had fallen from eucalyptus trees along the path, and in many places the pavement was strewn with redwood cones and needles. I was alone the whole two miles of my loop. gl-1-9-eucalyptus-downed-branches

Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty,
give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thunders:
the LORD is upon many waters.

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privet

A few of these words from Psalm 29 were quoted by our rector on Sunday, referring to the storms that, surprisingly, didn’t force us all to stay home. My youngest two children and I memorized this Psalm about 20 years ago. I think I picked it for them because of all the vivid imagery like skipping, flames, cedars breaking, hinds giving birth. It still thrills me, and is indeed a good Psalm for stormy weather.

The thought of gingerbread came to me out there on my winter walk. So I came home and put together yet another version of Wheatless Gingerbread. This time it was even gluten-free, because I used the flour mix from Minimalist Baker.

gl-1-9-cake

It came out lovely and light. This time I also added milk powder and used butter… I think I might still be able to improve on this recipe in various ways, so I should try to make some again soon.

We’ve been keeping the stoves busy in our house. Someone even cooked her chicken breast and handmade tortillas on the wood stove last week. Keepin’ cozy!

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pieces and versions of gingerbread

Mr. Glad and I were taking a walk along the bike path yesterday afternoon when he noticed a sweet aroma in the air. “Gingerbread or something like that,” he guessed. Ah, gingerbread, I thought, that is just the thing for a birthday cake tonight.

Our friend May was going to be at our house for dinner and I had planned a belated birthday celebration; when we got home I began to put this one together. It’s the recipe I’ve used most often for 40+ years, the original idea of “Wheatless Gingerbread” found in Joy of Cooking.

I wrote about my history with that cookbook last year, and my intention to get the latest edition, which I have since done — actually, it was a gift from my husband — partly because it is the 75th Anniversary Edition. This book includes many recipes from previous editions, plus many new and modern ones, and I do like it. So far my only complaint is the sans serif font that it is printed in.Wheatless Gingerbread in Joy

But it doesn’t have this strange recipe that I customized into many incarnations, hoping to make it ever healthier and more to my liking. Always I was trying to make pastries and baked goods less sweet because that way you can also better taste the butter and everything else.

(It just occurred to me that if you make your cakes too sweet you also won’t be able to be as discerning as Bettie Botta of tongue twister fame, who “said this butter’s bitter if I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter but a bit of better butter will make my bitter batter better.”)

The last version before this had been enough to fill a lasagne pan, because healthy gingerbread is something you can’t have too much of, if you have at least a couple of hungry kids around. But! Now we don’t have any of those – so last night I made yet another improved version, cutting the old quantities in two again. Also, May can’t eat milk products, so I substituted coconut oil for the butter in this one.

The original recipe that called for cornstarch had the most tender and crumbly texture, and even this improved cake does not hold together well (as we found last night!). Especially if it’s children who will be eating it, either have a dog to lap those tasty crumbs off the floor, or take the cake outdoors for a picnic.

Wheatless Gingerbread

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole rye flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Put the oil, sugar and molasses in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir to melt. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Sift the remaining dry ingredients together. Add the eggs to the liquid ingredients, then stir in the dry ingredients and pour into a greased 10- or 11-cup pan.

Bake in an oven preheated to 325° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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When it was nearly time to serve the cake I began to tell May about my memory of a birthday cake she had made for me almost 30 years ago, and how when it broke into pieces she used extra ice cream in the seams to reassemble the pieces. This had made an extra yummy cake and no one minded a bit. We laughed about this and other evidence of our similar cooking styles.

May was hovering with her camera over her cake, which made me think to remove it to a plate to make it more photogenic,May gingerbread 14 and what do you know? It broke into three pieces! May thought it a special sign of blessing that the shallow divot off the bottom was in the shape of a heart. So that it would be visible for the photo op, before I set that last piece back into place I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on the rest of the surface.

There were no complaints about our warm and homey, lovey and spicy treat. Happy Birthday, May!