Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Clarity, Part 1

An interview with Lisa Congdon on WoodNotePhotography

Today I'm talking about finding clarity in all of my ideas, how to make them real, letting go and asking why. I've found reading the following posts to be extremely helpful in dealing with my billions of ideas, having the confidence to pick those things I really like, that I believe in and that I think can make me money, and staying true to the reasons I want change in the first place. Notice Lisa Congdon above. She is a self-taught artist and illustrator who started drawing at age 31. She wanted to be herself and do what she loved and I am OBSESSED with her and her neon pink accents.

In a recent Letters for Creatives email from Kathleen Shannon, she writes about how having a good idea is not enough:

"...having a good idea is not enough, because guess what? Most people have good ideas – what makes a creative stand out from most people is their ability to make it real."

On the Braid Creative Blog, she writes about how to turn vision into action instead of just having lots of ideas:

"You’ve probably got a notebook chock full of ideas. Awesome. Start considering which one you’d like to bring to life. Your ideas serve nobody, not even yourself, until you can even bring just one of them into action."

"I’ve found that there are two solid ways of designing a game plan – either by starting from the very beginning and considering the first smallest step you can take. Or you can start at the end where the idea is a total success and work backwards from there."

At the end she links to Rochelle from Lucky Lucille  who wrote a post about having too many ideas, letting go and re-focusing on the things she really loves:

"I didn’t realize how much I was letting my sewing and my blog suffer by working on these other ideas. The time was adding up and I was spreading myself way too thin. NOTHING was getting done because I was working on everything."  You know, like those quotes "you can have it all, but not all at once" and "you can do anything but not everything". 

I'll finish the quotes here with another Braid Creative Blog Post, "Why am I doing this?"

"It can be confusing to make sense of how all your creative passions fit together. And when you try to do, be, and offer All Of The Creative Things You’re Good At you run the risk of confusing your customers, diffusing your expertise, and worst of all becoming burnt out, spread thin, and/or paralyzed by potential...When I ask “why” I’m able to get clear about my intentions."

Stay tuned for a Clarity, Part 2 post where I talk about my many ideas, how I'm making some of them real, what I'm letting go of and the Why behind all of it. Invigorating, I know. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Bars (On a Chocolate Crust and A Vegan Option)

Similar to my Vegan Blackberry Crumble Bars, these Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Bars use my Chocolate Crust Recipe  a layer of melted chocolate chips, a jar of all fruit Raspberry spread and a vanilla crumble topping from my Apple Crumble Muffins but with half the flour and starch.

You could make these dairy free and vegan by substituting the butter with another oil (I prefer coconut oil) or vegan margarine, using agave in place of the honey and making sure to use dairy free chocolate chips or omitting them completely. They're still good without the added chocolate!

Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Bars (On a Chocolate Crust and A Vegan Option)
makes 16 two inch squares

Chocolate Crust
1 1/4 C blanched almond flour
1/4 C cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2-4 T melted butter (less makes for a crispier crust, more makes the crust a little softer)
2 T honey
2 T palm sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Chocolate and Raspberry Filling
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 jar all fruit raspberry spread

Vanilla Crumble Topping
1/2 C blanched almond flour
1/4 C arrowroot or tapiocha starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T butter melted
2 T honey

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a square baking dish or baking tray with parchment (the crust just needs to be in a square shape and the filling doesn't really run unless you put it right at the edge, so if you don't have a small square baking dish handy, you can just shape this by hand in a bigger dish or on a baking tray)
Make the crust by mixing the dry and wet ingredients separately and then blending together (important for the cocoa to mix into the flour first)
Place onto your lined baking dish and press into a square shape that's evenly thick
Bake for 15 minutes 
While the crust bakes make the crumble topping by again mixing the dry and wet ingredients separately and then blending together (this time it's important for the vanilla to mix with the butter and honey before mixing with the flour, otherwise you get a streaky colored topping)
Remove the crust from the oven, top with the chocolate chips and return to the oven for 2 minutes
Remove from the oven and smooth out chocolate chips with an off-set spatula or knife
Blob evenly with the all fruit raspberry spread and press flat (it may mix with the chocolate and that is okay)
Top with crumbles of the vanilla topping and then press flat with your hands, bake for an additional 15 minutes until the topping is slightly browned
Remove from the oven and let cool a while before cutting (the chocolate chips are hot and the fruit spread is soft, they need time to solidify before cutting and serving)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What do you want with your life?

There's something I've read over and over again from different creatives who've gone off on their own path. Susan Peterson from FreshlyPicked says it perfectly, "Get clear about the life you want. Refocus your priorities until you can see that life. And then run like hell at it."

I like this quote because it focuses on the experience of your life, not just your job or career. Right now I teach elementary art and I'm still trying to figure out 1. what the best path for me is and 2. what I exactly want to focus on without spreading myself too thin. I'd like to sell my gluten free baked goods and eventually open a bakery/coffee/art shop. I'd still like to develop my artistic style and sell paintings; and I'd like to teach classes but with fewer kids and on my terms; and where I never have to grade again.

A few weeks ago I wrote about deciding to open a gf bakery. And then I thought realistically about the time I would be at the shop, the large business loan I would need, the inexperience I have and how much money I would need to make daily to pay my rent, my ingredients, my salary and my employees. It made me realize that I don't want those hours away from home or that stress right now.

What is most important to me is having a baby and building and living the life I really want. Focusing on doing the things I'm good at and that I love; and the kind of daily experience that I want. I don't want to settle, I don't want to give into the security, routine and summer perks of a teaching job when I know I want something else, I don't want to work all hours of the day, evenings and weekends and be away from my family. And I especially don't want to lose the dream and drive of living the life I always felt was right for me.

Some images that inspire me and show my style:

Low-key and slightly rustic home style from D*S

Simple and understated wagon with plenty of fresh air from NewZealandDesignBlog

Sweet but not too fancy cakes made by hand with all-natural frostings from VioletCakes in London

Simple studio, lots of light and a dog from FreundevonFreunden

A small, unassuming, simple cabin from CabinPorn

Working near my baby from LunaBelle on tumblr

So here's a recap:
The Life I Want:
time for me in the morning
fresh air and sunlight during the day (not just when I leave work to go home)
freedom to take a break or run errands in the day
the ability to make a healthy lunch at home and not always have to pack my lunch
to be around my baby and dog more often during the day
to have more time dedicated to being creative and making things- not just as a hobby

Bigger Life things that I want:
a cabin in the woods
a separate art studio
to be strong, slim and healthy
to sell my artwork, baked goods, teach art lessons and write books

Refocusing my Priorities:
stop spending all my extra money on stuff, food and clothes
instead spend it on savings, house stuff, ingredients for baking, and art supplies (but don't overbuy on art supplies)
still spend a little on clothes but focus on quality over quantity and work on my overall style- present myself as the person I am and want to be
carve out time in the evenings, mornings and weekends to paint, sew, bake and blog
realize that having a baby is a priority over starting a bakery (this was huge to realize!)
realize that I should and can do things that feel comfortable and easy; and that I don't have to take out a gigantic business loan and use our house as collateral just to open a bakery/shop!

Running Like Hell:
I'm not so much running like hell all the time, but am more of a scatterbrained jack rabbit who also jumps backwards
I complete a lot of "A Day in the Life" work sheets
I write a lot of "what if" scenarios
I've created paper and computer documents organizing all of my ideas
I'm beginning to see how things connect and what my core message/basic mission is
I see now that my daily experience is really important to me- more important than the typical goals of jobs and a career.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gluten Free Info: Cheese & Crackers

Salt and Pepper Crackers by Elana's Pantry

So I thought I'd start a new section for little pieces of gluten free information. Today's topic is Cheese and Crackers.

Cheese is naturally gluten free but there are a couple tricksters out there! And crackers, oh crackers, they are something I miss the most.

Blue Cheese is reportedly gluten free, according to this article. Traditional, artisan blue cheese contains a blue mold that is first grown on bread, and then incorporated into the cheese. I would be nervous to eat these versions myself however the article states that testing was done and even the cheeses made with mold grown on bread tested gluten free (less than 20 parts per million).

And fear not because most commercial blue cheeses nowadays are made with a synthetic form of the blue mold so they are safe to eat.

Another unpleasant character for me is pre-shredded cheese that contains Natamycin- a natural mold inhibitor. Usually, if I eat this stuff I get a bad stomach ache similar to if I eat gluten. It is not soluble so it passes through the intestines without being absorbed- this is probably why I get so bloated if I eat cheese containing this preservative.

And finally, that favorite topping from High School Football game nachos- cheese sauce. I never ever eat this stuff unless I know the ingredients. Sure, the store bought gluten free options are okay but they're full of preservatives. And made from scratch sauce most often begins with a rue- a mixture of flour and butter- to thicken the cheese sauce, and thus continues to keep me away from those elusive cheese sauce nachos.

There are tons of gluten free crackers out there and I also like to make my own, but to be honest I don't think any really compare to the delicious, flaky, buttery, saltiness of Cheez-its or a Ritz. Alas, here are my favorite substitutes:

Crunchmaster, Roastic Garlic flavor
Snyder's Pretzels (I know they're not crackers but they're good with cheese)

Any gluten issues you've had with cheese, or any good cracker suggestions out there? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Happy Spring!

I'm so happy that we made it to Spring and I really look forward to getting a little sun, sitting on my porch and wearing sandals. I already got my pedicure so I am

I've had a busy week and haven't felt that great, but it's all been for good things and totally worth it.
A couple friends ordered some baked goods and I took another look into selling from a home kitchen- I'm still not sure if it's legal where I live but it would be amazing!!! I also painted a couple wedding orders and I love the idea of people having keepsakes of their special day made by me. We took it pretty easy this weekend- drove around, walked Clover in a new park, took a couple naps, posted things on craigslist, ate Indian Buffet for lunch and watched movies and reruns of Game of Thrones. Generally we are a little more productive on the weekends but it was pretty obvious that we just needed to relax and I'm so glad we did.

Some links you may like:
I wish I was at The Makerie, or I wish there was one near me.

I'm rereading one of my favorite books, The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel who I would LOVE to meet in person

I've been reading a lot of Kathleen Shannon on Braid Creative. Her post, "Thoughts are Things" struck a cord with me when thinking about the present and trying to form three new thoughts: either a goal, resolution or a "what if". I love goals and "what ifs" and I've found that I really need to ponder my ideas and feel them out before I know if they're lasting for me or not. And I also love the idea that you can have a great life-change plan but you can still be interested in other things. So one of my "what ifs" was buying an organic apple orchard in Virginia. We could host weddings there, and yoga retreats, and I could sell organic gluten free pies!

My friend has this Julia Child quote in her kitchen and I must say, I totally agree.

I desperately want this ring 

If you come to D.C., eat at Rose's Luxury on Barracks Row. My brother-in-law is a chef in D.C. and this is the only place he'll eat on the street. It's a little pricey but family style, so we ended up splitting the cost pretty nicely. The food really was amazing, the interior charming and welcoming, the staff knowledgeable and relaxed. Honestly, one of my top five meals of all time.

Right now I want all things caramel and this looks amazing- now to make it gluten free...

My friend ordered a cake! My ideas were a new recipe with Lemon Buttercream and Poppyseeds or maybe a Raspberry Lemon Curd Cake (all made gluten free of course) but I ended up going with a cake version of my Strawberry Lemon Curd Cupcakes. Delicious.

Happy Spring and have a great week!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chocolate Trail Mix Cookies

The addition of chocolate to these cookies makes for a rich, satisfying, all around really good cookie. Baking with honey and almond flour tends to make chewy cookies and this recipe matches really well with that texture. I'm still trying to perfect a grain and sugar free classic chocolate chip cookie while using honey and almond flour and so far I haven't hit the mark. But these cookies are perfect, I love them, they need no changing, bullseye!

This week I've had some spring fever and spent a lot of time cleaning out and just getting rid of stuff. We live in a small row house- three levels, 1200 sq ft total. At first I thought it was a good idea to use every available space to store stuff, but now I want to simplify the space and pare down our stuff so overall our house doesn't feel crowded and stuffed. I took everything hanging off of our room and closet doors and it made a huge difference! Now we can open our doors without hearing clanging and they can open fully without being stopped by a pile of sweatshirts or bags. That change made a huge difference.

We've also sold a good amount of furniture on craigslist that just wasn't working in our space. I'll miss some of the pieces (like an old table from our family farm), but we've realized that living in a small house means that we don't have room for a lot of extra, decorative pieces and that the furniture we do have has to work with the space, the size and the function. So now I'm on the lookout for the perfect buffet/media stand for our living room wall. I love this one, but it needs to go on sale!

Chocolate Trail Mix Cookies
makes 34

Use my recipe for Chewy Trail Mix Cookies and add 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Trader Joe's brand)
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and use a mini ice cream scoop to evenly space the smaller cookies, then flatten each with a spatula
Bake for about 18 minutes, longer if you refrigerate the dough beforehand
Tea Towel by Leah Duncan

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life Lately: Wintery and Local Travels

A DC rowhouse

A custom painted wedding mat wrapped and ready

 Our cozy bedroom

An awesome dog park and river trail in Front Royal, VA

Bonnie Blue bbq and shop in Winchester, VA

Their mini coffee shop inside

Old Treasures at Community Forklift in Hyattsville, MD

An icy Potomac, That's Georgetown across the way

A custom fall floral heart painting

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Warm Drinks for the End of Winter (Dairy Free, Sugar Free)

These recipes have been life savers this winter when I need a warm, cozy drink but I don't want the caffeine, sugar or dairy. I've made Elana's Paleo Chai Latte a billion times now- replacing the date with honey and stevia and it's just surprisingly good, creamy and frothy with so few ingredients. Cacao Butter is in my amazon cart and I can't wait to try the White Hot Chocolate!

We're almost at the end of February and true to form, it's snowed again.  I'm okay because we're nearing the end of Winter and Spring will come soon- but I'm about ready for a picnic on a sunny day! Until then, I'll be having these drinks to soothe my soul.

Real Pumpkin Spice Steamer/Latte from The Urban Poser

Hot Cocoa with chia seeds from The Spunky Coconut

Dairy Free Peppermint Mocha or Hot Cocoa  from Tasty-Yummies

Paleo Chai Latte with eggs and coconut oil
and White Hot Chocolate  with cacao butter, from Elana's Pantry

Friday, February 21, 2014

Apple Crumble Muffins

I'm a huge lover of almond extract so I wanted this muffin to feature that sweet, rich flavor. I love the little bites of apple and the crunchy crumble topping. The apple slice on top was decorative at first, but turns out it tastes like a sweet dried apple after it bakes, so that was a win. You could make these dairy free by substituting coconut oil and you could omit the almond extract or replace it with vanilla. Adding cinnamon in the muffin or in the crumble would be delicious too!

This weekend I'm going to paint our office wall charcoal gray, plan a big shelving unit for our living room, try to sell stuff on craigslist or just accept it and donate to goodwill, and visit Current Boutique where I have store credit. I'm trying to "overhaul my relationship with money" inspired by this post and a big part of that for me is shopping way less, finding inspiration in other ways and filling my time by working on house or creative projects. I don't make a ton of money as a teacher, but whatever money I make is good money and I need to stop giving it away to all of my shoes! Plus, it's way more important to build up savings for so many reasons (emergency cushion, future baby, house issues, a gluten free bakery that costs a bazillion dollars to open...)

Have a good one, and shop for me!

Apple Crumble Muffins
makes 12

Apple Muffin Batter
2 eggs
1/2 C honey
1/4 C butter melted
1/4 C water
1 1/2 tsp gf almond extract
3 C blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 apple- slice into quarters and peel 3/4 of it. Chop the peeled sections into cubes
Leave the skin on and slice the remaining 1/4 piece into apple slices to place on top of the muffins (optional)

Crumble Topping
1 C blanched almond flour
1/2 C arrowroot starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T butter melted
2 T honey

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with paper liners
Whisk the eggs, honey, cooled melted butter, water and almond extract
Mix in the blanched almond flour, salt and baking soda
Mix in the peeled and cubed apple pieces
Use an ice cream scoop to fill the paper lined muffin tin
Make the Crumble Topping by whisking the butter, honey and vanilla
Mix in the blanched almond flour, arrowroot starch, salt and baking soda
Top the muffins with a big spoonful of the Crumble Topping
Press down on the top of each muffin
Bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly browned and cooked in the center

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine's Chocolate and Raspberry Mini Cakes with Blueberry Buttercream

So how is your February going?
Mine so far has been cold, in limbo and a little depressing but also full of opportunity. Kind of all over the place! January had no schedule to it. We had a million snow days and two hour delays at school and I forgot what working really was. Now we're back for 10 weeks of school with no days off until our Spring Break. It's nice in a way because kids get back on a routine and I can actually teach a lot of art lessons- but everyone knows that these next two months are full of lingering wintery grossness and cold rain with only hints of spring. Do you wear your trench coat, or your hoodie- your rain boots or your cute flats- do you even bother blow drying your hair? I stopped doing that a few years ago because it's just absolutely pointless. Plus my skin is crazy dry and I'm super pale. I'm trying to think of ways to enjoy these last months of cold and hibernation so I plan to bake a bunch of recipes for future posts, take long walks in the brisk weather as the days get longer, and I'll treat myself to a pedicure at the end of February after I hopefully pay off this dang credit card!

Some great things did happen just this week though! I sold a custom painting on Etsy, I have a few wedding painting orders in the works from friends, I was put in touch with a commercial realtor so I can start looking at bakery spaces and pricing, and I found out that our friend and realtor's grandfather owned a local bakery for 40 years! I plan to be best friends with this man. Last night I had a love fest with our group of friends about my future bakery and I was blown away with how excited and supportive they are. And to top it all off, I found Rainbow Mini Cakes by Molly Yeh, which obviously inspired this cute mini cake recipe! She bakes and cooks and has gluten and dairy free options for her boyfriend, her name is Molly, and she just moved from NY to a farm in North Dakota. Done.

And for a little insight into my mini cakes, the cake is sweetened with honey and palm sugar and I used all fruit raspberry spread which is sweetened with fruit juice. The buttercream is colored just from the blueberries (which I just love so much!) and I used Trader Joe's Organic Powdered Sugar which is made from tapiocha starch and "pulverized unrefined organic sugar made from the first crystallization of organic cane juice". So I feel a little better using Trader Joe's option than using normal processed powdered sugar made with corn starch and highly processed sugar. But it's still cane sugar, so it will still spike the blood suga'.

Valentine's Chocolate and Raspberry Mini Cakes with Blueberry Buttercream
makes 3 mini cakes

Chocolate Cake
A day ahead, use my recipe for Perfect Chocolate Cake and bake in a parchment lined brownie pan so it's a little thinner.
Bake for 15 minutes until the top is dry
Let cool, wrap the whole brownie pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (making ahead of time is not totally necessary, but it does keep the cake from crumbling so much)

1/2 jar All Fruit Raspberry Spread (I use Trader Joe's)

Blueberry Buttercream
Based on my Strawberry Buttercream recipe
1/2 C blueberries
1/4 C room temperature butter (very important)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp honey
3-4 C powdered sugar (from one 1 lb. bag)
(pictured is a thinner buttercream, add more powdered sugar to make it thicker)

To make the Blueberry Buttercream,
You can prepare the frosting ahead of time (just thaw to room temperature the day you want to use it) 
First place the blueberries in the food processor and process 3 times until they are very small
Then slice the room temperature butter and place it in the processor with the vanilla, lemon juice and honey Process 3 times until everything is a mixed up- don't worry that it has separated into smaller pieces
Scrape down the sides with a spatula and process again
Next pour in half of the powdered sugar, process and wipe down the sides
Repeat this two more times until the bag of sugar is empty and the frosting is well-mixed 
Carefully remove the blade from the processor and wipe off the frosting
Scoop the frosting into a large ziploc bag to use as a piping bag
Squeeze all of the frosting down to the bottom corner, get all of the air out and cut a small tip at the corner
(start small because a lot comes out and you can always make it larger)
Use this technique to pipe the frosting onto your cake layers

Remove the wrapped cake from the fridge and use a round biscuit cutter (I used these) to cut 9 circles from the cake layer
Transfer the base cake layers for your three cakes to little plates or a cake stand
Top each layer with a circle of frosting around the edge and then a dollop of fruit spread in the center
Top with another cake layer and repeat two more times to make three layer mini cakes
( I saved the extra cake pieces in a bowl and topped with some frosting and fruit spread- I call it Dump Cake but I really need to think of a better name for it...)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Overall Health Plan (To Help Achieve My Dream Life Plan)

So I've been doing a lot of thinking on the way I want to be and the life I want to live. I'm not totally happy and fulfilled right now and there are so many other things I want to do with my life. If I don't start making changes now, when will I do it!? My two biggest goals that I want to accomplish are opening a gluten free bakery and having a baby. I want to do those two things with an open heart, a clear conscience, and a healthy and strong body. So because I have big dreams that I want to fulfill, I've written out an overall health plan that will help get me there.

These are some things that give me limitations so I can make the best choices, are easy enough to maintain, work best with what I like and my personality, and generally will make me a happier, healthier, calmer and more put together person. They'll help me now but they will also help me in the future with the lifestyle I want to lead (and that's what I'm saying to myself everyday to help me stick with it all!)


Friday, January 31, 2014

Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuits and Easy Crock Pot Chicken Soup

It has been extremely cold and snowy here lately. The month of January has been a bust at school but awesome for me! We had a long winter break, a little bit of school and then a bunch of snow days. I relish those days because I can always find some project to work on and some new recipe to make. I finished painting our kitchen, I worked on my logo idea for my future bakery (yay!) and I made this soup and biscuits; and in between I watched a billion episodes of Damages on our Apple TV.

Good soup is the best in winter months. Having these awesome biscuits overflowing with salty cheddar and dotted with slightly spicy jalapeno pieces was the perfect pairing. I used one jalapeno and 2 cups of cheddar- but you could add more jalapeno if you can handle the spice, or maybe keep the jalapeno slices round instead of little bitty pieces. You could also use less than 2 cups of cheddar cups or maybe use shredded cheddar instead of cubes. Lots of options!

And for fun, this endless snowy, cold weather has got me thinking of a few more winter accessories:
These handmade mittens
This pom pom hat
This chunky scarf
and this awesome knit bag

Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuits and Easy Crock Pot Chicken Soup

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why I Love My Rescue Dog

Sometimes people tell us we've bought our ticket to heaven for adopting Clover (multiple people have said this). Then there are a few who have cried when they've first met Clover and we told them her story: she was trapped under a trailer with a wire embedded in her leg. It got so infected that by the time someone finally called about her, antibiotics didn't work and they had to amputate her leg. She was under that trailer with a new littler of puppies and they couldn't nurse because she had turned septic. Some of them died but the rest were flown up here to a surrogate dog who nursed them to health and they were adopted out very quickly.

But we feel that we're lucky to be matched with the perfect dog for us. She doesn't really smell, she barely sheds, she's friendly and cuddly and just the sweetest. So here are some reasons why I love her so much.

1. Every night she comes upstairs and tries to sleep in our room, but we have to put her in the office because she snores. She'll walk into the bedroom, look back at us, look at the space where we keep her extra dog bed under our bed, look back at us and wag her tail- it's so sweet.

2. She grunts like a pig when she eats.

3. Because her back right leg was amputated, she can't scratch her right ear, so it's always itchy. I clean her ears out with q-tips but for the daily self-cleanings that she does with her paws, she'll stand close by or lean into us on her right side so we can rub her ear for her.

4. Sometimes she'll sniff all around my face, find my ear and sniff really loudly and then lick it- like she's going to clean it too. This girl has a big pitbull type jaw but she is so incredibly precise and gentle when she's checking things out.

5. We have a dog bed for her in our living room but she prefers to cuddle up on the couch. She'll sit right on top of us and curl up, or she'll lean into us with her full weight and put her paw on our lap, or she'll sit up like a person and then lean backwards onto your lap and fall asleep in the most ridiculous positions.

6. She is a super happy and sweet dog. She runs up to anyone visiting our house and greets them with a sniff, a nudge and a tail wag.

7. She's sweet, gentle, calm and patient around little kids. My favorite memory is of her and our friend's daughter who was then 3. I looked over and they were laying under the table facing each other and she had Clover's face in her hands, whispering to her. Clover just laid there and did absolutely nothing. It was amazing.

8. She's super low maintenance and really just wants to be near us. We can spend the whole day in the house and she'll follow us to different rooms and lay down. We love to go on drives and she'll sit for hours in the car calm and patient. And we'll bring her to the beach and after she chases seagulls and eats waves, she'll just come lay on the sand next to our chairs.

9. She loves to be outside and when she's having a great time she'll look back and check on us, then run a little faster.

10. She absolutely knows when we're feeling down or sick and she'll hop up on the couch and cuddle us in just the right way for as long as we need.

Want some more animal love?
Meet Poinsettia, this little cutie is available for adoption at The Washington Animal Rescue League
and check out Operation Paws for Homes where we found Clover.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Vegan Blackberry Crumble Bars

Hello again!

It's been a while since I've posted a recipe. Has starting this new year been a bit tiring for you too? I have all these things I want to do, I'm actually loving the cold weather and snow that we're getting here in the area and I kind of just want to hole up in a mountain cabin and work by the fire. Anyone else?

These cookie bars were inspired by This pie recipe from Blackbird Bakery and This cookie recipe from The Sensitive Pantry. I love the crumble topping, the cooked jelly filling and the gooey cookie crust. And they're also really simple to make- as usual, nothing I make is really that hard.

I had a really fabulous night hanging out with girlfriends last week and I made a version of these cookies. They went over well, and I've made a few changes that makes them even better! As usual, there are options to make it fit your needs or ingredients. For this recipe I used Seedless Blackberry Fruit Spread from Harris Teeter, and I've also used Trader Joe's brand Raspberry All Fruit Spread. The key for me was finding jellies with no added sugar or fake sugars. I made these using coconut oil, but you could substitute butter. And you could also add a layer of chocolate- I've included directions for that below.

Vegan Blackberry Crumble Bars
makes 12-16

Sweet Crust 
3 C blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C coconut oil melted
1/2 C honey (or agave)
1 T vanilla
(reserve 1/2 C)

1/2 C reserved sweet crust
1/4 C of arrowroot or tapiocha starch

1 jar of all fruit spread
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 and choose your baking dish (I used a square glass 8x8 inch pan)
There is no need to grease the pan as there is enough fat in the crust, but you could also line it with parchment paper
First mix the sweet crust by whisking the coconut oil, honey or agave, and vanilla
Mix in the blanched almond flour, salt and baking soda
Blend until combined and then measure 1/2 C of the crust mixture into a separate bowl for the topping
Place the remaining sweet crust into the baking dish and press flat
Bake for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven (it will be slightly soft, that's okay)
While the crust bakes, make the topping by mixing the 1/4 C starch with the 1/2 C reserved sweet crust and save
Remove the crust from the oven and top with dollops of the all fruit spread* (see below for the chocolate option)
Spread gently with a knife or offset spatula (because the crust is still slightly soft, you may get a few crumbs here and there- that's fine)
Use clean hands to drop pieces of the topping mixture onto the fruit spread, press flat any round pieces of dough
Bake for an additional 15 minutes until the top crumble is lightly browned and the fruit spread is not too jiggly
Remove from the oven and let cool 30 minutes to an hour before cutting and serving

*To add a layer of chocolate, Remove the crust from the oven and top with the chocolate chips. Return to the oven for 3 minutes to heat the chips, then remove from the oven and spread evenly with a knife or offset spatula. Then follow the steps to add the all fruit spread and topping.