Very Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

IMG_1272Hi there chocolate loving friends– These little gems are my very favorite cookies– sooo chocolatey!  They are pretty much the cookie version of flourless chocolate cake.  Plus they have those fresh crunchy hazelnuts that put you to mind of nutella.  So what could be better than that?!  Anyway, if you do love chocolate, you might want to give them a try.

VERY CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT COOKIES
2  2/3 cup chocolate chips, divided
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup hazelnuts, cut in half

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Take 1 1/3 cup of the chocolate chips and melt them in the microwave in a micowave-proof bowl (about 1 1/2 minute).  Stir them together til they are a melty mess of chocolate.

Mix in the sugar, melted butter and vanilla.  Then beat in the eggs.  Next stir in the flour, baking powder and salt until it’s completely blended.  Last, fold in the hazelnuts.

Drop the batter by small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Space them far apart.  They will spread.

Pop them into a 350 oven for 12 to 13 minutes until they are set, still soft in the center.  Transfer them off the cookie sheet to a rack carefully.  They will firm up as they cool.

Makes 24 to 30 smallish beautiful rich cookies.

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P.S.  These are best eaten right away.  If you are storing them for a few days, make sure you have an air tight container so they don’t dry out.

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Citrus Kale Salad with Orange Honey Dressing

IMG_1229Hi all– It’s still citrus season around here.  Jodi brought us a big net bag of Ojai oranges and they were so bright and sweet.  So one of the last ones ended up in our salad…

With most salads, I wait til the last minute to put them together so they’ll hold up and stay fresh.  But this hearty kale will still be great if you make the salad up to an hour ahead and stick it into the fridge.  That’s handy when you have more dinner to fix!

CITRUS KALE SALAD

Salad:
3 kale leaves, cut off the stem and chopped fine
1 orange peeled & sliced into sections
2 tangerines, peeled & sliced into rounds
2 tab. red & orange bell pepper, cut to tiny bits*
3 tab. salted almonds, cut in half

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tab. orange muscat vinegar**
1 tab. honey
salt & pepper

Not really much of a recipe– Just layer the kale, orange, tangerines, pepper and almonds on a pretty plate.  That’s it.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the olive oil, vinegar and honey.  Shake hard til throughly blended.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour it on the salad when you’re ready to eat.

*I got a bag of those tiny red, yellow and orange peppers at the market.  Two of them were just enough.

** The  Orange Muscat Vinegar is at Trader Joe’s.  Love that stuff.

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Anchor for my Soul

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“In order to realize the worth of the anchor, we need to feel the stress of the storm.” –Corrie Ten Boom (Author, Dutch Christian who helped escaping Jews in WWII)

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  — Hebrews 6:19

Grateful all over again tonight to have an anchor, that holds me close to what is real and true and eternal.

 P.S.- photo from our travels up the Interstate 5 to SF a couple weeks ago.  Glorious.
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Books of Light

Unknown     Unknown-1 . Hi reading friends–  Just finished reading a pair of books, both including “light” in the title.  Both penned by Australian authors.  And happily, both I would heartily recommend  to you…

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans tells the story of WWI veteran, Tom Stelbourne.  After the war he takes the job tending an isolated lights house, on an island off western coast of Australia.  And then he meets Isabel, lively and independent back on the mainland.  They marry and she joins him in the solitary life of Janus Island.

As time passes, Isabel loses 3 babies and then one day, a boat washes ashore.  In it they find a new born baby and her dead father.  Meticulous Tom want to report the baby, but Isabel sees baby Lucy as a gift from God. They claim her as their own.  The results are poignant and tragic as they later discover the mother of baby Lucy.

From that point come so many plot twists and turns.  You can’t know what’s coming. I cared about the lives of these flawed characters and felt my allegiance  turning as the story progressed.  The thorny ethical problems, the struggles of Tom and Isabel and the eventual resolution, pull your through the story.  Also I loved the descriptions of the life in 1920’s Australia, the beauty of the simple light keeper’s life, the sweetness of Tom and Isabel’s love story.   I think you might like it as well.

P.S. I read that this book will be made into a movie by Steven Spielberg.

___________________

THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE   by Anthony Doerr

It’s been a long while since I’ve read a book I’ve loved as much as The Light We Cannot See.  Set in Germany and Occupied France of WWII, it shows an intimate, human side of the war through the stories of a blind French girl and a brilliant orphaned German boy.

Marie Laure lives with her father, the lock master of the Parisian Museum of Natural History.  As the Germans come to occupy Paris, twelve year old Marie Laure flees with her father and with perhaps the most valuable jewel of the museum’s collection to a seaside town of Saint Malo, to find shelter with an eccentric great uncle.

Werner lives in an orphan home with his sister Jutta.  They discover and repair a broken radio and listen to the world beyond.  In time, Werner is discovered as a mechanical prodigy and is sent to a brutal academy for Hitler youth and then on to the grim life of a German soldier.

Their two stories unfold in short alternating chapters. The tightly woven plot hurdles along at a quick pace.  You see the war through their experiences.  There are a few brutal moments, but mostly you follow their days through a gripping set of intricate circumstances that eventually cause their paths to cross.

You are also acquainted with the war damaged great uncle Entienne who rises to the occasion, the crusty house keeper who fights her own slice of the war, the doting father who shelters his daughter, the giant of a German infantryman who turns out to be a loyal companion.  I devoured this 500 page book in a couple days, all the time wishing it wouldn’t end.  No wonder Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for this story.

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Blueberry Crumb Cake

IMG_0905Hi all–  So many reasons for cake these days–We had Mother’s Day, inner family lots of May birthdays, graduations, showers, retirements and end of school celebrations.  It’s going to be a cake-filled few weeks for us here!

So here’s a pretty little cake that is just sweet enough. It’s filled with ripe juicy berries and topped with the crunch of those toasted almonds.  I hope you like it…

BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup toasted almonds**
powdered sugar for dusting

Cake:
1/4 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unflavored yogurt
1 cup blueberries*
2 more tab. flour

IMG_0914To make the topping, stir together the 1/3 cup flour and the 1/3 cup sugar.  With a pastry blender (or 2 forks) cut in the butter until it’s resembles coarse crumbs.  Set aside.

For the cake, stir together the oil, 2/3 cup sugar, and egg.  Then mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Next mix in the milk and yogurt.  In a separate bowl toss the blueberries in the 2 tablespoons of flour just to coat them.  Then fold them into the cake– do not mix them too much–they are tender, you know.

Spoon the batter into an 8″ square or round pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Sprinkle the crumb topping over the cake.  And then the drop the toasted almonds all over the top.

Pop it into a 350 degree over for 40 to 50 minutes. Dust it with powdered sugar through a sieve once it’s cooled a bit.  Luscious served warm with coffee or cooled for dessert later with a plop of whipped cream.

*I used frozen blueberries.  Leave them frozen until the last minute and then toss them in flour to keep them from sinking and also to keep them from coloring the batter purple as you mix them in!

I like the organic tiny frozen berries from Trader Joe’s for baking.  A cupful is so many berries to flavor the cake through.

**Toasted almonds found already toasted and ready to use at Trader Joe’s  (raw almonds would work well too)

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Easy Zucchini Lasagna

IMG_1133Hi there you all– I’m loving this zucchini lasagna because it’s a little lighter than my heavy duty standard, filled with sausage and all that spicy tomato.  I think this must be the summer version of lasagna– just in time for when all those zucchini start ripening in your side yard.

And it’s easy with no bake noodles, a sauce you just whiz up in the blender and grated zucchini that you don’t have to cook ahead.  You pretty much just throw it together– and make a salad while it’s in the oven– summer dinner!

P.S.  I know it’s not summer yet.  But all the teachers at school (that’s me) are anticipating summer break around the corner (and the kids are too!).  I guess it’s just on my mind!

EASY ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

Topping:
1/4 cup parmesan romano, grated
2 tab. bread crumbs
1/4 pine nuts

Sauce:
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Other ingredients:
16 oz. fresh mozarella, broken into small bit with you fingers
2 cups zucchini, grated (2 small)
2 cups yellow crooked neck squash, grated (2 medium)
9 non-cook lasagna noodles (I use Barilla)

Mix the 1/4 cup parmesan and 2 tab. breadcrumbs and set aside.  Hold on to the pine nuts til later.

With a blender (or stick blender or food processor), mix together the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, milk, garlic, basil, salt and pepper– into a creamy sauce.

Then in a 8″x10″ baking dish layer the ingredients:

First, a thin layer of sauce, then 3 noodles-side by side, the zucchini & squash, mozarella and then 1/3 of the remaining sauce.

Do a second layer and then a third.  To them all off with the parmesan mixed with the bread crumbs.  Cover it closely with foil (try not to touch the top of the lasagna with the foil– it will stick).  And pop it into a 375 degree over for 45 minutes.

Pull out the lasagna.  Take off the foil.  Sprinkle on the pine nuts and cook 10 minutes more to brown the top a bit.

When you take it out of the oven, let it sit about 15 minutes before you dig into it so it will firm up a bit.  Oh yumm.

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Meeting our new little Eero

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Aaron with his new little Eero (thanks for the photo, Jessica)

Hi Friends–  We made a quick trip, up the interstate to San Francisco this past weekend to meet brand new baby Eero!  So much cuddling and singing and studying that little guys sweet face.  It was a joy.  Plus we got to hang out with his big sister Mae and their fine parents, A + J.  And good times, too with Ani and Brian.  Here’s just a few pics:

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DSC02569We loved being at Aaron and Jessica’s– the chance to play with our grand-girl Mae and catch up with our kids and have a scrumptious Mother’s Day waffle breakfast around their table.

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11259859_10153369268704665_5428222334612262377_nAnd we had some great Ani & Brian hang out time too– a snacky lunch at the Sunset Brewing Company and Ani’s yeasty waffles.  Plus another momental hike down to the beach for coffee and back up through Golden Gate Park.  It was grand.

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So long for now little Eero.  Hope to see you again real soon– God bless and keep you.

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