Stylish, Thrifty Decorating Tips from Simple Sustainable Style and a Giveaway!

51dzdLt93oL._SL500_If you’re wanting to do some redecorating in your home this spring, you may want to check out Simple Sustainable Stylea Country Living Book by designer Randy Florke. It’s filled with lots of wonderful ideas and tips! The author shows you how to “decorate with style and thrift, transforming the ordinary room into into a place of extraordinary personal charm.” Florke mixes in fabulous finds from flea markets and thrift stores in his decorating. The book is wonderfully written and filled with beautiful full-color photos as well. It’s a book you’ll really want to sit down with!

I have a copy of this book to give away, courtesy of Sterling Publishing, so you can leave a comment for a chance to win it! See the end of this post for details!

Here are just some of Florke’s many helpful tips found throughout the book:

For the Kitchen:

  • Liberate cabinets of doors to expose china collections.
  • Display humble foodstuffs…if they have colorful or retro labels.
  • Choose an accent color for a white kitchen and display it in seat cushions, throw rugs, pottery, or flowers.

For the Living Room:

  • Resist buying pieces from all one period or the room will appear either “store bought” or fussy. Mixing pieces you love, of varying periods, will put a stamp of originality–YOURS– on the room.
  • Use furniture where you need it, not where it’s “supposed” to be. Place a hutch, sideboard, or dresser in the living room if the look works for you.
  • Splurge, if you can, on one truly great piece for the living room. It might be that dreamed-of sofa or amazing pedestal table; live with special things.
  • Look for interesting lamp bases at thrift stores and flea markets, where many are for sale. Take the base along with you to purchase its shade, which should cover the hardware but not the decorative base.

For the Dining Room:

  • Even if you don’t have a room relegated to dining, create a dining niche in the living room corner or in an entryway alcove.
  • Home Comforts for a Dining Room: The biggest table possible. comfortable chairs aplenty, loads of fresh flowers, a sideboard (of any make) to display crystal and silver, candles and flattering light,  pale walls and important art, some aromatic, homemade dish, lovingly served.
  • Resist the urge to place flowers in an ordinary vase. Think enameled coffeepots, colorfully labeled cans, old milk bottles, or even olive oil tins. Place glass jars inside tin or metal containers to keep the rust away.
  • Chandeliers were made for dining rooms. Don’t be afraid to mix ornate fixtures with simple surroundings or vice versa.

For the Bedroom:

  • Home Comforts for a Bedroom: A comfortable bed, fresh bedclothes of natural fibers, calm, restful art, good reading light, handy bedside table, ample storage.
  • One of the little things that make a room memorable is a bed lavished in wonderful linens. Layers of color and texture, and natural fibers create a beautiful, luxurious bed.
  • Mix lightly used fabrics with contemporary purchases and layer interesting textures of chenille, linen, wool, felt, and lace.
  • A decorative bedstead anchors a room and imparts a sense of timelessness and stability.
  • The accompanying (bedside) table should be almost as tall as the top of the mattress.

For the Porch:

  • Choose wrought-iron tables with glass surfaces, three-legged side tables, and plenty of Adirondack-style chairs. A porch is not a porch without a rocking chair…
  • Metal furnishings work well on a porch, be they 1940s lawn chairs, more industrial-type stools, or even medical cabinets acting as storage or side tables.
  • Try not to crowd too many pieces on the porch…
  • Line up cast–concrete flower boxes along the perimeter of the porch and fill them seasonally with peonies, daisies, or swaths of evergreen.

There are also decorating ideas for the bathroom, entry way, staircase, and other transitional spaces, along with tips on decorating the exterior of the home and making smart flea market purchases.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED Comment 12–Isabel–is the winner…Congratulations!

Now for the giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of Simple Sustainable Style, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, February 23, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, February 24. Winner will be notified via email (if  winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me telling me which room in your home you love best.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

The giveaway is open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

Hope you find these tips helpful! Are you decorating any rooms in your home now?

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Holiday Books To Give and Get…and Two Giveaways!

I have a collection of five holiday books I wanted to tell you about, and the first two shown in this post are the giveaways–I’ll tell you more about that at the end of the post! Here’s a little info about each one of the books:

165303802The Farm Chicks Christmas is a wonderful Country Living book that has many “merry ideas for the holidays”…including lots of decorating ideas, DIY crafts, and yummy recipes! It came out as a hardcover book a few years ago, and now there’s a softcover edition (and this is one of my giveaways)! There are lots of great, colorful photos in this book with plenty of timeless, homey ideas that will inspire you each holiday season.

197757087The Little Book of Baking is a sweet little hardcover spiral-bound book that’s filled with yummy recipes you can make for the holidays or year round. Brought to you by Good Housekeeping, there are 55 recipes for cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and pies…ranging from classics like New York-Style Cheesecake to unique treats like Pistachio and Cherry Biscotti. There are easy-to-follow directions, so all levels of bakers will like using this. I have a giveaway copy of this, too!

513-F9kASnL._SL500_AA300_Delish: A Home-Baked Christmas is another cute little hardcover spiral-bound book that has recipes for “56 Delicious Cookies, Cakes, & Gifts From Your Kitchen.” Delish.com is a popular website for home cooks and this recently-published book has recipes for a variety of favorite holiday treats. Delish recipes are triple-tested every time, so they must be good! :) There are lots of beautiful photos in the book–it would make a great gift for anyone you know who loves to bake!

mediumThe Daily Cookie is brimming with “365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life.” A cookie recipe for each day of the year…how great is that? An event or holiday is highlighted for each day, with a yummy cookie recipe that complements the special occasion. There’s everything from Sour Cream Blueberry Pie Bars to Chocolate Sundae Cookies…a great cookbook for any cookie-lover! You could even call this hardcover book with color photos of every cookie a “cookiepedia!”

180253177Last but certainly not least, I want to tell you about another Country Living book called Deck the Halls…I love this book that’s filled with do-it-yourself ideas for Christmas gifts, crafts, and decorations. It also has super-fun, whimsical, and artsy pullout recipe and gift cards, ornaments, and gingerbread house templates…along with some yummy “gifts from the kitchen” recipes. This softcover book is packed with lots of ideas to make your holidays creative, fun, and festive!

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

Comments 12 and 26–Linda G. and Barbara N.–were the winners…congratulations!

giveawaybksNow for the giveaways…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The Farm Chicks Christmas (softcover) or The Little Book of Baking, leave a comment on this blog post saying which book you’d like to win between now and Saturday, December 8, at midnight (CST)–the random drawings will be made from the comments on this post only! The winners will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced right here in this post on Sunday. Winners will be notified via email (if a winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me which book you would like to win. (If you would like winning either one, you can say that, too, but let me know what your first choice would be).

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

The giveaways are open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

My Pink Pumpkin

In mid-October, I finally got around to buying a pumpkin for my porch. I was at Wal-Mart, and I saw a display that said “Pink Pumpkins.” When I went over to look, I found that these pumpkins benefited breast cancer research. Then I remembered that October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (see NBCAM.org). So of course I bought a pink pumpkin–not only did it benefit a good cause, but I also loved their uniqueness.

Cancer had also been on my mind just the month before, in September, when I had to have a biopsy myself. My lump was in a different area and it turned out to be benign, but for a short time I faced the possibility of having cancer. And that makes you look at life a little differently. Priorities change. Things that seemed important before suddenly don’t matter. One thing that struck me when I went to the huge medical complex to have my biopsy done was how packed the parking garages and parking lots were. That meant there were a lot of people dealing with cancer and other serious illnesses. Thankfully, there continue to be more and more cancer survivors as time goes on and hopefully we’re much closer to finding a cure soon.

Around this same time in September, when I was cleaning out a cabinet filled with books in my living room, I came across one I had read several years ago, One Month to Live. The book (a New York Times bestseller) challenges you to live life fully, with passion and purpose, making the most of your time here on earth. And living life with an eternal perspective–focusing on what really is important and leaving a meaningful legacy.

I noticed I had marked a page with a sticky note, so I went to that page and reread it. It included the story of a young wife and mother who was losing her battle with cancer. And then I thought about all those cancer patients at the medical complex. Even though there are more survivors and better treatments, some patients will make it through, and some, like this brave woman, will not. But she had an eternal perspective–she had the hope of heaven because of Jesus and knew she would see her family in heaven again. Here is the passage:

Jess Moody was a young pastor in Owensborough, Kentucky, when he became good friends with a young couple in his church. One day the husband came to Pastor Moody’s office clearly distraught and said, “Jess, I’ve just heard the most awful news. My wife has terminal cancer, and it has spread all over her body. The doctors have just told us she has only weeks, not even months, and Jess, she’s at the hospital, and she’s asking for you. We don’t know how to handle it. We don’t know what to do.”

Jess immediately went to the hospital. There the young wife and mother said to him, “I remember in one of your sermons you said a thousand years is like a day to God and a day is unto a thousand years. Is that true? Is a thousand years like a day to God?” The pastor said, “Yes, it’s in the Bible.” She said, “Good, because I’ve been doing the math, and I figure if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like one hour. I’ll be leaving my husband and the children soon. He may live another forty years, but that will be just like an hour to me in heaven. When he gets to heaven, I’ll greet him and say, ‘Where have you been for an hour? Did you just go to the office, or were you running errands? I’ve missed you.’ My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that will be like two hours to me. When they get to heaven, I’ll greet them and say, ‘How was school today? Mom misses you when you’re gone for a couple of hours. I wonder how you are doing, because mommies don’t like to be away from their children long.’ “

Jess Moody said two weeks later she went to be with the Lord, and the last thing she said to her husband was “I love you. Take care of my children. I’ll see you in an hour.” 

From ONE MONTH TO LIVE, by Kerry and Chris Shook

What an inspiring example of having an eternal perspective! I was so touched when I read this. Because it was a tragic situation. But this woman’s story shows that even through tragedy, there is hope.

There is always hope.

You can find out more information about cancer, support, and treatments at Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society.

Carrot and Orange Sorbet from The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream (and a Giveaway!)

If you enjoy making your own ice cream, or would like to start, you’d probably love the recently-published book The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream: Over 300 Gelatos, Sorbets, Cakes, & More. Written by master chef Jan Hedh, this hardcover book includes an amazing variety of recipes for ice cream, gelatos, sorbets, ice cream cakes, parfaits, and other delicious ice cream treats, along with great photos. I’m giving a copy of this book away, compliments of Skyhorse Publishing, so see the end of this post for details!

Chef Hedh is from Sweden, one of the top ice cream-consuming countries in the world, and some of the unique recipes he has developed include Basil Yogurt Ice Cream, Avocado Ice Cream, White Mocha Ice Cream, Pumpkin Sorbet, Blueberry Sorbet, Espresso Granite, and decadent desserts like Chocolate Meringue Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Meringue Pavlov with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Fresh Fruit.

The recipes have both European and U.S. measurements, which is handy for everyone. One of the ingredients used in many of the recipes is gelatin leaves, a common ingredient in European recipes. It’s the same substance as granulated gelatin, just in a different form. Four gelatin leaves are equivalent to a standard 1/4-ounce packet of granulated gelatin (or one teaspoon). So for the recipes that call for 2 gelatin leaves, you just need to substitute 1/2 teaspoon of granulated gelatin. I just thought that information would be handy to know, since I hadn’t heard of gelatin leaves before!

The recipe I’m sharing here, Carrot and Orange Sorbet, needs to be frozen in an ice cream maker after mixing the ingredients, like most of the recipes. I currently don’t have one, so I haven’t made this recipe myself yet. But I thought it sounded like a good and easy recipe that some of you might want to try out!

CARROT AND ORANGE SORBET from The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream

  • 2 gelatin leaves (4 g) or 1/2 teaspoon of granulated gelatin
  • 125 g (3/5 cup) sugar
  • 75 g (1/3 cup) water
  • 60 g (1/5 cup) orange blossom honey
  • 250 g (1 cup) fresh carrot juice
  • 250 g (1 cup) fresh orange juice

Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for at least 10 minutes (if you’re using granulated gelatin, you don’t need to do this).

Put sugar, water, and honey in a pot, and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat, add the gelatin (if using gelatin leaves soaked in water, you’ll need to drain them), and stir until dissolved. Cool the sugar solution to 95˚F. Add carrot juice and orange juice and freeze the sorbet in an ice cream machine.

Now for the Giveaway! Here’s how you can enter to win The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Ice Cream:

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED-And the winner is…

Thanks to all of you who participated in the giveaway! There were a total of 21 entries, and the True Random Number Generator at Random.org chose Commentor #8, who is Carol! Congratulations, Carol, and I’ll be getting in touch with you to send the book to you!

Leave a comment on this blog post between now and Thursday, August 23, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced the following day. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite ice cream flavor.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment, telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

The giveaway is open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

So what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is dedicated to “…foodies, food bloggers, home cooks, and chefs…and to anyone who craves a delicious meal, chases beauty, and wants to make people hungry with their photographs.” That certainly includes me! :) So I was glad to have the chance to review this very helpful, comprehensive guide to taking better food photos. Author Nicole S. Young specializes in commercial photography and is an accredited Adobe Certified Expert, so she has lots of expert advice and tips to share!

This book has seven chapters…

  1. Photography Fundamentals
  2. Photography Equipment
  3. Lighting
  4. Styling and Props
  5. Framing and Composition
  6. Processing Images with Adobe® Photoshop®
  7. Behind the Scenes

The chapters cover everything from getting the right camera equipment, using the right camera settings, creating the best lighting and composition, helpful food styling tips, and photo editing techniques with Photoshop. The last chapter, Behind the Scenes, is especially interesting because it goes into detail about how some great food photos were created.

Throughout the book, there are also photo tips and how-tos highlighted on various pictures…

I thought these pages were really helpful!

Overall, I think this is a great book to have if you’re wanting to improve your food photography skills. Don’t worry about having to get the newest, most expensive equipment…Nicole recommends working with what you have while you’re learning before you run out and buy anything new. My own camera is about 7 years old (it’s a Canon Rebel XT), but I’m still going to be using this for awhile!

I feel like I still have a lot to learn when it comes to photography and I’m really excited about trying out what I’m learning from this book!

What about you–do you enjoy photography?  Do you know a lot about it, or are you more of a beginner?

Butterscotch Cashew Blondies from Baking Basics and Beyond

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If you’re a beginning baker or just wanting to improve your baking skills and learn helpful baking tips, you’ll have to check out the new cookbook, Baking Basics and Beyond (Second Edition, softcover) by food consultant Pat Sinclair. I received a copy of this book to review, and it’s filled with great photos and recipes!

At the beginning of the book, you’ll find tips and information on baking equipment, ingredients, measuring, and some helpful “how-tos” (How to Dissolve Yeast, How to Melt Chocolate, etc.). Each of the 12 chapters in the book focus on a different kind of baked good, such as Biscuits and Scones, Coffee Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts, Yeast Breads and Rolls…just about anything you’d want to bake! The beginning of each chapter has several pages of helpful baking tips and there are additional notes and tips included in each recipe. Baking Basics and Beyond focuses on simple baking techniques and directions, so it’s great for beginning bakers, but has great recipes that any baker would love to make.

There are over 120 recipes in the book and I decided to try something from the Brownies and Bars chapter. Since I love cashews, I couldn’t resist trying the Butterscotch Cashew Blondies. They are really yummy–thick and chewy, with lots of buttery, butterscotch flavor. Very rich. These are great just as they are, but if you want to make them into a fancier dessert, you could top a blondie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle some butterscotch sauce over it…maybe even sprinkle on a few more chopped cashews…yum!

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This is a great, easy recipe and makes a 9×13″ pan of blondies. You can cut them into 36 bars, but I cut mine larger, so I didn’t end up with quite so many. :) Here’s how you make them…

BUTTERSCOTCH CASHEW BLONDIES (from Baking Basics and Beyond)

The opposite of a brownie is a blondie–the colors are different but the texture of the bars is similar. It is much easier to determine doneness in the blondies than in the brownies. If the blondies are not done, you can see the batter move under the top crust when you shake the pan. Because of the high amount of sugar in these bars, the edges rise and get dark and chewy–I think this is the best part!

Makes 36 bars

  • 2 cups (242 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 2 cups (456 g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (227 g) butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup (168 g) butterscotch chips (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup (150 g) cashew halves and pieces, coarsely chopped

Heat oven to 350˚F (180˚C) with oven rack in middle. Line bottom of a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 22.5-cm) baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil about 2 inches (5 cm) beyond pan on each long side. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl and stir slowly to mix. Add eggs and mix with a wire whisk until well blended. Slowly stir in flour mixture until it is moistened. Beat with wire whisk 30 seconds until smooth.

Add butterscotch chips and cashews. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until center seems set when touched lightly with a finger. The blondies will also start to pull away from pan edges. When set in the center, the batter won’t jiggle. A toothpick will come out dry. Cool in pan on wire cooling rack.

Remove blondies intact from pan by loosening ends with a metal spatula and lifting out, using the aluminum foil. Cut into bars. Make sure foil is not stuck on bottom of any blondies.

BAKER’S NOTE: When you combine the brown sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla, mix until smooth, crushing any lumps of brown sugar.

That sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? Enjoy making these chewy treats! :)

Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes from Vegan Holiday Kitchen

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It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is coming up so soon! And who doesn’t look forward to eating all that special holiday food? It’s always great when you can find delicious and healthy holiday recipes, which is why I was so interested in reviewing the new cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen.

I’m not a vegan myself, but I do like to eat healthy and enjoy making vegan dishes. Author Nava Atlas has put together a collection of more than 200 tasty-sounding recipes you can whip up for different holidays year-round: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Jewish Holidays, Easter, and Independence Day/Summer Entertaining. There’s also a chapter devoted to Brunches, Appetizers, and Potluck Dinners.

This hardcover book is beautifully designed and has lots of great photography. It would make a wonderful holiday gift–or you may want to add it to your own “wish” list! :)

There are so many unique, great-sounding recipes in Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Here’s a few to give you an idea:  Coconut Butternut Squash Soup, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Green Chili Cornbread, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tortilla Casserole,  Smashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, Cranberry-Carrot Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting…and these are just from the Thanksgiving recipe section! There’s so much more, you’ll have plenty of delicious recipes to choose from and make throughout the year!

I decided to try the Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes, because I love the flavor of pure maple syrup and the maple-sweet potato combination just sounded wonderful to me! You may want to try this yourself at Thanksgiving. It’s a great side dish, both yummy and healthy. I love the natural sweetness of the maple syrup baked into those tender sweet potatoes! The recipe says to make this in a shallow 2-quart casserole, but the closest thing I had on hand was my glass pie plate. That worked fine, although I couldn’t quite fit all the potato slices in.

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Here’s the recipe…hope you get a chance to try it over the holidays!

MAPLE-PECAN SWEET POTATOES (Gluten-Free, from Vegan Holiday Kitchen)

  • 4 large or 6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance or other non-hydrogenated margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • Leaves from 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Arrange the sweet potato slices in overlapping rows in an oiled shallow 2-quart casserole. In a small bowl, combine the syrup, margarine, juice, cinnamon, and salt. Pour evenly over the potatoes.

3. Cover with lid or foil and bake, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until readily pierced with a fork but still firm.

4. Scatter the pecans and rosemary leaves over the surface of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes longer, uncovered, or until glazed and golden around the edges. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

What yummy side dishes are you making for Thanksgiving this year?

A Savory Focaccia from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day

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There’s a brand-new book that has just come out by the bestselling authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Have you seen it?

It’s called Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day, and I had the opportunity to review and try a recipe from it! Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois have created 100 new easy-to-make recipes for not only pizzas and flatbreads, but also soups, salads, sauces, and spreads, which make great meals with all those pizzas and flatbreads! And for a special finishing touch to your meal, you’ll find some recipes for dessert pizzas and hand pies. The Banana Cream Hand Pie sounds really good and I’m intrigued by the recipe for Chocolate Dough, being the chocolate-lover that I am. I will definitely need to try that out! :)

When I received the book in the mail, I immediately started flipping through it to look at the full-color photos of many of the recipes. I decided to try a focaccia recipe because I really love focaccia and have never made it. It was kind of a challenge for me. Not being an experienced bread-maker, I was wondering if I could really make a delicious focaccia flatbread. Well I’m happy to tell you, “Yes!” I thought the recipe was easy to make and tasted as good or better than any I have ever bought. And it was fun making it!

I definitely will be trying out the pizza recipes, too, especially after watching a pizza-making video on Zoe’s site, Zoe Bakes, and seeing this photo of incredibly tasty-looking pizzas taken by her friends.

Photo by Todd Porter and Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple

As you can see, there are plenty of delicious pizza options to choose from! :)

And so I chose to make focaccia, specifically the Leek, Herbes de Provence, and Garlic Focaccia. It was delicious! You can choose from a variety of dough recipes in the book, and I chose the 100% Whole Wheat Dough, making it with white whole wheat flour. That was another first for me, using white whole wheat flour (which has a less “wheaty” taste than regular whole wheat). This is such a good recipe…I hope you get a chance to try it soon!

LEEK, HERBES DE PROVENCE, AND GARLIC FOCACCIA from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day

100% Whole Wheat Dough:

Makes enough dough for at least eight flatbreads. The recipe is easily doubled or halved. This dough can be used for pizzas, too!

  • 3 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated yeast
  • 1  to 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, honey, malt powder, or agave syrup (I used honey)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 7 cups white whole wheat flour (or traditional whole wheat flour)

Mixing and Storing the Dough…

  1. Mix the yeast, salt, sweetener, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle. If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  3. Cover (not airtight), and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use for flatbread (or pizza) over the next 7 days. Or store the dough for up to 3 weeks in the freezer in 1/2 pound portions. When using frozen dough, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before use.

The Focaccia Recipe (makes one 10-inch focaccia):

  • 3/4 pound (large orange-size portion) of your homemade dough (refrigerate beforehand for easier handling if desired)
  • 5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise, well rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 Tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used white cooking wine)

Prepare the  leeks: In a skilled over medium low heat, add 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, leeks, herbs, garlic, capers, salt, pepper, and white wine. Cook slowly until the leeks are soft, but not brown. Allow to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in the bottom of a pie tin and set aside (I just had a glass pie plate, so I used that and it worked fine). Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a 3/4-pound (large orange-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go (the pizza-making video on Zoe’s site that I mentioned earlier illustrates this technique).

Stretch the focaccia dough: Flatten the dough with your hands and/or a rolling pin on a work surface to produce a 1/2-inch-thick round. Dust with flour to keep the dough from adhering to the surface. Use a dough scraper to unstick the dough as needed, and transfer to the prepared pie plate. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and dimple the surface so the oil won’t run off the top.

Add the toppings: Spread the leek mixture over the dough and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Just before baking, press your fingers into the dough to dimple it throughout; this prevents the toppings from popping off when baking.

Here’s what my focaccia looked like before I put it in the oven:

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Place the pie plate in the oven on the middle rack: Check for doneness in 15 minutes, then turn the focaccia around in the oven if one side is browning faster than the other. It may take up to 5 minutes more in the oven (my total baking time was about 18 minutes).

Remove the focaccia from the pan and allow to cool slightly, preferably on a wire cooling rack. Cut into wedges and serve.

Recipe reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Here’s the fresh-baked focaccia…

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I tasted it while it was still a little warm. Here’s a picture of the first slice…

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All the topping ingredients are so good together. The leek, the herbs, and the garlic cooked in the olive oil and white wine make a wonderful savory topping for this bread!

Have you made focaccia? What do you like to put on yours?

Linked to Foodie Friday.

A Light Unto My Path

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

PSALM 119:105

I’m reading a book called Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On by Stormie Omartian. She shares a prayer at the end of Chapter 5 that really spoke to me, so I thought I’d share it with you…

LORD, shine the light of Your Word on the path of my life today. Make it a lamp for my feet so that I do not stumble. Bring it alive in my spirit so that it illuminates my mind and soul. Let it be a guide for every decision I make, every step I take. Keep me from turning to the right or the left so that I will stay on the narrow path that leads to life. Help me daily to carve out time to be alone with You and to feed on Your Truth. “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97). Open my eyes to see new treasure every time I read or hear it. Speak to me and comfort my heart. Make your Word come alive in me and use it to nourish my soul and spirit like food does for my body. Align my heart with Yours and give me revelation and guidance so that I may know Your will for my life. Shine the lamp of Your truth where I am right now and show me the next step to take.

Isn’t it encouraging to know that God will always light our way when we seek His direction? He may not show us the whole picture, but He’ll give us all we need to take that next step!

Lizzie’s Sour Cream Pound Cake from At My Grandmother’s Knee

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A new cookbook, At My Grandmother’s Knee, which I had the pleasure of reviewing, celebrates food, family, and warm memories. It’s filled with 166 treasured recipes shared by Southern women who inherited them from their grandmothers, along with special memories about the grandmothers who made these delicious comfort foods. Author Faye Porter describes the book as part cookbook and part history book. “It captures the love and guidance that so many of us soaked up from watching and listening to and asking questions of our Southern grandmothers as we helped them prepare a meal or bake for some special occasion,” says Porter. “Recipes allow us to pass on the love and legacy of a grandma so she can be remembered, revered, and celebrated for generations to come.”

The nostalgic-looking book includes full-color photos of many of the recipes. There’s a wonderful variety of Southern classics to choose from–Biscuits ‘n’ Chocolate Gravy, Nanny’s Hash Brown Casserole, Southern-Style Chili, Sweet Slaw, Spicy Sweet Potaotes, Dixie Meat Loaf, Creamed Chicken on Cornbread, Peach Cream Pie, Lemon Tea Cakes, Grandmother Kelly’s Chocolate Pie…and so many other great-sounding recipes! I decided to try Lizzie’s Sour Cream Pound Cake because I love pound cake and had not made one yet with sour cream…it sounded so rich and good!

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Well, it was very rich and very good–dense and moist like a classic pound cake should be. I guess we should expect no less from a grandma-tested recipe! :) Here’s Lizzie’s recipe, along with a special memory from the cookbook:

LIZZIE’S SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE (From At My Grandmother’s Knee)

Arlene Raines (Goodlettsville, Tennessee) shares that her grandma, Mary Elizabeth Redding Hughes, was affectionately known as Lizzie. “Lizzie and her husband owned and worked a 300-acre farm in Naylor, Georgia,” Arlene says. “She was the quintessential countrywoman who raised her children, worked the fields, cooked for the farmhands, sewed her children’s clothing, and kept the house. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and one of my favorite things was this pound cake. The entire farmhouse would smell wonderful while it was baking, and the cake only became more delicious each day that it sat under a glass cover on the kitchen table. Grandma Lizzie died in 1986 at the age of ninety-seven, but she is remembered in a specialway each year at our family reunion because her pound cake is always on the menu.”

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-pirpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar. Add 1 egg at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat thoroughly. Add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon extract and beat thoroughly. The secret is to beat lots and lots of air into the batter. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (NOTE: my cake was done sooner-in 1 hour and 20 minutes, so you may want to check yours sooner, too). Cool before slicing.

This tastes great served with fresh fruit, like some nice juicy strawberries!

Now I’m ready to try the Spicy Sweet Potatoes…you can never have too much comfort food, right? :)

Linked to Tasty TuesdayRednesday, Strut Your Stuff, Full Plate Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff, Sweet Treats, Foodie Friday, I’m Lovin It.

Homemade Granola Bars from the Green Market Baking Book

ncGranBar1nm Eating healthy is something I’m trying to do more and more. I limit the amount of red meat I eat and try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. But when it comes to baking, I’ve never been quite sure how to make desserts and other baked goods healthier. So the opportunity to review the Green Market Baking Book came along at just the right time! The subtitle of this cook book says, “100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats,” and that is very true! Looking through the book, I found mouthwatering recipes like these…

  • Spring Carrot Teacakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Honey Strawberry Shortcakes with Honey-Sweetened Whipped Cream
  • Peach and Nectarine Upside-Down Cake
  • Blueberry Ginger Sauce
  • Chocolate Honey Tart

The recipes are divided by seasons so you can buy the ingredients fresh and locally. All the sweet treats are made with natural, healthy sweeteners instead of refined sugar and artificial sugar products. In addition to yummy sweets, there are also recipes for delicious savory items like breads, biscuits, muffins, frittatas, pizzas, and more, contributed by some of the best chefs and bakers across America. The book also includes dairy and gluten-free recipes, as well as low-fat and vegan options. The Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Basil Cornbread, Rosemary Buttermilk Biscuits, and Dill Ricotta Torte are a few of the savory recipes that sounded really wonderful to me! The author, Laura C. Martin, answers some questions about baking the healthy way in the beginning of her book and includes helpful information about ingredients used in the recipes (organic produce, natural sweeteners, grains and flours, butter and oils, and dairy). And each seasonal section of recipes includes tips on choosing the best, freshest produce. Near the end of the book, Martin also has some information and tips on freezing, canning, and drying produce, along with tips on growing your own produce. So, in addition to lots of yummy recipes that are good for you, this cook book also has a lot of very practical, helpful information about baking and eating healthy! I decided to make the homemade Granola Bars first because, in my continuing efforts to eat healthier, I have been trying to eat a granola bar whenever I’m craving a candy bar. It has been working pretty well, but I’ve been wanting to make my own granola bars because that would be even healthier. And these granola bars turned out great! They’re very easy to make and are sweetened with brown rice syrup, a natural sweetener which has the consistency of honey, but is not as sweet-tasting. The only ingredients I had to buy from my local health food store were the brown rice syrup and the whole grain spelt flour; I had most of the other ingredients on hand. These granola bars are thick and chewy and filled with lots of yummy, healthy things: chopped dried apples, cranberries, cherries, and almonds. And they’re so healthy that you can feel good instead of guilty about eating this treat! The recipe in the book says it makes 36 bars, which would be pretty small; I cut mine about double that size, into 16 chunky, delicious squares!

CHEWY GRANOLA BARS (Dairy-Free, from the Green Market Baking Book)

  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 3/4 cups total of chopped dried apples, cranberries, cherries (or other dried fruit), or chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, combine the ground flax and water to form a paste. Set aside. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients. In a third bowl, mix together the olive oil and brown rice syrup. Add the flax paste. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and incorporate well. Pour the batter into an 11 x 7 1/2″ baking pan, pressing the mixture down firmly. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until edges turn golden brown. Let rest about 10 minutes until slightly cool, then cut into bars.

ncGranBar2nmI used dried apples, cranberries, and cherries in the bars I made. I think dried apricots would be great, too!

Linked to Sunday Showcase.

Crazy Love and The Awe Factor of God

I’m reading a book called Crazy Love: OVERWHELMED BY A RELENTLESS GOD by Francis Chan. If you’re seeking to experience God in a deeper way, you need to read this…but be prepared to be challenged! I’m being tremendously challenged by the first few chapters I’ve read so far. In his preface, Chan writes, “This book is written for those who want more Jesus. It is for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It is for those who don’t want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do.” His hope is that this book will convince you “that by surrendering yourself totally to God’s purposes, He will bring you the most pleasure in this life and the next.”

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The first chapter begins by  talking about the awesomeness of God and how we can see His divine nature through His creation: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” ROMANS 1:20, New International Version, ©2010. And Chan has a great video he refers you to, to illustrate this point so clearly (the image above is from his video). You can watch it by clicking HEREI hope you get a chance to view it–I think you’ll find it pretty amazing!

Vintage Betty Crocker: Butter Cookies

This Betty Crocker cookbook was published in the 60′s and was one of my mother’s favorite cookbooks. I used it here and there too, but didn’t really develop an interest in cooking and baking until I was in my late twenties. As a teen, the only things I knew how to make from scratch were chocolate chip cookies and grilled cheese sandwiches! :) One day I decided to try a new recipe. I looked through the cookbook in my mom’s kitchen and picked out the Butter Cookies recipe…it only had 4 ingredients, so I figured I couldn’t mess it up too badly! When those cookies came out of the oven and I tasted one, I was surprised at how good they were…and how easy they were to make. So now I could not only make chocolate chip cookies and grilled cheese, but I could also make these wonderfully rich homemade Butter Cookies! I gained a little more confidence in my baking skills that day.

My mom gave me this cookbook a few years ag0, since she doesn’t cook or bake as much as she used to. I found the cookie recipe that I had made in my teenage years and have made it several times since. It’s so good and easy, I thought I’d share it with you.

BUTTER COOKIES

  • 1 cup soft butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and blend well. Roll dough on floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Cut with 1 1/2″ cookie cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, until set but not brown. Cool. Makes 8 dozen cookies.

These cookies taste great just the way they are, but if you want to make them fancier, you can frost them with your favorite icing or make cookie “sandwiches” with raspberry jam.

Linked to Vintage Thingie Thursday, Sundae Scoop, Sunday Showcase.

Orange–Honey Muffins

This is adapted from a recipe in a book called Greetings from Knit Cafe by Susan Mischer, which is actually a knitting book. It can never hurt to have a tasty muffin recipe in a knitting book. :)

I heard this was a good recipe, so I tried it out and made a few minor changes. I added some orange extract to the batter for extra orange flavor and I turned the icing recipe into a glaze and sprinkled granola on top. The muffins have oatmeal in them, so I thought a granola topping would be a nice touch. I was really happy with how they turned out–they have a good orange flavor and are nice and moist. Plus, they’re healthy with all those oats in the batter and topping. What more could you ask for?

This recipe makes 12 regular size muffins or 6 jumbo muffins.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached flour)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 1/2 tsp. pure orange extract
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 5 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted

GLAZE:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/3–1/2 cup granola cereal for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup regular size muffin pan or 6-cup jumbo muffin pan with paper liners. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar in large bowl; stir until blended. Add eggs, orange juice, orange zest, orange extract, honey, and melted butter; stir just until mixed.

Spoon batter into the muffin cups, distributing batter evenly in cups, and bake 20–25 minutes for regular size muffins, or 25-30 minutes for jumbo muffins (or until toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean). Let muffins cool 5-10 minutes and remove from pan.

For the glaze, combine powdered sugar and orange juice and blend well. Drizzle over cooled muffins, then sprinkle with granola topping.

Find more cupcake and muffin recipes at Cupcake Tuesday.