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So, these were good…

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Thank you Shelby for another wonderful recipe. I altered mine a little to include things the girls like (e.g., almonds instead of walnuts). However, they would probably eat insects if they were covered in dark chocolate, so I wasn’t too worried. I made a few without chocolate to include in school lunches (no chocolate allowed at school). But the chocolate ones made a great after school treat (for all of us)!

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Sesame Bars

Makes around 18

1 1/2 cup almonds (or walnuts)
1 cup sesame seeds
1/3 cup dried goji berries
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins

4 tbsp honey or maple syrup (I did 2 tbsp honey, 2 maple syrup)
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp salt

*Optional (but recommended): 1 Bar of 70% dark chocolate

Lightly toast the nuts in a large saucepan on low heat for a few minutes. Transfer them to a food processor and blitz into a coarse flour. Add the sesame seeds to the sauce pan, make sure the heat is low as the sesame seeds are very heat sensitive – you want to lightly toast them without burning. Meanwhile, add all the berries to the food processor. Pulse for at least a minute, then pour everything into the sauce pan. Add honey/syrup, coconut oil, shredded coconut and salt and stir around until everything is combined, sticky and warm.

Cover a 8×10-inch (20×25 cm) baking dish with parchment paper and pour the mixture into it. Flatten it out with your fingers and the backside of a spoon (dip it in water to prevent sticking). Put in the fridge for at least an hour, then cut them up.

*If you wish, melt your chocolate or over a double broiler (or in the microwave – checking often to make sure it doesn’t burn). Dip chilled, cut bars into the chocolate, and refrigerate until hardened.

~~~~ YUM ~~~~

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We’ve woken to some chilly mornings since we arrived in the UK a month ago — the horizon, filled with a thick icy fog and the fields outside our door, dotted with frost-covered fleece.

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And while we have lots to accomplish, there are days when all we can do is wait (…for phone calls…for appointments…for answers…and so on). Yet, when the world outside is icy and all your earthly belongings are floating their way across the Atlantic Ocean – passing the time requires a bit of improvising. This feels especially true when little ones are (still) out of school and noisily underfoot. 

Here’s what we got up to yesterday…

Perhaps I’ve been hiding under a rock, but I never realized that rice pudding had it’s own special rice.  I’ve always used medium grain and been pretty happy with the result.  After finding proper “pudding rice” at the grocers, I decided to conduct a little rice pudding taste off (an idea everyone seemed in favor of).  Recipe number one came from here (a long-time family favorite).  The second was prepared “the French way” (as we call it).  I found Recipe number two here.  Hard to say which batch was the clear winner…as there was much back-n-forth gobbling going on. I think I still prefer the former…or was it the latter??  They’re both good (and frankly, rather similar). 

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Does every little girl (and boy?) go through a phase when they like styling/playing with hair? Wynn keeps asking for one of those plastic, long-haired doll-head-things, and I keep reminding her that now is not the time to acquire bulky new toys that require their own suitcases. Plus, who needs pretend hair when your mama (and sister and self!) has the real thing?  Yes – I’ll admit, I’m a ready volunteer, as I (not-so-secretly) love when she plays with and styles my hair.  I consider it a perk of having both long hair and daughters. 

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However, what she’s really in love with and could do for hours on end is braid.  At home she would braid ribbon and floss and twine and yarn.  Here, on the farm, far from the colorful strands that fill our currently-in-transit craft box – there is no such ribbon or floss, twine or yarn. 

So we decided to make some braiding materials with plastic bags.  Have you ever done this before?  We’ve made bracelets and key chains using this technique.  Simply cut the plastic bags into thin (or thick) ribbons.  I cut horizontal strips.  At the moment she just uses three…but I’m sure braids of 6 and more are in her future. 

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And finally, we’ve been digging deep into our recycling box these past few weeks – searching for both fun and functionality.  We have found at least twenty uses for all-things-Tetra-Pak — which is the brand name for those waxy, watertight boxes that carry juice ‘n soup ‘n stock ‘n such.

These are entirely up to the task of drying kitchen utensils, holding paintbrushes (and water), playing in the bath with and (most recently) they come in very hand for carrying snacks in the car. 

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And since the UK is a place of many (many) coins, we also needed another change purse.  So we decided to make one using this (easy) technique. 

* I struggled to find a glue that would hold to the waxy surface. Even powerful and “waterproof” Locktite couldn’t manage it.  In the end, I had to strip away some of the wax, to reveal the cardboard underneath – then gluing was no problem.

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Just another pajama day on the farm. I’m certainly trying to enjoy these slooooow days, since I know there’s craziness on the horizon.  But thankfully, that’s not today.

And usually, by the time we’re done crafting from within – the world outside has warmed up enough for us to venture out and begin another day.

 

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…that if you accidentally brew too much coffee, you can pour it into ice cube trays and use it to make iced lattes? This way – as the ice melts, your coffee gets stronger – not weaker. Brilliant, right??

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…that 85% of people don’t wash their cloth grocery bags (a number that included me until recently!)?  I feel so much better about plopping these clean bags onto my kitchen counter.  I am the 15%!!!

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…that if a Professional Declutterer/Organizer visits your home, he/she might walk straight to your refrigerator and draw a direct correlation between the number of magnets on your refrigerator and the level of clutter in your house?  <Gulp!>

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…if you take an old birthday/holiday card and pre-punch holes around the words/images (with a dull embroidery needle), little kids might spend hours quietly “sewing” next to you on a rainy afternoon?

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…that this is what a locust looks like right up close? 

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He looks kind of innocent, doesn’t he?  Giving no indication that he would ever think to swarm or ruin, cause plague or famine.  All I know is, I’m going to miss his constant summertime sound. See you next year Mr. Locust. Until then, stay out of trouble little guy!

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Okay – I cannot believe it’s been over 6 months since I first received this book (as a gift for my birthday) and I haven’t told you (or written) about it yet.  I almost feel like I’ve been keeping something from you?!?  Sorry – forgive me?

Honestly, I love this book.  It is, quite frankly, a book I would have loved to write…well…if I had more time and/or talent in the kitchen.  No matter, because the book Jennifer Reese wrote, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter is far better than any food-related book I could have whipped up.  {And, as you know, but just for the record, I DID NOT received a free copy of this book and therefore feel compelled to sing its praises. It’s just a great, great book and worthy of a few words between sisters.}

In the past six months I have made (and dreamed of making) so many of the wonderful recipes from this “what you should & shouldn’t cook from scratch” collection.

Here is a sample (just a SAMPLE) of some things I’ve (proudly) made from scratch with Ms. Reese’s help:

Buttermilk Biscuits (fool-proof/toddler-proof recipe)

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Peanut Butter (ridiculously simple; haven’t bought a jar since January)

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Yogurt (something I’ve always wanted to make from scratch!)

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Lemon curd (reminds me of the wonderful jars we brought home from the Farmers Market when we lived in the UK)

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 Pasta (the girls ♥ this)

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Oh…and it was this book that inspired me to make clotted cream – a recipe/technique I’ve already shared with you.

These are, as you may have noticed, rather simple things (no duck terrine or flambe souffle) – but they are also things I usually buy; assuming, on most occasions, that one “doesn’t bother” to cook this stuff.

I have a number of things on my “what to cook from this book next” list.  Though, I can’t say I’ll cross ALL of them off…given that the author went as far as raising goats, curing pastrami and making Camembert (for heavens sake!).  That said, I intend to give homemade Worcestershire sauce a try (truth be told, just to say I’ve done it).  Then I might move onto cured salmon – which is placed (ambitiously) on page 22 of her book (right after “cream cheese”).

You name it and it’s probably in here – from Grapenuts to donuts, bacon to bitters, honey to hotdog buns – this is a one-stop-recipe-included-shop to anything and everything you’ve ever even considered making from scratch. 

That is, if you’re the kind of cook who enjoys a bit of adventure (and a bit of a laugh) in your kitchen. 

Homemade lard anyone?  No?  Then how about ginger ale? Beef jerky? Corn dogs? Kimchi? Potato chips? Turkish delight?  Mustard? Ricotta? Vanilla extract? English muffins?

You get the picture, right? 

Such a great gift for a resourceful chef, as well as a good reminder to all of us that just about anything is possible – if you have the time, the tools…and a good recipe.

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p.s. You can find more about The Tipsy Baker at her blog.

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So, my kids can’t say the word zucchini. 

Instead, it’s been a summer filled with talk of “linguines” “paninis” and, my personal favorite, “bikinis.”

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Here are four of my very ‘bestest’ recipes for all the bountiful bikinis we’ve been harvesting from our humble, urban garden.

Bikini Chipshere’s the recipe I use.  The recipe calls for baking the chips, but I must admit, I prefer the taste when they’re fried in a bit (not a vat) of olive oil.

Bikini Patties – I (mostly) use this recipe…which is great as-is, but I sometimes add a bit of pepper, parsley, garlic and/or garlic salt.  Serve this with a hearty salad and you’ve got a fab dinner.DSC01098

Bikini BrowniesThis recipe is incredible.  One 9×13 pan calls for 2+ cups of bikini (none of that wimpy “1/4 cup” stuff that Mrs. Seinfield made so popular). Don’t take any shortcuts with the frosting either – it’s nothing short of epic.  Wynn actually requested this for her birthday cake this year – which is extra remarkable, since she also had it for her birthday cake last year!  And don’t get me wrong, she didn’t request bikini cake, she requested “THAT chocolate cake with THAT chocolate frosting.”  Yes, it’s THAT good.

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And, hold onto your hats for this (much-adapted) decadent family favorite –  Butterscotch/Walnut/Prune Bikini Bread…

Butterscotch Bikini Bread

This isn’t really “breakfast” bikini bread.  Packed full of sweet ingredients, it’s more like a rich fruit cake and would go lovely with heavy cream or a scoop of vanilla. Save this for dessert or alongside a late-afternoon cuppa. 

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour (I used 1 1/4 white, 1/4 wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • approx. 1 cup pureed zucchini
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips <optional>
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts <optional>
  • 1/2 cup chopped prunes (or raisins) <optional>
  • 1 TBS raw sugar (or one of these little packets)

– Preheat oven to 350F

– Lightly grease a 8×4 loaf pan.

– Cream butter and sugar. Then add vanilla.

– Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt.

– Last, stir in chips, walnuts and prunes. Sprinkle the top with raw sugar if want an extra-sweet, crackly top.

– Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes.*

* Baking times differ! Perhaps I should consider draining my zucchini or increasing the oven temp, because this bread always needs more baking time.  At 325, I keep mine in closer to 80 minutes.  

We’re certainly making the most of bikini (not to be confused with bikini) season around here. <wink>

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Anything edible growing in that balcony garden of yours?

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Did you know that if you stick lemons in a jar of water in the fridge your lemons will last for ages?  Mom taught me this.  I’ve tried it and it works great!

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Did you know that if you combine a bit of vinegar with a bit of salt in a small cup of water, then add a scruffy, old penny it will come out gleaming?

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* This can be a fun experiment for little ones.  Not to mention a good way to keep them busy for half an hour…

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Did you know that (nearly) empty honeybears are a great place to make/store honey-mustard dressing?  I improvise mine each time, but I guess it looks a bit like this (though, I add some olive oil, salt & ground pepper).

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Did you know that we lost the guitar pick for our melody harp?   

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So we got creative…

Ideally, you’ll have an old guitar pick to trace, then just draw/trace onto a (zero balance!) gift card (or the like) — then cut and you’re left with a perfectly, perfect guitar pick.  (…for our musicians any way.)

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Well.  Now you know. <smile>

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And today I bring you – three (ever so random and rather sticky) recipes for summer fun. 

Enjoy!

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p.s. Mint syrup recipe (taken from an old post of yours):

  • Simmer 1 cup sugar + 1 cup water with a (BIG) handful of mint leaves.
  • Turn off heat and steep for 30 minutes, then strain and chill. {Also great for mojitos!}

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