Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Let's Call It Tulip Wabi-Sabi

I'm totally down with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, the "Japanese aesthetic of transience or imperfection." [Wikipedia]  There's something quite pretty about a fallen blossom below a beautiful blooming azalea, or a pine cone on the ground beneath a towering tree -- pine needles, leaves, other "mess," too. What fun is it to have all that debris constantly raked and swept and hauled away? It's just not natural.

When it comes to cut flowers, the same thing can be said. One fallen tulip petal on the table or floating in the vase adds some dimension and interest to the arrangement. 

Fading tulips.

So, at what point does wabi-sabi turn into bad feng shui? 

Feng shui says to discard spent blooms, as faded flowers do not generate good chi. I suppose the timing is a matter of personal preference. I hung onto these tulips another day, enjoying the change in their shape and colors a bit longer before I tossed them into the woods.   Do you struggle with this question?

By the way, red tulips are supposed to encourage romance. These were more of a dark orange. That'll teach me.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cutout Cookies

You don't need a sweetheart to like making (and eating) Valentine's Day-themed treats. I was on the lookout for a chocolatey cutout cookie recipe, and found one on allrecipes.com.  Not only is this an easy recipe to follow, but you can make the dough ahead of time.

Chocolate Cutout Cookies 
(from www.allrecipes.com)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4    cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8    tsp. salt (if you use unsalted butter, increase salt to 1/4 tsp.)
3/4    cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1       egg

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together.   Set aside.  In a medium bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg until light and fluffy.  Gradually mix in the dry ingredients.

Divide dough into two balls. Flatten each and wrap in plastic wrap then refrigerate for 2 hours. (If you want to wait until the next day to rollout and bake, set the chilled dough out for 20 minutes to let it partially soften.)

Cutting out the dough on a floured pastry cloth.

Preheat oven to 375.  On a lightly floured surface (I like to use a pastry cloth that I dust with flour), roll one of the dough balls out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Gather up scraps, re-flour your pastry cloth, rollout and cut again. Repeat with other dough ball.

Cutouts on cookie sheets, ready for baking.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Allow cookies to remain on cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool.  Store in airtight container.

Could these BE any cuter? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Salads and Snacks

Who doesn't love pears? (Did you know they have more fiber than apples?) And winter is the best season for finding nice ones of various varieties.  Plus, they're so versatile.

I have a delicious recipe for a salad that includes pears and a Dijon-vinaigrette that I adapted to work with items I had on hand, and my ersatz version was just as good.

Oven-dried pear slices, I recently discovered, are a nice cracker alternative that can be paired (peared?!) with soft cheeses. Both recipes follow. Enjoy!

Winter Romaine Salad With Pear
2 Romaine hearts, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Bartlett pear (or more to taste)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds or 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
Freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan or crumbled Chevre
1/3 cup lemon vinaigrette (substitute lemon olive oil for regular; use balsamic in lieu of other vinegar)

Winter salad with pear.

Toss all ingredients gently, then dress with vinaigrette. Add more black pepper to taste. 

Note: Pears brown quickly, so add them last just before you add the dressing and serve.

Crisp-Dried Pear Slices and Soft Cheese Appetizer
Dried pear slices with soft cheese make a nice appetizer.  
Thinly slice firm pears lengthwise (stem, seeds, and all) with a sharp knife and place in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake in a preheated 225 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Flip slices and continue baking until darkened slightly and edges have curled, about 1 to 1.5 hours more. They should still be pliable.  Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until cool and crisp. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container up to 1 week.

Nice with store-bought or homemade Boursin or with room temperature Chevre.  And wine, of course.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Beauty of Fall

Eucalyptus wreath.
My house smells really yummy right now, between the crisp fall air, fallen leaves, simmering soup, and a eucalyptus wreath I have hanging on the inside of my front door.

The Eastern Shore has its own brand of beauty at this time of year. I snapped this shot of a group of egrets perched in the brush alongside a small canal on the Chincoteague refuge. They look like big Christmas tree ornaments to me.

Egrets in the trees, Chincoteague.

Not far away is a woodland trail that winds through scrubby pines and marsh. There's a small offshoot called the Bivalve Trail that I'd never walked before.  I'm guessing it got its name from the path's crushed clam shells.

The Bivalve Trail.

At the end of the Bivalve Trail was an inlet with its own little beach, complete with raccoon evidence, a horseshoe imprint, and all manner of driftwood.

At least I think those are raccoon prints.

Let's not forget we're where the famous Chincoteague ponies roam. Unless that's a horseshoe crab imprint.

This beauty was just too big for me to carry home for my hearth.

Enjoy the season!