home-building | not-so-tough (cream cheese) cookies: two ways

“You must be a tough cookie” — one of many similar sentiments when our decision to build a home was announced. I chuckled to mask nervous confusion because, for those who know me well, it’s no secret that my proverbial cookie is warm and tender at the center; very seldom tough.

Shortly thereafter, those sentiments were realized. Our once smooth ride to the finish began to twist. A miscommunication there, an incorrect assumption here, and a handful of glaring oversights.

Nauseating and maddening as the construction has been on occasion, the final stage is at hand. The excitement grows daily. And though I may be slower to make peace than he, we’re pleased with a recent flurry of activity:

+ cement patio poured

+ windows and sliding glass doors placed

+ addition of exterior siding, wood shakes and flagstone

+ shingles complete on the roof

+ gas line re-routed to the island

+ fireplace installed

+ plastering of drywall seams

Highly anticipated are the hardwood floors, granite counters, ceramic tile and appliances. Most of all we dream of the double wall ovens and five-burner gas cook top with downdraft. Sweet thoughts are also reserved for the rescue of our cooking tools and bakeware from storage.

As it stands now, projected move-in is set for the middle of November. While I await the new kitchen (and the portion of my mind that’s AWOL), dessert is kept painfully simple. This week, a not-so-tough cookie.

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with this ring…

As some of you know, we said I do last Sunday. Family and friends looked on while a dear friend officiated. I count my blessings to be the wife of such a sincere, selfless, talented man.

Dan and I wed in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin on a grassy patch just beyond the bright white Century Barn. Horses were galloping on the farm. Milkweed seeds floated on the air. The autumn colors a patchwork beyond gently rolling fields.

A fifteen-year October day in Wisconsin by all accounts – calm, pleasantly warm and sunny, only a few feathery wisps of clouds in sight. Read more…

autumn mosaic | damson cabernet stove-top preserves

Winter is an etching,

spring a watercolor,

summer an oil painting

and autumn a mosaic of them all.

– Stanley Horowitz

You’d be mad to let the luscious flavors of Autumn pass you by. Here in North Carolina we’re seeing the final surge of stone fruits at delightfully low prices. Not to worry if this leads to baskets full of fruit soon to deteriorate. Quick canning means you can enjoy what’s best now during the cooler months ahead. Read more…

the flour experimentation | double chocolate mocha coconut biscotti

It’s not every day that a new flour arrives in my kitchen. When I received coconut flour for my birthday way back in April, it was an opportunity to play with my food — in the pursuit of good health, good taste, good fun. But, being almost entirely unfamiliar with coconut flour, I had to do quite a bit of research first.

I quickly learned that it can be a finicky ingredient for newcomers. Most baking recipes are designed for wheat flour and other similar grains, therefore you can’t simply substitute coconut flour to achieve the desired, expected results. You can use coconut flour to replace 10% to 30% of wheat or other flour in a recipe; though, there are recipes created specifically for 100% coconut flour.

To tweak a recipe on your own, take note:

+ Coconut flour is highly absorbent, and requires an equal portion of water or other liquid to be added, usually in a 1:1 ratio.

+ On the other hand, because of its propensity to absorb like a dry sponge, liquids in the recipe should be kept to a minimum — using butter or oil will prevent drying out.

+ As a gluten-free (GF) flour, it doesn’t have that stabilizing power and can yield crumbling pastry — generally one egg (or egg substitute) per one ounce of flour combats this.

+ You may need to reduce overall baking time when substituting coconut flour for wheat flours, sometimes by as much as half at the temperature.

Because our pantry wasn’t yet entirely stocked for gluten-free baking when I made these, I altered Elana’s GF double chocolate mocha biscotti recipe to incorporate whole wheat pastry and coconut flours. Both nutritious, whole wheat pastry flour is high in protein and whole grains, low in gluten (not GF), and provides tender results; while coconut flour is high in fiber and protein, is gluten-free, very low in carbohydrates, and has a delicate hint of coconut.

By the time I calculated the percentages and noted all the changes to be made, the two recipes were faintly related. This meant great care and patience at each step to ensure everything came together. In the end, I patted the dough into a large log, put the pan in the oven and crossed my fingers all would go well.

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at first light | toasted muesli with mixed nuts and seeds

Everything is more beautiful from sunrise to nine in the morning. My mind is made up on the matter.

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