Independence Day Fun

Around here, we celebrate the 4th on the 3rd.  (It’s a little strange, I know, but it’s a total win-win since you get to party one day and then RELAX–or house-project or whatever–on the actual holiday since you’re not working anyway.)  And our little village does it right, complete with parade and top-notch fireworks, so July 3rd truly feels like a holiday here.  (So much so, that when I went to pay our village taxes that morning, the office was closed.  On a Monday. That’s NOT really a holiday.)

We had our annual party, this time actually using our new deck and patio (furniture hasn’t arrived yet), and I took NO pictures.  Actually, I took one picture:

I’ve always wanted to make a flag cake, so I finally did.  I cheated and used Funfetti and Cool Whip since I was short on time, but maybe next year I’ll have my act together enough to make Ina’s.

Our party was great, with family and friends in attendance, and we even enjoyed a bonfire in the backyard before moving our chairs to the front to see the fireworks.

This morning–the actual 4th–I got together with some of my running friends for an Independence Day ‘fun run.’ We showed up in our red, white and blue and even took turns carrying a flag!

Pre-run photo taken by an obliging village resident:

One of our runners mapped out a special route:

Post-run (pre-coffee on the co-op patio) photo:

Happy 4th, all!

who knew it was quinoa?

No one!

Would you believe me if I told you that at one point I had upwards of TWENTY different kinds of flours in my freezer?  (Thank goodness for extra freezer space in the basement.)

It all started with Good to the Grain, a cookbook that features multiple grains/flours, such as oat, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, etc…  The book came out in 2010, before these flours were available in most grocery stores, and I remember placing a rather large order with Bob’s Red Mill to get the lesser-known varieties (teff, kamut) shipped to my door.

Over the years, the amount of baking I’ve done has decreased for multiple reasons, including time constraints in my schedule, ascribing to a more ‘paleo’ style diet (no grains) and a desire to be healthier overall (decreasing added sugars). However, I really love to bake and do still indulge in both decadent treats and healthier baked goods from time to time.

I’m getting off topic.  Quinoa.  Back to quinoa.

ANYWAY, I’ve been experiencing an on-again, off-again push to–once and for all–use up all those alternative baking flours that are taking up space in my freezer and keep my collection limited to those flours used most often in paleo-style baking and that yield a good product.  The ‘baking-with-ancient-grains’ ride has been fun (and informative!), but I’ve gotta simplify.

Quinoa flour, which boasts it’s own chapter in Good to the Grain, has a strong flavor of…dirt.  I said it. In addition to the fiber and protein quinoa flour adds to your product, it also adds a certain ‘earthiness’ that’s hard to disguise. I’ve made quinoa-beet pancakes, quinoa-pumpkin pancakes and many other things and I can still taste the flour a bit more than I’d like, and I’m pretty accepting of less-than-perfect products.

So when I spied the recipe on the back of the bag for chocolate cupcakes, I realized I’d been going about this quinoa flour thing all wrong.  I needed an equally strong flavor to balance out the quinoa!  (Apparently, beets aren’t strong enough.)  CHOCOLATE.


Bob’s Red Mill Sour Cream Fudge Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    Place the butter and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Sift together the sugar, quinoa flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cooled cocoa mixture, egg yolks, vanilla and sour cream and blend well. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter.
  2. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
    Makes 12 gorgeous cupcakes.

I actually ended up making these cupcakes twice in one weekend–once to bring to a friend’s house, topped with Ina’s Chocolate Frosting, and another batch to my sister-in-law’s house for the Super Bowl, topped with this peanut butter frosting from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

I was shocked at how well the cupcakes turned out!  Not a hint of quinoa flour at all!  (Not that it’s all bad, but you’ve gotta know your audience with some of these ‘healthy subs’ and believe me when I tell you I faced two tough crowds this weekend.

So, moral of the story: give quinoa a try!  Just make sure to throw in a little chocolate, too.



a balsamic kind of night

I may have outdone myself tonight.  At least with what little resources I have available here in the hotel.

(Photos courtesy of Andrew)

I made Ina’s herb-roasted salmon from her How Easy is That? cookbook.  It’s basically salmon coated in chopped scallions, parsley and dill.  YUM.  It was incredibly fresh and light.  A very thin drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice allowed the herbs to stick, and it was roasted with a little white wine.  I LOVE things cooked with wine.  I love being able to smell and taste just a hint of it.

For once, I didn’t overcook the salmon.  I’ll be honest; I like my salmon on the ‘done’ side.  So does Andrew.  I probably could have cooked it longer, but I didn’t want to turn it into rubber.  There is a fine line between slightly done and WAY overdone.

I threw together some balsamic vinegar and olive oil-marinated tomatoes and onions.  Growing up, my mom would thickly slice tomatoes and Vidalia onions and bathe them in a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Ah, the memories.  I don’t have any shallow dishes here, and all I had were red onions, so I went with what I had.

Until this afternoon, I’d been using the balsamic drizzling syrup my mom got me in Italy for all my balsamic needs.  While running errands on Main Street today, I popped into Tuscany On Main for a bottle of the good stuff.  It was so neat to be able to actually sample the different vinegars–you can definitely tell a difference between the various kinds.  Of the three regular balsamic vinegars (among COUNTLESS herb and fruit-infused vinegars and oils), I sprang for the ultra-premium “Cask 25” variety.  (At only $12.99 I would hardly consider it that much of a splurge, but I felt fancy getting the top-of-the-line!)  It’s been aged for 25 years in the barrel (obviously) and has distinct notes of wine, like port and madiera.  The Cask 10 was lighter and fruiter and I didn’t prefer it.  The Premium was more like what you’d find in the grocery store.  Both the Cask 10 and 25’s were visibly thicker and syrupy.  Needless to say, I had fun using it for dinner tonight!

I had about 5 ounces of orzo hanging around, so I found a recipe in my Foster’s Market cookbook for a dish with grilled veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and greens.  It was lightly dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.  Because I love my husband, I kept the grilled portobello mushrooms and mozzarella on the side and only added them to my half.

Andrew really liked it!  I served it all with a glass of Leonard Oakes’ Blanc d’Orleans wine, which I found in Reed’s Liquors this afternoon.  I walked in and asked for a recommendation of a New York wine.  It’s a little drier than Andrew and I are used to, but I liked it very much.  The bottle says it’s “gooseberry, honeysuckle, grapefruit and melon. Slate and straw and subtle spice.  Crisp, complex and completely refreshing.”  I wanted something that would go with our salmon tonight, our chicken tomorrow and our quinoa Thursday, and I think I chose well.  I also got a glowing recommendation for a local Riesling that I’ll be picking up next time we need one.

We had just enough leftover (dinner, not the wine) for me to have lunch tomorrow–yay!

Tomorrow morning I’m blending a banana into my beet smoothie to sweeten it up and make it more “breakfast-y.”  It’s my pilates/yoga and kickboxing day, which means a big breakfast!