Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Introspection....



Yesterday I found myself sitting across a lunch table from an extremely bright, articulate, engaging woman who I have been blessed to know for years. She is a walking, talking history reference manual about the city where I was born and raised and currently live.  This city has been the brunt of a lot of bad press over the years because it borders a military base.

There were decades,when I was a little girl, when the downtown was not a very pretty or welcoming place to be.We all wondered if anything would change. It was honestly depressing. But…… change has come, albeit slowly, for the better. Decades ago the city began a redevelopment project to give our beloved town a face lift. And over time that has happened in a lovely way. Sometimes, when things are done well, the results outweigh the initial hopes. And I believe that was the outcome here.The facelift had a depth to it – that can be seen and felt by residents and businesses alike. I am so proud to live here and so excited to see all that is happening around me. Every week new businesses are coming to the downtown (affectionately known as Coast Highway, formerly Hill Street). Great little bistro pubs and craft breweries and specialty foods are popping up on every street.There are families wandering the streets morning, noon and night. There is live theater amid it all, and every Thursday part of the bustling downtown closes for a Farmers Market during the day, and a Sunset Market in the evening – with amazing food and entertainment.


I love this city, but not just because of what it is becoming, but because of the people who have come before and not only shared their dreams, but made their dreams a reality for themselves and for generations to come.
We sat and talked yesterday about why I was involved with various organizations here in the community.To say it is because I love it here is just too simple. The reason is so deep that it is difficult to find the words to really convey the “why”.  I had amazing role models. My parents were transplants in the 40s here – my Mom from New York and my Dad from Iowa. I won’t bore you with the details of their time here, but suffice to say they created wonderful lives that were rich with friendships. It didn’t matter what their career or religion was; the common thread was that everyone cared about each other. Together they gave back to this city that had given them the opportunities to chart their own path to success and brought them such a wonderful place to live and love.

It is because of them, of what I saw every day of my life, that gave my life a purpose I never truly realized for many years. The commitment was in my heart and soul, but remained dormant until my Dad passed away. It was only then that I became aware of the importance of the gift they had left me…the deep and unshaking love for my community. Oh, I didn’t realize that easily or quickly. I had to go through a year of darkness, grieving the loss of not only my last parent, but my best friend. I was in my 50s, but I felt like a lost child. Everyone grieves differently and it is a process for sure. But as I started to come out of that black hole, I could begin to accept not only the gift, but the responsibility that was now mine. My parents had created an incredible legacy of support and commitment to this city. And it was now up to me to continue their legacy as best I could. With the help of friends, I began to explore the organizations they loved to see if there was something I could possibly do to help on a small level. Initially it was overwhelming – they had done SO much and changed so many lives for the better. But it was also exciting to hear stories about them that I never knew, and look for ways to honor them by continuing their work in my own way. It was also a time of growth for me. I soon learned that what mattered more than anything was a willingness to be open and to let my heart lead me. And that I did. And surprisingly, the more I opened my heart, the easier it was to embrace the path that had been left for me.

I love Oceanside.I love the people. And I am grateful every single day to be a small part of the heartbeat of this beautiful city. My life has been blessed in so many ways.

Ok – enough philosophizing for one day!
I  hope to have more to share soon! Am planning some new cards and new cooking and baking adventures!

Stay tuned….
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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Zucchini Chocolate Cake - the BEST!

I made this cake a few days ago and almost didn't get a picture of it.  Have had neighbors and family enjoying it (and I snuck a few bites in there as well) and kept forgetting to snap a photo.  So finally grabbed a couple last night and even included one "a la mode".

Actually - that paragraph was written back in December and then life got away from me.  So....... it looked like I needed an excuse to make this delicious cake again - so I did!!  It is unbelievably easy to make and the zucchini makes it so moist that you think it it much more decadent than it is.  Adding the dark chocolate chips makes it a bit "healthier"  - right?? 





Best Chocolate Zucchini Cake

adapted from Mel's Kitchen Café

3 large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Bean Extract Crush)
1 1/2 c. organic cane sugar
1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. oil (melted coconut, avocado or canola  - I used coconut oil)
2 c. shredded zucchini
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (added to the batter with the zucchini)
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips (totally optional but purely divine!)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease a 13x9" pan with cooking spray or oil and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, sugar, buttermilk and oil until well blended.  Stir in the shredded zucchini.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt, soda and baking powder. Stir until well combined and no streaks of flour remain. Do not over mix.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the 1/2. c. dark chocolate chips over the top. They will melt in and just add more delicious flavor.

Bake in the oven for about 25-35  minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched and/or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


Let cool completely.  You can sprinkle powdered sugar on the top right before serving, frost it with your favorite frosting, serve it a la mode, or just enjoy it plain. It is so moist and good and with all of that zucchini and dark chocolate - it's even good for you!! (well, I can rationalize just about anything!)  You will want to make this again and again! 
(I cut half of it into bars and put them in the freezer.  It helps to keep it out of sight for times when temptation takes over! And it's also a treat to open up the freezer and realize there is a delicious snack/dessert whenever I want it!)



The ice cream takes this moist wonderful cake to dessert nirvana!


It is as moist and luscious as it looks.....





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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lemon Almond Wedding Cookies

These are the first cookies I made in 2017 and they have set the bar high for all cookies to follow.  If you make just one cookie recipe this year - this is the one to make.  I know that is a rather bizarre statement to make when we are only two months into the year, but I just know that nothing will surpass the light lemony goodness of these little gems.

I hope you enjoy these delectable delights and I look forward to sharing more recipes with you in the coming weeks and months.  We will see if this one remains #1 in my kitchen and yours too!

Lemon Almond Wedding Cookies

adapted from The Pioneer Woman Food and Friends

2 sticks butter, unsalted and softened
 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 t. lemon extract
1/2 t. almond extract
1 T. lemon juice
2 lemons, zested
1 c. almond flour
2 c. flour
-------
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted (sifting is optional)

Cream the butter and sugar well with a stand or hand mixer.  Beat in the salt, lemon and almond extracts, lemon juice and the zest.  Mix in the almond flour.  On low speed, add the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing just until blended. 

Refrigerate the dough for at least 45 minutes. (you can make this the night before and let it chill overnight).  Just bring it out about 30 minutes before you want to start scooping the dough.  Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325.

Use a 2 tsp. scoop and place the dough onto the parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.  Wait a minute or two (no longer) and toss the baked cookies into the sifted powdered sugar and then let them cool on a wire rack.


When they are completely cool, toss them again in the powdered sugar so they are well coated.
Makes about 4 dozen.


These are a little extra work, but soooooo worth it. They melt in your mouth!

I shared a small plate of cookies with each of my two neighbors and they raved for days!  Now that is what I call a cookie baking success!

Just this past week I made another batch, shared with the same neighbors and they were grinning from ear to ear!   I love doing things that make people happy!



ENJOY!!!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine Fun!

I hope everyone is feeling loved and special, especially today.

The best part about today, for me, is reminding my grandchildren that they are loved.  And making cards for them is a fun way to do that.

I relied on the images from Miss Kate's Cuttables again to create their Valentine cards.

First of all, Carter is totally into trucks - ALL BIG TRUCKS and the noisier the better. He loves trash trucks and dump trucks and bulldozers - well you get the idea.  So when I saw this file I knew it was what I had to make for him.  I hope he likes it!


This is the cute little "digger". I have glossy accents on the
deeper yellow to make it shine and colored little rocks
being picked up.  So much fun to make!


Here is a side view so you can see some of the dimension and shine.


And the final product - I love it!

As for the girls in northern CA, I am really feeling their age gap now when I make cards for them. I used to be able to make similar cards, but now with Kendra (16) and Haley (10), I cannot get away with two too cutesy cards!!  I need to be a little more grown up with the teenager; at least I think I do!

So Kendra's card is feminine and bright and a tad simpler. 


I love all of the dimension and sparkle in this one. I hope it makes it through the mail in one piece!!


I have just recently started adding sequins to cards. They are fun to play with and add a nice touch!

Haley's card is still cute and a bit more playful.  I don't know how many more years I can get away with that!

This little bee has double wings with a layer of vellum over them.
He is really cute in person!


I thought the marbled vellum over the hot pink gave this a bit of a fantasy look and added
to the floating format.

I hope all three of them have a GREAT day!!

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 2017 - Carter is TWO!

Where oh where did January go?  The new year has barely begun and I am already a month behind!  Yikes!

I had the best of intentions and I blew it.  January came and went and so many things that I had planned/wanted to do just didn't happen.  I am not going to let myself label that a failure, which is progress for me!  Sometimes life just doesn't go the way you plan.  So you regroup and start anew. And that is what I am doing. It's a new year - a month late!

Happy February! I have been busy baking and card making and m eager to start sharing again. 

First up is the card I made for my rapidly growing grandson, Carter.  He is SUCH a delight and is full of the joy and inquisitiveness (and boundless energy) that are typical of two year olds.  He brings such joy into all of our lives.

His birthday was actually the beginning of the month, but I am playing catch up for a while. Forgive me.

So here is his birthday morning!  I think it is the perfect way to start a birthday - I would just add a nice LARGE cup of coffee (and would definitely stay in my pjs!!)

For his card I used a cake design from Miss Kate's Cuttables to celebrate this second birthday.


I ran the frosting layers through embossing folders to
give them a little interest and added colored brads to
the dotted sprinkles for dimension and interest.



This little greeting was all done on the Silver Bullet.  I used the pen tool with
Staedler fineliner pens (love them) to "write" the message and then
cut the little banner greeting out - all on the machine. Fun and easy!



I got this stamp years ago to put on the back of the cards
that I made my granddaughters.  Now Carter gets it on his cards
too.  I stamped this on a sheet of 2" square labels so I
have them all ready to go!


The only way to start a birthday!






HAPPY SECOND BIRTHDAY DEAR CARTER! 










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Monday, December 19, 2016

December Birthday Cards




Here it is a week before Christmas and I still have Christmas cards and recipes to share.  I guess I better make a real concerted effort to post a lot in the next week!!  And what's wrong with sharing a few Christmas recipes in January to get a jump start on the coming year - right??  Geesh...... one of these days I will do a better job of juggling all of it. But for now, until the little elves come and give me a hand, I will do the best I can!

I needed to get a few birthday cards made, so I tried to combine birthday and holiday and am really pleased with the results.  I made ornament embellishments for both cards using two entirely different files and designers, but kept the same greeting because it worked so well!


This design is from Craft Vectors (Dominic). It is one of his Christmas Baubles collection.
It was cut out of gold vinyl.

The designs were cut out of vinyl then transferred to adhesive backed acetate to mimic an ornament. Then each was glittered from the back side. It's a bit tricky to stay in the lines (my perfectionist striving self struggled with glitter that went awry), but I still love  how they came out!




This is the end result - after the adhesive acetate has been added
and it has been glittered from the back.


Here is the second design from A Little Hut and is part
of the Poinsettia  Gift Set.   It was cut from silver
vinyl and also glittered from behind once the acetate was adhered to the front.
This is a relatively simple way to get a stunning look.


This was the first card I did with simple sequins added to the card base. 
The sequins reminded me of falling snow.



I used the same font in both, cut out of vinyl but made this ornament a bit larger
and added the glittered bow.

More projects and goodies to come.....stay tuned!




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Monday, December 5, 2016

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

I love squash, but spaghetti squash is something I had never cooked before and had no desire to try.  I am so glad I stumbled upon this recipe and it gave me the push I needed to venture out of my comfort zone!.
This was so easy to roast  and fun to shred into strands!   And the bonus was that it was delicious too.  This is definitely something I will make again...and again!.  



Don't you love those strands of squash?  Yes, food CAN be fun!

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats     

adapted from Cafe Delites

2 whole spaghetti squash, cut in half and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper
Bolognese or marinara sauce -  semi-homemade (below) or from scratch

Quick Bolognese Sauce:

1 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1  (12 oz.) pkg.  - Aidell's All Natural Caramelized Onion Chicken Meatballs (these are pre-cooked and so incredibly good and flavorful)*
1 (14 oz.) bottle of your favorite marinara sauce
2 T. tomato paste
1 beef bouillon, crushed or 1 t. beef stock base
pinch of sugar to reduce the acidity (I used 1/2 packet of Truvia)
2 T. fresh chopped parsley (divided)
2 t. fresh chopped basil**
2 t. fresh chopped oregano**
o----------o----------o----------o----------o----------o----------o----------o----------o----------o----------o

1 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese or 3 cheese blend
salt and pepper to taste

While the squash is roasting (it takes about 40-45 minutes), prepare the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Sauté the garlic until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the marinara sauce, tomato paste, chopped chicken meatballs,* crushed bouillon cube or beef base, sugar, 1 T. of the parsley and the remaining herbs.**.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors meld.

While the sauce is cooking, mix the ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese and set aside.

Now is a good time to take the cooled spaghetti squash and create strands from the flesh by running a fork across the squash.  Leave about 1/2" of squash around the edges so the shell remains stable. (I don't know why, but this is so much fun to do and makes the squash totally irresistible!)




Divide the sauce among the four halves; about 2 cups each.  Then top the sauce with about 2-3 T. of the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by 1/4 c. shredded cheese each (if you want to add more shredded cheese, go for it!  In my world, there is no such thing as too much cheese...)


Each squash half is enrobed with about 2 cups of meat sauce.


The parmesan ricotta mixture adds such creaminess to this dish...


And then the cheese....use mozzarella, an Italian blend, or whatever you have on hand.

* You can use 1 lb. ground beef or turkey - just add immediately after the garlic is sautéed and cook until no longer pink.  Follow the remaining steps.

**You can substitute with dried herbs(use half as much if using dried) but the fresh adds SO much more flavor...

Place the squash halves in the center of the oven and broil for about 10 minutes - until the cheese is melted and browned.

Top with remaining fresh parsley and serve.  You will be surprised at how delicious and filling this is - and you will want to make it again soon!  I promise!  And the bonus is that it's relatively healthy too! 



ENJOY!!!




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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pumpkin Bread (Starbucks Copycat )

Happy Thanksgiving to All!  May your day be full of family, friends, and wonderful food! :)

Who doesn't LOVE the rich, moist pumpkin bread that calls to us from the bakery shelves at Starbucks this time of year.  I usually buy it once a year just because it is so good,.  But I may not need to do that anymore because this recipe is a great copycat.  It is moist and it is flavorful and that makes it oh so good!




Pumpkin Bread (Starbuck's Copycat!)

adapted from Something Swanky

4 eggs
1 c. organic cane sugar
1/2 c. organic light brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. canned organic pumpkin
3/4 c. vegetable oil (I used 1/2 c. applesauce and 1/4 c. oil)
1 1/2 c. flour
2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. baking soda
1/2  t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth.  Mix in the pumpkin and oil.

Add the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Gently fold into the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula.  Stop mixing once the batter is blended.  Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake 55-70 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.(start testing at 55 minutes).

Let cool in pan for at least 15 min and then cool on a wire rack.



ENJOY!!!
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Heavenly Hawaiian Bread - OMG!!!




I have to admit have been eyeing this recipe for a long time. I love the light sweetness of Hawaiian bread, rolls - you name it.  It is always so tender and fluffy and just plain wonderful - not to mention irresistible. 

I think I was almost afraid to try this recipe because I was afraid that my efforts would fall short of my expectations.  Oh why did I wait this l long?!?  This turned out fabulous and blew my expectations right out of the water.

This recipe makes 3 beautiful round loaves or 2 loaves and about a dozen large dinner rolls.  I can just imagine devoting this entire recipe to Thanksgiving dinner rolls.  It would be so perfect for a hungry crowd and definitely memorable.  YUM!!

Homemade Hawaiian Bread

adapted from Butter with a Side of Bread

6 cups flour (I used bread flour and it worked just fine) and 1/2-1 cup additional flour
3 c. pineapple juice
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. ginger or apple pie spice (I was out of ginger so chose the apple pie spice)
1 t. vanilla
2 pkg. Red Star platinum baking yeast
1 stick butter, melted

Beat eggs lightly, then add pineapple juice, sugar, spice, vanilla and melted butter.  Stir until combined.

Place 3 c. flour into a stand mixer (I love my Bosch for kneading bread) and add the egg mixture and mix until well combined.  Sprinkle in the yeast and mix well.  Add the other 3 c. flour and mix on low speed for about 2-3 minutes.  (**it was a rainy day when I made this, so I needed an extra 1/2 cup here to help the dough hold together. you may not need it - just go by the feel of your dough).  It was still a very soft dough.

Once kneaded, place the dough into a large greased bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let rise for an hour in a warm place.  I have a proof setting on my oven so I use that for all bread recipes - it works perfectly.



The dough after its first "rising"

Remove the risen dough from the bowl and knead in an additional 1/2 cup flour just until combined.  Divide the dough into thirds, shape into a ball and place each into a greased cake pan.  Cover with the cloth and let the dough rise for another hour.


Dough after kneading


Divided into thirds

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.  Brush with melted butter to give it a beautiful sheen and taste.



Perfectly baked - pre-butter glaze


After the butter glaze - is your mouth watering yet???


And the scrumptious pan of rolls!  I think I need another one......NOW!



You will want to make this again... and again... and again...!


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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Happy Halloween and Sweet Sixteen! (a late share!)



This card was one of the most fun I have made in a very long time - and totally out of my comfort zone - as far as themes!!!  But this is what my oldest granddaughter loves, and with her birthday falling the day before Halloween, I have always tried to tie the two occasions together. I was stumped this year because I thought it was time to leave Halloween behind and just focus on her sweet sixteen birthday, but her Mom came to the rescue with this idea and it all fell together.


Here is the initial result using a file from SVG Cutting Files.  The cardstock
is a smooth glittered paper from American Crafts (both the black and silver glittered paper)
and I decorated the skull with a variety of gemstones. The hard part is knowing when to stop!


To add a feminine touch to the skull, a Prima flower from my stash
was accented with Distress inks to complement the card base.


                             The Happy Sweet 16 greeting is drawn in the SCAL software with the pen tool.
A label was drawn around that and then the whole thing was shadow cut. 
The pen tool makes it so easy to write whatever you want.


The final touch of the gemstone eyes was honestly so much fun and seemed to give this card and image so much character.  The best part is that she thought it was "super cool" and loved it. That makes every bit of work SO worth it!! 

Happy Sweet 16, Kendra!













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About Me

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I am a mother to three and Grammy to two beautiful granddaughters and one very handsome little grandson.  Was born and raised in southern California and am happy to call it home.  I fill my days with volunteer work, paper crafting, needlework of all kinds and cooking and baking.   I am blessed with wonderful family and friends who fill my heart on a daily basis.