Fast and Easy Almond Paste

love almond paste. I’ve seen marzipan sold in packaging, but it was always way to sweet and not so tasty.
 A while back I was messing around with making croissants and wanted to somehow make them almond filled.
I threw some almond meal, agave and lemon juice together. It worked and was quite good. 
 Then a couple of evenings ago I was intensely craving almond croissants. I made them, but this time, instead of lemon juice I used vanilla. That was the trick, The paste was absolutely perfect. 
 I don’t have exact measurements for you, but it is best if you do it by feel anyway.
Combine desired amount of almond meal with agave until is becomes sticky and holds together. 
Add roughly one teaspoon of vanilla for every cup and a half of almond meal. 
Be sure not to eat it all while you test it, that could be a problem. 
                                               Best wishes ~ Marica

Brugmansia from cuttings . . .

I am so excited . . . A few weeks ago I cut a small trimming from one of our Brugmansia bushes 
and set it in water with the hopes of it growing into its own tall plant someday. Some plants 
have this amazing ability, others don’t. Because Brugmansia have such thick watery stems, I thought 
they might be good candidates. Most succulents are really easy to pluck and replant, Brugmansia have a
 similar thick outer skin and wet inner stalk. After the first few days the big leaves wilted so I cut those
 off, but the younger leaves continued to thrive. Then just yesterday, I pulled the stem out of 
the water and there they were . . . Little white roots . . . 
I love Brugmansia, although they are poisonous, 
they remind me of all the magical Alice in Wonderland like gardens . . . 

 And now that we live in town where it doesn’t get so cold, I really wanted to grown them.

 It’s truly amazing that it’s possible to divide and create whole new plants just from cuttings.
My husband and I are constantly plucking bits of our succulents and transplanting
 them to new locations.

So  anyway, I settled the new Brugmansia baby in soil, set it out in yesterday’s rain,
and am crossing my fingers it likes its new home. 
 Then I went and cut a new stem, and am starting the process all over again . . .
                             ~ Marica
P.S. I originally published this post with the name Datura instead of Brugmansia. I guess there is a 
subtle difference. Datura are basically annuals although some varieties have perennial root stalk.
 Brugmansia are perennials. Brugmansia are commonly known as Angel’s Trumpets where as 
Datura has been called Devil’s Trumpets or Devil’s Weed. I found this old gardeners saying:
 “Angel’s Trumpets point down from heaven; Devil’s Trumpets point up from Hell”

Thank you Rosemary, for pointing this out : ) 

What a long skirt can do . . .

Today we got another good rain . . .
Everything, including us, have been soaking it up . . . The kids ran outside to feel the pour and played “lost children”, which is always amusing to me because I used to play that same game when I was a kid.
The new bean sprouts doubled in the wetness . . .
And our first potato plant emerged. Thank you clouds . . . 
Yesterday I wore a long skirt and my wide brimmed hat.
 I spent a fair amount of the morning out in the tea garden . . . 
With a shovel . . .
The clouds were silver tipped and hovering in the corners of the sky.
 I weeded and hung laundry as the still wet grass made the edges of my skirt damp. 
I checked new sprouts and the young lawn. And just when I felt it couldn’t possibly 
feel anymore storybook, the rabbits in our hutch began to bound around together. “I feel like Beatrix Potter” I thought . . . And then “I’m nuts!!” At what point am I going to stop feeling like characters from books I read? I used to be Sara Crew from A Little Princess (a book I read nine times over as a kid). And of course, Laura Ingalls from all the Little House on the Prairie books. I loved it. 
But now??? Am I still supposed to have that happen? 
Dare I ask if anyone else still slips into moments where all the stored up inspiration from 
truly amazing characters filters in and adds color and intention to something so simple as, 
lets say, making soup??? Hmm, I bet I am not the only one . . .
                                                      Cheers to spring time ~ Marica

Raw Coconut Cake Recipe . . .

Last post I gushed about food . . . 
This post contains the recipe for the cake mentioned
 at the end of that somewhat overly enthusiastic ditty. 
I believe I will continue to try to perfect it, 
but after a slice of this cake today, I enjoyed it so much
 I decided to temporarily call it finished.
This recipe is actually pretty simple, although somewhat messy to make. 
Unfortunately you have to have the right ingredients and most of 
them don’t tend to be typical pantry staples. 
Raw Coconut Cake
For the filling blend in a blender until smooth:
2 fresh baby coconuts water and pulp
Add:
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil or butter (butter is so yummy)
1/2 cup soft dates, pitted and peeled
4 tablespoons soy lecithin 
pinch salt
For the crust knead together: 
1/2 cup soft dates
2 cups raw almond meal
2 cups dry shredded coconut
1 tablespoon (more or less to taste) fresh ginger crushed 
a dash salt
zest of 1 orange
And a bit of coconut oil or butter until the dough is shape-able. 
Press into a wax paper lined 8-9″cake pan.
Be sure to make the crust go up the sides a bit.
Pour filling into the crust and then refrigerate at least several hours.
Overnight is best. 
                                                Best Wishes ~ Marica

I think I’m in love with food . . .

Can you be in love with food?
Is it possible to actually feel so enamored with what is made in the kitchen
 that it makes you tingly and breathless . . .
Simple stuff like rolled dough and  jars of flour . . . 
 Pretty things like thumb print cookies . . . 
 Made with almond-butter . . . 
 And strawberry jam . . .
 Ice tea in pitchers and Yerba Mate in tea pots with ginger . . .
 Cinnamon-rolls  . . . 
 That become part of late brunch . . .
Raw coconut cake . . .
That I am practicing until I get it just right . . .
I realized I can’t stop in the kitchen. 
Dinner every night can be a burden and certainly not magical,
yet on a whole I find food compelling . . .
I probably don’t eat half of what I make. It is not, in fact, about the eating . . . 
Although I do a whole lot of that too . . . 
It is about the preparation,
 the concocting,  
the smelling, 
the feeling, 
the tasting . . .
the adjusting . . . 
 It is about the colors and the compilation.
The completion . . .
All that makes me in love. I don’t know what else to call it.
                       ~ Marica

In the kitchen over the last few days . . . And a beginning baker . . .

A lot has been happening in our kitchen over the last few days . . .
Bread  . . .
And jam . . . 
Cake . . . 

And well, more bread . . .
But the exciting part of what’s happened in our kitchen over the last few days was this:
This eight-year-old girl here made her first loaf of bread and baked her first cake . . .

This wasn’t her just stirring and pouring and tasting the spoon . . .
This was the real thing . . . The real start to finish deal!

And I have to say, it is a little like passing on the torch . . .  Not to get sentimental or anything . . .  

THIS CAKE
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix:
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups safflower or grapeseed oil
Zest and juice from 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
3 cups unbleached white flour
(she used spelt)
3 teaspoons baking powder
(although I want to remake it with just 2 + 1/2)

Pour into an oiled budnt pan and bake at 350 degrees
 until a knife inserted comes our clean.
I am guessing 35 minutes, but we didn’t actually time it. (Sorry)
Once cool enough, turn out onto a plate. She drizzed the top with our
fresh strawberry jam . . . And it was delicious!!!



                                                             To all the bakers out there, cheers . . .  ~ Marica

To the snow, to the snow . . .

When you’re a California baby, snow is a mystical bit that makes its way
 through stories and Christmas illustrations . . .
 You might be five or even ten before you witness snow . . .
 And if you do encounter this wondrous white powdery ice, it is likely 
you drove a fair distance to get there . . .
Today, after heavy rain last night, we woke up to find snow atop 
the mountains that surround our valley.
We decided to take the mountains up on this invitation and drove the windy highway hoping 
to get close enough to actually play in the snow . . .
And we found it!!!!
Not too too much, but enough . . .
Enough to make snow balls . . .
And a tiny little snowman . . .
Our boots got covered in mud . . .
 And snowflakes dashed in our faces  . . . 
Mittens got soggy . . . 
And it looked like winter . . .
What a perfect afternoon . . .

                                                                                  ~ Marica

What I found this morning . . .

Rain thundering down . . . 
Finally finally finally!!!!!!! There has been almost none this year . . . The plants soaking up the water that the clouds are offering in such abundance . . .
The grass covered in droplets, happy and confused . . . 
The very first sprout from my Delphinium seeds . . .
  (On Thursday I was sure something must have gone wrong, they still hadn’t shown their faces.
I decided to investigate more, so I carefully opened up the soil just enough to peek . . . 
What a nice surprise to see a tiny white tail like sprout emerging from the seed.)
My husband always laughs and asks why I am so impatient . . . I can’t really answer that . . .
And another wonderful surprise, my grass seeds have finally emerged. I planted this lawn 
over a week ago and the seed bag had said 3-7 days. I have been checking everyday, 
even the first day, thinking miraculously they might sprout early. 
On the seventh day I gave up and figured we might have to do sod after all. And then today, oh yes on the same day as the Delphinium sprouts, I found hundreds
of tiny grass shoots pumping themselves through the soil. (And if you look carefully, 
you’ll notice all the Cosmos sprouting as well . . . What am I going to do? Last year 
there were Cosmos here, they must have dropped their seeds . . . I don’t know if I’ll be 
able to bring myself to pull them out . . .)
Patients my friend, I tell myself, patients . . .
                                                                    ~ Marica

Dangers at the plant nursery . . .

Some people love clothes shopping . . . On occasion I do too, 
 but I what really gets me, in a bad way, is the plant nursery. 
Often I’ll stop by to get something I need . . .
 I’ll have a plan . . . One that I plan to stick to . . .
 And then I’ll get side tracked . . .
I’ll find so many amazing growing things. Growing things that I don’t want to leave without . . . 
I’ll start a pile, and it will usually grow.
 
Sometimes my pile is just a list in my mind . . .
Sometimes it is in a corner, set aside waiting . . .
Waiting and ready to be purchased. 
Usually the guilt is building a bit . . . I start rethinking the plants I have piled up. 
Do I really need them this very day???? 
Maybe???? Or maybe I can wait for another time. 
That is when I start putting them back. Either in my mind, or actually with my hands 
if it is one of those days that the pile has grown physically in some off corner . . . 
The guilt thins a bit and I adjust to what seems at least reasonable to why
 I have stopped there in the first place . . .
A breath of relief that I managed to manage myself . . .
Whew, another close call . . .
                                ~ Marica