New Year’s Eve and a cheese ball recipe…

I was first introduced to cheese balls by my dear, dear friend Lauren. Her mother always made them during the holidays, and one year she brought one over to our house. It was a magical affair that left me deeply in love with cheese balls.

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This year I decided to attempt to make my own. I knew it was supposed to be simple, but when I looked up “cheese ball” on the internet, I couldn’t believe just how simple.

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I chose smoked cheddar, parmesan and neufchâtel cheese, because I really like bold flavors and wanted the cheese ball to have a kick.

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I rolled it in slivers of almonds. My husband recommended I toast them first, and I’m so glad as it gave them more flavor as well as a fresher texture. 

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I’m excited because this is just the first door to cheese balls. . . I have so many more ideas percolating in my head; tarragon, lemon zest, and goat cheese. . . habanero, cumin and tequila… It’s going to be fun!

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NEW YEAR CHEESE BALL RECIPE:

Mix well:

8 oz Neufchâtel cheese or cream cheese at room temperature. 

1 cup smoked cheddar or gouda grated

1/2 cup parmesan  grated

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon summer savory

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a warm pan lightly toast:

1/2 cup almond slivers

Roll the cheese ball in the almond slivers and then refrigerate until use.

 

Hope you all had a happy new year!

 

                                       Cheers ~

                                                                     Marica

A kitchen that is almost done…

As per my usual way of doing things, I decided to fix our kitchen midst every other golly gosh thing going on—more on that soon. So here are some pictures of the before and almost after. I say almost because there are a few more steps in place before it becomes a finished ordeal. We are at a reasonable stopping place, but not a done spot.

I had this incredible helper who dug in with both hands. It was such a pleasure to work with him!

He got this picture of me proving my ever-lasting strength!
But true credit goes to the crowbar. Without a crowbar it would have been impossible…

This here is our new baby stove. Just in time to cook Christmas dinner too!

Happy Holidays!
                Marica

Refrigerator Pickles… a recipe

 I absolutely LOVE when it is pickle making time of year. I am not—yet—the best preserver when it comes to “putting by for winter” though ever since I was a child it has been a dreamy idea to me. I always pep myself that this will be the year. THE YEAR where I start a pantry of all I grew and canned and dried and all the rest of the fanciful notions that seem attainable when the short days and cold weather make it just story book enough to feel possible. As a child I would often play house and would spend uncountable hours foraging for mazanita berries and wild cherries; storing up good food for when the blizzards hit. We lived in Southern California.
Anyway, what follows is the pickle recipe that does get used in my kitchen. Maybe when my hair is white and I finally get to wear the muumuus I so intend to eventually wear, I will have more tried and true recipes for preserving summer’s harvest.

 

 

Refrigerator Pickles 
In a very clean 1 gallon jar place a washed strand of fresh dill weed.
If you don’t have fresh use a tablespoon of dried.
Add roughly 4 lb. pickling cucumbers washed (they are all over at the farmers market right now)
4 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup salt
1 + 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 tablespoon black pepper corns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole allspice
a few cloves
6-8 cups water or until jar is full.
optional: pepper flakes or a couple fresh hot peppers,
fresh strand tarragon. 
Cover with wax paper and fasten with string or a rubber band.

Let sit out for two days, out of direct sunlight, then refrigerate for up to two months.

Recipe is re posted from this post. 

Cheers ~
Marica

The BIRTHDAY BOOK IS DONE!!!

At long last I am actually writing this post. I have dreamed about this for almost as many years as I have been authoring this blog. It is with great satisfaction I can finally say–and mean it–The birthday book is done! 
crafts, chidren, homeschool, birthdays
I have told my husband and the kids so many times “the birthday book is done” that it started to loose meaning. Draft after draft, after frustrating small-tweaks-here-and-there draft, it is really truly completely, no-more-to-do done. I invite you to to pop some champagne for me… no not really, I can do that myself, but geez luize, it is good to put this one on the shelf and say fini! 
crafts, chidren, homeschool, birthdays
It was a project my good friend Robin and I started back when the kids were little. We traveled through so many stages of our lives and I have lived in five houses since we started. I guess I like to move! Or it has just taken a long time and finding the place that is home takes a long time too. 
But anyway, enough about that, here are some of my favorite images from the book:

Filled to the brim with step-by-step instructions for making original gifts, favors, cakes, wrapping, decorations and games, BIRTHDAYS: HANDMADE, HOMEMADE is interwoven with stories, photographs, illustrations and anecdotes. We invite readers to pull up a chair, pour a cup of tea and spend the afternoon making and creating. Our goal is to offer inspiration on how to make a birthday handmade, homemade and your very own.
Readers will love the creative ideas that make this book so personal and tangible. Projects range from fast and easy . . . Dinosaurs in real eggshells, to more timely and in depth . . . Dining table forts. Young parents and do-it-yourself enthusiasts will find endless help onhow to prepare and execute a homemade birthday party.
At a time when it seems like families are trying to take back just a bit of their own and blogs hum with self-reliant know-how, this book is a great jumping-off point for those aiming to leave commercialism behind and bring it all back to the ones they love. 
Birthdays: Handmade, Homemade is available online. 
crafts, chidren, homeschool, birthdays

Hope everyone is enjoying summer!
                                   

                                              Cheers~
                                                         Marica

P.S. I have one copy to give away, so if you live in the United States and would like to enter for a chance to win, leave a comment below. I’ll pick a name at random and post a winner Sunday July 23rd.

Raw Spice Bar… A Givaway!

Hello to everyone that I seem not to be writing enough to. It’s been such a busy time, but I want to catch everyone before the holiday season takes off. I still will be posting more trip pictures, but I want to tuck in this post in because I have a GIVEAWAY to host!
giveaway
Raw Spice Bar, which I have written about before, is a super fun monthly mail subscription, spice boutique. I was offered a sample subscription a year or so ago and liked it enough to actually order my mom the subscription for her birthday. All the spices come with recipes and are sent in little, single recipe-size packages. 
Thanks to Sarah at Raw Spice Bar, I can offer one of my readers a free three-month subscription!
To enter, please post in the comments below what your most go to spice is. I would say one of my most favorite for savory cooking is freshly toasted and ground cumin.
Also, I recommend checking out their shop:
https://rawspicebar.com/shop/    https://rawspicebar.com/shop/    https://rawspicebar.com/shop/
Last day to comment will be Friday November 25th. 
I will post the winner by random selection this weekend. Thanks for entering!
Sadly this has to be for US residents only.
                                                                                Cheers ~
                                                                                             Marica 

P.S. Double your chance to win by sharing this post on your blog or in social media. 
Please post a link to your share with your comment.

Making Raspeberry Freezer Jam

After being given several flats worth of almost over-the-hill raspberries, I made it my afternoons work to make a stock pile of freezer jam. (Freezer jam is real jam, it is just skipping the step of processing it in heat and instead using a freezer to preserve the jam and keep it safe to eat.)
freezer, raspberries, jam, homemade jam
 The nice part of making freezer jam rather than canning, is that it is fast and less messy. If you are worried you won’t have the time to can a bunch of jam this can be a fabulous substitute.
freezer, preserving food, raspberries, recipes for freezer jam
 I usually follow the rule of thumb to use equal parts fruit and sugar. I don’t typically add pectin, which means the jam will be a bit sloppy, but I like it that way. Simmer down the fruit and sugar for at least 20 minutes; though you can go a little longer and the jam will become thicker. I sometimes add a dash of spice or orange zest. My favorite spices to use are cardamom, nutmeg or allspice though cinnamon is a good one too. Depending on the fruit and how juicy it is, you may need to add a splash of water to avoid burning the bottom of the pot. Note, too much will make soupy jam that doesn’t hold at all. 
Pour the jam into clean mason jars leaving half an inch of head-room. Twist on the cover and let cool. Place the unopened jars in your freezer and keep opened jam jars for use in the fridge.
The jam will last quite a while. I looked up specifics and this link said up to a year in a freezer and once thawed about 3-4 weeks.
Hope summer is wrapping up well for everyone!
                                                        Cheers ~
                                                                   Marica

 

Ginger Love (and a recipe for how to make sweet pickled ginger at home)

I am a ginger devotee. It is probably one of my most favorite ingredients to eat or cook with. At Japanese restaurants there is never enough pickled ginger on my plate and I am willing to endure the hollow, sour feeling in my stomach that comes free eating far too much pickled food in one seating. Oddly, I have never attempted to make my own pickled ginger. Today, however is a new day, and guess what, I made what will now most likely become a staple in my kitchen—pickled ginger! 
What brought it all to the forefront was a batch of fast pickled radishes I put together at the food truck yesterday. I was needing a little salad pizazz and had a small bin full of fresh pink radishes (I’ll actually give you all that recipe another time, once I figure out the precise proportions to use.) Either way, yesterday evening I was too tired to bother with ginger but my mind was already running with ginger thoughts and laughing at the idea I had never before even tried to make my own fast pickled ginger. Well today it was my priority. Between biscuits and omelets, pies and ice tea, I shuffled aside some time for ginger experimentation. 
The result is utterly satisfying. After eight hours of soaking, the pickles are fantastic; bright, extremely potent, sweet and with a true bite. I will bet tomorrow and even the day after, they will have come to terms with their fate and settled down to a somewhat milder delivery of their pickled ginger charm.  <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"MS 明朝"; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:”MS 明朝”; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:1 134676480 16 0 131072 0;} @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1073743103 0 0 415 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; msoascii-font-family:Cambria; msoascii-theme-font:minor-latin; msofareast-font-family:”MS 明朝”; msofareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; msohansi-font-family:Cambria; msohansi-theme-font:minor-latin; msobidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; msobidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:Cambria; msoascii-font-family:Cambria; msoascii-theme-font:minor-latin; msofareast-font-family:”MS 明朝”; msofareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; msohansi-font-family:Cambria; msohansi-theme-font:minor-latin; msobidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; msobidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} –>

ginger

ginger, pickling, sweet pickled ginger, Japanese style pickled ginger
Pickled Ginger Recipe
First wash and peel your ginger then slice very thinly until you have about one cup. I used a peeler, but a cheese slicer could work as well. Be sure to follow the grain or the ginger will be rougher in texture. Also note, the ginger gets more stringy as it gets closer to the center so optimally just use the outer portion for this recipe. Place the ginger in a bowl and mix with the following ingredients and then let sit covered in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours: 
1+1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
Please enjoy and let me know how they come out!
                                                        ~Marica

Christmas Feasting…

From late-night cookie parties to Christmas Eve and Christmas day feasts, this was one of the most food laden holidays I can remember. And that’s not even including last month’s Thanksgiving extravaganza.

 

To start I made shortbread and thumbprint cookies. I think shortbread might be one of my favorite cookies of all. They always make me think of my mom because years ago she and I got on a shortbread kick buying the traditional English, quite expensive, shortbread cookies to have with tea every day. Eeks, I miss living near my mom!
 
Peppermint hot chocolate before opening presents. This was my token of compensation
to the kids for having to wait until everyone was up…
 Several decadent breakfasts…

 

 

 My first attempt at anti pasto to kick off our Italian inspired Christmas dinner…
 Stuffed onions that our friends came over and made with anise biscuits in the filling…
 Focaccia bread to appease my fifteen-year-old who will eat ANYTHING 
except risotto which was the main course of our Christmas dinner.
Ending with tiramisu, I hope to post the recipe soon…
 All in all, so much good food and good people to celebrate with.
Missing our faraway clan of family and friends!
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!
                                                              Cheers ~
                                                                    Marica

Vegan Banana Muffins Recipe

I have a real soft spot for banana muffins. These particular muffins are yummy and yet still a tiny bit healthy. I often make a batch at the pie truck and then bring them home at the end of the day for my kiddos—They love when I bring treats. These days it’s hard to keep my fifteen-year-old from eating us out of house and home. Seriously! As an added piece—so you can get in the mind of a crazy pie-maker/mother/obsesser-of-story-books—I have an old love affair with the Betsy Tacy and Tib books. I read each and every one multiple times as a child, and to be truthful, I even read some of her later books not so very long ago. Either way, in the stories the house keeper/cook always makes the family muffins on their first day back to school. I found this tradition so romantic. Every time I make my children muffins I think of Betsy and her family and the simple tradition that somehow has made a lasting impression on me. Silly as it sounds, I feel like these are the things that matter. These bits and pieces are what keeps us inspired, warm and decent people in a very complicated world.
vegan, baking, recipes, muffins, banana, healthy

VEGAN BANANA MUFFINS
In a large bowl mix:
3 ripe bananas 
1 cup orange juice 
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup ground walnuts
In a separate bowl sift together:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix both sets of ingredients together. Pour into an oiled muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes and then rotate the the pan and bake for another 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

                                                                    Cheers ~
                                                                                Marica