Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Patience is the hardest

A good friend wrote and asked me to share something I've been working on, so I've put up a sachet I embroidered recently. My friend and I used to paint together in Romania. She is a wonderfully brave painter, and I've never forgotten her advice to me… Paint as if you have no shame. Some would disagree with this, but the notion of leaving behind inhibition during the creative process makes sense to me.

Since I've moved to Seattle, I've not given myself much time for creative process. You know what moves do - all aspects of your life get packed away, jumbled up, and tumbled out when you reach your destination. It takes time to figure it all out, and it takes patience.

Patience is the hardest.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Apricot Almond Yeast Bread

Apricot Almond Yeast Bread

It's raining in Seattle. What to do. What to do...

Make bread!

I usually start this process by looking in my cupboard to see what I have on hand. Yesterday as I poked around the pantry I came across a large bag of dried apricots that I normally reserve for making granola. Hummmm...

Why not apricot bread with almonds?

The key ingredients: apricots and almonds

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook. (By the way, if you do not have a copy of this book, I highly recommend it.)

This dough is slightly sweet, made with apple juice, honey, and apricots. Added almonds give it a nice crunch.

Adding honey

Here are the ingredients:

3/4 cup apple juice
1/4 buttermilk (or regular milk)
7 tbsp water
2 1/2 tbsp honey
2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup chopped almonds (for the dough)

2/3 cup dried apricots (added mid-knead)

1/2 cup of chopped almonds (for crust)


Using your electric mixer with a paddle attachment or your bread machine, combine the ingredients except the dried apricots – keeping in mind your machine’s instructions.

When your machine beeps, or when you are in between your first and second kneads, add the dried apricots. This delay keeps the apricots from getting too chopped up in the machine.

When kneading is done, let the dough rise for about 45 min. or until it has doubled in size.  (If you prefer hand kneading, see my note on hand kneading in my Best Ever Polenta Pumpkin Seed Bread Recipe.)

Once the dough has doubled, pour it out into a floured surface, and give it a good kneading - a couple minutes. Shape your dough into an oblong form and roll it in a bed of chopped almonds.  Place the almond-covered dough on your baking sheet.

Almond covered dough

Let the dough rise again until doubled in size.  (I use a damp cloth to cover the dough while it is rising.)


Bake your loaf for about 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 415 Fahrenheit (about 210 C).  Your almond crust with be nice and toasty while the dough will be moist and chewy. Delicious!

Moist and sweet!

If you try one of my bread recipes, please let me know your results. Happy baking, friends!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Healthy Butternut Squash Bread

Healthy Butternut Squash Bread

I recently had some butternut squash left over from dinner. What to do? Why, put it in bread, of course!

I found my inspiration from MyBakingAddiction, a great site for all you obsessive bakers!

My own version has more fiber - whole wheat flour and ground flax seeds - and less sugar. That's the healthy part! Yet it's rich - due to buttermilk - and nutty - from walnuts and flax seeds. Add sweet and spicy - cranberries and cayenne - and WOW! It's delicious!

Sweet and nutty

Want to give it a try?


3/4 cup butternut squash purée
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup all-purpose white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
A dash of cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp coarsely ground flax seed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the butternut squash puree, eggs, oil, buttermilk, water, and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add the flax seed, walnuts, and dried cranberries to the dry ingredients.

Stir the dry ingredients into the butternut squash mixture. Remember the rule about not over-mixing!

Look how rich this batter is!

Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

What a wonderful crumb!

Thanks to MyBakingAddiction for the original recipe!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February inspiration

Showy blooms at the garden show

February can seem dreary, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Yet there is beauty everywhere, and a promise of more to come.

February is also brings the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. After two days of show bliss, all I can say is, "Wow!" Floral displays, uniquely designed gardens, seminars, and a marketplace of plants and all things garden. I was in heaven.

I was especially drawn to all the garden ornaments. Here are some of my favs.

Glass blooms

Hanging ornaments

A sleeping giant in the grass

I found the succulent displays particular inspiring. (If you hadn't noticed, succulents are very de moda these days.)

A vertical display

The show inspired me to create my own little landscape. It's made from an old soup terrine I haven't used in years.

My succulent landscape

What inspiration will March bring?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

All the signs

On the Seattle waterfront - Washington

Lately I've been struck by all the signs I see out in the world. Remember the 1970's song that went, "Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"

In Santa Cruz - California

Most of the signs I've come across are "No" signs - ones that tell you what NOT to do: no parking, no trespassing, no stopping. Depending on where you live, you may see "No" signs in more than one language.

In the Salinas Valley - California

Oftentimes a "No" sign conveys it's message with images. Some images are simple.

In the Oakland hills - California

Some are more complex.

On the Seattle waterfront - Washington

Perhaps more interesting are the signs that tell you what you MUST do.

In the Oakland hills - California

This simple, yet creative, one is my favorite.

In the Oakland hills - California

It communicates it's message well. :)

Seen any interesting signs lately?

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