Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Turning 50

I turned 50 last week. The big 5-0 had been looming over me for a few months leading up to my birthday. I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was leaving my 40s (which had been good to me) and entering my 50s! The day itself was wonderful, though the weather was strange (a day of pouring rain and 60-ish-degree weather sandwiched between days with highs in the 30s). My husband took the day off, treating me to lunch at a snazzy restaurant, then to an afternoon showing of the movie The Darkest Hour (the irony of seeing a movie with that title on my 50th birthday is not lost on me). 

Now that my actual birthday has passed, I feel no different than before. Of course I don't. What had I expected? 50 is just a number. I still feel young and think of myself as still in my early 40s. My husband says I act younger than my age. Most people tell me I look much younger ... one woman recently said she thought I was kidding when I said I was turning 50; she thought I meant I was turning 40! I'm sure she was just being nice, but oh how lovely it was to hear.

So really, what's bad about turning 50? Nothing. In fact, I feel blessed to have lived 50 years. Two people I know -- one a coworker, the other our dentist -- both passed away in the past two months, both at the age of 47. I'm sure they would have given anything to have celebrated their 50th birthdays, and beyond. 

Life presents us with so many moments that help us gain perspective. When I'm feeling down or focusing on the small stuff, I try to step back, count my blessings, pray for those who are truly struggling, and thank God for all He has given me. 

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.
Psalm 91:16

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What's a Breakfast Martini, You Ask?

Wine is our typical adult beverage of choice, but sometimes it's just fun to mix up a special cocktail. I wonder if I was a bartender in a previous life ... (just kidding). Over the years, I've progressed from buying those "old school" cocktail mixers (ugh, those artificial ingredients!) to buying more natural mixers sans preservatives or, better yet, making my own from scratch. Simple syrup is, as its name suggests, simple to make. Squeezing fresh lemons, limes and oranges is easy too, as long as you have them handy in the fridge. And using fresh juice makes a huge difference in a cocktail's quality and taste.  

Gin is one of my favorite liquors. Recently, I was in the mood for a new gin cocktail, so I did a search online and found one called a "breakfast martini." It most certainly is not for breakfast, but the drink is called that because it has orange marmalade in it. And I love orange marmalade!

Tanqueray is my gin of choice, but use whichever brand you prefer. Cointreau is an excellent orange liqueur, but you could substitute triple sec if that's what you have on hand. Go easy, though. A martini is a strong drink, and if you're s lightweight like me, you'll feel it after just one!

Breakfast Martini

In a cocktail shaker, combine:
1 teaspoon orange marmalade
1-1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Stir with a bar spoon to dissolve the marmalade. Add ice, cover shaker with lid and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a strip of orange zest. 

My one complaint about this recipe is that most of the orange peel from the marmalade stayed in the cocktail shaker. That simply was not okay -- it's the best part, after all -- so I used a long cocktail spoon to scrape all those yummy bits out of the shaker and into my drink. Will this cocktail become one of my go-to libations? Probably not, but it was a fun change of pace. 

For more cocktail and non-alcoholic beverage ideas (coffee drinks, hot chocolate), visit my Beverage board on Pinterest. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

DIY Vanilla-Mocha Sugar Scrub

I'm a sucker when it comes to luxurious bath products in gorgeous packaging. But the prices can be outrageous. Take sugar or salt body scrubs, for example. They can cost as much as $40 or $50! Why not make your own for a fraction of the cost? It's super easy to do.

I was rummaging through some old clippings last weekend as I was hunkered down trying to stay warm, and I came across some instructions on how to make your own body scrubs. I had the items needed to make a vanilla-mocha sugar scrub, so I gave it a shot.

To make your own body scrub, purchase a skin care oil (for massage and moisturizing) such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil. You can find these oils in the health and beauty section of stores like Whole Foods. Don't use cooking oil -- it's too sticky for this use.

The exfoliant base for your scrub can be sugar -- granulated, organic cane or brown turbinado, for example -- or salt, either coarse or fine. Sugar is gentler for most skin types, while salt is good for smoothing rough, dry skin, but may be too harsh for sensitive skin. Don't use these scrubs on your face, only on your body. And avoid any areas that are sensitive. I, for example, can only use the scrub on my arms, legs and feet.

In addition to the skin care oil and exfoliant base, you'll need ingredients such as essential oils or spices. This scrub calls for ground coffee, cocoa powder and vanilla.

Instructions: Vanilla-Mocha Sugar Scrub

Step one: Put 1 cup of sugar in a clean, sealable container. I used granulated sugar. Pour 1/4 cup sweet almond oil over the sugar and stir using a spoon or wooden stick until well combined.

Step two: Add 1/2 teaspoon of real vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground coffee and 1 teaspoon cocoa powder. Stir to blend. If needed, add another tablespoon oil to get the desired consistency, but don't use too much oil. You want the texture to be granular. Use in the shower for a moisturizing, exfoliating experience that smells wonderful. The scrub will last about 3 months in a well sealed container.

Vanilla-mocha is just one idea. Try using different essential oils such as lavender, orange or peppermint; finely ground citrus peel; or spices like cinnamon and ginger. Have fun experimenting. Recipes can be found online -- Aura Cacia is a good source -- or make up your own. Homemade scrubs make great gifts, too. Indulge this winter and treat yourself or someone you love to a homemade body scrub -- and save money in the process. Enjoy!

This is not a sponsored post.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Yellow Split-Pea Soup

To quote one of my favorite holiday songs, "Baby, it's cold outside!" Temperatures and weather conditions along the east coast have been brutal. This morning it was 13 degrees here, and our high today is only expected to reach the mid-20s. It's unusual for us in the Southeast to have these kinds of very cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time. I've been hibernating, not wanting to venture out at 5 am to go to the pool before work -- and I'm missing my morning swims!

Today I'm taking it easy after having had a headache the past three days. I believe it was a sinus headache caused by the cold, dry air. We don't have a humidifier at home, but we're improvising by keeping a pot of simmering water on the stove to add some humidity to the house. It is helping. Paul and I have both been feeling like we could be coming down with something, so we're taking extra vitamin C, drinking water to stay hydrated and resting.

Making homemade soup is another way to stay warm and healthy during these cold winter months. I recently made this easy-to-prepare split pea soup. I added cayenne pepper to give it some zing. I hope you give it a try! Stay warm and safe, and if you're a pet owner, please remember to bring your dog or cat indoors during this dangerously cold weather. There are too many heartbreaking stories of dogs being left outdoors and freezing to death. If it's too cold for us, it's too cold for them!

Yellow Split-Pea Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
16 oz. dried yellow split peas
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
2 bay leaves
A pinch or two of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1) In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, another minute.

2) Add broth, water, split peas, carrots, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Remove bay leaves. Let soup cool slightly. Puree soup in pot using an immersion blender, or in a blender in batches (be careful when blending hot liquids). Season soup with cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste. Top with spicy pumpkin seeds; you can find the recipe here.

A note about the broth: I like Trader Joe's organic low-sodium vegetable broth. It's gluten free, too. If you don't follow a vegetarian/vegan diet, you can use chicken broth in place of the veggie broth.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Hoisin-glazed Tofu and Green Beans

Hello, friends, and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Here we are in 2018. Holy cow, where does the time go! 

So, do you make New Year's resolutions, or set goals for the year ahead? One thing I'd like to do more is to cook Asian dishes at home. Paul and I love Asian food: Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, you name it, we love it! But with my sensitivity to wheat, eating out can be challenging. So one of my goals is to make more Asian meals at home. It's healthier than eating out, too, since you can better control the amount of sodium and avoid preservatives like MSG.

When it comes to wheat, reading labels and understanding ingredients is key. Soy sauce, which is commonly used in Chinese cooking, contains wheat. Tamari sauce, used more often in Japanese cooking, is made of soy beans and is typically gluten free, but can sometimes contain wheat, so it's crucial to read product labels. I buy San-J Organic, Reduced-Sodium, Gluten-free Tamari. It is thicker than soy sauce and lower in sodium.

The recipe I'm sharing today features hoisin sauce, which I hadn't used a few weeks ago. This product can contain wheat, so I looked for for a gluten-free variety. Fortunately, I was able to find one at my local grocery made by Kikkoman. The bottle is clearly labeled "Gluten Free" and "Preservative Free." Can I just say how nice it is to see "gluten free" clearly labeled? My eyes aren't what they used to be, and It's such a pain to have to search the small print for this information. I really appreciate it when manufacturers prominently put "Gluten Free" on the front of their products.

Hoisin sauce is the star of this recipe and gives the tofu its flavor. The Kikkoman product is made with sugar (unfortunately, it's the first ingredient), miso, plum puree, garlic and molasses, among other ingredients. It has a sweet, somewhat smokey aroma and taste. I found several recipes online for homemade hoisin sauce, if you prefer to make your own.

Instead of regular green beans, I used the "skinny" French green beans and stir-fried them 4 minutes as directed, then set the covered pan aside, off the heat, until the rice noodles finished cooking, about 5 minutes. Be sure not to overcook the beans. You want them to be crisp-tender, not soft.

Our only critique of the recipe was the skimpy amount of sauce it made, barely enough to coat the tofu and beans. The sauce is delicious and we wanted extra to lightly coat the rice noodles. In the recipe below, I doubled the sauce ingredients. If you like your dishes spicy, use the 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. For less spice, try 1/4 teaspoon, or omit them.

A note about vegetable oil. When cooking over medium-high to high heat, I opt for avocado oil. It has become my go-to oil for cooking. I like Chosen Foods brand (our Walmart grocery has the best price). Canola would also work; just don't use extra virgin olive oil for higher heat cooking.

If you don't like tofu, you could substitute tempeh to keep the dish vegan, or use shrimp or cubed chicken. I hope you give this recipe a try, and if you do, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Hoisin-glazed Tofu and Green Beans

14 oz. package extra-firm organic tofu
6 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as avocado oil)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
8 oz. fresh "skinny" green beans (the French type), trimmed and halved
Hot cooked rice noodles, or white or brown rice

1) Cut tofu lengthwise into four 1-inch thick slices. On a cutting board, lay tofu slices on triple layer of paper towels. Top with another triple layer of paper towels and another cutting board. Top the cutting board with something heavy and sturdy to press out excess water from tofu. Let stand a few minutes. After this, I like to also individually squeeze each slice between more paper towels to remove even more water. This produces a less spongy finished product. Cut each slice into 1-inch cubes.

2) In a bowl, combine the water, hoisin sauce, tamari sauce, ginger and red pepper flakes, if using. Whisk well; set aside.

3) In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes and cook, without stirring, until tofu begins to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn cubes and cook, repeating this process until browned on all sides.

4) Transfer tofu to a plate. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add the sliced garlic and the green beans and cook, stirring, about 4 minutes or until beans are barely tender. Return tofu to pan. Add the hoisin sauce mixture and bring to boiling, stirring to evenly coat the tofu. Serve over cooked rice noodles or white or brown rice.

Bon appétit! Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.

This is not a sponsored post.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Simple Christmas Supper

It's hard to believe Christmas day has come and gone. I hope it was a good day for you, filled with family, friends, good food and laughter. Ours was wonderful. We attended church in the morning, then Paul's family came for supper. After, we played a few rounds of Scattergories, a fun game that gets everyone laughing.

Unlike last year's menu of boeuf bourguignon and Danish risalamande for dessert, I kept the meal simple this year. I threw together a double batch of this three-bean chili with fire-roasted tomatoes, tried a new cornbread recipe and baked a pecan-chocolate-bourbon pie, which I made the day before Christmas.

To me, the star of the meal was the cornbread, which everyone said was delicious -- and no one thought was gluten free. It's a pretty big deal when I find a great bread recipe that is gluten-free and tastes fantastic.

I found the recipe here on the Cup4Cup flour website. I followed it exactly, and the bread turned out moist and delicious, with a slight sweetness we all liked. Plus, the taste and texture are equally as good for days after it was made, which can't be said for all gluten-free baked goods. This will be my go-to cornbread recipe, for sure.

Go here for the recipe on the Cup4Cup website.

Wishing you and yours a very happy, safe and healthy New Year! Thank you for sticking with me this past year -- my seventh year of blogging! I can't believe it's been that long. Whether you've been following My Little Bungalow for several years or are a new reader, I hope to hear from you in the year ahead!


Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Decorating with Plants

Hello! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. I recently shared with you a local nursery that specializes in poinsettias -- they grow 80 varieties! Today I wanted to show you the four plants we purchased and how we've used them to decorate our home.

But first, I'd like to show you a photo of our first snowfall of the season, which happened last Friday, Dec. 8. It's fairly early in the season for us here in the South to have snow. I wasn't aware of the forecast, so it came as the most pleasant surprise! Here is a photo taken that evening from our dining room window. Of course by now the snow is long gone.

The candle in the window is a battery-operated Luminara candle. We have four of them in our home, and we love them. They have built-in timers, so I set them to come on shortly after 5 pm and they turn off automatically six hours later. It's so lovely to come home to flickering candles in the windows. And they're safe!

Now on to our poinsettias. As mentioned previously, the selection at the nursery was mind-boggling. I don't do well when faced with a huge number of choices. My husband was wonderful though, weighing in on his favorites, then waiting patiently while I made my final selection. Just when I thought I'd made up my mind, I'd see another type that was gorgeous. It was a tough decision! We don't have much room in our house, so I knew I had to limit the number of plants we brought home. Each plant, by the way, was only $9.50 and the little baskets I chose were $4.00 each.

In the living room I set two plants in front of the fireplace. I don't know the name of the white variety (the nursery had nine or ten different white varieties alone). The vibrant pink one is called Ice Punch.

For the dining room we chose a true orange plant called Orange Spice. I thought the color would complement the color of the walls in that room.

And a beautiful, compact red plant called Orion Red I've placed on my bedroom dresser (next to another faux candle) to add a pop of holiday color to that room. This is a more traditional looking poinsettia. Which one is your favorite?

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow! Have a blessed Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holiday Gift Ideas

Hi there. Welcome to my first-ever holiday gift idea blog post. Christmas is less than two weeks away! Here are a few things that would make nice gifts for family or friends. 

A match striker, honey pot or other handmade item from Farmhouse Pottery in Vermont.


This Black Hibiscus candle from India Hicks. A favorite blog of mine had a giveaway and I won this candle. It smells wonderful and burns very nicely. It is definitely one of my favorite candles.

A cute cork travel pouch like these from Bambu. I have the smaller sized one which is especially useful in my small purse to hold eye drops, lip balm and lip gloss, tissues and other necessities.

A cashmere-wool wrap. I have this J.Jill wrap in grey, but isn't this sugarplum color pretty! I wear mine as both a wrap and a scarf. It's perfect for staying toasty warm in a chilly office.

A decanter. This traditional-style Hatch cut glass decanter is from Crate & Barrel. What gifts are on your list this year?

This is not a sponsored post.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Poinsettias as Far as the Eye Can See

Last weekend we visited a nursery that specializes in poinsettias. My husband and I were in awe of the sheer number of varieties they had -- more than 80. There were so many varieties of red alone, and many of them were impossible for us to differentiate. I asked one of the owners what makes them different, and she explained that there are many variables, from leaf size and shape to the amount of veining in the leaves, to the overall size, when they change color, etc.

I found this University of Vermont web page with some fun facts about poinsettias. Did you know poinsettias aren't highly toxic as everyone believes? See number 10 in the list to learn more. I also learned that December 12 is National Poinsettia Day. So happy Poinsettia Day to you!

Here are some photos I took at the nursery. These are just a few of the 80+ varieties they offered for sale. It was very difficult to choose which ones to bring home with us. We ended up getting four gorgeous plants. Two are in our living room, one in our bedroom and one in our dining room.

The pretty plant below is Luv U Soft Pink, a variety I didn't purchase but wish I had. Isn't it lovely with its slender, pale pink bracts? Bracts are the leaves that turn colors. The flowers of a poinsettia is in the very center of the plant.

The next plant is Luv U Hot Pink. The color is amazing. We liked the lighter outline around the edges of the bracts, giving it a somewhat contemporary look.

The next plant is called Sparkling Punch. I love the two-toned pink bracts! We purchased a similar plant called Ice Punch, which is has brighter, deeper pink bracts and light pink centers. Very dramatic!

Cortez Burgundy features deeper red bracts than the more traditional red poinsettia.

The nursery had several speckled varieties which are very unique. This one is Sonora White Glitter, which was one of our favorites. At the bottom of the photo you can see a bract that is in the process of changing from green to the speckled red. This photo also gives you a good view of the clusters of round, bright green cyathia in the center of the plant, where the flowers come out of.

Next up: Orange Spice, a true orange poinsettia. We bought one of these and I placed it on our dining table, since our dining room walls are orangey (terra cotta). Orange Spice is a compact plant, so it's not too large for the table.

Here's a lovely two-toned plant: Christmas Beauty Marble. I was tempted to get one of these, but didn't. It was really hard to choose which ones to take home -- they were all so pretty!

The next one is called Tapestry. It's very elegant with its bright red bracts and marbled leaves.

Are you a fan of poinsettias? Of the plants shown here, do you have a favorite? If you do, please share by leaving a comment below, at the bottom of this post (click on the word "Comment"). 

If you like poinsettias, you might be interested in a little craft project I shared several years ago: felt poinsettia ornaments. The page has a link to instructions on how to make them. It's easy and requires no sewing!

For more Christmas inspiration, be sure to check out my Christmas Pinterest page!

I hope you're enjoying the holiday season. Thanks for stopping by My Little Bungalow!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Vegetarian Nachos

Last month I posted about a vegetarian meat substitute called Beyond Meat that we've been enjoying in tacos and chili. We also made nachos with it one Saturday for dinner, and they were delicious!

My husband cooked the Beyond Meat Beefy Crumbles with Simply Organic's spicy taco seasoning mix (I make sure to buy taco mix labeled gluten-free). We topped corn chips with the beefy crumbles, some romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, salsa verde, black olives and cheddar cheese. Yum!

We also bought a jar of chile con queso made by Desert Pepper. I chose this brand over the others because it appeared not to contain junky ingredients and preservatives, like some other brands. However, it was not labeled as gluten-free, so I was nervous about trying it (sometimes "natural flavors" can contain hidden wheat). I sampled it (absolutely fantastic!) and had no negative side effects, so I enjoyed more the next day. I'd like to try making chile con queso dip at home so I can be sure it's safe for me to eat. Cheese dip is very dangerous to have around, though. It is so tasty that it's hard to eat it in moderation. I could probably eat half a jar of the stuff with half a bag of tortilla chips in one sitting!

I'm thinking about other ways to use the Beyond Meat crumbles, and I think I'm going to try it next in lasagna. I made vegetarian spinach lasagna for years, but when I went gluten-free, I could no longer make lasagna. Then I saw some GF lasagna noodles in the store. I could try making a vegetarian version with faux beef -- that would be different! 

What I love about making dishes like lasagna and big pots of soups and stews is that we have leftovers for at least the next two nights. I know some people can't stand leftovers, but they sure do come in handy on weeknights when you have to work late.

What tasty foods have you been cooking lately? What are your thoughts on leftovers -- love them or hate them?

Note: This is not a sponsored post.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

More Ikea Finds

In this post, I told you about a trip we made to Ikea to purchase a lamp for our studio. Another item I wanted to check out while we were there was the faux sheepskin rug. At only $14.99 each, we ended up buying three: one for a chair in the living room, one for my reading chair in the guest bedroom and one for on the floor in the living room. The real sheepskin rugs had a much nicer feel, of course, but I just couldn't bring myself to purchase them. While I don't live a vegan lifestyle (our living room chair is leather, and I buy leather shoes and handbags), it does bother me and my husband to think of the number of animals killed to be turned into inexpensive Ikea rugs. And that's just Ikea. There are so many other stores selling sheepskin rugs now that it has become so popular. So faux it is for us. As you can see, Ella isn't complaining.

In the lamp department at Ikea, my husband spied this Tertial work lamp for his drafting table. It looks black but is actually matte dark grey. The quality seems very good and the price can't be beat at $9.99. It's adjustable and stays put, unlike the much more expensive lamp we bought years ago that always slips and won't stay in the position you want it to, which really frustrates my husband. He's very happy with his new Ikea work lamp.

After a bit of shopping we worked up an appetite, so we ate lunch in the Ikea cafeteria, which was a new and interesting experience for us. We each had a salad, and my husband had the vegetable balls with rice and green beans. We had lattes from the coffee machine -- which is a pretty cool contraption -- and brought home a can of Swedish apple cider. We just tasted it yesterday. It's very refreshing. So that pretty much sums up our second visit to Ikea.

If you're a reader in the U.S., I hope you and your family and friends had a very happy Thanksgiving. Did you do any Black Friday shopping? We've always avoided the Thanksgiving shopping madness. I'm not that much of a shopper to brave the crowds. I did buy a second pair of New Balance running shoes. I purchased these Fresh Foam Boracay V3 shoes about a month ago at our local New Balance store, and have been loving them. I returned to the store yesterday to buy a second pair, but learned that this style has been discontinued, and my size was not in stock. So I went online and found them through Zappos at a great price.

These are the most comfortable sneakers I've ever worn -- lightweight, roomy and very comfy. I'm not a runner, but I wear them for walking, workouts at the gym and running errands. They look great with black leggings and yoga pants, as well as with jeans. New Balance has many other Fresh Foam styles, so if you like lightweight, comfy shoes, I suggest you give them a try.

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. If you have any specific ideas or things you'd like to see featured here, please let me know. I've been running low on ideas for the blog, and need some inspiration. I hope to hear from you!

This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Hello and happy Thanksgiving! Are you ready for the holiday? I can't believe it's almost here! I'm off today through the rest of this week, and have a busy schedule in preparation of the big day. I have to go to the grocery store, there's cooking and cleaning to be done -- and I still need to fit in time for a swim each day. Having people over for a meal is a great pleasure for me, and my husband's family is so appreciative that it makes the preparation all the more enjoyable. 

Our menu this year is: 
  • Turkey breast. Since only three people will be eating turkey, we're not getting a whole one.
  • Stuffing. This year we're trying Trader Joe's cornbread stuffing mix, which is not gluten free so I won't be partaking.
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Mashed potatoes -- or possibly cauliflower "fluff," which a coworker made for our office potluck this week. It has Parmesan cheese in it and is delicious!
  • Carrots
  • Cranberry-orange relish
  • Pumpkin pie with a gluten-free Whole Foods crust
Nothing fancy, but it should all be yummy. My sister-in-law is going to bring something that works within her current diet plan. It will likely be vegetarian and gluten-free -- possibly quinoa based -- so I will enjoy a little of that too!
For the office potluck this year I made the flourless chocolate cake in the photo above. I've shared the recipe before (back in June 2013), but didn't include a photo. It's such a great recipe, and worth sharing again. Maybe you'd like to make this for Thanksgiving dessert to satisfy those chocolate lovers? It's also gluten-free which is a nice option to have for those guests who can't eat wheat. And it is simple to make! Here's the recipe:

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Cocoa powder for dusting the pan
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur
6 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Confectioner's sugar for dusting, optional

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter the bottom and all the way up the sides of a 9" springform pan. Cut a 9" circle out of parchment paper, line the bottom of the pan with the paper and butter the paper. Dust the bottom and sides of the pan with cocoa powder and, holding the pan over the sink, tap out the excess powder. Set pan aside.

2. Set a medium-sized heatproof bowl on top of a medium pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water (you need only an inch or two of water in the pan). Put the butter and the chocolate chips in the bowl. Stir occasionally until the butter and the chocolate are melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the Cointreau. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer on high speed, beat the 6 egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar until pale yellow and doubled in volume. This will take about 6 minutes. Stir the melted chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat the 6 egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar to the egg whites and continue to beat until medium-stiff peaks form. Whisk half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then, using a spatula, gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture until combined; do not over-mix.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes until center of cake is just set and sides begin to pull away from pan (*see note). Remove from oven and set pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Cover cake and refrigerate. Before serving, bring to room temperature and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

*Note: When I made this cake this week, the sides did not pull away from the pan until after I had removed it from the oven. I gauged when it was done by the center of the cake being set.

Cutting Tip: When the cake is cool, and before refrigerating, you can use plain, unwaxed dental floss (not the mint-flavored kind!) to cut the cake into 8 or 16 pieces. This technique is perfect for cutting a fudgy cake like this one. Simply cut a length of floss that is about 10" long. Holding both ends, run the floss straight down through the middle of the cake. Release one end and pull the other end out out (don't pull the floss up again through the cake). Turn the cake, and repeat, dividing the cake into quarters. Keep turning and repeating until you have the desired number of pieces. Replace the floss with a fresh piece if it gets too sticky and gooey.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fall Update

Hello! Sorry I have neglecting the blog as of late. How can it possibly be November 13! Time is flying by so quickly. Christmas will be here before we know it (and I do have to admit, I've already started listening to Christmas music!). 

Paul and I made a trip to Ikea yesterday. It was only our second visit to Ikea. I have to be honest, it's not my favorite place to shop. I know, I know. I'm in the minority. But I find it hard to navigate and there's so much stuff! However, we went with a specific purpose: to purchase a Magnarp floor lamp (below) for our studio.
Unfortunately, the store's online stock status was incorrect, and all the boxes of Magnarps were gone from the shelves. So frustrating! And the store won't sell one of their 12 floor models either! So we ended up buying the Grono glass table lamp instead (below).
Its small size works well on the little dresser in our studio and it puts out a good amount of light. I'll plug it into a digital timer and program it to come on when it gets dark. The goal is to lessen the stress that our 15-year-old beagle, Ella, is experiencing. She is losing her eyesight and has become very stressed at night when it's dark outside and we're not home. It's becoming quite a problem. Whenever we are out at night, we come home only to find her barking continuously, to the point that she's getting hoarse. It's so sad, and makes us feel like we can't be away from home at night. I'm hoping that by lighting the studio, one of the two rooms where she and Henry tend to stay when we're not home, she may be a little less anxious.

On another note, our weather now feels like fall -- actually, more like winter! Morning temperatures the past few days have been in the upper 20s, which is shocking after having rather warm weather until recently. The cold snap has put me in the mood to break out the fall decorations. I updated the dining table using an assortment of real and faux objects: miniature pine cones and faux gourds, pumpkins and red pears.

For Thanksgiving, I will add my favorite amber-colored glass turkey mini taper holders to the table, as I do each year (see this post). I've also learned a new way to fold cloth napkins, thanks to an old issue of Martha Stewart Living. I will try to find the time to post a "how-to" on folding an envelope-style napkin prior to the holidays.

How are you getting your home ready for Thanksgiving? What's on your holiday menu this year? Do share! I love to hear from you. As always, thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.
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