Monday, May 15, 2017

Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry picking is one of my favorite activities because strawberries are one of my favorite fruits. We went picking the day before Mother's Day, and I wasn't sure how the berry patch would be. Our weather this spring has been unusually cool and wet. Typically in May we're complaining of the heat and make a point to hit the strawberry fields early in the morning before it gets too hot. But this year, we actually waited until late morning because it was so cool -- the temperature was only in the upper 50s! But I'm not complaining. I've been loving our weather this spring. It's nice to have more typical spring weather instead of jumping right into summer.

Due to all the rain we've been getting, we found that quite a few strawberries were sitting in water on the black plastic the farmers use to minimize weeds. So many berries were going bad before they could be picked. Fortunately, there are still many berries perfectly ripe and ready for picking. Together, Paul and I picked three gallons and we purchased one gallon of pre-picked, which is $12 compared to $10 for pick-your-own. 

Once home, I had to get busy cleaning and hulling all the berries. I freeze the majority of them for use in smoothies year-round. We're just now on our last bag of strawberries from last year's crop.

Some strawberries I'm not freezing so we can enjoy them fresh, like in this strawberry shortcake recipe. I've made these several times over the years using regular flour, prior to learning that I'm wheat-intolerant. So this weekend I made the shortcakes using Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour.  The results were excellent! I was so happy with the texture of the shortcakes and the flavor. They were perfect!

Strawberry Shortcake

1-3/4 lbs (6 cups) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (or Cup 4 Cup or other gluten-free flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 cups heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss strawberries with 3/4 cup sugar; set aside.

2) In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse about 10 to 12 times until mixture resembles coarse meal, but with some pea-sized bits of butter remaining.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup cream and the eggs. Pour over the flour mixture in the food processor and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, about 25 to 30 times.

4) Using a half-cup dry-measure cup, gently pack dough, turn over and tap dough out onto a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 --or in my case, 9 -- biscuits.

5) Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. 

6) In a medium bowl, beat remaining 1-1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

7) To serve, slice biscuits in half horizontally. Spoon some of the strawberries and their juices over the bottom halves of biscuits. Dollop some whipped cream over the berries and place the top halves of biscuits at an angle over the top of the shortcakes.

Here's my little helper, Ella, who was pretty tuckered out from a long walk she had been on that morning. She loves to stay in the kitchen with me as I'm cooking, hoping for a little morsel. But she's not a big fan of strawberries, so she decided to take a nap instead.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New McCoy Pieces

I went shopping recently at a local antiques mall in search of a vintage planter for a coworker's birthday. I wanted to fill it with little succulent plants. I knew she likes vintage things, but I wasn't sure if she would like colored planters (like the green and yellow ones I collect), so I chose a simple white one from the 1970s (not shown here).

While on the hunt for a gift, I found a couple of items for myself that I just couldn't resist! This white McCoy planter was marked $12, but I received a nice surprise at the cash register. It was on sale for $9.60! I filled it with some of the same succulents I purchased for my coworker. Aren't they precious? If you like succulents, check out my Pinterest board!

I also found a white McCoy vase that is 7.25" tall. It was marked $10 but was on sale for $8.00. What a find! I can't wait until our dahlias bloom so I can cut some for this cute vase.

What new bargains have you found for your home?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Horchata Pops

Paging through old magazines I haven't looked at in a year or more is like opening up a new issue. It's fun to rediscover the content. In an old summer issue of Living that I dug out from the bottom of a basket, I spied a recipe for horchata pops that sounded good and easy to make. It uses only three ingredients and takes just minutes to prepare. 

I wasn't familiar with horchata, so I looked it up online. Horchata is a beverage popular in Spain and Latin America. Ingredients vary based on the location. In Mexico and Guatemala, for example, horchata is made of rice milk, sometimes with vanilla and always with cinnamon. In Puerto Rico, it's called horchata de ajonjolí and is made with ground sesame seeds. In Spain, it is referred to as horchata de chufa and is made from tigernuts, water and sugar.

What intrigued me about this recipe is its simplicity -- and the use of sweetened condensed milk. Anything with sweetened condensed milk is going to be awesome, right? Ever had Vietnamese iced coffee? If so, you know what I mean. Heavenly! 

I made this recipe for horchata pops on Easter Sunday and froze them overnight. I couldn't wait to try one the next day. They're really good! The flavor is subtle -- sweet, but not too sweet. The cinnamon is delightful. I'll definitely be making these pops again over the summer. Give them a try!

Frozen Horchata Pops

32 ounces (4 cups) rice milk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (I used Trader Joe's organic)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Blend together all ingredients until combined. Skim off any foam from the top. Pour the liquid into molds and freeze until solid, about 8 hours. Makes 16 pops.

Thanks to my husband for the photo of me holding a popsicle.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

British Car Show

Last weekend we attended a British car show held at a vineyard. There were many vintage and antique British automobiles, as well as new ones. Unfortunately we didn't get to see them all because after a short time there the skies turned dark, then the rain came and all the car owners left. Can't blame them. 

My husband and I love antique cars. We wish we could own one, but since we don't have a garage, it's not practical unless we stored it somewhere. Maybe one day ...

We struck up a conversation with this couple (we were drawn to their beagle). They own a pair of vintage Austin Coopers in the same shade of green. The gentleman has owned one of the two cars since high school.

We hadn't been to this vineyard before. It's a lovely place, and their wine is pretty good too. When the thunder, lightning and rain started, we headed indoors for a wine tasting -- and took home a few bottles. By the way, you may have heard how much rain the Southeast has gotten in the past week. We recorded more than 8 inches of rain in less than a week in our back yard rain gauge.

What fun things are you enjoying this spring? Tell me! I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Planter

Here's my front porch planter that I planted on Easter Sunday. Starting at the front and going clockwise, the plants are: Super Elfin White XP impatiens, Bellinto fuchsia, 'Fishnet Stockings' coleus and asparagus fern. In the center is 'Gay's Delight' coleus.

Below is a close-up of the fuchsia with its dramatic red and white flowers, which I am hoping will attract hummingbirds to the feeder above.

Check out my previous years' planters here:  2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011

A larger, 'Dipt in Wine' coleus caught my eye at the garden shop. I planted it in this orange pot and included a couple of extra white impatiens with it.

We bought a new hummingbird feeder for the back of the house, and a suction cup hanger to put on the guest bedroom window. I hope we get some hummingbirds to visit it this summer so we can see them up close. Just inside this window is a twin bed that the dogs like to sleep on during the day. Henry enjoys looking out the window into the back yard. If hummers do come to visit the feeder, I can only imagine what Henry will think of the little birds hovering just on the other side of the window.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spinach-mushroom Quiche

Happy Easter! What a joyful day it is. My husband and I attended Easter Vigil Mass last night. During the nearly three-hour service, 20 men and women were confirmed into the Catholic church. Two women were also baptized, which was a lovely thing to witness. My husband was confirmed into the Catholic church three years ago. Last night was the first Easter vigil service we've attended since then. A previous neighbor of ours -- a young woman in her 20s -- was confirmed last night. It was so nice to witness this significant moment in her life.

Today, Paul and I are celebrating Easter quietly at home. I made a quiche this morning, which I'm sharing the recipe for below. I used another recipe as the basis for it, but improvised. With the quiche we had a simple green salad, and enjoyed brunch on the front porch, savoring today's gorgeous weather: upper 60s and sunny with a slight breeze -- perfection!

This afternoon, I am going to work on my front porch planter. I bought the shade-tolerant plants yesterday and had fun choosing this year's mix. I'll post some photos soon. Later, I'll do a bit of reading, then I plan to make a new type of frozen pop. If it turns out well, I'll post the recipe, which I came across as I was going through previous issues of Living.

Here is my recipe for spinach-mushroom quiche. Paul said it's the best quiche I've made so far, which was such a nice compliment! I must say it was pretty awesome.

Spinach-mushroom Quiche

1 frozen pie crust (I use a gluten-free crust from Whole Foods)
10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
freshly ground pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thaw the spinach. I use this quick-thaw method: In a colander, run cold water over spinach until thawed. Press spinach firmly against sides of colander to remove as much excess water as possible. Set aside.

2) In a skillet, heat vegetable oil (I use avocado oil). Saute the onions until softened. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until the liquid begins to evaporate. Set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with milk, salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

4) Set the pie crust on a baking sheet. Distribute the spinach and parsley evenly across the bottom of the crust. Top with the cooked onions and mushrooms, spreading evenly over the spinach. Sprinkle the Gruyere cheese evenly over the vegetables. Pour the egg mixture into the crust. 

5) Bake 50 to 55 minutes until center is just set and top is browned. Remove from oven and let sit 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Or let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate up to 1 day. Reheat in 350 degree oven until warm in center, 30 to 45 minutes. 

Bon apetite! Thank you for visiting My Little Bungalow. Have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Recommendations

One of my goals this year is to read more. I'm happy to say I've been doing well so far. I recently finished America's First Daughter: A Novel by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, as well as A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. 

I loved America's First Daughter, which falls under the genre of historical fiction -- probably my favorite genre. I also enjoyed A Man Called Ove, but I have to admit I liked the movie much more. It followed the book very closely, and the acting was great. My husband enjoyed the movie, too.

Since finishing those books, I've read A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison, which is about two teenage sisters in India who lose their family and their home to a tsunami, only to be kidnapped and sold into slavery. It's a very compelling story, and an easy read. The subject matter is difficult and disturbing, though. It's horrifying to realize how prolific human trafficking is around the world. Absolutely awful. At the end of the novel, Addison gives the names of some groups that work to help girls and young women who've been victims of the slave trade, with the hope that readers will support these groups with donations.

I'm now reading The Only Street in Paris: Life on the rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino. It's a work of non-fiction, and being a lover of Paris, I'm enjoying it. I learned about this book from my blogging friend, Libby, of An Eye for Detail.

I'm always interested in what others have enjoyed reading, so please, leave a comment below and let me know what books you've read lately that you would recommend!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Vegan Fudge Pops

I first made these fudge pops a year or two ago. They're delicious and dairy-free! Their creaminess comes from avocado. They're very easy to make -- just six ingredients and three steps. All you need is a blender and Popsicle molds. Why not whip up a batch today and indulge as the weather begins to warm up. I hope you're having a happy spring!
Vegan Fudge Pops

1 large, ripe avocado (about 1 cup flesh)
1-1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1) Cut avocado in half. Remove pit. Scoop out flesh. 
2) Combine all ingredients in a blender container. Blend until smooth. 
3) Pour mixture into 8 ice pop molds. If you have any leftover mixture, enjoy as is. It's like pudding! 
4) Freeze pops for at least 8 hours.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Here's a tasty, easy-to-prepare stuffed poblano pepper recipe that is vegetarian and gluten-free. The recipe calls for using four large poblanos, but when I've used that many all the peppers don't fit in one pan. So I reduced the recipe to three large peppers -- and still needed a second, smaller pan!

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in puree
1 jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed for less heat), minced
1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic (2 whole, 1 minced)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/4 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 large poblano peppers, halved lengthwise with stems left intact, ribs and seeds removed

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a blender, combine tomatoes in puree, jalapeno, half the onions and 2 whole cloves of garlic. Puree. Season with salt. Pour sauce into a 9" x 13" baking dish and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, combine black beans, cornmeal, 1/2 cup cheese, the remaining onion, the minced garlic clove, cumin and 1/2 cup water (note: the recipe calls for 3/4 cup water, but I found less water produced better results). Season with salt and pepper. 

3) Dividing evenly, stuff the poblano halves with bean mixture and place on top of sauce in baking dish. Sprinkle poblanos with remaining cheese. Cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until poblanos are tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens slightly and cheese is browned. Let cool 10 minutes and serve. Bon appetit!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Two New (Very Different) Pieces of Art

A few weekends ago, my husband and I ran some errands downtown -- he needed to buy some guitar strings at a guitar shop, then we grabbed coffee and a pastry at an excellent bakery (alas, I have to take Paul's word that this bakery has the best pastries since I can't indulge in baked goods). On our way back to the car, we popped into an art gallery for a look around.

There on the wall was a piece of art that caught our attention. We've admired this artist's work before. In fact, we almost purchased one of his paintings about a year ago; now I'm glad we didn't because I like this painting even more. Entitled '57 Buick, it is a mixed media piece with an epoxy coating, which gives it a very shiny finish. The detail is exquisite. The artist describes it as pop art in a realist style. Both Paul and I love classic cars, so the subject appealed to us right off the bat. We hung it in the living room between the dining room French doors and the hallway.

In the close-up below. the reflection on the left side of the painting is from the window behind me when I took the photo. I love how the artist captured so much detail, including reflections in the chrome fender. This painting is from a photograph and in the reflection you can see the image of the photographer, just above the tail pipe.

The other piece of art we added to our home is the complete opposite of the piece above, and it has an interesting story. We were in an upscale antiques store one Saturday -- most of the art was way out of our price range -- when we spied an old photo in an old oak frame. We asked to take a closer look and that's when the shop owner told us that the photo was likely taken by a famous photographer, but he couldn't prove it because the work wasn't signed. The photo was a landscape, and wasn't very attractive in our opinion, plus there was a discoloration right down the center of it that bothered us. Paul and I loved the frame, however, and the antiques dealer was willing to separate the two. We paid $40 for the frame, and he kept the photo.

Then we had to find something to go in the frame. The dealer has drawer after drawer and book after book full of old etchings, prints and drawings in various styles and subject matters. After about an hour of flipping through numerous binders of artwork, we landed on the piece above, a monotype by A.H. Bicknell (1837-1915). The "A.H." stands for Albion Harris. You can learn a little about him here

The print wasn't in good condition with its lower right corner missing, which you can see above, so the dealer lowered his price to $20. We took the print and the frame to our local framer, and for $25 he mounted the print to some mat board and put a new back on the frame. We hung this piece in our hallway, which doesn't have picture molding so a nail had to be used. It's always a bit scary putting a nail into a plaster wall, but thankfully it went smoothly.

So these are our two new -- and very different -- pieces of art. Sometimes I will stop to consider whether the work will blend well with our decor, but usually we buy what we love. We prefer a more eclectic look anyway.

Do you choose artwork based on the decorating style in your home and what will "go" best with your color scheme? Or do you buy what you love?
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