Monday, January 14, 2019

Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Bars


Hello and happy New Year to you! Sorry I've been off the radar the past month. I must have needed a little break. December marked My Little Bungalow's eighth anniversary. It's hard to believe I've been blogging for eight years! So, how was your holiday? I hope it was wonderful. Ours was. On Christmas eve, we attended Mass at 4 pm, the first of four services our church has on Christmas eve. The church was packed – standing room only! 

On Christmas day, I prepared a simple meal of chili and gluten-free corn bread, like last year. And for dessert I made a pumpkin pie. Nothing fancy, but it was tasty and satisfying. 

On New Year's Eve, my husband and I attended a symphony event which we enjoyed very much. Then, this past weekend, we celebrated my birthday with a fantastic dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants. We started by sharing an appetizer of roasted Brussels sprouts with the most delicious orange-chipotle sauce I've ever tasted – it was all I could do not to lick the plate. As a main course, I chose the red snapper, which was perfectly cooked, with sauteed kale and roasted golden beets, and for dessert I had a flourless chocolate torte with raspberries and whipped cream. My husband had vegetable lasagna with a side salad, and coconut cream pie for dessert. Delicious!

So here we are in mid-January, with weather that certainly feels like winter. The weekend brought freezing rain, but we were blessed that our power stayed on. Many surrounding neighborhoods and towns lost power caused by falling trees and downed power lines. Except for heading to the pool to swim and going out for my birthday dinner, I stayed indoors. I'm reading a really good book, Jewel, and it was the perfect weekend for snuggling up with a book. My husband and I aren't regular watchers of football, but we enjoyed the Saints-Eagles game on Sunday (go Saints!), and during half time I tried out a new gluten-free dessert recipe, altering it some. It's so tasty and so easy, I wanted to share it with you. Plus, it's gluten-free! Give this one a try.

Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Bars

Ingredients
1 cup natural almond butter (without salt, sugar or oil)
1 cup dark brown sugar (not packed)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
1/2 cup roughly chopped raw almonds

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8"x8" baking pan with parchment paper. 
2) Put all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until well incorporated. This only takes a minute.
3) Transfer the dough to the lined pan, spreading and pressing down evenly. Bake 22 to 25 minutes until set. Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack.
4) While warm, sprinkle just a pinch of coarse salt over the top. Let cool thoroughly in pan before cutting into bars. Be sure to cool completely before cutting, otherwise the bars will crumble. Enjoy!


Monday, December 17, 2018

A Christmas Holiday Home Tour

A week ago we had 15+ inches of snow. But two days of rain and milder temperatures later in the week effectively rid us of most of that snow (except for large mounds piled up in parking lots!). With warmer temperatures in the 50s and the sun shining this past Sunday, my husband and I enjoyed an historic homes tour that was postponed a week due to the previous weekend's weather. It was a great day to be outdoors!

Six of the eight homes on the tour were built prior to 1920, and one home was built in 1874! There were a couple of houses that really stood out to us, so I wanted to share a few photos with you (this tour allows photography – I always ask before snapping photos). 

My favorite home on the tour was this one built in 1915. It features a combination of Colonial Revival and Craftsman style influences with a wrap-around porch, leaded glass windows, 11-foot ceilings and original hardwood floors. From the moment I walked in, I knew this was going to be a gem.

Here is the front door with its lovely wreath (notice the stems of cotton – very southern!). The next two photos show close-ups of the doorbell ringer on the outside and inside. It is this kind of detail I love in older homes.




A 1940s chandelier in the foyer once hung in a county club. The expansive foyer features a slim Christmas tree, cascading red poinsettias and evergreen garland on the banister.



A second Christmas tree graced the living room. I love the matching emerald green velvet chairs and the large, modern cocktail table.


The den was my favorite room in the house. The deep blue walls gave the room a cozy feel, but the white sofa and modern leather chairs made the room feel fresh. The original coal-burning fireplace has been converted to gas, and the green tile is very much like the tile around our home's fireplace. Above the fireplace (not shown) is a huge flat-screen television and on the wall adjacent to the sofa are built-in bookcases.





The kitchen was stunning, from the marble and stainless steel counters to the huge island and light fixtures. The deep sink is just what my husband and I would like one day in our kitchen. And look at the wall of built-in storage!




Equally as stunning is the master bathroom. I felt like I had stepped into a magazine layout! It's very clever how they used patterned glass in the bottom window panes for privacy, while the upper panes are clear. My husband was particularly envious of the deep soaking tub.



 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Milk Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies


We're snowed in thanks to winter storm Diego – and a snowy day is the perfect time to bake a batch of cookies, so that's what I did yesterday. Craving oatmeal cookies with a touch of chocolate, I found a recipe on Baked by Rachel and made a few adjustments. 

Because of my wheat sensitivity, I have to substitute gluten-free flour for wheat flour. I used Cup4Cup, my go-to brand. My cookies turned out a lot thinner than the ones in Rachel's photos. That could be due to my use of GF flour. But my cookies turned out thin, chewy and delicious, so no complaints here!

I also used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips instead of semisweet chocolate chips, and I reduced the amount of chips by a quarter cup and added a quarter cup of raisins.


Milk Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen 3-1/2" cookies

Ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup gluten-free flour substitute (or all-purpose)
1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (or semisweet)
1/4 cup raisins

Directions
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2) Cream together the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla, then the baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add the flour and mix just until no streaks remain. Stir in oats, chocolate chips and raisins.

3) Scoop dough into balls and space about 2 inches apart on prepared sheet (Note: I use a 1-1/2" cookie scoop). Top with one or two additional chocolate chips, if desired. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes (mine took between 11 and 12 minutes), or until slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cookies sit on pan for about 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Small Changes to Give the House an Autumnal Feel

As the seasons change, I like to make small changes in some rooms of our house to reflect the new season. The bathroom can be an overlooked room, but I find that small touches such as pretty soaps and a vase of fresh flowers can make a big difference. 

From spring into mid-fall, I am lucky to have gorgeous dahlias to cut from our garden and put around the house, including in the bathroom. The white vanity top and subway tile backsplash are the perfect backdrop for a vase of colorful flowers. Now that autumn is here, and our dahlias are finished blooming, I choose simple flowers from the grocery, such as these rust-colored mums. I think they look quite pretty in this green vase. The rust and the green also coordinate with the accent tiles in our shower.


Another small change you can make as one season moves into another is to switch out your hand soap. Both the scent and the color of the dispenser can add to the feel of a particular season. In the summer, I like using a lavender scented foaming hand soap in a white container (I just removed the label from the Whole Foods soap container to make a plain white dispenser). With autumn here, I changed out the soap to a chamomile liquid soap in a deep brown glass dispenser. The soap is very lightly scented and good for dry hands. I bought this at Home Goods, where I also found one of my favorite soaps, EO Essentials in lemon verbena scent, which I use at the kitchen sink.


Sometimes just putting a new item out on a shelf can provide a small update. On the glass bathroom shelf, I added a bright blue box from one of my husband's favorite soaps, a Swedish-style sea salt soap made in USA and sold at West Elm.


A locally made bar of tea soap scents the room with a spicy aroma that is great in the fall. It also looks pretty in a vintage planter layered with an off-white bar and a natural sponge. Room spray in frosted clove by Williams Sonoma is perfect for fall and winter. 



How do you update your home when the seasons change?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Hygge

The concept of hygge was all the rage last year. Everyone was talking about it. Books were written about it. Companies used it to sell products.

Hygge (pronounced hue-ga) is a Danish term to describe the feeling of contentment, comfort and simplicity often brought on by a warm, cozy atmosphere, though it isn't season-specific -- and it's not a trend. It's a lifestyle and a mindset. 

Physical things can certainly contribute to hygge ... things like flickering candles, low lights, comforting scents (think freshly brewed coffee or mulled cider), the feel of a cashmere blanket, the sound and warmth of a crackling fire. Perhaps most important, though, hygge is about slowing down and enjoying the moment.

I have been experiencing hygge long before I even knew what it was. I often feel a strong sense of peacefulness and coziness in our home; this is the essence of hygge. 

Here are some things I do to contribute to hygge. When Daylight Saving Time ends, I set the timers on my battery-operated candles so they come on at dark, then shut off automatically six hours later. I have four of these candles: two on the mantle and two in the dining room windows. It is so nice to come home from work and see the flickering lights of these candles welcoming me.

I light real candles as well, more often in the winter, though I do light them in the summer too. I'm pretty much addicted to candles. I have so many of them, some scented, some not. I favor woodsy and evergreen scents combined with citrus in the winter months. I also like to make simmering potpourri with cinnamon, cloves and other aromatic spices, typically around Christmas time.



Another way I create hygge is with lighting. I keep the lighting low, with incandescent bulbs and dimmers. I have dimmers on lamps and ceiling fixtures; the dining room chandelier, kitchen pendants and hall pendant are all on dimmers. I want to add even more dimmers! They're instant mood makers.

For me, an important element in creating a peaceful and meaningful space is decorating with family heirlooms from my parents, like this vintage pottery lamp with a teak base. The original shade, or so I was told, was drum-shaped and wrapped in blue yarn -- very 1960s. I searched quite some time before finding this shade, which I think has a little vintage vibe and puts off a very warm glow. Other pieces from my parents include a set of 1960s Danish teak nesting tables and their Danish silver set that I adore using (and did I mention that my husband is of Danish heritage? Looks like we have a theme going here).


Faux fur is another decorating accent that instantly creates a warm, cozy environment. Last year I bought several faux sheepskin rugs at Ikea. I keep one on the floor in the living room, where Ella and Henry can enjoy it. The others are draped on reading chairs for additional warmth and softness. I just throw these little rugs into the washing machine and hang them to dry. They come out looking like new.



For me, another key element that contributes to a sense of hygge is music. I have it playing in the house most days, even when we're away from home (I like to think the dogs appreciate it). My preference is jazz, from old standards to contemporary. I adore entering the house and hearing soft piano music playing -- it instantly makes me feel comfortable and relaxed. 

So you may be wondering what got me writing this post on the Danish concept of hygge. Well, I was on the Mahabis website looking at their slippers, and I came across an article about hygge on their blog that you can read here. I am considering purchasing a pair of these slippers, but I'm having a hard time deciding which color combination to choose (ask anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you I have a tough time when faced with options).

Are you familiar with Mahabis? If you own a pair or know someone who does, I'd like to hear your thoughts on them. Drop me a line!

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. Here's wishing you a peaceful, comfy, hygge-filled winter!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Spiced Cider Cocktail


While the kids are trick-or-treating this Halloween, why not enjoy an adult treat? How about a cocktail that's perfect for autumn and easy to make. It requires only two ingredients: spiced apple cider and whiskey.

Spiced Cider Cocktail
Add 1 to 1.5 ounces whiskey to an ice-filled glass. Top with spiced apple cider and stir. 

I use Trader Joe's spiced cider, one of my favorite fall beverages. I stock up on it while it's available, storing the extra bottles in the basement.

Speaking of Trader Joe's, did you see their cute fall-scented candle tins this year? I bought one in honeycrisp apple scent, and it's amazing! The other scent was pumpkin, which I didn't purchase. I wish I had stocked up on these; our store is out of them for the year and won't be getting any more. They are made with a natural soy wax blend and lead-free cotton wick. The 5.7 ounce tin was only $3.99 -- what a deal. I'm sorry I didn't buy more than one.

I hope you have a fun Halloween. Enjoy a cocktail while you hand out candy to all the little ghosts and goblins this year. Cheers!

Friday, October 26, 2018

End-of-October Miscellany

Hello, folks. Where have I been this month! Clearly, not paying attention to my blog. But I have been more active on Instagram, which I'm enjoying. If you're on Instagram, follow me: claudiabungalow. I post pics of our pretty dahlias and short video clips of our sweet dogs, among other things.

Today I thought I'd share a few updates with you. First, our big news: My husband bought a boat! It's a small skiff (17-ft long, 5-ft wide), with an open deck and shallow draft (5" fully loaded). In other words, it's perfect for fly fishing, my husband's favorite pastime. He's been fishing since he was a kid, even sneaking out of the house with his dad's fly fishing rod at a young age. He's a very accomplished fisherman.

While on vacation at the beach this past June, we were sitting on the porch watching the boats go by on the creek and I said to my husband, "We should get a boat." We've always had a canoe (he fly fishes standing up in it, which is interesting), but never a motor boat. Having a boat with an engine that can get into tight, shallow waters (like a canoe can) would open up all new fishing territory and opportunities for my husband. It would also be more conducive to us spending more time together on the water.

Soon after returning home from vacation, he started researching possibilities and found the perfect small boat for his needs (and our budget). It's lightweight enough that we can tow it with our existing vehicle (because a boat and a new vehicle were not in the cards). He absolutely loves his new boat, and I'm thrilled for him. We got it in September, and he's taken it out on the water I don't know how many times already. I joined him on a couple of outings last month while it was still warm. We swam in the lake and picnicked on the boat -- it was so much fun. I can't wait to take it to the beach with us next year!



Let's see, what else has been going on? How about a garden update. While our dahlia garden wasn't as healthy and vigorous this year as in past years thanks to the weather, we did enjoy many beautiful flowers, perfect for cutting. A flower grower at the farmers market said it was a bad year for them, too, and their dahlias were struggling. After hearing that, I felt grateful that we had as many gorgeous flowers as we did.


The next three photos are some of my favorites. I love the color gradations in the flower petals and the pops of green, plus the lighting was perfect. I snapped these with my iPhone the other day around 8 am before heading out the door for work. It's natural light from an east-facing kitchen window. I may print and frame one of these. 


Switching gears, have you tried boiled cider? I read a very interesting article about it on the King Arthur Flour blog, Flourish. It sounds delish, and I'm intrigued. It's on sale through Monday, Oct. 29: Buy one, get one at half price. I may try it. [Update: I just read the article to my husband and he said, "Get it! Can they have it here tomorrow?" I think that's a vote of confidence!]

Boiled cider can be used in cocktails, on pancakes, in apple pie, in mashed sweet potatoes and in many other ways. There's a recipe for homemade cider caramels. Yum! If you've cooked with boiled cider, let me know your thoughts. I'd love to hear about your experiences with it.


I can't believe November is almost here! Before we know it, Christmas will be right around the corner. Why does time seem to pass more quickly as we get older? 

Our weather went from hot to cold, with very little in between. I'm not a fan of that kind of abrupt change, but we can't control the weather, can we. Today is cold and rainy -- the kind of day you just want to stay indoors. We've gotten more than 2 inches of rain in 12 hours and it's still coming down. I believe it's time to get the duvet out of storage, but until now we've getting by with the summer coverlet and a faux shearling blanket from Pottery Barn over it at night. I had a PB coupon last year that covered almost the entire price of the blanket (it was on sale then, and is on sale right now!). It's super soft, heavy and so warm. I love it!


What's new in your corner of the world? Let me know! Be sure to stay up-to-date on My Little Bungalow posts by subscribing via email (see sidebar, above). Visit my Instagram and Pinterest pages too. Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

The Farmers' Market in Early October

It's October, and it is beginning to look like autumn, but it sure doesn't feel like it! We're still having highs in the mid-80s. Paul and I went to our favorite -- and very charming -- farmers' market on Saturday and I took lots of photos. Pumpkins were everywhere, making it look like fall. But it's still hot and humid and feels like summer. I think I'm finally ready for cooler temperatures.
 



We bought some okra, which I've come to love over the past year. Paul cuts it into rounds, tosses it with avocado oil, salt and pepper, and roasts it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (the time depends on the size of the okra). Delicious!






There are always LOTS of dogs at the farmers' market, which I love. This little guy named Jimmy stole my heart. His owner adopted him from a shelter in our region, but he was originally found in Kentucky. I love scruffy little dogs like Jimmy. He gave kisses, too.


I love the pattern of the porch railing on this historic home. Along the picket fence is a climbing plant with vibrant red flowers. See a close-up below.





This Golden named Levi had the right idea. He took cover from the sun under a table where ice was melting. Smart dog. What's the weather like where you live?
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