Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chocolate-Almond Macaroons

Here's a nice cookie recipe for spring. These macaroons are chewy, chocolatey and, thanks to the almonds on top, a little crunchy. Plus, they are gluten free, something I've become more interested in lately ... more on that another day. 

Chocolate-Almond Macaroons

2 large egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/3 cups (or a 7 oz bag) sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup sliced almonds

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

2) In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with sugar, cocoa powder and salt until combined. Add coconut and mix with a fork until well coated.

3) Dividing evenly, spoon mixture into prepared tin and pat in gently. Sprinkle almonds evenly over tops and press in gently.

4) Bake until almonds are golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in tin. Run a thin metal spatula around edges of macaroons to loosen them from pan. Remove carefully from cups and transfer to a rack to cool thoroughly. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
Adapted from Everyday Food

Monday, April 14, 2014

Favorite Cleaning Products

What is it about spring that makes us want to give the house a thorough cleaning? This year, my urge for a spring cleaning binge arrived before spring did. Several weeks ago, I took everything out of the refrigerator, wiped down all shelves and surfaces (how does dog hair get to the back of the inside of the fridge anyway?), threw out anything old or out of date, and reorganized. I bought some clear plastic trays at Target, which are perfect for stashing large and small containers of yogurt and bags of nuts. All I have to do is pull out the tray to see what we have -- much easier than trying to remember what's behind the large container in the front! A third tray in the freezer stores bags of shredded cheeses and cubes of leftover tomato paste. I love having things organized.

Using the right cleaning products is a must when cleaning house. Above are some of our favorite cleaners: Caldrea liquid hand soap in a wonderful ginger pomelo scent; Oreck Glass & Mirror Cleaner (we discovered this years ago when we bought our vacuum and it works better than anything else I've tried); Stainless Steel Magic to keep the stove and dishwasher free of smudges and fingerprints; Bar Keepers Friend for making the stainless steel kitchen sink shiny and bright (it can also be used on tubs, sinks, toilets, tile, grout and more); Simple Green (my husband's personal favorite along with Charlie's Soap, not pictured); and Shaklee Basic-H concentrated organic cleanser (I've had this bottle so long, the packaging is old and it's now called Basic H2 Organic Super Cleaning Concentrate). Shaklee products are great and I've been using them for years. To learn more about Basic H2, go to this web page.

I also like Seventh Generation products. Their dish liquid in fresh citrus and ginger scent smells great, their dishwasher detergent works well, and their disinfecting multi-surfacce cleaner "kills over 99.99% of household germs, specifically Influenza A virus, H1N1, Rhinovirus (type 37, the common cold virus), Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli on hard, nonpourous surfaces," according to the product label. Wow, that's a lot of stuff for a botanically based product. It contains Thymol, present as a component of thyme oil -- so if you don't like the smell of thyme, you may not like this. I had to get used to the smell at first, but now I like it.

So tell me, what cleaning products are your favorites and why do you swear by them? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

A New Piece of Art

Hi there. Remember me? Sorry, I've been gone a while. In the month of March I only posted once to My Little Bungalow. Wow, where did the time go?

I hope your weekend was lovely. Ours was very enjoyable: good food, good art and a couple of good film festival movies. I love this time of year -- there's always so much going on. 

On Friday evening, we ate at our favorite pizza restaurant downtown. They make amazing Neapolitan-style pizzas in a special wood-fired oven -- they even use a particular flour from Naples. The pizzas have a thick, chewy crust that gets blackened in spots from the wood-burning oven. My husband had a pizza with garlic and clams (no tomato sauce -- LOTS of garlic) and I had the cremini mushroom with smoked mozzarella (also no tomato sauce). A bottle of chianti went perfectly with our meal. On previous visits, we've enjoyed a classic margherita pizza, a tomato and basil pizza without cheese, and a red onion, asiago cheese and pistachio pizza. All have been delicious! We're also hooked on the wonderful roasted cauliflower wedge with creamy goat cheese sauce.

After dinner, we walked two blocks to our town's monthly gallery hop, which brings folks downtown to enjoy the galleries and shops that stay open until 10 pm. The evening was beautiful: 75 degrees with a strong breeze that made it feel like we were at the beach. It was the perfect night for a stroll.

At one of the first galleries we entered, we both fell for a charcoal drawing and, after a little discussion, decided to purchase it. We don't buy art very often -- it feel like such a splurge -- but we knew it would be a great piece in our living room. We also love the idea of supporting local artists. The artist who drew this is also the gallery owner. She was quite attached to this piece, telling us that for a long time it wasn't for sale. As we left with the drawing, we told her it would have a good home ... I'm not sure if she was happy or sad, but I'm pretty sure she was choking up. It actually made me feel a little guilty, like we were taking away her baby.

As it turns out, the artist and I are both fans of the painter Franz Kline. I love bold black and white abstract art, and the emotion and energy in this drawing (titled A Way Out) really appeals to me. It's definitely the most modern piece of art we now own, which is a fun departure for us. We love how it looks on the mantel between the antique clock and vintage vase.

On the far right of the mantel is one of my favorite things: a battery-operated Luminara candle I purchased in December. I love this candle with its realistic flickering "flame." It even has a timer. We have it set to come on at 6 pm each evening and it runs for five hours before shutting off. Now that the days are staying lighter longer, I'll take it off timer mode, but in the winter it's so nice to come home to realistic candlelight, and you don't have to worry about blowing it out before going to bed. I'd like to buy one for the dining room, and next winter I may buy another one for the living room. They are a little expensive, but totally worth it.
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