Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Toasted pumpkin seeds and a new blog!

We were given several big pumpkins last Sabbath.  As I cooked them down for pulp, I saved the seeds to make toasted pumpkin seeds.

There are plenty of recipes out there for toasted pumpkin seeds.  I just combined a few of them.  Basically I cleaned the pumpkin seeds, then tossed them in a bit of olive oil, salt, sugar, and spices (curry powder, coriander, and black pepper).  Then I toasted them in the oven for about 10 minutes. They are yummy!

- - - - - - - 

I also wanted to announce a new blog to you: Barry and I have started a blog on living a simple, uncomplicated life that avoids getting caught up in the rat race for money and stuff.  We want this blog to be a venue for sharing thoughts, ideas, projects, and more.  It's still in its infant stage but we hope to post more thoughts and projects soon.

You can find it here or at http://www.barryandchristy.blogspot.com

(In case you are wondering, we changed from our wordpress blog for customizability reasons.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Walnut Hazelnut Peanut Butter Fudge!

I've always wanted to make fudge. I just love the texture; creamy, yet dense and thick.  I've never made any before but the other day, I was at the grocery store.  One thing led to another, and I ended up walking out with the necessary ingredients to combine these three fudge recipes I had recently looked at.

It turned out great!  And don't worry, Barry and I did NOT ingest all that sugar!  We gave some of it away and we're bringing home the rest!

Walnut Hazelnut Peanut Butter Fudge
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup nutella

Directions: Heat water in a small pot and then place a heat proof bowl over the lightly simmering water.  Add first four ingredients and mix while melting.  Add all other ingredients and combine well.  Take off heat and pour in parchment lined pan.  Place aside to cool and harden.  (The fridge or freezer quickens the process!)  EAT!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chai-spiced Persimmon Cookies with a Lemon Glaze!

We're still making and using up persimmon puree' and it's been a lot of fun learning what flavors it goes well with.  The one I keep coming back to is combining it with a chai spice mix that I got to put in the prizewinning persimmon pecan pie!

On Wednesday, I made these cookies to take to Bible study.  Everyone really liked them so I decided to post the recipe on my blog.  I based it off of this recipe but (of course) put my own twist on things.

Chai-spiced Persimmon Cookies with a Lemon Glaze
1/3 cup butter (I used SmartBalance)
1 cup sugar
1 egg replacement (I used a tablespoon of flax seed in 3 tablespoons of water)
2 cups persimmon pulp (ours was made from fuyu persimmons)
1 tsp baking soda
2-3 cups flour (I used almost 3 because I thought the batter was too runny)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp Chinese 5 Spice mix
1 cup craisins or fresh/frozen cranberries (I used craisins because I'm loathe to use up my hoard of frozen cranberries!)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chai spice mix (Note: if you're just using chai spice flavoring, not the mix, you probably need only a few teaspoons) + 1-2 Tablespoons butter

Lemon Glaze
Powdered sugar
Lemon juice
Soymilk (optional)
(Use whatever proportions you want to create a thin or thick consistency.  I made mine pretty thin by adding a little soymilk.)

Grated lemon zest for sprinkling (optional)

Directions:  On stove, heat 2 tablespoons butter and add cranberries, pecans, and chai mix.  Only leave on long enough for butter to melt and the cranberries and pecans are thoroughly coated.  In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add the "egg", persimmon pulp, and baking soda.  Mix well.  Sift together all other dry ingredients and add to the wet mixture.  Finally, add the stovetop cranberry and pecan mixture to the batter.  Shape into cookies on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.  After baked and cooled slightly, dip tops into glaze or drizzle glaze on with a spoon.  Sprinkle on lemon zest for an added festive touch!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Wedding Dress/My Mom is INCREDIBLE!!!!

It's been just over 6 months since I got married.  And I realized, much to my dismay, that I never blogged about my dress.  For all you men out there who read my blog and who could care less, this is not the post for you!  BUT, for all you girls out there who DO care, read on!

First, my mom made my dress.  Did you hear that??  My Mom MADE my DRESS!!!!!  She is super talented and super gutsy and she did the impossible!  Why was it so impossible?  Well, I'll tell you why:

Barry once told me that I was a cross between an elfin maiden and a nordic warrior princess.  So when we got engaged, I started looking for a dress that fit that picture in my mind.  Here are several that inspired me: (sorry in advance, I don't have all the links for sources.  If you have the source, let me know and I'll give credit.)

This Saja dress that, at the time, was no longer being sold.  They have since revived it and it is now in their 2011 collection.  To me, this looked like an elfin maiden dress.  But I wanted mine long.

This nordic warrior looking dress.  I liked the sharp edges of the neck line and sleeves.

I also liked the whimsicalness of this dress:
 And the elegance of this one... (originally found on Once Wed)

So you see - - my mom had a tall order!  Besides that, I'm a P (perceptive, briggs-meyer) and I couldn't make up my mind.  Even up to the final seams we were adjusting and re-evaluating.

Bottom line?  My mom is a trooper!  She is seriously incredible.  We ended up taking elements that we especially liked from the dresses that I liked and making our own dress out of each element.  We took the sleeves and fabric choice from the first dress.  (Saja makes all their wedding dresses out of silk chiffon).  We took our neck line (sort-of; it ended up being less stark) from the 2nd.  And the 3rd and 4th were just inspiration.  We didnt' really take any one element from them.

We found several different patterns that had the required elements and then my mom began the painstaking process of trial and error.  She bought some cheap white fabric and began making practice dresses for me to try on.  Note: she wasn't just using ONE pattern!  She was using MULTIPLE patterns and PIECING them together!!  She is just incredible!  And all this time, I was away at school!  She would send me a practice dress and then I would try it on and tell her over the phone how it fit.  Too big here, not quite right there.  And then my mom would change the pattern and try again!  All in all, I think she made about 3 practice dresses before actually cutting into the real (and expensive!) fabric.  Speaking of expensive though, we saved a TON of money by making our own.  A dress with as quality of fabric and custom work as mine would be VERY pricey!

For those who are wondering, there were three layers.  A China silk lining layer, the off-white main silk layer, and a covering see-through silk chiffon layer with tiny crinkles.  It was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l and oh so soft!

Last week I took my dress out into the early morning California sunlight and did a photo shoot of it.  So here it is, minus me in it!  For those, you can look back at our wedding pictures.



Thank you, Mom!

Monday, December 06, 2010

For Family (picture update)

Oatmeal bread

Apple Cranberry Pie 

Bow tie (we realized later that it was upside down!)

Just finished

With Uncle Ted :)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Pine Springs Ranch

At the beginning of the school year (ahem - yes, that was a while ago), the school of medicine hosted a retreat up at Pine Springs Ranch.  Early Sabbath morning Barry and I went for a walk and I took the following flower shots.  I've been trying to experiment with bokeh, even though I have a small camera without a nice hefty lens that usually promotes the nice blurry effect.  I think a few of these worked out quite nicely :)

Happy Sabbath!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Prizewinning Persimmon Pecan Pie

Well, it was actually Persimmon Cranberry Pecan Pie but that would have ruined the alliteration...

We've been drowning in Fuyu persimmons lately.  And I haven't shared even the teensiest little bit of our numerous persimmon experiments with you.  But don't worry, that will soon be remedied, I promise!

We weren't quite sure what to do with Fuyu persimmons.  They are the type that are non-astringent (they don't pucker your mouth) and never get soft.  We were told by native Californians that we should eat them like apples.  So our next thought was, If they are like apples, why not make sauce out of them, especially since we have SOOOO many of them!  So we did.  And we were surprised to find that it tasted like squash!  VERY VERY SWEET squash!

Now... what should we do with our SWEET squash-tasting persimmon sauce?  Make pies of course!  So I started experimenting with different "pumpkin" persimmon pie recipes.  I took a persimmon tangerine (It was Barry's idea to add the tangerines and it was perfect!  I didn't have quite enough filling and they bulked it up plus added a nice citrus burst in every bite!) pie to potluck and everyone loved it.  The next week I took a persimmon cranberry crisp and that was also well received.

It was at about this point when one of the church members asked me to make him a pie to take to a Senior fundraising event.  I told him I would, but I first let him know that it was going to be an experiment - because I don't know how to bake any other way.  ;)  I had been fiddling with an idea that I wanted to try out.  A few months ago a friend of mine made a pumpkin chai pecan bundt cake.  It was WONDERFUL, but more pie/pudding like than cake like.  So I decided I wanted to try to adapt it into a pie recipe.  But instead of using pumpkin, I decided to use persimmons!

So that's how it all started.  I made a trial run with mini pies in our muffin tin when company came over on friday night.  They were a success so I figured it would be good enough to send with the church member.

It wasn't until later that I found out that the reason the church member had requested a pie was because there was going to be a pie contest.  And lo and behold, my grand experiment got 2nd place!

Here are the general directions and recipe suggestions.  I know it's not like a normal recipe.  But then, I don't claim to be a normal cook so.... :)

Persimmon Sauce
Cook down a bunch of peeled and chopped fuyu persimmons.  Then place them through a strainer to make a sauce.  Add a couple glugs of lemon juice and throw in some pumpkin pie spices.

Filling Recipe
Cook about 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries on the stove with either a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and a few teaspoons of chai spice OR a few tablespoons of already sweetened Chai Spiced Tea mix.  Mix the cranberries into 4-5 cups of your persimmon sauce.  Add 3-4 tablespoons cornstarch and 3-4 tablespoons tapioca powder.  You can also add up to a cup of flour and a little baking powder.  I can't remember if I did this or not.  I think I didn't on the test run and did on the real thing....  So they both probably work! :)  Add a dash of salt and mix together.  Pour into already prepared pie crust of your choice.

Pecan topping
Chop 1 cup of pecans and place on stove in the same pot that your cranberries were in.  Add some more chai spice mix and add a few tablespoons of margarine.  Once the pecans are all thoroughly covered and warm, take off the stove and cover pie with them.  Place cranberries around the edge for a pretty touch!

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Take on Black Friday

I have never, NEVER, gone Black Friday shopping - unless it was accidentally, before I realized that there was such a thing as Black Friday.  Sure, there are great sales, but I know what all the stores know - and that is that they are still making big bucks off of their "sales".  Because you'll probably end up buying something that's NOT on sale and spending lots of money in the store anyway!  So I CERTAINLY wasn't planning to go shopping today, especially since my unemployed newly-wed budget isn't too spending friendly these days.

But as I was trying to think of something fun to do with my friend Elissa, who is down here for the holiday, I thought of an idea.  I certainly didn't want to go normal shopping.  I don't like to do that very often even when I DO have money!  But what about going to a thrift store?  Not only do they have great prices already, but maybe, just maybe, they would have some type of a Black Friday sale going on and we'd get a double mark down!

 So we went.  Even Elissa, who doesn't like shopping that much and was still feeling weak from being sick.  And sure enough: we arrived to see a big "50% off everything" sign at the front. We loaded our shopping cart with probably over 50 items to try on.  Then we conveniently didn't notice the "3 item limit" sign in the only changing room (I promise, we really didn't notice!  At least not until we were at least 3/4ths of the way through!)  We both walked out with 4 or 5 items that cost under $10 for each of us.

So, in mentally calculating my savings, I estimated the following about my purchase (which consisted of a really nice pair of jeans, 2 pair of brand name, almost new PJ pants, and a dressy top):
  • Total Original Price if bought new: >$110.00
  • Total Thrift Store price if no sale: $16.00
  • Actual Total Price @ 50% off: $8.00

Plus, there were no crazy lines, pushing, shoving, or mobs - thrift store goers are much more polite than that!

Conclusion: I'm still not a Black Friday shopper.  But Thrift Stores are definitely the way to go if you do decide to put down your hard-earned $$ on the day-after-Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Playing Catch Up

I've been taking tons of pictures lately and there are a lot of blogs on the back burner.  But here is a collection of pictures that I took one morning when the sun was lighting everything with that late-sunday-morning-goodness type of a glow.

Our neighbor has a Yellow Lab named "Sammy".  He's sooo sweet and keeps me company while baking or working on my computer.  He often comes over to our door and looks in longingly, as if asking to be part of the family.  He will nudge the door to see if it's completely closed and if it's not, he'll poke his head in, his dark brown eyes begging admittance. :)

These next few are more creative/artistic/abstract than anything else.  I noticed that our wall of windows creates a number of reflections if one of the doors is open.  This is a picture of probably 4 or 5 reflections all working together to create a "maze of mirrors" type effect.

A reflection of the backyard on a window/door looking in to our kitchen.

Sunlit handle with sunray reflections on the window.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I hate stuffing" (and other ruminations about thanksgiving, food, and family)

As in, Thanksgiving stuffing. Yep, you heard me right, I really, really don't like that infamous Thanksgiving favorite composed of mushy bread mixed with vegetables (usually celery.  ugh...) and then baked to a crisp.  Maybe it's the fact that vegetarians normally try to showcase it on it's own, whereas it's meant to be stuffed in something, like a turkey, perhaps.

Now, you're probably saying, "But she just hasn't tried my stuffing yet."  Well, you may be right, but I haven't found one I've liked yet.  Give me Sour-cream Gluten ANY day!

What?  What is Sour-cream Gluten you ask?  You mean you haven't heard of it?!  Well, I must remedy that post-haste!  It is only THE BEST THANKSGIVING MEAL YOU COULD EVER MAKE!  That's right, the BEST!

My first memories of Sour-cream gluten are at my Grandpa and Grandma Kurtz's house in Walla Walla, WA.  Because, don'tcha know, Sour-cream Gluten is a Kurtz family tradition.  And when I say tradition, I mean tra-di-tion!  I mean, seriously, my Grandma would start at least a week in advance.  Why?  Because she was souring the cream, of course!  She was a die-hard, that's for sure!  But boy-oh-boy, that Sour-cream Gluten was the most divine stuff you could ever eat!  Chewy, tender gluten steaks drowning in the world's creamiest, tangiest (in the best way possible), most delectable gravy ever!  Spoon that over fluffy mashed potatoes with a side of peas and cranberry sauce, and I promise you'll think you're eating inside the pearly gates!

Later memories of Sour-cream gluten involve begging and begging my mom to make it at EVERY POSSIBLE holiday!  My mom, the ultimate experimenter in the kitchen, shortened the whole process to make it more user friendly (I mean, for real, souring your own cream??  The already soured stuff works just as well, I promise!) and turning out the most amazing versions, albeit not necessarily according to the age-old recipe.  I remember Joel, Mom, and I hovered around the stove, spoons dipping in over and over again, because it was just that good!  Joel: "It needs more LEMON JUICE!"  Me: "It needs more SOUR CREAM!"  Mom: "Donnnnnnnnnn, it's time to eeeeeat!"  Ahh, such good times.  I would inevitably eat the leftovers for breakfast, lunch, and supper until it was gone.  I just wanted to enjoy the goodness as much as I could!

Then there was the time Joel was in Ethiopia.  Mom and I made the meal all alone, with me adding in extra squirts of lemon juice in Joel's honor.  But then Joel wrote back about how he had managed to concoct a version of Sour-cream Gluten using expired tins of..... (wait for it).... BABY FORMULA!!!!!!  That's right, he is momma's boy through and through - always finding ways to make do with what's available!

This year we're scattered all over the globe.  Joel is in Sudan, and I hope for his sake that he's able to scrounge up some more tins of baby formula from somewhere!  Mom and Dad are in Massachusetts, and my Father informs me that he is going to work all of Thanksgiving.  If Mom has anything to say about it, that probably won't happen.... Barry and I are in California, planning to go hiking and backpacking (and studying, of course) for our thanksgiving break.

Will there be Sour-cream gluten for any of us?  Well, that's still to be determined.  Because, to be honest, as amazing as Sour-cream Gluten is, it's more about who you're eating it with than the actual meal itself.  This post is not really about my extreme dislike for stuffing, or my intense love affair with Sour-cream Gluten.  It's about so much more than that.

So are you just dieing for the recipe??  Well, I'll have to give it to you later.  Because, for one, I haven't gotten it from my mom yet.  And two, it changes all the time, depending on where we are and what ingredients we have.  And three, it involves a brother named Joel, a Mom named Janie, and a Dad named Donovan.  If those three ingredients are missing, it's just not quite the same.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Autumn in SoCal

Two weekends ago we decided to go to outdoor church with Advent Hope.  One of my friends had picked out the spot near a beautiful canyon creek/river.  As we drove into the mountains, it was so incredible to watch the landscape go from dusty brown to brilliant fall colors as we increased in elevation.  In some places, it almost felt like we were back East.  I tried to be good and didn't request that we stop every time a scene called out for a picture (especially during the drive... the little towns were SO beautiful!).  But here are a few from our hike that afternoon.

Ok, so it's still pretty brown.  But look at all that ORANGE! :)

My favorite:

That evening we were heading up to our regular church with a few friends and we were presented with a stunning stormcloud sunset.  The smog really enhances the colors :)