back yard scenes and a recipe

Those are our chickens up there-- Honey and Petunia. We've been thinking about getting a couple more, but I'm not sure about disrupting the order these girls have in the yard right now. They seem pretty happy to be the only girls out there. We got these as adult birds and so they are most definitely not pets. As in, they don't want us to touch them. They do come running when we go in the back yard, though, because we like to bring them treats. One day I wouldn't mind raising some from chicks so that I could hold them....There's something really nice about petting those feathers.

The last photo is Ruben's smoker. He's been smoking cookie ingredients lately, with good results. At first he was smoking the butter, which involved freezing it first and keeping it on a bed of ice in the smoker, so as not to melt it. That worked pretty well, but the resulting cookies had only a very faint smokiness. Our chef friend suggested smoking the flour instead, and that has been great. MUCH more smoky and delicious! Ruben usually uses some cherry charcoal that his friend makes, but you could try it with other wood types and I bet it would be fun to do a taste test and compare them.

To smoke the flour you just immerse a bowl of flour in a smoky environment for a while -- you could make a homemade smoker like ours (just an overturned metal tub on the grill, over smoldering coals) or use a real smoker. You may want to stir the flour a few times, to increase the smokiness.

Here's the recipe we've been using and loving. Our families request these cookies pretty often.

Smoky and Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe slightly adapted from this recipe from Not Without Salt.

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups smoked all purpose flour
1 lb high quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2" chunks
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
fluer de sel, for sprinkling

Cream butter and sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing while adding the eggs, one at time, being sure to mix well between each egg. Add vanilla. Scrape down the bowl again. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl. With mixer on low, slowly add the flour, mixing just until combined-- take care not to over-mix. Fold in the chocolate with the rubber spatula.

Place spoonfuls of dough on parchment-lined cookie sheets, sprinkle each with fluer de sel, and bake at 360 degrees for about 12 minutes. They should be lightly golden but still look a bit wet. Cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes, and then move to cooling racks. Enjoy!


escape to the sand

We took off for the beach on Monday afternoon and spent a night and day with some family who rented a house for the week. It was pure heaven. I made my favorite chocolate chip cookies (can't remember where I got the recipe, but they involve a whole pound of dark chocolate and a lot of fleur de sel) and we cooked fish and roasted asparagus and drank beers and laid in the surf. Ahhhh. My nephews loved Ruben and they all made a giant crab out of sand and shells. There really is nothing quite like a mid-week vacation, when you just know everyone else is at work and you are thankfully, happily, joyfully NOT. Also, I got to sleep out on the screened in porch and fell asleep listening to the waves and watching the moon shine on the water. It wasn't even hot, because there was an awesome breeze. I wanted to stay all week.

There was definitely a bittersweet-ness to our time there, though.....considering the giant mass of oil and tar that is rapidly heading our way. It's kind of mind-blowing. I saw so many dolphins and periwinkles and fish and crabs, and Ruben saw a sea turtle, and it was really sad to think that they will all probably be dead soon. Huh. Yeah. Mind-blowing. Definitely still in the denial stage of this grief.


Olive Oil Cake from Good to the Grain

When I read about this cake a few weeks ago on The Wednesday Chef I knew I had to make it. Olive oil, rosemary, dark chocolate and CAKE? Yes please. I finally got around to it this weekend and was not disappointed! Next time I might cook it a tad longer, but I like my baked goods moist. When I first tasted it-- straight of the oven because I couldn't wait-- I thought I should use a less robust (read: expensive) olive oil (I used this one). But this morning it has mellowed out a lot. I will be making it again, even though R is not a huge fan and that means I will be eating the whole thing. Oh well.


Gettin' the weekend started off right!

Up early, canoeing on the Wacissa River, swimming at Blue Hole, picked two gallons of blueberries, and home by lunchtime.


summer lovin'

Oh happy day--a little bit of sewing happened this weekend. I made two linen dish towels for friends. One has already been mailed off to California, and the other one, above, is a birthday gift for a happy, summer-loving gal. I really like working with linen, and hope these girls like drying their dishes with it too!



I got this beautiful reverse-painting-on-glass necklace at Folk Arts of Poland in Santa Fe when I was there for a conference a few years ago. I wandered into the shop and just fell in love with all the beautiful polish pottery and religious icons. I bought this particular pendant because I have a thing for St. Isidor, the patron saint of farmers....and, strangely, of dead children. (I didn't know that at the time.) There was another pendant of St. Francis that was incredible, but the girl who came in the shop ahead of me snapped it up. Drat! I wish they were available online. Actually, it's probably best that they're not. Anyways, I do love this one. It turns out that the Jesus-and-Mary side is actually my favorite, though. Those colors!



I've been working on this quilt for my dad for...oh....about two years. Not actively working the whole time, but still it's been weighing on my mind for quite a while. It's time for me to finish it.

I worked really hard on it at first, cutting out all the hundreds of rectangles and sewing them into strips. But then I realized that I'd made a large error-- I'd forgotten to add seam allowance to the pieces, so every block was a good half-inch smaller than it should have been. Suddenly my dad's queen-size quilt was more twin-size. So that took some of the wind out of my sails. Also, I bought all the fabric at JoAnn's, so it's really not good quality, and I'm noticing more and more that if I don't use good fabric, I quickly lose interest in my sewing project. So I put this one away for a long time. It wasn't until last October when I started really thinking about finishing it, and I've been working on the hand-quilting since then. I would say that I'm nearly halfway done (!).

The main thing pushing me through the tedious hand-quilting (I'm quilting an X through each block, and it is taking a really really long time) is that I have decided not to start any other project until I finish this one. Also, I really can't wait to see my dad's face when I give it to him (it's a surprise)! I love surprises.

Some of my motivation? These fun projects:

relabeling my kitchen bottles
a doily print bag
a camera strap for my mom
something from the stylish dress book
pajama pants
for the kitchen