Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Reset Buttons

I talk about finding balance in all things.  I do this because it is a constant reminder to myself to follow my own prompting.  How do we achieve this though? For me trying to figure out how I reset my energy levels or my mood wasn't difficult to figure out.  The trial comes in trying to find the time to reset each day.

The ocean has always calmed my high sprung soul.  The presence of trees has cleared my mind. Wind is another source of comfort to my inner self.  What I am trying to say is,  nature speaks to me.  It has a way of engulfing my thoughts, feelings and desires and making them stop.  I have a lot of chatter in my mind. My mind never stops writing.  I absorb the energy around me and this triggers a response to write relentlessly.  My kids know that when they hear the clickity click of the keyboard that I am releasing, sharing and giving my words to paper.

There are days that I need to reset myself though.  I get too caught up in the emotion of the moment, the story being told to me, and the rush of tingling exhausting rise.  When this happens I need to exit and recenter myself.

I have an odd collection in my house.  I collect beach glass.  They are all sorted by color.  I have bowls of it through out my living room: brown, white, colored, new and old.  I have sea shells that we have found along the various coast lines that we have walked.  Pieces, large and small, of driftwood rest on my pictures, against my fireplace, in piles on my piano.

It wasn't until recently when walking after a particularly hard chat with a friend that I recognized that I needed to figure out a reset button for me.  Where ever I go-- people talk to me.  Complete strangers talk to me like we are old friends.  My family is used to it.  If I don't return from a bathroom trip in a few minutes they know that I am listening.  It is not uncommon for me to reenter a room with my arm around a new friend.  A connection exist and this has brought me great joy but along with this ability to listen to others,  I also hear and feel their heartache, loss, trials, sadness, and broken souls.

Before I would take it and process it.  Never giving a second thought that I could "listen" and then reset myself.  I am learning that this is possible.  I am seeing that by me bringing the beach inside of my home that my home is a huge refuge of safety for me.  I feel the smoothness of the shiny pebbles I collect. They remind me that with each ragged emotion there is a counterpart that is smooth and soft.  The drift wood reminds me that not everyone is lost.  We drift at times in our lives and thats okay as long as we find our way back.  The wood is remarkably light when I always think and imagine it heavier than it is.  The glass is my most precious find.  It represents the spectrum of color that exists in this life.  It teaches me to love no matter the shape, color or size.  I am reminded with the aged beach glass that the water has created this beautiful piece of art work.  The glass was aged through the process of the water and the waves.  The constant back and forth motion rubbing up against the fine sand on the coastline.  The edges are smooth and not sharp.  They don't hurt when touched.

Without knowing,  I have been collecting things that I can use to reset and bring the balance back into my heart, mind and body.   As I mentioned above, I returned home from an emotional chat with a friend a few months ago.  I was sad.  My husband is great at recognizing when I need to regroup. He suggested a walk.  We walk a particular route as often as we can each week.  On this day he suggested that we go to the pier for a few minutes.  Normally I am in a hurry.  Finnley is usually sleeping and I always want to make sure we get home soon so that Rye doesn't have to baby sit for too long.   This day I listened and let him guide me to the water.

The picture before me was breathtaking.  The water was calm.  I felt as though I were seeing a huge painting before my eyes.  I felt the tears start to well up with in.   I let the water draw me to the edge of the sand.  I took the first step into the sand and heard the silence.  There were no waves.  It was quiet.  As we walked toward the water we discovered a huge log washed up on the shore line.  Inside of this log was a dip.  Inside the dip was sand.  Laying, in the shape of a circle, was a group of small white smooth rocks.  I picked them up and held them in my hand.  They were warm from the sun.  I left Cory on the beach and decided to spend a few minutes by myself.  I held onto the pebbles and released my sadness into each one.  I found comfort in this.

Continuing on our walk I felt good. I walked into my home and realized that my years of collecting from our shoreline was a way I could reset in my own home. I reentered my house with a lighter heart than when I left.

Reseting after a bad day, bad year or even after a few bad minutes is a skill that I believe is important and one that I am only recently understanding the unique roll it plays in my own life.

I think that with the essence of nature I also connect and find joy in quilting, drawing and cooking. These are all activities that lend themselves to me expressing my emotions and desires into something else. I don't have to keep everything bottled up. I am able to pour it into something else. Maybe that is why the water is so clearing for me. I see myself "pouring" myself into my family, my work, and most recently my writing.

Do you have certain things in your life that you would associate with the idea of a reset button?  I am curious, if you are willing to share, what they are.  Or maybe it is just one thing or a person.  It could be anything that allows us to center and move forward.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gingerbread Cake #grainfree

Bread and cake are two things I don't eat very often and yet here is a recipe that has both words used to describe a Paleo inspired or grain free dessert.   The cake is grain free but our whipped topping in the photo is not dairy free.  The Watson kids don't have dairy issues and so I saved myself a bit of work and used a quick homemade whipped topping I use for my chocolate roll.  The chocolate roll has a gluten free version too.  You can use a coconut based whipped topping to make it completely Paleo.  I also made the coconut caramel sauce from scratch but you can easily use a regular recipe or even a store bought caramel sauce.  It's a busy time of year--make the parts of the cake that you have time for.  I actually left out the Brandy sauce because after 4 pages of instructions, one full page of ingredients, I figured the kids could do without the Brandy.  (wink wink)

My kids start to dread the month of December because this usually means that I am thinking about making a gingerbread house.  I thought about it for about 2 seconds this year and decided I would pass for these two reasons:

A.  We don't need the sugar in the house from the store bought candy.

B.  My nerves might shatter with one more failed attempt at making a gingerbread house from scratch added to my already long resume dating back to 1986 without a single successfully constructed and decorated gingerbread house. I am pretty sure Martha Stewart had something to do with my drive to make one every year...LOL

If you are new to my blog then this recipe is not typical of what you will usually find here.  I try to keep the recipes simple BUT every once in a while I need to make something fabulous and this cake was a great place to start our holiday baking.  I guess this cake is the gourmet part of the blog.  Don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from making this absolutely delicious cake.  I didn't have to buy one thing at the store because I already had every thing in my kitchen. When I visited NYC in October I bought myself the Wilton 5 piece layered cake set. The cake pans are about 8 inches round and 1 inch thick.  This cake is small but very very tall.

I never make cakes anymore and my kids miss it.  I want to start making a few more cakes in 2015 using this cake pan set.  I like how small the cake rounds are. The tall cake just looks awesome for the kids.  We can eat this cake, a family of 6, a bit easier than if I use regular round cake pans. It seems I was always throwing cake away--can you believe that--but I really did.

I found the original recipe over at Wicked Good Kitchen.  She has all of the instructions for the Brandy Sauce and the Coconut Cream Whipped Topping.  Below you will find my interpretation and the three components I used to make this awesome cake.

It requires time, I won't lie.  I made this cake while I taught Isabella school. It worked out perfectly because I was already in the kitchen area and had time to bake and teach while Isabella did her work.  I might even suggest that making the caramel sauce the day before will save you some time.  It took almost an hour and a half for me to make it and to allow it to cool.  The total time for the cake, sauce, whipped topping and assembly was about 2.5 hours.  And you know what?  I plan on spending that amount of time this week making it again--it was delicious!

This cake is a show stopper and one that will knock your socks off when you take your first bite.  To cut the cake you might have to have Ninja Knife Skills but having a sharp knife and a spatula helps a lot. I used the spatula or another knife to hold up the cake and the second knife to cut the slice.  The cake fell onto the spatula and I was able to transfer it to a large plate.  If you have extra whipped topping or caramel sauce, you can drizzle more on the slices.  To be honest--I used it all on my cake below--so next time I may save a bit for presenting the slices to my family.

The gingerbread cake is rich in flavor with the molasses and maple syrup. I wouldn't say the cake is super sweet (and I like that) but the caramel sauce and whipped topping balance nicely because they are sweet.  Make adjustments according to your family's likes and sweet tooth.

AGAIN--don't panic by the size of the ingredient list or steps.  It is not a hard recipe and is much easier than it looks. I promise!  Also, read through the instructions SEVERAL times before you make the cake.  I am always here to answer any questions.  Send me an email or comment and I will get right back to you.  It is worth the work!

Please share this recipe on Twitter, Facebook, Stumbled Upon, Pinterest or Google +.  It helps to spread this recipe with friends and neighbors.  THANKS!

Gingerbread Cake  #grainfree
Makes enough batter for 5 small round cake pans

Ingredients for the cake: 
I used the weight (grams) measurements to make my cake in the pictures.
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (144 grams) arrowroot starch
1 cup (112 grams) blanched almond flour (I made my own in the Vitamix)
½ cup (56 grams) organic coconut flour
¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking powder 
¾ teaspoon (3.6 grams) baking soda 
1 teaspoon (4.8 grams) kosher salt 
2½ teaspoons ground ginger 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
½ teaspoon ground allspice 
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
6 large eggs, separate the whites and the yolks into two bowls
½ cup (168 grams) organic maple syrup (use the real stuff)
½ cup (144 grams) unsulphured molasses
 ¼ cup (56 grams) organic virgin coconut oil, melted, plus extra for pans 
¼ cup (60 grams) organic ghee or grass fed butter
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
¼ cup (60 ml) full fat coconut milk (use the milk only--the rest will be used later)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar 
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (use more if you love nuts, the crunch is great)

Ingredients for the Coconut Caramel Sauce:

Use the remaining can of coconut milk from the cake recipe above-roughly 3/4 of the can should be left. (15 oz can was used)
6 oz of real maple syrup
2 tablespoons grass fed butter or ghee
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flake salt (reduce if butter is salted)

Ingredients for whipped topping:

For coconut whipped cream see the original recipe HERE.
For dairy version use:
1 small carton of heavy whipped cream
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup (this can be replaced with plain sugar but you may not get the deep caramel color as seen in the pictures).

I recommend making the caramel sauce first.  This allows the sauce to cook, cool and be ready to work with when the cake is done.

To prepare the coconut caramel sauce:

1.  Use a heavy bottom pan. I used my 10 inch cast iron frying pan.  It worked great!  Set heat to medium high.  In the frying pan, add all of the coconut caramel sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Heat caramel sauce until small bubbles appear--gentle boil.

2.  Use only a wooden spoon to stir for the first minute.  Reduce heat to medium low and try not to stir too often until the end. I set my stovetop to 3 and it was hot enough.  The caramel kept a slow boil going for 35 minutes.  Watch sauce so it does not burn.  The caramel sauce will start to turn from a creamy pale color to a caramel color.  The sauce will reduce and become very thick, coating the back of the wooden spoon nicely.  

3.  When caramel is thick and not too dark, remove from heat and transfer to a glass bowl.  Stir and let set to cool.  The color with cloud slightly once it is completely cool but when warmed again, it will return to a nice caramel color.

To prepare the cake:

1. Preheat oven to 325.  I sprayed each of my five pans with cooking spray or you can use coconut oil.  The pans are so shallow that the layers pop out quite nicely.  If you are using larger cake pans, then see Stacy's site for instructions.

2. In a medium bowl combine all of the dry ingredients.  Stir to combine.

3.  In a large table top mixer (I used my Kitchenaid) add egg whites and cream of tartar.  Whip until egg whites are stiff.

4.  In a separate bowl add wet ingredients: egg yolks, coconut milk, maple sugar, molasses, and vanilla.  Whisk to combine.

5.  I added the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mixed together until combined.  I then added the egg whites and gently folded them into the cake mix. This reminds me of when I make our chocolate roll cake--kind of the same texture and process. Let the cake batter sit for 5 minutes.

6.  Sprinkle the chopped pecans in the bottom of each cake pan.  Add batter to each of the five pans.   The batter came almost to top of each cake pan.  Hit cake pans on table to release any air bubbles.  Bake until firm to the touch--about 12 minutes.  These are small cake pans so the cook time is very short.

7.  When baked, let cool for a few minutes and then flip them out onto a cookie wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the whipped topping:

1.  Pour ingredients into a bowl.  Whip until thick.

I used my Kitchenaid for this process but you can easily use a hand mixer too. The whipped topping comes out slightly brown because of the maple syrup.  I like the color of it on the cake.

To assemble the cake (finally, right?)

1.  Have the cooled cakes, the coconut caramel sauce and the whipped topping ready.  Drizzle the coconut caramel sauce over the 5 cake layers while on the cookie rack.

2.  I layered the cake like this:  cake layer, whipped topping, repeat until all 5 layers are used.  I topped the cake with the remaining whipped topping and drizzled more caramel over the top of the cake so that the sides were dripping with sauce.  

Store cake in the refrigerator.  I cover the cake with two huge pieces of saran wrap.  My cake was gone in about one day but I would say the cake is good for 3 days before the quality starts to fade--dry cake, etc...

Written by Sherron Watson

I have attached links to my amazon account so that you can see the products that I used in making this cake.  No purchase is necessary. I do make a small commission from all sales but that money is put back into the blog for recipe developing.  Thanks!

I use this brand of almonds to make my almond nut flour.  I know they have the skins on and honestly this has not made any difference in my baking when I process the flour in my Vitamix.   They are cheaper to buy in bulk too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies #paleo #grainfree

This is the best grain free cookie.  Danielle Walker is the author of the blog Against All Grain and also has several cookbooks that offer recipes for a grain free diet.  Danielle has wonderful recipes and this is one example of her amazing talent and contribution to the grain free platform.

I have made this recipe on numerous occasions and each time I can't believe that the cookie is grain free.  I have made these cookies with both almond meal, almond flour (finer than meal) and cashew flour.  I have also done a half and half blend of the two flours.  The recipe calls for almond but honestly, I love the cashew flour the best.  This flour offers great flavor to the dough.  I make all of my flours in my Vitamix.  I buy raw almonds and cashews in bulk.  This is cheaper than purchasing the flours and keeps my flour as fresh as possible because I can make it as I need it.  I do store any left over flour in the refrigerator for my next batch.

On a frazzled baking day I actually made these without butter and they still turned out great.  I brushed the top of each baked cookie with melted butter to add the butter flavor to the cookie.  The dough was gooey and perfect.  I make them this way on purpose sometimes.

The only concern that you need to watch for is, when baking with nut flours they can burn on the bottoms of the cookies if over baked. I usually bake them on parchment paper and turn them half way through baking in case my oven has any hot spots.  You can also turn the oven temperature down and cook them a bit longer.  My oven is touchy so I know that I need to turn the heat down and watch them closely the last few minutes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies #Grain Free
By Danielle Walker, Against All Grain
Makes 16-20 cookies, depends on cookie scoop you use

1/4 cup palm shortening, ghee or grass fed butter (I usually use the butter)
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1.5 cups of almond meal or flour (see comments above)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Please visit Danielle's Blog to get the instructions to make these amazing grain free cookies  Continue HERE

Written by Sherron Watson

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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