Thursday, April 23, 2009

RECIPE: Chocolate Cake

You may not thank me for this…If you haven’t seen it yet, there is a recipe circulating in our email boxes for a 5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake. I’m not a big fan of cake (I prefer you just hand me the chocolate) but I must say, this is actually pretty good... especially when hot. I should tell you that I used some premium ingredients which always tends to help. I used Penzey’s Cocoa, which is truly one of the best I’ve tried, and for the chocolate chips I shaved some Callebaut Chocolate that has been in my cupboard for…awhile.

Give it a try, but I warn you, you may be sending me hate mail because it’s so quick and easy it will be hard to stop yourself from making it at any hour of the day.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well..
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

I mixed and cooked this in a bowl, the mug idea seemed a bit precarious for me. Also it states in the email recipe that it is perfect for one person, perhaps two if you want to be good. Believe me, it’s decadent for two people and could easily serve 3 or 4. Especially warm with vanilla ice cream. Hey, if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right!

And let’s all call out a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friends Kathy and Kevin!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Patience – The Daffodil

Woke at dawn to photograph the overflowing daffodils in my garden. Many were planted several years ago. Trying to be frugal, I buy only 3 or 5 bulbs of each variety at a time. I’m thrilled that they are dividing and spreading so nicely. Times like these are the pleasant reminders that patience will pay off.

It also reminds of having patience with my photography. Taking a good photo of a daffodil has always been a challenge. I’ve been trying for years and the digital image the Narcissus Sound Daffodil, above, is the only one I’ve liked thus far. This one was taken last weekend. Hopefully one from this morning will also work out.

If one of this morning’s images is a “winner” it likely won’t hit my Etsy store until this weekend. This is because I like to print the potentials on multiple different papers to be sure which looks best and what is appropriate for sale. What sometimes looks great in the camera lens or on the computer screen doesn’t always cut it when actually printed. It’s amazing how many photos have to be taken to get just one that works.

Many years ago I took a black and white photography class hoping to improve dramatically afterwards. The instructor advised us that ultimately the only thing that will improve our photography is to take as many photos as possible and eventually we will see results. At the time I felt quite disappointed and disillusioned by this answer. However, I must admit he was right. Taking photos that please you are certainly about light, angle and focus. But what also is required is patience, perseverance and a bit of luck. There is no magic wand to wave; it slowly develops (no photography pun intended!). Luckily there are few things that make me happier than adjusting my camera around an image, looking for that one shot that makes me smile.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Beautiful Day

It may be raining but I can see clearly now and there is a smile on my face.

My living room window (tiny house, one living room window) is one of the coldest areas of my home during the winter. This year my mother convinced me to put the insulating plastic up. Every year I have resisted doing this because sunlight and windows are extremely important to me, especially during the long winter months. Well, I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t so bad. The plastic is much clearer than I expected and it was significantly warmer as a result. A worthwhile trade off.

With the changes in the weather, the plastic has been rippling and looking...unfortunate. I have been itching to remove it. Well, today I did it. Will there be dips in the temperatures? Absolutely. But I, and my heating bill, will live through it. The plastic was certainly clearer than expected but, after removing the plastic, I am glued to the window watching the robins take baths in the gentle spring rain. It’s a beautiful day!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Seeds, seeds and more seeds.

I feel like a little kid every time I see the first signs of life sprouting from a little dried up seed. Because the seeds are so economical I get a little enthusiastic, okay out of control, grabbing up one packet after another quite forgetting I have a tiny Chicago lot for a garden.

Last year I grew well over 100 plants on my dining room table. I can only imagine what people thought seeing the glow of fluorescent lighting coming from my dining room window in the early morning hours until late at night. This year I have set them up in the basement like a civilized person. They aren’t doing quite as well down there. I think it may be they don’t need as much water in the basement, regardless of the dehumidifier I have running year round.

I’ve just begun planting seeds directly outside. Right now I am planting beets (Gourmet Blend and Detroit Red) and onions (Italian Red of Florence Scallions) from Botanical Interests. I’m also trying the French Breakfast Radishes…and I must admit I’m growing these just because they are so darn pretty! Let’s hope they taste good too. I’m a little late planting the onions and radishes…next year I will have to get moving sooner. Reminds me of the quote “A garden is never so good as it will be next year." by Thomas Cooper. Ain’t it the truth.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


The chives are up!

I have to be careful with chives in the garden because they can get out of control quite quickly. The previous owner of my last home had an entire grove of chives and I don’t think it was intentional. I prefer a pleasant little clump of chives, both in how it appears and that amount is more than enough for me and my culinary adventures.

My neighbor, a devoted gardener, is able to keep her chives consolidated to a nice round crop. I admire her discipline as every weekend any straying plant that cannot be relocated is removed along with the weeds. I, on the other hand, get almost weepy if I pull out a plant and don’t have someone to give it to. This is something I will have to learn to get over as last year’s garden was brimming over.... I can only guess what this summer will yield!

A tip I picked up when planting chives (and any other invasive plant) is to take a gallon container from some plant I purchased previously, cut off the bottom, dig a hole, put the plastic container (a cylinder at this point) into the ground, fill with garden soil and my chive plant. It comes back every year in that container in a perfectly round shape, the edges of the container are covered in dirt and mulch (so no one has to know) and I don’t have to kill a blade of chive. Everyone is happy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

PlanTrivia - African Violets

Did you know that African Violets can be a real life saver ... literally? Not only do they show up in stores during those last legs of winter, when you’re absolutely craving flowering plants, but they are also sensitive to carbon monoxide. If your African Violet suddenly keels over it may not be the result of a “brown” thumb, you may have a carbon monoxide leak in your home. Who knew?!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring is finally Emerging

Certainly spring snowfalls threaten at any time but the promise and certainty that spring will finally arrive is here. I am yearning to work on photos of the spring ranunculus and pansies. Finally I have growth in the garden to record in my journal. So far the crocus and the miniature iris are the only bloomers, but the daffodil buds are getting larger by the day.

Today I made my first homemade Chai with the ingredients from the TEASOURCE in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I was in Minneapolis visiting family recently and my sister told me about this “wonderful little tea shop” in St. Paul on Cleveland Avenue. I made a run to the area, to visit a few of my old haunts from when I lived there, and stopped in. They have an impressive selection of teas; I picked up a few and had a Chai to go. On my way to my car I took two sips and promptly turned around, went back to the store, proclaimed this to be the best Chai I’ve ever had and asked how I can duplicate it at home. So good!