Christmas Cookies & Christmas in Arkansas

It’s that time of year again. Can I just be honest and say I’m really glad Christmas is almost over? Come on, tell me you’re not with me on this. We do all this preparation for one day and it’s over like that. I love spending time with family and friends and I even love giving gifts to show that I care. I like going to Church and being reminded all over again that a relationship with Christ happens everyday – not just on Christmas. What I don’t like is the commercialism, and the drive to impress with dinners and decorations. If you know me at all, you know that I would love nothing more than to be snowed in in a cabin for the duration of the holiday madness.

IMG_3437
My great grandmother, Norene Garms, painted this of their farmhouse in Arkansas

This Christmas I tried to revive a wonderful holiday memory. About every other year, my family would spend Christmas with my great grandmother and great grandfather (or grand daddy as we called him) at their farmhouse in Arkansas. The drive was enough to make a small child go insane with anticipation, but once we got to that winding dirt road, I knew we were on the home stretch. All at once the hills opened up and we started our way down the lane to their house. All around were hills and pastures where cattle roamed. The house seemed to sit on the cusp of wilderness. It was a self-sustaining gem and an idyllic setting in the winter months.

When I was young, Christmas in Arkansas was just another time to receive presents and play with my cousins in the snow. Of course my great grandparents have since passed on and the house is no longer in the family. Looking back, I wish I would have been old enough to appreciate the relaxation and the beauty that was all around.

But I do have some fond and cozy memories of the place even at a young age. Specifically I remember my great grandmother’s peanut brittle. She always had it sitting out in a tin for everyone to enjoy. I didn’t like nuts at the time (I still don’t really) so I would eat around the peanuts. But I loved the taste, the sweetness, and how the candy just seemed to melt in your mouth.

So this year, I tried to relive those days and make peanut brittle. Unfortunately, it did not work out. But actually it tasted great. I just didn’t have a candy thermometer so it never hardened up. It just stayed kinda gooey. So I will provide you with the recipe in case any of you have any last minute baking to do and want to try your hand at peanut brittle.

The cookie that did work out this year was one I’ve done in the past, but with a little different twist. It’s a Nutella cookie with almond meal. I usually use flour but I had some almond meal left and I decided to use it. Almond meal is healthier than flour and it gives the cookies a more nutty taste. There is no need to add any sugar to this since the Nutella is already sweetened (unless you want to). Better yet, there are only a few ingredients, it’s simple to make, and takes no time at all.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

IMG_3434

My peanut brittle debacle is just one example of the fact that I’m human. I don’t have my life all put together and I don’t want anyone to think that because it’s not real. I make mistakes. I’m sure even my spunky great grandmother, who I once saw clean a fish, made mistakes. I’m just a girl trying to get back to simpler times – like Christmas in Arkansas. My advice would be to forget about perfection and focus on your family and friends; or if you are in an idyllic setting like I was, appreciate the beauty around you.

I will be taking a short break from my blog until after the new year so I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you all for your continued reading and support! See you next year!

Adele

Recipe | Almond Nutella Cookies with White Chocolate Chips

Ingredients:

1 cup Nutella

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups almond meal (or 1 cup flour)

about 1 cup white chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Combine the Nutella, egg, and baking powder until creamy and mixed through. Next add your almond meal until it forms a dough. Mix in the white chocolate chips. Scoop out onto a spoon and drop onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Recipe | Peanut Brittle by Norene Garms

You will need a heavy pan large enough to let the syrup boil freely and a heavy cookie sheet. My grandmother used a clean pair of gardening gloves to stretch the candy out on the cookie sheet while it is still hot so if you don’t use them be careful.  If you use a spatula to spread the syrup out, butter it first or else the candy will stick to it.  The candy needs to be spread out rather thin – if you leave it too thick, it won’t break very easily and will be hard to eat.

 Combine in the heavy pan

·         2 c. sugar,

·         1 c. white corn syrup

·         Pinch of salt

 Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup comes to the soft crack stage or 285 – 291⁰ on candy thermometer.

 ·         Add 1 to 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts

 Bring back to a boil and cook until the syrup is amber color.  The peanuts will pop a little.

 Remove from heat and add

·         1 TBS. butter

·         1 tsp. baking soda

·         1 tsp. vanilla. 

(The mixture will foam so be ready to stir)  Stir quickly. In my grandmothers words, “Stir fast and good”.

 Pour into a well-buttered cookie sheet.  Pull and spread out the candy as it cools.  When completely cooled break into pieces.

Advertisements

Simple Gift Wrapping & Afternoon Tea

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

It’s that time of year again; time for family, shopping, busyness, and lots and lots of sweets! It’s a time of year that is indicative of happiness and merriment, but often times leaves people feeling conflicted. Some of us have lost loved ones, have family that is far away, or maybe there’s something that just makes Christmas too painful. Busyness, it seems, has become our answer for the loneliness. Maybe these are just words from a writer who likes to think (or who would prefer not to think), but Christmas makes me more contemplative than usual. Whatever it is this season, in the midst of all the busyness, don’t be afraid to take some time to be introspective and get with God.

Wrapping presents allows me to slow down and appreciate the last remaining days until Christmas. This time I paired it with a hot cup of black tea for a moment that was cozy and rustic. Although there’s nothing wrong with buying loud and shiny wrapping paper and bows from the store, it’s just not my style. I use brown craft paper with some twine or ribbon, then I stick in a piece of foraged greens and a tag to finish it off. It’s a simple look but it goes a long way – people who receive your gifts will appreciate the personalized touch. There’s no hard and fast rule to this; so feel free to play around with it and see what you like!

If you’re looking for ideas for gift tags, you could buy some from the store, but there are so many free printables available online! I used these black and gold tags and though I found them too late, I also like these handwritten tags. Simply click on the link to download, print out on card stock paper, and cut out using the outline.

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

I encourage you to slow down when you wrap this year, if you can. Have a hot cup of tea or listen to Christmas music while you work. Lock the door to your bedroom if you need to shut the kids out. You’re going to have to take the time to wrap anyway, why not enjoy it? At the end of the day nothing else matters than the time we spend with friends and loved ones, and the birth of our savior. So I like to keep things simple – especially when it comes to gift wrapping. Whatever your style is, go for it and most importantly anticipate each day until Christmas!

Cheers!

Adele

Lifestyle Photography | How To Make Your Photos Come Alive

I am a visual artist. Not with a brush or chisel, but with a camera. I mostly capture food scenes, still lifes, and areas of my home. Basically anything that catches my eye and is inspiring to me. I am drawn to the small, quiet scenes at home because they happen in our everyday lives. There is something inspiring about that; a quiet cup of tea, a cozy moment at home, or baking a loaf of bread. Some of them are staged, and some of them I photograph just as they are.

I recently took a class on Skill Share by Marte Marie Forsberg entitled Lifestyle Photography: Capturing Food, Flavors, Conversation. For those of you who don’t know what Skill Share is, it is an online platform where people can teach classes, sometimes for a nominal fee, sometimes for free, and students can watch their videos and get practice with various projects. Besides the class being free, Marte was able to share her experience as a self-taught photographer. If you are at all interested in this topic, you can sign up for free on Skill Share!

Marte suggests coming up with a story behind your picture. Not that you tell that story to your viewers, but it is merely implied. This will make your photos come alive. I find it easier for me to think about what mood or feeling I want to convey. A simple way to achieve this is to use natural light (you should always use natural light). In general, I’m drawn to shadows and the contrast between light and dark; particularly in the winter months when the days are shorter and the light is softer. It just creates a moody scene that is more indicative of the winter months.

You can also use props; something that makes sense in the picture, enhances it, but doesn’t detract from the story. Adding a human element is always a bonus. Reach your hand in the frame and grab a fork or a cup. Your photo now looks lived in, someone is there. What about the food? Does your scene take place before the eating, midway, or after? My favorite is either midway or after; crumbs lying carelessly on the table or a napkin haphazardly thrown on the table, not neatly folded because  someone excused themselves too hurriedly. Someone has been there.

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Marte’s project to the class was Afternoon Tea. Capture what afternoon tea looks like to you in three pictures. Well, I’ve never been a big fan of tea. Not that I don’t like it, I just never got into it much. So I submitted what coffee time looks like to me. These series of pictures you can also find on my coffee and cranberry orange scones post, including a recipe. My coffee time is just like their tea time over in England – a moment to be savored, enjoyed, and slowed down. A soft light poured through the window as we enjoyed our wintery treat. It was just two friends enjoying one another’s company, gathering around scones and coffee – that’s what I wanted to capture, the essence of it all.

Sometimes an inspiring photo is right there in front of your lens already, other times you have to convince your audience a little bit more. Maybe the lighting needs adjusted or maybe you need some props and styling in there. Maybe you need to shoot at a different angle. If you don’t get that feeling you’re envisioning after you take the picture don’t worry, continue to troubleshoot until you’ve achieved the proper mood. It’s not easy and it takes practice, but it sure is fun to experiment with!

If you would like to get practice at this, I encourage you to sign up for Marte’s class! Of course you can do it on your own but you will get feedback from Marte and other classmates if you enroll in the class. So go out there and capture afternoon tea or coffee until January 11th and you have a chance to be featured on Marte’s Instagram feed, among other things! Above all, have fun with it and enjoy the scene you’re creating.

An Afternoon Gathering | Coffee and Cranberry Orange Scones

Yesterday I had the pleasure of gathering with a close friend over coffee and scones – an occurrence that is all too rare these days. Nevertheless, it is always a joy seeing this one. Neither time nor distance has managed to sully this friendship. We talked, we laughed, we took time to catch up, and we watched Anchorman 2 (yes, this was a very classy gathering). When all this is over, this thing called life, I know my savior will ask me what I did with my precious time here. If all I can show for it is styled tables and well cooked meals, I am in trouble at best. Relationships are what matter most at the end of the day; because He first loved us. Open up your home, give your time, and do whatever you do best. Whether that’s cooking a meal, brewing some coffee, or otherwise.

coffee and scones

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

I’ve never been a huge fan of scones, honestly. And I still only like them in moderation (any pastry in moderation, really). My only exposure to scones was at Starbucks where I’m pretty sure they are so hard you can crack a rock with it. No, homemade scones are much different! They come out all warm and fluffy on the inside but still crunchy on the outside. The combination of cranberry and orange is truly a winter treat with some turbinado sugar generously sprinkled on top (or brown sugar if you don’t have turbinado sugar). I wanted something as cozy as coffee and scones to go with cozy conversations and laughter. I think this one fit the bill.

scones prep

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

 

Recipe | Cranberry Orange Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp cold butter, cubed

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp orange zest

3/4 cup dried or fresh cranberries

1 tbsp coarse sugar like turbinado sugar or brown sugar for sprinkling.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For fresh cranberries, soften them up by placing them in a saucepan of water until it is near the boiling point. Quite a few of them will pop open but that is okay. They should mostly stay intact though.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into cubes and work into flour mixture with a pastry blender or use your fingers. The butter should be broken down to where only small pieces are visible. It should resemble a coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream, orange zest, and honey; making sure the honey is completely incorporated into the cream. Pour your heavy cream mixture and cranberries into the flour mixture, folding a few times until it forms a dough (if you are using fresh cranberries, be careful you don’t break many of them).

Knead your dough on a floured surface 2 or 3 times (the key to light and fluffy scones is to not knead them too much). Roll out the dough until it is about an inch thick. I used a pizza cutter to cut my dough into triangles (don’t worry if they aren’t the perfect shape. When they puff up in the oven, that will take care of the imperfections).

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve fresh with coffee or tea. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe taken from Inspired Taste

A Recipe | Black Bean Burger with Cilantro and Cumin on a Toasted Brioche Bun

Growing up, my family didn’t do much cooking. My mom mostly made recipes handed down from my grandmother; tried and true classics like homemade pizza, chicken pot pie, lasagna, and apple crunch (don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about the hand-me-down foolproof recipes – but more on that later!). All of these dishes air on the less healthy side of the food spectrum. When my dad started cleaning up his act, running marathons and doing Iron Mans (which are just really long triathlons), well needless to say, he cleaned up his diet too. Though I don’t like to admit it, my affinity for healthy eating is due in large part to him.

For this reason, I’m very fortunate to be drawn to healthy grains and proteins, fruits, and seasonal vegetables. There’s so much I love about the Christmas season, but why did we make it a time to pig out on cookies and cakes?! I love me some sweets as much as the next person, but this girl needs a break. So if you need me, you’ll find me south of the border (The U.S. border for those of you reading from afar).

I don’t really know why, but I have been craving a black bean burger lately. Maybe it’s because of all the sugary, seasonal eats. Or maybe I’m wanting to escape to a warmer climate where I can sip cocktails on the beach. Either way, I’ll follow my taste buds. There’s a local restaurant that serves up a killer black bean burger! I get it almost every time we go in. It is drizzled with some kind of sauce and topped with melted cheese. Add to that a simple side salad and a nice IPA to finish it off! This is my own recreation of that dish, a nostalgia of warm, summer days, and all things south of the border!

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

Black bean burgers are delicious, nutritious, and very easy to make. When I thought about how I wanted my burger to taste, I knew I wanted a classic black bean burger with a little bit of kick. I didn’t want it to overpower the burger, but to complement it in a pleasing way. Cumin is essential to a black bean burger. Just trust me on this one. Whatever else you throw in there, make sure cumin is in there too. Cumin has kind of an earthy taste that lends itself very well to the black beans. I think anything else would have been too spicy.

And then there’s the cilantro. Oh I love me some cilantro. Perfect in any Mexican dish like guacamole or a Mexican quinoa dish I make which I will share later! Too much cilantro and it’s overpowering but just right and it’s a wonderful kick to add to any dish. That’s the role cilantro plays in this black bean burger.

To complete this south of the border inspired burger, place on a toasted brioche bun (any type of bun will do but the brioche seemed like a heartier option) and melt some swiss cheese or cheese of your choice. I added a simple side salad with kale and thinly sliced radishes. Not pictured: Rockmill’s Witbier Ale brewed with spices. I don’t think it technically goes but it was a gift from a friend and anything from Rockmill is good any time of the year. Besides, we aren’t as picky as those winos ; ).

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Recipe |  Black Bean Burger with Cumin and Cilantro

Makes 2 burgers

Ingredients:

1 can black beans

1 egg

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash up the black beans with a fork or potato masher. You want most of the beans to be mashed with a few whole beans throughout. Add in the bread crumbs, egg, cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Form into a patty (note: these patties do not expand like a hamburger, so make it the size you want it) and place on a skillet – I used my cast iron skillet with a little cooking spray. Cook on medium heat until both sides are browned. Place your cheese on top and cover to melt; 1-2 minutes. If you want to toast your bread, rub some butter on both the top and bottom of your bread and place in the warm cast iron skillet (making sure it doesn’t burn) to get a toasty brown color.

Serve with a simple salad and a cold beer! Enjoy!

A Recipe | Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Galette With Thyme and Goat Cheese

As the cold weather sets in, I’m hunkering down for the winter. I don’t much care for the cold, but I do like to be cozy in the midst of it. By all rights, I should be tucked away in a cabin writing away the remainder of my life. But I digress. My thoughts have turned to all things Christmas – putting up the tree, decorating, doing countless DIY projects, working with real pine and florals, and figuring out what I’m going to buy (or make) for the special people in my life.

My thoughts turn to food too during this time of year not only because it is our daily sustenance, but also because it is an exciting time in the culinary world. My mind drifts off to warm and hearty soups and stews, beans and lentils, or roasted butternut and acorn squash. Buying seasonally from a farmer’s market is truly a beautiful thing. Even if you choose to buy seasonal at the grocery store in a sea of “variety” well, that’s beautiful too – if not more so. Seasonality livens us, sustains us, makes us whole.

mushroom galette prep

 

cremini mushrooms

 

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

A galette is a rustic french pastry that is both simple and classic. The nice thing about galettes is the combination of ingredients and flavors is truly endless. Create a savory galette like this one, or a sweet one with apples, pears, or cranberries – whatever suits your fancy. This was my first savory galette, including my first recipe I developed on my own – that tantalizing but scary plunge every cook knows they must take sooner or later. I must say I think it turned out very well for my first round.

Mushrooms have been used a lot in savory dishes, especially galettes; and with good reason. Mushrooms have many health benefits and give off incredible flavor when cooked. Sauté them in a little butter or olive oil, or grill them (I think I can taste it now). I could eat cooked mushrooms by themselves, but it’s the accompaniment of herbs and cheeses in this galette that takes it to the next level. Add to that the caramelized onions and you get a note of sweetness. I had debated between ricotta and goat cheese for this but I’m glad I went with the goat cheese. The tartness of the goat cheese lends for an earthy finish to this rustic galette. This is a recipe you can turn to on those cold, winter nights, for a morning brunch, or simply because you want to use up some ingredients in your kitchen. Whatever it is, throw it into a galette and hope for the best. I did. Enjoy!

Processed with VSCOcam with a7 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with a7 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

 

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

 

Recipe: Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Galette With Thyme and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

For the crust

1 cup of flour

5 1/3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water, or more as needed

For the filling

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. Crimini mushrooms

2 medium shallots, cut lengthwise and caramelized

1/2 tablespoon thyme

2 tablespoons goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine ingredients for the pastry and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, start caramelizing the onions. Heat 2 tbsp butter in a 9 inch skillet. Caramelize the onions until they are translucent and golden in color, about 15 minutes. Once they are done, set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp butter in the same skillet. Add garlic, mushrooms, and a dash of salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms have softened, toss in the thyme to warm. Take off the heat and combine with onions.

Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll out. Spoon in your mushroom and onion mixture in the center, leaving about a 2 inch margin on the sides. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Roll up sides of pastry holding the mixture inside, but leaving the middle exposed.

Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

How To Find Inspiration in Everyday Life

As a blogger, I feel my main job is to conjure up inspiration. Not only because it nourishes my soul, but because I know it’s beneficial to you all as well. Inspiration is sorely lacking in our culture due to its fast pace and cookie cutter routine. Occasionally we’ll catch glimpses of the sun and then it’s back into the clouds; work, emails, holidays, take the kids to school, etc. Needless to say, I find myself there sometimes – I’m there now. Being in the business of inspiration these days is hard. But I’m only human. Life isn’t one long Kinfolk magazine or Pinterest board, no matter how hard you try. Life gets real. If your tank runs on empty for a few days or a week, that’s okay. You’ll pick it up again soon enough. So how can you find daily inspiration in the midst of life’s chaos without going overboard?

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 preset

Let inspiration come to you

True inspiration presents itself when we least expect it (I feel like that must be a quote from somewhere). In other words, I think it should come about organically. It will come across authentic and true when it isn’t forced. You don’t want to get to the point where you are spinning your wheels, forcing you to throw in the towel. Unfortunately, inspiration doesn’t abide by your calendar and neither does life sometimes. I swear I made homemade pasta last night without a pasta roller and it was amazing but I was rushing to get it done and could not get pictures! Sometimes we just have to accept how things play out. (More on that homemade pasta later!) Appreciate those inspiring sunsets, baked goods, homemade pasta, and gathered friends for what they are. And appreciate those times when you feel no inspiration at all, because it’s perfectly normal. You’ll be happier and more content in the process.

Get to the heart of what inspires you

Why do you do what you do? For me, I post recipes and DIY tutorials because it represents a life of simplicity and of slowing down. If you are to be intentional about something, you must find the motivation behind why you’re doing it; it is the key driver to all that you do.

IMG_2629

Inspiration comes in big and small packages

There’s a common misconception that in order for something to be inspiring, it must be a burst of light, great epiphany type of moment. My favorite inspiring moments are the ones that are so small, only I can see it. Like it’s a well kept secret only I can understand. Just the other day as I was leaving work, in the hills behind the shop I saw an albino deer silhouetted against the dark green trees. It was a beautiful sight (and I would have captured it with my camera had it not been so far away!). Sometimes it’s not about trying to capture the moment but savoring the moment with awe and reverence (but that’s besides the point, had to say it though). I stood there, the cool, crisp air whispering through the trees and I relished the quiet of that moment, actually happy that I couldn’t document it.

IMG_2623

Inspiration is everywhere

If you live in say, Europe, New England, the Pacific Northwest, or Tennessee (to name a few) you most likely don’t suffer from a lack of inspiration where you live. But I live in Ohio. Lancaster, Ohio to be exact. Where’s that? Yeah, that’s usually what most people say. It’s right between Columbus and Athens. Columbus – Buckeye central also home of the Short North and the North Market. Athens – hippie central that is home to Donkey Coffee, Casa Nueva, and Ohio University (an incredibly beautiful campus) where I graduated from college.

But there’s not much I can say about Lancaster. We have a Chipotle, a Starbucks, and a nice bike path that people can get mugged on. But I’m learning to appreciate where I’m at. It’s true, I’d rather be in an idyllic location like Europe or Tennessee in the states tucked away in a cabin writing out the remainder of my days. But there is uniqueness waiting to be found around every corner, interpreted, and brought to life.

So how do you find inspiration in your everyday life? You let it come to you and you let life happen. Don’t think about it so much and it will come easy. Appreciate where you’re at in life and make the most of it. Document, create, bake, photograph, live.