Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's All About Coffee

“Ah coffee. The sweet balm by which we shall accomplish today's tasks.” 
 ― Holly Black, Ironside

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I was never a morning person. I never drank coffee. Is there a correlation? I don't know, but what I know is I simply adored the aroma of coffee.

For the love and respect of coffee

Aroma? Really? Yes, really. People shouldn't be allowed to say "the smell of coffee". Smoke smells. Garbage smells. Coffee...it simply enchants. You can taste the warm liquid caressing your throat long before your lips touch it and its velvety aroma lingers in the air long after you drink your cup. Nothing can compare to coffee in the way it makes you feel...present.


Still,when I moved to the US, the regular coffee was very strange. Humongous cups, semi-dark warm watery liquid with a burnt taste. No wonder people were dousing it with tons of creamers, liquid flavoring and flavored sugar, it was undrinkable otherwise.

A quest for taste

Finding the right kind that makes me appreciate every sip wasn't easy. My husband and I usually share a cup in the morning before work and rarely we both liked the coffee so much that we would both try to have the last sip. We did try some sampler sets from Amazon, coffee from all around the world and we both found that our taste leans more towards bold, rich, creamy and strong coffee. As a last resort, we drank our favorite Italian coffee which we were lucky to find on Amazon, but after drinking that for months and months we were craving for a change.

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Coffee revelation

 You know that feeling when you meet someone for the first time and you find that you understand each other as you've been friends for a long time? That's how I felt when we met Christine at a Christmas party last year. She and I started talking about coffee and the minute she mentioned her job is to roast coffee for Liquid Assets Coffee I knew I had to have her roast some for us.
Needless to say, having someone roast and then grind fresh coffee for our morning cuppa was an exhilarating thought! We got different kins to try and we decided a simple "try this- try that" won't do. We organized each morning a face off between two kinds. The one that we liked the best would go to the next round, until we pick the winner.When my husband brought the bags home, I can steel feel the scent in the air. Nothing can compare to freshly roasted and ground coffee. Nothing!

 Coffee World Cup

After a week, we already knew which one is our favorite- "Colombian Viennese Roast". Although it was very close with the "Colombian Full City", which I used to for the pictures by the way, at least for me, the Viennese roast won the cup, or I should say the Morning Cuppa? :-)

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And this morning? This morning I am enjoying my cup and one of my favorite books in the front yard, with the sun peeking through the leaves and the robin family providing the background music. But what's a coffee without a cookie, right?
 I simply love Saturdays...
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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter 2014

Easter 2014  (23 of 26)

I have to confess, working full time and preparing as many Easter breads as usual just didn't work out for me this year. I had so many things to take care of that much of my "free" time was spent worrying if I will be able to do anything for the holiday. Pointless thing stressing, if you think about it. However, things ( as always) did work out by themselves, as the Easter party at work was sooner than I expected and that kind of forced my hand into making the breads on Wednesday, instead of on Saturday as usual.

Well, baking in the middle of the week when you have to go to work early in the morning is not always fun but nothing could compare to the joy that after 4 hours ( I guess it was not as warm in the house as I thought), my Easter breads did finally rise ( from the dead, since I almost threw the dough away)!
Easter 2014  (6 of 26)

Not only that, but I also managed to make some Easter croissants filled with our very own baked plum jam, made with plums from our favorite orchard.
Easter 2014  (4 of 26)

 In a way, I am glad it happened that way because I got to spend much more time with the kids, coloring eggs and enjoying the weekend. Otherwise, I would have spent the whole Saturday hovering over the oven. I'm sure the kids will remember better their colored fingers and the fun they had decorating, instead of me being stressed and snappy over the breads that are being baked.
 
Easter 2014  (7 of 26)

We all prefer this mom, who is holding a spoon and stirring the food coloring the day before Easter, instead of the cranky mom, who is baking and her feet hurt. 

Easter 2014  (11 of 26)
Although, my efforts totally didn't compare to dad's attention to detail, when it came to stirring the food coloring.

Easter 2014  (13 of 26)

 Uh-oh! I guess I didn't stir some of the jars well enough and they didn't pass dad's quality control!
Easter 2014  (14 of 26)

Yup, I better stick to coloring the eggs. It's safer I think! 
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All kinds of creativity was employed for coloring those eggs. You have to admire the ingenuity of  the kids when it comes to not getting their fingers dirty. Using yarn to dip in the coloring- clever!
Easter 2014  (16 of 26)

 Just look at the level of concentration on tying this knot! Of course waiting around for the eggs to be colored can be a bit boring, but once all of them are colored, oh my...
Easter 2014  (15 of 26)

At the end, all of the hard work paid off! These are the kids' eggs. The Minecraft creeper is front and center of course.
 Easter 2014  (25 of 26)

I have to say mom and dad did pretty well too! 
Easter 2014  (26 of 26)

Perfect Honey Glazed Ham Easter Meal

Ah, Easter...lovely, lovely weather, Easter breads, colored eggs, honey-glazed ham...mmmm. It kind of makes you not think about  spring cleaning, doesn't it? Oh, well. Eventually, there will be spring cleaning, there will be renovations, remodeling and endless, endless yard work. For now, let's just enjoy what we all have been dreaming about the whole winter.

And I have the perfect meal to add.
Easter Meal  (3)

This wonderful recipe for honey-baked ham I got from the Chew Out Loud blog and I have to say it's the best that I've tried so far. I highly recommend it for your Easter lunch.


Add some delicious no-knead Dutch-oven baked bread from the Frugal Living NW blog and you won't need anything else.
Easter Meal  (4)

But let's not forget the dessert! "Earl Murders Me.." pie shot were just the thing! Check out the SmithBites' recipe, it's out of this world!


Happy Easter!
 ( Not that we need an excuse to have such a delicious meal any other time of the year or anything...)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas cookies' story 2013

As every year, I had big BIG plans for my Christmas cookies. The closer the time to bake the cookies, the more worried I got that I am actually not going to be able to make any. Between work, family, kids and everything else, it almost seemed impossible.
I was getting more and more frustrated...and then, a miracle happened. I was looking through my old blog recipes and I stumbled upon my last year's article on baking dozens of cookies without really trying  . Boy, did that hit home! I decided to take my own advice and believe it or not, although I was full time I managed to pull off enough cookies for the neighborhood cookie swap ( 7th year in a row), bring some to the work Christmas cookie party AND give everyone individually wrapped chocolate covered pretzels as gifts. 
What did I bake this year? 

1. Mint sugar cookies ( leaves)
2. Butter cookies with strawberry jam.
3. Individual square cakes with rose Turkish delight and sesame seeds and no eggs. 
4. Pumpkin cream cheese truffles, covered in dark chocolate and with toffee crunch on top
5. Gingerbread white chocolate truffles, covered in white chocolate and spices on top.
6. Chocolate cream cheese Baileys truffles with toffee crunch inside, covered in dark chocolate. 
7. Chocolate covered pretzels with assorted sprinkles, candy and candy cane crunch. 

As you can tell, my family was insisting on a LOT of truffles...and I was happy to oblige.  
 


These are the pretzels, which everyone pitched in to wrap and get ready for giving away.



It all sounds so great, doesn't it? Working mom, 57 different kinds of cookies, happy kids and husband, just magic!
Yeah....and no. 
I have to give credit where credit is due. 
This year, Ellie ( my 7 year old) did all by herself the flower shaped butter cookies with jam. And she did A LOT of them. I was worried that she would get bored and not finish them( hence I will be stuck with finishing them), but she was a trooper and did them all by herself. So, thank you Ellie for all your hard work, you were a delight!

One more person to thank is my son Kalin, for helping out with washing all the dishes that we got dirty in the process of cooking, baking and eating, not to mention  he washed most of them by hand, because we had so much that the dishwasher couldn't take them all. That was a tremendous help and a sanity saver for me, no doubt!

Many thanks to my love Alex for managing everything while I was working- house, cooking, sick kids AND working from home. You're the best!

And last but not least- thanks to my entire family for putting up with eating sandwiches 3 days in a row, for not having cleans socks for a week and for missing me all day. I love you!
It's not all fun and games, but we can pull through so much more than a holiday season. And even though I know it's true, I am still proud of how everyone without exceptions worked hard to enjoy what we all did together.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May your hearts be filled with love, your home with warmth and care, and may your family and friends be always healthy!
 


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