chocolate

February 29

I love that today is a leap day- it seems like a special pocket of time.

Outside, the cheery trills of robins are balancing the soft dreariness of grey sky on the verge of rain. This afternoon, the sun shone and lit the pink cherry blossom and warmed the rug. In the morning, as on all mornings here, sea gulls dotted the field like sheep.

This past week there were some glorious spring storms, erratic wind/rain/sun and all colours in the sky. I dug out my paints. I finally bought an umbrella. Days were segmented by cappucinos, africanos, earl grey and herbal teas. Our rabbits are molting winter down. The daffodils are nodding bright heads.

I hurt my back by lifting a bin incorrectly and have spent the past few days feeling like a century has been tacked on to my years. It's easing up now and I am so glad. (That icy-hot stuff is so weird!) How easy it is to take health for granted.

I'm including the recipe for what I wish I was making right now. I like to make and freeze a batch of these cookies to have on hand - a gift to our future selves.

Chocolate Apricot Pecan Cookies Adapted from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Cookbook. The original recipe does not call for pecans, so feel free to leave them out. 

In a medium large bowl, stir together with a whisk then set aside: 1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour 1 c all-purpose flour 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp finely ground espresso beans

In a medium small bowl or in a KitchenAid mixer, cream until light and fluffy: 1 c butter, softened 1 c good raw/brown sugar such as panela-rapadura

Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar one at a time, mixing well, adding vanilla with second egg: 2 eggs, room temperature 2 tsp vanilla

Add dry ingredients and stir to mix until flour is just incorporated. Then stir in: 3/4 cup dried unsulphured apricots, chopped 3/4 cup pecans, toasted and cooled, roughly crushed by hand 8-9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Let dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour before scooping and baking cookies. Or scoop then freeze dough to later thaw and bake whenever you need a few cookies! Makes about 16 cookies. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. 

the season so far

The season so far has been like every other coastal February- the brightest, best days since summer, bookended by days of soft, sleepy grey rain. I love it.

Most notable is the light lingering towards evening, and that I've left my sweater at home every morning this week and haven't missed it.

While dinners lately have tended towards dull, parsnips have been the shining stars of several meals, as have broccoli, cabbage and sambal olek. We found last year's  rhubarb in the freezer and had it sauced with pancakes. Then there was chocolate cheesecake for my dad's birthday...

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake Makes one 9" cake. My mother's recipe- I'm not sure where she got it from.

Crust 1/4 c butter, softened 2 tbsp sugar 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 400º F. In large mixing bowl, beat butter till soft. Gradually add sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and stir in flour. With floured fingertips, press dough evenly in bottom of ungreased 9" springform pan. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

Cheesecake 1 recipe cheesecake crust 3/4 c sugar 2 tbsp flour 1/8 tsp salt 3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature 2 eggs, at room temp. 1 c heavy whipping cream (unwhipped) 3 oz bittersweet baking chocolate, melted

Make crust. Preheat oven to 375º F. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt; mix well. Add cream cheese. With mixer at medium speed, beat until smooth and well blended. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla;  beat just until well blended (scrape down bowl to incorporate and prevent any lumps). Set aside 2 c filling. Pour remaining filling on top of crust. Stir chocolate into reserved filling until well combined. Drop chocolate mixture by tablespoonfuls into cream cheese filling, forming 6 "puddles". Swirl filling with a knife 2 or 3 times for a marbled effect. Bake 55 minutes (centre will be slightly soft). Immediately run spatula around edge of cake to loosen from pan (this helps prevent cracking). Cool on wire rack 1 hr, then cover and chill at least 4-5 hrs before cutting.

 

some days

I had a job interview this morning. It went okay, I guess, but I'm not the greatest at job interviews and I didn't feel like I presented myself as well as I could have. And then I walked around town in the rain and was hungry and a little bit mopey but didn't feel like getting food from anywhere. Almost home, I stepped in dog poo (while wearing my good shoes) in front of the house that I hate walking past because its squalor seems to be crawling across the yard towards everything. Sigh. Some days, shit just happens like this. At home I made two pieces of toast and ate them with butter and squares of dark chocolate on top like they do in France (err, like I did in France, anyway). That helped. And I made coffee, though perhaps I shouldn't have because it felt like my heart rate picked up before I was even through grinding the beans. Then came the question of cleaning the house. Why bother cleaning the house when I could relax and read and maybe paint something? But I like being in the house better when it's clean, and someone has to do it. Remember when the Cat in the Hat eats cake in the bath and leaves a cat ring all around it? This is what I think about when scrubbing our tub. One of our cats likes to hang out in the tub and lap up the small puddles left from showers, but I don't think I can blame her. There were good points too. There always are. Two Anna's hummingbirds were serenading the world when I passed by. They perched in shrubs by the water, their tiny beaks buzzing and chirping sweetly and their faces iridescent fuchsia when caught by the light. At the water's edge, clumps and drifts of ducks placidly stirred - American wigeons and mergansers - and black oystercatchers and various gulls comically prowled the shore.

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