Friday, July 27, 2012

Really Fudgy Brownies

"I talk to him when I'm lonesome like; and I'm sure he understands. When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands; then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught thereat. For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that.  "

~W. Dayton Wedgefarth


These brownies are amazing. I don't think I've ever eaten such a fudgy brownie. They are really a cross between fudge and a brownie, seriously. So if that's your thing, this recipe is for you. They are super easy too, mix it all in one pot, and you're done. What more can you ask for in a recipe?

First melt the butter and some unsweetened chocolate, then add everything else, all in one pot!

I made them for my chocolate loving friend who was watching our dog while we went on a quick overnight trip to Hood River, Oregon. I made them Monday night, that's 4 days ago and they are still as fudgy and delicious as the day they were made.

Add everything and mix together, this recipe is super easy

About once a year we take a trip to the Fruit Loop in Hood River, Oregon. It's a fun place to take a trip. Lots of small farms to visit, wineries and the beautiful Colombia River. We stayed at a hotel in a room that had a gorgeous river view and balcony.

Ready for the oven. A foil sling makes for easy removal and clean up

But that's not even the most exciting part about our trip.

Have you ever seen such a fudgy brownie? 

We went to the Hood River County Fair. It was fun, but wow, it was hot outside.

The view of the Columbia River from our room

Then we stopped at one of our favorite farms, Cody Orchards.

Lavender Valley, Hood River, Oregon, this place is so picturesque, we love stopping here for lavender plants, and lotions, and really all things lavender.

The girl there was holding an adorable little black terrier. I asked, "is that your dog?" She replied, "no, actually I'm waiting for animal services to come and get her, she was running along the road."

Lavender Valley, Hood River Oregon

I asked if I could hold her, and it was over. I was in love. She laid on my shoulder like we were long lost friends. The girl behind the counter urged us to take her home. She said she actually volunteers at the animal services and mentioned that she sees this all the time. The dog seemed unkept, not fixed, no tags, and looked as if she had even given birth to a litter of puppies at her young age.

We didn't need to be talked into it. It seemed right, it felt right. This dog is pure unconditional love. A girl who works at the animal services is telling us the dog is abandoned and needs a home. I mean it was perfect. The terrier is the same size as our dog, and the same age. It was so right. We got her home and our dog Lucien, LOVES her. He is a different dog around her. No longer neurotic, he's perfectly behaved and happy. They play like toddlers. It was the best thing that ever happened to us!

Lucien is our boy on the left, Coco is our new friend, the black terrier

UNTIL, the next day I wanted to be sure no one was searching for her. I'd be devastated if someone took my dog and never reported him missing, so I felt like I had to be sure she was unwanted. I called the local animal services. When I described her, and they told me details about her back to me, my heart dropped. Her family was looking for her,  I started to cry uncontrollably. Turns out they had only had her for a week and a half. Before that she was an abandoned dog. They love her as much as we do and she showed them all of that unconditional love she showed us. It's like she knows if she's abandoned, it's o.k. I'll just show someone some much love. I'll lay my head on their shoulder and they'll take me home. With an attitude like that, I think this dog will always have a home.

All this time we thought we were helping her, when she has really been the one to help and teach us what love can do.

She's still with us, waiting to find out when she and her family can reunite. We're still holding out hope that somehow, she can stay with us. But if she can't, her memory will remain. And now we've learned, we need to find our dog another good friend.

Edited to add** I am so happy to announce, the dogs previous family very generously let us keep the dog! We are of course, overjoyed!

Vintage Lenox plate, available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien

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Really Fudgy Brownies

Recipe adapted from these Salted Fudge Brownies from Food and Wine


1 1/2 sticks (170 g.) unsalted or salted butter - I used salted plus included the  1/2 tsp. salt below and the salt content was perfect

2 ounces (57 g.) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons  (38 g.) unsweetened cocoa

1 cup (200 g.)  white sugar

1 cup (180 g.) brown sugar, packed

3 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup (150 g.) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4.

Line a 9 inch pan with heavy duty foil to hang over the edges, if it isn't long enough on each side, line it on the opposite side as well to create a sling. Spray with nonstick spray or butter the foil, set aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter and the unsweetened chocolate together until melted. Whisk in both sugars, and mix until blended, then add the vanilla, salt and eggs, and whisk again well. Add the flour and cocoa and stir until incorporated, the batter will be thick. Pour the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are set, but the center is still a bit soft, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out coated with a little bit of batter. Don't over bake.

Let them cool to room temperature for an hour, then refrigerate them until they are just firm about another hour. Lift the brownies from the foil and peel off the foil. Serve them at room temperature.

They will keep (and remain fudgy) (wrapped well in plastic or in an air tight container) for at least 4 days.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cucumber Ribbon Salad and A Thousand Cranes Party

Every single one of us can do things that no one else can do -
Can love things that no one else can love...We are like violins,
We can be used for doorstops, or we can make music.

-Barbara Sher

This is a salad I've been making for years. I love it's simplicity. Now that it's summer, there's nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a cucumber. Today is the first day this summer that I've made the salad. It reminds me of a party I had for a few Japanese friends of mine who were getting married. This salad was one of the dishes served. We had a Thousand Cranes Party.

This dish is so easy, here are the dressing ingredients. All in all, less than 5! And takes about 5 minutes to make.

The story of a Thousand Origami Cranes is a Japanese legend that promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury.

The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures (others include the dragon and the tortoise), and is said to live for a thousand years.

It is traditional to take the thousand origami cranes and string them up, and hang them at your wedding. Or not just a wedding, one could hang them in your room, even. It's good luck. And it also signifies world peace. It's a prayer in paper form.

You need a mandoline slicer to get the cucumbers really thin.

I read stories of brides folding origami cranes months before their wedding, and mothers of brides helping fold them. Some are given to the bride as gifts.

I knew when I read about this tradition, I wanted my party for my friends to have a Thousand Cranes theme. First I needed some origami cranes to hang. I read about this about a week before the party, so first I consulted Etsy and Ebay to purchase some.

No luck. No one could get them to us fast enough. So my friend Cindy and I started folding origami cranes. How in the heck did we do that, you ask? We consulted U Tube of course! We found a great tutorial on how to make them. Still not super easy, and not the fastest thing to make for a couple of gringos who have never folded origami anything in their life.

Here's our cranes we made hanging in my dining room, with some paper lanterns and streamers.

All in all, we had hundreds of cranes, not a thousand. No matter, it's the thought that counts, right?

We made some bigger cranes to hold our place cards.

I was even able to find crane chopstick holders

The couple was so delighted. They took home our cranes to hang in their new baby's room. We were so relieved they liked them, and were proud the cranes we folded were worthy.

All in all it was such a great and fun party! I love learning traditions from other cultures. 

In the hot weather I like to make cucumber water. Just add sliced cucumbers to ice water and let sit a half hour or so for the flavors to blend. When I drink it I feel as if I'm at the spa waiting for a facial.

Personal Size Princess House Water Pitcher available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien.

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Cucumber Ribbon Salad

Make this salad right before eating, if let sit too long it will get soggy.

Recipe Adapted from  Epicurious


1/4 cup (59 ml) seasoned rice vinegar

1-2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 -1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

 2 English cucumbers (1 1/4 lb total)

Sesame Seeds (optional)


Add all dressing ingredients  (everything except the cucumbers and sesame seeds) in a medium bowl and whisk till blended. Set aside. Slice the cucumbers thin on a mandoline slicer (or another type of slicer, I used this one from Kuhn Rikon, it works well and I bought it at Marshals for maybe 10 bucks, I also have a fancier one, but if you don't own one I think it's work it.) into  1/8 inch thick ribbons. Toss Cucumbers with dressing and top with sesame seeds (if using) and eat immediately.

* edited to add* If you don't have a mandoline, or if you want the salad to last longer and not get soggy, I've been told that just slicing the cucumbers (so they're not so thin) into 1/2 inch slices, will prevent them from getting soggy so fast. If you do that, I'd let the salad sit 30 minutes or so to absorb the flavors.

If you let the dressing sit too long it will get soggy, (longer than about 20 minutes.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lavender Lemonade and Cool Stuff

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." 

~Sam Keen

This lavender lemonade is my new favorite drink! It's refreshing, unique and just plain delicious. I love the taste of lavender, the smell of lavender, I absolutely love lavender! We have many plants of it growing around our property, so I am fortunate to have access to it.

Recipe for the lemonade and some more pics below, now onto some cool stuff I'm liking this week.

Olive Oil Felted Lemon Meringue Pie Soap - This soap is covered in hand felted wool to give you a scrub while you wash. Made of olive oil and Shea butter. From MikeandDianeSoap. This soap sounds fresh and cool, perfect soap for summer.

Cat Cave/ Cat House Handmade from Natural Wool - From Grazim - What the heck! I've never seen anything like this, but what a great idea. How sweet is that cat? I think any cat would love to have a handmade house.

Handmade Wooden ABC Children's Blocks - By TinyGiraffeShop - These are so beautiful. I think they would make a great baby gift.

And now on to Lavender Lemonade Making!
One of our lavender bushes on the walk up to our house is out of control. The good thing about it though is that it gives you a lovely whiff of lavender on your walk up the path.

Straining the lavender buds

After you add the lemon juice, it suddenly turns pink!
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Silver plated tray and pitcher available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien.

Lavender Lemonade

You can harvest your own lavender flowers, or buy culinary lavender from a well stocked grocery store. If you are using dried, I'd use a bit less.

Recipe from Local Harvest's newsletter


1 Tablespoon fresh lavender flowers (that have not been sprayed) Or if using dried, I'd use half that.

1/3 - 1/2 cup (64 mg-100 mg) (78 ml - 118 ml) sugar or honey

1/3 cup (78 ml) fresh lemon juice - it took me 3 lemons - You can add more if you like it more tart


Boil 2 cups water in a small saucepan. Once it comes to a boil add the lavender flowers and remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes. Strain the flowers from the liquid. Add the lavender liquid to a 1 quart (4 cups) (946 ml) jar and add the sugar or honey. (add the lesser amount, when you taste it later if you want it sweeter, add more to taste.) Shake it up to mix. Add the fresh lemon juice, then fill the jar the rest of the way with cold water. Refrigerate till cold. Taste it now and see if you need more sweetener, or if you want it more tart, add more lemon juice. Enjoy over ice.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dutch Baby with Fresh Berries

"What do we teach our children? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique... You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything."

-Pablo Casals

The dutch baby holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of times of special breakfasts at The Original Pancake House. Growing up we had a location within walking distance to our house in Anaheim, California.

It was always my favorite place to eat breakfast, (and I believe it still is.)

I would always order the same thing. The apple pancake. A huge sweet dutch baby pancake loaded with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. That is definitely one of the best tastes of childhood for me.

Everyone else thought so too, of course. There was always a line out the door on Sunday mornings after church. Those minutes of waiting for a table were some of the longest minutes of my life.

Mixing up the eggs, lemon zest and sugar

The apple pancake is the dish they are famous for, but they also serve a more traditional dutch baby. A German pancake (like this one) served with wedges of lemon and powdered sugar. This dish I've always loved as well.

A picture from the oven

So when I saw this version with fresh berries, I knew I had to have it. Fresh berries just mean summer to me. This baby is easy to make, just make a simple one bowl batter, toss on some berries, throw it in the oven and you're done!

A perfect summer brunch dish that is certain to create more delicious dutch baby memories.


This is my fresh strawberry Dutch Baby

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Dutch Baby with Fresh Berries

Recipe adapted from Grace Parisi from Food and Wine

Edited to add - This recipe is very flexible with the fruit. You can use any mixture of berries or chopped fruit. I've made it with chopped strawberries and chopped fresh peaches and it turns out great. Of course if your fruit has a high water content you'll want to dry it as much as possible, for example if the peaches are very ripe, just try not to get all of that moisture onto the batter, or it may turn out a little wet.


3 large eggs

1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

2/3 cup (129 g.) sugar

3/4 cup (88 g.) flour

3/4 cup (177 ml) whole milk

1 cup (165 g.) (about 6 oz.) raspberries

1 cup (165 g.) (about 6 oz.) blackberries
4 Tablespoons butter

Confectioners sugar for dusting


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, 220 Celsius, Gas Mark 7.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the finely grated lemon zest, sugar and salt until combined. Add the flour and milk and whisk until smooth.

Put a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stove. Add the butter and melt it. When the butter is melted remove from the heat and add the batter. Sprinkle the berries evenly over the batter. Put it in the preheated oven.

Bake it for about 22 minutes, until the edges are browned and puffed. It will puff up, then fall, like a souffle. (Unfortunately, the pictures of mine that you see, have fallen already). Dust with confectioners sugar and cut into wedges and serve.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Iced Tea Float and Cool Stuff

 "I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible; to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit. "

"This iced tea float is genius!", I thought when I first read about the recipe in a book called, "Best Places Seattle Cookbook: Recipes from the City's Outstanding Restaurants and Bars."

First you make some strong, sweetened iced tea, turn it into a sorbet, then float it in unsweetened iced tea for a refreshing drink that slowly sweetens the iced tea as the sorbet melts. The creator, Kaspar Donier of Seattles Kaspar's says a batch of leftover iced tea inspired this sorbet creation. He uses Earl Grey tea, I chose black tea with fresh mint and lemon. Recipe below.

And here are some things I'm loving this week:

Cardamom and Coconut Lip Balm by fawnlilybotanica - I'm in love with cardamom so I bought this yesterday. She not only uses organic cardamom oil, but also infuses the sunflower oil with organic cardamom seeds. I can't wait to try it! They also have a Vanilla Bean Facial Wash that looks equally fabulous.

Beautiful Audrey Hepburn Quote Art Print with Black and White Silhouette -  by ColeandCo. Designs

I've always loved this quote, and what a beautiful reminder hanging on the wall.

Shea Butter Turquoise Stone Soaps in Cool Water- By Beacon Hill Candles- I love the beauty of these turquoise stones. With Shea butter and coconut oil they are moisturizing as well. A great addition to a guest bathroom.

Blue-Green Aquamarine and Silver Sculpted Siren Ring-
By SamBraundJewellery- this ring caught my eye then I read about it and loved it even more. Now I think of it as the Pirates of the Caribbean Ring.

Here's the description- "This collection is inspired by myths and legends surrounding Mermaids, and their Siren songs that would lure mariners towards the rocky coastlines, causing shipwrecks to occur.

These rings are made with these mythical seductresses in mind. The gemstones are polished smooth by the sea, having fallen from these shipwrecked vessels and settled on the ocean bed, where over time coral and barnacles have encapsulated the gemstones creating part living sculptures.

Each ring is uniquely sculpted in Sterling Silver, with woven swirls depicting the coral, and Sterling Silver beads to represent the barnacles. The silver has been oxidised to create an antiqued look, which serves to highlight the intricate weaving."

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Iced Tea Float

Inspired by a recipe in "Best Places Seattle Cookbook: Recipes from the City's Outstanding Restaurants and Bars." by Kaspar Donier of Seattles Kaspar's

For the Sorbet


4 1/2 cups (1 liter and 65 ml.) water

1 1/2 cups (300 g.) sugar

5 - 7 strong black tea bags - I used Welsh Tea (which is a great black tea by the way and it is very strong) BUT if you are using a regular black tea, like English Breakfast by Stash or Lipton, I'd use 6 or even 7.  OR if you want to use Earl Grey, use 6 Earl Grey tea bags.

juice of one lemon

a small bunch of fresh mint

For the Liquid Element

Very Cold Unsweetened Iced Tea - I added fresh mint to this to let it infuse while it cooled


To make the sorbet. First make some strong tea by adding the water to a saucepan, then add the sugar and stir it. Almost bring it to a boil. Add the tea bags and mint, and remove the pan from the stove. Cover it and let it steep for 30 minutes.

Remove the tea bags, squeeze out the tea from the bags and discard. Add the lemon juice. Now you can either leave the mint in the sorbet base while it cools, if you want a stronger mint flavor, or you can remove it now. Refrigerate this till it's very cold, at least 4 hours. Now remove the mint if you haven't already. Process the sorbet mixture in the ice cream machine according to manufacturers instructions. Freeze mixture until firm, at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to serve, first let the sorbet sit out a few minutes until it's soft enough to scoop. Add a few scoops of sorbet to a glass, then fill glass with iced tea and garnish with fresh mint.

You can also serve the sorbet as a refreshing dessert with some tropical fruit if desired.

IF YOU DON"T HAVE AN ICE CREAM MACHINE, Make an Icy Slushy- Make the sorbet mixture as directed above.

Pour it into a shallow dish in the freezer. Scrape it after it starts to freeze. About 30 minutes later, scrape it again. Keep scraping it every half hour or so till it's icy and frozen. Just like my Honeydew Ice. Put this mixture in a glass and add iced tea to it to make an icy slushy.