Note: Australia Day is really January 26th. Today is the observed Australia Day. So this is a few days late!
Happy Australia Day, everyone! I really love Australia. It was the first country I ever traveled to. In fact, my trip to Australia was the first time I had ever been on a plane (well, not counting when I was like three months old or something, but I don't remember that) and it was the first time I had ever traveled anywhere without my family. It was the summer after fifth grade that I went on a People to People Student Ambassador trip to Australia. And it was one of the most amazing two weeks of my life. Australia has a very special place in my heart, and I'd love to go back. I just wish I could skip the 24 hour flight. That would be great.
In celebration of Australia Day, I've rounded up some Australian recipes. I wanted to try out making some of these over the weekend, but alas, did not have the time. They're all gluten-free, and there are no kangaroo or emu recipes. One thing I learned on my trip: emus are evil.
One of the stops on our trip was at this emu/alligator farm. (I think this farm had emus and alligators. It's been a while, so the details are a little hazy!) Anyhow. This emu that you see right here tried pecking my face. I'm serious. Granted, I suppose I would be pretty cranky too if I were in a pen and people were taking pictures of me through the wire fence. So the emu and I didn't really get off to a good start.
That night for dinner, the options were either alligator chowder or emu sausage. Well, neither option sounded all that appealing to me. But, I decided to go with the emu sausage since the only experience I ever had with chowder was clam chowder, and as a 10-year-old, I hated clam chowder. I still dislike clam chowder. It's mainly the clams, I think. They're so chewy and gross. Anyway, the emu sausage seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Oh, how wrong I was. The emu exacted its revenge on me later that night.
Never eat emu.
At least I'll never eat emu again. I'm sorry, Mr. Emu.
So, you will not see any emu, alligator or kangaroo on my round-up. Or Vegemite. But, you will find other delicious Australian goodies! [gluten-free, of course!] So let's get to it!
1. Strawberry Kiwi Pavlovas. Okay, so kiwifruit is technically from New Zealand, but the pavlova is from Australia! It's said that the dish was created in 1935 at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth, Australia. Though, the roots of the pavlova do go back a bit further -- and potentially back to New Zealand. Home Cookery for New Zealand published in 1929 by an Australian author, Emily Futter, did have a recipe for Meringue with Fruit Filling -- similar to pavlova. Regardless, Australia has something to do with a pavlova. And this strawberry kiwi pavlova looks delicious! And how many times can I type pavlova?!
2. Fresh Kiwi Grape Juice. Get your vitamin C with this yummy drink! And, yes, I know its kiwifruit again. But New Zealand is so close. It's like right there. Australia by association, right? And kiwis are delicious. And nutritious.
3. Gluten Free Beer Damper. Those Australians. They love their beer. Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, of sorts. Farmers, swagmen, and stockmen often baked their damper over a campfire. Stockmen, who traveled far and wide for months and months, created the bread since it only required the most basic ingredients. This particular recipe adds beer into bread. It isn't noted in the recipe, but be sure to use a gluten free beer, like Dogfish Head Tweason’Ale or Epic Glutenator.
4. Gluten Free, Paleo Lamingtons. Lamingtons are a traditional Australian dessert, dating back to 1902. Usually, a lamington cake is a sponge cake that is coated in chocolate icing and coconut. They can also have layers of cream or jam. This particular lamington is a vanilla sponge cake layered with chocolate icing and coconut. If you're not into the paleo thing, here's a regular ole gluten-free recipe for lamingtons with a chocolate ganache glaze. Yum, yum! Is there anything better than the combination of coconut and chocolate? Okay, well, a lot of things go with chocolate. But chocolate and coconut is pretty darn good!
5. Gluten Free Anzac Biscuits. Anzac biscuits are basically an oatmeal cookie. Wives would send anzac biscuits to their solider husbands since these biscuits kept for long periods of time. Original anzacs were a hard tack bread, a bit different from the anzac biscuits of today! These biscuits have been long associated with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) -- hence, anzac biscuits! I'm pretty sure I wrote a paper on anzac biscuits in sixth grade. These would be delicious with some tea! I could go for that right now.
Hope you have a fantastic Monday, and a fabulous Australia Day!
Okay, so we're back to The Letter Box! Clearly, I am an indecisive person. Changing my blog's name sounded like such a great idea the other night while I was drifting off to sleep. But then, after changing it, I started not liking the new name. The more I thought about it, the more I didn't like it. It just sounded weird. And then, the internet was all wacky yesterday because someone ran into a telephone pole down the street. So I couldn't even change it back! I know, this long story about my blog name sure is thrilling. Let's get on to the good stuff!
Sophomore year of college, I had the incredible experience of studying abroad in Vienna. I absolutely fell in love with the city. The to-die-for cakes and pastries, the cobblestone roads, the beautiful old churches and buildings, the museums, the violin players in the Stephansplatz, the u-bahn (it's just fun to say!) Vienna is a truly gorgeous city that is just saturated with art, history, and culture. If I could, I would so move there in a heartbeat. Except my German is a bit rusty. Well, like really rusty. I'd have to work on that.
So of course, I felt compelled to create a Viennese-inspired wedding board. How romantic-slash-totally-awesome would it be to get married in Vienna? Yes, please.
So, as you can see, I decided to change the name of my blog.Nope, I changed it back! I wasn't too sure about The Letter Box -- I liked it, but I wasn't feeling it. I am a very indecisive person. I had like three other names for this blog before I came up with The Letter Box. And now I'm changing it again. Who knows -- maybe I'll go back to the Letter Box. I felt that I needed something a bit more cohesive with my portfolio and other social/interwebs media. (mediums?) I needed some streamlining. And every time I look at my portfolio website (named k. louise photography), I always think mmmmkay louise. Like, mmmkay? Get it? I know, I'm weird. Thus, mmkay louise.Nope, now my blog is back to the Letter Box! We'll see if it sticks. It's hard coming up with a name and branding and stuff that all goes together! Anyhow. This is step one of doing some streamlining and organization. I need some serious organization. My life needs some organization. Seriously. Here are some tips that you can use to get your stuff in line and organized.
1. Some ideas from Better Homes and Gardens for strategic organization and storage. Oh, I could use some of these. I wish my desk area looked like the one in the picture. Currently, I have piles of paper. Not the best organizational strategy.
2. LOVE this idea of using washi tape to make a calendar more organized and pretty!
I have always held Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of my heroes. One of
my earliest memories of learning about Martin Luther King, Jr. was in
middle school when we had to memorize his "I Have a Dream" speech. I'm
sure that the civil rights movement was covered in elementary school,
but by now, elementary school is just a haze of American Girl, Pokemon, Tamagotchi, and Hanson. I specifically recall analyzing King's speeches and watching
documentaries on civil activists and heroes, like Rosa Parks and Malcolm
X in middle school. Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Jr. -- those
were the two people I would have named as my heroes back then. I still
do to this day. Sure, there are many more people who have been added to
the list since then, but there's just something about Martin Luther
King, Jr. I remember having a tough time watching those documentaries on
the civil rights movement -- the hatred and cruelty of people boggled
my 12 year old mind, and it still kind of boggles my mind. Anyhow, today
is all about celebrating the life of a great man, a hero -- Martin
Luther King, Jr. In memory and celebration, here's a link to a video of his "I Have A Dream" speech. Here is a list of 10 things you may not have known about MLK. Also, a list of quotes by MLK here and here. A couple of my favorites are:
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
"Hate is too great a burden to bear."
And today, I decided to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. by creating a riff on one of his favorite foods -- pecan pie.
I didn't exactly want to make a pie since we already had a lot of pie over the holidays. I wanted to make something small and snackable. Muffins. Now, I know that these muffins aren't much to look at. I was a bit skeptical at how they were going to turn out. I feared that they might be a bit too dense and chewy. However, they taste exactly like a pecan pie morphed with a muffin. Yum. Delectable for both breakfast and dessert! And snacks in between. Don't you just love it when a food can do double-duty? Or triple-duty?
1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (I like Bob's Red Mill)
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup softened Earth Balance soy-free spread
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan with some vegetable shortening or soy-free cooking spray. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and pecans until it's all well incorporated. Using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer, beat the soy-free spread until it is creamy. Break the eggs in a separate bowl and beat them with a fork. Add the beaten eggs to the creamy soy-free spread and beat together. Then, stir the dry ingredients into the egg-spread mixture until just combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling the cups about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (The muffins will not rise a ton -- don't worry!) When muffins are done, take them out and let them cool on a wire rack. Then, devour!
So I'm sure you've all heard by now that Pantone named Emerald as the color of 2013. It's an...interesting choice. Whenever I think of emerald green, I think of the '80s. Although I suppose the '80s was more hunter green than emerald green. Anyway. I'm actually starting to really like emerald green. It can be very fun, vibrant, fresh, and alive. Green in general is a very lively color -- an instant dose of energy! Here are some ways you can add some emerald-ness into your life!
3. This handy-dandy crossbody bag to stash all your must-haves. Target - $19.99
4. Gorgeous suede high heel pumps. How fantastic would these look with a little black dress? Or some beige trousers? The perfect pop of color! Piperlime - $129
5. A dark green velvet chaise that's perfect for curling up on and reading Sense and Sensibility. Or The Hobbit. Or Confessions of a Shopaholic. Or whatever you happen to be reading. Urban Outfitters - $649
6. A dark and moody nail polish -- so much drama! You could paint your nails on your velvet chaise! Just don't spill anything, like I always do. On second thought, I would not recommend painting nails on the velvet chaise. Sephora - $14
8. Another perfect addition to your arsenal -- this green KitchenAid mixer. Bake up a storm with this baby; make some delicious cupcakes to fill those adorable liners! Or muffins. Either one. Or both. Macy's - $349.99
How is it that we're already like pretty much half way through January? How? I feel like I was just watching the Naked Gun series with friends and family, waiting for midnight to strike so we could watch the ball drop and then promptly go to bed. (Seriously, staying up until midnight is becoming more and more of a challenge. I'm usually in bed by like 10. Or 10:30, if I decide to walk a little on the wild side.) It's like I'm reverting back to childhood. Or becoming an old lady. Either one. Maybe both. Is that possible? Quick story: when I was little, my best friend and I were determined to stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve. Our parents didn't think that we could do it. So, in order to prove that we stayed up until midnight, we recorded what Emily's hamster was doing in half-hour intervals (or fifteen minutes. Or hourly. I can't remember exactly how precise we were.) Anyhow, we logged Hammy's activities -- the majority of them being "sleeping" or "eating food pellets." I'm positive we made it to midnight, but I'm not sure if the log convinced our parents. I don't know why not -- it was very scientific and all.
Anyway. It's just bizarre that it's like mid-January already. And I suppose it's bizarre that I'm sharing this eggnog bread recipe with you, well after the holidays. I actually bought some rice nog for Christmas. I have to admit, I do like eggnog, but I don't like drinking a lot of it since it's so rich. So, instead of buying real egg nog, I bought some rice nog. For some reason, that sounded rational to me. But, I never opened up the rice nog over the holidays. Nope. It sat in the cabinet. Good think that unopened rice milk is shelf-stable. So, the holidays came and went and there my rice nog sat, languishing in the cabinet. It was finally opened when my brother wanted to make an eggnog milkshake, and all we had in the fridge was an old carton of eggnog that was way past its prime (my mom did buy some real eggnog. We usually have it during the holidays. I don't know why no one really drank it this year -- we all like eggnog perfectly fine. We're not particularly eggnog haters. What was up with this past holiday season?)
Anyhow. So now I had an opened carton of rice nog that I was pretty sure I wouldn't finish off before it had to be thrown out. Last year I made some eggnog cookies, which turned out pretty well. But I wanted to make something different this year. And I really wanted to make something with chocolate. Chocolate makes the world go 'round. And, voila -- eggnog chocolate chip bread! Well, technically I guess it would be rice nog chocolate chip bread. Details, details.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup rice nog (or regular eggnog)
2/3 cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, xanthan gum, baking
soda, powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the melted soy free spread and sugar until smooth. Add in the vanilla extract and then add in one egg at a time, whisking until fully combined. Add the rice nog to the mixture, and then slowly incorporate the flour mixture. Stir together until just combined. Toss the chocolate chips in some flour and fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the bread is golden. Let cool, and then dig in! Eat it for breakfast, eat it for dessert. Heck, eat it for lunch and dinner too! Okay, well maybe not lunch and dinner. But it's totally acceptable for breakfast and dessert.
One thing that pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I LOVE Ikea. Love, love, love it. If I could, I would fill and decorate my entire house with Ikea things. Of course, I don't have a house right now. Or even an apartment. But my imaginary house and apartment are completely decked out in all things Ikea. A girl can dream, right? Last weekend, I went to Ikea and seriously had to restrain myself from buying the entire store. A gray and white dish set was just calling my name -- and it was on, like, SUPER sale. However, I already have a lot of dishes. And they are all currently sitting in boxes in my parents' basement. So it wouldn't do much good to buy more dishes. It was a challenge, not placing those dishes in the cart and blissfully skipping off to the check out. Well, more like not placing the dishes in the cart and then not getting lost in the maze that is the Ikea marketplace and convincing myself that I need a silverware drawer organizer (which I also already have) or a new throw for the end of my bed. Oh, Ikea. Here are some Ikea things that I'm really digging:
1. I love these Blomster candle holders. Okay, so I don't have a dining room right now, but I think these would look really fantastic on a dining table. Or a mantle. They're so graceful and modern -- everything you could ever want in a candle holder.
2. This pendant lamp is really pretty awesome. It's so futuristic and whimsical. If I had a living room, this would totally be in it. Or over a dining table.
3. I am so into this gray Karlstad sofa. The lines of this sofa are so clean, simple and modern. And I've decided that when I have a living room, I want a gray couch and yellow accents. This couch as the perfect gray. Plus, it has a little bit of texture, which is perfect! Gray is such an awesome color -- I'm really into gray lately. The color pairing possibilities are endless!
4. This pillow is so colorful and happy! The print has somewhat of a tropical feel to it, but not super tropical, like palm trees. A subtle tropical quality. And I just love that green.
5. This little side table is so cute! I love the curved legs and the fact that there are two surfaces for things. This is an important quality in furniture.
6. I am so into rattan lately too. Hm, the tropical pillow, the rattan chairs -- is my subconscious trying to tell me something? Anyhow -- I love the natural color and quality of rattan and this chair is super comfy. It's big enough to curl up in -- also a highly important factor in furniture.
7. These plates. Oh, how I love these plates! The pattern is so much fun and whimsical, and the light green color is just so pretty. These would look gorgeous on a dark, rustic wooden farm table or on a super sleek, modern white table. Versatile!
I'm planning on another Ikea trip tomorrow. We'll see if I can stop myself again from buying the whole store. I'm not making any promises!
I was surprised at how shockingly well this gingerbread came out. It is the best gingerbread cake I have ever eaten. Seriously. I think I'm going to have to make this every year for Christmas. I was a bit skeptical about making a gluten-free-vegan cake. But I didn't want to leave out my vegan-dieted cousin (vegan-dieted? Is that even a term?) And I really wanted to be able to eat it too. Thus, a gluten-free-vegan gingerbread cake was born. And, omigosh. It. Was. Good. It came out nothing like I was expecting. I was fully prepared for this experiment to go awry and end up with a dry, dense, crumbly, tasteless gingerbread. But, no. Oh no. This was the exact opposite. Instead, I ended up with a gloriously moist cake with a perfect texture and consistency. Not too light, not too dense. Perfectly in the middle. It smelled absolutely delicious baking in the oven -- the house smelled exactly like Christmas should with warm cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. I think one of the key elements to this gingerbread cake is the lemon zest -- when you dig into the deliciousness, there's just this hint of lemon that goes so perfectly with the ginger. Oh so good. Just writing about it is making me crave a piece. I think that I'm not going to be able to wait until next Christmas to make some more; I might just have to make another cake like right now.
By the way, did you know that it is thought that gingerbread was invented by the Greeks in 2800 BC? Those Greeks. They were so inventive. However, the original meaning of the word gingerbread was quite different than what we think of today. Okay, etymology lesson of the day: gingerbread comes from the Latin word zingiber (meaning ginger) and the Old French word gingebras. Both of these simply referred to preserved ginger. But you can see how it evolved into gingerbread and the delicious cake we all know and love! All right, lesson over. Onto the recipe!
Best Gingerbread Ever vegan, gluten free, soy free recipe from Vegetarian Times, adapted to make gluten free
2½ cups all purpose gluten free flour (I like to use Bob's Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup nonhydrogenized vegetable shortening (Spectrum's Organic All Vegetable Shortening is fantastic -- and soy free!)
½ cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cup molasses
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 cup of boiling water
First, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Sift the gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and cloves in a large bowl. Then, beat the shortening with either a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer until it's all nice and smooth. Slowly add in the brown sugar and lemon zest to the shortening and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then, slowly add the mixture of dry ingredients and beat until smooth. In a glass bowl, mix the molasses and vinegar together. Then, stir in 1 cup of boiling water. Slowly add the molasses mixture into the batter. Once that's all set, pour the batter in the parchment-paper lined pan. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test (toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Let the cake cool a bit, then dig in! This cake is even more delicious with some whipped topping. If you're vegan and not concerned about soy, use some soy whip! Or you're vegan and you are concerned about soy/can't have dairy products or soy, then try some rice whip. Or, if you're not concerned at all with what type of topping you put on this delicious gingerbread cake, go for the Cool Whip. Or Reddi Whip. Whatever floats your boat. A lemon sauce would also be delicious! Dig in and enjoy!
So, last week, I saw Les Miserables with my best friend and one of her friends. Oh. My. Gosh. I loved it. I have been so excited for this movie, and it definitely lived up to expectations. I make it sound like I've been waiting for this movie for forever. I actually had no clue they were turning Les Mis into a movie until I saw a commercial for it on TV like a month ago. Maybe even more recent than that. That's what living in your own little grad school bubble will do. Well, I'm all done with grad school now, so I shouldn't have any excuses about not having a clue of what's going on in the outside world. Maybe there's a residual bubble post-graduation. ANYWAY. Loved the movie. I know that it hasn't received the greatest reviews, but shhh. Ignore the reviews. Hugh Jackman -- that man can do anything.
Afterwards, I was totally inspired to create a Les Mis-inspired wedding board. I know -- you're like what? How can such a bleak and serious story inspire a wedding? Well, it was really Cosette's dress from the wedding scene. I wanted to take that and bring it into the 21st century. Think really ethereal and romantic, traditional styles mixed with modern!
First post of the year! Woo! 2013 -- here we are! Has anyone made any good new year's resolutions? I can't even remember the last time I did. I do remember back in elementary school, we had to write down a list of resolutions. I can't remember any of them. And I probably never actually did any of them either. I'm just so not good at making and keeping resolutions. Maybe one year I resolved to floss my teeth on a regular basis. I still don't floss my teeth on a regular basis. I'll floss my teeth for like a week, and then I'll decide to skip a day, and then it's all downhill from there. Maybe that should be my new year's resolution. I know a couple of years I've also resolved to exercise more. Pffftt. Exercise. And now here I am, posting a decadent dessert after all sorts of holiday feasting. Yup. Exercise? What. Naahhh. What you need is chocolate. You just can't go without chocolate. Plus, cocoa powder is good for you! Really. Promise. PLUS the raspberry also adds an extra boost of nutrition -- right? Raspberries are full of vitamin C and high in polyphenol antioxidants. See? Healthy. We'll just ignore all the sugar that goes into it.
Actually, I did make this flourless chocolate cake and raspberry sauce for our Christmas dinner dessert (along with a gluten-free vegan gingerbread cake -- you'll be seeing that soon!) And since my uncle is diabetic, this dessert is sugar free! (Well, sort of.) I used a mixture of stevia and agave nectar in the raspberry sauce, and stevia replaced the granulated sugar in the cake. This is just getting healthier by the second!
4 oz of Enjoy Life semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of Earth Balance Soy Free spread
3/4 cup stevia (you might want to use less, perhaps 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
16 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup stevia
1/4 agave nectar (any kind)
1/4 cup water For the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 inch cake pan (I used a spring form pan, which I think may have been a 9 inch. This resulted in a very thin, almost torte-like cake. You can certainly do this, just take the cake out of the oven sooner. You can also certainly use a regular cake pan as well. That is all. Now back to the recipe.) In a double boiler, or, like I did, a glass bowl set on a saucepan with simmering water, melt the chocolate and the Earth Spread, stirring together. Once it's all melted and and smooth, remove from the stovetop and whisk in the stevia. (You can definitely use regular sugar if you want. I would actually use less stevia next time. I simply subbed in the stevia for the sugar 1:1. However, I felt that the taste of the stevia was a little overpowering, and I think I would probably use 1/2 cup or even 1/3 cup next time. Okay, back to the recipe again!) Whisk in the eggs. Sift the cocoa powder over the mixture and whisk that in as well. Pour the batter into the pan and place it in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until there is a thin crust on top of the cake. (If you're using a 9 inch pan or spring form pan, you may want to check the cake around 15 - 20 minutes into baking.)
For the raspberry sauce: Combine the raspberries, stevia, agave nectar, and water in a saucepan. Mix it all around and bring the saucepan to a simmer, continuing to stir. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce has reduced down a bit. Let cool, and then drizzle over flourless chocolate cake and dig in! This sauce would also be awesome on ice cream or lemon cake. Or pancakes! Or waffles! Mmmm!