Blueberry Yogurt Coffee Cake

One morning I woke up with a lot of yogurt in the fridge, and some frozen blueberries in the freezer. And the taste of the cinnamon/brown sugar filling from my cinnamon buns in my mind. How could I combine all of these into one breakfast treat?

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Morning treats for my sewing ladies!

I can’t really remember if I looked at other recipes as a jumping off place for this recipe, but here is what I came up with. I think its tasty enough to serve to “regular people,” and yet low enough in calories that I can enjoy it any day of the week. Click here to see the recipe. 

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The Lemon Tree and the Dog

**WARNING: dessert talk ahead**

My mom and I used to be best friends. And then we weren’t. And if you used to watch Oprah, and you believe what the experts on that show said, its not healthy for mother and daughter to be best friends. I remember hearing that, and understanding what the expert meant.

Over many years, my mom and I have worked on repairing (restoring?) our relationship. Its been trial and error. Help has come from unexpected places. One of the few things my mom and I have in common is our love of plants. So that is always a safe bet for birthday/mother’s day presents. A couple of years ago, I got her a little Meyer lemon tree. I wanted one myself, but it freezes in the winter up here, and since she lives in the bay area, I knew she would have good luck with it. Sure enough, her very first year, she had a nice little crop of Meyer lemons in January. She harvested them and then gave them to me. I told her I would make her some lemon goodies. This turned out to be such a fun thing for both of us. It gave me the rare opportunity to do some traditional baking, and try new recipes, and she got the benefit of some very delicious homemade lemon treats. This year she had an even bigger crop. There were enough to make three lemon desserts. I googled “Meyer lemon recipes,” and chose a Meyer lemon cake, a Meyer lemon pie, and these wonderful, Lemon Creme Crumb bars. 

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Cooking the lemons for the cake.

The cake is so interesting, because it has an almond meal base, and you actually cook the lemons and then process them whole (except the seeds) into a paste that you use in the cake batter. It was a delicious, dense and moist cake. Very sweet, but to me it did have a bit of a sour taste. I think it would depend on how sensitive you are to “sour.”

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The pie is one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever seen. Most of the time you have to cook the lemon custard or curd, and then put it in the pre-baked pie crust. This one you just combine the four ingredients (lemon juice, sugar, butter, and eggs) in a blender, and pour into the unbaked pie crust. I used my large muffin tin to make six small “pies.” Yumm.

The Crumb bars is a repeat–a recipe I made with last year’s harvest of lemons. So ridiculously decadent. I had so much fun baking. And especially that each recipe came out very successfully. I save one or two pieces of each for myself, and box the rest up to take down to my mom. The whole thing feels like a project for the two of us to work on together.

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About a year ago, I started worrying about what my mom would do when her old cat died. She doesn’t actually deal very well with death and grief. So one day, at our local shelter, I saw that they had a little Pug/Chihuahua cross. I had actually met a couple of little dogs of this cross, and they had delightful personalities. So I asked my mom if she would consider adopting her. I guaranteed her that if it didn’t work out, I would take the dog myself (all the while hoping against hope that it WOULD work out!)

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My favorite picture–a mutual admiration society!

Well, not only has that little dog changed her life for the better (they walk a couple of times a day, and my reclusive mom has made so many friends in the park that she lives in, its almost unbelievable!,) but it has also been another thing for us to connect about. I get to hear almost daily about how this is the best dog in the whole wide world, and about her antics, and about how much she loves my mom, and how much my mom loves her. I don’t mind. If she doesn’t write for a day or two, I write and ask for a “Boopsie report.” It has really given us common ground for communication.

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The picture my mom approves–a little more dignified.

 

Food

Since I’ve been home for a bit, I’ve gotten a little creative in the kitchen. I had broccoli and some pre-cooked bacon in the fridge, and it reminded me of that yummy broccoli salad. So I put together my own version of it, using yogurt instead of mayonnaise, and counting the calories. So yummy. I ate all four servings of it (one at a time:) ) so you know it was good. It keeps really well for several days. Here’s a link to the recipe. 

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I found a little more of that 85% dark chocolate in the pantry, and made some walnut-raisin clusters. I just weigh out each ingredient and add up the calories, and then make as many clusters as I need to end up with the right amount of calories per cluster. In this case, I ended up with 8 nice sized clusters for 100 calories each. I put it on popcorn so you could see what size they are. Since the chocolate is so intense, this is a very satisfying portion.

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I also whipped up a batch of my “Winter Fruit Salad” for the sewing ladies that came over this week. That is a really really good recipe. And of course you can vary the amount and types of fruit you include.

Butternut squash! I got a big one at the store, and I made butternut squash “fries” (baked) and had plenty left over to make some of my mac and cheese with butternut squash. There was still some left over, so tonight I am going to combine that with some onion and potato and chicken breast and MARSALA SPICE!! Yum yum yum. Thanks again to Lori for gifting me with that wonderful spice blend.

Oh, and an example of a recipe that’s not quite what it seems… I bought a package of chia/flax seed blend, and they had a recipe for one of those one minute muffins on it. It was pretty calorie dense–about 350 calories–but I decided to try it this morning. It came out so pretty that I took a picture of it.

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Then I tried it. VERY dry and not worthy. I put it in the compost pile, and had one of my cinnamon rolls. 200 calories and most worthy:)

A Foodie Report

A few weeks ago, I was enticed by Lori’s report of a crockpot enchilada recipe. I finally made those enchiladas, but I didn’t use the crockpot. Or the recipe. I just winged it. Quite yummy, but not exactly low calorie. About 200 calories per enchilada, but so far I’m eating them two at a time… I like them best with some fresh tomatoes and romaine lettuce.

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I was writing some recipe blogs for The Quilt Show, and got some good pictures for that. Here’s my take on strawberry pancakes. Perfectly legit “diet” breakfast. Only about 250 calories for these yummy protein pancakes topped with fresh strawberries, and a few mashed strawberries mixed with SF syrup.

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Here’s another take on the frozen yogurt granola bars. This time with granola, fresh peaches, frozen cherries, and a few walnuts and chocolate chips for good measure.

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The great pumpkin season has started! I made my first batch of Pumpkin Custard a couple of nights ago. At 100 calories per serving, its good for dessert, a snack, or even breakfast. And the house smells DELICIOUS  while its baking. Oh, and I also tried Diane’s recipe for baked apple slices. Totally indulgent. And you get the good house smell as well.

Tonight I made pizza. I always make it the same way. I use the Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough, measure out the toppings, and keep a running count of the calories, and then divide by the number of slices I cut. It usually comes out to about 200 calories per slice. And as I said on Helen’s blog, I had a mini-food tantrum (c. Helen) and ate two slices of pizza for dinner, skipped the salad. There were lots of veggies on that pizza:) (this one had mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, fresh tomato slices, and basil, with fresh mozzarella and a sprinkle of asiago cheese.)

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Sophie loves food too, and has to work at keeping that svelte figure. Recently she changed from eating pink flowers to snacking in the herb garden in an attempt to increase her daily greens.

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Its very fun to be creative with food! Have a great weekend–get in the kitchen and try something new!

Saturday Fun Day

Shelley mentioned on her blog that she was going to run 9 miles on Saturday, and that that would allow her guilt-free lazing around the rest of the day. That appealed to me. Yes, the guilt free lazing, not the running:) So I estimated that it would take me at least 2 hours 15 minutes to run/walk 9 miles, if I was even able to do that, and decided that I would spend that much time working out in the gym.

Of course, I didn’t get up at o’dark o’clock, like Shelley does when she runs. First, I had to try out a new recipe idea I’d been wanting to try for a while. I wanted to make some strawberry scones, using my basic Bare Bones Scones recipe. But strawberries get too juicy when you bake with them. So I had the idea to semi-dry them the night before. I just cut them into little pieces, and put them on a baking sheet in the oven with the oven light on for the night. That worked out splendidly! The strawberry pieces were a bit dryer, and the scones were delicious, IMO. Sometimes I eat them with plain yogurt and pretend it is clotted cream.

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Okay, so then I was ready to go to the gym. But I made the mistake of checking the garden first. Two days without water, and there were some plants I could not ignore. While I moved the hose from place to place, I made good use of my time, and scrubbed the bathroom down, and then made some fresh salsa, motivated by Helen’s salsa blog! I love shrimp salsa, and decided that that would be my special dinner after my big day at the gym.

Finally, I got off to the gym. So fun to not limit my workout time. I spent 30 minutes on the bike, then went upstairs worked out on the weight machines. Back downstairs, and did some more aerobic work on something called a NuStep–kinda a cross between a rowing machine and an elliptical, only recumbent. Then, it was out to the pool, where I did 20 minutes of swimming, and then finished with 30 minutes of pool running. Its not as intense as running 9 miles, but it sure did feel like a good workout.

I did kind of laze for the rest of the day, but since I got such a late start to the gym, it was 3 pm by the time I got home. I treated myself to a new-to-me knitting pattern, and started a new shawl/scarf (copied this from Shelley too!)

Here’s my shrimp salsa. If I don’t have the little salad shrimp in the freezer, I just cut the big ones into bite sized chunks. So yummy. But, note to self, I simply cannot make good chips myself. They always come out either burned or chewy.

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And just like Lori, who bikes for cupcakes, I decided to end my day with a sweet treat. I made a single iced sugar cookie. Most worthy.

It was a super fun day. I’m hoping I will make this more of a regular occurrence on Saturdays.

In the Garden

I still have a few plants in pots. Sometimes the big common Japanese maple sends up seedlings. I like to put these in pots and grow them, and then give most of them away. One of them had grown quite large, and was in a pot on top of a stump. One day last week I walked out into the garden to find that it had just somehow fallen off of its stump, and I could see that it was very root-bound and really needed to come out of the pot. MLG to the rescue. It is now planted in a nice mostly shady spot along the front fence line.

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He also put this heavenly bamboo into the ground this week.

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MLG did a bit more stonework in the garden. And trimmed up some branches that were laying on the roof. All that to say that he left the ladder up, which gave me the urge to take some new “aerial shots” of the garden. But first, here are a few bouquets I made.

This one I made just because the rose was on a stem so high that I wouldn’t even be able to see the flower when it bloomed! I’m glad I brought it into the house. It has a wonderful scent. Thanks to Jeannie, I remembered to add a bit of greenery to this bouquet:)

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And I cut the sunflowers just because they were flopping upside down, so I get to see them right side up this way.

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Here are the aerial shots. You can see the Japanese maple on the left either got too much sun, or too much water, or too little water. They all result in dried leaves.

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I am on the ladder here, pretty much right outside my bedroom window, so this flower garden is what I get to see when I wake up. I love it!

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And now I moved the ladder up to the top of the garden, where the “dog house” is. The dogwood tree on the right is doing very well. Hoping for some blooms in the spring. And the bigger Japanese maple in front of the house is the one that started this whole garden project. It is doing very well this year.
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Just scanning a bit to the left, you can see the row of Japanese maples, and the row of hydrangeas.

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I moved the ladder outside the front fence to try to get a view of the front beds. Here you can see the little apple tree on the left, and the bigger flowering cherry on the right. In the middle is a fringe plant, and behind it is the Camperdown Elm, which is a very interesting tree. I have not got a good picture of it yet.

Oh, and you can see the new little bed that was created by MLG’s stonework. I used to have pots of plants lined up against this fence. I am thinking about putting an herb garden in here. That’s what I already had in the pots.

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And waiting for MLG–more stones!! I stopped by a real rock place, and discovered that I did not have to buy a ton at a time. These are sandstone and quartzite. I love them. Yes, I did unload 575 pounds of stones out of my car by myself:) And I am going to get another 500 pounds or so next week.

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A few weeks ago, I re-connected with my old trainer–remember, she was also the one who had the healthy gourmet food business? Anyway, turns out she loves gardening even more than me, I think. So I invited her over to see my garden, and she mentioned it was her birthday. Oh my. A legitimate reason to bake a cake:) There have been great peaches at the farmer’s market this year, and there used to be a local baker who would bring these “Armenian” cakes to sell at the Farmer’s market. I would buy one, and eat it with the fresh peaches. Internet to the rescue. I googled Armenian cake, and chose this recipe. I only changed two things. I added lemon zest, because I thought that would go well with the peaches, and I sub’d homemade strained whole milk yogurt for the sour cream. This was a simple cake to bake, and SO delicious. It really is very great with fresh fruit–I served it with slices of white and yellow peaches. Some whipped cream would be a nice addition. But you know, a bit of concession to healthy living, right?

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Have a fun and healthy weekend! I plan to hit the gym once or twice, and am enjoying lots of great fresh fruits and veggies.

 

Some Eats, and Some Garden Treats

As far as the garden goes, part of me feels like we are on the never-ending death march towards fall. I am hopeful that I can keep all the Japanese maples watered well enough so that I get some fall color this year. I’m pruning back most of the flowers in the hopes that I’ll get some fresh blooms. I’m contemplating putting in a drip system. Almost every day I spend some time watering, and soaking the trees. I put the hose on very low by a tree, and run back in the house and set the timer for 20 or 30 minutes. I’m thinking about whether I want to add more stone paths or more beds. There’s a little more room out there! MLG says we are due for a La Nina this fall. I don’t particularly like rain, but I would welcome some water to fill up my well (I don’t really know how that works, but I think it will help.) In the meantime, the weather is heading back up to over 100 degrees by the weekend.

I’ve been enjoying little mini-bouquets. Petunias actually last a long time as cut flowers!

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And here’s that white daylily. Surrounded by the forest of fairy impatiens. I’ve learned a bit about self-seeding plants this year. I only had 2 fairy impatiens last year, in two different locations. I was so excited to have so many little seedlings in the spring, that I let most of them grow. That was too much! They have done well, and are very pretty. But there are places where the plants below them are not getting any sun at all. I have started ruthlessly weeding some of them out.

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Here’s a new recipe I developed, Blueberry Protein Coffee Cake. I really like it, and its a good source of protein for a breakfast cake. The recipe inspiration was Georgie’s Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake. I love it filled with blueberries, and decided I didn’t need the cinnamon streusel at all.

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And I know you won’t believe it, but I never buy raw shrimp. I just buy the ones that are already cooked. Lately those have been rather pricey, so when I saw these raw shrimps on sale, I bought them. Oh, yum yum. I just put five shrimpies in a sandwich bag with some mashed garlic and a teaspoon of olive oil. I cooked them on a little cast iron pan, which I think helps with getting that nice crust on them.

Here I served them over some veggies and some of those edamame noodles.  BTW, those edamame noodles are so good, but very dry. I still need to find some way to serve them that does not involve a bucket of olive oil. Any ideas?

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My favorite meal this summer is taco salad. Ever since Cammy shared Pancho’s Tropical salad dressing recipe (which I adjusted for my own needs) I can’t get enough of it. I think I really like the taste of cumin. And of course, it is a bit sweet. I bought some turkey burger patties at Costco that I didn’t particularly like. They worked perfect for turning into the taco meat. (I just use the packaged taco seasoning.) As you know, there are a ton of things that you can add to taco salad, but most of the time I opt for these simple ingredients. (if I have cilantro in the fridge, I like to add that too.) I chop them up, put them in the big bowl, and dress them with that salad dressing, and then dump the taco meat on top. Here is a link to my version of the tropicale dressing. 

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And that’s just about all the news that’s fit to print around here. I spend a lot of time every day in the studio, working on my art. Click on over to The Other Blog, if you want to see what’s new.