Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mini-adventure - North Park Village Nature Center, a photo essay

North Park Village Nature Center, fall leaves, pond
I have been participating in an on-line photo mentoring group, Photo Forte, and each month there is a theme to photograph, share, and critique.  October has the relevant theme of Trees.  On a beautiful fall day I took myself to the North Park Village Nature Center, where I knew I would have abundant tree subject matter. 
The Nature Center is an idyllic setting within Chicago.  There are few places in the city where you can walk upon a trail.  The preserve isn't that big, you'll still hear traffic from the nearby roads.  But it is secluded enough to feel a respite from the urban environment.  Deer and other wildlife are abundant.     
Read about the interesting history of the property and get other details at the Park District website.  To get there, it will be easiest if you drive or bike.  You could also get there by Peterson or Pulaski bus, and walk into the preserve.  Expect to leave feeling renewed!   

North Park Village Nature Center, tree macro
North Park Village Nature Center, tree macro

North Park Village Nature Center, trees B&W

North Park Village Nature Center, log, fungi

North Park Village Nature Center, leaves

North Park Village Nature Center, fall leaves, lone tree

 North Park Village Nature Center, macro
 North Park Village Nature Center, shadows
North Park Village Nature Center, milkweed pod

North Park Village Nature Center, fall stuff

North Park Village Nature Center, fall stuff
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Brown Butter Oatmeal Raisin Apple Cookies (no sugar added, gluten free)

Adam and I have been trying to not eat refined sugar.  Adam is doing great, he's got strong will power, and wasn't as such a sugar hound as I am.  Let's just say I'm making progress.  We still both enjoy a little nibble of something sweet after meals.  Of course fruit is a nice option, especially an apple with almond butter.  Going into fall it is nice to have a baked good.  This cookie is based on the vegan oatmeal cookie recipe going around Facebook, attributed to Perez Hilton.  

I wanted something a little more cookie-like in texture, and thus the added eggs and baking soda.  Recipe can easily be dairy free by eliminating the butter entirely, or by using coconut or another oil.  Other oils will not brown as butter does.  Use a little water if the apples stick before releasing their own moisture.  And, of course, you're welcome to use another nut, or none at all.

I'm going to work on a pumpkin version next. 

Bon appetite!


Brown Butter Oatmeal Apple Banana Cookies

1 tablespoon butter
2 small apples, small dice (not a tart apple like Granny Smith)
1 cup pecans, chopped   
½ cup raisins
2 bananas (ripe), mashed
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup almond milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1-½ teaspoons cinnamon, divided
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ teaspoons Kosher salt, divided

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone mat.
  • Melt butter in skillet and cook until brown and fragrant.  Be careful not to burn!  Add apples; season with ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon cinnamon.  Cook until softened but still intact, about 10 minutes.  
  • Toast pecans, set aside and cool.
  • Toast oats, set aside and cool.
  • In a bowl, combine apples, oats, pecans, and all remaining ingredients.
  • Place dough on pans using a portion scoop (#20) or two spoons.  Cookies can be rather close together, dough will not spread.  Lightly pat the tops to make a flatter cookie, and gently shape any errant bits.  
  • Bake 15-20 minutes.
  • Cool on pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Store in a sealed container.