Malpils Manor , A Romantic Getaway

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When my husband and I got to deliver a wedding cake to Malpils Manor back in March I never dreamed I myself would get to be there celebrating our own marriage.

This Christmas we celebrated 10 years of married life and though I knew my husband was planning a surprise, I had no idea where.

He told me I had to bring fancy clothing; and not knowing how fancy I took 4 dresses with me for our overnight mini vacation.

The older 3 kids were taken to a friend’s home and we headed out for lunch with the baby and made our way to our destination which was for me still unknown. I had a few ideas- but was very surprised when we meandered our way through the countryside to end up arriving at the manor from the back. Smart man- I would have known much early had he driven familiar roads.

The whole experience at the manor was like stepping into a fairytale movie for me. I felt so special, and pampered by my husband.

Our room was so elegant, and luxurious!The whole manor is beautiful boasting a large collection of paintings which we were allowed to admire at leisure. (The blanket is a bit rumpled since I didn’t make as nicely as they did and forgot to take a photo the first evening).

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The whole place was so quiet- I felt like they were open for us exclusively, which as it turns out was almost true.  But not quite.  . but they aren’t usually open Mondays 🙂

After we had looked at the paintings and taken a walk to get our baby to sleep I dressed for dinner. I was glad I had brought an evening dress along.

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Compliments of the Chef

We had a fantastic dinner, with a very courteous waiter. I chose the pheasant, which was scrumptious! We also were brought some delightful bread, and this sampler of various tastes- compliments of the chef.

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Pheasant

We throughly enjoyed our dinner- and despite being full we wanted to taste their homemade icecream, delicious!

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Malpils Icecream

The next morning we awoke to snow- which made our morning so much more special since it 1000x times better than mud.

Breakfast was beautifully laid, generous and very delightful! Since a wedding was to take place later in the day there were alot more people buzzing about which made the quiet evening prior that much more memorable!

We had a lovely walk around the premises outside with out baby in the pram while enjoying the snow and taking photos.

I highly recommend Malpils Manor if you are looking for a romantic place to spend a weekend, or celebrate your special occasion.

The food was fantastic. 5 stars

The atmosphere enchanting. 5 stars

The service also was top notch for us! 5 stars

The romantic package is a lovely way to spoil your parter, complete with candles to light in their elegant rooms, and a fruit tray with sparkling wine later in the evening.  I don’t know if all of their rooms are equally lovely, but ours was magnificent!

Perhaps I am overly generous in my praise- but you should go ahead and check it out for yourself. I went a way feeling like I had stepped into a romantic movie, only this time I was the one in it, not the one watching it.

5 stars for my husband for spoiling me and reminding me he can be romantic, even 4 kids and 10 years in married life!

Malpils Manor Webpage

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Debesmanna, a Latvian dessert

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From the time I was a little girl growing up in an American home in the USA but with a Latvian Dad and Grandparents I feel like I knew something about or had heard of this dessert. My Grandma always told how in her childhood they had whipped it with a spoon, which took forever and made it VERY special!

Personally I always loved the name of it, because debesmanna  translates perfectly from the Bible as manna from heaven. In other words the bread God sent the Israelites to provide their daily needs.

This dessert has nothing to do with bread, but is a fruit juice based, cream of wheat dessert, which though it seems like a strange combination whips up into a delightfully light, airy dessert which is served with milk.

When my family lived in Latvian in the 90s a Latvian lady came over to teach me how to make this for our family. Usually this is made from red berries- either wild cranberries, red currants, or some other sour berry. I use frozen rhubarb regularly with a handful of red currants thrown in to give it the customary pink color.

The recipe below is graciously provided by my friend Gunta; with my notes and photos. Thanks Gunta for sharing! If you want it in Latvian click HERE

Ingredients x 10 of original recipe because we have kids and they love this  🙂

350 g. cranberries or another sour fruit or berry.

1 liter of water

250 g. sugar

150 g. cream of wheat

Method:

  • Rinse berries if need be. Cover with the water and bring to boil. Boil until they are soft.
  • Pour thru a sieve and use back of spoon to get as much juice as possible from the berries.
  • Return the juice to the pot and add sugar, stir to dissolve. Bring to boil.
  • Whisk in cream of wheat stirring constantly so as to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil while stirring. Remove from heat. Cool.
  • Pour into a stand mixing bowl and whip till light and fluffy. It will become much lighter in color and texture. If it isn’t sweet enough you can add more sugar at this point. I usually make it with less and my husband always seems to sweeten it up at this point 🙂
  • Serve in bowls or decorative cups with milk poured over it.
  • Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Cheese Sandwiches- Latvian Style

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When I first was getting to know my good friend who would later become my Latvian host for a whopping 14 months she made these quick cheesy bread snacks. I loved them then and love them now.

They are easy and fast. filling and great to take along. You don’t need a recipe for these- so here is the process in photos.

  1. Layer a baking tray with slices of bread. As many as you think you and your family/friends will eat.

Preparing the slices

2.  Grate cheese (any kind will do or a mix is even better) Grate at least 300-400 grams if you plan on doing a whole sheet of sandwiches. You will need more cheese or less cheese depending on how many slices of bread you are using.

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3.   Add eggs. I used  3 for this 9 slices of bread . Again it depends on how much cheese. You can also add chopped chives, or dill or a bit of mayo or other spices to this. Doctor it up the way your taste buds desire 🙂

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4.  Stir and spread on bread.

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5.   Bake in the oven on 180-200 degrees C (350-375 F)

Cheese bread Latvian style

6.   Remove from oven when golden.

Latvian cheese sandwich snack

7. Enjoy !

Did you make this recipe?

How did you like it? How did you doctor yours up? Share in the comments 🙂

Tomato Soup with Meatballs

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Winter has come early here in Latvia- usually we do not get snow before my birthday in mid November . But we have had it since the beginning of the month here and soup season has officially started in my book.

I love having soup and fresh bread and have already made that meal twice this week. Having a new baby makes soup an easy reheatable leftovers meal and I sure appreciate that now with four kids 🙂

I was very excited to snag a new soup magazine at the store last week with 50 recipes to try- they look easy and practical. I adapted this one and am translating it into English for you here with my notes.

This recipe is from the Ievas Magazine Soups- November edition

Ingredients:

400 g tomato pieces in juice (I used 700 g of frozen tomatoes)

200 ml. water or broth ( I used a bit more. I also added a few tablespoons of tomato sauce/paste I had open)

300 g. ground beef

1 stalk of celery chopped

1 onion chopped

1 clove of garlic, chopped

2 carrots, grated

150 g. frozen peas ( I used green beans instead because that is what i have and my kids prefer beans over peas)

1 small zucchini grated

1 egg

1t.balsamic vinegar

3 T. bread crumbs

Salt, pepper, garlic powder (my edition)

Sour cream, dill, green onions for garnish

Method:

  1. Chop veges and cook in a bit of oil (not including beans or peas)
  2. Add tomatoes and water or broth.Boil about 30 min till tomatoes start to dissolve.
  3. While the soup is boiling prepare meatballs. Mix meat, salt, pepper, bread crumbs and egg.Stir or mix with hands to make a well blended mass.
  4. When soup has boiled 30 min- remove from heat and use a hand blender or stand blender to puree. Be careful- this is HOT.
  5. Return to boiling and drop meatballs into broth, add frozen peas or beans. Cook for at least 10 min. more until meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
  6. Serve and garnish.

My older kids; ages 8 and 6 and my husband and I really enjoyed this soup. My 4 year old always turns up his nose at soup- but did eat it in the end. I liked that I snuck the zucchini into their stomachs without them knowing.

Let me know how you like this soup!

Stay warm and enjoy your day!

What kind of soup do you LOVE?

Coping With Gestational Diabetes

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Despite the fact that I was diagnosed with only BORDERLINE diabetes, I was encouraged to live as if I really did have diabetes.

I was really sad to discover I needed to make such drastic changes to my diet. But I also felt this was a good time to make some perhaps much needed changes. Afterall I am a baker and that alone says that sometimes there are too many sweets passing through our lives.

From the moment I was diagnosed I entirely cut sugar out of my diet. This was easier than I expected in some regards- but watching out for it showing up in various things took more work than I had thought.

My friend and dietitian sent me LOTS of information and charts on what I could and couldn’t eat. The first days and weeks were the most difficult as it felt like I couldn’t eat anything.

I also bought a glucose meter so that I could measure my blood sugar at home.

I came to learn what I could eat and was able to keep my sugar levels very good because I took this all very seriously and wasn’t willing to risk my baby’s health.

For breakfast I usually ate:

  • 1-2 eggs (boiled, fried or scrambled)
  • sliced tomatoes from my garden
  • a wholegrain cracker or wholegrain rye bread with cheese

My snacks were:

  • nuts
  • a bit of dried fruit on occasion.
  • blueberries
  • sugar-free peanut butter on a whole grain cracker

My meals were very simple, I ate a lot of buckwheat as it was one of the staples I was given free rein to eat. I ate some noodles, and brown rice and lots of meat and salads!

I learned a few things about myself during these restrictions and things that I simply cannot live without in my diet. Those things are peanut butter and cheese. I don’t need sugar in my peanut butter- but there is just something about it that satisfies my craving for something sweet.

I tried a lot of natural or semi-natural sweetenerss while on this diet. Those included were Stevia, Truvia, and Natvia. I must say that I didn’t like any of them or the taste they had or the aftertaste though in a pinch for cake Natvia/Truvia were the better options. Stevia made my tea/coffee so nasty I just poured it out.

Being able to go on a sugar strike for 6-8 or more weeks was very empowering to me. I felt like if I could do this then I was going to be ready to have my baby once more on my own with my strength of mind and body.

Have you had to give up sugar? How did you cope?

 

 

On the Brink – Gestational Diabetes

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In late July I had my standard blood tests made. My glucose levels were too high, so I was sent in for the sugar tolerance test. I specifically avoided sugar before this test- thinking perhaps I had just overdone it with the sugar- as I know I have a weakness to do.  I was apx. 32 weeks when I had the sugar tolerance test done.

Here in Latvia the test is done a bit differently than from what I have heard about it from my sister-in-law in the USA. I headed to the pharmacy early that morning to get the 75g. of glucose I would have to drink for my test. I had to arrive having eaten nothing since the evening before. Upon arriving at the lab my blood was drawn and then she mixed the glucose powder with one small glass of water and told me to down in less than 5 minutes. Whew! That was hard!

I was sent to wait for one hour whereupon I had to return to the lab and have my blood drawn again. The first 30 minutes of waiting were by far the worst- because I started feeling nauseous and I wasn’t allowed to drink anything. By the one hour mark I was feeling a little more normal. I had my blood drawn and was sent to wait one more hour for the final blood drawing.

I was so relieved when the whole ordeal was over and my husband and I met for a lunch date- a rare treat for us!

I was at the zoo with my kids the next day when I got the results of my test. I was very disappointed to learn I was on the borderline for gestational diabetes and even though I DIDN”T have it I had to live and eat like I did so that I wouldn’t cross the border. I was given some suggestions as to what to avoid and told I could contact a dietitian to find out more what I couldnt and couldn’t eat.

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Banana Chocolate Muffins

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So lately I am on a healthier baking kick- in the near future I hope to share the why behind that. But yesterday I stumbled across this recipe and my 6 year old and I whipped it up because recently we have been on a healthy muffin baking roll.

Let’s just say our whole family LOVED these- even the batch I forgot to put the sugar in- they can seriously do without the sugar with all those yummy bananas and chocolate- and the batch I did put the sugar in I used 1/2 of what it calls for and they were fantastic.

So thanks to Chelsea of the Messy Apron for a fantastic recipe.

My notes:

  • I used kefirs instead of Greek yogurt- because it was what I had at home and I use it often in muffins. They were very moist- and delicious.
  • I used half of the required sugar or less- they were perfect.
  • I used corn oil rather than coconut- I am not a fan of eating coconut oil as it is rather too rich for my stomach. Though I LOVE using it on my skin.

With all of these adjustments they were divine and I will be making them again as soon as I get another sour milk product in the house.

I didn’t even get a photo they dissapeared so fast to here is her photo and by clicking on it you will get her recipe. Thanks Chelsea!

Delicious "bakery style" GREEK YOGURT chocolate banana muffins made healthier

 

 

Latest Cakes from my Kitchen

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Due to some health restrictions the last 6 weeks I have been trying my hand at some new recipes without sugar or with various sugar substitutes. This was a vegan cake I made- with lots of coconut oil, cashews, bee bread (not sure what you call that in English) and raspberries. I had long wanted to try this recipe- as it was one of the recipes of last years cake contestants that advanced. It was interesting,  but didn’t suit my fancy and I wouldn’t make it again.

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New York Cheesecake- made with Natvia- a “natural” sugar substitute. My dietician friend recommended I try Natvia- and although I LOVED being able to have cake again I must say I don’t like the taste it leaves it my mouth. But this cake was well received and quickly devoured. So if you are in need of a sugar substitute that is more natural try Natvia or Truvia for those in the USA.

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These decadent cupcakes I made for my guests to take home as favors. They were made with real sugar- and although I couldn’t eat them I was sure excited to get to make and gift them to my friends 🙂

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The three cake choices I served to the ladies- the one closest in the photo was the “real” cake I made for those who wouldn’t enjoy the other two cakes- it was a chocolate mousse cake- one of my personal favorites.  And it was of course the most popular of the three with the cheesecake being a close second and the vegan cake in third place.

One of my girlfriends said the vegan cake was a men’s style cake because it was heavy with all the nuts- and having sent some of the cake home with friends I can attest that at least one man said that was his favorite of the 3.

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Pavlova

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Light and elegant- the perfect showcase for your summer berries and fruits. These were made in honor of my mifewife coming for a vist.

You will need:

1 meringue recipe which has been made into shells or nests ahead of time.

Whipped cream- sweetened and whipped to taste.

Fresh berries and other garnishes

A Scream in the Night- Chicken Journal 3

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I’d like to introduce you to Clara today. Ever since we got our chicken bracelets or markers or whatever those things are called you put around your chicken’s leg we have had names for our chickens. My six-year-old daughter got to name most of them and this one is Clara.

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Clara has always stood out from the rest in that her comb on her head is much larger them all the other chickens and flops to one side. She also seems to just see herself as a boss or queen or the chicken who rules the roost in our coop. She is larger and just plain queenly!

Every evening we let our chickens out for an evening stroll and free range time where they can eat what they want and then they head back to the coop on their own as it gets dark- when my husband closes up the coop for the night.

One night Clara decided to sleep separately in the brick chicken hospital (that is another story) my husband had made and he only realized the next morning she had been there all night. I was relieved all was well and she had survived a night alone.

The next evening she decided again to sleep in the chicken hospital which was open and seemed to want the solitude of being on her own- this time my husband knowingly let her stay there for the night. I was against this idea- thinking a cat might find her there – but what was done was done and he left her there for the night.

It was about 2:30 a.m and I was dreaming about my brother being in town and showing him our chickens when I was yanked from my dream with a scream in the night. I immediately said, “That’s Clara! ” My husband jumped out of bed and ran to our window and then downstairs to see if he could do anything. But it seemed all our hopes were lost with a squawk that loud and far from the coop and chicken hospital she must have been carried away by some large cat. (I wondered about this all night because she is a large chicken and it would have to be a truly large cat to carry her)

Just as my husband was heading out the backdoor she squawked desperately again,  which much to our relief gave him some clue as to where she was.

When my husband returned to bed he told me he had found her next to the coop door and had put her in with the rest- but that it was too dark to see how badly hurt she was.

After a sleepless night we went outdoors to assess the damage and our yard was literally covered in feathers from one end to the other. Kind of hard to see how many there were in this photo- but you get the idea.

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There were even feathers all around the entrance of the coop- sorry this photo is a bit blurry.

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But much to our amazement Clara looked fairly fine. A bit bruised around her comb, far fewer tail feathers, but otherwise alive, well and without any signs of blood or serious injury.

We were so thankful that she survived this ordeal and now 2 weeks later looks back to her normal self!

Our best guess is that a cat dragged her from the chicken hospital, across the yard and then somehow she woke up and ran back to the coop door. From there it must have tried grabbing her again, which was the second squawk we heard near the coop when my husband was running out. Which means he got out there just in the nick of time to scare the cat away from its second attempt at catching our Clara.

So there you have it- the story of Clara- our queen of the roost!