Monday, December 31, 2007

Tick Tock Goes the Clock

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.
Rodin, (1840 - 1917)




Happy (Healthy, Fun & Free) New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chocolate Crown Cake, Patriots & 'Man Rules'

This cake is worth the calories! It's a super moist chocolate pound cake. The glaze is pure chocolate-a mixture of white and semi-sweet chocolate melted on top.

My husband says I am invited to the 'Man Shed' to watch the Football game tonight. It's the Patriots final game of the season and they're playing the Giants. Frankly, I was surprised to get an invite to the 'Man Shed'. When I first heard about this place, I assumed it would be a place I would never get an invite to. So it should be fun.

I made this cake to take along. I hope the 'sugar-buzz' doesn't inspire the men to hold any 'man rule' meetings while I am there.

It does make me wonder though if that beer commercial that Burt Reynolds played in about making 'man-rules' actually happens. If so, I'll have to invite the girls over next week for 'woman rules'.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Inspiration for New Year & Bye Bye 07




This piece is called "George". It is a sculpture my husband made years ago. He has made over 200 pieces and it is one of my all time favorites.


He sold it years back and I can't even remember today who bought it. It's a vanity with a mirror, a small table and drawer. I always think of it when I am in need of a little inspiration. If we hadn't been in need of the cash at the time I never would have let this one get away from us.


I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. People seem to talk about them a lot. I was just in the car and the DJ wanted listener's to call with there resolutions.

But they never seem to stick, so what's the point? As I say bye bye to 07 I will think about some of my accomplishments of this past year. Whatever regrets I have I will (try my best to) leave behind.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Changing Tides, Catch Phrase & Cooling Racks

Tides are the rising and falling of Earth's ocean surface caused by the tidal forces of the Moon and the Sun acting on the oceans.

Rainer Maria Rilke in Letter to a Young Poet wrote,

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answers.

Changing tides gradually reflect the ebb and flow of the water's edge like answers to questions that may come 'along some distant day'.

Every year, I try to find a fun gift to give to the whole family. This year, I bought "Catch Phrase". It's actually a game my mother introduced us to a couple of years ago.
We had company over for a post Christmas dinner last night and had a blast playing this game. You play in teams and pass an electronic hand held game that displays a word in a category you choose.
You try to get your team mates to guess your word without you saying it-only by offering clues. My three year old was so funny. She demanded a turn. Although, she can't yet read.
She understood the game entirely though! We'd give her a turn and she'd dramatically jump to the center of the room holding the game. She'd choose a word on her own not prompted by what it said on the screen. One time she chose the word 'wheel' and very cleverly acted it out. We guessed it in time.
When I think about her I realize she definitely lives by Rilke's idea that the point is to live everything. Like the constantly changing tides I remind myself to be patient with her.

As for what I received for Christmas- a whole new array of baking dishes, cookie sheets, three tier cooling racks, mixing bowls... I can't wait to get into the kitchen to start baking again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Seven Swans-a-Swimming




Merry Christmas!

I took these pictures late this morning from my cell phone camera. So, forgive the quality.
After opening the presents Santa dropped by our tree and having breakfast as a family I got to sneak away to my favorite spot for a long walk. I had to dress warm. I had gloves, a hat, my new long winter coat, two pairs of socks and a sweater over my clothes.

In the little pond on the back side of the walking trail there were actually seven swans swimming in the water. I always catch swans on my walks there-but usually there are two maybe three at most. If you look real close at the picture on the top you can (somewhat) make them out in the distance.



Sunday, December 23, 2007

Baked Goodies for a Baker, Time Management & Snickerdoodles

Friends and neighbors have been dropping by this week and offering delicious and beautiful baked goods. Every time I receive one of these treats the giver always says, "Well, I hope you like it. Baking for a baker is so hard"-or something to that affect.

The truth is I really love when people bake for me. I am always amazed at how different each recipe is from the next- a little variation can change an old favorite a lot. I also notice that the way someone bakes can reflect the personality of the person who made them!

I never went to school for baking. I have just over the years sampled, studied and explored all types of baked goods, cookbooks and recipes. Not to mention, with an always hungry family- I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Experience is a great teacher.

As for time management, I thought I was ahead of the curve this year--finally! I'd finished my shopping, cleaned the house, bought and even wrapped my gifts all before Friday! I felt like saying, Ta-Dah! Partly, because this is unheard of for me.

I was looking forward to having a relaxed, stress free weekend. That is, until my older two kids reminded me they needed to buy there gifts. So much for a weekend with a bit of time on the couch, with tea and a good book, a long walk, hanging out with friends. Instead I had to bring them to shop both Saturday and Sunday for Holiday presents that they can give to there family and friends. People really do get a little crazy at this stage of the game and so much for time management.

Remember Snicker doodles? Those yummy sugar cookies with an attitude of cinnamon? They are in my oven and I hear the timer calling me now...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

'Hot Cockles' & Holiday Humor

"Hot cockles" was a popular game at Christmas in medieval times. It was a game in which the other players took turns striking the blindfolded player, who had to guess the name of the person delivering each blow. "Hot cockles" was still a Christmas pastime until the Victorian era.

As my three year old might say, 'that's weird!'

As for a little holiday humor, that is if the phrase 'hot cockles' isn't funny enough:

What do you call the fear of getting stuck in a chimney?
Santaclaustrophobia


hee hee ha ha ho ho ho...


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Early Christmas Present & Merry Christmas!

A very sweet friend of mine, she is actually a long lost relative that I have recently reconnected with shared this with me a few months back. I love it. Click on the link or paste it into your browser and grab a cup of hot tea, egg-nog or cocoa and enjoy! It is very beautiful. It can best be viewed on a larger screen. I've decided to share it here as an early Christmas present.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUDIoN-_Hxs

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

True Confessions of a Cookie-a-'Holic', Ice Capades & My Wish-List

The truth is I have been somewhat of a bad girl today. My youngest and I started baking right after the kids left for school. We promised to make sugar cookies for her holiday party tomorrow. I might just be a little delirious from the stress of the holiday but the cookies are calling me by name today.

The house is warm from the oven. There is a buttery sweet scent that fills the air. What I am trying to say is they are very hard to resist. My count today has been: One for the school, One for me! One for the school. One for me! At this rate I can kiss any more cute holiday outfits good bye!

Falmouth doesn't have a real Ice Capades. It's my own drive-way and the road directly adjacent to it. It was cold this morning and the kids didn't want to walk down to the bus. The baby hadn't woken up yet-she was safe in her bed with the door closed. We only had a minute to spare. The bus stop is right down the street. We decide to hop in the car and try to make it before she realizes I was gone for even a second. The plan was to drop them off then race back.

As we start to pull away we see her in her bedroom window with the saddest look on her face. Naturally, I couldn't just leave. The clock was ticking. My daughter jumps out practically falls on the ice to wait with her. I peel away on the ice to get my son there before the bus leaves. Since we are trying to hurry- naturally we get stuck on the ice. Somehow, I make it there and back to get my other daughter to her bus and wrap my youngest in a warm blanket. I quickly strap her in the back seat of the car almost falling on the ice again. We manage to get my other daughter to the bus stop just in the nick of time. As I drive back home it occurs to me I am still wearing my PJ's.

My Christmas Wish List:
A busstop that is right outside the front door.
Someone who will shovel the snow as it falls.
Sand and Salt to keep it from getting too slippery. (My husband would be really good at this one.)
A little willpower to stop eating more of my delicious holiday cookies.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Women: Amazing & Beautiful!

Last night I stopped by a friends house because they were having there annual holiday open house. At least 200 people must have stopped by there home throughout the night. The woman's house looked gorgeous. The food, desert and punch were all amazing! This is a woman with four children. I asked her if she did all the baking and she said she did. As a baker, I get how much work it all is. As far as decorating I know she has a passion for it so she took care of that too. Not only did she have a cute outfit on she was available for friendly conversation as well. I felt truly in awe of this woman. Her passion, heart and love for her family and friends were obvious!
I took a Feminism class in College. The class explored remarkable women throughout history. At the time, I was still a girl-not quite fully a 'woman'. Looking back, I have such a better appreciation of there accomplishments now that I know what women in general are expected of.
Women have always worked hard. We just haven't always been recognized for it. John Muir said about beauty that everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. I would say this is especially true for women.
I think women are at there most beautiful when they not only care for others but care for themselves too! The holidays can be challenging for women. We take care of a lot of things that no one else is going to do. Today, in honor of all women I will balance my baking and holiday
shopping with not only a steaming hot bubble bath but candles and a cup of hot tea too.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ultimate Yankee Swap

"Oh...the weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful..." --really it is!

The storm we'd been promised has arrived. It was kind enough to pack its punch well after we returned home from a friend's Christmas party last night. They are the kind of friends that make living on the Cape truly worthwhile. They're fun and they are always up for a good time. They have a tradition at there holiday party to host a 'Yankee Swap'. It's a fun game of passed presents to get everyone in the holiday spirit. The best Yankee Swaps have a mix of hot desired gifts and cool 're gifts'.
My husband decided to make a 'First Aid Tree' as his gift. It stood at about six feet tall! Well at least people noticed us when we arrived.
Twenty minutes before we were supposed to head out for the party I hear him in the basement with a drill and a hammer. He bought all kinds of first aid trinkets from band-aids to gauze to rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and attached them to a tree made out of scrap wood. He also added a hefty 'hand' for holiday 'hangovers' with things like Advil and a cold compress. If it didn't look so outrageous it really was a great gift idea.
What made this swap 'ultimate' is that the girl who chose it in the swap had a deep gash on her finger. I guess she made a crab dip with sliced bread to share as an appetizer and before she left for the party she sliced her finger while cutting the bread. She said they were out of band-aids at her house so she actually had a bit of paper towel held on with a rubber band to protect the gash. She told us after how perfect the gift was for her. That all the items would really come in handy.
Come to think of it, I forgot to ask her if the large 'tree' would even fit in her car.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Best Recipe for Peppermint Bark & Sunshine

Last year I passed these out as holiday gifts. They couldn't be easier-and it really tastes delicious.

What you'll need:

Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
2 pounds white chocolate
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate. Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)
Place in decorative bags and tie with ribbon.

The weather forecasts a Nor'easter to arrive after midnight. Right now it is bright and gorgeous and sunny. It's hard to believe we will be hit with another storm before the weekend ends. It looks so pretty right now the way the sun reflects on the snow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mourning Doves & Hot Cocoa with White Chocolate

The kids are on their way to school this morning. They were disappointed to hear of no cancellations due to snowy weather. They will have to wait until later to make snowmen, slide down the little hill near the house and invite neighborhood kids over for cocoa.

When we opened the side door so they could more easily make their way across the wintry white yard down to the bus stop three mourning doves immediately took flight from our large evergreen that grows out there. Mourning doves are a medium-sized bird, have a small head and a long pointed tail. It has a light brownish body and the tail has white on the outer edges. There sound is a low mourn. It was fun to be greeted by them.

Later this morning I am venturing out to bring old friends a homemade holiday treat. I promised the kids I would be back in time to have hot cocoa ready for them when they return. We like to make our hot cocoa with milk and drop little bits of white chocolate chips in the bottom of our cups.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Magic & Recipe for Reindeer Food

I recently got to meet Julia Cameron. I had been reading her books for years. I love the simple magic in her work. It seemed fitting to me to offer her a small token of my gratitude so I gave her a small smooth rock with the word 'magic' engraved at its center. It was a simple gift but it genuinely reflected what I felt her work has offered to me.
Each year, right around this time I find myself wanting to get swept into the magic of Christmas. Having a young child helps-she so readily and whole heartily accepts the idea that Santa not only can fly by the help of his reindeer but also that he manages to get himself in and out of every single house around the world through the chimney no less to bring presents and fill our stockings while we sleep.
I distinctly remember when I realized that the story around Santa was pure fantasy. I was literally heart broken. I was sad to realize the world wasn't as magical as I hoped it was.
When my older kids were in preschool there was a part of me that was genuinely hesitant to promote the Santa story to them because I didn't want them to ultimately be disappointed.
But then I realized it is a gift, a blessing even to have the opportunity (even if for just a short time) to look at the world as a truly magical place. I think it was that same year that I started a tradition with them to sprinkle 'reindeer' food on our front lawn each Christmas Eve.

Recipe for Feeding Reindeer:

1 c oats
1 tsp cinammon
1 tsp sugar

Mix ingredients together. Place in a festive bag and tie with a holiday ribbon. Just before the little ones go to bed on the night of Christmas Eve take them out on the front lawn and sprinkle on the grass (or snow).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies & Dancing

As I build my baking empire I try to keep cash flowing with forays into freelance writing. I received a 'call' yesterday-it wasn't an actual call more like an email-does anyone use the telephone anymore? -to write an article about Dance.
When I received that my very first thought was something I did when I was pregnant with my son. When I was a kid my two sisters and I always loved to dance. We never took formal classes but we did hold our mother hostage for many impromptu living room recitals.
One afternoon, while pregnant my younger sister and I were driving and "It's Raining Men" came on the radio. We pulled to the side of the road and blasted the radio. My sister and I jumped out of the car and danced like wild jumping beans right on the side of the road. We laughed a lot. It was a gorgeous day. Cars honked. We didn't care. We were having fun. Since this tale won't find its way into the article I decided to 'share' it here.
As for Candy Cane Sugar Cookies, I am making these for my daughter's christmas party at her preschool. You make a good sugar cookie dough and roll the cookies into long thin shapes. Then you roll the dough in crushed peppermint candies. These are the kind of cookies that make my middle daughter proud to have me as her mom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Biscotti, Anagrams & Winter

It's almost winter and I am trying to find alternative loves. My first love is long lazy days of summer by the beach when the kids seem happy to play for hours.
I love to make cranberry biscotti. After I learned how to make my own biscotti- I was surprised at how easy it is. I make it with white chocolate chips in the cookie itself and then I drizzle melted white chocolate on top. It's pretty yummy. Biscotti is nothing more than a twice baked cookie.
Earlier today I came across a fun website-www.anagramgenius.com. Anagrams are simply when you take the letters of a word and you mix up the letters to create a different word-different meaning. I typed in The West Falmouth Baking Company and the anagram offered was wealthy humpback of not steaming.
I found that interesting because when I dreamt up my little cape cod baking business I imagined that I would sell whale shaped sugar cookies to just about everyone and anyone who crossed over the bridge to Cape Cod. Who knows, maybe by next summer. Who wouldn't want a whale sugar cookie?
For now, it's back to winter. I caught part of a movie over the weekend on HBO called "Catch and Release"-overall the movie was nothing to write home about but there was this cool character whose job it was to choose and place those little quotes on Celestial Seasonings Tea Boxes. I thought now that would be a cool job. I happen to have a box of tea in front of me. The quote reads, "Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius"~ Pietro Aretino.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pomegranate Tartlets & Indoor Caves

My living room has been transformed into a large indoor cave-it almost looks like an igloo. Blankets, pillows, chairs, etc have been gathered from places I didn't even know we had and the kids have been making a hideout of their own. It's a private place for their snacks, games and laughter. It's in their nature to just want to have fun. It's been too cold to do much of it outside so I 'surrender' the living room for now to 'higher' causes.

In the meantime, here is a quick recipe for a delicious holiday desert. They look so pretty and they are very easy to make.

Here's what you'll need for the Pomegranate Tartlets:

Three pie crusts, pre-made store bought in refrigerator section are just fine for this recipe
1 whole pomegranate
1 box pudding and pie filling mix (don't use the instant)
1 3/4 c whipping cream
1/2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. With a 2 inch round cutter, cut 36 rounds and press into un-greased mini muffin cups. Bake 7 or so minutes until light golden brown. Remove from tins and place on cooling racks. Cut Pomegranate in half, remove seeds, set aside.
In medium pan stir pudding mix and whipping cream with whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat for five minutes, or until mixture comes to a boil, stir constantly. Remove from heat, add extract. Immediately spoon about 2 tsp. filling into each tartlet shell. Top each with about 1 tsp. of pomegranate seeds. Cover loosely, refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Just before you serve dust lightly with powdered sugar.
Serves well in "Indoor Caves" too.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Mysteries, Gray Days & Baking

What do I have for sale at the Coonamessett Farm this weekend? It's a mystery! But first, it was Albert Einstein who said, The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.

Late yesterday afternoon, just before night crept in I decided to make the super short trip out onto my back porch, down the steps, onto the grass and over to the edge of the yard where my yellow birdhouse rests. I was surprised when I stepped out onto the porch to notice that there were bird tracks in the snow. I wondered when that bird had stopped by simply because I hadn't noticed any birds out and about at all-not a single one.

I hadn't heard them singing or chirping not even a peep. I did have the music on all day and I do live with a very chatty three year old and yet I was still a little surprised to realize I hadn't noticed any birds on my porch. Was there anything else that visited yesterday that I was not aware of? What else might I have missed? Without the snow I wouldn't even have known about the bird.

I am reminded of an essay I read years ago by Alice Walker. She wrote about her journey in writing The Temple of My Familiar and she talked about her wonder at how at the end of a very long day her friends were sitting down in her kitchen to share a meal and a raccoon appeared out the back door to greet them.

When the weather turns gray it's easy to get bored. Maybe looking into the mysterious in something as simple as a birds flight can help. Why didn't I hear any birds? Will that one fly to a warmer climate soon? Why did that raccoon choose to visit them on that night?

Soon the Coonamessett Farm will be closed for the winter. There's no mystery there- the ground is simply beginning to grow dormant. I have a fresh batch of my Supreme Lemon Cake for sale there this weekend. It's a really delicious cake- very moist and of course lemony. Mystery solved.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mom's Best Banana Bread & Back Yard Birds

This morning the temperature gauge outside the little window over my kitchen sink reads a meager nineteen degrees. A little snow snuck in over night. The painted yellow handmade cedar birdhouse that hangs from a tree in our back yard appears empty. It's too cold for me to run out there and peek in to see if a birdy has taken up residence right now. Perhaps, there's a 'flighty' family that has moved in. We've had that bird house for a lot of years and I know of at least two birds that have called that little house home.

I sell my banana bread at the farm sometimes, but usually that is something that gets gobbled up by my family before it even hits the shelves. I make the mini loaves and package them individually. If I don't get them tucked into their bags before the kids get home from school I can forget about any potential profit from that labor.

It's a simple recipe but if you like banana bread give it a try.

Mom's Best Banana Bread

3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 c melted butter
1 c sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1 1/2 C flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease large loaf or an eight count mini loaf pan. Mix butter into mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in sugar, egg and vanilla. Sprinkle in baking soda and salt over the mixture. Add flour last and mix in gently. If you use the large pans bake for approx. 55 minutes. The smaller loaf pans require less time, approximately 35minutes.

Later this afternoon, I might just drop a few banana bread crumbs at the edge of the entrance to the backyard birdhouse to invite a new 'family' in.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Art of Discernment

I am the most aware of the need for discernment in my life around the holidays. There are so many obligations, expecations not to mention business oppportunities. Christmas is supposed to be fun or at least that's the way I thought about it as a kid.

I think the only way that I can have a merry attitude around the holidays is by using discernment. Some years, I will have fun and festive holiday cards dropped in the mail by December 15th. Other years, I won't send any cards at all. Some years, I will drop Christmas Cookies at the doorsteps of my neighbors. Other years, I will only get the baking done that I have already committed to. Some years, I will throw a hip holiday party. Other years, I will only attend parties that I actually feel like going to.

It's all about applying the art of discernment, especially without added guilt. The times I can't meet all of my own or another's expectations I can remember that all I really want when the New Year rolls around is to have a little money left over in my bank account, a little bit of my sanity still in tact and a continued desire to get in my kitchen to bake.

Discernment is not always easy. But I'm learning it's necessary, especially around the holidays.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Candy Cane Breakfast

My daughter has been part of a fun holiday tradition. This will be it's seventh year. I have continued it with her on Cape Cod because I know she has good memories of those special get togethers.

Girls are invited over on a weekend morning just before Christmas. They wear their pajamas and bring a wrapped Chritsmas ornament of there choice to include in a holiday gift exchange.

The girls usually do a craft-some years it's been decorating a picture frame that will hold a photograph to remind them of that special morning. Last year, I decided to have the girls make Christmas Cards for someone special. This year we've decided to decorate sugar cookies and wrap them in fun holiday packages.

The girls squeeze in next to each other (there were eighteen girls last year) at the kitchen table and have a yummy feast. Last year, I made a delicious sausage egg bake, a cinnamon maple glazed coffee cake, blueberry orange muffins and fruit. One mom arrived with white chocolate dipped strawberries to share. The girls are already looking forward to this year's Candy Cane Breakfast. One of my daughter's friends said, "I hope your Mom makes that sausage egg bake and coffee cake again".

In a world where so much seems just not quite right it's nice to have something that is so simple and innocent but lots of fun. I am glad that we decided to continue this tradition on Cape Cod.

Monday, December 3, 2007

First Snowfall of Season

If we're going to have to live with unbelievably cold temperatures it might as well snow. Snow makes the cold more fun and bearable. On the Cape we only had the tiniest greeting of flurries. Nothing on the ground. Not even a sticking to the windshield.

This first flurry reminds me that last year I personally witnessed the freezing over of Old Silver Beach. I had to see it for myself to believe it. Someone said that if it's 19 degrees for three days in a row it'll freeze. He was right. It did!

It's not that I look forward to or even enjoy shoveling the snow. That's hard work. But when it snows we can make snowmen and snow angels. Snow also offers a quick invite to stay home and make hot cocoa, warm bread and a toasty fire.

The whole ground takes on a glistening brightness when it's covered with snow. To me everything seems a little more hopeful when everywhere you look all you see is white.

I'd better make sure we all have a pair of wool socks, warm mittens and thermal underwear handy. I think we're going to need them this season.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Collecting Driftwood on Cape Cod

Living on Cape Cod offers lots of opportunities for collecting driftwood. I have a number of incredible pieces of driftwood that I have found washed up at area beaches at different times.

My baker's display at the farm has a piece of driftwood. Above the mantle over my kitchen fireplace there's a piece of driftwood hanging that I have transformed into a sculpture. There is another beautiful piece resting naturally on the mantle ledge.

In some ways driftwood resembles baking. The driftwood took time. The weather, wind, rain and even snow was needed to make these pieces what they are. Baking took time too. Not to mention mixing, molding, heating and then cooling. It's a natural simplicity that they have in common. It's what I like most about each of them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Alternative Gifts

What about this year giving alternative gifts? Like the gift of friendship, the gift of laughter, the gift of kindness, the gift of forgiveness?

Epicurus said, "Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.

When I taught Introduction to Art & Humanities as an Adjunct Professor my students were required to participate in a creative project. One semester we used the movie "Pay it Forward" as an example. The students were asked to come up with something special they could do for someone anonymously without expecting anything in return. I remember class discussions from this assignment were dynamic and fun. Some of them had to really think about what they could do for someone else especially when the other person wasn't going to know about it. Most of the class really took this seriously. It allowed them to participate in their own education not simply memorize facts. It allowed them to do something they enjoy for someone else. I hope it taught them the value of 'alternative gifts'.
'Gifts' that came from that class include: One woman said she left some money in a box on the door step of a neighbor who was going through hard times. One guy said he fixed the tire of a friend whose car had been out of commission in his driveway. One student copied class notes for a student in another class who had been absent and left them on her desk.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Simply Delicious Recipe: Banana-Sour Cream Pie

This morning I've been combing my recipe books for a yummy treat to serve at my husband's birthday party that the kids and I are hosting at our house over the weekend. I came across this pie recipe that I haven't made in years. I do remember how delicious it is. I'm not going to use it for the party because bananas are not my husbands first choice in a desert. But want to share it here for any banana cream pie lovers that might be out there.

Banana Sour-Cream Pie

The Crust:

1 package of crushed graham crackers
6 Tbs. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/2 c. finely chopped almonds

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Press firmly into a 9 inch pie pan, building up thick sides to a nice edge.

The Filling:

12 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
3/4 c mashed, ripe banana
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 c sour cream

Beat together all ingredients until well-blended. Pour into crust; chill 3-4 hours at least, overnight chilling ideal.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Labels & Best Swing Ever

Dreamy Island Cookies - Cape Cod



These are my new cookie labels. They will be at the farm for sale later this afternoon.

After I wrote about those incredible pecan trees we used to have in our yard in Dallas, I remembered the best swing ever when my two oldest children were just toddlers. The branches were so tall and so high that we managed-it wasn't easy-to get a rope around the very top of one of the highest branches and attach a swing. The kids loved it. For quite a while it was there favorite activity. They spent so many hours on that swing. It went higher and further than any swing I have seen before or since. I can just about remember the exact sound of the laughter and giggles from my kids when they rode on it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Joys of Local Abundance: Pecans & Cranberries

This is a picture of a pecan grove. Our first
house in Dallas had at least thirty of these beautiful trees. One Christmas I gathered as many pecans from my yard as I could find. I shelled, chopped and filled mason jars with them. I sent them back East that year as holiday treats. From my yard alone I filled a dozen or so jars. I love to bake with pecans. They give everything a delightful nutty flavor.
On Cape Cod pecans are super expensive and not nearly as fresh as the ones I used to find in Texas.
On Cape Cod you can find plenty of fresh cranberries though. Since I like to appreciate what the local land provides- last night I decided to brew a concoction of homemade triple cranberry vodka. It has to chill in my fridge for two weeks. Before anyone can taste it to know if it's any good. I wonder which treat my friends will prefer more? For baking, I use pecans in my dreamy island cookies and cranberries in my biscotti.










Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seven's on Beacon Hill & Funny Story

The trip into Boston turned out to be a lot of fun. We started the day with a quick trip to Starbuck's for white chocolate peppermint mocha's. We decided to park the car and ride the commuter rail in. Among other things we had lunch at Seven's on Beacon Hill. Our waitress told us they were a lot like "Cheers" but for the locals.

We walked all over the City. People were ice skating on the Common, street dancers were performing at Fanueil Hall and a folk singer sang inside the food court at Quincy Market.

The thing that stands out the most about yesterday was a funny encounter we had with what I perceived as a homeless guy. He was sitting on a stone wall on Charles St. He caught our eye at first because he was happily enjoying a large bag of M&M's. He looked up at me and said, "would you like some M&M's"? I smiled and told him no thanks. He then went on to tell me that he saw me a few days ago and that he was glad he ran into me again, because he thought I was pretty and he wanted me to know. The three of us laughed, said good-bye and continued on.

As we walked I thought, I didn't have the heart to tell him that there was no way he could have seen me a few days ago. We looked back at him and he was still enjoying his M&M's. The ground he sat on must have been freezing. But, he didn't seem to have a care in the world.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Boston, Sweet Sixteen & Farm Delivery

One of the many things I love about living on Cape Cod is how easy it is to pop into Boston for the day-it's just over an hour drive into the City.

I love everything about Boston-the Museums, the History, The Food, the Shopping -even the T.

My niece is turning sixteen and I thought it would be fun to take her into the City. My oven is turned off today. I dug out a pair of mittens and a hat-it's going to be sunny but cold!

Wouldn't it be great to be sixteen again? Oh, what I wish I knew then what I know now.
Late yesterday afternoon, I delivered Cranberry Biscotti with White Chocolate and Autumn Spice Comfort Cake for sale this weekend at the Coonamessett Farm.

Friday, November 23, 2007

After the Holiday - Back to Baking


These have been ordered as a party favor for a 'Casino Night' Party. The women will get personalized red heart and diamond shaped sugar cookies in a clear plastic bag with red ribbon. The men will get personalized black club and spade sugar cookies in a clear plastic bag with black ribbon.
They are delicious and adorable!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Count Your Blessings & "Le Petite Prince"

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye".

That quote is from Antoine De Saint-Exupery's book called "Le Petite Prince". I read that in a High School French class. I remember that book having such a profound impact on me. It's a sweet story. Get the English version, The Little Prince, and read it! It's a quick read.


Today is a good day for Counting Blessings. Remember Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance which suggested to write five things we are grateful for each day? I think that's a good habit. They can be super simple. They can be different each day.

Five Blessings for Today:

The window over my kitchen sink, the fireplace, The sun is shining, My three children and Baroque Music.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions & Creating Compassion

Years ago I realized that as a mother I couldn't always protect my children from every hurt that might cross their paths but I could try to foster a sense that there would always be something to look forward to and appreciate in their lives no matter what else was going on or happening.
I have found one way to do that is to maintain certain family traditions.

One tradition that I have done for years with my kids is passing out food or other donations on the morning of the Thanksgiving holiday.

I greatly appreciate the various service centers that collect food and other items for people in our community. But I feel like as far as instilling a sense of giving back in my own children I have always wanted the experience to be more real for them.

If we only send a check or drop off a box of food the kids never really see that some people have a lot less than they do. When we lived in Dallas, TX there were at least 200 people that would hang outside one of the homeless shelters. We had a tradition to make a whole bunch of brown bag lunches with turkey, a drink and a snack and pass them out on Thanksgiving morning. One year when it was extra cold we passed out blankets. Another time, we handed out gift cards for McDonald's.

It was a small contribution but I think my children do have meaningful memories of each of those Thanksgivings and who knows maybe it has helped if even a small way to create in them compassion for others.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Eyes, Gratitude & Finding Blog

Marcel Proust said, The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Every once in a while life can get a little out of focus and what is sometimes needed is an ability to have this new set of eyes.

I've always highly valued my friendships. In my experience friends have been like home for me- a second family. Sometimes it's easy to make mistakes with people who mean so much to us. An unintended slight, a misunderstanding or just plain busyness can deeply harm people we care about.

Natalie Goldberg said, Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning. We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It is like drinking water.

Maybe a new set of eyes means going back to the beginning to remember why we have certain people in our lives in the first place. Showing gratitude and making amends to our friends when called for is part of both having new eyes and going back to the beginning.

Last night, two people asked me, 'well, how will people find your blog?' I told them by either buying my cakes and cookies-I now have a sticker that displays the address on the packaging or by word of mouth. If those two people told everyone they knew and they logged on to read the blog and then those two told two others and so on and so forth --by next summer I could have a very large community of 'bloggers' who visit the page and links.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Arc of Color, Fire & Blue Corn Tortilla's

I made Arc of Color for a Coffee House in Dallas.
I later showed it in an exhibit in Worcester, MA.

I went to Home Depot and bought a single piece of wood. I cut it into smaller pieces then painted each piece and put it together with a product called 'Gorilla Glue'. I was so excited when I found out about this product- it worked well. The paint is from discounted quarts on the 'mistake' table.
On a different note, I made a terrific fire last night. I started with bits of paper, a pile of twigs and then added the logs after the twigs caught fire. Fires can be a little temperamental as I learn how to make a good one.
Oh and it turns out, blue corn tortillas are not that easy to find on Cape Cod. Regular corn tortilla's with blue corn chips as a side will work just as good for the blue corn enchilada's. Stay Warm and Happy Eating!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Coconut Macaroons, Cape Cod Weather & Falmouth Favorite's

Just yesterday, I snuck away alone for a quick walk to the Knob at Quissett Harbor. The Knob is a Falmouth Treasure - a short walk through a wooded path which opens to a clearing that extends out and up to a round rock hill-'The Knob' that overlooks the water. On my way out there I made a quick stop to Wood Neck Beach another Falmouth favorite. I'd missed the place I spent so much time at with the kids over the long, lazy, hazy days of this past summer. It was unusually warm for a November day.

Today, I am grateful to be stuck inside with my oven turned on. Overnight a chill has moved in and it's wet outside. What a difference a day can make. I will be getting the last of my baking done for this weekend's baptism. This morning, I am making Coconut Macaroons. They are Simply Delicious!

Recipe for Coconut Macaroons:

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups shredded coconut
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

PREPARATION:
Generously grease baking sheets. Combine all ingredients; stir until well blended. Drop by teaspoonfuls, 1 inch apart, on prepared baking sheets. Press down with the back of spoon to even thickness. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until macaroons are golden brown. Let Cool.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Itty-Bitty Teeny Weeny Baker's History or is it a Her-Story?

The first group of people to bake bread were ancient Egyptians, in 8000 BC.
During the Middle ages, it was common for each landlord to have a bakery, which was actually a public oven; Housewives would bring dough that they had prepared to the baker, who would use the oven to bake it into bread. As time went on, bakers would also bake their own goods. Some bakers would have trap doors, that would allow a small boy to pinch off a bit of the dough, where he could sell it off as his own. This practice eventually lead to the famous regulation known as 'Assize of Bread and Ale, which provided harsh punishments toward bakers who were found cheating. In response, bakers commonly threw in one more loaf of bread; this tradition now exists in the phrase "baker's dozen", which is number 13.-
From Wikipedia.

I wonder what the Egyptian ovens looked like?
And in the Middle Ages--an oven with a trap door? How cool!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What's all the 'Buzz' about?

There's a...

Coffee Buzz
Beer Buzz
Sugar Buzz
News Buzz
Comic Buzz
Writer's Buzz
Martini Buzz

There's a...

Buzz about Britney
Buzz about the Beckham's
Buzz about Ellen and of course a
Buzz about Oprah
Buzz about a Claus named 'Fred'
Buzz about a 'Bee Movie' and a
Buzz about an 'American Gangster' But ..

Did you know you can even search for a 'Buzz' at Wikipedia?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Blue Corn Enchiladas with Grilled Vegetables

I promise a recipe will follow. But first, a quick story.

When I was working on my Bachelor's degree in English Literature at UCLA I paid for my bold adventure in part by working as a waitress at a Hip restaurant in Hermosa Beach called Dakota Cafe. Sadly, I don't think it's still there. It was such a fun place. Good music, cool lighting, great food and beer selection not to mention everyone working there was either an aspiring actor, actress or true beach bum. I was in heaven. I made great cash there too. One of my favorite things on the menu was Blue Corn Enchiladas with Grilled Vegetables.

As I was planning my menu over the weekend for this week's farm delivery and an upcoming baptism something out of the blue triggered my memory of Dakota Cafe and those awesome enchiladas. I have decided to share the recipe here-it's my own version that is inspired from my stint at Dakota Cafe. The way I see it-cookies, cakes, breads and other sweet treats add simple pleasures to life. But we all still have to eat a good meal.


Blue Corn Enchiladas with Grilled Vegetables

12 Blue Corn Tortillas -these are worth finding, much tastier than regular corn
1 large zucchini, chopped fine
1 large summer squash, chopped fine
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
1 c corn ( or one regular can)
1 large tomato, chopped fine
olive oil
garlic
Green Enchilada Sauce
2 c cheddar/jack cheese shredded


Saute all squash, zucchini and onion in olive oil, add garlic. Cook over medium heat until vegetables become tender. Add tomatoes and corn. Heat and stir. Warm the tortillas in microwave for 30 seconds or place over low-heat grill or skillet and heat. Spoon a small amount of vegetable mixture into single tortilla and roll. Place into baking dish. Repeat until the tray is full. Pour Green Enchilada sauce over tortillas then top with cheese. Bake at 350 for approx. 20 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.

My farm delivery will include a supply of Golden Pecan Banana Cake with a Vanilla Glaze and I am making Sugar Cookies in the shape of a Cross topped with Blue Sugar for Baptism Favor.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Today's 'Ta-Dah' List!

The 'Blogger Buzz' for today promotes a new book regarding 'To-Do' Lists.
I don't know about you but I could use a break from 'To-Do'. A 'Ta-Dah' List on the other hand is right up my alley. A 'Ta-Dah' list applauds items I have already accomplished today--not what I have yet to do, probably won't have time for nor will I likely get to in the next 3-5 days.

Today's 'Ta-Dah' List

*Made Hot Oatmeal with banana slices and brown sugar for my kids.
*Got All three children to Saturday activities on time.
*Bought groceries to re-stock our always disappearing refrigerator.
* Found and purchased Candy Land-a treat I promised Sophia.
* Completed three loads of laundry.
* Worked on Clearing up Leaves in Yard.

It's a start....

What does your 'Ta-Dah' list look like today?

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Baker's FIVE!





5. When it's cold, the oven keeps my house toasty.
4. An at home business beats long hours on the road-last year I commuted to Worcester.
3. Is there anyone who doesn't like cake and cookies?
2. When Sophia is resting or my cakes are in the oven, I'm free to make art like the one pictured.
1. Oh and Butter is on sale this week for $1.88 --on Cape it's usually around $4.79!
Sometimes it's really the little things that make a big difference.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nautica


I was sad to hear Giving Tree Gallery and Sculpture Garden decided to close it's outdoor sculpture garden. It was a special place. The plus side is Tommy had to find a new home for Nautica and it now sits on our back porch. I can see it from my kitchen window.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The True Tale Behind 'Dreamy Island Cookies'

Dreamy Island Cookies are one of my favorite sellers. They cost a bit more than other items for me to make because they have chocolate, butter, coconut and pecans or walnuts but they are very easy to bake and customers love them. Mike, a friend of mine, loves to eat my 'Dreamy Island Cookies'. One time when I made him a batch he said he put them on his kitchen counter while he went to take care of something in another room. When he came back to grab his cookies and pour himself a glass of cold milk they were all gone! His daughter ate them all.

I added these partciular cookies to my menu last April after a day trip on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard with my kids. We needed something fresh to do that day-something that could help us brush off the winter blues. We arrived in Vineyard Haven welcomed by sun and warm air. We tooled around and enjoyed all the beautiful houses on the main street.

One particular house caught our eye that day. It was a two story white house with black shutters that had a wonderful blue glass collection displayed in each of the windows. We decided to head back into town and purchase a blue glass piece to add to the collection anonymously. We had the clerk at the shop carefully gift wrap our selection, we wrote a little note that thanked the residents for sharing their wonderful collection and we went back and left it on the doorstep! It was special to share such a small but fun adventure with my kids that taught them about generosity to others.

On the ferry home I realized how much I love to be able to pop over to the Vineyard from Falmouth. It's a mini vacation to one of the most visited and beautiful spots in the world. I decided that I would come up with a cookie recipe and call them Dreamy Island Cookies to remind me of the fun we had on the island that day.

If Mike reads this-I have Dreamy Island Cookies in the oven for the farm tomorrow. I am also bringing a new recipe I came up with called Vanilla 'Bean-Town' Pound Cake the story of which will have to be told another day.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Laughter

Everyone's got a funny bone-some of us just use it more than others. I love it when people tell me a story or do something funny that makes me laugh. It feels good to laugh.
Especially the kind of laughter that almost brings you to tears or makes your side hurt.

In high school I ran around with the same group of girls day in and day out for years. We'd talk by telephone or see each other every single day. Somewhere around our Junior year one of these friends came up with the idea that she could imitate a lion better than any one. I have no idea where she got this silly idea. But, she could. At the oddest times she'd break into this dramatic roar that was so hysterical-I found myself almost peeing my pants on a number of occasions. I remember going to certain parties and we'd try to get our friend to do her 'lion's roar'. She never wanted to do it in front of a crowd though. We'd have to catch her when no one else was looking. We'd end up cracking up so hard and everyone else at the party would just stare.

This past weekend, my sister told me a funny story about her experience as a kid trick or treating. She recalled how once while wearing a large three-D Rubik's cube costume her and her friend were frantically chased by some kids from another neighborhood. My sister explained how she tried to run as fast as she could in costume to save her friend's candy from getting stolen. We shared a good laugh. Then I mentioned this story to another friend and he definitely laughed.

As we waited for the Nor'easter to pass over Cape Cod this weekend I didn't do too much baking because we lost our electricity for quite a few hours. In the meantime I did find a bunch of funny things to laugh about.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Traditions

Traditions are like royal icing on a special birthday cake, an afternoon at the movies on a rainy day or a trip to a museum with a good friend. They're the potatoes you serve with your favorite pork roast recipe. You expect certain traditions to be there and when they're gone you can tell something very important is missing.

As a kid, one of my tippity top favorite traditions was coming back home after a wild frenzied night of trick or treating. I used to be really good at trick-or treating. I could cover a vast expanse of territory in a short amount of time. I didn't waste my time on tricks. I was all business.

I arrived home loaded down with treats. My sisters and I would each mark a spot on the living room rug and pour out our treasures. In my mind's eye this lasted for hours. We'd comb through each and every peice of candy. First we'd put our candy in like piles. The nestle crunches together, the snickers side by side, etc.

We'd chat about all the places we'd been. How we thought one neighbor was so cheap she only gave out one little sweet tart or single dum dum pop. We'd talk about the old lady on the corner who gave out full-size candy bars! We talked about her as if she were the most rich, generous person in all the world! We'd say how scary a particular house was decorated or we'd wonder why some houses had no lights on at all.
Then we'd begin our trading. NYSE would have been proud. I ended up with a hefty portion of my most favorite candies. I got rid of the ones I didn't much care for.
Tomorrow night my kids will continue our tradition. My oldest feels too old to spend it with his mom and younger sisters so my husband will bring him to trick or treat with some friends. It's ok, he'll still want to meet us back at the house afterwards for some good trading time. My girls and I are going to share pizza and cupcakes with candy corn and drink apple cider before we head out to trick or treat.

I am so grateful for traditions. They make life a lot easier. There is always something special to look forward to.
I have jumbo chocolate chip cookies in the oven right now for my farm delivery. They will be delivered first thing Wednesday morning. It's becoming a new tradition!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Homemade Flour Tortilla

Tortillas are perfect for so many uses. They're good with scrambled eggs, cheese and a spoonful of salsa. They are great with grilled chicken and sour cream. They can even be eaten with a bit of butter and cinnamon sugar. Store bought tortillas serve there purpose. You can get them fresh and cheap at a moment's notice. But what is rather more delicious is homemade tortillas.

When I lived in Los Angeles I used to love to eat at a little family run Mexican restaurant. It was within a mile or so of my house. When I walked in the first thing I would notice was a woman making fresh tortillas. They were scrumptious!

Tortillas don't take much time at all to make and they store well in air-tight containers in the fridge. That is if there are any left to store!

Homemade Flour Tortillas


2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 Tbsp. vegetable shortening, diced
about 1/2 cup hot water


Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl. Add shortening and rub it in with your fingertips until your mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add enough water to form a soft dough.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead until smooth. Divide dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a ball. Cover with a clean dish cloth and let rest for 15 minutes.
Roll out 1 ball at a time into a flat circle, approx. 7 in., keeping the remainder of the dough covered. Stack tortillas between sheets of not stick paper, like wax paper.
Heat a grill pan or large, heavy non stick skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 tortilla at a time for 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly browned in places and puffed up. Serve warm.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Walking in this World"

One of my all time favorite books (I have many) is Julia Cameron's Walking in this World.

A quote appears in it by Leo Tolstoy (the Russian writer who wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina) that says "the best thoughts most often come in the morning after waking, while still in bed or while walking". Cameron's book (it always amazes me that there are still people in the world who are not familiar with her work) is about creativity and finding a place for it in our busy lives.

Yesterday was an absolutely incredible cape cod kind of day. It was bright and sunny and warm. I managed to sneak away for a long walk alone. I drove the three and a half mile drive from my house to South Cape Beach. There were two swans playing in the little pond at the Falmouth/Mashpee line. I took the trail from the town beach out to the State Jetty where you can see Washburn Island if you go out far enough. I went as far as I could without falling into the ocean. I walked out to the very tip of the farthest rock on the jetty. I saw birds and boats, water and waves.

It feels good to get out and walk. Like Tolstoy promises I did have some of my 'best thoughts' of my day while walking. The walking definitely helps me keep my added baker pounds in check too. That reminds me what a friend once said to me, "you expect a baker to carry added weight, especially if her stuff is any good". I try to walk at least a little every day.

Over the weekend I baked two different kinds of pies. I made a brown sugar and ginger pumpkin pie with a caramel glaze and an apple cherry cobbler pie. See why I was motivated to walk? This week I will do more baking and less tasting maybe a little more walking.
But since I am running a baking business. I will have to get into my kitchen first.
This Week: Supreme Lemon Cake and Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies will be for sale at the Coonammessett Farm.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Beauty

"There are flowers everywhere, for those who bother to look."
~Henri Matisse

I find that it is the simplest of things that are the most beautiful-a baby's smile, an autumn leaf, a fresh baked chocolate cake. I struggle with beauty. I cherish it. I see it in everything and everywhere I go. And of course I want to be thought of as beautiful, but--is there a woman anywhere who doesn't? It is one of our deepest desires. To be received, perceived, accepted as beautiful. It is one of our most basic questions to the world-do you think I am beautiful? But beauty can be both elusive and temperamental.

Before I met and married my husband I was room mates with a man named Mark. Mark dated Valerie. She often told me that what she liked best about me was that I always found beauty in things that weren't particularly beautiful. At the time, I was taking photographs of some rusted metal in the backyard. I was awestruck as I noticed the way the sunlight and color from the bougainvillea vine mingled on the rusted metal. I couldn't help but grab my camera. I wondered how she could miss the beauty in what I saw that afternoon. I guess it wasn't 'conventional' beauty.
I think one of the reasons I like to bake is that it is so easy, so reliable, so simple to produce something of beauty from my oven. It doesn't hurt either that I have three children all with a sweet tooth!
Another thing that is totally beautiful is the way the leaves are brilliantly reddish orange right now or the way the fog rolls in over the water on a chilly autumn day. I guess Matisse is the smart one-we just need to open our eyes to see the beauty everywhere if we would just bother to look!
I brought Pumpkin Cookie Treats and Dreamy Island Cookies to the Farm for sale this morning. One of the girls who works there made a point to tell me that people really like my baking. I thought now that's a beautiful comment.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fresh Starts & New Beginnings

I am not sure what I like more--a sheet of blank white writing paper with a sharpened pencil and fresh eraser at its tip or a new bag of flour and clean baking pans. Either way I know something fresh and new will soon be afoot. I can't help myself. My desire for fresh starts and new beginnings is potent. I love an opportunity to create.
Friends stopped over our house last night to watch the Patriots beat the Cowboys. My husband, a native to Texas, had his pride bruised and kicked a couple of times. I had it easy last night. I grew up here so I like the Patriots and having spent ten years in Dallas, TX I really do appreciate the Cowboys too. I am not a die hard football fan to begin with-I just love a chance to bring new friends together, cook them a good meal and serve a fun drink. I served a sausage and meatball lasagna and pomegrante martini's.
I secretly love the opportunity to pull out my martini glasses. They make me feel so grown up!
I also served a Vanilla Pound Cake drizzled with chocolate glaze. I had never tried this particular recipe before. And I have yet to offer it for sale. I am still partial to my Supreme Lemon, Orange Pound and Incredible Carrot Cake. I thought the Vanilla Pound Cake was not half bad. A guest remarked, "how do you get your cake so moist?" A baker's secret I guess.
The friends that came over last night are all fairly new friends-which gives me plenty of opportunity for new beginnings. I spoke with an editor today about a writing job. He asked me "do you really have a baking business or just write about it?" He doesn't live in town so he just didn't know. I thought how funny the power of the internet. I suppose if I wanted I really could just write about baking but never even set foot in the kitchen. I told him that yes I really do bake, that in fact I am doing the desert for an upcoming baptism. One of the things I am making are sugar cookies as edible party favors.
With a three year old at home baking is a perfect outlet for me. I not only indulge my desire for new beginnings and fresh starts but share my passion for baking with my daughter. Naturally, there's something to be said for tradition too. Some of my best recipes are classics and I still keep in touch with one of my very best friends from second grade.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Baker's Basic Biscuits

Here is a simple recipe for biscuits. I didn't fully appreciate biscuits until I moved to Texas. These are so easy to make. They get the kitchen all warm on a chilly morning and fill hungry tummies too. My favorite way to serve them is with butter and drizzled with honey- Simply Delicious!
Biscuits
1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first four ingredients. Mix in sour cream just until blended. Get it to hold together. Transfer to floured surface. Gently roll out dough. Cut with a round cookie cutter-approx. 2". Dip in flour-place on baking surface. Bake 10-12 minutes or till top is slightly browned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Women & Tears!

Sometimes what women really need is a good cry! I try to stay away from women who are constantly creating drama in their life. But a good cry now and then is just as good for the soul as laughter.

I am making Harvest Daisies and Autumn Spice Comfort Cake for the farm tomorrow -but first -remember the Novel, "Like Water for Chocolate"? Maybe you saw it in the film version? It is one of my all time favorite stories. The story follows the life of Tita and her lifelong love for cooking and for her lover Pedro. Tita can never marry him because of her domineering mother. Tita is left to express her passion for him through cooking. In one scene she becomes so sad and her tears become part of the meal she is preparing, which in turn influences the people who eat it.

I remember when my two older children left for there first day at preschool. As I left the school my eyes filled with tears. I was actually a little embarrassed and hoped I could make a quick dash to my car unnoticed. Many moms are thrilled to be free of there kids even for a few hours. Another Mom saw my tears and in a thoughtful attempt to lighten the mood said, "I have a good cry at least once a week, in fact I am probably due for one anytime". Then she told me how her husband encourages her to let out a good cry. He's a wise man. He knows that the tears will help her to move past whatever is causing her sadness or pain that tears will not create more drama- which is what I think many men secretly fear.

Imagine if more husbands were like him? Men typically don't cry-maybe they should once in a while? There are men I have known for twenty something years and I hardly if ever see them cry. Passion, at times, can lead to tears. Like Tita's passion for Pedro. My tears that morning marked an important milestone in our families life together. My children would no longer be influenced primarily by me and my husband but now by teachers and peers as well. That is a good thing- friends and teachers have greatly contributed to there lives for the better over the years. I didn't cry to stop the transition that day but to allow my heart to feel the change.

A good cry can set you back on course- it's a chance to express something that has caused sadness and then frees us up for life's joys again.
I better get back to my baking soon. Writing about tears won't get my baking done! The Harvest Daisies are daisy shaped cookies dipped in orange sugar. The Autumn Spice Comfort Cake has a wonderful streusel in the middle of the cake.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

We all need them- even though most of us feel a litte 'guilty' when we allow ourselves to indulge in them. Those things in life that bring us pleasure but make us feel a little 'naughty' for doing them. I turned 39 this year--a number that seems to shock me more than anyone else. My little guilty pleasures include: Watching American Idol, My Sugar Cookies, Making a peice of Art when there is a ton of laundry to be done, Buying a new pair of shoes when I know I don't need them but they'll look good and getting a book in hard cover from Inkwell Bookstore in Falmouth-eventhough I know that if I had a little more patience I could either order it from my library or wait until it comes out in paperback. I just picked up a book by Augusten Burrough's brother-John Elder Robison called "Look Me in the Eye". So far it's a great read. The way I see it we all deserve a few little guilty pleasures now & then and the plus side of turning 39 is I don't really feel that guilty anymore when I indulge in one of these 'guilty' little pleasures.

What pleasure can you indulge in -something that simply makes you feel good- and promise to do it with out added guilt?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Linda's Hearth

Years ago I put together a small collection of my favorite at home recipes into a mini booklet and handed out as christmas gifts to friends and family. My son who is now on the cusp of turning thirteen was a year and a half at the time. This recipe is from that collection-an old favorite. These are a delicious, super simple treat perfect for a hungry after school crowd. Making them is a great way to bring the neighbor's together.

Blue Corn Bars

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup blue corn

1 cup unbleached white flour
_
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar then add the vanilla and eggs. Stir in the oatmeal, blue corn and flour. Mix well between each addition. Spread into 13x9 pan and bake for 15 minutes. Cool.
In a double boiler (a small sauce pan will do) combine the chocolate, butter and water. Melt while stirring. Pour the chocolate over the cooled pan. Let the chocolate harden slightly, then cut into bars and refrigerate.



Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Baker's Haiku

Baker's work there magic
in the twilight dusk and dawn.
Happy Bellies are everywhere!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

'Bun in the Oven'

The term 'bun in the oven' is annoyingly cliche. Trite even. Although, since today I am writing about babies & baking please excuse my writer's foible-because like baking a baby emerges when it's ready.
Two friends of mine are currently trying to get pregnant. At times, they get impatient. One of them hopes to get pregnant soon for the first time. My experience with being pregnant and her desire to become pregnant brings us closer over coffee chats. We've both read 'The Secret' and we agree that positive thoughts toward what one desires is a definite step in the right direction. I hope both my friends get pregnant. I'll get to hold a new baby and offer support throughout the course of their pregnancies.
The other night I spoke with a woman whose daughter is taking a life skills course at the high school. She explained how the daughter has to take a pretend baby-a computerized doll around with her for twenty four hours. The baby cries at regular intervals. The idea is to show the teen the real responsibilites involved in caring for a baby. It's a smart educational tool. While I spoke with the woman her cell phone rang. It was her daughter-"why does the baby have to cry so often"? she asked. The woman and I looked at each other and smiled.

Everything in life has a season. The summer is slowly becoming a distant memory on Cape Cod. Winter is not too far behind. A woman becoming a mother evolves in it's own time too.

Oh and speaking of a 'bun in the oven'-I am baking mini orange pound cakes this afternoon.

They will be available for sale at the Coonamessett Farm tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Baker's Dare

Quick Story and Challenge

I remember the very first time I tried to make popover's.

This was year's ago- I was living in Hermosa Beach, CA. at the time. I decided to try something new. If you know anything about popover's the main idea is that they are to emerge from the oven light and fluffy. Mine were flatter than a pancake. I felt crushed. My first thought was something close to the likes of- 'what an idiot, you can't even make a decent popover'.

I opened the lid to the trash can and dropped them in. But instead of throwing away my popover recipe- I decided to try again. I noticed the second time around that I didn't have the oven on quite high enough. I didn't beat the eggs long enough. I used a tad too little baking powder. If I'd given up on the first try I'd never have learned that I can make a decent popover.
I try to extend this philosophy to raising my children. My older daughter received an overly harsh grade last week at school. She took it pretty hard. She felt she worked hard on the assignment and was unclear as to what happened. I gave her a hug. I reminded her that she is smart and that one grade isn't a make it or break it. I shared my story of the popover's with her. I pointed out that experience is a great teacher-that a willingness to give something a second try can make all the difference in the world.

What might you try today if you gave yourself just a little push?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Breakfast Worth Getting out of Bed For

Pancakes with Slivered Almonds and Raspberries

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups milk


1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup raspberries
2 tablespoons melted butter



Melt butter on griddle. Mix first five ingredients-blend well. Gently fold in slivered almonds and raspberries. Drop batter onto hot griddle. Cook evenly on both sides. Serve with whipped cream and syrup.



Friday, September 28, 2007

Musings on Beauty and Balance

The more I do it the more I realize there are so many things to learn about life from the art of baking. The muffins, breads, cookies and cakes bake evenly in my oven. They don't come out all lopsided. Many times what emerges from my oven is surprisingly beautiful.
Today I had a number of necessary but non-noteworthy obligations to fulfill. This week for example, my son starts soccer and I realize he's going to need a pair of cleats that fit him. With a family of five coming and going all weekend from one activity to the next I should also make sure that I stock my fridge. Didn't I stop by the store just yesterday and the day before that as well? There's the laundry-always the laundry. It's easy to understand how mom's can feel out of balance or lopsided at times.
I glance over at the banana bread cooling on the counter. It looks perfect in it's simplicity. The aromas are delightful and the mini loaves are shaped perfectly. I am going to brew some hazelnut coffee and snack on banana bread while Sophia finishes her nap.
The way I see it-- beauty and balance must come from a willingness to appreciate the little things. For today I can appreciate that tasks are getting done. My refrigerator is fairly well stocked, I have completed my baking and I did manage to find the right size cleats at a great price right here in Falmouth. How beautiful!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pantry Possibilities

My kitchen has definitely improved over the years.
Now that I am baking as a business I am more thoughtful of what I keep on hand. There are many times though when I simply want to make something for a friend and there isn't much available. Case in point-last night a friend was going to stop over so I could color her hair. (The hair coloring might be left for another story-because what gave her the impression that I knew the first thing about hair coloring?) Anyway, I wanted a treat to offer her. Something that made the house smell inviting as she walked in. I went to my pantry to see what I might conjure up. I found, among other things: flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, pecans-I knew there was butter in the fridge and since it's apple picking season I had plenty of ripe juicy apples on the table. As far as the color of my friends hair-surprisingly it didn't turn out half bad. In fact, I think she really likes it.

Steele Family Apple Crisp

4 large Apples, green, peeled and sliced
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/2 c oats
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 c butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a square baking dish. Place apple slices in pan. Mix remaining ingredients well and sprinkle over apples. Bake 30 minutes. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Baker's Blessings

A treat I call Dreamy Island Cookies are in the oven. This morning I get 9-12 minute mini increments to get little chores around the house done. One benefit from making Orange Pound Cake or Supreme Lemon Cake is that I get about sixty full minutes to busy myself while the goodies bake. Sophia is awake early this morning. I tried to sneak into the kitchen before she stirred. It's going to be a beautiful day. The kind of day that reminds me why we moved to Cape Cod. The sun is eager to meet the day-so are we. There is a steady brisk breeze. I have the sliding glass door off the kitchen open. The curtain blows back and forth. As much as I love to bake I can't wait to complete today's tasks so I can get out and enjoy nature. I have had to learn patience. I can't rush what's in the oven. It's done when it's done.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Baker's Dozen

What I love about a baker's dozen is you get a little more than you were expecting...13 instead of 12!
Wouldn't it be nice if a baker's dozen extended to other things? Like the amount of time the kids help around the house or the size of our paycheck or even how far the gas in the tank goes?
Right now I am baking Autumn Spice Comfort Cake. The house smells wonderful. It's the little things that always amaze me -like how flour, egg and sugar can produce the most inviting, satisfying and nurturing treats. Sophia loves to bake with me. When she sees me head for the kitchen, i'll hear "Mom, I need my apron". Our aprons match. We wear navy blue and white ones spotted with whales.
My first baking loves: Whale, Lobster and Sea Bass Shaped Sugar Cookies & Supreme Lemon Cake.