Tuesday, October 30, 2007


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


"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!
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?