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.