Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace at Christmas & Snow

"Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without." ~ Buddha

I took this picture while checking my mail earlier this week. Doesn't it look beautiful?
The snow can be so peaceful especially on a day I don't have to go too far from home.
It snowed a couple of days this week and I felt lucky to have lots of baking to do from home for teacher gifts, friends and neighbors. I was happy when I had all the ingredients I needed and I didn't have to run up to the market for last minute items.
Throughout this holiday I've made pecan breads, lemon cakes, cake balls, dreamy island cookies, sugar cookies, celebration cookies, cranberry biscotti and chocolate chip cookies. I was glad I thought to save a small assortment of each for my own family so that I don't have to bake today if I don't feel like it.
The kids love to snuggle up on Christmas Eve to a fire in the living room, watch "The Polar Express" and snack on some of my baked goods. My oldest son is getting a bit old for snuggling but since it's Christmas we might even persuade him to join us.
Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year to you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Parties & Morning Walk!

I feel blessed this holiday because even though I don't have a lot of extended family on Cape Cod, I've been invited to so many fun holiday parties by good friends. Last night a woman in my book club hosted a party and it was nice because I didn't know everyone there and it was good to meet a few new people.

I met a man who travels from Cape Cod to Paris four times a year, a man who makes the best gumbo I've ever tasted and his charming girlfriend who shares a similar love for good books as I do and a man who as it turned out grew up in the same neighborhood I did in Worcester, MA who had such a great sense of humor!

Not surprisingly, I was asked to bring the dessert. I brought white and dark chocolate cake balls, celebration cookies and my most recent creation; sugar cookies with melted chocolate and crushed candy canes. They definitely were a hit and I came home with two large but empty Tupperware tubs that I brought them in.
I also brought a pitcher of my Holiday Cranberry Sangria. I used my recipe that accompanied my recently published essay "Comforts of Baking". I didn't actually taste it but friends said it was really good.

As for the morning walk, I convinced my fourteen year old to go with me on a walk early this morning. It was beautiful! It's cold but the wind was calm and the sun was bright. I took the above picture as we were out walking. It was early and we saw a coyote and two foxes!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sugar Cookie Dough & Student Summaries

I brought my students a sampling of baked goods for the last day of class. I had sugar cookie dough left over from my party. I decided to create something new.

I rolled the dough into rounds, baked them then removed from my oven and painted the tops with melted milk chocolate and crushed candy canes. They are really yummy and it took a little less time than rolling them out into shapes. I also brought in a batch of double chocolate holiday cake balls drizzled with white chocolate.

Each semester I ask my students to turn in a portfolio-a compilation of the best of their work throughout the course with a one page summary that allows them to reflect on their experience in the class and their development as writers.

It's always fun for me to read them because I get to hear from them on a personal level about what they will take away from my class. I always learn something that both surprises me and that I appreciate.

It got me thinking; this concept of taking time for self reflection can be applicable in other areas of our lives too especially around the Holidays when stress is often high and we are about to close out one year and welcome a new one in.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chopping Hazelnuts, Crushing Candy Canes & End of Semester

I spent a good part of my day last Friday chopping hazelnuts and crushing candy canes into tiny pieces. I was trying to get a head start on the party I hosted here last night called "Cookies & Cocktails"-it was a girls night only get together.

The weekend was otherwise busy and I wanted to make sure I was ready when friends arrived.

I baked a number of different kinds of cookies and served fun cocktails in those fancy martini glasses. The crushed candy canes were for the rims of the glasses. I made my own version of a 'chocolate martini'. I placed the outer edge of the martini glass into light Caro syrup then coated it with the crushed candy canes. I drizzled chocolate syrup into the bottom of the glass then poured a chilled mixture of whipped cream flavored vodka, peppermint flavored Kahlua and a splash of sierra mist. It was so decadent.

However, I was so busy greeting guests, making fancy cocktails and setting girl friends up to bake sugar cookies of their own that I never actually tried one!

I offered my friends samples of my cookies: Hazelnut Shortbread, Celebration, Dreamy Island, Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Biscotti with White Chocolate.

I sent my friends home with the cookies they baked in fancy party favor bags. I printed up labels that said, "Got Baked at Girls Night Out, Cookie's & Cocktails".

Tomorrow is the last day of the semester at my teaching job. I've had a lot of fun getting to know this particular group of students and I will be sad to see them go. They've been hinting that I might bake them something for tomorrow's class-who knows I might just surprise them and bake something for them after all.
* The image is just a quick shot from my living room right before friends arrived for the party.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Life's Challenges, Sweet & Savory Biscuits & Off-Season at Beach!

Life often has a funny way of challenging us. Of course as soon as I wrote the previous post many things happened to see if I was committed to my resolve for daily self-care.

Was I making time each day to 'take good care of myself'? It's easy to ignore my own needs while three kids and two jobs constantly seek my attention.
Good thing I have enough sense to know that I can do better at my job or raise my kids when I step back and care for me. I think it's even more important those times when others either get upset with me or judge me for doing so.

Tonight's my neighborhood Book-Club. We've decided to celebrate the holidays with a pot-luck meal and a Yankee swap gift exchange. My task is to bring the bread and I've included my recipe for one of the items I'm bringing. It's a dependable quick bread and goes well with many dishes.

As for Off-season at the beach. It's cold by the water now. But I still love to go down there (bundled up of course) to enjoy the peace it provides. The picture above is from South Cape Beach just before sunset Monday night.

Sweet & Savory Biscuits
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup lowfat yogurt vanilla flavored
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup minced scallions
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the flours. Sprinkle in the baking powder and salt and stir well. In a separate bowl, combine the oil, yogurt, honey, scallions, dill and pepper. Blend the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture quickly and thoroughly to form a soft dough. On a floured countertop, pat the dough into a 3/4 inch circle and cut into eight wedges place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm with butter or additional honey.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday Cake Balls, Parties & Good Self-Care!

Each Holiday season I get excited about making 'Cake Balls'. They are one of the few items I only make this time of year but they're so good!

A few years ago I wrote an article for the Holiday Supplement to the Enterprise where I shared some fun ideas for making Holiday gifts which included my recipes for both making Limoncello and Holiday Cake Balls.

The holiday season seems to be getting in full swing fast and early this year as we have a party to attend both tonight and tomorrow.
I love a good party. But I also love time at home simply relaxing.

I guess that's where the good self-care comes in. In order to do all the things I like to do for others this time of year it's also important to remember to take a little time each day to do at least one thing special or relaxing or fun just for me! I invite you to do the same for you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cookies & The Holidays!

We spent Thanksgiving at my Mom's house. The girls and I drove up early in the day because it turned out the annual Falmouth football game (the team my son plays on) was in Barnstable this year and I didn't want to arrive even later than expected. I know it takes a lot of work to prepare such a big meal.

The boys drove up at the end of the game. It was not a win for Falmouth. But, my son played hard and gave it his all throughout the entire season. I'm proud of him and of course it's nice to win but like most things in life it's really about how you play the game that in the end matters the most.

When I got back to Falmouth their was such a nice message waiting for me from a woman who ordered a couple dozen of my Celebration Cookies for her Thanksgiving meal. The message said, "words can't even describe how awesome your cookies taste". I love the feedback. I always try to bake the way I want my son to play the game of Football. I put care and attention to each batch I place in the oven.

As for the Holidays, I decided to get up early this morning to pre-make batches of my "Nana's No Fail Sugar Cookie" Recipe. It'll freeze well and it'll make my life so much easier to have that done and ready long before my "Cookies & Cocktails" party that's planned for the twelfth.

I also hope to get my Tree, lights and decorations done today partly because Sophia thoroughly enjoys Christmas and I think having it up now will make the whole season that much more magical for her.

I miss the feeling of total magic that Christmas can bring especially when your still as young as Sophia is. It seems like such a small but precious gift I can give to her simply by taking care of the decorating now. She loves to help with putting the ornaments on the tree.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to You!

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, November 22, 2010

Synchronicity, Cookies & Gratitude

Last week, I asked my Freshman English Composition students to write about an act of kindness they performed without expecting anything in return. For the few who couldn't think of anything immediately I suggested they come up with something they might do for someone throughout this holiday week. I reminded them of the movie "Pay it Forward" and how acts of kindness are an extension of gratitude a fitting topic for Thanksgiving.

I baked three batches of Celebration Cookies after dinner tonight. Bella says it's her all time favorite cookie. They really are good with pieces of cranberries, blueberries and white chocolate. It's my own creation- I was inspired to make them while watching Fireworks this past summer over Falmouth Heights.

I made them to fill a baking order. I made extras to have on hand if unexpected company stops by over the Holiday. I was so disappointed to hear my husband was going to work both Friday and Saturday of the Holiday week so hopefully friends will stop by to say hello. If not, the girls and I will embark on our own adventures.

As for synchronicity, I unexpectedly ran into a long ago friend at a High School Reunion on Saturday that I haven't seen or talked to in years. It was a lot of fun to catch up and create new memories. In some ways it felt like the twenty something years haven't even passed by.
I think what makes the moments of synchronicity so special is the hope that the connection will continue.

I brought the reunion hostess a gift of my jumbo chocolate chip cookies with a hint of peanut butter, celebration cookies and cranberry biscotti dipped in white chocolate because I know she worked so hard to pull it all together. She sent a note saying how much she enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fun with Fillo! ( Phyllo)

Tonight's our monthly book club meeting. I always look forward to getting together with these particular friends. An added bonus is how fantastic and fabulous the food usually is. We rotate houses for hosting and each member brings an appetizer to share.

I found mini phyllo shells on sale at Roche Brothers grocery store in Mashpee and I bought several packages to keep in the freezer throughout the holiday.

For tonight, I decided to fill them with mashed sweet potatoes, goat cheese crumbles and pecans. I looked around my kitchen and fridge and out of what I had on hand that sounded like a good combination. If you're feeling adventurous (and have more free time on your hands than I do right now) read on for a good tip to bake your own mini pastry shells.

I'm including the recipe of what I'm making for tonight's appetizer because with Thanksgiving right around the corner you might like to give it a try too.

Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese & Pecan Pastries

1 package of pre-made mini phyllo pastry shells
1 large sweet potato, peel, slice and boil until soft, then mash with 1 Tbsp. maple syrup and 1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. Goat Cheese crumbles
1 Tbsp. chopped pecans

Place the Phyllo Shells on a baking sheet and fill with the mashed sweet potatoes, the goat cheese and then the pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8 minutes. Enjoy warm.

Baker's Tip: If you'd like to make your own pastry shells you can take a pie crust (either from scratch or a pre-made one from the refrigerator section) and cut 2 in. rounds. Take a mini-muffin tin and flip upside down. Place the 2 in. rounds on each upended muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8 minutes. Let cool, then follow additional directions above.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Party Invites, Out of Town Phone Call & Celebration Cookies!

I sent out my holiday party invites on Friday. I'm calling the party "Cookies & Cocktails". I remember last year I planned a Holiday Open House for couples and their families too and we got a major snow storm the night before the party and it turned out that many people were not able to make it because of the severity of the storm.
Luckily I have a number of friends that live within walking distance and we still managed a fun time. Although, I hope the weather cooperates this year.

Here's something fun: a woman who lives out of town and who subscribes to Cape Cod Magazine recently read my article, visited the blog then went to Amazon to order my book. She called me yesterday to ask a question about my recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cheesecake. Her phone call got me wondering: how have other's found my blog? I know a few people visit because of the labels I put on my baked goods all summer long at the Farm Store which includes the address.

As for Celebration Cookies, I'm accepting very few orders for Thanksgiving this year as I have my own baking to do not to mention I'm in the middle of my teaching schedule. However, I couldn't resist a friends request today to make her a couple of dozen of my Celebration Cookies for her Holiday party.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Best Laid Plans, Biscotti & A Cookie Party!

I decided to sneak out of my warm and cozy bed early this morning into the chilly air while Sophia was still fast asleep to get a bit of baking done. I enjoy the quiet of the morning to think and get a head start on my day.

As soon as I started down the stairs I heard Sophia climb out of her own bed and follow my lead. I thought of that Robert Burns poem that refers to the 'best laid plans'. It's like the other night when I'd hoped I'd reconnect with my teens over a fun board game but they had too much homework and it just never happened.

I cherish the time I spend in the kitchen with Sophia. I have the vague sense that years from now these are the times she will remember the most about me and our relationship. Yet, for today I'd hoped to get it started while she was still nestled in her bed because we already have a busy day planned. Let's face it I can move quicker on my own.

Yet, once we settled into a comfortable groove (and I let go of my idea for my 'best laid plans') we managed some of our most precious interactions yet. We chatted about things like how much we both love flour. She said, "I love how puffy and fluffy it is". I told her I agreed. Their is something about a big tub of flour that is so inviting and I love the way her and I share the simplicity of that.

We're baking Cranberry Biscotti with white chocolate. I am using my recipe that is included in "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen".

As for a Cookie Party, I've decided that sometime between now and Christmas I'm going to invite a bunch of women friends over for "Cookies & Cocktails".

I have tons of fun cookie cutters and a fabulous recipe for sugar cookies. I will serve my recipe for Holiday Cranberry Sangria and have a fire going in the kitchen fireplace. I guess as busy as the season can get I don't want it to pass without having a chance to connect with my girlfriends too.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brownie's, Banana Bread & Game Night

It's been chilly around Falmouth lately. It was 30 degrees at the bus stop this morning. Brr!

It's been an amazing autumn this year with exceptionally bright shades of yellow, deep dark brown, red and purple leaves. The pictures offer a sampling of the colors from my morning walk and the view from our side yard.

I'm about to bake a batch of brownies the way the kids like them. I use double chocolate with a mix of cocoa and chocolate chips. I'm also baking a loaf of banana bread. The brownies are for dessert tonight. I love the smell in the house when I am baking two items at once, the chocolate and the banana bread together smells great. I think we'll all be home and I'll suggest playing one of my favorite games: Apples to Apples.
I'm baking the banana bread today simply because I have a few bananas that need to be used. It'll be nice before school in the morning tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Feeling Frazzled & Comforts of Baking!

This past week it seems as though I've had too many things to get done. When this happens it's easy for me to lose my center and I begin to feel frazzled. I know how important it is for me as a working wife and mother to stay centered because when I'm happy and balanced my family is too.

Yesterday I helped Sophia's First Grade Class put together a Halloween Party, watched the Parade at her School and took her to a Spooky Spaghetti Dinner. She had a blast-- I was exhausted!

Although I'm happy to be there for her and enjoy her activities I find that too much fun for her without a bit of fun for me can leave me feeling drained.

I think it's all about balance. This morning I am taking it easy by enjoying the morning, drinking a cup of hot coffee and relaxing. I have no 'to do' list for right now and it feels great!

As for Comforts of Baking, if you get a chance please check out my article in Cape Cod Magazine's current issue. What I tried to convey was how rewarding spending a little time in your kitchen can be and how much comfort the simple act of baking can bring.

The photography is gorgeous and I cooked the food right here at home in my kitchen and I share some of my favorite holiday recipes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pomegranate, Clementine, Caramel Sauce & Pursuing Passions!

Over the weekend I picked up the most perfect pomegranate while I was doing our grocery shopping. I also bought a large batch of clementines.
I wanted to come up with a really creative way to use these unique fruit that is in abundance right now instead of just the usual way of scooping or peeling and eating.

I decided to make a sauce by scooping out the pomegranate seeds and squeezing the juice in, peeling and dicing the clementine into small pieces and taking a handful of caramels and melting them over a double boiler.

Don't make this sound harder than it is- you can easily make your own double boiler if you don't already have one by heating water in a sauce pan and placing a glass bowl on top-just make sure the boiling water doesn't heat the glass only allow the steam to heat the glass.
Stir the fruit and caramel regularly until the caramel melts and a sauce forms. Let cool. Pour over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

As for pursuing passions, I had the pleasure of being invited recently to exhibit three pieces of my art work at G Design Center in Mashpee Commons (creating unique sculptures is another one of my many passions). My work will be there until mid November.
On Friday the owners hosted a private reception for the participating artists and our friends and supporters. I had a number of friends stop by to show their support and I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my work in a fun atmosphere with the other artists.

*Note on the sauce: You can leave the sauce with bits of fruit or you can cool and puree in your blender. I prefer it with pieces of fruit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chicken with Ricotta & Pesto over a Tomato, Lime Vinaigrette & Dinner as a Family!

We have a pretty hectic schedule although I strongly believe in the importance of having dinner as a family so I try to make it happen as often as possible.
As simple as it is I think it does matter that I offer my family good food. It may not be fancy every night but when we do get a chance to share a meal I like to catch up with my family and turn the tv off so we have a chance to reconnect.
Tonight I made a yummy chicken dish that might sound like it's on the fancy side but it was super easy and the kids liked it. Give this recipe a try some time soon and let me know if you like it.
Chicken with Ricotta & Pesto over a Tomato, Lime Vinaigrette
Boneless chicken breasts, 6
12 oz. ricotta
3 Tbsp. pesto
Mix the ricotta with the pesto in a small bowl
Cut a slit in the center of the chicken and stuff it with the pesto, ricotta mix.
Place in a baking dish, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Bake at a 375 degree oven for approximately 25 minutes
For the Tomato, Lime Vinaigrette
6 oz. diced tomatoes
juice from one lime
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
salt and pepper
Place in a blender and pulse until smooth.
Spoon onto the plate and place the baked chicken on top. Serve with fresh leafy greens and rice pilaf.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sunshine, Seashells & Tarts with Squash!

The kids were home from school yesterday because of the Columbus Day holiday. It was 69 degrees and sunny and I grabbed the girls out of their slumber and took them down to South Cape Beach. I was so surprised to see two couples in their bathing suits-one of them was even swimming! It's gotten a bit cold for me to brave a swimsuit.

We walked, looked for sea treasures (I found an especially beautiful shell, pictured above) and enjoyed the sun. My son had football practice but he was able to meet up with us for lunch at Wicked. Later that day I snuck out for a bike ride down to Seconsett Island. I'm going to miss that ride once winter arrives.

As for tarts, I love them. You can make so many varieties from sweet and savory to a breakfast, dinner or even dessert version. I want to share the recipe I used for Squash, Sage and Gorgonzola Tart because if you like those items you may want to try it for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.

Squash, Sage and Gorgonzola Tart

Make a pie crust or pick up a refrigerated pre-made one. Place in a pie plate.
For the Filling
small butternut squash
tbsp. olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
6 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
6-8 fresh sage leaves

1) Cut the squash in half, brush with oil and place cut side up on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until they are brown and very soft. Let cool. Scoop out squash, place in a bowl and discard the skin.
2) Mash the squash and mix with half the cream, season with salt and pepper and spread in the bottom of shell. Spread gorgonzola crumbles on top of squash. Whisk your remaining cream with the eggs and yolk and pour over the squash/cheese. Make sure it settles evenly. Arrange the sage leaves in a circular pattern in the center on top.
3) Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30-35 minutes. Enjoy warm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gratitude, Cranberry Biscotti & Friends!

I was lucky enough to spend time with a close friend for the day on sunday. I left my husband in charge and decided I was giving myself a few hours off. It's always important (and needed) to take a little time to connect with friends. They help bring me back to me!
This particular friend lives in Central, MA and decided to drive down for the day. We had so much fun. We had a nice long lunch at Anejo's- a new Mexican Restaurant in Falmouth and sipped on their amazing Anejo Margarita's, took a long walk at the Knob (a truly special place) and afterwards we sipped a honey chai tea at Coffee O while I shared my pictures from the trip I took with my girls over the summer. We laughed often about the silliest of things.
She and I met in second grade and we have a very special bond. We know everything their is to know about one another and we still love and enjoy each other's company. To me, that is something to be truly grateful for.
As for Cranberry Biscotti, I was recently asked to donate a signed copy of my recipe book and a sample of my baking for a local upcoming Fundraiser/Auction. I decided to bake a large batch of cranberry Biscotti with white chocolate in part because it stays fresh so well and people really enjoy good Biscotti. I often hear, "that is the best Biscotti I've ever tasted".
I find there are always challenges and unique crosses that each of us must bear, however life is meant for living and I always try to do as much of the 'living part' as I possibly can. What about you?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dreaming, Apple Crisp & Celebration Cookies!

I love to dream. Dreaming matters because it helps me to see possibilities!
I dream about things like taking long romantic adventures to Italy, throwing wildly fancy parties right at home with good friends and having somewhere perfect to wear my favorite dress and shoes!
I also dream about big things like wishing for the day that could end hunger and poverty among families and also little things like wondering what I might be able to do to make someone else's life a little bit brighter.
Maybe dreaming is important because it puts us a little bit closer to the types of things we want and how we want our life to look. Even when it doesn't always look that way now.
On Saturday I went to a party with some women friends from my writing group. I brought my Celebration Cookies along and one of the women commented on how much she loves the way I come up with new recipes the way other people paint on a canvas or create a sculpture.
Perhaps my recent frequent day dreaming might be because I have teenagers and I do a lot of back and forth driving around town. Although perhaps the driving is not all bad.
As for the Apple Crisp I really need to get in my kitchen and get busy baking. We went Apple Picking on Sunday as a Family to Keith's Farm in Acushnet, MA and we picked lots of fresh juicy apples.
I asked my kids what they wanted me to do with them and they all said, "Make your apple crisp". And, as for having two teenagers in the house I'm well aware that a trip apple picking as a family is somewhat of a dream in itself. I'm so glad they decided to come.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kripalu, New Friends, Ginger Scones & Chestnut Puree!

As I woke this morning my heart was filled with so much love and gratitude toward the amazing weekend I spent at Kripalu Yoga and Retreat Center in Lenox, MA. I spent the weekend with the Beckwith's-they are the most beautiful and awe-inspiring couple I have ever met! They created an incredible environment for healing, growth and joy. I also met some new friends which was so much fun.
One of the things Kripalu is known for is their delicious and abundant food. It is so good for you. I felt it nourished not only my body but my soul as well.
As for the Chestnut Puree, I finally managed to get my hands on some. It arrived by delivery truck just as I was pulling out of my driveway on Friday to head to the retreat for the weekend.
It's downstairs ready for me to make Chestnut, Maple and Pecan Tart out of it. I can't wait to bake it as it sounds like a really yummy combination.
As for the Ginger Scones, I ate them one morning with my breakfast over the weekend and they were so good I am going to experiment with my own version soon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fall is in the Air, Photo Shoot & Birthday Presents!

At the bus stop this morning it felt chilly. The coolest it's felt in a long time even though the sun was shining. There were lots of neighbors milling about, walking their dogs and stopping to say hello before the kids boarded the bus for the school day. Sophia grabbed a sweater and my toes were cold in my flip flops. Autumn on Cape Cod often sneaks in unexpectedly and it always takes time to adjust to the abrupt temperature change.

The photographers arrived today for taking pictures of some of my recipes. Before their arrival I prepared Pecan Bread, Fresh Coffee with ground Pecans, Pancakes with Raspberries, Slivered Almonds and Fresh Whipped Cream, Celebration Cookies, Apple Crisp and a Cranberry Sangria.

As for birthday presents I would have to say the favorite gift I received was from my three kids. They bought me one of those way oversized music cards that plays the song "girls just wanna have fun" and each wrote a sweet note. It came with some fun gift cards for dinner and a movie that we'll go out and enjoy together sometime soon. But it's the fun card and thoughtful notes that I really appreciate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Getting Old(er), Baking Bread & Picking Up the Pieces

I turn forty-two on Monday. In some ways I see it for the blessing it is-I am in excellent health, have wonderful children and am fortunate enough to do many things I love. And yet there is a part of me that sighs at the thought--where has all the time gone?
And even though I think I've aged fairly gracefully I'm noticing way more wrinkles than ever before!
I remember (very clearly) when I turned fourteen. I reminded my close friends at the time that my birthday was approaching weeks in advance and fourteen felt so exciting because I was a full fledged teenager ready to take on the world.
I remember having the sense that not only was the world my oyster but I knew what I wanted. Looking back, I realize I was so young and naive and wish I could have known then what I know now.
I suppose I might look at my wrinkles today as 'learning lines'-evidence that I have grown and changed in remarkable ways even if at fourteen I thought I knew it all.
I'm about to bake bread this morning-a banana bread as there are ripe bananas just waiting to be used and a special order for pecan bread loaf.
As for picking up the pieces, my sister has been hard at work trying to put her life back together after the recent fire and she has been doing remarkably well. Although tragedy takes time to recover from. For now, I simply continue to check in on her and make sure she's OK and see what I can do to offer my help and support.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Photographs, Unexpected Tragedy & Cookies!

I recently wrote an essay called the "Comforts of Baking" that will be featured in the upcoming food section of Cape Cod Magazine. They want to visit soon to take photographs of a few of my recipes to complement the article. It should be fun. One of the recipes is for pancakes with raspberries and slivered almonds. The recipe is one of my kids favorites and I'm sure they'll be glad to get to eat them after the photo shoot.

Over this past weekend we had my husband's mom visiting from Texas. My sister planned to drive down from Central MA to join us for dinner and to catch up with family. Sadly, she was struck by an unexpected tragedy-a car driven by a teenager who had been drinking lost control of his car and slammed into the front door of her house! The car went up in flames and lit her entire home on fire.

It was truly unbelievable. Thank God she made it out safe although her beloved cat died in the blaze. I drove up that morning to see it for myself and felt my heart deeply aching for her unexpected loss.

I had chocolate chip cookies and cranberry biscotti already baked so I packaged some to share with her. I know it didn't do much that morning but usually a good tasting sweet treat can brighten just about any one's day.
As our company headed back to Dallas I asked them if they'd stop by to drop some of my cookies off at the home of a previous neighbor. From what I hear the cookies really brightened her day as well-- I did it simply because I know she is the kind of person that would really appreciate it.

Maybe there is someone you know that is either lonely, feeling blue or experiencing an unexpected hardship and you don't quite know what to do to help. What about starting with the simplicity of sharing a fresh baked batch of cookies?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chestnut Puree, Cookie Delivery & Apologies!

I mentioned I've been searching around Falmouth for Chestnut Puree. I did find it online through Amazon although they were wanting to charge me over $10.00 for shipping. At this point I'm thinking about picking up some chestnuts and pureeing them myself! They're not the easiest food to puree but I really want to give this particular tart a try.

I just finished baking a batch of Cookies that are on their way to the farm now.

As for apologies, when my daughter's and I were out of town a voice message was left for me and I saved it intending to return the call when we were back on Cape. It was a new customer looking for a birthday cake for her child's first birthday and somehow that particular message didn't get saved and I don't have the telephone number so I have no way of letting the person know I did in fact receive the message. I feel bad because even if I know I'm not available for an order I still like to at least acknowledge the call.

The weather today is cool, wet and windy. It's a perfect cape cod day for cooking, baking and staying indoors.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sweet & Savory Tarts, Biscotti & Joy of Friendship

What a busy summer it's been at our house! Last week we had long-time friends fly in from Dallas, TX to visit us for the weekend. And, what a blessing it was! They were wonderful house-guests and it was so much fun to catch up.
The joy of friendship is that if you make a lasting friend connection you can go without seeing one another for years and when you meet up again it's as if you pick up right where you left off.
I dropped off cookies at the farm right before they arrived (and the morning after they left) as I knew we would be having way too much fun for baking while they were here.
In one weekend we went to Old Silver Beach, Surf Drive, La Tavola (the Italian Community Dinner in Mashpee), National Seashore and the Fort Hill Area in Eastham, Cahoon Hollow and of course The Beachcomber, the Jetty in Provincetown (each of my three children walked it with ease) and then of course the main drag in Provincetown. On Sunday just the girls and I spent a super fun day walking around the wharf in Boston and looking around Quincy Market (and of course eating more food).
I sent them home with packages of my Cranberry Biscotti with white chocolate and from what I hear the rest of their family really loved getting a taste.
I've been feeling creative in the kitchen this week as it gives me a chance to feel grounded again and last night I made a super savory Butternut Squash, Gorgonzola and Sage tart.
Next, I'm going to try a sweet option-a Chestnut, Pecan and Maple Tart as soon as I can locate chestnut puree somewhere on the Cape.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Joy & Baking

I am a bit behind in my baking schedule as I snuck away with my girls on a fabulous little vacation to Orlando, Florida. Yep-I took them to Disney! We'd never been and it had been awhile since we traveled very far from Cape Cod so I thought it would do us some good to get away. It did! The whole trip flew by in an instant but it was a lot of fun.

We met some cool people which is always fun. In fact we met one couple who hung out at the hotel pool with their kids a couple of the same nights that we did. It turned out that they are going on their first ever Cape Cod Adventure for her 40th birthday--without the kids! I think they will love it here.

As for baking, I am heading into my kitchen first thing in the morning. I know for sure I will make Dreamy Island Cookies for the farm and I have an order for Cranberry Biscotti dipped in White Chocolate to fill too. The picture above--I just had to share so you can see for yourself the joy I know the girls felt while on our little getaway adventure.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Importance of Having a Dream & What to do While the Boys are Away!

"What is most essential is invisible to the eye!" ~ From "Le Petit Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery.

I am pretty certain (a quick search would confirm this) that I used this very quote to frame another post many (many) posts ago. I come back to this quote time and again because it rings so true for me. The book "The Little Prince" is all about the importance of dreaming and I believe wholeheartedly that the things that really matter are matters of the heart (the things that we don't immediately see when we look at someone).
Sophia helped me bake dreamy island cookies for our farm delivery yesterday. She was so enthusiastic to be in the kitchen with me. I taught her how to use a butter knife to level off the flour in the measuring cup and she was thrilled. Her eyes lit up- "Cool, Mom" she said as a smile appeared across her face.
My husband and son have been on a road trip together this week and it's just been me and the girls. I decided to redecorate our guest room without the boys around and it has inspired me to recognize a dream. It's actually a dream I have had tucked away for quite awhile but this week has helped me to recognize it, claim it as mine and share it with you.
The couch in the picture pulls out to a bed and the room is so cozy now for a weary traveler to rest.
My dream is to some day run a (small yet simple) bed and breakfast in my home.
It would be a space for people who need a bit of pampering and self-care a quiet place to get away from it all.
I would make special treats from my recipe book and set it out for breakfast and then pack cookies and biscotti for guests as they head out to explore the area. I would offer warm towels and heated coffee mugs. I would provide stamped postcards with a pen at the writing desk. (Tiny touches that would make guests feel special).
For now, it will remain as a dream. My house is awfully busy with the hustle and bustle of raising kids but someday the house will be so quiet that my dream may just have a place and time to come true.
For now, it's been fun to have a little extra time with just the girls and an opportunity to dream.
I bet that you have a dream of your own. What is it? Have you named it? Do you take tiny steps today so that one day it will come true? If not, what are you waiting for?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rainy Days, Trolley's & Relationships

It's been raining a lot today on Cape. It's been a nice break from the heat and humidity we've been having. I decided to bake cookies for the farm first thing this morning. I made a batch of dreamy island cookies and I wanted to get a batch of my cranberry biscotti started too but I got a call earlier than expected that Bella's camp bus was arriving.
She spent a week in New Hampshire--I missed her like crazy but it was such a blessing that she had so much fun. We stopped by the Farm on the way back from camp pick-up to deliver at least a few packages of cookies for sale. I love to bake although with three kids around for the summer I feel pulled in many other directions too and never bake as much as I'd like.

Sophia has been wanting to ride the Falmouth Trolley so I dropped things needing my attention on Thursday and we hopped a ride to Woods Hole. She got a special treat and I had a large coffee from "Pie in the Sky". We walked down to the Aquarium and Sophia loved watching the seals swim around in the water. Later that night we met some friends at the Popponessett Marketplace for a truly out of this world Lobster Roll and a fun concert.

As far as relationships go I was thinking that they can be (at times) so delicate and fragile. In other words they can be our greatest joy and blessing and also our biggest obstacles.
When I baked this morning I pulled my butter out of the freezer and as I had less time than usual I decided to soften it by popping the sticks in my microwave. I let them stay in a little too long so the butter was more melted than I wanted it to be. I like my butter to be soft but not melted. I didn't want to waste the butter though. The cookies came out tasting the same but I noticed a slight alteration in the texture. Something probably only I could detect.
Like the butter melting too quickly and affecting how the cookies turn out the same can be true for my relationships.
If I alter what I do or how I participate in a challenging situation I find that my relationships instead of getting harder actually have an opportunity to change or grow. In other words by doing less I just might get more.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Whale Shaped Sugar Cookies, Bella's Birthday & Views from a Bike-Ride!

What a week it's been. I was unexpectedly pulled into a bit of a drama and I found myself needing to step back and take stock.

Over the years, I have learned (through trial and error) how to look at a situation and see what my part is and also what my part is not.
It's been an invaluable experience for me because for many years I often felt I was entirely at fault in any miscommunication or problem especially with family members. What a blessing to finally know that I'm not the cause of everyone else's misfortune or problems. I'm only responsible for my tiny plot of my life.

In the midst of the drama I managed to provide my daughter Bella with the most beautiful and simple yet attention to detail filled fourteenth birthday celebration. One of the details involved personalized shoe shaped sugar cookies as part party favors for each of her guests.

I also managed to bake and deliver whale shaped sugar cookies to the farm for sale and went on the most magnificent bike-ride (pictured above). I also realized how very loved I am by so many close and attentive friends who immediately offered words of kindness and care for my well-being.

In the end I always return to the things I love the most like bike riding, hanging out with my kids and (always) a bit of baking.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Celebration Cookies!

By Monday I already knew what I wanted to put in my latest cookie creation although it's been a busy week with catching up with friends and hosting house guests that I didn't have much time to sneak away for baking and testing new recipes.
In fact, I had to turn away two new customers because I barely had the time to bring my cookies to the farm. I made sure I went into my kitchen first thing this morning to get a batch of Dreamy Island Cookies started.
I'm calling the new recipe, Celebration Cookies. I've put dried blueberries, dried cranberries and white chocolate in them as a tribute to the Fourth of July Holiday. They have a unique texture and sweet taste. I love them.
I invited my son in for a taste and as I anxiously awaited his response he said, "they're so good"!
We're going to a Cocktail Party tonight to Celebrate the completion of a home that my husband has been a large part in the renovation of and I think I'll bring the host a package of my new cookies to try.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fireworks at Falmouth Heights & Creating a New Cookie!

We rode our bikes down to Falmouth Heights last night to watch the fireworks. We decided to let Sophia ride on Tommy's Handlebars instead of her own bike--and she had a blast!
I decided over the weekend to create another cookie.
It's been almost three years since I came up with Dreamy Island Cookies--and those have been my all time favorite...
Although it's time to try something new. I promise to post what I come up with after testing variations in my kitchen.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Eating Cookies at the Beach & Blueberry Pancakes!

We spent a good part of the afternoon and into the evening hours at Sandy Neck Beach yesterday. It was a perfect day for a bit of off road fun and catching up with old friends.
In the morning I dropped off a bunch of my cookies for sale at the Coonamessett Farm Store and packed enough to take some to share at the beach. We stayed late enough to enjoy the setting sun and a nice fire.
While the cousins were visiting earlier this week I decided to make them pancakes with fresh blueberries for breakfast one of the mornings. One of my nephews thought they were the best pancakes he'd ever had. With complements like that I told him he could stay as long as he wanted.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Cousins & Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies!

The cousins are coming!
My four nephews to be exact. What fun Sophia will have with all the boys running around the house! I am so grateful that the sun is shining and that we'll be able to pack lunches and head to the beach together later today. And, even more grateful that after a day filled with sand and sun everyone can rinse off in the outdoor shower before coming back into the house.
My next farm delivery will be a batch of Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies--it's a recipe that I get excellent feedback on and is included in "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen".
Bella, Sophia and I spent a few fun hours together at Wood Neck Beach yesterday. The water was warm and the tide was high when we arrived then slowly crept out as we enjoyed the afternoon sun.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Coonamessett Farm Cookie Delivery

Hey! If you're hanging around town this weekend stop by the Coonamessett Farm Store and pick up a package of my freshly baked Dreamy Island Cookies that I dropped off first thing this morning!
It's a beautiful Cape Cod day and I hope you're enjoying it. I'm about to head to Menhaunt Beach to put my toes in the sand and catch some rays!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Purple and Pink Castle Cake & Baked Brie, Part 2!

Both the Cake and the Brie were such a hit at both events on Wednesday that I thought I'd post a quick update.
I arrived at Sophia's school with the cake in tact-this was no small feat as it was three tiers with purple and pink frosted cones for the columns. One of Sophia's classmates was so impressed that she quickly asked if I could make a special cake for her birthday and proceeded to tell me exactly how she wanted it-love those Kindergartners!
At book club we discussed "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave. As for the baked brie their was not even a tiny bit left at the end of the night. It's simply that good-the combination of the crunchy nuts to balance the sweet preserves and the flaky crust that balances the creamy brie. Yum!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Purple and Pink Castle Cake & Baked Brie

Sophia is a summer girl. She turns six in two weeks and I've ordered a pink and purple bounce house castle to be delivered for the celebration.
I've been invited by Sophia's teacher to bring in a special treat tomorrow to share with her classmates since they will be out of school for the summer when her birthday arrives. It seems only fitting that I bake a pink and purple castle cake.
But for now, shh! I am going to keep the cake a surprise from Sophia as I think it will be more fun to see her face as I arrive at her school with a castle cake.
As for the Baked Brie-I've decided to make it to bring to Wednesday night's Book Club. Book Club is always a good time!
Recipe for Baked Brie:
Large brie wheel
Pie crust
Black raspberry preserves (really any jam will do)
chopped fine pecans or walnuts.

Place the pie crust rolled out flat on a baking dish. Place the brie wheel in the center. Spread the preserves on top of the brie then sprinkle with the nuts. Wrap the pie crust around the brie. Press firmly to seal the crust. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Serve warm with your favorite crackers.
So easy and delicious!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

House Guests, Mozzarella with Pesto & Cranberry Orange Scones

A friend of mine who I met way back in Grade School came to visit this past weekend with her husband and son. With dinner last night (Steaks cooked on the grill) I served a super easy side dish they enjoyed. I took soft mozzarella rolled cheese and laid it out flat. I spread pesto sauce on the cheese then rolled it up tightly. I cut the roll into half inch slices and placed them as spirals on a platter. It's so easy and tastes delish. (Thinking back at it now I wish I'd thought to snap a quick picture so you can see for yourself)!
We invited another friend over and all sat around our fire-pit in the back yard. We laughed and shared stories while the kids toasted marshmallows for s'mores.
As for the Cranberry Orange Scones I managed to bake a batch and have them in the oven before they even woke this morning. I like to place my scone batter in a pie plate (instead of what a lot of people suggest which is to form the dough into a circle and place on a cookie sheet-the pie plate simply holds the shape easier).
I slice them into eight scones when finished baking. I like to serve them warm with butter and preserves.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Root Beer Flavored Cake with Dark Chocolate, Cook-Book & Summer!

I saw a recipe posted recently by Saveur Magazine for a Root-Beer Flavored Cake. I was intrigued so I gave it a try over this past weekend. I brought it to the neighbor's cook-out along with the Grilled Asparagus (which seemed to be a hit). It's a pretty tasty cake. I can't say I tasted the root beer all that much but the dark chocolate whipped frosting was amazing and the cake itself was very moist. Besides, it's fun to try new recipes. How will you know if you like something if you don't give whatever it is a try?
It seems like so many people spend a life time doing the same old thing because they don't try something new. There is joy to be found in being spontaneous, trying new things and doing things a little different than your used to. For me, this past weekend, I dusted off and pulled out my bike because I hadn't been on a bike ride in a couple of years (something I love to do) and I really loved getting back on that bike. Sophia and I have plans to use the bike-path in Falmouth together this summer.
As for my cook-book you can now buy a copy of "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen" at the wonderful local bookstore right in Mashpee Commons.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grilled-Asparagus with Cashews, Sangria with Fresh Blueberries & A Summer Salad!

How is it Memorial Day Weekend already? And do you know what that means?
It's time to take the parties outside!
We have plans to go to a cookout at a neighbor's on Saturday and to spend the day with friends out on Sandy Neck Beach on Sunday. I've been thinking about what I am going to make to share for each get together and decided to post my choices here in case you are looking for something different to bring to your Memorial Day outing.
Asparagus has been in abundance lately. Here's a super easy recipe for Grilled Asparagus that can be done out on the grill.
Grilled-Asparagus with Cashews
One summer Bella and I gave cooking lessons to a teen in his summer home and we made these.
1 lb fresh asparagus
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup of finally chopped cashews

Take a sheet of heavy foil and place asparagus spears (cut the tough ends off) in the center. Top with the salt, pepper, butter. Fold up the foil and seal the edges so you make a packet and asparagus is enclosed. Place on grill on a low heat. Cook for about 10 or so minutes rotating half way through. Remove from heat, make a slit in the top of packet and sprinkle with cashews. Note: if you use thin stalks cook less time. If you're not hosting the party prepare the packets at home and then toss on the grill when you arrive.

Sangria with Fresh Blueberries
Last summer I brought this to a few gatherings and friends still tell me how much they liked it. It's pretty tasty!
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1 orange cut into slices, 1 lemon cut into slices
1 1/2 cup of blueberry juice
1/2 cup of sugar
bottle of red wine
4 oz. triple sec

I always make things 'to taste' so test to see if it's the way you like it! Combine the juice, wine, triple sec and sugar in a pitcher-stir well. Add the blueberries, orange and lemon slices and stir gently. Chill for about two hours.

Layered Summer Salad

With so many ways you can vary this salad substitute the type of fruit or nut you prefer. Here is a way that I like it.

Fresh Romaine lettuce, Grilled Chicken, fully cooked and sliced, Fresh Strawberries, sliced Chopped Pecans, Crumbled Blue Cheese

In a large glass bowl take turns layering each of the ingredients with a thick layer of romaine at the bottom. Serve with your choice of dressing. We would use blue cheese, honey mustard or even a balsamic vinaigrette.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shopping with Bella & Popcorn Drizzled with Chocolate!

The weather this week makes me so happy! Sometimes, it really is the little things that make all the difference. It may rain later today or tomorrow. I picked up a bunch of new flowers to fill in my beds and I hope to get them planted first thing this morning.

Earlier this week I had so much fun shopping with Bella for the dress she is going to wear for her upcoming Semi-Formal at school. We went off Cape up to Plymouth and she found an adorable white floral strapless dress with a 'poofy' skirt. She looks gorgeous in it. Ahh, the joys of youth!

As for the Popcorn drizzled with Chocolate-I went to my Book Club meeting on Wednesday night to which I brought a yummy appetizer of mozzarella stuffed tomatoes with a hint of basil-when I was leaving the girls asked if their was a special treat around the house that they might snack on. I knew I didn't have much prepared. So I suggested they pop some popcorn and melt some of the chocolate chips I keep for baking cookies and drizzle that on the popcorn.
It's as good as it sounds and it was such a little thing that turned into a bit of fun for them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dreamy Island Cookies & Going With the Flow!

Each year right around this time I start to talk to my kids about summer plans. I encourage them to find something fun, new and even something they might challenge themselves on. Summer is definitely a time for feeling free and exploring options and trying out things there wasn't time for throughout the school year.

I asked Bella today if she had any interest in helping me with baking for the farm table this summer and she said she definitely was! That made me happy because I really look forward to having the kids around more over the summer.

It's been awhile since I've baked Dreamy Island Cookies and I look forward to getting back into making them. I think they might be my favorite cookie. They taste scrumptious but part of why I like them so much is the spirit around which I created them and the day trip I took with my kids years ago to Martha's Vineyard which inspired them in the first place.

As for going with the flow it never ceases to amaze me how much and how often life nudges (sometimes pushes) us to bend and sway with its lead. Summer's a great opportunity to practice going with the flow. I love heading to the beach when the sun's shining. I often put off things that need to get done simply because it's a great day on Cape Cod and nobody can resist that!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies, Sophia's Book & Reciprocity

Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true. ~Robert Brault

I baked jumbo chocolate chip cookies yesterday. The recipe is from "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen". They have a hint of peanut butter. My kids ate some as an after school snack yesterday and said "YUM" with mouths full and a glass of milk on the side. I also shared them with my students yesterday. I wasn't surprised when they ate every last one.

I've made mention before of how wonderful Sophia's book skills are so I decided to add a photograph of her most recent creation. The back page has a similar drawing but says; "you are the funnest to play with!" It sure is nice to feel so loved by her. I cherish her love for me so much.

As for reciprocity, I believe in the importance of shared kindness and generosity. I want my life to only be filled with people who cherish me as much as I cherish them!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beach, Margarita's & Avocado's

It's official! I've been to the beach this year! I'm not just talking about a quick drive by or a walk in a sweatshirt either. It was so beautiful on Saturday that I decided to drop everything I was going to do and took my oldest daughter to the beach. We read, chatted with one another and soaked up the sun.

I am so glad we did. It gets me so excited for the upcoming summer.
On Saturday night I invited neighbors over to join us around our backyard fire-pit. I love this time of year. If you're lucky you can get a super warm day and a cool night-perfect for building a fire.

Avocado's are on sale this week at the grocery store so I served fresh guacomole with tortilla chips and delicious frozen Margarita's. The margarita's seemed perfect for the weekend before Cinco De Mayo.

I've been super busy teaching lately although I know I will be selling my cookies and copies of my cookbook at the Coonamessett farm again soon. I've decided to keep it simple this year. I will stock my table with packages of my own delicious creation: dreamy island cookies and leave an order form for special orders.
On Sunday Sophia and I made another trip down to the beach. We stopped down at South Cape for a walk and shell collecting. It was beautiful and very quiet. Picture is from South Cape.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jumbo Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate, Book Club & Spring Break!

I found the most large, sweet, ripe and delicious strawberries at the Roche Bros. in Mashpee Commons. I just had to buy two containers. When I arrived home I washed them, dipped them in melted chocolate and then drizzled them in white chocolate!

I brought them along with me to my neighborhood Book Club meeting last night and they were a big hit. Book Club is always fun. We meet once a month and rotate houses for hosting. We each bring an appetizer or other treat to share. It's fun to try out different foods and get new cooking or baking ideas.

I was feeling a little guilty when I left the house last night because the kids are on their Spring Break and with me heading out they were going to be at home.

Although when I walked in the first thing I saw written on the dry erase board that hangs on the fridge was a note that said: "We Love You Mom!"

I am looking forward to spending time with each of them today. We will seek out some sort of fun adventure. I think I will use up the rest of my strawberries. I know they will love them dipped in a bit of chocolate.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rainy Day Brownies, Spring & Art!

Yesterday afternoon I baked a batch of my favorite brownies (recipe added below) because it rained all afternoon and I thought it would be a nice way to greet Sophia off the school bus. She was having a playmate from her class over and they ate the brownies at the kitchen table with a glass of milk. I love to hear them giggle, talk about their school day and decide what they are going to play around the house.
Earlier this week I bought a bunch of purple pansies in hanging pots to hang around the yard as a way to welcome Spring. I've always loved pansies. I remember an old friend of mine that I went to UCLA and shared a house with for awhile would say she loved pansies because they looked like they had such sweet little faces painted on them. (They do)!
My daughters and I decided last minute to head off Cape to meet a friend for an event being held at the Worcester Art Museum today. I love art and I love to expose my children to it as much as I can. And it's always fun to hang out with a good friend.

Linda's Recipe for Rainy Day Brownies

1 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet, set aside, add at end
1 1/4 cups plain cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate chopped fine
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla

Heat oven to 325. Grease a 13x9 pan.
In medium bowl whisk flour, salt and baking powder, set aside.
Melt chocolate and butter in a sauce pan stir occasionally until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar and then add eggs one at a time. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture gradually. Mix until smooth. Add in the chocolate chip until just blended.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool, then cut.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Surprises, Daylillies & Biscotti

A neighbor left two bags of cut daylillies for me to replant somewhere in my yard yesterday. It was such a nice surprise. Seeing them left me anxious for the arrival of my gorgeous spirea bushes that will be in bloom soon. It makes me happy to have a neighbor who thinks to leave such a special treat for me.
After Easter we had so many left over peeps that I decided to melt some chocolate and dip the funny looking bunny shaped creatures into them. The kids were impressed. I felt a little guilty creating such a sinfully sweet treat although alone they are almost too sugary and the chocolate does provide a nice balance. Besides, with spring here our local grocery store has been so abundant with apples, grapes, melons, strawberries etc that we are getting plenty of healthy food too.
The only other thing I had time to bake this week was cranberry biscotti dipped in white chocolate. I managed to sneak a piece in my kids lunch and they told me later that day how much they enjoyed the unexpected surprise.
I'm heading off to a spring fashion show & lunch today. I'm looking forward to good food and conversation but mostly I am happy to see my oldest daughter model a dress she made out of candy wrappers and silk ribbon.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Friends, Dinner Party & Spring-Time!

I want to share a picture of the dinner table I set for the party last night. I ended up extending the table and adding two more places for a third couple who were able to join us at the last minute.
I think everyone enjoyed the meal. The sun-dried tomato, basil and ricotta tart was a big hit and we said a toast to "good friends: old and new". I enjoyed introducing one of my oldest and dearest friends to two women I've developed friendships with since coming to the Cape.
As my guests arrived I served chilled Cosmopolitan's in fancy martini glasses and pesto stuffed mushrooms.
We played a fun and interesting game of "Apples to Apples". I love that game. We shared a lot of laughs.
For dessert I served my lemon cake, vanilla cake balls and fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate. And, I offered limoncello in fancy cocktail glasses.
As for spring-time there are signs of it everywhere around my yard from the birds that have recently returned to the buds that are appearing on my spirea bushes.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Race, My Kids & Vanilla Cake Balls!

I just had to sign on this morning to announce that not only did I finish the hilly 6 mile scenic run around Falmouth yesterday but I didn't do too bad either especially for my first race ever. I ran just over 14 minute miles-not bad for a girl whose not as young as I used to be (or sometimes still think I am).

Each of my three children were very supportive of my acceptance of the race challenge. Nathan asked me what my goals were in the morning and wished me luck, Bella who ran in the race too put a great play list together for me and Sophia told me to "just have fun, Mom!"

I made a batch of cake balls for a Banquet my son attended for Basketball last night and I almost always make the chocolate ones because I feel those are always a no fail treat. This time I decided to bake Vanilla Cake Balls dipped in semi-sweet chocolate then drizzled with white chocolate. I was simply too tired last night from the run to actually attend the banquet myself but from what I hear they disappeared quickly.

As for Bella's run-she did amazing! She ran with a good friend of hers and they finished within seconds of one another. I knew she would cross the line before me and yet I am so happy we were able to share this special event together.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seagull Six, Yellow Cake & Dinner Party!

For some strange reason I signed up to run in a six mile race around Falmouth tomorrow. My daughter and her good friend are doing it and at the time it sounded like a fun challenge. The race website lists the two fastest runners with a time of around 30 minutes--and I am thinking is this even possible?
Yesterday a long time friend contacted me to say she was making her son a special cake for his birthday but she misplaced the cake recipe she usually uses. I know how that is. There are many times where I will want to make something I haven't made in a long while and simply can't find the recipe. That is one benefit of putting my recipe book together because when I am baking I use it too. A few of my favorite recipes are committed to memory but for the most part I count on my recipe book. Anyhow, I sent her the Cook's Illustrated Encyclopedia version of the Yellow Cake that I use for her to try. It should be delicious.
Then next friday I have decided to host a small dinner party at my house. I am making sweet potato fries with a garlic aioli, sun-dried tomato and basil tarte and a fresh leafy green salad. I am still choosing between fresh fruit and creme fraiche or that yellow cake with a butter cream and coconut frosting for desert.
In the meantime wish me luck on the race!

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Kitchen, Movies with the Girls & Cookies!

On Sunday the only way I managed to get my house full of sleepy heads up and out of bed was to go into my kitchen and bake banana bread and cheddar cheese & feta omelette's.
Sophia and I make a great team. She helped set the table and when the food was just about done she went around to let everyone know that breakfast was ready. Her sweet smiling face and the smell of the good food got everyone moving.
Over the weekend we finally gathered for book club and saw Shutter Island. It was pretty good. It was hard to tell though how well I would have followed the plot had I not just read the book. Afterwards, we gathered for wine and appetizers to chat about the movie. I brought a fresh batch of mini chocolate chip cookies to share. It's fun having a group to discuss a common book with. Next up on our reading list is "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett-I feel lucky this month because that is the same book my work book club is reading.
I met up with a woman my daughter Bella and I are friendly with from Church and surprised her with a spring gift-a package of cookies and a signed copy of my recipe book. She enjoys baking so I thought she might like to give some of my recipes a try.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy, Daughters & Book-Club!

Last weekend the family that I made the cross shaped sugar cookies with personalized labels for was very appreciative. The father explained to me that one of the things that means the most to their large extended family are things that are personalized because it makes things more special. I'm happy they liked the cookies and I told him that I could relate to that because I try to create things that are meaningful.

Tonight my older daughter and I snuck out for some one on one time. We've both been extra busy lately and I felt we both could use a little one on one mother daughter time. We ended up at Peking Palace on Main St. in Falmouth and I think we both really enjoyed the chance to reconnect.

As for my book-club, we just finished reading "Shutter Island". And ya know, that is a book I wouldn't have necessarily chosen myself and yet I did enjoy it. It had a super strong plot with a totally surprise ending!
We've been trying to come up with a time that we can all meet up to view the movie version and it hasn't been easy trying to coordinate all of our schedules. Hopefully, we'll get together soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

On the Go & Bravo!

I've been on the go so much this past week between teaching, completing a baking job and making sure I get a good walk or run in each day since the weather has been like spring!
I baked 30 packages of cookies from my Nana's No-Fail Cookie Dough Recipe and rolled them into the shape of a cross-covered them in blue sugar, placed in a clear bag and tied with a blue silk ribbon.
I also made decorative labels that have the name, place, date and event done in blue ink to place on the outside of the packages for a Confirmation party this weekend.
And a Bravo goes to my son Nathan who received a Coaches Choice Award last night in Falmouth for playing on the Freshman Basketball Team this winter.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Some of the Fruits from the Day's Labor!

The pictures are an update from blog post earlier today.
I enjoy baking-it's obvious by my ongoing accounts of it here and yet I have to admit the house was too quiet today with Sophia off at Kindergarten. I miss my little baking buddy now that she's off to school! Good news: Sun is scheduled to make a grand appearance on Cape Cod this weekend!

Lemon Cake, Sugar Cookies & Come Back Sun!

My new semester of teaching has started again this week and I haven't given much thought to my oven-except for the delicious sour cream and green sauce enchiladas I baked us for dinner last night. I am at home today and since we have not had the pleasure of the sun's company in over three days I've decided to start a fire in the kitchen fireplace.
I am baking my delicious lemon cake and sugar cookies for an annual dinner party tonight with my writing group.
You can't really tell from the picture but it has been snowing constantly for at least two days! It's not really amounting to much because even though the sun hasn't been out it's really not that cold-just gray and wet!
They say the sun will be returning tomorrow for a few days at least--maybe Sophia will get a chance to play on her play set again soon and I'll be happy because I really miss the sun.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Having Company, The Blues & Sugar Cookies!

The kids Grandma and Papa came to visit us this past weekend. It's nice to have company-and it gave the kids a chance to connect with relatives they don't see very often. On Friday Papa made his special home-made spaghetti sauce, meatballs and hot sausage. It was delicious-come to think of it I wonder if he will share his special recipe?

I think one of the best ways to invite people into your home is to try and make them feel as welcome and at home as possible (especially those you hope will visit again). Right before we sat down to eat I built a fire in the kitchen fire place--after dinner we played a fun game of Taboo. We had a few good laughs.

On Saturday, we popped in and around Falmouth-they are big puzzle people so we stopped by Kaleidoscope Toy Store and added a few pieces to the ongoing 18,000 piece puzzle, the Library (Falmouth has a beautiful remodeled one), lunch out and of course a trip to the Famous Christmas Tree Shop.

Later that day just about everyone napped in the living room and we built another fire--a fire makes everything so cozy! It reminded me of that awesome kids book- 'The Napping House".

For dinner, I baked a maple glazed roast and a big pot of mashed potatoes and a special batch of Garlic topped Italian Bread. In the evening we all went to a Cafe to listen to a super fun local Blues band called Flipside-the lead singer is actually a friend of mine from my writing group and my youngest Sophia has a special bond with her.

I didn't forget about baking altogether-over the weekend I accepted an order to make Decorated Sugar Cookies in the shape of a Cross for an upcoming Confirmation party!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Easy Sweet Potato Pizza Pie!

This recipe is a favorite at our house. It's easy and unexpectedly delicious! Give this unique pizza a try and taste how surprisingly good it is.


*3 large sweet potatoes (Peel, cut into cubes and boil until tender, drain water. Mash the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the butter, 2 Tbsp. of milk and a Tbsp. of brown sugar.)
*1 pound ham, cooked and chopped in small cubes
*16 oz. mozzarella shredded fine
*salt and pepper to taste
*Tbsp. brown sugar
*Tbsp. butter, unsalted and a bit of light olive oil to brush on the crust
*2 Tbsp. milk
*Fresh Pizza Dough (Grocer's Refrigerator Section) and a dusting of flour to roll out dough.

How to Make Pizza:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pizza dough and place in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Brush olive oil on top of dough and bake for approx. 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
2) Spread mashed sweet potatoes on top of crust, then top with the diced ham. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and top with the mozzarella cheese. Bake pizza for an additional 15-18 minutes or until crust is baked.
Let cool slightly, enjoy.
Optional: Add freshly grated Parmesan before serving.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Newport Winter Festival, Biscotti & Friends!

The kids have been on winter break this past week. It's been great having them around. On Friday we headed off Cape and went to the Winter Festival in Rhode Island. We had a good time. We went to an Illusionist show, a nachos tasting and then a pizza cook off.

The best part of the trip for me was on Saturday afternoon we did the Cliff Walk together- it was an unusually warm and sunny day (picture from Cliff Walk). I think the kids probably liked the all you can eat pizza event and swimming in the hotel pool the best.

As for my biscotti -we arrived home just in time to head over to a friends house last night. They were having a 'winter break' party. My friend introduced me as someone who bakes the best biscotti she has ever tasted. Naturally, I loved her feedback.

She said, she usually buys biscotti from the store and that it's dry and not very tasty. I make a cranberry biscotti with white chocolate that is just delicious. It's very flavorful and since biscotti is simply a twice baked cookie I do bake mine twice but I am careful not to over bake it. I drizzle it with just enough white chocolate to balance out the cranberries.

My cranberry biscotti recipe is included in Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sharing the Love....

These are pictures from the little champagne and chocolate soiree I put together for early yesterday afternoon as a way to celebrate Valentine's Day.
The chocolate cake balls were delicious!

We made a toast simply--'to love'.

I was thinking not just romantic love but ordinary friendship, kindness and good will too.

In the morning I gave each of my three children a valentine; a carefully chosen card, a dvd for my oldest, a soft pajama set for my middle daughter and a cuddly red with hearts fleece blanket and pillow set for Sophia.
For my husband, a box of chocolates and later last night dinner at Asia in Mashpee Commons and a trip to see "Valentine's Day" together while my teens babysat Sophia-I was so surprised because I think he liked the movie more than I did.

I hope you had a love-filled valentine's day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giving the Easy Way a Try, Writing a Book & Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Sometimes I wish I had one of those 'easy' buttons. Some weeks are so hectic with things that need to get done that it's nice to simplify when possible. Case in point: look at the photograph of our house to the right and notice the tall evergreen.

During the holidays we cover the tree with bright lights. I love it because when it's lit you can see it from the end of the street as you round the corner of our road. Although to do it is a bit of a hassle because as you can see for yourself the tree is pretty tall.

We finally decided to simplify and give the' easy' way a try-we unplugged the lights for the season but left them on the tree. You can't notice them while they are not lit and how cool will that be when the next season rolls around and the hard part is already done?

My point: How much easier life can be when I am willing to give the 'easy' way a try!

As for writing a book: I have been working on a new writing project but recently my sweet Sophia wrote a darling book of her own. It's precious! The book is five pages long with sweet stick figure drawings of smiley faced girls with large hands and no necks! She called her book "Mom and Sophia". The book begins with her writing Mom plays with Sophia and ends with Sophia loves Mom.
As for the cookies, I brought a batch of chocolate chip cookies to the women in my work book-club last week and a batch of cookies to my students too.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Easiest Way to a Man's Heart....& Gratitude and Love for my Son!

I went for a walk earlier today with a friend. Temps had warmed a bit and the sun even made a brief appearance. It becomes such a blessing to simply have the sun out in the middle of winter.
We talked about how amazed we both are at how different men and women can be.
She commented on how easy it was for her husband to ignore all the 'to-do's ' around the house while he put up his feet and relaxed. I told her I knew exactly what she meant.
After the walk I sat with the 'guys' while they watched football. I decided to make a meal they could appreciate.
I made a roast, rosemary red potatoes, Texas Toast garlic bread and a fresh garden salad with goat cheese. It occurred to me that when it comes right down to it men aren't really that hard to please.
It's often as simple as the saying-the easiest way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
On Friday night my husband and I were lucky enough to get out on an unexpected date night because my oldest son offered to baby sit my youngest.
We went to a friends house for Cocktails and Appetizers and then headed down to Woods Hole to hear the very accomplished and talented artist 'Christo' discuss his latest project.
And as talented of an artist Christo is I wouldn't be entirely surprised to hear that the way to his heart is also as simple as making him a good meal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Serendipity & Chocolate Meatballs?

Recently I experienced an occasion where something fortunate happened while I was looking for something else-it's what is referred to as serendipity! It reminded me of that movie called Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. Do you remember that?
Admittedly, the movie was a bit corny but I loved how it reminded me that good things do happen all around us and can often happen unexpectedly- at times when we are not even paying attention!
And, I did make it to my friends house warming party on Sunday--it was a lot of fun. I received an email from her and she said her nephew absolutely loved my cake balls and that he would like me to rename them Chocolate Meatballs!
Although I am not quite sure how tasty chocolate with a meatball would be I think what he was saying in the way only a wonderfully precious young person can is that he liked them!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Walking, House Warming & Cake Balls!

One of my favorite things to do is simply take a walk with a friend. It's been cold lately and I haven't had too many offers to go for a walk. I still get out there even if I have to bundle up tight and end up looking like an Eskimo with my puffy jacket, boots, scarf, gloves and hat!
Walking helps me clear my head so that I am free to make progress on my 'to do' list by giving me a bit of a break from all that has to get done.
We've been invited to a party on Sunday, a friend invited us over to help her celebrate the new house she bought.
I wouldn't miss it, even if I can only stop by for awhile because I try to offer my friends the kind of support I am looking for. Even if I have a long 'to do' list or life is keeping them otherwise busy I still love to chat on the phone or catch up over an email. My friends mean the world to me and I like to hear it from them from time to time how much I mean to them.
Naturally, I will bake something to share at the party. My friend mentioned that she recently heard about an alternative to cake balls made from scratch where you use oreos instead. I told her I make those in the summer when we head out to Sandy Neck.
I might just bring the home made version of cake balls and a batch of oreo cookie balls so that her guests can try them both.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Personal Invite

Dear Fellow Cape Codder, otherwise interested 'Foodie' or Friend;

I get so much joy from cooking in general and baking in particular. I received a new 'bright red' Kitchen Aid for Chirstmas and I am loving it. I've already made chocolate chip cookies, biscotti and a batch of cake balls with it. Naturally, I used the new 'apron' my beautiful daughter Bella made for me. I have been busy the passed few days getting back in the swing of things after the holidays so I don't feel I have a new baking tale or adventure to report (just yet).

I invite you to shoot me a quick email about something you recently made in your kitchen that was especially tasty or memorable, who you shared it with and what inspired you to make it in the first place.

Happy New Year and I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Goodness, New Year & Friends!

I think we can't go 'round measuring our goodness by what we don't do, what we deny ourselves,what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.
~ Hugh O'Conor (Chocolat

Nathan turned fifteen yesterday and I continued a tradition that I have done since his very first birthday. I wrote him a letter and stuck it in his birthday card (I do it for each of my children).
I write about things that take place throughout the year- like who he was friends with and what activities he did or special events so that when he gets older he will have them to look back upon and reminisce about.
Writing him the letter this year felt different because not only has he grown and changed so much over the past year but I have too.
In the spirit of O'Conor's words I encouraged him to measure his goodness by what he does and it got me thinking about how I measure my goodness.
For starters, I embrace friends who (want to) listen to what is in my heart. I create good food for my family and friends because I know that it is the most basic form of care and nourishment I can offer them. We had friends over last night for a meal and of course to share a birthday cake with Nathan. And, I include into my life and my heart only those things that support me and cherish me for me-not simply another's idea for or about me but what is true for me.
I want to teach my son to embrace his goodness-I suppose the best way to do that is by my example.
We're heading off Cape today and going into Boston. I bought tickets for a Boston College Basketball game for Nathan's birthday-it's snowing out there now so the day may prove to be quite an adventure.
(I recently read the quote above from an informative weekly newsletter for writers and I liked it-it struck a chord with me).