Monday, January 31, 2011

Crepes, Courage & Connecting with Sophia!

"Be Brave. Take Risks. Nothing Can Substitute Experience."
~Paulo Coelho

On Saturday I went on an all girls adventure to the Vineyard. We had a lot of fun. It was a perfect day for it too-the sun was shining brightly and the water was calm. There were twelve of us and we shared lots of laughs.
The above quote by Coelho comes to mind because having the courage to take risks and get out and live is what life' s all about. It seems like only in the looking back on my life's experience am I able to make any sense of it anyhow so in the mean time I've got lots of living to do.
On Sunday, Sophia wanted to have a play date but none of her friends were available so I suggested we make something together.
Here's an easy recipe for Crepes. Crepes are one of those things that make you feel like you're a marvelous cook (and you are!) but homemade crepes aren't as hard to make as people make them out to be.
We decided to make them super decadent--we rolled them with fresh sliced strawberries and drizzled with melted dark chocolate then topped with fresh whipped cream.

Basic Crepe Recipe:

In a blender combine 2 eggs, 3/4 cup fresh cold milk, 1/2 cup water (blend then add) 1 cup flour, 3 Tbsp. melted butter and blend well again. Place in refrigerator for one hour to chill.
In a small skillet heat pan to medium and drop additional butter to melt on bottom of surface. Place a small amount, approximately an ounce of batter, swirl to spread evenly and heat for about half a minute then flip and cook for another 15 seconds. Lay flat on a clean, dry, surface and continue making them until batter is used. Fill with strawberries and roll. Top with melted chocolate and cream. Enjoy!
Remember to Share!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Kissed & Recipe for Coconut Sugar Cookies!

It snowed here yesterday. The flakes were heavy and by early evening the trees looked so beautiful-as if they'd been kissed with either coconut or powdered sugar. Watching the trees inspired me to share my recipe for coconut sugar cookies.

Coconut Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. almond flavored extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In mixer, whip together the butter sugar then add the egg and extract. Gently mix in until blended the flour mixture. Stir in 1 1/4 cup of coconut until well blended. Roll dough into little balls and dip each into remaining coconut before placing on a cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

Have fun baking and remember one of the best parts about baking cookies is sharing them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friendships, Chocolate Chip Cookies & Sea-Term!

I had my students read a short story by Herman Melville this week called "Bartleby, the Scrivener". It's such a funny little story with a dense language. I walked them through it and was impressed with their ability to discuss the various characters and themes. I feel it's my responsibility to assign at least something by Melville however there just isn't time to take on "Moby Dick" in the five week course.

I had coffee this morning with two women friends whose company I adore. It was tough to sneak away on a Saturday morning but I did because I wanted time with them. I love how with certain friendships you can go months (even years) without seeing one another and when you have a chance to reconnect it's as if no time has passed at all.

I'm baking chocolate chip cookies and cranberry biscotti right now because I needed to re-stock but also because I'm expecting company next weekend and I thought it would be fun to have something baked for them to try. My chocolate chip cookies and biscotti freeze well so I'll tuck them away and pull out before they arrive.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creativity in the Kitchen, Old Recipes & Winter Walks!

One thing I love about the kitchen is it's a place I can be super creative. It's fun to open my fridge and pantry to see what I have on hand and come up with a new combination and then share it with others.

Yesterday I tossed together a big leafy green salad with fresh blueberries, feta cheese crumbles topped with dry fried onion ring pieces. I didn't need a recipe I just looked around to see what I had on hand and it was a really good salad.

And yet I also love the joy I get from using the same recipe my Nana used years ago, those few that are hand written, frayed around the edges and tucked into a favorite cookbook used on only the most special of occasions.

And it's fun too to try a special recipe that catches my eye in a magazine. I gather the ingredients, give it a try and offer it to my family or friends.

We watched the Football game on Sunday at a friend's house. I brought a baked four cheese and macaroni dish with bacon. The dish was a hit. I found the recipe earlier last week in a magazine and wanted to give it a try.

As for winter walks, despite the frigid temperatures and often slippery roads I've still been getting out there each morning for a walk. I often walk with my neighbors but since I enjoy walking so much I usually go with or without them. It's so peaceful especially this time of year. I bundle up in layers with a hat, scarf and gloves.

For the Football game, I also brought over a batch of my Celebration Cookies-the ones with the white chocolate, blueberries and cranberries. I made an extra batch that I'm going to send to an old friend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Snow Day, Robert Frost & Red Hot Chili Peppers!

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the Village, though:
He will not see me stopping here.
To watch his woods fill up with snow..."

From "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost

The kids are home today because of the snowstorm. Since I didn't have to rush everyone off to the bus stop early this morning, I decided to bake muffins, make cheddar cheese omelette's and slice up a fresh honey dew melon.

It's nice to have them around but it's a wet snow and we didn't get as much as expected so for now it's not really good for playing outside.

I'm teaching a Sea-Term Analysis of Literature class that began yesterday. The campus is quiet and I enjoyed meeting my new students.

I often include the above poem by Robert Frost in my syllabus and it seems appropriate to share an excerpt from it here today.

It's a good day for music too and I listened to the song "Snow (Hey Oh!)" by Red Hot Chili Peppers while working in the kitchen.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Recipe for Bella's Blueberry Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. lemon juice (whisk lemon juice with milk)
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed, dried and patted (can use frozen, if fresh not available)
(for topping, 1 Tbsp. white sugar mixed with 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin tins with butter or use muffin liners. Cream together in a bowl the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix the flour with the baking powder. Pour the milk into the butter mixture mix gently then add in the flour mixture. Don't over mix. Crush 1/2 of the blueberries and mix into batter then gently fold in the rest of the whole blueberries. Scoop into Texas size muffin tins then sprinkle with brown sugar mix. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until done in center and tops brown. Eat warm!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Comfort Food, Taking it Slow & Bella's Blueberry Muffins

I'm glad it's the weekend.

It was a challenge to get everyone back into a routine after all those late nights over the Holiday break.

With busy sports schedules my kids come home starving and it's hard to keep enough food cooked to satisfy them after a long day.

Earlier today, I made a big casserole of comfort food-a Baked Beef and Potato Dish to have ready to heat up over the weekend.

I have new Texas Size Muffin Tins I wanted to break in so I baked Bella's favorite Blueberry Muffins for weekend snacking too.

While working in my kitchen I listened to a song I love by John Legend called "Ordinary People". He sings, We're Just Ordinary People and we Don't Know Which Way to Go. Maybe We Should Take It Slow.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend. Here on the Cape it's going to be cold and we're expecting snow so I plan to 'take it slow'. And, if you feel like cooking here's a recipe you might want to try:

Baked Beef & Potato Casserole

1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp thyme
2 lb+ potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 garlic clove, halved
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 Tbsp. butter, extra for greasing
2 onions, sliced
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Choose a sturdy round or oval casserole dish, grease well.

Mix the paste with the water in a bowl, then add to a pan with the thyme and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stir occasionally, for 30 minutes, until thickened. Remove from pan then cook the potatoes for approximately 20 minutes in boiling water.

Combine the beef and egg in a bowl and season to taste Shape into six patties. Cook on the skillet until lightly browned. Remove. Saute the onions in the skillet for about 5 minutes until soft.

Put half the potato slices in the bottom of the dish. Cover with the patties, then add the onions and sprinkle with half the cheese, dot with the butter and tomato sauce, repeat layers and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Memories, Possibility & Banana Bread!

"Maybe all life's promises didn't come true. But the morning came didn't it, and look, a sparrow sings in the tree". ~ Flavia

We flew to Dallas, Texas on Christmas night and returned last night just before the New Year rang in. We spent the week recalling old memories with friends and family while having fun making new memories too. The quote above was written on a plaque in the guestroom I stayed in. It seems so appropriate for New Year's day and I wanted to share it with you.

It seems to me that all we can do in life is balance the good with the bad. Because no matter who you are or what you have or have not accomplished there will always be some of life's promises that don't come true.

When I returned home there was an email sent to me from a friend who recently used my recipe for Banana Bread and said how much she and her family enjoyed it.

I missed baking while I was out of town. I left a bunch of not quite ripe bananas on my counter when we left and now a week later they are perfect for baking banana bread.

A new year seems to be about possibility and I hope 2011 holds many possibilites for you.