Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hazelnut Shortbread, Birth Announcement & Cape Cod Canal!

One of the things I love the most about my teaching job, well, besides getting to talk at length about two topics I love (Writing & Literature) is where the campus is located. I park in a spot that overlooks the canal. I like to eat my lunch in my car because the view is so amazing-this particular blue fishing boat was heading through the canal very quickly.

I often see the largest of cargo ships pass through, like the pictures I took, posted here. I love to witness how often the canal changes depending on the current, tide and weather.
I received a birth announcement in the mail this week of a friend who recently had her second baby, a boy. I baked celebration cookies and then printed out a label with the baby's name and birth details on it then dropped them in the mail to send to the family. It's fun to share a good cookie to celebrate a happy occasion!

As for the Hazelnut Shortbread, I'm posting my recipe for this delicious cookie here as a toast to the Royal Wedding and the Popular British tradition of afternoon Tea-Time. I thought the church where they got married was beautiful beyond belief.

It makes me wonder though do you think, even though they are Royalty, when the camera's go away and they begin to live their lives as husband and wife they will have the same up and downs and challenges like the rest of us?

My wish for them is they have found true and lasting love. Although, since nothing is perfect, my guess is they will each have to work at it, even as Prince and Princess. They certainly look good together. And, since I am truly a romantic at heart and still believe very much in the possibility of love, I am hopeful they will have a wonderful life together.

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. maple syrup

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 cups finely chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup chocolate morsels

1) In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add syrup and vanilla. Add flour; mix just until combined. Fold in the nuts.

2) Shape dough into 2-2 inch rolls; wrap each in ziplock bag or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours or until firm.

3) Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets at 325 degrees for approximately 15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove to wire racks, cool. Melt chocolate and drizzle over cookies. Let chocolate set.

I love these cookies. Serve them with tea in the afternoon and invite a friend over to join you.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lemon Cake Frosting & Hope!

"What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."

~ Helen Keller

I'm learning that as I further walk into life as a single mom there are more and more things that I have to not only accept but get used to. I was with Tommy for a long time.

I want to be graceful about this whole process, too. And, why not? I try to be graceful in my role as a mom, friend, teacher, baker and writer that it only makes sense that I'd want to bring this same intention to what I'm going through now. Things do feel right. Yet, it doesn't all feel easy. Because it's not.

In the meantime, it's the holidays that seem the most tricky.Tommy spent Easter morning with the kids and I made dinner then filled Easter baskets that afternoon. It didn't feel entirely graceful partly because I just wanted to be with my kids. I've always been a big part of their holiday morning celebrations, but I also knew they needed some time on the holiday with their Dad so I had to find a compromise.

Luckily, it was a beautiful day on Sunday. It was sunny and sixty down at South Cape Beach. I went on a long walk on my favorite trail.

Keller's words above remind me of so many things that I've once enjoyed. It's nice to be reminded that those things I've loved deeply 'become a part of me'. Because they do. They do for all of us.

For example, I loved when we lived in Dallas at Easter. We had super fun neighborhood Easter Egg Hunts with all the kids from the neighborhood or we'd go to the kids aunts house and share a big meal together. And because I loved these times deeply, even though they're gone, they're now a part of me.

One of my all time favorite memories from the past is when two long time girlfriends and I, one of whom I'd lost touch with for a few years, would walk with our kids on our favorite beach on Outer Cape. We'd write names and words in the sand then take pictures.

When I thought about drawing in the sand all those years ago on my walk I decided to write the word hope. Because this Easter holiday was a reminder that there is always hope.
As for dessert on Easter Sunday, I made dreamy island cookies: my own cookie creation with pecans, coconut and chocolate and lemon cake. Bella took her first bite and said, "Mom, this frosting is amazing!"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Perseverance, Friends as Writers & Red Shoe Shaped Cookies!

The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground. ~Author Unknown

I received a friendly voice mail from a woman yesterday who asked where West Falmouth Baking Company was located. Her message said that she's been looking for me since she moved here in December because she heard I was a very good baker.
Her call reminded me of the importance in life of perseverance. I started West Falmouth Baking Company while my daughter Sophia was only two, we'd recently moved here ourselves and at the time I was commuting from Falmouth to a teaching job in Worcester at Clark University (two hour each way commute). I knew I needed to find something closer to home so I could be here for my youngest daughter. At the time I made a list of my favorite things to do and baking and writing topped the list.
I applied for a home food license, started testing recipes and exploring creative packaging ideas. I remember my very first customer was a neighbor who wanted my cranberry biscotti to serve to the women at her bridge club. From there, I sold packages of Lemon Cake and Dreamy Island Cookies (my own creation) at the Coonamessett Farm Store. I sold sugar cookies in the shape of a cross for a Baptism. I personalized the labels to reflect the occasion. Time passed and Sophia went off to school. I found another teaching job (another passion of mine) and since I wouldn't be baking as much at that point, I decided to write a small book with my recipes included so that others could still enjoy my cakes and cookies. Working on a second longer book about food and life on Cape Cod feels good partly because baking and cooking is something I am very passionate about but also because it reminds me of that little nut that held its ground.

Who would have thought that my small at home baking service with Sophia by my side would have grown to the point that I'm working on my second book and receiving word of mouth calls from people I've never met?

Yesterday, I spent the day in the company of some amazing writer friends of mine. We gathered in Hingham for an author release party. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to connect with such talented and creative women. Women who themselves have persevered. As for the red shoe shaped cookies, I baked and brought them along to the event yesterday. I love offering thoughtful touches to a good party. My friend released two books yesterday and on the cover of one of them are bright red shoes. It was my way of letting her know how proud I am of her.

If interested, visit to check her work out for yourself. As for the baking business, some of my very best memories are the times Sophia and I spent baking together in our kitchen. I still bake often but now I have turned my attention more fully to my writing about it. I still test and share my recipes with family and friends but they are being gathered to be included in "Sweeter by the Beach".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making Do & A Girl Can Dream, Can't She?

My daughter Sophia was sick this week and she needed to stay home and rest. She and I missed a number of things we had planned last week including attending my son's Basketball Banquet. I was supposed to bring an appetizer but I had to 'make do' with what I had on hand because I couldn't get up to the grocery store with my daughter home sick. I quickly made a pie crust and from there I tossed in chopped bacon, diced onion and sharp cheddar cheese and made a tart. It wasn't fancy but sometimes in life we just have to make do. It must not have been too bad because my son returned home with an empty plate. I took a long walk on Chappaquoit Beach (pictured above) late yesterday afternoon. I was thinking about how when I put together my first recipe book I did it all from my home computer and a local print shop. As I continue to work on Sweeter by the Beach I realize I hold a bigger vision for this second collection. I want to make samples of all my food creations, bring them down to the beach, set them out on long tables with white cloth and photograph them for display in the book. Can you picture it? I can. It really would be--Sweeter by the Beach! And besides, isn't this where all things that are worthwhile in life begin in the first place, simply as a want or a wish or a dream?

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Gift of a Recipe & Apple Turnovers!

The thing I remember the most about the holidays while growing up is how much I loved waiting to see what my Aunt Olga was going to bring for dessert. She made the most delicious Chocolate Cream and Apple Pies I've ever tasted. As a kid, I couldn't wait to hurry through the meal and dig into dessert. I think it was a combination of the love and care she put into each recipe and the fact that she always made everything from scratch that it tasted so good. She passed away a few years ago and it's sad to think that no one will enjoy the gift of her special baked pies ever again. I love to hold on tight to a good recipe and then share it with others too because a good recipe is like a well liked gift. The kind you can cherish for years to come. My oldest daughter and I took some time for a Mom/Daughter adventure this week. We had a blast exploring Outer Cape together yesterday. Before we got back on the road to head home we decided to stop at Marion's Pie Shop on Route 28. Marion's is a must stop bakery that serves delicious pies and sweet treats. They have the size kitchen that at this point I can only dream about--there's a huge wooden work surface to roll out the dough and an extra large double oven. My daughter ordered an Apple Turnover that to me looked like it could serve a family of five! She savored every last bite of it. I decided to bake my own version of apple turnovers today so that my other kids could have a taste too. And, since I love sharing a good recipe if you feel like baking this weekend, give this simple recipe a try. Apple Turnovers: Bake your own pie crust (Good recipe in "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen") or use two pre-made refrigerated pie crusts, cut into 6 in. rounds. (Use a knife and a small plate, to cut). Take 3 Large Apples, peel and chop fine, then place into a small bowl Toss with a Tbsp. cinnamon, Tbsp. brown sugar, 3 Tbsp. butter, softened. You'll need 1 additional Tbsp. butter melted for brushing the tops of the turnovers and 1 Tsp. white sugar. 1) Place approximately two Tbsp. of apple mixture in the center of pie crust round, top with a 1/2 tsp. of the butter. 2) Roll over the edge of the crust to meet the other side. Crimp the edges (take a fork to seal the crust). 3) Brush a little bit of melted butter and white sugar on the top and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until the turnovers start to brown. Enjoy warm!