Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Time Flies & Giving Thanks!

It's hard to believe that my niece will turn twenty tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day. I remember the day she was born. I was living in Hermosa Beach, CA at the time.
We had plans that day to go to her Dad's sister's house for Thanksgiving Dinner, but got the call that my sister had gone into Labor. We drove to the hospital to meet her. I remember thinking she was so little, so cute and absolutely perfect! It's amazing how much life has changed in those twenty years and how fast the time flies.
I was doing my holiday baking by candle light and a fire early this morning. It's cold, dark and rainy today and the candle and fire made the house feel less gloomy.
The house was quiet and I had a chance to think about many Holidays I've spent in the past. I thought about that day twenty years ago, but I also remembered how much I used to love the holidays when my Nana and all her sister's were still alive. My grandparents used to attend a Catholic Church that would sing and deliver part of the message in French. I remember feeling as if there was something so special and sacred about that. Even if, I didn' understand exactly what was being said and sung.
Another favorite memory I have of Thanksgiving's past is all the pies my Aunt Ollie used to bake. She made pie perfection- chocolate cream, apple, pumpkin and pecan pies! As a kid, I couldn't wait until dinner was done.
I hope you have a peaceful Thanksgiving and remember to take time to give thanks for even the little things.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Autumn Fires & Freshly Baked Tortilla Strips!

Last week when I made the batch of Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup, I roasted corn in olive oil, added garlic, cumin, coriander, sage and red pepper, tomatoes, scallions, chicken broth and diced chicken. I also baked my own tortilla strips and they were so easy and good I thought I'd add a quick recipe here.

Take Flour Tortilla's and brush them with olive oil on both sides, slice into small strips and place flat on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 or so minutes, until brown.

Freshly baked tortilla strips are great to top off a bowl of soup or as a crunchy topping for a leafy green salad.

As for the Autumn Fires, I've been making them a lot lately. It's so relaxing to be home and have a fire going to warm the room.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Memories, Laughter and Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup

“When someone dies, you don't get over it by forgetting; you get over it by remembering, and you are aware that no person is ever truly lost or gone once they have been in our life and loved us, as we have loved them.”

― Leslie Marmon Silko

I spent part of last week at a family wake and funeral. Overall, the experience was deeply sad and I can honestly say I learned a lot, was gifted with the pleasure of recalling many memories and besides the nature of the event that brought us all together I did have the opportunity to laugh quite a bit. Laughter is good medicine, especially when it's shared with people I deeply love.
Silko's right it 's by remembering that no person is ever truly lost once they have been in our life and we have loved them.

One memory in particular I enjoyed sharing was of an old family friend who would have us to their home each year on the night before Christmas. It was a big white house set high on the hill. I remember a large hidden attic, a back stair case from the bedrooms down to the kitchen and an old wooden chute that the kids would drop their laundry in. It would turn up in the basement right next to the washing machine. I used to think this was brilliant.

The Mother, a good friend and cousin of my Mom's was an impressive baker. At the end of a large meal the dishes would be cleared and the table would be replaced with all kinds of scrumptious pies, cheesecake and cookies.
After I returned home from the Funeral, I was eager to share food and new memory with friends and family. I made hot rosemary rolls, a Coconut Joy Pie and Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup. I made a fire in the kitchen fireplace and called a few friends to come over. Late last night, Sophia said the Pie was 'amazing' and Bella said the soup was 'so yummy'!
And either way, the loss of our loved one will remain. Yet, we still must get together, eat good food and make new memories along the way....

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pies, Pecans & Libraries!

When I got my library card, that's when my life began. ~Rita Mae Brown

I adore our Library system on the Cape. I'm constantly stopping at one of the many branches and either looking for a good movie, music or book to check out. I go there first when I hear what my book club is reading next.

When I need something for one of my classes, I often stop there before the campus library because it simply feels more like home. And I know that part of why all three of my kids have such a strong love for reading is the many times I've brought them there. There's nothing better than getting a library card and using it. So when the Children's Librarian recently asked me if I wanted to bake pies for the annual volunteer luncheon I felt it was the least I could do.
I baked a Cranberry Apple Pie and a Pecan Cheesecake Pie. Fall on Cape Cod is Cranberry harvesting season and cranberry's are in such wonderful abundance. My oldest daughter says, the Pecan Cheesecake Pie is the best dessert she's ever tasted. I offered to bake the Pecan Cheesecake Pie because the Fall always reminds me of the years we spent in Dallas collecting and shelling pecans from the many trees in our neighborhood that produced them. And for those who had never tasted a Pecan Cheesecake Pie, I didn't want them to miss out. It's such a perfect combination of creamy and crunchy.

In case you feel like doing some baking this weekend and have yet to taste this particular pie I'll leave you with my version of the recipe. You can use either a refrigerated pie crust or use my recipe for a simple pie crust in "Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen".
And, if you give it a try, let me know how it turns out!

Pecan Cheesecake Pie
1 pie crust, placed in the bottom of a pie plate, fold edges and crimp.

8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened

4 large eggs, divided

3/4 cup sugar, divided

2 tsp. vanilla extract divided

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans

1 cup light caro syrup


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rack on lowest position in oven. Combine the cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and the salt. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Pour the cream cheese mixture into crust. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the cream cheese. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, 3 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour the mixture over the pecans. Place on the lowest rack and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until the pie is set.
Cool completely. Enjoy!