Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chicken Soup & Apple Cranberry Pie

   "God gave us our memories so that we may have roses in December". 

Because of daylight savings time sunset is at 4:30 today! We've had a beautiful summer and an amazing autumn so I feel I need to focus on the gratitude from the wonderful season I've had rather than my sadness of the upcoming early dark and cold winter that is soon to follow. I don't like when it's so dark so early on Cape.
I'm meeting a friend soon and we're going together to celebrate with another friend her current art show and reception. I've been making a large pot of home made chicken soup and a cranberry apple pie this afternoon so that there will be something to offer my daughter's and I comfort here at the house when we return.
I'm going to try and embrace the early dark this season with more get together's at home, the sharing of good food with friends and catching up on creative projects  instead of simply waiting for the good weather to return.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Brownies topped with Chocolate Chip Cookies & The Changing Autumn Leaves

Hey there! I never meant to wait so long to update my blog.When I came back from my adventure to Italy I thought about sitting right down at my desk and sharing stories about all the amazing food I ate, the super fun cooking class I took and all the great people I met. But it was summer on Cape Cod and I knew my son would be leaving for College soon, my daughter would be starting her senior year of High School and my youngest would be starting fourth grade. In short, I went straight from living happy in the moment in Italy to living happy in the moment right here at home.

The weather has been amazing here lately and even though we have been making and eating lots of good food these past couple of months I haven't paused long enough to post about it. Although, I have written a few food related articles including two that will be published in the local Dining Guide soon about "Preparing an Italian Meal" and another called "Five Desserts your Guests will Love".

  My son is home this weekend from College and I've found myself in the kitchen again. It has felt something like Christmas waking up on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with all three of my kids in the house and in their beds. Each morning I woke before them all and peeked on them while they slept. It's one of those simple joys of mother hood that I will probably cherish for as long as I live.
 I've been cooking a lot because my son said the thing he misses most is home cooking. I made a batch of dark chocolate brownies topped with a layer of chocolate chip cookie bars yesterday afternoon. The house felt all warm and cozy and smelled good in the way a house does when there's a chill in the air and an oven is turned on.  I love listening to the sounds of my kids throughout the house as they wait for the baking to be done. 

As for the changing colors. I took the two photographs above of the same tree in my front yard within hours of one another. One thing the fall always inspires me to do is bake more bread, pies, soups and even pull out my crock-pot while keeping a fire going in the fire place. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Dinner Party!

"Summer afternoon-- Summer afternoon; to me those have always been the most beautiful words in the English Language". ~ Henry James

I invited a friend and her husband over last night for an impromptu dinner party. They were both so helpful to me in pulling off my son's graduation party at my house last week that I wanted to thank them personally. It gave us a chance to catch up over a simple summer meal.
I baked a summer vegetable tart, tossed a Ceasar salad, made a Caprese salad and then whipped fresh cream to spoon over just ripe strawberries and blueberries for dessert.
The dinner was delicious-light and just picked ingredients, easy to prepare and healthy like a good summer meal should be. Yet what really made me happy was to know that I am loved and cared for by such good friends. And that since summer always seems to pass by in a flash we took the opportunity to chat outdoors under the night sky on my patio after dinner.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Supporting Student Writers, Graduation & Cake!

Take a look at this cool cake I had made for one of my students. It's a  photo transferred on a cake of a pencil drawing he made of a barn. Early on in the semester I asked students to bring in a photograph of something they love or care about and then write a narrative essay based on their connection to what's in the picture.

One student brought in this drawing that reflects his passion for barns. He wrote a beautiful essay reflecting on his life growing up in Vermont and his interest in preserving the simple yet special architecture found in an American treasure-an old barn.

I encouraged him to submit his essay to our campus journal Turning Tides and when it was accepted for publication I wanted to show him I was proud of his efforts to write and to write well. I wasn't only celebrating him but the class as a whole. They worked hard and it took dedication throughout the entire semester to put together final portfolios. Portfolios they could feel proud of.

As for the photo of the butterfly cake my oldest son graduated this past weekend from high school. I felt that strange dichotomy of emotion where my deep happiness and pride in his accomplishments rubbed right up against my intense sadness for what will no longer be. So, I shed a whole lot of tears this weekend.

The reality is the turning tide of his life is that he's no longer in High School. And I'll never get to make his lunch for school or wake him up to get to class in the same way as  I have been since he first went off to kindergarten.

People tell me it will get easier and our relationship will grow and change in unexpected ways. I have faith this is possible. For now, I think I'm just going to need a little more time to get used to the idea.

In the meantime, I've been baking for parties and celebrations for both end of semester and graduation. I baked a few butterfly cakes dipped in ganache to remind the graduating seniors that they now can open their wings and fly.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sunsets, Dinner with Friends & Italy!

Baking is a form of meditation for me. I pull out the ingredients, turn on the oven and settle into my kitchen to bake cookies, a cake or a loaf of fresh bread for dinner. I don't have to be anywhere or do anything except bake. And I love the comfort I feel from the simplicity of that.

It's been warming up on Cape. I am so grateful for this because what I love the most about it here is early morning bike rides down to the beach or packing a picnic for dinner and watching the sun set over the water.

 I'm finally making a trip to Italy this summer. It's something I've wanted to do for a very long time. And I can't wait to take it all in--the food, the people, the art and the country side. I am flying into Rome and spending a couple of days there then taking the train up to Florence.
 I can't wait to go to Florence. It feels like a dream come true to finally go. I plan to write some while I am there too.

I haven't been blogging as much. I am still writing though. I have a few articles I've written coming out soon; one on local spots for a Picnic and another piece on Community Potlucks. And since my teaching semester will be done soon I am thinking about what I'm going to write about this summer.

And as for dinner with friends Sophia and I had fun at a friends house the other night. They made the most delicious Pesto and Spinach Lasagna. When I get the recipe from her I will post it here. It's a tasty lighter version of a traditional red sauce and meat Lasagna.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Let's Celebrate!

I brought Bella into Boston last week for a re-check with the surgeon who did her ankle surgery. She and I were so happy when he told us she was 100% recovered.

 I baked him a special package of my celebration cookies as a thank you because he's given her such good care since we first met him last December. He seemed to really appreciate our gesture and told us he and his resident intern would enjoy eating them later that day.

The kids are on Spring Break this week and I wanted Sophia to have a fun way to kick off her break. Last Friday she invited a good friend over to play and have dinner. I baked more cookies and helped them make home made ice cream sandwiches. They were delicious. We took some candy she had left over in her Easter basket and chopped it fine then they dipped the ice cream in the candy as a sweet mix-in before smoothing in between the cookies.

 I love that simply having a friend over to make home made ice cream sandwiches with and getting time to hang out around the house to laugh and play with her friend is the kind of fun she enjoys most.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lemon Cake, Butterfly Cake Dipped in Ganache & Celebration Cookies

Sophia invited a friend over last week to color easter eggs. I'm grateful I have one at home who is still young enough to want to do this simple and fun easter tradition. They were meticulous about it too. They carefully divided the eggs, chose colors for dipping, markers for drawing and stickers to decorate each with. They decorated for the better part of an afternoon.
My spring semester has begun and I have been teaching every day. So for now I have less time for baking and fun projects around the house.
I decided while they were carefully coloring their eggs I'd bake a few batches of Celebration Cookies. There are a few people I wanted to bake for. I love to wrap a handful of just baked cookies in celophane bags, tie them with a colorful silk ribbon and leave on the doorstep of a friend or send in the mail to someone who lives further away. It's my way of letting them know I was thinking of them. Or I'll bake them as a Thank-you for someone who did something nice for me.
Easter is Sunday and I've decided to make Lemon Cake and my butterfly cake dipped in chocolate Ganache for dessert. I am long over due for baking both of them. When I told Sophia what I'd decided she said she couldn't wait until Sunday. I remember I used to bake and sell many of my Lemon Cakes but now it has become a treat I only make every once and awhile.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Blog Book & Winter Break!

I recently printed my entire blog into a hard cover book. The cover is black with the above photograph of South Cape Beach and the title "Life as a Cape Cod Baker".
 I've shared it with a few friends and they seem to like it. My favorite response is when I showed it to my daughter Sophia. She took it and sat on the couch reading it for about an hour then we chatted about the different stories, photos and recipes. Years from now I want my children to enjoy it as they flip through the pages. It's a good record of daily life at our Cape Cod house for the past few years. I've thought about printing a second copy to share with the Falmouth Library.
As for Winter Break, the kids have been home this past week. We didn't go anywhere except the one day I took Sophia into Boston to visit the Aquarium and do some shopping at Faneuil Hall. She loves taking the train so we drove half way into the City and took the Red Line in from there.
My daughter Bella is still recovering from her Ankle surgery. She's still non weight bearing on her right foot so we decided to keep things simple  and do fun things from home.
And I helped her to set some goals so she'd have something to look forward to when she is fully recovered. Between the ice and the snow and the cold anyone can feel discouraged. Yet I think it becomes even more depressing when you're immobilized. One thing I did to help her  feel  more comforted was throughout the week I cooked some of her favorites: Angel Hair with Parmesan and Pepper with roasted red peppers, Chicken Enchilada's, Blueberry Pancakes and Summer Salad.
 The salad is simple and delicious and I am sure if you do a blog search you can find my recipe for it already posted here. We made the summer salad partly because making and eating it helps us remember that summer will return again soon.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Blizzard, 2013!

     I lived through the Blizzard of 1978. I was only ten. I have good memories of it for the most part though. No school. Sledding with neighborhood kids for hours. Hanging out with my sisters. I can't imagine all of it was good though. It was a tough time. It was cold and there was snow, down power lines and tree branches everywhere. Snow drifts were huge.
    Memory can be like that though. Once time passes we often remember more of the good than the bad of what remains. Having woken up in Falmouth today to the remains of Blizzard 2013 it hasn't been easy. My house was cold, there were no comforts like hot water to shower, heat to warm my body or electricity to brew the coffee.
  My first thought was to cry.
 I soon realized that tears wouldn't clear the driveway, get the coffee made or warm my house. I decided to take a deep breath and do what I could instead.
I gathered wood and made a fire in my kitchen fireplace. I found a metal grate to fit over the logs and used a small sauce pan to boil water, a skillet to grill a bagel. After coming in from a solid hour and a half of shoveling in the snow that simple cup of coffee and warm bagel felt like the most satisfying bit of breakfast I'd ever had.
And I have to say I'm blessed to have some of the most wonderful neighbors around. They called to check in on me, invited me to use their oil stove if I needed to cook again or to stop by if I just simply needed some company. It hasn't been the most pleasant day overall. I've been cold for most of it and shoveled lots of heavy snow. And simple tasks have taken on a more challenging dilemma- I couldn't run the dishwasher or finish the load of laundry downstairs.
And I had to cancel plans I'd been looking forward to.  I didn't get to take my daily walk-something that brings me a little bit of peace every day either.
 But I have a feeling that what will most remain in my memories from the Blizzard of 2013 is not the minor inconveniences but the ways that I found the courage to take care of what I needed to. And finding  a fresh perspective to solve every day simplicities like how to get that cherished cup of morning coffee.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Comfort Food, Baked Mozzarella Gnocchi & Hummingbird Cake!

It's been gray, snowing and cold here for a couple of hours now. And all I seem to want is comfort food. Like the (delicious) Hummingbird Cake and Baked Mozzarella Gnocchi I've been making since my kids got home.

Have you ever tried Hummingbird Cake? It's moist and sweet. It has crushed pineapple and ripe bananas in the cake and cream cheese and powdered sugar for the frosting. I make it in three nine inch layers and then frost it between the layers, around the sides and on top too. It takes a bit of time to pull it all together. But well worth it when it's ready to eat a slice. Especially on a cold dreary day like today.

I also boiled a pound of Gnocchi then mixed in a half of a cup of light cream and added salt and pepper to taste. I spooned it into a greased baking dish, topped it with fresh shredded mozzarella and let it brown under a low broil for about three or so minutes.

I tend to feel a little guilty when I indulge in too much comfort food because I want to make sure I balance my diet with fresh leafy greens and a good dose of heart pumping exercise. Yet comfort food is just so, well, comforting.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Healing Through Food & Love!

Food is our common ground, a universal experience. ~ James Beard
I took my daughter into Boston this last week to MA General Hospital for unexpected surgery. She recently fell and broke her ankle. Her Doctor recommended surgery to help it heal properly. It was a bad fracture in an unusual angle. She now has two steel pins internally to hold it together and some repair was done to the bone itself.
 As a Mom, it wasn't easy to watch her in pain, travel into Boston, undergo anesthesia and then head into the operating room. I had to let go a little. I had to trust that she was in good hands, that I had gathered enough information to make the right decision and that all would be well.
 I knew it would help us both to have something to look forward to the morning after we returned home from the Hospital. She was expected to need to rest, keep her foot up and manage the post op pain. We decided to make it a Pie Day and that I would gather ingredients beforehand and be ready to bake some of her favorite pies. We even stopped at Falmouth Public Library and picked out a fun cookbook on all things pie related early in the week for added inspiration. Yesterday, I baked a Triple Berry, Coconut Cream and Chicken Pot Pie. They were really scrumptious. She had a friend over and they ate them together, they said, "Wow, those were Delicious!"
 I used fresh ingredients yet I also added extra love and care when making them. Cooking with love simply makes food taste better.
Making fresh, healthy and home made food for someone you love and care about is one of the most comforting things you can do for someone. Like Beard says, "food is a  universal bond" and yet the making and sharing of good food is part of any one's healing process. And I love to try different versions of my favorite recipes. The Chicken Pot pie may be my new favorite. I added a bit of white wine, cream and broth to make the sauce and I added sauteed mushrooms, onion, garlic, celery and carrots too. It was a hearty meal in itself. It was hard for me to choose either a slice of the triple berry or the coconut cream for desert. So naturally I did the only sensible thing and had a small slice of both.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bright Blessings for a Happy New Year & Quick Bread!


I'm happy to say I didn't spend much time on the internet over the Holiday Break--so I feel a little behind in updating my blog. My time has been well spent though and I had a good holiday with my kids.Things that make me the most happy include hanging out with my kids, baking or cooking a fabulous meal (for friends and family) and walking. On Christmas Eve I was lucky enough to do all three.
     When we first moved to Cape Cod I started West Falmouth Baking Company ( a small personalized baking service that I did right from my home kitchen) while my youngest daughter Sophia was still at home with me. Back then we lived in a little rental house in West Falmouth with access to a private beach. We bought a house of our own and moved across town. Yet, we still enjoy going back to visit the old neighborhood. My kids and I decided to meet down near where we used to live during the day on Christmas Eve to go for a walk. We took some great pictures and it was chilly but not too cold and it was a bright sunny day.
      And at first I thought my son wouldn't even want to come. He's a senior, has a girlfriend and a busy sports schedule too. He showed up on time and carrying a bouquet of flowers for me- A bundle of white hydrangea and red roses. He said, "I thought this would mean a lot to you, so I picked them up on the way".
On the walk my son and two daughters came across a huge piece of drift wood big enough for sitting around my back yard fire pit. My son offered to help carry it back to my car for me. He'll be graduating this Spring. And a part of me hates this fact because as much as I want him to go to College --I don't want to lose him living at home. I guess that's what life is all about though. Change. He turned 18 on New Year's Day and honestly the time has flown by way too quickly. It does make the thought of him leaving a little bit sweeter though when I know what a good man he is growing into.
     As for the Quick Bread I found a recipe in a Magazine and wanted to give it a try. It's called quick bread because it doesn't require yeast or rising time. Although this bread tastes delicious--it is flavorful and satisfying it does require a bit of time to prepare. I baked a few batches for teachers and friends. I baked Cranberry Biscotti and Celebration Cookies to pass along too so friends would have a sweet and a savory treat.
     For the Quick Bread you take a white onion and chop fine. Saute the onion in butter on medium heat for a good 15 minutes or so until it starts to caramelize. Cook, let cool then chop about 12 slices of bacon. Then grate a half of a pound of Gruyere cheese. In a separate bowl blend Flour, salt, pepper and an egg add all the ingredients together and bake in either one large loaf pan or four small ones like I did for about thirty-five minutes. One of the things I like about this bread is it's hearty and filling and offers a great snack for an afternoon walk.
    As the New Year gets under way, I feel hopeful. And yet I feel I am in the midst of a number of changes too. I hope to make further progress on "Sweeter by the Beach"--luckily a few friends still check in to make sure I am working on it when I find the time. I am about a quarter of the way complete. So I see this as (making) progress not perfection. Also my son will be graduating High School- a huge milestone in itself. And finally, this Spring I will be engaged in a busy teaching schedule. I'm teaching Literature and Writing Courses as usual. Yet I am also teaching for the first time a Business Communication course. I'm happy for the challenge of a new course. It's a class mostly Seniors who are about to graduate and receive their Bachelor's Degree take. I have a feeling it will be a good course for me to teach.
Happy New Year to you!