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!