I’m still in the baking doldrums, although I recently purchased a jelly roll pan that I’m looking forward to using. I’ve been busy encouraging my crafty side and nurturing my green thumb as my new escape from writing and editing the past couple of months. You better believe, keeping anything alive in this Florida drought is a real challenge. I thought I had it figured out while my dad was visiting and he set up a drip hose that hit all the scattered pots. Things were going great until he left and the hose stopped dripping in all the right spots. Fixing that’s on my never-ending to-do list. (more…)
A Cheesy Celebration February 9, 2015
I love cheese. I’m fascinated with how many different types of cheese there are and want to try them all. A couple of years ago, when it was just me and my parents for Christmas, we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We went to Candlelight Service, came home to a spread of hors d’oeuvres-chocolate caramel popcorn, spinach dip, cheese, crackers, and glog- then watched a movie. It’s a nice quiet evening to reflect on what Christmas is really about.
This year, I noticed that the Aldi I shop at started having specialty cheeses a few weeks before Christmas. I bought up every one of them for our Christmas Eve nosh. We had Jarlsberg, Parmesan Regiano, Prima Donna, Tomato Basil, Jalapeño Jack, Fontina, and Cranberry White Cheddar. I’ve been wanting to try the Parmesan Regiano since I read about it in one of Frances Mayes’ books. It wasn’t my favorite as a stand-alone cheese, but it is great in cooking.
As you might imagine, with all of this cheese we couldn’t possibly eat it all in one night. Mom found a recipe that used the Fontina along with a Marscapone cheese, to make what is basically a fancy mac & cheese. The recipe sounded so good, I used it in the book I was working on, Spring Dawn, and when I finished the first draft we made a batch to celebrate. Shredding all of the Fontina seemed to take forever, but it was worth it. Next time I think I would add some bacon bits though, to give it a little more kick.
The left over Jarlsberg has made a wonderful evening snack and now I have three more varieties to snack on from Ireland, Wales, and Britain. I better have a few slices then get back to work.
Bakingpalooza December 20, 2014
We’ve had almost two glorious weeks of cool weather here in Florida. I’ve enjoyed having the windows open and a fresh breeze drifting through the house. It was on one these lovely days last week that I decided to crank up the oven and do my Christmas baking. I had several recipes I wanted to get through so I started as soon as I finished my coffee and bagel.
My parents have been staying with me since Thanksgiving, so mom offered to run out to the store to pick up a couple of items I didn’t have on hand. While she was out, I made the easy cookies, the ones from a mix that didn’t require anything extra. I found a pumpkin spice cookie mix that I have fallen in love with and I decided to add some chocolate chips. They were the perfect addition and I tucked some of the cookies into a tin for my parents’ drive back to North Carolina.
The house quickly filled with the smells of fresh baked treats. By the time I turned off the oven I had five types of cookies, gingerbread cupcakes, and vanilla-sour cream tea loaves. My kitchen is tiny, so having more than one person working at a time can be tight, but toward the end of the day, mom, dad and I were all working together to clean up the dishes and put everything away.
I hope you have a wonderful Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year with those you love.
Orange Cake for Easter April 21, 2014
I was in the grocery store this weekend, forgetting how crazy the stores are the day before a holiday. I’m a precision shopper. I know what I want and 98% of the time I know exactly where it is so I can get in and out quickly. Unfortunately, most of the other shoppers I encountered on Saturday had no idea what they wanted and they clogged the aisles as they read labels or studied the shelves. I waited patiently behind one woman whose cart was parked on one side of the aisle while she stood in the middle of the aisle reading the label on a bottle of maple syrup. Then two other women came flying past, nearly running over the label reader and narrowly missing a large stock cart.
Every aisle was like a lane of traffic during rush hour, carts parked or crawling at turtle-like speeds. All of the chaos made me forget the only two ingredients, buttermilk and orange extract, I actually needed to make the mini Bundt cakes I had planned to make for Easter. Fortunately, I was able to stop at a less crowded store and pick up the buttermilk and I managed to make fresh squeezed orange juice work for the orange extract. Knowing the stores would be closed on Sunday in honor of Easter was the only thing that made all of the congestion bearable. I’m happy to support businesses that recognize the importance of honoring such an important day.
With my family all out of state, I was grateful to be invited over to a friends’ house for dinner to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. My small contribution to the meal was dessert, Orange Mini Bundt Cakes from the May/June issue of Tea Time.
Orange Mini Bundt Cakes
Makes 10-18 cakes
Depending on the size of your pans
1½ cps plus 3 tablespoons sifted cake flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup salted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon orange extract
½ cup whole buttermilk
Garnish: Confectioners’ sugar
*Preheat oven to 325 degrees
*Spray 2 (12 well) mini Bundt cake pans with nonstick baking spray with flour
(I used two 6 well pans and the batter filled 10)
*In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda, whisking well. Set aside.
*In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars. Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add orange zest and orange extract, beating to combine.
*Add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, alternately with buttermilk, beating at low speed until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among wells of prepared pans. Tap pans on countertop to level batter and reduce air bubbles.
*Bake unit cakes are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the centers comes out clean, approximately 20 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling racks, and let cool completely.
*Before service, garnish cakes with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Make-ahead tip: Cakes can be made a week in advance and frozen in an airtight container. Let thaw completely before garnishing and serving.
Winter Wonderland February 18, 2014
The first time I saw snow falling was on a high school band trip to Washington DC over Spring break. The cherry trees were in bloom and the weather was beautiful when we arrived. Two days later we awoke to flakes falling outside our windows and kids running down the hotel hallway shouting “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” (more…)