From my kitchen to yours, best wishes for a very Merry Christmas! May you be blessed by the love of Christ.
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.
Lemons for Christmas December 29, 2013
I hope you all had a nice Christmas. Growing up we always had a big Christmas breakfast after opening gifts and then my mom would have to go to work from 3:00-11:00 so we never really developed the tradition of a big dinner of Christmas Day. Even after she moved from the hospital to the doctor’s office with the holiday off, we didn’t really develop a specific meal for the day, and I’m happy about that, because it gives a chance to try new things.
I had no idea all the goodness I was missing by not reading Southern Living until this first edition came and I found a recipe for Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes. My lemons are FINALLY ripe so there was no question this would be our Christmas dinner. I made sure we had everything we would need and went to sleep Christmas Eve with lemons, rather the sugar plums, dancing in my head. (What is a sugar plum anyway?)
The big day came, we opened our gifts, ate our breakfast, then went for a drive. I’ve been wanting to tour the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge for months now to shoot some photos and video for my new book trailer. Who knew we’d spend most of the day exploring, visiting places my dad hadn’t seen in twenty years or more? By the time we came home, we were too tired to cook so we nibbled on cake and pie, cheese and popcorn.
Never fear, though. I wasn’t going to let my lemons go to waste. We made our new dish the following day and enjoyed it all the more for the extended anticipation.
The lemon tree still bears plenty of fruit and I have a hankering for some fresh lemon tarts as soon as all of the other treats are gobbled up.
Gifts from the Heart January 23, 2013
As you may recall, I was in a baking frenzy the first couple weeks of December. I had toffee and five different types of cookies piling up in my kitchen, but there was one more recipe I couldn’t wait to try; Vanilla-Sour Cream Tea Bread. This recipe came to me in the November/December issue of Tea Time magazine.
On my weekly stroll through Target I had stumbled upon a package of disposable loaf pans. I dropped them in my cart certain the perfect recipe would come along to fill the pans. My loaf pans were larger than therecipe called for so I doubled the measurements and was able to make 6 loaves (7.5×3.25×2-inch).
When the tea bread was baked and cooler I packaged it up along with my cookies and toffee to give to coworkers, my hairdresser, and my masseuse. I loaded my treats into the car and delivered them around town and the office. Over the next several days my coworkers came to me and thanked me, telling me what their favorite treat had been. When I saw my hair dresser and masseuse this month, they both had stories of how they had shared the tea bread with their families on Christmas and received rave reviews, asking for the recipe. Talking with my masseuse last week about how much her guests had enjoyed the tea bread , I realized that I experienced as much pride in these compliments as I do when I receive compliments on my writing, and I felt the same jolt of happiness that I get when I’m in the kitchen mixing up a new treat.
Why did we get away from homemade gifts? Sure it can be time consuming, but in the long run it shows how much we care about those we are giving the gift to. Next time you are struggling to find the perfect gift, consider opening your pantry or flip through a cookbook. There are bountiful ideas out there for gifts from the heart.
Vanilla-Sour Cream Tea Bread
as seen in Tea Time Magazine
makes 4 mini-loaves
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup melted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla, butter, and nut flavoring
- Preheat oven to 350
- Spray 4 mini (3×5-inch) loaf pans with nonstick spray with flour. Set aside
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking well. Set aside
- In a small bowl, combine sour cream, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla, butter, and nut flavoring, stirring well. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until wet ingredients are incorporated. (Batter will be stiff.)
- Divide batter evenly among prepared pans, patting level using a spatula.
- Bake until light golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean, 20-30 minutes.
- Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire racks.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
* I doubled the recipe and made 6 loaves (7.5×3.25×2-inch).
*A bit of lemon curd spread on a piece of bread is delicious