Posted in Baked Perfection

There’s Something About the Aroma of Holiday Cheer

thumbprint-cookiesBaking has erupted in my kitchen. The fragrance of butter and cinnamon announce that feast day is almost upon us and it’s gonna be good.

I love when I am cooking up something yummy for my friends and family. There is a certain satisfaction in it all.  In years past, I have baked dozens of cookies to share with my husband’s co-workers. They were not just any cookie. They were one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted and have become my go-to when a gift of food is called for. I have had people casually mention that Christmas was coming as a reminder they hoped so were the cookies.

Our tradition for many years was to bake and package, then gather my  grandkids to make a delivery run. At first, they felt a little awkward greeting people they did not know. But once they received a gracious thank you from the recipients, they began to get the idea of what sharing the holiday cheer was all about. In a small way, they were learning the gift of hospitality and the joys of its actions.

Today, all I need is the smell of the kitchen on days when I bake thumbprint cookies to remind me of those good times. Such great memories surround the making and sharing of food. I hope your celebrations make some great ones to store up and cherish.


Here is that very yummy cookie recipe from Ina Garten. I’m sure they would be happy to join your Christmas feast. Enjoy your holiday!

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature [I use salted.]
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for egg wash
  • 7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • Raspberry or apricot jam

Go here for instructions.


 

Grandkids at about age 12. Two are twins and were born when the other sib was just eleven months old. These Irish triplets are the same age about three weeks right around Christmastime.

carrie-nick-and-simon

 

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee Time, Dessert

Cinnamon and Butter? Yes, Please.

coffee-cake-mixinsOh, yum! Some dear friends of ours introduced us to Carolyn’s Café in Redlands. Even though it was nearly lunchtime, I opted for breakfast. The reason? Carolyn’s famous coffeecake. It comes with the breakfast plates. The delicate, cinnamon-sugar encrusted cake is very hard to resist, especially with a scoop of butter melting into the top and down the sides.  OMGoodness is it ever delicious. Yes, I shared, but it was tempting to eat it all myself. So, because I know most you don’t live near Carolyn’s Café , and you are feeling gipped, I did some digging and found a recipe.  Good ol’ King Arthur Flour has one that fits the bill.

Warning: This information may be dangerous.

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake

Streusel Topping

Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake

  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 3 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, or two 9″ round cake pans.
    2. Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stirring till well combined. Set the topping aside.
    3. Make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Note that the cocoa powder is used strictly for color, not flavor; leave it out if you like. Set it aside.
    4. To make the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
    5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk till well combined. You don’t need to whisk out all the lumps.
    7. Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine.
    8. Pour/spread half the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared pan(s), spreading all the way to the edges. If you’re using two 9″ round pans, spread 1 1/3 cups batter in each pan.
    9. Sprinkle the filling evenly atop the batter.
    10. Spread the remaining batter atop the filling. Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter, as though you were making a marble cake. Don’t combine filling and batter thoroughly; just swirl the filling through the batter.
    11. Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.
    12. Bake the cake until it’s a dark golden brown around the edges; medium-golden with no light patches showing on top, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes for the 9″ x 13″ pan, 50 to 55 minutes for the 9″ round pans. When pressed gently in the middle, the cake should spring back.
    13. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
    14. Serve cake right from the pan. Carolyn’s plops a big scoop of butter right on top for extra yumminess.
    15. Enjoy!caolyns-coffee-cake2

      This is going to take the place of cinnamon rolls at our house on Christmas morning.
      If you live Southern California’s Inland Empire, please visit Carolyn’s and see for yourself. Be prepared to wait. It’s a very popular place. Don’t worry. The sweet smell of cinnamon will keep you company.

       

       

       

       

     

 

 

 

Posted in Baked Perfection

Sugar and Spice, And Everything Nice

Oh, Autumn! You have arrived.

I love this time a year. The weather is very fickle. Hot one day, cool the next. Here in So Cal we long for New England color but our trees will not turn until sometime in December.  Sweaters and boots come out as we are teased that autumn is finally here. But the very next day, it is summer again with temps into the 100s.

But it is not the weather that makes me long for this time of year, although I do enjoy the cooler days (when we get them). It is the pumpkin. Or maybe I should say, it is the pumpkin spice that I desire. That luscious smell of cinnamon and cloves with a hint of ginger that we identify with being thankful and family celebrations can be found in various forms almost everywhere.

MCW8YNWO0DI have to admit the scent of Pumpkin Spice makes me feel cozy. I want to spend time with friends chatting. I want to slow down and enjoy life. It’s crazy how a little whiff of its sweetness can bring on the desire of simplicity, but it does.

This past week, I made our first pumpkin dessert of the season. I stirred up a dump cake and boy-oh-boy, the kitchen, well. . .the whole house for that matter, smelled delicious. I served it to a group of friends who were happy to be in on the yumminess. Needless to say, it was a hit. I hope it had the same effect on them as it did on me, storing up yet another cozy memory of friends, standing around the kitchen eating, and enjoying life.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Khalil Gibran


Pumpkin Dump Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 (29 ounce) can pure pumpkin
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup butter
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease 9×13 baking dish
  2. In large bowl, mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar and spices until well blended. Pour into baking dish.
  3. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over the top of the batter. If adding pecans, sprinkle them over cake mix.
  4. Thinly slice/shave butter over the cake mix/pecans. You can also melt butter and pour over top.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes until pumpkin filling is set and top is browned. I usually give it a little jiggle to test the firmness but it can also be tested by inserting knife to see if it comes out clean.
  6. Cool. Serve with whipped cream or Cool Whip. Ice cream works, too. Yum.
  7. Enjoy.

fall-950442_1280

Posted in Involving the Heart

Comfort Food

When life gets jumbled, it’s good to pull together.

 


Your day can go upside down in a hurry.  I know that from experience.  This past week, we were minding our own business when a little scent of smoke brought our attention to a large, black cloud directly south of us.  Before we knew it evacuation orders came and our pets, computers, and family photos were loaded into the tiny home on wheels—a.k.a. travel trailer— and we left.

When the smoke cleared our house still stood, but that was not the case for over a hundred families. Thousands of acres of land were devastated by a fire that moved so quickly, spreading in so many directions, it was impossible to fight. A very sad event in our community.

But in the midst of this terrible situation, a spirit of compassion was found in the form of hospitality. Businesses and churches provided comfort in the way of food to displaced families and travelers who were stranded due to road closures.  People came together in church kitchens to offer meals. Others donated what they could to ease the stress of the circumstance, while still others filled their spare bedrooms with tired individuals who had no place to go. My own family became the recipients of dinner and snacks as well as hugs from the people who delivered them.  It was a beautiful scene to witness.

After a few days, most of us had returned home to air out our houses and resume life. I had planned a dinner party with another couple before the fire had struck. It seemed right to continue forward and we kept the date. Sitting around the table, our conversation was dominated by our shared experience of evacuation and worry. Eventually however, we moved on to the normal stuff—future plans and stories from the past. It was comforting to spend the evening talking and eating. This ‘soul’ food is just what we needed.

“In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.”

Aristotle

pastries-1521502_1920


My dear friend, Danielle added her version Pretzel Salad to our dinner party menu. She said it was really a dessert, but because it had salad in its name, she could justify eating two servings. I wish I had taken a picture. It was beautiful and very yummy. In my opinion, this can stay on the Comfort Food List. If I am ever under the weather, don’t hesitate bring me some.

Pretzel Salad

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels (about 4 cups of mini twists equals 1 1/2 cups crushed)
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 (8 ounce) container whipped topping, thawed (I never, ever use this but always make my own whipped cream because it’s 1,000 times better that way)
  • 1 (6 ounce) package strawberry flavored Jell-O®
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen strawberries (I always use fresh fruit, usually strawberries and blueberries)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Mix together the pretzels, 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9×13 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool completely.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread evenly over the cooled crust. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the gelatin mix and boiling water. Mix in frozen strawberries, and stir until thawed. Pour over cream cheese mixture in pan. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 1 hour.
  5. Enjoy!

Danielle not only prepares a mean Pretzel Salad, she also happens to be a small business owner who specializes in goat milk soaps made fresh on her family’s small homestead farm. Check it out on Handcrafted Homestead on Facebook.

Posted in Baked Perfection, Coffee Time, Warm the Soul

Sunday Visiting

5811FEC469Over the past couple of weeks, I have found myself hosting impromptu gatherings on Sunday afternoon. Good thing the house was somewhat orderly. All that was needed was a quick swipe in the bathroom and a bit of vacuuming to make ready for company.  I’m so glad they came. What followed in the form of encouragement and blessing far outweighed the momentary inconvenience of its short notice.

We have long passed the days when people simply stopped by on a Sunday afternoon.  I can remember as a child it was a very pleasant happening when someone came to call.  There was no special fanfare needed. A pot of coffee was brewed and conversation was enjoyed. It was just simple and easy and extraordinary all at the same time. We found our lives elevated by the presence of guests.

Perhaps this is a custom that should return—this Sunday afternoon visiting. It’s not hard. There is no need to consult Pinterest to create perfect environment or food offering. A kitchen table with tea and cookies are quite enough for this event that pushes companionship to the forefront. The benefits of such a practice? They can be measured in ah factor of an afternoon made wonderful because friends stopped by.

Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Here is a very quick and easy brownie recipe I used last time my grandkids and their parents came by. It is very good recipe. So good, we have to double it every time.

The Best Brownies

Ingredients

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Mix oil and sugar until well blended.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla; stir just until blended.
  4. Mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  5. Stir dry ingredients into the oil/sugar mixture.
  6. Pour into greased 9 x 9 square pan.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until sides just start to pull away from the pan.
  8. Cool completely before cutting.

Note: I usually double the recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 pan. If you double the recipe, you will need to cook longer than 20 minutes.

Posted in The Party's in the Kitchen

Going Home

I went home this week.  Well, not exactly my home but the one that belonged to my mom until she up and moved to heaven. It had been nearly two years since her death and this would be the first time I would be back in a place that had always included her presence. I wasn’t really sure what feelings would be stirred up within me.

Stepping through the door, I realized things had not changed in her absence. My sister now takes Mom’s place in the kitchen where so many celebration meals have been prepared. From the look of the counter, the tradition carried on.  It was covered with good things to eat.  Luscious flatbreads, pans of lasagna and that green pudding with its bits of pineapple and pistachios were all present as they had been in the past. Additional yumminess arrived. Aunt Sarah’s Cheesy Potatoes, Breaded Morel Mushrooms, compliments of my brothers, and my own cake slathered with Browned Butter Frosting rounded out the already abundant selection.

Daughter, Genevieve and sister, Jeannie.
Daughter, Genevieve and sister, Jeannie.

We filled our plates and ate and talked and talked and talked. It was all very comforting to sit around the table and enjoy each other’s company. For the moment, it all felt very normal as if no one was missing from the circle. I guess in a way everyone was accounted for.  Even though Mom was not physically with us, her heart had stayed behind. The spirit of the day made that evident. It was exactly as she would have planned it. I will hold the memory close as one of the best.

Where we love is home–home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Enjoying the beautiful afternoon.
Enjoying the beautiful afternoon chatting and laughing.

I asked my sister, Jeannie, to send me the recipes she cooked up for our visit. I left them in the form they were sent. I like that it is less formal and more like the way we would tell someone how to prepare the dish.

The following are the recipes for the bread, green pudding and the peanut butter cookies. The lasagna is just your basic recipe but she says she always uses Prego.

Bread Machine Flat Bread
The bread is easy. In the bread maker I put in one cup of water and one packet of dry yeast. Wait ten minutes for yeast to bloom and add three tbsp sugar, three cups of flour, two tsp salt and one third cup oil. Set bread maker to dough sitting and start. When the dough has risen I spray a little Pam on a larger pizza pan, dump the dough on it, sprinkle a little flour over the top and spread it out by pressing it with my hands, as large as it will stretch without making holes in it. I let in rise in a warm place and brush with about three tbsp melted butter, sprinkle with garlic salt and parmesan cheese. Bake at 400 until brown and lovely.
Green Pudding
Green stuff is two pkgs of instant pistachio pudding, two cups milk and one small can of drained crushed pineapple . Mix the pudding according to pkg directions, then add the well drained crushed pineapple.
Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies
Mix one cup peanut butter, one cup sugar, one egg and half tsp vanilla. Scoop onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. Press with fork. Bake at 350 until golden brown.
Posted in doing life with friends, Matters of the Heart, Warm the Soul

Blend Well

A loud ruckus could be heard  in Maria’s dining room. This was the first time the gals on the hospitality team that I am part of had met together outside of our regular Thursday mornings. Friendship was evident through the teasing and laughter that was happening around the table. We have gotten to know each other through working together every week. A friendship has grown while serving brunch and cleaning up after in the church kitchen.

Women's Small Group Hospitality Team

Today, however, was our turn to relax. Maria prepared a wonderful meal and the beautiful table settings made everyone feel special. Each of us took a turn to share a little bit of our stories with the others. This proved to create an even stronger bond between us. Our lives became richer through hearing personal challenges each could connect with. I came away from the morning thinking how lucky I was to know and serve with these women.  This group is a special blend of backgrounds, experiences and seasons that makes my life much more delicious.

The greatest sweetener of human life is friendship. ~Joseph Addison


One thing that Maria served our group was a luscious Lemon Poppy Seed Cake. It was a grain free recipe and was oh, so yummy.

Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

prep: 20 minutes     Cooking: 40 minutes    Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:

CAKE

  • 1/3 cup grass-fed butter (Kerrygold), plus more for greasing pan*
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour, plus 1 teaspoon for dusting pan
  • 1/2 cup raw honey**
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

GLAZE

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons finely ground raw cashews
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 2 teaspoons honey, melted
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.Make the cake.
  2. Grease a Bundt pan very well with butter, then dust with 1 teaspoon coconut flour, carefully checking that every crack and surface is covered.  This makes sure your cake will easily come out of the Bundt pan after baking.
  3. Place the first 9 ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender and process for 15 seconds, until smooth.
  4. Add 1 egg at a time, blending in-between, until all the eggs have been incorporated.
  5. Gently stir in the poppy seeds and lemon zest by hand.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place in oven, and bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then invert it onto the rack to cool completely.  If necessary, use a rubber spatula to gently release the cake from the pan.  A small chunk broke off on mine as I flipped it over, but it didn’t mess up the taste at all!
  8. Make the glaze.  Grind the cashews in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until combined and smooth.  Drizzle over cooled cake before serving.

Enjoy!

  •  If you like this post, perhaps you would reading another blog I write.  Girl on Adventure is a collection of lessons God is teaching me as I travel along life’s road.