Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I got a Nikon camera. I love to take a photograph…..

Since I was 17 years old I have wanted a Nikon camera. That’s about the time that my interest in photography began. My first camera was a Canon AE1 Program. I wanted a Nikon, but after saving for a year, the Canon was all I could afford. Way back then I think I paid $300 for it, which was a terrific amount of money at the time. I remember my father cringing when he found out how much money I spent. He didn't take it well back then, so I don't think I will be sharing the price tag of this camera with him.

Fast forward 27 years and it was almost like I was 17 again. Putting away $20 here, $40 there, stashing cash in my little savings box and counting it every few months to see what my total was. Could I have gone out and just bought it? Yes. Does it mean more to me to have saved for it for the last 10 months? Absolutely. Plus I think it teaches my kids a great lesson. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to get it.

So after many, many years and many, many months of research I finally have the camera of my dreams.

It arrived today. I could hardly wait to tear into the box. Within minutes my table was covered with plastic, foam, instruction booklets, DVD's, wires, batteries, and all the do-dads that come along with a brand spanking new Nikon. Can I just say that again? A Nikon. I owe a Nikon. I have waited so many years to say that.

After spending a bit of time looking it all over, I have to admit, it's a bit overwhelming. There are more bells and whistles on this camera then there are in my car!

This weekend I'm just going to take my time and watch the DVD's and read my instruction manuals and really get to know this camera that I have waited so long to own. There may be a trip to a store to purchase a camera bag, but other than that, I'm planning on hunkering myself down and mastering this thing of beauty.

I may be awhile before the picture quality improves!

If you didn’t recognize that the title of this post was the lyrics to Kodachrome then you are just a young whippersnapper!

Latte Bars

I must confess....I have no idea what a latte tastes like. I don’t drink coffee. I am a tea drinker. I love my tea, hot or cold. Sometimes I feel like an alien right here on earth because I never partake in a cuppa joe. You should see the looks I get when someone offers me one and I say, “No thanks, I don’t drink coffee”. “You don’t drink coffee??” Like it’s some kind of a sin or something. Geesh. I work in an office full of coffee drinkers. They drink it all day long. I live with one of the biggest coffee drinkers I know, my husband, the java fiend. He cannot function without a pot of in the morning. That’s right I didn't say cup, or cups, I said pot.

Now while I don’t like the taste of coffee, I love the smell, especially those flavored ones. Hazelnut, vanilla, raspberry, they all smell good to me. I also love coffee flavored things….ice cream, syrup (yup that’s big here in RI), and desserts. When I came across this recipe for Latte Bars I knew it would be something that my hubby would go nuts for and that I would probably like too. I was right.

You can really taste the deep espresso flavor in each bite. Like what I would imagine a great cup of coffee would taste like, but with a mocha twist. The frosting also has a coffee kick and the creamy, rich topping covered in crushed chocolate covered coffee beans is totally decedent. I even like the chocolate covered espresso beans, but then again, there’s not much that you can dip in chocolate that I won’t eat. So if you are a coffee lover, you will love these, and even if you’re not a coffee lover, you might like them too!

Latte Bars
Printable recipe
2 to 3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons hot water
1-cup sugar
¾ cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1-teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons, butter, softened

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped chocolate covered espresso coffee beans

Heat oven to 350. Combine 2 to 3 teaspoons espresso powder in hot water in a small bowl; stir until dissolved. Set aside.

Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in medium bowl. Stir in ½ cup melted butter, eggs, vanilla and dissolved espresso mixture. Mix well.

Spread into greased 8 inch square baking pan. Bake for 23 – 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Combine ½ teaspoons espresso powder and 1 tablespoon milk in a small bowl. Stir until dissolved. Add powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons butter. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, adding enough additional milk for desired consistency. Frost cool bars, sprinkle with chopped espresso beans.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Apple Butter

Oh we have been eating apples! Apples for breakfast, apples with lunch, apples as a snack. I have a few more apple desserts up my sleeve but after visiting one of my favorite blogs, Blue Yonder, I was struck with an apple epiphany…Apple Butter! Why didn’t I think of it before? Stefani at Blue Yonder is so smart; she makes apple butter in her crock-pot! Genius!

Tati and I had gone shopping and when we got home she helped me peel and chop all 6 pounds of apples. We didn't finish until after 10pm, but it actually worked out well cause these have to cook for 11 hours, so putting them on before bedtime was the smartest way to do it for me. The smell that we woke up too was heavenly. The whole house smelled like baked apples.

I started one batch in the blender, poured 6 half pint jars, filled the blender up with the second batch, pushed blend, went to lift the jar off the base, the bottom piece somehow unscrewed itself and before I knew it I had hot apple butter pouring out all over the blender! What a total mess!! I panicked and yelled for John. He cleaned up the whole mess while I whined about it.

Doesn't the blender bottom look like some kind of an alien? It even looks like it has horns and teeth. The blender couldn't be saved and ended up in the trash. Oh well. John said it was the best smelling mess I ever made. So one blender down, and more apple butter to make.

Of course we scarificed a jar and did a taste test as soon as it was cool enough to eat. It was so delicious! Not just good, not really good, it was fantastic. The only thing I did different from Stefani's recipe was to cut my sugar to 3 1/2 cups since I had picked some really sweet apples. It was perfect. No it was better than perfect. I think I need to go pick about 12 more pounds of apples so I can make a double batch to last us all winter. Thanks for such a terrific recipe Stefani.

Apple Butter
(recipe from Stefani at Blue Yonder)

6 pounds of apples. After weighing, peel, core and chop them (It's tastiest if you use a few different kinds of sweet apples, like Gala, Fuji, Braeburn or the Delicious varieties)
4 cups of sugar (you could probably use less)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt.

Mix the dry ingredients then pour over the apples and toss. Cook in a crockpot on high for an hour and then on low for 10 hours. Remove the lid and cook for another hour. At this point, you can put it through a food processor or blender to make it extra smooth. Just do it in very small batches. It will be really hot and could burn you.

Spoon into clean jars (leaving about a half inch headroom), put the lids on and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Ours was gently boiling.

If you want to skip the hot water bath, you can just freeze your jars (plain old jars have worked just fine in the freezer for us). We tried freezing with one of our jars of apple butter, just to see if it would alter the texture once it was frozen and then defrosted. Nope, no difference. It worked great!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Dessert Squares

It smelled like Thanksgiving at my house this morning. The sweet smell of pumpkin in the oven filled my house with memories of turkey day. This is a dessert that is on the menu here every Thanksgiving.

It's one of my Mom’s recipes. She has been making these ever since I can remember. They are one of my all time favorite Fall desserts. Three layers of scrumptiousness. I can’t even believe that scrumptiousness is a word. It must be cause my spell checker didn’t even pick up on it. Anyway, these are wonderful. A moist cake layer on the bottom, creamy pumpkin in the middle and just the slightly sweet crunch on top.

If you don’t like pumpkin, then well, they won't be so wonderful to you, but if you are a pumpkin lover like I am, you will be in pumpkin heaven.

Pumpkin Pie Dessert Squares
Printable recipe
Bottom Layer
1 package yellow cake mix
1 egg
½ cup butter, softened

3 cups pumpkin pie filling (1lb, 4oz) * see note
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs

1 cup reserved batter from bottom layer
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of a 9x13 pan. Combine the bottom layer ingredients. This will be a thick batter. Reserve 1 cup and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into the pan. It helps if you wet your finger tips while pressing it down into the pan.

Combine the filling ingredients until smooth and pour over bottom layer. Combine the topping ingredients along with the reserved cup of batter and distribute over the top. Just grab it with your hands and kind of dollop it all over the top. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool and cut into squares.

*Note – If you are using 1lb can (16oz) of pumpkin that is not spiced you must add 2 ½ teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice and ½ cup brown sugar to the pumpkin.


Yup you read that right....plural. I decided that I would pick two winners for the giveaway. I picked up a copy of another of my favorite cookbooks...The Garlic Lovers Cookbook from the lovely people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival as a runner up prize. You can never cook with or eat enough garlic I say. This cookbook has some fantastic recipes in it. I'm hoping someone who loves garlic as much as me wins it!

So early this morning I sat down and looked through all the comments again, visited those of you who have blogs, just to push a little good luck karma your way, then I reached into my bucket full of hundreds of little scraps of paper, speaking of which, thank to my family for helping me cut and fold all those little scraps of paper. I shook it up, dug deep and pulled out the runner up first....that's how they do it on Miss America right?? So the winner of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Cookbook (and some other goodies) is:

REGI!! from Fairy Gardens! Congrats Regi!

I dove back in and pulled out the 1st place winner:

STEFANI at Blue Yonder! How cool! I happen to be making Stefanis apple butter recipe today!

Congrats to the 2 winners! Regi and Stefani please click on the little contact button and send me your addresses so I can mail off your prizes!

I really had fun reading everyones comments and visiting new blogs. I think this means I will have to have another giveaway around the holidays. Thank to all of those who commented, and even though you didn't win, I hope ya stick around and see what's cookin' in my little world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Soft Molasses Cookies

Now that the air has turned cool, and we are breaking out the sweaters and warm socks, I felt it was also time to break out the molasses. There is something warm and comforting to me about the smell of molasses. Lots of autumn smells bring me instant comfort....maple, pumpkin, clove, apple and cinnamon.

My oven will be going into overdrive from now till New Years. I have so many new recipes to try. I usually take most of my vacation in the Fall that way I have lots of time to cook and bake and research holiday recipes.

I had been looking for a great molasses cookie recipe for a few weeks now. I found this one on a blog, but I can't for the life of me remember what one! So if this is your cookie recipe, please let me know and I will glady link back to you. I had printed out so many I lost track of who's was who's. It's a fantastic recipe. This cookies are soft and chewy and filled with spicy goodness and a sugary coating. I will be making these again and again. Even my picky boys gobbled them right up.

Make sure you pull these out of the oven after 10 minutes. Don't overbake them or you won't get that soft center that makes these so terrific. This recipe make a lots of cookies, at least 4 dozen. I tried counting but some little hands (and some not so little hands) kept stealing them off the cooling racks. It makes a lot.

Soft Molasses Cookies
Printable recipe
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 tea. salt
2 1/4 tea. baking soda
2 1/4 tea. ground ginger
1 1/2 tea. ground cloves
1 1/2 tea. ground cinnamon
sugar for rolling ball into

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and eggs. In another bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and spices. Blend thoroughly with a wire whisk. Gradually mix flour mixture with the creamed mixture until dough is blended and smooth. Roll dough into balls about the size of a walnut, roll into sugar, and place on greased cookie sheet. I used parchment and they came out perfectly. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE! You really want to take these out when they look underdone. Trust me they will set up perfectly.

Cool on wire rack and store in tightly covered container.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My first giveaway!

October is my favorite month. Autumn is my favorite time of year. I adore everything Fall related…..apple picking, casseroles baking, soups simmering, warm cozy sweaters, nights by the fire, pies baking, bread in the oven, warm socks, hay rides, the gorgeous fall foliage we have here in New England, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and pumpkins! I am a pumpkin nut. Gimme pumpkin muffins, bread, cookies, or pie, if it has pumpkin in it, I’m a happy girl. I have a fantastic recipe for Pumpkin Pie Squares that I will be posting soon. It’s the ultimate pumpkin dessert and is served at my house every Thanksgiving.

To celebrate my love of all things Fall (and today being the first official day) I decided to have my first ever giveaway. One of my favorite cookbooks is Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours. I think every baker should own a copy of this fabulous cookbook so here’s your chance to win it. (You can’t have mine cause it’s already flour dusted and filled with dozens of post-it’s). Not only will you get a copy of this great cookbook, but a few other goodies as well.

There’s a set of adorable fall bowls, a mini whisk from Crate & Barrel which is one of the handiest little tools I own, and some mystery gifts. I don't wanna tell ya everything! The winner needs to have a few surprises thrown in there!

Just leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite thing is about Fall. I will put all your names in my giant pumpkin bowl and choose a winner on Saturday morning, September 27th. If you’re a blogger and you post a blurb about my giveaway, I’ll enter your name in 5 times. If you copy this into your blog:

I’ll put your name in 10 times. Just let me know in the comment section or drop me an email (hit that little contact button off to the left at the top of the page).

So if you read my blog but just never comment, here’s your chance to be heard and possibly win some cool prizes! Good Luck and Welcome Fall!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Easy Apple Cake

I design the quarterly newsletter that we have at work. Four times I year we ask employees if they have a recipe they would like to share. 9 times outta 10 one of my recipes goes into the newsletter. Imagine my surprise when this month one of the ladies in the legal departmart sent me a recipe! Easy Apple Cake - sounded good, and easy. I decided to make it this weekend in case I had to tweak it or adjust baking times......and to be honest, I wanted to make sure it was good before I published it for others to try.

It was good and easy too. No mixer to clean, just a few bowls and a whisk. I baked mine in a deep dish pie pan, but you could use an 8x8 pan and that would work just fine. The boys ate half the cake for breakfast this morning while it was still warm.

Easy Apple Cake
Printable recipe
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoons vanilla
3 apples, peeled, cored & sliced ¼ of an inch thick (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Add the sugar and mix well again. Add oil, flour, baking powder, cinnamon & vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Gently fold into the batter. To put my own little twist on this recipe, I tossed the apple slices with cinnamon & sugar before I folded them into the batter. Pour into greased and floured 8" or 9" square pan, or a deep dish pie plate. Bake for 40 minutes or until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's apple pickin' time

One of my favorite things about September - apple pickin'!! We headed out this afternoon on a gloriously sunny day to pick us a buncha apples, and pick we did......45 pounds total! That wasn't just our total that was Tati's too. I do have lots of apples, so you know what that means...lots of apple recipes comin' up!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A lesson in being grateful

Tuesday night we were eating a particularly late supper. One of Evan’s friends knocked on the door. He went to answer it and asked if it was all right to have his friend wait in his room while we finished. We said yes. This little boy, let’s call him Austin for the sake of this post, who has been at my house many times in the past, walked past us all at the dinner table, and as he was heading up the stairs he turned and said

“ I wish I got to eat a family dinner with my Mom and Dad”.

Up the stairs he went. All four of us sat there in silence. My heart sank a little. John finally broke the silence and told Evan to go ask Austin if he would like to join us. They both came running down the stairs.

“Are you hungry? I asked.

“Yes” he said very quietly.

“Would you like some chicken and rice?”

“Yes, please” his eyes lit up.

“Did you eat supper tonight Austin?”

“Nope, my Mom works till like 9 or 9:30”

He was hungry. He ate 3 pieces of chicken and thanked me many times for it. A very polite little man.

Austin is a loner. He rides all over town on his bike. I don’t know much about his family, but I do see him wandering the streets at times when a child his age shouldn’t be wandering the streets. We’ve taken him home many a night when it’s just too cold or dark for him to ride home safely. His Mom never once calling the house looking for him.

A while later I asked Evan what kind of sandwich he wanted for lunch. Austin happily told Evan that he got free lunch every day. “Free lunch?” Evan looked at me and asked:

“How come I don’t get free lunch?”

“All you gotta do is fill out a paper,” he told Evan

“Mom we should fill out that paper”

Ok how do I handle this delicately? Before I had the chance to answer Austin says

“ I will find out for you tomorrow Evan”

Phew! I was frantically trying to come up with an answer for that one in my head, but luckily the conversation kinda died off.

As it approached 8:00pm I explained that Evan needed to take a shower and read for a half hour and asked if could John give him a ride home.

“Nah, I’m cool,” he said. “Besides I don’t have to be home till like 9:00pm”

9:00! On a school night?? Oh the thoughts that started running through my head. 11 years old on a bike, in the dark, alone. Please tell me he stays on the sidewalk?

I asked if someone was at home. “Yeah my Dad, he’s always in the basement”

Ok so Dad’s home but doesn’t feed the kid or call to see where he is after dark?

There were a hundred more questions I wanted to ask Austin, but I was afraid of the answers.

He thanked us for supper, jumped on his bike and off he went. Off into the dark. It bothered me. It bothered me so much that it was on my mind all night. Who was taking care of this child? Why didn’t he eat supper? Why is he allowed to roam the streets till 9:00pm on a school night? Doesn’t his mother worry about him? Care about him? Wonder where is he all those long hours by himself?

There is another story on his face. The scars. The family dog attacked Austin when he was a toddler. His face is covered in deep scars. When I look at him I wonder, was he attacked when no one was watching him? Did he scream and cry before someone noticed that he was being attacked? Was he alone? I just feel so bad for this kid.

After Evan had taken a shower, I talked to him about Austin. I want him to know and appreciate how lucky he is to sit down with his family to a hot meal every night. To be glad there is always someone home when he gets off the bus to make sure his homework is done, make him a snack; ask him how his day went. I want him to realize that not everyone gets a hug and an “I love you” before they close their eyes for the night. Not every child has a hot breakfast to fill their belly in the morning, or gets sent off to school with well wishes for the day.

I asked him to remember this when I’m getting a little too naggy, or I’m when I want to know exactly where he is all the time, when I tell him what time to be home, get a little overprotective, or call him when he’s not on his way back from the neighbors on time.

Sorry I rambled, this whole situation just shook me up inside. I worry. I care. I adore my children and would do anything in my power to protect them. I can’t imagine another mother not feeling the same way I do. I thought all Moms’ felt like me. I wish Austin’s did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Honeyed Apple Tea Bread

I seem to be in fruit bread kinda mood lately. I'm craving it for breakfast. Sometimes I find myself loathing the thought of having to ingest another bite of my usual Honey-Nut Cheerios, or oatmeal with fruit, or Kashi, or yogurt & granola kinda breakfast. I'm craving fruit filled, homey bread smothered in Jules' homemade jam. So I whipped up this Honeyed Apple Tea Bread from the Shelburn Farm Cookbook and took it to work with me. The honey in this recipe makes this bread just sweet enough and the apples give it a tart tang.

Good thing I had a piece at home cause by 8:30am, that baby was gone! Lots of seagulls at work, lol. I didn't share my jam with them though. No one's touching my jam.

Honeyed Apple Tea Bread
Printable Recipe
2 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs
¼ cup honey
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon apple brandy, such as Calvados (optional)
2 medium apples, peels, cored and cut into ¼ inch dice (about 2 cups) I used Golden Delicious.
1 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or using a hand held mixer, beat the eggs on high speed with the honey and white sugar until light (about 8 – 10 minutes). Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture alternating with the melted butter.

Stir in the apple brandy, if suing, and the diced apples and lemon zest. Mix just to combine, making sure there are no flour pockets, but don’t over mix.

Spread the batter into the pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until top is golden brown and a test comes out clean. If the top gets too dark, tent it with foil. Cool the tea bread in it’s pan on a rack for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and place it on a serving platter to glaze (see glaze recipe below) while it’s still warm.

For the glaze
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from the same lemon used for zest)

Mix and drizzle over warm tea bread.

Monday, September 15, 2008



No that’s not a typo. Wormpoop is one word in the world of vermiculture composting.

I have been giving great thought into venturing into vermiculture composting
, otherwise known as worm farming. Every year the garden seems to get bigger and next year will be no exception. I'm adding in a big herb garden and expanding one side of the vegetable garden. I have lots of food scraps which I throw in the trash. Food scraps that could be worm food.

A recent article in the Providence Journal spotlighted 2 ladies in the southern part of the state that raise red worms The Worm Ladies of Charlestown. This is what I learned from the article and from researching wormpoop online:

Red worm
some of the best natural fertilizer producers in the world. They are great for decomposing yard and household waste, in fact; you need red worms for composting to get the nutrient and mineral rich worm fertilizer called wormpoop or wormpoop castings.

A medium size worm bed with red worms produce
s several pounds of organic waste a day, creating organic fertilizer that will result in healthy soil for your garden. Studies have shown that as food passes through the worm's body, the worms have the amazing ability to eliminate pathogens and carcinogens in the soil. Wormpoop mixed with soil provides a natural organic fertilizer and a tremendous source of nutrients for plants that dramatically improves the texture and fertility of soil. This replaced valuable nutrients taken out of the soil when fruits and vegetables are harvested.

These worms have a big appetite, reproduce quickly, and thrive in confinement. They eat half their weight in food every day! Even in cool winter weather, where outdoor compost piles lie dormant, you can compost your food scraps indoors with worms and reduce the volume of your household garbage by as much as 25%. The end result is unsurpassed as an organic soil builder and plant fertilizer (worm castings.) This material has more phosphates, potassium and nitrogen than the material produced in typical grass-and-leaf composters. The worm castings or "black gold" are excellent for starting seeds and for houseplants. They can be put directly on top of your houseplants, vegetable and flower gardens. Worm castings will not need any extra nutrients. It is perfect for use on vegetables or flowers. Incorporate 1 part castings to 10 parts of soil for vegetables and a little less for flowers. As little as a tablespoon of pure worm castings provides enough organic plant nutrients to feed an 8-10 inch plant for more than two months.

Under proper conditions two pounds of worms will process about seven pounds of scraps per week. Two pounds of worms will be comfortable in a bin 2'x3' or an 18 gallon bin. One pound of worms contains anywhere from 600-2500 worms.

So I get a free garbage disposal, great soil and the kids will have around a thousand new pets! What could be more cool then showing off your Mom’s worm collection?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Foodie Friends Love

Just when I thought yesterday couldn't have gotten any better, in the middle of all the celebrating the UPS man comes strolling up the driveway with a package for me? Hmmmmm, I didn't order anything did I? (well not this week anyway, lol).

Turns out it was a box full of home made jam from my foodie friend Jules. I was so tickled! Packed inside was Strawberry, Apricot and Triple Berry Jams. They were absolutely gorgeous. It was all I could do not to open up every one right that very second and steal a spoonful in front of all my guests. I suppose I could have, but look at those beauties, I didn't want to share!

This morning I finally got to dig into them. Oh my heavens! Jules, you are the jam queen! I used my husband as my "prop man" and had him hold the jar while I took a photo of that gorgeous jam glistening down that spoon.

Immediately after I grabbed the spoon and licked it clean. Delicious!! The best triple berry jam that has ever crossed my lips! You have outdone yourself woman. Next was the strawberry and apricot.....equally scrumptious!

I'm already thinking up ways to use them in my baking. Oh, maybe I can use the apricot to glaze that pound cake I have in the freezer for emergency company? I could stir the strawberry into my oatmeal, or pour over ice cream? The possibilities are deliciously endless. This is going to be fun!

Thank you so much Jules. You made a perfectly wonderful day even more sweet!

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

We've had the last few days off as sort of a mini vacation this week. I suffer throughout most of the summer without taking too much time of so I can save most of my vacation for my favorite time of year, Fall. The air is turning quite chilly here, the A/C's are ready to come out for the season, and it's time to break out the blankets from the cedar chest. I love it!

John and I did a little shopping this morning, then I made a batch of cookies. Yup you read that right. Triple Chocolate Chip baby! Three times the deliciousness. Cocoa, bittersweet, and semi-sweet chocolate. Be still my chocolate covered heart! Since they didn't require my stand mixer they were a cinch to whip up.

We threw a few mixed tapes into the stereo and ate cookies for lunch while we broke out the Fall decorations. John sang "Baby You Got What I Need" by Biz Markie to me, very off key I might add. That definitely was not one of the tapes I made. That was all his doing. Luckily the next few songs were old Black Sabbath tunes so he redeemed himself. We had such good time.

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies
Printable recipe
1 cup butter, softened
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used bittersweet chips)
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and mix them up well with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Add to mixture. Add chocolate. At this point the batter became quite thick so I just used my hands to mix everything.

I used a cookie scoop and then flattened them a bit with my fingers. Bake 12 - 15 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 - 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Yesterday was like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one for me. I smiled so much that I felt like one of those beauty queens who has to vaseline her teeth to stop her lips from sticking to them.

Mitchell is finally home. After a very long year and a half absence he has returned. There were lots of long hugs. Even my neighbors came over to welcome Mitch home. He's the kind of guy you just can't help but like. There are so many people here in Rhode Island that are ecstatic over his return.

I’m making all of his favorite foods to celebrate. Tati and Sara joined us for dinner (pasta and garlic bread with home made meatballs and sauce). We ate, we talked and talked and talked some more. We cleaned up after dinner, then we sat outside around the fire and talked even more. We reminisced about the long months that he was in a coma in the hospital, then there were some tears. We are all very thankful that by some miracle he recovered and will spend many, many more years making us laugh.

It was like he never left. There were no awkward moments, there were no points of silence, we were all happy and chatting and reconnecting.

This is his home, we are his family. Here is where he belongs.
There will be much rejoicing and celebrating going on.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Maple Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Pound Cake. It’s one of my favorite treats. It’s not fancy or pretentious. You can dress it up or eat it plain. You can grab a piece on the run. It travels well. You can make 2 loves, like this recipe does, and freeze one for later. It’s plain, but plain in a good way. Van Halen even had a song called Pound Cake:

“Well, just plain, clean, and simple wrapped up nice n' tight” And homegrown and down-home, that makes one. Cookin' up that old time, long lost recipe for me.”
Thank you Mr. Hagar for those heartwarming lyrics. Pound Cake – it’s simple and sometimes simple can be the very best thing.

I have dived into my Shelburne Farms cookout and at the current moment have about 8 recipes I just have to make. This pound cake was one of them. I must say, it’s one of the best pound cakes I have ever tasted. Moist and dense, with just a hint of deep maple flavor, it was truly the perfect pound cake experience. This recipe makes 2 loaves, so you can eat one now and freeze one for later.

Maple Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Printable recipe
8 ounces of cream cheese, very soft
1 ½ cups (yes, 3 sticks) of unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup granulated maple sugar (this is one thing I do not have in my pantry, you can substitute 1 cup packed light brown sugar, which I did)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
6 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325. Generously butter the loaf pans. (I used Bakers Joy and it worked perfectly). In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat together the cream cheese and butter until they are completely smooth (4 – 5 mins). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the white and brown sugars and salt and continue to beat until light and fluffy, 5 more minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape down the bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and eggs. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the cream cheese mixture, mixing well with each addition. Scrape down the bowl. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing on low until incorporated. This makes a lot of batter, so add the flour slowly. I had a mushroom cloud of flour explode in my face while I was adding this in! Scrape down the bowl and mix for 1 more minute until the batter is completely smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between 2 loaf pans (8 ½ by 4 ½ or 9 by 5). Smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes and then turn the oven down to 300 and bake for another 45 – 50 minutes, tenting with foil if the tops become to dark. The cakes are done when a tester comes out clean and the crack in the top of the loaf is just barely moist. After I turned the oven down to 300 I set my timer for 40 minutes and they were perfectly done. Remove the cakes immediately from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Like most pound cakes this one holds up beautifully in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week. It also freezes very well.

Shredded Potato Cake with Leeks and Gruyere

Potatoes and cheese. Yum. What combination is more luscious? Maybe chocolate and strawberries, but potatoes and cheese are a close second in my book. I came across this recipe in Yankee magazine. I read the name of the chef, Rick Gencarelli, and thought it sounded familiar. Where had I seen that name before? Oh yeah, I just ordered a cookbook he co-authored: Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont. I've bookmarked quite a few recipe already, so get ready for some Vermont eats.

The hardest part of this whole recipe was flippin' that potato cake. I was screeching while I flipped it onto a plate. I breathed a big sigh of relief when it actually worked and was in one piece!

Shredded Potato Cake with Leeks and Gruyere
Printable recipe
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 ½ pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
¾ cup grated Gruyere (or any other Alpine style cheese)
Kosher or sea salt

In a medium size cast iron fry pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium low heat. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until leeks are silky and lightly browned (about 20 minutes). Remove from pan.

Rinse the potatoes well, but don’t peel. Shred on a box grater. Place shredded potatoes on a clean dishtowel and sprinkle with another generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss potatoes with your hands to season. Gather the towel corners together and twist (over a bowl or sink) to remove as much of the moister as possible.

In the still warm fry pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add half the shredded potatoes in an even layer, pressing them into the pan. Add leeks and cheese in an even layer. Add remaining potatoes and press into top of pan. Cover the pan and cook until potatoes are golden brown on the bottom (peek with a spatula), 8 to 10 minutes. Turn a plate (larger than the pan) over on top of the potatoes. Place your hands firmly on top of the plate and carefully flip the pan so the potato cake is on the plate.

Heat remaining oil until shimmering. Slide the potato cake back into the pan, raw side down, cover and cook 8 to 10 more minutes. Slide from pan and let rest 3 – 5 minutes before serving.

This was absolutely delicious. Crunchy potatoes with creamy cheese and leeks in the middle, oh my, it really was outstanding and now that I'm not afraid to flip it anymore, I will make this again.

Apple Blueberry Bread

Well Miss Hanna kept her damage to a minimum, and for that we are all thankful. It was a noisy, windy night, but this morning all is calm and the sun is actually breaking through the clouds.

To celebrate the return of sunshine I thought a delicious breakfast bread was in order. Sometimes you just want something something warm and comforting. I knew a fruit filled bread would really hit the spot and go nicely with my tea. I still had a few bags of blueberries that I had picked in the freezer. This Apple Blueberry Bread was calling my name. Not overly sweet, filled with warm apples, juicy blueberries and crunchy walnuts, it's the perfect breakfast bread.

Apple Blueberry Bread
Printable Recipe
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon apple juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, room temp
1 ½ cups apples, peeled, cored and chopped (approx 2 large apples, I used Granny Smiths)
½ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (thawed & drained)
½ cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9x3 loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the apple juice, lemon zest, butter and egg. Mix until well combined. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the blueberries, apples and walnuts (if desired).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, and serve warm or at room temp.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Hanna woke me up at 3am this morning. No, Hanna is not my child; Hanna is a storm making its way up the East Coast. At 3am the rain was pouring down buckets. Big sheets of fat raindrops banging against the top of the air conditioner, smashing against the bedroom windows, pounding down on my roof. I tried to roll over, and just ignore it but I couldn’t. So I was up and on the couch where it was a little bit quieter.

Last night we made sure everything in the yard was secure and tied or bolted down. By tonight we should have some really strong winds and lots of rain. My garage will flood. My basement will flood. We know this for a fact and are prepared with pumps at the ready. Everything is moved up off the floor and every yard ornament is nestled in my shed. Not fun.

By 7am I had a brisket in the crock-pot. There will be no cooking the meat in the smoker today. With the possibility that we will lose power I thought I’d better whip up a few goodies while I still had electricity.

I went blog searching for some chewy oatmeal raisin cookies. They are John’s favorites. I came across
Andrea's Recipes. Her recipe looked really good. It was adapted from an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. I know BOO, HISS! The ATK people haven’t been very gracious with bloggers posting their recipe so I decided, what the heck….I’m posting Andrea’s version, which is no longer an ATK recipe, so there Mr. Bow Tie. Sue me.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Printable recipe
1 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (or ½ teaspoon cinnamon – I used both!)
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 ½ cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 325.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg/cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the butter and sugars on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing 30 seconds after each one. Slowly add the flour mixture on low speed and mix until just combined.

Stir in oats and raisins gently until just combined. Make sure the oats are even distributed throughout the dough; otherwise you will have clumps of oats. Phooey!

Scoop a ball of dough and roll it in your hands, then drop it on a baking sheet 2 inches apart. I covered mine with parchment. Dampen your fingers with water and lightly press down on the top of each dough ball to flatten it slightly.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes. The cookies should be golden on the edges, but the center should be soft and puffy. Allow cookies to cool on pan 10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Things that make me happy #18

Yankees New Chocolate Cupcake Candle

A candle that smells like one of my favorite things on earth!

Yankee Candle you totally rock.

I will be burning this while making chocolate cupcakes for the double dose effect.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Farewell Summer

We enjoyed a lazy kinda day at Eva & Ken's house today.
The weather couldn't have been nicer.
The kids went in the pool.

And in the hot tub....

Sometimes they just sat and did nuttin'.

They checked out everything growing in the yard.

Hello Daddy Long Legs.

Some of them even made a few discoveries.

So long summer! See ya next year!