Thursday, April 24, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

As we all know I'm not a trendy gal. TBT was just explained to me yesterday by my 12 year old daughter. So here you are. My version of a throw back.

A quilt with history.
Look closely at the white squares in the center.


Handwritten recipes which once belonged to Mister's grandmother. The recipes were scanned and copied onto white fabric with special ink that will not smudge or wash away. My 12 year old daughter is the proud owner of this quilt. One day when she has her own family/home this will travel with her. The handwritten recipes of her great grandmother.

As my own mother ages, anything with her handwriting takes on more importance. Part of her therapy is keeping a journal. It's a struggle for her some days to put her day into written words but, with every pen stroke, I feel proud of her work.

We sort through her belongings (which she moved here to our home) and there are a few hand written things that turn up here and there. Mostly cursive writing. The art of cursive writing and the joy of developing this individual artist style of communication will surely become a thing of the past. I reminisce with melancholy over the loss of Mom's ability to write eloquently and clearly as she once did. I also feel nostalgic for the children moving through our school systems who will never embrace this art form. But, here we are. Progress?

I text recipes to my girls. I post recipes on the pages here. I wonder if someday my girls will wax sentimental over my handwritten recipes. This makes me want to take the weekend and sit dilligently with some 9x5 index cards and with my best penmanship (we use to be graded on this when doing reports in school) and crank out some actual cherished recipes. This could be a work in progress.

I am thankful for the hands of Mister's cousin who made this quilt. A bidding war took place at a family reunion auction but, Miss Aimee was the lucky winner. I've forgotten how much money we spent to make sure she won but, it was worthy every penny.

I love how so many generations of women are wrapped into this version of TBT.
 It's highly unlikely this subject will become a consistent feature here.
 I have peas to tell you about and potatoes popping up in the garden. Oh, and a cake to bake!










Sunday, April 20, 2014

Love is all we need....

Shocked to hear antisemitism being expressed during an Easter sermon today. Yep, you guessed it, I found it appalling. Let me tell you people something, this type of thinking is demented. I just shake my head in disgust to sit in a room full of people listening to this type of nonsense being spewed in the name of God. I should have just stood up and walked out. I stewed on this all day.

Sure, there will be a reader who will take offense to the fact that I am offended. I don't care! I stand up for what I believe. Antisemitism is a crime.

Briefly, I debated if sharing this to the entire world was a mistake. You know people take strong stands on issues like this, and in small town America, I could find myself ostracized fairly quick.
I celebrate Easter. I practice Christianity as my faith system. I appreciate Science and find much comfort in knowing the orderly theories and mysteries of life. Do I care if you are Atheist? No. Are you Buddhist, Jewish, Rastafarian? Do I care and take offense to your choices? No. Do I find black holes fascinating and entertain the notions of intelligent people who have studied ancient scrolls and the ever evolving information gained from both scientists and archeologists? Yes.

Is there at least one other human being out there who is just comfortable in their skin? Does anyone besides me find themselves appalled by this?

Please stop bashing other peoples belief systems, in the name of God. If you are going to go around spreading hate towards other people and their cultures leave God out of it.

Our brains, science, neurology, these are things that are interesting. Psychological twisting of ancient texts, is diabolical, not the work of God.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Garden Journaling

Do you journal about your garden? We started a journal a few years back. It's a simple notebook covered in some cool gardening looking paper. Nothing fancy, except for the treasure of information it contains. It's like our own history book.
 Initially, I cut the front from the seed packets and clued them into the pages just for a reference of what type of vegetable and by which seed company etc. were planted. From time to time, I still tape in the seed companies information.
I always include the date we plant, the date we apply any type of pesticide or fertilized. Yes, I am not an organic gardener. I do try to use great discretion on what type and how much artificial chemicals are applied.
Another thing that's nice to include in your journal is the date you harvested your lovely groceries. By keeping track of how long approximately it took your produce arrive, you can plan better the following year if need be. Give or take a week or two of course due to variables like sunshine and rain.
  How much you harvested, and the quality of the produce is a good thing to note. If you are a scrapbook person this is the place in your journal where the photos are your glory shots. A nice wheel barrel harvest of potatoes always makes for a great photo to add. My garden journal is more of a sloppy, and on some pages dirt smudged record of sorts. It is certainly not scrapbook quality.
.
This year the journal  reflects our tidy, 4x4 foot wide, raised, wooden beds. The beginnings of our Garden 2014 has started to take shape. As you all know I love the historical looking gardens at places like Ferry Farm and Monticello. Mister and I have grand ambitions of creating a lovely little space which captures the feel of these places in our humble downtown yard.
For starters, we have 3 small raised beds. It's a little late to get our peas planted but, they are in the ground and we plan to build a cool natural structure for them to climb.The second bed contains onions. Red, yellow and white onions are a must. I normally plant twice as many onions but, we are going low-key this year. The third bed will be devoted to carrots. There's really nothing better than harvesting your own fresh carrots. Store bought carrots just do not compare. Plus, believe it or not the number one blog post here on Columbia Creations is my Carrot Top Tea post. Who knows how many more raised beds that Mister will crank out or if we will just tuck various vegetables in here and there among the flower beds.
 Potatoes are in their own little hills separate from the raised beds. Next to harvesting carrots, nothing beats digging your own taters. Today, we planted red, yukon and white potatoes. This is our first planting, and every 4 weeks we will plant another batch. Yukons are my favorite for mashed potatoes. Red potatoes just cry out for butter and parsley.

Speaking of parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, and sage will for sure make an appearance once again.
Brusel Sprouts will be planted again this year. Last year, my sprout plants had to be removed before coming to their full harvest due to building at 20x40 pole barn on top of the garden. So, yes the garden has been relocated.
It's not our traditional looking garden of days gone by. It will however yield enough nutritious produce to make it worth our while.
I'm still looking for a unique vegetable to grow. We will be growing the following food too but, they're not unique or overly interesting. Useful and tasty though.
Cantaloupe
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Tomatoes
Peppers

Every year, I swear I'm gonna start an asparagus patch. I'm a patient person, but can I wait 3 years for an asparagus crop to be ready for harvesting??
I'm still clinging to the notion of a bountiful blueberry harvest that has yet to come true!

P.S. I will purchase tomato and pepper plants. It's all just to bothersome to watch the tender little seeds sprout and show hopes of growing into a real plant and then wither away. I have never had great success starting either one from seeds.

What are you growing this year?




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Almond Biscotti


Every morning my Mom and I have coffee together. She has half a cup and I have four cups. I have never stopped loving a nice biscotti with coffee. Biscotti may have lost popularity in the food writing world but, in my kitchen biscotti recipes are still alive and thriving. As with the coffee, Mom has one biscotti and I have four.
This recipe is good. I tend to lean more towards a fruity or chocolate version. Almond paste makes this recipe have a nice depth of nutty flavor. The original author did not include the white chocolate and lemon sugar topping that I used but, I think it was a nice needed touch. Without the white chocolate this biscotti would have been to boring for me. The description is a "sponge cake-like biscotti". What a relief, I thought maybe I had done something wrong. Mine turned out tender chewy crisp, without the snap of a nice dry biscotti.
Four dozen have vanished 24 hours later so they must have been okay. Check out the fancy name... Biscotti alle Mandorle
Well, I know, I'm gonna call my version Almond Biscotti, that other name is just too fancy for an ole' gal like me. I have made a few small changes to the original version. I used sliced almonds rather than whole almond. Their version had me roasting whole almonds and then cutting them into thirds. I happen to have a huge bag of sliced almonds and of course, this is naturally what I used. So, yes, I made changes and this how it went.

Almond Biscotti

3/4 cups of sliced almonds (roast them until slightly golden brown and let them cool)
1/2 cup almond paste (seriously I love the flavor of this stuff)
3 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl beat the almond paste until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest and almond extract. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cornstarch. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix until blended. Fold in the nuts.
Grease and flour a cookie sheet. You know the drill with biscotti. Moisten your fingers and form the two strips of dough/batter into 12-14 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide spacing 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. I use a metal bench scraper but you can use a serrated knife to slice the biscotti at a 45 degree angel about 1/2 inch thick. Lay the sliced flat on the baking sheet and return to a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes, turn them over once at the 5 minute mark.
Melt some good white chocolate and brush the cooled biscotti on top then sprinkle with lemon sugar.

Lou Seibert Pappas wrote a Biscotti cookbook. A nice little book with fancy named biscotti.

If you should happen to be having a nice cup of coffee with a nice woman everyday then this will make a nice addition to the day.




Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Good One

This is hands down my favorite place to drop in and find a proven good recipe.

The Baking Pan

I am so thankful to see Spring has officially arrived, even though gloves and boots are still required in my area of the world. Spring brings the fresh flavors of lemon, mint, and strawberry back into our baking.

My girls came over for a good old fashioned Sunday dinner tonight. Two baked chickens, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and a delicious salad which Anna brought.

We decided on our Easter menu. Of course, dessert was decided first. A banana split bar... On the healthy side, we are doing a salad buffet bar, and steak on the grill. Nothing says Easter like a dead cow. Oh, stop hating!

Have a good week friends!

P.S.
maybe I will go all out and make this cake.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Coconut Cream Pie


Crust

2 cups of flaked coconut
3 tablespoons melted butter

Toss the coconut well with the melted butter. Turn the cocont mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Spread the mixture evenly across the plate and press along the bottom and up the sides. Press really well to form a firm, even crust. Bake in a preheated 325 degrees oven for 20 minutes or till golden brown. Cool completely on a rack.


Filling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs, divided (you will need the yolks, use the whites for something else)
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of coconut flavoring
1 1/4 cups of Shredded coconut

In a saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch,and salt. Gradually stir in milk and cook, stirring the mixture until thick and bubbly. Reduce the heat, cook and stir for another 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Gradually stir a small amount of the mixture into the 4 egg yolks then add all of the yolks to the creamed mixture. Return everything to a boil and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, add the butter, vanilla and coconut flavoring. Stir in the coconut.

Pour this luscious coconut filling into your cooled crust. Allow the pie to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate covered with plastic wrap.

While the pie is cooling, in a dry skillet over medium to low heat toast some nice big chunky coconut. Toast just until slightly golden. Cool completely. When ready to serve. Top the pie with whipped cream and then sprinkle with toasted coconut.


If you enjoy meringue, feel free to use the egg whites to whip up a meringue topping and toast as you would with any meringue.
We prefer whipped topping, so I have used the whites in other food applications this week.

Could you use flaked coconut throughout this entire recipe and skip past using the shredded and chunked coconut?
Yes, of course you could. What makes this pie awesome is the flavor but the different textures of the coconut just pushed this pie into the most excellent classification.

I'm in love with the LorAnn Oils. The coconut flavoring I used in this recipe really makes a difference. Click on over and check this company out. No, they are not paying me.


P.S. Take out the coconut and coconut flavoring- substitute vanilla extract and 3 sliced bananas on the crust before pouring in the custard. Banana Cream Pie Baby!






Friday, March 14, 2014

Pie

National PI Day.

On a light and casual note, I baked two pies today. The standard pecan pie. I must admit I've become lazy in my efforts with baking this type of pie and the last two times, my pecan pies have been a bit of a disappointment. On the flipside, is a wonderful Coconut Cream Pie that will rank among the tastiest pies of all time. Sure, the recipe will be posted soon. For now though, here's an update.

"We never really know." My mom spoke those words to me this evening. No truer words have ever been uttered. We never really know how our life or the lives of those we love will go from day to day or even minute by minute.

Have you ever been thrown into the thick of things and caught so completely off guard that your reaction is only a mere functioning in the moment? Is a reaction a conscious decision choice or just merely a knee jerk.

There is a long list of things in this world that are troubling. I've discussed with you before my somewhat sheltered point of view. I limit my television viewing. I virtually never read current event news and for the most part I'm happily oblivious to the horrors that man kind inflict on one another.

As of late, my attention has been drawn towards the aging community in our country. From a personal point of view and an overall learning experience to the needs, rights, and struggles of the elderly. I am shocked to read of the outright disgusting ways in which the elderly are exploited.

Never before has it been clearer to me that everyone should have some sort of plan in place to protect themselves from the misdeeds of others as we age.

It's not possible to know every aspect of what our plan should detail but, everyone should think ahead and consider their needs. Put a plan in place to protect your rights. Struggles with aging is a given in our every increasing life expectancy. But, we never really know.

We never really know if our spouse will stand by us through thick and thin.
We never really know if good physicians will make good decisions. Or will we have the misfortune of getting a doc who is more concerned about the BMW or the late flight into town.
We never really know if the community, church, will remember our good deeds and return the deeds in kind.
We never really know if the things that matter most dear to us will mean anything to others.
We never really know....


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

dogs and donuts

Look, my dogs like to spoon. Cookie is the little white dog in the back of the bed, she's a snarky old lady sometimes. She's always kind to Tucker,  he's the big brown guy in the front.

I'm curious, is it possible to recreate those little chocolate gem doughnuts in my home kitchen? Call me gross but, oh how I love those waxy little blobs.Maybe you have seen the donuts of which I crave. I prefer the variety that comes in a bag with the little plastic window on the front. My guess is the little concoctions are about the least healthy food choice I could possibly want for breakfast. Coffee, waxy doughnuts...better than a Lucky Strike and a beer I guess.
Yep, you guessed it, tons of snow in our area tonight. The dogs will snuggle and I will eat doughnuts!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Valentine Origami

Aimee is going to show us how to make this adorable little paper valentine.


Personalize it with your own sentiment. Aimee has inserted coupons good for one free chore.

 Cut your paper (you pick the color) into a square. 8x8 or 6x6 or 10x10. The smaller the square, the smaller the heart will be. For starters you might want to begin with a bigger square until you get the hang of the folding. Fold your square in half. (We call this the hot dog fold)
 Next fold the and crease the paper in half again. This is the hamburger fold at our house. After creasing the paper, open the folds back up to reveal the creases just made.
Fold the bottom quarter of the paper up to the center crease. Then FLIP the whole thing over.

 This step reminds me of paper airplane building in freshman study hall. Fold your edges with the quarter crease up towards the top of your heart. Creating a nice bottom point to your heart. Then FLIP again.
Fold each outer edge towards your center crease. Making nice crisp creases. A bone folder helps with the creasing, or a ruler. We weren't going for showroom quality paper crafting. Just a fun family paper craft.
 So, at this point, this is how your paper should look.
 Now, we get a little tricky. Fold the top part of your heart again forming a triangle towards the center crease.
Bearing in mind the portion of the paper which will form the point of your heart or bottom. See where Aimee is pointing?
 Fold the top two sharp points towards one another. Bottom to top.
 Your heart should look like this.
Now, again a little trick. Open the flaps as best as possible to fold a crease and create a corner like in the photograph. Do this to both flaps.
 Now, this is how your heart should appear at this point. I will refer to the top as the rounded part of your heart taking shape. Do you see the top left and right or the heart?
 Fold those top left and right flaps of your heart towards the seam created in the previous fold.
Fold the tiny point created forward and create the boxy rounded top of your heart.
 Open your heart slightly.
 Find the bottom point pocket and insert the corner into the corner.

The back should look something like this.
 The front has this neat little fortune cookie like pocket to insert your greetings. Or if you are feeling extravagant...a gift card could be inserted. Just use a 12x12 sheet of paper to insert larger greetings.
 Smaller paper makes smaller hearts.
This one is just right!

This paper craft has been brought to you by Aimee. She is self motivated and comes up with very clever ideas. An independent person indeed.

I think white paper would be fine for this craft and then embellish the whole project with stickers or glitter and make it your own Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Soft Pretzels

From Nebraska came a box of holiday cheer. Sent to our family from Goody over at Eat The Blog. The box contained many cool treasures, among them was a neat book called, "Cooking Up U.S. History"
This recipe for soft pretzels comes from that book. A section of the book is called The Mid-Atlantic States. Pennsylvania is being classified as part of the mid-atlantic states. Mister and I just traveled the PA to visit the Flight 93 Memorial so this recipe chimes right along with the theme of this part of the world tonight.
I have made the pretzels twice. The first time we actually formed the dough and twisted the dough into the classic pretzel shape. What a hassle. The pretzels were difficult to manage in the baking soda water and although the flavor and texture was fantastic, the shape was pathetic. This time, we opted for the pretzel nuggets. Shapes are important with respect to many things. Not soft pretzels. Make 'em long, or circular.
I melted a little processed cheese food like product with some skim milk and made a delightful cheesy dipping sauce. Geez, maybe I should hunt around for some gouda or something but, the block of orange cheese has been floating around since Christmas. In the words of the great Emily Litella.... "Nevermind." The pretzels are outstanding.


Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 package of dry yeast
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of white sugar
1 cup of very warm water divided
2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons or more of coarse salt
cornmeal for dusting the pan
baking soda for dipping the pretzels

  1. In a small bowl dissolve the yeast with the sugar and 1/4 cup of the warm water.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt, Then stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of the warm water.
  3. The yeast mixture should be foamy by this time and ready to add to the flour mixture and stir thoroughly.
  4. Put the mixture on a floured surface and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Wash and dry the large bowl and grease it well.
  6. Knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, adding more flour as you go if the dough is sticky. Most likely you will need to keep sprinkling the dough with small splashes of flour. Kneading dough is fun.
  7. Put the dough back into the well greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  9. Punch down the dough.
  10. Cut the dough into 8 pieces.
  11. Roll each piece into a 16 inch long rope.
  12. Cut the rope into approximately 16 pieces. Bear in mind the longer the rope the more pieces, the smaller the pretzel bites.
  13. Let the pretzels rest on a floured surface under a towel for 15 minutes.
  14. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  15. Simmer one quart of water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a manageable size cook pot.
  16. Line your bake sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
  17. A FEW pretzels at a time tip them in the simmering baking soda water for 20 seconds on each side. Fair warning, work quickly with this because the pretzel dough will quickly become smoosh. Remove quickly with a slotted spoon.
  18. Place the pretzel nuggets on the cornmeal lined bake sheet. Sprinkle with the coarse salt.
  19. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown. In reality my baking time was longer. Just watch for the classic golden brown color.
  20. Serve warm with some type of fabulous dipping sauce.
On our way to the Flight 93 Memorial we came upon Auntie Anne's pretzels at one of the rest areas. Cinnamon Sugar nuggets are pretty delicious. Make this recipe your own by rolling the warm pretzels in cinnamon and sugar or another flavored coating of your choice. 

Unbaked pretzel nuggets waiting for the baking soda dip.