Dumplings & Fruit Crisp

In spite of sending bags of food home with my daughters, there was still  a lot of Thanksgiving leftovers.  I made a big pot of turkey soup with little dumplings made from the leftover mashed potatoes.  Dumplings can be made with leftover stuffing as well.  Just take a cup or two of stuffing and make a well in the middle.  Break an egg into the well and combine it with the stuffing.  Add a little flour into the mix if it is too wet.  Drop the dumplings into a bubbling soup or stew and you’ll know they are done when they rise to top.

The rest of the turkey is cut up and frozen now along with another gallon of stock.  There were a few apples left from pie making so those are  peeled, sliced and frozen too.  I held back an apple, diced it and mixed it in with the leftover cranberry-apple compote.  I added a little extra cinnamon and put it into ramekins.  Baked in the oven with a quick crumb topping , it will make a delicious dessert.  Freshly whipped cream will make it even better.

Indian Summer, Snails & Arrowroot


Indian Summer! 70 degrees in November is so unusual for us and it’s been a real gift. Somehow though, I still haven’t managed to get the outdoor chores done. I can relate to this little snail I found.
The last of the daffodils and garlic finally got planted yesterday. Why did I buy 140 garlic cloves? I got carried away at the garlic festival. I need to get out more, lol.
Arrowroot flour is a wonderful thing. I use it in equal parts to replace cornstarch in my cooking. It has a lot of nutritive value, is healing to the gut and it’s cost effective. I use it to thicken gravies and sauces and in puddings and custards. Making pudding from scratch is surprisingly easier, much healthier and more delicious than using boxed mixes. The cooking time is quicker and it sets up faster too.

Freezing Apples, Crisp & a Happy Picture


Organic apples were on sale at our local market last week for $1 a pound. I bought 6 pounds of them and froze them for baking. They can be frozen whole but it’s a pain to peel and core them frozen or defrosted. I peel, core and slice them first, then freeze them. They aren’t good raw once they’re frozen but they are great cooked. The only thing is, they give out more liquid than the fresh ones would. I counteract that by adding arrowroot flour to the apples so the juice thickens up instead of being watery. Corn starch is another option but I prefer arrowroot. I use it to thicken gravy too.
The apples in the freezer came in handy today when my daughter called to say she was dropping by this afternoon for a quick visit. I filled an 8×8 baking dish with a mixture of frozen apples, 2T of arrowroot, 1/8 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Then I made a quick, standard crisp topping -3/4 cup brown sugar combined with 3/4 cup flour and 2t cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (like making pie crust) until everything is mixed together and crumbly. Scatter this over the apples and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the apples are tender. *This topping is delicious with pears and peaches too!
By the time my daughter got here, the kitchen smelled like cinnamon and apples. I made some tea and showed her the picture I finished for the nursery I’m planning upstairs. We had the apple crisp warm and I whipped up a little cream to top it off.

Fruit Toppings & Keeping Flowers

A few weeks ago I made strawberry topping for ice cream sundaes. There was some left so I refrigerated it used it to top the yogurt and kefir I make. It was delicious.  I decided to do a healthier version with the small amount (1 cup) of gooseberries I harvested. I mashed and cooked them down for a few minutes and then once they were cooled, I stirred in raw honey. Heat kills the enzymes in the honey. Had I been sweetening with sugar, I would’ve just added the sugar in the beginning with the berries. I’ll keep this gooseberry topping in the fridge and make blueberry and strawberry as well.

Flowers are so pretty I wish they would last forever. My cousin told me that Mod Podge preserves fresh flowers. I printed out some quotes that I like in a dimension for bookmarks. Then I decorated them with fresh flowers and glued and sealed them with Mod Podge. (Elmer’s or white glue works just as well but needs to be thinned a little bit with water.)

I posted about our losing my cousin John a few weeks ago. His daughter Stacey (she is so much like her Dad), sent me roses. I wanted to keep them so I made rosepetal beads . The link gives easy directions and a wonderful story of how they were used in Medieval times. The only ingredients were 4 cups of petals and water. They were very easy to make. I strung them on a chain that I wear with my Grandfather’s wedding ring and a few other things that are meaningful to me. Body heat imparts the rose fragrance. It’s a beautiful reminder to me of people that I love so much.

Dominos, Snow & Salad Dressing

Last night my daughters came over for dinner and a game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  With temperatures in the negative digits, 2 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast predicting more snow for 3 straight days, I needed some fun.  Plus, I got to to send care packages home with my girls.

We had escalloped potatoes with ham and a  big salad with homemade dressing and some side fixings.   Instead of mixing all the salad ingredients together, I  put everything on the table like a salad bar.  Mixed lettuce, tomatoes and celery went together in a big bowl  and  then onions, blue cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, avocado, peppers were in their own smaller bowls. Everyone added what they liked to their own salads. I made a basic creamy garlic salad dressing by mixing these ingredients together in a jar:

  • 1 small, raw garlic clove, mashed (sprinkle a little sea salt on the garlic before you mash it up to pull the juices out of it)
  • 4 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (  I used apple cider vinegar but white wine vinegar is good too)
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

This tastes better if it’s made a few hours ahead and even better made the night before.  It will stay about a week in the fridge.   Shake the jar before serving.

For dessert I made vanilla cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I’m ready for the snow.

 

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Cousins & Senior Bananas

Snow Day!!  This morning I  got a text from my cousin, “Are you baking today?”  Turns out we were both making something to use up our “senior bananas”….that ‘s what she calls them, so funny.   She is an artist in the kitchen!  (outside the kitchen too).  At family gatherings, we all bring something home-made and whatever she brings is the first thing to disappear from the table.  Today she made a banana cake with struesal  topping and finished it off with a beautiful, drizzled glaze.

Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out a way to trick my family with my brown bananas.  I used a carrot cake recipe and played around with the ingredients to try and sneak in healthy things.  I substituted coconut oil and organic butter for the vegetable oil. I cut the amount of sugar in half and substituted it for Sucanat and I added 2 large, mashed bananas to the mix .  Organic flour, pasture raised eggs, extra cinnamon and spices… my cake came out delicious and didn’t need frosting.   If I was bringing this to a family gathering I would definitely finish it with a homemade cream cheese frosting and pray that my cousin wasn’t bringing her banana cake.  I know mine would be left standing alone on the table, in shame.

I am watching my daughter’s dog, Ella this weekend.  She looks so sweet and harmless…until you try and put drops in her ears. Cousin Ella gets scary very quickly.  Her body whips around like an alligator’s.   Geez!!   I got a text from another cousin, our family dog-whisperer, reminding me not to restrain her by the scruff of the neck as it could cause an eyeball to collapse in this type of dog.     I love my family.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

My house felt like a Christmas workshop up until Christmas Eve. The carols were playing, sewing machine whirring and the house was filled with the smell of warm cookies, beeswax and herbs.
All my homemade gifts were done on time. Cotton pillow slips and floursack towels were embroidered, washed and ironed. Beeswax votives came out clean and sweet, their wicks straight and trim. The rosebud and lavender drawer sachets smelled like my summer garden and so did the lavender soap. My daughter’s painting was finished, framed and varnished.
The last of the baking, apricot pastries, went quickly so I had time to try out a new recipe. I saw these Almond Bars on Everyday Cheer and I knew they would be delicious and easy… they were!
Christmas Eve was rainy and chilly but it didn’t matter. We had a fire crackling away, a delicious dinner and everyone was filled with a happy, expectant feeling.

Spicy chocolate & honey, cookies & candy canes


Ten days until Christmas! It’s windy and cold outside. Our little town is bustling with holiday busy-ness… Carolers singing on church lawns, a Christmas play at the old Town Hall, our annual town festival with boy scouts selling wreaths on the green and all of our churches hosting craft fairs, white elephant sales and holiday luncheons. New York was great for a visit but I am very happy to be living in my little town, especially at this time of year.
Finishing up projects, baking and playing Christmas music has kept me busy between all the fun events. I found this little Linzer cookie kit last year for $5, recipe included. The cookies were very easy to make, the dough handled well and they taste good!
There’s nothing like a good cup of hot chocolate at this time of year. It’s simple and delicious to make from scratch. I use honey instead of sugar and add some holiday spice.
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. honey
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Dash of nutmeg
Heat milk and honey over low heat, stirring until honey is dissolved. Add cocoa, continue stirring and add spices. When the milk starts steaming, it’s done.
This is so easy and can be modified to your own taste. My daughter likes to add a touch of cayenne pepper to hers. My other daughter prefers it with just cocoa and honey, no spices added. Cardamom is nice, if you have it. Of course, freshly whipped cream would be delicious on top too:)
Decorations can get elaborate. Sometimes it’s just as satisfying to use what is on hand. These candy canes are cute and festive and a few bows left over from last year add a little color and hide the construction. I used a plastic lid, punched holes in it and wired the candy canes, still wrapped, on to it. Simple but homey and cheerful in my cozy old kitchen.
I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful season. Thanks for stopping by!

Cookies and Christmas Projects


Such a fun time of the year! The weather has been icy, rainy, snowy and overall dreary but it doesn’t matter, I’ve been busy inside baking and trying to finish Christmas gifts. This picture will be for for one of my daughters. My Dad’s 79th birthday was this week so I made a batch of his favorite cookies. It’s the same recipe his Grandmother used when she made them for him. I had a lot of felt from my Mother’s sewing room so I’ve been playing with making these ornaments. I had them all hanging in the kitchen window. My girls noticed them on Thanksgiving and took home what they wanted. You learn to share everything when you come from 3 sisters and have 3 daughters, lol! I’m glad my daughters liked them. I hope all of you are enjoying the season!

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These cookies bake from 7-10 minutes.  It’s best to refrigerate the dough,  for about 15 minutes, before rolling it into little balls.  Set them a couple inches apart onto the cookie sheet, they do spread.

Pie for Breakfast & Christmas Cactus


I officially start my Christmas season with pumpkin pie for breakfast. Thanksgiving was wonderful, all 3 of my girls were here. We had a great day, lots of good food, games, memories and so much to be thankful for! Yorkshire pudding was on the menu, as it has been for generations in my family. This year it raised up nice and puffy….made up for the gravy which was a little on the thin side, lol.
I saved some of the seeds from the spaghetti squash. Hopefully I can get these to grow in the spring and if I manage to confound the dreaded squash borer this year, I love the idea of having squash in the summer from the one we had at Thanksgiving.
The market had these pretty Christmas cactuses for $5.00. I couldn’t resist. They are easy house plants and live for generations. Once this little cactus settles down and gets used to its new home, I’ll transplant it and with permanent marker write the date and my name on the new pot. I’ll paint a rock with the same information and a little picture of a bee. If I use acrylic paint and varnish it, set it on top of the soil with the plant, that will last for years too. Maybe some day a grandchild who loves plants like I do will have this plant! My blogger friend Ginene, from Fox and Finch Antiques had violet plants that were her great Aunt’s from 1955! Thanks for the inspiration, Ginene, and have a wonderful day everyone!!

November- Wormwood & Apples


Wandering outside in the garden today, Silver King Artemesia caught my eye. It’s a Wormwood, one of the few things harvested in November and I had almost forgotten about it!  I snapped a few stems and within minutes had them wound into a simple wreath. It has a fresh, clean scent. I hung it in the kitchen, on the door leading to my spooky old cellar.
Tomorrow, I’ll gather the rest of the Silver King. Dried, it makes a great addition to sachets, being a powerful moth and insect deterrent. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties so I use it to make a simple household cleaner. I fill a glass jar with fresh or dried wormwood and citrus peels and completely cover everything with white vinegar, so all the herb is submerged. This mixture sits for 4 weeks and is shaken daily. Then the herb and citrus are strained out of the vinegar and it’s all done. All this will take no time at all but today I had other plans.
I had a big basket of local organic apples and wanted to use them while they were fresh. I made apple turnovers. They freeze really well and are worth the effort. I used organic, non hydrogenated vegetable shortening and butter to make the pastry and rolled it a little thinner than I would for a pie. Also, I mixed a couple tablespoons of arrowroot flour in with the apples, sugar and cinnamon. That thickened the juice as the fruit cooked so the crust didn’t get wet or soggy. So delicious!
 

Black Midnight Cupcakes


My daughter is homesick. She started college this fall, art school. I’m getting text messages that she is hungry – that’s a sure sign. She won’t admit to being homesick, but I know. So, of course, I’ll be making a trip to see her. She’ll want to go shopping and load up on snacks. I’ll try not to look in the cart. I get anxiety over monosodium glutamate and artificial colors.  It drives her crazy.
Since it’s Halloween week, I made her  Black Midnight mini cupcakes. I frosted them with cream cheese frosting. The ingredients are all organic, the eggs pasture raised and the butter and cream cheese are from grass fed cows and cultured.  I won’t tell her but she will know.

Black Midnight mini Cupcakes
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Ingredients
2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
Cream sugar, butter and cocoa. Add vanilla and eggs. Sift dry ingredients. Combine milk and water. Add dry ingredients, alternating with mixture of milk and water. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Fill mini cupcakes about 2/3 full. If not using papers, grease and flour tins. Bake 8-10 minutes, until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
Beat all ingredients until smooth.
Happy Halloween!
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Last Call

I finally called it quits and gathered in the last of the tomatoes and peppers from the garden.  House plants and patio plants that could be wintered over came in as well.  These had to be repotted. Their soil is tired from the summer’s growth and I didn’t want to bring in any bugs that might have been crawling around or laying eggs in them.


I spent a lot of time this past week with my Father, trying to help him decide where he wants to live after December 1st, when the closing on his house will take place. We looked at different condos and communities but his heart isn’t in it. A decision seems a long way off. Meanwhile, a relative showed up at his house one night needing a place to stay. Amongst the truckload of her possessions were 3 cats. As the house is still being shown until the buyer’s mortgage approval comes through, this is a problem.  That is not the only problem with this arrangement but my Father feels he can’t turn away a family member in need. Hmmm, life gets complicated.

Ripening tomatoes in the windowsills and finding sunny spots for the newly potted plants is very therapeutic. Cooking is too. I baked my oldest daughter an upside down peach cake. Then, I sliced up 5 big apples, added some cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons of honey and dotted them with a couple of tablespoons of butter. This cooked along with the peach cake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Topped with freshly whipped cream, it was delicious.

Vanilla Cake with Chocolate, Cream Cheese Frosting …Recipe

Vanilla cake with chocolate, cream cheese frosting

Vanilla cake with chocolate, cream cheese frosting

It is my youngest daughter’s birthday!   In 2 weeks she’ll be leaving for her first year of college.  This has been a crazy summer.  My second daughter just got married a month ago.   I’m happy my baby didn’t choose coconut cake for her birthday, I made plenty of those for the wedding and shower.  She wanted red velvet but when I offered to make it without the food coloring, she changed her mind .   I made this for her instead and she loved it.  Sometimes  cakes made from scratch can be so heavy and dense, this isn’t  at all.  It’s moist and still has a nice crumb to it.  I think the key to that is the buttermilk and the coconut oil.  I used all organic ingredients  but I can’t claim it to be health food!  Here’s my recipe, I hope you like it as much as we did:) Continue reading