Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is your life missing something????


Let me start this post out by apologizing it has been way too long for me to give you a new post. I do have to admit life got in the way...I hope this will not happen in the future. Now that I have that out of the way, let's move along to the good stuff.....

If you are like me...I love reading blogs. My favorite moments are when I find a post that is meaningful to me.....from a stranger. Today I had one of those moments. My most recent favorite blog is A Blog about Love. I love being able to see a couple discuss their lives so openly. You can see the love they have for each other and everyone around them...even if it is a stranger. 

In their latest post, Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" book came up for discussion. I do have to admit I have yet to read this book but have heard much about it. But even while never having read this book, this excerpt is very poignant to me during this busy holiday season. 
Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance.  The fact is: Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.
Try this for a couple of weeks and see how it changes your reality:  Whatever you think people are withholding from you - praise, appreciation, assistance, loving care, and so on - give it to them.  You don't have it?  Just act as if you had it, and it will come.  Then, soon after you start giving, you will start receiving.  You cannot receive what you don't give. Outflow determines inflow.  Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you already have, but unless you allow it to flow out, you won't even know that you have it.  This includes abundance.  The law that outflow determines inflow is expressed by Jesus in this powerful image: "Give and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. (Luke 6:38)"
I am a firm believer in karma.....the concept of what you give to the universe is what you will get in return. While you may not believe in karma or instead call it something else, how much could your daily life or mindset change if you make one step to change your own internal perception?? To give to others, support, love and anything they need during their own struggles with life instead of focusing on your own internal wants, needs or desires. 
How many time have you vented about others around you because of "their" actions or their non-actions???? 

I have to admit I have done it myself many times. So after reading this moving post, I thought it important to pass along the topic on here.  I guess in this holiday season while we get caught up in the gifts, parties, or the material things....maybe it is time to step back and remember the spirit of the season and turn it into a every day action. If you are looking for something in life, maybe you need to learn to give to others....and you might be surprised what you will receive in return.

To get started on this change of mindset, I decided to take a traditional recipe and change perception...I hope you enjoy a twist......Chai Snickerdoodle Cookies. What have you done to change your perception and try to follow this concept?? Or what could you do???


Chai Snickerdoodles
2 C Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ginger (ground)
1 tsp Cardamom (ground)
1/2 tsp Allspice (ground)
1 C Unsalted Butter, soft
2 Eggs
1 Egg White
2 tsp Vanilla
2 C Unbleached Flour
1 C Pastry Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 tsp Baking Soda

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

In a large bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and allspice. Put 3/4 cup of spice mixture in a separate shallow pan, set aside. In original large bowl, combine butter and remaining sugar mixture until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla.


In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Incorporate flour mixture with butter mixture until well blended. 


With a dough scoop, make 1 inch balls. With your hands make the ball smooth and roll in reserved spice mixture. Place on baking sheet 2 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake for about 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let It Snow...Let It Snow....Let It Snow...


Today was a great day.....it was the first snow of the season! 

Yes, I am sure most of you are all wanting to SCREAM at me that I am crazy. Which I am sure I am in regards to the snow but I love seeing the change of seasons. It reminds me life keeps moving by and that we need to enjoy our time now. Plus the fact, the next three months are my favorite of the entire year. 

I love the holidays and all of the events that occur in the next several weeks. The parties, brunches and other social events that makes me love my life. For those who know me, I love traditions. It can be anything from going for ice cream after the dentist to annual gatherings I have with friends. These events are a reminder that while the world keeps moving, it's these moments we enjoy never get old no matter how many times they occur. 

In getting ready for this season, I do have to admit I already decorated my home for Christmas this last Saturday. Yes yes...I know what you are thinking....No decorating until after Thanksgiving!!! I completely agree...however I am graced with amazing friends who I am able to share and host an annual party. I look forward to this weekend every year. To be surrounded by such amazing women for those few hours allows me to be thankful for those in my life that support me and I am able to support in return.

So to celebrate the first snow and the beginning of the holiday season I wanted to offer Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Pizzelles. These wonderful italian cookies my grandmother used to make when I was a child every holiday season. I always looked forward to the container on the counter and the wonderful treats inside. I hope you have wonderful traditions such as these or can add these to your list for the future. I wish you the best this Holiday Season!!!!

Hint: If you are interested in purchasing a Pizzelle Iron I would venture over to Sur La Table. They sell one for about $50. This is one of my favorite stores for kitchen gadgets.

Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Pizzelle

1/2 C Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Tsp Vanilla
1/2 Tsp Sea Salt, fine
5 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
2/3 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 C Mini Chocolate Chips

Preheat the pizzelle iron to medium-high heat. (My iron only has one temperature). 

Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until foamy. Blend in butter, flour, baking powder and cinnamon until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. 

Grease the pizzelle iron before you start. Spoon 1 Tbsp of batter in the center of the pizzelle iron. Close the iron and cook until deep golden, about 1 minute 15 seconds. Transfer the pizzelles to a rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note - These can also be formed while warm into shapes such as cones, cannoli shells or placed in a muffin tin and formed into cups when cooled. If you don't have a pizzelle iron you can use a waffle iron. Use 1/2 C of batter and cook for about 3 minutes. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!!!


Fall!! Fall!! Fall!! My favorite time of year. To step outside and feel the cool breeze on the skin makes me feel alive. Tonight was the perfect evening to take a long "walk" along the river with the sun setting (if I am being realistic this was more exercise than enjoyment but it doesn't sound as peaceful as I want it to...). It is a beautiful setting with the different colors, the turning leaves and the reflections on the river.  Sometimes these moments are the best when you can enjoy the peace and quiet and just BE!!!

In today's culture, there are moments we all need to stop and enjoy being who we are. I know that may sound crazy but I love it when the weather starts getting cooler. It helps me remember to be who I am and not to get caught up in the rest of society!

Along this same line, did you know it takes a pumpkin 4-5 months from planting to harvest. Plant in late spring and the harvest can be enjoyed in October right it time for the holiday. Something so enjoyable and an important part of the Fall is the perfect example of taking time and keeping things simple to get the end results.

So I hope every time you see a pumpkin just remember to stop and enjoy the falling leaves and the autumn sunset. This Halloween enjoy these Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
2 sticks Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled
3/4 C White Sugar
1 1/4 C Brown Sugar, packed
4 Eggs
2 C Pumpkin, fresh (or can)
2 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ginger, ground
1/4 Tsp Allspice, ground
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg, grated


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners and set aside. 

In a bowl,  combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. In another bowl, combine white sugar, brown sugar, butter, and eggs and mix until well combined. Next add flour mixture until blended. Add in pumpkin and mix well. Fill each liner with batter about halfway full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. 

Salted Caramel Buttercream 
Salted Caramel Sauce
3/4 C White Sugar
4 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup
1 Stick Salted Butter
2 Tbsp Heavy Cream
1/8 Tsp Sea Salt

Put sugar and corn syrup in heavy large saucepan (it will expand so need to have room) over medium heat (about 2 minutes). Stir to combine until sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook until it turns a golden amber (about 5 minutes but keep an eye). Once amber color appears add cream (it will bubble up) and stir. Then add butter in pieces stirring until combined well. Add sea salt and remove from heat. Let cool until barely warm but still pourable.  (Note: Can use this sauce for other desserts)

Cream Cheese Buttercream
2 pkg Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature
5 C Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Vanilla

In bowl, combine cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. On low speed, add a couple cups of powdered sugar and mix until combined. Then add the lukewarm caramel sauce (Be sure it is lukewarm... if too warm it will harden when added or melt the butter) then increase speed until combined well. Turn speed back down and slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar. On a higher speed, mix until combined and smooth. Place frosting in refridge for about 40 minutes before using. (You may need to run through mixer before you use to make smooth again.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Perfect Fall Day in Iowa....

Here's a little peek at next week's blog - Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting.......I have been working on tweaking ideas for Halloween parties coming soon. A version of this one I hope will be the end result so ......I hope you will come back next week to find out!!!

This weekend was a perfect day for a roadtrip....65 degrees and sunny! The next question was where to go.......how about SE Iowa?? Yeah, when I thought if that I had friends say "what in the world is in SE Iowa??" My answer - Who Cares!...Let's just go for a drive!!! And I am glad I did. The first stop was Christian Herschler District Winery. This winery is one of the few restored limestone structures in the United States (if I remember correctly). It was a great stop along the way.
The next stop was the entire reason for this trip. Last Christmas, a stranger at the Minneapolis Airport told me about an amazing General Store in SE Iowa. So this weekend I was finally able to venture that direction and I am glad I did. Dutchman's is a Old General Store the length of the city's main street (which is 1 block long). It was an amazing store and worth the several hour drive.
The store is divided into three areas - fabric and sewing, clothing and food. While I am not talented in sewing, I could imagine this area (several rows long and full of fabric) to be a dream for someone who is. The next section in the building contains clothing, shoes, school supplies, etc. I have to be honest, I skipped this part since I was so excited to get to the food section.

All I can say about the food section, I had been waiting for this point all day. My friend with me told me I couldn't look into the next aisles since I kept getting even more excited. While wandering, it was so much fun to find great deals on produce...(ex: apples for $.49 a lb...yes 49...) then Rada knives......(It is so great to be able to locate knives worth purchasing but at prices that are reasonable.) ....on and on it went.
Moving on to the next aisle, I was in heaven. This aisle is the entire reason for me to make the trip. It was the bulk spices, fruit and flour section. I immediately scoured over all of the flours available - all-purpose,  soy, pie, wheat, almond, etc. How do you choose??? I ended up with a bag that contained over 12 lbs of flour....(yes, I said 12....and you dont want to know how quickly I will use it all). And then I was able to pick up a bag of Oatmeal (all 7 lbs.) ...which reading this blog you know is my favorite...So now you know why it is heaven!! I could go on and on but let's just say I actually had to behave at the end or I would have bought everything.

I hope your weekend was as great as mine. If you find yourself in SE Iowa, be sure to take your time and venture down a back road....you may never know what you will find!! I hope you find time to enjoy life's little adventure!!! Take a moment and just sit back and relax.....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Spring" Cleaning....in the Fall???

This Statue made me laugh when I saw it in NYC - so I had to share! 

Have you ever had a moment when you knew you needed to clean? 

I am not talking about the regular weekly cleaning hopefully kept up with in your life. I mean....those times when you need to clean things out of your life ...things as simple as items from cabinets to issues with individuals needing to be resolved. This was one of THOSE weeks!!!

As the week progressed, I had the opportunity to clean out a lot of issues this week. To my surprise, these encounters made me realize there are times when closure or even moving beyond is the best decision one can make. It is amazing how peaceful things become when issues are discussed or a realization that the decisions you made in the past were right even months later. Always nice to learn your instincts and decisions were right the first time.......how often does that happen??

To keep with this theme, I decided to focus on the baking cabinet and select from the inventory..lol. For those who know me, this collection seems to consist of a variety of chocolate and other mix-ins from past recipes. This week I am happy to offer you Chocolate Toffee Cookies. I hope your "Spring" cleaning is as productive as mine was!!! Enjoy...

So what would you like to "Spring" Clean???

Chocolate Toffee Cookies
1/2 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
11 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
1/3 C Butter

1 2/3 C Brown Sugar, packed
4 Eggs
1 Tbsp Vanilla
5 oz.  Heath Bar, crushed

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and butter until smooth. Remove and let cool until warm.

In a separate bowl, mix eggs and sugar about 4 minutes until thick. Add in chocolate and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture and toffee pieces until combined. Chill batter for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop batter with a 2 Tbsp scoop on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool and enjoy.

Note: These cookies can be use for homemade ice cream sandwiches. Just a recommendation!!! LOL

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Home Sweet Home

NYC.......Have you ever been??? I would highly recommend a trip. 

This last week I was able to take a trip back East to visit family. I always get excited for this trip every year since it blends family time with the Big Apple (who could ask for anything better.....maybe a beach vacation..lol but I am happy!).

During this trip, I was able to spend some quality time in NYC. Since I reside in the quiet Midwest it is a nice change of pace. It is a great experience if you have never been. To be able to hear and see such a vibrant city is always a nice time. My favorite things about this city is the ability to access anything one's heart desires - unique cultures, sights and even art. The ability to wake up every day and choose your own experience is so worth the visit.

During this trip, I was able to visit several amazing bakeries in Brooklyn.  Since I wasn't able to bake during the trip I forced (lol) my siblings to multiple desserts from these amazing places. (I am sure they weren't too upset by these taste tests..lol) I hope in future posts to be able to share with you ideas and experiences I enjoyed.

While this is a great trip, it is always nice to get home and get back to routine. Not sure if all of the laundry and mail is the part I enjoy of this "routine" (lol) but I will take it if it allows me to get back to baking. ...Oh how I missed it!!!! So this week I wanted to offer to you  - English Lace Cookies.

A simple recipe for those times when you want a one bowl recipe with just a handful of ingredients you have sitting around the house. When I had these cookies as a child,  I always thought they contained coconut or something similar since they were so chewy. Now I realize it is just the blend of oatmeal,  sugar and butter making these cookies so enjoyable.

So what one-bowl cookie recipe is your favorite????


English Lace Cookies

1 C Oatmeal, quick-cook
1/2 C White Sugar
1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed
1 Egg
1 Stick Unsalted Butter
2 Tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil or a Silpat. Set aside.

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and drop by teaspoonful onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes or until cookies are a light brown. Remove from oven and transfer foil to cooling rack until cookies are completely cool. Once cool, peel away foil from cookies and enjoy.

Note: Foil can be reused for each batch but cookies will need to cool on foil before you can reuse.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One Sure Sign of Fall.....



Today was a perfect start to the Fall season. Woke up this morning to the sound of rain falling outside and a cool breeze. It was such a relief to be able to enjoy this day of rain due to the to-do list needing to be accomplished (which increased after yesterday spent with  great friends!!). 


At the top of this list, pounds of apples needing to be used. This is the exact reason why I love apple season....the choices from which apples to pick to which recipes to make!!!! There are so many options from applesauce to pie...cheesecake to turnovers. 


This time I thought we could venture back to a classic - the Tart. Let's try one with a twist - a crust containing honey and egg yolks. 


This amazing tart is currently baking right now and the scent of baked apples, cinnamon and nutmeg fill the air....so exciting!!!! Maybe it is the weather but I think it makes Fall so much more inviting being able to enjoy desserts to match the season. 


As I have stated in previous posts, one of my trick for peeling apples is to place them in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to use them. This will keep them from turning brown before you are ready to bake. 


I hope you enjoy this recipe and I look forward to hearing your thoughts......What is your favorite thing to do with apples??
Apple Streusel Tart 
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Crust:
1 3/4 C Unbleached Flour
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 C Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 C Honey
2 Egg Yolks
1 Tbsp Ice Water

Streusel:
3/4 C Unbleached Flour
1/2 C Powdered Sugar
1 Tsp Lemon Peel, grated
1 Tsp Vanilla 
1/2 C Unsalted Butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Filling:
1/4 C Sugar
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tsp Cornstarch
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
3 cups  Gala Apples, sliced (about 4)

Crust
Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk honey, yolks, and 1 tablespoon ice water in bowl. Add honey mixture to flour mixture; using on/off turns, process until clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 1 hour.

Roll dough out on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of pan. Fold overhang in; press to form double layer. Cover and chill 30 minutes.
Streusel
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Using fingertips, rub in butter until pea-size clumps form. Refrigerate while preparing filling.
Filling
Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Add slicing apples; stir to coat. Transfer to crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle streusel over. Wrap edge of pan (to cover crust) with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until streusel is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One last day of Summer........



I love Fall....and I can't wait until the first day when it is cool and crisp.....but have you ever had a moment when you get so excited for something to arrive you forget the present?! I do this every September. I am so excited for Fall being just around the corner I forget to enjoy the last few Summer nights left. 

Having lunch the other day with a friend,  we came to the conclusion it is too easy to get caught up in all of the plans for Fall that these last pieces of summer may be overlooked. I am grateful this discussion reminded me of how easy it is to get caught up in what we need to get done.  We forget there are days when the "to do" list just needs to be set aside for the moment and enjoyment needs to be found in the last few 80 degree day of Summer.  

Take a road trip with the top down (my recommendation...it was fun!!!), get outside for a great hike or just enjoy your own backyard with friends or family.  Whatever you find time to do.......I hope you enjoy your time with those important in your life with who you want to share it with. 

Enjoy these Pumpkin Scones with Maple Glaze during these last few days of Summer.........and with your future plans..... just remember....everything will arrive in it's own time like the changing of the leaves ...... until then enjoy the here and now. 


Pumpkin Scones with Maple Glaze
1 1/4 C Pie & Pastry Flour (or Unbleached Flour)
1/3 C Sugar
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
3/4 Tsp Salt
3/4 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Tsp Ground Allspice
1/2 C Butter, cold
1 C Cinnamon Chips
2/3 C Canned Pumpkin (or fresh, my preference)
2 Eggs

Maple Glaze
1 C Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp Milk
1/3 Tsp Cinnamon


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. Cut in the butter just until the mixture is crumbly. Mix in Cinnamon Chips. 


In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and eggs till smooth. Add the pumpkin/egg to flour mixture and stir until combined. Place dough on floured surface and roll out into a rectangle at least 3/4 inch thick.  Cut rectangle into wedges and place wedges about 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheet. 


Place the pan of scones in the freezer for 20 minutes, uncovered. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Bake for 20 minutes and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

Remove the scones from the oven. Combine the glaze ingredient together. Drizzle with whisk over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (at least 1 hour).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oatmeal Oatmeal Oatmeal......(Yes, I just heard you sigh!!!)


If you have followed this blog long enough you may have caught on to one of my favorite things.....Oatmeal!

I eat it for breakfast every day and love finding a way to add it to anything I can. If you remember back to the post about the visit to the Country Store....on that trip I purchased almost 6 lbs of Oatmeal that day. My mother couldn't believe it but to her surprise I used it all up in less than two months. Crazy huh?! Now you know why I call it one of my favorite things.

I can hear you sigh right now and think I must be the only one with this love...ha ha! Yes, I know others do not have this affection for such a grain so I will stick to the classics in sharing a recipe with you. I will avoid my desire to share all of the versions of oatmeal I make on a regular basis through this blog (I think I just heard someone cheer!!! lol). Instead, I will share with you my all-time favorite cookie recipe containing oatmeal.

Every time these are baking it just makes me happy. As the title states, this is the "best" Oatmeal Cookie recipe I have ever come across - Soft and Chewy. This reason - the raisins are soaked in egg and vanilla until soft.....(This is the secret....just don't tell..lol) I will warn you this recipe makes 6 Dozen....so feel free to cut in half. If you don't want to adhere to this warning....I hope you share or you will find yourself eating them all yourself!!!



The "Best" Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Colorado Cache Cookbook

3 Eggs, well beaten
1 C Raisins
2 Tsp Vanilla
1 C Unsalted Butter
1 C Brown Sugar, packed
1 C White Sugar
2 1/2 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Allspice
2 Tsp Baking Soda
2 C Oatmeal

Combine eggs, raisins and vanilla in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add flour, salt, cinnamon, allspice and soda to sugar mixture until combined. Add in egg-raisin mixture and oatmeal. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

What are your favorite things to add to Oatmeal Raisin Cookies????

Monday, August 29, 2011

Babka....Ever heard of it???



For the longest time, I was always nervous about creating yeast bread from scratch. The thought of killing the yeast with hot temperature and having to start over was always in the front of my mind...(and usually when the recipe used pounds of butter...lol). But over the years, I have learned with yeast it is simple...have faith in your instincts, don't rush the process and enjoy the results. 

Amazing how much that last sentence reflects how we should enjoy life as a whole (not just baked goods).....

In today's society, I, for one, am willing to admit I fail at this goal on a regular basis. There is so much contact aimed at us constantly from the outside world - tvs, computers, cell phones, and wifi are just examples of our constant interaction. We are inundated with information and I, at times, wonder if I get addicted to this need for immediate answers or just stimuli (in addition, the life memories I miss out on with those closest to me).....

When I was a child, I remember a study coming out about how children who watched a specific show had attention span issues it was believed because the images constantly were changing. So if that tv show (back in the late 70s) was labeled as overwhelming.....what would the study say with today's technology and how we access news, internet or other media outlets. 


For myself, I realize there are times technology gets in the way (yes, I know it is ironic I write this on a blog........but it is reality!). Have you ever missed a conversation, a caring look from a loved one, or even the simple enjoyment of that moment with your child??? Unfortunately, I seem to realize it after the moment has passed. 


So when you find yourself at that crossroad, be sure to step away from technology and enjoy your life. Whether it is playing with your children, a game of chess, a great conversation or even a sunset.  Be sure to take that detour on your way home.....or take those extra few seconds to let someone know your listening and care.... 

Hopefully this recipe can help you with that moment.....Just remember.......have faith in your instincts, dont rush the moment, and savor life for all it is worth......

Chocolate Babka
(adapted from MarthaStewart.com)

1 1/2 C Milk, warm (about 110 degrees)
2 packages active dry yeast (1/4 oz each)
1 2/3 C plus a pinch of Sugar
3  Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
6 C Unbleached Flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tsp Salt
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
24 oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped finely
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Heavy Cream

Combine warm milk, yeast and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl. Let sit for about 4 minutes until foamy.

In a bowl, mix 2/3 C sugar, 2 eggs, and egg yolks. Add yeast mixture to bowl with egg mixture until combined.

In the bowl with an electric mixer, combine flour and salt. Next add in egg mixture, and beat on low speed until just combined. Add dough hook to mixer, add in 2 sticks butter in pieces until incorporated about 8 minutes. 

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Place dough in greased bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Place chocolate, remaining cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in remaining 1 1/2 sticks butter until well combined; set filling aside.

Butter three loaf pans, then line with parchment paper and grease paper. Combine remaining egg with 1 tablespoon cream, set aside. 

Punch down dough and place on a floured surface. Rest 5 minutes. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Keep 2 pieces covered with plastic wrap while working with the remaining piece. On floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch rectangle on long side.

Brush about 1/2 in edges on dough with egg wash. Place 1 C chocolate filling on dough, leaving a border.  Roll dough up from long side sealing ends.  Twist dough 4 times. Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with additional chocolate filling (about 1 1/2 Tbsp). Twist end over each other to form a "braid" and place in prepared pan. Repeat.
Streusel Topping
1/2 C Powdered Sugar 
3/4 C Unbleached Flour
1 stick Unsalted Butter, room temperature

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, and butter until well combined. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of each loaf with egg wash. Crumble 1/3 of streusel topping over each loaf. Loosely cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot for  40 minutes.

Bake loaves about 50 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Continue baking until golden (about additional 20 minutes). Transfer to wire racks to cool in pans. 

Note: this recipe makes 3 loaves. You can freeze and thaw when ready to cook.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garden Harvest........


It is once again Harvest Time in the Midwest!!!! Gardens are plentiful and blessing us with everything you can imagine and enjoy from melon to fresh Peaches-n-Cream Sweet Corn. Weekly trips to the Farmer's Market remind me of how great it is to live in the Midwest where local vegetables are easy to come by. The ability to enjoy what is the best part of summer is always an exciting time and one I take full advantage of.  

One of these time occurred last week when I was having dinner with a friend. They happily graced me with a wonderful gift of zucchini from a family garden.  Being a veggie lover, I am not one to pass up any gift of vegetables. While there are so many choices when cooking zucchini, I of course had to find a way to make it into something sweet. So...I thought it was time for a visit to a classic.

While the work week started out busy with no time to bake, I was left to daydream of what to do with this gift sitting on my counter. Chocolate Zucchini??? Zucchini with Raisins and Nuts??? Muffins?? Pancakes??? It kept taunting me every night when I came home to do something with it (if vegetables can taunt..lol).

So here it is......Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Zucchini Bread. I chose to make several small loaves allowing me to freeze them individually and pull them out for occasions down the road. I hope you enjoy this recipe now or from your freezer in the future.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Zucchini Bread

3 C Zucchini, grated
3/4 C Brown Sugar, packed
3/4 C White Sugar
2/3 C Vegetable Oil
2 Tsp Vanilla
4 Eggs
3 C Unbleached Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
1 C Cinnamon Chips
1 C Oatmeal

Turn on oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of loaf pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, grate zucchini.  Mix in brown sugar, white sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs. Add in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves until combined. By hand, mix in oatmeal and cinnamon chips.

Pour into pans. Bake 8 inch loaf pans about 55 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean in center. (I used a pan with space for 8 small loaves and baked for 22 minutes.) Cool on wire rack and store wrapped at room temperature or freeze.

This photo shows the left half with the oatmeal and cinnamon chips and the right side without. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Unexpected" Surprises....the lesson!!!



For those who know me, I am a huge fan of planning. I love being able to look forward to what is coming in the future and enjoy it. However, there are times when life chooses differently for you. While at first these interruptions are annoying and a little frustrating,  I realized once I am present in these events everything worked out the way they needed to. 

This week was a perfect example of "unexpected" surprises. Some positive and some negative. Now that it is over, I realize everything ended up being perfect.  The week started with a fiasco in the car department, an amazing lunch, live music, a new recipe and ended at a pool with a friend and her child. While some events were a challenge I would rather not have occur again,  others turned out to be a true surprise and made for some great times. 

The biggest lesson this week taught me is that all of these events made me realize nothing is under our control (while we wish they were).  Life can end up being so much more fulfilling if you just step back, let go and just enjoy the ride.  If you let it, this ride can show you what is possible, who is important and how a surprise can make life just that much more enjoyable. 

Out of this week, came these amazing Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bites..which were truly needed. So I hope you remember when these "surprises" occur.........just say thanks (or bite your tongue), find time to enjoy the experience ... or just be sure to learn the lesson (whatever it may be)!!!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bites

Chocolate Crust
2 C Unbleached Flour
1 C Sugar
6 Tbsp Baking Cocoa
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 C Unsalted Butter, cubed
2 Egg Yolk
2 Tsp Vanilla 

Line a 9- by -13-in.  pan with foil lined across the long edge. Grease foil (I use Pam) and set aside. In a food processor, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the egg yolk and vanilla. Press into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 20 minutes.

Cheesecake Filling
2 pkg (16 ounces) Cream Cheese, softened
2/3 C Sugar
1 C Sour Cream
2 Tbsp Unbleached Flour
1/2 Tsp Salt
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
2 Egg Whites, lightly beaten
1 Tsp Vanilla
1/2 C Mini Chocolate Chips 
In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the sour cream, flour and salt. Beat in the eggs, egg whites and vanilla on low speed just until combined. For a smooth filling, pour filling though a sieve to remove any lumps. Pour filling over warm crust.  Tap pan on counter lightly to remove any bubble in filling until they come to the top. Sprinkle Chocolate Chips over filling.  
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set (if center of filling is loose in pan, return to oven and continue checking every 5 minutes).  Cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, lift out of pan using foil. Discard foil, trim edges  and then cut into 1-in squares. Serve cold.