Yesterday was hard, very hard. I was soooo tired physically, afraid that I might be relapsing with this dratted PND syndrome. I wasn’t handling work stress well either, I’m sure because of the fatigue and fear. The day ended well, however, with my friend/coworker giving me a much desired and needed 90-minute coaching session while he drove home (a 5.5 hour trip for him). My husband heated up the leftover game hens for dinner, and I had a glass of wine. We watched the next Mrs. Maisel episode (we’re in Season 3, but we only watch one or two episodes a week). I was in bed by 10:30 pm and had no trouble falling asleep.
This morning the cats gave me a present and let me sleep until 9:00 am. Not a single meow or mrrrrp or head butt. It was delightful not to be nudged. 🙂 I had great plans for today. Well, great is a matter of interpretation. I PLANNED to get a lot of cleaning done. Next week is our big Super Bowl party and I have GOT to get started on cleaning that has been ignored for far too long.
Unfortunately I seem to be a child of the weather. It was pouring rain. It was gray. It was VERY difficult to motivate myself to start cleaning. At moments like these, playing cards on the computer seems to be the best way to spend my time. As I lost game after game of solitaire (my way of both zoning out and waking up) I thought about what I might want to eat for breakfast or brunch. I decided I was in the mood for a scone. I thought at first cranberry scones, but when I read the recipe I decided it required too much effort. I’m not sure what about it was too much effort, but I guess it just didn’t sound good enough today for any effort. 🙂
I have a very simple cheese scone recipe and I make it often, without the cheese, just throwing in cinnamon. I decided to look for an actual cinnamon scone recipe and found one that seemed perfect: Cinnamon Scones (with cinnamon chips) on the JoyFoodSunshine.com website. I mean – the website name alone was cheerful. They were easy, quick and totally scrumptious when they were done. I brought one to my husband as he was reading the paper. When I wandered through the kitchen a short while after that, I noticed that another scone seemed to have vanished. *grin* He confirmed that they were fantastic scones and he’d gotten himself another. 🙂 Now THAT’S the way to wake up and get motivated!
I’m not sure anymore what “healthy” feels like. Are you allowed to have a little bit of sniffles and still be healthy? This weekend I had more energy than I’ve had in weeks. My sister and her husband were coming to dinner on Saturday. I gave myself the luxury of sleeping late (or as late as BC allowed). When I got up, I fed the cats, put away the dry clean dishes from the day before, made coffee and made up a batch of biscuits!!! I haven’t really felt like baking in WEEKS!
Have I mentioned here what I’ve been doing with my coffee these days? I’ve been adding chili powder and cayenne pepper to the grounds before brewing. I sometimes add cinnamon as well. I find the heat really helps to clear my sinuses and cut through any PND syndrome that is present. I learned that I liked the chili/cayenne/cinnamon combination added to chocolate so I figured that it might work well with coffee as well. I think it was on one of Jinjer’s posts that I ended up in a discussion about those flavors, and the fantastic designer chocolate that introduced me to the combination – Chuao Spicy Maya dark chocolate. I love their website as well. How can you resist the slogan: “For when wine just isn’t cutting it“? They sure have me pegged. 🙂
Anyway, once I had my coffee, I was a fountain of energy. I had the energy to have a text conversation with my niece, I cleaned all the counters, wiped down the white cabinets, swept the floors, damp mopped the floors, and cleaned off the dining room table. I then took an hour to relax and make sure I hadn’t pushed beyond my reserves. Then I started baking the spice cake for dessert, and preparing the vegetables to go along with my husband’s cornish game hens. He was also making potatoes au gratin. Dinner WAS delicious. Apologies that I did not take a picture of the cooked hens & potatoes – you will have to trust me that not only where they delicious but they were beautiful as well. My brother-in-law made TWO delicious loaves of bread – a grainy bread with pine nuts and seeds. Also fantastic and we’ve been enjoying the bread since then. 🙂 They left BOTH loaves with us.
I did send the spice cake home with them. The menfolk told me that they loved the spice cake (made using Tagatesse and Sukrin Gold sugar substitutes) but neither of them much care for cream cheese frosting (in general – it was not a comment on the frosting recipe, which I found tasty). If I’d known THAT, I’d have skipped it and just served the spice cake with whipped cream. 🙂 I’ll know for next time. I have to agree with them. That spice cake recipe made a tasty moist cake that really doesn’t even need frosting. It would be perfect with coffee in the morning.
So the thing that is totally frustrating me at this point is that it is becoming impossible to obtain Tagatesse in this country. I don’t even mind paying the outrageous price Amazon demanded – $18/1 pound box. (You do realize that white sugar sells for around $1.50-$1.99 for FOUR pounds???) I need to make friends with someone in Europe (NOT the UK)and/or find someone heading over to Europe. Damhert does not ship to the United States. I only have one more box of Tagatesse. 😦
*grin* This post is for my Fundy Bay Friend. I am in awe of all she does and accomplishes way up north in her new home (well new to her but oh so old in many other respects, hence all her accomplishments). She does things mechanical, takes fantastic photos, deals with demanding beasts (both 2 and 4 legged), deals with border police delaying her packages, and so many other successes out there on the island. She insists, however, that she can’t bake. We were discussing baking the other day and she cut me off each time I attempted to suggest she make her own pastry for her upcoming culinary treats. This is for YOU, m’dear, because it’s fun to tease. I woke up the other morning and it was cold and gray and I thought “Biscuits!!!” Warm, fresh biscuits would make this Monday morning palatable. Warm biscuits, fresh coffee. Ahhhh. Let me know if you want the recipe. I promise it’s simple. As for the coffee – *laughing* – I’ll buy a drone and fly some to you.
Saturday was a gray, dull wintery day. I needed an escape. I contemplated driving down to the shore to look at waves, but decided it would be too cold and windy to get out of the car. I thought maybe escaping to the bookstore and finding a good, “real” book would be fun. So I headed to the mall. As I drove I thought that maybe I should have picked pampering instead – maybe I should have gone to the Korean spa and luxuriated in saunas and hot tubs. I was already almost to the mall, though, and didn’t feel like turning back. I remembered that there had been a hair salon for years at the mall. I decided that if it was still there I’d treat myself to having them wash and dry my hair. 🙂 They were indeed still there, and HUGELY busy and bustling. I explained I just wanted a little pampering and they took me right away. Maria trimmed my hair and dried it so that all the waves and curls showed up. She even flipped my part to hide the roots that needed coloring. *grin* I felt ‘human’ enough after that to head over to Sephora and pick up the moisturizers I needed. Fortified with pampering and lotions I headed home to continue indulging myself.
There was a time when the idea of spending a day in the kitchen would have been considered obligation, not indulgence. That was pre-new kitchen. We are still both loving the kitchen. I had 2 recipes I’d wanted to try – one for lentil soup and one for a cranberry apple tart. I’d also been craving more French bread after posting about breads. 🙂 I got home, had a bite to eat and set to baking.
I started with the French bread. I really like this bread. It’s got substance and is chewy. It’s not all air and crust. I think that a “proper” French bread is SUPPOSED to be airy and crust, but mine does not come out that way and I’m glad. I’m not sure if I’m rolling it too thick, or some other deviation but I don’t care. I like how MY loaves come out. My husband likes them too so this recipe is a keeper for us. I forgot to brush the crusts with egg white before I put it in the oven, so these were not quite as shiny as the last loaves. They still tasted delicious. 🙂
Next I started on the cranberry apple tart. I’d found this recipe when I was looking for desserts for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought it could easily be switched to be sugar free, even gluten free if it turned out that was necessary. Someone else was bringing pies, however, so I put the recipe aside. I’d picked up some Granny Smith apples at the farmers’ market specifically for this tart. I ended up using 3 of those and one stayman (winesap) apple. I used the Sukrin Gold brown sugar substitute. I was a little impatient while making the crust. I knew I was using more ice water than I do usually but it did come out fine. I chilled it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator because I was not going to have a lot of time to let it chill. The dough was a little sticky when I rolled it out for the pan, but it held together and was tasty. One of the tricks I’ve learned recently is to use a grater to add butter to my crusts and biscuits. In the past I’ve cut tablespoons of butter into the flour, and then used a pastry blender to chop it further. Grating the butter saves me so much time and effort! I love this little hack. I tried it on margerine but it doesn’t work – margerine is simply too soft. Maybe it would work better if I froze the margerine first, but that probably has other consequences.
Once I had the tart in the oven I started on the lentil soup. I’ve learned to read the comments on online recipes. I’ve gotten some helpful tips from other cooks. The first comment on this recipe was quite long and detailed, about doubling ingredients, adding a few things, but saying that the soup came out great. I decided to make the soup by following those comments (after all, anyone who adds port to the soup is cooking on my track, to mix several metaphors *grin*). Of course I modified it, because that’s the whole point of cooking, is it not??? Since I’ve actually made lentil soup before, this was not going to be a case of follow first and then tinker. I knew where I wanted to end up. I didn’t have port but I did have sherry and used that. I only used 3 carrots, not four. I used 1.5 cups green lentils and 1/2 cup red lentils. I used my immersion blender to break up the chunks of carrots and tomatoes (from the canned diced tomatoes – I did not have crushed tomatoes). After all of that, it still seemed just a tad too tame for me. I took a look at my red lentil soup recipe and added some cumin and chili powder for a little heat. Once I did that I was satisfied with the flavor.
I think I made a successful meal. *smile* The tart was half-gone by bedtime. The soup is nearly all gone today, only a day and a half later. The bread – well, there is one hunk of bread left from the 2 loaves. I guess I need to get back in that kitchen soon and indulge again. 🙂
I’ve been doing a bit of baking over the last several weeks. I’ve been having bread cravings. I tend to limit my intake of carbohydrates but when the calendar moves to fall, my body argues with my resolve. The first deep-seated trigger is the football on TV. For some reason my brain flashes back to the very first apartment with my then-fiance now-husband. I baked a batch of yummy brownies and we sat there munching them as we watched football. Apparently that imprinted me with football-fall-brownies. This year my inner voice is demanding fresh bread, and it doesn’t always want to wait for the weekly grocery shopping.
One quick fix for the bread-craving is to bake biscuits. I have good biscuit recipes. Biscuits are fast and easy and yummy. Back in October I was having a group of friends over for ladies-lunch-in-the-sukkah. One of my guests does not eat gluten. I was serving the red lentil soup and wanted biscuits with that. I did some looking at gluten-free recipes to see if there was any reason I needed to use a gluten-free recipe instead of merely substituting gluten-free flour in my usual recipe. There wasn’t, but I did come across a recipe that sounded delicious – Cauliflower Garlic Bread. It looked fantastic as well. I saved the recipe and one cold weekend day I made the bread. It looked great and smelled terrific. It tasted alright as well, although not quite as wonderful as I’d hoped. I don’t think I got the proportions correct or I did not bake it long enough. The ends of the loaf were okay but the rest was way too moist. We ate some of it that night, but ended up tossing the remainder. 😦 If I were to make it again I would tinker with the seasonings and definitely bake it longer than I did.
The next bread event was a yeast bread, not a batter bread. I had some brie in the house as well (another temptation to which I succumbed while shopping) so I looked for a french bread recipe. I remembered that I’d made a yummy french bread a few years ago but didn’t remember what recipe I had used. I found a recipe claiming to be the BEST homemade French bread made in 90 minutes. That convinced me! 🙂 That recipe lived up to its claim. Okay, maybe I did not make the BEST bread ever but it was delicious, fast and easy! Often yeast breads annoy me because they require repeated effort (mix, rise, punch, shape, rise, bake). The first rise/rest for this bread was very short so it was basically ready for the next step by the time I’d finished cleaning up from the mixing.
This morning I woke up craving scones. I love the combination of cranberry and orange. I mix them in with my apple pies as well. I have a scone recipe that is very tasty for plain scones, and works if I toss in cinnamon and cinnamon chips, but I thought I’d take a look at a recipe tailored for the cranberries. I had a bag of cranberries handy (it IS the cranberry season after all). I found one that included orange zest. I scanned the ingredients and directions, compared it to a few others, and knew this one would work for me. Oh my my my!!! These scones are FANTASTIC!!!!! My only change was using fresh cranberries instead of dried. I chopped them in the grinder with some sugar to absorb the liquid. I don’t actually use sugar anymore. I use a product called Tagatesse, which is a sugar substitute. But that’s a discussion for another post – my search for sugar substitutes for baking. For now – I’m going back to pour another cup of coffee and another scone. (They’re going fast.)
Buttermilk biscuits hot from the oven and fresh-brewed coffee. Working from home. Day before a holiday and most of my coworkers are NOT working, which means a very quiet day for me. 🙂 My cats and my ‘guys’ are here, too. A morning full of treasures.
It’s a gray rainy morning, we had to do that inane “spring forward” with the clocks last night so it’s already later than I feel, and my agenda for today includes preparing the tax information for the accountant and filing the remainder of the 2018 paperwork. What an awful start to a morning, right????
I made a quiche last weekend and my crust recipe makes 2 crusts. Quiche only needs one crust so all week I’ve been imaging ways to use up the remaining crust. Most of the ideas revolved around a veggie & egg pie but I never got around to doing that. In the meantime I had 4 aging apples that soon would be fit for nothing but the deer or compost. And I really don’t want to deal with my paperwork. What’s a poor girl to do? Make a pie!!!
I still had cranberries and sugar-free orange marmalade, both of which needed to be used or tossed soon. I pureed those with a tiny bit of Splenda brown sugar to help the mixture gel instead of run. I sliced up my apples, removing all the really aged areas. I layered the apples with the puree and sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg on each layer. I didn’t have enough crust to make a top and bottom crust so I thought I’d lattice the top with however much crust remained after filling the pie plate. I probably could have squeeeeeeeezed out 2 crusts, but I didn’t realize that until I was playing with the lattice. And yes, this is probably the worst lattice you will ever see on a pie. 🙂 I figured once it was baked and we were enjoying the pie, we wouldn’t mind the appearance.
It smelled heavenly while it baked, and it looks darn good to me now that it’s out of the oven. It tastes yummy, too. 🙂
Which means it’s WAY too cold for me. Waking up to 17 F degrees makes working from home much more appealing than going out in the cold to go to the office. I miss them, but not as much as I love being warm and controlling the thermostat. It looks as if my crazy-busy work schedule has eased up now. We got the product out the door, working, and no major updates or changes have been requested. YAY TEAM!!!! Between the cold and the work I haven’t really had much to say. 🙂 I know, hard to believe, right? *grin*
It snowed Friday evening into Saturday. The good news is our next-door-14-year-old got up and began clearing all the walks (4 houses in a row). The other good news was that my husband said he’d do the vacuuming for me. Oh yes!!! I decided that if he was going to be helpful that I would do something nice for him as well. So I made a cheese quiche. I used 3 cheeses: mostly swiss and provolone but I tossed in a little colby jack for some more color. I thought it looked beautiful and it tasted totally yummy. The pie crust was wonderfully flaky.
I had a very odd experience baking crusts for the New Year’s Day brunch. I NEVER have problems with crust, and for that party 2 of the crusts were in complete crumbles. I ended up using much more water than I like, and for the big quiche basically glued the pieces of crust together in the pan. It wasn’t the flour, because one of them used gluten free flour and one was my basic all purpose flour. Someone suggested that it was the butter, but I used the same butter I always do. Perhaps they changed the recipe. For this winter quiche I used my go-to recipe from The Settlement Cookbook (page 323 – my book opens right to it). I did play with the recipe a bit so I can’t verify if the butter was the culprit or not. I substituted coconut oil for the 1/4 cup of butter. I like the flavor the coconut oil adds and thought it would go well with the cheese and eggs.
I saw my young neighbor struggling to get my snow blower started in order to tackle the driveway. He wasn’t making progress and my husband was not home at that point. I said to not worry about clearing the whole driveway – just make 2 paths for the tires so that I could get the car out that evening without having to drive through the slush. He seemed quite relieved at that approach and set to work. I had to laugh, however, when I went out to see what he had done. *grin* Once he’d made me 2 beautiful tire paths, he’d done more than half the work – he should have just done it all. It was sunny, it was well above freezing, so I finished the job while the quiche baked.
Ah, New Jersey in winter, when a glimpse of the sun is a rare and wondrous moment!
It was pouring rain yesterday. (That’s redundant, isn’t it? What else could be pouring when discussing the weather? Snow doesn’t pour.) I was working from home and the gray and gloom was making me blue. I’ve seen several articles lately that baking and cooking lift depressed moods and I know it’s true for me. I didn’t have much time to do anything that would require multiple steps, but I knew I needed to get in to my gorgeous new kitchen (have I mentioned that I have a beautiful new kitchen, incredibly functional as well as gorgeous?) and create!
I opted for batter bread. Batter bread is so simple, fast and flavorful. It’s not the same texture as a yeast bread, but it works for sandwiches and yummy snacking. I didn’t really like any of the recipes I found online (to be fair, I didn’t spend much time looking). I knew one of my cookbooks had a recipe. (We were out with friends last night and we talked about actual paper cookbooks – would they last?) I went and pulled out one of my trusty cookbooks (I have 3) and there was my recipe. My 3 go-to cookbooks are “The Settlement Cookbook” – my very first one and I love it, “The Joy of Cooking” – 2 copies of that, and “Woman’s Day Collectors Cookbook“. And that is pretty much the order I use when I’m searching for some basic recipe.
Batter bread it was – less than 20 minutes prep and it pops in the oven. I had some non-alcoholic beer for the riser and I used my herbs de provence for seasoning, with a touch of onion powder. Nothing better than smelling something good from the oven as you hear the rain thundering on the skylight. Okay – it’s better to actually EAT the yummy thing from the oven!
No more falcons, no more live concerts, so it’s back to talking about cooking and baking in the new kitchen. *smile* I got to show it off today to someone new! He said “I want to go home now and redo my kitchen”. We sat in the breakfast room at my fun round bistro table. He loved that handle and the fact that it really can move up and down.
Besides contributing a vegetable side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, I am also “responsible” for sugar free desserts. This goes back to when my father, who was diabetic, was alive. My father loved desserts and once the diabetes was diagnosed I spent a lot of time learning to make desserts he (and the others with diabetes) could eat. Then a few years ago (2013) Thanksgiving and Chanukah coincided. For American Jews this was a wonderful event and inspired much holiday and culinary creativity. It was known as Thanksgivukkah. Although I fell in love with the rye crust for the pumpkin pie, I don’t really like pumpkin pie. I decided to see what I could do with the Pecan Pie Rugelach recipe.
I made the first batch exactly as called for in the recipe so I could learn the proper textures. Then I began to reduce the sugar AND to remove the dairy – I needed to make it kosher. Since we were having a meat meal, I could not have dairy in the dessert (cannot mix meat and dairy) The dairy for the dough was easy – vegan cream cheese and pareve margerine. The brown sugar was a bit of a ‘cheat’, but was deemed acceptable by the doctor (who is also diabetic). I use Splenda brown sugar, which is half brown sugar and half sugar substitute. This means that although it’s not sugar free, it has less sugar and fewer carbohydrates than regular brown sugar. When you factor in the lower quantity used, and spread it over the entire batch, it is acceptable for the folks at my table. And even at that, I tend to be stingy measuring the sugar, instead of generous. I’m always VERY generous measuring vanilla extract. 🙂 The other substitution is with the corn syrup. I use agave. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of syrup, use 1/4 cup agave and increase the liquids. The first time I made the rugelach the menfolk for whom it was made went crazy. They loved it. And so a tradition was born. I make SF pecan pie rugelach for Thanksgiving.
My father was also why I started making SF apple pies. I changed up my recipe for the T-day pie since I wasn’t happy with the puree made with dried apricots. I did put some dried apricots in with the cranberries and the cranberry juice, but I also used sugar free orange marmalade. That gave the puree the correct consistency and liquidity needed to soften the apples and keep the pie filling moist and tender. I did the same layering with apples/puree/cinnamon & nutmeg as I did in my pie the week before the holiday. This one was much, much better although I didn’t get to eat much of it. 🙂
I’ve also made chocolate pecan pie for my sister in the past. She really loves it and it is so easy to make. That one is sugar-full and I don’t usually bring sugar desserts to Thanksgiving. Our friends are fantastic bakers and they bring a smorgasbord of great desserts. But I was having so much fun baking and I knew they did NOT make chocolate pecan pie, so I made that one too. I used the fantastic coconut oil crust from the kale butternut squash pie. I have NO idea how the pie came out, since I never got a piece. 🙂 I brought it to my sister’s house but we did not serve it at dinner.
The shortbread was simply me going over and beyond. My sister and I spend a LOT of time talking/texting/emailing as we prepare for holidays. I tried to bribe her to come over and visit me and promised her some shortbread if she came. Well she didn’t come but now the idea of making shortbread was in my head. I got up early Thursday morning and made up a batch of shortbread. I sent half of it to her and kept the other half for myself. I can assure you that the shortbread was delicious. I think I used a different recipe this time than the last time I made it. But the last time I made it was years ago – I have no idea which recipe I pulled. This time I looked at 4 different recipes, figured out the commonalities and made 2 pans. Yum Yum Yum.