If you are like me and you like to keep your kitchen towel nearby, check out my gorgeous full apron in white denim. The roomy pockets in pretty eggshell blue print are large enough to hold some kitchen utensils and your phone, and a handy strap from which to hang your towel.
What a bright and lovely apron for Easter or as a gift for Mother’s Day. This apron is sweet but not overpowering, much like Mini Chocolate Pecan Cheesecakes; perfect little bites to satisfy your sweet tooth, but won’t blow your dietary goals.
a liking or craving for candy or other sweets.
As for myself, I have a full head of sweet teeth and they usually crave dark chocolate in some form or other right after dinner. If, like me, you try to attain a healthy balance of diet and lifestyle, but want to satisfy your sweet tooth, try one of these wee bites. They keep well in the fridge, covered, for a few days, so you don’t have to eat them all at once. Notice I said “don’t have to.” The pecans baked into the crust give a rich, round taste to the entire bite, and the chocolate ganache topping provide just the right amount of gooey goodness.
Aren’t Throwback Thursdays fun? I think so, because everything old is new again, and who doesn’t love retro? Check out these adorable retro hot pads and apron.
I have recently been thinking of a childhood friend, Colleen, and my first sleep-over at her house. Her mama, who was also our school nurse, prepared porcupine meatballs, which was also a first for me. Loved them! They were served with cooked carrots for a side dish, which in retrospect was a healthy, nurse-y choice. This week I served mine with good old fashioned peas and mushrooms, a recipe rich in buttery goodness, and which can be found in Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book dated 1981. Have to snicker at the words “New Cook Book.”
See how the pages of my New Cookbook are barely hanging on? Love this throwback item, with it’s metal 3-Rings and tabbed chapters.
This weekend the family celebrated my daughter’s 27th birthday at a fun local bowling and event center. What was supposed to have happened on the previous weekend was delayed due to the forecast of a horrible ice storm: The Ice Storm That Never Quite Materialized here in Kansas City. Nevertheless, the kids and granddaughters met Dear Hubs and myself for an indoor Family Fun Day. Promising a decadent birthday cake, I wanted to make something that we all could enjoy. Therefore I needed to find a recipe for something other than dark chocolate layer cake (the adults in the group would have thoroughly enjoyed it, but perhaps not the little granddaughters).
How long had it been since I baked a layer cake from scratch? Easily ten years and possibly more. But with the help of my Kitchen Diva Hot Pads and a boost to my kitchen prowess with The Diva Apron, a glorious cake to honor a young woman’s birthday was crafted.
I scoured my cookbooks and recipes for something beautiful and tasty; I found dozens of recipes but not quite the right one. Turning to the internet for inspiration, I finally selected a recipe fromSwans Down cake flour: Strawberry Preserve Cake. The result was a beautiful, moist, cake with just the right amount of strawberry flavor. I decorated the edges with fresh strawberries. This was the perfect birthday cake to celebrate the life of a young woman who never stops being a loving wife, a devoted mommie to my three sweet granddaughters, a homemaker with a full-time job and income, a pet enthusiast, and a superb girl scout leader. I’m so proud of her! Happy birthday, Liz, and may you have decades and decades more.
Cold Saturday mornings in northern Minnesota were frequently devoted to baking with mom. Countless 13×9 pans of her Banana Nut Bars were the result of our Saturday morning forays.
The beautiful fabric in my Lena Oven Mitt is as sunny as mom’s Minnesota kitchen. Under the outer fabric lies a heart of heat resistant insulation and a layer of cotton batting. This mitt will make your gloomy winter mornings brighter.
My three granddaughters came for a “sleep over” this weekend, and honoring mom’s tradition, we enjoyed our cold Saturday morning together in my Kansas kitchen, with Banana Nut Bars. The first and most amusing step is mashing!
Once the girls mashed the bananas, and I quote, “like baby food, right Grandma?” everything comes together in one bowl. Easy cleanup!
The girls add the ingredients to the mixing bowl themselves. They also take turns using the hand mixer. No need for the oversized Kitchenaid for this recipe.
Fold in the nuts by hand. Two or three sets of hands might be needed, depending on the number of kiddos helping.
Spray a 13×9″ pan with baking spray, spread the batter within, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Voila! My 5-year old granddaughter actually said “voila” this weekend, which cracked me up.
You can see the tender crumb and almost smell the banana goodness. Don’t toss out the last two or three ripe bananas; instead, create a fun memory with some kiddos in your life.
With love from me and granddaughters, we present Banana Nut Bars.
For Brunch, Linner, Happy Hour and Game Day Parties
I was bred in the great white north, also known as Minnesota. In that part of the country in the 1960s and ’70s it was popular to serve cocktails at all hours of the day, even for breakfast. It was a special treat for me and my sister to be able to swizzle drinks and “serve” the adults. This peculiar youth cocktail service was highlighted in the recent television series ‘Mad Men.’ As I aged, Mom would allow a tiny taste of wine during a holiday meal.
My family relocated to Missouri in the late 1970s, where I graduated high school, married and settled. Recently Dear Hubs and I took a road trip to Minneapolis and Duluth, where we gaped, slack jawed, at the breakfast menus of the local restaurants. Every menu, and I mean every menu, included alcoholic breakfast beverages. Plural. And not just Bloody Mary’s (although the Bloody Mary offerings at one Minneapolis eatery included at least a dozen varieties). I passed on the Bloody Mary’s, never having been a huge fan. But if we are talking about brunch for a special occasion, make mine Sangria, please.
Score a touchdown with my Christmas Party Sangria. The warm flavors of cinnamon and spice are transformed into a cool, boozy refreshment when served on the rocks. Fortified with spiced rum and cinnamon sticks, it is so bloody good – and without a hint of Bloody Mary! Try it with a Merlot, Apothic Dark (one of my go-to wines) or a Spanish red. My Christmas Party Sangria recipe is provided below, but first this word from our sponsor:
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Christmas Party Sangria
2 bottles Merlot or other dark red wine
1/2 cup sugar
10 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1-1/2 cups spiced rum
4 to 6 oranges, sliced
2 handfuls fresh cranberries
1 liter ginger ale
Garnishes: Fresh Orange Slices, Red and Green Apple Slices, Sliced Starfruit
Directions: In a large pot, combine wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and cloves. Gently simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Add rum, orange slices and cranberries. Pour into a sealable pitcher or container. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, fill glasses with ice and add an ounce of ginger ale to each. Top with Sangria and stir (or as I like to call it, swizzle). Add garnishes as desired.
December and baking go hand-in-hand in my kitchen. Speaking of hands, protect yours with my heavy-duty Helen Oven Mitt, available today on my secure Etsy site, CloverSueStore. This oven mitt is serious business, with gorgeous quilted detailing on front and back. Inside, reflective metalized polyester protects from burns, and cotton batting provides comfort. Just short of rocket science. How many times have you reached into the oven and burned your wrist? This oven mitt measures a generous 13-1/4 inches long, so it will defend against burns to your wrist and lower arms.
This year, I am crushing on cranberries, and if you love them as much as I do, Festive Cranberry Pinwheels delivers. This recipe is from my “baking bible,” also known as Better Homes and Gardens Old-Fashioned Home Baking cookbook, circa 1990. The pages of my baking bible, like most well-used cookbooks, became crusty with smatterings of pie fillings, batters and frostings over the years. The delectable tastes and aromas contained therein were too much for Clover Sue Dogg (yes, she has a first, middle and last name) to resist when she was a puppy; I came home one day to find my prized possession chewed into bits from the spine in. I was beside myself with grief. But wait — enter Dear Hubs to save the day! My Underdog. He located a spanking-new replacement cookbook, which was delivered that very week. Lesson learned: baking bible and other taste-tempting edibles (and non-edibles) are to be stored higher than a puppy’s reach.
Fill-in the blank: It’s not Christmas until _____. For me, it’s not Christmas until I bake a batch of Festive Cranberry Pinwheels (among many other Christmas-time activities, recipes, decorating, etc.) That said, this recipe is as time-consuming as rolled and decorated sugar cookies, but with a more grown-up flavor profile. Delicate and delightful, these cookies are dripping with Christmas. I recommend toasting your walnuts before finely chopping them.
1 cup cranberries 1 Tbs. milk
1/4 cup orange marmalade 1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbs. honey 1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup butter 1/2 tsp. finely shredded orange zest
1/2 cup sugar Powdered Sugar Icing (see recipe below)
1 egg 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
For filling, in a covered saucepan cook cranberries, marmalade and honey over low heat until mixture boils and berries pop. Uncover, then cook about 8 minutes more until mixture is the consistency of thick jam. Set filling aside to cool. (For the honey, try SimplyNature Wildflower Honey from Aldi US for an extra charming flavor.)
In a bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or until softened. Add about half of the flour. Add sugar, egg, milk, baking powder and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Stir in the remaining flour and orange zest. Divide in half. Wrap tightly and chill about 3 hours or until easy to handle.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each half into a 10-inch square. Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut each half into sixteen 2-1/2 inch squares. Place squares 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Cut 1-inch slits from each corner to the center of each square (don’t go all the way through). Spoon 3/4 teaspoon of the filling on the center of each square. Fold every other point to the center to form a pinwheel, brushing each point with a little egg wash to glue the tips together. Pinch lightly to seal.
Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until tips are pale golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Drizzle with Powdered Sugar Icing. Sprinkle nuts in the center of cookies. Makes about 32 cookies.
Powdered Sugar Icing
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1/4 tsp. vanilla. Stir in 1 tablespoon orange juice. Stir in additional juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until smooth and of drizzling consistency.
Pinwheel cookies can be frozen, tightly covered, if you prefer to do some holiday baking in advance. I shall share more cranberry goodness, in the form of Christmas Sangria (which does not suck to quote Dear Hubs) in my next post. Until then, Happy Holidays and Happy Birthday, Paige!
Like many young home cooks, I cut my chops on my beloved Easy Bake Oven. If Dad was in town, I could always count on him to taste with much enthusiasm the little cakes cooked by the heat of a light bulb. “Wow, delicious” he would say, as I swelled with pride. But the Easy Bake went by the wayside when my palate graduated to a better quality of baking.
The warm fragrance of cinnamon takes me back to one particular snowy Minnesota morning, baking and hanging out with my friend Carla and her mom, Mrs. Halvorson. It might have been Halstrom or Gunderson. Which ever ‘-son’ it was (mine was Hanson), we grated zucchini by hand and played Mystery Date while we patiently waited for our breads to bake, the house filling with heavenly aromas. I was captivated with the transformation of the lowly vegetable into something decidedly un-vegetable like: Zucchini Bread. This was real food, not Easy Bake offerings. Mom let me serve the Zucchini Bread for Thanksgiving that year, and it graced our Thanksgiving table many years thereafter.
Here I present Zucchini Bread, Two Ways. The chocolate version is terrific with extra chocolate chips tossed in. I prefer to omit the nuts in the chocolate version. But my favorite is the regular Zucchini Bread (see the Note below directions) with walnuts. Cinnamon is the only spice needed; nutmeg or cloves would only muddy it up. Try Penzey’s Spices for their excellent cinnamon varieties and vanilla extracts. Keep your electric mixer in the cabinet for this recipe. Stirring with a spoon feels good, fosters baking with care and love, and makes for a good kid-friendly recipe. I somehow still manage to make a huge mess in the kitchen, nonetheless. Protect your hands and countertops with my beautiful, heavy duty Thanksgiving-themed and Christmas-themed hot pads, sewn also with care and love.
Because Thanksgiving is upon us once again, I am sending up my thanks to Hasbro, for its Easy Bake Oven and memories kept, and to Dad, for being a good sport and memories plentiful.
Zucchini Bread, Two Ways
2 C. all-purpose flour 1 C. vegetable oil
1 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. salt ¾ C. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 2 C. grated zucchini
3 eggs 1 C. chopped walnuts (optional)
1 C. white sugar
1 C. packed brown sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9×5-inch loaf pans; set aside.
Finely chop the unsweetened chocolate and place in a double boiler (or use two saucepans), and melt over simmering hot water, stirring until smooth; remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.
In a large bowl combine eggs, white and brown sugars, oil and vanilla; beat well. Stir in the melted chocolate until well combined. Gradually stir in the flour mixture, combining until incorporated. Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips and chopped nuts; stir until combined. Batter will be thick.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared loaf pans; bake for 50 to 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.
NOTE: For Zucchini Bread, omit unsweetened chocolate and chocolate chips, and increase cinnamon by ½ teaspoon.