Tag Archives: holiday

Pumpkin Maple Bread

It’s as good an excuse as any to say I still seem to be decompressing from our vacation, slowly coming back to Earth, but not quite willing to sit down and harness my thoughts long enough to write anything.

Thinking it might be motivational, I did spend time in my kitchen dabbling with some traditional flavors of the season, incorporating them into a variety of dishes — including baked goods, casseroles, and soup. Pumpkin and cranberries often took a lead role, and in the case of this moist bread, provided quite a treat with coffee or tea in the morning.

It’s delicious toasted or not, but especially so with a smear of maple cream cheese butter.  On the motivation front, written words are elusive, but time to sit and ponder it all just might produce something.

I’m thankful for that.

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Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread Yesterday in between segments on the television about who would be slotted into which bracket of this year’s NCAA tournament and my husband’s less than thrilled reaction at the spread being focused on mega conference teams, I decided to make soda bread.  I’d spotted the recipe a few weeks ago and turned down the page in the magazine hoping not to forget.  No sooner had I put the liberally flour-sprinkled loaves into the oven  that he commented like he always does.  “Mmm…smells good.  What is it?”

“Soda bread,” I answered, smiling because it hadn’t been in the oven long enough to smell like anything other than the flour which had begun to brown on the baking sheet.

“Oh, yah.  It is about that time of the year, isn’t it?” he finished, eyes never leaving the television, his Sony perched in his lap, fingers busy filling in the bracket slots for the tournament.  Ahh…March Madness.  Yes, even I fill out one of those brackets hoping from one year to the next that pure luck will outsmart basketball brilliance and that I will walk away with the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Or something like that.

I didn’t grow up eating soda bread but probably should have since it doesn’t require much beyond flour, milk, and baking soda and would have fit right into our meals.  Definitely simple fare.  Although I can remember my mother’s corned beef and cabbage, I’m not all together sure we had it for St. Patrick’s Day dinner — but must have because from my own experience it’s not often that I see it at the grocery store at any other point in the year.  No, I started the St. Patrick’s Day dinner when we lived at our old house, not too far from my husband’s parents who would come to enjoy it with us.  Even though our idea of a corned beef dinner isn’t Irish at all, that’s what we’d have — with soda bread.

Many of the soda bread recipes I’ve tried are anything but light and fluffy.  The dough can be fairly sticky and wet and sometimes it never quite got done in the middle as it baked.  The bite of baking soda could be noticed in each bite.  Not very appetizing.

But I think I’ve found the perfect recipe.

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Caramelly Honey Nut Squares

Today is all about nuts.  Lots and lots of nuts — which is perfect for me about now as I listen to the painters downstairs finally, finally ripping the paper off the floor which has been taped on for more than a week.  I thought yesterday they’d be done, but they’re putting finishing touches here and there.  Clearly, they’re very thorough, which I’m grateful for.  I’m so ready to roll up my sleeves and rearrange my things again.

Dust.  Vacuum.  Hang pictures.  Tackle the pile in the garage to unbury my books.  Gather things for one last big donation of the year…

…then decorate for Christmas.

Like I said — NUTS!  Or in this case, Biscotti Quadrati al Miele e alle NociHoney Nut Squares, Gourmet’s Favorite Cookie from 2003.  These are a delightful bite of flaky cookie crust, creamy honey caramel and three kinds of nuts.  You can’t get much easier for something pleasant, crunchy, and surprisingly, not too sweet.

That makes eleven cookies with one left to go.  Here’s nuts to you! 

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Chocolate Coconut Slices

Gourmet-cookie-logo
If I think about it, I’m only a day behind on my production for our 12 Days of Cookies Extravaganza, and that’s not too bad.  If I hadn’t gotten into the kitchen early this morning, I’d be two days behind because no sooner had I popped my latest creation in the fridge, than I was banished outside to keep the dog company.  The nice thing about it was that although a bit chilly in the shade, a clear blue sky and Santa Ana winds helped keep me on task as I trimmed creeping fig from the back wall, raked up the piles I’d created over the past few days, and then settled down on our bench to relax and look at recipes seriously lacking in sugar and butter.  Perhaps by osmosis I might be able to gain from the healthiness, right?   Right, and pigs fly, lady.

I hadn’t originally intended on making Chocolate Coconut Squares, Gourmet’s favorite cookie from 1997 because my husband isn’t too fond of coconut.  Unfortunately, I love it in all shapes and forms, so I decided to treat myself since these require only a short baking time on the front end, and a long refrigeration time.  The most interesting aspect of this recipe was making a custard base to stir into the chocolate before refrigeration.

I’m thinking these are perfect if you’re in the mood for something a little fudge-like, but more creamy, and with a fantastic coconut crust.  I decided they deserved to be partied up a bit by presenting them in wedges and a lace petticoat.

Nice.  IMG_7870

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Spiced Sugar Cookies

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.  No time to say “hello,” “goodbye,” I’m late, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late…and if I could find my head, I’d scratch it and say that, sure.  I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland, sitting here in a house shrouded in plastic.  I left early this morning, knowing that primer would be going up today, and when I returned, the painters were still busy, so I spent time on my patio trimming bushes, cutting trees, and raking leaves until they were done for the day.  Before they left, I was asked if we were sleeping here tonight.  Um, yes? The guy told me to “swish” the plastic our bed is wrapped and attached to the floor in.  Swish?

Ah…adventure.  Life is certainly never dull.

Last night after they left, I got out the dough I’d made the day before for Gourmet’s Favorite cookie from 1946:  Moravian White Christmas Cookies.  I’d nibbled on enough of the dough when I made it to know that it was wonderful so couldn’t wait to make the cookies.  I love sugar cookies and have a favorite recipe which will never be replaced, but this is a close second.

I’ll confess that I had to do some research to locate Moravia, which is in the Czech Republic, very close to the borders of Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.

If the guys asking, “Can we eat one yet?” is any indication of this recipe’s promise, then I’d say they’re worth trying.  The scent while they’re baking is absolutely wonderful.

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