Cooking and Baking

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Hi there! Are you hungry, yet? Not my intention, of course, but I will say even I have a little Pavlov’s dog action happening. I’ve been everywhere but here, as of late. Nothing major, really, just life.

I sat with a dying patient last week. This saddens and frightens most, but I like it. Not in a morbid way, but a gosh, isn’t it wonderful to be with someone in their last days or moments. How it makes the body grateful to be breathing and relatively healthy and strong. She was fidgety, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes rubbing her face or reaching for some unseen object. Often the case when greeting the next life. She frequently asked who I was and why I was present and if I’d seen her husband. As if I’d only just entered the room and he had not died in the distant past. Not in a frightened way, but with a sense of curiosity and gratitude. Most people in care are lonely and happy for company, even if no words are exchanged.

And today we are hosting a couple of sweet neighbors for dinner. The bottom two photos are the cake I made for the occasion. A crooked jolie laide of orange zest and topped with candied kumquats and marshmallow cream frosting. Yeah, it’s yum. I’ll also be roasting chicken and asparagus, tossing a green salad with almonds and cherries, and serving fizzy wine. How good it will all be.

The rest of the photos perfectly demonstrate our attempt at eating as well as possible: a southwestern breakfast bowl; yogurt omelette with greens, cucumber, and spinach; dan-dan style pork I tossed into an Asian chop salad purchased at Costco. The cookies!! They are homemade Nutter Butters and one of the best and most addictive things going. It was prudent to give the majority away. Yes, ma’am.

And you? I hope you are well! I must dash if I’m going to get everything cleaned and ready. Happy Tuesday!!

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Whoa! I don’t know what happened, but it sure looks cool.

That’s better!

My friend Bebe is one of my dearest companions. She is funny, generous, kind, and smart. We love to bead together (making jewelry, mostly), and can talk up a storm on any and every topic. She’s also fearless and lived all over: Africa, Alaska, England, as well just about every corner of the contiguous United States after being born in Maryland. In her travels, she’s accumulated a vast array of recipes. She started making cranberry banana jam about fifty years ago in Alaska, though she made it with indigenous lingonberries that she and her friends collected in the wild. Unless you’re lucky enough to have lingonberries available, cranberries are the best substitute.

When she first offered me a jar, I was a bit skeptical. Cranberries and bananas? Weird. I am open minded, however, so I took a jar. Wow, this is good! It tastes mostly like banana, with a hint of fruitiness I would never identify as cranberry. As the title infers, strangely delicious. The hubster and I devoured it in no time. Here’s the recipe, just in case you’re curious, too.

Cranberry Banana Jam

4 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cups water

3 cups mashed banana

7 cups sugar

6 ounces liquid pectin

1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice

Sterilize canning jars – I used a variety of jars, so I can’t say exactly how many jars this makes, so have quite a few on hand.

In a large pot, combine cranberries and water over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries start to pop, about 10 minutes. Stir in mashed bananas and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until mixture comes to the boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for one minute. Remove from the heat, stir in pectin and lemon juice.

Dispense jam into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth, attach lids. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from water and place on a kitchen towel to cool. If you want to give away the jam without sealing, simply allow to cool and refrigerate until sharing. I’ve got two jars in the fridge as I type. Danger, Will Robinson, danger!!

Oh, and Happy New Year! It’s 2019!

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I don’t post many recipes anymore, mostly because there are PLENTY of places to find them, and I don’t necessarily feel like I have anything special to offer. By the process of deduction, I hope you’ve realized this strawberry rhubarb cake IS something special. I’ll give you three reasons. 1. It comes together quickly. 2. Greg hollered from the office, “I don’t know what you’re making in there, but it smells AMAZING.” 3. It tastes even better!

So, yeah, it’s good. I used rhubarb from my garden, which makes me feel extra warm and fuzzy. The pieces are kind of itty-bitty because the stout & gorgeous first stalks, just days from perfect ripeness, were positively mauled by a hail storm. Giant sad face. Giant. These are the little babies that came after, harvested just this morning. I’ll take it however it comes.

Also, if you like a really rhubarb flavor, I’d use another cup of it. I was worried that it would be too sour and was definitely wishing for more.

2 or 3 cups sliced rhubarb

1 heaping cup quartered strawberries

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in pieces

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup flour – I used half all purpose and half whole wheat

Toss the rhubarb in a bowl with 3 tablespoons sugar. Spread strawberries and rhubarb evenly in a generously buttered 10″ pie pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until lightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Pour the butter into into a medium bowl. Stir the 1/2 cup sugar into the butter. Gently stir in the eggs and vanilla, then the flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the strawberries and rhubarb. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Bake at 350 degrees until crusty and lightly golden, 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for as long as you like. This is delicious warm or at room temperature. A dollop of whipped cream or vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would be extra-extra.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Hey there, and happy Friday! This early thanks brought to you by sentimental, comfort craving Colleen – because I can eat Thanksgiving all-year-long. Uh-huh. I am the not-at-all ashamed woman wiggling to unstick hot-shorted legs from the naugahyde booth of a chain of comfort food restaurants in high summer. Joyfully proclaiming, “I will have the turkey dinner. Please and thank you.” Only this wasn’t turkey, but chicken. Turkeys are too big and make too many leftovers. For if you know me at all, you also know that I don’t care much for them either, save a few exceptions: lasagna, sesame chicken,  the best sweets. The hubster likes this just fine. Reason No. 1037 our marriage is a match made in H E A V E N. Yes.

And now for the sentimental bits – the napkins are a shade my of my favorite turquoise. The boozy drink is a moscato made absolutely stellar with the addition of Atapino and Wheeler’s Gin, two of Santa Fe Spirits magical infusions of the landscape of my soul. Delicious. Jellied cranberry because childhood and perfect slices. The stuffing serving dish (with snazzy lid that is not pictured) is from my Grandpa, who got it as a prize way back in the 1950s. The little brown jug was my Grandma’s. We used it to pour the gravy with a heavy hand.

And now, for the thanks:

Thankful for my Grandparents, whose treasures litter, in the best possible way, my home. Thankful for how long I had the privilege of knowing my Grandma. Thankful that I know my Grandpa still, that we play, laugh long and hard, and give the best and most tender of hugs. Grateful for my parents. Grateful for their health and caring. Grateful to live in this house in this beautiful city. Grateful for friends near and far. Grateful for the best parts of my family, showing me how to be generous, loving, resilient. Grateful for our favorite four-legger, her joy and tenderness. Grateful for the hubster, his every kindness and sweet love. Grateful for this breath and the one after that. Always.

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Happy Cyber Monday, peeps! Say hello to my annual Thanksgiving pecan pie, perhaps the most handsome I’ve ever made, and just as tasty, too. That’s me getting ready to push it (in what look like ginormous Doc Martens – I swear I’m a 6.5!) and our other food and beverage contributions down through Brighton Heights in our wacky wagon, so called because one of the wheels requires an occasional swift kick to remain on the straight and narrow. To those observers who may have thought we were treating a swaddled baby unkindly, you’ve been informed. Kristen, our great friend and hostess extraordinaire, mixes her don’t ask don’t tell gravy, which, along with everything else, was delicious and soul-filling. In true Thanksgiving form, I ate too much and lamented the fact that my waistband was not elasticized. Maybe next year…

Friday morning

broccoli and zucchini roasted with smoked paprika and sea salt

spinach salad topped with my favorite egg, caramelized apple, and fennel

The last of the fallen leaves on our front steps.

Under beautiful skies, the wing beats of a murder of crows, and a mere twenty-four hours after Thanksgiving, we feasted, yet again, at The Penn Brewery. The pretzels and cheese were the mere tip of the German-leaning culinary iceberg…mmmm.

Oh, and in true cyber Monday fashion, the kindly folks at Block Island Organics are having a crazy good sale. Get 30% off your entire purchase through tomorrow by entering the code THANKS30.

Heck ya! A real hodge podge today, huh? Have a great week…

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