Snow, Smell, Smile

This season has been as unpredictable in Pennsylvania as usual.  We did however, get the snow that was in the forecast.  There was 7.5″ in our “neck of the woods.”    It was a good snow for packing and creating snow sculptures — an activity I promoted in my former arts organization.

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We were only inconvenienced for one day.  And that one snow day was a good time to catch up on blogs and online sales listings.

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The smell of chocolate/peanut butter and sugar cookies in the next room were somewhat distracting.  The end result — was delicious.
The “accidently” broken cookies needed a taste-testing. Lucky for me.

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The cookies on the left were enhanced with a dusting of  white crystals (ala Frozen).   I had a tradition of baking chocolate cookies on the first snowfall of the year.  I’m sure I will bring that activity back when I have my own home and kitchen for baking.

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If you have any photos of your snow creations or cookies — be sure to send them my way.

I anticipate a box of baked goods for this upcoming holiday 🙂

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One of my favorites — crescent cookies!

 

 

Spice Up Your Season: 7 Surprising Benefits of Cinnamon!

Cinnamon was a regular ingredient in weekly pastries in my original coffeehouse. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore it’s delights in the future.

Jules' Fuel

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Despite the fact that he likes 90%+ of what I cook, the hubby always rolls his eyes at the quantity and array of seasonings that I use when I cook.

Especially when it comes to cinnamon. I adore using it in almost everything – steel cut oats, sweet potatoes, sautéed greens, thai dishes, smoothies, fruit & yogurt parfaits, eggs…(okay, kidding on that one).

And as the defining spice of the Christmas season, there are more reasons than justtaste and holiday tradition to use enormous quantities of it.

Check out 7 surprising reasons to use more cinnamon for better health!

1. Blood Sugar Control

Get this – studies show that cinnamon can improve blood sugar, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, all markers of metabolic disease. This study specifically shows that three separate groups taking 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon each day ALL had lower levels of these markers after…

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Fresh Frozen Family Fig Food

This article is a repost by Mariam D. Pineno from Find The Write Words:

“Thankful from fig tree to taste buds, I’m sharing my revision of the old tried-’n’-true Pillsbury Prize-winning recipe for banana luncheon bread. My fresh-fig version spans the years from 1950 (the year before my marriage!), the publishing year of the 2nd Grand National 100 prize-winning recipes–to today.”

“In deference to a granddaughter who prefers nut-free goodies (brownies, breads, and even toll house cookies) a couple of today’s mini loaves will go into the freezer labeled Fig Bread (no nuts). Thankful for all family members, it is our pleasure to cater to all tastes. You can, too.”

 

“This recipe is adjusted for using frozen fresh figs which will add a bit of moisture as they thaw in the batter in baking. I cut figs in half before adding to electric food chopper. I cut up an extra 3/4 to 1 cup–finely diced for texture. HINT: Frozen fruits are easier to work with unless you want to mash them like a ripe banana.”

  • RECIPE
    Pre-heat to bake @ 350 f  (50-55 min. for mini loaves)
    Mix together. . . . . . . . . .2   Cups sifted flour
                                                1 tsp. baking powder
                                                1/2 tsp. soda
                                                1 tsp. salt
    Cream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2 cup shortening; add gradually
                                                 1 & 1/4 cups sugar, creaming well
    Beat in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 eggs, one at a time & 1 tsp. vanilla; Beat well
    Add . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 cup chopped and 1/2 cup diced figs
    Fold in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
    Spoon batter into greased (or sprayed) aluminum mini loaf pans. If doubling recipe for 3 plain and 3 with nuts, place one perfect half-walnut for ease in identifying “with nuts” tins when baked.
    Bake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, checking with wooden toothpick to be sure it comes out dry, not sticky.
    “Cool thoroughly before slicing to serve. Or sneak a “heel” warm–even if it crumbles. Hey, the cook can do that!”
    “Later, for Christmas, as fresh-figs do not a figgy pudding make, I’ll tie on a combination of hot pink and moss-green ribbon around frozen gift loaves in see-through zipper-locked 1-quart bags. That’s my plan for sharing a gift in good taste (pun intended). What’s your food gift going to be?”

    Heres the last part of my post Fun Fig Facts from my blogsite iCygnet
    Just what do we do with all these peculiar delicacies?
    Here is a link of recipe ideas.

Renew the Recipe

I learned to bake in my late 40’s.   I discovered a creative area that was probably lingering inside since childhood.  I would spend a week at my paternal grandmother’s house for a week and would watch intently how she would measure and handle ingredients and tools.   Gram would always plan to bake plenty of cookies and pastries and was kind enough (and patient) to let me get my hands into the process.

When I first started baking for real, I was intimidated by the process not sure I could learn or handle yet another activity at work (already was operating 5 others).  Yet after a couple times reading recipes, I found the process fit my personality well.   Being a mindful student growing up, I follow directions well and worked till I had the best possible answer.   Baking required measurements, following sequential steps and there is an end result to test out at the completion of the process.

My prediciment was that I had to bake for OTHER people and they would have to be inspired to buy my baking.  Nearly everyone likes to eat sweets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll pay for them.   Well, within a short time, I had perfected one item after another that customers were buying, enjoying — waiting till the next batch was available — then requesting items.     It was an honor for me to make pans of apple crisp, oatmeal, quiche, brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls.  I even perfected a pretzel that was touted as the best around — quite a praise coming from a people who had an abundance of soft pretzels at their fingertips everywhere in my state of PA.    My baked items became comfort food for many that entered the door of my coffeehouse.   My young employees were assigned items to make — and did so with pride.

I determined early on that recipes were only part of the process to create a great dessert.   Other factors were the tools, pan, ingredients, temperature — even the time alloted to complete the desert during a shift of work.   What I started to do early on, is recreate the recipes that I researched, altered them to be unique for my establishment AND typed detailed instructions for completing the process.

The recipe shown above is a typical copy of vintage recipe.  It goes on a “recipe card” size card.  There’s not much there to work with for instructions.    There is allot of assumed training and skill for how to actually make the pie.   I decided to make more detailed instructions, both to be sure I was consistent when baking and to be certain my employees had enough information to bake the item assigned to them properly.

Here’s an example of one of my more detailed recipes.  You are welcome to test it out and alter anything you’d like.


CONEWAGO CHERRY CRUMBLE

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1 1/2 can cherry pie filling

Directions

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2.      Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt in large bowl

3.      Cut in Crisco with spatula until a dry, crumbly dough forms

4.      Press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of pan, making a firm even layer

5.       Bake bottom crumb layer for 5 minutes

6.      Carefully spread cherry pie filling in the crust without disturbing it

7.      Gently spread remaining crumb mixture on top of cherry filling with spatula

8.      Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until top is lightly browned

9.      Let cool and cut into 12 pieces

10.  Heat lightly and offer with whipped cream if desired