Hot Cross Buns

DSC_0383 (2)

Good morning from the other side of winter storm Stella!

With upwards of a foot of snow predicted, school was cancelled before the storm even started. Snow day! A snow day sometimes feels like a gift, an unexpected (and much-needed) opportunity to slow down a bit and rest.

So I did plenty of that.

But I also puttered around the kitchen. As you’ve read before, nothing centers me quite like baking, and I’ve been looking forward to experimenting with hot cross buns for Lent. I honestly don’t much care for currents or other dried fruit typically found in these breakfast buns, so I tossed some cranberries in the dough to see how they’d turn out.

It was an adventure.

First, I almost broke our hand-held mixer. I really, truly thought I could get the dough to a semi-mixed consistency and hand mix the rest,  but it got too thick , too quickly. It was almost a disaster for that ancient mixer of ours.

Next, I think I added too many cranberries. By following the recipe, I added as many cups of dried cranberries as the recipe called for raisins and other dried fruit. Personally, I think it was a bit too much. Maybe cut the amount by a fourth.

After that, it was all Stella who stole the show because her drama-filled high winds knocked our power out just as I set the buns for their final rise.

Power resumed about two hours later, and by that time, I was ready for bed.

I did what I could to save the dough by refrigerating over night and baked this morning.

Stella’s gone now … and I think these buns are soon to follow suit.

Here’s the link to King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Easy Hot Cross Buns. Follow as is, or try the cranberries for something a little different. Enjoy for Lent … or any random Tuesday morning.

Snowstorm optional.

A Breakfast, A Dinner … and Dessert

dsc_0353-3

We’ve been enjoying more family dinners lately.

Getting three guys over the age of 21 in one place – much less around one table – is nothing short of ah – ma – zing!

And I’m not sure if it’s because we’ve been stranded at home with so many snowy days, or if it’s because I’ve been more creatively cooking, but either way, it’s pretty special to spend so much time with our children.

I wrote here about my Rally Cry for the New Year. 

And so far, I’ve tried nine new recipes in 2017!

Last night’s was this Garlic Rosemary Monkey Bread from Real Simple Magazine. Partnered with lasagna and Caesar salad, this bread earned an “OMG” and an “unreal” from the over 21 crowd.

Also?

These Five Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars from Cup of Jo literally rocked our world. I mean … their world – I’m on a diet, so I’d eat the tiniest little corner and sigh happily.

One more recipe for the early morning breakfast crew:  

(Which would NOT include the over 21 crowd.)

Follow this Best Granola EVER recipe for a toasty, tasty topping for your fruit and yogurt. A granola that lives up to its hype, for sure.

Yummers. 

Blue Plate Special

image

A few weeks ago, one of our neighbors knocked on the front door. He carried a whole plate of delicious in one hand and a dog leash in the other. It was hard for him to juggle both, I think, but he outstretched his hand with that blue plated cake, offering our family a sweet dessert.

And a little love.

We’d had a rough stretch over here on this side of the street.  Awkward stuff to talk about, really, and we stood there he and I, neither sure what to say. So we chatted a bit instead about his dog and probably the weather, but care and kindness were there – passed from his hand to mine, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, family to family.

The blue plate traveled back across the street today warmed by  a 3 x 3 array of cinnamon sugar pumpkin muffins, just out of the oven.

Once upon a time ago, I learned or read or heard never to return a dish empty. For a long time, I supposed such a custom to be about good manners.

I know now it’s about gratitude.

Each tiny muffin a warm thank you from our home to theirs.

Reaching out from one side of the street to the other.

And heart to heart.

P.S.  If you’d like to bake these oh-so-moist and autumn-inspired muffins, I used a recipe from Inspired by Charm. Mine came out more muffin-like than donut-like. They sure looked cute nested in their crisp, white muffin liners!

 

 

 

Strawberry Yogurt Pie!

The farm just down the road from home is our very first stop of summer.

Strawberries!

Sometimes – like life, I suppose – the picking’s easy and the berries are plump, juicy, and just about bursting. Other years, the berries are almost picked out and we have to work hard for every single one.

Yesterday’s picking was far beyond anyone’s reasonable expectations.  These berries, dressed in all their red, ripe finery, all but jumped into our baskets one after another after another.

Maybe it was my first-day-of-vacation euphoria, but it sure did feel like a celebration!

Here’s a quick little strawberry yogurt pie I made for breakfast today.

Ingredients:

  • 5 packages cinnamon brown sugar breakfast biscuits (20 biscuits)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 32 oz container plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • bunches (and bunches) of fresh strawberries

Steps:

For the crust:

  1. Crush 4 packages of biscuits in a gallon bag with a rolling pin.
  2. Melt the butter.
  3. Mix both biscuits and melted butter until evenly moistened.
  4. Press mixture into 9 inch pie plate to form crust.
  5. Bake crust at 375° for 10 minutes.
  6. Cool.

For the filling:

  1. Dice as many strawberries as you’d like to (liberally) mix in the plain yogurt.This is not the time to be conservative.
  2. Spoon mixture into the crust.

For the topping:

  1. Top with even… more … berries. Artfully arranged.
  2. Crush one last package of biscuits along with a tablespoon of brown sugar.
  3. Sprinkle atop your creation.

Tangy takes turns with sweet and crunchy and … hello summer!

 

 

Comfort

DSC_0013 (3)

I’ve had a hankering for soup. Some kind of warm my bones, my spirits, and my heart soup. It needed tomatoes. And rice. Definitely chicken. And a sprinkling of Parmesan. Because nothing ups my downs like melted cheese.

I often find comfort in the kitchen. Cooking smells and steam and a soapy sink soothe just about whatever ails me. And sometimes, I just need to reassure myself that normalcy exists. Yesterday, I found some solid ground in the chopping of vegetables and the boiling of rice.

You should know: This is not a real recipe. It’s a use-what-you-have and add some leftovers kind of thing. Comfort Soup’s best when it’s free-flying and relaxed – all the parts simmering together into one warming and delicious whole.

So here’s what I did:

  • Soft boil some chicken in a quart of chicken stock for 30 minutes. I used boneless, skinless thighs.
  • Cover and set aside for another 30 minutes while you hunt for and gather whatever else looks good.
  • I sauteed some leftover stir-fry veggies (summer squash, broccoli, and onions) in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until just soft. I also shook a bit of oregano and garlic powder in the mix. Oh. The. Smells.
  • I found a large can of diced tomatoes and a can of corn in the pantry.
  • That’s when I noticed the box of rice pilaf. I didn’t hesitate or question this choice. I felt inspired. And may have told myself I was brilliant.  Prepare the rice according to the directions on the box.
  • Bring your chicken and stock back to the burner on low. Shred the chicken (which is oh-so-tender by now) with two dinner forks. Add about a cup and a half of water (I used the empty corn can.)
  • Here’s the fun part: in no particular order – slip all that stuff you’ve found in with the chicken and stir gently. Add some salt. Ground pepper. Heat until warm enough …

To melt the cheese you sprinkle on top.

Warmth

DSC_0107 (2)I just knew I’d come home from work today and preheat the oven.

There’s been a wind chill this week, each day’s been a little gray, and tonight it will snow. My family’s scattered again after the holidays and I’m in need of a little warmth.

I’ve learned the best way to find or feel anything  is to give it away.

And I want to pass along a little cookie hope, a tangible hold-in-your-hand kind of love. Simple. Sweet.  Warm.

One of my sons asked me to bake these cookies weeks ago, but life’s always busy I guess, until I make time to unbusy it.  I know some others too who could probably use a mid-January warm-me-up treat. And nothing – to me – inspires the warmth of home and family and love like a jar full of cookies.

And … I have a new cobalt blue mixing bowl I need to use. That’s right. Need.

You’ll pull these cookies from the oven and discover each cookie’s delightfully crinkled, almost uniformly round, and warm.

Here’s to spreading a little cookie hope wherever you find it’s needed.

Mimi Jane’s Molasses Crinkles

Mix thoroughly:

  • 3/4 cup soft shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses

Mix together in a separate bowl:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger

Gradually add and stir in dry mixture to wet.

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Roll into balls about the size of walnuts. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake just until set, but not hard in 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

DSC_0219 (2)

I often finish a tough day or work week in the kitchen baking something or other.

Baking soothes me, grounds me, and stills the swirl of mental activity filling each Monday through Friday. I feel so much comfort and warmth in baking,  and there’s memories to remember or begin. This week, I pulled out the speckled, cobalt blue batter bowl we bought this summer at the Vermont Country Store. When I did, I walked the streets of Weston, Vermont again – a  mid-week vacation just after quitting time.

I bake to find the predictable.  It somehow reassures me that a cup of flour measures the same every single time, and a teaspoon will forever be smaller than a tablespoon.  I know what to do.  And I love that someone’s telling me what to do. That I have no decisions to make. There’s a list. There’s order. Directions are clear, straightforward, and concise.

Baking leads me out of my mind, and I love to find my senses again.  To feel the sweet, sticky weight of brown sugar. To smell vanilla’s sultry scent.  To see the eye-pleasing pile of sifted flour. There’s something honest about flour, and I find simplicity in salt. I enjoy the pleasant clink of my battered, old aluminum measuring spoons.

I even enjoy clean-up. There’s productivity and a special sort of moving meditation with my hands in a sinkful of hot, sudsy water. Wash. Rinse. Dry. Stack. Easy. Simple. Mindless. And freeing.

Basics like flour, salt, chocolate chips, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter are always in my kitchen, and I’m always a little surprised at how their combination transforms the singularity of each ingredient into a collectively magical something delicious.

Something I can share. With my family. My friends. And you.

Here’s the link to the recipe I used this week:  PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES 

Best ever. And by request … I’m making more tomorrow!