Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cranberry Trifle


I couldn't let this Christmas season pass without posting my most favorite dessert EVER!!  For the first time in a long time, I didn't host Christmas at my house but I still made this trifle. I know you are probably thinking, "Okay, big deal. She made it and brought it as a dessert to wherever she went." Well, you have thought wrong!! I made this trifle yesterday, and truth be known, I made it for me and for my sweet friend Chris (who by the way is a baker extraordinaire studying Pastry Arts at Johnson & Wales University). We  love this trifle! I do believe that both of us will be having trifle as our three meals a day... 'Tis the holiday season!


Cranberry Trifle

2 bags ( 12 ounces each) cranberries, fresh or frozen
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 homemade or store bought butter pound cakes (12 ounces each), cut into 3/4 inch thick slices

Combine cranberries, 2 cups granulated sugar, ginger, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until cranberries begin to burst. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Beat cream cheese, brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and vanilla on high until nicely combined. Lower mixer to medium speed and slowly add heavy cream, beating until soft peaks form.

In a 3 quart trifle dish, layer 1/3 of pound cake on bottom. Then layer 1/3 of cranberry mixture, and top with 1/3 of whipped cream.Repeat two more layers, end with a layer of cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to one day.

Serves 12

Adapted from Martha Stewart


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Cookies


Sorry I haven't posted in a while.
I've been a busy elf preparing for the holidays.
Here's a look at what I've been up to.




Spritz

Peanut Blossoms

Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate Krinkles

Apricot Almond Chews

Walnut Chocolate Kiss

Candy Canes

Chocolate Chip

Almond Apricot Tartlets

7 Layer Bars

Fruitcake Squares

Surprise Kiss



So that is what I've been up to. If you would like any of the recipes for these cookies, leave me a comment. I will gladly post the recipe for you!

I would like to thank my daughter Heidi  for the gorgeous photographs.
♥♥Wonderful job!!!♥♥



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Glühwein and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

As promised, here are the recipes for Glühwein and Cinnamon Roasted Almonds!




Glühwein

1 (750 ml) bottle red table wine
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
6 whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks
slices of oranges and lemons

Boil the water and sugar until it is reduced by half. Add the red wine. Bundle up the cloves, cinnamon and slices of oranges and lemons in cheesecloth. Add to wine. Bring the mixture almost to boiling point; let simmer. Serve hot.

* I like to double this recipe so that I can have the wine whenever I want it. I keep a bottle in the fridge and heat up by the cupful in the microwave.




Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
4 cups almonds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Lightly grease a 15x10x1 pan. Lightly beat the egg white; add water and beat until frothy but not stiff. Add the nuts and stir until well coated.

Sift together the sugar, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the nuts and toss to mix. Spread on prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Bliss



Christmas season is here! Last night we decorated  our tree. I wanted to share with you our annual tree decorating tradition. The following is a story I wrote back in 2007 for my English Comp class. This story pretty much sums up what happens every year in my house; except this year there wasn't any snow and my kids don't moan anymore!

It’s the first Saturday in December and the evergreen fragrance from the Christmas tree we picked out last night fills the air. Picking out the tree was a nightmare; my fifteen year old son, Erik, didn’t want to be there and voiced that sentiment over and over. My nine year old daughter, Heidi, complained the tree was too small. My husband, Jim, was preoccupied with a work issue and I had a headache. On top of all that, it was absolutely freezing and a wet snow was falling!

Now that the branches of the tree have fallen, our annual Christmas tree trimming tradition can begin. Included in this tradition is the making of spiced wine and roasted almonds. I am standing at the stove in my kitchen pouring two bottles of red wine into a pot. I add slices of lemon and oranges spiked with spicy cloves and a bundle of cinnamon sticks as the wine starts to simmer. I open the windows to let the cold, brisk air rush in. The evergreen scent is starting to mingle with the deep rich sweetness of sugar and cinnamon coated almonds that are roasting in the oven. Heidi comes into the kitchen and wants to know when we can start decorating the tree. I tell her just give me a few more minutes and I will be right there. She stomps out of the room angrily. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breathe and let the smells of the kitchen overtake my senses.

My mind is taking me somewhere else. I am no longer in my kitchen in Connecticut; I am in the market square of Schweinfurt, Germany. Schweinfurt was my home for six years while my husband served in the military. It’s December 1987. Jim and I are huddled closely together as we walk along the cobblestone courtyard towards the Christmas Market. The moon is shining overhead like a huge spotlight and the stars are twinkling like the lights on the wooden stands before us that are holding all sorts of goodies for the holidays. We browse the selection of goods and listen while other American soldiers and their families attempt to speak in their broken German and purchase gifts for loved ones back home in the States.




 At the end of one of the rows of stands, a burly white haired man with a beer gut down to his knees is stirring a cauldron of hot spiced wine like a warlock. His clear blue eyes and bright red cheeks shine as he entices us with a cup of wine. We purchase two Styrofoam cupfuls and I relish the warmth as I wrap my hands around it. The clouds of steam swirl from the cup and the citrus and earthy spices fill my nose as the first sip of liquid fills my mouth. As the wine reaches my belly, warmth begins to glide over my body. My husband smiles because he feels it also. We share a kiss and a laugh and continue to walk carelessly and cheerfully through the crowds.

Holding hands, we approach the Christmas tree vendor and start our search for the perfect tree. We laugh and joke as we pick through the different shapes and sizes. To our delight, we find one that we both like and purchase it.

The air is heavy now with the scent of cinnamon; the smell is tempting me in its direction. We follow our noses and find our treasure. A kettle hanging above a wood lit fire contains almonds coated with sugar and cinnamon. An aged blonde haired woman wearing a smudged white apron over her grey wool coat gets a scoopful of the lightly browned nuts and places them into a paper cone for us. She thanks us for the purchase and we wish her a “Froliche Weinachten” (Merry Christmas).

We find a bench to sit on and as we eat our delicious sugary encrusted morsels we admire our Christmas tree. A light snow starts to fall around us as we relax in our surroundings. I am immersed in the pleasure of the moment and in the simplicity of the evening. I share this thought with Jim. We spend the rest of our night just sitting on the bench with flakes of white and scents of cinnamon encircling us.

I hear Heidi ask me if something is wrong and I realize my pleasant journey down memory lane has ended. I am back in my kitchen. I tell Heidi I will be there to decorate the tree in one minute. Once again, she stomps away impatiently. I yell for my son to come downstairs and help with the decorations; he comes unwillingly and moaning. The phone is ringing; I don’t answer it. I hear Heidi and Erik start fighting. I go to close the window and I see that snow has begun to fall. I take the almonds out of the oven, scoop some into a bowl and pour the spiced wine into Styrofoam cups. I call for Jim to come outside to the deck. Contently smiling, I hand him the wine and almonds. We drink our wine and eat some nuts while flakes of white and scents of cinnamon encircle us.




Come back tomorrow for the recipes for the cinnamon roasted almonds and Glühwein (hot, spiced wine).


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grateful: Day Four

I wasn’t able to go on vacation this year. In fact, I really didn’t have much time to take even a day off because of all the issues life threw at me. There were many days I just wanted to go away and forget about everything. While I physically didn’t get away, I will say there were chunks of time I was able to escape mentally. I was able to do this through reading. I didn’t read just any books. I would grab my favorite books by my favorite author. Today I would like to express my gratefulness to Diana Gabaldon.


Diana is the author of the “Outlander” series.  The story is set mostly in the late 1700s. The main characters are Claire and Jamie.  I won’t really get into what the story is all about because there are so many stories within stories that I would be typing all night. I will say that basically it’s a story that is about life and love and everything in between. I will add that Jamie is Scottish and sometime wears a kilt (grin).  I love these books. I have a love of early American history, especially the mid and late 1700s, so when I read, I am transported to that time. I feel as if I am reunited with old friends. I become so immersed that I forget all about the present and whatever crisis is happening.  Diana Gabaldon is a true wordsmith and her storytelling has given me much peace and happiness throughout this trying year.  For this I am extremely grateful!

Photo by: Heidi Blanchard


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grateful: Day Three

Jonas and Momma are my two cats.





















Three years ago, I adopted both of them from a local shelter. Momma was an abandoned beauty, and  Jonas was just a kitten. The first year was a little rough with Momma. She had trust issues and also had to have life saving surgery. Momma is now a happy, content kitty who is loved dearly by everyone in my family.  Momma is more my husband's cat and Jonas is mine. So while I am thankful for both my kitties, today I pay special tribute to Jonas.

Here are a few reasons why Jonas is special to me:
Jonas is a goofball.

Jonas makes me laugh.

Jonas is very handsome.

Jonas makes me smile.

Jonas is very silly.

Jonas is my superstar.

Jonas brings me joy.


For all these reasons and more, I am grateful that Jonas is my cat.


Photos by: Heidi Blanchard

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grateful: Day Two

I, like most people, usually hit snooze when the alarm goes off in the morning. Also, like most people, I need two cups of coffee before I am able to function and speak coherently. After that, the day begins with all of its normal hustle and bustle and static noise.
However, there were times this past year when I awoke way before anyone in the house or in my neighborhood. These were my quiet times; times of solitude.  I would take my coffee and slip out to my deck… and I would breathe deep.
There were days during this past Winter that snow would be falling, the world was silently white, and the cold blast of air would awaken my soul. Winter may be a time of dormancy but in those early quiet moments, the day was vibrant, alive and crisp.


In the Spring, I would catch glimpses of newly sprouted greenery and hear the chirps of the early birds catching the worm. The light breeze with hints of renewal caressed me as I sat and absorbed the rebirth of nature.  My father-in-law was really struggling with his illness at this time so I spent many of these mornings pondering life’s complexities.


The Summer brought sun with all of its radiant warmth.  Spiders busily spun webs among my geraniums while a hummingbird, a rare sight in my neighborhood, fluttered its wings speedily to sip the nectar of the flowers.



I was a spectator to a pair of cardinals who had nested in my lilac tree and produced two baby birds. When the birds were taught to fly, they promptly left their parents behind. I reminisced about how quickly my own children had grown and wondered if the cardinal couple experienced the same bittersweet feelings of being proud and heartbroken simultaneously.


I especially relished the chilly Fall mornings.  The lingering smell of burning wood from chimneys would mingle with my steaming cup of coffee as I would close my eyes to listen to the wind rustle through the leaves of the willow tree that engulfs my tiny backyard. I also befriended a squirrel who would cautiously eat the nuts I put out for him while I eyed him with delight. We even had a conversation one day. Actually, the fuzzy little rodent did all the talking. I am still not sure what he said but he made me laugh with his clicking noises and dramatic body language. 


During all of these soothing moments, I realized how majestic yet simple life is. Today I am grateful for early mornings.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grateful: Day One

 “I can’t wait for this year to end” is a common phrase I have heard often during 2011. Much of my family, friends, and coworkers were affected by the loss of someone close to them, the loss of love and trust, and the loss of jobs.  So many lives were affected by illnesses; CANCER seeming to be the theme of the year. My family lost my dear father-in-law this past June after a courageous battle with cancer. So I do agree with most; this year has been a tough one filled with a ton of sadness.
However, through all the sadness, I personally was able to find truly beautiful moments. For that I am grateful.  This week I am dedicating a daily post to these wondrous observations.
Today I am thankful for hands.


My Mom had open heart surgery in September which went very well. When the surgeon came out to tell the family she was recovering, I thanked him and shook his hand. I realized that my Mom’s heart had literally been in his hands.  At the moment, the feel of the doctor’s hand in mine created a rush of light and clarity. One of those moments where it appears as if the sky has opened and light engulfs you.  I was overcome with such a sense of amazement as to how precious hands are.
 Later that night, I looked at my own hands. I never gave them much credit. They have always looked old (thanks to my Dad’s side) and tend to crack and bleed in cold weather. I would berate them! One would think that I, as an artist, would realize their importance.  I had been taking my hands for granted! That night, I promised I would never do that again. I would allow myself to appreciate what my hands give to me. Now I recognize that my hands allow me to experience things as I never have before. I constantly touch things to see how they curve and move around my fingers and palms. My creative side has been empowered by this realization, and art has become more sacred to me. My hands are amazing and for that I am grateful.  


Photos by: Heidi Blanchard


Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Friend!


I baked these cupcakes for a friend of mine who is celebrating her birthday today.
The cupcakes are as sweet as she is! 



Even though we both have busy lives and are unable to hang out like we want to, I want to let her know that she is cherished!



Photos by: Heidi Blanchard

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weather Forecast- Snow Mixed with Cake




Snow in October?



My geraniums are very unhappy with this wild occurence. However, the little gnome is quite thrilled!

So what does one do when snow falls in Autumn?



Bake a cake!



Add some snow to celebrate the crazy weather!






Snow in October? Wildly delicious!


Cake photos by: Heidi Blanchard