Posts tagged ‘Family’

May 10, 2010

My Mom and Hostess Cupcakes

Hostess cupcakes aren’t simply a tempting treat. For me, they are a nostalgic reminder of childhood and of my mother. As a child, I was awakened each year on my birthdays at precisely 7:58 am with a Hostess cupcake and a festively burning birthday candle (she may have only done this a handful of times, but it’s etched in my memory now as if it were every year. It’s funny how children’s memories work). Because of this I gleaned three significant facts.  One – From an early age, I knew exactly what time I was born. Two – I knew that my birth was an important event to my mother. Three – A hostess cupcake for breakfast, I knew it was a very special day.

Growing up in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we didn’t eat a lot of store bought sweets. In our family, there were huge gardens from which we produced much of our food. Hostess cupcakes were a major treat in our family. My mother did have a knack for procuring some of the best sweets when she was inclined. One such treat was the rare Orange Hostess Cupcake which was available (and still are) in limited quantities at significant times.

Hostess cupcakes are nostalgia food for me. They remind me of my early morning birthday surprises, and my mom teaching us to savor and celebrate special moments with special treats.

So…  For Mother’s Day this year, my goal was to duplicate those precious gems to reflect how precious and rare it is to have a Mother like I have.

First, I found an orange cupcake recipe….

Then, I made a filling ala Organic & Chic Filled the cupcakes…

Improvised an orange-flavored white chocolate ganache with white chocolate chips and orange juice concentrate…

Spread the ganache….

Used left over white chocolate chips to create the signature seven Hostess swirls…


Handmade cupcake cards from me and my creative boys, a new cake-carrier with a spiffy ribbon and…

It was a Happy Mother’s Day with lots of Hostess Cupcake LOVE!

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

 

 

 

May 8, 2010

Breakfast in Bed: Color Burst

Breakfast in Bed this year should be a BURST of COLOR! Color makes me delirious with happiness. I love the British spelling of colour (a little random, I know). I delight in reading paint-chip colors. I dream in color – brilliant blueberries, vibrant violets to rosy red roses. I stare in child-like wonder at brand new boxes of crayola crayons imagining all the possibilities….

(This fantastically fun photo is from flicker.) Breakfast in Bed Color Burst should include the basic elements: a pretty teacup, cloth napkins, a serving tray, and, of course, breakfast.A full spectrum of pretty teacups from The Teapot Shoppe….a colorful array of red tea options from The Republic of Tea

a rainbow of cloth napkins from Jupiter’s Child….

How about a plateful of technicolor pancakes inspired by Every Food Fits?

Or duplicate this edible masterpiece from Whisk Kid….

Breakfast in Bed wouldn’t be complete without a brightly colored serving tray from Crate and Barrel.

But the piece de resistance would be brilliantly painted artwork made with LOVE for Mommy!

Happy Mother’s Day to my gorgeous and colorful Mom. As I age, I hope to be as generous and confident and creative as you (and pretty, too). You live with your arms open wider than anyone I know. To my spectacular sisters, each a dramatic and independent color, you remind me of our mother with your humongous hearts and bold beauty – you inspire me like no one else. To my mother-in-law, a veritable rainbow, you have loved me as your own – I’m truly blessed. And, to my jazzy friends, who are incredible mums and exceptional women, you encourage me and teach me and challenge me. Wishing you all a full-spectrum of blessings and joy on Mother’s Day and beyond!!

May 6, 2010

Breakfast in Bed: Green Style

Perhaps Breakfast in Bed this year should be a bit more…. green….

I just love Zen tea by Tazo – a tasty green tea with a touch of spearment which soothes the tummy and calms the nerves (hence the name)….

And these pretty, potted tea cups from Holy Mountain… I also have a beautiful hand-potted, green tea set. Asian inspired, it includes a bamboo handled pot and a whimsical twist – all the pieces are little green turtles. It’s stunning and a cherished wedding present from a dear friend/mentor. This image also reminds me of my niece who also makes stunning and award-winning handcrafted pottery (she’s incredible!).

These pretty napkins from Etsy completely tie everything together…

And a bamboo tray from Target….

Breakfast in Bed Green-style would not be complete without a yummy asparagus dish. Reminiscent of bamboo, this irresistible green veggie completes the Asian motif. Buy organic asparagus and heighten the greenness (is that even a word?) of this gift.  The perfect recipe is the Asparagus and Leek with Gruyere Quiche from Martha Stewart – delicious! Make it the day before in little tart pans, plate and reheat – it’s that simple (plus you can freeze some for later…).

Add some flowers with simple lines (a single lily or a bunch of tulips), some Green & Black chocolate (organic and fair-trade certified), some exotic fruit, a little yogurt and you’ve a divine celebration of MOM!

For a special hand-made Mother’s Day card, how about an acronym:

G – Gorgeous, You’re make everything gorgeous because…

R – Regal, Our home is a regal palace because…

E – Every, Every day you make me happy because…

E – Each, Each day I thank God for you because…

N – Near, I love when you’re near because…

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. Isaiah 66:13

May 2, 2010

Nana’s Cake

Poppies make my Nana’s heart sing so I made this sweet delight for her 84th birthday party! Organic & Chic continues to inspire…


April 29, 2010

Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Chicken Noodle Soup

Martha does it again…. Found a fabulous chicken recipe on her site from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook, “Mad Hungry.” I deviated a bit from the recipe, and found the result to be delicious and extremely fast to cook – about an hour for a whole chicken! The trick is to cut the chicken down the backbone, fry in a pan and then throw the pan and all in the oven. I really got into punching the chicken to flatten it so much so that the recipe was dubbed by my family as “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Chicken!” Looks like I may have to add this cookbook to my collection…

Sorry, no pictures of our dynamite dinner, but I do have a few of the home-made chicken noodle soup made from the left-overs.

April 27, 2010

Dandelions

The darling of seasons, SPRING, has arrived. Flowers are popping up to treat winter weary eyes with their unmatched beauty. One of the first lovelies is the humble dandelion. Just as the majestic lion is the crowned king of the beasts, dandelions are the reigning monarch of SPRING!

Recently, I read an article about the woman who brought dandelions, not indigenous to North America, to Minnesota for her famous dandelion bread and other concoctions. Dandelion bread – who knew? I’ve had dandelion greens in my spring salad green mixes, but the thought of bread opened a whole new world. I began to research and found other recipes such as dandelion wine (my grandmother used to make) and jam, but what really caught my fancy was dandelion syrup.

I read several references about Swiss grannies in the Alps with jars and jars of dandelion syrup. Now not only was my curiousity peaked, but now my imagination was in full bloom. I had to have some – I became a bit obsessed. If little Swiss grannies can, I can too!

Gathering my faithful foragers, we picked a bucketful of the fragrant spring blossoms (fortunately, I’m closely related to some certified organic farmers so I knew where to find the good stuff!). Alas, my busy bee-like boys soon got bored, and grabbed their baseball equipment. Apparently, the romance of gathering spring flowers for sweet and sticky syrup was lost on them. I knew once they tasted dandelion syrup, they would be transformed. Undaunted by their lack of enthusiasm, I acquiesced and joined the ball players. Even though I was stuck in the outfield, I managed to continue to pluck a few more dandelions and chase the occasional ball that came my way. In the end, we had a ton of fun and my bucket of flower heads was full.Then came the work of separating the petals – this was fairly easily managed with a knife. I covered the blossoms with filtered water, boiled for the designated amount of time, turned the heat off and let steep overnight.

In the morning, the mixture was strained and I was left with a yellowish, dandelion blossom tea. I added sugar and some lemon juice, and the mixture was simmered for about 3 hours. The end result was a unique and special syrup rather honey-like in taste.

Dandelion syrup is a delightful addition to warm cornbread or wheat germ pancakes. I’m excited about the possibilities; a whole new world has opened up to me. I’m now eyeing the fields of yellow dots of sunshine with a fresh point of view (my taste buds). Dandelions, the reigning monarch of Spring, have found a new and sweet place in my heart!

Follow some of my rabbit trails for dandelion recipes & inspiration:

5orangepotatoes.blogspot.com

fxcuisine.com

yummysupper.blogspot.com

fat-of-the-land.blogspot.com

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Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12

April 23, 2010

Family Movie Nite Treat: Honey Carmel Popcorn

Family meals and family movie nights are an integral part of our family’s culture. Our “Comfy, Cozy, Casual Nights” have seen many slight modifications over the years as our family has grown and aged. We probably won’t be watching Pooh’s Great Adventure anymore (unless we do a themed night or a family retro night), but the basic premise has remained the same: our family together enjoying a “family movie,” some cuddle-time, some laughs and some yummies. The yummies may vary in popularity, but Honey Carmel Pop-corn is certainly a family favorite.

Looking for a sweet pop-corn treat sans corn syrup? Look no further. I copied this recipe from a honey cookbook borrowed from my parents, but have modified it a bit. Most often, I make a half batch which is sufficient for our family of 6.

1/2 Cup raw honey (from unmedicated bees)

2 Cups organic brown sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) organic butter

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

6 quarts popped corn

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees (I have a very hot oven so I heat at 200 degrees). In a heavy bottomed pan, cook first four ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and continue the boil while stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Mix and pour over popcorn. Spread on cookie sheets and bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Please note: Honey burns easily so remember to be conservative when heating.Happy Movie Nite!

She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. Proverbs 31:15

April 19, 2010

The Power of a Simple Apron

When I get blue and don’t want to budge, I instinctively search for a dose of inspiration (some days, a double dose). Often, I’m inspired by beautiful imagery such a lovely table setting or brilliantly designed floral arrangement. Other days, a powerful quotation will spark a fire in me. Housework, especially laundry – my personal nemesis, is an unending cycle of daily tasks that can bring down even the most dedicated, disciplined and visionary of mothers.

I’ve a secret weapon. Some people wear power ties or power shoes, my self-inspiring garb is a little less glamourous – it’s a power apron. Sure, I’ve been guilty of mocking pictures of mums in fancy apron and pumps, but now I’m in awe of those wise women who went before me. There’s power in a simple apron! When I tie those proverbial strings, my whole persona changes. I become “Mother” in the dearest sense, and I’m ready for work. I’m suddenly the heart of my home wiping noses, baking cookies, kneading dough, folding laundry, and….

My apron inspires me. It lightens my load. Like the glorious and faithful rainbow, we all need something external, tangible and pretty to serve as a remembrance. My apron reminds me of all the quotes I collected, verses memorized, the Martha Stewart magazines devoured, the countless books and articles absorbed, and the cookbooks read cover to cover in an effort to become a better mother, wife and homemaker. My little apron does all that and more (on a practical note, it even protects my clothes from inevitable doughy clumps). It truly is a power apron!

For more super cute aprons, check out:

www.squidoo.com/jessiesteeleaprons

www.flirtyaprons.comLove the cupcakes!

Fabulous color combination! Are you inspired, yet?

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love…” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

April 13, 2010

le fort café et boulangerie

Here’s what’s cooking at Le Fort Cafe et Boulangerie a.k.a The Strong Cafe and Bakery (it’s always better en Francais – oui?):

Breakfast was a warm Oatmeal Porridge reverently referred to (by me) as “Heaven in a Bowl.” The organic steel-cut oats are cooked to perfection and served with a dollop of butter (real, of course) and raw, locally harvested honey (Ravencroft Farm). A comfort food and taste sensation, Irish oats are pure bliss in the AM! But, alas, the food critics they demand more. They find this simple fare, well, simple. Consequently, the pressure for a pleasing lunch selection was keenly felt, I had to rally…

Lunch….hmmm… Did I mention I had a deadline yesterday and so my 14 year old graciously offered to help with lunch?  I was Chef (chopping vegetables, barking out orders, emailing attachments, and re-emailing attachments) and he was Sous Chef. Well, when I told him to add 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl (homemade egg noodles for the chicken and vegetable soup boiling away on the stove), he assumed I’d meant for him to add them to the bowl of cherries (hand-picked last year) with a handful of sugar and a pinch of pectin thawing on the counter. Barely making my deadline, I rushed back to the kitchen for some quick kneading of the noodle dough. And then, I saw the bowl – a pink, pasty mixture of cherry delight.

When life gives you lemons – right?  Okay, we’re trained experts here, we can handle this. Added was a few more packages of frozen cherries and more sugar to thaw & marinate on the counter. Today, it was cooked down a bit and it’s now slated for cherry cobbler (writing my own recipe) and cherry turnovers (left over puff-pastry from the Asparagus & Gruyere Tarts made for Easter – AMAZING!!).

It’s hard to think about lunch when you’d rather be a Pâtisserie Chef than just a plan old, boring Chef. As the critics began inundating with questions as to the identity of the Lunch Special, I started to grab. I pulled out my trusty 9×9 ceramic pan in a lovely, spring-green hue and buttered it (again real butter). After slicing the last few pieces of bread, I grabbed and quickly grated all the cheese ends I could find (we’re down to just cheddar – Gruyere doesn’t last here). I threw in some diced ham left-over from Easter; some free-range, organic eggs with their glorious bright orange yokes (indicating a high level of nutritional content); and yummy mushrooms who spoke (“eat me, eat me”) to me when I was rummaging through the fridge. Viola! The Lunch Special was in the oven.

Ham, oh my! A ham hock still remained in the fridge. While lunch was baking, the ham was tossed in the crockpot on a low heat with some water.  Last year, my attempt at Ham & Bean Soup became a copious amount of  salty, mushy bean disaster. But, not one to give up too easily, I’m starting again – perhaps, I learned something and this year it will be tres magnifique… FYI – Mere de Chef doesn’t love Ham & Beans so her attitude may have created a biased that affected the whole process.

Turns out lunch was not so special for all the foodies. One critic, in particular, spent most of lunch comparing the homey Egg Strata to Quiche (which is what he would have preferred to have).  When the general unrest trickled down to the rookie foodies who started to request items from the Ala Carte Menu, Mere de Chef pulled out her standard line perfected with years of use:  “I am not, nor will I ever be, a short-order cook!”

Remember the cherries and puff pastry?  The Cherry Turnovers turned out divinely, and proved to be a triumphant ending to The Lunch Special.  Mere de Chef can kick her feet up still donning her “power apron,” sip her green mint tea from mismatch chinz, contemplate her bowl full of cherries (literally and figuratively), lament another day without homemade yogurt, and plan for The Dinner Special…  Welcome to Le Cafe!!

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” Psalm 104:27

October 3, 2009

Harvesting “Les Raisins”

October 2009090Autumn is synonymous with harvest in the cooler north. The trees begin to show their fall splendor with shocks of brilliant red and golden yellow.  The garden is finally yielding its hard squashes and pumpkins for spice-laden pies and breads.  The cooler nights means that apples of all variety are finally ready to become apple crisps, dumplings and sauces.  And, the grapes…

Picking ripe fruit is an experience of utter joy.  The fragrance fills the air and the colors stimulate the senses.  I’ve had the pleasure of harvesting strawberries, raspberries, currants, cherries and now grapes this year.  But, it’s not only the harvesting.  It’s sense of community with those around you who are also caught up in the moment and in the pleasure.  The excitement in their voice as they exclaim, “You must see this clump.  There’s a bucket-full right here!”

Graeme

Graeme

Grapes, to me, are the grand finale of the fruit picking season. I am lost in the sheer pleasure of the experience feeling a special kinship with my very (very) distant relatives harvesting ancient vineyards in the French countryside. The Bible tells us the God has given us wine/grapes to gladden our hearts. Just the plucking of the fruit is enough to make my heart sing.

Forrest

Forrest

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:

wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart. Psalm 104:14&15

Colin

Colin

Drake

Drake

Grandmere

Grandmere

C'est moi!

C'est moi!

Grapes!

Grapes!