Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CINNAMON STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE

BAKE TOGETHER FOR FRIENDSHIP


My suitcases lie open on the bedroom floor, socks strewn from one end of the bed to the other; piles of clean laundry grace my creamy carpet, begging for attention, silently crying “Me! Take me!” each time I slide through the room. We scurry around the house in preparation, counting out purchases, checking our lists, dashing to this computer or that to finish a bit of work, answer an e-mail or two. The car has been given the once, twice, thrice over, new tires installed and brakes changed. Boxes of cookies and treats both salty and sweet begin to fill the basket that accompanies us on each road trip. And the second From Plate to Page workshop hovers expectantly on the horizon, luring me with promises of excitement, adventure, learning and friendships old and new.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

COCOA MACARONS FOR PINK OCTOBER

AND A THOUGHT…


No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.
~ Charles Dickens

Sometimes occasions come around that inspire the need to take action. We have each done our part, made a gesture no matter how small, to bring about awareness for a good cause or donated money, goods or time to help someone in need. From leaving a pile of old coats and cuddly sweaters for the homeless person who lives in a makeshift shack outside of Paris as winter sets in to dropping a few coins in a hat on a street corner, from purchasing too many boxes of cookies from the adorable daughter of our next door neighbor to making phone calls for our candidate of choice, from taking to the streets to giving our time in a shelter, we have all made an effort. Now, as I sit at my laptop in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by my family (listening to my husband and son chatter together amid the noise of puttering) and enjoying good health, I think of those close to my heart who have suffered at the hands of one evil or another. I have sat with one of my college roommates as she received chemo; I have spent hours upon hours, weeks and months listening to the labored words of my husband as he had to make decisions on his own father’s behalf; I have telephoned my cousin to tell her about my brother’s illness and death only to end up discussing her own brave fight against breast cancer; I have been stunned and amazed by the courageous behavior of two very close friends made through the internet as they face their own struggle with cancer, blown away by their humor and grace in dealing with something so dreadful. I have lost my own father and brother to an illness still, sadly, without a cure.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

CAFÉ LATTE RIZ AU LAIT

BEWITCHED


A secret vice, stolen moments, the giddy covert activities of a schoolgirl usually so well behaved and never naughty. The second her back was turned, up I would steal, silently, invisible to her ever-watchful eye and snatch mouthfuls, long pulls on a straw or sips grabbed by stealth while ice cubes pressed up against my hungry, eager lips, threatening to clatter against the glass, tumble out and give me away. There was something magical, alluring about those tall, dreamy iced coffees my mother would fix herself. How I detested the bitter taste of her morning coffee, yet how I loved the creamy, sugary goodness of these summer afternoon libations she prepared only for herself: a splash of coffee, rich with milk, ever so sweet like coffee ice cream or candies popped in your mouth surreptitiously, frosty with ice cubes galore clinking and jiggling so elegantly against the glass. She protected those summer treats like a mama bear protecting her young against scavengers and outside intruders, so I was reduced to snatching gulps each time she stepped away, leaving that bewitching glass of heaven unattended, ignored. Try as I might, no matter how small I made myself, hanging around nonchalantly, inconspicuous in a corner of the kitchen, waiting, she always knew what I was up to and the warning came out sharp and business-like… “Stay away from my iced coffee!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

INDIVIDUAL APPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKES WITH SALTED BUTTER CARAMEL

HOMEBAKED WITH LOVE...AND CONVENIENCE


When I was a girl way back when (way back in the Dark Ages, as my sons love to remind me), homemade snacks, baked with care and attention, started their very short life in a box, can or plastic container. Cakes and brownies were fine powder smelling sweetly of chocolate or heady with vanilla, blended ever so lovingly with an egg * crack * whacked sharply against the edge of the mixing bowl, a splash of milk until a thick, luscious batter ribboned down into the largest baking pan we had. Pudding rich and creamy was born of the same exquisite dust, creating as if by magic the most velvety of desserts by the mere addition of milk. Cans popped open revealed swirls of sumptuous frosting and the scritch of a plastic lid being peeled back from a dense white tub exposed a flourish of luxurious, elegant whipped topping. Four basic ingredients, if you will, which, when combined, made for an abundance of wonderful, delicious desserts, treats prepared from the heart.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PEA, MINT & FETA RISOTTO WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND PARMESAN SCONES

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY...


Fall rain is somehow different from summer rain. June and July were unusually chilly, the days of bright sun alternating with dreary gray, intermittent with rain. We stayed crouched in front of the television, waiting impatiently to begin living the walks and outings, the promises of summer, as we usually do this time of year. And then, as quickly as it disappeared, the sun would make a return appearance and we would enjoy a few more days of lovely weather, as if the rain simply rushed through to cleanse and refresh. Then off I flew to the States where I was greeted by the scorching heat, heat seeping under my skin, clothing pressing to my body like unwanted hands holding tight, my breath coming in short, shallow gasps each time I stepped over the threshold. The heat in Oman was heavier on the skin, pressing, harassing, choking, all the more so for the long sleeves we wore. Short bursts outside followed necessarily by cooling breaks indoors or in the Gulf breeze, icy lemon mint drink in hand.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

BAKED CHOCOLATE TARTLETS WITH SALTED BUTTER CARAMEL SAUCE

STARTING OVER – STEP 4 (DARE!)


Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,
and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
- Steve Jobs

I’m exhausted,” he sighs as he plops down onto the sofa and rhythmically begins rubbing his temples, weariness spread across his entire body. “I don’t know up from down and the Rat Race just makes me crazy!” Looking for comfort, a bit of reassurance and maybe one of her good, old-fashioned pep talks, he waits for her to decide what to say. Ironing, when not baking, has always been her way to center herself, focus her thoughts and clear her head, and once again he finds her in the corner of the livingroom, steam curling around her head, ready to listen. You see, instead of taking a much-needed and deserved six-month’s rest, he dove right in, grabbing at projects right and left, trying his hand and heart at this and that, looking for the perfect fit, the next step in his starting over.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

PECAN CARAMEL CHOCOLATE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

SOMETIMES A FLOP IS NO FLOP!


Success!

I hate failure. More particularly, I hate failure in the kitchen. My dread of a baking fiasco began so many years ago when, young girl barely in her teens, I attempted to recreate in our own kitchen the cranberry muffins I had fallen in love with during 7th-grade home economics class. Those cranberry muffins, warm and delicate vanilla-scented cake laden with plump, tangy ruby red fruit and memories, my first love, were my initiation into the joys of baking. But after a disastrous re-edition of these muffins for my family a year or so later when I mistakenly blended in 3 CUPS of solid shortening instead of the required 3 tablespoons, producing a muffin top afloat a pool of liquid fat, I pushed this newfound love to the back shelf like a rejected suitor, and didn’t dare make an attempt to produce a baked good until my college days. I was horrified at my error, felt it deeply and have been scarred ever since.

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