Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Itcotton_600px‘s Indian Summer here in the Midwest although the official First Day of Autumn was last week. Pumpkins and Indian Corn popped up at the farmers market several weeks ago and I broke down and made my first batch of pumpkin-inspired baked goods this weekend (Pumpkin Cookies with Brown Butter Icing).  I have successfully denied myself the bags of Halloween candy in the supermarket so far but my resolve is waning.

Each year around this time, our school garden hosts a “night out” to invite families and kids into the garden, to picnic and watch a movie out-of-doors. And each year I’m asked to do a short presentation on something exciting in the garden. This year, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but fluffy, white, puff balls of cotton in the Land of Lincoln. Yes, cotton can be grown as an annual anywhere with approximately 120-180 days of warmth. Our cotton plants have grown to at least 7′ high and about as much wide! Not your typical variety grown in the southern states, but certainly the same end product. I remember seeing my first cotton field in Alabama, a sea of white, and thinking it was so beautiful. I’ll give you the cliff notes version of my garden lesson:

  • evidence of cotton cloth has been discovered as far back as 7,000 years ago
  • the U.S. produces over $25 billion of cotton annually and is a major world producer
  • 95% of all cotton becomes clothing or textiles
  • cotton seeds were first planted in the colonies in the late 1500’s and cotton was considered a specialty crop because it was so labor-intensive
  • in 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which revolutionized the separation of seeds from lint (fluff) and created a huge demand for labor to pick ever more cotton
  • the demand for slave labor increased as the production of cotton exploded throughout the southern states
  • production of cotton rose from 156,000 bales to 4 million bales in just six short years following his invention
  • our garden variety has both yellow and pink blossoms which flower, die back, and leave a green boll that looks like a venus fly trap to me
  • the fibers inside the boll expand pushing out the seeds as the boll ripens until hard and brown and the lint literally pops out

It’s still a little early for the cotton harvest in the South but here in Central Illinois ours will need to be picked soon and will be carded, spun and used in fiber art by the kids at school. Nature creates such amazing things on its own that I don’t need to work too hard to find something “exciting” in the garden.


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lemon3It’s still hot, the mosquitoes are fierce, and the cicadas are loud, but Summer is winding down.  It’s always a bittersweet time, and even more so this go around, with the start of an eighth grade graduation year.  A recent back-to-school barbecue saw misty eyes and a few “remember when’s” from parents who suddenly realized they’d hit a milestone; a point of no return both exhilarating and crushing.  With the perfect combination of tart lemon, sweet strawberries and a delicate pink frosting, I thought Strawberry Lemonade Sugar Cookies would be the perfect antidote to soothe the parents and delight the kids.  A bit old-fashioned, these cookies seem to hearken back to a simpler, younger time when picture books and a wagon were king and queen and a stone pedestal near the garden was the perfect perch for a tea party.  Enjoy!

Strawberry Lemonade Sugar Cookies
*I made a few tweaks to the recipe adding additional lemon zest to the sugar reserved for pressing the dough and adding a bit of the lemon sugar to the strawberries before crushing for the frosting.

butterflyThanks JMM for the recipe and my grown up girl for the photos and the helping hand!

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228_cropIt was another hot, humid and sticky weekend kicking off Erin Feis in Peoria.  With my fourth year of serving afternoon tea in the Cultural Village came some “taking of liberties”.  Herbs, herbal history, herbal remedies was the theme and I chose recipes that highlighted different ones, but not necessarily traditional Irish sweets.  I even had one from Provence, but I figured since Brittany is one of the six Celtic nations that was a valid stretch.  I very much enjoy talking food, doing a bit of research, and baking different recipes each year.  I hope the folks who attended found some delight in it too.  Thanks for coming out in the heat.

Irish Afternoon Tea Menu
Irish Breakfast Tea
Lavender Scones with Clotted Cream and Lemon Curd
Cucumber Sandwiches with Dill
Herb de Provence Orange Butter Cookies
Lemon Fennel Pound Cake (see below)
Vanilla-Rose Water Cupcakes

*thank you Peoria Academy for donating many of the fresh herbs and flowers from the School Garden

Lemon Fennel Pound Cake
*recipe courtesy of Season to Taste, by Jeannette Ferrary and Louise Fiszer

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups of sugar
pinch of salt
5 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp fennel seed, toasted and crushed
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat over 325 degrees.  Grease and flour 9 inch tube pan with removable bottom.  In large bowl cream butter, sugar, salt.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, stirring in bit of flour after third egg.  Add remaining flour, fennel, zest and mix until combined.  Add vanilla and lemon juice and blend.  Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hour.  Remove cake from oven and cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove cake from pan.  Store covered in plastic wrap or foil.  Note:  my cake baked in almost half the time so watch carefully.  I added a lemon glaze over the top mixing sifted powdered sugar with lemon juice and lemon zest.

Lavender Scone recipe note:  I mixed all my dry ingredients together, cut in cold butter, and then added the buttermilk to form the dough.

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I love that name – Momofuko.  It actually means lucky peach, but it feels more like a swear word to me!  It’s the Momofuko Milk Bar, the bakery end of the Momofuko empire in NYC created by chef David Chang.  He also did that PBS series “The Mind of a Chef” which is where I first saw the corn cookies made.  Then I ran into a recipe online for corn cookies which reminded me of the show and so I decided to try them.  Well – after a quick Google search you find out the secret ingredient for the MF corn cookies is some dehydrated corn powder that you can conveniently purchase from the MF online store.  Okay.  I live in the heart of corn country and I should be able to find my own corn powder without ordering it from NYC.  Away I go to the Farm & Fleet website to search for corn powder.  I find candy corn, okeedokee popcorn, corn towels, corn cobbers, corn cob holders in the shape of farm animals, and dried corn for deer.  My theory seems to be wrong – no corn powder – not even for animals which is what I suspected my dilemma would be.  Is it safe for humans to eat?  Nothing.  Momofuko.  I’ll try Tractor Supply.

Corn Cookies minus the corn powder … they’re tasty too!

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IMG_1318All that’s left of Martha Stewart’s Maple Nut Sticky Bars after packaging up for the school auction.  Paired with a gift certificate for baked goods how can you go wrong.  You can actually taste the product before ordering!  And these sticky bars were resplendent with candied ginger, sticky toffee, and roasted macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and a few cashews thrown in for good measure.  I know, who has candied ginger and, for gosh sakes, maple sugar!  Martha … come on.  Okay – I admit – I did have both and was happy to be using them.  These were really lovely bars because they weren’t what you expected when you took that first bite.  The ginger packs a punch, but I loved it.  I added extra nuts to the recipe so I changed the name!

Macadamia Maple Sticky Bars

Not stopping there, I made a batch of Cardamom Maple Olive Oil Granola for the Class Basket as well.  What a wonderful, non-traditional granola recipe.  I like Cardamom although many people think it’s too strong of a spice.  Found in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Nordic baking, it has a strong and very distinct smell and flavor.  I have cardamom coffee from the Middle Eastern Market that I wouldn’t drink every day but it makes a nice cup of strong coffee.  I added pine nuts and coconut to the recipe for some extra, crunchy texture.  Super easy!  I went back and made another batch for myself …

Cardamom Maple Olive Oil Granola

Enjoy the Goodies – Raise Alot of Money for the School !

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016I’ve never made donuts before, so why not make 8 dozen for all the kids at school!  As part of Multi-Cultural month, the kids studied Hawaii.  Low and behold there is a Hawaiian donut – and we are some donut connoiseurs!  Malasadas are actually Portuguese and were brought to Hawaii by a Portuguese settler.  They are similar to Beignets, but are coated in sugar or cinnamon sugar.  I added fresh ground nutmeg to the batter and tried both sugars.  I think I liked the cinnamon sugar the best.  Of course it was one of the coldest days in January and my dough wouldn’t rise.  Thank you ‘proof” setting on my oven!  The dough was really sticky – too much water, but I’m trying to work and make donuts at the same time – so just go with it.  The little donuts had crazy arms and legs, but the kids liked them.  They were pretty good – more nutmeg next time.

Basic Malasadas Recipe

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Simplicity in Soup

I made a Vision Board at the beginning of the year and on one side there are big block letters that spell out S-I-M-P-L-E.  It reminds me every time I look at it that sometimes (a lot of the time) simple is okay; it’s allowed; and it’s often times better.

This Bacon and Butterbean Chowder was so basic I really thought “it won’t taste like anything” – one of those recipes that sounds good on paper but in reality it’s bland and boring.

No-ho.  It was rich and thick and I loved the butter beans.  Who thinks of butter beans?  I want to grow some next Spring.  They’re big and bold and beautiful!  I cooked my onions about twice as long as suggested – big difference.  I forgot to add the cream at the end and had eaten a big bowl-ful before I even realized.  I added just a bit because with the bacon and the knob-o-butter this is one rich soup.

Enjoy on these cold and crisp Winter nights!

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