Ice, Ice Baby

141209 Ice

So this is the view from upstairs this morning.  It looks a little worse now.  The weather predictions were right so far and I have done a little planning ahead.  I’ve been watching the squirrels slide on the ice below the feeders and Sophie walked herself this morning (with difficulty) because I wasn’t going to venture past the shed door.  I loaded up the chickens last night, bought some groceries in the afternoon ready to hunker down and stay put.

I absolutely LOVE these days, especially this close to Christmas.  This year all of the gifts I give (well, most) will be handmade.  My list is not long but as with everything else I wait until I’m under a lot of pressure before I do anything.

141209 Maille

I’m still playing with chainmaille, it’s so calming to make and so beautiful when finished.  I can do it while having my morning coffee or pick it up when I have a few minutes.  It’s one of those things that is mindless, repetitive.  Another form of meditation.

141209 Wool

Then there is this stack of wool.  I’ve been mulling this over for a couple of weeks now.  I finally have the patterns I need and all of the material gathered in one place.  I see sewing in my future.

Snow/ice days are such a blessing of time for me.  They are extreme crafting sorts of days.  It may be a throwback to childhood when you had the day off from school and had nothing but the day ahead of you to do whatever you wanted.  There were games, books, the great outdoors.  It seemed as if those days were gifts allowing big blocks of time for pastimes you only had minutes to usually do.

The other aspect is having blocks of time before the holidays.  It’s a time when I do the most baking.  Snow outdoors?  Bake some cookies.  Smells of cinnamon while warming the kitchen to a cozy temperature, something that’s more of a treat than the norm.

So I will be the ultimate multi-tasker today doing things that need to be done (laundry) interspersed with things I love to do.  It makes me think the weather should last the rest of the week.  Just think of what I could accomplish!


Fig Bars

140727 Fig Bars

After baking these and posting this photo yesterday I had a number of requests for the recipe so here goes.  This comes from the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion – a book that I’m slowly baking my way through.

I started with the filling because it needs to cool before making the cookies.

1 pound dried figs

1/4 c granulated sugar

1 c water

1 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp lemon juice

Grind the figs in a food processor or blender until a sticky, cohesive mass form.  (They say you can snip them with scissors but I have to tell you, without the food processors these cookies wouldn’t happen.) Combine the figs with the other ingredients in a saucepan, stir well, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is very thick, 3 to 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

The cookie dough.

1/2 c shortening

1 c packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 c all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

In a large mixing bowl beat together shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla until creamy.  In a separate bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt and baking powder.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients gradually, beating until blended thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it on a lightly floured surface to 14″x 16″.  Cut the dough into 4 strips 4″x 14″.  Spoon filling evenly down the center of each strip.  Lift the sides of each strip over the filling pressing the edges together to seal.  Cut the strip in half crosswise, making a total of eight 7″ strips. Place the strips seam side down, leaving 3 inches between them, on  lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheets.  Cut each strip into seven 1″ pieces but don’t separate them yet.

Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, until they’re puffed and firm to the touch.  Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet before separating them and cooling completely on racks.

This makes 56 cookies.

They are delicious.  Reminiscent of fig newtons but fresher tasting.  The fig really shines.

When reading through the recipe I thought these might be more trouble than they are worth.  There’s a lot of dough manipulation that goes on.  The only thing about this is that you have to work fairly quickly once the dough is rolled out.  As it warms it’s more difficult to work with.  All in all it’s worth the effort, I probably will never buy a fig newton again.


140118 Snickerdoodles (9)This is what I do on a snowy, winter day – bake cookies.

I put out a call for requests and this was one.  Not having made these for many years I reached for my King Arthur Flour cookbook but knew instantly it wasn’t the right recipe.  The one in my memory called for cream of tartar so I dug out the 1950’s version of the Betty Crocker and there it was.

The ingredients –

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose or unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
140118 Snickerdoodles (2)The shortening, butter, eggs and sugar are creamed together, then add the dry ingredients until incorporated (except the additional sugar and cinnamon).  Couldn’t be simpler.
140118 Snickerdoodles (1)I use a tablespoon cookie scoop and place the dough ready for rolling on parchment paper.  It looks like scoops of vanilla ice cream doesn’t it?
140118 Snickerdoodles (3)Mix the 1/4 cup of sugar with the cinnamon, roll the dough into balls and then coat with the mixture and set on the pan about 2 inches apart.
140118 Snickerdoodles (5)I line my baking sheets with parchment as well.  Have I told you about my love affair with parchment?  It changed my life a few years ago when I discovered I didn’t have to grease and wash my cookie sheets when I was done baking. (Ever notice how those pans never fit in a dishwasher or the sink?) This is the one time-saving device I would have a hard time giving up – that and the cookie scoop due to my ocds about size and shape but that’s a whole different blog.
140118 Snickerdoodles (6)Put the cookies in a 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, they will just barely be getting brown.  This is another cookie that I drop the pan on the floor (see Soft Molasses Cookies).
140118 Snickerdoodles (8)
Let these babies cool for a few minutes and serve warm, preferably with a nice cup of tea or coffee.
By the looks of today’s forecast I will be pulling out the parchment paper in Enfield tonight.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

SnowshoesWith any luck these babies will be seeing some action on Sunday.  The forecast is for 8 to 10 inches and I have to tell you if that doesn’t happen I will be a little disappointed.

The first good snowstorm of the year – especially right before Christmas – motivates me like nothing else.  The snow will be coming down outdoors and I will be baking up a storm inside.  Nothing says cookies to me like bad weather.  It also makes me want to get out the decorations, light the fires in the fireplaces and make the house as warm as possible both literally and figuratively.

In years past Christmas Eve has always made the Martha Stewart come out it me.  I work hard on setting the mood.  I want my guests to look forward to it year after year.  The first year we had it in Rowe I took it as a challenge.  The living room was at the end of its renovation and I used the invitation to the holiday to give that little push to get things done.  MOST STRESSFUL CHRISTMAS EVE EVER.

We took the plastic up off of the floor the day before, there were big holes in the walls where sconces were supposed to go, the panel that goes over the mantel covering the chimney was drying on sawhorses the week before – unpainted and more than 20 people had RSVP’d.  The girls were awesome at helping to clean up the mess.  I decided we would do more of an 1830’s theme and took my Old Sturbridge Village and City Stage theater skills to new heights.  Everything was by candlelight.  Redware was on the table, the menu was traditional beef and root vegatables.  There was mulled cider and potted cheese.  It was wonderful, it was an event and it was all theater.  There is a lot you can hide in the dark.

So in addition to baking I will be finalizing my dinner theme ideas and making my lists. And when all of that is done I may throw in a little weaving.

Library Xmas

Food Rant Friday

Growing Food in Protest


Okay, so there are a few friends and relatives that know how pissed off I get when yet another article crosses my path about Monsanto and their GMO’s.  This week was the motherload in reading about various lawsuits that Monsanto has brought against everyone in the world from the small farmer to the state of VT.  Apparently the money stream is so important to them they are willing to take on any state in the union that would try to label food as containing GMO products.  Hmmmm, doesn’t it make you wonder what they are trying to hide?  I believe in informed consent.

There are now apps available to help you boycott all kinds of products as you peruse the groceries in the store, just scan the barcodes and voila you know what subsidiary that food is coming from and can make your choices with a little more knowledge.  I’m thinking that’s all well and good if what you are eating is processed but it’s really not going to help you in the produce section.   I read today that one of the country’s leading suppliers of French fries is asking the federal government to approve genetically modified potatoes.  This is to prevent those unsightly brown spots.  Really?

You know that lawn that you hate mowing every week?  Why not use part of it to put in a raised bed and plant some tomatoes there she goes talking about those tomatoes again?  Put a few potatoes in your little plot or grow a few carrots to eat right out of the garden.  I promise you the seeds that you grow will surprise and delight you. You will have such a feeling of accomplishment and be astonished at the money you save over the summer on some of your favorite things.  It’s also FUN.

I baked a batch of cookies the other day, shared them with sister Sue.  They are a delicious soft molasses cookie encrusted with course grain sugar, crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle.  Spicy and delicious they are the ultimate comfort food for me.  Then I started to think about the ingredient list – what’s gmo and what’s not.  Yeah, I know, but I’m always thinking about where my food comes from or what’s in it.  That doesn’t mean I don’t eat what’s put in front of me but I’m always aware – so is my sister.  After she ate those cookies with me and brought some home I texted her about all the potentially bad things that were in them.  Today in the interest of science and my guilty conscience I decided to actually look up what went into them.  I was pleased to find out that the things that were a little sketchy for me were all within my tolerance level for food weirdness.  So I’d have to say that if you are going to eat cookies bake your own and source your ingredients.  Now I can email Sue and tell her that those treats were really much more okay than I had led her to believe (and maybe she’ll stop sending me all that email about Monsanto).



Another Baking Adventure

1267724021-22-(Small)This past weekend was an adventure in baking.  My niece, Meredith, had given me a book entitled “Crust: From Sourdough, Spelt and Rye Bread” saying she thought it was a little beyond her skill level. This is a wonderful book that really goes beyond your basic bread making.  His method of working dough is quite a departure from how I usually do things and I have to confess I read it and thought it was interesting and did it the way I always do.  The recipes are wonderful though so I decided to step out of my comfort zone and leap into laminated dough.  What do you ever really have to lose in doing this?  Maybe a few hours, but even if it’s a total fail you learn something, sometimes you learn a lot.

My oldest daughter spent some time in Ecuador a few years ago and smuggled back some chocolate croissants that she had eaten daily for breakfast while she was there.  They were wonderful.  I have to say that a yeasty, flaky pastry has always intimidated me a little.  I think because it is such a departure from making a loaf of white bread.   So Pain au Chocolat was what I decided to make.  This is something that takes a little more than 24 hours to make so a little planning is needed (but most of that time is waiting).

There are enough posts on the internet that tell you how to make laminated dough, suffice it to say that it is way easier than it looks and the results are more than worth the trouble.  It does represent more of a workout than I had anticipated (do you know how long it takes to roll a piece of dough that’s 8″x12″ to 12’x30″?).  The recipe made a total of 18 rolls, all light and flaky and quite delicious.

I have read recipes for Pain au Chocolat in many places, all a little different.  I decided on this one only because the pictures were pretty and self explanatory.  It was like taking a little class with no one watching what you were doing or judging the end result.  The judges were the company that devoured them on Sunday morning.