Sunday, January 15, 2017

One Foot In Front Of The Other


One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Remember to breath. Sometimes that's all we can do. That is all we are asked to do.


Pattern:  A Nice Ribbed Sock by Glenna C.
Yarn:  Paton's Kroy Socks, Bramble Stripes colorway
Needles:  size 1-1/2 (2.5 mm)

I have made several prayer shawls over the years. But these are prayer socks. For someone who is putting one foot in front of the other. Stepping out in faith.



Pattern:  Kid's Fruit Hat by Ann Norling
Yarn:  Rowan Wool Cotton
Needles:  size 6

And this is a happy knit---another new baby has arrived. I just counted today. I have made 43 baby hats in the last few years. My own grandchildren have gotten several each, but many, many have been gifts. They have been sent all over the country. What a fun way to welcome new babies.

I find I knit when times are hard and when times are happy. The rhythm of the needles soothes me. The focus on the pattern keeps my mind in gear. I'm knitting love and prayers into each stitch. It's good for me. It's good for the one I'm knitting for.



 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Sweet Goodbye

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

One of the best parts of this grandmother gig is getting to babysit every now and then. They don't live close enough for routine babysitting, but I'm happy to drive down to help out when I'm needed. It makes life much easier for Mommy when she doesn't have to take the littlest one along when she has a dentist or doctor appointment.


This past weekend we had a blast of winter weather. Now, you dear readers who live way north of us would laugh at our Southern snow storms. It doesn't take much to throw us in a tizzy. We cancel everything---schools, offices, churches. There isn't much snow removal resources except for the main highways. So we wait for it to melt. Driving down the interstate wasn't bad at all, but when I made the turn onto their hilly street, it was pretty icy.


Since there was no school because of the snow, the two little sisters and I had a good time together. We played Candyland (by their rules) and Go Fish and the newest game, Sneaky Snacky Squirrel (which is a great game for the really young ones.) There was dancing and singing and dollhouse play, too.


During nap times I was happy to sit down and add a few rounds to my pair of socks. (Knitting is such a wonderfully portable hobby.) These socks are for Mommy. It would have been nice if I could have finished them before I came home today but I have half a sock to go. It was 11 degrees one night while I was there. And it is supposed to be in the 70s this coming weekend. We will be back in flipflops.


This morning all the girls did have to go to school---three schools, three drop off times, three dismissal times. I had to leave before even the preschool dismissed, so I decided I would leave them a treat. It's hard to leave them when they ask, "Mimi, can you live here forever?" Or, "Can I come with you and live at the farm." Okay. That's the two little ones. The high school sister has moved on, as she should. Her focus is on her friends and keeping up with AP classes. And I know that all too soon, these precious little girls will expand their world, too. So I'm soaking up all the Mimi love while it lasts. But I hope this sweet surprise helped with the goodbye sadness.


I left these pumpkin spice muffins ready for them to find when they got home from school. And maybe a muffin will find its way into a lunch box or two tomorrow. This recipe was the very first one I posted on this blog all those years ago. Back then we used it because it didn't have any eggs or soy in it. At that point Big Sister was dealing with some food sensitivities that thankfully, she has outgrown. But this recipe stands on its own. We've made it many times since then just because it's easy and it's delicious. If you have a young baker in your house, this a a terrific recipe for them to make, too.

PUMPKIN SPICE MUFFINS

1 box Duncan Hines spice cake mix
1 (15-oz) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup water

    TOPPING:
    1/2 all-purpose flour
    1/2 brown sugar, packed
    1/2 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put cupcake papers in a 12-cup muffin tin. Mix cake mix, pumpkin and water until well blended. Using a hand mixer is the easiest way to do it. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Add topping.

Mix flour and sugar. Cut butter in until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over muffin batter, pressing in lightly.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until done. Test with a toothpick. It should come out clean when done.


We have made these muffins with yellow cake mix and chocolate cake mix, too. They are all good. But we all like the spice cake mix best. Try them all and decide which is your favorite.




Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year! Happy Birthday!


Welcome 2017! We made it through the holiday season and are a few days into a brand new year. Our holiday was a combination of Christmas trees and coughing, singing carols and sniffing, celebration and sneezing.  It seems like most everyone I know had similar problems. Our family was here at the farm for nearly two weeks and my kitchen looked like a hospital dispensary. 

In spite of all of the coughs and sneezes and sniffles, we enjoyed our Christmas. Just at a slower speed. I think I liked the "lesser" version we observed. I'm taking notes for next Christmas. I had already planned to do less, but this was even less than I thought I'd do. And it was fine without making every single special Christmas recipe we love. It was fine without as many gifts (which meant less wrapping for me.) It was fine with just a few of the decorations pulled out. It was enough to be together. There was singing and dancing, with "shows" put on by the two tiny ballerinas who sometimes insisted we all get up and dance with them.

And mixed in with Christmas and New Year's observances, there was a birthday. Bless all of you people who have a birthday around Christmas. Mommy's birthday is a week after Christmas. I had many a "mommy fail" years ago when just as the Christmas rush subsided I'd remember that I had not planned a birthday party yet! Or bought a birthday gift. School friends were still out of town on Christmas break. Store shelves were nearly bare as I shopped last minute for a gift. Mommy's birthday often felt like a "P.S." after the big holiday season.

This year we celebrated a little early, before they headed home. And I did make sure there was cake. Some things are not negotiable. For the little girls, that's the most important part of a birthday celebration. A cake with candles. They expected to have a cake for their mommy. Beyond that, it was all okay. Well, almost. Little Sister wasn't sure about the "square cake."  "Cakes are round, Mimi, not square." she explained. Well, I overruled her and baked this one in a 9x13 foil pan with a lid, so that her mommy could take the leftover cake home with them.

I am not a cake baker, but this recipe has never failed me. It came from cousin Jackie who was a wonderful cook. I've topped it with Caramel Frosting. And it's good with strawberries and whipped cream. But this time I used a chocolate frosting. This frosting recipe came from Martha McDaniel, a local home economics teacher back in the day. I was not a student where she taught, but Daddy-O had a home living class with her. I know buying a can of frosting is easy, but truly this isn't much effort and it's so much better! Trust Martha.


I think that maybe this cake and frosting was even better on the second day. (We kept a little of the cake here.) I'm keeping this recipe in mind when I need to take a cake somewhere.

QUICK AND EASY CAKE

2 cups self-rising flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat until well mixed. This can be baked in layers or a 9x13-inch pan. (Greased and floured, of course. Or, use baking spray.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.

MARTHA McDANIEL'S CHOCOLATE FROSTING 

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
2 squares chocolate
1 egg
1 (16-oz) box 4X confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
dash salt
chopped nuts, if desired  

Melt butter and chocolate squares. Add egg and beat well. This will get thick and look like "clabber." Add box of sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in chopped nuts if using them.

If mixture is a little dry, add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of warm water. This frosting is thick and spreads nicely. It works best when spread on a warm cake.  

If you are using a bag of powdered sugar, 3-3/4 cups equals a 16-oz box. And the chocolate squares really are "square." My chocolate was in little sections and two sections made a square. I only had unsweetened chocolate in the pantry, so I added a big pinch of sugar when I was melting it. The last time I made it, I used semi-sweet chocolate. Good to know either will work.


The cake was delicious, but now it's time to give up the daily treats that are hard to avoid during the holidays. Salads and apples and grapes are calling my name!  




Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Merry Christmas!


May your holiday be merry!

Christmas comes in just a few days. I am letting this blog go quiet until after New Year's. There are other people and other activities that need my attention right now. I may post a few photos along the way, but without words. I'll see you back here in a few weeks.









Friday, December 16, 2016

What's A Dutch Baby?

Dutch Baby

This Dutch baby would be so good on one of the Christmas holiday mornings. You know, one of those magazine mornings where the family is all in cute pajamas and slowly sipping coffee as they sit around the beautifully decorated tree listening to Christmas music from St. Martin In The Fields.

It would also be good if your mornings are of the crazier variety, with everyone dashing around like mad, bumping into each other as they try to wrap the last gifts before it's time to open them while someone rushes to the store because you're out of milk. (This would be more like my house.) This recipe might bring a tiny moment of "ahhhh" to those in your house. It really is easy if you are the one cooking it. And the one in charge of wrapping boxes. It also would be a nice treat day-after-Christmas treat—which might be a more realistic possibility.

Mommy handed me a newspaper when I was there a few weeks ago. She had talked about needing a cast iron skillet and there was a huge article about a cast iron cooking in the paper. (Christmas hint?) The recipe for Dutch Baby was on a sidebar. Dutch Baby is sometimes called a German pancake. It's basically a puffy egg dish, that's somewhere between a pancake and a popover. I've watched these being made on a couple of cooking shows and read about them on blogs and everyone talked about how easy they are to make.

When I got home I dusted off my cast iron skillet (yes, literally had to wash the dust off) and told Daddy-O we were having a treat for breakfast. Fingers crossed that it would be good because I never made one. Or, even eaten one. It was delicious! And yes, it was easy.

I will tell you that I followed the newspaper recipe exactly—and burned the butter. (My oven takes a long, long time to heat up, so that might be why my butter burned.) I carefully wiped the very hot pan out with paper towels and added more butter and kept going. So THIS recipe has been adjusted to avoid that. You just add the butter and let it melt right before you pour the batter in.


The secret to this puffy pancake is having the pan very hot. After we enjoyed our breakfast, I took some time to look up other recipes to see how hot their oven was (after my butter burning issue.) The temperatures varied from 375 to 450. One recipe heated the pan on the stovetop, added the butter and melted it before pouring in the batter and baking it. Some used 2 eggs while others called for 6 eggs. So it sounds like if you mess something up, it will probably still work.

It might be fun to try some of the different versions to see what the difference is. But I know this one is good. It would be a great brunch recipe during your holiday weekends.


BE CAREFUL as you handle the extremely hot heavy pan! I have a gas stove, so the metal grates are fine for the hot pan. Make sure you have a safe place to set it when it comes out of the oven. And NEVER EVER use a damp kitchen towel as a pot holder. You will have a serious steam burn in the blink of an eye. Before you start be sure you have dry pot holders and a trivet or other safe place to set the pan down. Safety first!

DUTCH BABY

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), cut into pieces
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

powdered sugar for garnish
maple syrup for serving

Put a 10-inch cast iron skillet into oven on the middle rack and preheat to 450 degrees.

While oven is heating, pour eggs into a blender and blend on high until eggs are light and foamy. Remove the blender lid and add the milk, flour, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Blend again until ingredients are completely incorporated.

When oven reaches temp, put the butter pieces into the skillet and let melt. When butter is melted (about a minute,) remove hot pan from oven, pour batter into pan, and return to oven immediately.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and puffy. When Dutch baby is done, use an offset spatula to lift it onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Serves 4 to 6


This dish is all puffy when it first comes out of the oven, but it quickly collapses. Not to worry. That's what happens. 

Many recipes also include some type of cooked fruit sauce to serve with the Dutch baby. I know that would be delicious. But I didn't have any berries to do that. So we used a little maple syrup. It was so good, I can't imagine doing it another way now. But should I have berries on hand the next time, maybe I'll try that, too.







Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Making Things, Making Peace


I come from a family of makers. My grandmother painted when she was young. Hanging in my bedroom are the beautiful nature studies that she painted over 100 years ago. My dad loved working with wood and right now there are two rocking horses next to our Christmas tree. My daddy made them when our own girls were little. Now Little Sister and Baby Girl love to jump on them and ride like the wind. And his wooden cars and trucks are scattered throughout the toy basket. He must have made hundreds of wooden toys.

Daughter Jessica is an artist—a graphic designer by profession. Mommy and Big Sister are makers of music. They have lovely voices and will provide the special music at our church on Christmas Eve. I have friends and extended family who are artists and writers and musicians and poets and knitters and photographers and cooks and potters. I value the creative spirits that help us make sense of this world, sometimes letting us see things from a fresh perspective.

Pattern:  A Good Plain Sock, by Stephanie Pearl-McFee
Yarn:  Cascade Heritage Prints "Holidays"
Needles:  Size 1.5

So even when the calendar is full and the to-do list is long, I still make things. Tucked in among the other holiday activities in the last weeks, there has been knitting. Yes, there is love knitted into each project that shows I care about the recipient. But if I'm really honest, that's not why I knit and make things. I do it for me. Even if I'm giving my "handknitted love" away, making gives me time to catch my breath each day. I find that taking a few minutes to sit still and knit (or make music) helps keep me centered in this busy season. I'm not doing gifts on a deadline this year, so that pressure is off. If it gets done, good. If it doesn't get done, that's good, too.

 Pattern:  Project Peace (this is at the halfway point)
Yarn:  Brooks Farm Yarn "Acero"
Needles:  size 4, 32-inch circular

My ongoing December knitting is Project Peace. There are 20,000 knitters around the globe taking part in this project. There is a reading and knitting four rows of the cowl each day for three weeks in December. Sometimes the daily reading includes a simple activity to better help us think about what peace means to us. Here is how the designer and originator of this project explains it:
"I truly believe that peace begins with each and everyone of us. We can't expect to live in a peaceful world if we ourselves are not living a peaceful life. So, my focus is to provide you with simple acts of peace over the next 21 days."

Are you a maker? If you are not a maker of things, that's okay. We all do what works for us. But you can be a maker of peace. Internal peace. Peace in your household. Peace in your community. Let's all be makers of peace in the coming year.








Monday, December 12, 2016

Cheese Souffle

Cheese Souffle

As Christmas rushes full speed toward us, I'm sharing a recipe that we enjoyed at Thanksgiving. (I'm a little behind with posting recipes.) This was delicious and it would certainly fit into a Christmas menu, too.

Jessica brought a friend home for Thanksgiving and since he was away from his own family over the holiday, she asked if his family had a traditional Thanksgiving recipe. His answer was cheese souffle. Since it's not something that has ever turned up on our Thanksgiving table, she asked if he would like to make it for the big family dinner. His family always has cheese souffle like our family always has macaroni and cheese. Having the souffle was a way to make him feel at home.

Well, it was so good on Thanksgiving Day that before they headed back to the city a couple of days later, he made it one more time for us. Where we live, dishes like this souffle and our mac & cheese are served as side dishes. But I also think if I added a salad, this souffle would make a great supper.

CHEESE SOUFFLE

3 cups saltine cracker crumbs (a little less than 2 sleeves)
4 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (Cracker Barrel--with the red wrapper)
3 cups milk
4 extra large eggs
Red cayenne pepper and salt to taste

Put saltines in a ziploc bag and crush with your hand to make crumbs.

Heat milk to tepid and pour over crumbs and cheese.  Mix.

Add beaten eggs and rest of ingredients.  Pour into greased soufflé dish. 

Bake at 350 degrees for almost 1 hour, uncovered. Done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.


I don't own a true souffle dish, but a round 2-1/2 qt. CorningWare French White baking dish worked just fine. And here's a tip for warming the milk— heat the milk in the microwave, in 30-second bursts, stirring each time, until it's the right temp.

This is beautifully puffed when it comes out of the oven. And then it falls pretty quickly. Know that is normal and does not affect the taste. It is also good to know that the leftovers are delicious. Just warm it a bit in the microwave.

Thanks to Todd (and Todd's mom, I'm sure) for sharing this recipe with our family.