Over the holidays, we spent a few days in downtown Chicago where we visited a charming little store called Teavana. Housed in Water Tower Place, this was our first visit to the store. As we headed into the cozy shop, we were encouraged to taste-test a variety of deliciously fruity tea samples and admired all of the containers of loose leaf tea stacked high on tidy shelves lining the store walls.
Well, after spending over $100.00 in purchases, we headed out the door with several pounds of tea, and a few Teavana trinkets that we convinced ourselves we absolutely needed.
Arriving home, M and I decided to make a batch of Ginger and Spice Biscotti cookies to have on hand during our evening ritual (enjoying a cup of piping hot tea and watching the Hallmark Channel).
…And there’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and a spiced cookie during the cold winter months living in the Midwest.
Ginger and Spice Biscotti
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
3/4 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground oatmeal (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray, with cooking spray, a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, mix together oil, sugar, eggs, and molasses. In another bowl, combine flour, wheat flour, baking powder, and remaining spices. Mix into the wet ingredients to form a stiff dough.
Divide dough in half, form each piece into a roll about as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with ground oatmeal. (Optional)
Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool 5-10 minutes.
Cut into 1/2″ thick diagonal slices. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Cool, store in airtight container.
In our house, Saturday is baking day. The warmth of the kitchen and the sweet smell of cinnamon and nutmeg baking seem to make the cold winter months a bit more bearable. This loaf is quite easy to assemble and most of the ingredients are usually kept on hand (if your needing a quick treat that can be whipped up in no time). The addition of orange juice makes for an interesting twist. If you have an orange on hand, zest a teaspoon or two into the batter for a lovely burst of extra citrus flavor. On occasion , I’ve added a half cup of finely chopped dates to the batter for added moisture and flavor. Using smaller loaf pans, I often make several loaves to give away as gifts. Friends and family always enjoy a special homemade treat for the kitchen.
Moist Pumpkin Tea Loaf
1/2 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray, with cooking spray, a 9×5″ loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in pumpkin and orange juice. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nuts. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients stirring just until completely moistened. Pour into the prepared loaf pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until an toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove loaf and cool completely on wire rack.
As we begin the new year, the brutal Midwestern winds and the lake effect snow machine are both working hard to bring us record low temperatures and extreme weather conditions. Many local schools/businesses are closed again today and I am anticipating a difficult commute to work this morning. As the sun comes up and the traffic begins to build, I will be keeping an eye on the posted travel alerts as I may, very well choose to work from home today.
While everyone is still tucked warm in their beds, I’ve decided to get an early start and begin baking a few items as we may be hunkered down indoors for a while. The warmth of the oven will certainly help to heat the chilly kitchen. It seems the heater is working double time to try to keep up with the thermostat.
Recently, I saw a post for Irish Soda Bread that caught my eye. You can find it posted as Irish Raisin Bread at “If I Only Had A Time Machine”. The recipe included many ingredients that I don’t typically add to my mother’s traditional recipe. With a few variations, I made the loaf for my family on Monday night. Boy, everyone certainly enjoyed the new flavors and textures of this recipe. Last night, I sliced up the last of the bread and vowed that I would soon make a few more loaves.
So, along with a pan of baked oatmeal, I think I’ll be making another batch of bread this morning. I’m sure the warmth of the oven and the smell of freshly baking bread with help to shake of the winter blues as we have many more months of this crazy weather ahead of us. (I just looked it up… we have 70 days and twelve hours left until the arrival of Spring.) Bundle up and stay warm!
Sweet Irish Soda Bread
(Adapted from If I Only Had A Time Machine)
4 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, cold
2 cups Raisins
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Rum Extract or Irish Whiskey
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cups Buttermilk or Sour Milk
2 tablespoons Old Fashioned Oats
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two round cake or pie pans.
Combine first seven (dry) ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Cut in butter or margarine until the texture resembles course crumbs. Add raisins. In a separate bowl mix remaining (wet) ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients forming a soft dough. Place dough onto a floured surface and knead well. Form into round cakes, place in prepared pans. Slice a light cross down the center of the loaves and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 40-50 minutes.
Black and gold are the collegiate colors of Purdue University. In my family, the Boilermaker logo is near and dear to our hearts. Currently, we have three children attending the Univeristy. Whenever possible, we proudly wear the Boiler colors. Our closets and drawers are filled with black and gold sweatshirts, pants, jackets, and tops. Our cabinets are filled with Boilermaker plates, glasses, mugs, and platters. Over the years, we’ve purchased Purdue fleece blankets, sheets, and soft plush pillows to decorate dorm rooms.
While shopping last week, I spotted some great beads in the craft section of our local discount store and I thought it might be fun to glitz up my jewelry selection with a few black and gold bracelets for our next team event. I am certainly not a skilled jewelry maker so this project is incredibly quick and easy and you can use any combination of colors to tailor the bracelet to satisfy your needs. Elastic cord is used to assemble the bracelet so very few supplies are needed.
This is quite a simple and inexpensive project so next time you’re in the craft aisle, take a look at the bead selection. You might be quite pleased and surprised at the unique variety of colored beads you can assemble on a clear cord to recognize and celebrate your favorite team.
I’m lovin’ that black and gold… BOILER UP!
BOILER UP Bracelet
7″ clear stretch cord ( measure your wrist for a more exact measurement + 1″)
Assortment of colored beads (lots of shapes and sizes)
Clear gel Tacky Glue
Measure and cut a 7″ piece of clear stretch cord. Fold a piece of tape across one end of the cord (to keep beads from falling while assembling). Arrange beads, as desired and string them onto the clear cord. Test the length around your wrist so that beads are evenly dispersed and the cord is completely filled when stretched around wrist. Carefully, tie the bracelet with a double knot, securing beads. Place a small dot of tacky glue on the knot, covering knot completely, let dry. Tuck the knot under a bead to keep it hidden.
Festive Blueberry Mini-Muffins
Happy New Year, Everyone…
As we move toward ringing in the new year, I’ve whipped up a tray of delicious little gems to place on the holiday buffet for a relaxed New Year’s morning breakfast. After a night of celebration, it seems fitting to let the family put their feet up and enjoy the day in a relaxed atmosphere as we reflect on the past year’s blessings and welcome all the possibilities of the future.
This year, a few in the family will be lacing up their running shoes to greet the new year with an early morning 5K run while others have headed back to campus for their winter break swim training. I’ll be busy in the kitchen preparing lots of finger food novelties to be enjoyed throughout the day.
This recipe is adapted from one that I found many years ago in the Taste of Home bi-monthly magazine. This publication had always been a favorite and I used to read it from cover to cover after pulling it out of my Midwest mailbox. While I’ve changed it up a bit, the basic recipe is still the same.
For added flavor, I sprinkle a bit of flavored instant oatmeal over the top just before baking and the addition of yogurt adds to the moist and flavorful texture of this tiny treat.
Festive Blueberry Mini-Muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small container blueberry or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
8 ounces fresh blueberries, washed and drained well
3 tablespoons flavored instant oatmeal, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredients. In medium bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, butter and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in blueberries. Fill mini-muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with a dusting of instant oatmeal, optional. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool before removing from pan to a wire rack.
Over the years, it’s been a holiday tradition in my family to prepare lots of holiday loaves to be given away throughout the season. This year we chose the Cinnamon Swirl Loaf to pass on to others. It’s the perfect loaf for the busy holiday season. Most years, I spend hours in the kitchen rolling out a cinnamon yeast loaf that is delicious but a bit time consuming. This year, to save time in the kitchen, I made a semi-homemade loaf that uses a cake mix for the base. If you love fresh baked cinnamon rolls, then this loaf is for you! As a bonus, the recipe makes two loaves at once. This really speeds up the baking process helping to make more loaves to give away for the holidays!
Wishing you the very best this holiday season. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Cinnamon Swirl Loaf
1-15 oz box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two loaf pans with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine first five ingredients. Pour half of the batter into both loaf pans. Thoroughly combine the cinnamon and sugar, sprinkle half of the dry mixture over the batter in the loaf pan. Pour the remaining batter into each pan, carefully spreading evenly into the corners. Finish by sprinkling the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture over the batter. With a butter knife, swirl the cinnamon mixture throughout the batter making large swirls with the knife. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.
Recently, I presented a home food preservation workshop and I asked all in attendance to bring along a favorite recipe for a potluck lunch. One of the items on the table was a moist, dense carrot cake. This bundt cake was presented beautifully on a footed platter with a light glaze that flowed down the sides of the dessert. I neglected to ask the gentleman that made the cake to share his recipe so I quickly searched the web for a similar treat when I returned home that day. I looked up a few great looking recipes and combined a few that I liked. This is what I came up with.
This is a doozy of a cake, great for the upcoming holidays. Enjoy!
Whole Grain Pineapple Carrot Cake
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup unsweetened crushed canned pineapple, drained
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add oil, sugar, and eggs; mix well.
Stir in remaining 4 ingredients. Bake in prepared bundt cake pan for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Frost as desired.
I sent a little care package off to my children with a few yummy baked goods. This is a great idea for a co-worker or support staff gift.