Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lemon Tea Cake

 I had a really nice surprise lately.  My daughter sent me a "just because" present.   "Just Because" presents are presents that you give for any random reason.  You may see something that you know someone would really like, you may be missing someone and want to let them know, you may want to show your gratitude for their love, you may just want to give a gift to some you care about and love, or whatever reason strikes you.  I was so pleased to receive this "Just Because" gift, to know that she was thinking of me.    It is a Nordic Ware quick bread pan.  My daughter knows that I love to bake and that my husband, her dad, really enjoys quick breads.  So, it seems this really cute pan jumped right out to her!  Nordic Ware pans are wonderful, sturdy, and arrive with recipe suggestions.  Really yummy suggestions!

This pan arrived with a Lemon Tea Bread recipe which turned out to be moist, and very "lemony."   And as you can see, very pretty.

 Although you can't see it very well in the pictures, the bread has a lemon glaze using Turbinado sugar which sparkles.  This sweet bread would be perfect for any breakfast brunch, coffee club, or even a really nice gift.

"Just Because" gifts are a nice addition to your family traditions.  I am not sure which is better, as the saying goes, giving or receiving!

And Thank you, Abby, for your thoughtful gift.  XOXOXO

Friday, June 22, 2012

Love is in the Air

It's June and love is in the air.  Time for weddings...brides and grooms, lace, champagne, wedding cakes, and of course, wedding cookies!  My cousin and her friends were planning a bridal shower for one of their daughter's upcoming weddings, and she asked me to make wedding  shower cookies for the event.  I was sooo excited!  The bride's colors are going to be multiple shades of red, a bit of pale yellow and green, and her wedding flowers are Calla Lilies.  She asked that the cookies have sticks so that they could be slipped in the napkins on the table settings.  So, I had fun trying to create a cookie with the elegance of a bridal cookie, still meeting the colors of the shower. 

While doing a little cookie research, I found this stacked cookie that looked a bit like a small wedding cake and I thought it was sooo cute. So I decided a make a couple of these for a shower surprise.  I made three cookies, and cut them with scalloped round cookie cutters.  These cookie cutters come in a set of differing sizes.  I flooded each cookie with Royal Icing and stacked them after they were dry with a little bit of Royal Icing to hold them together. I piped a red dot on each scallop and added a Calla Lily to the top with pale green leaves.
Next, it was on to the cookies.  The focus, of course, is the Calla Lily.  I played around with a few different techniques, and found the use of gum paste to be the best, for a more realistic Calla Lily.  However, gum paste dries pretty firm, so it may not be the best portion of the cookies to eat.  I used a Wilton Calla Lily form, but traded out the heart shaped form for a much smaller heart shape because I wanted a smaller Calla Lily.  I rolled out the gum paste, after kneading it, cut out the small heart, molded the edges, and wrapped the "petal" onto the Calla Lily cone form.  I placed each lily on a styrofoam board to dry...all 66 of them.  Next, I made the stamens by softening and rolling 1/4 of a yellow (lemon) Starburst candy  into a log shape.  I placed each stamen on on a tooth pick and painted them with edible yellow Luster Dust and placed them on the styrofoam to dry.  Once the lily was a firm, I painted it with edible opal Luster Dust so that the petal had a slight glitter.  After it was dry, I added the stamen to the center with a bit of Royal Icing.

Before adding the Calla Lilies to the cookies.  I flooded each cookie with white Royal Icing.  After the icing dried, I monogrammed the cookie with a red "S", the "bride-to-be's" new last name initial.  I piped small white flowers on each scallop and placed a white sugar pearl in the center of each flower.  After it dried, I flooded three green leaves on the face of  the white icing.  Finally, I added two Calla Lilies to each cookie and then added green stems and a top leaf.   
Finally, I placed each cookie in a cellophane bag and tied a pretty red bow at the bottom.  I was pleased with the way they turned out.

And yes, I just had to make another stacked cookie with a pretty red rose on the top; another little shower surprise.

I was happy to hear that every one at the shower enjoyed the cookies, because I sure enjoyed making them!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sassy Rhubarb

This has been a very crazy spring.  I am sure that everyone feels the same; with school ending, preparation for summer vacations, spring cleaning, planting gardens, and on and on.  But it sure is nice to enjoy these beautiful warm, sunny days.  My husband and I have been especially busy helping my Mom to move closer to us.  With every move, there are always a lot of details to remember to do; change of address, closing and opening bank accounts, switching the utilities, new phone number, new email addresses, and most important getting the cable TV hooked up!  hehe  But, in this case there were a lifetime of memories to sort through, helping her to say good bye to the city where she has lived most of her life, and an overwhelming amount of decisions to make with emotions running amok.  But, I am happy to say that the move was successful and she is happy and excited to explore a new community and make new friends, which is pretty amazing for an 84  year old!

Even though my plate was pretty full this spring, activity wise, I really wanted to get some things done at our own home.  One of those was taking advantage of our rhubarb.  My husband and son really like rhubarb; I think it's because of the sweet and sour know, a little sassy!  So, I squeezed in a little kitchen work, as you can see!

 We have two types of rhubarb, green and red.  I am sure that they have more scientific names, but this is what I call them,.  I am not sure why we have green, because the red is much prettier, especially when cooked.  But they pretty much taste the same.
 Here is the red rhubarb...

Red rhubarb washed and ready to be diced.
 First, I made a rhubarb crisp.  My husband and son love to have their crisps in individual ramekins, perfect after dinner desserts.  I use the recipe from my Betty Crocker cookbook, that is over 30 years old.  And yes, the spine is duct is pretty old!
 Rhubarb muffins... this is a delicious recipe!
 Rhubarb Muffins

1/4 C flour
1/4 C pastry flour
1 T sugar
3 T brown Sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
3 T unsalted butter-melted

1 egg
1/4 C brown sugar
3 T sugar
5  T unsalted butter- melted and cooled
3/4 C sour cream
1 C pastry flour
1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 C diced rhubarb

Mix streusel- add dry ingredients to melted butter.

Muffin batter:
-mix egg and sugars
-add butter, then sour cream
-mix dry ingredients together and add to wet ingredients
-fold in rhubarb and 1/3 of streusel

Put batter in muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining streusel. 

Bake in 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Makes 12 muffins.
I enjoy making jams and jellies each year and often give jars as gifts throughout the year, especially at Christmas.  My husband and children especially enjoy the jams, but now my daughter is making her own.  I know it will be only a  matter of time before my son makes his own.  In the meantime, I enjoy having a pantry lined with a variety of jams and jellies. 
I've made strawberry/rhubarb jam before, but this is the first time that I've made Rhubarb Jam, and am really happy with the result,.  My family is pretty happy, too.

Making jam is not difficult, and the results are sure worth the effort.  Besides, strawberry jam making time is just around the corner!

Hope you're having a nice spring!