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Archive for the ‘Baked goods’ Category

saffronbuns1

Note: I had to repost this again today since yesterday’s post seemed to have gone corrupt. I blame the pranks of Lussi!

In Sweden, Dec. 13 marks St. Lucia Day, a day traditionally when the oldest daughter of the family wears a white robe, a red sash, and a wreath of lit candles on her head as she delivers coffee and saffron buns to the rest of the family still huddled in bed against the cold and dark morning.

St. Lucia is one of the very few saints honored by Lutheran Scandinavians (Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, and Danes) and in some parts of Italy. I’m not exactly clear who St. Lucia was, except that she did some self-sacrificing behavior for the good of others. The legends and stories differ depending on the region of the world.

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Muffin2

In the spirit of the Stir It Up! muffin mix-off, I was inspired to mix together a batch of these wonderful orange, date, and cinnamon muffins from “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee: Date desserts from everywhere” by Sarah al-Hamad, just out this month from Interlink Books (July 2013).

I had found some dates in my cupboard that needed to be used up. Their sugars were crystalizing on their skin so including them in a baked good was really the best option. I first tried a recipe for date muffins I found on my box of bulger wheat, and while they were certainly tasty and served as a perfect pre-swim treat before swimming across Walden Pond last Saturday morning, they were somehow laking in their small, pale shapes. That’s when I remembered I had a copy of “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee” sitting on my desk at work.

Muffin

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This is a blondie recipe I put together while watching the vice presidential debates. I wanted to make something simple that wouldn’t have me babysitting the oven the way a batch of chocolate chip cookies would. I also needed to use up the miscellaneous ingredients I had in my pantry leftover from making Presidential Cookies with recipes from Michelle Obama and Ann Romney.

After poking around online, I found this recipe to serve as my base and then added white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and toasted coconut to make a blondie brownie bar. (more…)

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Michelle Obama’s “White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookie” (l.) beat out Ann Romney’s “M&M Cookies” (r.) by a slim margin with readers of Family Circle. (Courtesy of Family Circle)

If you are one of the scores of independent voters yet to decide how you will cast your vote come November, here’s a taste test that could tip your ballot: the great Presidential Cookie Bake-Off. A recipe for success is what this country needs, after all.

For the past 20 years, Family Circle‘s Presidential Cookie Bake-Off has squared-off the mixing bowls of the candidates’ spouses and asked their readers to decide: Who has the better cookie recipe? The editors at Family Circle claim their contest, in which readers test the dueling recipes and vote for their favorite, has resulted in correctly calling the actual elections outcome since 1992 – except once. (more…)

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With the return of cooler, foggy mornings heating up the oven brings a feeling of comfort. The air was crisp at 7 a.m. when we made our way down to the kettle pond for an early morning dip. The water was warm and as the sun rose it pierced across the surface making the far shore difficult to see.

September is the month when people say, “I can feel the change, can you?” They mean that although the sun still burns off the dew by midday, a chill fills the air requiring a sweater first thing. It’s the perfect kind of moment for a mug of hot tea in one hand and a warm, buttery popover in the other.

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The Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Ky., falls on May 4-5, 2012. I’m not really swept up in the culture around the Derby, even though my mom lived in Lexington for nearly two decades. In my most cynical moments, I can’t understand the big to-do around a 2 minute race.

But I admit, I cried through “Seabiscuit,” “Secretariat,” and “War Horse.” There is something about these majestic, beautiful, intelligent creatures in motion that stirs the human spirit, no matter how intellectual one becomes about the trappings and heartbreak of betting on a horse.

What I do love without question is a Kentucky Pie That Shall Not Be Named – gooey pecans and chocolate over a buttery crust and smothered in a dollop of fresh whipped cream. With the Derby falling on Cinco de Mayo this year, I got to thinking about the perfect marriage: Mexican chocolate and buttery pecans.

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You might call this a pre St. Patrick’s Day post, except here in Boston I’m a little bit late. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations start the weekend before March 17 because there just simply isn’t enough time to get in all the Irish-related festivities in just a day or two. We may not dye our river green the way Chicago does, but this is still the home of the Boston Celtics. Plus, we are geographically closer to Ireland than Chicago, so I think this qualifies us as more authentically Irish-American than our Midwestern cousins. Somehow. (more…)

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You may recall some weeks ago that I was complaining about the aftertaste of boxed mix biscuits. I had been in a mad dash between activities but was still craving a just-from-the-oven biscuit to go along with a bowl of cheddar corn chowder. Even though I added some dried Rosemary to the dough for a lovely flowery taste I could still tell that these were convenience biscuits.

For some reason, short cut foods make me feel really …  lonely. I have no other way to explain it. Chalk it up to the mystery and power of food to strengthen, comfort, and express love. If you are going to break bread alone, lonely-filled biscuits are not the way to go, because you’ll just eat more to get rid of that empty feeling.

Despite how sad I know you are feeling for me right now, I didn’t really give those biscuits another thought once I left my dishes in the sink – until I got an e-mail from the Scone Lady at Victorian House Scones.

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In the middle of the rush to get ready for the holidays, Rebecca stopped by armed with two shopping bags full of ingredients. As I wrapped presents she worked on these Cherry Winks for her colleagues at the private school on Beacon Hill where she teaches.

Cherry Winks aren’t a part of my Christmas memory index, but they do bring to mind Christmases of times past when our family Christmas tree was festooned with wildly blinking colored lights. (I’m partial to the calmer, classic white lights now.) The unnaturally bright red and green of the maraschino cherry toppers fit right in with all that sparkles and glows this season.

A reader of Stir It Up! shared an interesting history of Cherry Winks with me: “That recipe has a long history. Ruth Derousseau of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, entered it into the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest of 1950 as Cherry Winks and won the Junior First Prize. I think pecans and dates were actually part of the original recipe.”

When I finally stretched out in a chair Cricket climbed into my lap and started purring loudly as if to say, “Stay here for awhile.”

Faster than a wink of an eye, Rebecca handed me a mug of peppermint tea and a plate of warm cherry blinks. She changed things up a bit from the traditional recipe, using pecans and dried dates. Crunchy and sweet with their festive cherries, these would make a delicious addition to any Christmas cookie platter.

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Things are definitely looking cheery and sparkly and sugary these days. Thanksgiving may be all about gratitude and huge, heaping platefuls of food, but food traditions around Christmas tend to have more ethereal qualities like imagination and hope and wonder.

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