Monday, February 27, 2012

Good Eats

It's maple sugaring time. Actually, it's been such a warm winter the sap has been running for a few weeks. It drips out of the tree at such a fast pace that you might think water was running off the roof and splashing into a puddle. You can hear it splash into the bucket. Drip drip drip without much pause between drips. It looks like water but cooks down to syrup consistency. It takes 10 gallons of sap to cook down to one quart of syrup. Definitely a labor of love.
This is the tree in my daughter's back yard. She said this tree is so full the sap runs right out of the ends of the branches!

We had SarahBeth for dinner again last night. I told you in my post of 1/8/12 that I was going to bake my way through her cookbook Sarah Beth's Bakery. I gave the book to my daughter for Christmas and she's also on a baking adventure but she's been tackling recipes different from mine. Yesterday for dinner we had the brioche rolls and this amazing cake. It's called Chocolate Souffle Cake with chocolate whipped cream.
When we arrived for dinner Elizabeth took me right over to the cake and said, "Grandma, did you know that cake is supposed to look like that?" The top was all cracked, as it's supposed to be, and she's used to pretty pink frosting on her cakes. I explained the aerating part of souffles to her but she didn't look convinced. She screwed up her nose and asked "but WHY does it fall?" Well. Once again, all I can say about a SarahBeth recipe is "Well!" It's light, even though it looks dense and heavy, it isn't. Dense yes, but it really literally melts on your tongue. The chocolate whipped cream wasn't a second cousin either. The girls ate their whole piece each. I've seen them lick the icing off cakes and leave the cake. I've watched them eat just the ice cream and leave the cake, but they ate the whole piece of this. Each. We all took our first bite and around the table each of us said, "Oh, My God." Seriously, folks. If you never buy another cookbook in your life, make that pledge after you buy this one. It's called SarahBeth's Bakery and you won't be sorry.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snow day!

Snow day!* What could be better than a snow day on a Friday? Not much. I told Patient Husband the ONLY part that's iffy is that we get the call at 5:15 a.m. and I just can't get back to sleep. "That's why they invented naps," he said. OK!
But first! I don't know what it is about a snow day that makes me want to bake, but I itch to get the flour, sugar, butter and chocolate out. That and we're seeing friends for dinner tonight and I said I'd bring brownies.
Nigella Lawson's Everyday Brownies promised that I'd have everything in my cupboard. And I did so she won. But I made some changes.

It really was as easy as she said, easier, even. A one pot brownie. But instead of her milk chocolate chips tossed in, I used bittersweet chips and a huge amount of walnuts. I can't eat a brownie that doesn't have walnuts in it. Well. I've done it but I don't enjoy it as much.

Then, as if there wasn't enough chocolate to it,

I added a ganache. It's still warm. I can smell it from here.

I think this is gonna make my teeth hurt.

*For those of you who are tropical, a snow day is when it snows so much the school busses can't get the children to school safely so they close school for the day and we can all stay home and bake brownies.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


These are some of the scraps Friend Mary gave me. They were in a box of things. I don't know what era they may be from. Some are pretty darned ugly. I put the most presentable on top!

Each of the squares has a corner cut off and they were all part of something because you can see the threads that had sewn them together and the seam creases. I'm kind of cooking up an idea what to use them for - especially since she called me last night to tell me she found more "ugly fabric" and do I want it? Since I have an idea what to do with it, I said yes. I have to work out my idea and execute it when I get back home from our house-sitting.

We left school today singing the "Snow Day" song and hoping we wouldn't see each other tomorrow. We've had so little snow this whole winter it's been heavenly. But they said we are in the bulls eye for what's coming tonight. One third grader said she really liked knowing the night before we are going to have a snow day so she can stay up late. My sentiments exactly. Fingers crossed!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Old quilts

My former neighbor and I have had lunch a few times recently. I don't live in the city anymore, but an hour away and I miss our old neighborhood for the times it represents from our lives. My 82 year old neighbor is part of the missing. While we don't live in this city anymore our jobs are here and we do the hour commute to and from everyday. We've been in the city for a couple of weeks house sitting for my brother and sister-in-law and while here I reconnect with people I miss.

Last week Mary and I had lunch and she brought me this quilt top she discovered in a bag in the basement among her mother's belongings. She doesn't know where it came from, her mother wasn't a quilter. The quilt is made of old shirtings, the stitching is a little wonky but that may be because it's been washed but not ironed. No, really, it's wonky.
It's great fun to see that the person who made this quilt wore a lot of blue...and at least one red bandana. Mary didn't put any pressure on me to actually quilt it but suggested it would be a nice tablecloth with my Polish pottery dishes sitting on top. I don't know. Right now I'm just having fun noticing the fabrics in it. I don't like the idea of a glass of red wine being spilled on it, either.

The first time we lunched she brought me a small pile of old patchwork patches, some old pin cushions, and other things she's trying to find a home for.

My brother is the owner of three old quilts our great-grandmother made. She lived in Kentucky. She died one week short of her 101st birthday. She had five children, all three of her daughters entered the convent as teenagers and all died between 95 and 101 years of age.

I'm not sure how old these quilts are. I can't remember how old I was when she passed away but I do remember seeing her when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I'll have to ask my brother if he remembers dates better than I do.

I've been trying to take lots of pictures of these quilts while I'm at his house if for no other reason than to document them.

I do know she did everything by hand and I look closely trying to think what era these fabrics came from. I love the bitsy squares in this nine patch quilt. And I think most of the fabrics look to be the 30's. Maybe some in the 40's. Scrap baskets could sit around for a long time.

I have one of her quilts at home, the Grandmothers Flower Garden design.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oh, my goodness

It's hard to even describe this cookie. It's from Sarabeth's Bakery, which I mentioned a few blogs ago as my adventure through a cookbook. I intend, in due time, to bake everything in this book. Today I made the Chocolate Chubbies.
Patient Husband, who, you will recall, does not eat baked goods, ate two. TWO! And they're big!

I don't think I've ever made a cookie that has this much chocolate in it. Bittersweet, semi sweet, unsweetened. Butter. 3 CUPS chopped pecans and walnuts (you do have to like nuts and I can't imagine eating chocolate without nuts attached in some form.)

These are the chocolatiest, smoothest, cookie I've ever had - and I'm a cookie monster. Am I blathering? Yes, as I lick my fingers.

If you haven't purchased this cookbook yet, well, what are you waiting for? There is nothing in it that isn't wonderful, decadent, amazing and if you like to bake I can pretty much guarantee every penny you spend on it.

On the second sheet I sprinkled the cookies with a tinch of sea salt. I sit here now, eating one of those and wondering how I'll ever accept any other chocolate cookie in my life. They will all compare to this one.

The recipe says they'll keep for three days. Yeah, right.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Saturday Patient Husband and I went to Kalamazoo to Quilts Plus. They were hosting a trunk show of the items in this book. Wait, you say, your patient husband actually willingly went with you to a quilt shop for a trunk show?? Well, yes and no. We were on our way to an event at Western Michigan University and during the week I had called the shop and asked them to hold a copy of this book. He willingly agreed to stop at the shop but immediately broke out into nervous hives when we walked in the door. I think all he could see was the hours ticking away as I wandered touching and feeling the fabrics. He was gracious, but we didn't stay long and I didn't buy any fabric!
We were there just long enough for me to get a look at all of the items in person from this book. Everything in the book was present and they were absolutely beautiful.

Let me say that I never, ever purchase a quilt book sight unseen. I never ever do it. But the women who present this book sure know what they are doing. I bought this over the phone based on what I saw on the cover. When I got it home I curled up in my chair and read it straight through three times! It's a beauty. And so very inspiring.

But wait! There's more! In the few minutes I was there, I noticed someone who looked familiar. I wasn't sure. I circled. I approached. And then I asked. I told her I thought she looked familiar (she once posted a picture of herself on her blog) and she said the same of me. I asked her name. It was Carol! Carol who I've mentioned several times before as being SO very helpful to me with this blog thing. Carol who has been so very helpful to me with this blog thing and who is in the same (very large ) guild as I am but who I've never met! Carol who I invented the peppermint pattie shortbread cookie for! I finally met Carol! Hi, Carol!!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pluggin' along

Finished Songlines last night and will begin The Invisible Ones tonight. Sarabeth's Bakery continues to inspire. The Queen of France is an absolutely delightful picture book I bought for school and just had to have one at home what with three little grandgirls to read it to.

I'm working on quilting a quilt and to relieve the fingers I'm continuing to work on the applique squares for a quilt just for me. But these squares aren't going along nicely and I've had to speak sternly to the flowers in the center about cooperation. This is my work station. Elizabeth color coded the pins in the pin cushion.

The circle in the middle is where the stubborn flowers are going after the leaves go on. I think I will have to put on a girl movie tonight and sit with these a bit longer.

Friday, February 3, 2012

More pinning

Pinning, pinning. I found these blocks in a drawer from a waaayyyyy long time ago. I sashed them with stash stuff, found an agreeable border, which I'm afraid, you can't see here, and pinned it today during my lunch at work. Now at least it's one step closer to being a finished project.