Fun Stuff

While working with words is my chosen work, that’s not all I do, and most of the writers I know have other interests and obsessions. Mine include baking (and cooking), knitting, weaving, my garden, and making jewelry.


Hummingbird nest on a string of lights

IMG_3650A hummingbird has made a nest on the string of tiny Christmas lights hung there at the end of November.  The nest is the size of a medium size egg, constructed of lint and hair and the tiniest of twigs. And it’s balanced there, on the string of lights.  For the last couple of days this hummingbird, or a smaller one, has been on the nest. We have to pass under the string when we go into the studio and I always feel guilty. I don’t look up, thinking if I don’t make eye contact with the hummingbird, then she won’t notice me and won’t leave the next just because I’m passing beneath. But as soon as I’m beneath, I hear the buzzing of wings as it flies off and hovers nearby until I have passed and it can return.  I already feel honored, that a hummingbird feels safe enough to build a nest on our string of lights.  I just wish she weren’t so timid. I’ve heard of hummingbirds learning to trust you enough to perch on you.  It takes getting still and staying as still as a tree.

Snickerdoodles

Christmas cookies

The Christmas season isn’t the only time for Snickerdoodles, but it’s a good reason to bake them.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix 1/2 C. butter with 3/4 C. sugar and an egg.  Sift together 1 1/3 C. sifted flour, 1 tsp. cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/8 tsp. salt.  Mix into the butter mixture.  Roll into balls the size of small walnuts.

Roll in a mixture of equal parts of sugar and cinnamon.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned, but still soft.  (I bake for 8 minutes because my son likes cookies on the soft side.)

Makes 2 1/2 dozen 2″ cookies.  Unless you don’t eat cookies or you have a house crowded with cookie eating friends, hide them because they are seriously addicting.

It’s always time for cookies, but especially now…

I love making most cookies but these are perhaps the most angelic looking cookies, and those most apt to melt in the mouth.  They have a history, too.  Most countries and cultures offer recipes for half-moon butter cookies using ground nuts and sugar.  The history of these, as I know it, has the cookies in Budapest around 1686 during the Turkish siege of the city.  Bakers working at night heard the Turks digging an underground passage into the city and were able to warn the authorities.  To reward the bakers who saved the city, they were permitted to make a special crescent pastry in the emblem that decorates the Ottoman flag.  Here they are:

1/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 cups sifted flour (I often will use part whole wheat pastry)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 ounces ground pecans or unblanched almonds (both are great)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the sugar, flour, and butter by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients–by hand or mixer.

3. Add ground nuts until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

4. Taking a handful of dough at a time, roll it into long 1″-wide cylinders. Slice into 1/2″ long pieces and shape into small crescents. Place on ungreased cookie sheets.

5. Bake 10-15 minutes until they just begin to brown.  Remove to a cooling rack then place on a dish and sprinkles with confectioners’ sugar.  I use a sifter to apply the sugar, letting it fall like snow onto the cookie.

Makes about 30.

Now it’s eggnog latte time

Eggnog latteI love eggnog lattes–more than pumpkin spice lattes. So when I was at Starbucks last week and saw eggnog lattes on the menu, I ordered one. That led to me ordering another the next day. Then I looked up the calorie count. OY! A nonfat eggnog latte was something like 264 calories. It was time to make them myself.

At Albertson’s I bought a carton of lowfat organic eggnog (Horizon Farms) and got to brewing.  One quarter cup of eggnog in my frothing pot warmed up, espresso brewed in my IKEA expresso maker, and voila! An eggnog latte at 74 calories.  And it tastes divine–better than Starbucks.

Here’s everything you need: A frother and espresso maker (bought at IKEA or Sur le Table or Amazon or wherever), a slim pot to heat the eggnog in and a big round cup from which to sip. I dust the top with nutmeg.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Pumpkin spice lattes mean Fall is here

Last night my 18-year-old Travis said, Do you notice how it’s not summer anymore, how two days ago, it felt different?  Felt like fall?

I did. And I like it.  I was born in October–on the ides of October–and love all the things associated with the autumn season.  When I was a kid in Pennsylvania, we’d rake leaves into huge piles and jump from the swing set into them.

The other clue that tells me it’s the fall is the current obsession with pumpkin lattes.  I never had one–until this morning. Last week pumpkin lattes made the news: Starbucks had sold out of them and people were Freaking Out. There was more in the news about this than the hitting-the-roof gas prices.

This morning my friend Caroline Leavitt, on Facebook, dedicated a post to pumpkin spice lattes and that did it. I had to have one. Only, I wanted to make one. The sugar in Starbucks’ coffee drinks just about does me in. So I found a recipe online (thank you Recipe Girl) and adapted it to my low sugar, low fat diet.

Brew a cup of coffee, however you do. I use an espresso maker from IKEA and a frother, from IKEA.

Then, mix 1/2 cup nonfat milk, 1 tablespoon pumpkin (I use Trader Joe’s organic pumpkin in a can), 2 teaspoons honey (or brown sugar), 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix and heat on the stove (or in a microwave; I don’t have a microwave), then froth with a frother. Pour onto the coffee, sprinkle with cinnamon, if you like cinnamon, and major yum.

Pumpkin Add spice

Add vanilla Brew

Pour Froth

Add Cinnamon Yum

Yum indeed.  Now I see what all the hubbub is all about.

 

Babette’s Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 24 good sized cookies. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Barbara and Sam with COOKIES!

When I was a kid, my mother was big on pies, cakes, and struedel, not cookies. Aunt Teresa, my mother’s big sister and the aunt I was closest to, was the cookie maven of the family. If I made cookies with anyone when I was a kid, it would have been her.

Here I am at four years old with my brother Sam. We sit before cookies for a family event. My guess is that Aunt Teresa made most of those cookies. I’m sure she made the petit fours because when I married Brian, for our reception, she made those same petit fours in our kitchen.

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