Friday, September 30, 2016

Gingerbread Loaf Cake

Season's Curtain Call

A fallen leaf is nothing more than a summers wave good bye.

Cook's notes: Gingerbread loaf cake is a quintessential fall dessert that is delicious. The addition of applesauce makes it a very moist cake.  A maple flavored cream cheese frosting adds just the perfect touch to the cake. It can be served as a dessert or a breakfast item.  

The recipe was labeled as a copycat Starbucks Gingerbread Loaf Cake. I made some adaptations to the original recipe but here's a link to the original recipe.

Ingredients for the gingerbread loaf
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. dried ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. orange extract
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 2½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • milk
  • chopped walnuts or pecans
  • Preheat oven to 350˚ Grease a loaf pan (9×5″), you could also use two mini loaf pans.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt, then set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in orange extract.
  • Mix baking soda into applesauce and stir into creamed butter mixture. Add flour mixture. Mix until smooth. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  • For the icing, beat cream cheese, vanilla and maple syrup. Slowly beat in confectioner’s sugar. Add milk as needed until right frosting consistency. 
  • Once the cake has cooled, evenly spread the frosting on top. Sprinkle chopped walnuts or pecan on top.
Fresh Ginger

It is peppery and slightly sweet. Store it unpeeled in a resealable plastic bag with the air pressed out. It should keep for two months in the fridge or six months in the freezer. 

Ground Ginger-is the dried powdered form of fresh ginger. Because it varies in strength, don't substitute in recipes calling for fresh. It's a key ingredient in gingerbread. 
Crystallized Ginger-sometimes called candied ginger. It is fresh ginger that's been peeled and simmered in a sugar syrup, then dried. It's often used in desserts but also good at settling an upset stomach.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Read Kids Classics Challenge

I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge. 
Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this brilliant idea to encourage all ages to read children's classics. So far I've enjoyed 
March "Little Prince"
April "Wind in the Willows"

After a summer break I'm back with one of my all time favorites "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Montgomery. 
"Anne of Green Gables" is a classic novel published nearly 105 years ago, and is one of the most refreshing children’s novels I have ever read. It is full of energy and vigor. Author Lucy Montgomery did not originally intend the book to be a children’s novel, but a novel aimed at all ages. It has been translated into numerous languages.

I chose "Anne of Green Gables" as my September classic pick because it was one of those treasured novels I'd read in 5th grade and you never forget the memorable Anne Shirley. She reminds me of another strong character Pippi Longstocking. Both young girls are enchanting heroines who have a flair for drama, are precocious and imaginative in their ways.

In the story Marilla and Matthew are two middle age siblings living on Prince Edward Island, Canada. They decide to adopt an orphan boy to help out on their farm Green Gables. But when Matthew goes to pick up the boy from the train station, he is shocked to find little red-headed Anne Shirley, and is instantly taken to her, charmed by her enthusiasm and talent for chattering. Matthew is painfully shy and a little eccentric. Although he is terrified of women, he instantly likes Anne and pressures Marilla to adopt her. Anne considers Matthew a kindred spirit and always turns to him when she wants a sympathetic ear.

Marilla is all angles and straight lines, with a stern face and tightly knotted hair. This physical severity mirrors her moral and emotional severity. Although Marilla does not usually express emotion, underneath she has a wry sense of humor and a loving heart. Although she raises Anne strictly, she loves her adopted daughter, and by the end of the novel she has become softer and more expressive.

Anne can melt even the coldest hearts and manages to endear herself to every quaint character she meets in Avonlea. Anne of Green Gables charms the hidden romantic out of all her acquaintances and especially her readers.

Anne’s enthusiasm for the world around her and her ability to over dramatize the simplest act of a confessing to reenacting the role of the Tennyson’s Lily Maid, endears her to readers. From smashing her slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head to winning the prestigious Avery Scholarship to pay for her college education, Anne Shirley’s coming of age story is brilliantly written to engage readers in a wide array of emotions.

Anne Shirley is one of my favorite heroines because she’s spunky, dramatic, a good friend, compassionate, and prone to all things romantic. Of course, the romantic subplot between Gilbert and Anne and her outright stubbornness to recognize her feelings for him creates a delicious tension for readers. The relationship between the two enemies/friends/rivals is as compelling as it is frustrating. Truly, how long can a girl hold a grudge? While Anne grapples with her confused feelings towards Gilbert, readers sympathize with him while waiting to see what it will take for Anne to reconfigure her romantic notions when it comes to boys.

Montgomery’s delightful writing style introduces young readers to poetical phrases and lush description of landscape that is made light by the comical escapades of a charming heroine. Adults are sometimes threatened by Anne’s extensive vocabulary, but she doesn’t dumb herself down for anybody.

Anne of Green Gables is also surprisingly progressive. I was thrilled to read the characters talk of how brilliant it would be if women could vote, and it’s the women who travel miles to the next town to watch a political tour. Out of context, some passages will seem old fashioned such as Anne saying she’d ‘rather be pretty than clever’, but the irony is that she’s one of the smartest children at her school. I think this is more of a set up so we can see how much Anne changes over time, especially as Marilla is always encouraging her to care more about being intelligent than her looks and what she wears.

This classic coming of age story is wholesome, sweet, and a book I highly recommend for ages 10 and older.

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery, born November 30, 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada, lived a life similar to her beloved Anne character. Raised by her maternal grandparents, Montgomery spent much of her early life writing poetry and "frittering away" her days exploring nature. Excelling in her school studies, she graduated with honors from Prince of Wales College and began a career in teaching.

"Anne of Green Gables,"Montgomery’s first novel, was published in 1908. The novel created an instant sensation among readers and firmly established Montgomery as a successful writer. In 1911 she married the Reverend Ewan McDonald and over the course of four years gave birth to three sons. Friends of Montgomery knew her to be sensitive, intelligent, passionate, and devoted to her family and to her writing. During her lifetime Montgomery completed twenty novels and kept meticulous personal journals. In addition, she wrote poetry, essays, short story collections, letters, and an autobiography. She died April 24, 1942 and was buried in a cemetery close to her childhood home on Prince Edward Island (Source: L.M. Montgomery Institute)

This is the home where Lucy penned her novel "Anne of Green Gables."
After the success of Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery wrote seven more novels following the life of Anne Shirley as a young woman through marriage and having a family of her own.

This is Anne's home close in proximity to Lucy Montgomery's home. It is the home described in the book and it actually belonged to Montgomery's cousin Robert.
Follow this link for some great resources to be used in conjunction with the reading of the book.

quote on title page
“The good stars met in your horoscope,
Made you of spirit and fire and dew.”
by Robert Browning

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Creamy Tomato Soup with Italian Sausage and Spinach

Turn Up The Heat-Soup's On

Creamy Tortellini Soup with Italian Sausage and Spinach 
Cook's notes: One of the best things about this soup recipe is its versatility with lots of options: Italian sausage or turkey sausage, green beans or peppers or cubed yellow squash, chicken broth or beef broth, cheese tortellini or tri color tortellini, spinach or cabbage, spices
Here's my version of this hearty rustic soup that works well for a main meal. It is also one of those soups that tastes better the second day. Pair the meal with artisan or French bread.

  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 TB. garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup each diced carrots, celery, sweet red pepper 
  • 1 cup zucchini diced
  • 1-32 oz. container of chicken broth (low sodium and fat free)
  • 2 fresh tomatoes diced and drained on a paper towel
  • 1 can (14 oz. ) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning  
  • 1- 2 cups torn spinach leaves (remove stems)
  • 1- 9 oz. package fresh or frozen tortellini
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • In soup pot brown sausage and drain off fat. Set meat aside on a paper towel.
  • Heat 1 TB. olive oil and saute onions 3 minutes, add in garlic and saute 1 minute more. 
  • Add in zucchini, peppers, carrots, celery, tomatoes, spices, cooked meat, canned diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Add in tortellini and spinach leaves, cook uncovered about 10 minutes, until pasta is al dente.  
  • Stir in yogurt (I used Fage brand which is thicker than other Greek yogurt products) 
Note: Leftover soup on the second day will need more broth as the tortellini will have absorbed some liquid.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Red Cabbage Brings Out the Fall Flavors

Cook's notes: Red cabbage brightens up recipes and tastes better the next day after the flavors have married and the leaves soften a bit.  The range of variations is endless when the following ingredients are tossed into the mix: chopped candied ginger, caraway seeds, dill fennel, walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and shredded sharp Cheddar. Pair red cabbage dishes with autumnal entrees of roast pork, game, chicken, bratwurst and smoked meats. 
Harvest Slaw
Red Cabbage, Apples and Kielbasa
Sweet and Sour Cabbage
Red Cabbage Coleslaw

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fall Favorites

Autumn Medley: Roasted Apples, Sweet Potatoes and Sausage Bake

Cook's notes: Autumn-y herbs, like sage, basil, and rosemary are great seasoning for this dish. Use two apples one that is both sweet (Fuji or Gala) and tart (Granny). Red Delicious may be too sweet once roasted. Winter squash can be substituted for the sweet potato, if you’d like. Fresh turkey sausage works well but if you can find sausage with apple or maple flavoring added that would be even better. Serve Autumn Medley with a green salad. Recipe adapted from budgetbytes
  • 1 medium red onion 
  • 1½ lbs (2 small or one large) sweet potato 
  • 2 medium apples
  • 2 TB. olive oil or Herb Olive Oil 
  • 1 tsp dried basil 
  • 1 tsp dried sage 
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary 
  • ½ tsp salt
  • freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a mill) 
  • 2 links (2/3 lb.) turkey sausage
  • optional:handful fresh parsley (optional/garnish) 
  • optional: parsnips, rutabagas or yellow squash
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the apples and onion into one-inch chunks. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into one-inch chunks as well.
  • Place the chopped apples, onions, and sweet potatoes in a large 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Add the olive oil, basil, sage, rosemary, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. Toss until everything is well coated in oil and herbs.
  • Nestle the sausage down into the casserole dish. Transfer the casserole dish to the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Stir once and flip the sausage at the 25 minute mark.
  • After removing the dish from the oven, slice the sausage into thin medallions and add it back to the dish. Sprinkle with chopped, fresh parsley if desired.
Comfort food in a bowl Creamy Chicken Gnocchi is a regular featured item at Olive Garden Restaurant? 
Well now you make it at home with this copycat recipe from Cooking Classy.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

Hello Crafters
Each summer a group of teacher friends come to the lake for relaxation, good eats, fine conversations and making crafts. We rotate taking turns coming up with a craft and making sure everyone has the right supplies. Thrift stores are one of our most valuable resources. Some of our previous creative endeavors from years past include:
(left to right front of picture)
cake stand (plate glued on a wine glass for a base), wine glass (decorative wire and beads glued on), spoon (decorative wire and beads glued on), writing original poems (typing on decorative paper and framing the work), and napkin note cards.
Last year additions were paper gift boxes (made from cardstock) which became highly addictive once we got the hang of it 

and wine bags made from jean pant legs and khaki pants. 
This year we went for a fall theme. We decorated styrofoam pumpkins starting with our favorite quote and then letting imagination take its course with glitter, Derwent Watercolor Pens and Pitt Artist Pens.  
The finished products were staged on the porch with pops of fall color. 
Note; Michaels has additional  decorating ideas.
On and off between conversations, movies and food we colored.  
We jumped on the adult coloring book craze with this activity. 
I bought a small (3 x 5) coloring book and tore out the pages. We colored a page. added a touch of sparkle with glitter pens and glued page onto blank notecards. 

Bernie brought us all sock cupcakes. This creative idea has limitless possibilities. Think shower, birthday or just a fun pick me up gift for a friend.   
All you need is a pair of ankle socks, chap stick, stiff cupcake holder (with high sides) sheet of clear wrapping paper and a bow.

And Jo Anne bought us next year's project from Pinterest. Here's a sneak peek at her idea. 
Marbleized Painted Notecards. The best part is you only need blank notecards, shaving cream, acrylic paints and imagination. Great kid project too. 
Just in case you wanted to get started follow this link.

Some Favorite quotes:
"You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream." C.S.Lewis
"Life should not only be lived, it should be celebrated." Osho Hindi

Friday, September 23, 2016

Versatile Cheese Ravioli

Great imagery-author unknown  
Cook's notes: Refrigerated cheese ravioli is a great starter for meal planning. It's readily available and so versatile when added in with other ingredients. 
Meal #1  
Ravioli with Cacio Pepe Sauce
Recipe adapted from Michael White People Magazine April 2016  Serves 2. 
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Roman cheese
  • 1 10 oz. package cheese ravioli, Sausage  or Cheese and Spinach
  • 2 TB. butter
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Prepare ravioli according to package directions. Drain and return pasta to saucepan. Toss with butter, cover and set aside. 
  • Bring cream and chicken broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add cheeses and season with pepper.  
  • Divide ravioli evenly among serving plates. Spoon sauce evenly over ravioli, Sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately. 
Meal; #2 Butternut Squash Ravioli
Cook's notes:Recipe adapted from
  • 1 (25 oz.) package cheese ravioli
  • 1 TB. olive oil or Lemon Olive Oil 
  • 2 c. diced butternut squash 
  • 1/3 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  •  1/2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 TB. butter
  • Prepare ravioli according to package instructions. Drain pasta return to pan,cover and set aside. 
  • Set temperature at 400 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss butternut  cubes in olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cubes with cinnamon and sage. Stir in walnuts and roast 15 minutes or until tender   
  • Mix 1 TB butter with butternut squash and serve butternut squash mixture over ravioli. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumn Thoughts

Books sprinkled with a bit of fairy dust, then add in a little poetry there's no better way to start the autumn season.  
Caroline Kennedy wrote in the introduction of her book, A Family of Poems My Favorite Poetry for Children, "Poetry played a special part in our family. We were encouraged to write or choose a favorite poem for each holiday or birthday as a gift for my mother and grandparents instead of buying a card or a present." 
The following poem was written by Caroline's mother, Jacqueline when she was in school looking out the window daydreaming.

by Jacqueline Bouvier

I love the Autumn,
And yet I cannot say
All the thoughts and things
That make me feel this way.

I love walking on the angry shore,
To watch the angry sea;
Where summer people were before,
But now there's only me.

I love wood fires at night
That have a ruddy glow.
I stare at the flames
And think of long ago.

I love the feeling down inside me
That says to run away
To come and be a gypsy
And laugh the gypsy way.

The tangy taste of apples,
The snowy mist at morn,
The wanderlust inside you
When you hear the huntsman's horn.

Nostalgia-that's Autumn,
Dreaming through September
Just a million lovely things
I always will remember. 

Celebrate fall with a quick 20 minute pasta dish from Recipe adapted and serves 6.
Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage Pasta
  • 3/4 lb. gluten-free or regular gemelli or other short cut pasta
  • 4 TB.  extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small onion, chopped
  • 12 oz. SweetApple Chicken Sausage, sliced
  • 1 apple, peeled then chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch red chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-15 oz. can Great Northern Beans
  • 4 firm tomatoes, sliced and diced 
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water. Drain pasta and add back into pot. 
  • Meanwhile, heat extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sausage then saute until sausage is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add apple, garlic, and red chili pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until apple is tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, beans, tomatoes and spinach then toss with tongs until spinach is wilted, about 1 minute.
  • Pour sausage and apple mixture into pot with pasta then add in Parmesan cheese. Stir until combined, adding reserved pasta cooking water to reach desired consistency.
Product available at Traders Joes  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

One Pot Wonder

Fall retains the air of fresh beginnings by adding a twist to your standard beef stew recipe. Pair the meal with artisan bread, Apple Peach and Cranberry Crisp
and serve bold red wines e.g. Red Bordeaux, Argentinean Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon Blends.

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew-A One Pot Wonder
Cook’s notes: Give beef stew a globally inspired twist with tender sweet potatoes, dried fruit and cinnamon to bring the sweet and spicy flavors of West Africa and Morocco to the meal. Advance prep makes assembly go quicker. The flavors create an amazing taste. Recipe serves six.

  • 1 lb. beef chuck steak, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup sweet onions, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-8oz. carton of fresh button white mushrooms, diced
  • 1-32 oz. container of beef stock, low sodium
  • 2 TB. flour
  • 1-1/2 cups carrots, diced
  • 2-1/2 cups diced sweet potatoes
  • ½ tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1-14 oz. can basil and garlic diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 TB. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dried apricots, quartered
  • In a ziploc bag add flour, salt and pepper. Place beef cubes in bag and coat beef cubes. 
  • In a large soup pot or 2-1/2 qt. Dutch oven, heat oil and sear beef (brown meat on all sides but don’t cook through). Set meat aside.
  • Add more oil if needed. Saute onions for 3 minutes. Add in garlic and mushrooms, sauté 3 minutes. 
  • Add in beef broth and 2 TB. flour - whisk to blend ingredients.
  • Add in carrots, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, thyme, wine, tomatoes, sugar, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. 
  • Cook covered for 40 minutes on a low heat. Add in diced apricots and cook 15 minutes more or until veggies are al dente. Remove bay leaf before serving. 

from the Seasonal Plate

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...