Vanilla Peach Butter


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Peaches are one of my favorite fruits, and they are in season here in the southern U.S., ripe and plentiful. When our local market had a spectacular one-day sale on them, guess who came home with a case? Eighty plump, juicy little beauties, to be blanched, peeled, pitted, and chopped, then transformed into double batches of Spiced Peach Chutney and Vanilla Peach Butter.

Unlike more labor-intensive chutney, peach butter contains very few ingredients. And have no fear, you don’t need a crate full of fruit to make this recipe; in fact, it only requires twelve cups, or about 4-1/2 pounds. The result is a spoonable preserve, packed with sweet, tangy flavor. The addition of vanilla bean and ginger result in a scent and taste much like peach cobbler, minus all that pesky pastry work.

Vanilla Peach Butter would be beautiful swirled into a coffee cake, and it is destined to be best friends with Ginger Scones. However, so far, we have finished off an entire jar by spooning it on to chunks of whole wheat bread spread thick with cream cheese, or heaping it on to plain biscuits. Sometimes, the simplest ways are the best. :)


Vanilla Peach Butter
makes six half-pint jars

12 c. peeled and chopped peaches (see recipe notes for quick peeling technique)
2 c. granulated sugar
juice and zest of a lemon
2″-piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 vanilla beans or 1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste

six half-pint glass jars with bands and lids
probe cooking or candy-making thermometer
canning supplies as specified in recipe, including pan, tongs, and wide-mouth funnel
immersion or traditional blender (see these recipe notes for more about immersion blenders)

In a large, wide-bottomed pot over high heat, combine peaches, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and grated ginger. If using whole vanilla beans, split them length-wise with a sharp paring knife, and add them now. Bring fruit mixture to a boil and cook for 10-12 minutes, until peaches soften and release their juices and vanilla beans empty their seeds. Remove from heat, cool, and then refrigerate overnight, or up to three days. (If using vanilla bean paste, stir it into the peaches before refrigerating.) This rest period gives time for the vanilla and ginger flavor to develop and infuse the peaches.

If you used whole vanilla beans, remove the pods now. Puree peach mixture until no chunks remain, either by blending in traditional blender, or returning peaches to large, wide-bottomed pot and using an immersion blender. Turn on medium-high heat, attach cooking thermometer, and simmer gently until fruit reaches 215F, stirring occasionally. The mixture should have thickened and reduced by about half. (Watch the heat, as fruit butters scorch easily.)

If you’ve made my recipe for Caramel Apple Butter, this routine is exactly the same. (For canning, I use a 21 1/2-quart water-bath canning pan and rack, available for less than $20. I also use a set of silicone-lined jar tongs and a wide-mouth funnel, available individually or as part of a set.) While the peach butter reduces, use the water-bath canning pan to immerse six half-pint jars in water and heat for ten minutes. This heats the jars enough that the hot peach butter won’t crack the glass. Remove them and place upside-down on a clean dish towel to dry. Just before filling the jars, dip the lids and bands in the water long enough to soften the adhesive — less than a minute will do it.

Once the peach butter reaches 215F and is reduced by half, use a wide-mouth funnel to fill the heated, dried jars, leaving 1/2″ of space at the top of each jar. Screw on the bands and lids, then process your jars by immersing in boiling water bath for ten minutes. Remove the sealed, processed jars to allow them to cool. When the lids make a popping sound, you know they’re sealed tight. Unopened jars of peach butter can be stored at room temperature for up to six months, but they should be refrigerated after opening. If a jar doesn’t seal after processing and cooling, the peach butter is fine, but it should only be kept in the refrigerator.


Recipe Notes:
To quickly peel your peaches without losing any fruit or juice, the easy answer is blanching. Blanching is the process of briefly dipping fruit or vegetables into boiling water, then immediately immersing in ice water. The application of heat and cold loosens the skins so they are easily removed. And if your peaches are less than ripe, an extra minute in the boiling water can help sweeten and soften them.

To blanch your peaches, first use a paring knife to slice an “x” in the bottom of each peach. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and immerse peaches in water for one minute. Remove the fruit to a large bowl of ice water and allow to soak another minute or two. The peach skin will be loose and easily peeled from the fruit. (So easily in fact, that young children can do it. Never turn down willing help in the kitchen. ;)

One last note regarding peach butter vs. peach jam: the primary difference between fruit butters and jam or preserves is the amount of sugar and the addition of pectin. Fruit butter contains a fraction of the sugar of jam and no added pectin to thicken it. The result is a preserve that is more suited to spooning than spreading, but one that maintains more pure, concentrated fruit flavor and less added sugar. While not the case with all fruits, I prefer peach butter to peach jam every time because I can still detect the true taste and texture of the ripe fruit.


Berries and Cream Steel-cut Oatmeal


, , , , , , , , , , ,


What would July 4th be without a little red, white, and blue? In this case, the patriotic ingredients are fresh, bright cherries and blueberries, drizzled with buttery cream. Steel-cut oats are nutty, chewy little nuggets that pack a nutritional punch and make for a comforting, yummy breakfast when simmered with milk and a touch of cinnamon. We are big fans of them around here, and their extra texture and flavor elevate them over their more-processed cousin, rolled oats. Whether you stayed up too late last night, or got up too early this morning, a bowl of creamy steel-cut oatmeal topped with chunks of fresh fruit is nothing less than transformative.

This is lovely with cherries and berries, but if you don’t have fresh fruit on hand, swirl a spoonful of your favorite jam or preserves into your bowl instead. Use your imagination, as any seasonal fruit and nut combination will work. My favorite duos are pears and ginger; peaches with a dash of nutmeg; or a spoonful of Caramel Apple Butter and a sprinkling of toasted pecans. Simple, filling, and delicious.


Berries and Cream Steel-cut Oatmeal
serves 4-6

1 c. steel-cut oats
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. turbinado or brown sugar
2 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1/2 c. fresh blueberries
1 c. pitted fresh cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. heavy cream

In medium heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir steel-cut oats into butter, then allow to toast for a minute or two, until the oats are lightly browned and smell nutty. Stir in salt, sugar, syrup, and cinnamon until well-mixed, then pour in milk. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer slowly for 30-35 minutes, stirring often, until oats are tender with chewy centers, and oatmeal is thick and creamy.

Taste for seasoning — it may need a touch more salt or sugar, depending on the oats themselves. Serve oatmeal hot with a generous heap of berries and cherries on top and a drizzle of heavy cream.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


As a 17-year-old starting college, freedom meant one thing to me: escape. New experiences, different faces, starting over in a world that didn’t know me and couldn’t make my choices for me. That thirst for independence is a natural part of growing up, and I certainly had quite a bit of growing up to do. But I think I was missing an integral notion of what it means to be free.

It took me a long while to realize that freedom is not synonymous with control. The freedom to live, speak, and worship as I desire are priceless to me, and I do not take them for granted. However, personal freedom also means being willing to take chances: in work, in play, and most of all in relationships and letting people in close. Without the courage to love and ask to be loved by others, freedom looks an awful lot like just being alone.

For me, real freedom also means crawling out from under the stifling hood of perfectionism and expectation. Freedom does not guarantee pleasure, but it does ensure that I move forward and learn. To be free is to open myself up to mistakes with the conviction that I am also opening myself up to growth, to finding new ways and new passions.

I could cook only the recipes I already know; paint only pictures for which I have practiced the brushstrokes; stick with the books already on the shelf and the names already in my address book. I would certainly have increased measures of comfort and security in doing so, and that sort of smug satisfaction that comes from doing it “right.” But freedom? No, I would not have that.


The piece of art above is titled Be Free, and it’s a multimedia collage using vintage papers, vellum, and a hand-made felted landscape. I have felted before, but never to achieve a flat, representational design. I love how it turned out, in part because I took a step into my personal artistic unknown to create it.


Praying you find the freedom today to imagine and hope, to take risks and build in new directions.

Chocolate Chip Meringues


, , , , , , , , ,


It’s a happy thing when practicality and yumminess overlap in the kitchen. That’s the case with this recipe, born of the need to make a gluten-free dessert for dear friends, and helped along by the glut of egg whites in my freezer as a result of making pastry cream the week before. These homemade meringues are sweet, chewy little clouds, flavored with vanilla bean and mini-chocolate chips. They are simple, low-fat, and delicious, and that’s always a winning combo in my book.

I shaped mine with the help of an ice-cream scoop because I love the look of rows of brilliant white puffs, dotted with chocolate chips and sprinkles. However, if you’re feeling fancy, these can also be piped out of a large decorating tip into star shapes or little peaked mounds. They go beautifully with the tartness of summer berries, or served alongside coffee. They’re so easy to make, they almost qualify as an Easy-Peasy Friday recipe, and they are certainly a wonderful friend to have along for the weekend.


Chocolate Chip Meringues
makes twenty-four 2″-wide meringues

4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract
2 c. semisweet mini-chocolate chips
chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Oven 200F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until soft peaks begin to form, then gradually add the sugar. Beat several minutes more, until mixture is thick and glossy, adding the vanilla at the end. Stir in the mini-chocolate chips with a silicone spatula.

Using a an ice cream/cookie dough scoop that holds 2-1/2 tablespoons, scoop out mounds of meringue about two inches apart on to parchment-lined baking sheet. Add sprinkles to the tops as desired. Bake for two hours at 200F, until outside of cookies is firm and centers are chewy marshmallow-like consistency. Alternately, pipe meringues into 1-1/2″-wide stars or mounds and bake at 200F for 1-1/2 hours.

Cool completely on baking sheets, then transfer to airtight container and store at room temperature.


Perfectly ordinary


, , , , , , , ,


May 11 was beautiful here in Tennessee. The weather was sunny and warm, and the day was fairly predictable, in a wonderful sort of way: cookies were baked and dishes were washed; a neighbor’s kids stopped by for a few hours, and we enjoyed dinner and a family game night. The last of the homeschool lessons were finished up, and summer break danced tantalizingly on the next week’s calendar page, along with dance rehearsals and slumber parties and orthodontist appointments.

All day long I hugged a little secret to myself, trying to make the most of May 11 without granting it any special attention. It was a day that cried out to be noticed, but a day I hoped would blend into the others around it, on its way to becoming ordinary. One year ago that day — on May 11, 2011 — a medical error almost took my life. On May 11, 2011, my heart stopped and started again, fast and furious and broken. And with it sped away my sense of security and trust in the safe places, and in rushed a year of hurting and healing, searching and finding, a year of so much pain and so much more beauty.

I didn’t mention May 11 to anyone until it was over. Didn’t point it out or raise a banner that said “I SURVIVED” precisely because I did survive, because all those days in between May 11, 2011, and now are the real story. I didn’t blog or reflect or reminisce with others. Instead I prayed and said thank you, as I do every day, and I went on with the business of making the most of this gift of another day with my loved ones.

I love to share ideas about cooking and crafting, about what I’m reading and thinking, and hopefully I make somebody smile along the way. But May 11 reminded me again of what this blog is really all about: creating today and making it matter — not because it’s pretty and perfect, but because it’s here and its ours. I celebrate May 11 because it was another perfectly ordinary day, and I’m so thankful for every single one of them.

Barton birdhouse


, , , , , , ,


I always listen to music while I’m making art in my studio, and the two go hand-in-hand for me. My music tastes are varied, but right now, I’ve got the album Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars on repeat. This little paper fella danced right out of it all a few nights ago.

The template for the birdhouse comes from one of my favorite craft books, Papercrafting In No Time by Clare Youngs. The birdhouse is small, standing about two inches high, and it’s made of a cardstock frame with patterned paper pieces layered on top and for the roof.


Part of what I love about this project is the challenge of mixing several patterns into a harmonious whole. The tiny bird, named Barton of course, is made from a third type of patterned paper, a sprightly, pale blue paisley. This little guy and his humble abode took an enjoyable hour start to finish, not bad for such a charming companion. :)


Boston Cream Cupcakes with Crème Fraîche Ganache


, , , , , , , ,


Last week’s recipe for a summery Blueberry Tart left me with some extra pastry cream on hand, and this recipe is the perfect way to use it. These are a more easily-served version of Boston Cream Pie, which is in fact not a pie at all, but instead layers of golden yellow butter cake and vanilla pastry cream, enrobed in a layer of chocolate ganache. The overall effect is impressive, right until you try to cut into it. (There is a reason custard is not commonly used as an ingredient in sturdy foundations.)

As messes go, it’s a delicious one, but not quite the dessert to hand to small children at a birthday party. The cupcake version is altogether more practical, and still just as indulgent. I leave it to you to make a batch of a dozen cupcakes from your favorite yellow cake recipe. I like this classic butter cake or this golden vanilla cake from King Arthur Flour’s web site. However, any recipe will do, as long as it’s moist and yummy. The pastry cream recipe is found here, used as the filling of the tart.

That leaves the chocolate ganache topping, and for me, that has to be Creme Fraiche Ganache from the beautiful cookbook Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Leavy Beranbaum. Beranbaum is most famous for The Cake Bible; written two decades ago, it is still an enduringly authoritative guide to making cakes that are scrumptious to see and taste. Rose’s Heavenly Cakes continues in the same literate, informed vein, and her recipes and directions are superb.

The end result of all these parts and pieces is buttery, creamy, chocolatey: all the words I love in a dessert recipe. Make no mistake, this is a sweet treat, but the Creme Fraiche Ganache adds just the right hint of tangy depth to balance the rich custard filling. These were my son’s birthday pick this year, and I think he made a wonderful choice.


Creme Fraiche Ganache
makes 1 1/3 cups, enough to frost 12 cupcakes

6 oz. quality semisweet chocolate
2/3 c. creme fraiche
4 tsp. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract

In a food processor, blitz the chocolate until chopped very fine. In a pourable 2-cup microwave-safe measuring cup, whisk together the creme fraiche and heavy cream and heat until scalding; small bubbles will form around the edges of the cream mixture, about 90 seconds in my microwave. (This can also be done in a small saucepan over medium heat.)

With the motor of the food processor running, pour the cream mixture through the tube into the chocolate in a steady stream. Process a few seconds until smooth, then add the butter and vanilla and pulse until combined. Transfer the ganache to a glass bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool until firm enough to use as frosting, several more hours at least. The ganache will keep three days at room temperature or three weeks covered and refrigerated.


To assemble cupcakes:
Using a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece out of the top of each cupcake, a little over an inch across and tapering to a point about an inch deep. Put a heaping spoonful of pastry cream in each little divot, then replace the cake cone. (I push mine in so that some pastry cream seeps out the side and is visible on the edges of the cupcake after frosting. If you’d prefer that your cream filling stay a surprise, gently replace the plug so that your cupcake has a more sloped top.)

Gently frost the top of each cupcake with a generous slathering of ganache, then top as desired with sprinkles or shave chocolate, or just leave pristine. These are fine to sit out for a few hours, but refrigerate the cupcakes, well-wrapped, if saving overnight. The ganache will thicken and lose its glossy sheen once refrigerated, but the cupcakes still taste delicious.


(Wiley: 2009; ISBN 978-0471781738)

Easy-Peasy Friday: Jam Jar Luminaries


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Time for another Easy-Peasy Friday! This week’s quick and simple project is an homage to three of my favorite things: glass jars, candles, and paper tape. These Jam Jar Luminaries take just a few minutes to make, and their candlelit glow produces instant ambience. I couldn’t resist the romantic twilight photo above, but others taken during more reasonable daylight hours are below so that you can better view the construction. I have already decided my pair will need a few more partners, then take their place under a glass cloche as a centerpiece on my dining room table. (And for you science geeks out there, don’t worry — I’m using flameless battery-operated votives, so no oxygen required. ;)

The real star of the show here is paper tape: self-adhesive rolls of either tissue or craft paper, available in myriad prints, colors, and sizes. I’ve been just a wee bit obsessed with the stuff ever since I used about 90 yards of Tim Holtz vintage tissue paper tape to cover a printer’s tray. Paper tape made a second appearance in my valentines this year, and I was officially hooked.

There are quite a few varieties of paper tape on the market now, sold in stores specializing in everything from crafts, to paper goods, to containers and gift wrap. My only caveat would be that, with the exception of one Japanese brand I purchased from the Container Store, all of them seem to be lacking in the adhesive department. Just think of it as temporary glue, meant to hold the tape in place long enough for you to seal it with a coat of decoupage or gel medium.


To make a luminary, you will need:
a clean jam or mason jar, no lid required
paper tape (mine used about 24″ each)
decoupage or gel medium (I like Mod-Podge or Golden)
embellishments of your choice
a sponge brush or paintbrush to apply decoupage or gel medium

1) Wrap the center section of your jar with strips of paper tape. I found it easiest to wrap only the area of the jar that was symmetrical and without a raised pattern.
2) Apply a coat or two of decoupage or gel medium to the tape and allow to dry completely.
3) Embellish the wrapped area as desired. On one, I used hand-dyed ribbon and a transparent, beaded sticker. The other is decorated with twine on which I threaded tiny flower-shaped beads made of wood and stone.

Other ideas for embellishments include wire, paper tags, glass beads, metal charms, paper shapes, ribbon, bottle caps, snippets of vintage greeting cards — you are limited only by your imagination here.


I am already making another set of these as a housewarming gift for dear friends who are moving this week. Any June weddings coming up out there? I think a series of tabletops scattered with tiny tealight luminaries would make for a nighttime wonderland — all you need is a passel of baby food jars and some paper tape. What do you think? How will you decorate yours and where will you put them?

Blueberry Tart


, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


With blueberry season about to start in earnest, this recipe is sure to have a place on your summer table. It is more nuanced than its simple two-word title might lead you to believe: a flaky cream cheese pastry crust scented with fresh lemon zest; white chocolate pastry cream, somehow both rich and light at once; and a layer of sweet, ripe blueberries. Taking a bite of this tart makes me want to turn Iron Chef judge and say ridiculous, completely true things like, “I feel as if I’m tasting blueberries for the first time.”

This may not be the right recipe in its entirety for the novice or hurried baker, so do what pleases you without bringing frustration. I assure you no one will complain if you crumble store-bought shortbread in a glass and top it with pastry cream and berries. (Indeed, no one in my house would complain if you simply handed them a bowl of pastry cream and a spoon.) Or try your hand at the homemade crust this time, and fill it with a thin layer of purchased lemon curd, then top with berries and whipped cream. At the end of the day, a recipe is a success only when it puts both delicious food on the plate and a smile on the cook’s face.

A final note: you’ll notice the recipe below produces enough pastry for two 9″ tarts. I actually doubled the pastry cream recipe and baked and assembled two tarts, as we had company coming twice in one week. However, if you’d rather make just one tart, freeze the remaining uncooked pastry for use another time. It’s a lovely, useful thing to have on hand. And should you find yourself with some leftover pastry cream, it makes a perfect filling for a batch of Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. (recipe coming next week :)


Blueberry Tart
makes pastry enough for two 9″ tarts;
pastry cream and berries are enough for one 9″ tart, eight servings

For Cream Cheese Pastry tart shell:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/4″ pats
6 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into small cubes
10″ tart pan with removable bottom

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt and pulse a few times to blend. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and process until reduced to fine, buttery sand. Scatter the cream cheese cubes over the top and process until ingredients mix completely and come together in a ball of dough.

Divide dough in half and form into two discs, then wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours, up to three days, before using. (If making only one tart, double-wrap unused portion and freeze up to one month. Thaw overnight before using, then proceed as usual.)

When ready to use, let dough sit at room temperature for fifteen minutes, then roll out between two pieces of parchment paper until it forms a 12″-diameter circle that is 1/4″ thick. Carefully place into a 10″ tart pan and trim away excess dough. (Quick tip: to easily remove extra dough, simply roll the rolling pin across the top rim of the tart pan.) Prick the bottom of the crust with a toothpick every few inches to allow steam to escape and keep your pastry from bubbling up while it bakes. Freeze the tart shell for twenty minutes before baking. (This solidifies the butter and cream cheese again and produces a flakier, more tender cooked pastry.)

Oven 350F. Bake the tart shell for 20-25 minutes, until edges and bottom are light golden brown. The crust will shrink quite a bit, hence the finished 9″ size, but this shrinking makes removing the tart shell from the pan a breeze. Allow tart shell to cool completely, then remove from pan, place on desired serving platter, and set aside until ready to fill. This can be done the day before, but be sure to wrap the cooled pastry well while it sits.


For White Chocolate Pastry Cream:
1 1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract, or the seeds of 1/2 a vanilla bean (for more about vanilla bean paste, see these recipe notes)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks (check the bottom of this earlier post for something to do with those leftover whites)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 c. white chocolate chips or 3 oz. white chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

In medium saucepan, stir together one cup of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean seeds. (If using vanilla extract, wait to add until just before refrigerating the hot custard.) Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/2 c. milk, cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks in a small glass bowl or measuring cup. Transfer a 1/2 cup of the boiling milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined. (This step changes the temperature of the eggs slowly so that you don’t wind up with white chocolate scrambled eggs.) Pour the tempered egg mixture into the boiling milk and stir thoroughly. Bring back to the boil and cook for 30 seconds until thickened.

Immediately remove from heat and pour through fine wire mesh strainer positioned over large mixing bowl; this step removes any remaining cornstarch or flour lumps. You will need to help the last of the custard through the strainer by pushing on it with a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon. Be sure to scrape the underside of the strainer too, so you don’t lose any of that yumminess. :)

Stir the butter and white chocolate into the hot custard until it is all melted and thoroughly combined. Rub a bit of butter over the top of the custard, then cover well with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic down on to the surface of the custard so that no skin forms as it cools. (The butter will keep the plastic wrap from sticking.) Refrigerate until cold, at least four hours. Once cooled, gently fold in the 1/2 cup of whipped cream and refrigerate again, tightly covered, until ready for use. Pastry cream will keep up to a week.


To assemble:
2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked through to remove stems
2 Tbsp. apricot jelly
pastry shell
pastry cream

Spread a generous layer of pastry cream in the bottom of the tart shell, about 1/2″ deep. Scatter blueberries over surface of pastry cream in an even layer. (I favor a more rustic and arbitrary arrangement, but feel free to place them in precise concentric circles. Whatever floats your boat, captain!)

Place apricot jelly in a small bowl and microwave until melted. Brush on surface of berries with a pastry brush to produce a shiny glaze. You won’t taste the jelly at all, it’s just there to be pretty. Chill until served. (I meant the tart, but this could also apply to the cook. You’ve earned it.)


P.S. — If you’ve read this far, you get a gold star! This is my longest recipe post by far, but I promise it’s worth it. ;)

Recipe Variations/Notes:
If you’re not a blueberry fan or they aren’t in season, try a Banana Butterscotch Tart instead. Simply substitute butterscotch chips for the white chocolate in the pastry cream, and sliced bananas for the blueberries. Omit the apricot jelly glaze and drizzle a little caramel over the top instead.

The Cream Cheese Pastry recipe above comes from Flo Braker’s fantastic book, Baking for All Occasions: A Treasury of Recipes for Everyday Celebrations. It is firmly ensconced as one of my favorite baking cookbooks of all time, and I highly recommend it. Not only is it full of inspired, yummy recipes written with detailed directions, you can just tell the author truly loves to bake, and that matters to me. As Braker suggests, this pastry makes a lovely crust for a savory pot pie or tart (like this one); simply omit the sugar and lemon zest and proceed as directed.


(Chronicle Books: 2008; ISBN 978-0811845472)

Easy-Peasy Friday: Frozen Choco-Bananas


, , , , , , , , , , ,


We have a one-word exclamation in our house that brings a smile to everyone’s face: WEEKEND! (If there was a font face to communicate squealing with anticipation, I’d be using it right now.) And while I sometimes use Saturday mornings to tackle more complex, time-intensive cooking and artwork, what I really want most is to spend those precious weekend moments with the people I care about. I want our time together to be fun and special, and I love to make little treats and crafts that show my friends and family they are cherished.

With that in mind, I’m introducing Easy-Peasy Fridays on! I thought it might be nice to ease us into the weekend with a quick, simple recipe or craft idea. I’ve decided any project or recipe is game, as long as it 1) requires no more than three steps, 2) can be completed while children and guests are underfoot, and 3) makes the weekend feel special. Stay tuned for all sorts of easy-peasy fun. :)


The inaugural Easy-Peasy Friday recipe was a pretty obvious choice because it’s a summer staple at our house and one of our favorite easy treats: Frozen Choco-Bananas. It’s the perfect use for week-old bananas that would make for a sad lunchtime companion, but aren’t quite ready for banana bread. These are great because they’re simple to make, popular with all ages, and more nutritionally complete than a popsicle or scoop of ice cream.

To make your own Frozen Choco-Bananas:

1) Peel the bananas and chop either into halves or fourths, and insert either a toothpick or popsicle stick in the base of each piece.
2) Place on a wax paper-lined plate and freeze for a few hours.
3) Swirl the frozen bananas in melted chocolate (I usually just microwave a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips until melted, but fancier chocolate is fine), then roll in the topping of your choice: chopped nuts, sprinkles, toasted coconut, mini marshmallows, dried fruit, or crushed candy bars. Freeze again until chocolate is firm, then serve or store in a zip-top plastic bag.

These last for weeks if well-wrapped… or at least, I think they would. We always eat them all in a matter of days. Perfect kid fare for birthdays or slumber parties, a yummy way to keep cool at BBQ’s and picnics, and a great surprise to pull from the cooler after a summer hike.

Oh, one more thing: WEEKEND! :)