Holiday Cranberries

cranberries #1With the holidays approaching traditional recipes are making their way out of my “special drawer” where they are safely stored… albeit sometimes buried. As Thanksgiving nears I fetch the familiar glass bowl hidden in my mom’s dining buffet, and wistfully trace my fingers over the roughly etched grape leaves as I recall watching her prepare the crimson berries every Thanksgiving… and a smile slips across my face.

These cranberries are quick, simple, and oh so much better than store bought!

 

 

Holiday Cranberries

  • 1 navel orange (heavy for its size)
  • 1 lemon (heavy for its size)
  • 24 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (to make it slightly less sweet I used 1 cup plus 2 TBS)
  • 1/2 cup water

 

  1. Zest and juice both the orange and the lemon. You should end up with approximately 3/4 cup juice from both.
  2. Place zest and juice in 4-quart saucepan (non-stick works well).
  3. Wash and pick through cranberries, removing bad ones–then add to the pan.
  4. Add sugar, water, and stir.
  5. Over medium-high heat bring it quickly to a boil, then lower heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Cranberries will pop and the sauce will thicken. Pour into a pretty glass dish (so they can be admired) where they can cool to room temperature. They will keep in the refrigerator up to three days. Makes 4 cups

 

 

 

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Hummingbird Cake

Coconut Pineapple CakeAnna’s love affair with cake was strained to the breaking point due to the limited availability of cake that met her dietary needs. Locating a bakery that specializes in tasty GF items can be a challenge along with being hard on the wallet, and homemade GF cakes don’t always turn out so well… but boy-oh-boy did I ever find a wonderful shortcut to cake heaven!

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix is easily modified into a deliciously moist cake for under ten dollars–which is quite cheap! I can now whip up a cake the whole family could enjoy… if Anna didn’t squirrel it away so quickly!

This cake mix is friendly and versatile. I have tried various combinations of added ingredients, and it’s turned out every time. Banana cake is next on my list and I expect it will be equally moist and yummy!

 

 

Arrowhead Mills Cake MixAdditions to mix:

  1. Substitute melted coconut oil for butter
  2. Substitute sweetened vanilla almond milk for “milk”
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  4. Add one 8 ounce can unsweetened crushed pineapple
  5. Add 1 cup chopped walnuts

 

 

 

 

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Animals In The Attic…

Front MirrorA few months ago I was sweeping beneath a mirror by the front door, when I perceived something unfamiliar in the “dirt pile” that caught my eye just moments before it flew into the dustpan. Immersed in the familiar rhythm of sweeping the floor, I quickly whisked it away to the garbage can with barely a pause. Puzzled by the unknown debris, I could only speculate and wonder as to its origin as I continued on with my morning. I noticed it again a few weeks later and thought, “Hmmm… I probably should mention this to Tom.” Focused on the job at hand, I swept it into the waiting dustpan, dumped it in the garbage, and promptly forgot about it until several weeks later, when the mysterious fuzz materialized once more.

I was becoming concerned about the crack in the ceiling directly over the area where the mystery material kept appearing, and was a bit troubled at the thought something in the attic required immediate attention. With the unidentified fluff sprinkled about in the same place as before, I informed Tom of my concerns and the need to diagnose a potential problem. I pointed toward the evidence scattered about, “Could there possibly be an animal nesting in our attic?”… “It only appears occasionally!”… “I was ever-so-hesitant to inform you of something that could possibly require your handy-man skills for yet another task!”… “But I did manage to actually notice ‘it’ and alert you to the situation!”…  As I presented my case, Tom considered the telltale signs and bent down for a closer look.

A cursory examination yielded the diagnosis… a small amount of the material pinched between his fingers, he held it up to the light and bellowed, “Jooohhhn!!! Have you been shaving in front of the hall mirror?” John quietly poked his head around the corner, and with a slight smile that slipped into a chuckle, he began to explain… “Yes, I shave in front of the mirror and after I’m finished I sweep up the hair that falls to the ground. But it’s a funny thing. Recently when I came back to sweep, the hair was gone and I knew if mom was unhappy about having to clean up after me she would have said ‘John, come sweep up this hair!’ But she never said anything, so I figured she was okay with it…”

With the mystery finally solved, we joined together in hearty laughter over the humorous chain of events. John discovered why he never “got in trouble” for leaving whiskers on the floor, Tom was grateful to not have another repair job, and I was relieved to know we didn’t have critters in the attic!

 

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Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

peanut butter cookiesMy recipe book contains several hand written copies of this recipe; yet each one is recorded with different variations… such was life before copiers and computers. For the sake of my family, here is the correct version of your grandma’s peanut butter cookies. They are not gluten free or dairy free, they have too much sugar, too much butter, but are a classic all the same with a pleasant peanuty flavor! My hand written recipe on notebook paper that is stained from repeated use, brings back vivid memories of my mom and I am hopeful a new generation will create fond memories of their own while eating a fresh-from-the-oven cookie!

 

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

  1. 1 cup butter
  2. 1 cup white sugar
  3. 1 cup packed brown sugar
  4. 1 cup natural peanut butter
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla
  7. 2 1/2 cup flour
  8. 1 tsp. salt
  9. 1 tsp baking powder
  10. 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Cream together white sugar, brown sugar, and butter.
  • Mix in peanut butter.
  • Mix in eggs.
  • Mix in vanilla
  • Mix dry ingredients together and slowly add to butter mixture. Blend well.
  • Scoop onto ungreased cookie sheet, and gently flatten top with fork dipped in flour.

Bake @ 350 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.

 

 

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“It Was Fun!”

Clackamas River #2

A soft spot resides in my heart for the cool, emerald-green waters of the Clackamas River. Steadily flowing downward toward the ocean it playfully maneuvers around and over the securely anchored rocks. Seeming to pause for a rest, the water grows still and silent while it transforms itself into a verdant, deep, pool, chilled by the melting snow of the Cascade Range… but only for a moment, whereupon it yields to the changing river bed and gradually becomes more shallow as it gathers speed and continues on its journey.

The sites and sounds of the Clackamas River stirred fond memories of camping with my family when I was young. Deep pools used to store pop and watermelon, boulders scaled with determined concentration as I made my way to the river, water rushing over the rocks in a subdued roar.  I loved it all!

Anna and Will invited “the two moms” to go camping with them over the July 4th weekend. The campsite had no electricity, no showers, no running water, and of course no toilets! An old-fashioned pump pulled cool fresh water from deep in the ground and a glorified “out house” was our big convenience. It was much like what I experienced as a girl, except half a century ago our camping refuge did not include an outhouse… It’s been years since I slept in a tent, and I knew by the end of the weekend the verdict would be in: “I don’t need to ever do that again” or “That was fun!” Either way I was determined to see it through.

Saturday afternoon my two oldest sons and their families took a “Saturday drive” and came to visit us. Will guided the troop of outdoor explorers to the river’s edge where my grandsons awakened to dreams of great adventures on the river. The boys climbed over the rocks like mountain goats, collected treasures uncovered on the shoreline, and hurled pebbles into the deep cold water. Away from crowds, we gathered on the river’s edge and in the presence of an untamed river, it was easy to imagine being on an exciting journey of discovery!

Will’s mom, Kris, and I had a great time together. We chatted, played cards, took Bob for a walk, and enjoyed our evening wine with dinner. Crawling in and out of a teeny-tiny tent that I couldn’t sit up in was not my preferred sleeping arrangements; but seeing the stars shining between the trees through the screen over my head was quite spectacular! however, two nights of sleeping under the stars was my limit due to the absence of shower facilities, but I would do it again… with a few modifications.

My memories did not betray me. The river was as wonderful as I recalled… emerald in color, icy cold, shallow as it skipped over rocks, deep where it seemed still and calm. It was a special treat to revisit my beloved river and share the experience with a new generation.

My friend thought I was brave to go tent camping, to which I could only respond, “Or crazy!” I found out I am neither brave or crazy… It was fun!

 

 

 

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Busy As A Bee

Baled HayOh, where, oh where, is my keyboard?”–Apron Girl

Summer seems busier than usual this year. A few less helping hands are around the yard; yet the chores remain faithful to the end, and unlike children they never leave. When I am particularly busy two things fall to the way-side: cooking and writing…

So I am finally at my keyboard for a brief interlude before I continue on. For the blueberries are ripe and the weeds keep growing and the hay is baled and… and… and…

The hot weather we’ve been having makes it difficult to get as much done as I would like during the day, so I focus on getting outside morning and evening for the tasks that get me hot, sweaty, and make me feel as though I am about to wilt. Early in the day, before the still air begins to warm I head outside to spray and pull weeds–heading indoors as it starts to get hot–and as evening settles in I revisit what might need to be done around the yard. There are times I would like to just “hang out” in the house and work on inside projects, but it really is okay that the yard needs my attention. Engaging in chores out-of-doors keeps me moving and has become part of my “resist getting old” program…

Regardless of considerably more outdoor work this time of year, I love the long days of summer and the glorious unfolding of the seasons God has put into place. Flowering trees and bushes that were visited by busy bees in early spring now showcase a bountiful harvest of delicious food, and as I tackle and complete my list of outdoor tasks I am hopeful for an equally impressive harvest!

 

 

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Yummy Pancakes

GF pancakesWith a few modifications, this recipe can be both GF and dairy-free. What a delicious way to start the day: warm pancakes topped with buttery spread and real maple syrup! And for a special summertime surprise, add a few fresh blueberries while cooking!

  1. 1 cup rice flour
  2. 3 TBS tapioca flour
  3. 1/3 cup potato starch
  4. 2 tsp sugar
  5. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  6. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 3 TBS canola oil
  11. 1 tsp vanilla (omit if using vanilla flavored milk)
  12. 2 cups milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
  • Mix dry ingredients together in bowl.
  • In separate bowl mix eggs, milk vanilla, and oil.
  • Combine dry and wet ingredients. Some lumps should remain.
  • Pour batter onto griddle, flipping when edges are dry and bubbles appear on surface.

Fluffy pancakes that taste great and freeze well! Serve with butter and fresh maple syrup on top!

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“Creature From The Mixing Bowl”

Marshmallow

I kept hearing stories describing heavenly fluff in the form of homemade marshmallow, and I was hoping to successfully prepare the gooey treat for my family. Not being a fan of marshmallow means I don’t make s’mores voluntarily, and if I find myself immersed in a summertime s’more adventure I eat the chocolate and graham crackers by themselves; but I was prepared to tackle the challenge. With a recipe in hand along with John’s ever present wit, I proceeded…

Homemade marshmallows are surprisingly simple, but it is important that your kitchen be kept free of stray papers, plastic bags, and anything else that might fall prey to the “Creature From The Mixing Bowl.” And if you are inclined to want to remove every precious bit from inside the bowl, be forewarned… “It ain’t happening!”

After boiling the sugar mixture to the correct temperature, I slowly poured the molten syrup into the mixing bowl where the gelatin awaited. The mixer gently combined the ingredients whereupon I boldly shifted the lever to its fastest setting and waited the designated ten minutes while it whipped the sugary concoction–“magically” transforming it from a hot liquid to a mountain of shiny white fluff. That’s when the fun really began…

The instant I removed the whisk and attempted to wipe it clean, the elastic, sticky marshmallow stretched and adhered to anything and everything that was in the vicinity. It stuck to the whisk, it stuck to the bowl, and it stuck to my fingers. It was only after considerable grappling, I finally managed to wrestle it from the bowl to the baking dish where it could “dry”–but not before the white marshmallow spread across my hands.  Sighing under my breath I made my way toward the sink to wash away the mess, when a plastic grocery bag suddenly attached itself to my hand, and hard as I tried to remove it I could only transfer it from my hand, to the bag, back to my hand… exasperated over my dilemma, I stood near the sink pondering how to turn the water on without spreading more of the sticky marshmallow everywhere.

Much like a creature from an old horror movie, the marshmallow was seemingly compelled to invade every area of my kitchen. It was ultimately tamed as I “willed” it into a rectangular baking dish to dry overnight–where it finally became quite compliant. No longer the tentacled monster trying to make its way out of my mixing bowl, it was a pleasant sweet confection ready for s’mores. The jury is still out as to whether they are better than store bought, and John’s review was considerably less than enthusiastic, “Meh, they’re marshmallows…”  Next time I’ll probably just buy them, and if I ever feel adventurous again someday I might experiment with flavorings… or not.

 

 

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Pick Carefully & Talk Quietly

In the stillness of dawn,

Summer showers silently fell to earth;

The sky sprinkled with spent rain clouds,

Obligingly yielded to early morning’s sun.–Apron Girl

 

 u-pick raspberries 2014Sunny skies greeted me in the morning, which meant it was a good day to collect the treasure I sought at the local berry field… two crates of ripe, juicy, raspberries piled high. Arriving at my destination, my berry-picking-buddy-Anna and I were full of anticipation for the morning’s harvest as we grabbed our boxes from the car. Attired in work clothes and grubby shoes, we proceeded down the muddy path toward the raspberries, carefully avoiding the biggest puddles along the way. And yet with each and every step, the bottom of my shoes became more and more layered with mire as I continued to plod my way on the soggy dirt road–resolutely continuing on in spite of mucky soles that made walking somewhat awkward.

We were assigned our row for picking simultaneously with three ladies who were positioned opposite us. Their lively and somewhat boisterous chatter included discussions about music selections for a daughter’s upcoming wedding… garage sale successes and failures, and how “she” was the only person she knew that actually lost money participating in a sale… the accumulation of things and stuff after living in the same house for twenty years… discussing if there was any way to enjoy raspberries, other than eat them fresh… I admit I was slightly annoyed at their loud on-going conversation, and it wasn’t until they left I realized there really is Berry Field Protocol: pick carefully and talk quietly. The soothing sounds of various languages floating across the field and the melodic voices of children created a sweet and relaxing hum of busy and productive individuals. Parents spoke kindly, children responded respectively, and gentle conversations took place as pickers made their way down the rows. Stories of family were quietly shared and a tranquility filled the air as the time-honored tradition of gathering summer’s bounty unfolded… it was as if we were somewhere else in time.

I look forward to fresh raspberries all year and this was the first summer John did not go along–the result of children growing and setting out on their own. I missed his humor and keen ability to “clean up after his mom” as he followed behind me, but my heart forever remains full of precious memories of John, Anna, and I as side-by-side we quietly shared stories and chuckled softly in the berry field.

 

 

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Memories Of My Dad

High School Picture of Dad adjThe years have flown since my dad’s passing, but with Father’s Day approaching I find myself asking “Who was he?” Seldom did I catch a glimpse of him as an individual, and as the youngest I didn’t have much opportunity to get to know him while I was an adult; consequently stories from his formative years are fragmented.

Fleeing military conscription prior to WWI my grandfather arrived on the shores of New York City from Germany. He was a teenage boy traveling alone and he went on to build a life in America that included numerous hardships along the way–the Great Depression and being a first generation German during World War II. My dad was one of two boys with seven older sisters and details concerning his upbringing were vague, except for the knowledge they had an incredible work ethic that guided them through life’s challenges.

A particularly fond memory of his was going to Sunday church in the family’s horse-drawn wagon. As the story goes… my grandpa’s horse was intent on pulling away from the pack and one-by-one passed the other horses until he was at the front, whereupon he settled into a more reasonable gait. A recurring weekly event, the neighbors were reluctant to believe it was the horse’s decision to pass everyone on the way to church, but rather thought my grandfather was trying to show off his prized horse…

He was a man who loved to fix things, enjoyed telling silly jokes, took pleasure in puttering around the yard, and resolved within himself to pay for his children’s tuition at Catholic schools throughout their education. He loved his family and did his best to rise above personal challenges to care for us all.

In my children I see some of his facial features. The love of silly jokes is alive and well in my son John, who is always working on new puns to share with unsuspecting listeners. My daughter, Anna, loves to spend time gardening in the flower beds, much like the grandpa she never met. My dad’s work ethic is alive and well in the lives of his grandchildren; more importantly my dad’s love of God and the knowledge that He is a very real presence is also alive and well in his children and grandchildren.

Dad’s are important. They teach by how they live their lives, and I am blessed to have had a dad who constantly strove to do his best.

 

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