Monday, February 21, 2011

Cookies & Dreams

Sometimes I dream that I own a bakery. I lie in bed at night and picture it in my head - and every night I drift off to sleep with a smile on my face.

I can see myself wearing a retro “I Love Lucy” style apron, doing what I love most - Baking.

What a wonderful thing it would be to go to work everyday and frost cupcakes, roll pie crusts, and make butter cream roses. My days would be filled will coconut cakes, apple pies, and oatmeal raison cookies. My nights would be sleepless as I would be planning for the next day and making sure everything was fresh and delicious. I would be tired, but I would be happy.

My bakery would be cozy, warm, and friendly. There would be rows of doily lined cases filled with pastries, cookies, and hand dipped chocolate treats. There would be tall bistro tables, small corner nooks, and soft comfy chairs as well. Every table would have a white bud vase filled with pink carnations and the whole room would smell of fresh brewed coffee. My dishes would be an eclectic mix of plain white china, English tea rose and pink polka dot.

The music playing would be Glenn Miller, Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

The name of my bakery would be Danielle’s Sweets.

It would be a place where you could get a cappuccino and a scone while you check your email, read the newspaper, or catch up with a friend over a cup of Earl Grey and a chocolate macaroon. OR do what I love to do - get the latest Vanity Fair magazine, a vanilla latte, find a corner somewhere and enjoy a few minutes of solace all by myself.

I bought this cookie jar (pictured above) when I was out shopping with my mother just last week. I love it because it says “Biscuits” instead of cookies and that felt very English to me. This would be just the kind of thing that I would have in my bakery. It would stand proudly on the counter filled with lemon biscotti’s that could not be denied by anyone.

This new cookie jar has inspired me to do some cooking making. No sense of having an empty cookie jar on the counter, now is there? So last night I sat down and sifted through some of my cookie recipes. Since we are just coming off of Valentine’s day I didn’t want to go chocolate crazy, but we still need something sweet in the house. That being said I finally decided on this one for drop sugar cookies.

I love these because they are simple, light, just a little bit sweet, and go perfectly with a winter Sunday afternoon tea. Since it was 25 degrees today I know that the kettle will be working overtime tomorrow, so I better get busy. Here is what you need to make them…..

2/3 cup shortening
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg
4 tsp milk
1 ½ cups sifted flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Cream shortening, sugar, vanilla, and milk. Add egg. Bean until fluffy.

**1/2 tsp orange rind, lemon flavor, or almond flavor may also be added**

Stir in dry ingredients until well blended. Drop from spoon onto greased cookie sheet.

Wet the bottom of a juice glass and dip it in sugar, then gently flatten out each cookie - giving it a sugar topping at the same time.

Bake @ 375 for 6 - 8 minutes. Call your mother and invite her over for tea and cookies.
Makes 2 dozen large cookies.

Dreams are important because they give us hope that anything is possible. If other people have done it, why can’t I? Just as a side note, I’ve also had dreams of being a journalist, Oscar winning actress, singer, figure skater, interior designer, fashion model (ha-ha), personal chef, makeup artist, dancer, cookbook author, and Mrs. Leonardo Dicaprio. Since none of these even remotely resemble my life right now, I’ll have a cookie
and keep dreaming….

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Very Lovely Dinner

I’m so excited because this is my first recipe post, which is one of the main reasons why I started this blog.  No matter what goes on over the course of the day, my kitchen is and will always be my sanctuary.  I love picking recipes out of cookbooks and trying them, cooking my mom’s dishes, and also creating my own.  I feel very content when my husband comes home from work and the smells of a home cooked meal have filled the kitchen.  My heart is full knowing my son will grow up with these aromas of comfort and joy, as I did.  I have vivid memories of coming home from school on a cold winter’s day and as soon as I opened the door I was greeted with the aroma of my mother’s beef stew bubbling on the stove – it was like walking into a hug. Is there anything better than that for a child?  

Monday night was Valentine’s Day. I wanted to cook a family favorite as well as something special for everyone.  I started out with a treat for my hubby.  He’s a garlic lover, so this was just for HIM:

Roasted Garlic:

Get yourself a big, happy, chunky, garlic bulb.  With a sharp knife cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of the garlic, exposing the individual cloves. Put the garlic on to a piece of foil and begin to create a pouch.  Drizzle the top of the exposed cloves with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, making sure each clove is well coated.  Seal up the foil pouch nice and tight.  Cook in a 350 degree oven for one hour. 

When it’s done, the cloves will be soft and tender.  Pop each one out with a sharp knife or fork and enjoy.  The cloves will be soft enough to spread on bread.  Last night I served it with thin slices of a French baguette that I drizzled with the left over olive oil drippings (from the pouch) and a sprinkle of basil. 

For supper I made one of our favorite chicken dishes:

Chicken and Mushrooms in Wine over Rice:

2 lbs chicken tenders
2 cups flour (I season my flour with garlic powder and Morton Nature’s Seasons – two heavy shakes of each – mix into flour)
Olive oil for coating
1 tablespoon Butter
1 cup of white wine or chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
I small can of mushrooms (bits & pieces)

Arrange two bowls side by side.  Put two cups of seasoned flour in one and olive oil to coat in the other.  Coat each tender in flour, and then in olive oil.
(Dipping the floured tender in oil before you add it to the hot pan will seal in the flour and create a nice crust.)

Add 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to a nonstick skillet or electric fry pan.  Over med-high heat brown the tenders, a few minutes on each side. 

Next, add I can of mushrooms (liquid and all), the lemon juice, and one cup of white wine.  If you don’t have white wine on hand you can use chicken stock instead.  Season with a dash of salt & pepper, and an additional sprinkle of garlic powder and Morton Nature’s Seasons over the chicken. 

Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes until chicken is done.  Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.  Serve over Rice Pilaf.  (Serves four)

I served this with mixed veggies and acorn squash.  Yum!

Desert was especially for my little one:  Chocolate Covered Strawberries! 

The best part of this meal was that for our little family of three, there were plenty of leftovers to be had the next night  : - }

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

It’s two days before Valentine’s day and I was just roaming around the house making sure there are enough signs of the holiday showing to make us all feel festive. I’ve always loved Valentine’s days. Even when I was single, I didn’t mind. It’s an excuse to eat chocolate and that’s good enough for me. Like most things now, Valentine’s Day has taken on a new meaning. Last night my son and I sat down and wrote out HIS Valentine cards. As I watched him happily scribble his name on each Mickey Mouse card to his grandparents and cousins, I was taken back in my own mind to days of sending Valentines and having parities in school. Somewhere along the way those simple things get lost as you get older. Everyone expects to get something big and expensive just because it’s another holiday. When in fact it’s just a day to be a happy and celebrate the love of family and friends. (and eat chocolate) What could be better than that?

I’m planning my Valentines menu for Monday night . We stopped going out to eat on Valentines Day a long time ago. Mostly because the restaurants are crowded, overpriced, and sometimes the menus are limited. They also seem to rush you. When I go out to eat I like to enjoy and take my time. I hate it when it’s crowed. Anyway, I think I’m going to make one of my hubby’s favorites - chicken and mushrooms in wine sauce over rice. (I’ll post the recipe after Monday w/ pictures). I’m also going to make one if his favorite things in the world - roasted garlic! It’s sooooo delicious. I realize this is risky to do on Valentines days, but if we both eat it, then it’s okay : ). For desert I’m making something special for my little one - chocolate covered strawberries! YUM!

This is my new Valentines tablecloth I got at Kohl’s the other day for $4.99!!!! I love Kohl’s!

By the way, I have one question. If something is made from a box mix, does that mean it’s not really homemade?

Case in point….

I think Not! Looks (and tastes) good enough for me: )

Happy Valentines Day. Remember happiness is homemade (even if it’s from a box) and the best things in life are the simple things. Love the ones you're with!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Very First Post

Hello and welcome to my first blog post. I have been reading and enjoying blogs for about a year now. It has become a daily ritual for me to “check in” with my favorites right after I pour my morning coffee. I get so excited to read a new post and find out what’s going on with that person. What have they come up with today. I have been so inspired by some of you that I decided to give this “blogging thing” a try. Some much creativity is out there and I just want to thank you all for that. It is wonderful living in a world of technology where we can communicate and share ideas from all across the globe.

January has been a month of planning for me. I always love to start the year with fresh ideas and goals for the year ahead. Here’s what I’m thinking about:

We are having one of the worst winters we’ve had around here in a long time. It seems there is a snowstorm every week. Cabin fever has set in and so has Spring Fever! The other night I started going through my gardening books, trying to decide what flowers to plant in the yard this year. I would in no way call myself a gardener, but I do love to plant bulbs and flowers in my yard. One of the most satisfying things to me is to be able to cut fresh flowers from my own yard, bring them inside, and make the kitchen bright and cherry. During the long winter months I have to settle for these…. Those of the supermarket variety. .

But that's okay.  They are beautiful and certinally cheer me up whenever I enter the room. I wish I had the space and time to do a veggie garden, but the most I can handle right now is pots of tomatoes on the deck and an herb garden. It’s enough to make me happy, without too much work.

My Martha Stewart Craft Encyclopedia is a bible to me. There are so many cute ideas and projects that I can’t wait to dive into - like embroyered throw pillows for the living room, pressed flower coasters, and handpainted flower pots.  I can't wait!

In my spare room I also have this:

This is a pile of lace doilley's and hand embroidered table runners and dish towels that my grandmother made many, many, moons ago. My mother gave them to me last year and I am in love with them. I’ve kept them in my hope chest under lock and key. Sometimes I take them out just to look at them, smell them, iron them, and then put them back (I’m not kidding). The trouble is I have to find a way to display them in the right way and in the right style. At the moment I have developed an obsession with England and English style cottages. I would love to bring some of that style into my own home. There are corners of rooms that need to be redecorated, furniture and shelves that need nice shiny coats of white gloss, and knick-knacks that need to put away for a more clean style look. Color photos to be changed to black and white and china dishes and teapots to be displayed. Now my by biggest obstacle is not how to do this with a 3 year old in the house, it’s how to pull it off, without being too frilly for my hubby - who if he had his way would decorate with a wall of shot glasses and posters of Rocky, Goodfellas, and the Rolling Stones. I love him dearly, but…..ugh. We differ in that way, but in truth I am so lucky to have him. He’s a wonderful daddy to our son and a wonderful hubby to me. He loves and supports all my ideas and lets me be when I need that too. He also empties the dishwasher and does his own laundry. How can I go wrong?

And last but not least - my most favorite goal for the new year is COOKING! I love Susan Branch and  have vowed to cook every recipe in Vineyard Seasons - which is my favorite Susan Branch cookbook. I read all of her books as if they were novels. Each recipe tells a story. Her personality and style come through on every page. I think she is awesome and am so happy I discovered her books many years ago. She is a source of inspiration to me every day. I feel like I’ve know her for years and years. She’s the ultimate girl's girlfriend. If you've never done so, please visit her website

I am looking forward to sharing my recipies and crafts on this blog and hopefully we can share ideas and decorating tips together and have lots of fun!

By the way - there is something else you should know about me. I can’t live without this…..