Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review-Before You Know Kindness

Image result for before you know kindness

This is the second novel I have read by Chris Bohjalian, the first of which was The Double Bind. The books couldn't be more different.  They were both good but The Double Bind was filled with twists and turns and an ending that left you stunned to the point that you wanted to immediately read the book again because you couldn't believe that you had missed what was going on.

I guess I was expecting Before You Know Kindness to be kind of the same so I kept trying to read between the lines so that I would know the ending before it happened.  Well, as it turned out, I did know the ending before it happened but not because of any twisting and turning plots but only because it was a normal, everyday novel about family dynamics and you wanted everything to work out for them so it does.

I wouldn't run out and buy this book nor will I ever read it again but I don't feel as if I wasted my time reading it.  It was a nice little escape and it was nice to see a family that could survive their differences by loving each other just a little more.

Not sure what I am picking up next but we will be heading north again tomorrow so I definitely will be starting something new.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes for Secret Recipe Club

Happy August Everyone.  I know that many of you are busy, busy, busy, getting the kids ready to go back to school but I hope you have a few moments to stop by and take a look at what the members of Group D in the Secret Recipe Club have to share with you today.

The Secret Recipe Club, or SRC as we fondly refer to it, is a group (well actually 4 groups) of bloggers who get together each month to play a fun little game of I Spy (kind of).  Each month we are assigned another blogger from our group.  We start spying on that blogger, learn about them and what makes them tick, find a recipe on their blog that we cannot resist and make it.  Then we all get together on the same day and reveal who we were assigned and what recipe we recreated.  It is a lot of fun and one of my favorite cooking clubs.  We are a friendly bunch and we love to welcome new members.  Interested??  Go right to this Join SRC link and find out how.  You will be very happy you did.

This month I was assigned Erin of The Spiffy Cookie.  Erin loves baking, cooking, crafts and working out.  She needs to work out because she LOVES desserts the best and always makes room for it.  She also has tons, and I mean TONS of dessert recipes.  Erin also has a lot of other recipes and she, like me, tries to make her meals somewhat healthy but she always has room for dessert, especially if it contains chocolate and peanut butter.  That is another thing Erin and I have in common.  Erin and I belong to several of the same cooking clubs so I get to enjoy her blog on an almost daily basis.  Let me tell you, you should stop by Erin's blog each day and see what she is up to...you will not be sorry.

I knew that I wanted to make a dessert recipe from Erin's blog.  My husband is a CPL instructor and he was holding a class this month.  Each time he has a class, I provide lunch and I always like to have a great dessert to finish up the meal.  Now, you would think that this would make my decision easier this month since I, basically, knew what I wanted to serve.  That is because you have not yet popped over to Erin's blog to see how very many choices I had!!

Erin has 9, yes 9, subsections in her dessert file.  Now I had to decided if I wanted to make brownies, cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes, cookies, ice cream, pies, puddings or truffles.  Then as I started going through the subsections I found choice after choice after choice.  I was starting to suffer anxiety....so I decided to narrow it down a bit. 
  • There were going to be 10 students and my husband, the instructor, making 11. 
  • I was serving Biscotti with coffee in the morning so I didn't want another cookie.
  • I would have to make 2 pies or cheesecakes if I wanted to serve 11 people.
  • I  was not going to be on hand to cut and serve cake and wanted to have a nice presentation so didn't want to cut the cake before hand.
That left me with brownies and bars or cupcakes.  I started going through those two categories and I found a lot of great ideas like Maple Walnut Blondies (definitely being made this fall) and Lemon Lush Bars (doesn't that make your mouth water?) but then I went to cupcakes and found the PERFECT recipe.  The recipe I chose is one of my favorite summer flavors, Orange Creamsicle,  and it makes only 12 cupcakes so I wouldn't be tempted to finish off the extra 13 that would be left if everyone ate just one cupcake.

I need not have worried, had I made a triple batch I don't think there would have been any leftovers.   Frank said that his students were crazy about these wonderful cupcakes.  I will have to take his and their word for it that they were delicious because I did not get one little bite of one little cupcake...they were inhaled and gone within moments.  You know what this means don't you?  Yep, I will be making these again in the very near future.

I followed Erin's recipe exactly.
The only changes I made were to the aesthetics.
Erin, very prettily, had her frosting piped on with dual colors, adjacent to each other.
Too much work for me.
I made some orange frosted, some white frosted and some a mixture of both.
Erin also topped hers with orange gummies (my favorite candy in the world).
 I forgot to pick any up so I decorated with sprinkles.

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes
Very slightly adapted from Erin of  The Spiffy Cookie


1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
pinch of salt 
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. orange extract
zest and juice from 1/2 an orange
2/3 c. milk

Orange Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter at room temperature
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 t. vanilla
1/2 t. orange extract
juice from half an orange
orange food coloring

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter at room temperature
1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla
2 T. heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350*.  Line a cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Mix in vanilla, orange extract, zest and orange juice.
Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, beating after each addition.
Scoop into 12 cupcake liners and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted removes cleanly.
Let cool completely before frosting.


In two separate applications, using 1 bowl for each.  Cream butter until light and fluffy.  Sift sugar over butter, add any extracts and liquids and beat until combined and fluffy.  Add the food coloring, a drop at a time, to the frosting containing the orange extract and juice, until desired color is reached.

When you are ready to frost the cupcakes you can follow Erin's directions found here or frost the cupcakes with one or both of the frostings  as desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Print Recipe

Check out all the great recipes chosen this month!

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bok Choy Gai See Tong for #SundaySupper

This month's Sunday Supper is being hosted by Amy of Kimchi Mom.  Amy is Korean American and trying to walk in her Mom's big shoes and prepare home cooked meals for her 2 children each night. Those of us with children know that this is often more easier said than done, especially when they start getting involved in extracurricular activities which never, ever seem to coincide time wise.

It is no surprise that Amy chose Asian Cuisine for her theme this month.  This is right up my alley since I have an Asian daughter and half Asian grand-daughter.  I try to cook them meals that will help alleviate some of the home sickness my daughter sometimes has.

After having Tingting for 8 years I have learned a few things.  First and foremost, the food that we consider Chinese....the stuff in tons of gravy and sweet and sour sauces....isn't the Chinese food that she grew up loving and longing for today.  It is a very Americanized version, still good mind you, just not what she is pining away for.  Then I discovered a cookbook called "My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.  The first meal I made for Tingting from this cookbook made her eyes light up and she said "this is just like my grandma's".  My heart sang and I knew that when my daughter started longing for her roots I would be able to soothe her, even if just a little bit, with a recipe from this book.

I decided to make Bok Choy and Shredded Chicken Soup.  Soup is eaten frequently in China so while Tingting loves our Chicken Noodle Soup and Beef Vegetable Soup, I wanted to surprise her with a more familiar version of Chicken Vegetable Soup.  She was very surprised because this soup was delicious and she was unable to come over the day I made it.  When she came over the next day it was G O N E, gone.  Don't worry Tingting, this easy and delicious soup will be making many more appearances.


Bok Choy Gai See Tong
very slightly adapted from My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen

1 T. Oyster Sauce
1 1/2 t. Tamari Soy Sauce
1 T. gin
1 t. dark sesame oil
1 t. sugar
2 t. cornstarch
1/2 lb. chicken cutlets, cut into julienne slices
4 c. chicken stock
1 slice ginger, 1/2" thick, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 lbs. Bok Choy, washed, dried and cut on the diagonal in 1/2" pieces, stalks and leaves separated.
2 green onions, white and light green sections thinly sliced

Place oyster sauce, soy sauce, gin, sesame oil, sugar and cornstarch in a sealable plastic bag and shake to combine.  Add chicken, toss to coat, press out the air from the bag and let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Place chicken stock and ginger into a large pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Add the bok choy stalks, return to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until the stalks are tender.  Raise the heat back to high and add the bok choy leaves, immerse thoroughly, stir and return to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for a few minutes until leaves are tender.  Raise heat to high, add the chicken and marinade, stir to mix thoroughly and return to a boil for 1 minute. Stir in the green onions and serve.  Print Recipe

Here are what the others brought to our Asian Table this week.

Small Bites
Soupy Goodness
Big Plates
On the Lighter Side
Oodles of Noodles

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board. Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It's easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

The coming week and a couple days of the Weekly Menu

I'm not even bothering with a Weekly Menu this week.  We will only be home for two dinners so I will just share them with you in the dialogue.

Tonight we are going to a birthday party for our friend, Sharon, and dinner will be served. Tomorrow we are going to an Art Fair where Nic and Pierre will be set up with Petoskey and Pine products. Afterwards, Frank is taking me out to dinner for my birthday and perhaps Nic and Pierre will join us and we can celebrate his birthday as well since it was yesterday.

Instead of Meatless Monday this week we are having Mexican Monday.  I have some leftover chicken that needs to be used up and decided to make Mexican Chicken Lasagna. This is a great casserole.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The only difference in my recipe will be that I will be using kernels from 2 ears of corn that are leftover from last night instead of the canned corn.

Tuesday I am going to be putting up some stuffed cabbages and sauerkraut to use up all of this cabbage taking up space in my fridge.  We will eat a little before packaging the rest up in dinner size portions for the freezer.

Wednesday we are heading north again for Frank's work conference in Traverse City...you know what that means?!  We get to see our TC family again!! Lil has a soccer game Wednesday afternoon that we will attend and then she and Randy are coming down state for the weekend.  Frank will be busy in conference Wednesday evening, most of the day Thursday and then a short meeting Friday morning before the conference ends.  We will be spending Friday evening with Spence and Jen and then heading home on Saturday.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Saints Preserve Us.....

Did you know that there are Seven Patron Saints of the Culinary Arts?  No?  Neither did I until I looked it up and I was delighted to read about these Saints and why they were chosen to care for those of us that spend time in kitchens caring for our families and those we love.

I was very familiar with one of these Saints, Martha, the sister of Lazarus.  You remember Martha...she was the one who came whining to Jesus because she was slaving away in the kitchen and her sister, Mary, was just hanging out and visiting with Jesus.  Yep, that Martha.  Jesus told her to quit worrying about her sister and skedaddle back into the kitchen...maybe He was very hungry LOL.

Saint Martha

What made me think of this today is that when I was in the kitchen preparing for our peach marathon I suddenly heard my Parish Priest's Irish brogue saying Saints preserve us.  I don't know why....there hadn't been any calamities (yet) I was merely putting the jars in the dishwasher to ready them, putting pots of water on to boil and sanitizing counter tops when suddenly his voice popped into my head. Perhaps I am on his mind today as he, our Associate Pastor and our Sisters will certainly be included in the distribution when our peaches are preserved.

Tami arrived along with Raechal and Rae's friend, Hannah.  I love free help in the kitchen and always enjoy Rae's company.  Last time Rae helped me in the kitchen we she made Crunchy Peanut Surprise Cookies and she did a great job.  This time she and Hannah were more interested in the swimming pool and pool table than the kitchen except when they checked in to see if we needed taste testers.

Today we made peach salsa that we created after combing through several recipes and finally winging it and making our own version, a peach and jalapeno jam using a recipe from Mary Ellen of Recipes, Food and Cooking, honey spiced peaches and simple canned peaches using the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

I'm a big believer that if you are going to be busy canning you may as well kill as many birds with one peach stone as you can so run up to your local pick your own farm, farmer's market or out to your back yard if you are lucky enough to own peach trees grab a bushel of peaches and let's get to work!

Zesty Peach Salsa

4 lbs. peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced
2 T. cilantro, minced
1/2 t. cumin
2 T.  minced garlic
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. sugar

Combine all ingredients in a large pot over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.  Ladle hot salsa into prepared hot jars, add lids and rings.  Process in a  boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Print Recipe

Jalapeno Peach Jam
slightly adapted from Mary Ellen of Recipes, Food and Cooking

3 1/2 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
2 medium jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
7 1/2 c. sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin
juice of 2 small lemons (1/4 c.)
1-2 T. butter

Place peaches, jalapeno, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 minutes or until peaches are tender.  If the mixture foams stir in a T. of butter. You can add a second T of butter if needed.  When peaches are tender, add the liquid pectin and boil for one minute longer. Ladle jam into hot jars leaving a 1/4" headspace.  Wipe the rims, cover with lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes.  Print Recipe

The process for both the sliced peaches and the honey spiced peaches is the same.
The syrup and the addition of spices into the jars are the only differences.

Honey Spiced Peaches
slightly adapted from Ball Blue Book of Preserving

8 lbs. peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into eight slices
1 c. sugar
4 c. water
2 c. honey
6 t. fruit fresh
1 stick cinnamon per qt or 1/2 stick per pt.
1/2 t. whole allspice per qt or 1/4 t. per pt.
4 whole cloves per qt or 2 cloves per pt.

Combine sugar, water, honey and fruit fresh in large pot over med high heat.  Cook until sugar dissolves. Add peaches and cook until heated through.  Ladle hot peaches into hot jars leaving 1/2" headspace.  Place cinnamon, allspice and cloves in jar, seal with lids and rings.  Process for 25 minutes in boiling water canner.  Print Recipe

Canned Peach Slices
adapted from Ball Blue Book of Preserving

8 lbs peaches, peeled pitted and cut into eight slices
2 1/4 c. sugar
5 1/4 c. water

Combine sugar and water in large pot over med high heat until sugar is melted.  Add peaches and heat through.  Ladle hot peaches and liquid into hot jars.  Adjust two piece caps and process for 25 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Print Recipe

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tis the Season to Preserve....

Harvest season is upon us.  We are getting lots of bounty.  It will peak over the next month or so and then start to slow down.  So here on the farm, we are getting while the getting is good.

Frank stopped and picked us up a 1/2 bushel of peaches.  When Tami, housekeeper extraordinaire, comes over tomorrow we are canning peaches, peach salsa and peach jam.  This works out perfectly because then she is here to clean up all of the mess we will make!!  I am smiling!

I stopped by my CSA, RC Organic Farms, picked up this week's goodies and put in an order for 2 bushels of tomatoes for the beginning of September.  It will be a busy week, in the meantime this is my 3rd head of cabbage and I am running out of room in my fridge.  I will be making some cole slaw to serve with dinner tomorrow and will probably start some stuffed cabbages and Sauerkraut on Monday to start putting away in the freezer for the winter months.

But for today...the peaches were calling to me in all their juicy goodness.  So I decided to use a couple to make a compote.  I served them with dinner tonight but they are delicious for breakfast as well.  They make a great topping on pancakes, waffles or french toast or all by themselves with a side of cinnamon toast....YUM.  It is also a wonderful topping for ice cream!

Cinnamon Peach Compote

2 peaches, blanched, peeled and cut into slices
2 T. butter
2 heaping T. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon

Melt butter in a skillet over med high heat.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Add peaches, the sauce will loosen and liquefy, bring to a boil and heat through.  Can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Print Recipe

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Sprinkles of Love Cake for #BundtBakers

Welcome back to Bundt Bakers. The fabulous group of bloggers who get together once a month to make delicious and tempting Bundt cakes with a theme chosen by one of the members.  This month's theme was chosen by Terri of Love and Confections and she chose the fun theme of Sprinkles!

Who doesn't love Sprinkles?  They are so much fun.  Heck, one baking company even makes a cake mix called Funfetti, that is filled with sprinkles.  I was very excited to get going on my Bundt as ideas kept popping around in my head.  A simple white cake filled with sprinkles and topped with sprinkles.  What fun!  Thanks Terri!

I looked up in my baking box and found a full, unopened jar of Chocolate Sprinkles aka Jimmies that I used for inside my cake.  I also found some cute little white and red Heart Sprinkles with which to decorate the top of the cake and Voila-- my Bundt was named.  "Sprinkles of Love" from me to you.  Enjoy.

Sprinkles of Love Bundt Cake

1/2 c. coconut oil
1 (8 oz) pkg Neufchatel Cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 c. milk
1 (4 oz) jar of chocolate sprinkles
Chocolate Glaze
Heart Sprinkles to taste

In large bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the coconut oil, cheese and sugar.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Turn speed on mixer to low and add half of the dry ingredients, beating until incorporated. Add the milk and once it is combined add the remaining dry ingredients.  Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Stir in sprinkles.  Spread into a Bundt pan that has been liberally treated with baking spray.  Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake removes cleanly.

Let cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely. Place rack over a piece of parchment paper and drizzle the cake with the glaze and heart sprinkles. Print Recipe

Here are this month's "Sprinkles" Bundts:

BundtBakersBundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.
Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers, can be found on our home page.

This post contains affiliate links.  Should you buy a product using this link, your price remains the same but I receive a small stipend to help offset the costs of this blog.