Saturday, January 26, 2008

Butternut Squash Muffins

It must be said that I am hopelessly in love with the British Chef Jamie Oliver.
He's totally adorable and is fantastic in the kitchen. His new show, Jamie at Home, on Food Network is wonderful, so much so that I get up early on Saturday mornings to watch it when it airs.
I never took him for much of a baker, but not to long ago on his episode featuring pumpkins and squash, he made these delicious looking butternut squash cupcakes and what was a simple crush turned into full fledged adoration!
I made them the other day and they are superb!! They are really easy so I recommend them to anyone willing to bake creatively. They are similar to carrot cake, but much better in my opinion. Here's the recipe. The only thing I have to say is the quantity is flat wrong! They claim it makes 12 muffins, and I got 3 dozen, so something went wrong in the translation, because I followed the recipe to a T! The larger amount prompted me to make double to topping, which I would recommend anyway, just so you can eat it with a spoon!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

It was dusk– winter dusk.
Snow lay white and shining over the pleated hills, and icicles hung from the forest trees. Snow lay piled on the dark road across Willoughby Wold, but from dawn the men had been clearing it with brooms and shovels. There were hundreds of them at work, wrapped in sacking because the bitter cold, and keeping together in groups for fear of the wolves, grown savage and reckless from hunger.
Snow lay think, too, upon the roof of Willoughby Chase, the great house that stood on an open eminence in the heart of the wold. But for all that, the Chase looked an inviting home– a warm and welcoming stronghold. Its rosy herringbone brick was bright and well-cared for, its numerous turrets and battlements stood up sharp against the sky, and the crenelated balconies, corniced with snow, each held a golden square of window. The house was all alight within, the joyous hubbub of its activity contrasted with the somber sighing of the wind and the hideous howling of the wolves without.
In the nursery a little girl was impatiently dancing up and down before the great window, fourteen feet high, which faced out over the park and commanded the long black expanse of the road.
"Will she be here soon, Pattern? Will she?" was her continual cry.
– The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Don't you just want to be inside, peering out one of those golden squares of a window!
I discovered this book at a yard sale when I was probably around 12. I still remember what the yard looked like, and what the experience was like when I found what would become my all-time favorite book. The pages have become a light brown over time, and the smell when you bury your nose in this tome is heavenly. The copyright on my copy is 1962, and it shows, but that just means its been well loved.
Before it fell into my hot little hands a girl named Patty owned it. She left her mark on the inside cover, and when I was younger, I often wondered who Patty was, where she was, and why in the world she was willing to part with this wonderful story.
The saga is set in Britain in what I can only assume is the later part of the 19th century. It's the tale of two young girls who must travel across England, with the help of a young boy, in order to find safety from a wretched governess. I will say no more in hopes of luring you into reading it. Yes, it's a children's novel, but I still think it's worth reading. After all, the Harry Potter series is supposedly for children.
I just went on Amazon to make sure this book was still available, and it turns out it's the first in a series of 13 books, entitled The Wolves Chronicles. Now I have to go buy the other 12!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cinnamon Buns

I attempted baking with yeast for the first time the other day and had wonderful results! I decided to go with Cinnamon Buns my first time out because I recently found out that my very existence is related to Cinnamon Buns! It turns out that during the depression, my great grandfather baked buns in the basement of their Philadelphia row home, and sent my grandfather out into town to sell them. The money made from this venture put food on the table for my relatives and kept them alive. So in turn my grandfather lived through the depression, and was able to get married and have kids. My dad was then able to have me, so I owe my life to cinnamon buns! It only seemed right that I should add this confection to my repertoire. 
I went with a recipe from Food Network because it was the first one I found. I plan on trying lots of different recipes to find one that seems to be a standout, but this first one was great! Check it out. I followed it to a T, other than switching the juice of a lemon out for that of a clementine for the icing. It was only because I forgot to buy lemons, but it turned out great, and added a dimension that I think would have been missing otherwise. I found that drizzling the icing over just the bun I was devouring worked out best because that way the rest didn't get soggy. Not that they stuck around in my families kitchen long enough to get soggy, but still! 
It was my first time kneading dough and I loved it, but I have to admit… the best part about making these buns was cutting them with dental floss. It was totally satisfying in this fantastic way! If only I could go around chopping things up with dental floss all day long, it would rock! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Writing and Reese's

Often times you'll hear a novelist say how healing the process of writing a book can be. Today was one of those days for me, as I was able to let some of my own grief go via my main character. As she sat there crying in my book, I sat there crying at my desk, and we let the pain go together. It was a great day of writing, so good in fact that I gave myself a high five. Of course when your alone in the fiving it really just ends up being one clap kinda higher up in the air than you would normally clap, but hey, what can you do! 
Most of the day revolved around writing, with a few moments spent hugging my nephew, and a few more spent gazing out the back window at the deer who were munching away in my backyard. 
The only problem with writing all day is that nothing got baked, and the coconut cake is sadly all gone. So at 9:30 this evening I found myself craving something sweet and I gladly turned to my favorite substitute for all things baked, a Reese's. Some time ago I was introduced to the mother of all Reese's cups– the large holiday version. The great thing about the holiday big boys is their peanut butter to chocolate ratio. The chocolate takes a back seat to the PB in this one, unlike the cup where the two yummos come together about evenly. As far as I'm concerned the chocolate is merely a vehicle with which to ingest the peanut butter, so this PB heavy combo is heaven for me.
Of course the cup shape is tossed aside in honor of whatever holiday might be near, or months away as the case happens to be right now. Luckily I had only just finished my last Christmas tree when the Valentines hearts arrived on the shelves. I actually saw the Easter Eggs the other day, but I'm trying to be true to the season and work my way there slowly. Besides, it must be said that at Easter the Cadbury Eggs vie for my Reese's attention. 
Most people just dive in and take a bite, denying one of our most treasured senses a chance to enjoy this pleasure. Me, I like to sniff ’em first. There's nothing better than a long, slow draught of Reese's, trust me. The endorphin explosion rivals that of a good, long workout. If only I got the same effects from chocolate and peanut butter as I do from my hour long morning workouts. I would gladly spend the first hour of my day devouring these pals in exchange for a smaller butt… but sadly, I pretty sure I would get the opposite result.  

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Monday, January 14, 2008


As a professional procrastinator I find myself once again avoiding my book and watching Sex and the City, figuring I'm watching a show about a writer, that must count for something. It happens to be the episode after Carrie finds out that Burgers second book option was dropped. She's going to jury duty when Burger says he's going to head to a museum since he's in that part of town. Carrie says "Oh, well aren't you going to write today?" eliciting a wounded reaction from her beau, with him asking her if she thinks he's a slacker. It got me thinking, why is that I torture myself with guilt when I'm not writing? I literally make myself feel horrible if I'm sitting around doing nothing, as if every moment of my waking existence has to be committed to writing this book. And further more, why am I procrastinating when I'm supposedly doing what I've always dreamed of doing. Shouldn't I be happily writing every available minute of the day? And how is that I somehow find a way of torturing myself for torturing myself too much? Every once in awhile I long for that 9 to 5 existence, or 2 to 10 as it was for me in the newspaper world. I know, ech, how could I say it, but the thing is when you leave work you can actually leave work! Not so when you work from home. It's always sitting there, watching you like that puppy that just wants to go out and pee when you don't have time to let it out. Or like that pile of laundry that gets higher and higher even though you work from home and actually for once in your life have no excuse of running out of clean underwear only to be left with every girls secret, that token pair of granny panties we seem to be given at birth. I guess I really should rethink my self imposed torture as it has the potential to end up in a relationship killing crash of pink carnations. Unless of course the relationship between me and my torturous side is all thats finito. Ugh, this is torture. 

Course, Charlotte and Harry get engaged at the end of this one… so there must be some hope for the future.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gummi Love

Alright, so I didn't bake them (only because I don't know how!), but I still have to declare my love affair with all things gummi. As a child growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs, I often found myself in the Fannie Mae candy store in the Neshaminy Mall about as often as I could find myself there. I discovered the world of chewy gel like candy in the form of strawberry gummies. Many many years later I find myself living far far away from those first gummi berries, but I still get my fix as often as I can. Go on, eat a gummi… after all even gummies daydream of gummies!  

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The Wisdom of Wallace Wattles

God, the One Substance, is trying to live and do and enjoy things through humanity. He is saying "I want hands to build wonderful structures, to play divine harmonies, to paint glorious pictures; I want feet to run my errands, eyes to see my beauties, tongues to tell mighty truths and to sing marvelous songs." … God wants those who can play music to have pianos and every other instrument… He wants those who can appreciate beauty to be able to surround themselves with beautiful things; He wants those who can discern truth to have the opportunity to travel and observe; He wants those who can appreciate dress to be beautifully clothed, and those who can appreciate good food to be luxuriously fed. He wants all these things because it is Himself that enjoys and appreciates them; it is God who wants to play, and sing, and enjoy beauty, and proclaim truth and wear fine clothes, and eat good food. – The Science on Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles 

I'm loving this book. I'm typically a Fiction maven, however, this publication is a must for anyone trying to get a strong foothold in the rock face of life. It's actually some of the inspiration for the movie and book 'The Secret' by Rhonda Byrne. If you practice the law of attraction in your life or have no idea what I'm talking about you should navigate yourself over to Amazon and get this wisdom filled book. 
I'm having a good time working it into my life and making it work for me. For instance, just this morning when I was sweating it out on the treadmill working off last nights coconut confections, I felt God trying to enjoy life through me. Of course it didn't come in the form of a burning bush, just a burning desire to eat more cake. Who am I to deny God the chance to enjoy cake… it's my duty really. I considered eating the cake while on the treadmill in an effort to save myself some time, but my abilities to multitask are often in question, so I left behind the rotating runway for the reason I was there in the first place. 
I think every day should start with real cake… not just the pan variety! 

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Coconut confections

Looking around this morning I noted that the chocolate cupcakes had dwindled down to one, so it was time to get baking again. Todays kitchen adventure resulted in a delicious coconut cake in honor of my best friend Lindsay's new adventure… moving far away and leaving me for love! Who can blame her. So we celebrated with champagne and cake as I think all things should be celebrated with. Luckily Lindsay likes coconut because I had been looking for an excuse to bake this dreamy confection. It was definitely worth the effort and was a total hit! If you're up for the challenge heres the recipe. It's a Barefoot Contessa ceation, so you know it's going to be good!
Cheers Linds, I will miss you dearly! 

p.s. you're not taking the cake with you!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

My Novel

Liv had wanted to sign it each time she came to the hospital, but I didn’t want my white plastered arm to give away the fact that I only had one friend who cared enough to sign my cast. I had thought one night about signing a bunch of other names on it so that I would look cooler than I in fact am. Then I realized that I was 27 years old and that would be pathetic. Say nothing of the fact that I would have had to do the signing with my left hand, making it look like I had been attacked by a first grade class learning how to write their names for the first time.

Here's a excerpt from my book, currently titled Shoo Elephant Shoo. It comes from what is currently chapter 27 titled Tasty Kakes and Namesakes. I'm amused by it, and my dad laughed, so that's a hopeful sign. 

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Watership Down

The two rabbits went up to the board at a hopping run and crouched in a patch of nettles on the far side, wrinkling their noses at the smell of a dead cigarette end somewhere in the grass. Suddenly Fiver shivered and cowered down.
"Oh hazel! This is where it comes from! I know now–something very bad! Some terrible thing–coming closer and closer." 
He began to whimper with fear.
"What sort of thing–what do you mean? I thought you said there was no danger?"
"I don't know what it is," answered Fiver wretchedly. "There isn't any danger here at the moment. But it's coming–it's coming. Oh, Hazel, look! The field! It's covered with blood!" 
– Watership Down by Richard Adams

When I was a young doe I watched an animated movie about rabbits, but other than being frightened of what took place, I couldn't remember a single thing about it, let alone its title. Something as an adult must have sparked my memory of this story because I became intrigued in finding it. Years passed and my memory continued to fail me, so I gave up on finding the story. Many years had passed when I started noticing a book in my favorite book store. Each time I went in it seemed to be displayed prominently for me to see, even though it was an older paperback. Finally I picked it up one day and discovered that long lost bunny tale that I had been searching for since childhood. 
Whether you remember it from your younger years, or you've never heard the tale of this group of daring rabbits, it's a must read. In fact I think it's better as an adult as it's not so scary. Although I did question the motives of a rather brave front yard rabbit the other day… 

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I baked some cupcakes this evening and topped them off with my Great Aunt Dorothys delicious icing… unfortunately I cannot share the secret to the recipe… but know that it's oh so delicious and the enjoyment is abundant. 

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Love in the Time of Cholera

Little by little, listening to her sleep, he pieced together the navigation chart of her dreams and sailed among the countless islands of her secret life.
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A good friend Rachel had recommended this book to me about a year ago, and once I finally got around to reading it I was delighted. Sure I'm certainly not the first person to talk about this book, but it's worth the praise once again, even just from little old me. The above line is so freaking delicious I didn't even know what to do with myself the first time I read it. As a writer that's a line that makes me want to be an even better writer. Of course I would never presume to put myself in ranks with the likes of Garcia Marquez, however, if I'm lucky someday in the future, someone else will do it for me! 

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