Tuesday, February 21, 2023


In a week we will be finishing off February. Time is certainly flying! I've just returned from a visit to Phoenix where I spent time with my daughter, her fiancé, and two of his sons. It was very relaxing and fun. Lots of time for the boys to hang out with each other and with a friend who lives in Phoenix.

The last time I was there we were working on the house, including doing a lime wash on the large fireplace in the room off the kitchen. This time there were a few things, like securing a wobbly electrical outlet, but mostly we spent time together enjoying ourselves, especially in the fireplace room. One evening we even hosted Aaron's sister Holly and her partner, plus a long-time friend of Aaron's and the friend's wife and daughters. It was so nice meeting some of Aaron's family and friends, including his cold plunge buddy on our final day.

I've been cleaning out my office space, too. The next part is my cork bulletin board, which has gotten so full that papers are pinned over other papers, and over cards and passwords and some artwork, too. I suspect that I'll have more than will fit, even after I sort and throw some of it out!

The garden has started to call to me. Right now there are daffodils just beginning to bloom and still some paper whites and grape hyacinths that began blooming earlier in the month. The rose bushes I pruned and sprayed are beginning to leaf out. To Sweetie's dismay the grass needs mowing. To my dismay the weeds are already taking hold. Yesterday I filled the green can with weeds and spent soil from some of the pots that don't have bulbs. Soon I'll plant some seeds in soil cells in mini-greenhouses and put them in the sunspace to sprout. Our weather has been unseasonably cool and we might even get snow this Friday, so I suspect that it will be late April or early May before tomato or squash seedlings can be planted. I like for nighttime temperatures to be 50 or above for a week to warm the soil before I plant seedlings out.

I'm still experimenting with printing with the Gelli pads and acrylic paint. The wonderful thing about prints is that you never know what you will get! Above is a photo of a print that I made recently.

The Sonoma County Airport is also the Charles Schultz Airport and they recently did a remodel. When I returned from Phoenix it was the first time that I was in the part of the 'new' airport that had the model of the Red Baron's plane up above. Soooo fun!

These are but some of the threads of the tapestry of my life at the moment. What threads are you experiencing dear reader?

Monday, February 20, 2023

Pretty Cookies with Raspberry Filling

A tea party can be fun, especially if you enjoy using pretty china tea things, including tea pots, cups and saucers, and little plates. I recently had tea with a very good friend and she loved the fact that I baked really pretty cookies to go with the tea, served on a tiered plate with all the nice china.

You don't really need to bake cookies to enjoy tea with a friend. I often use packaged cookies from the market, but this time I didn't. I baked a simple sugar cookie, cut it with a fluted round cutter, then cut the center out of half of them with a smaller fluted round cutter. Once baked and cooled, I piped vanilla buttercream just inside the edge of the whole cookies, filled the center with a thin layer of raspberry jam. Next I sifted a small amount of confectioners sugar over the cutouts. The final touch was top the raspberry/buttercream whole cookies with the cutout cookies. You could use another flavor of jam or some lemon curd instead of the raspberry jam for another take on these lovely cookies. The cookies themselves are crisp the first day, giving a nice contrast to the soft jam and buttercream. If you store them longer, the cookies soften a bit, but they are still delicious! You also don't need to have a tea party to enjoy these cookies!

When making the cookies, know that the dough tends to be soft, but you really don't want to overwork it. Be generous with the flour on your work surface and rolling pin so that the dough doesn't stick too much. I slid a small offset spatula under the cookies to make sure they were loosened before I moved them to the baking sheet with a larger spatula that supported them fully. I baked the cutout part, too, and iced small hearts with buttercream on them. A small bite is sometimes as good as a fancy one. Some of the filled ones ended up without powdered sugar since Sweetie doesn't really like powdered sugar.

Enjoy the cookies and do consider having a tea party. It's particularly nice during the winter to have a little party to lift our spirits and give us an excuse to invite a friend over.

Fancy Tea Cookies  

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
about 2-3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 cup vanilla buttercream
1 - 1 1/2 cups raspberry jam (or other flavor jam or lemon curd)

    With butter or margarine at room temperature, beat butter or margarine in large bowl, then beat in sugar and egg until fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together and add to first mixture. Mix well. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness, cut with round cookie cutters. Place on lightly buttered cookie sheets. Use a smaller round cutter to cut out the middle of half of the cookies. Bake in a 400 F. oven for 7- 8 minutes. If dough sticks while rolling, chill briefly. 

    After cookies have cooled, use a small fine-mesh strainer to sift a small amount of the confectioners sugar over the cut-out cookies. Pipe a thin line of buttercream near the edge of the full cookies, then fill the center with a thin layer of the raspberry jam. Top with the cut-out cookies, pushing down gently to seal the layers together. Serve.  Makes 2 - 4 dozen cookies depending on the size of the round cutters.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Greek Easter Bread with the Babes

I'm really glad that my dairy allergy seems to have gone away because this month, the wonderful Kitchen of the Month Kelly of A Messy Kitchen invited us to bake Cypriot Easter Bread with Cheese, also known as Flaounes. Although the recipe calls for halloumi and I'm sure it would have been better with that cheese, when I tried to buy some I found that it was extremely expensive, so I went with mozzarella. Not my best idea because the cheddar was mild and so was the mozzarella. The ground cherry pits, also known as mahleb helped a little with flavor, but not alot. I was also unable to procure the resin mastic, but I did include some cardamom. All in all I found the bread to be nice but bland and the filling was also bland. The best thing was the sesame seeds.

It was a fun bread to make. I probably didn't roll it thin enough, but that made it easy to handle once I cut the dough into squares. First you paint one side with egg wash (an egg beaten with a little water), then the eggy side goes down onto sesame seeds spread in a pan - or in my case a paper plate. A scoop of the cheese mixture that was made the day before gets placed in the middle of the square, more egg wash is applied around the edges, then the edges are squeezed together to encase the cheese mixture. I had trouble with that, so I ended up with ones that looked more like boats than flowers or squares. Still, even the less pretty ones baked up to be golden with just a bit of char on top...usually where the raisins were. I made my squares 4 inches by 4 inches and reduced the amount of cheese a bit, too. Even so they were large. Next time I'll make the dough squares 3-inches square.

I still have some of the dough and some of the filling so I think that I'm going to add lemon zest to the filling and more of the mahleb, plus more sugar, to the dough. It will become a sweet roll and I'll serve it with some fruit. That's the great thing about trying new recipes...you can usually figure out how to improve on them. If I lived in Cypress I could probably find the halloumi, and the mastic easily and could have the real deal. If I ever visit it should be at Easter so I can try the authentic bread! By the way, when this is posted, which is mid-February, the hills around where we live look like the photo in the header...green fields, bare trees. Since I change out the header every now and then it won't always look that way, but right now it shows the effects of winter rain - green, green grass - and yet spring is still not even on the horizon.

Hope that you will try this and become a Bread Baking Buddy. Bake and post by February 27th and send the URL and a photo to Kelly and she will send you a Buddy Badge and include you in the round-up.

Also, be sure to visit the other Babes...I suspect that they will have done a more authentic version than mine.

Cypriot Flaounes (Greek Easter Cheese Bread)

makes 12 (3 inch x 4 inch) flaouna


    1 tsp mastic *   
    1 tsp mahleb **   
    1 tsp sugar
    8 oz (228 g) halloumi cheese (I used all halloumi)
    8 oz (228 g) soft, mild cheddar
    1c (115 g) raisins
    1/2 c (84 g) semolina flour (I used fresh ground durum wheat)
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp dry mint, crushed (I used fresh mint, twice as much)
    2 eggs


    2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
    1 1/4 c (300 ml) lukewarm milk, divided
    1 tsp mastic, optional   
    1 tsp mahleb *   
    1 tsp sugar
    4 c (512 g) flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/3 c olive oil

For The Topping

    1 egg, beaten
    1/2 c (70 g) sesame seeds

Day 1 - Make the Cheese Filling

    Using a mortar and pestle, combine the mastic and mahleb together with 1 tsp sugar and pound together until it is a fine powder.
    Grate the cheese and mix with the raisins, semolina flour, baking powder, pounded sugar and spice mixture, and crushed mint.
    Add the eggs, one by one, mixing until the cheese has come together as a firm mixture that can be shaped into a ball. (More or fewer eggs may be needed depending on the moisture level of the cheese used.)
    Cover the filling and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours, to let the flavors come together.

Day 2 – Prepare dough, assemble and bake

    Remove cheese mixture from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while you prepare the dough.
    Mix yeast with 1/2 cup lukewarm milk. Set aside for the yeast to activate, 5-10 minutes.
    Pound the mastic and mahleb with 1 tsp sugar until fine.
    In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar mixture.
    Add the oil and rub it into the flour with your fingertips, until the mixture has a sandy texture.
    Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and mix well with your hands.
    Add the remaining 3/4 cup of lukewarm milk gradually, kneading with your hands and adding just enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients and create a firm dough that does not stick on your hands.

    Cover dough and set aside to rise for 1-2 hours, until nearly doubled.

    Place the sesame seeds onto a wide plate or tray.
    Roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick (it should measure roughly 15x20 inches). Cut the dough into 5 inch squares. (Or cut the dough your desired shape and size.)
    Brush one side of the cut dough with the beaten egg and place it egg-side down onto the seeds.
    Place a heaping 1/4 cup of the cheese filling on top of the dough (on the un-seeded side).  (Don't compact it, so that it stays light and airy!

    Brush the egg wash on the outer edges of the dough and fold them up towards the center (leaving the top center of the filling uncovered). Pinch the un-seeded side of the corners of the dough together to keep the sides in place over the filling.
    Place the shaped flaounes on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Brush the exposed filling with a little beaten egg.
    Let the pastries rise for 30-45 minutes, until slightly puffy.
    Near end of rising time, preheat oven to 375ºF.
    Bake the flaounes for 30 min, until deeply golden.

Serve with honey and cinnamon for a sweet treat or olives and sliced meat for savory.

*If you don't have mahlab, substitute 1 tsp with 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1/4 tsp cardamom (or a pinch of anise).

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Happy Valentine's Day!

 Feeling grateful today for all of the love expressed by friends and family for my birthday and today, for Valentine's Day. Want to share the love with you, too, dear reader. Grateful that you come and read my blog and even, sometimes, leave comments!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Sweet Roll Bread Pudding

In January I made a lovely whole wheat and cinnamon sweet roll using dough that had fresh persimmon in it. Even though it was delicious, Sweetie and I weren't able to finish the ring I made, so later in the month I made bread pudding using chunks of it as the bread part. Then I had a whole bunch of other stuff to do, so it never got posted. You can also make this just as written, using plain dry bread cubes. I didn't add the cinnamon since there was plenty in the sweet rolls, but otherwise the ingredients are almost the same. I added a diced apple along with the raisins. You really couldn't taste any of the persimmon, so if you make this with the bread you have on hand it will be great! This time I only made half the usual recipe (usual recipe is below) so Sweetie and I each had two servings. Yum!

I love bread pudding. I makes a great breakfast and a wonderful afternoon snack, plus is awesome for dessert in the evening. Along with chunks of stale bread, you use hot milk, some butter or margarine, some sugar, eggs, and flavorings. I often add fresh and/or dried fruit, especially raisins. It's not fast food because you soak the stale bread in the milk/sugar/egg mixture for a while so that the bread becomes softer and the custard is in every part of the dish, not just coating the outside of the bread. Still, it isn't difficult and you end up with a soft, custardy, sweet, fruity (if you used added fruit), flavorful comfort food. You can dress it up with some half and half or a scoop of ice cream, or if you are feeling decadent you can add some caramel sauce, but it is fine all by itself. I like it served warm, but Sweetie ate one of his two servings cold for breakfast. 

Bread Pudding with  Raisins and Cinnamon      

A recipe from 1971, from a Fredricksburg, Maryland friend, Gale 

4 cups dry bread cubes          1/4 teaspoon salt           
3 cups milk, scalded               1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter                1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 slightly beaten eggs            1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar                         1/4 cup raisins
½ teaspoon lemon zest                                  
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Melt the butter in the milk. Add a little of the milk to the beaten eggs, then add eggs to rest of milk. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.

3) Put the bread cubes in a large bowl. Pour the egg/milk mixture over, stir gently, and let sit 15-30 minutes.

4) Butter a large baking pan. A deep one will give a softer center, a shallower one will give more crispy crust. Gently stir raisins into bread mixture and pour into baking pan.

5) Bake in a pan of hot water until firm, about 1 hour. Serve warm.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

A Simple Roast Chicken

Because they are easy and fairly inexpensive, many of us pick up a rotisserie chicken when we want roast chicken. Every now and then I prefer to roast a chicken at home. If nothing else, that wisp of roast chicken fragrance when you lift the lid (if it's cooked in a Dutch oven as I prefer) is so delightful!

The good news is that a whole chicken cooked this way is amazingly easy and you can make it really simple or add to the flavor with additions like root veggies, herbs, and/or lemon or orange for a small addition of time and effort that pays off big time.

You start with a whole chicken, season it with salt and pepper, put a little water or wine in the bottom of the Dutch oven to keep it from sticking, cover it up and cook for 60 minutes. You get a cooked chicken with brown and fairly crisp skin, some yummy pan juices for sauce and clean up is easy.

One step more is to add things like peeled and sliced onion, whole or halved garlic, chunks of potato, carrot, rutabaga, turnip, etc., all shaken in a large plastic bag (like a produce bag) with a little olive oil, some herbs either fresh or dried, and some salt and pepper. The veggies get put into the Dutch oven after the chicken, all around the chicken. You can tuck some lemon wedges or orange wedges into the chicken cavity, too, for more flavor. The lid goes on, the pot goes into the oven and 60 minutes later you have a meal to die for. Add a green salad and maybe some crusty bread for soaking up the pan juices and you have such a great meal that is easy on the cook. I actually served mine (which included sliced mushrooms along with the onions and carrots and garlic) with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Leftovers can be used for sandwiches or chicken salad, or any dish that uses leftover chicken. You can also reheat it in the microwave for another meal if you also have leftover veggies. Of course the cooked poultry also freezes well for even later use.

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

1 whole butchered chicken, about 3-4 pounds, with anything inside removed
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, cut into bite sized pieces
2-3 baking potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite sized pieces
any other root vegetable that you like, washed, ends removed and cut into bite sized pieces
and/or sliced mushrooms
1 onion, peeled, ends removed, sliced
whole or halved garlic, excess skin removed
salt and pepper to taste
fresh (1 tablespoon) or dried (1 teaspoon) thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
lemon or orange wedges for inside the bird
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup dry white wine
optional: chopped Italian parsley

Preheat to oven to 375 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken (if you usually do) and place in a Dutch oven large enough for it and the vegetables.
Put the carrots, potatoes, other root vegetables if using, onion and garlic in a large disposable bag (I used produce bags from the market that I save for this purpose). Add the salt and pepper and thyme. Close the top securely and shake vigorously to distribute the seasonings. Add the olive oil and shake again to coat everything lightly with oil. Place the oiled veg all around the chicken in the Dutch oven. Place the orange or lemon wedges inside the bird. Season the outside of the bird with salt and pepper to taste. If using, add the white wine.

Cover the Dutch oven. Place in preheated oven and roast for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes so the juices can migrate back into the bird.

Cut legs, thighs and wings into serving pieces. Slice the breast or cut into more serving pieces. Serve hot with pan juices spooned over. If desired garnish with chopped parsley