Tag Archive | artisan

Tastes Like More

Cinnamon and Sugar.

Apples.

Vanilla Ice Cream.

Oh, what to make of this.

Apple Crisp.

All it takes are some apples, cored and sliced. A pinch of salt, some flour, sugar and some butter. And, time to bake. Simple.

One of the first desserts I made when I was a kid. One my Mom encouraged me to try making.

Now, it is one of my husband, Jeff’s favorite – especially if there is vanilla ice cream in the freezer or he can make a quick trip to the grocery store to get some.

Me… I like the simplicity. The smell of cinnamon as it bakes. The steam coming up from a serving spooned into a bowl and the melting of that delicious vanilla ice cream as it hugs the apples while it melts.

And, Oh, the taste…. as my Mom would say, “Tastes like more.” Jeff agrees.

Apple Crisp, fresh out of the oven.

Apple Crisp, fresh out of the oven.

Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

Warm Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

Soup’s On

A cloudy, pre-Fall Saturday.

First soup of the season…..

Made with acorn squash (baked and pureed), chopped sweet onions, chopped celery.
Some heat (red chili flakes, a few dashes of ancho chili and some cayenne).
Herbs (basil and sage)
Sweet spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice)

All in an orange juice base with a bit of black pepper, some brown sugar, some butter to smooth is out and milk to thin it a bit near the end of cooking. YES… I forgot to add any granulated garlic and ginger… but it tastes great without it. YUM..

Won’t do any good to ask for a recipe… I just started cooking and tossed in things I thought would make it taste good.

I learned this cooking method from Mom. It worked well for her and usually does for me.

Replacing chicken stock with orange juice made for an interesting flavor, not to mention far less sodium. I just added ingredients, stirred and let the scent of the mixture guide the next step. Of course, I taste tested along the way.

Yes… another made up recipe.

I was taught to cook this way by the BEST…  My Mom.

I can hear her saying, “Soup’s On.”

Fruitcake, how could I forget?

Yes, how could I forget fruitcake? Believe me, I’ve tried!!!!

I don’t like fruitcake. Yet, I’ve made it once. Only once. That was only because Mom was battling leukemia and could not make it herself. She had made it for years, her mom’s recipe. Mom made fruitcake for Dad and my brothers, then later, my young niece. How this beautiful little tomboy could like fruitcake, I will never know. Maybe it was time spent with her “Grammy” to make the fruitcake.

Amazingly, all these family members actually LIKE fruitcake! Amazing. How could they?

Yes, even though I don’t like fruitcake, at all, I made it. Just that one time!

I made the fruitcake that year with my young niece…. out of love. Love for my Mom. Love for my niece. Love for my Dad and brothers. But, I mostly made it for Mom…. she would have made it herself if she were able. She was simply too weak at the time and, with her illness, should not be working in the kitchen regardless.

Mom’s fruitcake, using Grandma Booth’s recipe, uses a LOT of ingredients. And, it takes a LOT of time. Well, a LOT of time for a first-time fruitcake maker and her young seasoned apprentice. Even though Mom was sitting at the dining room table watching the ordeal and giving us instructions and encouragement, Natalie and I struggled to make the fruitcake (a double batch, all at once). It seemed like it took us forever.

After quite a time of adding ingredients and stirring, again and again, I exclaimed, “Making fruitcake takes a long time. This is EXCRUCIATING!”

Mom quietly said, “Think how it looks from my viewpoint.”
“I could have done this in far less than half the time.”

Thankfully, Mom was a patient teacher and we all laughed.

I will never forget that time making Mom’s fruitcake with my niece for our family. And, while I still don’t like fruitcake, at all, I LOVE that fruitcake-making memory.

Remembering Aunt Shirley

On a warm morning in July, the call came. My cousin, Delbert, had called to let us know his mom had passed away.

Like with other families and extended families dealing with the uncertainty of Alzheimer’s disease, we knew this day would come. Aunt Shirley had battled dementia and Alzheimer’s. Now, her battle over, she was free. Free of the ravages of Alzheimer’s; how it stole her memory and how it stole Shirley away from her family.

A celebration honoring Shirley’s life was to be held on a Saturday in August. Followed by a luncheon.

While making plans to attend the memorial service I thought of the many times our families had been together. Great family times, with a great family. Warm, friendly, FUN, humorous and supportive. Love encircled each of us. The vast amount of love came from Aunt Shirley and Mom. Sure our respective dads loved us…. but love was in everything these women did…. the hugs, smiles, cooking, laughs and discipline. All of it let us kids know we were deeply loved and oh-so-cared for.

Whenever we had the chance to get together with their family there was great anticipation of seeing our “cousins” again. “Cousins” because actually our dads were the cousins. Considering that we were second and third cousins, however this technically works out, we were family. We had no other relatives in our area so when this family moved within 50 miles of us we were elated. We had COUSINS nearby.

Remembering all the fun times we had when our families were together and the wonderful food our moms fixed for us compelled me to make something to take to the luncheon. I instantly knew what I would take. A cake…. but oh, not just any cake. “Cheap Cake.” Some recipes call it “Economical Cake,” “Wacky Cake,” “Crazy Cake,” or “Depression Cake.” In our collective family it was called “Cheap Cake” because is was economical and “cheap” was faster to say. 🙂

I made a “Cheap Cake” using the same recipe that Mom had gotten from Aunt Shirley. I had never had that wonderfully dark chocolate cake before knowing Aunt Shirley. Now, I can never see a recipe for it, mix one up and bake it, or eat a decadent slice of it without thinking of her. She and Mom put together some fabulous meals for our families. And trust me, each of us loved to eat. A total of six growing boys and me, along with our dads and themselves to feed, those two women were busy.

Thankfully, they were great cooks too.

Just as they were great cooks, they were even better Moms.

Moms who loved their children with all their heart and soul. Each of them happy, strong, intelligent women. They wanted good things for their children and expected good from them in return. We knew we were loved.

Each time I make or eat a slice of “Cheap Cake” I will always remember Aunt Shirley. Her love for her family and her love of life.

Thank you and rest well, Aunt Shirley.

Recipe for “Cheap Cake”

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Apple Tart

Much like her mom, Mom could watch someone create an epicurean delight and then recreate it …. nearly the same, if not better. I know, I watched her do it many times.

A few weeks ago, I once again followed in Mom’s footsteps. I had seen an apple tart being created on the Food Network. How easy the presenter made  it look. I knew I could make it, so I quickly wrote down the ingredients and made a note of the baking temperature and time.

Apple Tart

preheat oven to 400 degrees
one pre-made puff pasty — thawed and placed on a parchment covered baking sheet
cinnamon, lightly sprinkled over puff pastry
two or three tart apples of your choice, depending on the size, peeled and thinly sliced, placed on the tart
a couple tablespoons of sugar sprinkled over the apples — adjust to your taste
another light sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired
two tablespoons butter cut into small cubes and dotted over the apples

bake in your preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes…. until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown

near the end of the baking time, spoon some apricot preserves into a sauce pan (about 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup), add a bit of water to thin, cook over a medium-low heat until bubbly

at the end of the cooking time, remove the tart from the oven and brush on the heated apricot preserves

cool a bit – slice – serve – enjoy

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Another Pancake Experiment

Well, I had another recipe floating ’round in my head… I am nearly sure MOM put it there. She’s like that.

This time, a pancake with some chai tea in it…. I could almost smell the ingredients. All those wonderful spices.

But what kind of pancake base?

This time I tried a creamier, nearly custard type of batter. (Mom always LOVED a good custard.) I am not sure I hit the mark, but the pancakes were good. And I am sure that any further ‘testing’ will be appreciated by my husband. 😉

To my basic pancake recipe, I added another whole egg, 1 tablespoon of vanilla and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Hindsight tells me I should have added some nutmeg… but I can do that next time. This time I was more concerned with the chai tea and how I was going to incorporate that into the batter.

MEANWHILE….
I wanted some berries for a topper for our pancakes. I grabbed the Marionberries from the freezer, put about 4 cups in a saucepan, 1/4 cup of sugar and a couple shakes of cinnamon. I heated them up real slow, while my other ingredients were coming together. When the berries were nearly finished heating I added 1 tablespoon of “Blackberry Cordial” that we purchased from “Stein Distillery” while on a mini-vacation in Joseph, Oregon

While the Marionberries were slowly heating up, I could get to work on other ingredients. First off, I toasted some almonds. One layer on a sheet of parchment, in a 375-degree oven for 13 minutes. After the almonds cooled, I put about a half cup in my Cuisinart food processor along with 2 heaping tablespoons of “5 Valley Chai” tea produced by “Mountain Tea Trading” that I bought from “Arrowhead Chocolates” while on our trip to Joseph. I ground the two ingredients to the course-side of a fine grind.

I used 3 tablespoons of the almond-chai tea grind in the batter of the pancakes. Cooked the pancakes, then assembled them. Pancake, Marionberries, Greek-style yogurt, a sprinkle of the almond-chai tea grind. Then my husband and I ate a creative breakfast at home.

Looking forward to refining this recipe and experimenting with yet another.

Mom would be pleased. 🙂

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Mom, the Artist

Funny, I remember my Mom as an artisan.

— in the Wikipedia fashion of the definition:

“An artisan (from Italian: artigiano) is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools. As an adjective (spelled “artisanal”), it has been used as a marketing buzz word to describe or imply an association with the crafting of hand made food products, such as bread, tofu, beverages and cheese.”

Especially “the crafting of hand made food products, such as bread,” part. She was a wonderful baker. Her breads, cakes, pies and cookies were hand-crafted, delicious and made with such LOVE; the best ingredient.

I only wish I had some photos of her craft to share with you. Alas, I do not. You see, our family ate her art. (and it was GOOD).

Actually, I should say we ate most of her art.

Mom claimed to not be artistic at all, yet she had a way with a wide variety of art.

She did fine embroidery work and crocheted afghans. Her embroidery work was extraordinary, she learned from the best, thankfully I learned from her. We still have many pieces she did and most of the afghans she made, well the ones she did not give away to family members or someone who needed one.

Besides being an artisan baker and a woman of fine hand-work,  she dabbled in drawing using pastels/chalks. She had done that form of art in her younger years. Not believing she was any good at it, she did not share that side of her creativity with us. Maybe she did not share it was because she was a “mom.” She had three children to raise and a husband to spoil, besides her teaching career.

The last and most impressive pastel I saw her work on was a serene setting of Mt. Hood. In the foreground was a meadow with a cold mountain stream running through it. This lead the eye up to Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. She had drawn Mt. Hood from memory. Of course she could. She’d seen it, passed by it on I-84 and had been on it more than a few times. A more beautiful, peaceful scene of Mt. Hood I had never seen before. She was good, there’s no doubt.

Looking back now, that may have been the last time Mom actually saw Mt. Hood,  the stately overseer of Oregon….Mom saw that peaceful scene herself, in her memory. At that point in her life she was traveling to cancer treatments and blood transfusions, not to take another look at Mt. Hood. So, she used her artistic ability, the ability she claimed to not have, and brought Mt. Hood home to herself.

Funny, I remember my Mom as an artisan. — to me she was quite the artist, in all aspects of her life, quite the artist indeed.