Friday, December 15, 2017

Memories From The Oven

Mom made almond paste cookies for our Christmas gathering ever since I can remember. This recipe is over 40 years old, and we look forward to these cookies appearing on the Christmas tray each year. This is my most requested cookie amongst family, friends and neighbors. I buy the 2.5 pound container from our local Italian market. Pine nuts are pricey, so I either splurge or mix them with walnuts.

Almond Paste Cookies - Joyce Robinson (mom)

1/2 lb. almond paste (1 cup)
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. flour
3 egg whites
1/3 cup powdered sugar
l lb. pine nuts (you can also use walnuts)

Mix almond paste, adding sugar slowly. Use fork or finger tips. Add egg whites, when well blended, add flour and powdered sugar which has been sifted. Roll a teaspoon of dough into a dish of nuts. Place on well-greased cookie sheet. I used parchment paper and then sprayed it with Pam. Remove while still warm with a spatula. If the batter is allowed to chill, it will be easier to handle. 

Bake 300 degrees for about 30 min. I take mine out when the edges start showing a golden brown. Don't overbake.
Just in the nick of time for my office Christmas party two years ago, I found this idea for Santa hats on a blog. We enjoyed these tasty treats so much that I'm going to make more for another holiday party. 

Check out this "sweet" blog here. Santa Hats

Here is the list of supplies you will need:
1 box brownie mix (I made mine from scratch)
24 small strawberries (hulled and cleaned)
2 cups white chocolate chips 
Mini muffin pan
Piping bag and tip 

 Preheat oven to 350 and grease your mini muffin pan.

Prepare brownie mix according to instructions on box, and fill your muffin tins 3/4 of the way. (You will have extra batter)

Bake for 20 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Once brownies are cool, place strawberries upside down onto brownie bites. Melt white chocolate chips in a double boiler and transfer into a piping bag. Pipe a ring around the base and a small dot on top. Work quickly since the white chocolate tends to dry fast and may clog the tip.  

Powdered Sugar Cookies (Polvorones Sevillanos) are my son's favorite Christmas cookies. When he was taking Spanish in high school, he volunteered me to make cookies and still remembers that. Although he can't remember the teacher's The cookies are typical Spanish cookies and are of Arab origin. The recipe also stated that just about every country in the Western world has some version of a sugar cookie. Sevilla is famous for its cookies, but they are also found throughout Spain. The Spanish sometimes serve these cookies in the afternoon to guests accompanied by a glass of anisette liqueur. 

1/2 pound sweet butter at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 tablespoon brandy or cognac
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups powdered sugar sifted for dusting.

Cream the butter with electric beater until light colored and fluffy. In a small cup, mix together the egg yolk and the tablespoon of powdered sugar. Stir in the brandy. Beat this mixture into the butter.

Sift the flour with the cinnamon. Gradually incorporate the flour with a spatula or a wooden spoon into the butter mixture. The dough should be slightly sticky. With flowered hands shape the dough into ovals, about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch high.

Place on and ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 300°F for about 30 minutes. The cookies should not brown. Cool slightly 2 to 3 minutes.

Sift the powdered sugar onto a sheet of waxed paper. Roll the warm cookies carefully in the sugar, coating them lightly on all sides. Cool the cookies completely, then dust with more powdered sugar. To serve, you may place the cookies in miniature paper cupcake liners.

I am also sharing my very favorite granola from the Mirror Lake Inn. I was thrilled that the inn would give me the recipe. We just booked our February vacation there!

Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid - Granola

Mix in large bowl:

2 c. Oats
1 c. Whole Wheat Flour
1 c. Whole Bran Cereal (Special K or Bran Flakes)
1 c. Coconut
1/2 c. Nuts (any kind)

Melt until hot and bubbly:

8 oz. Butter
1 c. Honey

Add to Butter-Honey Mixture:
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Combine all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees on a 12" x 9" cookie sheet for 20 - 30 minutes.

For Fine Granola - break apart while still warm.

For Larger Granola - break apart when cool.(This is my favorite way to eat it...I look for the big clumps with lots of nuts)

I'm trying to do one more post before Christmas. Thank you for your sweet comments and friendship over the year. Wishing you much love and laughter as you prepare for your holiday celebration. 

I hope your holiday is fabulous in every way! May all the magic and beauty of the season fill your home and heart with much happiness.


Monday, December 11, 2017

National Poinsettia Day

In blogland, we vividly remember some of the blog posts we have read over the years. One that I remember is when Red Couch took us along on a Plant Farm Poinsettia Tour. It was fabulous, and it stirred some interest at that time. Now I love them!  I arranged this poinsettia with some pussy willows and branches for our dining room table last weekend. But I do have a question - although it looks healthy right now, does it need some sunlight to thrive? I'm thinking I should move it to my sunroom during the day. National Poinsettia Day is December 12.

Poinsettia History: 
The Poinsettia is native to Mexico where there is a legend that dates back to Christmas eve several centuries ago. In the legend, a girl named Pepita had no gift to offer for the Christmas services. Her cousin Pedro urged her to give a humble gift. On her way to church, Pepita gathered weeds. As she approached the altar, a miracle occurred: the weeds blossomed into brilliant flowers. They were called Flores de Noche Buena, or “Flowers of the Holy Night” – now referred to as poinsettias.
Joel Robert Poinsett, an amateur botanist, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and founder of the Smithsonian Institute is credited with bringing the poinsettias to the U.S. in 1825. While visiting the Taxco area of Mexico, he became captivated by these plants and sent them home to his hothouses in South Carolina. In honor of him, December 12th is considered National Poinsettia Day, as declared by congress in 1851 – a day to enjoy this symbol of holiday cheer.


Friday, December 1, 2017

Tales of the Traveling Tote - Fall 2017

If you are here for the first time, welcome to Mountain Breaths! Today I am joining a group of talented bloggers to bring you our Tales of the Traveling Tote. 

We are honored and excited to have TWO new members!!!
  Jackie with Miss Madi K

Ricki Jill with Countess de Monet @ The Sketchy Reader

Miss Aurora (my tote) had a wonderful 2017, and was thrilled to meet several of her Sistas in New York City. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy our NYC video :-)
For some previous adventures, click here Traveling Totes Through the Seasons and Acadia National Park.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we attended a Cayuga Lake Wine Trail event. We were given our "kit" for the day. Two souvenir wine glasses, recipe card set, and a grapevine wreath so we could collect ornaments from the participating wineries. 
Life is certainly an adventure, and I wish I had my tote when I went on a bobsled in Lake Placid five years ago. I would have asked that guy with the camera to take my picture! I had to sign a waiver and almost bailed at that point. It was an amazing ride!

In October, we enjoyed a very special weekend in NYC. Our group of seven bloggers met for brunch at The Russian Tea Room located at 150 West 57th Street (between 6th and 7th Ave) in New York City. I wish we had a photo of all seven of us, but somehow that didn't happen. 

Mackenzie-Childs hosted a champagne and dessert party for us before we shopped and filled our totes.  For more on our New York City trip, click here. 
In the first photo of this post and you will see a rose on Miss Aurora. When I purchased the roses for our NYC trip, I asked Jenna @The Painted Apron if she would design a card that I could give with the rose. Isn't the card wonderful! 

Also In October, I went to the Queechy Lake in Columbia County, NY, the Berkshires in Massachusetts and Saratoga Springs with the Scoots (annual girls weekend). Our itinerary included a 60th birthday celebration for Maureen, a visit to Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts, dinner at the Backwater on Queechy Lake and a day at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs.

My non-blogging friend Tami and her tote Miss MC la Mer traveled to MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora, NY to start my Christmas shopping!  Ha!
To thank you for following along with our adventures, we are having a giveaway! To enter your name in the drawing, visit Patti @ Pandora's Box.

To see what Miss Aurora's tote sistas have been up to, click on the participating blogs below.

Emily with Miss Courtney ChildsThe French Hutch
Jenna with Miss Coquille @The Painted Apron
Katie with Miss Daisy @ Preppy Empty Nester
Linda G with Miss Poppy @ More Fun Less Laundry
Linda P with  Miss Lola Life and Linda Life and Linda
Patti with Miss Kenzie and Miss Taylor @ "Pandora's Box"
Rita with Miss Luna C Panoply 
Sarah with Miss Merri Mac @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie with Miss Madi K

A visit to Buttonwood Grove Winery isn’t complete without saying hello to Melody, a Scottish Highland cow. 

See you again in March with more adventures! Hopefully we will have some crocus blooming by then! 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Cayuga Lake, Friendsgiving and the {Cookbook Winner}

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving. Our table was set simply with just a smidgen of holiday elegance. So blessed to have 14 family members for Thanksgiving this year. The leaf settings I made for the table at the end of September at my camp held their color and dried nicely. All I did was sew a few leaves together with embroidery floss by making an "X", and kept them between the pages of a book until Thanksgiving. It was a fun project on a warm September morning! Everyone enjoyed them. 
We decided to get into the holiday spirit a little early this year. The weekend before Thanksgiving, we attended a Cayuga Lake Wine Trail event. We were given our "kit" for the day. Two souvenir wine glasses, recipe card set, and a grapevine wreath so we could collect "sweater" ornaments from the participating wineries. The wreaths below are from previous years and each year it is a different theme. Each winery gave a wine and food pairing, and 

Had "Friendsgiving" with the Scoots on the Monday before Thanksgiving. What a spread! These gals are great cooks!  I made a Cider-Gingerbread bundt cake from the King Arthur Flour magazine. I learned something new...the recipe called for Boiled Cider. You can buy it from KA, but I googled and found out they buy it from a farm in Vermont.  All you do is boil cider until it makes a thick syrup. I boiled two quarts and ended up with about 1.5 cups of boiled cider. I also used the boiled cider in my apple pie filling that I made ahead for Thanksgiving. Yummy stuff! 
The winner of a copy of CAKE, I LOVE YOU is Susan at Savoring Time in the Kitchen!

*Thank you to author Jill O'Connor and Chronicle Books for providing a copy of CAKE, I LOVE YOU for this review.
Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Cake, I Love You (and Giveaway)

I have a recipe and a book to giveaway just in time for the entertaining season. "Cake, I Love You" by Jill O'Connor is a resource for decadent, delectable and do-able recipes. This book pretty much sums up my love affair with cake as I have a sweet tooth that I inherited from my mother and grandmother. I was offered this book to review, and I must say that the recipes in this book are all I would ever need for special celebrations and easy desserts for weeknights. One recipe that caught my eye is the Luscious Lemon Lake. This will be perfect for my upcoming gals get togethers.

Luscious Lemon Loaf
Lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon oil combine to give this simple cake real zing. Don’t be tempted to skip the lemon oil, as it adds a wonderful fragrance and intense lemon flavor that lemon extract can’t match.  Cold pressed from the zest of oranges, limes, or lemons, citrus oils are concentrated and fragile. They must be refrigerated once the bottle is open, but even then they don’t last forever.
Serves 6 to 8

1-1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 large lemons
½ cup (120g) sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
1-1/2 cups (245 g) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup (110g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
3 eggs, room temperature
Lemon Icing:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
½ to 2 cups (180g to 240g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325ยบ. Coat a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with an 8-1/2-inch-by 15-inch strip of parchment paper so it covers the bottom of the pan and hangs over the long sides.
Put the sugar in a small bowl. Using a microplane zester, grate the zest from the lemons into the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until the sugar is sandy and moist and fragrant with lemon. Set aside.
Cut the lemons in half. Using a citrus reamer, squeeze the juice from the lemons into another small bowl.
In a third small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup of the fresh lemon juice, (you should have about 2 tablespoons remaining; set aside for the icing.) the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon oil. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and oil together on medium speed just until creamy. Add the lemon sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as you go. Decrease the mixer speed to low and beat in the sour cream mixture. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating on low for a few seconds after each.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes (do not check the cake until it has been in the oven for at least 40 minutes, as it might sink in the middle.) The cake is done when a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the loaf, still in the pan, to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Grasping the overhanging parchment, lift the loaf out of the pan and set it on the rack. Cool completely.
To make the icing, whisk the butter, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and lemon oil with the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and creamy. Spread or drizzle the icing over the cooled cake.

For a chance to win a copy of CAKE, I LOVE YOU, leave a comment sharing your favorite cake or I'd love to know if you have a favorite pedestal to serve your cake on.

Thank you to Jill O’Connor and Chronicle Books/May 2017 for this beautiful book to share with my readers.

A winner will be chosen on November 27th.


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