Tag Archives: Cooking

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Holiday and Everyday Cranberry Pear Jam

Cranberries and pears are both such delicious and evocative fall and winter fruits that I was thrilled to find a jam recipe that combined them as wonderfully as this one. It’s sweet, with a little bite, and with its wonderful color, makes a fabulous spread or gift at holiday time or anytime. Making jam is one of my favorite family kitchen projects. It combines science, tradition, and the supreme satisfaction of the entire canning process, which lets you transform fruit into jam, before pleasingly pouring it into glass jars. My simple and delicious recipe for cranberry pear jam requires only four ingredients. It comes from Food in Jars, which is a great source for all things canning. Make it before the cranberries disappear for the season.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Other posts by Suz you might like:

Stir up Some Triple Berry Jam

Stir up (or cook down) some Colonial Apple Butter

The Bond of Blueberry Jam, Motherlode blog

Bake Your Own Soft Pretzels

My family has had the joy of folding and baking soft pretzels in the 150-year-old Sturgis Pretzel Factory in Lititz, Pennsylvania, the oldest commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S. There’s nothing quite like rolling and then shaping the pretzel dough into its classic shape, and then seeing it placed into giant brick ovens on large wooden boards, all in the stone basement of a building that dates back more than 200 years. Pretzels themselves date to 6th century Italy, say the folks at Sturgis, where monks molded them into the shapes of children’s praying arms.

Baking pretzels at home offers the same delights – the pleasure of working with dough, the wonderful way it smells when it’s cooking, and of course, that classic soft-pretzel taste.

You’ll need:

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110° to 115°)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
8 cups water
½  cup baking soda
Coarse salt or mixture of equal parts cinnamon and sugar
Pat of butter, to grease bowl and dough
2 bowls, 1 greased
Towel
Saucepan
Paper towels and plate
Baking sheets
Cooling racks

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.

Add the sugar, salt and 2 cups flour and beat until smooth.

Stir in remaining flour to form a stiff dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead about 5 minutes until smooth.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.

Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place about an hour, until doubled.

Punch dough down and divide into 12 portions. Roll each into thin rope (approx. 12”) and loop both halves up and back around to the middle to twist into a pretzel shape. Apply a little pressure to make the ends stick.

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a boil. Place pretzels into boiling water, one at a time, flipping once, for 15 seconds on each side.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Place on greased baking sheets.

Brush with water and sprinkle with salt or cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks.

Yield: 12 pretzels

Gone: in about 2 hours

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

The Blessings of an Early Morning (with Biscuit Recipe)

I’m an early riser by nature, but lately I’ve been getting up especially early. I’m not sure why this is, though changing rhythms of self and season certainly play a part. It really feels like Fall now when the sun doesn’t rise until close to 7 am, and the mornings are fog-bathed, chilly and cozy. Though I relish bustling family time (and I sometimes wish I didn’t begin to yawn extravagantly by 10 pm or even earlier), there is something about being awake and alone in the quiet early morning hours that is extremely special, calm and naturally slow. The knowledge that the whole day is ahead, and one can be present for its entirety, lends a feeling of gratitude and fullness to the early-morning moments, a feeling that can too easily slip away as the day contracts and fills with busy-ness and chores.

I recently used an early morning to luxuriously pick up a sewing project – mending a pair of overalls for Anna – and bake biscuits, both of which I knew would surprise the family when they awoke. Like much handwork, running thread through a garment can be an especially calm and purposeful task. Filling the house with the smells of fresh coffee and biscuits tends to make early risers of others, too.

When Anna woke up and saw the biscuits, and especially her overalls, I got the biggest hug.

The biscuit recipe is adapted from Marcia Adams’ wonderful cookbook, Heartland, The Best of the Old and the New From Midwest Kitchens:

You’ll need:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400. In a food processor (or with a pastry cutter) combine flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Drop in the butter and process until coarse crumbs form. Pour in the cream and process until just combined – do not overmix.

Transfer bowl to floured board and knead 6 turns. Pat or roll dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a standard or other cutter, cut out biscuits. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and back for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

Yield: Approximately 16 biscuits.

Enjoy your morning!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Book Provides Inspiration for Halloween Fun

As an unabashed enthusiast for all things Halloween, I loved Maggie da Silva‘s very charming and thorough ebook, Real Family Halloween Fun. Maggie is also the author of The Real Family Camping Cookbook, and her flair for providing complete information in a fun and accessible way is again evidenced here.

Maggie provides everything you need for a memorable and fun Halloween. There are ideas for lots of different costumes, including last-minute ones, from unicorn to superhero. Thorough guidelines take the reader through every step of throwing a Halloween party, including themed decorations and music, invitation text, traditional and obscure games ranging from fortune telling to Halloween hunts, and fun and unique treats like Witches’ Fingers and Mummy Mealoaf. As a pumpkin lover, I’m “dying” to try the pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Maggie’s holiday spirit is completely infectious. I especially enjoyed her forays into Halloween history and her section on old-fashioned and forgotten Halloween fare, such as Barnbrack and Colcannon from Ireland, and Boxty and Soul Cakes from the U.K. Real Family Halloween Fun is rounded out with crafts, lore and even poetry, which succeeds in putting the reader in the Halloween mood while taking much of the guesswork out of bewitching celebrations of any scale.

For more information on downloading, see Real Family Time.

Build Your Dream Gingerbread House Part One

It’s the rare person whose imagination isn’t captured by the delight in creating a gingerbread house. There’s the architecture aspect, as the house’s pieces are baked and fitted — and icing-caulked — together in a variety of ways. There’s the decorating, which can be done with all manner of bright candies and objects and patterns that can recall familiar items — or not! And there’s the very satisfying, whimsical, one-of-a-kind structure that results.

Here are some tips and ideas from around the web for creating gingerbread and other candied houses.

From Wilton, comes this extremely informative and creative guide to decorating with icing and candies that covers everything from creating icicles to fireplaces to shutters to stained-glass windows.

Celebrating Christmas offers recipes, ideas, and enough blueprints for homes and landscaping (from ponds to flower-lined paths) to satisfy your inner general contractor.

Gingerbread House Heaven is another site with lots of ideas and beautiful pictures for inspiration. Think you can’t light a gingerbread house with real lights, for instance? Think again. This site shares how, in addition to offering instructions for melted-candy windows that will make the light glow realistically through. Roofing textures and various recipes for edible clay are among the many other things covered.

If you’re still seeking good gingerbread recipes and building how-tos, Simply Recipes has plenty.

Rather skip the headaches of building and just move in? Here are lots of turn-key house ideas, like using milk cartons or other bases, as a way of getting right to the decorating fun.

With small children, especially, the easiest and most pleasing thing to do is cover a short milk carton with frosting and let them stick on candies and other foods to decorate. The milk carton (or a village of them) can sit atop a piece of foil-covered cardboard that can also be frosted. And, of course, you can buy a pre-assembled gingerbread house and get right to the decorating.

Some decorating ideas include:

Gumdrops, cut in half – edging or decorations
Jelly beans – edging or decorations
M&Ms – ornaments or decorations
Fruit loops – decorations
Nilla wafers, crushed or whole – walkways
Ritz crackers – walkways, shingles or siding
Gummi bears – decorations
Chocolate soldiers – decorations
Chocolate kisses – bells or decorations
Chocolate nonpareils – shingles or decorations
Candy canes – gates or decorations
Licorice, small pieces – edging or bricks
Necco wafers, whole or broken – shingles, walkways, decorations
Pretzel sticks – fences and logs
Shredded wheat cereal – thatched roofs
Graham crackers, halved, and candy canes – sleds
Graham crackers – shingles
Upside down ice-cream cones, frosted and dipped in green sprinkles – trees
Brown sugar – dirt
Confectioners sugar – snow

And, for the modern home, orange-half barbecues and ice-cream cone satellite dishes!

Here’s hoping you enjoy a fun and creative holiday!

Photos: Public Domain, Wilton, Susan Sachs Lipman

Stay tuned for Part Two: Gingerbread Workshops

Mushroom Hunting in Norway

I love this video, which Kari Svenneby of Toronto, Canada’s Active Kids Club posted on the Children & Nature Network forum. Kari is an enthusiastic mushroom forager, harvester and cook, in addition to pioneering a very active outdoor play group and web resource for others. Her and her family’s joy in nature is evident in this beautiful video. Thanks for sharing, Kari!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHcEXkxZUV0&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Rhythm of the Home: Make an Autumn Leaf Placemat

The Autumn issue of Rhythm of the Home came out today. I’m thrilled to have an article in it:  How to Make an Autumn Leaf Placemat.

This beautiful online magazine has been one of my favorites since its inception. Each season brings lovely and inspiring ideas from a terrific array of bloggers and crafters who write about fun family craft projects, family connection and balance, nature, inspiration, and love.

The Autumn issue marks the full round of the seasons for Rhythm of the Home, and the spirit of Autumn comes through in so many of the pieces. Congratulations on the 1-year anniversary!

Every story in the current issue features something lovely. To name but a few, there’s an interview with Salley Mavor, the creator of  Felt Wee Folk. There are stories about creating community with the NoCo Nature Tribe and Mothers Circles, and honoring family rhythms with a Blessing Hour.

Pieces explore Simple Living, Finding Balance, Loving with Intention, Mama Journaling, and Making a House a Home. I learned about Moroccan Babywearing and Life in a Viking Village, the tradition of Mother Roasting for post-partum women, and a creature called the Halloween Sugar Sprite. I continued to enjoy Kristie Burns‘ nice writing about the Four Temperaments, this time focusing on their relation to Fall.

There are tons of lovely and inspiring craft projects. I want to make them all! They include a Harvest Basket, a Story Table, a Playscape, yummy Pumpkin Bread and Autumn Spice Scones, Flower Pounding, Autumn Fleece Washing, a Thankfulness Journal, a Family Library Bag, and many more fiber, cooking, and other projects.

Can you tell I’m crazy about this magazine? Come on over and get inspired for Fall.

Click to Read

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Easy Summer Solstice Cupcakes

Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year and the beginning of the summer season, is upon us June 21 this year, at 11:29 Universal Time, or 7:29 am on the U.S.’ east coast. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, it can be marked by Midsummer festivals, especially in Scandinavia, where people celebrate with maypoles that honor nature’s bounty and bonfires that recall the heat and warmth of the sun. Still other cultures have solstice rituals that honor the sun, the feminine and the masculine.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, my family often attends a celebration at Muir Beach, hosted by the Muir Woods National Monument park rangers. We enjoy a bonfire, nature storytelling and campfire songs, and a ritual walk around the fire, holding stalks of sweet flowers and herbs, and then throwing them into the fire, to greet the new season and also let go of anything that no longer serves us.

An easy way to celebrate Summer Solstice, whether your gathering is a large one or a cozy one, is to make Summer Solstice Cupcakes. This recipe comes from the terrific book, Circle Round:

Just as Winter Solstice gives birth to the light, Summer Solstice, with its day that never seems to end, holds the seeds of darkness. We discover darkness in the bits of chocolate concealed inside this sunny cupcake.

1/2 C butter (one stick) softened in the summer sun

1 C sugar

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla extract

2 C flour, sifted first and then measured

pinch of salt

2 t. baking powder

1 C milk

1 C chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir in. Follow with 1/2 cup milk, then the other half of the flour mixture and the rest of the milk. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Use paper liners, or grease and flour cupcake tins. Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 375′ oven.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes.

Because of the sweetness of the cake and chips, these don’t need frosting, but you can certainly add it, in a solid color or a cheery sun or flower design.

This is a great explanation of how Summer Solstice works. Happy Winter Solstice to those in the Southern Hemisphere, who are marking the lengthening days. Perhaps chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate chips are in order?

Happy Solstice to all!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Joy

12 Days of Green Holiday Gifts: Homemade Cookies

Cookies might be the ultimate green and well-received gift — They’re delightful, yummy and fun. They come from the heart. They’re economical. Making and exchanging them can be a fun holiday tradition. And you can always make a few extra for yourself.

This week I had the pleasure of attending a cookie exchange! Lucky me (and my family.) Each year the women who volunteer to help with my local Girl Scout group have an exchange in which attendees bring 4 dozen cookies and an empty container. The cookies all go out on a table, and we line up (Girl Scout volunteers are orderly) and go around the table, socializing and taking a cookie from each plate until they are all distributed. (A photo from the exchange is above.)

There are several cookies that have become part of our holiday baking traditions. I usually manage to make a couple of types each year. They happen to be easy to make. Here are the favorites.

Spritz Cookies


I grew up making these. In fact, my mom really enjoyed making Spritz cookies and Halloween cupcakes. A certain whiff from an electric beater (she had a great, big Hamilton Beach one that was permanently on the counter) takes me right back to childhood winters and falls.

Spritz cookies are made by pressing the soft dough through a cookie press and through various plates with interchangeable shapes. I love the efficiency and fun of pressing out lots of little cookies. Once pressed onto a cookie sheet, you can decorate them with the sprinkles of your choice. I think one of the keys to good Spritz cookies is: Be sure your recipe includes almond flavoring (or add 1/2 tsp. per 4-5 cups of dry ingredients, or half as much as your vanilla flavoring). The other is: Have fun decorating. This can be a very festive and delicious cookie. If you do color the cookies (which I recommend!) you might want to try professional paste frosting colors, which, with a little patience, produce a nice deep color. (You can get a box of 8 small color jars from ChefMaster, available at specialty baking stores, for around $7).

It also takes a little practice to learn to press the right amount of dough out per cookie. (Most presses have adjustable settings.) The good news is you can just scoop dough that didn’t work out back into the press and try again.

This site, from Wilton, offers the classic Spritz recipe, plus links for buying a cookie press. I recommend the reasonably priced Cookie Max.

Butterballs

You may know them as Mexican Wedding Balls, or Russian Tea Cookies. Butterballs are mine (and a lot of people’s) favorite cookie — They’re tasty, melt-in-your-mouth buttery, sugar-coated, and just all-around great, any time of year. I find the ones in The Silver Palate Cookbook to be the best of the best, perhaps because they’re largely sweetened with honey, which provides a great taste and crunch.

Here is a copy of the recipe, from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

Sugarplums


One more from the Silver Palate team — This one is in The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook: Sugarplums. Mythical, festive, evocative Sugarplums. (Blame it on The Nutcracker and The Night Before Christmas.) They are certainly as much fun to pop into one’s mouth as they are to contemplate. The original recipe calls for corn syrup and cognac. I substituted agave syrup, a mild and more natural sweetener for half the corn syrup, and all of the cognac (using a little under 1/3 c. for the cognac portion.) And I did away with the cherry on top, the better to enjoy the pure, undiluted Sugarplum experience.

Enjoy!

My criteria for a green holiday gift? Items meet all or most of the following: Promotes nature play or care of the earth, Uses all or mostly natural ingredients, Fosters hours of open-ended creative play,  Doesn’t use extraneous plastic or other wrapping, Doesn’t break the bank to buy it.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Mill Valley’s Slow Food Eat-In a Bountiful Success

eatinflowers

Slow Food’s national Eat-In day was a huge success. According to the Slow Food Time for Lunch web site, there were more than 300 Eat-Ins in all 50 states, and more than 20,000 participants:

“From schoolyards to backyards, on farms and in gardens, we told Congress it’s time to fix school lunch.”

The event I attended in Mill Valley was exceedingly special. We joined thousands of others in signing a petition to Congress to improve the quality of school food. We also enjoyed the efforts and company of neighbors who are gardeners, chefs, food preservationists, terrific cooks, and really nice people, and we did so in a beautiful park at the end of a Labor Day weekend. I found it very inspiring and am grateful to Hilary Jeffris, Kathy Ziccardi and the other organizers of Mill Valley’s Eat-In.

eatintea3

eatinchildren

There was an array of beautiful homemade food from people’s gardens, kitchens, dehydrators and juicers. Everything was bountiful and delicious and fun to share in community.

eatintable1

>eatinsalad

eatintable2

eatingrapes

eatinpie

At the Operation C.H.E.F. station, we learned about ingredients in different foods, and enjoyed smoothies made from bike-pedal power. Operation C.H.E.F. is a fun camp that helps kids learn to cook and enjoy healthy meals.

eatinchef

eatinbike

The Marin Open Garden Project, which hosts wonderful local plant exchanges, harvesting and networking, had a display of seedlings. We chose a lettuce one from Open Garden’s Julie Hanft to give a new home.

eatinseedlings

eatinseedlings2

Other demonstrators included Wendy Johnson from Green Gulch Farm, whose “Plant-In” illustrated how to grow food in the smallest of spaces. Helge Hellberg, director of Marin Organic and Slow Food proponent, spoke, as did Carole Mills, representing State Senator Mark Leno, who was attending an Eat-In in San Francisco. Here are Hilary Jeffris and the organizers introducing the invited guests.

eatinspeakers

Our friend, Gaspar Hauzy, really enjoyed making butter from cream.

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The result:

eatinbutter1

What a delicious day!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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