Vanilla Rich!

I have pretty simple “happy” indicators.

A bowl of lavender, an unread book, a good cup

of tea, a visit from loved ones, and a handful of

vanilla beans-  add them together and I have had

a great month!

Meredith is my vanilla bean supplier.  She knows my

happiness level rises pretty high when I have vanilla

at hand- and last week I got a shipment of beans-  I AM



Tahitian, Madagascar,Ugandan, Indian, Mexican- so many exotic beans!

I decided to make some vanilla right away with the Mexican beans- they

are smoky and spicy with just a hint of cinnamon.


I sealed up the rest of the beans in a glass container- they are vacuum packed-

and still soft in their packages, but vanilla beans dry out quickly, and keep better

in glass jars.  DON’T buy dried out hard beans at a cooking store.  If they aren’t soft

then the beans are pretty useless as the seeds are dried out and can’t be scraped



I had a small bottle of vodka- I like Grey Goose for distilling the

beans- but it is a matter of personal taste.




I removed 5 beans from the package and slit them lengthwise to open

the bean and release the seeds.


Drop them into the vodka and shake gently for a few seconds.


I cut the label from the bean package since I already have a vanilla and

wanted to keep this one with just the Mexican beans.


This is my working vanilla- I used Belvedere vodka and it is pretty smooth-

there are several varieties of beans in this extract- I like it for regular baking.

This is several years old- look how dark it is!


And here is my latest- still not ready to use- but look how dark it got in

just a couple of weeks!  This is just a small bottle and I added a lot of

beans for the amount of vodka.

But I really like making my own extract- it tastes better-there are no artificial

coloring or flavors- and I get to play with vanilla beans! Plus, and this is a big

PLUS, it tastes better!

Sourdough sadness with a happy ending.


I recently went down to the shore with my sister,son and niece.

It was a very happy time- I got to cook in the kitchen down there-

with a 6 gas burner stove top and 2 ovens- one a convection oven.

I like when my appliances all work ( sadly shaking head at the state

of my own stovetop which was in very sad shape over the summer.)

I took my sourdough down with me- and all my extra dried bits of

sourdough because I intended to share it with a friend who was coming

down at the end of our time there- and she is a baker!

Thing two (my favorite everyday sourdough from Celia in Australia) was

in very good shape- working hard and making lots of bubbles!

And bread!015

But when I got home- and it is rather frantic clean up at the end of two weeks-

Thing two was missing.  I hadn’t saved a wet version at home because it would

have gone bad.  Frank is happy to watch people’s dogs when they are gone- but he

has no intentions of ever feeding my starters!

So- I was very sad.  No more Thing two.  I was going to ask Celia for some more- but

felt rather stupid for not taking better precautions at keeping some starter behind.

So I started making just yeast breads.

Which is fine,  because we all like yeast bread.  But I missed that little tang of sourdough-

and that texture and moisture in the bread that sourdough brings.  I missed Thing two.

Then I started a kitchenwide search.  Seriously, I had always kept little bags of starter in

the fridge- I could have missed one when I was packing the cooler for Virginia!

And …TA DA!!!!!


I found a bag in the freezer!  Not much to go with- but worth a try!



And here he is – a resurrected Thing Two!!!

I put him in a large container- added water and bread flour- stirred, fed again and again- And

he is happy and bubbly and ready to go!

I put him into a large Halloween jar- just to be festive and make sure he had a lot of room to




And now I’m going to dry a lot of this starter and then freeze the bags-

so I don’t have to go through sourdough withdrawal again!




What can I say?  Bread makes me happy!

And sourdough bread makes me very happy! 

Best ever- Crispy Oat cookies- recipe

Some recipes are just too good to lose.

Meredith asked for these cookies last week and I couldn’t find

the recipe.  Sad smile  I was sure I had posted it here, somewhere, in the

archives.  But no.  I hadn’t.


These really are the best oat cookies I’ve ever had.

The recipe however is hard for some people to see.

Once they’ve eaten the cookies they can overlook the amount of shortening

in them, but – well- see for yourself. And this makes over 9 dozen cookies.


1 cup butter

1 cup sugar (white, granulated)

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

3 1/2 cups AP flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup oatmeal

1 cup crushed corn flakes

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup nuts, chopped fine


Mix together butter and sugars until all sugar is incorporated into butter, add

oil and vanilla.  Beat together well, until fluffy, they add dry ingredients, stirring

together until you have a solid dough.  Make into 1 inch balls and flatten with fork,

I round up the edges to keep them from looking raggedy with the coconut.

Bake in preheated oven at 325 F for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Then leave on baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to a

cooling rack.

At this point they are delicious and crunchy- but then I dip them in white chocolate

and sprinkle with chopped nuts.  So good- these are hard to keep in the cookie jar!


In My Kitchen- September 2013

I am not presently in my kitchen-

I’m in Virginia at my niece’s kitchen- but I am

prepared with some pictures from home and adding

some pictures from here.

Here goes- if you’d like to join us- go to Celia’s blog-

Fig jam and Lime cordial  and check out all of the posts!

In my kitchen…


is my favorite cookie jar- I filled it with cookies before I

left for Frank’s lunch desserts.

I love this jar because it has been loved for a long time.

It is old and the lid broke, but someone fixed another one

to fit.


And then they added a cork handle and painted it to match the

roses.  I get good vibes from this jar- it makes me happy!

In my kitchen…


rice pudding!  Another old thing that makes me happy.

My brother, Bruce used to make a 9×13 pan of this when

I was a young girl and if I was lucky and he wasn’t too hungry

he’d share some.  I think this is one of my most favorite comfort


In my kitchen…


canary melon- from one of the shops in town.


Tastes like a honeydew- and delicious with fresh figs!

In my kitchen…


fresh figs.

In my kitchen…


grilled chicken from the farmer’s market- slow grilled after

we rubbed it with spices and herbs and let it marinate for hours.

In my kitchen…    


lavender cookies.

In my kitchen…


Thing one and…



BREAD!!! Yes- I travel with my sourdough!

In my kitchen…


Fresh local butter.


That is it for this month- thanks for stopping by!

Leave a comment if you are so inclined- I love to hear from you.

Baking Memories- Elderberry Pie

I remember my mother making pie in the summer

and autumn.  There was no time to make pies in the

winter or spring because she had to transplant all those

little seedlings all day long.

But in the late summer and early fall- there was pie!

One of my favorite was the elderberry pies she would bake.

Since there were 9 of us in our family – it was never just one pie

– there were always at least two- more likely 4 pies to make at

a time- and they would usually be gone within  a couple of days.

But the elderberry pies were magical for me.

Elderberries grew in our backyard- and we waited  until

they were

heavy and purple and then we picked them by the armful.

The berries as small as bb shot- and the flavor raw too intense to really

enjoy- we would roll the heads clean into a stainless steel bowl out on the

picnic table and when we finally got enough to make a pie- one of us little

girls would run them into the kitchen and empty them into a bigger bowl and

then we would start over filling the bowl.  It took 4 cups of elderberries to

make a pie and our thumbs and forefingers would turn purple as we deftly

took hold of a small branch of berries and rolled them off the tiny little

twigs holding them on.  We would have to keep those little twigs out of the

bowl- as well as the tiny spiders that were hanging out on those branches.


4 cups of elderberries, 1 cup of white sugar, 2-3 Tablespoons of lemon juice,

4 Tablespoons of cornstarch and a tiny bit of water cooked together until the

mixture boiled.  Then set aside to cool down.  Poured into a crust filled 9inch

pie plate, dotted with butter , lightly dusted with a teaspoon of cinnamon and

covered with a top crust.  Baked in a 375 degree F oven for 50 minutes until the

berries bubble up in the crust and it is all golden brown and purple.



Elderberry pie.

Like my momma used to make.  Smile

International Scone Week- Scones- American Style

I have been eating scones for a long time.

And personally, I like them better UK style.

And Australian style, too, for that matter.

Here in the United States, we have a tendency to add

stuff inside and make them more like a cookie.

We make scokies.  More like a sweet biscuit with

lots of fruit and chocolate inside.

Whereas in the UK, they are like a big fluffy American style,

but slightly sweet biscuits.

Actually- language fails me- it is all English- but we don’t

have the same definitions- like for scones?


So- since I am an American I went with this scone- Peach Cobbler Scones.

They are light and kind of fluffy- sweet and cinnamon”y” and filled with peaches.


They went really well with a cup of Darjheeling tea.


And the peaches I used were spectacular.

But I didn’t like them as much as I do UK cream scones with jam and clotted cream.

So- here is the recipe- I got it off of Pinterest.

Peach Cobbler Scones

3 cups AP flour

1/4 c granulated sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2/3 tsp salt

1/2 c cold butter, chapped into small cubes

1/4 c shortening

1 egg, beaten

3/4 c cold buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

1 peach or two peeled, sliced thin

Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling


Mix all dry ingredients together and cut in butter and shortening

until the butter is pea sized or smaller.

Make a well in the center of flour and pour liquid ingredients into it,

beating egg and milk together and adding flour from the sides of the

well until you have a soft dough.  Clump together with your hand gently

until all the flour is incorporated- do not knead- use more of a folding

technique.  Roll out to a large rectangle,  brush buttermilk or cream on

half of rectangle, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, place the peaches on

the half lined up next to each other and sprinkle again.  Next fold the

other side over the peachy side and press lightly to seal.  Cut into 8 pieces,

using a spatula put the scones on a parchment paper on a  cookie sheet.

Brush tops with cream and sprinkle once again with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes

These are good served with peaches and cream(whipped) on top.


In My Kitchen- August 2013

August- all ready?

It is- and that means that this summer is flying by!

A summer like none other I can remember- with temperatures

and rain out of control and my garden washed out

countless times.

But in my kitchen?

Things are always happening.

And by things, I mean mostly bread.

Surprise!  I love to bake and I love to eat BREAD!

So, In my kitchen, there is…






Bread, glorious, Bread!  A sourdough loaf, flat bread with green olives,

and a twisted pesto loaf.  All delicious and all- almost gone!  I need to bake

some more!

In my kitchen…




Jars filled with cookies- wrapped and ready for lunches and snacks.

In my kitchen…



caramel corn- and again, almost all gone- I need to make some more.

In my kitchen…


fresh garden vegetables- the tomatoes and cukes are from my garden- the

rest is from the farmers market.  Okra, corn,candy onions, and potatoes- YUM!

In my kitchen…


a rose from from bush- a Peace rose that is so old it only gives me a couple of

blossoms each year- but one is ALWAYS on my birthday- so I consider it a miracle.

In my kitchen…


are giant blueberries.  The biggest and sweetest I’ve ever tasted!


And  Blueberry Almond Bars-recipe here.

In my kitchen…


are corks from many  happy bottles of wine.  We didn’t drink them all but I

want to make a cork wreath and so I get lots of donations from family and friends.

In my kitchen…


Chicken Gumbo (without tomatoes- Frank doesn’t like cooked tomatoes.


and my list of things to do…


and a messy table for someone else to clean up.  (see note above!)

Well- that is my kitchen this month- productive, yummy and messy as it

is often.

Go to Celia’s blog Fig jam and Lime cordial  and see all the other entries.

And add an entry yourself if you have an blog and want to join in!

Happy August!

My favorite book in the kitchen

I know- this is a little early for an IMK post, but I’ve

been searching high and low for this book and finally found it!

It was in my kitchen- hidden between two cookbooks in the pantry


I collect cookbooks- or I used to collect them.  Then I got hooked on

the internet and all the recipes on blogs and websites and well, my

collecting days seem to be over.



THIS book remains my favorite book for perusing in the kitchen!

It is an Australian book, published in 2000- and I just love it.

I spent 2 hours yesterday poring over photos and reading about the ingredients

of cooking, baking,drinking, FOOD, glorious,FOOD!



from fruit…



to fish.


And of course,


cheese- this book has it all!  I can look up cuts of meat, unfamiliar spices, types of breads

and grains!  And I lose myself in all of these wondrous ingredients.

I am so happy I found it again.  I find it an essential part of reading blogs- otherwise, I’m

scratching my head and wondering WHAT they are suggesting I roast for dinner?

Summertime. (and the livin’ is easy)*




It is summertime and I needed to remind myself of that fact.  We have been

so inundated with rain and floods, tornadoes all around us for the last 3 weeks

or so that I’ve kind of lost sight of the dates.  It is almost mid-July- this would have

been my mother’s 95th birthday.   And she would have loved being that old and

alive.  She would have loved MY grandsons- loved to see Jordan and Luke getting

settled in their lives- she loved living.  Everyday she would celebrate life.

I miss her.

I never saw my mother depressed.  ANGRY- inquisitive- loving- worried- determined-

whimsical- yes to all of those – but never depressed.

I take after her in a lot of things, but she was made of tougher stuff than I am.

I grew up determined not to be like my mother.

I vowed I would be different.

And now, sometimes,

I wish I were more like her.

Summertime with Ella and Satchmo

Mommy and Daddy

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Leek and cardamom fritters- recipe


My daughter in law, Willow, introduced me to these – she is a marvelous cook.   What I like

best about Willow’s cooking is that she knows no fear.  She follows recipes and patterns-

adapts freely according to what she has in stock and offers it up with a panache that invites

you to enjoy her creation along with her.

I am pretty much a pushover when it comes to 1) cardamom, 2)fritters, and 3) Leeks- so this

recipe was almost tailor made for me to try.  Let me warn you- there are a lot of steps- and it

is a little fiddley- but I think the fritters are totally worth it for a special occasion- and the recipe

makes a LOT of fritters that are really good as left overs.

This recipe is an adaptation from a Yotam Ottolenghi creation- but I have not seen the original

recipe and I adapted the one I did see- so and adaptation of an adaptation.



Ingredients: and method

About 1/2 cup of olive oil

3 leeks, carefully cleaned and thinly sliced} sautee leeks and

1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine} onion in 3 TBS oil for 10-15 minutes.

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp  or less ground cinnamon

Mix together spices and add to sautee after 10 minutes, cook another 5 minutes.


1/2 tsp hot chili paste or one hot Thai pepper seeded, sliced

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

2/3 cup chopped cilantro

6 oz ricotta or cottage cheese

Cool spices and leek/onion mix and add to herb, pepper and cheese mixture.

Add 1 tsp salt and set aside.

in another bowl, mix together:

1 cup AP flour

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1 whole egg

1/2 cup milk

4 TBS melted butter

Beat until you have a smooth batter.

Whip one egg white to soft peak and fold into cooked leek mixture, then

fold entire mixture into the batter.


Fry on medium high heat with olive oil about 4 to 5 minutes a side- be careful

not to make them too thick.  Brown to golden and serve hot- with lemon wedges,

if desired.


I drained them on paper towel before serving.