Wednesday, December 29

Warmth in the coldness

Winter air can be so gosh darn cold! But, in (so far successful!) efforts to appreciate winter this year, I am finding comfort in the many things that make me warm. For instance, as I type this, I am pausing (only temporarily) from my new knitting project. I just put a tea kettle on the stovetop and am lounging in my cozy long-johns and thick wool socks, as I listen to a winter-time favorite, Bon Iver. Suddenly, things seem a little warmer, and there is a resinating warmth in my soul. I will try to focus this energy to maintain this inner warmth throughout the winter months.

Today my soul is warmed by the anticipation of visiting several dear friends, in Omaha tomorrow. And what a better way to continue to spread the warmth, then to bake a batch of winter cookies. I don't know a single soul that does not love warm cookies in the wintertime! 
One of my favorite cookies is molasses. Recently, when planning to bake molasses cookies for the arrival of Omaha friends in Milwaukee, I went in search of a good recipe. I personally did not have a recipe for molasses cookies, but I did recall, that my dear friend Mara's mother had made me some delicious molasses cookies a while back. So I gave Mrs. Brandli a call in hopes that she would so graciously share her recipe. Much to my delight, she did, and she shared the story as well. In fact, the recipe that she had shared with me was a recipe that was shared with her from her mother-in-law, Grandma Brandli. 

Now let me temporarily diverge for just a moment to tell you about Grandma Brandli! She is a wonderful, wonderful woman, who is so full of joy and love. In fact, a while back, she welcomed myself and our friends into her home as we ventured west to visit Monroe, Wisconsin for Cheese Days (Mara's grandpa was a cheese master and owned his very own cheese company). It seems that the entire time we spent at her home, our bellies were as full as they could be, as she continuously presented us with treat after treat, all which she had made. When Mrs. Brandli told me that the recipe for her molasses cookies were of Grandma Brandli's, I knew the recipe was extra special. 

I am so thankful that Mrs. Brandli has shared this recipe, and with her permission, I am happy to share it further. I only hope that this recipe will bring you as much warmth as it has to me, and hopefully will bring to those whom I share my cookies with. 
Grandma Brandli's Molasses Crinkles
3/4 cup of shortening (You need to use either vegetable shortening or lard; not butter... It just simply won't work, trust me!)
1 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons of molasses (or sorghum syrup)
2 1/2 cups of sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1. Cream shortening, sugar and egg. Beat well! Add molasses and mix well.

2. Sift together the dry ingredients and then gradually combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients.

3. Shape into the size of a walnut and flatten. Cover each cookie with sugar before placing on a well greased cookie pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes*.

*Note: they may not look done, but they probably are! After trying this recipe a few times, I have learned what a "finished" cookie looks like. They are still tasty if they bake too long, just a bit crunchier!

Happy eating (with wishes of warmth!) 

Food for the season

One of the best parts of wintertime, is the warmth that is shared by sharing a meal. I have had fun this wintertime experimenting with classic winter recipes and modifying them to my fancy. One of my favorite modified recipes is a spiced cranberry sauce.

Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries in the U.S., so there are plenty of local sources for the tart little berries. Also, they store like a dream, so it is simple to buy them in bulk and store them for the winter, through. There are so many things you can use cranberries for, as we have tried scones, stuffing and other treats. Perhaps you too, will enjoy this spiced version of the classic cranberry sauce!
Spiced Cranberry Sauce
12 ounces of whole cranberries
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 orange, juiced
1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon (more or less, its up to you!)
1 teaspoon of nutmeg (more or less, depending on your preferences)

1. Rinse the cranberries and then place them in a small sauce pan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Using a potato masher, crush the berries. This is not an art, so don't be afraid to get messy! Also, they don't have to be perfectly smashed.

2. Add the sugar and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Towards the end of this time, add your orange juice and spices, and stir. Taste test your mix, and add spices accordingly. Pour into a dish, and allow to cool slightly. Enjoy!

I haven't tried this with a lot of other spices, since you can only eat cranberry sauce so often. However, I intend to try it with several others as well, including cardamom and cloves. I will let you know how it turns out!

I hope your holidays have been delightful.
Happy eating!

Monday, December 20

Tis the season

Tis the season to be merry... and to make winter treats! This winter, I have been trying my hand at homemade candies. I don't know many who dislike candies, especially during the holidays, and candies are especially delightful when they are made with love. Today is my dad's birthday, so for a special gift, I decided to make him a batch of cashew bark. So simple and so tasty.

Perhaps you would like to share this with someone you love, too!
Cashew Bark
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of light corn syrup
3 tablespoons of margarine or butter (which ever you prefer!)
1 1/2 cup of chopped cashews

1. Butter two cookie sheets, and set aside. Then, mix together the baking soda, 1 teaspoon of water and the vanilla, and set aside (somewhere near your cooking surface, so it will be within reach when you need it later!).

2. In a large sauce pan, mix together sugar, remaining water, and corn syrup. Over medium heat, bring this mixture to 240 degrees, stirring occasionally. Stir in cashews and butter. Then, stirring constantly, bring this mixture to 300 degrees. Keep a close eye on the temperature, so as not to let your tasty candies burn!

3. When the mix reaches 300 degrees, remove from heat immediately, and add the reserved mixture of baking soda, water and vanilla. Pour the candy quickly and evenly onto your greased cookie pans, and spread until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Allow to cool, and then crack into pieces, by slamming the pan onto your countertop (you don't have to slam it extremely hard, but it is kind of fun to give it a good crack!)

Note: you can really use any nut you want. Also, it is kind of nice to spread some chocolate on top, before you crack it but after its cooled. A tasty treat, indeed!

Happy holidays and happy eating!

Wednesday, December 8


There are several things that I feel are quintessential to creating a winter-y atmosphere. Those things include (but are surely not limited to):
hot chocolate
cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
I have been knitting since about the third grade. I first learned how to knit from my grandma (Mema) and then continued knitting in the 4-H group in my neighborhood. I have a vivid memory of knitting my first scarf:

It was days before the state fair, and I was to enter three items: A crocheted pillow, crocheted drink coasters and a knitted scarf. The first two were completed months in advance, but for some reason, the scarf was taking much more time. As the fair quickly approached, I had come to terms with the fact that this silly little scarf was not going to be finished in time. However, my mom had a different idea-- as my mom often did (and thank goodness she did!), she made sure I completed what I had started. So, all day for two painful days, I knit that scarf. A majority of the time I was knitting, I was sitting outside in our hammock. I just recall sitting there and being so anxious to finish! So although I sat in a hammock, one of the most relaxing places to be, I was anxious. So silly, really. None-the-less, I finished the scarf, with just enough time. In fact, if I do recall, I received a second place blue ribbon for my scarf despite the fact that my scarf changed sizes from start to finish, had several holes and was made out of the most awful rainbow-colored yarn on the planet! I have been knitting ever since.

Luckily for me, I now enjoy knitting; dear mom, you don't have to force me to knit anymore!
This time, I am knitting a sweater from a sweater. Mind you, this is my first large knitting project. I have previously knit many a hats and scarves, but never something so substantial. It will truly be an adventure. What I mean by "a sweater from a sweater" is just that: I got the idea from a friend Annie's blog. Literally, I spent an afternoon unraveling a sweater I had found at the local thrift store. Now, let me just say, I have never enjoyed unraveling so much. Perhaps, this is because the previous times I have been unraveling something, I am unraveling rows and rows of my hard work. In this case, I have no emotional connection to each stitch. And, the entire process has been so rewarding so far. The yarn I got from the sweater is just beautiful.
I have already completed my first sleeve and am in the process of knitting the second! So far, in my journey, I have had to take out 60-some rows; however, I was mostly at peace with unraveling my own work. It seems silly to be upset, when you are knitting; there is simply no need.

Well, I will surely keep you updated on the progress of this little sweater of mine! Until then, happy winter and stay as warm as you can! 

Monday, December 6

Good morning, pancakes!

Mornings can either be delightful or dreadful, it seems. Luckily for me, my past few mornings have been beyond delightful. Partially this has been because of the beautiful people I am surrounded by in the morning time, and partially this is because I have been blessed to be greeted with a wholesome, nourishing meal each morning. This morning, as I write this, I am feeling completely filled and nourished from the left-over quiche I just enjoyed and I am reflecting on my delicious breakfast I enjoyed so much yesterday, with Jill. Sunday mornings are probably my most favorite of mornings, as they are a time to reflect on the week that has passed and then to think of what is to come. Yesterday, we did this while enjoying a Clark family favorite recipe for pancakes. I hope that by sharing it with you, your morning times can be a little bit brighter.

This recipe is what my Poppa uses every time we visit; and it is highly anticipated every time! We adjusted it slightly, to accommodate what we had in our refrigerator, but the outcome was still filled with Clark family love. Here's to delightful mornings, nearly every morning!
Clark family pancakes (with love) 
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg, beaten up
1 cup of plain yogurt (we used sour cream, and it was just perfect!)
1 cup milk
1 cup of your favorite berries (we used mulberries which we had stored in the freezer!)

1. Stir together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix egg, yogurt (or sour cream), and milk until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture until it is just mixed.

2. Heat a skillet with a tiny bit of butter. Pour in batter and top with your berries. Makes just about 12 pancakes, so share some with your friends!

Also, I should share my latest recipe for "maple-ish" syrup. It is a twist on Lauren's recipe for syrup, and we use it everytime we make pancakes!

Maple-ish Syrup
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
3/4 cup of honey
1 splash of spiced rum
Water to cover

1. Combine all sugars, and honey. Pour over rum, and add water until all the sugar is covered in liquid. Then, zap in the microwave for about 1 minute, stirring twice, or until completely liquified. You can store any leftovers in the refrigerator!