I’m Swinging My Magic Wand Around

my magic wandI’m casting good spells on my world and yours, too. Should you have a need or want then close your eyes and bring into your mind whatever it is you want (as long as it is good and kind), and I will wave and wave my wand. The sparkles, moons and stars encased within it will swirl and spin until their magic echoes throughout the wind and into the magical sphere, to grant your wishes. Good luck everyone!

Out Like A Lamb

5b85ec990fd3402391aa56759ff4739dMarch is one of those months where most of us are ready to hear the lilting songs of the birds and to see the budding of the trees. Washington, D.C. offers lots of events and hosts the Cherry Blossom Festival in support of the new season, in honor of the cherry trees lining the tidal basin. The monuments are highlighted by their delicate blooms. This weekend most of our area was drenched with rain accompanied by sleet and snow. Joe exclaimed yesterday afternoon, “Can you believe it … it’s snowing … again!” I gently reminded him it was just a light dusting and he could retire the snow shovel for the next seven months. Personally, I love it when it snows and feel delight when the weatherman announces the impending arrival of the white stuff.

I look forward to spring, but with every new year, I feel a stronger pull toward the cooler months rather than the hot summertime, that is just around the bend. Springtime reminds me of girlish whispers, fervent looks, of first dates and young love. I can easily recollect those days of looking out schoolroom windows and wishing the ticks of the clock would go faster. I’d long for the ringing of the dismissal bell as it signaled the freedom of my escape to the outdoors to hang out with my friends. I would walk home with a group of my friends. We’d talk about the days events, about any activities to do in the upcoming days, but mostly we talked about boys. Ah … the good old days when we were blissfully unaware of the world as it is now.

The theory of ‘In like a lion … out like a lamb”, or ‘In like a lamb … out like a lion”, seems true. So far this year we experienced a colder than normal winter with lots of beautiful snow. March usually has a large display of tulips and jonquils, but it’s the last day of the month … and I can only see the beginnings of the flowers as they shyly break through the rich soil. Happy spring everyone.

February Pics

potato onion gruyere galette cheesy pasta shells w:garlic stuffing crumbs cherry pieWhatever you might think about my not being very talkative lately, well it is the way I am. I simply retreat and like a shy bud on the outstretched limb of a tree, I slowly unfold and awaken in the morning light. Blame it on my romantic inclination and tender poet’s heart. I am not faint of heart, but rather a sensitive soul who awaits the end with more trepidation than yearning. In my mind I see life for the beauty and intrigue it holds but I wish the horrid, frightening things, the harsh ugliness would evaporate. It makes me question why we are here in the first place if some are only here to bully or mandate the way the rest of us live our days. It makes me sad I ever came to this blue jewel of a planet. Yet in the next breath I am shaken out of my silence to bask in the wonder of life. I am torn between yes and no, between gorgeous and horrendous. Why must there be those with hardened hearts looking only for the meanness and debaucheries from the dark hole of evil? If we were entirely truthful, many people would not comprehend thriving and creating and being generous. They suck the life right out of the rest of us who give, give and keep giving. My question today is this: Why have we been brought to a beautiful planet if not to protect and admire it? What’s the point?

Copyright © 2014 “Sleeping Kitten – Dancing Dog!” All rights reserved.

January The Difficult Month

DSCN3831January is one of the strangest, and sorrowful months of the year. Between Christmas and a bittersweet New Years Day is an imperceptible chain, intent on imprisoning my soul, to drag me down into the pit of hidden memories. Thoughts I tend to push to the recesses of my mind, but they always clamor to be revisited during this solemn time.  I hide behind the snow-filled days busying myself in my kitchen, and with long bouts of slumber. I lie nestled beneath the warmth of down-filled comforters and soft plush throws. I even watch to see the delayed openings of the government and the closings of county schools. My sister and I loved hearing school would be closed due to inclement weather. We would bask in the glow of sleeping in and having our friends over to listen to records, have long chats about current events, and we would play board games or cards for hours on end.

This time of year is a transitional time for me because so many of the people I shared these holidays with are no longer living. I am made to reflect on how I expected my future (the world was my oyster) would be in a world headed for better and exciting times. And for me they were until the late eighties, when the war on drugs began, the cities were really unsafe and things seemed to go downhill from there. Is it wrong for me to yearn for those innocent times when life was simpler and happier? I suppose a few more days of lethargy are here and then like a magic trick, the weight of this is whisked off and I am reborn for the coming year. It might have something to do with the end of the Chinese Year around the end of the month and sometimes into February. The Year Of the Wooden Horse begins January 31, 2014. So … one more week and I’ll be back to my funny self.

DSCN3833 DSCN3836 DSCN3846 DSCN3841DSCN3844 DSCN3840Here are some golden raisin cream scones I made. They had a hint of orange because of the zest I incorporated. The bottom of each scone is a golden brown.

DSCN3875 DSCN3861 DSCN3872 DSCN3864 DSCN3848 DSCN3855 toasted almonds cream cheese frosting lemon curdAnd then a vanilla, almond white cake, with a layer of lemon curd, cream cheese frosting and toasted almonds. It was a bit warm in the center when I cut and assembled it. It was awesome, but it tasted even better chilled. Homemade cake is very filling.

Copyright © 2014 “Sleeping Kitten – Dancing Dog!” All rights reserved.

Teesa’s Kitchen

"Apples & Pears"

“Apples & Pears”

The thing that separates my cooking and baking from others, is the absolute care I take when combining ingredients. I immerse myself in technique and process, I pay close attention to the details and I always toss in some love.  I dwell on the ingredients and imagine them all becoming more than they were born to be. In a world such as ours, we have such beautiful and creatively packaged natural foods. Man alone would never conceive the abundance and variety. I give thanks to God, My Creator, Mother Earth and The Universe for blessing me and my kitchen so richly.

I will say that the pecan cinnamon streusel cake was baked in a loaf pan, as I did not have any 8″ X 8″ pans at hand. It called for 20-25 minutes, but ended up being baked a full 40 minutes in the oven. This resulted in a mysterious and smoky cinnamon, sugared pecans (the streusel). The crunch was unbeatable! The cake was moist, flavorful and the texture sublime. From now on I will always prepare it in the loaf pan just so I can experience its crunch at full throttle.

The lemon curd is an all-time favorite. I make it twice per year because it is very rich. As you can tell by the photographs I have the necessary ingredients for some dacquoise, frangipani and apple and pear tarts. I’m into my last ten days of baking until next winter solstice. Since my camera seems to be feeling better, I shall snap more pics of the newest recipes. Oh, how I long for a brand new, pristine and  professional pastry kitchen. I would teach people to do what I do.

Copyright © 2014 “Sleeping Kitten – Dancing Dog!” All rights reserved.

"See the texture"

“See the texture”

"Nuts - Dried Fruits - Filling - Extract"

“Nuts – Dried Fruits – Filling – Extract”

"Lemon Curd"

“Lemon Curd”

"Pecan Cinnamon Streusel Cake ~ The crunch was remarkable!"

“Pecan Cinnamon Streusel Cake ~ The crunch was remarkable!”

A Noteworthy Absence

"Moist ~ Heavy ~ Poppy Seed Cake"

“Moist ~ Heavy ~ Poppy Seed Cake”

Do you ever just want to slink down beneath the covers and return to the foggy dream you were in? I have to tell you that during the holidays and into the new year, I work myself practically around the clock. In the back of my mind is the conversation I hold with yours truly, and it starts off with this sentence: “All right Theresa, time to put yourself in motion and dance your ‘Kitchen Ballet’.” (I have decided this will be the name of my future cookbook.) This internal voiceover is behind the debate over ingredients and it helps conduct the organization and production of my annual bake-a-thon. Over the course of three to four weeks, I purchase, stock my refrigerator and pantry shelves, review recipes, make copious notes and bake new recipes. I don one of my aprons, prepare my mise en place of the ingredients and equipment I will be needing, and I apply all necessary techniques of which I am so fond.

Baking is so different from cooking. Naturally its cooking, but with a meal, you can toss in some of this or that. With baking, it is like turning your kitchen into a mini laboratory. It’s where the magic happens. When I cook I do experience the flow of a dancing ballerina, but when I bake the food chemist is revealed (figuratively speaking), because everything must be measured precisely, the correct temperature adhered to and then the fundamentals of turning components into something new is endless. You can take butter, eggs, cream, flour, salt, chocolate and a few spices, to create an entire cookbook of delectable desserts. A little baking soda or baking powder is capable of providing the lift of help whenever needed. Magic happens when ingredients you have carefully combined are placed into a preheated oven. Try sitting before the oven window and watch it progressively change before your very eyes. And the aroma that alerts you that it is almost done, is powerful enough to make your mouth water. Sometimes having to let the finished goods cool on a wire rack it almost more than one can bear. This is especially true whenever yeast is used while baking breads.

Copyright © 2014 “Sleeping Kitten – Dancing Dog!” All rights reserved.

"Spiral Cut Ham"

“Spiral Cut Ham”

"Round Brownies"

“Round Brownies”

"Chocolate Mousse"

“Chocolate Mousse”

"Angel Food Cake in the pan"

“Angel Food Cake in the pan”

"Honey Oatmeal Bread"

“Honey Oatmeal Bread”

"Retro Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cake"

“Retro Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cake”

"Angel Food Cake"

“Angel Food Cake”

Over the holidays, my camera was acting up and the dratted thing kept saying battery exhausted and would immediately shut itself off. This provided me with the chance to berate and then later, to cajole and plead with it to behave properly. I did think about putting it into the oven but decided that would be folly indeed.

Here is a list of things I chose to bake:

Angel Food Cake

Chocolate Mousse

Vanilla Pudding

Pistachio Pudding

Brownies

Honey Oatmeal Bread 

Banana Rum Bread (no nuts)

Mini Cheesecakes w/ Cherry Topping

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Dream Cookies

Snicker Doodle Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

Retro Cinnamon Sugar Coffee Cake

Rum Muffins w/ Heavy Rum Glaze

Rum Cinnamon & Raisin Buns w/ Rum Icing

Gert’s Mama’s Pound Cake

Poppy Seed Cake w/ White Fluffy Icing

Puff Pastry Apple Tart

Maple Pecan Muffins

Between family, neighbors and some persons who work with Joe, the holidays were helped along with the joy and work from my kitchen. It is very satisfying to feed others and this act of culinary love is best when shared. I hope everyone enjoyed a peaceful time and got to try the goodness from your kitchen and from others, too. So, for an entire week after (being totally overwhelmed) January 6th, I take this time to reflect, sleep and chill out. It’s my mini-vacation and my secret way to relax and unwind. Happy New Year!

Copyright © 2014 “Sleeping Kitten – Dancing Dog!” All rights reserved.