Mother’s Day morning was made for Morning Glory muffins.
1. My Mom was the epitome of lady-like. She always wore dresses or skirts — even on the weekends. I cannot even fathom her ever donning a pair of jeans. In fact, the only time I saw her in slacks was in photos from the cruises she took with my Dad, when pants were required attire for some events. Even today in my mind’s eye, that’s how I still picture her — with her hair coiffed perfectly, and dressed in a silky blouse tucked into a knee-length skirt.
2. She taught me how to sew and knit — and in so doing, the importance of a job done right. Eager to finish the scarf or jacket I was making, I’d often race through it if I could. But my Mom’s eagle eyes would see the dropped stitch that created that wayward little hole in the pattern or the seam that wasn’t exactly straight. I’d point out that the seam was on the inside and nobody would ever see it, only to have her tell me that I’d always know it was there even if no one else did. So, of course, I ripped it out and started over again until it was the way it should be.
3. Even though she worked full-time while raising three kids, cooking never seemed to be a chore to her. Not on harried weeknights. Not on weekends, either. In fact, when she suffered a stroke, it was cooking that she missed most. After enduring months of rehabilitation to regain her sense of balance and the strength in her arms, it was almost as if being able to stand at the stovetop with her trusty wok again was her greatest triumph. That was when I realized just how much feeding her family truly meant to her.
My idea of a post workout snack.
Back in the day, my friend Julie and I would spend the few minutes after before our cycling class trading stories about our baking conquests.
Yes, it’s not uncommon for me to talk about food at the gym. No matter if my fellow gym rats know what I do for a living or not, we somehow always manage to gab about what we’ve cooked or eaten lately.
But then again, I guess that’s why we all go to the gym in the first place — to do penance for all the calories we’ve either already consumed or are about to after that grueling class ends.
Like me, Julie loves to bake. After pedaling like there’s no tomorrow, she’d tell me about the fruit pies she baked during the holidays and the biscuits she labored over to perfect, even going so far as to mail-order just the right flour to ensure they’d bake up extra light and flaky.
Although Julie has since moved on to do her pedaling at another gym, I remember how she was especially excited about traveling to the South to take a few baking classes. When she came back, she surprised me with a gift: a copy of the “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook” (Artisan, 2012). Autographed, too, by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day, the owners of the Savannah, GA Back in the Day Bakery.
A sunny pie with a bitter edge.
Grapefruit was one thing I didn’t grow up eating.
Sure, our house was filled in the winter with the scent of fresh oranges, lemons and tangerines.
But grapefruit was noticeably absent.
Its powerful bitter edge is not something kids naturally gravitate to.
It took becoming an adult for me to appreciate its singular gifts.
After all, bitterness has a pleasing way of balancing out sweet, and adding a sophisticated character.
That’s especially true in “Grapefruit Custard Pie.” This sunny recipe is from “Sweet and Tart” (Chronicle Books) by food writer Carla Snyder, of which I received a review copy.
The book includes 70 recipes spotlighting citrus in both sweet and savory preparations, such as “Key Lime Bars with Tropical Nut Crust” and “Lemony Pesto-Goat Cheese Dip with Vegetables.”
Plump, juicy kumquats simmered in sake, sugar and shiso make a divine topper for so many things.
Anything simmered in sake sounds pretty good to me.
Make it cute little kumquats, and I’m sold.
“Kumquats Simmered in Sake” is from the new cookbook, “Preserving the Japanese Way” (Andrews McMeel) by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, of which I received a review copy.
Singleton Hachisu is a native Californian who moved to Japan after falling in love with a Japanese farmer. Ever since, she’s dedicated herself to learning, documenting and teaching the ways of farm food life in Japan.
It’s a cookbook that will leave you with newfound appreciation for the art of preserving — salting, pickling and fermenting the Japanese way. You’ll learn how soy sauce is made, as well as her favored brands; and how to make your own miso, kimchee, tofu and soy milk.
There are inspired recipes such as “Cucumbers Soused in Soy,” “Green Beans Cloaked in Miso,” and “Sake Lees Ice Cream with Figs.”
I snagged kumquats at my local Japanese market for this easy recipe, as well as the shiso leaves and sake that was needed. In fact, I bought so many kumquats that I ended up making a double-batch of this recipe.
Coffee and chocolate — a perfect match.
Not quite tall, but definitely dark and handsome, this cake is the perfect companion for Valentine’s Day.
“Double Chocolate Espresso Wake-Up Bread” is from the new “The Everyday Baker” (Taunton Press), of which I received a review copy.
It’s by Abigail Johnson Dodge, a baking expert and contributing editor to Fine Cooking magazine. It’s filled with 176 recipes for sweet and savory treats, as well as plenty of technique tips, including how to judge the best ripe banana for making banana bread, assembling and filling pastry bags, shaping baguettes like a pro, and fastest way to pick leaves off thyme stems.
The recipes are perfect for the home-cook who wants to make something pleasing but doesn’t want to spend three days doing so. Enjoy everything from “Make-Ahead Chocolate French Toast” and “Salted Caramel-Toffee Icebox Cake” to “Goat Cheese Olive Spirals” and “Black Pepper Cream Crackers.” Each recipe also includes “Twists” — recommendations for changing-out the flavor of each or re-sizing it.
This particular recipe may be called a bread, but it’s really full-on cake.