Archive | March, 2014

It’s Springtime!

25 Mar

P1000824I’ve always loved springtime… daffodils popping up in the yard, asparagus and strawberries appearing at the market, the chill of winter fading, and a sense of new beginnings circling.  Last year at this time I was traveling to Florida because my Dad had a stroke.  During that time I barely noticed the world around me because I was busy learning medical jargon and trying to make sense of things.

This year, life still is presenting challenges, my Dad’s health being one of them.   As always, for me the hardest part about this journey is that I am not able to “make him well” and that is hard to take.  I want to know that my efforts have some effect, but the truth is that sometimes they don’t.

When things are out of my control (and aren’t they always?) I gravitate towards areas where I feel like I am making a difference.  One of those places where I have found myself doing that has been at my neighbor’s house.  Anny and her new baby boy, Sebastian, are living there.  Sometimes I can help Anny by holding Sebastian while singing and rocking.  If I am lucky and he falls asleep in my arms I almost feel as if I have been awarded the Nobel Prize. In other words, my skills have been validated.

Yesterday I baked an Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Chicken Apple Sausage Quiche for Anny.  I know that taking care of a new baby (and nursing him) is very demanding… and I wanted to give her a special treat for doing such a great job as a new Mom!

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I also baked several batches of Pecan Shortbread cookies this week.  I LOVE those things.. and really, what’s not to love? These cookies are a simple combination of sugar, butter, flour and pecans… and they’re delicious!

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Some of those cookies made it into the hands of the men who delivered my new Kitchenaid oven yesterday (oh my goodness… it is so lovely!) and some of them were given to a homeless man who held a sign saying “Anything helps.”  I’ll admit, I ate two of them and could easily have polished them all off!

Finally, yesterday I made a Chocolate Cream Pie for some friends at a local radio station, Kool 103.  Once again, I was the lucky winner of a prize… and to thank them I dropped off the pie.  Making goodies for them has long been my tradition… and I think that there’s a slight chance that they might even look forward to me winning!

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Tonight I send good wishes to you all for a Happy Spring… and if you are in the mood, try out this recipe.  You’ll be glad you did!

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Mix butter and sugar together until creamy.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour until just combined and then add the chopped nuts.  Take tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough and roll into balls.  Roll the balls of dough in sugar and place on cookie sheet; gently flatten each dough ball.  Place pan with cookies into oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are beginning to brown around the edge.  Remove cookie sheet from oven and let cookies cool.  Enjoy!

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.”  Julia Child

Pi Day… and more pies!

15 Mar

P1000610This past week has been filled with a variety of pies!  The week began on Sunday when I donated this Apple Crumb Pie to the Schneider Museum of Art  as one of the raffle prizes for their annual Bridge and Brunch fundraiser. It’s been my honor to cater this fundraiser for the last few years and I am delighted to serve this great organization.

Then on Wednesday I attended my last Italian class for this term.  A few classmates offered to bring something to celebrate our “success” thus far with this romance language.  One friend made a delicious Tiramisu (which translates to “pick me up)”, while another friend brought along a sparkling beverage to toast our health. Our lovely teacher brought grilled vegetables (verdure grigliate) and I crafted this vegetarian pizza “pie.”  Che divertimento!

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Before I went to class on Wednesday, I dropped off another Apple Crumb Pie (do you get the feeling that I like making this pie?) to our friend, Noah, who was hosting two Japanese students at his home.  The Japanese boys had been hosts to Noah (he went to Japan with the Ashland High School football team last summer) and they’ve kept in touch since then. Noah had extended an open invitation to his hosts to come and visit Ashland and stay at his home and they finally took him up on it!  I think it’s really wonderful that these young men are creating a lasting bond.  It gives me hope for the future!

P1000611And then yesterday was Pi Day… you know, 3.14, or March 14.  Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.  I wish my math teacher in high school had brought in some real “pies” when she was teaching us this stuff.  I am sure that I would have paid MUCH more attention (and maybe even become a different kind of pi lady altogether!)

In honor of Pi Day, I brought a quiche to the medical staff who are tending to my Dad.  He’s facing some health challenges right now and I wanted to show my gratitude to them for their care and concern.  It is most appreciated.

quiche for pi day

“Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.”  Harriet Van Horne

Pies for so many reasons!

7 Mar

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Coco and Alex, meet their host sister Lucka

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur and for good reason.  First my daughter , Alexandra, decided to come home for a brief visit before she began her new job (with Warby Parker!) and then my son, Coco, surprised me one night with a knock at our front door (he and his Dad were in cahoots about this).  So, for about a week I was back in Mom mode (my favorite place) and let a lot of other things go.  Well, except for pies.

While she was home, Alexandra mentioned that she wanted to stop at her (and our) alma mater, Southern Oregon University, to visit with her adviser, Rene.  A perfect occasion to bring along a pie!  The ingredients – apples, butter, flour, and sugar – came together quickly and as it baked we got ourselves ready.  Soon we were heading over to the university on a beautiful day.

Alex with pie at SOUAlexandra with Apple Pie

We were thrilled to find Rene (and office manager, Kathy) available to visit for a few minutes and they seemed happy to see us as well (or was it  the still warm pie?)  Alexandra is one of Rene’s first legacy students.  He was a professor to her parents (Emile and I) twenty plus years ago and then was her professor as well.  He still recalls seeing us carry her to school in the baby backpack.   Thanks for everything Rene!

Alexandra with Rene and Kathy

One day during the week I noticed that my friend, Margie Cicerrella, was featured in  the local paper.  Margie is retiring after many years of working as a children’s librarian.  Margie has been a driving force for literacy and among many other things spearheaded  the “Welcome Baby Book Bags” program – a program designed to promote language development in infants by giving new parents a cloth bag filled with board books.  For that alone, Margie deserves a million pies!  But alas, all I could do was bring her this one – a sweet potato and pecan pie.  Thank you Margie for all the wonderful work that you’ve done!

P1000559After a fun-filled week with Alexandra and Coco (cooking together, seeing plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and singing along to Coco’s guitar playing), sadly, they both had to return home. The first day after they left I must admit that I felt pretty blue.  Fortunately, I had agreed to teach a friends’ troop of girl scouts how to bake a pie (and share my story of giving away pies) that very afternoon.

At first, I was a little nervous but the girls were simply delightful.  They listened to my brief talk and then the kitchen was a flurry of flour, pie dough, and pumpkin pie filling!  Lots of questions were hurled at me, but I managed to answer most of them, and at the end of the afternoon, the counter was filled with pies.  There’s nothing like making pie – and helping kids learn to bake – to fix the blues!

P1000584The last pie I made this week was for the family of an old friend who succumbed to cancer a few days ago.  My heart aches for her husband and children and bringing them dinner and a pie felt like a way to ease their pain… and I’m sure my friend would love knowing that her family was cared for in this way.

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

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