Peach Cobbler

So, this post is a little late, peach season is winding down and we’re on to apple season already. I can hardly believe its September! Not only is its September but its already September 4th. I had a small heart attack this morning thinking it was still September 1 and although the humidity still says August, I’m hoping we start to have some cooler Fall evenings soon. Two weeks ago I finally got around to making peach cobbler. I had been thinking about it and wanting to make it for weeks but needed the time and a reason to make it. My parents were coming over for dinner and my mom loves peaches so this was the perfect occasion; I had people to help me eat it, people who I knew would enjoy it!

It may be hard to believe but I’ve actually never made peach cobbler before. I’ve made peach pie, peach crisp, peach crumbles, but never cobbler. This means I needed a recipe. Of course I immediately went online and began searching my usual sites, Epicurious and The Food Network and landed upon Paula Deen’s recipe for peach cobbler. I figured, if anyone can make it a good peach cobbler, its her.

I started the recipe by blanching my peaches and peeling them. If you’ve never peeled peaches before, this is by far the easiest way. All you do is boil a large pot of water and drop in your peaches. I let them boil for about 2 minutes and then move them into a bowl of ice water to cool them down. Once they’re cool, you can cut a small slit in them and pull the skin right off. It’s nice and easy, if not a little messy!

Once the peaches are peeled and sliced, this recipe called for you to boil them, along with sugar and water on the stove for about 10 minutes. I also chose to add in a split vanilla bean to the mixture for more flavor.

This step was key to making the cobbler extra delicious. The boiling peaches, sugar, water and vanilla bean created an incredible sauce, and yes, the whole kitchen smelled divine.

After making the peaches and syrup, place your baking dish with the sliced butter, into the preheated oven. You want the butter to melt completely before you pour in the cobbler mixture.

While the butter is melting, mix up the dry and wet ingredients for the biscuit part of the cobbler. When the butter is melted, first pour in the biscuit mixture, into the butter in the dish. This might seem backwards to you and it is, typical cobbler recipes call for the peaches on the bottom and the dough on top but this one calls for the opposite. The reason is that the dough actually rises up through the peaches and in doing so soaks up all sorts of flavor. It’s SO good!

Top the dough mixture with the peach mixture and do not mix it. Place it right in the oven and bake it for about an hour, until the middle has set.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I’m telling you, this was the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had. Paula knows her peaches.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from FoodNetwork.com:

Peach Cobbler
Print
Author: Adapted from Paula Deen
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 30 mins
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean split
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • Ground cinnamon, optional
  • Ground Nutmeg, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, vanilla bean, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in 2 pinches of nutmeg and sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.
  3. Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.
  4. Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

 

Dresser Makeover

Last week I finished my favorite home project to date, my dresser makeover. You see for the last 6 years of marriage, Eric and I have shared an Ikea dresser that Eric purchased back when he was single and living alone. The dresser worked great for a while but then, as most Ikea furniture, it started to fall apart. The drawers had the thick cardboard bottoms and one by one the bottoms began to break. One was help up with duct tape and one of my drawers even lived on the floor for about a year because neither of us cared enough to take the time to fix it properly. I’ve always wanted a long, low dresser for us to share, one with more drawers and whose height allowed for a nice lamp and some accessories to be placed on it. About 6 months ago, I began trolling Craig’s list for inexpensive dressers that fit the style I was hoping for. Last month, I succeeded in landing this baby:

This dresser was almost all solid wood, the top was coated in laminate strips which was strange, but the drawers and sides were all wood, it was long and low and had 9 drawers, that means 3 more drawers that our old dresser! I loved the simplicity of it and knew immediately I wanted to sand and re-stain it and I wanted to paint the top white (since I couldn’t re-stain laminate).

I got to work and over the course of last week, sanded all the drawer fronts  and then I started on the sides and all the smaller areas of the dresser. I found that the way the dresser was designed, I was having a really hard time getting some of the places sanded at all. I went back to the drawing board and decided to paint the entire frame and top of the dresser white. Next, I stained the drawer fronts a pretty red mahogany. After waiting 24 hours for the stain and paint to dry, I coated everything with 3 coats of water based polyacrylic and then let everything dry for 3 days before touching it.

In the end I was left with this beautiful dresser:

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you can see the subtle wood grain in on the drawers and they hand a bit more red tint in them in person. You may also notice that the walls in this picture are blue, we did re-paint the room 2 weeks ago as well. I keep going into the room just to look at it and then I’ll run my hand over it to feel how smooth it is. It’s amazing to me how much more you like a piece of furniture or a room when you put hard work into making it look good. I’m still amazed at myself for finishing this project, this is the first piece of furniture I have ever stained!

Yesterday, we went through all of our clothes and filled 3 bags to donate and then put all the keepers into the new dresser. The old shabby dresser is now living in the garage until we decide what to do with it.

What have you all been up to lately? Any furniture makeovers? Rooms painted? I’d love to hear about it!

Pork Chops & Green Beans

It’s Tuesday morning at the end of August and it feels like its about 65 degrees outside! I couldn’t believe it when I took the dog for a walk this morning. I’m sad that this Summer seems to have flown by but I’ll be honest, I detected a bit of an Autumn chill in the air this morning and it got me thinking about hot apple cider, pumpkin cookies, hearty comfort food and cozy sweaters. Fall is my favorite time of year and I am looking forward to it but yes, I know, its still Summer and I have some easy and delicious recipes for you today.

Some of my favorite meals come together when I’m looking for something new and easy and this is what happened last week. I had just picked a large bowl of fresh green beans from our little garden and had picked up some beautiful pork chops at Central Market that day. I found a simple recipe for the pork chops, using fresh rosemary and garlic and was planning to steam the green beans as the side dish however I found myself wishing for a more exciting green bean recipe. I pulled out my phone and started searching on my Epicurious App and a I found a recipe for green beans that included bacon and garlic. Sold.

To make the pork chops, combine the minced garlic, chopped rosemary, salt and olive oil. Rub the mixture all over both side of the pork chops and allow them to sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.

After cleaning and trimming the green beans, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes to get them to start cooking. While they’re cooking, heat up a saute pan on low and cook the bacon until the fat has rendered and it is crisp. The recipe calls for turkey bacon, to make it healthier, however I only had regular bacon and used that. Either one will work just fine, its up to your preference. Once the bacon is crisp, add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the blanched green beans to the pan. Toss to allow the flavors to combine, sprinkle with fresh oregano and season with salt and pepper.

Also, while the green beans are cooking, cook the pork chops. You can choose to either cook them under the broiler or on the grill. We didn’t feel like firing up the grill so we chose the broiler, however next time I think I’ll choose the grill; everything just tastes better on the grill.

Plate it up and voila! You’ve got a healthy, fresh and delicious dinner!

The pork chops had a lot of flavor and tasted great and check out a close up of those green beans, the bacon just calls to me… I may not make green beans without bacon ever again.

Both recipes came from Epicurious here are the links to both:

Green Beans with Oregano and Bacon

Rosemary Pork Chops

Let There Be Light!

Our newly found motivation with household projects continues, which means my cooking has been made up of quick and easy meals and lots of leftovers. It’s a little sad for our bellies these past few weeks but so many things are getting accomplished in the house that I can hardly be upset. I promise to get back to cooking and sharing my recipes with you all soon but for now, let me show you our latest project and by our I really mean Eric’s because he did all the work while I handed him thing he asked for and paced around the kitchen.

Here’s the back story to this project. When we moved into our house four years ago, I liked the kitchen a lot. I was large, had a big island work space , a decent stove/oven with a flat top and a huge beautiful pantry, what more could a girl ask for? Unfortunately, my tastes were not the same as the previous owners and I quickly got to work painting the walls and trim. A few years later, painting the cabinets white followed and for the last year we’ve been searching for a new light fixture. I wanted something that would open the space up and something that emulated the style of the kitchen I was hoping for and not the previous owners’ kitchen. We found a really nice glass jar chandelier from West Elm around Christmas time and I began stalking West Elm for it to go on sale. Of course when you’re waiting for a sale, it seems to take forever and I think every other category on their website went on sale except for lighting. Finally, in May I got the email that they were offering 20% off all lighting and made my move. I ordered one chandelier for the kitchen and one pedant light for over the sink.

The chandelier was back ordered and didn’t arrive until the end of June. Eric was traveling for work for 3 weeks and we finally got some time 2 weeks ago to put up the large chandelier. It ended up being a pretty simple switcheroo, the old light fixture for the new one. After some aggravated words, turning on and off the power several times and a trip to the hardware store, things were looking nice and bright in our kitchen. We went from this:

Don’t you feel like that one is really heavy and large for the space? I also feel like it should be over a pool table, not a kitchen island. Here is the new light:

I love it so much more! It makes the whole kitchen feel lighter and brighter.

Next, Eric started on the area above the sink, you can see it in the above photo with the wood over top of the curtain. Eric took down the wood, went into the wall, moved the electrical wiring and the light box into the ceiling, installed the new light, re-hung the trim on the cabinets, patched the wall and then painted everything. Now it looks like this:

Didn’t he do an amazing job? It looks like it was always like this. Here’s the full effect in the kitchen with both new lights:

And just for fun, lets take a look at the kitchen when we moved in:

And now:

We keep hanging out in the kitchen now because we love it so much and I just go and and flick the lights on an off sometimes to gaze upon their beauty. What do you guys think, is this an improvement? Have you replaced lighting in your house and loved the results?

Six Years and a Weekend in NYC

This weekend Eric and I celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary! I can hardly believe it. In some ways it feels like our wedding was yesterday and in others it feels as if we’ve always been married, like I can’t remember a time when we weren’t married, but we’ve made it 6 whole years and I can honestly say they’ve been the best of my life. Have they been easy? Definitely not. But we’ve had some amazing times, been to some incredible places and shared meaningful memories.

I still love looking at our wedding photos! They never get old, although we seem to have…we look so young here! I can’t wait to see what the next 6 years bring.

To celebrate our anniversary, since it was on a Saturday, we decided to take a trip to NYC for a night. We love New York City, in fact we got engaged there and used to go there often while we dated and were first married, but over the last few years, our trips became more infrequent and then non-existent. We were looking forward to going back to a city we truly enjoy.

This trip of course was centered mostly around food, like all good trips, right?! We got the chance to eat at some great places including Balthazar, Brasserie Les Halles (made famous by Chef Anthony Bourdain) and Pastis. You may notice that all of these are French brasseries or bistros, that wasn’t on purpose but just sort of happened. I didn’t complain! We also hit up this amazing brunch place called Peels; roasted tomato eggs benedict, need  I say more? Yum, even thinking about it right now makes me want to go back. Here’s the pastry selection at Peels:

Slide 1

Some of our other highlights were shopping in Soho and visiting the Museum of Natural History, neither of us had ever been there before. Here’s one of our favorite exhibits, from Easter Island:

Although it was pretty crowded, we enjoyed walking through the museum and seeing the exhibits. Plus, if you’ve watched the movie Night at the Museum then it’s even cooler.

Saturday, we made the trip to Chelsea Market, a place I’ve wanted to go for a long time (Food Network studios is in the top of the building). All the food there was incredible but the most amazing was the fish market. You could find anything and everything possible at this fish market, take a look at some of the things we found:

Yes, those signs say baby octopus, sea urchin and squid!

There was a big line for some of these crustaceans! Don’t they look delicious bright red and steamed up? The fish market was like the aquarium, except you could eat everything! Maybe not appropriate for small children…

We had a blast in NYC, it was nice to get away for a night and we decided at the last minute to take the train which made the whole trip so nice and easy. We can go right from Lancaster to Penn Station, NYC and it only takes about 2.5 hours. It is more expensive than driving but the time and headache you save from driving are so worth it, especially if you’re only going for one night.

So that’s our anniversary weekend in a nutshell, what were you guys up to? Any fun weekend trips?

While the Cat is Away, the Mice will Play

What have you all been up to this week? I can tell you one thing I haven’t been doing…cooking. I know, I know quel horreur! But, Eric is out of town on business for the whole week and this is the 3rd week in a row. When its just me and Bailey, I don’t cook a lot. The desire to fill my days with baking is strong but then I think to myself, who will eat all those baked goods? The answer is me, I will eat them all. So its best not to make them at all for fear of turning into a cupcake (you are what you eat, right?).

Instead of cooking, I’ve adjusted to this new state of unemployment by going over every square inch of my house and making To-Do lists. I currently have 4 lists compiled. One of cleaning tasks to be completed this week. One of deep cleaning tasks that will be spread out. One of smaller/cheaper projects that require less time and finally, one of major projects to be completely that require planning and saving.

I figure, this house is now my job, I’m going to make sure it looks great! Plus, projects make me happy and keep my occupied. Eric works really hard and his job takes him away from home a lot. This means that when he is home, he isn’t all that excited about helping me paint the spare bedroom or hanging a light fixture. He’ll usually give in to me and do it, if asked, but I like accomplishing things while he’s away that he can come home to and relax with.

Here is my run-down on projects. Last week I gave an old night stand a makeover. This was an old IKEA night stand that Eric purchased for his apartment before we got married. I was keeping it in the living room, purely because I didn’t have anywhere else to put it. You can see it in between the two chairs with picture frames on it.

I was also searching for a new night table for our office/guest room. While walking through the house last week it occurred to me that I could simply paint that night stand white and use it in the guest room. So I primed and painted that bad boy, purchased some cute new knobs and voila!

 

 

Also note the lamp on the night stand. That used to be painted with blue and gold flowers, not my style. So I took a can of glossy white spray paint to it last week and then covered the lampshade with some sale fabric I picked up at the fabric store. Bam! New lamp! I love how it turned out.

While I was spray painting, I had a bunch of different color picture frames that I couldn’t really use anymore, those also got a fresh coat of white spray paint and now I’ve got 4 new white frames that I can fill and hang!

The next project was also simple and cheap. I’d seen images on Pinterest of china hutches with the backs painted or stenciled in neat patterns. I knew I wanted to do something to spruce mine up, but mine is an antique so I needed whatever I did to be removable and temporary.

 

 

I found some textured wallpaper at Lowes and used some poster putty to attach it to the back of my cabinet. I reloaded the cabinet (in a more organized fashion) and the end result was this:

 I like its subtlety and the way the white backing really shows off my glassware and brightens up the whole china hutch.

These all happened last week. This week, I’ve given an old desk a makeover and painted our spare bedroom. They’re not fully complete yet, so I’ll wait to show you those photos next week.

What about you guys, any DIY projects going on at your houses? Do you get into mischief when your spouse is away? Spill it.

Cooking School

I hope you’re all enjoying your week! I have been trying to keep busy as Eric is away on business again but its become quickly apparent how quiet this house can get when he’s away. Good thing I have my cute puppy to keep me company! She has taken up her place on Eric’s side of the bed now and I’m afraid Eric may have to fight her for it when he gets home. I can’t imagine what I’d do without her though. Here she was this morning when  I woke up.

But I digress, the point I’m trying to make is that when Eric is away, I plan more social things for myself to do so that I don’t go crazy being alone (though to be fair I am an introvert and enjoy being alone quite a bit). Wednesday night I decided to finally take some friends up on their requests for me to teach them how to cook something or in this case bake something. Recently, one of my girlfriends expressed an interest in pies and, just her luck, pies are one thing I have conquered. I invited her and another friend over for pie making and instructed them to bring two things: a pie plate, so they could take their creation home, and a pound of butter. Pies require lots of butter, maybe that’s why I like them so much…

I love that the evening meant spending time in the kitchen getting covered in flour and being chatty girls. I also loved the fact that each one of us wanted to make a different type of pie. I like to think people’s taste in pie is another facet of their personalities and find it fascinating what people favor in their pie flavors (this is the type of question that I love asking, “Hi, nice to meet you, what’s your favorite kind if pie.” I could almost decided if I like you or not based on the answer to that question alone).

After a simple tutorial on the Do’s and Don’ts of making pies, we got down and dirty making our pie crusts, rolling them out, making the fillings and putting the entire pies together. We had three pies in total; I made a peach, raspberry and blueberry pie, one of my friends made a blueberry pie and the other made a triple berry pie which include red raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.

I was so proud of our pies! Here they are before going into the oven:

Blueberry

Triple Berry (check out the gorgeous lattice top!)

Peach, Raspberry, Blueberry

We had such a nice time together. I love feeding people and using food to bring people together, to make them feel welcome in my home, but this was a whole new way for me to share not only food, but the passion that I have for making food with people I love. It was so fun to see the pride my friends had in their creations!

Here’s shots of the finished products:

Blueberry

Triple Berry

Peach, Raspberry, Blueberry

My friends have now declared that I am giving cooking lesson and have named it “Marah’s Cooking School” and we’re already discussing what we’d like to cook next. I for one, can’t wait!

Blueberry Ice Cream

Before I get into my latest recipe adventure, I just wanted to thank everyone for the kind words and support after my last post. Sharing personal details about your life on the internet isn’t for everyone, but I have been overwhelmed with the encouraging words that have come my way since I shared my latest unemployment news with you all. Your kind words were exactly the kind of boost I needed, so thanks!

I’m sure you’re all wondering what I’ve been doing with my new found free time and I’ll tell you one thing, I haven’t been sitting around eating bon-bons, though I wish I could…bon-bons are delicious, but I’ve been cleaning my house, doing small projects that have been on my To-Do list for ages and of course cooking. I never realized how much I missed the idea of Summer vacation and to be honest, its nice to get some time to do horrible tasks like wash your windows or paint the spare room. I promise to give you updates on all my little DIY projects, too.

Today, however, we’re back to food. It is the middle of July and naturally, its hot. On top of the seasonal temperatures, we’ve also had a bit of a heat wave. My morning run this morning felt like I was running inside the sauna at the YMCA. When it gets this steamy and sticky you only want one thing, besides ice water that is, ice cream! My handy little Cuisinart ice cream maker has been hard at work the last two weeks creating all sorts of flavors of ice cream.

I’ve been searching for a blueberry ice cream recipe for the last two years. I had a wonderfully fresh blueberry ice cream at the Strasburg Creamery a few years back and have never been able to forget it. My mission last week was to replicate it. This ice cream was not the typical blueberry one might think of. Most people think of blueberry ice cream that looks like this:

It’s a beautiful violet color and is packed with blueberry flavor. This kind of blueberry ice cream is flavored from making a blueberry puree after cooking the blueberries with sugar until they burst and make a syrup. This method is rich and delicious but the kind of blueberry ice cream  I was going for was less intense in flavor and color. It’s almost white and is filled with whole blueberries that have not been cooked at all. Oh! And its creamy and light.

After scouring the internet looking for the “right” kind of blueberry ice cream recipe, I finally came across this one from a fellow blogger at Catsandcasseroles.blogspot.com. The recipe was perfect. No cooking blueberries and a no cook ice cream base!

To start the ice cream (after you’ve already chilled your ice cream maker drum in the freezer over night, of course), combine the fresh blueberries and 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl.

Cover it and put it in the fridge for a few hours, getting it out and stirring it every 30 minutes or so. I squished a few berries with a fork and stirred them up.

After the berries are ready, mix up the ice cream base. Sugar, heavy cream and half and half, mix in the blueberries.

The base will be a light lavender color. Since you used cold cream and half and half, the mixture is cold and you can put it in your ice cream maker immediately. Churn is as directed by your ice cream maker instructions. Chill in the freezer to harden it a bit more. Once its the desired firmness, scoop it and enjoy!

See how light the ice cream is and how it has big whole blueberries right in it? This ice cream is so yum. I learned from the Cats and Casseroles Blog that this style of preparing ice cream is called Philadelphia Style because there are no eggs in it and requires no cooking, like most custard based ice creams. The ice cream gets its rich flavor entirely from the high butterfat content of the cream.

This blueberry ice cream is simple and quick to make and is creamy, light and delicious; perfect for those hotter than hot Summer days.

Here’s the recipe from Cats and Casseroles:

Blueberry Ice Cream
Print
Author: Cats and Casseroles
Prep time: 5 hours
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 5 hours 30 mins
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 c. (half-pint) blueberries, rinsed and any stems removed
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. half-and-half
  • scant 1/2 c. sugar
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1/4 c. sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep refrigerated 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.
  2. Mash sugared blueberries in the bowl, using a fork. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together heavy cream and scant 1/2 c. sugar. Whisk in half-and-half. Add blueberries (and the syrup they’ve created) into cream mixture. Whisk for about two minutes.
  3. Churn according to ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy right away, or store in freezer in an air-tight container. This recipe yields about a pint of ice cream.

 

Becoming a statistic and other “fun” life experiences

I’ve been in the weeds, as they say, these past few weeks and I apologize for my absence. I promised all these fun posts and then vanished but it wasn’t for no reason at all. Two weeks ago, I joined the ranks of many unfortunate Americans today and acquired a new label, I became unemployed. I know I’m not alone in this, especially among my age group, in fact I think I’ve lasted longer than most of my friends from college; I’ve seen them all take this label on for months at a time over the last 5 years since graduation. Yes, we all had the unfortunate luck to graduate into a floundering economy in which jobs are scarce, let alone good jobs, those are almost non-existent. Gone are the days when employers take care of those people who work so hard to keep them in business, the sad truth is that the American economy now puts the almighty dollar first in each and ever scenario, hence the enormous unemployment numbers.

I was one of these people 2 weeks ago. Blindsided by the fact that my position had been eliminated and not even given the chance to make my case.  As I sat in the very short meeting, where I was told that I no longer had a job, my first thoughts were, well sheer panic, then disbelief, then anger that this had apparently been discussed weeks beforehand by the board of directors and no one thought it would be a good idea to mention to me that my position was being evaluated, and then finally came the hurt. My pride and ego were bruised and battered, I wasn’t given the chance to say good-bye to the co-workers I had spent 35 hours a week with for almost 2 years, I just packed up my stuff and vanished.

Why is it that HR departments always think its most human to treat people like they are not in fact human at all? That is one point I’ll never understand. Sure, we expect you to make this work place a priority in your life and spend most of your time here for the duration of your working here but when it comes down to dismissing you, lets not treat you like a human, instead lets treat you like we would a computer. Shout all the policies in your face, make you sign forms as you quietly cry in their office and then ask you if you have any questions. In my head I wanted to scream, “Questions? Um, you just ruined my life 5 minutes ago I haven’t heard a word you said after, “your position has been eliminated.”"

So now what? That was the place I found myself last week. Depressed, unmotivated, confused and lost. Family and friends have been so supportive and this week, after taking time to be sad, I’m looking forward. I’ve been given a chance to re-evaluate things and make a choice to do something I’m passionate about. Was I passionate about my job? Nope. It was a good job so I stayed safe and worked there dreaming of what else I might dare to do someday but now I’ve been given a second chance to go out and do it. Follow those dreams and maybe, end up back in the kitchen where I’ve always felt the most at home and at peace.

No longer and I allowed to wallow, but instead I’m weighing my options and making the hard choices. In the end, I think I’ll look back on this time and be grateful for it. Not everyone gets a push into a second chance. But here’s to mine!

The best news in all this is for you guys. No job = Lots of time to blog! You’ll be hearing from me more and I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on with me.

As always, thanks for reading! (Oh, and if you’re hiring, let me know!)

Tea With Grandma

Two weeks ago, we went to Delaware to visit Eric’s Grandmother. She is a wonderful woman who has traveled the world and I love getting a chance to talk with her about her travel adventures. One of the main topics of conversation during this visit was Eric’s Grandfather. He served in World War II as an Army Ranger (famous for scaling the cliffs at Point du Hoc) and Signal Corps seargant and was a part the D’Day Invasion. He went over the English Channel in a fishing boat the night before D’Day and hid in a manure pile until morning, when he worked to set up communications lines. He was a part of Patton’s 3rd Army and fought all over Europe, earning 3 purple hearts and a bronze star.

When we travel to Normandy this Fall, we want to make sure we visit the beaches that he fought on and find his name in the war memorial. Eric’s grandparents also traveled to Normandy 2-3 times after the war and we wanted to get the skinny on their adventures; those details will help us plan our trip.

Eric’s Grandmother grew up in Delaware but has English heritage and relatives that she has kept in touch with over the years. She has been to visit them in England many times and in the same way, they have come to visit her as well. She has an extensive tea set collection and always tells me how to make a “proper” pot of tea.

When we decided to visit her, I wanted to make her some tea cakes and scones. After some research, I went with a lavender tea cake and strawberry basil scones. I’m never actually baked with lavender before and was excited to try that tea cake recipe. I’ve also never made scones before, I was intimidated since they required kneading and cutting, but in the end both were simple and delicious.

The lavender tea cake initially sounded interesting but I was nervous that it would come out tasting like soap. Most of the lavender in my life is not in cake form but more soap, dried herbs and even herbs de Provence.

The recipe stated that I could use either the purple flower part of the lavender or the silvery, green leaf part. I cut a little of both from my garden and followed the rest of the baking instructions, adding the lavender last and gently mixing it into the light cake batter.

Bake the cake in a loaf pan and cool slightly before popping it out of the pan and drizzling it with glaze, the cake should still be warm when you glaze it.

After all that, slice the cake and you’ll see this:

Isn’t it gorgeous? It was light, fluffy, slightly sweet with just a hint of lavender at the end. The texture of the cake was so nice that I kept going back for more. I’ll admit it, I was a little sad when Eric’s grandmother asked me to leave her the last few pieces of cake; I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon, while my lavender is still blooming.

The other recipe I made for the visit were Strawberry Basil Scones. I got my last quart of local strawberries, for the season, and mixed up a batch of these babies:

 I liked that this recipe had you roll out the scones in a circle and then I cut it like a pizza to make my perfect triangle scones.

It was so much easier than I thought! In the end, the scones were crumbly and delicious with lots of strawberry chunks and the light hint of basil. The flavors were great together.

The scones keep for about a week, but make sure you store them in the fridge, they will get moldy quick.

 

As always, our visit with Eric’s grandmother was too short, the afternoon went by so quickly but we were able to see a bunch of photo’s that Eric’s grandfather took during WWII, I loved the ones of Paris! We heard his grandmother’s account of D’Day, from Eric’s grandfather, read letters that he had written to Eric’s grandmother during the war and got to hear about all of their travels later in life. They had so many great adventures and were such great friends. I hope that my marriage is even half of what they had for 60 years.

We’re looking forward to our next visit already but in the meantime, here are those tasty recipes:

Lavender Tea Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain or lowfat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lavender leaves

Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat granulated sugar, butter, and vanilla until well-blended.
  2. Add egg and egg white, one at a time, beat well after each addition.
  3. Sift flour and combine with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir well.
  4. Add the flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in lavender.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until a sharp knife or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients. Spread on the warm cake. Cool in pan 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

 

Strawberry Basil Scones

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (I used half all purpose flour and half cake flour for the best results)

1/3 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries (we preferred them cut into 1/2-inch or 1-inch pieces)
2 T snipped basil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup half-and-half

Half-and-half or milk
Sugar
slivered almonds, optional

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together 2 1/2 cups flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gently toss in fresh strawberries and basil. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together eggs and half-and-half. Add egg mixture to flour mixture all at once. Using a large spoon, gently stir just until incorporated.

Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it 5 to 7 times, turning the dough one quarter turn after each fold. (If it is too sticky, add flour from the extra 1/4 cup as needed to make it workable.) Transfer to a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet. Pat or lightly roll dough into a 3/4 inch thick circle. Cut circle into wedges and pull apart slightly.

Brush wedges with additional half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar and almonds (if using). Bake about 14-16 minutes or until golden. Serve dolloped with whipped cream. Refrigerate any leftover scones.