Category Archives: Breakfast & Brunch

I love brunch! It is absolutely one of my favorite ways to entertain. Here you will find my favorite breakfast and brunch recipes and ideas for a brunch gathering.

An Intentional, Quiet Easter

You may have gathered that life has been a bit hectic around the Hacienda lately. I am guessing that is really not surprising as life these days is hectic for most of us. We understand over-committed, over-taxed, way too busy, spread too thin, wearing way too many hats, just hangin’ on. And somehow, we just keep piling it on.

Doing, doing, doing, to the point of exhaustion.

Going, going, going to the point of gone.

The craziest part is, we do it to ourselves.

We do it with the best of intentions. We say yes before we even take a moment to think or breathe or be realistic. Before we sit quietly with the Lord and ask Him, “is this what you have for me?”

Yes.

Yes, I can do that. Yes, I’d love to help. Yes, I can write that, make that, bake that, decorate that, plant that, plan that, chair that. Give it to me, I’ll do it.

I have done it. And I have done it to myself. No one expects or demands it of me, it does not happen without my permission. It is all me and I just keep heaping commitment on top of commitment. All good, important, worthy things.

But at the expense of what?

Quiet, still time with my maker and savior and sustainer?

Peace of mind and rest and perspective.

Patience and focus and stillness.

He has given me a servants heart and that is a good thing. But I have weak boundaries and that is a bad thing.

And all of the “yeses” have left me undone or overdone – as in stick a fork in me ’cause I’m done.

So what does all of this have to do with Easter? Well, pretty much everything.

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Normally at Easter we have a house full of loved ones; those born to us and those gifted and chosen. We prepare for weeks and then we gather together, serve a huge meal, hide dozens of eggs for a dozen (or so) kids and I truly love it. Every bit of it.

But this year, I must be honest, this year I just wasn’t feelin’ it. And it kind of caught me off guard. All of the “yeses” finally caught up with me.

I’m weary and spent. So this year, I said to my husband “do you think it’s okay if it is just us”.

“Just us”, as if that were inconceivable, unthinkable, unimaginable. As if there were something wrong with “just us”. As if “just us” weren’t enough. He immediately said YES! But I had to give it some time to sink in. It is hard to let go of self-imposed expectations.

Easter is a celebration that matters deeply to me and while I am not feeling the big production, I am feeling something that means more. I am feeling the need to renew, reflect and be still. And I’m feeling okay with that.

So this year, it is going to be just us. Enjoying a very intentional, very quiet Easter.

The house is decorated, but it is just for us.

I have menus planned. But this year, they are just for us.

For Good Friday …

  • Rack of Lamb Persillade
  • Roasted Baby Red Potatoes
  • Greek Salad
  • Steamed Haricot Vert
  • Grandma Ibby’s French Strawberry Pie (I will share this recipe with you tomorrow)

And the “agenda” …

Well, this afternoon, Nathan and I will head to the market to pick up our groceries. And there will be no rush or stress, we will enjoy our time together. This evening, we will sit down to a wonderful meal together and bow our heads to thank our savior for the blessing of His sacrifice. This morning I asked Nathan what “Good Friday” means and his sweet simple answer was “God wants us.” And so He does. He wants us so much that He bore all of our sin on that cross that we would be washed clean, forgiven and redeemed.

And while Easter isn’t about baskets and bunnies and eggs, there is value in the joy of these family traditions.

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So, tomorrow, we will color eggs together and attend Easter Services (yes on Saturday – our church is big so we will save five seats Sunday for the many visitors we are sure to welcome). After the kids go to bed, Gary and I will sit together and stuff plastic eggs with scripture, hand written love notes, candy and coins for Sunday’s Easter Egg Hunt.

And Sunday, we will hide those eggs and breathe easy, relaxed and happy as our kids hunt excitedly for their tiny treasures. The day will come all too soon when their enthusiasm for such things wanes. We must put the bustle aside once in a while and take the time to enjoy it now. And so we will.

A bit later, we will sit down to brunch together at the picnic table under the Palo Verde tree. Just us. And we will linger, the rest of the day ahead to be still.

Easter Brunch …

  • Ham with and Orange/Fig Glaze
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Asparagus with Hollandaise
  • Coffee Cake

Yes, this Easter, I hear him calling me to slow down and to proceed with intention.

There will always be big gatherings at the Hacienda, big Easter. We are encouraged to gather and it is wonderful. But there must also be “just us”.

And so it is of our relationship with the Savior who draws our hearts to seek Him. To find time with Him. To make time for Him. Just us. He and I.

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On this Good Friday, may you find that time with Him. May you be reminded of what has been done for you. May you hear Him whisper “it is done and you are worth it. Let us be, just us.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-16

 

 

 

 

 

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

Today, I am excited to share something very special with you, just in time for Thanksgiving; Haddon Hall Gingerbread.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread is a delightful, dark and distinctive cakelike gingerbread with deep notes of rich molasses and warm spices. It is another of the treasures from my Grandmother Ibby’s recipe box and is a favorite of my mom’s. Not just a favorite fall treat but a favorite childhood memory.  Crisp fall days spent playing outside or afternoons walking home from school, cold nose, tingling fingers. Opening the front door of the big old Victorian house, a deep breath and a spreading smile as she is greeted by the scent of her favorite gingerbread baking in the oven.

I can just picture her standing there in her cotton dress, knit sweater, saddle shoes, dropping her books and inhaling deeply, happy to be home and anticipating that warm gingerbread dolloped with fresh whipped cream.

What a picture of home and comfort. Perfect for this time of year when we nestle in and regain our focus on what is most important. Home. Family. Tradition.

While in our family, this will always be my grandmother’s gingerbread, Haddon Hall Gingerbread does have some pretty interesting roots. And apparently a very interesting effect on men.

Yes, this post started out as a simple and sweet remembrance from my mother’s childhood. A favorite recipe to share for the upcoming holiday season. But as is so often the case, there is more to this story.

The research I have done has yielded some intriguing and even amusing results and several different variations on the recipe; none quite the same as my grandmother’s. From what I’ve read, Haddon Hall Gingerbread originally gained the attention of American housewives in 1933 with a Gold Medal flour ad on the back cover of the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

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Photo Credit

And after reading this advertisement, I must say, how could it not?

The ad encourages the lady of the house to buy Gold Medal flour for the “Kitchen Tested, simplest, surest, easiest way to baking success.” And if that wasn’t reason enough to purchase Gold Medal flour, the recipe set included in each bag was certainly an irresistible offer.

“Rich man… poor man… Every man goes for Haddon Hall Gingerbread. An old favorite marvelously transformed by adding cream cheese and lemon sauce. The recipe … with 19 others … is given free inside every size sack of Gold Medal ‘kitchen-tested’ flour.”

Intriguing? Perhaps. But irresistible?

“Amazing Collection brings the never before published secrets of world famous chefs for foods that enchant men including the one for Haddon Hall Gingerbread shown here – The creation of William J. Holmes, Pastry Chef, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, Atlantic City.”

Hmmmm, man enchanting recipes.

Still not convinced?

“What your husband has to say about this Haddon Hall gingerbread will bring the roses to your cheeks. And you’ll find baking this way a thrilling adventure.”

Rosey blushing cheeks? A thrilling adventure without putting your shoes on and leaving the kitchen? What self respecting gal could resist that promise.

“Get Gold Medal ‘Kitchen Tested’ flour at any grocery store. Each sack contains the recipe for Haddon Hall Gingerbread and 19 other ‘foods that enchant men.’ Try them.”

Now, before you set aside 80 years of progress and attempt to manipulate the man in your life with baked goods, keep in mind the Gold Medal flour sacks no longer contain these bewitching recipes.

Do not dismay! Fortunately for you, I have one of them right here. I’m not sure any of us could handle all 19 anyway but a little bit of a rosey cheeked thrill shouldn’t be too dangerous.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Molasses
  • 2 1/4 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Cup boiling water

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Blend in the eggs and the molasses.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the boiling water, beginning and ending with the dry.

Pour into a greased and floured 8×8 pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

My mom remembers my grandmother always serving this with whipped cream but I think a sprinkling of powder sugar is pretty nice too. She also never served it with the cream cheese layer or the lemon sauce and frankly, I can’t imagine it needing either.

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Just before Halloween, I made a batch and packaged some up for friends in a festive treat box. That was before I had done some research and discovered the true power of this recipe. I’m expecting a thank you note any day now.

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So, now we know that this is no ordinary gingerbread but where does the name “Haddon Hall” come from? It could be named for the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City where Chef William J. Holmes worked but I imagine it goes back further than that. The Gold Medal flour ad says that with the addition of a cream cheese layer and lemon sauce, Chef Holmes’ creation was an updated version of an “old favorite”.

According to Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes, “Haddon Hall is a famous old medieval mansion in Derbyshire, England. It’s not too distant from a Derbyshire town named Ashbourne, which is famous for it’s gingerbread. According to Derbyshire tradition, Ashbourne gingerbread was first created by a French prisoner of war, who decided to remain in the town after the Napoleonic wars. His special gingerbread recipe was then handed down through generations of  his descendants.

Gingerbread is a tradition in the area. Gingerbread men were made and sold in country towns at Easter Fairs and Autumn Wakes Weeks. Fashioned in molds, they were decorated with colored hats and scarlet or white sugar buttons. They can still be found for sale today in Ashbourne and the surrounding area.

So, I’m speculating that the Betty Crocker ‘Haddon Hall’ (there is a version of the recipe in the 1965 Betty Crocker cookbook) gingerbread recipe  was likely an Americanized version of the below Ashbourne gingerbread recipe.”

More about Haddon Hall.

Perhaps that “old favorite” does have its roots in the accounting above and in Ashbourne Gingerbread and the Haddon Hall of Derbyshire; I’d like to think so. But I could find nothing to confirm the origin with certainty so, it remains a food mystery. Which kind of makes this recipe all the more intriguing.

Regardless of the origin and the mystery, the romantic Madison Avenue promises of 1933, or if this is an exact duplicate of the recipe from that magical little booklet in the flour sack or was again altered by my grandmother, this recipe is special.

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So break out the mixer, pans and measuring cups (if you dare) and be ready for your kitchen to be filled with the scent of fall and family and home.

Anything else is your business.

Enjoy!

If you are looking for some great recipes for your Thanksgiving Dinner, here are a few of my favorite sides and Thanksgiving Traditions, originally posted last fall.

This Thanksgiving,  I hope you have a beautiful day filled with the people you love and a grateful heart brimming with joy for all that makes you thankful. As for me, I am so thankful for the incredible friends, readers and blogging community that stick with me and make writing Welcome Company such a joy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Bread and Other Things I LOVE About Fall

I think there are many reasons I love fall. The reprieve from the intense heat of summer. The colors. The hint of fun and joyful family time to come. Things seem to slow down or have the illusion of slowing down, anyway. So many things that make it a favorite time of year.

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Pumpkins. Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins.

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Crisp Apples. Apple Crisp. Apple Dumplings. Apple Pie. Homemade Applesauce.

Our home, decorated in the rich and vibrant colors of the season. Warm and inviting.

Gardening and potting flowers. I know, only in Arizona. Our reward for surviving the summer.

Carving Pumpkins. Halloween Parties. Trick-or-Treating. Marshmallow Ghost Peeps. Ninja Turtles, Skeletons, Zom-Bees and Zombies.

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Thanksgiving right around the corner.

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And Pumpkin Bread. Not just any pumpkin bread, the best pumpkin bread ever.

E.V.E.R.

Well we think so anyway.

Here is the recipe, originally posted last fall …

Real Good” Pumpkin Bread.

One of my very first posts in fact. And while a few things have changed since then, like the fact that I don’t eat sugar or much wheat anymore, it is still one of my favorite things to make as a treat for the rest of my family or a gift for someone special.

I have found some pretty tasty gluten and sugar free pumpkin recipes but there is really no substitute. Thankfully, I still enjoy the incredible aroma that fills the house with each loaf.

Okay, and a little taste once in a while.

Okay, and I ate a mini-Baby Ruth or two out of the kid’s Halloween Candy. Mostly sugar and gluten free. Mostly.

Happy fall, everyone!

Now go make some Pumpkin Bread!

And watch out for Zom-Bees.

They love Pumpkin Bread you know.

 

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

A post or two ago, I shared with you a recent event I did for our Women’s Ministry in which I brought a little bit of the beach to the desert.

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In planning the food for the event, I kept imagining a picnic on the beach. Blanket spread out on the sand, a shady umbrella and a gentle salty breeze.

But what would I want to eat?

Something delicious and satisfying but not too heavy and easy to pack and transport.

Something perfect for a picnic. In this case, I also needed something that would easily feed a crowd with little effort.

As I thumbed through my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (which is one of my favorite event/party planning rituals) I came across a recipe for “Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwiches” from Ina Garten, Parties!

Hmmmmm.

At first read they seemed more like a tea sandwich, with cucumbers and the crusts cut off, but as it is with so many things, it is all in how you see it. And I saw these little sandwiches in a picnic basket nestled next to chilled grapes, freshly baked cookies and iced tea; all ready for a day at the beach. Or an evening as it were.

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For the Know Event, I doubled the recipe and made the sandwiches on a whole grain bread and a soft potato bread. While I couldn’t enjoy the sandwiches (no bread for me), the herbed goat cheese spread was another story! I made a batch for home and couldn’t get enough of it. I ate it on everything I could think of. Daddy and the big kids loved it too but Mr. Picky wouldn’t go near it; which is in fact a good sign that it is absolutely delicious – unless of course you too currently only eat  grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate pudding.

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“Ewww! I CAN’T like that! It is eesgusging!”

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

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The recipe is not “eesgusging” and is very simple to throw together and holds up well in the fridge for at least a week; if it lasts that long. Click the link above (the one under the picture of the picky 5 year old) and it will take you right to it.

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It whips up easily in a stand mixer but be sure to finely mince or even smash the garlic into a paste as it is pretty potent and no one wants to bite into a big chunk of raw garlic. My husband thought the spread was a little heavy on the garlic so you may want to start with just one clove and see how it tastes to you.

The recipe calls for parsley and thyme, which is fantastic, but I am going to get a little creative with the herb combinations next time. Basil, tarragon, chives, maybe even olives or tapenade and sundried tomatoes; endless possibilities! I also think a bit of lemon zest would be delicious.

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Recently, I made this spread as an appetizer for dinner with friends and served it with baguette slices that I drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted in a 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes. They didn’t last long and the tantalizing crunch of those baguettes slathered in that rich goat cheese spread was almost more than this girl could take.

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So I toasted up some low-carb Joseph’s pita wedges and shared in the joy. Admittedly, it was not the same as a crunchy French baguette but it was still pretty darn good.

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For all of you Trim Healthy Mamas out there, this spread is fantastic rolled up in a Joseph’s lavash for a snack or just  add a little turkey and veggies for a satisfying lunch wrap.

One word … omelet.

My husband is the resident omelet maker around here and he’s pretty darn good at it. He makes one for me just about every weekend and I was most delighted to find rich and creamy herbed goat cheese pooling from every nook and cranny of this perfect Saturday morning treat (another good THM/low-carb breakfast).

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He also brought me a good strong cup of black coffee. I am a blessed woman indeed.

There are so many ways to enjoy this versatile spread, I’m thinking about piping it into cherry tomatoes or on top of cucumber slices the next time I need an appetizer.

I hope you will give it a try and play around with your own herb and ingredient combinations. Be sure to let me know what you come up with and as always …

Enjoy!

Muffin in a Mug

It is confession time, my friends. Seven months of baking and blogging have taken their toll. Well it really isn’t the baking or the blogging, it is the over-consumption of the baking that has led me to today’s post.

I have pretty much always lived a healthy and balanced life. Exercising, sleeping well and eating right kept me on track. I have never had the luxury of being able to eat whatever I want in whatever quantity. I have always had to be mindful of maintaining a healthy body and weight. And for the most part, I always have – with a few slips here and there like when I spent the majority of my twenties living low-fat/high-carb and obsessively exercising. I was skinny but very unhealthy inside and out. Thankfully, my body (and my husband and my mom) forced me to come to my senses and I found balance again.

Taking good care of yourself isn’t hard when you only have you to think about. Add a husband to the equation and it doesn’t change things too much as they are usually fairly self-sufficient and the nurturing required in their care leaves a decent amount of time to maintain some personal focus. My husband is rolling his eyes.

Enter motherhood. Ahhhhh, motherhood, the game changer. And for me, not just motherhood but children with special needs and the deep wounds and challenging behaviors of severe trauma and loss. Every bit of my time and energy was focused on their healing and needs. My life was no longer my own and changed dramatically.

So did my habits.

I have always loved to cook, bake and eat but my kitchen became my therapy and my escape. Food became my comfort. It also became an important way for me to nurture and comfort the little people in my life.

Fast forward a few years, over 40, well over my ideal weight, not sleeping enough, out of balance again.

I have no regrets.

I love being a mom, even on the hard days.

Every sacrifice is worth it and leaving “all about me” behind is a journey we all have to take as we mature and gain perspective.

Especially if we become parents.

Unfortunately, what we tend to do is completely forget about ourselves. We accept the expanding waistlines, dark circles, wet ponytails and stretchy black yoga pants as part of motherhood. An outward sign of our personal sacrifice. After all, it isn’t about us anymore.

Or is it just me?

Still no regrets but it is time for me to find balance again. My children are healthy and happy, healing and thriving and growing up. I don’t have babies anymore. My youngest will start kindergarten in August and I will just be with me again a lot of the time. Well, Ethel’s youngest starts kindergarten too so I’ll be with her at Zinc Bistro lunching on French food. And I’ll probably be in Nathan’s classroom a lot just so I can be near him helping out. But you get where I’m going with this.

It is time to find and focus on me again.

This blog has been a huge step in that direction and I love it so much. I love sharing family recipes and stories with you and that will continue but I do have to make some changes. My body is demanding change and balance.

At the risk of giving you way more information than you could possibly ever want to know, I will tell you that I have a pretty significant wheat sensitivity that I like to ignore. I tested negative for Celiac but it is still an issue for me. It isn’t too big of a problem for me if I am careful but I can be reckless … my high-carb/low-fat 20’s and now the somewhat obsessive amount of baking I’ve been doing since I got my hands on my grandmother’s recipes.

Reckless.

I also have to tell you, crazy things happen to you over the age of 40 and your body doesn’t bounce back and recover like it once did. At least mine doesn’t. I needed to start listening and being more mindful of my health and longevity. It is amazing what we take for granted and can get away with when we are younger.

A friend recommended an incredible book to me that I can honestly say has opened my eyes to health and nutrition in new and inspired ways. It has also spurred me on to do further reading and research into a low glycemic and gluten-free lifestyle.

Many of the principles in this book are not new to me as over the years I have read just about everything published on diets, health and nutrition. But this is different. This is not a diet or a fad. This is biblically based and just makes sense to me; a “where have you been all my life” kind of sense.

It is how I truly like to eat and how my body feels and functions best and I am adjusting to the loss of flour and sugar. Counting and tracking calories, fat grams, carbs, points, etc. and logging every morsel I put in my mouth throughout the day; I hate that and I won’t do it. That is about weight loss – this is about a strong, well-nourished, healthy body and a healthy weight is a happy side effect.

Listening to my body and making a few small changes to nourish and care for it. That I can do. That I have to do.

So, I have made a few small changes and I have been gluten-free/sugar-free for almost two weeks now and I feel like a new woman. And I have to tell you, almond and coconut flours are incredible. I am still working out the “sweetener” to my liking but have a few recommended Stevia products on order that should be better for baking.

I promise, I will still post traditional recipes but will be working on healthy tweaks and modifications as options. And I and will soon have pages atop my blog with indexes for traditional recipes and low-glycemic recipes (as I test and post more and more of them).

For now, I would love to share with you one of my favorite discoveries from Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett – you didn’t think I was going to forget to give you the name of the book did you? – Muffin in a Mug.

The best thing about these muffins is that my kids LOVE them and are eating them just about every morning. They are so simple to make and are loaded with flax meal. It makes me feel great knowing that with every bite, they are filling their bodies with healthy life-giving foods that taste like a treat. I have taken the basic recipe in the book and tweaked it into two versions that we absolutely love, pumpkin and chocolate.

Sugar-Free/Gluten-Free Muffin in a Mug

Pumpkin

Muffin-in-a-Mug-Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. golden flax meal
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. almond flour
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 packets Truvia or other Stevia based sweetener (adjust to your sweet-tooth)*
  • pinch of kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened pure pumpkin puree

*Note on Stevia – the small amount of Truvia used here does not leave the bitter aftertaste that it does when baking in larger quantities. I’m still working on that.

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Crack the egg into the bottom of a coffee cup and whisk with a fork.

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Add your dry ingredients.

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Add then the pumpkin puree and mix ingredients together vigorously until well combined.

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Here’s the crazy part. Put it in the microwave for one minute.

I know.

I’m still trying to get my head around it.

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Turn it out onto a plate and you have a pumpkin muffin. An ugly pumpkin muffin, yes but a healthy and delicious one. Add a little whipped cream and berries and it gets prettier.

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My husband and my kids LOVE the pumpkin muffin and I think it is delicious but the chocolate – it tastes like cake. Truly, like rich chocolate cake.

Chocolate

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This muffin is made the same way but with a slight tweak to the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. golden flax meal
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. almond flour
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (I added this as I love what a hit of cinnamon does for chocolate)
  • 3 packets Truvia or other stevia based sweetener
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • 1 level Tbsp. coconut oil

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Add the ingredients in the same way you did for the pumpkin muffin and pop it in the microwave for 1 minute.

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It is so good, I promise. The coconut oil adds a little more fat and calories than the pumpkin puree but it is a good healthy fat. Coconut oil is something I have been reading up on and I am impressed. Take a look at The Coconut Oil Miracle by Bruce Fife if you want to learn more about this incredible super food.

Flax and almond flour can be found at most grocery stores now and they are just the beginning of the incredible possibilities available in gluten-free cooking and baking. I can hardly wait to experiment and share more with you!

Enjoy!

And be sure to let me know what you think!!

I Take Thee Banana Bread

Finally, the Banana Bread Post.

This another of my grandmother Ibby’s wonderful recipes and I absolutely love it. It feels very old fashioned to me and it always comes out perfect.

My grandmother did a lot of catering in the 1960’s and 70’s for the women’s circle at her Presbyterian church, the Whitworth College Music Department (Spokane, WA) and numerous weddings and showers and dinner parties for regular clients. She used this banana bread recipe often, making lovely little tea sandwiches with an orange cream cheese spread.

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This is my grandma Ibby with my mom and my stepdad at their wedding, which my grandma catered.

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There are the banana bread tea sandwiches with the dark crusts on the platter upper right. They made an appearance at a lot of weddings and bridal showers. This picture is from my mom and stepdad’s wedding reception. I take thee banana bread. Get it? Remember, I have a cold. My intellectual capacity is diminished.

Incidentally, my mom and stepdad were brought together by me. I found him. My sister owes her existence to me. She’ll read this so I just wanted to remind her.

He was the Mountain Manager at the ski area my mom worked at and would always say hi and stop to chat a moment with me when I was outside playing at the condominiums we all lived in. I took a shine to him; he was quite a catch. He was a widower 18 years older than my mom and I got three pretty great step-brothers in the deal. And my little sister of course but she came later. My dad passed away in 1995 and I miss him so much but I am so very thankful for all the years I got to spend with him.

My parents would have celebrated their 40th Anniversary this June.

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Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.

Recently, I made my grandma’s banana bread tea sandwiches, just as she always did.

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The china, linens and pink depression glass came from my other incredible grandmother, Eileen. The one who let me eat Froot Loops before bed. Remember? Grandmas are the best!

Grandma Ibby’s Banana Bread

Baked--Banana-Bread

Ingredients

Banana-Bread-Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add and incorporate the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients and then the bananas and chopped nuts.

Note: I don’t mix the nuts in but instead, sprinkle them over the top before baking. They look nice and are easy to pick off for anyone who doesn’t like them. Skip the nuts entirely if you are going to make the tea sandwiches as the bread slices up more cleanly.

Pour into a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

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Orange Cream Cheese Filling for Tea Sandwiches

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  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • And just a little freshly grated nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a mixer and spread between banana bread slices.

Banana-Bread-Tea-SandwichesCut the crust off of both ends and then slice into four finger sandwiches by slicing in half and then slicing each half in half.

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And then, it’s time for tea!

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This recipe also makes wonderful muffins.

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I sprinkle the nuts on top just like I do with the loaf option.

It will make 12 muffins and bakes for 20-25 minutes.

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This is a treasured recipe and is something I will always associate with my grandma Ibby. Especially the tea sandwiches which were just so her.

It is moist and perfectly textured with just the right banana flavor. I have been cutting out the sugar and recently (this morning) baked the muffins with Truvia sugar substitute and they turned out great! Next, to try them with almond or coconut flour. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

Last week was teacher appreciation week at my children’s school. We have some pretty incredible teachers in our lives so it was important for me to let them know how much we appreciate them in a special and personal way.

No, I did not painstakingly craft and then artfully frame their initials in crayons. It’s all over Pinterest, you should check it out. That is over the top, even for me.

Nope, I baked (and stuck in a gift card on the side).

Each teacher received a dreamy lemon blueberry muffin, made extra special by the rich and velvety lemon cream cheese icing piped on top. I had a little fun and packaged the muffins in colorful plastic bowls and tied on a note of appreciation with some colorful ribbon.

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Just one muffin but a perfect muffin made and presented with appreciation and care.

I love homemade gifts.

And gift cards.

I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now, obsessed with determined with getting just the right tart and tangy lemon flavor and dense but moist muffin texture; and now, finally, I am in love and happy, no eager to share.

Happy and eager. I hope you love them.

Especially since it will take me untold hours on the elliptical machine to burn off all of lemon blueberry muffin taste testing that was necessary. My husband was kind enough to recently fix the once broken elliptical and now I have no excuses. Although I still seem to find one or two.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar to the dry ingredients and mix together with a whisk.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, milk, lemon juice, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest.

Note: I was hesitant to use the lemon extract because for some reason, it feels like cheating to me. Especially when I have fresh lemons in abundance. But I just wasn’t getting the depth of lemon flavor that I wanted so I tried the lemon extract and it was just what I was looking for. Sometimes you just gotta’ go with your gut!

Make a well (an indentation in the center) in the dry ingredients and then pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients.

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Mix until just fully combined.

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Coat blueberries with a sprinkling of flour which will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins as they bake.

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Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

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Fill the muffin cups using a standard ice cream scoop for consistency.

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Bake for 20 minutes (25 minutes for the jumbo muffins I made). Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 regular muffins, 9 jumbo muffins or 24 mini-muffins.

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Eat them hot out of the oven, just as they are or let them cool completely and then frost them with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing for an extra special touch.

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Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 pound powdered sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter together for several minutes. Mix in the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add the powdered sugar slowly and on low-speed. Once the powdered sugar is mixed in, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the mixture on high-speed for 3-5 minutes until you have a smooth and creamy icing.

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Spread or pipe onto cupcakes …

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A large star tip fitted into a disposable piping bag will give you a fancy swirled design.

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Or for a simpler look, just fill the piping bag, snip the end and pipe a smooth swirl of icing.

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Top with a few fresh blueberries.

Cream cheese icing is very soft so be sure to refrigerate the muffins for an hour or more to set the icing, especially if you will be travelling with them or giving them as gifts.

Because my muffins were gifts, I did a little fancy packaging.

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I found these little bright-colored plastic bowls in sets of four at the grocery store.

The perfect size for a muffin. I was very excited!

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I made a simple little note of appreciation on the computer and then punched two holes for the ribbon to thread through. I also mentioned that the muffin recipe could be found on my blog. You know, just in case. And thankfully now, five days later, it can be.

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I gathered  a piece of cellophane wrap around each cupcake.

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And secured it with a piece of ribbon knotted with enough room to keep the muffin from getting squished.

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I threaded each end of the ribbon through the holes in the note and then tied it off, finishing with a decorative snip on the ends.

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Pretty simple stuff but a fun, delicious homemade gift from the heart.

Enjoy!

I’m off now to make about a million cupcakes for Cub Scouts tomorrow. After I hit the elliptical machine, of course.

Wink. Wink.