Cinnamon Swirl Apple Bread

Image source: Once Upon a Chef

This is the first time I baked Cinnamon Swirl Apple Bread, but it won’t be the last! I intended to bake Coffee Cake, but didn’t have sour cream or buttermilk on hand. Searching for a recipe that contained ingredients I already had in my kitchen, I came across Jen Segal’s blog Once Upon a Chef  and found just what I was looking for. Her recipes look so good, I’m sure I’ll be referring to her blog again. The Cinnamon Apple Swirl Bread smelled amazing while it was in the oven!

Happy baking, hon.

CINNAMON SWIRL APPLE BREAD

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup peeled and finely diced tart baking apple (such as Granny Smith)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and set oven rack in middle position. Spray an 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pan lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Optional:  line the long side of loaf pan with parchment paper “sling” and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray again.
  2. In a small bowl, mix  brown sugar and cinnamon until evenly combined. Set aside.
  3. In a larger bowl, combine granulated sugar and eggs. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, blend on medium speed until pale and creamy
  4. With mixer on low, gradually add melted butter followed by milk and vanilla. Mix just until evenly combined.
  5. Add flour, salt, and baking powder to batter and mix on low speed until evenly combined.
  6. Add apples to batter and fold with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated.
  7. Spoon about 2/3 of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle about 2/3 of brown sugar-cinnamon mixture on top of batter. Spoon remaining batter over top, followed by remaining brown sugar-cinnamon mixture. Using a butter knife, swirl layers by making a zig-zag motion through the batter once in each direction (don’t overdo it!).
  8. Bake for about 50 minutes, until bread is golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let bread cool on rack for about 30 minutes, then use parchment sling to lift bread out of pan and onto rack. Let cool completely before slicing, a few hours or overnight. Store loosely covered with aluminum foil on the countertop for up to 4 days.

Yield:  One 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf (approx. 8-12 slices)

Advertisement

Poem for Grief, On the Death of the Beloved

It’s been two weeks since Lucy died and it feels like I’m walking through sludge. One of my daughters said we have no ways to mark the death of our sweet, four-legged guardian angels and she’s right. There’s no funeral, shiva, or memorial service. Maybe that’s too much to ask since we enfold our furry companions into our families knowing we will outlive them, but still…

Lucy was also beloved by friends, neighbors and community, and the outpouring of sympathy is a tribute to her big, brown, expressive, soulful eyes and loving spirit. Those eyes. They talked to you. We went on so many adventures together. She brought us closer.

We miss her terribly.

On the Death of the Beloved

by John O’Donohue

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again. 

Thanksgiving Side Dish, Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows

Image source: Home Made Interest
Image source: All Recipes

Thanksgiving is around the corner and that means recipes, recipes, recipes! My Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows casserole is a family favorite, and the actual index card with the recipe is special to me because it was written by my Grandmother Ruth. It’s stained and yellowing and I keep it in a sandwich bag but, come to think of it, I should laminate it! For Thanksgiving, we prepare no less than three Sweet Potato With Marshmallow casseroles and, at the end of dinner and divvying “some to take home,” there might be about three quarters of one baking dish left over!

Happy holidays, hon!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 lb can sweet potatoes (light or no syrup preferred), drained
  • 1 (8 or 15 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained (either size works, depending on desired sweetness) 
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (can lower sugar quantities if desired)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows (can use less or more of bag as desired)
  • nonstick spray or margarine or butter for greasing

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 x 11 glass baking with non-stick spray, margarine or butter.
  2. With hand mixer, beat potatoes well. Add crushed pineapple to potatoes and mix.
  3. Separate egg and beat egg white until stiff. Set aside.
  4. Add yolk to potatoes/pineapple mixture and beat.
  5. Add brown and granulated sugars to mixture and beat.
  6. Fold egg whites into mixture.
  7. Pour mixture into greased baking dish. Dot the top with about half of the mini marshmallows.
  8. Bake for approx, 25 minutes and then dot the remaining marshmallows on top. Bake for about 15 more minutes. Remove from oven when marshmallows are lightly browned. Tip: Pay attention to marshmallows. They will puff in oven before settling. Add second half of marshmallows when first half is only slightly browned.)
  9. Total bake time is approx. 40 minutes.

Yield:  8

Prep Tip:  A day or two before the holiday, prepare casserole (steps 2-7) but do not top with marshmallows, and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving, remove prepared dish from fridge about an hour before baking. Bake following instructions to dot casserole with half of the marshmallows, bake partway, add remaining marshmallows, and finish baking.

Recipe in my Grandmother Ruth’s handwriting.

Easy and Important Kids Activity: Sensory Play

Sensory table.

Some preschoolers don’t mind getting their hands sticky, gluey, and dirty, while others pull their hands back when introduced to unfamiliar textures. Example: glueing feathers to outlined hands to create turkeys. Observation: some kids spread their fingers to be outlined and some have to be prodded. Most kids didn’t mind sticking feathers to a gluey surface, but others will only touch the surface lightly and then hold up fingers in a way that says, “I don’t liking this feeling.”

Despite the different tolerance levels, all the kids love playing in the water table. They enjoyed the floating pumpkin pieces and, similarly, the water-table-as-a-giant-sensory-bin is a hit! It’s filled with pinecones, colorful blocks, gear-like connecting pieces, and measuring cups and shovels. I can’t wait to create different texture combinations using pasta, snow, ice, and assorted found objects.

According to Amanda Morin for verywellfamily, “Sensory play has an important role in development.” She also says,

Playing with different types of textures, tastes, and objects help your child build new ways of talking about the world. Suddenly, the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark, or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves), slippery with bubbles, or cold and translucent when frozen. Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups and are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning, and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills by exploring things using pinching, pouring, and lacing movements.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread on my hand built ceramic serving dish.

Have you heard of The Able Baker in Maplewood, NJ? It has the most delicious baked goods and the place I go to when I don’t have time to bake. Last week, I picked up a Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and wondered why didn’t I think of that? This easy and delicious recipe can only be made better by adding chocolate!

Happy baking, hon.

CHOCOLATE CHIP PUMPKIN BREAD (OR MUFFINS)

Yield:  2 loaves

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3 1/2 cups flour (I used a combination of whole wheat and unbleached flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2/3 cup water

1 cup chocolate chips, add more if desired

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat first 11 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until well blended.  Add 2/3 cup water and beat until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.  Or, add batter to muffin tins.  Bake for 1 1/4 hours for bread, 35 to 40 minutes for regular sized muffins, or 30 to 35 minutes for mini muffins.  Test centers with toothpicks and when they come out clean, they’re done.  Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Note:  Bread may be well wrapped and kept frozen up to three months.

Post Halloween Easy Kids Activity, Pumpkin Pieces Float

Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins still have a purpose. Before you throw away your jack-o-lantern, here’s an idea–cut it up into pieces. One of the directors at my preschool suggested this easy, fun and educational kids activity, and the kiddos loved it.

My co-teacher and I cut up our classes’ pumpkins and placed the pieces in a water table. Don’t have a water table? A big plastic bin, large sink or even a bathtub will work.

Our two-year olds had a blast scooping, filling, pouring and experimenting. The blog Miss Ashlee’s Class suggests ways to enhance the activity. Older kids could discuss the parts of a pumpkin, hypothesize whether they think the pieces will float or not, learn about density, and record observations.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York

I like every season for different reasons. One of my favorite things about spring and summer is the abundance of gorgeous gardens. I’ve been stopping to smell the roses…and the lilacs and lilies and hyacinths and hydrangeas. This past Mother’s Day was spent at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, New York which is on Long Island. After that, we stopped at a nursery to buy flowers. Outside on a sunny day absorbing vivid colors and sweet scents? Lovely!

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Footprint Art

Credit for this “foot-tastic,” Easy DIY kid’s craft goes to Etsy’s “Mama Don’t Blink.” My pre-school class was used to hand crafts, but taking off shoes and socks was new. Painting feet elicited a bunch of, “That tickles!” Fun!

Step 1. Gather supplies: paint, white paper and either construction paper or cardstock, hard surface such as a clipboard, newspaper to catch drips, paintbrush (a foam paintbrush worked well), chair, washcloth or wipes to clean feet, glue or double-stick tape, marker.

Step 2. Sit child down. Paint bottom of feet. Clip paper to clipboard to create hard surface. Press feet against paper, angling feet to create a heart. Let dry.

Step 3. Glue or tape dried feet-heart to construction paper or cardstock.

Step 4. Write, “I” above feet-heart and “you DADDY from the tip of my nose to the tip of my toes!” under feet-heart. Date.

Step 5. Add fun messages to the back of the picture.

Lucy, the Snow “Bunny,” a Joyful Video

Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.
Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.

Some”bunny” loves the snow!

Whenever it snows, I tell Lucy, “You should live in Alaska!” Though ice crystals form on the tips of her fur, she self-insulates. Her puffed up fur keeps her body warm and making her paws look three times their normal size. She hops in the snow, herds anyone who sleds, and “helps” us shovel.

Want to see pure joy? Click “Snow Puppy” or hit the play button below.

Thanks for watching, hon!

 

Heartwarming Snow Day Letter

Liquid Copper, Curly Girl and Me.
Hannah, Morgan and me.

Hon, you know I love snow, especially when it blankets the ground, decorates the trees, and beckons us outside. Crisp, fresh, snow-in-the-sky air makes me so happy. There’s a certain scent before it snows and another when it’s crunchy under our boots. At home, we sled. On a mountain, we ski. This year, the first big snow is a gift to our pandemic-weary spirits–a call to go outside and play. Somehow, a letter from the superintendent of  Jefferson County Schools in West Virginia found its way to my in-box.

It’s fantastic!