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July 21, 2013 / Jenny C

Christmas (strawberries) in July!

I actually recreated this recipe this past December.  My brother was in town to celebrate the arrival of my son, and while we were able to get the treats made, I have been unable to focus on writing about it until now!  Who says I can’t celebrate a little Christmas in July when so many others are?  Motherhood..  I tell ya.

Christmas strawberries were a staple in the holiday recipe collection every year in our house!  Whether it was for a treat exchange or a holiday party, these were sure to make an appearance, and as I recall they were always a hit.  Mom would meticulously hand roll these confections and pipe on green buttercream leaves (using her cake decorating skills, of course) for an added touch!  Sometimes she would let me roll them, but she was just so good at it!

The funny thing about recreating this recipe was thinking that the strawberries were too big.  But then I realized that I was remembering the size in relation to when I made them as a child and my hands were obviously much smaller then!

My brother and I decided that with so many reasons to celebrate the past year, we gave this recipe an extra festive twist by turning the strawberries into Santa hats.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of shredded coconut
  • 1 can of sweet condensed milk (mom recommended Eagle brand)
  • 2 boxes of large strawberry jell-o (unprepared)
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • red sugar
  • green buttercream frosting (or white if you choose my version)

Mix all ingredients (except the sugar and buttercream) together and chill.  Get right in there with your hands, but I recommend using rubber gloves or you will have very red hands!

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Roll into balls, then shape into strawberries and roll in red sugar.  I placed them on a cookies sheet only for the purpose of letting them set up.

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I let them set up for about an hour before the final decorative touches.  I used the time to bathe a newborn, but certainly you could do something equally productive – read a magazine, drink some wine, do some laundry – you get the point.  Use green frosting to pipe leaves (or in my version, add hat details using white frosting).

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The verdict:  So cute, and I would totally make them again – both as Santa hats or as a fruity candy.  They are a sweet treat to add to your next gathering!  You could absolutely make these anytime of the year, shaping different fruits.  Substitute orange jell-o and orange sugar, add a clove for a decorative touch!  Lemon or lime Jell-o with yellow or green sugar.. it’s totally up to you!  What other ideas do you have?

May 24, 2013 / Jenny C

A new addition

No recipe today, just some thinking.  “But Jen, there has not been a new recipe in over a year!”.  Yea, I know.. but I have a good reason.  2012 was the year of change!!  Without going into TOO much detail, I left my job of 13 years in January, discovered I was pregnant in March, got into a pretty severe car accident in August, and welcomed my son into the world in November.

The newest addition to our family has made me that much more eager to get back to this blog.  Clearly, the memories I have of my mother’s culinary adventures have stuck with me in a positive way – and that’s something I would really like to gift to my son as well.  Perhaps now that he has begun sleeping through the night (please, please let it be true…), I can actually get back to cooking and blogging!

But first… I’d like to use today’s entry as some deeper thoughts about my mom.  Not having a mom now that I AM a mom has made me acutely aware that my mother and I once shared a delicate period at the start of my life.  This is something I wish she and I could discuss now.

I look at this little human that I co-created and feel so completely overwhelmed with love.  Surely, my mother felt the same way about me – and I ache to share those sentiments with her, if only to say thank you.  Surely she shared sleepless nights with me, and stared at me for hours – simply amazed by the new life in front of her.

I am frightened at the thought that someday my son and I may disagree to the point of not speaking.  I can only hope that I have learned enough in this life to know (and teach) that there is very little that should come in between a mother and her child.

Mom, I know you would have loved this little guy as much as I do.  I know you are watching over him and I hope I can bring your creativity and whimsy to his life as you did to mine.  I love you… and thank you.

April 3, 2012 / Jenny C

An update

Hello!

It’s been nearly 2 months since a new culinary creation from Fabianne’s cookbook – but I assure you, there is good reason for this!  At the end of 2011, I made a very difficult decision to leave my job of 13-1/2 years.  I needed some time to step away from the hustle and bustle of the corporate work life to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. 

In the midst of “trying to find myself”, my husband and I decided it was time to buy a new home.  So yes, in the last 3 months, I left my job, bought a new home and moved!  Now we are in rennovation/update mode.  I thought about doing a new blog last week, but I have not fully figured out the oven feature on the 30 year old Jenn-Aire oven that occupies my new kitchen.

Good news – new appliances arrive TODAY!  New refrigerator, new dishwasher and NEW Jenn-Aire oven.  I expect them anytime.. which means you can expect a new culinary creation sometime in the very near future.

PS… “Remembering Fabianne’s Kitchen” is going to get a facelift in the coming weeks.  I hope you like it!

February 15, 2012 / Jenny C

Holiday Butter Cookies

I’ve always enjoyed Valentine’s Day.  Maybe it’s the pink and red decorations, all of the hearts or the chocolate… or maybe it’s just always been the lead-in to my birthday every year.

Growing up, Valentine’s day always meant waking up and finding a heart shaped box filled with chocolates on the table.  There was one for me, and one for my brother.  Mom never let the magic of a holiday sneak by.

What’s not to like about people sharing loving feelings with each other?  Even before I was married, I used this holiday to share sweets with those people in my life that I enjoyed – friends, family, etc.  The cookies and candy were just a bonus!

I decided to celebrate this year’s Valentine’s Day with a new blog, featuring one of mom’s cookbook recipes.  I also broke into her bag of cookie cutters to find a very special one – appropriate for the holiday. 

You probably already have these in your cabinet!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2-1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl,  cream butter.  Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and almond extract.  Gradually blend in flour.

Add food coloring to dough (if desired).  Roll out to about 1/4″, and use cookies cutters to cut out.

Note: do not chill the dough.  Use at room temperature.  If dough becomes too soft, add a little flour.  Dipping your cookie cutter in flour also makes this process easier.

The little spatula helped remove the cut-outs easier

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 8-10 minutes.  Remove and cool on wire rack.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Verdict: These are the perfect light & crispy cookie.  They are not too sweet or heavy.  Just the right amount of sweetness.  The almond extract adds a nice note – you could easily replace this extract with vanilla or lemon or any other extract flavor you like.

Mmmm!

I decorated these with a simple royal icing.  Fun & festive!

Happy baking, everyone!

November 27, 2011 / Jenny C

Ice Box Fruit Cake

The holiday season is upon us.. and holiday baking is rapidly climbing to the top of my priority list.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but baking around the holidays is one of my fondest memories from my childhood.  The warm oven and the sweet smells that find their way out from inside are what set the mood of the holidays in my house!  Ok, and maybe some singing, too.

What better way to start my series of holiday treats than with the much loved or much hated fruitcake.  I can’t say I’ve ever really come across someone that’s “on the fence” when it comes to fruit cake.  My mom LOVED fruitcake.  As soon as the holiday fruitcakes arrived on grocery store shelves, you could be assured that one would be in her shopping cart.  Sometimes this “delicacy” was shared with the rest of us, but more often than not, the cake was all hers. 

I don’t remember whether or not I liked fruitcake prior to the below recipe.  I remember eating it, and I think I remember it tasting bitter – perhaps an overabundance of walnuts?  Then my Aunt Sarah shared her ice box fruitcake with us.   As soon as mom learned this recipe, it was a must in our household during the holidays.  You’ll see below that I use my food processor in the prep, but growing up, it was ziplock bags and a hammer.  Oh, the good old days!  Oh, and better yet – no baking required, so get the kids involved!

I recommend setting aside time to prep your ingredients and a VERY LARGE bowl for mixing.  I initially forgot how much this made and had to transfer my ingredients to my large 12-qt stockpot.

Fruit and nuts and milk - oh my!

Ingredients

  • 1 box vanilla wafers – crushed fine
  • 1/2 box (2 sleeves) Ritz crackers – crushed fine
  • 16oz candied cherries (I like to mix both red & green) – cut in half
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 qt (4 cups) chopped nuts – I used 3 parts each walnuts, pecans & almonds
  • 1-1/2 cans sweet condensed milk

Process vanilla wafers and Ritz crackers in a food processor until fine.  Or if you want to use the “Fabianne method”, place both in ziploc bags and go to town with a hammer.  This both crushes these treats AND gets out some agression.

Don't worry if there are a few not-so-fine pieces

Add the candied cherries (you can buy them already halved, which saves a LOT of time), followed by the raisins and coconut.

Do not fear the fruit & nuts!

Gently pulse the nuts in your process – just until they are small pieces.  You don’t want to overprocess them.  You want a little texture.  Add the the other ingredients, followed by the condensed milk.  

Now – give your arms a good stretch and prepared to get your fingers messy.  The best way to get the ingredients mixed really well is to use your fingers.  Mix until everything is moist, and the mixture holds together when pressed into a ball. 

Line 2 loaf pans with aluminum foil and press the mixture in – give it a good press, you want the mixture to come together into a nice loaf.  I got the idea to make mini versions this morning, using a muffin tin.  What a delightful portion controlled little cake!  Once all ingredients are pressed into your pan of choice, refrigerate (or freeze).

Packed and pressed

Verdict:  These cakes really do have a nice flavor.  The cookies lend a buttery sweet taste, while the ritz crackers lend a salty touch – both which balance the fruit and nuts.  I think fruit cake haters might even enjoy a small taste of this holiday treat!

The mini is just adorable!

September 26, 2011 / Jenny C

Applesauce Cake

I love Fall.  LOVE.  My best friend and I were just talking about this a couple of weeks ago – Fall (for me) is all about the sweaters, the warm cocoa and/or cider and baking until your heart is content.  The colors of the season make me SO happy.  It’s nowhere near fall here in Florida, but that’s not keeping me from getting excited about the upcoming treats.  And when the holidays rolls in BOY do I have some treats to share!!

It is with the notion of the approaching season change that I decided to bake something that is just introducing some flavors of the season.  I thumbed through mom’s cookbook and saw ‘Applesauce cake’.  Apples?  Cinnamon?  Cloves?  Yes, please!

Here’s the thing, though.. mom’s recipe calls for raisins.  If you know me, you know that I rarely have tolerance for raisins in baking – unless it is an oatmeal cookie.  Cakes, though?  No thank you! I’ve come across several recipes in her books that call for raisins, and I think “really, mom??”.  When I stroll down memory lane, I seem to remember raisins holding a semi-permanent position in our kitchen pantry.  In fact, I used to eat raisins in a bowl, topped with milk and sugar.  I really liked them… I just don’t want to bake with them!

Raisins.  Buh.  Omit them.  You know you were going to, anyway.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup raisins (ok, optional if you REALLY must)

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add egg and spices and applesauce.  Finally, blend in the flour and baking soda.  Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.  Check doneness with a toothpick.

The verdict: Mom wrote at the bottom of this recipe (in orange crayon) that this was “Pretty Good”, and I will agree.  A delightful treat to ease into the fall season.  Next time, I think I will increase the spice, or OOOH, replace the applesauce with apple butter and reduce the sugar.  Yes, I really did just think of that as I was typing this.  We enjoyed warm slices of this applesauce cake with butter last night.  You could also slice this bread and use it for french toast (I do that with banana bread).

Enjoy the start of Fall!!

September 9, 2011 / Jenny C

Cake Decorating

Let’s talk about cake decorating.  As I mentioned in a former post, mom was talented when it came to cake decorating.  I’m not completely sure when she got started, but I don’t ever remember a time when there WEREN’T cake pans and decorating supplies around our house.  She would make a cake for an event (birthday, anniversary, new baby, retirement, etc) and my brother or I would have to hold it up enough to capture a photo.  I am lucky enough to have a nice photo album full of these kinds of pictures.

I caught the cake decorating bug about 7 years ago – mostly because I enjoy cooking and baking.  A friend and I decided to take a basics class via a local craft store, and we had a blast.  While learning the various cake decorating tips, along with the designs you could make with them, I remembered my mother’s cakes – and how I used to watch her work buttercream like a painter works their oils on a canvas.  Thinking back on it now, it really was a beautiful thing – her deliberately laid plans, her careful turns of her wrist and pride in her final creation. 

My mother had asked me a couple of years ago if I had an interest in her cake pans (some of which are vintage Wilton character pans).  I had assumed that she had gotten rid of most of them a long time before then – only because I hadn’t really seen any of them for a very long time.  She made me promise to not get rid of them, which I did (promise, that is).  It was actually my last visit with her that she directed me to where everything was – cake pans, cookie cutters, decorating supplies – you name it – she handed down to me the objects that created some of my fondest baking memories with her. 

I found myself thinking about this last night when I was making a cake for a friend of mine.  A couple of weeks ago, this friend learned that I had these ‘silly’ character pans and asked if I could make a cake for her niece.  Why not put these pans to good use?  As I star-tipped Sesame Street characters, Bert and Ernie, I caught myself smiling – not only because I truly do enjoy this type of creation, but because I felt like I channeled a little bit of mom in the process.  I’m pretty sure she was smiling, too.

A legacy of cakes:

Bert/Ernie, pictured with my brother - 1978

And now, 33 years later…..

Sept 2011; Brother (1200 miles away) unavailable for photo op