Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A-Z Bread...

Several months ago I had a  GRADS (Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills programs leading to high school graduation and economic independence) board meeting.  I was responsible for early morning snack so I pulled out my mother’s famous A-Z bread recipe that she has been making for forty plus years (sorry mom).  I am not sure where she found the recipe but it is a family favorite as a breakfast bread, a snack in the afternoon, or an evening dessert.

The recipe is one basic batter that varies depending on what two cups of A-Z that you choose to add.  I decided to make pumpkin with raisins and banana with walnuts but instead of baking them in two loaf pans, I used a Bundt pan.  The breads turned out beautiful and after they cooled, I drizzled them with a thinned down butter cream frosting. 

My daughter Kelly insisted several years ago that I use Glad Press’n Seal plastic wrap instead of various other brands I have used, discarded, tried, changed, etc.  Kelly liked the way Press’n seal actually stayed where you put it instead of coming loose.  So I covered the breads first one direction and then the other. 

I filled up my bags with fruit, juice, plates, napkins, and on the second trip to the car I loaded the breads.  When I arrived at school I realized I was going to have to stack the breads on top of each other to carry everything in at one time.  My arms were full when a couple headed into early bird class kindly closed the back door to my SUV.   The main door to the school has a handicap button so no problem getting in except I couldn’t see the button for the second set of doors.  Okay I can do this!  Just as I opened the door and turned to go in, the top bread began to shift and what seemed like slow motion, but took just a second, was a worst case scenario--the bread flew forward, flipping upside down, and landed with a splat several feet ahead of me.  Trying not to drop the other bread and thinking, okay one of these breads should be enough to feed the board members, I slowly bent down and turned the bread over.  The Press’n seal held the bread to the plastic plate and because it was dense bread you couldn’t even tell I had dropped it.  The bread was sealed and perfect even if the edge of the plate was cracked.  I stacked the breads, slowed my pace and walked the length of the school and down a short corridor to the GRADS classroom.  Brenda and Vicki helped me unload the morning goodies and laughed as I told them what had just happened.  Everyone enjoyed the breads and I shared the recipe with several members later by email.  All is well that ends well, but, really, not breathing and holding my breath for several seconds as a potential disaster played out before me called for an extra stop at Starbucks for coffee after the meeting.

Here is my mom’s recipe.  I hope you enjoy.

A to Z Bread

3 c. flour                                                         
1 tsp. salt                                                        
1 tsp. baking soda                                          
3 tsp. cinnamon                                              
1/2 tsp. baking powder                                  
3 eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. sugar
3 c. A-Z
3 tsp. vanilla
1 c. nuts, chopped (you can eliminate this if you choose)

Sift dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Beat eggs in large bowl.  Add eggs and sugar.  Cream well.  Add A to Z and vanilla.  Add flour mixture.  Mix well.  Add nuts.   Spoon into 2 greased loaf pans.  Bake in preheated oven at 325° for 1 hour.  Makes 2 large loaves or use a Bundt pan twice.

A to Z - use one of the following or a mixture of the following except as indicated to equal 2 c.

apples-peeled & grated
apricots-dried & chopped
bananas-mashed, 2 c.
dates-pitted & chopped
peaches-fresh or canned, chopped
pineapple-crushed, drained, 2 c.
prunes-chopped, 1 c.
pumpkin, canned, 2 c.
rhubarb-finely chopped
sweet potatoes-cooked & mashed 2 c.
yams-cooked, mashed
zucchini-grated, well drained, 2 c.

Try your own combinations.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Angels to Watch Over Us - Faith, Hope, Love

Several months ago my daughter Kelly sent me a message telling me about the sister-in-law of one of her friends.  The woman is a single mother with leukemia.  The family was planning a fundraiser to help with the medical costs and Kelly asked me if I might donate a piece of art.

I didn’t hesitate, but I usually give or sell my art right away and don’t really have a stash of readymade items, except my son James would say I have the dogs in a corner…that is another story.
I wasn’t sure what to make, what it should look like, or how it should make you feel.  I found a piece of a pine board which makes a wonderful base because it is lightweight but has so many possibilities, like drilling through it, or hammering things into it.

A coat of gesso front and back, and then I tore anaglyptic paper into random pieces and glued them to the back.  I found some fabric with lots of texture and glued it down then covered over it with more gesso.  Stencils, paint, spackle, glue, more paper, more gesso, and so the process goes.

No matter what color scheme I tried out, the white gesso seemed to pull me back, so I choose several shades of white and painted the whole thing.  I choose a soft grey, a dark graphite, and lamp black to accent the white because almost nothing is ever just black and white.  Then I needed to find the embellishments.  I dug through drawers, bins, and cubbies pulling everything that spoke to me, although where I start on a project is not always where I end up.

I played with laying pieces on the base and arranging them and rearranging them.  The pile of discards was growing and my pile of ideas was dwindling.  I dug into another cabinet and pulled out boxes of art supplies I had not used since I taught art to the girls at GRADS, and bags of bargains so cheap you cannot pass them up at the store and then you forget you have them.

I took a break from the 3D part of the art and began searching my stash of photographs, magazine clippings, advertisements, and so on and so forth.  I found a print of an angel that spoke to me but changed it from color to black and white and printed it on heavy plastic.

When you are sick it is hard to see the positive, and harder still for those around you to see it even though they are telling you everything is going to be okay.  This piece of art needed to be positive, about faith, love and hope.  I used 3D letters to spell these words and mounted them on glass attached to the art piece and added nails and tacks to represent the hardship.

I drilled holes through the wood and used armature wire to hang the art piece, twisting the ends to become part of the art piece.

I had to step back for several days, as I always do, and just look at what I am working on.  If I can look at it and walk away each time, it is done; otherwise I find myself changing, adding, tweaking, until I can walk away day after day.

The piece was finished with five days to spare before it needed to be in the mail to make the auction and fundraiser.  I received a very nice thank you from the brother of this woman when it arrived and after the auction I received a beautiful handwritten thank you from the recipient of the benefit.  This was such a blessing to receive a thank you not from someone going through so much.
The following is a poem written for this piece of art and attached to the back of it.

Angels to watch over us
When we lose our way
When darkness closes in
When black and white turn grey
We search
Trying to accept
What is true
What is right
Wheres the justice
Our faith within
Small as a mustard seed
To believe
Accepting what is genuine
What is true
New beginnings
New hope
Sent from up above
Angels watching over us
They never leave our side

Sunday, February 03, 2013

No resolutions, just a commitment

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions and never have.  I do try to think about positive changes and how I can implement them in my life.  I would like to eat healthier so those times when you have fewer choices you don’t feel guilty having something higher in calories or fat. 

We have a beautiful new kitchen and our daily cooking is fairly simple and sometimes does not even require using the cook top or oven.  We always have lean lunch meats, salad makings, fresh fish, chicken, and fruit in the house.  This year I would like to cook more but still stay within the guidelines of healthy good tasting foods.

I have loved quiche ever since my mom first fixed it years ago, a pie crust, eggs, and cheese, what could be better?  Well if you take away the pie crust, lower the fat content in the cheese, and add in vegetables you can still enjoy a family favorite and not feel guilty.



1 ½ c. cottage cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. Mexican blend shredded cheese
8 oz. pepper Jack cheese
10 egg whites
4 eggs
¼ c. half/half non fat
½ c. green onions, chopped
1 c. kale, finely chopped
½ c. bacon, crispy cooked and finely chopped

In a food processor blend the pepper Jack cheese until finely chopped.  Add the cottage cheese and cream cheese and blend until smooth.  Add the Mexican shredded cheese, the half&half, and again blend until smooth.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, then begin adding the egg whites a little at a time and blend until fluffy.  Add the green onions and kale and turn the food processor on and off several times until blended.

 Pour into a two greased casserole dishes with about a 2” rim.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until set in the middle and lightly browned on top.

 You can use low fat cottage cheese, low fat cream cheese, low fat shredded cheese, and substitute grilled chopped chicken for the bacon.

 Using the food processor instead of beating by hand made this frittata light and fluffy, a texture similar to a soufflĂ©, but without the worry if it rises or falls.

 The real test was if my husband Larry would like this, I just didn’t tell him it contained kale in it until he had finished his second helping and told me how much he liked it.  He liked it enough to ask to have it again even knowing it had kale in it.  A keeper recipe and the best part is you can fix the frittata for dinner, breakfast, or have the leftovers for lunch.
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