Tuesday, February 28, 2017

American Jadeite: A Facebook Group for Collectors and Enthusiasts

Dear Readers,

I've started a small group on Facebook for collectors of American jadeite, which will encompass American made jadeite from ca. 1930 through present day.  What I want to do with this group is allow us collectors the chance to share our passion for collecting this beautiful glass, whether it's vintage Fire King, McKee, Jeanette, Fenton, or more contemporary Martha by Mail Fenton, L. E. Smith or Mosser Glass.  I think it's important to allow discussion of all jadeite that was produced and is being produced in this country, so that we may help one another in our pursuit of collecting jadeite.  I see no reason to restrict it to one specific era.

Getting emails from enthusiastic readers with questions about their jadeite finds or "mystery pieces" happens on a regular basis.  What I always do in those cases, if I don't have an answer for them, is to turn to my trusted friends who are pros in the realm of collecting jadeite.  Those individuals are now a part of that group, so any questions, dilemmas and identification requests you may have can be posted to the group.  

Beautifully made American jadeite has graced homes for many decades, and my hope is that we continue to promote this green glass for future generations.

Simply click here to request to be a part of that group and start sharing.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Martha Stewart's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte

Dense, fudgy and irresistibly chocolaty, is the best way to describe Martha's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte from her latest baking book, 'A New Way to Bake'.  This cake is the perfect dessert to serve for any kind of special occasion, especially if your guests love chocolate.  Because it is a flourless cake which relies on over half a pound of chocolate to make, it is important to choose a good-quality chocolate.

The cake is almost like eating a luxurious truffle, except that it is lighter and exceptionally richer.

I couldn't wait to start making this cake over the weekend when I saw the recipe, because I wanted something that wasn't going to be too demanding for my aunt's visit.  The batter came together on top of a double boiler, much like a brownie recipe, and was then poured into a prepared cake pan for baking.   

No need for a mixer! 

Martha says that the cake is best made ahead of time and chilled before serving, so that's exactly what I did.  After chilling for several hours in the refrigerator, I unmolded the eight inch layer onto one of my jadeite cake stands (Martha by Mail) for serving.

OK, so I took some liberties with the chocolate topping.  Instead of using the two ounces of chocolate called for in the recipe, I doubled it and added a few drops of peppermint oil to the chocolate to give it that irresistible mint flavor. All of it was poured over the cake and was smoothed out with a small offset spatula.

A sprinkling of ground walnuts is what the recipe asks you to add, but I thought a sprinkling of multicolored dragĂ©es would make my aunt's cake even better.  Everyone loved it.

Wedges served on old Fire King jadeite and a few cups of strong coffee made the ending of our meal pretty sweet. 

I can't tell you how perfect this cake is to serve for anyone who can't have gluten in their diets, for the chocolate aficionados in your life and/or for those who claim not to like sweets.  Everyone will want a slice of Martha's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte if you display it on one of your nicest cake stands and keep it within eyesight of your get together.  As I said, a cup of strong coffee or espresso is all you need to accompany the dessert.

Happy Baking from Martha's latest book!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Martha Stewart's A New Way to Bake

The much-anticipated Martha Stewart book, A New Way to Bake, is finally in my kitchen thanks to a very kind and generous friend.  I have to say that it already has me measuring out ingredients for baking as we speak!  Due to be released on March 28th, the Clarkson Potter publication is one that should be in everyone's kitchen, because it explores, demonstrates and instructs us on baking with whole grains, gluten-free alternative flours, and other healthier ingredients.

Ingredients for Martha's Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte.

Leave it to the baking team at Martha Stewart Living to bring us a compilation of dozens of recipes that have been tested and retested for success in our very own kitchens.  All of the recipes have been tasted, edited and approved by Martha Stewart herself, so you know that everything is going to be delicious.   

Says Martha: "Using a new repertoire of grains, flours and sweeteners, your muffins, pancakes, cookies, and tarts will taste different, and you, the baker, will learn a whole new vocabulary."

A wealth of information on how to stock a modern pantry, what each ingredient is and how it's used in baking, among other things, can be found throughout the book.  The chapters include: Breakfast; Cookies, Brownies and Bars; Pies, Tarts, Crisps and Cobblers; Cakes and Cupcakes; Breads and Rolls; The Basics.  

Going through each chapter, you will be intrigued by the Whole Wheat Pancakes, Blackberry Oat Bran Muffins, Buttermilk Barley Biscuits, Oat and Millet Granola, Coconut Pistachio Biscotti, Almond Rye Heart Cookies, Dark Chocolate Spelt Brownies, Vegan Apple Pie, Kale and White Bean Hand Pies, Blueberry Ricotta Tart, Spelt Layer Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries, the Flourless Chocolate Walnut Torte that I'll be baking today, the Gingerbread Pumpkin Canneles, Honey Wheat Parker House Rolls, and so much more!

I have a strong feeling that you're going to want to visit the health food aisle of your local grocery store and stock up your pantry with several healthier ingredients.  Just as Martha says in the book, "Think of these recipes as great jumping-off points; don't be afraid to play around to create something distinctly your own."

Make sure that you preorder your book this weekend so that you can begin baking from it as soon as it arrives!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!  Share something sweet today with your special one.  May your day be filled with love.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

The First Snowfall of 2017

It certainly felt like a frosty winter day this morning.  We woke up to wind, snow and frigid temperatures here in eastern Pennsylvania today, but somehow it felt like we were due for some significant snow accumulation. This weather system seems to have hit a large area in the northeastern part of the United States, so many of you are probably digging out as we speak.  

Let me begin by saying that the first significant snowfall of the season is great because, not only is everything covered in pristine, white snow, but the wildlife seems to take a small break and settle down from the every day hustle and bustle.

This morning while it was snowing, everything was white!

As soon as it stopped snowing, the sky cleared and the wind picked up.  It was magnificent looking out the front door and seeing such a blue sky.  

While I didn't venture out through the trails and up into the field this morning, I did get to walk along the driveway to photograph a few pictures for my archives.  There were other things that needed to get done inside the house. 

Believe it or not, underneath that hill is our resident groundhog.  
He did predict six more weeks of winter!

The past week or so has been rather hectic here at home, with Valentine's Day coming up, birthdays and other projects popping up here and there.  It's the reason I haven't written a blog post in a while.  Forgive me!

Looking down the driveway, you can see the thick snow on the branches, the gorgeous sky behind the horizon, and our small home that is keeping us warm.

I recently had the pleasure of making a batch of Lovebird Valentine's Day cookies.  The idea wasn't mine, but rather than make an exact replica of the one that inspired these, I took some liberties and gave the lovebirds some cute accents.

Half of each heart sugar cookie was iced in a light pink royal icing and the other half was iced in plain white.  Using two sets of heart-shaped candies, I played around with how I wanted to situate them on the cookie for their kissy faces.  I chose the candies on the right.

These very bashful lovebirds were given little tufted feathers on their heads (stiff royal icing piped with an open star tip) black eyelashes, heart-shaped candy beaks, and small wings reaching out for a hug.  People loved them!

For a special birthday party with over six dozen children in attendance, I was asked to do Minecraft sugar cookies.  As much as I wanted to photograph these cookies for the blog in great detail, I simply didn't have the time to do so.  The photograph above shows you the works in progress; chickens and pigs, among other characters, were created by the dozen.  I think the kids are going to like them.

Every hardworking cookie decorator needs a tea break in between projects, at least in my opinion. I wanted to try a new tea from The English Tea Store, so I took out one of my Wedgwood drabware teapots, some teacups and had a much-needed respite.  

Sitting on that antique wire cooling rack, I set out a few cookies that I made at the very last minute.  I found myself with extra sugar cookies (I always make extras for projects just in case) and several shades of royal icing. While the kettle was waiting to come up to a boil, I drizzled three colors of royal icing on these cookies and set them out for tea.

Can you blame me?  I love having cookies with my tea in the afternoon if I have the time.  

The daily ritual of making a good pot of tea, setting out some homemade cookies on a nice plate, and using some of my favorite cups and fine silver, is something I never tire of.  In fact, it's something I look forward to because I find it soothing and necessary.  It's my way of removing the negative from the day's happenings, whatever they may be.

Allow yourself the pleasure of taking a few moments of the day for yourself to unwind and relax.  It's necessary for our well-being to be able to enjoy some kind of diversion from the day to day.

Stay safe and warm wherever you happen to be this afternoon.