Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

by Danica Waters

 

I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago.  What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.

 

During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.

 

(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long.  And it was full.)

 

While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box.  My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”

 

This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie.  Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…

 

Enjoy!

 

Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies

 

½ C white sugar

½ C brown sugar

½ C butter

½ C chunky peanut butter

1 egg slightly beaten

1-1/4 C flour

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

 

In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter.  Add egg and mix thoroughly.  Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.

 

Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper.  Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 

Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet.  Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.

 

Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Posted November 18th, 2011.

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Chipotle Cornbread

by Danica Waters

It is cold and wet today, just like the weathermen promised.  The rain is coming down in big, splashy drops and I must confess: .I absolutely love days like today.   Ella Fitzgerald is simmering on my speakers, a pot of dee-lish Lentil Soup simmering on the stove, and this spicy little number will be the perfect accompaniment to all of it.

You can make this cornbread with any type of salsa; it’s milder and more innocent with a good green chile salsa or even  a basic tomato-jalapeno salsa.  But there’s something wicked and deliberate about the smoky nature of chipotles.  Be careful – the heat will sneak up on you, so if you’re serving kids or a crowd, either use the salsa sparingly or only marble half the batch.

Enjoy!

 

Chipotle Cornbread

1 cup Yellow Corn Meal (I use Alber’s)

1 C all-purpose flour

1/4 C granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 C milk

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 – 3 Tbsp chipotle salsa, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Spoon chipotle salsa in small mounds onto the cornbread surface; using a knife, swirl salsa through batter to create marbled effect.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.

NOTE Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13×9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

 

FOR MUFFINS:
SPOON batter into 10 to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes.

Posted November 11th, 2011.

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The Art of Greeting: The Five Week Manners Makeover, Step 3

by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of liluinteriors.com

Remember being a little kid and absolutely dreading those first few awkward minutes of meeting someone you hadn’t seen in a long time, or perhaps didn’t know at all?  No matter if the semi-strangers had extended an invitation to an event at their home or if the occasion found them invading your home, one of two things was certain to happen during the greeting process:

1.  You’d be eyeballed up and down like you were some sort of germ-ridden-troublemaker-to-be and summarily dismissed, or;

2.  You’d end up having your cheeks pinched off your face as you were slathered in kisses and lipstick stains,  barraged with a million questions you didn’t know how to answer, by someone you really didn’t know all that well at all.

Not knowing what to do in either instance, you’d visibly shrink there next to your parents, feeling awkward and silent and uncomfortable and wishing to all heck you could will yourself to disappear altogether.  Anxiety amplified as you quickly realized that your own embarrassment was unwittingly embarrassing your parents.   “Say something, silly!” they would admonish, nudging you further into the line of fire. “Don’t just stand there like a bump on a log!  Ha ha ha….!  Kids – I’ll tell you…”

And there you were, feeling like a germ-ridden-troublemaker the rest of the evening.

 

In the words of America’s etiquette expert, Peggy Post, “Most etiquette dilemmas arise when people don’t know what to do. This results in a feeling of uncertainty and, ultimately, a sense that you may do something wrong or offend someone.”  Yep.   And that’s not a happy space for anyone to be in – especially kids.

Now’s the time to practice the Art of Greeting, so that your children can negotiate these awkward moments with confidence and poise now and in the future.

 

Tips to a perfect greeting:

1.  Look the person in the eye and smile!

2.  No mumbling!  Speak confidently and clearly, even if you’re feeling shy.

3.  It’s best to call the person by name:  “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Humphries / Aunt Matilda / etc.  It’s nice to meet you/see you again.”

4.  Strangers or acquaintances should be greeted with a handshake; if the person is a relative or someone close to you, you should greet them with a hug.

 

How to give a proper handshake:

1.  Right hand to right hand, thumbs up (not a limp, palms-down hand)

2.  Firm grip, but not too tight or too limp

3.  Only two to three “pumps”, then release hands.  No shaking the other person’s arm off!

 

Other tips:

1.  Feeling useful is one of the most powerful confidence builders out there.  If the event is being held in your home, children can offer to help take guests’ coats or show them a secure place where they can put their bags.  Teach them to treat these articles with care.  (If you are attending an event at another home, remind children to say “thank you” when someone takes their jacket.)

2.  If you’re hosting the event, it’s a great idea to review the guest list with your kids in advance.  Letting them know about the personalities and interests of the people coming to the party goes a long way towards helping kids feel confident about their participation in the event.

 

With practice, your kids’ kind, confident greeting skills might even help them avoid lipstick and cheek pinching altogether.

And remember:  keep practicing Basic Table Manners  and The Art of Conversation!

 

 

 

Posted November 1st, 2011.

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Nifty Napkin Folds: Basic Buffet Roll

by Danica Waters

With Holiday buffets lurking around the corner, today’s lesson in nifty napkin folding is the incredibly simple, sturdy, straightforward Basic Buffet Roll.

Enjoy!

 

Nifty Napkin Folds:  Basic Buffet Roll

 

Step 1:

Lay napkin face down in front of you.

 

Step 2:

Fold one corner down to meet the opposite corner, forming a triangle.  Position the triangle so that the open corners face away from you.

Step 3:

Place your utensils along the bottom and in the center of the long side of the triangle.

Step 4:

Fold one end in to cover the utensils.

Step 5:

Fold the opposite corner in to completely cover utensils.

Step 6:

Roll tightly from bottom up.

Voila!  You’re done!

 

While this fold holds just fine on its own, you can tie a bit of decorative ribbon, raffia, or other decorative on each roll to dress it up a bit.

Posted October 24th, 2011.

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The Five-Week Manners Makeover

by Danica Waters (photo credits at end of post)

Aahhhh…. Autumn.  Blustery late-October winds send the last leaves scattering and Christmas holiday merchandise creeps steadily onto Store-Shelves-Near-You.

This is an exciting time of year; with the onset of winter holiday festivities, you find yourself considering travel plans and gift lists, mulling over menu options and guest lists. And then, at the dinner table one night, the chilly mists of anxiety waft over you as you realize that the family table etiquette you thought you’d whipped into shape long ago has not even remotely recovered from the long, lazy, finger-licking days of summer.

 

Finger-licking indeed.

You watch for a minute or two with a bit of a sickening feeling accompanying your current state of disbelief.  Yes, you really did see Johnny lick his fingers after using them to pick up a long green bean and nibble it from the bottom up.  And yes, you really are watching little Katy blow air in and out of a limp macaroni noodle that has had all the cheese sucked off of it.   Eeesh.


The Five-Week Manners Makeover

There’s just enough time from now until Thanksgiving to give the whole family a manners makeover.  Since most major holiday celebrations involve lots and lots of time around a table, practicing basic table manners is the best place to start.

Week 1:  Focus on Table Settings and Basic Table Etiquette

Explain the placement of table settings and let them practice setting the table properly at mealtimes.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they’ll learn with a little practice!  To brush up on the correct way to set a table, feel free to visit the following videos, compliments of The Emily Post Institute and Howcast:

 

Basic Table Setting

 

Formal Table Setting


 

Review the Other Behavior Basics:

1.  Wash your hands before coming to the table.

2.  Put your napkin in your lap.

3.  Don’t start eating until everyone at the table has been served, or until the hostess eats.

4.  Hold and use your utensils properly.

5.  Say “please” and “thank you” when food, seasonings, or condiments are passed.

6.  Food is usually passed from right to left to avoid confusion; however, observe what’s happening and act accordingly.

7.  If you happen to be overlooked for something, no reaching across someone else’s plate; quietly ask for something to be passed.

8.  Chew with your mouth closed; don’t talk with your mouth full.

9.  Wait to be excused from the table; offer to help clear dishes from the table.

10.  Always remember to thank the cook!

 

It’s their party, too. 

Kids learn better when they are involved and treated as an integral part of the big picture.  Rather than teaching manners as “Rules-That-Must-Be-Followed”, explain that using good manners helps make everything more special.  Then get them involved in the creative and planning stages of the event.  Entrusting them with responsibilities, such as folding fancy napkins or making personalized place cards for all the guests, gives them a personal stake in the overall success of the event.

Practice makes perfect.

Every mealtime presents another opportunity to make something good even better.  Use the extra time afforded on weekends to practice something a bit more formal.

And remember: kids aren’t the only ones who need reminders and repetition. (Just sayin’.)

 

 

 

 

 Photo Credits:

table image:  www.photoshopessentials.com

girl licking fingers:  www.chocolates-made-easy.com

boy scratching head:   www.mombuzz.com

boy eating spaghetti: www.parentsconnect.com

man eating spaghetti: www.deathandtaxesmag.com

 

 


 

Posted October 18th, 2011.

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Nifty Napkin Folds: The Pyramid Fold

by Danica Waters

Ok folks.  The arrival of mid-October means only one thing besides Halloween:

The. Holiday. Season. Is. Upon. Us.

Face it.  We’ve got about a month until the nostalgic refrains of Christmas carols, sparkly-twinkly lights and the heavy, inescapable scent of cinnamon pinecones inundate every venue in the northern hemisphere and beyond.  Brings tears to my eyes.  (Not the holidays; the cinnamon pineconesACK!!) 

 

Since we published ideas and etiquette tips on The Great Buffet, the Allspice Chronicles had countless requests for instructions and ideas on napkin folds.  Given that there’s no time like holiday time to practice and perfect the timeless art of “napkin origami”, every Monday from now until the end of the year we will happily feature a new napkin fold, from fancy-schmancy to buffet-roll basics.  Add them to your entertainment arsenal and perfect your party-making prowess; and for heaven’s sake, teach them to the kids!  Napkin folding is a great way to keep older children occupied and feeling productive while you’re doing everything else.

Today we’ll start with something on the simple side.

Enjoy!

 

The Pyramid Fold

 

This fold is relatively easy to achieve with almost any sort of cloth.  While all napkin folds will work best with a medium weight cloth, most or all of them can be achieved even on flimsy, lightweight material if you use a bit of spray starch and an iron.

 

Step 1:

Lay the napkin face down in front of you, seams facing upwards.

Step 2:

Fold the napkin in half diagonally.

 

Step 3:

Rotate the napkin so the corners on the open end face away from you.  Fold the right corner up to meet the top corner, making sure that the new fold cuts directly down the center.

Step 4:

Fold up the left side just as you did the right; pat well to reinforce the seam that runs down the center.

Step 5:

Carefully lift the napkin and turn it over, keeping the open end facing away from you.

Step 6:

Fold the top, open section of the napkin down towards you and make the two points meet at the point nearest to you.

Step 7:

Flip the napkin over, keeping the open end towards you.  Fold the napkin in half along the center seam and stand up.

Voila!

 

Posted October 17th, 2011.

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Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

by Danica Waters / nature photos courtesy of www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm

 

I first discovered this recipe about ten years ago, in the back of an issue of Taste of Home magazine.  It was October, the aspen were ablaze in the Colorado high country and I was excitedly planning an annual autumn picnic for a large group of friends and family.  Although our family made frequent pilgrimages to the mountains throughout the year, our October excursion was special in a spiritual sort of way.

 

In the lush valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, October heralds the return of the giant elk as they descend from higher elevations to mate and prepare for the onset of winter.  It is a humbling, transfixing ritual to observe, as old as time and as beautifully executed as a waltz in a king’s court.

 

On this particular October excursion, we arrived with enough time to spend the day hiking, and, of course, daring each other to dip our toes in the ice-cold burbling streams.   Finally, as the late afternoon chill set in, we returned to the small parking lot on the far side of the meadows. Wet, shivering children got tucked into clean, dry socks and loads of blankets; hearty picnic dinner offerings were devoured and steaming cups of hot cocoa were passed around as we, and the many other nature-lovers around us, waited for the elk to appear.

 

Venus twinkled over Long’s Peak, shining like a  diamond in the deepening periwinkle sky; then, as if by magic, the soft sounds of laughter and conversation suddenly gave way to reverent silence with the first sighting of a bull elk. He appeared from the shadowy depths of the forest and walked slowly and deliberately into the meadow, completely aware of and unfazed by our presence; we were mere courtiers in the presence of a King.

 

He assumed his position center stage in the tall grasses and stood magnificently still, waiting.  Then, on an impulse, he thrust his head back and let out a haunting, lonely cry that reverberated all the way through the valley.  The ensuing silence was nothing short of deafening; it was as though every molecule of every being in the entire valley had been suspended in time.

 

Ever-so-slowly, from the forest shadows appeared the does.  With almost-choreographed precision, they made their way, one by one, in front of the group of onlookers and then past the King, only to disappear back into the trees on the opposite side of the meadow.  After the last doe had made her appearance, the King turned and followed them, swallowed by the shadows of nightfall.

 

The whole experience was like a dream; we had to sit a minute to digest what we’d just seen.  Kids being kids, they decided this was the perfect opportunity to remind me that we hadn’t yet served dessert.  I absentmindedly broke out these little cupcakes, and suddenly realized I was experiencing another kind of dream, because that same sudden, magical hush fell over everyone in our group as they took their first bite.  Even the kids were quiet.  No joke.

 

Need some magic?  Try these.   Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes are the best cupcakes in the WORLD.  They have no frosting.  Instead, they have chunks of chocolate and walnuts baked into a peek-a-boo cream cheese center. Not too sweet, modestly decadent, easily transportable, and visually stunning; this is the perfect cupcake to make for every occasion.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

Taste of Home August/September 1994

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

¼ C baking cocoa

½ tsp salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

¾ C water

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Filling:

 

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 C sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 tsp salt

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1 C chopped walnuts

 

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; mix well.  Pour into 18 greased or paper lined muffin cups.  For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in another mixing bowl.  Add egg and salt; mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

 

Posted October 7th, 2011.

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Gigi’s Apple Cake

by Danica Waters

 

Several years ago, I found myself in the waiting room of a doctor’s office… waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting some more.  Thankfully, the waiting room was stocked with lots and lots of great magazines, most of which contained great recipes.

 

One of the magazines contained a wonderful, heartfelt story about a Jewish grandmother fondly referred to as “Gigi”, who would make an incredible apple cake just like clockwork as soon as the long summer days gave way to the shorter, chillier days of autumn.   It seems the recipe had been handed down through the family for generations; I was happy I had a pen and an old grocery list buried in my purse.

 

I don’t remember the name of the publication, nor can I recall the name of the author who shared such a beautiful living memory of her dearly departed grandmother.  I can tell you that this is the best apple cake I have ever made or tasted; it is truly an autumn heirloom your family will treasure for generations.

 

Enjoy!

 

Gigi’s Apple Cake

 

1 C canola oil, plus more for greasing

2-1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground cinnamon

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

2-1/4 C granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1/3 C orange juice

2 tsp orange zest

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Preheat oven to 350?.  Grease and flour a 12c Bundt or tube pan.  In a medium bowl, combine the 2-1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon.  Ina large bowl, toss the apples with ¼ cup of sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set aside.

 

In a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of oil with the eggs, orange juice, vanilla, and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on medium speed for 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until just combined.  Add the apples and stir to combine.  Transfer to the pan, leaving about an inch at the top, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1-1/2 hours.  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a rack to cool completely.

Posted September 28th, 2011.

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The Romanesco: Roasted with Garlic, Onion and Almonds

by Danica Waters

Is it a modified American version of broccoli? A Roman Cauliflower? A German Cabbage? No one knows for sure. Only one thing is certain about this almost alien-looking annual: The Romanesco is a fabulous fractal, pleasing to nearly any palate, and guaranteed to grace any table to which it happens to be invited.

First documented in sixteenth century Italy, the Romanesco is a mild-tasting hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower, packed with important vitamins and minerals that support vision and overall immunity. What makes it even better is that it’s FUN to look at, and FUN to eat. Tell your kids it’s Martian food at Halloween, or that they’re feasting on miniature Christmas trees plucked from a fairy forest.   Its mild, mellow, and somewhat nutty flavor makes it equally effective served as crudites’ as it is when cooked ’til crisp-tender and incorporated into other dishes or served as a side.

Here’s a tasty, more grown-up way to enjoy this exotic vegetable.

Enjoy!

 

The Romanesco: Roasted With Garlic, Onion, and Almonds

(Danica Waters)

1 head Romanesco Broccoli/Cauliflower/Cabbage/Whatever, trimmed and cut into sections approximately 1 inch in diameter, larger sections cut appropriately to ensure even cooking
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch
5-6 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 C sliced almonds
Olive oil
White Balsamic Vinegar, to taste
Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

In large, heatproof saute’ pan, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add sliced garlic and cook until pale golden brown. Add onion slices and cook until soft and translucent; add Romanesco, White Balsamic Vinegar to taste, and 2 Tbsp water. Reduce heat, cover and cook until Romanesco is crisp-tender, approximately 7 minutes, or until it has reached desired texture. (Be careful not to overcook – it turns to mush and isn’t as palatable!) While Romanesco is cooking, preheat your broiler.

Remove from heat and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with almonds and grated Parmesan or Asiago; place pan, uncovered, under broiler until cheeses have melted and turned golden brown.

Serve immediately.

(Serves 4)

Posted September 26th, 2011.

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