For The Food Lover: A Selection of Gift Picks

Flour and Fancy

Nothing gets me thinking about gift giving like Thanksgiving.  With all the publicity surrounding Black Friday, Shop Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday, it’s hard not to think about shopping and the friends and family on your list, but it’s when I begin thinking about the people I’m thankful for in my life that I start plotting my holiday gifts.  And after I clean up the Turkey Day mess.

Edible gifts are great, and I bake a number of the items in the recipe archives to give as gifts.  However, sometimes you’ve got to open your wallet to give the gift that fits just right.

With Cyber Monday coming tomorrow and that gift giving spirit in full, post-Thanksgiving swing, I wanted to share my picks for some great gifts for the cook, food lover, baker, and shaker in your life:

  • A Year of Bi-Monthly Kitchen Letters – Provisions: The recipient of this gift receives a letter twice a month from the minds behind great food and restaurants, including some content from the ladies behind Food52.  For the reader that doubles as a kitchen extraordinaire, this is the perfect gift that keeps giving all year long. I really enjoy them!
  • Mountain Rose Apples – Mikuni Wild Harvest: These apples have a beautifully pink relish and a taste that blends the perfect balance of sweetness and tart.  Absolutely one of my favorites!  They are only available from October to December and quite rare.  A perfect gift for the fall and winter apple lover.
  • The Must-Have Cookbooks for their baking collection:
    • The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book – it’s a pie book.  What more do I need to say?  Really, if your pal or kitchen lovin’ family member only has one book on pie, this should be it.
    • Bouchon Bakery – For the more advanced baker and the ingredient adventurer, this is a perfect fit.
    • Baked: New Frontiers in Baking – I featured the Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits from this cookbook here.  This text is fun and varied with lots of savory and sweet to keep the baker in your life busy.  One of my favorites.
    • Tate’s Bake Shop: Baking For Friends – Give this book for your baking bestie and drop that hint.  “I need some cookies – stat!”
  • State Shaped Cutting Board – AHeirloom: For the person who spends most of their time in both the kitchen and a state close to his or her heart, these cutting boards are perfect.  I always think of them when I have a long-time friend who moves from Nashville like I did six years ago.  What better to memorialize a former home that with some state love?
  • Santa and Reindeer Cookie Cutters – Crate & Barrel: These two cookie cutters are perfect for the holiday baker!
  • Holiday Pie Crust Cutters – William-Sonoma: One of my favorite relatives got these pie crust cutters for me last year, and I’ve delighted in getting to use them this year for my pies large and small.
  • Foodie Subscription – Quarterly: Quarterly is my favorite (and only!) subscription service, and they’re a great place to find a unique gift for the food lover in your life.  The curated packages by Animal Restaurant look fantastic – the last one was themed around Southern breakfast.  And Food52’s boxes are a super pick as well.
  • Paw Print Muffin Pan – Greater Good: This muffin pan is the perfect gift for the animal lovin’ baker who makes muffins and dog treats on lazy weekend afternoons.  And the best part: all purchases fund food for animals in need.  This purchase funds 14 bowls of food for shelter animals in need.
  • Southeast Louisiana Food: A Seasoned Tradition: Whether you or your gift recipient love Louisiana’s Cajun flavors or enjoy reading about the history of food culture, this book celebrates the tradition of food in this region of the south and explores both its traditions and its future.  A great read!  It’s written by Addie and Jeremy Martin.  Addie is the brilliance behind Culicurious.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of food and gratitude.  I’m especially thankful for each of you.  Thank you for continuing to support me through your reading, trying my recipes, and sharing my blog with those in your life.  And have fun shopping for everyone on your list (and yourself).

Note: I received no sponsorship, financial compensation, or other incentive to endorse these products, nor was I sought out by any of the makers of these products to write about them.  These are simply items that I enjoy and wanted to share with my readers.  I do not share products or services that I do not have knowledge of or a personal preference for.

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Cranberry Cherry Pies

Cranberry Cherry Pies // Flour and Fancy

Holidays are a time for, undoubtedly, pie.  I like to mix things up, to expand beyond the usual pumpkin or apple pie at the holiday table, and share other twists on common flavors.

Last year, I served dark chocolate pecan pie tarts and apple pear tartlets.  This year, I’m serving up new flavors.  Sure, we still have a pumpkin pie on the table, but there are two things I love baking around the holidays: miniature desserts that serve one and great combinations.  Pecans and dark chocolate, apples and pears – both great combinations.  This year, I’m serving up tangy meets sweet in a combination of cranberries and cherries.  The result: delicious!  I wanted to share this recipe with you both as a last minute dessert go-to for tomorrow’s big day and as a great pie to serve throughout the holiday season and winter months.

I prefer serving my holiday desserts in a single-serve version for multiple reasons.  Baking time is reduced, and we all know that any spare moment in the kitchen around the holidays is a necessary one.  And it also gives each person a personal dessert, a pie backed just for them.  It’s all his or hers to devour.  No sharing!  For me, it provides a more personalized, special experience.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving – a day of rest, bountiful eating, football, and perhaps a little reflection squeezed in.  A time to be thankful for the bounty in our lives, the goodness and happiness that fill the small and the monumental moments.  I hope you enjoy it in the kitchen, in front of the television, and in your hearts.

Cranberry Cherry Pies // Flour and Fancy

Cranberry Cherry Pies
Makes four small, single-serve pies

Ingredients

Crust
2 1/2 cups organic flour
1 1/4 teaspoon pink sea salt
1/2 cup ice water
1 cup unsalted butter – should be well chilled and cut into small squares
Egg wash – one beaten egg yolk combined with one tablespoon water

Filling
4 cups fresh red, tart cherries, pitted
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar, and cornstarch.  Mix well.  Add the cherries and cranberries and coat well in the dry mixture.  Set aside for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  3. Combine salt, butter, and flour in your standing mixer using the paddle attachment. Mix for approximately one minute until well blended. Gradually add the ice water into the mixture and blend until just combined. Be careful not to over blend. You will see small dots of butter in the mixture.
  4. Remove dough from mixer. Blend together with your hands. Separate the dough into two balls.  Place one dough ball in the refrigerator and the other on an amply floured work surface.
  5. Roll the dough on your work surface into a circular area. Should be very thin.  Using a large circular cutter or even a 1 cup measuring cup, begin cutting small circles in the dough.
  6. Transfer each circle to an oven safe ramekin and press in.  You should have enough dough to fill four standard ramekins.
  7. In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and water.  Mix well.  Using a brush, apply egg wash to the pastry-filled cavity of each ramekin.
  8. Place approximately a cup of filling in each tartlet cavity. The filling should stand just below the top of the pan.
  9. Using the remaining dough, roll flat and thin.  Using the same cutting method you did previously, cut four circles.  Delicately and carefully place each circle atop the ramekin.  Using your fingers and a small amount of water if necessary, press the pie top into the dough.
  10. Using a fork, create a trim pattern along the edges.  Apply remaining egg wash to each pie top.  Place two small slits in the top of each pie for venting.
  11. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the pie tops are golden brown.  Let rest for five minutes.  Then, remove the ramekins to a cooling rack for additional cooling.

Pumpkin Honey Butter



Pumpkin Honey Butter / Flour and Fancy

When fall is upon us, there’s one spread that I always reach for first: my pumpkin honey butter.

At any given point in the year, you can always find pumpkin puree in my cabinet of staples.  Why?  Because I buy the canned version at the grocery and make my own in such quantities that it’s always lingering, hanging out in eager anticipation of fall.  This is deliberate.  For me, fall hasn’t truly ignited around me until I have my first taste of pumpkin for the year.

That taste is often ushered to my lips long before I make my first loaf of spiced pumpkin bread or have my first latte spiced with beloved finer, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  It’s when I grab butter, pumpkin, and honey, make this simple yet richly flavored bread, and slather it on the first thing I can get my hands on.  This flavored butter is my toast to fall’s beginning.

Pumpkin Honey Butter / Flour and Fancy

It’s easy to make and goes wonderfully on virtually anything.  I love it on my Sunday Morning Pancakes combined with maple syrup or on fresh-from-the-oven bread.  I love to spread some on my brown butter banana nut bread or carrot walnut bread to add a distinctive hint of fall flavor, too.  I’ll find any excuse to add this spread to what I happen to be munching on.

My husband will emphatically against honey butter, but this spread is one he adores.  The effect that comes when pumpkin and spices are combined create a whole new dimension of flavors that do more than just sweeten the butter.

This is a simple recipe but one that I had to share.  It’s an important part of fall in my home, and I hope it will be in yours as well.  With less than 10 minutes required to make this spread a success, why not?

Pumpkin Honey Butter // Flour and Fancy

Pumpkin Honey Butter
Makes approximately one cup

Ingredients

  • Two sticks salted butter
  • Two tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • Three tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice

Method

  1. Ensure that your butter is at room temperature.  Remove it from the refrigerator and allow to sit for approximately 30 minutes before using.
  2. In a small dish, combine pumpkin and pumpkin spice.  Using a spoon, combine well.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine butter and honey.  Mix well, mashing the butter.
  4. Once the honey and butter are well combined, add the spiced pumpkin mixture.  Mix well.  There will likely be chunks of pumpkin through the butter.  That’s OK.  The objective is to distribute throughout, not create a uniform mixture.
  5. Place in a sealed container in the refrigerator to allow to chill.  Serve after cooled.

 

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread // Flour and Fancy

And so I’m back – from outer space!  Well, not from outer space, but I’m back nonetheless.

Flour and Fancy celebrated one year of photography and recipe sharing on September 16th.  One year of recipes, stores, photos, and gardening!  How did I choose to celebrate?  I took a step back, took a break from it all, and collected my thoughts on year two.  I needed some rest and relaxation, some time to bake and cook without Flour and Fancy in mind, and to formulate the culinary avenues I wanted to travel down in year two.  So, I’ve been baking, settling into my new title of Mrs. Hubbard, and having fun.  Everyone needs a little time away.

To celebrate the beginning of year two of the blog, I went back to the beginning – the recipe that started it all: Spiced Pumpkin Bread.  This recipe marked the start of Flour and Fancy and also happens to be the most popular recipe to date.


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I’ve made pumpkin bread fall after fall, and it never gets old.  But I wondered, “What can I do to change this up, to mix it up and add a new flavor note to my old favorite?”

There’s one rule I always live by: It’s always better with chocolate.  Pumpkin bread is no exception.

I revisited and revamped my pumpkin bread to include miniature, semi-sweet chocolate chips.  The added flavor note brings a new dimension to this bread.  It actually mutes the pumpkin flavor just a bit – but not too much – making this a great way to share pumpkin bread with someone that isn’t typically a big fan.

This bread is moist and gooey with the inclusion of the chocolate chips.  And it’s a great celebration of fall – with chocolate along for the ride.  It makes wonderful muffins, a large 9×5 loaf, or four mini loaves.  If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I love personalized sizes in my baking.  It cuts baking time and, in my opinion, makes a better gift.

I’m incredibly excited about the second year of Flour and Fancy - another year of sharing foods to savor.  As I’ve always written, cooking and baking are acts of love that are best shared.  Sharing my cooking and baking journey with you is incredibly rewarding.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for commenting.  Thank you for baking a batch of my cookies, muffins, or scones in your kitchen.  And thanks for coming back again and again.  In short, you rock.  Really.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread // Flour and Fancy

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
Makes four mini loaves, 18 standard-size muffins, or one 9×5 loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, unbeaten
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, and eggs. Blend in standing mixer on low setting until well combined.
  3. Using a sifter, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Then combine with sugar and pumpkin mixture.
  4. Add water. Mix well.
  5. Fold in 1 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips, mixing well.
  6. Using a well greased four mini loaf pan, fill each cavity to half full with mixture. A 9×5 loaf pan or muffin pan can also be used if you prefer.
  7. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.  This creates a beautiful, chocolatey top!
  8. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Bread is ready when a dark brown color is achieved and a knife can be cleanly removed.  Bread will be fairly dark due to the inclusion of the chocolate chips.  It will be darker than the color you typically look for in pumpkin bread.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes in loaf pan. Then, remove each loaf and carefully place on a cooling rack.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

 

Sand and Sweets: Images From Our Wedding

Our Wedding // Flour and Fancy

Just under two weeks ago, my long-time beau and I were married.  Yes, yes – we made it legal on the North Carolina coast at Ft. Fisher Beach.  We were both elated, anxious, overwhelmed, and filled with joy.  It was a beautiful day.

And like any beautiful day, this day had beautiful food.  It was the edibles that I most wanted to share with you.

Our cake was simple in its decor with coloring that complimented my dress.  It was exactly as I wanted – simple and refined.  Ruffles of icing roses with beach blue accents.  Inside, however, it was a chocolate smorgusboard!  Our cake was created by One Belle Bakery, a phenomenal Wilmington-area bakery with a plethora of offerings that brought a sweet accent to our day.  Our wedding cake was one of the bakery’s signature choices: “Lord Have Mercy.”  The cake is comprised of chocolate-chocolate chip cake with layers of chocolate fudge.

The cake was so rich and decadent and, combined with our butterfly-filled bellies, we were scarcely able to take more than two or three bites.  Combined with the rich icing, this was the epitome of what chocolate cake is meant to be – rich, dense, and supremely flavorful.


Our Wedding // Flour and Fancy

Alongside the cake, we had champagne, raspberry macarons, and lots of love.  Our ceremony was very intimate – I called it “elopement style” – and private.  So, while food is typically something I revel in sharing, these treats were more about savoring.

The beauty of the cake, the other sweets, all the flourish – it was the perfect accent to a perfect day.  A day that celebrated the relationship that we’ve shared for several years now and our commitment to a future together.

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So many of the sweet memories in my life are accented by food.  Call it a Southern thing.  We accent every special milestone and memory with a cake, a multi-course dinner, a signature dish.  Every memory worth remembering has a fork in the foreground.

Our nuptials were no exception.

Our Wedding // Flour and Fancy

September will now be an extra special month for us.  And I’ll never look at a multi-layered chocolate cake the same way again.

And thank you to everyone who shared with us love and well wishes.  You were held closely in our hearts on “the big day.”

Our Wedding // Flour and Fancy

Carrot Walnut Bread

Carrot Nut Bread // Flour and Fancy

Nothing beats fresh baked quick breads with ingredients right from the garden – or, in this case, your neighbor’s garden.

When I was writing about our garden this year, one element of the process that I emphasized was how much more enjoyable gardening was when you had people around you to share with.  The giving and receiving of fresh produce added a communal aspect to our gardening.  In years past, before we planted a garden of our own, we happily accepted fruits and vegetables from our neighbors.  But this year, we had our own garden bounty to share and be proud of.

So, when one of our neighbors shared some of their bright carrots, I had to give back.  Even after including the carrots in stir fry and salads, we had some left over.  And I went straight to work baking three mini loaves of carrot walnut bread, both for us to munch on and to share with our generous neighbors.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Carrot walnut bread is a great way to use those leftover carrots that are just hanging around.  Salads and a colorful stir fry, among other dinner recipes, are great ways to carrot-up your food, but carrots taste great in baked goods, too.  Instead of baking a calorie-laden carrot cake, I like to opt for carrot nut bread.  Packed with carrots, walnuts, and spices, it’s a sweet and satisfying way to eat your carrots and soothe that sweet craving, too.

This quick bread is easy and fun to make.  Two bowls, one spatula – done!  No standing mixer necessary for this one.  My recipe yields one large loaf or three ample mini loaves.  This is one you can feel good about eating as well, with olive oil versus vegetable oil and only a moderate amount of sugar.

So, here’s to gardening, here’s to carrots, and here’s to great neighbors!

Carrot Walnut Bread // Flour and Fancy

Carrot Walnut Bread
Yields one standard loaf or three mini loaves

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
  • 3/4 cup walnuts

Method

  1. Crack eggs and place in a bowl.  Beat well.  Add sugar and olive oil to eggs and mix until well combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and sea salt.  Blend very well.
  3. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, incorporating slowly and mixing well.
  4. Fold in carrots and walnuts, ensuring a thorough distribution through the batter.
  5. Using a 9×5 loaf pan or mini loaf pans, pour batter into the pan(s).  If you’re using mini loaf pans, fill until around 1/2 full.  If using a standard loaf pan, fill with all of the batter.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees.  For a standard loaf, bake for one hour or until golden brown.  For mini loaves, bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Either loaf will be fully baked when a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in pan for five minutes.  Then, gently remove to a cooling rack for further cooling.

 

 

Land Lover’s Icebox Pie

Land Lover's Icebox Pie

While many are already counting down the days until sweaters and pumpkins, we all know that summer is still with us, and she isn’t letting go just yet.  Temperatures are still quite high, and it’s not time to trade in cool desserts for warm apple pie.  No, folks, not just yet.

By now, you may have heard of Atlantic Beach Pie.

When I first encountered the recipe for Atlantic Beach Pie, I had an immediate thought: “This is so similar to the first pie I ever made!”  In terms of the filling ingredients, the similarities are strong.  With one single difference: The filling in my pie doesn’t require baking.  It also doesn’t require a source for good lemon or lime juice.  It incorporates a more semi-homemade approach.

When I was a young child and visiting my grandmother – who I called Gran Jean – she taught me to make her secret pie.  A pie I devoured.  A pie I loved.  A pie I had no idea was so simple.  She pulled together three ingredients and a store bought graham cracker pie crust and set me to work.  “Some of the best things in life as simple, Callie.  This is one of them.”  Then, one crust and three ingredients mixed together, and voila!  A pie was born.  My first pie.

Unlike the Atlantic Beach Pie, this pie has no eggs and the filling requires no baking.  The crust I make with this pie does, however, but only for seven to eight minutes.  The result is a pie with the same flavor notes but without all the baking, without the eggs, and with a crust that is, in my option, far superior.  You see, I’ve tried the Atlantic Beach Pie, and while I love the history and story surrounding it, I don’t endorse Saltine cracker crusts.  No, thank you.

So, when I learned this recipe as a kid, I was introduced to it with Cool Whip and store-bought crust involved.  I’ve since amped it up to include a homemade crust – it’s easy! – and homemade whipped cream – also easy!  The taste is more sophisticated and less processed.  You know what I mean.  Both of my grandmothers taught me a thing or two in the kitchen, and while they are both now deceased, their mad kitchen skills live on in my home day by day in the recipes I execute and an inherited way of knowing just the right combinations of ingredients to execute something amazing.

Fortunately, this pie is an excellent choice for any experience level and is also a great one to involve the kids in whipping up. It’s also great in a kitchen pinch when you need to whip up a refreshing, easy to make dessert.  This is a frozen pie that is stored in the freezer.  Just remove and cut off a slice or two to serve.

So, for we land locked many, I give you Land Lover’s Icebox Pie.  Move over, Atlantic Beach Pie.  ‘Round here, we like our crackers with pimento cheese and our pie crusts sweet.  This pie is cool, refreshing, and simple in the most perfect of ways.  And you don’t need a SPF or a local seafood joint to enjoy it!

Land Lovers Icebox Pie

Land Lover’s Icebox Pie
Yields eight servings

Ingredients

  • 1 12oz. can of frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 8 oz. whipped cream
  • 1 14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups graham crackers, finely ground
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Using a food processor, grind graham crackers until you have one and a half cups.  Place the crumbs in a medium bowl.  Add sugar and melted butter.  Mix well.
  3. Press the crust into a 9-inch pie plate.  Be sure it is evenly distributed.
  4. Bake for seven to eight minutes.  Then, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Placing the pie plate on a cooling rack assists in the process.
  5. While waiting for your crust to cool, make your whipped cream.  (Or make a mad dash to the grocery store!)  If you need a recipe for whipped cream, follow my directions included with this previously featured recipe.
  6. Once the crust is cooled completely, combine whipped cream, condensed milk, and lemonade concentrate in a medium bowl.  Mix until fully combined.
  7. Pour the filling into the pie crust.  Be careful not to overfill.
  8. Cover the pie plate and place in the freezer.  Allow to set for a minimum of three hours.
  9. Once frozen, it’s ready to serve!  Always store this pie in the freezer.

Easy Shortcuts

Need to make this pie in a pinch or just not in the mood for any baking?  Arm injury got you steering clear of the mixing spoon?  Opt for a store-bought crust and whipped cream.  This will cut the total execution time to five minutes!  Face it – we aren’t all perfect domestic divas.  Sometimes, to share something delicious with your family and friends, you’ve got to cut corners.

Our First Garden

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

This summer marked the planting of our first garden.  As a long-time city girl, I never envisioned that I’d be planting a garden, nurturing the plants, and feasting on the bounty.  However, living and eating in both country and city over the years has changed my vision of how we cook and eat.  Both my fiancé and I wanted to grow our own organic produce and eat food that we oversaw the production of.

And it was fun!  Each day, we inspected the garden, marveling at new growth and daily changes.  We grew cucumbers, green peppers, two varieties of tomatoes, basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, corn, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, watermelon, and cantaloupe.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

During our first gardening adventure, we also learned many lessons.  We called our first garden “The Experiment” and wanted this experience to be one that both yielded delicious fruits and vegetables but also lessons on what we should do differently next year.  With the heavy rains that we’ve had in our region of the country, our gardening season is quickly rolling to a close, and we’re now reflecting on what lessons and successes we had this year.  I wanted to share our gardening reflections of the year.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Research plant yields and plant what you need.  We were incredibly enthusiastic about our garden, and we purchased and planted numerous organic plants and seeds.  The results: In some cases, we grew too much!  We had more cucumbers, for example, than we could reasonably eat and give away.  Our little family can only consume so many cucumber laden salads and sandwiches.  Next year, we’re going to just plant what we need with some extra to share.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Berries grow together.  We learned that if you plan to plant berries, plant multiple plants together.  We grew blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.  We had one raspberry bush and two blueberry bushes, and we found the pollinating works best when multiple bushes are grouped together for cross-pollination.  In other words, berry bushes like to grow with friends.  With only two blueberry bushes and one raspberry bush, we lacked the advantage of cross-pollinating.  Next year, we plan to add some more bushes.


Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Share the bounty.  We didn’t grow all the vegetables we love.  In our first year of gardening, for example, we decided to avoid root vegetables.  We wanted to start with produce that we could see and easily gauge the growth of.  We’re fortunate that our neighbors garden as well, and we found that sharing the bounty was a big part of having a great gardening year.  We gave neighbors cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries, and tomatoes, and in return, we receiving zucchini, squash, carrots, and other tomato varieties.  Gardening is only made better with a communal approach, and both the sharing and receiving of vegetables and fruits made this year even better.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Plant some flowers.  Flowers are beautiful and add color to the garden.  In the case of marigolds, they have an added benefit.  The pungent scent of marigolds detract from animal presence in the garden.  In our area, there’s an abundance of deer, and deer love some good garden munchies.  We, like our neighbors, planted marigolds near and around the garden area, and we found no evidence of animal meandering in our garden.  Plus, marigold seed is incredibly inexpensive.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Love the bees.  We learned quickly not to do anything in the pursuit of insect elimination that would detract from bees hanging out in our garden.  We learned that our garden needed to be an area frequently visited by bees.  Initially, we applied a natural Chrysanthemum solution to detract from the other insects and realized that we were chasing away the bees.  Without bees, your garden is doing to be disappointing in terms of its vegetable and fruit yield.  We quickly changed our ways.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Plants need space.  We scoffed at the notion that we should plant various plants with certain space between them.  Space was a premium in the way we chose to organize our garden.  So, we planted as we chose, casting aside this advice.  While this served us well in some cases, it didn’t in others.  For example, our melons should have had more space, and we wonder if perhaps our melons would have grown larger if greater space had been given.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Above all, have fun!  Our first garden was a team effort that we both enjoyed.  Sure, some of first watermelons were the size of baseballs, but we remained positive and diligent in nurturing our garden.  This was an experiment in learning, and we took any plunders in stride.  We enjoyed watching the growth and learning what to do differently next year.  It was a project that we gained perspective from, with lots of joy and frustrations along the way.  Planting and maintaining was fun for us, and we plan to do this year after year, learning lessons along the way.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

When I watched the movement to grow your own food grow, I always thought it was a nice idea.  I made conscious efforts to seek out more farmer’s markets and local sources for my produce, but I admit that I always discounted the idea of growing my own food.  Until this summer.  I found that the garden was incredibly rewarding, and there was something incredibly satisfying about putting my own homegrown basil in my pesto, my own watermelon on my tongue.  It’s been an incredible experience.

Despite the fact that we live in a more rural area, we executed our garden in a more urban farm style.  We used lots of containers and only small areas of the yard for planting.  So, whether you live in an area where cows and deer are aplenty or a concrete jungle, you, too, can grow your food and taste the bounty of your nurturing in every bite.  I recommend this for anyone, whether you’re growing in the yard or in pots on the porch.  Growing your food is a rewarding project that is fun and a better alternative to the grocery.  A garden allows you to connect your food from seed to salad, and there’s something beautiful in that process that is missed when you grab the cellophane version at the corner market.

Our Garden // Flour and Fancy

Vanilla Macarons

Vanilla Macarons // Flour and Fancy


Macarons remain on my mind and in my oven.

After making my Chocolate Hazelnut Macarons, I went on a macaron making spree.  Macarons here.  Macarons there.  Macarons everywhere.  When I overcome a baking challenge and produce a perfect recipe, I find myself baking it over and over in sweet celebration.  And I’m continuing the celebration here with another macaron recipe: Vanilla Macarons.

Everyone needs a recipe for both chocolate and vanilla macarons in their kitchen arsenal.

Vanilla Macarons // Flour and Fancy

These vanilla macarons taste like a light, fluffy vanilla cookie.  Their texture is utter perfection.  Like a vanilla cloud in your mouth.

One other technique I’ve learned in my macaron baking journey: Refrigeration yields amazing results.  After baking a batch, placing them in the refrigerator for three or four days is the perfect time frame for a well textured macaron.  I discovered this because I made a batch but didn’t devour them for a few days afterword.  (Hard to believe, I know.)  And when I did finally get around to devouring them, I found that extended refrigeration really improved them significantly.

Vanilla Macarons // Flour and Fancy

The filling used here is a simple vanilla buttercream.  Everything about this macaron is a celebration of simplicity.  The taste notes are not highly dynamic, but their flare comes from the familiar flavors, that transportation to childhood when you were nibbling on a Vienna Finger with a glass of milk.  This is the adult version of that afternoon snack.

If you’d like to add a bolder flavor to your macarons, I recommend filling with raspberry jam or chocolate hazelnut spread instead of the vanilla buttercream I used.  Both options are delicious choices when paired with the vanilla cookie.

Vanilla Macarons // Flour and Fancy

Vanilla Macarons
Makes 12 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 drop copper gel-based food coloring
  • 1/2 vanilla bean – seeds only

Method

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Using your food processor, combine almond meal and sugar.  Pulse several times to aerate.  Process until very fine and combined.  Once complete, pour through a flour sifter in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Using your standing mixer, place the egg whites in a bowl and begin your meringue.  Using your whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until the egg whites are foamy and fairly clear.  This should take 30 to 45 seconds.  Add vanilla bean seeds and food coloring and beat on a higher setting for one minute.  Continue to beat at the same setting while adding the granulated sugar slowly.  The whites will become shiny, and the mixture will stiffen and form soft peaks.  This should take around one minute.  Do not overheat.
  4. Fold the almond meal and sugar mixture into the meringue.  Mix until just combined.  Do not over mix.  This will cause the merge to deflate.  The mix should look like cake batter.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag.  (If you don’t have a pastry bag, no problem!  Simply pour the mixture into a gallon-size plastic storage bag and cut a small hole in one of the corners.  Now you have your own improvised pastry bag!)
  6. On your lined baking sheet, pipe out one inch rounds no less than one inch apart.  Should have about 24 rounds.  Allow the baking sheets to sit on the counter for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature.  Tap the baking sheet on the counter three times before baking to release air bubbles.
  7. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating after seven minutes.  Then, transfer the sheet to a cooking rack and allow to cool completely, approximately 25 minutes.
  8. Once the macarons have cooked, begin pairing them together based on appearance.  Pick cookies that compliment each other in size and shape.  Use any filling that you enjoy.  Place a dime-sized portion of the filling on one cookie and press together.  (You can use a pastry bag for this or a small spoon.  I recommend a pastry bag for the best presentation.)  Be gentle.  Don’t allow the filling to ooze out of the sides.
  9. Place you completed macarons in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 to 36 hours before serving for further cooking and to allow them to “settle.”  I recommend allowing them to remain the refrigerator for three or four days before serving, but the 24 to 36 hour rule is essential.  After refrigeration, devour and savor!

Note: For the filling, I used a simple vanilla buttercream.  Other delicious options include whipped chocolate hazelnut spread or peanut butter or your favorite jam.  I found these to be delightful with a raspberry jam filling.

 

 

 

Berry Bounty Smoothies

Berry Bounty Smoothies // Flour and Fancy

We’ve been spending lots of time in our garden this summer.  If you follow my Instagram feed, you’ve been seeing lots of green and a variety of colored, lush bounty.  This is our first year as urban farmers, and we’re having so much fun!  And with all the fresh, organic produce filling our freezer and refrigerator, I’ve been making more smoothie concoctions than I ever thought possible.  (Cucumbers in a smoothie?  Yum!)

We planted and have grown a number of berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.  In the field behind our home, blackberries grow wild along the treelines on either side, and it’s been a longstanding tradition for us to gather them in mass, filling the freezer with bags of dark purple.  Last year, I was baking pies mostly with these beautiful berries, but this year, I’m focusing on making cool, refreshing drinks with them instead.

blueberries

With four different types of berries in my freezer, the decision was simple – use them all!  And the combination of these four berries with almond milk is a treat not to be missed.  This smoothie has a strong fruity flavor not overpowered by the inclusion of almond milk.  I’ve found in other smoothies I’ve sipped that the flavor of the fruit is overpowered by the creaminess of the milk included, making it more like a milkshake than a smoothie.

In this smoothie, however, it’s all about the fruit.

Berry Bounty Smoothies // Flour and Fancy

Aside from creating fun drinks from my seemingly endless stream of berries, I like making my own smoothies because I get to control the amount of sugar in them.  When you drop by your favorite cafe to get a cool smoothie, you’re likely taking in more than 30 grams of added sugar.  However, when you make your own, you get to make that decision for yourself.  Personally, I enjoy my smoothies with just a bit of honey and allowing the fruit to add the rest of the sweetness.  Fruit is naturally sweet, and I like it served that way.

Berry Bounty Smoothies // Flour and Fancy

Whether you get your fruit from the garden, the farmer’s market, or the grocery, I highly recommend organic produce.  My argument doesn’t center around pesticides or health.  I make this statement purely on the basis of taste.  Organic fruit just tastes better.  Try a conventionally grown strawberry and an organic strawberry.  That’s all the proof you need of what adds up to a better, sweeter berry.  And this smoothie is far more flavorful and sweet with organic fruit.  You’ll need far less sweetener when you opt for organic.

Enjoy my berry bounty smoothies for two – a sweet and refreshing celebration of the four best summer berries all in one glass!

Berry Bounty Smoothies // Flour and Fancy

Berry Bounty Smoothies
Makes two smoothies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 1 cup chilled almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients in your blender.  Pulse until fully combined and smooth.  Use a spatula to redistribute the mixture as necessary for a perfect blend.
  2. Serve in chilled glasses with a  straw and a smile.

 

 

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