Together with my sister and her kids, we hand-cranked a batch of vanilla ice cream with our grandma/great-grandma on the cement outside of her front yard. We were celebrating her 85th birthday… the same way we did when my sister and I were kids.
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These are a few pictures from the whirlwind Eastbound research & family road trip I took with my mom several weeks ago. Yep, that’s the trip I made the granola for; behold! it was a snack lifesaver after two engine-smoking tows and one hazy and stormy Hudson River migraine. We reconnected with family, made new friends along the way, and were introduced to new tastes like Scrapple, Water Ice & Custard, Reuben Egg Rolls, and fresh Sheep’s Milk Ricotta.
Little did I know the directions my life would be moving in when I took off in the car that May day. I did not mean to abandon this blog, but I did mean to enjoy life’s moments as they unfolded. For one reason or another, taking pictures and posting them in a blog article did not quite fit.
I am away from home again as I write, this time I’m in Chicago for a library conference. During these two trips I have been struck by the feelings of home I have felt while being away, away from my fairly predictable home base. These feelings are still difficult for me to articulate, but I am working on it. I do know that having people in my life to share these moments with, big and small, at home and away, makes all the difference.
So, hello again! and I hope that all of you have experienced those tangible and intangible feelings of home since I’ve been away from the cozywalls blog. I’ll be back sooner than later this time; I participated in my first-ever community food swap last weekend!
My mom’s cousin from Texas commented on my recent use of molasses: “A staple in every Hoosier’s kitchen!” On that note, I hereby declare a week of molasses recipe-sharing at cozywalls.com. These cookies come by way of my Great-Grandmother’s Sister-in-Law, Aunt Velma. Though I never knew her, I cannot mistake the smell of these cookies baking in the oven: the combination of cloves and molasses warms the soul.
When I was little, my mom would let me roll the dough balls in a bowl of sugar before placing them on the cookie sheet. For this batch I used some pretty big sparkle sugar, and the added crunch and shimmer was a delightful result (don’t be fooled by the crunch though, these cookies are also soft-middled). Usually paired with a glass of milk or mug of tea, this week at the store there was a bargain on black cherry gelato. Together with that blackstrap molasses cookie, the gelato was transformed into a black forest trifle of molasses sorts. I like to think of it as Blackstrap Forest.
Aunt Velma’s Molasses Cookies
Preheat Oven to 375-degrees
3/4 cups shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
about 2 cups flour
Roll in balls “the size of walnuts” and dip in sugar. Bake 8-10 minutes.
A la mode. That’s right, it’s like a root beer float in a bowl minus the extra burps. After a few failed attempts at creating a root beer cookie suitable for a hand-held ice cream sandwich, I revisited an old family recipe as home base. My great-grandmother’s Brown Sugar Cookies* are subtly spicy and soft cookies, some of the coziest I know. I returned to my mom’s old recipe keeper for the directions (a snapshot of my cookie-loving childhood), then made a Root Beer Buttercream frosting for the tops. Looking at the photos I took, these are more root beer perches than floats, but you get the idea. Ice cream on top or bottom: tasty pairing either way.
Root Beer Buttercream
Heat up 1/4 C Root Beer – great time to use flat pop.
(for exceptional root beer intensity, reduce a can on the stovetop for ~15 min.)
Mix in 2 T brown sugar till it dissolves.
Add 2 T butter and stir until melted.
Whisk in confectioner’s sugar until you reach desired consistency.
*You may have the cookie recipe if you join my family or offer a suitable exchange. In my mom’s words, “you’re not putting that recipe on the internet, are you?!”
It seems as though the minute I landed in Philadelphia, it was Spring. The past few days have been unseasonably warm. I ate a Geno’s cheese steak in 70+ degree weather! The outdoor basketball courts and city playgrounds were packed. Fruit lined the narrow city streets of the Italian Market. On a conference break, I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Ripple ice cream in a pretzel cone. Pretzel cone, more on that later. Spring bulbs were in bloom by Independence Hall, Rocky and “The Thinker.” All pleasant Philadelphia Spring surprises.
Do you have a tree-gazing beverage of choice? You know, a special drink to sit and sip once the tree is decorated and lit. Mine is a pink snow float. Assembly involves a few scoops of peppermint ice cream drenched with ginger ale (of course, if tree decorating is extra-challenging, a splash of gin may also be appropriate). Once the ginger ale is poured, a frothy pink bubblemound will appear at the top! Ginger and peppermint are as easy on my taste buds as they are on my tummy.