a cloud sculpture central park a magnolia central park south blossoms west fifty seven (six)A few weeks ago I was in Manhattan for a quick research trip with my mom (though all researchers know that there is no such thing as quick research).  It was snowing when we flew into the city at midnight, and despite cool temperatures, there were signs of spring throughout the city.  These photos were taken nearby Central Park South.  Sculpture by Olaf Breuning.

1 morning superpowers muffin half sweet potato 2 roasted sweet potato skinned in foil 3 ingredients morning superpowers muffins 4 empty batter bowl with scoop 4 ready to bake morning superpowers muffins 6 morning superpowers muffin in tinIf ever a muffin were meal-worthy and meaty, this is the one.  It begins with a mashed sweet potato and ends with a team of ‘superfoods’ encased in the batter.  This is the type of muffin that you throw in your backpack before a hike or grab on the way out the door to make up for breakfast.  Or better yet, have it for breakfast, toasted and topped with peanut (or other nut/seed) butter, and you will face the day as a force to be reckoned with!  The recipe below is a riff on a paleo inspired recipe for Morning Glory Muffins.  My version includes dried blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed, and coconut.  Did I mention that there is no butter, oil, or refined sugar in them; they really are super muffins.

Morning Superpowers Muffins

Ingredients:
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato (one small-medium sweet potato)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs (slightly whisked)
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1/2 cup all purpose flour (3/4 cup almond flour for GF version)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cardamom
1 t vanilla extract
1 t baking powder
___
1/8 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)
1-2 T flaxseed
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup raw walnuts
___
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl (in three steps) until fully blended.
  3. Coat muffin tin with cooking spray or papers and divide batter evenly.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool completely.  Even better the next day.  Makes 6 big ones!

1 close up slice glazed hot toddy bundt 2 lemon bourbon honey glaze on bundt 3 four roses bourbon lemons honey jar 3 lemon zest sugar 4 creaming butter sugar lemon bundt mixing batter hot toddy lemon bundt slicedHot toddy weather seems to be here to stay this winter. It seemed only natural to me to create a bundt cake inspired by the honey lemon bourbon beverage.  The perfect slice to complement hot tea, hot toddy, or hot company.

Hot Toddy Bundt Cake
adapted from Taste of Home

Cake
1 cup butter, softened
zest of two lemons
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 teaspoons bourbon

Glaze
juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon bourbon
2 cups confectioners’ sugar (maybe more)

In a bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream and bourbon. Beat just until blended. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. tube pan. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Whisk together glaze ingredients. Using a pastry brush, coat the surface with glaze. Repeat every ten minutes or so to build up a sweet layer (think of it like basting). If you do not have the time or patience, thicken the glaze with additional confectioners’ sugar to make a frosting for spreading over the top.

ornament snow cap small backdrop small in focus snow top small layers snowy creek small walking small with mushroom platter snowA quiet hike in the snowy woods on New Year’s Day, before the snow fell heavily. And haiku inspired by the photos.

edging the tree trunks
fungi catch the weightless flakes
perches for snowfall

frozen apples hang
high in the snowy forest
nature’s ornaments

thin layer of ice
beneath reflection and snow
looks like the night sky

candy plate decorating gingerbread castle cinderella candy castle coach cinderella mice candy castle roof gumdrop snowman alienI’ll admit that I was not thrilled with the idea that my niece chose a prefab Cinderella castle kit from the store for our annual gingerbread session this year.  She loves to bake and is now old enough to see the project through from scratch.  I was looking forward to designing our own charming chalet or creative candy cottage a la Hansel and Gretel.  In the end, the gingerbread castle we put together from the kit still allowed for unique touches.  My favorite parts are the mice dancing on the roof and the alien-looking snowmen with the blue eyes (all from the brain of the sweet five-year-old).  I need to remember that these activities are, above all, about togetherness and that the outcome will inevitably be as unique and fabulous as the individuals involved.

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