As the story goes, he needed dessert, right away.
The Apple Blossom Queen was on her way.
A simple, slightly sweet treat would be perfect. 
And of course, it had to involve apples.
So he whipped together a quick pie.
(Some people make the mistake of calling it cake – but it is a pie – I assure you.)
He layered spice cake, whipped vanilla frosting, and applesauce.
It was name Winchester Cream Pie.
It was a hit and became a tradition.

The Apple Blossom Queen hails from Winchester Virginia.
This is the home to the annual Apple Blossom Festival.
The he in this story is my Great-Grandfather who cooked for the Pentagon. 
Here is his quick, delicious recipe:

the STUFF:

yellow cake box mix (+needed ingredients)
heavy whipping cream

what TO DO:

prepare the cake according to the instructions on the box
add cinnamon & nutmeg to the batter (according to your taste)
bake in two 9” cake pans, again according into the instructions on the box

while the pies are baking . . .
pour the heavy cream into a large mixing bowl
whipped on high
add sugar and vanilla (according to taste)
whip until little peaks form

once the cakes have cooled, carefully cut each cake in half 
(*use a long knife, keep your hand on the top of the cake)
on a nice platter, assemble #1 layer:
place the cake down
frost with generous amounts of whipped cream
finally spoon generous amounts of applesauce on the middle of the cake, then spread evenly
(*leave an inch border so the applesauce does not leak out)
repeat with the remaining three layers
add a little more cinnamon and nutmeg on top for garnish

- Coco

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Today is a splendid day for brownies.
Maybe because it is Tuesday and the weekend seems too far away.
Maybe because that warm weather was simply a tease, and it is now snowing again.
Maybe because my fuzzy socks are so warm and the walk to studio seems so long.
Maybe just because chocolate is delicious.
Maybe just because.

I think homemade brownies are tricky.
Sometimes they are too caky.
Sometimes they are too thin.
Sometimes they are too chewy (the super, plastic-like chewy).
Sometimes they are just not chocolaty enough.

Boxed brownies are simple and quick (although waiting for them to bake always seems to take forever – anyway)
Boxed brownies also seem to get the balance just right.

The challenge: a brownie that is just the right chew, with a crusty top, and a rich chocolaty flavor.  Butter makes things cakey.  Most homemade brownies call for just butter.  Boxed brownies call for oil.  A recipe with both butter and oil might get the balance just right.  Here’s my attempt:

1/3 Cup cocoa
1/2  Cup hot coffee
1/4  Cup unsweetened chocolate (chop into 1” pieces, or use morsels)
1/2  Cup oil
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs + 1 yolk (using just the yolk will contribute to our chew factor)
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
2 – 1/2 Cups sugar
1 – 3/4  Cups all-purpose flour
3/4  Teaspoon salt
3/4  Cup bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks/bits
1/2  Cup chopped pecans
5 heaping Tablespoons peanut butter + 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar

what TO DO
in a small bowl . . .
sift together flour & salt

in a large bowl . . .
add  cocoa and pour hot coffee over (I used a coffee flavor called Mocha-Nut Fudge!)
whisk well until fully incorporated
immediately add unsweetened chocolate, again whisking until fully incorporated
add oil and butter, whisking just until incorporated
add eggs, one at a time, whisking just until incorporated
(*trick: to separate the yolk from the white: carefully crack the egg, keeping the yolk in one half of the shell.  Using the two shell halves, transfer the yolk back and forth between the halves over a separate bowl; the whites should fall into the bowl.)
add vanilla, stir
add sugar, stir
add flour mixture in two parts, fully incorporate, but be careful not to over stir!
with a rubber spatula fold in chocolate chips/chucks/bits and pecans

in a small bowl . . .
stir together peanut butter and dark brown sugar

in a pan (approximately 13 X 9”) . . .
prepare pan by: buttering/flouring or line with parchment paper
(*parchment paper allows for clean & easy removal from pan. )
pour batter into prepared pan, lightly smooth over with rubber spatula
spoon and spread 5 heaping tablespoons of peanut butter evenly spaced lengthwise (evenly spaced left – right)
using a fork spread the peanut butter widthwise (top – bottom)
run the fork lengthwise (left – right) to create a mixed pattern of the peanut butter & batter

in the oven . . . 
adjust the rack to the lowest position
preheat to 350 F
bake for 30- 35 minutes 
eat warm

conclusion: my attempt was a success!  The brownies were definitely heavy – more like a rich dessert bar than a slice of cake.  I used extra virgin olive oil (of course).  I maybe should have used lighter oil.  Maybe next time. 

- Coco

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I was meeting Sally.
They give you a key
I don’t remember exactly,
it was no fortune
or a king’s ransom,
I sort of forget –
you can’t blame them.
I imagine she’s nervous
I hated for her to know

But I didn’t ever do it.

1 Pound skinless, boneless chicken
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
2 Teaspoons brown sugar
1 green pepper
1 yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1/2 Teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
2 Teaspoons fresh ground pepper

what TO DO

Marinade . . .

Combine: 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch/water.  Whisk well.

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and toss in marinade.  Transfer chicken to a shallow dish/bowl and pour excess marinade over the chicken.  

Sauce . . .

Combine 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch/water, and brown sugar.  Whisk well.  Add seasoning, garlic, and cashews.

In a skillet, heat slowly on medium-low until aromatic.

Cook . . .

In another skillet, while the sauce is heating, cook chicken just until the meat is white.

When the sauce is aromatic, add the onions and green pepper to the sauce, sauté on medium-low. 

Once the chicken is white, add it to the sauce and simmer on medium-low until the sauce thickens.  If the sauce is too thick, add a little water.  Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve . . .

Over steamed rice. 


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Killing Time

The crickets cease their abrasive symphony
The clocks hesitate, as if out of courtesy
The plane of the earth collapse, monuments
Topple quietly, just the sound of our breath

A drop of water, suspended

Seconds, like raindrops
Over the ocean

- Eviler Yank

Blake’s Gnarly Granola

the STUFF:

4 Cups old fashioned oats
1 Cup slivered (or chopped) raw almonds
3/4 Cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 Teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Cup honey
1/4 Cup vegetable oil
1/2 Cup dark brown sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 Cup dried fruit  (cranberries + cherries)

what TO DO:
in a large bowl . . .
mix oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt

in a small saucepan . . .
melt butter on low heat, until nutty in aroma
add honey, stirring
add vegetable oil, stirring
add brown sugar, stirring
remove from heat
add vanilla
pour into large bowl on top of oat mixture
(add gradually, stirring)
mix well, fully incorporate the wet mixture into the dry mixture

in the oven . . .
preheat to 375 F
line a baking sheet with parchment paper
dump the granola mixture onto the sheet, spreading thin & evenly
bake for approximately 45 minutes
(mix the granola every 15 minutes)
add the dried fruit after 30 minutes
once crisp, remove from oven & let cool

enjoy plain, with milk, over yogurt, atop ice cream, with fresh fruit
store in an airtight container for up to one week (if it lasts that long)

- Coco

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I know, I know . . . It’s been awhile.  My apologies.  I will spare you the excuses and get straight to the post.


HOME MADE bread.

Baking bread is not very difficult – I swear.  You do not need a bread maker.  You do not even need bread flour.  You just need time.  And patience.  I am usually impatient when it comes to baking bread.  But this time, I am NOT going to rush.  This recipe is adopted from Chasing Delicious; this website is absolutely delightful.  Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread:


3/4 Cup bread flour (all-purpose flour can be substituted in equal parts)
1 – 1/8 Cups milk (preferably whole)
1/4 Cup honey
1 Teaspoon active dry yeast

1/2 Cup + 2 Tablespoons bread flour (again, all-purpose flour substituted in equal parts)
1/2 Teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4  Cup butter
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup raisins

1/4  Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon nutmeg
1/8 Cup butter

what TO DO
Scald the milk on stovetop (heat milk on low, until it starts to bubble, approx. 8 minutes. Continue heating for an additional 2 mintues.)

Let the milk cool (to 115 F), pour into a large bowl & dissolve the yeast

Add honey & flour; whisk for a minute or two, until a thick batter forms

Let the sponge RISE FOR 1 HOUR (or up to 24 hours, if overnight cover and place in fridge)

In the bowl add the remaining flour, yeast, and butter (the butter should be super soft)

Knead in the bowl for 2 minutes.  Add salt, knead for 10 minutes.  Add rasisins, knead for 1 minute.

Cover the bowl and let the dough RISE FOR 2 HOURS (or until it doubles in size) 

Knead the dough for 1 minute, punching it down to remove the air, let the dough RISE FOR 1 HOUR IN THE FRIDGE

On a floured surface roll the dough to ½ inch thick (about 7 inches wide by 12 inches long)

Melt remaining butter & brush half on the dough (leaving ½ inch gap around the edges.

Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg & sprinkle the mixture evenly over the dough (again leaving ½ inch gap). 

Roll the dough tightly along its length, brushing with butter as you roll.  Pinch the edges together and tuck into a prepared (buttered & floured) bread pan.  Sprinkle some extra cinnamon-nutmeg-sugar atop.   

Let the dough RISE FOR 2 HOURS (until it doubles in volume)

Place rack at the bottom of the oven & preheat to 350 F.  Bake for 50 minutes (until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean).  Resist the urge to open the oven too early. 

Remove from oven, let the bread cool and settle before serving . . . or before making . . .    

March reminds me of french toast.  The world is melting - the promise of Spring.  Try THIS recipe with your homemade bread.  Enjoy!   
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