May
29

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Inspiring places: Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

mosaic

When my husband and I headed to Philadelphia for Memorial Day weekend, I loved spotting mosaicist Isaiah Zagar’s gorgeous murals all over the city and at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. I’m blown away with how this award-winning artist turns broken mirrors and tiles, crumbling statues, wine bottles, bicycle spokes, and other trash into spaces to treasure!

mosaic2

May
27

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Sweet Memories

Memorial Day has a sacred purpose, to honor the men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country, and we all respect that. On the day after the solemn occasion, let’s put a more cheerful spin on “Memorial Day” with a sweet legacy one woman’s great-grandmother left her.

Lisa Fain, the Homesick Texan, doesn’t hide her talented Great-Grandma Blanche’s baking skills under a bushel…these chocolate muffins are available to the lucky readers of her recent cookbook, The Homesick Texan’s Family Table, and now to you!

Ten Speed Press, April 2014

Ten Speed Press, April 2014

“When I was going through the pile of handwritten recipe cards that had belonged to my great-grandma Blanche, this recipe for muffins jumped out at me. She called them simply Blanche’s Muffins, which didn’t tell me very much, but as I read the recipe, I realized they were chocolate muffins.

Now, my great-grandma was indeed famous for her cakes and her cookies….. These muffins, however, were a mystery. And when I asked my mom about them, she shrugged and said she didn’t believe that she’d ever tried them…..

With a cup of strong coffee or cold milk, these are a welcome addition to the breakfast table or for your afternoon snack. And if you share them with your neighbors, you will be very popular. Though they’re so good you might find yourself hoarding them, as I suspect my great-grandma did, which is why no one in the family recalls ever eating these extraordinary chocolate muffins.

Great-Grandma Blanche’s Chocolate Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

½ cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly grease twelve regular muffin cups or line them with paper liners.

Stir together the sugar, oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until well blended. Add the liquids and stir until a smooth batter forms. Stir in the chocolate chips. Fill the muffins cups three-quarters full.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top and when a knife inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.”

Copyright © 2014 by Lisa Fain. All rights reserved.

 

Photo by David Handschuh

Photo by David Handschuh

May
20

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Potluck Nashville-Style

Thomas Nelson Publishers, May 2014

Thomas Nelson Publishers, May 2014

What kind of music do you think they play at the Third Thursday Community Potluck in Nashville? It comes from a rockin’-and-rollin’ live band, I hope! Six years ago, professional caterer and food writer Nancy Vienneau took a flyer that her friends and neighbors might want to join her for something fun. The only requirement? Bring a seasonal fresh dish for sharing. I’d have been all over whoever brought the Deep-Dish Lemon Tomato and Lemon Basil Pie because of the pesto-pine nut pastry crust. Yum!

You know what? All of us, wherever we live in these bountiful United States, could do this, too.

start-vegetable-garden

Just like we could host a Soup Night. (what’s a Soup Night, you ask? Read my post of January 15 of this year.) Whether you want to start a new tradition or you’ve been invited to contribute a covered dish, Nancy’s new book, Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook, is going to be a huge help.

I’ve got my end-of-season choir potluck next month. What’s at their peak in New York State in June? Fresh-picked cherries!

cherries

I’ll be making the Cherry-Berry Magic Cobbler from this book to share that day. My friends will want to kill for it! (Well, that’s hardly in the spirit of community or church-singing, but you know what I mean!).

 

 

 

May
19

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DIY with Denis: Woolbuddies!

Woolbuddies

Everyone I work with knows I’m in love with the Woolbuddies. When the book first appeared in the office I went crazy over all the amazing, hysterical characters Jackie Huang created. When I found out the Woolbuddies came in kits, it became my personal crusade to offer them to our Crafter’s Choice club members. Head on over to the club to learn more!

May
13

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A Passion for Potluck

What is it about “potluck” that makes people smile? The chance to show off your signature dish? (Unless your signature dish is Crêpes Suzette or anything similarly flamboyant and fleeting.) The chance to taste something new? (I do appreciate a label since some casseroles can be a little mysterious.) The comfort of the familiar? (While I avoid Jell-O salad, that leaves more for the rest of you.) Whether you’re meeting up with friends and neighbors or find yourself in a small town raising funds for a new fire truck, a potluck is usually a tasty-good time.

Here’s a chance to bring something fresh and spicy to your next potluck.

KYLE Books, 2014

KYLE Books, 2014

Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau, Jamaican-born sisters, former restaurant owners and caterers, present their Modern Caribbean Cooking which, savory or sweet (or savory-and-sweet in the classic Caribbean tradition), would make a fabulous addition to any menu. Islanders have an expression for a diverse mixture and blend of things: “mix-up and blenda.” If your co-hosts are willing, why not make the whole event a mix-up and blenda? You could do worse than start with Jerked Chicken and Cashew Spring Rolls with Peanut Coconut Dipping Sauce, move on to Blue Mountain Beef Stew with Stout, and wrap it all up with Lemon Passion Fruit Squares. Not a Jell-O salad in sight!

More on other pot luck possibilities next week.