I have been baking since I was about 8 years old. While I can’t remember if it was the limp, thin petit fours or the insipid, under baked brownies that I first proudly baked and served my mother, I do recall with profound clarity that I fell in love with the baking section of mom’s cookbook collection way sooner than any of the other chapters. I have been baking, both personally and professionally, ever since that first fateful foray with flour (say that 5 times fast!).
I like to think that my skills have improved along the way. I’ve learned to really heed the instructions to stop and scrap down the bowl and beaters, chill the dough, or let the butter/cream cheese/eggs come to room temperature whenever a recipe calls for it. I’ve also learned that using the right equipment is one of the largest indicators of a recipe turning out correctly or not.
Until recently, I had a bit of a bundt cake handicap. While I own about 4 pans, from the swirled to the whirled to the traditional round-rumped (what does that even mean??? I totally made that up), most of them have left me crestfallen come turn-out time. Everything seems to be going right and then, dislodging issues arise. Every. Time. Until now.
The beautiful bundt you see above was baked last week for Huxley’s 4th birthday. We reserved his actual birthday for just some family time, since it fell on a Tuesday. Still wanting to acknowledge it in advance of the party slated four days later, on Saturday, I baked him a lemon bundt cake (recipe follows), his favorite flavor. I used the Simax glass bundt pan shown in the middle photo, and it performed perfectly. Finally, bundt success! We then packed it into the Cakebox, and carried it to a nearby park for an afternoon treat.
I was recently contacted by Annie at MightyNest, who I’ve worked with a number of times here before, about doing a giveaway. The four items shown in the last photo are included in their “Bake Your Bundt Off” package. When I saw what the package included, I immediately agreed. A glass bundt pan? This I had to try. And given how wonderfully the Piebox worked, I knew I wanted to give Cakebox a go. Not only did the cake come out with ease, the Cakebox proved to be the perfect means of transporting it from the house to the park.
Here’s a bit about what’s included in the giveaway:
*Simax Glass Bundt Pan: Instead of baking in teflon coated in PFOA, the Simax glass bundt pan offers a safe alternative as well as a gorgeous glass pan. Plus, the Simax glass bundt pan is made of borosilicate glass and can withstand temps up to 572 degrees F, whereas tempered glass can go to 425 degrees. And it’s easy to clean! Not that you’ll be baking your bundt to crazy high temps but you know for sure that the glass won’t shatter in the oven.
*Wooden Cakebox: Longtime readers might recall when I did a giveaway with MightyNest two years ago of a Piebox set. The same concept holds true with Cakebox, which, as you can easily guess, is a beautiful, handmade pine box for transporting cakes or cupcakes (of which it will hold 18).
*Tea Towel: One color (black) non-toxic water based ink printed on a 28″ x 29″ eco-friendly unbleached (natural colored) organic cotton flour sack tea towel. The folded size is approximately 7″ w x 14″ h. The artwork measures approximately just over 12″ long by approximately 6″ wide.
*Stainless Steel Serving Spatula: The RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel Spatula is an attractive spatula which is precisely the right size and shape for serving up decadent brownie squares and portions of sheet cake. The high grade 18/8 stainless steel spatula is right at home at the dinner table or buffet. Small in size, it is the perfect size.
How great is that package? So good. Best of all, though, is what MightyNest will do for a school of your choosing: give them $100! And why would they do that? Because MightyNest believes in engendering healthy, positive school environments right alongside home environments. They’re an online retailer with a positive mission: providing the natural, organic, and non-toxic products that parents seek for their home while also giving back to schools. Everything they sell is selected with the highest standards for safety and quality. Glass and stainless baking gear and food storage. Green cleaning supplies. Natural bath products, and other home essentials. And everything is selected to be free from known toxic ingredients such as: BPA, PVC, Phthalates, Lead, Formaldehyde, flame retardants, Parabens and more.
Anytime you order from MightyNest, they’ll give 15% back to the school of your choice. It’s a great way to be healthier and support your local school. And with this particular giveaway, they’ll give $100 to the school of your choice. Such a great business to get behind!
To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is click thru the widget below. It runs through November 15th, so go ahead and enter and encourage your loved ones to do so as well!:
Even if you don’t win, do pop over to MightyNest and check out their wonderful offerings, including those detailed here. A company with a bottom line that gives back to schools is one I can absolutely get behind. And here’s wishing you much baking success!
Also, here’s the recipe for the Lemon Bundt Cake, from Martha Stewart (for what it’s worth, I omitted the Lemon Syrup called for in the recipe and it turned out delicious):
Lemon Bundt Cake
-1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
-3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
-2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
-6 large eggs
-1 cup sour cream
-Lemon Syrup (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; mix in lemon juice.
With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture, sour cream, and lemon juice, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until incorporated (do not overmix). Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Firmly tap pan on a work surface to level batter.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean; 55 to 60 minutes (if cake browns too quickly, tent loosely with aluminum foil). Let cake cool in pan 30 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. (To store, wrap cake in plastic and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.) Poke holes all over the cooled cake, and brush with lemon syrup. If the cake does not absorb all the syrup at once, allow to sit about 20 minutes before continuing to brush with any remaining syrup.
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, whisk the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved.
When I was pregnant with Huxley, like any woman carrying their first child, I felt an intense array of emotions. Ecstatic, anxious, blissful, scared, sometimes all of them within the course of an hour (or, on particularly rough days, less). I questioned my mom and my father’s wife about their birth experiences, asked my mom friends about theirs, and turned to quite a few books (Birthing From Within was just what I needed to hear, the way I needed to hear it).
Now that I’ve had a baby, I know what to expect. Not that each birth isn’t different, should I have another child. It’s just that, well, I’ve been down that path, I know where it goes, and I know where it eventually ends up, even if there are some unforeseen branches or boulders encountered en route. I’ve felt kicking in my stomach for the first time. I’ve experienced what it is like to have your unborn child hiccup inside of you (it’s freaky; that’s just honest). I know now the sensation of my water breaking, what a contraction feels like, and when your body gives you the head’s up that it’s time to push (full disclosure for those not in the know: you feel like you’ve got to “go”, now).
What would’ve been wonderful during the pregnancy, though, was a space that was just for me. A place to chronicle my experiences and chart my journey and convey my fears and hopes without worry about judgement, admonishment, or correction. A pregnancy diary, of sorts, with images of round mamas-to-be, mamas in labor, and mamas with their new ones, reveling in and recovering from the birth process. Drea of These Little Joys has created exactly what I’m talking about.
Her Blissful Belly Coloring Journal is a wonderful means of positively directing the avalanche of emotions and questioning pregnant women often experience. As she details it, the journal will aid in allowing you to:
*Take time to relax and enjoy being pregnant.
*Put yourself in the same state of mind you will be in during birth (right brain mode).
*Give yourself the gift of presence and peace.
*Coloring is relaxing and fun, let your inner artist out.
*Connect with your baby and let yourself envision a peaceful birth.
*Take the words of encouragement contained on these pages with you into labor.
*Recall the calm you felt while coloring as you are birthing your baby.
*Calm your nerves, allow yourself to focus your intention.
*Decorate your birth alter or nursery with your finished images.
Drea sent me the PDF of the coloring journal and it’s truly lovely. Each image she has rendered is full of love and compassion and, well, just kind of a sense of “understanding.” As a mother of three, she’s definitely travelled down this road before. Lucky for us all, she’s offered to give away a copy of the journal to one small measure reader. Yay! Whether you’re pregnant or have a sister/friend/daughter/niece/aunt/loved one who is, Drea’s journal will be most welcome.
The journal comes in an electronic file format, a PDF, that is then printed out by you. That’s why having an email address attached to your entry is very important. Drea will use the winning email to send you the file. To be entered in the giveaway, simply leave a comment here. It can be about anything related to pregnancy, or just “pick me!” I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding next Thursday, July 3rd, midnight EST. Since the giveaway comes in an electric format, international entries are most welcome!
I wish you all the best, and thank you Drea for both your small measure sponsorship and for your generosity with the giveaway!
I’m not going to lie. Sometimes, even for a seasoned canner like myself, well, I just loose my water bath mojo. My inspiration goes kaput, I stare at fresh produce wondering “what? how?” and nothing comes. Sure, things like apple butter and bread & butter pickles and sweet pickle relish and applesauce and the other usual suspects will forever be in production ’round here. No problem there. Something that switches up the routine, though, that brings back the sizzle and the thrill to the entire process is truly a godsend.
Enter Preserving By the Pint. Marisa McClellan, of the award-winning canning blog and book Food In Jars, has done it again. Just as I was when her first book came out, Marisa’s new book has me oohing, ahhing, and audibly declaring “I’m totally going to make that!” page after beautiful page. There is so much inspiration here. What I think I love the most about it, though, aside from the fact that the recipe yields are small (1-2 pints or half pints, mostly), is that it steps outside of just water bath-canned foods.
There are recipes for fermenting, for quick pickles, for syrups, for salts, for granola, for pestos, and for a medley of otherwise preserving foods in jars. There are, of course, numerous creative, delicious-sounding jams, jellies, chutneys, curds, salsa, pickles, sauces, and other water bath-canned delicacies. Also included are a number of “vehicles” for your provisions, if you will, including whole wheat biscuits, jam-glazed chicken legs, vinaigrettes, and more. It’s genius, really, and exquisitely photographed (the images shown here are photographs I took of the images in the book-they don’t really do Marisa’s photos justice, but you can at least get a sense of how lovely the real photographs are). And that Orange Cardamom Curd on pages 176-177? Mercy. Speaking my language, you are, Ms. McClellan.
I recently had the immense pleasure of jumping the digital to real-world fence with Marisa. She was on the southern leg of her book tour and made an overnight stop and demonstration at Villagers mid-April. Long proponents of each other’s works (she’s got a guest recipe in my forthcoming beverage book “Quench”, which publishes in October!), we thought it would be fantastic to give each other real world hugs and such during her stay. Marisa stayed overnight with us and even was game enough to play ninjas with Huxley, “sparring” with him, using his ninjas “weapons”, the works. She must be an awesome aunt to her nephew, Emmett, who’s right around Huxley’s age. Marisa is true blue. She’s genuine, and smart, and quick-whitted, and easy to talk to, and all the things you hope to find in someone you’re already quite taken with online.
And, best of all, she and her publisher Running Press have generously agreed to give away a copy of Preserving By the Pint to one small measure reader. Woohoo! All you need to do to enter is tell me what you’re excited to preserve. From strawberry jam (Marisa’s recipe for a honey-sweetened version has become Huxley’s jam of choice around here!) to fermented radishes (I love this recipe of hers; we’ve incorporated the slices into everything from sandwiches to frittata), I’m excited to can pretty much everything in Preserving By the Pint. This book is a serious keeper, for sure, and since it’s arranged around the four seasons, I’ll be finding inspiration year-round.
The giveaway will run for one week, concluding next Thursday, June 19th, at midnight EST. Please leave a means of contacting you in your reply, either by leaving your email address in your comment or in your comment information (which is visible only to me).
Happy canning friends, and thanks to Marisa and Running Press for helping me find my canning mojo again!
Once upon a time, I was a Noxema girl. And a White Rain girl. And a Wet & Wild girl (also, a 3 Muskateers bar and Mountain Dew girl, but that’s another story for another day). This was years ago, when I was still in middle and high school and hadn’t yet had a fateful encounter with a friend who introduced me to a whole new way of living. That way of living and doing and being, it turned out, was an all-natural, chemical-free one.
That friendship, and the new approach it offered, left an indelible mark on me. After meeting Laura, I started paying more attention to both what I ate and what I put on my body. We parted ways when I was 16, and moved across the state with my mom and brother, but the lessons learned from her and her family’s orientation to life have left a lasting, life-long impression. I went on to work in a range of natural foods stores in my 20’s, and then later pursued a degree in holistic nutrition (as well as another in sociology).
These days, if you were to peek inside my fridge, pantry, bathroom shelves, or medicine cabinet, you’d find a whole bunch of realness. Real ingredients, and super simple ones, at that. My beauty regimen, if you could even really call it that, goes like this: wash face with water, pat dry, put on Burt’s Bees Repair Serum under eyes and Skin Fare during the day and The Dew (purchased from the recently shuttered Cisthene, sniff) mixed with pure coconut oil at night. Like I said, super, ultra simple. Make-up for me is a bit of Burt’s Bees Raisin Lip Shimmer and, if I’m feeling really fancy, maybe a tiny bit of mascara.
That’s why I love the products Ashley Smith of the The Tiny Farm Co. is producing. Based on a few acres in Arkansas, Tiny Farm Co. makes all-natural body and home care products, all by hand. Whether you’re looking for an all-purpose soap cleaner, pet shampoo, bar soap, lip balm, wooden spoons, knit goods (coming soon!), or fresh eggs or veggies (if you’re local), The Tiny Farm Co. has a lovely natural item for you. My personal favorite might just be their coconut oil bar soaps. Available plain or scented with lemongrass, sweet orange & pomegranate, or cedar wood, these soaps produce a thick lather and are deeply moisturizing. I speak from experience, as Ashley very generously sent me a package of goodies to sample, including three bars of soap, a tube of coconut oil lip balm (so, so good!), and some beautiful hand-burnished wooden kitchen spoons.
Now’s your chance to experience Ashley’s wonderful products for yourself! She’s offering a Tiny Farm Co. care package to one lucky small measure reader. The package, shown above, includes: one bar of Coconut Oil Lemongrass Soap, one bar of Coconut Oil Tea Tree Soap, one bottle of All Purpose Liquid Soap, one tube of Coconut Oil Lip Balm, and one set of burned spoons. How fantastic is that? To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment sharing your favorite body care product. In addition to nicely scented body soap, I really, really love bath salts. So nice to slip into the tub and soak away whatever ails you.
I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding May 21st, midnight EST. Please be sure to leave a means of contacting you in your reply, should you be the winner (email addresses are visible only to me when you’re logged in for commenting, unless you write it as part of your comment).
Even if you don’t win, Ashley’s got something for you. On the website, she is currently offering a free gift with any order over $25. I’m telling you, those coconut soap bars are not to be missed!
Thanks, Ashley, and best of luck to you, dear readers!
From May 2000 to February 2003, I lived in the town of Weaverville, NC. Located about 10 minutes north of Asheville, the small hamlet was just beginning to experience a revival of sorts at that time. In the ensuing 11 years, its main street has been completely revitalized, and I now consider Weaverville to be one of the most charming small towns in the area.
Along with a vibrant dining scene (the Well Bred Bakery is a perennial favorite, with eclairs the size of baby’s heads), gorgeous parks, small organic farms, and an environmentally friendly dry cleaner, Weaverville is also home to a number of artisans. Ceramicists, painters, glass blowers, woodworkers, metal smiths, jewelers-a wide community of makers live and work in Weaverville.
Several weeks ago, I was contacted by Sherida Buchanan and Steve Forbes on behalf of the Weaverville Art Safari. A free, two-day, family friendly event happening April 26-27th, the Art Safari is a self-guided tour of artists’ home studios in the scenic area surrounding the villages of Weaverville and Barnardsville, NC. Occurring every spring and fall since April 2001, it’s a wonderful opportunity to peruse the wares of and purchase directly from these artists.
Participants use the Art Safari map to plan their route through Weaverville and the surrounding communities. Area artists open their studios to guests for the day, mingle, and talk about the creative process. Some also offer demonstrations and door prizes. It’s a wonderful chance to experience world-class art on an extremely personal level and meet some extraordinary folks.
In addition to sponsoring small measure for the month of April, Sherida and Steve offered to give away two tickets to the Weaverville Art Safari Preview Party to a small measure reader. Held at the Weaverville Town Hall at 7 p.m. on April 25th (the night before the Safari), the preview party includes a silent auction, music, light bites, and door prizes. It’s a great evening and a nice excuse to explore downtown Weaverville. Glenn, Huxley, and I will be going, and would love to see some of you there!
Clearly, this event is open only to Western NC locals. To enter, simply leave a comment saying what type of handmade, artisan item you’re looking for. Glenn and I love pottery and are always on the lookout for ceramics (Melissa Weiss is one of our favorites). I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding next Thursday, April 17th, midnight EST. A winner will be randomly selected and contacted via email (so be sure to leave a means of contacting you in your reply!). I’ll forward your information on to the preview party organizers and they’ll hold your two tickets for you at the door or mail them to you, your choice.
Even if you don’t win the tickets to the preview party, consider hitting up the Safari itself. It’s entirely free, takes place in a gorgeous setting, and supports a worthwhile cause. Plus, you could always conclude the day with an eclair.