You Mean the Stuff Inside Fig Newtons?

Growing figs is a tradition in my family. My parents have close to a dozen edit: half-dozen re-edit: dozen(!) trees of various varieties, originally obtained from “the fig man” on Long Island. All of their trees are planted in large pots so they can be brought into a protected, but cool, place (aka the garage) to go dormant for the winter. So, when Tim and I got our first fig tree (as a honeymoon souvenir from Jefferson’s Monticello), we continued in the same tradition of bringing it in every winter. I probably shouldn’t mention that it died in our apartment kitchen one winter when we were living in our apartment.

a few tiny figs we were able to pick last summer before the squirrels got them…

However, over the years, we’ve seen several examples of figs thriving outdoors year-round — especially in more urban areas. So we decided to try it with the two trees we now have (both splits from my parents’ trees). We were fairly confident that our trees would survive the winter, but took several steps to make that success even more certain.

First, we planted them in the sunniest spot in the yard, which because of the fence, is also fairly sheltered from winds…

Then we rigged up a big cage out of two tomato cages, inside which we hung burlap. Said burlap was attached with twist ties and held down at the bottom by bricks…

Next, we filled the cavity with oh… about a kajillion leaves…

and lastly, we covered the top with more burlap. Fancy, right?

Then this guy came by to wish us good luck with his last dying breath.
Well, not really, but it makes for a more dramatic story, doesn’t it?

And then winter happened.

And happened some more.

And happened even more,

until we could hardly stand it anymore!!!

Finally spring arrived (sigh), and we decided it was safe to open up the cage and let the little figgies out…

aaaand we have buds, people!

We may have to prune a bit off the top of one of the trees, but overall, it seems to have been a successful over-wintering!
Now, if we could just keep the squirrels away…


Kitchen Runner (on the Cheap)!


Our Mother’s Day Brunch

Growing up, our family tradition for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, was to bring the honoree breakfast-in-bed. Although we no longer do the “in-bed” part, we still continue the tradition of making a surprise special meal for the day. So, on Sunday, my sisters and I put together a Mother’s Day “brunch” for our mom. And I have to say, we did a decent job…although she probably won’t appreciate that I’m posting her picture here. Get over it, Mom, there’s another one further down, too. :P~


  • Mimosas
  • Coffee and Tea
  • Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Mushrooms, and Feta
  • Biscuits with Creamed Chipped Beef or Creamed Veggie Sausage
  • Turkey, Beef, and Veggie Bacon
  • Salad of Watercress, Spring Garden Greens, and Fennel with Orange Dressing and Almonds
  • Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Coffee or Almond Icing
  • Biscuits with Berries and Fresh Whipped Cream

And now to the pictures…
pretty in pink hydrangeas and Tim’s painting, “Sheaf”

Momma: “Mmmm, I love cream chipped beef!”
Me: “Yes, we know. That’s why we made it.”

Timmy’s plate

Too busy eating to talk

Andrea’s diggin’ the veggie bacon

Tamarind, Amy, and Jamie gettin’ jiggy with the desserts

One can never have cupcakes too often…chocolate with almond and coffee icings

Biscuits topped with fresh strawberries, cherries, and fresh whipped cream. Yum!

Does your family have any Mother’s Day traditions?
Did you or your family do anything special for Mother’s Day this year?

Irish Soda Bread

Okay, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now…
Yes, I posted Two. Days. In. A. Row.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

I’m 100% Italian. So, my family never formally celebrated St, Patrick’s Day. But I did grow up having corned beef with cabbage and Irish Soda Bread for dinner. My opinion is: good food, is good food, no matter your background.

So, on Wednesday, a whim of tradition won me over, and I decided to make soda bread. I did a quick online search for a simple recipe, and settled on this, aptly named, Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread.

I followed the basic recipe, making these adjustments:

  1. I used salted butter instead of margarine.
  2. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep buttermilk on hand. Since most of my baking is on-the-whim, an “equivalent” is often necessary. The basic equivalent for 1 cup of buttermilk is 1 1/3 T. white vinegar + enough milk (cow, soy, whatever) to make 1 cup.
  3. I added 1 cup of currants or raisins (soaked in warm water for about 15 minutes, then drained) after the milk and egg are added to the flour mixture.

Our oven is a bit off, so after the stated 50 minutes, I found that the loaf was not done. Because the crust was sufficiently golden, I was afraid the crust and currants might burn (we don’t want that – burnt raisins/currants taste nasty). So, I tented the loaf with foil before returning it to the oven for an additional twenty minutes, checking periodically, until the center was fully baked.

Don’t even think about it, Moo!

That evening at small group, we enjoyed the bread (with a schmear of butter) along with our coffee and tea. Afterwards, I realized the loaf was pretty much a giant scone. Makes sense, I guess. I figure the dough can be divided into a dozen or so small rounds or wedges, and the baking time shortened, for a lovely brunch or tea-time snack.

I will definitely be saving this recipe for next year, but won’t be surprised if I pull it out much sooner.

Does your family have any St. Patrick’s Day food traditions?
I’m particularly curious about the non-Irish folk.

Christmas Baking and Giving

I’m not a big baker, but I usually do some cookie-making around the holidays. And I like to try at least one new recipe each year. Last year, I concentrated on Italian cookies, and I continued the theme this year. My most recent round-up included florentines†, sesame cookies*, chocolate pistachio biscotti, and of course, my favorite, pignoli (pine nut) cookies*.

(clockwise from left: florentines, sesame cookies, chocolate pistachio biscotti, pignoli cookies)

A year or two ago, Martha’s Special Holiday Issue had a recipe for mini panettones that I wanted to try making. My family always buys panettone for Christmastime, but I was hesitant, since it’s a yeast bread, and like I said, I’m not a big baker. But, since I had more time to experiment this year, I decided to take a stab at it, and ordered some paper panettone baking cups from Fantes in South Philly.

Indeed, the process took a while, but I enjoyed making the mini loaves (which we wrapped in cello bags as gifts for Tim’s co-workers). I enjoyed it enough, that I made another batch – this time making two larger loaves to share with our families. The recipe made fourteen mini (2 3/4″ diameter) or two medium-sized (6″) panettones.

(mini panettones all tagged up and ready for giving)

(Mr. Moo inspecting my packaging job. He passed them all with flying colors.)

* Recipes from Lydia’s Italian-American Kitchen
Recipe from Martha Stewart Living Holiday Cookies Special Issue, 2001