Friday, May 6, 2016

Homage to My Mom - Mother's Day 2016


Momma. Mommy. Mom. Madre. Mother. Grandma.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s clear that my perspective of the day has changed. When my kids were little, it was all about me. Now, it’s about my daughters and how proud I am of their love for their children: Katie with her boys, Henry and Peter (now 8  and 5 ½, and Meghan with newborn Willow, just 6 weeks old). Of course, I can’t help but feel so blessed to have Mary Lou Eddy, my children’s paternal grandmother, in my life. She’s an incredible woman and I have loved her since I first met her in 1969; so many wonderful mothers in our lives to celebrate, as we should.

Initially, Mother’s Day was ALL about my beautiful mother; as I made her construction paper hearts with too much glue and glitter when I was little. Later, buying her the “perfect” card in a Hallmark store, so she would know how much I loved her. With six siblings, there’s a need to make your voice heard! There’d be a little gift to go along, nothing fancy, just something to show her my love. Later, there’d be dinners out and Mother’s Day brunches – I remember an especially lovely brunch at the Gideon Putnam Hotel, where the buffet featured fancy foods including Lobster Newburg and chocolate ├ęclairs.  My mother, Virginia McGeehan O’Farrell, loved dining out more than almost any other activity. When we asked her, as children, what she wanted to make for dinner, she’d respond, “Reservations.” Ba dum dum.

As my first impression regarding the institution of motherhood, my mom was the epitome of what a mother should be. She appreciated it. She and my father had been married a long time before their first child, my brother Michael, arrived. After almost eight years married and a slight medical intervention, Michael was born. The following ten years saw the arrival of six more babies – Patsy, Steven, Jeannie (me), Ginny, Danny, and Anne. While my mother was certainly flat-out busy, she always had time for a hug, a kind smile, a generous laugh. She was beautiful in that Irish kind of way – dark, dark hair and blue eyes.  Standing all of 5-foot two (and eyes of blue!), her presence was more than her height. Her clever sense of humor won her life-long friends. Life was not easy with one car and a husband who was away for a number of work days at a time. The minute he arrived home on a Friday, we’d all pile into the car and go for a “little spin” just so our mom could have a change of scenery, and maybe a dinner out for this family of nine!

My mom was a homemaker. That was her chosen career after working on Wall Street before babies. I don’t remember her working constantly (as she must have for a family of nine) with laundry and dishes and cooking. She managed it all so well. Our house was always presentable and people could show up at any time without notice. There were coffee klatches around our formica kitchen table, ash trays out, wafts of Newport cigarette smoke circling our heads (yikes) as we enjoyed the neighborhood banter and goings-on. It’s not like that now. People were home more in the 1960s and our home seemed to be a hub of activity for my mom and her friends, and for our friends as well.  Sometimes my mother would warn the ladies around the table, “Little kettles have big ears.” I know what she meant, but that statement doesn’t even make sense!

My mother was a devout Catholic. We observed every Holy Day of Obligation and never missed Mass on Sunday. Even after it was deemed OK, we never had meat on Friday. We went to confession (reluctantly), sometimes just before Mass which I found humiliating, exiting the confessional. If we didn’t have a hat or a veil entering church, she’d bobby-pin a Kleenex to all the girls’ heads. Our family took up the entire pew. My mother went to church to go to church, not to be seen. She let us leave after Communion if we had to be somewhere. As long as we made it from Homily through Communion, we were good.

We moved a lot, as kids. Here are the locations of our births: Santa Monica, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Dayton, Colonie NY, Saratoga Springs. No more births after Saratoga Springs, but the moving continued to Clifton Park NY, Moorestown NJ, Huntington  LI, NY (twice) and back to Saratoga Springs. My mother used to joke that she should have married Mr. Mayflower, of the moving van company.

I have so many memories of my mom. She suffered through a heart attack at 68, losing our Dad when she was 74 – they were a match made in Heaven.  To witness a love like that is a gift and a hard act to follow, I must say! But we were blessed to have been raised in that home.  After my dad passed away, the spark left my mother’s eyes. She had us and her grandchildren, all adored, but she missed my father. Virginia McGeehan O’Farrell lived to be 82 years old, and we’ve been missing her for over fourteen years now. She loved and was loved greatly, and we are left with memories that make us smile more than cry, now.  What I wouldn’t give to hear her voice once more, to hold her hand which I noticed, the very last time I held her hand, was so much like my own.

The memories sustain us. I must have been barely two years old, around 1956, when I remember being in our living room on MacArthur Drive in Saratoga. I stared as my mother was walking away. She turned and focused right back on me. It’s odd to think that I knew what beauty was as such a young child. She was beautiful. Her curled black hair, her bright blue eyes, but most beautiful was her radiant smile for me. It reached me and was inside me, and I realized joy. 

Jeannie O’Farrell Eddy

Mother’s Day 2016

Friday, April 10, 2015

Red Lobster-Inspired Copycat Cheddar Bay Biscuits Recipe!

My sibling family loves Red Lobster. It's our guilty pleasure when we want to get together for each others' birthdays (I'm one of 7 siblings, and here it is National Sibling Day!). It's an easy place to grab a big table, preferably tucked in a corner away from serious diners, where we can enjoy an hour or so of silly conversation, distorted memories (!), inappropriate birthday cards whenever possible, and gift-opening. There are some restaurants where you can do that easily, but none better that RL. The restaurant holds a sentimental meaning for all of us, as well, since our Mom loved to go there for our birthdays and "just because."

We always look forward to RL's Cheddar Bay Biscuits. They are served warm from the oven, tender, and so flavorful. I looked online for a copycat recipe, but most I found used a biscuit mix as the base. For our quiet Easter dinner at my daughter Katie's last week, I wanted to make them from scratch, so I adapted Alton Brown's biscuit recipe and added my own version of a hot butter and herb glazing at the end. The result - nailed it! They went so well with Katie's Easter ham and Bill's scalloped potatoes! I also made a birthday cake for my daughter Tricia - she requested retro with a strawberry cake mix with rainbow chip frosting (home-made version of rainbow chip, of course!). I made it just as she requested, and she loved it! But back to biscuits...

Here's a photo of the DEEE-licious copycat biscuits followed by the how-to:

My take on Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuit! 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Spray cookie sheet with vegetable spray
Makes 12+

In large mixing bowl, stir together:
2 c. all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

Cut in to flour mixture:
 (with 2 knives or a pastry blender - or pulse in a food processor!)
4 tablespoons shortening (or 2 butter/2 shortening) until the size of small peas

Stir in:
1 cup cold buttermilk (no buttermilk? Make your own: add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a 1-cup measure and fill with milk, wait 5 minutes)

Stir in: 
1 cup very finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Stir until all the dry ingredients are well combined. Using an ice cream scoop or something that will give you about 2 good, full tablespoons (even a real spoon!), drop dough onto cookie sheet.

Bake 15-20 minutes, or until biscuits are puffed up and browning on all the little edges and nooks.

Take out of oven and immediately brush with this mixture:

2 ounces (half a stick) of butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley (I didn't have any, left it out)

Let them cool a bit, and then place hot biscuits in a towel-lined serving bowl.

Now, go on and enjoy these like my siblings and I do! (as well as the rest of the family!)

Circa 1961, Saratoga Springs, NY
L-R: Anne, Danny, Ginny, Jeannie (Me), Steven, Patsy, & Michael

Love my six terrific siblings (including that one odd ball!)! And God Bless our mother, Virginia McGeehan O'Farrell. We miss her terribly. Seven children in 10 years. She surely is a saint!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

And the winner is....Carol Facteau!

Congratulations to Carol Facteau of McCormick, SC. Carol won the March comment contest and will receive a dozen assorted scones which will be baked and shipped early next week! So, even if you are far, far away, if you win, I will ship! :)

In the meantime, this little goodie came out of my kitchen this morning. It's for my friends Ralph and Mimi who are taking it with them to Connecticut for Easter. They call me every time they need a little cake (and there was that one unfortunate time I completely forgot, but they forgave me!)...

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all my followers!
I am grateful for each and every one of you!

A new contest is underway for any comments posted to this blog during the month of April, winner announced May 1st. Who wants a dozen scones?!

Good luck!

the ADK Baker

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Green Smoothie!


Last weekend I caught a show on PBS entitled "What Are You Hungry For?" where Deepak Chopra, among many wise and smart things, advised viewers to "Eat the rainbow." The more colorful the food, the more health benefits to be derived. One of the green foods he advised us to incorporate into our menus is, here it comes (and you know it already, I'm sure)…KALE. I am not a fan of kale. I have not given it a fair shot, though, and decided to let it back into my grocery cart and kitchen for another chance.

My work hours are crazy this time of year, and I am rarely home to cook a dinner meal. And when I am home, I tend to make it as easy as possible with (gasp) a bowl of cereal or, if I am feeling ambitious, a grilled cheese sandwich. True confessions from a food blogger, though I give myself a pass because most of what I post is baking-related!

So, I thought, how the heck do I actually get that kale into my body? The solution: a breakfast smoothie! I was hesitant to make a green drink, because, to me, they are visually unappealing. But, I decided to grow up, snap out of it,  and started stacking kale and other colorful ingredients in my Magic Bullet container.

Here's my recipe, in order of how I added them to the container:


1 serving scoop of vanilla whey protein (you can use whatever protein powder you prefer)
1 loose fist-full of baby kale
6-8 Frozen pineapple chunks - makes your smoothie nice and cold
1/4 sliced banana
10 red grapes

Over this stack of color, I pour in enough unsweetened coconut milk to bring it about 1/2-3/4 of the way up the container.

And finally, 1 or 2 ice cubes

I screwed on the blade section to the Magic Bullet and let it whirl until it all looked smooth and incorporated.

It wasn't an ugly green! It was a light minty green that seemed to say, "Welcome spring!"

It was cool, and delicious, and tropical! I tasted NO kale, but it was beautifully flecked throughout the smoothie. The primary flavors were pineapple and banana.

Now, that's my new way to start the day with lots of color!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Little Sunshine is the Best Prescription!

Sunshine and Warmth
My happy place!
This is a little photo-diary of a great vacation.

Last week my friend Joanne Dwornik and I finally traveled together for a little get-away to Boca Raton, Florida. We made our reservations in January when we both, at the same exact time, had had it with winter. Still, there were many frigid weeks between the reservation and the trip, and then more winter greeted us when we returned home on the official first day of spring - along with a 10-hour lay-over in Baltimore due to icing issues!

The older I get - my 61st birthday was the day before we flew out - the more I understand the snow-bird phenomenon. After December, winter no longer sparkles with crystal beauty as it does through the holiday season. By January, it's…

 "OK, I've seen you, I've felt you chilling me to the bone.  I thought you were really beautiful for those first few weeks, but now, you're not beautiful. You are work and all you are to me is dirty snow banks and difficult traveling. You can go now. Next time, remember that short-term guests are best!" Winter didn't get the hint. It's March 24th and this is what I see outside my window at work today:

March 24, 2015
Spring, where the heck are you???

Who could blame people who decide to "winter" in warmer regions? I can't, that's for sure. I say, the more power to you! If you can swing it, GO! Take those few months to refresh, to thaw out, to escape the harsh reality of a northeast winter, which really is a greedy season. It takes up more than its allotted months here. Winter seems to start at the end of October, and here it is, nearly April, no spring in sight.

So, off to Florida we went. Joanne has family in Boca Raton. We stayed in Joanne's father's beautiful home with his lovely wife Christa. Joanne lost her Dad last summer, and this was going to be an emotional transition for her, being in the home he shared with Christa, her Dad not there. Christa made it as warm, welcoming, and comfortable as possible, and I was happy Joanne wanted me to come along. There was so much happy talk of her father's life, his passions, his loves - of his daughters, of Christa, his grandchildren, great-grandchildren - but it seemed we talked a lot about his boats! It was a lovely little reunion for them, and I was a guest soaking it all in. Happy energy.

Needless to say, we had the BEST time in Florida. With two travel days (Monday and Friday) we had all of Monday evening, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to soak up the sun. Monday evening, we had dinner at Villagio in Boca Raton.

Our first morning!
What a way to wake up! 

Happy Hour!
Joanne's killer margaritas!

Villagio, Boca Raton
I had spaghetti and meatballs outside under the stars!

Tuesday, we spent a beach day near the Boca Inlet, and since it was St. Patrick's Day, we stopped on the way home at an Irish bar, Duffy's, and picked up three corned beef dinners to go.

Boca Inlet - beautiful!

Just seeing this again makes me happy!

Sand Shamrock!

Photo shoot on the beach!

Take-out for St. Patrick's Day

Wednesday, we had another beach day, and then had dinner with Christa, Joanne's Uncle Dick and Aunt Helene at a lovely Chinese restaurant. The servings were so abundant, we had plenty for left-overs the next night.

We spent the day Thursday in South Beach! How I love it there! We strolled up and down the ocean-front restaurants and businesses, and went on to have lunch at Joe's Stone Crab, an iconic landmark and so, so elegant!

Loved watching this little girl enjoy the ocean!

Joe's Stone Crab
South Beach, Miami!

After left-overs Thursday night, we watched The Voice, and then Christa and I had to move to another TV to get our "Scandal" fix! We both screamed at one point during the episode, and if you watched the show, you probably know where!

Our last morning, sigh....

Hated walking away from the ocean,
but have happy memories to return to!

Despite our long, flight-delayed trip home, it was a wonderful five days. Joanne and I both wish we had stayed longer, but we had to get back to real life eventually. I must say, as hesitant as I was to leave the warmth and sunshine, it was lovely to come home to see the happy faces of my grandsons Peter and Henry, to reconnect with my kids, to see my siblings and realize that there's nothing more important than family - whether I am experiencing that myself, or feeling welcome as my friend generously brings me into her own.

Life is short, let them know you love them.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pineapple Toasted Coconut Muffins, a Little Helper, and a Great Short-cut!

This morning, my grandson Pete came up to my Granny flat and said (he's four) "Hey Grandma, let's get baking!" I knew what was coming next, a suggestion for chocolate chip cookies. I intervened with my own suggestion for muffins, and he loved the idea. He wanted blueberry muffins, but I had no blueberries. I did have coconut and pineapple, and I also had a GREAT short-cut - a box of Krusteaz Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake and Muffin mix. I took the cinnamon topping packet away and will use that another time, for cinnamon rolls or some other treat. I urge you to buy a couple of boxes of this mix - it is so versatile and works great in a pinch! It's about $2.50 or $3.00 in the grocery store and worth its weight in gold!

Here's the recipe:

Pineapple Toasted Coconut Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit

Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners

cake pouch from a box of Krusteaz Cinnamon Swirl Crumb Cake and Muffin Mix (save cinnamon mixture for another time)
1 egg
2/3 cup water (or pineapple juice!)
1 cup coconut, toasted (I used sweetened)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, not drained
Sugar for topping, granulated or sparkling

In mixing bowl, with wooden spoon, stir together mix, egg, water, and pineapple. Stir in toasted coconut (directions follow).

To toast coconut: place coconut in dry skillet on stove top. Heat to medium/high heat and stir the coconut until toasty brown. Watch this constantly as it can burn in an instant. As soon as it's nice and brown, remove from the heat and stir into muffin mixture.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measure, divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Sprinkle tops with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly pressed with your finger.

Cool about 10 minutes on a wire rack, remove from rack to finish cooling completely.


PS - don't forget the comment contest - FREE scones awarded to winner on April 1st. Any and all comments on any and all blog posts - even going way back - made during the month of March or late February are entries! See the comment section below? Where it says "Comment as:"  use the drop down menu and choose Name/URL or Anonymous and just write your name or include your name in the body of your comment. I want YOU to win!!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's all about the bread, 'bout the bread, no trouble!

I have avoided baking bread for years, decades! How can I call myself a baker and refuse to bake yeast bread? This fear of baking anything with yeast was unreasonable and unfounded. Recently, on a Sunday evening, I realized there was no bread in the house and the plan for brown-bagging sandwiches for work that week was stalled. Normally, such a bread shortage would send me to the nearest Stewart's Shop but on this particular Sunday night, it was snowing hard and the roads were bad. That was all the motivation necessary to bake my own bread, and bake bread I did! Taste of Home's warning to hold off on slicing the loaf until it's cooled down is a good rule! While it's so hard to resist the aroma of fresh-baked bread right out of your oven, if you try to slice a loaf of bread that's hot out of the oven or too warm, the loaf will collapse. So, go find something productive to do and come back to slice a cooled and delicious loaf with a slathering of soft butter!

The terrific recipe is linked here from Taste of Home, and it made two beautiful loaves. I read through the ratings on the site, and most were rave reviews. There were good tips about cutting and storing the loaves (I sliced both loaves and froze portions!). With packets of yeast in the cabinet, and all the simple ingredients on hand, I thought "Why not give it a shot?" and I am now a bread baker! That's a very cool skill to add to my baking repertoire!

So, check out this LINK to this recipe for Basic Homemade Bread from Taste of Home, and be brave. If you never have before, go ahead and bake your own bread (for less than a dollar a loaf!). Then, see if you ever want to pay almost $5.00 for a loaf of store-bought bread again! And tell me what you think about it!

PS - it wouldn't be a bad idea to have some lovely soft butter nearby once the loaf has cooled enough!

Beautiful loaves!

I am a bread baker!