Welcome to the first Saturday Meanderings of 2024. I am really excited about this even numbered year. This week is turning out to be a very productive one, and I am thoroughly enjoying the last of the 12 days of Christmas, which is today, January 6th, the Epiphany. Thank you so much for joining me today for Saturday Meanderings, where we chat about all good things this week.
My Daughter’s Birthday
Today is my youngest child, Elisabeth’s 23rd birthday. She and her friends are celebrating at our cabin in the snowy mountains of Arizona. When I asked her about a birthday cake, she replies, “oh, I will just pick one up at the grocery store.” Wait? What? After years of a homemade birthday cake, well that is just unacceptable to me. After determining her favorite cake flavor is chocolate, I start planning to make a cake that would be transportable in a long car drive.
My favorite go-to cake cookbook is Layered by Tessa Huff. This dog-eared, food stained book has been well used over the years. I try a new recipe for her birthday celebration~a Black Forest cake. Four layers of sour cream chocolate cake with heritage frosting and cherry chocolate ganache between the layers, milk chocolate buttercream frosting on the outside with chocolate shavings and fresh cherries on top.
Because of the height of the cake, most cake carriers will not work. However, a last minute trip to Walmart, I am able to find this carrier with the proper clearance. The base of the carrier flips so you can use it for cakes or cupcakes. Now, I just hope the cake makes the car trip and is as delicious as all the spoons and bowls I licked.
New Product to Keep on Hand
We often have guests dropping by unexpectedly and we like to be able to offer up an appetizer. I discover this during the holidays and they are perfect with a glass or wine or champagne. Imagine freshly baked French cheese puffs that are ready in 25 minutes! Shipped to you frozen, an order includes 36 of these delicious cheese puffs.
I just received my second order of Bougie Gougies and love having them available in the freezer when I need them. Each box has 36 cheese puffs. They are a bit pricey, but you are paying for the convenience. Now my goal is to learn to make these. Has anyone made gougères from scratch?
New Year’s Eve Brunch
Instead of an evening New Year’s gathering, we decide to do a brunch this year. As I age, I find myself wanting to go to bed earlier and late nights are suffered the next day. I serve the tried and true brunch recipes of my egg casserole, blueberry coffee cake, and a fruit salad (without the unripened cantaloupe). In addition, I try a new recipe of Spiced Dark Chocolate Cherry Saltine Toffee (recipe below) and a Coconut Mojito cake (from the Layered book mentioned above).
The saltine toffee recipe (from Virginia Willis, author, Secrets of the Southern Table) is excellent and listed below. Now you know why I need to diet and exercise in January!
Daily Planner Week 1
In my post earlier this week, I share my new daily planner and annual calendar. It is so nice to get back on track and I can report that everything that I tasked myself with this week I accomplished! So far it is working!
In addition to using a planner, each day I am trying to keep ahead of my email in-box. At the end of December, I had nearly 10,000 emails in my inbox….mostly junk. Daily I am taking 30 minutes and cleaning and purging. Does anyone else have this problem?
This next week it will be quite cold in Phoenix. I believe the City’s temperature reading comes from Sky Harbor Airport and our property is approximately 6 to 9 degrees cooler. When you see those astronomical summer temperatures, it is mainly due to all the concrete and tarmacs surrounding the airport. Since we have so much vegetation here and in our surrounding neighborhood, it’s important to pay attention to the weather forecast.
My garden is covered with Christmas lights and a layer of protection. Since my garden greens and tomato plants are so abundant right now and I’m taking extra precautions.
Mary’s Must Haves
I don’t know if it the cold weather or I’m exerting muscles in a different way, but I am using Arnicare Gel frequently. This homeopathic topical gel, is quickly absorbed, non-greasy, fragrance-free and helps reduce muscle pain and stiffness.
Every night I put it on my left knee and left wrist (injured in my fall last year), and it really seems to help. I like the fact that it is a natural pain reliever from the Arnica montana plant.
This time of year I am content being in a pair of comfy leggings and a warm sweater. I bought these for my daughter for Christmas and she loves them. You can get all black or a combination of colors. Super soft, and non-see through, they are also high waisted. Can’t beat the price at $36.99. See it here.
During this time of year when so many people are getting sick, these lozenges are a good item to have handy. At first I balked at having to buy 12 bags, but they are small and we go through them quickly. Each drop contains elderberry and a throat-soothing herbal blend. The 5 mg of zinc per lozenge may help your immune support. I always take a bag when traveling and like the fact they are non-GMO, gluten-free, no cane sugar, artificial sweeteners or colors. See it here.
I bought these cute cotton socks last year and received them after Valentines Day. These socks are so adorable and would also be a great Valentine’s Day gift. The price is so low at $13.99. It also looks like the delivery date will be a while so order them soon to get them before February 14th!
This weekend we will be dismantling Christmas decorations, which is always bittersweet. Do you have any fun plans? Stay warm out there and have a happy weekend!
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Spiced Dark Chocolate Cherry Saltine Toffee
Transform a basic cracker into a classic holiday treat
- 1 sleeve saltine crackers (about 40)
- 1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter ((2 sticks))
- 1 cup light brown sugar, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 12 oz. finely chopped 70% dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick foil or spray with cooking spray. Arrange the saltines, salt side down, in a single layer in the pan. Set aside.
Melt 1 cup butter in a large heavy-duty saucepan over medium. Add the brown sugar and cayenne pepper and raise temperature to high to bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes. Immediately pour toffee mixture over the saltines and bake for 6 minutes.
Remove from oven and nudge the saltines back together if they're floating in the toffee.Set aside for 3 or 4 minutes.
Melt the chocolate over medium heat in the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. (Or place the chocolate in a microwavable container and melt on low power until smooth, about 3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.)
Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and the black pepper to the melted chocolate. Pour over the toffee and spread in an even layer with an offset spatula. Top with pecans and dried cherries. Let stand to cool slightly, then sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer to the refrigerator to harden completely, about 1 hour.
Pop loose from the pan, break into pieces, and store in an airtight container separated with sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper.