The snow is melting, the sun has a promise of warmth, but the wind is still chilly and the nights are cold. The sap is running in the sugar maple trees. In celebration of maple syrup season, I made a delicious smoothie today, sweetened with pure maple syrup from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My brother and his wife live up there, and gave us this syrup made by a friend of theirs. It is so flavorful and pure, I feel like I am walking in the fresh north woods when I taste it. I love using pure maple syrup as a sweetener. It is a welcome alternative to refined sugar, and it contains minerals and antioxidants as well. Maple syrup has gained popularity in many recipes, and I am enjoying experimenting with it. The smoothie I made this morning is full of soothing, creamy, rich nutrition with banana, yogurt, oats, and walnuts. To me, it is the perfect combination of sweet and nourishing. Goodness knows I needed a boost of energy this morning, and this smoothie has enough protein from the yogurt, oats, and walnuts to provide lasting energy. My sweet son has been quite sick this week, and I have needed all the energy I could get to help take care of him. Fortunately, he is feeling much better. I am sharing this recipe, because I hope this smoothie will help you face whatever lies ahead with strength and some enjoyment thrown in along the way. That’s where the maple syrup comes in. It is such a lovely, natural treat. “When made in small quantities–that is, quickly from the first run of sap and properly treated–it has a wild delicacy of flavor that no other sweet can match. What you smell in freshly cut maple-wood, or taste in the blossoms of the tree, is in it. It is then, indeed, the distilled essence of the tree.”–John Burroughs, Signs and Seasons, 1886. I love the phrase “wild delicacy.” Those two words seem to be opposites, and yet together, they describe some of the best things in life. Have a wonderful weekend! I am sharing this recipe with the many talented bloggers at Angie’s The Novice Gardenersite for Fiesta Friday, hosted today by Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook and Mila at Milkandbun.
Directions: Place the oats and walnuts in a blender or food processor. Blend until the mixture resembles coarse sand. You may need to scrape the sides and stir the mixture a bit between blending. Then add the yogurt (Greek yogurt is great too), banana, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend again until smooth. If this is too thick, you can add a couple ice cubes and blend again. If you prefer it on the thicker side (like I do), simply pour into a glass and sip with a straw and/or spoon. Enjoy!
These cookies are moist and subtly sweet with that uplifting zing that lemons give. Sometimes I wonder, when I crave lemons, why lemons are so appealing when their juice alone is quite bitter and sour. But many of us love lemon-flavored food and drinks. There is something so bright and cleansing about lemon juice. When I was a young girl, I had a picture in my room of a basket of pretty lemons, and it said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I have heard that quoted countless times since then, and other similar quotes as well. And yet, there is a lot to it. Lemon juice alone is not so easy to drink (except for maybe a few, like my husband), but when mixed with enough sugar, the resulting drink is one of the most refreshing I have ever tasted. The bittersweet quality gives lemonade more complexity and substance than a syrupy-sweet drink. The same goes for these cookies. They are sweet, but with a hint of powerful flavor from the lemon juice and rind. When difficult things happen to us, it is human nature to be drawn into sadness of it. We often feel like we are the only ones to experience such a difficulty. It is hard to take the high road and keep a philosophical viewpoint. Maybe that’s why symbols of making good out of bad are so powerful: lemonade out of lemons; the phoenix rising from the flames. Lemons are a beautiful, bright yellow color, and to me, symbolize the beautiful complexity and bittersweet aspect of life. This cookie recipe is easy and fairly quick to make. The cream cheese and bit of butter keep the cookies moist, and the sugar and lemon flavors balance each other nicely. Because the weather forecasters are calling for above-freezing temperatures next week, I took a couple of the photos in the snow and ice, since we may not have it much longer! With it being Friday, I am celebrating Fiesta Friday with the talented bloggers at The Novice Gardener, co-hosted this week by Caroline at Caroline’s Cooking and Elaine at Foodbod. I hope you all have a great weekend!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, eggs, lemon rind, and sugar until smooth (you may use an electric mixer if you prefer, but it is not necessary if you stir vigorously!). Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and stir well until completely combined.
Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake in your preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden/brown and firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Repeat until all the batter is used. Store the cookies in the refrigerator between layers of wax paper. Enjoy!
As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I noticed a beautiful evergreen tree. It was standing, majestic, among a bunch of trees whose leaves had long since fallen. The deep, velvety green color caught my eye. I have driven this stretch of road thousands of times, but have never noticed the beauty of this particular tree. The rich, emerald green stood out against a backdrop of bleakness–white snow, brown branches of deciduous trees, and a gray-pink winter dawn sky. This month has been so unusually cold and at times, difficult. I have done my fair share of complaining about the weather. But to see that evergreen radiating green beauty amidst the stark whites, grays, and browns of a cold winter morning, I was reminded that acts of kindness and moments of beauty stand out more against a backdrop of bleakness. This is not a new revelation. I am not the first person to notice this. But the fact that I was so struck by this evergreen tells me I needed to be reminded of this. It made me think of the shiny, tiny dime we found sparkling on the backseat of the car. Lilac-scented soap and colorful flowers from caring souls. Clean, warm blankets. A friend checking to make sure my mom had made it home safely from our kids’ band concert when the roads were covered with ice. A smile from a stranger at the grocery store. These are some of my evergreens from this winter. I made these cookies for my family to brighten their day too. I’m sharing the recipe below, because they really are wonderful. I based the cookies on my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, and then added a mashed banana to the dough. I finished by spreading a dollop of creamy Nutella on the cooled cookies. The cookies are moist, delicious, and even somewhat nutritious (with the peanuts and bananas).
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, vigorously stir the softened butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add 1/2 cup of the flour, and then add the sugars, egg, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir well to combine. Stir in the remaining flour. In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Add that to the dough, and stir again to thoroughly combine. Shape the dough into approximately one-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between. Bake in your 375 degree oven for 7-9 minutes, or until the cookies are golden and lightly brown on the bottom. Cool the cookies on a wire rack. When they are cool, gently spread a bit of Nutella on the tops, if desired. Enjoy!