Monday, December 28, 2009

Cookie Baking - A cup of goodwill, a pinch of the past, and a smidgen of cinnamon

The other day as it was snowing – our first big snowfall of the year with 12 inches, I was mindful that those kinds of days are great to spend baking cookies; however I’ve already baked mine for the season.

Memories flood my mind of days past when families gathered to spend a day together baking, talking and sharing among themselves. It’s a good way to carry on traditions from the past. Christmas cookie baking represent friends, family, comfort and tradition and recipes handed down from one generation to the next.

When I bake my cookies in December, I like to make several differing kinds for variety.
My recipes have not yet been put into an organized system, except for an old tattered book entitled “Christmas Cookies”, into which I stuff all the best of the best recipes that I have made. They may be on old yellowed pieces of paper, recipes handed down from my Mom, newspaper clippings, from friends, or recipes gotten from a magazine while sitting in a doctor’s office.

I begin by sorting the recipes and making a list of the ones that I would like to bake. I look over the recipe and note what ingredients I will need to buy so that I need not stop for supplies after I have started.

Cookie baking can be works of art – from drop cookies, bar cookies, cut-outs, filled cookies, iced cookies, to pinwheels. Each holiday season, I make many of the same cookies, but like to try some new ones too. And there may also be some mistakes, forgetting to add something or some that burn because you left them in the oven too long.

This year I baked with my grandchildren helping – putting the candy kisses on the cookies, dipping the cookies in chocolate, or decorating the sand tarts. It became an assembly line baking but in 2 hours we had 42 dozen --- and lots of fun, good memories, and cookies for giving and sharing…and plenty to serve our guests who come to the Bed and Breakfast over this Holiday Season. I am including one of my favorites.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies
¼ cup butter
2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Combine butter, unsweetened chocolate and ¾ cup chocolate chips in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat till melted. Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Gradually add flour, b. powder, and salt, beating well. Add chocolate mixture. Stir in remaining ¾ cup chocolate chips and pecans. Drop onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Submitted by Ruth Harnish, Flowers & Thyme Bed and Breakfast

Friday, December 11, 2009

Discover Covered Bridges in Lancaster County

Pennsylvania is often recognized as the birthplace of covered bridge building. From the 1820's to 1900 there were about 1500 covered bridges built in Pennsylvania. Because many state residents realized the importance of these historic bridges, Pennsylvania has the largest number of covered bridges in the nation. Today 219 bridges remain in 40 counties (Pennsylvania has a total of 67 counties). Lancaster County has 28 covered bridges and has more than any other county. While covered bridges are sometimes called kissing bridges, the real reason for the covering is to protect the bridge's truss design from the weather.

One covered bridge is on the way to Paradise, a small village east of Lancaster City. Built in 1893, the Paradise Bridge is supported by the Theodore Burr arch and crosses over the Pequea Creek on Belmont Road. Located in the heart of Amish country, bridge traffic includes buggies as well as cars. So, slow down, take a deep breath and listen for the clip-clop of horses' hooves crossing the bridge surface. It's like being in another country and another time.

The longest covered bridge in the world was built in Lancaster County in 1814. It crossed the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, a distance of over a mile (5,960 feet). Ice and high water destroyed it in 1832.

For visitors and guests at one of our Authentic B&B Association members, you will find at least one covered bridge nearby. To get an in-depth background to the history, descriptions, statistics, locations and driving tours of the 28 covered bridges in Lancaster county, you can put these words into Google or Yahoo “covered bridges Lancaster county pa”, and then enjoy reading and seeing beautiful pictures of one of our County’s treasures.

An example of a nearby covered bridge is the Neffs's Mill Bridge, a single span Burr Arch with a total length of 103 feet. It lies at the bottom of Bridge Road and Penn Grant Road and carries your auto over the Pequea Creek.
The bridge has excellent areas to take photographs especially from the south side of the bridge.

The Innkeepers at each of the Bed & Breakfast Inns of the Authentic Bed & Breakfast Association will help you find your way around the County to enjoy some of the most fascinating structures built by our ancestors.

Submitted by Tom and Sarah Murphy, Walnut Lawn Bed & Breakfast

Monday, November 16, 2009

Green Dragon Farmer's Market

Coming to visit Lancaster County for the weekend? Why not arrive on Thursday so you will be able to get an early start on Friday morning at Green Dragon in Ephrata.
What is Green Dragon, you ask? Green Dragon is a large farmer's maket and auction which is open only on Friday. Interested in auctions - not only do they have antique auctions, but also dry goods including quilts, hay, straw, and small animals.
You will find fresh fruits and vegetables as well as baked goods, many from local Mennonite and Amish farms. Also available are fresh meats directly from the butcher, seafood, poultry, and cheeses.

Walk around the outside market to find socks, jeans, sweatshirts, tee shirts as well as purses and sheets. In the spring, you will find bedding plants and hanging baskets directly from the grower. In the fall, mums, straw bales, pumpkins, and corn stalks. No matter what you are looking for, you should be able to find it here.
Need lunch or a snack? You can find sit down service at one of five restaurants or you can always sample some of the local foods. You will find hoagies, french fries, sausage sandwiches, steak sandwiches, fish sandwiches, Mexican food, or barbequed chicken. For dessert, how about fresh local baked goods, ice cream, funnel cake or soft pretzels.
Spend Thursday evening at one of our fine bed and breakfasts and after you enjoy your breakfast, head over to Ephrata and check out Green Dragon. It is open every Friday year round from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. We hope it will be a memorable experience.

Submitted by David and Bonnie Konya, Country Hearth Bed and Breakfast

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Wall-to-Wall Carpet of Corn in Lancaster County

In Lancaster County, early Spring brings the start of the race—to see which farmer will produce the first sweet corn of Summer. They carefully plant their seedlings under plastic for warmth, and you can watch the plants progress as they slowly begin their climb to the sky.

Then one day, as you’re driving through the countryside, you realize that those seedlings have become a wall of corn stalks at every turn in the road. Where there were once broad vistas of farms in the distance, all you can see are green leaves swaying in the breeze. On a windy day they are not unlike ocean waves riding a current of air as the wind blows across the fields. The plants fill in every little space between farms, silos and towns. The carpet of green is broken only by the yellow of the hay being harvested, or by lighter green shades of other crops.

The plants bring a beauty all their own to your senses. This is a “green” so true that no man-made version can rival it. It’s the smell of summer that you’ll remember in the winter. Take a moment to drink in the color, hear the sound of the leaves swaying, see the crowning glory of the tassels of silk, and...just wait until you taste the stuff.

I had always heard that corn should be “knee high by the Fourth of July” but, here in Lancaster County, we are well into enjoying our second week of sweet corn by the Fourth. And sweet it is – farmers will boast that one variety is better than the next, with new hybrids being introduced each year. Rows are marked with signs and farmers can be seen walking through the fields, comparing one variety to another.

You can tell a lot by looking at corn. When it is happy the leaves splay open and dance in the wind. When it is too dry, they curl and reach toward the sky, beckoning it to send down moisture

Our farmers mostly plant feed corn, but there is more than enough sweet corn – and dozens of farm stands burst with the sweetest vegetable ever produced.

This does not go unnoticed by your Authentic Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers – they use the freshest ingredients to create corn pancakes, corn muffins, corn pudding, corn crepes, corn frittatas, corn bread and corn in every conceivable way. 

The time to visit the corn is now – one of the best tastes of summer. There’s a farm on Route 772 where guests recently stopped for fresh roasted corn – eating a dozen ears between them. Be sure to also try local relishes, chow-chows and experience our corn mazes.

Take the time to notice the magic of our corn. And, if you are quiet, rumor has it that you will hear it grow.

Written by Jan Garrabrandt, The Artist's Inn & Gallery

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Downtown Lancaster - So Full of History!

We recently took a guided walking tour of downtown Lancaster City. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining, captivating us with numerous stories during our 2-hour walk along tree-lined city streets and quaint alleyways. What a colorful past we have here in Lancaster!

For instance, few people outside our area know that the city of Lancaster was actually the capital of the United States… for one day! It happened on September 27, 1777, when the 2nd Continental Congress, with the original Declaration of Independence in their possession, held session in Lancaster’s courthouse (they were in the process of moving from Philadelphia to York to evade British troops). And in 1789, shortly after our new Constitution was ratified, Edward Hand (George Washington’s former Adjutant General) officially submitted the city of Lancaster for consideration as our new nation’s capital.

Among our many other stops were the Demuth Tobacco Shop (the oldest tobacco store in the U.S., and the oldest business in Lancaster, dating back to 1770), and the Trinity Church on Duke Street where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the citizens of Lancaster during that first week of July 1776, and whose present day steeple was constructed while George Washington was still President.

To see and hear all that this great walking tour has to offer, we recommend experiencing it for yourself. Tours start at the Southern Market building at the corner of Queen and Vine Streets. Call 717-392-1776 for all the details. And have a great summer!

Written by Steve & Jamie Shane, Apple Bin Inn