baking blues and a Path to Peace giveaway! December 13, 2009


I find baking really stressful. I am so envious of people like Caitlin and Helen who make it seem so easy. The holidays just means back to back to back nail-biting sessions peering into the oven with the light on for me. I had picked out a fabulous sounding Blueberry Crumb Bar recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make to cut into squares and take to a cookie swap this weekend.

I was in trouble from the very beginning. I didn't have enough blueberries to make the full recipe. That was easily solved by mixing in some cherries I had on hand. I faltered when cut them a little too early – the one square I removed made me think I had made a cobbler and not bars. Oy. In the end, I took some coconut-cranberry cookies and let these blueberry guys set up. In the end, though, they're delicious – the cherry and blueberry taste is a nice sweet & sour balance. The lemon in the crust and crumb topping really shines through. The texture is more like a breakfast cake than it is a cookie bar, which is fine by me, too.

BlueberryBar2-2 I'm thrilled to be able to share a really wonderful initiative underway through a partnership between Fairways Trading Company and Macy's – the Path to Peace program. Women in countries such as Rwanda are trained in weaving and textile skills – as well as life essentials like hygiene and personal finance. The results of their creative efforts are being sold exclusively through Macy's. I can go on and on about how incredible this program is but I'll let you read it all for yourself on Macy's website

The stunning basket and tablecloth shown in this post is just one example of the talents these women have. In the effort of sharing, I have a basket from the Path to Peace program to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment in this post & tell me what traditions you have when it comes to your holiday table. One winner will be chosen at random on Tuesday, December 15th at 6 PM. Your basket will be shipped directly to you and its color/style will not be determined by me. Please remember to leave your email address so you can be contacted if you're the winner!

UPDATED: Congrats to Lynn, who blogs over at Good Things Happened. She won the Path 2 Peace basket by being comment #15, which was randomly generated by I'll be emailing you directly! Thanks to everyone for leaving such great comments :)

Cherry-Blueberry Crumb Bars – based on the recipe originally found here at Smitten Kitchen – makes 36 small bars

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen & well thawed/drained) blueberries
  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen & well thawed/drained) pitted cherries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

– Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

– In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and
baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter
to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of
dough into the prepared pan.

– In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon
juice. Gently mix in the cherries and the blueberries. Sprinkle the fruit mixture
evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the fruit layer.

– Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly
brown. Like Deb's version, my batch took an extra 10 minutes to get brown on the top. MAKE SURE YOU ALLOW THEM TO COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE YOU CUT THEM! This will ensure you don't face massive disappointment and think you've made a cobbler like I did.


Brittany Dec 13, 2009 03:12 pm

Our tradition is to clean the table off once everyone’s done eating and play board games for hours. It’s the best tradition ever.

Lori Dec 13, 2009 04:12 pm

We make a grand Christmas dinner with mashed potatoes, beef tenderloin, and horeradish sauce! The biggest tradition being that we actually eat at our dining table instead of the kitchen table.

Vicki Dec 13, 2009 05:12 pm

Ever since I married my husband, part of our Christmas dinner has been tamales from a local shop. It was strange for me at first, but now I can’t imagine Christmas without them :)

shutterboo Dec 13, 2009 05:12 pm

We aren’t home for the holiday. But after all the Christmases are done, we invite our parents over for homemade lasagna and a some new dessert (it will be Holy Cow Cake this year).

Dani Dec 13, 2009 05:12 pm

My (adult) daughter and I both carry on the tradition of using my late mother’s recipes – there are different dishes for each holiday that we always make. We will add new recipes, but always include “Gigi’s” favorites. I love that many of these recipes are now requested by my grandchildren. I also love the Path for Peace program and that it focuses on helping women. The basket and tablecloth in your photos are gorgeous! Thanks for a chance at the giveaway. (

Northside Food Dec 13, 2009 06:12 pm

My sister and I have been decorating holiday cookies together since she was five and I was fifteen. Now I’m thirty and she’s twenty.
This reminds me, I need to call and see what kind we’re making this year.

The Teacher Cooks Dec 13, 2009 06:12 pm

We go to my sister-in-laws for Christmas. We go to church on Christmas Eve, then to her house for a huge bowl of homemade soup, gather around the tree until midnight. Then it is time for Santa. But, we are all in the bed sleeping!

Rebecca Martin Dec 13, 2009 06:12 pm

Our family’s traditional holiday dinner is basic fare: usually cornish hen for the main dish, some creamy mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, rolls, and the like, and my mom’s fantastic sour cream apple pie. This year, though, my husband and I are hosting, so we may change it up a bit!

Sean Dec 13, 2009 06:12 pm

It’s a pain in the ass to do all the washing up afterward but baking can be fun. Now souffles on the other hand…I hate making those things because at least 1 screws up in the oven. It’s a love-hate relationship!
Don’t enter me in for the giveaway but I just wanted to tell you that your cherry-blueberry bars look great :)

Palila Dec 13, 2009 08:12 pm

Mmmm, those bars look delicious. I might try that myself, it looks like it might still hold up using some all-purpose gf flour.
We don’t personally have any food/table traditions with the holidays, since we spend it with someone different every year. This year, we’re joining TCB’s family in Indiana, and their tradition is to gather at his grandmother’s house, where she fixes a huge spread. It’s like a rotating open house!

Lynn Dec 14, 2009 05:12 am

My sister and I make Christmas dinner together along with her husband who is outside with brisket on the smoker. They have a lovely farm in the country and spending the day there is very peaceful. We like to use heirloom pieces on the table that belonged to our grandmother, Candlewick crystal glasses, relish tray, etc.

tamih Dec 14, 2009 06:12 am

I agree with you on that, Brittany. One of the best holidays I’ve ever spent was a crazy night of board games by flashlight in the dark when the power went out. Great memories from that. :)

tamih Dec 14, 2009 06:12 am

Yum! I’m making a beef tenderloin for an early Xmas dinner for some friends. Can’t wait :)

tamih Dec 14, 2009 06:12 am

I *love* untraditional traditions. That sounds awesome!

tamih Dec 14, 2009 06:12 am

What, may I ask, is Holy Cow Cake? :)

Emily R Dec 14, 2009 08:12 am

Until recently, our holiday tradition was to go to the local Indian place as they are one of the few places open on Christmas because we would all be too tired after working retail from 800A-1200A to even think about cooking a big spread. Now that we don’t have to do that anymore, seems like it’s time to start a new tradition.

Josie Peyton Dec 14, 2009 08:12 am

We always make gingerbread men together on Christmas Eve & then snuggle up on the couch to re-watch Love Actually (AKA the best feel good movie of all time)! Although it’s not a huge to-do, we look forward to doing it as a family every year :)

Caitlin Dec 14, 2009 06:12 pm

Whoa – those are gorgeous! All of them, the cloth, the bowl, the cookies… That’s a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for too long, and I’m almost glad I’ve waited. Adding in cherries sounds absolutely fantastic! (And seriously, if you’re churning out things like that, you have NOTHING to worry about in the baking department!)

Kristi Dec 15, 2009 07:12 am

Since my two oldest children were young teens (and always loved to cook) they have made the Joy of Cooking’s Buche de Noel every year. It is like a ballet to watch Peter and Katherine cook this complex and delicate cake which only lasts one night.
They live 9,000 miles apart now, but at their own Christmases the Buche lives on to delight their own friends and families.

Katie B. Dec 15, 2009 07:12 am

I had a baby in July, and while he won’t really know what Christmas is about, and he won’t remember his first Christmas, I’m looking forward to crafting NEW traditions with my little boy in mind. I’m at least going to start with cinnamon rolls for breakfast! :)

Paula - bell'alimento Dec 15, 2009 01:12 pm

Those are gaw-geous! On Christmas we have a blazing fire all day (even if it’s not cold LOL) stay in our jammies cook a standing rib roast (& all the trimmings) eat at the fancy table tee hee & then sommore’s in the fireplace…

Michele Pineda Dec 15, 2009 02:12 pm

One very big tradition we have is mixing up the cultures…hubby is from Central America, so tamales are definitely a holiday treat. My family is French Canadian, so toutiere pies are something we have eaten for years… and of course for the American in us, we either have a ham or turkey… rice, beans stuffing, tortillas, dinner rolls you name it… everyone gets to try a yummy dish that maybe they have never eaten before. Our friends from Brazil visit as well, and bring some of their South American foods too :) Happy holidays to you!