Monday, October 29, 2007

Sophie got her first taste of dirt yesterday while Mom was busy reading a book. She looks pretty happy with herself, doesn't she?

chocolate + peanut butter= crazy delicious

What is it about cupcakes that makes them so darn irresistable?

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

(This recipe calls for 2 Tbs. brewed coffee. I leave that step out though- it's supposed to enhance the chocolate flavor.)

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Once upon a time I took pride in my job

We went to a Founder's Day celebration at Bobby's school last Friday and Bobby performed the Anaesthetist's Hymn with some other residents and anesthesiologists he was working with during his Anaesthesia rotation. (I'm still learning how to spell anaesthesia. It never looks right to me.) The girls didn't want to cooperate for our family self-portrait, but look how handsome Bobby looks in his scrubs.

"There's nothing like having the right tool for the right job."

Late the other night we were getting ready for bed and I started the dryer and it made the most unhealthy sound I think a dryer can make. In my experience, if something goes wrong with a big household appliance like this, I almost always have to replace it. It's relatively new, but not under warranty most likely, so I was a little worried about it. When Bobby got home the next day, I asked if he would see if it was something he could fix. When Bobby and I first got married, all of his extra spending money went to Sears on Craftsman tools. He waited for tools to go on sale and bought them, and soon enough we had a respectable collection of tools in our downstairs bedroom closet. So now I'm really happy for him whenever he gets to put his tools to good use. Isn't he cute? And so handy!

The culprit behind the horrible noise the dryer was making? A sock. Somehow one of Franny's socks wormed it's way through one of the holes in the air vent! Weird. Bobby was able to pry the sock loose, thereby saving us money spent on a repair man. Way to go Bobby!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Penne Rustica

I think experience has taught me that I love anything with rustica tacked on the end. And I always love a new pasta dish. This is a copycat recipe from Macaroni Grill. It didn't taste very similar to the Penne Rustica I love from the restaurant, but it was still very good. Bobby absolutely loved it. I was glad because of the stroganoff I pulled on him on Tuesday. He is not a fan. Every couple of years I get a craving for beef stroganoff. It's so weird, and every couple of years I give in and make it. I am always disappointed. I think nothing ever measures up to the beef stroganoff my cousin Stephanie made for us when we were first married. I'm going to call her and ask for that recipe. That will be a weird phone call for her. "Hey, do you remember that dinner you made for us six years ago? Can I get the recipe?"

Anyway, this recipe was definitely a keeper. I just recently discovered pimpmydinner and this is the first recipe of hers I've tried. Looks like another good resource for ideas. I served it with macaroni grill bread, just so our copycat cooking could be consistent. I did make a change. I didn't feel like buying marsala wine, so I used 1/2 red wine and 1/2 apple juice. Since I know next to nothing about wine, I don't know how big of a mistake this is and how much it affected the overall taste of the dish. The instructions for this recipe are not very detailed, so I'm going to add my changes here. I really only made a third of this recipe and still had enough to fill an 8x8 and freeze for another night, so this makes a ton! Also, I didn't use all of the sauce I prepared.

12 oz. grilled chicken breast (marinate in olive oil and garlic salt overnight, then grill on barbecue for best flavor)
½ pack thick bacon
16 oz. penne pasta
1 large red bell pepper- diced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 tsp paprika

Gratinata Sauce:
2 tsp butter
1 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup marsala wine (I used 1/4 cup apple juice and 1/4 cup red wine)
1/2 tsp dijon or dry mustard
1 tsp salt1 tsp chopped rosemary
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 1/2 cups heavy cream
mozzarella cheese

Sauté garlic in butter in large pan for a couple of minutes. Add marsala wine and boil until it reduces by half. Add mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream and allow to cook until sauce thickens. Cook pasta according to directions. Cook bacon. Slice chicken into medium-bite size pieces.Combine sauce, cooked pasta, diced chicken, cooked bacon, bell peppers, parmesan cheese, and paprika and mix thoroughly. Spread in pans. Top with chopped rosemary and mozzarella cheese.

Bake @ 475 for 10 minutes. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator the day of. Cover with foil and bake @ 375 for 1 hour. Remove foil during the last 15 minutes.
Preparation Time: More than an hour

Monday, October 22, 2007

Most Embarassing Moment #11 - The Work Stories

Dedicated to my friend Josh, who always got a good laugh at my embarrassing work stories (who may even remember some more that I have blocked out.)

I worked at for 4 years before Bobby started medical school. I held a position in the Human Resources Department and I did administrative-type stuff for them. Part of my job involved resetting people's passwords for our HR intranet site. This seemingly simple responsibility soon became the bane of my existence. If an employee didn't log on once in a period of 30 days, the password would need to be reset. I was receiving angry emails from frustrated employees, and I myself was often frustrated with employees for not following instructions.

Well, our company had a call center filled with college students who for the most part did not want to be troubled with finicky passwords when trying to access their online paycheck, and were sometimes slightly indignant with me when they couldn't log on to the intranet site. Well there was one call center employee- we'll call him Jared, because that's his real name- who was especially rude and/or stupid. Actually, I can't remember what he said, but that's irrelevant anyway. I think we went back and forth with our emails and he was clearly not understanding what I was trying to communicate and he was being rude about it. Well, my friend Johanna and I used to forward the rude and/or stupid emails that people sent us to each other to have a laugh. I forwarded Jared's email to Johanna as was customary and asked her about it later. She said she didn't get it. Oops, I had made this mistake before. I quickly check my outbox to confirm that I had in fact hit "reply" instead of "forward."

Here's what I emailed to Jared: "Can you believe this guy? Did he even read my email? What a jerk!"

It was too late to try and "unsend." The version of Microsoft Outlook had an "unsend" button, which I'm convinced never really works. (I've tried to use it in vain many times.)

The worst part is, he emailed me back and apologized. He said, "Don't worry. Sometimes I am a jerk. My friends tell me so all the time." I felt awful!

Next story...

One year I was really into American Idol. One night this kid sang, "Every Little Step I Take" by Bobby Brown. I LOVE that song! It just takes me back... to a simpler time, you know? Anyway, he got kicked off and I felt bad for him and I played the song he sang in my head the whole next day. So the morning after I got to work pretty early. Noone was around yet and I got up to get a drink out of the drinking fountain. On my way back to my desk, I got a little carried away and forgot where I was and started dancing to the music playing in my head. "Every little step I take- you will be there... every little step I ma-ake, we'll be to geth er..." I kind of step and cock my head to the right and kick my foot back. You know- with a little attitude, like my sister Julia the dancer would say. With my head cocked to the right, I see our company's CEO, Tom has just left the bathroom and he runs right into me, not expecting me to stop to dance to the silent music that only I can hear because it's playing in my head. Now that was embarrassing. I can't remember what I said, but I'm sure it was a great cover. Something like, "er.. uh, sorry Tom."

Speaking of Julia and embarrassing work stories, she has one I'd like to share here. (I have no problem humiliating her on my blog since she informed me this morning that she's been watching home videos from my awkward years with her boyfriend at my Dad's house.) Once Julia came in to visit me at work. She asked where the bathroom was. I told her it was around the corner and so she followed my instructions so she could go and well, you know. So she comes back, laughing her head off, and I'm like, "what, what happened?" She said after she came out of the bathroom, someone was on their way in, so she smiled and held the door open. The person gave her a really strange look and it was only after the door swung shut that she realized she had been using the men's restroom and had just held the door (which was very clearly marked by the way) for a man! I laugh so hard when I picture Julia just standing there holding the door with a big smile on her face! It helps make the story funnier that the man she held the door open for is maybe one of the most socially awkard people I've ever encountered in my life.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Whole Foods

On Thursday I drove out to St. Louis by myself with both girls for Franny's DAN! doctor appointment. All in one day! I am ridiculously proud of this and consider it a great accomplishment. I think I even said to my Dad, "Am I a rockstar mom, or what?" He was like, "what does that mean?" And I was not really sure how to answer. I'm not terribly confident in my driving (or my ability to stay awake for that matter.) I'm also not familiar with St. Louis at all and haven't made many trips by myself with the two kids. It went really well, though. Actually, what really helped was Justin Pace watched Sophie for me while we were with the doctor. I think that made a huge difference.
This is a picture of Franny with Dr. Davis' daughter. Thank goodness she was there because she kept Franny entertained while Dr. Davis rocked my gluten-free world. This totally made my day: Franny can have whole wheat now! She can't have processed wheat, so that still means that this diet is totally inconvenient and expensive, but it will allow for a lot better quality and more creativity and of course more variety when I'm preparing her food. The sad news is, no more bacon, hot dogs, or pepperoni (sodium nitrites). And still no dairy, but we are so happy about the whole wheat and oats and barley! YES! After I picked Sophie up at Justin's house, we headed a little deeper into the city to make a stop at Whole Foods for some gluten-free goods we can't get here where we live. I love that store SO MUCH. I could feel my children growing more and more agitated and as I let my eyes linger over all the tempting cheeses in the display case. There were so many that I haven't ever even heard of! I decided that each time I go, I'm going to try a new cheese. This time I was safe and picked up some gouda. (That is what inspired my latest poll. I'm curious how this concoction sounds to other people.) I also picked up some delicious French Vanilla almond granola which Sophie and I enjoyed this morning mixed into some raspberry yogurt. That is a great grocery store. I am very excited to have access to it when we move to St. Louis. The best grocery store I've ever seen is Central Market in Austin, TX. This is a Texas chain, and there are only a handful of stores. I wish desperately that it was a national chain. They shouldn't call it a grocery store. It's more like a grocery museum. It is FABULOUS. My dear friend Annie took me there when I visited her a couple of years ago. She knew I would love it.
I didn't get on the road until about 8:30 pm, which is dangerously close to 9 pm and when I become narcoleptic. So I stopped at a gas station and picked up one of those energy drinks that are loaded with caffeine. I couldn't trust diet coke because I have one of those every day and I'm still narcoleptic by 9:00. They work. I was up until 2 in the morning and I am finally caught up on sleep now.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sophie's first sugar high

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We had some friends join us for cake and ice cream on Sophie's birthday and it was a blast. (Most of these pictures were taken by Natalie. Thank you SO MUCH, Natalie!! I love them.) Sophie wasn't too sure about the sticky egg-white frosting at first, but after a few tastes off my finger and a little poking around to ensure that there was actually cake underneath all that pink stuff, she got down to business. In fact, she was so slow in the beginning, that I sort of forgot about her and started serving cake and ice cream to everyone else! Slow and steady wins the race and as you can see by the last picture, she made quite a dent in that cake! That night was the first time Bobby and I have ever witnessed an actual "sugar high" with one of our kids. She was all over the place and actually "bouncing off the wall." I saw her walk towards the girls' bedroom and she ran right into the wall, bounced off and fell on the ground, then got back up and kept going! We let her stay up an extra hour after Franny went to bed, since she was clearly too wound up to go to bed. I cleaned the kitchen while Bobby stayed with her in the living room and I came out to find that my birthday girl had crashed next to her Dad, face down in a pillow. It was a really fun day.

Chicken Pot Pie a la Martha Stewart

Praise the day I found this recipe for chicken pot pie. I love this recipe. It's one of my top 5 recipes I found in 2006. What sets it apart for me is the fresh thyme in the flaky crust and the hint of lemon flavor provided by the lemon zest. Also I like the leeks. The pictures I took didn't turn out very well, so I'm posting just one so you can see my cute leaf cut-outs and the other picture is from Martha's site.

I do make a few changes with this recipe. I add a little more of everything and double the crust so I can make two pot pies. Then I freeze one or make it when I'm bringing someone dinner. For Bobby's sake, sometimes I cut out the mushrooms and onions and add more potatoes. Make sure the potatoes are starting to turn golden like the recipe suggests. Once I made this and the potatoes were still a little too raw by the time the filling was supposed to be cooked. It was so disappointing!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sunday Dinner

We made a trip to Sam's Club last Saturday so I took advantage and picked up some fresh salmon and raspberries. (Sometimes fresh salmon costs as much as 10.99 here!) I almost always prepare salmon the same way. It's the way my aunt Becky taught me years ago. Bobby loves it so much that I think I'm afraid to try it another way! Over the years I've added a creamy dill sauce and this time I served it over herbed basmati rice. I served the green salad with the raspberries and some feta cheese with poppy seed dressing over the top. And the staple of most Sunday meals, homemade rolls of course. I'm obsessed!

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Grilled or Broiled Salmon

Start with a salmon filet and brush melted butter over the top. Shake Morton's Nature's Seasonings and Lawry's Seasoning Salt liberally over the top. Broil or grill until salmon is flaking apart. (We like to broil it kind of close to the broiler so it gets a yummy blackened crust.)

Creamy Dill Sauce

4 fresh dill sprigs
2 T butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup cream
6 shallots
salt and pepper

Melt butter and saute minced shallots for a minute or two. Pour in wine and boil until reduced by half. Pour in cream; simmer until reduced. Add salt and pepper and dill.

Herbed Basmati Rice

1 cup uncooked white basmati rice
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbs minced fresh dill
1 Tbs minced fresh scallions, white and green parts
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Combine the rice, 1 3/4 cup water, the salt, and butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low, stir once and simmer covered tightly for 15 minutes. (I actually just use my rice cooker.) Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for 5 miutes. Add the parsley, dill, scallions, and pepper. Fluff with a fork, and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Butterscotch-Topped Gingerbread Cake with Sauteed Apples

Several years ago my mother raved about a cake that her friend Suzy made. (Suzy is a great cook and has FABULOUS recipes.) It sounded wonderful and perfect for fall so ever since then I've been waiting for the right opportunity to test it out. Well, such an occasion presented itself to me last week in the way of cooking club with a Fall/Halloween/pumpkin theme. The recipe calls for baking in a 3-inch deep 9-inch round, but since I was making this for cooking club, I baked it in a 9 x 13. I turned it upside down and cut it into these individual triangles (per Suzy's suggestion.) Oh my goodness. I loved this cake- my mom was right! I ate it for lunch for 4 days straight! It tastes best when the cake and apples are warm and the cool whipped cream starts to melt into the cake. I will definitely be making this again soon. I'm even seriously considering making it a part of Thanksgiving dinner this year, in honor of my mother, who loved this cake.

Butterscotch-Topped Gingerbread Cake with Sauteed Apples

For the butterscotch:
6 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 c packed brown sugar

For the cake:
2 3/4 c cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs ground ginger
1 Tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
8 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp + 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup molasses
1 1/2 cup boiling water
2 large eggs

For the topping:
3 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs sugar
1 3/4 lbs. Apples, peeled, sliced

Butter and flour sides but not bottom of 9 inch round pan. 3 inches deep.

Make butterscotch: in a small saucepan melt 6 Tbs butter and sugar together, stirring for a smooth mixture. Pour it into the cake pan and swirl it to coat the bottom. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Put water on to start boiling. In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, singer, cinnamon, and cloves, and set aside. Using paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. With a fork, stir in 1 tsp of the baking soda vigorously into the molasses until the molasses has lightened somewhat and has changed in texture. This can take a minute or two. Add the molasses to the butter-sugar mixture and mix on medium until completely combined. Add the remaining 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the boiling water. On low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the water to the butter mixture. Finally add the eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter will be very thin. Bake until the center of the cake is spriny and a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes and invert cake onto a serving plate. Let cool an hour before serving. Just vbfore serving, saute apples in butter and sugar mixture. Top cake with warm apples and serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Dance, Dance

McIntosh vs. Honeycrisp

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The best apple pie I've had to date was made by our good friend Bill Brady. His apple pie is flawless. He is the one who taught me that McIntosh apples are the ideal apples for a pie and to settle for nothing less! Unfortunately for me, McIntosh apples are nowhere to be found in the place where I live. Thanks to Jordan and Natalie, I recently discovered the wonder of Honeycrisp apples. Though a little pricey, they make a for an excellent choice as a baking apple because of their tartness and how they can maintain their shape after baking. Looks like McIntosh has met its match in Honeycrisp. This was my first attempt at a lattice pie crust. I have always wanted to do one and finally took the time to figure it out the other day. It took a lot less time that I thought it would. Maybe next time I do it, I'll take some pictures as I go and post some instructions on the blog.

My favorite pie crust comes by way of the Barefoot Contessa. Here's her recipe:

1 1/2 sticks very cold unsalted butter
3 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 T sugar
1/3 c very cold shortening
6-8 T ice water

Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8-12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out onto a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

Apple Pie

8-9 large apples, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (McIntosh or Honeycrisp recommended)
1 1/2 cups sugar
lots of cinnamon
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup flour

Mix together just until apples are coated with dry mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 - 1 1/4 hours. (If the top crust is beginning to burn, you can put a sheet of foil over the top.) Let cool for at least a couple of hours. Serve with vanilla ice cream, OF COURSE.

Thanks to Bill Brady for teaching me everything I know about apple pie!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Sophie!

My Soapy is turning one today! I can't believe how quickly this year has passed and I feel so blessed that Sophie is part of our little family. Sophie was born right in the thick of a very hectic time, with the autism diagnosis looming, Franny's ABA therapy starting, and Bobby's starting the infamous 5th quarter of medical school. I remember being terrified of having to care for two kids before Sophie came, having felt a little stretched with just Franny. But I remember feeling after she was born that the timing of her birth was not another challenge to add to the list of things I needed to endure, but actually a blessing to help me cope with the trials I was facing. There were many times last fall where I felt pushed to my limits (poor Franny was having a typical reaction to a major change in diet and beginning an intensive behavior therapy program) and often feeling very frustrated, my eyes would fall to the tiny baby in my arms and she'd be waiting to meet my gaze and I would feel a wave of peace settle over me. This happened countless times. She is such a good sister to Franny and the two of them love to laugh and play together.

Some interesting facts about Sophie:
1.) Her roots are kind of blonde-ish and her ends are dark brown. She has A LOT of hair.
2.) When she was an infant, she would sometimes go 2 weeks between bowel movements. (gross, sorry).
3.) She sometimes laughs like a robot.
4.) She waves bye, signs for "more" and knows how to use hand sanitizer.
5.) She loves the theme music to The Office and she'll dance to it.
6.) Her favorite food is peas.
7.) She likes to pretend to talk on the phone, but when she does, I get the distinct impression that she's in a hurry and doesn't have a lot of time for small-talk.
8.) She can say grandpa (bampa) but not Dad. :)
9.) Her dad loves her anyway.
10.) So does her mom. But then again, she can say "mama." :)

I've been thinking a lot about when my Mom came to help me with Sophie last year. Originally she planned her trip for about 9 days, but when it was time for her to go she called my Dad and said she felt like I could use her help a little longer and she ended up staying for two weeks! I used to joke often that the only way I could get my family out here for a visit was by having a baby! (Thank goodness that's no longer true because my Dad and my sisters are coming for Thanksgiving!) With a time-consuming church calling, teenage kids at home, and many other responsibilities, it wasn't easy for her to get away. We had such a nice visit. She got to the hospital the night Sophie was born at about 9 pm. I was so excited to see her! We talked for about an hour until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and she stayed in the room with me holding the baby until about midnight. When I came home from the hospital she had a big meal prepared and had stocked the kitchen with all kinds of treats and snacks for us to enjoy. Everytime Sophie needed a bath, my Mom did it. It was the same with Franny. I used to joke that I never get to bathe my babies until they're about 10 days old because my Mom insisted it was her job. My mom also took a huge interest in Franny's gluten-free casein-free diet that we were implementing. She read Karyn Seroussi's book cover-to-cover and made the 90 minute trip to the closest health food store in Columbia to pick up some much-needed ingredients, making a stop at baby Gap and Gymboree for some necessary grandchild-spoiling. She helped us buy a freezer so that I could prepare large amounts of food for Franny and freeze it for my convenience. Franny had her first dance class while she was here and my Mom bought her her first leotard, tutu, and tights. Franny had a blast dancing with all the other little kids and my Mom had a blast watching her. It was difficult to get her there because of the scheduling of Franny's behavior therapy, but my Mom encouraged me to make it work because she saw how happy it made Franny. We watched movies and the entire second season of the Office, which she had never seen before and loved, except for the sexual harrassment episode. We talked A LOT. It was perfect. I am so glad I had that time with her all to myself. Sophie, I have you to thank for that visit.

Here's some video of my Sophie who recently learned to walk (actually about a month ago she started talking steps. I really need to get better at recording my children's milestones.) Oh yeah, and at the end that's Sophie singing her favorite song.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Embarrassing Moment #10- The Creme Brulee Story

The first year Bobby and I were married we had a Christmas party and invited our good friends Mary and Jason and Joe and Suzy. We were all experimenting with different recipes and we put together a fancy holiday menu. Mary made an impressive apple-filled pork roast, Suzy brought some delicious side dishes, and I was in charge of dessert. I could not decide on one dessert, so I ended up preparing two, which saved me in the end since one of these desserts ended up making it into the hall of fame of my embarassing moments.

I found this recipe on epicurious for Black and White Creme Brulee. It was chocolate custard on the bottom half of the ramekin and vanilla custard on top. The recipe called for bittersweet chocolate. I was pretty new to cooking at this point and when I couldn't find bittersweet chocolate on the grocery store shelves, I figured unsweetened chocolate was the same as bittersweet and bought that.

So we have a lovely dinner- everything tasted fabulous- and then after we played games, I served dessert. I thought it would be fun for everyone to use the kitchen torch and "brulee" their own "creme." So Suzy and Joe start eating theirs first and all of the sudden I can hear them giggling and well, uh, gagging a little bit. Well that can't be good, I thought to myself, so I hurried over and grabbed one of the desserts to find out for myself what was going on with my creme brulee and tasted the vanilla layer on top: creamy, sweet, and delicious! Then I go for the bottom layer: uh-oh, this tastes like poop! I'm serious, too. It was disgusting; the flavor paired with the custardy consistency was just too much and all the creme brulee went right into the kitchen sink. Luckily I had prepared an extra dessert. The Sachertorte mit Schlagobers (with whipped cream) saved the day!

Before I realized my mistake, I logged on and wrote a review of the recipe, which is maybe even more embarrassing. Click here. I'm the cook from Provo.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I once had a friend who was a really good dancer who used to tell me when she would lay awake at night and choreograph dance moves in her head. I do that with menu planning. I love to daydream about Sunday dinner each week. Once I finally work out the menu, I plan out the logistics in my head (timing, presentation, blah blah) and then I imagine how delicious it will taste.

It's a little embarrassing to admit how much I love to think about food, but then I guess it shouldn't really come as any big surprise to anyone.

I really wanted to make something new for this week's Sunday dinner, but I just couldn't come up with anything. Jayne was talking about making Lemon Fusilli Pasta and even though I wanted to find a new recipe, I couldn't find anything that sounded better to me than this, so I finally caved and started with this delicious pasta dish. Out of the same cookbook, Barefoot at Home, I found a recipe for Orange-Honey Glazed Carrots. In addition to the orange and honey, Ina uses ginger to balance the sweetness with a little spice. It was very good. I will definitely be making this again. I am obsessed with homemade rolls right now. I want them every Sunday. Here's a shout out to Ashley for teaching me how to roll them up crescent-style.

I should really be calling this Lemon Rotini Pasta, as I can't find Fusilli in the place where I live. I also had to substitute spinach for arugula for the same reason. I dream of living in a place where I can access a good butcher, specialty pastas, and ingredients like arugula and lime kaffir leaves. Sorry for the digression- back to the pasta: I also add grilled lemon chicken to this recipe. It's a real find:

For the Grilled Lemon Chicken, I marinate 4 chicken breasts in equal parts lemon juice and olive oil (1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of each), 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tsp dried thyme. Marinade at least 2 days- 3 days is better. This chicken is amazing! We just grill it on the George Foreman.

Orange-Honey Glazed Carrots
2 lbs carrots, peeled
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs honey
kosher salt
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 c freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cut the carrots diagonally in 1-inch-thick slices. You should have about 5 cups of carrots. Place 1/2 cup water, the butter, honey, 2 tsp salt, and the ginger in a large saute pan and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes, until all the water has evaporated.

Add the orange zest and orange juice to the pan, tossing with the carrots. Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, until the carrots are al dente (tender but still resistant when you bite) and the sauce glazes the carrots. Add the pepper and another tsp of salt, to taste. (I left this last step out actually.)

Unfortunately Jessica's gingersnaps could not be photographed on account of their being scarfed down too quickly by Bobby and I due to their sheer awesomeness.

Cherry Lime Coconut Scones

2 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1/3 c dried cherries
1/3 c sweetened coconut
zest of 1 lime
2/3 c coconut milk

glaze for scones:
juice of one lime
powdered sugar

Mix dry ingredients in food processor. Add diced butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas. Add lime zest, coconut and cherries and pulse 2 or 3 more times. Add coconut milk all at once and process until dough comes together. Pat dough on a floured surface into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut into circles or half-moons. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and brush with lime glaze.

My Franny

Just an update on Franny. She has become our little opera singer. She gets very carried away with her Disney princess soundtrack (yes, Jill- the same one you gave us so long ago!) When she's singing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, she even gets down and the floor and acts out the scene just like she's Ariel. Bobby and I beam with pride everytime she belts out the lyrics. Bobby says she gets her singing voice from me, which I choose to take as a compliment (knowing full well it is SO NOT.)

We see her verbal skills and her vocabulary increasing all the time. The other day she came in and said, "Sophie, I like your jammies!" Or she'll be talking about her dress and say, "It's SO PRETTY!"

I enjoyed seeing Jenny McCarthy on Oprah a while back. (BTW, Jenny McCarthy was so annoying when I was in high school. I couldn't stand her, now I think she's a rockstar for taking such a huge interest in her son's recovery and staying so upbeat about it.) I think it's great that Oprah is taking such a big interest- she's had several shows focusing on autism lately- and I love that someone with so much notoriety like Jenny McCarthy has a son. All this attention has to be good and I think it will eventually lead to more time, more research, and more mysteries unraveled.

Jenny McCarthy mentioned that when her son was very young and before he received his diagnosis, she would notice that he would never play with the toys in his playroom. We had always noticed that when Franny played with toys, she'd become fixated on one or two of them and wasn't very interested in the others. When we moved into our new house, we decided to put the girls in one room and use the third bedroom as a playroom. When we first had Sophie, I thought about having more kids and how we would probably always need to make sure that Franny had her own space and her own bedroom. I've talked to other mothers who have said that was really important for their child, so they could go have a quiet place where they could stim and just have some quiet time. I started to realize however that Franny was never using her bedroom for alone time, so we started to think a playroom might be a good idea. It's made a huge difference with her toy play at home. Who knew? But often she'll come up to Bobby or me and say, "I want to go room." We both know that means that she is ready to play!
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