Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday Dinner - Melody's in town!

My good friend Melody is in town working for a couple weeks and we were thrilled to have her over for dinner last night! She is the most creative person I know and incredibly talented and artistic. She's painting elaborate murals in four different children's rooms of this enormous church that will be opening soon here in Kirksville. It's going to be gorgeous. I went over to help her paint on Saturday and I'm not sure I was any kind of help at all. She asked me to paint a couple of angel fish on her "Under the Sea" mural and right away I realized I had no clue what I was doing and called out, "Melody, help!!"

I wanted to make her a delicious meal so I went searching for newrecipes and here's what I came up with:

The pumpkin pasta was a risk, I have to admit, but it turned out pretty good. I had warned Bobby that there was going to be pumpkin on his pasta on the way home from church and he told me not to worry. He forgave me in advance for making a disgusting dinner. P-shah! Whatever, Mr. "Can I have another helping of that delicious pasta?" :) I couldn't decide between the two desserts so I made them both. I love two desserts with Sunday dinner. Skip the salad, add a dessert. That's my Sunday dinner mantra.

Only I kind of blew it on the grape tart. I found the recipe in this month's copy of Martha Stewart Living, and I guess they don't add those to the website right away. I'd rather not take the time to scan the picture of how it's really supposed to look. It tasted amazing, though. I may try it again to get the presentation right. I had the wrong-sized tart pan and tried to pull it off with a pie plate and the top crust fell apart. Which wouldn't have really mattered except I had punched little holes in the top with the underside of two pastry tips to look like a bunch of grapes, hence the whole reason I wanted to try the recipe in the first place!

The other dessert was The Pioneer Woman's Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce. Wow. WOW. That was so good that apparently it has rendered me speechless. I have no words.

Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce

1 cup flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (one stick) butter, cut into bits
5-6 cups, peeled, sliced fresh peaches
Juice and grated zest of 1⁄2 lemon
2 T. maple syrup
*Maple cream Sauce, for serving

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in
medium bowl. Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture is the
consistency of coarse meal. Place peaches in 9-inch square baking pan or smaller
baking dish. Gently mix in lemon juice, rind and maple syrup. Top with crumb
mixture. Cover tightly with foil and bake about 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake
20 to 30 minutes more or until top is crisp and brown. You might want to broil for
a couple of minutes to ensure good color. Serve warm with maple cream sauce.

*Maple Cream Sauce

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
5 T. maple syrup
3 T. light corn syrup

Combine all ingredients in heavy sauce pan; cook over moderate heat, stirring
constantly until thickened and reduced by 1/3, approximately 20 minutes. Chill.
Drizzle generously over Peach Crisp.

Penne with Pumpkin Rosemary Cream Sauce (I added grilled chicken to this dish)


Serves 4.

* 12 ounces penne rigate (ridged), or other short pasta
* Coarse salt
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
* 1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin puree
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/2 cup half-and-half
* 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
* 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
* 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish (optional)
3 chicken breasts, seasoned and coated with olive oil, then grilled and sliced across the grain


1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and set aside.
2. In pasta pot, heat oil over medium. Add rosemary and fry, stirring, until starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel, leaving oil in pot.
3. Carefully (oil is hot and will spatter) add pumpkin puree, garlic, half-and-half, Parmesan, vinegar, red-pepper flakes, and 1 cup reserved pasta water to pot. Stir sauce until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add pasta and chicken to sauce, and toss to coat. If sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water. Season generously with salt. Serve pasta sprinkled with fried rosemary and, if desired, more red-pepper flakes.

When Julia, Annie, and I ate at that Greek restaurant on my birthday, Julia and I could not get over the asparagus they brought out. It was scrumptious. This was my attempt to recreate that. It wasn't quite the same, but still a big hit.

Lemon Nutmeg Scones with Lemon Cream Cheese Spread

Lemon Nutmeg Scones
adapted from Taste and Tell

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, diced
1 (8-oz) container lemon yogurt
1/3 cup dried cherries
2 eggs
4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp lemon rind

Heat oven to 450F. Grease a cookie sheet.

Mix flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg in food processor. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and salt; blend well. Add diced butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the lemon yogurt, cherries, and eggs. Add to dry ingredients all at once; pulse just until the mixture comes together to form a ball. On floured surface, shape dough into ball. On greased cookie sheet, press dough into 9-inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; sprinkle over top of dough. Cut into 12 wedges; separate so wedges are 1 inch apart. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until very light golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine remaining yogurt and cream cheese and lemon rind. Blend well. Serve with warm scones.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


My sister Julia took me to see Wicked in LA on my birthday. I'd been hoping to spend the day at Disneyland with my girls and hopefully my sisters and Dad, but when Julia suggested Wicked I thought it sounded less risky. Standing in lines all day with a 2 year old strikes me as unwise and I wanted to have fun on my birthday. So my Dad stayed home with the girls and Julia, Annie, and I drove out to the Pantages theater. I had so MUCH FUN. I loved the musical. I pretty much knew I would love it. I've never met a single person who saw it and didn't LOVE it, so it seemed like a safe bet. It was fabulous. I would totally see it again.
Before the show we walked around on Hollywood Blvd to kill the time. We ate at a Greek restaurant and took pictures and laughed and laughed. One of the things that got me laughing the hardest was the funniest pictures we got of Julia. In fact, it's even got me laughing now. Kind of a Wicked laugh. She's going to kill me when she sees this.

She and Annie made the night a lot of fun for me and helped me remember how lucky I am to have such wonderful sisters. We sure missed Maggie, though! (Although that Greek restaurant NEVER would have happened if Maggie were with us. No freaking way she would have let that happen.)

When I got home that night, my Dad had fed the girls, bathed them, washed their hair, and put them to bed. There were balloons, a gift, cards from him and the girls, and this delicious chocolate cake which made for a delightful breakfast the next morning. Thank you Dad!

Friday, September 19, 2008

crazy and fun

The frequency of my blogging has not been keeping up with my kids and all of their crazy antics. Almost daily now I think, "I should write that down somewhere." And since I don't keep any sort of journal or scrapbook, this is the only place I would record their shenanigans. Sophie's behavior has been especially noteworthy as of late. I'm starting to suspect that Sophie is a lot like how people who knew my sister Julia when she was a kid describe her. Crazy and fun.

Let's see - where to start? I have 4 or 5 stories to share with you. We boarded a second plane on Wednesday, the girls and I, in Dallas. The layover was short- 40 minutes was all- our first plane arrived late and it took us forever to get our stroller. We were the last passengers to make it to the gate. With both girls in the stroller, I breathed a sigh of relief and handed the attendant our boarding passes. As I waited for her to scan and return them, Sophie jumped out of the stroller and took off running. Franny was amused and ran the other way. I was able to get Franny's attention and eventual cooperation, but Sophie was off and running without so much as a backward glance. Frazzled, I saw a woman make a feeble attempt to grab Sophie and I called out, "Can you please grab her?" I caught hold of Franny and left her with our stroller and the attendant who took my tickets and ran off to locate Sophie. (To my chagrin, I noticed the lady had slowly turned to follow Sophie and stopped, even though I couldn't see Sophie.) I rounded the corner hoping to cut off Sophie from the other end of the smoking room she had run into, and I found the lady whose help I had requested. She looked at me curiously and said, "She's just laying down," with a shrug. Sophie ran away from me at full speed and just laid herself face down, next to a trash can, in the designated smoking area. So bizarre! Apparently she thinks if she can't see me, then I must not be able to see her. She LOVES to hide in public places and it scares me!

Despite wearing herself out everyday and not getting as much as sleep as usual, Sophie has had a difficult time settling down and just going to sleep at night. We've been putting her back in bed two, three, sometimes four times each night. My dad and sister Annie get up at 5 AM every morning every day to get ready for seminary. Annie slept on the couch the other night and sluggishly climbed the stairs at that ridiculous hour of 5 AM and found a little surprise when she walked in. Sophie was in her room and standing in the bottom drawer of her dresser and playing with her jewelry. What the crap? She was already adjusted to the CA schedule and sleeping until 7:00 AM most mornings. She cracks me up. As soon as Sophie saw Annie, she took off running for her room and went back to sleep.

Tonight I had to make a special trip to Target for some deodorant on account of Sophie eating the one I brought with me. How gross is that?! I've been sleeping downstairs since we've been here, and Sophie wanted me to put her down for a nap in my room. I made a quick scan of the room for anything hazardous or anything she could potentially make into a mess. Nothing concerned me, so I closed the door and went back to what I was doing. Half an hour later I found her asleep on top of a very large stuffed panda bear with one of my flip-flops in her hand. After transferring her to my bed, I made my way towards the door and noticed some white wet chunks on the floor next to a chewed up deodorant stick. "Oh gross," I thought. She ate my deodorant!! I called Poison Control and do you know what they said to me? They get this call every day!

I checked on her again an hour later and I found her asleep on top of our clothes inside our suitcase! Man, she is hilarious. Such a fireball.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


One day my dad received two phone calls within two hours from two of his children. Richard and Julia had both totaled their cars in two different states. Ever since then if one of us calls crying, it makes him crazy. Once I called him from Julia's phone on April Fools' Day and pretended to be Julia and while feigning a distraught and troubled voice, I cried, "Dad?! I've been in an accident!" How mean is that? I quickly followed it with a loud and gleeful, "APRIL FOOLS!!!"

So this morning when I called him crying, I quickly told him the reason so he wouldn't have to worry that anyone was injured, dead, or missing. It was for a silly reason- I never actually paid for the flight I was supposed to board with my two daughters tomorrow afternoon. I found and selected the flight the night before we left for Idaho, and I thought I paid for it, but apparently I didn't. After searching my email for a confirmation, calling Travelocity, and verifying with my credit card company that no charges would be made, I'm convinced I made a really stupid mistake late that evening on the 15 of August by not clicking that last button. That last button is always hard for me to click. It's painful to click the button that's going to withdraw $400 from your account.

Well, after an hour on the phone with a call center worker from overseas who calls himself, "Gary", I gave up on Travelocity and tried Hotwire instead. It took "Gary" five minutes to locate the Kansas City airport on his list. When he was reading off one of the flight options, he told me the arrival time was "one three PM." I said, "you mean, 1:30 PM?" Him: "No, one three PM." Me: "Oh, you mean 1:03 PM." Him: "Yes ma'am, one three PM." Yikes. Instead of flying out tomorrow, we fly out on Sunday morning for only $50 more a ticket than we were planning on paying before. So I feel lucky.

Anyway, this day obviously got off to a weird start. And I've been trying to think of the bright side of being here a few more days. Maybe I can convince Bobby to come home from St. Louis for Friday night and Saturday. Maybe I can actually take the time to blog about our trip to Idaho/Utah. Maybe I can get some more pictures up on the walls and finish my quilt (which is SO close by the way- I love it!)

I stumbled across a blog today that had posted this inspiring video. Please take a few minutes to watch it if you can. I was so touched by the love and understanding this 13 year old girl has for her little brother David who has Downs syndrome.

I feel a little overwhelmed with all the attention that special needs kids/adults are getting with everything that's going on in politics and the media, with Obama's stand on abortion, and Palin's son, and that movie Tropic Thunder that came out. The low expectations that our society places on individuals with disabilities saddens me. One of the most important things I've learned about Franny through our experience is that I can expect a heck of a lot from her. She has surpassed my expectations enough in the recent years that I've learned to always set them higher. I remember her consultant Melinda saying once that whenever she starts with a new kid, whoever the kid is and no matter what their behaviors are or how nonverbal they may be at the time, she always assumes that child can be taught to speak and use words. If something comes up later that will stand in the way, like apraxia, or some other diagnosis in addition to autism, then that's fine, but she always starts out believing they can be taught. As a parent, I was so impressed and inspired by that. I think it's influenced the way I feel about Franny and what she is capable of.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What did I JUST DO- the story of the Pear Custard Pie

So, I've been reading this blog for a while and she recommended this cookbook. I bought it and tried a few recipes but then I forgot about it for a while. Yesterday when I was going shopping I thought I might be in the mood to try something new. A recipe for Pear Custard Pie caught my eye and I remembered that pears are on sale right now so I thought, what the hey, I'll give it a whirl. Knowing full well that Bobby won't touch this stuff, I made it tonight after dinner. It was so easy! After glancing at the recipe, I assumed there was a standard pie crust. Not so! Just a simple custard batter that you whip up in your blender. Blender! I almost never use my blender! You thinly slice the pears, arrange them in the pie plate and then pour the batter over the pear slices. I think the simplicity of this recipe makes it taste better.

I took it out of the oven, let it cool for about 10 minutes and dusted it with some powdered sugar. I cut out a small slice and like a civilized person, served it to myself on a pretty little dessert plate. Less than ten seconds after consuming that slice I was hovering over the pie plate and shoveling huge monster bites into my mouth. And now there is only half a pie left. Oh crap.

Pear Custard Pie

  • 3 Comice or Bartlett pears, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners' sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter a 9-inch pie dish. Peel, halve, and core 3 Comice or Bartlett pears; slice 1/4 inch thick lengthwise. Arrange slices, overlapping slightly, in dish.
  2. In a blender, process 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, 1/3 cup each granulated sugar and all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3 large eggs, 3/4 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.
  3. Pour batter over pears; bake until golden and firm to touch, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's fricken good

Our beloved husband and father left us tonight to go do a rotation in St. Louis. Boo. I wanted to make him a really special meal as a send-off so he'd know how much we'll all miss him. I've been wanting an excuse to make fried chicken and recognized a good opportunity. I once saw this episode on Food Network of one of Bobby Flay's cooking shows and he made this for his girlfriend. It made my mouth water watching him prepare and eat those buttermilk biscuits. Buttermilk is one of my favorite ingredients. I just love what it does for cakes and scones. It seemed appropriate to serve ice cold IBC root beer as a beverage with this meal. I served them to my family (even my almost 2-year old) in the bottles and they were a big hit with my kids. They weren't at all interested in the rest of the meal, but since I was okay with my children having root beer for dinner on Bobby's last night at home for a while, there were no fights at the dinner table tonight.

The girls may not have enjoyed the food, but Bobby and I were pleased with it.

Fried Chicken

1 quart buttermilk, plus 2 cups
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chile de arbol powder, or 2 tablespoons hot sauce, plus 2 teaspoons chile de arbol powder, or cayenne pepper
2 chickens (3 to 4 pounds each), each cut up into 8 pieces
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
Peanut oil, for deep-frying

In a large bowl or baking dish, whisk together 1 quart of the buttermilk, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 teaspoons of chile de arbol powder, or hot sauce, and a little bit of pepper, if desired. Add the chicken pieces, turn to coat, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place the remaining 2 cups of buttermilk in a bowl. Stir together the flour, garlic and onion powders, paprika, and 2 teaspoons chile de arbol powder (or cayenne) in a large bowl. Divide flour mixture among 2 shallow platters and season generously with salt and pepper. Drain the chicken in a colander and pat it dry. Dredge the pieces a few at a time in the flour mixture and pat off excess, then dip in the buttermilk and allow excess to drain off. Dredge in the second plate of flour and pat off the excess. Put the chicken pieces on a piece of waxed paper or on a clean platter while you heat the oil.

Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep cast iron skillet; the oil should not come more than halfway up the sides of the pot. Put the pot over medium-high heat and heat the oil to 375 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the hot oil, 3 or 4 at a time and fry, turning the pieces occasionally, until evenly golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a rack to drain; repeat to cook the remaining pieces. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Mashed Potatoes

2 large russet potatoes

Wash potatoes and peel. Cut into large chunks (1 1/2 - 2 inch pieces). Put in large pot of warm, salted water and bring to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, set your timer for 15 minutes. If the potatoes don't quite feel soft after 15 minutes, let it keep going for 2 or 3 more. Drain potatoes. Pour potatoes back into pot and mash with a potato masher. (Or if you have one, use a food mill like Ina does.) While you're mashing those potatoes and giving them everything you've got, add 3 or 4 Tbs of butter and a few teaspoons of salt and some generous shakes with your black pepper. Heat a small amount of milk (1/2 cup?) in your microwave. Add your milk a little at a time with a whisk and mix until you reach your desired consistency. Add more salt, pepper, butter to taste. Mmmmm......

Buttermilk Biscuits

Makes about 15
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat (French nonstick baking mat) or parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
  2. Transfer about 2 1/2 cups flour mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add butter, and pulse until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Return butter mixture to the bowl with the flour mixture. Use your fingers to combine.
  3. Add buttermilk, and stir just until mixture comes together; the batter will be sticky. Transfer to lightly floured work surface; use floured fingers to pat dough to 1-inch thickness. Use a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter to cut biscuits as close together as possible to minimize scraps. Gather scraps together once, pat together and flatten, and cut out.
  4. Transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet; bake until lightly browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
Sequence of events: I started out with the potatoes. I washed, peeled, and cut them and placed them in the water and turned on the heat. Then I set out to make the biscuits. I mixed the dough, cut out the biscuits, and placed them in the oven since they need 20 minutes. By the time I was finishing up with the biscuits, the potatoes were ready for mashing. I prepared them in the pot I boiled them in and put the lid on to trap the heat. Then, while the biscuits were baking, I got ready to fry the chicken. It wasn't until this point that I realized that each chicken piece needs to boil for 20 minutes. It all worked out fine, we had enough chicken to get the meal started and the potatoes and biscuits were still warm, but next time I would start the chicken-frying a good 20 minutes earlier.

Still tossing 'em back!

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