Friday, July 24, 2009

Here comes the bride


On the way home from the pool today Franny asked, "Mommy, how is Daddy your husband?"
I told her that Daddy and I got married and that makes him my husband. Then she asked me if she is going to get married, who she is going to get married to and what his name is going to be.

I said no she would not be getting married and forbade her to ever mention it again.

What? That girl is in too much of a hurry to grow up and someone needed to put a stop to it. ;)

Crack makes me tired.


Here's a few funny things my kids have been saying that just need to get written down somewhere:

The other morning we came home from dropping Franny off at school and Sophie informed me that she needed to poop. I asked her if she wanted to try going on the potty. (We took a very large step back from potty training a month or two ago and I'm not yet ready to reembark on that exciting adventure.) She said, "actually... yes." Every time I ask her a question now, her reply starts with, "actually...." It's pretty funny. So anyway, she's sitting on her little pink training potty, trying to do her business and here's how our conversation goes:

Sophie: "Mommy, it's not working! I need more."
Mommy: "More what?"
Sophie: "More batteries."

In case you hadn't guessed, when things aren't working in our house, more batteries usually solves the problem.

Franny's consultant has asked me to write down examples of her sentences, so she can get a better idea of where her language patterns are at, how she's doing with prepositions, pronouns, etc. My favorite one so far has been when she told us that crack makes her tired.

Allow me to explain.

We were sitting in the living room and I twisted at the waist and cracked my back. I said, "Oh, that hurt my back." Franny said, "let me see" and started lifting up my shirt trying to see where I had injured myself. I explained to her that she couldn't see where my back hurt because it was inside my body. She thought about that for a second, and about my reaction. She must have thought I was tired as a result because she said, "Crack makes me tired." It was so cute and so funny.

Ashley's Roll Recipe

I had a request to post my roll recipe. I must confess, that everything I am as a roll maker is thanks in large part to my friend Ashley. She gave me this fabulous recipe, and taught me how to roll them up nice and pretty. I typed these instructions out to include in the cookbook I made for my sister when she got married.

Dinner Rolls

2 T yeast
1/3 cup sugar +1 T sugar
1 1/2 c warm milk
1/3 c butter flavored shortening (I just use butter)
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
6-7 c flour (it usually ends up being 5 1/2 cups for me)

Combine yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup warm milk. Mix together with a fork. (You can warm the milk in the microwave. It should be about 110 degrees for the best results. I usually microwave 1/2 cup milk to mix with the yeast for 40 seconds.) The sugar will help the yeast to turn into a sponge. Once it looks kind of foamy and spongy- it's ready. This should take less than five minutes. In mixing bowl fitted with the dough hook, pour remaining sugar and milk, shortening (or butter), salt, eggs, and 2 cups of the flour, as well as the yeast mixture. Turn mixer onto low and mix until blended. Add two more cups of flour and mix again until blended. Add remaining flour half a cup at a time until the dough lightly sticks to the bottom of the bowl, or until you can handle it well. (You should be able to lightly touch the dough and it won't stick to your finger when it's ready.) Knead by hand (my favorite part!) for about a minute then place in a large, oiled bowl. (Pour a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the bottom of the bowl and swirl it around, then move the dough around so it is slightly oiled. This will prevent it from forming a crust.) Drape a kitchen towel over the bowl and let it rise until twice its size (about an hour and a half.) Divide the dough into 4 or 6 sections (4 if you want large rolls, 6 if you want small rolls.) Roll out each section into a long rectangle, about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick. Using your pizza cutter and starting from the middle of the end of the rectangle closest to you, slice the rectangle in half so that now you have two long rectangles. Now, starting from the point where you made the first slice, cut each rectangle into two triangles. Now you are ready to roll these babies into crescent shapes. Starting with the flat end of the triangle, roll the dough towards the tip. (Pictured on the left in case my instructions are impossible to understand.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let your rolls rise about 45 minutes and bake for 15 minutes. (If you leave the dough in a warm place like on top of the stove or somewhere near the oven, it will rise faster.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunday Dinner - Two Desserts

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Lemon Fusilli Pasta with Grilled Lemon Chicken
adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried fusilli pasta
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 grilled lemon chicken breasts (see recipe below)

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add the cream, the zest from 2 lemons, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta in a colander and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and cook it over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed in the pasta. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl, add the spinach, Parmesan, sliced chicken and tomatoes. Cut the last lemon in half lengthwise, slice it 1/4-inch thick crosswise, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.

Grilled Lemon Chicken

This is the best chicken marinade ever and I don't think I have it posted anywhere on my blog. My sincerest apologies, my friends, because that is just not right! This recipe is like a secret weapon. It takes ordinary chicken and makes it taste... extraordinary.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • 3/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, halved and skin removed

Directions

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Pour over the chicken breasts in a nonreactive bowl. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. (According to Ina, but I think the optimum marinating time is two nights.) Grill chicken.


Tomato Feta Salad
from the Barefoot Contessa- I made only about 1/4 of this recipe. I'm the only tomato fan in the family.

Ingredients

  • 4 pints grape tomatoes, red or mixed colors
  • 1 1/2 cups small-diced red onion (2 onions)
  • 1/4 cup good white wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds feta cheese

Directions

Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a large bowl. Add the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley and toss well. Dice the feta in 1/2 to 3/4-inch cubes, crumbling it as little as possible. Gently fold it into the salad and serve at room temperature.

Caramel Crunch Bars (from Baking From My Home To Yours)

I love these so much! The first time I tried them sandwiched around vanilla ice cream, but after sitting in the freezer, they were two frozen to eat. I prefer them at room temperature. I'm a little mad at Bobby for finishing them off last night without checking with me first. ;)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

6 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup toffee bits

To make the shortbread

Preheat oven to 375

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, salt and cinnamon.

In a large mixing bowl, add butter and beat until creamy and smooth. Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Pour in the dry ingredients and turn the mixture on low speed - mix just until the dry ingredients are almost all incorporated. At this point, add the chopped bittersweet chocolate - using a wooden spoon or firm spatula, stir the mixture until combined.

The dough should be creamy and very sticky at this point. Place dollops of the batter over the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking pan coated with nonstick spray. Using an offset spatula, a spoon or wet fingertips, spread the mixture into a thin even layer.

Bake until the shortbread is a rich golden brown and looks like it is trying to come away from the sides of the pan, about 20 to 24 minutes. Remove the pan and turn the oven off.

To make the topping

Scatter the top of the hot shortbread with the chopped bittersweet chocolate. Pop the pan back into the turned off oven and let sit for 2 minutes to soften the chocolate. Remove and immediately use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate mixture all over the top. Scatter the toffee bits on top of the melted chocolate and gently press down to adhere. Place the baking pan on a wire rack to cool completely - if the chocolate has not firmed up by the time you need to cut the bars, briefly place it in the refrigerator to set.


Lemon Cornmeal Cake with Lemon Glaze and Blueberry Topping

from Epicurious.com

ingredients
Glaze:
1 1/2 cups (packed) powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon Juice

Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Crushed-Blueberry Sauce
preparation
For glaze:

Combine powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in small bowl. Stir with spoon until smooth and paste-like, adding more lemon juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls if glaze is too thick to spread. Set aside.


For cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides; line bottom with parchment. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl; whisk to blend. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, lemon peel, and vanilla in small bowl. Pour buttermilk mixture and melted butter into flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, gently fold liquids into flour mixture until just blended (do not stir). Scrape batter into pan; spread evenly.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes.

Immediately run knife around sides of cake. Place rack atop cake in pan. Using oven mitts, hold pan and rack firmly together and invert cake onto rack. Remove pan from cake. Place another rack on bottom of cake; invert 1 more time so that cake is top side up. Stir glaze until blended. While cake is still very hot, drop glaze by tablespoonfuls onto cake; spread to within 1/2 inch of edge (some glaze may drip down sides of cake). Cool completely. Serve with Crushed-Blueberry Sauce.



Best Roasted Chicken I've ever made with Root Beer Ice Cream


I've been making roast chicken for a long time. I always use Ina's recipe and I'm never fully satisfied. It always ends up tasting kind of greasy. I have an abundance of fresh thyme and oregano growing in pots on my deck and I thought a thyme-oregano roasted chicken recipe was in order. I combined Ina's with this other recipe I found online and here's what I came up with:

Lemon Roasted Chicken

  • 1 5lb whole chicken, rinsed
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 handful of fresh oregano
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Carefully rinse chicken with cold water. Take cloves of garlic from the head of garlic and mince. Chop half of the time and oregano (leave the rest to stuff inside the cavity.) Mix minced garlic with the juice from the lemons, chopped thyme, chopped oregano, and olive oil. Rub evenly over the entire bird. Carefully, lift the skin over the breasts and rub the mixture directly on the breast meat. Next, sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the entire bird. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken as well. Place the lemon rinds, remaining thyme (including stems) and remaining oregano inside the cavity of the chicken along with the rest of the garlic head, sliced in half, cross-ways.

Place chicken on a rack inside dish. Truss the chicken. Place the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, making sure not to touch bone. Roast uncovered for 1 1/2 hours or until thermometer reads 170 degrees. I start basting the bird after 2 hours and repeat every 1/2 an hour after that. If you want crispy skin, stop basting for the last hour of cooking time. Remove from the oven and let the bird "rest" for at least 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

The root beer ice cream wasn't available for photographs due to the fact that it was consumed much too quickly by the four of us. I got the idea from Natalie and Ray and I am forever in their debt because of it!

Root Beer Ice Cream

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2-3/4 tsp root beer extract (taste as you add. You want it to be just right!)

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream, half and half, milk and extracts and whisk to blend.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's directions.

Chicken Scallopine

I tried this one night for a Sunday dinner and I totally recommend it. This recipe for Chicken Scallopine comes by way of the Pioneer Woman and will not disappoint you. Oh how I love capers! I forgot to buy mushrooms unfortunately, but I'll remember next time.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Picnic Lunch

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The theme at Franny's summer school this past week was "Picnics." Every day of the week she wanted to have a picnic outside at dinner time and then go swimming in our little inflatable pool. We did eat dinner al fresco two or three times last week, but never once did we "picnic" in the true fashion. So Saturday we decided to pack up a lunch and head for Thousand Hills, a beautiful state park near by that I sadly rarely think of for family outings. It was a little windy, but very nice with the lake nearby. We enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, drank Capri Suns and root beer, and enjoyed the unusually temperate July weather.

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Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Basil Salsa

This was no disappointment. I had about 90% of the ingredients required for this recipe, and I thought, what the hey? Typically when I see a recipe like this I skip it, thinking where's the cream sauce? Where's the butter? This is too healthy to taste good. I'm glad I gave this one a second look. And I didn't even have cilantro! (I also didn't have fresh jalapenos (only jarred) or scallions.) I think the cilantro would have been lovely.

Grilled Chicken with Blueberry-Basil Salsa
martha stewart

Ingredients

1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing grill
2 jalapeno chiles
24 scallions
3 cups blueberries (about 1 pound), picked over and rinsed
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, very thinly sliced, plus whole leaves for garnish
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish
2 pounds chicken breasts
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Heat grill to medium-high; lightly oil it. Grill jalapenos until slightly charred and blistered, turning frequently, about 15 minutes. Using a paper towel, pull off stems and remove skins from chiles. Roughly chop flesh and seeds; set aside. Meanwhile, grill scallions, turning often, until soft and charred in spots, 3 to 4 minutes; set aside.
  2. Place 2 cups blueberries in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped, about five times. Transfer to a medium bowl, and add onion, jalapenos, lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Add basil, cilantro, remaining cup blueberries, and oil; stir to combine.
  3. Sprinkle chicken with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the cayenne. Grill chicken until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Place 4 grilled scallions on each plate, and top with chicken. Serve immediately, topped with a generous spoonful of blueberry salsa. Garnish with basil and cilantro leaves.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mommy? Where Daddy go?

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No doubt about it, we are missing Dr. Fields around here. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. It was wonderful having you around for so long sweetheart. I'll miss all the afternoon games of Sequence and your masterful art of protein-shake making. I just can't make them like you do.

newsprint

First time my daughter and I have appeared together in a newspaper, that I know of. :)

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

4th of July 2009

Despite unfavorable weather conditions, we still had a great 4th of July. It was the morning after Bobby's first on-call night. (Nobody died on his watch so that's good.) Franny came downstairs and asked where Daddy was. After I told her Daddy was at work, she said, "He needs to come home and go to sleep." We met up with him for a pancake breakfast at the church.

The girls and I headed to Walmart for some groceries and by the time we got home, Daddy was fast asleep. The girls spent the morning watching cartoons and playing while I prepared some 4th of July food for the Wilson's BBQ that night. I made the creamiest lime meringue pie and a Dill Potato Salad. (recipe below)



We watched the shortest parade I've ever seen- and that's not necessarily a bad thing- and the kids were able to collect some free candy and SWAG.



Apparently this is Sophie's "pretty face" because that's what I asked her for when I took this picture.



Mad dash to catch the parachutes. Franny loved watching the fireworks.



And Franny's Daddy loved lighting the fireworks.


Especially these.

Potato, Cucumber and Dill Salad adapted from Bon App├ętit | July 1992

Yield: Serves 4
ingredients
2 pounds baby red potatoes, sliced
3 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3/4 pound pickling cucumbers, sliced
Fresh dill sprigs
preparation

Cook potatoes in pot of boiling water until just tender. Drain. Transfer to large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to hot potatoes and stir gently. Combine remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar, mayo, oil, and mustard in small bowl. Add chopped dill. Mix into potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Mix in cucumbers. Garnish with dill sprigs.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Prize-Winning Pies and Cupcakes

Whenever we visit the Eastern Idaho State Fair- which is considerably often, considering we live in Missouri- my favorite displays to look at are the prize-winning pies. It's a facet of small town America I didn't get to witness first hand growing up in Southern California, but I remember reading about in books like Charlotte's Web. So I was thrilled when I found out that Kirksville was having an apple pie contest and a cupcake contest the weekend of the 4th!

It all started when my friend Marie told me she and her daughter were going to enter cupcakes in the contest and would we like to as well? Uh, yes please! There's a blog I love to poke around at called Bakerella- have you ever tried her Thank you Betty bars? I thought I'd check her blog out for any great 4th of July themed cupcakes. Instead I found these hamburger cupcakes she made for Father's Day. Could you just die?! It was so easy. I knew those were the ones.

I baked a yellow cake mix in the cups (2/3 full), as per the suggestion of her highness, the one and only Bakerella. I sliced them into thirds and kept only the top and bottom pieces as the buns. I used my 1/4 cup measuring cup to cut brownies (mix) into circles. Hamburger Patties! So brilliant! I bought vanilla frosting, mixed yellow, green, and red food coloring into three separate portions of it and piped them onto the top of the patties using only ziplock baggies with small tips cut off. Then a little water brushed on the tops with a pastry brush and few sesame seed shakes and we achieved the most adorable cupcake I have absolutely ever seen.


The girls had fun. Well, Franny and Corrinne had fun. Sophie was only interested in eating Corrinne's jelly bean corn kernels. Isn't this idea adorable as well? It comes from a book called Hello Cupcake that I went ahead and ordered for my best friend Annie for her birthday. I'm glad you like it!!


Then we patiently waited for the results. A couple of brothers took 3rd place, Corrinne's corn on the cob took 2nd and WOOHOO, Franny took 1st. It was so exciting. She has not been able to stop talking about it since it happened. "Mommy, did they give me a "congratulations" (first place ribbon)?" "Mommy, did they call my name?" "Mommy, did I win first place at the cupcake contest?" "Mommy, what does hamburger cupcake mean? So it's not real?" It's been a good opportunity for us to help her with skills at recalling events. She keeps going up to people and saying things like, "They called my name!" And that's it. So we can say, why did they call your name? where were you when they called your name? etc. It was a great moment, except I felt so bad for Sophie. Corrinne's name was called, Franny's name was called and she kept asking for her turn. It was so sad. She was too young to enter the contest, but of course she helped with the cupcakes. She was so upset I had to take her out when they were taking pictures of the winners, so thank you Marie for snapping this shot for me.

I went online to read about the Kirksville holiday events and the cupcake rules and I discovered that there was an apple pie contest as well. HOT DOG! I love baking pies. There is something so gratifying in making your own crust and having it lay perfectly in the pan and crimping the edges decoratively with your fingers. And then the way it makes your house smell while it bakes. The salty, flaky crust paired with the sweet filling. I just love pies. I usually only make apple pies in the fall, though, when there are better apples to choose from. But I went for it anyway. If Granny Smith are good enough for Ina Garten's recipe, then they're food enough for me too. I actually tried a new recipe. I looked for one that was similar to my friend Bill Brady's, though, as he is naturally the master apple pie-maker. His crust recipe uses all shortening and doesn't call for any sugar. I really like the absence of sugar, but I am a true butter snob. So I turned to 101 cookbooks. I trust her recipes, they have never done me wrong. Actually, what really sold me on her recipe was the butterfly cutout on top of her pie. I started looking for a good summery cookie-cutter, and found this star that came with a set that Annie (BFF who I gave the cookbook to) gave me for my birthday last year. Perfect! The recipe is nothing fancy. I brushed an egg wash on top of the crust and dusted it with cinnamon sugar. I followed the recipe pretty closely except I used only a dash of allspice instead of the 1/4 tsp or so the recipe calls for.


So after the cupcake contest results were given, they auctioned off some donated pies and we continued to wait for the apple pie contest results. My pie took second place! I was thrilled! Franny was thrilled for me, too. The rest of the night she was making up songs about it. Waving her little ribbon around and singing, "Katherine and Franny, you did a good job, congratulations!" We had to bring two pies- one for judging and one for auctioning off. My pie was sold for $22.50. The first place pie, an apple pecan streusel pie, sold for a whopping $90! Ninety bucks for a pie! It was Bobby's first night on call at the hospital, so it was a girls' night out. After the contests were over, we were walking to the car and passed Pagliai's, a local pizza joint. We ducked in and shared a small pizza and a big root beer. (Jayne, you were right. That is kid's pizza for sure. Although I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. It reminded me of my youth and I found myself wanting to order a side of ranch for dipping like I used to at Chuck E Cheese's.) Franny wanted me to take pictures of her making these scary hand gestures accompanied with varied emotional faces. You'll find happy, sad, scared, surprised... Sophie wanted in on the fun, too.


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