Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Pesto and a canoe trip

I had an amazing day yesterday and wished I could have posted about it last night but I was too exhausted to type.  I got up early to mix up some bread dough for my family.  I'd made 10 loaves on Thursday and Friday for the market and my children are always a little unhappy as that bread bakes and they know it is not for them.  Now we  have two loaves for the week.

While I had the flour out I made a pan of Butterscotch Brownies-this is an old recipe that I love and you make it on the stove and then bake it-super easy. While the brownies were in the oven and the dough was rising I helped Groovy Girl get ready for her figure skating lesson at 9.  I dropped her at the arena and headed back home to make several batches of pesto for my freezer.  Don't worry my husband picked her up after lessons were over!

My mom and I worked together, using the recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada DeLaurentis, and made five batches of pesto using fresh basil from her garden and the little I had left from my own.  The temperature is beginning to dip down at night and rather than have the basil freeze in the garden I want it to freeze in my Sub-Zero.

Here is Giada's pesto recipe (72):

2 cups [packed] fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
About 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender (I use the food processor), pulse the basil, nuts, garlic, salt and pepper until finely chopped.  With the blender still running, gradually add enough olive oil to form a smooth and thick consistency.  Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese.  Season the pesto with more salt and pepper, if it needs it.  The pesto can be made up to 2 days ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.

**If you are going to freeze your pesto for the long winter months as I did then skip the cheese step and don't add as much olive oil.  Later when you grab it out of the freezer to use it you will add in the cheese and a little olive oil to your pasta.  Good Parmesan does not freeze well in the pesto.

Giada has a note following the recipe that shares her secret of using pasta water to help blend the pesto so it doesn't glob up your pasta.  The trick is in saving a little of the pasta water back when draining your pasta.  I generally just take a large measuring cup and scoop out about a cup before I drain the pasta and before I add the pasta back to the pot I put the pesto in the pan to soften it up and then add small amounts of water as I mix the pasta into the pesto.  Viola; fabulous dinner!  My mom bought these handy little Tupperware freezer containers that stack perfectly.  Pine nuts are ridiculously expensive right now but we did  use pine nuts for these batches.  I have a spinach pesto I want to try from the same cookbook and I'm going to substitute walnuts for pine nuts, just to give it a try.

I am so happy to have this accomplished as I did not can pickles or make salsa this year.  When the snow starts to fly I will be ecstatic to pull out this freshly frozen treat, reminding me of the Spring to come.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Candace at Beth Fish Reads.  Pop over and see what she and other's are cooking up!

Now for the canoe trip:

The pesto making was the easy part of the day though as our afternoon was with a group of church friends paddling down a local river.  I expected to lazily float but the river was low and we ran into every snag and sandbar in the river.  We canoed for 4 hours and Teenage Boy made me paddle the whole way!  My shoulders are tired-truthfully every part of me is tired!  Once we landed at our destination I realized [hate it when the light bulb clicks on and it is BAD news] that I'd left the keys to the car parked by our landing in the vehicle parked where we'd put in the canoes!!   Uh No.  [I was just finishing up Anna and the French Kiss, can you blame me!?]

I whispered this new bit of information to Teenage Boy and he was ANNOYED.  Thankfully, everyone else, including my husband, was a bit more understanding.  Luckily we quickly rounded up someone to get us back to point B so we could get keys and canoe trailer.  The coolest part of the day was when a friend pointed out a young eagle in a tall, bare tree.  We floated right under it.  It was a glorious sight.

Have a peaceful week!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Features; Kindness

This week in the library our focus was on kindness.  We do have Character Counts! at our school but I really wanted to get at the idea of each of us making another person feel special.  The world would be a better place if we could all make that happen. 

I read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud and David Messing to each class except kindergarten (they had Eric Carle).  Even the 5th graders listened and it opened up a good discussion of what each of us could do to fill someone else's bucket.  A first grade student said that the bucket is like your heart!  Ah, thank you [big teacher smile]  He understood the message. 

With that book I read one of my all-time favorite picture books, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow.  The message and the illustrations come together into one outstanding tale of being true to yourself.  We conversed about bucket fillers in this book (Grandma and Molly Lou) but also that Ronald Durkin learns to be less of a bully and more of a bucket filler by the end.  I found this great Molly Lou video by Spoken Arts. 

I also read Todd Parr's It's Okay to be Different and Carrie Weston's The New Bear at School.  I read Todd Parr all the time to kids but Weston's book was a new read aloud and perfectly transmitted my kindness message.  Stay tuned for more as I look forward to more kindness next week. 

Do you have book favorites that share this message?  Any book suggestions would be much appreciated!

I also finished off a beginning of the year order and sent it off to my secretary just because Jana at Milk and Cookies; Comfort Reading waxed poetically about getting her first school order of books for the year.  I had to jump on the bandwagon!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One More Birthday Post; The Special Handmade Gift

One day I was bopping around the blog world-and happened upon this post, Mama Made A Dress,  by Lisa at Books. List. Life.  Have you ever been to Books. Lists. Life.? If not, do stop over she writes about her adorable kids, her books, and her craftiness! Love reading about her life.  When I looked at the special pinafore dress she made for the Princess-I left a comment expressing the thought that my Groovy Girl would look great in a bigger size dress and well, as things happen in the blogging world, a conversation started up and a deal was made and a dress created and sent to my Iowa address.

It arrived months ago but I had to wait until September to present it to her.  Lisa sent it in a lovely handmade drawstring bag so it was already "wrapped" and ready at her birthday breakfast.  She choose to open it that morning and heavens...she loved it.  Also Lisa shows a great close-up picture of the pinafore dress in this post as well as a bunch of other sewing items.

P.S. If you look closely to the above photo you can see chocolate near the pocket...Groovy Girl alias Messy Tessy wore the dress for the cake eating portion of her birthday night because she was trying it on for her godmother and now has cake stain on it.  I'm going to have to wash it!

Thank you, Thank you, Lisa!  She loves it very much.
Here is the link to her Etsy shop so you can get one too!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend Cooking; An Easy Green Product to Love

Every Saturday morning this summer my husband has been getting up at the crack of dawn to load up his van and goods from our kitchen to sell at our local farmer's market.  He is steadfast and hardworking. We aren't farmers though and the only reason he chose to do this is to do something with his church youth group-it was a way to earn money for their mission trip to W. VA.  Half way through the summer they had enough so each teen could go on the trip and their original fee was waived.  The market kept going though and now the earnings are just getting the youth group fun back in the green.

Handsome husband, Groovy Girl and youth group + customer
My husband learned last Spring how to grow a variety of different sprouts and those have sold well at the market.  I started making about 4-5 loaves of my Simple Pot Bread every week and they usually all sold.  When I first started experimenting with making multiple loaves I didn't like wasting the saran wrap the recipe called for to cover the rising bread.  I tried using parchment paper and some rubber bands (FAIL-the rubber bands kept snapping off) and ended up in the grocery aisle searching for a solution. 

I found a funny looking product by Cover Mate; Stretch to Fit Food Covers.  They look like clear plastic shower caps!!  They work perfectly to cover bowls of dough, allowing it to rise and then I can use it again and again and again!  I dislike throwing things away and I love it when I find a positive solution. 

Weekend Cooking is sponsored by Beth Fish Reads.  Click to her link to find many more food-related posts.   She has a chicken wing recipe that my husband would love-maybe I should make it for him for all those early Saturday mornings he left me snoozing while he tip-toed out and to the market!

Have a peaceful week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Whirlwind Celebration

The birthday week started off with a matching sleep outfit for Groovy Girl and her matching A.G. doll.  She was so excited about this gift she put her pajamas on at 6:30 in the evening!!  Who would know that was the trick for an early bedtime!

Her actual birthday morning started with homemade waffles, warm maple syrup and fresh whipped cream!  Don't bother looking at the messy kitchen table--it's an active week with no time for clearing off the table.  To the right you can see the magical bonsai tree my handsome husband gave me for my August birthday.  I'm happy to say the bonsai is doing well.  I haven't killed it off yet.

Here she is on her way to her afternoon piano lessons on her birthday-I just like the outfit and her smile shows she's had a fabulous day.  Sharing Matt's Cookies at school with her classmates was one highlight for her!  She is a girl on the go!  This weekend she goes back to ice skating class and she wants to try a new gymnastics studio.  

When I look at my big 9-year-old what I really see is this baby girl.  She came into this world as a 3-lb fairy doll, barely filling out her preemie wardrobe and now she is the whirlwind above.  Life truly is a blessing.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Cooking; Chocolate Birthday Cake

Groovy Girl's birthday is just around the corner and tomorrow I will be making her a cake and decorating it too,  Last year I made the same chocolate cake but with white frosting because she wanted to decorate it herself and there she is up above with her decorated cake-turning 8.  This year our little cake lover is going to stick with a more subdued chocolate frosting and a little less decoration-they result will still be delicious and creative.

I've made this chocolate cake for her three years in a row and it is from my Baking Illustrated; The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker from the America's Test Kitchen people.  I LOVE this book because it provides me with all kinds of tips, tricks and the reasons why they work.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake (360-361)
(serves 12)

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
12 T. unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup nonalkalized cocoa, such as Hershey's, sifted
2 tsp instant expresso or coffee powder
1 cup plus 2 T milk

1 recipe (to follow) Rich Chocolate Cream Frosting

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease two 8-inch round cake pans and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds.  Gradually sprinkle in the sugar, beat until the mixture is fluffy and almost white, 3-5 minutes.  Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating 1 full minute after each addition.
3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and instant espresso powder in a medium bowl.  Combine the milk and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer at the lowest speed, add about a third of the dry ingredients to the batter, followed immediately by about a third of the milk mixture; mix until incorporated into the batter.  Repeat the process twice more.  When the batter appears blended, stop the and scrape the sides with a spatula.  Return the mixer to low speed; beat until the batter looks satiny, about 15 seconds longer.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  With a rubber spatula, spread the batter to the pan sides and smooth the tops.  Bake the cakes until they feel firm in the center when lightly pressed and a toothpick comes out clean, 23-30 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack; cool for 10 mins. Run a knife around the perimeter of each pan, invert the cakes onto the racks, and peel off the paper liners.  reinvert the cakes onto additional racks; cool completely before frosting.
5.  Assembly and frost the cake according to illustrations on page 144-when you turn to pg 144 you are given detailed directions on anchoring the cake with frosting, frosting in between the layers and how to get a smooth top.  Mine never looks like their's even though I follow the directions but it still tastes wonderful.  Frost and slice.


16 ozs. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; pour over the chocolate.  Add the corn syrup and let stand 3 minutes.  Whisk gently until smooth; stir in vanilla.  Refrigerate 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency.  This frosting does not keep well, so it should  be served within a day.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads-click on over to other wonderful food-related posts.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Laura Amy Schlitz's A Drowned Maiden's Hair; A Melodrama

I've been back to work a week and haven't had a chance to blog all week.  I'm tired every  night and have just enough energy to work with Groovy Girl on homework and get something scraped together for dinner.  I did manage to read this entire charming book one night as a lay awake with insomnia, the night before my return to school.  I loved The Night Fairy by Schlitz and pulled this one off my library shelf and dragged it home in my summer library box.  I love how I grab them out at the ninth hour, just as I'm returning to school to read.  I'm happy I got this one finished though-it will be easy to talk students into reading this just creepy enough chapter book.

A Drowned Maiden's Hair;
A Melodrama
Laura Amy Schlitz

While this takes place in 1909 I don't think I would categorize it as historical fiction-it truly is a melodrama! 


Maud Flynn is living at the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans and hates it!  She has trouble with authority and dislikes the horrible living conditions.  Lucky for her two nice elderly women come looking to adopt an 8-year-old but pick 11-year-old Maud instead.  At first, Maud is thrilled to be pampered and living in the almost lap of luxury with the three Hawthorne sisters.  There is one catch though and that is she must remain hidden; a secret adopted child, never venturing outside and tiptoeing to her third floor room when visitors come calling.  Eventually her favorite sister, Hyacinth, informs her of the family "business" and why she must remain hidden until they can put her to work as a "dead" child in a seance! 

My thoughts:

This book is a lot of fun.  The premise of the Hawthorne sisters holding seances to convince wealthy clients of their dead relatives desires is definite trickery but when they bring Maud in to play a young girl who drowned it becomes too much to bear.  Maud, as an orphan, craves human love and the idea that the sisters  only have concern for her when she serves their purpose becomes unbearable.  Maud, choosing not to stay completely hidden (her independent streak shines),  meets the grieving mother of the drowned girl, which makes Maud even more contrite as she tries to fight her inner desire for love and the yucky feeling tricking someone brings to her. It's a twisted tale and you will cheer for Maud as she learns to make some difficult decisions on her own.  I had another ending in mind that involved her brother but I was quite happy with how Schlitz chose to finish Maud's tale.

Read another review at Becky's Book Reviews.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Library Loot; A Quiet Trip to my Local

I ventured out yesterday with a small list of errands to do.  I was on my own as Groovy Girl hadn't even started cleaning her room she lost out on "getting to run errands" with me!  One of my errands was to our local dairy for popcorn-yes, popcorn- and bleu cheese and she would have been able to get some farm fresh ice cream had she finished (or even started) cleaning her room.  My errands were run solo and my library trip was quiet as I browsed the shelves.  Sorry G.G.

Here's what I found in the midst of all the beautiful library shelves:

1. Dirtall Pete by Eileen Brennen

2. Not All Princesses Dress In Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple

3. Mudkin by Stephen Gammell

4. Hogg, Hogg, & Hog by Margie Palatini

5. Follow the Line To School by Laura Ljungkvist

6. A Garden for Pig by Kathryn K. Thurman

7. The Queen of France by Tim Wadham

8. An Amber Cat by Hilary McKay

9. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

10. A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

11. The Sisters Grimm Number 6 by Michael Buckley

The first seven were from the new picture book shelf-a must stop for both Groovy Girl and I.  She opened the bag and read all the picture books right after I returned yesterday.

Numbers 8 and 9 are picks for a fantasy class I am taking through Fresno Pacific.  I'm excited about the class but I was a lot disappointed that the syllabus included with my course materials was filled with old (classics) and no new fantasy when there are so many.

Groovy Girl and I finished up number 5 of The Sisters Grimm on Saturday morning and she was desperate to get the next one.  This series really has a hold on my little princess girl!

 I also found a very helpful young male librarian in the YA section who special ordered Crossed by Allie Condie for me!
Library Loot is hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Cooking;The yumminess that is Bread Pudding w/ Whiskey Sauce

Teenage Son wrapped in new quilt  made by
amazingly talented mother-in-law!  
This is one of my husband's favorite desserts and so I whipped it up to celebrate our anniversary.  I like bread pudding but the pull for me is the sauce!  This recipe is from an old Vegetarian Times (Feb, 2009) and its been written in my favorite recipes book ever since.

(Image from VT)
Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

3 large eggs
2 egg whites
1 cup skim milk
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
5 cups cubed day old whole wheat bread, cut or torn into 1/2 in-cubes
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Whisk together first 7 ingredients.  Fold in cubed bread, raisins and cranberries.  Let stand 5 minutes for bread to absorb custard.  Set oven to 350 degrees.  Coat 9-in square baking pan with spray and spread bread  mixture into pan.  Bake 35-40 minutes until no egg mixture is bubbling up.  

Whiskey Sauce:
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup whiskey

Add water and brown sugar to small saucepan.  Bring to a boil on med-high and let boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add whiskey.  Boil 2 more minutes and then transfer to small pitcher.  Let cool just a bit and serve warm over individual bowls of bread pudding.  Add flavored whipped cream to top of bowl.

This is such an easy recipe for the delicious "ooohs" and "aahhhs" you will get when you serve it!
Weekend Cooking is a regular meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads-click to her link to find many more food-related posts and recipes.

Happy Cooking!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

August Update-13 books!

I've read a bunch of wonderful books in August!  I had minor surgery to remove a cyst and have spent a lot of time resting and reading!  Look at all the fun stuff I read this month!  Links are for my reviews.  Some toward the end of the list are still waiting for their own review and some I probably won't review at all.

1. Where She Went by Gayle Forman - RF- I liked If I Stay better yet it was interesting hearing his voice. These two could win cutest musical couple award!

2. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly -HF- Top Author of the Month!  I loved depressed teen Andi mixed with Alex's fight to save the prince during the French Revolution.  It was, well, revolutionary!

3. The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter -Modern Fantasy-The Hardscrabble kids are tough and show us just how kids feel about being ostracized.

4. Gemma by Meg Tilly - RF- Wow.  Brutally honest abusive/pedophile story.  Made me want to hold my children very close.  Tilly has this creepy guy written just right.

5. In The Green Kitchen by Alice Waters -Cookbook-Simple start-off recipes to help you accomplish bigger tasks.  I loved the pantry list.  I showed it to my mother while she was visiting and loved it when she laughed and said..."Oh, I bought this for you!  Can you wait until Christmas to get it?"  So typical.  And yes, I can wait.

6. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly -HF-It's 1906 and this is Mattie's coming-of-age story where she figures it all out after her mother dies.  Luckily, she takes the road less traveled.

7. Countdown by Deborah Wiles - HF-It's the 60's and everyone is worried about the Russian's and Cuba, students learn how to duck and cover to stay safe and Franny figures out why her Uncle Otts is so important.

8. How To Buy a Love Of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson -RF-Drunken, super rich children figure out they do have something to say at the last minute.  Carley-I grew to like and Hunter-made me want to go to AA.

9. The Penderwicks; A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall- RF- Sweet, summer tale with a charming cottage and lots of room to play.  Mrs. Tipton figured out her parenting skills at the last second-thankfully!  I'm interested in the rest of this series.

10. True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet by Lola Douglass -RF- too-young-party-girl falls off the face of the earth and lands in Indiana.  She's startled to find real characters in the Midwest.  Never too off for me-too much nap dropping.

11. The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas -Fantasy-Lovely magical tale about Oliver Twist-ish character who saves the magic and helps Nevery.  I plan to read more of this series and was excited to see Prineas is an Iowa writer!

12. Matched by Allie Condie-Dystopian-Cassia has two loves on her post-warming world matched card and she must find a way to deal with her feelings for the unsanctioned Ky.  This was a fast read and kept me reading even though I hated this overly organized world.

13.. The Love Season by Elin Hildenbrand - RF -Love the Nantucket setting, and the culinary experience of listening to Margo put together food-ohhhh!  Did not enjoy Cade and his family or Miles.  Loved Action's character-could she have a spin-off book!

I am sad to say goodbye to summer.  I always am.  I'm a summer girl.  I like to be warm.  I like going to the pool.  I like margaritas.  Fall has it's good points though and I've already made an Autumn dish and I especially like going into an Indian Summer September like we seem to be.  My girl's birthday comes up in September also!

Hope everyone has a blissful Labor Day Weekend.  I will be celebrating my anniversary all weekend-we were married in Galena, IL and had all kinds of activities from golf outings to wine tastings for our guests to participate in.  I'm sure we'll find some fun this weekend even if I'm still healing.