Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Treats.

Wow.  Two weeks flew by quickly.

And in that two weeks I've done some baking.  Just because.  Baking is good.  Healing.  A friend from work, my "egg man", gave me a whole bushel of apples.  Un-perfect, farm apples.  Beauties that my camera won't do justice.  We've sliced them and had them as snacks yet their numbers didn't diminish.

{Photo Source}
I remembered back to a recent Beth Fish Reads post about an apple cake that caught my eye.  Oh my. I made it last week and that cake was delicious.  The frosting-heavenly.  I'm waiting patiently for a new occasion to arise just so I can make it again.  Looking back at the post to link it I was reminded that it came from a King Arthur cookbook which makes perfect sense.  Get some apples.  Eat the apples because they are so good for you raw but then make the cake to reward yourself.

The next delicious treat I made is from Katie Workman's fantastic book, The Mom 100 Cookbook.  I needed  a quick treat to make for my 5th grade book club.  I searched through two or three books and happened upon this one on page 328 in the Bake Sale section.  The kids loved them.  Very rich chocolate taste without a lot of work. Perfect when you are making them at 9:00 at night.

Fudgy One-Pot Brownies
Makes 12 huge or 24 reasonably sized brownies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus butter for greasing the pan
Nonstick cooking spray (I used coconut oil to smear around)
3 ozs unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar ( i know that IS a lot!)
1/2 tsp kosher or coarse salt
1 T. pure vanilla
3 large (farm) eggs
1 1/2 cup (unbleached KA) flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 13 x 9-in pan.

2. Place the butter and chocolate in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat and let melt together, stirring until smooth.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cocoa powder, sugar, and salt, then blend in the vanilla.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring to mix quickly so they don't have a chance to cook at all before they are blended in. Blend in the flour.

3. Scrape the thick batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula.  Bake until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

4. Let the brownies cool in the pan on a wire rack.  When completely cool, cut them into 12 or 24 squares.  (The side note says it is better to cut these the next day if possible.)

Brownies were so good I had to make a second batch for home and to share with the in-laws arriving this week.  I have to keep slapping my own hand from taking the crumbles.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Stop over and have a look at the many other food-related posts.   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Cupcakes!

Yesterday was the big birthday party.  Each year a lot of thought goes into what to do for birthday parties at our house.  When our older two were younger we had kite-flying parties, bowling parties, coffee shop soirees, and sleepovers.  Groovy Girl takes it to a whole new level, naturally.  Her themes have ranged from a penguin party (everyone wore black and white), a tie-dye party, a fairy garden party, and an art-themed party with a scavenger hunt downtown.  This year she wanted it outside (this was NO surprise as all her parties are outside) and she wanted to bike, have a scavenger hunt, and do a craft.  She called it an outdoor craft party.

This year's scavenger hunt was in a nature area that all 5 girls biked to and instead of collecting the items from her dad's long list they snapped a photo of it with her tablet.  She turned the photos into a quick little slide show so they could "prove" they found the items.  Everyone worked together to find the items and within an hour they rode their bikes back to me, waiting at the picnic shelter.  We had pigs-in-a-blanket, salt & vinegar potato chips, grapes, and carrots.

{Groovy Girl is in the tutu!}

Their craft was button-making as my husband has a button-maker!  They were able to pull objects from the area or magazines to create one-of-a-kind buttons.  Each of them made 2-3 buttons and then we ate cupcakes.

I made the chocolate cupcakes from this Martha Stewart recipe.  They were very easy and I would use this recipe again.  Groovy Girl picked out a lemonade frosting from her So Sweet cookbook.  We didn't like it even before we put it on the cupcakes because we didn't know what else to do.  She was frosting them Saturday morning right before the party.  I want to try the recipe again with much less shortening and more marshmallow fluff.

As it was the frosting tasted like plastic with that weird shortening aftertaste.  NOT what we were looking for; plastic tasting lemonade.  She did decorate them nicely with lemon zest and a tiny straw end poking out like they could drink it-which, of course, a few of them tried to do.  We have a few remaining cupcakes from the dozen and I plan to knock off the frosting, dollop some of the real whipped cream leftover from her pancake birthday breakfast and enjoy the cupcakes anyway.

In case you want to give it a go:

lemonade filling  {73-74, Sur La Table's So Sweet)

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
1 1/4 cups marshmallow cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp lemon oil (I didn't use)
1 tsp lemon juice (I used about a Tablespoon instead)
1 package (.23 oz) lemonade drink mix (optional) (we used it)

Place the shortening and the cream in the bowl of a stand-up mixer with the paddle attachment.  Cream them together on medium speed for 4 minutes.  Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl.  Place the powdered sugar in the bowl, starting on low speed to incorporate.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for an additional 4 minutes.  Add the lemon ingredients and beat 4 more minutes.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme.  Click over and read other food-related posts.

Happy Sunday!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Happy Birthday Groovy Girl!

She's 11 today!  She was a 3 # baby and   So full of life! She giggled then just like she does now. She's a princess, a dancer, a gymnastic, musically-talented, an outdoor girl, a jumping on my furniture girl, a mighty girl who has big dreams for tomorrow and her future. I thank God every day for her bright personality!

We gave her a new bike with gears and hand brakes for her big day. She was thrilled as it has been on her list for awhile. 
Birthdays are such a fun time to reminisce about their baby time and their birth story and Groovy Girl never tires of hearing about the day she was born.

Friday, September 6, 2013

2 Excellent YA Stories

I recently went on a YA craze so I could vote for Iowa Teen summer reads.  I've waited all summer looking each time at the library for Eleanor and Park at my closest library and it was always checked out.  I got lucky one day and found it sitting there waiting for me.

Eleanor and Park (2013) by Rainbow Rowell

What a fantastic read this is!  Eleanor re-enters her family life after having spent the last year living with a family friend.  She meets Park on the bus as she makes her way to her new school.   Nobody else wants her to sit with them, that awful thing that happens on school buses across the nation when someone new comes to town and they are a little gawky, unusual, or overweight.  She's shunned by everyone but Park as their relationship begins with little more than head nods and small smiles.  Eleanor hides her family life from him as much as possible and as a reader my heart went out to her as she attempted to feel comfortable in Park's "normal" household, with two loving parents and food in the refrigerator.  Their relationship blossoms and they are both changed by it.  I loved this stark look at how a child from an abusive home and in poverty struggles to maintain just a small glimmer of hope through all that is her regular life.  Every character in the story is one you will love (or hate) and you will want their lives to continue even as you turn the last page.

The Raven Boys (2012) by Maggie Stiefvater

I loved Stiefvater's Shiver series so I'm not sure what took me so long to pick this one up off the shelf.  I don't think I even investigated what it was about yet when it appeared on my teen list to read for the summer I was anxious to read it.  Once I started I had trouble putting it down.  Work kept getting in the way!  Blue is the daughter of the local psychic in Henrietta and their house is filled with a merry group of friends who also dabble in the magical arts.  Her relationship with her mother is solid and happy until a group of Aglionby Academy boys enter into Blue's life.  The group of boys led by Gansey are all looking for a ley line that runs through Henrietta.  Gansey knows who ever unlocks the ley line will hold it's power and help him in the search for Glendower the Welsh king.  I'm a fan of fantasy and enjoyed all parts of this intricately-woven tale.  I wanted to sit at the table in Blue's house and have my cards read by Maura, Persephone and Calla.  I'm now very excited to read The Dream Thieves out September 17-just around the corner.

I would add both titles to my best of YA along with Ask the Passengers and The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  Have you read any these books?  Which one resonated the most for you?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

{Amana, IA, 2013}
It's so nice to be married to the one that you love.  My husband came home the other day and shared some interesting facts about relationships.  He loves sharing tidbits with me and this time he'd drummed up some frightening facts about marriage.  Did you know that 73% of long-term married couples are not with their true love!  Can you imagine?  And that if given the chance they would leave their partner to get back to their true love.  To me, that's a little like, love the one you're with...

We were married 12 years ago in a beautiful ceremony in Galena, IL.  At the reception at the picnic shelter my husband with some musician friends sang an original composition to me.  It was lovely and made me cry.  We've had an incredible journey and hope for many more years together.  Yesterday at church an older woman that we keep in touch with said to us "12!  Try 61 years!"  She was smiling as she said it but there was a wistfulness as her husband of 61 years died two years ago.  How sweet love is, whether you have it for 2 years, 12 years, or 61 years.

If you find someone that you can live with, that brings you joy and laughter, make them yours.  It isn't about all the sexy stuff-it's about eating breakfast together morning after morning, listening to them slurp their huge bowl of cereal and still rubbing your foot next to his before you head off to work.  It's about being a good listener even when you've heard the story before.  We should treat our companions with the same respect we give our co-workers and friends.

My parents were divorced when I was a young adult.  No matter what age it happens it tears you a part. My parents hadn't been compatible for years.  There was strife and anger about who knows what-and frankly I don't want to know.  I think my mom realizes now that they both could have tried a little harder, been more sympathetic, patient, or thoughtful.  However you look at it; marriage is a lot of work and it takes being aware of that everyday and yet everyday needs a little fun.  It's up to you to remember to bring the joy in; maybe a smile, a game of cards, a movie to share together or just a hug in the kitchen.  Don't wait for the other person to provide your happiness.

{In Virginia, 2013}
Today we've enjoyed working in the kitchen together as I made three new batches of pesto with basil from my mom's garden and he cooked a hearty breakfast with biscuits, bacon, eggs, and fruit AND then as I started on the 3rd batch he cleaned the kitchen right around me!  As we cooked, blended, scraped, and wiped we played a whole slew of old country favorites like Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty and this other one by Conway Twitty that my husband sings me all the time.  We are not actual fans of country music yet there are some classic songs that speak to us. Like this one by George Jones and Tammy Wynette.  Classic.  This one by Otis Redding also makes us happy, which then led us to this interesting reinterpretation of Otis' song. 

And yes, there was a little dancing going on in the kitchen.  And a lot of smiling.  So much so our daughter had to leave the room.

As Maya says:  "We need just three things in life: something to do, something to look forward to, and someone to love."  We heard Maya Angelou speak for our very first date together and we hold her words close to our heart.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Weekend Cooking; Tomato Risotto

Good morning weekend foodies!

I spent Friday and Saturday morning at my mother's farm making salsa from all her farm-fresh, huge tomatoes.  This was our second annual event and we had just as much fun although Groovy Girl was not as much help or even all that cheerful as she had an allergy attack.

She loves the chickens though and actually gathered an egg moments after laying.  It was warm and her smile was big.  My hands were full of tomatoes though so I did not get to snap a photo.  If you want to see last year's post with recipe included click the word SALSA.  It is interesting to look back at old posts-I noticed Groovy Girls hair is shoulder-length, it's grown a lot in one year.

This year I brought home three batches of salsa. The last batch I made (mostly) on my own and did a bit of experimenting.  Instead of two cups of sugar I replaced one of those cups with my stepfather's honey.  If it proves tasty next year I'm going to go out on a limb and do two cups of honey.  It should still add the hint of sweetness and I won't be dumping in two cups of white sugar.  It's a salsa revolution!
{NY Times}
In other cooking news this week I made tomato risotto after an email from my sister-in-law said that her and my brother loved this recipe from the NY Times.   It just happened to be the day that the Times was hacked AND I couldn't reach my twitter page.  Because I had my heart set on risotto I found this alternative recipe on Emerill's food network page.  It was delicious and Groovy Girl ate three helpings. Emeril's has cream in it and no basil so she didn't have to worry about picking out "green things".  I'm not including a photo from Emeril's page as the picture is less than thrilling.  Imagine the above photo with out any green.  I added a heavy dose of pepper and freshly shaved parmigiano-reggiano  to the top of the adult plates.

Now I've made risotto before but for some reason this time I really want to know if any other rice can be substituted for arborio rice?  I get that it comes from a special place in Italy but in a pinch can I use another type of rice that I have in my dry storage.  Has anyone ever substituted another kind of rice for risotto?  I'm curious just to know.

This post is linked to Beth Fish Read's Weekend Cooking.  Click her link to find many other food-related posts.  She has an apple cake posted today that sounds wonderful. Have a wonderful Labor Day.