Friday, August 31, 2007

Obsessive With a Capital O

Yes, that's me. Not be confused with Obsessive Compulsive, which would be my husband and at least one of my kids. Ok, so no one has been diagnosed and we're all still functioning, but I think that you can safely say that there is some of that floating around in the genes at our house.
I think that I have always been this way. In my childhood, it mostly manifested by my obsession with books. Most of the photos taken of my during my grade school years involve a book in my hands. Kimball is like me in that way. He brings along a book to read in the car if we are going to be gone for 5 minutes.
In college, I began to jump from obsession to obsession (as I continue to do)--often there was a boy involved, sometimes one who didn't know I existed! (Those of you who knew me in college may remember Mr. Density--not a typo, a reference from Back To the Future--and other Library Lovers who kept me headed to the great and spacious building to study and hope they'd show up!) I also went on stints of food obsessions. I remember one time that Erin, Heidi, and I went to Tony Roma's in Provo for their Chicken Caesar Salad ten times in two weeks. It was ridiculous considering my college spending money budget (and I obviously had no idea how laden with fat Caesar salad is,) but it was a need that had to be filled if we wanted to sleep at night! Another time McArthur and I beat a regular path to Pizza Pipeline for their Cinnamon Twists. Yum (I think I need to plan a trip to Provo!)
Which brings me to my current obsession: Halloween costumes. My kids have been discussing Halloween costumes randomly since November 2nd of last year and I have been telling them that we don't get to really plan Halloween until school starts. Well wouldn't you know that over after-school snack on the first day of school, Kimball piped up to remind us all that Halloween is around the corner (I know, it's scary how much my kids are like me.) And now,for some reason, I am spending a ridiculous amount of time searching for the perfect Halloween costume for the baby. I'm not sure why the others' are not occupying so much of my brain as hers is. I promise it's not because she's my favorite. I don't even think it's because it can be something girl-y (trying to fool my filter with strange spellings). But for some reason, I want it to be perfect--perfectly adorable, perfectly reasonable for her to crawl and move around in, and perfectly priced. This is the one time of year when I really kick myself for not learning any of my mother's amazing sewing skills. I guess it is also the one time of year when I shop obsessively and then beg my mom to sew costumes for the kids.
Anyway, I thought I had found a costume that fit the bill. Here it is:
Now, this may not look that different from all of the other ladybug costumes out there to you, but it is by far the cutest one I've found. I was so excited to see that babystyle (where it is listed) was offering $2 shipping on costumes ordered in August, and I had every intention of buying the costume. But I am a procrastinator as well as an obsessor, so rather than buy it immediately, I chose to look at it again every day until August 31st, just to make sure it was still THE ONE. Who expects there to be any danger of a Halloween costume selling out in August, for goodness sake!?
Well, you guessed it, this one is gone. And babystyle has posted this comment:"We're sorry, but this cute costume is permanently sold out. We will not be receiving more before Halloween."
How could they?
When I discovered this I was horrified and began perusing costume websites all over the place to find another perfect costume. And nothing that is remotely in my price range is good enough. I have run across a designer of children's costumes that is amazing (but well outside of my price range.) Here are a few of my favorites (I'm including boy favorites too, since Bronwen's not getting a $60 costume no matter how cute she is):There are loads more. So cute. There are some on ebay, so I might be able to pick one up at a more reasonable price. But which one, and how much is reasonable? The scary thing is that I am thinking about this more that I am about what I'm going to make for dinner tonight (maybe Chicken Caesar Salad?) or world peace or family history or anything much more worthwhile. Oh well. Check out my poll in the sidebar--I think I'll poll my readers to find out which one is your favorite. Provided I like your answer and it's available on ebay, I can get it. Then maybe I'll be able to move on to a new obsession--how about laundry?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bring up Baby--on Solid Food

It has officially arrived. The messy, sticky, and time consuming process of feeding the baby solid foods. I have always waited until my kids were six months old to start them on solids of any kind, and this time around I was tempted to wait longer. I just don't enjoy the initial process of spoon feeding a baby; they have no idea what to do, push half of the food out with their tongue and get the other half on their thumbs, fingers, and cheeks, toes, hair, eyelashes, --you get the picture. Perhaps your children are neater than mine (and I will admit that so far, Bronwen is not as messy as her brothers all were,) but it is still not pretty. And then there is the area under the high chair, littered with raisins, Cheerios, and green peas--I swear, they multiply down there because I only ever give her a couple of things to chase around her tray and she ends up with 1/2 cup of finger foods on the floor.
Anyhow, as I said, I was tempted to wait longer. I asked Jared how long I would have to wait until she went straight to eating quickly and neatly on her own--maybe I could just nurse her until then? Jared predicted that 21 was the magic age for that, which is a wee bit longer than I'm interested in having my child suckle. A friend of mine said that her fifth child went from breast to pizza, which was intriguing but probably hyperbole. I finally decided about a week before she hit six months that I'd wait until it was obvious that she needed solid foods and that breastmilk was no longer cutting it.
Well, we made it exactly one day after she turned six months before she started acting ravenous all the time. She also began watching us intently when we ate, sometimes yelling out as if to say, "Where's mine?" This was a couple of days before our Monterey Trip, so I decided to put it off a little longer--taking solid foods out with me and feeding them to our sweet little darling in public is even less appealing than making the mess at home.
We survived the trip to Monterey without the solid food, but I knew I couldn't put it off any longer. So, we got down to business. It turns out, this little girl takes to food pretty well. She knew exactly what to do the first time I mixed up some baby oatmeal and offered her some on a spoon. She gets visibly excited as soon as she can tell that I am preparing food for her and if you pause between bites or get up to do something else for a split second, she squawks as if to say, "Where do you think you are going? I'm eating here!" She can really pack away the oatmeal, sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, pears, peaches, cheerios, raisins, and green peas. (I know that you're supposed to give lots of green veggies at first, but I can't handle the smell and would never feed my kids green veggies from a can anyway, so she just gets whole frozen green peas for now.) I think she takes after her mom, because anytime she's awake she seems to think that it would be a good time to eat. It's a passion with her! I feel a foodie coming on.
The fun thing about all this is to watch her little personality unfolding as she develops preferences and learns how to communicate them. At the moment, her biggest preference is to have food in her mouth! Of almost any kind. So she doesn't have a very sophisticated palette yet, I'll admit. But she'll get there one day. Maybe she'll even be able to eat without making a tremendous mess of herself one day, too. I hope it comes long before she's 21.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Only 121 Shopping Days Left!

Those of you who know me well know that I am notorious for compiling my birthday wish list in April (two and a half months before my husband starts shopping,) and as soon as my birthday is over, I begin planning for Christmas. The grown up version of me does start planning the gifts I'm giving as well as the ones I'd like to get from early on--when you have a large extended family to buy for, you can't put it off until after Thanksgiving.
If you are like me and are starting your Christmas shopping now, I am about to offer some help with my gift (since I'm quite sure that all of my loyal readers will be sending me an extravagant gift this year) : a list of things that I definitely do not want. I was inspired to compile such a list after receiving a holiday gift catalogue in the mail. It claimed to be full of things perfect for "everyone on your list" and I found a lot of ridiculous items that I never want to receive, let alone find a place for in my home. Perhaps you will laugh as hard as I did (and cringe) at the thought of giving or receiving of the following gifts on Christmas Day. On the other hand, if you are looking for the perfect white elephant gift, you might check out the link to this catalogue.

#1. Please don't get me a visor clip with hokey flowers and trite phrases reminding me to drive safely. I'll drive the way I drive with or without one of these babies. For the record, I've never had a ticket. Do you think I could be jinxing myself?
#2. Whatever you do, please don't get me this Animal Accent Lamp. I am not interested in the horse, the bear, or the eagle's head lamp, even if it can be used for a nightlight. I can think of better ways to "bring a touch of nature indoors."
#3. I don't need the Precious Moments Doll-of-the-Month either. Or any other Precious Moments doll.

#4. I have plenty of socks to meet my needs. And I will never need John Deere socks. I can see, perhaps, buying them for the three year old who is nuts about tractors, but WHY do they have these in Ladies' sizes??
#5. Why would you give this as anything other than a gag gift? Check out this novelty dog and cat bowl:
#6. This might be a great gift for the hunter in your life, but please think of his wife before buying this for him. Would you really want it on your mantle?
#7. Please please please do not get me this bedding. Yes, my kids would think it was cool, but when they have their own houses they are welcome to fill them with dolphin blankets and tiger pillow shams. I know, I'm a party pooper.#8. Who buys this stuff??
So, put away your wallets, folks. I've decided that I don't need anything this year. That is, unless you're looking through the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book instead of this one! The 2007 edition is released in September and will surely have something even better than last year's offering of a charter flight to space for $1.7 million and change.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Am I Shallow? Perhaps.

Goodbye old fridge. Hello to a beautiful new friend, gleaming stainless steel on the outside, clear and clean on the inside.
In the ten years that I've been married, this is the first fridge we've had that didn't come out of the Pennysaver. And it makes me smile every time I pass it. With my new dishwasher and this fridge, I can almost pretend that I am the host of my own cooking show or a contestant on Top Chef. Of course, that means overlooking the outdated flooring, oven, range, microwave, countertop, cabinets--essentially everything else in my kitchen--but when I catch a glimpse of my newest acquisitions, those other things fade away.

My kids love that our new fridge is actually big enough to keep the Brita full of water cold. I love that I can see all the leftovers without having to squat down and dig around.

Jared will love the new electricity bills, since we just replaced two old fridges (one in the garage and one in the kitchen) with one energy efficient wonder. He also appreciates that I had to get rid of the basket full of clutter that used to sit on top of the fridge because it won't fit anymore.
I did call Christine to ask her what I should do about my newest obsession of keeping the appliances free of fingerprints and smudges. She is highly qualified to answer this question, having a degree in Interior Design and all the accompanying credentials and experience, besides owning a few stainless steel appliances of her own (and four darling kidlets). Alas, she couldn't come up with a solution either, but assured me that I might soon be able to tolerate fingerprints for an entire afternoon before wiping down the fridge after the kids go to bed. I pondered on the internal struggle going on between the woman who loves shiny, sparkly, clean, and looks-like-a-cooking-show-or-magazine-layout everything and the mother who really wants her kids to grow up in a home where they are comfortable. Surely it would be unreasonable to make touching the fridge off limits. Do you think it would be neurotic to require the entire family to wear gloves? You don't have to answer that.

But even with the compulsive wiping down of my new treasures, I don't regret choosing them one bit. Nor do I regret having so many small hands around who will surely touch them as soon as I finish wiping. Both things of beauty and sticky-fingered children are more than worth the extra effort. And if loving my kitchen appliances makes me shallow, I guess I will have to live with that.

Chocolate Mint Truffle Cheesecake

This recipe is not unlike the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle cheesecake, but it is not quite as sweet.

Chocolate Mint Truffle Cheesecake

  • 3 packages (8 oz ea) Philadelphia cream cheese or light cream cheese
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups Ghiradelli double dark chocolate chips
  • 1 11 oz bag mint baking chips (green is ok)
  • 2 cups ground chocolate graham ers or cookie crumbs
  • 6 T. melted butter
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • Optional: whipped cream, for garnish

Let ingredients come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In medium bowl, combine er crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press into bottom and up the sides of 9” springform pan, or into 8 4” mini springform pans. Bake 8 minutes. Set aside. Keep oven at 325 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk on medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla, then eggs one at a time, beating well at each addition.

Melt 2 c. chocolate chips in double boiler. Pour ½ of the melted chocolate into the cheese mixture and beat well.

Add ½ bag of mint chips to melted chocolate and stir until melted. Add mint/chocolate mixture, along with all remaining chips, to cheese mixture and stir to incorporate chips.

Pour into prepared pan or pans, and wrap the bottom of the pan in aluminum foil. Place pan on jelly roll pan and add about 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of jelly roll pan. For 9” springform, bake about 60 minutes, until cheesecake is firm at the edges and not set in the middle, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. For mini springform pans, bake 15-20 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack. Chill cake in springform pan for at least 4 hours. Run a wet knife around the edge of the pan and release sides. If desired, garnish each piece with whipped cream or dark chocolate ganache.

Serves 16.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

I will admit that this isn't my favorite flavor combination--I think it's too sweet. However, if you like chocolate raspberry, this is a great and easy cheesecake to make. Verrrrrrry rich.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

  • 3 packages (8 oz ea) Philadelphia cream cheese or Light cream cheese
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. raspberry extract
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 bags Ghiradelli double dark chocolate chips
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries or 1 cup frozen
  • 2 cups ground chocolate graham ers or teddy grahams
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 6 T. melted butter
  • Optional: whipped cream, for garnish

Let ingredients come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
In medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press into bottom and up the sides of 9” springform pan, or into 8 4” mini springform pans. Bake 8 minutes. Set aside. Keep oven at 325 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk on medium speed until creamy. Add vanilla and raspberry extracts, then eggs one at a time, beating well at each addition.

Melt 2 1/2 c. chocolate chips in double boiler. Pour the melted chocolate into the cheese mixture and beat well. Fold in remaining 1 ½ c. chocolate chips to batter.

Pour into prepared pan or pans, press raspberries into mixture. Wrap pan bottom in aluminum foil and place on jelly roll pan. Put about 1/2 inch of water in bottom of jelly roll pan. For 9” springform, bake about 60 minutes, until cheesecake is firm at the edges and not set in the middle or until an internal temperature probe measures 160 degrees. For mini springform pans, bake 15-20 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and allow to cool completely, then chill for at least 4 hours. Carefully release sides of springform pan. If desired, garnish each piece with whipped cream or drizzle with dark chocolate ganache.

Serves 16. Save up your calories so you can afford this!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Twelve Cheesecakes and a Wedding

I mentioned last month that I was working on some cheesecakes for an upcoming wedding. Well, the blessed event was last weekend and the cheesecakes turned out wonderfully. The bride and her mother and I worked together one day to out twelve cheesecakes in four varieties: Lemon Raspberry, Peach Gingersnap, Chocolate Mint Truffle, and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle. We froze the cheesecakes that night and didn't defrost them until the evening of the wedding reception. In the couple of days before the wedding, I made Raspberry Sauce, Lemon Curd, Peach Glaze, and Dark Chocolate Ganache for garnishing our creations. I also discovered, while making a double batch of lemon curd at 11pm, that it is possible to scorch lemon curd. I've made it countless times before without a problem, but had to scrap the entire batch, get new ingredients, and start over in the morning.
Anyway, the garden reception was just lovely. The colors were black and white and they had even invited the guests to wear black and white, so it was gorgeous. They had a live jazz band performing twinkle lights everywhere, lots of yummy finger foods at the buffet and a "chick salad" (as they're called at my house) that was to die for, plus our cheesecakes. I got there before the reception started and managed to snap a couple of photos of the bride with her four sisters (aren't they gorgeous?)
When I checked in with the bride at one point and asked her how her day was going and she said, "I just can't stop smiling!" and I remembered feeling that exact same way on my wedding day. Her dress was lovely. She designed it herself and had it made. Living proof that you can have a gorgeous, stylish wedding gown that is still modest.
My sister came with me to help me plate the cheesecakes (why didn't I get a picture of any of them plated??) and it was so nice to have her there with me--I think working together with my sister and Mom in those situations helps me not to stress out, something that I can do when working alone or even with other people who don't know how to read my mind. Aren't sisters wonderful?
I am going to start posting recipes in separate posts so that they are easier to find later, so I'll post those truffle cheesecake recipes soon. Right now I need to go pick up kids at school.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Summer Comes To A Screeching Halt

I was raised in the land of Southern California. Now, I know that plenty of you out there despise Southern Cal, but it has many, many fine points. Moderate temperatures year round, an ocean breeze at 5:00 pm sharp, plenty of great shopping, entertainment, and restaurants, and beautiful beaches. One thing that it offered that I failed to fully appreciate as a child was that summer doesn't end there until Labor Day. We always went back to school somewhere between September 4th and the 9th--at least a few days after the holiday that is supposed to signal summer's end.
We clearly were not considering ideal school schedules (or ideal weather patterns and climates) when we decided to move further north. Here, school starts in the middle of August, when we should still be relishing in family vacations, swimming pools, homemade ice cream, etc. In fact, I always thought that those "dog days of summer" came in August. So why in the name of everything good would they send kids back to school? It was 98 degrees today (those of you in Phoenix are jealous, I know) and all the moms were completely sweaty (not just lightly perspiring) when we picked up the kidlets after school. Yikes! And there was no way that I was sending them in anything but summer clothes--all those adorable fall styles with "back to school" written all over them won't be pulled out for ages. No sirree, my boys started school today in cargo shorts and short sleeved shirts, with a cold water bottle in their backpacks. Aren't they cute?
Henry started kindergarten today, something that has caused me great anguish all summer, wondering if he's mature enough, if he knows his letters well enough, if he'll suck his thumb in class! He did marvelously well and thankfully didn't notice my eyes welling up when we said goodbye. I love his teacher, Mrs. R and I can tell that she will be great for him. And because Heavenly Father knew that he can be a bit on the shy side when he's not around people he knows, He made sure that Henry had four other kids in his kindergarten class that he already knew from church or preschool. Here he sat with three of them while we waited for the class to open: I already adore Kimball's teacher, Mrs. C; after meeting her yesterday for a preview of the classroom with Kimball, I can already tell that she is a dream teacher for a kid with special needs. She has already thought of lots of things to help him succeed including placement of his desk, hand fidgets, a book nook for breaks from the stimuli of the class, and room to move around. I fully expect Kimball to thrive in her class. Yeah! We have been so blessed with his teachers.
At 3:15 I picked up my boys, who were so excited to tell me all about their day. We came home for brownies and cold milk and to relax. Bummer that by tomorrow, they'll probably have homework--since it'll only be August 22nd, it feels like we should be headed to the lake or bumming around the pool, still being too lax about bed time and housework. Oh well. They don't realize that they've been cheated out of two and a half weeks of summer.
At least I'll have a few hours every day when they are at school and my other two are asleep. That'll leave more time for blogging!
Alli & I headed back to school (AFTER LABOR DAY) in 1980 (1st grade and 2nd grade, respectively.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Top Ten Reasons I'm Glad We Had Another Baby

Many of you out there don't think it's strange to have four children, but there are plenty o' people whose eyes get big when they see us out with our energetic progeny or learn that we have multiplied and replenished the earth to the tune of four kids. Anyway, I've been feeling so happy lately that we didn't worry about what strangers and acquaintances think and had another baby. Here are the top 10 reasons today that I'm glad we had another baby:
  • 10- It gave me a decent (not good, but decent) excuse to be flabby and overweight for a little bit longer.
  • 9- It’s so great to have someone’s eyes light up when I walk in the room. The more kids I have, the more people I know who do that (current count is five: Jared and the four kiddos.)
  • 8- I’ll have a baby the same age as three cousins on my side and one on Jared’s side. I like that.
  • 7- Girl clothes—I love them!
  • 6- Seeing the tender side in my three boys, who fawn over their baby sister constantly. She has truly brought peace into our home.
  • 5- I’ll have a daughter to chat with, shop with, and bake with in my old age. And hopefully she’ll like reading all my favorite girl books like Anne of Green Gables, Betsy and Tacy, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie (ok, not so girly, perhaps), Jane Austen, E. M. Forester, etc etc.
  • 4- If having a family makes us happy and will bring joy in this life and in the eternities, why wouldn’t we want a big one? More kids equals more joy and love in my life. (And only a little more anguish, worry, and sleep deprivation.)
  • 3- I love nursing. I love having a newborn nurse like a ravenous little animal. I love having a six month old who sometimes can’t finish a feeding because she is so busy smiling at me. (I'll spare you a picture!)
  • 2- With a daughter, I am suddenly more aware of the fact that she’ll be a mom someday and I’ll be the grandma. I don’t know how to explain it, but having a daughter gives me greater insight into my own life, my mother’s, and the generations of women that surround me.
  • 1- Take a look at that face!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Finally, It Worked

For those of you who have been checking in today, you know that I have been pulling my hair out trying to Post about the Cabin. I have spent way too much time on it, but the more time I invested in it, the more I was determined to get it to work so that it wasn't all in vain. Now, it has finally successfully published and I'm too scared to go back in and add the labels, which once again I forgot, or to make note that it was actually published at 5:50 pm instead of 3:15 or whatever time it says.
However, I am tasting the sweetness of success right now. And relishing the fact that I won't be spending my child-free time between 8pm and 10pm tonight trying to get the dadgum blogspot to work. Yeah!
Hope you enjoy the Cabin post!

Remembering The Cabin--Recovery Attempt #54 y%2C+but+this+is+a+dense%2C+delicious%2C+old-fashioned+cake+that+you+serve+right+out+of+the+pan.%0D%0A%0D%0A%3Cdiv+style%3D%22text-align%3A+center%3B%22%3E%3Cspan+style% ally+made+it+with+whole+wheat+instead+of+rice.+We+laughed+and+laughed+together+about+that+for+the+rest+of+the+week%21%0D%0A%0D%0A%3Cdiv+style%3D%22text-align%3A+center%3B%22%3E%3Cspan+style%3D%22font-style%3A+italic%3B%22%3E%3Cspan+style%3D%22font-weight%3A+bold%3B%22%3ERice+Pudding%0D%0A%3C%2Fspan%3E%3C%2Fspan%3E%3Cdiv+style%3D%22text-align%3A+left%3B%22%3E%3Cul%3E%3Cli%3E1+c.+white+rice%3C%2Fli%3E%3Cli%3E2+c.+water%3C%2Fli%3E%3Cli%3E2+quarts+milk+%28any+will+do%2C+but+whole+makes+the+creamiest+for+obvious+reasons%29%3C%2Fli%3E%3Cli%3E1%2F2+c.+butter%3C%2Fli%3E%3Cli%3E2+t.+vanilla%3C%2Fli%3E%3Cli%3E4+eggs%2C+beaten+until+frothy%3C%2Fli%3E%3Cli%3E1+c.+sugar%0D%0A%3C%2Fli%3E%3C%2Ful%3EAs+usual%2C+this+will+only+be+as+good+as+the+ingredients+you+use.+If+you+substitute+margarine+or+imitation+vanilla%2C+it+won%27t+be+nearly+as+good+as+if+you+use+the+real+thing.%0D%0ABring+rice+and+water+to+a+boil+and+allow+to+boil+for+7+minutes.+Add+milk+and+butter+and+simmer+for+1+hour.+Watch+it--if+you+aren%27t+careful+it+will+boil+over+and+make+a+mess+of+your+stove%21+After+1+hour%2C+add+the+vanilla+and+the+sugar.+Temper+the+egg+by+adding+a+little+bit+of+the+pudding+mixture+to+the+egg+and+beating+it+in+before+adding+the+egg+back+to+the+entire+pudding.%0D%0AServe+with+a+dash+of+nutmeg.+My+mouth+is+watering%21%0D%0A%0D%0AThe+family+sold+The+Cabin+last+year+after+Grandma+passed+away.+It+was+sad+to+have+such+a+treasure+leave+the+family%2C+but+we+als

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


OK, so I spent over an hour this afternoon writing a poignant post remembering a childhood experience --- it was up for about an hour. I went back in to add labels, which I had forgotten to do, and somehow I lost the entire thing and it looks like edited cursewords--which accurately reflects how I feel right now! I'll repost it, but I won't have time this afternoon. I don't know which is worse--the time I lost or the fact that I may not be able to completely reproduce it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday recipes

OK, so no one's commenting anymore--is anyone out there? I guess I'd better step up my subject matter to appeal to the masses!:) If you're reading this and you haven't checked in in a while, let me know. Or tell me what's boring you!
I haven't posted any recipes in a couple of weeks, so I'm due. I thought I'd share some of the things we are enjoying on this Sunday.
I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday right before they were closing and got a lot of amazing stone fruits and tomatoes for 50 cents a pound. I also bought some blackberries (not quite the steal, but beautiful), a whole wheat baguette, and fresh basil. So those are some of the ingredients I'm working with today.
Here's what I threw together at lunchtime. It didn't take long, looked pretty, and was soooo yummy. I love basil and tomato together. This is just a variation on bruschetta based on what I had around. I think I'll call it . . .

Farmer's Market Bruschetta
  • one large heirloom tomato (or any garden fresh tomato), diced in chunks
  • one or two cubes of frozen pesto, thawed (if you haven't made it, do it before the basil crop is gone for the summer!)
  • feta cheese, crumbled
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated (don't insult me by asking if you can use the stuff in the green can. Throw it away today and buy some real cheese!)
  • One whole wheat baguette, sliced in 1/3 inch thick slices
  • olive oil spray
Arrange the sliced baguette on a baking sheet and spray with olive oil spray. Put under the broiler for about 2 minutes, until lightly toasted. Turn over slices of bread, spray, and toast. Remove from oven.
Spread a thin layer of pesto on each piece of toast (thicker if you want to use more than 2 cubes. It'll be yummy, but higher in calories.) Place chopped tomatoes over pesto. Sprinkle liberally with feta cheese and top with a shaving or pinch of Parmesan.
Put tray back under the broiler for about 2 more minutes (but watch it--don't just take my word for it) until cheese begins to brown and melt but not until your toast burns!
Remove and serve. If desired, garnish with some fresh basil cut in ribbons and coarsely ground pepper.

I've also concocted a blackberry tart for dessert tonight:

Fresh Blackberry Tart
Shortbread Crust
  • 1/2 c. butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 8 oz. light cream cheese at room temperature (I used fat free because that's all I had--it would have been much creamier if we'd had the light.)
  • 1/2 c. light sour cream
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 c. fresh blackberries
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3 T. water
Cream butter and sugar well. Add remaining crust ingredients and mix until just combined. Press into a tart pan. Prick with a fork and bake at 275 degrees for about 55-60 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.
Beat together cream cheese, sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Spread over cooled tart crust. Arrange 3 cups fresh blackberries over the cream cheese. Place remaining 3 c. berries in a saucepan over low heat with sugar, lemon juice, and water. Sprinkle cornstarch over and toss gently. Simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
When berry mixture is warm but not hot, pour over tart. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Slice into 8 pieces and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
(This came out delicious but a touch on the soupy side as far as the fruit topping goes--which was great with me. If you want something that won't run at all, add a lot more cornstarch--or pick a different recipe!)

I also tried the Cooking Light Pork Carnitas from last September. It was a pain to cut up the roast--I thought the Beef Carnitas were much easier to make. Halfway through these, I was afraid that they were going to be tough and terrible, but by the time they were finished, they were fab. They have a subtle flavor, which makes them more versatile. I had one in a corn tortilla with diced mango and the other one smothered in salsa verde and they were two completely different but wonderful tacos. It made enough for leftovers (even though I was feeding my in-laws as well) and I can't decide if I want to do tacos again or put them in enchiladas or empanadas--decisions, decisions! I also served pinquitos (if I'm using canned pinto/pink beans, I love these from S&W in the low sodium variety. They have a nice flavor and cook down well.), green salad, fresh fruit salad, and grilled green beans.
This is my favorite way to have green beans--in the summer I grill them and in the winter I roast them at 450 in the oven. All you do is buy the long, French green beans. (You can use fresh, with the ends snapped off, or frozen if they are high quality like C&W or Trader Joe's). Spray the beans liberally with olive oil spray. Salt with kosher salt. Grill in a foil pouch or roast on a cookie sheet until they are crisp tender. If you are careful not to overdo them, they are positively delicious and I'd take them over french fries anytime!
We were stuffed after dinner and had to wait a bit for the dessert, but somehow we managed to fit that tart in!
Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

True Love

I'm in love. The object of my new-found and undying affection is my new dishwasher. In a stroke of good fortune (actually a blessing I attribute to our policy to pay a full tithe,) we found out that a friend of ours was selling their slightly used, high-end, so-much-better-than-our-1980-model-that-it's-beyond-comparison dishwasher for a fraction of the retail price.
The installation, which appeared to be simple and straightforward, did throw us for a loop. It would have helped if the owner's manual had said something more than "Do not attempt to install without a certified Miele technician." I did manage to feed the kids that evening with the water turned off, but when Ian had a major blowout on the living room rug and I attempted to clean him up with only wet wipes, (while keeping the other kids out of the living room until I could clean up the carpet in there,) it became somewhat hysterical. We attempted to turn back on the water in order to shower him and water spewed all over the kitchen, soaking our 1980 vinyl flooring and 1980 oak cabinets. In the end, we did figure out how to get the water back on without the spray--I just had to remember to dump a bucket every 6 minutes while Jared made three trips to Home Depot.
But Good Fortune continued to smile upon us and the entire Elders' Quorum Presidency showed up for a meeting and assisted with the install. They got it to run as long as the garbage disposal was turned on!! We finally unplugged the garbage disposal until Darling Brother-in-law Flint the handyman/electrician/mechanic came over the next morning and put a new outlet plug in so that I didn't have to choose between a dishwasher and a garbage disposal.
We still haven't learned to comply with the owner's manual instructions that we should not rinse the plates, but at least we aren't completely washing dishes before putting them in. And I am in the process of teaching the kids how to load the dishwasher, which is so marvelous.
Stay tuned--I am composing a sonnet to the new fridge that we are expecting any day now!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Monterey Peninsula Trip Wrap-Up

Day 3 dawned chilly and overcast. Not quite beach weather, and the beach had been on our itinerary that morning. We moved at a leisurely pace getting ready and finally left the hotel room at 11:00 with a new game plan.
Stop 1: Carmel Mission
Those of you who went to elementary school in California know all about the missions. This one was built in the late 1700s near the coast of Carmel. It is an architectural treat and even though our kids couldn't really conceive of something being 230 years old, it was a much older building than they had ever seen before. (The Mission asks for a donation--suggested $5 per , $1 per child.)
There was a wedd
ing going on--I love being a wedding (we waited outside to ogle after the ceremony was over. Don't think that I plowed into the chapel with my noisy herd.) The flower s were darling, although one absolutely fell apart in a screaming tantrum halfway through the ceremony. Ah, children!
Once we had perused the gardens, the museum, and the chapel, (and visited the bathroom twice) we headed back to Monterey.
Stop #2: Fisherman's Wharf
This is a much like other Fisherman's Wharfs, with lots of touristy shops and cafes and restaurants serving fish and chips and clam chowder. There are also countless places offering whale watching, some even guarantee whale sightings. We decided to put off whale watching for another visit, especially since our warm clothes had all been worn by this point in the trip. I splurged calorie wise (not that I had eaten that righteously all weekend) and got a sourdough bowl of clam chowder at Old Fisherman's Grotto ($7 at the outside cafe). I highly recommend it--it was creamy, peppery, and not fishy tasting at all. I wanted to lick the bowl clean, but remembered how mortified my mother would be.The boys and Jared, not being seafood lovers, opted for bean burritos and a taco salad. Not quite traditional for Fisherman's Wharf, but it was just what they wanted, so who could complain? We also picked up some toffee cashews and almonds and some caramel corn here. YUM.
Stop #3 Dennis the Menace Park--again. It was definitely more crowded on Saturday and I was accosted by some ducks who thought I should share my caramel corn--other than that, it was just as fun as Friday. Nothing new to report.
Stop #4 Monterey Bay Aquarium--again. Why not, since we had purchased a members
hip? We revisited a few of our favorite exhibits in the early evening, when the crowds were starting to die down.
By the time we left the Aquarium, we decided to ditch our
plans for another dinner in a restaurant. Jared dropped the kids and me back at our hotel and went over to Allegro Pizzaria and brought back yummy pizza. Meanwhile, I bathed everyone and got them ready for bed.
Sunday morning, we packed up, checked out, and attended an 12:00 Sacrament Meeting in Watsonville before heading home. We are already planning our next visit to the area. We loved it!