Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hi! . . . atus. . .

Hi Everyone! Sorry I haven't been up and blogging lately.  I promise I will get back to it soon.  Just like all my favorite TV shows, I'm taking a brief hiatus.  I need some time to sleep in, relax, travel abroad, watch my eyelashes grow, needlepoint, lose my mind concentrate on year-end activities for The Girl and on wrapping up the homeschool year with The Boy. To let you know how down to "bizness" we are-he has taking to responding to me with a "Yes, Sir!" and a salute. Okay, maybe no salute.  I'll have lots to share with you in June when I get back online. Until then, keep enjoying what matters most in life.  Can I hear  a "Yes, Sir!"?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lookin’ for Luck? Then taste a rainbow . . .

But it is going to taste just like a vanilla cupcake.  We love St. Patrick’s Day. We get busy in March planning our Irish feast, making leprechaun traps, culling clovers, and looking for pots o’ gold and rainbows.  Here’s one of our favorite places to find luck . . . in a cupcake.

The Girl and The Boy love these magical cupcakes and every time I make them, people are amazed.  When they ask me how I do it, I like to say it is an ancient Chinese Irish secret. (Any of you remember that commercial about the ring around the collar?) I digress . . .back to the cupcakes. They are really easy to make, I’m usually just too lazy, forgetful busy to explain it. So here goes . . .

You can use a box cake mix or this recipe for Light-as-Air Vanilla Cupcakes
The food coloring specifics come from a recipe from Family Fun Magazine.

Don’t forget to top them with a beautiful whipped cream cloud and maybe a gold-foiled wrapped chocolate coin. Any way you choose to make them-may the Luck of the Irish always be with you!

Rainbow Cupcakes

Prepare your favorite box cake recipe or Light-as-Air Vanilla Cupcakes. Then divide the batter evenly into six small bowls. Dye each bowl of batter a rainbow color using food coloring. See chart below.


18 red drops
12 yellow drops and 4 red drops
12 yellow drops
12 green drops
12 blue drops
9 red drops and 6 blue drops

Preheat oven according to your recipe instructions. Line 16 cupcake pans with baking cups.  

Evenly distribute the batter between among the cups, starting with the purple, then blue, then green and so on.  I use a Tablespoon to get an even amount in each cup.  After each spoonful, gently spread the batter with the back of a spoon to even it out and cover the color underneath.

Bake the cupcakes according to your recipe instructions. Cool and enjoy with a whipped cream cloud!

Source: Family Fun Magazine and leprechaun magic.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Violet Beuregarde’s Brown Butter Blueberry Bars

I’m feeling a little blue . . .like Violet Beauregarde blue . . . as in blueberry blue. 

 I have a friend who works for a local produce company.  I’ll call her KT. She supplied us with about 12 baskets of beautiful blueberries a few weeks ago. So what to do with all these berries? I froze some and then spent a few hours minutes on Pinterest and was inspired by Tide and Thyme’s recipe for Brown Butter Cranberry Shortbread Bars to create my version of Brown Butter Blueberry Bars.  The only problem? We can’t stop eating them and we are beginning to hear the chants of the Oompa Loompas because soon B, The Girl, The Boy and I will all have to be rolled out the door to the juicing machine. Really, as I am typing this, I am sure my skin has a slight tinge of blue. I did use some in my brown glop healthy, green smoothie, and also made some yummy blueberry lemonade for The Boy and The Girl. But nothing tastes as good as THE BARS so we’ve made three batches with the fresh berries and now we are onto more batches with the frozen. No, we didn’t eat them all in one sitting AND we gave some to our favorite blueberry benefactor, KT and her family.  But let me tell you, it is just the right mix of nutty, buttery, crunch and the smell of the bubbly, blue filling is like a summer morning.

Don’t believe me . . . here’s the recipe . . . try it . . . I dare you . . . but don’t call me when the Oompa Loompas arrive.

Blueberry Brown Butter  Bars

1 cup plus 5 Tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

3 cups plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
12 oz (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen blueberries

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
dash of cinnamon
To make the crust
Line a 13×9-inch pan using the foil sling method, leaving an overhang on opposing sides so you can lift the bars out after baking. Spray the pan and foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Add the butter to a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Melt the butter, swirling the pan frequently. Once the butter has melted, it will start to bubble and foam. Continue to cook (continuing to swirl the pan) until the butter turns brown and smells nutty – be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burned quickly. Turn off the heat under the pan, and let the butter cool until lukewarm.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Beat in the egg yolks. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour until completely incorporated. The dough will be thick and stiff. Transfer about 2 cups to the prepared pan and press into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 F.
Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until it begins to set, but has not yet started to brown around the edges.
While the crust bakes, make the streusel by combining the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cornmeal with the reserved dough. Use your fingers to mix until crumbly.
To make the blueberry filling
 Combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and continue boiling until the mixture is thick and syrupy, about 5-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
Spread the blueberry mixture in an even layer over the hot crust. Sprinkle the streusel over the top. Increase the oven temperature to 350 F, and bake on a rack placed in the top of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the streusel is golden.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 1 hour (you can also cool in the fridge if you want to speed up the process). Once cool, use the foil handles to lift the bars out. Place on a cutting board, and cut into squares before serving. Store for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Source: recipe adapted from Tide and Thyme

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pudding Like a Night on the Sea

As part of The Boy’s reading lesson last week we read Pudding Like a Night on the Sea by Ann Cameron

It is a realistic fiction story about two brothers up to mischief. Julian and Huey watch their father make a special pudding as a treat for their mother. Their father says it “tastes like a raft full of lemons” and “like a night on the sea.” The boys are supposed to wait for their mother to come home but they secretly taste the pudding thinking, “Well, a little bit won’t hurt.”  And as we all know a little bit almost always turns into A LOT! As punishment, their father says that there will be some “beating” and “whipping.”  Uh Oh! But they end up having to make another pudding for their mother by “beating” and “whipping” the eggs until their arms hurt.  The illustrations are so colorful and the descriptions so engaging, that The Boy was inspired to write down the recipe.  He then typed and designed it on the computer. Here it is:

The Pudding Like a Night on the Sea
*5 Lemons

Squeeze the lemons. Put the yolks in a pan and the whites in a bowl. Beat yolks. Add sugar. Lemons, and cream. Put on the stove. Stir fast. Whip the egg whites. Mix into the pudding.

Not much to go on but priceless, don't you think?

So we looked up a lot of other recipes and came up with this:

The part that mattered most? We all made it together-The Boy squeezed the lemons and whipped the cream. The Girl learned to separate the eggs and beat the whites to a stiff peak. Then we all put our parts together to make this:

Beautiful, foamy, tart, fluffy, and it tasted like "a whole raft of lemons floating at sea".

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Hero, Nonetheless.

I have been struggling with writing posts this week. You'll have to bear with me while I focus on something serious. I promise I'll get back to the fun stuff but I can’t post something frivolous while I watch the news and hear story after story of the devastation of this past week in Indiana, Kentucky, and other parts of the world.  It reminds me of the things that matter most; that life is so precious and all around us are heroes in everyday clothes. 

One such person is Stephanie Decker. 

Her story is very public and has spread like the tornado that destroyed her home, but not her family.  She is the mother who protected her children with a shield of her own body from two roaring tornadoes.  It cost her part of both legs.  She told the news that she is not a hero.

She is right about being a parent and loving her kids but, she is not right about doing what every parent would because everyday, there are people who take their kids for granted, who do not love their children or hold them close, do not shield them from the harms of life. Instead, they neglect and abuse them.  So, I want to thank Stephanie for being a hero of the best kind. Thank you for showing us an example of the brave, true unconditional love all parents should have.  You are a hero in my book, Stephanie Decker, nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Downton Abbey and Once Upon A Time

This is the first Sunday evening I have truly missed Downton Abbey. Last weekend, I was all distracted with my date with Oscar.  Now I’m really sad to see the season end. I am sure The Girl is happy to see my faux accent end, though. I must say, the part that brought tears to my eyes was the kitchen maid, Daisy’s story-so very sweet and she deserves to be special to someone. Don’t you think?  

I am not at all sorry to see Sir Richard leave and I loved the parting words of Lady Crawley, “Do you promise?”  And even O’Brien broke her tough shell a bit.  Most of all-Matthew and Lady Mary-finally!!!! 

Well, it is going to be a long wait but until then we’ve got Once Upon A Time and I’m a sucker for fairy tales.  

Turns out The Girl and The Boy are too.  Although, The Boy may tell you it is not his favorite show but you might see his nose growing because he’d be lying.  Sunday evening rolls around and we all snuggle up to watch what is going to happen in Storybrooke, Maine this week.  Will the Mayor/Evil Queen prevail over good again? Does Emma know that Mary Margaret/Snow White is her mother? What other tricks does Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin have up his sleeve?  It is all so intriguing, frustrating, and familiar.  We love it and I think you will too. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

If Life Gives You Apples . . .

After a week’s worth of lunches. This is what I’m left with.

I hate for them to go to waste. I feed some to The Turtle and after awhile, even she gets tired of them.

Well, The Boy and I are reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Real book form! Best part? This was my actual copy from when I was in third grade. The Boy thinks it is hilarious to see my handwriting claiming the book as my own.

Anyway, Almonzo’s mother packs the dinner pails for school with crispy apple turnovers, “plump crusts filled with melting slices of apple and spicy brown juice”.  So this gave me an idea . . . Apple Hand Pies!

Now I know it is not very Martha of me, but I did not make my own crust for these pies-I like to “get ‘er dun” as Mater says.   I keep some pre-made store-bought versions in the freezer just for this type of thing. I don’t have a favorite brand-I just get what is on sale looks like a good quality piecrust and I am not ashamed; especially when I have such a warm, toasty way to welcome The Girl home from school.

I bet you are wondering how I made them so cute?  I have this handy thing from Pampered Chef, called the Cut-N-Seal but you can just use a circle cookie cutter.

 Apple Pie Filling*
2 Tablespoons butter
6-8 apples (any variety) peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ - 1 cup water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir in the apples, lemon, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples have softened and begin to break down, about 10 minutes.

Add water and cornstarch to pot and bring to a boil. Cook until desired thickness.

Cool and assemble pies.
*Filling can be made ahead of time and stored in freezer.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

I used two rounds of pre-made pie-crust to make about 12 hand pies.  Working with one round at a time, lay out dough on parchment paper and cut out shapes using circle cookie cutter.  Place a heaping Tablespoon of filling in middle of each circle (only half of what you cut out-these are the bottoms). Keep a small perimeter bare around the edge. Place a second circle on top of the first and use your fingertips to seal the edges.  You can then use the tines of a fork around the edge of the circle. Repeat with the remaining mini-pies.

Place the pies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Beat an egg with a 1 Tablespoon of water for egg wash.  Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar. Using a knife, make a small “x” in the middle of pie so steam can escape.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Try to cool because everyone will be snatching them up, burning their fingers and tongues in the process.