Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Our holiday weekend was packed with activity despite lots of rain.  My parents came to visit providing much grandparently attention and giving Brent and me a much needed date night.  We drank wine, ate cheese, bread, and olives and talked uninterrupted.  Amazing!


On Saturday, M ended year three of ballet lessons with a fantastic recital performance.  We went out for ice cream afterwards, sweet cream with raspberries in a dark chocolate-coated cone for me, “brown” a.k.a. chocolate for C, and raspberry sorbet with white chocolate chips and gummy bears for M (not a combo I plan on trying any time soon :)). We wrapped up the day with take-out eaten picnic style while watching Madagascar.

On Sunday, I ran errands all by myself on my own and Brent got some much needed yard work done while my mom and C played endless games with counting bears and my dad and M played art shop.  My parents departed in the afternoon and we had some friends over for the traditional Memorial Day grilling of hot dogs.  For dessert, I made a scrumptious Texas sheet cake (recipe below).  The evening included bubbles, digging in the dirt, playing musical instruments and a spectacular meltdown by M who missed her grandparents very much.


Today we’ve gone to the bookstore, done some worksheets on counting money, re-discovered our dry-erase letter cards, built a marble run, taken a walk in the rain, met a new neighbor, sent M to another neighbor’s for a playdate, eaten more cake, and watched several episodes of Dora. I also made a Sam’s run and sewed this drawstring backpack for M to use for carrying a water bottle, a notebook, pencils or other small items when we go for walks. I saw a similar bag at Old Navy and thought “I can make that.” So I got over my usual need for a pattern and gave it a shot hoping the design was as simple as I thought and luckily, it was.

A weekend well spent!  I’m gearing up for a busy week as M’s school comes to an end for the year and we get ready for a week at the beach!

Texas Sheet Cake (adapted from Bonny Wolf’s Talking With My Mouth Full)

For the cake:

1 cups (2 sticks) of butter
1 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2.25 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix butter, water, cocoa in a saucepan and heat until butter is melted, stirring occasionally.  Add flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda to an electric mixer bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add butter mixture and combine thoroughly. Save the saucepan to use for the frosting. Add sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix until combined. The batter will be thin. Pour into a greased and floured 15.5 x 10.5 x 1 inch jelly roll pan.    (I didn’t have a pan this size so I used a  9×13 inch pan and didn’t use quite all of the batter.)  Bake 20-25 minutes.

For the frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 lb confectioner sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
6 T milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans (to scatter on top) (optional)

Mix all ingredients in reserved saucepan and heat, stirring until smooth.  Pour frosting over cake while it is still hot from the oven.  Scatter pecans on top.

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IMG_0465A few days ago, I decided to go through the numerous sticky notes protruding from my copy of The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz (my review is here.) and see if I could make one or two recipes with what I had on hand.  So for dinner that night, we had warm goat cheese salad using lettuce from our CSA and bread from the peasnt loaf recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes.  I did have to dash into the grocery store for some goat cheese, but it was well worth it. The salad was delicious!

IMG_0457Then there was dessert.  I’d always thought of chocolate mousse as a dessert with lots of heavy cream, probably because of the American fear of raw eggs.  David shares a very simple version containing only chocolate, water, liquer, and eggs. Since I buy farm fresh eggs and I’m willing to risk eating IMG_0460them in their raw form, I was eager to try it.  I used Cointreau rather than Chartreuse because we had it on hand and I love how it tastes mixed with chocolate.  I like to make chocolate cordials with bittersweet chocolate, water, and Cointreau.  The mousse recipe simply includes adding egg yolks and whipped egg whites to that mix.  It was divine!  I made dessert dishes of it for Brent and myself but we polished them off and got out the bowl with the rest so we could have more.  The next night, we finished the remainder with strawberries from our neighbors garden.  The combination was heavenly!

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SweetlifecoverhomepageI’ve been eagerly anticipating The Sweet Life in Paris for months. I ordered it as soon as it was released last week, and it is every bit as delicious as I expected it to be. I adore David Lebovitz’s witty essays on his blog as well as his yummy recipes.  David worked at Chez Pannisse in San Francisco for over a decade, then spent time writing several wonderful cookbooks.  After a personal tragedy, he decided to make a fresh start in Paris. This book is a collection of essays about learning how to decipher the cultural codes of his new city.  And it is laugh-out-loud funny.

I was reading yesterday while the girls played in the back yard, I started laughing and M asked me what was so funny.  I explained that it had to do with a bad batch of mint chip ice cream and a toilet that wouldn’t flush (a story that was even funnier to me since I seem to be cursed with at least one temperamental toilet where ever I live).  M demanded that I read the story to her.  I did, and she pulled up a chair and insisted I read more.  I selected a few more child-friendly passages, and she loved them as much as I did.

I’ve marked several of the recipes to try ASAP, and I’m looking forward to stealing a bit of C’s naptime to finish the rest of the book.  If you’re interested in Paris, desserts (who isn’t?), or need a good laugh, order this book immediately!

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Recent Yumminess

img_0327Inspired by this post at Zakka Life, M and I recently had hot cocoa and peeps (seems a bit late, but we’re still in the 50 days of Easter :)) during our afternoon reading time.  I’m not a fan of peeps on their own for taste but I love how they look and in cocoa, they taste like any other marshmallow.

img_0336A few days ago, I made the Custard-Filled Cornbread from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Molly warned that the batter would be thin, but it was even thinner than expected. And though I heeded her warning to put the pan into the oven gently after pouring the cream into the center of the batter,  I was nervous that it wouldn’t come out right.  But it worked like magic.  The layers were perfect.  The top tasted like regular cornbread but the center was custardy and scrumptious.  This book is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  I love Molly’s writing and so far all the recipes we’ve tried have been winners.

This past weekend I made the lemon cake from the latest issue of Everyday Food (my favorite cooking magazine).  Instead of the whipped frosting, I made the glaze they paired with lemon cookies: 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 2T lemon zest.  Just before serving the cake, I covered the bottom layer with glaze, topped it with the second layer and poured the rest of the glaze over the top.  It was divine!  We took it to dinner at a friend’s house and it disappeared that night.  I didn’t manage to get a picture of it which caused M to say that I’ll have to make another one very very soon.  I’d make one right now if we had lemons in the house.  It would be perfect for breakfast.  I love the combination of lemon cake or pie with coffee.

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In need of a break from the duties of getting M and C ready for bed, I headed out alone in the late afternoon on Saturday.  I could have gone wherever I wished.  I went to the library.  The thought of a chance to look for my own books, to venture into the grown-up stacks without chasing down a toddler after each extraction of a book, to be able to simply read the spines of the books in a particular section (food essays was the winner today) seemed to good to be true.

It’s not as if I don’t have anything to read.  I have a whole shelf of books waiting for me to read them, but I wanted more.  Earlier today after following a few links, I ended up perusing the books at Orangette’s Amazon Shop (Orangette is the blog of Molly Wizenberg, author of the wonderful A Homemade Life).  I jotted down at least 10 books that I wanted to read so I could look for them at the library.

I found a few and saw a few others that intrigued me.  Then I perused the library’s new non-fiction section finding myself in the mood for some science-y non-fiction  and found several more potential reads.  I am already in the middle of three books, and after finishing C. S. Harris’s What Angels Fear (a recommendation from my mom who knew I’d love the Regency setting and the combination of mystery and romance), I am very eager to get the sequel (unfortunately it wasn’t available at the library branch I explored today).

I did limit myself to five books, not that I can possibly finish them all before they need to go back to the library, but I consider my restraint admirable since I wanted at least five more.  Melissa Wiley recently wrote about how nice it would be if we could replace part of a night’s sleep with reading and feel just as refreshed.  Oh, if only.

The books I checked out:

The Gastronomical Me by MFK Fisher – I can’t believe I  haven’t read this one yet considering my love of food writing.

Talking with My Mouth Full by Bonny Wolf, NPR’s Weekend Edition Food Commentator

Tastes of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis

The Best Food Writing 2007

Where the Wild Things Were: Life Death and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators by William Stolzenburg -

Speaking of food writing, I found out recently that Julie and Julia, which I loved, is going to be a movie. Other people have probably known this for ages, but I discovered it by seeing a poster when taking the girls to see Earth (great btw but not great enough to keep a 2yo’s attention for 1.5 hours).

Being a fan of cooking shows, M watched the trailer of Julie and Julia with me and was very disappointed to learn that it’s rated PG-13 so most likely she can’t watch it for some time.  Maybe once it’s on DVD we’ll be able to do a bit of editing.

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I promised in the comments to this post that I would share the recipe for the cookies pictured in my header. These cookies were first introduced to me 10 years ago when I was living in Baton Rouge and teaching at a private high school. An amazing young woman who was my student and her mother would make these cookies periodically and bring them to the teachers’ lounge for us to snack on. They were perfection itself and such a fabulous, well-loved gift.

Before she graduated, my student, several of her friends, and I gathered for an evening of baking, and I learned how to make these cookies. She brought them to school the next day and we shared them in my classes. I ate 15 of them in the course of 2 hours and then had the worst sugar crash I’ve ever experienced :)

I have since had the privilege of sharing them as Christmas treats, making them with M, and bringing them to M’s school for her teachers. Though I have not made much progress on my penchant for eating far too many of them. They really are the best cookies ever.

Chocolate Oatmeal Hershey Bar Cookies

(This recipe makes 6-7 dozen cookies so I often halve it.)

2 c. Butter (or Margarine)
2 c. Sugar
2 c. Brown Sugar
4 Eggs
2 t. Vanilla
4 c. Flour
5 c. Oatmeal, ground into powder (I do this in the food processor)
1 t. Salt
2 t. Baking Powder
2 t. Baking Soda
3 c. Chopped Pecans
24 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
6 or 7 Hershey Bars

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cream butter and both sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend until creamy.  Add flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Blend just until combined.  Add pecans and chocolate chips and blend on the mixer’s lowest setting (“stir” on my Kitchenaid) or combine by hand.

Drop by tablespoons onto a parhment lined cookie sheet.  Bake 6-8 minutes.  The cookies will by soft and will not look done when you take them out.  The edges may have just a hint of brown. Do not overbake!

Before removing them from the pan, top each cookie with one section of a Hershey bar.  After about 2 minutes, remove them from the pan and let cool. They will remain gooey and soft for a long time.


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Thanksgiving Goodness

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner.  C who rarely eats meat loved the turkey and M thought the cranberry sauce made a lovely topping for the rolls, her favorite part of the meal.  I’ve only roasted a turkey a few times before and this one was definitely the best I’ve done one of the best any of us had ever had.  We used the recipe for Mom’s Roast Turkey from Simply Recipes.  I definitely recommend it.

For our sides, we made Basic Cranberry Sauce from Everyday Food Magazine, Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots from Bon Appetit, Refrigerator Yeast rolls, an old favorite from Southern Living, A sweet potato casserole from Epicurious and while I normally make a pecan-sage dressing, we simplified this year and went with good old Stove Top.  We made pumpkin pie from the Libby’s recipe and topped it with whipped cream.

We somehow managed all the prep without too much stress and we truly enjoyed the day.  We capped off the night by watching Shrek the Halls together.  I hope everyone had as nice a family day as we did!

I’d planned to head out all by myself for a bit of shopping this morning while my parents watched the girls but C woke up with a stomach bug so we’re nursing her and hanging out here.  She’s finally feeling good enough to sleep now so I’m crossing my fingers she’ll keep getting better throughout the day.

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