Thursday, December 30, 2010

Great foods, lots of cooking, no pictures to be found...

So, I don't like putting posts up without pictures, so here are a few gratuitous shot of family to  make up for my lack of food photos.

Over the last week I have cooked and baked and been generally speaking- happier than I've been in ages. Since May really.

I've also been sick, with a nasty cold that abated just for Christmas eve and then crept back so that on Monday and Tuesday all I could do was sleep and blow my nose....
 This means we've made soup.  Lots of soup.  Saturday we had Chili (not quite soup, but same theory)... Monday we had tomato soup.  Tuesday - I was so sick, I have no idea if we even ate anything.  But last night I felt a little better and got up and made my mom's Potato soup and the kids gobbled it up-- so did we.

5-6 large potatoes
Half gallon of milk ( i used some mild but also threw in a cup of heavy cream cause we had some leftover)
Half a stick of butter
celery salt, pepper and salt to taste

Basically, I hard boil 4 eggs.  Cut them into pieces and set aside.
Peel and Dice the potatoes.  Boil until soft (this takes very little time if you have them cut into bite size pieces).  Drain the potatoes, in the bottom of the pot, make a little roux by melting the butter and adding few tablespoons of flour.  Whisk that together and cook until the flour starts to brown a little and is less raw...( or my mom likes her soup fairly thin, so she skips this and just whisks a raw egg into the milk instead-- this too is a thickener, but less so than a roux).   After the roux is ready, pour in the milk, add the potatoes back in, add the egg and season with celery salt and pepper (potentially a little more butter if you like).

We eat it with a ton of saltine crackers, a dash or two of hot sauce-- or tonight we had some bacon and cheese we threw in when we reheated it.  It was delicious last night and tonight.  Soup make me feel better. :)  Simple but delicious...
Hope ya'll have a healthy and peacefilled new year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not a food post

So-- tonight I realized that i have two polity classes, two worship classes, two MS classes and loads of papers standing between me and the end of the semester.  But-- that sounds way better than my life sounded back in September.
And-- tonight my hubby suggested that we should go see the National Christmas Tree (and all it's little tree friends-- apparently there's 50+)... which is pretty exciting, because it reminds me that we do live near DC now.  Why I can't seem to remember this most days- is- well, clearly related to my not being there much.  But this will not last forever.  And-- this will be our first Christmas spent at our DC house and thanks to a fantastic sister-in-law, and great in-laws all around-- I will get to be in Derwood and really enjoy Christmas day.  I am very, very excited about this.

Finally-- tonight Ike got to go to Barnes and Noble and sing with a bunch of other 6year olds.  He's a little performer that's for sure.... And he loves a Christmas song.  As a whole, having him and Max in our world makes everything so much brighter - especially the holidays.

Christmas 2007, just before a little sister arrived
Hope to have a post of some deliciousness again soon-- but in the meantime... enjoy your advent friends! Till next time...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Foods That Make Ya Go... Mmmmmmm.

So, although we are willing to try new foods (ie, brussel sprouts which are now a FAVORITE at our table).  Some foods of "exotic" origin have been hard to pitch to my crew.  My mom isn't exactly an adventurous eater. She's really happy with a hot dog or a fried egg any day of the week, but doesn't love a lot of vegetables, nor a lot of proteins for that matter- she is however game for every starch and cheese we put out, but I have been in the mood to try some dishes that don't have cheese as their center point.

The kids like vegetables, but are random in what they will eat on any given day and Scott has to be in the right mood to try certain new foods.  So- I was very surprised that yesterday I got everyone on board to try Cody's Moroccan stew (which is really smitten kitchen's which was really Aida's... oi vey, it's the recipe version of whisper down the lane)...   ... anyhow- we tried it, and it was love at first bite,

for 4 out of 5 of us (the only reluctant one was the two year old, and honestly, she doesn't count and was busy stuffing her face with 3, yes, 3 clementines!)  Anyhow-- we really loved it.

It's also the first time I've convinced Scott to eat one of the orange foods (butternut squash in this case) happily. The man likes a carrot, but has been very ambivalent about squash, pumpkins or sweet potatoes, and in some cases, he just flat out refuses.  But-- this one-- he liked!!  We used parsley instead of cilantro, threw in some lovely little green olives that we found at our Safeway, and added some hot sauce at the end.  Just makes ya go mmmmmmmm.

Thanks Cody, and thanks to the whole country of Morocco for finding a way to make an orange food we love.  And thank you autumn for your inspiration, your crisp sunny days, and for being a beautiful transition season.  I love this time of year.  mmmmmmmm.... Tonight's agenda:  Cider with spiced rum.... mmmmm.  fall.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ireland, a Rainy Day, and Some Roasted Tomato Soup

November Rain... it's not just a pretty song--- it is a description of today.

The rain suits me.
I am often melancholy.
And I actually don't mind it unless I HAVE to do something in the POURING rain.. but short of that-- I don't mind it that much.
If Scott is mostly PA Dutch, well, I am mostly Irish (really I am mostly English with a little scotch irish a dash of German and a bunch of unnamed heinz 57 variety of mixed up stuff in my background-- but i LIKE the IRISH part).  Somehow I like to think my love of the rain, my being melancholy, and all of that fits with being Irish.
 I like castles, poetry, celtic music (love celtic music actually).
I like rainy a dark beer, religious peoples (Catholics AND Protestants)  and I love redheads (I gave birth to one and damn it, I am a redhead if not naturally then by choice and that should count!)....
 I love an irish whiskey (in a coffee please).
And I am loving that we will most likely be going to Ireland next summer to a peacemaking community called Corrymeela.  Yay all things Irish.

I felt like making something Irish, but I also wanted soup... That ruled out Irish pie type things that we might have had today... hmmm what could we make?
...I do not like lamb stews, though that seems like it would be best for a day like today...
if I really wanted to claim that Irish thing I would just cope and make the lamb stew.
Instead I will steal a recipe from another Irish American and adapt it to what we love to eat here at "Chez Crazyhouse".

So-- Bobby Flay's tomato soup recipe, and an old recipe we stole from Tyler Florence have married in my kitchen and are now a new Roasted Tomato Soup that suits us.  Which will go perfectly with grilled cheese with Bacon. And with the incredible Magners Irish Cider that a lovely goddess gave me at work.  She's Episcopal, which means she fall right in between the Catholics and the Protestants.  God bless her and her cider loving ways...

Here's what's in the soup:


  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (or in our case, two cans of plum tomatoes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart veggie or chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

And here's the directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. (or in my case, open the can and rinse off the seeds) Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves, carrots and onions onto a baking tray.  Drizzle with up to 1/2 cup of olive oil (we used a little less) and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic, carrot and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add the stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to aboil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash basil leaves and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with either more stock or cream, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with  a little olive oil or a splash of heavy cream or with  your favorite grilled cheese or a little bacon. Whatever suits ya!

mmmmm..... thank you Tyler Florence and Bobby Flay... much love to you both from Chez Crazyhouse.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Out Come The Dutchies!

So, my hubby says to me-- Checkie(or Jacquie for those of you who aren't PA dutch)-- we need to make some pot pie!  And I said, "whell, yous know I am always good for sum starch with starch and a lil' chickn!"  So we go to the frigiator and get a chicken and roasted it.. He cleaned it real gut.  and nowuh we are makin our own nooodles from scratch! (oh, i give up, it's hard to write that accent out...)

Although my hubby is one half PA dutch (it's a strong and dominant half) we didn't ever get his grandma's recipe.  I don't think she knows what a good cook her grandson is, so she only ever taught the granddaughters I believe. Oh if only she knew.  He can roll dough with the best of them.  Well, since we didn't have grandma Young's recipe, we started by looking at this one:  

which sounded mostly like pot pie (without the corn, we've just never traditionally used corn).
And it is a good starchy meal.  White with white and more white.  We adapted some of it, but started with her noodles. The real gut part here is the doughy noodles.  Yum.  
So, we made those noodles, and let them dry.  Roasted a whole chicken with some thyme, salt, pepper and oil, and picked it apart.  Then cut up some potatoes.  We had left over celery and a shallot and we  threw them in a bowl to wait.

Then boiled some homemade chicken stock plus a box of store bought (I'd say about 8-10 cups of chicken stock).  As it was boiling, we threw in 2 tablespoons of magic chicken base, which is really called "better than bullion".  When that came to a rolling boil, we added the celery, potatoes and shallot and cooked for ten minutes, then added the noodles one at a time and cooked them for about 15 minutes, then threw in most of a chicken and cooked it all for 5 more minutes.  It was the best pot pie we've ever had.  Really.  Scott also heavily salted and peppered it all.  It was simply amazing.  And everyone agreed (a rarity at our house).

Tonight's learnings:
I love cooking with my husband.  
Love making things from scratch when we can.
Love being in our new kitchen no matter what.
It's good to be home.

Neena and Isaac answering the question: "who wants a biscuit?"

Ike testing the noodles to make sure they are good!

She may be cute, but she's nothin but trouble! Especially at the dinner table.
Blessings on your homes tonight...
Blessings when yous outen the light
Blessings when yous tuck into bed...
Blessings on each little head...
-- much love, Checkie, Neena and the dutchies...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real food, or not real food... it's not really a question

I am overscheduled.  Truly.
I am not able to cook dinner and enjoy a real meal tonight. Sadly.
I am working but having a hard time focusing since I spent all day in a meeting or in class.  Frustratingly.
I am watching a dumbass show I love called pawn stars while trying to read about solitude in community.  ----Weirdly.

I am not drinking wine.  Disappointingly.
This is not food.  Badly, badly not food.

I cannot wait to be at home in my kitchen with a glass of wine, some good bread and my family. Longingly.

Soon and very soon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The easy road to mock lasagna.

So, tonight I wanted lasagna, but had no patience for it.  To much waiting in there.  Max and I don't get home until 6.  We are usually both hungry and tired by the time we eat around 6:30 or 7.  So-- tonight's solution for Lasagna: I bought prego spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, an italian cheese blend, and some mafalda pasta.  Made the pasta, heated the sauce threw in some italian seasoning and parmesan.  Then put some pasta on the plate with a little bit of ricotta and italian cheese blend thrown on top, then sauce drizzled over it all.  on the side we had peas with mushrooms.  And-- It was good enough.  Desperation and lack of time will lead me down the easy road every time.  But sometimes, that road really is good enough.  I'll take the B instead of the A+ tonight thanks!!  And I can live with that quite happily.  good enough..

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A day in the life

Right now- a typical week for me looks like this:
SUNDAY:  arrive in York.
MONDAY:  Start at 9 am with 2 hours of meetings, then time in Leadership now offices, maybe a light lunch while working if there is time, 1-4, teaching, 4-5 LN offices or get Max, drive to spring grove, make or buy and eat dinner-- read to Max (if she is with me) and get her ready for bed, work for at least 3 hours prepping for class and responding to pressing emails.  Sleep from midnight until 6:00 or 6:30
TUESDAY:  drive back to Lancaster, max to daycare, meeting from 9-11 (eat during meeting), worship or back to office, prep for class.  Teach/facilitate from 1-6. Rush to pick up max on time, repeat evening from the night before.  or stay at LTS and work there from 7pm until I can't take it anymore.
WEDNESDAY: Class from 8:30-10:30, worship, work on leadership now stuff (usually meet with MegPeg over lunch if we can, or try to grab something to scarf down while working)  2:00-4 meetings (or tomorrow it will be from 1-4)... 4-6 coffee hour and sherry hour (try to do both if possible so that people know I care about both of my jobs)... then drive to Spring Grove or home to Derwood. THURSDAY: either work from home or from LTS ... pick Isaac up from bus stop, cook dinner, check in with scott and mom about what I've missed, find out about kindergarten and how it's going from Ike, then kids routine, baths, books, bed, Then work or collapse and cry on family's shoulders.
FRIDAY: work from home or take a half day if I am working on the weekend.  I have needed to work (in some way) all but one Sunday in the last 4.  This weekend, I will be leading a retreat all weekend.

Even when I am home. I have to work at night in order to develop lesson plans for classes and to grade papers and to keep up with the bare minimum (and that's all I am doing) of Leadership now stuff. And many of my friends want me to have dinner, coffee, lunch, and I try to squeeze those things in as I can, but it's getting too hard to keep that up! Really.  it's killing me...
Backwards or forwards, there is too much to read. 
So, this is one more post to point out the obvious-- it is not possible for one person to teach this many classes and direct a program and have a family and do all three well. It's not.  I am tired of reading. Tired of being away from family and just plain tired.  I plan to change that in the spring.  And I am starting a list of things to cook when the spring rolls around.  Perhaps I'll post that next time to give a little hope and something to dream about...

Friday, October 8, 2010

More wine and family please

So, I started this blog and called it bread wine and family. Mostly because of the religious significance of bread and wine and community in my mind, but also because hey-- it was going to talk about food, and family.  Here's what I think now though.  There should be more wine in this blog.

Today I posted something into a message on facebook that ended up being more of a deal than I thought it would.   In the end, a dear friend who loves me, in their desire to help me, wounded me greatly, and they'll never know that unless they read it here (which I doubt).  But it led me to this thought.  I don't have a lot of outlets for the incredible amount of stress I am under.  And my drug of choice is food.  And I am mostly ok with that.  I also like to relieve stress by spending time on line and reading a good book or magazine to be honest.  And occasionally knitting something or crocheting, painting, sewing, quilting, wood carving, shooting an air pistol, archery, sculpting, writing and just screwing around.
Those things help me relieve stress, feel like my real self, and make me a better person really.

Right now though.  I have no time for this stuff. Even this blog entry will make me feel tremendously guilty at the end of the day.  God forbid I take the time to meditate or take a bath even.  Dear God.  My life is ridiculous and I KNOW THAT!!  I don't need a critique of it.  That isn't even a little helpful.
What I want is time.  I really really want time. Time with family.  Time to read. Time to repair friendships. Time to have a meal that doesn't feel rushed.  And everytime I get 5 minutes of fun in a day-- I feel guilty about that time, and I am sick of that.  I want more time and time I don't have to feel bad about.
I want to care less about what other people think.
I want to do all sorts of cool things in DC. But that takes TIME!
 I want to go see the newseum.  Go into the Washington Monument. Wander every art museum for a whole day. Go to the park with my kids. Take Isaac to the American History Museum, take Max to the Mall and walk around.  I want to sleep next to my husband 5 nights a week (really, more than two would be great).
I want to see the Cherry Blossoms this spring.  I want to go visit Vineyards in Virginia and Maryland and do wine tours.  I want time dammit!!! And I want to know more about wine and I want to enjoy a glass of it now and then.  I want there to be more time for wine and family in my life.  I would like to go enjoy a glass right now...
I am sorry to have whined... but really.. I want more wine please.  
the "half-life" tired spirit that currently is: jacquie

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Grilled Cheese is not just for 2 year olds (but they like it too!)

So, we like a grilled cheese sandwich
Well, everyone but Mark.  Gosh I don't know what is wrong with my otherwise perfect brother in law, but cheese is not his thing.  It's like a birth defect of some kind, and we all just feel so sad for him.

Anyhow- back to the cheese.  We like grilled cheese- and for those of you from Lancaster County- here's how you do it:
Go to Panerra and buy a loaf of sourdough or asiago cheese bread.  Sure you could get other bread. But WHY would you? unless you are going to make it from scratch which is just a whole other level.
This is the easy yet delicious method- so trust me and just go to panerra and buy their bread and have them thinly slice it.
Then go to Central Market (best farmers Market in PA). And go the Weaver's stand and get 1lb of bacon, a hunk of sharp cheddar and some french brie.  Also - stop at one of the veggie stands and buy the best tomato you can find, some spinach, a pear, and well, whatever you would want stuffed in your grilled cheese.

Now - go home (or to your in-laws house) and cook that bacon (or make your husband do it- that's my usual approach) slice up your veggies and the cheese.
Butter 2 slices of bread and layer on whichever combination of cheeses and fruits or veggies you like.
Then grill on a hot grill until cheese is melty and the bread is browned and toasty.
My favorites were:  Brie on sourdough with bacon and pear.  That could have been even more delicious with a tablespoon of marmalade or some sort of fruit jam.

I also Loved the cheddar tomato and bacon- on either bread.
If you can get them to- make your in-laws provide some delicious white chicken chili to go with said sandwiches.  So so good.  Everyone-----the 2 year old, the three year old, the 6 year old, the 30 and 40 and 60 year old, the 72 year old-- EVERYONE- loved them.  Oh.  EXCEPT MARK!  cause he has a small birth defect.  Still - we love him.
Try it.  Grill some cheese with bacon. it'll rock your world.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ummm.... got a problem maybe?

So, is anyone else concerned that I've only posted a handful of things in the last 6 months, but two of them already were crips?  Isn't that just weird/wrong?  That said-- I am going to try something with red meat or thai food or both in the next few weeks and also a chocolate mint torte (that i made a few times in high school and college to rave reviews, but need to make again to see if it was as good as we all remember)... and then... something with liquor. Them's the goals people, them's the goals.  And I need to let the crisps and brownies go for while.  Tough to do, but them's the goals!
BTW - the chocolate torte came to mind when I was interviewed for an article in the local paper recently... where I claimed that as one of my specialties.  Now there are people expecting it.  Sigh... wish I'd just claimed the dang brownies as my specialty.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apple Crisp ala Scottie

So, we picked apples off of the apple tree in my mom's backyard.  It's completely loaded with apples and looks really beautiful.  We weren't sure that the apples would really be any good for a number of reasons, one of which is that there are lots of worms and bugs because we don't really do anything with the tree. Every couple of years a beloved friend comes and trims it (he knows about fruit trees) and then we get to watch it be pretty for a few more years.  But this was our first time successfully getting some apples that could be used for something.  So we thought about a pie, but Scott is not a pie fan with the exception of Tyler Florence's Ultimate caramel apple pie, which takes a TON of time (and we were too lazy and tired to do that).  He can live with a crisp (I don't get it, really, it's beyond me, but that's what he can live with).
So we made a little apple crisp. Turns out that I didn't miss having pie.

Here's our version of apple crisp:

Preheat oven to 350
grease a 9x14 inch baking dish

Mix together
8 or so apples peeled and sliced
1 cup of raisins (we like golden raisins)
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp cinnamon
and the juice of 1 lime (or lemon- we like limes and they are just meant to keep the apples from turning brown)

for the topping:
again mix together
1&1/2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal (quick cooking)
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cut in 1/2 lb of butter until butter is "pea sized" and mixed throughout...

Pour apples into baking dish and sprinkle the topping across the top.  Bake at 350 for an hour or so, until the topping is a golden brown and apples are soft and bubbling.
We enjoyed ours with some premium vanilla bean ice cream.  Warm apple crisp + cold ice cream= happy.  Great way to end a full and fun weekend.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Mighty Brownie: King of Chocolate Baked Goods

So, you have heard me express my feelings about chocolate cake....harrumphhh.....  

But the brownie. Well it's the  KING of chocolate baked things.

 It is always perfection.

The best brownies ever are actually Courtney Harvey's brownies.  They involve almost no flour, 2 Cups of sugar and close to nine eggs I believe.  I tried to find a recipe like that-- but ended up with one that had 5 eggs and 2/3 cup flour ... still 2 cups of sugar tho!
So, these are not as good as Harvey's - but they are still mighty good and well worth the effort (until we wrestle that recipe out of her.)

I found the base for this on Epicurious, but couldn't help adapting it -- so here's my version:

2 sticks unsalted butter
8 Oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cocao if marked)
2 Cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3 teaspoons instant espresso pwder mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
5 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa pwdr  (I mixed Hershey's dark which is a dutch-process pwder with regular cocoa pwder  
                about half and half).
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate chips if desired.

Preheat oven to 350˚. Butter and flour a 13x9 inch pan.

Melt butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until smooth.  Remove from heat and cool to luke warm.  Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and espresso.  (this does NOT make the brownies taste like mocha or coffee, it simply brings out more of the chocolate flavor... really!)
Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, until mixture is glossy and smooth.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt, then whisk into chocolate mixture until combined.
sprinkle semi-sweet chips across the top if you just want even more chocolate in your chocolate.

Spread in pan and bake until a pick inserted in center comes out with crumbs, 25-35 minutes.  Don't over bake! This is what ruins a good brownie in my opinion... really, just check it and catch it when you just think they are starting to "set".
 Cool completely. Enjoy immensely.

Isaac agrees with the recipe and says "you should wait until they cool, so that they aren't too mushy."
 I on the other hand say... bring on the ice cream right now!

Friday, September 17, 2010

What our Monkeys love...

My kids love bananas.  
Red bananas, yellow bananas, little bananas. 
Under ripe, overripe... my little monkeys love a banana. 

 It was even one of Ike's first words-- only he called then Baneenas.  So when he started talking more and would talk to his "Nanas" (grandmothers) he called them Neenas or Ninas (they each spell it differently).  And all of his cousins call them that too.  

So at our house there is much love for neenas and baneenas, and now for that special use of the way too ripe baneena:  Baneena bread (yeah, banana bread by any other name still tastes as sweet).  Maxie calls it banana cake, and I think she is on to something with that.  

Another odd note-- 
part of why I haven't made this before is that, when my dad retired he took to making banana bread.  A lot.  And when he got Alzheimer's disease, he made a loaf every 3 days or so (no joke) he didn't even let the bananas get ripe.  Well, we all got tired of banana bread, and we all dreaded seeing that loaf.  

It's been 5 years since anyone in my family made banana bread.  Dad is gone, and we are healing both from the loss and the damage that disease did to our relationships.  My kids had never had banana bread before, and dang it,  it's right up their alley.  And, I guess I'm ready to let go of some woundedness and bake things that are lovely and maybe reclaim a little of the Church family in me in the process.

So here was my first attempt at making my mom's recipe for banana bread, just like my dad made it so very many times. It's pretty standard, very little spice (cause that's how we always rolled at the Church household) and it is just delicious 
baneena-ey, cakey, goodness.

Baneena Bread:

1/2 cup oil
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs beaten
3 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 Cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease and flour a loaf pan(9x5x3)
Beat oil and sugar together.  Add eggs and banana mash, beat well.  Add sifted dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour into the loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour.  Cool well and store overnight before cutting ( though we couldn't wait that long, and it was delicious just an hour later as an after school snack.  The monkeys will attest to this.)

Now, for those of you who wondered about the reviews on the chocolate birthday cake from the last post, well, it was good.  It was chocolate cake.  

The buttercream was delicious if risky (did ya catch that raw egg yolk in there?  Yeah, risky with the population that lives here at Chez Crazy House)....we lived, and we enjoyed it.  But it comes down to this.  That cake was still chocolate cake. Ike loved it, I was not impressed.  My take = meh.  it wasn't anything I'd bother to make again.  
Now, as for the brownies I made to send on to the Mexican Independence Day celebration-- they were in a class of goodness all to themselves.   More on that next time. :) 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ike turns 6. We get cake!

So, I have lots of wonderful things we've made in the last two weeks (fried chicken and banana bread recipes to come)... but the most intriguing for me has been today's enterprise:  Chocolate Birthday cake from an Ina Garten recipe.  Chocolate cake is not my favorite thing, in fact, I would never order it at a restaurant and I have never asked for it for my birthday, and I usually turn it down when offered it at a party. I often would rather have NO cake instead of chocolate cake.  Now a brownie-- well--- that's a whole different thing!  I think it has to do with sweetness, moistness and how disappointing most chocolate cakes are to taste compared to how they look ( just like pies from the grocery store-- usually a sorry and sad disappointment).

But when your 5 year old says that for his 6th birthday all he wants for dinner is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and all he wants with it is chocolate cake (can you say- "all sugar meal") ... well...  you make the damn cake!

Anyhow I chose this recipe out of the gazillion I found because it got such rave reviews.  I'll post later what our reviews are (since it isn't time to cut it yet... not till Scott gets home). But this is what it looks like

From the smidgeon of cake I broke off and the testing of the icing both Isaac and I did before putting on the sprinkles- I think we may have made the first chocolate cake I've ever really liked.  but I'll let you know when I come down off of the sugar high tomorrow!
Here's the recipe in case you can't wait for the review and want to just go ahead and bake some cake.

The Recipe is a Barefoot Contessa Recipe called Beatty's Chocolate Cake, and I just have to say, I really like her recipes, cooking and her style...


  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting:

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gratuitous pictures... not of food...

My kids are really funny and fun. This may not be a food pic, but this is a first day of school taken at the breakfast table pic, and a quick hug leaving the kitchen and those are super good too!

Fruit Crisp = heaven

So, we've moved. We've got a great kitchen, and we've finally had a chance to start cooking in it.  And so far it's been a lot of fun.  One drawback is that we haven't yet replaced all of our spices and baking type things (I hadn't been able to bake since last summer) and so.. we didn't have everything on had that I wanted and needed to make dessert.  So - on Monday night -- I decided to make something with what he had on hand.  We had cherries, lemons and cinnamon (this allowed me to make a delicious cherry sauce) that i thought I would pour on some shortcakes, cause we had biscquick on hand.  BUT, we didn't have time then at the end of the night to make the shortcakes.  So - on Tuesday I went out and picked up flour which allowed me to make a crisp with the cherries and the other fruit we had to use up from the fridge.  It turned out great and was something I never would have made if it hadn't worked out in this weird, awkward, and wonderful way.  Here's what I did if you ever want a little taste of heaven...

Fruit Crisp:
2-3 peaches peeled, pitted and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup of blueberries
cherry sauce (see recipe below)

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment if desired

Spread peaches and blueberries evenly in the bottom of a buttered 8-inch-square pan.  Pour cherry sauce over the top. In another bowl blend the brown sugar, the flour, the oats, the salt, the cinnamon, and the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the fruite and bake the dessert in the middle of a preheated 375°F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it is crisp. (For a crisper topping, after baking the crisp broil it under a preheated broiler for 2 minutes.) Serve the crisp warm with the vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Sauce:
2-3 Cups of Cherries, pitted
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
juice of 1/2 half a lemon
3 tablespoons of sugar (or less, if cherries are very sweet)
cinnamon to taste

Simmer cherries over medium high heat with all of the other ingredients for at least 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduces and cherries are soft.

So-- the cherries on their own, delicious, but with some peaches and blueberries- heaven....there were no pictures to be had-- cause we inhaled it!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Change- it is a comin'

So, No pics today, but a quick but important update:

Our little family is moving, to a place with an oven that works.  Everything is changing.  And - in this case- particularly in my food world-- change is good!  We will have a kitchen that is a little bigger- but mostly-- we will cook.  I am so happy! Yay-- so the blog will be back and be better-- come-- oh-- september! YAY!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A post - post London

So, I haven't been taking pictures of food (outside of beers in London).... But, we have been cooking.  And now that we're back from London (land of pies and ales, and very few veggies) we felt driven to really eat better.  So - tonight-   lots of veggies, olive oil, salt and pepper.  one grill.  and then, deliciousness. Tonight it was a weird and large combination of veggies-- zuchini, asparagus, new potatoes, mushrooms, and a few chicken tenders.  All grilled. Then we also grilled pineapples and mangos that had been hanging out in brown sugar for about an hour.  They turned out GREAT.  The mangos were good on their own, but super delicious after being grilled. We also had an incredibly soft, fresh, light sourdough bread.  So light and lovely...

Anyhow-- tomorrow night we'll make a pasta with the leftover veggies and chicken.  There were no mushrooms left- because- well-- Max lives here.  And the girl LOVEs a mushroom.

For dessert-- Stauffers has made their own fresh chocolate cookies (crisp ones) to make Ice cream sandwiches with.  So we made some with Moose Tracks and some with Haagen Daas ginger flavored ice cream.  They would be better with vanilla or dark chocolate ice cream-- but the cookies were just PERFECT!
So-- a fun night for food.
On the family note-- Max is sick and has been coughing like crazy (croup) and getting nosebleeds (yuck) and Isaac is jet lagged (as are his dad and I) -- so- I am hoping we all get some sleep.  and to encourage that.  I am drinking this

A simple Pinot Gris

It's no Organic Honeydew Ale (a delicious treat from London).  But it will do for now.  And it is definitely making me sleepy-- so -- maybe tonight, I'll sleep.  Hopefully our kids will too.
So- that's it... bread, family and wine...  things i love.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Mushroom Addiction

Even though we're making lots of food at home lately (and some pretty great things I must say). I've had little time to post anything new.  But tonight is an odd evening, and I thought I'd sneak this in.  We're ordering pizza, but have some mushrooms we need to use.  So as an appetizer before the pizza we are having some homemade, addictive stuffed mushrooms.

Here's the recipe my family stole from a neighbor back in the 70's.  It's simple, vegetarian, and great for serving when you have company coming and want something delicious, unusual and easy.

Stuffed mushrooms (Donna Style)

Button Mushrooms
Italian breadcrumbs
Sweet vermouth
And our addition -- Fresh good grated parmesan cheese

Clean the mushrooms.
Remove the stems and chop off the very edge where it is really tough.
Chop the rest of the stem into small bits.
In a small bowl mix the mushroom stems with italian breadcrumbs (equal amount to the amount of chopped stems you've got.  If you'd like to-- add a little parmesan here - we used about 3 tablespoons or so to about a cup of the mushroom mixture.
Add enough sweet vermouth to moisten the crumbs and hold the mixture together.  Stuff the mushrooms with the mixture.
Broil on low rack and on low broiler setting until mushrooms are soft and the crumb mixture is browned.

There is something oddly addictive about these.  I think its the sweet vermouth.  Anyhow our two year old has eaten four of these so far and would probably eat a full dozen if we let her!
Mushroom addict. :)

Monday, March 1, 2010


I was sick all last night and all day today.  I pretty much lived on Ginger Ale, Crackers and one small yogurt.  Then this evening as I was finally feeling a little better and a little hungry I remembered:  I have children.  A family even.  I don't get to be sick.  So I had to find something that could feed them, potentially I could eat it, was made of ingredients we needed to use up right now AND  wouldn't make me gag while cooking it.  Scott and I can rely on each other for days like this-- but neither one of us likes to "stick the other" with all of the family care stuff (and clearly I was not on my deathbed - at least- not by the evening)... so ... after puzzling for a little while- this is what I made:


Orzo with Zucchini    

Olive oil -2T
3 small zucchini- diced into chickpea sized pieces                                      
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
italian seasoning
Chickpeas (garbonzo beans)
Orzo (small box or bag)
Feta (1/2 cup)
A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Boil water and then start orzo (takes about 8 minutes for al dente pasta)

Toss Zucchini, olive oil, garlic and some italian seasoning in a skillet cook for about 5 minutes over medium high heat.  Then add chickpeas and cook until heated through.
Drain pasta - add Zucchini and Chickpeas then crumble feta and  add it in too.  Squeeze some lemon juice over it.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Simple, easy and stomach tolerant. It was also tolerated by the little people who don't normally eat zucchini, but have a hard time saying no to pasta and cheese.

We actually didn't have enough feta tonight, so i was going to add a good bit of parmesan to each of their plates, until that is, we found our two year old in the dining room eating the block of parm.  Just gnawing away on it... like a little rat...

Thank goodness it was the generic cheaper stuff (still too pricey to be a snack for a two year old!!!)... anyhow... it was good even without a lot of cheese (and it was probably better that I just keep it simple). All of this was served alongside and Icy cold, high quality ginger ale.
I think I'll have another glass right now!