May 31, 2009

We are the Kings and Queens of Pizza

Last night, after a few delays and a trip to the emergency room earlier in the day for one of our party, our supper club got together for our May dinner. (Don't worry, only a minor eye injury, everyone is fine!)

We almost forgot about it, well, really, we didn't realize it was coming until Thursday morning during the bus run. So with only a little time to spare for planning we decided on pizza. But not just any old pizza's. We decided to try pizza recipes we'd never attempted before. So, much to Will's disappointment, no pepperoni (wimp!)

I have to say, I think I'll never look at pizza the same way again. In fact, I know it. I've been through a similar experience before. Right after high school graduation I spent three months living on the island of Sardinia in Italy. (I know, rough life) It was an unreal kind of summer. Did you ever watch the Gidget movies? Well, my life was pretty much Gidget Goes Abroad that summer. Sitting on the beach, singing songs, playing guitar and, oh yeah, the pizza. The first time I went to eat pizza in Italy, I actually ate before hand because I had never been a big pizza fan and I thought I'd just have a small slice. So when it turned out that everyone got their own pizza, and I don't mean a little personal pan pizza type thing, I mean a big old pizza, all to ourselves, I was a little overwhelmed, but not as overwhelmed as I was when I tasted it.

I literally spent the first two years of college not eating pizza because I knew it just wouldn't compare. Yeah, I was the only college kid who never ate pizza. It took me a long time to even think of ordering pizza in America again, and I'm still pretty snotty about pizza being good, so when I say what was made last night was great, I mean it was GREAT.

Each family brought dough and toppings for a pizza. I won't give you a rundown on pizza dough because, well, who makes their own these days. Our local grocery store actually makes a pretty decent dough that we use all the time, including last night.

The three pizza's that appeared on the table last night were a roasted egg plant and red pepper pizza with marinara sauce and feta cheese. A shredded zucchini pizza with caramelized onions, herbed goats cheese and olive oil (no red sauce, just the oil for a base) and a divine fig and prosciutto pizza that Stephanie pulled from a Todd English cookbook. Now, as we know, I love figs. So anything with the word "fig" in it is just fine by me. But this was honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. It's a little time consuming but TOTALLY worth the work. And the hard part, the fig jam, could easily be doubled (or tripled or quadruples, it all depends on how much you love it !) and frozen for future use, in which case the pizza would be a snap to whip out. Even Will of the "I only like pepperoni" school of thought liked it, actually he liked them all, which just goes to show you sometimes funky and weird can be better than normal.

Fig and Prosciutto Pizza

adapted from Figs Table

First you need the fig jam:

1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil

3 shallots, diced

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/4 cup sugar

1 rounded cup dried mission figs, quartered

Saute the shallots in the oil for about three minutes, until soft then deglaze with the wine. When the liquid has reduced by half add the stock and the vinegar and again, reduce by half. Add in the rosemary and sugar and reduce heat, stirring gently, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the figs and cook for about 10 more minutes on a low heat. It should still be fairly runny, not a true "jam"

Now you can make the pizza. You'll need

1 ball of pizza dough (the original called for a pizza stone but we used a pan)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 pinches salt

2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1/2 cup Fig Jam

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled into pea-sized pieces

3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

1 scallion, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish

Roll the dough out and coat with oil. Sprinkle the garlic and rosemary evenly over the oil. Dollop the jam around the pizza and then spread slightly. Crumble on the cheese and then top with prosciutto. Bake in a 450 degree oven. Check the pizza at the 5 minute mark and decide how crispy you want the crust. If the crust is thin or you don't want it very crispy, you may only need another minute or two, otherwise put it back for another 5 minutes. Garnish with the scallions and dig in!

May 29, 2009

A Pillowcase by Any Other Name

I love when the mail comes. Even when it's just bills, even when I know there will be nothing exciting, I still love to open the mail box. Because, well, you never know what will be there. And yesterday was one of those days that keeps me checking the box without dread. Because yesterday there was something fun and unexpected.

Actually it wasn't in my mailbox, it was on my door step. A big old cardboard box with a sticker on it that said "packed by Krissy" (I have no idea who Krissy is but I just liked that it said that). Inside the box was a stack of craft books and kits that I'm reviewing for another blog. Bead kits, fimo sets, sewing books, all sorts of goodies to keep me busy in the coming weeks. When Briton caught a glimpse of one of the kits later in the day he came running telling me that he found something "AMAZING!" on my desk. (Now what were you doing fooling around on my desk kiddo?)

Amongst the books was one that instantly caught my eye. "Dozens of Way to Repurpose A Pillowcase" Yes it's a mouth full, but totally worth it for all the fun projects pictured inside. And perfectly times too.

When Briton was about two, I bought a huge box of linens at an auction. I really only wanted the set of delicatly embroidered napkins on top, but as with lots of auctions, it was a bulk lot so I got it all. Over the years I've used the table clothes, plain napkins, and doilies that were in that box, and I've purposly not used the stack of pillowcased, thinking that one day I'd have a little girl who was just the right size to make pillowcase dresses. And strangly enough, earlier this week I pulled out the pile realizing that now was that time.

Most of them aren't in great shape, with rips and tears and a few stains. But the edging is still beautiful and now that I've flipped thorugh the book and seen all the great, not-just-your-ordinary-pillowcase-dress ideas, I'm ready to get started. The only problem now is choosing which project to do with which pillowcase. The sundress? The skirt? The apron? The lamp shade? So many ideas, so little nap time.

May 28, 2009

Because Even Guest Princesses Need Wands

In two weeks my daughter Evelyn will be turning three. And unlike her last two birthday's which consisted of a few family members and a cake, this time we are going for a full out party. And since my little girl thinks no day is complete without a tutu and a crown, we're not just doing a party, we're doing a fairy princess tea party, with all the glittery, poofy, ribbony details.

So for the past two weeks I've been plotting, planning, gluing and glittering things for the party. We've got princess crowns in the works, cupcake recipes to try (with white frosting so we don't get stains on our pretty dresses) doilies and decorations for the table to plan and even the princess dress hanging in the closet.

Today's project was the invitations. Now I may be crazy, but I just can't do those mass produced, fill in the blank invite. There's nothing wrong with them, and someday I'm sure I'll find myself filling one out, but at this stage in my children's lives, I like to go whole hog. We've had oragami box invitations and dinosaur bone invitations and hotwheel cars pulling birthday wishers banners. And for Flower Fairy Princess Tea Party invitiations I thought to myself, "What does every flower fairy princess need? A magic wand! That's what!" So magic wands it was.

Starting with some unpainted flowers mounted on dowels (I thought about stars but I could just imagine the tales of siblings being poked in the eye with pointy stars) I painted the stems and the flower (pink! Of course!) added lots of ribbons for swishy magicy fun, and lettered the invitation information on some pretty die cut cards and topped it off with just enough to be pretty and not irritating glitter spray. So, how did they fair? Well my daughter shrieked with glee when she saw the bundle of them on the table and then spent the rest of the evening dancing around waving her wand (because I had to make one for her too!) and "ZING!ing" every on she passed. So I guess their a hit.

Now onto the crowns, and the cakes and the table decorations and....Well, check back here and you'll get to see.

May 25, 2009

A Case of Genetics

Before I had kids I thought the whole "Nature Vs. Nurture" thing was a load of crap. Or rather, that the Nature part of it was. Boys played with cars because their parents gave them cars, they saw other boys playing with cars etc. Girls played with dolls because, well, that was what they were give, saw, so on and so on. And them, like many a dim witted future parent, I got pregnant with my son and planned the perfect, gender neutral nursery I could. Primary colors, alphabet blocks, nursery rhyme line painted on the walls, plenty of black and while "for brain stimulation" and you know what? His first word was truck.

The second time around I bowed to the desire to have a girly bedroom for my new baby girl but provided her with the same toys her brother had played with. Lots of primary colored things and plenty of cars. And for her first Christmas the toy she loved best was a baby. She couldn't walk or talk or even crawl, but she could cradle her baby and coo little songs to it.

And as they grow, I see their genes coming out more and more every day. Briton hates peas and carrots, just like his dad. Evie loves figs, just like her mom. Briton sleeps in the exact same mouth slightly open-head thrown back position that his father does. Evelyn hums songs to herself while she plays, much like I do while I work. Yesterday I told them both to go play on their own while I cleaned up and ten minutes later I found Evelyn sprawled out on a heap of pillows reading books (umm, that would be a mini me moment) and Briton seated at a table with art supplies scattered across it as he intently drew a detailed picture (future architect anyone?)

But Briton isn't just his daddy, and Evie isn't just me. In the whole of the Grimm clan, the infamous "Grimm Brow" (a face so terrifying people of all ages run in terror, ok, so not really , but it's pretty impressive) is most intense in my dainty little girl. And Briton's personality definitely runs more toward mine than his daddy's. Like me, he almost never stops talking.

This morning, Will's first home after arriving in the middle of the night (actually more like in the early morning) I awoke to hear Briton hopping down the stairs and rattling away at things in the kitchen. When we dragged ourselves out of bed twenty minutes later, it was to the scent of cinnamon toast. Butter and cinnamon toast. And there was Briton, proudly bustling away int he kitchen making a platter of sweet toast for us. Sure, some of the slices had huge clumps of butter melting right through the center where he had failed to spread it adequately. And he appeared to have decided half way through that hamburger bun toast would be even better than regular toast, but I couldn't help but smile at my little chef. And not just because I'm overwhelmingly glad he love s to cook as much as I do.

No, what was funny about the cinnamon toast moment was that it brought back vivid flashes of my childhood.

About the time I was six, I became obsessed with making my parent's breakfast in bed. Oh, it sounds nice, and I thought I was being the perfect daughter. But since I was a) not allowed to touch the stove and b) also not allowed to touch the coffee maker, I made uncooked toast and coffee grounds in cold water. Yumm. And my parents ate it. You can't get much more loving that that.

Pretty soon my mother taught me how to use the toaster oven. And in particular, she taught me how to make cinnamon toast. Which was great, except what she didn't realize was that Cinnamon was far to complicated a word for me to read at that stage. So on the first morning of my new toaster able breakfast making I climbed up onto the counter top and started rummaging through the red and white Shilling spice tins. I knew cinnamon started with a "C" and that it was a reddish brown colored powder. How many of those could there be? After peering into a few tins I came across what I thought was the spice I sought. It started with a "C", it was kind of a long word,and it was definitely a reddish-brown powder, a little more red than I remembered, but still close enough that I thought I'd hit the jackpot. But just in case, I decided to taste it. After all, I wouldn't want to give my parents pepper flavored toast, right?

Did you guess it? Yeah, it was not cinnamon, it was cayenne. My mother found me a few minutes later with my tongue sticking out under the sink faucet, trying my best not to cry as the mouthful of spice burned my taste buds to ashes.

I learned some important lessons that day. First, that milk stops the burning in your mouth after you eat a spoonful of Cayenne pepper. Second, that there are actually a few reddish brown spices that start with "c" (I'm not sure which would have been worse, Chili Powder or the Cayenne) and third, after my mouth was no longer a flaming ball of insanity and my mother gave me a taste, cinnamon on it's own taste pretty horrible.

For years after, our cinnamon tin always bore a big black "C" across the front, just in case.

May 21, 2009


Sometimes it amazes me how knowledge seems to jump from one generation to the next. I'm not talking about math or history here, I'm talking about the little things that you catch your children doing and think "I used to do that!" Except, you didn't teach it to them. They just seem to know it.

The other day, as Briton climbed off the bus (Always the first off! Unless, that is, he has fallen asleep that is) he rushed up to me, thrusting a folded paper in my face.

"Mom! Pick a number! I'll tell your fortune!" He smiled, holding what I used to call a cootie catcher inches from my nose. On the top, in his boyish hand, were four numbers. (Not, as you might think, 1-2-3-4, I think it was 1-8-14-62, who knows why)

"Eight!" I told him

"Fourteen is a better one mom." He told me in a whisper.

"Ok, Fourteen." He counted and asked again, showing me the inside (again, weird numbers and again, he advised me which I should choose)

After a few more rounds he let me open my "fortune"

"'You Rock!' Well, thanks honey." I told him

"Oh, no, your is "I love you!", you picked the wrong number!"

Well, kid... But he was off, telling another fortune. And as I watched him I thought back to my own cootie catcher days. Back when I could fold one of those with my eyes closed, and out of almost any size piece of paper. Post-it notes, receipts, giant pieces of newsprint that my father brought home from the paper. They were fortune telling devices, cootie catching traps, boy-irritating toys. I had planned, I'm sure, somewhere in my mind, to teach him to fold them. But it seems that some second or third or fourth grader beat me to the punch.

The same thing seems to happen with chants and songs and playground games. And that, is what amazes me. The fact that without planning, without trying, all those little tidbits of my childhood, all those hand clapping tunes and odd-ball jokes and cootie catchers that occupied my after school and recess hours are being passed along. S

omeday soon I'll hear Evelyn singing "Say, Say, Oh Playmate" and clapping along. Or I'll see Briton playing Wall-ball or Speed-Ball(any Pendleton HS Speedballers out there?) or, heaven help us, trading Garbage Pail Kids Cards (Lord I hope not, those things were weird! Why did we like them?) And I'll know that someday they'll catch their kids doing the same. The playground classroom goes on and on. After all, everybody needs to know how to tell a fortune, or get cooties off their sleeve now and then.

May 19, 2009

All I can say is, Yummm.....

So I did say that I planned to write about my asparagus french toast, right? Well, here it is, just in case you were dying to know.

The funny thing about this dish is that it was totally by accident. That happens a lot I guess, it happens a lot to me at least. But usually I'm trying to make something and it turns into something else and boom! magic, I've found something new. This was a little different. I was flipping through magazines, I can't even remember which one (Will is out of town and I only buy magazines when he is gone, it goes like this in my head "I'm working hard this week, yeah, really hard. I deserve a magazine! Yeah! Two magazines! THAT magazine! Even if I've never read it and probably won't like it! I DESERVE it!") Anyhoo, I was flipping through one of my newly acquired magazines when I came across and entry for savory french toast and asparagus with what I assumed was holandaise sauce. I didn't pause to look or read the recipe, I just kept flipping. But then later I started thinking about it. French toast! I love french toast! And asparagus, one of my favorite vegetables! And Hollandaise! Hollandaise is like the savory version of chocolate, everything is better with hollandaise. And other than the fiddly part of making the hollandaise (not letting the egg scramble) it's really an easy meal. So I gave it a whirl and know what? It was DIVINE! But as it turned out, that was not what the recipe was for when I went back to look. Ah well, their loss. Because, well, divine!

So divine, in fact that I just made it again tonight for a friend who's husband is also out of town this week. And again, DIVINE. It's one of those things I probably would not have tried out on Will, although I have a feeling that he'll be trying it one of these days since I'm already ready for more. And in making it a second time the easiness of the idea. it all hinges on the sauce, which sounds hard but really, it just isn't. Sure, making a perfectly smooth hollandaise isn't the easiest thing in the world. And many of recipes for it call for a vinegar reduction to enhance the flavor, but your basic hollandaise is just fine for this recipe, in fact, I think it's better. And you know what? If it's not perfectly smooth? Who cares! In fact, don't tell anyone but for my first go round I made the sauce in the microwave (gasp! sigh! oh the horror!)

I used to be intimidated by sauces like bernaise and hollandaise until I bought a little second hand copy of Clementine in the Kitchen (which is a great, GREAT book, by the way). So many of the recipes called for these sauces that I decided to give them a try
. Then when I broke down and finally bought my own copy of How to Eat and found Nigella's simple recipe, they started to crop up more regularly in my menus.

So go and try it! And if it scrambles, try again. Try it on french toast with grilled asparagus! Try it on roast chicken! Make Eggs Benedict! Just think how good you'll feel when you find that you can, in fact, make a sauce that is so terrible for you and so delicious!

French Toast with Roasted Asparagus and Hollandaise

serves 2

4 slices of hearty sourdough bread, not too thick. You could use another type of bread, I used an oat bread the first time but really thought the sourdough went nicely with the finished combination of tastes.
4 eggs, separated
8-10 T butter
1-2 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
one large bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into three inch pieces

First, fire up your broiler and put the asparagus in an oven proof dish (I use a pie plate) drizzle with olive oil and butter and set it under the flame. You'll want to give it a shake a few minutes into cooking and keep half an eye on it so that it gets nicely grilled ( a hint of black) but not charred.

Now, in the top of a double boiler whisk two of the egg yolks until they are nice and smooth. When the water below begins to simmer, turn down the heat to low and start whisking in the butter a table spoon at a time. If it looks like it's going to curdle, take it off the heat, drop in an ice cube and whisk like crazy until it smooths out. When you've added the butter and the sauce has a nice golden silky look to it, stir in the lemon juice, tasting it until you have the richness you want. Add salt and pepper to taste (if you used salted butter, you probably wont want any salt, but hey, it's your sauce)

As the sauce is simmering whisk together the two remaining eggs and the two egg whites and make french toast as usual. I use a crepe pan for mine because it's well seasoned and needs no oil but it does mean I can only make one slice at a time so I keep them warm in a toaster until they are all ready.

Now, you've got the toast, you've got the sauce and your asparagus should be about done. Plate it up and serve! Yummm, I wonder if tomorrow is too soon for a repeat.

***Sadly, no photos' tonight since Will has our camera in Australia and well, I could have taken a photo with my phone, but I was too busy eating.

May 18, 2009

Lazy afternoon

I had grand ambitions to write today. About the cherry clafoutis I made yesterday or about the birthday invitations I'm working on for Evelyn's party or the princess crowns also for said party or maybe about the asparagus and hollandaise french toast I made last week and which will be reappearing on my dinner table tomorrow night. Like I said, grand plans.

But when I took Evelyn upstairs for her nap she whispered "I want a mommy snuggle" when I bent down to kiss her. How could I resist. Usually she is not a snuggler when it comes to sleeping. Briton LOVES to curl up in bed beside me and drift off to sleep. Evelyn, on the other hand, likes to play for a while, change shoes, sing, change skirts, wad up her blankets into a nest, pull on a tutu and then eventually, drift of to sleep on her own. So today was a treat for both of us.

The radio hummed softly with the classical music that NPR plays in the afternoon, reminding me of hot summer days at my grandparent's house where the big wooden radio cabinet always seemed to have classical music tinkling from it's speakers. Evelyn curled up against me patting my cheek with her hand and smelling of peanut butter from lunch. And there we lay until we were both asleep.

Sadly the part of my brain that knows I have things to get done woke me a half an hour later and I slipped out of her room and down the stairs. So now it's off to do my afternoon chores and set to work on my new project, and the blogging will have to wait for another afternoon when I haven't been wheedled into a long, lazy snuggle with my girl.

May 14, 2009

Cookie Epiphanies

A sad thing happened today in our kitchen. It happens every year, and although I know it's coming, I can't seem to avoid the twinges of heartache that accompany it. Yes, that's right, the Girl Scout Cookies ran out. More specifically, the Samoas ran out. I know, depressing.

The thing is, this year the Samoas disappeared faster than usual. And I can't even blame my kids for it. They don't really like them (ok, they don't really know what they taste like since every time they even THINK about touching my cookies I describe how horrible they are, it works for now) No, this time, it's all Will's fault.

Will has had two cookie epiphanies in the past month. The first one was over Fig Newtons. Fat Free Fig Newtons as a matter of fact. Now, as we know, I'm a big fan of the fig. And I've been trying to get Will to appreciate the deliciousness that is the dried fig for, oh, I don't know, maybe ten years, probably more. His reaction has always been "yuck, they are so gross looking! no way!" And then, one day a few weeks ago, while rummaging in the cupboard, he bi-passed the tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies and snagged one of my Fat Free Fig Newtons.

"Hey! These are good!" he exclaimed. Well, duh, they have figs in them, of course they are good. But instead of pointing out that I've been trying to tell him about figs for a decade, I went a different route.
"Oh, you don't want those, they are fat free." I tried. The truth is that fat free or not, they are really good. Not plain old dried figs good or gooey fudgey brownie good, but for something that I don't feel totally guilty eating an hour after a workout, they are pretty darn great.

"No! I like these! Especially this brown stuff in the middle. Is this fig? Why didn't you ever tell me figs were good."

Let's just pretend I kept my cool and said nothing.

So what does that have to do with the tragedy of no more Girl Scout Cookies? Well, here's where the second epiphany comes in. Every year, Will's mom buys us a few boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Which is good because I don't know any Girl Scouts these days, so she's our only source for cookie goodness. Will usually gets a couple of boxes of Thin Mints (which, by the way, I caught him crumbling into his yogurt one morning! How is that healthy?) and maybe a box of Tag-a-longs, which we both like, and I get a box of Samoas. It's always an exciting day when I crack open a box from Texas to be greeted with that bright purple box.

Now I won't lie, I hoard those babies. Like I said, I don't want anyone touching my cookies because, hey, I only get ONE box a YEAR! I have over the years, offered one or two of the precious things to Will, knowing full well that because they contain coconut, he won't eat them. So imagine my surprise this year when Will dug into the box (having eaten all of his Thin Mints already, not surprising when he is now eating them for three meals a day)

Once again I got the "Hey! These are great! Why didn't you tell me that before?" And once again I tried to talk him out of them.

"They have coconut Will." I reasoned

"I can't taste it! " he countered.

Needless to say, the box is empty.

So, just, as my Uncle Greg used to say, for shits and giggles and because I was feeling a little mopey about my lost cookies, I typed "Samoa cookie recipe" into Google.

Who knew?

There were tons of recipes for Samoas. I guess I (and now Will) belong to an extensive club of Samoa-lovers who mourn the day when the purple box is empty.

I wont share the recipe just yet. I tried one and while it was good, it wasn't perfect. But I promise that if and when I do manage to make the perfect Samoa cookie, I'll let you in on the secret. For now, I have to go gorge myself on almost Samoa bars that are finally cool enough to eat.

Now, I wonder if I could figure out how to make Fig Newtons?

May 13, 2009


Well, first off, I have to tell you that last night I dreamed I was up at the chicken coop and the chickens were laying eggs faster than I could gather them. Eggs, eggs, everywhere, filling up hats and buckets and the rubbermaid tub we keep their food in. And while the dream state me was racing around the coop trying to keep up with the egg grabbing, the real me woke up with a start trying to decide if it was really a dream or if I need to call the newspaper so they could report on our over productive chickens. Since it was still dark outside and I had no baskets of eggs next to the bed, I decided that I had not been sleep-egg gathering and went back to sleep. Only to dream of flan. Hummm, I think I must have eggs of the brain.

But in bigger news... we're buying a house. It's been semi-official for a few weeks but today we started the official, get the bank to do it's appraisal/countdown to closing thing. So now it's starting to feel very real. This move will mark our third excursion into do it yourself home renovation as well as our shortest move ever. Our last move was just about as far as you could go while still staying in the Continental US (Oregon to Virginia). The move before that was even longer and included a very wide body of water (Ireland to Oregon) and this move, well, we are crossing the street. Literally.

That also means that every time I look out the window, go get the mail, leave for the bus, I see our future home. And THAT means that the voices in my head go something like this these days.

Your almost out of pull ups, you should stop and get some
And don't forget to marinate the chicken
Oh, I like that blue, I wonder how that would look as a color for the front door?
Concentrate Gillian, your dealing with dinner. Right, Asparagus trimmed? Asparagus, I love the color of asparagus, I wonder if I could paint the kitchen cabinets asparagus green.

What story should I read the kids tonight? Nurse Matilda? Sure, that's a good one. I need to get a sander, those floors will definitely need sanding. Oh, hey, what's that plant that that guy had in his yard, yeah, that guy who I stopped to talk to the other day, that would look good by the new gate. Should our fence be white or natural wood. And do I want a Bosch dishwasher or a GE. Oh, right, story time.

It's very distracting. But I guess since this house needs A LOT of work (humm, if the siding under the Aluminium lap is in fact cedar shake would it be better to leave it natural or paint it?
- STOP Gillian! Concentrate) I'll be thinking this way for a good while to come. So don't take it personally if I meander into a granite or wood block counter top debate with myself mid recipe in the months to come. (I really like the look of wood but granite seems like less upkeep, what do you think. Ahhhh...See?)

**The image is of the side view of the house we are buying, looking down the yard toward the house. Will has some crazy plan to make this the front of the house at some point. What can I say, he's the architect....

May 12, 2009

A Little Chicken in the Afternoon

Today the kids and I were on chicken duty so after the bus we made our way up to the coop where we fed the girls their grains, gave them some leftover runny yogurt and greens and had our photographs taken by the newspaper photographer, part of a story that will be out in the next few weeks about our hens. Then, we snagged two of our gals and totted them home with us. Yep, we chicken-napped them for the afternoon.

This wasn't a first at-home visit for the hens. Elvira took a few to her yard last week where they cleaned her garden of slugs and had a great time stretching their legs. Since we still can't tell them all apart and we are trying to get them all comfortable with us, we took two that seemed a little hesitent to be grabbed and hoped that they were amongst those that needed some extra love.

I can't imagine what people thought as they saw me sauntering down the street with Evie's hand in mine, a chicken under my elbow while the other hand was pushing the stroller and Briton trailing behind holding another hen (upside down and cradled like a baby, and asleep, I tell you, he's got the touch!)

They pecked through the grass, scratched at the mulch and ate a ton of something. Briton had one hypnotized enough that she stayed there vegged out on her back for a good three minutes when he got up to eat his snack (and yes, in case you were wondering, I did make him wash his hands)

As we were walking them home (sans stroller this time, much easier) a neighbor stopped on her walk to chat, commenting that, between their posh pad, the rose garden where it's sited, the view of the neighborhood, the over abundence of love and the choicest scraps from four households our eight girls must be the most spoiled chickens in the whole world. But you know, I think we're pretty spoiled too, to have eight little chickens that will tolerate nine kids and eight adults (plus neighbors) who love on them almost non stop without a single peck and who will, with any luck, be giving us some lovely, fresh eggs any day now. I can hardly wait.

In other news, a local photographer came last week and took some great photos of the girls and the kids. Take a look

May 11, 2009

I am the Muffin errr..Mom

Once upon a time, before there were kids in our house, Saturday mornings almost always began with Will taking the dogs out, setting up the coffee and tea and me making a batch of scones - and not the big dry wedge shaped scones every body was eating back then. Proper fluffy, buttery scones that beg to be smeared with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Granted, these morning usually started around 10, or well, maybe more like 11 since there was nobody tapping my forehead at the crack of dawn chanting in a whisper-yell "mommy, I want cinnamon toast, mommy, cinnamon toast! Mommy, are you asleep?"

I loved these mornings. We sat and ate and talked about our week and what we would do that day and generally had a great start to our weekend. I'm sure it wasn't as perfect as I remember, but it was pretty darn close.

Now our Saturday mornings usually consist of one of us shoving the other of us out of bed to go make the cinnamon toast that the small things are badgering us for. The toast maker usually ends up crashed out on the couch between batches with Ni-Ho Kai Lan! chattering away in the background while the non-toast maker get at least a good fifteen minutes of uninterrupted sleep until the small ones invade again because the toast maker cannot be roused and they are still hungry. But you know, it has it's charms.

We actually make breakfast pretty often still in our house, week day mornings are often started with the waffle iron being cranked up (if it's my morning, waffles are so easy, you don't even have to stand there and wait, you just come back at some point after the light goes off!) or the pancake pan getting lubed up (Will's go to breakfast). But it's usually still a rushed thing. No sitting down together while we eat and drink and talk, no bonding over syrup. In fact, I'm usually chanting "Eat, Briton! Eat!" while Will battles to get converse on Briton's feet, I'm making a flying attempt to pack lunch in the lunch box and the lunch box in the back pack while Evelyn tap dances in her room upstairs singing "mommy! come get me." One of us ends up racing Briton out the door just in time to get the bus and then comes home to eat a second shift breakfast of whatever remains from the waffle/pancake making fest.

So I miss the Saturday morning breakfast thing. And I'm trying to get myself organized enough to get back into the swing. And last week, as I browsed my new favorite site I came across a recipe for home made English Muffins.

I love English muffins. I love them with butter and jam and peanut butter and eggs and cheese and, well, with anything because, they are great with any topping you can dig out of your fridge. But, they aren't cheap. And one package last about half a minute in our house. So finding this recipe was like finding a gold mine. I had to try it out.

I don't have muffin rings as the recipe called for and my first attempt using the ring off of a jam jar didn't work very well so I just free formed them. And after a couple I actually got pretty good at making them round and tall and just cooked enough to be bubbly without being dry. Although the recipe called for the batter to rest about an hour to double, I made it the night before, let it double then popped it in the fridge to rest, taking it out about 20 minutes before I wanted to start cooking. And really, it's easier than you might think. It's basically a pancake batter with the addition of yeast and the cooking is much the same, medium heat griddle (or pancake pan if you don't have a griddle) pour them on, let them cook, flip them over.

The only down side was that I had thought I would be making enough to munch on them for at least a few days but they were so good that we ate the whole batch in one sitting. But when your the cook, that's never really a bad thing.

English Muffins

1 tablespoon shortening
1 1/3 cups hot milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour

Stir the shortening in with the hot milk until it's melted in then add the sugar and salt. let it cool a slightly. Combine the yeast and flour in a larger bowl and then add the wet ingredients and stir gently in incorporate. Let the batter rest until it's doubled and then scoop out a dollop (about 1/3 cup) onto the griddle. Cook for about 5 minutes per side on a medium-low setting (the bottom should be golden) before flipping and repeating. Fork-split and serve with butter and jam. Or peanut butter. Or eggs and cheese. Or pizza topping. Or, well, you get the idea.

May 6, 2009

A Savory Cake

Last week, while I was flipping through my cook books and planning my menu for the coming days, I stumbled across a recipe for a savory cake that featured quinoa, mushrooms and bacon and thought it sounded like an intriguing, if maybe a little odd, idea. Since my family is full of PICKY eaters, I generally only try one new recipe per week, if that, and so jotted the cake down to fill the last dinner of the week before grocery day. Of course, when it came time to cook the cake I was a) out of mushrooms and b) in an experimenting kind of mood. So taking the cake as my inspiration and finding another use for my new tart pan (which I bought so that I could make a salted caramel and chocolate ganache torte this weekend that was KILLER! Seriously, I wish I hadn't made it because it was dangerously good and the last quarter taunted me every time I opened the fridge until I gave in and ate it all in one go) I pulled together a pretty darn good for just using what's in the fridge savory tart.

The recipe went something like this, I was improvising, so use your own judgement

2 eggs + 1/2 cup of milk whisked together
add to this 1/4 cup of melted butter and enough flour (about a cup, maybe a little more) to make a standard looking cake batter.

Into this batter I added
-6 cooked sausages, chopped in thirds. I like the little pork sausages that are called "country sausages" here but are similar to the ones we got in Ireland. But I think this would be a great opportunity to try some of those interesting one you can find at the grocery store or butcher shop these days. I think something along the sage-apple line would be fabulous.
-2 ounces of sharp cheddar, cubed in 1/4 inch cubes
-t tsp salt
-2 cups cooked quinoa

The original recipe had no flour and more eggs and I imagine it would be more like a frittata than a cake, this, poured into a 10 in tart pan (buttered) and baked at 400 for just under 30 minutes was definitely cake like. Or maybe somewhere between a dutch baby and a cake.

After it came out I tossed some shredded chedder and minced parsley on top and we ate it with a dollop of Greek yogurt on each slice.

I have to say, without trying, this was the perfect use-whats-in-the-fridge meal. I can imagine a huge number of combinations for this. Grilled steak and blue cheese crumbles, goat cheese, red pepper chunks and basil. The quinoa adds a nice nuttiness and texture and even though the concept was a little different, everyone liked it. Even the girl who is currently only eating soft boiled eggs, toast and apple sauce. So it was a winner all around.

I'd give you the recipe for the killer dessert, but I don't want to ruin your diet, and trust me, it will ruin your diet!

May 5, 2009

We've got WORMS

Not that kind. That would be gross. No, these are the good kind of worms, red worms. As part of my "it's SPRING! I must GARDEN!" mood I sent Will off to work a few days ago with a couple of old coffee cans to take a part of his company's monthly worm bin harvest. They have a big, black worm bin in one of the closets of their office that turns lunch leftovers and coffee grounds into the most amazing black soil (well, worm castings) I've ever seen.

We do not have a compost bin currently. I know *gasp!* The horror of it! But we dispose of most of our bread like things by setting them on a little tray for the birds and the squirrels (mostly squirrels) and the chickens have been eating up a lot of the vegetable matter, but we still have more compostable stuff going into the trash than we would like. So as I was adding a few spoonfuls of the worm castings to my violets I decided it was high time we did something about it. And as the worm castings Will brings home always have plenty of worms in them, now seemed the perfect time.

The next day I was offered, out of the blue, two just the right size to fit under the sink plastic tubs. Better and better. We would now have a totally free, saved something from heading to the dump worm bin! So while Evelyn was napping (or playing Lego's, I'm not sure which, it seemed pretty loud up there for a nap) I drilled holes in the two bins, shredded some paper, wet it down and added the worms. So far they seem pretty happy down there. Most of the directions I found online suggested that dark bins were best but since they are under our sink in the dark I'm thinking the clear bins will work. And other than the fact that somebody, and I'm not naming any names but he is tall and I'm married to him, keeps forgetting that we have a worm bin now and continues to water the hydrangea with coffee grounds every morning, I think we're getting the hang of it.

Chew! Wormies! Chew! My plants can't wait for some nice, made-under-the-sink compost to get them through the growing season!