Saturday, July 19, 2014

Whale Watch

The kids and I went on a whale watch yesterday.  I've been on several and this one, by far, was the best ever. We went out of Gloucester (Gloss-ta) with 7 Seas Whale Watch and saw at least 25 Humpback whales as well as a couple of Minke.  Some of what we saw:









Sunday, June 15, 2014

How fast they grow!

December 2010

June 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Minion, anyone?

Christopher's one request for his birthday this year was a minion cake. "It has to be a good minion and not a purple minion because purple minions are bad and I don't want a bad cake at my party!"

He informed me today for his sixth birthday he wanted a race car cake.  I'm sure he'll change his mind numerous time in the next 51 weeks.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

One of the things I really miss, living so far from home, is being able to participate in some of our family traditions, especially around the holidays. 

Being half Italian and half Polish means I participated in a plethora of traditions growing up, most of them food related.  While I would love to follow the same traditions here, we are only a family of 4 and would most likely turn into a family of Weebles if, for example, a pan of lasagna showed up on the table for every holiday in addition to the main course.

So while I don't have pans and pans and pans of rising Babka dough locked away in my bedroom on Good Friday, we do always make these Hot Cross Buns.  They really are easy to do and both kids love them.  Madeleine has already asked if it was almost time to make those buns she loves so much.  Looks like one family tradition has been carried forward.

Who knows, maybe I'll also drag out my pizzelle iron that is gathering dust downstairs.  Wouldn't be an Italian celebration without a giant tray full of them!

Hot Cross Buns
King Arthur Flour
Yield: 1 dozen 

Buns
1/4 cup apple juice or rum
1/2 cup mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup raisins or dried currants
1 1/4 cups milk -- room temperature
3 large eggs -- 1 separated
6  tablespoons butter -- room temperature
2  teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup light brown sugar -- firmly packed
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
                        
Topping
1 large  egg white -- reserved from above
1 tablespoon  milk

Icing
1 cup  + 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon  vanilla extract
1 pinch  salt
4 teaspoons  milk -- or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing

Lightly grease a 10" square pan or 9" x 13" pan. 

Mix the rum or apple juice with the dried fruit and raisins, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave briefly, just till the fruit and liquid are very warm. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

When the fruit is cool, mix together all of the dough ingredients except the fruit, and knead, using an electric mixer or bread machine, till the dough is soft and elastic. Mix in the fruit and any liquid not absorbed.

Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. It should become puffy, though may not double in bulk.

Divide the dough into billiard ball-sized pieces, about 3 3/4 ounces each. A heaped muffin scoop (about 1/3 cup) makes about the right portion. Use your greased hands to round them into balls. Arrange them in the prepared pan.

Cover the pan, and let the buns rise for 1 hour, or until they've puffed up and are touching one another. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. 

Whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns. 

Bake the buns for 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool. 

Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mean Mom

Yep, that's  me.  Mean mom.  I earned the title and I'll wear the badge proudly (there IS a badge that goes with it - right?).

The act that earned me the title?

I wouldn't let someone take 'thirds' of broccoli because he wasn't eating the rest of the food on his plate.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Somewhat Creepy

So I know that all of our information is out there floating around in space and such, but it really did freak me out a little bit when I logged onto Google tonight.



Saturday, September 21, 2013

Got Apples?






We do, thanks to a friend at work!  Christopher has been nosing around the box since I brought them home, asking to make 'his favorite applesauce'. I think we have enough in there for applesauce and a few other things.

This morning we are on a quest for apple cider.  The recipe I use calls for apple cider and I struck out at two different HyVee stores.  I was informed you can only find apple cider 'at a real apple orchard Mommy,' so I think I know where we are headed this morning.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A schmoozer in training

For someone who routinely is up by 6 on the weekends, pulling him out of bed at 6:15 during the week is a true exercise in patience.

At the age of 4, he is responsible for getting dressed (clothes already put out), brushing his teeth and finding his shoes.  Not all that taxing, but man is that kid ever pokey. He'll grow out if it by middle school ... right??

The other morning I catch him staring into space ... again.

"Hey bud, you need to get your schools on.  What are you doing?"

"I am admiring your beauty mommy."

He's good, isn't he?


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

A whole lot of awesome in a 9x13 pan.  Very chocolaty and very moist.  Christopher claims it is the only way he'll ever eat zucchini again.  I'll let him think that ... for a little while.

Someone at work has a garden that is producing a lot more zucchini then mine ever will this year (I actually dug the dead zucchini plants up this weekend) and my original plan was to make this cake to take to work to share.  Well, I threw the chips on top and put it back in the oven and then pulled it out in 5 minutes.  Unfortunately, it looks like my chocolate seized and I tore up the whole top of the cake trying to spread them out.

So ... knowing that an ugly cake would NEVER get eaten at the workplace, we kept it at home.  I have enough shredded zucchini left to make another cake.  Next time though, I'll use my favorite chocolate frosting recipe from the back of the Hershey cocoa container.

www.kingarthurflour.com

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons espresso powder (instant coffee makes a good sub)
3 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Beat in the eggs and stir in the buttermilk alternately with the flour. 

Add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing until smooth.  Fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set.  Cool on a rack.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pink Lemonade Cake

In our house, the Birthday Boy or Birthday Girl gets to choose their cake.  This year, someone in our house is celebrating a birthday that ends in an '0' and they aren't all that happy about it.  So, when said Birthday Boy didn't choose a cake, I let Madeleine pick.  She chose a Pink Lemonade Cake from Cook's Country.


It was pretty easy to make and sugaring the lemon slices was not as messy as I had imagined (she actually did them).  Probably not the cake the Birthday Boy was envisioning, but that's what you get when you don't make up your mind!

Pink Lemonade Cake

Cake:
5 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice (2 lemons)
Red food coloring

Frosting
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Red food coloring
 
Pink Sugared Lemon Slices:
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large lemon, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons pink decorating sugar

Cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes.

Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Whisk egg yolks, water, oil, lemon zest and juice, and 5 to 7 drops food coloring together in medium bowl until smooth. Whisk yolk mixture into flour mixture until smooth. Whisk one-third of whipped egg whites into batter, then gently fold in remaining whites in 2 additions until well combined. Pour mixture into ungreased 16-cup tube pan. Bake until skewer inserted in center comes out clean and cracks in cake appear dry, 55 to 65 minutes. Invert pan onto wire rack and let cake cool completely in pan, about 3 hours.

Frosting: Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and confectioners' sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add cream cheese one piece at a time until no lumps remain. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and 3 to 4 drops food coloring, and mix until incorporated.

Lemon Slices: Combine water and granulated sugar in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves. Add lemon slices and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and allow syrup and lemon slices to cool completely, about 1 hour. Transfer lemon slices to wire rack to drain, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle both sides of lemon slices with decorating sugar.

Unmold cake onto plate and frost top and sides in even layer. Decorate along bottom edge with sugared lemon slices and serve.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Day of School

Oh my, second grade.  Where does the time go?  Next year the little guy gets to ride the bus with his sister.  I wonder how many years I can get away with first day of school pictures at the front door ... I am aiming for all 12!

Getting so big

Clown

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blueberry Bran Muffins

I have a kid who loves bran muffin.  Weird?  Perhaps, but I am not going to judge his food choices, particularly when they lean towards healthy. 

At some point in time, I had picked up a box of All Bran in an effort to eat healthier.  When I decided that chomping on a bowl of sticks in the morning really wasn't all that satisfying, I searched the web looking for recipes to use up the rest of the box.

I found this recipe over on allrecipes.com. and modified it slightly.  The little guy loves blueberries, so I swapped out the originally called for raisins with blueberries, either fresh or frozen.  I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter, and at times have subbed in either pumpkin pie or apple pie spice.  Instead of 12 muffins, I make 9, filling the cups up to the brim.  Everyone knows muffin tops are the best part of the muffin!

Blueberry Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups All-Bran® Cereal
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 whole egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1  teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup flour
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

Mix together wheat bran and buttermilk; let stand for 10 minutes.

Beat together oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and add to buttermilk/bran mixture. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into buttermilk mixture, until just blended. Fold in blueberries and spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Taco Casserole

There are times when a recipe looks good on paper (or on the screen) but turns out to be a huge disappointment (disaster, failure, mistake, fiasco ... which ever you prefer).  Sometimes unfortunately, one who goes on a new recipe spree may end up with 2 or even 3 of these mishaps in a row.  You know your family is about to rebel when they look like this at the supper table:


So when we have had one too many dinner failures I turn to a surefire hit - Taco Casserole.  It has all the elements of a taco dinner in a casserole dish.

Sometime I get fancy schmancy and mix up my own taco seasoning and make homemade refried beans.  Other nights, like last night, opening cans and packages is the way to go.  I originally spied this recipe in an old Taste of Home magazine and then found it again on food.com.  I have found that you need to use thicker salsa (and I drain it) or else the dish can get watery.  We initially tried the method of placing the chips on the bottom of the casserole dish only to find that we didn't much care for the soggy chips reheated.  The kids like to use tortilla chips to scoop it up.
 
Taste of Home magazine
 
1 pound ground beef
1 package taco seasoning
1 (15 ounce) can refried beans
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups salsa
2 green onions, chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
1 tomato, chopped
Tortilla chips or corn chips

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a square casserole dish with cooking spray.
 
Brown ground beef and drain. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions, adding proper amount of water (I use the juice from the salsa I drained).

Warm the refried beans on stove until hot, pull off the heat and add 1 cup cheese and the drained salsa salsa. Stir until combined.  Spread beans in a square casserole dish
 
Sprinkle the beef over the beans.  Top with the remaining cheese, green onions and black olives. Bake about 15 minutes, until the cheese is sufficiently melted and the casserole starts to bubble.  Add the tomatoes on the top and let sit for 5 minutes to set.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Weighing in at 43 pounds and some change ...

What do you get when you mix trouble ...






with an everyday object, such as this?




You get a 3 hour visit to the ER and a picture that looks something like this:

**Not his actual x-ray
Have to say it is a different kind of souvenir to have from a vacation. I should see if his doctor will give me a copy of his actual image so I can stick it in his scrapbook (OK, dresser drawer where I have all his mementos I am planning on putting in a scrapbook one day).

Why he did this, I have no idea.  We were in the car, David and Madeleine went back into the hotel room to get her sunglasses.  Trouble was in his car seat and I was in the driver's seat, keying in our destination in the GPS.  Madeleine gets back in the car:

M:  Hey, where did my penny go?
C: (giggles)
M: Give it back to me
C: I can't
M: Mommy, he won't give it back!
C: I can't give it back, it's in my BELLY

Sure enough, it is!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Butterfly Conservatory

One of our stops in Niagara was the Butterfly Conservatory.  Considering I have one who hates all bugs (and has been know to let out an ear piercing shriek when one is spotted) I thought this was a pretty adventurous undertaking.  There are supposed to be over 45 different types of butterflies flying around, but I swear I kept seeing the same 8 all so.  They were quite beautiful though.

They liked each other today

Not going to even pretend I know what kind this is



Hungry butterflies

Prettiest one there; finally got a picture with open wings

All she wants is to capture a butterfly
All he wants are for the bugs to go away

45 minutes later

Happy face