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Monday, June 22, 2009

Whipped Cream

I thought I'd share a weekly outing with you that Sam and I enjoy together.

Our neighborhood Dominick's grocery store has a Starbucks in it, praise the Lord, and when we go, sometimes I'll treat myself to one as we shop. Months ago, we started getting to know a barista named Kathy, a woman a little younger then my mom with six children of her own. She took a shine to Sam, loving little boys, and decided he needed his own "coffee."

Kathy turned back from the register, grabbed a tall cup and filled it to the brim with whipped cream. On a good day, she or her other partner Lucy will drizzle it with chocolate or caramel sauce, pushing it towards Sam with a spoon tucked into it.

Sam thought he had died and gone to heaven. At barely 18 months he'd say "Coffee? Coffee? Whipped cream?" when we even DROVE by a Dominicks and quickly realized that stand alone Starbucks offer the same benefits.
So this morning, we'd just walked into the store, chosen a cart and rounded the corner when Kathy popped out from behind the counter and handed Sam his "coffee" with a huge smile.
Such a little thing makes us both so happy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Easy Meals

I'll admit it, I've been lazy.

Like, really lazy when it comes to our week night meals. I wanted to quickly share a few that took less then 30 minutes to pull together and really were no trouble at all. All of these rated a "I'd eat that again," from Scott.

1) Chicken Chili Verde (mexican frozen section at Trader Joes), cooked until reduced by half on the stove top, then add a cup of frozen corn and a cup (or less) of shredded cheese, stir until melted
-Serve on warmed tortillas with with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream

2) Trader Joe's Marinated Mahi Mahi filets, grilled, I added fresh lime juice and kosher salt
-served with white rice (I made it with half pineapple juice and half water, added shredded pineapple and the juice and zest from one lime after it was cooked)
-steamed green beans in their bag, also from Trader Joe's, tossed with lemon juice

3) Good pasta tossed with pesto, sun dried tomatoes and peas
-I'm sauteing chicken apple sausage to throw in there too tonight, almost all these ingredients are also from Trader Joes...are you sensing a theme?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Marmalade Emergency!

Mildly funny story.

I decided to make my dad some homemade marmalade for Father's Day this year, seeing as it's a favorite thing of his. Canning is not my forte, let me preface with. I've done a recipe or three of the famous Loibner salsa and that's about it. Maybe an unsuccessful batch of Ina Garten's strawberry jam a year ago as well.

So Anna Pump's Orange Marmalade was entirely new territory.

Most of my ten half pint mason jars were already tied up with the formerly mentioned salsa, but I was betting that the two I had remaining and several other small ones would be enough for the 3 pint recipe.


Making this marmalade is a two day process, and the second day requires about 3 hours of watching, stirring and skimming to make sure that all goes well. After finally coming to the end of the recipe and pouring it into my two jars, I still had a least half the pan left.

Of course. Because I am an idiot about math and have been since we hit long division in fourth grade. (Ironically I was bond trader, but I always told people that I only work with numbers in the "millions.")

So what to do, what to do with the quickly cooling jam in my pot?? I threw a protesting Sam in the carseat, jumped in my car and drove to our nearest Williams-Sonoma in hopes that the utterly fabulous and infamous Dana Williams (no relation to Chuck, at least I don't think so...) would be working and be able to direct me to some new jars within the hour. (I was lucky enough to get to know her during our wedding registry process...five full pages long and I got every item on it. Knew and loved almost everyone in the store by the end of that year.)

Walking into the store, I announce "Marmalade emergency Dana!" and she runs me over to the wall with the plethora of gourmet jams. I proceeded to explain that I was attempting to make it on my own and had run out of jars.

Her face fell, eyes flickering behind her funky black glasses as she thought out loud rapidly, "Nope, not a jar in sight. We carried canning items about five years ago or so, there was a huge display right there." She glanced over towards the checkout and then looked back at me, a smile coming to her face.

"ACTUALLY", (her voice rising and words coming quickly as she became more excited). "I bought a bunch of canning equipment when it went on clearance way back then and I think IT'S STILL IN THE BAG IN MY BASEMENT!!!"

She raced over to the phone behind the desk and says, "Stay right there, can you wait two minutes while my son Max checks to see if it's still down there?"

Sure enough, Max dug around their basement, by the "Fourth of July chairs, over in the corner" and there it was.

Two gorgeous Williams-Sonoma bags, full of $100 worth of beautiful german canning jars and canning equipment that she bought for something like $9 five years ago.

Thanks to the adorable Max, and a quick trip to their house, all the marmalade is now in it's new home and I am utterly grateful for my friend's generosity.

It is now 8:48pm and the 2 hr 30 min (yeah right Ina,) project is finally at a close.

Dana, check your mailbox tomorrow. It'd be really good on your homemade french bread. Love you.

Anna Pump's Orange Marmalade (totally worth the hassle)
4 large seedless oranges
2 lemons
8 cups sugar
8 cups water

Cut the oranges and lemons in half crosswise, then into very thin half-moon slices. (You can use a mandoline if you wish.) Discard any seeds. Place the sliced fruit and their juices into a stainless-steel pot. Add 8 cups of water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours. Turn the heat up to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for another 30 minutes. Skim off any foam that forms on the top. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. (Unfortunately very necessary for this recipe, but only a $5-$10 purchase.) If you want to be doubly sure it's ready, place a small amount on a plate and refrigerate it until it's cool but not cold. If it's firm, neither runny nor too hard, it's done. It will be a golden orange color. If the marmalade is runny, continue cooking it and if it's too hard, add more water.

Pour the marmalade into clean, hot Mason jars; wipe the rims throughly with a clean damp paper towel and seal with the lids. Store in the pantry for up to a year. (Ina didn't call for you to boil the jars in order to create the vacuum, but I did anyways, just to be safe.)

Yield: 3-4 pints (hint, you will need MORE then 2 half pint jars. Ahem.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The World-Is-Ending Blueberry Muffin

I'm not even kidding you, if I knew the world was ending I'd flip through our wedding photos one more time, make a few phone calls involving words of love to family and friends and eat as many of these muffins as I could.
Seriously, I've made my second batch in a week and they are heavenly, only involving two more steps then your average blueberry muffin recipe. With much credit and love to Cooks Illustrated.

Best Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Sugar Topping
1/3 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons finely grated zest from one lemon

3 cups fresh blueberries, picked over
1 & 1/8 cups sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
2 & 1/2 cups flour
2 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 extra large eggs
1/2 stick (4 TB) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

For the topping: stir together sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl until combined, set aside.

For the muffins: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Bring 1 & 1/2 cups blueberries and 2 tsp. of sugar to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 6 minutes. Cool to room temp, 10-15 min.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining sugar and eggs together in a medium bowl, add butter and oil until combined. Add buttermilk and vanilla to egg mixture until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining 1 & 1/2 cups of blueberries into the flour mixture just until moistened. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter evenly among about 14 muffin cups. Spoon one teaspoon of blueberry jam into the center of each and swirl slightly with a toothpick. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden brown and just firm, 17-19 minutes. Cool in tins for 5 minutes, the finish cooling on a rack. They freeze well and can be reheated in the oven for a freshly baked texture.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Back at last

I apologize for missing the entire month of May!  Between being sick on and off with random colds and flu's, and entertaining half the town at our house for birthday's/dinners/pool parties, blogging has been at the low end of my list of things to do.

New recipes coming up, pictures of Sam's birthday and more coming.  


Somebody moved out of his crib last night and is loving life in his "big-bed."  

That phrase is usually whispered in my ear as I'm putting him down in his crib, "Momma, lay in the big-bed?"  We finally pulled the trigger and let him spend the night in it.

Didn't hear a peep until 6:30 am this morning when I heard his door open, then the sound of little feet pattering towards our room, and finally saw his blonde head sticking up at the foot of our bed.  Scott and I leaned up and said "Good Morning littl budd..." and were interrupted by something soft and round flying towards our heads.  It hit me squarely in the forehead.  I looked at Scott in the darkness and he said, "I think that's a dia..." and another one came shooting towards us.

Sam starts cackling manically and says "I throw skinky pee-you's at your head!"  Lucky for us we throw the truly stinky ones immediately into the garage garbage, there were only two wet ones left in his waste basket.  Tightly rolled too....phew.

He's been giggling out loud randomly throughout the day today, whispering, "Stinky pee-you's at Momma's head."