Saturday, August 30, 2008

M...m..madeleines


Munch's cousin A. dropped by for a visit today, just in time for us to try out a new madeleine cookie recipe. The one I've been using for years was passed on to me by a co-worker from back in the Williams-Sonoma days. It made a nice, tender sponge cake/cookie, but I wanted something with more crunch to the crust and more vanilla flavor. Although it was difficult at first to persuade A. that some kitchen time would be WAY more fun than playing with dump trucks, by the time he was licking the bowl clean, he was all in!





Here's the recipe. It doesn't make many, maybe only 18-20, but they're best within the few hours after they're baked, so you'll have just enough to enjoy that day!

2 eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch (or two) of salt
1 c. flour
1 1/4 sticks butter (pref. unsalted), melted & cooled
powdered sugar for dusting over finished cookies

Grease and flour 2 madeleine pans (or re-grease and flour the pans after the first batch bakes). Beat the eggs and sugar until just blended. Mix in the vanilla and salt. Add the flour and beat to combine. Slowly add the melted butter and mix just until blended. Scoop a full tablespoon of batter into each "shell" of the madeleine pan. Bake about 15 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven until puffed and brown around the edges. Cool a few minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack. Sift powdered sugar over cookies before serving.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lovin' from our oven...

It was my dad's birthday last weekend (Happy birthday, Lolo!) so Munch & I got out the mixer to make him a special treat. I know he and AudioDad both like shortbread, so we made a nice, big batch:


We used a WHOLE box of butter- thank goodness for Costco!


A happy helper (probably from all the butter she sneaked...)


I just slice my shortbread into squares, but Munch wanted to get fancy-


Ready for the oven!

Here's the recipe (I doubled it):
2 sticks butter (unsalted is best), room temp.
2/3 c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar (for sprinkling over tops)

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy and well mixed. Combine the flour and salt and gradually mix into the butter/sugar mixture. Roll out the dough- I go about 3/8-inch thick because I prefer my shortbread to be more tender. Roll to 1/4-inch thick if you like it more crisp. Cut into desired shapes, place on baking sheet, and poke holes lightly into the surface with a table fork. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sugar. Return to oven for an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of baking time-remove when they're just lightly golden around the edges, but tops are still pale.

Raising a cook...

It's dinner time on a Friday evening at the end of the previously mentioned long, long week. (And there's almost nothing in my fridge, which even so, is still fuller than most people's- yes, I'm talking about you, Grandma P. & Auntie Mich!) Anywho, what to make? Breakfast for dinner, of course! After conferring with my sous-chef, who's already on her step-ladder, we decide upon eggs scrambled with goat cheese, chicken apple sausages, and sourdough toast. The triumph of the evening (I am so proud...) is that Munch cracked all the eggs herself- with not a shell (or finger) pierced yolk in the bunch! (We've been working on the whole "open-the-eggshell, don't smoosh it" technique every time we make pancakes or a batch of cookies.)

I am so glad to have someone who enjoys hanging out in the kitchen as much as I do (having failed in my attempts to interest AudioDad in anything remotely culinary- unlike Munch & me, he's of the "eat to live, food is fuel" mindset, but that's a topic for another post...) Munch loves to stand at the counter, flipping through the pages of her own photo-filled cookbook, just like she sees me do. We recently spent a morning identifying the various kitchen tools pictured in the book and what they do- "whisk is for mixing", she says. She knows muffin tins, rolling pins, wooden spoons, and rubber spatulas, but a sieve and a grater left her puzzled, so out they came for a little hands-on exploration:


She grated a cheese stick, sifted some powdered sugar, and smooshed the whole lot together for an impromptu snack: "Can I taste it now?"
Sure, pumpkin, have at it!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thank God for Grandparents!

It has been a LONG, LONG week at our house. Even though she loves her daycare, Munch is definitely not taking to the back to school routine well. She's not a fan of getting up before the sun and our commutes have consisted of screaming fits, tears, and tantrums- and that's BOTH directions! Enough was enough when she threw a sippy cup at my head and opened her door to escape (in the middle of the highway! Where are those darned child locks anyways?) So, faced with an extra long work day that would stretch into the evening, (Back to School night for me, inventory for AudioDad) off she went to Grandma & Grandpa's for a little TLC and undivided attention. Fifteen hours later (yes, 6AM to 9PM!), Munch is my happy, bubbly girl again. Even though it was late, the three of us reconnected over a walk around the block, flashlights in hand, looking for bugs and stars. After tucking in her imaginary pirate friend, she happily climbed into bed- and it's my turn now, too. (AudioDad on the other hand, headed out for a run- gotta get those miles in!)
P.S. THANK YOU Grandma & Grandpa- We love you "this much"!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where there's a will...


School started this week, so why am I sitting at home blogging? (and why is Munch sleeping under a chair?)
The week began well enough, with the Munchkin excited to see all her friends at daycare after the long summer break. She wasn't so excited though, to be the last one picked up after everyone else had gone home. The next morning, we were halfway through our commute, when she says, "I want to go home now. And Mommy stay with me." Yes, we have major separation issues after summer vacation. Anyway, sorry, kid, not happening- I had 40 kids coming to orientation later that morning. When I picked her up, the big hubbub was over another kid who threw up. Lovely. And did I believe Munch when she started telling me her tummy "had throw up" too? Nope, just figured it was her active imagination. By the time we got home, AudioDad & I knew we were in for a long night- and of course, the first day of school was the next day! Thank goodness he could stay home- couldn't you just see it? Kindergarten teacher skips out on first day of school- not good. Missing the second day, not so bad. AudioDad did great yesterday, he slowly got her to keep things down and make sure they cuddled and rested. By the time I got home, Munch was in good spirits, and as luck would have it, a package of dress up clothes I previously ordered had arrived in the mail for her. So this is a photo of our saltine-munching, stomach-flu ridden princess, providing further evidence that it doesn't matter what you do, like vomiting, as long as you look good doing it!

P.S. She's feeling much better today, thank you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Need a Monday morning laugh?

I've seen these around the web before. Photoshopped? Possibly, but they're so darn funny, I nearly wet myself after receiving these in my inbox- thanks Mich!

China is ready for the Olympic tourists...


But taste like cat.



Here, crippie, take my seat!
But what is Gravid?



Great with flied lice
Isn't that a type of car? No wait, that's a roadster.



A separate entrance for Hos- why didn't I think of that...



Sounds better than canned water doesn't it?



Go over there to die, please. Thank you.



Good to know.



Much tastier than the grown up variety..



It will be once you start chewing on it.



Starbucks should be very afraid!



I wouldn't tickle this one.



Weird, because horsebeans sound delicious.



I knew it.



Umm ........no thanks .



If there's one thing we don't need help with...



Should be in front of half the hotels in town.



No nerd is safe..

Pancake Sunday



If it's Sunday, then you know it's pancake morning in our house. Even Munch knows that once everyone is up, we go through the routine of heating the big griddle and making a huge batch of pancakes before AudioDad heads out for his morning run with the girls. Even though she's just two, Munch has made countless batches of pancakes with me already. She dumps in all the ingredients, whisks up the batter, then heads off to set the table while they cook, making sure everyone has their proper syrup- sugar free for Daddy, the real stuff for her & Mommy.
It took a long time to find just the right pancake recipe. AudioDad's mom's pancakes were legend in his mind and for several years early in our marriage, mine never quite measured up. He actually even preferred my dad's to mine! But Fannie Farmer to the rescue! (My go-to cookbook- a must for every kitchen) Here's the recipe, with my changes- it makes a lot- feed a crowd, or just be really hungry! I also make extra silver dollar-size pancakes for the Munchkin to have throughout the week. They freeze well when wrapped between sheets of waxed paper. I just pop several of them in the microwave for about 20 seconds, flip & heat another 15 seconds or so, and she's got a little taste of Sunday before heading off to daycare.

1 1/4 c. milk (I usually even add another 1/4 c. depending on how the batter looks-we like our griddlecakes on the thinner side)
4 tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Whisk everything up and spoon about 1/4 c. of batter per pancake onto a preheated and greased 300 degree griddle. Flip when they're bubbly on top and just starting to dry around the edges (the underside should be nice and golden). Cook just a little longer on second side and serve.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yummies from the Pacific East Mall

I'm still feeling bummed that I missed Michelle's dim sum birthday feast at Yank Sing, so I loaded Munch into the car for a trip to the Pacific East Mall, home of 99 Ranch Market, for some tasty treats. After a requisite pass through the Hello Kitty-type shop where Munch wanted to purchase one of everything and was having an extremely difficult time remembering the "only touch with one finger" rule, we headed off to the dim sum counter in the market. We ordered sweet rice cake, steamed pork buns, roasted pork (mmm...crispy skin), fried tofu with shrimp, sesame balls, and har gow to sample, and a red bean bubble tea slushie to wash it all down. Munch quickly polished off a whole order of har gow all by herself.

Before we left to share our goodies with Grandma & Grandpa, we stopped in at the Hong Kong Snack House, where I heard they make egg puffs, a bubble-shaped waffle-like treat. We ordered the pandan coconut- so green, yet so yummy!

It's blackberry season!



When August hits (and the start of the school year approaches) I remember that I haven't yet harvested blackberries from the marshes around the harbor. So Munch & I headed out into the heat & thorns with several large trays, which we quickly filled. Once we got home, I tossed them with some flour, sugar, and a little salt. After pouring them into pie shells, we dotted them with butter- Munch's official kitchen job is "butter unwrapper" and she likes to sneak pinches from the stick when I'm not watching. I added a top layer & into the oven they went.

Less than an hour later, we had this lovely pie:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nut Tree, Vacaville



Munch & I braved 100+ degree temps for a few hours of fun at Nut Tree. I could not get her off the roller coaster! We finished our day with ice cream from Fenton's & one last carousel ride.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Finally! Fried chicken night at ad hoc!


Ever since this place opened I'd been hearing how great their fried chicken was. Last time AudioDad & I were at ad hoc, he made sure to get a reservation for "Fried Chicken Monday". It was a gorgeous night in Yountville & we got in early enough for a little stroll down Washington St. Who's sitting on the front patio of ad hoc enjoying dinner this evening? Thomas Keller himself!
Dinner was incredible- I started with a glass of bubbly and a mixed green salad with the most wonderful tomatoes. Then our main course arrived- a heaping platter of fried chicken (enough to feed a family), sweet corn on the cob drenched in butter, and mashed potatoes. There was more than enough chicken to take home. I enjoyed a delicious glass of dessert wine with our cheese course, then for dessert we had warm brownies with whipped cream- they were super dark- I'm guessing dutch cocoa- and I think they'll be the next recipe I'll try to replicate at home. I rolled into bed feeling a little too full, but it was worth it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The quest for the ultimate peanut butter cookie



Who doesn't love a good cookie? They are my favorite treat- it's so easy and quick to bake up a batch and have a nice, warm cookie in minutes. I usually make chocolate chip- but I'm always on the look-out for something new. I recently was given a few peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from a Petaluma bakery. While I'm fairly neutral about peanut butter cookies- they're usually too crumbly and dry for my tastes- these were something else altogether- moist, chewy, and very chocolately. Now, anyone who knows me also knows I'm NOT driving 45+ miles for anything, much less a cookie- so I had to find a recipe to replicate these at home. After trying out and fiddling with several recipes from the web, I think I'm close:

2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until fluffy. Add the peanut butter and mix well. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients and add the chocolate chips.
Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart (I got 6-8 large cookies on each sheet). Flatten each cookie with a fork twice to make a criss-cross pattern. Bake for about 11 1/2 minutes until cookies start to brown around edges. They won't look fully done, but will "set" on the pans as they cool (about 5 minutes), then transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely.
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