Monday, July 27, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday

I've been on the lookout for muffin tins that are an appropriate size for Munch. I was glad to find this one because it's so happy looking.Lunch was orzo with shrimp and feta, some carrot sticks, a few slices of turkey, the blackberries we picked
with some whipped cream for dipping, and a peanut butter cookie.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just Keep Swimming....

We're fortunate to have my aunt's pool fairly close by. Munch loves it, of course, and is pretty comfortable in the water.She's got the basics of swimming, without formal lessons (maybe next summer), but tends to bob up before she reaches her destination. For the heck of it, I decided to toss in some sinking submarines. She had a great time diving for them, and was so much more confident and determined.
This was among her first attempts, but I like the way she just kept trying. (Within a few more dives, she was getting them every time!)I just LOVE the new waterproof camera!

Summer School: Letter P

It's P day, and we had a jam-packed day! We started off with our usual routine of wood pieces and writing practice then we moved on to her alphabet sticker book, a gift from Grandma. I like it because she can match up stickers that begin with that letter- it gives her ideas for things to put on her letter collage. Today, we glued puzzle pieces onto the collage after brainstorming words- The craft for the day was a piggie puppet. I was lucky to find these Martha Stewart, little-kid sized, paper bag puppet kits on sale at Wal-Mart. They're so cute!Next we headed out to Stroke of Magic to meet up with friends for crafts.Munch chose to paint a princess crown/mask and a picture frame. Both were sprinkled quite liberally with glitter and came out really nicely-
Munch of course, noticed that we hadn't yet had a P snack for the day, so for dinner, we made pancakes- hers was extra special-

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookie Update


Adorable cookie jar, isn't it- birthday gift from AudioDad and I figured it was time to fill it! I started this blog almost a year ago, sharing a recipe for peanut butter cookies. I'm still hunting for that just right cookie recipe- but I think I'm getting closer! After my recent discovery of Annie the Baker's cookies at the St. Helena Farmers Market, I was inspired to try out a few more peanut butter cookie recipes online. Because as much as I will gladly travel for something yummy, I'd rather be able to make it (or something close to it) fresh, in my own kitchen, whenever I want. I came across this one on Baking and Books and decided it was worth a try, with a good couple of handfuls of Trader Joe's mini peanut butter cups thrown in, Annie-style.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer School: Letter I

We've gone a little light on the letter I. Munch already knows it because it's in her name, so we did some painting instead and mailed it off with a love note to her cousin.It was also a gymnastics day, so off we went to that- along with a bunch of errands.Neither of us was in the mood for the full alphabet routine when we got home, so for a nice treat, I brought out the ice cream maker. I got the recipe from a Ben & Jerry's cookbook- we decided that chocolate mint Oreo cookie ice cream would be just right for all of us since I like chocolate, Munch's favorite is mint, and AudioDad like cookies n'cream. While I melted the chocolate, Munch got to work crushing the cookies and beating the eggs-we mixed up all the ingredients, poured them into the ice cream machine, and let it crank away.Unfortunately, it didn't freeze well. I discovered the issue was the scraper insert- it wasn't meeting the edge of the freezer bowl, so none of the frozen mixture was getting incorporated with the rest. I stuck a spoon in to scrape the edges as it froze, which worked okay, but what a pain! The ice cream was a little soft when I served it,but after putting the rest away in the freezer overnight, it turned out really nicely.

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The Newest Member of the Family

Ha! No, not another baby- I wish! AudioDad is still "thinking about it". Instead, I've been thinking about pets. I was so tempted after Munch was born to get another dog from the shelter- but with two handfuls already, I think that was just crazed, sleep-deprived, post-partum madness. But now, Munch is ready to take on some of the responsibilities of taking care of pets. She feeds the girls, gives them love and hugs, and our favorite- lets them out on those early weekend mornings when we just want to sleep a little longer! At times though, I do see her thinking about the pet situation- Ginger is really Daddy's dog, Cricket is definitely mine. Who exactly is all her own? Meet Sari-I've been hearing so much about bettas and decided it would make a good first pet for Munch. We talked about how she'd take care of it- "I'll give it lots of kisses," she said at first. After I explained the whole bit about the water and the tank, she tried, "Can I give my fish lots of hugs?" Not so much. At least she's quite happy to feed Sari and we sit by the aquarium and spend lots of time talking to him. He seems to like that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Empanadas


I've been in organizing mode lately. It happens every summer, because that's when I finally have the time to go through all the closets and cupboards and clean out all the stuff- papers, clutter, old clothes. This week I came across a stack of recipes that I'd lost track of. I have recipe clippings all over the house. I finally got to a point where I had to cancel my food magazine subscriptions just so I could keep up with what was already in the house. I was so happy to come across my recipe for little meat pies. They're like empanadas or pasties. I usually make a chicken filling, but decided to try pork, which the family really enjoyed. This is the recipe I used- but I had a bit of leftover filling. I think I'll increase the quantity of pastry by a third or so next time so I can use all the filling up.

Hot water pastry
3/4 c. solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1/4 c. boiling water
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. salt
2 c. flour

Place shortening in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir until smooth, then add the milk. Add the flour and salt, and mix until the dough holds together. Add additional flour or drops of water if needed and finish kneading by hand to incorporate bits of flour. Form dough into a flattened ball and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Pork filling
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
12 oz. pork loin, all fat removed, finely chopped
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2/3 c. finely chopped scallions (green onions)
1 c. chicken stock
2 med. red potatoes, finely diced

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the pork and cook until no pink remains, about 4 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, flour, and scallions and cook, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until liquid is slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and add the potatoes. Cool to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Beat 1 egg and set aside to use as an egg wash. Divide chilled dough in half and roll out each half to about 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut dough into circles about 4 inches wide. Spoon about 3 tbsp. filling into the centers of half the dough circles, mounding it up. Brush the edges with egg wash. Top filling with a second dough circle (brush edges with egg wash), gently stretching it over the filling and pressing it onto the edges of the bottom pastry circle to seal.
Repeat with remaining filling and pastry. Don't worry about small tears int he dough- it will help vent the steam as it bakes. Any large gaps can be patched with dough trimmings. Crimp edges with a fork, brush tops of pastry with egg wash, and transfer carefully to the baking sheet.Bake approximately 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weekend Wanderings in the Valley (With Lots of Good Food!)

I love summer- especially when it comes to putting meals on the table. It's been so easy now that I have time to shop for delicious food at the Farmer's Markets and everything is just so wonderful! Those stuffed squash blossoms are making weekly appearances on our dinner plates-I made this batch after picking up a few from the Culinary Institute's gardens at the St. Helena Farmers Market.
Munch and her cousin picking out honey sticks,enjoying the iced tea,and playing in the park next to the marketWhile there, I also got some treats for dessert-the cookies are my new favorite find- peanut butter with peanut butter cups and toffee milk chocolate chunk- both from Annie the Baker. I'm going to be hunting these down again really soon! The chocolate chunk bar cookie is made by Sweetie Pies. The flavor was really good- a graham cracker base, fudgy chocolate with macadamia nuts, marshmallows, and cereal mixed in. Unfortunately the texture wasn't quite right- the cereal, rather than staying crisp, got chewy- but not in a pleasant way and the graham cracker base was so dry it just crumbled- it really didn't have enough butter to hold together. It might be interesting to recreate this one at home and play with the mix-ins a bit.
On the way home, I swung by Sunshine Market after my sister told me about their amazing fresh pasta. I picked up a package of tagliatelle, made in-house, found a great lemon cream sauce recipe, and served this for dinner-
I thought the beef broth was a strange addition, but it really gave the sauce a nice meaty/mushroomy flavor that complemented the lemon well.
The next morning was another treat- spa treatments at the Bardessono Resort in Yountville.I especially loved the elevated pool area with its cool cabanas-Afterwards, it was off to Redd for a late lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed my duck confit entree as I settled into my corner banquette seat (I was feeling like a noodle after my wonderful massage), but it was the peanut butter-milk chocolate gianduja dessert that made me sit up and pay attention- this was definitely one of my favorite desserts I've EVER had (I've been on a peanut butter kick lately). The sweet frothiness of the peanut honeycomb parfait that accompanied it was entirely unexpected. I need to make a return trip to dine there again soon!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Long Time, No Post...but the New Camera is Finally Here!

It's been almost a full two weeks since my old camera got sent out for repairs. I felt strange not having it around for those impromptu shots throughout the day. And I just about panicked not having it for all the great activities we've been doing. It's been quite a pendulum swing I guess- there are hardly any photos from the early years of our marriage- it was such a bother to pick up film, get it printed, and then deal with all the prints afterwards. I remember being apprehensive about the cost of a digital camera when they started becoming more common- would it be worth the cost, especially if we weren't "picture-taking people"? We finally got a digital camera shortly before Munch was born, and of course I feel in love with it- the whole instant gratification of being able to see your photos right away just reeled me in! But as I started keeping my camera on hand more frequently (ok, ALWAYS), then came another concern: was I missing out, not being fully present, because I was busy taking pictures? But that concern was resolved during these last couple of weeks. I'm finding that there isn't a big difference to me "in the moment"- and if anything, I'm MORE aware and involved (me and my short attention span...) when I'm keeping an eye out for those "Kodak moments". And without pics, I was SO uninspired to blog (hence, the long span without a new post). So I was thrilled to get my adorable little replacement camera-it's significantly smaller than my old camera, it's waterproof, and come on, the green is fabulous!
So, what have we been up to?
-Last week, I stumbled across some beautiful zucchini blossoms at the farmer's market. I've always wanted to try stuffed zucchini blossoms, so I grabbed a bunch to try. They were incredibly delicious and so much easier to make than I was expecting. I served them for dinner with some bruschetta (those cherry tomatoes out of my garden) and chunks of watermelon:
The recipe I used came from Taste Buddies and it includes a great step-by-step photo tutorial.
-I finally got myself a proper popover (say that three times!) pan after enjoying them so much lately, but not getting nearly the rise when I baked them in a muffin tin. I was thrilled to see the huge puffy domes coming out of my oven!
We've been making popovers quite frequently ever since!
-Munch and I are continuing our letter of the day activities, but I've also been busy making some other fun things:
I printed out wallet-sized photos of some of our family and friends and hung them in a small pocket chart with name cards so that Munch would start to recognize people's names. I've been so happy to find her comparing beginning sounds, mixing cards up, re-matching them, and even trying to sound them out.
Since she's really been curious about letter sounds, I also ordered her this mini pocket chart from Oriental Trading Company. It was a great deal at $7.99 and Munch can work on it fairly independently, which has given me time to tackle all the cupboards and closets that need cleaning!

Today being T day, I busied myself making some apple counting trees out of felt glued onto poster board.
But my favorite project so far is our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom inspired t-shirt. I painted a tree-trunk onto a shirt and used Munch's handprints for the leaves.
After letting the tree dry overnight, we used alphabet sponges to stamp Munch's name down the tree trunk-
and the finished shirt is just adorable! I'm glad I used a brightly colored shirt- it's much cuter than if I'd used a plain white shirt-

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Harvest


My poor yard has never been taken care of the way I wish I could- both time, energy, and know-how (wait, that's three things...) are obstacles to the lovely garden paradise I envision. Things REALLY went downhill after Munch was born though. I killed most of my potted dwarf citrus trees and some of my favorite fuschias. I guess anything that has survived, or unbelievably thrived, during my neglect really deserves to be here! I was excited this summer about planting fruit & vegetables that Munch could enjoy. Our favorite so far has been a blueberry bush which she faithfully checked every morning through the spring until she was rewarded with plump, little berries. Now we're harvesting cherry tomatoes (even though this year's seedlings haven't grown as full and healthily as usual) and green beans.
I've also got a new lemon tree- a Mother's Day present from AudioDad, and some beautiful mint. Perfect for a delicious limoncello cocktail!

Limoncello Cooler (enough for 8 8-oz. drinks)
1 c. frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/2 c. fresh mint leaves
6 tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 c. club soda
3 1/2 c. limoncello (I used a full bottle of Caravello)
crushed ice
thin slices lemon and additional fresh mint for garnishing drinks

Combine lemonade concentrate, fresh lemon juice, and mint leaves in a pitcher. Use a wooden spoon to "muddle" these together. Add the limoncello, club soda, and crushed ice to taste. Pour into glasses and garnish with a lemon slice and spring of fresh mint.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Napa Day Out

I've been meaning to take Munch to Napa for a while now. They have several children's activities that I want to check out, but it's funny how much busier I am during summer vacation than during the school year! We headed out to check out a children's museum called Scientopia Discovery Center. Prices were reasonable- $7 for each of us for a day pass. The main room was smaller than I expected (it's housed in a warehouse-type space), but it had plenty to keep us occupied. I probably would go bonkers though if this place was really crowded. Munch started out with a fun exhibit which blew air out of a cone-she loved putting a small beach ball over it, turning off the air switch, and trying to catch the ball before it landed back on the cone.
Scientopia divides its space into several sections. There's the puppet theatre, dress-up, and music section-
a building corner- love those pipes and connectors!
a couple of play houses, an art center, a "thinking center" filled with magnets, pulleys, and blocks, as well as a big digging pit filled with rubber mulch
After a couple of hours of exploring, we headed to Oxbow for lunch at Pica Pica and picked up these lovelies from Kara's Cupcakes-These cupcakes were absolutely delicious! The cake itself was moist and flavorful- my favorite is definitely the passionfruit- vanilla cake with a passionfruit filling!
PS I apologize for the terrible picture quality in this post. My dear old camera isn't working well and had to go in for repairs. I've ordered a nice, new waterproof back-up (thanks mom & dad!) but in the meantime, my camcorder is on duty!

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