Thursday, July 21, 2011

Flowers for our Outdoor Table

Just a quick post today.  Last Saturday, we had just a few friends over for a late lunch.  I panicked for flowers and picked a few in the backyard.  The bark was from our ranch in Napa.  I slid in some oval glass vases inside the bark opening to hold and keep the flowers fresh. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Hockey Puck (Bread)

Something that I've always wanted to try.  Sourdough bread.  Made from my own sourdough starter.  It's something that's always been in the back of my mind.  My kids love sourdough bread, and since we live so close to San Francisco, it's easy to get in every grocery store around.  But, I wanted to make my own.  I followed the directions, here, for no-knead sourdough bread, on MaryJanesFarm

The sourdough starter consists of just organic flour and distilled water.    After a week of adding and stirring (which just took one minute a day), I made my first two loaves.  Without adding any additional yeast.  The bread tasted and smelled fabulous!  It just didn't rise. 

The yeast was still quite young and maybe was not strong enough to rise, much.  Or, the fact that I forgot a few times and put in water from the tap (which has added chemicals in it which might hurt the wild yeast) might have hurt the yeast.  But, I'm not defeated.  My family loved the bread and gave me encouragement.  So, I'm trying again, starting a new starter, today, and will let you know how it turns out. 

Have any of you attempted your own sourdough starter?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Baked Alaska Birthday

I wanted to surprise Colin.  When we took our Akaska cruise last summer, the one absolute standout dessert was the Baked Alaska.  So, I went for it for this special boy's birthday.  It was waaayyy easier than I thought it would be to make - you should all try it!  In the picture, above, the cake had been sitting out for a few minutes while I was getting pictures and was melting.  I recommend using a rimmed serving plate for containment.

I used a chocolate cake recipe - you could even use a mix.  I used chocolate chip cookie dough and vanilla ice creams.  His friends were amazed - everyone asked for 2nds.  One dad called me up a few days later, saying that he was asking his son what he wanted for dessert and listing impossible items for fun - such as Baked Alaska!  His son said he'd love some as he just had it at Colin's birthday.  So, get out your bowls, ladies.  You shouldn't miss this one.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Black Bean Soup

My oldest boy came home from camp one day this week saying he was sick.  His favorite soup when he's not feeling well is Campbell's chicken noodle.  Luckily I had a big can, so he had some for snack and then I planned on giving him some for dinner.  For myself, I just couldn't swallow (hee hee) the idea of CCN, so I thought I would make some black bean soup.  One of MOTH's most favorites.  I serve it with toppings in ramekins so that everyone can add in what they want (tomatoes, onions, cilantro, cheese, avocado, sour cream, etc.).  Since the temperature outside was pretty mild (mid 70's, today) the soup was pure comfort. 

I also made popovers.  They come out so huge and impressive (even bigger than the picture, below), and there was not a single one left. 

All in all, a lovely meal for a mild summer evening (and even more perfect for the winter.  I just couldn't wait that long.) 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Last First Tooth Fairy Visit

The five-year-old ("I'm 5 1/2, Mom!" he would say) lost his first tooth this evening.  So, like I did for the others, I tried to make it special.  Wow, how things have changed.  There were so many pictures and blogs to google at.  I found this beautiful box to print out, cut and glue. 

When I finally located the beautiful tooth fairy image at the top, I wrote a teeny, tiny letter, added the photo and printed it out.  I used the fancy edging scissors to give the letter a scallop-like edge.  Then I wrapped the letter and a dollar up in tulle with a sparkly ric rak ribbon and put it in the box.  Crossing my fingers he'll be pleased....

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How to Have a Happy Mother's Day!

A Happy Mother's Day! This scenario is sneakily elusive. While I have had the best mother's day for the past two years, many of my friends have had terrible ones. I used to, too. Until, I discovered...

The Power of Ordering! Yes, just like ordering a room service breakfast in advance, I tell my husband all the things I would like to do on Mother's Day. So, about a week prior to the actual day, I'll say something like:

"Hey, sweetie. You know Mother's Day is next week. I was thinking I'd like to...."

For this year, it was have breakfast in bed (more on that, below), take a walk out to the beach, go to Home Depot with the family and pick out kitchen herbs, plant the herbs in pots on the deck when we get back, have Hubby set up an automatic watering system for said herbs, and have dinner outside on our freshly prettied-up deck. This is really my perfect day scenario - activities that the whole family can do. And, I'm sure to mention the itinerary a few times before the actual day.

For BREAKFAST, I set out everything needed the night before (napkins, tray, waffle maker, batter, etc.) so I don't have to yell down the hall from my room - has anyone else had to do this? I have made extra muffins or scones and frozen them to be warmed up in the oven on the big morning. Even a bagel with fresh juice is fabulous! This year I'm asking for waffles (recipe, below), yogurt with blueberries and fresh squeezed orange juice (that's already been squeezed and waiting in the fridge). Heating directions and list of what to do is helpful, too.

So, my opinion is don't be afraid to let him/them know what you want. I know my hubby doesn't spend any time thinking about this day (as he's proven in the past), and I know my children really like to treat mom with some special care on this day. I have to say MY mother abhorred Mother's Day and said I should treat her specially every day of the year. Now, while I can see her point, I'm happy to have one special day....

Hope you all have a wonderful day on Sunday!

Raised Waffle Recipe
from Marion Cunningham's The Breafast Book

yield: About 8 Waffles

This is the best waffle I know. The mixing is done the night before and all you have to do in the morning is add a couple of eggs and some baking soda. They are crisp on the outside and delicate on the inside

1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast
2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Use a rather large mixing bowl — the batter will rise to double its original volume. Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour to the yeast mixture and beat until smooth and blended. (I often use a hand rotary beater to get rid of the lumps.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature. Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda, and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter into a very hot waffle iron. Bake the waffles until they are golden and crisp. This batter will keep well for several days in the refrigerator.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's for Dinner? Pizza! (Homemade, of course)

Oh, the fun of thinking, "What am I gonna make for dinner, tonight?". I had decided on homemade pizza early in the day, only to discover when I started cooking that my shredded mozzarella cheese had molded. In a panic, I reached for the kid's string cheese that I usually put in their lunches. So, I peeled and chopped 6 sticks of string cheese and put them on the pizza. The pizza turned out great!

We never strive for a perfectly round pizza. The utter beauty of this pizza is not in the shape, nor in the taste (which is quite good), but in the pennies this dinner costs. I think I make 2 whole pizzas for my family for less than $3! Add a salad and it's a perfect meal!

Now, if you haven't made your own pizza before, you're in for a treat. I use the recipe that came with my food processor, and it couldn't be easier (see below). After rolling the dough out, I brush it with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, add tomato paste, right out of the can, add some oregano, basil, or other herbs, and spread with mozzarella cheese (my children only like plain cheese pizza). For me, I add all kinds of toppings (my favorite is fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes and torn basil leaves) - experiment, I'm sure you'll be glad you did. I then fold over the outer edge for the crust.

Then bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes and you're ready to eat! I use either a baking sheet with cornmeal spread on it, or I use a pizza stone that's been in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Here's the Pizza Dough Recipe:
Prepare the dough, and while it rises, use your Food Processor to chop, slice and shred the toppings for your pizza.

Servings - Makes 1-1/2 pounds dough (two 14-inch crusts) / 8 servings

1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105?F) water
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cold water
flour for dusting


In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 3 - 5 minutes. Insert dough blade in work bowl and add flour, salt and olive oil. Add cold water to yeast mixture.With machine running, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour absorbs it. Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball. Then process for 45 seconds to knead dough. Dough may be slightly sticky. Dust dough lightly with flour; transfer to a plastic food storage bag, squeeze out air and seal top. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down, let rest 5 - 10 minutes. Roll into desired crust sizes and follow pizza recipe.

Note: If you only wish to make one pizza, you may freeze half the dough before it rises. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. When ready to use, remove in the morning, unwrap, rub with olive oil and place in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to thaw and rise during the day. It will be ready punch down and roll out in about 8 hours.