Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What do you do if your house is lacking a nice big colorful fall tree in front of it?
And the rest of the houses on your street happen to have big trees with acres of colorful fall leaves drifting down?
You rake them up, load them into your big red wagon and bring them to your house, of course! Much to your dad's delight : )
And then you and the neighbor kids join forces to rake dozens of leaf piles up and down the street and you all ride your bikes through them as fast as you can.

I have to admit that I tried it with my bike. The crunch of those leaves was quite satisfying. Therapy. Leaf therapy. Fall bike rides with the kids are one of the many perks of stay-at-home-mom-hood. Don't tell anyone but every time I walk down to the mailbox these days I slide my feet through the leaves and pretend I'm walking down the aisle at my wedding again.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kid Friday

In no particular order, here are some of my recent faves of my three main reasons for blogging...along with some of my recent favorites from the Psalms:
"Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm 51:17
"Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;" Psalm 55:2. Okay, so the other morning I was reading that particular chapter and I was fairly cranky. These are the words that my eyes saw "Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn, I complain, I make noise." Seriously. I read it again and realized what it actually said. And I attempted to snap out of it.

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." Psalm 43:5
"From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy." Psalm 61:2, 3
"O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come." Psalm 65:2
(The blonde is not mine. But my Nory Pory seems to think she is part of his family. She loudly proclaims him to be her "Buddy"!)
"Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me." Psalm 66:20

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caramel Swirl Hunks

Did you trust me? Did you make your Dulce de Leche? If so, have you eaten it all? Given it away as gifts? Keip Looking Up, I was thinking the very same thing about using this delicious caramel as a holiday gift for neighbors. I think perhaps the small glass jam freezing jars would be a more manageable size.
If you don't have homemade Dulce de Leche, you can still make Caramel Swirl Hunks, just buy some caramel sauce at the store. This recipe is from Marcy Goldman's A Passion For Baking. I have tried many of the recipes from this oh-so-tempting baking book. She does not hold back on sugar, butter or white flour. Hers are not exactly healthy treats. She does have one short section at the back of the book on multi-grain recipes. But who can manage to bypass all the refined white sugar and flour and get to the whole wheat? Not me, not with so many beautiful desserts staring me in the face. I do highly recommend this cook book. Without further ado--the Hunks!
Let's get baking! Put your apron on, because you are going to be wiping your hands on it a lot. And put on your self control if you have such powers.The sheer amount of butter and sugar required for this recipe freaked me out. I do so love butter. It doesn't usually scare me. And I have some pretty decadent recipes. But never before have I had to use an entire box of butter for one (un-doubled) recipe. After you close your eyes and melt all the butter and then close your eyes again to dump in all that (3 1/3 C) sugar you can open them and add in one measly little cup of oats that is supposed to make you feel better about these bars.
Then you'll get squeamish again as you crack 4 eggs and pour in what seems like half a bottle of vanilla (4 t).
Then it's time for some leavening.
Dump in the white stuff when no one is looking. I didn't have the heart to sub in whole wheat flour on this recipe. I can't imagine that the sugar, chocolate and caramel would take kindly to me trying to reform them. Who ever heard of reforming something so refined?
Time for the chocolate chips. Now, Marcy calls these bars "brownies". To me a brownie should have a chocolate base. So I rebelled and added a second cup of chocolate chips. One cup of semi-sweet and one cup of milk-chocolate.
The dough is entirely too thick to be easily poured into the prepared pan. You'll build up some muscle as you wield your spatula.
Doesn't that caramel look luscious? Don't worry, I didn't lick any of it off the top.
Swirling has a sort of calming effect on a person. Time to pop these babies in the oven. I really struggled with the baking time. I could not get the brownies to stop jiggling in the middle. Maybe they saw my middle and wanted to join the celebration? While the middle was jiggling away, the edges were beginning to burn, not brown(like my brother in the sun). I finally pulled them out and not a second too soon. I think that were I to use this recipe again I would bake them in a 11 x 13 to spread them a bit thinner. I did not follow Marcy's recommendation to bake them in the pan on top of a parchment lined cookie sheet. She always wants you to use more parchment paper than necessary, in my humble opinion. I don't have a publisher paying for my supplies, so I put the brownie pan directly onto the cookie sheet. And I'm pretty sure that is not why they stayed jiggly in the center.
Um, what happened to those brownies? How weird. It couldn't possibly be that the Gluttonous baker took a sample or two or three or four from the middle before she served her family! Never!
See how gooey they are in the middle? They are awfully delicious. The jury is still out on whether I'll make them again or not. I don't often get sick from eating more than one small brownie--but these little guys are not to be taken lightly.
Sad but true fact--sampling the cooking Dulce de Leche with my piece of dark, dark chocolate was my favorite part of the whole process.

Caramel Swirl Hunks (Marcy Goldman, A Passion for Baking)
2 C unsalted butter, melted
3 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 C white sugar
4 large eggs
4 t pure vanilla extract
1 C quick cook oats
4 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 (13.4 ounce) can dulce de leche or half of the homemade recipe you made last weekend

Preheat the oven to 350. Generously spray 9 x 13 with nonstick cooking spray and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.
In a mixer bowl, blend butter and both sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, and oats and blend well. Fold in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Fold in chocolate chips.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Top with dollops of dulce de leche and then swirl or smear the caramel into the batter.
Bake 38 minutes or until batter is set (not wobbly and jiggly). If brownies seem browned around the edges but jiggly in the center, reduce temperature to 325 and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes longer or until set.
Refrigerate or freeze 1 hour. Cut into large hunks or blocks.
Happy Baking!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Do You Trust Me?

If you do, then you need to make some of this:
Homemade Dulce de Leche!
Right now! And in a day or two I will tell you what to do with it. If you haven't eaten it all in a day or two. Because you might. I made mine yesterday and the jar is suspiciously low. There are just so many ways to enjoy it.

Ducle de Leche
2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

Pour milk into a double boiler. If you don't own one, balance a stainless steel mixing bowl on top of your smallest cooking pot 1/3-1/2 way with water. Set the stove at low heat and cook the milk for 3-6 hours, stirring occasionally.

While it fills your house with that delicious fall smell, you can go about your daily chores. Or go outside to mow the lawn and get distracted by your precious children playing in piles of gorgeous fall leaves.
When you come back inside you'll need to check the caramel. The best way is to use an implement so that you don't burn your fingers. You don't want to use a spoon because that would mean one more dish to wash. The disposable tool I had on hand was the one pictured above. The 72% goes perfectly with the caramel.
Oh Stars! It's getting there.
Once the milk is a deep caramel color it is ready for consumption. Let it cool and then refrigerate. It will become much thicker as it cools. The Dulce de Leche will stay good in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. But seriously, has anyone ever let it last that long?This is a double batch. You will only need half of it to make what I have planned in the next couple of days. So, go to town on tasting and testing. Let me give you some ideas in case your imagination can't get any farther than dipping your finger (or a spoon) into the jar. You could have it over ice cream for dessert, dip some more chocolate it in while reading your current literary treat, or cut up an amazing honey crisp apple for a bed time snack. If you manage to finish the jar before I get the next recipe posted...just make another : )
And yes, that is custom tile back splash behind my "retro" range. We didn't have to pay extra for it when we bought the house.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stick it on Your Pancakes (or waffles)

Getting bored with breakfast? We often do around here. Some folks can eat cold cereal day in and day out and still want more. Others live and die by oatmeal. Around here we like to change it up. We do actually eat a lot of cold cereal. And sometimes oatmeal with applesauce and cinnamon mixed in (and recently at The Tractor's we had steel cut oats with apple crisp on top--now that was to die for. Perhaps I'll post the "recipe" some other time). But several years ago I decided to have pancake morning once a week for the kids. It moves back and forth between Tuesday and Wednesday, depending on which day is story time at the library. The kids know that pancake day also means bath day (don't worry, I usually bathe them more than once a week).

Even pancakes can get a little blase week after week. Perhaps you are feeling the same. If you are--here are some of our favorite pancake topping ideas.
First off--the pancake type. When I make buttermilk pancakes, I want them to be whole wheat or multi grain. By the way, the kids call these pancakes "Aunt Megan pancakes". I suppose because they've had them at Aunt Megan's house. But the irony there is that Uncle Nathan is the one who loves to make pancakes. And I frequently hear around here that mine are not as good as Uncle Nate Dog's.
We like our Aunt Megan pancakes with: maple syrup and snow (powdered sugar) for Ezra,
Nutella and fresh blueberries for me!
Mmmmm....or applesauce and whipped cream--thanks for teaching us that trick Aunt Megan! Now, I thought I had more pictures....but after 15 minutes of searching the hard drive I can't find them. And those are 15 minutes I'll never get back.
You'll have to imagine what they look like from here on out.
The other topping I like on buttermilk pancakes is peanut butter and bananas. That can stick in the throat a bit if you don't grease it with a light amount of syrup.
The second type of pancake we use is the kids favorite. It's the first recipe I ever memorized--at the ripe old age of three. My dad and mom used to let me help them make these pancakes often. We call them Swedish pancakes. They take 3 eggs, 2 C milk and 1 1/3 C flour. Really only white flour will work. Both my sister-in-law and I have tried to use whole wheat and it just ain't happenin'. Oh yeah, they also take a couple T of sugar. The batter is blended up and poured onto the griddle. They are basically mini-crepes. They are delicious. We like to eat them plain, as fast as we can cook them. But they also make delectable "jam roll ups." Simply pour a puddle of your favorite jam in the middle, roll up and eat. Now I've never been to Europe to taste a famous crepe with Nutella. But in my own dining room I regularly eat a mini-crepe with both Nutella and homemade raspberry jam. And I didn't have to learn a foreign language, take a long plane ride or pay to stay in a hotel where I share a bathroom with everyone else on the same floor : ) Not that I'm against going to Europe.
Our third most frequent pancake is the Dutch Baby. Or the "Puffery" as my kids have taken to calling it. Some folks call them an oven pancake because they bake up in a 9x13 in the oven. They can be eaten plain with a dusting of powdered sugar, with jam, or with syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. They fare well with fresh in season fruit. The beauty of a Dutch Baby is the high protein. One oven pancake takes five eggs.
Let's review. Your grocery list now includes:
powdered sugar
heavy cream for whipping
peanut butter
fresh jams
blueberries (or other fresh fruits)

Bonus! Below is my favorite easy recipe for a sugary, sticky, delicious fruit topping that works best on waffles.

Fruit Topping
1 T corn starch
1/3 C sugar
1 T lemon juice
3 T water
Combine in sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add 2-3 cups fresh fruit and resume boil. Boil and stir until thick (about 2-3 minutes). Serve warm on waffles.
My favorite fruits to use are blueberries or a tropical frozen mix of mango, pineapple & papaya. You could add a sprinkle of dried sweetened coconut to the top of the waffle if you use the tropical mix. Really, any frozen fruit will do.
Happy Fast Breaking!