Sunday, December 1, 2019

Baking Buddy









As I prepared my Thanksgiving cooking schedule, Dean volunteered to help me make the pies, specifically the pumpkin pie. He helped get the dough together and then came back when I was shaping the crust. He used some dough scraps to make a tiny crust. I put a little filling in it and baked it up. It was so cute, about the size of a quarter. He popped it into his mouth before I could snap a picture of it! Also, showing my kid a sweater at the resale shop while thinking there's no way he'd be interested, only to have him declare it his favorite sweater and want to wear it all the time, even when in the kitchen, was the best.

I got the pumpkin pie in the oven, only to forget to start the timer. Eventually I checked on it.
The crust is a bit burned, and it has more cracks than I'd prefer, but everyone seems to love it. Whew! I made Gianna's favorite, a Brown Sugar Yogurt Tart. I had planned on making a Tart Tatin, which I've never made, but then I saw the frozen peach pie filling in the freezer and decided that it was meant to be. It was a gamble, trying something untested for a family holiday, but it totally paid off! It took over an hour to bake. It smelled like summer. I also made a Green Bean Casserole from Smitten Kitchen. It is so good. I make it every year.

Our approach to Black Friday is to avoid stores (too much of a zoo!) and get out in nature as a family. We played two games and took a walk in the forest. It was great. For dinner I made one of my favorite comfort food dishes: Pasta Pomodoro. I love it because it is delicious - like restaurant pasta delicious - and I almost always have the ingredients on hand. Canned tomatoes, garlic, spaghetti, parmesan; so easy and simple.

A couple of weeks ago we were at the park with friends. The park is across the street from the kids' old preschool. When there were in school there they got to participate in Soup Day once a month where each kid would bring in a vegetable and they would all prepare the veggies and turn them into a big pot of soup for lunch. Such sweet memories. Well, it happened to be Soup Day when we were at the park that day, and as we were shivering at the picnic table while Gianna ran with her friends, preschool teacher Brynn walked over to us bearing bowls of hot leftover Soup Day soup. It was such a treat. Dean especially loved it and continued the talk about how delicious it was the next day. I took note and decided to make my own special soup yesterday for lunch. One of the great thing about Soup Day soup is that it is different every time because kids bring different veggies each time. So I just used what I had; carrots, celery, a few tablespoons of starina pasta, onion, garlic, dry herbs, a can of cannellini beans, and chicken broth. I made a small amount of soup figuring that only Dean and I would eat it. Vincent isn't much of a soup eater and it had too many veggies for Gianna's taste. It was delicious and Dean and I both really enjoyed it. I was especially surprised to walk into the kitchen and see that Vincent had eaten the rest of it and enjoyed it! I fall in the trap of assuming that my family won't eat something new/different a lot. This was a great reminder that we aren't all completely set in our ways and making something as simple as soup can open new doors.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

This and That











Earlier this month I took Gianna to The Portland Book Festival where we got to see a panel of some her favorite graphic novel author/illustrators. Despite standing in a long line to get in, another line to get a seat, and an even longer line to get books signed, we had a great time. We came home that night, told Dean all about it, and then both kids disappeared into their rooms to draw and write their own comics. The best!

On Friday we got a new front door! After living here for five years we finally got the house painted last summer. It has looked amazing, except for the old scratched up purple front door that we never liked. Now when I pull up to the house it all looks like it should. The only funny thing is that the previous door didn't have windows in it and now the light coming through catches my eye and instinctively I think the door is ajar. While the door installer was here I sorted through the kitchen cabinets, throwing out candy from last Christmas, and weeded out extraneous mugs. While sorting I found a baby tooth I had stashed one night in a cup after the tooth fairy came to visit. I'm crossing my fingers that I can figure out which kid it belongs too...

This week is Thanksgiving and the kids have the whole week off of school. Yesterday and today they had their parent/teacher conferences. Great reports for both of them! We ran some errands, chatted with a sweet elderly German woman in the grocery store check out line who encouraged us to visit her homeland, and went to visit a new bakery. It was glorious. We each picked something out. I chose a croissant stuffed with whipped cream and strawberries, dusted with powdered sugar. Gianna picked an almond croissant, Dean a pastry covered with raspberry jam, whipped cream and fresh raspberries. We were all very happy. And now we are home and I am cuddled under a blanket, ignoring all of the baking and cooking that is waiting for me in the kitchen. I've written up my Thanksgiving cooking schedule and I'm already behind by one pumpkin pie. Send reinforcements!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Minimal














My husband was out of town for almost two weeks and my cooking got quite minimal. So minimal that most of it wasn't worthy of snapping a photo or two. Lots of beans and rice, take out burritos, pasta, and chili. Once he came back, and I didn't have to do everything anymore, I braised some pork, made custard for our Great British Baking Show viewing, and baked some Jam Buns. I tried putting raspberry jam and lemon curd in the buns (which are more like biscuits) and, while the lemon curd was delicious, it spilled everywhere. The jam is a better choice, especially since I made them to go backpacks to be eaten for snacks at school. This week I've been consumed with listening to the impeachment hearings, so I've kept cooking fairly minimal; spatchcocked chicken, sausage with squash and orzo, beans and rice, pasta with meat sauce, chili, etc. Easy and pleasing.

We've had a knitting renaissance here, with both kids picking up their needles after many months or possibly even a year off of knitting. They're both working on scarves. I'm working on a hat that I started forever ago as well.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Full Fall









Last night I made a fire in our wood stove because it was so cold, but now that it is the next afternoon it is warm and wonderful outside. Usually the 6-9 months long rainy season has begun by November 1st, but not this year. This is my favorite part of fall; wearing sweaters, sitting by the fire, warm-ish afternoon walks, chilly nights. I recently got two new sweaters. Well, really the same sweater in two colors; blue and pink. I'm wearing it in the bathroom selfie pictured above. So cozy.

After the cinnamon croissant loaf that we all loved in my last post I decided to bake a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread. It was good, but needed to be rolled thinner to accommodate more cinnamon/sugar goodness in every slice. Lessons for next time... Over the weekend I made French toast with it which was really, really good. I roast a whole chicken almost every week, usually spatchcocked. It cooks quicker that way and more of the skin gets crispy, which is a huge bonus. This week I tried a technique I read about in Dynamite Chicken where the chicken is coated in cornstarch and seared breast side down for the first half of the cooking time. It did result in a crispier chicken, although the skin tore a bit when I flipped it. I think I'll do it again. The crispy chicken is the only reason my kids eat the chicken at all. Honestly it's what I want too!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Reading & Feeding






















My youngest has caught the reading bug! Two or three weeks ago he would only "preview" books by flipping through them, but he wouldn't really try to read the words. Then something clicked in his head and he decided to read. He had brought home a Captain Underpants chapter book the previous week and I guess the chapter I was reading to him at bedtime just wasn't enough. After a week or two of him wanting to read and re-read the first chapter or two of Captain Underpants, he switched to the first Harry Potter book. Every chance he gets he asks me if he can read to me. He keeps starting over at the beginning, learning the words so much that he has memorized it. He even wrote out part of it at school!

I've been cooking up a storm lately. A few months ago I subscribed to NYTimes Cooking. They send me emails a few times a week with recipe and menu suggestions. Normally I am routinely unsubscribing from email lists, but I love these emails. Anyway, recently I've made Linguine with Crispy Chickpeas (where the rosemary infuses the oil and thus the whole dish with it's essence), Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric (I ate this for lunch all week and looked forward to it each day, even the last serving!) both from NYTimes Cooking, plus my standard brined and spatchcocked chicken (eternally loved), pasta with sausage and broccoli (something I just made up), Bolognese with Vodka Sauce (I had planned on making it in my slow cooker but ran out of time and just made it on the stove - really good!), Chicken Paprikash, and roasted delicata squash with maple syrup. This is the season for winter squash. I have a table full of picky eaters, myself included, and we all enjoy this squash.

Last week I decided I wouldn't try to make something to go along with the theme of the Great British Baking Show and instead just made my favorite oatmeal cookies. They are so good. I've been making the same recipe since I was in high school. What's left of them is now in a bag in the freezer and I think pulling one out of the freezer and eating right away is possibly even better than eating them freshly baked! As it is Friday today we will watch another baking episode tonight. One of the bakers' challenges has to do with ice cream (I always peek ahead!) so I bought some chocolate covered ice cream bon-bons. While I was picking up the bon-bons I bought a cinnamon croissant loaf and it is really, really good. The kids each had two toasted slices after school. I had one with a cup of tea and secretly wanted a second one too...