Friday, May 30, 2008

Yee Howdy!

Look what came in the mail! I am so excited. I finally got around to ordering from MaryJanes Farm. You ask who is MaryJane? Well, she is an organic farmer based in Moscow, Idaho. I have been following her for several years. She has written several books on being a farm girl and she has her own magazine. She runs an organic farming school for wannabe farmers and has a whole line of organic camping food that you can get at REI. You see, I secretly wanted to be a farmer. Yea, I know, I am not the farming type. I can't grow anything, farm animals scare me and I probably couldn't handle the work load, but I like the idea of living off the land and having sustainable crops. I like knowing where my food comes from and what my kids are putting in their mouths. I like MaryJanes ideals! So, I ordered her get acquainted pack and look what I got. It comes with a copy of her magazine, her organic biscuit mix, a packet of her kettle chili and red pesto pasta, a task bar (which is like an energy bar) and chill over powder. The chill over powder is what I really wanted to try, but since I was ordering I might as well try a sampling of her products. The chill over powder is a gelatin type powder made from Kanten which is a sea vegetable. I am very curious how it holds up. She writes prolifically in her book about this gelatin like product. She also has many recipes that quite frankly look good. J loves gelatin and I thought this would be a good for him food. So I will have to let you all know how it turns out this weekend.

Let's Play

They are so engrossed in their Nintendo DS games. Look at all three of them. You can tell its the weekend. Their brains go off learning mode and goes into gamer mode. I really don't let them play all day although they would if they could. This summer they will forgo the Nintendo games and spend a good part of there day "fishing" for crawdads in the creek behind our home. Or they will pretend they have to defend their fort they made by the creek and fight imaginary battles. Considering we live in sort of a big city, they really do get to enjoy the outdoors a lot. Swimming, fishing, biking, running around and playing kick the can. Yes, I did say kick the can. My kids and the neighborhood kids really enjoy playing this "new" game. We have only two more weeks of school and then they will be free to explore and have fun. Oh! its good to be a kid!

Ignore how dirty the table is please!
After I wrote all this, they broke out into a fight. Brotherly bliss did not last long. Sigh!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

L'Opera Cake!

This month’s Daring Bakers (DB) challenge was L’Opera Cake hosted by our esteemed founders, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Yvonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, along with new DBer’s, Fran of apples peaches pumpkin pie and Shea of Whiskful. You ask what is an opera cake? Well let me tell you my friends, it is an elegant French dessert that is made up of five components; a cake layer, syrup, butter cream, ganache and a glaze. At first when I read this challenge, I was not sure if I could pull it off. It seemed very intimidating. I had heard of an opera cake before, but had never tasted or seen one person. It definitely was a challenge. I started the cake on Sunday right after mass around noon and it literally took me the whole day to finish it. We were able to choose the flavorings as long as it was light. A traditional opera cake is made with dark chocolate, but this challenge was a light in taste and color opera cake to coincide with Barbara’s Taste of Yellow event, to benefit cancer awareness through the Live strong foundation. I felt that this was a great idea because we all know someone affected by cancer. As I have written in previous posts, my mother is recovering from cancer as is my mother-in-law. We found out about each of their diagnosis’ one week apart from each other. So this cause is very near and dear to my heart. So this challenge is dedicated to Barbara of winosandfoodies.

So trying to figure out my flavor profile was interesting. At first I thought I might try something more challenging like a fruit base perhaps in mango or even strawberry. I discarded that idea and decided to keep it simple since I had so many components to this cake that I had not tried. I finally decided on what I had on hand which was orange. I flavored the syrup with orange flower water that I use for my baklava. It gave the syrup a very floral note and had a beautiful orange finish to it. For the butter cream I used orange extract and for the ganache I used Triple Sec to flavor it. I liked the orange flavor with the white chocolate glaze. In general, I think it turned out well. I made a few mistakes, the first being I did not use all my syrup to soak the cake layers. I was afraid it would turn out to soggy, but in fact the cake seemed a little on the dry side to me. I also tried to cut back on cost a little and used white chocolate chunk chips instead of block white chocolate. I think that affected the consistency of the glaze. I am not a white chocolate fan and didn’t want to break the bank with this challenge. I think mine didn't turn out as pretty as some, but the taste was great and I had fun with the challenge. What more could you ask for! The recipe is on Yvonne's blog link if you want to give it a try. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Flank steak is big in our house. Hubby's family grew up with the stuff. So when I married into their brood, I learned to cook this flat but flavorful meat. Two of our boys love steak so it is a semi-regular in our home. I like to grill the steak with just some kosher salt and pepper or sometimes I will use some Santa Maria seasoning on the steak. What I love about the flank steak besides the taste, is I can usually get 2 to 3 meals off one steak. As our sons grow I know that will not happen, but for right now I can really make it stretch. Our second meal from the flank steak is always steak tacos. This is hubby's favorite! I slice the steak against the grain and add a little of canola oil to a pan. I pan fry the meat until it is heated through and then I rough chop the steak up. We serve it Guadalajara style, which is with corn tortillas, chopped cilantro, chopped onion, crumbled queso or shredded cheddar/jack cheese mix and lime wedges. I will serve this with homemade Mexican rice. Delicious! If I am able to get another meal from the steak, I usually make french dip sandwiches. I got the Au jus recipe here. I warmed up the meat in a pan and then assembled the sandwich. It's a really good, rib sticking, man/woman loving sandwich!

The beautiful salad with the steak was extra yummy! Notice the green dressing. It's a great dressing from Mariel Hemingway. What I like about it is it is made from spinach and basil. So not only are you eating your veggies in your salad but your dressing is also veggies. In my book its win win! The salad was filled with romaine lettuce, radicchio, prosciutto that I baked in the oven until crisp, a crumbled Spanish blue cheese and roasted baby beets. Whats not to love!

Amazing Dressing (adapted from Mariel Hemingway)

4 cups fresh organic spinach, washed and dried

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of sun dried tomato bruschetta ( I found mine at Trader Joe's. The original recipe uses 10 kalamata olives and some juice from the olives. I liked the taste of the dressing with the sun dried tomato better)

Combine all ingredients into food processor or blender and mix until smooth.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Am Still Here!

I have neglected my blog for sometime. Sorry, really I am! Life has just been a little crazy for me. Let's recap what has transpired in the last week. It started off with me super gluing my fingers together. Yes, I panicked! I am known for being a klutz and after we unstuck them, hubby chimes in that he is amazed that I still have all ten fingers. Our school puts on a spring fair every year and my friend Lisa and I head it up. The last week was spent coordinating the fair and running around crazy to finish up all the last minute details. Of course the day of the fair the temperature hit a whooping 106! Not fair! How does life get so hectic? Between baseball, field trips and school fairs life is just whizzing by.

"Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been"
Mark Twain

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to two wonderful women. The first picture is of my Mom. I love this picture and how it shows her goofy personality. My mom is a very funny, generous, caring and loving mother and grandmother. She has had a very difficult year battling cancer, but through it all she has been a trouper. The second picture is of my mother-in-law. This is also one of my favorite pictures of my hubby's family. I just love the way my father-in-law is looking at her. The picture is from the 70's and it just cracks me up. My mother-in-law is a truly remarkable women. She also has been battling cancer, but you wouldn't know it. She has a strength about her that puts people in awe. I have never met anyone with a better outlook on life. By the way, check out the handsome young man behind my father-in-law, that's hubby in his college days. Happy Mother's Day mom and Barbara.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

There is something about the smell of pumpkin cooking. Maybe it reminds me of fall and all the wonderful autumn smells. I was excited to see in Ellie Krieger's new cookbook, The Food You Crave, a recipe for pumpkin pie muffins. The recipe looked delicious, packed with all that wonderful pumpkin pie spices. I liked that it also used half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. The recipe was good and had all the smells I was looking for. The flavor I thought could use a little more jazzing up. I think the next time I bake these, I will add some crystallized ginger to the recipe. I think I needed more ginger in the recipe. I also omitted the Pepita's on top of the muffins ( I am not a fan of Pepita's). Instead I added some sunflower seeds on half of the muffins and a little sanding sugar on the other half. Overall, a good recipe that I would make again. J loved the muffins and promptly ate two of them this morning. Good endorsement from a 9 year old.

Pumpkin Pie Muffins (adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave.)

Cooking Spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour ( I used King Arthur's white whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray or use paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking soda, salt and the spices. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, molasses, oil and one of the eggs until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each about two-thirds full. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What's For Dinner?

I wanted to try a new pasta for dinner last night, so I turned to last months Cooking Light for inspiration. Their cooking class article was with Lidia Bastianich on making pasta. I was craving a mushroom pasta after that wonderful lunch hubby and I had a Biba's. Lidia's Makaruni Pasta with Morel Mushroom Sauce seemed to fit the bill. It looked like a rustic pasta with wonderful earthy sauce. Well, the pasta was easy to make and it turned out delicious. The morel mushroom sauce was good, but it was on the expensive side to make. It called for dried morel's and truffle oil. I decided to substitue a dried northwest mix of mushrooms that included some morels and trumpet mushrooms. I also found a small bottle of truffle oil that was not too costly. Believe it or not, Whole Foods actually had the truffle oil cheaper than my local grocery store. The sauce was very good and had a nice balance to it. I would make this dish again.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Cookie Love!

So, do you think I overdid it? I was supposed to bring in some cookies to J's class for his birthday celebration, but I couldn't just bring in one kind of cookie, I had to make three different kinds of cookies! His class is on the large side, so my snicker doodle recipe (actually, its Martha Stewart's recipe) didn't quite make enough. So, I thought I would make another recipe, but this time I did my chocolate chip cookie (also Martha's) recipe. I like this chocolate chip recipe because the cookies are on the cakey side. They also are not too sweet, which I tend to find most chocolate chip cookie are like. Since I was baking, I might as well make another cookie batch, so I made the surprise cookies. These were fun cookies with a marshmallow hidden inside. They are a dense cake like chocolate drop cookie. Very cookie-rific!
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