Friday, August 31, 2012

A Girl in love with Puppies!

Our friend Amy has been talking to our kids about getting a dog for years!  I remember her telling Lucy that she was going to get a dog sometime and Lucy took that as, "Amy's getting us a dog".  How do you break the news to a 3 year old that that dog will be Amy's dog not her dog?  That was a couple of years ago.  There has been countless online searching for dogs, video watching of dogs (on Amy's iphone), dreaming about "the day", thinking about breeds and sizes and colors and names.  Ironically, since the beginning of this Amy-dog pursuit, we got our first family dog, Scout, and have entered the world of dog-love.  So, the time finally came for Amy and her sister, Ashley, to get that long-sought after puppy.

They found the breeder and decided on the dog, and then we all waited for this puppy to enter the neighborhood.  Amy decided on the name Patsy Cline for her girl Golden Doodle puppy. It really is the perfect name.  Amy, lover of country music, farm girl at heart, clever in all she does, named her puppy Patsy Cline.  Well, Lucy had to have a quick education about this name sake.  So one Sunday afternoon, we had a Patsy Cline YouTube overview and spent some time seeing, hearing, and singing some Patsy.  Lucy studied her outfit and tried to replicate it.  She began to dream about the day she and Patsy would meet.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Anniversary Lemon Berry Poundcake

My husband and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary last week.

I have never been good at keeping up with people's anniversaries, celebrating people's anniversaries, (even my parents), or even doing a great job with my own anniversary-honoring.

However, there have been a couple of people in my history who have honored my anniversary in really special ways.  On our 2nd anniversary, our friend, Candy, left a gift on the door step of our house to help us celebrate our anniversary.  It was a Scrabble game and a handmade "Anniversary Quiz".

Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School – Lemon Bars

the accidental heart that Lainey bit into her apple last week
It’s back to school time.  Our big kids started back early this year:  August 1.  Our preschooler still has a couple of weeks of summer left. Last year, she didn't start until after Labor Day, which she appropriately called "Later Day". Ironically true for us. It was "later", much later than her brother and sister's start date. We joked about "Later Day" for a month.

I love back to school time.  A return to a rhythm, a schedule and more structured days.  I’m passionate about school supplies.  In fact, I always buy some for myself as I am shopping for the kids. It's hard for me to resist new pens, index cards, glue sticks and composition notebooks!

The first day of school is always momentous.  We take photos on the front steps.  

We take an apple to the teacher and some zinnias from the garden, while they still remain. 
Though this year, our oldest started middle school and the students are so independent and have several teachers.  He took an apple for the teacher and set it on his desk, but I faced the fact that for Asher, the time for first day flowers might be over. It's all part of us learning how to navigate life in middle school. Luckily we several more years of elementary school life. 

At our elementary school, the teachers have work days before school starts and parents sign up to bring food for lunch and breakfast for the faculty.  It’s such a treat to cook for a group of teachers who are thankful for homemade goodies and are working hard to get ready for the start of another year.  I always tell our teachers at the beginning of the year that I am not available to be a room mom or go on many field trips because I am teaching my college classes at the same time that my kids are in school.  However, I can cook for them.  And I try to live up to that commitment.  I tell them I will support them, back them, pray for them, and bake for them! 

So, I signed up to bring wraps and lemon bars.

Lemon Bars are a favorite of mine. There was already a chocolate-something spoken for on the sign-up form, otherwise I might have done something chocolate-chippish.  That sounds like comfort on a work-day. So my next best thought was refreshing Lemon Bars.  I grew up with Lemon Bars as a standard party dessert. A few years ago I tried Barefoot Contessa’s recipe.  It’s divine.  I made a couple of adaptions (i.e. - 2 lemons instead of 6 to be zested).  This is now my go to lemon bar recipe.

I got great feedback from the faculty. One of our beloved teachers called and left me a voicemail about how hard it was to stop eating them.  She said she would have eaten more if no one was watching. They evidently hit the spot.

Lemon Bars (adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
Add Timer
For the crust:
2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
grated zest of 2 lemons
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.  Dust with confectioners' sugar and cut into triangles.

A few tips:
*There is something valuable about having the eggs and butter at room temperature.  It really makes a difference in how well things are blended.  If you don't have time to get your eggs to room temp. you can always place the eggs (still in their shells) in a bowl of warm water and soak them for a few minutes.

*If you, like me, usually have salted butter instead of unsalted butter on hand, you may use it and cut the salt back. In this case, you might omit the salt altogether since it's only 1/8 teaspoon.

*When you need to chill the crust dough before spreading it in the pan, you can always freeze it for a few minutes instead. Just make sure you set a timer, or you might forget and have frozen crust!  You can also speed along the cooling of the finished product by placing it in the refrigerator instead of having to wait as it cools on the counter.

*My friend Melissa S. loves Lemon Bars and requested them when her baby girl was born.  I forgot to put the powdered sugar on top.  We knew something wasn’t right the minute we tasted them.  Then we realized I had forgotten the powdered sugar.  I quickly sprinkled powdered sugar on them and they were great.  (So don’t forget that step- it not only looks so pretty but adds a sweetness and texture to offset the if 3 cups of granulated sugar wasn't enough).

*Growing up we called these Lemon Squares.  However, I like cutting them diagonally and making them triangles or sometimes long and skinny, making them rectangular.  Hence, bars, rather than squares. Squares just seem so restrictive!

*The night I was making them for the teacher work day, Dave was out of town and the kids were in bed when I discovered that I was quickly running out of sugar.  The recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar and I had less than 2 cups.  I knew I couldn’t leave the house and had to get these made.  I was mid-stream,  so, I improvised and used the Turbinado sugar that I use for sprinkling on muffins and it worked.  The color is a little more brownish than is normal, but they tasted terrific.  (Just so you know)!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Spent, Yet Filled Up

I returned from my trip to India spent and yet filled up.  

I was utterly exhausted from the 2 days of travel including riding down a fog-filled mountain to a train station, 
a look out the train door
riding on an old train for 7 hours, 
spending a few hours in Delhi- eating, shopping, riding in a rickshaw “auto”, 
savoring our last day with our friends – and then boarding a plane for the next 15 or so hours (India’s night through America’s night), 
and then a connecting flight from Newark to Nashville.  We were spent.

me and the girls

And yet, I was filled up.

Being with a family that I adore and dear friends,

having a ball with sweet, sweet girls,

exploring a far-off land,

listening, loving, taking in the tastes and sights.

Melinda buying mangoes for us

And then upon arriving home in the morning, I faced life:  piles of laundry, duties, busyness, and unfortunately some funky stomach thing.  

I had great aspirations of blogging about Indian food and non-Indian food we experienced on our trip.  My co-traveler, Matt, even suggested I devote the next month to writing about food from our trip. 
But the stomach bug, and jet lag, and re-entry has not brought the opportunities to create Indian dishes to share with you….yet.  I haven't had the stomach or the time to attempt making curry potatoes, dosas and chana paneer.

I have tried a couple of the the "non-Indian" dishes we enjoyed there: cabbage salad and the baked oatmeal that we ate at the Snader’s house in India, but my attempts weren’t yummy enough to post.  They tasted much better there and I must have done something wrong with the oatmeal, because Brent's was superb and mine was crumbly.  I will keep working on that recipe and will hopefully post it soon.

In the midst of trying to get my head back on straight and adjust to life on this side of the world, Dave had a birthday, Dave’s dad came for a few days to visit, my kids started school and I am preparing for my classes to begin in the coming days!  I was thinking about what to post first. I have been daydreaming of recipes and photos and stories intermittently while I have been tediously constructing syllabi and course assignments. 

Before it’s too far gone, I think I must share with you the treat I made for Dave’s birthday.
I made him Red Velvet Cake…of course. (If you haven't read about our Red Velvet Relationship and you want a laugh READ HERE).
I gave him the chance to opt for Coconut Cake this year, but he stuck with his regular.

He decided he really wanted it 2 days old.  It gets mushier and the frosting soaks in more after a couple of days.  So 2 day old Red Velvet was what he got.
His birthday landed on the "Meet the Teacher night", which was not that honoring to him.  So, I invited a few of his pals over for some late night snacks, cake, olympic watching and Farkle-playing. 

Farkle is one of the things I learned in India that I have brought back with me.
Have you ever played it?  It’s not an Indian game.  (You can buy it at Target.)  But my young friends, Asha and Anna taught us how to play, and the adults and children had a ball playing intense and fun-filled Farkle matches! It was a highlight of our trip and I knew my family would love the game too. It's a simple game of dice, counting, chance and strategy. A new favorite for us!

For Dave's gathering, I made:
Guacamole with Chips & Salsa
Hanky Panky 
& Cake

I have posted about most all of these items except the Hanky Panky. 
I have to say, it’s pretty GROSS, in the yummy kind of way.
It is ugly, and fatty, and men LOVE IT (unless they are vegetarian, that is).
It’s a recipe my mom got when I was in high school from friends in Cleveland, Ohio.  They got the recipe from the Cleveland Newspaper.  Mom started making it as a party food.
It’s a meaty, cheesy bready appetizer.  It has a weird name: Hanky Panky. Scandalous, I know!

Dave looked up the definition of Hanky Panky and found that it is defined as:
1. questionable or underhanded activity
2. sexual dalliance
So, I’m not sure how this recipe fits this definition.  I guess it is a questionable activity to brown sausage, ground beef, velveeta cheese and mushrooms and pile it on rye cocktail bread. 

As I was doing some online searching for the reason for the interesting name of this recipe, I found this on

“Hanky Pankies, made with sausage, cheese, and a touch of Worchestershire sauce, have been a staple at Cleveland parties, tailgating events, and outdoor get-togethers for decades. Ask any Northeast Ohioan to name a quintessential Cleveland party food and you'll most likely hear 'Hanky Pankies.'
For an upscale variation of this sandwich, try the ones served at 87 West 2 at Crocker Park. They use chorizo and goat cheese.”

So…maybe it’s an Ohio thing.
And chorizo and goat cheese…yes! YUM!
I must try that!

Hanky Panky

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. HOT ground pork sausage
1 lb. velveeta cheese, cubed
1 small can of sliced mushrooms, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
cocktail rye bread (40ish pieces)

Brown meat.  Drain. Add cheese – stir until melted. 
Add remaining ingredients.
Spread a blob on cocktail rye.
Broil until melted and fully warmed.

 As I was making these, I kept saying, “I love you, Dave”.  I said, “this goes against what I believe in”. “Processed Cheese Product and 2 logs of meat all melded together”, “the things you do for love”. 
Of course I ate 2 of them, and they are really tasty, just not my typical fare.

One of the perks of this recipe is that you can make them ahead of time, freeze them on baking sheets, then pile them in Ziploc bags and pull them out to broil when you want to serve them.

I guess you do all kinds of things for love:  

like travel across the world,

or make cheesy-meaty snacks and Red Velvet cake,  

or pitch in to take care of kids to free your friend, or spouse, or daughter, or sister to go on an international trip (like my family and friends did),

or contribute financially to support a costly trip to India  (like so many friends did).

I am so grateful, so spent and so filled up.