Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Ian

Happy 7th Birthday Ian!!! We love you so much!!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Daring Baker's challenge- Bakewell Tart (better late than never)

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

I wasn't so nervous about this challenge as I was about the strudel, but I wasn't super excited either. It didn't sound that great to me. I have never made a tart before. I've dreamed of making beautiful fruit tarts with creamy pastry cream and luscious summer berrys. This didn't fall into that category. I figured, "well, I get to buy a tart pan so no big deal."

I always use unsalted butter in my cooking/baking. On recommendation from a friend I splurged and purchased plugra butter. It is a European butter, and we found the taste pretty creamy. I would purchase it again for recipes where you really want the butter flavor to come out. It is expensive, so I would reserve it for those "special recipes." The crust on this tart was was like a shortbread, so it was perfect for this recipe.

I started with the crust. It was pretty easy to put together. It suggests grating the butter frozen. I grated it from the fridge. If I did it again I would freeze the butter. It started to melt slightly in my hand towards the end. Off to the fridge it went. The dough was very sticky and hard to work with. I hand to call in the "Pie King" who was complaining as well. He got it rolled out a little more. At this point I said just put it in there and I will figure something out. So I did a little patching, and off to the freezer it went. Meanwhile I made the Frangipane. I ground the almonds and mixed the custard in my mixer. This step was pretty straightforward. I choose a cherry jam for spreading on top of the crust, because I like cherry and almond together. Then I placed the Frangipane on top and into the oven it went. It looked pretty nice when it was done, Brian said it smelled really good. I was skeptical, but was trying to keep an open mind. I served it to some of my extended family after dinner one night. Most everyone liked it. Susie said "This would would be really good with a cup of coffee." Liza really liked the flavor, she said it was nice and light. Brian said it tasted really good. Ron said "It tastes like what the port- a -potty on the golf course smells like. (I told you I would write it!) I thought it was fine, not bad, but not great. The flavor did remind me of something you would have for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee. If you like nuts I'm sure you would love it. I probably won't make it again, because so many people I know either have nut allergies or just plain don't like nuts. The only change I made was adding 1 tsp. almond extract to the Frangipane instead of 1/2 tsp. Here is the recipe and some history on the tart if you are interested.

Bakewell tarts…er…puddings combine a number of dessert elements but still let you show off your area’s seasonal fruits.
Like many regional dishes there’s no “one way” to make a Bakewell Tart…er…Pudding, but most of today’s versions fall within one of two types. The first is the “pudding” where a layer of jam is covered by an almondy pastry cream and baked in puff pastry. The second is the “tart” where a rich shortcrust pastry holds jam and an almondy sponge cake-like filling.
The version we’re daring you to make is a combination of the two: a sweet almond-flavoured shortcrust pastry, frangipane and jam.

Bakewell Tart History and Lore
Flan-like desserts that combine either sweet egg custard over candied fruit or feature spiced ground almonds in a pastry shell have Mediaeval roots. The term “Bakewell pudding” was first penned in 1826 by Meg Dods; 20 years later Eliza Acton published a recipe that featured a baked rich egg custard overtop 2cm of jam and noted,
“This pudding is famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of our northern counties where it is usually served on all holiday occasions.”
By the latter half of the 1800s, the egg custard evolved into a frangipane-like filling; since then the quantity of jam decreased while the almond filling increased.
This tart, like many of the world's great foods has its own mythic beginnings…or several mythic beginnings. Legend has it in 1820 (or was it in the 1860s?) Mrs. Greaves, landlady of The White Horse Inn in Bakewell, Derbyshire (England), asked her cook to produce a pudding for her guests. Either her instructions could have been clearer or he should have paid better attention to what she said because what he made was not what she asked for. The cook spread the jam on top of the frangipane mixture rather than the other way around. Or maybe instead of a sweet rich shortcrust pastry case to hold the jam for a strawberry tart, he made a regular pastry and mixed the eggs and sugar separately and poured that over the jam—it depends upon which legend you follow.
Regardless of what the venerable Mrs. Greaves’ cook did or didn’t do, lore has it that her guests loved it and an ensuing pastry-clad industry was born. The town of Bakewell has since played host to many a sweet tooth in hopes of tasting the tart in its natural setting.
Bakewell tarts are a classic English dessert, abounding in supermarket baking sections and in ready-made, mass-produced forms, some sporting a thick sugary icing and glazed cherry on top for decorative effect.
Enjoy it with a cup of tea or coffee or just eat it sneaky slice by sneaky slice until, to your chagrin, you realise the whole tart has somehow disappeared despite you never having pulled out a plate, fork or napkin with which to eat it.

Is it a tart or is it a pudding?
Someone once said something like “The Bakewell pudding is a dessert. The Bakewell tart is that girl over there.”
It’s a debate that rages on and we aren’t taking sides on this one. But we will say that many people call this pudding a tart.
While we’re at it...The etymology of pudding is a rather interesting and slightly convoluted one.* The naming confusion may come from the British manner of referring to the dessert course as ‘pudding’ (as well as referring to fat babies by the same name, though we don’t think that is what was the inspiration in this case). And so any dessert is a pudding until another name comes along and adds clarity to what it really is.
* nb: Annemarie had to electronically restrain Jasmine from delving into another treatise, threatening to remove her digital scale, personally autographed copies of How To Eat by Nigella Lawson and A.S. Byatt’s Possession and toss her kitchen footstool into the squidgy marsh up the road (really…Jasmine’s kitchen appears to be designed by a 6’4” fast food-eating engineer named Martin, Chuck or perhaps Buford) Anyone interested in hearing or reading her wax lyrical about puddings should just email her directly.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding
Makes one 23cm (9” tart)Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)Resting time: 15 minutesBaking time: 30 minutesEquipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin
One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)Bench flour250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadabilityOne quantity frangipane (recipe follows)One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tartPlace the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.
The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Sweet shortcrust pastry
Prep time: 15-20 minutesResting time: 30 minutes (minimum)Equipment needed: bowls, box grater, cling film
225g (8oz) all purpose flour30g (1oz) sugar2.5ml (½ tsp) salt110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)2 (2) egg yolks2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract (optional)15-30ml (1-2 Tbsp) cold water
Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prep time: 10-15 minutesEquipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened125g (4.5oz) icing sugar3 (3) eggs2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract125g (4.5oz) ground almonds30g (1oz) all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.



Friday, June 26, 2009

16 years ago we said "I do"

Yes, today is our 16th anniversary! Have I told you lately how much I LOVE my husband? Well, if you didn't know it's a lot!!! In honor of our special day, we decided to go away to a Bed and Breakfast yesterday, and just came back this afternoon. It was sooo nice to get away for a "romance celebration" as Ian called it. Here are a few photos from the Inn.

The light fixtures are all original to the home. This one just happens to be a Tiffany.

This is the original ceiling that was hand stenciled and actual gold was added to it, so it would shimmer.

More to come!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bits of Encouragement

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Ephesians 5:1-2

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Girls

About a week ago I got together with my college roomies. We have been getting together for the last ten years or so. We try to get together every other year.

This year our friend Sandi (or Spunk as we call her) graciously hosted us in her home. We literally live all over the world/country, so getting together is very special!

We went to a cute, little riverside town and walked around and had dinner there.

Brian and the kiddos and "Uncle Shaney" crashed our party on Saturday for lunch.

We visited our alma mater to see the new building and walked around campus. We watched a few movies, all were good (New in Town, Persuasion, and Bride and Prejudice). We always take some time out of the weekend to share what is on our hearts and to pray for each other. I really treasure this time that we have with each other, just as I treasure their friendship.

It is so hard to believe that we have known each other for almost 20 years! We have all changed and grown. We are all very different, but we still care for one another deeply. I had such a good time and I look forward to seeing all of them in another two years! Love ya girls!



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!!!

Hi Dad!

I think you're a terrific Dad! You're a star good Dad! You're great! You're funny! You're the greatest Dad ever! You're a happy Dad! I love you Dad! Happy Father's Day!



Dear Daddy~

I think you're an awesome Dad! You're so funny! You're the greatest Dad ever! I love you! I hope you have a terrific Father's Day!

Your Daughter~

Katherine E.

Dear Brian,

Thank you for being such a wonderful Daddy to our children! Thank you for changing diapers, pushing strollers, giving bottles, giving hugs and kisses, dropping off and picking up at school, taking them to Dr's appointments, playing with them, taking them on fun outings, laughing with them and crying with them, tucking them in, praying with them, watching movies with them, swimming with them, vacationing with them, walking with them, talking with them, answering their questions. Most of all thank you from the bottom of my heart for loving our children with your whole heart!

Forever yours,


Friday, June 19, 2009

Dinner Conversation

We consider dinner time sacred in our home. What I mean by that is we try to foster a love for each other and food during this time. We have dinner together as much as possible usually 5-6 times a week. We make one meal that we enjoy and share together (the exception is date night). We expose our children to a variety of foods everything from brussel sprouts to anchovies. Now this does not mean we don't have a hot dog night now and then. :) This is a very relaxing time for us as a family we share about what has happened at school and work or whatever else is on our minds. Nothing is off limits we want to encourage our children to share whatever is going on with them.

So the other night at dinner Katie was complaining that I was leaving her again with the boys ( I went to see Proposal this morning with Jen. By the way it was great). This is what the conversation went like.

Katie: " Mom, you're leaving me with these two again?!?"

Rachel: "I'm not sure what you are complaining about. In about seven years you will be going off to college and you will be leaving me with these two."

Ian: "Yes! Katie when you leave Dad and I are going to craze Mom up!"

Brian: Gives Ian the thumbs up and says "Yes!"

Now, can someone please enlighten me on what "crazed up" means? I'm not exactly sure, but I'm worried. Maybe you should all start praying for me now.
Have a great weekend friends!
Yes, they think they are opera singers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bits of encouragement

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Daring Cooks Challenge- Potstickers

Jen from use real butter with your Daring Cooks June 2009 challenge.

I was pretty excited about this challenge, because we love potstickers! In fact, we love them so much that Brian found them frozen at the Asian grocery store. So whenever we have a craving...we steam them up!

As far as this recipe goes, I can't speak much for the dough or filling because Brian made those two components. He did say that the dough reminded him of the dough he makes samosas with. The filling was fairly simple to put together (we made the pork filling). I wanted to steam them, but Brian wanted to fry them so we went with that method, and yes I was the one cooking them. I also put the sauce together.

These were actually pretty good ( sorry about the bad photo, it was getting dark). They were definitely putsy though. They also take quite a bit of time to make. I'm not sure that we would make them again, just because the frozen variety is good and easy. On the other hand when you make your own food you know what is going in it. Brian also said "well, now we know we can make them." If you would like to give them a try the recipe is below.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried - rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

shrimp filling:1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches - or just halve the filling recipe)2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for worksurface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black) I used Mirin
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).
Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).
Make the dough, Method 2 (my mom’s instructions): In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.
[EDIT: 5/26/09] There have been two complaints posted about a dry dough and I realize that this rests in the problem of measuring flour which has a different density and hence weight for 2 cups depending on how you scoop it. That is why I also list the weight: 250g. Flour tends to settle over time, so when I scoop it out, I shake several cups' worth back into the container before taking a final scoop of soft, fluffy, flour and I get 250g for 2 cups. When you knead the dough, if it feels hard and dry, then you can add more water. [Warning: it will NOT be a soft bread dough, so don't expect it to be, but it shouldn't be a brick either.] It is perfectly fine to use more than the 1/2 cup listed in the recipe as everyone's climate and flours vary. Use your judgment - this is what being a Daring Cook is about. We are trying to cultivate a sense of intuition so that recipes are general guidelines from which you can expand your own style.
Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking - about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side (see images in post for how to fold pleats). Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.
To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.
To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.
placing the dumplings in a steamer over napa cabbage leaves
steamed and ready to eat
To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.
potstickers, bottoms up to show off the crunchies
To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.
To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Break up

Do you remember your first break up? I remember mine...it was not so pleasant. I got over him though. Although I kind of detested boys after that for awhile. Well, our not so little Katie had her first break-up this past week. She had been hearing through the grapevine at school that the young man wanted to dump her. She promptly went up to him and asked him, he didn't answer. She asked him on three different occasions that day. The third time she said, "you can tell me, I can handle it." His reply was yes, he wanted to dump her. She said "fine, you will have a bad life without me." I wish I could have been there to hear that! Brian, says it's all me. I guess part of me has rubbed off on her. Except, that the young man called her and said he was sorry, and was wondering if she still wanted to be his girlfriend. She said yes. I would have said no or I have to think about it. Apparently he is "perfect" for her. I'm sure this will be one of many break-ups. I'm just glad that we have survived so far.

Tomorrow I leave for a long weekend with my college roomies. We have been getting together every other year for the last 10 years or so. It will be good to catch up with these dear friends. We are spread out all over the country, so it is a special treat to see each other.

"I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave." Psalms 86: 12-13
Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A little cheesy...but so sweet!!

I have to share my love note with you today. This is what it said, "I love you so much that even rainy days are sunny when I think about you. Have a great day." I know, I know cheesy, but it made me smile and tear up a little bit. I love him so much!

Here is a photo of Ian with his first tooth missing. I know it doesn't really look like it, because the new tooth was coming up behind the baby one, but you gotta take the photo right!

I think I'm pretty much over the pneumonia. I have a cold now though. I'm still coughing and now my nose is running. If you think of it please pray for me, I'm really tired of being sick. I'm going away for the weekend too, so I don't want to feel miserable.

Stay warm friends!



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bits of encouragement and Birthday wishes

"A wife of noble character is her husband's crown." Proverbs 12:4a
We wanted to say Happy Birthday to my Mother-in-law Ruth! We are wishing you a wonderful day, and we hope you are showered with many blessings throughout the year.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hello Friends~

I'm sorry that I have been gone for so long! I missed my blog, and I missed you too! You might have wondered where I was. I was here...under my down comforter in my bed. It all started after I had written my last post on Tuesday night. I missed work for the rest of the week, and went to see the Doc on Friday. She said it was an upper respitory virus, she couldn't give me anything and I would have to wait it out. The weekend was miserable for me I continued to feel terrible with a headache, terrible cough, and fever. Yesterday I just got upset, I was so tired of being sick and called the nurse who was very nice, but he said I would need to be seen again. Brian took to me to urgent care, last night and they determined I had pnuemonia. In my mind I was thinking there's a surprise. If they had listened to me on Friday, I wouldn't be here right now. So, I got my antibiotics, and I'm feeling a little bit better.

My poor Brian has been juggling a lot! Work, meals, laundry, taking the kids to school and picking them helping with the home work. He kept telling me he missed me, and I could see the worry in his eyes. He is exhausted, but seems much happier now that I am on the mend.

I've missed my little family so much...hugging them and kissing them. They went to the garden center on Saturday and came home and mulched a bunch of our plants. I was longing to lay out a quilt in the yard and read to the children. A few weeks ago I started reading Sarah, Plain and Tall to them. My lilacs bloomed and now they are dying. I didn't get to capture their beauty this year on my camera. Their beautiful scent made it's way into our home though. Ian lost his first tooth last night. You would have thought he won a million dollars. He was so excited!! He has been waiting a long time for this. I need to take a photo. So slowly, but surely I'm getting back to my healthy self. I hope to be posting more regularly. Enjoy this beautiful weather!

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