Monday, December 28, 2009
Here I go again with the cookie aisle making an appearance on my blog under the premise that I can make the familiar favorites into prodigious caricatures of themselves. See the Adult Oreos post from November for reference.
I blame my unusual obsession with what I call snack food aisle cookies on my childhood. I grew up in a house that was perpetually on a diet which meant that all forms of junk food were not allowed through the front door except on special occasions. That said, a part of me is actually glad that sweets were not in the house because frankly, I am not crazy about them as I think they taste processed and artificial. However, I do love the concept; a creamy peanut butter filling between two peanut butter cookies, what's not to like? So, like chocolate chip cookies which I truly believe should only be homemade with lots of love, I believe these types of cookies should also be homemade with lots of love.
This recipe make a lot of cookies so this is fair warning. Half the recipe if you are not feeding an army. xoxo - enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller of Bouchon Bakery
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts
2 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 pound (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar sifted
Make the cookie dough: preheat over to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together with a fork the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times.
At low speed, add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Fold in peanuts and oats and until completely combined with a rubber spatula.
Place tablespoon sized balls onto a baking sheet about three inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and are light golden brown, about 11 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet at least 15 minutes before transferring to a rack or newspaper to cool completely before adding filling.
For the filling; cream together butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar using an electric mixer until completely smooth.
To assemble, spread a thin layer of the filling an underside of a cookie and sandwich with another cookie.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I am definitely a member of the masses when it comes to poking fun at fruitcake. The fact that it feels like a lead weight that could easily break a window coupled with the lack of taste truly makes it food for fodder.
So why would I make fruitcake cookies? First, as you have probably noticed, I put an unusual amount of trust in Ina Garten and everything she puts in her recipe books. These cookies are from Barefoot Contessa at Home and I was intrigued that she would attempt any recipe with such a dubious reputation. If anyone can make fruitcake palatable, Ina can. I was also interested in the idea of making fruitcake into a cookie and thought, maybe the high volume of candied fruits, alcohol and nuts is just too overwhelming to a cake. The cake is trying to hold all of these elements together and screaming for mercy. Perhaps something with a cookie-like consistency and shape is exactly what is needed to make fruitcake something that is tolerable.
So, with all of that said, I present to you the fruitcake cookie. My verdict on these is that they are most definitely better than typical fruitcake. In terms of taste I would not put them ahead of chocolate chip cookies or macaroons but they have that candied/spice flavor that I love simply because it just tastes like the holidays. I will probably make these again for that reason along with the fact that they truly do look like a jeweled cookie which I adore for the holiday season. These are also excellent to transport and keep well over a long period of time. Give them a try and please enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
1/2 pound dried figs
1/4 pound raisins
2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped
2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons very dry sherry
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces chopped pecans
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I really, really try to be as healthy as possible but I have to say, I really go off the rails sometimes. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those nights. We were in Whole Foods and my little man managed to eat his way through the store. One clarification here, I am talking about eating the samples that they give out as a taste test and no, I do not go through the aisles ripping packages of food open. Anyway, so when we were walking out he said, "Mommy, can we come back and have dinner at the store again?" Eating my way through the aisles has served as my lunch on more than a few occasions but I feel a little guilty that the little tyke is learning this at the age of 4.
The good news is that the majority of the time I do manage to get healthy stuff into my kid. To that end, this recipe rocks it in nutritious food that the little man will eat; seriously, he devours this stuff like candy. There are only two teaspoons of olive oil and the rest is all lentils and vegetables which also makes it a great vegetarian dish. One note is that I have been serving this to T since he was about 2 years old so maybe he just likes it because it is familiar. In other words, I can't guarantee all kids will eat this up like mine but, really, what have you got to lose? Give it a try and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home
2 teaspoons good olive oil
2 cups large-diced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups large-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 gloves)
1 (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 cup Du Puy French green lentils (7 ounces)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 teaspoons mild curry powder
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher slat
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon good sherry vinegar
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and the carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
Meanwhile, place the canned plum tomatoes, including the juice, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse several times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there are no stones in the package.
Add the tomatoes, lentils, broth, curry powder, thyme, salt and pepper to the pan. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Check occasionally to be sure the liquid is still simmering. Remove from the heat and allow the lentils to sit covered for another 10 minutes. Add the vinegar, season to taste and serve hot.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
As you can see from the packaging, I used these little darlings as gifts and they did not disappoint! What you see in the picture is chocolate bark on the left with fruit and nut toppings. On the right is the classic peppermint bark which seems to have been hijacked by Williams Sonoma lately. Take it from me, these are so very easy to make, taste better than anything pre-packaged and will not break the bank like the stuff on the pretty display at your local over-priced cooking supply store. Make and enjoy!
Recipe for Chocolate Bark:
9 1/2 ounces best you can find semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces best you can find bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
1 cup chopped dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup candied ginger
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Melt the chocolates in a glass bowl in 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring the chocolate at each interval. Do not completely melt the chocolate and stir it for the last interval until all of the chocolate is completely melted. The more you stir, the shinier it becomes. Pour the melted chocolate onto parchment paper in a 9x10 inch square on a sheet pan. Spread the chocolate around to get it into the square shape. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle on the toppings. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator and break into pieces the next morning.
Recipe for Peppermint Bark:
9 1/2 ounces best you can find bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces best you can find semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 cup candy canes coarsely smashed with a rolling pin
Follow the directions above for melting the chocolate and in separate bowls melt the dark and white chocolates. You can also clean the bowl out that the dark chocolate melted in while it cools to melt the white chocolate. After the chocolate is melted, let it cool slightly and add 1 teaspoon of the peppermint extract to the dark chocolate and to the white chocolate. Pour the melted dark chocolate onto parchment paper in a square on a sheet pan and spread it around to get it into the square shape. Let cool in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Follow the same procedure for the white chocolate and gently pour the white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate and spread it carefully being careful to not mix the chocolate or marble it. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle the candy canes on top of the chocolate. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator and break into pieces the next morning.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
I know this recipe is a little past due since the Thanksgiving/pumpkin season was about a month ago but really, when it comes to sweet things, there really is no such thing as out of season. I would eat a yule log in June if it were placed in front of me. That said, if you like your desserts in season, copy, paste, print and save it for next year.
These bars can be a nice little change from the typical pumpkin and pecan pie combinations that usually make it on to the Thanksgiving dessert table. Cut these up and lay it out on a three-tiered dessert stand and it will also add some height and variety to the dessert offerings. These bars have a middle that tastes and has the texture of pumpkin pie. The crust has more of shortbread consistency and taste and obviously the top is just a ridiculous concoction of coconut and butterscotch chips that provides a serious yum factor to the bars. So make it now or later but please enjoy!
Source: Annie's Eats adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from Kraft
For the crust and topping:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup chopped pecans
For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Butterscotch chips, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Lightly grease the foil. Combine the flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl and toss with a fork. Add the pieces of butter to the dry ingredients and cut it in with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the oats and chopped pecans.
Reserve 1 cup of the crust mixture and set aside. Add the remaining crust mixture to the prepared baking pan and press onto the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Bake the crust alone in the oven for 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the filling.
To make the filling, combine the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and well combined.
Once the crust has been removed from the oven, pour the filling into the pan and smooth over the crust. Sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture and butterscotch chips, as desired. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Slice and serve.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
This is one of those recipes that just gets better with time. Please don't misunderstand. This cake is fabulous fresh but I just loved it so much more after a few days in the fridge. Please also don't judge too harshly on this next point; my son absolutely loves this cake! Every morning we get up, he asks for cake, we walk in the door at the end of the day and he would ask for this cake. Yes, I fed my son coffee cake with rum in it but the amount is miniscule and I have photographic evidence of me drinking red wine from a glass in my PJ's when I about his age. Two tablespoons of rum in a cake that serves a crowd is better than a 4 year old downing red wine straight. Hey, it was the 70's; a wonderful time of helmetless bike riding, coming home from the hospital in the arms of your parents rather than a car seat (there' s a photo of that one too), mustard yellow refrigerators, green shag carpets, bell bottoms, platform shoes and kids drinking alcohol straight up - groovy! Anyway, that's my justification and I am sticking with it. Please enjoy!
Recipe adapted and boozed out from Barefoot Contessa Parties
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the streusel:
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon dark rum
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, rum and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar, rum and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Leave it to the French to come up with the most elegant and refined beef stew imaginable. That really is all that Beouf or Beef Bourguignon is; beef stew with a sophisticated taste. True there is a good amount of alcohol that is used in this dish as opposed to American beef stew which probably gives it that “refined” taste. I have to say though, what a difference a little alcohol makes!
I have made different versions of this dish over the years and I prefer Ina Garten’s version over Julia Child’s. Garten puts in Cognac, which, I think really elevates the flavor. However, Garten’s recipe calls for a slice of sourdough bread rubbed with garlic instead of the typical noodles to accompany the dish and I personally think the noodles are better. That said, if you get a big piece of French bread to dip into the amazing sauce, you will not be able to stop eating, it is that good. So, without further rambling, here is the recipe that will make you weak in the knees and wanting to catch the next plane to France. Enjoy!
Recipe from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten.
1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces of good bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
1 can (2 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
hot plain noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, optional
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
For each serving, spoon the stew over a bed of hot plain noodles and sprinkle with parsley.
Friday, December 11, 2009
I am just going to come out and say this and I know southerners or any traditionalist for that matter will cringe; I am not a fan of cornbread. I always think it is a little too dry and bland for my tastes. I have had cornbread at restaurants, at friend’s homes and I have made several cornbread recipes myself. Sorry, no dice.
Enter Ms. Smitten Kitchen an absolute treasure to the cooking blogosphere. This recipe just looked so darn good that I knew I had to make it immediately and it has succeeded in turning my dislike of cornbread upside down! It is slightly sweet, moist to the point of almost having a custard like consistency to it, contains a great deal of texture, a bit of tang from the goat cheese and is finished off with wonderful caramelized onions that really bring it over the top. I absolutely could not stop eating this delectable treat and although there is some serious prep time that goes into this, it is so worth it! Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup (6 ounces) coarse cornmeal (also packaged as “polenta”) but regular old cornmeal will also work.
2 cups (16 ounces) buttermilk
1 to 2 tablespoons oil, butter or a combination thereof
1 cup onion in a 3/4-inch dice
1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounce log of goat cheese, at room temperature for a good while, so it’s very soft
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
The night before baking the cornbread, soak the cornmeal in the buttermilk. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
The next day, prepare the onions. Heat a large saute pan to medium and coat the bottom with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil, butter or a combination thereof. Add the onions and cook them until they’re well-caramelized with browned edges. Season with salt and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the goat cheese until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl between each. (It may look a little curdly at this point, don’t worry. It all comes back together in the oven.) Add the melted butter, honey, sugar and cornmeal/buttermilk mixture and mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined and then stir in the corn kernels, mixing them until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Place two tablespoons of vegetable oil or butter in a 10 inch round cast-iron skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until the fat gets very hot. With good pot holders, remove the skillet and tilt it to grease the corners and sides. Pour in the batter, spreading it evenly and sprinkle the caramelized onion evenly over the top.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cornbread is firm and springing (the baking time will depend on the size and type of pan) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow the bread to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing it into wedges. Serve immediately.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I know this is simple but I feel a need to post this since it puts me in a happy place. This is my breakfast staple almost everyday and for a person with the attention span of a fly, it is a miracle that I continue to eat this every morning. This is comfort food before work and let me just say, that the breakfast folks, should market more comfort food before work. I don't know about you but I need comfort food during the week, not on the weekend when I am happy and fully comfortable.
For those of you who can never find a breakfast that will carry you through to lunch, I think this might be the answer. This along with a cup of coffee always carries me through and for some reason, I feel more alert in the morning with this breakfast. Maybe it's the protein, I don't know but it works. Enjoy!
1 slice whole grain bread (I use my homemade bread but I prefer Brownberry Whole Grain Bread if I don't have mine on hand)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon salted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cut a hole into the bread. When the butter is melted, add the bread to the pan and soak the bread in the butter on both sides. Crack the egg directly into the hole of the bread and sprinkle salt and pepper all over the egg and the the bread and cook it for 2 to 3 minutes. With a large spatula, flip the bread and egg over in the skillet. Cook for an additional 2 minutes and add more salt and pepper to taste.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I am writing this post in very choppy air at 31,000 feet. I felt the need to write about something that reminds me of a happy time when I was making fudge, licking the spoons, listening to Norah Jones and had my feet firmly planted on solid ground. Now, I am being bounced around like a ping-pong ball at a very high altitude, my stomach is in my throat and my diet coke looks like a mini tsunami in it’s pathetic little plastic cup. God help me.
Sorry, I digress. Now, about this fudge. Let me just say that it is one of the great paradox’s of my life that I have managed to go through all of these years without having a cavity. I have such a sweet tooth that I border on dreaming about sugary treats while sleeping. I am not going to beat around the bush, this is candy showboating as “fudge”. Need evidence? Ok, there is a jar of marshmallow fluff that went into this recipe which is basically candy being poured into candy. This is a fabulous cure for all of you sweet-obsessed crazies like me. So, assemble, wait and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats who adapted from Confections of a Food Birdie.
3 cups sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. real maple syrup
2 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of cinnamon
9 oz. white chocolate, chopped
7 oz. jar marshmallow crème
1 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Stir together first six ingredients in a 3 ½ – quart saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until a candy thermometer registers 234° (soft-ball stage).
Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour into a greased aluminum foil-lined 8-inch square pan. Refrigerate over-night; cut fudge into squares.
I just came back from Mexico and I had to post some pics since I believe it is truly one of the best places to vacation. My parents have a place in Bucerias, Mexico which is just outside of Puerto Vallerta. One of the towns outside of Bucerias is Sayulita and I absolutely love this little hideaway. Here are the reasons Sayulita holds such a special place in my heart; awesome surfing, beautiful beaches, perfect weather all the time, cute little restaurants with delicious food, a cool laid back atmosphere, art shops and clothing boutiques everywhere with finds I can never find anywhere else, boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts, low tourist count and a youngish crowd with a cool vibe (okay, that means my age range of upper 20's to upper 30's, the kids are mercifully back in Puerto Vallerta). Oh, one last reason that Sayulita rocks, the gorgeous surfer dudes who roam freely on the streets and beaches making all single girls swoon.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Not to go all 50's housewife here but every woman should have a few staple recipes that she can make quickly and are guaranteed crowd pleasers. Oddly, the recipes that I personally have that fit that description have not made it onto this blog. Note to self, make and post staple recipes that never let me down. That said, this apple cake is mind-numbingly simple and would appeal to a broad audience which fits the above-mentioned criteria. It is not very sweet but fresh and simple which has broad appeal. To make it something that would appeal to the masses, I would recommend adding vanilla ice cream and putting some warm caramel sauce on the table as an option in case someone wants something a little sweeter. Another note to self, post killer caramel sauce recipe soon! Until the caramel post comes along, go ahead and get the store bought stuff in the jar while I get off my derrière and get moving on that. Enjoy!
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September and October 2009
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces plus extra for the pan
2 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji apples peeled and sliced thin lengthwise
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons butter melted and cooled
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spray baking PAM onto bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan or skillet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat butter in skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add half of the apples and cook stirring occasionally until apples start to caramelize. Add remaining apples, brown sugar and lemon juice and salt and cook about 1 minute longer until sugar dissolves. Transfer apples into prepared pan and press into the bottom or keep the apples in the skillet and set aside while preparing cake.
Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt and stir together with a fork. Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar and eggs in a bowl until thick, about 45 seconds. Add in sour cream or crème fraiche, lemon zest and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir until combined. Pour batter into pan or skillet over apples and spread evenly. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.
Cool on wire rack 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around perimeter of cake and invert onto a large plate and lift pan off of the cake. Place any loose apples on top of the cake and allow to cool another 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I have a confession, I eat my way through cooking. I am not talking about just grabbing a little taste here and there, no, no, I take so many little tastes of everything that it is amazing anything even makes it into the oven. I lick the beaters when I know I could scrape a whole lot more off. I will eat many spoons of cookie dough, cake or muffin batter, chunks of uncooked pie dough and fruit filling that is ready to hit the oven. I am so bad and these doughnuts were no exception. I took a little taste of the dough and I was out of control. Then, once the doughnuts were cooked, I could not stop eating! Think the Cookie Monster when he would eat and crumbs and chunks of cookie would go flying all over the place. That was me, and yes, these doughnuts were that good.
So, now that everyone is totally disgusted and now understand why I spend hours upon hours at the gym, let me talk about the recipe. I admit that when I tried this the first time around, it wasn’t pretty (see second picture) and it took a heck of a long time. I also have to say that although these doughnuts are unbelievably good, you will probably find my tail at Dunkin Donuts because there is some hard labor involved. So, with that said, below are the two important tips that will make the difference between good doughnuts or a big mess.
Tip 1: Flour is your friend and I would recommend using it generously, often and without hesitation. Dough that is going to be fried is sticky, very, very sticky and your only weapon is flour. By the time all was said and done, my kitchen looked like a snowstorm had hit it but the doughnuts lifted from the surface and that is what we are aiming for.
Tip 2: use a good candy thermometer. The first time I did this, I put the dough into the oil when it looked hot and of course, they went crisp on the outside in seconds and it was a big pile of gooey dough on the inside (again, observe the second photo). I am a huge fan of gooey but not in this case. These are cake doughnuts and they should be cakey inside.
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from Lauren Dawson at Hearth Restaurant.
1 cup apple cider
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus much more for work surface
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour cream
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying
Glaze (1 cup confectioners sugar + 2 Tablespoons apple cider)
Cinnamon Sugar (1 cup granulated sugar + 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon)
In a saucepan over medium or medium-low heat, gently reduce the apple cider to about 1/4 cup, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until the eggs are completely incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the reduced apple cider and the buttermilk or sour cream, mixing just until combined. Add the flour mixture and continue to mix just until the dough comes together.
Line two baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and sprinkle them generously with flour. Turn the dough onto one of the sheets and sprinkle the top with flour. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Use more flour if the dough is still wet. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it is slightly hardened, about 20 minutes. Pull the dough out of the freezer. Break off pieces of the dough and roll them into doughnut holes that are about the size of a golf ball. Place the doughnut holes onto the second sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 20 to 30 minutes.
Add enough oil or shortening to a deep-sided pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil reaches 350°F. Have ready a plate lined with several thicknesses of paper towels.
Make your toppings (if using): While the doughnuts are in the refrigerator, make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners’ sugar and the cider until the mixture is smooth; make the cinnamon sugar by mixing the two together. Set aside.
Fry and roll the doughnuts: Carefully add a few doughnuts to the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan, and fry until golden brown, turning in the pan so all sides are browned, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels for a minute after the doughnuts are fried. Roll the warm doughnuts into the glaze or cinnamon sugar mixture (if using) and serve immediately.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
So this was my first serious attempt at decorating a cake in some other manner than just doing the two layers with frosting on the sides and in the middle. I have one word for anyone who wants to do cake decorating, practice. I look at the very talented crew on Ace of Cakes and the difference between them and me is that they do that all day everyday. Granted there is some serious artistry and talent that goes into their cakes but practice is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to most cake decorating.
One of my pet peeves with elaborately decorated cakes is taste. I hate it when I see a beautiful cake, take a bite and want to gag. Dry cake with no pop in the taste is so not cool. Of course the recipe for this cake came from the folks at Cook's Illustrated because you know I will always do what they say. I did modify their recipe a bit because I was facing somewhat of a sugar shortage and I love the taste of sour cream in a cake and I had to add it. Let me say that the cake itself was amazing but extra special mention definitely goes to the buttercream icing that gave new meaning to icing on the cake. This recipe, which I was skeptical of because it contains four eggs, is truly the apex of buttercream frosting; buttery, rich and not overly sweet as you will find in the supermarket pre-made tubs.
One final note, yes, my son flipped when I presented the cake to him for his 4th birthday and I would definitely recommend this for little tikes everywhere on their birthday. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from "The Next Best Recipe", from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated:
Yellow Layer Cake (Makes enough for one train mold or two layers)
1 3/4 cup plain cake flour, sifted
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 recipe vanilla buttercream frosting, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray train cake mold or two 9-inch cake pans with Baking PAM.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each egg and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the milk, sour cream and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix together until just combined. Mix the batter with a rubber spatula until fully combined.
Divide the batter equally into the two cake pans or pour all into the train mold. If using the cake pans, bake for 20-25 minutes. If using the train mold, bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is light brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from the pan. Invert the cake onto a large cutting board for frosting if using the train mold.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) salted butter at room temperature
Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisk mixture gently and constantly until it is thin and foamy and about 160 degrees.
Beat the egg mixture with a paddle attachment at medium-high speed until light, airy and cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter one stick at a time until fully incorporated. Beat at high speed until all lumps have been eliminated and mixture is light and fluffy. Buttercream can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Helloooo Lover - a cheesecake is so a woman's best friend. There is a reason that the Golden Girls basically created entire story lines around this amazing dessert.
So, I must tell how I came across this fabulous concoction. A number of years ago, I was in New York City with my then husband and we went to the Carnegie Deli since we were staying in Times Square. Now, I had plenty of corned beef sandwiches growing up and I had visited New York several times since my Dad is from Long Island. However, I had never had a meal like this. To this day, it stands out as some of the best food I have ever had in my life and it will forever remain that way in my mind. We had the Matzoh Ball soup, followed by "the Woody Allen" which contained more corned beef and pastrami than you can possibly imagine and which we had to split. We topped those two amazing starters with their famous cheesecake that had strawberries with a glaze on top. I walked away full, happy, satisfied and in an utter state of food euphoria.
Ever since that trip, I have been trying to find my way back to Times Square to have another round of that fabulous meal but somehow life has taken up all of my time and I have not been able to make it back. So, when a girl can't make it to a party, she just has to make her own. I printed off the cheesecake recipe from the Carnegie Deli website and modified it a little bit. They were a little vague with some of their directions but I was able to piece it together based on other cheesecake recipes I have made.
I also succeeded in not cracking this cheesecake which was a first for me. The secret is in the bake time. This tip did come from the website; they said the cake is like a custard, bake too long and it cracks, too little and it will be too loose on the inside. So I watched the cake like a hawk and when it seemed like it was about to crack, I dove for the oven door and took it out. After it sat at room temperature for a few hours, it was perfect, no cracks.
Recipe adapted from the Carnegie Deli website.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch bits
1 1/4 pounds softened cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Raspberry Topping (Optional)
2 pints fresh raspberries
1 cup raspberry jelly
1.) Place the flour, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolk, and butter in a large mixing bowl. With your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until they are well mixed and can be gathered into a ball. Dust with a little flour, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Butter and flour the bottom of a 9x9 inch spring-form pan, roll out a piece of dough to cover the bottom. Press the dough into the pan with your fingertips and until the bottom of the pan is covered along with a little bit of the sides. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until it is a very light brown color. Cool the pan and the bottom and press the remaining dough onto the sides of the pan until the dough is half way up on the rim. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 490 degrees.
Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl with a paddle attachment and beat on high speed for about 5 minutes or until creamy and smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar scraping down the sides periodically. Then add in the heavy cream and eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla and lemon and beat for about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour with a rubber spatula. Make sure there are no lumps.
Pour the filling into the cookie dough lined pan and bake in the center of the oven until a dark brown color appears, about 10 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and cool for 30 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. After 30 minutes, return the cake to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes but please keep an eye on it. If there are any signs of cracking, take the cake out immediately, it is done.
Cool the cheesecake for at least two hours. When it has cooled, wrap it and refrigerate it overnight.
Melt the jelly over medium heat in a saucepan until completely melted. Cool slightly and carefully add in the raspberries and mix being careful not to break up the berries. Cool completely before pouring over the cheesecake.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Clearly, I have a problem. When you start making jumbo sized portions of the snack food aisle, get your head checked. I can't help myself though! These looked so incredibly good when I saw them on the Smitten Kitchen website that I almost went out and bought some Oreos just to satisfy the instant craving.
Making these is just about as much fun as eating the finished product because I had an entire mixing bowl full of that fantastic white Oreo filling and of course, I had to test it...many,many times. I don't want to see any noses in the air on that one, you know you all do it. Anyway, so this recipe is very sweet and the cookies have a soft center, which I loved and the filling is even better than the regular Oreos. I believe I have mentioned my work colleague "J" in previous posts and this is fair warning that he wasn't thrilled with them because he said they were too sweet. I wholeheartedly disagree because I devoured about ten of them but some people don't have the insatiable sweet tooth that I do. So, if you love sweets, eat up, if not, either hold back on the sugar measurements or make these for someone who does have a sweet tooth. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted her version from Retro Desserts, Wayne Brachman
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
To assemble the cookies, place teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Let's all join together to sing the praises of bacon, cheddar, corn, potatoes and cream coming together to create an amazing soup. You cannot really go wrong with these ingredients. A few warnings on this recipe; it is big, very, very big. You will definitely have to use a stockpot which, of course, I missed when I was reading the directions. You can also cut the recipe in half which might be a good idea unless you are feeding the Bears defensive line. The other note here is that sour cream with chives is awesome on top of this and I highly recommend putting a big dollop of that on the hot soup just prior to serving. Enjoy!
Recipe from "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" by Ina Garten.
8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
12 cups chicken stock
6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)
10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (3 pounds)
2 cups half-and-half
8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon and sour cream.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
What is it about baking bread? For me, it is part nostalgia, part therapy, part loving the smell of bread baking in my kitchen and part just liking the idea of eating homemade bread.
For the nostalgia part, I remember coming home from church when I was growing up and having my Mom’s bread baking in the oven. The smell was intoxicating as we entered the kitchen through the garage door. I could not wait to change out of my “church clothes” which usually consisted of some combination of pink, lace and ruffles with tights, always with the white tights and shiny white patent shoes. I have no memory of what we feasted on at those Sunday suppers; all I remember is that bread. My Mom would ritualistically take the bread out of the oven and place it in the center of the table on a cutting board. She would slice into it and I would hear the crunch of the outer loaf and watch the knife slice through the floured top and into the warm doughy middle. The steam from the insides would billow out of the center of the bread like a geyser. She would cut me a generous slice and top it with a pat of butter that would melt from the middle of the slice and down the sides. I would take that first bite and feel the butter and bread come together and melt in my mouth. After polishing off the slice, I would lick all of my fingers clean that were, at that point, completely slathered in butter.
Now that I am all grown up (in theory anyway), I also get to make the bread which can double as therapy. Not the same sort of therapy that comes from pounding meat until it is completely flattened but that’s an entirely different blog post. Sometimes kneading bread soothes the soul more than my workouts or a glass of wine after a tough day. Once you make your own bread, you will never get it from the grocery store again.
Recipe from “The Next Best Recipe” from Cook’s Illustrated.
2 1/3 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup rye flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey, butter, and salt with a rubber spatula. Mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, and 1 cup each of the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours.
Add the remaining whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, attach the dough hook, and knead at low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead about 30 seconds.
Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently press down the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Gently press each piece into a rectangle about 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing down to make the dough stick to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place each cylinder of dough seam-side down in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan and gently press the dough so it touches all sides of the pan. Cover the shaped dough with a towel and let rise until almost doubled in volume, 20 to 30 minutes.
Bake 35-45 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to wire racks, cool to room temperature.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Let’s see. I am, ahem, in my early 30’s and I have been baking banana bread since I was in diapers. So, that would make the number of flops that have transpired in order to achieve this glorious loaf, way too high to count. Maybe that’s a little harsh. The other banana breads I have made were not necessarily bad, they just never popped, made me weak in the knees, gave me the stomach flip, made me want to shove aside all reason and just stuff the whole thing in my mouth. Well my darlings, this bread does all of the above and then some.
I almost signed banana bread off as a lost cause. Almost; but then a work colleague brought in banana bread that was given to him by a friend. He let me have a slice and it had a wonderful crunchy brown sugar cinnamon topping that was different from anything I had ever tasted on top of banana bread and it was fantastic. So, I researched some crunchy toppings that are usually used for pies and I came up with the concoction below. I could eat that topping alone and be a happy camper.
For the bread itself, I always thought that some sort of buttermilk or sour cream or other creamy and sour ingredient would be standard in good banana bread. I was wrong. I also have a weird obsession with putting nuts in everything and I actually held myself back from doing so with this bread. Apparently withholding the nuts and cream were both good things because the bread on its own, without the crunchy topping, was better than all of the banana breads I have ever made. I made some alterations but the basic recipe comes from a combination of the fantastic blog Simply Recipes and my most favorite blog, Smitten Kitchen, who appropriately named her adaptation, “Jacked Up Banana Bread”.
One more note, another work colleague who shall be known on this blog as “J”, came up with the “Bananas Foster Bread” name and I feel like I should give him credit for the title. So thanks to J for naming this and while we are at it, thank you for being the sounding board on this and so many other recipes.
Adapted from Simply Recipes and Smitten Kitchen
3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour
Brown Sugar Topping:
5 tablespoons salted butter cold and diced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose white flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and rum, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for one hour to one hour and ten minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Oh how I love a farmer's market. It was a sunny and just warm enough day in Midtown Atlanta and everyone was soaking up the sunshine with their kids and dogs. A quick note here; folks in Atlanta love their dogs, I think I counted three dogs per person.
I think the pictures speak for themselves but I would like to point out the beautiful orange tomato looking fruit in the second photo which are called persimmons. According to Wikipedia, a persimmon was known to the ancient Greeks as "fruit of the Gods." I had never tasted a persimmon before and it was surprisingly sweet and crisp but also disconcerting because it looked like I was biting into a tomato. We brought a few back to my brother's place and made a sweet and salty salad with mixed greens, goat cheese, pine nuts, pomegranates with a balsamic vinaigrette. This is a wonderful fruit if you can find it and I am will be seeking these out in Chicago when I get back.
One final note; the last picture is of my brother, Matt and his wife, Molly holding her farmer's market flowers. Could these two be any cuter? Their names are even cute together. Yes, they are as in love with each other as they look and have been for the past ten years. Aw, sigh.