Mm-mm-good

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After Tess' birthday, Mary Poppins became a thing around here.  Well, for Jac and I anyway.

It began one evening while he was out with the boys and I was in with the girls.  I texted him the varied and many ways they were driving me crazy and how I was failing them.  "Why don't you take them downstairs and cuddle up with some books?" was his suggestion. "Who do you think I am, Mary Poppins?" was my answer.

And so it was born, this thing with Mary.

Mary Poppins would . . . 

Mary Poppins could . . .

What Would Mary Do?

The morning before Lucy was born, the kids were fighting and screaming and being all sorts of unpleasant.  I clawed at Jac, wide-eyed and desperate.  "I can't do it!" I gasped.  "Don't make me go out there!"

There were tears and not from the kids.

Jac grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me square in the eye and said seriously,

"You are going to Mary Poppins the hell out of today."

So I did.

The troops were gathered and the girls set to work on school.  The boys had been asking and asking to bake up some scones from a recipe in their most recent mystery series so I announced we would be having a tea for lunch and, holy wow, did the place start to hum.  Max measured and stirred.  Philip squeezed lemons and sifted sugar.  Before long, the house smelled delicious and attitudes mostly matched.

The excitement of busting out our tea cups! Of brewing some Columbia Kate's tea!  Of honey and sugar and milk, oh my!

Admittedly, it was more of a Mad Hatters kind of affair than a Ms. Poppins party, but it was fun nonetheless.  Jac joined us and, upon my questioning, admitted that I had indeed my objective. He smiled his, "I-told-you-so-smile" and assured me I had.

Day saved! Mission Mary Poppins Accomplished.

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Those scones I was talking about?  DELICIOUS.  And really, really easy.  They disappeared off of the plate and have been highly requested since.  The icing is magical - the kiddos don't do lemon but  they eat this directly from the spoon or bowl or scraped off the cookie sheet once the scones are gone.  

The scones rise an incredible amount.  When patting them out, make them 1/2 -1 inch thick.  The icing recipe can also be cut in half OR just make it for a double batch of scones.  You won't regret it.

Mrs. Tottingham's Delicious Scone Recipe
from "No Place Like Holmes" by Jason Lethcoe

2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
5 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 c. milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Cut in the butter until the dough looks crumbly. Add in milk and stir gently.

 Press dough onto lightly floured surface.  Cut into squares and then half them into triangle shapes.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Lemon Icing

Juice of half a lemon
2 c. powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
Milk to thin as needed

Mix together and drizzle over cooled scones

 

 

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When I went for my first midwife visit with this baby, the nurse was asking all of the usual sorts of questions for health history and such.  Then she threw me a slider.

"What do you eat?"

I was on my back with a doppler to my exposed belly.  It was a little awkward.

"What . . . do I  . . . eat?"  I wasn't sure what she was looking for and I wanted to be precise.

"She eats just fine. She cooks." The midwife said. Then to me, "Tell her what you had for breakfast."

"Uh, Jac made scrambled eggs with bacon and toast . . ." I trailed off, unsure of where to go from there.

"See?  They eat healthy."

Jac and I cocked eyebrows at each other. Cook? Yes, we do that - A LOT.  And eating is a given.  But healthy? Hmmmmm. . .

Sugar is a constant around this joint. I've never met a sweetened cereal I didn't like (okay, cookie crisps are pretty gross). We all know my love affair with Oreos and Thin Mints and ice-cream.  Soooo gooood. When the kiddos came along it didn't seem right to keep it all to myself.  I mean, it wasn't like I was putting pop in their bottle or anything.

It's addict language, I know.  We're working on it.

But let's get to the point.  The kids love their sugared cereals.  Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes and Apple Jacks top the favorites list.  We buy it in the big boxes at Sam so it feels like a deal, but they go through it like water.

All except for the Cocoa Krispies which is a crying shame because it's included in the their favorite multi-pack.  It tends to pile up and I do hate to let a good cereal go to waste.

What to do?  Seldom has pure genius struck me as it did with this recipe.  After all, the only thing that could make sweetened cereal better would be corn syrup, am I right?! Plus no-bake cookies always seem so brilliant and awesome.  These chocolatey-peanut-butter-balls-of-goodness quickly became favorites.  I try not to make them too often because I will eat the majority of them and well, you know, that's not so good.

Anyway, a recipe that has peanut butter and corn syrup in it AND turns something rejected into something delicious is a serious winner.  Try 'em and tell me I'm wrong, I dare you.

My No Bake Cookies (I have no better title.  The kids just ask for "Your No Bake Cookies" so . . . )

1 c. white sugar

1 c. light corn syrup

1 c. peanut butter (use crunchy if you want to get fancy)

6 c. Cocoa Krispy cereal

In a large saucepan, combine corn syrup and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Cook until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add peanut butter, stirring until combined and smooth.  Gently stir in the cereal and stir to coat.

Drop cookies by heaping Tbsp onto waxed paper and allow to cool.  You must work quickly!

Enjoy!

They're Max's favorite and his requested dessert on his feast day.  He looks super thrilled here because he wanted to get on with the eating. I had already stolen a few.

Also, fried cereal sounds delicious.  "Not deep fried. No. Sauteed in butter. Like mushrooms, you guys." Now you're talkin'!

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After this last month, I am just about birthday-ed out. We had celebrations of some sort at least once a week through all of April. It made the month fly by and lat forever all at once. I have let them eat cake so very many times that I now have the recipe memorized.

It's a good one, that cake.

So good, in fact, Grandpa Raul changed his order from 2 pies to a cake and a pie for a dinner he is hosting. From the pie-lover and cake baker himself, that is high praise!

I can't take credit for it. It was Raul who gave me the recipe book from which it hails. Gifted before we were married, The Cake Mix Doctor is one of my most favorite recipe books. Mine is falling apart and stained and creased and now even committed to memory.

Anyway, back to the cake. It will be made a few more times this month, too. And if you are looking for a little something for your Motherly, graduate-y, Memorially or birthday-ish celebrations, this is it.

My tips are these: If you can find someone to smuggle clear Mexican vanilla in a 1 liter bottle across the border for you, bribe who you must and DO IT. It's worth it. If, like me, you don't keep buttermilk on hand, you can make some by adding one Tbsp of vinegar to 1 c. of milk. For this recipe I do a Tbsp and a splash, give it a stir and let it sit for 15 minutes until it gets lumpy. You'll forget all about the curdles when you smell the cake baking, trust me. This recipe calls for a Devil's food cake, but I've made it twice now with a milk chocolate mix and, my sources tell me, it is just as tasty. ( I can't actually partake of the cake because of the buttermilk. I just am tempted by the smell and taunted by the frosting and the kids crumb covered smiles. Begin feeling sorry for me now and send Oreos.)

BASIC BUTTERMILK DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 1/3 c. Buttermilk
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. Vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour ( or spray with baking spray ) two 9" round pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. With an electric mixer set on low, beat ingredients for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl, increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more. Mixture will be thick and well combined. Pour batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the edges just start to pull away from the pans and the center bounces back when touched lightly. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn out and cool completely on wire racks.

Frost with the Best Buttercream

1 stick butter, room temperature
3 3/4 c. Powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the butter with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds until light and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and beat on low for another minute until combined. Increase speed to medium and beat one minute more until the frosting is fluffy and of good consistency. Add up to 1 Tbsp more milk if frosting is too thick. Try to keep greedy fingers out of the good stuff until it's time to cut the cake.

Last week kicked off the baking/making frenzy around these parts. It seemed early to me, too, but I figured that planning for the first part of the month would up the chances the baking would actually get done. With this baby on
the launch pad as it were, who knows how much longer we have for anything besides feeding and sleeping.

Anyway, first up we're the cookies. The pantry was scoured for fixings while Jac and the girls crushed dum dums to make rainbow jewels. Ellie was EFFICIENT, completing a cookie and asking, "I have a-other one?" before I could get anyone else started. We used our Ninja cookie cutters for the first time (thank you Lang's for the new tradition!) and ended up with not just ninjas but Santa with his sack, Elvis with a white and silver jumpsuit and microphone and even Spiderman. There was a baby ninja in a diaper, too, that Jac made and all found hilarious.

A few days later it was onto the Ginger bread houses. Or, as Ellie says, "Ninjabread house!" because, really, she has no idea what a gingerman is. This year we scaled back the size of the houses slightly, and after putting them together, set the kids loose. Philip was all about the yard accessories and planning but not so much the execution. Let's hope that's just a stage and not a life pattern, hmmm? Max decided early on he was going for an "East meets West" theme and diligently worked to carry that out. Ellie, meanwhile, ate more candy than she used on her house and after chattering like a squirrel for over an hour, lapsed into a diabetic coma. And Tess? She was the art-teest. Patterns and matching and much detail went into her abode. Incidentally, if she is engrossed like that there is very little talking. Good to keep in mind. . . The final touch for the oldest three was a dusting of powdered sugar for snow. Philip, distracted as usual, chatted about what would be cool if blah-blah-blah-flamethrower until Max broke into the plan by bellowing, "Shake it like you mean it, boy!" Perfect.

Thursday brought pulling taffy with Fr. Tyler. He had made the request a month or so ago and we were happy to oblige. Then I started simmering ingredients and had some serious self doubts. Candy thermometers and I just don't get along and it is so easy to really mess things up. Hands were washed and buttered, (except for Susan who, God love her, doesn't like to get slimy) and the pulling commenced. In the end, Fr. and his muscles saved the day. His wad was the only stuff that became taffy- Philip and then the girls just didn't have enough brute strength to get 'er done. Instead, we had vanilla flavored hard candy. Philip sighed and pined over the taffy until Fr. wisely told him, "You lose enough teeth all on your own, you don't need any help." His spacers thank you for that, Fr.!

Lastly, today we made Mexican sweet bread. We figured if we can't go to it, it can come to us! And with today being the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it seemed fitting and right. Just the ladies helped on this one-the boys were otherwise occupied- and Tess hand ground the cinnamon all by herself. Believe me, she deserved it. The rolls turned out pretty good in our estimation but fantastic to the kiddos. "Where did you find the recipe?" Max asked. "'Cause I think I might want to take that one to college with me." Always good to plan ahead.

*Lest you think everything is all lemon drops and gumdrops (and cavities) around here. . . We had a leak in the bathroom, from the ceiling. I spent an entire morning cleaning out the innards of the exhaust fan. The dog is still sick. There was some experimental hair cutting during the making of our St. Nicholas ornaments and they broke their light switch. I thought I had lost my purse and was in tears when we asked the kids if they had seen it. " N-n-n-o-o-o-o" Tess said slowly and then disappeared. She came back quickly with the purse and admitted to boxing it up with Philip's shoes because she thought it'd make a good present. They are adding to my insanity, I tell you! It's the hap, happiest season of all!!!!

 

Upon our return home we had some unfinished business in regards to our gingerbread houses.  Namely, they were still around and uneaten. At every reminder of these facts I'd hem and haw and attempt a distraction.  "Look!  Monday is eating your breakfast!"  The instigators were undeterred. I tried, wanted, to stay resolute - after all it was stale dusty sugar.  The line must be drawn somewhere and this was it for me.

For a week, anyway.

After many hints, reminders, begging and pleading I caved with one condition:

They had 10 minutes.

That was it.  No other rules or guidelines for decorum or method.  Just let 'er rip.

They discovered that the taking apart is almost as fun as the building and that candy turns really, really hard if left out.  Twizzlers shattered, marshmallows crunched and Tootsie Rolls had become indestructible.

Then there was a countdown and all happily piled what remained of their houses onto their boards and with flourish we presented it all to Monday who was so confused about the whole thing she was sure it was a trick.  Finally, she dug in and spent the rest of the evening in a sugar coma.

Meanwhile, all four children traipsed off to bed after brushing their permagrins and Jac and I went downstairs so we could pretend they were already asleep while they burned off their sugar rush.

It was sweet.

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On the Eleventh Day of Christmas my true love gave to me . . .

11 Tasty Ingredients

There are always lists when we visit California.

People to see, places to go.

Food to eat.

We dream about it all year, our favorites and new spots we will go TO EAT.  There are also the dishes we will make - for family and of course, New Years.  I have high on my list (but Jac wishes they'd just go away. . . ) pasties while he requests Uncle Bert Enchiladas.

His wish came true this week.  It almost did Philip in - he heard we were having enchiladas and rejoiced but on finding out they weren't our enchiladas, he very nearly had a break down. He rallied though and consented to just a few ingredients on his plate.

Meanwhile, the girls were eager to help with Tess offering to do anything and everything and Ellie being quality control.  She's very good at taste testing.

Anyway, Uncle Bert enchiladas.  We call them that because it was Uncle Bert who made them for us, passing down what his mother had taught him.  He claimed she learned how to make them in New Mexico, where her brother lived.  It has never really mattered to me because 1. they (the enchiladas that is) are weird and 2. not my cup of tea.

Actually, I was rather embarrassed and nervous to introduce my Mexican boyfirend to my decidedly gringo side of the family's odd entree.  "They're flat." he pointed out.  "When do you roll them?" He seemed less than impressed that first time, but since then he's become my husband and somewhere along the way, a fan of "the" enchiladas.

All I can say about that is that Uncle Bert would be proud.

Ingredients:

1. hamburger- browned, unseasoned

2. Cracker Barrel Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese- grated

3. Ice-berg Lettuce - chopped

4. White Onion - diced (heaven forbid you do it the wrong way!)

5. Tomato- diced

6. Avocado - sliced*

7. Olives - sliced *

8. Enchilada sauce - mild (Okay, in Uncle Bert's kitchen this would count as two ingredients.  It had to be a can of mild and a can of medium.  But we lean heavily toward the mild so we skipped the other can this time . . .)

9. Oil (it deserves it's own mention.  This meal is not for the faint or WEAK of heart.  It's an artery clogger!)

10. Tortillas

11. Fried Egg (just stay with me . . .)

*Daniel family additions.  No Mexican or pseudo-Mexican meal is complete without these ingredients.

Now onto the construction!

Uncle Bert was an Engineer through and through so the "building" of the enchiladas was a science and work of art all at once.  We continue to try and retain what he taught us about balance and order while attempting to take it all to a new level.

In order for the enchiladas to come together right, the cold ingredients should be cold and the hot, um hot. Three of your four stove burners should be on and cooking while the final one holds the plate of greasy - I mean cooked - tortillas.  Heat the sauce until simmering, keep the burger warm and get to frying the tortillas.  They should bubble and float and then be flipped, but heaven forbid! do NOT let them get crispy! Take your hot tortilla and submerge it in the enchilada sauce.  Then, lay it flat on a warm plate. (Sorry.  I forgot to mention you should have your oven on, too, to warm the plates.  Maybe I don't like these because it's so freaking hot in the kitchen . . . ) Spread a large spoonful of the beef on the tortilla.  Sprinkle on some cheese, a little onion, some tomatoes and whatever else you like (I don't like wilty lettuce so I leave that for the top.) and then repeat the process by dunking a tortilla and laying it ON TOP of what you just did.

Whaaaat?!

Yes.  We are stacking here.

Real men (and ladies with hair on their chest) do a stack of three tortillas and fillings. (I only do two, but do what you want.) Then, then, - and this is where things get crazy! - you top it all off with a fried egg and a generous ladle of sauce over it all.

Get back, Jack! I did so just say that an egg - crispy on the edges and runny yolked - is the crowning glory of these masterpieces.

Don't knock it till you try it.  Just ask Jac.

But not Tess. She has yet to try them. She was just the waitress here.

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Hello, lovelies.

You delightful, delicious, delectable sweeties are going to be the death of me.

Or the death of my waist, at least.

Sooooo good.

Notice, these are the CANDY CANE version.  Target is carrying a PEPPERMINT version of the same brand, but I cannot verify if they are one in the same.  i think a taste test is in order . . .

But the candy cane ones? Ohmygoodness.  Taste just like a Girl Scout Thin Mint EXCEPT with a creamy, bi-colored, sprinkly filling.  Could life get any better?

I may or may not have been the only person who ate from this now empty package, they are THAT good.

So good, in fact, that one of the blood bank ladies asked me when our next baby was due because she needs to know these things.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gotta start working out.

But first I need to find myself some more of these: