Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt: Baked Sunday Mornings

This is not my mom's recipe ... just what the Baked Boys called the recipe, but this recipe belonged to a neighbor of Renato's (co-author of the cookbook) mother-Annette, a lovely French woman from Marseilles, France. But Renato's mother baked it so ofter it became Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt!  My initial excitement level for this cake wasn't that great cause I wasn't really in the mood to try another French recipe this week and olive oil in a baked good sounded kinda yucky.  And when you hear the word "bundt", I think many of us go to this:

But I decided to try the recipe.  My husband and 8 yr old daughter both came in the kitchen to help and while we were mixing the ingredients, we couldn't get enough of the wonderful smells coming from this batter.  The good smells continued as the bundt baked.  I was surprised how much I like the flavor of this cake.  I couldn't taste the olive oil at all.  We shared some of our cake on Sunday night with some of our new neighbors.  One man called us around 9pm that night to tell us how much he enjoyed it, that the recipe was definitely a keeper, and one that we should pass on to our kids and grandkids someday.

We enjoyed our bundt for Sunday night dessert although I think it would be wonderful for a brunch or morning-time baby or bridal shower.  Next time I think I'll serve it with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  It was a little hard to swallow.  I don't know if I'd say it was dry though ... just kinda thick.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Citrus Terrine: French Fridays with Dorie

One of my favorite aspects of Around My French Table is the introduction that Dorie gives to each recipe.  Dorie's intro for this weeks' recipe starts out, "While Americans of all stripes tend to turn snobby at the mere mention of gelatin...."  Yup, I am one of those Americans.  I am not a fan of gelatin, Jell-O, or anything like unto it.  I do not buy it for my kids and when I went shopping for this week's ingredients, it the the first time in my life that I bought gelatin.

I wish that I could say that after trying this recipe that I had finally found a form of gelatin that I like, but nope.  Gelatin is still ... weird.  While making it, I had to mix the gelatin with hot orange juice ... the smell was not desirable.  It bought back memories from when I was 8 or 9 years old of stinky horses in Havasupai.  When all was said & done, I was brave & tried a bite of my citrus terrine (I opted to leave the expensive berries out and use them on my waffles) and I liked that it was flavored with orange juice, but I just can't get past the whole gelatin thing. 

I'm guessing it will be a hit with the kids when the get up from their naps.

Next week's recipe, slow-roasted tomatoes, is more up my alley, but I'd love some ideas of how to serve them!!

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Peacock's Spotlight

On Sunday, Peacock was spotlighted in Sunday School. A few weeks ago, they asked her to fill-in-the-blanks on a questionnaire type thing and then the kids had to guess who the spotlight child was.  Some of Peacock's answers were somewhat amusing, so I wanted to make sure to journal about it so she can go back & read it again when she is older. 

Peacock's Spotlight on July 24, 2011: (underlined words & phrases are her answers)

* I came down to Pittsburgh from my Father above.  (ahhh... close ... should be South Carolina, but Mom & Dad lived in Pittsburgh when she was born.)

* My home has 5 people and no animals to love.

* I like to play chess & go out to eat with my family.

* If you see someone with brown eyes and black hair, it could be me.

* I like learning about math when I go to school.

* When I grow up, I want to be Princess Tiana.

* In my spare time I think twirling & reading are fun.

* And I like to eat cookies & cupcakes when the day is done.  (That's my girl!)

* I like the color purple when I am making art.

* When I read the scriptures, The Book of Mormon is my favorite part.

* On Sunday, CTR 4 is the class I go to.

* Singing Pioneer Day is one of my favorite things to do.

*On Halloween you can say "Happy Birthday" to me.

Does anyone know who I could be?  Thanks for getting to know me!

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Vacant Lot

Sooo... we are still working on the lot that we found several weeks ago ... working on making it our lot.  We go over to visit "our" lot several times a week and we even went on a bike ride to our lot one night as a family because it's super close to where we are renting right now.  It took me a week or two to find and decide on a lender for our lot loan.  Very few lenders are offering lot loans in AZ because of the economy here and when you do find someone willing to lend some money, it's only some ... they want significant down payments.  This was not music to my ears and caused me a lot of stress because I wanted to be able to put down as little money as possible and keep my cash in the bank, but if this is where we want to be and what we want to do, we have to make the sacrifice.  :)

Sometimes I hesitate saying anything about the lot on my blog because for some reason or another it might not work-out, but we are hopeful and so far everything looks good.  I suppose if it doesn't work out, we can be sad together, right?  I've also had some questions about how to go about building a custom house so rather than answer a bunch of emails, everyone can just read it here.  I also want to track the progress of everything we do over the next year or two as we work on turning this lot into our little piece of paradise. :)

Kiddies ... July 23, 2011 @ Vacant Lot. 
Penguin 8 1/2 yrs old, Peacock 4 3/4 yrs old, Turkey about a month shy of 4 yrs old!

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Coconut Lemon-Braised Chicken: French Fridays with Dorie

It's that time of the week again ... French Fridays with Dorie.  For anyone new around here, we (the members of an online cooking group) are cooking our way through Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Around My French Table.

I have to admit, when I saw this week's recipe, I intended on skipping it.  I'm not into cooking meat and pork didn't sound appealing in the least bit.  I thought I'd rather spend my time & resources trying a different new recipe that might be more interesting for my family & me.  BUT Hubby saw the recipe and got excited about it, so we decided to team-up and give it a whirl.  We made ours with chicken breast instead of pork and I made Hubby do all the cutting and cooking of the meat.

We went to 2 different grocery stores and couldn't find some of the ingredients so we improvised a little bit.  I wished that some of the flavors were a little stronger, but overall everyone really enjoyed this recipe.  We decided to serve ours on top of rice instead of egg noodles and I'm glad we made that choice cause the rice soaked up some of the juices and that was my favorite part!

To read other reviews of this recipe, go HERE.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

s'mores cake

For quite some time I wished & wanted for the Chocolate Cakes cookbook.  I finally caved & bought a copy for myself when it went on sale about a month ago.
Tonight we have an activity at church for all the ladies and I'm supposed to bring a favorite snack to share.  Instead of bringing a favorite snack, I decided to try a recipe out of my new cook book for s'mores cake ... s'mores seem to be very popular these days.

The recipe turned out pretty good, but  I wish I would've bought regular size marshmallows instead of the mini marshmallows.  (I should've read the recipe more closely before I went shopping!)  I tried adding extra mini marshmallows, but when all was said & done, I wanted more marshmallow in each bite.  I think I'll also try adding the marshmallows earlier in the cooking process next time so that they get a little more well-done ... I like my marshmallows burnt and chewy!  Oh, I and also subbed bittersweet chocolate for the milk chocolate which made my cakes pretty rich, but milk chocolate is kinda blah to me these days.

I give this recipe 3.5 out of 5 stars but I think I could give it more stars if I play with the marshmallows a bit.  This would be a way fun recipe for a child's birthday party or for a backyard camp out.

To try the recipe, go HERE.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Passion for Excellence

Here is a great little video clip from the MCO trip to Salt Lake City, UT.  My photos are still all on my camera.  The back of my head can be spotted around 0:38-0:40 ... hot pink shirt behind soloist George Dyer, but I know no one cares about me when George Dyer is in the picture! :)

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Cold Melon-Berry Soup: French Fridays with Dorie

We've had a good, but busy week at our house ... movies, swimming, trips to the library, homemade ice cream, more swimming, some review work for school, working on the purchase of the lot we hope to call "ours" soon, pizza party, and lots of other fun summer activities.

I was kinda thankful for an "empty" day on the calendar today.  We are having a somewhat lazy day, but one can't ever be too lazy with 3 little kiddies! :)  After we had a little breakfast this morning, the kids helped me make this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe.  The recipe consisted of pureed cantaloupe, strawberries, a little lime juice, and a smidgen of salt.  I decided to add a handful of pureed strawberries and a 1/2 of a banana, which was also pureed, to my cantaloupe juice for some extra flavors.

For the kid-version, we added a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream to their soup and blended it in with everything else to make a yummy summer treat.

Back in my college days, I used to like to run to Jamba Juice a lot for their smoothies.  Most of their drinks were way too sweet for me, but I did find a favorite ... their cantaloupe drink.  If I remember correctly, they used frozen vanilla yogurt, frozen cantaloupe, apple juice, and some ice to make my favorite smoothie.  This week's recipe reminded me a little bit of a Jumba Juice smoothie & my kids certainly enjoyed their special drinks.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Salmon & Tomato En Papillote: French Fridays with Dorie

This week's recipe for our French Fridays with Dorie group was just devoured by my family for our Friday night dinner.  I was worried that I'd get mixed responses ... even a little worried about what I'd think of it, but we all loved it!  The salmon & tomatoes en papillote (foil pouch) was very quick to assemble and mine cooked in about 12 minutes.  I have to admit that I cheated a little bit too.  Instead of buying a large fillet of salmon, I bought frozen individual-sized fillets from Sam's Club.  My family enjoys tin foil dinners and this was a similar meal.  My 4 yr old Peacock ate 3 kid-sized plate fulls of this dinner and Hubby went back for seconds, too.  Definitely a winner!!

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Blackberry Pie: Baked Sunday Mornings

I finally made my blackberry pie for my Baked Sunday Mornings group.  I have to admit that I didn't finish gathering up ingredients until about midnight on Saturday night so there was no way that I would've had it done for Sunday morning and this afternoon was the first time I had a some free time for a project like this.

For some reason I always dread making pies, but once I get going, I always wonder what I was so worried about.  The crust recipe for this pie was great!  The instructions were very clear and easy to follow and it produced a dough that was easy to work with ... I didn't lose my temper with it a single time! :)  My 8 yr old Penguin helped me get the dough all mixed up and into the fridge.  It rolled out perfectly and went right into my dish with no tears or tugging.  My Penguin also helped me mix-up the filling.  Another relatively painless process.

My 3 yr old Turkey woke up from his nap just in time to help me with the cookie cutter part of the pie.  I saw a fellow blogger's pie who had cut-out star shapes for the top of her pie instead of a traditional upper crust.  I loved her beautiful pie and wanted to try to do something similar.  It was simple and I love how it turned out.  I don't normally brush eggs on top of my crust, but it did add a special touch and I love the large, chunky sugar on my stars that the recipe recommended ... they taste good too. :)

After reading the complaints from fellow bloggers about the pie turning out too soupy, I tried doubling the amount of flour in my filling, so I did 2/3 C flour instead of 1/3 C.   The pie was juicy as I expected, but definitely not too soupy.  I wish the bottom crust was a little more crispy, but it wasn't terribly soggy ... I just prefer a crispier crust.  I might try baking the crust a little bit before putting the filling in next time.

All in all, great recipe!!

Go HERE for the recipe.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

see mary go

In the middle of all my moving chaos, I got to take a little breather to take photos & make announcements for one of my Laurels because she was graduating from high school.  My favorite part is always designing the announcements, so I made her a few to choose from.  She ended up going with the purple one.  :)

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Welcomes to Us

I just have to give a shout out to our wonderful new neighborhood.  After we had been here a few days, there was a knock on the door and I was greeted by homemade strawberry jam and whole wheat bread ... with freshly ground wheat.  I have to say that I'm impressed.  Bread baking hasn't really been my thing.  I like quick breads, but after tasting this homemade whole wheat bread, I might have to take up a new hobby ... and make a new friend to teach me about this delicious bread she baked for me!  The bread was very soft ... not at all dry or crumbly like I have come to expect from whole wheat bread.  And the strawberry jam that she made was devoured by all!!

Last night around 9pm, there was a quick knock on the door.  When we opened the door, we found that the deliverer had escaped into the night and left us a note welcoming us with a plate of homemade cookies.  WOW!  I'm feeling loved!!  If our "secret" friends happen to read this, THANK YOU!

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Friday, July 1, 2011

French Fridays with ... Moi

I'm so excited to have my computer back ... I should give her a name ... I really missed her while she was living in a box and I was busy moving.  And I'm just as excited to get back to some real cooking and baking!!  I miss all the cooking friends that I've made through French Fridays with Dorie and Baked Sundays.

This week, my time was consumed with purchasing a piece of land to build a home ... when it rains, it pours.  I'm still surrounded by boxes!!  But I can say that I did try this week's FFwD recipe ... the Mozzarella, Tomato & Strawberry Salad. One night when I was sick & tired of my hot, unorganized house, I took my kids to swim at my mom's house and she made us the salad for dinner.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it and I think I'd like to make it in the future for my family.

I do have another recipe to share with you that I tried last night.  I knew that Hubby was going to be an hour or so late home from work and I had gathered up all the ingredients during the week to try Bon Appetit's Blackberry Buttermilk Cake, so I took a break from my house projects and from talking to all the various people I had been talking to about the land deal to try this tempting treat! 

The results ... exactly what I expected and wanted!!  The cake has a perfect texture ... very moist and soft, a little dense ... not at all dry or crumbly.  The flavor is awesome with the blackberries and orange zest.  Hubby & I each had a slice of the cake around midnight last night with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ... perfection!  And then this morning the kids and I all had a slice for breakfast ... fruit counts as breakfast food, right?

Our rental house has brand new appliances, so last night was the first time the new oven was used.  The recipe said to bake the cake for 1 hr & 25 min.  After about an hour, my toothpick was coming out clean, so I removed the cake from the oven.  I'm guessing it still needed a little more baking time because my cake sunk a little in the middle, but then I don't know if I would've lost that texture that I loved if I had baked it longer.  Thoughts?

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Oh, How I've Missed You!!

HELLO!  I am so excited to join the world of blogging again!! :)  The last couple of months have been so crazy for our family.  At the end of April, I went to CA to perform with the OCMCO Symphony & I got a phone call one morning in my hotel room letting me know that we had 60 days to be out of our rental house.  We were not excited about moving, but feeling ready for a change.  Because the 60 days notice gave us time to buy a house, we started house hunting like mad!  We found a few houses that were OK, one we almost put an offer on, but we certainly didn't find a home that we were super excited about and nothing that felt right for our family.  At the end of May, my family traveled to Utah for a week so I could record a CD and perform a couple concerts with the EVMCO and OCMCO.  We spent a fabulous week up in the Salt Lake City area, but when we got home, we had to face the reality that we needed to find another rental home.  I think we got home around 1 or 2am one night and we were up early the next morning looking at rental homes.  We found a clean home somewhat quickly that we felt we could make work.  I was sad to leave our nice rental and it's 5-burner gas cooktop, but we are loving the location of our new rental because we can get just about anywhere we want to go in 5-10 minutes rather than the often 20+ minutes we were traveling at our previous rental.

Somewhere in all that mess, we did put an offer on a house ... one that we had planned to tear down and use the land to build a custom home.  We gave the bank a solid offer, but our offer was not chosen, so it wasn't meant to be.  We continued to casually look for a home or piece of land to build.  About a week ago, a sign went up right outside of our new neighborhood for half-acre lots, so instead of unpacking boxes & setting up our new home this last week, we've been working on buying a lot! At first we thought we weren't going to buy one of these lots because we initially set-out looking for a larger lot, but after thinking about how much we don't like to do yard work, reminding ourselves that Hubby is working 6 long days every week, and that we still have oodles of student loans to repay, we've decided a "smaller" yard will be perfect for our family right now.  Sometime after 10pm last night, we signed the purchase contract and handed over a nice chunk of change to reserve our  lot. SOOO ... if anyone wants to come be my neighbor, lots are going super fast ... I think someone else is signing for one of the lots today, so I believe there will be ONLY THREE lots left.  All the homes in the little neighborhood  are custom ranging from 3500 SF to over 5000 SF.  AZ-style homes are not allowed :), there will be lantern-style street lots, etc ... just a cute spot.  And most of the families who will be building in there have 4-6 kids, so it's going to be one giant party every day!!  So, come be my neighbor if you're looking for a neat spot!!  Oh, there's one cul-de-sac lot left, too! (Right next door to me!!)

So ... that's the last 2 months of my life in a nutshell!

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