Monday, January 30, 2012

America the Beautiful - A Patriotic Literature Lesson

Today is a beautful day in Arizona.  We worked hard this morning to get all our school work done quickly so we could spend a warm, sunny afternoon at the zoo.

Our Literature lesson today (for my oldest daughter) was on patriotic songs as poetry.  The three patriotic songs we learned about were "America the Beautiful", "The Star-Spangled Banner", and "This Land is Your Land".  We talked about new vocabulary words like rampart and perilous.  We learned a little bit about the men & women who wrote the lyrics to these popular poems.  Imagery is strong in these songs and another great topic that can be covered.  States & other locations talked about in the songs can be found on a map.  And there is so much more that we could have all learned from these lyrics!

To finish off our literature lesson today, we searched for the three patriotic songs so that we could see how various artists perform or interpret these songs.

My all-time favorite version of "America the Beautiful" is performed by Ray Charles.  It's nice to be reminded that we really do live in an amazing country & we are all SO blessed.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Broth-Braised Potatoes - French Fridays with Dorie

This week's recipe for our FFWD group was another easy, quick, most ingredients already on-hand recipe from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Around My French Table.  This week we made potatoes.  I've always been a potato girl & I enjoyed trying them made a different way.

In a large pot, I brought some broth, EVOO, water, garlic, lemon zest, a bay leaf, sage, salt, and pepper to boil.  The smell was very comforting like homemade chichen noodle soup.  The potatoes were cooked until soft in the broth.  We didn't really make a dinner that went with potatoes but just threw them on the table with the other items we were having for dinner that night so the family could try & comment on Dorie's recipe.  I think the overall concensus was that they were good, but we weren't dying to make them again ... I think due to the sage.  Our Arizona taste buds aren't used to a lot of rosemary, sage, thyme, and other flavors that the French seem to love.

Thursdays are my crazy day and I'm always looking for something easy for dinner.  Last night I had a banana, some berries, a loaf of bread, and Dories potatoes that needed to be used up, so we made some banana pancakes & french toast ... with berries on top.  Then I fried up the rest of our broth-braised potatoes.  Because there were already flavored, oiled, and seasoned, I pretty much just threw them into a skillet and let them brown.  I LOVED them like this with a little ketchup!!  The texture was great and all the flavors came together really nicely.

If you're interested in taking a peek at this recipe, someone else published it HERE.

In other cooking and food news, last weekend was my husband's birthday and he wanted pies ... cream pies.  I searched through lots of cookbooks and found two new recipes that I wanted to try.

First up was a chocolate-coconut pie  ... the crust was made of only butter and coconut!  And then the filling was a bittersweet chocolate ganache ... definitely a winner!  The only change I'd make would be to have less crust in the area of the pie pan where the bottom meets the side ... don't know if that has an official name ... and put that extra coconut around the edge of the pan for a prettier upper crust showing around the edge of the pie pan ... if that makes any sense.

Second up was a banana cream pie. The pudding had cinnamon and nutmeg which gave it some interest and the then whipped topping had just a touch of sour cream.  Lots of yummy flavors that came together nicely.  I used Dorie's sweet tart dough rather than a traditional pie crust.  I love the more cookie-like crust, but next time I think I'll try to make the crust a little thinner.

We are planning more birthday celebrations this weekend, so I need to come up with another dessert idea ... any suggestions? ideas? requests?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sleeping Sweeties

I wasn't a very good blogger in 2011.  House-hunting, moving, lots of concerts, etc will do that to a person.  Tonight I'm going through lots of old photos & remembering events that I still haven't blogged.  I came across these photos from April 2011 ... looks like they were taken after swimming at Bushka's house.  

These two kiddies are only 10 months apart in age and they've always been sweet little friends.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Mi Familia

december 2011
turkey 4 yrs ~ peacock 5 years ~ penguin 9 years

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

No 1 on Billboard Charts!

This is a little late in coming, but ....

I am thrilled to announce that "Messiah in America" ( has debuted at #1 on Billboard's Traditional Classical charts.  This is the CD that my organization (EVMCO) recorded this past summer in Salt Lake City.

A couple newspapers have printed articles on our accomplishments:

Mormon Choral relase debuts No. 1 on Billboard Classical Traditional chart

Mesa-based Mormon choir tops Billboard charts

"Messiah in America" is available through iTunes, Amazon or the Messiah in America website.  If you have a child between the ages of 4-18 years old who would like to participate in EVMCO, you have two more days to register them for this semester.  The theme for our next concert is Classical to Broadway.  I've already heard some little voices in my house singing Mozart, Bach, Sound of Music selections, etc.  It should be very educational and tons of fun!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Quarte-Quarts - French Fridays with Dorie

I think I'm missing my weekly night away at symphony rehearsal (we're on break right now) because by the time Thursday night hits each week, I'm feeling like I need a break or some me-time.  I actually kind of saved this recipe for Thursday night.  I knew I didn't have anything going on and that hubby & I could put the kids to bed and enjoy some fresh-out-of-the-oven cake before bed last night.

We hurried home last night specifically to watch American Idol (I used to be a big fan, but haven't watched for several years now) because it was in PITTSBURGH last night and I'm a fan of all things Pittsburgh!!  After we watched an hour of American Idol, hubby took the kids upstairs for the bedtime routine and by the time they came to find me for our nightly family prayers, my cake was done & in the oven.  So thank you to Dorie for another recipe that was quick, easy, and uses ingredients we all keep on-hand.  There were some options with the recipe ... I made mine with vanilla (probably about 2 tsp - I just poured) and I sprinkled a healthy tablespoon of brown sugar on top of the cake before it went into the oven.

Usually my oven bakes things on the quick side, but I ended up baking this cake for longer than the suggested time.  After it cooled for about 20 minutes, it came right out of the pan and Hubby & I each enjoyed a barely warm piece with sliced strawberries.

I am usually of the thinking that if cake doesn't have chocolate, it's not worth my time or the calories.  Not the case with the quarte-quarts!!!  I loved it!!!

Loved the melted, crunchy brown sugar on top.

Loved the simple yet comforting taste & texture.

Delish!  Will definitely make again to go with berries. 

Think I'll make it in a square pan next time....

One more quick story.  

The mama came down this morning to take photos of a yummy cake, and what did she find .... a little "mouse" had been into her cake!

She caught the culprit and he curled up on the counter-top to cry...

The mama felt bad for roaring like a lion at the little mouse, so she quickly grabbed one of his favorite foods out of the fridge ... strawberries.

The strawberries helped. 

The End.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Black & White Creme Brulee

After trying Dorie's recipe last week for creme brulee, I was excited to try more creme brulee recipes ... easy, yummy, and they save well in the fridge!  I came across a recipe for black & white creme brulee ... creme brulee with chocolate mousse on top.

Both the creme brulee and mouse were easy to make, but this is a project that you'll have to plan for because the creme brulee has to sit in the fridge overnight before topping it with the mousse and then the mousse sat in the fridge overnight before serving it.

My family of five enjoyed this new concoction and a lot of my extended family tried & enjoyed it as well.  I liked the idea, but I personally liked Dorie's creme brulee recipe better (this recipe had a lot more eggs ... too eggy for me) and I'm certain I've had better mousse recipes as well ... think I'll try David Lebovitz or someone else's next time.  

Instead of making 6 individual creme brulee's, I made one large one in a tart pan.  When I went to take a photo, this is what I found ....

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Creme Brulee - French Fridays with Dorie

I was so sad when I noticed that I missed Dorie's creme brulee in the busy month of December.  I've never made creme brulee and I was looking forward to a good excuse to try-out this dessert.  We decided to try it for this week's recipe rather than the chicken & we were not disappointed!

Thursday night I was at feeling at my wits end and I was nursing a bad headache.  My husband was very kind and took the kids into a room to build forts with blocks for an hour while I rested.  After the kids were in bed, I was in the mood for a little cooking project and Dorie's creme brulee recipe was perfect.  Quick & easy, just a handful of ingredients, & the smells were heavenly.  I've always been a fan of Amish custard pies, puddings, etc, so this was right up my alley.  I LOVE the smell of hot heavy cream mixed with a little vanilla, sugar & egg yolks.  For me, it's a very comforting smell.

I chose to put a teaspoon of Trader Joe's blueberry preserves on the bottom of each of my ramkins just to add another flavor to the dessert (it turned out good, but I don't know that I needed jam & then more sugar on top).  I baked my creme brulee's for about an hour but I think they could've baked another 5 minutes.  My kids & husband were excited to help out with my kitchen torch to make a little crunchy sugar on top.

After making Dorie's recipe, I started looking at creme brulee recipes in other cookbooks.  It's basically the exact same recipe ... some use only heavy cream, some use a water bath, etc.  I've already got my 2nd batch of creme brulee resting in the fridge ... I decided to try a "black & white" creme brulee (it has chocolate mousse on top!!).  I think we'll have it for a Sunday night treat.  I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Brioche Part 2

After I tried Dorie's brioche, I wanted to change things up just slightly the second time around.  Instead of rolling my dough into 3 balls per roll, I rolled out my dough & cut-out 3 crescents for each roll.  I also watched the baking time more closely and pulled my rolls out of the oven earlier this time around.  Results ... I loved the roll baked a little less because it was softer.  I also like the crescent shapes and "peeling" apart my roll better.  No huge changes but a couple minor changes made this recipe even more enjoyable for me!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Miles the Birthday Boy

My nephew Miles turned 1 a couple weeks ago and we all got together last night to celebrate his birthday with lots of delicious food & desserts.  Just hard to share a few pics of cute Miles .....

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Bubble-Top Brioche Rolls - French Fridays with Dorie

This week's FFWD recipe was bubble-top brioche rolls ... a recipe I looked forward to trying.

I doubled the recipe, but so far I've only baked 6 rolls.  Just enough for everyone to have a taste.  I'll save the rest of my dough for Sunday or Monday dinner since the dough can stay in the fridge for up to 3 days.

The dough came together fairly easily and Dorie's instructions were easy to follow.  The only thing I did wrong was leaving the dough on the counter for too long last night while I watched a Larry Crowne with my hubby ... cute movie ... but when the movie was over and I spotted my forgotten dough, it was overflowing onto the counter.  At that point, I just pushed it down a bit & threw it into the fridge cause it was past bedtime.  

This morning the kids were anxious to help me roll little balls.  Next time I think I'll try shaping the dough differently & see what I think.  The results were great, but I would've liked my rolls a little less brown cause the outsides got too crispy.  I think these will go great with a creamy soup or Thanksgiving dinner.

If you're looking for a great roll recipe, I highly recommend Dorie's brioche rolls!!

If you're looking for a fun date night/movie rental, check-out Larry Crowne!!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Potato Chip Tortilla - French Fridays with Dorie

This post is long overdue!  I made my potato chip tortilla & took my photos several days before the recipe was "due", but I'm finally getting around to posting my results nearly a month late ... December was a busy, crazy month!  In fact, there were some December recipes that I was really looking forward to trying, but I never got around to them, so I'll have to go back & do some make-up cooking.

This recipe was quick & easy and the only item I had to make a special trip to the grocery store for was the potato chips.  This tortilla is something I think I'd enjoy more during the breakfast hours (I made it  for dinner) & my only complaint was that I wished the potato chips were more crunchy.  Maybe I'll try adding them later next time.  I used cilantro in my tortilla because that's what I had in my fridge & for whatever reason it sounded better to me than the basil that's trying to grow on my back patio.

To see the results of other fearless Dorista cooks, please go HERE.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stump de Noel - Baked Sunday Mornings

I didn't have the greatest luck with my first Baked recipe for the year 2012.  Maybe I tried to change too many things. Maybe I had too many distractions.  Maybe my oven temperature is off.  Maybe I let things sit too long in between steps.  Maybe I don't have the correct size of pans. I don't know, but it just didn't work.

Before I started my Stump de Noel, I checked out recipes in other cookbooks that I own.  The biggest difference I saw was that most of the sponge cakes were not a chocolate cake, so I definitely wanted to go for the chocolate Baked version.  I wasn't up for making all the mushrooms, cranberries, leaves, and varieties of frosting cause I'm not really a frosting girl & I didn't have time for all the extras.  I just wanted to try the cake and see how it all worked-out & tasted.

I worked on the cake for several hours (with distractions) Sunday night.  WOW!  This cake recipe was definitely the most time consuming cake recipe I've ever made.  It seemed like every single ingredient had it's own special instructions and steps before it could be added to the bowl.  I baked my cakes for 18 minutes, as instructed, and then let them cool overnight.  Monday afternoon I was ready to assemble my cakes with Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream instead of all the frostings.  I spread the softened ice creams on my cakes and then began to "roll" my cakes into stumps except they didn't roll at all!  They stayed flat, totally broke, & I ended up with a big, ugly mess after my attempts to make a stump out of the first sheet cake.  I decided there was no point in ruining the 2nd cake, so I cut it into 8 equal squares and layered my ice cream cakes 4 layers high ... much prettier.

We enjoyed a fun Monday night treat of ice cream cake.  It was delicious and of course no one cared that the cake was flat instead of rolled.

Last night I was relaxing in bed & reading a new chocolate cookbook my dad got me for my birthday.  I came across a recipe for a Stump de Noel with lots of chocolate that said to roll the cakes while they are still warm....  Don't know if I'm up for a re-do.

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