Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Champion. We Got a Juicer!

We juiced for the first time today.
It wasn't a terribly adventurous recipe--carrot orange--but we went simple for our first time.
It was like liquid sunshine.
A perfect drink for this gray morning.
Isn't it pretty?

Our juicer is a vintage Champion.
The Champion.
I love the name, don't you?
It belonged to my parents, who hadn't used it in years and years.
They gave it to us a while ago, but the cord was broken so it sat in the cabinet, unused.
Aaron fixed it this weekend--he's so handy--and this morning I set the beast up on the counter and the kids and I decided it was time to make juice.
The Champion is a lovely shade of 70s green, big, and is solid.
It weighs a ton.
It has all the original parts.
My favorite is the beautiful wooden tamper and the original recipe and instruction booklet.
It was not super easy for me to put all the parts on and get The Champion operational.
Nothing went together easily and it didn't help that reading technical directions of any kind is not my forte.
Give me a poem and I can pull every nuance of meaning out it you could imagine, but directions for putting together a juicer nearly put me over the edge.
Thankfully I have an 8 year old with a very excellent mind for figuring out the way things work, and who is quite skilled at understanding visual diagrams.
Between the two of us we figured it out.
I only yelled, "arrrrgh!  I hate this thing!" one time.
William scolded me, of course, with at look and these words, "Mom, saying you hate something is like saying kill.  Do you want to kill the juicer?  You're not supposed to say that, Mom."
Can you imagine his lecture if he heard me curse?
Finally, we were ready to juice something.
We started with a bunch of organic carrots.
I thought the  kids would be more open to something not green.
At least for their first time.
They all cheered when the first carrot went through and the juice poured out.
It was so exciting!
(I didn't think about the pulp coming out.  What do you do with all that pulp?  Anything?)
 They were also thrilled by the color of the juice.
"It's so orange, Mom!"
Next we headed outside and picked a bunch of oranges from our very own trees.
We used both the navels and the blood oranges.
As per my mom's suggestion, I peeled the oranges.
She remembered being often disappointed by bitter orange juice.
I figured that must have been from the pith or peel, or both, when you juice the whole orange.
It took a little extra time, but it was worth it to avoid bitter juice.
Everyone took a turn pushing down the fruit.
 Taste test time!
Even with a distinct carrot flavor, everyone loved our juice.
It got a thumbs up all around.
I have to say it was some of the most delicious juice I have ever had.
Part of it, I'm sure, was the fact that the oranges were right from our own tree.
Also, that it was juiced minutes before we drank it.
But I think, like so many other things, home made just tastes better.
That is why I make so many things from scratch.
It is messier, takes longer, and requires more effort, but it is almost always worth it.
We'll be juicing lots more, for sure.
And so I need recipes.
Do you have any favorites?
I'm looking forward to trying some green juices and getting those into my kids.
I'm looking for recipes that will help us fight off the colds and flus that seem to be everywhere this winter.
I'd love to hear your favorites recipes, or recipe sources if you have any.

After we got The Champion put together, we had so much fun with our new juicer, and especially enjoying the fruit of our labor.
Here's to two of my favorite things, vintage and homemade!
Happy Tuesday!
Love from,

Friday, November 2, 2012

Making Bread

Hello friends!
I'm popping in to tell you that we're baking bread today.
As usual, I have a list a mile long of things I want to write about.
For one thing, I think I finally found my china pattern!
I've been married for nearly 15 years, and it's taken me this long to find the one that I really love.
It's vintage Franciscan ware and I can't wait to share it with you.

But back to the bread.
There are few tasks I find more satisfying than making my own bread.
There are few smells more enticing than bread baking in my oven.
There are few things more delicious than bread fresh from my oven, eaten warm with butter.
It is worth every ounce of effort.
And truthfully, it isn't much effort at all.
We tried this recipe for the first time, and mixing it up was a dream.
It's in the oven right now, rising.

Since we'll be having a late dinner tonight, our bread will be ready for us, all warm and delicious, in a couple of hours.
Having fresh baked bread with dinner makes for such a special treat, doesn't it?
I'll let you know how the bread turns out so you can make some too.
I hope you will.
Even if you only do it once a year, your family will thank you for it.
Treat them.
They're worth it!

Can I tell you how wonderful it feels to be turning on my oven and making soup and fresh bread for dinner?
It's November and today was perfectly cool--just a touch under 70.
I know, that's a Southern California autumnal day, but I'll take it.
Last night I baked pumpkin muffins, and tomorrow...who knows.
It's November, one of my favorite months, and I'm thankful for so many things.
Today I'm thankful for the smell of yeast, and the warmth of my oven, and for a family that I am blessed to care for.
It is good to take care of people.
Wishing you a wonderful November weekend!
Love from,

Monday, August 20, 2012

Made From Scratch: Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

It's tomato time.
Some lucky people have vines in their gardens absolutely dripping with them.
But if you're not one of the lucky ones, you can still visit the farmers market and buy some.
The stands there are full of the fragrant, red, beauties.
Whether you pick your own, or buy a bucketful, you'll need to do something with them.
The easiest thing to do, of course, is to slice them, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and eat them with thick slices of fresh mozzarella and basil, like this.
You can also make tomato sauce.

If you've ever made tomato sauce from scratch, you know it is a time consuming, hot, messy, and somewhat tedious process.
It's not something you can start an hour before dinner.
It's also not something you want to do when it's 90 degrees in your kitchen.
All that peeling, seeding, and boiling--it's a lot of work.

That's why I want to tell you about my favorite tomato sauce: Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce.
No peeling, seeding or pots of boiling water required.
It's fast.
And best of all, it's completely delicious.
This sauce is simple to make:
4 ingredients.
5 if you want a bit of spice.
You'll start with a bunch of cherry tomatoes.
These are just the red ones, but I also like to use the yellow ones--they make a really pretty sauce.
The only prep you have to do to these tomatoes is to wash them and remove the stems.
Could it be any easier?
Using a generous amount of olive oil, you'll start by sauteing the garlic.
Don't let it burn, just get lightly brown.
If you like your sauce with a little kick like I do, you can add some red pepper flakes to the hot oil and garlic.
As soon as the garlic is ready, add the tomatoes.
You just dump them right into the pot whole--remember no prep needed.
Let them cook in the hot oil, stirring every couple of minutes with a wooden spoon.
Pretty soon they'll start to get soft and then split.
Once they begin to split, take your potato masher, or a big fork, and begin to crush the tomatoes.
You don't have to fully crush them.
Just smash them enough to release their juices.
Add salt and pepper to taste, and a spoonful of sugar to cut the acid.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
Allow the sauce to simmer until it reaches the consistency that you like.
It can get quite thick if you allow it to cook a while.
The sauce will be full of skins and seeds, but it really doesn't matter.
It tastes so good that you don't notice.
The cherries are different than the giant beefsteak tomatoes--the seeds are smaller and the skins are softer.
My kids ate this sauce and loved it.
I really don't need to say anything other than that, right?

I've been making this sauce for years.
It is one of my all time favorites.
It's very fresh and light--perfect for a hot summer night.
After it's done cooking, I like to add fresh basil to the sauce.
That adds another layer of freshness and really makes this sauce pop.
It tastes really good over a pasta like orecchiette.
Those little pockets catch the sauce perfectly.
The sauce also freezes very well.
You can freeze it in mason jars, or flat, in freezer bags to save space.
I don't add the fresh basil if I am freezing.

If you think it's not worth the trouble to make up a big batch and freeze, let me convince you otherwise.
Come December or January, when it is cold and overcast and there isn't a good tomato to be found anywhere, you'll take out a bag of Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce, defrost it, warm it, and pour it over some hot pasta.
The beautiful color will brighten your day.
The fresh tomato flavor will explode in your mouth and you will be instantly transported back to the long days of sunshine.
This tomato sauce tastes like summer.
Make it!
Love from,

*The batch I made for this recipe was very small.
I just needed to use some ripe tomatoes I had on hand.
2 cups of tomatoes filled 1 quart mason jar.
It was just enough for us all--and none of us drowned our pasta is sauce.
Obviously you can double, triple or quadruple it and make a whole lot more.
It will be totally worth it.

Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce  
inspired by an old recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine
2 cups cherry tomatoes (red, or a mix of red and yellow)
Olive oil
Red Pepper flakes to taste
2 large cloves garlic (the original recipe calls for much more, but I like it a bit more mellow--you can adjust it to your own taste)
1 teaspoon sugar (you can add more if you like the sauce a bit sweeter)
Salt to taste
Fresh basil leaves

Cover the bottom of a large, heavy bottomed, pot with olive oil and heat
Roughly chop the garlic and add to the pot
Add red pepper flakes to taste ( a little goes a long way)
Stir the garlic and cook until it is lightly browned
Add the tomatoes
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to split
Smash the tomatoes with a potato masher or fork until juices are released
Add sugar and salt to taste
Simmer tomatoes until the sauce reaches desired consistency
Remove from heat and add basil

Friday, August 10, 2012

What's Your Favorite Summer Time Meal?

It's August already.
People are starting to talk of fall.
Beach chairs, sand toys, and blowup pools have been relegated to the back corners of every store.
And there is nary a package of water balloons to be found.
I know.
I've looked.
Meanwhile, school supplies are front and center.
But I'm not ready for summer to be over.
Are you?
Have you had enough summer time meals?
You know: picnics at the beach, or on a blanket at the park, in the back yard, barbecuing with friends, burgers, corn on the cob, and sweet, juicy watermelon.
All of those are wonderful summertime meals.
But this one might be my most favorite of all.
It's pretty simple, and takes me back to the summer Aaron and I trained through Italy.
I'm sure that's one of the reasons I'm so fond of it.
We ate lots of riffs on this meal.
Cheese, bread, good olive oil, cured meat, chilled, white wine, and perfectly ripe, deliciously fresh, produce.
If it's a picnic, you can prepare everything right there, and it's lovely.
If you're at home, you can take some extra steps and grill some of the vegetables, and the bread too.
Then it's even lovelier.
It's the kind of meal that's best eaten outside, under a shady tree.
And with enough time to linger at the table afterward.
The Italians know how to do that over lunch.
We're much more likely to jump up and clean up, or dart off to the next event.
Americans have a hard time sitting still.
Or is it just me?

We snuck in a long(ish) lunch last Sunday when were home with sick kids.
It wasn't nearly as long as a proper Italian lunch would have been, but we did the best we could.
I had ripe tomatoes from my mom's garden, fresh mozzarella, and just picked squash, ready for grilling.
I picked some basil from my herb garden, grilled the bread, and we sat down in the backyard at the turquoise picnic table.
If I closed my eyes and ignored the kids, I could pretend we were back at Francis Lodge in Sienna.
Ahhh, Tuscany.

I've got Italy on the brain right now.
I'm hosting my book club's next meeting this weekend at my house.
We read A Room With a View, and we're inspired by Italy, just like Lucy Honeychurch is in the book.
(Have you read A Room With a View?  It is such a great book.  You really should try it.)
So our party will be an Italian themed meal, spread out on a big table, under our sprawling avocado tree in my backyard.
There will be candles everywhere and lanterns hanging in the tree.
It will be very romantic.
I can't wait.

So another week goes by with next to no blogging.
I'm a little distracted.
Case in point, it's midnight and I'm up making things for the party.
What can I say?
It's how I get things done--late--in every sense of the word.
I can't wait to share pictures with you.
And to tell you about our trip to Palm Springs.
And the amazing cherry tomato pasta sauce I just made.
And so much more.
Why can't there be about 6 more hours in my day?

Hope your weekend finds you enjoying some favorite summer time moments, and meals!
Love from,

Monday, August 6, 2012

Raspberry Pancakes with Whole Wheat Flour and Flax Seedss

The past 3 weeks have been an absolute whirlwind.
Back to back vacation Bible schools, one of them at my parent's church, which meant the kids and I spent the week in Fallbrook, everyone but William getting sick with the flu, and then Aaron and I taking a quick trip to Palm Springs, sans kids, to celebrate my birthday.
I've been gone from home for almost 2 weeks, driven back and forth to Fallbrook 4 times, packed and unpacked for 5 people 8 times, and left my baby overnight for the first time.
Whew.  I'm beat.

The more kids I have, and the older they get, the more I have come to realize that my life is going to be pretty busy.
Even if I make an effort not to schedule every day--to allow room for days when we never even get in the car--our other days are busy.
I really like the slow days.
But there are times when I have no control over the schedule, when there are heaps of things going on, and we just roll with it.
Still, it can be tiring.
Those are the times that a little break feels really good.
Even when the break happened because I stayed up most of the night with a crying baby, a 6 year old with a fever and a sore throat, and a barf bowl.
Just in case.

Today was supposed to be another busy day.
But then William walked into the living room at midnight, where I was ironing the kids' clothes for church. (I was trying to do things ahead of time, thus avoiding the Sunday morning-get-in-the-car to-drive- to-church- in-a-bad-mood routine.  Does that only happen at my house?)
"I don't feel good," he said.
He had a fever and a sore throat.
After the flu Lilly and James had 2 weeks ago, I am gun shy.
So I grabbed the barf bowl.
Just in case.
William and I climbed into my bed.
He was obviously feeling rotten, because he cried as he leaned his hot little body against me.
I held him and prayed for him.
Minutes later Davy woke up, screaming.
It was the kind of cry that says, "come and get me now!" 
Aaron went to him and tried to sooth him, but he'd have none of it.
So Aaron and I switched places and I took Davy.
I was up most of the night with him.
I don't know if he has a molar coming in, or something else going on, but many times he was nearly inconsolable.
It was unlike him, and very exhausting.

We must have drifted off on the couch in the wee hours of the morning, because I could hardly open my eyes when he started asking for breakfast at 6.
Really David?
I threw some grapes at him and made coffee.
It was when I put the 3rd spoonful of coffee in my cup, instead of into my Bialetti, that I realized I was tired.
Very tired.
But there was good news, even though it had been a grueling night, 1 sick kid, and another potentially sick kid, meant my day just got a lot less busy.
We'd be home today.
I was glad for that.
It meant there was time to make pancakes for breakfast.
I've posted about pancakes before.  Here, here and here.
But I've never given you the recipe I've been using for the past year with great success.
It's from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book.  (A favorite since I checked it out from the library in 4th grade.  For reals.)
This recipe makes a great pancakes.
It's a thinner pancake--the kind that gets crispy around the edges and has lots of those little, airy, holes in it.
Thus far I've made it according to the recipe, using buttermilk and white flour.
Last time I added some blackberries from our vines.
This morning, however, I decided to change things up a bit.
I had no buttermilk, and no lemons or vinegar to make my own, so I used straight milk instead.
I replaced most of the white flour with whole wheat and I added some ground flax seed.
Once I poured the batter on the griddle, I added some frozen raspberries to the cakes.
They turned out great!
I like them even better than the original recipe.
None of the kids liked the raspberries--they were pretty tart.
But I liked the tart berries because I don't like my pancakes to be super sweet.
The whole wheat flour and flax seed didn't bother them a bit, though.
When James took his first bite, he said, "Mommy, these pancakes are so good."
And that's the reason I do this, people.
I love taking care of my family.
Aren't my little Dutch boy and girl sweet?
My mom gave them to me for my birthday.
Thanks, Mom!

You'll find the pancake recipe at the bottom of the page
Give them a try this week if you are lucky enough to have a slow morning.
If not, save them for the weekend.
Happy breakfasting!
Love from,

Here's the original recipe for the pancakes.
And here's my interpretation from today.

Raspberry Pancakes with Whole Wheat Flour and Flax Seed  (inspired by Marrion Cunningham)
1 cup milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup white flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda
Fresh or frozen raspberries*

Beat milk and eggs together
Add melted butter slowly, making sure the milk and eggs stay cool
Mix butter, milk and eggs together
Mix dry ingredients together
Add wet ingredients together until just combined
Lumps are OK
Heat griddle and lightly grease with oil or butter
Pour a small amount of batter onto the griddle (I use my 1/4 measuring cup)
Sprinkle a small handful of raspberries over the pancake
When bubbles form around the edges, flip the pancake
Serve with butter and maple syrup
*You can substitute any other fruit here if you don't have raspberries.  Blackberries are very good.
Blueberries, of course.  Also, all the stone fruit that is ripe right now would be really good.
Small pieces of ripe peach, apricots, or even plum.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Scones and Why I Love to Bake

I bake something at least once a week.
Often I bake 2 or 3 things a week.
I love baking.
I love recipes so familiar that I know the measurements by heart.
I love letting my butter soften in the sun on the kitchen windowsill.
I love the way flour feels in my hand when I sprinkle it on the board, before I roll out my dough.
I love the smell that fills my house when things are baking in the oven, and the way the kids come into the kitchen to sniff and say, "it smells sooooo good in here."
I love giving warm baked goods to a friend or neighbor, to someone having a bad day, or just to say, " I love you."
I have always wished I could draw or paint.
To be able to draw a picture for someone seems to me to be one of the most amazing talents to possess.
I can't draw you a picture, but I can bake you a pretty mean loaf of banana bread.
Baking is one of the ways I create.
Baking fills my soul, not just my belly.
Several weeks ago James and I made scones for his book club.
We made one batch with dried strawberries, and then I decided to mix things up a bit.
Inspired by the fresh strawberries sitting on the counter, I chopped some up and added them to the dough.
If you've never tried scones with fresh fruit, I cannot urge you strongly enough to try them.
All too often scones are boring at best, dry and tasteless at worst.
Not so the fresh strawberry scones.
They were so very, very good.
The recipe I used was for cream scones, and the addition of the strawberries made the dough quite wet.
But I rolled it out anyway, cut out the scones, and they baked up beautifully.
They were moist and far superior to the scones with the dried strawberries.
They even met approval from the 8 year olds in the book club.
And you know the younger set can sometimes be hard to please if the treat offered them is not covered in neon frosting or tons of sprinkles.
James said to me when we first tasted them, "Mom, I love you scones."
And I love you, James.  You just scored a million good son points.
But, as good as they turned out, I still wanted to play around with the recipe a bit.
I thought these scones could benefit from some whole wheat flour.
Sometimes I find all white flour to be a little boring, and I like the complexity of taste that comes from the whole wheat flour.

Last week the temperature went up around here and it was not baking weather.
I didn't feel like turning on the oven.
But one morning I got up early, and it was still cool.
Aaron went for a run and the boys rode along on their bikes.
The house was quiet and I thought, "I'm going to make scones."
Scones and coffee sounded like a perfect breakfast.
Tucking a warm scone in my husband's lunchbox sounded pretty great, too.
Remember, baking is one of the ways I say "I love you."
(and I do love you, honey.)
I used the whole wheat flour this time.
I also cut the strawberries in a smaller dice, and used less of them.
As a result, the dough was a lot less wet.
There were a lot of loose, dry crumbs in the bottom of the bowl.
But I was able to incorporate them into the dough when I patted it together with my hands on a floured cutting board.
For cutting out the scones, I used the top from a canning jar.
And I patted together the leftover scraps to use up every last bit of the dough.
Using whole wheat flour made the scones much darker.
Here are the all white flour scones.
And the whole wheat ones.
Before baking, I brush the tops with a bit of cream and then sprinkle with a bit of sanding sugar.
The scones came out of the oven tender, and moist, and with that nutty undertone that I love.
However, no surprise,  I still want to play around with the recipe.
I might try out some different flours--maybe oat flour or almond flour.
I decided I like the strawberries in a bigger dice, and also like using more of them.
I am going to keep working on this recipe until I get it perfect.
As much as I like baking with the kids and making them a part of the process, mixing up a batch of scones in the quiet, cool morning was such a perfect way to start my day.
Baking goes much faster when I do it by myself.
It's also very relaxing, and not nearly as messy.
I won't give up on baking with the kiddos, but I think this early morning baking might start happening more often.
Fresh scones with my coffee for breakfast is quite a treat.
I'll let you know how adding the other flours turn out, and also if I try them with another kind of fruit.
I think a stone fruit like peaches or nectarines would be really delicious.
Until then, here's the recipe as I've used it thus far.
Love from,

Fresh Strawberry Scones (adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen's Cream Scone recipe.)
1 and a 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup of heavy cream
1 and a 1/2 cups fresh strawberries cut in a medium dice

Heat oven to 425
Put all dry ingredients into large bowl or food processor
Whisk or pulse ingredients to mix, 6 times
Scatter butter over dry ingredients in food processor, and pulse about 12 times until flour mixture resembles large, coarse crumbs
If using pastry cutter, cut the butter in about 12 times until flour mixture resembles coarse, large crumbs
Transfer flour mixture from food processor to a large bowl
Add berries
Add heavy cream
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently mix the dough for 30 seconds until dough comes together slightly
Turn out onto floured counter top or cutting board.
Gently pat/knead the dough together, being sure to incorporate all the loose, dry crumbs from the bottom of the bowl
Cut scones out in circles that are about 3/4 inch thick and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar
Bake for 12-15 minutes
Cool on a wire rack

And if you want to read about the Kids' Book Club where we first ate these scones, go to Lilly and The Brothers.
They are especially good to eat with clotted cream and jam.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summertime Breakfast

William asks for pancakes and bacon, to be eaten on the patio, almost every Saturday.
Lately the mornings are too cool and overcast with our typical June gloom to eat on the patio.
And often we're just too busy for making pancakes and bacon.
But today was the first time in a long string of Saturdays that we weren't hosting a party, heading out somewhere, or had a big project to conquer.
And the sun was out!
So breakfast on the patio it was.
Oh how I love a sunny, summer, Saturday!
To make things even better, we had our first peaches from the bare root tree we planted last year.
And I put some of our black berries in the pancakes.
I think they were the best pancakes I have ever had.
And, I'm feeling better.
Not 100%, but about 80%, and that feels about a million times better than I have for the past 3 days.
No more body aches and fevers.
Instead a mommy who feels like getting up and making breakfast.
Breakfast together at the turquoise picnic table?
It's one of my most favorite things.
Good idea, William.
You are a boy after my own heart.

Now I have the rest of the day to enjoy.
I'm going to try to resist the urge to get things done since I am feeling better.
Instead, I'm going to play chess with William while the baby naps and the rest of the family is out looking at a vintage fridge.
Yes, that's right.
A vintage fridge.
I'll keep you posted.
Happy Summer Saturday!
Love from,