Thursday, August 9, 2012

TWD | Baking with Juliia : Blueberry Nectarine Pie

blueberry nectraine pie

We joined a CSA this summer and my goodness, the bounty has been fantastic. I've gone a little crazy and ordered some bulk fruits for canning. I took some of the blueberries and nectarines and whipped up the Blueberry Nectraine Pie from Baking with Julia with some of our extra fruit. It was so tasty just a bit too sweet for my taste. I was tempted to whip three of four of these and freeze them but our freezer is already jam packed with pesto, corn and frozen berries. I was not such a fan of the pie crust. I used whole wheat flour because that was what I had. I have made enough pies in my time to have my favorite doughs and I am not sure this will be at the top of my list. Good dough, just not amazing.

I followed the recipe as written. Find the recipe at Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or visit Liz at That skinny chick can bake!!  and Hilary at Manchegos Kitchen the TWD hosts.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Upholstery on Broadway

I just wrapped up my first class at Upholstery on Broadway. I had been looking for a class to take for the last two years but the hours offered by another school did not work with my schedule. So on a whim, I googled upholsters with the intention of calling each shop in a 10-mile radius from me and asking for a private class. Then I found a little website for a shop in Arlington that not only offered classes a ten minute drive from me but also offered weekend classes! The shop is tiny, cute and bustling with activity. Pamela and Kevin (the master upholsterer) are kind, funny and such great teachers. I brought in one of my Kennedy chairs (we found them on the side of the road in Cape Code last summer) and stripped poor little Jackie down to the bones. The stripping took a couple of hours on and off over a week. The chairs were solidly built and not in bad shape save for the salmon colored fabric but the insides were cheap-o. I replaced the plastic webbing that was originally used with some beautiful jute like webbing. The difference in quality and strength was staggering.


I used some old springs and learned how to do an 8-way tie. It was so time consuming but well worth it. Just a couple of improvements in quality materials and the chair went from feeling like a cheap run of the mill wing back to something worth keeping.


I tacked some burlap over the springs.


Some rubberized horsehair over the springs...


Some cotton over the rubberized horsehair... IMG_0425

And finally some edge roll on the front arm panels and foam on the seat. IMG_0427

This is how far I got on my little Jackie. I did miss two classes so I think I could have made even more progress on the chair in one session. I plan to enroll in another class in the Fall after Pamela and Kevin (the owners) re-open after summer break. I am going to strip and do a little coil tying on Jack over the summer and if all goes as planned, these babies will be sitting at the heads of our Thanksgiving table. If you have been considering taking an upholstery class, I strongly recommend Pamela and Kevin and their little shop, Upholstery on Broadway.

TWD | Baking with Julia : Pizza Rustica


We love pizza. I am not sure that love even captures the complete feeling we have over our favorite food. There is a pizza restaurant down the block from our place and we hit it up every Friday night. They have a beet salad that the baby loves (the wait staff are always amazed to watch him devour it) and pizza that is good. Really good. So when the the TWD recipe for the month was Pizza Rustica, I was ever so eager to try it.

I read the recipe and scratched my head. "How is this a pizza?" I wondered. I threw my confidence into Julia and Dorie and went about making this. Along the way I stopped and questioned what Julia and Dorie were thinking. I finally gave in and declared "We love pizza and we love pie!" I then crossed my fingers that it would all work out in the end.

You know what? It did. This little pizza is it's own thing and a delicious one at that. Make sure to let it cool. We couldn't wait and got a gloppy serving that tasted great but was well, gloppy.

I followed the recipe as written. Find the recipe at Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or visit Emily of Capitol Region Dining and Raelynn of The Place They Call Home, the TWD hosts.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD | Baking with Julia : Hungarian Shortbread


Jam + Cookie = Perfection.

The Hungarian Shortbread recipe calls for a batch of rhubarb jam and the crumbliest shortbread dough I have ever had. I chose to stick to the recipe as it was written and was excited to find rhubarb at Whole Foods. When my child saw it he asked if it was red celery.  I am sure it isn't local as our harvest season is a month away but it did yield a sweet and sour jam. The rhubarb jam recipe is very simple. You just take the ingredients and dump then into a saucepan to simmer. The dough came together beautifully and I decided to use my food processor to grate the dough rather than grate it by hand. I am not sure how much of an impact it made on the recipe. I will probably try to skip that step in the future and just transfer the dough after it is combined rather than freezing and grating. After reading through the Tuesdays with Dorie P & Q comments, I decided to pre-bake the dough before adding the jam and topping layer. It was a smart move and ensured that my shortbread was baked through. I cut the shortbread into two bite sized pieces and once I saw how much the recipe and my cutting yielded, I froze half of the batch.

The shortbread was so delicious. It is perfect for a brunch or a hostess gift. The only change I would make to it is to double the rhubarb jam recipe and add more of it to the shortbread. I felt like it needed a bit more jammy flavor. I like that the recipe lends itself to variations like using high quality jams or lemon/citrus curds.

I followed the recipe as written. Give the Hungarian Shortbread a try! Find the recipe at Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or visit Lynette of 1 Small Kitchen or Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler…, the TWD hosts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

HTCE : Bolognese


My boys love pasta and I am often on a search for great pasta recipes. I wanted to sneak in some meat and veggies and decided to try the Bolognese recipe from How to Cook Everything. It was a recipe that calls for a little planning and an open afternoon. A rainy afternoon was the perfect block of time to watch the sauce and let it simmer on the stove while the boys played with legos and watched some vintage Tom and Jerry cartoons.

The recipe was straight forward. I was worried that the texture would be enough to alert the boys that something was different but it wasn't. I served three little boys three big bowls of pasta bolognese and they ate up every single last bite. They needed an extra long bath to clean their saucy faces and hands and our dinner napkins had to soak in hot water to ensure the stains would come out.

The next time I prepare this sauce, which may be monthly if not weekly, I think that I am going to double it and keep a batch in the freezer to save us on those nights that little league runs late.

I followed the recipe as written. Find the recipe at How To Cook Everything  by Mark Bittman.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TWD | Baking with Julia : Lemon Loaf Cake


 I missed out on baking with the TWD group for the last two months. Life got a bit busy and well things just happen.

Today,  I looked on the calendar, I realized I could fire up the oven and squeeze in a recipe and blog post. I must start with the fact that lemons are my least favorite dessert flavor. I avoid lemon meringue, key lime pies, lemon sorbet and even lemon flavored life savers. Seriously, me and lemon no-go but my husband LOVES lemons in anything. So when I saw that today's recipe was the Lemon Loaf Cake, I thought that my sweet Mr. Erick would enjoy coming home to a freshly baked treat. I even made a quick run to the store for some Meyer Lemons.

The recipe was a breeze to make. It came together quickly and called for such simple ingredients that I was beginning to feel a bit more open minded about my whole lemon issue. Look at it, picture perfect and very inviting. The first taste was...not so bad. The lemon taste was just enough and the texture was amazing but I am partial to pound cakes so all in all, I liked it. My husband thought it needed a stronger lemon flavor.

Will I make it again, YES! I do think that I will make a quick loaf when we have overnight guests or family breakfast at my sons' school.

I followed the recipe as written. In the mood for some sunny and cheery Lemon Loaf Cake? Find the recipe at Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or visit Truc at Treats or Michelle at Ladystiles, the TWD hosts.

umm...well...things got busy.

i just came to accept that i have not kept up with my tuesdays with dorie group. gulp. things got busy and before i knew it, i found i was too tired and not to inclined in consuming extra calories from the baking with julia cookbook. but i am back and now i have a ton of catching up to do. so come back around in the next week or so to see just how much work i procrastinated myself into.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Food Code.

It started five months ago with the discovery of Dinner A Love Story and has culminated in rethinking how our family ate and how we didn't. I took inventory of the pantry (more on that later) and decided to get serious about making some changes. Our pantry was in decent shape but it could still use some tweaking. I went back and forth between fad and extreme diets and knew that if this was going to be a successful and meaningful change that wasn't the route. I chose the route of quality, moderation and reality.

Quality. Make sure that we eat the best quality food either organic or local and most things from scratch. The boys adapted easily to this. Out went the Quaker Oats granola bars they loved and in came the home made granola bars using whole, organic ingredients. As the main grocery shopper and the head chef, I have complete control over the quality of food in our home.  I monitor the grocery list a bit more closely and pay just a bit more for organic apples and strawberries. Has our grocery bill increased? Yes, probably by about $25-45 depending on the weekly menu but I would say about 90% of what we have in the refrigerator and pantry is organic or local. We joined a CSA to provide our family with organic and local produce, meat and eggs. Our first delivery will be in 6 weeks and am excited about trying different veggies and learning to cook new meals with them.

Moderation. This is the most challenging for me because when something is delicious it is hard to stop eating. I worked on my mindset and focused more on being comfortable with having another bite but not another serving. The boys have not had much of an issue with this either. Our general family rule has always been healthy before junky so they know to have an apple, banana or glass of milk before they indulge in a cookie. And honestly, the rare time they do ask for a second cookie, we let them have one. I don't want them to feel deprived and they have gotten to the point that they know a third or fourth cookie, as tasty as it sounds, isn't the best choice for their growing bodies.

Reality. Life will sometimes make things more challenging and when that is the case, I don't sweat it. We have pizza night at our favorite local pizza restaurant when we've had a tiresome day and can't seem to get dinner on the table. I have Annie's organic granola bars stashed away in my car to feed my little boys when hunger strikes. I don't stress out over the candy in party bags or the birthday cupcakes served with juice. If we've done our smart eating most of the time then the 10% that we don't follow it is fine.

Where has this gotten us? I sit with the boys for dinner most nights.  Our "selective" eater is slowly making headway on trying new things--he recently gobbled up some fish I made. Our weekly menus are varied enough so they aren't boring.  This was never about weight loss or food deprivation but more of an acknowledgment that we have choices and freedom in how we eat and we are going to exercise them. More than that, I want my sons to grow up with a sense of real and wholesome food. I want them to know what rising bread smells like and have it become second nature to them to reach for a pan as easily as it is to call for chinese food to be delivered.

Once the guidelines were set I turned to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Cookbook. My weekly menu planning is made easier with the book. I open it up, pick out pasta, meat, poultry, fish and bean recipes and that's that. The grocery list and menu get written on our blackboard and we are ready for the week. I throw in a dessert to keep things fun, a couple of favorite family recipes and leave a bit of room for eating out.

 I feel like I have finally cracked the code to feeding my family. I don't want to sound preachy. I know that every parent does their best to feed their children so this isn't a wagging finger about the dangers of McDonalds and Hamburger Helper. This is, simply, an outline of what helped us. I searched the internet for so long trying to resolve the dinner dilemma and always felt like I was behind. We weren't too far off in the food department but it was often cyclical and that was the big problem. I would go through cooking binges and then not be motivated to make anything more than some scrambled eggs or the same meals from week to week. Once I was able to think of our food priorities and come up with a simple system it worked.

Tell me, how do you get dinner on the table for your family?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Going Green: Resusable Shopping Bags

We've been green for a while now but one of my resolutions this year was to go even greener by attempting to get to a zero waste life. I don't think we will get there (zero waste) but I know that the steps we take to try will have an impact. First thing first. I decided to become militant about reusable shopping bags. We have the larger shopping bags from Whole Foods but half the time they were left at home or in the car. The bigger challenge is actually remembering to use the bags and we gave it a disciplined and strong go for two months before it became second nature to us. I wanted to reduce even more waste and ordered some of these to use for our fruits and vegetables.
They have been great and have sped up my shopping since I no longer have to hunt down the plastic bag dispensers. The boys even fight to take the bags into the store. The moment that I knew I could write about this being a success was when my husband used them on his grocery run.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Flour : Snicker doodles


Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe sat on my book shelf for a year before I even thought about trying out any of the recipes. You see, I live a short walk from the actual Flour Bakery and my boys, they love going there. So there was little desire to do anything with the book when the bakery beckons my family at least once a week. We some how got into the groove of making a batch of cookies twice a month to enjoy. Then that turned into adding a cookie into lunch boxes once a week and that turned into me going out and buying a cookie jar to store all of the cookies we baked. We rarely buy pre-made cookies at the store because I prefer to make better tasting cookies for my guys.

I love snicker doodles. When I was an undergrad in Texas, there was a sandwich shop that had the tastiest cookies. Anytime I went there I made sure to pick a giant snicker doodle cookie for dessert. My mind registered snicker doodle cookies as a very Central Texas sort of cookie. But it isn't. It is important, I believe, that snicker doodles have a chewy center--it enhances the cinnamon and sugar topping. This recipe was great--it was easy and yielded the soft chewy center that makes a superb cookie.

 Want to bake some cookies for your family? Check out Flour Bakery Cookbook for the recipe.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TWD | Baking with Julia : White Loaves

Our family runs the spectrum in food tastes. Our oldest is picky, the middle boy is as adventurous as his father and the baby and I like what we like but will sometimes try new things. There is nothing more that we love on our plates than bread. Slathered with peanut butter or hot off the grill oozing with cheese, we know that we can come up with a quick meal if we have a loaf of bread in the house. We went through a phase when we baked a fresh loaf of bread once a week especially through the winter but then we just fell off the bread baking habit.

It was nice to see that the first Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was a simple white loaf of bread. I knew it would be delicious and easy--we have even used the exact recipe from time to time. When it came to bake the bread I made a huge mistake. I started the process without thinking about how busy my day was and that resulted in over-risen bread when school pick up ran late. Combine over-risen bread, two quick moving boys bringing their lunch boxes into the kitchen and one slammed lunch box and we were left with two deflated loaves sitting on the stove. I threw them into the oven knowing that they wouldn't be picture worthy but hoped they would be just as tasty. Forty five minutes later, the loaves were out and a while later sliced. The outer crust was rock hard but the inner part of the loaf was spongy. My boys did not care one bit and gobbled their slices up.

One week later I took another crack at it. I made sure my morning was free and little boys were barred from the kitchen until after the loaves were baked. These loaves were perfect and were made into numerous varieties of sandwiches over the next three days. I think that we may get back into the habit of baking bread once a week.

I followed the recipe as written and the results were fool proof.

Are you inclined to give it a go for yourself? Check out Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan or visit Laurie or Jules, the TWD | Baking with Julia Hosts for this month.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ad Hoc at Home: Buttermilk Biscuits

 I grew up eating biscuits from a local corner bakery--they were soft and bland but went down easily with a pat of butter on the top. My husband grew up eating biscuits out of the pop open can. Those cans have made an occasional appearance in our home, usually after we bring home a baby and operate in survival mode. Those biscuits out of the can are not my favorite and anytime I serve them to my children I feel a little bad.  I have been on a search for the perfect biscuit recipe. I wanted something that was crunch on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. We have tried a ton and have never found 'the one.' This morning,  I heard my man tell the boys that he was going to make biscuits. I made my way into the kitchen and took over. I don't mind him in the kitchen you see, but I know that it comes at a cost and that cost usually means cleaning up. So I prefer to do the cooking, thank you very much.

He found a recipe for buttermilk biscuits in Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller and we gave it a go. My! These were the best biscuits I have ever had. They were perfect and tasty and between the five of us and some jam we ate them all up. So go make them now and follow the recipe as it is written to avoid any mistakes. I will add that I used my mixer to combine the butter into the flours and it worked out. The key is to cut the butter into tiny pieces, put the butter into the freezer for a while and then mix until just combined.

I have to tell you, we have made these every Sunday morning for the last month. MMMmmmmm.

Are you interested in giving it a go yourself? Check out Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller for the recipe. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Just delivered!

Last week, as I drove to my son's school for afternoon pick up, I caught an interview with Dori Greenspan on NPR. Mrs. Greenspan was discussing, among other things, a blog called Tuesdays with Dorie that started with one woman, Laurie and her desire to bake her way through Mrs. Greenspan's book, From My Home to Yours. Four years later and a larger circle of bakers and they had worked their way through all of the recipes. I was so excited to hear about it, but sad I missed out on an opportunity to join in until it was announced that this group of bloggers/bakers was going to give it another go with "Baking with Julia," another of Mrs. Greenspan's books. One hour later, I had ordered my book and decided that I was going to join. The book arrived today and I squealed when I looked at it. The last Tuesdays with Dorie challenge took four years! I thumbed through the book and wondered how long this will take and where this little adventure is going to take me. So here we go, I am MissyMey. I am a happy wife, a mom to three little boys and a bird dog and I like to bake.