16 December 2010

Rough Around The Edges but Sweet In the Middle (Deep Dish Pecan Pie)

   Life in our household has been both extraordinarily busy and exhaustingly wonderful lately.  Since the end of November, we have flown 2,000 miles with two under three, celebrated Thanksgiving once, Chanukah twice and a birthday thrice.  We haven't slept more than 2-3 hours at a stretch in 6 weeks.  We haven't had a working refrigerator in over a month (hence the lack of any recipe here that can't be baked quickly and served at room temperature).  We will celebrate Christmas next weekend but haven't started shopping yet.  The house is (still) a mess.  We are tired.  And crabby.  And overwhelmed.  And not quite sure where our days begin and end. 

    But we are also very, very blessed.  And in life I tend to think that without rough days, it is hard to fully appreciate the wonderful moments.  Our beautiful oldest child turned 3-going-on-16 but had THE BEST TIME EVER celebrating it.  Our spunky youngest babe turned holy-4-month-Wakeful-Period but also giggles loudly and unabashedly at even the slightest hint of a tickle.  Our home is warm and filled with love.  Our families are supportive and generous.  Good friends help keep our spirits bright.  And while we don't have a way to keep food cold right now, we never, ever have to worry about how we will fill our bellies or access clean water or clothe our children, thanks to my husband's hard work.  

     This incredible pie was a team effort between my brother, sister-in-law and me this Thanksgiving but would be delicious on any Christmas menu as well.  Between the homemade crust and concentric pecans, it took a fair amount of work to make.  The crust is slightly salty and as you can see from the pictures, not pretty.  (We prefer to call it rustic.  :) )  The filling is warm and nutty and gooey and intensely rich.  It also has the perfect amount of sweetness when paired with the salty bite of the crust.  Separately, the parts of this pie would be missing something, but together they form a delicious balance of flavors.  The salty balances the sweet.  Crunchy meets gooey.  Pecans meet bourbon.  (Okay, maybe that one doesn't really fit...)  

So in this crazy, busy, sometimes overwhelming holiday season full of salty, rough edges, where do you find your sweet middle? 

Deep Dish Pecan Pie
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into dice
  • 1/2 cup ice water, more as needed
  • About 5 cups dried beans or 3 cups pennies (for baking)

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup molasses, dark or unsulfured
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 2 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • Whipped cream, for serving. 
1. Make the crust: In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour, salt and white sugar at low speed. Add butter and mix until pea-size lumps form. Raise the speed to medium-low and add 1/2 cup ice water in a slow, steady stream, mixing just until dough holds together. To test, pinch a small amount of dough. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time. Shape dough into a ball and wrap it loosely in plastic, then roll it into a disk. Refrigerate at least one hour, or up to 3 days, before rolling. (Dough can be frozen for up to a month.)
2. Open a 10-inch springform pan, flip the bottom over so the outside surface faces in, then close. This will make removing the pie easier when it is done, by preventing the dough from sinking into the pan’s crease. On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough into a circle 16 inches in diameter. Lift it and let it settle into pan, fitting the dough down into the edges. Press the sides firmly against pan and pinch around the top rim. Trim dough with kitchen scissors so it hangs over the rim by one inch, reserving excess. Refrigerate in pan until very cold and firm, at least 45 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Prick bottom of dough with a fork. Lay a piece of parchment or wax paper in pan, then a piece of aluminum foil. Fill foil lining with dried beans or pennies. Bake 15 to 25 minutes, until the sides of the crust have set and turned slightly golden. Remove from oven and lift out the beans, foil and parchment.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until bottom turns a light golden brown. Let cool at least 30 minutes before filling.
4. Fill the pie: Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, melted butter, molasses, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and bourbon. Place baked pie shell, still in the pan, on a sheet pan. Gently pour in the filling. Sprinkle chopped pecans evenly over surface. Working from outside in, arrange pecan halves in concentric circles, without overlapping, until entire surface is covered. (Use only as many as needed.)
5. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, just until filling is firm and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into center. (Do not worry if the overhanging crust becomes very dark brown.) Let cool completely. Use a serrated knife to saw off all overhanging pie crust. Carefully remove outer ring of pan. Slice with a large, very sharp knife and serve with whipped cream.
Yield: About 12 servings.

-adapted (only slightly) from this NYT recipe

02 December 2010

To her, it was perfect.

She asked for a pink cake.  ALL pink.
"Mama, I want a PINK strawberry cake with PINK strawberry frosting for my birthday!" 

I couldn't WAIT to make it for her.  I had visions of perfectly piped roses, swooping buttercream swaths, fluffy pink layers of cake, fresh strawberry filling and three pink birthday candles to top it off.  I pored over pictures of beautiful cakes and even sketched out a version of The Perfect Pink Cake on paper.  The cake recipe was one I'd made numerous times before and knew would be delicious.  The frosting was one I'd perfected just a few weeks before. 

This is quite possibly the prettiest cake on the planet.  Leave it to Martha...

     Since we were celebrating a few days after Thanksgiving, we would be at my parent's home in Florida.  In my suitcase I packed 8 different frosting tips (each handpicked for a different purpose), a rose nail, silvery candy pearls and piping bags.  I sent my mom a detailed shopping list of ingredients to buy ahead of time, in case the store were too crowded or closed to buy what I needed the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I. Was. Prepared.
Reality Hit:
A last minute grocery trip, disposable cake pans, a fussy baby, humid Florida air, uneven layers, persnickety buttercream, and not enough time.  It was, officially, the ugliest cake I've ever made.
I was heartbroken.  Disappointed.  Frustrated.  

Melty frosting.

The leaning tower of Pink Cake Wreck.

   And then she saw it.  Eyes wide and smile even wider, she reached a finger out to steal a taste of frosting and then extended her arms for a hug.  As she snuggled into the crook of my neck, she whispered, "Mama, I love my pink cake."

A few days later her Bompa would ask her, "What was your favorite thing about your birthday?"
Her answer? "Eating cake!"  Mission accomplished. 

Happy 3rd Birthday to my sweet, bright, chatty, loving, curious girl! 

20 November 2010

Raspberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream

Raspberry Cupcake with White Chocolate Buttercream

White Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream.  Rainbow colored sugar is from Dean & Deluca!

1) This recipe is super easy.  And quiet.  Like the lemon cupcake recipe, this doesn't require a mixer and is perfect to make with little helping hands (or while they are sleeping).  Tuck it away for a cold, blustery day in February when all of the blocks, crayons, dance parties, play-dough, dress-up clothes and books in the world aren't enough to entertain a house full of bored, cranky kiddos. 

2) For the raspberry puree, thaw one bag of frozen raspberries and strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.  You'll only need one cup for the cupcakes.  Save 3-4 tablespoons for the frosting and the rest can be stirred into yogurt, smoothies, sauces, salad dressings etc., etc., etc.  I stirred 2 tablespoons into a basic Good Seasons Italian Dressing (made per the directions on the package) for a yummy raspberry vinaigrette.  The possibilities are endless!

3) These are moist, full of raspberry flavor and dense enough to hold up to a good frosting, yet still light enough to be called cake.  They are a great choice if you need to make your cupcakes a day or two ahead (something I usually don't advocate).  Just let them cool completely and keep them in an airtight container until you are ready to frost and serve them.

4)The cake itself isn't especially pretty.  When the raspberry cooks, it gets quite a bit darker, so the cake is more of a deep purple than a pretty, pink "raspberry" color.  Some pink or red food coloring might help this. 
5) All I have to say about the frosting is, YOU'RE WELCOME.  

NERD ALERT (and a spelling lesson): 
   From 4th-8th grade I attended a School for Gifted & Talented students and in 4th grade, competed in the All-School Spelling Bee.  I practiced for weeks and weeks in preparation.  When the Big Bee finally arrived, I could spell the entire Peoria Journal Star Spelling List forwards and backwards in my sleep.  Translation: I was (still am) a damn fine speller. 
That morning, I nervously spelled my way through the first four rounds, gaining confidence each time I left the microphone without hearing the "DING!" of failure.  

ROUND FIVE went a little something like this...
Judge: "Raspberry."  
9-yr-old ThinkLoveSleepEat: "Raspberry.  Rassssberry."   
9 yr old TLSE: (breaking out in a cold sweat): "Razzzzzberry.  Razz-Berry.  Razzberrrry." 
TLSE: "RASZSZZBERRRY.   R-A-S......can you use that in a sentence?"
Judge: "I ate a raspberry for breakfast this morning. RASPBERRY."
TLSE:"R-A-S.......M-m-may I start over?  R-A-S-S...................B-E-R-R-Y.  RASSBERRY."
Judge: DING!

As long as I live, so help me God, I will never again forget the 'P' in R-A-S-P-B-E-R-R-Y. 
That is all. 

Raspberry Cupcakes
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup raspberry purée (strained to remove seeds)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup butter or margarine and raspberry purée just to a boil. Remove from heat, and quickly whisk in dry ingredients first, followed by egg mixture. Whisk gently until smooth but do not overmix.  Divide batter evenly between prepared cupcake tins.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 18-20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean and tops spring back when lightly pressed. Cool completely before frosting.
White Chocolate-Raspberry Buttercream Frosting 
*Frosts 24 cupcakes

  • 4 oz. good quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at cool room temp.
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons raspberry purée
-Bring cream to a boil and immediately pour over white chocolate. Stir until smooth.
-Beat butter and confectioner's sugar on med-high until butter is fully incorporated.  Mixture will be dry.
-With mixer on low, pour in white chocolate mixture.  Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth.
-Add in salt and vanilla.
-With mixer on medium, beat in 2-3 T raspberry purée.  Increase speed to high and beat until frosting is light, fluffy and smooth.  Use immediately.

14 November 2010

Some Disconnected Rambling, Roasted Pumpkin & Pancetta Pasta and Quiet Cupcakes

Mini Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream for a good friend's birthday. (recipe below) Since the cake recipe doesn't require a mixer I prefer to call them "Shhhhh...The Babies Are Napping" Cupcakes.  
These wee bites were decorated by my very talented nearly-3yr-old.  
We plan to open a bakery together before she turns 5.

I busted out the winter dishes this weekend.  I swear they really do help brighten the cold, snowy, dark days.  Plus, everything tastes a little bit yummier in a festive bowl, right?

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Pumpkin & Pancetta  (recipe below)

Three generations of love.  A little bit of girl talk and so. many. giggles.

I took this photo to remind myself of how fast this time with her will fly.  We'd been stuck in the house all day due to the weather and I was feeling worn down, restless and in no mood to play.  Naps weren't great, Daddy was working late, Mama needed a workout and the laundry piles were threatening to suffocate all of us.  
 All she wanted was someone to sit with her while she molded, squished, smashed and chatted. 
All I wanted was a moment. to. myself. and perhaps some time to pull my house back together (and fold a load or two of laundry). 
I chose to take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine and jump in with her.  It made my day.   

 Her: "Cheeeeese!"  



Speaking of bright colors, yellow is officially OUT.  As is the jaundice!

 Leaving only pure cute.

Roasted Pumpkin & Pancetta Pasta
This is essentially macaroni and cheese topped with sweet roasted pumpkin and smoky pancetta.  I prepped it in the morning, covered and refrigerated it, then baked it just before dinner that night.  Serve this with a simple salad of Arugula, pears and walnuts.  So delicious on a cold autumn day.  


  • 3/4  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  dried rosemary
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 3  cups  (1-inch) cubed peeled heirloom pumpkin (or butternut squash)
  • Cooking spray
  •  6 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 8  ounces  uncooked penne
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 2  cups  2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) shredded "Italian blend" cheese (Mine had romano, asiago, provolone and mozzarella)
  • 1/3  cup  (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Decrease oven temperature to 350°.
  3. Cook the pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan and set aside, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shallots to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and shallots; set aside.
  4. Cook pasta according to the package directions until just barely al denta, omitting salt and fat. Drain well.
  5. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and nutmeg in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add shredded Italian cheeses, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese begins to brown.
  6. Let sit 10 min before serving.
Adapted from HERE.

Quiet Mini Lemon Cupcakes

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  •  zest from one lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 48 mini-muffin tins with liners or generously grease a 10x15x1 inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, sour cream and vanilla.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup butter or margarine and water to a boil. Remove from heat, and quickly whisk in dry ingredients first, followed by egg mixture. Whisk gently until smooth but do not overmix.  Stir in lemon zest. Pour batter into a greased 10 x 15 x 1 inch baking pan. (or prepared cupcake tins)
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 to 22 minutes (10-12 min for minis), or until cake is just barely golden and springs back when lightly pressed. Cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temp.
  • pinch of salt
  • 3-4 T fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  1. Beat butter, cream cheese, salt, vanilla until smooth. 
  2. Add in confectioner's sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.
  3. Beat in lemon juice, starting with one tablespoon and then adding the rest one teaspoon at a time, until frosting is light and fluffy.  You may not need all of the lemon juice.
  4. Frost cooled cupcakes immediately or store in an airtight container in refrigerator until ready to use.  Bring buttercream to room temp and rewhip before frosting cupcakes.
Adapted from my brain.  :)

05 November 2010

Cupcakes, Penguins and Bears, Oh MY!*

Applesauce Cupcakes w/ Caramel Frosting 

Makes 36 cupcakes
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
-4 teaspoons baking powder
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 1/2  teaspoons salt
-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-1 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
-1 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-4 large eggs, room temp
-3 cups unsweetened applesauce, room temp
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 for convection oven).  Line cupcake pans with paper liners. 
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at high speed until light in color and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.  On low speed, alternate adding in applesauce and dry ingredients, beginning and ending with dry, until just combined. The batter may look a little curdly and uneven.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean or tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from pans as soon as possible and place on racks to cool completely.  Frost with Caramel Buttercream (recipe follows).
Adapted from the always brilliant smittenkitchen.

Caramel Buttercream (Dark Penuche Frosting)
Makes enough to frost 48 cupcakes or one large 3-layer cake (i.e. you will have some leftover) 

-2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
-2 cups packed dark brown sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1/2-3/4 cup milk
-2 tsp vanilla
-6 cups confectioners sugar 

Melt together 2 sticks of butter, salt and dark brown sugar.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.
Whisking constantly, cook 5 minutes on medium.  Stir in half a stick of butter, one tablespoon at a time and 1/2 cup milk.
Boil 2 minutes more.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Beat in powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, adding more milk if necessary, 1 T at a time.  Beat until lighter in color and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes immediately. 

Applesauce cupcakes, sans frosting.  
They were almost as tasty unadorned as they were covered in frosting.

A very happy penguin!

An ornery cupcake, impatiently waiting for her first "real" Trick Or Treat, was not in the mood for pictures.

A growing boy, enamored with his sister, listens to a story.  She's a fantastic storyteller.

And it was a pretty hilarious tale.

How sweet as pie is this wee face?
*Apologies for the corny title.  I couldn't help myself.

01 November 2010

Dried Fruit and Proscuitto Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Port Reduction

   I first fell in love with this amazing dish at a dinner celebrating my mom's 60th birthday a few weeks ago.  It was so swoonworthy that I couldn't get my mind off of it for days.  Thankfully, an Autumn-themed cooking club with some of my girlfriends gave me the chance to share it (i.e. eat it again myself) in all of it's rich, fruity, port-y glory, with other food-loving friends.  It is SO darn good that even People Who Don't Eat Pork rave over it. 

   If you cook nothing else this winter, please do yourself a favor and find an occasion to make this dish (unless you are a vegetarian, obviously).  Dried fruit, soaked in warm port, scented with thyme and shallots, mixed with creamy Gorgonzola, wrapped in proscuitto and pork tenderloin and paired with a rich, dried cherry port reduction (that uses, I kid you not, an ENTIRE BOTTLE of port)...LAWDAMERCY, it is delectable.  The sauce, alone, is worthy of it's own sonnet.  Serve this all next to a pile of golden roasted or mashed potatoes (that can be used as another vessel for the sauce...did I mention the SAUCE?  :::swooon:::) and a braised dark-leafy-green and you have yourself a meal fit for even the most special of occasions  (perhaps your mom's 60th birthday, for example?  Or dinner with some of your best girlfriends?)

 Please note the empty bottle of port.  
(Please do not note the horrendously stained grout that no amount of bleaching or scrubbing will whiten.  Ahhhh...the joys of living in a very lovely old home with the former owner's crappy DIY tile job.)

The stuffing, pre-Gorgonzola.

 If you're short on evening time this can be prepared in stages and chilled hours before serving and finished about 45-60 minutes before dinner.  I  made the stuffing, reduced the port and stuffed/rolled the tenderloin ahead of time.  Then all that needed to be done for dinner was to brown and roast the pork and finish the sauce.*** 


  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries (Craisins)
  • 1 cup Tawny Port
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces mild Gorgonzola, crumbled (if you prefer, Goat cheese can be used instead)
  • 4 ounces proscuitto, thinly sliced
  • 2 (3/4 pound to 1 pound each) pork tenderloins, butterflied and pounded slightly to an even thickness 
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Port Wine Sauce, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (375 for convection oven)

-In a small saucepan, combine the raisins, cranberries and 1 cup Port.  Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and let sit for 10 min.  Drain fruit well and set aside.  Reserve leftover port for sauce. 

-In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 1 minute.
-Add the bread crumbs, thyme, salt, and pepper and stir until the bread crumbs are lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool, slightly.  Stir in fruit mixture.  Let cool completely.

-In a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumb-fruit mixture with cheese and stir gently to combine.

-Lay the prosciutto slices over the butterflied pork to cover. Starting about 1/2-inch from the bottom and leaving 1/2-inch on either side, lay the bread crumb mixture in a uniform line across the meat. Pull the bottom edge of meat up and over the filling and roll up into a thick cylinder. Using butcher's twine, tie the meat to seal. Rub with vegetable oil on all sides and lightly season with salt and pepper.

-In a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan, brown the meat on all sides over medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes. -Place in the oven and roast until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer registers an internal temperature of 155 degrees F to 160 degrees F, about 30-35 minutes.

-Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
-To serve, remove the butcher's twine from the roast and carve into slices about 1/2-inch thick.  Serve with a generous drizzle of the Amazing Port Wine-Dried Cherry Sauce. 

Amazing Port Wine-Dried Cherry Sauce:
1 (750ml) bottle Tawny Port*  (including any remaining from the dried fruit mixture)
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup dried sour cherries
1 stick very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
In a medium saucepan, bring the Port to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil until reduced to a thick syrup, 1/4 to 1/3 cup in volume. Add the stock cook until thick and reduced by half.  Stir in dried cherries. Reduce the heat to low, and whisking constantly, add the butter several pieces at a time, adding more butter once the previous pieces have nearly been incorporated, removing the pan from the heat occasionally to prevent the sauce from getting too hot and breaking. Continue until the sauce is emulsified and all the butter has been added.
Adapted from HERE.

*Note:  This is not the time to break out the 20-yr, $100 bottle of Graham's.  I used a bottle of $6.00 Taylor Tawny Port and it was fantastic.
***Caution: The entire preparation for this dish will make your home and surrounding area smell HEAVENLY.   The neighbors may stop by and casually mention their lack of dinner plans for the evening in the hopes of an invitation.

27 October 2010

Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Bran Muffins*

*adapted from this recipe

Yield: 18 muffins
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 T molasses
1T brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1-15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 cup bran flakes, lightly crushed
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves1/3 cup very hot water
1 tsp baking soda

-Line muffin tin with 18 baking cups.
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for convection oven).
-Prepare muffin tin by
-In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, molasses, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, pumpkin and salt. Mix well. Stir in bran flakes.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
-Stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined.
-Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then gently stir into batter.
-Divide mixture evenly into 18 muffin cups, filling each cup to about 3/4 full.
-Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out clean.
-Enjoy warm or at room temp. with cream cheese or butter.

     Summer has finally decided to give up the fight and let fall arrive this week.  Cooler temperatures, leaf gathering, costume wearing and fall baking has replaced the warm sunshine, outside playtime and cool drinks.  The evening light disappears a few minutes earlier each evening and the mornings now feel cold and dark. 

     As with every year, I'm sad to see the warmth and light disappear.  It's not so much that I dislike fall.  It's such a beautiful time of year, especially when we are lucky to have one in our state.  (Sometimes winter blows in too early and the leaves literally get snowed off of the trees.)  But it's mostly that I don't love winter.  I'm not a fan of cold, snow, ice, or layers of clothes.  I much prefer the lightness of flip-flops and longer days.

     However, with the onset of colder, darker mornings we have been spending a few more minutes snuggling under the covers together as a family.  The littlest one nestles in for an early morning snack before dozing off for a bit while longer.  My daughter chats and giggles, cooing over her baby brother before giving all of us our character names for the day (today we were named members of "The Backyardigans," Uniqua, Pablo, Tasha Tyrone).  Daddy (or "Tyrone") gets a few extra minutes of much needed sleep.  And I get to sneak downstairs to let the dog out, make a cup of coffee and spend 10 minutes alone before starting my day of juggling the needs of two littles and a never-ending To Do list. 

    With my husband's work schedule and my new-to-two learning curve, it can feel like we don't often get time to catch our breath before putting out the next fire.  These slow moving mornings are an unexpected blessing during a time of year I don't always feel so thrilled about, and for that I'm grateful. 

What could be better than having a snack with a good friend?  Laughing HYSTERICALLY while having a snack with a good friend. 

Sibling bonds are the longest relationships a person can have and arguably, some of the most important. Someday their father and I won't be around.  Hopefully they'll still have each other.  I feel so blessed that I get to watch them learn how to love one another.

17 October 2010

I suppose this blog isn't called "think, love, sleep, eat, clean" for good reason.

My house is a sad state of affairs these days. I just can't seem to keep up with the laundry, dishes, clutter, cooking, shopping, animal fur and dog drool (yes, drool)...not to mention the fragile-toddler meltdown managing, round-the-clock nursing, diapering, soothing, playing, crafting, snuggling, etc., etc., etc.  It's a daily source of stress for me, not so much because an imperfect house drives me crazy to look at but because I feel I am failing at part of my "job" as a stay-at-home-mom.  

This afternoon the wee one fell asleep in my arms while putting the older one to bed for a nap.  Since my better half is working today, my options were either to swaddle him up tight and put him in his swing for a nap (so I could take care of the dishes and laundry) or keep him in my arms, rendering them useless for scrubbing and folding.  I chose the latter.  

 The weather today is absolute perfection: 70ish degrees, with impossibly blue skies, a faint breeze and radiant sunshine.  It will likely be one of the last of it's kind for many months.  So the two of us rocked on the front porch for a good hour while he snoozed, I chatted with the neighbors and he got a bit of natural photo-therapy.  It. was. heaven. 

   I'll be honest...I felt pretty lazy.  Our sink is full of dishes from the chocolate-pumpkin cupcakes I baked for a fall picnic with friends YESTERDAY (as well as breakfast and lunch dishes from today).  The washer and dryer are both full.  Our bed is unmade.  What would people think if they saw my house right now??!!?  My floors!  The dryer full of dry but wrinkled clothes!  The empty fridge!  The unmade beds!!! 

Song For a Fifth (or Second!) Child, by Ruth Hamilton. 1958
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.