Monday, September 28, 2009

Goldengrove unleaving



Every year, I am amazed again at the beauty in our mountains!  I love it so much.  Sorry if it's picture overload.
















Thursday, September 24, 2009

Red-letter day(s)!



Friends, we have much to celebrate.

It is National Punctuation Day.  If so inclined, you can bake something in the shape of a punctuation mark and submit a picture of it to win the fabulous prize of "a box of non-edible National Punctuation Day goodies."

My cousin ('s husband, but I claim them both as my relatives) has
an appropriate tribute to punctuation.

It is also Shameless Self-Promotion Month.  (Perhaps you would like to promote yourself on the leaves of a plant?)  Go on!  Show off!  Toot your own horn! (If you'll forgive the expression---not one of my favorites.)  For example, perhaps you had forgotten this?  Or this?

And, you were no doubt already aware that it's Subliminal Communications Month.

Please inform me (subliminally or otherwise) how you choose to mark these festive occasions!

*photo credit here

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tomato bites



In the late Summer and Fall when we have lots of tomatoes, we eat these several times a week.  They're like little bite-size Caprese salads.  Yum!!
  • Put sliced roma tomatoes on a plate
  • Sprinkle with sea salt
  • Lay a slice of cheese on top of each tomato (of course it should be fresh mozzerella, but I don't often have it handy---this is white cheddar, which tastes great too)
  • Grate black pepper on top of the cheese
  • Top each tomato with a fresh basil leaf
  • Drizzle everything with olive oil

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lifelong learning

Sam is trying to teach me how to use video-editing software.
This is the happy result.



Ah, Middlemarch.  How we loved you.

Exit question: How would I live without BBC period dramas?  (And without Allison, my supplier?)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Berry Paradise



Yesterday Abe and Seb and I went to pick berries at a berry farm (a Briar Patch, they call it) in Mapleton.  (My mother-in-law kindly watched Daisy and Ky for me so we wouldn't have to worry about Ky biting the berries right off the branch---which he does every time we pick berries at my Mom's garden---yum!).  The three of us are pretty good berry pickers (years of practice) but we've had to confine ourselves to the small berry patches in my mom and her neighbors' yards---without a chance to really test the scope of our skills.  So we were excited to be able to pick to our little hearts' content.

Well.  It was amazing.  I always love picking raspberries, but these were unbelieveable---huge and ripe and juicy, and so MANY of them!  There was row after row, and they were neatly tied up so you could walk through them easily instead of fighting your way through the brambles.  And the blackberries!  First of all, they were thornless, which I didn't even know there WAS such a thing, and second of all they were HUGE.







I felt, honestly, like we were in the Garden of Eden or something.  I couldn't stop picking:  "Just one more---look at that big juicy one; I can't leave that behind" and I could have happily stayed several more hours.  The lady who owned the place was super nice, too---she let the boys each pick and eat an apple from her tree, and she didn't get mad when Seb pulled up some carrots without permission, and she had a nice gentle dog who followed us around and lay down next to us while we picked.

When we got them home, we had about 18 c. of raspberries and 20 c. of blackberries---which have already been dealt with: 12 bags frozen for smoothies, and the rest allocated for:
ice cream (recipe coming soon)
more of these muffins
eating on top of oatmeal

And I plan to go back and pick some more in a week or two.  I wish we could pick them all year round!!

If you are interested, I found the berry patch information here.  There's a place in Payson, also, which I might try sometime.

And this is the address:
McBride Briar Patch
1849 S. 2100 W.
Mapleton, UT 84664

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Priorities

Yesterday Sebby had his 4-year-old checkup.  He knew he would be getting shots, and no matter how much he repeated back to me, "It only hurts for a little while, though," I could tell he was still really nervous about it.

He grabbed the nurse by the hand right when we got there and asked if he'd have to get some shots, but she obviously didn't want to cause a scene, so she just put him off with, "Well, we'll see what Dr. Duffy says."

When Dr. Duffy came in he started talking to Seb, asking him if he was in preschool, if he liked his baby sister, if he could stand on one foot, etc.  But Sebby wasn't interested in the pleasantries. 

D.D: So, buddy, how do you like our new office?
Seb: Yes, it's good . . . but I want to know, am I going to have to get shots today, Duffy?

Very brusque and man-to-man.  I was trying really hard not to laugh.

Anyway.  After his four (FOUR?! poor kid) shots, he had been SO good that I told him we could either go get ice cream together, or go to the hardware store and choose a new sprinkler for his
sprinkler system.

What do you think he chose?


Muffin Day

I don't know if there's really a Muffin Day.  (Maybe?)  But Saturday it was Muffin Day for us.  We tried out five new recipes, and had muffins for every meal. 

I already have good recipes for oatmeal and bran muffins, which are my muffin staples, so we were trying to branch out a little with our choices here.

By the way, do you know why you should only stir muffins until "just combined"?  It's because you don't want to develop the gluten in the flour.  (This is the opposite of yeast bread, where you want to develop the gluten so that it provides a strong, pliable dough and strong bread structure for the yeast to work in.)  If you overstir, the muffins will be rubbery.  You can spot an over-stirred muffin because they get weird-looking, too-tall domes on top, and tunnels inside instead of a nice even crumb.  So, that's why when mixing muffins, you beat the egg separately with the milk, and stir the dry ingredients together first, so that when you combine the wet and dry ingredients you can do as little stirring as possible.  (Just a little informative tidbit from my days in 4-H cooking clubs.)

Okay.  Here they are.

Kiwi-Coconut-Lime Muffins

Kiwi and Coconut Muffins
Notes: These were Abe's favorite ones. Sam liked butter on them and I thought they were better plain.  They were the most unique of the muffins we tried.  The kiwi makes them almost sour, so it took me by surprise at first, but I really started liking them as they cooled off. (I think they are better cool.)  Next time, I'll add another kiwi or two (those tiny crunchy kiwi bites are the best part!) and maybe another 1/2 c. of coconut as well. 

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tbs finely grated lime rind
Juice of one lime (2 T.?)
1/4 c. plus 2 T. canola oil
1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk)
1 egg
2 kiwifruit, peeled and diced

Combine sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, coconut, and lime rind in large bowl.  Whisk oil, buttermilk, and egg in measuring cup, then pour all at once into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Spoon into greased muffin pans and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Cheese Muffins

Cheese Muffins
Notes:  I wanted this recipe to succeed because it would go well with a dinner of soup or stew, which is when I most often make muffins.  (The dessert-like ones are good, but if I'm going to make a dessert I don't usually think of muffins.)  We loved the texture, but the taste was slightly bland, even though we used sharp cheese.  I think maybe I'll try doubling the salt next time---or perhaps adding crumbled bacon or diced ham?  That might help make the flavor a little bolder.  Or I also thought I might try adding some fresh chives or oregano.  Mmm. 

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded cheese
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 c. oil

Whisk together dry ingredients, then stir in cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, milk, and butter together. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir with a spoon to combine.  Bake in greased muffin tins at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Raspberry White-Chocolate Muffins

Raspberry White-Chocolate Muffins
Notes: Yum!  These were my favorite muffins of the day.  I love the way the raspberries kind of melt into the bread, and how the white chocolate goes so well with that berry flavor.  They were good warm and cool, too.

2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
1 1/4 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a muffin pan with paper cups or lightly grease.  Whisk lemon juice, milk, oil and egg in a medium bowl until well combined.  Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and white chocolate in a large bowl. Add the berries to the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. Then gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stop stirring once the ingredients are combined.  Pour the mixture into the baking cups, so that each is about 2/3 full. Bake for about 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Chocolate Yogurt Muffins

Chocolate Yogurt Muffins
Notes:  They were fine, but I don't think I'd make them again.  It's kind of a half-hearted chocolate taste, in my opinion---you might as well just go ahead and make chocolate cake.  Speaking of which, are these actually cupcakes, do you suppose?  You could probably find better chocolate cupcake recipes.

2 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I often use carob for half of the cocoa in recipes)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 c. milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 egg
1 c. dark chocolate chips

Combine dry ingredients in bowl; set aside.  Combine wet ingredients in another bowl, then stir together with dry ingredients.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Scoop batter into greased muffin pan and bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.
Sugar Donut Muffins

Sugar Donut Muffins

Notes: Yummy.  Sam didn't think they quite tasted like cake donuts, but I thought they were pretty close.  I liked the slight taste of nutmeg in them.  And the crunchy sugar on the outside is the best part.  You can dip the whole muffin in butter before rolling it in the sugar, but I didn't---the sugar sticks fine without it (as long as the muffins are warm).

1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
3 c. flour
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. oil
1 1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla

1/2 c. sugar (for rolling)
2 T. melted butter (for brushing tops with)

Bake at 350 for 15-18 min.  When muffins are done, remove from pan while still warm.  Brush tops with melted butter and then roll whole muffins in sugar.  Place on wire rack so that sugar can set.

Monday, September 14, 2009

[Don't] stop me if you've heard this before

[Gratuitous Daisy picture]
Leslie Norris said there are only about seven great themes (love, creation, death, the expulsion from Eden, etc.) and every poem is merely a re-treatment, another look, at one of those themes.  Don't try so hard to be original, he told us, because you won't succeed.  You won't find something new to write about---but you can make it seem new in the way you show it, he said.  Good advice---but I'm afraid that quite frequently, I do talk myself out of writing things for the simple reason that someone has already said them/done them/shown them, and I feel like further comments would be unnecessary.  (Not only unnecessary, but self-indulgent.)  I suppose the internet makes it worse---since one can so easily find the many other treatments of one's potential theme.  There's always someone with the same recipe, a more beautifully-lit photograph, a child more obsessed with sprinklers (hmm . . . maybe not that), a more profound personal essay, and so forth.

Thus, each time I think of something to write, I have a long internal struggle about whether or not it's interesting enough to be worth a hypothetical reader's time; whether I am justified in talking about something that someone else has already said more cleverly.  But I was re-reading
this and thinking, what writerly good will a blog do me if I self-edit myself into oblivion? So, Hypothetical Reader, I will try to stop coddling you.  I will assume you are capable of taking your presence elsewhere if you are bored, annoyed, or otherwise unhappy.  I will be pleased to bring you unoriginal recipes, amateur photographs, and repetitive ideas.  And perhaps this new lack of inhibition will translate into more frequent posts, to the extent my other reason for sporadic posting will allow it [hint: it has tiny hands, bright little eyes, a milky mouth, and a bottomless stomach].

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Girly


I was at a PTA meeting the other day and the lady next to me leaned over and said, "You have three boys and a girl?  Isn't it amazing how different it is to have a girl?  Don't you just feel such a difference with a girl, right from the very beginning?"

"Oh yes,"  I said.  "Amazing."

But it wasn't true.  I didn't want to disappoint that lady, but I really don't feel any difference (yet).  In fact, I accidently refer to Daisy as "him" rather frequently.  (This could be due to lack of sleep.)  My mother-in-law says that the girl/boy differences emerged later, maybe around age one (as opposed to normal personality differences between different kids, which become apparent right away), for her kids.  Is that your experience as well?