October 8, 2011

Pumpkins, Corn and Babies! Oh My!

Today we ventured out to the country with some dear friends and visited a farm and pumpkin patch! Judah had a lot of fun!

He rode a donkey!

He got lost in a corn maze!

He found some pumpkins!

He was carted around to the pumpkin patch!

And finally he decided he wanted to live in the pumpkin patch.
Boy, the car ride home was sure quiet. :)

September 12, 2011

Breakfast Times

Right now we are in the midst of a stretching season as a family. Nate was laid off soon after Judah was born and so this summer while applying for full-time work he has been working production gigs as he can. This means we don't know what our weeks look like until the last minute and we have to adjust accordingly.

Most days he works Nate leaves at 6 or 7 am and with the type of sleep we get with a baby, who wants to/can have the energy to get up even earlier than necessary to cook or prepare a full breakfast? I've been trying to keep our house stocked in healthy baked goods that he can take with him on the road. So far I've made many, many loaves of wheat bread for hearty toast, granola bars with nuts and cranberries (similar to these awesome bars our brother-in-law makes) and then with zucchini coming into season I've made two batches of zucchini bran muffins. The first go-round I made this recipe from Gourmet magazine, which were quite good, but then I made some adjustments to make the muffins a little more summer-like.

We are basically a dairy-free household nowadays since Judah shows his disapproval very strongly when I ingest anything from a cow. Hence I had some coconut milk on hand and decided that zucchini-coconut muffins would be quite tasty. And they are. Summery and flavorful and healthy enough for a filling breakfast.

Zucchini-Coconut Muffins (adapted from Gourmet Magazine and Epicurious.com)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

2/3 cup each of all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat bran (totaling 2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup butter softened (or vegan butter/margarine if going entirely dairy-free)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium)

Mix together flours, salt, baking powder and spices in medium bowl. Cream with electric mixer the butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Add eggs to sugar and butter and beat well. Add vanilla to egg/butter mixture and beat in well. Hand mix flour mixture with butter mixture. Add coconut milk, raisins, coconut and zucchini. Mix until barely incorporated. Divide the batter into muffin cups (either buttered or with liners.) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Makes 12-16 muffins.

September 10, 2011

Clafouti, Clafouti, Clafouti!

Clafouti. Such a fantastically fun word. Kluh-foo-tea. I love to just say it over and over while I'm baking. Somehow it manages to conjure up visions of light and fluffy buttery goodness before you even know what the word means. When I was first gifted Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" this was the page in the dessert section that leaped out at me. Milk, eggs, fruit, a little flour, a little butter? How simple and amazing is this dessert to enjoy the bounty of summer? Due to the baby man making his appearance and the whole learning how to care for a little human time I missed the fresh cherry window to make the traditional cherry clafouti. Sigh. But...

Nate's parents have two beautiful blueberry bushes and now that summer seems to finally arrived in the Northwest they graced us with a large ziploc bag full of fresh, plump blueberries! Huzzah!

While a blueberry clafouti isn't traditional per say, Julia still includes it in her adaptation section on clafoutis. And while we are a dairy free household while Judah's tummy matures I adapted the recipe even further. I've realized that baking with dairy-substitutes is really difficult. I try to avoid soy milk due to the processing that goes into it and when I use almond or rice milk there is no fat to create that fluffiness necessary in cakes and cookies. (I have found almond milk works really well in baking muffins though, go figure.) Thankfully, God created the coconut and its tasty milk! While coconut milk doesn't have as much fat as whole milk, it still has enough integrity to hold together as a main ingredient in a clafouti. The result is different than a dairy milk clafouti, but is still rich, buttery and holds nuggets of warm blueberry pockets. Yum!

Pre-baking. Don't mind the stains on the cookbook. I had a ratatouille incident a few summers back.
Coconut Clafouti (adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 1/4 cups coconut milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 T vanilla
1/2 cup flour
3 cups blueberries
1 T butter (or vegan butter if you want to go fully dairy-free)

Blend (either in blender or with immersion blender) coconut milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour until creamy and smooth. Butter a 7-8 cup deep baking dish and pour 1/4" of batter into it. Place in oven until this layer sets. (3-5min or less) Pour berries into the dish and immediately pour the rest of the batter over. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until a knife inserted into the clafouti comes out clean. Allow to cool, but serve warm, sprinkled with powered sugar. (Admittedly I was too excited to eat ours that I forget the powdered sugar)

It doesn't win any beauty contests, but man, oh man is it good!

September 4, 2011

Past Meals

Last week Nate's mom came to watch Mr. Babyman for a few hours so I could get out of the house. I meant to escape to a coffee shop to think, read and write. In taking the computer with me I thought maybe I could type faster than I could write in my journal. Silly me.

Instead of focusing and writing I became distracted and played with my blog format. Searching through all of our old photos looking for a fun and simple one for the header I was flooded with wonderful memories of times spent with the people we love gathered around different tables, laughing and enjoying meals together. Sometimes I can get bogged down, thinking of all the rough patches Nate and I have been through. But looking at these pictures I am supremely overwhelmed by the blessings we have enjoyed in our over five years together.

In semi-chronological order, here are a few of the photos and memories that just made me smile:

Christmas 2008. Here's dessert, mincemeat pie and Christmas pudding. It was supposed to just be my parents and us gathered for a little Christmas Eve supper, but Liz and Jason and baby Hazel managed to make it through the snowy mountains just in time for dinner. Snow covered the roads but it was cozy and marvelous in our little apartment.

Spring 2009. We decided that we should never be without wine in our home. So we bought a case of Two-Buck Chuck to supplement. We had that cabernet sauvignon coming out of our ears for months because we would forget we had it and would go out to buy other wines for our Monday Night Dinners.

July 2009. My birthday. It was one of those crazy hot days. Nate took me out for dinner and then we got Molly Moon's ice cream while we walked around Capitol Hill.

October 2009, New Orleans. Beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Seriously, one of our best vacations to date! I want to go to there (again).

June 2010. WIne barrels in Woodinville on my dad's 65th birthday. It was a relaxing cloudy day spent tasting wine and eating tasty food at various places.

January 2011, Leavenworth, WA. Our niece, Hazel, admiring pastries whilst out on a frigid walk. We all needed some hot cocoa and coffee to warm up from the snow outside.

January 2011, Seabrook on the coast. The intrepid Julia made mini-pies when the house we rented didn't have a pie plate. What can be better than pie for breakfast?

Each of these pictures just instantly transports me to the place and time they were taken. I can feel the sun on my neck in the park, smell the oak of the wine barrels, see the street musicians playing on the sidewalk in New Orleans, taste the warm berry filling of the pies all over again. I don't know why I am surprised how much food shared with those we love can hold such powerful memories. The times we eat with others are times we are vulnerable. We have a need that must be filled and one can't look proper and pulled together when biting into a pile of spareribs or swishing and swashing tastes of wine. Everyone needs to eat, we might as well make it enjoyable.

I am incredibly thankful for all the times we have shared with friends and family over food and wine and I cannot wait for more.

August 29, 2011

Baking with Baby: Blackberry Pie

This is the normal view I have when I'm in the kitchen these days:

My little man, hanging out in his bouncy seat wondering why his mama is banging all those shiny things on that big box exuding heat.

I must say it is a lot different to cook and bake with a small human in the apartment. Before he was born, Nate and I had an idea that I would have "so much more time for cooking" since I would be at home full time. Let me just say, ha to the ha! Most days I'm lucky to make myself a smoothie for lunch, eat some fruit for a snack and by the time dinner rolls around I toss the baby at my husband with a "here hold this!" while I throw something together for us to eat. Which we do, normally around 8 or 9 after the baby is asleep. The other night we had tuna sandwiches and pickled things I had made last summer. Gourmet eh?

On the days I do get myself together enough to actually cook, bake or preserve something, I am invariably interrupted by someone waking early from his nap, a digestive issue (not my own) or just simply a cry of "Mama I'm bored now! Play with me!" (The kid is only two and a half months old after all, he can only self-entertain for so long.)

Therefore I've had to learn to plan ahead and do things in stages, which I had never truly done before. I'm not what you would call an organized person. Nate prefers to call it "thinking organically" (this is also known as forgetful, discombobulated or spastic, take your pick.) In order to make this pie I had to work in three stages: crust prep during play time, berry prep during nap time and baking during his lunch time.

My parents live out on the Kitsap Peninsula and as anyone from the Northwest knows, blackberries are basically a weed here. Their neighbor has an empty lot with bushes of berries just begging to be picked. My mum brought a container full of them over the other day and while I had used half of them for other things, the last portion needed to be used ASAP.

I must admit I cheated and used frozen pie dough. I happened to have some Trader Joe's brand in the freezer and I figured waste not, want not. If I was going to make my own from scratch I would use this recipe. I experimented with what I had in the kitchen and figured a little cinnamon and orange zest could kick the flavor up so this wouldn't be just another summer berry pie.

Orange-Blackberry Pie

5-6 cups fresh blackberries

3/4-1 cup sugar + 1T for sprinkling on top

1/4 cup cornstarch

zest from one orange

1-2tsp cinnamon

2-3T lemon juice

pie dough (enough for the bottom and top crust)

Preheat oven to 375*

Roll out half of your pie dough and place in pie plate, allow to chill in fridge while the rest of the preparations are made.

Roll out other half and cut into 3/4" strips, chill as well.

Mix the blackberries, sugar, cornstarch, juice, cinnamon and orange zest in large bowl. Let macerate for 20 minutes or so. Taste juice and adjust seasonings as desired, more cinnamon or sugar here...etc.

Pull pie plate out of fridge and pour berries in.

Arrange lattice strips on top and crimp edges with a fork.

Sprinkle extra sugar on top

Bake on foil-lined cookie sheet for an hour or so until bubbly and crust is browned. Check after 40 minutes to make sure the top isn't getting too brown.

Cool on rack and enjoy!