Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strawberry Banana Bread

Strawberry season isn't quite over yet. Seriously, it isn't. The girls and the little boys went out yesterday and got another 4 baskets of berries, around 30 pounds of the lovely crimson gems. Our food delivery also arrived yesterday, which included a case of bananas. No, I am not completely insane for buying a case of bananas. The 40 pound case of bananas only sets me back $20, everyone can eat them to their hearts' content, and if there are any left after eating and baking, they can be frozen for further use. Seems like the ultimate good deal to me. Anyway, back to the baking part...


1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup greek yogurt
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
3 bananas, cut in chunks
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup sliced strawberries

Cream the butter and sugars until light; add the eggs one at a time, beating until well mixed. Add the bananas. Mix together the flour, soda and salt, and add half of the dry mix, followed by half of the yogurt, then the balance of each. Beat until well combined, then fold in the nuts and strawberries. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans, and bake 50 to 65 minutes, or until done. Makes 2 loaves.

And since both were gone by the time I got up at 9 this morning, I'd say that my sons liked them. Since the sons were not up when I got up, they'd say it was 3AM kitchen raiders who ate the bread.

Garden Tuesday

Pictures of how the garden grows.

The left bed. Note the spinach at the left side; it's finally looking like something. Trust me, for a couple of weeks it's looked a lot like renegade grass. There's mesclun mix to the right of the spinach, and things which are supposed to become squash, zucchini and cucumber. The real farmers are just as cranky as I about the weather and lack of growth in the plants.

The right bed. That black seeded Simpson lettuce just keeps growing. I keep taking leaves off the bottoms of the plants, so they have short stalks there, but the leaves keep coming. They're great in tacos, sandwiches, on a plate, whatever. The guinea pigs haven't had any. The arugula is coming in next to it, and I'm still waiting for any real tomato progress. The onions are growing; following Paula's suggestion, I have yanked a couple of them to use in food. And the carrots! I pulled one to make sure they were OK, and while it was only about 3" long, it was delectable. I didn't share.

And look! My red leaf lettuce finally looks like something other than brown weeds!

How are your gardens growing? Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

If there's anything better on a warm summer evening than ice cream, it's cheesecake. Strawberry cheesecake. When the kids went strawberry picking last week, they stopped at a local dairy farm on the way home (OK, they went a few miles out of the way, I admit it) and raved about the strawberry cheesecake ice cream they had. Of course, I thought that if the farm could do it, so could I. I had no recipes to follow, of course, but I've learned to wing it well enough.


1 pint strawberries, pureed
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash salt
about 1/2 cup coarsely chopped strawberries

Puree the strawberries in the food processor; add the sugar and let it sit in the processor for 15 minutes. Add the cream cheese, cut into 8 chunks, one chunk at a time. Process to combine thoroughly. In a bowl or pitcher, mix together the cream, milk, vanilla and salt; whisk in the cream cheese mixture. Whisk together, then add the chunks of strawberries and process in your ice cream maker until done. Let it freeze for a few hours before serving, if you can wait.

This was dubbed "delectable". Sadly, I used the end of our 3 baskets of strawberries for this. We shall see when (if?) the kids decide to go get more, since the girls were griping about the lack of strawberries in the house.

(Sabina, contact me here.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Strawberry Pie

I've said it before, and I'll repeat for the record: Pie is NOT in my DNA. I make a great pumpkin pie, if you can discount the store bought roll-it-into-your-own-pan crust which permits me to pretend I'm competent. But I'm getting ahead of myself, here.

The kids brought home three lovely baskets of strawberries on Wed
nesday afternoon. All of them participated in active free range grazing for the rest of the day.

For my dearly beloved and me, however, lunch was strawberry shortcake on Wednesday and Thursday (and likely today, also). Breakfast Thursday and today was just simple bowls of strawberries with cream (for him) or nonfat milk (for me - hey, that new dress has to fit next week!).

Dessert Wednesday night was Strawberry Bavarian Cream.
I discovered it during last summer's great strawberry-fest; here's the recipe! You know I doubled it; how else would I have fed the hungry hordes? And I had a bit left over, which I hid in plastic cups in the fridge, and the little boys took outside for their picnic lunch Thursday.

So, last night I decided to step so far out of my element I might as well have been in China. I made strawberry pie. I know this is what you've all really been waiting for, pie, right?

This is from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Pastry, picked up at a used book sale in April. This is my first foray into that book, although I've been studying it, gathering my courage. For this recipe, he recommends using either a half-and-half crust, or a graham cracker crumb crust. Perfect! I can do crumb crust! It ain't pretty, but it's good! So, without further ado:



1 stick butter, melted
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar

Mix the three ingredients together, press into the bottom and sides of a greased pie plate, and bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes. Paula, for your baby, you can grind 1-1/2 cups almonds or hazelnuts (filberts) and use them in place of the cracker crumbs. Voila! Gluten free
for Paula!


1 quart strawberries
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water

1 tbsp butter
3 ounces cream cheese

Choose the best 25 to 30 strawberries and set them aside. Puree the balance, and cook in a sauce pan with the sugar. When it boils, make a paste of the water and cornstarch, and whisk them in; cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the mixture thickens and becomes clear. Remove from the heat, whisk in the butter, and let it cool.

In your food processor, cut the cream cheese into chunks, add 1 tbsp of the cooled strawberry mixture, and pulse until they are combined and smooth. Spread this in the bottom of the pie shell; it will be a thin layer. Hull the strawberries, and stand them, large end down, in the cream cheese mix. Spoon the cooled filling over them, and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with whipped cream on top.
Notes: I made 2 pies at once, because if I was going to this much work, it was going to count. Besides, one pie is barely enough for 8 people for dessert, and that's my current population. The second one is still in my fridge; woe betide the person who tries to attack it before tonight's dessert. I actually used 67 strawberries between the two pies, but mine are 9" pie plates, so be aware: forewarned is forearmed. Also, please remember that pie is a foreign concept to me when I confess that I doubled 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and therefore used....2 tablespoons of Cornstarch! Thus, my filling is runny. We'll see if tonight's fares better after spending a full 24 hours waiting to be used. I do have to say that my dearly beloved has never had strawberry pie, and he loved this. Simply loved it. So did everyone else, so if you have time, try this!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thor's Strawberries

Wednesday, some of Thor's people went strawberry picking. They felt that Thor would not be welcome at the strawberry patch, because he'd be likely to nap on the berries. Thor spent a while outside waiting for them to come back, then laid down just inside the back door to wait.

And wait he did, for 3 hours (don't you love the delightful view of the porch leading to my garage?).

He was very glad to see the boys.
He was perplexed by the strawberries. Instead, Thor got a doggie treat. Then he and the boys went outside to enjoy the sunshine, and, once again, all was right in Thor world.
(Paula, that is only 2 of the 3 baskets they brought home. My vultures will have to do a lot of picking to destroy our crop.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Best Ever" White Bread

Did you ever notice that a lot of things claim to be the "best ever"? I'm sure we've all tried about a gazillion recipes for the "best ever" something or other. However, I wanted to try another recipe from this book which I got at a used book sale in April (there was a coffee cake a while back), so Best Ever White Bread it was! Of course, I made some changes to the recipe so it could be mixed in the bread machine, swapped out lard for butter (I just don't need any more lard piled on my derriere, and don't tell me butter does the same, thanks), and added butter to the top. The result was pretty and tasty!


1-1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
4 cups flour
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast

additional butter

Mix all ingredients except the additional butter according to my directions (see link on the sidebar to the right). After it rises about 15 minutes, split the dough into 2 pieces, and fit one into each of two greased bread pans. Let it rise until the dough reaches the top of the pan, then run a serrated knife the length of the bread no more than 1/4" deep, and let it continue to rise a bit longer. Just before you put it in the oven, lay slivers of butter in the cut, and bake the bread at 350F for glass or 375F for metal pans for 22 to 26 minutes, depending upon how dark you want the crust. Let it cool a few minutes before removing from the pans, and a bit longer before slicing.

Note: this bread can be left in the bread machine. Just before the baking cycle begins, melted butter can be drizzled over the top of it, if you wish.

And, Sabina in Australia, if you'll leave me your email address, I have some suggestions for bread for your husband.

Today, the boys are out strawberry picking. Look for more on that tomorrow, brought to you by Thor! (That presupposes I don't eat myself into a strawberry coma tonight.)

We're Going On a Picnic!

...a virtual picnic, true, but maybe enough to inspire us?

I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing...

Apple Pie with Dutch Crumb Topping

Buttermilk Spice Cake

Chocolate Cherry Pie

Dilly Potato Salad

Election Day Cake
(Erica's is prettier than mine was)

Fruit Cocktail Meringue Pie

Gluten Free Upside Down Cake
(Paula: Take note!)
Hangar Steak
Ice Cream in a Bag

Click on the names of the dishes for links to the creators and their websites! For the complete picnic roster, visit Louise. Hope this gives you some glorious ideas for your next picnic - after all, here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer has finally arrived!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Garden Tuesday: Cream of Radish Green Soup

I know what you're thinking: "Sweet Jesus on a whole wheat cracker, she's gone off the deep end! Can someone call her dearly beloved and warn him? Will the kids survive this?"

Do you remember how enormous my radishes were last week? I'll refresh your memory.

Yes. It was not pretty. They never grew any bulbs, so it was time for them to go. Since the little piggies loved the leaves, I tried one and found it to not be bitter, so soup they became. My fussiest big eater, son #2, actually had 3 cups of this, and everyone else had seconds and liked it. I didn't tell them what it was until after they'd tried it (other than the 2 little boys, who were in on the secret).


1/4 cup butter
2 minced onions
3 shredded potatoes
8 cups radish greens, chopped
6 cups water
8 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup heavy cream

Melt the butter in a big pan, and saute the onions with the pepper in
it until soft. Add the water, cubes, potatoes and greens; simmer 30 to 45 minutes. Puree the soup in batches, if you want the greens cut smaller, then turn the heat down to low, add the cream and cook for 5 minutes or so, until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Offer grated parmesan as a topping if anyone would like it. Serve with a nice crusty bread or sandwiches.

Of course, you have to see the garden this week.
One of the cucumbers never came up, and we transplanted the seedlings we started inside. The sun is finally out, so we may actually get some growth. I've probably jinxed us now, given that we've had rain 16 of the last 21 days (it was in the paper, not my statistic).

And some of our tardy dogwood trees have decided to bloom.

Happy Tuesday! Come back for Louise's picnic soon!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ice Cream in a Bag

I'm pretty sure I've done this a couple of years ago, but it bears repeating.

Looking for a way to entertain the kids for a while? A fun picnic dessert, perhaps? Ice cream in a bag will leave people wondering if you've gone off the deep end, and the kids will like it. You can even sneak a little bit of science education in there, while they aren't looking.

This idea came to me from Calvert School, although I've revised the recipe a bit from what they offered.

The first time I did this with my little boys, they were depressed because many of the big kids had just left for college. So when they got up that day, they found a big cardboard box labelled "Box Of Fun" on the kitchen table. Slicing it open, they found the necessary items and instructions for "Ice Cream in a Bag"! Entertaining, right? Well, OK, maybe not yet.

Here's what you need:

1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar

1 quart sized Ziploc bag (with double zipper)
1 gallon sized ziploc bag

4 cups ice (minimum)
1/4 cup salt
cups and spoons

In the smaller Ziploc bag, carefully pour in the sugar, vanilla, cream and milk. Squeeze out as much of the air as possible, and zip it closed. Put half the ice in the bigger bag, alon
g with the salt; put in the milk filled bag and add the rest of the ice. Shake it around. A lot. It will take 15 to 20 minutes. You may want to add more ice and salt as it melts. Wrap the bag in a towel for easy grasping, and/or pass it from person to person for shaking. When the ice cream has solidified (it will still be quite soft), scoop it into the cups. Serves 2 to 3.

The science behind this: Salt reduces the freezing point of water, so even though the ice melts, it's colder than 32F, and it will freeze the milk mixture. (See? Simple and painless, the kids will remember this. It's also why salt melts ice on driveways and streets, and here in the northeast we are cursed with body rot. I mean on our cars; on our persons, salt is not to blame

Variations to this recipe include adding 1/4 cup of diced frozen fruit, such as blueberr
ies, strawberries or peaches, or 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, which can also be frozen, or replacing the vanilla with 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract, a couple of drops of green food coloring, and the chocolate chips. Add sprinkles and/or chocolate or strawberry sauce to the top for even more fun.

Have fun, and remember, let the kids have some!

Dress Update

No pictures yet. After surveying your responses Saturday afternoon, I knew that the floral fabric was meant to be. Truth be told, I had gone looking for that fabric, and stumbled upon the ice blue one, and begun to question my concept. You all reassured me that I was on the right track.

So after finding myself dubbed "creative" on Saturday by Duckie, a title I didn't think I deserved, I decided it was time to get my lazy butt in gear. I found a pattern, made necessary alterations, and off I went. Well, Sunday I finished the dress, put it on, and looked in the mirror. My reaction was, "My butt makes this dress look fat!!!" The ruffle, starting out at 3 times the diameter of the dress, was way too big. So, I ripped it off, and started again, aiming for 1.5 times the dress. It will be better. I hope to have time to finish in the next couple of days, and then I can take pictures.

A funny story from my little guy: Before I took the ruffle off, I showed the two youngest my dress. Ryan shrugged. It's another dress, so what. My little Mark responded, "Nice dress. Where will you wear it?" I explained that it is for the wedding we're attending. He said, "You'll be very pretty in it. Can I wear a suit? I want everyone to know I'm important." So, my important 9 year old will be wearing a suit to an outdoor 4th of July wedding.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chicken and a Question

The question is at the end. Let's get to dinner last night, which is the important thing, right?

So, I know you'll all be shocked when I tell you it never stopped raining for more than 15 minutes yesterday, and the temperature peaked at 63 degrees. Man, this is a great April; too bad it's late June. And, of course, we turned off the furnaces on May 10, then had to turn them back on for a week, but turned them off on Memorial Day. This is absurd! It's not Alaska, after all! Anyway, I digress, again. Last night I decided to roast chickens - warm the kitchen and smell great in the process. Garlic, basil and lemon - what a combo!


2 Oven stuffer roasters, about 5 pounds each
(for 10 people)
2 big handfuls brown sugar
1 small handful salt
1 tbsp minced garlic (about)
water to cover

1 stick butter
1 tbsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder

1 lemon

Put the brown sugar, salt and garlic in a big stockpot, stuff the chickens in, drumstick ends up, and cover in cold water. Refrigerate and let soak for as long as you desire. (I believe fancy cookists call this brining - I just called it a way to thaw frozen chickens and impart some flavor).

When it's time to cook, melt the butter with the basil and garlic powder. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice in with the melted butter. Arrange the chickens in the roasting pan and pour the butter mixture over them. Roast at 400F for 15 minutes to brown the skin and seal in the juices, then reduce the heat to 350 and keep cooking until they're done. Skim the fat from the pan drippings to make a nice gravy. You might need a bit of salt in the gravy (I did), but the lemon imparts a wonderful flavor.
Yes, that's how I cook if I'm not thinking about it. Toss in a handful of this or that and cook until done. My kids do not wonder why I can never lay out a precise dinner timetable, because I've always stated that perfection just happens - not often here, but if it ever does, I won't be rushing it. Anyway, I served this with rice and green beans almondine. A warm dinner was had by all.

And now, my question: I need help.

A friend's son is getting married at a lake cottage in Connecticut (don't be impressed, it's 100 years old and the size of my kitchen; they're bringing in porta-pots to handle the crowd) at 2PM on the 4th of July. I need to make a new dress (hubby says I don't, but he's just a silly man). I need to know which of these two options would be more appropriate:

I see this as a princess seamed sun dress maybe with a deep ruffle at the hem, and maybe white piping. Being a floral negates the dark color, right?
This would have to be an empire waisted sun dress, because the fabric is sort of crinkle pleated. But it's a shiny, sort of silky fabric. Too much for an outdoor wedding?

Cast votes, please! Everybody! Help me figure out what to do!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rainy Thorsday

This is Thor. Thor is playing with Darryl the Duck, but Thor is still sad. Why?

Rain. Thor keeps trying to take his boys outside to play, but it's been raining forever. Thor knows you think that's an exaggeration.

But in today's paper, farmers were stating that their plants are stunted, or not yet in the ground, because it's been too rainy, and nighttime temperatures have been too cold.

And the weatherdope on the TV the other night was saying we were "rainfall deficient" here! Mom bellowed, "You're an idiot!" at him. The farmers prove that Mom was right.

And Thor still wants to go outside, and romp, and picnic, and roll in the grass, if it ever stops raining.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Honey Mustard Chicken

What could be better on a thunderstormy night, when the dog is trying to make you protect him from the boomies going on in the sky outside, than a nice chicken dinner? And, of course, what's smarter than trying to use the oven when a 250+ pound scaredy-cat is cowering beside you?

After reading some of your comments on onions, I decided to follow Paula's suggestion, and pull one to use for a green onion. Of course, that made the little boys inclined to love this dinner, since they helped grow it. Don't tell them that one green onion with 4 poun
ds of chicken isn't much of a contribution; they're little kids! Well, maybe Ryan's not little, but I call him little.

4 pounds chicken
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1 tbsp butter
1 large green onion

1/3 cup honey
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp dried dill weed
1 tsp orange zest

Arrange the chicken pieces in a large baking dish, and season both sides with a small amount of salt and plenty of pepper and garlic powder. Bake at 350F until the chicken is almost done. Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup, and set aside. In a saucepan, melt
the butter. Add the green onion and orange zest, and saute for a minute or two, until the onion is soft but not browned. Whisk in the honey, mustard and dill weed, and heat through. Pour over the chicken, and return to the oven for 15 minutes.
For those of you who have family members who simply won't eat meat without some kind of gravy or sauce, take one cup of the reserved chicken broth, skim the fat off the top, and heat it in the same saucepan used to make the honey mustard sauce. Stir in 1 tbsp mustard and 2 tbsp honey. Whisk 2 tbsp cornstarch with 1/2 cup orange juice, and stir into the chicken broth mixture. Cook at low heat until it thickens, and add a bit more dill weed. When the chicken comes out, pour more of the pan drippings into the extra sauce, and serve on the side. Serve the chicken with rice and a nice green veggie (I chose broccoli) for color contrast.

This is my dearly beloved's plate; he's of the "There Must Be Gravy" school of thinking.

My dearly beloved thought the sauce was a little too bitter, which probably means he thought there was too much mustard in it. Ryan was unabashedly enthusiastic about how wonderful this chicken was; the others registered reactions between the two extremes. I believe they'd rate this as, "OK, you can make this again."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Garden Tuesday: First Food

Well, the garden is growing right along, after 6 weeks of cold rain. Not that it's been all that warm, and not that we've lacked rain (although we've not been the subject of monsoons as Chan has), but everything is relative. And the boys have had their first picnic lunch of the summer, so the world might be turning our way, after all.
We've had some more growth in our garden. Does anyone know how to tell when these onions are ready to harvest?

This is going to come off as a shameless plug for a product. When we were buying our soil, we bought the last of the locally produced potting soil, then had to buy Miracle Gro soil for the top layer of the last quadrant of the garden. I hate to admit it, but look at the difference in the size of the plants (all seeded on the same day). The friendly folks at Miracle Gro can send me more products to sample, if they'd like. I testify honestly.
We cut some lower lettuce leaves, so our lettuce plants closest to the camera in the big picture are looking a little scrawny (Dog might notice that). First they went into turkey grinders, on homemade French bread toasted in the George Foreman grill, with some homemade mayo, shredded cheddar cheese dill pickle chips and our beloved lettuce. Excellent lunch, just excellent. And, yes, I did use a Pooh plate. What better way to make lunch fun?
At dinner, a salad too small for all of us. Thankfully, only 5 of us were home
. The lettuce got washed about a million times - no insects or dirt for me, thank you - and mixed with shredded carrot, shredded mozarella, and craisins. Topped with an orange balsamic vinaigrette dressing I pulled out of thin air, there were people swarming around the salad bowl looking for the elusive "more!"

And of course, you wanted this...


1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp snipped chives (1 tbsp dried)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder
pinch salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup salad oil

Combine in a cruet or jar. Shake vigorously. Enjoy!

And, just for variety, my first moss roses have bloomed. They're not classic pretty roses, but they're certainly colorful!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Priscilla Cake With Royal Frosting

Fanny Farmer gave me my dessert offering last night. The cake was excellent; it tasted a great deal like pound cake, but wasn't nearly as heavy, and the frosting tasted like marshmallows. Some of the kids liked it, and some didn't. Thankfully, my littlest fussbudget loved the frosting, even though the cake rated only an "OK" from him. *sigh* I just can't win with that little weasel!


1 stick butter
3 eggs
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Beat the butter, then beat the eggs into it, one at a time. Beat at high speed until fluffy, then beat in the sugar and vanilla. At low speed, beat in half the flour mixture, followed by half the milk, then the balance of the flour mix and the remaining milk. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes, then pour into a 13x9 baking pan (always my choice!) or 2 layer pans. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes for the sheet cake, or 25 to 30 for the layers. Cool completely before frosting.

Royal Frosting

2 egg whites
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the egg whites with the boiling water and cream of tartar until
foamy. Gradually add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract, and beat until it forms soft peaks, 8 to 10 minutes. The lovely Mrs. Farmer does state that this frosting is not harmed by stopping during the beating process, for those inclined to try this process without a stand mixer. This made a very fluffy, thick, moist frosting, and did taste a great deal like marshmallows. As I said, some of the kids loved it, and for some, it was just too sweet.

Tomorrow: the first measly offerings from my garden!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Night at the Museum

Yes, I totally had to rip that title off. It was just too good to pass up.

My boys go to a small private school for some "enrichment" classes, and last fall, Ryan spent 2 weeks with this school at a local park which has a nice museum in it. Among other things, they made paper marbled, hand colored monoliths. Ryan's was one of the ones selected to hang in the special gallery, and his was used on a postcard invitation to the show. Of course, as a featured artist, he was invited to the special cocktail party and preview of the exhibit, with 2 guests allowed.

No, he didn't partake of cocktails, but I enjoyed every single hors d'oeuvre they offered. (I presume Ryan and my dearly beloved enjoyed them, too, but I didn't ask - or care!) It has been a very long time since I ate food someone else cooked, after all. And the barkeep was most amused by my cheerful, even delighted, requests for water - so much so that I toasted the charming gentleman with my bottled spring water.
My hip is paying the price today, but it was a delightful three hours! And wasn't the sky pretty last night, in front of the rainstorm, as we left home?