Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

There are 3 words that I use to describe this bread...moist, moist, moist oh and rich (ok so there were 4).

This is yet another 20+ year old recipe that I have made dozens and dozens of times. The boys happily put away piece after piece fully knowing that there is zucchini in it! When they were younger, it impossible to get Evan to eat it. He refused to eat anything that had green in it. He was Mr. Dissection picking apart every bit of food on his plate, pulling out a speck of an herb, dangling it on the end of his finger, thrusting it under my nose asking in a purely horrified tone "what is this green thing?????". You can imagine that this bread did not go over well the first few times with Evan. He eventually decided that he better try it since his brother happily devoured it every time I made it. He finally gave in a few years back and even knowing that the "green things" are zucchini, he now eats piece after piece too.

This recipe makes 2 loaf size breads. You can eat one and freeze one, or do what we do, eat two and freeze none. I decided to make one loaf this time and a dozen "muffins". I bought a new Calphalon square bar pan this week and I was desperate to try it out so I split this batch. You can easily make muffins with this batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 or until they test done.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Printable recipe
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (you can substitute 1 cup of applesauce too, works great)
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini, about 2 medium (you can peel them, I never do)
2 1 /2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking powder

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, sugar & vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Combine all the dry ingredients and add it to the zucchini mixture. Mix well. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans, or make muffins by filling the pans 2/3 full with batter.

Bake loaf pans at 350 for 1 hour or until bread tests done.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Good Earth

Don't you just love it when you find a little gem of a place right in your own backyard?

John and I took a little break from yard work today and decided to head to a little nursery called The Good Earth. We had passed it a few times, but it was always closed when we went by. It looked so cute from the road that I knew I had to visit. So today I went with the intent to purchase a plant to fill an adorable little teacup planter I had picked up earlier in the week.

Wow was I impressed. First, it's an organic nursery, so that's always a huge plus for me and second, they specialize in unique plants. I felt like I walked into my own private little nirvana. Everywhere I turned there were these gorgeous plants, luscious greens and yellows, vibrant purples and reds, pale yellows, delicate oranges. I was in heaven. The young lady that was in the green house was totally cool and very hip I might add. She gladly answered all my questions and let me take photos of anything I wanted. Oh you have to check out her tattoo. At first I thought she had it branded on her. I watched a few tattoo specials where people actually burn a design into their skin. No thank you please. I asked her if that was what is was, and she told me it was a white tattoo. It was so beautiful. White with little pink highlights. You really didn't notice it at first, and then when she turned a certain way and the light caught it, it just popped. I asked her if I could take a picture of it and she said sure. John said leave it to me to ask a chick if I can take a picture of her chest. I have no shame, besides she was happy I asked.

I fell in love with that tattoo. Now I totally want a white tattoo. That would make a nice anniversary present hunny. Are you paying attention?

Anyway, I got so many great ideas for next year. I'm planning a new flower bed and an extended herb garden. I can hardly wait! I'm also going to make some stone pots like the ones in the first collage. I had downloaded the instructions on the DYI site, I'm just having a heck of a time finding a circular or square mold big enough to mix stone and cement in.

I bought a darling little ornamental oregano. I'm bummed that it's not edible but just look at what it will look like when it matures. The flowers were so delicate. I was immediately drawn to it. I'm hoping I can winter it over and keep it growing inside during the fall and winter.

The owner came out a bit later and we chatted with him a bit. He was totally an old hippie dude. I liked him immediately, cause I am totally an old hippie chick. I also picked up an ornamental grass. It will look like this when it matures:

This one is an annual, but should last until the first frost.

I'm so excited to have found a nursery with a knowledgeable staff and that is filled with so many unique plants. I can hardly wait to start planting next year.

Oyster Snack Crackers

This is one of John's (and everyone else who eats them) favorite snacks. I got his recipe from my mother-in-law Carol. She has been making them for years and years. They take about 2.3 minutes to make and will be gobbled up in 1.4 seconds. They are addictive. It's like the potato chip cannot eat just one...handful. After I took this picture...I ate half the bowl for breakfast. They are the perfect little munchie snack. This is always a Super Bowl must at our house and since John's birthday is nearly here, I thought I'd make him one of his favorites just because, so at 10pm last night I broke out my big bowl and mixed up a batch.

Oyster Snack Crackers
2 - 10 or 12 oz bags of Oyster Crackers (I usually find the 12oz bags, either will work)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 heaping teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 pkg Zesty Italian salad dressing mix (small 0.7oz envelope, usually sold in a 4 pack).

Mix all the ingredients together. I use a 2 cup measuring cup and a small whisk. Pour over crackers. Stir well, but gently. You don't want to crush yer crackers. Let sit 1 day for best flavor.

I know they look like an oily mess. Do not despair. The reason you need to let them sit for a day is so they can soak up all that oily herby goodness. It will work. Trust me.

I wanna dance with Matt.

Normally I would link the video here for you to watch, but you need to watch this in high def so right under "Views" click the high def version of this and watch.

Matt's been dancing since '05.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Taking it easy this week.....

It's been kind of a lazy week for us in comparison to the hecticness of our lives sometimes. I made a conscious effort to slow it down a bit. Gram Fran is in the hospital after having suffered 2 small heart attacks, and some complications after heart surgery. At 84, she's a fighter, we can say that for sure. After surgery she was even joking with the staff. Uncle Mark told her they had to give her a blood transfusion. The bad news - was it was Republican blood. She looked up at them at said "Oh, tell everyone I said goodbye". We are happy to know she is still the smart ass we know and love. She is doing better now thankfully, but it made us all take a few steps back to remember what's really important. We needed to slow down.

I made some quick and easy dinners this week so that we had more time after dinner to just chill. We spent quite a few nights under the gazebo reading, talking, calling Ohio for updates and just hanging out till it was bedtime. I putzed around in the yard, took a few pictures of everything in bloom, noticed a few things I want to accomplish over the weekend and planned a few meals. I've got a few new (and some not so new) recipes planned.

I've been working on my 4th of July menu too. The 4th is always a special time for us. John's birthday is on the 3rd and both my brothers on the 6th. Not twins, just born 6 years apart on the same day. We always host the 4th of July party and this year will be no different.

We have some vacation time coming up next week. More chillin' time. Just what we all need.

Get better soon Gram. We love you.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Things that make me sad

I don't think any other comedian made me laugh as much as George did. He will be missed.

1937 - 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brownie Bites

I stumbled upon a great blog called Whisk Blog yesterday. The first post I saw was for Brownie Pops...little brownie bites on a stick. They looked so cute. I decided to mix up a batch. There is a great recipe for frosting that goes along with this recipe, but frankly these brownies didn't need it. They were rich and chocolaty and everything a brownie should be. Next time I make these I will give the frosting a try, cause it really sounded delicious.

There wasn't any time to get a stick into these before everyone in my house gobbled these up, so I changed the name to Brownie Bites for this post.

Take a swing by Whisk Blog for some gorgeous photographs and the frosting recipe.

Brownie Bites
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
½ cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Nuts (optional)
Heat oven to 350˚F. Grease a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, and beat well. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to egg mixture, beating until blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Fill a piping bag (or freezer bag), and fill the mini muffin cups. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

*This batch made 35 brownies. I baked them for exactly 12 minutes and they came out perfect. I used a teaspoon to fill my mini muffin pan just about half way.


What a great weekend we had. Friday evening John and I went strawberry picking. The berries were so plentiful that we picked 6 pounds in about 20 minutes. Saturday morning we worked in the yard and then I went in and started to make jam. It smelled so good in my kitchen. I made 3 large containers of jam from about 1/2 the batch of berries. I'm making another strawberry rhubarb pie with some too. One of the guys I work with gave me a gigantic bunch of rhubarb so I told him I would bring in a pie. I'm tempted to make chocolate covered strawberries with the rest, but I know if I do that, then I'll want to eat them all, and I can't do that, so I will resist as much as I hate too!

The jam came out just perfect. John and I had some on toast for breakfast. The strawberry flavor was just so fresh. It was like eating ripe, sweet strawberries right off the vine.

Saturday night we went out to Rodozio's in Providence with my parents and Eva. It's a Brazilian steakhouse where all the meat is served by Gauchos on skewers. They had a massive antipasto bar and was just loaded with all kinds of amazing food. The meats and cheeses were outta this world. My Dad and John loved the lamb. I don't do lamb. John tried to get me to take a bite, but I just couldn't. The service was phenomenal and we all left really stuffed! I would have taken some pictures, but I forgot the camera at home.

Sunday we did more yard work (it never ends) and I harvested a huge bunch of lettuce for dinner. I think we will have a great big salad with some grilled teriyaki chicken on top. Trying to keep it light.

Oh - I joined the recipe test team for Jaden @ Jadens Steamy Kitchen, so you should be seeing some Asian inspired recipes coming up soon.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Things that make me happy #15


Willie Nelson turned 75 a couple of months ago, same day my Moose turned 4. I am a great admirer of Mr. Nelson. There is something about the sound of that mans voice the comforts me. He is one of the voices that calms me. Just listen to Angel Flying to Close to the Ground and tell me it doesn’t affect you.

Ever since I was a little girl I was very aware of the affect that certain people’s voice had over me. My Grandfather would sit in his big rocker with me on his lap and sing me Nat King Cole songs. I can still remember the sound of his voice, and feel the humming in his chest while I lay my head against him in that big ole chair. His voice soothed me. He would trace figure eights on my forehead while he sang very quietly to me, “there was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead, and when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid”.

When I got a little bit older and I was going through those tragic teenage years where I was fighting with my parents and everything was blown into epic proportions, I would always go next door to him and seek comfort in his words and his singing. I would be whining about whatever trivial little thing was bothering me and he would break into a song. The most memorable was Nat’s Smile. To this day I can’t hear that song without crying. He would sing louder and louder and I would swat him away and whine even more, but he just kept on singing. Mona Lisa was also a big favorite of his, especially when I was moaning about something, get it? Moaning….Lisa, bad I know. I miss hearing his voice so much.

There are other voices that make me happy and always bring a smile to my face when I hear them. I’ve listed just a few of the songs that I particularly love.

Van Morrison (Tupelo Honey, Into the Mystic, Someone Like You, Crazy Love, Stranded)
John Lennon (Oh my Love, Jealous Guy, Out the Blue, Beautiful Boy, Woman, Julia, Look at Me)

Eric Clapton (Let it Grow, Bell Bottom Blues, Promises, Running on Faith, Badge)
Stevie Nicks (Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You, Sara, Rhiannon, Landslide, Silver Springs)
Paul Rodgers – Bad Company (Seagull, Silver, Blue & Gold, Ready for Love, Burin’ Sky)
Annie Lennox (Why, Cold, Fingernail Moon, Stay by Me, Lost)
Rob Thomas (Little Wonders, If I Fall, If You’re Gone, Push, Hang, Ever the Same)
Bonnie Raitt (Nobody’s Girl, All at Once, Cry on my Shoulder)
George Harrison (Isn’t it a Pity, If Not for You, I’d Have you Anytime, All Things Must Pass)

Not only do I love their music, but also I adore their voices. Van & John Lennon’s are both right up there at the top of my list. Van has a tone to his voice that starts in my toes and travels right to the tip of my head. I can be having just the worst day and I turn on the radio and hear Van and suddenly it’s a little better, and my heart slows a few beats, and I take a deep breath and just listen. When I hear Tupelo Honey, I cannot help but smile. It is one of my most favorite songs.

John Lennon’s voice I just will always associate with comfort and contentment. His voice is home to me, always will be. I hear Beautiful Boy and in my mind it's 2am again and I am rocking a baby boy back to sleep.

I think when something happens and it moves you emotionally, you attach a song to it. I attach not only songs but also voices. Those voices are my little piece of tranquility in what can be a sometimes hectic and crazy life. I think we all need to hear those voices.

What voices do that for you?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pesto Pasta Salad

There are thousands of different recipes for pasta salad out there, maybe even hundreds of thousands….this is mine. It’s quick. It’s simple. It tastes good. Isn’t that all that really matters?

Pasta Pesto Salad

Printable recipe
1 pound Farfalle
2 small can’s sliced olives
1 pound of Monterey Jack cut into small cubes
1 small container of grape tomatoes cut in half
1 small red onion, sliced
Fresh basil and parsley, finely chopped
½ cup pesto (you may need a smidge more)

Boil up you pasta and cook it until it’s very al dente. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than soggy pasta salad. Drain the pasta and while it’s still hot stir in the pesto. Add all the other ingredients and lightly toss. Refrigerate. You might find after it sits in the fridge and soaks up all the pestoey goodness that you might have to add a little more.

My pesto came from the freezer. I made it with last years crop of basil and froze it in small containers. If you don’t want to make your own pesto, you can find it at any of the major food warehouses (Sam’s, BJ’s, etc).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Baked Beans

This is my recipe for baked beans. If I do say so myself….and I will…it rocks. This is not a quick recipe. It’s one of those all niters. It literally takes all night (or day) to bake these, and one day to soak the beans, so it’s technically 2 days, but it is so worth the wait. You do need a bean pot for this recipe, or a heavy cast iron dutch oven. I use my great grandmothers bean pot. It’s about 60 years old. I think that is another reason why my beans taste so damn good.

This recipe came about as a culmination of a few different recipes I had tried. I tweaked it until I made it my own. Feel free to take it and tweak it and make it your own.

Lisa’s Baked Beans
1 bean pot
2 pounds white navy beans, soaked overnight.
1 pound (or so, you don’t have to be exact) of salt pork, rind removed
¾ cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
3 medium onions, quartered

After the beans have soaked all night, rinse them and put them into the biggest bowl you have in your kitchen. Add all the ingredients and give it a good stir. Place the beans in a pot and cover them with hot water. Stop as soon as you see the water touch the top of the beans. Place in a 250 degree oven overnite. I usually put these beans on before I go to bed. They went into the oven at 10pm and they were finished about 8am, so about 10 hours. Yours might take more or less time. You really have to test them for doneness. They should turn a nice dark brown color and be creamy and tender.

*Always put a foil lined cookie sheet under the bean pot in case of spillage. Mine always seem to bubble over slightly so I have a nice sticky mess!

Monday, June 16, 2008


My site meter allows me to see search keyword or phrases someone uses to find my blog. I saw this one this morning from Austria that I thought was particularly disturbing:

"cutting a woman into pieces"

I hope this was for a research paper!

Berry Trifle

This is a recipe I got back in the 80’s from a nice lady that I used to work with named Ferrell Dewell. I have several of her hand written recipes in my collection and this is one of them that I have been serving for over 20 years now. Ferrell was sweet little lady with a very unusual name. She passed away about 10 years ago, but her trifle lives on.

Over the years I have changed this trifle to fit my mood. I added some coconut in between the layers this time. I am a huge fan of coconut, especially when it’s combined with strawberries. Other times I have added in crushed pineapple with the berries & coconut for a
kind of pina coladaish flavor. Once I made this with chocolate pudding, marbled pound cake, and crushed toffee bars for the kids. The combinations are endless. Other than the pudding and milk there are really no exact amounts, which is great. This is a recipe you can have fun with and really make your own.

Berry Trifle
Printable Recipe
1 angel food cake, cut into bite size pieces
2 pkgs of instant pudding mix (I used coconut cream pudding for this, but you can use whatever you prefer)
Fruit of your choice – I used strawberries, blueberries & raspberries for this version
8 oz whipped topping

Combine the pudding mix and 1 ½ cups of cold milk in a bowl. Beat with a mixer until thickened (about 2 minutes). Fold in the whipped topping.

In a trifle bowl layer the cake, pudding and the fruit, in that order. For your second layer, add the cake, fruit and top with the pudding mixture. I topped mine with some toasted coconut.

Even though we had birthday cake and a gourmet ice cream cake thanks to my neighbors with the ice cream factory, this dessert was devoured. After I snapped this picture, Jesse’s friend Marcus gobbled up what was left…..that was his 3rd serving!

This is a great recipe for 4th of July, white & blue dessert!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Antipasto Squares

Update - September 6, 2008. I'm participating in Susan's Bloiversary Bash. I decided I would submit one of my most requested appetizers. I had to dig back all the way to June, but I think this recipe is a winner! Wanna participate? Visit Susan at Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy
for more info.

No matter what weekend I plan a birthday party for Jesse, it rains. I think I we have had one dry birthday over the last 13 years. Luckily we purchased a really big tent years ago and it's just a give-in that it will go up when we plan his party. This year was no exception. What started out as a beautiful, sunny day, ended up in showers. This year the showers were welcome. It was hot and sticky and they offered cool relief and a beautiful breeze. We ended up sitting outside quite late, talking & laughing quite a lot. All the kids ventured into the house to play with the Wii. We even had some pre-4th of July fireworks. A little rain can never spoil our party.

As always, when we started to sing Happy Birthday Moose chimed in. There are only a few songs my dog sings, and Happy Birthday is one of them. He howls like a little wolf. Ken even joined in with him for a duet.

One of the biggest hits at the party were these Antipasto Squares. I don't know where they got the name Antipasto Square. When I think of Antipasto I think of salad, and there isn't a hint of salad in this recipe. No matter, every time I make them, they are the first thing on the table to get gobbled up. The men seem to really enjoy them. They are fast and easy and are always requested.

Antipasto Squares
Printable recipe

2 large packages Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (I think they are called Big & Flaky)
¼ pound each – thinly sliced:
Provolone cheese
Genoa Salami
Swiss cheese
Slicing Pepperoni

1 med jar Mancini roasted peppers drained (OPTIONAL). I do not use these in mine but if you like them – add ‘em in.

Mix together:
3 eggs beaten
3 Tablespoons grated cheese
Dash pepper (I add a dash of Mrs. Dash instead)

Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with cooking oil. Open one package of the crescent rolls, unroll it in one piece and press it into the bottom of the pan. Layer meat and cheese in the order as listed above. The ¼ pound of meat is an estimate for me. I just layer the meat so it covers the entire pan, you don’t need to overlap the pieces. One note – I try to buy baked ham, not cooked ham. Cooked ham can sometimes be too watery. If you do use cooked ham, I would nuke it in the microwave on some paper towel for a few seconds, just to get some of the wetness out of the meat.

Pour most of the egg mixture on top of meat & cheese. Reserve just a little bit. Top with 2nd package crescent rolls and brush top with remaining egg mixture. Bake 25 minutes at 350 or until top is golden brown. Let cool, cut into squares. Serve warm or room temp.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Scungilli (Snail) Salad

I can already guess that some of you read the title of this post and went "ewww, snails", but have your tried them? Have you eaten a really great snail salad? I'm not sure but snail salad may be a food truly indigenous to Rhode Island. I have never eaten it anywhere else, or seen anyone else but Rhode Islanders prepare it. It's on the menu of almost any Italian restaurant here, and it's a constant at most of my larger gatherings. I'm lucky enough to be friends with the cook who runs our cafeteria at work, so he gets me a great big 5 pound bucket of pre-sliced snails. They are packed in some kind of a weak salad dressing, but I always dump the bucket out and drain it as soon as I get it home, rinse the snails, and make my own salad with it.

Why do we call it Scungilli? Well, cause that's what it really is. Scungilli is any various large marine snail with a thick spiral shell, especially the family Buccinidae. (No I didn't know that I looked it up, that's why God invented Google, so I would sound more intelligent on my blog).

Snail salad is one of my top ten favorite foods of all time, it's right up there with black raspberry ice cream and eggplant for me. I made this batch for Jesse's birthday party tomorrow. It's best to let it sit overnight so all the flavors blend. I don't have a recipe for this either. I just throw ingredients in until I think it look right, then I add balsamic vinegar and a little lemon until it tastes right. It's definitely an 'add and taste as you go' kind of recipe. I'll try and estimate what I used for 5 pounds of it.

Scungilli (Snail) Salad
5 pounds of snails, sliced thin
1 large red onion, sliced thin
1 large can black olives, sliced thin
3 large stalks of celery, sliced thin
3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
fresh parsley & oregano

I grab the biggest bowl I have in the house, add in all the ingredients, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. A few hours before serving I add in some fresh chopped parsley and a little bit of fresh oregano.

My Dad, my brothers and I could eat 5 pounds of this in one sitting. I kid you not. That's how much we all love it. Mom - not so much.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

And the little children rejoiced.....

Sandy feet, buzz cuts, long bike rides, skinned knees, popsicle tongues, sleepin' in, cookin'-out, hot smores, sweet watermelon, juicy peaches, home made jam, tank tops.....happy summer boys!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pasta with Shrimp and Green Garlic

All my life I have lived in a house with a garden. I never really thought about it much as a kid. Half our backyard was dedicated to growing food. Giant towering trellises of squash, dozens of tomato plants, row upon row of green and yellow and red. I remember pulling rhubarb out of the ground, rinsing it with the hose, dousing it with sugar and happily munching away. When I close my eyes I can still see my grandfather, bent in half, bald head glistening in the sun, just weedin’ and pickin’ away. He was always in the garden. Maybe that’s where my love of gardening came from? It certainly did not come from my Mom or Grandma. There are not, how should I say this, the “outdoor” type. I have never in my life seen my mother do any kind of physical outdoor activity. No mowing or weeding, or even getting her hands dirty for that matter. She’s much better suited for the kitchen, where she usually is. I love to work outside in the yard. I love getting my hands dirty, I love to plant, I love to dig, and mostly I love to harvest. There is something so satisfying about eating food that you grew yourself. I wish everyone could find a little space and grow something good to eat. It’s a wonderful thing. Tonight I picked my first batch of lettuce. It was so sweet and tender it barely needed any dressing.

When I moved into my house I didn’t have a garden for the first 4 years. I was too busy setting up a new house and just didn’t have time for one. When I finally finished on the inside, I moved on to the outside and a new garden was born. It has transformed over the years, gotten bigger and hosted a wider variety of veggies too. Next year I am going to work on expanding my herb garden and build some raised beds. I also want to plant some garlic, something my Uncle Luciano and Dad always grew. One of my friends at work brought me some green garlic. “Perfect timing,” I told him as he handed it to me this morning. “We are having pasta and shrimp for dinner”.

What is green garlic you ask? Well it’s not the garlic clove that is green (mold is the great enemy garlic as any grower can testify). Rather green garlic, which is also called spring baby garlic, is the fresh shoot of the immature garlic plant. When I opened the bag the scent almost knocked me out. I had it in my office and had to move it to a closed file room because I was getting complaints from people. I have to admit, it’s pungent, it actually made my eyes water a bit, but surprisingly it was not overpowering when cooked. It took on a really creamy onioney (yeah I know that's not a real word) garlicky flavor. I liked it a lot. Another reason to plant some this fall.

Yesterday it was a sweltering 97 degrees and with the humidity here it felt like 105. It was bad. There was no way I was even going to heat up the stove to boil water. Today the weather dropped 10 degrees and there is a cool breeze making it much more bearable, so Pasta with shrimp (and green garlic) was back on the menu.

I don't really have a recipe for this. I just cooked the green garlic in some olive oil, added in a tiny bit of bread crumbs, threw some fresh shrimp in a the very end and tossed it with some fresh parsley and basil, then sprinkled on some cheese. Fast and east weeknight supper. The next few days will be filled with preparation for Jesse's birthday party on Saturday, so we will be busy here. This just might be the last hot meal they see until then!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A very long day.

Yesterday it was a sweltering 93 degrees out. Hot, sticky, humid and just plain miserable weather. We had a shed to demolish and a brand new one to put up. We did it in one day. One long, sweaty, stinky, exhausting day.

John began demo at 7am. By 11am he had most of the old shed down. The yard was a disaster. Wood, nails and shingles all over the place. By 3pm we had most of the new shed up. John and I did it totally alone. Of course he did more than I did, but I lugged the sides of walls that we 3 feet taller than me and even got to use the power tools! By 5pm we were near exhaustion. The heat was getting the better of us and we were both ready to collapse, so we went in a took a much needed break. One of our neighbors Rick (who actually went and got the shed for us (thanks Rick!) came back over with his brother-in-law to check on our progress. The only thing left to finish was the roof. The guys decided to get the roof on and just finish this project and call it done. So I called over a few local neighborhood young men and the 5 guys lifted that roof right in place. An hour later I was loading everything neatly back into my brand new shed. By 9pm I was ready for a nice cool shower. I can't remember the last time a shower felt so good.

At 9:30pm I remembered that I needed to make a cake for Jesse. He was at his Dad's over the weekend and I wanted him to come home to a home made birthday cake. His party is next weekend and it's supposed to be in the mid-70's. Thank goodness! So 10pm, cake is in the oven and I am on the couch dozing off. Cake out of the oven....cooled....covered and to bed.

It was an extremely long and totally exhausting day but when I look in my backyard now and I see that adorable shed, I am very happy. All that is left to do now is build a new ramp and plant some perennials round the base.

Chocolate Birthday Cake
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Printable recipe
Ingredients (all at room temperature)
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 C sugar
2 t vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 C buttermilk
1 1/4 C boiling water

To be sifted together
2 C cake flour
6T cocoa powder
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two round 8-inch cake pans, cover the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, butter it lightly, and coat the pans lightly with cocoa or flour.

Chop the chocolate coarsely, then microwave for 30 second bursts, stirring after each burst. It took me only a minute, or less to get this amount of chocolate melted. This can also be done in a double boiler.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add sugar and vanilla, and beat very well for 5-10 minutes until very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the melted chocolate. Stir in half the dry mixture. Stir in the buttermilk. Stir in the rest of the dry mixture. Slowly, stir in the boiling water until it is just incorporated. Now you will have a smooth and glossy batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean. Cool completely before frosting.

So we had cake for dinner tonight. I know, totally wrong, but once in awhile, things happen, it's sweltering hot and you end up eating birthday cake for dinner. Hey we had milk with it so it wasn't a total nutritional loss!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Happy 13th Birthday Jesse

I have been pouring over old photos albums for over a week now. Looking back at this tiny little blonde headed baby, my curly topped toddler, Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed pre-schooler, doodler extraordinaire, book worm, big brother, child who put absolutely everything in his mouth, edible or not, first born son, Jesse.

My baby boy is turning 13 today. I can hardly believe that the tiny bundle I held in my arms well over a decade ago is now officially a teenager. I am watching him change right before my very eyes, and I have to say.....I really don't like it one bit. Since Jesse and Evan passed the toddler stage, I have always joked with them and pushed down on their heads saying "I'm pushing you back down so you don't grow up, I want you to stay little and never leave me". It was always a joke but part of me means it. I am happy that Jess is entering a new stage in his life, but sad that things are changing and that each year he grows more and more independent and needs me just a little less and less.

He is now into all the bands that I grew up listening to. He has a “collection” of Pink Floyd t-shirts. Seeing him pick out a Beatles shirt a few months ago was so unreal for me. He grew up listening to the Beatles & John Lennon. I would rock him to sleep and sing Beautiful Boy to him. At the end of the song when John Lennon whispers “Goodnight Sean, see you in the morning”. Jess would make me say “Goodnight Jess, see you in the morning”.

I remember he and I laying in my giant water bed when he was about 5 years old. His favorite song was Two of Us by the Beatles. I would click out the melody on the edge of the wooden rail on the bed while we sang. He wanted to memorize all the lyrics so we would lay in bed and sing it over and over, starting and stopping when he would miss one of the lyrics. “Do it over Mama, from the beginning” he would say, and we would. Every time I hear that song I remember me and Jess cuddled up under a big blanket, with John and Paul ringing in our ears.

My sweet little boy, who his teachers nicknamed "the love bug", who would brush my hair for a quarter, and gave me sticky kisses and the best hugs in the world is turning 13...I can hardly believe it. Slow down years, you're moving way to fast for me.