Sunday, August 31, 2008

Callipitters, Callipitters Everywhere

I have had a lovely herb garden. I went out tonight to pick some basil for homemade pesto and was brought up short. What happened? Callipitters. (Even at age 9, No Thank You Boy still calls them callipitters. Love that.) What they are is swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. What they eat is parsley; flat leaf parsley to be precise. All of the flat leaf parsley to be even more precise. Curly leaf parsley is only on the menu when all the flat leaf is gone, which will be pretty soon I think. (Note thriving curly leaves in background and stripped stems below). I am so nice I even planted extra for us to share (Pollyanna!) for them to chomp on. Every year it's the same: 'pitters come, 'pitters wipe out all the parsley, 'pitters go... and pupate somewhere else. We never see much of them as butterflies. At all. I finally wised up this year and bought a butterfly bush for them to nosh on. I planted it nearby so that hopefully they'll actually stay awhile after having gorged themselves on my herb garden. I'll let you know how it goes. Until then, how many can you find? Answer below.

Survey says: In these pictures, 12. There are actually over 25 lurking about.

Stay posted for the Pesto post.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Note to Self

Hot wax remains viscous even when it is not hot. Hot wax must be stored upright.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Lately, everywhere I go in the blogosphere I keep seeing Blueberry Crumb Bars, all inspired by Smitten Kitchen's teriffic recipe. I knew I had to try them. Juicy blueberries with a bite of tangy lemon and a golden brown crumb topping made these irresistible. I took a batch over to a friend's house. She and her husband loved them, and another neighbor who dropped by kept having "just one more little bite". Totally a Winner.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
Smitten Kitchen (Adapted from

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Yield: I cut these into 24 smallish rectangles. I found that these taste the best at room temperature and are also fabulous warmed in the microwave and topped with ice cream.

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Chicken and Lettuce Wraps?

We were getting into a bit of a rut with our chicken dinner selections, and I wanted to change things up a bit and to see if there was anything else in the world that No Thank You Boy would eat. A friend and I went to see Mamma Mia! and then went out for appetizers afterwards. We had chicken lettuce wraps and I thought I'd try to recreate them after a fashion. My thought was that it's fun, different, and you could eat with your hands (ok, that part appeals more to Messy Boy rather than No Thank You Boy). I had all the basic ingredients on hand (um, like chicken and lettuce). I have to limit the number of blatantly obvious ingredients so that I can slip some others in under the radar, so this is a pretty stripped down version. I did manage to sneak in water chestnuts without "anyone" noticing and prep was easy. It was a mess to eat but everyone liked it.

Chicken and Lettuce Wraps

Rotisserie chicken, meat stripped off bones and roughly chopped
1 can water chestnuts, sliced and roughly chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
½ small onion chopped
4-6 leaves of lettuce, rinsed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
Dash sesame oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Create sauce by mixing ingredients in small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine chopped chicken and water chestnuts. Add garlic and onion. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken mixture, stir in the sauce ingredients and combine thoroughly to coat and heat through. Remove from heat. Place one lettuce wrap on each plate and place a small scoop of the chicken on each. Roll up, forming a small pocket or envelope.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TWD: Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte

For your consideration: Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, pages 288-289, featured this week on Tuesdays with Dorrie. This fabulous dessert was absolutely yummy and actually quite easy to make. Presentation wise, it’s a knock-out. It did take some time to chill between layers, but while waiting, I tried to summit Mt. Washmore and knock out a few loads.

I used an 8” springform pan and once I was done, the fillings went all the way up to the top – not too much wiggle room. For the chocolate, definitely use the double-boiler method for melting. For less important recipes, I nuke it because it will actually be cooked into something, but for this where it’s the main attraction, take the time and do it right. I totally worked out my whisking muscles beating the eggs into the chocolate. Ow. Next time I would let the ganache cool for a little longer than 5 minutes, maybe 8 or 10. I was worried that the eggs might be curdling, but I kept whisking away (and whisking and whisking) and it smoothed out. The ice cream was a breeze to make, although I totally blanked out when faced with a half gallon of French Vanilla ice cream. Yikes! How many quarts in a half gallon?? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? (Yes, it’s two, so half of the container.) Again, OCD me needs to be exact so I cut it in half with a knife. (Um, Mommy, I’ve never seen anyone cut ice cream before with a knife. Yes dear, I’m just special that way. Run along now and play.)

Since I am a geek, I used a measuring cup to hold the chocolate so I could try and measure out an even 1/3 of the ganache for each of the layers. I was moderately successful. I waited 30 minutes between chillings so that it was fairly fool-proof and I didn’t have to worry about smearing. For the unmolding, when she says 10 seconds on the hot towel to release the pan, it’s 10 seconds. 20 will make it a little runny. If this happens, smooth out any drippy areas on the outside of the cake with the warm towel to create nice clean strata. Use a hot knife to cleanly cut the slices.

Finally! It was done, frozen and beautiful, but it looked a little naked and needed some zoom zoom. With a vegetable peeler, I shaved some of the dark chocolate off the remainder of the block I had used for the recipe. Using the suggested hairdryer trick, I slightly melted the top, shook on the shavings and voila! She is beautiful and tastes like a dream. I think that next time I'll try this with orange instead of raspberry. Vanilla ice cream blended with frozen manderins, a splash of OJ and a little Grand Marnier? Orange sherbet? What do you think?

Thanks to Amy of Food, Family and Fun for choosing this recipe! To see what all the other TWDers did with this torte, check out the blogroll here. If you'd like to try making the Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte for yourself, you can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

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Monday, August 25, 2008


(cranky voice coming from the direction of the kitchen) "Hey. Hey! Remember ME? I'm the eggplant that you HAD to buy even though nobody likes me but you! Well, sistah, get cooking 'cause I ain't getting any prettier sitting here on the counter looking at you looking at me. The boys are gone to a Braves game and it's just you and me and the Little One who's happy as a clam eating Kraft Mac n Cheese with hot dogs cut up in it. A complete No Risk situation. What are you waiting for? Get on with it, girl!"

Sigh. So here I go with the eggplant. I love eggplant. Always have. I loved it even more when I got the full scoop on it on Food Network. Ah, I remember like it was yesterday.... (insert sparkly fade out to black here) ... January 2002: my very first Good Eats episode. DH went out to the store for something one evening and I actually got to sneak in and watch TV, fiendishly changing the channel from some blah blah talking head political blah blah blah station to Food Network. I found Good Eats. Alton was finessing eggplants. I was hooked at first sight. MacGyver meets Julia Child meets Einstein meets Thomas Dolby. le sigh. When my unwitting DH returned, there I am, on the sofa, in his spot, holding the remote and looking completely enthralled but in a semi-crazed way. Excitedly, I blurted out "Did you know that there are Boy eggplants and Girl eggplants and that you can tell the difference between them?" Wordlessly, and never taking his eyes off me, he slowly backed out of the room. I don't think he's ever left the house at night since. That'll teach ya. Anyway, I'll save my AB ramblings for other posts.

No purging the eggplant (with salt) tonight, as I'm short on time so I'm pretty sure I need another tactic in order to salvage this poor pod. I read on RecipeZaar or somewhere (Sorry, I'll post the link when I find it again) about preparing eggplant without salting or frying the heck out of it in greasy oil. I decided to try it since I didn't have anyone to ruin make this for but me. It turned out ok. Yeah, just ok. I used premade sauce since I didn't have any homemade stashed in the freezer. I think that the jarred stuff was too... bright? Too young? Is that a valid description? When I think of eggplant parm, I think deep, rich and simmered with melded flavors and all gooey with cheese. This was, well, not that. It was bright and cheerful. Good qualities in girl scouts, sunflowers and kindergarten teachers, but not eggplant parm. I am not daunted though as I will go back to Square One and make my own sauce or follow AB's recipe for Eggplant Pasta the next time a lone eggplant talks it's way into my cart, as the basic prep technique here was surprisingly successful but the sauce blew it. (Note: next day, The Messy One had a bite and sort of liked it. Of course he did. Like Mikey, he eats almost everything. He is not however, like THAT Mikey - yet.)

(Baked) Eggplant Parmesan

1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1 lg Eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2" rounds
1 c Bread crumbs

Mayonnaise for coating
1 1/2 c Tomato sauce, (homemade is best)
8 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 425. Brush both sides of the eggplant rounds with a thin layer of mayonnaise. Combine 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs in a shallow pan, and press the eggplant slices into it, both sides, pressing firmly to be sure the crumbs adhere well. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (or on a silicone mat) and bake for 10 minutes, flip to other side and bake for another 10 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven, take slices and lay them in a 9x13 casserole dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Overlap them so the whole bottom is covered. Add tomato sauce, top with mozzarella and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Lower heat and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until cheese melts.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Asparagus Among Us

I went a little crazy last week at Harry's/Whole Foods. I just can't help it. I go in and the sight of all those colorful fruits and veggies just makes me feel healthy and makes me want to cook with each and every item there. Among the things I bought that day was asparagus. Lovely thin and slender stalks, just saying "please, take me home". So, I heard and obeyed. A week later, the asparagus is not eaten and is now crying "Please put me out of my misery. Tomorrow I will be slimy and gross. Do something with me tonight or your 4 bucks will have gone down the drain..."

So, yes, my little green friends. I will make something with you but please understand that I will need to pick you out for the Little One and No Thank You Boy. Don't take it personally. The sundried tomatoes are also not on the guest list for those two either.

Penne and Asparagus with Sun Dried Tomatoes

1 lb. penne pasta
splash olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 bunch asparagus, woody stems removed and cut into 2" segments
1 cup sundried tomatoes, cut lengthwise into strips
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Cook penne according to package. While pasta water is boiling, saute garlic in olive oil in non-stick pan. Add asparagus and sundried tomatoes and heat until slightly softened. Remove to separate plate. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, heavy cream and wine until blended. Add the parmesan cheese. Heat this mixture in pan until warm and the cheese starts to get a little melty, but not clumpy. When pasta is done, drain well, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Toss pasta with asparagus mixture and add the sauce to coat all. If sauce turns out too thick once it gets to the pasta, add a little of the reserved pasta water. Salt to taste.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Note to Self

Hot wax should be applied in a very thin layer, otherwise your skin will pull off with it.

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When the stars make you drool ...

justa like Pasta Fazoool, that's A-moraaaaay. We love Dean Martin. (Have you seen the Armstrong flooring magazine ads? Makes you look twice. What a great campaign!)

We also love "Pasta Fazool" (aka Pasta e Fagioli). This is a great quick and dirty recipe - my favorite kind. I get a big bang for almost no effort in 15-20 minutes and leftovers to boot. The kids don't like the "fazool" (beans) part, so we leave that out and for tonight I threw in ready made frozen meatballs for a little protein and to make it a little heartier, of course counting out the total number of meatballs so each kid gets his appointed share of the loot at serving time. Kroger makes a frozen version of mirepoix (carrot, onion and celery) that's pre-chopped. When I have a few mintues more and none of the "Mommmmm, I'm hungry" (this from The Messy Eater), I use mild Eye-talian sausage. I have a great herb garden so I always have fresh rosemary and thyme that I send the boys out to pick.
Adapted from Rachel Ray's first cookbook, 30 Minute Meals.

"Pasta Fazool"

4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) EVOO
3 small carrot, peeled and chopped *
2 ribs celery, chopped *
1 medium onion, chopped *
*I use a whole bag of frozen mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) noted above for the previous 3 ingredients if I'm totally rushed. Just rinse under warm water to slightly defrost before adding to pan)
2 (4 to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left whole
Several (4 to 6-inch) sprigs thyme with several sprigs on it, left intact
3 cans (15 oz each) chicken broth
Coarse salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked ditalini noodles
Crumbled mild Italian sausage, removed from casing and browned (or frozen pre-cooked meatballs in a pinch!)
Grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
Crusty bread, for mopping

Heat garlic in olive oil over medium heat in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Add herb stems and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat, cover pot and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While this is cooking, in another pan, brown sausage over medium-high heat until cooked through. Add broth to the veggie pot, raise heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the ditalini and sausage (or meatballs - still frozen is ok). Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes or until noodles are al dente.
Serve immediately with a generous amount of cheese and crusty bread for bowl mopping.

Feeds up to 4 (although with my junior crew, there are usually some leftovers for me the next day.)

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ok, ok, I'm workin' on it...

Never fear, I have several things to post, but time has gotten away from me (again). Yes, I have another crazy deadline. The woman I work with is going out of town for a week and I need to finish working on no less than 9 projects before Tuesday evening. Wish me luck.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The First Day of School (and a treat for afterwards)

The First Day of School. Finally. I love my little hatchlings dearly, but after summer “vacation” of 2 and a half months, with children constantly surrounding me, every day and night, 24/7, they need to be away from me, in school with lots of structure and other grownups watching them. (School…. love school). After a bumpy start everything smoothed out and everyone survived Day One. Me included. I was a little teary-eyed when I saw the bus pull up ready to take The Little One away to kindergarten and the Big Two off to 4th grade, but that quickly changed when The Little One refused to get on the bus. After dragging him across the street and physically lifting him onto the bus, with the driver then blocking the door so he couldn’t escape back off - sigh - there were no tears after that. Especially since I was still in my pajamas and there were now 4 other moms who suddenly materialized from nowhere and 2 cars filled with neighbors stuck waiting behind the school bus watching while the drama unfolded. Great.

I was even less moved when I got a call from school some 20 minutes later telling me that he was hiding under the teacher’s desk and wouldn’t come out. As a plea bargain, he could talk to me on the phone, make sure I hadn’t disappeared off the face of the earth and then put the past behind him and have fun at school. “Child. Come out from under the desk. Now. Please. You will have fun and learn great things. Good job, honey. Thank you. I will see you later on today when the bus brings you back to me. I will be here. I will make treats. I love you. Bye-bye sweetie. Please give the phone back to the teacher now”. [Insert deep cleansing breaths here.] Awaiting the return of Himself and The Brothers, I ran errands, took back the perpetual pile of returns that lives in the front seat of my car, went to the bank, got the oil changed AND the cleaning ladies came so the house looks and smells Fabuloso. Ahhhh. Happy girl.

To celebrate the return to sanity, uh, I mean school, I made the aforepromised treats. I was inspired by this recipe for Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts from Joe at Culinary in the Desert. Since I’m cooking for an under 10 elementary school crowd, and the boys don’t appreciate bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate (or espresso) (yet), and since I had a freshly cleaned kitchen, I therefore cheated and started with Duncan Hines Double Chocolate Brownie Mix in lieu of the batter portion of the recipe. I added the vanilla, a little salt and yeah, the espresso powder (just a little) and the peanuts. Of course I forgot to chop them up first, but the kids don’t notice such things. To have a little help getting them out of the pan I lined the pan with foil / made handles and sprayed with cooking spray. I got to use my new toy for the frosting: the SideSwipe paddle for my Kitchen Aid mixer! What a great thing this is! It really works - it gets all the ingredients mixed together and scrapes everything off the sides and bottom. Love it! Nuked the chocolate chips and butter for the frosting and made cleanup easier for myself, as I am all about easy, especially today.

The verdict? This is going to be a good school year after all.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chocolate Cake for Breakfast

No, not exactly like Bill Cosby’s famous meal, but I did have three boys dancing around like Baryshnikov this morning and singing my praises. No Thank You Boy (the one who refuses to eat), asks for a “Carnation Breakfast Shake, with chocolate chips”. Yes, sure, ok, whatever. Just EAT. ANYTHING. PLEASE. Now the other two are looking at me morosely over the toaster which holds their breakfast - waffles and sticks (french toast sticks). So, what the heck, chocolate chips all around, after all it’s T minus 5 days and counting until school starts again. So, we dump on the chocolate chips and “magic sprinkles” (aka: cinnamon sugar) and it’s breakfast.

Choruses of Handel’s Messiah “A-lay-loo-yah” begin echoing throughout the kitchen. The Little One comes up behind me and gives me a spontaneous knee hug. The Messy Eater is happily stuffing his face with gooey chocolate syrup butter waffles and it’s all over his face, hands, clothes and the table (as always) but today it seems uh, gloppier than usual. The Little One says it best: “Mommy, I’m fainting from chocolate”. Me too honey.

So, this is my first post, and I’m looking forward to blogging and I hope to be fairly consistent about it. Now you sort of know where “magic sprinkles” comes from. I forget who originally came up with calling them that - it was one of The Big Ones - and we started using those magic words pretty soon after they were able to sit up and eat on their own. They always knew that anything with “magic sprinkles” on it was extra tasty, extra good and had an extra amount of special love in it. With or without those sprinkles, I hope they know that everything they eat (even if it’s toaster waffles or sticks) has my special love in it.

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