Monday, June 30, 2014

Summer Fun: History on Parade

Due to connections and being in the right place at the right time, we were in a parade!  Our town float needed some "colonials" to flesh out its march through history.  And, well, I can easily be a colonial.  Plus I have two colonial kids.  So, there we were, dressed to the nines--Bud in his vest, Sis in her pink colonial gown, and I in my favorite "Jacobean print" bodice with blue and red skirts, plus my mob cap and straw hat--on a float parading in town.

I'd never been in a parade before; it wasn't even on my so-called bucket list of life wishes (I don't actually have one of those, but I do have ideas of things I'd like to do.)  I just never figured I'd have the opportunity . . . and then there it was.  


And it was fun!  There was a long wait for our float to join the parade, but then we were moving--definitely more smoothly than I expected--and waving (I didn't need the royal wave, just waved normally) and smiling (it's cliche, but my face did feel frozen after awhile) and throwing candy.  Sis and Bud were really good at throwing candy, aiming for the kids, even noticing when kids with candy pretended they didn't have any or followed us for more.  I was more troubled by the demanding adults who actually approached the float demanding more candy.  Aggressively.  

But I liked waving and smiling, especially to the little kids who waved back.  Lots of adults waved back, too.  And took our pictures.  I'm in hundreds of photos, which rather surprised me.  Who really wanted a picture of our float?  Of EVERY float?  Some people video'd the entire parade.  I mean, I know why Mama took our pictures, but . . . maybe my dress costume was better (or worse) than I thought!

Less comforting thoughts rolled through my head--class issues, race issues, issues of privilege and poverty and even who writes history and controls it and makes it even now.  We were a mostly white-populated float--excepting my two bi-racial half-Asian children--representing a town with known Native American and West African captive populations in the past and a very diverse present.   How could we really purport to be the history of our town?  Especially through a predominantly minority neighborhood?   Especially as they would really benefit from knowing their ancestors' parts in our town's history?  As Mama tells me, most of the police, EMS, and firefighters were white, most of the politicians were white, and most of the floats and marchers, with just a few major exceptions, were white, through a town that is mostly not white.   Not right.

But, I suppose the main point was that we were altogether celebrating and relaxing and cheering together.  And that part we really did enjoy.  

Summer Fun: Checking it Twice

Let's check in, here about 10 days into summer.  

From our Summer Fun list:
  1. Go swimming--joined Y and went swimming on the very first day of summer
  2. Attend town festival.  And we were in the parade!!!!  More on this soon.
  3. Visit a children's museum--the kids went to the Peabody while I was learning how to build a fire
  4. Eat Dole Whip--we stopped by the local place and they don't get the pineapple flavor until later  :(
  5. Make ice cream--well, we made ice cream sodas and other sodas with Mama's new SodaStream
  6. Picnic--our first was on the first day of summer
  7. Go berry picking--strawberry!!!
  8. Go to farmer's market--revisited our original CSA market and I went to our town market, tooa
  9. Play in sprinkler--or with the hose, also on our first day of summer
  10. Make jam--strawberry, with Pomona's universal pectin
  11. Go to movie in theater--How to Train Your Dragon 2 twice!
  12. Celebrate Solstice--staying up late with Goo after birthday party
  13. Birthday parties--ice skating, SodaStreams, and cake
  14. Pajamas day--pajamas all day, even for a car outing.  And a Doctor Who marathon.
  15. Try new CSA vegetable in recipe--garlic scape pesto?  one-pot tomato basil pasta?  Yep.
  16. Do nothing special  We're becoming masters of this.
Coming up:  celebrating 4th of July AND a little birthday celebration in honor of our new cousin, who might arrive tomorrow (via induction--good luck, Aunt Banana!!)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Fun: Campfire Cooking

This is not the fire I built.

Today, I made a fire (mostly) all by myself, withing noting but twigs and sticks and started it with nothing more than a plain old match.  No handy wax-covered homemade fire starters; no newspaper or cotton or dried leaves; no clicky lighters; and definitely no accelerant!  Nope, I had to build the right "a-frame", stuff it with tinder (like toothpicks), layer it with kindling (like pencils), and have fuel (like your forearm) on hand, and get all the way down on my hands on knees to blow on the little flame.  (We had even practiced beforehand with "edible fire"--coconut flake tinder, thin pretzel kindling, thick pretzel fuel, red hot fire starter, and even a little cup water bucket with toothpick fire stick!!)  Mine didn't work well the first time because some of my tinder was damp and would extinguish the flame, but with some help I found some other "tiny tinder" and got it started.  And it burned strongly for three minutes . . . which means I passed my official Girl Scout fire safety and skills test.  Now I can take the Girl Scouts into the woods to make s'mores.

No overnight camping in tents yet; that's a different training.  Later.

We also learned the proper way to clean the latrines (hint:  gloves and sani-tabs), to set up a fire circle (with water bucket and soaking fire stick), to wash dishes (soap, rinse, sanitize), to set up a dish line (with clove hitch and taut line knots), to hang up a tarp halfway over the fire in case of rain or wind, and to extinguish a flame.  Other tips:  use aluminum foil instead of cutting boards; soap bottom and most of sides of pots to decrease charring; make a "dribble bucket" out of a big water container with spigot (and extra big hole cut in top for ventilation) along with soap-in-a-stocking; save birthday candles and candle stubs for firestarters (or cotton ball and chapstick!).

And we cooked!  Because what is a campfire without cooking?  There were "walking" salad, dough boys, one pot lasagna, one pot chili, and, of course, s'mores.  Cooking and campfires were always my favorite parts of camp.  I've mentioned all the singing before--"Titanic", "Barges," "Buffalo Song," "Balloons," "Bunny Foo Foo" etc etc etc--but there was also food.  Not necessarily the food served in the cafeteria but what we cooked at our units:  s'mores, banana boats, soda ice cream (batches of grape and root beer), hobo stew, and some egg thing with frozen hashbrowns.   Meals always tastes better around the campfire . . . and I'm looking forward to many more with Sis and her Girl Scout friends.


"Walking" Salad
Place bite-sized vegetables (baby carrots, cucumber slices, chunks of bell pepper, grape tomatoes, broccoli/cauliflower florets) in a plastic baggie.  Add dressing if desired.  Walk around and eat your salad by hand.



Wrap foil around the end of a  long metal campfire fork or wooden stick.  Heat it near the fire.  Remove from fire and wrap single triangle of crescent roll dough around the foil.  Place over coals and rotate until cooked through.  Remove from foil and stick by twisting and pulling.  Serve with jam, butter, cinnamon-sugar, etc.


One-Pot Campfire Lasagna

Mix together:
12 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
12 oz. jar water
12 oz. bag egg noodles

Heat over fire.  When noodles are cooked, add

8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 lbs ricotta

Serves 6-7


One-Pot Campfire Chili
 Mix together:
3 lbs. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapenos (like Rotel)
1-2 cans water
1 package elbow macaroni

Heat until macaroni are cooked through.  Serves 12.


Heat marshmallow on stick over fire.  Squish between two graham crackers with one square Hershey's chocolates.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Fun: Another Birthday

We have been talking about celebrating Mama's birthday for months now, starting with our trip to England, but when it came right down to it, yesterday was very low-key.  The kids didn't even want to make her real cards--they designed exploding "happy birthday" messages on Minecraft (the computer game, for the uninitiated)!  Truthfully, I think Mama preferred that.  We even postponed making her birthday dessert--her favorite butterscotch pudding from Bloodroot--because the kids wanted to make it with her.

And we ditched our plans for a fancy dinner at a Malaysian place not too nearby in favor of a local Italian place we'd never tried but heard so much about.  And it was amazing!  We had two appetizers--a crispy crepe with spinach-mushroom filling and a butternut squash-pine nut ravioli, both with amazing sauces.  Then Mama had wild boar in a creamy tomato sauce with cavitelli pasta and I had a mushroom ravioli with truffle sauce.  YUM!  We didn't get dessert, though, because the chairs were the most uncomfortable things ever and all my wiggling upset my SI/tailbone to the point that it went into spasm.  I can't quite sit right now.  But I can walk and it only hurts when I sit, so I count it as a minor flare up, not a major injury.  Still, I'll be relegating the driving for awhile.  Only a week into summer but all the driving to camp and back etc was too much.

So we came home, had the babysitter handle bedtime anyway, and watched some World Cup games we had taped.  A remarkable wonderful birthday?  No.  But it's not quite over yet--we're still going to make that pudding!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Fun AND Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: STRAWBERRIES

We went strawberry picking today.  "The best ever!" we all said repeatedly.  Best because the weather topped out at a breezy 79F, which is perfect berry weather (and beats sweltering in the usual mid-80s+).  Best because there were so many bright-red berries.  Best because they were the sweetest strawberries we have ever picked.  Best because I could crawl around on the ground to help scavenge under the leaves.  Best because it's the only time Sis will eat strawberries, right off the plant.  Best because for Bud it's as good as a candy store.  Best because a friend had loaned us Pamona's universal pectin when I couldn't find Ball freezer pectin anywhere so that we could still make jam.  

It just so happens that Mama brought home an additional two quarts of strawberries from our CSA share today.  So we are overflowing with beautiful berries.  We've already made our first batch of jam (everyone gave the jam pot a stir--isn't that an old superstition?) and, depending on how many of the recipes below that we make and how many we freeze straight up for smoothies later, several more batches might be in the offing. 

Oh, and we can eat them plain, too.

(Though, they never compare to right off the bush, warm and sweet.)



Redwall Strawberry Cordial
2 lbs. strawberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 liter of plain seltzer
2 tablespoons water
1 pint heavy cream

Wash and slice strawberries. Heat strawberries on low flame in saucepan with ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. When soft and rendering liquid, add the other ½ cup of sugar.
Strain strawberries over bowl, saving juice. Crush strawberries until only seeds and fibers left. Add to juice.

Cool juice. Add seltzer to strawberry juice to taste. Add cream to cordial to taste and texture. Sweeten with powdered sugar.
Refrigerate at least an hour or until chilled.
Serve with fresh whipped cream.


Mommy Hungry's Strawberry-Almond Smoothie
1 1/2 cup almond milk or milk of your choosing
1 to 1 1/2  cup strawberries
1 heaping tablespoon almond butter

Blend and serve.

Mommy Hungry


Make Your Own Smoothie
1 1/2-2 cups frozen fruit (or mix of fresh and frozen, with ice cubes for thickness)
1/2-1 cup dairy or non-dairy (milk, soymilk, almond milk, yogurt, even silken tofu)
1 1/2 cup additional liquid like juice or nectar (mango nectar, orange juice, soda, tea)
1-2 tablespoons sweetener (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar)
add-ins:  almonds, fresh fruit, coconut butter, lime juice, vanilla extract, kale!

Blend, adding additional liquid for desired consistency.

Mommy Hungry


Rise 'N Shine Smoothie
1/2 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 cup orange juice
6 oz. vanilla yogurt (or plain, with 1 tablespoons sweetener)
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
4 whole strawberries
3 ice cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Grind oats into fine crumbs in blender.  Then add remaining ingredients, blending until smooth.

Makes 2.

Smoothies and Summer Drinks recipe booklet


All-Star Muffins
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose or cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
(Note: the KA cookbook mentions all sorts of add-ins, approximately 2 1/2 to 3 cups of whatever you desire
Preheat oven to 400F and lightly grease 16 muffin cups or use paper liners. 
In medium bowl, whisk flour, powder, soda, and salt, then set aside.  

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy and almost white in color. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until the batter is smooth. Fill muffin cups and bake 18-24 minutes , until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling on a rack (muffins left in pan with become touch from steaming).
(1 basic muffin, 274 calories)

King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

Strawberry Bread

The first quick bread I made for DP—I made it one weekend I visited and left her the loaves. Those frozen strawberries are messy but work really well.
Makes 2 loaves

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans
1 ½ pints strawberries, washed and stemmed (Note: 2-10 oz. packages frozen
strawberries, thawed, may be substituted for fresh.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and sugar; mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix eggs and oil; add to dry ingredients. Stir in pecans. Fold in strawberries until moistened. Pour into 2 greased 9 x 5 x 3 in. loaf pans. Bake at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. 


My Own New Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 1/4 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
16 oz sour cream

Make graham cracker crust but combining melted butter and sugar, then stir into crushed graham cracker crumbs until they stay together when pressed. Press into lightly greased pie plate, bake at 375 for 4-5 minutes. Cool. (BH&G recipe)
Cap strawberries; reserve half of the best ones. Mash the other half and add sugar and cornstarch which have been mixed together. Cook 5 or 6 minutes until clear and thick. Stir in lemon juice. Cool. (This takes longer than you expect and is the hardest part).

- Add whole strawberries to the cooled mixture, save some for garnish. Pour into baked pie shell. Top with sour cream and garnish with fresh whole strawberries, if desired.


Fresh Strawberry Pie

1-1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 nine-inch baked pastry shell
- Cap strawberries; reserve half of the best ones. Mash the other half and add sugar and cornstarch which have been mixed together. Cook 5 or 6 minutes until clear and thick. Stir in lemon juice. Cool.
- Add whole strawberries to the cooled mixture, save some for garnish. Pour into baked pie shell. Top with whipped cream and garnish with fresh whole strawberries (though, we like it even better with a dollop of sour cream!)
strawberry pamphlet


Fruit Pie (adapted from Aunt T's Dewberry Cobbler recipe)

2 frozen pie crusts
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour, to thicken
2-10 oz. bags frozen mixed berries (including strawberries)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove both crusts from plastic bag. Place one on a cookie sheet. Cut the edge off the other so as to leave a circle of dough.
Mix sugar and flour together and then toss into frozen berries, mixing well (there is no need to defrost; the flour absorbs the extra liquid). Crush berries to extract juice.
Fill the pie crust with the berries. Remove the second pie crust (sans edge) and place it on top of the filled crust; it will overlap the edge of the filled crust. Pinch edges together and the impress with fork. Puncture the center to allow steam release, dab with pats of butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Cover edges with foil and bake 1-1 ½ hours, with cookie sheet below to catch spills, or until bubbling.

*Grammy and Aunt T's Original Oil Crust:
2 cups flour
½ cup oil
¼ cup milk
Mix flour, oil, and milk until it is the consistency of store-bought pie crust. Take 1/3 of dough and put aside for crust. Roll out remainder until the size of the pie plate, about ¼ inch thin. Place in ungreased plate (we used bread tin). . . . Later, roll out other crust and cover plate. Puncture to allow steam release, dab with pats of butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Mama and Mommy Hungry


My Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Cake

1 box white cake, with ingredients to make it
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 jar all-fruit strawberry jam
fresh strawberries, sliced

Bake cake in two 9" rounds according to instructions. Cool completely.

Whip heavy cream with sugar to taste (I like it less sweet so the cream flavor comes through).

Spread jam on bottom cake layer. Smooth some cream over this. Top with second round.

Cover with remaining whipped cream. Decorate with strawberries.

Serve immediately and keep remainders in refrigerator.


Victoria Sponge/Sandwich a la Tea & Sympathy

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour (or 2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons flour)
1 heaping teaspoonful baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour two 8" round pans (I greased, put down parchment rounds, and greased and floured.)  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, approximately two minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Stir in flour and baking soda and stir til smooth.  Divide batter into two prepared pans.  Bake 20-25, until cake tester comes out clean.   Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

heavy whipping cream
strawberry jam
fresh strawberries, sliced or diced

Spread jam on one cake round.  Distribute cut-up strawberries.  Whip heavy cream until thick and spread on top of jam level.  Place second cake round on top.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve.  (I overstuffed my sponge--it should be a reserved thin layer, but, well, no.)

adapted from Anita Naughton and Nicola Perry, Tea and Sympathy:  The Life of an English Teashop in New York


Raspberry and Strawberry Shortcake

12 ounces fresh raspberries or frozen raspberries
7 ounces self raising flour
1 ounce ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons/2 ounces butter
3 ounces caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 pint (1/2 cup) milk
2 tablespoons raspberry jam
1-ounce icing (confectioners') sugar
1/4 pint (1/2 cup) double cream

Thaw the frozen raspberries, if using.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift the flour, almonds, salt and cinnamon into a bowl and rub in the butter, mix in the sugar. Add the beaten egg and milk to make a scone-like dough. Divide the dough in 2 and gently shape each half to fit into greased 8-inch sandwich tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. When cold spread one of the layers with raspberry jam, then generously with the double cream and raspberries. Sprinkle raspberries with icing sugar, cover with the second layer and top with more cream. Decorate with a few raspberries. Best eaten when fresh.

© Recipe courtesy Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright


Individual Pavlovas
4 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup sour cream, chillled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat to 200F.

Using mixer with whisk, whip egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Then increase speed and whip on medium-high until stiff peaks form, another minute or two.  Gradually add 1 cup sugar.

Scoop six 1/2-cup mounds of meringue onto parchment-covered baking sheet approximately 1 inch apart.  Make indention in mound with back of spoon.   Bake for 1 1/2 hours until meringues are dry and firm, then turn off the oven and leave them there to cool for another 2 hours, until they are completely dry and hard.  Serve or store at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Beat topping ingredients and spoon into meringues, serving with macerated fruit, like strawberries (or, the kids liked ice cream toppings! )

America's Test Kitchen Best Summer Recipes


Eton Mess
whipped cream
berries and/or jam

Crumble meringue cookies into whipped cream and layer with berries and/or jam.  Serve immediately.

3 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1) Preheat the oven to 200°F. Prepare a sheet of parchment paper by tracing a 9" round cake pan with a pencil to create a circle. Flip the paper pencil-side down and place on a baking sheet. You should still be able to see the circle outline through the paper.
2) In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.
3) Combine the Baker's Special sugar and cornstarch and slowly add it to the whites, as you continue to beat. The mixture will thicken and turn glossy. Beat for about 1 more minute. Remove from the mixer and stir the lemon juice in by hand.
4) Spread the meringue on the parchment, staying within the circle. Use about 1 1/4 cups meringue to pipe a tall border around the edge of the meringue in the circle. When baked, this will form a ring to keep the cream and fruit from spilling over.
5) Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the door closed. Cool the meringue in the oven for at least another hour, or up to overnight. The pavlova will color slightly from white to light tan. Small cracks are normal.

from the Pavlova recipe of King Arthur Flour


Strawberry Risotto

1/2 cup low or non-fat strawberry yogurt (not the fruit-on-the-bottom kind)--make into yogurt cheese by straining in a sieve lined with wet paper towel/cheesecloth/paper coffee filter set over a jar for about 6 hours
2 1/2 cups low or non-fat milk
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

Warm milk in saucepan and steep lemon zest in it for about 10 minutes, keeping the milk below a simmer.

Dissolve sugar in milk, then strain to remove zest.

Put rice in heavy saucepan and pour enough of hot milk to cover the rice. Stir over low heat until milk is absorbed. Keep adding hot milk and stirring until you've used all the milk and rice is plump and chewy, about 40 minutes.

Take risotto off heat and let cool a bit, stirring oven, for about 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt cheese and let cool completely. Stir in fresh strawberries

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, covered, until chilled through. Stir well before serving.

Diana Shaw, Almost Vegetarian


Strawberry Sorbet

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 quart strawberries, hulled
1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice

In heavy saucepan boil water and sugar for 5 minutes; do not stir. Add strawberries; cook 5 minutes more. Stir in lemon juice. Cool. Puree. Refrigerate until chilled. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze for approximately 25 minutes.


Strawberry Sodas
Per soda:
2 scoops strawberry ice cream
1 tablespoon or more strawberry syrup or jam
half-and-half or cream

Stir syrup/jam into seltzer, then add seltzer and cream. Delicious!


Strawberry Soda Ice Cream
Just saw this in Food Network Magazine and it reminded me of the Big Red soda we made at camp (sans strawberries)!  It was delicious.  We also made root beer ice cream at camp, which was also awesome.  This recipe, below, makes about the best strawberry ice cream I've ever had.
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup red cream soda (Big Red!) or regular cream soda
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup frozen strawberries, thawed and mashed

Whisk the condensed milk, half-and-half, cream soda, cream and strawberries in a medium bowl.  Churn in ice cream maker.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
Laura Duckworth, Food Network Magazine


Fresh Ice Cream
1 bag frozen fruit
1/2 C yogurt (plain)or vanilla
1/4 C sugar
3 TBsp water

Blend all ingredients in mixer until smooth and enjoy.

(Note: Rees and James love it! We've had strawberry, mango, pineapple and blueberry. Can't wait to try more. Trying to find coconut. If you see it, let me know!



Strawberry Freezer Jam

4 lbs strawberries, rinsed and hulled and crushed (or 3-12 oz bags unsweetened frozen, thawed in fridge until soft enough to crush)
1 1/2 cups sugar
plastic or glass freezer jars
1 packet of Ball No Cook Freezer Jam Pectin

Stir sugar and pectin together in a bowl until well mixed.

Add 4 cups crushed fruit. Stir 3 minutes.

Ladle jam into clean jars to fill line. Twist on lids. Let stand until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Freeze for up to 1 year. Thaw in fridge and enjoy up to 3 weeks.

Makes 5 half-pint jars.

Ball Freezer Jam pectin

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Fun: Soda Spree

We got an early start on celebrating Mama's birthday today, when we bought the SodaStream that Sis decided Mama should have.  With Goo here for the birthday party weekend, we thought making sodas would be great fun.  So, after a delicious brunch and some exploring of a small stream, and after a swimathon at the Y where we played water basketball, we picked up some ice cream and other supplies and headed home.

We made glass-sized tastings of several flavors, using SodaStream concentrate, including half and half Lemonade and Ice Tea, cream soda, orange soda, and grape soda (all of which were brightly colored and overly sweet).  Then we raided our fridge and combined several of our syrups--strawberry shrub, blackberry syrup, and Ribena black currant syrup (alas our elderflower had turned)--to carbonated water.  In all cases, we probably under-measured the syrup and made rather weak drinks.  But when we added vanilla ice cream to the grape soda ("a purple cow") and to the orange soda ("creamsicle"), we were quite pleased.  Mama even likes it straight, as seltzer (which is how Sis's teacher, from whom Sis got the idea, uses her machine), while I find it "salty."

Later, as we watched The Lego Movie (one of their birthday presents--it's visually amazing and quite humorous), I made a soda I came across when researching SodaStreams:  Vanilla Earl Grey, or what I should call, London Fog on Ice.  It reminds me of the hot London Fog I make in the winter.  It also reminded me of the wonderful sodas we had in Philly at Franklin Fountain and the ones in the cookbook Soda Fountain, from the Brooklyn Farmacy, that was recommended by NPR.

Clearly, homemade syrups are the way to go.  They would make for once fancy lemonade stand.

London Fog on Ice

Makes 1 1/2 cups of syrup
1 vanilla bean, halved and split
1 cup sugar
3-4 bags of Earl Grey tea
1 cup water
Soda water
Half-and-half or whole milk
To make the simple syrup, combine the vanilla bean and sugar in a small saucepan. Rub the vanilla bean into the sugar with the back of a spoon until the mixture is fragrant. Add the tea bags and water. Cook over medium-low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Turn off the heat, and use tongs to remove the tea bags right away to avoid bitterness. Allow syrup to cool before using.
To make the soda, fill an 8-ounce glass with ice. Fill three-quarters full with soda water. Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup syrup, depending on desired sweetness. Top with half-and-half and more soda, if desired.

Summer Fun: Lazy Sunday

After a delicious brunch (with alligator, of all things) at our favorite place, we went exploring.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Fun: Birthday Bash

We've had birthday parties (by year):

  1.  in the backyard with everyone we knew to thank them for helping us;
  2. again in the backyard, this time with bubbles (described in retrospect in third paragraph);
  3. at the nature center with animal time, craft time, and playground time;
  4. at the zoo, with animals and a craft;
  5. at the Aquarium, with a tour and a craft;
  6. at the church hall, for Legopalooza;
  7. at the invention museum, with a hands-on woodworking project;
  8. at the dance hall, for a pop music dance party;
  9. and now, at the ice skating rink.
Which means I'm pretty experienced with the "away" party.  I thought I had already written a post about hosting a take-away party, or whatever they're called (I remember there was a name for them), but I never posted it, can't find it, or didn't actually write it.

Still, a few suggestions:
  • have a pad of paper to record names and phone numbers of parents who are not staying on site;
  • don't forget matches and candles, very few places have them available;
  • also remember bowls you might need to serve snacks;
  • bring a Sharpie to label the kids' drinking cups;
  • I always try to have enough food for seconds and for parents who stay (today, we barely had enough cupcakes for the kids);
  • cupcakes travel and serve more easily than sheet cake;
  • bring 1-2 garbage bags to carry the presents away;
  • money for a tip for the assistant (I aim for 15-20% of the fee);
Today's birthday party at the skating rink was great.  The kids woke up this morning so excited and grew more so when Goo arrived.  They had their skating lesson first--it was Bud's first official lesson--and then helped us set up for the party.  The set-up was pretty minimal--bowls of potato chips, lemonade and water, ice, cups, napkins--and then they began welcoming friends, both from school and from kung fu.  

Most of the kids could skate and Sis helped those who couldn't (with more experience than Bud, she's the better helper.)  We had talked to them about how to be a host/hostess--welcome everyone and explain any details, talk to everyone, buddy up with those who are alone, help serve food and drink, thank them when you say goodbye.  They did a great job and the two groups of kids, strangers to each other, got along well.  

They skated almost 2 hours, with barely a break for pizza; after skating, we sang "Happy Birthday" and ate cupcakes--those wonderful "TARDIS in the Time Vortex" cupcakes that only a couple of people understood.  As the Zamboni cleaned up after public skate, we said goodbye to everyone and cleaned up.

And now, after opening all the wonderful presents from generous friends at home, the kids are off to the movies with Mama and Goo, after a big sushi dinner.  I'm home alone, resting and rejoicing . . . and writing it all here.

Summer Fun: First Full Day

Friday was our first full day of summer, if you count summer essentially as no school.  Bud woke up at his usual 6:30 a.m. weekend time, while Sis purposefully slept til 9 a.m.  I was in between.

Before Sis awoke, Bud practiced his "Penguin of the Opera," an idea we had the night before to have him stage the musical with our collection of stuffed animals.  And he did an amazing job.  Below, you'll see Amy the bunny as Christine and Tango as The Penguin, in the "Angel of Music" scene, first in the mirror and then in the boat on the lake, and then the "All I Ask of You" scene on the roof of the Paris Opera.  Besides taking these stills, Bud has been practicing some of the score on the piano.  We then spent midday watching the 25th Anniversary Phantom at the Royal Albert Hall.  It's a good thing we've purchased tickets to the Broadway production later this year!

I love how Bud took the picture so you only see The Penguin in the mirror, just like in the stage show.

The boat is an upside-down cat scratching apparatus; Bud ingenuously flipped it over.

[No Name] appears as Raoul
When Sis woke up, we headed outside to play, it being a beautiful (cool for June) day.  I even did some weed-eating while they planted some seed packets they received from church as part of Stepping Up.    We also had the first of our many summer picnics, this one from the deli, sitting under the Japanese maple out front.

We ran errands midday--deposit at the bank (with lollipops!), party foods from the big store (and two new books--one Lego, the other a crafting felt project), and then we headed to the Y to join as a family in order to swim!  Surprisingly, Bud didn't want to swim, but Sis did, in the deep end even, for about an hour.  We stopped for ice cream on the way home.

Evening was spent eating the lobster that Ma, Gong, and Goo got us in Maine, as well as prepping for their birthday party.  The theme was Doctor Who, minimally, since it was mainly an ice skating party.  But we did make inspired "TARDIS in the Time Vortex" cupcakes, complete with blue-gold-white swirl and tilted TARDIS on a toothpick!  Sis helped frost while Bud and Mama made the decorations.  I think they came out rather well:

The inspiration

Our creation

I had promised them a water fight and so, stripping off my good shoes, I snuck up on them while they were swinging and doused them with the hose.  They got me back, pretty well, since we have two hoses and they're faster.

And then it was pretty much bedtime.

A really good start to our summer fun, considering we can check off two or three things off our list!

(And look, no mention of computers!!)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Fun: Tech Break

With the beginning of summer comes the start of my tech break.  I'll be (mostly) putting away the phone and computer, which for me probably means checking in at the beginning and end of the day.  No telling how long it will last, but it's definitely worth a try.

Summer Fun: Last Day of School

Yep, another school year is over.  In a few hours, the kids will no longer be third graders.  Somehow, "fourth grader" sounds so much more mature, right?  They are definitely looking forward to the summer.  For Sis, this means swimming.  For Bud, I think he's just ready to do whatever he chooses.  For me, there is more driving and just as many meals, but still a relaxed air to the days.

Ready or not, here we go . . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


We found out last night that the kids have been invited to join the advanced "honors" school program in our town.  We were thrilled . . .and relieved, both because the invitations went out about 6 weeks later than last year (so we were on pins and needles waiting, knowing it was a possibility--and debating how we would challenge them if they weren't placed--private school?  homeschool?  enrichment?  Despite great teachers who provided extra work, they still found third grade easy) and because it was both of them.  I'd been worrying not just a little about what would happen if it were only one.  Sure, kids are different and have different skills, but I didn't want one of them--and I never decided which one it would or wouldn't be--to feel less than.  I was going to be fine with both or neither.  But of course, I'm happy it's both.  (Though, good public-school Democrat that I am, I wish more of the kids in town had access to this kind of program/critical-thinking skills and not just the top 6%, based on different math and reading assessments.)

When we told them, Bud hugged Sis and, to her credit, she didn't push him away.  She only said, "So, I have to be in class with him for the next three years?"  But she didn't really sound like she minded.  Indeed, this morning she said she was happy.

And that she wants a bag of Ruffles as a reward!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Adventures in Cooking Our CSA Share: Motivation

Nothing like a big box of fresh goodies to motivate us:  Mama has headed to the office, gingerly, and I have located relevant recipes.  I think we'll be having garlic scape pesto, stewed rhubarb (thank you, Karen!), and one-pot pasta, plus strawberries (if there are enough, I might make an Eton Mess for Bud) and salads and some boiled greens.  Oh yeah, and steak.

  • Strawberries
  • Collards (wrap in damp paper towel and keep in crisper)
  • Red Curly Kale (wrap in damp paper towel and keep in crisper)
  • Spinach (wrap in damp paper towel and keep in crisper)
  • Garlic Scapes (keep in crisper)
  • Rhubarb (keep in crisper)
  • Lettuce (wrap in damp paper towel and keep in crisper)
  • Pasture Raised Black Angus Steaks
  • Old Chatham Camembert Cheese

Stewed Rhubarb via Deborah Madison
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, chopped into short pieces. 
1/2 cup sugar or honey or to taste. 
3 cloves
Grated zest and juice of one orange or lemon or 2 tangerines. 

Cook in heavy pot about 10 minutes...until rhubarb has broken down. Fish out cloves. Serve with yogurt and walnuts (Sew and Sow's favorite.)
From Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Garlic Scape Pesto a la Smithsonian Magazine

Combine one cup chopped scapes, ¼ cup pine nuts, a half cup of olive oil, ¼ cup Parmesan, salt and pepper into a food processor. The best part about scape pesto? It doesn’t oxidize and turn brown like basil pesto, so it has a longer shelf life in your refrigerator.

Smithsonian via Food52

One-Pot Pasta a la Martha Stewart
    • 12 ounces pasta like linguine
    • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or aquartered if large
    • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
    • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (optional)
    • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
    • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 4 1/2 cups water
    • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.