2.27.2011

Mother and Daughter Set for Spring!??????

This winter has been WAY snowier than normal here in Massachusetts. As a result, I know that our spring will be VERY muddy. So my daughter and I decided that our old rain boots needed to go...

I picked the lavender from Sperry. I picked the lavender becuase of my lavender garden...and will have lots of exciting news regarding this in a couple of months.They are lined with a soft fleecy lining. I have always wanted a pair of Hunter boots; however, my budget said NO WAY!

My daughter picked up Kamik's tiny check rainboot...and she is thrilled!

On a side note, yes that is more snow. We woke up to a couple of inches this morning. Even the apple trees are tired of it.

Back to work tomorrow.


2.25.2011

Rain, Wind, and "Window" Shopping









I have been doing a little "window" shopping on this crazy day. Winds shaking the house...rain (forgot what it looked like) pummeling the windows. Love that sound. My daughter and I painted our toes today. Not that we will be able to show them off for another 3 months...but it made us at least feel good. I looked online at Ideeli, Gilt and more. I would love a room to sit around a big round dining table with friends and chat (and perhaps drink) for hours. The island in our kitchen is huge, and inviting, but not relax and chat into the night. Our dining room is our playroom...conveniently located right next to the kitchen/family room. So I'll keep window shopping.

2.23.2011

Our Sledding Hill


We are so lucky to have an incredible sledding hill...right here in our own yard. It's been a journey though...when we bought our house 12+ years ago, we didn't know what we were in for. People literally came from EVERYWHERE to sled on our hill. Cars lined our very narrow street. We had a Winter Wonderland...until....some teenagers decided to stay really late, get really loud, and swear beneath my then infant son's window. Not good. At all. Still, we tolerated it for a while longer, until someone got hurt and had to be transported by ambulance. That was it. Up went the Private Property and NO Sledding signs. Amazingly enough, each winter someone sneaks through...usually an adult who sledded on the hill as a kid. They pretend not to see the sign...perhaps to enjoy that thrill once more. I get it. We stand in the window...shocked, but not totally surprised. They take a few runs and then leave. Our neighbors have open reign. But my husband equates the strangers using our hill without asking, to us hopping in their pool without asking. A perfect analogy I think. It sure has been a good year for a little "Private" sledding.

2.20.2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Winter has not been easy here in Southeastern Massachusetts. More inches of snow than we care to count. More mornings of slip sliding to work than my knuckles can endure. So I am dreaming of spring a little early this year.
The Raw Bar...the biggest lobster rolls you have ever seen. A day after school ends tradition.

Lemon Drop Martinis...refreshingly simple.

Walking the path to the beach...warm sand on bare feet, blue water sparkling on the horizon, beach plums bursting with sweet smelling blossoms.

Daffodils everywhere...a sure sign of spring.

How has your winter been? Are you craving warm sun on your face, days when the winter coat and gloves can get packed away, and open windows with sweet smelling breezes? me too!!!!

2.11.2011

Better Late Than Never!



Better late than never! We had Three Bean Chili and Buffalo Chicken Dip on Superbowl Sunday. I froze romas from our summer garden, and used my last batch of them in this chili. Almost time to start planning this year's garden. Enjoy the weekend.

2.02.2011

Now You're Talking...Good Old-Fashioned Toffee Pudding Cake...in a Slow Cooker!



I remember Saturday's as a kid, my mother would serve us tomato soup and grilled cheese, and would often make brownies, or pudding cake. I LOVED pudding cake. To this day I crave it. I finally found a fabulous recipe on the Cook's Illustrated site. The problem is, you have to be a member to get the recipe! So I have published the Cook's Illustrated "tips",with a recipe I found at Motherskitchen.blogspot.com. What makes this especially fabulous is that she has adapted the Cook's Illustrated recipe for the slow cooker. Are you kidding? This will definitely be on my to do list this week. What better way to enjoy snow days and streets covered with ice, than to fill the house with yummy smells. I will NEVER be ready for a swimsuit.

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING CAKE (Cook's Illustrated Tips)
Published September 1, 2008.

Studded with dates and coated in a sweet toffee sauce, this moist, rich cake is a British favorite. How would it translate to the American kitchen?
The Problem
Too many versions of sticky toffee pudding cake are sickeningly saccharine or possess the bland, floury flavor of undercooked pancakes.

The Goal
We wanted a cake packed full of date flavor, with a tolerable sweetness level and a moist, tender crumb.

The Solution
This pudding cake is not complicated—it's a simple batter of flour, butter, sweetener, and eggs to which dates are added. Tweaking ingredients produced most of our desired improvements. We cut down the conventional amount of butter but kept the sauce rich and flavorful—eggs and all-purpose flour gave our sauce body and stability. We maximized the fruit flavor by first soaking the dates, then processing only a portion with sugar while leaving the remainder coarsely chopped. We broke with tradition when it came to choosing the sweetener. Typically treacle is used, but it’s almost impossible to find stateside. Brown sugar proved a good substitute. The toffee sauce also required tweaking the butter-sugar ratio as well as a splash of rum and of lemon juice to cut through the sticky richness.

We also needed to alter the technique a bit. Some recipes call for simply placing the ramekins in the oven or baking them in a water bath. But baked without steam, the puddings were unappealingly dry. The best approach was placing the batter-filled ramekins in a roasting pan, adding boiling water, and then covering the pan with aluminum foil before baking. (It proved to be especially important that the aluminum foil form an airtight seal around the pan.) Finally, to bring everything together, we poked the cakes with a toothpick to allow the sauce to be thoroughly absorbed.



Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding




1 ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c whole dates, pitted and sliced. Chop half of them into as tiny pieces as possible.
¾ c warm water
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
¾ c packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ t vanilla extract
4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Grease and flour a small lidded pudding mold (1 ½ qt) or a medium sized ceramic bowl. Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on to boil. Combine the chopped tiny date pieces with water and baking soda and soak for 5 minutes. CI says that the baking soda helps soften the skin on the dates. Good to know! Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a food processor, combine remaining (large pieces) of dates with the brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture looks like wet sand. Drain the soaking liquid from the dates (reserve dates) and add to the processor, plus the eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream and process until smooth. With a spoon (don’t process) mix in the softened dates to the bowl.

Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined. Pour batter into prepared baking dish or mold. Cover with lid or aluminum foil tied down with kitchen twine. Place in slow cooker, and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides. Cook on high for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until cake is firm and springs back when touched. Set on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a plate.

Toffee sauce

Toffee Sauce
8 T unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tablespoon rum – Captain Morgan’s Private Reserve is wonderfully spiced and great in this sauce!

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Pour into serving pitcher.

Crème Anglaise

½ c whole milk
5 egg yolks
¼ c sugar
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla

In a medium saucepan heat milk over medium heat until steaming, about 3 minutes. . Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl until pale yellow in color, about 1 minute. Slowly pour 1/2 cup hot milk into yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly, coats back of spoon with thin film, and registers 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Add vanilla. Immediately pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer into serving pitcher.

To serve – plate pieces of cake and pass the toffee sauce and crème anglaise to pour over the top.
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