Silly Cat Riddle Song, and Other Stuff

Listening to our Pandora station for kids, we heard this song:

Thank you, Pandora, for possibly the silliest song we’ve heard in a long time. Love it!

Benji got his first cold, right on time, three days after his first full day of school; it was massively rainy so I converted my big, outside ride into a short trainer ride; and clearly we were meant to spend all of yesterday playing Legos, building Legos, and sorting Legos. Benji is getting pretty good at building with the small-size Legos.

And then I spent about four hours (!!) in the evening making two apple pies for church. I hope they taste OK.
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Things in our week

Last week we went to Aunt Dana’s house for a hair cut. This was totally surprising to Benji: That a person could have a hair cutting salon in their own home.
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Overall everyone seemed to actually have a decently good time, and Benji’s head now looks 50% smaller, so that’s all for the best. We’ll for sure be going back, because it was also nice to get to see family and catch up at the same time we’re getting something productive done. Double whammy!

On the drive home, Benji read our Prius owner’s manual, and he and Daddy read it together later in the day.
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Now we are all experts on what each indicator light means. Actually, we’ve passed through the expert phase and entered into the “please, please, please get tired of this topic” phase.

Later in the week, we colored a bunch of things in rainbow colors, including this Q-related page. Benji thought Grammy should make a quilt like this. That would certainly be rainbow-licious.
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Today I discovered a new cookie recipe where you bake one gigantic cookie in a cast-iron skillet and then slice it up like pie.
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Pretty amazing, actually. I bartered this in trade for a discount on new tires from my bike shop. We have a good symbiotic relationship going, I think.

Also today, Benji had a playdate with his little friend Catherine from school, and they both thought “two kids in a slide” was hilarious. Catherine said, “Two kids in a slide! What could be better?” Benji laughed hysterically. You just never know what will tickle their funny bones.
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(For those of you concerned that they went down the slide together, have no fear: Benji is too scared to go down most slides. He just climbed into the bottom of the slide when Catherine got there.)

Oh, and riding home, we were going up a small hill near our house and I’m riding slowly and panting, as I’m wont to do. Benji pipes up: “Nana never has any trouble driving up this hill!” No kidding?!

Applesauce “Cupcakes”

This is the recipe for the “applesauce cupcakes” that Benji love/hated earlier this week.

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Apple Crisp Muffins

1 1/4 C. flour
3/4 C. quick-cooking oats
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 C. milk
3/4 C. applesauce
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.50 C. peeled, finely diced apples (2 medium-sized apples; peeling optional)

Heat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a muffin pan. Try not to think about how two hours from now, you’ll be laboriously scrubbing out that very same pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together milk, applesauce, egg, oil, and vanilla.

Stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until moistened. Stir in diced apples. Fill medium muffin cups 75% full (mine actually ended up over 100% full — maybe my muffin size is slightly smaller than standard?) or fill mini-muffins cups to the top.

Topping

1/3 C. quick-cooking oats
1/4 C. flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine topping ingredients until crumbly. Double if you want to actually have enough to cover all the muffins as generously as your lucky taste-testers would actually like. Everyone knows the top of the muffin is the best part. Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake 16 – 18 minutes for medium muffins, 10 – 12 minutes for mini-muffins; or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Mine actually seemed undercooked at 18 minutes, but I took them out because they were getting towards dark golden around the edges. They finished cooking and are wonderful despite seeming kind of gooey when I pulled them out. Don’t leave them in longer! They’ll just dry out, and who wants a dry muffin?

Now, what this recipe doesn’t tell you is whether to leave the muffins in the pan to cool, or take them out to prevent over-cooking. So far I’ve taken them out, but this results in mangled muffins since fresh from the oven they’re mighty soft and unwilling to be readily extracted. Maybe next time I’ll try letting them cool in there. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

Yields 12 “medium” muffins or 36 mini-muffins.

Recipe from pg 39, Best of the Best from Washington Cookbook: Selected Recipes from Washington’s Favorite Cooks, edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, 2002.

Berry Pie Time, At Last

Day’s Verse:
I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.
Ecclesiastes 3:13-ish

Blackberry season, at last! The first time this year, Rachel and I met up last Friday afternoon and picked blackberries. It was hot; I got sweaty, scratched, and covered with those little dried bits of blackberry flowers that stay on the berries — in short, exactly what I expect and hope for when going out blackberrying. We each ended up with a bit over half a gallon of berries. Even so, most of the berries we saw were still green and unripe, and some of the vines even still had flowers on them — in late August!

My use of choice was, of course, berry pie. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to make my favorite deep-dish, so-good-you-swoon pie this year because we’ve hardly had any berries, and the ones we do have are too expensive to buy in large quantities (the recipe calls for 11 cups of mixed berries, not an insignificant investment). Thus, blackberries are the perfect berry for this pie. This time I made a peach-blackberry pie in our 3.5-quart Le Crueset pot; the pie has to be cut with vanilla ice cream or you risk berry overload. In short, heaven.

And we finally found some good-sized heirloom tomatoes to turn into tomato soup, which I’ve been craving since summer started. I’m drooling just thinking about that, plus some no-knead bread and (of course) sauteed squash… My future looks delicious. I may mention that both the berry pie and tomato soup are foods I associate with much earlier in the summer — easily late June, early July. It’s indicative of our bizarre weather that only now are we actually getting summer produce.

In other news, almost three years ago, I signed up with this website called WarmShowers.org. It’s a site that links touring bicyclists with people willing to host them. Ian and I figured we could host somebody at our Marlboro apartment. Then we moved… and bought a house… and I updated our information, and forgot about it. And then yesterday, for the first time, I got an email from a touring cyclist who needs a place to stay! He’ll be here Friday night, which should be interesting because we’re also having other friends are coming over; I think I’ll make lasagna with squash in it, enough for everyone. Anyway, I’m excited to actually get to do that. We have this big house, yard, and garage, and — most important — extra shower. I like the idea of sharing this with others.

Cookie Rhapsodizing

Day’s Verse:
Watch your words and hold your tongue;
you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.

Proverbs 21:23

I was going to write a blog about my wet, miserable, all alone, cut-short bike ride, but who wants to read about that? Even I don’t. So we’ll move on to something nicer: Cookies.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned the cookie cookbook Colleen and Jordan gave me for Christmas. I think I have. It’s large, dense, and starts off discussing the theory of cookies and then goes into seemingly excruciating picky detail about ingredients. Nearly every recipe calls for ingredients like light corn syrup or candied ginger, things I don’t think any normal household regularly keeps on hand. It sternly instructs new bakers to follow the recipes exactly the first time, and the way it’s written you get the sense that any future deviations from the recipe would probably be ill-considered, too.

Needless to say, I was intimidated. It’s taken me three months to bravely crack it open, and then finding a simple enough recipe with standard ingredients took some doing. So far I’ve made two recipes, exactly according to the recipe, and both have turned out not just good but fabulous. The first was a peanut cookie with molasses, and they turned out wonderful — unique, delicious, and yet not overpowering.

The second recipe I just baked tonight, a simple and basic oatmeal raisin cookie. I almost always add chocolate chips to such a recipe, but mindful of the stricture against such improvisation, I stuck with the recipe as written. WOW. They’re sweet, but not overly so; hearty and tending towards the snacklike, but definitely still desert; the raisins, soaked in hot water, are soft, a nice counterpoint to the walnuts; and they’re creamy, if a cookie can be described thus.

Here’s my ideal for a cookie: Crispy with a little crunch as you bite into it, soft and gooey in the middle, but still holding together (cookies that droop or ooze when you’ve bitten them are undercooked, and although enjoyable aren’t quite perfect). These oatmeal raisin cookies may well be my current zenith in cookie-making, the epitome of the Perfect Cookie.

And I have enough to share.

PS – The time change has left me all discombobulated. We forgot about it until I woke up this morning at 6:15 and suddenly realized it was actually 7:15. It also reminded me how arbitrary time was, and made me think how funny it is that we all just agree to fabricate an hour out of nowhere every year — and it works. We say it’s 8:30 pm, and as long as we all agree, it is 8:30 pm. As I said: Funny.

Even More Food and Bikes

Day’s Verse:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
Acts 2:44-45

You may have noticed that my blog has narrowed to two topics lately: Food and bikes. The interest in food really flows from the interest in — and time spent on — bikes. More time on bikes during the month of May simply means that I spend more time thinking about food, more time eating, and more time planning to eat. So, in honor of food and bikes, here they are:

My bike, finally completely repaired from the crash in March:
Artemis Pink 1

Artemis Pink Fork & Fenders

My first attempt at lemon meringue pie, assisted by my friend Rachel Klas from church.
Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie Cut

Thank you to Nana and Grandpa for the delicious lemons and Ken and Karolyn Alford for the extremely fresh eggs. The pie would not be what it is without your contribution. Yum.

Continue reading “Even More Food and Bikes”

Recipe: Cinnamon Buns from Heaven

Day’s Verse:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. …”
Exodus 16:4 (context)

Dough:
3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 Cup milk
3/4 Cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/4-ounce envelopes (7 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 Cup warm water (note: NOT HOT. Too hot will kill the yeast.)
5 large eggs
8 1/2 to 9 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

Filling:
5 Cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/4 Cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Frosting:
1/2 Pound cream cheese, softened
1/4 Cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 4 Cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I confess: I didn’t sift it)

Cinnamon Bun 1For the dough, heat the butter with the milk, 3/4 C. of the sugar, and the salt in a small saucepan until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar, and set aside for 10 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly.

Add the lukewarm milk mixture and the eggs into the large mixing bowl yeast-mixture. Beat until well combined.

Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring and using enough flour to form a stiff dough. (Note: This takes a long time. I stirred each cup in very thoroughly before adding the next one.)

Turn out the dough onto a floured board (I just scrubbed the counter top and floured it) and knead until smooth and satiny, approximately 10 minutes. (This really does take 10 minutes of constant kneading.)

Place the kneaded dough into a very large, clean, buttered bowl bowl. Roll the dough to cover it in butter. Cover it loosely with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, approximately 1 hour.

This is a good time to do the filling. For the filling, beat together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and softened butter until well combined. It should have uniform small crumbly chunks.

Butter at least two 9″x13″ glass baking dishes.

After the dough has doubled, punch the dough down to release the gases and roll the dough into a large rectangle, 24″ by 36″. Spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough.

Roll the dough lengthwise (this may take 2 people) and cut at 2″ intervals to make 12 rolls. Place 6 rolls in each buttered dish. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (My dough didn’t rise again, but when they baked they puffed up nicely, so don’t worry too much if they aren’t doubled after another hour.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls for 20 to 30 minutes or until puffed and brown. Cool to room temperature on cookie cooling racks.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese, cream, and vanilla until well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time and beat slowly until smooth and soft, not stiff. Frost the rolls and serve immediately.

Theoretically makes 12 large rolls.

This recipe comes from The Last Suppers, by Diane Mott Davidson, 1994, pages 86-88. I made these cinnamon rolls last Saturday and everybody who tried one agreed that they were at least as good as the ones from a store. Good thing they take about 4 or 5 hours total, because otherwise I’d make them all the time.

This Saturday — today — I took pictures of my bike, sat in the front yard reading for a while, and then I cleaned the bathroom and worked on a handbook I’m doing for church. At 11:30 Ian and I walked the dog down to Pup Scrub. While they cleaned her up we got chicken tikka masala at Royal India and ate it at the field part of Juanita Beach Park. We sat on a bench and talked the rest of the time. Then we picked up the dog, walked home, and all three of us guzzled a bunch of water. Now I have to go fix my bike’s rear shifting and Ian’s front shifting, finish the handbook, and take a nap — not necessarily in that order.