Friday, December 25, 2009

Chocolate Banana Cream Dessert

Our wonderfully warm Christmas morning fire

Before the gift opening

Wow, all I can say is Wow! As Wubbzy would say, "Wow, Wow, Wow!"

This was such a huge hit around here. Go get the stuff, go make this. Make it right now. Believe me, I am NOT exaggerating how unbelievably good this.

My father-in-law, who is not one to gush, deemed it the "best dessert I have ever had." I am still basking in the glow of the compliment.

I will not take credit for this one. Here is the recipe. Thanks to Bakerella! You ROCK!

Note: I made this with Trader Joe's Instant Chocolate Pudding. The combination of the whipped cream, chocolate pudding and bananas (not to mention the lemons I pinched from the neighbor's Meyer lemon tree) is to die for.

After photo of the living room

Mr. Smith scored big time points by getting me retro green juice glasses

During the gift opening

I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe holiday! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forty Four Years Ago...

My parents on their wedding day, September 1965

Forty four years ago, there was a young couple. They had just gotten married in September, so they were celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple.

They did not have much money. He was in graduate school, she was working as a secretary (they still used that word back then) to support them both while he finished his schooling. Actually, they had no money.

Money was very tight, so she would need to work over the holidays and they would not be able to go home to their families for Christmas.

The wife was having a hard time with the idea of not being with her parents and sisters for Christmas. She was just 23 and this would be her first Christmas away from home. She was pregnant with their first child already.

Her husband told her that they would not be able to afford to have a Christmas tree, so that made it a little sad. She cried when he told her. It didn't really feel like a holiday at all.

It was cold as she walked home from work, a little sad at the thought of no tree, no family and no decorations.

When she got home, instead of an empty apartment, she found a Christmas tree, fully decorated, set up by her new husband to surprise her.

She cried when she saw it.

The young couple was my parents. The thought of my father going out, while my mother was at work, makes my eyes well up.

He got the tree. A real tree. He went to Woolworth's and bought the ornaments and lights. He probably broke the budget buying that 88¢ (!) box of 12 ornaments. He dragged the tree home, used their only knife (ruining it) to trim the stump to fit into the stand. He spent the afternoon decorating the tree before her return home.

It is probably the most romantic thing I have ever heard of my father doing. It is just such a grand gesture, completely out of character and so sweet.

It is my favorite Christmas story. I think of it every year when we get the ornaments out and start to decorate the tree. I like to imagine them that way, young and broke and making do with what they had. I like to think about how hard they have worked, everything they have accomplished together.

A few of the ornaments have survived all of our moves, all of our Christmases, all of our pets, all the hospitalizations, illnesses...everything. It says so much about their marriage, their commitment to each other and their children and now grandchildren. There are a few cracks, but it's still here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Great Cream Butterscotch Debate

The Famous Baby C, always wear your sunglasses to cover puffy eyes!

Long ago and far away, John and Josephine Lander owned a general store. It was located in Lucinda, Pennsylvania. Lucinda, to this day, is no bustling metropolis. It is one of those places you miss if you blink while driving through. It is not a place that you would choose to visit. In fact, getting out of there is probably one of the smartest things my grandparents ever did.

John and Josephine were both of German ancestry, as were most of the occupants of Lucinda. These were pretty humorless people and they had a pretty tough existence. They were lucky enough to own the town store, but that also meant everyone worked in the store. Since they sold candy in their store, Josephine would make homemade candy for the family each Christmas and Easter. This tradition was carried on by her daughter, Hilda (my grandmother).

My father and his two sisters have all continued family tradition. By carrying on the family tradition in their own ways and putting their own stamp on it, a debate has raged for years over who makes the Cream Butterscotch correctly. Susan's is very shiny and smooth. Patrick's is grainy and hard. JoAnna's is very creamy and soft. Perhaps their end product says something about their different personalities? You bet your ass it does!

Well, this year I entered the fray. I have attempted to make the candy previously, but have had little success. I made Cream Butterscotch with my grandmother Hilda that never got firm. It was more like pralines. It tasted fine, but was not the right consistency. Hilda, ever the queen of passing failures off as successes, deemed it taffy-like and wrote me a note of encouragement. She suggested leaving the candy alone for a while to watch a show that Peter Jennings was doing on education in the United States (yeah, this was in the 80s, but it turns out the sentiment was correct).

We had an old fashioned candy thermometer that looked like a thermometer for a farm animal. It had a clip on it that was wildly undependable and could result in all kinds of disasters (molten sugar is REALLY HOT and REALLY DANGEROUS!).

When Mr. Smith and I got married, someone gave us a gift card for Williams Sonoma. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Money to spend on cooking stuff! Yippee! One of the gadgets I bought was a digital, programmable candy/oil thermometer. I have used it for oil and now for candy. It has a clip that is much more reliable and it is far more exact, so you are not guessing at what the temperature is of your candy/oil, which can be a dicey affair.

I can not emphasize enough the importance of a good candy thermometer. My grandmother would tell you that she made candy for years without one. I would tell you that Hilda was and still is the master of selling cooking flops as innovations. Some day, I will tell you the story of the Butterscotch Pie Incident.

Having the right thermometer will take the guesswork out of making the candy. I am the type of person that is really really upset if I screw up a recipe. It bugs me for days and I obsess over it. I feel the need to make it again to prove that I can't be deterred by a failure. I might have a problem in this area.

Lander Cream Butterscotch Candy

1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk

2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
nuts (optional)

Boil sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, and evaporated milk until it reaches 235° (or soft ball stage). Let the mixture cool, stirring it occasionally to check the consistency. As it cools, it will begin to thicken and become more creamy-looking. Once you see this beginning to happen, you need to stir it until it lightens in color and thickens. Keep stirring until you feel like you are about to die, that is just about when the candy is ready to scoop (I would recommend one of those tiny scooper-deals, you know what they are. Get the smallest one, I believe it is 00 size, whatever the hell that means. It will give you the right size consistently, which is what you want).

Go ahead and scoop it out into individual pieces and nestle a pecan or walnut on top while the candy is still slightly soft. You can put the candy onto wax paper, but I prefer parchment paper.

Now, if you decide to eat some of the candy while it was still warm, that would be perfectly understandable. After all, you might be tired from all that stirring and need a little snack. Just be careful not to get caught!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fudge, More Fudge, Butterscotch and Potato Candy

Mr. Smith and I met when I was 38 and he was 37. We were both set in our ways, we still are, quite frankly. Over the course of the last 4.5 years, we have found ways to resolve most of our differences. Some of them just have to remain unresolved. There are certain topics we can't discuss (for example, if Abraham Lincoln was a good president or a traitor. Also our arguments about O.J. Simpson have been known to clear rooms of all other occupants).

Doesn't he just creep you out?

One of the things that we will never agree on is Alton Brown. Mr. Smith loves his show on The Food Network. I believe he belongs on The Science Channel or SciFi, but most certainly NOT on The Food Network! I will not refer to it as a cooking show, since he so rarely cooks.

Mr. Brown (I usually refer to him as Anus, much to Mr. Smith's chagrin. I tell Mr. Smith that Alton's real name is Anus, but he had to change his name because no one would buy a cookbook from some guy named Anus Brown. I think I am funny. Other people do not) does little skits, cutesy junk with the camera and too much science for a cooking show. He is annoying in the extreme and I hate him.

Before I met Mr. Smith, I had never even heard of this clown. Now his science geek ass is clogging up my TiVo. To the tune of 200 GB of his idiotic show. I can feel my hackles go up every time I am looking for one of my shows and have to scroll past this endless list of his blathering shows on how to buy a deep frying apparatus. BORING!!

Mr. Smith is religious in his devotion to this fool. I, on the other hand, wish his show would get cancelled and he would be silenced by some tawdry scandal involving hookers and drugs. Alas, he will not go away. In fact, they keep rolling him into more and more shows. He does ads for grape juice and has cookbooks, he pedals grape juice for Pete's sake!

Now, as if all of that weren't enough, he is plugging his latest book in Family Circle.

I noticed this recipe and was interested. Not because it is my arch enemy, Alton Brown, but because I am always interested in good biscuit recipe.

So, as a little surprise for Mr. Smith, I made these to have with our roasted turkey and gravy the other night.

I have to tell you, they are better than I thought they would be. I may even consider replacing my old, tried and true biscuit recipe. These are light and fluffy, worth a little extra work.

Okay, so now, I am officially a complete loser. It has taken me so long to post this that I actually caved in and used another one of this chucklehead's recipes.

Don't get me wrong, I still can't stand him. Nothing has changed in that department. He is a pretentious windbag.

So, at Mr. Smith's request, I made Alton's Chocolate Fudge. I have always found it a bit redundant to say Chocolate Fudge, but that is just like Alton, isn't it?

Here is the recipe.

A warning here: Candy making is not for the faint of heart. As my belovedly blunt Aunt JoAnna said, "It is bullshit. Too much work and not enough in the way of results." You can embark on the little endeavor, feeling pretty confident, feeling sassy, like you have the world by the tail. Then the weather isn't just right, or you are an idiot and you use condensed milk instead of evaporated milk (okay, that was just me) and the whole thing turns into a cinder block. It can be really heartbreaking. Maybe I am just too sensitive to failures, another thing I need to work on...great!

Over the last several days, I have been bitten by some kind of candy-making bug. I do not recommend it. It is really time consuming, tiring, and as my Aunt JoAnna said, "Not very rewarding." Sure, you get the satisfaction of that little "WOW" factor when you tell people that you went all Martha Stewart and made your own candy. But two hours of stirring for about 20 pieces of candy, to quote JoAnna, is "Bullshit."

This week I have made four batches of Cream Butterscotch (recipe coming soon), three batches of Fudge (two different recipes...don't ask) and one batch of Potato Candy (also, recipe on the way). I can't even tell you why I am doing this, but I seem unable to stop myself.

Mr. Smith LOVES the Alton Brown Fudge (of course) so now I probably be stuck making it all the time. I have to admit, it is really pretty good. Mr. Smith would like me to use it to frost a cake. We will have to see about that one.

A little extra something extra to consider for your fudge (or any chocolate recipes, for that matter) King Arthur Espresso Powder. Gives it a little something extra that is just wonderful.

Back to the kitchen to churn out more candy!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Golden Winter Soup

I know. We don't really have winter here. There is just something about Fall that makes me start to get crazy to cook. More specifically crazy to cook cozy warm soup and cookies. I want to have my Gingerbread Coffee and sit at the table making out my shopping list. I want to pick out beautiful Butternut Squash, and leeks and baking potatoes and make some of this soup.

I am so surprised I have written about this soup yet! This is a HUGE favorite around here. It is even on Mr. Smith's List of Acceptable Meals I Have Promised to Eat Any Time. Take it from me, this is a VERY short list. Making it onto the list involves testing, ingredient clearance and a whole long ceremony. It is not easy process, but this one is one there, so take heed.

Make this ahead of time and warm it up. Make it ahead of time and freeze it. Leave out the milk, it won't make a damn bit of difference. This is another soup that is absurdly healthy, but feels so creamy and decadent, you will swoon.

Add the little cheese toasts and you will feel more pampered than you have felt in a long time!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My favorite veteran and Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Papa Doty, in uniform with Patty D, my mother

Today is Veteran's Day. It was originally designated as a day to honor the veterans of World War I. My great-grandfather, Charles Doty served in that war. Later on, it was extended to include all veterans. My dear sweet Papa Doty (his son) served in World War II.

Baby B, Papa Doty and Katie

Papa left us a little over a year ago. It has been a tough year for a variety of reasons. He is sorely missed by us all. He still deserves our thanks for leaving his young wife and his baby daughters, for risking his life, for surviving.

Thank you, Papa. Thank you for making it home. Thank you for having more daughters. Thank you for being such a sweet soul. We love you and miss you terribly. I would give anything for one more bear hug!

Papa Doty with Baby C, September 2008

I have been cooking and I know you will all love this recipe. Even if you hate cauliflower, you will love this soup. Trust me, would I ever steer you wrong?

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

1 large or 2 small (3 pounds) heads cauliflower, cut into florets (about 10 cups)
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, each halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) chicken broth or you can use Better Than Buillion (they even have vegetarian buillion available)

1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (I used dry and it was just fine)
1 cup half-and-half (I left this out and we did not miss it at all)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oven to 400°. In a large roasting pan, toss cauliflower, onion slices and garlic with olive oil. I also threw in the salt (coarse sea salt) and some pepper.

Roast at 400° for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

In a large saucepan, combine roasted cauliflower mixture, chicken broth, 1 cup water, bay leaf and thyme. Cover; bring to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Discard bay leaf. In blender or food processor, puree soup in batches. Return soup to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half, if desired; add salt and pepper; cook over medium heat until heated through.

Per cup: 98 calories; 9 g fat (3 g sat fat); 2 g protein; 4 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 741 mg sodium; 13 mg cholesterol

Honestly, leaving the half-and-half out makes the soup so much healthier and you will not miss it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cheatin' Pea Nuttin' Brownies

If you follow this blog, or you know me, or have ever heard of me, you know that I have deep profound love of all things peanut butter and peanut butter related. Add chocolate to the peanut butter and I am your's forever.

I have been spending the past several weeks on a recumbent bike, pedaling like a mad woman in an effort to rid myself of too many Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundaes. The mainstay of my super healthy, all-you-can-eat pregnancies. BaskinRobbins is the work of the devil. I'm just saying!

Anyway, we were having some good friends over yesterday. The perfect excuse for making a dessert and an opportunity for me not to inhale the whole thing.

As I was trolling through the recipe archives (believe me, you have NO idea how huge this archive actually is!) I came upon a really fussy Martha Stewart Peanut Butter Swirl Brownie recipe. Now, there was a time when I would have gone to the store, purchased the requisite amounts of prissy "high quality semi-sweet" and "high quality unsweetened" chocolate. Those days are over. I have two kids that get up anywhere between 3 am and 4:30 am. A trip to the store for Martha's required fussiness is simply out of the question!

Made with real Chocolate Chips, so you know its good!

Luckily, I remembered I had a Trader Joe's Truffle Brownie Mix (I am something of a brownie freak and these are the best I have ever had) hanging around the pantry. I have been fighting hard to resist the urge to whip these up since I bought the mix. I was weary of fighting, so I gave in and jumped into the deep end of the peanut butter-filled pool.

Oh please, come on in and join me, the peanut butter is FINE!!!

Go get yourself some brownie mix. I don't give a damn what kind, but I have found that the cheaper the mix, the better the brownies. Get the store brand if you like. You can even, if you are lucky, pick some up for 99 cents. There isn't much you can get for 99 cents these days!

Peanut Butter Swirl

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (although, I suppose you could use chunky if you are feeling sassy)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cups confectioner's sugar

Prepare the brownie mix as directed on the box. Spread the batter in a parchment lined 8 x 8 x 2 pan. Place dollops of the peanut butter mixture on top and swirl with a knife. Lick off the knife (you know you want to!).

Bake as directed on the brownie box. You might have to bake a little bit longer due to the addition of all the peanut buttery goodness, but the wait is worth it.

Once you have tasted the deliciousness, send me a thank you email! I love to get email...oooh and comments too!

P.S. Do you love edge brownies as much as I do? If you do, go check out this all edge brownie pan! Too cool!

Hello, King Arthur People, send me one. If you do I will say more really really nice things about you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wasted time, tears, Ginger Drops and Mini Donuts

Over the past 2 + years, Mr. Smith and I have been waging a war. Unfortunately, we have been waging this war alone. There was no one to help. No one that could help, for that matter.

Even the attorneys that we have hired throughout this nightmare have failed us at every turn, interested in feathering their own corrupt little nests, while leaving us financially ruined and twisting in the wind. Don't get me started on what horrific medieval things should be done to all lawyers everywhere. Sorry you stinking dirtbags, but you know as well as I do that you deserve it.

Our war began with no warning. It came to us in the form of a subpoena, as the worst, most pointless wars often do. We were being sued and we had to be in court the next morning. The most shocking part: we were being sued by The Other Mrs. Smith, Mr. Smith's mother.

A brutal development. A harsh blow for even the most detached son, which Mr. Smith is not. This does not happen to people like us. We are nice, we are kind, we had not done anything to warrant such a severe action. Yet, to court we went to be informed that, without any evidence, we were already deemed guilty and would be forced at great expense and heartache to prove our innocence in this matter.

The reason for the lawsuit is complicated, and as it turns out, doesn't matter much. Suffice it to say that The Other Mrs. Smith's chief problem is believing that other people's property belongs to her. Simple as that.

Lucky for her, she is resourceful and was able to become a pro bono client of an extremely powerful, litigious law firm in our area. Always lands on her feet...amazing really.

You see, The Other Mrs. Smith is indigent. She decided to retire at an early age from a job she did not have. She opted to be taken care of by her son without his consent.

When her son fell in love, got married and started a family, her complete dependence on him became a very serious issue for her. He, like any normal man, was interested in having his own life. He was no longer interested in babysitting an adult. His new wife (me), his children, his career were all stealing attention and time from what was truly important to her...herself.

As you can imagine, this caused some problems, but nothing we couldn't handle. Boundaries were set, these were ignored or crossed over and over again. Outrageous demands in the form of time, attention and huge sums of money were made. Some were met, most were denied or ignored in an effort at self-preservation on our part.

Unfortunately, the bulk of this story is not mine to tell. I am simply (like my children, my parents) collateral damage to The Other Mrs. Smith's crushing narcissism and unrestrained greed.

In the end, we have been stripped of everything. We are left homeless (except for the good grace of my phenomenal family that I will never be able to thank sufficiently), penniless (bankruptcy and judgments are a couple of funny things that I will tell you about some day) and exhausted from a draining battle with no winners, only losers. We have each other, we have two children to raise without the benefit of money, and a business with loads of potential.

It has been incredibly hard to hold it together and keep a brave face. Most days I have failed, some days I was able to soldier on and pretend this wasn't happening to Mr. Smith, to us, to our little family.

Finally, this week, there is a pinprick of light, tiny, but hopeful. Yes, it may be a locomotive in the tunnel, I don't know that yet. Each time I have been hopeful, I have been leveled by the next blow. Each time I have been forced, for my family, for our children, to pick myself up.

I am exhausted, I am battered and bruised, but I will not surrender. I will never let The Other Mrs. Smith and her cancerous, hateful ways harm my family. We are better than that, stronger than that. What we have is true and real and cannot be destroyed by something, by someone as petty as she has shown herself to be time and time again.

So, where to go from here?

To the kitchen. My refuge, my sanctuary, my happy place. It is where I am in charge, where I dictate the rules and do only what I want to do.

When Fall is in the air, Mrs. Smith's (This Mrs. Smith) fancy turns to ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and all things baked.

Yesterday, H and I collaborated on a project from the King Arthur Flour people. If love comes in the form of baked goods, these folks are Don Juan. Holy Moses, go to their website and I dare you not to order one of everything. I have yet to find something that isn't wonderful, delicious and quickly devoured by my audience.

I have had the donut mix (but you can make it without the benefit of the mix, if you have a mind to) and the pan floating around the pantry for months. Each time I thought about making it, I chickened out. Yesterday, I just needed the therapy that baking, even with H "helping" can provide. So, I dove in.

We made Mini Donuts and frosted them with the following Chocolate Glaze from The Joy of Cooking.

Note: if you make these, be very careful not to overfill the forms with batter, if you do, as my little helper did, you don't get a hole in the middle of the donut!

Chocolate Donut Glaze
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup water
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate

Melt in a heavy saucepan or double boiler. When melted, removed from heat and whisk in

1 1/3 cups confectioner's sugar

Frost the donuts and let set as long as you can stand it (which, I assure you, will not be long, especially if your sous chef is 3 1/2 years old!).

Today, I added some cocoa and made the mix into chocolate donuts and used the same Chocolate Glaze. Heaven. Yes, there is nutmeg and cinnamon in there, Mr. Smith. No it is not, in fact, poison, or nuts. They are spices and taste wonderful with the chocolate. OPEN YOUR MIND DAMMIT!!

Also, if you are lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe's, go and get some of their Gingerbread Coffee. I am here to tell you, it is the most comforting thing I have discovered recently. It gives me such joy to smell the spices while the coffee is brewing. It just make me feel warm, happy and safe. I know, I know, what the hell, it is just coffee for Pete's sake!

In other, completely unrelated news: Here is a recipe for Soft Ginger Drops that will absolutely curl your toes!

Soft Ginger Drops

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup molasses
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves
1 cup boiling water

Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes.

Frost while warm with frosting made from milk, vanilla and confectioner's sugar (until frosting is desired consistency).

So go make some of these cookies and wallow (as I did) in the warm, spicy, Fall smells in your house!

P.S. Five years ago, on October 12, I interviewed a very cute, but nervous Mr. Smith for a job. That was our previous life. He was already Mr. Smith. I had no way of knowing that in less than a year, I would be Mrs. Smith. What can I say, he gives good interview!

Monday, August 17, 2009

What we havin' for dinner?

Fresh snow peas and haricot verts

That was the question from H today when I got him up from his wonderfully long afternoon nap...3 hours, a mother's dream!

His sister, on the other hand, is a punk and only slept about 1 1/2 hours.

When my brother was little, he would ask my mother what we were having for dinner immediately after breakfast, sometimes while we were eating breakfast. It was if he had to plan the rest of his day based on what her answer was.

I could never figure out why he cared. The kid was a legend among the picky eaters, and he has been paid back in recent years. Neither of his sons eats voluntarily. A2 has been known to come dangerously close to inciting violence at the dinner table. I know because I witnessed it.

Snow peas in ice bath

I will never forget when I was visiting them and A2 asked the greatest question of all time, "Who picked this dinner?" My sister-in-law, in her continuing effort to appease her picky eaters, had instituted the system that allowed each family member to pick a meal they wanted on a given night. Unfortunately, on this night, A2 was not pleased with the choice. Obviously, the choice had been made by some other family member.

Roasting red peppers

The dinner that night was Chicken Pot Pie. A2 has a problem with various foods touching. The casserole concept as a whole runs counter to everything he holds dear. Thus his objection. I thought my normally patient sister-in-law was going to go across the table at him.

So, this afternoon when I went to get H out of bed, and he asked me, "What we havin' for dinner?", it just cracked me up. He has no intention of eating it, why would he care what we were having? He is my brother all over again and I am reminded of my brother as a child every day.

Tonight we are having Roasted Chicken with Pesto and Dijon with Pasta Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing.

The finished product. I replaced the peas with haricot verts, just because those
are much more acceptable to the picky eaters here.

H ate yogurt and drew on his face, arms and hands with markers. He then announced, "Yo ho, yo ho, life is but a dream. Fast and curvy H's with no tails!" That is H-speak for, "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me. Avast you scurvy dogs. Dead men tell no tales!"

Yo ho, yo ho, life is but a dream!

As a totally unrelated aside, this is what greets us when we come in the door. Isn't this gorgeous?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vertigo B Strikes Out

Mushroom Bourguinon

Last week I went to see Julie and Julia. If you like to cook or bake, go see this movie. It is such an interesting story and Meryl Streep is just a delight to watch.

I have always loved Julia Child. I remember watching her show, about a million years ago, on PBS with my mother. I don't think my mother ever tried any of her recipes, but she loved to watch her, both of us on the edge of our seats, never knowing what Julia would do or make next.

After seeing her brought to life again, I wanted to be like her. I wanted to be as adventurous and daring about eating as Julia was. Her enthusiasm, her willingness to embrace the unfamiliar was so contagious!

In this vein, I started poking around, looking for new recipes to try. I found this one on Smitten Kitchen's blog.

So, I did the leg work, assembled the ingredients (after a couple extra trips to the store to procure enough Portobellos...not the best at planning, it turns out). Did all the necessary cutting, chopping, etc. Followed the recipe exactly.

It looked gorgeous and smelled even better. Unfortunately, we are not mushroom people. Well, one of us is, but really this makes far too much for one person to eat easily. We may not be as adventurous as Julia, but I think she would be proud of us for being willing to try something new.

I can tell you, if you are a mushroom person (and in my opinion, you either are or you aren't) you will love this recipe. There is just no gray area on this issue.

The moral of the story: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

On the other hand, I decided I could no longer live my life without this cake also from Smitten Kitchen. So, on top of everything else I was juggling today, I made it as well. If you are into chocolate and peanut butter, go make this cake. If you aren't, I ask you, what in heaven's name is the matter with you?

I skipped the chocolate/peanut butter glaze that you can pour over the top. It just seemed like too much. In hindsight, I am glad I did. This is a super rich cake and super rich frosting. I can't imagine the jumbo jug of insulin I would need to compensate for the cake with the glaze!

Sure, I can deal with two needy children, one of whom can't stop bumping her head on every damn thing while whipping all this food up. No problem!

Notice the giant welt in the center of her forehead.

Her record in the ring for today: Furniture-2, Baby C-0.

She started off by smacking her forehead on the leg of the kitchen chair. The judges deemed that one a technical knock out. Decision goes to the chair.

To round out her day, she smacked her left temple/cheek bone on the headboard of the bed. Decision goes to the headboard.

Today, as a reward (yes, bribery does work) for being brave and getting his hair cut, H discovered the virtues of Rockem Sockem Robots. That classic toy is still a hit with the crazy kids. He and Mr. Smith were very loudly playing with them this afternoon. Just look at their faces, locked in fierce competition! Hilarious!

Check out the snazzy new hair cut!

And last but not least, Francesca, this one is for you! Sorry. I intended to post this one this week, but got sidetracked by something shiny! Enjoy, even if you can't get the smuggled veggies!

Pasta with Vegetables in Salsa Fresca

1 pound pasta (I used fortified penne, but the original recipe calls for fettucini)
2-3 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise paper thin (use the vegetable peeler to cut ribbons)
2-4 carrots, sliced lengthwise paper thin (also use vegetable peeler)
2-3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced peperoncini peppers (green, pickled in a jar, but optional. Gives a little zip to salad)
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. After about 8 minutes, add the zucchini and carrots; cook until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are tender, 2-4 minutes longer.

2. Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, oil, cheese, minced pepper, garlic and ground pepper in a serving bowl. Drain the pasta and vegetables, then add to the sauce, tossing to coat.

I added the haricot verts, but you can use any vegetables you have/like.