Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Last One

Today I took my final Prenatal Vitamin. No, I am not pregnant. My doctors have all insisted that I keep taking them while I was still breastfeeding.

Today, both are done. I am done breastfeeding and I am done with the vitamins.

I am a little sad about both.

It is one week before Baby C turns one. My little Cinco de Mayo baby is going to be a year old. She is getting ready to start walking. She is fiercely independent. She no longer wants to be held, or snuggled or rocked. She wants to go. She doesn't care where, she just wants to go.

She had no interest in being breastfed any longer. She wants to feed herself.

The last time I breastfed my son was the night before his first birthday. And I felt a little sad, but this is different.

There will be no more babies. She is my last baby. I will never breastfeed again. I will never be pregnant again. Which, don't get me wrong, I am pretty happy about. Both of my pregnancies were miserable.

The best part, the part I will always yearn for, always miss, is feeling the baby move. That first little flutter, when you aren't quite sure. The bigger movements when you are sure what you are feeling, and just are stunned with the knowledge of what is going on. That delicious feeling that for now, for that time, they are all yours, that no one else can feel them the way you can, know them the way you do. The intimacy is so complete.

And that continues after they are born, after you are able to hold them. For a time, you are the only one that can comfort them, give them solace, feed them.

Slowly, very slowly, they start to grow, pull away, become separate from you. A tough pill to swallow.

So this morning, I swallowed the last vitamin.

I will let her go, as much as I can right now because that is the nature of this relationship. The rest of her life as my daughter will be her pulling away and me slowly letting her go.

Enchilada Time!

I know, I am kind of cheating. Okay, I am totally cheating.

I have already posted this recipe. However, it deserves to be posted again. It is THAT good!

This is a real favorite in the Smith house. Mr. Smith gets positively giddy when he hears that this meal is on the meal plan. He usually wants it the same night he hears about it. No matter what.

Yes, they are a little fussy. Yes, the enchilada sauce could easily be weaponized. Same with the chipotle in adobo...yikes that stuff can stain ANYTHING.

But the results are completely worth the stains, the orange hands, the reddish grout on the tile counter, the red splotches on my clothes.

The other beautiful thing about this meal, it makes two 9 x 13 pans (gotta love that 9 x 13 action...is there anything bad that comes out of a 9 x 13 pan...I don't think so.) of enchiladas. Cover the second one with freezer wrap and foil (don't put the foil directly on...the tomatoes will dissolve it). Take it out of the freezer when you want to serve it. Bake it for about 30-45 minutes on 350° and serve it with Spanish Rice (Mahatma brand is my personal favorite) and refried beans and everyone will be happy.


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican Spice Blend
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 5 canned whole green chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 4 canned chipotle chiles, seeded and minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce, canned
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar and Jack cheeses
  • Garnish: chopped cilantro leaves, chopped scallions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes


Coat large saute pan with oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken over medium heat, allow 7 minutes each side or until no longer pink. Sprinkle chicken with cumin, garlic powder and Mexican spices before turning. Remove chicken to a platter, allow to cool.

Saute onion and garlic in chicken drippings until tender. Add corn and chiles. Stir well to combine. Add canned tomatoes, saute 1 minute.

Pull chicken breasts apart by hand into shredded strips. Add shredded chicken to saute pan, combine with vegetables. Dust the mixture with flour to help set.

Microwave tortillas on high for 30 seconds. This softens them and makes them more pliable. Coat the bottom of 2 (13 by 9-inch) pans with a ladle of enchilada sauce. Using a large shallow bowl, dip each tortilla in enchilada sauce to lightly coat. Spoon 1/4 cup chicken mixture in each tortilla. Fold over filling, place 8 enchiladas in each pan with seam side down. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven until cheese melts. Garnish with cilantro, scallion, sour cream and chopped tomatoes before serving. Serve with Spanish rice and beans.

Recipe from The Food Network, Tyler Florence.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Worth the Trouble

Sorry for the extended silence. Things around here have been...well...exhausting.

We are attempting to navigate the treacherous and choppy waters of graduating from crib to "Big Boy Bed." This has been terribly ugly and sleep-deprived.

Thankfully Grammy came up with a solution that can remedy the situation in the short term and we all got a decent night's sleep last two night.

Whew! What a difference a day or two can make.

Today, rather than try to bake something from scratch, I ventured into the wonderful world of King Arthur Flour again.

If you enjoy baking (or cooking, for that matter) please go to their web site. You will not be disappointed. They have virtually everything you might need to bake. They also have some very good mixes and kits to make all different types of muffins, breads, etc.

These were up today. Now, I will warn you, these are more involved than most muffin mixes. I was pretty crabby when I was putting these together (still haven't gotten enough sleep to not be crabby). There are four parts and it seemed like too much work. That being said, the results are so completely worth it.

There is the muffin batter, the filling batter, the streusel and the glaze for the tops of the muffins. Yikes! But look at these beautiful things...are you drooling yet?

Yeah, I know.

Mr. Smith is not a fan of muffins in general. (I know, I know, I married him anyway. You can't have everything!) However, Mr. Smith LOVED these. He also suggested insulin, since they are on the sweet side.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Peachy Pie

After my Grandma Doty died suddenly in 1996, my mother and her four sisters took over the care of my Papa Doty. This was nothing he requested of them, or required. They were just bound and determined to do it.

So, they fluttered around him, fussing over him for the last twelve years of his life (he left us on October 27, 2008). They would each call him on a certain day of the week. This schedule had to be organized due to his hectic social life. He was busier than people half his age.

The youngest daughter, my Aunt M, lived the closest. As in so many families, the one that lives the closest seems to end up with the most responsibility. It isn't fair, but the other four sisters lived so far away, daily contact was simply impossible.

M was the one that got the heart rattling calls. Papa stayed with her after his shoulder injury. He would join the rest of the family for "dinner" midday each Sunday. She would pay his bills while he was out of town for extended periods.

My favorite part of their relationship was the efficient system they had worked out. Aunt M, bless her heart, has a full-time job as a social worker in a school not too far from Papa Doty's house.

Over time, she started leaving things in her car for him to pick up (he had a set of keys to her car). In return, he would do the same. He would leave his laundry each week for her. She would return his washed clothes and linens. She would leave him a loaf of homemade bread. He would leave her magazines she would be interested in reading. She would leave him a peach pie.

Papa loved homemade peach pie, so Aunt M made it for him when peaches were in season.

I know Papa would have loved this recipe. He would have enjoyed the novelty of baking the pie in a cast iron skillet. I think he would have liked the addition of the apricots.

His absence is still felt so deeply. I know Aunt M feels it more than the rest of us. I am so pleased that he met my children and my husband, but I will always miss him.

This one is for you Papa!

Pie Crust

9" double pie crust, prepared

Use your favorite recipe here. Everyone has one, don't they? Hey, I don't even have a problem with you buying pie crust at the store. To each his own. I know, some people (Mom, this means you) just don't do pie crust. I don't blame you. If everything doesn't go right, it can turn into a nightmare.

Pie Filling

2 16-ounce bags frozen peaches, partially thawed, about 6 cups sliced peaches
1 cup chopped dried apricots

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons coarse sparkling sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Coarsely chop the semi-thawed peaches; you can use the food processor, but I just chopped them with a knife.

Mix the peaches with the rest of the filling ingredients, stirring until well blended.

Roll half of the crust into a 13" circle, and lay it in the pie pan or cast iron skillet.

Spoon the filling into the crust.

Roll the remaining crust, and lay it on top of the filling. Press the edges together, and crimp the edges together.

Brush the crust with milk, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar. Cut several slits in the top to vent.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°, and bake the pie for an additional 30 minutes, until the edge of the crust is brown. Cover the edge with a crust protector, or with strips of aluminum foil, to prevent over-browning.

Bake the pie for 15-20 minutes more, until the top crust is browned and the filling is bubbly.

Remove the pie from the oven, and allow it to cool completely, preferably overnight before cutting.

Yield: 9" pie, 8-10 servings

Adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fresh Fruit Spring Rolls

Fresh Fruit Spring Rolls

Confession time: I can't definitively tell you where this recipe came from originally. It is lost to the ages. I want tell you it came from a magazine like Shape or Self, except I can't be sure. There was a time in my life, before I was married and before I was a mother that I actually exercised and worried about what I ate.

Those days are over, at least for now. Someday, not sure when, I will be able to get to part of my "To Do List" that covers a diet that an adult would partake in or regular exercise.

Anyway, this is vegetarian and healthy. I know, I know, what the heck. It is just so darn tasty. The tartness of the fruit and the raspberry coulis is wonderful.

Fresh Fruit Spring Rolls

1/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean split
2 tsp. orange zest
2 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries
2 cup pears

8 spring roll wrappers
Non-stick spray

Combine honey, vanilla bean, citrus zest, cinnamon, and orange juice in a sauce pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in fruit and allow to cool.

Remove vanilla bean and discard.

Spoon 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of fruit mixture onto lower edge of spring roll wrapper. Dampen all four edges of wrapper with small amount of water. Begin at the edge closest to the fruit mixture and fold over slightly. Then fold the sides in toward the fruit mixture. Bring fourth side up to cover fruit completely and gently seal. Place spring roll on greased cookie sheet. Spray lightly with non-stick spray. Repeat with remaining seven wrappers.

You should have a cookie sheet full of little beauties like this one. If you are lucky, so very very lucky, you will have a couple of extra and you will have ten or so spring rolls.

Once all rolls are complete, bake at 400°for 5-7 minutes. Watch closely so rolls do not burn, but do not remove before they look slightly golden brown and crisp.

Serve warm with Mandarin Raspberry Coulis.

Mandarin Raspberry Coulis
2 cups mandarin oranges
1 cup raspberries
1 tsp. ginger

Puree ingredients in food processor or blender. Now, I HATE raspberry seeds. Which is really sad, because I am crazy about raspberries. The seeds make me crazy, so I prefer to use a strainer to weed those nasty little buggers out. That is just me. If you don't mind the seeds...first of all, how can you stand it? Secondly, you can just leave them or strain them...it is entirely us to you. But I can't imagine what would possess you to leave them.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Giant Spicy Meatballs

I discovered this recipe in Real Simple while I was flying across the country.

I was being sent on a mandatory, no excuses, two week vacation by my boss, Mr. Boss.

I was not planning on coming back.

I wanted to leave the job, the life, the state. I wanted to find some other place, some other way of living, because this one wasn't working for me.

Things at the job were messy to say the very very least.

We could not pay our bills. It was a struggle to make payroll. We had a new client that was a nightmare of neediness that never seemed to end. Mrs. Boss was pregnant and having personality changes that made Sybil seem even-tempered and calm. Due to the wanna be monsoon season we had been experiencing, the office roof had leaked, destroying the lobby rugs, one bathroom and a portion of our training/conference room. The stink of muddy, swamp water in the carpet is unforgettable.

To make matters even worse, I was developing a crush on a new employee. I had a strict rule against ever getting involved with someone at work. I could feel myself wanting to break that rule.

Things were not ideal. I needed to get out of town. I had never taken a two week vacation, especially from this job. Taking a week was usually next to impossible.

My refuge, my place when I am under stress, is the kitchen. Cooking has served me well over the years. It is always a comfort to me. Focusing on the measuring, the ingredients, etc. makes me feel calm.

So, I went to visit my brother, sister-in-law and their children. It was wonderful. It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I got to go with them to get their Christmas tree. I got to make Christmas cookies with my niece and nephew. I got to experience just enough of winter to enjoy it and not feel punished by it.

I was able to read about 10 books. I took naps when I wanted to take naps. My brother and I went back to see our childhood home and neighborhood. And my sister-in-law and I cooked together.

That trip was when I started to hatch my plan for escape. That trip, in my mind, is a dividing line.

When I got back, things had changed.

Mr. and Mrs. Boss were no longer supportive employers. This were taking an ugly turn. They seemed to be setting me up for something. The air felt hostile.

On the other hand, the new employee...ahhh the new employee. Over the next few months, New Guy took up residence in my attention and eventually my heart.

One rainy day, New Guy met me at my car with an umbrella to walk me into the office. He would stay after hours and we would talk, for hours. We would talk on the phone almost constantly. We would email each other throughout the day. Something was definitely going on here, but I could not be sure what it was.

And then, with almost no warning, I smashed my rule. I smashed all of my rules (almost all of my rules), threw them out, obviously, they had not been working anyway, so what good were they?

By April Fool's Day, the New Guy had become Mr. Smith. But that is another story for another day. Or for several days.

Back to the original point of this post, this is a really big recipe (I would recommend cutting it in half unless you want a ton, and I do mean ton, of leftovers. Really really yummy leftovers.). And it makes REALLY BIG meatballs. I have never been a huge fan of meat shaped into other things (balls, loaves, etc.). This one changed my mind. The blend of beef and pork, really makes a huge difference.

Big Spicy Meatballs
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 pounds ground pork
1 medium onion, minced
2 slices soft bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients, 1 cup of Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons of the pepper. Mix just to combine.

Shape the mixture into 16 to 18 large meatballs (each should be about ¾ cup of meat). Place on a baking pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta with the remaining pepper; set aside.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes in upper third of oven.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture onto each meatball.

Broil 3 to 5 minutes or until the ricotta just starts to brown.

Serve with jarred marinara sauce or your favorite sauce. Or, if you are feeling sassy, you can leave the meat out of this recipe and serve it with the meatballs.

This recipe is originally from Real Simple, December 2004.

Had anyone heard anything about http://www.condron.us/?

I get a ton of traffic from them, but don't really know what the point is or how they got ahold of my information. Anyone out there know what the deal is with www.condron.us?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sauce in a Flash

Back in the day, the Pittsburgh days, I was living with The Dead End Guy. After numerous, extended explosive break-ups, getting-back-togethers, epic battles and absurd negotiations, we moved into a two bedroom apartment. As I look back on this (a good 19 years later), it was not the smartest thing I have ever done.

We were unhappy almost immediately. At least I was.

I remember having a huge argument the day we moved in and wanting to leave right then.

I wanted something more. I knew that much. I just wasn't mature enough to figure out that he was not the man (hell, he wasn't even a damn man, let's face it, he was a boy...probably still is) that was capable of giving me what I wanted or needed.

For a period of time after I graduated from college and was looking desperately for employment when there was none to be had, I played at being a housewife. I wanted that, I wanted to be the perfect little wife, waiting with a delicious hot meal when he got home from class.

I very diligently made meal plans, shopped for ingredients, chopped, cooked, and cleaned. I was play-acting at being a wife, the thing I so desperately wanted. Even though, deep down, I could never envision us being married, let alone happily married.

I would ask him what he would like (this recipe was a real favorite) and then dutifully make it. Hoping that at some dream-like point, he would notice how wonderful I was and realize that he wanted me.

He never did.

This worked for a little over a year. I played this little game that there was something I could do, some meal I could conjure up, something I could wear that would please him enough.

He found someone else he had more in common with, and he eventually, ironically, married.

It was really really hard to realize that the time I had spent trying so damn hard to make him love me had been completely wasted. I should have had the good sense to let go, to let him go, to let the non-relationship go, years and years before I did.

Then, after a really long time...and I am talking about a really long time, I met this guy. He was handsome and sweet. He seemed to like me just like I am (miracle!) so I married his butt as fast as I possibly could!

He likes what I cook. He likes that I cook. He didn't care that I could hardly cook during both pregnancies. He appreciates that I try new recipes and (as long as I don't add nuts) is willing to try the things I am experimenting with.

All that time, all those years...they weren't wasted. It was just training for the real thing. Now I really know how to be a good wife, for real. But more importantly, I know how to accept the unconditional love that is given. No questions asked, no strings attached, just love. No more pretending, no more begging to be noticed and accepted.

Either way, the pasta sauce is wonderful...whether you are serving it to The Dead End Guy or Mr. Smith, although for Mr. Smith, I skip the mushrooms. It is the least I can do.

Sauce in a Flash

3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. lean meat
1 can (28 ozs.) crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, or 3/4 teaspoon dry oregano
1 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 jar (7 ozs.) roasted red pepper or pimento, drained or diced
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, shredded or 1 tablespoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Brown the meat in a skillet. Drain it if you want to, heck, you can even rinse the fat off of it in a colander. I don't because I don't like getting fat in my colander, but that is just me.

After the meat is cooked, just add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and heat through.

Serve with your favorite pasta shape and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Homemade Playdoh or my son the ingrate

I have been thinking about getting H some Playdoh, but have not wanted to spend the money. He is so mercurial that dropping money on anything other than Matchbox/HotWheels/DubCity cars is pure folly.

So, a few days ago, I floated the idea of playing with clay. We may have even seen some children playing with clay on Sesame Street. I am not sure, since Caillou, Sesame Street, and all things Pixar on an endless loop around here, it is getting blurred.

Also, vertigob had Mommy's Night Out with Miss Amy (thanks for that, by the way, Miss Amy! I had fun, you are still a great date!) last night...and...let's be honest here...Mommy has a hangover. There I said it. I had two margaritas and I feel like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Stinkin' Vegas. So, there is some additional blur that is not usually present. This is not your every day, run of the mill, sleep deprivation. Blech.

In my semi-blurred state, I decided to go to the all-knowing internets for a homemade Playdoh recipe and see what all you guys had to offer.

Wow! This page has tons of recipes, activities, advice, the whole shebang. Done and done.

I decided to try this one:

Cooked Playdough (flour and salt)

3 cups flour
1.5 cups salt
6 tsp cream of tarter
3 tbsp oil
3 cups water

1. Dissolve salt in the water.
2. Pour all ingredients into a large pot.
3. Stir constantly over medium heat until a ball forms by pulling away from the sides.
4. Knead the dough mixture until the texture matches playdough (1-2 minutes).

Store in plastic container. Should last for at least 3 months.

NOTE: This recipe is made from edible ingredients and not toxic in small amounts for children. However, a dog got sick after eating a batch of playdough. It is not intended as a food item. Please be sure to put it away after your children have finished playing.

I used Kosher Salt (just because it is what I had around and in the volume necessary for this recipe. I kind of freaked out when the mixture in the pot started to get gummed up and clumpy. However, as soon as I got it onto the wooden board (lightly floured) to knead it, it was fine. Also, kneading the really warm dough was soothing and kind of therapeutic. I wondered if it would feel good to people with arthritis. I will have to check that out.

Here is the conversation:

H: What is it?
Me: It is like clay, you can make things out of it.
H: Is it a car?
Me: No. It is like clay.
H: I need my knife.
Me: Okay.
H (taking whacks at the dough with his knife): Why is it warm?
Me: Because I just finished cooking it for you.
H: I don't want to play with this any more.

Oh okay, kid thanks. Why do I bother? Ingrate.

He is back to playing with his cars. So much for Arts & Crafts time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Banana Bread Redux

Mr. Smith hates nuts. He does not feel that adding them to any recipe is ever a good idea. Even if the recipe calls for it, he feels they should be left out. No matter what the consequences might be.

Today, we had a very sad, almost black banana just laying on the counter this morning. The Monkey had deemed it inedible. Mr. Smith pleaded for some banana bread, so Banana Bread it was to be.

Now, I have made this recipe before. And it was successful. In fact, I like it more than I have any other banana bread recipe I have ever tried.

This time, since Mr. Smith was my target audience, no nuts. He was a little sad last time I made and there were nuts in it. Of course, the nuts ruined the whole thing for him.

This time he begged me to leave the nuts out. It was so sad, I had to comply.

So, instead of 2 bananas, I added a little cup (one that you would use for your kid's lunch box) of Granny Smith apple sauce. I also, heaven help me, left out the walnuts.

I hate to admit this, but I actually like it better. It seems like the apple sauce made the finished product very moist. Also using cake flour really makes the bread nice and light. Not the greasy heavy loaf I remember my mother making.

It is so easy. The hardest part is keeping yourself from eating it while it still blazing hot.

Hilda's Molasses Sugar Cookies

My grandmother, more specifically, my father's mother, Hilda, is a force of nature.

By the way, I have always wondered, how, in the name of all that is holy, you look at your newborn daughter (your fifth) and decide to name this innocent child Hilda. Never got that one. Ran out of names? Really wanted to give a name that you would only hear in a damn German opera?

Anyway, Hilda is the rock of my father's family. She is the one that loaded the kids and their belongings into a car every summer and drove to whatever small town baseball team had employed Barney (my grandfather).

I can picture her fierce determination, packing the car, making the most of the space they had available, taking all the things that they could not live without during the hot summer. Hurtling toward heaven knew what, her babies in the car, probably just in their underwear since that was before the days of automotive air conditioning. Another small town, another unsuitable apartment over a brothel or funeral parlor, another adventure.

She had to be tough. She was one of 12 children. Esther, Jim, Herb, Bob, John, Millie, Alice, Grace, Hilda, Tom, Eddie, and Pat scattered over a span of 25 years.

She wanted to get out of Lucinda. One of the nuns told her when she was a girl that the best thing she could do is get the heck out that town. Hilda really took that one to heart.

Hilda wanted out. Out of Lucinda, out of the ceaseless intermarriage, small town-ness that Lucinda still hasn't shaken off.

He had a one-way ticket. He did not intend to come back and that was all she needed to hear.

So she married a dreamer. The one guy in Lucinda, PA with a dream and a one-way train ticket. He didn't want to be a farmer or a miner. He wanted something completely off the map. He wanted to play baseball.

He took his one-way ticket and what little money he had. He didn't have enough to make it back, so it was sink or swim time. He swam.

And they were on their way.

He got a contract with the St. Louis Browns. He eventually became a manager/coach for a multitude of minor league teams. In the off season he would take whatever job would get them through the winter until the season started up again.

Barney in the dugout, one of many.

This was a time when there were no million dollar signing bonuses. You were lucky if you kept your gig from one season to the next. Where Barney was, there was no glamor, no glitz, no shine. Their's was not a charmed life, but they made a living.

Each winter, he would get a contract, skim it quickly and hurl it into the corner. There it would sit until he was ready to read it again and consider signing it. He always did. He could not stay away.

Watch Bull Durham and you will get a taste of what his life was like. What their lives were like.

He would go to Spring Training in Paris, Texas or Bluefield, West Virginia or any one of a thousand places that had a baseball team. Once school finished for the children (there were eventually four, my father and three sisters) she would follow. Always loyal, always willing to make do, always ready for the adventure, a true pioneer spirit.

This recipe was one of those perennial favorites in the Lutz household. Hilda has a real sweet tooth and likes to have a little something around to indulge it.

This recipe is written exactly as she wrote it on the card. And it is just like her. No flowery descriptions of method. Just the facts.

One time, about a million years ago, we were helping her move. She made sure to have the ice bucket/cookie jar in her car for the trip from one apartment to the other. She very slyly suggested that I check and see if there was anything in the cookie jar.

We ate them while she drove. Speeding forward toward her next adventure.

Hilda's Molasses Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream shortening, sugar, molasses and egg. Beat well. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix well, cover, chill. Form into 1 inch balls. Bake 375° for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bee update...

If you were reading over the weekend, this is the before shot.

And this is the after shot of the Bee Mission.

No more live bees. Okay there were a couple of sad stragglers, but the watermelon-sized hive disintegrated upon contact with the BeeDeath™ procured by The Monkey. I don't even want to think about what might be some of the ingredients contained in BeeDeath™. Made up the name, by the way.

At some point, The Monkey was on a mission to wipe out the slug population on the back 40 and purchased a product, ominously named SlugDeath™. Yikes. I bet just the sight of that box made those slug quake!

Before endorsing the mission, Mr. Smith checked with The BeeMan and he said there are more bees than ever before. We were concerned about Colony Collapse Disorder. We have all heard that there are fewer bees. The BeeMan says that the media has blown that out of proportion.

Apparently The BeeMan has been doing this for 30+ years. He is one of those great characters you run into when this kind of things happen.

Penne Alla Gorgonzola

When I was pregnant with H, I had this amazing, huge appetite. I was eating constantly. I was nauseated and hungry all the time.

I had been given the advice to eat several small meals and that would help curb the morning sickness. There was no way I could just eat small meals. I had to eat full meals 6-8 times each day. It was really hard to eat that much, to be required to eat that much. It was the strangest thing, he just took so much fuel to grow!

Poor Mr. Smith was put in the position of Food Procurer. It was a full-time job.

I couldn't really cook very easily since I felt so nauseated all the time. Raw meat just made me want to run to the bathroom. Dairy products, forget it, didn't even stay down for 10 minutes. I will never forget the day I ate some potato soup. Ughh.

I craved turkey. I was roasting a turkey breast about once a week. I wanted turkey with every meal. I had a turkey sandwich almost every day of my pregnancy. Not to mention the full turkey dinners I was eating for breakfast (stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, thankyouverymuch). Yikes. No wonder I kept getting "the talk" at each doctor's appointment, you know, "the talk" about my alarming weight gain. "The talk" about what I had been eating, how often, how much.

The worst thing I craved was blue cheese and gorgonzola cheese. Both on the forbidden list for pregnant gals. Drat! This was a tough one. It seemed like every salad, sandwich, pasta, every take out menu was littered with blue cheese and gorgonzola. I could not get away from it.

Finally, at long last, during the narrow window between children, I found this recipe. I was elated. I finally could eat the forbidden substance again!

Now, I know this particular cheese is not for everyone. The sauce is rich and decadent, but so very delicious. Elegant and easy. If you pair it with some fortified pasta (I like Bertolli), you have a complete entree. Steam some broccoli and you got yourself a beautiful meal.

1 lb. penne
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
1 cup whole milk
1/2 lb. Gorgonzola dolce or Saga Blue, rind discarded and cheese cut into pieces (2 cups)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 ozs. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup)

Cook pasta in a 6-8 quart pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

While the pasta boild, heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, the cook sage, stirring, about 1 minute. Add milk and gorgonzola and cook, stirring and breaking up cheese, until sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes (sauce will be thin). Reduce heat to low and stir in pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste.

Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and drain the pasta. Add pasta and parmesan to sauce, stirring to coat. Thin with a little reserved, lovely starchy water if necessary.

Makes 6 main-course servings.

Adapted from Gourmet, October 2003.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We got bees...

Some pretty serious bad ass bees. Yup, those are all bees. Yikes.

When you over cook potatoes...

you just have to make mashed potatoes. At least, that is what I did. You know, like the lemons and the lemonade.

It was kind of a rough day around here yesterday. Things were bad at Sad House, getting it ready to sell, moving a desk that would only fit in an empty Rose Bowl, getting it stuck on the stairs, crazy kids, etc.

Mr. Smith turned in for the night around 5 pm last night. I made Macaroni and Cheese for dinner and put both kids, and The Wonder Dog to bed. Mr. Smith had conked out with his laptop on my side of bed, and I didn't have the heart to wake him up, so I slept (or didn't sleep) in the office. Let it be stated, for the record, that there is so much computer equipment in said office, that I practically woke up with a tan!

Anyway, all this back story to explain that I got virtually no sleep. I did not get to sleep until after 11 pm (started watching Season 3 of Friday Night Lights), Baby C woke up the first time at 3:20 am, H woke up at 4:25, and Baby C finally got up for good at around 6 am. It was a very very very short night.

I was getting the Potato Salad started for tomorrow. I put the potatoes on the stove to boil, sat down and promptly forgot that I had something on the stove...for about an HOUR! Sad when the mind goes...and in one so young!

The potatoes were cooked beyond all recognition. They were collapsing in the colander. It was horrible. I was devastated. I was so looking forward to the potato salad. Mr. Smith, always cool-headed in these situations said, "Make mashed potatoes."


So I mashed them, skins and all. Added some horseradish, cream, butter, salt and pepper. Here is the recipe:

3 lbs. Red potatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt (for the water)

Boil potatoes in salted water in large pot until a knife pierces the potatoes easily. No need to skin the potatoes.

Once the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, drain completely and return to pot you cooked them in (this will get rid of any excess water).

While the potatoes are hot, add 6 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup cream (damn the calories, full speed ahead!), 2 tablespoons horseradish, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Now all that is left to do, sit down in a quiet, happy place and enjoy the hell out of the creamiest mashed potatoes ever.

I am a HUGE fan of mashed potatoes. Always have been.

I went to Lora Little Elementary School in Delaware in the 1970s. It might as well have been a private school in the 1950s. It was such a throwback to another time. It was a neighborhood school, we all walked, no one rode buses. My parents were on the PTA. It was all very Leave it to Beaver.

The school cafeteria was easily the most amazing part of the school. They had this crew of little grandma-types that manned the kitchen. The food was so damn good. Every single thing they made was just the best comfort food you have ever eaten.

They had cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodles, oatmeal) that were the size of your head. They mashed potatoes and gravy were easily the best I have ever eaten. I liked them so much that I would buy an extra serving to savor.

Mashed potatoes were always the food I wanted when I was sick. They especially came in handy during my college-hangover days. I never ever ran out of Hungry Jack Instant Mashed Potatoes. They might just be the perfect food.

So endeth the lesson for today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Bunny?

Okay, more like the UPS man.

We could not, no matter how many stores we combed, locate a single pack (roll, sleeve...what the hell are the called anyway?) of PEZ.

The H only likes PEZ. He does not like Smarties, he is not partial to chocolate. Nope. Just the PEZ. All other candy is rated far below PEZ in The H’s estimation. He is, in fact, a PEZ junkie. The little man refers (thanks to Mr. Smith) to PEZ by the code name “chalk.”

So, out of desperation, we turned to the internet. That is where we can find anything and everything.

Mr. Smith located an establishment that had PEZ. They had cases of PEZ. We ordered $30 worth. That translates to about 90 packs, rolls, sleeves...whatever.

All of this to avoid the raging tantrums that go a little something like this:

The H approaches me at a high rate of speed wielding a PEZ dispenser.

The H: “It gettin’ to be time for chalk. Yeah.”

Me: “Oh honey. We don’t have any chalk.”

The H: “How come?”

Me: “Well, you ate all the chalk we have. And we can’t find any in any of the stores.”

The H: “But I want some.”

Me: “I know sweetie, but we don’t have any.”


Me: “No, we don’t honey.”


At which point, he runs out of the room screaming. A few minutes later, we begin again.

Happy Easter!

Coriander Herb Rub

This recipe is absolutely a favorite of Mr. Smith's. I made this for July 4th dinner (with Potato Salad). It has become our annual tradition. We are partial to using it on steak, but it would certainly work with just about any meat you choose.

I usually make a double batch of it, so that I can have some extra around for next time.

  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Put it all in a spice grinder (re-purpose your coffee grinder, you know you want to) give it a good whirl. Then all that is left to do is rub it on the meat and cook it up.

You will be thanking me later.
Once again, this one is from Bon Appetit. They just know how to do it. 'Nuff said.

Have a fabulous Easter!

Potato and Pea Salad for Spring

This is one of my favorite warm weather recipes. Something about it just says summer to me.

It is the perfect side dish with everything from fillet mignon to roasted chicken.

Mr. Smith does not like potato salad. He told me this early on in our whirlwind relationship. I, however, would not be deterred. I knew that if he tried this he would like it.

Well, turns out, I was right. Mr. Smith is still not crazy about potato salad, in general. He does like this one because it has a little extra zip (the Dijon and the cayenne really make a huge difference, especially after a day or so).

Potato and Pea Salad

3 pounds small red-skinned new potatoes, unpeeled
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

1 cup mayonnaise (I usually use less)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; cool. Cut potatoes into quarters. Transfer to large bowl; add vinegar and toss to coat. Mix in celery and peas.

Whisk mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, and cayenne pepper in small bowl to blend. Add to potato mixture and toss. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to allow flavors to marry. I would recommend making it in the morning to have ready for dinner, or even the day before, if you can.

A note: The original recipe calls for chives, lots of chives, 6 tablespoons of chives. That, in my opinion, is TOO MANY CHIVES! I am not a fan of onions in general, so I leave them out. If you are a fan of onion-type items, then feel free to add the chives. I am not going to stop you.

Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 2001

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baking Powder Biscuits

My mother and I have this long running argument (she calls it a discussion) about biscuits. I like to make rolled biscuits that are cut out. I just love the way they look, they split perfectly for buttering, etc. They puff up so beautifully in the oven. It just makes me happy to seem them lined up on the cookie sheet. Just getting barely golden on the bottom.

My mother, on the other hand, is a firm believer in drop biscuits. More free form, less work, less clean up. To me, they are too haphazard. They don't split well for eating with chicken and gravy, they bake unevenly, etc.

This has been going on forever and will never be resolved. Since I do the cooking, I make the rolled biscuits. So that is that, as they say.

My grandmother always used a water glass to cut the biscuits. Recently, I have started doing the same thing. I don't have to dig through thousands of cookie cutters looking for the right size round cookie cutter. Besides, I kind of like being the one to carry on her tradition.

The most beautiful part of these, the endless variations: Bacon Biscuits (!!!), Buttermilk Biscuits, Cheese Biscuits, Crusty Rich Biscuits.

I make these for Christmas dinner. I usually make them for Thanksgiving. I make them when we have Chicken, Gravy and Biscuits. So, here it is. The Baking Powder Biscuit recipe. Use it in semi-good health!

Baking Powder Biscuits

1 3/4 + 2 Tablespoons flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup shortening

3/4 cup milk

Blend flour, baking powder and salt.

Cut in shortening with a pastry blender. (By the way, click on the link and buy yourself one of these from The Pampered Chef. It is just the best one I have ever used. Our last one, seriously...lethal weapon.)

Add milk. Stir with a fork until all ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough out onto a floured board.

Knead gently 20 times.

Roll dough into 1/2-inch thickness.

Cut with floured 2-inch biscuit cutter (or cookie cutter or a glass if the mood strikes)

Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 450° for 8-10 minutes. Don't do what I do and wander off and forget you have biscuits in the oven. They aren't nearly as good when the bottoms are black and smoky.

Now for the mouth watering variation:

Bacon Biscuits

Fry 4 slices of bacon until crisp. Drain well. Cut into small pieces. Prepare the Baking Powder Biscuits as directed above except add bacon pieces to biscuit mixture after shortening. Complete the recipe as directed.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Prepare Baking Powder Biscuits as directed above, except add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda to dry ingredients. Substitute 3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk for sweet milk. Complete recipe as directed.

Cheese Biscuits

Prepare Baking Powder Biscuits as directed above, except cut 3/4 cup of grated sharp cheese into biscuit mixture after shortening. Complete recipe as directed.

Crusty Rich Biscuits

Prepare Baking Powder Biscuits as directed above except increase shortening to 1/3 cup. Complete recipe, but roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness.

Drop Biscuits

Prepare Baking Powder Biscuits as directed except increase flour to 2 cups and milk to 1 cup. Combine ingredients as directed.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 450°for 12-15 minutes.

Yield: 1 dozen biscuits.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cupcakes, cupcakes and more cupcakes

Easter is upon us. Okay, it is actually Sunday, but I like to be prepared. Either way, Spring is upon us. It has sprung, so to speak. And a girl's fancy turns to baking cupcakes.

Several years ago, 5 to be exact, I was single (not young, not by a longshot) and had far too much free time on my hands. My brother, sister-in-law and their two children were coming for a visit, so I wanted to make a special dessert for their visit.

My nephew, AZ, has a very special place in his heart for all things chocolate-related. I think I could dip a car bumper in chocolate and he would very willingly eat it. This is the same kid who hates casseroles because the food touches. You know they type.

Well, I made a batch of each of these cupcakes and he and my niece, AP, were over the moon for them.

The reason? They use these nifty little panettone papers, so they are smaller than everyday cupcakes. They just look a little fancier and a little more special. Perfect for an Easter gathering, a tea party, Mother's Day, Father's Day...you pick the occasion. You can make the ahead and frost them when you are ready. You can add any type of decoration on top.

Basically, very adaptable, very portable, look fancy, AND kid friendly. PERFECTION!

Cinnamon-Scented Chocolate Cupcakes
Orange Cardamom Cupcakes

Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit, June 2004.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Personal Crumb Cakes...the easy way

I am a huge fan of the King Arthur Flour Catalog.

My Grandma swore by their flour. She would not use anything else in her bread, her sugar cookies, or anything for that matter.

We get their catalog frequently and I am on their email list. I could spend, without even trying, a huge amount of money every month or so just on baking stuff. So silly.

Anyway, they were having a sale, so I caved and bought some mixes. I will let you know about the others. Today, H "helped" me make these. Okay, he actually just played in sink while I made these. A guy has to have priorities!

A disclaimer: I am not a fan of mixes. I do not believe that a mix is ever as good as something made from scratch. I am the kind of nut job that will make a cake from scratch rather than use a boxed mix. Mr. Smith's favorite cake does use a mix, so I have had to loosen this policy over the last few years.

That being said, King Arthur Flour is a exception.

These are just lovely. I like the idea of having individual cakes instead of one large one. They sell the whole thing in a kit, so ordering is very easy.

I will make these again. Perhaps when we have house guests. It would be very nice to serve these warm on Sunday morning.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pasta and Three Cheeses

Okay, guilty as charged, The Pioneer Woman has her recipe for Macaroni and cheese on her site today. But I have been sitting on this one for a while and I just couldn't wait to share it. I am a shameless copycat!

This is adapted from Bon Appétit, January 2002 issue.

I consider this more of a cold weather-type dish. As a child, my mother would make us homemade macaroni and cheese and, of course, my brother and I would turn our noses up at it. We were much more partial to the kind from a blue box with a convenient envelope of powdered cheese. The humanity!

I found this recipe and fell in love immediately. I have always found using cheddar exclusively to yield greasy results (no offense Pioneer Woman). This blend of cheeses yields a lovely creamy, yet tangy sauce. Also, the panko breadcrumbs are a very nice touch and are much more crunchy that plain breadcrumbs.

The cheeses can be a bit pricey, but once in a while, it is just worth it. Isn't it? Just look at that golden brown crispy Panko top. Wow, so very worth it.

Pasta and Three Cheeses

1 pound medium pasta shells (or what ever shape you have)
2 3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (or more if desired)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups (packed) grated white cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
3/4 cup (packed) grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup (packed) grated Fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)

6 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*

Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water just until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Meanwhile, bring milk to simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. When butter foams, add flour. Stir until pale golden, about 1 minute. Whisk in hot milk. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbling, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in salt, black pepper, nutmeg and cayenne. Add cheeses and stir until melted and smooth.

Preheat broiler. Add pasta to cheese sauce and toss to coat.

Divide pasta mixture between six 1 1/4-cup custard cups. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs. Broil until crumbs are golden brown, about 1 minute. Serve.

*Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs that can be found in the ethnic food section of most grocery stores. They may also be found with the regular breadcrumbs.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Morning Breakfast

We are big fans of breakfast around here. There are several members of the family that are HUGE fans of breakfast for any meal.

Just last week we had pancakes, bacon, sausage and scrambled eggs for dinner. Something for everyone.

When Mr. Smith found out we were having breakfast for dinner this was the response: "Hot Diggity Dog!"

Last night I mixed up the Pioneer Woman's Baked French Toast to have for breakfast this morning.

All I can say is, "Wow!"

I know, I know. It is hard to get your head around the fact that this contains pita chips. And it will remain hard to comprehend, right up until you put that first sweet, blueberry filled bite into your mouth.

The smell in the house, first thing in the morning, cinnamon, brown sugar, big, juicy blueberries...forget it, just too good to be true.

Go for it, you won't regret it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Peanut Butter Brownies

My mother was a stay-at-home mom when my brother and I were growing up. Many of my friends had parents that were divorced, so both parents worked.

I liked the security of knowing that she was there if I needed her. There was never any doubt.

I did not expect her to sit at home and wait for my call. Please, that is ridiculous.

But I liked knowing that she would be home when I got there. I liked the days when I could smell the popcorn she had made for an after school snack before I opened the front door.

Inside there would be warm, freshly popped popcorn and Tropical Punch Kool Aid. The stuff that dreams are made of when you are a kid.

She watched all the Afterschool Specials with us. Then she would drive us, in a crazy running-late flurry, to swimming practice. On the way to the tennis bubble they had placed over the pool, we would discuss whatever the topic had been on the Afterschool playhouse.

It seems unbearably corny now (no pun intended), but I had a wonderful childhood.

My mother was the kind of mother that volunteered at school. She baked Peanut Butter Brownies to sell at our swim meets. She went on our field trips with each of our classes.

I always wanted to be that kind of a mother. I want my children to feel that safe, that sure of things, that confident. I hope that I provide that safety net. They are so little and the world is such a dangerous place. It is hard to be there all of the time.

As I tiptoed into Baby C's room to take a picture of her sleeping in a bed for the second night in a row, I thought about how lucky I am. I have everything I ever wanted, in the palm of my hand.

I am truly blessed.

Peanut Butter Brownies

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, whatever floats your boat)
1/2 cup shortening
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped cocktail peanuts (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream sugar, peanut butter, shortening, eggs, vanilla thoroughly.

Add the blended flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Stir in chocolate chips and peanuts.

Spread in well-greased 9x13-inch pan.

Bake at 350˚for 30-35 minutes.

Cut into bars while still warm. Cool in pan.

Or, you can wait a while and eat them while they are still warm. Scoop some vanilla ice cream on top and you have a fancy dessert that your kids will love.

Yield...3 dozen bars.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies

Yesterday (yes, while I was waiting for the bread dough to rise) H and I made Oatmeal Cookies.

He had seen a little girl make them on Sesame Street and was just desperate to make them.

I normally do not possess the patience to embark on such an endeavor. I was able to cook with my adorable, delightful niece, Miss A. She was so good at such an early age. We made cookies for her father (this recipe, in fact, adapted for diabetics). However, trying to bake with my own son required me to summon up all the patience I currently possess. Meaning, not much.

I did better than I thought I would. The cookies got mixed, scooped and baked. All in all, he mostly enjoyed playing in the flour mixture and then playing in the sink.

This recipe is from the cook book that came with my Grandma Hilda's mixer, the infamous "Beater Book." The cookbook you can't keep house without. Do you have one? If so, what is it?

Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups quick oatmeal

Cream together sugar and shortening. Add eggs, one at a time. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk, ending with the flour mixture. Fold in the oatmeal at the very end and make sure the dough is well-blended.

At this point, depending on where you stand on the raw egg debate, go ahead (or don't) and eat a nice dollop of dough. You know you want to and it is sooooooo good.

Scoop onto cookies sheets. Place about 2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Simple, better than store-bought, kid-friendly, makes your house smell great. What more can you ask for from a cookie?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

VertigoB Bread

VertigoB Bread Recipe
3 packets of yeast
1 quart potato water (save the water from cooking potatoes)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 dry skim milk
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp. salt (I use kosher)
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup oil
3 eggs
5 lbs. flour (16-18 cups including 4-5 cups of whole wheat flour)

Here are the little beauties all ready for the oven.

Get yourself a really big bowl. This is a huge amount of bread dough, so you will need it.

Wisk together the yeast, potato water (it should not be hot, room temperature is just fine), sugar, milk, salt, and oil. Add the eggs one at a time. From this point on, it is all about adding flour. I usually add the whole wheat flour first and then add the white flour. Mix it as long as you can in a mixer and then turn the dough onto a floured surface (preferably a board).

I mix my bread in a contraption like this. We rock it old school around here. No fancy bread electric bread makers around this ranch. That is just how we roll here in So Cal. Cranking that bread dough, kneading it by hand, I am here to tell you, is a REAL work out. You will be sweating when you are done, but lucky you, you will have some yummy bread to replace the calories you just burned off!

You have kneaded enough and added enough flour, when you stick your finger into the dough and it no longer sticks to you when you pull it back out.

Wash out the bowl you mixed the dough in, spray it with non-stick spray. Put the dough inside, turn it once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and towel. Make sure it is not in any drafts and let it rise until doubled.

If you are like me, it will "get away from you" and be pushing the cover off the bowl.

Punch the dough down completely. Get four bread pans ready, grease them up. Then cut the dough into four equal portions. I usually weigh them to make sure they are the same size. I am terrible at estimating (too much like math and I am REALLY bad at math), so I want to make sure they are equal.

Roll each portion out into a 9 x 12 rectangle, making sure all the bubbles are out. Roll dough toward you, jellyroll fashion, beginning with the upper edge. Seal the dough with the heel of your hand after each roll of the dough. Be sure to seal the final seam on the bottom of the loaf.

Seal the ends of each loaf by pressing firmly with the side of your hand to make a thin, sealed strip.

Fold the sealed ends of the loaf under. Be careful not to tear the dough. Place each loaf into a greased loaf pan ( 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan).

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a towel again and let it rise until doubled in size. Again, I have a very bad habit (in the grand tradition of my Grandma Doty) of letting the dough "get away from me." It ends up making these big, beautiful loaves of bread.

Be very careful removing the plastic wrap from the loaves once they have risen. I have fallen victim to rushing to get the plastic off too quickly and deflating the dough. Heartbreaking. There is nothing more pathetic than bread dough that deflates. I am getting sad just thinking about it!

Here are the beauties right out of the oven.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.

Turn the oven temperature back to 375 and bake until brown on the bottom (about 20 minutes, but keep a close eye on them.) My ovens are pretty hot, so I only bake them about 12 minutes on 375.

You can check on them by knocking on the bottom. It should sound hard, not like it is still soft and raw.

Sit down and breathe in the intoxicating perfume of baking bread. It has no equal. It might make you feel giddy and a little lightheaded, but don't worry, it isn't permanent.

Now, once the bread has cooled off a little, slice some of it. Make yourself some toast, pour some coffee and enjoy, really really enjoy the fruits of your labor.

This bread recipe is a family heirloom. My great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and now me, have all made this recipe for years.

My great-grandmother made all the bread her family ate. She wore a hole in her cutting board, that is how much bread she made.

After I quit my job, I was feeling super domestic (and a little lost and a little pregnant) and starting making bread again. Mr. Smith (my brand new husband at the time) dubbed it "B Bread." So, for the purposes of this blog, it is now VertigoB Bread. Whatever you choose to call it, it is damn good bread. There is also something very therapeutic about making bread. It has helped me make through more than a few rough patches.

It is also so rewarding to have these lovely things gracing my counter.

Email me if you have questions about this auntbaaa [at] gmail [dot]com. Even if you don't have questions, I would love to hear from anyone that tries this recipe. Drop me a line and let me know how it turned out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Artichoke Dip with Zip

I originally had this dip at my brother-in-law's house. His wife made this for an appetizer for my mother-in-law's birthday celebration. I could not believe how wonderful it was! Of course I immediately had to snag the recipe!

My not-so-dear MIL's birthday is right after Christmas. She has a problem with this. In fact she hates it. She hates that her birthday is overshadowed by Christmas. To add further insult to injury, she is a twin, so she has had to share her birthday her entire life. She was 63 at that point. Luckily, that was the last birthday we would be forced to celebrate with her. Hurray!

It was H's first Christmas and we were all sick. Mr. Smith had pneumonia as did The Monkey. Like always, my mother was sick too, but kept insisting she was so glad she didn't get it. However, she kept complaining about being achy, cold, runny nose, etc. Hmmm...good thing she never caught the cold. She sooooo had the cold, but will never ever ever ever admit that she is sick.

It was one of those colds that just hangs on forever and ever. We were all sick for a month. It was so sad. There are no pictures of our son's first Christmas because we were all so miserable. We pretty much just opened gifts and went to our separate corners and licked our respective wounds.

Anyway, we were all still sick. Mr. Smith was nursing a pretty nasty fever/cough. H was still a complete mess (low-grade fever, cough, runny nose, etc.) and I was just getting over the dreaded cold.

No excuses would be accepted. This was another in a long series of command performances! So, off we went to suffer.

The ONLY saving grace was this dip and some phenomenal cupcakes (that I had dragged my sad butt up to Newport Beach to procure for the occasion). Otherwise, the evening was total bust.

It is not as greasy as some other artichoke dips I have tried. This is nice and creamy and has just enough of a kick to make it interesting.

Artichoke Dip with Zip

2 cans artichoke hearts in water

8 ozs. (1 box) cream cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 can diced jalapenos (4-6 ozs. depending on your preference)

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Chop artichokes and jalapenos in food processor. Mix all other ingredients together. Add artichoke jalapeno mixture and mix well.

Spread in an oven safe baking dish and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Serve with sourdough bread, crackers or pita chips (Stacy's parmesan are very good with this) or tortilla chips.

Pioneer Woman Strikes Again

Here is the recipe for the Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce I made for dinner last night.

I have almost completely given up on regular pasta. I am a big fan of fortified (protein, Omega 3 and whole wheat) varieties. It gives the meal a little something extra and doesn't change the taste, in my opinion. Also, it is healthier and Mr. Smith has no real objections to it.

If you can find it in your store, I would recommend Barilla Plus. They just do the best job. It is always perfect, not sticky.

This sauce was a little bit of extra work, but very worth it. I roasted the peppers right after lunch, so that I would have plenty of time to deal with the peeling, coring, etc.

Mr. Smith had some misgivings about the recipe, that is until he found out that it was from The Pioneer Woman. Suddenly, his mood changed and he announced, "Oh, anything from her is good."

And he was right.

I have never roasted peppers before, but it worked just fine. I did them on the burners (gas stove).

Everything was fine until Baby C saw me take the food processor out of the cupboard. As soon as she saw the thing, she fell apart. We are lucky enough to be in the "I am almost 11 months old and I am terrified of all things that make noise" phase. The mixer, the blender, the vacuum cleaner, the coffee maker, all make her burst into tears and sob uncontrollably. This is a real problem since I cook almost constantly.

Anyway, the peppers tasted great, the sauce was wonderful. Definitely worth the extra work. So, go roast some peppers!