Friday, April 30, 2010

Take the Barbie, Eat the Penne

Okay, but before we talk about Spicy Sausage Penne, I really feel like another issue needs to be addressed.

Today I took Grand Master H on a little outing. We had two missions. The first was to procure a birthday present for Famous Baby C. The second, and of course the real reason H was willing to go with me at all, to acquire yet another age inappropriate Lego thingy for His Lordship.

Like some amateur mom, I let Mr. I-AM-FOUR-NOW-I-CAN-DO-IT-MYSELF choose the gift he wanted to give her. After we established our budget (Barbie's absurd "Dream House" was out of the question) he made his choice. He chose this doll. Go ahead, check it out. I will give you a moment to be properly horrified.

When I was five, my heart's desire was a Barbie. I thought that I might actually die if I didn't get one. My mother had issues with giving her young impressionable daughter something so overtly sexual and, let's face it, stacked.

My mother was not of the Barbie generation. Her younger sisters had the original Barbie (the collector's item that I abused later on in my life, but that is another post entirely) that came with a wardrobe of wigs that would make Rachel Welch and Zsa Zsa Gabor drool. Barbie looked like a creepy cross-dresser with molded black eyelashes and too much indigo eye shadow not to appear trashy.

Instead of getting me a vampy sexpot, my mother opted for Barbie's largely androgynous younger sister, Skipper.

I hated Skipper. Skipper had dorky clothes, the bod of a 13 year old boy and no prospects in the getting laid department. I mean, for Pete's sake, she was a little kid. I was a little kid. There was no fantasy here AT ALL!!

Don't you just hate her? Yup, Malibu Skipper just doesn't do it. What kind of wild, drunken beach orgies would Skipper be involved in? I felt that Skipper needed to be tarted up a bit.

Turns out her tawny flesh was the perfect medium to receive ballpoint pen ink. Yup, way back in the 1970s I was rocking the Tattoo Barbie (okay stinking Skipper, but in my feverish little brain she was a Barbie, dammit). Skipper wasn't sporting some colorful Tramp Stamp, she was wearing that scary blue tattoo ink that you see on crusty old merchant marines that smell like cigarettes, booze and a splash of urine.

But I digress.

Mr. Smith was completely horrified that H would choose Mermaid Barbie with "body art" and pink strips of hair. I half expected him to ask where Barbie's Dream Double Wide Trailer was parked.

So, our little girl will have an age-inappropriate role model with a frightening Pamela Anderson bustline, "body art", and some pink weave. It could be worse, right? She will NEVER have a Lindsay Lohan with a gun-in-her-mouth doll. I don't care how much she begs!

Wait, does this mean my darling little boy is going to bring some inked-up busty stripper home at some point?

Okay, back to important dinner items.

Spicy Sausage Penne

1 (8 oz) package spicy Italian sausage (Trader Joe's might actually set you on fire, but you can certainly opt for sweet sausage instead of spicy)
1 box of penne pasta (I used fortified) cooked according to package instructions.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
crushed red pepper, to taste

1 can diced tomatoes (since I only had a small can, I used that, but we usually use a 28 oz. can)
1 jar roasted red peppers (I added these because I was not in possession of more tomatoes, but it tasted great!)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup fresh basil, minced

Broil sausage until thoroughly browned. Remove from oven and slice sausage. Return to broiler for a few more minutes after slicing it. Keep a close eye on it. At one point when I opened the oven, there were scary jets of grease shooting out of the links at the element. Ewww.

Saute garlic in olive oil, then add crushed red pepper.

Pulse tomatoes and peppers in food processor a few times and add mixture to oil mixture. Add sugar and salt. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Adapted from Cooking Light, April 2010
Add sausage and basil to sauce. Toss with warm penne and serve with grated parmesan.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Triple (Minus One) Cinnamon Scones

King Arthur got me again with their emails. I am like a yellow chubby little sitting duck and they just fill my butt with buckshot because I am so slow-moving and easy to hit. This is just getting ridiculous!

This is the recipe in the original form.

Naturally, I could not leave well enough alone. You know, because I never do. Also, my back hurt, and I had PMS and my children were acting like total lunatics and Mr. Smith was working late, so I skipped the cinnamon filling. So sue me. I actually thought the cinnamon filling would push the cinnamon ratio too far over the top, so I decided to leave it out.

I love me some cinnamon, but too much of a good thing is still just too much.

Now, let's talk about scones.

I have never really been a fan of scones. They are arid too dry and not sweet enough for me. Also, I inherited my mother's ability to burn them beyond all recognition and render them inedible. Our oven is insanely hot, so this can happen very, very easily. In the blink of an eye, I have charcoal briquettes on my hands. Very frustrating.

True confession, sort of: I may or may not have eaten three of these for dinner. Look, I was left alone. There was so much going on and well, I was weak.

I would imagine these would be lovely with some orange zest glaze and some mini chocolate chips. Oh brother, here I go again!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mr. Smith and the Puddin' Donuts: A tragedy

As you may already know, Mr. Smith is a lover of chocolate. He is especially fond of chocolate breakfast items (Devil's Food Cake Doughnuts, Chocolate Croissants, Chocolate Cheerios, etc.)

The first time we traveled to the East (as in coast, not the Middle East or anything) he became a frequent flier at a certain Dunkin' Donuts in the great (and now snowy) state of Maryland.

Now it needs to be said that we do not have Dunkin' Donuts in our part of the world. Southern California is too snotty and pretentious for such things. Nope, we have Krispy Kreme*, and Winchell's and the like, but nothing quite the same.

Mr. Smith discovered the culinary innovation of a Chocolate Pudding-filled doughnut. These are heavily dusted with confectioner's sugar, so it masquerades as a jelly doughnut, but in the end, much tastier because it delivers the delectable treat of chocolate pudding for breakfast. What more could a chocoholic ask for in a doughnut, right?

Mr. Smith waxed poetic about these donuts for months. He tried to figure out ways to get me to agree to move (for at least several months each year) closer to the source of these donuts. Knowing what special hell winter can be in the Eastern states, I declined.

He persisted in his quest for said donuts. He even chased the dragon while we were in the mythical land of Waverly, New York, but there were none to be had. Total heartbreak.

At one point, Mema (my aunt and surrogate grandmother to our children due to the untimely firing of my mother-in-law from the position of grandmother), had discovered an alternate source in her neck of the woods. She even was working on a plan that involved Fed Ex-ing (is that a verb now?) a dozen of these sweet concoctions right to our doorstep.

Before the mission could be completed, however, Dunkin' Donuts saw fit to discontinue these particular doughnuts. Perhaps because the main consumer of this item lived on the West Coast? You tell me.

Each trip Mr. Smith has hilarious misadventures while finding and procuring these objects of his love. He requests them from the non-English-speaking personnel of the local Dunkin' Donuts, but they choose to fill his orange box with a mixture of pudding and jelly doughnuts instead. Joke is on the American.

Alas, it appears that Mr. Smith was not meant to be with his little powdered loves. Instead he is destined to savor the memory of their brief romance. Better to have loved and lost than never to have had the doughnuts in the first place, or something like that.

Pioneer Woman posted a recipe for Raised Doughnuts. Her recipe was for simple glazed doughnuts, poetic in its simplicity. It occurred to me that I might be able to MAKE the doughnuts that Mr. Smith has been longing for all these months.

After a brief pow wow, it was agreed that he would prefer the doughnuts filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with chocolate glaze. (More about Mr. Smith's culinary leanings in another post.)

For the frosted glaze, against my better judgment, I turned to my nemesis, Alton Brown. Mr. Smith and Grand Master H are extremely fond of his doughnut-themed episode. I won't be nasty about this, but if memory serves, it involved a puppet. I have a problem with any cooking show that involved puppetry. I am sorry, but Julia Child is probably rolling over in her watery (Neptune Society Member) grave every time he whips out a sock puppet!

 These are a real time investment and require some planning. You need to make room for a big bowl in your fridge (that is difficult around here). Also, the dough is made a day ahead and cooked the following day, in hot oil. Try not to freak out about this as much as I do. The source of my fear is my mother (terrified of hot oil) and The Churro Incident of the early '80s. A girl living in Western Pennsylvania has NO business trying to make churros. None at all. Hence the burns on my neck from the ill-conceived attempt to do just that! I'm just saying!

 A satisfied customer

Anyway, the results were mediocre (as far as the demanding Mr. Smith was concerned). The pudding (Trader Joe's Chocolate Pudding) was too rich. I will have to go back to the drawing board on that one. Grand Master H liked them. He pretty much just eats the glaze and leaves the doughnut, so he was happy with the results.

The evidence

So, if you have a few days to kill and you aren't deathly afraid of frying stuff, here is all the info:


1-⅛ cup Whole Milk, Warm
¼ cups Sugar
2-¼ teaspoons (one Package) Instant Or Active Dry Yeast
2 whole Large Eggs, Beaten
1-¼ stick Unsalted Butter, melted
4 cups All-purpose Flour
¼ teaspoons Salt
Canola Oil

3 cups Powdered Sugar
½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoons Vanilla
½ cups Cold Water Or Milk
Preparation Instructions
To Make the Dough:

1. Make sure milk is nice and warm, but not overly hot.
2. Add sugar to milk. Stir to dissolve.
3. Add yeast into a small bowl.
4. Pour milk/sugar mixture over yeast. Stir gently, then let sit for 10 minutes.
5. Melt butter in separate bowl until butter is almost melted. Stir to finish melting so butter won’t be overly hot.
6. Add beaten eggs to melted butter, stirring constantly to make sure the butter’s not too hot for the eggs.
7. Add the egg/butter mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.
8. With the mixer on 3 or medium-low speed, pour in the yeast mixture.
9. Allow the dough hook to stir this mixture for a couple of minutes, making sure it’s thoroughly combined.
10. With the mixer still going, add helpings of the flour mixture in 1/4 to 1/2 cup increments until all the flour is gone.
11. Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl, then turn the mixer on the same speed for five whole minutes.
12. After five minutes, stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl.
13. Turn on the mixer for 30 seconds.
14. Turn off the mixer and allow the dough to sit in the bowl undisturbed for 10 minutes.
15. After 10 minutes, transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Toss the dough to coat, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place straight in the fridge.
16. Refrigerate dough for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

To Make the Doughnuts:

1. Remove bowl from fridge and turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.
2. Roll out to 1/4 to 1/3-inch thickness.
3. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut as many rounds as you can, then roll out remaining dough and cut as much as you can, etc.
4. Cut holes out of each round using a 1 1/2-inch cutter.
5. Place both doughnuts and holes on a floured baking sheet.
6. Cover with large tea towel and place in a warm place in your kitchen; my kitchen is very drafty, so I have to briefly warm the griddle, then turn it off and set the sheets on top to keep warm.
7. Allow doughnuts to rise undisturbed for at least 1 hour; 1 hour 15 minutes if necessary. Doughuts should be visibly puffier and appear to be airy.

 Doughnuts rising under nifty heat lamps

To Fry the Doughnuts

1. Heat plenty of canola oil in a large pot until the temperature reaches 375 to 380 degrees—do not let it get hotter than 380 degrees! 375 is ideal; keep the thermometer in the pan to continually monitor.
2. One to two at a time, gently grab doughnuts and ease them into the hot oil. Allow them to cook 1 minute on each side; they will brown very quickly.
3. Remove doughnuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, allowing all oil to drip off.
4. Place doughnut immediately on several layers of paper towels. Count to five, then flip it over onto a clean part of the paper towels. Count to five, then flip it over again; the purpose, obviously, is to drain as much grease as possible before it soaks into the doughnut.
5. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and holes. The holes will cook more quickly than the doughnuts; about 30 seconds per side.
6. Allow doughnuts to slightly cool.

To Glaze

1. Mix all glaze ingredients in a bowl until completely smooth.
2. One by one, dip doughnuts into the glaze until halfway submerged. (Note: completely submerge doughnut holes, then remove with slotted spoon.)
4. Remove from glaze, then turn right side up on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet (to catch dripping glaze.)
5. Serve warm if possible, or room temperature.

If you are partial to chocolate glaze, you can use Alton Brown's recipe for Chocolate Glaze. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone if you don't.

In the meantime, we will still have to travel to acquire doughnuts for Mr. Smith. Pray for us all!

*BTW, did anyone know that THIS was going on at Krispy Kreme? Mr. Smith just ran out the front door!

Post edit: S'mores doughnut was good, but the other new flavors? Krispy Kreme fail!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Soft Pretzel Lust

 Shaping the pretzels

I never cease to be amazed at the endless varieties of bread-type items you can get when you combine flour, yeast, water, salt and some type of shortening. Depending on how you vary those simple ingredients, you can get so many types of breads, rolls and other yeast doughs, it is still dazzling to me.

Yes, my cookie sheets are THAT disgusting! Sorry, they get lots of work around here.

The magic of yeast is just so wonderful to me. I love starting with what looks like nothing to get excited about, and then wham, you have bread dough. The best part, you look like a total rock star when the stuff actually looks and tastes GREAT. Huge bonus!

I have a long-standing love affair with soft pretzels. My mother used to buy us these frozen ones and make them for us on occasion. They are good, but can get horrible freezer burn and can taste a little flat.

I have been making my own for awhile now and the results are nothing less than earth shattering. They are so much tastier than any pretzel you can buy (frozen, fresh or anything in between). They are lighter and have a satisfying crispness on the bottom. You don't need any exotic, special ingredients, so you can make them when you are having a craving.

The results

Ready for their close-up

The only bit of fussiness is the poaching, but believe me, the results are sooooo worth it!

Mr. Smith prefers to consume his pretzels with Trader Joe's Whole Grain Dijon Mustard. I am more of a traditionalist, plain old French's Yellow Mustard suits me just fine.

As soon as you taste it, you are instantly transported to the last baseball game you attended, the mall, the New York street corner...any spot where you would normally have a soft pretzel. The coarse crunchy salt. The tangy bite of the mustard. The crisp, golden brown outside and the soft lovely inside. Perfection.

These embody my childhood in a way very few foods really can.

The secret to perfect soft pretzels

Today we may try using them for sandwich rolls. I am unnaturally excited about this! I will let you know how it works out.

This recipe came to me from Martha Stewart via Smitten Kitchen.

Soft Pretzels
Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt
Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip.  Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Last First Date

Today is the anniversary of the last first date I will ever go on, forever and ever. Amen.

The week after I called Mr. Smith was one of the longest weeks of my life. I felt nauseated the entire seven days. I could not sleep. I could not think straight. I was exhausted and sick. I was losing weight (awesome!), but felt like hell (not as awesome!).

From the moment we hung up on that Friday evening until after close of business the following Friday, there was absolutely no mention of our conversation or our imminent date. I had almost decided that it was a dream or a joke. A very very sad April Fool's Joke...on me!

As 5:30 pm got closer, I got more and more panicked. People were making their exits, saying goodbye, wishing each other good weekends. Silence from Mr. Smith. Deafening, scary, silence. Who would be the first to say something? Would anyone say anything? Was this some dating game? I SUCK at dating games!

The last person to leave was Sweet Sarah, the receptionist. That would leave Mr. Smith and myself. I said goodnight to Sweet Sarah and waited. I was pretending to work while trying not to puke into my garbage can.

Suddenly, I got an instant message.

"Want to go get a drink?"

My heart started racing. I can only imagine what my blood pressure might have been.


We drove in our respective cars to The National Sports Bar. It was close and low-key and there was little chance of us running into pesky co-workers. We didn't park together and I got out of my car first. When Mr. Smith got out of his car, he was on the phone. As he walked toward me, he mouthed, "Mr. Boss."

Yikes, he was on the phone with our loathsome boss. Our meddlesome, intrusive, self-absorbed, childish boss. I stayed quiet so Mr. Boss would be none the wiser.

If this went further than one date, there was no way in hell Mr. Boss and his horrible wife, Mrs. Boss could ever know about it. I would never give The Couple Most Likely to Bring Inappropriate Gifts for Employees Back from the Porn Show access to my personal life.

It was a warm Spring night. We chose an outside table. We ordered drinks and dinner. I ordered a Chicken Caesar Salad and had to practically choke it down. See the recipe below for a better alternative to the usual chicken marinade.

We talked for hours. I don't remember a single thing we talked about.

I remember that it was easy. I remember my nervousness ebbing away. I didn't feel that jittery, first date frenzy that I usually felt. I felt more comfortable with Mr. Smith than I ever have with anyone. I knew I could tell him anything and he would get it.

I knew he got me.

He got me in a way that no one has ever gotten me in my entire life.

It was getting late and it was time to head home. He walked me to my car. Neither one of us wanted to leave, so we kept talking, trying to say goodbye.

And then...he leaned over and kissed me.

I don't remember too much after that kiss. Oh, that kiss. That is one of the greatest kisses EVER. You know the scene in The Princess Bride. The grandfather talks about the greatest kisses of all time? Add that one to the list. Seriously.

I vaguely remember getting in my car. I am not completely sure that I said goodnight. I am not sure I said anything. I just know I was in my car and I was pulling out of the parking lot and I had no idea where I was going. I was headed home, but I had no clue where that was or how to get there.

I got on the freeway going North and I needed to be heading South. I got back off the freeway and eventually made my way back to the on-ramp. Again, I got on going North. I got back off the freeway yet again, got lost for about 15 minutes, and eventually found my way back to the freeway. Once again, I got on going North. Once again, I got off the freeway and got lost in a business park for another 15 minutes.

By this time, Mr. Smith was on the phone and was insisting that he should come and get me. Naturally, I refused and just kept getting lost over and over again, making a complete ass of myself.

At long last, after a total of about 45 minutes, I got on the freeway going South and was able to negotiate my way home from that point.

The moment he kissed me, I knew. I knew we would be together for the rest of our lives. I knew we would get married, and have children, and be unbelievably happy together. From that moment on, all the rest of it, everything else, became background noise.

I was a cynical person. I had become bitter and sure that I would never find the man that I was looking for. I had closed myself off to avoid being hurt ever again. I was determined not to be hurt by a man every again.

For some reason, I and I will never be sure why, I found the courage to open myself up to this man.

By giving up my cynicism, and allowing this to happen, I have been rewarded with a love that completely obliterates all the hurt and pain. It has erased any trace of loneliness. This love that is so much bigger and more powerful than any bad relationship has made my life something I never thought it could be.

Every single day I get to wake up with my darling Mr. Smith. I feel luckier than a lottery winner. I am happier than a kid on Christmas morning.

Every day I get to see these little faces.

Now I get to be a wife and a mother. I get to experience all the joy and wonder that comes with being cherished by a man and my children.

I have finally found The Big Love...a gift that will never stop giving.

Papa Doty with Famous Baby C
September 13, 2008

On an unrelated note, my beloved Papa Doty would have been 90 years old today. I still miss and think of him every day. He gave the best bear hugs and I making sure to teach that to my children. When I said goodbye to him the last time, he was chuckling at me and my crazy life. I cried that night because I knew that would be the last time I would see him. But, I will carry that chuckle and the image of him holding my baby daughter, in my heart for the rest of my life.

The Best Chicken Marinade

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. thyme (fresh or dry, use what you have)
4 cloves minced garlic

Add ingredients to large ziploc bag.  Squish it around to mix the marinade. Add chicken. I usually put the bag in a glass bowl, just to be safe. I let the meat marinate for several hours.

When you are ready to cook it, just arrange the chicken on the broiler pan, pour the marinade over it. I bake it at 375° for about 40 minutes (time may vary depending on thickness of chicken).

I serve this with Mixed Baby Greens and some shredded parmesan. Add some Balsamic Dressing and you have yourself a dinner.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another April Fool

Five years ago, today, as a matter of fact, I made a phone call that changed my life. I am not being dramatic. It is one of those moments, that we are usually unaware of when they are happening. When you look back, you realize how huge that one decision turned out to be and how cavalierly you decided what you would do.

It took me three tries to make the call. I dialed the number, hung up. Dialed the number again, hung up again. Debated with myself, argued even. And then decided not to make the call after a deep discussion with my sleeping dog.

Finally, I just sucked it up and dialed and let the person answer the phone. I was shaking and extremely nervous.

When he answered the phone, I had to work hard to resist the urge to hang up. This was something I swore I would never do, but here I was doing it. Here I was calling a man. A man that technically worked for me, on April Fool's Day. A man that I was entirely smitten with and held my fate in his hands. If this went horribly wrong, I could lose my job.

I was about to make a complete and utter April Fool of MYSELF.

"Are we flirting or am I psychotic?"

Yup, I know. I really know how to appeal to a man. That is the story of how this whole thing started. That is the story that we will have to tell our children and grandchildren. Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it? Hence my spinster status before Mr. Smith took my call. I am a real prize.

I never was particularly good at dating. I never really bought into the whole "game" aspect of it. I just figured if I liked a guy and he liked me, we would just see where it went. Not so in the dating world. You have to pretend you don't like the guy you really like, and like you don't care that he didn't call when in reality you have been waiting for him to call and checking your answering machine like a crazy woman several time each minute.

Mr. Smith was trying desperately to flirt with me and let me know that he was interested in me. I am such a moron (he told me later that I am clueless enough to be an honorary guy) that I didn't get it. I figured there was no way that he would be interested in me. The poor man.

A week later we went on our first date. The moment he kissed me the first time, I knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with this man. The sweet, goldish/brown-eyed, patient man.

We got married in July. It was truly a whirlwind romance in every way. First date to married in less than four months. Total lunacy. If someone else told me they were doing that I would have recommended they be committed to a mental institution.

We have crammed an insane amount of living and stress into the last five years. There have been outside forces bent on destroying what we have. They have all failed and it makes me very happy and proud to be able to say that after everything that has happened.

We have fended off threatened lawsuits (from Mr. Boss, the worst employer EVER!), started a business, had two babies in three years, survived a lawsuit from my delightful mother-in-law, and any number of other good and bad things. But that is life and I would not trade any of it, not if that meant living the rest of my life without Mr. Smith, Grand Master H and Famous Baby C.

Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman's recipe

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 cup oats
1 can (14 ozs.) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.

Add oats and flour to butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine.

Press half of crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 11-inch pan.

Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread onto the bottom layer of crumb mixture. Top with the other half of crumb mixture, but don't press.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow pan to sit on counter for 30 minutes after baking. Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.

Serve cool.

Make sure to buy ingredients for two pans of these. The first pan will be gone before you realize what happened and will make it necessary to make a second pan.