Saturday, November 27, 2010


The November 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Simona of bricola. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers' to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi's Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

This was one of the easier and tastier DB Challenges I've done so far. The pasta frolla was not difficult at all and I chose to fill it with a vanilla creme patisserie that I had made before. The result was a beautiful golden crostata which tasted pretty much like a traditional custard pie. The biggest difference (which my Dad pointed out) was that a custard pie is usually a little soggy and sometimes has standing water on top of it. The crostata was firm and spongey with all of the eggy, vanilly goodness and none of the excess moisture.

It was definitely worthy to grace my Thanksgiving dessert table.

To find the recipes and see what other Daring Baker's did with their crostatas go to

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I made Buttermilk Sour Cream Cake Doughnuts and Bomboloni (a filled yeast doughnut). The cake doughnuts were super easy to make and were delicious warm. The next day they were a little tough but the kids still liked them.

The Bomboloni were a total bust. I simply couldn't get them done on the inside without burning them to a crisp on the outside. They puffed up beautifully and had a lovely airy texture perfect for filling but the outsides were as black as coal. Very unappetizing. So, I gave up and threw them all in the trash.

Better luck next time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September Daring Baker's Challenge

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

This challenge didn't do much for me. I don't find decorating sugar cookies to be all that exciting. It's actually a little tedious. I also didn't find the recipe to be anything unique or difficult so that wasn't very inspirational either. In short...I didn't do this challenge...or re-do as I should say.

I just found a sugar cookie and icing recipes that I love and I used them to make these cookies for the kids' birthdays in July. I'm going to count that as my contribution to the Daring Baker's for this month. They can sue me if they don't like it.
If you want to see what kind of crazily creative designs the other (more responsible) members of the group did you can go here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The First Day of School 2010*

Well, Kinley has started pre-school. I can't believe my baby is 4 years old already. Next year she'll be in school full-time. It just doesn't seem possible.
My boys never went to preschool because I was home with them full time and there just really wasn't any need to send them. But now I'm working part-time and looking for a full-time job so Kinley was going to have to be in some sort of daycare anyway, so we went ahead and sent her to preschool at our church.
She is so excited!! She loves it!! On the first day she barely stopped to wave good-bye to me before she scampered in. It is so fun to watch her enjoy it so much.
Meanwhile Ryker is in his final year of Elementary School (5th grade) and Cainan is in 2nd. They are both having good years so far. I'm really thankful for the great schools we have here in Bond County.

*Disclaimer: These pictures were actually taken on the 7th day of school. I was busy the first 6. :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

MMMMMMM....Brown Butter

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I've been following Elissa's blog for a year or so now and she is one of the most impressive teenagers you'll ever meet. Her writing, her work ethic, her photography and her baking are all way beyond her years. She just headed across the country for college so I'm sure the posts will be even more touching and entertaining...not to mention full of delicious recipes.
I chose to make the Ice Cream Petit Fours because I've made Baked Alaska before and I wanted to try something new. I was very happy with the way they turned out and I especially loved the Brown Butter Pound Cake. I chose to fill my petit fours with coffee flavored ice cream. Yum! Yum!
This was a very simple challenge but I really like it because it introduced me to a new flavor: brown butter. Of course I've browned butter before...usually accidently, but I didn't realize how much flavor it can add to a recipe. It really gave the pound cake a nutty, caramelly flavor that was really, really delicious.

If you'd like to try making Ice Cream Petit Fours with Brown Butter Pound cake you can find the recipe on the Daring Baker's website.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holy Swiss Roll Batman!

Thanks to my friend Steph for the title of this post. Of course it refers to the Daring Baker's July Challenge, Swiss Roll Ice Cream Cake. The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

I've never tried to roll any kind of cake before so this was all new to me. I made a chocolate cake, rolled a vanilla whipped cream filling in to the middle of it, sliced it, lined a bowl with the slices, then filled the bowl with layers of vanilla ice cream, fudge sauce and chocolate ice cream.

Voila! A bomb! (Term for a round, frozen ice cream and cake layered dessert.)
Please excuse the pitiful photography. It really was a delicious dessert but I didn't have time to set up beautiful shots of it....because ice cream melts, very quickly in 100 degree heat!

If you'd like to try making one of these babies on your own (which I highly recommend) you can find the recipes and directions here. Happy Baking!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Four Years and Counting

Four years ago today Kinley was born...after 17 minutes of labor, without a doctor present, in a hospital with no air conditioning...and we couldn't have been happier. Since then it's been one smile after another as we watch our sweet baby girl learn and grow. It's hard to believe that she is already four years old and getting ready to go to preschool.

This year we had two birthday parties again, and she shared both of those with her brother (and one with her cousin). For her portion of the party I decided to do a Hello Kitty theme. Little did I know that while Hello Kitty is popular in clothing design and stationary sets it is not popular in the cake and cookie world. I couldn't find a HK cookie cutter anywhere...not even to order online. We don't eat much cake around here so I usually try to avoid birthday cakes and do some other kind of treat instead. I finally saw an idea online for how to piece together a HK cake and decided to do that.
It was simple to make two round cakes (two layers each), cutting one in half to make two semi-circles and cutting the other on in to strips, one to go between the semi-circles to form an oval and the other two to be cut into triangles for the ears. I covered the whole thing with a crumb coat of thin buttercream icing.

I then decided to try making marshmallow fondant for the first time ever. It was super easy and looked great. I just mixed one large jar of marshmallow creme with 2 pounds of powdered sugar...and then kneaded it until it was dry enough to roll out and cover the cake. I colored portions of it for the eyes, nose, bow and whiskers and added those at the end. It turned out cuter than I even imagined.

There was no way I wanted to have two half eaten cakes laying around my house so I was determined to make cookies for the second party. I finally cut out a picture of HK from an activity book and traced around it over and over again on the cookie dough. It worked well and I decorated the cookies with the same icing I used for Cainan's Star Wars cookies.

Overall we had two great parties with yummy treats and lots of presents. Happy Birthday Kinley!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Seven Years and Counting

Happy Birthday to my sweet baby boy! Seven years ago today I was trying to politely keep my eyes open (with little success) as people came to visit you. I was slightly exhausted from the events of the prior evening.

I went in for a routine appointment and (as with all 3 of my kids) he told me to stay and be induced because I was ready and he didn't have much going on. Well, all that changed about 6 pm when he got stuck in a difficult and high risk caesarean and called to tell the nurses to stop my labor until he could get there. So they shut off all the drugs (except the epidural, thank goodness) and we sat there for 5 hours until Dr. Houck could finish up the surgery, go home and eat supper and come back for the 20 minutes it took to deliver you.

Needless to say by the time it was all over with and I was snuggled down in my bed for the night it was close to 3 am. So those 8 am visitors had to deal with a very sleepy mommy. Somehow I don't think they cared.

So happy birthday to my boy who still wants to snuggle in bed with me and sit on my lap during prayer time. To the Star Wars fan and SpongeBob watcher. To the baseball player and shoe straightener. To the instigator and the helper. We love you!

Now...the party!!

By now you should all know that we rarely do the traditional birthday cake. This year I decided to to cookies. Mainly because I found some that were so cute I just couldn't resist making them.
While cruising around on my favorite cookie decorators blog I found these adorable cookie cutters. I had to have them. So I zipped over to Williams Sonoma and ordered them on the spot. They are the best cookie cutters ever! They cut out the cookie, emboss it with the lines for decorating and push it out of the mold all in one simple push of the button. Not to mention the fact that they are perfect for my family of Star Wars enthusiasts.

For the Darth Vader cookies I made Bridget's chocolate cookies and used this recipe for the black decorator icing. For the Storm Troopers I used Bridget's favorite sugar cookie recipe, the decorator icing again and my own icing recipe to cover the bulk of the cookie.
My Favorite Sugar Cookie Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

Mix it all up. It will be runny. Just dip the cookie in, let the excess drip off and lay flat to dry. It will dry hard. It needs to dry completely before adding the decorator icing on top or you may get some bleeding of the colors (like I did on the storm troopers).
Of course there were lots of presents, some Slip-n-Slide action, a couple of baseball games and time with family to enjoy too. Overall it was another great year celebrated with two fun birthday parties.
Happy Birthday Cainan, we love you!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daring Baker's June Challenge

The June 2010 Daring Bakers' challene was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

The challenge consisted of making chocolate meringues, chocolate mascarpone mousse and a mascarpone/creme anglais cream for drizzling over the top. The final result was VERY tasty but not very visually appealing.

It almost looks like a cheeseburger without the top bun.....or something worse. This is one of those desserts you have to judge with your taste buds and not your eyes. I was supposed to use a piping bag and pipe out perfect meringues and mousse but I chose to just dollop it on....hence the 'pile of poo' look.

However, despite it's somewhat revolting appearance these chocolate pavlovas are super rich and delicious. I could barely eat a whole one. I used very dark, bitter chocolate but the marscarpone cream on top helps to tame the chocolate with a sweet, very vanilla-y flavor.

The recipe was easy and fun and if I ever make it again I think I will follow the directions and use my piping bag. You can go here for the directions on how to make your very own Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Good Luck?

Well, Jon Acuff has done it again. He cracked me up this time with his blog about Chrisitans that say "Good Luck" and then feel guilty about it. Here is what Jon said:

“Good luck with the 10K this weekend!” Well, I mean, I don’t personally believe in luck, but you might. I believe that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. But how am I supposed to say that to you, my colleague from work, in the break room?

“I hope God works all things for the good of those who love him this weekend at your 10K race!” That’s a mouthful, but seriously, I probably shouldn’t be saying “good luck.” Some Christians don’t even say “Pot Lucks.” They call them “Pot Blessings” which kind of sounds like the headline from an issue of the marijuana magazine “High Times” but I’m only digging myself into a deeper hole of awkwardness at this point.

Would it be weird if I told you “Have a blessed 10K?” Does that make me sound like I’m the kind of person that would throw holy water on you during the race or hand you communion wine at one of those drink stands along the course instead of Gatorade? And do I have to over pronounce the “ed” at the end of that word like some people do? Do I say “blessed” like I would say “messed” or do I need to pronounce it “bless-ed.” I always feel like some random guy named Ed is getting hooked up when people do that.

This is getting so complicated. From here on out, I’m dropping luck, I’m dropping
bless-ed and am just going to say “Yay running!” and throw both hands into the air with spirit fingers. Wait, are spirit fingers related to the Holy Spirit or are those bad too? Ohhh, slippery slope, slippery slope indeed. I’ll go with jazz hands then, definitely jazz hands.

While funny in itself some of his commenters were equally hilarious. One guy suggested "Godspeed" as an appropriate encouragement for a race and several others agreed with him. I happen to like the suggestions that this guy made:

a simple "have a good race tomorrow!" might work well too.

other options could be:"ill pray that the lactic acid production is supernaturally
suspended... speaking of suspension, did youknow that jesus was suspended on
a cross for your sins.."

or."i'll pray that your loins are girded and that you are endowed with the
endurance of Elijah... who outran a team of horses... by the way have you read
that story in the Bible?? you know God's love letter to humanity?.... ... "

or. "May you run your race like it is to be won.. and not disqualified along
the way. You know, like Paul (Jesus's super duper post-mordem-assention marketer of ancient days)...."

so many options... all of which i'm sure would be recieved with thanks and no

As entertaining as that is, it does make me think. I had dozens of people (church people) wish me good luck before my half-marathon. I say "good luck" to people and never give it a second thought. I don't believe in luck so I guess for me it's just an expression, but I guess the same argument could be made for taking God's name in vain.

I don't believe in luck but I also don't necessarily believe in praying for every little hangnail extraction and close parking space. It's not that I don't think God cares I just think that I can be a happy, positive witness for Christ whether I have to walk 100 yards to the mall entrance or 10 so what difference does it make.

What do you think? Should Christians ever utter the word 'luck'? Have you ever eaten a "Pot Blessing"? Do Christians get too hung up on semantics and miss opportunities for authentic relationships?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The May Daring Baker's Challenge

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

I was very intimidated when I first read what the challenge would be. I mean these things are huge and complicated. Besides that they just made one in a challenge on TopChef Masters. I mean if an award winning chef is making Croquembouche for a nationally televised cooking competition then it is not the PB&J of french desserts.

However, I will say that this was probalby the EASIEST challenge I have done to date. I did it all on one evening using only ingredients I already had in my house. And to top it all off it was sooooo delicious! Now granted, my piece montee wasn't extremely high, or symmetrical or even visually pleasing, but it was indeed a series of filled creme puffs stacked up and drizzled with caramel, which is exactly what a Croquembouche is.

So without further ado.........
There are three main components to this dessert. First I make the pastry cream to fill the cream puffs. I chose to make a coffee flavored filling. (And boy was it good!)

Crème Patissiere du Cafe
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla
1 T. instant coffee granules
3 T. boiling water

Dissolve coffee in water. Set aside. Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.

Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

While the creme is chilling go ahead and make the cream puff dough.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping:Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Baking:Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Filling:When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Hard Caramel Glaze:

1 cup (225 g.) sugar

½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:

You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Skiing and Sledding

I just can't help but share two more of Cainan's writing assignments. They crack me up.

This one was obviously about skiing:

"Once I was afraid to skie. I holdid on too my dads puls. He let go. I lookd at hem an then I had a wipoute. I like to skie. I learnd a lesen. Woch were I am going."

Not sure exactly what the theme of this one is. It appears to be very stream of conciousness:

"Once I was sleding and my brother was in frunt of me but I steard the sled but then I hit a tree. I was born in Elanoy greenvill. Then I was a baby I liked to choo on stuf. I loved to colr. When I grow up I want to be a artist."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Manic Monday

Friday, May 14, 2010

Illinois Half

The other big thing that recently occurred in my life that I haven't taken the time to write about is...

I completed a half marathon (13.1 miles)!!

A friend and I ran the Illinois Marathon in Champaign on May 1st. It was a beautiful, sunny day, but not too hot and the course ran through a lot of nice neighborhoods around Champaign and Urbana. We actually finished on the 50 yard line of the Illini Football Stadium!

I started training right around the middle of January for the race. I trained alone, in the snow, sleet, rain and mud for the first 10 weeks but as the weather improved my friends Linda and Chrisy started training with me. We spent our Saturday mornings running 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 mile routes around Greenville. It was such a relief to share the drudgery with others. It really made it enjoyable.

Chrisy was training for the half in Indy on May 8th so Linda and I were the only ones headed to Champaign....well, us and 14,000 other people!! Yeah, it was incredible. Once they said "Go!" it took us 9 minutes just to walk to the start line and begin our race!! (Times are determined by a GPS chip attached to each runner's shoe. The chips aren't activated until the runner crosses the start line. This makes the staggered starts fair.) It was wall to wall runners for the first mile or two and then it spaced itself out a little bit. We ran 11 minute miles for the first 3 miles and then decided we wouldn't be able to maintain that pace for 10 more miles and slowed down.

At the 3.5 mile mark Linda's knee really started bothering her. (She had been fighting an IT band problem for several weeks prior to the race.) So I stopped and stretched with her every mile through miles 4, 5, and 6. Eventually at mile 7 she had to give up running because of the pain. She decided to try to walk the rest of the race. At that point we parted ways and I took off.

My goal all along was to finish the race in under 3 hours. I was worried that I wouldn't make it, so I really kicked it in for miles 7, 8 and 9. Then at mile 10 my ankle really started to hurt. I had strained it the week prior during my 10 mile training run (well, actually during a slide down a muddy hill while trying to find the trail for my 10 mile run....long story). The last 3 miles were pretty painful. It was hard to stay motivated being all alone in a sea of runners.

I took water and Gatorade every time it was offered and I tried to stay in a good rhythm. I also grabbed a pack of GU Carbohydrate Gel at one aid station but I chickened out of actually eating it. It was espresso flavor and just didn't sound that appetizing at that point. The one thing that probably helped me the most was the little Dixie cup of M & Ms that a church was handing out along the way. It really gave me a little boost that I needed.

It also helped to see all of the people standing in their yards or driveways cheering for us and providing entertainment. There were elderly men sitting and playing the guitar, little boys playing the violin, a group of PeeWee cheerleaders doing cheers, a Jr. High aged girl playing her keyboard. There were plenty of kids handing out homemade lemonade and even one house offering fresh strawberries. At one point we had to run through a park. In one of the picnic shelters there was a rock band playing the theme from Chariots of Fire! I almost couldn't run for laughing so hard.

As I entered the stadium after 13 long miles I could hear the man on the loudspeaker say, "72 seconds left to make it under 3 hours!" At that point I just started sprinting as hard as I could across the AstroTurf (which I must say felt SO good under my feet after 13 miles of pavement). I ran under the clock just as it said 2:59. Phew! I made my goal by 1 minute. The thing I failed to remember was that the was the time from the moment the word "Go!" was shouted at the start line. My time wasn't based on that. It was based on the time I actually crossed the start line. So.....I actually made it in 2 hours and 50 minutes!!

It was a great feeling. I was frantically scanning the crowd to find Brian and the kids. I thought it would take me forever to spot them in that huge stadium. But I saw them almost immediately. They were jumping up and down and cheering. I just started crying. I couldn't believe I made it. I also couldn't believe I would have to walk up 10 flights of stairs to reach my family in the stands! My ankle was killing me and my legs were so weak I didn't think I could make it, but I did. Once I had caught my breath and hugged my family I set off to find the post race food (I was starving) and wait for Linda.

We both had a good cry when Linda made it into the stadium half and hour later. Our 15 week journey was over! The race hadn't gone exactly the way either one of us wanted it to but we made it and we are planning to redeem ourselves next year. Overall it was an awesome experience that I really enjoyed. There were times when it was painful and boring and long and tiring but mostly it was so gratifying to run further than I ever imagined I could. I don't think I'll ever run a Full Marathon but I can see myself walking one (or walking and running one) and another Half Marathon is definitely in my future.

Prior to training for this race I had never run further than 2 miles in my entire life. I started slow and finished slow but I ran the whole way. It is possible. When you get right down to it it really is mostly mental. The body is amazingly able to do much more than the mind imagines. I'm so glad I didn't let the thought of 13 miles stop me from running those first 3 or 4.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Swap

Ever since Ryker started school *gasp* 5 years ago I have participated in a swap with someone. A kid swap. I watch their child/children and they watch mine. For free.

Over the years it has taken on different forms. Sometimes it has been set up where I have the other child one day a week and the other mom takes my child on a different day that week. Sometimes it was just two hours once a week. Sometimes it was two kids but only every other week. It just depended on who I was swapping with and what my needs were at the time.

I initially did it so that I could go in to Ryker's class and help out (code for: find out what really goes on in the classroom since his response to every question about what he did at school was "I don't know"). It has sometimes also been a chance for me to get grocery shopping done or go to doctor's appointments as well.

This year I swap Kinley out with one of her little friends, Melia. They are 6 months apart in age(and 6 inches in height) and our families have been friends for over 10 years. They love playing together and I get the chance to volunteer in Ryker's 4th grade class and Cainan's 1st grade class almost every week. If you have kids in school and kids at home I highly recommend finding a swapping partner. After all, if you don't you'll miss out on experiences like this:

Today Melia was with us but I just couldn't put off my trip to Aldi, so we all loaded up and went together. Not the best grocery shopping experience I've ever had, but definitely not the worst. On the car ride on the way home I overheard this conversation:

Kinley: Grandma gave me these sandals.
Melia: Your grandma or my grandma?
Kinley: My grandma.
Melia: What shape is she?
Kinley: (without missing a beat) She's a rectangle with arms and legs and a hectagon for a head.
Melia: Oh.

And then they were on to the next topic. On the one hand, I was desperately hoping that I would get to hear what shape Melia's grandma was, but on the other hand I was a little scared they would start talking about what shape their mother's were, so overall I think it was a good place for the conversation to end.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pasta and Pie

I know I was completely MIA from the blog world last week. I'll try to make up for it this week. I've had so much going on recently that I need to catch you all up on.

The first big event was a visit from my sister and her girls. They drove up from Florida for a 3 week tour of Illinois and Missouri. They stopped at my Mom's house first and then came up here on Sunday afternoon. We had a nice visit, except for the fact that the two big girls were suffering from the stomach flu the entire time they were here! Both of them took turns rushing to the bathroom with diarrhea and vomiting.

Kinley (center) sharing a hug with her cousins, Gracie (left) and Claire (right)

Luckily between bouts of sickness they felt completely fine and enjoyed playing with the boys. It wasn't one of those illnesses where you just want to lay on the couch all day, thankfully. So even though we were dealing with two sick girls and a busy, busy one year old we managed to do what we always do when we are together....cook.

Yep, we tried two new recipes that I've been saving for a while and both were a great success. First we made Italian Pasta Bake (from Memoirs of a Munchkin Mommy). This is a great layered pasta dish chocked full of vegetables that only Cainan spotted and removed; healthier than lasagna but with a very similar taste. Then we tried Strawberry Banana Cream Pie (from Joy the Baker). This is a great dish to make to use those fresh strawberries. It has a crispy almost sugar cookie tasting crust, a creamy vanilla custard and slices of bananas and strawberries layered in a pie. Both recipes were easy to make and really delicious. I hope you enjoy them.

Italian Pasta Bake

-PAM Original No-stick Cooking Spray
- 2 cups dry rotini pasta, uncooked (I used whole grain)
- 8 oz Italian turkey sausage links, casings removed (If you don't want as much heat just use regular turkey sausage instead)
- 1 med yellow onion, chopped
- 1 med zucchini, quartered lengthwise, sliced
- 1 pkg (8oz each) sliced mushrooms
- ½ cup shredded carrot
- 1 can (28 oz each) Hunt's Crushed Tomatoes
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook sausage in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking apart with spoon to crumble.

Add onion, zucchini, mushrooms, and carrot. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables are crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and pepper flakes; heat 2 minutes or until bubbling. Add pasta to tomato mixture; stir until pasta is well coated.

Spoon half of a mixture into baking dish. Top with half of the cheese. Repeat layers once more.

Bake 15 minutes or until hot.

Strawberry Banana Cream Pie

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 ripe bananas, sliced10 fresh strawberries, sliced


1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tart crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoons (9 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold or frozen, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk

To make the tart crust:Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor fit the the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of cold butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. There will be pieces of butter that are the size of oatmeal flakes and butter the size of peas. Beat the egg yolk with a fork and add a little of the egg yolk at a time to the flour mixture. Pulse for 10 seconds at a time. When the egg is in, process in longer pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that may have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and the sides of the pan. Press the crust so that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the frozen crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust is puffed, gently press it down with your fingers.Bake the uncovered crust for 8 to 10 more minutes on the baking sheet. Keep an eye on the crust. It will brown quickly.Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.
To make the filling:Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan. In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt until well blended and thick. Whisking without stopping, drizzle about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, warming the eggs so they don’t cook and curdle. Still whisking, slowly add the rest of the hot milk in a steady steam.

Place the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (make sure to get the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, still whisking for one minute before removing from the pan from the heat. Mixture will be thick and silky. Be warned, once the mixture starts to boil, it will thicken very quickly. Don’t be afraid to remove the pan from the flame to whisk it smooth.
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let stand for 5 minutes then whisk in the butter, stirring until fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. Transfer custard to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic touches the surface of the custard and refrigerate until cold throughout. Custard can be refrigerated up to three days.

When ready to assemble the pie, slice bananas and strawberries into thin, round slices.Whisk the cold custard to loosen. Add a handful of banana slices. Stir.Arrange a thin layer of banana slices on the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange a thin layer of strawberries atop the bananas. Reserve some strawberries for topping the pie. Top with banana custard. Smooth out a refrigerate while you make the whipped cream.

For the topping:With a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat heave cream until it just starts to thicken. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, spoon whipped cream onto banana cream pie filling. Top with sliced strawberries.

Serve pie immediately or refrigerate for several hours before serving. This pie is best served the day it is made, but also isn’t too shabby the next day for a breakfast treat.

This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table.

P.S. Despite all the germs floating around my house for 3 days none of us has gotten sick. I've always known we had good immune systems but I didn't think we'd survive this one. :)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Manic Monday

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The One About the Roller Coaster

Another installment of "Writing Assignments by Cainan"

I would like to try to ride a roller coaster. It would be big. I would go upside down. At the end I would be dizy. Now I am not afrade to ride a rollercoaster.

by Cainan Grove

P.S. I would feel sik.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Healthy Banana Berry Muffins

Once you taste these moist, sweet, delicious breakfast muffins you'll never believe that they are ultra healthy! They have no refined sugars, almost no fat, and they are packed full of fiber and omega 3s. If you are on the Weight Watchers system you'll be happy to know that these muffins are only 1 pt. each! These muffins were a hit with the ladies in my Bible Study and my kids too.

Healthy Banana Berry Muffins

1¼ cups all-purpose flour*
½ cup oat bran
¼ tsp. salt
2½ tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ large bananas
1 egg white
¼ cup honey
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
½ cup orange juice
¾ cup fresh blueberries
¾ cup fresh raspberries

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375˚ F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oat bran, salt, milk powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir together with a fork; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mash together the banana and egg white until the mixture is well blended and slightly frothy. Stir in the honey, butter and orange juice, and mix to blend.

Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Gently fold in the fresh berries with a spatula until evenly incorporated.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Annie's Eats, adapted from Cooking On the Side

*The white flour is the most unhealthy ingredient in these muffins. Next time I may try using whole wheat flour instead. I think they have enough moisture to handle it.

This post linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I Am Reading, Really

I am woefully behind in reviewing the books I've read recently. I really have been reading this year, I just haven't taken the time to blog about any of them. So I updated my book reviews today. You can go here to see my reviews of:

Under Orders by Dick Francis

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

The Shack by William Young

Theodore Roosevelt: Wilderness Warrior by Daniel Brinkley

The Camel Club by David Baldacci

As always you can find my 2010 Reading List and book reviews on my sidebar at the right. I'll try to do a better job of updating it on a regular basis. I am currently reading The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, the book on which the Nicholas Cage movie "Adaptation" was based. I'll let you know how it is as soon as I'm finished.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I Love My Dad by Cainan

"I love my Dad all the way to Earth. I love my Dad as wide as the oshinse. I love my Dad as tale as space. I love my Dad frum Earth to Mishugen."

By Cainan April 8, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Manic Monday

Friday, April 16, 2010

My Little Pony and Other Evils

I've started following a blog called What Christians Like. This is the description of the blog from the site itself:

Started on March 21, 2008 as a reaction to the wildly popular blog Stuff White People Like which was created by Christian Lander, Stuff Christians Like is a blog about the funny things we Christians do. And what they just might reveal about our faith.

The site is written by Jonathan Acuff, a preacher’s kid/copywriter who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two kids. Zondervan is publishing the Stuff Christians Like book in April 2010 but you can pre-order it on right now, right here.

Jon has many hilarious insights into Christianity and asks thought provoking questions about how we are really living out our faith. Some of his posts are:

#750: Thinking the church is not wisely spending your tithe.

#704: Fearing your prayer request isn't big enough.

#645: The guy who refuses to scoot to the end of the pew.

Today's post was actually by a guest, Lyndsay Rush. And it is entitled:

#751: Having your life edited by your parents.

(I’ve never met Lyndsay Rush, but I have to confess I am a big fan of her motto, “No cheese left behind.” As a fan of queso, that is a motto I can get on board with. I can also get on board with her tale of having her life edited by her parents, something I’ve said my in-laws were pros at. I hope you dig it. I did.)

I’d like to start this post with a simple, three question test. Please answer honestly.

1. Have you ever been forced to walk out of a movie because your mom thought there were hints of sorcery?

2. Have you ever called your parents from a sleepover to ask permission to play “Girl Talk”?

3. Have you ever listened to Psalty the Singing Songbook on your walkman?

If you answered yes to any of the 3 questions, congratulations, you have had your life edited by your parents. And unfortunately, my childhood is the perfect example of that.

Whether our parents were scolding us for saying that something “sucked,” forcing us to spend copious amounts of time serving Meals on Wheels or telling us to “write a play” or “climb a tree” when we asked to watch TV, not a stone remained unturned when it came to ensuring our lifestyle lined up with biblical standards. (How exactly My Little Pony conflicted with the Bible, I am still not sure).

When it came to all things media-related, our parents tended to go bat-shucks crazy (note my use of parentally approved slang). Television, music and movies were seen as the #1 threat to our holy castle. I recall distinctly our family rule of parent-screenings for any show we wanted to watch. In a ceremony that rivaled that of the presidential inauguration, Mom and Dad would take their seats in front of the television at the appropriate time, turn to the appropriate channel, and take notes while we looked on in dismay, our heads ping-ponging back and forth between Blossom/90201/My So Called Life/The Smurfs/Dinosaurs/Dawson’s Creek and our parent’s beady eyes as they took in every detail and noted its varying levels of inappropriateness. For those of you keeping score at home we lost out on all of the above. It didn’t help that the night of our 90210 screening Donna lost her virginity or that when we screened Dinosaurs, Mom talked for weeks about how disrespectful those dinosaur kids were to their dinosaur parents.

Nary a movie, song or TV show was safe in the Rush household. ‘Twas a dangerous place to be if you were Pee Wee Herman, “Grease” or any secular music not found on the Oldies or Lite radio station.

Our reaction usually started out with obedience–reluctant obedience, yes–but obedience nonetheless. Sure there was your typical “This is SO unfair!” followed promptly by a “You guys are the WORST” and a slamming of a bedroom door. But when we were younger, we didn’t really see the fruits of putting up a fight so we just went with it. Later in life, to our parent’s dismay, there were accidental moments of rebellion. For instance, when I was 11 I yelled “Holy Testicle Tuesday!” at a family BBQ because our dubbed version of “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” didn’t bleep out the word ‘testicle’. (It took me another 6 years thereafter to discover that ‘testicle’ was not, in fact a curse word.) A few years later, we got investigated by AOL because I had inadvertently created a screen name that was slang for an illegal street drug. Finally, as we became teenagers, we entered into the full-blown, “oh no you didn’t”, straight up, dirty-south rebellion years. At this point in my life I was fed up with the strong arm of the Old Testament law constantly hammering down on my life so I responded like any good Christian girl would: by dancing.

That’s right, I danced. My friends and I would go to 16 + dance clubs in downtown Minneapolis under the rouse that we were bowling. Yes, I realize this is the worst cover we could have come up with, but it worked. We would stuff our purses with a change of clothes–black pants and sparkle-y tube tops–and change in the car. When my dad found out what was really going on I don’t know what he was more upset with, the fact that I had been lying or the fact that I wasn’t actually interested in bowling.

I believe this provides a brief but potent glimpse into a parentally-edited, culturally-censored, Biblically-biased childhood. You know what they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or as my Christian parents would say, ‘what doesn’t kill your flesh (without affecting your soul, which will dwell in eternity in heaven with Jesus), makes you more like Sampson’.

(For more great stuff from Lyndsay, check out her site,

I loved this post because some of it was a commentary of my own life, but, I was waiting for the conclusion. I wanted to say, "So?" Was all the editing good or bad? Are you permanently scarred or happy that you weren't exposed to premarital sex and violent video games when you were 7 years old? Many of the comments after the post answer those questions and you can read them here. Some former "editors" even commented. Did you know there are people who were never allowed to watch Sesame Street because of The Count? Wow!

Personally, looking back I think some of the editing my parents did was pretty ridiculous and some of it was necessary. I didn't need to be going to R rated movies (especially back then when R meant lots of horrible language and plenty of sexual content) or watching 90210 (not that I ever remember wanting to anyway). On the other hand getting in trouble for humming the tune to a beer commercial does seem a little overboard. Even though others in our church and family disagreed with it we were allowed to play card games and swim in our pool (but not the public pool) with the opposite sex. We watched Smurfs and He-Man (I know, shocker) and all kinds of other shows about magic, etc, like The Wizard of Oz and I can't see that it hurt any of us at all. As a matter of fact the things we didn't watch/listen to/participate in didn't hurt us any either.

I don't feel like I missed out on any of the great pop-culture of my day. So what if the only concert I've ever been to was The Beach Boys (in 1995) and I have no idea "Who shot J.R."? I never got to wear short shorts or tank tops either, but I think I still have an ok sense of fashion. At least I did get to go to Prom...mostly because I wore a humongous hoop skirted dress (everybody did, I wasn't that lame) that wouldn't allow the boys within a 3 foot radius of me and we did not have any "popular" music. We had a live orchestra that played big band music. Post prom had the vulgar dancing and rock music. Yeah, I didn't get to go to Post Prom. Having a 10:30 curfew as a senior in high school was frustrating, but once again, I'm no worse off for it.

I never felt the need to rebel from these exacting standards. Granted, my parents weren't the My Little Pony nazis that some people I knew were, but they still seemed to arbitrarily decided what was inappropriate (like Petra) without ever investigating it themselves. Through it all I understood that my parents loved me and wanted to protect me. I never thought they were out to get me and spoil all of my fun, but I did resent the fact that they didn't trust me.

So, what about you? What kind of restrictions did you have growing up? Did you resent them? Do you find that they have affected your adult life for the better or worse? How much do you edit your kids?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Everybody Loves Hugo

LOST April 14 Episode...........

For some reason I can't blog about LOST anymore. I think I've come to a point with the show where it just isn't worth it to speculate anymore. I just want to sit and watch and wait for the explanations to fall into my lap...which I know they won't. I don't have the brainpower left after birthing three children to deal with sideways realities and demons and angels and dead people and dynamite logically anymore (if I ever could).

I still enjoy reading what other, more intelligent and witty, people have to say about each episode though. Here are a couple of great quotes from one of the best LOST recappers on the blog circuit, Rocks in My Dryer:

" is most likely to experience awareness of the sideways reality if one is a) a junkie, a la Charlie, b) near death, a la Desmond, or c) stark raving nuts, a la Libby. This leads me to wonder if some of our other Losties are far too rational and sane (a la Jack) to ever be made aware of the concurrent reality...."


"Also notable in this episode was the appearance of the strange boy in the woods. In a colossal lack of curiosity which is epidemic among characters in this show, Desmond doesn't follow him, despite my shouted instructions to the contrary. For the record, I predict that this strange boy is a grown-up Aaron, a hunch I base entirely on the fact that the actor seems to look like Claire, and perhaps this is by design. (Any other good guesses out there?)"

"Colossal lack of curiosity which is epidemic among characters in this show": NO KIDDING! Maybe they are like me. The just can't care anymore about who every ghost is or where Richard is leading them or who the smoke monster really is/was or why Jack continues to part his hair on the side like a kid out of the 1950s?

I think that may be why Desmond is so blase about everything now. He knows (from flashing forward, back and sideways through various versions of his life) that no matter what he will end up with Penny, the only outcome he ultimately cares about.

Anyway, as always I'm excited to watch each episode and read the theories they produce, but I just can't seem to come up with any of them myself.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whole Wheat Apple Walnut Bread

As soon as I found this recipe over at Joy the Baker I had to find an excuse to make it. Lucky for me, I hosted my book club last night, which gave me the perfect opportunity to make this delicious bread but not eat the entire loaf myself.

The bread is super moist and sweet with just a little crunch. It has lots of healthy Omega-3s in it from both flax seed and walnuts. It does still contain some butter and brown sugar, but it's now the fatty bread I've ever made...not by a long shot.

Without further ado, Whole Wheat Apple Walnut Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous pinch freshly ground nutmeg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated apples
1/2 cup coarsely chopped apples
1 tablespoon flax seeds
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, divided
cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5x3-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the grated apples, chopped apples flax seeds and half of the chopped walnuts. Fold to incorporate thoroughly.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and top with granulated sugar, cinnamon and the rest of the walnuts.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then invert onto a cooling rack to cool before wrapping.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Manic Monday

Friday, April 9, 2010


This is my 601st post! Can you believe it?

Today I give you two pictures or springtime in Illinois.

I have great memories of climbing around in my grandma's magnolia tree all year long, (and sword fighting with the seed pods from the catalpa tree next to it) but I especially loved it in the spring when it was blooming. No one lives at my grandparent's house anymore but I still had to drive by this weekend and see the tree. It didn't disappoint.

Grandma's Magnolia Tree
Since I've always loved this tree I thought I should plant my own. I did....two years ago. The great thing about magnolia trees is they bloom even before they become mature trees. A little stick of a tree will still get a beautiful flower on it.

My Magnolia Tree
Yeah, not too impressive, but check back in 50 years and it'll look just like Grandma's....I hope. And just to prove that I can grow something beautiful....
OK, who are we kidding? We all know it's all Brian, right? I have nothing to do with anything growing in our yard, I confess.

Wish I could disown the horrible photography too, but alas it's all mine. :(