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Archive for the ‘desserts’ Category

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We have had so much fun celebrating you as you turned FOUR!

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Not surprisingly, you awoke early with anticipation and excitement on your birthday morning and were surprised to see a pile of presents awaiting you on the table! Just as a sign of you getting bigger, we have you your first snowboard for your birthday! I’m so excited to watch you snowboard this winter with Dada! After opening the gifts, we celebrated with sprinkle pancakes and blew out your first birthday candle.

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I was lucky enough to have the day of your birthday off of work, so I had a special lunch with you at school and then we shared your birth story and pictures of your life with your friends at circle. You got to walk around the circle with a globe while friends said “The earth moves around the sun…12 months…52 weeks…365 days. That makes one whole year.” It was quite wonderful to see how much enthusiasm your friends had in celebrating you! On your birthday night, we went to one of your favorite restaurants for dinner, Phinney Market, and you chose creme brûlée for our special dessert.

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Then, we had a birthday party! You invited 9 friends to our house to watch Monsters Inc. and to eat pizza and cups of dirt. It made my heart happy watching you have such a fun time!

Oh, little man…where to begin? You are FOUR! Such a big boy now. Yet, in so many ways, your personality has stayed true to its younger self. You are quite opinionated and extremely passionate about your wants and needs. You never have trouble telling us when you don’t agree with what’s happening by saying (emphatically), “that’s NOT a good idea!” And, sometimes, during these emphatically passionate moments, you hurt my feelings and I have to take a million deep breaths and remember that in a few minutes you will be giving me your sweet kisses and rubbing my face in that way that only you do.

You love watching movies and looking at pictures of movie characters on our iPads. Our new bedtime routine involves watching two short movie clips or looking at pictures and then snuggling you and rubbing your back. You like to say, “come cuddle me,” which melts my heart.

You continue to love stories and I think you might be just as good as mama and daddy at telling them. You pace (or run) back and forth across the floor talking just as fast as your mouth will allow you to, letting your imagination run wild.

Some of the great things you say:
Do you want to see how high I can jump?

Did I like to do that when I was a little baby?

Just one more. No, mama, just one. Please, just one. You’re not listening to me!

For real life.

Hunting is bad, right? They kill animals, so hunters are bad guys.

What the heck?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Poppins Mary (for Mary Poppins)

Can we go look for some jewels?

I wish I could go in the sewer.

Oh, lord Jesus, there’s a fiare. (fire)

When we have a baby, I will give her a bath and feed her in the middle of the night. And, when she grows up to be a big girl, I’ll help coach her baseball team with you and Daddy.

Mama, I have to tell you something. (Then a shared whisper)

Regaly (regularly)

Chempicals (chemicals)

Let’s hide from Dada.

I’m continuing the tradition I started last year by asking you this set of questions on your birthday…it was surprising to see the similarities in some of the answers one year later!

1. What is your favorite color? Green
2. What is your favorite toy? Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc.
3. What is your favorite fruit? Apples
4. What is your favorite thing to watch on TV? Beauty and the Beast and Monsters Inc.
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Salami
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? Mike (Monsters Inc) clothes (He has this on his wish list for Christmas)
7. What is your favorite game? Puzzles
8. What is your favorite snack? Cherries
9. What is your favorite animal? Giraffes
10. What is your favorite song? Beauty and the Beast soundtrack
11. What is your favorite book? Lorax
12. Who is your best friend? Preston and Hanna
13. What is your favorite cereal? Gorilla Munch
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play on the playground
15. What is your favorite drink? Apple cider
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Dinosaurs
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Oranges
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Superman!

Past year’s birthday posts…look at how Jack has changed!
one!
two! and more two!
three! more three!

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I got a phone call last Friday…a week ago today. It was a call that I had been expecting, but not one that I wanted to answer. My sister was on the other end telling me that we had just lost our Papaw…

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As I tried to choke back my tears, sweet Jack asked, “Mama, what’s sad on the phone? Who’s hurt?” How do you talk to a toddler about death??? I did the best that I knew how to do… we spent a lot of the morning looking through Jack’s photo books at pictures of Papaw. The photos reminded me how lucky Jack was to have 5 of his great grandparents at his 1st birthday party! How lucky he was to have known Papaw…I just wish it could have been for a little longer. I wish he could have known the Papaw that I knew…the one who would spend hours in his garden, the one who would hold my hand as we walked together to gather pecans from his yard, the one who took Jessica and I out for Pizza Hut lunches, the one who always seemed so happy to talk to me on the phone.

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Last Friday was hard. I felt sad and lonely and was reminded of just how far away we live from our families. We love it out here on the West Coast, but life events such as these sure darken the joy we feel. I’m so thankful that Jack and I got to see Papaw and Mamaw in April…that we got to share those last memories when they were both well and healthy.

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Last Friday, the kitchen brought me comfort, as it tends to do. My Papaw was an excellent cake baker. His pound cakes were amazingly delicious and for years we celebrated holidays and birthdays with one flavor or another. My favorite was his chocolate pound cake with chocolate frosting. He even made it for the desert table at our wedding!

So, last week, I felt close to Papaw as I baked a Southern Caramel Cake for my boys’ birthday party. I’m pretty certain that he passed down his love of sweets and baking to me. Although, he was way more modest with his desserts that I am with my cooking…he would always preface the first bite with all the things that could have gone wrong and why it may not taste right…and he would never have found his recipes blog worthy, although I know for certain that they were!

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Southern Caramel Cake
a cake to celebrate a birthday and Papaw

Ingredients:
For the cake-
1/2 cup buttermilk , room temperature
4 large eggs , room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

For the frosting-
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

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Directions:
For the cake-

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt cake pan. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in large measuring cup. With electric mixer on low speed, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain. Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

2. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Cool completely, at least 1 hour.

For the frosting-

1. Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, about 8 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, then whisk in vanilla.

2. Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Will last on the countertop for several days.

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Blackberry Slab Pie

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Today’s goals: Find and pick blackberries without being eaten alive by the blackberry vines! Make pie during nap time.

Tonight’s dinner menu: Ravioli with Arugula and Olives, Blackberry Slab Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream, Red Wine

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Simply stated, blackberries are amazing! Their enormous vines with their scarily creepy thorns that seem to lunge for your arms and hands are less so. But, in Seattle we learn to put up with the scary vines that invade our yards and strangle our trees so we can indulge a few weeks every summer on the delicious little delicate berries.

We’ve been driving around the neighborhood seeking out blackberries a few days out of the last few weeks and when we pick enough, I’ve made this yummy little rustic slab pie as our reward. The pie crust is sugar-sparkled and pinched around the heap of fresh, gorgeous blackberries that are piled in its center. It’s quite delicious and very easy to assemble and bake during nap time. Topped with a generous scoop of French Vanilla ice cream, it makes a perfect dessert!

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Blackberry Slab Pie
minimally adapted from babble.com
Ingredients:
3-4 cups blackberries
Pie crust (I buy them at Trader Joe’s where they are sold in the freezer section and come in a circle wrapped in wax paper.)
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg white
1/8 – 1/4 cup of sugar, depends on how sparkly/sugary you like it

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Directions:
Wash the berries and let dry in a strainer. Place the round of pie dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Heap the berries into a mound right in the center of the pie dough. Carefully fold the edges of the pie dough around the berries, overlapping and pinching it together to keep the edges in place. It will resemble a King Cake shape for those of you familiar with the Mardi Gras dessert.

Melt the butter and drizzle half of it over the berries. Whisk the egg white into the remaining butter. With a basting brush, spread the butter/egg white mixture all over the edges of the pie crust, then sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in an oven preheated to 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with giant scoops of vanilla ice cream.

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Today’s goals: Make Popsicles before lunch so they will be ready to eat for tonight’s dessert.

Tonight’s menu: Panzanella Salad, White Wine, Berry Banana Buttermilk Popsicles

I used to make Popsicles quite frequently, experimenting with more exotic flavor combinations like basil infused strawberry or chili spiced chocolate. David and I used to enjoy them after dinner, sitting on our small Atlanta patio, drink in one hand, Popsicle in the other. Once Jack came along, for some odd reason my Popsicle making came to a halt…I’m uncertain why that is. But, after seeing him enjoy our recent homemade Popsicles, you can be sure they will be a staple in our freezer! How can I resist that face?! I’m already thinking of some Fall Inspired flavors that will make a nice little frozen post-nap or after dinner treat and, I will be sure to share them here with you.

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Berry Banana Buttermilk Popsicles

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Low-Fat Buttermilk
1 Banana
1 1/2 cups Frozen Mixed Berries
1/4 cup Maple Syrup

Directions:
Puree 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk, 1 banana, 1 1/2 cups frozen berries, and 1/4 cup maple syrup in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into Popsicle molds and freeze. Makes 10 pops (only about 75 calories each).

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* This post was prematurely published on Sunday without the photos or edits! So, I’m publishing it a second time with photos attached.

Most people don’t know that the Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. It rivals Christmas, believe it or not! I love the idea of families having the day off together, spending time in their yards, the smells wafting through the air from grilled foods, wearing shorts and tank tops, splashing in water, the color of fireworks…

We had a splendid Fourth of July this year! We spent the morning at Greenlake with a run around the lake, a Starbucks breakfast picnic, and then playground time. We planted new vegetable seeds in the garden box and in the planters by our front door, we mowed the lawn, and the boys took long naps while I enjoyed a cold beer and a fresh summer salad on the deck. We headed back to Greenlake in the evening so Jack could try out his new balance bike which is an enormous hit! And, he even got to play in the wading pool, splashing about in his red and white stripes.

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We grilled a late dinner and then hopped on our bikes and in our bike trailer to go catch the fireworks over Lake Union. It was a perfect holiday. And, it made me extra excited that summer is now here- so excited for more picnics, bike rides, walks and runs, and grilling on the deck! Oh, what a fun time of the year!

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* Despite the poor quality of the last two photos, I had to post them in order to show you just how sweet and affectionate my little man is to his mama! Waiting for the fireworks to start, I was showered with hundreds of kisses from a curly haired, sleepy, pajama- clad boy!

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Totally Sweet: 101 of America’s Most Crazy Awesome New Desserts from Grub Street New York…

Among my top favorites (And, yes, I did look through all 101 of them because food stuff is what I live for…and, who doesn’t love day dreaming about amazing deserts??! You should indulge in the slide show too…I highly recommend):

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The Hawaiian Pie from A la Mode Pies, conveniently located in Seattle directly across the street from the zoo! A trip here is being added to our March itinerary!

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S’mores Milkshakes…”shot glasses containing graham-cracker ice cream milkshake, chocolate marshmallows, and miniature open-face s’more”…oh my!

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Squash Bread Pudding…it had me at “cinnamon ice cream and bits of bacon brittle”…

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‘World Peace’ Peanut-Muscovado Milk and Milk-Chocolate-Sesame Crunch…yum!

*all photos from Grub Street New York

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Brownies

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Brownies may seem like a rather mundane dessert. Often appearing at church picnics and bake sales, being whipped up mindlessly right out of the Duncan Hines box. But you see, I have a soft spot for brownies. And, that said spot, well it’s not what I would describe as tiny. It’s a rather large spot that could continue to be filled and filled…I honestly believe that I could eat the whole pan! I think it must be similar to that space in children’s tummies that never seems to be full when there’s mention of desert despite protests of being “too full” to finish their dinner.

I used to think that I could say I love brownies in a very general sense and be right. But, I guess since I’m all grown-up now, I know that not all brownies are created equal. In fact, some brownies don’t really do it for me. They are either:
too sweet preventing me from shamelessly taking seconds (or thirds!) (I like to eat brownieS, not one brownie, so too sweet doesn’t work.)

lacking a crispy crust on the top (I don’t want crunchy but a crispy, flaky texture, almost like a perfect southern biscuit.)

not soft enough in the inside (Not really cake-like, but nearly. I DO NOT like fudge-like brownies.)

So, when someone mentions that they have the recipe for the “perfect brownie”, I am instantly intrigued.

David made these for us and some friends a few weekends ago. For any sane person, I think they would call the brownie good, gobble it up with their vanilla ice cream and be finished thinking about it before it was digested. As I confess my love of brownies to you, I’m sure it’s apparent that I’m not such a sane person when brownies is the topic being discussed and well, I know this brownie wasn’t perfect. In all honesty, I don’t even think it was that good.

But, again, I’m not a fair judge. David liked them and so did our friends. They turn out looking lovely with perfect crispy tops, but they taste too fudge-like and way too sweet for my brownie tastes (I only ate one!).

This leaves me searching for MY perfect brownie recipe…do you have one you’d like to share? I would really love to try it, so please share. I will be kind, promise.

In the meantime, make these and tell me what you think…

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1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 390 degrees (no, it’s not a typo).
Melt butter in a pot on the stove.
Remove butter from heat, let cool about a minute, then add sugars (just use the pot as your bowl = less to clean-up!). Mix well.
Add eggs, flour, cocoa, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.
Line 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper (again, less to clean-up!), pour in batter, and bake for 20-25 minutes (until a tester is clean when you check the center of the dish).
Cool one hour before serving. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

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Last week, we had a REAL snow day…Jack and I home from school and work watching the snow flakes gently fall from the sky for hours upon hours piling up as they hit the ground and the plants and the deck to make everything a true winter white.

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We made the most of our day…rising, a bit begrudgingly on mama’s part, before six and setting out with no plans except to keep warm and enjoy ourselves. Our freedom led us to Jack’s “play room” to read books and to play with blocks and cars. Next, we climbed up the stairs to our office/music/art/workout room that I will now begin referring to as our “studio” in the interest of saving time and we did some major redecorating. I’ve been wanting to rearrange the space for some time now, never really feeling like it invited us in and beckoned us to be creative in it’s original layout, and, so, on our snow day, we jumped right in pulling furniture from one wall to another and finding the perfect design. I’m quite happy with what we’ve done with the space, which reminds me that I need to start sharing our home with you. Way back when, I promised photos of the rooms in our new home. I guess I’ve been stalling because all the rooms only felt partially complete. I’m excited to report that with a few finishing touches, the studio will be complete soon and I’m already working on a post to show you Jack’s “play room”.

After our redecorating project, we bundled up in our coats, mittens, gloves, hats, sweaters, and rain boots and took a mid-morning snowy walk. It always amazes me how quiet and peaceful the world becomes when the snow is falling. Jack found it fun to lay on the snowy sidewalks waving his arms all around him until snow found it’s way into his coat, making him cold and wet and ready to return to the indoors to drink hot chocolate.

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Settling back indoors, we ventured into the room that always calls to us in the most familiar of ways, the kitchen (another room I’m ready to share on here…I will start putting these posts together). I longed to bake, to warm our house with the heat from the oven and to fill it with the smell of winter spices. Standing in a kitchen void of butter, the staple to most baking adventures, I remembered reading about a butter-less cake on the lovely and always inspiring Roost blog. I scoured my pantry finding items that might work well together and before I knew it, Jack and I were cracking eggs, measuring oat flour, and stirring the wet ingredients into the dry. We adapted ideas from several recipes and used the items we had on hand to create good-for-you mini cakes that taste of winter.

Alone, they are not too sweet, which is exactly why the tops make a perfect addition to your breakfast, lunch, or snack. With a touch of vanilla bean creme fraiche, the mini cakes are a divine end to a snowy day’s dinner.

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MINI CINNAMON HONEY CAKES

3 cups oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a different bowl, pour into dry, mixing to incorporate. Set aside.

SPECKLED VANILLA HONEY

1/2 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod discarded

Mix the vanilla seeds with the honey until incorporated.

VANILLA BEAN CREME FRAICHE

1 cup creme fraiche
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod discarded

Mix the vanilla seeds into the creme fraiche until incorporated.

To Assemble:

Pour 1 teaspoon of vanilla honey into 9 wells of a greased muffin pan. I used a 12-well pan but only filled 9.

Spoon batter over the speckled honey, filling each well to the top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow mini cakes to cool slightly in muffin pan.

In order to show off the gooey honey saturated cake bottoms, I took a knife and trimmed off the cake tops so to create a flatter surface for the cake to rest on. Like I mentioned earlier, the cake alone is not too sweet, so the trimmed tops make a perfect addition to your lunch or snack, so definitely save them!

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To plate, flip cakes over to the honey side. Place a spot of vanilla bean creme fraiche next to the mini cake on a plate. Drizzle both with some leftover vanilla honey.

Cheers to snow days! But, admittedly, I’m happy they are gone for now…Pretty, but quite inconvenient as the whole of Seattle seems to shut down!

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So, I’m sure most of you are sick of the summer’s heat and craving the crispness of a fall morning…well, until that time comes, try these super easy, yet delectable bite-size frozen treats. Who doesn’t like the banana + peanut butter + chocolate combo, right? Hopefully, they will make the temperatures a little more bearable.

Ingredients
3 firm bananas (not too ripe)
1 bag Peanut Butter Candy Melts
1-2 tsp shortening
2/3 cup Chocolate Chips
Instructions
Line a few plates with parchment paper. Cut 3 pretty firm (not too ripe) bananas into 1-inch bites and set aside.
Warm 1 cup peanut butter (I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure another nut butter would be great too, like almond or cashew) in a small saucepan over low heat until melty. Add 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips to the peanut butter and stir until melted and well combined.
Dip bananas in the peanut butter-chocolate mixture and place on lined plate.
Place in freezer for several hours. If you don’t eat them all at one time!, then they can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for a few weeks. I bet you will be surprised at how much these taste like ice cream bon-bons! I think they even look like them…

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An aside:
I got about 24 bites out of 3 bananas. If they are frozen solid, you will want to let them sit out for about 5 minutes before trying to bite into one…they get really hard!

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