Sewn Gifts for Babies

February 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

I went to a dinner the other night where, out of six of us, four were pregnant (not me!).  I have two sisters-in-law that are expecting and several friends, not at the dinner, that are pregnant, too.  So, I’ve been thinking about baby gifts, obviously.  These are two cute ideas for handmades I found at The Purl Bee, one of my favorite sites for sewing ideas (it’s great for the knitter, too).   You can find directions for the Penguin (I love this little guy!) here and instructions for the simple bibs here.  Purl Bee uses (glorious) Liberty of London fabrics on the bibs, but those are pricey, so I just used what I had.  The bibs are quick and simple, the penguin takes a bit longer, but is so fun!  I’m not even a stuffed animal person, but I loved making it.  It was a great way to use up scraps, too!

Other things I’ve been liking:

*The Marriage Plot…I really liked this book until the end when it just left you hanging. I’m still glad I read it.

*The Wonder Of Boys…I’ve realized I really don’t understand my son.  I have no idea what is going on in there.  This book is helping me understand why he does some of the things he does and how he needs different things than my girls do.  Very helpful and enlightening.

*MFK Fisher’s The Art of Eating…A collection of her essays.  Sometimes downright hilarious, the woman had some sass.

* This discussion about hair cuts (I’m thinking of going really short, so it’s been on the brain)

* This…The music, the faces, the outfits! It’s tough to stop laughing.


Fany Gerson’s Tomato Jam Turnovers

February 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Words are failing me at the moment. It’s late and it’s been a long (but good) day.  My brain feels fried, though, so I’ll be brief with what I’ve been excited about lately: Tomato Jam Turnovers.  There. I said it. Tomato jam turnovers are from Fany Gerson’s book, My Sweet Mexico (a great library loaner) and have been taking up real estate in my head for a while.  Needing all the brain space I can get (for things like remembering permission slips, helping with valentines, brushing my teeth, etc) I decided to just take action and see what they were like.  I’m so glad I did.  What a treat these are from the savory/sweet tomato jam, to the flaky, cream scented dough.  We all ate them warm out of the oven, some of us (two of my  kids and myself) loving them and others eating them happily until I told them it was tomato jam in the center (I still get the victory in getting them to taste new flavors).

I should tell you up front: this is not a quick and easy recipe.  It will take you a couple of hours even if you barrel through.  But, to me, it’s worth it to take some time to make something new and have an adventure in the kitchen.  It’s like my mini vacation from real life, but with the bonus of having, at the end of the vacation, a wonderful treat  for us to eat, in real life.  Another thing: you could make these in sessions, making the jam in the first, the dough in the second (then refrigerating) and  then rolling out and assembling in the last. Don’t let the time scare you off.  Sometimes harder (or more time-consuming) is better and I think this is one of those times.

Tomato Jam Turnovers

from Fany Gerson’s My Sweet Mexico

Jam filling

4 cups grape tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes)

1 1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 cup crema or heavy cream, plus extra for topping

egg yolk and sugar for topping

Filling: Cut clean, dry tomatoes in half and put them in a small, heavy pot with the sugar and salt.  Bring it all to a boil and then adjust the heat to keep it going at a constant simmer.  Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the bottom of the pot is visible (about 50-60 minutes).  Blend in a food processor if you like a smooth texture for the filling.  Let cool before assembling turnovers.

Dough: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a food processor, with a pastry cutter, or with your fingertips, combine the cold butter into the flour until it looks like coarse meal.  Add the cream and mix until just combined.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, with a floured rolling-pin, until 1/8 inch thick.  Using a round cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut out 4 to 5 inch circles.  Gather the scraps and re-roll until all the dough is used.

To form turnovers:  Line up circles of dough on the floured surface and place a scant tablespoon of jam in the middle of each one.  Fold the dough in half, lightly pressing on the edges to seal (or you can use the back of a fork for this step).  Cut two small slits in the tops of the turnovers.  Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the pastries are in the refrigerator, heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and whisk an egg yolk and some cream in a small bowl.  When the 30 minutes is up, brush the turnovers with the egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake until golden brown (about 35 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye out as oven temperature varies).

Let cool on a rack and serve warm or cold.


October 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

My oldest child turned ten this week. I can barely say it without a pause and a faraway look.  TEN!!!?  It sends me into a sentimental tizzy where I remember her skinny, little baby self, the kid we took all over San Francisco and beyond (Seriously. She went to cuba at 2 months old), the baby who barely cried.  How have 10 years passed and it feels like a breath?

Now, she is a FORCE on the soccer field (she used to be so scared and frail out there), she does her own laundry (I mean, I make her, but she does it pretty happily), she’s an INSATIABLE reader, and she has a pretty decent scrambled egg technique!

I think beside the fact that I marvel at what she is capable of, I find myself just liking her. As a person. I admire who she is, her gifts, her struggles, her interests and instincts.  I’m really glad I get to know her.

On the eve of her birthday I was overwhelmed with wanting to tell her how much I enjoy having her as a daughter, so I wrote her a long, sappy, mom, letter.  It was so energizing to just focus on all the good stuff I see in her (as a mother, I correct a lot). In the letter,  I told her the ways I’ve seen her grow, the things I admire in her, and what my prayers are for her.  She really seemed to like it, too:  all smiles and big hugs when she read it.  I’ve said this here before and I’ll say it again: there may be a time when she won’t like me doing this  kind of thing, so I’m reveling in it now.

As a post script, the birthday food was a mixed bag. She got her favorite dinner: shepherd’s pie (with her initials in mashed potatoes, based very loosely on this recipe).  The next day we had a small, soccer party in the yard where we had cake.  The cake was a complete fiasco: two broken hand mixers in the process, a MESS of a frosting job, and then it didn’t look anything like a soccer ball!   What can you do?  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Good to the Grain: Chocolate Chip Cookies

August 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m loving my latest library (that’s a lot of l’s) check-out.   It’s pastry chef Kim Boyce’s excellent book Good to the Grain that came out last year.  I think I first heard about this book via Orangette, but finally pursued it b/c we were headed to North Carolina for vacation, and my sister-in-law and I agreed we should try some new stuff while we were there.  I brought along Good to the Grain. (We both love to cook and we both are always looking for ways for food to be it’s best. Good, yes, but it can get annoying.  I think at some point we were trying to use up  extra peppers and when it was proposed that they go in a salad that contained bacon, I said “I’m having a hard time with that idea” or something equally obnoxious. See? A hard time? with peppers?)

Anyway, the cookies…

I was skeptical, I admit, that you could make a “real” chocolate chip cookie  with only whole wheat flour. Would it taste like it came from the health food store? Wouldn’t it be tough? Would it be bitter? Well, no.  I’m now convinced that chocolate chip cookies might be at their best with whole wheat flour. At the top of their game, the pinnacle of their career! It’s something about the nuttiness of the flour with the bold and bittersweet chocolate. Add salt, a GOOD portion of butter, extra vanilla, and dark brown sugar, and you’ve got a real deal, soft and chewy classic. I was amazed.

The things is, this isn’t the only good recipe in the book. Boyce doesn’t treat the grains she uses (what we would usually think of as “health food” grains like quinoa, teff, barley, millet, etc.) as something to be endured, just thrown into a recipe for health reasons.  She seems to have really gotten to know the flavor of each grain and paired it with other  ingredients accordingly.  It’s such a thoughtful way to cook; really evaluating flavor combinations.

I will keep this book as long as I can possibly hog it from the library, but until then I plan on continuing to make as many recipes as I can find (and afford) the flours for.  But I had to tell you about the cookies.  The cookies, oh, the cookies. They’re crazy, I’m telling you…

Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

Dry mix:

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt  (I used sea salt the first time and loved it)

Wet Mix:

8 oz (2 sticks) COLD unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces (I used salted once and it’s good)

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/2″ and 1/4 ” pieces

(note: she suggest Valrhona chocolate, but says any chocolate with a high percentage of cacao is good. That said, first time, I used Hershy’s special dark. Second, Ghirardelli big chips, still cut into pieces. Third time, a mixture of Ghirardelli and Publix mini chips.  None have been failures.)

Place your oven racks in the upper and lower third of your oven and heat it to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or you can butter them really well, if you don’t have parchment).

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl with a sifter.

With a standing mixer (or a hand mixer, using a large bowl if you don’t have one), mix the butter and sugars until blended, about 2 minutes (since the butter is cold, it takes a while to come together). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in eggs, one at a time, mixing until each on is combined.  Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix, at a low-speed, just until the flour is combined.  Scrape the sides of the bowl again.

Add the chocolate all at once and mix on low until the chocolate is evenly distributed.

Scoop mounds of dough (she says 3 tablespoons worth, but I did about two)  onto the baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between each. You will only get about 6 cookies on a sheet.

Bake cookies for 16 to 20 minutes (I was on the low-end), rotating the pan halfway through the baking for even cooking. Transfer the cookies either to the counter, still on the parchment, or to a cooling rack, and repeat with the remaining dough.

These will keep in an airtight container for 3 days (they won’t last that long…)


August 8, 2011 § 6 Comments

This week

…I’ve been enjoying this recipe over and over again. Our orange tomatoes from the garden make an even more colorful dish.  I officially need a tart pan.

…looking forward to seeing Josh Ritter (in November. Long term goals, people).  I can’t get enough of this version of “Thin Blue Flame”.

…cooking out of Kim Boyce’s book Good To the Grain.  Amazing whole wheat chocolate chip cookies! I’m going to post the recipe soon if I can get a picture of them before they are gobbled up! They’re shocking…really.

…working on making three little messenger bag/backpacks for my back to school kids. This may stretch into next week too! I need to get working…


What about you? What are you up to in the last few weeks of summer?

Strawberries, Round Two: Ice Cream

June 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been working through (oh, the suffering!) a frozen batch of strawberries we picked in April. My supply has gradually dwindled thanks to scones and countless shakes and smoothies.  One thing I swore I’d do before my supply was gone, though, was make strawberry ice cream.

I’ve been in a homemade ice cream phase ever since I’ve had David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop , checked out from the library.  It’s a great book filled with ideas for ice creams, sorbets, granitas, etc.  I’ve made blueberry frozen yogurt, watermelon sorbet, mint chocolate ice cream (for Vince’s birthday), and now the Philadelphia style strawberry ice cream.  Yes, it’s a lot.  What can I say?  Icy things sound good when it’s too hot to show your face outside past 9 am!

Strawberry Ice Cream

adapted from The Perfect Scoop

I wasn’t familiar with the Philadelphia style distinction, so I’ll explain: Philly style ice cream is made with cream only, as opposed to the french style which uses a custard (eggs and cream) base.  One you just mix together ingredients before churning, one you cook before chilling and churning.  One is super easy, one takes a little more work. Both styles are, as you may suspect, delicious.

1 pound  fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (or frozen, in my case)
¾ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vodka or kirsch (this keeps it soft)
1 cup  sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the strawberries and toss them into a bowl with the sugar and alcohol . Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature for about an hour.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the macerated strawberries and their liquid with the remaining ingredients. Don’t go all the way on the puree.  You want a few chunks of strawberry in your ice cream.

Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream will be quite soft when you remove it from the ice cream maker (sooo good), but it will firm up in the freezer.

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