Monday, February 20, 2012

Love in a loaf pan

Today, being a holiday, Jeremy and I were both at home. Jeremy took Jack to Chicago's Chinatown for an adventure (dim sum at Triple Crown, a very child-friendly restaurant), while I took Jossie to her first-ever class, a music class at Bubbles Academy. I was pleasantly surprised to see we had the same teacher Jack and I had four years ago.  My baby girl was so serious - she quietly watched the other crawlers, their parents and the teacher strumming her guitar. She even sighed at one point. When one little boy got too close, I assured his mother that Jossie would be fine - she has a big brother at home, after all. And...then Jossie dissolved into tears.

But eventually, she got into it, especially when they blasted recorded music from the speakers. She literally shook her diapered booty as she crawled across the carpeted room toward the kiddie maracas. And I know she's mine, but she is a sweetie little charmer, smiling at the other parents and the teacher (the kids have no interest to her, currently).

I ate up the experience. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-first-time mom in the room, and I looked back fondly at my early parenting days there four years ago, with an infant Jack, trying to figure out which end was up...if I needed to be friends with the fellow moms and if Jack was getting out of the class what he needed to learn. Now, it's all good - whatever works. I sang out-of-tune to Jossie, and we played gleefully with toys during the open play time. I laughed with the teacher at the end when she admitted she forgot the words to one of the songs - I don't think anyone - diapered or not - noticed.

I did a supermarket sweep at Whole Foods afterwards. My shopping trips are usually confined to the evenings once the kids are in bed, so it was nice to have Jossie with me. I knew our time was short since Jossie was nearing naptime, so I hustled. Though at one point, I just stopped and looked at my girl. I don't mean to paint her as so serious, but there she sat in her little light-pink, puffy coat zipped up, with her seat belt around her in the grocery cart seat. She was quiet, intently looking at me, her brow furrowed and her arms slightly out because her coat was so puffy. It was a mothering moment - I could have laughed or cried - I love her with every inch of my being.

I love being at home with my kids. I also love knowing that I'll be going to work tomorrow to a job I care about. I put a tired Jossie down for her nap at home, put away the groceries and took over Jack duties from Jeremy, who needed to go into the office. Jack and I baked one of our favorite quick breads - zucchini bread, my hallmark - the stuff of blue ribbons at the Ohio State Fair.

This recipe comes from my mom's beloved Aunt Shirley. My mom made a pretty big tweak to it (adding in the salt) and I added the applesauce. This recipe is why food is so special - it's love on a plate, passed down through the family tree.

Zucchini bread
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Grated by hand.
Beat eggs.  Add sugar and blend well. Add oil, applesauce and vanilla.  Add zucchini. Mix together.  Sift together dry ingredients.  Gradually add to wet ingredients.  Stir in nuts.

Bake in 2 greased and floured medium loaf pans at 350 degrees F for 55 to 60 minutes.

If I bake you one of these, it's because I love you
or I want something from you.

I feel pretty

I got a little makeover this weekend, thanks to the wonderful, Chicago-based graphic designer, Little Web Writing Hood. I'd also like to thank my focus group for all things in life, my sisters Dayna and Laura, for giving me feedback.

Other changes:
  1. I'm listing all recipes in an index on my recipes page (bear with me, I'm working on this after my children go to bed at night).
  2. I'll soon have my book list live, compiling all of my little circle's favorite cookbooks, as well as favorite kids' books.
  3. Like the blog on Facebook; I promise it will become robust shortly.
More to come - I have to get back to my "holiday" now from work - by starting my 7th load of laundry and waking up one little miss Jossie for her first-ever music class.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I love love

I have always loved Valentine's Day. Not so much for the hot and heavy romance but more for expressing friendship, thanks and admiration. The only lace I'm dealing with on this holiday is on my paper doilies.

And having kids now - well watch out. It's post-11 p.m., and I've spent the evening putting together valentines, pulling together treats I'll serve to Jack's preschool class and making a heart-shaped meatloaf for Jack and Jossie's lunch tomorrow.

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Barefoot Contessa's turkey meatloaf

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/6 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoons tomato paste
2.5 pounds ground turkey breast
3/4 cups plain dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well and shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meatloaf is cooked through.

And here's an idea I stole from Pinterest for Jack's valentines for his preschool buddies.

Happy hearts to you!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nigella's chocolate mousse cake

Last night, we joined some of our fancy friends for a supper club - a gathering of foodies to share our love for good eating and drinking.

I took on dessert - this recipe does include using a double boiler, separating the eggs and baking the dish in a water bath but that said, it was quite easy. It would be perfect for you and your Valentine.

Nigella's chocolate mousse cake
From How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking

11 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 oz milk chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
8 large eggs, separated
scant 1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 T. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

9-inch spring-form pan
heavy-duty aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, fill your tea kettle with water and put the kettle on to boil. Line the inside of the spring-form pan with foil, making sure to cover all edges.

Melt the chocolates and butter in a double boiler and let it cool.  In another large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and brown sugar until very thick and pale. It should look creamy and the mixture should form ribbons when you lift the whisk.  Stir in the vanilla and salt and then the cooled chocolate mixture.

In another large bowl, whisk the egg whites until large peaks form.  Once you have soft peaks, take a dollop of the egg whites and mix into the chocolate mixture.  Then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

Place the foil-lined spring-form pan in a large roasting pan. Pour the cake batter in spring-form pan. Add hot water from the kettle to come about 1 inch up the sides of the cake pan and put the roasting pan (with the cake in the water bath) inside the oven.

Bake for 50-60 minutes.  The inside of the cake will be very moist but the top should look cooked and dry.  Let it cool completely on rack before releasing it from the spring-form pan.  It will be almost impossible to get the foil off the bottom of the cake.  Once you place it on the serving dish, just tear the foil off the edges.  Use your creativity to garnish. I used whipped cream, raspberries and bittersweet chocolate shavings. Pretty!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Blogging to continue shortly

Some great changes are coming; in the meantime:

Happy Friday!