Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hospitality Thins and William Henry Harrison


Hospitality Thins are really just light lemon cookies, and they are sooo tasty! I wasn't very good on the "dusting" with powdered sugar!

I have been reading other cooking blogs, and I love all their beautiful pictures each step of the way (like 101 cookbooks and The pioneer woman). So, I decided to try my hand at it... and all I can say is that I am even more impressed with them, because it is hard to remember to take pictures of the steps, and even harder for them to look like works of art like these ladies do!

But anyways... here are my three pictures for my whole recipe:
First I had to get together all the ingredients and prep some of them for the recipe. I grated a lemon to get its zest, then I juiced it for the lemon juice required in the recipe, and I sifted the flour.

The first real step in the recipe was to cream the butter and sugar together. This seems to be a very common first step in cookie recipes, and I am gaining confidence in doing it too! Above is the picture of the butter and sugar getting creamed together. Next I added the lemon rind, ginger, baking soda, salt and vanilla to this mixture... but forgot to take a picture of it.

Then I beat in the egg and lemon juice into this mixture. Notice that I had to change the attachment to do so... so accomplished, I know. :-P Then the flour had to be mixed into this, but I forgot to take a photo of that too!

After refrigerating this for a few hours, I had to make the dough into balls. The first batch I actually got my hands dirty and everything rolling them into balls... for the second two batches I got over it, and just used a tsp measuring spoon and a regular spoon to make them into ball like shapes... they still cooked great!

They were baked for 6-8 minutes (for me it was way closer to the 8) and then cooled and "dusted" with powdered sugar (I was lazy... and I just shook some of the powdered sugar from its storage container on top of the cookies... why they look so unprofessional... but they taste GREAT!)

William Henry Harrison

Harrison's main claims to fame are not really things that most would be proud of... he had the longest inaugural address (8,445 words and took over two hours to say) and the shortest time in office, from March 4th to April 4th. Because of this, he really didn't even have the chance to get anything significant accomplished during his short time as president. He died of a cold that progressed into pneumonia and pleurisy.

As far as memorable acts go, he is most known for his military career. He was also the first president to have his picture taken.

“Sir, I wish to understand the true principles of the Government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”
William Henry Harrison

"A decent and manly examination of the acts of government should be
not only tolerated, but encouraged."

William Henry Harrison

"There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the
noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of
unlimited power.
William Henry Harrison

Saving the best for last again...
Times change, and we change with them.
William Henry Harrison

Sunday, June 27, 2010


When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade... when life gives you cucumbers you make...... PICKLES! At least, that is how we took it.

My in-laws had a BBQ last night, and we were bringing some of the appetizers, and we make these delicious marinaded cucumbers, so we decided to bring that among other things. We didn't quite have enough cucumbers for it though, so we asked my parents (who I knew had a lot of cucumbers, having visited their garden on Friday) for some cucumbers. My dad asked us how many, and we told him 5.... he brought a few more than that!
(these are the ones left AFTER we made the appetizer)

We didn't have to take them all, but we had been meaning to make some more pickles anyways, so we took them, and decided to make a batch of bread and butter pickles as per our preserving book.

Jars and lids were sterilized

Cucumbers were sliced with a mandolin


We combined the ingredients like vinegar, honey, tumeric, mustard seed, ginger and celery seed together.

Brought it to a boil.

Sad thing was that we packed the first couple jars so badly, that we didn't have enough of the brine, or the ingredients to make more so I had to run to the store to buy more vinegar.

Then we poured the boiled mixture into the jars which were stuffed with the cucumber and onion, put them in a boiling water bath for ten minutes, and had our cucumbers!Look at how many jars we made! And we still have more cucumbers lol!

We have never tried this particular recipe before, so I am nervous that we made that many jars, and they could possibly taste bad... but Blake reassures me that it was a tried and tested recipe in a book, whose other recipes have never let us down... so I should be confident. We'll see how it turns out in a week or two when we get to crack one open and taste it...

Preserving is fun!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Apple Date Nut Brownies and James Madison


These brownies were probably the easiest recipe I have made from the book yet!

One of the biggest ingredients is dark brown sugar which is combined with butter in a saucepan over low heat. Then I beat in an egg, and vanilla extract.

I added flour, baking powder and salt to this mixture, and then added in apples (which had been tossed in flour), dates, and pecans.

All this went into a greased pan, and then baked for 35 minutes. Easy!

They were sooooo good when they were done, we can't seem to stop eating them! (That's why the picture shows them half gone already lol)

These were in the section of James Madison, our 4th president.

To be accurate, this recipe was not written by the Madisons, but there was a cookbook called Montpelier Hospitality filled with this history and traditions of the Montpelier home where both James and Dolley lived, so it is possible that they did enjoy these brownies.

In any case, Dolley loved to throw parties, and one of the main things that she is remembered for is how she loved to entertain. They probably originally met at one of her parties, she would throw parties for the wives of the Cabinet, and even when they had to live in a small space because the White House had burned down, she still threw parties! (They were called "Mrs. Madison's squeezes").

James Madison is known as the "father of the Constitution." He is also well known for being in office and strongly supporting Congress to start the war of 1812 with Britain. During this war, the White House was taken by the British and set on fire.

He was the shortest president to date at 5 feet, 4 inches and weighing only 100 pounds! Its weird for me to think of a president as that much smaller than me!

He was a bachelor until age 43 when he met widowed Dolley, and married her and adopted her then 2 year old son, who they raised together.

Only James Madison and George Washington were presidents who also signed the Constitution.

He was the first president to wear pants instead of the older fashion of breeches (which stopped right below the knee).

And I think the most interesting fact I found (though like a bad blogger, I can't remember where now) is that at the end of his life he started editing previous papers that he had, like letters, including changing what Thomas Jefferson wrote to him. Apparently he wanted to improve his legacy after he was gone.

After reading through his quotes, I also found that he was an extremely strong supporter of the separation of church and state. He had seen what damage forcing people to follow a certain church or religion had done in Europe, and he wanted to ensure that it was avoided in the United States.

Some of his quotes:

An interesting, and controversial quote- America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.
James Madison

As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.
James Madison

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.
James Madison

Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages.

James Madison

The capacity of the female mind for studies of the highest order cannot be doubted, having been sufficiently illustrated by its works of genius, of erudition, and of science.
James Madison
(Wow! For someone of that era to say something like that is really cool!)

The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.
James Madison

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Csa 8


I did my second trade today with the box. We have gotten radishes three or four times now, and the only one that I loved was when I made them into hash browns. They were pretty good baked with soy sauce, but the other two tries weren't great. I decided before we picked up the box today that if we got radishes again... we were trading them. I will probably try them in a future box... but I didn't want to figure out radishes two weeks in a row. :-) So one of the kale is from the trade box.

Okay, same as last week:
Sprouts (up to 3 bags of those now... should probably eat them soon lol)

Different from last week:

The bigger difference between the two weeks for me is the lack of kumquats (sad) and no strawberries (this is not a big deal because both our garden and my parent's garden have plenty of strawberries, so we will survive).

Since I bought a bag of oranges this week (not knowing that we would get them lol) and since we still had a bunch of grapefruit left over from last week, I am hoping to find some great recipes to use those, and I will probably be eating them throughout the day as well.

My main plans this week food-wise:
We will be having a seven layer dip (yes... for dinner :-) ) and that will use up some of the many avocados we keep getting, and some of our garden tomatoes (wondering when those will start coming in our box as well), which seem to be ample at this time. Last week our cupboard looked like this:
so we made a chili with some of those tomatoes, and made and preserved three jars of tomato sauce with the rest, and now we are back to more reasonable amounts, but more are getting ripe every day. So... tomatoes are a staple that I need to keep in mind while I plan meals.

We will also be having a vegetable lasagna, and that will use some of our homemade sauce, our ripe eggplants, and some zucchini (I think).

We will be having a vegetable casserole, with many of the same ingredients as the lasagna.

This week I am going to stir fry a bunch of the vegetables (both from the CSA and our garden) and eat it with pasta, and I am planning on making some kind of chicken marinade with the many citrus fruit in our house and have some kale on the side of that. (Probably kale chips, as it is Blake's new favorite way to eat kale).

I am not sure what the rest of the meals will look like, but we will definitely be eating our veggies this summer between our garden, the CSA boxes and my parent's garden (I take some of their produce off their hands once a week). Yay!

On a totally unrelated topic... I found out that I am changing from teaching 2nd grade to 4th grade... I am still trying to wrap my head around the change. There are definitely some things I will miss about 2nd, but there are also things I am excited about with a new grade level. The fun thing is too that some of my previous students are going to be in my class again. There will probably be more posts coming up about this new adventure... but for now, I am okay with it... just trying to absorb the idea.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010



These cookies are also for George Washington, like the shrewsbury cakes.

I know, ideally, for this cookie project, I shouldn't do two recipes from the same president... but both cookies sounded really good.

These are basically sugar cookies with orange zest in them. I have been writing the recipes on the previous cookie posts... but unless someone wants the recipe itself (if you do, just let me know in a comment, and I will add the recipe to the post), I will do the easier thing and just talk about my experience making them, and the results.

So these started by creaming the butter, sugar, orange zest and salt together. I am gaining in confidence with the mixer, and I remembered how to cream things together from last time. I changed the attachment on the mixer to beat in the egg, and then kept that attachment in as I added the flour. Overall, very easy to make.

The last step was that I was supposed to take the dough and roll small chunks of it long, and then make rings with it. I decided that rings were boring, and started experimenting with different shapes. My first batch had a celtic knot, a letter b, a few rings, and a heart. After they were done cooking, I decided that my favorite look of all of them was the celtic knot (I know... such the American cookie lol), and so I made all of the second batch like that.

The nice thing is that I read previous to baking today that they did make them in a variety of different knot shapes, so I am not so unusual in making them into a knot.

Of the three cookies that I have made so far, these tasted the best to me. The orange isn't that strong, but it adds a really nice flavor to it.

Since I didn't talk about George Washington before, I decided to at least do a small tribute to him, with some random facts about him, and some of his quotes.

---He had false teeth, but they were not made of wood. As a matter of fact, the materials used in his false teeth were probably more uncomfortable than wood. In one set of teeth, his dentist, Dr. John Greenwood, used a cow’s tooth, one of Washington’s teeth, hippopotamus ivory, metal and springs. They fit poorly and distorted the shape of his mouth.

---He did not attend college. The death of his father ended Washington’s formal schooling, however he believed strongly in formal education. In his will, he left money and/or stocks to support three educational institutions.

---In his will, he freed those slaves belonging to him (about 124) and his estate paid for the care of former Mount Vernon slaves for decades after his death. At least nine early presidents owned slaves, but only one - Washington - freed all of his slaves. The remaining slaves at Mount Vernon belonged to the estate of Mrs. Washington’s first husband and were known as dower slaves. By law, Washington had no legal rights to free those individuals. They were eventually inherited by Mrs. Washington’s descendants upon her death in 1802.

---George Washington was the only U.S. President who did not live in the White House, which was not completed until after his death. During his two terms as president, the capital of the United States was located first in New York and then in Philadelphia. George Washington played a large role, however, in the development of the new Federal City named after him, and in overseeing the design of both the Capitol Building and the White House.

The above facts were found at

I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.
George Washington

It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.
George Washington

Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.
George Washington

We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.
George Washington

(I think that last one was my favorite!)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Adoption Update/ Happy Anniversary to us

Yesterday Blake and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary. It was truly the perfect night. The restaurant was amazing, it was delicious and had a great atmosphere, and our conversation was so perfect that the 2 hours of dinner went by very quickly.

Among our other great points of conversation, we talked about adoption and we came to a decision that we are both really happy with:
we are going to wait a year before proceeding. :-)

I know it seems like I am changing my mind every post or so, and we shall see if it changes again, but we talked about how we both still really have a heart for adoption, but we would really rather not have involvement with the birth parents, especially for our first kids.

We might still decide to go through foster care, and just do adoption of kids with parent rights already terminated, but we are now leaning way more towards international adoption.

The money was my #1 hold back, but I think if we save for a year, it will be easily feasible and not hurt our savings (which it would at this point). This also gives us another year to just enjoy the two of us (because life is awesome right now), and another year where I might still get pregnant (might be kind of a let down at this point lol) or confirm that we really should go through the adoption route if it doesn't happen.

I am still super nervous about that much traveling (our top choices are from African countries, so we are talking about 20-24 hours of travel time to get there), but I know that it will be worth a few painful days to help out a child in need.

Blake had an amazing rebuttal to my reluctance to spend money to adopt when local kids need it more: the worst off foster kids near us have it much better than the ones we would be adopting from African countries. When I look at it that way, I don't feel like I am "abandoning" the local kids to help other ones far away, I feel like I am going to where there is a bigger need first. And if the money and travel puts me off, then how many other potential parents are completely put off by it, so these kids won't get homes?

I wish I could give every kid a home who needs one, but the fact is that we can only help some. So... we need to decide who we are being called to help. I got a sinking feeling hearing about how much birth parent interaction would be required with the concurrent adoptions, and I got a sinking feeling thinking about how much of our savings would disappear to adopt overseas right now, BUT I got a great feeling thinking about saving for a year and then adopting, so that's what path we are taking steps towards now.

It is entirely possible that our plans will change in a year again, or change along the way, all we know is that at this point, we are content with just us, saving money, moving towards possibly adopting internationally. :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Adoption Orientation

Yesterday we attended the adoption orientation.

It was really informative of what to expect, and what the process typically looks like, and the speaker was very good at answering the group's questions.

It didn't scare Blake or I away from adoption, and it actually confirmed that there is a big need for sibling groups and for kids 1 to 3 (I didn't expect that part!), both of which we would love to do.

There is one major "catch" that we learned about yesterday... I had understood from the website that by definition, the foster adoption program means that you foster the child first, and then after a set time passes, you adopt them. What I didn't fully realize is that during the fostering time, you really are a foster parent in every sense of the word.

That includes meeting with the birth parents and the child for their twice a week visitation time. That includes trying your best to help the birth parents get the kids back. Only if they fail, and their appeals fail, do the kids get released for adoption. Its called concurrent adoption, and I fully support the idea of it. The point is that the kids are able to get stable in their foster parent home because they might never have to move from there again, but if the parents can shape up their act, they can still get the kids back for the beginning stage of it.

The scary part is that it could be up to a year of the parents still having potential to get the kids back. That's a long time of meeting with the birth parents...

There is still cases where you can do just adoption, and say that you are only willing to take kids where parent rights have been terminated. However, there are very few of these cases available because whenever possible, they do the concurrent adoption, and so the only kids left would be ones where they couldn't find someone willing to do concurrent for them. Also, these kids have more emotional issues because by the point they would come to us, they have left their birth family, and left their foster parents, and are now coming to a third family. The concurrent way skips the middle step, so there is a better chance for less emotional damage, and better chance that they will be able to bond to us.

Other ideas that we talked about is considering international adoption, and this is still an option, but it is really expensive, and I don't do well on 5 hour plane flights, so trying to imagine a 15 hour flight that I would have to do 4 times is really daunting for me. Besides there is something that bothers me about paying so much for adoption when there are children in need here that don't cost anything. It bothers me too that they are local kids that need homes, but I would be skipping all of them and helping kids thousands of miles away instead.

I honestly don't know what Blake and I will do at this point.

If we decide to go through the regular system in our area, our next step is taking pride training classes, and that is for whether we were just going to do foster care (not our plan) or do the concurrent planning or say that we are only willing to do straight adoption.

My thoughts at this point is that even though the concurrent scares me, I think that is the best thing for the child, and in any case we would need to complete the training classes. So, we should just keep taking steps of faith forward through the training, through the paperwork, and then when it comes to placement time decide what we want to do. Who knows... the perfect kids for us could be already clear for adoption at the time that we are ready to be approved for them, and then all the worry about concurrent planning will have been unnecessary. Or maybe we will go through the training, and at the time it is needed, God will overwhelm us with peace about going through the concurrent thing with the right pair of kids.

If I had tried to tell myself a year ago that I would be totally fine with not being pregnant, I don't think I would have believed it, because it was such an overwhelming consuming passion at the time. But at this point, I don't have a problem with forming our family through adoption. So although we are both worried about the kids possibly leaving us, and the birth parent visits, I have hope that by the time comes that we have to possibly face those fears, we will have peace about that too.

As a side note, although this is to inform friends and family about our current thoughts, it was also because I learned in college that writing about what causes you stress actually helps relieve it, and I truthfully feel much better just after writing this blog.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soft Molasses Cakes and John Quincy Adams


Today I made Molasses Cakes. I chose this recipe for today primarily because Blake loves molasses cookies and today is our anniversary. I don't care for them as much... I like my cookies to be very sweet, and these just aren't that kind of cookie.

For those who might want to make these as well, here's how I made them.

First I sifted together 4c flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt and ginger, 2 tsp cinnamon and baking soda and 1/2 tsp cloves. Then I melted a cup of butter and added the 1 1/2c molasses and 1/4 cup sugar to that while it was still warm/hot. I was surprised by how much stirring it took until it was really mixed together.

Then it was supposed to cool, so I did other things at this point like eat breakfast, drink coffee, read my book etc. Then I checked it again, and it was still a bit warm, so I put it in the fridge while I continued getting ready. Once I was ready, I went down and checked it again, and it was still somewhat warm. I hate obscure directions like "cool". How cool? Does slightly warm mean that it is not cool enough?

Anyways, I had a meeting at school at 9, so I didn't have a choice at this point. So then I added just a bit of the flour mixture (I used about 3/4 of a cup) to the butter/molasses mixture. Then I beat in 1 egg.

The next direction confused me a bit because it said to add the remaining flour and blend until smooth. Again with the obscure words: smooth. I tried first mixing it with the whisk like attachment, then I switched to another attachment, and later went back to the whisk one. In addition, I kept switching the speeds. Blending it together was easy... but it wasn't getting what I would call smooth... it kept looking grainy! I finally decided that smooth might just mean no lumps (and I know you cooking types out there are laughing at me at this point for it taking me that long to decide that... but I am admittedly a novice... and smooth has multiple meanings...) so I decided that it was done. If I didn't have a meeting, who knows how long I might have kept trying to mix the poor batter before getting to that conclusion lol.

Then I put it in the fridge. The recipe says that it is supposed to cool for about 2 hours. I chilled it for more like 3- 4 hours because I was at school for that time, then I had to run to Costco on the way home. When I got home I preheated the oven to 350, and made the dough (which was pretty hard and thick by this point) into balls. I started making them with an ice cream scoop, but after about 3 of them that size, I decided that those balls were definitely not "small balls," and I worried that it might not cook properly if I left them big... so I split those in half, and rolled them into balls, and then found a teaspoon and used that for the rest of the balls.

I spaced them about 2 inches apart, as per the recipe, which was really important, because even with that spacing I had a few starting to touch each other. They baked for 15 minutes, and then cooled on a rack.

They look pretty, and I thought that they tasted like they are supposed to, but I will wait for my husband's official judgment before I rule how they tasted... since I don't love these kind of cookies even at their best.


I wanted to also take a minute to talk about John Quincy Adams. These cookies were on the page for him and his wife. He was president from 1825 to 1829.

I read up about him (and am writing about him) because I didn't just choose this cook book to make cookies, any cookbook could tell me that. Only this one in my library connects my sweet treats with some history, so I should educate myself.

I feel bad for him. Apparently, he is remembered for being one of the first presidents who the house of representatives ultimately decided that he should win because there wasn't a majority in the electoral college. He didn't win the popular vote, Andrew Jackson did. And he unfortunately made himself look worse when the guy who was the one vote that won him the presidency got a nice spot as his secretary of state.

He only was president those 4 years because Andrew Jackson then campaigned so hard against him, and he didn't have a lot of favor in Congress because of his journey to get the spot, so although he had great plans to unite the country with more roads and canals so that the states could trade easier, they didn't get passed.

He was ultimately a lot more successful as a member of Congress in the House of Representatives, where he served for 9 terms before he had a stroke while at work, and died from it two days later.

Adams was very much against slavery and campaigned hard against it in Congress.

A few of his quotes that I like:
All men profess honesty as long as they can. To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse.
John Quincy Adams

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.
John Quincy Adams

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams

Duty is ours; results are God's

John Quincy Adams

Idleness is sweet, and its consequences are cruel

John Quincy Adams

It is essential...that you should form and adopt certain rules or principles, for the government of your own conduct and temper. Unless you have such rules and principles, there will be numberless occasions on which you will have no guide for your government but your passions...It is in the Bible, you must learn them, and from the Bible how to practice them.
John Quincy Adams

So great is my veneration for the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens of their country and respectable members of society. I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.
John Quincy Adams

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CSA 7, and a shout out to 101 Cookbooks


Another week, another box, and I am still enjoying the excitement that comes each week as I wonder what will be in the box this week!

I actually arrived in time to see the boxes arriving which was partly good, and partly scary, because it was past 4, and I thought they arrived at about 3, so now I don't know when I can pick it up in summer... I figure I'll try to be there at 3:30 now that my schedule is really winding down for the year.

Most exciting addition to the box this week was blackberries! Yum! They didn't even make it to the fridge lol, we ate them all almost as soon as we opened the box. But after we got the harvest ticket e-mail we learned that we did the best thing because they pick them at the height of ripeness, so she actually recommends to eat them right when you get them so they don't go bad on you.

We got more avocados this week, but were warned that we are getting close to the end of those. We got strawberries, like normal (It will be a sad day when those aren't in season!) We got our weekly lettuce as well.

We actually had a lot of repeats this week from last week:
Carrots (but purple ones this time!)
Kale (but a different variety as well)
Sprouts (broccoli sprouts)
Yellow Squash
Kumquats -apparently the last until around the holidays :-(

Different from last week:
Radishes - apparently a variety called French Breakfast?
Dill (I was SO excited to see this back!!!!)

One sad thing is that I learned that yellow squashes (at least the way I kept them...) don't last more than the full week. I pulled last week's out for tonight's dinner, but they were already bad :-( It worked out though, because I used this week's in their place... but I hate wasting anything, and I especially hate wasting fresh produce... sigh.

Dinner tonight was this Frittata that I got from 101 cookbooks (awesome site if you have never checked it out~ my friend Emily pointed it out to me)


It tasted as good as it looks! The sauce was especially good! I am already looking forward to the next time I make this.

Another post will be all about my plan for how we will use the veggies this week, and the other problem that we are having lately food-wise.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shrewsbury Cakes


I am already messing with my schedule lol! Today (Tuesday) is going to be a busy day at work trying to finish up my classroom etc., so I decided that timing-wise it would be better to make these cookies (techically mini cakes) yesterday.

It kinda went against my original idea because Blake was around and ended up giving me a few important tips along the way (so probably better for my first baking recipe, because they were general suggestions).

I did use the mixer, and it was surprisingly easy :-D lol.

They are called Shrewsbury Cakes, and apparently they actually found this recipe by Martha Washington, and the original Shrewsbury Cakes go back to recipes 400 years old!
The version in the cookbook is a modern adaptation of her recipe.

First I mixed 1/2c butter with 1/2c sugar in the mixer. I had to look up what it meant to cream the butter with sugar, but I think it worked okay. Then I added 1/2 tsp vanilla , 1/4 tsp salt and 1 beaten egg to the butter/sugar mix.

I narrowly avoided a few mistakes at this point. One being that I had first grabbed the 1/2 tbsp for the vanilla instead of the tsp, and I just caught it before I measured it, and put it in. Blake caught the other mistake before I made it by reminding me that the recipe said that it had to be beaten.

Then I added 2 1/2 cups sifted flour, and Blake urged me to make the mixer go faster, so I did. I added 1 cup dried apricots (as per the recipe).

After it chilled for an hour, I formed them into little balls, and baked them for 12 minutes.

They tasted GREAT! They are kind of like scones, in that they are not supersweet, and the apricots add a great touch of flavor. Both Blake and I had to stop ourselves from not eating way too many of them last night, and I doubt there will be some left to bring to work. :-)

First cookie recipe is a success!

Leaving my cooking comfort zone

I just finished watching the movie Julie and Julia, and started thinking about the fact that I have never cooked all the way through a cookbook. Not even close. I pick a few recipes that I like out of it, and I cook those, but I don't think I have ever made a big dent in any of them.

Then there was the problem of choosing what cookbook. Because of my CSA, and my desire to keep the budget low in the summer when we are just on Blake's income, it would be a bad thing to choose to cook through a cookbook for our main meals because there is no way that I could get through a cookbook AND successfully use our CSA box as our primary produce, plus our garden vegetables.

In addition, while I do enjoy cooking, the only time I have extra time for a project like this is summer, and I don't want to be as intense as Julie was in the movie/real life with having to cook something from her cookbook every day.

So I went and looked at my cookbooks (which are sadly sitting in the living room, waiting for a bookshelf because Blake organized the kitchen a little better, which was needed, but part of that was that my cookbooks no longer have a place on a shelf in the cupboard, but are waiting for a real bookshelf near the kitchen). On the top of one of the stacks was this cookbook:


It was a gift from my mother in law, who volunteers at the Nixon library and loves to learn about presidents, and especially their wives. She gave it to me a few years ago, and sadly, I think I have only pulled it out for a few recipes, the "boring ones" like a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Now... sweets are not my forte. I choose tons of recipes for dinners, and I make them just fine, and Blake usually helps, but I don't feel like I would fail without him there... but desserts? I usually hand them off to my husband (sad, I know). In the time since we got married (4 years ago this week) I have never used our kitchenaid mixer without his supervision. AND I can only recall ONCE in that whole time that I made a dessert recipe entirely without his help.

I am afraid of the terms in desserts, like whip, fold, etc. And for some reason, I feel like if I fail at a dessert it is a bigger loss. In addition, I (as stated above) don't make desserts often, so when I do, I want it to be something that I know, for sure, that we will like, or it isn't worth the effort.

All this to say... in spite of my fears, or perhaps because of them, I have made a rather ambitious goal for myself this summer. Twice a week, I will make a cookie recipe from this book. I intend to post about them... like Julie Powell did... and when I chose my recipes, I avoided most of the normal cookies, like chocolate chip, snicker doodles, sugar cookies etc. for two reasons. One is that we actually have cookie dough sitting in the freezer for many of these kinds of cookies. Secondly, I want to try making cookies that I wouldn't just randomly find and decide I want. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, they are new and different.

I realize that there are will be many presidents not represented in my summer baking project, but I will be making cookie recipes for 21 different presidents this summer. Some of them are known favorites of them, others are just typical cookies of that era, because information on their favorite cookies couldn't be found. I will be making 23 different recipes (there are two presidents that I am making more than one of their favorite kind of cookies listed in the book) by September. I hope that blogging about it will keep me acccountable.

It is kind of ironic that for how healthy we try to eat in general that my summer goal includes that many cookies, but we actually intend to keep and eat just a few of each batch (depending on how good they turn out :-) ) and the rest will be taken to my husband's work, and to my mom, who will distribute to friends, I am sure.

My first recipe starts tomorrow, and it is from the very first president, George Washington.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


So... a blog I follow posted something from a blog that she follows, where all these people post a similar post. This week it was about plates. Since I love my everyday plates, I decided to play.


When we were registering for plates, this was actually the third one that we found, but I think it was way better than the first two (that got discontinued before we ever used them). We were looking for something simple, and classic, and blue, and this set met all of our expectations and more.

I still have moments where I look at them and think "Wow! these are so pretty, I am so glad we got them." Sad... I know... but I do really love my plates. I also inherited my mom's china, which I like as well, but I am too lazy to go downstairs and take a picture of it at the moment. They tend to come out at Thanksgiving and some Valentine's Days.

This post was first thought of by Kelly's Korner

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CSA 6 and the Last Day of school

We got our new box today, and for the first time since we got the boxes, I don't already have an approximate idea of what I want to do with all of it.

So... there are a lot of repeats from last week, but that is exactly what happens when you are eating seasonally. Fortunately, they are all things we like, but I am leaning towards finding something new to do with them... just don't know what yet. There might be another post further elaborating what to do... but not this one.

For the last few weeks consistently we have gotten:
We got more mint too...

This is just fine with me because I LOVE avocadoes, and ever since I discovered that they can last for a very long period of time in the fridge if you put them in there right when they are ripe, having 10 or so avocadoes in the house consistently doesn't seem like a problem to me.

Strawberries we go through in the first couple days easy, so that is never a problem, and we are discovering how nice it is to have a side salad with almost every dinner since we have been getting lettuce every week (and its tasty lettuce too).

More repeats from last week:

Different from last week:
Kale (which I am going to make into kale chips this week from a recipe that we got with our harvest ticket)
Yellow squash
Arugula (possibly try a pesto I found in a cookbook)

I don't have any more real plans for the week's food yet, but besides missing oranges, it looks like a great week!

In other news, you might have noticed my ticker was missing with this post, and its because it was the last day of school today! It went well, but unlike most other years, I am just in a good mood, and not quite as sad as usual because it was a tougher year than normal.

There were, of course, some angel students that I will miss, and even my tough ones were still my students and they had their good moments, but in general, this year was a marathon that I am happy to come to the end of.

I am really spoiled as a teacher when it comes to days like the last day of school, Christmas, etc. and this year was no different. Although I got many wonderful teacher gifts, and many sweet cards and such from my students, if I had to pick my top three gifts (besides unphotogenic gift cards ;-) )it would be these three:

My favorite of these favorites is the cookbook! I was amazed by the thought that went into getting me a cookbook for quick healthy recipes, and I have already flipped through it, and it has a lot of great recipes that I look forward to trying. It is not only adding a cookbook to my already huge cookbook collection (I might be obsessed with cookbooks :-p lol), but it really was also the fact that a parent remembered my love of cooking and my desire to eat healthy and teach my students to eat healthy too.

The next top pick is the shirt. I have a student whose mom works for Roxy and so this is the 2nd really cute top she has given me this year. It is actually more stylish than what I normally wear, but I think it is really cute, and I look forward to wearing it.

The last was a gift from my class and my aide. It is a super cute apron with all of the kids handprints on it and their names. Blake calls it "something sentimental that you will never use and we will have to store forever" but I think that I will pull it out on occasion to remember this year, and to get the practical use of it as well.

My answer to "how did the year go" this year is that it was easily the hardest year I have ever had, but I learned a lot and I grew as a teacher, and I now feel like I am capable of a lot more than I thought I was when the year started. And on a more personal note, it was this year more than any other that showed me that I do have what it takes to handle a child that is difficult and at times hard to love. I don't think I would be prepared to adopt until after this school year... so it was a good learning year for me. (And parent feedback was still all positive... so that's good).

Now I am in limbo for the next few weeks, not on summer yet, because my classroom isn't done and I have meetings or the potential for meetings up until the 25th... but its more or less my own schedule, so tomorrow I can relax, drink my coffee, read a book, and THEN come into work and get the room ready for the summer (tear down, put away, organize etc.) instead of rushing out the door to get there by 7:45am. Yay for no more teaching until September!!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Making Preserves

Last night Blake and I made preserves for the first time. It was a lot easier than we thought... and we were totally not ready for it!

We decided to do this because we have a goal of preserving a lot more of the fresh produce this summer, and my parent's garden has been doing so well lately that we knew our first jam experiment was coming soon. Then we I got our sprouts ad this week and found that the fresh berries were on sale for a dollar a box, I decided that this week was the week to do it!

So we made a mixed berry preserves.

First we mushed all of the fruit together, 4 cups worth. Then we added the calcium water to that mix. Then once that got to boiling we added the pectin and the honey.
At this point we weren't sure what to do, because the recipe that I was following said boil until it passed one of the jam tests, and the package of pectin said that it just had to be brought to a boil, and it was ready... So we tried the first test, which was just taking the temperature of the food, but our food thermometer was not cooperating. Then we put a spoonful of it on a plate and put it in the freezer for a few minutes, and then took it out and checked if it would go back together once we used our finger to separate it. It stayed separate... so it was done! (Of course, by this time it has boiled probably way longer than it needed lol).
Two of the jars were then put into a water bath to seal them, and one of them was let cool on the counter and then went into the fridge so we could eat it the next day.

This morning I tried it, and it was SO good! Yum! I am so excited that we have 2 more jars in the cupboard for whenever we are ready, and I am also excited that it turned out to be so easy... we will definitely be making more this summer.

p.s. look at how pretty our home grown eggplant looked before we cooked them into our vegetable ragout!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Csa 5


Blake picked up the box today because I had a staff meeting at work that started late, and thus I assumed would end later (it did, but not much). We were texting back and forth about it, and I asked him how was the box, but he said it was not the best.

Once I got home, and looked for myself, I was also a bit disappointed as well, but it is not the CSA's fault. It is more just our preference... and on that point, I think the biggest disappointment is that there wasn't much that was exciting in the box this week. Many of the items that we haven't gotten the last weeks are also things that we eat very frequently anyways, and have growing in the garden already!

For example, both the carrots and the zucchini are things that we eat often, and are currently growing. The zucchini in our garden is ripening too, so we have a lot of it... and now we get more lol.

Also, I think we are a trifle bit addicted to her oranges because we were disappointed to see that there were no oranges this week. Plenty of grapefruit... but personally, I don't enjoy grapefruit, too sour for me. Blake enjoys grapefruit, but prefers oranges, but at least it won't be wasted.

The last disappointment in this week's box was the herbs. We got mint... but I still haven't used last week's mint. We got one sprig of rosemary... which actually makes me think it was a mistake and we were supposed to get more, or none at all lol. And we got parsley... which I am using to cook with more... but isn't mine or Blake's favorite.

Okay, so the whole list.
Repeats from last week:
Avocados (we are up to 10 in the house at various ripening stages! But we will eat some next week for sure)
Rosemary (one sprig)

Different from last week:
Sprouts (though we would have had these last week too if we didn't trade them :-) )
Golden beets

I have not really had a chance to totally figure out what I am doing with all of these things yet...but here are some of the ideas that are stirring around in my head:

The radishes are going to become radish hash browns... apparently still very tasty, but a healthier option than the potato hash browns... and to work around that, a breakfast for dinner.

Some of the carrots and zucchini are going to join a (hopefully) ripe eggplant in our garden to become vegetable ragout from one of my cookbooks at home. It has tomatoes and artichoke hearts in it as well, and we typically eat it over pasta! It is really yummy, and I usually will eat it for the rest of the week in my lunches, and sometimes we even have leftovers for the freezer.

The beets are probably going to go into a salsa verde beet recipe that I have in a William Sonoma vegetable cookbook. As a bonus, it has parsley in it too. That begs for a mexican meal, and so i will probably pair that with some chicken avocado dish and maybe a bean or a rice dish to just round it out.

I am also playing with the idea of a vegetarian pizza that we have made before that has a variety of roasted vegetables on it like zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and pesto (which will use some of the plethora of basil that we have growing in our garden).

The last "plan" I have so far is to make tabbouleh with the parsley and the mint, and some fresh cucumber and tomato from the garden.

Ooh, and I am seriously considering trying to make some jelly/jam/preserves this week because my parent's blackberry bush is going crazy and producing loads, and blueberries, and raspberries are on a super sale this week at our local grocery store for a dollar a container!

The bright side is that although our initial reaction to this week's box was less than positive, we are still glad to have it, and I for one am excited about this week's meals!