Saturday, May 30, 2009

A fine start to the weekend

Finally got around to some much needed hammering (and it continues to be quite the hit!)

Younger brother had more creative uses for his hammer.

Daddy played ball with the boys too.

Momma and baby made a library run and returned with some Amelia Bedelia (what memories!), Mo Willems, fiction monster books and joke books as requested by the two boys. For momma, some photography books (shhhhh) and more knitting books.

Shorts for the boy

I'm so pleased with these shorts. This is yet another Ottobre Designs pattern, specifically issue #2 from 2005. My first time tackling both functional pockets and a faux fly. Thanks to a fellow sewing mom (you rock A.!) for the stamped twill tag idea. I see plenty of these details in our future.

As far as putting them together, as usual Ottobre has a flawless pattern and great instructions. Due to sewing late at night and over analyzing said instruction I ended up sewing the legs together in the front. Plenty of seam ripping when you've serged and topstitched a seam shut. Oy. Then I put the yoke together wrong. Unpick, rip, rip, rip. Finally I'm plodding through the waistband eager to take pictures in the daylight and I didn't sew it on right so had to seam rip that as well. If you know me I'd rather make a new garment than seam rip but I'm slowly getting over that.

The verdict from the child is that the shorts are comfy and I noticed he didn't want to take them off the minute he came back in the house which means - success! Now to make some for the youngest and if I streamline the sewing a bit I'll make many more for both of them. Notes on the pattern and sizing - I traced one size smaller than their usual size for a slim fit and took off 4" of length to reach below the knee instead of right above ankle height. I have plenty of this fabric and it felt great so I might even make myself a nice little A line skirt with a yoga waist band. We'll see.

Apparently there's not enough candy in this house to bribe a five year old to stand still for a modeling shot.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bowties with Sausage Cream Sauce

I used to be a horribly picky eater as a kid. In fact, for several years I had my mom convinced I was allergic to corn just because I didn't like the taste. Sausages and any other mixed/casing meat were off limits and just the smell of them was enough to make me nauseous. Which makes this dish being my favorite all the more ironic.

This recipe came from a forum I used to frequent when my oldest was a baby. See my boy used to nurse about every 45 minutes during his waking hours which put a whole new spin on "nursing at the keyboard". Back then I would leisurely surf the web for new recipes and baby's development. I had way too much time.

Back to the recipe. Instead of bowties, you can use rotini or penne. If you don't have whole tomatoes, use drained diced tomatoes. If your family has never had this dish and you have picky eaters like yours truly in her heydey, then add a cup of canned pureed pumpkin in with the cream and no one will be the wiser. Anyway you make it, this dish is sure to please.

Bowties with Sausage Cream Sauce
adapted from Cherie (dnvrmama)

1 (12oz) box Bowtie pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package - about 5 - Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 can Italian-style plum tomatoes (28 ounce) drained and coarsely chopped - I just squish them with my fingers
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried)
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

First, set a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water heavily. Then place the sausages out of their casings in the pan, along with the olive oil and crushed red pepper.

Brown sausage over medium heat, breaking up with a spoon until completely cooked through. Add onions and garlic, cooking until onion is softened. If you open your windows right now you'll have neighbors on your doorstep in under sixty seconds.

Add the drained and handcrushed tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring.

Add the white wine and allow to boil for 3-4 minutes while you scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge the browned bits. If you're using dried basil, add it now. If you're using fresh, add it right before tossing in the pasta. My garden is still in the growing stage so no fresh basil yet.

Finally add the cream, salt and bring to a simmer. Right about now your pasta water should be ready so go ahead and boil up the bowties. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer the cream sauce for about 10 minutes until thickened slightly.

See how it's thickened up? The tomatoes, basil and sausage have given up their flavor in that wonderful cream.

Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss together and taste. If it needs a little salt I add that with parmesan cheese which will give flavor as well. Add as much parmesan as you wish and toss again. The sauce will continue to thicken as it sits. Turn off the burner.

Then dig right in!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

At last a visitor!

Have I mentioned before that I'm not the outdoorsy type? I grew up with my nose in books, and when not reading watching reruns of Maude, Good Times and Are You Being Served. You'd think growing up in Florida would have lured me to the outdoors but I believe quite the opposite happened.

As a homeschooling mom, I'm slowly being pulled out of my comfort zone. The garden, pulling out the picnic blanket to spend some time under the sun and observing nature just a bit more slowly helps. A few months ago I stumbled across this cute little plexiglass window bird feeder and book set . I bought it, searched for a nut free bird food (harder than I thought it would be) and set it up.

Then we waited, and waited. My oldest kept asking me when our bird friends were going to show up and I admit I wondered if I'd done something wrong. Never fear! We've had quite a few little sparrows visiting our window and serenading us before flying off.

Now if I can just convince the black bird that our grill is not a good place to build a nest, we'll be golden.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Garden update

What's this you say? Replacement plants for the garden. Why? Turns out the lethal being eating all my plants wasn't cutworm, instead I had a slug issue. I know, I know, I should have known better but remember I'm new at this. So now that I bought iron phosphate for the soil and the slugs, my plants were transplanted last weekend and I'm hoping we can continue the gardening season as planned.

Unless another type of insect or parasite decides to take up residence and then I'll come back pleading for help.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lemon Bars

When life hands you lemons you make . . .

. . . lemon bars of course!

Sorry for being so punny, blame it on the holiday weekend. Last week I saw the three pound bag of lemons on sale for $1.50 and instantly snatched up two thinking aloud, "yay! lemon bars!" Seriously, I saw the price of lemons creep up to $8 a bag this year. That's insane! After thoroughly embarrassing the kids in the produce aisle I tucked them away and nearly forgot about them. I hate when that happens.

Finally got around to making an obscene amount of lemon bars this week. I just love them but oddly enough I didn't grow up eating lemon bars. Growing up in Miami we had plenty of key lime pie but lemon bars in my dominican household were just not common. So don't be surprised that my go to recipe for another quintessential american dish is Cook's Illustrated. These people take type A perfectionism up a notch. I love that I end up with a great recipe and they're kind enough to let their readers know the process behind tweaking the recipe - both the good parts and the failures. They save me so much time.

So what can I say? Super tart, but slightly sweet puckery lemon curd filling on a crumbly, tender cookie crust. You can't go wrong. Well unless someone doesn't like lemons and then, well poor you. Yeah, the first time I made these about two years ago I served them excitedly to my crew of men. Mr. Maricucu said they were too lemony. Not good. The boys found them a bit too puckerish for their delicate tast buds that happily ingested pounds of play sand, licked car tires and bit matchbox cars. So I dutifully consumed the bars to be sure none were wasted.

This year I made them again thinking I'd have one amazing freezer stash of lemon bars to last me quite a while - at least until I found the lemons on sale again. Sorry to say that the children now adore them. Go figure.

Lemon Bars
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Perfect Lemon Bars

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter - slightly softened. I always use salted butter. I know, take away my foodie blogger card right now.

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoon all purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon table salt

In the pictures I'm making a double batch which fits on a half sheet pan. The original recipe listed above makes a 9x13x2" pan of bars.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your pan. I added a sheet of parchment to the bottom or you can use foil. If you're using a rectangular pan for the original sized recipe you can lay strips of foil or parchment that overhang the sides of the pan to make lifting the bars out of the pan easier.

In a food processor add all the crust ingredients except for the butter and pulse to mix.

Then add the butter cut into chunks. Pulse for 10 seconds.

The mix will resemble a heavy powder and won't look like it will come together at all. That's fine.

With a flat bottomed measuring cup or a spoon, evenly spread out the crust ingredients. The original recipe has you chill the crust for 30 minutes now. I've never remembered so I don't do it now. Place the crust in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Now, this is where reading the recipe before doing something comes in handy. Thinking I had done this so many times I dumped all the filling ingredients in the mixing bowl. I got a few lumps I had to whiz in the food processor. The proper way to do it is to mix the flour, sugar and eggs first, then add the rest of the ingredients. Promise you'll do it right.

When the crust has baked for 20 minutes, slide out the oven rack and pour in the filling while the pan is still on the oven rack. This saves you from walking to the oven teetering a liquid filled pan.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake the lemon bars for another 20 minutes or until the filling is set.

The bars won't be very browned, just set. Let them cool completely before cutting.

See that beautiful shortbread crust? The smooth lemon curd? I know what you're thinking - where's the powdered sugar?

Well you don't want to sprinkle that on until right before serving or it sinks into the bar sort of melting. But once you do, move aside. Yum.

The first time I ever made a double batch of these bars, I froze the portioned surplus in order to avoid eating the whole pan. Well it turns out these are delicious straight out of the freezer. Who could have known?

Monday, May 25, 2009

A day to remember

The fallen soldier, the family that grieves. A thank you for their sacrifice during service and a day of recognition for the loss that never dims.

A naturalized citizen

Sunday, May 24, 2009

He's a very interesting little boy . . .

This firstborn of ours. Forever with a question on his lips. He has stumped many a repairman in our home with his questions. He makes games of garages, and firemen who put out fires started by irresponsible socket use.

He must be near others, being the extrovert he is, yet still manages to create nooks for his play.

Although it's been a challenge this business of us learning to parent him, everything a first - he's truly blossomed in spite of our fumbling attempts.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baby dress is finished

First, let me admit that sewing baby clothes is over rated especially for the way they grow. However it was fun to delve into Ottobre even though I made several mistakes along the way which were not limited to sewing the bodice on inside out, seam ripping then sewing the bodice different than the directions said and let's not mention how some pattern pieces did not fit due to me thinking I could eyeball adding the seam allowances. Why I thought that when I even have trouble parallel parking is beyond me. I also realized midway that my machine's tension was off and I fiddled with that for two days.

I reclaimed fabric from a maternity dress I bought when I was pregnant for the first time. It was the dress I wore to my baby shower so I enjoyed wearing it and had fond memories. The pattern was okay but I find it fits a bit wide in the bodice and the tiers of the skirt are not as wide or long as I'd like. I think next time I'd make the bodice in the 68cm and the skirt pieces in the next size up.