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home alone? not eva.

18 November 2014

dj

mom 2007

yesterday afternoon, i sat down in front of one of those Hallmark channel original movies (don’t judge me). the plot: expected. but unexpectedly, laugh-out-loud funny. i looked over at your photo, perched in its prominent place on the credenza, and knew how much you would have loved watching it with me. i can’t tell you how i miss those moments. when i’m out and about, i spot something totally you. a cute, cozy hoodie. one of your favorite ice cream flavors at Snow Goose. the park in Bellevue where you generously walked Winnie, the adorable bull terrier, on our first cold, rainy mornings in Washington. surprisingly (or not, because i’m a sap), i get a little teary-eyed. on that childlike level, i imagined you’d always be here. for me. for all of us. but your little student has come to learn, you are.

oh yeah, i can see a single, disapproving raised eyebrow when i’m not quite on track. a nose wrinkle when there’s bluegrass on the radio or i serve some variation on a chocolate-chip cookie (because you just may have forgotten you’ve come to adore them). that crooked smile and knee-slap when you tell a joke that you know is completely hokey. a great blue flying by much lower than one might expect.

today, like every day, little bird, i remember you. and even though you’re not sitting on the couch right next to me, i’m never home alone. love you always. see ya on the flip side.

 

angel dog, devil dog

17 February 2014

dj

winnie in divide

about 16 years ago, we welcomed a new member into our family fold. soft and adorable, we instantly fell madly in love with her.

we created a cozy little area in our dining room, where she could hang out during the day with her toys or catch a nap in her crate. winnie and postieearly one Sunday morning, i noticed she wasn’t in her designated space. me: hey, is Winnie with you? Tootie: no, you mean she isn’t with… i ran around the corner into the living room to find her chomping on my Stickley coffee table with her tiny, razor-sharp teeth. yeah, the ones that left puncture wounds like a rattlesnake’s. and so, our adventures with Winnie, the English bull terrier, began.

we carted Winnie off to obedience training, where the trainer threw up her arms and said, she’s completely untrainable. and sent us to the back of the classroom to work independently. she oozed charm (when she felt like it). looking up with her little, almond-shaped eyes, she could implore nearly anyone to open the pantry to get her a little treat. oh yeah, Winnie was a consummate manipulator who was training us to do her bidding. and, admittedly, we let her wrap us around her little paw.

feisty and fearless, she could tunnel through a few feet of  snow, bound across a mountain meadow (with me flying behind on the other end of her lead) and leap into the air, performing a dare-devilish spin. when professional life dictated relocation, Winnie was confidently at-the-ready:

  1.      do you have my bed? √
  2.      food? √
  3.      toys? √
  4.      can i sleep on the bed at the hotel? √ √

let’s go!!!!!
sure, she enjoyed her downtime. like when she’d grab a little snooze under a big shade tree or on the chaise lounge on the back deck.

Roll 127 - 43most often, you could find her flopped upside down—all four feet dangling in the air—in one of her many comfy beds. a dedicated volunteer, she often offered to wedge herself between me and the kitchen counter in case she could lend a hand when i dropped a tidbit during dinner prep. sometimes she’d even let me give her a big hug (if i asked nicely and promised a Wet Noses biscuit in return).

it’s been a year since Winnie’s passing. i still walk over to where her dish once sat to give her a much-anticipated meal (she knew to the seeming second when breakfast, lunch and dinner should be served). i look longingly at the spot where she’d take the long, dream-filled naps of older dogs. she was our lovable, high-spirited diva. that perfect balance of angel dog and devil dog. playful. stubborn. sweet. outrageously funny. compliant, with a ‘tude.

Tom Springfield said and The Seekers sung it best:

i could search the whole world over
until my life is through
but i know i’ll never find another you.

wait for me in front of that heavenly pantry, pumpkin. miss you, love you always.

P1000569

little bird: pure sunshine

4 February 2014

dj

long before Dunkin’ Donuts’ seemingly complete domination of Boston (much like Seattle’s Starbuck’s on every corner), my dad and i would trek to our suburban Dunkin’ to pick up a dozen for our little family. what can i get you, the clerk would say. and dad would consistently reply, yeahgive me six lemon-filled. lemon doughnuts were mom’s favorite. i have no doubt that, given the opportunity, she would have eaten them every single day. they became my favorite, too (copycat), so dad made sure his girls had enough to go around.

mom and grandma_Sm

mom and grandma

prior to the lemon curd shortage (an apparent byproduct of today’s less-than-generous approach to doughnut-making), mom was able to get a healthy portion of filling with nearly every bite. she’d look up at me, a little bit of powered sugar on the corners of her mouth, which she’d pat daintily with her napkin. giggle. then, consume the only remaining bite. delicious!, she’d proclaim.

like the very best attributes of a lemon—bright and zingy—mom exuded a warmth that others were drawn to. basked in. i can’t tell you how much i miss that sunshine. when she came to live with us in the latter part of her life, i’d occasionally trot home with lemon-filled doughnuts. sure, she enjoyed them. but never as much as when dad arrived triumphantly with a dozen under his arm.

to celebrate what would have been mom’s 92nd birthday, i’ve assembled a menu i think she would have liked:

brisketchallah
a nice loaf of challah (best eva!)
brussel sprouts (simplified this recipe)
noodle kugle
meyer lemon hand pies (crust recipe)

here’s to you, little bird. it’s never as sunny without you here. sending you love and smooches. catch ya on the flip side.

meyer lemon hand pie

spice girls forever

18 November 2013

dj

mom and Winnie_Sm

i lost my mom exactly three years ago. since little bird’s passing, the thanksgiving holiday (ever our family’s favorite) has become more of a time of reflection than of feastivity (yeah, not a typo). i stopped preparing that lengthy to-do list and detailed menu that served as the countdown to turkey time (in fact, turkey no longer makes an appearance at our table). i don’t strategize about what time the night before i need to prepare the brioche dough. or when i should bound out of bed the next morning, so the pecan rolls will be ready when everyone else rises for coffee and televised parades. what remains the same is the sense of gratitude i feel for having had her in my life.

both of my zingy girls (mom and Winnie, the adorable, devilish English bull terrier) are gone now. they each hadwinnie and dj on the trail larger-than life personalities, equally huge hearts and generous spirits. more than once, i caught mom bending down and saying to Winnie, “you are one hot spud.” even in her twilight years, Winnie would respond with much tail-wagging, a few crisp barks of agreement and several speedy laps around the family room. then, of course, would demand a treat—and take a well-deserved snooze. they loved food, me and each other. maybe not exactly in that order.

little bird and Winnie had a zest for life. i’m dedicating this little number to my two, feisty, spicy gingers. until i see you again, keep each other company. love you to the moon and back…

Spicy Gingerbread
a recipe from flour by Joanne Chang

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. butter and flour a 9 x 13–inch pan.
  3. using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2 – 3 minutes); scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure there are no lumps.
  4. in a small bowl, whisk together the grated ginger and eggs until blended.
  5. with the mixer on low speed, add the egg mixture, and beat until just combined.
  6. scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, then beat on medium speed for 20 – 30 seconds, until mixture is homogenous.
  7. in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, pepper, cinnamon and cloves; set aside.
  8. in another medium bowl, whisk together the molasses, boiling water, and baking soda.
  9. on the lowest mixer speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixture already in the bowl, then beat until incorporated.
  10. pour in one half of the molasses mixture, and continue to mix at the lowest speed until combined; scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  11. on the lowest mixer speed, add half of the remaining flour mixture, and beat until incorporated.
  12. add the remaining molasses mixture, and beat until incorporated.
  13. stop the mixer, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  14. add the final flour mixture, and beat on low speed for about a minute.
  15. scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  16. bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the middle.
  17. let cool in pan on a wire rack.

serve with vanilla-bean whipped cream. let your dog lick the whipped cream off the whisk. give your mom the biggest, bestest piece.

mom at beach_Sm

where apples fall

15 October 2013

dj

family tree apple cake

yesterday, i went shopping. it’s something i do now only out of necessity. when mom (a.k.a. little bird) was alive, we went frequently. persistently. at times, ad nauseum. i had to force myself to remember that, to mom (who spent more than 25 years in upscale sales), retail felt like going home.

no matter where we shopped, she proactively sought out sales people in every store—as if they were family. most newbie retail associates tried to avoid her enthusiastic advances (and eye contact). but seasoned comrades, much to mom’s delight, engaged respectfully in conversations. and she took their parting words to come back again soon like invitations from dear friends.

my solo retail outing (mission: to replace ratty old sweaters with new, unratty counterparts) took a surprising turn. i found myself drawn—clearly by some mysterious, magnetic force—to a retail outlet and to a sweater nearly identical to one little bird used to wear religiously. yeah, ok, hers didn’t have a hoodie. and she didn’t wear mens’ sweaters, except for dad’s when she felt a little blue. and i have no intention of wearing a brooch on my sweater. but other than that, we could have been twins. i grabbed the sweater, hugged it tightly to my chest and grinned a big toothy one. even the newbie sales guy at the register seemed to feel the excitement of my discovery and pride in being part of a shiny, new-store family. i think mom would have liked him.

dominant gene: skinny legs

dominant genes: skinny legs, big feet

as the years go by, i catch myself sounding—and looking—just a little bit more like mom. a lilt in my voice (with only a hint of New England accent). a facial expression. a wicked-lame joke. an affinity for a handsome, black and white sweater. and i think (with some modicum of panic), i am becoming my mother. well, dear, the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

if you’re in the mood, crank up Glenn Miller’s rendition of People Like You and Me, get out the flour, and whip up a nicely moist apple cake (recipe just below).

mom would have liked it with a double-dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream. or maybe some vanilla ice cream. or both. from our gene pool: when it comes to dessert, always shoot the moon.

endnote: sincere thanks to those who’ve continued to stop by during this quiet time. losing our beloved Winnie on 17 February left my creative spirit squashed. appreciate your patience as i get my juju back.

Family Tree Apple Cake
based on a recipe from pinch of yum

INGREDIENTS

for the cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (i use sunflower)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped apples (i used a mix of Queen Cox and Bramley; if you don’t have access to these, try a nice, tart Granny Smith)

for the topping
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. butter a 10-inch square pan. (if you don’t have this more unusual size [mine is a Emile Henry Urban Colors square baking dish], you could use a 9 x13-inch pan, but the cake wouldn’t be as lofty.)
  3. to make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, flour, cinnamon and cloves.
  4. using a pastry blender, cut in the butter (leaving some larger lumps) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
  5. to make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
  6. in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat brown sugar and oil until combined.
  7. add egg, buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until throughly incorporated.
  8. add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  9. fold in the apples.
  10. scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading out evenly.
  11. sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
  12. bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 45 minutes.
  13. let cake cool in pan on rack, but it’s great served warm.
dominant genes: goofy w/beak

dominant genes: goofy w/beak

 

simply little bird

4 February 2013

dj

shortbread cookies

often, simple things delight us most. like watching Elroy’s jowls quiver as he snores through a power nap. or sitting in front of a 1940’s MGM musical with a bowl of butter-drenched popcorn. or a little hike, where you can breathe in crisp, clean Colorado air  at 9,300 feet on a sunny, summer day. or those evenings my dad would enthusiastically serve us an appetizer of half a grapefruit, sprinkled liberally with sugar and majestically topped with a maraschino cherry.

it was with that kind of simplicity in mind that i went about to create mom’s birthday tribute dinner. little big mom_Smi began with her childhood favorite, lamb rib chops. on the occasions i had the privilege to make them for her, our little bird would daintily pick up a diminutive broiled chop and eat every bit—until only the bone remained. she’d then look up and grin that signature grin of pure satisfaction. no lamb in my experience has been as tender and buttery as the Sea Breeze Farm chops i discovered this weekend. i was fortunate to meet the Vashon Island-based Sea Breeze team at the U District Farmers’ Market in Seattle—i appreciate the knowledge they willingly share and admire their farming practices. mom loved meandering through this market; i know she would have adored these chops.

to accompany the lamb, i served grilled asparagus on a bed of fresh linguini—tossed together in a sticky, rich balsamic reduction. simple, for sure, but packed with flavor. i like to think mom would have been grinning from ear to ear had she been at the table with us. she definitely would have enjoyed an accompanying glass of Vignalta Fior d’Arancio Colli Euganei. loved that bubbly.

for dessert, a melt-in-your-mouth Montmorency cherry shortbread cookie, sprinkled with a little organic cane sugar bling. it just wouldn’t be mom, without the bling.

for those of you who revel in the simple things, you can find the basic recipes here:

pasta and asparagus with balsamic reduction (again, i grilled the asparagus)
shortbread cookies (tweaks: roll the dough to 1/2-inch; add 1/2 to 3/4 cup tart, dried cherries to the dough; also consider adding some orange zest, but nix the icing)

i’ll be seeing you in all those old familiar places, little bird. like tonight, i plan to grab a patty melt at our favorite burger joint. not as elegant, perhaps, as our special birthday dinners at Ken’s Steak House or the Wayside Inn (and you can cool believe i won’t be wearing a dress), but my Vanilla Coke toast will be straight from the heart. cranking up 40’s on 4 and sending you a humongous hug and smooches on this birthday and always. with love.

little bird: belle of the ball

18 November 2012

dj

this morning, i grabbed your  favorite mug, made a cup of tea and settled in to look through our family photo boxes. two years ago, you would have been sitting here next to me. and i would have been saying something like, oh, remember that snow storm?? you would have been saying something more like, oh, i loved that outfit! i’ve always thought we each had our own unique spin on the world. but with the passing of time, i realized we were much more alike than i ever imagined.

sure, you had impeccable taste. and style (like in the above photo. seriously, who looks that put together at the bowling alley??); i, while clean and tidy, am at home only in flannel and Levi’s. you enjoyed travel on the high seas; i’m completely content paddling along the shoreline. you were the belle of every ball; i prefer to watch the ball in some 40’s film. yes, on some levels we were seemingly incompatible. on what matters most, we were of one mind.

over the last 24 months, i’ve missed sharing our common ground. lively conversation and well-articulated wisdom (on your part, of course). family and food (today, consumed lobstah tails in your honor). long, brisk walks (we slowed the pace over the years, but our spirits sprinted). marathon shopping excursions (your stamina far exceeded mine). curling up on the couch with good books or to watch classic movies (i bowed to your seniority and bragging rights because you’d seen them in the theater).

i now grasp why you might have worn your fleece vest in the house, when the thermostat was set on 73 degrees. or you left that 1/8″ of half and half in a pint container. or closed the blinds at 3:30 in the  afternoon, on dreary November days. i embrace my inner Fran, when i do the same. and silently (well, sometimes i just shout it out, and the dogs roll their eyes indulgently) express my gratitude for your lifelong guidance and unconditional love.

can’t wait see you on the flip side, little bird. until then, bowl a 300 game. cut it up with dad on the dance floor. and keep sending the big blue heron my way. with infinite love and smooches.

summer, sand and sandwiches

30 September 2012

dj

as i sit down to write this post, my mind rushes back to those first, early fall days of school. sitting at my desk, hands folded and donning a new dress (what a little lady) expertly chosen by my mother, i’d hang on every word uttered by my adored teachers. then, at their direction—and this was my favorite part—i’d choose a shiny new, razor-sharp #2 pencil and begin to craft my annual essay about  how i spent my summer vacation.

had i been assigned the same teacher two years in a row, she likely would have been lulled into a coma by the redundancy of my essays: 50 percent dedicated to the blast i had at girl scout camp and the remaining 50 percent to the wicked-good times i had with my family at the beach. i was never bored by either.

an older me, sis at the Cape

my parents, younger sister and i spent several summers down the Cape (translation: at Cape Cod, Massachusetts): wonderful, lazy weeks of swimming, combing the beach for sea shells and soaking up sunshine—without the oppression of inland humidity. but some of favorite beach days were spent at Crane’s Beach, on Massachusett’s north shore.

we’d jump out of bed early on a weekend morning and throw on our swimsuits. my dad would back the Impala out of the garage and pack the cooler with ice. then, mom would yell, what kind of sandwiches do you want, peanut butter and jelly? GAG. i think Cheryl wants peanut butter. can i please have bologna? in my mind, i said a bologna prayer. anything to avoid peanut butter.

with sandwiches, chips, sodas and Oreos snuggled inside the cooler, we headed to Crane’s. upon arrival, mom and dad scouted out an ideal location, spread out beach towels and hunkered down with books. my sister took her pail and shovel and began the dig to China. i’d walk down to the shore and up through the garnet sand to the dunes; we’d all take dips in the frigid water to cool down.

in a few hours, mom inevitably declared time for lunch! as inevitably, Cheryl’s peanut butter sandwich attracted sand, and she’d cry. i’d happily sit on my towel, munching on my bologna. in the middle of the afternoon, we’d haul ourselves back to the Impala and make the drive back to suburbia. satisfied with yet another beautiful New England day at the beach.

this summer’s essay: i spent a lot of time at the farmers’ markets, enjoying the amazing weather and cooking up dishes with fresh produce. i made a few pies and grilled a fair amount of pizzas. but didn’t begin baking in earnest until this month. ever on a quest to find a replacement for the dreaded peanut butter, i stumbled upon Artisana nut butters. their team was kind enough to send me some samples, and i decided to test out the pecan butter with a dense, dark chocolate sandwich cookie recipe, reminiscent of our best days at the north shore.

little sis, this one’s for you. infinitely better than what was on your white bread. and now i’ll have some nut butter to put on mine!

Homemade Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
a recipe from the flour cookbook with a slight variation
makes 16 – 18 good-size cookies
plan in advance, as the dough sits in two stages for a total time of at least 3 hours before baking.

INGREDIENTS

for dough
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (recipe calls for chips; i used 4 2-ounce Schaffenberger semi-sweet squares)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

for nut-butter filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup smooth nut butter (my pecan butter wasn’t completely smooth, but worked well and received kudos from those who snarfed them down and wanted more)
pinch of kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. in a medium-size bowl, whisk together the butter and granulated sugar until well combined.
  2. whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate, then add the egg, and whisk until completely incorporated.
  3. in another medium-size bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.
  4. using a spoon, stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture to form a dough.
  5. let sit at room temperature for an hour.
  6. transfer the dough to a 15-inch square of parchment paper.
  7. shape the dough into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.
  8. roll the parchment paper around the log.
  9. with the log fully encased in parchment, roll until smooth, maintaining the 2 1/2-inch diameter.
  10. put in the frig for at least 2 hours or until firm; reroll every 15 minutes or so to maintain the round shape.
  11. preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  12. cover baking sheets with parchment paper.
  13. cut the dough log into 1/4-inch slices, and place them at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.
  14. bake for around 16 – 20 minutes, or until the cookies are firm to the touch. they’re dark, so you won’t be able to see if they’re done by just looking.
  15. let the cookies cool to room temperature on the baking sheets.
  16. to make the filling, using a hand mixer, cream the butter on low speed for around 30 seconds, or until soft and smooth.
  17. add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until the mixture is completely smooth.
  18. add the nut butter and salt, and beat until smooth.
  19. scoop one rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of one cookie.
  20. top with a second cookie, bottom-side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges.

i sent some of these babies with Tootie to her monthly staff meeting. rumored to be a huge hit (hope you enjoy the recipe, gals!). much like Oreos, a perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of whole organic milk. i bet they’re even better eaten at the beach.

ENDNOTE

alternatively, you can make a vanilla cream filling with the following:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
pinch of kosher salt

homing beak-in

31 August 2012

dj

i’m an early riser. seven days a week, i spring out of bed (ok, sometimes i groan and roll) at the crack of dawn to begin each shiny, new day. in the state of Washington, it’s mostly each dreary, new day, but you get the drift. during the week, i sometimes schedule 6:00 a.m. conference calls with an east-coast design colleague. and i usually begin the calls with my  i-haven’t-talked-with-humans-yet disclaimer. (Michael, the designer and stalwart friend, is always patient with my initial incoherency.) but there’s something sacred about the morning stillness that beckons me to haul myself up to be a part of it.

for the past few early Saturday mornings, Tootie and i have driven an hour north to Bellingham, where we like to stroll through the farmers’ market packed with just-picked organic produce. before we head to the market, we stop for tea, then take brisk walks along the bay near Boulevard Park. last week, we jumped off the interstate and headed toward the boardwalk. just before our turn, my eye caught a brown state park sign: Larabee State Park, 7 miles. as many times as i’d driven on that road, i’d never noticed that sign. hmmm. me: want to go on a little adventure before the market opens?? Tootie: sure! 

i maneuvered quickly into the left turn lane, heading south on Chuckanut Drive. each twist and turn in the road brought a new delight: a large property overflowing with brightly colored perennials. two does and three spotted fawns bouncing lightly along the tree line. ancient, moss-covered trunks embracing the roadway, their branches forming a welcoming arch as we traveled toward the park. soon we spotted a sign for the park’s boat launch. ever-inquisitive paddlers, we turned west toward the bay. in minutes, we pulled into the lot at Wildcat Cove.

the early-morning fog hadn’t completely lifted. a brisk wind slapped the choppy water against the shoreline. the small, rocky beach spilled over with the empty orange shells of Dungeness crabs. i looked up toward the cove’s southern-most point and then i saw her standing in the shallow water: a great blue heron. seriously? compelled by the bird to take an unplanned jaunt to the park that morning and specifically to the cove? well, i like to think she was the beak-in. certainly made me feel like mom is never too far away. i didn’t have my camera with me, but Tootie managed to take a blurry shot with her phone’s camera. mom would never have passed up a photo op.

we went back to the cove the next week. the sun shone; the water, calm and glassy, lazily lapped the rocks. ho-hum. ma? she wasn’t around. but this big boy sat atop the tallest pine in sight. majestic, to be sure. but not as cool as the great blue heron. we hiked through the park, then went up to the farmers’ market. we stuffed our bags with Ailsa Craig heritage onions, heirloom  tomatoes and Krimson Lee peppers. with our booty, we made enough zingy tomato sauce to top future pizzas and pasta and to deck out some eggplant parmesan and lasagna. while spicy sauce has always reminded me of my dad, i imagine when i eat this Italian fare, i’ll be thinking lovingly of little bird.

celebrate the stars and stripes (and strawberries)

3 July 2012

dj

i spent a lot of years playing in my school’s marching band. ok, i was a band geek. and darn proud of it. whether out on the field or in a parade, decked out in the 1950’s uniforms we inherited from classes long past, or just sitting in a rehearsal, band became my haven and heaven. not merely a class i’d attend during third period, band was the place i fine-tuned my listening skills, developed the discipline of practice and deepened my understanding of and commitment to ensemble. did i mention band meant hanging out with my dearest friends (translation: BFFs)??

the fourth of July and the thought of John Philip Sousa marches brings these warm memories flooding back. if you’re hanging out with family and friends on the 4th, i invite you to bake them this super simple, moist and fruity cake. constructed with fresh, juicy and perfect local frog strawberries (any strawberries will do), this cake can help usher in the evening’s fireworks.

i’ll be listening to Sousa marches (more intently to the piccolo parts, of course) and firing up the grill. i might have to turn on the Boston Pops for a few (right, ma?). and i’ll be thinking how amazing it is to live in the U.S.A. what will you be up to? happy 4th!

Stars and Stripes Strawberry Cake
as found on smitten kitchen and adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scant cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole organic milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

optional topping
heavy whipping cream, vanilla bean and sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. butter a 9-inch, deep-dish pie pan or 9-inch cake pan.
  3.  in a small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat butter and scant 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  5. add egg, milk and vanilla, and mix until just combined.
  6. add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
  7. pour cake batter into prepared pie plate.
  8. as close  together as possible, arrange strawberries in a single layer on top of batter, cut side down.
  9. sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  10. bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325°F, and continue to bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 to 60 minutes.
  11. let cake cool in pan on a rack.
  12. to serve, cut into wedges, and top with whipped cream infused with vanilla bean.

as mom would say, mmmmmmmmmmmm. enjoy!

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