Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June!

I have to admit, I'm terrible about taking pictures. I guess since Emma has become a photographer I've gotten a bit lazy! I'm trying to get better at that.

So, here are some photos from different events in June. It's been packed and so much fun!

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Before her actual birthday, Kaitlyn masterminded a birthday surprise for Emma! She was kidnapped at "friend-point" and taken to breakfast at Dish in La Canada, where she was greeted by....

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...a group of her best girlfriends!


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They all pitched in for a very special gift - a Tiffany's gift card! Emma was shocked! I love Kait's face here. They have been best friends since 2nd grade.

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Then Kait told her they were going shopping at the Americana RIGHT THEN to spend it! She picked out a beautiful silver band ring.

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Then the graduations.....first my nephew Kyle's from La Canada High School.

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My sweet niece Amy and her boyfriend Austin.

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My kids! It dawned on me that I had never given Drew a high school diploma. Oh well.

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Cousins with similar gene pools. Amy is Rich's sister's daughter.

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Kyle going for his diploma. It was really cool - the kids put the colleges they were going to attend on their graduation caps. Lots of USC's in this crowd!

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The graduate with the family. He's going to Europe for a month and then will be a freshman at Southern Oregon University in the fall.

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Then there was Stephanie's graduation from Lighthouse! She gave a speech - it was a very special evening.

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Radiant girls!

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My fave all-time photo of Drew and Stephanie.

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On June 4th, we went to Lion King to celebrate Emma's birthday! Someday, I'll tell the interesting story of how I got us such wonderful seats (um, not).

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After dinner at Spaghetti Factory. We were running late so Rich had to go get the car and miss these pictures!
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The birthday girl and Nick.

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Finally, on to her REAL birthday on June 25- we were at the Resolved Conference in Palm Springs. Dinner at CPK was great.

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At Resolved. We had so much fun taking these kids to the conference. It was such an amazing experience. We love our kids' friends and cherish opportunities to spend time with them.

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Briana made this amazing cake and cupcakes for Emma in her fave color - Tiffany blue! She was able to smuggle them to Palm Springs and keep them safe despite the hot desert heat, and surprise Emma. Hooray for Hefty bags that resemble sleeping bags - Emma had no idea!

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Look at these beautiful cupcakes she made...

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...and these! They tasted as good as they looked, too! All Bri's cakes are not only gorgeous and creative, but also so tender and tasty (you should check out her blog, cakes by Bri, on my blogroll).

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I LOVE the detail in this picture. Sometimes my little point and shoot surprises me.

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The birthday girl blowing out her candles! (cakemaker admiring)

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Party in Room 4210! A few extra guests that were at the conference: L to R standing - Briana Steadman, Lindsay Tubbs
On sofa -Juliet Valaer, Laura Hamilton, Sarah Hamilton, Stephanie Tubbs, Deborah Thompson, Emma. Love all these girls.

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Apricots!

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I just picked my apricot tree - aren't these beautiful? My Blenheim tree is loaded with hundreds of big, perfect apricots this year. They are so sweet and actually juicy! They are nothing like the apricots found in stores, which are utterly flavorless.

Thanking God for this beautiful bounty! I love that He is displaying His splendor right in my own yard.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

My baby turns 17!

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I love this photo by Tracy Dodson.

Sometimes, I don't believe my words when I tell people my youngest is 17 years old (I've been rounding "up" lately). But, somehow, it is true. Emma has grown up so much in the past year: getting baptized, working as a photographer, getting her driver's license, deciding about college. She is becoming more and more independent and capable. It has been such a joy to see.

So, today, June 25th, I want to wish my dear, sweet daughter a very happy birthday! I love you so much Ems, and adore you beyond what mere words could ever express. You are such a gift from God.

My heart truly swells with love and thankfulness every time I see her. I thank God every day for the wonderful woman she is becoming. She is genuinely kind, caring, loving, and giving - she teaches me daily by her example. When she told Rich and I awhile back that she wanted to pursue nursing school, we knew that it was a very good choice for her in light of the qualities she already possesses. But, we also know, and are extremely proud of her for this: she desires most of all to follow God's plan for a woman and be a wife, mom, and homemaker someday. That is her heart's deepest longing and we pray God grants her this desire of her heart. She truly is a woman after God's own heart and that is a great encouragement to me.

Have fun being 17, Emma! Love you, sweetheart!

P.S. Today is a special day in our family...it is also my nephew Austin's 13th birthday and my parents' wedding anniversary. They were married 49 years ago today.


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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WDW - Meatloaf Sandwiches

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Not just one photo, but two - there you go Guties. (Andrew was disappointed that I didn't show a picture of the Key lime bars last week.)

Though it's summer, our family was in the mood for meatloaf this week. Meatloaf is normally a cold-weather comfort food, and can be on the heavy side. My meatloaf recipe is a great all-year-round recipe because it is actually quite light. It's super-moist and chock full of veggies and sourdough bread crumbs, made with a mixture of pork and beef.

When I make meatloaf, I generally serve it the traditional way with chunky mashed potatoes and peas. Have you ever mixed your peas and mashed potatoes? Yum. But what my family likes most about meatloaf is having it in a grilled sandwich.

And since this recipe makes a lot, I always plan meatloaf sandwiches with the leftovers. I take some good sliced sourdough bread, spread it with soft butter and press parmesan cheese (the stuff in the green can works perfect) onto the butter. I put the bread butter side down on a medium hot skillet or griddle. Then, I put some warm meatloaf on next (not too thick of a slice). Finally, I top the meatloaf with caramelized onions and some good cheese slices- either some sharp cheddar or pepper Jack for a little spice. Top with another parmesan encrusted slice of sourdough and cook on both sides until golden brown and you start to see cheese oozing out the sides. Now, grab some honey mustard or good dijon for dipping. This is one awesome sandwich. There is so much going on in each bite, but yet it's like a harmonious symphony working together beautifully- parmesan/sourdough crust, melted cheese, flavorful meatloaf- and the caramelized onions are a must. You just keep saying "mmm" as you eat it!

Here's the meatloaf recipe which I got from my good friend Dee Dee many years ago. I had tried many meatloaf recipes before, but they were always so dry and heavy and just seemed like a loaf of hamburger meat. When I tasted Dee Dee's I thought it was amazing. I use my mini chopper to chop all the ingredients, and toss them into my KitchenAid as I go. Don't overmix - just whirl the mixer until the ingredients are just combined. Enjoy!

Dee Dee's Meatloaf

10 slices sourdough bread (each slice should be equivalent to a regular slice of sandwich bread)
5 ribs celery
6 carrots

2 small brown onions
3 cloves garlic
2 ½ lbs. ground beef
2 lbs. ground pork

1 cup barbecue sauce
1 ½ cups ketchup
4 eggs
A few good dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Finely chop in food processor: bread, celery, carrots, onion, and garlic.

In a stand mixer, combine the chopped items along with the remaining ingredients. Mix on low speed just until combined. Divide mixture evenly between three 9 x 5 loaf pans. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until done. Let cool in pan 15 minutes before slicing.

Note: this freezes well uncooked. In order not to tie up your loaf pans, line them with foil, press the meatloaf in, then pop out the loaf. Wrap entirely in foil and freeze. To cook, place the shaped loaf, without the foil, inside the loaf pan.

Note: I usually halve the recipe, using 1 lb. each of beef and pork, and bake it in two loaf pans.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

WDW- Key Lime Bars

OK, this is the last week of sweet treats, I promise. I tried to move along, but I just had to share this one last bar cookie recipe with you.

Because, these Key Lime bars are some seriously tasty little numbers. I promise you, they will really make you say WOW. They really are sensational. If you like lemon bars, you will FLIP over these. They are like lemon bars with ooomph - creamier and the lime flavor is out of this world.

Key limes are little gems. They are smaller and less green than regular limes. They are called Key limes because, well, they were mainly grown in the Florida Keys and made famous by their use in Florida Key Lime pie. They are now actually grown in Mexico and California. They are much more aromatic and tart than regular limes. I found my Key limes at Vallarta market (I think it was $2 for a big bag), but you could substitute regular limes if you are not fortunate enough to obtain Key limes.

This recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk. When I went to make them, I realized the recipe only made an 8 x 8 pan, but the note said you can double it and make it in a 9 x 13 pan. I decided to double the recipe but then realized that I didn't have a second can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. I went online and found a recipe to make your own from scratch, and I may never buy the Eagle Brand again. It was so easy, more economical, and I'm sure, much better for you than the canned stuff. The recipe follows the cookie recipe.

Sorry, no picture. And I'm not going to type much more, as I am feeling some Carpal Tunnel in my right hand (too much typing lately). Just make these soon, OK?

Key Lime Bars

Crust
5 ounces animal crackers
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
Pinch salt
4 Tbsp. melted butter

Filling
2 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
1 Tbsp. grated lime rind
Pinch salt
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
½ cup fresh lime juice (about 20 key limes or 4 regular limes)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line an 8” square baking pan with two pieces of foil. Spray liberally with Pam spray.

For the crust:
Pulse the animal crackers in a food processor until evenly fine. Add brown sugar and salt, process to combine. Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the crumbs evenly and firmly in the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

For the filling:
In stand mixer, beat cream cheese, zest and salt until creamy. Add sweetened condensed milk and beat until well incorporated. Beat in egg yolk. Add lime juice and beat until incorporated.

Pour filling over baked crust and spread evenly.. Bake until set and the edges begin to pull away from the sides, about 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack about 1 – 1 ½ hours. Carefully cut into bars and keep refrigerated.

Note: May double recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 pan.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 c. instant non-fat powdered milk
1/2 c. boiling water
2/3 c. sugar
3 tbsp. butter

Place all ingredients in blender container. Process at high speed until smooth. Use in any recipe calling for the commercially sold sweetened condensed milk. This recipe makes the equivalent of one can of Eagle Brand.




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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

WDW - Raspberry-Oat Bars

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I needed to make some finger desserts for our homeschool group's promotion, and just wanted to try something new. I found this delicious recipe in my new cookbook, More Best Recipes (from the editors of Cook's Illustrated - my fave cooking magazine). I love making bar cookies, as they are so easy to make and they bake all in one batch. You can cut them into pretty little squares (or big squares) or even nice triangles. They are the perfect little desserts to serve at tea. I love raspberry anything, so these sounded great. I used frozen raspberries (I picked them out of my 3-berry frozen blend!), and the result was great.

Here's a great tip for whenever you are making bar cookies. Line the baking pan with foil. I get two pieces, and lay them perpendicular in the pan. That way the whole bottom of the pan is covered. I press down to make sure the foil is not loose anywhere. Then, I spray liberally with Pam spray. When the cookies are cooled after baking, you simply lift the foil up and out, and onto a cutting board. The foil serves two purposes: it provides for easy to cut bars, and NO clean up with the pan! I like that second one a lot.

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Raspberry-Oat Bars

2 ½ cups flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
16 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons butter, cut into ½ inch pieces and softened
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup raspberry preserves (Smucker’s Red Raspberry is best)
¾ cup fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 pan with two pieces of foil (perpendicular to each other – foil should extend past the pan on all sides). Spray with non-stick spray.

In a standing mixer, mix flour, granulated sugar, and salt at low speed until combined. With the machine on low, add 16 tablespoons of the butter, one piece at a time, until mixture resembles damp sand. Measure 1 ¼ cups of the flour mixture into a medium bowl and set aside. Press the remaining mixture into an even layer to form the bottom crust in prepared pan. Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 14-18 minutes.

While the crust is baking, add the oats, nuts, and brown sugar to the reserved flour mixture; toss to combine. Work in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until well incorporated (hands work best). Set aside.

Combine the preserves, raspberries, and lemon juice in a small bowl; mash with a fork until combined but some berry pieces remain. Spread the raspberry filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping over the filling (do not press down). Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is deep golden brown and bubbly, 22-25 minutes. Cool to room temperature, 1-2 hours. Lift the bars out of the pan, using the foil. Cut the bars into 24 squares and serve.
Bold

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Friday, June 4, 2010

dimanche matin avec Riche - Rockin' French Toast!

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So, most of you know by now that I tend to be a little health conscious. OK, maybe a lot health conscious.

For a moment though, I just want you to forget everything I've ever said about organic vegetables and brown rice.

Because sometimes, you really just need white bread, sugar, butter, and cinnamon in your life.

Rich made this for us last Sunday. We were sitting outside reading on Saturday afternoon, and I was going through my recent Bon Appetit magazine. I saw this recipe, promptly tore it out, handed it to Rich, and declared, "I want this for breakfast tomorrow!"

So, nice husband that he is, he made it the next morning. I pulled a half -loaf of Challah bread that my sister had made out of the freezer and he got to work.

And it was pretty much the most rockin' French Toast I've ever tasted. It was like a fresh, hot, soft, buttery cinnamon roll.


I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that it was white bread, sugar, butter and cinnamon.

Ahem.


Anyways, if you want to temporarily abandon those good habits and rock your family's world, make this sometime. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a homemade Challah (Jewish egg bread), you can pick one up at TJ's or WF. A regular soft French loaf would work well too, but the egg bread makes it really special.

Caramelized French Toast
Bon Appetit

Serves 4

7 Tbsp. butter, softened
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk (we don't buy whole milk, so we used 1/2 half and half and 1/2 1% milk)
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
8 slices (cut 1" thick) Challah or French Bread

Mix butter and brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk milk, eggs, vanilla, and spices.

Melt 2 Tbsp. of the brown sugar/butter mixture on a large non-stick skillet or griddle. Dip bread slices one at a time in egg mixture to coat. Add slices to skillet and cook until bottoms are deep brown, about 3-4 minutes. Spread remaining brown sugar/butter mixture over bread slices in skillet. Turn slices over. Cook until bottoms are deep brown, 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup.



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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

WDW- Hawaiian Inspiration

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Last Saturday, Rich and I set aside the afternoon to enjoy the backyard together. Lunch time rolled around and the warm weather made me feel like having a refreshing salad. It's been hard to get the wonderful foods of Hawaii off my mind and palate, so I decided to try and make something island-inspired for lunch. I went to the fridge and looked around for ingredients - I found a cabbage that needed to be used, a red bell pepper, a pineapple, and some leftover chicken breast. I decided to make sort of an Hawaiian cabbage salad. I chopped everything fine and I added a few other things like chives from the garden, toasted sesame seeds, and a few chopped macadamia nuts. I remembered the wasabi vinagrette we had in Hawaii and set out to make it.... I emulsified a little honey mustard with mostly olive oil, adding a little sesame oil, and some rice vinegar. It needed a bit more sweetness so I added a squirt of honey and I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper, and a touch of wasabi powder... it worked! I tossed it all together, and to give it a little wow factor, I made mini pineapple and strawberry kebabs to garnish the bowl (I break wooden skewers in half to make them mini). I have been buying Costa Rican pineapples at the store lately, and they are every bit as good as the ones we had in Hawaii. If you happen to find one, treat your family - they're delicious!

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I love coconut anything! I make my baked goods and granola with coconut oil, and use unsweetened shredded coconut in granola and anything I can. When I go to Whole Foods, I often pick up a container of freshly cut coconut (in the produce refrigerated section) and munch on it while I shop. Our recent obsession (a couple WDW's back), Brazilian Salmon Stew, utilizes coconut milk, which is a beautiful product. Here are a couple more wonderful things to do with coconut milk that I tried last week. I like to buy the real stuff and Whole Foods has it organic even, for about $2 a can. You can get the "light" kind at Trader Joe's, but the full-fat stuff is where it's at. The main health benefit of coconut is in its fat, so don't get the kind that has removed all that goodness and flavor.

Coconut Rice

Easy! Just substitute 1 can of coconut milk and about 3/4 can water to 1 cup rice. I used white basmati rice for this one. (I usually make brown rice, but for this recipe, white works the best). Treat the coconut milk like you would liquid in the rice, and prepare as usual. The result was fluffy, flavorful and rich tasting rice- my family flipped over this!

(virgin)Pina Coladas

Every day in Hawaii we treated ourselves to one of these at the pool. Try these at home and sip outside on a warm day- your kids will love them. If you have a good blender these are a snap. Just use equal parts coconut milk and pineapple juice (we bought the Dole refrigerated kind). Sweeten to taste with a little powdered sugar (about 2 good tablespoons for a couple cups of liquid), and throw in a small lemon slice (rind and all) if you have one. Blend that all together and add ice (crushed works best) to desired consistency (we like ours thick and slushy). These are so delicious and refreshing, and actually healthy too! Enjoy!


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