Little Lady Turns Two

There aren't even really words to say it - but, you know.  Words aren't even necessary when it comes to celebrating someone you love.  This one - Little Lady - there's no end to the joy and laughter she brings us as our precious daughter and little sister.  Happy TWO!


Jacob's Ladder Modern Baby Quilt

It's turning cold - therefore, it is quilt and soup season.

Here's a little baby quilt I was able to put together for some dear friends who are expecting their first in just a few weeks.  Until I get to hug their precious son in person, this little quilt will have to do the trick!

This Jacob's Ladder Modern Baby Quilt measures about 28" x 40".  I pieced small strips on a white background with a faux applique method - no real pattern, just fun piecing!
 It is quilted all over in a meandering free-motion pattern.
 And there - can you see it? - the tiniest of labels!  That's a new addition to my etsy shop!


Chewy Granola Bars

"Quite Possibly The Best Thing To Come Out Of My Oven, Ever" Chewy Granola Bars
based on a recipe from my friend Valerie

yield: about 3 dozen 1x3" bars

3/4 c. soft butter
1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour (I used 1 cup of almond flour* and 1/2 c. all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. oat flour* (made by pulsing rolled oats in a food processor) + 1 c. rolled oats
2 c. rice krispies
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. raisins or dried cranberries, or a combination
1/2 c. dried sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together wet ingredients in a small bowl, then add sugar.  Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl and add in wet ingredients (I did this step in a mixer with a dough hook to save myself the stirring).  Press into a well-greased 9x13" pan.  Bake for 25-35 minutes.  Cool then cut into bars.


I hit the jackpot with this.  I am definitely not telling you I'm an amazing cook -nope, what I'm saying is that this is an amazing recipe.  And it made a TON!  I cut these into 1"x3" bars because they are really hearty, and it turns out that they are just the right size for stuffing in my mouth when the kids aren't watching.  What's that?  You've never done that?  Oh.  Well, I sneak food all the time because my precious vultures sweethearts love to eat as much as I do.  Don't worry, they're getting them too ... just not every time they happen to walk by the fridge!

So, go.  Make these.  Be a better person than me and share them with those you love.

*If you don't have almond flour, no biggie - just use 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour.  And if you aren't in the mood for pulverizing oats in a food processor, omit the oat flour and throw in an extra cup or so of rolled oats.


Cookies, and First Things

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (an updated version of these

3/4 c. coconut oil
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips, or any combination of things to equal 1 cup (dried cranberries, coconut flakes, chopped dates, rolled oats, chocolate/white chocolate/butterscotch/peanut butter chips, etc)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together coconut oil and sugar until fluffy and light in color.  Add egg and vanilla and blend in.
Mix in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in chocolate chips/other additions.
Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop dough onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges (the tops will not brown, but do NOT cook longer than 10 minutes!).
Let cool on the sheet on a wire rack for five minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool completely.  Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Ya'll.  This girl started preschool!  I may or may not have used these cookies as an incentive to let me get some first-day-of-school pictures.

She loves it!

Prepare yourself for a bit more preciousness.  She finally fits in these teensy Chacos that have been in the "to-grow-into" box for two years.

Also, we just completed our first sewing project together: a ruler holder.  Maybe you didn't know that rulers needed cases, but they do.  Let us know if you need one for a measuring device you possess.  She's really good at these.

So many first things!  Good thing there are plenty of cookies for mommy ...


Roasted Tomato Sauce

If I could have only one thing from a garden, it would be tomatoes.  Millions of them.  OK, maybe more like hundreds, or even just dozens ... but, tomatoes.  They are the reason I garden.

About a week ago, I found myself in possession of almost 30 pounds of tomatoes, all at once, all ripe.  I immediately wanted to eat every single one figure out a way to preserve one of my favorite things about summer because - I'll have to face it soon enough - winter is coming, and I'm going to need encouraging.  My friend Erin had told me that she had roasted some tomatoes and made a sauce, so I decided to try it myself.  Typical sauce-making methods call for lots more steps and time than I was willing to do - like, pureeing the solids FIRST and then boiling it for a few hours to cook off the liquids.  No, thanks.

You can make this with ANY amount of tomatoes you have - don't think that because you aren't starting with sinkfuls of tomatoes you can't do it. Also, you can adjust the other veggies you add in there - I did a batch with sweet potatoes and zucchini instead of carrots; I also think that adding more onions or garlic would make a really fantastic sauce. 

Roasted Tomato Sauce

10 lb. tomatoes
2 lb. carrots
2 sweet peppers
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
2-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Wash and place in a roasting pan: tomatoes with stem core removed, carrots and peppers, quartered onions, and peeled garlic cloves.

Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Stir to coat everything.

Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until the tomatoes have split and released their juices, and some of the other vegetables are golden brown.

Place a large colander over a large bowl; scoop out the roasted vegetables into the colander.  Let it sit and drain for 10-15 minutes.  You can gently press on the solids a bit if you need to to let the extra liquid drain out.  I highly suggest saving the liquids to use for cooking rice, braising meat, or as a soup base (I did all three).  If you're not sure what to use it in, consider substituting it whenever a recipe calls for some kind of broth.

Now, puree the solids in a blender or food processor, or with a stick blender. 

Freeze or can the sauce, according to your preference. 

Word to the wise: consider freezing it in the amount that you think you'd use at a time instead of in one giant ziploc bag.  Since we eat a lot of pizza (this kind or this kind or this kind), I freeze it in little 1/2 cup amounts - just enough for pizza sauce for two pizzas - so that I can thaw out what I'm actually going to use.  I also prefer to can tomato sauce in smaller jars for the exact same reason.  Also, it lasts longer that way. 

If we eat pizza once a week, I think I'll have enough sauce to last until March.  Summer will carry me through winter.  Encouraging, indeed.


Quick Pizza Dough from Scratch (or, Zero to Pizza in an Hour)

Yield: 2 10-inch pizza crusts

Make pizza from scratch!
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (one package)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. warm water (120-130 degrees)
2 Tbsp. cooking oil

In a mixing bowl combine 1 1/4 c. flour, yeast, and salt; add warm water and oil.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly.  Beat on high speed for an additional 3 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much remaining flour as needed.  On a lightly-floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a moderatly stiff dough, about 5 minutes.  (I do this step in my stand mixer - I attach the dough hook and add the remaining flour about 1/2 cup at a time until it's well incorporated.  Once I've gotten a stiff, not too sticky dough, I let the mixer do the kneading.  If it's too dry and flaky (like, maybe I accidentally added too much flour there at the end), I add some warm water one teaspoon at a time.)

Divide into two pieces; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Shape each piece into a 10-inch pizza crust; add sauce and toppings/cheese of choice.  Bake at 425 for 14-18 minutes, or until crust is brown and cheese is bubbly.

I've been absent for a month and a half ... and I return with pizza.  I bet you thought that I was working on some really amazing culinary creation, which would explain my lack of posts.  But, no.  Pizza.  Delicious, easy, homemade pizza.

What's that?  Wondering what I've been doing?  Well, I'm so glad you asked.  See, I have these two kids I get to hang out with, who are really awesome and precious and energetic and talkative.  That's what I've been up to, instead of cooking and blogging.

We have been filling our summer days with so many wonderful things that DON'T involve hot kitchens.  Let me just be real: we have eaten a ridiculous amount of hummus and cheese sandwiches.  I couldn't bring myself to blog a sandwich recipe, but I'm pretty sure that 5 out of 7 days a week involved hummus and cheese on a tortilla or bread (or crackers if I really wanted to be zippy).

We've been eating a lot of picnic dinners at the playground that's right next door to our community garden plot.  Enter sandwiches again (and how could I keep sharing sandwich recipes?  Really.  No one wants those.)

We were out of hummus (oh no!) but still needed a picnic dinner, so in came the pizza.  I didn't have the forethought to make my go-to pizza crust in the bread machine, but I remembered a recipe my friend Cindi shared in a group cookbook we did back in 2010.  The pizza came together - from thought to hot-out-of-the-oven - in less than an hour.  Not bad!

So, that's why there's pizza.  Because it was quick, and portable, and delicious, and easy for the kiddos to grab between sliding and swinging at the playground.

A few other things from the summer:

All of a sudden, Little Sister decides she'll master climbing up into her booster chair.  Like, she wasn't doing it, and then she was.  These kids.  Stop the crazy changing already!

Tomatoes!  And baskets.  Both endeavors are keeping me so happily busy.

And just a few more: special time with some really, really special people ...


The Annual Zucchini Roundup

I'm sitting here in my new house, on my new street, in my new neighborhood, in a new city.  Granted, it's just two miles from the other one, but still.  It's new to us.  We are unpacked and making our daily living space work for us.  I am not sure I thought I could be more content with less space than I'm used to, but geez - I'm happy with this space.  It took me a whopping 8.5 minutes yesterday to clean all the rooms but one.  That deserves a "woohoo" if anything does.

Oh, and look at these sweeties: my little kitchen helpers.  Goodness, do they make me melt.  Big Sister just keeps me at the edge of my seat, waiting for the next awesome thing she's going to say (like yesterday: "Hey, Mommy, you're the best mommy in the world.  I like being with you.  Now will you please go out of my room?").  And Little Girl is pure spunk: keeping up with the big kids, and running to give kisses and hugs like there's no tomorrow.  She likes to shush her baby dolls, ask for things by name (I finally figured out "nee-nets" means Kleenex), and generally do everything by herself.  

Oh, the zucchini, you say?  I almost forgot that this is a post about zucchini.

Here: friends from church gave us some.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but look at the one at the back, and then realize that it's as wide as the cart it's sitting on ... which is 18".  Yes, a massive zucchini.  I promised these friends that I'd repay the kindness with a little rundown of what I was doing with the zucchini (as well as a little treat, but shhh, don't tell!).

Here's what we've done so far:

Chocolate Zucchini Bread, with chocolate chips of course.  I actually reduced the sugar by half and upped the amount of shredded zucchini in there.  According to custom, one must refer to this as "vegetable bread" and must eat some whenever one's body needs some vegetables.

Goat Cheese-Zucchini Tart: using this recipe from Fine Cooking as a springboard, I used up about 4 oz. of goat cheese mixed with some local herbs (ehem - from my back herb garden!), spread on a pastry crust.  I did make my own crust, but I think a storebought dough would work beautifully as well.  It's a pretty simple recipe, and the flavors really mix so nicely!

Zucchini tacos: OK, no recipe here.  But I chopped up some zucchini into 1/4" cubes and sauteed them in oil for a bit - so they'd get soft but not mushy - then added a tablespoon or so of fajita seasoning.  Then we just layered them in tortillas with the works before gobbling them up in about 42 seconds.

There's still half a zucchini left: that's going on tonight's pizza along with some eggplant, tomatoes, pesto, and parmesan cheese.

(and yes, it will be followed by vegetable bread.)