Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Goin' to the Chapple

Summer is officially in full swing. I know this because 1) It is hot, 2) Isabella is no longer the only 6 year old out in public between the hours of 8 and 3, and 3) Cherries have arrived at the markets! This causes so much rejoicing in my house that I pretend not to notice that they are $6 a pound and have a carbon foot print spanning both hemispheres. While my mother always disliked cherries due to the fact they reminded her of her childhood dentist's toothpaste, I for one, do not have that problem- I always prefers chocolate mint.

There is no kitchen task that trumps pitting cherries, and by the time the girls are through with it, my kitchen invariably appears to have been the scene of a most violent crime (only I don't get to call in a clean up squad). This impromptu pie came about from having insufficient amounts of both cherries and apples to really get anywhere, however it ended up being the favorite dessert of the season thus far!

On a relatively unrelated note, I would like to say congratulations to my brother Jake and soon-to-be Auntie Lena, who are "gonna get ma ah ah ried"! Love you guys XO

Chapple (Cherry and Apple) Pie

Pie Crust

3 or 4 granny smith apples, each peeled and sliced into 16 pieces
a cup and a half or so of cherries (frozen will work too)
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 TBS flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 TBS water or milk)
sugar for sprinkling on top

1. Mix all of the filling ingredients into a large bowl and allow to rest for several minutes
2. Roll out your bottom pastry, fit into pie plate, and unceremoniously dump the filling inside
3. Roll out top pastry, place on top, and use your finger dipped in eggwash to help seal the two pieces together. Crimp decoratively and make a few slits.
4. Brush with eggwash and sprinkle with sugar. Place in the fridge while you allow the oven to preheat to 350 (this allows the dough to chill slightly which will help it keep its shape better when baking, it is also important to roll, not stretch, the dough for the same reason).
5. Bake for 45 minutes or so until bubbly and brown. If you notice the crust getting overly brown before also getting bubbly, place a sheet of foil over the top to deflect the heat.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Much Ado About Blue

Today, my baby turned two. I remember when Josephine (who will be 4 in a matter of days) had her second birthday party- having just had Samuel, and being pregnant for 9 months prior, I was accustomed to no longer thinking of Josephine as "the baby"; there was a new little person claiming that title. However, the thought of Samuel now at that same age no longer being "the baby" seems utterly foreign and bazaar. He is SO the baby, and with no replacement in sight, I really can't see that changing anytime soon. The contemplation of Samuel's forcasted eternal babydom does make me wonder- How did I ever become such a "boy mom"?

My prevailing vision of mothers of sons has always occupied some form of a slightly militaristic woman sporting a scowl and an SUV and a bad short haircut (possibly wearing a jersey of some kind with a matching scrunchie), and the sons as being rough and tough and dirty and well, boys. I never had brothers, or much of a fatherly presence, or any otherwise functioning male relationship growing up, so how on earth would I be able to even relate to such a foreign creature? Given these circumstances it is easy to see why I honestly thought I would never want to have any part in this exchange; I am all ribbons and sunshine and poetry and always assumed any son I brought in to this world would have no other option but to turn out gay. When Isabella was born I was so completely relieved to have had a girl I remember calling out "PINK!" in my post labor delirium. I must admit however, that for some inexplicable reason, Samuel changed all that- It was just like that moment when you try on the perfect ring, or wedding dress, or pair of Jimmy Choos- he was a perfect fit from the moment he laid on my chest... I just knew. Granted, he does wear pink Polo shirts, has been known to clutch his favorite silky ribbon around town, and my husband is convinced he's going to end up writing greeting cards for a living (a completely honorable profession if you ask me), but he LOVES garbage trucks and bugs and spitting, so it must all even out in the end. At any given moment I simultaneously want to eat him with a spoon and fold him up and put him in my pocket, snips and snails and puppy dog tails and all. Even when he has skipped his bath and Wes claims his junior smells like hamster cage, I am completely intoxicated by his "special" scent... In short, I am unequivocally, inextricably hooked. And how is it that I am harder on my girls than I am with Sammie? A scene from Friends comes to mind when Monica says to her newborn, "I will love you so much that no woman will ever be good enough for you!" and, now, I finally get it.

Happy Birthday Sonny

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Quest For Moore

Please don't judge me too badly, as food culture was not quiet as educated as it is today, and to my credit I was only 4; but as a child, I was crazy about Dinty Moore Beef Stew (you know you remember the blue and red checkered can). Now I obviously have not had this "delicacy" for years and years, in fact I am not even sure this glorified Alpo still graces store shelves, indeed I hope not. I have, however, always had a desire to recreate its taste memory. Just call me sentimental. Unfortunately though, in my quest, never have I come close at capturing the essence of the beefy, aromatic goodness (not to mention proper texture and chunk ratio) of the quintessential down home stew. Until last night.

It was an unassuming bottle of Loius Jadot red that was going to be left unfinished that turned my mind to the savory possibilities. I already possessed the necessary ingredients, save the main one, and that was easily and (inexpensively) remedied by a pound of pre-packed stew meat (YAY, Central Market). I even had eager hands at the ready to help me in my mission- Isabella officially graduated to chopping with a small knife, and to keep Josephine on the same playing field as big sister, I ever so slightly pre-sliced the carrots for her to chop, so that she would have an easy time of it and be able to see where to make the next slice (think of it as a prep cook's cheat sheet). Samuel was chief stirrer of course, and I scoured for extra ingredients that might add that little extra something. In keeping with the theme of waste not, want not, I added some remaining peas collecting frost bite in the bottom of their opened bag in the freezer and voila', that was that. I am not sure what it says about my culinary future or ability, but I have made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon, and I would rather eat this. Bon Appetite!

A few tips on preparation...

Federal government food policy aside, if you leave the beef out to rest at room temp on the counter for 15 minutes or so, it will brown much better (this is true with any meat). Just use common food safety sense when allowing meat to sit out- it will need to be promptly cooked of course. This is a perfect make ahead dish, as the longer the flavors marry, the more delicious it becomes. The extended cooking allows the usually tough (and inexpensive) cut of meat reserved for stews to really break down and become tender and full of flavor. Taste it- does it sing? If not, add more salt a 1/2 tsp at a time and that should do it (beef stocks have varying sodium content). And finally, in the video Isabella refers to "mirepoix" which is the traditional mixture of onion, celery, and carrots.

Best Ever Beef Stew

1 lb stew beef
scant 1 cup flour mixed with 1/2 tsp salt and a few fresh grindings of pepper
4 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup red wine
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 quart organic beef stock
2 cups water
2 yukon gold potatoes, chopped into medium chunks
1 cup frozen peas

1. Place the flour mixture on a large plate or shallow dish and liberally coat the stew beef.

2. In a large pot, get the olive oil good and hot (glistening but not smoking) over medium high heat and add the beef, shaking off excess flour before placing it in the pot. Brown on all sides for a couple of minutes per side, and then place the beef on a clean plate and set aside.

3. But another couple of TBS of olive oil in to the pot if it appears too dry, and then place the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic in and cook for 8 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme and stir.

4. Deglaze the pan with the wine, taking care to scrape up all of the yummy brown stuck on bits (the flavor!), then add the tomatoes, stock, water, potatoes, and peas. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for at least and hour and a half (I let mine simmer slowly for about 4 1/2 hours).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

10 Questions

Happy Belated Mother's Day everyone! I hope yours was better than mine. I guess I shouldn't say that, it wasn't all bad really, at least when the Mother's Day Weekend is looked at in its entirety. Friday my husband arranged for a sitter so that we could have "day date", which after after numerous drops in the suggestion box, I was thrilled to finally get to do. Normally any time I am allowed out during actual waking hours, either my husband or my mother is sitting at home with a stopwatch while I am running around stressing over needing to be gone. Not this time. I lapped up a leisurely lunch at Jasper's in Plano, with alcohol and dessert, and browsed through shops, unhurriedly trying on the seasons latest offerings. Ah, the joys of childcare. Saturday evening Josephine (3) left with my mother to have a sleepover, leaving us 1 child lighter. To maximize that opportunity we headed out to our favorite happinin spot for a great dinner at Taco Diner (with me sporting some of my new digs of course) followed by overpriced and completely fabulous ice cream cones at Milwaukee Joes. It so happened that there was a benefit going on in the Square that night, complete with a standard (and quite good) classic rock cover band, and other children to play with (YAY!). I became the resident mother of the grassy knoll, spending the next hour and a half playing various combinations of freeze tag and football with the 8 and under set, while their parents fretted away on there Blackberrys, completely missing the moment. That's OK... More joy for me.

Sunday morning, after getting an absolutely glorious night sleep (an astonishing feat in and of itself), I awaken to a wet and clammy spot encroaching on my hind quarters. It starts. Daddy decided to take off Samuel's diaper because, what do you know, it was still dry when he came in this morning (WTF?). Not even out of bed yet before my mother calls to let me know that she and Josephine are already on their way over (double WTF?), and Wes is telling me that he feels like a ton of bricks and I can sense that he is annoyed by being awake already. Sigh. Well, "I still feel great right?" I tell myself. As I begin removing soiled sheets from my bed, in walks my mother and and the usual eruptions of "MUMSIE!!!!!!" from Isabella and Samuel, as well as the added excitement of JoJo running in for me yelling "HAPPY MOTHER DAY!!!!" and her promptly unwrapping my gifts. Isabella is now trying to rope Mumsie into taking her to Target so that she can purchase a gift for me with her own money, which normally Daddy would be doing but is clearly not in the mood to do. I quickly struck down this plan, as Mumsie's car only seats two, and I sensed the impending conflict with Josephine being consequently left behind. Bad choice. Now Isabella is upset and crying and my mother and I begin to argue. It is about this time Wes pops his head in the room, leaning on the doorway with only boxer shorts and hair befitting a Nick Nolte mug shot, to offer the obligatory "Is there anything you want me to do?" Ah, well at least comic relief counts for something. After a few more minutes of this brewing irritation, confusion, and pandemonium, I snap, utter a few choice words not suitable for a G rating, and my mother leaves. Oh, and did I mention the we woke up with our A/C out as well?

Just when I think things can't be more bleak, I hear screams erupt from the kitchen sincere enough to stir even Wes. I run in to find Josephine on the floor bleeding from the back of her head. Quickly assessing the situation I see that she had been standing on the counter and trying to reach the candy dish on top of the refrigerator before falling off, and the base of the blender on top of her. I thought she needed to get stitches, Wes insisted she only needed a dab of Neosporin and time to heal up. Uhg. Nothing like a little blunt force trauma to wrap up a holiday.

The following is something that I had saved from a magazine several years ago, and for whatever reason, have never taken the time to assemble in a personal letter to my mother and grandmother. I finally have and am awaiting the answers... It is a list worth sharing, with hopefully much wisdom gained in the process, and minimal emotional scaring. ;)

Ten Questions to Ask Your Mother

1. What's the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?

2. Why did you choose to be with my father?

3. In what ways do you think I am like you? And not like you?

4. Which one of us children did you feel closest too?

5. Is there anything you have ever wanted to tell me but never have?

6. Do you think it is easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising your family?

7. Is there anything you regret not having asked YOUR parents?

8. What's the best thing I can do for you right now?

9. Is there anything you wish had been different between us- or that you would still like to change?

10. When did you realize you were no longer a child?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Baby GaGa

In the last several weeks that I have been without (a blogging) voice, the littlest member of our family has truly discovered his own, as Samuel's vocabulary has rocketed from goo-goos and ga-gas to full fledged sentence formulation. I have very mixed emotions about this however; on one hand I expect my little junior executive/chef/attorney general (these are his options) to be at his developmental best, and do everything ahead of the game (I think there must be Asian descent in me somewhere). But at the same time I want to baby my baby something fierce, and if he wants to tote his security blanket with him all the way to Harvard, well then so be it! This is why while I make every effort to expose him to a plethora of pronouns, adjectives, and verbs, I delight in their mispronunciation- it's just too damn cute (there is some logic here I'm sure, but I am still trying to find it). One of his first words was GaGa, and while I would be proud to report that this was due to his knowledge of pop culture, we came to understand it was his way of asking for "water". My budding linguist's funniest speech characteristic is his inability to make the "S" sound. He just can't do it. Sock is gock, silk is gilk, soup is oop, and sissy is, well, a sort of back of the throat sounding noise that most closely resembles the spelling of "gunggung", which is so delightfully random.

I still hold on to words that Josephine mispronounced... at nearly 4 she still says "perftic" for perfect and "tee-torra" for tortilla, all because my sentimentality can not bare for these euphemisms to fade away. I even worry that I am giving poor Isabella a complex, as she routinely has to ask me, "Ok, Mom, how do you REALLY say it... NO Mommy, REALLY?". Even I admit that it is starting to encroach a little too far, as the other night during adult conversation (and perhaps a rather large pour of wine) I continued to use the word "fablious" which is of course in-house-Hamiter-speak for fabulous. So when is it no longer appropriate to use "baby speak"? Someday all of the baby babble will be gone for good, so I might as well soak it up while I can, right? Perftic, I thought so.

The Hamiter Kitchen Translator

GaGa- water, also, garlic
milp- milk
Nony- onion
oioioi- olive oil
hot hot- oven
pata- pasta
DO!- Mother, I would like to help please

What are some of the "babyisms" in your family?

On a relatively unrelated note, I have been promising a friend of mine my friend chicken recipe for quite some time, so without further ado dear Lena, here you are!

Pecan Coated Fried Chicken (ie, the only fried chicken recipe you will ever need)

Crispy, crunchy, and full of flavor!

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut diagolanlly into 6 "tender" shaped pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 cups pecans
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
olive oil for frying

1. Marinade the chicken in the buttermilk and allow to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.

2. In a food processor, pulse the pecans, flour, salt, and pepper, until the nuts are roughly chopped and the mix is blended.

3. Thoroughly coat the chicken pieces in the pecan mixture and place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Heat about 1/2 inch of oil in a (preferably) cast iron skillet over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Cook the chicken for about 2 minutes per side until dark golden and drain on paper towles.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bitter Apples

While I have taken a slight leave of absence from the blogosphere, the delay at this point is purely technical. While I should talking fruit, I am instead ready to purée an entirely different kind of Apple- my Mac. I have been without a functioning computer for several weeks now, which has not only considerably hindered my online shopping, but as one might guess, my ability to blog. :( I am hopeful that I will be able to get back in the saddle soon, however after my futile meetings with the so called "geniuses" at the Apple Store there is a likely chance I will be blogging à la Windows from now on.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mulling It Over

Today, being the type of drizzly and dreary day only found in mid-winter, was leaving me desperate for a little flavor. I spied some mulling spices collecting dust in the cabinet and thought those would do nicely, however since it is generally considered bad taste to begin drinking at 11 am with only your children present, l figured making mulled wine was out. Feeling curious, I looked through the little recipe booklet that had accompanied the can, and not expecting to find much, stumbled upon the the greatest thing to happen to milk since the cow- Mulled Spice Ice Cream. A simple and strait forward recipe, that while still requiring the process of making a custard, was deliciously simple. After surveying the pantry for accompaniment possibilities, I become immensely glad that I am the type of person who just happens to have several pounds of apples on hand, just in case. Nothing would be more warming, or go better, than hot apple pie, and since I happened to have a jar of homemade caramel sauce left over from a few days prior, what better way to use it up than to incorporate it into the filling. Being that it was Sunday and all, it was nice to know I was creating a combination of flavors likely to bring on a religious experience. After churning up the ice cream, I worked on the pastry portion, while the girls peeled and helped slice apples. Samuel made himself useful making scrap soup. Granted, the whole process took a few hours, but it was worth it, and it was much cheaper than my other favorite dreary day diversion- shopping.

Caramel Apple Pie

Pie Crust of Choice


4 lbs granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 slices each
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 TBS lemon juice
1 1/2 TBS flour
1 1/2 cups of caramel sauce, recipe follows

1. In a large pot, stir together the apples, sugar, spices, and lemon juice, and cook uncovered over medium heat, until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes (you do NOT want them too tender or you will end up with applesauce pie).

2. Remove from heat, stir in the flour and caramel, and allow to cool slightly.

3. Roll out your pie crusts with at least a one inch overhang from your pie plate, and pour in the filling, and top with second piece, pinching closed, creating a fluted edge. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, spread on the eggwash, and sand with extra sugar if you like.

4. Bake at 400 for an hour (check half way through-if the crust is getting too dark, cover the top with a little foil), and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing.

Caramel Sauce (make ahead)

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup cream

1. Combine the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently, about 6 or 7 minutes

2. Add cream, bring to a boil, stirring constantly and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (it will thicken as it cools). Can be stored in the fridge for 1 week.

Mulled Spice Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup mulling spices
3/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla

1. In a saucepan bring the milk, cream, and mulling spices to a simmer over medium high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 30 minutes. Pour the mixture through a sieve and into a bowl.

2. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.

3. Return the cream mixture to the saucepan and bring back to a simmer. Slowly pour the mixture into the yolks and sugar, stirring constantly. Then pour all of it back into the pan and cook over medium low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes (do NOT allow to boil).

4. Pour the custard through a sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla.

5. You can either nestle this bowl into another one filled with ice to cool it down to room temp before putting it into the refrigerator, or pop it in the fridge or freezer immediately (to speed up the process), stirring frequently. Either way it will need to be good and cold before churning in the ice cream maker. Churn for about 20 to 25 minutes and place in freezer to firm up.