Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Break- Part 1

We took a mini vacation to the beach for spring break and made a pit stop along the way in Portland to see Nick and Mishaun. We stayed a night in their super cute, very 1940s SE Portland house. They live in a great area and we took a walk to enjoy the brilliant weather (was it really 70 degrees? I think it was) and to get Brent his Stumptown coffee fix.

Along the way Jack stopped to pose for a quick photo. Not sure where he learned this particular stance, but it's sure fitting.

Portland is such a beautiful city and Nick and Mishaun live in the best part, in my opinion. Our walk took us through some amazing neighborhoods. It was such a gorgeous day. We miss having Nick and Mishaun living right down the street from us, but it sure is fun to come and visit them in their new element. Portland is such a young person's city- there's just so much to see and do, tasty places to eat and drink, and exciting things are happening all the time. I spent five years living there myself, and I do really miss it at times. But Eugene is a great place to raise kids, is affordable, and we are surrounded by friends and family, so we won't be moving anytime soon.

Ah, Stumptown. How do you make those delicious soy lattes so very delicious? There must be a secret ingredient. (Could it be buttermilk??)

Jack got an oatmeal raisin bar as a treat for walking the entire way. It's easy to forget that a short walk for us is a long walk for Jack. He persevered.

I don't know what it is about this photo that speaks to me. Is it the light? Is it the juxtaposition of Nick's and Sawyer's sizes? Does Nick look as if he is waiting on Sawyer? Is it the fact that they have no kitchen table? Who knows, but I do love it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


When I was growing up, my mom had a recipe for play dough taped to the inside of the cupboard. I remember that it was written on lined paper and that the tape grew yellow with age. That recipe stayed up long after our play dough making days had passed. I totally get that now.

Homemade play dough smells and lasts better than the stuff you buy in the store and you can make all kinds of wacky colors. Jack and I made orange and blue this week and he's been busy making play dough cuisine with the kitchen tools he received for his birthday. Orange play dough soup, anyone?

Here is the easy peasy recipe we use:
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 tsp. cream of tartar
food coloring

Mix ingredients in a pan and cook on low heat while stirring frequently. Dough is done when it pulls away from the pan and forms a ball. Let cool and enjoy!

I have a recipe taped to the inside of my cupboard, as well. For the past six or so years I have been on a quest to find the perfect pizza dough recipe. Over the years I have experimented with a variety of techniques and had varying degrees of success. Finally I stumbled upon a recipe that contained the SECRET INGREDIENT. (No, it is not buttermilk. Good guess.)

Perfect Pizza Crust

2 tsp. honey
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2+ cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. whole milk yogurt (!!)

Dissolve yeast and honey into warm water and let stand for five minutes or until bubbly. Stir in remaining ingredients (except cornmeal) and knead for 6-8 minutes. I do this with the bread hook in the Kitchen Aid because I am lazy and weak. Dough will be wet and sticky. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled.

Gently deflate and stretch the dough to resemble a pizza shape. My experience is that the less you handle the dough, the better it will turn out. Also, I try to avoid using a rolling pin, since good pizza dough will be soft and supple. Just stretch it gently and be okay with a misshapen pie. Place onto a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal, top with whatever your heart desires, and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes.

Jack and Sawyer get the standard Just Cheese version, while Brent and I prefer something a bit more exciting like veggie sausage, olive, green pepper, and garlic. Oh, and don't skimp on the cheese.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two of a Kind

Just look at these two- sheesh. Just when I think my head will explode from the squealing and the tantrums and the refusing to share they go and do something ridiculously cute. Brothers.

Jack has evidently shared his love for working in the yard with Sawyer. They fill endless buckets with dirt and explore around the yard together. This is one of the few activities they can do together without squabbling.

My friend Doris had the brilliant idea to give the boys their own buckets and shovels with their names on them. One less (fewer) thing to bicker about.

Big plans for the yard this year include at least two more raised beds, a hops pole, and raspberries. Bring on the summer.

This shot was taken on Sawyer's actual birthday, March 8th. As we basked in the warm sunshine and played in the backyard I was thinking about what he and I were doing exactly a year ago when I pushed his little body into the world. (Basking in the sun is way more fun!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brew and Bread

Okay, well, here it is- judge if you will: We now have a kegerator in our garage.

There I said it. I feel better now. Somehow I thought that this phase of my life was over, but apparently I was wrong.

Having beer on tap just footsteps from our living room is pretty sweet, though, I have to say. It's just so convenient!

So now we can hang out in our garage and drink beer with our neighbors while the kids play in the yard. Not that we would actually do that or anything...

Sawyer is clearly missing some essential mineral in his diet. Either that or his mom needs to pay more attention to him instead of gabbing with the neighbors while drinking a beer. Ahem.

But enough about that.

Let's talk ciabatta bread! I have been wanting to make ciabatta for awhile but I was intimidated by that whole sponge thing that you have to make the day before (could they at least come up with a more appetizing thing to call it??) and the use of parchment paper and the folding and creasing and making sure that you get the right crumb. Huh? Sounds confusing.

But then I came across a recipe for ciabatta that required no sponge! And I found parchment paper at Fred Meyer and guess what? It's just wax paper (kind of)! My recipe said I didn't need to worry about the special "ciabatta fold" and the reviewers raved about the bread's crumb! Whatever that means.

So I decided to give it a whirl and lo- behold...

See those air pockets? That means it has perfect crumb. Perfect crumb, I tell you!

I was going to link to the recipe, but I found it to be somewhat confusing and I had to recalculate all of the measurements since I don't have a kitchen scale. So here you go: My version of ciabatta bread...

In your Kitchen Aid mixer put:

4 1/2 cups bread flour, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. yeast, and 2 cups warm water.
Use the paddle attachment and beat together until ingredients are combined. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Switch to the bread hook and beat the heck out of it for about 10-12 minutes on speed 5-6. This will cause your mixer to bounce up and down on your counter. Just deal with it. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS STEP WHILE YOU HAVE A SLEEPING BABY IN YOUR HOUSE. I'm just sayin'.

Put the dough (it will be wet and gloppy) into a well oiled bowl and cover. Let rise until dough triples in size (for me this took about 2 1/2 hours).

Carefully turn the dough out onto a well floured counter. You might have to scrape the bowl. Cut the dough into three pieces, spray lightly with oil and dust generously with flour. Let rest for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to a whopping 500 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Once your bread blobs have been sitting for 45 minutes or so, flour your hands and carefully stretch each one into a 10 inch oblong shape. Flip the loaf upside down and place on the parchment. Try to do this in one step so as not to overhandle the dough. At this point your loaves may look like pathetic little flour lumps. Fear not! They will puff right up in that hot oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes, turning the cookie sheet once during baking. Let the loaves cool for at least 10 minutes on a rack until you cut into them.

I have been baking bread for years and Brent claims this is my best bread ever. So hop to it!

And finally, this one is just for fun. Just because. Well, for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday

Well it's my birthday too, yeah!

Double Birthday Extravaganza: Year One- A Photo Essay

(Sawyer was drooling over the presents, literally.)

(Sometimes the wrapping is the best part.)

(Homebrew and the Grandparents- a delightful combination.)

(No party is complete without a chihuahua!)

(OMG BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER! All hail the supreme power that is Martha Stewart and her decadent chocolate cake recipe that is ridiculously moist and sinfully delicious. Guess what the secret ingredient is? Just guess! That's right, buttermilk! BUTTERMILK! I love this cake.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We Win, We Lose

I think we can sum up the past week in a series of photos that capture the ups and downs of our daily lives.

First up: FAILURE!

I attempted to make a loaf of bread and ended up with a bowl full of doughy crumbles. I think I added too much flour. It's hard to do mental math when the kids are making a bunch of mind numbing racket in the background.

But then, SUCCESS! I tried again and voila! A perfect loaf and we've been enjoying it all week long. I need to make bread more often.

But there was another FAILURE! I turned my back on Sawyer for one minute at the park and turned around to find him eating a fistful of sand. (Did I stop him? No! I grabbed the camera- double failure!)

Meanwhile at the park, Jack was enjoying some SUCCESS in the friend-making department. He was lurking around the sandbox, wistfully eyeing a group of kids who were playing together. Finally he mustered up the courage to go and stand near them. At some point he penetrated the inner circle and they even gave him a bucket to use.

But being three is so difficult, so at one point this week we had FAILURE in the form of an epic meltdown that involved climbing onto the table and collapsing.

SUCCESS! I fixed Sawyer's haircut. Kind of. Trust me, he looks better.

SUCCESS! The Ninkasi IPA clone is as beautiful as it is delicious. Yes! Double success!

So here's to next week, which will hopefully contain more ups than downs, too.