Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Have a Chewy, Gooey Christmas

When Charlie and I were first married, I remember wondering what our first Christmas together would be like. Sure, we’d buy our own tree, decorate it with our few meager ornaments and call Mom for her Tom and Jerry recipe but what would our new family traditions look like?

Somehow, I knew that I wasn’t going to find a shiny new Baby Tenderlove under the tree like I did every year of my youth (check me out below complete with foam hair curlers) and Mom and I weren’t going to stay up until all hours wrapping home made Christmas candy.
I was also quite sure that Santa would not replace Charlie's cool bike that he totalled Christmas morning 1970 nor would he dance around the Christmas tree hand-in-hand with his Danish cousins singing traditional Christmas folk songs as he did growing up…at least I hoped he wasn’t…

Well, nineteen years and gallons of Tom and Jerrys later, I am happy to report that there is no shortage of Christmas tradition in the Christensen household. It seems that every year has seen the addition of a new “must do” lest the season not be merry. Gingerbread houses, candy cane cookies, Christmas card collages, our favorite Christmas morning wakeup song (blared by Charlie off of our beloved Stars Come Out for Christmas CD that I got free with the purchase of two Burrito Supremes and a Sprite)…ah yes, tradition is rich at Casa Christensen.

In recent years, we’ve decided to share the homespun Yuletide love with our friends in business as well. Could we order up a few Harry and David gift baskets and call it a day…sure…but where would the fun be for Donna in that? Could we have cards printed and send them off with computer-generated labels…you bet…but what else would Donna have to ponder as she drifted off to sleep if she couldn’t obsess over what sweet treat to make, what color ribbon to choose and how to create an original label on my dinosaur of a desktop complete with CWC logo?

Yes, I have issues…welcome to the twisted mass of blinking Christmas lights that is my brain from November 27-December 25!

This year’s treat of choice resulted in two weeks of chewy, chocolaty, caramel craziness. The recipe sounded easy enough (Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt).

Now, I’ve made plenty of caramels in my day but I guess I forgot that every batch tends to turn out wildly different than the next and that no manner of ingredient, time and/or temperature control would produce consistent results. The taste was consistent, I must say, so I had that going for me, but one batch would be gooey and the next chewy as can be...go figure!

So, if you are one of the honored recipients of this year’s CWC treat we hope you enjoy them no matter what…chill them if they’re gooey (they’re perfect cold) and eat them at room temp of they’re chewy...if you chill them, you’ll break a tooth. I think they’re good both ways. If you choose to make them yourself, just go with the flow and enjoy them no matter what. Buy more ingredients than you need and expect to keep the less than perfect batch for yourself if you are planning on giving them as gifts.

Here’s what I started with.

My friend brought this cool salt back from Bali for me.

This is what the caramel looks like before and after it reaches the right color.

This is the perfect pan to pour your molten mixture into…see how I prepared it with parchment…this is important!

Use a greased knife to cut them into 1” squares and wrap them in waxed paper. Check out these special wrappers I bought at Cake Art…isn’t the package awesome…out of the 50’s!

Here’s how I packaged them…

Chocolate Caramels
with Sea Salt

Heat until just bubbling

  • 2 cups heavy cream
Remove from heat, add to saucepan and stir until melted

  • 10.5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
In a separate heavy saucepan mix and melt over moderate heat

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp salt
Continue to boil caramel over moderate heat swirling from time to time until it is golden in color. Add chocolate and cream mixture to the caramel pot (it will really bubble up, don’t fear), stir and continue to boil until candy thermometer reaches 255 degrees. This is the tricky part…watch it…it changes temperature quickly.

Also, the consistency should feel somewhat thick but not blobby…remember, it will set up a lot when cooled. It is so hard to judge by consistency and candy thermometers aren’t always accurate. Another way to check is to drop a blob into a glass of ice water, pull it out and feel the consistency. It should set up like caramel, not too runny and not hard like a Tootsie Roll.

Stir in

  • 1 ½ Tbs unsalted butter
Immediately pour into a parchment-lined 8 x8 inch metal baking pan. Let caramel stand 10-15 minutes then sprinkle with

  • 2 Tbs flaky sea salt
Cool completely then invert onto a clean parchment-lined cutting board. Flip right side up and cut with a greased sharp knife into 1" squares.

Caramels keep wrapped tightly in a cool place two weeks.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine December 2006

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hey baby...looking for a date?

Well...it's a fig actually, but thanks for asking.

I'm not particularly proud to say this, but around the neighborhood I'm known as the local fruit hussy.

Patrick's plums, Joe's apricots, Larry's pears, Bill's lemons, Domingo's figs...and I have my eye on Andy's peaches. I dare say, the list goes on...

Come harvest time, my neighbors know to expect a knock on the door, or perhaps the familiar site of my hand groping blindly over the fence to snatch their low hanging fruit.

I've also been known to park my SUV along my neighbors' tree-lined driveways so I can climb up the hood and straddle the sunroof (don't tell Charlie I cracked it last fall) to pluck the juiciest specimens. The kids have gotten used to waiting in the getaway car, motor running...they just know to lean down low so that their friends don't see them as their mother commits several misdemeanors in the name of produce.

"Why not just bask in the bounty of our local farmers' market?" you ask. A few reasons...1.) sense of community...sharing like this just feels so old-fashioned to me and my friends know that when I come-a-knockin' they'll end up with less rotten fruit on their pavement and more pear chutney in their pantries 2.) the thrill of the hunt...nothing like swinging from a tree to earn your meal and 3.) I'm wicked cheap and this fruit is free!

So, the other day Domingo called to let me know that his figs were ripe-for-the-pickin'. Sure enough, I climbed up onto my potting shed table, peered over the fence and caught a glimpse of this little jewel of purple plumpness dangling just within my reach. I snapped a shot just before plucking it, along with as many more of its succulent sisters that would fit in the front pocket of my sweatshirt.

There's lots of fun stuff to make with these little beauties including fig jam, fig tarts, roasted fig appetizers but today I'm choosing to share with you the easiest and tastiest recipe of all...perfect as the starter of any fall menu or, as Carly and I have been known to do, enjoy alone as a fancy-feeling weekend light lunch when the guys are out eating large slabs of red meat somewhere else.

Thanks again Domingo for indulging my botanical kleptomania...and Bill...don't think I haven't noticed that those lemons look like they're juicin' up real nice...any day now. Kids...keep the motor running!

Roasted Fig Prosciutto and Blue Cheese Salad
with Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the dressing...


  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste

Whisk in:

  • 1/3 cup of olive oil

For the salad...

Slice lengthwise:

  • 4 ripe figs

Wrap figs in:

  • 8 generous slices of prosciutto

Roast figs on a baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes until they are soft and slightly caramelized.

Toss with dressing and divide among four plates

  • 5 cups fresh baby greens

Place 2 warm roasted figs on each plate of greens and crumble over

  • blue cheese to taste

Drizzle with more dressing to taste.

Serves 4

Try any combo of these variations: Double up on the amount of figs, mix blue cheese in with the dressing, slip the blue cheese under the prosciutto and roast with the figs, add candied nuts to the salad, try any other vinaigrette that appeals to you...this one is really unique and awesome:

Tangerine Vinaigrette

Mix in a small saucepan, boil and reduce by half:

  • 1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated tangerine zest

Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • tiny pinch of cinnamon

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dr. Looney and The Brain...

Whoever said Halloween is all about the kids hasn't seen it go down in my house. Sure, sure the kids have a blast and everyone's happy and sugared-up in the end...just how it's supposed to be...but the month that leads up to the "big night" consists of a complex series of parent/child negotiations all centered around the kids' costumes.

Carly consistently can't commit until the last minute but Will, like most little boys, is enamoured with all things involving some sort of store-bought, polyester cape, large molded headgear and, most importantly, one or more highly destructive weapons.

Sorry kids...none of this fits in with my completely ego-driven conviction that any costume coming out of my house must be an original...the product of my blood, sweat, tears and Singer Classic. What would Halloween be without that tireless EBay hunt for an official NASA logo patch or that last minute, late-night run for silver spray paint critical for transforming last year's rain boots into footwear suitable for space travel?

It was much easier when they were babies. Carly was the easiest, of course. After the bumblebee and clown, every year that followed was some form of princess: Medieval Princess, Fairy Princess, Snow Princess, Just a Princess-Princess, Mermaid Princess, and Ballerina Princess...in that order, I think. For years, it was all about satin and glitter and tulle...I was in my zone.

With Willy, I got away with murder those first couple of years too. Year one, I made him the devil to Carly's angel (a prophecy still unfolding), followed by Baby Elvis (more satin and sequins...yes), then Cowboy, Astronaut and Mad Scientist (we'll come back to that) with a minor store bought Power Rangers slip in year-four. This year, I find myself battling the Evil Empire...all things Star Wars! The force just may be too great. He has his eye on some Stormtrooper-looking plastic get-up he spotted in a catalog but I think that Carly and I might have him convinced to go with Yoda (much more Zen don't you think?) and he is considering letting me make it...we'll see...

Hummm...how could this obsessive notion of costume control have been planted in my brain? Perhaps it has something to do with the Flying Nun...

Yes, this is me in the upper left hand corner, Sister Bertrille, posing alongside my fellow Cayuga Playground preschoolers circa 1968. Could I have simply donned a plastic bunny mask and fire-retardant jumpsuit from Woolworth, just like my other classmates...sure...but where would the fun be for Mommy in that?

I was only four but I swear I can still picture my mother perched on the edge of our black Naugahyde sofa wrestling with the burlap, cardboard and starch that would become my official Daughters of Charity nun habit . She still talks about the less-than-nunly language she mumbled under her breath as she twisted and glued and pried that headpiece until it bowed to her submission.

Mind you, as the awestruck baby sister of an official parochial school second grader, the notion of posing as a nun...a flying one at that...was beyond my wildest dreams. As you can see by the photo below, I was generally less than amused that my older brother was allowed to go off to Catholic school every day without me. "Yah...dressing like a nun for Halloween...that'll show him who's more holy!"

Mom made him a My Favorite Martian costume that year by the way (complete with homemade boingy, glittery antennae and a silver lame spacesuit)...pretty cool for a 7-year old who carries a briefcase to school, don't you think?

So, what does all of this have to do with Dr. Looney? Well, last year, we again entered into much discussion around Will's costume and settled on a Mad Scientist. Most of the elements were borrowed or handed-down but we did have fun creating some quicky custom accessories like a freaky specimen beaker and a Dr. Looney name tag retrofitted from one I borrowed at the last minute from a nice guy working the counter at Comforts.

But you know what...I still didn't feel like I had suffered enough on this one so I thought I'd bake a cake, of course, for good measure. Here's the one I came up with (one befitting the maddest of scientists, I think): a brain with electrodes sticking out of it and some bloodshot eyeballs thrown in for good measure. Just in time for Halloween, I give this "recipe" to my friends...and I know who you are...who share this need to express our love through stuff we create with our hearts and our hands. Thanks Mom for all the years of costumes and cakes and for showing your love for us in a way we appreciated then but understand even more today.

Dr. Looney's Brain and Bloodshot Eyeballs
(this is really more instructions than a recipe...)

  • 1- 8" or 9" cake pan
  • 1- 8" or 9" stainless steel bowl to match
  • 2- boxes of cake mix plus whatever you need to make the mix...usually oil, eggs and water (I used one white and one chocolate)
  • white frosting...I used a combo of a couple of tubs of store-bought plus homemade buttercream frosting (recipe follows) Can't remember exactly how much...sorry!
  • Food coloring (black and red, note: the gel type available at Cake Art works best vs. liquid
  • red decorator's gel (available in a little white tube at the grocery store)
  • 2 wooden craft dowels
  • bendy wire
  • green gummy lifesavers
  • dark purple Skittles
Directions for the brain:

Prepare the cake mix as directed and bake one in the cake pan and one in the stainless steel bowl. Use the left over mix to make as many cupcakes as you can. Cool.
Tint one tub of frosting pink.
Generously frost top of round cake pan cake then top with bowl cake, flat side down! Carve the dome with a serrated knife into a brain shape that pleases you. Coat the entire now-brain-shaped dome with pink frosting and place on a foil-wrapped piece of round cardboard (the pink shows through the grey a little which creates a cool fleshy effect).
Make your homemade buttercream (or try the tub-stuff...not sure of results) and tint with black food coloring to make it look like grey matter. Put in piping bag with large hole tip or improvise with a Ziploc with the end snipped to create the proper opening. Pipe squiggly lines on both hemispheres of the brain. This was my first attempt...you can probably do better by looking at diagrams of the brain on the Internet.

Now, wrap the bendy wire around the handle of a wooden spoon to make a coil then wrap the ends around the craft sticks as shown above to make your electrodes. Stick them into the brain then...voila...Dr. Looney is ready for his experiment!

Directions for the eyeballs:

Frost with white frosting. Place one green gummy lifesaver in the middle of the cupcake then insert the pupil (I think it was a dark purple Skittle that looked black-enough).
Use red gel icing to make the bloodshot eyes...that's it...easy huh?

Buttercream Frosting (the scariest part of the recipe...can you say hydrogenated?)

Cream with an electric mixer:
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Gradually add and beat in:

  • 4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
Add at medium speed unitl light and fluffy:

  • 2 Tbs milk

Friday, October 16, 2009

Something's Fishy

Something weird happened this summer.

As I lay prone in my beach chair overlooking the spectacular Tahoe shoreline, frosty beer in one hand, John and Kate, Brad and Angelina, Paris and her new BFF in the other, it seems that something resembling a child’s small inflatable beach ring slipped itself under my muumuu and permanently affixed itself to my thighs. Apparently,a summer full of de-licious has converted into a backside full of boot-i-licious...emphasis on the "booty", not the "licious."

It came without warning. It just doesn’t add up. You do the math…

Didn’t all of those limes I shoved down into my Corona Lights (yes, Lights!) count toward my 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables? Weren't my regular three block power walks to and from Garwoods Happy Hour classified as aerobic workouts? Was it wrong to think that 18 holes of pee wee golf would cancel out the ritual pre-match pizzafests?

Well, after a couple of months of denial and back to school excuses, all it took were a couple of foggy mornings and some frost on the windshield to remind me that my days of pull-on stretchy shorts, baggy T’s and that “you-caught-me-on-my-way-to-the-gym” look are numbered. Soon they will give way to the need for regular visits back to the office and a slightly more pulled together look...at least one that suggests that I regularly bathe.

I try to plug my ears and sing "la-la-la-la" really loud but I can still hear him...he's mocking me...that 500 pound blue gorilla standing in the middle of my room. He's pounding on my closet doors…my nemesis…his name is "jean." Like it or not, some one, way back when (clearly before the invention of my beloved Lycra), decided that blue jeans are a fashion staple and the ultimate in casual comfort. Says who? Well, like it or not, I must face my denim demon, re-expand my wardrobe, de-expand my derriere, and win the battle of the zipper now...before people actually realize that I don't even belong to a gym.

So, a few weeks ago, Charlie and I reconverted our "clothes tree" back into a working treadmill and began to substitute leafy greens for "Double Doubles with cheese" and non fat yogurt for our beloved Fairfax Scoop. It was OK for a while but after a week or so of broiled chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, I wanted to gag! "Enough!" I cried with indignation as I went running to my tattered recipe files vowing to find us something...anything...that had some flavor but wouldn't send us back to the dark side.

I found it...a crumpled magazine page I had saved from my days at Gourmet Magazine. I remembered it as the one that I used to parade around to my advertising clients to prove that we were a contemporary magazine...not stuck in the 1940's. "Yah," I thought, "this is the one...a fillet of snapper on a bed of steamed sweet potatoes, beautiful fresh veggies and this amazing soy ginger glaze...

Yikes...I forgot about all of the chopping...

and the peeling...

and the zesting...

and the sauteing....

Man...I forgot how many steps there were in this recipe...It's Tuesday night and it's 7 pm...we're starved!

But...those flavors! These are just some of the ingredients in this crazy, spicy, sweet glaze..

So here it is, over an hour later, but it was worth it...that shot of adrenaline to my flat-lined taste buds. The photo's not great (it's dark and I'm beat) but, trust me, it's beautiful and delicious. I think that the only thing that could make it better is dessert at Fairfax Scoop. I'll get a single...I promise.

Red Snapper With Spicy Soy Glaze
On Sauteed Vegetables And
Sweet Potatoes

For the glaze...

Mince and saute in heavy saucepan until soft:

  • 3 large shallots
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Add and simmer until reduced to about 3/4 cup (20 minutes... so make your fish now while it simmers):

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons apricot or plum jam
  • 1 Tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Stir in and keep warm:

  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
For the fish...

Julienne (thinly slice) and put aside:
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3/4 cup snow peas
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup red onion

Peel, slice (8-12 slices, 1/4 inch thick) and steam over boiling water until just tender (keep warm in pan):
  • 1-3/4 pound sweet potato
Saute quickly until browned in a non-stick, lightly oiled skillet then finish baking in a 275 oven:
  • 4- 4 ounce red snapper filliets

Let's put it all together now...

Take your julienned veggies and lightly saute or keep raw (your preference) then add:
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
Divide warm potato slices among four plates, top with warm or crispy cold veggies (your preference). Put one fillet on each plate then drizzle with warm glaze.

OK, it's really not as much work as it appears...just be organized and maybe make the glaze ahead for a weeknight meal. Enjoy!

Serves: 4

Adapted from Gourmet January 1998

Friday, September 25, 2009

Julie, Julia, a sack of potatoes, and the clerk on check stand #5...

I can still hear Julia's voice wafting downstairs from my parent's bedroom as I'd walk in the door from school. Bubbling burnt sugar and cinnamon dribbling from a baking sheet packed with overambitious apple dumplings splattered the glowing electric elements of our harvest gold oven and produced that familiar smokey aroma letting me know that Mom had been at it again. I would be in for a tasty after school snack...once I dissected the dumpling, peeling off a little bit of hardened burnt goo and plopping a healthy scoop of boxed Lucerne vanilla ice cream on top (if I could find it crammed in the Rubik's Cube my mom calls a freezer).

I'd pop up the three stairs of our 50's suburban split-level to find Mom wrestling a mountain of laundry scattered on the bed while trying to scribble yet another recipe on a long yellow legal pad, syncopated to the rhythm of Julia pounding on some unsuspecting slab of baby cow.

They were a good pair: Mom and Julia.

So, when I first heard that a movie was coming out about her (Julia that is...) you can imagine my anticipation to reconnect with those warm (yet sometimes crispy) memories and to get a glimpse into what Julia's world was like "back in the day." I was on vacation when the movie opened so a couple of patient friends and I made a pact to wait until September when we'd make the pilgrimage to the theater...no boys allowed. The plan was to each make a dish out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, enjoy our Julia-inspired meal, then head off to the show. Well, the best laid plans... Back to School Night, soccer, volleyball, sleepovers and 2 year-olds got in the way so we were lucky to squeeze in two hours just get to the show.

Here's where the potatoes and the supermarket clerk come in...

So, my friend Laura, who knows, by name, every clerk at our neighborhood supermarket, is in line the other morning, juggling her 2 year-old and box of Fruit Loops and mentions to "Maureen", who's working check stand #5, that she is planning to see Julie and Julia that night with some girlfriends and hasn't decided what to make for our pre-party (Laura hadn't yet gotten the message that the pre-party part was off). Anyway, Maureen (who's parents live our neighborhood) takes note and later that day shows up on Laura's doorstep with 3 pounds of potatoes...peeled, heavy cream, leeks, chicken stock, white pepper and...a vintage copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (her spare) inscribed to Laura with the page for Vichyssoise bookmarked. "It's been so warm out," she said, "and I thought that this cold soup would be perfect for your party!"

Laura called and told me the story...I was blown away.

Well, we didn't get to the soup that night but we loved the movie just the same. Carly ended up joining us at the last minute and liked it too, a lot, but didn't get why I was all teary...then again, she's 13...how could she?

Moved by the holy spirit of St. Julia, the next day Laura and I dropped the kids off at school then met in my kitchen to chop, boil, puree, and strain until Maureen's precious gifts transformed into the most delicious, delicate and decadent summer soup we'd ever tasted. We were bummed when we remembered that it would have been more fun if we had donned our pearls, like Julia, for the occasion...next time.

So, here's to you, my friends and family. From Mom to Maureen, I am reminded every day that love is served best a la mode...that food shared not only fills the belly but it warms the heart.

I share this with you...and in the words of Julia...Bon Appetit!

(It's just fancy potato leek soup...fear not)

Simmer together until soft:

  • 3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes
  • 3 cups sliced white of leek
  • 6 cups chicken stock

Puree soup in batches in a food processor then force in batches through a fine sieve. BE CAREFUL...the soup is hot and will splatter so proceed with caution. Also note not to fill your food processor too full. Ever heard of centrifugal force? You'll end up with hot soup all over your counter as it spins up the sides and leaks under the lid (hummm, how would I know this)? Be patient while you are forcing it through the sieve (use a soft spatula to press it against the sides). It's worth the effort to achieve the fine texture that makes this soup so special.

Stir in:

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (yep, whipping cream...just do it)!

Chill. Taste, taste, then, taste again. Depending on the saltiness of your stock, you may need to add little or no salt but note that, the colder your soup, the more salt it might need (flavor gets dulled in cold dishes). Season with white pepper as well.

Serve in chilled cups and garnish as you please. I used finely chopped scallions (cause that's what I had) but chives would probably be nicer. I also added finely minced crispy bacon because that's just the kind of girl I am.


Serve it warm...who says it has to be cold?

Makes: 6-8 portions

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Saturday, June 13, 2009

When life gives me lemons... I make lemonade, lemon bars, lemon poundcake, lemon chiffon pie...and lemon buttermilk pancakes...

Interest rates, unemployment, bailouts, meltdowns, inflation, recession...this economy is freaking me out! So, I bake, I knead, I whisk, I roll and...I eat....and I share.

As the wife/business partner of a mortgage broker, I find myself just a little too up close and personal with the ups and mostly downs of today's economy.

Every morning, I wake to the alluring aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting from downstairs (Charlie's already been up and on email since 4 am) but my senses are quickly assaulted by the familiar sound of CNBC and Bernanke's voice delivering the latest unemployment numbers followed by a shout upstairs, "Hon, did you catch if the ten-year treasury rate is up or down?"

So, I shuffle downstairs, pour my half-cup ration of real coffee (I tend to run a little naturally- caffeinated), swap the channel from ticker tape to Tom & Jerry and wrap myself in the comfort of preparing the family's morning meal.

So, I share with you this morning's therapy...a tweaked version of buttermilk pancakes from a recipe I hastily tore out of a 1996ish issue of some magazine I ripped off from my pedatrician's office. It's a bit of an experiment and you'll learn about me that I am about as fearless in the kitchen as I am fearful of just about everything else.

I'm adding lemon (as a tribute to the sour state of our economy), anti-oxidant-rich blueberries (to ward off the "evil spirits") and I'll substitute drained and mashed cottage cheese for the ricotta that was in the original recipe cause that's what I have on hand.

The spray of zest tickles my weary senses and the tangy smell of buttermilk makes me think that this was surely something Aunt Bea would have made for Opie.

I sneak in a hug while William (my six-year-old sous chef) insists on "helping" with the sifting (note the Spiderman jammies) and I grin when my thirteen-year-old Rumpelstiltskin of a daughter, Carly, rolls out of bed, drawn by the smell of cakes puffing on the griddle...it must be summer!

I'm there. I'm in my zone. Bernanke can't find me here. For just a little while, my kitchen is my shelter, shielding me from the impact of whatever economic bomb might touch ground today.
I can't wait till lunch...

Lemon Blueberry
Buttermilk Pancakes
Sift together in a large bowl:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix in a medium bowl:

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon greated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese, drained and mashed

Add wet ingredients to dry.

Whisk until soft peaks form and fold gently into batter:

  • 2 egg whites

Drop 1/2 cup portions onto a moderate, lighly-oiled nonstick griddle and sprinkle over:

  • blueberries to taste (about 1 cup total for this recipe)

When batter starts to bubble and edges look browned, flip with a wide spatula and finish cooking other side to desired doneness (Carly likes them gooey inside but Willy likes them cooked through).

Enjoy warm with butter, maple syrup and, if you've got it (like I always do) squirt a little whipped cream on the side and toss on some more fresh blueberries too if the spirit moves you.

Makes 8-10 really, really yummy cakes (God, they were good...).

By the way: Even though I am a self-diagnosed "Nervous-Nelly" and the state of this economy has me in a bit of a tizzy, let's just say, I'm actually a pretty sunny sort of gal. I hope you hook up to my newly-discovered blogging wagon and follow me as I seek solace in sustenance from this wacky, albeit mostly wonderful, world. Remember, as much as I like to cook, I love to share...