Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ciao Bella - Strawberry Balsamic Gelato

I recently posted about a new cookbook that I was very excited to receive; the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto. I fell in love with Ciao Bella years ago in Iowa City and have been seeking it out ever since when I go to a new city. As it is not available anywhere in my area, I was thrilled to find it at the grocery store my sister frequents, so now I can get it when I visit her as well.

But fear not!

Now that I have my beloved new book of sweets and treats, I no longer have to do without. The book is written by the founders of the company themselves and contains recipes for many of the flavors I am already so fond of along with many new ones I am dying to try.

My original plan was to make one batch of gelato or sorbetto every week this summer. However, I am not so sure that my waistline will tolerate that quantity of heavy cream and egg yolks, so the reality is that it will probably be more like every FEW weeks. That remains to be seen.

For my inaugural Ciao Bella post, I have chosen their Strawberry Balsamic Gelato. One of my favorite springtime treats is a dish of fresh strawberries with balsamic vinegar, so this one jumped out at me right away. This recipe starts with their plain gelato base (versus chocolate base) and uses the addition of a strawberry and syrup mixture and a swirl of a reduction of balsamic vinegar.

Isn’t she gorgeous?Next installment? Pistachio!!! (you know, unless I change my mind the next time I browse through the pages, drooling....)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shhhhh....its a Secret!

Ok, so its not really a secret, since I'm about to let it out of the bag. My two year blogaversary is coming up in July and I have a very special giveaway planned for the occasion.

I'm not going to blow the surprise completely by telling you what it is (ok, you know I don't have it yet, but I have a great plan ready to put into action!), but it is definitely going to be cooking related (unless, of course, one of my non-foodie followers wins, then I may make a special exception).

So here's the deal.... I will announce the winner on July 9, the day after my actual blogaversary (which is July 8)! So, here are the rules.

Ok, there is only one rule.

Y'all are going to have to start commenting in order to be eligible to win.

Yep, that's right all you lurking readers, this is your chance to step up and win a great prize. I've been feeling neglected lately (yes, Tom, I know. I'm a needy, whiny, comment whore) so between June 8 and July 8, everyone who comments on anything I post during that time frame gets entered into the drawing.
One comment, one entry. Ten comments, ten entries. (I probably should amend that, and say REAL comments. I don't want to see a bunch of one-word comments from the same person just to bump up their chances...yeah, you know you were thinking about it!)

So get ready, everyone! I want to give this prize to the person who wants it the most!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Poppers - Revisited!

I do my very best to keep each and every post here original. But, some things are worth repeating. Ironically, the last time I made (and posted) this recipe was almost exactly a year ago. This one is an appetizer (although most of the time, the hubs has it as his main course) that is very easy, but always seems time consuming to me, only because I tend to do it in stages.

Stage 1: cube and marinate the chicken for 24 hours
Stage 2: clean and seed the jalapeños
Stage 3: partially cook the chicken, then stuff the peppers and wrap with bacon
Stage 4: Saute or grill

I spread these stages out over the course of a day or more, depending on what else I have going on, as it makes my prep work at dinner time much easier. Also, sometimes this is one I prep ahead and then send with Matt to an event to cook “on location”. Usually we make this indoors on the stove top, but since we all know I can’t keep myself away from the grill these days (and really, they are so much better on the grill!) the hubs and I grilled them last night. (**note: If you are grilling, make sure to pre-soak your toothpicks so that they don’t burn up on the grill.)One thing that was different this time is that I assembled them the day before, intending to cook them Sunday evening, but we had an injury/incident at home that night and they went right back into the fridge for the next day (everyone is fine now, but it made for a crazy night). I was concerned that having them sit out of the marinate for that long would dry them out, but they ended up being just fine. Obviously. You know. Since we scarfed them down like a bunch of Mary Jane lovin’ college students with the munchies. He’s lucky he had any to take to work today.I highly recommend this one for any outdoor gatherings you may have this summer, they go over like gangbusters, and it never fails that people end up begging me for the recipe. I tend to make this one any time I see big, beautiful fresh jalapeños at the grocery.

Check out last year's post for the details!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pickin' Wildflowers

With "the wedding" coming up in a few weeks, the MIL and I are in a full out “run” toward preparing her house for the event. It is going to be an outdoor ceremony, but the girls are going to be getting ready at the house and we have a few special things planned for them, not to mention some new décor for the house.

One thing the MIL wanted to do was to put old pictures of the bride and her family around the room and her thought was to put them on picture clips instead of in frames. We looked and looked at various clips and holders, and even at place card holders, but nothing was right.

Then I got an inspiration.

The wedding is going to be all bright colors and there is an underlying floral/garden theme. And so, I dug through my craft supplies and came up with this idea.

Aren’t they cute? And inexpensive to make. You can’t tell in the picture, but I have green glass marbles in the pots, resembling grass and holding the wires in place.
Too fun. I can't wait to see them set up around the room!

Thai Beef Short Ribs

As you all know, it is one of my biggest pet peeves that I can’t get a wide variety of ingredients locally, because of where I live. I often have to drive an hour or more to get to a store that carries what I want. Every once in awhile, though, I am pleasantly surprised by something I find at the grocery store. I should probably also note that although we have a “super” walmart in our town (they call it super, but the truth is it’s the smallest version you can get, with no salon, eye care, tire & lube, and very limited selection) I tend to do most of my food shopping at the hometown grocer. The bill is generally a little higher, but I am a believer in supporting the little guy and, frankly, the meat selection is much better. I treat them well, and they return the favor by getting me certain things I ask for. (For example, the guy who does the liquor ordering just got me a case of a nice little moscato I asked him to get for me. He also does his best to keep the Schlafly seasonal beers in stock because he knows I love them. Okay, maybe that’s not the only reason, but I still appreciate it. Love that guy.)

Back to the point of my story. Every now and then, they surprise me (and I make sure I let them know how pleased I am). Just last month, I was tickled to find a batch of pork neck bones in the meat section. Occasionally I even run across something I’ve never tried before. It doesn’t matter. If its something different, I make a point of buying some and finding something to make with it, just to show my appreciation for them trying to bring variety in. Well, recently I had another find. Beef Short Ribs. Something fairly mainstream in the culinary world, and yet, I’d never made them. Sometimes the most basic things elude me just from lack of exposure.

But no more! I snapped up three packages of those gorgeous ribs and took them home to reside in my freezer while I came up with a good recipe. I originally intended to grill them, but in the process of researching a recipe, I decided it was too risky. It seemed slow roasting was a safer bet, at least for my first time out, especially since I don’t have a lot of experience with my grill yet.

And so, after looking at quite a few sites, I came up with this recipe that sounded lovely. Instead of just slow roasting, it begins with putting the ribs under the broiler, helping give the meat a nice crust. I like the idea of that because so often meats that are slow roasted (or cooked in the crock pot), though they can be wonderfully flavorful and tender, just don’t have the texture that I look for in a piece of meat. I like that caramelization, the crust....

I don’t think I could have found a better place to start. This recipe was super easy, beginning with seasoning the meat and broiling it for 10 minutes, then putting it in the slow cooker and topping it with an Asian sauce to cook while I was at work yesterday. When I opened the front door last night, I was overwhelmed by the fragrant cloud that hit me right in the face. I couldn’t get to the cooker fast enough, and when I lifted the lid? Well, I may or may not have been drooling....

The recipe finishes by adding some aromatics to the liquids from the cooker, cooking it down a bit and serving the sauce over the super tender ribs. I could have taken a bath in that sauce. I don’t think the hubs would have minded, either, after the way I saw him cleaning his plate. The meat was extremely moist and tender, and peeled away from the bone easily without just falling apart. Fabulous. Just fabulous. This one will be going in the official recipe card box for a repeat performance the next time I see short ribs at the grocery store.

Thai Beef Short Ribs
3-4 pounds beef short ribs (English cut)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Oil spray
4 cloves minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp Fish Sauce (I didn’t use the fish sauce, since it really doesn’t like me)
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 lime, juiced and zest finely grated
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
3 scallions, cut into thin slices
2 Tbsp freshly chopped cilantro

Preheat a broiler on high. Season the meaty parts of the short ribs with salt and pepper and set bone-side down on an oven tray.

Spray with oil and broil until the meaty parts are browned (about 10 minutes).Transfer to a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Mix together the garlic, ginger, hoisin, vinegar, fish sauce, honey, soy sauce, and lime juice and zest in a small bowl, and pour over the short ribs. Cover the slow cooker and cook until tender, about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
Transfer the ribs to a platter. Skim the fat from the liquid, then add the jalapeno, scallions, and cilantro and cook on high for 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Never Claimed to be Queen of the 'Que

Of the many recurring themes I touch on in this little blog, is the fact that I live in a house of picky eaters. My husband simply refuses to eat anything that even remotely resembles a healthy meal (or, for that matter, anything ethnic or with flavors he is unaccustomed to), and unfortunately, our son is trying like hell to walk in his shoes.

How do I handle this, you may ask? Simple. I bitch a lot.

Yep, I learned long ago that there is just no converting him, no matter how hard I try, so I have mainly given up on trying to pull the “Deceptively Delicious” routine with his meals and I take my victories anywhere I can.

Whenever the hubs has a job in the St. Louis area, he picks up the local papers on his way to work and reads them on his breaks. Fortunately for me, on Wednesdays, two of these newspapers publish a “Food” section and another includes a magazine insert called “Relish”. It is in this magazine that my picky eater found a new love. The hubs came home from work that day with the page folded back so I could get a good view of the full color picture that was making his mouth water.

This little jewel is dubbed “Indian Style Grilled Chicken”, so there is no claim being made that they are purveying anything traditional or specific, like Tandoori chicken, which I appreciate. The method for this chicken is similar, in that it utilizes a marinade of yogurt and various spices. Having attempted a similar recipe before, and being disappointed in the stove-top results, I decided this recipe was going to have to wait until I got my much-anticipated new grill for Mothers Day (Yes, its true, I knew that he would cave in and get it for me). In this manner, the chicken may have marinated a bit longer than intended, as the night I planned to cook it (the night after the grill came home) something came up unexpectedly and I didn’t manage to get the grill completely assembled. Hence, no chicken for dinner. (A quick peek at my new baby. Didn't I do a nice job putting her together? I am woman - hear me roar!)

I was on the ball the next night, however, rising early the next morning to work on the grill again and getting it upright in time to put some flame to the chicken thighs that had been lounging in the fridge nearly 48 hours at that point.

Now, I never claimed to be queen of the ‘que.

My inaugural dinner had its ups and downs and I did manage to get almost every piece of skin to stick like glue to the hot grates, but that didn’t deter me. I was a woman on a mission. And, in the end, beauty IS only skin deep.What was under the skin is another story. Luscious and moist, tender and flavorful, the Man of the House couldn’t stop raving about how good it was, and frankly, I have to agree. This one will definitely be on the menu again this summer. And next time....he better not make off with all the leftovers again!
Indian Style Grilled Chicken
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Original Hot Sauce
¾ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup heavy cream
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Cooking spray
8 bone-in chicken thighs

1. Combine all ingredients (except cooking spray and chicken) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Add chicken, turning to coat well. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
2. Prepare grill and spray grate with cooking spray.
3. Remove chicken from marinade and place on a platter. Discard marinade. Grill chicken skin side down 6 to 8 minutes, turn and grill second side 6 to 8 minutes. Serves 8.

Relish Magazine (

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Heart Cooking Clubs – Roast Pork Tenderloin

For the past several years, I have complained every spring that we don’t really seem to get “Spring” any more. Generally, we go from freezing cold temps to blazing summer heat in a matter of weeks. Not this year. This year Spring seems to be dragging on eternally, punishing me for my whiny nature. This is not, however, what I remember Spring being like. Has it really been so long since we’ve had a “real” Spring that I’ve forgotten what it is like? Or is it just that the season is completely out of whack this year? I mean, isn’t it supposed to be APRIL showers?? It’s the middle of May and Mother Nature seems to be having a bad case of PMS, because we’ve been getting nothing but rain for weeks. And, to be quite frank, its pissing this girl off.

For one thing, the lawn looks like it belongs in a remote sector of the Amazon right now. Between the hubs long work hours lately, and the incessant showers pummeling our area, it hasn’t been mowed in weeks.

Second, my basil is SUCKING. Yep, It’s been too wet and too cold and where I usually have a veritable BUSH of basil by now, I am still barely ahead of where I started with several small plants that are beginning to take on a yellowish cast and I’m afraid to trim any off for fear that I won’t have any more to use. Basil is, by far, the herb I utilize most in the summer months and I am usually well into my summer cooking bliss at this point.

Third, I really, REALLY wanted to start grilling as soon as Mother Freakin’ Nature gave us that one good week of nice weather...about a month ago. (she’s such a tease) The weather has not exactly been conducive to grilling, and I didn’t get my own gas grill until Mother’s Day (The whole prep time on the charcoal grill takes too darn long when you’re fighting the weather, in my opinion).

So, that brings me to my I Heart Cooking Clubs selection for this week’s theme, “potluck”. I wanted to grill....I purchased meat specifically with the intention of grilling....and then, naturally, it rained. What a pain in the ass. Not that the dish didn’t still turn out well, but it would have been much more successful on the grill, I have no doubt.

I was in the mood for pork tenderloin. Browsing through Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”, I found two recipes that sounded wonderful to me (ironic that pork tenderloins come in those handy, vacuum-sealed 2-packs). Pissed off at the world (and, more specifically, Mother Nature) I made them anyway. Both ended up being quite succulent and flavorful, but the mustard base for the Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Curry burned right off in the pan, leaving the crust in the dust, so to speak. I will definitely have to try this one again on the grill when I get a chance, as the hubs and I enjoyed both recipes. Unfortunately, the Man of the House took ALL the leftovers with him to work the next day and I didn’t get to enjoy it again, though I think the leftovers would have made a very yummy pork sandwich for my lunch (just a good excuse to try it again, right?).
Grilled or Broiled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Curry (How to Cook Everything, page 463)
2 TB Dijon mustard
2 TB curry powder
Salt & pepper
1 ¼ pork tenderloin, in one piece

Make a paste out of the mustard and curry powder, then slather it all over the pork. Heat a little oil in a large skillet and sear the meat on all sides (make sure you have your kitchen windows open, or you’re liable to set off the smoke alarm). Transfer the pan to a 350 degree oven and roast until the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. (I know it says “grilled or broiled”, but I already explained why I didn’t grill it, and I recently discovered that the broiler on my new stove kinda sucks, so there you go...)(I did the same thing with the other tenderloin and made a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and red pepper flake. I thought I found it in HTCE, but now that I look back, I don’t see it there, so maybe it was the beer talking...)
Next time, I will definitely be grilling....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Grilled Pork Chops with Chili Maple Glaze

I originally found this recipe online as a stove top variation on a Bon Appetit recipe. I’d quote the source (if I could find it) but I’ve taken creative license and have adapted it even further. Since I received a new grill from the hubs for Mothers Day, I’ve wanted nothing more than to grill everything in sight. So, when I pulled this recipe out of my “must try” file, I just couldn’t bring myself to light the stove. I personally think it was much better this way (not that I tried it on the stove!) and the hubs agreed. He took all the leftovers with him to work for lunch yesterday.
The chili garlic sauce that I picked up at the asian market gave it a nice kick, and the maple syrup added an unexpected sweetness. I really wasn’t sold on the idea of combining the two, but in the end, it really worked!

Grilled Pork Chops with Chili Maple Glaze
6 boneless pork loin chops
1 tsp chinese five-spice powder
salt and pepper
1 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp chili garlic sauce

1. Season pork chops on both sides with salt, pepper, and five-spice powder.

2. Heat grill to high and cook the pork about three minutes on each side, giving it some lovely grill marks.3. Meanwhile, combine chicken broth, chili garlic sauce and maple syrup in a saucepan and reduce by half.

4. Brush over pork chops and let the grill do its job by turning it into a caramelly (is that a word?) glaze.
This one was so fast and easy, not to mention flavorful. Throw a few slabs of zucchini on the grill at the last minute and you have a full meal!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Movie Night! For I Heart Cooking Clubs

The first thing I think of when I hear the words “Movie Night” usually have to do with popcorn, but I just couldn’t find a Bittman recipe involving popcorn that interested me. However, on the same page as “Buttered Popcorn” in How to Cook Everything, I found a recipe for spiced nuts. Roasted. Sautéed. Spiced. Buttered..... I did a little combination of a couple suggestions there and made a Sautéed Spiced Buttered nuts recipe.

When it comes to movie night, as long as I have something to munch on, and as long as it is salty, I’m good to go! These nuts really fit the bill, and I have a feeling one of my coworkers is going to be addicted before the day is out.
Sautéed Buttered Nuts
4 TB butter
1 TB steak seasoning (Bittman suggests using any spice mixture, such as chili or curry, but I spotted my can of Montreal Steak seasoning and decided to give it a whirl!)
2 cups mixed nuts

Melt the butter in a skillet and add the spice mixture.
Sautee the nuts in the seasoned butter about 5 minutes, or until nice and toasty.I had a bit of a glut of butter left at the end, so I drained the nuts and let them dry on parchment paper.This is my entry for this week’s I Heart Cooking Clubs theme – Movie Night!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hello, Gorgeous....

My newest indulgence for my cookbook collection came in the mail this morning.I have long been a fan (ok, obsessed frozen food section stalker is more like it) of the Ciao Bella gelato line. When I heard that they were coming out with a cookbook, I immediately got on the short list to get one. And my new little gem did not disappoint. I want to make every recipe in the book, including some of the ones they said they would never make again.

Summer is around the corner...I have an ice cream machine....with an extra freezer canister.....and I have a feeling I’m going to wear it out.

So much for losing twenty pounds this year....

Stayed tuned, folks! I have a cookbook review coming up in the next couple of days for Deborah Madison’s new book, “Seasonal Fruit Desserts”!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Deborah Madison Cookbook Review!

They say April showers bring May flowers, and we sure had enough rain in April this year! Something else those showers bring is fruit. Strawberry season is in full swing here and everything else is sure to follow. So, when I was asked to review the newest cookbook by Deborah Madison, well, let’s just say I was more than a little enthusiastic about the opportunity. To start with, its not often that I get asked to review cookbooks or food products (I’m not one of the big girls). I see lots of other bloggers getting offers on a regular basis, but I have not been as lucky.
I must say though, that this book was well worth the wait. When I was told I’d be receiving a book by Deborah Madison, I was both thrilled and intimidated. She is widely known for her vegetarian dishes. Which is great....for me. Cooking in a house full of picky eaters (read: won’t eat anything that has a color other than brown), I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage it.
Then, day of glorious days, I arrived home from work, opened the screen door, and PLOP! Out fell a fat shipping envelope. I was so anxious to tear it open that I nearly forgot my Little Man was trotting along behind me, pulling dandelions from the overgrown yard. I didn’t make it very far into the house before the treasure was revealed, however, and even Ty was echoing my “Ooohhh!” when he saw the cover and gingerly fingered the outline of the luscious raspberry tart depicted there.
To say the least, I was a tad distracted the rest of the evening. I situated myself on the sofa, with a glass of wine and a pad of purple Post-its, excitedly marking the pages displaying the recipes I was interested in trying.
The book soon resembled a peacock’s tail. Practically every other page, I was marking one recipe or another. I did have to eliminate a few simply because the fruits involved aren’t yet available in my area, but that didn’t slow me down for long.
After drooling over the pictures for an hour or so.....I sat down and actually READ. Madison’s writing style is as fresh as her recipes, sweet and simple. What I think I enjoyed most about Seasonal Fruit Desserts was that it was the most refreshingly welcoming cookbook I have held in a long time. Madison makes you want to run straight out to the nearest farmers market or berry farm and pick the freshest fruit available, at the same time, encouraging you to use what is readily available to you (minus the usual guilt that cookbook authors and chefs make me feel for not having the absolutely best ingredients available, which generally results in me NOT making the dish). Her instructions are casual and friendly, describing her own ingredient preferences while making you feel like you are in the kitchen with her, rinsing fresh berries, or rolling pastry while having a chat with an old friend.
As an extra bonus, I didn’t find a single recipe in this book whose instructions weren’t clear and manageable for even the most inexperienced cook. I found myself enthusing to friends and coworkers about how easy the recipes were when they gushed over the samples I brought them to taste.

Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup (page 64)
This was the first recipe I made, mainly because I had just opened a bottle of red wine. The berries are a luscious little summer treat by themselves, with a drizzle of cream, or as a topping for ice cream, pound cake....the bumper of a 1986 would make pretty much anything taste good.

Jam and Almond Tart or Bar (page 151)Figs are one of my all time favorite fruits, so this recipe jumped out at me immediately. Although my coworkers were a bit hesitant to try it, they were all pleasantly surprised to find such a familiar flavor hiding inside. This recipe couldn’t have been easier and the pan was empty before I could get a second helping for myself.

Chocolate Bark with Cardamom and Sea Salt, Apricots, and Pistachios (page 169), White Chocolate and Coconut Bark with Lavender and Tangerine Zest (page 170)Chocolate bark is a no-brainer, in my opinion. It is rather like a good pot of soup. You can put anything in it, but sometimes when you find just the right combinations of ingredients, it can border on a religious experience. The flavors in Madison’s versions here fit the bill wonderfully. Cardamom is a complex spice and it blended beautifully with the sea salt and the sweetness of the apricots. The lavender required a trip to Penzey’s (oh yes, it was a real trial for me to walk into that store....not) but it was well worth it. I admit that I have never liked the fragrance of lavender, but combine it with coconut and tangerine and it becomes the stuff dreams are made of.

Broken Jellied Wine with Summer Fruit (page 200)This recipe was, by far, the favorite among my guinea, I mean, friends.... What a surprise this was! It would never have occurred to me to use wine in this fashion, but now I’m going to have a hard time seeing it in any other way. I already have a second batch in the fridge, and one of my coworkers is headed home tonight to start a batch (I think she has a crush on this recipe). The book is worth buying for this recipe alone.

Dark Chocolate Pudding (page 186)This pudding was a spur of the moment choice. It seemed kind of average, conceptually. I mean, come on...its PUDDING. But the flavors infused in this version push it over into the “gorgeous” category. I topped mine with fresh berries.

Quinoa Pudding with Dried Cherries and Cranberries (page 177)The quinoa pudding was the odd man out in my list of “must try” recipes. I knew that my coworkers would be hesitant to try something they’ve never heard of, but it turns out that it won’t be a problem. Why? Because I plan to eat every last grain of this one myself. I’m not sharing. You can’t have any, so just keep your mitts off. I wasn’t very excited about this one, but I wanted to give it a chance because it was very “outside the box”. The list of ingredients is simple and I was worried about it being bland, but I needn’t have been concerned. Served warm, with a touch of heavy cream on top, it gives the impression of being a very rich dessert, but in actuality, was a healthful and satisfying breakfast for me. This was definitely the sleeper of the group, and one I will make again and again.
Yogurt-Honey Ice Cream (page 216) with Compote of Dried Farmers' Market Fruit (page 142)

Lastly, the Yogurt-Honey Ice cream. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest kitchen store and get an ice cream machine if you don’t have one. The hardest part about this will be waiting for my freezer canister to be ready to make another batch. I found myself standing in front of the freezer, with the door open and a spoon in hand, greedily spooning the creamy concoction into my mouth before it was even fully set. And returning to the scene of the crime again later in the evening for another helping. The dried fruit compote was a wonderful accompaniment, adding a certain sweetness to the dessert, but the ice cream can stand on its own with no trouble at all. My camera battery was threatening to die on me while I was getting this last shot, so I apologize for the poor view, you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

As you can see by the number of dishes I created, I was definitely inspired. This is not only a great reference for summer desserts, but has great information on serving suggestions and combinations, for fruits, nuts, cheeses and more. In addition, the wonderful photos would make Seasonal Fruit Desserts just as much at home on my coffee table as in my kitchen. This is definitely a “keeper” for my collection. I would love to hear from anyone else who picks this book up to see how many recipes you fall in love with!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nothing Says "Home" like Mom

I have always felt that I am a pretty stable, well rounded person, as I make my way through this life. I attribute this to having a happy, healthy childhood. I am one of the small percentage of people in this country who are part of a family where the parents are still happily married, and at some times we seem so normal, I almost wonder if we are too normal.
Growing up, we were a typical family of four, in a city in the midwest, in an average middle class neighborhood. My sister and I went to catholic school, participated in sports, attended church every Sunday, and led normal lives. Our parents loved us, and supported us in whatever we chose to do. I would never say they were the "soccer mom" variety, they were never "go, go, go!" but they allowed us to find our own direction in life. I have always believed that I am a stronger, more confident person because of the way I was raised.
Today I want to talk about my mom.
My mom worked, but she always made sure we had dinner as a family at the kitchen table, and it was nearly always home made. During the summers, I can remember her setting aside special days just for the three of us girls, and she would spend the whole day just doing something with my sister and I. Mom could always be counted on to provide costumes, baked goods, and prom dresses, sometimes at a moment's notice. We were not a "touchy-feely-huggy" family, but we never doubted that we were loved and appreciated. My mom had her own way of letting us know how much we mattered, even when we tested her patience.
After leaving home, that never changed, but I imagine I never held up my end of that bargain. I was a self-centered college student, then an independent woman who married young, and never really considered that maybe my mom missed me. I had my own life. And still, mom was always there for me. She came to Iowa in the sweltering August heat to help me finish my wedding dress. She may not know it, but hearing her voice on the phone when I called home in tears to tell her that my husband had cancer was the only thing I needed to hear that day. And when I divorced, even though I'm sure they didn't approve or understand, my parents still supported me.
Years later, I remarried and had a child of my own, and finally I realized how much I needed my mom.
Unconsciously, I started calling home regularly. I updated my parents with all kinds of facts about my pregnancy and pictures from all five of my sonograms. And when I went into labor, Mom and Dad hopped in the van and drove straight through from Ohio so they could be here to meet their newborn grandchild.
They stayed with me for two weeks, helping me adjust to being a new mother, and working on our house so that it was fit to bring the baby home to. Mom never once lectured me or pushed advice on me about the baby. If I asked for it, she gave it. If I just needed a nap, she sent me to bed. If the laundry needed to be done, she washed it. And if I needed to lash out and prove that I could do it all by myself, she stayed out of my way and didn't judge me. The day they left, I held my baby boy and cried my eyes out.
And then they came back. Over and over again they came back. They have been here for as many special occasions as they could manage, and have been more of a support system than I could ever have hoped for.
Many miles separate us now, but still they come. I don't say it nearly often enough, but I have come to appreciate my parents more than I could possibly express. And as a mother, I think I finally understand my own mother more than I could ever have expected. More and more every year, I see myself becoming like her, and I remember how in my youth I was like any other typical teenage girl who said, "I'll never be like my mom!" all aghast at the suggestion that I might turn out like her. Now, as a 37 year old wife and mother, I can only hope that I am learning to be more like her as I grow up.
I love you, Mom. Thank you for always being there for me. Happy Mother's Day.