29 May 2012

Memorial Day weekend

We ate well, played hard, gardened, cooked, read books, napped, and got to visit with people we like a lot.  Our weekend turned out to be extra long since Byron took Friday off as well as the holiday on Monday.  I also managed to get some holiday-like time away for myself, actually giving my 24/7 mom gig a bit of a rest.  So here's a look at some of the images I shot from our time together. 

Rhubarb lemon buttermilk cake
Ms game with Scarlett, etc.

Breakfast with Kyla, et al.

Prepping for a flower garden next to the veggie beds
Hopping on pop
Carkeek Park
Nap at the park
Wy feeding his belly button goat brie on a cracker
Banana buckwheat pancakes with homemade yogurt and Ballard honey

26 May 2012

Baker's man

I spent a few hours yesterday baking with my little boy.  This isn't the first time we've baked together.  We've managed biscuits and pancakes, hand pies, and even a few messier food projects like salad dressing, granola, and scrambled eggs.  Our activity yesterday warrants a post here mostly because the cake -- a rhubarb lemon buttermilk bundt cake -- was outrageously good and worth telling you about.  And because Wyatt was particularly into it all and looked pretty cute in his IKEA kid-sized apron.

I heard about the cake from Melissa over at all buttoned up.  Any bundt cake that has been worth the time for a woman with four children to make four times in the span of a few weeks is worth a little investigation in my opinion.  So, since I don't own the cookbook she took it from, I set out to see if I could find the recipe somehow. And voilĂ !

Here's a link to the recipe, which I found on yet another blog, in case you'd like to try making this cake before spring rhubarb dissapears.  I'm always modifying recipes so I'll tell you that I only had two cups of thinly sliced rhubarb (it calls for three), and frankly, I wouldn't have wanted more in the cake.  It was the perfect amount for my taste. Oh, and I substituted 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice for the lemon oil.  Worked fine.

Wyatt had a blast playing with utensils, tasting the flour, chomping on raw rhubarb, drinking fresh lemon juice (what is it with his love of sour foods?).  Luckily, he fell off the step stool only once.

About half of the cake went with us to the Mariners game last night, and we shared it with friends who came with us.  I must say, it's tastier fare than what the ball park offers for sure.  Today we've snacked on it a bit, and it's dwindling away.  This is definitely one of those cakes that won't make it onto a pretty cake plate before it's gone.
My eggs had bright orange yolks, giving it a great yellow color.

In the pan, ready for the oven.
Iced and half eaten.

12 May 2012

Thursday called for snack cake

In case you are not familiar with this special category of cakes, let me bring you into the know.  Snack cake is, well, cake that you snack on. And by snack on I mean eat in between meals and sometimes in lieu of meals if necessary.  It's not a fancy cake like birthday cake or something special for company.  It's usually fairly simple fare, has a moist crumb, and doesn't contain a lot of sugar. I prefer my snack cake without icing -- just a dusting of powdered sugar to make it pretty.  Generally, snack cake disappears quickly.  Plus you have far less guilt when eating it than you do when eating regular cake.

This week I dug out a favorite banana cake recipe from a former colleague and turned it into snack cake.  I haven't stayed in touch with the woman who shared it with me, but I think of her whenever I make this cake.  I thoroughly enjoyed our work together.  She was artistic and witty, a talented designer and graphic artist.  I heard that a few years after I left my work with her she had several tragedies in her life -- the saddest and greatest of which was losing her only child, a 15-year-old boy, to a brain tumor.  I don't know if it's possible for a person to recover from that kind of loss. But I hope my friend and colleague has found a path through her sadness and has found a way to laugh and love again.  Given her penchant for good food, her love of fashion and style, and her designer's eye, I can't help but believe she has found her way back to the happy side of life . . . that she is cooking again, and making cake.

So the snack cake I made this week was from her. Although it's called banana cake, I don't think it's much like banana bread at all, which was my assumption.  And in case it was yours too, I wanted to clear that up.  The cake is much lighter than any such bread, and the bananas and lemon give it a nice fruit flavor.  The well-beaten butter and sugar and buttermilk give it lift and lightness.

Wyatt and I polished off a good number of pieces of this cake within hours of it coming from the oven.  Once Byron discovered it, he helped us make short work of the rest.  My advice is make it when you can get first crack at it, and eat it warm.  It's delightful with powdered sugar on top.  Just remember not to breath in when you take a bite . . .

Banana Snack Cake

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter a 9 x 13 pan.

In a small bowl, mix the mashed banana with the lemon juice and set aside.  In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  This will take several minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time and stir in the vanilla just until combined.  Add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix in the banana mixture.  Pour the cake into the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven, immediately.

Bake for about one hour (I baked mine for 1 hour 7 minutes), until a toothpick insterted in the center comes out clean, but moist, and the center is not jiggly.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack.  Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the pieces as you serve them.  And start snacking as soon as it's cool enough to handle.

The cake will dry out as it cools so wrap it tightly to keep it moist for the few days it may be around in your house.  Refrigerate it if you have any cake left after 24 hours.

07 May 2012

Down by the sea

I don't have any pictures of the super moon to show you. But lately the moon has been astonishingly big and beautiful, and as I like to say, "close enough that you can see the blue cheese."  I hope you didn't miss it. 

Not coincidentally, we are having some amazingly low tides this week in Puget Sound.  Today, Wyatt and I met up with our friends Jenny (trained as a biologist) and her daughter, Sophia, (currently a chatter box) to see what we could find on an exposed sand bar during a low -3.4 tide at Golden Gardens Park. 

We didn't have to venture far before we discovered red rock crab molts, sea slugs, a sea star, moon snail egg casings, eel grass, sea anemones, clams, a hermit crab in a very cute shell, a dead Dungeness crab, and a white shell with a hole that had been drilled by a moon snail.

Wyatt loved being outdoors and seemed to enjoy our adventure, walking most of it himself and finding every pond and rivulet with an expert eye.  He took notice of the sea star and the shell with a hole in it, which he stuck his finger into, of course.  Other than that, he was pretty much focused on the rocks, the dogs playing catch in the surf, and squishing sand between his fingers.  I don't need to tell you that he was really wet and sandy by the end, at which point he also wanted to be carried, so you can see how I got really wet and sandy by the end as well.

In case you would like to venture into the normally-under-water sea floor yourself, I'd encourage you to hit a local beach during one of the remaining low tides.  On many beaches around Seattle you will find volunteer beach naturalists sponsored by the Seattle Aquarium who are there to help you learn about what you find and answer questions. Here's a list of the remaining low tides this week:  Tuesday Low  1:12 PM (-3.3); Wednesday Low  2:01 PM (-2.7);
Thursday Low 2:52 PM (-1.8).

06 May 2012

Off and growing

The veggie garden is looking beautiful.  I can't say as much for other parts of our yard, but oh well.  I'm celebrating my victories where I can get them.

To anyone else's eye, I admit, the garden may not look so lovely.  But I know what's there and what will be there.  And anticipating what is to come is part of its beauty for me. 

I am loving what I can see right now, too -- the fresh, bright green of baby spring plants contrasted against the dark soil.  There's still a lot of soil to see because the plants are only getting started, but I won't complain.  It's May 6 and my veggie garden is well on its way for the first spring in more years than I can count.  As of today, I have occupied nearly all my dirt.

Five raised beds in all -- raspberries in the back -- shelling peas are popping up under the toasty grower behind the cauliflower starts.  Broccolini went into the soil that is covered by burlap here.
bolting parsley, etc.
The herbs, which overwintered nicely, are thriving.  The thyme is putting on its tender spring leaves, the parsley is actually bolting and must be replaced, the lovage is taking over, chives are just about blooming.  New this year:  a curry plant and some tarragon.  Basil seeds will get planted this week.

raspberries setting blooms
The raspberries look healthy and like we're going to get a beautiful crop.  They have multiplied before my eyes.  We have only lived in the house two years and somehow I already have an entire bed of them!  The newest berry addition this spring: 10 strawberry plants -- honeoeye and tristar.

strawberries and onions
As for the veggies, I have 50 walla walla sweets, starts of butter crunch lettuce, sugar snap peas (going strong) and shelling peas just breaking through the soil, zinnias and cosmos and chard just sprouting.  A hand full of cauliflower starts, and 18 broccolini starts that Wyatt and I began from seeds about a month ago.  I've tucked some corn in one of the beds, but nothing has sprouted yet. 

sugar snaps climbing twig supports
broccolini starts that got planted this weekend
Turns out, we will also have beans.  Lots of them.  I caught Wyatt with a mostly-empty package of string bean seeds from last year's seed bag . . . he was tucking one bean at a time into the soil anywhere he could find open space.  I've taught him to plant by placing a seed on the soil, then pushing it underground with his finger.  At 16-months-old, he's pretty fond of doing the same things over and over and over . . . and then clapping for himself.  So, well, we have Wyatt's beans to look forward to as well.

The only things still to plant before June will be beets and radishes.   And a couple tomatoes in pots starting the end of the month.

Other than that, I hope to start eating what we're growing soon.  Lettuce is close.  The sugar snap peas are almost blooming so it shouldn't be too long before we have some of those . . .  In the meantime, I'll make some chive blossom vinegar for my pantry.

My little garden helper busy tasting dirt from the pots on the deck.  No beans planted there . . . that I know of.