Thursday, June 27, 2013

Score one for the librarian mama

One of my favorite onesies that Malcolm has is from Mental Floss that says "Jonathan Swift can bite me." For you non-English majors out there, this is a reference to this satirical essay. Go read it, I'll wait.

Anyway, he wore this onesie to library story time today. After it was over, while Malcolm was saying goodbye to the dog puppet, the librarian in charge laughed and told me that when she lost her place and stopped talking during an activity, it was because she had looked over and saw the shirt and figured out the reference.

Sourdough no-go

I feel like I ought to be one of those people with their own sourdough starter living in their fridge; I want to be one of those people. I have certainly tried often enough, but the only time I have been successful was when we lived in New York. Eventually we got tired of always having to have sourdough bread or pancakes to keep it going, and it was forgotten at the back of the fridge. A couple of weeks ago, in my current baking frenzy, I decided to give sourdough another go and mixed up a starter. All was well for a while - the starter was bubbling and souring nicely. But one morning when I went to stir it, I found a fuzzy grey scum on the top. Sigh. I am beginning to agree with James Beard, who thought that sourdough bread was far too fickle for the home baker to deal with, and said that "I am not sure it is worth the trouble." At least not in Arkansas.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Time for Zucchini

Now that Malcolm is able to entertain himself for longer periods of time, I've been able to spend time baking/cooking. In the last month or two I have made my own bread a couple of times (yes, I used to do it almost every week, but between baby and boredom, I've let it go for a while), canned strawberry jam, baked carrot cake cookies, made Mark Bittman's no-mayo cole slaw twice (and then discovered that Benjamin doesn't like it, although he allowed that mine was "better than most"), made croutons (done right, much better than store bought, but I don't usually have the right bread on hand), and baked zucchini bread twice. A while ago, I thought I had found my favorite zucchini bread recipe when I found one in Beard on Bread, but then I found a recipe in Baking Illustrated, and my life has been changed forever.

This bread is light and fluffy, not heavy and gummy like most zucchini breads I have ever made or eaten. It is almost cake, but isn't over-loaded with sugar or eggs. I can see myself making it several more times this summer, and strongly encourage you to give it a try.

Zucchini Bread from Baking Illustrated
Makes one 9-inch loaf

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 pound zucchini, washed and dried, ends and stems removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped coarse (I left these out in the second batch so I could feed it to Malcolm without difficulty, and because I am not a huge fan of nuts in bread. Either way is fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt (recipe says you can use whole-milk, low-fat, or nonfat. I used whole-milk because it is what I had on hand)
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon (I used lemon for the first loaf, but didn't have any on hand for the second, so I used lime. Still worked well, and the bread has a slightly more green tinge.)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan; dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the zucchini and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until the zucchini is coarsely shredded, twelve to fifteen 1-second pulses. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set at least 2 inches over a bowl and allow to drain for 30 minutes. Do not skip this step. It allows the zucchini to get rid of a lot of water that would make the bread soggy.
3. Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't allow to burn. Cool completely. Transfer nuts to a large bowl; add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until combined. Set aside.
4. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and melted butter in a 2-cup glass measure until combined. Set aside.
5. After the zucchini has drained, squeeze the zucchini with several layers of paper towels (or a clean cloth towel to prevent ripping) to absorb excess moisture. Stir the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.
6. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes (in my oven, well heated, 50 minutes was just right). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least an hour before serving (if you can wait that long!).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Twelve Years

Drawing by Chris Van Dyke. *
Today marks our twelfth wedding anniversary. When I stop to think about how long that is, how much we have done and seen in our own lives and how much has happened in the world in that time, I am amazed. When we got married, Google didn't exist. Neither did iPods, or YouTube. Iraq was the country we went to war with when I was in elementary school, and Afghanistan wasn't on the radar at all. Since then, we have moved from college in Walla Walla to Bellevue to Texas to Bellevue (for a summer anyway, but it involved driving both ways) to back to Texas to western New York to Arkansas. We have both completed graduate school, adopted three cats, a dog and a chinchilla. Bought a house. Grown (or tried to grow) hundreds of tomatoes. Played hundreds of games of racquet ball; traded racquet ball for tennis. Read thousands of books (I am not kidding. Until this past year, I read about 100 books a year - combine that with all the reading we both did for graduate school, and multiply times 12 years...) Had a baby.

What hasn't changed? The fact that Benjamin is still the person I want to be with every day, the person I want to see the world with, the person I want to grow old with.

*If you like this picture and want something like it for yourself, Chris is available for commissions. Check out his page here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring flashback

Summer seems to have arrived in Arkansas to stay. April and May were cooler than normal, so we have had a bit of a reprieve, but temperatures are forecasted to be in the 90s all week. So it is a nice little break to go back and look at this pictures from our trip to Bellevue and Idaho last month, when it was cool and refreshing. Enjoy.

 Benewah Creek, just outside Benjamin's mother's house.

A door to nowhere, Lake Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Without a boat there, I can't tell if it is supposed to keep people from the lake off the dock, or people from the dock out of the lake!

Apple blossoms.

Lavender in my mother's garden, with one of her bees.

Poppy with bee (look closely, she's in there).

Chives, and bees.

Early morning raindrops.

Roses, in a delicate state of decay.

Spiky and purple and geometric.

One more rose, because I can't help myself. I love photographing them.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Visiting All the Grandparents

We spent two weeks in Idaho and Washington last month, visiting all the grandparents. Malcolm was, apart from some sleep difficulties, a great traveler, and the grandparents were all thrilled to have him. The weather was mostly good - cooler than Arkansas, and rainy at times, but not depressingly so. I got some very good flower pictures, since everything was blooming profusely. Here are some pictures of Malcolm with the grandparents; I'll save the flowers for another day.

Malcolm reached 10 months while we were there, so he let Grandpa Rider help him with his month card picture.

Three generations of Benjamin Riders at Lake Coeur d'Alene. In this picture Malcolm is starting to look a little more like Benjamin now, although a lot of his expressions are still very much like mine.

Malcolm got to meet his Oma Jennie for the first time ever, and despite the look on his face in this picture, he did get along well with her.

There, that is a happier look. Jennie was, of course, in love.

Malcolm does love to chew on rocks...

Grandpa Mikey and Malcolm in a quiet moment. Usually, they were winding each other up instead.

Malcolm and Grandma Candi, reading the same book. You'd never know it by these pictures, but my mother does have a large collection of children's books - she was a children's librarian after all. But Malcolm really liked that one - it was one of my favorites as a baby too.

The drive from Bellevue to Idaho and back can get rather long, especially if you are strapped in a car seat facing the wrong direction, so it was lovely to be able to stop and visit with our good friend Ellen along the way. As a bonus, she gave Malcolm his first piano lesson on a real piano!