Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"You did that for school!?"

Just another reason home schooling works for us...cooking days!  We had a blast and learned a lot too!

The title of this post is the comment our girlies got at ballet as they were eating their snack of a fresh roll in between classes!  I think I know of one Mom who probably had to listen to reasons why it would be good to home school last night!  Sorry!

We had our friends, Stacy and Tatum, over and we baked and baked and baked.  Now, back in the day I used to bake, but it's been a long time for me so I was happy to have Stacy share her recipes and skills! 

On the menu were Dinner Rolls and Focaccia Bread...

This is the chalkboard wall in our kitchen...prepared for the day by Madison and Lane!

We incorporated a little Italian lesson into the day because we were making Focaccia Bread.

All day long the girlies cooked side by side - tandem cooking with Tatum!!!

I got the biggest kick out of seeing their bowls side by side, their cookie sheets side by side...sharing experiences with friends is just the best!

Madison hung out with us (you will see her green fingernails here and there) - don't you love the casual photographer pose?  Just lean against the mixer and go for it.

The actual logistics of baking two different things and having the timing come out right at first seemed a bit overwhelming to me, but before I could panic Stacy laid out the schedule.  We started with the dinner rolls, let them rise in their bowl and after they were shaped and  transferred to the cookies sheets we could then use the bowls to mix the focaccia...while we made the focaccia the rolls rose and as the dinner rolls baked the focaccia rose and when the rolls were done cooking the focaccia went into the oven...AMAZING!

Lots of wonderful ingredients went in to the breads...including Stacy's farm-fresh eggs!

Rather than give you the step by step recipe I am going to share the tips that Stacy showed us...

This first one is so smart - do you see the little piles of yeast in there with the flour and butter?  4 and 1/2 teaspoons of yeast...each one in a little pile so if you lose count? - just look down and see where you are! 

Just look at the beautiful colour of those real eggs!

Lesson number two - you can knead right in the bowl!!!  No need to mess up the counter...just add the last of your ingredients and dig in with both hands!  Scrape all the excess off the sides of the bowl, mix it well, and start kneading.

You don't have to go crazy with the kneading either, push and fold, push and fold - maybe a few minutes and you're ready to put in a dash of oil, swish the dough around and cover it to rise.

Fresh bread rising in the window...I felt like I was Suzy Home-maker (even though all I did was take the pictures!)

Lane took a little break while the dough was rising....

At one point there was even time for a game of Chinese checkers!

Well, now the dough has risen and it is time to punch it down and form the rolls.

It seems crazy after waiting all that time for the dough to rise...to just beat it back down again...but it has to be done...

And, truth be told - it looks kinda fun!

Lesson number...oh, I don't know, but here it is.  We wanted to try and make 2 dozen rolls each so Stacy suggested dividing the dough into smaller balls and then each one could form so many rolls!  Much easier to eyeball the size of each roll from a smaller ball of dough.

Forming the rolls is a tiny bit tricky - you want a round roll, but it is important to get the air bubbles our for a dense roll...Stacy showed us how to pinch and pull and tuck to create the perfect roll.  Let's see if I can describe the process....You pinch off a ball of dough, holding it with both hands keep forming a ball while tucking the edges under and pinching them into the center of the bottom, when you've done that several times place the ball in your palm and pinch the bottom together like a special little treasure.  Place round side up onto the baking sheet.  (if that doesn't make sense, just call Stacy!)

Here we go again with the tandem cooking!!!!!!!

Another lesson...it is worth it to buy and use parchment paper.  Don't be cheap like me and convince yourself that you don't need it.  It really helps the rolls to cook more evenly - and it doesn't hurt for easy clean-up either.

Look how beautifully they rise!

Into the oven and Ta Da!  Gorgeous, home-made, mouth-watering dinner rolls.

My final lesson from Stacy for today...and it's a good one....rub a stick of butter all over the rolls right after they come out of the oven!!!!!!!  It is for cosmetic purposes only, of course, as it makes the rolls very shiny!

And, we didn't hesitate...

Do you see that look on Madison's face?  That is the "Are you serious, Mom, you haven't got enough shots of this yet!?" face.

Everyone dove right in! (Stacy and I chose not to be photographed eating ours!)

So thanks to our cooking partners - it was great fun, we learned a lot, and our tummies are nice and full of soft, tasty bread!

Next time - I'll share the focaccia bread!  Until then...I really feel people should be baking something everyday!  Then you will all have the same problem I do - trying to eat it all before it gets stale!

xoxo    Elizabeth

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Jazzy Weekend

You know how it feels when people you love do the nicest things...when they make you feel special and spoiled...well, we have had quite a bit of that lately...here is one example....

 My sister, Jennifer, and her hubby (my brother-in-law!), Dennis, took Brian and I to the Monterey Jazz Festival to celebrate Brian's birthday and their anniversary (which as I am writing this I realize that I never even wished them a happy anniversary...that's a great way to show my thanks....)

I have never been - Brian went once....long ago....when he was a teenager...and has always wanted to go back.

It was really an amazing experience, there was so much more than I ever expected.

First the weather was perfect - and coming from a hot Merced summer that is saying a lot!  Then we got to sit under these gorgeous trees and listen to some of the best musicians in the world.

There were several stages and you could just wander from here to there listening to all different types of Jazz.  This is the outdoor stage where we started out....

Look at that fabulous woman!  Don't you love the yards of red tulle!  AND she could sing too!

 Speaking of women, there were several 'dancing' women...at first we thought they were with the bands...then we realized they just enjoyed dancing!

It is hard to resist some of those tunes!

 This is one of the indoor stages where we saw some Japanese Jazz artists - incredible talent.

Unknown to me (but a fun surprise) there are people selling neat stuff at the Jazz Festival...so when we wanted a little break we wandered around a bit.

Wonderful oversized hats.......perfect for all those days at the pool - next year I'm getting one of these...

Look at that purple!!!!!!! That would shade my whole self!

There were Stetson hats ( and that reminds me of another story of niceness that I may share with you at some point!) and this funny rattle snake hat...As I was taking my pics one of the saleswomen came up and said "Let me take your picture in that!"

So, if you ever wondered what I would look like in a leather rattle snake top hat - wonder no more!  Do you think I should have purchased it?

I found some boots that I could have worn all winter long, with every skirt I own!  For $275.00 I should have gotten the purple and the flowered ones!  Aren't they too fun!

Some adorable purses (why didn't I think of this!?) made out of story books and album covers.  So clever - (her business cards are even printed on Monopoly money!) - if you feel you need one just go here....   karinskitsch.com

There was a lot of jewelry, some funky and some sophisticated...I will be saving my dollars for next year!

After some wandering we decided to go back to the outdoor stage to see Trombone Shorty - everyone else knew what we didn't...he was fantastic - and so - this was my view during that set...

People were everywhere trying to get a glimpse of Shorty...

Even in the trees!  Smart lady! 

 Jen enjoyed a yummy margarita while we listened to Trombone Shorty...it came in it's own little shaker!

I thought Shorty was great and would love to actually see him play and sing some day...

Take a quick listen to Shorty here:


Perfect shirt for the day....

The food at the Jazz Festival is another thing indeed....So much to choose from...Dennis ate a sausage sandwich, Brian had Jambalaya...and Jen and I found the Happy Cat and had some fresh and delicious sushi.

Accompanied by some sweet potato fries...

Lots of garlic, some ginger, and we think cilantro...very tasty.

 We relaxed a bit after our sushi and such...and then...

More music....

Kyle Eastwood - do you think he looks like his dad?  I do - Jen doesn't so much....

More food...

This is what inspired our Sunday BBQ pizza!

Some coffee...

Is that the best coffee shop you've ever seen?!  Right in the old car!

 Our men waiting while we shopped...they are too cool for school!         ( oh my girlies will be mortified that I actually said that!) but they do have that look.

Brian enjoyed a cigar...and Dennis was actually able to get us into the big 'Arena', but we can't tell you how or we would have to kill you....(that's just a saying)  But we did get to see Chick Correa - and he was GREAT!

So.... thanks is a small word - but we mean it really big when we say Thank You  - Jen and Den, we had a fantastic weekend...and were so glad to celebrate (in more ways than one) with both of you.  We love you and are saving our pennies so we can go again next year! 

Oh, and Happy Anniversary!

xoxo    Elizabeth