Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall 2011 highlights

Lily started preschool this year, going 2 half-days per week. Since she started, she has been filling our house with songs of ABCs, Twinkle Twinkle and Jesus Loves Me. Most recently, she has shared her rendition of the song "Row Your Boat": "Row, row, row your boat...take a nap!" Another way preschool is rubbing off on her? She likes to pick up a book, display the pages to us and say, "Who know's what this is?" (pointing to a picture). Can we tell who likes to be in charge?

Here's a picture from her first day of school:

Playing in her classroom with her friend, Summer:

We have a sweet little pumpkin patch at Lane Farms that offers hay rides, pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and a small petting zoo. Here's Lily's silly face at the farm:

Having a little chat with her friend, Selah:

And, finally, we enjoyed some trick-or-treating with some friends:

This pow-wow is where all the strategy begins before embarking on the neighborhood:

Lily elbowed her way into the front to get her share of candy:

Mommy made the wings, but Lily made the whole thing adorable! Here's our little butterfly giving us a smile.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yoga with Lily

This is a good work out video for core strength and balance :) Meant to include this in the previous post!

Q: What has Lily been up to this summer?

A: Playing with animals and water.

Kansas City Zoo...o.k., maybe not playing with the lioness :)

Kansas City - with Lexi Gazaway

Lucky Tarman - at Refugio Campground

Kansas City - Plaza fountain

Granite Bay - swimming with cousin Lauren

Bend, OR - overlooking Mt Bachelor with Uncle Mike (and Ruka)

She has also been up to visiting lots of fun family, doing 24-piece puzzles, climbing out of her crib, going on the potty (not trained, yet), jumping, and constantly talking about what is going on around her. We've enjoyed the summer together as a family!


Not being a huge candy-lover, I wasn't thrilled when I saw that the Daring Baker's challenge would center around this idea. However, I was quickly captured by the idea of making and flavoring my own truffles.

The August 2011 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsely, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

What was especially fun about this challenge, is that I had all the ingredients ready to go. It just required a little creativity of opening my pantry doors and perusing the garden for some delicious treats! Part of the requirement of this challenge was to learn how to "temper" chocolate, which is what makes that smooth and almost shiny exterior of the chocolates you can buy from a chocolate shop. What I had on hand was the Trader Joe's Pound-Plus Bar in Dark Chocolate, and I was very pleased with the result.

The truffle flavors you will find pictured here are: Mango, mint and lemon dark chocolate and orange cardamom dark chocolate:

I also tried my hand at pate de fruit, but would consider it fairly unsuccessful. The flavor of these little guys is lemon cucumber/melon:

If you want to make some delicious truffles, give this recipe a try.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My favorite cake

If you were to ask me what my favorite cake was growing up and what it is even today, I would tell you it's a strawberry whipped cream cake. There's nothing like juicy deep red berries enveloped in a cloud of lightly sweetened whipped cream all atop a moist, delicious cake. When I found out that this month's Daring Baker challenge was a grown up version, I was game.

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers' host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

While I am sure there is a bit of bias in this next statement, this is my favorite version of my favorite cake. It may be partially due to the amount of labor and time put into making such deliciousness, but it was well worth the effort. A frasier is typically a French version of a strawberry whipped cream cake, but it could take on many different fruits and varieties. What makes it so special, is that the "bread" of the cake "sandwich" is a lemon chiffon cake that I kicked up a notch by moistening it with some lemon infused simple syrup. The filling is a stabilized whipped cream made with a vanilla bean pastry cream folded into whipped cream with a little gelatin. As it sets, it firms up a bit. Then, of course, strawberries (from one of our favorite organic farms in SB) add the extra burst of love. I mean, what's not to love?

If you want to take a bite into your own version of this yumminess, check out the amazing recipe.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I tip my hat to Grandma Mary

Upon meeting Jason's family for the first time, I felt I had stepped onto the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. While his father's family's heritage is from Armenia, the importance of family and the large family gatherings that come with it brought about plenty of roars of laughter and what felt like a room full of extroverts. Along with this heritage comes delicious homemade foods, such as marinated lamb, pilaf, and of course, baklava or boorma (and much more!). Jason's grandmother was the skilled home "chef" behind these dishes that she so carefully crafted from scratch, using high-quality ingredients. While Grandma Mary passed away 4 years ago, the memories I have of being in her kitchen and learning how to use fresh phyllo dough to make flaky and sweet boorma (a rolled baklava) remain dear to me. So, when I learned that the Daring Baker's challenge this month was to make baklava, I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity to keep up the skills she so precisely instructed me.

Erica of Erica's Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker's June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Yes, indeed, it was daring to make phyllo dough from scratch. Making the dough on a 75% humidity day caused me to add more flour than the dough required, but once the right balance was found, the kitchen aid mixer went to town and kneaded the dough into a beautiful smooth and elastic ball. After resting, I found the rolling to be easier than expected with the dowel I was given from Jason's grandmother.

The trick is to roll out the dough as thin as possible, enough so that you could read a printed paper beneath it.

The real challenge actually came back to the humidity and how it affected layers of phyllo that didn't have enough extra flour to keep them from sticking! While I was able to separate about half of my pre-rolled sheets, the others gummed together at the edges and required me to re-roll them, which made for a slightly thicker, a little less flaky phyllo on top.

However, Jason was quite impressed with my efforts and enjoyed every crumb of baklava, down to the last drop of sweet syrup. He had it with eggs in the morning, and then again after lunch and maybe also dinner :) I guess he's been missing his grandma, who fed him so well with these treats and much more!

If you feel so inclined to give phyllo dough a try, here is the recipe. I made alterations to the filling and the syrup of the baklava, based on Grandma Mary's recipe, so let me know if you want any of those tips, too!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, Lily!

Lily's Birthday was a meaningful day with friends and family. We celebrated with monkey face cupcakes, that Lily still calls "chocolate rice cakes" (actually strawberry cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, fondant and chocolate shortbread ears).

Here she is digging in...

We started the celebration off with a special dedication of Lily to the Lord. Scriptures, memories and thoughts were shared that truly highlighted the bright and joyful spirit that Lily shares with us all. Below, Bart Tarman is offering the charge to us to bring up Lily in the way of Jesus and to those present to encourage and support her.

A joyful occasion, indeed:

Papa Len and Grandy were present to support Lily.

Oma made the long trek from Oregon to be with Lily (and help make sushi and cupcakes!):

Lily was thrilled to celebrate her birthday and dedication with her friend, Summer, with whom she has spent many days playing while Mommy and Daddy are at work.

Happy Birthday, our dear and precious Lily. We love you. Love, Mom and Dad

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snow to Beach in 1.5 hrs

In hopes of keeping you up-to-date with Lily (not just food!), some of our latest endeavors encompass water (or as Lily says "agua") in its various forms. Yes, Santa Barbara has had some good amount of rain this year. Apparently it has been all over the news, but for a NW gal, it feels pretty normal :) Lily and I have been enjoying playing in the rain, especially checking out the creek that is only 4 blocks from our house at the nearby park. She loves to poke sticks at the rushing water, throw in an unsuspecting leaf, and climb on the nearby rocks. We both just put on our hoods and enjoy the rain and the rushing water, 2 natural resources not usually touted by Southern California.

Due to all of this rain, our backcountry has been receiving a good dusting of snow. Thanks to a suggestion by Jason, we capitalized on this one day, so Lily could see and touch her first snow! We tried to teach her to throw snowballs, and it seems that she only wanted to do so at our friends' dog:

We also enjoyed a visit from my (Heather's) mom for her birthday in February, as well as her sister, Nicole, and niece, Grace. Lily adored Grace and wanted to copy her with most things. Here the girls are on the beach together:

Here we are with Nicole and Grace in front of a our favorite beach pancake spot.

Happy Spring!

A delicious breakfast treat

One of our guilty (or not-so-guilty) pleasures is a stroll to our favorite French patisserie, 1/2 mile from our house, to snatch up one of the buttery, flaky treasures. Yes, we are talking melt-in-your-mouth almond croissants (the best ever, maybe even in Paris!), pain au chocolate, plain 'ol butter croissants with homemade jam, and various brioche rolls. The pastry chef also creates the most beautiful little confections that look almost too perfect too eat. However, it is easy to quickly change one's mind after taking a bite of these little treats. Even Lily has started a sophisticated croissant palate at such a young age :) Let's suffice it to say that Renaud is an absolute French genius! Croissants and other complicated French treats are just one of those food delicacies that I am willing to not try to make, but rather enjoy the fruits of another's labor!

When I came upon this month's Daring Baker's challenge, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this breakfast bread, as if I was sitting on the patio of Renaud's Patisserie. This, I decided, is the closest I get to such French pastry deliciousness. For surprisingly much less work than that of a typical french pastry, this treat tasted much like a lightly sweetened brioche filled with yummy things :)

The March 2011 Daring Baker's Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria's Collection and Jamie of Life's a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

After making the "brioche" dough and allowing it to rise, the dough is rolled out into a rectangle and spread with a vanilla meringue. I chose to top it with an orange sugar I made using orange zest and organic sugar, dark chocolate, and toasted slivered almonds.

Then, you gently roll the dough up and shape it into a wreath, snipping around the wreath to expose the hidden treasures.

After a 2nd rise, the dough gets brushed with an egg wash and placed in the oven. The inside yumminess peeks out through the slits in the dough and the whole round becomes beautifully golden.

Finally, the bread gets a nice dusting of powdered sugar.

And, voila! A light, buttery dough hugging melted chocolate, scented with orange and crunchy almonds awaits!

Oh, and this recipe is both adult and kid-tested and approved!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sweet and Creamy for Valentines

This Valentine's Day we were treated to an evening with friends, celebrating marriage, and being reminded of who we fell in love with when we married each other in the first place! It is such a special evening every year that we would never want to miss out.

The past couple of years, I have had the privilege of preparing a simple, but elegant meal for the group to enjoy. This year we enjoyed fresh farmer's market produce, including the salad that starred (my favorite) Shepherd's Farms mixed greens, as well as Root's Farms beets, avocados and (store-bought) goat cheese, all tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. For the entree, we had a light, but filling manicotti with homemade pasta and a homemade ricotta filling with fresh farmer's market asparagus and garlic scallions. Finally, for dessert...we had a large group, so I served up Ina Garten's Mocha Icebox cake that layers a mocha whipped cream/mascarpone with chocolate chip cookies. The second dessert was my Daring Baker's challenge:

The February 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

For Valentine's Day, I decided to do the classic paring of chocolate and can you go wrong? The panna cotta was delicately layered with raspberry puree and topped with chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries. Instead of using the Nestle recipe, I decided to go with another Giada inspired recipe for the florentines that features slivered almonds with orange zest and was then dipped in chocolate.

It was fairly simple and highly recommended. Panna cotta is delicious on its own without layering the flavors, as I did. It could be enjoyed with a simple topping of fruit and a drizzle of honey or a berry coulis or whatever sounds delicious to you! Here is the recipe if you are interested.