Burgers with Chive-Parsley Butter: Webisode #30

What's Going on Today: Daughter's first day of camp! July Fourth decoration preparation underway...
Naptime Goals: Prepare Burgers for tonight's grilling lesson.
Tonight's Menu: Burgers with Chive Parsley Butter, Caesar Salad, Roasted Red Potatoes with Herbed Salt.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Rain helps us start over with a clean slate.

I love burgers in the summer and am always up for trying new recipes. Of course, one of my favorites is still Uncle Will's Burger recipe, which will always be an onion-topped classic. When I was flipping through June's Bon Appetit the other day I read a great article about a technique utilizing Meyer lemon butter in a burger. I loved it's promises of moister meat and added flavor. I couldn't wait to give technique a try and set straight to work.

Of course, unlike my friend Liz, I do not have Meyer lemons growing in my backyard. However, I do have regular access to fresh herbs. So, instead of using lemon butter I decided to make Chive-Parsley butter to give the meat a fresh herbaceous flavor. My neighborhood gourmet shop has a great butcher who grinds grass-fed meat and forms hamburger patties. I bought four of those to start with and made the butter at home. Preparing the butter and burgers during naptime was a snap. Then I was able to leave them covered in the fridge until dinner time. As you'll see, unfortunately, my grilling dreams were thwarted by the rain, but I still managed to cook them on my stovetop grill pan.

The butter technique worked beautifully. The burgers were tender, juicy and more flavorful thanks to the green herbs. I also toasted the buns on the stovetop and gave them an extra swipe of Chive-Parsley butter for greater depth of flavor. Paired with a salad and potatoes they made for a tasty summer meal. I guess there is also next week for my grilling outdoors!

Hamburgers with Chive-Parsley Butter
4 6oz. hamburger patties
5 T. good quality unsalted butter
1 T. chives, finely chopped
1 T. parsley, finely chopped
4 Hamburger buns

1. In a food processor or mini-chopper, add the butter, chives and parsley. Pulse until well combined and slightly softened.
2. Take each hamburger patty and make a well in the center. Form a 1/2" ball of herb butter with your hands and press it into the well. Gently fold over the outer edges of the burger to cover the butter completely and seal it in. Repeat with remaining 3 patties. *At this point uncooked burgers will last, tightly wrapped, in the fridge for up to 6 hours.
3. Set your grill or grill pan at medium heat. Place the hamburger patties on top and cook, turning occasionally, to desired doneness. While the burgers are cooking, place the buns either on the grill or in the toaster. After they have toasted swipe them with a thin layer of remaining herb butter and set aside.
4. Plate burgers on toasted buns and serve hot.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations and Ideas: Go ahead and play with different herbs when making the butter. Strong flavors like basil or oregano would work well, too.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the herb butter takes 10 minutes. Pressing it into the hamburger patties takes about 5 minutes. If you like to form your own hamburger patties add on an additional 5 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: We are a family of burger fans and the littlest one is forming her habit, too.


Caprese Pasta Salad When It's Too Hot to Cook

What's Going on Today: Heatwave continues: slow stroll to morning Farmer's Market, quick stop at Arts and Crafts show on town green.
Naptime Goals: Set garlic, olive oil and basil to marinate for salad. Pre-chop mozzarella and tomatoes.
Tonight's Menu: BBQ chicken, Caprese Pasta Salad, Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: I love whomever invented the concept of sidewalk chalk.

It's been wayyyy too hot hot hot to turn on the oven this week. During summer days like this I don't steer clear of cooking altogether, I just choose dishes that don't require long hours cooking with high heat. After all, years of experience have taught me that there will be plenty of days in January when I am layering on wool socks and braising short ribs while freezing containers of ragu! On Saturday we were having our neighbors over for dinner and I decided to make my favorite caprese pasta salad. A delicious simple salad that is almost a complete no-cook affair, it is packed with a fresh summer flavor that can't be beat.

I first read this recipe years ago in the The New York Times and have been making it ever since. I've always been a fan of the traditional caprese salad (who isn't?) and it seemed only right and natural that pasta be added to give it more heft, transforming it from an appetizer to a side dish or main course. I've served it as both. My only tip for you is to make sure you squirrel away a bowl or two for lunch the next day before you present the dish to your guests, there won't be any left by the end of the meal.

The only heavy duty cooking required to make this salad is boiling the rigatoni at the end. Otherwise, the rest of the assembly can be accomplished at the lazy pace I generally prefer for summer cooking. I started assembling the salad at naptime by setting the garlic, olive oil and basil in a big bowl to marinate while I pre-chopped my mozzarella and tomatoes for later. Then I spent the rest of naptime setting the chicken in the marinade and working at my computer. After my daughter woke up she helped me dump the tomatoes into the bowl and give it another stir. I then abandoned the project for a second time, opting for a (sweltering) trip to the playground. All that was required that evening was boiling the pasta, tossing it with the garlic olive oil, cheese and tomatoes and the salad was ready. Paired with the grilled chicken, a citrusy green salad and some amazing strawberry margheritas (brought by my awesome neighbor) we all managed to enjoy a terrific, and cool, dinner on a hot summer night.

Caprese Pasta Salad
adapted from The New York Times 2007
5 large cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
10-12 fresh basil leaves
6 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 lb. fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 lb. rigatoni or penne
Kosher salt

1. Mix together the garlic, olive oil and basil leaves in a large bowl. Set aside and allow to marinate for up to several hours. 
2. Two hours before serving stir the tomatoes into the marinade. Leave on the counter for later.
3. Right before serving, boil the rigatoni in salted water according to package directions. Drain the pasta and immediately add to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Scatter the mozzarella on top of the pasta and toss first so that the mozzarella melts a little and coats the pasta. Then, stir up the tomato and olive oil mixture from the bottom and toss well. Add a pinch or two of Kosher salt to taste. Serve.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Variations and Ideas: This salad tastes best when made with the freshest possible tomatoes you can find. If you want more spice and heat try adding a few cranks of cracked pepper to give it a boost.
Naptime Stopwatch: This salad takes approximately 20 minutes to make in total. This time is spread out over the course of an entire afternoon.
Naptime Reviews: This is a crowd pleaser and my daughter likes it, too. Always serve extra bread for sopping up the sauce.


Vegetable Quiche for a Weeknight Dinner: Webisode #29


What's Going on Today: 6am wake-up call (wha?!) from daughter, out and about eeeaaaarly. Errands around town, trip to playground, picnic lunch.
Naptime Goals: Make Vegetable Quiche for dinner tonight, catch up on things around the house and maybe take a quick nap before daughter wakes up!
Tonight's Menu: Slice of vegetable quiche, white wine, strawberry-mint ice-cream for dessert.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: When decorating a nursery always install black-out shades.

When my daughter wakes up early and my husband tells me he'll be at the office late I know I'm in for a long day. I don't blame either one of them, sometimes my daughter wakes up early when the sun is especially bright, and my husband works hard at his job which often requires long hours. The only person kind of stuck in the middle of this equation is me. I want to give my daughter my full attention during the day, but I'm also responsible for the entire household and any errands or chores that need to get done.

When days like this happen I know I need to keep dinner simple and healthy. I like to Naptime Chef dishes that are delicious and fun, but not overly fussy. I also choose dishes that don't require hours to cook since I still want some time during naptime to put my feet up. Some may wonder why it is worth cooking at all. But I know good food will keep me going well into the evening, plus cooking during naptime helps me relax in the middle of a hectic day.

When this scenario played out earlier this week I decided to make my favorite simple Vegetable Quiche. As you'll see above, I had a lot of leftovers from my farmer's market wares last week and didn't want anything to go to waste. I love this recipe because it is adaptable. In this case I added some onions, fresh baby spinach, toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. There have been many instances when I've added different greens, additional cheese and finely chopped vegetables. There are nearly endless different possibilities and I encourage you to get used to the recipe and play with the ingredients a bit to see what works best for you. Enjoy!

Vegetable Quiche with Spinach, Onions and Pine Nuts
For the crust:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/4 c. ice-water

1. Add all four ingredients to a food processor and give it a quick blitz until a dough forms. Remove from processor and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out to 9" in diameter and press it into a pie plate. Set aside. *If you are not going to use it immediately, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge.

For the filling:
3 eggs
1 c. whole milk
1 c. Parmesan cheese
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Whisk together the eggs, milk and cheese in a bowl, set aside.
2. In a skillet over medium heat add the onion and spinach. Cook until the onion is soft and spinach is wilted. Add to egg mixture.
3. Toast the pine nuts in dry skillet, when they are lightly golden add to the egg mixture. Add a pinch of Kosher salt and crank of good fresh cracked pepper to taste.
4. Pour egg mixture into prepared crust and bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is lightly golden and quiche is totally set.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas and Variations: This recipe is adaptable, almost any kind of dark leafy green tastes great, as well as vegetables like shallots, garlic, peppers, potatoes and carrots. Also, some tangy goat cheese crumbled into the quiche tastes amazing as well.
Naptime Stopwatch: Make the crust takes about 5 minutes and the filling an additional 10 minutes. Baked time is close to 40-45 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter is reluctant to eat eggs and has been since birth. However, she gamely tried a bite of this which is all I can ask for - she'll learn to love them someday!


Barbara's Brownies for the Beach

What's Going on Today: Morning at the Beach!
Naptime Goals: De-sand beach bag, wash beach towels, prep Chinese Chicken Salad for dinner.
Tonight's Menu: Char's Chinese Chicken Salad, leftover Brownies from the beach.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Sometimes kids panic when crabs pinch their toes!

We love living in a beach town. When the weather is hot and sunny, like it has been for the past few days, we walk a short six blocks to a beautiful stretch of sand on the Long Island Sound. Though we miss our friends in NYC, it is hard to beat spending mornings poking around tidal pools and eating picnic lunches with the sandpipers. For our beach picnic just the other day I brought classic peanut butter sandwiches - for some reason I've always felt the peanut butter and saltwater go well together - pretzels, mint lemonade, and a fresh batch of Barbara's brownies.

This recipe was given to me by Uncle Kevin's wife, Barbara. She adapted it from the manual that came with her food processor almost 30 years ago! I love these brownies because they are absolutely delicious and extremely straightforward to make. I whipped these up during my daughter's afternoon naptime the day before our picnic. It is remarkable that they lasted through the night since my husband is a bit of a brownie maniac, but they did. 

I love the taste and texture of these brownies. They are soft and chewy with a deep chocolate flavor reminiscent of a chocolate wafer cookie. Their strong taste makes them wonderful for ice-cream brownie sundaes or, alternatively, chopped up and added to homemade ice-cream. Since they are so dense and fudgy I choose to cut them up into smallish squares, I don't need a huge portion to enjoy huge taste. I should note that instead of walnuts I used chocolate chips, but you can certainly go ahead and add the nuts if you'd prefer. Either way, they are great served warm, or cold, or at a beach picnic down the street.

Barbara's Brownies
1 c. sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 6-8 pieces
2 eggs
1/8 t. Kosher salt
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 9x9 square baking dish, set aside.
2. Fit the food processor with a metal blade and add the sugar and butter. Pulse until the butter is thoroughly combined. Then, add the eggs and salt. Process continuously until mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Do not overbeat. Then, add the cocoa and flour, pulse until there is no visible cocoa or flour remaining. Stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

3. Spread batter into baking dishes and spread to make sure top is even. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until top is set. Cool on rack and cut into bars.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations and Ideas: Feel free to omit the chocolate chips or add in walnuts. These would also be great baked in individual tart dishes if you want to hand them out to friends!
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this batter takes about 8 minutes!
Naptime Reviews: My daughter loves brownies and happily ate hers at the picnic. She even remarked that she liked that they were warm - which was from the sun, not the oven!


Coconut Lime Rice Krispie Coolers & Cookbook Giveaway

This spring I signed on with The Motherhood to be work on a fun Rice Krispies summer dessert project. Rice Krispies sent a whole bunch of awesome bloggers and myself a clue that said "Fourth of July's Cooler When Kids Help Create Rice Krispies Treats Recipes" and asked up to come up with a tasty frozen summer treat for families. 

Since recipe development is something I love to do, I couldn't wait to get started. I've always been a huge fan of Rice Krispies treats (who isn't?!) and it was not easy deciding what to make. I always love treats dipped in chocolate and caramel, but since summer is in full swing I decided to incorporate some of my favorite tropical flavors, coconut and lime, into a Rice Krispies Treat everyone could enjoy.

As an added bonus, my daughter was able to help me make the Coconut Rice Krispies "Bowls." She helped me press the mixture into the muffin tins and depress the centers to make them into little bowls to hold our ice-cream once they had chilled. I hope you enjoy this treat as much as we did and that your summer is full of fun and some very cool treats.

Coconut Lime Rice Krispies Coolers
3 T. unsalted butter
1 10oz. bag marshmallows
1 c. shredded coconut, sweetened
6 c. Rice Krispies Cereal

1 pint good-quality vanilla ice-cream
1 lime
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
Makes approximately 20 coolers

1. In a saucepan over low heat melt the butter and the marshmallows together. Once they have completely melted, stir in the coconut until evenly incorporated. Stir in the Rice Krispies until they are evenly coated with the marshmallow/coconut mixture.
2. Remove mixture from the heat and press them into regular size muffin tins. You should have enough to fill approximately 20 muffin cups. To pack the Rice Krispie mixture into dip your fingers in cold water, keeping them damp will prevent the mixture from sticking to them.
3. Depress the center of each Rice Krispies treat to form a bowl in the middle. Make sure it is big enough to hold a standard size golfball. Then, place muffin tins in the refrigerator to chill completely.
4. Meanwhile, whip together the cream, zest of whole lime and juice of half a lime, and sugar to make lime whipped cream. Set aside.
5. To assemble the cooler, remove chilled Rice Krispie bowls and set them on a tray. Place one small scoop of vanilla ice-cream into each bowl. Top with a dollop of lime whipped cream, garnish with a slice of lime and serve.

To Win Your Own Official Rice Krispies Treats Cookbook here are the rules:

1. Please leave a comment telling me which is your favorite way to enjoy Rice Krispie treats.

2. This giveaway begins Sunday July 20th at 11:00pm ET and will end on July 24th at 5PM EST. Winners will be announced via this blog on July 25th, 2010. ONE winner will be chosen via random.org from all eligible comments left on this post. Official Rules to this giveaway can be found at the bottom of this post. (PLEASE READ THEM BEFORE ENTERING).
Thank you for your Help with choosing the hopefully winning recipe.

OFFICIAL RULES FOR THE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY – View official giveaway rules here.


Babble Weekly Round-up

Ready for some mouth-watering recipes and a chance to win a set of OXO TOP Containers? Check out the fun over at Babble this week:

1. Leftover Storage 101 and OXO TOP Container Giveaway: Come over and leave a comment to have a chance to win!

2. Summer Supper in a Flash: Roast Salmon with Pesto: Reaping the rewards of my basil plant and making a fresh summer meal.

3. Lemon Pudding Cake with Dad: Remember my Dad? Here we are baking a yummy cake together. I thought I'd post this again in honor of Father's Day!

4. Strawberry-Mint Ice-Cream: A rehash of my webisode from earlier this week, recipe below!

5. Brian Boitano's Summer Pasta: Brian is a seriously great cook, this pasta recipe is delicious!!


Strawberry Mint Ice-Cream: Webisode #28


What's Going on Today: Picking up knives from new knife sharpener (!), library trip, fun in the sun, Mom's night out!
Naptime Goals: Make Strawberry Mint Ice-Cream, organize schedule for babysitter, clean up email inbox.
Tonight's Menu: Mom's night out! (Dad and daughter eating leftovers)
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Introduce kids to their local library early and often, it is a wonderful place!

This week I had a really fun Mom's night out. You all know that I love to cook for my family, but even the best of us need to go out with our friends once in a while. On the days when dinner plans are already made, I use the time I might have spent rolling meatballs to play in the kitchen. I'll often experiment with new ice-cream flavors, baked goods and stock the pantry with some honest-to-goodness batch cooking (5lbs of homemade granola anyone?!)

I'll get to the batch cooking later this summer, right now I am going to tell you about ice-cream. As you can see we are in full summer mode here and my cooking is beginning to reflect that. Instead of diving into my favorite cookie recipes, recently I've been breaking about my good ole' Cuisinart Ice-20. For the next three months I'll use this almost as much as I use my KitchenAid mixer, generating pint after pint of our favorite summer freezer staple.

Since we are still taking advantage of strawberry season, this week I decided to make some delicious Strawberry-Mint Ice-Cream. I love the flavor pairing of strawberry and mint, it is both refreshing and sweet. As you'll see, I was even able to finish off the batch in full cocktail dress, wedges and all.

Strawberry Mint Ice-Cream
1 c. whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 c. superfine sugar
1 t. good quality Peppermint extract
2 c. heavy whipping cream

For Strawberry Swirl:
3 T. superfine sugar
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/2 c. water
2 c. fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
Makes about 6 cups

1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and peppermint extract. Ladle a small portion of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk constantly to incorporate. This will help temper the eggs. Whisk in another small ladle of milk. Then, pour in the remaining milk mixture and whisk to completely combine.

2. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove it from the heat, pour it into a fresh bowl and whisk in the heavy cream until mixture is completely smooth. Note: If you suspect lumps in your egg custard place a fine mesh sieve over the bowl and pour the custard through it to catch any lumps, the whisk in the cream.

3. Place plastic wrap over glass bowl and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 1-2 hours.

4. For the ripple, pour the water, sugar and lemon juice into a small saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly reduced - about 4 minutes. Place the strawberries in a blender, pour in the sugar mixture and puree until smooth. Pour the strawberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve to catch any seeds. Place in the fridge next to the custard.

5. To make the ice-cream, pour custard into ice-cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's directions. At the very end of the churn cycle drizzle in the swirl for about 1 minute so it forms a ribbon through the ice-cream, but doesn't get too distributed. Alternatively, you can fold in the ripple with a spoon or spatula. Freeze ice-cream until ready to eat.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations and Ideas: If you just want plain strawberry ice-cream it is fine to use vanilla extract instead of peppermint. The basic vanilla base is also a great jumping off point. Instead of strawberries you could use raspberries, blueberries or even peaches for the swirl in.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the custard takes about 20 minutes, then churning is roughly another 20 (depending on your machine).
Naptime Reviews: We are a family of ice-cream enthusiasts - we ate the entire container in 2 days! (Or, maybe I shouldn't admit that?)


Summer Panini Sandwiches

What's Going on Today: Returned from high school reunion yesterday, tired but happy. Re-group with fresh groceries, playgroup, pick-up new library books.
Naptime Goals: Monday Catch-Up: Mail, laundry, general house-cleaning, put away groceries.
Tonight's Menu: Paninis, salad, seltzer (no more wine!)
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Kids don't have much sympathy for Mom when she's tired.

My high school reunion was a blast, though it did make me feel a little old. Some of the younger girls at reunion were born in the late 80's and early 90's and had just graduated from college - what?! When did we get so old? Despite feeling slightly out of date, my classmates and I had a blast. We even held our own staying out late at a local pub catching up, something I haven't done in ages.

The day after I got home was a typical Catch-Up Monday. There were laundry piles, bills, emails and loads of other little things to attend to. I usually have a day like this every couple of weeks. I find that dedicating one entire day to running the household seems to be the most efficient way to do things. This way I can spend a lot of time doing fun activities like going to the beach, strawberry picking or visiting local museums.

Luckily, last week when my friend Nicole came to visit she'd followed the wonderful tradition of bringing us Bread, Salt and Wine. I couldn't have been more grateful for her thoughtfulness. With the bread still in it's bag I decided to forgo major Naptime Chef-ing that afternoon in order to concentrate on household stuff. In the evening I used the bread to make up some yummy pressed sandwiches for all of us. As you know, I swear by paninis as a great, healthy dinner in a pinch.

My friend Cecily shared with me a cool secret she'd come up with recently to make her sandwiches even more flavorful, marinating the tomatoes. By tossing them with some balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt the tomato flavor is enhanced and the extra oil gets soaked into the bread, giving everything a little more moisture and taste. I gave her technique a go with this sandwich and I think it works really well. We devoured these so quickly that I barely had time to take a picture. The good news is that after my Catch-Up Monday I was ready for the rest of the week. And, boy, I have some great Naptime Chef-ing planned!

Summer Panini Sandwiches with Balsamic Vinegar
Serves 2
2 flatbreads or 4 slices of country bread
4 slices of thinly cut prosciutto
6 pieces of thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, washed and patted dry
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. good quality olive oil
1 pinch Kosher Salt
6-8 fresh basil leaves

1. Cut grape tomatoes in half or into thirds. Place them in a bowl and toss with vinegar, olive oil and salt. Allow them to sit for at least 10 minutes, or up to an hour at room temperature.
2. Lay bread open on the counter. Place 2 pieces of prosciutto on one slice of bread. Layer on 3 slices of mozzarella, then 3-4 basil leaves. Top with half of the tomatoes. 
3. Drizzle the remaining slice of bread with some of the balsamic/olive oil mixture at the bottom of the bowl. Close sandwich.
4. Sandwich can be toasted on panini press, in a skillet or eaten as is.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations & Ideas: Sandwiches are a great dinner, especially in the summer. Try substituting roasted red peppers or eggplant for a new, flavorful, twist on this old favorite.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this sandwich takes 10 minutes from start to finish.
Naptime Recipe Props: This is definitely a family friendly meal, my daughter eats pressed sandwiches like there is no tomorrow. Though she did pick out the basil leaves this time because she didn't know what they were for...


Babble Week Round-up

Lot's more great stuff on Babble this week, can you tell it's strawberry season?!

- Uncle Will's Chimichurri Sauce: We revisit this awesome steak recipe just in time for Father's Day!

- Strawberry Parfait Pie: YUM! A classic custard-like pie dressed up with whipped cream and a chocolate cookie crust.

- The Breakfast Sandwich that Rocks My World: Yes, it's that good.


Summer Fruit Crumble: Webisode #27


What's Going On Today: Rainy day in CT, sing-along at the beach before cloudburst, errands in the afternoon.
Naptime Goals: Strawberry-Raspberry Cobbler, roast vegetables, marinate chicken.
Tonight's Menu: Chicken with Veggies, Cobbler (our second one this week!) with Strawberries from the farmer's market.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: When conversing with toddlers always have a pen handy, they say the funniest things!

I have pretty much gone strawberry-crazy these days. As you'll see above, last week my daughter and I picked 12lbs of strawberries together at a local farm. It took me two full naptimes to preserve, freeze and bake with all of the berries, and even that was barely enough time. I would have loved to have taken all weekend, but strawberries are so delicate I had to act quickly before they turned. Luckily, I managed to preserve the little rubies to the best of my ability and now have a nice stash for the rest of the year. This also means I'll most likely be garnishing everything I make - from risotto to pancakes - all summer with my jams and syrups. My daughter seems to be game for this, as it is I'm expecting her to turn into a strawberry any second she's eaten so many already!

When we had our barbecue last Sunday, I decided to make a fruit cobbler to bring along in addition to Uncle Will's Ribs. I still had some fresh strawberries on hand as well as a small packet of raspberries I'd picked up at the market. It was almost a no-brainer to make a fruit cobbler during my daughter's afternoon naptime. I washed and sliced the fruit, made the crumbly topping and popped it in the oven to bake while I prepared the meat. 

I love this particular cobbler recipe because it works with almost any kind of fruit. Also, the loose oatmeal topping has a taste reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie with the added cinnamon. Of course, you can omit the spice if you'd like, but I love it. Since the heatwave was particularly awful when I made this the first time I opted to serve it with vanilla ice-cream, though whipped cream would work well, too. And, best of all, when it was finished baking I simply let it cool on the counter before taking it next door for dinner. It was the perfect make-ahead dessert. I know I'll be making this again when we bring back a big haul of blueberries next month.

Strawberry-Raspberry Cobbler
3 c. fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half.
1 c. fresh raspberries, washed (optional - if not using use 4 c. of strawberries)
1 1/2 c. Oats (not quick cooking)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 sticks (12 T.) unsalted butter
1 t. Kosher salt
3 T. good quality honey

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Place the fruit in a 9" pie plate or 9x9 baking dish.
3. Blend the oats, flour, butter, sugar, salt and honey together in a food processor until it forms a sticky dough.
4. Layer the topping on top of the fruit evenly so that the top is covered.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly and cooked through.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas & Suggestions: This is a fantastic make-ahead dessert for any family meal or larger event. After it has cooled pop it in the fridge tightly covered with plastic until you want to serve it. It can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time. This recipe works well with apples, rhubarb, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and peaches. (Try more fruits if you want!)
Naptime Stopwatch: Washing and slicing the fruit takes about 10 minutes. Preparing the topping takes 5 minutes. Baking time is approximately 30 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: This is a great dessert for kids and adults alike. It is also healthier then pie and is a great way to persuade children to try new fruit.


Babble Strawberry Love and Mini-Update

I know you all see the button to the right indicating my blog on Babble's The Family Kitchen, but I want to tell you a little more about it as well. I write a daily column for Babble about loads of great family and food related things that I think you would all really enjoy. From here on out I am going to give you mini-updates during the week on my Babble posts. I also include these in my weekly newsletter, if you are interested in receiving that. Enjoy!

- Strawberry Season 101: Picking, Freezing, Preserving and More!: A play-by-play on how I preserve one of summer's most precious fruits (while my daughter is napping, of course).
- Simple Syrup for Simply Everything: The uses for simple syrup are practically endless. Here are some of my favorite uses and ideas for flavoring this simple sweetener.


Uncle Will's Ribs for a BBQ

What's Going on Today: Planning on Sunday bbq with the neighbors, waiting out the last of the heatwave indoors doing puzzles.
Naptime Goals: Marinate Ribs, make Strawberry-Raspberry Cobbler, catch-up on new magazines.
Tonight's Menu: Ribs (us), Mashed Potatoes (neighbors), Corn on the cob (neighbors), Fruit Cobbler (us), Wine and Beer (both)
Parenting Lesson of the Day: When kids have playdates it's hard to get them to concentrate on eating.

In New York we used to eat out with our neighbors and now, in the country, we cook out with them. On Sunday we were really excited to have a fun potluck style family bbq with our friends next door. Never mind that rain was in the forecast, the arrival of summer put us all in the mood for a casual get together where we could let loose and enjoy a cold beer.

Since none of us wanted to spend the entire afternoon cooking I chose to make my brother's ribs recipe since, as you all know, Uncle Will never lets us down. I also made a yummy fruit cobbler to use up the remaining fresh berries I had from last week's strawberry picking extravaganza. Our neighbors took care of some yummy sides dishes and food for the kids who did not eat ribs (mine included). When it was time for dinner we simply carried everything across the driveway, grilled up the ribs and enjoyed a great meal. 

I love making Uncle Will's Ribs because they are the epitome of summer flavor. When left in the fridge for the afternoon the ribs become infused with a light citrusy tang that lightens the meat without making it too heavy or sticky. Served with potatoes and corn it makes a great summer meal that begs to be paired with icy cold beer and eaten on the porch. Of course, we didn't actually get to eat on the porch since it did, in fact, rain, but no matter - there is always next weekend!

Uncle Will's Baby Back Ribs
8lbs lean baby back pork ribs
8 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Juice of 3 large lemons
1/4 t. oregano
1/2 c. lime juice
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
5 t. Kosher salt
2 t. olive oil
Cayenne Pepper

1. Cut ribs into 5-7 inch sections, rinse under warm water and pat dry.  Set in a large baking dish that will fit in the refrigerator.
2. In a large bowl add the garlic, orange juice, lime juice, oregano, olive oil and 1 t. of salt. Scoop out about 1/2 c. of the mixture and set it aside for pour over ribs right before serving.
3. Rub the remaining 4 t. of salt on the ribs. Pour the marinade over the ribs, cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
4. To cook the ribs, set the grill at low and cook them slowly, turning occasionally, for 30-40 minutes. Once they are cooked, increase the heat to high or place them directly over high charcoal heat to brown all sides. If you want a little extra heat when you serve them sprinkle on some cayenne pepper.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Serving Suggestions: This recipe would double or triple well making these great for a large cookout. They would be safe in the fridge marinating for up to one day, so feel free to prepare them in the morning before you leave the house if that is easier for you.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing the marinade takes about 15 minutes. Grilling time is about 30 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: This is always a crowd pleaser for adults and children, if they like ribs. Since mine does not she nibbled at some pasta and then got to distracted and went to play with her friends. Oh well.


Scallops and Pasta for Memorial Day: Webisode #26


What's Going on Today: Returning from Martha's Vineyard with a pile of laundry and an overtired kid.
Naptime Goals: Sort through mail, laundry and fridge. Make grocery list. 
Tonight's Menu: Meatballs for Choir Boys from the freezer, Salad, Wine.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: There is nothing like a visit to the grandparents to tire kids out!

On Tuesday we returned from Memorial Day on Martha's Vineyard with a car full of laundry and sand. It was a great vacation. As you'll see above, our time away included amazing weather and mellow days. Our time was mostly spent browsing local art fairs and peaking into our favorite shops. These low-key activities were the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

This trip was our first family getaway since the move last month and we both seized the opportunity for a mental break. My husband caught up on novels and crossword puzzles while I caught up on cheesy iTunes movies. As for cooking, I mostly relied on old favorites. One day we cooked up some hot dogs, another we enjoyed some fresh scallops with pasta and, get this, our last night we even had a date night while my in-law's babysat. (Yeah!) 

I began looking forward to scallops with pasta the week before we even arrived on the Vineyard. It is one of my favorite simple dinners and I haven't made it in a bit since I haven't found a good fish store in CT yet. So, the minute my daughter went down for her nap I raced to The Net Result and picked up almost a pound of diver scallops for dinner. Then, instead of cooking them during the day, I waited until just before dinner and whipped up this simple and elegant meal. I hope that scallops come your way this summer and, if they do, here is one great way to enjoy them. 

Summer Scallops with Pasta
1 1lb. fresh diver scallops
1 1lb. Fettucini or any long strand pasta
3-4 T. unsalted butter
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of Kosher salt
Serves 4

1. Rinse the scallops under warm water and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Add olive oil and butter to a skillet over medium heat. Then, add the garlic and saute until lightly golden and softened.
3. Meanwhile, as the garlic is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta.
4. Once the garlic is soft and golden add the scallops to the pan and make sure there is a little space between each one. Saute until golden on one side - about 2-3 minutes - then turn each scallop over with a pair of tongs and cook the other side. When the scallops have cooked remove them to a plate covered with a paper towel.
5. Drain the pasta briefly and add it to the skillet in which the scallops where cooked. Twirl the pasta briefly to coat with the sauce. Divide amongst serving plates and top the pasta with scallops. Serve hot.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas: This dish would be beautifully enhanced by some fresh herbs. Parsley or basil would taste especially delicious.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing this meal takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Naptime Reviews: My daugher isn't a big scallop fan yet, but she loves the pasta!


Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi

What's Going on Today: Enjoying Memorial Day weekend on Martha's Vineyard.
Naptime Goals: Whip up some Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi during naptime, pop it in the fridge until dinner. Read magazines in the sun.
Tonight's Menu: Ricotta Gnocchi with butter and cheese, green salad, fish on the grill.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Fresh air + sun = happy children.

Memorial Day on the Vineyard was relaxed and low-key, just the way we like it. The weather was so nice that we didn't really want to spend any time indoors, even during naptime. In order to maximize our time at the beach, I mostly concentrated on prepping food after my daughter's bedtime and, for dinner, I stuck to recipes that could be completed in a relatively short time-frame.

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi is exactly one of these dishes. I make it a lot and really should have told you about it before now. To prepare the gnocchi I simply mix the four ingredients in a  bowl, form the logs and cut out the dumplings during naptime. Then I place them in plastic container and leave them, covered, in the fridge until dinner. Cooking them is amazingly easy and efficient. Bring salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi and cook them until they rise to the surface. This takes about five minutes, which is just enough time to make some browned butter with sage and get the Parmesan cheese out of the fridge.

Combined with our favorite fish from the grill and a green salad, our gnocchi rounded out a gorgeous dinner. It was also a hit with our daughter, ever the fan of anything with browned butter. Rest assured, gnocchi is not the only homemade thing I cooked over the weekend. In fact, I did an entire film about another dinner I made and will be writing about that on Thursday. Not surprisingly, the meal was also centered around some amazingly fresh seafood. I swear, there is nothing like a trip to The Net Result, our local Vineyard fish store, to signal the beginning of summer.

P.S. While you're waiting for the next post, pop over to my blog on The Family Kitchen at Babble for the chance to win a trio of Tessa Kiros books! (The contest runs for one week.)

Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi
adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
2 c. good quality ricotta cheese
3 T. finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

1. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.
2. While the water is heating up, mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, flour and salt in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.
3. Lightly flour your hands and roll out the dough into thin sausages about 1/4" thick. Be careful not to add too much flour on your hands or the surface of the counter or the gnocchi will get tough.
4. Cut gnocchi with a sharp knife into pieces about 3/4" long. Drop into boiling water and cook for about 45 seconds, or until they float to the surface. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place in serving bowls. Serve with pesto, tomato sauce or browned butter sauce.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations and Ideas: Gnocchi tastes great with many different toppings. I recommend Perfect Pesto, Tomato Pesto, Fresh Tomato Sauce, Butter and Cheese or any kind of light butter and herb sauce.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing the dumplings takes 10 minutes, cooking them in boiling water takes 5.
Naptime Reviews: This is a wonderful dish for both adults and children. It is soft and easy to chew for toddler and goes well with almost any topping they might like.