Babble Weekly Round-up

Here are my columns from Babble's The Family Kitchen this week! See you in August! (how did time fly so quickly?!)
1. Kitchen Basics: Flour 101 - Test your flour IQ with this round-up of six of the most common types of flour used in baking.
2. Book Deal Blondies: The Peanut Butter Butterscotch Blondies I made to celebrate the big deal.

3. Lemon Coconut Squares for Webisode Wednesday: Remember these tasty treats? Here they are again, and they are perfect for summer!

4. That's The Way The Cookie Crumbles: Cookie crumb parfaits - the perfect dessert with any leftover cookie bits from your baking endeavors.

5. Real Food Fast: 3 Tasty, and Healthy, Summer Sandwiches - Three of my go-to sandwiches to make during the hustle and bustle of summer.


Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan & Herbs: Webisode #34


What's Going on Today: Trip to The Garbage Museum (no joke, watch the video).
Naptime Goals: Prepare Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan & Herbs, Cookie Crumble Parfaits.
Tonight's Menu: Tagliatelle, Baked Tomatoes, Cookie Crumble Parfaits, Wine (for the parents)
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Never underestimate the appeal of garbage!

It's hard to believe that we spent an entire morning at The Garbage Museum, but we did. I have to say, it was quite an educational outing that all the parents, unexpectedly, enjoyed! When we came home from our inspiring outing my daughter crashed for a long afternoon nap. While she rested I used the time to prepare dinner with some of the great tomatoes I'd recently brought home from the farmer's market.

I love cooking with tomatoes and can't get enough of them in the summer when they are so readily available. It's not unusual that I roast tomatoes. If you remember, last summer I wrote about how I love to slow-roast them during naptime and eat them all afternoon. This summer I decided to write about another favorite recipe, baked tomatoes. Here you'll see that I drizzle them with a generous coating of olive oil, stuff them with a mixture of Parmesan and herbs and keep them in the fridge until I roast them for dinner. Easy and delicious, they are a great way to celebrate summer flavor. 

Baked Tomatoes with Parmesan & Herbs
5 large tomatoes
1 c. olive oil
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 c. bread crumbs (plain or Panko)
1/4 c. freshly chopped Parsley

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop of the seeds with a spoon. Nestle each half, cut side up, in a baking dish.
2. Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil and pat around them to make sure they are nicely coated. 
3. Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley together in a bowl. Pat even amounts into each tomato. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the cheese is slightly melted.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations and Ideas: Other herbs like thyme, rosemary or basil would be delicious in this. It would also be great if you wanted to mix the herbs make flavors all your own.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing the tomatoes takes about 20 minutes. Baking time is an additional 25 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter would only eat hers after I'd cut it up and tossed it with pasta. But my husband and I devoured them just as they were!


Homemade Snickers Bars for a Bridal Shower

What's Going on Today: Morning at the beach, afternoon hosting friend's bridal shower with Mom.
Naptime Goals: Set out napkins, dessert plates and centerpiece.
Today's Menu: Lemon Cake, Fruit Salad, Meringues, Homemade Snickers Bars, Champagne.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: When hosting parties keep the kids far, far away from the house.

There was a period in my 20's when I attended a bridal shower or wedding every other week. That era seems to be over now that most of my friends are, in fact, married. Instead, those bridal showers have been swapped for baby showers, baptisms and the like. I have to say, I kind of miss the exciting parties that surrounded all of our weddings. It was such an fun time, the start of a new chapter, picking out flowers and china. Last weekend I was thrilled to relive that excitement when my Mom and I hosted my friend's younger sister's bridal shower. It was a chance to dust off our champagne flutes, do up the house with ribbons and host some present-opening fun.

As a centerpiece for our afternoon dessert buffet my Mom ordered a professional cake in the shape of the bride's house. It was lemon flavored, layered with thin swipes of jam and whipped cream. It was decadent to boot and it was up to me to figure out how to supplement the citrus sponge with a few more sweet nibbles. Since I love just about any recipe by Dorie Greenspan and, of course, we needed something chocolate, I decided to try out her recipe for Snickety Squares. They are the perfect make-ahead sweet and can easily be cut into bite size pieces.

I did a lot of preparation for the shower the day before. While my daughter napped I made the squares, baking the shortbread, layering the dulche de leche and chocolate, topping it all with caramelized peanuts. Then I set about folding the napkins, pulling platters out of the closet and doing some general clean-up in anticipation of guests the next day.

The squares chilled in the fridge overnight and I cut them into bite size pieces right before the shower. Not only did they prove easy to make, they looked great on the table and were the perfect foil for the rest of the buffet which was full of fruit flavors. The entire event came together beautifully though, truth be told, we were all paying more attention to our friend, the bride-to-be, then the food.

Homemade Snickers Bars
adapted from Dorie Greenpan's Baking From My Home to Yours

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. confectioners' sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 stick (8T.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the filling:
1/3 c. sugar
3 T. water
1 1/2 c. salted peanuts
1 16oz. jar store-bough dulce de leche

7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsley chopped
1/2 stick (4 T.) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8" square pan and set aside.
2. Pulse the flour, sugar, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor a few times. Then, add in the cold butter and pulse about a dozen times until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Pour the yolk in, pulse just until a ball of dough forms. Press this ball into the bottom of the cake pan. Prick it all over with the tines of a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes or just until the edges begin to color.
3. To make the filling: line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. In a medium saucepan put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook it over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, continue cooking, without stirring just until it starts to turn an amber brown. Toss in the peanuts and start stirring with a LONG handled spoon. The peanuts will get coated with sugar and turn white, then turn a nice amber caramel. Remove them from the pan when they are lightly browned, but not burned, and turn them onto the lined back sheet to cool.
4. When the crust is cool layer on the dulce de leche and sprinkler top of it with half of the carmelized peanuts. 
5. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, or in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, until just smooth and combined. Pour this over the dulce de leche.
6. Chop the remaining peanuts finely and sprinkle them over the chocolate. 
7. Cool the entire pan in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours if you'd like to serve them cold. They can stay, covered, in the fridge for a few days.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Serving Suggestions: Chill these well and cut them into bite size pieces right before serving them. If you want to get extra fancy you can serve them in mini-muffin holders.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making these takes about 30 minutes, not including time for cooling and chilling.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter actually found these a little too sweet but happily tried a few bites nonentheless.


Babble Weekly Bulletin

Babble has been celebrating blueberries this week and I have joined the fray with a couple of fun recipes. I also had a nice shout-out from Vanessa who made me her Monday Maven. 

1. Blueberry Season 101: Picking, Freezing and Preserving - Everything you've ever wanted to know about blueberries!

2. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffin Cookies to Thank Her Teacher: My daughter's day camp ended last week and this is how I thanked her teacher.
3. Zucchini Bites Webisode Wednesday: Remember these pretty treats? They are the best!

4. The Easiest Tomato Tart in the World: No, that is not an exaggeration. This really is the easiest and most deliciously simply thing to make.


Blueberry Pie in a Jar: Webisode #33


What's Going on Today: Last day in Cooperstown, bike ride with daughter, blueberry picking with Dad!
Naptime Goals: Can 2 quarts of Blueberry Pie filling with my Dad.
Tonight's Menu: Mom's cooking (again!), I am in charge of the corn.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Never let them wear treasured clothes when blueberry picking.

Last weekend in Cooperstown was so much fun that I'm still writing about it. Luckily, our visit coincided with the height of blueberry season. My Dad and I took my daughter blueberry picking one morning and came home with several pints. We also had a few more pints that we'd picked up at the farmer's market so, come naptime, there was a lot to work with. As you saw earlier this week, I'd already made a cake and this time I wanted to do something different.

The unfortunate part about fruit pies in general is that they are typically seasonal due to the availability of the fruit. However, I have now found a way to get around this. Inspired by my friend Cathy, I made my usual blueberry pie filling recipe and canned it in quart jars for later. As you'll see above, the process was incredibly simple and easily handled during naptime. Once the jars cooled we even took one right over to our friends house as a gift. I think I might have to dedicate a few more naptimes to canning fruit pie fillings. Not only will the larder be stocked with fresh, local berries for the whole winter, but I'll have all of my Christmas presents completed by the end of July!

Blueberry Pie Filling in a Jar
makes 2 quarts
10 c. blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 T. cornstarch
5 T. bottled lemon juice

1. Wash and dry the blueberries and set aside. Sterilize 2 quart jars along with the lids in boiling water or in a dishwasher run without soap.

2. In a large stockpot bring the water, sugar, corn starch and lemon juice and to a boil.

3. Pour in the blueberries very carefully and bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring continuously with a long spoon. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes while the berries release their juices and the mixture thickens, becoming blue and glossy.

4. Set a funnel over a quart jar and ladle in the blueberry mixture, leaving about 1" of room at the top. Repeat with second quart jar.

5. Placed the sterilized lids on the jar and seal them with the rims, only tightening the ring as much as you can with your own hand. Do not force it.

6. Place the jars in a pot of boiling water standing on end. Make sure the water covers the tops of the jars. Boil for 30 minutes, starting the timing when the mixture has returned to a boil after the jars have been added.

7. Remove jars and place in a cool, dry place on a kitchen towel. Allow to cool naturally for a few hours. Store jars for the long term in a cool, dry place until using.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas: I am still experimenting with other fruits, but canning pie filling is a smart and economical way to ensure the fresh fruit flavor of summer all year long.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the filling takes about 10 minutes. Processing the cans in a waterbath takes about 30 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: A great gift, great filling and fun way to preserve summer in a jar - what's not to love!


The Naptime Chef: THE BOOK

Yes, the rumors are true! The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food Into Family Life, my first cookbook, will be published by Running Press in Spring 2012. Just writing that sentence makes me want to jump out of my seat and do a little dance around the room! Or, at least, have another glass of champagne.

Selling a book is an awesome project. Awesome in the sense that it requires quite a bit of work, patience and time. It's a bit of marathon really, from start to finish, and I definitely did not do it all by myself. This process would never even have started without my awesome agent Jenni. She saw the potential in the story from the start, coached me through the proposal and rallied me through the sale. Because of her I am looking forward to entire year of writing an fantastic cookbook filled to the brim with Naptime Chef recipes (some old, MOST new!) and I couldn't be more grateful. I promise, I will write and cook my heart out to create a wonderful and true resource that will reside on your cookbook shelf for years to come. I also promise a few great book parties. And, a few more flutes of champagne.

So, my editor, Kristen, and I are off and running. I can't wait to share more about the process of writing a cookbook the further I dive into this. Also, if anyone has suggestions for something they want to see in the book feel free to leave a comment and let me know. I'm all ears!

In the mean time, as if a new book weren't enough, this lovely lady is redesigning my entire website that will be debuting in less than month. You can look forward easy navigation, great style and lots of printable recipe pages!

And, last but not least, I thank you, readers, for all of your support and enthusiasm. I look forward to giving you a true bound book that will prove exciting and invaluable. This is a day for all of us to celebrate. So, pour yourself a glass of bubbly and toast to the beginning of a new adventure!


Blueberry Thyme Poundcake with Lemon Glaze

What's Going Today: Hanging out in Cooperstown preparing for my friend's bridal shower, catching up with friends, trip to the farmer's market.
Naptime Goals: Make Homemade Snickers Bars for the bridal shower (it's a bit of an experiment, post to come next week), help Mom get out the china, silver, etc.
Tonight's Menu: Mom's making us all a quesadilla feast with fresh farmer's market vegetables!
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Once they learn how to ride their bikes they never want to stop. 

I have had a blueberry surplus in my house this month. This is one of those once-a-year problems I happily embrace. I've frozen a few bags full, preserved some in simple syrup and used the rest to make this cake, a Blueberry Thyme Poundcake with Lemon Glaze, that hits all the right notes with flavor and texture.

I whipped this up during naptime the day before my trip to Cooperstown. The batter came together easily and my kitchen smelled like lemon heaven for the remainder of the afternoon. Tempted though I was to dive right in with my fork, I decided to wait to share it with my parents before taking my first bite.

The following morning I placed the cooled cake in a round Tupperware, snapped on the lid and settled it into the front seat of the car for a trip to Cooperstown. When I arrived at my parent's house the cake was nice and cool (thank you air-conditioning vent), perfectly moist and ready for consumption. I don't usually do road tests with my food, but it is worth noting that this cake is a hearty traveler.

The citrusy herbal flavor paired beautifully with the blueberries, giving it an oddly refreshing quality not usually associated with dense cakes. My parents and I would've liked to have eaten the entire thing ourselves but, since we are being mindful of our waistlines in the midst of bathing suit season, we decided to take the opportunity to win over some neighbors. Half of the cake was wrapped up in aluminum foil and given to our friends Dotty and Hank, a quarter was served to our friends Geri and Cheryl and the remaining quarter we gobbled right up. Even my daughter liked it - she has become a recent blueberry fan - and was intrigued by it's lemony flavor. In the end this cake was gone far too quickly but that's fine with me. Now I have reason to head back to the blueberry bushes and pick more.

Blueberry Thyme Poundcake with Lemon Glaze
adapted from Luscious Berry Desserts by Lori Longbotham
1 c. whole milk
2 T. fresh thyme, chopped
3 1/2 c. sifted cake flour (NOT self-rising)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 c. sugar
6 large eggs
4 t. finely grated lemon zest
1 t. vanilla extract
3 c. ripe blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a 10" Bundt pan and set aside.
2. Over low heat bring milk and thyme to a boil. Remove from heat and cover the pot with a kitchen towel. Steep for 7 minutes, pour it through a fine mesh sieve and allow to cool to room temperature.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed and pour in 1 3/4c. sugar until it is entirely incorporated. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternating with the milk in 3 batches, ending with the flour. Beat in 2 t. of the zest and vanilla. Stir in the berries with a spatula.
5. Bake for 1hr 30 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then turn it onto the rack and set it right side up out of the pan.
6. In a saucepan bring the remaining 1/2 c. sugar, 2 t. zest and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Brush lemon mixture over the warm cake and let cool completely.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Serving Ideas: This would be a fantastic cake for a summer picnic or potluck. It holds up well traveling and will stay fresh for a few days. It also freezes well when wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this batter takes a full 20 minutes. The baking time is lengthy - 1hr 30minutes, but entirely worth it.
Naptime Reviews: This was a crowd-pleaser all around. Kid love it too, especially if you let them have a little nibble for breakfast with a dollop of yogurt.


77 Kids Do Good Day!

Last Wednesday I had a lot of fun participating in 77 Kids Do Good Day. Come on over to my review page and check it out!


Babble Weekly Bulletin

We're in full summer mode on Babble this week and my articles are below. Also, be sure to check out this awesome write-up about my Strawberry-Mint Ice-Cream on Scoopalicious and the nice shout-out from GoodBite on their recipe round-up! And, best of all, Hybrid Mom named me one of their Top 50 Blog Mom's Need to Know About.

1. Iced-Tea 101: 3 Ways to Make Summer's Most Refreshing Drink -All you need to know about making and flavoring iced-tea this summer!

2. Weeknight Zucchini with Shallots and Parmesan: 'Tis the season for zucchini and this simple weeknight recipe is a great way to enjoy it!
3. Webisode Wednesday: Mom's Gazpacho - The perfect cold soup for hot summer nights.

4. When Life Hands You Raspberries, Make Coulis! : A simple, fun recipe for the incredibly versatile raspberry coulis. Pour it over peach melba, ice-cream, pancakes or stir it into your oatmeal and enjoy!

5.  3 No-Cook Appetizers for Summer Tomatoes: Take advantage of fresh summer tomatoes before there is any mention of a blight. You will love these three no-cook appetizers that showcase the sweetness of summer tomatoes and take mere minutes to pull together.


Summer Zucchini Bites: Webisode #32


What's Going on Today: Big pancake breakfast, morning trip to the beach (hence the wet hair in the video), sunday chores.
Naptime Goals: Make Zucchini Bites with the zucchini I recently picked up at the farmer's market this week, finish up some Babble columns.
Tonight's Menu: Grilled Soyaki Chicken Thighs, Zucchini bites, cous-cous, Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Blondies.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Never engage your child in negotiations regarding candy before lunchtime.

If you've ever seen a woman at your farmer's market hording zucchini from every available stand it's probably me. My love for zucchini knows no bounds and I am not afraid to admit that I buy it by the ton this time of year. I have a whole roster of great zucchini recipes and this is one from my mother-in-law. I love to make these little bites for a healthy afternoon snack or to serve alongside dinner. Or both.

As you'll see in the webisode, making these merely requires a bowl, spoon and measuring cup. The rest is simply a matter of grating and mixing. I easily whipped these up during my daughter's naptime so that we could all enjoy them for an afternoon snack. The best way to describe their taste is somewhere between a mini-quiche and a muffin. Savory and light, they are puffy and easy on the stomach since, after all, none of us want to be eating heavy foods in the middle of summer. Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but after we shot this video the three of us polished off the whole pan! Ah, summer.

Summer Zucchini Bites
2 c. grated zucchini
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. fresh parsley, finely chopped
Makes approximately 24 mini-muffin sized bites

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a mini-muffin tin, set aside.
2. In a large glass bowl add two eggs and beat lightly with a whisk. Then, add the zucchini, onion, cheddar, bread crumbs and parsley and combine them with a wooden spoon.
3. Using your hands or an ice-cream scoop, fill each muffin cup just to the top. Bake  for 15-18 minutes or until the top is browned and set.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Serving Ideas: These would be great served as a light bite at a dinner party or on a buffet table. If you want to mix up the flavors try using shallots instead of onions.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making this batter takes less than 15 minutes. Baking times is 15-18 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: This is a fun healthy vegetable bite for toddler. Despite the fact that my daughter dislikes eggs she will take a few bites of these.


Everyday Chocolate Chip Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

What's Going on Today: Fun morning at the playground and beach, easy picnic lunch outdoors.
Naptime Goals: Make Chocolate Chip Coconut Oatmeal Cookies just because, marinate chicken, laundry, vacuum sand out of the car (!)
Tonight's Menu: Rosemary Lemon Chicken, Carrot Souffle, Arugula Salad.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: You can never have too many stain sticks.

Since I firmly believe that sweets should be homemade rather than store-bought, I always try and dedicate at least one naptime a week to baking simple treats that are perfect for munching on all week long.

I am hardly ever at a loss of baking inspiration given the number of cookbooks on my shelf and magazines I subscribe to. My most recent source of information has come from the awesome SoNo Baking Company & Cafe Cookbook.  I think part of the reason I love it so much is that I practically live around the corner from the actual cafe and secretly aspire to recreate their wall of baked goods in my own home. But, since that would require hours, even days, of labor, I bake from the book when I want and swing by to glimpse the real thing on a regular basis.

I've made at least two dozen recipes from the book so far and they have all been scrumptious. In fact, this cookie recipe is so totally awesome that I've made it almost a dozen times on it's own. It has already made the transition from "good new recipe" to "old favorite" in my household which, trust me, is not an easy road. I am a bit of a cookie snob and many, many recipes have been cast by the wayside. What I love about this cookie is that it's perfectly moist, much more so then many chocolate chip cookie recipes I bake, with a great balance of coconut and chocolate flavors. I also love how the added oatmeal creates a firm, chewy texture which I find appealing.

The other day I whipped these up during naptime after I'd set the chicken in to marinade for dinner. Baking them was easy and they were cooling by the time my daughter woke up. That evening we experimented with ice-cream and unanimously agreed that, in addition to being great on their own, they are perfect bookends for an ice-cream cookie sandwich. Over the course of the next three days we whipped through our tupperware container all too quickly and were sad to reach the bottom. I think this evening I'll set out the butter to warm up for another batch.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from SoNo Baking Company & Cafe Cookbook
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 t. Kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda, set aside.
3. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugars and salt until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time until just blended. Add in vanilla and mix until it is no longer visible.
4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn the mixer on low and slowly add in the flour until just incorporated. Using a spatula, fold in the coconut, chocolate chips and oats one at a time.
5. Use a 2" ice-cream scoop to place the dough, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until cookies are set and the edges are golden brown.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Ideas: I love to make these into ice-cream cookie sandwiches and roll the sides in sprinkles, this is a great cookie for that. If you want to change up the flavor try substituting craisins or dried currants for the chocolate chips.
Naptime Stopwatch: Making the batter takes 10 minutes. Baking time is about 30 minutes for the whole batch.
Naptime Reviews: We are a household of cookie lovers, you'd better believe we all gobbled these right down!


Babble Weekly Bulletin

The heat is on in Connecticut! Here is a round-up of my articles on Babble this week. Rest assured, next week there will be lots more cool foods and recipes to balance out this summer heat. 

1. Best Brownie Contest: THERE IS STILL TIME! Enter your favorite brownie recipe for a chance to win a great gift basket from Scharffen Berger Chocolate. Contest ends Monday July 12th at 11:59am.

2. Kitchen Basics: Cutting Board Care 101 - Everything you need to know to keep your cutting boards bacteria-free!

3. Burgers with Chive-Parsley Butter: My favorite new method for making burgers at home!

4. Homemade Oreos: I love Oreos, but not all the preservatives, so I made them at home. Yes, I know it sounds crazy. But now that I've done it I will never go back to the blue bag!

5. 30 Second Goat Cheese and Chutney Appetizer: The simplest, most delicious dish that is so quick to make it is perfect for even the most impromptu gatherings!


Mom's Nearly Famous Gazpacho: Webisode #31


What's Going on Today: Hanging out in Cooperstown for the Fourth. Lots of fun in the sun, planning for an afternoon boat trip.
Naptime Goals: Lesson from Mom on how to make her awesome Gazpacho.
Tonight's Menu: Gazpacho, Turkey Burgers, salad, ice-cream.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Don't tease toddlers about fish eating their toes, unless you don't want them in the water.

You know I always love a good hand-me-down recipe, so you can imagine how excited I was last weekend when my Mom showed me how to make her nearly famous Gazpacho. I say nearly famous because it hasn't been printed anywhere yet, but, now that it has, I'm sure it's destined for glory. The oppressive heat and humidity in Cooperstown gave us the perfect opportunity for a naptime gazpacho making lesson. We were all too happy to stay in the air conditioned kitchen during the heat of the afternoon, and even more pleased that we didn't have to turn on heat inducing appliances to make dinner.

As you'll see above, Mom's recipe is based on an old How to Make Gazpacho tutorial she ripped out of McCall's long before I was born. It outlines the basics of gazpacho and gives the reader freedom to make changes as needed. My mother has been working on her "changes as needed" for roughly 34 years and has managed to buff and polish her version to a near perfect shine.

It turns out that one of her main secrets for this recipe is spicy V8. She swears that it contains the perfect amount of spice and is easier to measure than Tabasco. If someone wants more heat, she says, place a bottle of Tabasco on the table and they can help themselves. She also swears that a squeeze of lime in each bowl immediately prior to serving is key to uniting the flavors of garlic and tomato. This is a tip she learned from her friend Geri.

Gazpacho, like most soups, is best after it's been able to rest for a bit in the fridge. This allows the flavors to blend and mature. Though I didn't tape dinner, rest assured that we gobbled it down in the blink of an eye. You can imagine how grateful we all were to be enjoying cold soup on such a hot day and how particularly happy I was to be in possession of such a fabulous recipe.

Mom's Nearly Famous Gazpacho
3 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled
2 green onions, washed
1 red pepper
2 cloves garlic
11 oz. regular tomato juice
8 oz. Spicy V8 Tomato juice
2 T. olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
1 t. Kosher salt
1 t. pepper
2 limes

1. In a food processor fitted with a blade attachment place 6 oz. of regular tomato juice, the red pepper, onions and garlic. Pulse 3-4 times. Add the cucumber and tomatoes. Pulse 3-4 times. Add the rest of the regular tomato juice, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Pulse 3-4 times. Finally, add in the spicy tomato juice and olive oil. Pulse 1-2 times.

2. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. When serving, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over each bowl and stir in to each portion.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Variations: There are plenty of great recipes for gazpacho. If you'd like to sweeten it up a bit add some fruit like cantaloupe or honeydew. If you think you need more heat, swirl in a few splashes of Tabasco to give it a boost.
Naptime Stopwatch: This recipe, from start to finish, takes about 15 minutes.
Naptime Reviews: My daughter doesn't love cold soup yet - she thought this was salsa - but was game for dipping a few chips in it. My husband, well, you can see me swatting his hand away from the Cuisinart above!


Nibbles for a Casual Summer Cocktail Hour

What's Going on Today: Fourth of July weekend fun! Friends over for cocktails, evening dinner al fresco.
Naptime Goals: Relax with a good book, whip up onion dip and help Mom with the tomatoes.
Tonight's Cocktail Hour: Tomatoes stuffed with blue cheese or pesto, onion dip with vegetables, cheese plate, assorted nuts.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Sometimes it's ok to let toddlers eat crackers, carrots and yogurt for dinner. 

Over the holiday weekend we were up in Cooperstown with my parents. On Saturday night we invited our neighbors to come over with their teenage grandchildren for a fun cocktail hour. With such beautiful weather and the garden in full bloom it was the perfect occasion to sit on the porch and catch up. The event was to be completely casual, we all planned on wearing jeans, and the food was to be easy and unfussy.

When my daughter was taking her afternoon nap my husband and I helped my parents get things ready. My husband was in charge of setting up the bar with assorted liquor and garnishes for drinks, while Mom and I tackled the food. Since simple cocktail food shouldn't take long to prepare, we relied on a few old favorites that could be assembled in a snap.

For the two main appetizers we choose to make tomatoes stuffed with pesto or blue cheese with the fresh tomatoes we'd picked up at the farmer's market. Then, I cooked up my favorite onion dip to serve with carrots and fresh cucumbers, also from the farmer's market. To balance out the vegetables, we set out a delicious container of goat cheese with strawberry compote and a nice round of runny Camembert with some buttery crackers. Finally, to include a little salt on the table, we poured two bowls of fancy nuts. All in all it was a simple and delicious menu for a party of eight, plus one toddler. I should mention that she munched on so many vegetables and crackers that all she actually ate for dinner was a container of yogurt. With all of us in summer mode I didn't mind one bit. It was the perfect start to a relaxing weekend.

Casual Summer Cocktail Hour:
Stuffed Tomatoes: Halve and seed cherry tomatoes. Fill with a scoop of fresh pesto or blue cheese. Serve.
Ina Garten's Pan-Friend Onion Dip with Cucumbers and Carrots
Goat Cheese with Strawberries
Camembert, runny
Fancy Nut Assortment
Lillet with Lemon over ice
Sparkling water and Cokes (for the teens)


Babble Weekly Round-up

Happy July! I was in Fourth of July mode with my posts this week. Hopefully a few of things below will help you with your cooking this weekend! 

1. Hot New Grocery Website: Food on the Table - a great site featuring meal planning tips, coupons and printable shopping lists that is free to join!
2. How to Cut a Watermelon: Stymied by the best way to carving this round summer fruit? Here is my method.
3. Vegetable Quiche Webisode: More ways to use up your farmer's market vegetables!
4. Red White and Blue Stuffed Strawberries: A fruity sweet treat that is perfectly in the spirit for the Fourth!
5. Family Kitchen Fourth of July Menus: Great menu ideas from the awesome Family Kitchen columnists!