All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Sunday, September 29, 2013

first baby food: apple snow

As I watch my almost 6 month old grandson whip through several ounces of milk, I'm thinking it won't be long before he's ready to eat.  As in solids.  I remember the anxiety I felt when I knew #1 child was ready, but the world of food out there was full of pitfalls and worry.  Like most new mothers, I started with packaged rice cereal, mixed with breast milk.  Then it was on to mashed bananas ( nowadays, avocado is also suggested) and rice cereal, and then, a tentative step to freshly picked apples, simmered til soft, and mixed into the rice cereal or yogurt.  We dubbed this Apple Snow, and it was an instant hit. Here it is 35 years later , and I'm relieved to find this is acceptable as one of the first foods to introduce to babies.  And my firstborn daughter still loves to munch on freshly orchard- picked apples, crunching through the juiciness right down to the core.

To make:

1 cup sliced, peeled fresh organic apple
3 tablespoons water
 pinch of cinnamon

Place apple, water, and cinnamon ( not necessary, but I thought it was an introduction to spices) in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, simmer 5 minutes, stirring several times to make sure the applesauce doesn't scorch.  Take off heat and stir until the apples turn into applesauce.  Cool, and feed as is, or mix with a few tablespoons or so of vanilla yogurt, or stir into baby rice cereal.   Voila!  Apple Snow.  

PS:  Once your child is a year old, you can add honey to the apple snow, but not before.  Why?  Read here.

Still very thin color here, but this area has very few sugar maples, which are the truly colorful trees.  On my walk this morning I noticed the old antique apple tree finally has a few small apples, which the deer will eat once they fall to the ground.  Beautiful light these days, and no need for a jacket - yet.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

chocolate and fresh dark cherry cake & chilly nights

Oh my goodness, life has been hectic.  The first few chilly almost-freezing nights led to that frantic Oh-my-gosh-winter's-coming awareness.  The plants need to be covered, the trip to the pick-your-own apple orchard.  Izzie's second grade soccer games, and almost-3 year old Frankie in a 2 day kindergarten.  Baby Noah meeting his Aunt Noa.  With both my daughter and daughter-in-law working, and three children's schedules, I happily get called on for babysitting in a pinch.

Furnaces cleaned, wood stoves readied, cleaning up the garden , and making time for hikes and walks before the snow, lots of time in the kitchen, making ratatouille and this wonderful cake from Life's a Feast :  a light chocolate snacking cake, filed with dark unsweetened cherries and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  We had a party in the kitchen one morning at 8 am with a roomful of family and lots and lots of food, including this cake, a stellar memory of September .

The original recipe (see it here) called for bottled cherries, but I used my favorite flash frozen dark sweet pitted cherries, sprinkled a little sugar on them, and let them thaw for 20 minutes or so, so the batter wouldn't be cold.  And for a little more chocolate for all the chocolate lovers I added chocolate chips, but otherwise followed the recipe.  It came out perfectly.

Chocolate and dark cherry cake

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter or grease a bundt pan very well.  Set aside.

7 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

1 3/4 cups King Arthur flour
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Ghirardelli)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

3/4 cup milk
1 t. vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups thawed frozen dark unsweetened cherries
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar for 5 minutes until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Measure the flour, cocoa powder, making powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and stir, set aside.
Measure the milk and vanilla in a cup and set aside.
Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk and vanilla mixture.
Mix until blended well, then fold in the semisweet chocolate chips and the cherries.

Carefully fill the bundt pan evenly, then bake for 50 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on cooling rack for at least 20 minutes.  
Carefully tap around the bundt pan with a rolling pin  - hopefully this will help the cake slide out easily.
Upend the cake onto cooling rack and let cool.  Dust with confectioner's sugar or cocoa powder and serve.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September: thunderstorms and emergencies. But there is always Reine de Saba.

  What?  It's September?   Apologies, I have been dealing with one emergency after another. I have not had a good nights slumber in weeks, and I look at my bed with longing and exhaustion.  I cut a little bouquet today, made up of lemon verbena and rosemary - and a few sprigs of white phlox, hoping tonight I might finally get a good night's sleep.

First it was the smoke detectors.

1 am, and I wake to a chirp.  Another chirp, a bleat.  Then all three detectors go off, and I stumble to the phone to call the fire department.  A sleepy eyed volunteer fireman checks the house, pushes a button, and heads off into the night.  The next day I buy new batteries for the detectors, and install them.

Three nights later, the same thing.  12 midnight, and I'm entertaining the firemen again, but this time, the fire horn goes off. I hear the chatter on the firemen's beepers, telling them I don't think we really need all 20 firemen here, and  I promise firmly to call the electrician pronto , who arrives late the next day, who tells me I need new smoke detectors.  I grovel and ask him to show me how to disconnect the detectors, since it is clear there is no emergency.  Four nights of blissful rest, until the new detectors are installed.  One restless night, waiting for the blare again, but so far, so good.  Did you know smoke detectors are only good for ten years?  Me neither.  Mine were 9 1/2 years old - so do the smart thing and get some new ones, if only for uninterrupted sleep.

Then last night, rain and thunderstorms for 12 hours straight.  The rumblings turned into thunderclaps, and lightning strikes:  no phone line and no tv,  computer connection off for ten hours.  The rain thunders down in streams and pounds the roof,  the lightning flashes send me down to sit on the basement steps.  The house shakes, the whole world rumbles and flashes.  I finally fall asleep at 3.

But was there food, you ask.  In between all this, there was making Emeril's delicious Muffuletta for my daughter's luncheon with Izzie, and emailing her the icing for the Reine de Saba cake she made for her Dad.  Harvesting the overgrown Italian parsley for everything from smoothies to pesto-ish sauces.  I'm embracing a longing for homemade bread, as the evening is turning chilly, and making turkey meatballs for Frankie tonight.  The chilly air has me thinking about sweets and soups, so finally, I hope, back to normal.

Sweet dreams, I hope:)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

hint of autumn: spectacular lemon curd cake and spice cookies

Right on time, the wind has shifted.  Mornings are suddenly cooler, and I'm drawn to the watery places, before they freeze.  Afternoons are still warm and humid, but early mornings bring the swing of coolness.

I've been busy, making a birthday cake for my daughter, a gorgeous lemon curd delight with a lovely buttercream.  It was so hot that day that the cake slid apart as I delivered it in the late afternoon, only two miles away.  But, boy - it was one of the best cakes I've ever made.  Bookmark, bookmark!

Cookies for my grands, first few days of school, their favorites - spicy, sturdy Spice Cookies for the lunchboxes.  These are terrific for shipping, to all your kids away from home, as well as a welcoming of autumn weather.

Hope you also get out there to enjoy this September weather, wherever you are!