Monday, August 27, 2012

Celebrating the Last Days of Summer

It's hard to believe that we are once again about to turn the page of the calender and enter a new season.  I know many of you are not ready for this, but since Fall is my FAVORITE time of year I am so ready! The temperatures are still high, it's hot and sunny, but strangely enough I can feel the change.  The early mornings are cool and the evenings have that little "something" in the air that tell me things are changing. 

This past week I've been school shopping, filling my little one's backpack with pencils, glue sticks, and crayons.  Exactly what he needs to start kindergarten next week.  Five days a week, I still can't believe it! 

My inbox is full of apple recipes and all the Fall fashion catalogues are cover to cover with wools, tweeds, and plaids.  Reminds me that I need a new coat this year. Oh yes, I am ready.  I even saw Halloween candy at the market yesterday.  Ok, that may be pushing it a bit.  Nonetheless, when that calendar says September, I'm in full Fall mode. 

We had a lovely summer and I'm sad to see it go.  There were beach days, picnics, and a fun filled trip to an amusement park with great friends!  We had two very special family celebrations, including a birthday party last week for my special boy who turned 5!  It was amazing!  We are so blessed to have family and friends who care about us so much. That night reflecting on the party and looking at the videos my eyes teared up.  I was so happy that he had such a fun day.  (The bouncy house helped! )

Life is hard, but it's smiles like this that make it all worth it!  My heart is happy because he is happy ~

This was the sky over my house on Sunday morning.  It was a beautiful day.  The windows were open (finally!) with a nice breeze blowing through the house.  I have this anxious feeling to clean, nest, and decorate.  It's time to change things over and put away the summer decor.  Maybe clean out a closet or two and bake something with cinnamon.  Yes, definitely cinnamon! 

Okay, okay - so maybe you aren't ready for cinnamon just yet.  Before I jump, feet first, right into Fall here is something easy and breezy to celebrate the last days of summer (since in my book it officially starts on Sept 1st - no matter what the calendar says : ).

I made these Profiteroles on Friday night.  They are SO EASY to make and are the best dessert.  The simplest things are so often overlooked.  Four ingredients!  Seriously!  You already have everything you need, so what are you waiting for???? 

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, room temp.

vanilla ice cream
hot fudge sauce (I used Mrs. Richardson's Hot Fudge Sauce - my personal favorite!)
whip cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Boil butter and water together in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat; add flour all at once, beating rapidly till dough leaves side of pan and forms a ball.  Cool 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating hard till dough is smooth.

Drop by teaspoonful (12) on an ungreased cookie sheet at least 2 " apart.

Bake 16- 20 minutes until golden brown.   Let cool.

With a serrated knife, carefully cut off top 3rd of each puff.   Remove any wet dough inside the puff. 

Fill with as much ice cream as you can and replace tops. 

Pile them into a bowl; keep them in the freezer until ready to serve.

When ready, top with hot fudge sauce and whip cream.

This recipe is from my most favorite dessert cookbook - Susan Branch's Sweets to the Sweet...

 What a way to celebrate summer! 

I'm ashamed to tell you how many of these I ate!  Let's just say they are good, very good...and we'll leave it at that.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did ~

Before I sign off I would like to say Thank You to Rachel at Mozart's Girl for my wonderful giveaway prizes!  I received my package a few days ago (all the way across the Atlantic!).  What a treat to come home after a long day at work to find something just for me that is not a bill or junk mail!  It felt like my birthday!  Rachel sent me an Emma Bridgewater tea caddy filled with English Breakfast (of course : ), some garden bunting that I love, love, love! (see on my fence above) and some adorable seed packets. 

Thanks again Rachel - I adore everything and am so glad I made a new blog friend! xo

I hope you all are enjoying these last days of summer.  Get out there and enjoy them because before long our crock pots will be bubbling and we'll be carving pumpkins! 

Have a wonderful day, friends!  (Yes, that's toffee-almond popcorn balls!)


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baked Tomato Salad

It's official.  It's officially too hot to exist.  We are living the dog days of summer I tell you.  My hair is frizzy and makeup is literally melting off my face.  Not my best look.  But the sun is shining it's bright rays in my window every morning and even though it was 90 degrees at 5 pm this evening, I strangely feel like Fall is just around the corner.  Or is that wishful thinking?

These last few weeks of summer are not doubt the hottest, but they are also the BEST for tomatoes.   Bright red = summer sweet!  I have a cherry tomato plant on my deck that has been growing like crazy!  I don't know why it's so satisfying to pick cherry tomatoes and throw them right into a salad, but it is.  It really is! 

For bigger dishes, like this baked tomato salad I purchased vine ripe tomatoes from Trader Joe's.  Does anyone else love the smell of the vine? Am I the only one doing that in the market? : )
The tomatoes were perfect, but I was really in it for the box.  Is that not the cutest?  I saved it and it's now on my counter with lemons and herbs in it. Looove!

This salad is supposed to be served cold.  I've served it warm, room temperature, and cold.  It's all good.  Try it!

Recipe from Susan Branch's The Summer Book.

olive oil
large, ripe summer tomatoes
salt & freshly ground pepper
fresh basil, chopped
minced parsley (fresh or dried)
1 jar roasted red peppers
dry bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Choose a baking dish for the number of servings you desire.  Put a good film of olive oil in the bottom of the dish.  Slice tomatoes 1/4 inch and arrange in a single layer. 

Salt and pepper lightly.  Sprinkle with pinch of parsley, a pinch of basil, then a layer of the red peppers.

I got these Fire Roasted Red Peppers from Trader Joe's (my new favorite store!!!). 
Tracy really knows what she's talking about!  Have you ever heard of Cookie Butter? Well, it's real.  And it's at Trader Joe's.  And it's amazing!  But that's another blog post entirely.

I cut them in strips and layered them over the tomatoes.

Repeat the process -  tomatoes, seasonings, and peppers. 

Add one more layer of tomatoes and seasonings.  Drizzle with olive oil. 

Cover lightly with a handful of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. 

Bake 20 minutes.  Chill well before servings. 

Serve with warm crusty bread to mop up all the tomato juices!

You can always be creative and change things up.  Add garlic, mozzerella cheese, or even cilantro is delicious in this. 


Danielle xo

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sour Cream Banana Almond Muffins and catching up!

Hello Friends!  I'm back from an unexpected blog break!  I don't know how to explain it except that Summer has gotten the best of me.  We are experiencing a heat wave in my part of the world.  The days have been hazy, hot, and humid.  By the time the sun goes down I can hardly keep my eyes open.  We are all sleeping like logs!  This is not a bad thing! 

So what have I been up to?  Well, let's see....  Two weeks ago I celebrated my birthday.  It was extra special this year because my best friend Jen (seriously, since first grade) was in town!  We haven't spent a birthday together in YEARS.  It was such a treat.  Her husband and daughter came to my parents house for my traditional birthday dinner - which is turkey with all the fixings, ala Thanksgiving in July! Yes, that's right - only my mom would baste a turkey in 90 degree heat!  It's my favorite meal and such a delight to eat it on my birthday.  By now I'm sick of hot dogs and hamburgers and craving Fall food.  It tasted so good!

Jen moved FAR away after high school to attend college and never came back.  She married and planted roots and is very happy where she is now.  We've always made it a priority to stay close and keep in touch.  It doesn't feel like she lives so far away, because we are so involved in each other's lives.  My son is also over the moon for her ten year old daughter which is awesome. I hope that never changes.  Having her visiting on my birthday was the best present I could have gotten!  She surprised me with this Willow Tree plaque entitled "Friendship" - forever true, forever friends.  We used to stay up all night taking about boys, painting our nails, and make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.  Now we talk about anti-ageing creams, fabric softners, and raising kids. Life is funny.  We are proud and grateful for our 30 year friendship!  Wow.  It's like the old saying goes...she knows too much...we have to stay friends! : )

We've been going to the beach alot over the last few weeks.  My son is doing great with his swimming lessons.  He's turned himself into a little fish and wants to be in water until he's literally a wrinkled prune!  At four (almost 5!) years old he's already a better swimmer than I am! 

As a kid I was never really fond of the water and as a result am not the best swimmer.  As an adult I have come to love the beach and the ocean air.  Drinking coffee on the beach in the early morning is probably one  of the best things you can do in the summer.  I go in the ocean and pool now with him - weather I want to or not.  Just one of those things mothers have to do! : )  It's not really that bad if we stay in the shallow end.  I just hate squeezing this 38 year old body into a bathing suit.  I much prefer winter clothing! 

Lately, when I'm at home you will probably find me puttering around the yard trying to bring all my dead plants back to life.  It's been depressing.  By the time I get home from work everything is dying of thirst.   The heat wave is taking it's toll.  I took this picture early one morning last week.  Can you see the haze in the picture?  You can almost feel the heat.  It's oppressive.  Ugh.

At least the tomatoes are doing well!  Red ripe summer tomatoes are the best.  I made a baked tomato casserole last night.  Recipe to come!

And speaking of cooking, with all this heat I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen lately (hence the blogging absence).  I did make chicken tacos the other night which was success (probably because it wasn't a hot dog or take out - real talk).  Other than that, I've been keeping it light and easy. 

However, thanks to air conditioning I CAN do some baking when the urge strikes.  That urge struck me two nights ago.  I was craving something homemade.  I had on hand all the ingredients for sour cream banana almond muffins.  Home baked muffins in August? Yes please!  Just the thing to get me back into my baking groove. 

They are really delicious and easy to make.  All you need is...

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed banana (2 ripe bananas)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. 

In another bowl cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs (lightly beaten).  Mix in the sour cream and vanilla.  Add the mashed banana. 

Combine with the flour until just mixed.  Add the nuts and stir until blended. 

Divide among 12 muffin cups (greased or sprayed).  Sprinkle tops with sugar if desired.  I did : )

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  (recipe adapted slightly from Rita's Recipes)

Make them the night before and allow them to cool on your stove top.  In the morning your kitchen will smell like banana almond....Mmmmmm....

The taste of a home baked muffin sends me to my happy place!  Add coffee and the latest issue of People and I'm good for the day!

So that's pretty much what I've been up to.  A whole lot of nothing and tons of everything! Before I forget I must announce the winner of my giveaway!  I am SO SORRY I am late with this!  The lucky winner is.....

Gemma from Musings of a Gem!

Gemma, I hope you enjoy your potpourri and vintage tin!  I'm emailing you now for your address and then I'll send your care package out to you right away!  Please stop by Gemma's lovely blog and say HI! 

The next few weeks will be busy.  I have a big birthday party to plan!  You only turn 5 once!  Rumor has it it's a Thomas the Tank Engine party, but that theme changes by the minute.  The bouncy house has ordered (a must for a kids party!) and I'm in the middle of making goodie bags for 10 little boys and girls.  I'm sure it will be the hottest day of year and someone will surely get sprayed with the hose.  I just hope it's not me!

Before I end this post I had to show you this darling photo.  Meet Molly!  No, she's not mine : (  My friend Jan just got a new puppy.  We met her last Sunday.  Is she not the cutest?!  She's 10 times cuter in person!  Completely huggable and snuggable.  I need this in my life. I really do ~

Danielle xo