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Pumpkins One, Two, and Three (and Me)

when I started the blog...

and now...

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Halliefest Scones.


Every couple of years or so, a dear friend named Hallie, who lives in San Diego, comes back to D.C. for a visit.  She used to live here and we met while I was in law school over a decade ago.  My law school is a block away from a gym and every Friday night many of us would cram into the aerobics studio for a particular step class (please remember that I said this was over ten years ago, so step aerobics and thong leotards were the rage.  I try to block out the memories of the thong leotards and ask that you do too). 

Most girls were a little territorial about their spots in class.  And by a little territorial I mean major stinkeye if you got too close.  But not Hallie.  She noticed I always rushed in with barely enough time to set up my step (I had a school class that ended minutes before the step class and leaving 10 minutes early from Real Property--my preference--was not going to fly).  So one day Hallie set up my step for me and I've latched on to her and her good karma ever since.

Hallie is sort of like that to everyone.  That means she has a lot of super close friends who would move Heaven and earth for her.  When she comes back to D.C., I usually host a brunch to celebrate and people crowd in just to get a minute with her :) so I nicknamed the event Halliefest.  Next time I'm putting up a velvet rope.

At Halliefest '08 I served some scones that have become a family favorite.  The recipe came from a friend I worked with--he told me it was from The America's Test Kitchen Cookbook so I knew straight away the scones would be terrific and they are.  As further proof, one of my favorite food bloggers of all times, Smitten Kitchen, also proclaimed this recipe The One for perfect scones, so there.

Now the recipe calls for heavy cream which does ensure a flaky experience that I have been known to go on and on about.  But to be honest, for everyday consumption, I use half and half because that's what I always have on hand to use in my coffee.  If you do that, you don't need a full cup...closer to a generous 3/4...and you'll get a dough that you can just drop onto your baking sheet rather than shaping and cutting.  The texture is different, more chewy, but on top of cutting out some fat, an added bonus is it's less crumbly--something that might be a good thing if little hands are eating one, two, or five. 

Please promise that you will not do the half and half biscuit style and proclaim these a dud as far as scones go--the heavy cream version is what will sell you on this recipe so you should really start there (and then build on it and marvel how Starbucks can call a sugary hockey puck a scone).  I made these today as part of our Father's Day breakfast.  But in the spirit of Hallie's countless good deeds, I also piled some on plates for the boys to deliver to a few dads in our neighborhood as an unexpected treat.

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A few times each summer, we try to go to various area farms to pick fruit.  I think strawberries may be the boys' favorite--perhaps since it's always the first outing.  By the end of the season, let's just say they don't jump into the car and buckle up by the mere sight of a U Pick flat like they did this week.

Our youngest was pretty funny to watch.  I thought maybe he'd understand--after all, picking berries isn't that different from fetching his scattered Hot Wheels cars or other colorful items and depositing them into random containers (beware what lurks inside a tissue box at our house).  But no.  He definitely did his share of the eating though.

We went to Homestead Farms in Poolesville, MD, which we like because:  1.  there are farm animals to mix it up a little;  2.  you can walk to the fields without having to haul the kids, your gear, and a jog stroller onto a wagon; 3.  you can walk back to your car because if you have kids you will probably need to--diaper duty, forgot somebody's favorite truck to play in the dirt, etc.; and 4.  there is no admission fee.  We're also fans of Great Country Farms and Butler's Orchard but you usually need to take a wagon on those farms and Great Country also charges admission unless you belong to the farm, which we do but I'll review it later.

We usually get carried away with the quantity we pick.  It's pretty addictive when you get on a roll, especially if you tend to be a little OCD about things (ahem).  Looking at a couple of flats of berries can be daunting, so I like to can jam and also prep batches for the freezer to use later in desserts.

This year I wanted to try a pectin-free jam recipe and turned to Ina Garten.  You will soon see that I have a thing for Ina.  I made her Easy Strawberry Jam, which uses granny smith apples in lieu of pectin to firm things up--though you will never get a firm, firm set (but that's okay because I don't like gummy jam).  For canning, I get most of my info from a website called Pick Your Own.  

It's basically the end of strawberry picking in our area.  Next up, blueberries and peaches so go forth and pick! 




Banana Blueberry Bread.  Yum.

            Have you ever been to an Amy's Bread shop in New York?  If not, you should know that the promise--the potential--of a home cook turning out treats like theirs is pretty amazing.  And since my sister-in-law's name is Amy, I decided I had to get her The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread cookbook for Christmas.  And because I don't know of any fabulous "Sandra" bakery cookbooks, I went ahead and stuck one under the tree for little 'ole me as well. 

Since Will, our 15 month-old, usually loves bananas, I have not laid hands on any overripe ones for quite some time.  But now, out of the blue, he won't eat them.  He will mash them, fling them, poke them, and sculpt them, but nary a bit will get past his lips.  I've tried.  Of course, I'm more than a little vexed that without warning, my go-to, easy to transport--yet healthy--snack is out of favor with him.  But at least now we can enjoy banana bread again. 

Know that this is no ordinary banana bread--it's neither achingly sweet (yippee!) nor cinnamon-y.  It's flavorful and moist and, well, it's really, really good.  We ate both loaves within days.  I will force restraint next time by freezing one.  Better yet, I'll give away a loaf as a gift and spread the goodness.  I hope you'll try it. 


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Old Fashioned Meatloaf

My mom is from Thailand, so we didn't get a lot of meatloaf growing up in our house.  Actually, I don't think my mother has ever made a meatloaf (but her Thai recipes--stay tuned--are incredible).  So when our neighbor recently gave me this recipe, I was happy to try it.  It turns out exactly what I suspected I was always missing--a nice, traditional, and yummy meatloaf.  An added bonus is it sneaks in a healthy dose of veggies.  This generously serves our family of 5.  It's about 40 minutes of prep work so go ahead and plan to make two as it freezes beautifully (freezing instructions below).  Directions here are for one large loaf but I also like making it in lined muffin tins, reducing the bake time to about 45 minutes.

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No Fail Sugar Cookies

I found a great sugar cookie recipe on seven years ago and have used it over 30 times.  I love to make cut-out cookies, especially during the holidays and for birthday party favors.  You can use very intricate shapes and the dough will not spread while baking--it truly does not fail.  It also holds up great for cookie pops, just be sure to roll the dough 1/2" thick.

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Er, hello.

I was going to title this post 'Hello World' but that struck me as pretty presumptuous.  A more apt title is probably 'Hello Kris' or 'Hello Caryn' but then again, my two closest friends likely won't read my blog as I talk to them just about every day.

So, um, back to you.  Yes, you there...hello, how are you?  This feels odd.  So until I get used to it, I am going to write down a few reasons why I thought I'd join the bloggy fun.  First and foremost, it's because I am helplessly addicted to a number of wonderful cooking and crafting blogs that are truly inspiring. Problem is, though I'm inspired, I actually haven't done much.  Yes, I've written my lists (I love me some lists!) and have even done some onesie-twosie projects, but I know I can do better.  And I want to do better.  So I figured I'd start a blog and put it out there as to what craft or activity I plan to do.  Maybe some folks will join in?  And we can get some momentum going...

Also, I have found it's hard to stay connected to everyone when you have small children.  Sure, I see lots of friends at birthday parties and such, but I can't seem to get much socializing in when I'm child wrangling--maybe it's because I have three kids now?  And only two hands??  So those recipes I told you I'd get you--hopefully they'll end up here.  And that amazing whatever I'm using for this-or-that, check the sidebar (no, not like right now, but eventually, okay?).

So what do I think I'll blog about?  Crafts, cooking, homekeeping, & all things kid-related, I'm sure.  You know, the stuff I try to chat about at night with my husband until he says, "honey, don't you have girlfriends to talk to about that stuff?"  Okay, not really, he's a peach, but I swear he's thinking it.  So again, hello, I'm Sandra and I'm very glad to be here.

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