Author Archives: lindsay

We were working on our Christmas picture today. Here are a few that didn’t make the cut:

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Harvesting

Anne took some pictures of Will in the combine over his birthday weekend in mid-October. He is a happy boy working in the fields.

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Cider Pressing for Helen’s Birthday

In late October we went back to Iowa for another weekend of harvesting, to celebrate Helen’s birthday, and to press cider. This is something we all love doing, and it doesn’t hurt that there are homemade donuts! I was looking through the cider pressing photos this morning and noticed Maggie always had one in her hand. (There was a very hungry and determined dog there that did steal a couple from her, but still.) Here are some photos capturing Maggie’s love of gramma’s homemade donuts:

http://photos.dspencer.net/Other/Lindsay-photostream/28590155_mJB5Qr#!i=2868785923&k=j2KzQpw&lb=1&s=A

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Dal (Moosewood)

1 1/2 cups lentils

4 cups water

2 whole dried chilies

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 cup chopped onions

1 tsp ginger

1 T lemon juice

1 tsp garam masala

Rinse lentils well. Put in a pot with the water, chilies, turmeric, and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-60 minutes. *If using split lentils you will need less water and a shorter amount of simmer time to cook.

Heat 2 T of oil and saute the cumin seeds, onions, and ginger and cook until tender.

Remove the chilies from the lentils and stir the onion mixture and remaining ingredients into the lentils.

You can add tomatoes or spinach if desired.

Homemade Pasta

2 cups flour

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

Make a well with the flour and add the eggs and egg yolks. Mix together and then pour onto a well floured surface and knead. You can add a few drops of water if needed. Let the dough rest one hour at room temperature before making into noodles.

Maggie’s Expanding Vocabulary

Maggie is talking more and more. She can say several words and tries to mimic what you say. It’s pretty fun. Here are some of the latest words we can recognize:

Backpack – there are always several near the front door

Mimi – Her name for Amelia

Hat

Shoes

Eyes

Baby

More

Outside

Thank you

Please

No – This one is getting a lot of use these days

Up

People

People!

People!

What an amazing thing they are.

I wonder I wonder

How you make them.

 

This is a poem Amelia wrote at school. Both Dave and I loved it and figured we’d tackle that question a little later down the road.

Happy Halloween. May the force be with you.

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Will’s 5th Harvest Birthday

Will’s birthday request has consistently been to pick corn. Thanks to an October birthday, a Pop Pop with a combine and several fields, and now being within driving distance to Iowa City, we have been able to fulfill this request. This year he also asked for a chocolate cake decorated with caramel frosting and candy corn pumpkins and strawberry ice cream. We had pizza on the screened in porch with Gramma Anne, Pop Pop Brian, Larry, and Uncle Dave. Another great celebration on the farm!

1st Birthday

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2nd Birthday

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3rd Birthday

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4th Birthday

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5th Birthday

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2013 Garden Bounty

This year we decided to compete against the Brentwood wildlife, which includes a plethora of squirrels, rabbits, and birds. Dave took to securing a varmint-proof garden and we choose many different wonderful seed packets to plant with the kids. The dream garden we planted included carrots, eggplant, brussels sprouts, beets, lettuce, arugula, green beans, peppers, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, and more. As the season progressed and the animals got the best of several baby plants, our “bounty” ended up being 200 or more cayenne peppers, a few jalapenos, about 50 cucumbers, enough hops for one batch of beer, and two watermelons. Below is one of the small but tasty watermelons we recently ate. Better luck next year I guess.

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Forest Park Balloon Glow

On Friday night the kids and I took the train and met Dave for our annual Balloon Glow outing. We realized we’ve done this every year since we moved here, so we just have to keep up that tradition. It can be tricky getting there and home because of all the people but I think we have a system that works – Dave drives to Forest Park in the morning, parks, and walks to work. We assume our truck won’t get broken into, the kids and I take the train in, we have dinner, walk to the balloon glow, and then drive home. Success!

Here we are at the Balloon Glow over the years:

2010

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We arrived too late to document in 2011.

Eryn was visiting and came with us in 2012

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2013

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She’s coming right along –

Maggie is almost 14 months old and she is coming right along. Sometimes I think that she’s more independent that Will and Amelia! Here are some examples:

If she is hungry she will go to the drawer with her plastic cups and get a snack bowl with a lid and bring it to me.

If I take the blender out of the cabinet she immediately goes to the drawer and finds the cup with a lid, and then goes to the cabinet where the straws are stored because she’s certain I’m going to make her a smoothy.

If I ask her if she wants to go get Amelia from school, go the park, go the library, anywhere really, she giggles, claps her hands, and is looking for her shoes.

She also loves clothes and is constantly trying to figure out how to get them on by herself, usually over clothes she is already wearing. (Apparently I used to do this, maybe at 3 or 4, and my mom would find me in my room with several pairs of underwear, pants, and shirts on at a time.)

Maggie is also enjoying the great outdoors whenever she can. If  she hears a door open she is doing what is probably a full on Maggie sprint to get there and outside before it closes. I’ve started being very careful about saying “outside” because that initiates the same giggles and clapping and she cannot be persuaded toward any other activity at that point. I mentioned this to our neighbor and he laughed and said she sounds like the other kids and fits in perfectly in the Spencer family. He’s right.

She is very independent on the playground and can climb up stairs and go down small slides on her own. I just can’t believe how quickly all these things are happening. She is so happy being busy and so fun to watch. Oh how we love our Maggie Jean.

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I just walked into our bathroom and thought, “oh, the places you will find pee…”. It reminded me of Dr. Seuss’s book “Oh the Places You Will Go”. I have thought of several new titles related to parenting in the past few minutes, such as:

“Oh the Snacks You Will Make”

“Oh the Laundry You Will Do”

“Oh the Kisses You Will Give”

“Oh the Bandaids You Will Go Through”

“Oh the Veggies You Will Waste”

“Oh the Speed With Which You Will Run”

“Oh the Joy You Will Have”

As you can see, once you get started it’s hard to stop. Try it!

Guess who said, “How old do I need to be to drive?”

Will and Amelia have great imaginations and sometimes even use them for good, like when they decide to play together nicely. Recently they were going to play their most popular imaginary game, “Brother and Sister”, yes, I know. Amelia said, “My name is Elizabeth and I’m 14.” Then Will said, “My name is John, and…Mom, how old do you need to be to drive?” I told him 16, and he finished his sentence with “My name is John and I’m 16!”.

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Go Cardinals!

The kids earned free Cardinals tickets through our library’s summer reading program, and we used them Monday night. It was great! The weather cooled off a bit and we were in the shade. Will and Amelia had lots of questions and followed the game. Whenever something good happened for the Cardinals Will would say “Yesss!” with enthusiastic arm movements. Maggie hung in there until the top of the 6th inning when she just couldn’t be entertained by walking around or drinking out of the water fountain any longer. Unfortunately we missed the incredible 7th inning grand slam for a win. Next time we’ll get a babysitter for Maggie and we’ll stay until the end.

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Last weekend we went to a picnic at Dr. Ley’s house, one of Dave’s bosses. The kids wanted to know if it was Barry’s house, the boss they know. After explaining that he has more than one boss, Amelia asked “Which boss powers over you more dad?”. I like the way Amelia just says it like it is!

Yesterday Will and I were playing “I Spy”. He said “I spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter B”. I asked questions until he told me it was a helicopter. We talked about how helicopter starts with the letter H and then I asked where exactly he saw this helicopter in our house. He said “I see it in my heart AND in my brain”. Great, new rules for “I Spy” I guess.

Maggie is chatting more and more all the time. She isn’t saying “thank you” quite so much but does love to say “uPPP” whenever she needs to get somewhere. She uses it a lot when I’m making dinner and can’t really hold her much, tugging on my clothes crying, and when she’s hungry. She will stand by her highchair and say it over and over until I put her in her seat and give her a snack. She is a good communicator.

Just Another Wednesday Afternoon

We picked Amelia up from school today and the walk home included Will begging Amelia to hold his hand, he had just woken up from a nap, and negotiations between the two of them on what to have for a snack, as if they were making it themselves. As I was pulling a snack together, Amelia was telling me how she wanted to spend some of her birthday money. (Yes, her birthday was in May and she is still thinking about how to spend her money!) The conversation went a little like this: “Mom, I want to go to the Dollar Store because I want to buy a drum with some of my birthday money. Not the kind of drum that needs a stand but one I can have in my lap that makes a ‘tut-tut-tut’ sound. I’m just really into drums right now.” At about this point Will walked into the living room caring a screwdriver, 2-3″ screws, and the piece of parchment paper he painted at preschool today. Hmmm, it didn’t take long to figure out what he was planning. It took some convincing, but his art is now taped on the bottom of Amelia’s bunk so he can look at it. We decided the screws would just bother Amelia as they went through her mattress. Through most of this Maggie was walking from room to room wearing Will’s safety goggles on her head. She likes to accessorize with the goggles and Amelia’s headbands whenever possible.

Lemon Curd Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pans

1 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups cake flour

1 T baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup plus 1 T sour cream or creme fraiche

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons, about 2 T

2 T lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

Lemon curd (see Frozen Lemon Mousse for a lemon curd recipe, you may want to double)

Cream cheese frosting with lemon zest and lemon extract added to taste

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9×2 inch round cake plans, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter and flour. Sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl combine sour cream with lemon zest and juice.

Beat butter on med-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time and beat for 1 minute after each addition.

With the mixer on lowest speed, add the flour mixture in four parts, alternating with the sour cream mixture and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Do not overmix.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden and pull away from the sides of pans, 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 20 minutes. Remove cakes and cool completely.

Slice each cake in half horizontally and spread Lemon Curd between the layers, making 3 layers of Lemon Curd. Frost with the lemon cream cheese frosting, decorating with the any extra curd if you’d like.

Frozen Lemon Mousse (James Beard)

8 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

Grated zest of 1 large lemon

Juice of 3 large lemons

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks

1 cup heavy cream

 

Melt the butter in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the insert). Whisk in the sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Beat the eggs and yolks together with a whisk in a medium bowl, and add to the ingredients in the double boiler. Cook over the barely simmering water, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and glossy, and very thick, 3 to 5 minutes. *I have made this several times and it’s taken about 45 minutes to come to the consistency described. Do not let the curd boil, or it will curdle. Strain into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the curd to keep a skin from forming, and let cool in the refrigerator.

When the lemon curd is cold, whip the cream in a chilled bowl with a whisk or electric mixer until it holds soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. Pour into a metal serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm and set, about 6 hours. Serve from the bowl.

Will is often the last one up in the morning. This morning I had to wake him up for breakfast. He was sprawled out in his bed and I kissed his cheek and said “I will never get tired of seeing your sweet freckled face.” As he was stretching and trying to open his eyes he said, “Keep reminding me that”. That is a moment to remember! (and why I’m writing it down so I do)

Energy Bark (Petit Appetit)

1 cup oats

1 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

2 T whole wheat flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 T butter

2 T honey or agave nectar

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, coconut, wheat germ, flour, and cinnamon.

In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, and honey. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until thick and bubbly, 30 seconds. Pour the sugar mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine all ingredients. Spread on prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely on baking sheet. Break into pieces.

Choco-Fruit Flax Biscuits (Petit Appetit)

Makes 36 biscuits

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup plus 2 T flax meal

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter, at room temp

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup applesauce

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 T whole-milk yogurt

1 1/4 cup chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, flax meal, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add applesauce. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of the flour mixture. Blend in yogurt and beat in remaining flour until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and freeze dough for 10 minutes.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten slightly and bake about 12-14 minutes, until centers are set and biscuits turn pale brown on bottom.

Oatcakes (Petit Appetit)

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/8 tsp salt

2 T butter, melted

1 T honey

3 T finely chopped dried fruit

2 T unsweetened finely shredded coconut

1 cup water

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease.

Put oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the butter and honey. Combine until oats are coated. Mix in fruit and coconut. Heat 1 cup water until very hot but not boiling. Stir in water by tablespoonfuls until mixture becomes sticky dough. (I think I used about 1/2 cup the first time)

Scoop and drop on prepared baking sheet. With wet fingertips, shape dough into 2-inch rounded, flat oatcakes. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown and the oatcakes are firm and not sticky. Remove to wire rack and cool.

Sparkling Mint Soda (Petit Appetit)

Mint Syrup

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

2 cups water

2 cups fresh mint, torn into 2-inch pieces

Mint Soda

1 cup sparkling water

3 T Mint syrup

 

Mint Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and mint. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or pitcher and discard mint. Store in an airtight container in the frig for up to 1 month.

Mint Soda: Mix syrup and sparkling water together and serve.

Makes 2 cups syrup and 1 cup soda.

Ginger Soda (Petit Appetit)

Ginger Syrup

1/2 cup light agave nectar

1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup water

Ginger Soda

1/2 cup Ginger Syrup

3 cups sparkling water

ice cubes

 

Make the syrup: Place agave nectar, ginger, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until ginger aroma and flavor is strong, about 1 hour. Let cool. Strain and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Make the soda: In a pitcher, combine 1/2 cup syrup with the water. Pour over ice.

Makes 2/3 cup ginger syrup; 3 1/2 cups soda.

Frozen Lemonade (Petit Appetit)

Simple Syrup

1/2 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup water

 

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from about 4 lemons)

1 cup water

2 cups ice cubes

 

Prepare Simple Syrup: Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved adn mixture has thickened, 2-3 minutes. Cool to room temp.

Combine lemon juice, syrup, and water in a blender with ice cubes and blend until slushy.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Almond Milk (Petit Appetit)

1 cup raw slivered almonds

3 cups warm water

 

Place almonds in a pitcher or large bowl and add water. Allow to soak for at least 4 hours. Transfer water and almonds to a blender and blend on medium until nuts are completely blended, 1-2 minutes. Strain the milk through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh colander 2 times to remove sediment and solids.

Makes 2 cups.

Rice Milk (Petit Appetit)

4 cups warm water

1 cup cooked rice

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on medium until smooth, about 1 minute. Let the milk sit for about 30 minutes. You will see the liquid, or milk, is at the top and the rice solids are on the bottom. Pour the milk steadily into another container (a glass jar works well), leaving most of the sediment in the blender pitcher. Milk can be stored in the frig for up to 5 days.

Makes 4 cups

Will’s Highs and Lows

During dinner tonight I asked Will what the best and worst parts of his day were today. Here is his response:

“The best parts of my day were playing with Maggie and making her laugh and reading books with you. The worst part of my day was peeing in the trashcan. The worst part of my night was Amelia going to Emily’s birthday party.”

Let me explain -Will’s greatest thrill these days is to make Maggie laugh. I finally broke down and read the extremely long book about motorcycle racing he picked out at the library. Will is probably like most 4 year boys and waits until the last nanosecond to go to the bathroom and you never know how that will go. Well, we all know how it went today! Amelia went to her first sleepover tonight for her friend Emily’s American Girl birthday party. Will misses her already and she’s only been gone for an hour.

Three Bean Salad

3 cans of beans, rinsed. I typically use black, kidney, and garbanzo but you could choose any you like including green beans
1/2 onion diced
1 red/green pepper diced
3 stalks of celery diced
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1/3-1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 T soy sauce
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Cover and marinate overnight or until you’re ready to serve. Add the olive oil and toss.

Easy Finger-foods for Baby

Shredded cheese

Bread with peanut butter or cream cheese

Mum-Mums with peanut butter or cream cheese

Diced soft fruits like bananas and canned pears

Frozen fruit in a handheld feeder such as mangoes, blueberries, bananas, cantaloupe

Cooked peas, press them a little to make them easier to digest

Canned beans, press them a little to make them easier to digest

 

Spring Break/Snow Day

Today is the first day of spring break, and for schools not on spring break, a snow day because of the 6″-12″ of snow that fell around St. Louis yesterday. It is quite beautiful, but also almost April… Will asked if “spring break” meant that spring would come this week. Hard to know! Along with playing in the snow, watching Dinosaur Train, and working on their Lego house, here are a few highlights from today.

Amelia wanted to do an experiment and gathered salt, ground coffee, a cup, and perhaps other ingredients. She was conducting her experiment in the bathroom for a few minutes. She exited, after much cleaning up, and said “well, that was an absolute disaster!” She’s not the first scientist in the house to feel that way.

Will has a pair of batman pajamas that are missing a cape. He asked me to buy him one today. Then he said that if I couldn’t get to it there was a fountain at dad’s work where you could make a wish, throw money into it, and your wish would come true. He would just have dad do that tomorrow.

Maggie is everywhere! She has become a proficient crawler in the past week and loves her new-found freedom. She’s goes from room to room, usually following the older kids. Spring break will also be a crash course in learning where Maggie is able to go and wants to go and what she will try to eat.

Tidbits

We have spent our daylight savings day at home, minus the time Dave spent at work. The kids have been busy and hungry for much of the day. Dinner is getting close but Amelia keeps trying to convince me to get her a snack. She has even resorted to asking for peanut butter on a rice cake. Her rationale is that it’s “basically peanut butter and air”. Will and Dave have started working on the Lego room that will be under our stairs in the basement. Will came upstairs pouting because Dave wasn’t willing to put a bathroom in right next to the new Lego room (there is a bathroom about 30 feet from there now). Will just thinks that’s too far to go when he’s working in his new room. Maggie is feeling a little under the weather with a low grade fever. I think there maybe a tooth coming. She is still a pretty happy baby making lots of hoot owl sounds. I think we’re all adjusting nicely to our longer day.

Six-Minute Chocolate Cake (Moosewood)

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup cold water or coffee

2 tsp vanilla

2 T cider vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan. In a measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes and set aside to cool.

 

I use a Chocolate Ganache frosting on top:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

9 oz semi-sweet chocolate

In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Whisk the chocolate chips/pieces into the simmering cream and continue to heat gently, if necessary, to fully melt the chocolate. Pour the mixture into a bowl and chill about an hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes until it has thickened enough to spread. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, aka “The Nora Ephron” (Tom Douglas)

Peanut butter filling

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter, such as Skippy

6 T butter, softened

2 T powdered sugar

2 T honey

1 tsp kosher salt

Peanut butter cookie

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 2/3 cups rolled oats

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup plus 2 T butter, softened

1/3 cup crunch peanut butter

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

 

To make the peanut butter filling, combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl using a whisk. Cover and chill the mixture until you are ready to fill the cookies.

To make the cookies, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir in the oats and salt.

In a bowl with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, chunky peanut butter, and sugars and cream on med-high speed until very fluffy and pale, at least 3 minutes.

Turn the mixer to med-low and add the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients on low speed in 3-4 aditions and mix until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to portion all the cookies in about 1 T scoops, placing the scoops on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange 8 cookies, spaced evenly apart and staggered, on each parchment-lined baking sheet. Set the baking sheet inside another baking sheet to double pan and place it in the oven. Bake until evenly golden, about 12 minutes (it took 18 minutes for two sheets in my oven), rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time. Remove the pan from the oven and cook on rack for 10 minutes before removing cookies. Allow the cookies to cool completely before filling them.

To make a cookie sandwich, spread one cookie with a little less than 2 tsps of filling and top with another cookie, pressing gently.

Cranberry Apricot Oatmeal Cookies (Tom Douglas)

2 cups plus 2 T flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cloves

2 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup diced dried apricots

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1 cup plus 2 T butter, softened

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 T sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs (room temp)

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and spices. Stir in the oats and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl combine dried fruits. In the mixer using a paddle attachment, mix on med-high the butter, both sugars, and the vanilla, creaming until pale and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. On low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Add the dried fruits and mix until combined.

Put on cookie sheets and flatten until 1/2 inch thick. Bake until golden brown around the edges and still slightly pale in the middle, 14-18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

Remove and allow to cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins (Tom Douglas)

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup sour cream (room temp)

1/2 cup buttermilk (room temp)

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs (room temp)

1 1/4 cup blueberries

Raw sugar for sprinkling

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and soda. Reserve 1/4 cup of dry ingredients for coating the blueberries later.

In another bowl, mix together the sour cream, buttermilk, vanilla, and salt. Set the wet ingredients aside.

In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix on med-high speed with the paddle attachment until pale and well whipped, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer down to medium and add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to be completely incorporated before the next addition. Add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to the batter in 3 additions, alternating wet and dry and ending with dry. Do not overmix.

Put the blueberries in a small bowl and toss them with the reserved 1/4 cup of dry ingredients to coat the berries. Fold into the batter.

Put in muffin tin, sprinkle with sugar and bake 23-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway. Cool in tin 10 minutes before removing muffins.

Maggie is 6 months old!

We can’t believe that Maggie is already 6 months old. Some of her newest tricks and milestones are giving very slobbery open mouth kisses to mama, eating some solid foods, sitting up and reaching for things you would totally assume are out of reach, and rolling – usually into or under furniture. We are continually trying to figure out and improve her sleeping habits, wish us luck!

http://photos.dspencer.net/2012/Maggie-Is-6-Months/27804101_PP7b6P#!i=2344835519&k=KdHNrj4&lb=1&s=A

Christmas Vacation

On December 27th we headed west to see our family and friends in Washington. The kids were outstanding travelers and the trip itself was pretty flawless. Little did we know that the one major bump was picking up a horrible stomach virus somewhere between St. Louis and Seattle. Unfortunately it plagued us from December 28th – January 8th. It takes some time to run through a family of 5, plus all the poor family and friends we passed it along to. We wish we could have seen more friends and family, but if you didn’t see us, count yourself lucky this time!

The highlights of the trip were introducing Maggie to all her extended family, a trip to Wenatchee to ski and hang out with Hilary, Nick, and Easton, and our ever so brief visits with the few friends we were able to see (sorry Geokezas for getting you sick!).

Hilary and I loved getting some time together, especially with our new little ones.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2012/Washington-Trip-2012/27802932_fwWHcb#!i=2344746542&k=DmjWmLF&lb=1&s=A

I’m anxious to get back for a trip that doesn’t leave a trail of illness throughout the state! Until next time WA.

2012 Spencer Year in Review

Amelia is in first grade and is enjoying almost all of it. She has commented that her homework has more writing and less drawing than last year. You’re right! She’s reading, loves art, PE, and listening to books on cd with Will after school. She and Will continue to have fun together, especially when bedtime rolls around. Why not at 4 pm??

Will goes to preschool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. He’s told me several times that he wants to go everyday, love that! He is very attentive to Maggie and does everything he can to make her laugh.

Maggie is perfecting “blowing raspberries” these days. She really picks up momentum when she gets tired. She is always entertained by Will and Amelia, lighting up whenever they come in the room. She is a happy little one and we can’t imagine our family without her.

Dave will officially finish his pathology residency in June 2013. He will continue doing research for the next few years. His hours are long but at the end of the day he seems to perk up when the kids run to him as he walks in the door. He and Will have been “smoking” (meat,that is) over the summer and weekends. It’s a hobby we all enjoy!

I am home with the kids. It’s been busy with baby Maggie but we’re in a good groove with a long nap from time to time. We get together with friends throughout the week and continue to explore new places throughout St. Louis. A highlight this fall was the Pantazis move to Effingham, IL, a mere two hours away! Helen and I are trying to recreate our Seattle experience, only it’s 100 miles instead of 2 to get together.

We are looking forward to adventures throughout 2013. We are very grateful for our healthy, happy family of 5 – WOW!

http://photos.dspencer.net/2012/Winter-fun/27802726_sP4RzZ#!i=2344720362&k=3CSWzKj&lb=1&s=A

 

Toffee (Anne Spencer)

1 pound butter

2 cups sugar

~ 3/4 of a bag of chocolate chips

chopped walnuts

 

Put the butter and sugar in a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Heat slowly to the boiling point and boil gently until the mixture reaches 305 degrees. I cook it on medium to medium-low and it should take about 20 minutes to come to a boil. Then I let it boil about 5 minutes. I stir it pretty constantly once it is boiling with a wooden spoon. It is close to being finished when it’s a golden brown color and when you let some drop from the wooden spoon it drizzles down in a uniform stream. When it’s 305 degrees, pour it into a nonstick 10″x14″ pan. Let it sit a few minutes until it just starts to harden and then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. I let these sit about 5 minutes until they’ve melted and can be spread over the top. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and let it sit outside or in a cool place until it’s completely cooled. I usually do this overnight.

Will is 4 and oh, so fun!

Will’s birthday request was to pick corn, so we celebrated his 4th birthday and the conclusion of harvest in Iowa City in mid-October. Brian even quit a little early the day before we arrived so Dave and Will would have a full day of picking. Will loves riding in the combine and tractor and takes pride in never falling asleep–even when they go out for a 10 hour day! Amelia also likes taking a turn in the combine, but she informed us it’s not really that exciting: “just back and forth, back and forth”. This season Will asked Brian why he always got to drive the combine. Brian had several reasons, such as seeing how the crops looked and knowing what the yield was. A few hours later, after Will had obviously been thinking more about this, he told Brian that he drove the combine because, “it is your combine and it’s special”. Brian couldn’t agree more! Coincidently, those are the reasons Will drives his toy combine, too. Needless to say, Will’s birthday weekend was just what he wanted.

Will is such a fun, thoughtful, and sweet little guy. He has informed me he doesn’t like the name William and I can only call him Will. When I asked why, he said “Will is spelled w-i-l-l and William and is spelled w-i-l-l and some other letters, including M, and I don’t like the letter M.”

He absolutely loves Maggie and is always, and I mean always, right there whenever she makes a noise or he feels it has been too many minutes since he’s showered her with kisses. Luckily Maggie is starting to find him pretty entertaining and smiles when he’s around.

Here are a few recent Will and Maggie stories:

  • Will told me he just wanted to “fry her up and eat her” because he loved her so much. He must have been hungry.
  • It never fails that when I’m trying to quietly put Maggie down for a nap, Will comes running into her room and starts singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in what he considers a whisper and I consider normal volume. In true St. Louis manner he says “root, root, root for the Cardinals…” It is Will’s form of a lullaby and he refuses to leave the room until he’s done. If I try to get him out he just sings louder.
  • Last night he was giving her a kiss before she went to bed and said “good night my little sweetheart”.

Happy 4th Birthday sweet Will! We love, love, love you.

http://photos.dspencer.net/2012/Fall-Harvest-And-Wills/26104453_PnsKdb#!i=2168895529&k=HLd76Wc&lb=1&s=A

Quick Butter Croisssants (From Sunset’s Food Processor Cookbook 1978)

5 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 cup butter, chilled
1 package dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 egg beaten with 1 TBS water

Fit metal blade in food processor; add 4 cups of the flour.  Cut butter in 1/2-inch squares and distribute over flour.  Process, using on-off bursts, until butter particles range from size of peas to dried beans.  Transfer to large mixing bowl.

Back in food processor, process yeast and water with 2 on-off bursts.  Add milk, salt, sugar, egg, the remaining 1 cup flour, and melted butter, and process until batter is smooth.  Pour over butter/flour mixture.  With spatula, carefully turn mixture over just until all flour is moistened.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 4 days.

Turn dough onto a floured board, press into a ball, and knead briefly to release air.  Divide dough into 4 equal parts.  Shape 1 part at a time, leaving remaining dough in refrigerator.

On floured board, roll 1 portion of dough into a 14-inch circle.  With sharp knife, cut into 8 equal wedges.  Loosely roll each wedge from wide end toward point.  Curve into a crescent and place, point-side down, on an ungreased baking sheet.  Repeat until all croissants are shaped and placed on baking sheet 1 1/2 apart all around.  Cover lightly and let rise at room temperature.  Do not speed rising by placing in warm spot.

When almost doubled (about 2 hours), brush with egg-water mixture. Bake at 325 for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned.