Someone’s in the Kitchen with Carrie

It’s back to school time! The kids love being in Kindergarten and third grade so far, and we are looking forward to being back in our routine. I’m still getting my pep talk routine down, but I feel like that can always be a work in progress.

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I made a peach cobbler from Smitten Kitchen which was, unusually for my experience with that website, pretty disappointing. I think maybe I used peaches that were too big. Or something. I dunno. At least they weren’t laced with listeria.

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We’ve also made a handful of chocolate cake recipes at Rowan’s request, and we’ve discovered that the best ones involve melting chocolate (New York Times recipe) versus cocoa powder (America’s Test Kitchen). I buy melting chocolate in the shape of discs from Central Market for this purpose, and for the chocolate silk pie that everybody loves. I love having my very own Star Baker in the kitchen with me, regardless of how the final product turns out.

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Ben was fixing something different in the kitchen last weekend: germinating milkweed seeds to expand our butterfly garden in the rectory’s backyard. There is a space to the side of the house that doesn’t have much going on in it, so we’re going to try our hand at monarch husbandry. We had quite a few caterpillars and a few chrysalii (?) last spring, so here’s hoping for more!

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The best thing that happened last weekend, though, was that I got a much-needed nap (back to school prep is tiring!), and Neil found himself an Ina Garten recipe that’s not in any of her cookbooks yet. It’s called a lemon drop, which might just be the perfect late summer drink when late summer is promising to last until Thanksgiving.

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A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that once summer break ended, I wouldn’t have anything to look forward to, for a while anyway. So, just to keep things interesting, I ordered a pressure cooker this week. I’m going to be just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, except I haven’t been that thin since I was a fetus, and hopefully I won’t blow up our whole kitchen. Stay tuned!

 

 

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The Fastest Summer Ever

How is it time for back-to-school already?

This summer has flown by. We have had so much fun for the past few summers, which has been a nice change of pace from the two previous summers, which we spent moving or getting ready to move. I think our kids have enjoyed the summers as much as we have, or at least I hope they have.

We just spent a week at Camp Allen, where Neil served as chaplain for a week at our diocesan camp and conference center. It was really wonderful family time, and a huge gift from the Diocese of Texas and Camp Allen that we were able to do that. We ate well, slept well, and swam every day. I wrote a little bit about our back-and-forthing here. 

On our last day, floating around in the pool, I told my husband that I needed something to look forward to, after our somewhat laid-back summer schedules. Our daily grind is about the best daily grind we can imagine, and yet… I get a little restless sometimes in the daily grindiness of it. And so, we talked about a few dinner parties (stay tuned!), and of course the Gilmore Girls revival, which I wrote about here.

But of course, the thing that I’m most anticipating this fall is Ina’s new cookbook! I vaguely recall that the smitten kitchen’s new cookbook should be arriving soon, too, but amazon hasn’t been pestering me to pre-order it yet, so I must be mistaken.

I’d really like to get the list of recipes I haven’t made yet down to under 100 before the new cookbook comes out, but the first few weeks of school are going to be brutal, and that list is looking uglier and uglier. I need to add “learn to like blue cheese” to my to-do list, stat.

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Scalloped Tomatoes

From How Easy Is That?, another way to make sub-par tomatoes taste delicious with bread, cheese, and heat.

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If you’re smart, you’ll take a note from the smitten kitchen and put an egg on it.

Speaking of the smitten kitchen, get a load of her chocolate silk pie, from her cookbook. If you need to win friends and influence people, this is the way to do it.

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Completed/remaining: 674/112

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Tomatoes Provençal

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We’ve lived in Houston for a few years now, and we love it. Sure, the traffic is hellacious and the summers are misery, but we kind of knew about that before we moved here. My only real disappointments are that nobody really says “howdy,” and the general lack of good tomatoes. Even our CSA brought us moldy tomatoes here. Every once in a while, I impersonate an optimist, and I buy tomatoes at the farmers market. These tomatoes were mediocre at best, which made it not so risky to use them in this recipe from Family Style. As it turns out, the French really know what they’re going: adding bread and cheese to anything – cruddy tomatoes, crabby kids – make them much more palatable. This was a winner. I wouldn’t use this recipe with really good tomatoes. You should eat those raw, and not tell me too much about what I’m missing.

We had this (http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/9404-chocolate-dump-it-cake) for dessert for Rowan’s half birthday and for Ben’s “camper of the week” at day camp. Rowan is eight and a half – here he is on his first half birthday at six months. He is growing up so fast, and just as handsome as ever. Happy Friday, everyone!

 

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This Blog Was Bound for Failure

Some of you remember when I started this blog back in 2009, and some of you have just recently started reading. Here’s a piece I wrote for mockingbird about how the blog has changed me over time, and why I keep on chipping away at it.

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Sweet Family Time

When your family is full of clergy, like mine is, you don’t usually get to spend very many traditional holidays together. Easter and Christmas are out, and sometimes Thanksgiving and Independence Day, too. So, when we all get together, it becomes something really special. Most of us gathered for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this month, and it reminded me that even though I have some messed-up family math, I still end up with a pretty great sum total.

My brother, Paul (<—- no really, read the hyperlink) is the chief mischief-maker. I lost track of the number of times my kids pestered him for attention.

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My sister Heather, along with her amazing family, more than make up for the oddness described in the family math problem, linked above. I love spending time with this crew, and it doesn’t happen nearly enough. For the past few years, we have traveled to them instead of coercing them to come to Texas, because my children think that her house is Disney World. Well, they’ve never actually *been* to Disney World, so we let them go ahead and think that. Heather’s family fosters puppies, they have a pool, and they have two amazing teenage daughters who pretty much do whatever my kids want them to do. So, even though the pool and the puppies couldn’t travel with them, we were super excited that they could come spend time with us this year, and we could show them a little bit of Texas.

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Because I kind of feel sorry for anyone who has married into our family, I made my brother-in-law one of his all-time favorites, rice pudding. I used the smitten kitchen recipe from her cookbook for Tres Leches Rice Pudding, and it was terrific.

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Another night, we invited some friends for dinner, who have some mutual acquaintances with my sister’s family (in addition to our family). As I had hoped, they all hit it off, and we had a great dinner at the same time. We had chicken from Oprah’s website (go figure), Ottolenghi’s baked rice (but with brown rice), the smitten kitchen’s green beans with almond pesto, and the smitten kitchen’s chocolate silk pie. Topped off with Ina’s sangria, naturally.

While they were all here, we celebrated my birthday, which ranks right up there as possibly the Best Birthday Ever. We went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center to show our visiting family around, and we were there for the anniversary of the moon landing. That evening, my sister, nieces, and I all went to see Wicked, which was showing at Houston’s Hobby Center. It was so, so good. I loved it so much, and I loved showing off “our” city to our family. It was my first time at the Hobby Center, even though I’ve wanted to go to a performance there since we moved two years ago. None of us had seen Wicked, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

The nicest thing about showing family members around Houston was that we were reminded about all that we love about living here, and explore some new things as well.

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Seafood Stock + Shrimp Bisque +Sidecars

As long as my parents are still in town, they’re stuck with my kitchen experiments. I made seafood stock from the liquid in the clambake (from Barefoot Contessa Parties!), and then made shrimp bisque out of that (from Barefoot Contessa at Home). While it was all simmering, I made sidecars with dried cherries (from Foolproof). Everything got rave reviews.

After dinner, I used our peaches from the farmers market to make the smitten kitchen’s peach dumplings (from the smitten kitchen cookbook), but with puff pastry instead of pie dough. Amazing.

Completed/remaining: 672/114

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